Wednesday, January 15

Eating in Italy

I enjoy reading first hand and personal views of a friend in another country. I hope you do too.
Barb B

Dining in Italy…

~a column by Colleen O’Brien
We drive half an hour of so to a town called Castiglione, on the Thyrrenean Sea, to eat out. The area is like Sarasota in Florida, San Diego Harbor in California, probably like bays and beaches in South Africa, the Cote d’Azur, Vladivostock in Russia? Fancy restaurants and chi chi clothing shops stand next to T-shirt shops and souvenir stores, pizzerias and ice cream parlors.
Stretched across the wide piazza between the shops are sparkling blue neon Italian words that mean gratitude (gratitudine), friendship (amicizia), happiness (felicita’), laughter (risata), joy (gioia). I think it is a lovely idea to display across a shopping center.
As we sit in a restaurant built and styled like a cruise ship, the Castiglione marina is quiet. It’s wintertime, and no boaters are sailing out to watch the sun sink into the sea. Older men fish from the quay in the dying light; like them we watch the little lamp glowing on their bobbers.
We order drinks. The waiter brings chips and olives, he points at the bar. It is lined with food – a phenom in Italy in the late afternoon. It is actually a buffet—small sandwiches, slices of various pizzas, dishes of fried potatoes, bowls of potato chips, plates of cheeses. It seems, however, that if we want the sweets from the glass case, we have to pay for the mango, chocolate, pistachio cheesecakes, the peach and lemon fruit tarts, the tiramisu.
The most expensive glass of wine or beer I’ve ordered anywhere is $3 in euros—about $5 US. There is no tipping, so I ask if that is because bartenders and waiters make a living wage. No one knows.
Italians eat late—after 7 pm. The 5 o’clock “tea time” of drinks and bar food carries them over until the restaurant opens for real food. Even at home with my hosts, there is a snack of some sort around 5, with tea or caffe or wine. Dinner comes late.
The biggest noodle I’ve seen served so far is the pappardelle. It is at least an inch wide, about twice the width of the egg noodle I use for a stroganoff, and it is 18 inches long! It tastes homemade, as most pasta I’ve eaten in Italy does; maybe the restaurants all make their own noodles.
My host finishes his meal and wipes his plate with bread. The waiter grins at him and says, “Scarpetta.” It means that the diner is grateful. When a dish returns to the kitchen scraped clean, the chef is pleased—this is the high compliment—a scarpetta.
It is now the next day, and it’s lunchtime here. We eat banana frittata. No flour, no sugar; just very ripe bananas and whipped eggs sautéed. Delicioso.
Italians use lots of words for food: nutrimento (nourishment), mangiare (something to do with one’s mandible/chewing/jawbone!), vitto (life itself), pane (bread [of life]), alimento (a part of the canal between the lips and the stomach!).

Marlene and Bernard Kelley Celebrate 69th Anniversary

I snipped this from Facebook. We miss them being in Texas in the winter. We would play cribbage, bridge and eat!

&#^! Tree Pollen

Monday, January 13

Runza Casserole(NOT KETO)

This recipe pops up every now and then because it has been a family favorite for many, many years. Easy too. It is not keto however so it has been on the back burner. I guess I could make it substituting cheese for the crescent rolls. Hmmm may have to do that! It is also easy to adjust this to half for smaller families.
Runza Casserole       
      2 lb Hamburger
      2    Onion, Finely Chopped
      4 C.Cabbage, Shredded
            Salt & Pepper, To Taste
      2    Refrigerated Crescent Rolls
      1 lb Mozzarella Cheese, Shredded

[Note: One of my standby recipes. One that Butch is always happy to
see on the table. ]

Brown hamburger and onion, drain. Put cabbage on top of meat and let
steam for a few minutes. Add salt and pepper. Using one tube, spread
the crescent roll pieces over bottom of a 9 x 13-inch pan. Spread
hamburger/cabbage mixture on top. Add a layer of cheese. Using the second
tube of crescents, place on top of the cheese. Bake in 350 F. degree
oven for 35 to 40 minutes, covering with foil the last 10 minutes to
soften the crust


I enjoy watching documentaries, depending on the subject of course, and I discovered this website for documentaries and have several now added to a watch list that I would like to watch sometime. They are free. Many times the choices on TV are dismal enough to want to venture into new territory. This could be a place to start.

