Sep 11, 2018

How to make Amatriciana Pasta

Rome, Italy may be called the “Eternal City” but Rome actually
started several miles southwest of present-day Rome in a place
called Ostia.  Today Ostia Antica is an archeological site near the modern resort town of Ostia. Two thousand years ago Ostia Antica was located at the mouth of the Tiber River making it an important commercial city with a population of around 60,000. It declined as the harbor silted up eliminating its place in the trading market and making way for the growth of what is Rome today. Ostia, today, is a beach resort. 

I think, we Americans, think that we have the most advanced culture that ever existed and in many ways that’s true but often we don’t appreciate the high level of culture and lifestyle a thousand or more years ago. There are frescos that have survived in homes. The frescos served the same function as wallpaper does today.  In the early 1800s itinerant painters would travel around the United States and stencil designs on the walls of people’s homes in exchange for room and board and/or a pittance in pay. 

In the Ostia Antica Museum there are statuaries representing
religions of foreign land.  Being a port town, Ostia welcomed people from all over the world and tried to meet their religious needs.  The theater is one of the oldest brick theaters anywhere and concerts are still held there today. The three rows of marble steps near the orchestra was for the rich. Today orchestra seats are still the most expensive.

It was fun walking down the main thoroughfare past the stores. Mosaics advertised their wares. The hub of life centered around the government-subsidized, easy affordable baths. There were marble steps for lounging and doing business. They led to the pools. Olive oil was used instead of soap so the water was skimmed periodically by servants.  

It was the end of the beach season in Ostia so many restaurants
were closed but we found a small, family-owned restaurant near our hotel called, Officina Cusinia. I am often puzzled how people identify us as Americans even before we speak. While we were eating, the owner, Giovannit Ciaravola said he knew we were
Americans because we twirled our spaghetti on our spoon.  The correct way, he said was to just twirl the fork or put the tines on the plate and twirl it.  I said we probably don’t make the sauce the Italian way.  He agreed and said he would be making sauce the next day about noon and if we wanted we could return and learn the way to make traditional Amatriciana Italian sauce – the “right way” to make it.  We did.  

Amatriciana Pasta
3 to 5 quarter-inch slices of guanciale (salt-cured pork jowl); or uncooked fatty bacon 
1 can of plum tomatoes in sauce
Salt pinch
Pepper pinch 
Olive oil couple of drops
one-half box of  spaghetti pasta
2 ounces pecorino cheese

Cook pork jowl over medium heat so the fat cooks out and the pork jowl is slightly crispy. Add tomatoes, cover (it will lose some red and become more orangey), stir occasionally until it thickens – about 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Mix. Add a couple drops of oil to make it look shiny. Mix, Boil water then add pasta cook; until el dente. If the sauce is too thick add some pasta water. Drain pasta. Add to the cooking pan. Toss. Sprinkle cheese on top. Ready to enjoy. 

Crazy Rich Asians

 Singapore has to be one of the most perfect countries; at least, to my way of thinking.  It is sparkling clean and people-friendly. When Rachel Chu, the leading lady, gets off the airplane at Singapore’s Changi airport, she marvels, “An airport with a movie theater…” I always notice is how quiet it is. The airport has a sunflower garden, a butterfly garden, a nature trail, plenty of child friendly activities, along with artwork,
shopping, and eateries. Transit passengers have a choice of four free tours while they wait – including a tour of Singapore. Amazingly, the airport is self-supporting and has some of the lowest landing fees.  Changi is the only Singapore airport but on the way into the city center the multi-lane highway is lined with flower pots that can be remove to provide a landing strip in case Changi is disabled.  Closer to the city the overpasses are draped with beautiful flowers. 

Rachel is mesmerized by her first view of the city with the
towering Singapore Flyer. Called an Observation Tower, it was the world’s tallest wheel when it opened in 2008.  In the background is the Marina Bay Sands with the world’s largest roof top infinity pool.  It is featured near the end of the film with the synchronized swimmers performing. 

