Treat 2: Florence!

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge theme is TREAT:

  • Maybe you’re a savory food lover, or you’ve gone on a beautiful vacation to treat yourself. Perhaps some quiet time alone with a beloved novel is your greatest treasure.

As luck would have it, self is traveling again. And self does love traveling. It is one of her greatest passions.

This time, she is traveling with her niece Irene, who’s from Glendale, California. It was Irene who proposed the trip, something of a first for self!

Today was our first full day in Florence. We walked all over the city. Irene has tons of energy! We also picked up a Firenze Card which, according to Irene, gains us entry into 62 museums.

But, honestly, who wants to go to 62 museums???

This is the first time self has ever done anything like this, though, so what the hey! She is being very “Zen” about everything.

Found a tiny restaurant overlooking the Arno River and tried some Florentine beer: very mellow!

Found a tiny restaurant overlooking the Arno River and tried some Florentine beer: very mellow!

It was a gorgeous, sunny day. Warm, almost like spring!

Overlooking the Arno River. There were lots of boaters out today!

Overlooking the Arno River. There were lots of boaters out today!

We stumbled on this piazza lined with statues, just off the Uffizi Gallery:

We stumbled upon this square by accident, and -- Whoa! Irene met a cute carabinieri!

We stumbled upon this square almost by accident, while heading for the Arno River. And — Whoa! Irene met a handsome carabinieri!

Someone had told Irene that November in Florence wouldn’t be as crowded as it gets in other months. But it was still crowded.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Condé Nast Traveler August 2014: The “Cruise Issue”

There is still time, dear blog readers.  There is still time to fantasize about taking a cruise this year.  One does not need to go all pity party and woe it sucks to be stuck at a desk job for the remainder of 2014.

According to Condé Nast Traveler, 49% of the magazine’s readers are planning to take a weeklong cruise in the next year (Rest assured, self is taking immediate steps to become a part of this demographic)

And here are several cruise recommendations, broken down by category:

For the Gourmand:

  • Celebrity Cruises’ “Top Chef at Sea”
  • Crystal Cruises’ “Microbrew Cruise”
  • MSC’s “Virtual Winery at Sea”

For the Workout Warriors:

  • Holland America’s “Great Alaskan Marathon Cruise”
  • Yoga Cruises’ Bend and stretch on the yachts Admiral and Atlantis
  • Crystal Cruises’ Golf cruises

For Music Lovers:

  • MSC’s “Holy Ship! Electronic Dance Music
  • Holland America’s “Country Music Cruise” on the Eurodam
  • Norwegian Cruise Lines’ “Grammy Festival at Sea: Women Who Rock!”

Some Really Specialty Niches:

For lovers of Steampunk:  Royal Caribbean

For lovers of Magic Shows:  Crystal Cruises

For indefatigable knitters (Caroline Kim-Brown, this one’s for you!): Ama Waterways

For Hobbit fandoms:  Royal Caribbean

For Nudists: Celebrity Cruise Lines

Stay tuned.


Joy Again! WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

What does JOY mean, for self?

It means, right now, old friends.

It means celebrating connection.

It means, life continues. PAY IT FORWARD.

In the Moment 1:  Jessika and Pepe with us at German Haus beer garden in Redwood City

In the Moment : Jessika and Pepe with us at German Haus beer garden in Redwood City.  Self knew Pepe’s dad when we were graduate students at Stanford.

The woman in the white top is Virgie's, creator of THE quintessential Visayan mango tart, and other sinful indulgences:  in Bacolod, where else?

The woman in the white top is Virgie’s, creator of THE quintessential Visayan delicacy: mango tart, as well as other sinful indulgences: in Bacolod, where else?  Her energy and optimism are infectious.

Look at the great smiles on the faces of these teachers at Pampanga Agricultural College, in Magalang, Pampanga!  One of the teachers holds a present they gave self when she visited, in September.

