Moms & Daughters

enjoying a beautiful summer night at the Chens!




Venice for a day

After a few days in Florence we headed up to Bologna and on the way realized that since Bologna isn’t really a tourist destination that things would likely be mostly closed up on Sunday.  At this point Mark had the idea that “hey, we could go to Venice” and what the heck, it’s only an hour or so away on the high speed train, so we bought the tickets for Sunday morning and the next thing you know there we were.


Trying to avoid the massive line at the queue for ferry tickets we walked across the nearest bridge and found a less crowded ferry dock, bought our tickets and headed out for St. Marks Square.  Rather than taking the more traditional route on the Grand Canal we went around the outside island over by the cruise ship docks which took awhile and was more than a little cold but the view was nice as we rolled along so to speak.

ven01Arriving at St. Marks square we needed a warm up and in a fruitless attempt to entice the sun to come out we sat down at one of the outdoor cafe’s for a cappuccino.  You would have thought of the €25 price tag for three coffee’s it would be the best coffee ever, but sadly it was inferior to the same product that we paid €1 for at the market in Florence.  The views not bad though.


Leaving St. Marks we headed off down the waterfront along the canal in search of a place Mark had found for lunch thanks to No Reservations.  We found Al Covo on a little side street a few canals past the main drag.  In retrospect it would have been easy to miss it and end up a cookie cutter type place, so glad we didn’t this was by far the best meal of the trip up until today (more on that in a future post) *Credit to Mark for the photo below*

al covo

We didn’t have a reservation for their one and only lunch seating so we were camped out and waiting when they opened the doors at 12:45 for lunch and as luck would have it found a table.  They offer a couple variations on a pre-fixe menu for lunch time; one gives you the full run of the menu and the lesser expensive one is more limited.  Mark and I went big while Dad ordered the smaller menu and had an excellent pea soup and a hamburger, which was good and completely random for a place so well known for seafood.

The amuse course came out first, a simple preparation of warm creamy polenta topped with their first crush olive oil, Parmigianino and a little pepper.  Creamy, salty, warm and so simple — a great example of how simple ingredients can shine.


For my starter I had the Adriatic Shrimp Scampi “Crudo” AKA raw shrimp which were super fresh and very simply dressed with their house made olive oil, a little bit of chive, salt and pepper.  Simple and delicious, that plate vanished rapidly as I tore the tails off the shrimp and ate them on the provided crostini which provided some nice contrasting flavors and textures.


Mark started off with a pretty amazing plate of Fruits de mare; shrimp, razor clams, cockles, lobster, calamari, prawns all super fresh, sweet and delicious.

al covo2

For the main course I had a braised lamb and Mark had Soft Shell Crabs that were just coming into season.  Though we were totally stuffed the pre-fixe did include dessert so I had a 100% Cacao cake with spicy chocolate sauce.  Just as good as it looks.



Now we really needed to walk it off so we left the restaurant took a few random turns and “got lost” wandering around the city for the next couple hours.


Eventually we made our way back to the train station, it was really weird walking through that part of town between the grand canal and the train, almost like the city was abandoned.  I came across this bridge being guarded by guess what:


That’s about it for Venice and I really enjoyed our day there, not sure I’d feel the same way if I stayed there especially during the high season but to each there own.  We caught the train back to Bologna and arrived home around 8:30 having spent a really long day out in the cold and immediately passed out since we had an early wake up the next day.

Before I go, I think it’s probably obligatory to post a picture of a gondola and a canal so here it is.



How to escape the tourists (Florence Day 3)

Getting away from the massive crowds was proving to be challenge especially while staying so close to the center of town but we found a place that for whatever reason was pretty much free of the crowds, the Central Market or Mercato Centrale is right up the street and full of great produce, butchers, fish mongers, bakeries, deli and lots of options for coffee or a bite to eat.   Cappuccino for the three of us is only 3 Euros and strong enough to make your hands shake, awesome.

