Cake for my Birthday!

I’m 52 today, and I baked a cake earlier this week.

I can’t eat gluten – I’m not celiac, but I do have fibromyalgia and I’ve noticed my pain increases and my mobility decreases when I eat even a tiny bit of gluten. So I avoid it, and overall it’s been good for me.

My mind’s been on cardamom — heaven knows why — and so I rode my bike down to Penzey’s (near my home, how lucky can a girl get?) and bought some green pods to open, crush, and make into a cake.

After experimenting with one of my favorite GF cake recipes, a variation on Gluten Free Girl’s variation on Joy The Baker’s Vegan Chocolate Cake, I came up with this recipe which I find delicious!

The rose frosting is a nice accompaniment to the sturdy cardamom flavor, they stand up to each other, and also complement each other. I used jasmine tea in my cake, but you can use any tea you like, the flavor isn’t that noticeable.

Slice of Cake

Slice of Cake

Cake Ingredients

  • 350 grams GF Flour
    (made of following flours, or your favorite combination)
    150 gr potato flour
    100 gr sweet rice flour
    100 gr oatmeal flour
  • 1 ¼ Tsp salt
  • 2 ½ Tsp baking soda
  • 1-½ Cup white sugar
  • 12 Green cardamom pods,
    seeds removed & ground into fine powder

  • 1 Tsp vanilla
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1-¼ Cup sour cream or yogurt
  • 1-¼ Cup vegetable oil
1 Cup hot jasmine tea
    (1C water to ⅓ C jasmine tea leaves, strain & use only hot tea in recipe)

Rose Frosting Ingredients

  • 3 Cup Confectioner’s Sugar
  • 1 Cup Butter
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Tsp Rose Water Flavor
  • 1 Tsp cream

Preparing to Bake

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 10″ bundt pan with a neutral-tasting vegetable oil, then flour lightly with GF baking mix of flours used in cake. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over ⅓ C jasmine tea leaves to make a strong tea.

Finished Cake

Finished Cake

Flavoring the Sugar

Stir the cardamom powder and vanilla into the sugar and allow to set for 15 minutes.
Combine dry ingredients
Whisk together the flours, salt and baking soda, set aside.

Make the Batter
Cream sugar and eggs together until well combined. Add the sour cream and oil, stirring well. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. If you’re using a stand mixer here, let it run for a while. Remember — you don’t have to worry about activating the gluten and thus making the cake tough!

Make sure the dry ingredients are fully incorporated into the wet ingredients. You shouldn’t see any hint of flour. Add the tea and stir until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Baking the Cake

Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and the top of the cake has an athletic jiggle to it, about 45 to 60 minutes. Remove the cake pan from the oven and allow it to cool for at least 20 minutes. Carefully invert the bundt pan onto a wire rack and tap the bottom of the pan. The cake should slide out easily. Allow the cake to cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Rose Frosting

In a mixer, cream sugar & butter until well blended then mix another 3 minutes at high speed. Add vanilla, rose water & cream, mix for another minute. Add more cream if necessary for desired consistency.

Spread the frosting over the completely cooled cake.

If desired, you can slice the cake into layers and add frosting between the layers before covering the outside of the cake.

Place in refrigerator to set, this makes it easier to slice evenly.

If you’d like a pdf of this recipe, click here.

Happy New Year!

Today is the eve of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and the start of the period when we reflect on what we may have said or done that impacted others (and the world) in a negative way.

Ideally we identify these things, we atone, we ask forgiveness, we make amends and we move on.  Next week is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

I like to think of it as the day when, if we’ve examined our past year and have addressed outstanding issues with folks we’ve affected, we are finally at peace with the world around us.  We stand in unity with the world.  We are one.

It’s the Day of At-one-ment.  I can just hear the Rabbi at our temple slapping his forehead at that…

I’m privately addressing the various activities that haven’t been my proudest moments this past year, trying to honestly assess how my actions may have impacted on others (even when I wasn’t aware of the impact!) and figuring how to take on the coming year so that I have fewer regrets.

