Sunday, November 30, 2014

Italy: How to Do Rome in a Day, Part 2 by Manny Gonzalez

Our Guest Blogger, Manny Gonzalez, continues his travel account on Rome.

How to Do Rome in a Day (Part 2) 
By Manny Gonzalez

Last time, we started at the Colosseum and worked our way through the via dei Fori Imperiali, the Victor Emmanuel complex, the Campidoglio, Piazza Navona, morning coffee, and the Pantheon. And now, in our hypothetical one-day whirlwind tour of Rome, it is time for – 

#8 Lunch. Do not have lunch in front of the Pantheon, unless you are rich. More than in most other areas, the restaurants directly facing the Pantheon will try to skin you. Instead, head northeast and follow the continuous line of restaurants with outdoor tables. This is actually a kind of “restaurant corridor” that will eventually lead you to #9, the Trevi Fountain. A safe 3 minutes away from the Pantheon, pick any one of these for lunch.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Imitation Game & Baghdadi in Mosul, Iraq

I saw the newly released movie, "The Imitation Game" which is about the British mathematician Alan Turing's creation of the prototype computer that broke the German coding machine, and reportedly shortened World War II in Europe by two years, thus saving 14 million lives. Sadly, Turing, who was gay, was prosecuted in 1952 for homosexual acts, and he committed suicide two years later at the age of 42.

The movie had two points: the cracking of the Nazi Enigma Code, and his homosexuality.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving Day 2014 - Family Pictures

Thanksgiving Day Pictures!

Thanksgiving Day this year was the warmest ever; it felt like summer. In other parts of the country, there were/are snowstorms with many travelers dealing with cancelled air flights.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Roast Leg of Lamb for Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

For our family feast, I'm roasting boneless leg of lamb. (There will be the traditional turkey.)

I took it out of the freezer last night - rock solid. I left it on the kitchen sink and by the morning the lamb was thawed. I plan on roasting it at 325 degrees for around 2 hours; to be specific, it's done when the meat thermometer registers 120 degrees (that's rare meat).

I cut off the wrapper but left the stretchy string that holds the meat together so the roast holds its shape. I crushed an entire head of garlic with around 20 cloves. I inserted garlic through the stretchy string into the inside parts of the roast. I rubbed some salt on the roast - not too much because salt is drying. Then I rubbed black pepper as well. I cut some fresh rosemary sprigs and rubbed the meat with rosemary. I scrunched this rosemary and inserted inside the meat. I placed the roast on a roasting pan.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Guest Blogger: How to Do Rome in a Day, Part 1, by Manny Gonzalez

Our Guest Blogger, Manny Gonzalez, continues his accounts about Rome:

How to Do Rome in a Day, Part 1
by Manny Gonzalez

You can’t, of course, do Rome in a day.
But most visitors to Rome being somewhat time-challenged, and also because I like you, here are some pieces of really valuable advice on what to spend time on in this city.

Manny’s Lazy-Thinker’s Guide to Roman Architecture (98 Percent Reliable!). The first thing to keep in mind is that central Rome (as you visit it today) is really four cities, built one on top of the other (or in between). Pay attention, and you will be able to seriously impress your friends with your architectural and historical expertise.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Guest Blogger: The Most Beautiful Women in Rome, Italy, by Manny Gonzalez

Our Guest Blogger today is Manny Gonzalez who writes about:

The Most Beautiful Women in Rome
by Manny Gonzalez

As I almost never tire of saying, most of what I know, I learned from the movies.

At the Movies. From Come September (Universal 1961, Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida) and How to Murder Your Wife (United Artists 1965, Jack Lemmon and Virna Lisi), reconfirmed by Only You (Tristar 1994, Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei), I learned that Italian women are breathtaking. (Marisa Tomei is genetically Italian; don’t get technical on me.)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Selfie Stick Anyone? - #Selfie, #Selfiesticks, #Androidcamera, #photography

Picture taken using Selfie Stick in Paris, l-r: Cecilia Brainard, Marily Orosa, Celine Conejos, Manny Gonzalez, and Chickie Feraren

My engineer son is impressed with me: I now have a Smartphone and a Selfie Stick.

For a couple of years now, he's been trying to convince me and my husband to get Smartphones, but we resisted. "We are fine with our regular cell phones," we insisted, an answer that disappointed this son who's been trying to usher us into the modern era.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Diet Strategies for the Holidays - #Thanksgiving, #holidays, #diet

The holiday season is coming up and along with that comes a lot of socializing, eating, and drinking. My husband's family is already planning our Thanksgiving meal, which will include turkey, ham, lamb, all the trimmings, plus all sort of desserts. One Thanksgiving, one of my sons counted the calories one could consume at such a celebration, and it was around 1,500 calories.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Santa Monica, California: Dining at Le Petit Cafe

 When we have a hankering for French food, we go to the Let Petit Cafe, which was where we went last night. Le Petit Cafe is located at 2842 Colorado Avenue, Santa Monica; it's a small, family-run bistro, with an informal but charming ambiance. It's almost always packed, so make reservations beforehand (tel: 310-829-6792).

