I’m pretty sure this is is a pomelo tree — although those big green citrus fruits (look closely) could be anything as far as I know. I come from apple — or nut — tree territory. We don’t have orange trees in our backyards like they do in California. Actually, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a pomelo — have just read about them.
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This tree sits in one of my favorite places in Rome. I discovered this place only a few years ago. It’s near the neighborhood where I stay. I think it was some kind of villa in its heyday several centuries ago. The park is filled with lots of lime and other citrus trees, some palms, broken off marble statues, and folks from the neighborhood out for a walk, but usually a nap on its many benches. Ha! Maybe I’ll google it sometime.

I am noticing little, if any, change. But then this IS called the Eternal city. Oddly, I had my first restaurant experience of a waiter attempting to shuffle me inside rather than outside at a cafe table in the sun because I requested a tavolo for one. That hasn’t happened to me in years. A huffy “no” and a dirty look is what that waiter got. I wasn’t in the mood. It was my first day off the plane, jet lagged and employing my technique to enter into the city’s time zone by walking constantly, staying in the natural light. It always feels a little surreal. Though it struck me yesterday that I was approaching day one much as I do the Minnesota State Fair (no, not eating everything in plain sight) but by exploring, exploring, exploring as the mood struck.

I did observe some different street action beside the immigrant vendors with these gel characters that they slam down onto a board. They blob out like a raw egg white that has just hit the pan then re-form to their little blobby round shapes. The objects, silly – not the vendors.

Anyway, I did notice some new characters on the piazzas – beyond the ubiquitous green living Statues of Liberty or the pewter-coated gunslingers. They were saffron colored. Both sitting cross legged: one man on the bottom with a rod coming out of his head. On top of that big stick was a platform upon which sat another man. Om, baby! Drew quite a crowd on this beautiful sunny Sunday. Ever so often, a third man would come and cover the sitters with a large black blanket. This so the two men underneath could do, well, can’t say I know what they were doing under that cover. I’da taken a picture but usually by the time I got my phone out to do so – the tableaux had melted into a flattened blob.

Not really.

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Whenever I go on vacay, it is my sincere intention to eat healthfully while still enjoying the food of the town and county I’m in. Certainly that is/was my plan for my visit to Denmark.

This is a country where some 60+% of the land is dedicated to farming. Now, I admit I haven’t seen a lot of cows — but I have certainly seen cheese. Sometimes at lunch, always at breakfast accompanied by crusty, yeasty, mouth-celebratory (is that even a word?) bread. Blue, aged, smoked. All kinds, though there seems to be a inclination towards a semi-soft cheese called Danbo. It comes in many forms. Cuts beautifully. And makes a kick-ass sandwich, typically served open-faced.

When I made my first cheese sandwich here, I was given specific instructions: slice the roll in two horizontally. Spread a little mustard and/or butter, slice the cheese thinly usually with one of those wired kitchen tools made specifically for the task (a common kitchen tool here — in the USA we tend to have them around for cheese and cracker time). Maybe some slice of tomato. Eat. And enjoy. I once tried to make a traditional American “sang-wich” and have to admit felt a little barbarian trying to get my mouth around the bun and the filling. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not totally stranger in a strange land on this front. Of course, they make and eat sandwiches like we do. Just not so much.

Perhaps this is why even though they are presented with this foodstuff on a regular basis, the Danes are not a fat people. They eat naturally in moderation. And, as in many places around the world, bicycle everywhere.

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Just as I was about to accuse the Danes of eating only cheese in their sandwiches (which of course I knew was wrong thinking from this country of the fabulous smørbørd) — I am treated to an afternoon picnic by the sister and brother-in-law of my friend, the priest.

They thought it would be fun to take me on a little countryside excursion into the woods outside Odense (home of Hans Christian Andersen). The woods here, by the way, remind me of what I imagine the woods are like in Hamlet. Spindly medium-tall trees — I think they’re beech — one after the other after the other. Crowded together. If you were to gallop a horse through this fragile forest, you would be brushed by the branches, yet not thrown off.

We were in Hesbjerg Skov — it appeared to be some sort of hippie commune, though not retro in any sense. Apparently some 45 people, not counting children, are living off the land in this area. My hosts say the citizens are the type to commune with nature, but drive into town to work. At real jobs. I guess holes in the ground for toilets and shared dinners in a hall of sorts are not too high a price to pay for This Simple Life. They certainly looked just fine, thank you, to me.

We parked our car and walked for awhile until we found a pile of cut wood to fashion into seats and a table for our picnic. It was lovely. The hostess had gotten up early to make crusty fresh rolls (they were still warm) of graham flour. And, for the filling she made flattened meatballs of pork, called (and I LOVE this word) frikadeller. Pretty much pronounced like they’re spelled. Later, I called them “flubber masters” or “freakin’ blasters”.

De. Lish. Us. Pronounced like it’s spelled!