At one-time Singapore was referred to as “the cess pool” of Asia.  All that changed when Lee Kuan Yew became the first prime minister. He instituted some draconian measures: visitors were turned away if they had long hair and chewing gum was banned. My youngest son, Jim, spent a semester at National University of Singapore and when he saw the list of things that were banned he was having second thoughts but then realized he didn’t do any of those things – urinating and spitting in the street, spraying graffiti, public nudity. Many places have such laws but as a cab driver told me, “In Singapore we enforce our laws.” One may recall the American teen who was sentenced to six strokes of the
cane for theft and vandalism.  Even the international attention brought about by his well-to-do, crying mom didn’t make a difference.

The colonial-style Raffles is where the hotel scenes were filmed. It is one of several luxury hotels in Singapore; it is one of the oldest. The hotel’s Long Bar is where the Singapore Sling was invented. We thought it tasted like Hawaiian Punch.

The Merlion, a mythical creature with a lion’s head and body of a fish, is the icon of Singapore. Today it is prominently displayed along the river in front of what was once the post office but now is the luxury Fullerton Hotel.

One of the movie’s last scenes is at the Gardens by the Bay. Take
note of the tree-like structures in the background. They are vertical gardens towering from 80 to 160 feet and have several functions. Some have photovoltaic cells to harvest solar energy for lighting up the trees; others are integrated with Cooled Conservatories and serve as air exhaust receptacles. 

Like many things Asian, there is a lot of symbolism most of us miss.  In the mahjong game, Rachel, from the west, is seated in the west seat while Nick’s traditional mother is in the east seat.  At the end Rachel tosses down the eight bamboo tile to intentionally lose the game and letting Nick’s mom win and she says she turned down Nick’s marriage proposal proving to Nick’s mother that not all Americans think only of money and their own happiness. 

Aug 28, 2018

visiting Kingston, Canada

Labor Day usually signals the end of summer for most of us but it
is one of the best times to travel especially midweek when the crowds are less.  It is the perfect time to visit Kingston, Canada – for the day or longer.  I love the ferry from Cape Vincent and then the ride across Wolf Island – take note of all the windmills. Some farmer is making a fortune, I think. 

When visiting Kingston, the Limestone City, start with a get-acquainted trolley tour followed by a river cruise. The Confederation Trolley Tour is the best way to get an overview of Kingston.  Excellent guides share three centuries of the city’s history laced with humor. The 1.5 hour tour makes its way from downtown to Fort Henry to the Penitentiary to Queens College covering all the highlights of the Limestone City with an option to get off at Fort Henry or Bellevue, the home of Sir John A. MacDonald. 

Set sail out of Kingston on one of the several sightseeing cruises
offered by 1000 Island Cruises.  There is a tour to fit everyone’s needs as they range from 1.5 to 3 hours. Some include meals and music.  The tour narration is a lively repartee between Sir John A. MacDonald and the lady narrator, which keeps thing lively.   Learn interesting stories and legends of the islands. The tour passes by Half Moon Bay near Gananoque where boaters have been gathering on Sunday mornings since 1887 to attend religious services without leaving their boats. 

Fort Henry will be open until October 31.  They offer a slew of activities such as Artillery firing, the Garrison Parade, Victorian School Lessons, and guided tours.  Like most forts their Haunted Walk is popular and offered from April to October with an especially scary one at Halloween time. 

A do-not miss tour is the one of the Kingston Penitentiary, a former
maximum security prison. The inmates created amazing items not the least of which were weapons and items to aid in escape. There is a haunted room where one of the ghosts of Fort Henry, Nils Von Schultz, was held. In the 1830s Von Schultz led an attack on
Canada in an attempt to free Canada from the reign of the British Empire. He was captured by the British and charged with war crimes. Von Schultz said that he would plead guilty to all crimes as long as none of his men were hanged. It didn’t work; he was hanged along with five of his men. He was held for a time in the Commander’s Room where it has been reported that objects move around and some visitors feel faint and have difficulty breathing.

