Travels with Penelope

Travel, Food, Wine, Spirituality and Everything Else

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We are distracted!

Yes, it has been a long time since I have posted, but this morning I came across an article that I had to share. After reading it, I was left with one question: Where have we been America? I hope it moves you as it did me.

Cruising to Bavel

Until today, I have always claimed that I don’t do or like cruises. This morning I had an aha moment when I realized that cruise can take many forms. This weekend for example, I cruised in my 2002 Prius along a couple of freeways to an LA. dining destination: Bavel restaurant, downtown.



My partner and I did not have reservations so had to arrive early in order to get a walk-in seat at the bar. Several others had the same plan, but we were at the head of the line. Over the years we have had many a famous meal at a fully reserved restaurant by lining up early for the bar. It has been my experience that the early line is a great place to meet foodies and to get some of the latest news on top dining spots. Saturday night being no  exception I exchanged great info with the woman behind me on  places from North Hollywood to San Diego! Not only did I get some valuable info, it made the  twenty five minute wait in the unusually cool LA weather seem but a moment. Standing in line also gave us an opportunity to view and listen to the pre-opening rituals, chants and enthusiasm of the dining staff – rather like pre-opening entertainment although I knew it came from the most sacred of intentions!

Finally, we were escorted to the bar. I asked for other stools than the ones to which we had been guided and was granted my choice. The original was next to the passageway for servers, etc. I did not want to have the energy of the comings and goings be a distraction to my dining experience. (A piece of advice: always ask for a seat that fulfills your need be it ever so subtle. It makes for a more satisfactory meal).  As I settled into the bar stool I gazed over to my right at the kitchen where an amazing line of happy cooks were deep into preparations.



And while I was surveying the scene I heard someone say, “Jim and Penelope.” I assumed that someone was sitting next to my partner that knew us. I was wrong. I turned my attention back to the bar to see Aidan, the bartender looking at us with a big smile on his face. I could hardly believe my karma!

It had been nearly ten years since I had seen Aidan. In the past he had been the bartender at one of our favorite go-tos in San Francisco: A16. He had gone on to work in New Zealand, followed by years of managing, studying, and everything else that goes into becoming a great mixologist. Here he was, standing before me as the bar manager at Bavel, one of LA’s new greats! Thank goodness we had arrived so early. The restaurant was still a bit quiet, and that quiet gave us a few moments to catch up with one of our favorite bartenders! He poured a taste of Karanika, a Greek sparkling wine, with we toasted each other and enjoyed the reunion.


So this was our second time to dine at Bavel. Prior to our first dinner we had also dined at the owner chef’s other hot spot: Bestia. While Bestia does it good, as many of you know, while I am a flexible vegan, I don’t do meat or fowl. Bestia does well with both, but that’s for carnivores. Bavel was opened because the chefs wanted to do a restaurant that served food from their own lineage: Middle Eastern with roots in Israel, Morocco, Turkey and Egypt. I knew that with those roots, there would be plenty of dishes on the menu suited for vegetarians. My assumption proved correct.

After conversing with Aidan, we spent some serious time poring over our choices. Deciding on four items, we ordered the following (and I copy this right off the menu):

creamy & chunky garbanzo bean puree, green & red chili paste, pita
green tahini vinaigrette, cilantro, black sesame
breast kebab, confit leg, duck bone broth, green amba, chicory salad (this item ordered by and for my partner)
lovage & cardamom puree, sumac
The full menu can view through the following link:
The first meal was so good, I had to go for a second. The hummus alone accompanied by soft, silken pita had been enough to draw me back again. As we placed our order, I heard a friendly voice welcoming us back from behind. I turned to see Brett, the sommelier smiling at us.
Remembering how impressed I had been with Brett’s wine knowledge on our first visit, I was eager to hear his thoughts on what would be appropriate for our order. I was intrigued by a  white dry wine Thrapsathiri from Crete, What did he think? He assured me that it would go well with what we had chosen. In addition, he suggested a vermentino with substantial skin contact from California to go with my partners duck.  Come on, I thought. I want my vermentinos to come from Sardinia. The California Ryme vermentino as well as the wine from Crete proved to be perfect accompaniments to our meal. And now I am a fan of the latter.
As for the meal, sometimes a second can disappoint, but not Bavel, it stood the test. Again, the hummus surpassed any other. The oyster mushrooms expertly prepared  could have satisfied a carnivore’s need for a tender, moist steak. I cannot recall ever having such a  taste-fulfilling mushroom dish – a kebab, no less
I am ready for a third!

