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Friday, August 18, 2017

FRIDAY'S FOTO

Montreal, Canada's amazing Biodome,
Canada's largest Natural History Museum
and
The Montreal Tower Observatory
From the Observatory, view
the St. Lawrence River Valley
and
The Laurentian Mountains



Wednesday, August 16, 2017

1899 WRIGHT INN AND CARRIAGE HOUSE--PART OF WONDERFUL ASHEVILLE, NC

I had to use this picture of our bathroom in the Powell Suite.
I loved it and everything about this Inn.
Isn't it charming???  And romantic???


There is no shortage of hotels in Asheville, North Carolina, but if you’re looking for a taste of the historic Asheville atmosphere, you’ll look elsewhere than the big, impersonal hotels.  If you want the comforts of a fine bed and a breakfast served in courses, and an historic Victorian home modernized to give you today’s conveniences without sacrificing the charm of yesterday, you might look to the 1899 Wright Inn and Carriage House, in the Montford district less than a mile from downtown, because there you’ll find an Inn that will give you a comfortable respite from the touring and excitement that you’ll also find in Asheville. 

A welcome in our room to sweeten up our stay

Picture a grand, old Victorian with its wide front porch where you can sit in the shade, perhaps just enjoying the foliage of the tree-lined street and viewing the people walking just beyond the front walk.  Or you may settle yourself comfortably in one of the Queen Anne-furnitture-decorated parlors, fire place glowing in season, and help yourself to a piece of candy waiting for you in a crystal dish.

That is what awaits you at the 1899 Wright Inn and Carriage House.  Your room or suite seems to transport you to another era, some with fireplaces, some with loveseats and tables protected by doilies.  There is a coziness and comfort that makes you smile as you enjoy everything from your bed to your bath.  Rest assured, however, that central air-conditioning ensures your comfort in the warmer seasons.  Wifi is in every room. This is today’s North Carolina, after all.

The 1899 Wright Inn and Carriage House is like stepping back into history, a hidden gem.  Guests are immediately enveloped by a graciousness that warms the entire atmosphere, and you are immediately made to feel at home and part of a family. 

Each room is special, modernized in convenience without losing the elegance of the past.  Breakfast is different each morning but always includes coffee/tea, juice, breakfast breads, and a main course, often rather elegant and all served on lovely china.  The long table, flowers, and other decorations, encourage conversation with other guests, and breakfast becomes an event in itself. 

As comfortable as can be!
We stayed in the Powell Suite, and at breakfast we met a couple from Texas as well as a couple from Canada, excited tourists just like ourselves.  Our host and superb breakfast chef, Tom, was exceptionally helpful in suggesting places in Asheville he felt we’d like to visit.  If you browse the Inn's website, you’ll find many suggestions as well as some money-saving ideas.

Simply charming!
Through the Inn, for instance, you can purchase a 2-day pass to the Biltmore Estate for the price of one day.  You can also pick up the trolley for the Asheville Trolley Tour right at the front door, so leave your car parked in one of the spots on the side of the Inn.  They’ve listed restaurants, other tours, and some of the special touches to make your stay in Asheville even more exceptional. 

We couldn’t ask for more. 


The 1899 Wright Inn and Carriage House is located at 235 Pearson Drive, Asheville, NC 28801.

Friday, August 11, 2017

FRIDAY'S FOTO--The Moreton Bay fig tree

This is ONE BIG TREE!
In the heat of this summer, this tree can provide an awful lot of shade though the root area is chained off for protection.
It's the MORETON BAY FIG TREE in Santa Barbara, California.
It may be the biggest fig tree in North America.
It was planted in 1875.
Way back in 1996, it had a crown of 173 feet.  Think what has happened since.
It's listed in the California Register of Big Trees.
Seeing this tree is definitely a WOW! moment.


Friday, August 04, 2017

FRIDAY'S FOTO

I was asked to post a bit more from
Hearst Castle.
How would you like this to be the view from
your home?
WOW!!!!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

ELIZABETH SPELLER'S THE FIRST OF JULY RANKS WITH THE GREAT WAR NOVELS

All Quiet on the Western Front and The Red Badge of Courage are classic war novels because they deal not with the war so much as with the men who risk their lives, often for a cause they don't fully understand--if, indeed there is a legitimate cause. The books have a universal quality because humanity does not change its yearnings.

