Don’t Let the Weather Get You Down

When you have spent so much time and money planning a trip, it is always disappointing when the weather doesn’t cooperate and it either rains or snows so that you can’t see how truly beautiful a place is. Everyone wants those travel photos with the clear blue skies and the sun shining brightly on the statues and buildings. Unfortunately, Mother Nature has a mind of her own. We always try to check out the weather trends for a location before we go so that we know when it might be a rainy season and then try to avoid those times. Even so, it is important to make sure that you try to be as flexible as possible and plan some indoor activities such as museums or tours of a palace. During our time in Germany, we had many rainy weekends, so in the end, we just made the most of the time that we had and decided not to complain about something that we couldn’t control. In some ways, photos of a rainy day can be more interesting than those on a sunny day. These are some pictures of our trip to Paris when it rained almost the entire time, but thankfully it wasn’t our first trip to that wonderful city.


Walking in the Rain


Car Lights Reflecting on the Street


Wet Cars and the Arc de Triumph


Eternal Flame Resisting the Rain


Eiffel Tower Shrouded in Rain Clouds


Rainy Intersection


Modern Paris in the Rain


Storm Clouds over the Eiffel Tower


People Walking in the Rain


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Fettuccine with Pork and Spinach

Needless to say, there are hundreds of restaurants in New York, many of them Italian. Many, if not most, of them serve wonderful food from family recipes that they brought with them from the Old World. During our stay in Manhattan, we came across one of these small, family owned and run, restaurants and stopped there for lunch as we walked the streets of the city. We ended up trying a couple of their daily specials, one ravioli and the other fettuccine. Both of them were wonderful, but we especially liked the fettuccine as it was different than most pasta dishes that we have had. In our attempt to replicate it, we had little to go on other than the picture that we took during our meal, but it turned out to be delicious as well as very simple to prepare. As is often the case, simple dishes with only a few ingredients can often be some of the best.


Fettuccine in New York


  • 1 lb Fresh Fettuccine
  • 1 lb Baby Spinach
  • 1 lb Ground Pork – unseasoned
  • 2 tbsp Italian Seasoning
  • 1 tbsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tbsp Red Pepper Flakes – more or less depending on how spicy you would like it
  • 1/2 cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • 4 tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • 6 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


Be sure to use plain ground pork and not a seasoned pork sausage. In a large bowl, combine the pork, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, red peppers, salt and pepper and be sure to incorporate the spices throughout the meat. It is best to work the meat and spices with your hands as you would if you were going to make meatballs. Set the pork aside for about 30 minutes to let the seasonings infuse the meat and allow the meat to come to room temperature. Heat a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil to medium-high heat. Add the pork, breaking it up into rough bite size chunks as it browns. Sauté the pork until it is fully cooked and slightly browned, about 10 minutes while stirring frequently. Remove the pork, leaving as much of the oil and fat, and set aside on a plate with a paper towel to drain. Add the baby spinach in batches and heat until it is wilted and soft. The spinach will reduce to about 1/4th as it wilts. Once all of the spinach has been cooked, reduce the heat to low and combine the pork and spinach. Cook the fettuccine according to the package directions, being sure to reserve about a cup of the pasta water. In a large bowl, combine the butter and the fettuccine and mix thoroughly until the pasta is coated. Combine the pork, spinach, and pasta water and toss gently together. Divide onto plates and shred the parmesan cheese over top and serve.


Browning the Pork


Wilt the Spinach


Our Version of the Fettuccine with Pork and Spinach


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Walking the Streets of Paris

Living The Q Life

At the time that we visited Paris, there was a transit strike occurring, which limited the availability of buses and trains.  So, when we arrived early in the morning on our first day in Paris, we went to our hotel, which was really more of a bed and breakfast, checked our bags and headed out into the city, determined to make the most of our first day.  We were staying on the famous left bank in the Latin Quarter, just a few blocks from Notre Dame.  We had heard before we arrived that the strike was occurring, so we knew that transportation was going to be limited.  Undaunted, we decided that we would simply walk to the places that we wanted to see.

