Catch-up: Fall 2017

Alright, whoever guessed that I wouldn’t keep up with the European vacation posts gets their money back and more.  Forward this post to seven friends and in 30 days, a check from a very legitimate source will appear.

I kid, I kid.  Although I will finish the posts, I’m afraid I’m going to have to do a linkback similar to the Switzerland trip from last year.  A lot has gone on this Fall and I’ve done myself a disservice in not keeping up with my blog in real time since the main purpose of this thing is to serve as an e-diary for the places I go.

So.  After an amazing September vacation, it was a bit of an adjustment to realize that the vacation we had been planning for almost a year had come and gone.  It was so awesome and we had the best time.  SMS and I had a wonderful time with his family in Italy, which was sandwiched between a road trip encompassing Germany, Lichtenstein and Switzerland before and Slovenia & Germany after.  Things that happened in October and November include…

Book of Mormon Set
  • I saw the Book of Mormon.  The score was quite good and the musical overall was very funny.  It crossed the line a few times for me but it never approached “must walk out” levels.

    Ceramics in the Peacock Room
  • I went to the Freer Gallery re-opening with my parents.  The new exhibits are well-organized by theme with thoughtful design by the exhibit curators.  I was happy to see The Peacock Room again.  It was also interesting to realize what an amazing American art collection that Freer had collected, presented in a small-ish gallery adjacent to the Peacock Room.  I loved the Whistler nocturnes on display.  They were very moving.
    Sbragia vineyards, seen from the deck.


    Lake Sonoma, the dam and the Dry Creek appellation
  • SMS and I had a day trip out to Sonoma, which was a little ambitious but a lot of fun.  We went to two wineries.  Sbragia had a beautiful view and we really liked the wines at Acorn.  We arrived early to Acorn so we were allowed to wander the vineyards, wine glasses in hand.  I may have pretended we owned the place.  In between the two wineries, we went to the Lake Sonoma dam and walked through Healdsburg.  Next time we go, we would love to stay in Healdsburg.  It is so cute.  There were several great looking restaurants, including the more market/food hall-feel Shed.
    Acorn winery from the top of the hill.
    Hanging in the vineyard
    Near Swan’s Market

    Rodin sculpture, Klimt images
  • The Friday of that same weekend, I went to Oakland & San Francisco on my own.  In Oakland, I went to the farmer’s market outside Swan’s Market, which was awesome.  I was there on the early side, which was good for my wallet since there are several cute stores that all opened at noon.   Another time… In San Francisco, I went to the Legion of Honor Museum and saw the Rodin/Klimt exhibit which was excellent.  I also purchased a pass to an exhibit demonstrating that the white statues and terra cottas of antiquity were often painted and more opulent than we currently see due to deterioration over time.  It was an interesting new perspective.  IMG_2944
    Overlay caption added, if you can imagine

    A favorite painting of Dad’s and mine
  • Dad and I went to the Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting exhibit, on display at the National Gallery through 21 Jan 2018.   My sister had told me about it and remarked how the ladies of Vermeer always looked a little peeved and slightly disturbed by their sudden exposure to the light.  So, I was mature and took pictures that I annotated later and sent to her.

    This spot deserves photodocumentation. Notice the no parking arrow only extending away from Dad!
  • I also found the most amazing parking spot ever.  There was room for one car between two separate government parking areas with significant no parking signage.  But this one spot was ok for a commoner.  So I took it!

    Fiona the Hippo!
  • I learned about Fiona the Hippo!IMG_2964
  • Finally, Happy Thanksgiving from SMS and I!

Day 7: Gusto Wine Tour

Terre Dei Nappi

Hooray, wine tour day!  Linda had arranged for a wine tour with Gusto, a tour outfit that specializes in Umbria Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG wineries.  Our house was on the border of Tuscany and Umbria, so we were picked up by Carlo to drive us further into Umbria to meet up with our tour guide Mark (are you still with me?).  Carlo was a very good, fast driver who, quite honestly, looked more like a Bruno to me.  I would not want to be on the receiving end of a punch by that guy!  Not that he was menacing- in fact, he was quite nice.  He just looked like a bruiser!

Terre Dei Nappi

Mark was our British tour guide/driver who has lived in the area for quite awhile.  Honestly, he seemed to be in a bit of a mood when he first picked us up but things improved as the day went on.  I thought he was more caustic than funny.  Fortunately, the wineries were quite nice and the tour overall was quite good.

Terre Dei Nappi

So, yes, we went to three wineries highlighting the Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG.  We went to Terre Dei Nappi, Fongoli and Romanelli.   Lunch was offered at an old farmhouse dating back to the 14th century and owned by the same family!