WP_20130314_004 Since were in the market and dinner the night before had honestly been a disappointment of an under seasoned and over cooked, over sauced mess we thought we may as well buy some stuff and cook it ourselves since this was our last night in Florence.

After a few laps, some biscotti and another espresso we decided on some antipasti, pasta and then some sausages to wrap up dinner.  The hardest part was really just limiting purchases; everything looked good and all of the vendors we talked to handed out samples of everything so it was a hard choice but in the end we got some cheese, antipasti, excellent salami and ham and locally made sausages from one of the butcher shops.

Before heading back home to drop off our purchases we stopped in for a quick bite of pasta and some rolls with salame and mortadella.

Next up dad wanted to go to the Galileo museum which was really interesting with all sorts of old instruments for charting the motion of stars and planets, ancient globes, a map from the 1200’s showing the world as flat and oddly enough Galileo’s thumb, index and middle fingers (creepy) and a tooth.  Not sure why these were kept but I’m sure there’s a reason there someplace.



With the shopping out of the way we walked back down to the other side of the river and found a quick sandwich and wandered around the less traveled neighborhoods then back across the river through the fancier part of downtown.  Lots of high end shops with very few customers but in an area surrounded by $500 a night hotels I’m sure they’re not really hurting.

Mark and I dropped dad off at the apartment and then headed back to the market for Olive oil, more espresso and then returned home and everyone just chilled out until it was time to work on dinner.


Florence day 2

Everyone dropped like a rock after our extended day of flying, standing around and going back and forth to find luggage but with Marks bag still MIA we headed back to the airport again first thing in the morning to find his bag.  Thankfully it had arrived so we grabbed it and headed back to the apartment then down to the square to find espresso and something to eat.

Ready to face the day we wandered down the street to Ponte Vecchio and across the river to see what might be over that way.

Ponte Vecchio

After wandering around for a while and stopping in a shop for some wine, salumi and tasting some 30 year old balsamic vinegar that was out of this world — syrupy, sweet, sour just amazing — we kept walking back up towards the apartment stopping along the way to check out some of the statues in the next square over.

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No that’s not the real David, it’s a replica which is free to see and unlike the one at the Academia, doesn’t have a line to wait in.  From there we headed to the main Market and found some lunch along with an endless line up of amazing looking meats, produce and more.  Afterwards we headed back to the apartment and everyone took a nap for a couple hours before walking up the street for dinner and hanging out up our deck.

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Luggage, taxis and airports (Day 1 in Florence)

Mark and I decided to take Dad on vacation for his birthday and Italy seemed like the obvious choice so today we find ourselves waking up in Florence after an exceedingly long day of travel topped off with the single most frustrating airport experience I’ve ever had.

The flight from Seattle to Amsterdam was fine, cramped for those of us (me) that are used to flying in business class for work but fine, and yes I’m totally spoiled.  The connection to Florence took us an hour to navigate to, but the plane left and we arrived in Florence mid-day.  This is when things took a drastic turn.  First the “where’s all the luggage” thoughts in my head, followed by the announcement “No more luggage from Amsterdam”.

What followed was three, yes three hours standing in line waiting to find out where our bags — actually every checked bag on our flight since none of them arrived — were located.  At long last we made it to the front of the line and were told the bags would be arriving from Rome later that night.  Rome?  But we were in Amsterdam, how are they in Rome?  Good question to which there was no answer.

So we headed into Florence and moved into our apartment which is a pretty great space up on the top floor of a building near the Duomo.  Hard to complain about the neighborhood even if the beds are a bit soft.


After a quick bite to eat (sadly nothing worth mentioning) Mark and I  headed back to the airport in search of the bags and left Dad reading a book.  At the airport we found the plane had just landed so we had to wait for awhile before hopefully collecting the bags.  Since we were approaching 24 hours without sleep an espresso seemed like a good idea, and as it turned out it was coffee day or something like that so the espresso was free.  Then the good news, my bag showed up!  Not so good, Marks was “supposed to be here, but maybe they just didn’t put it on the plane”.  So hopefully we’ll find that tomorrow morning.

