NASCAR With a Bang…….

A view of a NASCAR race. (Image from a Free NASCAR Images site)

A view of a NASCAR race. (Image from a Free NASCAR Images site)

No, I am not making light of Kyle Bush’s injury in yesterday’s NASCAR race. It’s just one of those things that I had dragged poor hubby once again into a volunteer situation that had led to us needing to be in another place at the beginning of the Saturday NASCAR race. Now, he’s been waiting since November for the season to start and when this task “bubbled up”, I certainly hadn’t realized it would be at this particular time. Like a good wife, the least I could do was set the race to record, knowing we would be back for the last part of it and we had the race tuned in on the radio as we headed to the house. For those who might not know, racing at Daytona usually comes with a special intensity, lots of NASCAR history, and all sorts of drama. We were quite surprised on the way home to hear that even though they were deep into the race, nothing unusual had happened. In a way that was okay, because it meant hubby hadn’t missed too much excitement.

We got home and him settled into his recliner and I went up to do some other stuff. Later when I came down, I said something like, “You mean there’s going to be a Daytona without a big crash?” “No,” he said, “they just had a nasty one.” That turned out to be 11 cars and it was pretty bad. One of the announcers then predicted that it wouldn’t be the only one and sure enough, there was another one involving 11 more cars. Now there had also been talk about (not sure why), that an underdog might win the race. As the final cars were running, a veteran driver moved ahead and looked like a sure winner. Then the “Anything Can Happen at Daytona” kicked in and sure enough, a “youngster” and underdog shot ahead as did three others as “the kid” won and the veteran came in fifth. It made for about as much excitement as hubby could have asked for and he was right there watching it. The biggest race is today of course and we’ll see what happens with it.

 

Paris, The Smaller Museums……

Golden Items in Churches and Abbeys Are Why They Were Targets for Plunder

Golden Items in Churches and Abbeys Are Why They Were Targets for Plunder

Like many major cities, Paris has the well-known museums that attract hundreds of thousands if not millions of visitors each year. As much as we enjoy the Louvre and the Musee D’Orsay, our focus this year was more off-the-main-route museums. We already knew that the Museum of Middle Ages (the Cluny) was a short walk from the hotel, but there is a special exhibit that we hadn’t seen on our previous trip. The Lady and the Unicorn is a six-piece tapestry set that dates back about 1,000 years although no one actually knows the background of it. It was discovered in the 1800s, I believe, and thankfully preserved. The lighting in the room was quite dim and no flashes are allowed, so we’ll see how hubby’s photos turn out. It is an impressive body of work and the colors are remarkably clear considering their age.

As I posted, we did find the Picasso Museum and it is quite well-done. Many of his earlier works were pieces that I could appreciate and of course hubby liked the later themes that are most associated with the name of Picasso. It was a surprise to me to see all the sculptures and the incredible variety of mediums that he worked with. I am not certain of how old he was when he did his final piece, but we did see some from 1971 and he died in 1973 at the age of 91.

As it turned out, the De La Croix Museum was within walking distance of our hotel, but definitely not one that you would run across. It was an apartment on the Left Bank and became a museum only through the dedicated efforts of a number of people. Interestingly, even though he rented the four room apartment, he was able to convince his landlord to build a detached studio for him and there was a charming small garden that must have been a wonderful spot for him. There was one other small museum that we would have liked to have seen, but we opted to go to the Eiffel Tower instead. There is just an element of sentimentality of walking around the Tower that we don’t like to pass up. The line to go up was very long and we decided not to do that.

Exterior Wall of Studio of Eugene De La Croix and Partial View of Garden

Exterior Wall of Studio of Eugene De La Croix and Partial View of Garden

Paris, Day Three, Part II…..

