Tag Archives: Fun

Christmas in Italy – Florentine meals

Christmas in Italy – Florentine meals

In keeping with the tradition of adventure, Sarah and I went on a big trip for Christmas and New Years!

This year, we met up with Sarah’s family in Italy, traveling to Rome and Florence; not quite a perfect midpoint for everyone, but it was close enough. And, also, you know. Rome. Florence. Amazing!

Please forgive me for some of these being a bit out of order… the posts are organized somewhat chronologically… but also organized by theme and location.  Some may not be exactly in chronological order, so for reference please see the initial summary post, which has a complete day-by-day, blow-by-blow account of the adventure.


Italy is known for food.

Delicious, simple, gloriously amazing food.

Just… so much food.  Way more food than I can list in a single post, though I think I’m going to push the envelope of how much I can write before I have to stop and go make some dinner for myself…

These Locale’s are focused on Florence; we had a ton of amazing food in Rome as well, but most of those meals were already written into the various other posts that I’ve put together.  So sit back, enjoy, and make sure you read this before dinner, so that you’re not tempted to have a second dinner afterward.


29-Dec, Dinner

Trattoria Cibreo, a place that Sarah’s aunt recommended. They don’t take reservations, but do open in a bit… so we open a second bottle of wine, and relax a bit more before heading over

    • Legit walk… not too long, but not short either. Actually right near where Sarah and I were earlier in the day
    • We’re the first ones in, but it’s full within 20min of opening
    • Our waiter has the absolutely best Italian accent when speaking English… and looks like he’s from Portland (more on top haircut, long beard, etc…)
    • We get the full experience: wine, first dish, second dish, dessert. It’s glorious and delicious and amazing
    • First Dish = Riboletta, a thick bread-based soup. Tastes better when scooped up onto the bread, ironically
    • Second dish = stuffed rabbit. Ohh man. Rabbit, stuffed with sausage, with cheese and pastry around it. What. So good
    • Dessert = a whole mix, that the whole table shares. Whipped cream dish, cheesecake, chocolate cake, and a few others that were equally amazing. One was chocolate mousse style, and was “a present from the house”



30-Dec, Lunch.

Outside the Duomo, there’s a sandwich shop with a line stretching around the block. We’d noticed it the first day, and made a point of showing up when they opened in order to dodge the line…

    • This isn’t a sandwich shop – this is an experience to be had
    • The shop owner starts by introducing himself, and then explaining the system for this shop: He’ll do a tasting with us of the various cheeses and meats, then we’ll move through the assembly line and construct the actual Panini. Side note: everything here is from Tuscany
    • Meats are pretty stock; what you’d expect from the area
    • Cheeses though… they’re glorious. Five options, varying from fresh to aged, all of which are amazing. Personally I love aged cheeses, so I went with the 45-day aged cheese from Northern Tuscany
    • Bread – they don’t focus as much on the bread, but there are a lot of options anyways… and all of them look amazing. I stick with the simplest of the options, though almost everyone else goes with the olive bread
    • Sandwich gets toasted, we head outside and eat up!



30-Dec, Dinner

Tonight was Sarah and my’s turn to cook, so after an adventure throughout two grocery stores (named Eatily and Conads… weird place, Italy), we came home and set to cooking…

    • Salad = Arugula, Spinach, Parmasean and mozzarella balls, with balsamic glaze
    • Starter = Gnocci with spinach inside, with a pesto sauce
    • Main = Turkey, wrapped in proccutto and glazed in maple syrup. Carrots, onions and sweet potatoes on the side
    • Wine = Chianti


Tuesday, 02-Jan, Dinner. Florentine Steak

    • The bar is called King Grizzly, and it’s unique. It’s an Irish Pub, in Florence, playing reggae music. I get offered a reggae friendship bracelet, for 5 Euro, but decline. Later in the evening, I find one that he accidentally left on the bar. So… free bracelet!
    • Finish up our drinks, then head across for dinner at I’Toscani 3
      • This place is highly rated for Florentine Steak – a special dish from Florence, both for what it is, and how it’s cooked. Florentine Steak is…
      • Have some cured meats as appetizers
      • The main meal – served on one huge wooden tray, carried by two waiters.
      • The steak is very rare and very amazing – gloriously seasoned!
      • Potatoes are the steak’s equal – supremely seasoned, seared on one side, amazing.
      • Peppers and zucchini were good… but nothing exceptional
      • Eggplant… kind of gross
      • Wine was good too
      • After the meal, once we’re done gnawing on the bones, we relax… until we hear the clinking of glasses
      • A waiter brings over bottles of Grappa – five of them total. We each pick our poison, and he pours them out… and one for himself, stating “car’s don’t run without gas!”
      • We drink, and he leaves the bottles for us to experience
    • Stumble back home, via the grocery store to get some more milk
    • Hang out and play a few rounds of Grappa Gubs before bed


Bill and Greta visit Hood River!

