Shakespeare’s Henry IV – Conflict between Father and Son


Guest blogger: Patricia Robertson

Henry 1Shakespeare has a keen understanding of the human psyche, including family dynamics. This is apparent in the 2015 Michigan Shakespeare Festival (July 11-August 16) production of Henry IV, parts 1 and 2, masterfully combined and abridged into one bringing out the best and highlighting the conflict between King Henry and his son, Hal, Prince of Wales. henry2

This familiar family saga ends with Prince Hal requesting that his father’s advisors’ treat any sons he has as they treated him, a touching tribute to his father. Thus the wound between father and son is healed and doesn’t continue to the next generation unhealed and without recovery, as so often happens.

Family struggles are the stuff of life. The love and acceptance of fathers is essential to the well-being of their children. In telling the story of a conflict between father and son, Shakespeare’s play resonates today as a universal human theme.  If you are in Michigan at this time, please take advantage of the opportunity to see this festival!

Note: Patricia Robertson has released her novel, Still Dancing, the sequel to her novel, Dancing on a High Wire, and is looking forward to writing the next book in the series during NaNoWriMo this year. She blogs about life and writing at .

Aldea—“An Epicurean Hamlet”


Aldea drama
Aldea drama

We ate at the fabulous Aldea, a Michelin star restaurant in Manhattan’s Flatiron neighborhood, and for those of you who are going to be in New York City, this is our new gourmet discovery. Aldea means “village” or “hamlet” in Spanish and is a blend of Portuguese and Spanish small plates. Chef Mendes’s menu is eclectic, highly original, and mixes a smattering of popular Asian ingredients with his Iberian-influenced dishes.

Citrus Radish Salad
Citrus Radish Salad

The Aldea restaurant menu includes a variety of shellfish, various preparations of salt-cod, or bacalao, rice dishes and Iberian-cured hams and suckling pig. One of the knockout appetizers is a sea urchin toast with cauliflower puree and shiso leaves. It seems like a strange combination to anyone who is used to uni and shiso as sushi items only. But the combination of the salty creaminess of the sea urchin with the starchy vegetable cream of the cauliflower is sublime, with a splash of lime and sprinkle of mustard seed. Definitely one of our favorites! We followed it with deliciously fresh Irish point oysters mignonette. The next small plate, a citrus and radish salad, looked quite beautiful with multicolored radishes, marcona almonds, goat cheese, and trout caviar. But the textures were missing something—maybe a bit of frisée and more zest, perhaps a bit of kumquat? Next we shared a plate of charred sardines with hazelnut, benne seed, orange zest before the main entrée of Suckling pig and Manila clams, with pea sprouts, preserved lemons, burnt bread (crisped up with butter and garlic)– savory and cooked to perfection. Because we could not think of ending with a rich dessert, however tempting, we ordered the artisanal cheese plate (rather expensive at $19 for a small plate): Valdeon (Cow and Goat, Asturias, Spain),  Zimbro (raw sheep, Portugal), served with quince marmalade &cranberry-walnut toast. The cranberry-walnut toast was to delicious we asked for some more take back to our hotel. Dark chocolate truffles were complimentary! The bottle of 2012 Barranco Oscuro Brut from Andalucia, Spain was dry and wonderful, and reasonably priced.

Suckling Pig
Suckling Pig


Aldea is a keeper—beautifully prepared food that would be difficult to find anywhere else. The surroundings and décor are as aesthetically pleasing as the food is. The double-height ceiling invites you in, with a freestanding bar framed in concrete and illuminated wood paneling. We sat at the chef’s bar so we could observe the culinary theater in the small kitchen and watch the preparation of the secret ingredients of each dish by a staff of at least ten. We will be back to this restaurant and hope that many of you will also have a chance to experience this delightful foodie’s paradise.