Terre Dei Nappi featured a talk and a tasting with the owner/winemaker.  They had lovely wines and paired nicely with a cheese and salami platter. We walked in the vineyard and saw their wine making apparatus.  It was pretty amazing to see a professional winery but on a family farm-scale rather than a Napa or Sonoma-sized place.  I feel that family farms are easy to romanticize but it’s clear that a lot of hard work goes into staying open while producing a quality product.



Fongoli was my favorite because I enjoyed the method tinkering that the winemaker employed. He experimented with different barrels and even aged some wine in huge Terra Cotta amphora.  The wine there was delicious and they had a beautiful view from their farm.

Neroni & me!

Then we had lunch followed by our last stop at Romanelli where I met my new Italian boyfriend.  It was Neroni, my new favorite doggie in the entire world!  I really, really wished that Neroni could be my dog but alas, he already had loving owners.  He was such a cute, energetic dog with a touch of rakish daredevil (stupidity?) in how he liked to chase cars.  I would like to find a Neroni in the US- fingers crossed!

The family with Neroni!

After Romanelli, we met back up with Carlo and drove back to the house.  I took a nap and then walked the 5 km loop, coming back after dark.  It was a great day and a wonderful tour to take.


Day 6: Citta d’Castello

Tower in Citta di Castello

After an amazing dinner the night before, I slept pretty well.  SMS and I were in the third floor bedroom with a beautiful view over the valley.  The entire family woke up early because we thought we were going on a wine tour that day.  It turned out that it was the next day, which made a lot more sense since it was planned to give us a day to settle in.  Since we were all awake, we decided to go to the nearby Citta d’Castello.

Citta di Castello

We took two cars and took a few minutes to meet up.  Then we walked along the town streets.  It was pretty quiet, but we found a coffee bar that was open.  Success!  The coffee (aka, espresso and cappachino) was delicious and amazingly inexpensive.

City Hall Building, Citta di Castello

Then we walked around some of the older buildings.  We browsed through an indoor farmers market and bought some nice produce.  On another street, we found a cute gourmet market filled with delicious items. There were some other nice stores but it seemed that many were closed on Mondays.

The run loop!

We headed back to the house, where we had a mellow afternoon.  Lunch and dinner consisted of leftovers from the night before.  I took a nap, which was delightful.  I also ran the recommended walking loop that was a hilly 5 km jog- my heart rate was definitely high on those hills.  There was a reward though- the beautiful view!

View from the ridgeline of the loop!


Where to go?

Stuart, FL Weekend

This past weekend, I flew to Stuart, FL for a family visit.  It had been years since I visited Florida and my visit was long overdue.  Fortunately, my grandfather and Dusty agreed rather than saying, “No, no, take your time.   No need to visit!”

So, yes!  I bought my Delta ticket and headed down to the Sunshine State.  I arrived on Saturday afternoon.  My grandfather was waiting for me at the exit gate.  I think it’s always nice to see someone there although I do understand the convenience of just picking someone up at the curb.  We hopped in the car and drove about 45 minutes to Stuart.

I was lucky to get a family two-fer visit for the the weekend as my Uncle was there!  We went to Mass in the afternoon and then headed to Jupiter Hills for dinner.  The food was excellent although I have a terrible picture showing off my meal.  I only took it to brag to my Mom that I had a lobster but then I didn’t even send it.  Since she’s on an amazing fancypants vacation right now, I figured my meal wouldn’t be that impressive to her.   But then again, it was lobster, polenta and asparagus and it was delicious!

Lazy Lobster- all the meat was already freed!  I do not think Food and Wine will be calling my for my photography skills.

On Sunday, I worked out, relaxed and then headed out to dinner with Grandpa and Dusty.  I had an excellent sea bass (not Chilean!) with crab for a Chesapeake dish.  Yes please!  Grandpa was tempted to be the manners enforcer for a guy wearing a hat in the restaurant but then decided (I think) that the man was a lost cause anyway.


Monday was a lot of fun because we headed out into old Stuart.  The Elliott Museum houses an amazing car collection.  In addition, there is neat sequence of early bicycle innovations designed and built by Sterling Elliott, an inventor and entrepreneur.  The museum was established by his son and also has some large Americana collections, most of which came from  a museum in Massachusetts (thanks Wikipedia!).

The circle surrounds Grandpa’s favorite car- a 1930s Rolls Royce. An excellent choice!

We went on a docent-led tour.  Dusty and I had our interest wane a little bit after 20 minutes.  Grandpa decided that we were not lost causes so he told us that if we stopped talking, we might learn something (ha,ha,ha).  After the tour, we looked at the cars and the National Geographic photo exhibition, which was striking.  There were also some Audubon society pictures so I took a picture of a picture of a snowy plover (my favorite!).


