Category Archives: Travel

Sur La Table Cooking School

In what has become an annual Holiday tradition for us, D.O.D. and I took an overnight trip to Naples, FL for an evening at the Sur La Table cooking school. I was very uninspired and less than thrilled the first time D.O.D. suggested a cooking class, but I soon learned they are great fun and very educational. Plus… you get to eat your creations!

Winter Vegetable TangineOur class was a ‘Meatless Meals’ class with Chef Deniece Vella. The kitchen is amazing with top notch equipment all around. One of the best parts of any cooking class is the fact that you never have to worry about clean up. This class was no exception – Chef Deniece’s assistants were incredibly efficient.

The evening started with a short introduction and then we got right to work preparing the vegetables for the Winter Vegetable Tagine with Chickpeas. This dish had to cook the longest so we started with it first.


Spiced Bulgur, Roasted Red Pepper, KaleNext, we assembled the first course, Spiced Bulgur with Roasted Red Pepper and Kale.

D.O.D. wondered how the bitter Kale would taste in this dish, but since we used such a small amount, the Kale added just a bit of flavor and did not overpower. The Roasted Red Pepper added a nice touch of sweetness.


Beet Lentil Goat Cheese SaladThe second course was a simple but delicious Beet, Lentil and Goat Cheese Salad. The beets had been cooked ahead of time, but we sauteed the fennel, carrots, garlic and lentils then assembled the salad on a nice bed of fresh Bibb lettuce.

This was my favorite dish of the evening because I love goat cheese!


Pasta w Basil Pesto ,Potatoes, Green BeansThe third course was Whole Wheat Pasta with Basil Pesto, Potatoes and Green Beans.

We created the Pesto from scratch and learned about the proper ratio of oil so as not to make the pesto too runny. We also learned the trick for perfect potatoes – never drop them in boiling water. Put the potatoes in the water THEN bring it to a boil.


Winter Vegetable Tangine w Chick Peas b Finally after a short break, we returned to the kitchen and were served the Winter Vegetable Tagine with Chickpeas. This dish had been cooking for well over an hour and the flavors blended nicely. This hearty dish was perfect for the weather – a windy and cool evening in South Florida.

We enjoy bringing a bottle of wine to class and sipping as we cook and sample. Conveniently there is a huge Whole Foods right next door to this location. Another thing we enjoy is the 10% off coupon each student receives that is good for anything at Sur La Table.

For the second year in a row, we had a wonderful Holiday trip to Naples, FL and the Sur La Table cooking school.

Drost Park in Maryville, IL

The ‘travel’ in this entry was a 2 minute walk from the front door of my workplace. Drost Park in Maryville, IL is a great little park with a seven acre lake, sports fields, a large children’s playground, a community garden and several miles of walking/running trails. The park is approximately 18 miles from downtown St. Louis and sits right on the Madison County Schoolhouse Trail, a 15.9 mile paved trail that ends at Horseshoe Lake State Park. It is also just a mile from the Villa Marie Winery.

These photos were taken during a beautiful late afternoon walk in September.

Grandma’s Boat Trip

Titanic Exhibit by daveparkerSeveral years ago, my Dad and I went to visit my 93 year old Grandmother at her assisted living apartment. Even though she was in the twilight of her life, her mind was sharp and her memory was especially good.

We knew Grandma’s parents had come to this country from Czechoslovakia, and as we chatted, Dad asked her if she had ever been to Europe. “Well,” she began “when I was a tiny baby I was very sickly. The doctors here couldn’t seem to figure out what was making me ill. So Dad decided they should take me to see the family doctor back in the old country. He booked a passage for Mom and me to leave from New York in mid April. I was only a year or two old at the time.”

“Did you go?” Dad asked.

“No.” Grandma replied. “I started to get better that Spring. Besides our ship didn’t come anyway.”

“Because of World War I?” I asked.

“Oh no,” she replied. “That was before the War. Our ship never got to New York. It sank. You know – that ship from the movie.”

“You mean the Titanic?” I asked.

“Yeah, that’s the one. The Titanic. I never got to go because the boat sank.”

Dad and I just looked at each other, amazed.

“Yeah,” Grandma said “I got better that Spring. Dad got his money back from the boat ticket and he bought Mom a new icebox.”

Ironic, huh? The Titanic hits and iceberg and my Great Grandmother gets an icebox.

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** I researched Grandma’s story a bit further. It appears she did in fact return to Europe with her mother the following year. I found an entry on the Ellis Island manifest dated August 6, 1913 that showed them returning to the U.S. after departing from the port of Hamburg, Germany on the Imperator. This appears to have been a very impressive ship – click HERE for photos.