MICHIGAN & MACKINAC ISLAND

Sleeping Bear Dunes… majestic natural beauty from Michigan…

Last month we took a trip to Michigan to visit family, friends, and spend a few days in a honeymoon frame of mind at Mackinac Island. Michigan is a place very dear to Phil’s heart, as he was born and raised there, surrounded by incredible amounts of snow during winter. Such ordeal gets compensated by plenty of fun stuff to do in the 24 days or so of reasonably warm weather (ok, that was my Brazilian mean streak showing). We visited family in a town called Stanwood, we visited friends in Kalkaska, friends we had not seen in way too long.  Alex was a young teenager last time we stopped by with him for a fun summer vacation. Their home was built in 1896, with a huge barn in the backyard which is still standing proud. I was quite fascinated by the gorgeous barn quilts. They were all designed and made by our friend Pat. Barn quilts are very common in that part of Michigan, adding beauty and charm to homes. I could definitely envision one over our garage door… why not?

Isn’t it amazing to have an old photograph of the first owners (and builders) of your home sitting at the very front porch you pass by every single day?  A fascinating look into the past…

Michigan at this time of the year is blooming, flowers everywhere, beautiful gardens for the most part with a natural aura I find refreshing. Gardens that are too manicured do not impress me the same way.

And the farmer’s markets!  We were lost in the middle of so much great produce, the blueberries and cherries have amazing flavor… we made sure to enjoy them on a daily basis during our vacation.

Our friends have a summer cottage by Blue Lake, one of the thousands of lakes in Michigan… it’s mind blowing, actually, walk two steps and you find yourself at yet another lake… We spent a couple of hours on a pontoon boat going up and down the lake, in almost complete solitude. Absolutely wonderful, although the water was so cold I thought I was going to die when I went for a swim. “Someone” had the nerve to say I was not brave enough to get into the water. HA! Fearless is my middle name.

If only the pups could see… Their Dad cheating on all of them with… another dog!
(She was super cute, though)

We left Kalkaska relaxed and happy, ready for a few days just the two of us, in a place I had never been to. In fact, I made a point of not even looking for images in the internet. To quote Seinfeld, I wanted to “go in fresh.”  Never in a million years I could imagine what Mackinac Island was all about.

On the island, no cars are allowed. Only horses, carriages, and bikes. To get there, you take a ferry-boat ride that lasts about 20 minutes from Mackinaw City. Yes, two different ways to spell the same place. It turns out that the way the natives called the place was written in French as Mackinac (you do not pronounce the final C in French), and Mackinaw by Englishmen. So now we see two different spellings referring to the same spot. Mackinaw City, and Mackinac Island. Clear as mud?

Once you get to the island, you’ll feel as if you traveled back in time 100 years. All you hear is the soothing noise of carriages passing by.

We ended up not taking carriage tours. Instead we walked a lot on the first day, and took bike rides. On the first bike ride we did the more or less mandatory path around the perimeter of the island, about 8 miles. Next day we got real nice 24-speed mountain bikes and rode for a couple of hours through alternative paths all around the island, visiting all the touristic spots. Like the famous arch, which involves going up 207 steps. You park the bike, take a deep breath and up you go!

The view is breathtaking, and worth the workout!

The best thing about bike rides is that you can stop anytime  you want to indulge in unexpected beauty along the way… like one of the hundreds of stone sculptures on the lake shore…

Or the beautiful stained glass window in a small church…

Another spot not to be missed is the wonderful Butterfly Sanctuary…  They get butterflies from all over the world shipped to them as chrysalis.

As they hatch, they stay for half an hour or so inside that window so that their wings dry and they get ready to fly. At that point, they are released into an enclosed garden with perfect temperature and moisture, lots and lots of flowers to provide them with nutrition. Before entering the actual butterfly garden, you go through a short lecture about their habits and how to behave around them. Then, the fluttering beauty takes over…

For a nice, relaxing video taken by Phil, click here.

