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Observations from a consummate foreigner in a foreign land

Updated: 2015-12-02T17:15:01.708+01:00


San Diego Food Revolution Day


When you cook it should be an act of love. To put a frozen bag in the microwave for your child is an act of hate. -Raymond BlancHow was the Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Day in San Diego? A huge success! Suzie's Farm had hundreds of visitors picking strawberries, enjoying the live band, eating from the Green Truck and just hanging out being neighborly. I invited everyone I could, I tweeted, pinned, facebooked, talkled to anyone and everyone I could about it and boy did all of it pay off!Fresh strawberry lemonade from the Green TruckWhat was my ulterior motive for all this hoopla? I want families to realize how special it is to have access to farms and fresh foods. We are so lucky to live here where fresh food is grown throughout the year. Fresh foods can be really inexpensive and you don't have to cook most fresh foods -how easy is that?? In my little backyard patch I let seeds go wild and I encourage my budding foodies to taste, smell, and experiment with everything (yes, even the wild purslane).So what has been my payoff from all this? I've gotten such a thrill from seeing children eat the organic strawberries freshly picked by their little chubby hands. I love knowing that my kids will know what to do with fresh vegetables and they won't be afraid to try even more varieties of vegetables (knock on wood because we all know that they ALL sometimes just say 'NO' to anything new). But, in the long run I think my kids will be healthier, happier and wiser with this type of foodie education.So in that spirit I'll share with you one of the things we ate last night that the kids LOVED:Leek & Zucchini (courgette) Frittata1 leek2 med size zucchini (or if your English or French courgette)2 eggs (because I tend not to like it too eggy otherwise do 4)1tbsp olive oil5tbsp of herbed fetasalt & pepper to tasteClean and thinly slice the whites of a leek (make sure you get the dirt and grit out from between the layers). Then saute it until translucent and then add in grated zucchini and let it cook down for 5 minutes on medium low heat -no need to stir. Meanwhile slightly beat teh eggs and feta making sure there are no large chunks of feta. Then add in the egg mixture and cover for 5 minutes under low heat. Now uncover and here is the tricky part: with a large plate over the fry pan flip the frittata onto the plate. Now I like to put it back by sliding it off the plate and back on to pan. You can just forgo all of this and put the fry pan under the broiler for 4 more minutes to finish it.I served this with a basil & lemon orzo salad and there were no leftovers! :) What is your favorite fresh fast meal in the summer?[...]

Peanut Butter My New Food Porn


Ok, so I'm not the biggest fan of peanut butter probably because I really didn't grow up with it. However, I think the tide is turning. My little neighborhood has a huge peanut butter secret -we've got our very own peanut butter super star! Yes, you heard me right.
The place is called Spread and yes it is that good and the culinary genius behind it has been recognized by making it on Oprah's best list. Check the link because it is Oprah's selection. I'm not sharing so you can order your own here. But, be warned this could be your new crack!(image)

San Diego Food Revolution Day, May 19


 ... to inspire change in people’s food habits and to promote the mission for better food and education for everyone.
Hello, I am Alex aka Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Ambassador for San Diego! If you've been following me for sometime now (ok, years) you'll know that I'm a huge closet foodie or as I prefer to say, gourmand. {N.B. just look at all the food porn in the archives} Well, I've been secretly putting together a master plan of hitting San Diego with a farm tour, special restaurant fixed price menu, food education and maybe even a farmer's market tour. I know I get a little excited about these sorts of things. 

What is the Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution? Take a look at this short video:

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Saturday May 19th will be the magical day. I've gotten together with Suzie's Farm where there will be a Strawberry Jam from noon to 4pm. You can pick your own local, organic and fresh strawberries! There will be live music and a food truck. This event is family friendly and should be a lot of fun. 

Why the interest in food and eating well? I think most of us are in such a hurry we've lost the simple pleasures of a good meal with people we enjoy. From having traveled a lot in my life I've learned that there are two things that unite us as humans -laughter and food. We all share that in common and I think that over the years we've lost sight of the quality of our food and of meaningfulness of sharing the company of others. I hope to see you at a Food Revolution Event! 