I’d like to say, “Je ne regrette rien!”  However, being human, I do have regrets.

One thing I’m NOT regretting, though, is the delicious gluten free Apple/Honey/Pecan cake I’m baking up right now!  We’re having dinner with friends and we’re supposed to bring the dessert (and I think that jelly-fail-apple-syrup I made will be delicious on this cake, too!)

The recipe is below, and if you want to gluten it up just remove one of the eggs and substitute wheat flour for the gf baking mix.  Enjoy!

Apple Honey Bundt Cake

Original recipe from, adjusted for gluten free by Annie Modesitt

image from


  • 9” Bundt cake pan
  • Large mixing bowl
  • measuring cups & spoons
  • chopping tool for apples & nuts


  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ¾  cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ cups gluten free baking mixture
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 3-4 apples – peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • ¾ cup chopped pecans


  • 3 tablespoons Ground almond flour
  • ¼ cup honey, warmed (extra)


  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  2. Grease and coat a 9 inch Bundt pan with gluten free baking mix or ground almond flour (optional)
  3. In a large bowl, stir together the sugar and oil.
  4. Beat in the eggs until light,
  5. Stir in the honey and vanilla.
  6. Combine the dry ingredients & spices into the batter just until moistened.
  7. Fold in the apples and nuts.
  8. Bake for 50 to 65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the crown comes out clean.
  9. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before inverting onto a plate and tapping out of the pan.
  10. Optional: Drizzle with warm honey before serving

Hope From Mr. Levine

Tuesday, September 21, 2010 By Rick Levine

Yesterday | Today | Tomorrow

(Aug 23 – Sep 22)

It hasn’t been easy accepting the limitations that have been placed on you.

Now, as you finally acknowledge your role in a relationship or on the job, something happens that opens the door of possibilities to what you once wanted but have since let go.

Naturally, this can be exciting, confusing and upsetting all at once. Take a few deep breaths while you consider your choices.

Keep in mind that you have more time than you think to make up your mind.

To say the past few weeks have been – ahem – rather rich and full would be an understatement.

I’ve traveled a LOT – both engagements scheduled last year, long before my diagnosis of Fibromyalgia.

I hadn’t considered canceling either Scotland or Italy, I wanted (selfishly, perhaps) to do both of them, Gerry encouraged me, and I hated the idea of setting a precedent of bowing out of something due to my health.


So I dedicated myself to staying as healthy as I could while in both locations.  For me, that meant lots of rest, and lots of exercise.  The bike is my favorite exercise method – it allows me to get around, and it’s like taking a big pain pill – it’s quite good at making my aches go away.

The blood flows all over, reaching places that hurt, and they hurt less (or at least that’s how I understood what my chiropractor told me…)

By renting and riding bikes in Scotland and Italy, the trips – and my life – have been the richer.

But even with all the bike riding in the world, the past few months were full of the usual travel tsuris, plus a few added crisis tossed in for extra chuckles.  It became – at times – quite overwhelming.

And, as is often the case when I feel overwhelmed, I begin to question everything about my life.  What are my plans?  Am I reaching my goals?  How pure are my actions? Why am I doing what I’m doing?  How long can I continue to work if I have to take a nap every day?  When did I turn into my grandmother?

I'm sorry, the answer must be in the form of a question.

Recently it feels like everything in my life is a question on the huge Jeopardy! board in my head (“I’ll take ‘Dealing With Fibromyalgia’ for $50, Alex”)

But the horoscope today gives me hope – it makes me feel like I don’t need to rush. 

I always feel like I need to rush.


I wish I were further along with History on Two Needles.

My brain is not processing the math & patterns as it should, and that’s stymied me.  I’ve found a wonderful local tech editor who I think will be able to put up with my oddnesses, I have a good friend who will help me sort out how to deal with the art direction, and I have yarn for the last few projects that need to be knit up.