Didn't Capture the Top of the Eiffel Tower

Didn’t Capture the Top of the Eiffel Tower

Sunday was a cold, overcast day, and no, this isn’t the best photo in the world of the Eiffel Tower. Hubby has done some great photos and he is posting them to Facebook and will do up a nice folder. Anyway, our final dinner was at the Botielle D’Or, (Golden Bottle) that is just past Notre Dame across from the Seine on the right hand side as you are facing the Cathedral. It was recommended by the lady at the hotel and in a moment of amusement, when we were discussing where to go, I had specifically mentioned that we wanted traditional French cuisine, in particular steak au poivre, roasted lamb, etc., They explained that because of Valentine’s Day the night before, they had no steak left, but no problem with everything else. Well, okay, I would have steak for lunch.

The ten-minute walk from the hotel was a nice stroll and as a larger restaurant, it gave us a different ambience than the cozy Chez Fernand from Saturday and definitely less “modern” than the restaurant on Friday. They had escargot for Hubby and he then ordered a wonderful pork dish with mushrooms. Under other circumstances I might not have tried the lentil cake with shrimp as an appetizer, but I was intrigued and it was quite good. My chicken stuffed with crawfish came with a lovely sauce and they did have apple tart with ice cream for dessert. Unlike the other two restaurants, they also had single malt scotch for Hubby to enjoy while I had my Calvados as after dinner drinks.

With a 5:00 a.m. wake-up, we didn’t linger later than ten o’clock and even though we had an earlier flight back than I would ordinarily have scheduled, it was a non-stop. We were on a newer model jet, but it was a ten-hour flight as opposed to the eight going over. Ah well, there were no delays or significant turbulence.

Paris, Day Three, Part I…..

This will be two posts because we depart very early in the morning and I won’t have time to post before we leave. Dinner last night was at a charming place called Chez Fernand with a limited, but classic French dishes. Hubby had truffle ravioli as a starter and wild boar and I had baked camembert with honey and then beef burgundy. They’d had a run on chocolate cake and the apple tart and since I don’t like crème brule, we did the lemon sorbet for a shared dessert. Coffee of course and Calvados for Hubby and Cointreau for me. We didn’t sleep as late this morning and had breakfast at a different café, then found the De Lacroix Museum. It is quite small, but very nice with a lovely little restored garden. It is all here in the Latin Quarter.

We had discussed going to Montmarte and decided instead to wander around Ile St Louis and have a leisurely lunch of steak au poivre for me and mussels and frites for Hubby as well as shared a warm goat cheese on toast with salad. We returned to the room for a short bit and will head out in a few minutes to go to the Eiffel Tower to let Hubby get some photos and to go up to the second level and get some shots of the lights coming on. Okay, I will finish the trip and post some nice photos as soon as we get home.

Paris, Day Two…….

No photo today because I’m not totally sure if emailing them to myself is in our plan or not and will check with Hubby. Let me back up to the hotel. We’re in a room that is a little larger than a cruise ship, but not much. On the other hand, it does have internet, a small elevator, and plenty of hot water even on the fourth floor. The location is great being a one minute walk to the Metro and the light rail line just across the street from that. So, about dinner last night – very different from what we usually do. Totally Novelle Cuisine in a place that could have been anywhere in New York. Hubby loved it. The presentation was great, service perfect, and since we had eaten heavily at lunch, I had plenty. The menu was quite limited with the concept of focusing on what they did. In fact, this morning when I asked for recommendations about a place for tonight and mentioned where we’d been, the desk clerk asked me how we liked it and was glad to get a personal review.

So, this morning after breakfast at a nearby café (we slept late), we set off to find the Picasso Museum. It is in the Marais district and far enough from the Metro that no signs point to it. We missed the cross street initially, but did backtrack and find it. Then as it turns out, they control the number of people who enter at any given time, so there was a one hour wait in line. That wouldn’t have been quite so bad, but it was chilly and a light rain for almost the entire wait. Anyway, the irony is that the Picasso Museum in housed in an old house that was no doubt built in the 1700 or 1800s. There were four floors of exhibits and one section contained some of Picasso’s personal collection that included Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse, etc. The other thing that was interesting was a collection of photographs from a photographer who was a tenant in Picasso’s studio. He subsequently did a series of photos of Picasso working on certain pieces.

