Summer Hit List: Food & Drink

Rosé chilling in a fountain in Aix-en-Provence (photo by LMB)

I don't know if you've noticed, but we love to eat and drink over here in the Bossy-Melear household. And that goes double when we're in foreign countries. Wherever we go we try to partake of all the local specialties, wander the aisles of grocery stores, and spy on the natives at neighboring tables to see what they're having. Then we have long discussions/Google searches of how to incorporate our favorites once we're back home. I thought you might like to know what made our list this summer:

  • Chocolate sprinkled on cappuccino: With the amount of Nespresso that gets consumed at our house, I don't know why we never before thought to put chocolate on top. They do it everywhere we went in the UK and most places in Italy. Once we got home we hunted down a shaker (we found one at Sur La Table, similar to this one, exactly like this one that Williams-Sonoma is charging double the price for, lame), and now we get a little sprinkle of decadent chocolate with every cup!
  • Rosé: In Aix-en-Provence it felt like every person in every restaurant was drinking rosé. I wasn't sure about it (I think I was associating it with the Franzia of my youth), but it turned out to be the most light, refreshing summer drink. Plus, there are lots of delicious choices in the $10 range—can't beat that! To keep it cold, lots of outdoor cafés in Aix use plastic wine chiller bags. Wouldn't these be perfect for picnics?
  • Pecorino al forno with honey: We first discovered this last summer on our honeymoon: pecorino cheese, on bread or with bread, melted in the oven and then drizzled with honey and cracked pepper. Maybe the best thing I've ever eaten. It's tricky to reproduce it here because the kind of pecorino usually found in grocery stores is aged. The key is to look for "pecorino fresco." We're lucky enough to have Central Market and their wall of cheese nearby, which is probably why we got too excited and bought an entire (smallish) wheel of the stuff. Who could blame us?
  • Potato chips: When you order a glass of wine or a Negroni in Tuscany, more often than not you are served a bowl of potato chips with it. At first we thought it was bizarre (if not a little trashy), but now we're sold. We even learned how to say "potato chips" in Italian for the rare occasions we had to ask for them ("patatine fritte," if you're wondering). Back home, classic Utz chips do the job just fine.
We could not be happier to be home after so long away, but it's good to have a little taste of vacation on hand when needed. What delicious things are you eating and drinking this summer?

Happy Olympics weekend!

Friends, what are you up to this weekend? I'm hoping to conquer this jet lag (we were wide awake at 4am this morning, despite going to bed as late as possible) and get reacquainted with our house. We're having friends over for a little open house on Sunday, which might be the only time that I tear myself away from Olympics coverage. Will you be watching? We were just in London for a day before flying back, and Olympics fever was in the air. I caught the bug!

Some linky goodness for your weekend:

A handy guide to Olympics coverage on American TV.

Forbes ranked Houston as America's Coolest City! We tend to agree.

It's too hot for sticky lotion legs. I've been using this body oil all summer, and I love it!

I am hugely excited about this new camera. Might be the perfect solution—I get tired of lugging my heavy one around.

I can't get enough of Flula. Maybe start with this one. Or this one. I can't decide!

Are you following me on Facebook yet? Pretty please?

Back to posting adorable cat pictures (for the next week, anyway—then I'm off again):

Hope your weekend is full of air conditioning (the American kind), boozy get-togethers, and Olympic glory. xoxo LMB

Photos by LMB

And… we're back!

It's 6:30pm and we're still awake, so that's a good thing. Here we are on our very own couch in our very own living room, with our blissful cat curled up within petting distance of both of us. We're home! I haven't been here for longer than a few hours since April(!), and I'm so very happy to be home.

The flight home was unexpectedly smooth. We did this sneaky thing where we booked an aisle seat and a window seat in the hopes that nobody would book the middle seat, and it worked! We had an empty seat between us so we could stretch out (and avoid climbing over strangers when we had to use the restroom). Then there was video on demand on individual screens and we discovered Boss, a fascinating TV show about a fictional Chicago mayor played by Kelsey Grammar. They had the entire first season: 8 55-minute episodes, and we watched them ALL! So we had no trouble filling the 9 1/2-hour flight.

On the agenda for tonight? Salad for dinner (detox starts NOW) and no sleeping allowed until at least 9pm. And lots of Bossy Cat snuggles, of course.

Somewhere out there...

One night in Italy we looked out the window of our hotel room and saw a huge, beautiful moon. I got out my camera right away and started snapping away, but all my pictures looked terrible—the moon was blown out without any of the detail I could see with my eyes, and the background was grainy and gray.