Kingston is Canada's museum capital with something for everyone
at its 24 museums and historic sites and 3 art galleries. These include two City-owned museums, the Pump House Steam Museum and the MacLachlan Woodworking Museum, and national historic site, Kingston City Hall. At one time Kingston was the capital the United Province of Canada which led to the construction of the impressive City Hall where there are free tours. There is a museum ship, the Alexander Henry, a former Canadian Coast Guard ice breaker and buoy tender that served on the Great Lakes. 

The city is a culinary destination with its many restaurants, breweries and distilleries. Foodies will enjoy one of Kingston Food Tours which offers a local's perspective into Kingston's culture through its delicious food, history and unique architecture. 

Aug 20, 2018

Camden, New York's Forest Park

I knew that Harden Furniture Company in McConnellsville
was in the process of being sold and thought maybe they would have some great deals in their showroom. The internet said that the company was open so John and I decided to check it out.  The factory was open but only operating on a limited basis but they hoped the changeover would be completed in a couple weeks and then they would be back in operation. We missed any bargains that might have been available because the showroom was closed.  

However, it was not a lost day.  On the way back, just before we entered Camden, we saw a sign for Forest Park. There is a driving tour of about 2 miles that passes by Emmons Brook and Cob Brook. The paved road is perfect for driving, jogging and biking. There were only a few people in the park when we were there but I imagine on a warm summer weekend there are many visitors. The day was overcast with a few light sprinkles that sounded pretty as they hit the leaves.

The park was owned and named after Alva Raymond. Today the park consists of 117 acres and has many pavilions, picnic tables, and benches where one can relax and enjoy the tranquil scenery.

 By the way, we wondered why Camden was called “The Queen Village.”  It was called “The Queen Village of Oneida County” because “seldom can be found a more beautiful place…” or so it was written in “Pioneer History of Camden” in 1897. 

The drive was not only pretty and relaxing it was also interesting.  There was a sign saying that the area was the pathway of the Oneida Indians.  Many of today’s roads were once the hunting and trading trails used by Native Americans. The creeks in the park must have been good for fishing and, most likely, the trails led to Lake Ontario for more fishing.  The trails were later used by pioneers and then developed into major
roads.  I noticed a “bent tree” and wondered if it could have been bent by the Oneidas as a trail marker.  It was a bit higher up on the tree than other ones I have seen so I am not sure.  It seems that the indigenous people bent the trees by taking a limb and tying it to the
ground and then inserting a piece of charred wood at the “elbow” so the tree would grow around it.  The culturally-modified trees served as navigational aids and also may have indicated that food and water were nearby or there was rough country or danger ahead.  There is a lot of controversy about the “bent trees.”  Were they natural? If so, it was a strange shape of nature.

There were several walking trails.  And, I thought I saw another possible Native America site – Standing Rock.  It was, in reality, placed
there in 1961 by the park commission as a tribute to friends of the park. 

One of the signs says: “Let no one say and say it to your shame that all was beautiful before you came.” I would like

to think that in a day of ecological awareness that it would not be necessary to remind people not to litter or destroy however I remember a former caretaker at Mexico Point Park remarking that the thing he hated the most was picking up soiled diapers people tried to hide in the bushes.  

Aug 14, 2018

Things to do in Rochester, NY

Need a great summer day trip.  Check out Rochester. There are indoor places where you can escape the heat and outdoor things where you can relish summertime. Rochester was first called Rochesterville after its founder Nathaniel Rochester who established the settlement in 1811. It has grown into a thriving city with many exciting things to see and do. It was home to George Eastman of Kodak fame and Susan B. Anthony, the famous suffragette: both are open to visitors.