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thanksgiving Around the Corner

Thanksgiving Day is around the corner and one can sense a flurry of excitement around town. Stores are displaying Christmas items; families are talking about food dishes to fix for Thanksgiving Day; people are fixing their homes; and traffic is getting bad.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Gardening: LIFE! - Progress of My Paper White Narcissus

Life! - Progress of my Paper White Narcissus

Look at how quickly my Paper Whites are growing!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Muslim Queen Rania Says No to ISIL - #ISIS, #QueenRania, #MiddleEast

It's not very often I read of Muslims speaking out against ISIL, and so it was refreshing to learn that Queen Rania of Jordan spoke out against ISIL at a recent Abu Dhabi Media Summit:

 "A minority of irreligious extremists is using social media to rewrite our narrative and hijack our anatomy. That's what ISIS is doing to the Arab world and all of us," she said.

She also commented on social media's postings of ISIS's violent propaganda (beheadings, rape, and so on):

"These images don't represent me anymore than they represent you. They're alien and abhorrent to the vast majority of Arabs -- Muslims and Christians. And they should make every Arab across the region seethe. Because they're an attack on our values as a people and on our collective story.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Philippines: Remembering Super Typhoon Haiyan & Bohol Earthquake

At around this time last year, two disasters struck Central Philippines, where I was born and raised.

First was the Bohol Earthquake with 7.2 magnitude that caused damage to 73,000 structures, including historic churches; second was Super Typhoon Yolanda (or Haiyan) that stunned the world with its ferocity. Yolanda (or Haiyan) claimed some 6,300 lives, with 65,000 listed as missing in Google Person Finder.

There was a fundraising anthology put together by Dean Francis Alfar, Outpouring: Yolanda Relief Anthology, and which is available in e-form from and other places. The anthology included work that I had just finished then, a chapter from my novel-in-progress, which I am now rewriting -- "Pilar Echeveria"

Monday, November 17, 2014

Prayers for Peace in Syria, Iraq, the Middle East

More beheadings in Syria, and when news like this flood the media, I feel stunned, shaken. I have to turn to something beautiful -- art, music, nature, prayer to calm my spirit.

I found these prayers in a Jesuit site. May these give you comfort, dear Readers.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Guest Blogger: Manny Gonzalez Reviews Barcelona Restaurants - #BarcelonaSpain

Barcelona, Spain has been home to the artists Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, and Antoni Gaudi. This Spanish city, in fact, nurtured these artists. This tolerance (a better word is "appreciation") of the eccentric, even weird, can be seen and felt in Barcelona in its architecture and unique Catalan culture, including cuisine.

The following reviews of some restaurants in Barcelona, Spain are reprinted by permission of the author, Manny Gonzalez.  A resident of Whistler, Canada, Manny Gonzalez is a Director/shareholder at the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa in Mactan, Philippines. He travels extensively and enjoys reviewing the hotels and restaurants he's visited.

These reviews first appeared in TripAdvisor.Thanks to Manny Gonzalez for sharing these reviews in my blog.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Found - Fresh Turmeric in Los Angeles, California

I've never seen fresh Turmeric in Los Angeles and was excited to find some at the Seafood City Supermarket on Vermont -- packs of huge, fat, healthy Turmeric.

I set aside some huge ones to plant.  The rest I will use for tea.

Gardening: Growing Paperwhite Narcissus Bulbs

I have a project and that's to grow Paperwhite Narcissus. I usually do this in the Winter.  Take a look at the picture with white flowers.  That is the goal.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Creative Writing: The World of My Novel-in-Progress in Pictures

More on my writing: Pictures help stimulate my imagination and I'm sharing some photos that date (more or less) from the era of my novel-in-progress - 1909.  

These images help me visualize the world of my characters so I am able to imagine the clothes they wear, the room and streets that they move in. I know for instance that there were street lights, that there were horse carriages and a few cars, that there were trains. I know that most women wore long traditional Filipina dresses; a few wore the Edwardian slimmer look.  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Creative Writing: Sinking Back into My Writing

Dear Readers,
My recent travels have pulled me away from my writing, and so I must spend time with it. I have to sink back into that fictive world, visit the world of my imagination. I have to transform myself into my various characters, so that I can see, hear, smell, feel, think, and act like them - become them, so to speak. And I must write these imagined experiences as artfully as I can.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Case of the 43 Missing Students - #Mexico, #MissingStudents

When I was in San Miguel Allende, Mexico, there were protests demanding justice for the 43 students who disappeared last September 26 after an altercation with police in Guerrero, Mexico. The mayor of Iguala, Jose Luis Abarca, and his wife reportedly ordered local police to prevent the students from disrupting an event the wife was holding that night.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Guest Blogger: Celine Conejos Reviews Makati Restaurants - #MakatiPhilippines

 The City of Makati in the Philippines is prosperous and has numerous restaurants. I am delighted to include reviews about some of these Makati restaurants by our Guest Blogger, Celine Conejos.

