Be, Learn, eAt, finD, wOrk, explOre

I Mallard you

A friend read this story at a wedding recently. Had to post it.

Sylvie, On Love and Mallards

Ah Italia!

I was reading this article in the NYT about the next Tuscany. The Le Marche region is not yet overrun by tourists, still sporting that winding road charm, and full of lush rolling hills and vineyards.

This is what Tuscany must have felt like 10 or 20 years ago, before it was discovered by tour groups and their omnipresent buses - carrying thousands upon thousands of travelers who flock there each year to try to recreate the pleasures of "Under the Tuscan Sun." One Tuscany wine-growing area is so crowded with British expatriates and second-home owners that that country's press calls it Chiantishire. In short, Tuscany, for all its undeniable charms, is an increasingly challenging place to have an intimate encounter with true Italy.

Seasoned travelers have begun casting about elsewhere for that authentic experience. In the last two years, the British, those shock troops of Italian tourism, have been filling cheap Ryanair flights to a revived Puglia, Italy's sun-bleached stiletto heel. Some observers have anointed a cleaned-up, post-Mafia Sicily the Next Big Thing. But others are heading to the calf of Italy's boot, to Le Marche, a small, diverse province rising from the Adriatic Sea to the 6,000-foot peaks of the Apennines. In between lies a Tuscan-like rumple of lavender fields, sunflower fields and vineyards spread across hills that hump off toward every horizon like a patchwork quilt on an unmade bed. In 2003, according to the Italian National Institute of Statistics, Le Marche had just 7 percent as many visits by foreigners as Tuscany.

What do those fewer travelers find there?

"Italian-ness," says Michael Eldridge, a British photographer and painter who fled what he calls the increasingly theme park feel of Tuscany with his Italian wife nearly five years ago, and converted an old convent in the Sibylline Mountains in the Marches, as the name is rendered in English. He speaks fondly of the region's ancient towns that cap seemingly every hilltop here - towns full of twisty streets but often empty of tourist buses and English accents.

I want to go!!!

Strange sogginess, a little misplaced

There's an article in the LA Times with the title "L.A. Soggier than Seattle."

Having recently returned to Seattle, I can say we've had the strangest winter ever. Although the climate is usually mild, it's often quite wet all through the winter, with years past including 90 straight days with at least some preciptation. This winter, we've had none. I'm looking out on another cloudless, sun filled morning.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles is literally floating away in places. They haven't seen rain like this in ages.
Rainfall as of Monday afternoon totaled 32.03 inches downtown, more than three
times the normal through the date of 9.89 inches and bearing down on the annual
record of 38.18 inches set in 1883-84.

And Seattle is hurting:
Meanwhile, it's expected to be sunny today in Seattle. Rainfall there since October has amounted to 15.7 inches -- two-thirds of normal -- and mountain snowpack is skimpy, leaving locals anxious about a repeat of the 2001 drought.

That's because February's storms have been steered away from Washington and
Oregon by the jet stream: the storms picked up tropical moisture, then hit
Southern California, said John Dlugoenski, a meteorologist with

The Jet Stream has stolen the rain and sent it south.

Napoleon on-demand

I love Napoleon Dynamite. I'm not alone, I know. If you love him, too... then you'll love this soundboard, where you can queue Napoleon to say a selection of some of the best lines in the film. YESSSSSSSSS!

Ringing true

I got engaged, and my fiancee took me to Green Lake Jewelry Works to make an engagement ring. Their process is so cool -- everything they do is custom and the artists take all the time you need to sketch, revise, imagine, reimagine, etc until you land on a design you love.

This is a hard-to-see version of what my ring will look like. It's just a sketch of the stone arragement, but it gives the idea.

A squirrely day

I was riding the bus today, and on the bus there are always a variety of colorful characters. Today, however, one man that got on the bus and rode for no more than 3 blocks was particularly unusual. He had a very tame squirrel sitting on his shoulder.

Yes, a squirrel with a big bushy tail was riding the bus with me today. Thankfully, the bus driver didn't charge the man any extra fare for the squirrel. I think they were headed to the grocery store... perhaps to buy some nuts.

Bread is back, baby!

The Boston Globe reports on the whole grain craze, that's (hopefully) lapping the Atkins and low-carb trends. I'm a bread fan, and totally believe that the nutritious tastiness of a hearty, high-fiber, whole-grain slice is good for you, but like everything, in moderation.

So head out today, and pay a visit to some artisinal bakery or even the Safeway bread aisle. Grab a loaf made with whole grains, with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving and enjoy!

A new fave: Crave

There's a restaurant on 12th Ave E in Seattle called Crave. I've only been there for brunch/breakfast, but both times it was fabulous.

If you go on a weekend for brunch, you MUST try their biscuits and gravy. I'm not a fan of the traditional biscuits and gravy -- I don't really like gravy, to be honest. But one of my dining companions ordered it (he's a HUGE fan) and the rest of us at the table all stole repeated bites. It's a light, broth-y gravy and the biscuits have a delightful crunch on the outside and are soft and flaky in the center.

The other things we'd recommend are the Overnight French Toast, the Blue Apple Omlete (weekdays), and the Crave Ranchero. Also, the apple sausage is worth a side order.

Food and Relief

There's a scad of restaurants in Seattle who are organizing fundraising for tsunami aid efforts. There's a list of them at the Accidental Hedonist.

Go have some Phad Thai -- it's for a good cause.

Tunes of the Moment

Some favorite independent artists -- check them out, and buy their albums...