Travels with Penelope

Travel, Food, Wine, Spirituality and Everything Else

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4-14-2017 On my way to China…


Dear Friends,

As I began to make my initial preparations to go to China, three things were clear: I would avoid the pollution of Bejiing, I would go to see the terra cotta warriors in Xian and the trip would begin in central China in Wuhan. Otherwise, with my limited knowledge of China, I felt like I was dropping into a yellow sea of the unknown. A friend suggested that I get a guide, but first I had to determine where I wanted to go.

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April 5, 2017 Enroute to Zhongguo (Middle Kingdom)



Dear Friends,

A year ago the thought of going to China was one of the last trips I would have entertained. Yet here I am sitting in an American Airlines gate waiting for a plane to Shanghai. A fourteen hour flight! From Shanghai I will transfer to China Eastern Airlines and make another two hours to Wuhan, a city of 10,000,000 in central China.

When a second opportunity to go to China came up in less than a year, I decided to take a deeper look at my misgivings about going. Most of them boiled down to human rights issues. I thought about how badly I feel when some of the people I meet abroad tell me about the same feelings they have for American (not about human rights, but other issues) and refuse to visit our country.  The more I thought about China and got beyond the initial thoughts I began to sense a deep feeling, almost a calling to go to Zhongguo. After all, I had been intensely interested in Taoism for decades. One of the readings at my wedding had been taken from Tao te Ching by Lao Tzu. There was a time when I threw the I Ching daily. As soon as I decided to join my partner in China, after he completed the annual course he teaches at the University of Technology in Wuhan, everything began to fall into place. Guides to sites I wanted to see, important information about sites walked in the door. It was time to explore the roots of two spiritual traditions that had been a deep part of my path.

One thing in particular let me know that I was supposed to take this pilgrimage. China does not allow Google. So coming from the States, one must find a way to connect with the internet. VPN is the way to go. At the Genius Bar at my local Apple store I asked my assistant to download. Turns out that Apple cannot do that: its another company, stupid! I was pretty down in the mouth. How would I survive in China without the internet. Well, I was having tea with a friend when her friend Brent passed by. He reminded me that we had met a year earlier. When my friend told me that Brent goes to China four times a year, I bemoaned my internet problem. He said, “Oh, don’t worry, you can download VEP. I’ll do it for you right now. Additionally, he downloaded it on my phone as well as Google translation!

It’s time to board. Wish me Bon Voyage.


March 31, 2017 Sintra, Portugal


In preparing for my upcoming trip to China, I began to reflect on my recent trip to Portugal. I decided to review my posts on that trip. To my chagrin, I came across two unpublished posts. Senior moments encourage humility! While late, it is as as timely as when I wrote it. Here it is.

While ascending and descending the seven hills of Lisbon last fall, I felt the goddess of travel secretly guiding my journey from the shadows of a hidden dimension. Random walks led to places I would have put on my itinerary had I been into making a plan. Like stepping stones on the trail a series of UNESCO sites opened, one jewel after another, revealing the layers of art, architecture, religious and political history that provide a deeper understanding of Portugal’s historical role in world matters. And, along the way, an abundance of street musicians’ syncopated sounds from ancient stringed instruments filled the promenades with melodic harmonies. In the evening, after sunset, heart-rending interpretations of fado poured out of restaurants and wine bars.

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March 10, 2017 A Great Laxative, Can Robots Replace Humans and More!



Through cold weather and several northern California monsoons, I holed up and shuttled between my studio and the kitchen. I finally had an opportunity to get into Plenty More, an amazing cookbook I received as a Christmas gift from my son. Plenty More is full of vegetarian recipes heavily influenced by Ottolenghi’s (the author) Israeli, Italian and British background. Asian influences shine through as well. While the book is vegetarian the author frequently suggests that many of the recipes can be used as side dishes for meat or fowl. I cannot give enough praise to this chef and I am determined to try every recipe in the book before the year’s end.

In spite of the cold, my partner and I also made a few foodie excursions to San Francisco. Among the restaurants we sampled, Aster, Liholiho Yacht Club, Cala and Al’s Place are the ones that I recommend. Eater.Com offers some great info and reviews on all four. Continue reading

Do you have high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, obesity or gastrointestinal issues? Check this out!


It never ceases to amaze me that when I have a need, more oft than not, an answer walks through the door. If I maintain a relaxed openness rather than descend into a state of anxiety, it allows space for whatever I may need to come my way. I gave an example of this in my post on nagaimo. Recently, I experienced another of the same.



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That time of year!




Dear Friends,

I had no time for cards or letters over the holidays so here it is, a missive still within the time frame of an annual change of the year letter! First, I want to thank you for following this humble blog in 2016. While my purpose in writing is, to put it most simply, to write, writers write with the hope that on occasion an interested reader will tend to their words. I am so grateful that some readers have chosen to do exactly that! Tend in this direction.

In the past year “Travels with…” brought, among others, a wonderful tour through the Peloponnese (posts forthcoming), and to Rome where I had the honor of a private audience with Pope Francis. It included treks through the world of food, wine, ideas, relationships, all of which played an important role in the essential journey to within.

But, with all said and done, the best news is that as 2016 concluded we were the recipients of  torrential rains in Northern California. Looks like the drought is over and for the first time in three years, I have a green yard!



In celebration, earlier this week we harvested an abundant tangerine crop from the tree in our backyard.


Having matured in the silent presence of earth, wind and sun, not to mention the  rains that continue to coat California, the fruit was carried into the kitchen where it would undergo major transformation.


