foto faves

foto faves

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

guess where we are going?

so I know I have already spilled the beans- but I thought I would post a couple of farewell photos - so you can think of us while we are away...


that - above is a selection of drinks Jennifer and I enjoyed on our last trip to Cuba - April 2012

below- cars we saw along the way in Cuba on the same trip-


like these? I will bring back more- I promise!

Monday, December 7, 2015

HOLIDAY GREETINGS!!!

So I have finished our holiday greetings for 2015 and here it is -

LOL- if you follow the blog you already know all the minute details so nothing new here - but....


Season’s Greetings! 2015
We hope this holiday letter finds you well!  This is the time of year when we find out two things- plans are just plans… the reality often differs… and that January was either a long time ago or yesterday depending upon whether you are trying to actually remember it or having the feeling it was “just last month” LOL.  When we last wrote, we had ideas for both spring and fall destinations for extended travel, but our eventual trips were completely different.

2015 started off with us in residence at our home in the Sarasota/Bradenton area for the second winter.  We had fewer guests this year – perhaps the novelty wears off.  Our first time visitors included Kathy & John Delia and Ron & Mary Lewis. 

As we mentioned in last year’s letter, we do the same things in Florida that we do in Chicago, just in different seasons – so our entire year has included lots of theater- multiple plays at theaters including Lifeline, Time Line, Northlight, Asolo, Lookingglass, Steppenwolf, Remy Bumppo, Theater Wit, and Dead Writers.  Favorites included The Watson Intelligence (Wit); Ernie (Traverse City Playhouse); Funnyman (Northlight); and Bad Jews (Wit).  We attended a fabulous lecture on Pinter by Julian Sands and a closed circuit broadcast (a first for us) of the National Theater Live (from London) of Skylight- a terrific and timely play from the Thatcher era in the UK.  So many more that I don’t have space to mention – with more than two dozen plays and only one that got a “WTF?” review… Each play is reviewed on the blog, so feel free to delve into our two “seasons” of theater by reading further details there.

As for performances on film – we did the Sarasota Film Festival with seven films for Phil and twenty-one for Victoria. Georgia B made it down for the Finale and a lovely film starring Blythe Danner. This coming SFF will be an occasion for a visit from son Jeremy who is quite the film buff.

We also go to concerts in both locales – and this year was no different.  We found a new venue we really love for a variety of music at Fogartyville – a small local club. In between, Phil went to many concerts at WFMT studios and Barb & John West, friends made in one of Victoria’s Florida classes, joined him for many, since we share seasonal locales – winter in SRQ and summers in ORD… a happy coincidence! We heard Janiva Magness twice (Florida at the Blues Fest and Chicago at SPACE)and Itzhak Perlman, Full Set, Roy Book Binder, Tim Grimm at a house concert, and Jake Shimabukuro (Centre East)… among others…

We also spend a lot of time exploring the restaurant scenes in both of our home towns… therefore we can’t fail to mention several of the winners in that realm as well as a few “also ran” places.  Again, all the details made the blog, along with lots of food photos. In the number one slot again, we would have to put 42 grams (which got TWO Michelin stars again this year!) Chris & Nina Nugent’s goosefoot  is a very close second! We also had season tickets to the next menus of: France: Bistro, Tapas  and Terroir.  Our favorite this year was definitely Terroir but Tapas followed right behind.  For our out-of-town meals, among the highlights were Comme Chez Soi in Brussels, Bord’Eau and Vermeer in Amsterdam, Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland, along with Juni in NYC, and we had an amazing meal at Thornton’s in Dublin as well.  As I mentioned, all the minute details are on the blog J along with tons of mouth-watering photos of the food!

So given that as context – let’s get back to our year – in which we did some traveling.  No change there, especially since both of us are fully retired!

We started off with the Forks & Corks wine weekend with CBGB – enjoying one of the wine dinners as well as the Grand Tasting (tickets sold out in less than 2 minutes- LOL- this is a BIG DEAL around these parts of the Gulf Coast.) We also met up in Miami, with daughter Angela & Lee (her partner) and dined with the two of them; our niece and nephew, Lauren & Jeffrey; brother, Larry; and our cousin Michele; making it quite the family weekend. Victoria took two interesting classes at the local college (the Sarasota Arts class where she met John & Barb West) and a maritime history class. Phil got tickets for two spring training games to start off his baseball season. And seven plays at our local theater helped keep us off the streets…LOL  We also did the annual Wine Walk to Ca’ d’Zan (the Ringling Mansion), which we had liked so much the last two years. 