Elizabeth Speller’s The First of July is a book in this classic tradition as it examines men of different backgrounds, in different countries, and of different ages, all who have a reason to enter the war as a soldier but whose reason may have nothing to do with love of country.  Each makes extreme sacrifices during WWI but each for a very different reason.  In that way, in particular, I was immediately reminded of All Quiet on the Western Front and The Red Badge of Courage.  Those protagonists were boys; that is not always the case in The First of July.

First of July becomes a superb study of human character and motivation, its strengths and weaknesses as well as the yearnings which sometimes lie so deep inside that we are not even aware. 

Following the characters’ individual stories and appreciating the uniqueness of each man becomes a sad joy as we learn their fates in the horribly bloody battles of WWI.  In fact, Speller sets her novel before the war begins and then in the time leading up to, and then shortly after, the bloodiest battle for the British of WWI, The Battle of the Somme.  Allied forces casualties numbered almost one hundred thousand.

First of July is exquisitely crafted.  The ugliness and grittiness of war is exposed in a descriptive but controlled manner.  We move through time when war lay only on the horizon until it is all encompassing. We learn each character’s background and reaction as the war moves closer and closer.  We get a glimpse into the distinct cultures of their different countries as well as of their personal relationships with others.  From a wealthy “runaway” member of British royalty to the son of a coffin maker whose greatest wish is to make enough money to buy a fine bicycle, we view every strata of society, different kinds of relationships from mother and son to husband and wife.  Some men are honest; some are not.  Some have been mislead.  Some are ambitious; some are not. In total, we are gifted with a perceptive view of Everyman meeting the horrors of war.  It is stunning.

The writing is excellent--descriptive yet right and objective. I will definitely read another one of Elizabeth Speller’s books of historical fiction.



Friday, July 21, 2017

PEACHY KEEN AT BURLINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA'S BUTTERMILK CREEK FARM


Buttermilk Creek Farm in Burlington, North Carolina is open.  Peaches. Raspberries. Blueberries.  The nicest people you would ever want to meet.  We are going to make jam!

We first went there two years ago when we were house hunting.  We couldn’t be too ambitious in our picking then because we were heading back to New York and a load of peaches was just not in the cards. 

Buttermilk Creek Farm is beautiful: row upon row of peaches ripening throughout the season.  Butterflies, bees, green leaves, and yellow and red ripe peaches, or ripening peaches. 

Row upon row of peach trees making the air fragrant and the walk beautiful

Row upon row of green-leafed blueberry bushes with stalks bent over, heavy with fruit and beckoning your fingers which, somehow, can’t resist popping one (or two or more) into your mouth, marveling at the warm, tart taste that you never find in a grocery store. 

You can see the unripened blueberries.
Berry pickers were here bright and early.

Row upon row of blackberry bushes with fruit in all stages of ripening, so your eyes are treated to an array of colors long before you find the plump blackberry,

Picking fresh fruit right off the bush, vine, or tree, is a remarkable treat simply because most of us don’t have that opportunity often.  If you’ve never done it, you don’t realize that a ripe, sun-warmed peach or blackberry or blueberry does not taste like the fruits we buy in the stores that have been picked long before they are ripe and then ripen as they are shipped and then stocked on our shelves.  Eat a tree-ripened peach right in the grove where the air smells of peach, and feel the juice drip down your chin.  Pretty incredible.


While we visited Buttermilk Creek Farm on the first day it opened this year, there was sadness as well.  This past winter, as you probably remember, there was frost and storms.  Buttermilk Creek Farm lost almost 90% of its crop.  Trees were damaged as well.  They opened anyway so the fruits that were undamaged would be picked and eaten.  That’s a fact of life on the farm.  Good years and bad years with the hope that the good years outnumber the bad.

The owner, who we met on our first visit, looked at the fruit we picked which is sold by the pound.  As he put our fruit on his scale, he picked out a few peaches that didn’t look quite perfect to him.  “We don’t sell damaged goods here,” he said.  After weighing the fruit and quoting the price, he put the peaches back in our box.  “They’ll be fine,” he said.  But he did not charge us for them.  Principles.

He also told us an interesting story—from his perspective.  He can tell Northern transplants from Southerners by the berries they pick.  Northerners like blueberries, and he makes sure he has them.  But Southerners like blackberries and have plenty of recipes for them.  Can’t say this is gospel but can say this is one man’s feelings.  At any rate, this year we went for blackberries.

