Sunday, October 25, 2009


Church in Gamla Stan

Botanical Gardens Uppsala Sweden

House Swapping

Jenni and I rented an apartment a few years ago when we took the boys to Ireland with us. I thought it was great and I highly recommend it as an alternative to staying in a hotel.

Lately I've been hearing more and more about house swapping. It's a pretty interesting concept and possibly a big cost saver to your travel budget. Your accommodations end up costing you nothing. To do it: you register with a service, post pictures of your home, and make arrangements with the owners to swap homes with them for a weekend or a couple weeks. I haven't done it myself, but something to consider.

This is a pretty good article from Travel + Leisure where the authors talk about their experience.

Special Report: House Swapping - Articles - Travel + Leisure

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Cheddar and 'bacon' drop biscuits

Here's an easy biscuit recipe that I appropriated from Cooking Light magazine. I just substitute veggie bacon for the bacon they recommend. I ended up making two batches of these last year on the boys' birthday. People were eating them as fast I could get them out of the oven.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 1/2 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 slices of veggie bacon, cooked and crumbled
3/4 cup or more buttermilk
1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 400°.

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and whisk. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. I use my fingers to get everything blended, but that's up to you. Stir in cheese and bacon. Add buttermilk and 1/4 cup water, stirring just until moist. Drop dough by 2 level tablespoonfuls 1 inch apart onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake at 400° for 11 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Bad Leo's Diving

My buddy, Bob runs Bad Leo's Diving. He's no vegetarian, and I'm no diver. But Bob has a great passion for what he does; he takes great photos of his trips too. I credit Bob with recommending Bermuda to me last year. He'd spent some time working there several years ago and loved it. When I was looking for an island Jenni and I could visit, he provided me with some excellent information. I even stayed at the Elbo Beach Hotel, which Bob recommended. Fantastic trip!

If you're a diver, or want to become one, check out Bob's website.

Bad Leo's Diving


Long Way Down

I've been reading Long Way Down by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman. In 2007 Charley and Ewan embarked on a motorcycle journey from John o'Groats in Scotland to Cape Town, South Africa. I watched the documentary they did a couple months ago, so I thought I'd look through the book to see what they didn't want shown by the cameras. I've really enjoyed the book. It's like reading a friend's travel diary. Charley and Ewan narrate their story switching back and forth in a conversational format, giving their reflections on what they're seeing, how they're feeling, etc. I liked Long Way Round too, but I actually think this is a better book. One of the most endearing aspects of the their story is that they seem just like any other traveler; they aren't historians, professional travel writers, or aid workers. They see cool stuff, meet interesting people, but they don't go into the scholarly details. They get ticked off when things break down, get into arguments with one another or their team, and are just as awestruck by what they are doing as we'd be. They make a lot of Star Wars jokes too. In the process they also draw attention to causes they care about: The Children's Hospice Association Scotland, UNICEF, and Riders for Health.

Long Way Down

The Amazing Race

It's hard to believe this is the 15th season of The Amazing Race. We've been watching since the show started in 2001. Some seasons have been more entertaining than others. This one has been pretty good. I don't have a real favorite though I'm leaning toward Flight Time and Big Easy. Jenni and I were really pulling for Margie and Luke last season. Curse you Tammy and Victor! You can watch episodes of the current show below. If there's one clear take-away it's this: next time you book that dream trip with that special someone, ex-spouse, fiance, sibling, or life-long friend, you should watch a couple seasons of The Amazing Race. You might find you're better off staying home.

The Amazing Race: Watch Episodes and Video and Join the Ultimate Fan Community -

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Easy Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup

It's that time of year again. The days are getting shorter. The leaves are turning. The air is chilly and damp. Good soup making weather. Everybody has a favorite pumpkin soup recipe. And here's mine. It's an old Rachael Ray recipe that I've been playing around with over the years. It's a quick meal, and as easy as pie.

1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
2 tablespoons of butter
1 red onion chopped
1 can of vegetable broth
1 can of diced tomatoes in juice
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3 pinches of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat a deep pot over medium heat. Add oil and butter. When the butter melts, add the onion and saute until tender. Add broth, tomatoes, black beans, and pumpkin. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and stir in cream, curry powder, cumin, cayenne, and a few pinches of salt. Simmer 5 minutes, adjust seasonings and serve.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

How to Make Friends and Oppress People

I picked up a few books yesterday. I couldn't resist How to Make Friends and Oppress People (Classic Travel Advice for the Gentleman Adventurer) by Vic Darkwood, simply based upon the title. I don't think it's for everybody, but I think it's pretty funny. I've read my share about the British Empire over the years. The author guides you through typical travel topics, but sends them up in a cod Victorian style. Interspersed is travel advice from actual travel guides from the 19th and early 20th century. It's hard to imagine accomplishing so much dressed in tweed and roughing it by being forced to make your own gin and tonic amongst 'savage natives' in places like Italy and Spain. But should you enjoy a very erudite joke on the English Gentleman it might be worth a look.

I also picked up:

The Global Soul by Pico Ayer
Long Way Down by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman
Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux



Kayak is a constantly evolving travel search engine. It was started in 2004 by the co-founders of Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia. The site aggregates information from other travel sites, consolidators, airlines, hotel chains and online travel agencies. It's a pretty cool, intuitive site and the search engine does some of the grunt work of sorting through the clutter.

I'd read in Budget Travel magazine that Kayak is going to allow: Search Sharing, where you can share your search results with others who might be traveling with you. Search Snooping, which allows you to enter your home airport and watch as the best fares other searchers are finding from that airport pop up in real time, and Search On The Go, Kayak's iPhone app which allows for searching when you're mobile.

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