Sunday, August 30, 2009

Weekend Update

Gym Report: I am still going to the gym three days a week. My personal trainer sessions are going to once a week instead of two, not that I feel more comfortable on the various machines. I went this morning, and spent some time on the elliptical and then some weight machine work. For me, that is an accomplishment.
Food, Glorious Food, Part 1: I hosted the occasional meeting of the Book Club on Friday evening. My book pick was Julia Child's "My Life in France" which was the basis for part of the movie "Julie and Julia". I did not attempt to cook from her "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", but prepared Baked Tilapia with calamata olives, grape tomatoes, oregano, and feta cheese; smashed Yukon gold potatoes (Franks contribution), and Oven Roasted Mixed Vegetables. We had a nice evening and a good discussion.
Food, Glorious Food, Part 2: Paul and Libby (see the link in My Blog List for Paul and Libby's World of Travel) invited Frank and me to their home for a lovely dinner last evening. We started the evening with a selection of appetizers; including my favorite (difficult choice) of crostini, with fig preserves, ricotta cheese and prosciutto and a very nice rose wine which they purchased in Malta during their Mediterranean cruise earlier this year. Dinner was a very tasty beef and pork lasagna paired nicely with a Seghesio Zinfandel. For dessert Paul prepared an espresso panna cotta served appropriately in coffee mugs with a dollop of whipped cream and shaved chocolate. The presentation was only exceeded by the tastiness of the panna cotta. Everything was perfect... thanks Paul and Libby.
From the Medical desk: I have another CAT scan scheduled for September 1, so stay tuned for the results. I am expecting another tumor-free report.

That's all I'm saying.
Well almost all as I must acknowledge (after a year of using it) that I stole the closing line from one of my favorite St. Petersburg Times columnists, Ernest Hooper.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Yes it is hot in Saint Petersburg, FL, as in very warm temperatures. But, today, I re-started my volunteer efforts with a trip to the Ronald McDonald House in St. Pete. So why is that HOT, you ask? Because I volunteer through an organization called HandsOn Tampa (got it now?...). It is a great organization as you can pick and choose where and when you volunteer. Tonight, four of us prepared Shepherds Pie and a mixed salad for the residents of RMH. It was good fun, and nice to feel I was helping others again.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Nashville - Part Two

Here are a few photographs from the recent trip to Nashville

The slave quarters at the Carter House

The Pantheon


A New Toy

A few months ago, I purchased a new cell phone, a Nokia E71x, at my local AT&T Wireless store. It was a nice little smartphone at a really good price and received decent reviews. But, I quickly learned that I did not like the phone, for various reasons, including a very short battery life, and dropping my email connection repeatedly throughout the day, (requiring a reboot of the phone to reconnect). I was well past the 30-day grace period when I approached AT&T to switch phones. The local store advised me that a discounted phone was out of the question since I was past the grace period. So, not one to give up, I emailed customer support, asking for an exception. The next day I received the standard reply quoting contract issues and why I do not qualify for discount pricing. Again, not giving up, I tried again, asking that the situation be reviewed by a manager, and mentioning that if an exception could not be made, to let me know what my cancelation penalty would be... ha !. Well, that got their attention, as the next day, I received a nice email informing me that I had been approved for an exception, and the next steps to make it happen. Bottom line --> within four days, I had my new iPhone (yes, I have gone over to the dark side).
I was pleased that AT&T saw the light.

Second, I LOVE my new iPhone. It is the most intuitive phone I have ever purchased. I resisted getting one earlier, mainly because they were so popular, and I did not want to be a lemming following the crowd. The only real problem I have found with the iPhone is that it is way too much fun. I have to force myself to put it down.

That's all I'm saying !

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Dash to Nashville

This past weekend, Frank and I made a quick dash to Nashville, TN (actually Franklin, TN) to visit our friends, Brian and Sarah. We were joined by John and Carol from Mount Dora, FL. First, I must thank Brian and Sarah for a wonderful weekend. They are gracious hosts, who provided superior accommodations in their lovely home. Traditional Home magazine needs to feature the home in a future issue, and Wine Spectator should review their wine collection. We enjoyed some fantastic wines out of Brian and Sarah's cellar. We dined at good restaurants:
  • Restaurant Zola: good food, unfortunately not so good service. I had a very nice paella filled with shrimp, scallops and fish, however it was blamed for the slow service, with no apologies offered.
  • Margot Cafe and Bar: Sunday brunch. This was a wonderful brunch, and made up for the service issues we had the night before at Zola. The Bellini's were great, and my poached eggs with sausage gravy over Tuscan bread was perfect. The eggs were gooey, and the gravy was not heavy and did not overpower the dish.
  • Bistro Sarah: (Home cooking on Sunday evening): Sarah and Carol prepared a very nice, healthy, and tasty dinner on Sunday evening. We enjoyed, a lot of wine (more on that later), cheeses and crackers, olives, etc; scallops with a tomato and onion relish (delish!) and a side of roasted asparagus. Everything was superb :-)
  • Boxwood Bistro: With Sarah and Brian off to work on Monday, Carol, John, Frank, and I ventured out for a little sightseeing followed by lunch at Boxwood Bistro in Franklin. The restaurant is located adjacent to The Factory at Franklin, the prior home of the Franklin Stove factory. I consumed a full portion of shrimp and grits, which was very good, albeit a bit too salty for my taste. Frank enjoyed Pulled Pork Sliders, served with Tennessee style barbecue sauce. Very good, said he.
With a limited amount of time available to us for sightseeing, we did manage to hit some key sights.
  • We visited downtown Franklin, a charming old and vibrant downtown, with cute shops and restaurants.
  • Pantheon, a replica of the one in Athens, Greece, although in much better shape. (Pictures to follow). This building sits in the middle of a nice park near Vanderbilt University
  • Cheekwood Arts and Gardens: This was a lovely old mansion in the middle of 100 lush rolling acres of gardens, ponds, and meandering paths. The mansion houses the art museum, and gardens include a small Japanese garden as well as a sculpture trail. For fans of Dale Chihuly, I noticed on the Cheekwood website, that there will be a Chihuly exhibit in the museum and gardens next year, (May 25 - October 31, 2010). This may require a return visit.
  • On Monday, we visited Carter House, the site of the Battle of Franklin in 1864. To quote the website: "The Battle of Franklin has been called "the bloodiest five hours of the American Civil War."". The pre-tour movie provided a good history of the events leading up to and including the battle. The tour of the grounds, and the home added to our understanding of the significance of the battle. I am not a Civil War buff, but this was a very interesting experience lead by a excellent docent.
Wine: Knowing that we like our wine, Brian and Sarah opened their 450+/- bottle collection for our choosing. I wish I could remember everything we enjoyed, but made note of the following three superior wines from our Sunday evening at home.
  • Marquis Phillips S2 Cabernet - only one word to describe this wine... WOW!
  • Mollydooker Enchanted Path. ... and another Wow, so close to the S2 but not quite.
  • Peter Michael Ma Belle-Fille Chardonnay - an excellent dry white, very nice.
This was a very quick, but very enjoyable weekend getaway.