All I really have to do is get the danged patterns written!  And that’s something that takes time.  The older I get, the more it seems that I require an easing in phase before settling in to write a pattern.

Whereas 5 years ago I could just grab an hour, plop down at the computer and work up the math for a project, now I need to settle in with the worksheet and reacquaint myself with the project for a few hours before my brain will go to the ‘math place’ and I can make sense of the structure.

...and the point would be...?

The fact that most of my patterns have an unusual construction doesn’t help, it often gives me the uncomfortable sense that I’m reinventing the wheel when I start to write a pattern.

On the other hand, I can look at my designs as pieces of origami.  No matter HOW good one is at the creating cranes or salt boxes or paper elephants, each new project begins with a few simple folds.

One can’t just skip over the first folds, these basic steps must be performed to allow you to move on to more complex folds.

It’s not that one is reinventing the fold, it’s that the first steps cannot be skipped.

So right now I’m gearing myself up to settle into a pattern writing phase, (brilliantly coordinated to kick in when I return from my next teaching engagement in Pennsylvania.)  October will mark an extended period of HOME TIME, and October will be pattern writing month.

My current mental preparation before the onset of “Worksheet Wonderland” are like those initial folds in an origami project.  (And it allows me to rationalize the time I’ve spent playing sudoku.)

It's my mental workout. Yeah, that's it...


I’ve hesitated in recent weeks to write about my health – it’s hard to read that you’re “moaning” about yourself – and I hate to go down that road.

Obviously I don’t think I’m moaning, but then no one ever does, do they?  I try to be pretty positive, pretty pro-active and intelligent about what I write and what I do related to Fibromyalgia.  But it’s a huge part of my life, I can’t deny that, and therefore it has a large impact on my design, writing and teaching.

So far, 9 months into this diagnosed adventure, I’m learning that every day is a new lesson.  I’m realizing that any boundary I discover is a moving target (why can I do X on Monday but not on Tuesday?  And why can I do it again on Wednesday?)

Here are a few truisms that I’ve discovered:

  • Wheat and gluten make me hurt, they make my joints and muscles ache, my throat becomes sore and my ears ring like a carillon.  I can be laid up in bed for days with these flu-like symptoms after eating a bit of wheat, even a tiny bit.
  • Wheat and gluten are in a LOT of products, but it’s easier to avoid them than I might have thought, and there are some very good alternatives.
  • Vitamin D3 is like a miracle for me.  When I err and take some wheat, I can flush it out of my system more quickly with a lot of water and some Vit D3.  I take a good amount each day, and when I skip it, I feel it.
  • I get more tired physically than I used to.  When I get tired, it’s like a light turning off.  There’s not a lot of warning, and suddenly I’m almost paralyzed with exhaustion.
  • Perhaps counter-intuitively, a good amount of exercise each day will keep the pain to a minimum and raise my energy levels.  When I go for two or more days without a good bike ride or yoga, I hurt like heck the next day. Which makes movement even harder.
  • Very hot weather is hard for me.  Very cold weather is hard for me.  Wet weather is hard for me.  I am feeling rather fearful of this Winter, hoping that I’m able to use activity, vitamin D and rest to stay relatively pain free.

One of the hardest things is dealing with folks who either can not, or will not, understand that I can be paralyzed with pain – to the point of tears – on Monday, but able to ride my bike 6 miles on Tuesday.

I hate being seen as a victim, but at the same time I refuse to be ashamed of being ill, to not talk about it at all. It’s not in my nature to suck it up and be silent, I’m too much of an extrovert (and, to be honest, a ‘me-show’) for that.

My Salts!

I want folks to understand that this is a manageable condition.  It’s not fun, but it has forced me to be more intelligent about the way I live my life, and that’s not a bad thing!

I haven’t had to take medication specifically for Fibro yet – I am currently not insured so I couldn’t afford them anyway. I’ve been doing well so far with diet, exercise, Vit D3, rest, chiropractor, massage every now and then AND acupuncture when I can.

