Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thanksgiving Decorations

Last year for Thanksgiving I had the hardest time deciding how to decorate my tables. I had twelve people for dinner. There were seven adults and five children. I sat all but one adult (that would be me) in the formal dinning room. The guests plus moi were seated in the kitchen. I figured I would be up and down anyway with helping the children with the buffet, so I enjoyed their company. 

 To make my china "pop" on the formal table I bought gold plastic charger plates at Michael's craft store to put underneath. Gold was a theme throughout my decorations, so I bought gold mercury votive candles and placed a flame less tea light in them. My center piece for the table was a Jim Shore Pilgrim decoration.

Place cards always help with the table decorations. I found some glittered out turkey's to hold my cards. I like to use table runners instead of table clothes whenever possible. It is always easier to to find a fit (especially for an antique table like mine!). Acorns were scattered across the table runner to match our Fall Thanksgiving theme. I am so glad that I took pictures last year! How will I decorate this Thanksgiving?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

San Miguel Mission

 While on a recent trip to Santa Fe, I came across a cute little church by our hotel. It had Santa Fe written all over it! This was San Miguel Mission, and unlike most of the small California missions up and down the Pacific Coast, this church was still active. In fact, the sign on the plaque outside said it was the Oldest Active Church in the U.S.!

 These are handmade bricks for the renovation of the mission. They are made from mud and straw. The San Miguel Mission was constructed around 1610 out of the same type of handmade bricks. The mission has had to be patched up several times during it's history. Once was in 1680 during the Pueblo Wars. The Spanish reconquest, however repaired the damaged mission in 1710. The original adobe walls are still intact and sheltered by additional layers of brick and mud.

 The mission was so beautiful with it's sacred cross atop the adobe structure. The bell rings every hour as well as to ring in the patrons for service.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Butchart Gardens

 While on a trip to Alaska, our family stopped in Victoria, B.C., Canada. Our main purpose for the few hours we were there were to go see the Butchart Gardens. They are privately owned, yet millions of people flock to see them every year. The Gardens were started back in the early 1900's by Mrs. Butchart to beautify the land that her husband had cleared from his limestone quarry.

 I have seen many gardens, but this was on a huge scale. What was so incredible is that everywhere you turned there were large groups of people. The driver that took us there said that on an average afternoon there are about 15,000 people in the gardens! Not bad for a private garden, however, it was less than peaceful.

 If crowds don't scare you, it is well worth the time to see the layout of the plants and flowers. I liked the many variety of geraniums that made a theme throughout the gardens. Cardinal Caps were everywhere as well in bush and tree form. One interesting story the driver told was about how the Butcharts went to Europe to buy some mallard ducks in Germany. On the way to catch their ship, they were late and missed it. It was in fact the Titanic that they had missed.

I particularly loved the shade garden featuring hostas and ferns. Shade gardens remind me of my mother. She loves hostas, and has her own shade garden in Utah! The broad leafed plants were blooming white and periwinkle flowers. So beautiful! So, if you ever have a chance to make it to Victoria, take a few hours to stroll the gardens made by Mrs. Butchart.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Grandville Island Public Market

As many know, I love farmer's markets. This Summer I was able to visit the great city of Vancouver, B.C in Canada. What a beautiful place! One of my highlights was getting to go to the famous Grandville Island Public Market. We had a taxi drop us off early on a Saturday morning. There was everything from artisan cheeses, fresh fish, luscious berries, meats, breads, veggies. Anything you wanted was there!

I had not seen a deli like this since I had been in Europe! I had wished I was not staying in hotel, so I could take some goodies home. But if going around lunch time they will make you a sandwich!

The cherries were just being harvested. Look at those baskets!

I am a sucker for fresh carrots with stems still on. I like to roast them in olive oil for 30 minutes at 450 until sweet and brown. Mmmm

Look at those clear eyes on the fish. A sign of fresh fish. No cloudy eyes here. They should smell like the ocean too....not "fishy". You can pick up some flavored salt at a little store down from the market that sells all different flavors of salt. Just ask what will be grand with your fish! Perhaps some salt with Herbs de Provence?

Oh! did I mention they had the most beautiful flowers? I did not get any, however, because we had a long day of site seeing ahead of us. Sometimes, though I do pack a little vase while going on a trip so I might buy some local flowers.