Bill and Greta visit Hood River!
May 19, 21 & 21st, 2017
Sarah’s parents came to visit this weekend!
I didn’t have surgery on Thursday, either!  So… two pretty awesome things, right?
When Bill and Greta first mentioned that they were coming out, we weren’t quite sure as to the surgery… everything was still in the air, and all we knew was that my ACL was damaged, and that I’d probably be all kinds of drugged up when they got here.  When we pushed the surgery back, and I was able to walk, it opened up a whole new world of possibilities for us.
Which, obviously, start with a good breakfast.
On Friday, we were in Portland.
Wait, that’s not the beginning.  The beginning happens on Thursday evening, when Sarah, Ollie and I arrived to the airport late (technically early, but they’d gotten an earlier flight.  So now late.  But was early.  But still late), and had an adventure trying to find our way through the rental lot.  It honestly went pretty well, and seeing Ollie freak out over seeing Bill and Greta was definitely worth the stress and challenges of tracking them down.
Then home, a quick nightcap, and sleeping.
So that we could wake up… and have a good breakfast!  At our favorite dog-friendly spot called Tin Shed; we ate probably a bit too much, and Ollie was even given like… five pieces of bacon, over all.  Which makes for a pretty good day in Ollie-land.
Then; Cannon beach.  It wasn’t my first visit since the accident, so I knew that I’d be able to safely walk on the sand; but it was still a nice workout for me.  Everyone else seemed to have a pretty solid time as well; we walked close to 5 miles on that sand, back and forth and around through the waves.
The evening took a classy turn with dinner, taking a nice change in pace from having sandy beach food for lunch to getting dressed up and having a fancy dinner at a restaurant overlooking the Columbia River.
Saturday started with a good breakfast too, but this time we made it ourselves, as a way to start the morning off slowly before doing… even more walking!  Specifically, two trails across the river on the Washington side, called Catherine Creek and Coyote Wall.
Catherine Creek turned out to be a bit of an easy stroll… in fact, it was fully paved and barely over a mile long.  It was pretty though, and gave us some amazing views and photo ops, which made up for the less-than-extreme workout that we got.  Coyote wall, on the other hand, kicked us back after just under a mile.  It was noticeably more intense, and a lot more rugged, and had some pretty significant elevation gain… at least for someone just learning how to walk again.  I mean, Ollie could have sprinted it in roughly 20min, if we’d let her, but…
Since it had gotten pretty hot by then, we made a bee-line for the waterfront.  We’d made plans for dinner with Sarah’s cousins, but still had a few hours to kill before we were slated to be at their house… so we relaxed.  Had some pizza, walked along the water, watched a wind surfing competition (Hood River, right?), and even took a quick nap at the house.
Then Enchiladas!  Enchiladas for dinner, with Quesadilla and salsa and beers, hanging out with Jeff & Maggie and family.  Even got a game of Gubs, in… which is clearly the key part to any evening.
Sunday!  A slightly sad day, since it’s the last one that Bill and Greta would be in town, but we made do by having a pretty excellent day of adventure and sightseeing.
And by sightseeing, I obviously mean more walking around, and a trip down to Parkdale to eat pulled pork and get amazing views of the mountains!
Walking around was a hike down Indian Creek trail – I thought I’d been down to the end of it, but Sarah led us down a turn I hadn’t noticed before, which led to a whole new leg of the trail!  Then out to Apple Valley BBQ, another place I hadn’t been to before… do you ever notice that you never really explore your home town, until people come to visit?  It’s kind of crazy, but also makes a bit of sense.  Especially this time: this would be the last time Bill and Greta would visit us in Hood River (probably, since my contract is almost up), so we had to get all the adventure in now, while we could.
The rest of the evenings was relaxation O’clock – Halibut steaks on the grill, watching Moana, and stretching out on the back porch while the sun lasted.

Backpacking over Labor Day, in Northern California: Sunday and Monday

Backpacking over Labor Day, in Northern California: Sunday and Monday

It’s been a while since I’ve actually packed up my pack and gone on a solid backpacking trip. I think the last time was back in 2013, maybe? And even then, it was a solo excursion – no group shenanigans for me. Just a man in the wild, alone with nothing but his wits and a ton of random gear to keep him safe.