It was a wonderful experience.  If you are in the state while peaches are in season, visit one of the many farms.  You don’t have to get a lot, but enjoy the rich experience of picking from a tree and eating the warm, sun-ripened, globe of sweet delight.  And if you want to experiment, there's always peach jam to make.  It's yummy!!

Our first attempt at canning peach jam.
Edible immediately.
But some to save.
Absolutely yummy.
We're thinking of making more!




Friday, July 14, 2017

FRIDAY'S FOTO

Isn't this how we feel these days--
the Dog Days of Summer?

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

PERSIMMONS WATERFRONT RESTAURANT, A TREAT TO THE EYES AND TO THE PALATE IN NEW BERN, NC

Sitting on the beautiful deck of Persimmons Waterfront Restaurant overlooking the Neuse River in New Bern, North Carolina, eating a superb early dinner tastefully and creatively presented, and drinking vodka martinis and then a glass of wine is a perfect way to spend a late afternoon slipping into evening.  Trust me.  I’ve been there.

This New Bern waterfront restaurant is locally owned and is in every way worth a visit.  I’ll share with you the way we spent our time on the outdoor deck, but first I want to share a piece from Persimmons’ own website, a site I visited before our trip as I was compiling places we should add to our must-see list.  This excerpt explains some of Persimmons’ unique appeal.

“The most-asked question…”what is the origin of our name?”  When our building was originally constructed, we dredged the adjacent marina…one of the logs that was found was a persimmon tree.  We took the persimmon log down the street to Bill Nelson of Precision Molding, who milled the wood, which was used to create what is now our host stand found at the entrance…Persimmon trees…are one of the only fruits native to Eastern North Carolina.  The Roman name for persimmon means “fruit of the Gods.”

Intriguing?  For me, it set a positive tone.  This restaurant made the list.

The day of our visit was hot, as most late spring North Carolina days are, and Rob and I were ready for some liquid refreshment and, at least, some accompaniment.  We’d walked along the beautiful waterfront admiring the boats, the gorgeous homes across the street from the riverfront, and the magnificent river.  It seemed the perfect time for Persimmons.


It was late afternoon, so we initially had the deck almost to ourselves. We could sit back, admire the view, and have a cocktail as we perused a beautiful and too tempting menu.  The truth is we planned on cold oysters to accompany our martinis, but the offerings of Southern-inspired, locally sourced American cuisine, were so tantalizing, we decided on an early dinner.  Even the menu at Persimmons is lovely.  This is a restaurant where details are important.

From the Locally Inspired Beginnings, I chose the Fried Green Tomatoes and Pimento Cheese Beggar’s Purse (Arugula, Crisp Country Ham, Roasted Tomato and Shallot Vinaigrette)

I’ve found that in each restaurant in which I order Fried Green Tomatoes, I am served a different variation.  I love that.  These, at Persimmons, were extraordinarily different and absolutely delicious.  The presentation was lovely, and they were melt-in-your mouth spectacular.  The tomatoes were topped with a flaky, light, crisp “purse” surrounded by the complimentary colors and textures of the rest of the dish. This was true artistry on a plate and every bite was a delight.  Am I coming across as loving this?  Wow!


Rob has been anxious to try Shrimp and Grits, so he ordered the Carolina Shrimp and Local Stone Ground Geeche Grits (cave-aged white cheddar, Tomato Butter, GF).  How beautiful does this look?  And it tasted just as lovely.  Presentation is important, of course, but the taste buds make the final judgment, and Rob’s taste buds gave this dish a resounding TEN.


Oh, how we lingered.  This would have been enough, for as you see, these were hearty portions as well, but we had ordered dinner.

Rob chose the Grilled Ahi Tuna (Smoked Potatoes, Fresh Cherries, Petite Herb Salad, Black Garlic Vinaigrette, Horseradish Créme Fraiche, GF).  Artistically presented and prepared exactly as he likes the tuna.  My taste proclaimed it amazing. The tuna was done to perfection.  He loved it, and that’s the important thing. Delightful and satisfying.


I chose the Mountain Trout (Sugar Beet Risotto, Tomato, Marcona Almond, French Beans, Brown Butter Lemon Reduction GF) How tantalizing does this look?  Trust me.  It was that wonderful!  The fish was flaky, perfectly seasoned, and not dry.  The vegetables were fresh, crisp and seasoned nicely, allowing the vegetable flavor to dominate.


Isn’t the menu made more attractive by adding the details of each dish.  While I don’t look for it, I also noted that dishes were labeled GF—gluten free—as well.  The customer should not need to ask.

