Where have I been?  Italy, on a trip planned for months, a trip with friends and family centered around a group of women writers with The Story Circle Network, a group focused on women telling their stories.  Yes, we had classes and wrote every day.  When we were not writing, we discovered a little part of Italy.  The first half day we strolled through ancient Rome, starting with the Coliseum.


To the left of the Coliseum stands this arch–see a bit of the Coliseum on the right side of this photo.


The Coliseum is so large that it is impossible to take of photo of all of it at once.  We were there on a holiday.  There was a long line of people waiting to get inside.  We did not go inside.



The arch in the first photo seen from the side.


On the other side of the Coliseum facing down a wide pedestrian only boulevard.  Many of the following photos were taken along this boulevard.  The trees in these photos are umbrella pines.  They are everywhere in Rome and other parts of Italy south of Rome.



My daughter and grandson strolling along with friends in the background.


One of the things I found most enjoyable strolling along were the street musicians:  One played classical guitar music, farther down the boulevard another was playing popular music while another man danced to it. I wanted to stop and dance along but everyone was walking fast away from me.  Getting lost in Rome did not seem to be a great idea.


While sauntering along, I turned around and took a photo of the Coliseum in the distance.


In one short walk in Rome, I saw so many things from thousands of years of history, it was hard to fathom.


Away from the boulevard and walking toward Trevi Fountain, we saw this memorial.  It was a rainy, stormy day.  I kept thinking it is going to rain but it didn’t. In many places, the ancient, the not so ancient, and the new could all be seen in one place.


And, of course, one of the most famous places in Rome.  We found a little restaurant near here.  I had my first Italian cappuccino and a delectable desert which I tried to find everywhere else we went but did not. It was in a little cup, 2/3 was a creamy bottom, 1/3 was berries on top.



Walking along another route.  I seem to have a little problem taking photos, walking, and keeping my fingers away from the iPAD mini frame while taking some of these photos.  So much seen in a mere half day in Rome.  Shortly after lunch, visiting the Trivi Fountain, and passing by the above monument, we headed on the four hour road trip to Sorrento.

I could not resist taking a video of the lush emerald Italian countryside south of Rome.









You’re Gonna Eat That?!

This is the title of my newest book which currently resides at the designers for formatting, placing the photos in the correct place and position, making sure everything is just right.  The subtitle is:  Adventures with Food, Family, and Friends.  It includes family and travel stories, adventures, poems, and recipes. Here are a couple of food photos which will be in the book with recipes.




Every Sunday until publication, I will post an update as to progress.  My goal is to have it available for purchase for Christmas presents for those who love food adventures.


Adventures in Argentina–Flora and Fauna Near Iguazu Falls

Across the highway from the helicopter business, we visited a surprisedly large bird sanctuary, recommended by our taxi driver/guide.  We did not expect anything as lovely as what we found. Most of the birds and flowers there are native to the area.  However, a few rarer species from other parts of the world exist there as well.



Surprised, I recalled seeing these exact same flowers on my two trips to Costa Rica.  In fact, I found another photo on an older blog post from one of my Costa Rica trips.


Endangered, many countries where these wonderful parrots live do everything they can to save them.  They pair for life–we found the evidence amusing and enchanting.


Whenever we saw an uneven number together, we looked elsewhere and found the mate drinking or feeding.



Of course, there has to be toucans.  Some even clowned for the tourists.  People clustered all around to watch their antics.



Where you have flowers you have butterflies.


Butterflies love Gaston.


They landed on him, flew to his fingers, let him pick them up without flying away.  I tried, but no luck.



A fabulous morning on the Brazilian side, starting with the helicopter ride and ending here with flowers, birds, and butterflies.


Adventures in Argentina-Buenos Aires Neighborhoods

Buenos Aires has many neighborhoods, areas with sometimes distinct character.  Our hotel in San Telmo made it easy to see a lot of the city by walking.  Other areas we strolled through include Centro and Recoleta. In the three days we stayed there, we walked 35 miles according to my Fitbit.


This Starbucks was exactly one block from our hotel.  We went there the first morning for the typical Argentinian breakfast:  coffee and a biscuit (not like the ones here) or a small croissant with some sweet glaze on top.  Starbucks can be found throughout the city.