One thing they make very clear: no matter what, do not touch the butterflies.  So, I was not amused when Phil told me that one had landed on my shoulder. I had no idea how big it was, and was very afraid to find out. Of course, the man I married thought it was oh so very funny (sigh).

(might have to re-consider that fearless thing)

Since this is a food blog after all, let me assure you that we enjoyed some great meals during the trip… Notice the dessert at the bottom right? It was called Chocolate Three Ways, and it was hard to choose the best of the three samplings.  The great thing about Mackinac is that when you had to walk 50 minutes to get to the restaurant, then 50 minutes back to the hotel, the caloric excesses don’t even make you feel guilty… Of course, you can catch a carriage-taxi anytime you feel like it.

I highly recommend a trip to Mackinac. Perfect spot for a honeymoon, or even a trip with kids, since there’s a lot to do, from kayaking to horseback riding, visits to forts and rock formations like the Sugar Loaf and The Arch. In case you did not know, the movie Somewhere in Time was shot there, so there is a store in town with the movie memorabilia for those interested.

We loved our stay, and hope to come back within a few years, the only thing we would try to do next time would be staying in a hotel with a pool, so we could lay in the sun after those intense bike rides…

Somewhere in time… Somewhere in Mackinac… 

I hope you enjoyed this little virtual tour of Michigan…  

We’ll get back into food blogging shortly!

Michigan, 2002

ONE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, August 2016

TWO  YEARS AGO: Ka’kat, a Middle Eastern Snack Bread

THREE YEARS AGO: Spinach and Chickpea Curry

FOUR YEARS AGO: Sautéed Zucchini with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Basil

FIVE YEARS AGO: Orzo with Heirloom Tomato Relish

SIX YEARS AGO:  Headed to Brazil!

SEVEN YEARS AGO: The Rhubarb Brouhaha: Revelation Compote

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Love me tender…

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EATALY

eataly
If you find yourself in New York City, I highly recommend a visit to Mario Batali & Bastianich’s Eataly. I heard about the place even before its grand opening in 2010, but confess I was completely mistaken about it. I thought it was a regular trattoria with the celebrity chef behind it. Nope. It is not. If you’ve been to Paris, think about La Grande Epicerie de Paris, and you’ll be on the right track to grasp what Eataly is all about. In fact, its original location in Turin is simply THE largest Italian market in the world. Mind blowing array of all things food and drink related, from charcuterie to fresh truffles, from wonderful patisseries to freshly made panini and mouth-watering steak sandwiches. That’s what we had for our lunch, by the way, their signature steak sandwich. Nothing could be simpler: thinly sliced rib-eye steak, piled on a sourdough bread drizzled with a touch of a bright green olive oil. The meat was perfectly seasoned, I could taste oregano in the background. Superb.  I share a few photos of the place, always crowded and with a very upbeat atmosphere.

First, how about these beautiful full wheels of Parmigiano?

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If Parmigiano is not your thing, what’s wrong with you? Ok, fine, taste is a personal thing. You can choose one of these other cheeses (just a small sampling of what the store has to offer)

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At this time of the year, Panettone is a must. They had countless brands, from the very traditional with dried fruits and Fiori di Sicilia, to creative departures, like chocolate….

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If being around all the food makes you hungry, do not worry.  Plenty to choose from…

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Top left, their panini station, where you can choose from a big selection of flavors.  Top right, espresso to get you pumped up to cruise the huge place. Bottom left, the fantastic steak sandwich stand, where you can have it plain and simple or splurge on their version with truffle butter. Sausage sandwiches are also available there.  Bottom right: a spot to savor all things truffle. You read me correctly. In case you are not sure they have the real thing, this is standing nearby.

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You can buy amazing seafood… a big selection of oysters is available too.

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Impressive offering of charcuterie (again, this is just one small sampling)…

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Chocolates, so many flavors I got a bit light-headed, and patisseries… I honestly had to drag myself away….