We ate slowly, enjoying the ambiance, the wine, the food, and, of course, the sterling company.  What is also lovely is that there is no pretense in any of this.  Persimmons is simply spectacular, and it doesn’t have to do more than be exactly as it is—natural, caring, professional.  A perfect early evening for us.  I highly recommend a stop there.











Friday, June 30, 2017

FRIDAY'S FOTO

Driving home yesterday, I stopped to take this photo
about a mile from my home.
This is tobacco.
Isn't it absolutely lush and beautiful as it grows?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

GREAT BBQ AT KANSAS CITY'S SMOKEHOUSE BAR-B-CUE

As we got into the car, I wasn't singing "Going to Kansas City" for any reason other than anticipating a return to barbecue heaven on hearth.  I was looking forward to Kansas City's renowned brand of barbecue--a craving I've had since our last visit here more than two years ago.  Rob, Michael, and I decided on an early dinner,so we headed for Smokehouse Bar-B-Cue in Zona Rosa, Kansas City, Missouri as it is exactly the craving satiator I was looking for. 



The restaurant's cavernous setting has a set of double entry doors, and once you leave the street and enter through the first set, you are transported to a separate universe of special offactory delights.  The splendid aromatic combination of spiced and rubbed hickory smoked meats and sauces fondle your receptors until hunger and desire are overwhelming.

I am not exaggerating.  We’re certainly not the first to discover Smokehouse Bar-B-Cue.  Go on a weekend and expect a wait.  We were lucky on a Monday, early, and were seated immediately. By the time we left, the place was filling up.

The wait staff is knowledgeable and friendly.  The restaurant, a family-owned business with two other locations, is redolent of comradery and good cheer, so it is at once comfortable and familiar.

Our drinks of choice were beers.  Rob went for the hoppiest IPA, Firestone Union Jack IPA, brewed out in Paso Robles, CA. (another delightful place) Michael and I went local,  KC's own Boulevard Brewery's Pale Ale for him and Boulevard Wheat for me, after a sample taste to make sure this beer would do.  I really liked choosing a Boulevard brew as we had a wonderful tour and tasting at the Boulevard Brewery on our last trip to KC.  This choice was like coming home.  I drank it throughout our Kansas City stay.

Boulevard Wheat is served with a slice of lemon.
Great beer!
Trying to satisfy those barbecue-hungry taste buds in one meal is tough, but we were determined.  After suitable deliberation, we all ordered the Chef's Special which includes pork spare ribs, baby back ribs, bone-in chicken, burnt ends, thick slabs of toast, and two sides.  Here Rob and I agreed on Cheesy Corn and Hickory Pit Beans.  Michael joined us in the corn but went for the cole slaw instead. 

WOW!!!


Generous is an understatement when I describe the portions.  The meats were juicy, tasty, fall-of-the bone deliciousness, dowsed in a delightful sauce at once tangy and sweet, thick and sticky, a pleasure to enjoy. I’m smiling even as I write this!

The secret of great barbecue is in the sauce.  Smokehouse's is sweet, spicy, thick, and sticky.  It's tomatoey and sharp.  It clings to the meat, and there is no need to add anything to it.  It's wonderful.  If there is any left on your plate or in your bowl of beans, you take a piece of your thick hunk of toasted bread and wipe it up and eat it.  It's too good to allow it to be washed down some drain!

Do you know what burnt ends are?  This is part of the uniqueness of Kansas City barbecue.  Burnt ends are considered a delicacy. It is the thoroughly cooked point end of the brisket, separated before or after the rest of the brisket is cooked, so the ends are crispier with a decidedly well-done flavor. At some smaller barbecue restaurants, burnt ends are not offered everyday because they don't cook a sufficient quantity of brisket. Not to worry at Smokehouse. They cook plenty.

The beans, too, slow cooked in a savory, thick sauce, were delicious.  Ever try Cheesy Corn? It is so unusual, creamy and mixed with a thin melted cheese sauce.  The corn is sweet and crisp, not overcooked soggy kernels, and the sauce does not overpower; it compliments. It's a side I fondly remembered just as soon as I saw it on the menu. Scrumptious and different.  I’ve never seen it on any of our other barbecue junkets outside Kansas City. Here it is a menu staple but prepared differently in different restaurants.

What a dinner! What a welcome to a great week in Kansas City!

