God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Today's Pet Peeves

Yes, I know, this is an unusual topic for me but there are a couple things I need to unload--things that tend to either drive me batty (an old-timers expression), set my teeth on edge or cause dread. You all can feel free to add your thoughts of a similar persuasion in the comments section.

Here goes:
  1. Coffee pots that drip--in fact this is what set me off this morning. I have never had a coffee pot that justs pours coffee into the cup rather than including dribbles on the surface under the cup. I've tried holding the pot up high as my brother suggests, holding it close to the rim, holding the cup up to the pot, etc. Nothing works. Suggestions?
  2. Camera lag time between shots. It seems the perfect photo op occurs before the darn camera is ready. I end up with closed eyes, grim lips, hands in the way or whatever is worthy of deleting. The "burst" technique just doesn't seem to do it right.
  3. Phone calls before I want to wake up. So, now the phones are set not to ring before 6:30 on school days and 8:00 on weekends. Plus...the answer machine is turned off at night. If it's important, those who have it can use my cell phone numbers.
  4. A child that is growing up too fast--¾" in the last 4 weeks.
  5. Computers that freeze for no reason whatsoever. No matter how many times I punch ctrl/alt/del nothing happens. And..forget the esc key--useless.
  6. Family members that can't or won't learn more than how to turn a computer on and open e-mail. No names--(t)he(y) shall remain anonymous.
  7. Neatniks---drawers are meant to put things in--right?
  8. Eleven year olds who know more than I do about simplifying expressions. Did I ever know how to do that? Oh..that's right--algebra. I liked geometry.
  9. Recipes that leave out an ingredient. Although, sometimes it's just that I don't read well.
  10. Friends who are gourmet cooks and can whip up wonderful food and stunning presentations at a moment's notice.
  11. Doctors who make me wait.
  12. Waiters that make me wait.
  13. Oh well, any one who makes me wait.
  14. People who don't wait for me.
  15. Repair people who do not repair.
  16. Clothes shopping for my new non-8 size.
  17. Religious people who knock at my door. I have my own beliefs, thank you.
  18. Websites with music that won't turn off.
  19. Repeated requests from charities--I give what I want, when I want--why can't that be understood?
  20. Robo Calls---I hate them, passionately no matter what they say.
Just had to get back to this list and add #21: Liz Cheney--the new female Limbaugh on the scene.
Ok--your turn now. Make my day a smiling one.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Traz Sighting

The first night you would have seen Traz sleeping outside child's door--he was too scary.

By last night, this is what you would have seen.

Check out the toes.

I am eternally grateful for my Slow Travel friends who encouraged me to embrace Traz rather than admonish child for his non-money sense. Thank you my friends.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ya Gotta Love Him

Eleven year olds are such a trip! I had four of them years ago but because there were four I missed a lot of what each of them was all about. I wonder how much I overlooked and what joys were lost. There's much to be said about a house with an only child.

Casey had his Washington D.C. experience last week. It was a week with many unique opportunities; a time to experience the camaraderie that develops so quickly in communities that live together for short times--we used to call them "mountain top" experiences; a chance to test maturity; a moment in time that will remain over the years.

He will be writing about it on his blog once he catches up on school work, takes a few tests, reads a book and all those things that school kids must do. Maybe he'll find an hour or so next weekend. So I'll let him tell you about dinner dances, embassy dinners, Supreme Court deliberations, bus accidents and all that stuff.

I think I'll share about an eleven year old rising to challenges, handling a week away from home and a little about the learning curve for gramma.

Before Casey left, we put extensive thought into how to prepare him for the week, what he would need, how he could access money, how to address homesickness and a myriad of other types of adult obsessive thinking. In the future, I must remember that such compulsive behavior fails to account for the natural proclivities of the child mind.

Here's the run down of our failures of guidance and Casey's total boyishness.
  • No bath for 6 days
  • Brushed teeth twice (and he wears braces.)
  • Returned with a suitcase half full of clean clothes (he did change underwear.)
  • Used his ATM card for unique souvenirs such as a $75 snow lion from the National Natural Museum and two plastic trash picker uppers. The second treasure's purpose has nothing to do with a commitment to ecology. It seems they will make perfect robot arms when he decides to be a robot.

