Roman Holiday


Coliseum. Pantheon. Piazza Navona. Campo de Fiori. Spanish Steps. Roman Forum. Bocca della Verità. Ruins. Fountains. Cobblestones. Umbrella pines. Oleander. Tiber River. Scooters. Food. Wine. Prosecco. Pasta. Gelato.

Those are just a handful of the words that spring to mind when I think about my recent visit to the magnificent city of Rome. That Rome has always been at the top of my “must visit” list is no surprise. The only surprise is that it’s taken me this long to book a plane ticket.

Any attempt to write an informative or original post about a city so rich in history, culture, and personality after only five short days, would be an exercise in futility. I haven’t a clue how to go about picking the top 10 things you should do on your Roman holiday. There’s no way to know which fountain you will be mesmerized by; which piazza you will fall in love with; or which set of ruins will capture your imagination.


Indeed there is plenty to do and see in Rome. But, vacations are about more than ticking off a guidebook must-see-list. There are few things as decadent as a mid-day nap on crisp white sheets; more refreshing than a cool shower after a morning of exploring in the summer heat; or as satisfying as sex in the middle of the afternoon with the sun’s rays filtering through the half closed hotel room shutters. And, if at the end of each day you find yourself in a charming restaurant perusing the menu with a chilled glass of prosecco in your hand, I would call your holiday a success.

Here are a handful of suggestions for ending up in that blissful state. Read more…

Mom, This One’s For You


The most amazing part of a 10-kid family is without question the woman who birthed, raised, taught, watched over, cried with, comforted, and tenderly loved all ten of her wildly rambunctious spawn.

Mom is crazy petite – 5ft flat, somewhere shy of 90lbs. She cries easily, laughs even more quickly, and when she’s mad enough she’ll call you out by your full name. Luckily, in her flustered state, it can take her a bit of time to land on the right name from among the other 10 options – I’d say there’s a 50/50 chance you make it out of the room before she hits upon it. Simple math would show that mom was pregnant for much of my childhood and I clearly remember that right around the last couple weeks of pregnancy she would get these incredible urges to deep clean the house, and that’s when I’d walk into the kitchen to find her standing on a chair organizing the kitchen cabinets or wiping down the top of the refrigerator. Heightened pregnancy senses also meant that there was no sneaking back into the house late at night pretending that you had just gotten up for a glass of water. Nope, mom could smell the remnants of that night’s vices. My brothers kept an air freshener canister in the bushes at the entrance of our apartment but I knew mom could still smell the cigarette smoke through the chemical concoction masquerading as “meadow rain”.

Read more…

Glazed Carrots With Mystery Moroccan Spices

Glazed carrots

I’m blessed that I get to travel to some pretty fantastic locations with my company. But as anyone who travels a lot for work knows, you often spend more time in the hotel, meeting rooms, and conference space than you do actually exploring the city. Overseas trips often mean 18-hour workdays with little to no time to experience the city. But if you’re really lucky – and so far I have been – you’ll find a wonderful friend with a fast car, who knows the city, and doesn’t mind the company of a zombie.

And that is how I found myself in an old Mercedes convertible, top down, with the Moroccan afternoon sun casting a deep golden glow on the dusty Rabat roads. Adib is the young man at the wheel who has graciously volunteered to take me into the medina to buy spices. I suppose I should have been slightly nervous by the throngs of people and the fact that I don’t see any Westerners in this particular part of the medina. But truth be told, seconds before climbing into the car I had polished off a glass of vodka on the rocks – the celebratory drink signaling the end of yet another successful conference. Thus, blessed with an ambiguous ethnicity and a solid vodka buzz, I’m feeling pretty comfortable in the crowded market. Read more…

Head Over Heels for a Cliché


City of Light. City of romance. Men with no sense of boundaries. Amazing food. Overrated food. Rude waiters. Museum queues for blocks. Fabulous shopping. Snobby Parisians. I’d heard the raves as well as the complaints. Honestly, the first time I visited Paris in 2006, I was prepared to hate everything about it but instead I fell completely in love – and not just the “I like spending time with you” kind of feeling. This was the, “I can’t stop fantasizing about you” kind of attraction. Read more…

Island Inspired French Toast

French Toast:Ingredients

You know it’s going to be a good vacation when the taxi driver from the airport inquires about your tropical drink of choice, then promptly calls your hotel to place an order. Seven minutes later a friendly staff member greets us in an airy lobby with two pink Bahama Mama’s in frosty tumblers. Thick slices of juicy pineapple hang from the rims waiting to be dunked into the rum cocktail.

