On The Water To Venice

From the moment I caught a glimpse of Venice I was excited. I loved everything about it. From the water taxi to it to the water taxi to the airport as we were leaving.

Venice is one of the most visited places in the world, but it seemed there were less people than in Florence. You could see the cruise ships lined up near the shore, and our guide also showed us where the cruise ship had collided with the dock a few weeks earlier.

The water taxi ride was great, you could sit inside or outside so I chose the outside. All the while we were in route the scenery grew more beautiful by the minute. It was a great cab ride–just beautiful and fun.

Upon arriving on the island, we gathered our baggage (what little we had–bags still lost) and walked a short distance to our hotel–Hotel Violino D’Oro which sat right next to the gondola rides. As soon as we dropped our luggage, we were on our way to see more of Venice.

It is amazing to see a city with no moving vehicles, and yes the streets are very narrow. We were informed that we had come at a great time because no rain was in the forecast–Venice is prone to flooding.

The next morning after breakfast we inquired about a gondola ride, and decided we were going to take one. The gondolas can hold up to six people not counting the gondolier–there were four of us. They do tilt a little. All of us enjoyed the ride through the city where we saw Mozart’s house and all of the beautiful bridges in Venice. The gondolier pushes with his feet and oar to guide his beautiful gondola. There were a few water taxis, but there was no road rage. When we got to the Grand Canal it took our breath away. The Grand Canal offered us an opportunity to see a young lady say yes to a marriage proposal, and to see another gondola with its occupants singing in Italian. Before we knew it, we were back at our starting point near the hotel.

We met up with our guide Igor at the end of the gondola ride, and he took us on a tour of the city. He did inform us that the people who live in Venice walk on average about ten to twelve miles a day. The beauty of St. Mark’s Square was something to behold.

Since we were on an island that was densely populated there was very little green space, but we were able to see some, and it was beautiful. Igor took us through the neighborhoods, local shops and more.

Our tour included a stop at the Murano Glass Company where we were given a demonstration, and a tour of their beautiful showroom. It was a sight to behold.

Afterwards we walked the high end shopping area which was nice. We seemed to gravitate more to the shops that were owned by the locals, and bargains could be found. Our last outing together was a group dinner where we laughed, talked, ate, drank wine and enjoyed the company.

It seemed that as soon as it started it was over. The following morning we checked out of the hotel, caught a water taxi and were on our way to the airport. Seeing Venice and some of the other islands at night (we left before day) was great. There was a full moon that guided our path. At the airport we went our separate ways, but it was a group of people who have exchanged information and hopefully will stay in touch.

Remember “thisisyourbestyear” the lemonade you make can be as sweet as you wish. Even with lost luggage, my cousin and I along with my sister whose luggage was found had the sweetest lemonade.

**A special thanks to Ms. Fallon Alford for her beautiful photos. Fallon is a full time educator in Atlanta, Georgia where she also freelances as a photographer.

Tuscany, Florence and Pisa

The trip to Italy was about to leave Rome, and we were headed to Tuscany where the landscape changed. Even while just looking out of the window of the van as the country side zipped by you could see the beauty of Tuscany. Marco pointed out the olive vineyards and grape vineyards–both of them were beautiful. Another thing that we noticed was that cars were getting larger. In Rome it seemed like everyone drove something similar to a Smart Car and/or a scooter. On the way to Tuscany, the cars became larger, and scooters were not seen very much.

I’ve been to beautiful wineries in Texas, Napa and Mendocino, but Tuscany was always on my radar–it lived up to my expectations. From the moment we entered the gates to Tenuta Torciano I was in the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun”. The only thing missing was Diane Ladd.

After being greeted and given the history of the beautiful property, we were off to our wine tasting. The setting let us know that this would not be your run of the mill tasting. First of all it was set outside under a huge tent. The tables were beautifully set with each setting having a plate that had food that you were instructed to match with each wine. I have always been under the impression that if you like it, then you drink it.

The tasting was a lot of fun with everyone picking out their favorite wine. Then we had the honor of eating even more when they bought out what the host called “his mama’s lasagna”. With this dish he served a wine that he called the “Big Boy”.

The wine, food, olive oil and balsamic vinegar were all good, but the host made the experience even better. We even had fun with another group that was from Canada. Good food, excellent wine and great conversation made for an amazing experience.

Our next stop was to the the quaint looking town of San Gimignano. It seemed that each store had some likeness of Pinocchio in their windows or showcase. It was here that I finally purchased items that were needed (my luggage was still somewhere else).