Meet Tras

Where is the copy of the Declaration of Independence? The feathered ink quills and parchment paper sold in bulk at Williamsburg? Horseshoes fashioned by the blacksmith? Candles? Anything that speaks of the experience? At this point, they have still to be found.

We had worried about Casey becoming homesick--well, to be truthful, he worried a lot about that, too. The morning he left, he didn't want to go. We gave him Ken's mobile so that he could call and keep in touch. And, he did call when the plane landed in D.C.--more for the thrill of using the phone than checking in. But, it was much more fun to take pictures with the phone than the camera.

After that, he called when the bus was hit by a car and when he took possession of Tras. As we sat at home, wondering what he was doing, how he was, missing him, his time was full of friendships, sharing a hotel room with other boys, adventure, learning and excitement.

Finally, he forgot the binder the program gave him which had his daily agendas, his notes, programs, etc--the things that we adults think are so important for future memories. I called the hotel and program and it may still be found. I hope so.

We need the binder to really find out about his week. It is coming out in bits and pieces--like today he remembered to tell us that he was chosen to demonstrate the routine of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. After that the kids called him "soldier boy."

So..what did I learn?
  • Kids can take care of themselves and survive without all of the adult rules and concerns.
  • Not to put so much money in his account-if it's there, it's meant to be spent.
  • Not to worry about quantity of clothes.
  • Let Casey use "poor judgement" and listen to the whispers that call from store shelves--friends helped me to understand this. Traz will be a long-term companion.
  • Listen to the memories as they come and be thankful he has them.
Today he returned to school , wearing his People to People official clothes--shirt with logo, khaki pants, vest and lanyard. He is proud and ready to go again. What better ending is there?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Congrats to Fattoria Viticcio Vineyards

Having spent a year enjoying the variety of wonderful wines from the vineyards of Fattoria Viticcio, we are thrilled for our friends and the recognition their wines have received in the October editions of Wine Spectator.

For a year we lived amidst the vines of the primary vineyard. Our apartment sat above the cellars and bottling rooms. Our windows looked over quintessential Tuscan country side. It was a year that encapsulated dreams. We loved each day and our lives continue to be enriched by the memories of those dreams.

Wine Spectator Loves Viticcio & I Greppi

Viticcio Toscana Bere 2007 Score 90 ($15) Oct. 31, 2009 Issue

There's a lot of Cabernet character on the nose and palate, with dried herbs and black currant. Full and very rich on the palate, with chewy yet fruit-coated tannins. Long and flavorful. Needs a little time to come together. Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Best after 2009. 2,500 cases made. –JS

Viticcio Chianti Classico 2007 Score 90 ($20) Oct 31,2009 Issue

Shows a lot of bright cherry and berry character, with hints of coffee. Full-bodied, with fine, well-integrated tannins, clean acidity and a long finish. Drink now. 12,500 cases made. –JS

Viticcio Chianti Classico

Riserva 2007 Score 93 ($32) Oct. 15, 2009 Issue

Fabulous aromas of blackberry, dark chocolate and flowers follow through to a full-bodied palate, with supersilky tannins and amazing richness and subtlety. Goes on for minutes on the palate. Best from 2010 through 2015. 2,345 cases made. “Highly Recommended” –JS

Viticcio Chianti Classico Riserva Lucius 2006 Score 91 ($40) Oct. 15, 2009 Issue

Intense aromas of plum and blackberry. Full-bodied, with velvety tannins, lots of beautiful fruit and vanilla oak character and a long-to-medium finish. Generous and delicious already. Best after 2009. 1,300 cases made. –JS

Viticcio Toscana Prunaio 2006 Score 93 ($55) Oct. 31, 2009 Issue

Displays very ripe raspberry on the nose, with black cherry. Full-bodied, with supersilky tannins, toasty oak and an aftertaste of chocolate, coffee and fruit. A serious red. Sangiovese Grosso. Best after 2010. 1,250 cases made. –JS

Viticcio Toscana Monile 2006 Score 94 ($55) Oct. 31,2009 Issue

Currants, berries, lightly toasted oak and light coffee. Full-bodied, with lots of ripe fruit, soft, silky tannins and a rich finish. Ripe and beautiful. Lovely texture too. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Best after 2012.—J.S.

