If the sight of the blue skiesfills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things in nature have a message you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive. -- Eleanor Duse I DID feel alive this morning walking the dogs into Forest Park. Why any different this morning than any other? The blooms of the famous NW Rain Forest Trilliums are at their peak: 80% of the walk you'll see those lovely white blooms on both sides of the trail. Every spring, these blooms DO wake up your every part of you .......... **Is part of it the 3 sided bloom, the 3 leaved segments on the stem or what. The native Oregon Grape is just reaching into bloom, the one time of the year they're exceptionally beautiful: **They too seem to be everywhere right now: IT WAS a gorgeous walk this morning..........MAC even got one extra slice of Pupperoni!! At home, this tree was blown almost out of the ground 10 years ago, hence the bent trunk now: We decided to keep that ornamental cherry........and in spring we have these blooms in the kitchen because we did: Hummer note: Yep, they're arriving like mad........ Males are already staking out individual feeders trying to show the "girls" they have "real estate". . . . .Spring is alive!
I finished the novel, "LAKE OVERTURN" Saturday and couldn't find the right words to recommend this to others........ I think that was because nothing BIG happens in this book. NO vampires, no great train robbery, NO space ships, No global warming. Everything about it reads straight from a town like my own, and about the early 80's, and for a small town like mine, it might as well have been 1960. Well, as it turns out, the author, Vestal McIntyre grew up in Nampa, Idaho, just a few miles FROM Vale, Oregon........ He is gay and now living in London, but THIS STORY, clearly collected from childhood experience, is written so richly alive, I swear that I KNEW these very people in Vale, OR, not in Nampa. I NEVER expected to read a book written about SW Idaho, with town names I grew up knowing intimately. I have never imagined that a few of the "fringe" characters in a little cowtown like (and so close to) to Vale could possibly have any imagined thoughts that a publisher could be interested in. McIntyre showed me otherwise. At first reading, I felt THIS can't go anywhere, and it doesn't go far. What it does is describe SMALL TOWN life and those characters with depth and feeling and intimacy. Their relationships are all interlaced thoroughly, as would be in a small town. IF you grew up in small town America between the 60's - 90's, I think you'll feel right at home reading this very different novel. I became quite attached to it, more than I expected feeling memories well up in me throughout the read. IF you DO read this, I hope you'll let me know what you thought. Disclaimer: Rodger did not like this as much as I did, but then, he grew up near San Francisco, so did not feel the kinship I did.
After hearing about the last two outings to Sauvie Island , friend and neighbor Arnie said he was interested in going to see the what we'd bragged about. I KNEW, we're approaching the time any of the ARCTIC birds (Snow Geese or Swans) should be gone, but today was going to be sunny and warm............ LET's GO! I'll make this update brief, and not make a repeat post about birding.............. It WAS a fabulous morning. **This dove sure loved the sun............. 1) Our first encounter............... something I'd never been able to see, and NOT this close. Within 150 ft of the road, a Male Bald Eagle seemed to sort of be "standing guard" as, 2' from him, a juvenile eagle was feeding on what appeared to be a rabbit...while two crows waited in the wings for anything that might fall their way. We set up the scope, binocs, and watched this ....it was amazing... FINALLY, the juvenile seemed "full" enough and just smoothly departed. It was only then, the adult Male seemed to be hungry. He then began working on the remains, and we finally left. That was simply the highlight any nature trip could be. 2) Not a mile later, we see another juvenile Bald Eagle about 75' up in a tree right AT the road. We stopped, and walked under the tree.....LOOKING AT a Bald Eagle through binoculars that close makes them seem HUGE. They are SO impressive looking. Another highlight. 3) The heron rookery was, again, fascinating, we saw several come in or depart for feeding, while other pairs preened or seemed to welcome the day. The HIGHLIGHT here was a pair WORKING ON the nest....lifting, rotating, moving, placing sticks and improving the nest. We're talking about sticks 1" round and 3-4 feet long. 4) While watching the herons, a MASSIVE white cloud of snow geese landed just a half mile north...I knew exactly the spot, and we drove to the bird viewing platform just a half mile north. THAT was amazing...MORE snow geese than ever. It seems each week there are more...Are they waiting for the last "goose" to arrive and then will depart as ONE huge group for the Arctic? WOW! It was astounding. ALL around this massive flock were Sandhill cranes in large/small groups, ducks: TEALS, Widgeons, Mallards, and other geese..........QUITE a sight. 