I eat. I drive. I write. I check out cute guys. I’m a single woman traveling — and living — solo. It occurred to me there are a million “mommy blogs,” but very few blogs for single women who aren’t sitting at home waiting for Prince Charming or watching their biological clock. Consider this the “non-mommy” blog. Think Anthony Bourdain meets Bridget Jones.  

Travel photo of the week: Garchen Institute

bwgarchen080800681

The Garchen Institute in Chino Valley, Arizona is one of my favorite places to get away from everything, including TV, internet and even conversation at times, as some of the people there have taken vows of silence. High above the Prescott Valley, all you hear is the sound of the Buddhist prayer flags in the strong winds that blow on the mountain where the retreat is located.

Bucket List Destinations: Prague

Prague 1000 Bucket List Destinations: Prague

I’ve never been to Prague, Czechoslovakia, but it was love at first sight. It was back in the 80s, at the height of my obsession with  INXS, and particularly, singer Michael Hutchence. If you’re at all familiar with their music and their videos, you probably know I’m referring to the video for the song “Never Tear Us Part.”

Michael sang this romantic love song around various locations of Prague, including Charles Bridge. It was a perfect fit for the song and the man, and implanted a deep desire in me to see the city before I die, a desire that has not lessened one bit in almost 25 years.

Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and if you love that old school architecture and high Gothic embellishments, boy is this the city to visit! It was spared much of the damage that other nations received during World War II, and as such, now has one of the most varied and extensive collections of architecture you will find anywhere in the world: Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Neo-Renaissance, Neo-Gothic, Art Nouveau, Cubist, Neo-Classical and ultra-modern.

I’ve often looked into taking a course to teach English as a second language, and when considering the classes in an international setting, product is my first choice destination. I obsess over it. Apparently I’m not alone, as Prague is now ranks sixth among the most popular cities in Europe for visitors behind London, Paris, Rome, Madrid and Berlin.

Lest you think this city is nothing more than a pretty picture, remember that before was the Czech Republic, it was Bohemia, and the birthplace of the term “Bohemian.” Aside From the obvious tourist attractions, some more unconventional sites to check out include Bunkr Parukarka , a 1950s cold war bunker turned techno night club. Housed underground in what was a 1950s nuclear bunker, this quirky nightclub welcomes revelers through a graffiti-covered door that juts out from a hillside.

And if you really want a rough things up after hours, go to the suburb of Zizkov, with more than 300 bars in the neighborhoods to square miles. No need to dress up for these dive bars, where you can expect your beer in plastic cups. That should give you little feel for the neighborhood.

For a more open space outdoors, ride the railway to the top of Petrin Hill, Which has an eclectic assortment of attractions in itself: a miniature version of the Eiffel Tower, a mirror maze, and  the Church of St. Michael–a 17th century wooden building relocated from a village in the Ukraine.

And of course, there’s food. You knew that was coming, right?

In get your food, beer and accommodations all in one at the 550-year-old  Hotel Midvikdu. As this is the home of the infamous X-Beer 33 with it’s alcohol content of 11.8% (the strongest in the Czech Republic), the accommodations will come in handy. They ferment this dark lager for six months in an oak barrel. Fortunately, they also have a menu that guarantees you won’t want to drink on an empty stomach: half of duck with potato, white bread, bacon dumplings, red and white cabbage; larded roast beef with rosehips sauce and croquettes; boar steak with baked apple cranberries and potato chips; and their signature Brewers pork steak with homemade beer sauce, bacon and fried onion, with a side order of french fries.

That almost sounds American.

food Bucket List Destinations: Prague

Or if you want to go high-end La Degustation Bohême Bourgeoise, but allow plenty of time for this six course tasting menu, which can take up to three hours to complete. It seems they no longer have the “gelatinous tomato meringue that melts to release honey and balsamic vinegar,” but I’m sure they have found plenty of suitable replacements surprise and delight your palate.

I found some fantastic images on Flickr by Moyan Brenn under CC ATTRIBUTION AND NO DERIVATIONS licensing, so I included a gallery below–check out the wonderful photos on his site. And, of course, the video that inspired me so much to add Prague to my bucket list.