More French Decor and Paris' Magic Macarons


Ok, just a few more photos of that lovely furniture/lifestyle shop! Like I said in my previous post -everything was satin this fall. It was amazing how wonderful these sofas felt -cool and smooth. It really made my wonder why more upholstery manufacturers don't work in satin or smoother materials. I know I'll be very happy when all that nubby upholstery goes by the wayside with popcorn ceilings!

It wouldn't be fair if I didn't mention the dining rooms which were filled with a European colonial meets Africa feel. Can you just hear the Lion King playing in the background?! Lots of silver, horn and natural wood and leather. Notice that the French almost never have a table without a table cloth and in this case they took runners and placed them widthwise rather than lengthwise. So clever and chic! Sorry I cut off the chandelier but that was beautiful too -very modern and it had an edgy feel and no there was no big uni-shade on it (ughh, if I see another one I'll turn off the lights!).

Isn't all this making you hungry? It did for me so I just headed out for a snack to my favorite macaron place -they are WONDERFUL. If you are ever in Paris you need to visit this legendary institution Ladurée (take a look at their website it is EXACTLY like being in the store incl. the sounds). The macarons come in so many flavors -my personal favorites are violet, rose, coconut and black forest. They also make wonderful chocolates in so many wonderful flavors. 

If you happen to get there before I return would you send me a few? Oh and the boxes they come in are so beautiful that long after you eat the contents you'll still have the elegant box (I keep mine on my desk). MMMM delicious memories! 


Hot Off the Couches of Paris


My trip through Paris this fall was so amazing. The food, friends, museums, shops, cafes were begging for discovery. The smell of bread baking on the corner bakery, the cafes with people sipping their noisette while their dogs sit on patiently for bits of butter. I had such an awesome time visiting with old friends and seeing what all the shops had.

So what had me craning my neck in the shops? -couches! I've been looking to redo my own at home but after taking a look at the latest davenports:
Lounge in black satin and lamp shades in thin raw silk
So what is so special about this sofa? The French are upholstering everything in high grade dense satin. This thick satin material is better than leather! (Ready to throw out your Chesterfields? -remember you heard it here first) It feels amazing and withstands a lot of use. Not to mention this is wonderful for my personal vegetarian leanings. I noticed that the colors of the upholstery this season is dark neutral -charcoal gray, deep plum, moss green. Deep rich colors with the shine of satin -delicious!

Beautiful orange colors at Hermes


Going the Wrong Way?



Today I woke up and to my disbelief it was 9:55 am. That is a record for me -I haven't slept in that much since I don't know when. I must say that I'm beginning to get a little sad that I only have one day left here. I've had a wonderful time with my friends and it has made me realize that maybe I should be living here?
Anyway, last night we had a wonderful dinner in a very BoBo (bourgeouis-boheme in English you would say YUPPIE). This tavern serves food only after 9pm and everyone gets a giant plate of fries and mussels with wine. It was very full and lively -lots of artists, old men, university students and young professionals. In fact, I didn't even get a chance to take photos because we were talking to some young guys and discussing philosophy -can you believe that?! It was really so surreal and fun.

By the way, I had to take pictures earlier in the day of a cafeteria. I was amazed to see that it had a full chandelier and the plastic cutlery -well just look for yourself!
Am I going the wrong way back to California or should I just send for the family?


Live from France!


So now I'm taking a much needed break. These two weeks have been flying by and I've enjoyed every minute of it -from plane delays, to meeting new friends and seeing old friends. While here in Paris I've been snapping some photos at Bercy, Tuileries and other deliciously beautiful places.

While I was at Bercy there was a wonderful market of mid century design items. I had to snap some pics of it!

Also I think this one could be called SteamPunk? You tell me -like it or not?