5) At Rentaur Road, we again saw large flocks of sandhills all around the place. The size of the gatherings has been growing.... The highlight here, however, was the hundreds of Canadian Geese and Cacklers within 50' of the road....SO close to the car you could see the fine texture in the feathering, the colors, their real beauty. Nice. 6) At the northern Heron spotting point, we were delights to see several EGRETS flying in the background....Made me wonder if they TOO were nesting out of our right. I had never seen 6-8 egrets in one spot. Beautiful to watch fly. 7) Yep, all in all, we'd seen many eagles, red-tail hawks, merlins, all serenaded by singing Red-Wing blackbirds, song sparrows, et al. 8) I hate to report this, but the HERON NESTS are disappearing behind the budding leafs of the Maple Trees they're in. I believe they'll be completely invisible in a couple weeks. Dang! And of course, by then, I expect the Arctic flocks to be gone. I'm glad they WILL be gone since they open this beautiful place up for the Bird Hunters April 15. The place then is not an experience I like to see. Arnie said the only way the day could have been better would have been to see on of HIS favorites: A delightful day, and Arnie loved it............and I came home to play hide and seek with a lovely red breasted sapsucker in the aspen tree: **I move, he moves.. **I was surprised he never flew off no matter I was 5 ft away: Yep, birds an be fun.
On Rodger's web page, he revealed NEW experiences we had last week on our first trip to Sauvie Island this year taken for viewing the spring northbound migration of our favorite birds... Our BIG NEW lesson was about the Blue Heron Rookeries....and just the fact these exquisite birds did such a thing...i.e., gather in these large flocks for nesting. All we EVER see are singular herons sitting elegantly in a bit of water.....it was stunning to see. Well, Saturday, cousin Nancy and I took a second trip out there to show her that wonder, and see what else was happening. The Migrating bird numbers continue to increase through March .....so, as expected we saw mammoth flocks of birds. We did a lot of viewing through binoculars and a spotting scope, so the camera wasn't really available. **NOTE: I DID choose to insert a few pictures from the web of some of a few of the stunning and fun birds one does get to see on a trip to this magic island of farmers, and nature preserves. After all "birding" IS about a visual thrill................. I hope it translates that way here. The first sighting on the way to our first destination spotting place, was a SKY view of -9- Bald eages, 3 pairs doing bonding dives, and 3 other single birds. I'd never witnessed to MANY bald eagles in ONE place doing this behavior at the same time. . . . . Imagine these and a few more flying above you doing bonding flights....Whew! We took off on a farm road that leads to a nature preserve (not opened this early), and at the gated dead end, a little memorial feeder has been installed. At OUR house in the summer, I'll see an occasional charming Golden Crowned Sparrow during the summer...there were DOZENS of them here feeding....we thought this must be the "New York" for these little birds: Outgoing but shy, it is fun when you see THIS little sparrow in flocks. Above them, several of the beautifully musical Red Winged Blackbirds were joining in for feeding time: On the way further north, we encountered little Merlin Hawks in several places: Good of Nancy to teach me the difference between the Kestrel & this Merlin...I've been wrong.......... But, these little guys are nothing when you run into the very large Red Tailed Hawks, and there were several seen today: Their nests are almost as large as the Eagle nests..... Our next stop came at the huge Bald Eagle Nest...where, fortunately, one male chose to hop up on the nest edge and do some calling while we watched...I'd never seen a Bald Eagle make those calling sounds within earshot. Nice. Just a tiny bit further, we turn off the road, toward a water channel to see our first Heron Rookery, and at first glance you only see big lumps of sticks in the trees: But, of course, your eyes SOON notice there are very LARGE birds either sitting or standing next to these nests: Once the scope is set up, you see THESE views, and in the breezes, their fine feathers are absolutely beautiful: **It is here we could see -9- Herons through ONE spotting scope view. THIS is thrilling....they are magnificent birds....but our whole lives, we are used to seeing them in a solitary position in the water....... **A cute addition, while watching these 9 birds, we also noticed a cute sapsucker nipping his way up the branches right in the middles of the Herons. Nice. We finally walked up to the water channel about the time two pair of one of the most beautiful ducks in the world came in to feed, I love these guys: **These guys ALSO came in calling out...I'd never heard them make a peep.... We moved on an Audubon official viewing area to see the normal hundreds of Canadian Geese and their smaller cousins the Cackling Geese....which one's cuter, eh? I'm not sure I've been on this island anytime and seen any more Canadian Geese than I have today. We moved up to Rentenauer Road (small graveled road moving along a few huge wetland spaces) and found: 1.) The ONE Mammoth Flock of Snow Geese STILL here....I'm sure "gathering" together for the flight north to nesting grounds near Arctic regions: Yes, it IS a web shot, but I swear, it looked like this picture does...And another interesting view was that MANY were interspersed into a huge Canadian Geese flock there also...all mostly sitting in the sun...quietly resting. Nice. 2) The same Tundra swans were in the same