When we returned north at the very end of April, we headed to St. Louis to visit Mother/Sue and again saw nephew Jeffrey, along with his dad Sandy, for a few nights while we caught up with Sue. Then it was off to Brussels and Amsterdam for a lot of terrific meals and great works of art…


We stopped in NYC on the way over and found the last leg of the Highline had opened – so that was a treat.  Our friend Laure made a wonderful dinner for us and we spent the evening catching up with her and our favorite little friend, her daughter, the beautiful and extremely smart Alix (now four!) The following night we had dinner at Racine’s NY so we could see her dad Arno, but that was about all we did – he was extremely busy with customers. (Racine’s is doing very well!)

In Amsterdam we had the good fortune to have a drink with an old school buddy from Victoria’s days at University of Santa Monica. Steve Kowalski and his partner, George, were also in Amsterdam the same week we were! It had been 25 years since “Tor” and “T.V.” had seen each other! And speaking of reunions – Phil’s Salzburg gang from 1970 also had a mini-reunion here in Florida when Barry & Ellen (STL), Liesi & Tim (NY state), Pam & Glenn (TPA) and the two of us (SRQ) spent a day together in St Pete Beach and had a lovely dinner before parting – with plans to do it again in February 2016!

When we returned to the states from the May Europe trip, June was here and so Phil joined Jeremy & Angela at the Clearwater Folk festival in Croton, NY.  In July, on 7/3 we went to friends Richard & Irene’s (a seven year tradition) and then we had a get together on 7/4 with wine buddies of many years at Mark & Laura & Livvie’s mansion in the sky overlooking the Lakefront and Grant Park.  Less than a week later, we headed off on a ROAD TRIP!  We had been talking for years about going to PNC Park and Fallingwater (the Wright masterpiece in southwestern Pennsylvania.) We combined that with a two night stop in Detroit where we did the Motown Museum and had Buddy’s Pizza with Fred Lee, and another night in Cleveland, where we made another stop at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Then it was on to Pittsburgh for a Cardinals game, the tour of the Kaufman house (Fallingwater) and then a swing by Toledo Art Museum on the way back to Chicago….

It was a quick week and we had people to see and places to go- so we did laundry and packed for Ireland. But before we left we had a visit from Steve & Suzanne, Phil’s brother and his wonderful wife (yes, she IS our favorite sister-in-law!)  It was a fast weekend – spent in a food-coma-inducing whirlwind of high end eating- including 42 grams and Alinea…  Then it was off to Dublin, where we met up with our favorite boy cousin, Iddo (our favorite girl cousin being Michele, of course) and his mom Sarah.  We visited various historical sights – the most famous being the Kilmainham Gaol.  We also had a number of terrific meals. 



Finally back in Chicago for more than just a few days, we jumped into action and headed to visit CBGB in Traverse City area, where they spend their summers.  It was a really quick trip because soon Victoria was off on her annual DART road trip with friend Tom.  This year it was New Hampshire and trains… lots of photos on the DART website if you want to see them… https://northcountryny.shutterfly.com/

Or for that matter – if you want to see any of the other trips –they can be found here- https://victoriasterlingspics.shutterfly.com/

Then we took the last weeks of September through mid-October to head to Eastern Europe – Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Transdneistria (and Odessa.)  We had a terrific time learning about these countries and seeing many UNESCO World Heritage sites during our three weeks of travel. 

The highlight of the trip “hands-down” was our reunion with our dear friend Iryna from Lviv, Ukraine.  She traveled all the way to Odessa to meet up with us and we spent three days catching up on each other’s lives while touring one of the world’s loveliest cities.  It was a year of great moments and lots of making memories but seeing Iryna again after nine years had to be right at the top of our list of “heart-swelling” events.


When we returned to the U.S. we squeezed in a few more dinners with friends and got to try another new place in Chicago, Intro, with friends Mon & Beth. (We shared a lot of great meals with them last summer- Schwa, Duck Inn, and Claudia, to mention a few of many.) Then two nights before we headed south we made our final dinner out at goosefoot. We start and end our Chicago season there for a reason: the food of course, but also the welcome of friends… it makes it just the right place to bookend our northern summers.    

We are so lucky to have our winter retreat (and our cats Lucy & Penny LOVE getting away, for the warm weather  and geckos, as well!) Thanksgiving brought our first seasonal visitors; brother Larry, up from Miami, along with cousin Michele, and Angela & Lee down from North Carolina, where they have relocated for his transfer to a new Google office and project.  Since Thanksgiving we have been busy with concerts and friends. Our last concert of the year was a superb evening with John McCutcheon at Craftsman House.  