And of course a jazzy little number makes me want a cocktail and say, "Daddy-O."
(image) (image)

Another Blog


(image) Thank you dear readers for following my adventures and musings on Italy, food, museums and decor. My life has changed so much since my husband went off to Afghanistan. He has now safely returned but life isn't the same. I have started a new blog for my new adventure. I am trying to start a foundation to help families of the deployed military in Afghanistan and Iraq. I want to offer these families free babysitting for when these fathers and mothers are in harms way and then for one month after they return.
Who is with me? Who is willing to help out these families that give so much? Join me on this new adventure at

Hope to see you there!


Aloha House II


Holy Toledo! I've been AWOL a long time! So sorry about that. Life has been crazy. However, I do have some more Aloha House photos for you! Thanks for hanging in there with me! Enjoy -Casually formal living roomGuest bathroom with beautiful Asian antiques highlighted by a soft lavender colorPool with wonderful landscaping and waterfallCan you see the family of mosaic honu (turtles)?A dream kitchen with 2 sinks that both have a garbage disposal (why more people don't do this boggles the mind!)The dinning area with great lighting and flooring. Just around the corner is the family room and beyond that is the guest bedroom with every comfort imaginable. Cynthia really has such an eye for both elegant design and function. She is really so gifted some of the other homes she has done have the most wonderful feeling -warm, inviting and inspired. I love the way she combines antiques, modern items and warm inviting colors and lines. Hopefully, we will be seeing a lot more from her![...]

Aloha House


So, I've been busy with traveling unassisted with the two children under five (can you say crazy?). However, when there is a friend in need you move mountains when necessary. The wonderful thing that came from this trip was reconnecting with old friends and plugging into the wonderful energy of Hawaii.

What did I bring back for you my dear readers? Wonderful photos, interesting people and perhaps some ideas to inspire you. My Hawaiian friends are very talented and the first lady of talent I'd like to introduce you to is my friend Cynthia. She is seriously amazing at design and has a keen eye and great vision (can you tell I really admire her?) -on top of being a dear friend. Anyway, let me give you just a amuse-bouche while I beg her for some of her other work that she has done in and around Honolulu.

What are you loving about the photo above? Would you love to see the pool beyond the wall?

Airplane Mode


Airplane Mode -When someone cuts themselves off from the world by not logging on to Facebook or checking their cell phones. Usually occurs after a breakup or a rough work week.Derived from the cell phone setting of the same name in which incoming messages or phone calls cannot be received."Dan won't answer your calls. He's in airplane mode.""Sarah went into airplane mode for three days after Charlie dumped her."-Urban DictionaryOkay Okay... I'm coming out of airplane mode. Forgive me it has been a long time since I've posted. The short of it is that my life has gone into the crapper. Yes, indulge me a little if you want to hear the story. If not move on to another post.So this past year was a bit difficult because my husband was traveling a lot to Africa (boy do I have some photos!). He was gone weeks at a time while I was holding down the fort with two small children and an old crotchety dog. Well just when I thought it was tough... My husband comes home with the news that he was being deployed and activated in the military for the next 13 months to a war zone. "What?! Stop shitting me!" Yes, it was true. No turning back and you have to go.I still can't pick my mouth off the ground. I'm amazed that all of this has happened. It has been a few months now and I won't say things have been easy. For one thing I had to put my 16 year old dog down last week (man, I sound like a country music song!). Then of course things have been breaking around the house. Out went my husband and in came the repairmen who already know where everything is -including my bank account. So, I'm no longer asking 'can this get worse' instead I'm just vowing to keep my head down and deal with it. And maybe I can also work on getting some joy back in here.[...]

Where in the World?? Hint...


This is a 'comfortable' European capital city where moving your head up and down means 'no' and from side to side means 'yes.'(image)

Where in the World??


lright my well traveled friends can you guess this location?(image)

Inside a Craftsman


(image) From the doorway you can tell I'm just not a Craftsman kind of gal. I'd say my style is a little more old world colonial (is that even a style?). I've got tons of furniture that I've picked up on my travels. While I love the traditional Craftsman and Mission styles they are too heavy and austere for me to live with. I've got a lot of artwork to hang -what would you do -hang it all from the picture rail or go for the wall directly?