Houses in Neighborhood Houses in Neighborhood

View from the Eiffel Tower View from the Eiffel Tower

Our Room in Paris Our Room in Paris

Our first stop, the Eiffel Tower.  Along the way, we walked along the Seine River…

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Staying in an Eco Lodge

Eco lodges are environmentally friendly places to stay and we have had the opportunity to stay in two different ones, both in South America. Since both of these were in isolated locations in the jungle, there were practical reasons for being self-sufficient other than just reducing their impact to the earth. Whether it is through the use of solar panels, rain water collection systems, or wastewater treatment systems, these lodges make sure that they make the most efficient use of every consumable resource. As eco tourism grows in popularity, these lodges will likely spread to more places than just remote locations like the Amazon jungle.


Napo Wildlife Center in Ecuador


Eco Lodge Room in Bolivia


Sunset from the Eco Lodge in Ecuador


Restaurant in the Napo Wildlife Center

Just because a lodge is eco friendly doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice all luxury though. There is usually electricity and internet connectivity, although it may not work all of the time. There is also hot water, although we have had mixed results as to how hot or how long it stays hot, but it is good enough. They also have full service kitchens and we had wonderful meals in both of the lodges that we stayed at. Considering how long our days were in the jungle and how tired we were, having any hot meal was a welcome end to the day. And for those of us who like to unwind with a glass of wine at the end of the day, they also offer a limited bar selection.


Grounds of the Eco Lodge in Bolivia with the Rain Barrel


Room in the Lodge in Ecuador


View from the Top of the Lodge Deck in Ecuador


Front Porch of our Hut in Ecuador

What you gain by staying in these remote locations is a level of serenity that you just don’t find in too many places these days. Instead of hearing the sounds of cars, televisions, or even other people for the most part, you are rewarded with the true sounds of nature. As the lights go out, it is a darkness that you can usually only imagine. Especially at night, you quickly realize that you are just a guest in the homes of the wildlife that surround you. The animals will wander through the manicured landscape with little regard to the fact that you are sleeping inside of the huts on the grounds. Since the lodges are open, you need to be aware that you might share your bedroom with all sorts of bugs and spiders, but that is just part of the experience.


Standing on the Porch in Bolivia


Relaxation Deck at the Lodge in Ecuador


Large Caiman by the Lodge in Ecuador


Keeping the Bugs Out

Staying in an eco lodge is not only a wonderful experience, but one that will make you feel good about yourself for not impacting the environment. We wish that we would have had time to just sit on the porch of our huts and just relax while watching all of the nature that surrounded us, but we were there to explore the amazing environment. If you have never stayed at an eco lodge, we would highly recommend that at some point you take the opportunity to do so. It is an experience that you will treasure forever and might even enjoy more than staying at a five-star resort.


Arriving Back to the Lodge at Dusk


Lodge with Rain Barrel in Bolivia


Standing on the Shore of the Lake


Decorations in the Main Lodge


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Travel is not Always Easy

We, like many of you, spend a lot of our time thinking about and planning our next trip. Unfortunately, here in the United States, it isn’t as easy to get to places as it is in some other parts of the world. It is even worse when you live in the middle of the country as we do because we can’t even jump in a car and head to another state without it taking at least eight hours. It certainly isn’t the same as our time living in Frankfurt when we could decide to go someplace on Wednesday and spend three or four days visiting another country with a short two or three hour train or plane ride. As we finalize arrangement for our next trip, it is likely that we will spend around twenty hours in the air before we reach our destination. Taking that amount of time just to reach a destination makes it hard to explore as much as we would like. Obviously, just being in Europe doesn’t mean that suddenly you can go wherever you want, whenever you want, but it does make it a little easier. We have been reminiscing a lot lately about our time in Frankfurt and there are days when we miss it terribly.


