Friday, June 24, 2022

A Real Life Conversation

 Daughter #1

Dad. What do I do with Pickled Garlic?

de-I

     Put into a Martini
    Chop into salads
    Add as a condiment to curry
    Puree into a facial scrub
    Okay I just made that up

Daughter #1

    Lol
    Those all sound good
    Except the last one

de-I

   Pickled garlic scrub was used throughout Southeast Asia as an aphrodisiac. Not really.   

 Seriously pickled things like garlic tend to be much less potent in flavor than the raw. The Spanish put    them in olives. I think any stuffed vegetable would benefit from some chopped pickled garlic
   

 AND Is also very useful against pickled vampires!
    đŸ˜”‍đŸ’«

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Contemplating The Next Big Transition

Wife and I have been doing a lot of talking about what happens next now that it seems the world has decided we are just going to all be getting Covid all the time so let's go back to life as is was before. I will be turning 75 in six months. Wife is a year + behind me.

The pandemic years cost us (and most everyone else) two valuable years (in terms of age) of travel. Equally significant for our quality of life, it, along with other events (political policies, demographics) has led to the diminishing of the availability of people to do work. This has been written about relating to all types of situations (such as businesses being unable to find help). But for Wife and I, it is hitting us at our ability to stay in our house.

Long time readers know, the many years of additions and renovations to the Tower have led to an environment that Wife and I truly love and don't want to leave. The problem becomes maintenance. Whether it is the yard, cleaning, necessary repairs, things that 10 years ago we might contemplate doing ourselves, are now becoming physically more difficult due to age related deterioration. It is not hard to project out a continuing deteriorating trend. 

So much thought is going into the problem. No solutions yet.

Friday, June 10, 2022

The One And Only Rotary Convention

 I think everyone knows I am a part of a virtual, cause-based Rotary Club, the Club to End Human Trafficking. We are young, ambitious, way too white, and in need of getting better diversity of nations around the world. 

Each year Rotary International holds an annual convention. Prior to Covid these would attract up to 40 thousand Rotarians from around the world. But in 2020 and 2021 they had to be virtual. However, the convention scheduled this year in Houston, Texas, was going to come off in-person. Sadly because of the U.S. Government's breakdown in ability to process visas due to the prior administration and Covid disruptions, many who wanted to come couldn't. There were only 10 thousand in attendance. Including your truly.

You would ask,"de-I, you are notorious for not liking anything with crowds of people. Why the hell were you there?" A very valid question.

It started last February when my club president suggested this would be a great opportunity for members of our far flung, virtual club to actually meet each other face-to-face. I decided that was true so committed to go. Then over the next three months everyone else from the club backed out. I seriously thought of backing out too. BUT, there was this opportunity to do international recruitment that would never come again. As our Membership Chair, I felt a responsibility. There will not be another Convention in Northa America until 2025. Plus I thought it would be a good chance to promote Theodora as well. So I went.

I was helping man a booth of a related organization (The Rotary Group to End Slavery) which we are associated with. This gave me the venue with which to network. And I did. I was at the convention for two days solid, 10 hours each day, talking things up. I got a load of names. And was totally exhausted.Many in my circle (family, my Theodora participants) tell me I work too hard. Mostly they are not correct. I am on my butt making video calls. I am sorry, this is not hard work. Being on your feet, selling, non-stop for 10 hours a day is hard work. I will go on record as this was my first and last such venture.

And as a reward for my efforts...I came down with Covid! Thankfully have not been too bad (Thank you Pfizer Covid anti-viral drugs!). So I am writing this from my quarantine quarters in the Tower. 

On a more positive note, the high point of the convention was a social event, a 'drink-up' hosted by a Rotarian I know from Ghana. Yaw is our landlord. I didn't even know he was a Rotarian until just a few months ago. He invites me to this event. I have no idea what to expect other than he tells me important Ghanaian Rotarians will be there. Turns out to be a big ole BBQ with all kinds of Rotarian bigwigs. Yaw is promoting the hell out of Theodora. And I am (literally) the only white person in the room. It is very cool.


Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Portugal-Amsterdam 2022 - #22 - Post Trip Analysis

 It is once again time for us to evaluate all that took place on our trip with the all knowing, all seeing eye of discrimination. Navel gazing as the beloved #3 calls it.

  • Can the value of the whole be less than the sum of the parts? Yes evidently.