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They also sell wine and other alcoholic beverages, spices, coffee, tea, honey, breads, cookbooks, kitchen stuff, and when we were about to leave I spotted on a corner – get ready for it – a Nutella crepe station. Having just savored a very satisfying steak sandwich, I could not bring myself to order one. In retrospect, it could have been my lunch. Well, we might have to plan another trip to New York City to cross that off my list.

If you find yourself in the Big Apple, make sure to visit Eataly,  truly an amazing place!

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ONE YEAR AGO: Spaghetti Squash Perfection

TWO YEARS AGO: Skinny Eggplant Parmigiana

THREE YEARS AGO: Supernova Meets Wok

FOUR YEARS AGO500 Posts and The Best Thing I ever made

FIVE YEARS AGO: Back in Los Angeles

SIX YEARS AGO: White House Macaroni and Cheese

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Korean-Style Pork with Asian Slaw

 

 

ALOHA!

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Here we are, with the whole family enjoying a relaxing week in one of our favorite spots on Earth, the North Shore of Oahu.  I hope to have a new post coming up soon, for the time being life is busy in a deliciously unusual way….

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ALOHA!  MAHALO!  

ONE YEAR AGO: Baby Back Ribs with Tomatillo Glaze

TWO YEARS AGO: Ten Years Ago

THREE YEARS AGO: Someone Got a Summer Shave

FOUR YEARS AGO: Border Grill Margaritas

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Goodbye L.A.

SIX YEARS AGO:  Vermont Sourdough

FIFTEEN YEARS!

A few months late, but finally here I am… The month of March brings with it several reasons to celebrate. It signals the end of the winter, in other words, it’s pure joy. But better than that, we got married in March… the 7th to be exact, and four short days later it’s my birthday!  Some people don’t care about celebrating their birthday. I don’t “get” that. I am totally into it. So there you have it, March is a triple joy month. This year was our 15th wedding anniversary, which of course feels special, although at the risk of sounding a bit cheesy, each anniversary is very special to me.

Sculpture

If we both had to pick a place to celebrate life the way we love it, Hawaii would be it. We love everything about it,  the sun, being outside, playing golf in amazing courses, jogging along the coast. The North shore of Oahu is the closest spot to paradise for us. It has none of the commercial, touristic stuff of Waikiki, it’s a more pure and wild experience. So, that’s where we went to celebrate the date. It was a rather short visit, but we savored each moment.

This was the view from our room’s balcony at Turtle Bay…
RoomView

One of the cool things we did was performing a major exorcism. An explanation is obviously needed. When I was 13 years old I went for a trip with my older sister Nyrma and her husband. They arranged a horseback riding session for me (the first of my life), but unfortunately it did not have a happy ending. It was with a group of teenagers from the hotel, most of them quite comfortable riding. To make a long story short, one of the teenage boys, trying to show off, started galloping real fast, and startled my horse.  All I remember is that my horse behaved like the one from Zorro, raised the front legs way up in the air, and took off like a maniac!  Soon we were far away from the group, I was hugging the neck of the horse for dear life, but then my saddle started to slip sideways! At some point I was pretty much hanging to one side, almost parallel to the ground, with my head passing just above the roof of cars parked on the side of the street. Yeah, the horse decided to gallop through town. I heard people on the sideways screaming “somebody help her! that little girl will fall”… Keep in mind that at age 13 I looked more like a 9-year-old… (sigh).  My crazy horse left town again, galloped some more, until he decided he’d had enough and stopped to munch on something by a tree. That’s when I finally fell off.  Let’s say that experience traumatized me quite a bit, and even though I love all animals, horses make me a bit nervous.  But I don’t like to sit on my fears. I’ve always wanted to turn the page and be able to ride a horse again. Thanks to Phil, I managed to finally go for it.

But first things first… I had to keep my composure  while getting close to the horses…. The instructor at the hotel made sure I got a very gentle horse (the thought of “famous last words” crossed my mind).

