Friday, July 29, 2011

Chilean Seabass: You So Ugly! But You Taste So Beautiful.

I'm in a ponderous pickle: According to Seafood Watch, Chilean seabass is currently on the list of fish that sustainability-minded American consumers should avoid due to illegal overfishing.

Am I sustainability-minded? I like to think I am, and yet...

Chilean seabass is a cook's dream. You'd have to be a total kitchen dufus to ruin it. Sigh, sigh, sigh. What is one to do? It's the age-old question... The fish is in the case, the fur is on the rack, the latest idiot has been captured on YouTube -- it's too late to save them, shall we just turn away? Or eat, wear & watch? It is a real-life dilemma. I don't want to support bad practices, or bad behavior. But what's done is done, to some extent. Oy, then I'll be that hypocrite shown in one shot eating the fish and in the next shot picketing. How embarrassing.

But how delectable!

I have to assume my fish wasn't illegally caught. Legally caught fish are regulated by the FDA. I doubt that Wegmans is buying its fish from the back of an old Pontiac. Well, for now, let us not cry over spilled milk. I bought the fish with a happy heart, and with a happy heart I cooked it, and with rapture and delight I ate it.

Yow! That was the sound of some serious ass-slapping with a spatula, the cook's equivalent to a high-five. You know it, baby. Tonight's chow has earned a TEN from the judges across the board. Okay, it's just me & my husband, but we were euphoric.

So here's the lowdown. It's so simple I'm blushing as I type.

Keep an emergency box of TRUE lemon (crystallized lemon) in your cupboard. We've all fallen victim to the "3-for-$2" lemon scam at the market:  Buying 3, using half of one, and witnessing the remainder rot in the bottom of our veggie bins. So keep the TRUE lemon crystal packets on hand.

Oh, don't be such a snob. Just get some.

On the TRUE lemon box is a recipe for lemon chicken something-or-other. This is also a dynamite recipe for fish, as it turns out. Here's how I modified it:


2 portions of Chilean seabass (or the politically-correct fish of your choice)

Ingredients for the marinade:

4 packets of TRUE* lemon
    *I have to keep capitalizing "true" because that's the way it is on the box. Like that singer who uses "$" for "s" in her name... I'm not here to judge.
1 T H2O
1/8 c olive oil*
    *I substitute olive oil with my secret ingredient -- whoa! -- I almost gave away my secret ingredient! Okay, I'll tell you, but mum's the word:  I use Wegmans Basting Oil instead, which is a combo of grape seed & canola oils mixed with garlic & herbs. Brilliant!
1/2 T Dijon mustard
1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Toss fish into a large zip-lock plastic bag. Whisk all marinade ingredients in a bowl until well-blended. Pour over fish. Gently, but thoroughly, massage sauce into fish. Squish out the air in the bag and seal. Let fish marinate in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. No more, no less.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a piece of aluminum foil on a cookie sheet that is large enough to wrap around the fish and lightly spray with cooking spray. Bend the sides of the foil up enough to create a barrier and place the fish in the center. Pour the marinade over all. Hence the reason for the little barrier walls, so your marinade doesn't run all over the cookie sheet making a god-awful mess. Throw on several (to your liking, but at least 5 - 6 for each fish) Non-pareil capers. Those are the smallest size capers. Those bigger ones you sometimes see in a salad are called Capote capers, named after Truman Capote's fat arse.

Okay, I obviously made that up. I don't think his ass was nearly as big as you might imagine after watching that film starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. Who I totally dig, by the way.

Anyway, back to the recipe -- the capers will impart a complex, mustard-like jolt that elevates this simple marinade into the stratosphere. Maybe that was bit over the top, too. Suffice to say, it's worth adding, but don't sweat it if you don't have any in your fridge. Loser. Go get some. How can you not have capers?! You call yourself a foodie?

Back to the recipe, again... Seal the fish in the foil so that there aren't any air holes; all of the ingredients are safely tucked inside a little foil pouch. Slide the fish (on the cookie sheet) into your pre-heated oven and bake for 20 minutes.

When it's finished, carefully unwrap the foil (remember, folks, the fish has been steaming in a 400 degree oven, so it will be hot. Do I need to say that?). Serve your fish with the sauce (and capers, for crissake) on top.

I served our fish with Trader Joe's Rice Medley (brown rice, red rice & black barley) that I embellished with slightly wilted spinach, roasted, diced beets, & sautéed mushrooms & garlic. Is it any wonder why I deserved the Aunt Jemima Treatment after serving this dinner?  Seriously good vittles.