Looking down the River Main in Frankfurt


The Roof of the Old Opera House


Buildings in Old Town along the River


Statue in Frankfurt


Old Town Plaza in Frankfurt


Church in Frankfurt


Apartment Buildings on Our Street in Frankfurt


Unique Entrance to a Building


Ratskeller in Old Town


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Spicy Southwest Mac and Cheese

One of the meals that we ate when we were in Scottsdale, Arizona, was a spicy mac and cheese with sausage and red peppers. It was a nice change of pace from traditional mac and cheese, so we decided to try and replicate the recipe ourselves. Making homemade macaroni and cheese isn’t very difficult and tastes better than anything that you can get out of a box, but we rarely take the time to do it. Fortunately, it is easy to find seasoned varieties of sausage in the grocery store these days, so we didn’t have to go to the trouble of making our own sausage. We found a nice Cajun spiced andouille sausage that paired nicely with the chipotle chili. One nice thing about a recipe like this is that you can easily modify it to feed a larger crowd or reduce it for a meal for one or two. We decided to cook ours in individual crock bowls, but cooking it in a casserole dish would certainly be ideal as well. You can also use different types of pasta for the dish, but we used a Cellentani noodle as it has ridges to help hold the cheese. This is definitely a recipe that we would do again in the future.


Picante Macaroni and Cheese with Sausage in Scottsdale


  • 4 cups of Cellentani Noodles (or elbow macaroni)
  • 2 tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • 4 cups Milk
  • 1 Red Pepper – sliced into strips
  • 2 Links of Andouille Sausage – cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tbsp Garlic Powder
  • 2 tbsp Chipotle Chili Powder (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp Dry Mustard
  • 2 tbsp All-Purpose Flour
  • 3 1/2 cups Four Cheese Blend
  • 1/2 cup Panko Bread Crumbs
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Sausage and Red Peppers


Cook the pasta according to the directions, drain and set aside. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil, red pepper, and sausage. Even though the sausage is already cooked, frying it will caramelize it and add more flavor. Cook the sausage and pepper for about 5 to 7 minutes until the sausage is browned and the pepper is soft. In a large sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat and then whisk in the flour to make a roux. Be sure not to let the roux start to brown. Heat 2 cups of the milk in a microwave for 90 seconds and then slowly whisk it into the roux, making sure to whisk out any lumps. Turn the heat up to medium-high. Microwave the rest of the milk for 90 seconds and then whisk that into the rest of the milk mixture. Add the chipotle powder, mustard, garlic powder, salt and pepper, ensuring to mix thoroughly. Add 3 cups of the cheese, whisking until it is smooth and creamy. Stir in the pasta, sausage, and peppers until the pasta is completely coated with the cheese sauce. Spoon 1/4 of the pasta into 4 oven proof bowls that have been sprayed with a non-stick spray (or transfer to a medium casserole dish). Top with the remaining cheese and bread crumbs and bake in an oven at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Serves 4.


Whisking Cheese Sauce


Pasta, Sausage, Peppers, and Cheese Sauce


Individual Serving before Topping with Cheese and Bread Crumbs


Enjoy a Creamy Dish of Mac and Cheese


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Dusk in the Rainforest

The time just before or after the sun sets or rises is known in photography as the golden hour. It has this almost magical quality where things glow slightly and take on a different appearance from how they are viewed when in full sunlight. In the rainforest, it has another effect as the temperature cools and the dense moisture creates clouds that slowly descend onto the canopy of the jungle. When we were driving back to Cochabamba from our stay in the Amazon, we were fascinated by the combination of the sunset in the clouds overhead while the clouds of the rainforest were below us. We captured as many pictures from our moving van as we could. We always enjoy taking photos of sunsets, but this particular sunset will always have a special place in our memories. Have you ever seen a sunset while a passenger in a vehicle that was so amazing that you just had to try and capture it?