Horse_Sally

We were a group of 6 riders plus the instructor. I got to ride right behind her, and Phil following behind me. Talk about feeling safe… It was perfect. Midway through the ride,  I was comfortable enough to pose for a photo… The ride was slow, nice, and peaceful. Could not ask for more. Full disclosure: Phil said that when I first climbed on the horse my face was  as white as a Hawaiian cloud. Indeed, I toyed with the idea of jumping off and running back to the safety of our hotel room. But the horse was too tall and I did not want to risk breaking a leg or two. So I stayed up there, pretending all was fine. I’m glad I did. It felt great to overcome a major fear. Page turned. Next time, I want to go for a faster ride. HA!

P_S_Horseback

Another fun part of our trip was paying a visit to the famous Banyan Tree….

Banyan

I had high hopes of seeing Jonny Depp around, but no luck with that. No worries, I had my private George Clooney with me at all times. The tree is nothing short of magnificent. Everything you see in the picture is part of a single tree, it actually covers a huge area!

TheTree1

During the horseback riding, the guide led our group around the tree, but I took the picture the following day, when we went back for a walk around the area. They don’t like to advertise too much the location of the tree to try and protect it from vandalism, but if you find yourself near the North shore of Oahu, make sure to stop by.  Who knows, maybe Jonny Depp will show up and say hello…

As usual, we enjoyed great meals, mainly seafood in all its glory!

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But, the highlight of the trip was the celebration of our 15th anniversary!  Here is yours truly ready to party…

Ready

Our dinner at Pa’Akai was wonderful!  Sorry, no photos of our plates, it was such a romantic setting, I could not bring myself to break the atmosphere to snap photos. However, we did ask the waiter to take one of us as a souvenir of the special evening…

15th_Dinner

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Until next time, Aloha!

ONE YEAR AGO: Light Brioche Burger Buns

TWO YEARS AGO: Sourdough Blues

THREE  YEARS AGO: Headed to Hawaii

FOUR YEARS AGO: A yummy Brazilian cake: Bolo de Fuba’

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Hidden Treasure

SIX YEARS AGO: Avocado Three Ways

HEADED TO COLORADO!

Well, folks… it is finally time to take a break and enjoy a week off from work.  Summer is one of the busiest times of the year for us. You can ask our poor graduate students who are faced with daily 8am meetings in which we talk about the plans for the day and what was accomplished the day before.  But, as they say, if you work hard, you gotta play hard too.

As this post goes live, we’ll be getting ready to drive to Colorado once again, as we did last year.  We’ll head to cooler temperatures (not something I’m particularly thrilled about), golf, hiking, relaxing, re-charging our batteries for another year of work ahead.

As usual, the blog should go on…  who knows, maybe having some time off I’ll be able to finally share with you a certain trip to Hawaii that happened 5 months ago!  Slowly but surely, I’ll get to it…

Hoping to re-visit some of the fun from last year….

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Lunch at Vail, Colorado – August 2014

 

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LEAVING ON TWO JET PLANES!

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Once again we embark on a big adventure…  Today we fly to Chicago – against my will, I must add – to attend a scientific meeting.  The idea of being in that city at the same time as the entity called Polar Vortex terrifies me, to put it  mildly. But the meeting was scheduled months ago, when they thought Chicago would still be a safe place for humans at this time of the year.

Straight from Chicago – assuming I survive it – we fly to Brazil, where we’ll spend most of Thanksgiving week. We will have a chance to see our colleagues and give a talk at the University of São Paulo, but what is even better, we’ll get to visit my family, especially my Mom!

SAMSUNG DIGIMAX A503

 Parque Ibirapuera, very close to my niece’s home, where we will be staying this time…

 

As usual, the Bewitching Kitchen will go on, I have posts scheduled to go live during our trip.  However, my ability to answer comments and visit other food blogs will be limited until our return on November 28th.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving celebrations, and save some turkey for me!

