Jane Strikes Again!

jane design

How much does this kid crack me up?  I have been finding sweet motivational and inspirational signs like these all over the house lately.  Knowing Jane, if told she misspelled “knowledge,” she’ll create a new concept of “now-ledge” which is all about seizing the day.

My 100% all time favorite Jane creation is this t-shirt concept, which I’m still waiting to see on the streets of Temecula:

jane tshirt design

Paging Patti Lupone

pantages food

Where is theater etiquette enforcer Patti Lupone when we need her?

See this delicious pricy theater concession swag?  Would I ever in a million years pay $7 for a cup of coffee in a theater lobby or $5 for a giant box of Red Vines?

So here’s what happened.  As a last minute surprise I was able to get us steal-of-a-deal tickets to Phantom of the Opera at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood.

I have never been late to a live theater performance before, and to my horror, that’s exactly what happened.  We got caught in a funeral procession on the 101 then all the parking lots off Hollywood Boulevard were full, and we were about five minutes late.

So we were held in the lobby (along with about 60 others; who knew so many people were late to theater matinees) and at a break the ushers began seating people.

When he got to us, we learned someone else was in our seats.  We  continued to wait in the lobby (where we could watch the show on monitors; “the PHAN-tom of the opera is here!!!!!”) and it seemed like something unusual was going on.  More and more ushers got involved, then our original guy came back to let us know the people were REFUSING to move.

Okay so maybe I’m just a goody goody rule follower,  but who has the balls to ignore an usher? That’s the person who will save you when there’s an earthquake or a fire.  Who is told, “Ma’am, you’re going to have to move because you’re in someone else’s seat,” and refuses?

So these badass ushers marshaled and they completely emptied the entire row!  This is a long row way back in the cheap seats completely out of Patti Lupone cellphone-grabbing territory and I’d say they had about 30 people marched out into the lobby.

Meanwhile the show continued!  All of this was during the first twenty minutes of Phantom of the Opera.  Candles and mist on the waters of the Phantom’s underground lair….and usher flashlights flickering as people are marched into the lobby.

A manager came over to us and gave us free swag!  Yay!  The girls each got a “snack pack” which was any one food item (of course they chose huge boxes of candy) and a drink.  I got a beverage voucher good at the bar but the line was too long so I opted for “just a coffee” which turned out to come in a reusable Phantom of the Opera tumbler.  Nice.

I kept saying, “It’s our fault because we were late!  I’m so sorry!”  I was really embarrassed but they were so taken aback by the bad behavior of row VV that our lateness was not an issue.  (And I guess people are late a lot.  Who knew?!)

Turns out that entire row was all sitting wrong and the ushers solved it by seating the girls and me first, then gradually allowing everyone back in and hand placing them in the proper seats.

I was a little worried that conversation would be awkward during intermission but we solved that issue by running to the concession line to get our free food and drinks so it was all good.

The show was great but of course Jane’s rendition of the day to Scott when we got home was one big run-on sentence about, “the chandelier fell and there was fire and they shot him and lassoed him then he disappeared which was weird because did he die? and all the people were in the wrong seats and wouldn’t move which was crazy so they gave us a bunch of Red Vines.”  Ah, the theater!

Big Italy



The trip report continues…

Friday afternoon after checking out Hef’s pool:

Walked around Sorrento and had dinner at a restaurant in town – pasta.  I had homemade taglioni with basil and tomato.  Back at the hotel had a “short coffee” from the Nespresso machine I want to buy and take home to California.  Then walked more, had gelato at a 150 year old bar/gelateria, then got LOST coming home.  Inadvertently walked a TON.

One of the great things about the Hilton is its location.  It’s perched on a hillside with amazing views and is a short, easy ten minute walk into town and to the train station.  It’s just one main road to walk down, past houses, shops, parks, etc.  We walked it multiple times a day so we were both really surprised to find ourselves lost!  At night!

