Happy New Year!

Yes, it has been a while. If you look at my projects page you may be able to see why. I’ve been really quite busy. But I’ve missed my tiny corner of the internet and this being the beginning of a new decade and so forth I decided to take a look at my desk diary to see what was going on a year ago and whether that inspired.

Let us not discuss the time and effort it took to remember my website login and the various passwords needed.

I think a lot of us have felt that 2019 wasn’t the greatest so I wanted to see what my hopes and dreams were last January and how they fared.

Here were my goals:

  • A really relaxing summer vacation. (Alone?)
  • One overseas trip (Prague? Buenos Aires?)
  • (I’m a wee bit embarrassed by this one but will include for authenticity’s sake) Keep moving and try to get back to 140 lbs
  • No free overtime!!

Reader, I scored 4 out of 4.

Not only did I get away to the beach (Aruba) for a pretty great tropical getaway—With the family! Not alone!— I also spent a lot of time on the California coast. I had some days in Bodega Bay and Santa Cruz, where the sun actually shone and the temperature crept above 70 F, which is rare, and also spent a somewhat frigid but still enjoyable week at Lake Tahoe. (I probably should have blogged about the whole nude beach experience.)

I took big trips not once but thrice, to Aruba as noted and also London and Lisbon, which were both amazing. (I did post a few things on IG.) Prague and Buenos Aires are still on my list and I’ve been given to understand that Vienna waits for me.

Much of this travel took place on comp time I dutifully recorded during crunch times and redeemed in the slack, which was quite frankly brilliant and I am mad at myself for ever not doing this. (In a very self-loving, self-supporting kind of way, naturally.)

The weight thing is fairly bogus and says more about me than I would like but yes, I did drop a few, largely after I made a big change, which I may write more on later. (Remember my tagline used to be Wine. Food. Travel. Laundry? Yeah, these days it’s pretty much Food. Travel. Laundry.)

So, bottom line: 2019 was actually a lot better than I thought. My goals were also good and I shall leave them more or less unchanged for 2020 with one addition

  • Connect more.

What about you? Does your 2019 list bear re-reading? Did you even have one? Got one for 2020?

LMK.

 

 

Fall For Tahoe

Fringed by snow or gleaming cobalt blue under sunny skies, Lake Tahoe is a favorite in summer and winter. But there’s a third side to Tahoe: fall.

As crowds thin out, the region seems to take a breath as it prepares for the seasonal switchover from camping and sailing to ski runs and cozy chalet evenings. Trails are roomier, rates cheaper and the lake waters are beautiful but bracing. All this and leaf-peeping, too.

Here are some suggestions.

Click here to READ MORE of this story, published by Associated Press

Zoom in on Zaragoza

 

ZARAGOZA, Spain — Stepping out on a lazy Sunday, I stroll past remnants of a Roman wall and watch couples taking selfies with a statue of city namesake Caesar Augustus. Then I’m brought up short by the shimmering reflection of a 16th-century tower caught on the sleek glass walls of a very modern fountain celebrating the Hispanic world.

That’s 2,000-odd years of history in about a block, and just one of the reasons Zaragoza should be on your list of Spanish cities to explore.

Sure, it may be best known as the halfway point between Madrid and Barcelona. But with its treasure trove of architecture, art (and tapas, too), Zaragoza is worth a closer look.

Click here to read this story, published by Associated Press.

Summer of Love

 

Much has changed since the Summer of Love blossomed 50 years ago, bringing thousands of young people to San Francisco, drawn by an underground culture embracing love, peace and music.

Today San Francisco is known more as an incubator of tech startups than as a cradle of counterculture. The shabby Victorians along Haight Street that were once low-rent havens for the likes of the Grateful Dead now go for well over $1 million.

Even a half century ago, the quest for utopia was fleeting. By October, the “death of the hippie” was marked with a mock funeral in the Haight.

But there are still traces of that psychedelic season, along with a few new attractions rolled out specifically for the anniversary. If you’re going to San Francisco, with or without a flower in your hair, here are a few ways to tune in to the spirit of ’67.

Click here to read this story, published by Newsday.

Nigeria’s No. 1 Street Food

As a child visiting Nigeria, Kwame Onwuachi desperately wanted to eat beef suya, the country’s ubiquitous grilled street snack seasoned with ground nuts and spices. Except his grandfather forbade it, disapproving of street food.

“It actually made it more appealing,” he says.

Years later, the “Top Chef” alumnus and former cook at New York’s Eleven Madison Park returned to Nigeria and immediately sought out the formerly forbidden delight, making friends with a baggage guy at the airport who took him to his favorite suya spot.

The street vendor scene reminded Onwuachi of Thailand: “A lot of darkness and then, out of nowhere, a pocket of lights with many stalls selling the same thing, but with their own twist.”

There was a man, a grill, a counter covered with newspaper. “One, please!”

Click here to read the rest of this story, published in Milk Street Magazine. (subscription required)

 

Claire Ptak wants to change the way you bake

Inside Claire Ptak’s white stucco East London bakery, Violet, staff are moving in careful syncopation. From the open doorway to the small kitchen and café, freshly baked feta-sour cream-and-chive scones and herb-laced quiches call to a steady stream of customers who stop to chat with Ptak and admire 5-month-old daughter Frances West, sitting in her lap.

A native Californian, Ptak is a rising star on the culinary scene—hailed by Jamie Oliver as “one of my all-time favorite cake-makers.” But Violet and Ptak are about more than being an of-the-moment patisserie. It is here that she carries out a fairly revolutionary approach to baking—Soft-whipped egg whites! Flour licking!—that sets her apart from the cookie-cutter mold.

Click here (sign up required) to read this story, published by Milk Street Magazine.