So going backpacking with a group of five was definitely a new experience for me, especially since we’d be exploring the mountains of the West Coast…

Sunday, 06-September-2015

before heading to bed the night before, there’d been a debate between everyone about what time to get up in the morning.  The final decision, amazingly, had been, “Meh… whenever.  Let’s not set alarms”

So we slept in!  We slept all the way ’till like 9:30 or something!  it was super decadent, completely amazing.

And then when we opened up the tent flaps and looked out?  When we surveyed the domain of our campsite?  A perfect vista… literally the best view of mountains that I’ve ever seen, this amazing view over a beautiful alpine lake.

Breakfast was relaxed, but thankfully a certain Sarah brought along a really nice Aeropress, so we had some coffee along with the oatmeal.  And then… we just relaxed.  Didn’t really do anything for most of the morning; just threw some stones into the lake, played a quick game that could sort of resemble curling, if you didn’t know what curling was (basically we threw a big stone, and then tried to get close?  So sort of Bocce ball?).

Then we threw some more stones into the lake, and then had lunch.

After lunch, boredom ensued, so a quick mention of “That far peak looks like a cool place… let’s go hike up to it!” leads to scrambling, route-finding, and finally attaining a perfect ridgeline. More lunch is had, and then Sharia and Josh head down while Sarah, Dave and I press onward toward the mini-summit.

Which is beautiful! A ridgeline traverse leads to a steep section, and some nice semi-technical climbing (by the way I go, at least). Then we chill at the top to enjoy the views.

Heading down is a bit more technical; Sarah & Dave’s route-finding skills come in quite handy a few times, since there’s no real obvious trail, and there’re a ton of small cliffs that kept blocking our path.

But once we got back down to came we went right back to relaxing some more, then drank some more beer and ate some dinner.  Sarah even showed us all up by taking a swim in the lake… which was impressive, and made me a little concerned for her sanity if we’re being honest.

Two notes:

  • Yes, I said drank beer.  On a backpacking trip.  See… Dave had bought this system that comes with concentrated beer, which you re-hydrate and carbonate, and then can drink as if it were normal beer.  I tried to mix it up twice, and… well, I’m not allowed to mix the beer anymore :/
  • Dinner was mountain house meals.  If you haven’t had them… a quote that came up was that Mountain Houses are designed for “when you need some dynamite to blow up the brick shit house you’ve built in your colon”.  They’re tasty, but… yeah.  Definitely camping food in the best of times.
    Mine?  Well, it looked different, so everyone asked about it.  It’s a “pro pack” that I got in college, and had left over since then.  They asked when it expired.  I said never.  They asked me to check.  I found out that it had expired in 2013.
    I still ate it.
    I only slightly regretted that decision later.

Then, it got really cold really quick.  So we spent some more time stargazing, and headed to sleep sleep early again.

Monday, 07-September-2015

Up EARLY. Like… we’re walking by 7:15, and at the bottom of the boulder field a little after 8:00. The boulder field isn’t easy, by the way, and takes some more mad route-finding skillz, yo.  Dawg.

(Ed note: they weren’t Ben’s route finding skills.  Sarah and Dave led the way again, to great success)

As we walked out, I got hit by how tired and unused to backpacking I actually was.  I mean… I’m in good shape, but I was getting pretty worn out really quickly.  We pressed on and made it to the cars without any incident, of course, but still.  It was something of note, that I decided to keep working on during the week.

One possible reason that came up though, was the elevation that we were at.

  • The trailhead was at 6,400 ft above sea.
  • The campsite at Big Blue Lake was at 6,900 ft
  • The final peak that we hit was at ~7,500 ft

Those elevations don’t really exist in New England… so I’m taking solace in the fact that I was getting tired too quickly because of the elevation.  Not because I hadn’t been backpacking a year or so.  Totally not that.


We got back to the car, right?  Then we drove!  We grabbed some burgers in Yreka, explored town for a bit, and kept moving along.

Ashland was a “take a break from driving” stop; we grabbed some of the fancy sulfery water and ate ice cream! Took a walk through the park (played on a small climbing wall, listened to a guy rocking it on the Cello), then hit an amazing coffee shop, which is above a book store, and has an amazing back garden… basically an oasis of amazingness in the bone-dry Western Oregon.

The rest of the drive back up to Portland was pretty standard…