We had a late lunch at a lovely little café and even though it had stopped raining, Hubby was in the mood for onion soup. We then came back and the Cluny Museum – Museum of the Middle Ages – is close to the hotel. We had been there on the previous trip, but I was too tired to climb to the third floor to see the Lady and the Unicorn exhibit. We made it this afternoon and I will do a special post about it when we complete the trip.

Trip and Day One….

View of Notre Dame in Paris From the Back

View of Notre Dame in Paris From the Back

I had mentioned that this might be our last time to do Valentine’s Day in Paris. The truth is that unless we win a big lottery (no, wasn’t in on that mega win on Wednesday) and can fly first class, these long trips become more tiring as you get older. There are other places that we still want to go to, so our number of overseas trips will need to be allocated to taking care of different priorities. Anyway, the flight had no delays and there wasn’t much turbulence. There also weren’t some of the amenities on-board because it was an older plane, and traffic getting into the Left Bank of Paris was really snarled. With that said, it wasn’t raining either and we were grateful for that. As it turns out, the hotel is very close to the one we stayed in previously and thus is a great location for what we want to do.

The stroll around the first couple of streets helped orient us and since we didn’t want to do too much today, a nice lunch at a brassiere was in order. They had the croque monsieur that we had so much trouble finding last time, so that, frites, a green salad and wine was perfect. The sandwich is grilled ham and cheese except that the cheese is outside on top that gives it a golden brown melting quality and requires being eaten with a knife and fork. I had completely forgotten that hubby had never really been inside of Notre Dame and while we didn’t want to wait the hour to go to the second floor or do one of the tours, you can get the sense of this beautiful, iconic cathedral with the amazing architecture and incredible amount of stained glass by just walking around inside. Hubby had whatever lens is suitable for inside without needing to use a flash that is prohibited. I let him set the pace and after we did that, we naturally had to go to the back for shots of the famous gargoyles and “Flying Buttresses” that are in all the shots of posters, etc.

It is cold here though with a pretty stiff wind and we came back to let me post and to take a nap. In general, you should try to stay up, but this is another rule that doesn’t apply as much as you age because you often take a nap even if jet lag isn’t an issue. So, we’ll see what happens with dinner out and I admit that this photo of the cathedral doesn’t do it justice. It is, however, the kind that I take.

Dining in Paris…..

No, we don’t book into the famous restaurants in Paris. Not that those aren’t superb. One of the great things about Paris is of course the food and during a short trip such as this, we won’t be able to try all the places that we will find attractive. I also didn’t have a blog the last time we went to Paris and since we are supposed to have internet at the hotel I will be able to do a daily post. Of course the time difference will cause tomorrow to be slightly off. The dish I cannot leave Paris without is steak au poivre, but I usually wait and have that for my last meal. That doesn’t mean I won’t have it twice depending on where we are dining. I will expect to do seafood as well and yes, lunch will be leisurely with 2-3 courses and wine, then dinner with 3-4 courses. The whole point of these trips is to relax and enjoy and a prolonged meal is part of that enjoyment. There are two restaurants in particular in the area that we are staying that we like although since we are in a slightly different part of the area, I’m not sure how close we will be to either one. We walk to dinner and for lunch we stop in at whatever is at hand as we are also walking around.

Breakfast is the traditional croissants (or for me it might be fresh bread) and coffee, although occasionally instead of sitting down, we’ll grab a “chocolate bread” (pain du chocolat) and coffee from a street vendor. Anyway, I’m going to sign off now and the next post will be from Paris. The house sitter is set and the newspaper is stopped and I only have two meetings to attend this morning.

New Farmer’s Market On The Way……..

The Verde Community Farm & Market will open March 2015 near HARB.

The Verde Community Farm & Market will open March 2015 near HARB.

 I had the pleasure of being placed next to a delightful gentleman at Homestead’s first Eco Fair that was held Saturday in Losner Park downtown. I need to digress for just a moment because of the connectivity of Verde Community Farm Market and the Chapman Partnership. Chapman is an organization that I have great admiration for. They are a private organization that does remarkable work with the homeless through partnership with a number of different municipal, county, state, and federal programs. They have established a model that many like minded organizations have come to see, but that is a separate post.