Dessert?  Are you kidding? Sometimes there really is too much of a good thing! 
Take my word on this--Smokehouse is a great place to go if barbecue is your thing! 


Friday, June 23, 2017

FRIDAY'S FOTO

We love Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Pass over the dunes, and this is the a sight you might be lucky enough to encounter.
It's not what you might normally picture as a beach scene,
but perhaps that's one of the reasons Myrtle Beach is so lovely to vist.

Friday, June 16, 2017

FRIDAY'S FOTO

This peaceful farmhouse nestled near the Antietam Creek
in Sharpsburg, Maryland, saw the bloodiest single day in
American history, the Battle of Antietam, the first battle
of the Civil War to be fought on northern soil
Visit the battlefield.
Study our history and learn from it.  You can take a tour
and see the monument to Clara Barton, the "angel of the
battlefield."
A woman well ahead of her times, she said,
"I may sometimes be willing to teach for nothing, but if paid at all, I shall never do a man's work for less than a man's pay."

Friday, June 09, 2017

When you get to California, make sure you visit Hearst Castle.
See how "the other half" lives.
This pool, for instance, was used to film the 1960 blockbuster movie
Spartacus, starring Kirk Douglas.
Hearst Castle is quite an experience.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

NEW BERN, NC'S TRYON PALACE IS A GREAT LOOK AT HISTORY

Tryon Palace, the capital of the colony of North Carolina
and
the first capital of the state of North Carolina
Walking through New Bern, North Carolina is akin to stepping into United States history.  Or stepping into pre-United States history when New Bern was the capital of the colony of North Carolina, and the Governor made his home in Tryon Palace.

Tryon Palace, the Governor’s home and the seat of colonial government, comes as total shock if visitors expect something similar to a European palace.  It is anything but.  It was actually designed to be like the fashionable homes in London, but in the distant colonies it was known for its grandeur. 



Governor William Tryon brought an architect from England to design the very grand and expensive Georgian building. Tryon, often despotic in his manner of ruling, then taxed the colonists to pay for it.  Needless to say, he was not loved.

The building is beautiful. Each room is done with exquisite craftsmanship.  This the staircase, cantilevered so there are no visible signs of support.    Notice the scrollwork at the base of each step and the intricacy of the ballusters.  All of these done by artisans.









Here the crown molding is incredibly impressive as it is in every room.  Again, the signs of expert workmanship.  The details in the fireplace and the tiled hearth make for a beautiful toom.

The Palace was built between 1767 and 1770.  Ironically, Tryon and his family lived there for only about one year before he was transferred to be the new Royal Governor of the colony of New York

The second Royal Governor, Josiah Martin, lived in the Palace until 1775, when, as a Loyalist and fearing for his life, he fled North Carolina. The Palace became the headquarters of the revolutionaries who auctioned off Martin’s belongings.  After the Revolution, New Bern became the first capital of North Carolina with its seat of government in Tryon Palace. Quite an impressive history.

The governor may have fled, but the coat of arms still graces the entryway to the Palace




One very famous visitor to North Carolina’s first capital city and to Tryon Palace was George Washington who visited in 1791 for a dinner and dance held in his honor. 

In 1798, however, a fire, starting in the cellar, destroyed the Palace.  As time passed and the community grew around the ashes, Tryon Palace became little more than local history, its acreage covered by homes.

It wasn’t until the early 1900s that volunteers uncovered the original architectural plans, raising the hope of rebuilding Tryon Palace.  It would be an expensive and monumental task but persistence and dedication paid off, and in 1959 the re-built Tryon Palace opened to the public; furnishings were chosen from the extensive list William Tryon kept from his second home in Ft. George, NY which burned down and for which he hoped to be reimbursed by the king. In reconstructing the Palace, that list enabled the new Palace to reflect the Tryon family’s tastes as closely as possible.  A visit gives us a glimpse of our past and enables us to envision life in the latter part of the 18th century.


This little girl's bedroom exists as it would in Tryon Palace's heyday.
We learned that blinds had already been invented.
It is, to say the least, an interesting feeling to walk into rooms here in the United States adorned with portraits of King George.

In this room business was conducted.  Notice the portraits of the King and his wife.
How beautiful are the ceiling moldings, the details around the fireplace, and the
furniture.  Impressive, most impressive.

Touring the palace is quite a rewarding and enjoyable experience.  They are conducted by guides in period dress who talk about the daily routines of the household both the official residents and their help.  They answer questions and try very hard to describe the life, private and public, that existed at the time.  It’s quite impressive. 

