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.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Birthday Morning

Well, I became ?1 on Sunday--really quite a lot older than I thought--a shame, really.

The day started out with a birthday cake, of sorts, which I will share with you due to its uniqueness.  Can you figure it out? It was doubling as breakfast--I suppose.

Yep--frozen waffles, strawberry ones, alight with candles. Actually, these are the second batch of candles as it seems the first batch suffered the sad fate of melting into the hot waffles which then became quite waxy--as I've been told. Did I love this cake? You betcha (in the words of our newest Shakespearean pundit.) How much more fun is this than frosting with garish red and blue roses scattered about? A lot! Creative? Oh yes! From the mind of a 12 year old? Of course.

After this sumptuous feast (which I didn't eat), Ken and I dropped Casey off at church and went on our way to a lovely overnight at a wonderful spa/resort in the Temecula wine country. Of course, on the way, we stopped at a couple other wineries to sample their wares and enjoy the absolutely beautiful day God had given us.

Thornton Winery--Great Tapas and Wine 

One of the nice bonuses of lovely wineries are the shops where you find unusual gifts for hard-to-buy for friends--such as my Italian family. Now I can't wait until Christmas to find out if they like what we found. We do--in fact, we bought a couple things for ourselves, too (surprised?)

Eventually we wended our way to the South Coast Winery and Spa Resort. Son Jeff had given us a generous gift certificate for Christmas last year so we figured it was time to enjoy it. The property is very beautiful and the villas quite luxurious, with private patios, great beds, set among the vines. Nice! Of course, I needed to sample the spa by having a relaxing massage and then we rested until dinner--a hard day.

Before leaving the next morning, we had a tour of their winery which included a very nice wine tasting session, pairing 8 different wines with fruits and cheese. I had never understood how various wines do so well with blue cheese, pepper cheese, swiss, more, grapes and strawberries. This was a nice ending to a nice celebration. Then it was time for the leisurely drive back to San Diego--ready to hug our 12 year old and help with his homework. Life does goes on.

Thank you Jeff for the gift and the child-care. I love you!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Beer Cupcakes?

In Italy we have a favorite small local enoteca, Enoteca Fuoripiazza, where we go when at the last minute I decide that cooking just isn't in the cards that night. The food is simple but always fresh. Luca and his crew take good care of us. It is low key, relaxing and comfortable. Oops, almost forgot to mention that their  wine selection is totally outstanding. We love it there; in fact, can't wait to pop in and see the smiles next summer--and hugs.

So it was a real sense of homecoming when we discovered our own little enoteca not far from us here in San Diego. It's in a very small, neighborhood shopping center--well, center is sort of an overstatement as there is just a specialty grocery store and a handful of other small shops--beauty parlor, cleaners, etc. For years there was a wine shop with a deli counter which we infrequently entered.

Now they have transformed into a great little bistro/enoteca with both inside and patio dining areas. The menu is simple but good, the staff fun and the atmosphere lively. This is combined with their shop which has an incredibly  fantastic wine selection--including several of the wines from the vineyard where we lived in Italy. They have also expanded to offer great craft beers from local breweries.

The name of this place is--drumroll-- KNB Wine Cellars--Grapes, Hops, Fine Food

 So this is now our go-to-place when we don't want fancy, but do want good food and a pleasant, kick back time--when I don't want to cook. Well...if we did this every time I didn't want to cook, we would be there much more often.

Last night we were there and had a chance to talk with Kat, the wine buyer. We mentioned the Viticcio Chianti Classico Riserva which she doesn't stock--but now will. This will make a pretty complete selection of wines from our Italian home which makes us very happy.

Anyway, back to the title of this entry--beer cupcakes. We've eaten here several times now but have always passed on the cupcakes as beer is not my thing and it just didn't sound appealing. Last night, though, we were talked into trying them for dessert with the promise they didn't taste like beer. And, guess what--they are deliciously good and tasty-not at all beery.

I really liked the Stoned Portzilla!! Yummy good. As usual, I forgot to take a picture of these--even though my camera was on the table. Next time!

So, when you come to visit--we'll take you to our new favorite in the hood.

Friday, November 05, 2010

An Interesting Question From a Friend

Not too long ago, I was in New York City enjoying time with friends--and it was a good time, indeed. Need more of these escapes--good for the soul.

Anyway, before I left home, I prayed that God would open up an opportunity for me to talk about my faith. Two important parts of me are that I am a "born again" Christian and a strong, opinionated democrat. For many people, that is a contradiction. This is really sad as I am not such an anomaly, there are many, many of us; however, the "liberal" element, which ironically I in many ways am a part of, has chosen to paint all evangelical Christians with the same broad brush. Additionally they narrowly define what a "born again" believer believes-abortion, gay rights, sanctity of marriage--as if there are not hundreds of other issues of importance and which create opinions and commitments and which differentiate people.

On the flip side of this is the Christian-right which believes, if not so stating at least by implication, that one can not be a true Christian and be a democrat. I can not count the number of times I have been with friends or in church groups where there have been negative references to Obama, Obamacare and other democratic foci in which I believe. Of course, this is not a new phenomenon, it has always been. These same people were anti-Clinton (before the scandal), anti-Carter, who has been the most outspoken evangelical ever in the White House, and all other non-right wing republicans. My usual MO is to remind people that there are some present who feel differently--partially to keep myself from getting angry and partially to cause people to reflect a little.

