Thursday, December 31, 2009

The RCL at SFO

We are in the Red Carpet Lounge at SFO waiting for our flight to Narita and Bangkok. Good news from United about our proposed stop in Narita. We do NOT have to check out our bags then recheck them. If this news is accurate, that means that we should be able to just take our carry on bags thru security, do the passport check and then exit. I sure hope that will be the case. Nan has already written to me this morning and her family is ready to take the 3 hour drive to the airport. This is a crazy plan, with lots of possible problems...and we're still going for it. I'm excited!

We were told to get to the airport 3 hours before our flight because security would be tight. We did as told, but security was not as tight as I thought it would be. The lines however were quite short and while we did have to wait a little bit, the process did not seem more onerous than usual. They did want me to take the laptop out of it's special "airport security" case, and they did take longer to look at our passports, but nothing else seemed different. I wonder what the process will be at Narita? (and we'll find out in a few hours)

In the meantime, life is good. We're off on a new adventure and we're going to meet friends. It's hard to get better than that!

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

On the road again

We're on the road again and it feels good. Even though our flight takes off at 11:17 AM, the folks at the airport want us there at 8:00 AM. I'm guessing that security will be tighter since the Detroit incident. Why does someone have to spoil things?!

I'm ready to celebrate New Year's somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. I'm ready to see Nan at Narita too. Here we come.

Happy New Year 2010 (How many people remember Y2K? Was that only 10 years ago??)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Travel Status

Well, we've been in the good ol' USA for over a month, so it's time to leave. We're heading to the Ocean Princess which will be docked in Bangkok on January 3, 2010. If you want to see the itinerary, click here. We have taken extra precautions to insure that we do not have a mishap like that of Malaga.

We at "cruztalking" want to wish each of you a Happy and Healthy New Year! 2009 slipped away so quickly! I'm sure there will be a lot of adventures in store for 2010!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Blanket for Nan

In a few days we will fly to Bangkok where we'll board the Ocean Princess for a wonderful cruise throughout the Orient. The other DrC will be lecturing, and I'll be playing "go-fer" and social director. It's a fun job too.

As part of my job as social director, we are going to meet Nan in Narita, before we get on the ship. We have a three hour layover in Japan. IF everything works out according to plan, I will get to meet one of my former students and her family. This is a real treat and I'm so excited. So I'm hoping it will all work out.

Here's the plan. We will get off the plane in Japan, pick up our luggage, go through "customs" and when we exit, Nan and her family will be waiting for us. We'll hug and talk and have a grand time until we have to check in our luggage, get back into the security loop, and board our plane. We will probably see each other for an hour. We both know this is a crazy idea, but we are going to give it a try. I sure hope it works out.

Getting to this event started several years ago when Nan wrote to me, asking if she could take my online class the next semester. I said "yes" and filled her in on some of the details. She took the class, earned an A, and instead of saying "good-bye" we continued our friendship. We write to each other and send pictures back and forth. When this cruise became available I told her about us stopping at Narita and asking how far it was from there to her home. After a few frantic emails back and forth, we devised the crazy plan. Her family is even delaying a New Year's Celebration a day, so she can be at the airport.

As many of you know, I make I made a blanket for Nan in honor of this event. It's my favorite teddy bear blanket, made from 4 different colors, one for each member of her family. The pink is for her, the white for her husband, the peach for her daughter and the yellow for her son. Isn't it exciting that we'll have a chance to meet? Now, let's hope and pray that it will actually work out.


Every family has traditions. Mine is no exception. There are traditional festivals, traditional clothing, and for my family, there is a traditional food. At Christmastime, someone (usually me) makes a dish from the "Old Country" (Italy) that we all love. The problem is we don't know how to spell the delicacy, we do know how to  make it and eat it. We call it Sauce-a-Sedi, which is close to what my grandmother used to call it when we were all little kids. I've searched recipe books for years, trying to discover what the concoction is "really called" and the best I can find is "veal bird." Somehow, that is not quite as romantic as Sauce-a-Sedi. In simple words, it's a stuffed meat roll that is absolutely delicious!

I remember my grandmother showing me how to make Sauce-a-Sedi. She did not have measurements for any of the ingredients...she put everything in the palm of her hand and weighed it out by how it felt. One Christmas, she took my little hand, and put in the ingredients one at a time. This is how much parsley you use, how much oregano, how much thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper. She carefully put each item in my tiny palm and told me to feel it, smell it, touch it, so I knew how much was needed. It's funny, I can still hear her telling me the recipe.

These spices were put in a couple of cups of breadcrumbs. Then a half dozen hard boiled eggs were chopped ever so finely and added to the breadcrumbs. Several cloves of garlic were minced and added to the bowl. Then came the hard job...mincing two onions till they were teeny-tiny. She said they did not want to be seen, so you can guess how tiny that is. Added to the fact that onions make you cry when you chop them, this was the part of the recipe I did not like. Finally came the cheese. I don't think there is an Italian recipe without cheese. She would grate up a piece of Romano making a small mountain of white flakes and add that to the breadcrumbs. With her hands, she would mix the ingredients until they were just holding together. If more moisture was needed, she would dribble some olive oil into the mix to get the right consistency.

Now that the stuffing was made, the next step was to get the meat ready. She had huge pieces of round steak that were 1/4 inch thick. She would pound them until they were even thinner. Not quite as thin as a piece of paper, but pretty close.

The last item to get ready was the string. Lots of clean string was needed. She would break the string into 8-10 inch lengths and have them ready.

Finally it was time to put it altogether. She would lay out a piece of the thin round steak, cover it with three or 4 fistfuls of the breadcrumb mixture, (see how the breadcrumb mixture sticks together) and spread it out to the edges. The next step was to
roll the meat and breadcrumb mixture into a roll or log. The log was then tied together and it was carefully browned, then put in a pot of gently bubbling red tomato sauce where it would cook on low heat for about four hours. All during that time, she would look at the pot making sure it was bubbling just a little bit, but not too much and dipping in a spoon to make sure the sauce was tasting right. When she thought it was done, she took out the logs and let them set a bit, cut them into one inch slices and serve them with raviolis or another type of pasta. It was heavenly.

Today I just made a batch of Sauce-a-Sedi for the family. I made it pretty much the traditional way. I still do not know the correct measurements for the spices, but I know what they feel like in the palm of my hand. I do not chop the onions anymore. I use granulated onion that come in a bottle. It might not be as "fresh" as the teeny-tiny onions of my grandmother's day, but it's a lot easier on the eyes. The meat has changed over the years. It's difficult to get a HUGE piece of round steak, they just do not seem to exist. Instead I asked the butcher to cut a top round into 1/4 slices and then put it through the tenderizer once. These pieces are pretty thin, but I still hammer on them with my fist to make them a little bit thinner. Sometimes I roll the meat into logs and tie them together with string, sometimes I use toothpicks. If I use toothpicks, I need to remember how many toothpicks I used, so that before I serve them up, I retrieve the same number of toothpicks. It's rather disconcerting to bite into a toothpick when you least expect it. I no longer brown the meat rolls before placing them in the sauce. I've discovered that it is not really needed.

It takes about 2 hours to get everything together. I started this morning at 10 AM and the Sauce-a-Sedi were in the pot at 12 Noon. The yummy meat rolls will cook for about 4 hours, all the time scenting our home with the most amazing aroma. When they are done, they will be part of a delayed Christmas dinner that we are having at my niece's home tomorrow.

The tradition continues, and it's good!

Friday, December 25, 2009


Has anyone spotted Santa? If you want to see the route that he traveled, go to

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It's the Berries

The firethorns are decorated for the season with bright red berries. What a treat! There's even some life starting to show on the winter camellias...I spotted a bud today.

While the rest of the world is in covered icicles, we are seeing a few stirrings of winter life. After a week of cool days and some rain, the grasses are starting to grow; the ponds are starting to fill. If we are lucky, there will be enough water this winter to last a full year. Long before we were worried about global warming, we were worried if there would be enough water. So far, it looks good. Let's see what January brings.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Cards

The Christmas Cards are in the mail. We were slow in getting them out this year. I don't know why as we are as busy as usual. I know I could send cards the easy way--a mass email to all my friends, but somehow, that just does not feel right. I like to look at my Christmas list and think about each person on it. As I think about everyone, I remember what makes each of you so special...then I try to write a couple of sentences. Sending a blanket email does not have the same feeling.

There was a dilemma with our letter this year. Actually, the dilemma was with the envelopes. We found stationary that we liked, but could not find any matching envelopes. Finally, I found one package of 24 green envelopes. That's fine, but I needed more than 24 envelopes. I went to several different stores in town, and each was out of envelopes (unless I wanted chartreuse or puce). Finally, I went digging into my Christmas boxes and discovered a series of "extra" Christmas envelopes from years past. I'm finally justified for saving them...and maybe I'm even getting with the "reuse-reduce-recycle" mode that is going to become so popular. So folks, that's why the letters and the envelopes are mismatched...I'm recycling! That's my story and I'll stick with it.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Not Snow

We were supposed to wake up to snow--instead we have rain! It's easier to shovel rain!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Feather River Fall

If you've read Cruztalking for awhile, then you know that I like the drive along the Feather River. We took that drive yesterday for a quick trip to Reno (no, we did not win a thing). Fall has come late to the river too. But, more surprising was the stillness of the water. The Feather River does not flow swiftly, but it does flow. Yesterday, it was like a millpond. The reflections were wonderful.

Along the way, we spotted an old mine least that is what we think it is. Since millions of dollars of gold were mined from the Feather River, way back when, it's not unusual to see some remnants from the past. Still, we've been driving the road for years, and we have never seen this entrance before. Maybe it was hidden behind the greenery, which is slowly being shed as winter is approaching

On another topic--I was playing with the 5 X optical and 20 X digital zoom on my new camera. This was our view from the 12th floor of our hotel. I took the picture through the window without a tripod. The G-11 does a pretty good job but it cannot remove the smog that fills Reno's air.

5 X optical zoom

20 X digital zoon