If this sounds–and looks– good, you may want to consider a couple of great tour options to drink in Prague. Monograms offers independent tours of Vienna and Prague, over six nights. Your in country transportation, hotels, breakfasts and must see site admissions are included, as well as having your own city guide available to consult. And without the big herds of a traditional tour. If 2 1/2 days in Prague isn’t enough for you, you can add on a four-day Prague city package. Or just do the four-day package on its own. Vienna to Prague starts at $1497 pp, and the four-day Prague tour starts at just $663 pp.

The Big Empty: Travel photography on Hwy 8

The Big Empty: Travel photography on Hwy 8

Most people come home from a trip with nice photos of sunsets, beaches, and smiling tourists. I come home with travel photography of abandoned buildings, barren landscapes and roadkill. Or at least I did on this roadtrip from Tuscon to San Diego. Obviously I travel with my camera with a little different agenda than most people. I’ve always been drawn to the desert for so many reasons I don’t even understand them all. It’s one of the most beautiful places on earth… and one of the most deadly. It’s ruthless, yet there’s something about looking across that vast horizon with the sun beating down on you, but storm clouds gathering in the distance. Or slivers of late afternoon sunlight peeking through the clouds, selectively lighting the mesas. There’s a great monologue in the film “25th Hour” where Brian Cox is supposed to be taking his son, played by Edward Norton, to prison in New York. He talks to him about making a wrong turn and just driving west to find a small town for him to disappear and start over, and while the whole thing is powerful, there was one part in particular that stood out to me.

“Every man, woman, and child alive should see the desert one time before they die. Nothing for miles around. Nothing but sand, and rocks, and cactus and blue sky. Not a soul around for miles. No sirens. No car alarms. Nobody honking at you. No madmen cursing or pissing on the streets. You’ll find the silence out there. You’ll find the peace. You can find God.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

There are things a lot more pathetic than a table for one

There are things a lot more pathetic than a table for one

“Is that a snide smile from the hostess? Did that couple just snicker and whisper behind their napkins? Is there anything more pathetic for a single woman than having to utter the words “Table for One?”

I read that the first time and, to put it bluntly, it really pissed me off. After being single and childless my whole adult life, the idea that someone could really think that dining alone, or going to a movie alone, or simply sitting at a bar and having a cocktail alone was such a  horrible thing and a great shame is beyond ludicrous. Keeping one’s own company and enjoying the pleasures of life without the need to make small talk is, indeed, one of the greatest joys in life.

Really. I swear to you.

So to answer the question: Yes, there are many things more pathetic than a single woman asking for a table for one.

  • Staying at home
  • Making a microwave dinner… or two, cause those suckers sure are small
  • Going through a fast food drive-thru instead of a nice restaurant
  • Eating dinner with a co-worker you really don’t like for the sake of having another pulse at the table, because god knows you don’t spend enough time with co-workers you barely tolerate already
  • Going out on a date with a man you don’t like so you aren’t sitting home alone, because you certainly can’t go out alone on a weekend. What will people think?
  • Using a service that will match you with a woman you don’t even know so you can dine together to avoid “embarrassment” and fill your meals with inane conversation or awkward silence. But you’ll look good to other diners, and that’s all that matters, right?

I should note the author of this piece agrees with me, and was responding to an article on CNN.com about a new “service” that matches up single women with other single women so they don’t have to dine alone.

Really? Is this the high school cafeteria modern businesswoman-style? Junior high?

Fortunately, I learned a long time ago to embrace being able to dine in peace and often find myself smiling to myself just a little at the pure joy of just keeping my own company. And when you do that, the people around probably aren’t wondering why you are such a loser sitting there alone, but envying your freedom from their boring date or their whining kids, and their fear of doing exactly what you’re doing.

You are now an international woman of mystery. Embrace your solitude. And turn that silly notion that it’s a bad thing on its head.

To read the quoted article by Elisa Doucette, visit Forbes.com. You never know, it just might inspire you to run out to that fancy restaurant by yourself. Or even start a whole blog based on the notion that our own company is more than good enough.

A cowboy breakfast, Colorado style

There are many benefits to traveling off-season besides the obvious: missing the huge crowds and the elevated prices. When you visit a town in its off-season travel, you get a rare chance to really get to know the locals, and hang out like they do. Normally, when you’re looking for restaurant, a crowded parking lot is a good sign that there is good food, if you’re willing to wait. But on this particular day in Ouray, Colorado, I just didn’t feel like waiting, so I went to the restaurant with the empty tables.