Check out the canal boat rides. Rochester is another city that owes its existence to the Erie Canal, which opened in 1825 creating an affordable western route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes.  Even though Sam Patch and Mary Jemison did not live in Rochester their legacy lives on in the names of two Erie Canal tour boats. The Sam Patch, a replica of a 1800s Erie Canal packet boat, leaves from Pittsford for a trip on the canal traversing Lock 32. The boat’s namesake was known as the Yankee Leaper having gained fame for jumping off waterfalls. Twice Patch successfully jumped off Niagara Falls. On his second 97-feet jump off Genesee Falls on Friday the 13th, 1829 he failed to surface. 

The Mary Jemison, a 1931 historic wooden boat, honors the legacy of "the white woman of the Genesee," who chose to remain with her adoptive Seneca family after being taken captive as a child. The Mary Jemison departs from the trendy Corn Hill area traveling the Genesee River and the Erie Canal. As the Mary Jemison passes under several bridges the scenery changes offering unique and different views of the Rochester area.

There are family fun things to do. Seabreeze Park is one of the world’s oldest amusement parks.  The park opened in 1879 where the main attraction was the shore-side picnic area but mechanical rides soon arrived. In 1904 George Long, Jr. and his family brought a merry-go-round to Seabreeze beginning a family legacy that continues to this day with his great-
grandchildren working at the park. It is said that the energetic Long took a break at the park and looking out over Irondequoit Bay said, “This is the life…” The park has grown to include a water park with a wave pool and a variety of state-of-the-art thrill rides for all ages. Currently Seabreeze is North America’s 4th oldest operating amusement park with the Jack Rabbit the 3rd oldest operating roller coaster.

Escape the heat – go to the Strong National Museum of Play, which has a vast collection of toys and dolls. The museum is one of the largest history museums in the United States; it is interactive so it is fun for the whole family. Youngsters can ride the Elaine Wilson Carousel and the Strong Express train. 

The George Eastman Museum is on the estate of the Kodak founder. There are exhibits, film archives and gardens.  A young engineer for Kodak invented the digital camera but Kodak wasn’t interested because they had cornered the market in cameras and film.  The young engineer never made any money from his invention because what he invented on Kodak time was
Kodak’s. However, Kodak did make a lot of money from the patent but they did not enter the digital photography market until it was too late… they filed for bankruptcy in 2012. While in Rochester also visit the Seneca Park Zoo, the Planetarium, and the Memorial Art Gallery, 

Visiting Toronto

Visit a foreign county this fall – Canada.  Toronto is only four hours
or so from central New York. Take the southern route one way and the northern route the other. Do it while the ferry from Cape Vincent is operational. The ferry stops on Oct. 17 this year. 

Nothing is simple any more. 
To return to the United States from Canada by land you need one of the following: passport, enhanced driver’s license, or NEXUS trusted traveler program card.  If you are traveling with a minor or a foreign visitor then it is best to check with the state department as rules get even more complicated.

I love Toronto with its diverse population and myriad of things to do.   I especially like their Broadway productions because they are less expensive and just as good. The best place to start learning about the city is at the CN Tower. The view from the LookOut is spectacular due to the floor-to-ceiling panoramic wall of windows and the glass floor. Looking for a dare devil experience? Try the Edge Walk or for a more sublime experience dine at the revolving restaurant. 

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is one of the largest museums in North American and the largest in Canada. It is a museum of art, world culture and natural history so it can be a day of learning for the whole family. There is a cafĂ© for lunch and, of course, a gift shop.  I have found that museums have some really unique gifts, especially for children – think Christmas shopping. If you suffer from arachnophobia you may be able to squelch your fear by touring their current exhibit on spiders.  The museum offers free ROMWalks, a walking tour exploring the diverse aspect of Toronto. 