A Personal Trip into Yoga



While I am still easing back into Travels with Penelope, I decided to post a personal sharing.


IMG_8897 (1)


As I have written in “About,” I consider travel far more than taking a journey from one geographical location to another. We travel not only to get to and enjoy a different physical site as on a vacation, we travel to get to the next level, the next job, the next relationship, the next day off, the next lifetime and so on. While we may not give it much thought, we travel from the moment we step into life until that moment in which we step out. Continue reading

Gentle Sounds Give Birth to The Glass of Wine


The authors of The Glass of Wine in the vineyards at UC Davis in Davis, Ca.


The Glass of Wine was published over a year ago by the international publisher, Wiley. I would have shared  info on the publication earlier, but I took a year off, as you may know. However, it’s never too late. In a word, the book not about “a” glass of wine, but “the” glass of wine is the first of its kind to describe the relationship between wine and glass in depth. Continue reading

Judgement (and not of Paris)

This morning I had the opportunity to view a short talk by Sadhvi Bhagawatiji,  a spiritual teacher who resides in India. My first time to hear her I could not help but be taken by her teachings on judgement. It so happened that almost as soon as I finished the video, I pulled up an article from the NYT.  As I read The Queering of the American Soul, I knew the article was so destined to follow the video talk on judgement. With such a connection between the two, one a video from India, the other a piece of journalism from the US, I felt some guiding hand leading me from one to the other.  What could be a better teaching for Holy Week!

Overcoming Judgemental Behavior

Mayor Pete and The Queering of the American Soul


Thoughts Lead to Teaching

As I “thought” of writing a new post, the first in a year, the thought of doing so led to another thought, then to another and another. The thoughts were not so much random as sequential. When I fall into the trap of victimizing myself with random thoughts, I seek to quiet my distracted mind with mantras, malas, a self chosen image, or silence. But when a series of sequential thoughts have their play,  more often than not,  I am guided as a writer to produce an article, an essay or perhaps a short poem. Today’s series prompted me to take up pen, so to speak, and  follow it to wherever it lead. I decided that I would use the content of the journey as a springboard for a new piece, long or short, to return to my blog site.

Like a well-planned road trip through the back roads of one’s mind, I knew that a topic and form would emerge if I followed the sequence. But before I continue, let me say that back road mind trips may not be of interest to everyone, but for the some that they are, I hope you will join me for this one.


Having spent the previous week with my five and three year old granddaughters, I was not surprised that a thought of the two arose.  If I continue to follow this vein as did the thought sequence, I know that I leave myself open to being accused of acting like a typical grandmother, and while I cannot deny that I fall into that marvelous role on a regular basis, in this case, my thoughts began and continued to circle around a point in time, the granddaughters’  time, the time from their birth forward. My thoughts wondered about what that chronological time held, specifically what were its forces, and  what would the effects of those forces have on their lives. Then a distraction regarding time arose.  With my philosophical background, Aristotle and Einstein having played with the meaning of time came to mind as did the Buddhists. I was tempted to go there and wrestle with their differences, but before getting too deeply entrenched I managed to bring myself back to the original sequence.

I heeded a rising image of my oldest granddaughter playing with a cell phone that major product from technological development that has upended our lives in ever so many ways. At the young age of one,  she became fascinated with the cell’s buttons and apps. Following her discovery,  it took heroic efforts on the part of her parents to see that she did not do the cell 24/7.  The child was relentless in her efforts to play with it until one day, a day that crept in like fog on cat’s paws to use Sandburg’s words, her fascination seemed satisfied. Henceforth, she would mainly ask for the phone on occasion only to play a bit with an app suited to her age. The youngest granddaughter did not seem to feel the same strong, magnetic pull toward the cell phone as had her older sister. Oh she was interested, but with her second child karma, an older sister was on board to distract her. I felt relief when the oldest turned her attention away from the phone.  I was just about to purchase the special glasses for children that filter out the blue light from the cell. Now, no need. Still, I wondered about the impact the cell phone would have on her life?