I Greppi Bolgheri Greppicante 2007 Score 92 ($28) Oct. 31, 2009 Issue

Delivers currant, toasty oak and coffee aromas and flavors. Full-bodied, with velvety tannins and a lot of rich fruit. Very polished and attractive. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Best after 2012. 5,265 cases made. –JS

I Greppi Bolgheri Superiore Greppicaia 2005 Score 93 ($70) Oct. 31, 2009 Issue

This has a fabulous nose of crushed raspberry and blackberry, with coffee, vanilla bean, tar and spices. Full-bodied, with rich, velvety tannins. There's plenty of fruit, but this is refined and persistent on the palate, with pretty oak influences. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Best after 2011. 1,500 cases made. –JS



Saturday, October 03, 2009


With all due modesty, I make a killer ossobucco. Ken, who orders this in restaurants here and in Italy-including Milano, says nothing compares to Chef Jane’s. What can I say? Except to be honest and admit it comes from a cookbook.

Last April I promised son Jeff that I would make it for his birthday but somehow it never happened—probably because it first takes a bank withdrawal to buy the veal shanks.

Tomorrow is Ken’s birthday and the gift to my men is last April's promise--which I made today. As with so many stews, it is better when given time to sit and absorb flavors. Plus making the risotto is that much easier when the meat just needs to heat in the oven.



4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ounces pancetta, diced
1 medium-size onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
6-8 pieces of veal shank, cut into 2 inch pieces and tied with string
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup dry white wine


2 cups canned Italian tomatoes, coarsely chopped with their juice
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 frest parsley sprigs
2 cups broth-approximately (I used 1 cup chicken broth and 1 cup beef broth)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1 garlic clove, very finely minced
1 tablespoon minced lemon rind
2 tablespoons chopped parsely
1 or 2 anchovy fillets, finely choppped (optional--I don't use them)

  1. Preheat oven to 350º
  2. Use a heavy broad casserole, 8-10 quart size, large enough to hold all the veal pieces flat-side down in one layer (or use 2 casseroles, but do not stack shank pieces on top of one another.) I use a large Cusinart cast iron dutch oven. Heat the butter over moderate heat. When it foams, add the pancetta, onion, carrot and celery and sauté for about 5 minutes, until carrot and celery begin to soften.
  3. Dredge veal shanks with flour, brushing off the excess. Heat the oil until it is ver hot in a large skillet over moderate-high heat and place the floured shanks in the pan. Turn the shanks until they are browned on all sides (I hate this process), then place them flat-side down in the casserole with the pancetta and vegetables.
  4. Skim all but about 1 tablespoon fat from the skillet. Pour in the wine and boil for 2 – 3 minutes while scraping the sides and bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Pour the wine and the deglazing over the veal shanks in the casserole.
  5. Add the tomatoes, thyme, bay leaf and parsley to the casserole with enough meat broth so that the liquid just covers the veal shanks. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn th heat to moderate. When the broth begins to simmer, cover the casserole and place it in the preheated oven. Cook for 2 – 3 hours. Baste every 30 minutes to keep the meat moist.
  6. Just before serving, make the gremolada: Combine the garlic, lemon rind, parsley and anchove.
  7. To serve, remove shanks from the casserole and place on individual plates. Cut the strings. Spoon some of the sauce over each piece of shank and top each serving with a sprinkling of gremolada. (don’t skip this.)
Serves 6

Notes: Each shank piece should be tied with string to prevent the meat from falling away form the bone. When the veal shanks have finished cooking, the sauce around them should be rich and thick. If it is thin and watery, remove the pieces of veal and place the uncovered casserole over moderate-high heat on the stove. Cook until the sauce has thickened, stirring frequently so that it doesn’t stick or burn on the bottom.

It really is best to make this a day early as with most stew type recipes, it is better the second day after absorbing all the flavors. But…you can make it the same day.I serve this with Risotto alla Milanese if I am ambitious. If not, I use spaghetti. My family is split on which it prefers.


From Risotto by Judith Barrett and Norma Wasserman