Having said that, though, I do have days when I’m just out of commission.  More days than I like to admit.

And the days when I am functional are less full and busy than they’ve been in the past, and they’re fewer and farther between.  Less work gets done than I’d hoped, less money is earned, and I feel – like many folks these days – a little worried.  But what would life be without some worry to keep us honest?

Excuse me while I gracefully collapse onto the fainting couch…


Sunday was the Stitch & Pitch Twins game, and I’d planned on attending with Steven B’s group.  At the last minute Steven told me another ticket had become available, so I grabbed it for Max (he hadn’t been to a game at the new Target Field yet.) It was a beautiful day, so we made the decision to bike over to Steven’s and then to the game (12 miles total) knowing that if we got tired we could hop on a Metro bus (each bus in the twin cities is equipped with a bike rack) so we’d be in good shape.

Yes Ladies, He KNITS!

The ride was wonderful!  It was easy going, the uphill parts didn’t seem bad and the downhill parts were a blast!  Sunday morning the streets were pretty empty, traffic was at a minimum, and Max and I stuck to bike paths and back streets as much as possible.

It was – as always – a delight to see Steven, to see his great space, and after picking up our tickets Max and I headed over to Target Field.  Now THAT is a beautiful ball park!  We sat in the bleachers, just behind the 1st base foul pole, and enjoyed as much of the game as we saw.

Around the 7th inning I could feel a pretty strong Fibro-flare up coming on.  I can tell one’s on the way when my muscles begin to ache, my throat gets sore and my ears ring.  It’s almost like clockwork, now that I know what the signs are.  I think in this case it was sitting for an extended period on metal benches in a shady, cold area (yes, it’s Minnesota…) but for whatever reason, I knew that I had a doozy of a mini-flare-up coming.

So Max and I made our goodbyes (and THANK YOU to the kind woman who tossed some kettle corn at Max!  We all enjoyed it thoroughly!) and headed off to the bus, conveniently located just below the stadium.

We caught the express, got our bikes all settled on the rack (I was pretty shaky by this time, when I called Gerry I dropped my iphone and cracked the glass – phone still works.  Gerry’s confident that he can fix it) and in 20 minutes were were a mile from our home, so we hopped off the bus and rode the rest of the way.  Wonderful!

Max at Target Field

Despite the expense of the day (perhaps guilt at being away from the kids for so long had a bit to do with that. The tix were $20 and there were food items purchased at the park…) it was SO great.

Sunday was a good example of how I can deal with the Fibro while getting as much as possible out of life.

I rode when I could, I  I interacted with other folks as much as I could, I stayed as long as I could, then when it became too much for me physically I made my exit and got home with minimal stress.

I’ll remember Sunday as a really golden day – a very hopeful day.

Rome, and Home


I’m home!!

It took me a few days to get my internal clock back to St. Paul time, and I’m not entirely certain I’m there, but I’m feeling more ‘present’ every day!

View from my Window

Italy was absolutely amazing.  Frascati, the town where our tour stayed, was a beautiful, hilltop, sun drenched maze of cobbled streets and shuttered windows.

We stayed at the Hotel Colonna, which was much nicer than any of the pensiones I was able to afford the last time I visited Italy 30 years ago!

Capuccino at Breakfast

Each morning breakfast was laid out for us – a full spread of fruit, yogurt, breads (but not for me!), juices and water, a HUGE tea selection AND any coffee drink that we might want.

I’m not a huge coffee drinker in the morning, but I did allow myself a few cappuccinos while I was there!

Cheese Piglets

After a few days the coffee became a bit too much for my system, so I retreated back to my world of tea, but I enjoyed my trip to coffee-land!

I am not sure how Alanna did it, but the Tactile Travel group was diverse enough to be absolutely fascinating, similar enough to create very good friendships, with each individual bringing a great deal of enthusiasm  to our entire experience.

Roman Flowers

She says this is how all of her tours are, which is pretty amazing!