I was greeted at the door of The Silver Nugget by a huge black dog wagging his tail at me, and a cowboy reading the newspaper in the corner. He told me I didn’t need to be scared of the dog, which I wasn’t anyway and we were the only folks in the whole place. Turns out the cowboy was the proprietor and the cook and the waiter on this particular weekday in Ouray, before the full ski season hit and many while businesses were on vacation.

OurayRidgewayJan2013 037 A cowboy breakfast, Colorado style
I decided to get the front here breakfast just because of the something different: your basic eggs and hash browns but with an Idaho rainbow trout on the side instead of bacon and sausage. As my cowboy friend went into the kitchen to cook my breakfast, I walked around the restaurant snapping photos and chatting with him about the town. I make no secret that this is one of my favorite towns in Colorado, and a must do travel destination if you like small towns and like to mix with real people who are friendly and welcome visitors. This place is no exception.

When he served up my breakfast, he chastised the dog to stay away. As if. When the cowboy cook went back to the kitchen to busy himself, my canine friend trotted back up and sat there patiently begging the whole time, hoping I would drop a little fish or some eggs either accidentally or on purpose.

On purpose, in this case. How could I resist a face like that?

OurayRidgewayJan2013 030 A cowboy breakfast, Colorado style
The Silver Nugget is right on the main drag in downtown Ouray, Colorado, and if you do decide to make a visit, make sure you bring cash because they don’t take debit cards. prices are reasonable and you can get a wide variety of old-fashioned hearty breakfasts or a Gravalanche of yogurt, fruit and granola. Later in the day, try a burger or veggie sandwich, or even pizza.

The food is tasty, and the company is friendly without a long wait, not that you should be in a hurry anyway. At least if you hit it at the right time, during off season.

There are many benefits to traveling off-season besides the obvious: missing the huge crowds and the elevated prices. When you visit a town in its off-season travel, you get a rare chance to really get to know the locals, and hang out like they do. Normally, when you’re looking for restaurant, a crowded parking lot is a good sign that there is good food, if you’re willing to wait. But on this particular day in Ouray, Colorado, I just didn’t feel like waiting, so I went to the restaurant with the empty tables.

I was greeted at the door of The Silver Nugget by a huge black dog wagging his tail at me, and a cowboy reading the newspaper in the corner. He told me I didn’t need to be scared of the dog, which I wasn’t anyway and we were the only folks in the whole place. Turns out the cowboy was the proprietor and the cook and the waiter on this particular weekday in Ouray, before the full ski season hit and many while businesses were on vacation.

OurayRidgewayJan2013 037 A cowboy breakfast, Colorado style
I decided to get the front here breakfast just because of the something different: your basic eggs and hash browns but with an Idaho rainbow trout on the side instead of bacon and sausage. As my cowboy friend went into the kitchen to cook my breakfast, I walked around the restaurant snapping photos and chatting with him about the town. I make no secret that this is one of my favorite towns in Colorado, and a must do travel destination if you like small towns and like to mix with real people who are friendly and welcome visitors. This place is no exception.

When he served up my breakfast, he chastised the dog to stay away. As if. When the cowboy cook went back to the kitchen to busy himself, my canine friend trotted back up and sat there patiently begging the whole time, hoping I would drop a little fish or some eggs either accidentally or on purpose.

On purpose, in this case. How could I resist a face like that?

OurayRidgewayJan2013 030 A cowboy breakfast, Colorado style
The Silver Nugget is right on the main drag in downtown Ouray, Colorado, and if you do decide to make a visit, make sure you bring cash because they don’t take debit cards. prices are reasonable and you can get a wide variety of old-fashioned hearty breakfasts or a Gravalanche of yogurt, fruit and granola. Later in the day, try a burger or veggie sandwich, or even pizza.

The food is tasty, and the company is friendly without a long wait, not that you should be in a hurry anyway. At least if you hit it at the right time, during off season.

Hot house (of) tomato: The Tomato Place

Hot house (of) tomato: The Tomato Place

 

What’s better than those Mississippi restaurants that serve up comfort food made from fresh produce and home-style cooking? One that also sells the produce, quirky gifts and a little liquid sunshine with a smile.