The White House Garden and Bee Keepers Too!

 After being out of commission for several months I am back ready to blog! One of my favorite places in early Summer is Washington D.C. My husband grew up in the area, and we make frequent trips to visit family and see the sites. This trip brought an unexpected treat as we walked past the White House. I had heard there were White House Garden tours, but alas we could not get tickets. No matter though, while trying to catch a cab I spied the white house kitchen garden through the gate! I was so excited, and could not believe I could really see it with my close. And not only the garden, but the bee keepers were out!

What made this so exciting is that my husband had given me "A White House Garden Cookbook" for Christmas. Since then Michelle Obama has written her own book called "American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America". Whew! Such a long name, but a great resource for the history of the garden. Mrs. Obama does not claim to be a gardener, but she had a vision of getting the country on board with helping children learn about fresh nutritious fruits and veggies. She has done such a great job at getting everyone aware of this need from being featured on The Food Network's Iron Chef to giving Jay Leno some White House Apples and honey after he said he hated fresh fruit! She even has the local school children come out and help in the garden. What a great thing for our kids! 

Our adventure was complete even though we were on the opposite side of the gate. We even got to see the security walking the First Dog, Bo. He liked the kitchen garden too!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Little Itty Bitty Pizza's

 One of my boys favorite things is when we make our own pizza's. My youngest son is obsessed with not having any crispy crusts or black flakes of spices in the sauce. He also says a slice just takes too long to cool off, and it is hard to pick up! So, we came up with the bright idea of making our own sauce (sans the black things), and making the pizzas "little itty bitty." I know pizza dough is not hard to make, but it sure is much easier if you buy it from Trader Joe's. They have whole wheat, herb, or regular. The sauce, however, is a different story. My favorite Italian cook, Marcella Hazan has a wonderful spaghetti sauce that I double as a pizza sauce. I think it is tastier, sweeter, and just plain better for the kids. There are three simple ingredients; fresh skinned Roma tomatoes, butter, and half and onion. It is super quick to make, and the kiddos don't know that it is healthy! I use organic mozzarella for the cheese and the little pizza's turn out perfect. YUM!!

Fresh Tomato Butter Sauce
Adapted from Marcella Hazan

5 Roma tomatoes skinned (for easy skinning just dip them in boiling water for about two minutes)
3 Tbsp butter
1/2 onion NOT chopped

Chop the skinned Roma tomatoes and place in pot. Put in butter and half the onion. Let the mixture slowly simmer. Smash the tomatoes down with the back of a fork. Cook for 35 to 45 minutes uncovered until it condenses into a yummy sauce. Discard the half of onion. Salt as needed (I like sea salt).

Break off golf ball size pieces of dough. flatten them out on a greased cookie sheet. Smear on the sauce and top with mozzarella. Bake 375 for about 5-10 min. Let cool on a cookie rack a little before giving to the little fingers! Enjoy!

Friday, February 17, 2012

I Like It Like That; The Marais

This is the time of year when the wind blows hard, it gives a little sprinkle, and grey clouds blow in and out dotting the azure blue sky. I heard a lady yesterday exclaim, "What happened to our Spring?!" What did happen to our Spring? Oh, wait lady, it isn't Spring. That is just the nature of February. The cold seems colder right before the months of March and April. And when the weather gets on it's "crazy", I am reminded of my trip to Paris with my sister a few years ago.  We stayed in the Marais; home of the Jewish quarter and the bohemian lifestyle. It is the Greenwich Village of Paris.

There were plenty of patisseries to walk to and my favorite Monoprix store. I would call it the Super Target of Paris. That is, if you are allowed to talk about Paris that way! Of all the grand shopping there is in Paris nothing beats walking into a grocery/clothing/hardware/make-up store. Simply the Monoprix.

 The oldest building in Paris is in the Marais, dating back to the 1400's! As well as the oldest city wall. I would always think, 'what was happening in the America's when this was built?' Oh, not much really! It was just being discovered by Columbus!

 Place des Voges, the royal court of the 16th century is also in the Marais. Now home to a couple of homeless folks, and a public park for everyone. That is where Victor Hugo's house is too! Not to mention the site of the old Bastille is just down the road. 