Friday, January 10

Todays challenges

The wind is very strong today out of the South. We have the moho facing west so our south side is a big area to bear the brunt of the wind gusts, some nearing the 60 mph mark. It is also the side our slideouts are on and Butch was concerned about the covers making it through the battering so we brought in the biggest slide out. That makes our living space quite small. It is supposed to be lighter tomorrow and end by evening and we will be very ready for that.

I went to a meeting today to see what can be done to create a bird blind and a couple of feeding areas. It looks like it will be happening and quite soon. That should be giving us some good bird pictures.

Since my kitchen is in a squeeze we went out for supper. Every 3 years or so we go to Luby's, a cafeteria type where you go through the line and choose your items. Any more it is to see if it has changed since the last time. Nope, hasn't changed. The food has been out too long. Too expensive- our meal for the two of us was over $25. It did taste good. Silverware was crusty looking so I washed mine myself before using it. I really think it is the solution they use in their dishwasher but it leaves a very unappetizing coating on the silverware. You gather your own food and take it to a table of your choice, paying for it before you are seated and still they have a person to bring you butter or any other condiments you might want and a tip to them is expected. It has been at least 3 years since we have been there and it will most likely be 3 more before we give them another try. It was okay. Is okay good enough? Good question.

A column from Colleen

Living in the Italian countryside

Editor’s note – When O’Brien started writing columns for GreeneCountyNewsOnline when it launched in 2013, she declined to offer a photo to use at the top of her columns. She has finally sent along a photo of herself in Italy, where she is enjoying a few weeks of respite from issues that worry conscientious liberals.
~a column by Colleen O’Brien
I have named it The Great Rocky Road. It is the means by which we get to the casita on the hill overlooking the meadow where my hosts live. Calling the pathway a “road” is hyperbole; it is a trail about 10 feet wide the length of about five or six blocks of winding, twisting inclines, declines, up-and-down little hills covered with pebbles, rocks and small boulders. The ruts from running water are like ravines looking to swallow small cars.
There are two gates to open, one manually, and then the final luge-like run to the parking area in front of the casita—a gravitational pull a little like the feeling you get on a roller coaster.
Just walking the road, which I do every morning for exercise, is difficult because of the rocks and small boulders. If I want to look at the view, I have to stop; if I don’t keep on eye on where my feet are landing, I’ll be a goner, bouncing down The Great Rocky-like one more loose boulder.
A “colleen” on a trail near the Casale Rosa in the Maremma district of Tuscany

The sheep came through one day last week and knocked over a big colleen, which I put back together this morning. The stack of rocks sits behind an abandoned stone house with a rusted bathtub exposed where the wall has fallen down the hill. People lived there for 200 years, I hear, but I don’t know when they quit living there. Could have been an earthquake. Maybe it was WWII. Perhaps it was just the end of the family. It is, however, a kind of heaven for a rock stacker, which I am. I’ve been here a week, so the road is now dotted with my cairns, known by my grandchildren as colleens. The largest one is seven rocks high. The one by the last gate stays at about four high, even though each morning I add one or two more. It doesn’t want to be that high.
Sometimes, I leave the road and take a less-used trail up the hill into the woods. I find more falling-down buildings once housing pigs (I’m told). I walk beside miles of rock walls holding back the mountain from the olive groves. And I plan a patio in an area along a stacked-rock embankment that has flat slabs of rock in front; it might once have been the floor of a pig house. A gnarly live oak droops alongside. It would be such a perfect place to put a table, a chair, a bottle of wine and a book. I could sit there on hot, sunny days in the summer and gaze out over the valley below.
I would see beyond my hosts’ house to the neighbor’s 1,000 new olive trees planted in a field below them. I would watch the tiny cars on the autostrada—the commercial road from Rome to Grosetto, Siena and on to Florence. More olive trees cover the mountainside on the far slope of the valley as if in formation for a drill. They trade off with fields of grapes. Far-off tiny crumbling buildings, old stone houses, elegant, slim cypress trees marching up lanes to where no one lives anymore….
All the photos and all the art one sees of rural Tuscany are this—soft mountains, rolling meadows, olive trees and wine vines, double lines of cypress defining roads, outlining hills, drawing the eye up. Planted art.
There’s a bit of all of that here, in the Maremma, the coastal southwest area of Tuscany. My hosts have contributed, their thrill of a driveway lined to the north with brand new baby cypress, just beginning to show visitors the way along the Great Rocky Road.
The seldom-photographed columnist Colleen O’Brien points down the valley to the autostrada and beyond.