Look who’s been married 40 years!

Tom & Bette, congrats!


to celebrate we all took them out to Cafe Juanita which I was excited to finally try.  There were a couple weird moments when they restaurant was out of items because they were closing for a few days (like baby lettuce – really?  there’s a Met Market up the street…), but overall I enjoyed everything I had.

To start we each got a cocktail that came with a savory bite – The girls all got the Prosecco with Parmigiano Reggiano:


BK got The Velluto with Castelvetrano Olives:


For appetizers, we shared the scallop special; Grilled Octopus with Fennel, Smoked Bone Marrow, Green Sauce and Chickpea Purée; and Spot Prawn and lardo Bruschetta with Butternut Squash Crema which was my favorite – though I do love octopus as well:


For first courses, most got the fancy caesar since they were put of butter lettuces:


Mark got risotto and I got the special soup which had little parmesan raviolis that melted in my mouth.   mmm:


For mains, all the girls got Goat Cheese Gnocchi with Lacinato Kale, Candied Pumpkin and Pomegranate:


BK got Fermin Iberico Pressa di Palota with Parsnip Crema, Brussels Sprouts, Moscato Pickled Apple:


and though we were all getting full, of course we got desserts! 



As the Mayan calendar was predicting the the end of the world in just a few days, we made sure to celebrate an even more important milestone:  Keith-O’s 75th birthday on 12-12-12.  We took him down to his favorite spot for a yummy dinner, Daniel’s on Leschi.  Happy Birthday Keith-O!





woo hoo, someone turned 40!  I kicked off birthday week with a delicious dinner Tuesday night at SC’s house with some girls from work – so much cheese!  Thursday was another work girls night out as we made our somewhat annual pilgrimmage to see the vampires – this final installment was so much more than I could have hoped for – there was so much to giggle at throughout the flick!

Friday brougth the official birthday and I had a grueling schedule:  blueberry pancakes at mom’s house, a facial at Napolitano, lunch at Agua Verde with SKEKKS, a massage at Banya 5, and then the annual Jones family holiday party which just happened to align with my b-day this year.  So much fun to see such an array of friends and family while being pampered in between!  This 40 thing is gonna be pretty good!

Yay, birthday pancakes.  Thanks mom!


BK is outta town so I had to find a new lunch date. Luckily he's a sun devil fan :-)




Saturday, we had a great craft show at the house followed by a visit from Eva & Bernard with baby Brandon – so cute!


Lastly, spent Sunday with mom shopping at Urban Craft Uprising and then seeing Elf which was pretty funny.

A great week of celebration (and another week to go! hee hee hee).  Thanks everyone for making it so special!

2 down, 63 to go?

I know, amazing right? to celebrate our 2nd anniversary we took the day off of work and lived the good life with coupons! First stop was Brave Horse tavern for 2-for-1 breakfast. I finally tried one of their pretzel-wiches which was pretty yummy.

Next stop was Motion Board shop to pick up a couple paddle sboard with our groupon and head to Greenlake – we’re starting to get better at this. I only fell in once – BK did awesome.

 After cleaning up at home, we then headed downtown and checked into the Alexis using our corporate rate, and we got upgraded to a huge suite – nice!  Our bathroom had a couch in it – and stairs up to the tub:

BK had also arranged for some flowers, aww shucks – and because the concierge had gone to the market to pick them up, I ended up with not one bouquet, but 4!  Flowers on the desk, flowers, by the bed, flowers in the bathroom, flowers on the table!


Capped off the evening with dinner at Met Grill thanks to some gift cards. We brought our bottle of wine from Lake Chelan that we bought last anniversary and enjoyed a delectable dinner: