Big US Adventures

We have been on big US adventures… first in CO, where S met many of my friends. Highlights included a day on the St. Vrain river with the Wostls and Beth & Ben, a taping of E-Town at the historic Boulder theater, a FACE concert and just hanging out on the Pearl Street Mall:

In FL we rented a Mustang convertible and have been along as my parents searched high and low for “authentic” Floridian sites, rituals, wildlife and food. We’ve been to fish camps and dive bars on the beach. Stefan has seen alligators, manatee, sharks, owls, dolphins and a whole lot more. He caught a trout on his first night there.

Now we are on Daytona Beach… Life is good.


Mom, I’m keeping you updated on the hydrangeas in the yard and the neighborhood, as requested. A few other funny things have developed in our little neck of the woods, too…

You remember how Alesia loves Big Garbage Night? Well, she’s installed her latest find as art outside her house. I’m pretty sure this must be against the law in Switzerland. I’m thinking of starting a pool to see how long it takes for her to receive a notice or fine…

Can you see them from this angle?The little man’s garden is just taking off, as are the lavender in the yard and the flowers you planted:

Finally, Mufasa has a new habit. It’s so darn hot on our walks, he stops for a drink…
That’s what’s happening here… Mufasa’s dog sitter arrives tomorrow and then I’ll be off!

Pesto Provencal Potato Salad

Going to a BBQ today at my friend Laura’s place. I told her I’d bring potato salad. I am quite pleased with myself as I don’t think I’ve ever made potato salad and this one’s good, so I thought I’d share it with you. Rarely one to use a cookbook, here is what I did: as the lovely little potatoes boiled, I made a classic dijon salad dressing. Little mustard in the bowl, whisk it with lots of good olive oil, then I started playing — a little white vinegar, a little balsamic, sea salt, lots of fresh ground pepper, honey because the vinegar was too much. A little more of this, a little more of that and then a whole lot of pesto stirred in. I chopped onion, parsley and thyme, threw in fine, fresh green beans for the last few minutes of the boil and then tossed it all together. It is yummy and took maybe fifteen minutes!

Last night Alesia and Laura came over and brought friends and games. Laura brought Naned and Jaffa, a Serb and an Irish guy from Belfast — lovely chaps both, big time cyclers who visit for several weeks each year around the time of the Giro d’Italia. They know the area far better than we do because they spend all their days here exploring the hilltowns on their bicycles. I was finishing up the cooking right when they arrived, and I had them all carry our stuff down into the garden. We started with prosecco and cheeses and then proceeded to feast at sunset in the backyard… Alesia brought a big, beautiful spinach salad and I tossed pasta with carmelized onions, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, pine nuts… and added two cheeses before they carried it down so it was all melted and perfect as we ate. We had zucchini sauteed in herbs and a lemon cake with glaze and fresh strawberries on top for dessert. I should’ve taken pictures of the feast in the hydrangeas, but didn’t. After dinner, Alesia’s niece beat us all at a game called Rummikub. It was one of those perfect summer evenings…

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HydrangeaWatch 2007

Mom, these are just for you! Here’s the backyard/garden update — these don’t quite convey that the huge hydrangea by the street in the back is almost white and gigantic… the one in the shade near the corner of Mara’s apartmnet is darker, a deeper purple than it looks here. Beautiful. I will go all over the neighborhood today… there are amazing colors of hydrangeas from white to pink to blue to purple.
And Rina’s cat trick is still out there! Rina, the old lady in my building, said we had to put bottles like this in the garden because when the cats come around at night they see themselves, as if in a mirror, and are scared — that way they won’t mess up the lovely flowers… no mention, of course, that the bottles mess up the lovely flower beds!

The Latte Factor

Everyone said living in Switzerland would be expensive. It isn’t at all. First of all, the horror stories I heard about food and… well, everything… being more expensive here aren’t necessarily true. There aren’t as many cheap restaurants, that’s true. But it’s not that everything is through the roof, either. You can get a good, filling meal for $10 if you like pizza hand tossed by a fat little Sicilian man. I do.

The thing that may make living in Switzerland actually less expensive than living in the US, for me, anyway, is that on most days my latte factor is zero.

Do you know about the latte factor? There’s this guy, David Bach, who’s written a bunch of booksSmart Women Finish Rich, Smart Couples Finish Rich and The Automatic Millionaire among them. He recommends this, and I have to say I think I read it first in Your Money or Your Life, a book I think every human being should read. Anyway, do this: Record every penny you spend. Every single cent. You’ll probably notice that there are a lot of little things you spend money on — lattes at Starbucks being the prime example, Tic Tacs in the tube station, lunch out instead of packed, videos you never watch, afternoon snacks from vending machines… stuff that doesn’t add to your happiness or quality of life but when you add it up you’re spending a hefty sum on it annually. If you could have that 400 or 600 or 800 back, what would you do with it?

I’ll tell you what I do: buy airplane tickets and stay in decent to wonderful hotels.

In Switzerland on many days I spend exactly zero dollars on little stuff. Usually I go grocery shopping once a week and many weeks I don’t go anywhere else all week except to walk the dog. My next thing is bottled water. No more bottled water. It’s just ridiculous the resources it uses up.

Bach’s number one tip, by the way, and it is one I read in the New York Times this week, too, is never buy coffee outside your home. This doesn’t mean go cold turkey when you’re on business trips or anything as radical or stupid as that. It just means make your coffee, even your lunch, at home. Invest the hundreds of dollars you’ll save. Or at least spend them on something big because they add up. The first step, though, is to figure out your Latte Factor — how much you’re actually spending on these things. Then you can choose if they’re really worth it or not.

What’s your Latte Factor? Is it worth it?

Bene and the Girls

Oooohh, the title reminds me of that 1970s song, “Benny and the Jets.” This is not like that. Bene, Stefan’s brother, came to visit on Saturday night with his two lovely little girls, Leoni and Lilian. These are from our outing on Sunday. This is Stefan and Lilian…

We took the funicular up Monte San Salvatore

and had lunch in the garden at Munger, one of my favorite places for pastries and light meal.

Stefan snapped this, my new favorite photo of Mufasa

Mufasa’s Been to Bellagio

Uh-oh. I’ve fallen far behind. people are starting to talk… as in… “I’ve been checking your blog…” “Don’t see anything new on your blog…” It’s time to blog.

Mom arrived and we promptly bathed the dog in preparation for his trip to the Star Wars/Casino Royale villa and our favorite luxury resort on Lake Como.

This photo is more noteworthy for adding “small Italian motorboat” to Mufasa’s transportation repertoire than for the fact that I have no head.

The next day we drove over the Italian border and to the small town of Lenno, very near Brad Pitt and George Clooney’s houses. We boarded a small motor boat to head out to where Darth Vader and Padme married and made Luke Skywalker…

this is from the movie…

These are from real life:
The villa was lovely; it was hot; we wanted to get to one of our favorite places on earth… Bellagio and the Villa Serbelloni.
When we arrived, Mufasa languished on the patio sipping water from a bowl carried by a waiter in a tux.

Later, in our little apartment, he loved the combination of air conditioning and tile floor — can you tell that he is trying to push as much as possible of his body against it? He did this for three days. He’d turn around and lie down every which way trying to get as much surface area exposure as possible. He is so funny! A great time was had by all…