After a leisurely walk through the town, we were on our way Impruneta which is a few miles outside of Florence. We would stay at the Bellavista Hotel in Impruneta which was situated in a neighborhood that was easy to walk around and see the sights. The Hotel Bellavista had a great rooftop where you could enjoy a glass of wine and look out over the town.

Florence was crowded with people, but not all of them were tourist. As soon as we stepped out of the van, we ran into a protest–it was very organized and seemed more like a parade. Florence is filled with great sculptures many of which are located in Piazza della Signoria. Most people would probably say that the replica of David was their favorite, but I think that my favorite was the one of Neptune. It’s just how he is looking at David–you have to see it to understand it.

Now many people go to Florence to shop for leather and jewelry, and there was no shortage there. ln fact so many people in our group purchased items that they shipped them home. There was so much that it all seemed to go together. The crowds seemed to grow larger because there was construction and preservation work everywhere. One of the highlights to Florence was an amazingly simple salad that we had. It featured watermelon, avocado, red onion, feta cheese and a little something drizzled over it. It doesn’t sound like it should go together, but it did. I’ve even made it since I have been home. We did have a Russell Crowe sighting–I only saw him walking away.

After two nights in the Hotel Bellavista we would be on our way to visit the city of Pisa. Before we were to leave Imprueneta there would be a Farmer’s Market in this huge parking lot in front of the hotel. My cousin and I took a quick look at the Farmer’s Market as they were setting up. There was the most beautiful fruits and vegetables that we had ever seen. The stems were still on the plants. There were food trucks starting to cook their foods. You could purchase clothing, cosmetics, plants and so much more. Our one regret is that we had to leave before they finished setting up.

Our visit to the town of Pisa was just that–a visit. A choo choo train took us to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Cattedrale di Pisa, Piazza dei Miracoli and more. One thing that we discovered was that after we saw the sites, we could just walk through the lovely area around it which had horse drawn carriages, restaurants, shops and more.

We had experienced wine, more wine, food, shopping til we dropped, history and more. It was time to move on to our next stop.

There is a disclaimer that I forgot to mention. All pictures of me are makeup free–it was in my lost luggage. So remember “thisisyourbestyear” you can get a natural glow without cosmetics.

**A special thank you to Ms. Fallon Alford for allowing us to use some of her photos. Fallon is a full time educator in Atlanta, Georgia who freelances as a photographer.

Things That Make You Go Hmmm

As we grow up, things that happen to us can make us go hmmm and scratch our heads at these new symptoms. Some call it the aging process, others say it’s just Father Time catching up, and most of us just say it’s life.

There are ailments that pop up with symptoms that we have never had before.  What are some of these you might ask?  Well here are just a few.

  • The nerve in your tooth dies–seriously.  Warm liquids seem to make your tooth radiate, but not hurt.  This means that you need a root canal to stop this awful feeling.
  • You have sharp abdominal pain after eating.  You are now diagnosed as being lactose intolerant.  No more cheese, cream based entrees or ice cream.  In other words no milk based products for you.
  • Bloating from eating bread has started.  Not really all bread, but most.
  • Eye floaters start to bother you.  It’s kind of like you are swatting gnats.  They are harmless, but they are very annoying.
  • Heart palpitations which are scary.  Causes could be sugar, caffeine or alcohol.  You think to yourself which one do I have to give up?  I have become a decaf (yuck) coffee drinker, giving up most sugar except on birthdays and weddings (I love wedding cake).  There is no more chocolate for me since it is a double whammy with sugar and caffeine.  But there is a silver lining–wine is okay.

There are many other things that happen to us as we go through life, but I have a sorority sister who always finds the silver lining in things. The one silver lining I see from being lactose intolerant (and I hardly ever ate ice cream anyway), cutting out most sugar, most breads and caffeine is that I am able to control my weight and I can still have wine.

It’s my new normal, and it’s not so bad. We do what we have to do.  Remember “thisisyourbestyear”, and cheers!

Does anyone know of a good decaf brand of coffee?

“thisisyourbestyear” Is Ready For Some Football And More!!

“thisisyourbestyear” is covering the NFL Kickoff game between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers.  Also covering the Denver Food and Wine Festival. We are excited!! 

nfl-kickoff

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”.  We are ready for some football, good food and great wine!

