Thursday, March 19, 2009

Interruption to programming

We are in Morocco now. Country is gorgeous; but internet connections are very unreliable.
I will update when I can.
It is especially frustrating that blogspot does not let me cut and paste from a word file. So I have to always type new. Am looking for a solution. Do not give up on me please.
Cheers and love

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wisconsin -- the Big Cheese

Wisconsin has a special place in my heart -- and it was our last proper stop in the USA.
I spent most of my childhood summers in Lake Geneva -- and now my oldest niece, Katie, lives there. Not in Lake Geneva, but in Wisconsin. She is in Madison -- home of wonderful lakes, food and some quirky art.
It snowed while we were there, and we were mighty relieved that we were taking the bus back to Chicago for our flight to Europe.
I'll be back tomorrow to update this space.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The two Ms -- Max and Molly

It was wonderful to see Max and Molly in Indiana. I hadn't seen them for almost six years (in North Carolina) and they have both grown up so much. Max is getting ready to go to university. He's a whiz at the saxophone and the clarinet and hopes for a full-ride music scholarship to Indiana University. I'm sure he'll make it. Molly helps her mum a lot and is a great cook, but I was such a bully that I took over the kitchen while I was there. Bad Peggy.

Indiana and the ice storm

From Dallas, we flew on to Lexington Kentucky and then drove to Columbus Indiana. The drive was very scenic, but we were stunned to find that the Ring Road around Louisville Kentucky is not a complete ring. Contrary to John's policy, I stopped at asked questions, so we finally found our way.
As an aside, they wanted $186 for us to drive from Lexington and leave the car in Columbus, so we opted to return the car to Kentucky the next day (followed by Julie's car that had a scary danger light on that really meant nothing). I've forgotten what we finally paid, but it was much less that $100.
The scariest thing about Indiana was the freezing rain and snow on the last day we were there.
I offered to drive Max to school in the early morning. As we breezed out the front door I saw there had been several inches of snow overnight. As I drove, I realised the snow was hiding a thick layer of ice. Yikes, I skidded here, there and everywhere. Freezing rain creates the worst possible driving conditions. At one stage Max said turn left and I turned right -- knowing there was no way I could cross a lane of traffic and cross safely.
Of course, the whole thing was scary and thrilling. It reminded me that I can still drive in hair-raising weather conditions. Just wish I'd thought to take a photo or two. Silly me.
How about pictures of her friends and house instead.

Visiting the Big D -- Dallas

Dallas was new territory for both of us. In fact, it was our first time in Texas. The most amazing bonus was the chance to meet and spend a fair bit of time with my dear Potsie (Pot Scrubber), my buddy from Recipezaar. Gosh we had a fun time together. We left a trail of evidence in the Dallas area, including an introduction to Potsie's pooches.

Omaha -- My hometown

Omaha was our other Nebraska stop -- and it provided a focus on catching up with family and friends. John hasn't been to Omaha for 20-plus years, so everyone was keen to see his face once again. A nice bonus was having a cousin, Jean, and her family drive down from Minnesota. We didn't do anything touristic and John was thrilled to be able to have his first pair of SAS shoes in 15 years. He swears they are the most comfortable shoes in the world -- and now he is ready for Africa.

Of course, we caught up with dear Dodger -- the biggest cat in Omaha. Dodger weighs 26 pounds (about 12 kilos) and that's after being on a diet. Here's Dodger with Patrick and with my shoes.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Stopping in the Cornhusker State -- Kearney

You know you're from Nebraska if every trip to the USA includes at least one compulsory stop there -- we made two. Soon after landing in Omaha, we were sent straight to Kearney because Jane and Mark, a sister and brother-in-law, had to work. Jane kindly loaned us her car and we headed west for a few days.

I spent about 11 years in Kearney so it is another home for me and filled with many dear friends. We stayed on the farm with the Roeders (pictured) and thoroughly enjoyed that relaxed feeling of 'being at home'. Carol's stove caught fire recently (luckily the house didn't burn down) so we ate out and took it easy on the cooking front.

It seemed so very strange not to have Bud (Lowell) there, but we were able to visit his grave. His tombstone is a wonderful tribute to his love of his family and his farm. We felt blessed to have seen it. It's pictured above.

A big plus of the visit was catching up with many friends. I'll post a link to photos as soon as I figure it out.

Another bonus was being re-united with my certificate that declares me an Admiral in the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska (also pictured). I've bragged about this honour for years, but never had the actual proof. Sue and John Morrissey have kept it safe all the years since I received it in 1973. And, yes, my real name is Margaret and my maiden name is Austin.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Travel tips -- Part 1

I will share travel tips from time-to-time (usually in lots of 10). Someone might as well benefit from my experiences, observations and goofs. Thankfully, some of these tips (including the first one) I learned from others' mistakes.