Wine pairing: Sauvignon blanc would work nicely, but we served one of our favorite, cheap, summer-time wines: Les Rials 2010 from Domaine de la Chanade in the Cotes du Tarn (Gaillac region) of southwestern France. Don't be put off by the price tag (around $8 - $10), it's quite a sophisticated and scrumptious medium-bodied white with a perfect balance of pear, apple, and citrus on the palate. It's also delicious on its own.

And that's it! Healthy & heavenly. That ugly Patagonian toothfish didn't die in vain after all.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Crabby for good reason

There are two things that don't photograph well: Me in a bathing suit, and a soft-shell crab sandwich.

My husband & I needed gastronomic rescue after the olfactory insult of the putrefied lamb, so we ordered the Eastern Shore Po' Boy from Miss Shirley's Cafe. This is a generous Old Bay dusted ciabatta with 2 plump, juicy, cornmeal-encrusted soft shell crabs, applewood smoked bacon, sweet red and yellow tomatoes, mixed greens and remoulade.

Excuse me, I may just need to start smoking again. Baby, that was one good sammich!

Anyway, here's a photo of half a Po' Boy:

Where's the other half, you ask?


If you happen to be in Baltimore be sure to swing by Miss Shirley's. Their breakfasts are legendary, but unfortunately they don't accept reservations. Trust me; it's worth the wait. And carry-out is your friend.

Stay tuned for a photo-tastic description of my up-coming vacation to Provincetown, MA for the 2011 PIFF. We've rented a stand-alone cottage on the beach, so you may even be lucky enough to catch me in a bathing suit!

Oh...  Lucky, lucky you!

Eat a light lunch, people.

Stinky Shrinky Skanky Shanks

One of my newest, most favoritest blogs is Food Wishes.  Chef John inspires me on a daily basis with his easy-to-prepare video recipes.  You must check him out!  Sometimes I go poking around in the archives and stumble upon something new & delicious.  Such was my recent discovery of his Slow Roasted Lamb Shanks.  The video had me drooling, so I quickly drove to Wegmans and purchased a package of their FYFGA shrink-wrapped shanks.

Though I love all things lamb, this was my first shank purchase and I was excited to give Chef John's recipe a try.

I removed the shrink wrap from the shanks and P.U. -- the entire kitchen immediately started to stink.  I've never encountered this with other cuts of lamb, so I figured this "eau de manure" might be normal for shanks and would soon dissipate.  No - it got worse as they roasted, and everything in the house, including me, was coated in the sour stench.

In fact, when I dropped by my neighbor's house to let her trio of black labs out for an afternoon piddle they eyed me hungrily as if I were a ripe corpse.  I reeked of rotting sheep to the point that they wanted to roll on me.

Back in my kitchen again, the smell oozing out the front door, I could tell that things hadn't improved, even with the addition of 6 giant cloves of crushed garlic, fresh rosemary & thyme.  That's when I decided to save my marriage and toss the smelly, gag-inducing shanks out.

Do shanks typically smell like a flock of dysenteric sheep?  I had to know!  So I called Wegmans to get the poop, so to speak, and the butcher du jour agreed that lamb has a strong smell compared to other meats, but shouldn't be pervasive like that.  He said, "Sometimes stuff happens, gas gets stuck inside when they're doing the packaging, or maybe there was a little hole in the bag."

Gas, indeed.

So, word to the wise my foodie friends -- have your butcher open the shrink wrap before you buy!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Wha' Happened?

It's been more than a year (aarrgghh!) since my last post because I'm freaking lazy about blogging. Ever since I discovered the mindless joys of Facebook (thank you to all who encouraged me to "get with it") I simply ran out of the extra umph it takes to post elsewhere. Especially when the masses are hanging on my every thought -- what is on my mind today, you must wonder. I want to say: Not much, frankly, but I'll make some shit up to entertain you. To keep up with the facebook Joneses, as it were. I'll tell you the random tune that's stuck in my brain, what I'm making for dinner, things I see out the window, etc. My "thumbs up" for your status to show I'm still connected to the world, and because I can't think of anything clever enough to say. I let the thumb icon speak for me. Pathetic. That doesn't mean I intend to stop giving the thumb. Sometimes the thumb is all I got.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My Brain Is Flaming

This is one woman’s story of her deep and unwavering love for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

Ah the cheesiness, the crispy, crackling crunchiness, the freakish, unnatural, nuclear glow of them… I love the punch-in-your-face heat. FHC are turbo-charged atomic nuggets that set your whole mouth aflame. When I eat them the top of my nose beads with sweat, but I can't stop: I crave the endorphin rush. Tears spring to my eyes, my scalp prickles with perspiration and my tongue all but blisters in the aftermath, and yet… I dream of them. I’ve been known to eat them for breakfast. I see the gaudy, orange package in the 7/11 and I have a Manchurian Candidate moment. Before I realize what has happened I’ve torn open the bag and devoured all 7.5 ounces.