The main hazard in Sorrento is fast motor scooters.  I don’t think it crossed either of our minds that we would be mugged or anything like that.  It was half fun, half frustrating.  We’d say, “Let’s walk up to that next rise in the road to see if it comes out into a street that looks familiar.”  We’d get to whatever it was we were aiming for to find that we had to walk even higher to see anything.  Or we’d come to a fork in the road and need to randomly choose.

At one point we did the George Costanza opposite method and purposely picked whichever direction felt WRONG and went that way.

We ended up walking completely back to town and starting over.  I have to say, though, my Tieks shoes were GREAT and tired as we were, my feet weren’t sore.

There are no street signs in Sorrento.  It’s just really not an Italian thing I guess.

Lots of lizards here, similar to the ones in Southern California but with green backs.  The climate and vegetation is totally like Southern California too.  I guess we really do have a Mediterranean climate.  There are also TONS of pigeons and seagulls here.  (Beach town.)  Lots of cats, many orange.  Lots of dogs, but mostly smaller ones though we did see some boxers and labs.

One afternoon we also saw a man with a HUGE Great Dane at Gelateria David.

Saturday…quiet day in town with a siesta.  That’s the plan.  Watching some Italian TV at night.  TV is in English (from BBC), French, German, Russian, and of course Italian.  I found a newscaster I like on RAI 24 which is like their version of CNN.  Her name is Silvia Balducci and I now follow her on Twitter.

Italian TV has some cool and weird game shows.  Nothing quite as good as Japanese game shows, but they’ve got some entertaining ones.  We also discovered Alice (pronounced ah-LEE-chay) which is their food channel.

GREAT meal – a big lunch at a cafe in town.  Feet so tired.  (I guess my feet DID get tired after all.) Spent a quiet day locally.  That lunch was good.  The waiter was good.  Love Italian waiters.  Waitering is a serious and respected profession but they aren’t assholes like in France.

Sunday:  Pompeii.  Breakfast at hotel of course, train to Pompeii Scavi (“excavation”) on Circumvesuviana train.  Accidentally got off at the station right before Pompeii, which when we looked closer was deserted and full of grafitti.  Luckily we saw right away we were wrong and were able to jump back on.

Lunch at Pompeii snack bar (mediocre pizza slices and cokes) and dinner on the patio of the hotel.  Cacio e pepe pasta — total comfort food!  Our room came with vouchers for a free three course dinner which had stuff on it like octopus and rabbit so we told the waiter we were vegetarian.  Challenging and this meal was like a comedy of errors.  At one point they even brought us the dessert (macedonia of fruit) for the table next to us, set it down, were kind of firm in saying it was ours (even though Scott ordered cake from the dessert tray and was in the middle of eating it) then they realized the fruit belonged at the table next to us so they took ours from in front of us and walked over and handed them to those people instead. 

Good bottle of Pinot nero.

We kept seeing “macedonia of fruit” on menus.  I googled it and apparently it is just another word for fruit salad.  Anyway, it’s a popular restaurant dessert I guess though I don’t think Italians really eat a lot of dessert after dinner.  Gelato seems to be an afternoon snack kind of thing and the meal is the meal:  not really a time to have sweets.  At least from what I could observe in ten days.

Coming up next time:  Even more trip report!

Summer Travel Diary Part 3

So we were in Italy! Yay! Scott told me he was walking around Little Italy in San Diego a few days before our trip and thought, “It’d be fun to walk around here with Juliet.” I told him we could actually walk around “Big Italy” instead. Yay!

Thursday afternoon – Hilton in Sorrento is amazing. So great to finally be here. Walked into town and had macchiato espresso at Bar Ercolano.

ercolano caffe

Wandered around town. Saw a bunch of people all dressed up walking toward the old basilica, then saw the bridal party riding on a the little trolley through town. I waved and the driver honked:-)”

We saw several weddings and what we think was a christening during our trip. We were surprised to see large, fancy weddings every day of the week, not just mostly on weekends like you’d see in the US.