On another note did you know that the Smithsonian now has its photo archives on Flickr? It is really interesting to look at what house interiors looked like. For example this one:


Come on Over to my House


Welcome to my little California Craftsman. As you may or may not notice -I need help. I'm not too crazy about the curb appeal. First of all I need color! The house color is a muted army green, white trim and navy blue edging around the windows. The garden is a bit of a mess with no color. Right now there are boxwoods under the living room window, white myrtle (?) topiary surrounded by a red mulch circle. Any ideas?? 


Where in the World??


Let's play name that place -can you guess the location??(image)

Missing La Vida Blogga


(image) I've been a little busy lately. I've had long sleepless nights, a new wardrobe, my life has been turned upside down -yet again. I'm in love and I think she is too. I've had a little daughter and I'm very excited to be in the 'pink.' As you can imagine I haven't had much time to do any of my favorite things (including this blog). However, to make up for things I am going to start sharing some very exciting photos of travels to Africa. In a few months hopefully I'll be reporting from Paris (as soon as I get the little one her first passport).

Can't wait to hear from all of you and see what you've all been up to!

Just what I need...


A strong cup of cappuccino and some of these Pumpkin Waffles made by my fabulous friend Mary:

(object) (embed) I can almost smell it now! MMMMMmmmmm...(image)

Change in the Air


I couldn't let this day pass by quietly, even if I've been very quiet lately. It is so nice to be back in a country where hope and enthusiasm is in the air instead of fear and I only now feel like America is coming back. It has been a year now that we've been in the States and in that year I've been very overwhelmed with everything. There are too many choices to make here and yet it has felt like there are no real choices to be made.

Let us take for example television. Here it is taken for granted that you must order cable or satellite in order to get anything "decent" to watch. I'm fine with that if I actually got choices in the things that are worth watching. The truth is most of what is available is complete crap and there are so many channels that you never watch or really would want to (do we really need 15 channels of high definition game replays of college sports 24 hours a day?). So, to get CNN and the BBC channel we wind up paying an average of $80 a month -for only two channels we actually want! I miss being able to see geographic programs, travel channels (of places other than America by Americans), cultural programing and even the variety shows you can see in Europe. We lived with less than ten channels in Italy yet we watched much more quality programming. I suppose that is what everyone here refers to as the "paradox of choice."

So I'm refreshed to tell you that after a long slumber it looks like things will change here and hopefully it is not too late. While I was listening to the inauguration of President Obama on the radio I couldn't help but cry. I was crying for the terrible things that have happened (September 11, the failing markets, the wars, the fears, the rampant cynicism, the state of the educational system and lack of healthcare for all). I'm hoping all of these things will pass and it certainly appears that at least it is on the agenda for things to be done. As for me -well I'm also changing and hoping for the future. I am expecting my second child soon and I am thrilled at the idea that all of us can actually improve things for ourselves and for all children -YES, WE CAN!(image)

