August 2007

Once again I’m having fun reviewing the search terms that bring folks to this blog.  The lamb spiedini thing keeps popping up; guess I’ll have to do some additional research when time permits. 

 Yesterday, someone dropped by the blog, apparently looking for good restaurants in Gaeta, Italy.  I have to be honest; I ate a lot of restaurant meals in Italy (and have the waistline to prove it), but my favorites weren’t in Gaeta.  Nevertheless, there are a few places we ate at pretty regularly, and here they are:

 Calpurnio, in old Gaeta, Vico Castani, 4.  This restaurant is a wonderful summer evening stop because they have dozens of outdoor tables, with shading.  Their pizzas are excellent.  They also serve good seafood pasta.  Their menu looks the same all year ’round, but you may find that some dishes aren’t available because they’re out of season, or because…it’s Italy, and that’s how things work.  All menu items aren’t necessarily available all the time.

Flamingo, in Hotel Flamingo, on the corner of Corso Italia and Via Bologna.  Another great summertime stop.  Excellent pizzas.  You don’t have to be a hotel guest to drop by for a pizza.  Spinning (stationary bike) classes are offered some evenings and contribute loud music to the atmosphere.

Atratino.  Via Atratina, 141.  Atratino serves Gaeta’s best lasagne.  Service is attentive and many waiters speak English.  Quality is uniform, and the staff is accustomed to large groups and families.

Now I’m hungry.

Walk off your dinner!  Get inspired by reading my newest travel Hub, Explore Baltimore’s Waterfront Promenade.


I’m off to the airport to pick up my husband, who’s coming home after nearly a month away.  This is the kind of errand I like to do!

My latest travel hub is on Indiana’s Conner Prairie.  Click here to read it.

We’ve all seen them.  The men and women holding up hand-lettered signs, saying, “Homeless – need help.”  We look away or hand them a dollar.  We wonder if they are really homeless or if they’re pulling a scam.

Yesterday, my son came home from attending Mass at a friend’s church with an aluminum pan and a recipe.  In our area, churches participate in several cooperative programs to help the homeless.  One is cooking for Our Daily Bread, a Catholic Charities outreach program in Baltimore.  Each church has several days during the month where church members cook and serve pre-made casseroles at ODB’s facility downtown.  Of course, someone has to make and freeze all that food, and that’s where the aluminum pan comes into the story.

My daughter helped me shop and cook for two pans’ worth of hot dog casserole.  It was easy for her to slice up the hot dogs, mix spices and beans and soup, and help with cleanup.  As we cooked, we talked about whether homeless people really like hot dog casserole or chicken and broccoli casserole (the dish we usually cook during our parish’s ODB weeks).  I’m guessing that they do.

We had the chance to see the ODB building last November when we went to Mass at the Baltimore Basilica.  ODB’s building is right next door.  Long before the doors were scheduled to open, homeless people were lining up for that hot meal.  It was a cold November day, and I’m sure it wasn’t a comfortable wait.  Suddenly, the chicken and broccoli casserole connected with faces, with people who were too cold to return my smile, with people just like me who somehow ended up on the streets.

So, next time you see one of those signs, you still might not want to pass money out your window.  Don’t worry – there is something else you can do.  Find out who’s feeding the homeless, and give them some help.

This was an unusual summer for me.  For the first time in four years, I put my son on an airplane and let him take his own trip, without benefit of parent.  He went west to visit his grandparents and learn some cool woodworking skills from Grandpa.  His room was dark and empty; even the cats looked sad as they slunk past the doorway.  After that trip, we had a couple of weeks of family time.  I then left both of my kids with friends and came home with my husband; my daughter had never spent more than one night away from home before.  About a week after the kids came home, my son headed off to Scout camp.

They come by wanderlust honestly.  My exchange experiences in high school changed me forever, and I certainly want my children to have travel adventures and to create memories they can reflect on forever.  Of course, not everything goes according to plan (we have lost sweatshirts and library books to deal with, not to mention the general post-travel disorder), but that’s part of the learning process, part of why travel matters.

As I type, cat on lap, I’m  glad my children have loving family on both coasts, thankful for all the opportunities they have to learn about the world at its best and worst.  No portable DVD player can give them the gifts of open-mindedness and flexibility.  That’s what travel is for.

My new travel Hub can be found at: Indianapolis’ Top 4 Kid-Friendly Attractions.

XLErator hand dryerOn my recent Indiana roadtrip, I had occasion to stop at a few state-sponsored rest stops.  I was pleased to see my favorite electrically-powered hand dryer, the XLerator, installed in one of the rest stops we visited.  If you haven’t encountered this amazing device, you’re missing out.  It can dry your hands in about fifteen seconds.  It literally pushes your skin around with its turbo-charged blast of air.

I have to admit, the first time I encountered one of these devices, I laughed so hard I couldn’t keep my hands in the drying zone.  The XLerator is LOUD.  I’m now used to the rocket-launch sound effects and appreciate the quick drying time.

Cool rest stop technology.  Who knew?

This is not a road trip week.  I’m working hard on lots of writing projects, hoping to earn money for a future road trip or ten, so postings will be infrequent.  The only road time I’ve had in the last couple of days has involved retrieving children or groceries.  The fall activity schedule is cranking up, so I’ll be out and about with the kids before it’s really fall.

We do have some day trips planned for the near future.  Weather permitting, we plan to hit St. Mary’s City for the first time and to check out the Claude Moore Farm.  Maybe I’ll learn why my zucchini wouldn’t prosper.

My latest travel hub is about free concerts in Washington, D. C.

On road trips with my children, I usually stop at the same old fast food places.  I know good stopping places in Cambridge, Zanesville and Columbus, Ohio.  On the Indiana-to-home run, I tend to stop in Morgantown (voted #1 party university location again this year) and in Cambridge, Maryland.

This trip, we actually tried something new.  Our Indiana friend, Shawn, worked at Steak & Shake during his college years.  He took my son to a Steak & Shake, and now we’re hooked.  The shakes involve real ice cream and real maraschino cherries – worth big points, if you ask my children. Steak & Shake offers chicken sandwiches, even a chicken melt, which helps the Anti-Beef Parental Units (that’s me).  Kids’ meals involve food, not silly toys.  I’m onboard.

When we drive on weekdays, we also enjoy sampling lunch buffets – nearly every strip mall has a Chinese restaurant, and there’s always Pizza Hut – instead of relying on All Things Clown and King.  We can eat endless pizza for the same price as a clowny drive-through meal.  We sit together and stretch our legs.  It’s time well spent, and money well invested.

I’m not much of a picnic person (my ideal picnic involves my personal baguette, knife and jar of Nutella), but picnics can create great road trip memories.  I’ll never forget the leftover lamb spiedini sandwiches my daughter’s godfather, Gene, slapped together, complete with Greek yogurt sauce, on the side of an Italian state road.  We ate alongside a sparkling stream, then tossed our trash into a bag (no trash can…we were in Italy) and watched the children run around on the grass. 

It’s always good to try new road food.  I’m sure I’ll be back at Steak & Shake, come November.  Meanwhile, I’ll dream of lamb cubes and Italian riverside parks.

If you’re planning a trip to Baltimore, check out my newest Hub:  Baltimore’s Best Kid-Friendly Attractions.

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