Only this man understands a burning love like this.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Who asked ya?!

I was a few minutes late getting to my desk this morning because I met a new woman in the locker room (named Olga) who wouldn't stop talking to me -- even while I had the blow-dryer going and all I could see were her lips flapping. I thought, "Look, sister, I can't stand here and yap with you all day; I've got a job!" But no... She kept blabbering and blabbering, yap-yap-yap-yap-yap... And do you know what she had the audacity to speak to me about? Bear in mind that she is a complete stranger to me, I've never laid eyes on this chick... With out any provocation she starts telling me about some Chinese pill that will make me lose 40 pounds in 2 months. Now I ask you: What made her think I wanted to know about weight loss??? Could it be how utterly flattering my gym shorts make me look? Could it be my massive thighs? I gotta tell ya, it is considered RUDE to start talking to a fat person about losing weight unless that fat person asks for advice! Uhh! What a way to start the day.

Now how can I get my hands on that Chinese pill? ;)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Green in the Extreme

It's disturbing. It's intriguing. I can't stop thinking about it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

You Might Be A Redneck If...

Look what I spotted on a neighbor's porch.

People are getting more intolerant these days. Used to be they'd only ask you to step outside when you wanted to smoke.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Turophile's Delight

Or Why My Ass is as Big as Texas...

With Valentine's Day safely behind us I feel comfortable gushing about the meal my man dished up to make the holiday perfect.

We went back and forth on the idea of going to a fancy restaurant, finally deciding that we'd rather not fight the crowds, or feel rushed, or -- oh, let's face it -- we didn't make a reservation in time. No biggie. On to Plan B.

We stopped by Weggies to select the ingredients and here's what Frank prepared:

He softened chopped shallots in a blend of olive oil, lemon juice, white wine and butter, then carefully melted a few ounces of Chèvre into the mixture until a thick, creamy sauce was achieved. Fresh rosemary and cracked, black pepper was thrown in, followed by big chunks of lobster tail, which took just a minute or two to cook through.

I just adore Chèvre. I think I'd eat a shock-absorber if it was covered in Chèvre.

The lobster mixture was poured over a bed of seasoned rice (which he had embellished with sautéed shittaki mushrooms, diced celery, minced garlic and fresh thyme). A fluffy, broiled crabcake was served on the side. As if we needed anything on the side. Perhaps a side of antiarrhythmic drugs would've been more appropriate. A side of treadmill. A side of a permanent girdle.

To cut the richness he served a chilled 2005 Saint-Péray white from the northern Rhône wine region of France.

For dessert -- oh, yes, we actually ate dessert -- he made CREAM CHEESE BROWNIES! I confess to making that request. I see the word "cheese" and go into a trance.

Must. Have. More. Cheese.

Everything was divine. It was a scrumptuous Valentine's treat.

Mind yer head

Admit it: Aren't we all just a teensy bit keraunothnetophobic?
Farewell, USA 193; please don't land on me.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Not exactly Louvre-worthy

But a thing of beauty, nonetheless. This 2003 Bordeaux is from the Médoc appellation, and as we wine snobs like to say, it was freaking delicious. It was fruity, and chocolatey, with none of those "pencil shavings" or "peat" flavors that are sometimes attributed to wine. The last taste I want in my mouth when I'm sipping a fine wine is "manure nugget".

Come to think of it, that's the last taste I want in my mouth. Period.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

France away from France

What kind of gourmand (and bona fide wino) would I be if I didn't share with you one of my favorite restaurants in Baltimore? The Brasserie Tatin is a neighborhood joint where we go when we're in the mood for a taste of Paris. This place is quite similar to the Restaurant Le Bosquet. Not too formal, not too expensive. The food is marvelous, and the wine list isn't too shabby, either.

We ordered the Prix Fixe, which consisted of Les Hors d’Oeuvres: escargots in a puff pastry for Frank, and broiled scallops in a bourbon cream sauce for me; Les Plats: steak frites for Frank and a lamb shank for me; and Dessert: Marjolaine Le Bec Fin for us both.

