Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Four-Question Challenge - Game of Fours

The world is so much smaller now that we have social media, blogs, and Twitter. Remember way back when phones and TV and radio had that effect on our world? The pull of the internet has brought many friends from all over the country into my world. One of those people is Trobairitz. She's a fellow blogger who lives halfway across the country. But the miracle of this shrinking world is that I was able to finally meet her and her blogging husband in person after months and months of knowing each other only through the written word.

She nominated me along with three other of her blogger friends to participate in a Four Question Challenge in which the nominee must provide four answers for each question. Variants of this game circulate on Facebook and I usually don't "bite." But doing this in a blog is a new and different experience with more room to expand on the answers, so what the heck!

The four questions are:
1. What is your favorite food?
2. What is your favorite drink?
3. What places have you visited?
4. What names are you known by? goes!

Favorite Food
My favorite food is - drum roll please! - All of it! Any food! Anything edible!
Chocolate shop in Rome, Italy

No?? Well, if I must narrow it down, then okay...dark chocolate. I'm addicted to it. I'm forever on a quest to find the ultimate dark chocolate source, and have brought home stashes of it from all over the world.
A favorite of mine: SeƱor Murphy chile pistachio dark chocolate bark.

Homemade soup is tops on my list for comfort food. I begin to panic when my freezer stash dwindles. I mean, what is life if there aren't at least several containers of different soups in my freezer? Beef barley soup, chicken noodle soup, turkey rice with spinach soup, split pea and wild rice soup, navy bean soup.

I love how cozy it makes the kitchen feel when simmering on the stove, how it makes the house smell with those savory aromas wafting out of the kitchen and into the nearby rooms. I'll start the pot right after breakfast, sipping my morning coffee while I do the "sous chef" work to get the ingredients ready. That way, the soup will be done just in time to have a piping hot bowl for lunch. The rest gets portioned into 2-bowl servings and placed in the freezer for another day.

Smoked Salmon. On a trip to the U.K. with my husband, I probably ate my weight in smoked salmon, to the point where he told our waiter that I was going to grow gills if I ate any more. This was said as I ordered, for the umpteenth time, a smoked salmon appetizer with lemon wedge and capers (ohh, love capers!).

Don't laugh, now. I'm about to tell you another of my favorite foods: Green beans. You just laughed, didn't you?! It's true. I love green beans. When they're in season, I buy pounds and pounds of them, snap and blanch them, and then freeze them in serving portions. And along the way, dozens of them don't even make it into the pot or into the freezer. I love them raw. I love them blanched. I love them served in other dishes. I love them in soups.

Honorable mentions include pasta, anchovies, prosciutto, and candy corn.

Favorite Drink
Espresso-based drinks (de-caff) - Cappuccinos that are strong, with extra shots, prepared somewhat "dry" are my favorite and I treat myself to one a week at the nearby Starbucks when I'm home. I confess to Googling good coffee shops in towns of destination when I'm traveling.
I especially love sipping hot drinks out of a big ol' ceramic mug.

Other favorite espresso-based drinks include macchiatos with just a hint of froth dollop on top. And then there's pure, unadulterated espresso, rich and creamy, with a good ring of foam clinging to the edges of the tiny cup. In all of my travels, I've enjoyed a variety of "takes" on espresso-based beverages. I even got more than my money's worth out of the coffee card on a Princess cruise lines ship. The barista knew me by name by the time we returned to home port.

Sparkling wine, specifically Spanish cava. Once I open a bottle....well, suddenly it's empty. Goes down way too easy, which is a dangerous characteristic for any alcohol beverage. My local grocery store carries a wide assortment of different cavas, always something new to discover and try.

Sparkling water exists as a staple in my life. It's the tool I used to kick the diet Coke habit a long time ago, and is today a regular occupant of my pantry. I find the little bubbles refreshing and thirst-quenching and I don't need the additives, preservatives or the caffeine of diet coke.

Craft beer is a relatively new favorite of mine, first discovered when my late husband began home-brewing and more recently when my son took up the craft. I cultivated a further appreciation as I've done more travel around the U.S. in the past ten years or so. If it's locally brewed, with limited distribution, I'll try it. Always fun to discover the variety and the creativity of local craft breweries.