A Love Note Came In The Mail

A couple of months ago I informed you about the ending of a love affair that I had for many years.  It was my love affair with Shipley Donuts.  They are the best things this side of heaven.  Just in case you missed the article, here is the link:  https://thisisyourbestyear.com/2016/01/01/happy-new-year-no-resolutions-for-the-new-year-just-a-confession-a-satire-kind-of-sorta/

As with all affairs if they are not amicable, there is either “I want you back” or “I don’t want anyone else to have you”.  Well Mr. Shipley wants me back.  First of all he moved into my neighborhood, and even had a grand opening (house-warming) that I ignored. Every time I thought about him, I just ate another bowl of oatmeal.  I’ve had regular, steel-cut, instant and whatever other kind there is.  No it is not as sweet as him, but it is so much better for me than him.

20160514_145226Wouldn’t you know it, he decided to send me a love note, and what a note it was.  He knew I wouldn’t be persuaded with the buy one dozen get another free.  He knows that I must have him twice to be satisfied.  Yep, you guessed it.  He sent me a coupon for two “free” glazed donuts (no purchase necessary). I started to think, how many Weight Watcher points are two glazed Shipley donuts, how far do I have to walk/run to burn off those calories, will I have to give up my glass of wine a day?

Weight Watchers

The Weight Watchers booklet said under Shipley Donuts a number so large I couldn’t read it, and it was no way I was walking from Fort Worth to Dallas and back for two donuts, and

Fort Worth to Dallas

besides a glass of wine a day may not keep the doctor away, but it will surely help ease the pain of ending an affair.

glass of wine

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”, and steel-cut oatmeal is not bad, it is good for you, and a glass of wine on the patio as the sun goes down–enough said. Cheers!

Spring Break–Take A Break

Every time women of a certain age talk about Spring Break, we automatically think of Spring Cleaning.  We think of putting away winter clothing, changing the comforter, clearing out the pantry, deep cleaning this and that.  Why do we do that?  Is there an unwritten rule that we have to use our time away from the office working while everyone else is enjoying their time off?  What’s to keep us from doing the Spring Cleaning a little at a time after Spring Break?  This year I decided to do just that.

When I left work on the Friday before Spring Break, I went home and did my weekend cleaning that night–I was determined that this would be my Spring Break.  There would be no deep cleaning this Spring Break.  There would be the day to day cleaning, but nothing that would take all day and/or all week.

Here is my week of during Spring Break. What was yours like?

  • Sunday–great church service at Carter Metropolitan CME Church, and then dinner with my husband and our youngest daughter.  Then I did a movie (Creed) in my pajamas with my husband and popcorn and wine.
  • Monday–massage at Perfect Touch with Katie that made me want to lay there for a couple of hours.  Went walking with my sorority sister and made my steps then coffee at Starbucks afterwards. Then I decided to make homemade peanut butter cookies.  The kitchen was smelling good.  We ate them while we watched the movie again (it was rented for 2 days).
  • Tuesday–my guilty pleasure of a facial.  I absolutely love getting facials especially at my favorite place Ageless Perfection Skincare.  Miss Ruby is the best. Started reading “Natchez Burning” by Greg Iles for a book club I just joined. It is a very exciting read.
  • Wednesday–my best friend since second grade and I went to the Amon Carter Musuem of American Art to check out their latest exhibition–American Epics (Thomas Hart Benton and Hollywood).  Yes, it is very good and educational.  Then we were off to West 7th Street to have lunch outside because the weather was just perfect.  We tried our tastebuds at Mash’d, a place we had never gone to.  The best lemonade bar none.  I like mine tart, my friend likes hers sweet, we were both happy. Then my daughter cancelled our walk, but I went anyway–got my steps in.
  • Thursday–manicure and pedicure at Zizi’s.  Even decided to have a glass of wine while I was getting serviced.
  • Friday–going to a networking event for women sponsored by the women’s division of the Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce.  Got my TABC certification so that I can volunteer for the Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival.
  • Saturday–meeting with volunteer coordinator for Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival to get my assignment.  Then on to Fair Park to cover BeautyCon so that I can report about it to you, and see what they have for women of a certain age.

I started each morning with my prayers and coffee in my pj’s, and ended each night with wine and prayers in my pj’s. The house is still clean, yes the sweaters still need to go to the cleaners and be put away (well maybe, this is Texas weather). I’ll just drop them off on my way to work after Spring Break.

Spring Break is not for Spring Cleaning, it is for taking a Break during the Spring.  Remember “thisisyourbestyear”–you can clean next week.