Included on the property is the original stable building which escaped the fire and where, presumably, they point out, George Washington stabled his horse.


Around the Palace are seasonally shaped gardens with hedges that offer meandering brick or gravel paths, and as we walk under brick archways or through doorways in the brick walls, we experience real garden “rooms,” offering peace and privacy, birds and flowers.  These are “revival gardens” reflecting, as much as possible, the flowers and arrangements of the time. They help to complete the experience. 



Pass through one doorway through a tall brick wall, and find yourself walking under a long, arched arbor that would be bursting with flowers a little later in the season.  As you walk, you can see enough in the distance to imagine the pathway leading right down to the river.  It is all quite beautiful  


I thought you might be interested in this information about the gardens and the hedges.  It’s one more way such attention to detail is taken to make a visitor really understand the Palace and the care taken in bringing it back to life.

Here's something I found interesting, to say the least. As we enter the gardens, we find a rather incredible birdhouse.  It’s an entire building, and looks so special with the big entry at the top and all the little doorways beckoning to birds.  But you don’t want to look through that screened door.  Imagine what lies on what looked like hay at the bottom and along the walls.  It’s not such a pretty sight when you think that it was someone’s job to keep that birdhouse clean.  It really is something to see!

Take your time visiting Tryon Palace, and use your fertile imagination to see the times as well as the place.  Then walk the historic streets and see homes of that time.  Visit the North Carolina Museum right next door to learn more, and take the trolley tour for more insight.  It will be a wonderful trip.





Friday, June 02, 2017

FRIDAY'S FOTO

Magen's Bay, in St. Thomas, is arguably one of the best and most beautiful
beaches in the Virgin Islands.
Just look at it and dream of being there.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

FRIDAY'S FOTO

In honor of Memorial Day, 2017
In honor of all those who served our country, sacrificing their lives
In honor of all our veterans who have passed
We remember you.

I chose this photo because it juxtaposes respectful youth playing Taps and the old veteran
honoring those who served as he did in wars past and present and
in times of peace.  He remembers them.  He honors them.

On Memorial Day we honor and remember.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

TAKE FREDRIK BACKMAN'S NOVEL, A MAN CALLED OVE, ALONG FOR THE RIDE

Traveling with a good book is akin to having another companion, and Fredrik Backman’s strong  novel, A Man Called Ove, is just the kind of traveling companion you look for.

While his story makes a wonderful companion, Ove, the 59 year old we meet as he vents at a salesman trying to explain to him what an iPad is, would not be the kind of man you’d normally seek as a travel partner.  He has no faith in technology and no respect for salesmen who try to explain it to him.  He’s a cranky guy, set in his ways, disliked and avoided by most, and thoroughly convinced that his way is the only way.

So what makes Ove interesting?  We all think we know someone quite like him: older, basically intransigent, intolerant of others, longing for the past, etc. etc.  I, of course, do not find a 59 year old to be “old,” but that’s another story.  Ove’s familiarity is part of his appeal because we nod our heads and smirk as the author sardonically portrays him.  He’s humorous because he is essentially humorless.  But the more we get to know Ove, the less we smirk at his bungling attempts, his unfailing but failing resistance to the growing interaction with his very persistent and very pregnant new neighbor, and his reliance on a very real guardian angel whose approval he seeks even as he deeply sighs at what she prompts him to do.  There are a lot of tears, often unexpected, that go along with our smirks at his quirky behavior. 

Why the tears, you may ask.  Behind every person’s current story is a back story.  It is important to know Ove’s, and as a reader, you might begin to hope for a long flight or a rainy day where you stay indoors.  You will want to read about a man called Ove to find out what makes him tick.

Backman’s writing is direct and deceptively simple.  A chapter entitled “A Man Called Ove Backs Up with a Trailer,” for instance, becomes an introduction to a host of characters, each nicknamed by Ove according to physical appearance. He practically becomes unhinged for his neighbor's breaking the (Ove’s) rules, for driving ineptitude, and for what he considers his basic lack of respect.  Of course, it’s also humorous as Ove tries to drive their car with all the modern bells and whistles, reacting peculiarly to backup warning sounds and other new-fangled unnecessaries in modern vehicles.

Backman makes sure that just as the reader begins to feel dead set against Ove, he releases a bit of information, injects some humor, and makes sure we want to see what happens next. He brings our rolling boil back down to a curious simmer.  

