How it Started

When I was 12, I found a blank ledger book. It was a treasure beyond treasure to me. I debated and debated about what to do with it - it had to be something special. Finally I decided to make a list of things I wanted to do and places I wanted to see in my life and then cross them off when I had accomplished them. At first they were simple things, but soon I was adding dramatic things, impossible things, but things still worth dreaming about. Oddly enough, putting them on the list somehow made them attainable. I have kept the book and updated the list my entire life. Here is the story behind some of the entries - successes and failures, embarrassing and proud moments, laughter and tears - the ridiculous to the sublime!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Visit Tillicum Indian Village - DID IT

Tillicum Village on Blake Island in the middle of Puget Sound isn't a real Indian Village, it's more of a reenactment of an Indian Village. Tillicum isn't a tribe, apparently it means "Welcome" in one of the tribal languages in the area. It is, however, a very popular destination that employs a number of Native Americans and does a thriving business on the Native-owned island.

To get there, you hop aboard an Argosy Cruise boat in Seattle at Pier 55. The boat cruises the waterfront with your native guide for a short tour, then heads across Elliott Bay.

When you arrive on the forested island, there is a fire burning to show you the way, plus a welcome song-and-drum serenade on the beach where you are served a steaming cup of clam nectar. You pick the tiny rock clams from the nectar, slurp them from their shells, then toss the shells onto the path where they are crushed underfoot forming a crunchy trail to the longhouse.

In the lodge you can watch your salmon cooking over the alder wood fire. Eventually the doors to the dining room open and after following a circuitous route through the gift shop, of course, you are treated to a fabulous buffet of bread, salads, seasonal roasted vegies - including fire-roasted corn, and the salmon you watched cooking earlier. Dessert is a fruit cobbler made with local berries. In keeping with native tribal customs, you eat in a longhouse-shaped building sharing your table with other guests, but that's where any similarity to an actual Native feast ends. Tables are set with linen cloths and very nice dinnerware, stemmed wine glasses and candles.

There is a professional caliber stage show that is more "Disney" than "Indian", but it's enjoyable for what it is. And, again, it employs a number of Native kids who seem to be enjoying their job. When the show is over, you will have a brief opportunity to wander around the island before your boat whisks you back to civilization as the sun sets.
While some locals might view the whole thing as a bit touristy, it's a Must-Do for visitors to Seattle and a great way to entertain out-of-town guests. Plus it's nice to have a classy, Native American revenue-producing venue that does not involve slot machines and blackjack tables! Tillicum Village is a much more organic experience. I'm not advertising it, but you can check out their website if you are interested in seeing it yourself -

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Drink Limoncello - DID IT

Limoncello is an intense lemon liqueur made famous on the fabulous Amalfi Coast where the millions of lemon trees supply a sufficient amount zest (the outer skin of the lemon) to keep the vats full. To ensure there is enough, they grow really fat lemons with lost of peel.  Oddly enough, the fruit inside that giant lemon is about the same size an any normal lemon, it's just the rind that's big. There are dozen of different kinds of lemons and each Limoncello connoisseur has their favorite.  Don't worry, the fruit doesn't go to waste, it is used to make the most amazing gelato and Italian ices - a sort of slushy/slurpy/snowcone.

This orchard is in the heart of downtown Sorrento, a beautiful Italian resort town on the Amalfi Coast just across the Bay from Naples.  The 300-yr-old lemon-orange-mandarin orchard is open to the public and you can wander through the 10-acre garden enveloped in the amazing fragrance.

There is nothing quite like sipping tiny samples of the best Limoncello in the world right in the orchard where it grew.  Although they are all referred to as Limoncello, there are lots of flavors; Lemon, Lime, Orange, Mandarin, Anise, Hazelnut, Licorice, Basil and more.  I love Basil in cooking, but the thought of it as a liqueur didn't really appeal to me, until I tried a tiny sip and it is WONDERFUL!  I think my favorite is the orange/lemon mix. 

Local recipes are closely guarded family secrets, but the basics are this:  Peel only the zest of the lemon, none of the white pith or your liqueur will be bitter (I use a potato peeler). Soak those peels in a potent, flavorless alcohol such as 100 proof vodka or Everclear.  Let it soak for a few weeks, strain out the peels, then stir in a simple sugar syrup, cork it and let it sit for a few more weeks. 
Then put it in the freezer until it's slushy.  Put your liqueur glasses in the freezer as well - everything has to be cold to be at its best. I've made several batches already and I'm not sure what happened, but they're gone!  Time to start another batch.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Wear a Vintage Dress to a Party - DID IT

I had always wanted to wear my vintage 1940 couture mink coat and muff somewhere.  I had a great hat to go with it, but I just didn't have the right dress or shoes until a friend, Dawn C., loaned me something from her amazing collection of vintage wear. Trying on dozens of wonderful outfits from her closet was almost as much fun as the party I wore the outfit to.  Sure the shoes were so uncomfortable that I ended up walking back to the car barefoot at the end of the evening and spent the next day nursing my bruised feet, but it was worth it. It was incredibly fun.  I even drew lines up the backs of my calves to look like seamed stockings.

The occasion was Alaska Airlines' 75th anniversary party where guests were encouraged to wear attire from any one of Alaska's eight decades.  I chose the 40's and even managed a rolled bun in a hair net hair style.

The lady in red was the grand prize winner of the costume contest and she deserved it, everything about her outfit right down to the hat, pearls, and glasses were picture perfect for a matron in the 1950's.  Everyone was so into it, the outfits were incredible.  Here's a few of the classics.

My buddy Luci and her ever-so-good-sport date, John, completely destroyed any chance of a "come-back" for the disco era with a blue polyester double-knit leisurewear on him and God-only-knows what she's wearing!  John saw her in this outfit and later married her anyway - that's true love!  These are two of the funnest and funniest people I know.

Cheryl and her pals rocked the 70's Motown look.

Elegant friends Denise and Fay time-traveled from the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers era.

Anna and her husband brought Sonny and Cher to a whole new level (I'm not saying raised or lowered, just a NEW level!)  There were hundreds of amazing outfits that I didn't get pictures of, much to my regret.

Why doesn't the world encourage grown-ups to play dress up more often?  I think it would be a kinder, gentler - and very fun - world if we did. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fancy Dinner with Wine Pairings - DID IT

We were on a mission to find my grandmother's village deep in the hill country of the Appenine Mountains in Central Italy.  We just needed a place to spend the night, and Perbacco in the village of Sant'Angelo Limosano, population 400, was the only one mentioned on the internet.  We booked it, expecting a simple bed and, hopefully, a simple meal somewhere in town, but what we found in this ancient village was a meal like no meal we have eaten before or since.

The albergo (Italian for small hotel) has only 5 rooms in the top floors of a 400-year-old barn.  The original stable area is now a restaurant with optimistic seating for 30.  You will need a GPS, a smattering of Italian and lots of patience to find the place, fortunately, we had all three.  The hotel's restaurant was closed to the public the night we were there as the owner was hosting a private party, but he quickly added us to the invite list.
Twenty-plus partiers, all members of a wine-tasting class conducted over the last three months gathered to celebrate the completion of their studies.  They were restaurant owners, celebrated chefs, magazine food and wine writers, and newspaper restaurant reviewers - and they traveled from as far away as Naples, Campobasso, Pescara, Termoli, and Rome to celebrate their new-found knowledge of wine with a fabulous dinner and, what else, more wine!
 The evening started with tiny handmade crackers hot from the oven with a bubbly Prosecco-style apperatif. Dinner started at 8:00 with an antipasto plate followed by two separate appetizer plates, each with a different wine, of course.  Next the Primo Piatto (first - or pasta - course), a creamy pasta dish paired with a mild rose'.  Rich reds followed for the Secondo Piatto (second - or main - course)- thin strips of tenderloin in a rich, beefy/onion wine sauce nestled next to a shell formed from a paper-thin slice of bread and accompanied by potato strips that may look like "french fries" but put the term to shame.
Dessert followed with sweet port-style wine, then our pallet was cleansed with another sparkling wine... the kicker to all of this was that those pouring the wine spoke very little English and we didn't speak enough Italian to understand a thing about what we were drinking.  Those pouring did understand that we liked it, so they kept it coming. It was a happy relationship!  Our "Tasting" sample glasses were refilled over and over.  Wine far outside my normal price range (most were in the $100+ price range) was flowing like water, and no one at our table could say no, it was just too delicious.  The party was still going strong when we struggled off to bed after midnight.

