Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My office in the trees!

The Memorial Day move is over and I'm settling into my new work digs.  I went from this:
BEFORE: 1970s bank bldg space on the back alley with lovely oak furniture

To this, with the help of two burly movers, my handy son and my heroic, workhorse husband:

AFTER: Historic building with fabulous view of Mass. Street and "new" donated furniture. Great parade-watching venue!

What you don't see are the countless boxes of brochures, banners, computer equipment and supplies that had to be carried up the steps and put away. These stairs will quickly become my butt's best friend or its worst enemy.
But, back to that view. How enjoyable meetings will be with chirpy little birds just outside the window! Now, if I could just find the lid for the coffee pot....

Monday, May 30, 2011

Nature's snooze button

The tiniest sliver of a storm front came through this morning, rendering the house dark, as if to say, "Go back to bed. It's a holiday." OK.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

I'm with the band.

Imagine being the 55-year-old mother of the 29-year-old drummer who muscled her way to the front of the crowd to take a picture at a show she probably shouldn't have attended in the first place. Yep, that was me tonight. Embarrassed? Not really.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Anticipation is making me wait...too damn long!

Just read the news that Jon Hamm (aka my not-so-secret crush) will direct the premiere episode of Mad Men's fifth season. That's the good news. Bad news is, we still have to wait until 2012 to see it. In the meantime, feel free to gaze at this photo whenever MM withdrawal strikes. You're welcome.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Still the best finale ever

Sorry, Oprah. But Bette's farewell to Johnny Carson on the last Tonight Show still ranks No. 1 in my book:

Sermon in the studio

I've been busy fighting sticky rolls of packing tape, so I just got around to watching Oprah's last show. Holy ravioli! I didn't know what to think or say for about an hour.  Then, I found this editorial on the Hollywood Reporter which pretty much articulates my feelings about the whole thing. What will the Big O do next, do you suppose? Get ordained and start her own church in Santa Barbara? Predictions, anyone?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Moving: It does get easier with age

This week - and through the holiday weekend - I am moving my office from the back of a 1970's bank building to a historic, if funky, second-floor space overlooking Massachusetts Street in beautiful downtown Lawrence. (The location is so great, it's even above a jewelry store!) If there's one thing I've learned over the years from too many moves, it's "purge before you pack." To that end, I am donating every piece of dated but sturdy office furniture - including my enormous desk that couldn't make the trip up the stairs, anyway - to Habitat's ReStore, (currently accepting donations for Habitat homeowners hit by the Joplin tornado, fyi.) ReStore will come and take all of my stuff on Friday morning, leaving boxes of files, computer equipment and miscellaneous plus donated modular office furniture for the movers on Sunday. Will it really be that easy? Of course not. But, it'll beat the old days of heaping everything I own into a friend's pick-up.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Taking a stand in Minnesota

There was a tremendous amount of pain across the Midwest this weekend. Tornadoes devastated the communities of Joplin, Missouri, and Reading, Kansas. I mean to take none of that lightly. But, while I tried to wrap my head around Mother Nature's wrath today (and I don't really believe Nature can have wrath), this impassioned speech by a Republican congressman in Minnesota moved me to tears:

Come to think of it, only humans are capable of wrath. Why do you suppose so much of it is focused on gay people who just want their love and commitment recognized by society at-large? It boggles the mind.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

And just like that, they were gone.

    KU graduation was this morning. By this afternoon, my just-off-campus neighborhood was ghostlike. For the next three months, I will enjoy unimpeded traffic, a dearth of empty beers cans in my yard on Monday mornings, and the blissful absence of coeds jogging by the house wearing practically nothing. 
   And with that last sentence, I declare myself officially OLD.

The marital perils of travel

A rare, stress-free moment at the Nice train station.
My column today only hints at what went on behind the scenes, relationship-wise, on our trip to Italy. Suffice it to say, it isn't just the 9-hour flight that makes us want to wait another 2 or 3 years before trying the whole Europe thing again.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Best wishes and ba-bye!!

Living in a college town is great, except two weekends per year: Residence hall move-in and graduation, this being the latter. The problem isn't the students wildly partying; we're used to that. The problem is the parents who appear to be so lost driving around town, you wonder if they visited their now-educated progeny even once during the last four years!! Congrats to all the grads and, please, don't let Mom or Dad be the designated driver.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The last meal...just in case.

    I told the hubs if the Rapture happens tomorrow, as scheduled (not on my calendar, of course), I wanted my last meal to be a whole mess of sushi and saki from Yokohama. Amazingly, he obliged.
   On a serious note, I wonder how many "believers" are scared to go to sleep tonight. I mean, I scoffed at the whole Y2K thing, but we did buy that $700 generator from Costco....

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I'll be back after this short time-out

Getting my ducks in a row is harder than herding cats. But, it must be done. (Those little waddlers have scattered everywhere!) BoomerGirl will return as soon as the task is accomplished. Thank you for your patience.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cinque Terre high?!?!