As we learn more about Ove, we begin to envision a very different man from the 59 year old we’ve just met.  It reminds us not to judge because we never really know how deep the roots are and where they are gnarled and twisted. 

A Man Called Ove examines some deeper questions as well.  What makes a person heroic?  What are worthwhile values by which one lives life?  What makes one truly happy?  Do we always know our true worth in the world?  Are we ever too old to stop growing?  Is happiness out there if we just look for it and reach out?

In many ways, these questions are answered, and as they are, along with the smiles at the humor, and the interesting encounters and revelations, the reader is moved to tears over and over again.  Those tears are not always from sadness.

It’s a complex book.  It’s an interesting book.  It’s a thoroughly enjoyable book.  Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove is definitely a worthwhile travel companion.



Friday, May 19, 2017

FRIDAY'S FOTO

Wouldn't you love a home like this one in Lenox, MA?
This is The Mount.

It belonged to Edith Wharton, novelist and expert in home design,
whose book, The Decoration of Houses is still studied today.
The Mount is an incredibly wonderful and beautiful place to visit with expansive gardens,
ponds, and gorgeous views.

Wharton won the Pulitzer Prize for The Age of Innocence.
She was nominated for the Nobel Prize three times.
Perhaps you've read The House of Mirth somewhere in your
American Literature studies.

Friday, May 12, 2017

FRIDAY'S FOTO-- BRAVE BAHAMIAN SEAGULLS

TOGETHER WE STAND
 I love taking photos of gulls, and these, and these three, facing a brisk wind in the Bahamas, were definitely stoic.
 

Friday, May 05, 2017

THE BEARS OF NEW BERN, NORTH CAROLINA

At the Visitor Center (located in the Convention Center),
you can pick up a map of the Bear Town Bears
A visitor barely arrives in New Bern, North Carolina before he is confronted by a bear.  Yes.  They’re all over the city.  But don’t be frightened. These bears are the works of artists welcoming you to Bear Town

Today there are several more than the 50 original bears created for New Bern’s 300th anniversary in 2010, and it’s a lot of fun to go hunting for bear and experiencing the clever renditions and the symbolic nature of many of these sculptures.  Make sure you pick up a Bear Town Bears map at the Visitor Center so you will get to know your way around as well as be introduced to the artists and the names of these wonderfully creative animals.

This bear, located in Bear Plaza, of course, is named the Bearer of Rights.  Notice he is wrapped in our flag and holds the scales of justice in one hand.  Look closely at the cloak over his left shoulder.  On it is written "Non establishment of religion, Right to bear [haha] arms, No quartering of troops, and No unreasonable search and seizure."  Each bear bears a message to the visitor, and it is nice to think about that.


























Wonder how the bear became New Bern’s symbol and displayed not only in the sculptures but also featured on the bear flags and in the bear gifts found all around town?  Here are the bare bear facts.


In 1710, Baron Christoph DeGraffenried, given a tract of land by the English, led a group of Swiss and Palantine German refugees living in England to this spot. He named his new settlement after Bern, the capital of Switzerland.  Hence, New Bern

Bern is an old German word meaning “bear.”  But are there bears in Bern, Switzerland?  The founders of that city were hunters, and they named it after the first animal they came upon while hunting—bear. The symbol as well as the name not only stuck but also sailed across the ocean with the colonists. Perhaps the European name gave them some hope for civilization in their new and very different world.


At any rate, the New Bern Bears are a vivid reminder that this town, the second oldest in North Carolina, is a living museum of American history.  Bear in mind that New Bern bares Colonial, Revolutionary, Civil War, and other pertinent histories to its visitors.  As you get to know the Bear Town Bears, you will see some of that history laid bare.

This noble creature is BEARON DE GRAFFENRIED,
adventurer and entrepreneur who 
founded the New Bern colonial
settlement in 1710. 

Here is a teaser with some of the other bears we met in New Bern.  To see them all, you will just have to pay a visit to this wonderful city.  It's a place to add to you "must visit" list.




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FRIDAY PHOTO

Fairfield Harbor. New Bern, North Carolina

Who will catch dinner first--the fly fisherman or the watchful alligator?

If I were still teaching, this photo would certainly open up a lot of possibilities in a creative writing class, wouldn't it?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

DELICIOUS SOUTHERN CUISINE AT GREENSBORO’S LUCKY 32 SOUTHERN KITCHEN

No sense moving to the South if you’re not going to feast on real Southern cooking.  Hype cultural diversity in restaurants all you want, but it’s tough to beat great Southern cooking’s range and deliciousness. The beauty and flavors of Southern cuisine reflect a culture too often overlooked.  What a shame! Have you had real Southern cooking yet?