1. Don't lock your bags when flying (unless you have security-friendly locks). Security people will just break any other locks so they can peer into your bag. They usually leave a note to say they peeked, and my bag has been very popular. So much for the claim that they make random checks! I was checked at every USA leg.

2. American and Iberian Airlines do not serve food. Plan ahead. In other words, eat before you go or bring food.

3. Post offices can be very hard to find. I still have a mitt-full of postcards to send and no stamps in sight.

4. Good postcards can be a little to a lot cheaper when they are bought AWAY from the tourist centres.

5. Most libraries have free internet. Sometimes it's available in 15 minutes blocks only.

6. Don't stop smoking just before going to Spain. The whole country smells like smoke. The restaurants even have signs posted -- saying you CAN smoke inside.

7. You can still find lots of wonderful non-fast food in the USA. You just have to look.

8. A cable-car ride should be compulsory in San Francisco, and so should a visit to Alcatraz.

9. Watch out for bike paths in some European cities. Bikes are serious business in flat places. If someone rings their bike bell at you once or twice, you are probably on THEIR turf, so move aside.

10. Wherever you are, be sure to take a tour through a supermarket or two. You'll learn heaps more about the local preferences, food and culture.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Don't ya just love Denver!

Denver is the Mile High city and a gateway to the Rocky Mountains. I always tell people visiting the USA that if you want a diverse taste of the country in three stops, then visit Denver, Chicago and New Orleans (apologies to anyone who disagrees -- although I have to admit the San Francisco region has a lot going for it).

For me, Denver means Dave. Dave was one of my journalism students back in the 1970s. We've kept in touch all these years. He's visited Australia many times and we've been good about dropping in to Denver.
Dave treated us to dinner at the amazing Cafe Brazil. What a memorable meal! My Angolan seafood dish (with the tastiest prawns I've had in years) was most appropriate given our coming trip to Africa.
We had another bonus this year -- catching up with Kathy of RecipeZaar fame. She agreed to join us on a jaunt to Estes Park. So off we went in Dave's Jeep to visit the windiest town in Colorado -- at least it seemed like it that day.

Lunch was at a great restaurant that served the best reuben sandwiches ever (Kathy and I are pictured ouside the restaurant). If my brother-in-law is to be believed, reubens started at the Blackstone Hotel in Omaha, Nebraska. A fellow named Reuben used to play bridge there and would instruct the chef on how to make his sandwich. A legend was born. A reuben has corned beef, sauerkraut and thousand island dressing on rye bread. There's probably something else, but I'm not sure what it might be. The Estes Park version was sensational.

After Estes, we had enough time to make a detour to Golden so we could visit the Coors Brewery. Coors has a mystic importance for anyone my age from Nebraska. Although Colorado and Nebraska are neighbours, back in the 1960s, Coors was the beer you had to 'smuggle' across the state border. Now you can buy it almost anywhere. We enjoyed the tour and the free samples.

Kathy and I sat in the back seat and spent most of the car time talking up a storm about Zaar. We didn't solve any problems, but we had a lot of laughs and gritted our teeth quite a few times. It was funny to realise that John has heard enough Zaar gossip to half-know what we were talking about most of the time. He tried to fill Dave in on some of it. What a wonderful day we had.

And don't forget Herbie. This stoic dachshund joined us on the trip. He looked just too pitiful to be left behind. And his little legs wore out long before ours did.

Flying to Denver

You forget how big the USA is and how empty some parts of it are. Flying from Los Angeles to Denver is a good reminder. On the way, you cover hundreds of miles of uninhabited land. It wasn't until I reached Denver that it dawned on me that we must have flown over the Grand Canyon. Well, of course, we did. I also noticed a ski town southwest of Denver. Everyone assured me it was Telluride. Later I saw a tourist guide that confirmed it must have been.

The pics -- assuming they work -- are of what I think is the canyon and Telluride.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

News flash -- crime report

I´m in a complete rage today. I´ve just realised that a pair of my jeans and two tops have been stolen while we have been in Spain. Don´t know whether it happened in Madrid, Toledo or Cordoba, but I am livid. It´s most likely been housekeeping staff somewhere we´ve stayed. Wouldn´t matter so much if I wasn´t already living on next to no clothing. I had two pairs of jeans -- now I have one and they are filthy. One top was a jumper (sweater) and the other was a deluxe, lightweight merino thermal from New Zealand. The latter is irreplaceable. At least no one took a bra or a pair of shoes. Those who know me would realise I would be in BIG trouble on both/either ´front´.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


California always reminds me of strawberries. That's because the first time I ever visited Elias in southern California (in the early 1980s), we drove by fields and fields of strawberries. Those are long since gone, but the memory remains. Fortunately, you can still buy beautiful, huge, plump and delicious strawberries at the weekly market in Huntington Beach. Obviously, I'm still thinking about food!

More sights at Huntington Beach

We were there at nice times of the day.