We saw the bridal party on the steps being feted, then walking en masse to take pictures immediately after. Camera and video crews were large! Usually they’d have three or four or more people holding lights, cameras, camera bags etc.

Napoli wedding stops traffic

Napoli wedding stops traffic

Back at the hotel now grabbing waters (free Acqua Panna and tons of free drinks and snacks – score!) Happy hour. Then dinner at Aurora Pizza on Piazza Tasso.

This place was touristy and overpriced. The pizza would have been “the best in town” in an American town but in southern Italy there’s some serious competition, obviously. The best part of this meal was eating on the beautiful outdoor patio. We were entertained at one point by traveling Roma musicians who also played on the trains. Scott is not a fan (he doesn’t like any accordion music) but I like it. It’s atmospheric. It’s not like I’m going to go out and buy a recording of accordions and trumpets to listen to at home, but on a train chugging along a scenic coastline, it somehow works.

roma musicians train

Accidentally pulled a string in the shower thinking I was turning on a light, but set off “medical emergency” button with alarm that could only be turned off by a worker actually coming up to our room.

So I guess this is a “thing” in Italy? Or Europe? This alarmed cord was in both of our hotels in Italy. I guess it’s for “I’ve fallen and can’t get up” type situations.

The first night, I set it off on purpose thinking it was a light switch. The next day our toilet clogged and we had to call for help. It was the same time of evening and I think they just sent up the same guy. I don’t know because I hid both times and let Scott handle it. Then a day after that I was getting out of the shower whipping my hair up into a towel turban and set the alarm off yet again.

Friday – breakfast on patio at hotel. Good night’s sleep is an understatement. Sunny.

Saturday – Yesterday walked a ton! Sunny. Walked half the stations of the cross up a great hike on a hill. Didn’t know what it was until later. Going back tomorrow. Walked into town for the Circumvesuviana (“around Mt Vesuvius”) train to Ercolano aka Herculaneum.

Station platform grafitti

Station platform grafitti

Train was old and rickety and filled with locals. Surprising number of Italians going to Pompeii and Sorrento. I guess Italians from other places in Italy who want to vacation without leaving the country come here.

Tons of English tourists here. Everyone looks like Gal from Sexy Beast.

Did Hef design this pool?

hotel pool

To be continued…

Staying Healthy While Traveling (White-Knuckle Traveler Series)

Welcome to the debut of my new series, White-Knuckle Traveler. Today: “How can I stay healthy while traveling?”

Nothing’s worse than spoiling a long-anticipated trip by getting sick, or coming down with a nasty head cold a few days after returning home. Here are my best tips for avoiding getting sick:

  • Vitamin D.  This is my surprise secret weapon.  My favorite is Biotics D-Mulsion Forte, with a whopping 2,000 IU per single drop.  These drops are an easy-to-digest emulsion that is tasteless and odorless.  Put one drop on a bite of food and you’re good to go. Start up a daily Vitamin D routine at least a couple of weeks before you travel to get your system in top shape.
  • Probiotics.  Keeping your gut in good overall health before you travel is going to be your best bet.  Three weeks before your trip, start taking daily probiotics.  My favorite is Yum Yum Dophilus chewables by Jarrow.  The best brands need to be refrigerated so have a secondary brand that doesn’t need to stay refrigerated to take during actual travel.  (Culturelle has several forms, including chewables and powder to add to liquid, that can be kept at room temperature.)
  •   Hydration.  Ever noticed how DRY everything feels when you travel?  You’re flying or in an air conditioned car, train, or bus, you’re eating more “go to town” food, restaurant food (maybe even every single meal for a week or longer), traditional travel snacks like chips and nuts are salty, you’re drinking more alcohol or even drinking alcohol instead of your usual beverages, etc etc.  No wonder you feel dry!  Any time you encounter a bottle of water while traveling, take it!  And drink it!  On the plane, in the hotel, in a gas station mini mart….take it and drink it.  I also like to use the in-room coffeemaker to make tea to sip first thing in the morning and last thing before bed at night.  I pack herbal tea bags like Sleepytime or rooibos and buy a giant jug of water at my destination to keep in the hotel room.  On road trips I even pack a real mug (padding it well inside clothes) and a cheapie plug-in kettle that I bought at the drugstore especially for travel.  It’s light and was under $15 so I won’t be devastated if it breaks.
  • Wipes.  WIPES ON A PLANE! (Imagine Samuel L. Jackson screaming it.  Get it?  No? Nothing?  Sorry….)  I recently flew next to a government microbiologist who gave the thumbs up to my plan to wipe down every airplane surface I had to come into contact with during our flight.  He said Wet Ones are better than sanitizer because they contain surfactant.  I carry wipes instead of liquid sanitizer because I never know what TSA is going to decide to confiscate and so far I haven’t had any problems with wipes. Put some in a ziploc baggie or get a travel size pack.  Target areas:  tray table, seatbelt buckle, window frame, arm rests, touch-screen video monitor, volume and TV controls, and anything else in your vicinity.  Save an extra wipe for your hotel remote when you arrive.  That remote will make you sick!  Wipe it!
  • Hand washing.  Just plain, old-fashioned hand washing, with warm water and lots of soap.  Do it at every opportunity.  Also this sounds weird, but make a purposeful choice to not touch your face, mouth, eyes, or nose.  Sometimes we do this just kind of mindlessly and now’s the time to stop this habit.

And finally, your trip is over, you’re back home, there are mounds of laundry to be done and stacks of mail to be sorted, but please take time to rest.  Just rest.  Travel, even for a fun vacation, is exhausting.  Build in time when you get back for rest and recovery.  Now is also a good time to get back onto your needs-refrigeration best quality probiotics, and you may want to add to your daily routine for a week or so:

  • Neti pot.  I don’t recommend this during actual travel because you’ll want to use filtered water heated to a very specific temperature and it’s just too hard to control that on the road.  But once you get back, using a neti pot with salt and warm water will kill any bad guys trying to establish a stronghold in your nose or throat.  Trust me; it works!

Happy traveling.

Summer Travel Diary Part 2

Part 2: Hotel Breakfasts

scott breakfast

Before we actually arrived in Italy, just back at home in Temecula imagining ourselves there, I didn’t think a hotel breakfast was that important. I mean, so what, right?

Wrong! Breakfast at the 7th floor rooftop deck guest lounge at the Hilton became a much-anticipated grounding daily ritual for us.

Before our trip I kept hearing how Italians don’t eat breakfast. At most they grab a quick caffe or possibly caffe and cornetto (Italian croissant; more on this in a sec.)

Because I find grocery stores fascinating, I went in a few while in Italy and saw shelves of American style breakfast cereal. (Not as many varieties as an American grocery store has, but multiple shelves worth.) Sorrento is a major tourist town, especially for the British, but I saw evidence of breakfast at grocery stores in Naples, too. I also saw commercials on Italian TV for “breakfast bars” which are cookie-like soft biscuits. These commercials usually featured a family sitting in a garden in the middle of the afternoon, but they referenced “colazione” which is breakfast.

Also, yogurt is huge in Italy. (So is the Greek yogurt trend, just like here in the US.) In addition to “Italians don’t eat breakfast,” I kept hearing, “Italians don’t snack,” so when are they eating all this yogurt? I assume breakfast? Or maybe they do snack?

Anyway…we are daily breakfast eaters and Il Settimo aka the 7th floor buffet did not disappoint.

It wasn’t the biggest, but somehow it really just hit the spot.

First off, the beverages:

Il Settimo is always open and drinks are always out. (Breakfast, tea, and happy hour are only out at set hours.) The drinks assortment seems created by Hilton to appeal to international guests but with an Italian twist. They had a machine that was the commercial version of Nespresso. I really, really want a Nespresso machine now. Every time I’m in Bloomingdales I walk right past their Nespresso counter thinking, “This isn’t for me,” but maybe it is for me!