Everywhere you see beautiful parks and people use them for strolling, dog walking, jogging, relaxing, picnicking, hanging out–you name it.  Plus the trees–on all major streets, on side streets, everywhere.  Of course, it was the end of summer.  Perhaps parks receive less use in winter.


Even on main thorough fares, like this one which is claimed to be the longest street in the world, trees reside on the sides, in the middle, everywhere.


This is a mall, seriously.  We ate a delicious lunch here one day and came back the next day for a drink.  I had coffee; Gaston had a green drink with mint and ginger which was refreshing and delicious.  The ceiling is well–take a look!


Hard to believe this is a mall.

One day we took the train to its end at the train station. The recently restored train station contains the fanciest Starbucks ever with incredible murals.


The ceiling is beautiful too.


From this station it is possible to take a train to various parts of the city but also trains go from here way out into the suburbs.  Reminded me of the subway and train system in New York City and its suburbs where I once lived.


San Martin, the hero who freed southern South America from Spain, crossed the Andes with mules, not horses–Hugo, Gaston’s dad, gave me lots of history lessons.  However, when I saw this statue, I did not know all the history yet.  This park, filled with huge trees, borders several streets where, like much of Buenos Aires, modern and antique coexist.



Suddenly we notice men on horseback riding out of a military area next to San Martin Park.  We rushed across the park to watch, hoping they would ride around the park.  They did not; they headed down a street.


We never discovered the purpose of this little parade of military personnel on horseback.


The buildings around the park provide a perfect example of the traditional, the centuries old beside the modern.  The traditional building in the middle houses very exclusive apartments.


The opposite side of the park from the statue of San Martin overlooks the English Tower, given to Argentina by the English before the little war over the Falkland Islands which both countries claimed.  The English won.

A friend told me to take tea at the Alvear Palace Hotel so we headed to Recoleta area.  We strolled around, did not take tea, but we did have lunch in one of the small restaurants inside the hotel area.


Next to this restaurant resides a tea store, Tealosophy,  where they sell nothing but tea.  I quit counting at fifty different blends.  In Argentina International Women’s Day was highly celebrated. This tea shop created a special blend just for that event, Mujeres Power.  I bought some; it smells heavenly but have not tried it yet.

We walked down to another park near the famous cemetery where all the national heroes and important people have been buried for centuries.  Nearby we saw the largest tree I have ever seen.


The branches, which were impossible to photo in one picture, extend far and are so heavy they are supported by cement or metal columns.


The tree is to the left in this photo.  The walk leads to a monastery and the cemetery.


The cemetery was full of people.


The artwork here speaks for itself.


As we walked back we circled this famous piece–a tulip that opens and closes.


Then farther down the street which is close to the port–we could hear ship sounds, etc.–we saw this living wall.


Yes, this wall is made of living plants.  I could not help but stop and stare.


The building which holds their equivalent of the US Congress.  I continue to wonder how I managed to walk past the Pink House–like US White House–several times and never take a photo.  Perhaps I was distracted by the protesters.  Argentina is used to protests which appear to be legally protected.  In the one we saw one evening, the protestors carried banners of Che Guevara.


And finally some typical views, this one along a side street.







Hiking Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Even though I live ten minutes from the park entrance and occasionally work at the gift shop there, hiking is rare perhaps because I have more than twenty acres of my own for hiking.  My son came to visit for ten days during this holiday vacation.  He brought his mountain bike and spent every day the past week mountain biking the park’s numerous trails.  Last week and yesterday, New Year’s Day, I went along and hiked.  The following photos and comments are day one’s experience.

For those familiar with the park or who may want to go there, we parked at Chinaberry.  I decided to cut across to the east and found a trail.  It was not until several days later that we figured out the trail’s name mostly because this trail in not on any map provided by the park or on the official park website.  The trail is Comanche.  It is the longest trail in the park.  If you go to your browser and type in Comanche Trail in Palo Duro Canyon State Park, you will come to a mountain biking website that shows the trail in some detail even with a virtual tour.  The trail is occasionally marked with signs that say Comanche Trail but since it does not appear on the official map, I found it somewhat confusing until I found the above mentioned website.