I arrived later than the rest of the group and jumped in with both feet on my first teaching day showing everyone the finer points of entrelac (using my charted entrelac handout) and discovering what other techniques they’d like to learn in future teaching sessions.

The group was exceptionally skilled.  In every group there are very fast learners, and folks who digest all the information at a more measured pace, which was certainly true here.

The Secret of Sprite?

But – as usual – the folks who take their time learning the techniques seem to work on a deeper level, so everyone gathers a great deal of information.  We all learn, some get it at once, and some get it at last! It’s simply the distribution of information that changes from student to student.

But my teaching was not the main reason folks traveled halfway around the world – ITALY was the reason!

The relaxed Italian attitude of la dolce vita is a life enriching experience.  Each conversation, meal and moment are enjoyed to the fullest, which is an extraordinary thing.

Coliseum at Sunset

This attitude also kept Alanna on her toes, matching our group size to available transportation and taking the steering wheel when necessary (she’s QUITE a good driver!) Alanna was constantly revising our itinerary so our group could get the most out of our time in Italy.

Temple in the Restaurant

Folks were flexible, and they weren’t disappointed.  So much can happen on a trip, but having a flexible attitude and a good sense of humor brings it all back to a joyful place – which is where we found ourselves again and again!

Our group was FUNNY!  Each person was so full of laughter, so full of fun, and we played off of each other – encouraging our silliness – in a wonderful way.

GF Pizza

There were 3 “couples” – two friends, a mother/daughter and a husband/wife – and a solo traveler (like me!) so we sort of hooked up together for some stuff.

Imagine my surprise and joy when I discovered that Robin & Jack, the husband/wife duo, live near me in Minnesota!  We hit it off beautifully, and I hope to introduce them to the entire Modesitt-Landy clan in the near future!

Namaste Bag Travels Well!

I’m hopeful I’ll get to see Rosie & Linda, two friends who took the trip together, at Knitters Day Out in Pennsylvania next weekend!

I was thrilled to see that my friends Jill & Sheryl (daughter/mother) who I stay with when I’m teaching in their home towns, were on the tour. 

They both suffer from wheat sensitivity, so I wasn’t the only gluten free diner for most of our meals!

Ristorante Sibella, Tivoli

Rounding out our tour was Katherine, a lovely, funny, unexpectedly scintillating knitter from Washington, D.C.  I loved spending time with her, I only wish we could have arranged it to ‘do’ Rome together for a day before I fly home!

The food was tremendous – molto delizioso – and the greatest surprise was that when I got home I’d actually lost a bit of weight!  It certainly wasn’t for trying!

Breakfast with CROISSANTS!

Not eating wheat while in Italy may have helped, but I did have some pretty amazing gluten free pasta (Jill told me that 30% of all Italians have some form of celiac) and I did NOT want for food at any time on the trip!

At one point Sheryl and I escaped to a grocery and came back well stocked with gluten free goodies (croissants!!) which became a welcome part of our prima colazione each day!

Villa D'Este Tiles

Along with the scheduled group trips, we each took separate and small group trips to Rome, Ostia Antica, or just walking – or, given the main export of Frascati, stumbling – around in the beautiful village.

Me & Tivoli Fountain

I didn’t go on all the day trips, I enjoyed being with the group, but I also was happy to have some me-time to recharge my batteries so I would be a more pleasant traveling companion! I’m an extrovert much of the time, but I have enough introvert tendencies that

I really do need my alone time if I’m going to be fit company!

I heard from the everyone that the trips I missed were absolutely amazing, and based on the day trip to Villa D’Este in Tivoli which I did participate in, I would believe it.

ME Time

Tiber Side View

Tiber Side View

While the group visited a villa on Friday, I took time to gather my thoughts, take a train into Rome, and rented a not-great bike near the Coliseum and rode over 13 miles.  Absolutely amazing.

Caeser's Feet

I was on a wild goose chase for a restaurant that had gone out of business, but having a goal allowed me a sense of direction.  I enjoyed myself on my wild ride more than I had in months!