In case you missed it

The winners on Wednesday, January 8th in-park pool tournament (with about 30 entries) are 1st Butch Brooker & Don Wulf, 2nd Ron Beeksma & Pierre Jubinville, 3rd Jerry Johnson & Alex Stinson.

Wednesday, January 8

Elise Cooks

Elise cooks supper. She is 9 now and very capable in all she does.

Our neighbor Candy took this photo of us when we were hosting trivia in the main hall at Trophy Gardens.

Tuesday, January 7


A recipe? Really? Yes really. I know many people are trying to eat a low carb diet, especially this time of year. I have been a fan of Kalyns Kitchen for many years. She has many good recipes for a variety of healthy choices.
Barb B.

Low-Carb Southwest Egg Casserole title photo

yield 8 SERVINGS prep time 10 MINUTES cook time 30 MINUTES total time 40 MINUTES
This delicious Low-Carb Southwest Egg Casserole uses ingredients you probably have on hand.

  1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, very well-drained
 14 eggs
 1 4 oz. can diced green chiles
 salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
 2 tsp. Spike Seasoning
 1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
 1 cup grated Mozzarella cheese
 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
Dump the tomatoes into a colander placed in the sink and let them drain well.
Slice the green onions (and I do recommend using the full amount because they add a lot of flavors.)
Put the drained tomatoes, sliced green onions, and diced green chiles into the casserole dish and stir to combine. (Save a few green onions for garnish if you like.)
Beat the eggs until they're well-combined and add salt and pepper, and Spike Seasoning.
Sprinkle 3/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese and 3/4 cup Mozzarella cheese over the veggies.
Then pour over the egg mixture, and stir with a fork to combine.
Sprinkle the other 1/4 cup of each kind of cheese over the top.
Bake in a preheated 375F/190C oven about 30 minutes, or until eggs are completely set and the casserole is lightly browned on top.
Serve hot, with sour cream and salsa if desired.
Diced green chiles are Anaheim chiles, not spicy Jalapenos. If you don’t have Spike Seasoning, use any all-purpose seasoning blend that’s good with eggs.

Egg casseroles can be kept in the fridge for at least a week and reheated in the microwave or in a hot toaster oven.

Recipe created by Kalyn. (Low-Carb Southwest Egg Casserole was first posted in 2006 and last updated January 2020.)

Saturday, January 4

Updating a bit

Butch is playing lots of pool. No surprise there! I have been playing some too.

Been layed up with a UTI the past week thus not much of anything happening including this blog. The good news of this is that I now have a primary care doctor in the Rio Grande Valley. Dr. Elizabeth Pollack. She is young and pretty but that is beside the point. I like her and she comes to me medically in the way I like. Options and possibilities followed by a sensible plan of action. We came to her by way of a referral from our new neighbors Candy and Rick Dewey.

Today we plan to go to Magnolia for their monthly garage sale. No, it isn't the same park that we knew and loved but the ones remaining are doing the best they can and I must say doing a pretty good job of it. Our new friends Dave and Liz went with us last season and really enjoyed the lunch served on the garage sale day and would like to go again. So that is the plan.

Butch has to get out of bed first!

Check out the Trophy Gardens blog to see what is up with us somewhat. There are so many activities in this park I do not ever plan to do it all. I am making additions to their already established blog as well as our own and I still throw one at Magnolia's blog too now and then.

It has been a blessing to have Deon and Jim in Trophy with us. We share many of the same interests, pool, birding, photography, Magnolia and exercise. They have blended in seamlessly and no one would ever know they are new to this park. Trophy has over 30 new people here this year so that might be part of it!

Our friend Dugan

Our friend Dugan has passed away after a year-long battle with lung cancer. His son Kevin had come to Iowa and taken Dugan and Sharon back to Florida with him making it easier for Kevin to take care of both of them.
Dugan and Sharon grew up in Jefferson too. Being slightly older than us, we traveled in different circles. We did know who they were and had connections of one kind or another. We became better connected after returning to Jefferson and making it home for at least half the year.  And then came trivia.
Dugan was the core of our trivia group, in fact, we were Team Dugan. The man was a walking encyclopedia and read history books for fun. His sense of humor was priceless as well. He was a fun guy to be in the company of on any occasion. We will miss him no end.

Friday, January 3

Quote of the day

" Kittens are wide-eyed soft and sweet. With needles in their jaws and feet. "

-Pam Brown

If you have ever petted a kitten you know the truth of this quote. And I would add "Even innocence has sharp pain."