I took this photo at Chinaberry, a parking and picnic area from which several trails start.


Day one I had not seen the marker for Comanche partly because it is across from Chinaberry at the very north end.  I planned to head for the peak in the background, thinking I would hit a certain trail–it was not the one I found because Comanche is not on the map.


The grassy area before I found the trail.


You can see the trail by the grass on the right.


This is prickly pear country.  There are numerous species.  This is important for mountain bikers more than hikers.  Tipping over into a prickly pear patch would not be a pleasant experience.


Here the trail is easy.


I started my hike around 3:30, a big mistake, but I did not know this yet.  Numerous stream beds occur along the trail.


At this point another trail diverges to the left.  Here giant grey boulders appear everywhere.


I decided to take the trail to the left to see where it went, all the while thinking I was on one trail when I was on another.


When I looked toward the opposite direction, I could see this small cave.


A view from the trail to the left.


The same giant rocks looking back from the “new” trail.


After hiking down a rather steep incline with tiny orange flags along it, I came across this. It appears this is a new trail in the making.  Yet, given the rust on the shovel, I thought perhaps the trail blazers had just carelessly left their “equipment”.


At the bottom of a little draw ready to climb back up the other side.  You can see one of the little flags in the middle of the photo.


Palo Duro Canyon is a geologist’s dream.  Layers of time lay visible everywhere.


On my way up the other side of the draw lay more equipment.  When I went back New Year’s Day, this had all been moved to another spot.


Different rocks looking in another direction.


Back on Comanche Trail (even though I had yet to know its correct name and thought I was somewhere else) headed south.  This was just before I realized just how far I had to go and how little time to get there.


Little areas like this are everywhere along the trail.

It was shortly after this point that I saw two women–this trail has few hikers or mountain bikers on it. They were the only people I saw for miles.  When I asked them how far to the other end, I realized I was in “trouble”,  not real trouble like lost, but rather trouble like I was supposed to meet my son at Chinaberry at 5:30, and I was not even half way on this trail and I still had to get to the bottom.  I realized where I would come out; I would intersect another trail called Rock Garden and would have to go one mile steep downhill.  Unfortunately, I had not taken my phone because I did not think it would work there and had no way to inform him.  I also realized it would be nearly dark when I got to the bottom.  5:30 came and went and I still had quite a way to go. I quit taking photos and ran when the trail permitted and walked as fast as possible when it was too rocky or steep to run safely.


I took this photo on my way, hiking the several miles toward Chinaberry.  Luckily, I met a nice couple who offered to stop by Chinaberry and tell my son where I was.  Unfortunately, I had the vehicle keys and he could not even get in his own vehicle.  The light to his bicycle was in the vehicle so he had to ride down the road in the twilight to get the vehicle keys.  I kept walking.  I was just glad he had waited and I met the couple because an unneeded rescue would have been terribly humiliating.  We made it home safely.

My Fitbit told me I had walked more than 11 miles that day.


Note:  Day Two, New Year’s Day, will follow with photos along the entire trail.





Roaming the Northeastern New Mexico Mountains-Day One

Last weekend I went to three visit friends I had not seen in years.  These two sets of friends live in the mountains north of Las Vegas, New Mexico, a place which some people confuse with the other Las Vegas and quite to their surprise, end up in a small, quaint college town totally unlike the other Las Vegas.  While the place is always extraordinary, this past summer’s rains have infused it with an incredible endless green.

I awoke before everyone else, watched numerous species of hummingbirds through the windows then stepped out on the front and took these photos after sunrise.


Hermit Peak in the background–north of Las Vegas, New Mexico, near Rociada.



We decided to spend Saturday wandering around, visiting several wineries, enjoying the countryside.


Luckily my friend who lives there drove because I would have become lost on all the winding mountain roads.  The silvery vegetation near the fence is a type of sage.

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I took a lot of these photos from the passenger seat of the car as we wandered along.


Many trees like those on the right looked partially dead.  Apparently, last year while still in a drought many nearly died but now, with so much rain this summer, they seem in recovery.


We drove through mountain valleys, then up through mountains repeatedly.  This road goes to Sipapu Ski Resort.  Behind the simple lodge a mountain stream tumbles over rocks.