Now, I appreciate those fancy Mississippi restaurants as much as the next gal, and the kind of gourmet food where you aren’t really sure what it is, but you know it’s supposed to impress you. But I also enjoy a slice of down-home cooking served up with friendly service, and The Tomato Place in Vicksburg, Mississippi, has garnered quite a reputation for both in these parts.

I ventured in the first time on a lark, after I had done some shopping at the local Big Blue Generic Warehouse of Goods down the street to check out the place. First of all, watch for it closely as it’s literally just an extra-wide shoulder of the highway and you can easily drive on by. Second, you may not have much parking space, as this cafe stays pretty busy all day.

But if you find it and park your booty there, you’re greeted with brightly-colored buildings and very casual outdoor seating area. There might be some homemade pork rinds cooking outside, smoking up a bit. One building is cooks only, but the other is a produce stand and a wall of freezers full of delicious and nutritious smoothies to go.

Or stay, if you choose.

IMG_1856thetomatoplace001

Inside you’ll find sauces (try the Mississippi Fever made with real tomatoes and fresh hot peppers) and containers of rice or beans for sale, but also hats, gifts and local-themed odds and ends, like the wonderful book I discovered there, “Eat, Drink, Delta,” full of lovely photos and stories from Delta restaurants and kitchens.

And of course, the cafe.

You know they gotta have fried green tomatoes, but also some other expected classics like fresh squeezed lemonade, po’ boys, fried catfish and burgers, but prepare yourself for plenty of surprises, like the meatball plate: Three large meatballs on a bed of stone ground cheese grits, with tomatoes, and your choice of squash or green beans. Or maybe get a southern-style BLT, as in BL and FGT (Fried Green Tomatoes) in case your arteries aren’t quite clogged enough.

But all that matters is dying with a smile on your face, right?

A decidedly non-southern popular meal is the Jamaican Burger plate, with fried yams and jerk sauce. And check out this list of available side items: fried okra, mac and cheese, cheese grits, fried yams and baked beans, just to name a few.

IMG_1917thetomatoplace001

I had the Tomato Place Pie plate, and it sounds sort of lasagna-like or even a little pizza-like, but much milder on the spice, and shouldn’t kick up the ol’ reflux. As I had the misfortune of coming on a Sunday evening after the huge rush of the day, I had to go with okra instead of green beans. And the salad was a marinated cucumbers and cherry tomatoes, and… why, I believe they threw some watermelon in there.

I have to tell you, I’m not a big raw tomato or cucumber person, but that was a very good salad, and refreshing sitting outside in the heat. Personally, I think I’d kick up the spice just a bit on that tomato pie, but it was tasty, and with all the food I had, I took a healthy portion home.

Perhaps I’ve watched one too many episodes of “Chopped,” but I “transformed” those leftovers into a nice breakfast hash the next morning, and that was mighty tasty. Alex Guarnaschelli would have been so proud. Or Geoffrey Zakarian, who I have personally dubbed, “The Silver Fox.”

I’m a lonely woman, okay. I use cable to window-shop hot guys.

Anyway, the fried green tomatoes here are very lightly breaded with mostly a cornmeal breading, and btw, if you want to make your own, this is one place you can find green tomatoes for sale. If they haven’t used them all themselves. But this appetizer here is light with a zesty remoulade sauce making it a nice start to any meal.

They have nice little indoor dining area, but plenty of outdoor seating if you can take the heat. Check out lots of photos below, and make a little trip south of Vicksburg on Highway 61 for some casual, comfort cuisine.

Hello stranger…

bwdesert0808000011

It’s been a long time.

There’s a huge gap between posts in here, and there are a lot of reasons for that. Primarily, this is set up as a travel blog, so I suppose my thinking has been if I can’t travel, there’s not much to blog about, right?

There’s been no opportunity to travel because of the extreme poverty I’ve gone through transitioning from a nursing career to freelance writing and work at home. I’m approaching almost two years of being (almost) nursing free and to say the road has been rocky is quite an understatement. I’ve gone through a couple of moves and find myself in Lexington, Kentucky, which has been an incredible surprise, in a good way.