CameraMan to the rescue! Here was his advice for taking great moon pics: Expose for the moon, not for the background. That meant bumping the ISO down to 400 (instead of 1600, which is what I usually use at night) and bumping the shutter speed way up to 1/200 or 1/400 of a second. The results? A much more detailed moon and a much less grainy night sky.

Apparently this is also the best technique for taking stage pictures of someone in a spotlight. It’s good to have a CameraMan around when you need him.

Photos by LMB

Mothra is Waiting

My dear friend Kevin, one of the most talented people I know, begins shooting his first film, Mothra is Waiting, this summer. In Kevin's words, it's a "dark comedy of redemption and sequins." Kevin and his collaborators are raising money for the film through Fractured Atlas, an organization that raises money for arts projects. Won't you considering donating to the film? Every little bit counts, and like any charitable donation it is tax-deductible.

You can learn more about the project here, and donate here. Thank you!

Bossy Book Club

My first week at Glyndebourne, I was sitting alone at an outside table at Bill's in Lewes, basking in the sunshine, devouring a caesar salad, and reading the Elizabeth II biography on my Kindle. A man stopped in the street, pointed his index finger at me, and said, "Shame on you! Get a real book!" In shock, I stammered a couple sentences in my defense, but he was having none of it. He kept arguing and threw in a few more "Shame on yous" for good measure before leaving me to my dinner and my reading.

What can I say? I love real books in my house, but when I'm traveling I prefer my reading material digital. Shame on me.

Inspired by Tara, I thought I'd share a few exceptional books I've read this summer. Don't worry—all of them are available in non-digital form, in case you want to avoid being shouted at in the street.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
This lush novel somehow manages to be both epic and immensely personal. It tells several intertwining stories, beginning in 1962 on the Italian Riviera and traveling to modern-day Hollywood. The compelling story is exquisitely written. It's the one I'll be talking about to everyone I know. Highly recommended.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
A young wife goes missing on her 5th wedding anniversary in this thriller narrated by both the husband and the wife. The pacing and plotting are exciting and the characters are completely fascinating. You might stay up way too late reading this one.

The Mansion of Happiness by Jill Lepore
This is a sprawling non-fiction book that explores all stages of life through specific historical accounts. Which sounds really boring, and I'll admit it took me a chapter to get into it (the book starts with a too-long explanation of the Mansion of Happiness board game), but once I did I found it  totally riveting. Each chapter is a story unto itself, so I recommend reading it in small chunks over a longer period of time. As a bonus, you'll have lots of new trivia to break out at dinner parties.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) is possibly the funniest person on Earth, so of course I bought her book in hardcover so I can read it many times and maybe loan it out to people when they're sad. I laugh out loud pretty much every time I read her blog, and her book did not disappoint. This is not the book to read while riding public transportation, unless you want people staring at you while you unsuccessfully try to stifle your snorts of laughter.

What have you loved reading lately? I'm always looking for more recommendations.

Happy weekend!

Friends, what are you up to this weekend? We're getting on the train and heading to the land of beer and chocolate for some R & R—we are intentionally making absolutely no plans for the weekend.

Some links for your weekend:

We bought this pocket guide to Munich, and then found out they have an app (the "Around Me" feature was so great to have while we were there)! They have lots of other cities as well—we've already downloaded the NYC app. It doesn't tell you about sightseeing, just shows you fantastic bars, cafés, and out-of-the-way spots to check out.

This makes me very happy (keep clicking Tom's face for more).

It's hard to keep up with the news when you're traveling (actually, sometimes when you're not traveling also). I'm loving Evening Edition, which tells me, in condensed form, what's happened during the day.

Loved this article about making friends after 30. Sigh.

We saw some of Dina Bova's photography in a Munich gallery. I particularly love the "Allegories and Modern Mythology" series.

LMB is on Facebook now! "Like" me and you'll see updates every time I post.

And… a picture of one of the Glyndebourne sheep. Next week I expect I'll be back to posting Bossy Cat pics (we go home on Thursday!).

Hope your weekend is full of cold beer, outdoor cafés, and long walks. xoxo LMB

A funny thing happened in Bath

I had been in the UK for a week when CM arrived, conveniently at the same time that I had a few days off for the Queen's Jubilee, so we met up in Cardiff for performances of Tristan and Bohème and then took our time getting back to Glyndebourne, stopping in Bath for a night.

The constant rain let up for just long enough for us to see the sights of Bath. First we walked to the Royal Crescent:

Then we checked out the Roman Baths (when in Bath…):

We had just arrived at the Baths and were adjusting our audio guide thingies when… we ran into someone we knew! One of about FOUR people we know in the entire country, I should point out, a lighting designer friend that I've only ever seen in the States. It was crazy! This kind of thing happens in New York all the time, of course, particularly near Lincoln Center where I usually hang out, but in Bath, England? Amazing.