A Philippine Diplomat's wife, Celine Conejos is a permanent resident of Makati, although she currently lives in Geneva, Switzerland. She reviews hotel, restaurant, and attraction sites in TripAdvisor under the name of Coellum. She says this of herself:

"My father was very fond of traveling. He passed on his wanderlust to me. I enjoy traveling and planning for my trips. People close to me benefit from this. My children have many good memories of happy vacations together. At present, I live in Geneva temporarily. Being in the heart of Europe gives me many opportunities to see new places."

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sex and Crime in Cebu, Philippines: The Fuente Osmena Murders

I watched The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden, about unsolved crimes in the Galapagos in 1934, and I was reminded of Cebu's own murder mystery referred to as the Fuente Osmena Murders.

This sensational event happened in 1915, and involved the murders of two people, Ramon Santiago and Natividad Garcia Reyes.  Just like the Galapagos Affair, this case involved sex: it was said that Ramon Santiago was having an affair with a married woman, Natividad Garcia Reyes.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Guest Blogger: Manny Gonzalez Reviews Paris Restaurants- #ParisFrance

The following reviews of some restaurants in Paris, France are reprinted by permission of the author, Manny Gonzalez.  A resident of Whistler, Canada, Manny Gonzalez is a Director/shareholder at the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa in Mactan, Philippines. He travels extensively and enjoys reviewing the hotels and restaurants he's visited.

These reviews first appeared in TripAdvisor.Thanks to Manny Gonzalez for sharing these reviews in my blog.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Some Treasures from San Miguel Allende, Mexico - #Shopping

Do you remember the San Pasqual statue that I bought in Beaune, France?  San Pasqual (or Pascual), you will recall, is the patron saint of the kitchen, and my French San Pasqual sits on the ledge of my kitchen picture window, guarding my cooking.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

East or West, Home is Best!

East or West, 
Home is Best!

After traveling to Europe then on to Mexico, it feels great to be back home!

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Mexico: My Last Words about San Miguel Allende (For Now)

We're winding down our visit to San Miguel Allende in Mexico, and what a wonderful time we've had.

The group picture was taken on the rooftop where we had cocktails before dinner, l-r Lauren Brainard, Hilary Walling, Doug Noble, and Cecilia Brainard.

I'm also sharing a picture of a dog on a pharmacy counter, which amused me a lot. There are several pictures of a wet market near the Mercado Artesania. There's a picture of the Los Milagros Bar, where we played Bingo one night. There'a a picture that shows some fanciful wood carvings outside a building. And the last picture shows Hilary Walling, the magical Manuel who keeps the Zazula garden green, and Doug Noble.

San Miguel Allende, Mexico: Important Landmarks in San Miguel

We've had unusually cold evenings in San Miguel, a surprise to many tourists who can be seen with layered clothing. It's relatively warm in the daytime (in the 70's) but when the sun sets, the temperature goes down to around 50 degrees.

It's Monday after the Day of the Dead festivities, and many tourists have left. The city is relatively quiet; it remains charming with great restaurants and the shopping is great.  Streets and parks have been cleaned up. San Miguel has their tourism business down pat.

Monday evening, there was Bingo at the Milagro Bar on Relox, a fundraiser by local expats.

Here are pictures of important landmarks in the center of San Miguel Allende.

San Francisco Church

Monday, November 3, 2014

San Miguel Allende, Mexico: House & Garden Tour

Most Sundays, the Biblioteca (the library) hosts house and garden tours in San Miguel Allende.  We did this last Sunday, visiting three places: the Hacienda del Angel, an Equestrian Center, and the Casa Cruces.

La Biblioteca is the center of American and Canadian ex-pat activities.  There are some 10,000 ex-pats residing in San Miguel. The overall San Miguel population is approximately 80,000.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

History of the Day of the Dead in Mexico

It's All Saint's Day and the celebration of the Dead continues in San Miguel Allende, Mexico. It's very festive and reminds me of the Mardigras in New Orleans. Apparently, the celebration is a way of defying Death, a custom that dates back to pre-Hispanic days.  

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Mercado Artesanias in San Miguel Allende, Mexico

Today started with a lovely brunch, after which members of our group spent some time doing their own thing. We've all been to San Miguel Allende and so we don't feel compelled to see the tourist sights. After relaxing, I took off to for the Mercado de Artesanias where shopping is great. The things for sale are folk crafts of ceramic, pewter, metalwork, embroidered clothes and many, many more. The prices are terrific, especially when compared to those in the tourist shops.