Oh Geez, I Need to Take a Chill Pill

Can you believe Starbucks has their cafe here? Nothing this fancy in the States!

My MacBook Pro has been experiencing some connectivity issues and it took me forever to get it figured out.  I haven’t been able to post for a couple of days.  It seems to be working right now, so fingers crossed….

The Lisbon trip has not been turning out as expected; or at least how I envisioned it when we first started planning (and paying) for it several months ago.  Part of the enjoyment of travel is the anticipation and preparation.  There is an article I read once that said the majority of people enjoy trip planning on an equal basis compared to the trip itself.   Anticipation of a wonderful experience is rewarding in itself; at least for me!

When we travel, I spend months figuring out where to go and what to do when we get there.  This grandma has read articles on dozens of Portuguese towns, made 3×5 reference cards on cities and sites, and signed up for two online Portuguese language courses (Babbel and Duolingo).

Continue reading “Oh Geez, I Need to Take a Chill Pill”


Lisbon Days 4 & 5. Momma Said Don’t Text and Walk …..

A little twist on the street musician scene. These guys played on their balcony and had a bucket on a rope hung down to the sidewalk to collect donations. They were great!

We had a lazy day yesterday and a very busy one today.  George has not been feeling well, so it was a quiet day.  Our hotel is on the Avenida da Liberdade (Avenue of Liberty).  There is a mile long park that begins a few yards from us.

The day was beautiful and we took a leisurely stroll up and back.  The parks all seem to have an outdoor coffee/beer/wine house with seating.  They practically call your name and issue an open invitation to eat yet another pastry and café de leite.  I have got to get a grip.  I’ve eaten more pastries in the last few days (pastéis de natas to be specific) than in the last 15 years.  Seriously.  I have to get a grip.  Starting tomorrow.


Part of the problem is THEY ARE CHEAP, and I LOVE A DEAL.  These delectable bites from heaven only cost one Euro.  A fancy coffee and a pastry is around two Euros.  Today I had a coffee out of a machine at a museum and it was 40 cents.  I kid you not.  Food and drink is so inexpensive.  Which means I have to consume 16 times my normal daily food quota because I’m saving so much money.  This is not a healthy attitude and I must get it under control.  Right after we visit the original pastel de nata bakery in Belém tomorrow.  I mean it has been churning out these tasty morsels since 1837.  It is a national epidemic.  They sell 20,000 a day.  After that I go straight to rehab.  I need Siri to see if there is a Weight Watchers meeting in the neighborhood.  AAAGH!

I wasn’t joking about the popularity of the pastel de nata. It puts the Portland VooDoo Donuts to shame. This was the line at 4 pm at the original bakery who invented them. They sell 20,000 a day. And it is breakfast pastry! Oh heck, it’s good 24 hours a day.

Continue reading “Lisbon Days 4 & 5. Momma Said Don’t Text and Walk …..”

Lisbon Day 2 and 3 – What is in That Man’s Butt?


Years ago, we went on a cruise around the coast of France, Portugal and Spain.  People criticize cruises because of the short one day visits to so many locations.  I prefer to think it is a wonderful opportunity to get a taste of a country and scope out where we can return for a longer stay.  We visited Lisbon on a cruise and I was smitten; this was a place to come back to and suck it all in.  And here we are!

First off, it is flippin’ beautiful.  And it has something to offer for everyone.  If you are young and still have a body that doesn’t make folks take a shuddering double-take, or too old to care what people think, the beaches are great to show off your attributes.  There is even world-class surfing for the adventurous.   And the beaches extend for endless miles.  Three sides of Portugal are exposed to the sea – from the colder Atlantic to the warm Mediterranean.  Something for everyone.

The ancient Romans knew a good thing when they saw it, and realized there were riches far beyond what Italy could offer.  The Iberian peninsula provided the riches that allowed Rome to become the Big Boys of the ancient world.  History abounds here and you can even go shopping at the Vasco de Gama Mall.  Remember old Vasco the Explorer from history class?  Now he lives on at the mall.

Continue reading “Lisbon Day 2 and 3 – What is in That Man’s Butt?”

Hello Lisbon!

International flights are so nice.  Complimentary Peach Bellinis to welcome us aboard!  Too bad they don’t qualify as juice for the crying babies on board.  I’m sure their mothers could have downed a few to help them cope.

We have hit the road, or should I say the skies, and left a chilly Oregon for the hopefully warmer climates of Portugal and Spain. The plan is nine days in Portugal (primarily Lisbon) and then a nine day cruise up the western coast of Spain, ending in Barcelona.

Currently, there are thousands of people having demonstrations in Barcelona. I just watched a news report showing a group of people literally throwing themselves upon a grown tree on a street, rocking it back and forth until it was uprooted. I hope it is a bit more peaceful by the time we reach there!

Continue reading “Hello Lisbon!”

Strawberry Apple Rhubarb Sweet Potato Cake – Low Sugar, Naturally Sweetened


On my recent trip to Minneapolis to meet my beautiful new granddaughter, I reconnected with a favorite cousin.  Like most of us, she loves sweet baked goods.  We were talking about the difficulty of baking a low calorie sweet treat.  I offered to try to come up with some low sugar treats, and asked her to text me a few of her favorite baked goods.

Rhubarb was on her list.  Inwardly, I groaned.  How on earth do you sweeten the tangiest of fruit/veggie (did you know it is considered by some as both a fruit and veggie?), without copious amounts of sugar?  In fact, I have avoided cooking  with rhubarb, for this very reason.

Okay, I can do this.  This recipe is what I came up with.  Instead of sugar, I used strawberries, apples and sweet potato.  Yes, I said sweet potato.  It is called “Sweet” for a reason.  I wondered if I could it could provide a sweet to the Rhubarb tart.  And it worked!  The only sugar in this recipe is the sprinkled topping.  The cake itself is naturally sweetened.  And it took a typical 340 plus calorie serving down to 192 calories.  And I’m not talking a little two inch square serving.  Those are a joke.  If a Barbie Doll ate a two inch square, she would burp politely and tell Ken to get her another piece.  This is a nice sized chunk, so you can feel like you ate something and feel good that a serving has less than 10 grams of sugar, compared to 38 – 40 grams of a typical recipe.

Top it with some sliced strawberries, and zap with a bit of whipped topping or sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar.



So let’s make it!  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


Dice 1/2 cup and steam for three minutes in microwave. This softens them and helps release the sweetness.


Dice 1 medium apple (use a sweet variety) and 1 cup of sliced strawberries. Combine with the sweet potatoes and 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon. Apple pie spice would be nice, or you could add spice that sounds good.


Dice 2 cups of rhubarb, which was about two nice sized stalks.  Combine with the apples, sweet potato, and strawberry mix.


Beat one egg with one tablespoon of vanilla in a bowl. Add 1/4 cup softened butter and whisk. It will be lumpy, but give it a good beat!
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To egg mixture add 1 cup plain non-fat greek yogurt and 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce.


In a separate mixing bowl, combine 2 1/3 cups flour with 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a mixing bowl. Add the egg/yogurt mixture and beat by hand until well combined.


Batter will be thick. This does NOT look like a commercial boxed cake mix! This is full of healthy goodness you can taste with every bite!


I always opt for easy to clean, so I lined a 10 x 12 pan (or a 9 x 13) pan with parchment paper. You can always oil the pan but go lightly or you add calories.
Time for the topping. This is the only processed sugar in the recipe. Add 1 teaspoon nutmeg and 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (or more if you like) to 1/3 cup sugar. Sprinkle over top of cake batter.  I forgot the cinnamon when I took this picture and ended up sprinkling the cinnamon over the top after adding the sugar and nutmeg.  The cinnamon adds deeper dimension.  Remember Cinnamon is also a good flavor substitute for sugar, as is vanilla.  It fills the mouth with flavor.  Adding sugar to the top of the cake (rather than in the batter) also gives a sweet flavor as the cake hits the mouth, and fools us into thinking the cake is sweeter. 
Bake at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes, until knife inserted comes out clean and a bit moist.
Recipe makes ten generous portions. Each serving has 192 calories; 4.3 grams of fat; 32.2 grams of carbohydrates 9.8 grams of sugar and 5 grams of protein.  That’s a lot of protein in a sweet treat!



Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Baking time is 45 – 55 minutes.  Serves 10.


1/4 cup butter

1 large egg

1 tablespoon vanilla

8 ounces plain non-fat greek yogurt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt (I use kosher)

2 1/3 cups all purpose flour

4 ounces unsweetened applesauce

2 cups rhubarb

1 medium apple

1 cup sliced strawberries

1/2 cup diced steamed sweet potatoes

1 tablespoon cinnamon, divided



Dice sweet potatoes and steam in microwave for three minutes.  Dice apples, rhubarb and slice strawberries.  Combine all and set aside.

Beat egg, vanilla and then add butter.  Whisk to mix (it will still be a bit lumpy); Add yogurt and applesauce.  Beat well by hand and set aside.

Combine salt, baking soda, flour and one teaspoon of cinnamon in a mixing bowl.  Add egg/yogurt mixture and mix well.  Batter will be thick.  Add mixture of apples, rhubarb, strawberries and sweet potato.  Stir well to combine.

Oil or line with parchment paper a 10 x 12 or 9 x 13 baking dish.  Fill dish with batter and smooth to edges.  It will be thick.

Combine remaining cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar.  Can add more spices to sugar!  Sprinkle over batter until well coated.

Bake 45 – 55 minutes at 350 degrees.  Serves 12 nice servings (192 calories) or 10 really good ones (230 calories)!


Last Day and it Went Literally Into My Bones – Rome Day 8

Day 8

Grim Greetings,

Gosh, this was our last day in Rome.  Tomorrow morning we hop the train to the airport and fly back home.  This is the part I dislike the most.  I’m so happy traveling and seeing new things.  There must be some gypsy in me.

This ended up being a bit of a strange day.  We were going to head to the Appian Way and ride our bicycles.  Sadly, George woke up with a new case of gout in his foot.  He hobbled to breakfast and confessed that he just couldn’t do it.  All he wanted to do was limp back to the room and get off his foot. Continue reading “Last Day and it Went Literally Into My Bones – Rome Day 8”

How Far Do You Need to Walk to Work off 50,000 calories in Rome? Day 7

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Using a Rome city map dated 1667, we were able to navigate our way to the Forum. The streets are teeming with history, no matter which way you turn.

Day 7


It was nice not to wake up at the crack of dawn and have to be somewhere.  So we woke up at the crack of dawn, anyway.  Creatures of habit, we staggered down to the breakfast room.  I am a wee bit tired of the hotel breakfast.  It is all meats, cheeses, breads, scrambled eggs and canned fruit.  Although today there was fresh fruit mixed with the canned fruit.  Every day I have the eggs and a slice of bread, plus fruit from our room.  I’m ready for something different.  Eating the complimentary breakfast saves money, and I’m also fond of spending more money.  Hotel coffee is amazing however, and I’m not a bit tired of downing the morning brew.

I was hesitant to tell George my desires of the day; I have drug this poor man all over Rome.  He wanted to ride bikes on the Appian Way, and today was penciled in for a nice bike ride.  But thunder and lightning was forecast.  I’m not wild about riding a metal bike in a thunderstorm.  Fortunately, George felt the same way, and we decided to go back to the fashion shopping district to pick up some gifts.  There were two historic sites that we hadn’t hit yet in the same general direction, and I tried to make George think it was his idea to go there.  Subtlety, however, isn’t my strong suit, so I finally gave up and said “Could we go to the Domus Romana and also see the bones of the Capuchin monks?”

George is a very amiable soul, and has agreed to every place I have wanted to visit.  He may walk at a snail’s pace.  Actually, it is possible that a snail might pass him, but he seems to get there.  We looked at the map, and decided to hit the Domus Romano first.

Continue reading “How Far Do You Need to Walk to Work off 50,000 calories in Rome? Day 7”

Caught in a Pottery Gang War but Ends on Palantine Hill – Rome Days 5 & 6

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View of the Forum from Palantine Hill. This must have been one busy place in its glory! It was a swamp drained by the Romans and then built upon. Much of it was stripped and destroyed to build the Vatican. It slowly returned to nature until it became a cattle pasture. The soil helped preserve and prevent further destruction.

End of Day 5


We took a relaxing train back to Rome from Ostia, and our plan was to take the subway back to our hotel. As we neared the transfer point, I realized that we were next to the Testaccio neighborhood. In ancient times this was the factory and warehouse area of Rome, and still remains a very working class area. Back in the Good Old Days of the Empire, it was the major manufacturing location for amphora. Amphora were pottery containers of all sizes used to store and ship olive oil, grain, wine, etc. Amphora did not have flat bottoms, and ended with a pointed or rounded bottom. You would never see shipping containers shaped like this today!  Amphora would sit in holes on racks in ships and it was quite efficient. They could stay upright on a swaying ship without tipping over. Pottery will break, of course, and two thousand years ago, they started piling all the broken pots and old rancid olive oil in one pile. And kept on piling in the same location century after century. It became so huge that it became known as Monte Testaccio, the 8th hill of Rome. It is enormous! I saw a TV show that said trendy restaurants had been built into the sides of the pottery mountain, and if you went inside you could see the walls were made of broken amphora.

The Testaccio district has historic slaughterhouses, and if you want to eat an offal dish (as in organs and intestinal based foods), this is the place to go.  I wonder if our word “awful” came from “offal?”  Rome is known for their ox tail stew, which was created here.

Continue reading “Caught in a Pottery Gang War but Ends on Palantine Hill – Rome Days 5 & 6”

Ostia, Men’s Underwear and There are No Shortcuts – Rome Day 5

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View from the fourth floor of an apartment house in Ostia Antica. Looking down at George standing in the street below. No penthouse living in the olden times. Poor folks lived on the top – no fire escapes, plus hot in summer, cold in winter.


Today was such a gift – we didn’t have to get up and meet anyone at a certain time. The guides have been great, and we have learned much more than when we did it on our own, but it can be a bit rough getting up in the morning.

Today we go to Ostia Antica, which I have wanted to do for at least 15 years. It was located on the mouth of the Tiber River and was both a military protection location (keep sea invaders from coming up the river to Rome) and a commercial port to provide goods to Rome.

Ostica is very well preserved. The harbor of the Tiber River had silted in over the years and gently buried the city in mud. Which preserved it very well, indeed. This working city of 60,000 is all there. Roofs are gone, and the interior goods were looted and/or removed, but you can walk the streets, go through residential neighborhoods and get a real feel for an authentic ancient city. Let the imagination run free and it is easy to feel like an ancient Roman. In the Middle Ages, squatters lived in the shells of the old city, in parts that weren’t yet buried.

Continue reading “Ostia, Men’s Underwear and There are No Shortcuts – Rome Day 5”