There was so much when taken individually that I liked in Portugal. The wine was phenomenal. Seriously it was nearly impossible to not get a bad pour. And they were generous with the pours. Even in the supermarket, the most expensive wines were hardly above U.S. low to moderate prices. 

 

Driving was easy. There was a clear set of rules that pretty much all drivers followed. The major highways were well marked making navigation easy. Our GPS generally worked quite well. The houses and apartments we rented were nice. The bread was great. Even supermarket bread. The food we bought at the markets was high quality. Prices in general were not expensive. English is widely understood.

 

What was not great? The food! Eating out was a big disappointment. Even the best we had was just okay. That was a major downer for me. Plus most of the areas we went to where extremely oriented toward the tourist market. It was hard for Wife and I imagining ourselves staying in any of them for very long.

  • We still love to travel 

Why? It is the whole experience. The finding, exploring, figuring out, making something unknown your own. Every time we find a spot that was not on the list of major sites but turns out to be cool, is a reward. Just figuring out over 3 to 5 days how get around a place is stimulating

  • However!....

 …The limitations of age continue their relentless reduction of what we can do – like the steady erosion of the water on the earth. This was so very evident when we were confronted with dealing with the hilly nature of Porto.

  • We are done with mountains, hills, inclines…Give me Flat! And Water!

For the vast majority of my life, I have loved the mountains. Early on I ached to be in them. When we moved to New Mexico, they became part of our daily live with hiking a mainstay. When we travel, I looked for having the mountain experience. But as our capabilities have diminished, driving, walking and getting around these environments has become a bigger and bigger challenge. 


Now we crave a different experience. We want to be close to the water. We want flat. Yes we want challenge but challenge that our age depleted bodies can handle.

  • Still showing signs of our ADD tendencies.

At each of our stays during this trip, we found the places we wanted to visit, went out, did our exploring, our photographing. And then it was, 'we're done'. Time to move on?

  • So can we change?

We have a big experiment coming up. We have (in our minds anyway) that we would like to live somewhere other than the United States. So we are going back to CefalĂș Sicily for two months this fall. Will the CefalĂș experiment leave us finding a new path or will we be bored out of our minds? We will find out.

  • Farewell to Frites
Daughter #3 is leaving Amsterdam after 16 years moving to Copenhagen, Denmark. The Netherlands in general had great Frites, what we call French Fries. But there was one place at the end of a large open air market called the Albert Cuypt that had, what we believed were the best we ever had in our life...period! Every time we visited, we would go there. So for this last visit to Amsterdam, we went three times! Eating these most wonderful frites probably for the last time. Smothered in Dutch mayonnaise of course!

Monday, May 23, 2022

Portugal-Amsterdam 2022 - #21 - Post-Script, Lisboa Final Meal

 No, that wasn't the last post. This is...maybe. 

Our decision to go to Amsterdam came after we made our original flight reservations to and from Portugal. So we had to fly back to Lisboa (Lisbon) so we could catch our flight home. 

We had all the usual travel related hoo-ha. The bags were slow coming out in Lisboa. I nearly got decapitated by an incompetent old, evidently inexperienced traveler who had his backpack on his back as he flailed around the narrow isle trying to get he and his woman settled. We wandered around the Lisboa airport looking for the place to get our Covid tests because the map the lab sent did not note there are TWO LEVELS of departure check-ins. We wandered even more trying to walk to our airport hotel because 1) Booking doesn't seem to think it is important to state the hotel has a shuttle, and 2) Maps seemed to thing sending us the great circle route was the best way to get to the hotel...whereas in fact you could walk out the front of the terminal and pretty much see it.

But we had a final mission delegated to us by 2B to secure some bottles that are not easily found in the US. As a result we picked up an Uber for the old town of Lisboa. I was successful in our search but we also needed to eat so had one last Portuguese meal in a little hole in the wall place with a good Google rating. It turned out to be the best of our trip.

Wife again had grilled Sea Bass with chips. It was the best rendition of the trip. The fish was super fresh and the chips were well fried and salted. I had a dish I had wanted to try but couldn't because most of the time it was made for two people...seafood rice.

It was a dish reminiscent of pasta in Italy. It started with the flavor being soft and subtle but growing with each bite and never overpowering even at the very end.

We even had dessert which was unusual for us. The tarte was a type of custard that is so popular here. The concoction in the glass was like a tirmasu sundae.