That's my story, and I am sticking too it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Broken Plates and Napkins on the Floor

OPA !. After a brief stop at IKEA this evening, Frank and I headed to Beaune's Wine Bar in Ybor City, only to find it is not open on Wednesday. (Think Thursday, Friday, and Saturday only). Frank had been there a couple of weeks ago and determined it was worth a return visit. With no Plan B, we drove down 7th Avenue, past the historic Columbia Restaurant, watching for an interesting spot for dinner. We saw Acropolis Taverna, which had received good reviews in the press. We parked, and went into this nice space with a duo playing Greek music on a mandolin and keyboard - nice touch it was, and good music too.

Acropolis was a pleasant surprise. The menu was in Greek and English (fortunately for us). We both had fish dishes which were very tasty and well prepared. Each was served with orzo and grilled vegetables. We lucked into a 2 for 1 happy hour, so we each had two glasses of Vin di Crete white wine. For dessert we found the shared baklava to be one of the best we have eaten. Usually baklava can be overly sweet, and how can it not be sweet with all the honey; but this version was not too sweet, and had a nice touch of cinnamon to offset some of the sweetness. Acropolis is definitely worth a return visit.

As we were sipping our wine and waiting for our entrees, the duo started palying the theme from Zorba; some of the wait staff formed a Greek dance line; and a staff member went through the restaurant tossing paper napkins into the air, which landed on customers, tables, and ultimately the floor. At one point he returned with a stack of small dishes and proceeded to break them in time to the music. Good fun, I say.


That's all I'm saying.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Where is my gym bag?

I know where it is, but I couldn't think of a clever title for this post about my gym experience. First, I do not, let me repeat, do not, like the gym culture. But I am in great need of the benefits of exercise. And I need the motivation to exercise. (This coming from a person who completed thirteen marathons and numerous 10K and 15K runs, but many years ago) Don't expect me to turn into Mr. Muscular, but I do hope to improve my overall fitness.

With those disclaimers out of the way, I completed my second personal trainer guided workout. Maggie, my young, and perky PT, has been very kind to this aging body. But she still puts me through a good hour-long workout and I feel like I have put some real effort into the time spent at the gym. You know, increased heart rate, minor burn in the muscles, etc. It is a tired but satisfied feeling, knowing that I am doing something good for my self.

That's all I'm Saying !

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Busy Weekend

Since Paul and Libby (see below post) are covering the World of Travel, while I am only planning future travels, I am going back to my other favorite topic... food.

But first, yesterday, we went to Orlando to help my cousin Carolyn and her husband, Gary celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. It was a surprise party planned by their five children. I had a wonderful time reconnecting with relatives I do not see often, and some that I do. We had a great time reminiscing about the "good old days", and the large family events from our youth.

Dinner last night was at Citricos, at the Disney Grand Floridian. It exceeded our expectations and put a significant dent in the budget, but was well worth it. I will not go into finite detail (as I have been known to do in the past) other than to say, Frank and I each enjoyed a four course dinner, including dessert, and paired the recommended wine with each course. Three hours later, we left Citricos very pleased with the dining experience. Check out the menu on the website.

Lunch today was at Seasons 52, a Darden Group restaurant, and their best in my opinion. We were joined by our Orlando based friends, Glen and Lynn. It was nice to see both of them, and to catch up on each others lives, travels, and activities. I had a very nice buffalo burger, Frank had a blackened corvina (fish) sandwich. Seasons 52 does not disappoint. Apparently we will finally have a Seasons 52 in Tampa, at the site of the old Steak and Ale on Westshore Boulevard, just north of Kennedy.

On the way back to Pinellas County we stopped to visit with Frank's Mother. Well, she insisted on fixing her famous fried chicken and all the trimmings. We enjoyed another nice meal, but now it is back to the gym.

That's all I'm saying.

Paul and Libby's World of Travel

My very good friends, Paul and Libby are off on another adventure, this time an Alaskan cruise. Paul has created a new blog for this and future travels. If you are interested in travel, click --->World of Travel, and read about their quest to complete the Travel Trifecta.