This is the way the dessert is described on the menu: "Hazelnut meringue layered with chocolate mousse, hazelnut buttercream & whipped cream, glazed with ganache."

This is the way I describe it: Perfect.

Our clever server, Divya, talked us into ordering a bottle of wine instead of settling for the minute portions offered as the prix fixe wine-pairing. She actually had to wrestle me to the ground, holding a butter knife to my throat before I gave in. Uncle! Uncle! Okay, I'll do it.

The host/owner/sommelier extraordinaire Marc Dettori recommended the Saint-Julien Bordeaux, Chateau Talbot 2002 because it was "soft and beautiful". He was right on the money. We both enjoyed it immensely: Frank, with his one-glass-allotment, and me, with the rest of the bottle.

What was the occasion for this delectable outing, you might ask. Simple. I had just visited my favorite salon so I needed to take my hair out to dinner.

Does a girl need a better reason than that?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Room with a 'View

Ahhh, yes: The Interview. Many are wondering how I fared on my first interview in 15 years. Here is the blow-by-blow account of the entire event, which I am forever referring to as The Debacle.

First, The Outfit. I selected a black, knit dress that fell to the knee with black, leather boots and belt. The only embellishment was simple, silver jewelry. Very understated: Elegant without being flashy, professional yet playful, neither too young nor too old, neither too stuffy nor too casual. These were the adjectives I imagined as I dressed. Sassy! Classy! Chic! My boss took one look at me that morning and complimented my attire by saying, "You're looking very Goth today."

Yes, that's exactly the look I was going for: Gothic. Look, it's not like I had a leather whip tucked under my belt. The black dress just happened to be the only one that fit. It was either that or the ultra-tight bronze skirt that makes me look like a malformed sausage link.

Next, The Hair. I took extra time styling my 'do and then -- god help me, what was I thinking?! -- I decided to try a new product that should be called Helmet Head for Hos. Suddenly my fluffy, breezy, shiny, Breck-girl locks were molded to my skull like a wax wig, and there was no way to undo the damage. Especially not by applying a bit more goop, as I tragically discovered. When I got to my desk a co-worker smiled pathetically and asked, "What happened?"

After that, The Drive. Thank goodness I gave myself 2 hours to reach the office in Washington, DC (even though it's only a 15 minute commute from my office in VA) because I got terribly lost after taking the wrong exit and found myself in a trash-strewn, burned-out, chop-shop wasteland where men think nothing of yelling, "Hey lady! Hey lady!" Really, what is that all about? Am I supposed to pull over and ask them what they want? "Oh, hey there scary-looking stranger, are you talking to me? Wow, that really is a gun in your pocket! Here, take my purse and car keys while you're at it."

Next, The Arrival. I got to my destination with 8 minutes to spare, and as luck would have it -- good luck for a change -- there was a parking space right out front. The HR person met me at the front desk and exclaimed, "You look beautiful!" Let me just say to any HR people out there: What a BRILLIANT thing to do! Seriously, I suddenly forgot that I had been driving around for 2 hours with my heart in my throat, and that my hair looked like crap, and that I was dressed like Johnny Cash. It was a nice little boost to my confidence. I sailed into the interviewing chamber like a runway model.

Then, The Interview. Things started off beautifully with the three of us -- me and 2 interviewers -- laughing, chatting and swapping IT horror stories. I thought I had it in the bag, as the saying goes. We were all smiling, nodding, saying the right things, such as, How soon can you start? Is two weeks soon enough?

And finally, The Debacle. We were wrapping up, when suddenly one of the interviewers decided to ask 2 technical questions that completely derailed me. Up until that moment I was calm and confident. Suddenly the room began to fade in and out, black and white, my brow began to sweat and it felt as though I was looking down upon myself from the fluorescent light fixture, where I could see my hideous hair-do and watch my nervous gestures as I feebly tried to distract them. I mean, answer them. It occurred to me that I might faint, and I hoped that if I did faint I would do so in a lady-like fashion, none of this legs akimbo and my dress scrunched around my ears business, as has happened in the past. Don't worry... That wasn't during an interview; that happened at Memorial Stadium. Yes, I sure do like to please the big crowd! I began to wonder if fainting might help me get the job -- the ol' damsel-in-distress ploy -- no matter where the dress ended up. Still, I'm certain my chances would be slightly better if I didn't expose my enormous bottom on our first meeting. Though clearly I was doing that anyway.

I stuttered and stammered through what seemed like an eternity, but was really just a few minutes. Both men were looking at me with a queer sort of curiosity usually reserved for meat products formed using tofu. They both pushed their chair back, slapped their hands on their lap and proclaimed that they had enough information, very nice to meet you, someone will show you out, etc.

Lastly, The Debriefing. Mary Beth and I headed to The Dubliner in order to dissect the entire episode. The Guinness stout helped to ease the embarrassment as I recounted the last, crucial five minutes of the meeting. Mary Beth assured me that it wasn't as bad as I imagined, but I think that was just the booze talking.

It's been exactly a week since that fateful day and I haven't heard a peep, so I guess it wasn't meant to be.

C'est la vie! Me and my bronze skirt are ready to dazzle the next prospect. Now who's in the mood for a sausage?

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Winos Dream

We attended a wine-tasting at the home of Todd and Sharon Capitani. Our sommelier was Stephen Potter of International Cellars, or as Sharon referred to him by the end of the evening: The Wine Pourer.

Our esteemed hosts get cozy:

The evening began in a civilized fashion, with Stephen making spot-on recommendations:

As the evening merriment wound down, there was the inevitable line-up of dead soldiers:

The nightmare quantity of dirty stemware:

A plethora of popped corks:

And the shenanigans that ensue after too much vino:

Polar Bear Heart

My main squeeze is an incredible human being. On January 26 he took part in the 12th Annual MSP Polar Bear Plunge to benefit Special Olympics Maryland. The air temperature was 32 degrees, the water slightly warmer, but that didn't stop him (and approximately 10,000 other brave souls) from plunging into the frigid Chesapeake Bay. Thanks to the generosity of our friends and family Frank raised a whopping $500 -- a personal best. This is the fourth consecutive year he participated. Overall, Special Olympics Maryland raised more that two million dollars. Woo-hoo!

Here's the money shot:

Back on the beach:

The Reason I Smile

Monday, January 14, 2008

Christmas in Europe 2007


Frank and I celebrated Christmas 2007 with Lisa, John, JP and Megan in The Netherlands. The grandkids are at a perfect age; every moment we spent with them was magical. Even endless games of UNO and dancing to the Quack Quack song was a delight. There's something about being on vacation that makes all things tolerable and even enjoyable, and it has nothing to do with the amount of alcohol consumed.

This photograph was taken in Amsterdam. I have a Mad Magazine mentality when it comes to photographing people with amusing backdrops. My husband is forever protesting that he isn't a big baby. And yet, here he is, dutifully posing before a shop on the Kalverstraat. Sissy or not, I dare anyone to mess with "The Gunner and his Mate".

Lisa met us in Amsterdam to get her "American Fix": a juicy, bacon cheeseburger at the Hard Rock. We were happy to oblige since that's an indulgence we rarely allow for
ourselves. Greasy goodness!

We traveled by train to Lisa's home (the Weavers live in Schinnen, located in the southeastern part of The Netherlands). We were so excited to see the grandkids! JP is 8 and Megan is 4. They call Frank Gramps, isn't that funny? I get a kick out of it whenever they call his name in a crowded place.

Nevermind what they call me.

After a few days Frank & I took another train to Paris and stayed at an interesting hotel called Latour Maubourg on the Rue De Grenelle in the heart of Paris, between the Eiffel Tower, the Avenue des Champs-Elysées and Saint Germain des Près.

The rooms of Latour Maubourg were individually decorated in a Napoleonic style. They boast having a gym with Turkish baths. The temperature in Paris was in the upper 20s, so we looked forward to the toastiness of a nice, warm Turkish bath. We quickly discovered that Latour Maubourg's idea of a "gym" was 2 pieces of exercise equipment tucked into the corner of their basement, and "Turkish baths" was a tiny closet with steam pumped into it. Not exactly what we had in mind. We gave up after 5 minutes when Frank scalded his calf on the steam pipe just trying to turn around. This is a photo of the way our room was decorated. Don't be taken in by the gold lamé accents... It's just as garish as you're imagining. Even the chandelier was decorated with wispy, grey, boa feathers. The hot pink Christmas tree in the lobby should've been a dead give-away as to what was in store. Somehow we managed to sleep here.

I'm really not complaining. I'd stay in a cardboard box under a bridge if it meant vacationing in Paris. Besides, the hotel staff couldn't have been friendlier or more accomodating.

Let's face it... With enough wine I can sleep anywhere.

Possibly the best thing about the Hotel de Latour Maubourg was its proximity to a metro station. That was our only form of transportation while in Paris, and it was fantastic. We made good use of our multi-day passes and went everywhere. Sometimes the turnstile was broken at the Métro Line 8 (Latour Maubourg station), and we rode for free. You can't beat that.

Cobblestone streets wound past shops burgeoning with luscious cheeses, freshly baked breads and wine -- three things I love! We enjoyed afternoon picnics in our room. For me, this is the main reason for visiting the City of Lights.

And here is the other reason, of course. J'adore Paris!

Now let's talk seriously about yet another fine reason for visiting Paris: the food. Can those Frenchies cook or what?! We made a point in revisiting Guy Savoy's trendy bistro La Butte Chaillot on the Avenue Kléber in the 16th Arrondissement. Guy Savoy is one of France’s most celebrated chefs, and while this particular restaurant hasn't earned the Michelin star garnered by his other establishments the food is still pretty darn tasty. Guy's privately labeled Bordeaux was affordable (€25) and delicious with our steaks.

We made a new culinary discovery on this trip, the Restaurant Le Bosquet, a traditional brasserie located in the 7th Arrondisement on the corner of Avenue Bosquet and rue du Champ de Mars. It has been around since 1932. The prices were extremely reasonable, even considering the strength of the euro, and the food... It was so good that we dined there 3 times. I ordered the perfectly cooked filet des saumon sauce béarnaise that was served with a gigantic mound of steamed, garlicy spinach. The wine I selected was a Sancerre, which was a superb accompagnement.

Those who know my love of vin rouge will be scratching their heads when they learn that I ordered that same entrée and wine combination all three times. Ahh, but those who try it will understand completely. Très bon!

Lisa & her family joined us after a few days and we moved to the Cercle National Des Armees, (National Officers' Club of the Armies) located across the street from the Church of Saint Augustine. It's a hotel for military officers and their guests and was surprisingly grand. Not an army cot in sight.

We did the things we missed on the last trip to France, such as visiting Versailles, the Sacre Coeur church in the artistic community of Montmare, viewing all of Paris from atop the Arc de Triomphe, and lingering in the Louvre (instead of dashing frantically from wing to wing in order to see it all -- a futile exercise, I might add!) Did you know that there's a Starbucks in the Louvre? I imagine there's even one in Hell.

A view of the iconic symbol from the Place du Trocadéro, located in the 16th arrondissement.

The gardens of Versaille, still beautiful in Winter.

Film clip of Megan outside of the Chateau:

Sacre Coeur Basilica in Montmare is one of the highest points in Paris. The view is not to be missed.

A mere stone's throw from our hotel was the Hôtel National des Invalides. The golden dome in the background is known simply as "The Dome Church", which is where Napoleon's tomb is located. Another interesting tidbit: Many of the arms used by the mob when it attacked the Bastille on 14 July 1789 were taken from Les Invalide on the morning of that day. Roughly 28,000 arms were taken.

This complex includes the Musée de l'Armée, where Vizir, one of the Emperor's favorite horses still resides, albeit stuffed. Hmmm... I wonder where Josephine wound up.

The impressive Arc de Triomphe - top & bottom.

While similar in design to the Arc de Triomphe, this is the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, modeled on the Arch of Constantine in Rome. It is located outside of the Louvre.

Back in The Netherlands... Frank and Lisa demonstrate how to be in three places at once. This marks the 3-country point, "Dreiländerpunkt" in Dutch, where Belgium, Germany & The Netherlands touch.

Other highlights included the Thermae Spa located in the medieval town of Valkenburg (natural thermal springs, whirlpools & saunas). We became as buoyant as a leaf on a stream, floating around and around in the warm and soothing water: the epitome of total relaxation. We went to Cologne, (Köln) located on the Rhine, and peeked inside the city's famous cathedral, (Kölner Dom), as well as getting squashed by the masses at the Christmas market. I can honestly say I know how a canned sardine must feel after that experience. Thank goodness my senses were dulled by the spicy glühwein. A rainy afternoon was spent in Aachen (in western Germany) to tour the Imperial Cathedral, which is the final resting place of Charlemagne. The ceiling of the cathedral is embellished with many tiny tiles, beautifully arranged and glistening in the flickering candlelight. It was unforgettable.

A specialty of Aachen is the gingerbread (Aachener Printe). The chocolate-covered variety was particularly delicious.

Christmas in Schinnen was the very best part of our trip.