I’m a tea drinker, and haven’t been a coffee drinker since my mid 20s, but I trained myself to drink coffee specifically for this trip so I could enjoy caffe life.

In Italy, caffe is what we call espresso in the US. It is like a very strong espresso, even from a Nespresso machine in a hotel lounge. Americano is caffe with water added, so it’s similar to a cup of American coffee, but it’s still way stronger and tastes different because it’s not made by drip. I like macchiato which is caffe aka espresso with a little bit of steamed/foamed milk. Latte is milk and if you ask for a “latte” you’ll get JUST the milk, no coffee.

I also keep hearing that Italians don’t drink any coffee drinks with milk after 12 pm so I decided to go native and stuck to plain caffe if it was afternoon.

When I was a student in Aix-en-Provence I loved to drink something they call a “noisette” which is a macchiato. This was a very liberating discovery for me since I was nervous about drinking Italian strength espresso. Knowing that at 15 I drank tons of noisettes, I knew I could do it!

So anyway….the drinks. The Nespresso (which had settings for caffe, Americano, latte, hot water for tea, and chocolate which is very thick and rich, unlike US “hot cocoa.” I never had it but apparently in Italy ONLY kids drink chocolate. I remember reading an article about an Italian actress being interviewed in California and she had a bad cold so she wanted a cup of chocolate as “comfort food” and when the hotel brought it she said, “It tastes like water! Take it away!”)

Il Settimo always has out still and fizzy waters (senza gas or frizzante; I talked to waiters a lot during this trip with my very basic Italian), a big selection of bottled juices in oddly European flavors like pear, carrot-orange, mulberry, etc., and my favorite, a selection of Schweppes bottles like ginger ale, tonic water, seltzer, and Limone.

Limone! Why is this not super popular here in the US? Limone is similar to lemonade, but slightly carbonated, and with some bitterness to it. We saw a few different brands during our time in Italy, including canned varieties that are in a lot of bars and restaurants and say, “Made with 100% Italian lemons!” so I’m thinking this is a very iconic Italian drink. I am partial to Schweppes Limone because the bottle is more appetizing than the can.

They also have a giant carafe of red wine plus bottles of a variety of white wines, sparkling wines, and champagne. Beer too. We saw tons of people drinking beer during our trip, both Italians and tourists. This could be because it was summer.

Oddly, there was always, 24 hours a day, bowls of Marcona almonds and potato chips (“crisps”) set out near the wine.

Breakfast always featured cornettos, which are Italian croissants. The cornettos at our Hilton breakfast tasted just like French croissants but during our trip we also had cornettos that had a different type of pastry, rather than the layer upon layer of thin pastry that flakes. There was always at least one other type of pastry too, like things with custard, or fruit etc.

We saw many types of yogurt while in Italy but the brand we ate the most was Yomo, which is Italian. At the hotel in Naples they had Parmalat, which is a huge Italian brand, and also a very “rustic” looking Greek brand whose label I couldn’t read in litle bottles with clumpy fruit on the bottom.

I rarely eat yogurt at home but had yogurt daily on this trip because it just seemed so delicious. Also as vegetarians in Italy we needed all the protein sources we could get!

Il Settimo also had a juicer with baskets of picked-on-property oranges. They had “eating” oranges in a fruit bowl but I like the juicing oranges better, hard as they are to peel.

They had chafing dishes of eggs, bacon, and other warm dishes clearly designed to appeal to Sorrento’s many British tourists (they even had H-P sauce out.)

Finally they had platters of meats and cheeses with an assortment of breads, so I’d usually have whole grain bread with fresh jam topped with a slice of provolone.

Our last morning in Sorrento, it was almost harder to say goodbye to the breakfast buffet than the actual hotel itself. Nothing was super fancy about it, but it was all just so incredibly beautiful, appetizing, and easy. It felt very “on vacation.”