I did briefly do some private duty nursing which is what brought me here, but as soon as I moved into my apartment, my private duty case ended. So I found myself in yet another new city struggling to make ends meet, even in my cheap apartment. There’s been no money for any kind of travel or hardly even eating out, which makes it kinda hard to work on a travel and foodie blog.

But in looking at the greater scheme of things, I’m coming to realize that travel is not simply moving from one place to another geographically. I’ve been on another kind of journey which is far more important than a weekend trip to the mountains or the ocean.

I’ve been on a quest to rediscover my true path of life and what it is that will make me happy. To get healthy again. To see if an old cynic like me can rediscover some sort of spiritual base, even if I’m no fan of organized religion.

In other words, midlife crisis is in full swing.

So even though my life is sorting itself out and I’m about to start making some trips again to write about travel proper, you can expect to see periodic blogs about the big picture. You know what I mean.

Plus those journeys are the kind that don’t require a lot of fancy photography, because on top of the insane bad luck I’ve experienced for almost a year, my camera is currently semi-out of commission with a 50 mm lens stuck on it that won’t come off. Not a lot of options in the photography department with a fixed 50 mm lens stuck on.

I’ll start writing up some dream destinations and reviewing restaurants, so this blog can finally get going again while I pursue… whatever it is I figure out I want in life. They say that all who wander are not lost, but I have to confess I’ve been more lost than wandering for the last year.

You probably know what I’m talking about.

So here we go again trying to relaunch what is really my favorite blog that sort of encompasses all the things I love. This is by far the most personal blog I write. I realize nobody’s reading this as nobody’s reading the blog right now, but if there’s anything I’ve learned after a year of writing professionally, sometimes you just have to sit down and write that shit out. In fact, that’s the only way to do it, and write your way through it.

Pork and (vanilla) beans: Sonic’s peanut butter and bacon shake

sonicshake

Note how non-nonchalantly Dexter sits near that Sonic milkshake, pretending he doesn’t see that dreamy, creamy, milky goodness. And hoping mother will buy his act and walk away… just give him a few seconds.

Don’t do it kitty. Don’t let Sonic make a good kitty go bad.

So, anyway, when I heard that one of Sonic’s official milkshake flavors this summer is Peanut Butter and Bacon — if you don’t believe me check their sign — I had flashbacks to the Dairy Queen’s of my youth, but mixed with a healthy dose of “Chopped” or “Iron Chef America. Because as Alton Brown always tells us, (altogether now), “Everything’s better with bacon!”

I don’t know about that Alton, but let’s find out.

I have to say I was a bit disappointed in the shake. While the peanut butter came through loud and clear, the bacon… not so much. Except for a few crunchy chunks at the bottom, I didn’t really taste it at all. But maybe the Sonic workers went easy on it, as they seemed to think I had lost my damn mind ordering that thing.

The bacon didn’t make it better, but it didn’t make it worse, either. And I know at least one taste-tester who definitely gave it his stamp of approval, proclaiming it “Whisker lickin’ good!”

PBBaconShake11

whiskerlickin

O’Brien’s Pub and Grill: Ouray, Colorado

OurayRidgewayJan2013_010LG

Shepherd’s Pie, anyone? O’Brien’s Pub serves it up with some healthy veggies and salad if you like.

I love casual bars and dining, and especially a good Irish pub. Fortunately, I don’t seem to be alone, so you can find them in even remote places, like Ouray, Colorado. In this case, O’Brien’s Pub and Grill, right on the main drag in Ouray, with lots of wood, mirrors and good Irish whiskey. And, of course, some good Irish eatin’.

I popped into the pub on a weekday afternoon when it wouldn’t be too busy to satisfy a craving I had for some Irish food for weeks. I had first tried to check it out during their holiday off season, when many businesses have their breaks. But today I was going to score me some traditional Irish cuisine, and after debating over the Fish and Chips, Corned Beef and Cabbage, and Bangers and Mashed, I finally decided I was going to get me some Shepherd’s Pie or die trying. (Well, maybe not DIE trying, but it sounds good, right?)