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For lunch we stopped here at Sugar Nymphs, a tiny, quaint restaurant in Penasco, New Mexico.  We entered the restaurant on the side looking down this simple street to a series of what appears to be residences.


Sugar Nymphs operates on laid back time.  If you want to hurry, forget it.  After lunch we headed to our first winery, my favorite, small, hidden, grapevines growing nearly to the door and up one side of the building.



The vintner was friendly, welcoming.  I noticed grapes of which I had never heard.  He explained that approximately 6000 different varieties of grapes are grown throughout the world.  Only a minority remain suitable for wine making.  Because of  winters in this part of New Mexico, they grow varieties that can stand the cold, e.g. Dolcetto.


We dropped down altitude and arrived at Black Mesa Winery on a more heavily travelled road which goes to Taos.  This colorful fence stands between the parking lot and the tasting room and wine making facilities there.  It is a larger winery with so many people on a Saturday that we had to wait our turn.


I decided to look around and play photographer while waiting.


You can see tiny grapes ripening on this trellis.


I selected my two bottles rather quickly and wasted time doing this while waiting on my two friends to pick theirs.  We kept seeing rain clouds and I predicted we would get rained on.  It rained while we were there.


Our wanderings took longer than we expected so we headed to our last winery of the day.


This particular winery has a sitting area outside and snacks to order.  They sell local beers as well as wine.  Since already running late, we made our choices and left.


Dramatic storm clouds and the smell of rain greeted us as we wandered home.

2014 in review and HAPPY NEW YEAR

This posts the usual annual report stuff.  Looking at stats always surprises and to some extent dismays me.  What seems the most popular is frequently what I find the least important, food, for example.  I receive a lot of responses to recipes.  Before I started blogging I had no idea how important food is to a lot of people.  What remains most important to me may not be to readers out there:  my writing, travel adventures.  Some of My Ethiopian Adventure posts received a lot of hits and one was tweeted all over Africa.  People from 88 countries viewed my blog.  Still two of the most popular posts were recipes.  Life is always full of surprises and wonders.  May 2015 continue this amazing adventure:  Life.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,500 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

My Ethiopian Adventure–on the Road to Lalibela, Part One

Although the Sunny Side Hotel’s rooms in Kombolcha seem elemental to say the least, the food there is some of the best I had in Ethiopia.  One of the reasons for this may be their extensive gardens which not only hold flowers, but vegetables and fruit trees.



That’s a papaya in the middle.



Dinner consisted of fresh talapia–Lake Tana is full of talapia and is a common item on menus, perfectly grilled, julienned vegetables sautéed in sunflower oil and seasoned with a sprig of rosemary.  The next morning we headed for Lalibela.  The first larger city through which we drove is Dese.  As in most Ethiopian cities, new construction could be seen everywhere.  They do not use steel for scaffolding.  They use eucalyptus as in this building.



We continually climbed switched back roads.  Usually, terraced fields lay as far as we could see on the mountainsides.




Not too far from Dese, we came to the smaller town of Hayk.  Hayk is the Amharic word for lake.  The town is named after this nearby lake.


Seven species of acacia grow in Ethiopia.  These, higher in the mountains, appear considerably more lush than those farther south in semi arid places. You cannot swim in this lake because, like many bodies of water in Africa, the schistosomiasis parasite lives here.  There is a cure, but not very pleasant.  Huge fig trees and acacias provide a setting like one sees in movies.




This monastery resides on a small peninsula that juts out into the lake.  The sign says no women allowed.  Foreign male visitors may enter for a fee–locals free. Lush fields surround the lake.



Yes, that is cactus on the right–not exactly a place I expected to see cactus.  On the road out of the lake, we saw this girl walking and asked to take her photo.  She is carrying dried dung.  Houses are first framed in eucalyptus and then plastered with a mixture of dung and mud or just mud.  Sometimes they are left the natural dark brown color.  Some home owners prefer to paint them bright colors.



This is a typical house in most areas left unpainted with a metal roof.  Everywhere people worked the fields the “old” way with a beautiful result.



We passed villages and towns of all sizes.