Our hotel in Naples also offered a free breakfast buffet on the roof (with amazing views!) but this buffet was much more like an Italian idea of “what they (tourists) want” without giving us what we actually want. There were lots of heavy, sweet desserts, like dense flourless chocolate cakes (!?) and tons of pastries. They had trays of meats but no cheese tray. The cornettos weren’t flaky like croissants and were stuffed with sweet fillings.

We left at 3:30 a.m. on a Thursday morning and of course it was too early to have breakfast on the roof. Lufthansa gave us a GIANT plastic wrapped croissant (probably the size of three Italian cornettos) filled with chocolate.

I just bought a bunch of Yoplaits because I need to remember how much I enjoy eating yogurt for breakfast. I am wistful about that Nespresso machine but I’m sure I won’t buy one after all. Some things are “vacation things” and this just may be one of them.

Coming up: Part 3

2015 Summer Travel Diary Part I

Part 1: The Actual Travel

Just getting out of town is always a whirlwind. In the weeks leading up to this Italy trip, I thought a lot about what to pack. But of course we were still tossing things into suitcases the afternoon before we left.

I also had to get Eva and Jane packed and off to camp, so nothing really got my full attention. Luckily they are both mature enough to do most of their own packing, with only a few glitches, mix-ups, and last minute Target mini toiletry runs. (Example: I could have sworn I ordered clothing labels in March, couldn’t find them, paid through the nose to rush order replacements, then found the original ones that I had ordered after all.)

Because of where we live, we could have chosen to either fly directly to Naples from LAX, which would have meant a long drive back and forth to LA, but instead we flew to Frankfurt and caught a quick connecting flight. Because our flight left so early in the morning, we stayed at a hotel in San Diego the night before.

On flight to Italy! Actually it’ll be a journey to get there. This flight is SD to Chicago, then Chicago to Frankfurt, then Frankfurt to Naples. Whew! Woo!

Found $5 on the floor of the Four Points lobby late last night:-)

Scott put his passport in his mouth while I was ticketing. Gate agent very pissed. She handed him a wipe, he wiped it and did it again. No first class upgrades obviously.

We have very opposite travel personalities. As I boarded each new plane, I whipped out a pack of Wet Ones and wiped down my seat, tray table, seatbelt clasp, armrest, and anything else I might have to touch. This has become a ritual I’m very superstitious about. I have to say, it used to be about 50-50 that I’d get sick in the days returning from a trip, and since I’ve been doing this, I never get sick when I get back.

I just took a selfie of us holding a Hemispheres Magazine for #hemigram.


I want to answer the question: Is travel ie BEING SOMEWHERE ELSE worth the ACTUAL JOURNEY ie the flights? I want to say yes, but in the moment I ask, WHY AM I HERE?!

Flying is not my favorite.

Flight from O’Hare to Frankfurt. This plane (777) is huge. Bulkhead seat over wing, window. Scott did good:-) Scott just set my watch for me on Italy time. It’s all confusing 24 hour clock over there. It’s 9 p.m. in Italy now. No wonder I’m tired.

We did not have any jet lag while actually on our trip. Coming home was another story! But the actual travel TO our destination didn’t exhaust us like I’d thought.

Thurs 10:30 a.m. – last travel leg. We left at 6 a.m. Wednesday! Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Naples. Lufthansa shocked us with a free for all cattle call to tarmac boarding. It was worse than the worst Southwest boarding experience you could imagine. I thought Germany would have orderly lines/queues but I guess not.

Overcast in Frankfurt but the skies turned sunny once we got past the Alps. Lufthansa over the Alps: the pilot was very chatty. I told Scott he’s trying to reassure us that he’s not an insane lunatic but Scott thinks I’m being paranoid. We’re over Trieste and the Adriatic now. Almost there….

Coming up: Part 2 – Sorrento, Italy!