Even though I've wholly - if not, reluctantly - returned to 'life as usual' in Kansas, I continue to keep up with Rick Steves' blog from the Italian Riviera. This is a video he posted from Vernazza, our headquarters for four days, after dark when the streets are, literally, deserted.  The hubs and I made this walk almost every night, amazed at the lack of after-dinner activity....and we learned to subtly avoid "Spooky Man." I can't help but think that Steves is a) VERY mellow after consuming massive amounts of wine or, b) high as a kite on Italian pot, if there is such a thing (he is an outspoken proponent of marijuana decriminalization.)  Still, what a gig, si'?

Every music fan's dream comes true

Ten thousand thanks to my friend and BoomerGirl reader, KJ, for sharing this joyful video on her Facebook page. (It's such an authentically delightful moment; it really made my day.) In it, Paul Simon gives a fan the thrill of a lifetime when he invites her on stage to sing the song that introduced her to the guitar.  In almost every concert I attended throughout my life - up to and including last year's Carole King/James Taylor show - I've wished the same thing would happen. Except, in my fantasy, I'm playing the tambourine a la Betty in The Archies.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Red meat and grilled artichokes: Deliciosity!

First weekend night at home since vacation. Blood red steak, artichokes and arugula salad with a citrus/fig dressing I just made up. Who knew there was such joy in not eating out! Here's the artichoke recipe, for goodness' sake.

One-buck chokes!

A little bit of divine intervention on a too-chilly Saturday afternoon. That's 66% off the regular price. Thank you, God (and Dillon's/Kroger, for my local readers). And, yes, I bought ten.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The wine bra? Uh, no.

After our fabulous "Food and Wine" cruise, I won't be doing any serious wine tasting for a while. At least, until "Salute," an annual fundraising event here in July. Another thing I won't be doing is purchasing a "wine bra," designed by wine enthusiasts to free up their hands at tastings, cocktail parties, etc. It's a good idea. It just brings to mind that thing my father-in-law used to say just before dinner: "Time to strap on the old feedbag!"

Monday, May 9, 2011

Rick Steves on the Cinque Terre trail

I've got to hand it to Rick Steves. Not only does the guy research every new edition of every Rick Steves guide (or, so it appears), he can also narrate his own video while he hikes a treacherous trail!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The best gift of all: Laughter

In the family Mother's Day tradition, my fine son came over and helped his father plant all of my flowers - window boxes, pots, veggie beds and borders. And if that wasn't enough, he turned me on to this hilarious video, which I have now watched three times. Enjoy...and happy Mother's Day, mom friends!

Traveling together: Heaven or hell?

Naturally, my column today is about our trip. I could have gone a different direction with it, theme-wise, but the Rick Steves angle seemed the easiest, given my lingering case of jet lag. The next column will contain those all-important travel tips Rick Steves doesn't tell you about, especially when trotting the globe with a partner who doesn't share your - shall we say - traveling style. (Our marital travel alert was elevated to the highest level more than once in the last few weeks.) I'm thinking it might even be good book material.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Scrambled eggs with fresh herbs...and salt!!

Breakfast was three eggs (because I haven't had even one in weeks), scrambled with Half & Half, chopped fresh arugula from the farmers' market, chives from my garden, ground pepper, assorted dried herbs and freshly ground sea salt as recommended by the chef on the cruise ship. She told me the biggest mistake most American cooks make is eliminating salt, due to fear of hypertension. A sprinkle or two of sea salt on fresh (not canned) ingredients will, in most cases, do your arteries no harm and bring out your flavors ten-fold.

Acting like a tourist in my own hometown

The Saturday morning farmers' market is something I tend to miss more often than not, choosing to sleep in and/or lounge around instead. Today, I got up early and got out amongst 'em. I bought lots of just-picked salad greens for my sister's Mother's Day party tonight and....
three basil plants, in hopes of duplicating the delicious pesto from our Italy trip. Every town offers wonderful diversions like this. If we'd only take advantage of them, we could get that "vacation" feeling all year 'round!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Black and blue... from compression stockings?!!

One of the advantages of getting older is that certain things tend not to bruise as easily as they did in our youth. Egos and hearts, for instance. On the other hand, the slightest bump can render a giant contusion on our bodies, especially if we're of northern European descent and take baby aspirin therapy.  To wit, the giant bruises on the insides of my legs, just below my knees. The culprits? Knee-high compression socks worn on my trans-Atlantic flight to prevent swelling and blood clots. They didn't bother me a lick on the way out, but they were noticeably tighter on the way home. (I'm blaming the potato chips Italians love to serve with their wine.) No skirts for me, for a while. The good news is, I could still get my leg up on the bar stool to get the photo.

Happy Skinny de Mayo!

Wouldn't you know that the day I intend to start my vacation detox program in earnest turns out to be freakin' Cinco de Mayo! Here's the recipe for the SkinnyGirl margarita, just in case you are tempted to party on, too.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Home. Safe and questionably sound.