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OUR GREEN TRIP TO COLORADO

unnamed-3As I mentioned last month, we took a short vacation break to relax in Silverthorne, Colorado.  What I did not tell you then, is that we did the trip on a zero-emissions way.  We drove our Tesla, stopping at superchargers along the way.  We got the Tesla last May and were anxious to see how it would behave on a long trip.  One word: awesome! But, before I share the details of this trip, let me say that we put a lot of thought in the acquisition of this car, and getting it was part of another “green move”,  the installation of solar panels to power our home. For a couple of months now, the energy of the sun is what fuels most of our appliances and our car.  At the moment, with the air-conditioning on most of the time, the solar panels cannot keep up with all our use, but that shall change later in the year, even considering days of less intense sunlight ahead.

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A few interesting bits about the Tesla…

There is no engine. The car is basically a huge battery located underneath (shielded by a strong titanium plate), and computers to control everything. When you open the trunk, either the front or the back, what you see is a huge empty space. Storage galore… 😉

luggage
At home, you charge the car in a drier type outlet, and a full charge will take you 8 to 10 hours.  Once the car is fully charged, it displays the potential number of miles you can drive. Ours usually says 262 miles.  That is a number you will never reach, calculated while driving on a flat terrain at a low-speed.  In general, one can count with 170 to 180 miles on a full charge.

Can you drive anywhere in the US? Not quite yet. Supercharger stations are popping up everywhere, but some routes do not have enough of them to cover the distance. For our trip to Silverthorne, we planned on four stops to recharge: Hays & Goodland in Kansas, and Limon & Lone Tree in Colorado.  Silverthorne has a supercharger station in town, so we did not have to worry about finding an outlet in the hotel and charging the car overnight. For a map of available superchargers and predicted new stations within the next year, click here.   By the way, charging the car is free, doesn’t cost a penny. You park, plug, and drive away. Tesla is also building a battery swap station in California, where you will be able to drive in, get a new battery, and drive out, but it won’t be ready until 2015.  Once it’s functional, we intend to drive all the way there, should be a cool trip.

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Charging stations were always empty. During our trip, only once we had another Tesla charging on the same station.  Of course, any long trip with a full-electric car cannot be rushed.  It takes at least 30 minutes to charge the battery, up to 45 minutes to fully charge it.  But, you don’t need to stick around waiting. A Tesla app on the cell phone shows exactly where the charging stands.  You can have a coffee, lunch, go for a walk, read a book, or even think about those great experiments waiting for you once vacation time is over… Another thing to keep in mind is that you won’t always need to fully charge the battery,  and that reduces the time to charge quite a bit: the resistance of the battery increases so the final 50 miles take proportionally longer to charge than the first 170 or so. By charging for 20 minutes you will likely have enough juice to reach the next supercharging station, if you are traveling through well-covered regions of the country.  Not the case for us in Kansas, at least not yet.

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We were worried about how the car would perform on the mountains. It did amazingly well. We knew that the Tesla has a feature called “regenerative braking“. When you drive with that mode on, every time you take the foot off the accelerator, the battery gets some charge back, as the car converts kinetic energy into chemical energy and sends it back to the battery.  If you like to know more about it, click here.   So, to give you an example, when we drove from Silverthorne to Vail, we covered 30 miles each way, and the battery use was of exactly 60 miles (in other words, 100% efficiency), even though we went way up the hills for part of the drive.  The recovery of charge driving downhill fully compensated the energy used for going up.  The control panel shows the energy efficiency in real-time. Here is a shot of the screen  at the end of our day trip to Vail and back. In other words, the car is a geek’s dream!

Efficiency
But, enough technicality. Colorado is such a wonderful place! Packed with people who love the outdoors, most with that gorgeous reddish tan of the mountains. If the temperature did not drop to obscene 40 F at night, I’d say I was a happy camper. We stayed at a hotel by Lake Dillon, it was perfect for us.  Well, almost perfect.  On the first morning we planned to go for a run around the lake, but that idea was bagged after a few steps. The altitude got us real bad.  Plan B was set in place, and we walked instead, every day at least one hour, often a lot more.  Still panting quite a bit on uphill paths, but who cares?