Our quest for truly Southern food leads us to Greensboro, North Carolina and Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen, a restaurant highly ranked by visitors and hometown folk alike.  It has been on our “to try” list almost since we arrived in North Carolina a year and a half ago.

If you’ve followed Third Age Traveler, you know that we have been barbecue tasters and lovers for years, ever in search of the perfect rack of fall-off-the-bone ribs, brisket, chicken, or pork, but Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen is not a barbecue joint.  This upscale restaurant is everything a special dining experience is about: ambiance, superb, caring service, and, of course, a menu that makes choosing one of the great conundrums of life.  What could be better?

Well, maybe “better” also means that this restaurant is one of the few wholly employee-owned restaurants in the country.  Maybe “better” means visiting their website and seeing a list of local farms and events at this location or at their second location in Cary, North Carolina.  Maybe “better” means being able to get their recipes and try to emulate the deliciousness you’ll experience at this great restaurant.

Our date for Lucky 32 is Rob’s birthday, so we want something special and something new.  We know the moment we drive up to the impressive restaurant that we’ve found what we are looking for.  Lovely building nicely landscaped with patio dining as well.  From our table inside, the big picture windows reveal trees just beginning to green up, and it is hard to remember we are in the middle of a city. 


 The interior color scheme is basically black and white, but the soft lamplights are like flowers, and the windows allow for natural lighting as well.  Nothing stark about the interior; rather it was warm with tables spaced so there is no crowded feeling.  Too often,  restaurant spaces require tight seating where it’s hard to even stand up without brushing another patron’s chair; not Lucky 32. 



Our waiter is prompt, takes our orders for two martinis, and comes back quickly bringing with him a nice hunk of multi-grain bread, still soft and warm. 



The menu—wonderful and varied—making us sigh as we try to narrow down our choices.  Everything tantalizes.  Just look at the first five starter selections!  What would you choose?


We decide to share the Buttermilk Fried Green Tomatoes.  WOW.  Here’s a dish that has intrigued me since I saw Fannie Flagg’s movie, Fried Green Tomatoes.  Not something ordinarily found in New York!.  I first had them at B.Smith’s restaurant in DC’s Union Station one lovely Easter Sunday years ago.  Love at first bite.  I’ve made them myself since we moved down to North Carolina, and good as mine were, these are wholly different. 



The blue cheese sauce and bacon add a zing, and I’m not sure what went into the voodoo sauce, but it certainly put a plus on that zing.  All five tomato slices are garnished with scallions, and the presentation is lovely.  Absolutely delicious. 

The entrée selection presents no less a problem.  Everything on the menu seems wonderful.  Each entrée is accompanied by two side dishes, and even those are difficult to decide.

I choose the Local Pork Loin —three slices of seared Hickory Nut Gap pork loin served on a bed of heavenly creamed spinach and topped with crisps of shiitake bacon. As my sides, I choose mustard braised cabbage and pimento mac. 

The meat is nicely done, and the creamed spinach adds a flavor boost to the meat.  The braised cabbage, a dish I’ve never had, is superb, tangy, neither too crisp nor too soft—tastefully seasoned.  The combination is unique as are the flavors of the pimento mac.

My meal is so good I will have to fight my yearnings to repeat this selection the next time we come.  And we will be back. I want to try some of the other possibilities.

Rob orders the Cornmeal Crusted Carolina Catfish, farm raised in Ayden, NC with Creole mayonnaise.  It is served on a bed of squash and peas.  For his sides, he chooses collard greens and beans and kale greens.
Perfection on a plate.

Did I say that we cannot resist tasting each other’s selections?  Amazing.  It’s not often where there is not one bit of negativity.  I, who really am not a fan of kale, cannot even complain about that.  I really like the collard greens and the squash mixture.  We both agree, too, that the fish is done just right.  Rob’s reaction to my entrée is equally positive. 

I’d love to tell you what we have for dessert, but there is just no way we could take another bite.  Servings are ample. If you’re sorry I cannot share our reactions with you, you can imagine how sorry we are that there is just no room for dessert!

We’re planning a sightseeing day in Greensboro with our next house guests, and Lucky 32 is where we will take them for dinner.  It will be a real Taste of the South treat.