I’m making one of those trips to Europe that, though exotic by no means, is not run-of-the-mill: Denmark for a friend’s 50th then to Berlin with a couple of priests.

I am entering Scandinavia this time through Stockholm. I feel like I’ve stepped into a Stieg Larsson trilogy. At least in regards to how people look. And the landscape as seen from the plane was downright dragon-tattooesque. Of course, airports are rarely in the best parts of their countries so this is unlikely “typical” Sweden.

Food booths are trumpeted in English here at the Arlanda airport for the most part. A Starbucks, of course. How depressing is that — you can get burnt roast coffee with badly expressed espresso anywhere in the world! God. I’d be more accepting of McDonald’s — which offers something unique. Getting mediocre Americanized continental-style coffee in cultures with their own brew seems veritably sacrilegious. (My deepest apologies to my Pac NW friends). All the Starbucks offerings were labeled in English — although instead of Poland Spring, they were hawking Ramlosa. But, as usual, I digress.

While transferring planes in Stockholm, some quick observances. Some people — I think SAS personnel — were propelling through the airport on small 60′s-kitchen-green scooters. The kind you see children playing on. One foot on, the other doing the movin’

The largest snack joint was “Street Food” with Marcus Samuelson’s face splashed everywhere. Usual airport shop fare with a local twist. Hamburgers. Fish burgers. Something called “Rootfruit” – chips of potato, beet and parsnip.

People smoke in small rectangular glass booths — slightly larger than those you’d see in a fifties game show, presumably ventilated.

Security consisted of “go downstairs” after Passport Control. One flight. Ring a bell, and security will look at your bag. Which is precisely what i did — me alone. Solo me in a little room with a security conveyor belt and one female guard.

Ain’t travel grand.

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When you visit another place, you always get the chance to experience so many wonderful things — food, of course, being one of those foreign delights.

Everyone pretty much agrees that so much of what passes as food here is junk. Overseas, it seems so much more pure. Let the culinary adventures begin.

While most of my friends and family are making plans for the holiday weekend, I have some big plans of my own. MY Christmas night will be spent on a transatlantic flight.

Destination NOT Constantinople!

Stay tuned …

There is a funny thing we weight losers do.  If we should find ourselves gaining weight (and who hasn’t) we find ourselves saying “I have gained a few pounds.”  Or, we will detach the weight loss from ourselves by saying “the weight won’t come off.”  As if it is a separate entity.

So, I am here to say that I have gained 15 pounds.  Not a “few” pounds.  Not “some” weight.  But, let’s be exact here.  15.  Fifteen.  One-five.  I have decided that it is important to say that.  I know I am not alone.  I want to show some courage here and acknowledge it.
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As promised: here’s the list of what I ate at this year’s fair. Every year is slightly different: I have some favorites. And, of course, have to try out new items. This year: the deep-fried bologna on a stick. Here goes.

  • honey ice cream with sunflower seeds (twice)
  • wine ice cream: ruby raspberry and apple cinnamon
  • deep-fried bologna on a stick
  • grilled corn on the cob, hold the butter
  • mini-donuts
  • Pronto Pup® (you may know it as a corn dog)
  • sarsaparilla
  • sausage sampler: swedish, tuscan, wild rice
  • vanilla milk shake
  • small taste of chocolate malted milkshake
  • what they called a “tornado potato”: spiral fries dipped in chocolate
  • Pig Lickers: bacon dipped in dark chocolate
  • sweet potato “tater tots”
  • 10 bottles of 20 oz. water
  • Korean chicken taco
  • key lime pie on a stick

You know, I think that’s it. If something else comes to mind, I’ll add it. Doesn’t look so bad. Hahahahaha. Certainly not up to the standards of the 2005 fair.

UPDATE:  I have to laugh.  Looking at my post from the 2010 Minnesota State Fair – I realized that the picture is very similar to the one below – from the 2009 OREGON State Fair: involving the same basic food item: Bacon.  Anyway — I experimented with posting a blog from a remote location, in this case – obviously – the MN Fairgrounds – and it seemed to work.

A little post from the fair. I’ve embraced the fun of knowing that part of the joy of weight loss is that a day of indulgence ain’t gonna hurt. I mean, what would a day at the fair be without Pig Lickers: crisp bacon dipped in dark chocolate. Spent an hour with a man who creates wooden bowls you can drink ale from. Ain’t life grand!!

Sorry, gotta run. Hear there are sweet potato “tater tots” over down the way.

This was one of my favorite cross-cultural confusions while in Denmark.  One morning, while rushing to get out of the apartment for some not typical sightseeing in the Danish countryside, I asked my friend if we might have a little breakfast.  What do you usually have for breakfast, I asked.  He replied that he generally had a filling, but pretty boring breakfast cereal with milk.  We went into the kitchen and poured the cereal into our bowls.  It was called Havregryn. My friend didn’t really know the English name for Havre Gryn.

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