Weekend At The Delta Street Inn B&B

I’ve always liked getaways that are sort of spur of the moment. When my friend said let’s go, I was packed and ready to travel.  With Christmas music blaring, we were off. Going to Jefferson, Texas to stay at the Delta Street Inn B&B was a complete joy.  Since the two of us like history, staying in a historical house was really interesting.  The owners Bob and Pam make each guest feel right at home. The weekend had great food, wine, conversation and especially great friendship.

To read more about this wonderful B&B go to:

http://www.deltastreetinn.com/

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”. 

A Taste Of Fort Worth–Chef’s Collaboration Dinners at Central Market

Today’s post is written by guest blogger CY Cooper.  She is a “foodie” who is starting to become a “chef”.  Enjoy her account of a wonderful night of wine, food and fun at Central Market.  CY says these events can be done with friends, family or you can go it alone.  There is always good conversation plus good food and wine.

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Chef Juan Rodriquez of Reata Restaurant in red cap with Central Market Chef in the center and Chef Sabastien Layen of the Fort Worth Omni Hotel.

The 2015 Fort Worth Food+Wine Festival is scheduled for March 26-29 and leading up to this extraordinary event will be a series of Chef’s Collaboration Dinners at Central Market/Fort Worth Cooking School.  The series began last night (2/11/2015) with Chef Sebastien Layen of the Fort Worth Omni Hotel & Chef Juan Rodriquez of Reata Restaurant.  The two TOP Chefs conspired together and presented 5 courses to an appreciative audience.

Chef Sebastien Layen presented the First Course – Sea Bass Carpaccio w/Habanero Corn Salpicon, Dallas Goat Cheese Foam and Baby Arugula.  (Light & Refreshing)

The Second Course, presented by Chef Juan Rodriguez, was a delicious Roast Poblano Bisque w/Duck Confit and Cotija Cheese Crumbles.

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Texas BLT Scallop with Crumbled Chipotle Bacon, Tequila Tomato Confit and Cilantro Queso Fresco Pesto.

In presenting the Third Course of the Dinner, Chef Layen went the seafood route with a Texas BLT Scallop with Crumbled Chipotle Bacon, Tequila Tomato Confit and Cilantro Queso Fresco Pesto.  Chef Rodriguez’s Fourth Course Presentation was Beef Tenderloin with Guajillo Choron Sauce and Jalapeno Sharp Cheddar Grits.   The Third and Fourth Courses were Enjoyable and OUTSTANDING.

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Callebaut Chocolate Bread Pudding Tamale and Spicy Dark Chocolate Pot de Crème with Marshmallow Mousse and Chili Caramelized Hill Country Pecans.

The Fifth and Final Course was DESSERT and both Chefs prepared signature desserts from their restaurants.  The Callebaut Chocolate Bread Pudding Tamale represented Reata (Chef Rodriguez), while the Spicy Dark Chocolate Pot de Creme with Marshmallow Mousse and Chili Caramelized Hill Country Pecans was the Omni Hotel’s standard-bearer (Chef Layen).  The two Desserts were RICH, RICH, RICH and oh so incredibly GOOD.  I believe I can honestly report that everyone who attended this collaboration dinner was not only impressed but enjoyed every delicious bite.

The Chef’s Collaboration Dinners will continue throughout the month of February and March.  Check the schedule at Central Market / Fort Worth Cooking School.  Tickets for the 2015 Fort Worth Food+Wine Festival are currently on sale and can be found at their site:  www.fwfwf.com. This year’s festival is being sponsored by Central Market & Ben E Keith Company.

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”–do something different this year.

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She Is The Best Sommelier In Texas

According to Wikipedia, a sommelier or wine steward, is a trained and knowledgeable wine professional, normally working in fine restaurants who specializes in all aspects of wine service as well as wine and food pairings. The role is much more specialized and informed than that of a wine waiter. In fine dining today the role is strategically on a par with that of the executive chef.

TEXSOM along with the Guild of Sommeliers, the Court of Master Sommeliers-Americas, the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and the Society of Wine Educators held Texas Best Sommelier competition.  The winner of the event was Ms. Joelle Cousins of the Red Room Lounge in Austin, Texas.  The competition is presented by Texas Monthly Magazine. The announcement was made during the extravagant Wine & Food Foundation’s grand wine and food tasting where over 50 wineries presented their wines.

Congratulations to Ms. Joelle Cousins, and remember “thisisyourbestyear”.  Cheers!

Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival

Watch out Aspen, Fort Worth is about to show you how to really do a food and wine festival.  Take a look and mark your calendars for wonderful events for date night and girls night out. You must have tickets to attend the events–get yours now.

Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival

Fort Worth Food and Wine

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”.