And always children as well as adults drove animals along the road.




Eighty languages are spoken in Ethiopia.  Some, like Amharic and Oromo, are spoken my millions, others by only a particular small tribe. Everywhere we went people knew Amharic, an Afro-Asian, Semitic language (like Arabic and Hebrew) which originates in the ancient language of Geez, a language now only used as the sacred language of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.  English is taught in elementary school, which is compulsory through the eighth grade.  Because of too many students and too few schools and teachers, especially in rural areas, school is half a day.  One group goes in the morning and another in the afternoon.

My Ethiopian Adventure–the Beginning

After leaving the US on July 2, flying 14 hours to Dubai, spending a day there, I finally made it to Addis Ababa (also spelled Abeba) on the 4th.  I remained in Ethiopia until this past Monday when I left Addis late in the afternoon.  Blog posting from Ethiopia was limited because wifi is available only in certain areas and places and there is no 2,3, or 4G anywhere.  For those of you who saw my four posts from Ethiopia, some photos and a few details may be repeated.  My plan is to post photos and detailed information now that I am back which will require a number of posts because not only did we go on a ten day road trip, we also spent time in Addis Ababa and Adama (Nasret).

I went on this trip with two friends, a couple.  Dino is from Ethiopia, having grown up in Dire Dawa.  His parents now live in Adama where his father owns and runs a printing press.  Two of his sisters and one brother live in Addis.  We spent the first few days before our road trip in Addis, staying with his sister, Anna, who owns a painting company.  She imports the paint from Italy and her clients include individuals and businesses.  Her company also paints cars.  Of course, she painted her own house with this paint.  I loved the colors and textures.


The front of Anna’s lovely house.  It is the rainy season and flowers grow everywhere.




The translation for these orange flowers, which I had never seen before, is flowers of the sun.

One afternoon four of us decided to take a drive around Addis to see some of the more beautiful spots which mainly included the Addis Hilton Hotel and the Sheraton, which is a five star.  Carlo, Dino’s father drove.  What a remarkable man, in his 80s and still getting to work at 6, driving everywhere.  The Hilton is the older of the two.  The grounds of both display lush greenery.



Zuriash and I enjoying the grandeur.


Papyrus by the pool at the Sheraton.


The swimming pool at the Sheraton.  You cannot use it unless you are staying there.  However, the pool at the Hilton is available on a membership basis–you do not have to stay there to use it.


The rooms at the Sheraton overlooking the gardens and pool.  Dino and Carlo, son and father, walking down the path to the pool area.  Apparently, many visiting dignitaries stay here.  Inside walls are filled with excellent local art.


And then there is Addis traffic.  Approximately six million people live there.  In five or so days, riding here and there all over the city, I saw only two traffic lights, neither of which worked.  Most large intersections contain a traffic circle and around and around you go trying to wiggle into a space and get across the intersection.  Take a look.


Trying to drive to Guiseppe’s house, Anna driving, we were stuck here.  The big trucks would not let us through.  Finally, a guy in another car, got out, stopped the trucks and waved us on.  It took us 1 1/2 hours to get there.  A couple of days later, he came to Anna’s in twenty minutes.


In front of Guiseppe’s house.  A typical residential street, sometimes like this one with gates on each end.  People hire someone to watch the gates.  You honk and they are opened and then closed.


On the last evening before we began our ten day road trip, Anna took us to a cultural restaurant to eat traditional food and watch the dancing from different parts of the country.  I expected it to be just a tourist spot, but no, many locals were there.  During the dancing, locals competed with the professionals to see who could dance the best.


This dance requires almost no motion except a lot of shoulder action.  I attempted to do it myself when the man behind the girl in white came over and asked me to dance.  I tried but would have to practice forever to get this one right.


The young men in the background competing.


Anna and I in front of her house.  She is wearing a traditional Ethiopia dress.


I landed here five days ago.  What an amazing country–so ancient and so modern simultaneously.  In two days we drove from Addisimage image Lalibela, the place where 12 churches were hewn out of solid basalt centuries ago.  After climbing up and down step cliffs to enter the churches today, I feel exhausted so will post a variety of photos.  My ultimate plan is to provide details of the trip when I return to the US.