Now calories and watching ones’ waistline is generally not a high priority if you walk into an Irish pub and grill, but I was glad the side dish served with it was a salad to compensate for the ridiculous calories I was going to consume. It’s sort of like having Diet Coke with your Big Mac… it cancels out the Big Mac calories… everyone knows this. But even the Shepherd’s Pie was actually lighter than I expected. More like a stew with some potatoes on top. I’m not sure that’s traditional, but it was a refreshing surprise. Now, I’m not naive enough to think it wasn’t loaded with stuff that’s bad for me, but hey, that’s the whole point of going to a bar — doing things that are bad for you. But delightful. The lamb was tender and aromatic. In fact, it caught the attention of the bartender who confessed he has never tried it, but he thought it looked and smelled pretty tasty and liked the fact it seemed more like a soup and salad dish than a huge stuff-till-you-burst entree.

Since I was so good and had a salad with my Shepherd’s Pie, well, I had to have dessert. DUH! So I had the warm bread pudding with whiskey sauce. Oh, it was so good on a snowy day. Or any day, but especially with a chill in the air and snow on the ground.

Now, most people expect to read about the Guinness at an Irish pub. I must confess, I haven’t developed a taste for it yet, but I suspect I just had a cheap version when I tried it.  So I did not partake of the Guinness, but… I do love my Irish whiskey. Bushmill’s Irish Whiskey, to be precise. O’Brien’s takes it’s patrons on whiskey flights if they choose, where they get four different shots of whiskey to sample.  For instance, the Middleton Distillery Flight where you get one shot each of Powers Irish Whiskey, Paddy Old Irish Whiskey, Tullamore Dew and Redbreast Aged 12 Years for the bargain price of $13 at the time of this writing.

You can also opt for a Cooley Distillery Flight, or  John Jameson Flight, but my choice on this one was a no-brainer: bring on the Bushmill’s Flight, bitches! For a mere $24 I had a shot of Bushmill’s, Bushmill’s Black, Bushmill’s 16 Year Old, and Bushmill’s 21 Year Old. Now that’s good drinkin’ y’all. You can add a pint for $3.00, but I decided I wanted to remain upright and be able to sober up for the drive back to my hotel later.

This place would be deadly on an overnighter.

Check back in for more articles on Ouray, which is one of the coolest towns I’ve ever visited, and it’s nearby neighbor Ridgeway. These are real gems off the beaten path in Colorado, along with Silverton and Durango. The best of Colorado in this old girl’s opinion, and that’s saying a lot. (I still have some photos of Ouray and Ridgeway as well as one more restaurant review coming. I need to get back to cover more, as I LOVE Ouray!)

Travel in style with Rustico Leather

Rustico021

I love the nostalgia of a good  leather journal, and nothing makes a classier way to preserve memories of your travels. Don’t you love the way that leather ages with use, taking on that beautiful distressed look? Well, I can’t wait to see how this beautiful leather journal from Rustico Leather looks in a few years, because it’s beautiful even now.

The Traveler Leather Journal comes in a deep, rich, brown leather with a tie closure. The cover is sturdy enough to hold its shape, but soft enough to feel good to the touch as well. And when you open it up, filled with unlined pages made from a heavy cream-colored stock, with rough edges. So if you’re one of those people who loves to sketch things, this is a great journal where you can mix sketches and words together in one package. There are beautiful patterned end papers in a teal and brown color.

Oh, that leather smell — it’s been sitting on my desk for a few days and my whole office smells of leather. Excuse me for a few moments while I take another deep inhale of premium leather.

Anyway, the journal is the star in the writers’ set I received, and is so nice I’m reluctant to write in it. It’s something I definitely want to save for a special trip.

Rustico03 Travel in style with Rustico Leather
But I also received a passport cover in a slightly warmer shade of leather, with subtle “PASSPORT” embossing on the cover.  The passport cover is machine-stitched and sturdy leather to do the job of protecting your precious documents.

The third item in my set was a sturdy leather luggage tag. The luggage tag is, well, a luggage tag, so it’s not exactly designed to set the world on fire, but this one gets the job done. It’s sturdy, although instead of leather on the backside, it’s a wool type material.

They also make some beautiful leather satchels I would love to try out some day. the designs are very simple and not girly, but I know I actually prefer that style as I’m sure many others do as well.

I am a participating Influencer at The Entertainment New Media Network. I have received free product for review to facilitate this post. I was not compensated for this review and all expressed opinions are strictly my own.