   I used to be able to travel gracefully. Not anymore. By the time we got off our last plane - a tiny Continental Express aircraft with hard seats and not even the smallest comforts - last night at 10:45, I looked like I'd been rode hard and put away wet. Forget the lag, people, I was the jet hag! My bed never felt so dreamy as it did last night.
   And now, back to the real world, which I'm sure will be its own kind of adventure today.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A finale so fine, and not so French.

Since we were in Nice, we thought we wanted fabulous French food to cap off a fabulous holiday. But, the within-walking-distance place recommended by our concierge had garnered semi-negative reviews on the Web ("mediocre food," "antagonistic toward Americans," etc.) Still, we had zero energy to find a new place, hail a taxi, etc., so we walked the .2 kms to the suggested bistro. No one was there. Granted, it was Monday night but, on the way, we passed a tiny, nondescript hole-in-the-wall place that smelled like heaven, where two large parties of boisterous Frenchmen were dining happily. We took a deep breath and walked in. What followed was an experience we'll never forget...
Relatively inexpensive and exactly the kind of dive we would love at home, we didn't even know what kind of food it was, but the owners were from Mayotte, so we assumed the delectable cuisine was of the region. The best parts were the older gentleman who spontaneously broke into song all night and the group celebrating a "birthday/wedding" (props and all) who were all-too happy to pose for a photo...
 Merci, Mesdames et Messieurs.... and party on!!

And now, Nice.

My first French French poodle.
After seven hours of train riding and platform sitting, we arrived in Nice, France, from where we will depart for home-sweet-home tomorrow. Because we were suffering severe butt fatigue, we took a long walk around "old town" after checking into our hotel. Suffice it to say, I've lost all enthusiasm for photo taking (and sight-seeing, to be honest) but since Best Western Hotel Riviera's WiFi is free, here's what I've got:
Charging station for electric rental cars. 
A lovely garden in old Nice.
Same park; beautiful roses.

We made our way down to the sea, took one look and hoofed it back to the hotel, stopping in a bakery to pick up a couple of savories to hold us over until dinner. The sweets looked tempting, but we knew better...
There are more pics but, honestly, right now I just want to sip my scotch and watch French game shows until it's time for dinner at L'Occitanie down the street, where you can bet your last euro I WON'T be ordering pasta. Au revoir!

Arrivederci, Vernazza!

We spent our last day in the CinqueTerre in Vernazza, our home base for the past four days. It was Labor Day - a national holiday - even though it fell on Sunday this year (no three-day weekends for the Italians, except Easter weekend.)
Day trippers packed the town and locals hit the beach...or, what there is of it.
I loved this old guy (above) reading his paper on the rocks while his wife soaked up the sun.  And, the family (below) who hung out all day on their beached rowboat.
We shared this incredible seafood risotto for lunch....
and did some souvenir and gifts-for-the-kids shopping. Here I am modeling my new Italian silk & cotton scarf....
The carbs and wine are showing on my face (and everywhere else - food here is bread, pasta and pastries - I had no choice, people!) but it's nothing that 14 days on Atkins won't cure. I hope.
We booked one of the tables on the balcony here at Belforte for our last night....
and who did we meet, dining at the next table, (no, not Rick Steves again) but an army brat named Paul who spent three years of his adolescence in Ft. Riley, Kansas, and still loves the Kansas City Chiefs (bonding him forever to the hubs)...
I took lots of photos to remember the place by, and remind myself of some great party decorating ideas...
like wrapping big potted plants with red-checkered tablecloths or sticking fresh flowers in a bowl of lemons.
I also took lots of pictures of the ubiquitous and colorful clotheslines in Vernazza which I plan to frame and hang in my laundry room.
If only I could take home Vernazza's laid-back people. But, I'm afraid they won't fit into my now not-so-lightly-packed luggage. 'Guess I'll have to come back someday. Ciao, ciao, amici!!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Now, where was I?

When we left off, I was ga-ga over meeting Rick Steves Friday night in a Vernazza café. Wouldn't you know, the next night, he’s at our restaurant again!  Turns out, he stays next door to II Pirates. After a third sighting on the street today, I am so over him! 
I'm a little behind with the itinerary and way-off track, chronologically, but on with the photos…
This is Monterosso, one of the five villages in the Cinque Terre, the one with the resort-like feel and nice beaches....
Here’s a “pill box” bunker used by the Nazis in WW2....
I have seriously fallen in love with the alleys over here.  Charming...
We had a brief shower, so we stumbled into this crazy tasting room – limoncello and about fifteen other Italian liqueurs – free! One of the funnier moments of the trip....
Dinner last night at II Pirates (location of 2nd Rick Steves sighting – ho hum) – appetizer: seafood trio. Delicioso!
We met these two fun gals from New London, New Hampshire at dinner. They’re showing the purse that was pick-pocketed in Rome. A much-heeded cautionary tale, as we are getting WAY too relaxed.

Boomer Girl Review: Ultimate Oriole Feeder

I've still got a way to go before I'm feeding pigeons on the steps of St. Paul's (which I never thought was a bad thing to do ...