Toronto has its own castle – Castle Loma. Get the feeling you are in Europe.  The excesses incorporated into the Gothic Revival hilltop 98-room castle bankrupted the owner who is known for bringing electric lights to Toronto. The electric company he founded was the main source of his income but his wealth declined rapidly when it became publically owned; that along with excesses like $250,000 to put the names of his horses on their stable in 18-caret gold. That was in 1911 dollars when the average income was $520 and a new car sold for about $750.

One of the most unique places in Toronto is the Bata Shoe Museum.  Even if you have no interest in shoes you will find is interesting as it traces the history of shoes through the years and variations made my different cultures and occupations. They have more than 12,000 shoes in the museum which is shaped like a shoe box. Toronto has a beach… most people doen’t realize that but on the Toronto Islands there is Hanlan’s Beach and Centreville Amusement park.  The
island community is the largest urban car-free community. Access to the island is by ferry or water taxi. 

There is so much to do it will take several trips. Shoppers will love Eaton Center and St. Lawrence Market. Visit one of
the several art museums and galleries. At Ripley’s Aquarium you can pet a sting ray or have a sleepover with the sharks. Take in a game or event at one of Toronto’s eight stadiums and arenas. As always the best get acquainted tour is on the Hop-on Hop-off bus but there are several free walking tours of various neighborhoods.  

Jul 30, 2018

Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright's buildings

Frank Lloyd Wright was an American architect, interior designer, writer and educator who designed more than 1000 structures, of which 532 were completed. He is touted at America’s greatest architect and “The Man who Built America.” His architectural style was a reaction to the stuffy, ornate, and crowded look of the Victorian era.  He felt buildings should be inspired by the land and that there should be fewer rooms and that they should flow from one to another.  One of his most famous buildings is Fallingwater, near Pittsburgh. Built in the mid-1930s it was the summer home of the owners of Kaufmann’s Department Store. The house is built over the waterfalls and only two colors are used: the light ochre similar to the concrete and Cherokee red for the steel.

You don’t have to go to Pittsburgh to tour some of Wright’s most famous buildings. At one time Buffalo was one of the richest cities in the United States and the wealthy wanted the latest in architecture and that would be a Wright-designed building.  The Darwin D. Martin House is listed on the National Historic Landmarks. It is actually a complex of six interconnected building designed to look unified. The main house has a pergola that connects to the conservatory, carriage house with chauffer’s quarters and stables, the Barton House (for his sister and her husband), and a gardener’s cottage. The Martin House is considered an excellent example of Wright’s Prairie House style with horizontal lines, overhanging eaves, and central hearth. Even though the buildings had deteriorated an organization has been formed to restore the complex. 

Just south of Buffalo, on Lake Erie in Derby, is the summer home that was built for Martin’s wife. Called Graycliff, also on the National Historic Register, it was nearly torn down to build condominiums but the Graycliff Conservancy was formed to save and restore it. Martin’s wife, Isabelle, took an active part in designing the building with Wright, which was unusual for the time when males dominated society. She wanted a “severely simple, two-story house” and that it be flooded with “light and sunshine, including the maid’s rooms.”  She was instrumental in designing the extensive gardens. 

Both the Martin complex and Graycliff are open for tours; however, the Wright house in Rochester is privately owned and not open to the public. The Boynton House is also built in Wright’s Prairie style. 

One of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous public buildings is the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. It is impossible to miss its unique spiral design. Wright was not thrilled with Guggenheim’s choice of NYC for his museum: “I can think of several more desirable places in the world to build his great museum, but we will have to try New York.” He thought NYC was overbuilt, overpopulated, and lacked architectural merit. Visitors to the museum start at the top and walk down the gentle curving continuous ramp where they can access various galleries. 

Wright liked to divide his time between his two homes: Taliesin East in southwestern Wisconsin and Taliesin West near Phoenix. Both are open to tours and offer master classes in architecture along with special performing and visuals art events. 

On my long “To-Do” list I have added the Usonia District north of NYC in the town of Mount Pleasant. Wright designed the area deciding where each house should be built and personally designed three homes and approved the plans of 44 others.