wetland we saw last week. These huge elegant swans, also, surely leaving for the far north very very soon: Today, ALL were feeding as if they won't be eating for another week. It was ALSO here Nancy saw the two little cute ducks I've NEVER recognized or noticed. The Buffleheads are quite elegant ducks....they dive completely under and stay for a few seconds, always coming up exactly where they dived from: 3) ALWAYS one of the main beautiful birds to see are those that come through here in the spring headed north for nesting, the Lesser Sandhill Cranes and I am not sure I've ever seen more than there were this week. In small groups, or one huge flock, these are always amazing birds. When you hear THEIR trilling, warbling calls, you never know if they're just overhead or a couple miles away....the sound carries incredibly: Of course, there were coots, widgeons, mallards about.....always fun to see with that glowing green head. By now, at about 3 hours, we began to get a bit cold all the way through....it was a Brisk morning....but we had gone today anyway because we knew it would be MUCH less crowded today in brisk weather than tomorrow...the forecast tomorrow for temps about 10-15 warmer will draw hundreds of cars out here tomorrow. TODAY, we had the place to ourselves almost. Well, we finally had to move on.......to the big Heron rookery to the North...we both felt there would be a minimum of 50-70 Herons at the large nesting sight.... all 40-60 feet in the air....incubating eggs for a few weeks, then spending 60-70 days feeding them until they are large enough to FLY off a tree at that height. Wow.. AND....thanks to Nancy's dedication, here is a list of exactly WHAT birds we saw yesterday: **From Nancy: "I wrote down the species (32). Let me know if I missed any: raven, crow, starling, robin, junco, yellow-crowned sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, song sparrow, mourning dove, spotted towhee, red-winged blackbird, bald eagle, red-tail hawk, merlin, kestrel, Bewick's wren, sandhill crane, canada goose, cackler, tundra swan, snow goose, mallard, bufflehead, American widgeon, coot, Great Blue Heron, red-breasted sapsucker, scrub jay, northern pintail, cormorant, black-capped chickadee, wood duck." What a day we enjoyed. We sure do love cousin Nancy!
Finally, we're on BART as far it goes....out to Antioch . . . Nice countryside. (As it may exist so close to SF). . . CHET & sweetheart Joyce picked us up, and we're on the way to that renegade Bethel Island !! We enjoyed lunch together on the way, and later that evening enjoyed some time out at Chet's favorite hangout, where, like "Cheers"....everyone called out he & Joyce's name. We enjoyed some really fine food, and stayed up talking. Aunt Paula & Karen picked us up the next day, and we were soon on our way to RIPON, a fairly small valley community just north of Modesto and south of Manteca just off Highway 99. That doesn't stop it from claiming to be the "Almond Blossom Capital of the World!" and as such has hosted the Almond Blossom Festival every spring for years .....the last weekend of February. OF ALL the Hi Spots they could have chosen to show ME, the anti-war, anti-hunter, anti-gun guy, I was astounded to be escorted into a one of a huge chain of real outdoors, camping, hunting, fishing, clothing, rifles, gun safes, EVERYTHING MADE in the world that can be coated in CAMOUFLAGE, stores called Bass Pro Shop in Manteca. They are ALL over the south, and beginning to grow out here. On two levels, it was huge. I remain speechless. When I consider how little wild game is even LEFT alive on the planet, how little natural habitat is left, and that a LARGE chunk of hunters/fishermen do it on "reserved" private ranches, I realized I was very out of touch. I'm not passing judgement here, just observing........... It WAS an experience to see this. On we went! We had a full evening, beginning with a cocktail and appetizers at the Ripon Road House.... Friday came and went like a blink. Paula was more busy than _____ (Fill in the blank).......all getting ready for Saturday. We were fueled by one of the most gigantic breakfasts I've ever seen at the tiny town of Salida's "Country Kitchen": ONE Chicken Fried Steak breakfast is served on 3 plates...the steak itself is prepared on site, and is about 8"x12" in size...it could feed 4. Oh well, it is an experience everyone should have ONCE in their life. Might Good! Friday night meant fabulous pizza from Pizza Plus while Rodger, I, and cousin Mickey watched Olympics all tired out...... while Paula still toiled away preparing for Saturday's gathering. Saturday! NO time to waste, the parade began at 11:00, so it was a very hectic day. The parade route is about 200' from Paula's door, easy access. And it IS just what you think a small town parade would be except it gathers enough steam from the area to run about 2 hours. That means LOTS of horses, bands, churches, beauty queens, old cars, yes, but it's really done very well. Yep, queens of every kind.....and fashion: Some of the horse groups were magnificent, some trained...this one a serious performance master: After the parade, the family gathered for Paula's fabulous feast, and in time, the annual photo: Unfortunately, as the years have passed, there are fewer and fewer family members to join up........... maybe that's why it seems, every year, to a bit more "special". TOO soon, we were on an airplane enroute home...............