I’d read that Rome was a difficult on a bike, but I found it to be a very good biking city.  There are a lot of scooters, and therefore the traffic is used to small, quick things darting in and out of the way.  As long as I rode intelligently, signaled, stayed to off roads where possible and bike lanes, I was golden!

Roman Bubbler

Unfortunately, in two bike rentals I blew two tires.  Whether that’s a commentary on Rome’s streets or my weight, I’m not sure, but with my blowout in Scotland that makes me a triple threat.

There are small fountains, like constantly running hydrants, all over Roma.  The water is clear and cold and sweet, and my bottle was seldom empty.  Most welcome was the fountain on the Via Garibaldi at the top of a LONG stairway (I carried my bike up) where I drank about 3 bottles full.  I had such a hard (read, sweaty) ride that I felt like I drank my body weight in fountain water, but I saw more on that ride than I ever would have with a group or on a bus tour.

Sunset Column

As a doctor recently pointed out, I’m not fit.  Well, not perfectly fit, but I’m doing better than I was… I get around.

Turtle Fountain

I’m an almost 50-year-old, overweight Minnesotan.  If I can handle the hills on a bike in Rome, there’s a good chance that many other folks can, too!

A bike is a great way to get the ‘lay of the land’ – to get a sense of the scale and layout of a city – and the €10 I spent on the bike rental that Friday was some of the best money I spent!

The next day, Saturday, our entire group went into Rome for some button and fabric shopping, some eating, and some walking around.  Part of our group then visited the new MAXXI museum and had a feast of contemporary art.

Jewish Quarter

Jill, Sheryl and I sought out a wonderful gluten free pizzaria, Voglia di Pizza (nom, nom, nom) shopped, and took a walk through the Jewish quarter.

We also got a bit – ahem – lost (entirely my fault) but a happy cab ride later and we rendez-vou’d with the group at the lovely yarn shop Pippi Calzelunghe Roma.

See my last blog post for more details…


Who's Who in Tivoli

Sunday was more teaching – a morning class, then a few hours in the afternoon – covering some tips and tricks and fun stuff.  It’s always odd to teach to a smaller group of accomplished knitters – I don’t want to teach down to anyone, but I want to make sure everyone gets something that’s new and exciting to them!  I tried – and I think I succeeded – in giving everyone a little something new for their various knitting toolboxes.

I tried to spend one on one time with folks who wanted/needed it – I let everyone know that I was available at any time if they wanted to stop by my room or grab me if they saw me lounging in the piazza.  A few took me up on it, but I always walk away feeling like I should/could have done more.  I guess that’s what keeps me hungry for new techniques to share with my students!



Monday evening a tour was scheduled for our group to travel around Rome by van, guided by Alan Epstein (author of the book, “As The Romans Do”) but the finalized plans were up in the air (the availability of promised, reserved tour buses was a constant headache for Alanna!)

There was a question as to whether the bus would be large enough to accommodate our group PLUS the guide & driver, and I didn’t want anyone feeling uncomfortable (either physically squeezed, or feeling bad that I couldn’t fit into the van…)

Roman Biking Holiday

So after teaching in the morning I headed off to Rome where I’d arranged to rent a second bike, this time with a more reputable bike rental place, accompanied by Jill – she was ALSO dying for a good ride!  We rented from Top Bike Rental, and I cannot recommend then highly enough!

Our bikes were excellent!  Well maintained, all gears worked great and we had helmets, a lock and a cable.  All for €13 per person for the full day.

We arrived very late and the proprietor felt badly that we’d only have half a day.  He suggested that if we had a safe place to lock the bikes up all night we could keep them until midday the next day.  SOLD!

A Roman Cat with Attitude

Of course, that meant that we had to make sure we caught the ‘bike train’ back to Frascati and could not return with the group as our bikes would definitely NOT fit in the van (we weren’t even sure if we would!)