The end of this week we leave for Cuba returning just before Christmas. We already have a lot of plans for 2016…  Phil is going back to Ireland on a music tour. We are returning to Russia, Scandinavia and the Baltics in August. We hope to sell our Chicago house and buy a Chicago condo, facilitating the “lock and leave” lifestyle we have adopted. So we may have to take some time out of our travels to pack and move… but we’re sure we’ll catch up!  Tom and Tor will do a DART trip when Phil is in Ireland gallivanting pub to pub… and where that will take them has yet to be decided.  Life is so good – we are blessed by great friends, good health and especially by having each other to enjoy things together and to support each other when the challenges arrive.

If you have any desire, at all, for details that can’t fit in the holiday letter, you can visit the blog: http://blog.semifreelife.com/

Somehow it is now again December, and we write each year at this time, hoping your year has gone well and that this finds you and your families happy and healthy.  As the year closes, we count our blessings and send to each of you our very best wishes for health, wealth, happiness, peace, prosperity, abundance, and good luck in 2016! 




OK- been busy

so to catch up- as you remember - or maybe not- we were having family for Thanksgiving - we spent most of the time cooking and eating and hanging out in the courtyard outside the kitchen (for easy access to food and drink- LOL)

We did go to Indigenous one night for dinner but mostly it was a relaxed holiday weekend where we just spent the time catching up with everyone and enjoying the company of family and friends.  Just after the weekend, we headed to John & Barb's for a fabulous dinner and some fun rummikub throw downs.  We loved getting to meet Barb's mom Barbara- who can certainly hold her own in the rummikub arena - this gal is as sharp as a tack (as they say) and looks easily 15 years younger than she is- we would say 20 but we know how old her daughter is! LOL

the below photo shows John & Barb's courtyard which they have decorated for the holidays - we have no decorations but we did have a very pretty (but the least successful) Thanksgiving dish to display- made by Angela and Michele and me...



the veggie roulade - stuck to the pan and the veggies cooked at different rates making it less than optimal- the recipe needs some tweaking but I think could be good. Maybe next time...

Later in the week we caught up with my former Chairman of the Board (who lives about 45 minutes from us in the winter time) and his wife - Lew & Ellie... we did some catching up with them but since we haven't seen them since early last spring - we still have plenty to cover in our next "date"- Lew and I worked with each other for two decades and so some of what we talked was "shop talk" but they are travelers like we are and so we frequently found ourselves talking of trips we have taken since last seeing each other... Aperol Spritzes anyone?? LOL

we had a few meals outside and inside - one at Blue Marlin and the others at Clancy's and Tide Tables (both of those last two were the first time we had made it to those venues this "winter")

photos below from Blue Marlin dinner







then two of the beautiful day we ate lunch at Clancy's -



Then as the week after the holiday was coming to a close we had two music events!

Saturday the Bradenton Blues Festival and Sunday a concert by John McCutcheon at the Craftsman House... the headliner for the blues fest was Janiva Magness (you may remember her from the post about her concert at SPACE from our Chicago summer time) you can read that one here:

http://blog.semifreelife.com/2015/06/reporting-back.html

anyway- she was again magnificent- what a voice! and she sang several favorites - including When We Were Lovers and I Won't Cry ---

here is some info from the Blues Festival-







we arrived mid afternoon in time for some of Mike Zito's set and stayed until the Janiva was finished singing... around 7:45 or so... a beautiful day -





and to almost catch up- last night we heard John McCutcheon- an amazing talent who can apparently play any instrument you put in front of him as well as tell you stories, sing songs he wrote and at the same time tell you incredible music history from his font of musicologist's knowledge -

guitar (of both twelve and six string variety LOL)
 fiddle-
 auto harp-
 hammered dulcimer (he's a master!)

I hope this loads - I had a tiny video clip of his hammered dulcimer playing- 



banjo-
 keyboards-


we laughed - we cried - and we laughed while crying- he's that kind of artist... the venue is extremely intimate- kind of a semi house concert style- and is easily reached from our winter home so we will be back in the new year for other concerts!

so I think that catches you up on our last ten days or so... and soon (at the end of this week) we leave for Cuba-  so we will stop in Miami the night before and see Larry, and Michele and maybe my cousin Cathy (Michele's mother) if our schedules for visiting Miami coincide-

here is our trip on a map- and of course little Internet access in Cuba so we will be "radio silent" for the time we are there- back by Christmas- but don't expect much December posting -


look for a lot more details around the first of the year... Happy Holidays! - oh I sooo have to work on the letter and cards today!!!!  time is running out!