Happy Holidays to you and yours

For the last few years over the holidays, I was upset by what WASN’T. This year I am blessed and fulfilled, full of gratitude for what IS. Here’s how it looks…

X-mas1

X-mas lobby

X-mas me & Dad

X-mas Mufasa

X-mas room

Mom & Dad X-mas

X-mas

X-mas Day skiing 2010
Had to stop mid-slope & snap this, awestruck by the beauty.

We all enjoyed the spa, too...
We all enjoyed the spa, too...
X-mas dinner
and a wonderful Christmas dinner.

Gettin’ a little reverb…

reverb10buttonThe musicians among you will know about that post title. Reverb is a very bad thing onstage.

Reverb10, though, is a very good thing. It’s an idea, a site, a movement of over 3,000 bloggers and counting… all reflecting on 2010 with one prompted question each day of December… and you know how I love completing the year and calling in the next! (If you’re new here and don’t know, you can see New Year’s posts here, here and here.)

A funny thing happened as I was signing up for and getting acquainted with Reverb10 this weekend. I read the prompts:

December 1 – One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you? (Author: Gwen Bell)

December 3 – Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). (Author: Ali Edwards)

December 5 – Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why? (Author: Alice Bradley)

December 12 – Body Integration. This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present? (Author: Patrick Reynolds)

and thought, “I can’t tell them that ON THE INTERNET!” So all that stuff about vulnerability…? It was pretty much out the window.

Another thing happened: I realized I’ve had such strong feelings about this year it’s been difficult for me to get distance, to answer these questions. For example, I was pretty sure my word for 2010 should be REARRANGE… but I just couldn’t shake that Ass-Kicking (Maybe that’s the word for my 2010?) feeling… so I put together a little slideshow to review the year, to stand back and have a look at what it was really all about.

This is not by any means everything that happened in 2010 (I’m not gonna tell you that.) It’s just some of the stuff I have photos of. In more or less chronological order:

December 4 – Wonder How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Author: Jeffrey Davis)

One thing’s for sure… December 4’s prompt? How I cultivated Wonder? Spending time with great people, eating beautiful food, and seeing the world. Jerash in Jordan and the library at Ephesus in Turkey were awe-inspiring.

There’s something else… my daily walks with The Big Dog are as wondrous as anything else. So is sitting at dinner with someone I love. What I wouldn’t give to do that even one-third of the nights each year. Sometimes travel is just commuting. Don’t fall prey to romanticizing it, ok? How did you cultivate wonder this year?

Thank you to all of you who made these highlights of 2010 possible. And for the photos, too.

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Tuesday Tidbit: Vulnerability Practice (Ugh.)

Brené Brown and I know a lot of the same people, but don’t know each other. It’s too bad, too, because in her TEDx talk she says (at about 13:54 and it’s FUNNY):

“You know how there are people that are, like, when they realize that vulnerability and tenderness are important… they kind-of surrender and walk into it?

A) That’s not me and
B) I don’t even hang out with people like that.

For me, it was a year-long street fight. It was a slugfest.

Vulnerability pushed; I pushed back.”

HA! Amen, sister! Who needs vulnerability when you could be, well, pretty much anything but vulnerable?

She and I could make everything all justifiable and have sooo much research and so many degrees to back it up!  But by golly I’m with her and every day seeing the impacts now of how busy I’ve made my life… I make my life busy and share the highlights on Twitter then I don’t have to tell the truth.

I’m not sure what I’m afraid you might find out… or what I’m afraid I might find out… but I’ve been getting this message from all fronts to be more vulnerable… so here’s the truth:

A few things happened this week that brought this home like a ton o’ bricks on my head. Thank you Saturday night carousers (you know who you are) and Marianne and my SuperHero girlfriends for providing the opportunity for this revelation. Felt like turning a corner…

For years I have been crystal clear about what I want my life to look like. I had it on my wall:

collage final

Then I made some choices that were not consistent with it.

Then I tried to force my circumstancs into this image for years because, you know, I’m pretty powerful! (You can imagine how well that worked. Whoops.)

Then I decided it was too late for me, that I’d screwed up too badly, lost too much time, that as penance I’d never be able to have the life I actually wanted. I took it down off the wall and threw it away. I’ve focused on the wonder & joy of what I do have, and that’s a lot.

As you can imagine, though, underneath I’ve been very, very sad.

This Tuesday Tidbit is good news! Two sentences this week, uttered different days by different people, one male, one female, one on the phone, another in a wine bar, made me realize I can stop this mourning. I don’t need to give up on that vision — now I can’t imagine why I did. I rediscovered what makes my heart sing! It might not look exactly like this, but by God it’s going to have this warmth, this energy.

What I really want right now is simple: somebody who wants to come over to cook and eat this Pappardelle with Veal Ragu with me, preferably after a long hike in the woods. I have a bottle of Chianti that was in the cantina under my house for over two years. It’s going to be great…

Now, who’s in?

ADDENDUM: ever since I had this revelation (that this is still possible, it’s not too late, I don’t have to give up on it), I’ve had Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed” playing in my head. Corny, but totally true.

Rio Room Service Made My Day

Longtime readers and facebook followers know I have a thing about room service.

Aaaaahh… room service.

Food in general is good, yes, I do so enjoy food… but food in a hotel, carried by staff to your room, with linen napkins and you can eat it in your pajamas or while you tweet or watch tv or anything else you please? Damn! That’s living. 😉 Totally fits with my whole affordable luxury philosophy.