The next morning as we attempted to pay our bill, our host scratched his head with uncertainty.  We hadn't actually been restaurant patrons, we didn't peruse a menu and select our meal - we had been party guests.  He apologetically charged us 25 Euro.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Get Caribbean Cornrow Braids - DID IT

Cornrow Braids: Bo Derek had them in the iconic movie "10".  She looked interesting in them, but with that one possible exception, white women are just not meant to have cornrows. Their pink flesh peeking out between the rows is just not right. Traveling through the Caribbean, it seemed that my long hair served as an open invitation to every hair-braiding street hawker in the islands. "Braid your hair, Missy?  Make you look beautiful."  (It should be noted that if your hair is already braided, the sales pitch changes to "Braid your hair?  Do GOOD job for you, half price.") I resisted.  Hubby was not as strong.  
We spent one lazy afternoon on the beach of this cruiseline owned atoll sipping tropical drinks in the sun until bad ideas seemed plausible.  Hubby impulsively handed a wad of bills to a wall-eyed woman with a bucket o' beads, pointed to me and said, "Here's your next customer."  She snatched the money out of his hands and quickly sat me on her overturned milk crate - not all that comfortable when you have a slight sunburn on your backside. But as she sliced my scalp with her rat-tail comb, I discovered that reflexology really works.  I was no longer aware of the plastic grid biting into my bum!

She handed me the bucket of plastic blobs and said, "Pick da beads you want."  I started selecting some subtle colors, and she said, "Not dat one... not dat one. No, not dat one..." later when I looked in the mirror at the vibrant collection of hot pink and lime green beads woven into my hair I said, "Wow, that's really bright..." she said, "T'is, but dat's what you pick."   

As we got started, I asked her how long it would take, she replied,  "Depends how many questions you got."  Where did that sweet smiling salesgirl go?  As soon as she had our money, she turned into the mistress of torture - slicing and yanking.  If I complained, she dropped the strand of hair and said, "Now I start over."  Well, you don't have to tell me twice - well, maybe twice, but certainly no more than that!  I shut up. I have to mention, during the entire time she was braiding my hair, I don't believe she looked at me even once. She braided while yelling at her kids, dogs, friends, ex-boyfriends, people who owed her money - although I think that might have been the same as the ex-boyfriend - and then sweetly cajoling her future victims.    

The experience proved useful on two fronts.  One - I could see what a good facelift would do for me, the braids were pulled so tight my eyes wouldn't shut.  Two - I understood Bo's seductively slow movements in the movie - it was to keep the beads from whipping around and putting out an eye!

Like almost everything on my list, I'm glad I did it, but I'm in no hurry for a repeat.  I'm practicing my "steely-eyed stare" in case I'm ever back in the Caribbean facing the street braiders again - or maybe I'll just shave my head.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Kiss the Blarney Stone - DID IT

Yes, kissing the Blarney Stone is totally touristy, but if you are standing next to the famed slab of bluestone high in the tower at Blarney Castle and someone says, "Would like to kiss it and be given the gift of gab?"  I dare you to say, "No, that's too passe' for this worldly traveler."  You'd do it, you know you would. 

There is someone there to help you as you lay backwards and lean your shoulders and head out over a open expanse over 90 feet above the ground and stretch your pucker to place your lips where millions of germy lips have been before you.  (The photo here is hubby, my photo was mostly me clawing at the guard's arm... I'm a bit phobic about heights... and germs!)  Someone snaps your photos and is willing to charge you a lot of money for a copy... but since they aren't officially part of the Castle staff, they are just locals from Cork looking to pick up a bit of pocket change, they are pretty quiet about it.  For a buck, they will take the picture with your camera instead of theirs. I expect they earn enough to pay for their pints at the Old Mill Pub just down the road a wee bit.

The grounds surrounding the castle are beautiful and practically deserted when we were there. It was entirely possible to wander the grounds and the ancient stone buildings pretending you are the princess who lives there. Not that I, a responsible mature adult, would take to pretending I was royalty. I'm just saying it's possible to do that without people rushing to have you restrained and removed from the premises (as happens in other places!)

I have no idea if I'm any gabbier than I was before, not sure if that is even possible, but it was certainly something to cross of The List.