Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Marche-On, Marche-On

Those words are from the French national anthem and they mean "Let's keep marching". That's the by world for the first de-I Expeditionary Force (dEF) with our mission to maximize our Parisian experience.

Wife and I both over slept on Tuesday. We'd told #1 and 1A to be a breakfast 8:30 sharp, ready to go. At 8:30 sharp, I roll over and check the clock and notice we haven't even woken up yet. Took quite a bit of grief from the young'uns on that one.

Today we headed to the Marais area of Paris which is just to the the East of the center city and is the home to a lot of late medieval and early renaissance buildings. It is a part of the city that I've never been to so I really enjoy it. 1A has downloaded a walking tour of the area and does the guide duty.

From the Marais it is short walk to the Seine river and crossing onto the Ile Saint Louis and Ile de la Cite. These are the islands in the river that were the ancestral foundations of Paris. We just grab a quick bite for lunch, some savory crepes from a street vendor. The guy was really quite the craftsman and they were surprisingly good. We ate them in the park just behind the cathedral. Pretty cool. (By the way, at some point I will try to upload some pictures but

We visit Notre Dame de Paris, the cathedral. I take over the guide duties here because of my knowledge of the area and history readings. After a brief discussion of the design innovations of the Gothic cathedral, we head inside. We're on the cusp of the vacation season, so it's crowded but not insanely so like it would have been a couple of weeks earlier.

Then it's on to the Left Bank/Latin Quarter, the university area. This is my old stomping grounds. I've just finished a book about the educational ferment that led to the rise of the Universite de Paris in the 13th century, so I'm able to give an even better historical background. We visit the grand boulevards; St. Germain de Pres and St. Michel. We go past the Sorbonne and the Faculte de Droit (law school). I show them Rue Tournefort where I stayed when I studied there. Then it was on to the Jardins des Plantes (botanical garden).

By then it was pretty late and we took the Metro back to our neighborhood. IA and #I have gotten very fond of going to the cafe or brasserie and having some beer or wine before dinner (as most restaurants don't even get started until around 8 PM. So we did so tonight again. Then we had dinner at a place near the hotel that was very 'old school' with lots of dishes you don't see often today in restaurants. So I had Tete de Veau (which as the name implies is made from the head of a veal. Wife had a whole roasted dorade (fish), #1 had moules (mussels) frites (with fries) and 1A had Auvergne sausage (from a particular region) and aligot (a potato puree with cheese incorporated so that it is smooth and creamy. Very enjoyable but not light!

We've got another busy day tomorrow. One of these days I will try to up load my pictures.

Monday, August 30, 2010

We's Here

Getting from Albuquerque to Europe just takes a long time. It's a minimum of 2.5 to 4 hours to get to a major hub like Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, or Washington to catch your flight over. Then it's 7-9 hour depending on where you take off from and there is time in between for changing planes and time up front to get to the airport and through security.

Everything went like silk for us. No lines or nothing in Albuquerque. Right on our plane in DC. Smooth flight and we went through customs with no problems...only to have to wait four hours for daughter #1 and son-in-law 1A to get in. And there were virtually no chairs to sit in so we stood most of the time. Hard to imagine a major air port without a facility to sit down.

But once they were in we got our shuttle to the hotel which is small but clean, quiet, and has excellent beds. We walked around a bit and to get our bearings. By then we could check in to the hotel. It's nice, in a non-toursity part of Paris to the East of Central Paris near Place de la Nation (put it in Google Maps). The rooms are small but the mattresses on the beds are FANTASTIC. We took a little nap. Then went out for more walking, stopping in cafes, walk more, stop for a drink again. Then it was on to dinner.

We went to a restaurant recommended by our hotel which advertises itself as a 'traditional cooking' place. 1A and I had a lamb shoulder roast for 2. It was excellent. #1 and I both had raw milk Camembert cheese. Sooooo good. You just can't get that at home.

After that it was back to the hotel for sleepy time. We were out in seconds.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Third Calvary Mount Up - Foward Ho!

After the travel extravaganza last year to New Zealand, this year was supposed to be one of austerity. One small problem, daughter #3 decided to get married this year. And because she lives in Europe, as does her husband to be, they are getting married in France.

#3 assigned me the task of making sure that her sisters made it to the wedding. This involved various negotiations and planning to deal with issues like with kids or without kids. My concept that we go to the wedding and come right back was pretty much trounced by Wife who thinks it’s a crime to travel that far and not stay for a while.So traveling we are once again.

OK the reality is it doesn’t take a whole lot to convince me that we should travel. I love to travel. Even with all the travel I do for work if I have time off, I'll be traveling.
So today we’re on our way to Paris. We’re going from Albuquerque to Washington D.C. then to Paris. There we’re scheduled to meet daughter #1 and son-in-law 1A. We spend a couple of days in Paris We are joined by daughter #2 and son-in-law 2B on Thursday when we take train and car to the middle of nowhere France where the wedding is being held. Multiple days of wedding preparations and festivities ensue with the culminating in the wedding on Saturday.

Then we ship 1 & 1A back to the US, while 2 and 2B come with us for a week in Italy. Then it’s back to Paris for a couple of days and back home.

We're in DC now at the Red Carpet Club. As daughter #1 said, she assumed I was being treated as the plus ultra sin quoi non traveler that I am. So them throwing rose petals and fanning me with plumes of ostrich feathers is just par for the course.

We'll talk to you next from Paris.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

YES! There is a Comb Fairy!

I am constantly, constantly losing combs. The average lifespan of a comb in my pocket is around 45 days. I am totally convinced that there are comb gnomes that are out there pickpocketing my combs and tossing them all over the country.

This morning was windy and I had a couple of important meetings so I was glad that I still had my last comb. So when I went to put my stuff in my pockets, I was outraged to find that the gnomes had struck again. It was early morning and Wife was woken up by my swearing. She calmed me down and told me if there were comb gnomes that meant there had to be the good comb fairy to reward people who want to be good groomers.

Well I haven't seen any evidence of any comb fairies...until today. I got home from my meetings to see this!


At the rates the gnomes work, that could last me 6 months!

I heard a noise and ran to my deck and just caught the signs of the comb fairy ascending to the heavens.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Let's Not Make A Habit of This

At the instigation of my younger brother, we organized getting the three brothers together just by ourselves without any wives or significant others. This is the first time that we've done this since leaving our home. An since we are all in our 60's that means it has been over 40 years for this to happen. We don't like to rush into things.

We decided to do this in Las Vegas because it is the easiest place for all of us to get to with one being in Hawaii, one in Maryland , and me in New Mexico. It was also easy for us to get a some kick butt accommodations at for not too much $$$. We stayed at a place called the MGM Signature which is an all suites, no smoking, no casino lobby facility near the MGM Grand.

Here are some pictures from the window and the living room/kitchen area of one of the suites.

Being of our family we ate well. We went to Tom Colleccio's Craftsteak where we had a great meal...except for the steak!!! I wish I could have had him in front of us for a Top Chef judgment.
We also went out for Chinese Dim Sum and Indian. There is a ton of great ethnic food in LV not on the strip and it's not expensive.

Mostly we just hung out and talked. No matter when we get together, we find it so easy to laugh. I think we just all share a pathetic sense of humor.

Younger brother wanted to get some crystals for his doctors office. That was fascinating as at first Bro wasn't impressed until the proprietor asked him, "Are you into energy", which Dr. Bro answered yes. Then he took us WAY into the back bowels of the building for the "good stuff". Bro was not impressed. He bought all kinds of stuff and I got a couple as well.

Since we were there on Friday night, we got to see a flotilla of young women in the skimpiest dresses I ever saw. I was some what mystified until I finally figured out that they were all dressed for the clubs. Being over 60 and well over prime, it is like being an invisible person. I think I could have been naked and nobody would have noticed.

Las Vegas is not my cup of tea. I'm just a very solitary quiet person and the non-stop noise just kills me. I'm probably the "Most Boring Man in the World"

  • They have a week named after him on Discovery. It follow Three Toed Sloth Week
  • No one has ever thought to have a tattoo of him
  • He is the life of the party that he's never had
  • He speaks English in snoring

Stay awake my friends.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Peach Time

Farm girl Wife has another bumper crop of peaches

She's decided she needs to prune more of the fruit off the tree early.
You can see a couple of branches totally bent under the weight of the fruit.

And they taste every bit as good as they look.
It has been interesting to observe the development of the flavor in the fruit from the very first we tried that were still slightly under ripe to the ones now that are getting closer and closer to peak flavor.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Pewter Chef Returns

Wife and I had business partner and friend Lebanese Dave and girlfriend L over for dinner. I made the offer that we do an 'Iron Chef' meal. As you may remember this is where I have the guest bring a number of ingredients (usually a protein, a starch, and a vegetable) without letting me know before hand what they are getting. Then I whip up dinner based on their selections. Its fun and I have the extra benefit of not having to do any planning or get tired from pre-dinner cooking.

For tonight's meal Dave and L brought the Pewter Chef:

  • Portobello mushrooms
  • A lemon cucumber
  • Two tomatoes
  • A hot chile pepper
  • A blend of rice and lentils
  • And a big piece of halibut

Here are some of the ingredients before we started. That was one nice piece of halibut!

I prepared the mushrooms in two ways. I made a Spanish style tapa with garlic, pimenton, saffron and sherry. And I made a Greek style salad with yogurt, roasted portobello, salt cured cucumber and garlic.

Prepping the mushrooms for the Spanish tapa

The roasted portobellos and the cucumber curing in the salt

Devastated remains of the two mushroom courses after we forgot to take pictures earlier

Dave was taking the pictures with my phone so I have some step-by-step technique shots that I don't normally get. Dave was also into my wines which is why we have this picture as well.

I cooked the rice/lentil mixture and it was a bit too wet so I dried it out in a wood bowl. I then sauteed some pancetta (Italian salt cured bacon) and onions, mixed that in with the rice/lentil mixture for flavor.

I made a sauce with onions, garlic, parsley, the hot pepper, white wine, chicken and fish stock, heavy cream, and butter.

Here I'm using a technique for getting the tomato pulp easily into the sauce. No putting the tomatoes into boiling water then an ice bath to get the skins off. Just grate the tomato pulp right off the skin with a box grater. I like the movement Dave captured in the picture.

I sauteed the fish in a good amount of butter and oil and it came out really smooth a delicate. So here's the plating sequence.

Starting out with a nice bed of my flavored rice/lentils

Halibut with crispy skin up placed at a nice jaunty angle on the bed of rice/lentils

Applying the sauce in a decorative manner

Finished product - should have put some kind of garnish on it :(

Friday, August 13, 2010

Welcome to The Pathetic Travel Group

Pathetic Travel is the holding company for a group of new travel related businesses that I have formed to serve the needs of certain partners and family members who insist on having me make their travel arrangements then bitch about the arrangements made...in spite of their evidently not having much of a clue as to the realities of travel and the cost to get what one might really want.

Like complaining that they didn't get an exit row when we were lucky just to get a seat on the plane. Or complaining about the long stopover (no plane change though) when in fact their are zero direct, non-stop flights from where we are to where we're going. Or complaining that the rental car road noise was too loud. Or they didn't like the size of the rental car. Or they don't like hotels with air conditioners in the room when even the Holiday Inn Express was $130 a night. Things like that.

So here's the new company.

APATHETIC TRAVEL (Our major subsidiary)

  • Our Motto - "Like we really care?"
  • Our Mission - "To do as little as possible, while collecting as much as possible"
  • Our Vision - "Getting clients to realize that they are lucky just to be getting where they're want to be...Like we really care."
Now if these certain clients of ours want to complain, they run the risk of being referred to our 'problem client' subsidiary


  • Our Motto - "Go ahead. Just ask me. I dare you."
  • Our Mission - "To make our clients' realize how lucky they were when we were just apathetic, while collecting as much as possible"
  • Our Vision - "Getting clients to realize that they had it really good at Apathetic Travel and stopping their bitching."
I suspect many of you have been clients of ours for years and never really knew it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Not Just Fast Food

I've been working hard and traveling a lot. Last week we were in Austin and Dallas for a client. This week it was LA where we had two really good prospects plus work on existing clients and an new proposal for more work for an existing client. Yay team!

On top of this it has been a good couple of weeks of culinary travel. In Austin we found a good steak house, had BBQ on the road between Austin and Dallas and had a totally acceptable meal and glass of wine at a hotel restaurant near Love Field that I thought was going to be a total bomb out. On top of that the hotel buffet which was 10 bucks was over the top. It had hot food, cold food, smoked meats, smoked salmon, cheeses, etc. It was crazy good for 10 bucks.

In LA we were rushing around from one end of the area to the other but we had time and we almost went for dim sum in the Chinese area of Monterey Park. But there were only two of us and it's hard to get a good sampling with only two people. We ended up going to this Hawaiian fast food joint.

They specialize in the Hawaiian plate meal which is some type of meat with two scoops of rice and a scoop of macaroni salad.

My partner had a chicken combo with a grilled chicken and fried chicken cutlet

Mine had Korean style ribs, teryaki beef and the grilled chicken
There was a lot of food. It was real food. There was even a bed of tasty steamed cabbage underneath. A real meal for $8.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Humminbird Saga

Wife has now posted her pictures of the saga of the hummingbirds. There are some incredible shots with a great series of the last little one leaving the nest. I don't know squat about wildlife photography but I've got to say that Wife hit this one out of the park.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hummingbird Liftoff

The great even took place yesterday.

We missed #1 but both Wife and I came home around lunch just in time to see the saga of #2 lift off.

#2 was on the cowardly side. Holding on to the nest for dear life. Shivering away because the food supply had stopped and the nest mate had gone. It was flapping its wings but at the same time holding on to the nest for dear life so as not to actually leave.

Finally it let go, sort of hovered and went back to the nest. Then it got airborne and kind of bobbled in the air around the patio overhang. Finally it got the courage to take off.

Shortly after this momma came back and was poking around the nest. Seemed like she wasn't sure that they were supposed to be leaving. Then she started scouting all the areas where Wife could be found...the kitchen window, the screen door, the window into the living room. Momma trusts Wife not one bit.

Finally she took off. The rest of the afternoon was like a hummingbird territory war. There were all kinds of them buzzing each other I guess because of the addition of the two new territory seekers.

Finally by dinner time it all settled out and calmed down.

Wife immediately cleansed the area of bird poop and reclaimed the patio, celebrating by our eating dinner outside for the first time in a month.

Wife has promised to put her pictures on the web and I will post a link as soon as they are ready.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Hummingbird Huntress

The two fledglings are getting very big. They're climbing out of the nest and are working their wings. They will probably be leaving any day now.

Wife has picked up her photo activities and hopefully she'll send me some more shots to post.

Mama bird is not happy about Wife's attentions and tends to buzz her when she is visible. She even knows when Wife is in the kitchen on the other side of the screen door. On Sunday after she had chased Wife off. Wife went to read in her chair in the living room. Mama bird proceeded to fly to the window, check on Wife's whereabouts, before proceeding to feed the fledglings. Funny.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


We live in a desert climate. Our annual rainfall is 10 inches a year. I often tell my friends and relatives about our monsoon and I get a lot of skepticism. While it isn't the Indian monsoon, it is a significant part of our rainfall. For about 60 days from mid-July to mid-September, we will get moisture pulled in from the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf of California caused by air heating up over the Rocky Mountains.

Saturday was a great example. I went hiking in the morning for about 2.5 hours and got home around 11 AM. I showered then went out to get some groceries. Up to this point the skies were a little cloudy but nothing particularly ominous.

I came out of the grocery store (about 2 miles from the house) at around 12:20 and it was starting to rain. As I drove up the hill toward home, it started to pour. I grabbed these pictures.