The sequence of thoughts circling the granddaughters continued guiding me towards a possible answer to my question. We were cruising the 210 in East LA when from her booster chair in the back seat, the eldest requested to see my phone in order that she could follow our journey on google maps. I relented and as I was setting up the map she asked me  to  turn on the “yellow” car on the map. I was aware that from time to time a robotic car shows up on the map  representing the car that I am driving and tracking its route, but I had no idea how to pull  up the symbol at will. My granddaughter watching me struggling to locate how to bring up the symbol and probably running out of patience with her Grandma, asked me to give her the phone while assuring me that she would teach me how to do it. I handed her the phone and listened to her instructions.

Finally,  having phone with map in hand she commented every few minutes assuring us that we were on the right way.  My sequence ended with a closing thought. I remembered that a cell phone rested in the purse I carried into the hospital room where my granddaughter lay sleeping  moments after  her arrival. The cell phone had been a part of her life since birth. I had owned a cell longer than the length of her short life, but  I still struggle with its applications. But now not to worry, I have a teacher: my five year old granddaughter.





May 9, 2018 Take a Look at Delaine!

Dear Readers,

Some of you may have received this information earlier in a personal email. If so, you can skip this one. Otherwise, read on.

After long consideration I decided to support Delaine Easton for governor. I have known her personally for some time and feel that she is what we need in the next administration. She has a wonderful background, knows her way around the government block, and has no “women” issues to boot. She won her second debate last night.

If you have yet to make a decision on a candidate, I sincerely you will take a look at the debate.

Delaine Eastin for Governor 2018
Dear Penelope —

Last night, during NBC’s statewide debate, Delaine once again showed Californians why she is the best person to lead our stateWatch it here, and share with friends. Instant reactions:

@BullGooseParty Wow, literally every tweet about #CAGovdebate is praising @DelaineEastin! Could be a moment!

This from the Associated Press’s Juliet Williams – @APJWilliams @DelaineEastin has been a valuable voice in tonight’s #CAGovDebate — a more aggressive counterpoint to the Reps than the top 3 Dems.

As @Katiefward said ‘She was by far the most inspiring candidate’

Or this from @perryanthonyj Incredibly articulate, no mud slinging, and a clear vision

Twitter followers jumped by over 10% and new volunteers and donors came on board.


It’s time to translate this new support and enthusiasm into votes. Now. Because ballots are arriving.

April 17, 2018 That Day!

It’s here again!

It has been a few months since I have posted. The message  from the Stoics offers me an opportunity to ease back in to blogging, and to share some intriguing thoughts on of all things, taxes!

Hope the day bodes well for  you!

October 16, 2017 Home from China

I am back from China.

To get here, I caught a non-stop flight out of Wuhan to San Francisco. China Southern was comfortable, the food acceptable and I had great company. Yuan returning to her home in Palo Alto after visiting family in Wuhan sat next to me. Never chatted so much on a long flight!

Currently, I am working on a post about the trip.

Since I have been back the schedule has been wall to wall with this and that.

Continue reading

August 29, 2017


Over the past few weeks I have taken a vacation from blogging.

The time has been filled with restoring the back garden and testing my new Silk Road cookbooks. One of my granddaughters came to Davis for a long visit. We baked cookies, made art, and drummed among some other activities.


Oh must not forget that due to my friend Anne,  I also had a chance to see Lady Gaga in Sacramento! All I can say about the concert is Wow!

The vacation continues tomorrow with a trip to China. This will be the first time I do not take my computer and blog from along the way. The computer has become such a friend, it feels strange to be leaving without it. However, my partner and I are touring the ancient Silk Road (explains the new cookbooks) and I want to focus on what is along the pilgrimage. I will take copious notes and share all of it when I return.

For those who live in Texas, my thoughts and light-filled intentions are with you.

I will be back in October!

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