Have you ever run into someone you knew in a completely unexpected place? I love it when it happens—it feels like capital-F Fate.

Then we topped off the day with a swing by Stonehenge, which was smaller than I remembered it from my childhood, but still pretty damn cool (and isn't that sky incredible?!):

All photos by LMB

Brussels is the new hut


When we originally planned our summer trip, we had a gap of several days between Munich and Bayreuth, so we decided to stay in an Alpine hut (though not a very rustic one). We planned to laze around in our pjs, take scenic hikes, and have long discussions of the really big questions: What do we want our life to look like? What are our priorities? What should we be saving money for? Where do we want to be in 5 years? The hut became our shorthand for conversations we didn't want to just have on the fly, conversations that needed time and concentration—we even made up a new German adjective for them: hüttig (how's that for a window into our own special brand of nerdery?).

Then our Bayreuth dates got swapped around, and geographically the hut no longer seemed to make as much sense for us. Plus, having spent the last 6 weeks together (when does THAT ever happen?), it's amazing how many of those big questions get discussed, no hut required.

So… we're going to Brussels instead, for 5 nights. Brussels is the new hut. Because it's between here and London (we fly home from Heathrow). Because I've always wanted to take the Eurostar. Because we've never been. Because we love beer, oh and also we love chocolate.

New hut
All we know so far is that we're staying in this gorgeous hotel and will most likely be eating in this yummy restaurant (on a hot tip from someone who knows).

Tell me, have you been to Brussels? What should we do? Where should we go? What should we make sure not to miss? I'd love your recommendations.

The dress I'm wearing all over Europe

I cannot remember a trip for which I have so spectacularly mis-packed. Not enough warm clothes, not nearly enough nice dresses, WAY too many workout clothes (oh, delusion). We bought new things to keep us warm in the UK, and then, when we were feeling weighed down by our suitcases in sunny Italy, sent them all home, including my raincoat and ALL my pants except one pair of jeans. Then we went to Germany. What do you know, it's cold and rainy here. Sigh.

When my jeans aren't working overtime, I've been wearing this dress as much as possible.

I'm not really a long dress person (I didn't even wear one at my own wedding), but it turns out that a black maxi dress is the perfect travel piece. It looks equally chic on the beach or at the opera (mine saw both Rheingold and Siegfried). I imagine if you were one of those women who's a genius with accessories you could create lots of different looks with it. I am decidedly not one of those women, so I've been reliably wearing it with flat sandals and a circle scarf.

As an added bonus, wearing a long dress feels way more glamorous than I thought it would, despite this one being an item that doesn't even need ironing. I also picked up a long orange number at Jigsaw that I can't find on their website anymore—it's been to Figaro and Götterdämmerung this summer. I might be a convert.

How I spent 20 hours last week

copyright Wilfried Hösl

I'm writing this from Bayreuth, aka Wagnerville, which seems like the right place to tell you all about my Adventures in Wagner last week. CameraMan and I saw our very first Ring cycle! We saw the new production in Munich, which you can read more about (and see pictures!) here.

I have to admit, while I was excited to see the Ring, I was definitely excited AND scared. Whenever anyone heard we were going, most of their advice centered around things like taking enough naps and drinking plenty of coffee. I was worried about being tired and fidgety, about getting sleepy, and most of all about whether I would need to pee (Rheingold is 2 1/2 hours without intermission, and the first act of Götterdämmerung is almost as long). I was also worried I wouldn't know what was going on (no English surtitles in Germany, unfortunately). CM, of course, was studious and dutifully prepared by watching videos and reading the librettos. I, on the other hand, got to the end of Walküre and realized I had absolutely no idea what happened next. I was cramming synopses before every act.

I needn't have worried. I had the best time! The production, while not always to my taste, was never boring, and the music is just sublime. The casts were top-notch (hearing Nina Stemme as Brünnhilde would surely turn anyone into a Wagner fan), and the energy in the audience was unlike any I've experienced. CM had to cough at one point, and he realized that NOBODY in the house had been coughing. I don't know if you've been to the opera lately, but it often sounds like you're in a tuberculosis ward. Everyone was paying rapt attention, and the reactions were strong and immediate (maybe one of my favorite moments was when a particular bit of staging was booed by some audience members, and then others tried to drown them out with bravos—I thought there might be a rumble).

We saw friends who were in town for the Ring (including one onstage), threw in a Cenerentola and a recital for good measure, snuck across the street to Zum Franziskaner for beer and pretzels during second intermissions, and even made it to a couple museums (go here if you're ever in Munich, it's amazing). All in all, a great week.

copyright Wilfried Hösl

56. See the whole Ring cycle.

Can't wait for the next one!


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