It’s the simple things, people, that make life special. (I was thinking the other night I’d love to have bratwurst in a ball gown this holiday season. Simple things = Special. I digress…)

My commute this week is not simple. I just flew 23+ hours to lead an 8-hour course tomorrow. So I just flew to Sao Paulo, then Rio, arrived wrecked… and then I met my room service:

Rio room service

Isn’t the olive sticking out the top the cutest thing? I believe in eating local, but they didn’t have empanadas or feijouada or anything else that looked Brazilian, and I’ll take a burger over a Club sandwich any day! This was a particularly good one, I might add, with real melted Cheddar and tons of fries (hidden here) still hot and crispy. Two thumbs up for the Windsor Barra.

So today I am thankful for room service, the sauna here, frequent flier miles, and impending sleep…

What simple pleasures made you smile today?
What decadence and little luxuries do you allow yourself? (Life is too short to deny ourselves room service. Even with the 15% markup.)

A Foodie Adventure

Finally got to the flagship Eataly in Torino. It’s like a theme park for local, Slow, gourmet, handcrafted Italian food. Yum!

Thanks, DS!
Thanks, DS!

You may recall a few years back I started a blog called Fine Things You Can Afford. (All the posts seem to have mysteriously disappeared… will fix that some other month…)

GiandujoneI should start that up again. I really do believe in affordable luxury. Sometimes just luxury, but I’m not rich, people… anyone could live this life. Anyway, among the finest things I’ve ever eaten, and hands down the best chocolate EVER is the Venchi cioccolato fondente ripieno (Gianduja filled dark chocolate) my traveling companion purchased as a gift for me at Eataly. Oh. My. Goodness. You can buy your own online. How fab is that? Fab. And it’s gluten free. Even better.

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The Perfect Day

Hurry and come to Ticino to visit, we’re running out of time for me to show you my favorite places!  There’s this magical place I love to go. It’s not far from here, but feels a world away. George Clooney could walk up any minute, and that just makes it even more perfect.

I love surprising guests by taking them there. We drive across the border to Italy and turn at Como Nord toward Lake Como, then drive up the narrow winding road along the lake.

This is actually NOT the best way down...
This is actually NOT the best way down...

At a little village called Sala Comacina we park and walk down to a boat ramp. You have to know which one.

Sala Comacina

doors of sala comacina

door near boat ramp

boat ramp's here

There a little local guy sits in his traditionally-shaped boat (What do they call those things?), ready to whisk you off to the only island, Isola Comacina.

It’s uninhabited except for a couple of Dobermans. They’re fenced up during the day, though, and a restaurant is open (not all year – be sure to check and call). It’s a set menu and has been the same for decades. Arrive early and stay late. make a day or a long, long evening of it. I’ve been on hot and cold, wet, rainy nights and also during the day. A sunny day like this past Saturday is the ultimate in decadence. It’s the perfect day: Alps, boats, sunshine, Roman ruins, fabulous food, nap in the grass… may you enjoy good company as I did. This time I brought two queen sized sheets so we could sleep off the wine after lunch. That is exactly what we did! And then I made this little iMovie about it. Enjoy!

If you sleep and hike long enough you may need more gelato on the ride home. This place in Argegno, on the way back to Como, makes it homemade and it is good! The chocolate sauce and strawberries were especially fantastic.

Aregno

Argegno gelato

I decided this weekend that even after I’ve moved, Lago di Como is a place I’ll always return to…

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What’s XpatAdventures About? Part II

I couldn’t have said it better than this myself: “This is my life; I’m goin’ for it.” I’ve been looking everywhere for this particular trailer. It’s fabulous! “When they say you can’t… DON’T LISTEN.” I love that part.

Eat, Pray, Love: it’s not just a movie… it’s a philosophy and a way of life. One that XpatAdventures shares. What’s your adventure?

Ciao tutti! Enjoy!

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Carbo-loading, Swiss-style

On our recent Swiss adventures, we ate fine, if somewhat rustic, country fare. I thought I’d share some recipes for authentic Swiss classics (click on the links for 2 recipes). The first one is Alpenmacaroni. We eat it in the middle of a good ski day, too… steamy, stringy Emmentaller and Gruyere cheeses, potato cubes, macaroni, ham and onion with herbs. Yum! This one didn’t have potato and was in lovely Moléson, near Gruyeres, a fun place to hike in the summer.

Alpenmacaroni

We had a typical meal, including the best rösti I’ve ever had, at the Landgasthof Reudihus, a 250 year institution at the end of the valley in Kandersteg. We topped it all off with what they called apple fritters. Do not think of giant, doughy, American apple fritters. These were rings of apple slices, dipped in a light batter and fried golden brown, served with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. Note if you go: everything was huge here and big enough to share… but we each wanted our own apple fritters!

apple fritters 2

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Tuesday Tidbit #6: What Gruyeres Sounds like

You may know what the cheese, Gruyere, tastes like… but do you know what Gruyeres, the town sounds like? Well, here you go!

(For some reason this just cracks me up.)

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Tuesday Tidbit #5 – Room Service Delight

Last month I found myself in Copenhagen on a Friday night after a week-long training course out in the nearby countryside. I booked a room near Nyhavn, thinking I’d stroll along the water and dine in a little sidewalk cafe.

After a week on my feet, though, I was exhausted. Plus, it was raining. I ordered room service and ate dinner in bed.

And oh, what a dinner it was! Sometimes all my Americanness shows… my delight at this room service dinner marked one of those moments. Behold the glory of the Admiral Hotel chesseburger and chocolate brownie:

Best room service EVER!

These made for one very happy trainer…