Then it was time for lunch!  We went to Old Stuart, where we ate at the Riverwalk Cafe and Oyster Bar.  Dusty and I ordered oyster stew, which was delicious.  I was happy to order something very Florida-y.  Although I went to the gym afterwards and I would not recommend oyster stew as the ideal pre-workout snack.

I saw a turtle on my golf cart ride to the gym!

Later that afternoon, I was dropped off at the airport *boo hoo.*  I will definitely be back and I have a standing invitation (yay!).  Next time, Dusty and I have plans to go shopping as well as hang out in old Stuart a little more.

Steamboat Springs Family Vacation

Looking up the mountain
Every year, my family gets together for an annual vacation around the holidays.  Before, during, after- we’re not picky about the exact date and over the years, timing shifts slightly to accommodate jobs and academic schedules.  This year, we met up at Steamboat Springs for a week of skiing.  It was extra special because it was the first time since my wedding (3 1/2 years!) that we had all been together!  I had missed the first get-together, and then Joe has been deployed over the last two years’ vacations.  It was really, really special to have him this year and have the six of us + partners in tow.

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Washington DC New Year’s Weekend!

Happy New Year!

SMS and I went to Washington for the New Year’s weekend.  We arrived Friday evening and met Mom and Dad at the Old Ebbitt Grill.  SMS and I split half a dozen oysters, yum!  I had a delicious Nicoise salad for my main course and overall, it was a great dinner and fun to spend time with Mom and Dad.

The next day, Mom and Dad headed off to Wintergreen for a wild and crazy New Year’s Eve.  SMS and I went into the city.  First, we went to Eastern Market where we ran into a friend of mine from freshman year of high school.  It’s a little hard to catch up on 20 years in the course of 15 minutes, but it was really cool to see her.


We went to 7th Hill pizza which was…ok.  Not great but it did the job.  Afterwards, we drove over to the Mall.  We looked at the Hirshhorn sculpture garden on the way over to the Sackler.

The Sackler had some great exhibitions.  We saw the Art of the Qur’an, Turquoise Mountain and Red: Ming Dynasty/Mark Rothko, a visual dialogue on the immensity of the color red (sure).  There was also a modern installation inspired by Whistler’s Peacock Room, which is currently undergoing renovation in the Freer.  Although I didn’t love the modern take, it was pretty cool to see

Continue reading “Washington DC New Year’s Weekend!”

Holiday Weekend!

The past weekend was a federal holiday weekend (yay!) and a nice mixture of being mellow and hanging out with family and friends.  This post will be scant on pictures.  It was a “live the moment” weekend instead of picture-taking, which I know, I know, does not make for very good blogging.

Gorgeous flowers outside of Neiman Marcus.

Anyway!  I took Friday off and was pretty mellow while SMS was at work.  I ran to his work and we met up for lunch.  I spent the rest of the afternoon at the shopping mall trying to find a specific lipstick but had no luck.  That night, we went to Tomi for dinner, which was pretty delicious.

ZZZZzzzzz….wake up!  The weekend gets more interesting!  On Saturday, SMS and I went to run club.  Neither one of us had been for awhile so it was nice to see our running friends.  Then, we went into the city to hang out with SMS’s sister and brother-in-law.  We headed up to Tomales Bay, picked up oysters and had an amazing picnic in Pt. Reyes Station.  Afterwards, we drove out to Pt. Reyes lighthouse, admiring the happy cows along the way.  Does this sound familiar?   It’s because we did the same trip with SMS’ parents and his sister wanted to recreate it.


After we dropped them off, SMS and I went out to dinner in the city.  I hadn’t really thought of a place, so we ended up going to the Dogpatch and eating at Smokestack.  I loved the interior and the BBQ and drinks were delicious.  Another huge bonus is they had free water on tap- still and sparkling!  I love bubbles!  I ordered a salad b/c I wasn’t very hungry.  SMS ordered some delicious BBQ, sustainably sourced and cooked over a woodchip grill only, of course.  I mean, really, we are in San Francisco (ha ha).

The next day, we met up with a friend of ours for brunch.  I really wanted the chicken and waffle, but went with a big salad instead.  Aiming for healthier eating is not always the most fun, but choices, choices.   Afterwards, we went to the American Heritage Museum in Palo Alto, which was pretty cute.  It was staffed by a lot of older volunteers, who gave us a tour.  We saw several old printing presses, staffed by a guy who had been a typesetter for 30+ years.  I really liked the interior of the house, since a doctor owned it and one room was an OR theatre.  You can’t tell now, but the skylights were perfectly positioned for illuminating the operative field.  I loved it!

Since we had been eating out like kings and queens, we decided to eat at home.  I made a version of tacorisu, a Japanese dish that translates into….wait for it…taco rice!  It was pretty good so I’ll be making it again.