Among their other efforts, there has been a plan to expand a farmer’s market in conjunction with a CSA and a farm-to-table café. Mr. Bill Squire was the gentleman set up in the tent next to me and he had some of their beautiful produce as well as the promotion for what they will be doing. It not only has all of the things that people who enjoy Farmer’s Markets are looking for – Certified Organic items, CSA option, commercial kitchen and special event venue – it is in an old emergency services station close to the Homestead Air Reserve Base with plenty of parking. Best of all, it is staffed predominantly with individuals from the homeless shelter as they learn skills they can build from. The entire operation will be open next month and I’ll do a follow-up post once they are in full swing. In the meantime, you can check them out at: http://www.verdefarmandmarket.com

Keeping Up With The Times……

 Okay, let me explain that my objections to jury duty have absolutely nothing to do with not wanting to sit on a jury. I am fine with fulfilling this duty, just as I faithfully vote. It’s part and parcel of our system. The problem is that the courthouses are deep in Miami and the traffic is terrible. Even trying to use the Metro is a hassle because Miami has the worst Metro I’ve ever encountered for a city of it’s size. If there was a courthouse near the South Dade Government Center, that would at least cut back on the almost 3 hours of commuting that I had yesterday.

Anyway, with that said, of the six times that I have been pulled in for jury duty, there was an interesting addition to the initial instructions that are issued to the very large jury pool before groups are selected (or not) to go to the various courtrooms. The new and fairly lengthy part of the instructions has to do with electronic devices and social media. It isn’t something that I had thought about, but the instructions do make sense. Each judge will determine the degree to which cell phones, tablets, computers, etc., must be silenced/turned off. Photographs and recordings are prohibited. If selected for a jury, jurors may not research or access information about the case electronically. The social media part was a prohibition against emailing, tweeting, blogging, using Facebook or any other form of post to identify the specific case or comment on it. There has always been the prohibition against discussing the case while it is in progress and it’s logical that must now extend to the electronic communications that are so prevalent. It would never occur to me to do a post about a case, but I do see how it can be a potential problem. I wasn’t selected for the jury by the way, although it was an all day process to get through all the steps.

Super Bowl As It Was Meant To Be…..

No, I don’t mean the outcome for my sad Seahawks fans. After all, only two teams can go to the Super Bowl and that means the fans of the thirty other teams are disappointed at some level. If you have multiple teams you enjoy either because you have lived in different places or perhaps players/coaches you admire move to a different team, then you increase your chances to have some emotional investment in the game. Otherwise, what fans want is a good game, played hard, with a fairly balanced score and enough excitement to say, “Did you see that?!” In theory, all Super Bowls should be that way since the playoff system is supposed to allow the two final teams that make it through to be fairly evenly matched. There have, however, been a number of blowouts through the years and in those cases, unless your team happens to be the one winning, you tend to focus on the commercials and maybe the halftime show.

Last night started with the scoreless first quarter and that’s okay, too. The teams were fresh, the defenses determined to do their parts and the coaches taking measure of what kind of plays they were facing. The excitement started late in the second quarter and I made the classic error of seeing the play clock with little time left before the half. I dished up the chili and moved behind my husband’s recliner where I said something like, “I don’t think much is going to happen in the next 11 seconds so we can move to the table.” He corrected me as he pointed to the screen and sure enough, there it was – one of those – “Did you see that?” – moments as the Seahawks made their touchdown. Nice way to tighten the game.

In watching New England fall behind, looking as if they might not catch up, then the push to go forward again, and then the crucial minute where the entire game shifted in an incredible catch – this was what the Super Bowl is about. The actual play that sealed the game was equally spectacular unless of course you were rooting for Seattle. The sheer timing of it though was enough to warm the hearts of those who just wanted to see a good game (and naturally thrilled all Pats fans).