SideTour–When You Don’t Want to Feel Like a Tourist


On a recent vacation in New York City, we thought we would try out SideTour (, an online marketplace for unusual, offbeat experiences and activities.  Originally designed not for tourists but for locals who want to discover secret treasures in their own neighborhood, the company has now begun to expand to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego,  San Francisco, and Seattle. Acquired by Groupon in mid-2013,  SideTour continues to gain momentum and expand its repertoire while continuing to keep group size between 5-12 participants on average and costs within the $25-85 price range. These are not cookie-cutter offers and even more customization can be provided by some of the “hosts” who offer “side tours”.

Competing with other sites,   SideTour’s  website claims  to focus on events led by experts who have been screened for experience, personality, and expertise.   In New York you can get together to dine at a chef’s home, take private or semi-private cooking classes, see art collections after the museum is closed, and sketch from museum collections onsite, just to list a few of the  imaginative selections online.  We signed up for five tours including  sushi and dumpling classes, sketching at a museum, and a tour of the Met emphasizing gossip about the particular art being viewed.  The fifth side tour was cancelled two weeks in advance for lack of additional participants.  Although I read online that refunds were slow to be credited, we did not have that problem!  SideTour3


We did notice that tours which had been given repeatedly, seemed to be more polished in terms of preparation and information.  We tried a couple of “newbies” and enjoyed them too, even though this time next year they will have undoubtedly improved.  SideTour was fun and different. I highly recommend that you check out the offerings before planning a trip to one of the SideTour cities!


Off & Away: Travel Auction Sites—Why Am I Not Surprised?

I discovered the auction site, “Off & Away”, after reading a New York Times article in June.  Off & Away has what seems like an ingenious business model: bidding on hotel suites for what could be pennies on the dollar. I thought I would give it a try.

Being susceptible to becoming obsessed over the idea of bidding in an auction –one of my favorite things to do– but I rationalize that my bidding is usually going to a good cause such as a school fundraiser or a nonprofit charity—I had some fear and trepidation about getting my feet wet in an anonymous free-for-all public “penny” auction online. So, I first researched the website:  Two former executives from and Amazon’s venture capital firm invested in it.  Not too shabby so maybe it was legitimate, not a scam.  Each day at least two or three  hotels are listed as well as upcoming auctions for planning ahead.  Almost all of the hotels featured are in the U.S. with the vast majority in three cities:  San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York.  All three happen to be some of my favorite destinations so I was hooked.

With each bid you cast, the price of the suite goes up by $0.10 and up to 20 seconds is added to the timer.  There is a “hot zone”: usually about thirty minutes before the auction is scheduled to end.  Depending on how many other bidders decide to hop on board and start bidding during the “hot zone”, the auction time can be extended for hours.  I have watched it extend over five hours with the so-called  “last minute” rush of bidding.  This jacks up the price considerably.

Being the addictive personality type that the Internet further enables, I researched the site, looking for trends in time and day when traffic was heaviest. No trends were spotted, with the exception that perhaps the three cities I was looking at were the most popular and had the largest swings in final bids, anywhere from a low of $30 to a high of over $1000.  I was undaunted and jumped in.

My first and only bidding pitted me against at most four other bidders. My heart kept pumping.  I would read my name on the screen, after placing more than $50 in bids on the desired target suite.  The message was something like:  “Don’t give up.  Hang in there.  You’re the top bidder so far.”  It was hard for me not to be carried away by the excitement and emotion of the moment.  I didn’t win.  The suite went for way over the final price I was willing to pay.

Are you still with me?  I can see travel auctions becoming addicting.  I started wondering if there were software programs that helped some bidders place their bids more successfully.  Things called “bid bots”, automated bidding programs that help either the bidder or “sniping programs” which help the seller place bogus bids to inch up the bidding war.  Perhaps when the host computer sees a frenzy of bids from one bidder (let’s say me), the auction site plants a bid, jacking up the price by ten cents, so I won’t walk away.

The upside of all of this bidding is that the bids you have spent can be applied to any of over 100,000 hotels in Off & Away’s inventory.  I checked out the hotel rates.  Off & Away definitely matches so there is nothing to lose in terms of booking a reservation using up your bids, within seven days of the auction closing.          Wondering… is far behind in acquiring this formidable competitor?  Hmm…. that wouldn’t surprise me one bit!