Look at the great smiles on the faces of these teachers at Pampanga Agricultural College, in Magalang, Pampanga! One of the teachers holds a present they gave self when she visited, in September.

Here are a couple more WordPress blogs that succeeded wonderfully in expressing the theme JOY:


1st Wednesday of April (2013)

Self had just pulled herself together enough to revise two very short stories (1,500 words each) and send them out, and seat herself in front of the TV in the living room to watch “Bones” while having her lunch (It is 3:21 pm, that is how busy she was today), when she decided to check her e-mail (which she does almost every hour), and there was already a rejection for one of the short stories she’d sent out today.  Honestly:  this was the fastest rejection ever.  Faster even than!  She hopes they’re still considering the other story (They allow two stories per submission.  Don’t ask self to name the magazine:  self has decided that discretion is the better part of valor.)

Then she decided to —  Holy Cow!  This rice that she is having with her stir-fried boneless chicken thigh fillets is absolutely yummy!  It’s the first time she’s tried this Elephant Brand Thai rice (from Marina Foods in Hillsdale:  she would have preferred to drive across the bridge to Island Pacific in Union City, but has been feeling quite pressed for time) and does it ever go well with stir-fried chicken!  Especially with stir-fried chicken in Hoisin sauce!

Her eye wanders over to the TV and —  Wow!  Cute shirt the African American supervisor is wearing!  Lime green, with beaded keyhole neckline!

Back to self’s lunch.  She is washing all down with a bottle of beer.  And —  Holy Cow!  This is absolutely a fantastic beer!  Self peruses the label:  California Lager, Anchor beer, founded 1896.  She wonders if this is from Trader Joe’s, or from Draegers.  It’s definitely not Safeway or Whole Foods.

It has turned into a very hot day.  Self knows she needs to water.

Sweet-smelling Bella is wiped out from the exertion of climbing the kitchen stairs in the heat.  She’s on the kitchen floor, because the linoleum feels cool. (Self is tempted to carry The Ancient One here, there and everywhere, but is realizing that The Man’s insistence on making the poor li’l crit walk as much as possible is why Bella, at 17 1/2, is still ambulatory.)

And —  Self!  What are you doing!  You have just downed your third serving of Thai rice with chicken fillets stir-fried with green onions and Hoisin!  Aaach, aaach, she can’t help it, the rice and the stir-fried chicken and the hoisin sauce and the beer are such a perfect combination.  Not only that, self must be allowed to drown her sorrows regarding last night’s Justified season finale.  When might Season 5 be occurring, self wonders?

She finally got to the last page of the San Francisco Chronicle of precisely one week ago.  The bottom of the last page is the Dear Abby section.  Here is one of the letters:

Dear Abby,

I am a plus-size woman.  I am loud and boisterous, and I like to surround myself with similar women.  However, there is a problem I am now facing.

Many of my friends have made amazing transformations and gotten fit.  I am fully supportive and impressed, but I see the price they are paying.  They are no longer confident and vivacious.  They have become timid, approval-seeking shells of their previous selves.

Why do newly thin women forget how awesome their personalities used to be?

—  Big Beauty in Illinois

*     *     *     *

Dear Big Beauty:

Not knowing your friends, I can’t answer for them.  But it is possible that having become “transformed and fit,” they no longer feel they need their loud and boisterous personas to compete for attention.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Ah, Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow!

At times like these, what better way to salve one ‘s spirits than a glass of good, dark, Guinness Draft Beer!

Last Outing: Beer at the Sun Inn, Dalkeith

Self will sorely miss the scintillating conversations she had with these two, Marylee and Joan.

What self will NOT miss:  How much weight she’s gained here in Scotland.  Scottish breakfasts are positively huge, dear blog readers.  And lunch follows only three hours later.  Then, because one’s tummy has been stoked (already) by the rich food, one simply cannot hold one’s horses until the 7 p.m. dinner.  And that’s when the butterscotch tablets come out.  And the scones and tea.  Aaaargh, aaaaargh, aaaaargh.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Thinking of Sachiko

Yesterday, self decided to figure out whether she had imbibed any liquor recently.