For the first time and with the help of my new slow cooker, I made tangerine marmalade.

After poring through several cookbooks from Mark Bittman to an old edition of Joy of Cooking and scouring hints from the internet, I chose the simplest recipe for marmalade  I could find. I sliced four to five pounds of tangerines ever so thin, layered them in my new slow cooker, added the juice of one organic Meyer lemon, a small bottle of raw agave, and several cups of water. I turned the cooker on low and let the fruit stew. Six hours later I opened the cooker, drained off some leftover excess liquid (It will make a great syrup for the brioche French toast I plan to make soon). The marmalade was a little too runny for my tastes so I added a dab of pectin. When it set a bit firmer I bottled it and put it in the fridge. The following day my taste test revealed a marmalade sweetened to perfection with a hint of tangy zest from the skins. It coated my mouth with a mousse-like smooth, but thick texture. Fortunately, I had a loaf of Josey Baker’s gluten free seed bread from San Francisco in the pantry. I could not resist scooping up large dollops and generously spreading marmalade across the thick nutty slices.

Observing those beautiful orange balls transform from a raw fruit to a thick, gelatinous, syrupy spread, my first major travel in 2017 was a long distance journey I will not soon forget. And, the upshot is that I will never again stew over what to do with the  crops we are getting from our nine fruit trees.

One of the gifts of the past year was the opportunity to experience the food of several Michelin quality chefs. Among my favorites: the cooking of Kevin Meehan at Kali, in LA, Carlos Salgado of Taco Maria, and the family-owned Habuya, an Okinawan treasure in the OC, Matthew Accarrino at SPQR, and Corey Lee of Monsieur Benjamin and three star Michelin Benu in SF, Patrick Mulvaney of Mulvaney’s and Tokiko Sawada’s Binchoyaki Izakaya in Sacramento. Last, but not least, Yakitori Izachaya in my hometown of Davis. There are many others, but the above are the top current go-to’s. Speaking of go-to’s, I also want to mention three coffee houses: Portola at OCMix in Costa Mesa, Temple in Davis and Civil in Highland Park LA. Chances are on any given day I can be found writing in one of the three.

A dinner prepared by Enrique Olvera as guest chef at Taco Maria left lasting impressions. Enrique’s restaurant Pujol in Mexico City is rated twenty-five among the world’s great dining places and now I can fully support that listing.

Enrique and Carlos:


My personal food discovery of the year had to be nagaimo! Check out the blog if you have not had the experience. This year I am forging ahead with shirataki noodles. Expect a blog soon!

Among the wine travels, I so deeply appreciated meeting Hugh Johnson who spoke at UCDavis when he donated his writings to the library at UCDavis known as housing the finest wine library in the world. John Charles Boisset, owner of the Boisset Collection was another great meeting.


A tour through the wineries in the Peloponnese led to discoveries of some old and unusual varietals.

On another note, after Nov. 9, I fell into the deep national depression that spread through some of the populations across the US. Like many others, I had to work it out, decide how to handle it. I am still working with the underlying reasons and causes of what has hit us. What lesson does America need? A dozen political and cultural answers come up , but I feel there is something deeper to be learned. As far as what to do: marches, demonstrations, donations, letters, phone calls, all help, but one response has helped me more than anything else. It’s an ancient Buddhist practice called tonglen. If of interest, check it out.

The coming year promises more travel, more time in the kitchen and more precious time with Mia and Toki my granddaughters.



I look forward to sharing with you and, on the other end, I would enjoy and appreciate the same from all my readers. May 2017 drench you in blessings and the experience of unbounded space!


9-11/11-9 Twin Souls?

Well, I remember 9/11.

My father was in the hospital and I had spent the night with him overseeing his care. About seven in the morning his male nurse entered the room and asked, “Tom, would you like to watch the news?” It struck me as rather odd as it was so early and my father was not in the best condition. Dad nodded yes and soon we found ourselves observing the second attack on the twin towers. At first I though we were watching a sci-fi movie, but then what was truly happening dawned. My father’s only comment: “World War III, but I will not be around to see it.” He passed on 9/22, leaving the  rest of us to grieve, to confront and to deal as best we could with what had happened.

I spent yesterday trying to adjust to the results of the election. I had not expected a landslide in Clinton’s favor as many. While I expected that she would squeak over the finish line a point or two ahead of her opponent, I also knew that he stood the same chance. I had read the polls, but an inner voice kept saying, “Its not over, until its over. Well, its over and along with at least half the nation, I had to confront my feelings, the stress, and the anxiety that accompanied the conclusion. As I was going through this it suddenly struck me that the date was 11/9.






October 11, 2016 A Threat to Our Democratic Institutions


I have been as concerned as many others are with the current state of our political campaign. As a rule I do not like to get into politics, but this morning I read an article in the NYT that made me feel I would be remiss if I did not share it. It makes clear that if our contemporary Attila the Hun is elected, our current laws and institutions will be subject to erosion.

A well done article, I hope you get as much thought from it as I did.



Vineyards and Cemeteries





In the past eight months I have had the fortune to visit some of the lesser known wine regions of Europe.

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Angel Got My Back


This morning it became evident that after a long break from putting thoughts into words on paper, or computer as is the case in our well advanced techie era, I had to sit bottom to chair and take pen  to hand or keyboard, once again. Travels through Europe, (more to come on the latest trips) research for our upcoming book The Glass of Wine my partner and I are finishing up for the publisher, and hanging out with friends and my two beautiful granddaughters have filled the space since I posted An American Kali.

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