So off we headed, all over Rome, having the most MAGNIFICENT ride!  We headed to the Coliseum, along the Circus Maximus (watch my wheels, Jill!) then down the stairs to ride along the Tiber River.  As in St. Paul, there are metal gutters along many stairways to allow folks to roll bikes up and down easily – yay!

Bartolomeo Bikes

But once we hit the river-ride, I had a blowout and we were reduced to limping our bikes back to the bike rental place.  On the way it occurred to both of us that there was NO need for Jill to go back with me, that she could ride around and have a great time on her own, so we split up with a rendez vous point of Voglia di Pizza.

Off she rode, I waved goodbye and turned a corner and happened right upon a – BIKE SHOP!  And not just any bike shop, but Bartolomeo!

For €5 my tube was replaced (I was happy to pay that rather than walk uphill 2 miles to the bike place) and I was off again with an hour to kill before meeting Jill!

Life is good when fortuna smiles on you!

Gluten Free Dessert

We ate (desserts!) and rode and shopped and ate and shopped – what a great day!  Then we rode over to the La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali, where the group was meeting for dinner, arriving at around 8:30pm.

We’d been texting folks in our group all through the day, updating them on our change in plans (overnight bikes) and checking on their progress.  As the last train for Frascati was leaving at 9:52 and the group was due to arrive at the restaurant at 9:00, we were terrified that if we waited to eat with everyone we’d never make our train.

Previous Unlucky Bike

So we ate early!  The restaurant treated us like royalty – we ate alone at a HUGE round table for 9 – and had a magnificent gluten free dinner.  YAY friendly, amazing Roman chefs!  We were just finishing dessert as the group arrived and could only stay with them for 15 minutes.  We thought we’d allowed a good amount of time to get to the station, but one wrong turn + one HUGE hill + two very full bellies made the ride much more exhausting than we’d expected.

Roman Lace

But we made it (whew!) and immediately collapsed into our train, the bikes stowed in their little holders, our happy full bellies finally able to rest.  What an amazing day!

The hotel staff was kind enough to allow us to park the bikes in the garage.  It was quite a run – literally a run – to the garage.  The clerk ran ahead and Jill and I biked to keep up, it was some kind of crazy midnight running-of-the-bulls and we giggled like hyenas (including the clerk!)

The next morning, bright and early, Jill and I biked to the station and caught the 9:30 to Rome.  Other members of our group were on the train (we didn’t see them until we got off!) and they headed from Rome off to Ostia Antica.  I was sorry to miss that non-official trip, but we had bikes, and the bikes were calling our names!



If you do get a chance to bike in Rome, GO to the Villa Borghese park!  It will be one of the best things you’ll do!

The closest I can find in comparison would be Central Park in NY – and we found the equivalent of the Literary Walk up by the Pincio area of the Villa Boghese Gardens.  Amazing, beautiful, wonderful!  And if you don’t already have a bike, you can rent one there!

The View

Of course we had to stop and have a Caffe Latte Freddo and some chocolate (keeping up our strength!) before riding down to the Piazza del Popolo, and then heading up the Via Flamina crossing to a point where I’d discovered a slightly scary-steep ramp down to the Tiber edge path.  No walking/carrying our bikes down THIS time!

Ride by the Tiber.  It may seem touristy, but it’s wonderful.  And I saw a LOT of broken glass (maybe THAT’S what happened to my tires?) so be aware and be careful.  But it’s a lovely, rather isolated place to be while still in the middle of everything, and the views from the river edge are quite wonderful.  Just amazing.  And no blow out that day!

More Views!

Extra bonus for us, when we decided to walk our bikes back up to street level we were right by the Tiber Island, where the stairs are not steep and the metal bike gutter is far enough away from the wall that rolling them up was a breeze.

A bit more riding, just to get ourselves back to the bike rental, and then we were on busses or walking for the rest of the day.  More eating, more shopping, more fun – wonderful!