Savoy Cabbage, Bacon, and Mushroom Sauce (Long Cooking) **Taken from Lidia’s Family Table / Lidia Bastianich 2004. It is the recipe cooked up for us by Serafina as mentioned in the previous post. 8 Ozs Thick-cut bacon or prosciutto ends (including fat and lean) 1 lb firm mushrooms, mixed types 2 lb head of savoy cabbage ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil 7-8 cloves Garlic - larger the better ½ tsp dried peperoncino pepper flakes – or to taste 1 tsp Salt 1 cup or more, simple Vegetable Broth Use a 14” sauté pan with high sides, or dutch oven. Cut bacon into 1” pieces. Slice mushrooms 1/8 “ thick…should have about 6 cups. Trim off tough discolored, or loose leaves from cabbage; slice it in half or quarters, and cut out hard core. Slice cabbage into shreds about 1/3” thick; you should have nearly 4 qts. Pour oil into pan, strew in garlic and bacon pieces. Cook over med. Heat for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, as bacon renders. Don’t let ingredients get too crisp or brown….. Add pepper flakes during this cooking time, toasting it in a hot spot for a minute before stirring in. **That's how it looks at the start. By the end, it's simply a rich dense sauce inviting in looks, aroma.......... Pile all cabbage and mushrooms into pan; sprinkle salt all over. Stir a bit, to begin mixing vegetables w/oil, bacon, & garlic. Cover pan, turn down heat slightly, and let vegetables heat & begin to sweat for 3-4 minutes, then stir again. Cook, covered, and stir every couple minutes ---it will get easier as vegetables wilt – until everything is mixed well. Continue to cook, covered, for about an hour or so as cabbage and mushrooms continue to shrink and soften. Stir every now and then, adjusting heat so everything is sizzling and steaming but not darkening or sticking. Add ½ cup or so of broth or water to pan whenever vegetables seem too dry. Uncover pan and cook for 45 minutes or longer, stirring frequently and moistening the sauce w/broth or water at intervals. Adjust heat to maintain the slow and steady concentration of cabbage. Taste for salt, and add more if needed. When cabbage shreds are completely soft and there’s about 1 ½ quarts of sauce in pan, remove it from heat. Use sauce immediately if you want. Store it in refrigerator for a week or freeze for use within several months. GOOD WITH: Penne Pasta, Gnocchi, Polenta, Risott, grilled meats. **NOTE HERE: AS long as this cooks, most of the ingredients are rendered into a lovely sauce, yes, a bit softy-chunky, but don't wonder if something's wrong if you no longer see cabbage / mushrooms pieces........ / mark That's part of the meal Serafina served us our first night in Alameda. I kept asking for seconds for two days.