Heavy Clouds over the Rainforest


Sunset in the Distance


Heading into the Mountains


Clouds Above and Below


Fascinating Sunset


After the Sun has Set


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Brasov, Romania – Charming Town in the Carpathian Mountains

When visiting Transylvania in Romania, Brasov is the perfect city to stay while touring the surrounding area. It is only a few hours by train from the capital of Bucharest and the people are friendly, there are plenty of local restaurants, and the town has a few wonderful sightseeing options. Although we visited in the winter, it is perfect place to go during the summer when you can go hiking in the surrounding mountains. One of our favorite things about Brasov is the unique architecture that you can find throughout the historic city. Whether it is the town hall, the Black Church, the White Tower, or Saint Nicholas Church, it is almost as if you can find a different architectural style around every corner.


Historic Area with Saint Nicholas Church


One of the Historic Churches


Town Square with the Black Church in the Distance


Town Hall

The hotel that we stayed at during our visit was located right in the central square where the town hall is located. We arrived just shortly after Christmas and the market had just ended, but the large tree in the square was still lit at night creating an almost magical atmosphere. The Biserica Neagră, or Black Church, dominates the skyline of the town and is definitely not your typical gothic cathedral. Built in the 14th century by the German community that lived in the area at the time, it is one of the largest churches in the country. Most striking is the bell tower with colorful clocks on two of its sides.


Bell Tower of the Black Church


Black Church


Christmas Tree at Night


Church Looming over the Town

To see some truly interesting architecture, you should definitely go to Catherine’s Gate and Saint Nicholas Church. Catherine’s Gate was built as part of the town’s fortification in 1559 after the original gate was destroyed by a flood in 1529. It is named after a monastery that existed in the area and is one of the many medieval structures that still exist in Brasov today. Although not as large as the Black Church, Saint Nicholas Church is truly fascinating to see. Built in the 15th century and then later decorated in the Baroque style, it looks as if it could have come directly out of a fairy tale.


Saint Nicholas Church


Catherine’s Gate


Saint Nicholas Church Tower


Courtyard near Saint Nicholas

In addition to enjoying the charm of Brasov, there are plenty of things to do in the surrounding area. From Bran Castle, which is reportedly associated with Vlad the Impaler, to the Church Fortifications, and the mountain resorts with skiing and hiking, Brasov is the perfect location to use to explore Transylvania. Be sure to go to a local restaurant and enjoy some of the cabbage rolls that the region is known for. Our time in Brasov was definitely the highlight of our trip to Romania.


Medieval Architecture


White Tower above Brasov


Restaurants in the Courtyard


Downtown Brasov


Cabbage Rolls


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Top Five Things to Do in Dublin, Ireland

Dublin is definitely one of the friendliest cities that we have visited and there are several things that you should do if you decide to visit. There are certainly more than five things to do in Dublin, but these were some of the ones that we found particularly interesting. As with most places that we visit, one key is not to put yourself on a tight schedule. If you take the time to sit and talk to the locals, you will enjoy the experience even more. In fact, there is even a tour company that is called ToursByLocals, which uses locals to show you around their wonderful country and give you their local perspective. We didn’t use them to tour Dublin itself, but we did use them on our tours outside of the city. In no particular order, here are some of our favorite things to do in Dublin.


Enjoying Dublin

  1. Temple Bar District and the Viking Medieval Area – These two areas sit adjacent to one another in the heart of Dublin along the River Liffy. Our hotel was directly across the river from these areas and we enjoyed spending time walking these narrow historic streets. To be clear, there is a specific bar called Temple Bar, but we are referring to the general area that is considered the Temple Bar District. If you are wanting to do some souvenir shopping or listen to authentic Irish folk music, then this area is the place for you. If you decide to go at night, expect it to be very crowded as the area is quite popular and the bars can get very rowdy.

    Temple Bar


    Historic Church


    Streets of Temple Bar District

  2. Christ Church – This is the oldest medieval cathedral in Dublin and is certainly worth taking the time to visit. The exterior of the church is quite stunning and there are several features such as the statue of the Sleeping Jesus on a bench as well as the Armenian Genocide Memorial. The real highlight of touring the inside of the church is going to the tombs in the basement. Some of them are quite interesting, but the mummified cat and rat that were found together in one of the organ pipes is actually a little creepy.