Let’s see, did she have a glass of red wine with her dinner?  No, not in at least a month.

What about a beer?  Has she had any beers?  Recently?

No to that as well.

Self, what are you waiting for?  Here you have a fridge practically stuffed with hubby’s Pacifico and Smithwick’s, and you go days, weeks, without having a beer?  Holidays are always so much better when accompanied by drink!

Self decides that, starting today, she will make a determined effort to deplete this humongous supply of beer (Although she thinks she remembers reading somewhere that beer is extremely fattening.  She remembers the policemen in Manila, parading around in tight-fitting uniforms, “beer bellies” hanging ostentatiously over their belts)

Which then puts self in mind of a Stanford roommate, Sachiko H.  Sachiko was Japanese, had matriculated from the University of Tokyo (the Stanford of Japan, or so self has heard) and was in Stanford to pursue graduate studies in Anthropology.  She was fluent in Spanish, which made her the perfect companion for a two-week escapade to Mexico.  Sachiko was all about seeing ruins.  We saw Chichen Itza.  We saw Teotihuacan.  We spent days circling the exhibits in the National Museum of Anthtropology in Mexico City.  We spent a wild two weeks trekking around Mexico by third-class bus, the kind with chickens on the roof.  We tried every market taco stand we encountered, even when the vendor handed the delicacies to us with fingers rimed with dirt.  Self never got Moctezuma’s revenge, for she had taken the precaution of drinking half a bottle of Pepto-Bismol every night.

Things would have been satisfactory if Sachiko had not insisted that we end each day with a stint in a bar.  She desired only one thing:  tequila.  This was a confusing discovery to make, for self was under the impression that all Japanese women were demure porcelain dolls who never cursed or swore, much less indulged in hankerings for tequila.  Self had never drunk so much tequila as she did with Sachiko.  There was one time she couldn’t walk straight and thought the corridor was tilted and she was walking on the ceiling.

“Sa-chi-ko,” self remembers warbling plaintively.  “Why is the room crooked?  Why?  Why?  Why?”

She doesn’t remember Sachiko ever responding.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Today: Again Gorgeous

Today self got her first rejection in quite a long time, from the Santa Monica Review.  It was for one of her “quiet” stories, one of those depicting a wife and her life of quiet desperation (Self thinks it’s time to retire these kinds of stories from her repertoire.  Maybe her next “wife” story should feature a woman picking up an AK-47!)

Also, Bella turned the entire living room into her toilet.  Bad dog!  In spite of the fact that self was home and is always ready and available to open the back door for Bella, whenever she looks twitchy.

It’s OK.  It was a gorgeous day, there was one bottle of Mission Street Pale Ale in the fridge, and self got to plant her third Creeping Jenny “Goldilocks” plant.  She’s filing in the shady spots of her garden.  Now, all she has to do is utter a prayer that these fledgling plants will survive her next trip (which isn’t, anyway, until 2012).

In addition, self heard from an editor who liked a story she’d just sent out, “Thing.” It’s about a dystopian future universe, where the Founding Fathers apparently cannot stand the sight of mutant pig babies.  BWAH HA HAAA!  It seems self does still have a trick or two up her sleeve and can pass for a science fiction writer if she wants to.

What else?  Oh yes, her cousin JR in Bacolod loaded pics of his new venture, a barbecue restaurant called “Beso” (Nice name!  It means “kiss”) on Sixth Street in Bacolod.  Self really likes the lime green walls and the red tables.  Everything looks very striking, in a modern minimalist way.  Check it out, dear blog readers!

And, finally, her novel-in-progress is 191 pages long!  She just added to it late last night (apparently, because when she woke up, her desk lamp was still on, and she saw five more pages in the document total at the bottom of the screen, five more than she remembered seeing when she was last conscious of sitting at her desktop.  Hey, at least sleepwalking/writing is way better than sleepwalking/eating!)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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