The train back to Frascati was an adventure (my bobble head gladiator fell on me…) and then finally home to shower, check email, and meet the group for our last, sensational dinner at – well – I don’t remember.  But it was fun and delicious and wonderful.

Last Shot Before I Dropped My Camera

Just like Italy!


Wings Over Engalnd

Finally I’m feeling non-jet-lagged enough to blog, and I find myself with a day on my own, so of course the first thing I do is return to my room and begin web logging.

It’s amazingly beautiful here in Frascati! I arrived late on Tuesday and overslept on Wednesday (a 9:30 call woke me up 30 minutes before my first class was to begin

(I must remember to REMOVE the headphones from the iphone when I’m using it as an alarm clock!)

Passenger in Italy

But since the group had already had several days to slide into the Italian mindset, they were very gracious at my late arrival and after taking a poll of the group I proceeded to teach a short day of entrelac techniques.

It was quite amazing to see everyone getting it so quickly – they’re a skilled group – and I may just sleep in before ALL of my classes if this is the result!

Roman Pines & Palms

After a day of classes I had a nice glass of wine with a lovely couple from Minnesota, Robyn & Jack/Marco (of COURSE they’re lovely – and the live near me!) and we were joined by my good friends the Sessa’s (Jill & her mom, Sheryl) who then accompanied me to a very nice dinner.

Other tour members are just as lovely, I’ll introduce you to them in later posts.

Gelato has no Glutino

Alanna, our hostess for Tactile Tours, is a beautiful combination of American ‘get’er DONE’ and Italian, ‘but why hurry?’ and I think by the end of our tour we will ALL be incredibly relaxed.

Me & Fountains

It’s true there’s a lot of gluten here – pasta, anyone? – but there’s SO much wonderful stuff that I CAN – and WILL – eat!  I could thrive on the eggplant alone!

Yesterday our group went to the Villa D’Este in Tivoli and visited the water-fed gardens which were AMAZING!  So lovely, so well designed and such a joy to stroll!

Villa D'Este, 100 Fountains

I was unprepared for the difference in, well, comfort that is presented in the Italian villas vs. Irish/Scots/English castles, which were NOT designed for comfort at all.  Even something as simple as the scale of the stairs, with an easier rise and tread, is apparent here.

We heard the water organ (the construction was quite fascinating) and the walk did us all good!

So much water flows here!

Our tour guide was adorable, if a bit long-winded (evidently it was very important that we know the dates that each room was painted, re-painted and then re-re-painted)

After our tour we had lunch at an amazing restaurant, Sibilla Antico Ristoriante, built in 1730 with an outdoor dining area covered by a 200 year old Wisteria vine.

Crocheted Plate Cushions

It sits next to the Temples of Vesta & Sibilla (circa 1st Century BCE), incorporating part of that into the outer dining area.

Temple of Vesta, Tivoli

I have learned new phrases, “Non che glutine?” translated: “This Doesn’t Contain Gluten?” and it’s gone a long way toward helping me find gluten free alternatives.  I’ve also learned, “Non posso mangiare glutine.” translated: “I can’t eat gluten.”

Lunches of the Royal & Famous

The walls display marble plaques commemorating visits by royalty and other famous persons.  It was quite a wonderful location.

But the food was even more outstanding!  We started with an antipasto (which actually contained quite a bit of bread, but the non-bread items were pure heaven!) and then found ourselves so full we opted for a small tasting plate of the pastas they serve (I had gluten free with clams & gambero [crawdads] and it was magnificent!)

The Beautiful Ristorante Sibilla

Resting in the late afternoon and dining late is quickly becoming an easy side for all of us!  More wine, ham and cheese last night at the wine bar where we’re becoming regulars, then I retired after a gelato, not really requiring a full meal.  I’ve eaten plenty!

We’re a bit south of Rome, but within commuter train distance so while the group goes on a tour of artists studios in the area today, I’ll take the train into the Eternal City and just walk around, searching for good things to see.  And look where I’ll be eating