To be truly fair here, it is important to clarify that I have believing friends who fall in the same political spectrum as I and I have many friends who tolerate my wayward ways. We have other things to focus on and share--common beliefs in Jesus as the Messiah and biblical truths. And, then, there are some whom I just avoid--which is also true of some rabid democrats who pop up from time to time.

So back to the beginning, the last night in NYC my friend, who is Jewish, said to me: Jane, I have been wanting to ask this, I hope it's OK. (of course.) I know you are a born again Christian and I know that you are a strong democrat (or some such words) why are you so different from the right-wing Christians I know and work with?

This opened the door to explaining how and why I am, who I am, despite growing up in a very republican conservative home. I believe the words of Jesus and writers of the Old Testament, too, who command us to care for the needy, the poor, the children, the widows in our midst. I believed in the words of the Sunday School song I sang at 4 years of age Jesus loves the little children of the world--red and yellow, black and white--all are precious in his sight, which is why I was active in the civil rights movement of the 60's and 70's. I believe in the equality of all people which is why we adopted both white and black babies while living in radically conservative Orange County.

I am formed by these simple understandings which to me are the bedrock of the democratic goals and philosophies. I do not see this in the republican party which, to me, does not acknowledge the government's responsibility to address needs; while many of my Christian friends (not all) will most certainly strenuously disavow what I say, I don't see compassion, sense of Christ-like brotherhood and accountability. Yes, there are huge amounts of money given to missions and the poorer peoples of poor nations, there are meals and rides for members of a congregation, there are church efforts (limited by their nature) for local concerns but where is the large scale commitment or sense of responsibility to the people of our nation--the United States of America, those without adequate health care, the homeless of San Diego, the mentally ill of California? I see a party whose goal is to have lower taxes which by default means inadequate government services--not taking care of the needy, the widow, the children, the hungry, the ill, the poor--those that Jesus singled out and loved.

Beyond my experience, I look and cringe at the behaviors of some who profess Christian faith and who are most media prominent. The lack of civility in discourse, the "no" mentality rather than the "let's see what we can do" mentality. Gross name calling and insults for the sake of insults. The USA Today two weeks ago had an opinion article about this which expresses my feeble thoughts much more succinctly and coherently--In God Fearing USA, Where is the Decency?  This is what scares me about what is happening in our country.

It scares me that we have people in leadership roles stating that their focus for the next two years will be on destroying the presidency rather than working together to solve problems of great magnitude. It scares me that republicans want to dismantle the rather incomplete health plan that finally passed last spring. That the focus of those who are coming to Washington from the Republican party and its sidekick the Tea Party is to gut social security, medicare, the health plan, the efforts for economic recovery, educational goals, several foundational amendments is beyond scary. That many people idolize a woman who promotes hate and insurrection and yet wants to become the leader of the free world boggles my mind.

So I am a person who believes in the saving grace of Jesus Christ, who believes in heaven and hell, who believes that without accepting Christ there is no heaven, who believes that the Bible is the Holy Word of God Almighty from Genesis through Revelation. As I told my friend, I believe that our Jesus is her Messiah. I believe that there will be end times. I do not believe in hate, fear mongering, hierarchical sin.

I am also a person who believes that the democratic party, despite all its inefficiencies and deficiencies, its at times misdirected ways, and its human failures, most pursues the spirit and commands of Jesus. I do not believe that they do so out of the same spiritual beliefs and foundations or commitment to Jesus that drive me but I do believe that they want some of the same things. I do not see this in the republican party; I do see it in some of my republican friends.

So, my friend, this is how I can be and why I am both. I think that my party affiliated friends understand this better than many of my spiritually affiliated friends. This makes me sad.

This is the link to a recent NPR program which I wish more people would hear. It speaks to the fallacy of our health care system and the wrongful fear so many people have regarding a national health care plan--Changing Health Care  The link to the audio is at the top of the article. This is long so you may want to start at minute 5. TR Reid, who has traveled the world investigating health care in the large democracies, shares his learnings. His most telling statement is that the other countries have health care for all citizens because they believe it is the moral thing to do. He says we are not to that place yet. Sadly, he seems to be correct.

The Healing of America by T. R. Reid

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Penne with Shrimp and Spicy Tomato

While I am mulling over my next intended blog piece which will be controversial, I think, I decided to post this recipe as we like it a lot and it is super easy. If you are like me, "easy" is a magnet and when combined with really good, you have  a winner.  This is truly a one and only one pot pasta meal.

Penne with Shrimp and Spicy Tomato Sauce

¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1½ teaspoons paprika
1½ teaspoon ground cumin (I used less)
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
¾ cup canned crushed tomatoes in puree (I used diced and smashed them)
 1/3 cup cilantro or parsley chopped
¾  lb penne rigate
1 lb medium shelled shrimp
  1. In a bowl whisk together everything but pasta and shrimp and cilantro.
  2. Cook penne until almost done. Add shrimp and cook about a minute longer or until shrimp is done (don't over cook)
  3. Drain and toss with the sauce (which is not heated.) Sprinkle in cilantro
Yummy good and very pretty but.....I forgot to take a picture yesterday--as always. This one is by Thorsten on Recipezaar.

The recipe suggests variations:
  1. Use mozzarella in place of shrimp. Toss cheese in at the end.
  2. Use grille sausage cut into bite size and toss with sauce.
  3. Use grilled or sautéed vegetables in place of shrimp.
I've prepared this several times now and we are always happy, happy with it.

From: Recipezaar