We finally actually checked out at the Mark Hopkins, and THIS time, took what are always reasonably priced in a big city, a taxi, to BART. We boarded BART with a sad goodbye to SF, one of our favorite cities and traveled UNDER the bay....to the west Oakland station..... With glee, we saw Serafina arriving to Pick us up! We soon were on the move to Alameda, and their fabulous 100 yr old Craftsman home where we were greeted with many licks by Abby & Glenda. I'm not sure whether they were so happy to see US, or the smells of MAC still on our clothes was the REAL draw. A busy afternoon of talking steadily began while Serafina began the rough prep work for an Italian dish she claimed was simply fabulous.......... Savoy Cabbage, Mushrooms, and Bacon Sauce w/Penne Pasta. No, not a fabulous long foreign name, but......by evening, the name no longer mattered. Serafina was right: THIS is a fabulous dish.....and classic Italian, slow cooks for hours with a few simple ingredients. **Recipe to follow after this post** Well, it seemed that day was gone in an instant, but we were up early next morning for walking the pups along the Bayshore Parks that run so close to their home. She and David call their local Park Employee, "Uncle Neal" . . . ..a nice guy, the dogs seem to love. This is truly one beautiful part of the San Francisco Bay not familiar to many, but rich in history. In the late 1800s, early 1900's, many of the wealthy San Franciscans built "summer" homes (ESTATES) here since San Fran's summers were always so foggy and cool. Alameda STILL has NOT lost that charm, feel, and attitude. It seems in much of the historic Park Street District, few tourists have ever discovered the charm found here. Dozens of small cafe's, restaurants, California's OLDEST Bakery (Boniere.......luscious), and an ice cream maker, called TUCKER's, who's Ice Cream is made with ultra rich dairy cream, and fresh flavors...one of the finest ice creams I've ever tasted. It's like being in the Tom & Jerry's Factory would be.... AND....they give you samples of any flavor you seem attracted to. Well, we BEGAN that day's food-feasting with a fabulous breakfast at Ole's Waffle House, another Alameda tradition...... Yes, it was crowded as always, but with a friendly service staff...THIS place is where to start your day. As a treat, Serafina showed us a true GEM for old hardware store fans. We shopped at Pagano's Hardware today... THIS is one of the few RARE classic Hardware Places operating the same way it has for probably 60-80 years. Browsing through brings you to Odd hidden stairs, trails, merchandise hidden all over the place. We found a few treasures, left, and I couldn't help but look at the place when we left. After we'd wandered through trails, tunnels, alleys, for 30-40 minutes I expected to see a giant building..... Whew! Fun experience. That evening, another unique dining experience. I have never dined at a restaurant claming to serve the foods from BURMA. But the Burma Superstar was wonderful. With its proximity to China, Thailand, Vietnam, etc....it's foods are a rich mix of all those venues. ALL delightful. We once again were allowed to peruse artist David's work, and that's always a delightful experience. I feel like I'm in an art gallery when we get to do this. After one more morning walk, Wednesday, we HAD to leave...one day was DUE to spend w/Rodger's Dad in Oakley, prior to our departing for the excuse for this trip, the RIPON Almond Blossom Festival at Aunt Paula's. What a goodbye from Alameda......we had a fabulous time. The two pups, did a good job of mourning our departure. Abby/Glenda showing off such a sad look.......they wouldn't even come to the door to say goodbye. THANKS, David and Serafina.