Places I've Visited
I've traveled a lot in my life. I was a military brat for the first 23 years of my life. As a grown-up I traveled extensively as a business professional visiting many U.S. cities and many countries in Europe. I've visited all of our own 50 U.S. states to run half marathons. And I've ridden 250,000 miles on a motorcycle, visiting National Parks and cities in all of the lower 48 states. That makes answering this question difficult. What to list? What have been the most meaningful or unique places I've visited? Giving this a lot of thought, I've decided to start with where my life began.

Four different homes I've lived in growing up as a child. This may not seem all that special to most people who live within an easy drive of where they grew up, but for a child who grew up in the military, moving as often as every 6 months, this is particularly meaningful.

The first childhood home I visited was in Madison WI while on a business trip back in the mid 80's. It had been 30 years since I'd lived there as a small child. We lived there for one year, from mid-1953 to mid-1954. I found the house easily. I didn't have a street address but I remembered it was up on a hill, above a golf course and in front of a large water tower. Find that water tower, and I knew I'd find the house. It was easily recognizable - had changed very little - and the neighborhood hadn't changed all that much. I visited my elementary school while there, meeting the school principal who, unbelievably, had been there as a teacher back in the year I attended.

House on Dean Street - 1954. That's me second from left, my little sister on my right,
older sister on my left.

House on Dean Street - 1984, 30 years later

A couple of years after that business trip to Madison, I had the urge to find more of the houses I'd lived in growing up. I took my mom on a trip to California where we visited the home in Venice CA where we lived when I was born. Mom said it hadn't changed at all. It was an apartment in a one story block of apartments, overlooking one of the canals.

Then we flew up to San Francisco, where we rented a car and drove down to Monterey to find the house in La Mesa Village where we lived when I was in the first, second and third grades. We then drove up to Hayward and visited the house we lived in when I was in the third, fourth, and fifth grades. That house hadn't changed much either, still the same color green it was when we bought it brand new in the post-WWII housing boom of the 50's.

Here's that Hayward house today (Google satellite street view)
and it's STILL painted green!
It was a significant and emotional "journey" to visit these homes. It was especially nice to be able to visit three of these homes with my mom while she was still healthy and able to share memories and detail about our lives in those homes.

Names I'm Known By
All of my life I've always been known as Barb. My dad called me that from my earliest memories. As I grew up, I always introduced myself that way and, on a number of occasions, corrected adults (teachers mostly) to call me Barb, not Barbara.

When I got into college I hung out with a group of friends who quickly assigned nicknames to everyone in my circle. I became known as "Blakey." Blake was my last name. I have no idea why this, but I do remember that others in our circle went by variations of their last names as well. That nickname is long gone, now that our circle has scattered to the four corners of the world.

Much later in my life, when I started running and participating in races, a circle of my riding friends began calling me Runner. Well, that stuck for years!

And now a variant of that, started more recently by a couple of my riding friends, is Iron Legs. It's a play on the term Iron Butt. I am an IBA member (Iron Butt Association), an organization which requires minimum qualifications to join. Specifically, it requires one to ride 1,000 miles in less than 24 hours and to get that ride certified by the organization. Receipts, witness forms, and odometer readings are required for that certification. So.... now my riding friends think it's cute to call me Iron Legs, a reference to both my IBA riding and my marathon running. It is kinda cute, come to think of it.

So there they four-part answers to the four questions put to me.

I challenge the following blogger friends to continue this game. They are:
Nomad Willie at The Future is Not Today 
Mike at Mike's Touring Journal - here's Mike's post


  1. Great stuff Barb. I really enjoyed learning about those return trips to see the houses you grew up in.

    Sparkling water is what weaned me off of Dr. Pepper 10 years or so ago. Funny how that works.

  2. Barb,

    Given a bit of time, I certainly will respond to your challenge. Love reading your blog! (Have for years!)


    1. Challenge met. ;)

    2. Really excellent post, Mike! I've linked in my blog.