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(click to enlarge)

The first thing we do on our trips is find a local coffee shop. Just a mile from our hotel, we stumbled on the perfect spot. Blue Moon Bakery: great cappuccinos, a huge collection of cakes, tarts, and muffins baked in place.  They have four bakers working full-time.  Take a look at some of the stuff available. It’s a good thing I don’t have a sweet tooth, otherwise I wouldn’t fit in my jeans on the trip back…

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Our favorite dinner was at a small sushi spot called Kemosabi Sushi in Frisco, on the other side of Lake Dillon.  Great name, fusion sushi by definition, I suppose.  I went crazy for one of their rolls, the Curtis C: Tempura Anaheim Peppers, Avocado, Cream Cheese, topped with Yellowtail and Cilantro Oil (shown on the right of the photo below).  The place was full, so we sat outside on a slightly chilly evening, but as an unexpected bonus a band was playing at the restaurant next door, and we got to profit from it.  Don’t you love simple pleasures?

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In one of the days we drove to Vail, a place I’d heard a lot about, but had never visited. It’s beautiful, but I must say I much prefer the atmosphere and energy of Silverthorne.  Vail is a little too upscale, with endless arrays of expensive shops instead of a more laid-back environment, which I prefer.  Good to visit, and probably great to ski during winter, if you are into that sort of thing.  Brazilians do not particularly look forward to sliding their butts on snow, until they come to a full stop, cold and with no pride left (that summarizes the skiing attempts of my past).

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Lunch at Vail on a beautiful sunny day…

After having lunch,  we sat on a bench and did some people-watching, one of my favorite activities. I can sit, watch and dream for hours.  Nearby, a big dog was tied to a pole, evidently waiting for his family having lunch somewhere.  The dog was super friendly, and we got along great.  Can you stand the sweetness of that paw?

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But, of course, no trip is perfect without some golf. We played two beautiful golf courses (Raven Club at Three Peaks, and Keystone Ranch), and I had two totally different experiences.  The first day, we were paired with another couple. They were members of that golf course and helped us a lot with tips and advice on how to handle the course. But, I played poorly, and was quite upset about it, feeling like the ugly duckling in the middle of three beautiful swans.  Next day I played so much better, but we were paired with two gentlemen, and I must say they were horrible to play with. Putting it mildly, they very unfriendly.  I guess I learned a big lesson – it’s not how well you play, but the overall experience.  If I had to repeat one of those outings, I would definitely go for the first, but would not let my pathetic performance bother me. Hopefully, the lesson will stick.

I leave you with two short videos of golf swings.  Even if you are not a golfer, I bet you will be able to appreciate them, each in its own unique way.  Phil is a great golfer, having learned the game at a very young age.  If you look at his swing, it’s smooth, his head doesn’t move forward, he keeps it down, and once the swing is over, he looks at the path ahead with that calm confidence of knowing the ball went exactly where he aimed.   Check it out here.

Now, take a look at yours truly, with a click here. Let’s say there’s room for improvement. Not much smoothness, not much transfer of weight from the back to the front foot. But the “best” part is my reaction after I hit, clearly trying to “help the ball” go where I wanted it to go. By the way, both Phil and I did not know we were being taped.  We do that sometimes to each other so that we can check our swing and make adjustments. I’ve been making adjustments for 17 years.  If you are a golfer, please keep your thoughts to yourself. Thank you so much.

SelfieVailSelfies, anyone?

All in all, it was a great trip, and we enjoyed each minute of it. However, Phil is trying to convince me to go back this winter. I thought he loved me. Evidently, I was wrong.

 ONE YEAR AGO: Ditalini Pasta Salad

TWO YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with a Thai Seafood Curry

THREE YEARS AGOPost-workout Breakfast

FOUR YEARS AGO: Semolina Barbecue Buns

FIVE YEARS AGO: Lavash Crackers