After a fabulous Saturday, it was impossible to equal that Sunday. After all, Sunday became a rain day. Like Portland rain days: slow, light, gray, misty spitty rain ALL day long. We STILL ganged up with K&B for one more afternoon of pure fun. We spend a couple hours at MOMA, then, because of the rain, chose to have Chinese Food delivered to the apartment. THAT became an adventure in itself as we were waiting for delivery just after dark. A Power generator one block away blew out, darkening the Bay Bridge as well as US for a couple hours. So, via cell phone, the delivery guy had to be told how to find us, etc. We sat in the dark for a couple hours. Have you ever eaten IN the dark and been SURE of which dish you were eating? It WAS fun, but was nice to see lights by 9:00 pm. We headed our for the hotel about 9:30.... On arrival at the fashionable address, the REAL question was: Since we'll only BE IN THIS hotel once, isn't a visit to the TOP OF THE MARK going to be required? It WAS sunday night, so the place should be quiet.... so, of course we were on the elevator fast! Not so surprisingly, as was every experience at this place, people don't talk to you, (no we weren't' IN suits...is that why?), and even the server was able to ignore us AT the counter until I stared so hard at him, he couldn't turn away...we ordered, he gave us the drinks AND the bill at the same time turning around without a question, or comment, and also left shift....OH, that's why the cold shoulder? OH erase this whine. We're glad that didn't annoy us enough to leave. The New bartender came on, and the manager came over to us. We began a wonderful discussion about SF in the 70's...this guy grew up in Haight Ashbury.....some wild stories there. So, Sunday night ended up a lot of fun. **Oh yes, and, including tip for 2 cocktails apiece? $90..... well drinks. On Monday morning ---- we determined we MUST eat once again at SEARS FINE FOODS just steps from UNION SQUARE Although a real tourist destination, Sears has great breakfasts.... **You can always have the 18 Swedish Pancake Dish! Of course, Union Square is the heart of upscale shopping, but it really is the center of the city in many ways. Yes, thousands of tourists, saks, nordy's, are all 'round you. BUT, WE saw something far more impressive to me: At one corner/steps spot, where some shrubbery was growing, we looked on the ledge by the bushes to see Mom & Pop Chickadee coaching a JUST fledging baby...very near this spot ....NESTING at UNION Square! Are you kidding? What a heartwarming thing to see. As we depart Union Square we see a favorite fountain...I'm not even sure which Hotel it's in front of, but one can spend an hour here seeing much of what makes SF famous scrawled into this sculpture classic: Like steep Lombard Hill with a car just turning down from the top: Or a view recalling the Grateful Dead maybe: Then we began the climb back up to Nob Hill. We passed a simple concrete alley, but could NOT help but think of friend Carol D who, changed her condominium residents minds about gardening in pots...NONE were allowed, and NOW, hundreds of them line their streets...they look fabulous in summer. Looks like someone's beginning that tradition here, Carol: So, finally back up on Nob Hill, to visit the park there, Grace Cathedral, and check out of the hotel. We needed to be in Alameda just after noon. . . . .to begin phase 2 of our trip. The sites, views from, and history on the top of Nob Hill are fascinating. Grace Cathedral is beautifully situated here: I got to hear something that's ALWAYS my favorite...the organist practicing some wonderful modern French Music on the pipes...a very nice add-on to our visit inside the building: This time, we cabbed it down that hill...my knee had had enough. We took Bart under the bay, off at the West Oakland station where we're greeted by Serafina to begin a fabulous visit there.
Off to a good start............ We got to the airport 2 hours early ...... One hr before the scheduled takeoff, the gate sign was turned off. We got up to find a sign: delay to go control tower ....... Wh asked, and found high winds in SF had closed one of 2 runways used for landing. So. We sat at PDX from 1100 until 2:20..... Dang you say! Well, it wasn't a loss, but an interesting experience.....why? The adjoining departure gate was for Eugene. There waiting for their own plane were two truly serious "birders". For over an hour we had a wonderful "bird" chat with this couple. Dan & "Linda?" are BIG Bird watchers from Eugene who use almost every vacation to travel the world on Bird Eco-trips. This time, they were just returning from Morocco, where, for 3 weeks, they'd been seeking sitings of some rare Larks found ONLY there! They described the raw beauty of the mountains, larks, other rare birds the guides got to show them. When asked about other birding trips they might have taken? Wow. Peru's Ande's mountains, Ecuador, Portugal and more. These were fascinating stories about these trips. They are also big contributors to OBOL (Oregon Birders On Line) where one tracks our own songbirds spring and fall, plus daily news about bird sightings around the state. So. We finally arrived in SF late. We got on airport shuttle to Bart , and took BART to downtown SF. Then we find ourselves on Bus 30 UP those hills to Sacramento Ave, and walked the final two blocks up steep streets to the top of Nob Hill for a priceline bargain at, of all places, the Mark Hopkins Hotel. This is the "top" of the city, and is one block from Grace Cathedral, the mammoth Masonic Temple, the Huntington Club, and all the beauty of Nob Hill royalty. The second we were settled, we took off back down the hills WALKING DOWN toward's Bruce and Kevins place for a welcome visit with our favorite SF cousins! And it WAS a great time! We simply sat there and TALKED, went out for a fabulous Italian dinner in their own neighborhood. LA BRICIOLA !! After a fabulous time (so happens the owner was from Piedmont, where we'd visited just last year, so he talked with us plenty) We returned talked some more until we're all done in. Luckily, Kevin drove us back UP the hills for some sleep. THANKS GUYS for a fabulous time! We rested for MORE to happen Sunday!