It was a very nice way to end up our trip. We fly home tomorrow.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Portugal-Amsterdam 2022 - #20 - Closing It Out In Amsterdam

 On Tuesday we made our way to Amsterdam. This has been a steady place for visiting with #3 and family having lived here for 16 years. But they are on their way to Copenhagen Denmark following a job opportunity for 3A and will be moving this summer. So this was our last chance to see them in this spot that has been a real favorite of ours (not least to sample some of our favorite street food once again). Given how much effort we put out in Porto, Wife and I were both ready to chill and let our bodies recuperate and spend serious time with each of the family members. So not a whole lot to blog about. So have decided to do a bit of a gastronomic overview of the trip. 

I mentioned throughout my posting that the food in Portugal definitely was a disappointment. It was worst in the Algarve (the south) where other Portuguese said the influence of British expat and vacationers is very strong. In general, we found the food under flavored, especially salt. And there was never salt on the tables! So here are the highlights.

Our first really good meal was in Elvas where we had a very acceptable plate of clams (me), but that incredible fruit salad!

The were things were EXCEPTIONAL all throughout Portugal

Wine

The wine, day in and day out, red or white, was simply the best value I have had anywhere. Better than France. Better than Italy. Better than anywhere. And so economical!

Oranges

Great. Had them all the time and were always delicious.

Pastel de Natas, tiny custard tarts

In Mafra, we had an experience like none I have had where the Airbnb host welcomed us with a ton of cured meat, cheese, breads, and wine.

We had two good meals during our time in Mafra

I ate baccalhao (salt cod), a big favorite in Portugal, numerous times. This preparation was in a cream sauce with potatoes

This was a seafood stew

And in Porto there was one restaurant we went to twice with very good food. I tried this because it was one of those things that I just had to...Tripas a Moda de Porto - Porto style tripe.

What was interesting was this tasted just like ham and beans in the U.S. When you think of the number of Portuguese immigrants over the centuries, it makes sense.

Octopus is very popular as well.

The grilled whole fish was something we frequently had and enjoyed.

I love the tradition of espresso coffee. 

For the vast majority of our life together, Wife has never drunk coffee. But after one of our lunches, WHAT, she ordered one. It was a singular event.

Driving from Mafra to Aveiro, all the restaurants at the autostrada rest stops were closed. We were forced to eat at the gas station itself where I had this.

A hot dog. The bun lined with ham and cheese. Topped with fried potato sticks. Served with Mayo and mustard. A bit weird but not the worst thing I've eaten.

Saved in Porto

Our great Doner Kebap

One thing we won't miss from Amsterdam - Going up the stairs to #3's third story apartment.


We fly to Lisbon tomorrow and catch our flight home on Tuesday

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Portugal-Amsterdam 2022 - #20 - Porto Finale

 On our last day in Porto, we finally figured out how to not kill ourselves (maim only) on the steep slopes. We took a long walk that was downhill and straight to the Gondola. Took the Gondola to the upper bridge. Crossed over the bridge. Found ourselves in the center of the downtown/old town section that had nearly killed us the first day. I was so shocked to find us right where we had nearly died, where our desperate hunger was such as we almost went to McDonald's. To celebrate this accomplishment we dined a second time at the Doner Kepab place.

OMG this is Soooo much easier than schlepping up the slope!

 

And there's our apartment - middle building, middle apartment

The gondola view of the city



Across the bridge we go!

Great views from here too!







The evil, inoperative funicular that would have saved us the climb on day one.

And then...RAIN!...Get the rain coats on! Protect the cameras! Flee!

First stop - Porto Cathedral

Yup...MORE BAROQUE/ROCOCO!


 

At least there was a stained glass window

And there was tile work of a whole different quality and human expression than prior churches visited.




Seriously, I think this could become the emblem for de-I Sandia Outfitters Group!

Outside the Cathedral was a statue in honor of the Patron Saint of Cruise Ship Tour Guides, Saint Fall O'wmedam Nit.

On to the Train Station...right where we were four days ago. I mean on the very corner and we didn't know it! Of course we were about dead at that point too so I suppose we would not have enjoyed it. It is the massive building on the right.

Why are we going to the Train Station? Because in the late 19th century, the train stations of the world were being build as monumental public art works by governments. And the tile work in the lobby of this station was done exclusively by one artist. It was, without doubt, the most amazing we saw on the trip and a fitting finale.


A panorama view

The tile tableaux include both historical stories and scenes of everyday life. And the human emotion representation? Well, I will let you come to your own conclusion. 








There was one last 'obligatory bit of tourism' needed. The river cruise. 







And to say goodbye to Porto, one last going up our 'short walk' from where the shopping is back to the apartment.