Every now and then even the most die-hard workaholic appreciates a few days of doing absolutely nothing. And absolutely nothing is exactly what I did over the July 4th weekend on the dreamy island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas where the water is the definition of turquoise blue and the sand is as soft as sifted flour, warm and white from the sun. Read more…

Obsession: the Excessive Preoccupation of the Mind

Harissa Shrimp

I consider myself fairly good at controlling emotions, thoughts, desires, and cravings. As a methodical and emotionally conservative individual I equate obsession with weakness. Unfortunately, as an avid food lover I am no stranger to it.

Someone once told me that cravings only last for a set period of time and if you manage to deny yourself the craving it will eventually go away. That person was a liar! My cravings don’t dissipate until satisfied. My ridiculously gorgeous, man-eating, sister once told me that if she ever finds herself obsessing over a boy she recalls a single flaw of his that irked her, and then replays that over and over in her mind until she’s rid of her infatuation. While this method may work for getting over crushes, I haven’t been able to come up with a single flaw to cure me of my obsession with French fries or hay smoked salmon belly. Read more…

Fall Weekends and Apple Cider Cream Pie

The first time I went apple picking was at a tiny orchard outside Matsumoto, a city in Nagano prefecture in the northeastern part of Japan. I distinctly remember how the Japanese farmer had carefully laid aluminum foil underneath his well-trimmed apple trees so that the sunlight bounced onto the underside of the ripening apples, giving them a uniformly red hue. In a country where grocery stores wrap each apple in a soft Styrofoam net, and customers buy a single apple for the price of a full meal at a decent restaurant, I suppose it makes sense that farmers would be concerned that each apple’s underside had been properly warmed by the sun’s rays.

I don’t know if it’s due to the experience of growing up near farms as a kid or just my incessant desire for the freshest produce, but I plan weekend trips to nearby Virginia farms at the start of every growing season: strawberries in early spring, cherries in late spring-early summer, and peaches and blueberries in the summer. Each season offers incredible fruit, but with the crisp air and brilliantly colored foliage in the low mountains surrounding the orchards, apple season is by far my favorite. Read more…

A Stirling Engagement Celebration

Earlier this month I flew up to Toronto to celebrate the engagement of my amazing sister Michelle. Shel, as we all call her, is the third girl and fifth child. She got engaged last Christmas and this engagement party is part of her “10 year plan” on the road to the altar – her words not mine!

Shel and her fiancé Tony put together a gorgeous fête. Tony has the imagination and ability to construct just about anything—a truly rare talent in a man these days. He built a stage for their guests to dance on; a rustic lamp, which he strung from a branch that extended over the equally gorgeous and skillfully crafted wooden bar. Cloth covered rectangular hay bales with tree stumps, 2-3 feet tall nestled between them, provided tired guests with a place to relax and nurse their drinks. White paper lanterns surrounded the stage, while red lanterns of matching size were scattered among the branches of a nearby tree.  Holes were drilled into old tin cans, allowing the light from the candles buried inside to cast their magical glow across the garden. Read more…

Turning Fantasy Into Reality

We all have fantasies. It’s that dream you have of owning a vineyard and sipping wine all day in the south of France. It’s the far-fetched scenario you’ve conjured up of taking two ridiculously hot lesbians home from the bar who are, for some unexplainable reason, totally game for a ménage à trois with a man. It’s the former lover, current crush, or celebrity you think about on when you need just a little something to… how to put this delicately?… “help you cross the finish line.”

A reoccurring fantasy of mine involves a shack on the beach, white tank pulled over a wet bikini, hot sand enveloping my feet, beads of condensation forming on the chilled bottle of rosé, sweet-salty juices mixed with oil and lemon running down my forearms… Minds out of the gutters folks, obviously I’m talking about food. Were you seriously expecting a “Letters to Penthouse”-esque confession? Read more…

Stealing Pigs…

It’s 9 a.m. in Mallorca, day four of our vacation. We pull up to the curb outside a large apartment complex and our friend Sacha jumps into our tiny white rental Fiat. Excitedly, he unfurls a thin white plastic bag, “for pigs”, he explains. “Last time I drove up to Cala Torta I found some fantastic ones by the side of the road.” It takes me a couple minutes to figure out exactly what is being discussed here. Pigs = Figs, and apparently fruit-baring trees can be found dotting the arid landscape along the road to the northeastern coast of the island.

A quick disclaimer: we will not be stealing per se… it could be more accurately considered a case of graciously relieving trees, of dubious ownership, of their summer bounty. Regardless, I don’t need to be convinced to participate. This is exactly the kind of activity I wish all my summer days were filled with. Read more…