    Christ Church


    Inside of the Cathedral


    Armenian Genocide Memorial

  3. Trinity College, the Book of Kells, and the Old Library – Although you can schedule your time to see a page turned in the Book of Kells, we just visited during another time of the day as we weren’t that interested in the ceremonial act. The book is fascinating to see, but we enjoyed the library even more. The end of each of the stacks of books has a bust of famous philosophers or other person of historical significance. Not only is it beautiful, but it is a working library for the students of the university. Even if you don’t decide to pay to tour the library and Book of Kells, the campus grounds are well worth taking the time to wander.

    On the Campus of Trinity College


    Aristotle Bust


    The Old Library

  4. Kilmainham Gaol – This prison turned museum is famous for having housed the prisoners of the Irish rebellions. Because of its distinct architecture in the general prison ward, it has also served as the set for several famous movies. It is important to understand that the prison is more of a symbol of national pride than anything else and taking the tour is about learning about the uprisings and the people who led them. The tours sell out well in advance, so be sure to buy tickets ahead of time if you are planning on visiting.

    Distinctive Prison


    Inside of the Prison Walls


    Prison Hallway

  5. Create Your Own Pub Crawl – If you are going to go to Dublin, you are going to have plenty of opportunities to sample alcohol. It isn’t just about the pubs, though. There is also the Guinness Storehouse where you can get a perfectly poured pint, the Irish Whiskey Museum where you can get a delicious Irish Coffee or simply sample some local whiskies, and the Teeling Whiskey Distillery. Any pub crawl has to include The Brazen Head, which is the oldest pub in Ireland and is also a restaurant serving traditional Irish food. We enjoyed sitting by the fireplace, having a couple of beers and talking about the wonderful time that we were having in Dublin. There are also a couple of unique pubs, such as a converted bank and a converted church that has a self-guided tour of the remaining church features.

    Inside of the Brazen Head


    Ceiling of the Converted Bank


    Converted Church

Like many cities, Dublin also has a Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour that is actually quite good and is an excellent way to see the sites around the city. As it can rain quite often in Dublin, it also provides a convenient way to get around while still staying dry. Dublin is such a wonderful city with so much to see, but these were some of the things that we truly enjoyed. Whatever you do, though, don’t just stay in the city. The countryside of Ireland, with its unforgettably green grass and herds of sheep, will let you know why it is called the Emerald Isle.


Sleeping Jesus


Tomb in Christ Church


Statue at Trinity College


Mummified Cat and Rat from the 1860’S


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Creating a Photo Diary

Almost everyone takes photographs when they are traveling, but there is a difference between taking photographs at each location that you visit and capturing the experience as a whole. If you take photographs as you walk around a city and capture the entire experience, it almost becomes its own visual diary. You can look back at those pictures and literally remember walking from one site to another. For example, when we were in Lima, Peru, we were so amazed by some of the architecture that we took photos as we walked the streets and as we look back now, we can almost relive that afternoon. You can almost feel the warmth of the sun, feel the nervousness as we passed by the police with riot gear, or hear the children laughing as they played in the plaza by the fountain. We also take videos occasionally to capture the sights and sounds, but we don’t always go back and look at them as we often do with our photographs. Do you create a photo diary that documents the moments of your entire trip or do you just take photos at each of the important places that you visit?


Walking Around Lima


Taking a Break from Selling


First Glimpse of the Police


Walking By


After Turning the Corner


Didn’t Even Notice Us


Interesting Architecture


Another View of the Windows


Fountain in the Plaza




Pigeons Avoiding the Sun


Cooling Off in the Fountain


Back to the Streets


Tiny Balconies


Checking Out a Store


Another View of the Store


Another Plaza and Time for a Break


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