Starting from the Ground Up -Craftsman Style


So we bought a typical California Craftsman House here in San Diego and it has been an interesting education. Before landing here I really had no idea what a Craftsman House was and I most likely would have guessed that you were talking about a house built by a carpenter. I won't bore you with the details of what exactly a craftsman is, I'll leave you the wiki link above for that. What I will tell you is how this house and I are adjusting and or changing each other.When I thought of wooden floors this is what would I think of:But, this is what I got:Plain light oak strips everywhere in no imaginative pattern. As you can tell from the photo I got some work done on them. The wood expert I hired did a great job of removing years of neglectful pet stains, water marks and other random stains. All that to have it stained to my whim of ebony meets red cherry. It turned out really well. As it happens one good person (the wood expert) knows another and before I knew it I had painters too.Whilst here in the US it is very common for people to paint their own house I was very uncomfortable with the idea partly due to the fact that all the walls had been BADLY plastered or as they call it here "texturized." The texture was more akin to what you would find in a non-frost free refrigerator after a few years of neglect. So I had them try to undo all the "texture" which took a long time and was a dusty explosion of a mess (as you can see).The photo below is the color I settled on for the living room (yellow) looking into the dinning room (red). The yellow is very cheery and reminds me of Italy. An interesting cultural footnote is that in Naples if your house is painted yellow then you've paid your dues to the mob so that you can be left alone or so they say.As you can see I have rails on the walls for hanging paintings (at least that is what I think they are for). Would you trust these rails or just go ahead and use picture hanging nails?In the photo below you see the entryway to the left is to the kitchen, which I had painted a more vibrant scarlet red and then to the right is the hallway to the bedrooms which is actually painted a sand color. As you can see the floors came out brilliantly (that is when there isn't dog hair on them).Finally, the most essential room in my house: the kitchen. Here is where the cultural differences are great. First of all this is the first time in my life that I own or have a micowave. This is also the first time in over a decade that there is a non-human dishwasher in the kitchen. In Naples we could never find a rental that had one because they are very uncommon. Many Neapolitans would tell me that a machine could never do as good a job as a good hand washing (I beg to differ). The other difference here is that there is no clothes washer in the kitchen which in all candor is a convenient place for it.What bothers me most about my new American kitchen? I don't have a scolapiatti in the cupboard. A scolapiatti is a dish drying rack that fits into the cupboard above the sink so that it is hidden away from sight. The water that comes from the dishes either pools in a pan that is the bottom of the cupboard or it just drains directly into the sink (your choice really). I have yet to see this great invention here. Instead I have this big rack on the countertop which drives me crazy when it drains onto the floor. How is it that the scolapiatti can't even be found here? (hint this is a million dollar idea for someone).N.B. Speaking of kitchens and all things cooking - I have a new survey up on the site ([...]

Do the Children in the US a Favor


Take a look at this post on JetSetBaby -I hope it inspires you to do something before Sept. 26!(image)

Pretty Funny Sat Night Live


In case you haven't seen it:


The View from my New Diggs


(image) Holy Matilda, I've been busy! However, I must admit I've been able to keep up with some of my favorite blogs and everyone has been producing some great stuff. Big thank you to my friends and fans for sending me encouraging emails -I really appreciate it!

We finally did find a little house here in San Diego!! I've been hesitant on telling anyone about it because I didn't want to "jinx" it [like I did with Pinky the House]. Yes, I still have my Neapolitan superstition in tact, like they say,
'I don't believe in it -but it doesn't hurt to follow the rules of superstition.'
The house is very American. It came with kitchen cabinets, toilet seat, fans, air conditioning, low ceilings and no steel or wooden shutters (but it did come with plastic blinds). So I'm feeling a little exposed without those huge steel shutters. In Naples you'd be broken into in less time than it takes to boil pasta without shutters (or even with shutters). I also miss the privacy those heavy shutters give -plastic shutters just don't cut it. Speaking of which take a look at my front door (by the way -welcome to my house!):

Who makes doors with see through windows?! You can see right into my living room and dinning room and there is no foyer -NO FOYER! I've had to adjust my expectations when I was house hunting here and not very many houses have foyers. So my big question is where do people leave there muddy/dirty shoes or hang their coats, hats or check their appearance?(image)

Hard Crash


Don't you hate it when everything just takes a dive when you least expect it? My hard drive has taken a dip into the abyss of "not-doing-anything." Lucky for me I've got an unofficial inhouse Geek Squad. So after lots of consults it turns out I need a new hard drive. So I've been off line and it looks like it'll take a few more days and then I promise I'll repond to all of your wonderful emails and comments!
NB thanks Mr. 2ciaos!


House Dream #2


Nothing says love like getting a little something in the mail. My friend in Paris has just sent me a wonderful set of packages. Some of which are fueling my house dreaming. Did I mention we have offers in and so we are eagerly awaiting responses? Ahhhh, I hate the wait!

Anyway, I was thinking of how wonderful it would be to have sort of a retro 50's California kitchen. It isn't my usual taste but this couch definitely inspires me:

And cherry red too? I'm sold! Only problem is this is a french company and I don't even want to think about how much it would cost to cruise this little baby over! 

N.B. Merci mon ami!