Las du Fallafel is in the Jewish part of the Marais. Some of the best food in the city! And don't forget Pain de Sucre that has lovely macaroons and homemade marshmallows! 

The WWII Jewish memorial is the in Marais along with the Picasso Museum and the Center Pompidou, the National Archives, and a scatter of other little museums. There is something to do every moment!

So bring on the clouds, wind, and rain and I will sit back and think about my blustery trip to Paris with my sister; the sounds of the city, the smells of the streets, and the enchantment of the moment. The Marais!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Santa Kilim, A Santa Fe Treasure

 When I was a young girl, my father got a job in Iran. I was only eight years old, but the memories I had of living in such an exotic country still shape my life. One thing I developed at such an early age is the love for carpets. I remember in the Spring my father would bring tribesmen home with him, camels and all. As soon as we heard the camel bells outside the kitchen window, we knew my father had been looking at carpets, and that a turbaned, tassel tossed fellow would be following dad through the door; carpets in hand.

A ceramic pot from Morocco my husband and I bought from the store. It has a Hebrew prayer written on it

 There was always a purchase to be made, for my father could not resist the textures, colors, and patterns. He knew every tribe's detailed motif, how to count knots on the back of the carpet, and how to detect silk or wool. By the time I was ten, I could too. For my ninth birthday, my father bought me a Tabriz. I thought it was my magic carpet.

 This summer, as I was traveling with my husband we came across Santa Kilim, a Moroccan store in Santa Fe that carried a wide variety of carpets from the Middle East. There was furniture, pots, copper and more. Carpets were not what we were after, but large ceramic pots decorated with exotic motifs. We found just the thing! I can't wait until my next return to Santa Fe to see what treasures I will find and bring home!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Pine Needles

A Utah gem of a quilting store
I must admit, I have a deep seeded secret problem. Well, it is really an obsession. Some people inherit their parents' eye or hair color. Perhaps they develop a love of music or the ability to play sports. I have acquired my mother's love of fabric. For as long as I can remember my mother would buy and admire fabric. Whether it was at the local TGY (the general store of the 70's.....long before Walmart), or at a fabric store my mother bought random pieces of cloth only to be brought home and secretly stashed away in her laundry room. The boxes of now vintage cloth still haunt her house! 

Now that I have grown and have a family of my own, I find myself on occasion buying remnants of material. I did not know how bad it was until I peeked into my own laundry room only to find two big buckets of material longing to be cut and used. Did I mention I love buttons too? And thread? And yarn? And.....unspun wool? That is a whole different story!

Having lived in Utah for 6 years, I found myself in quilting country! Quilt stores are a dime a dozen in Utah, and everyone seems to know the ins and outs of quilting. Pine Needles is one of my favorite stores to shop at. They have bolts of material that you can have specially cut, and then blocks of material that have been cut for you just waiting to be sewn together.

When I go to this store, I seem magically transported to a different era and time. It is easy to relax and let go; getting lost in the colors of the season.

Anyone can get their craft on at Pine Needles. There are countless examples of projects one could do, patterns to peruse, clubs to join, and classes to attend. Pine Needles is located in the Gardner Village in South Jordan, Ut. After you have filled your cup of joy (or bag of material) you can walk around the quaint cabins throughout the village. Perfection!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Growing Your Own Sprouts

 Last Summer I had great fun going to different farmer's markets in all of my travels. One market had a vendor who sold only "Gourmet Sprouts". They were  $15 for a container! I choked and stood in line to get my container. Yes, there was a line. A line for sprouts? I usually find at these events that if there is a line, you had better jump in back of the last person and wait your turn. So, wait I did.

 When it was my turn a lady with little gloves started gingerly clipping in an organized manner different colors of sprouts. I found out that these sprouts were called "micro-greens". Micro-greens being a mix of veggies and herbs that were only aloud to grow to a "micro" state. What a way to eat broccoli! As the nice lady placed each bundle in the box she told me what they were. The one that really caught my eye was the Amaranth; a bright purple delicate sprout that I found is "delish" when used in broth type soups. 

 I figured out later that night who (besides me) would pay $15 for tiny greens that looked like they came off a soccer field! It dawned on me when my husband took me to dinner at Fresco in Salt Lake City that the line must have been composed of the gourmet chefs around town. On my salad of the day was a splash of micro-greens; those that I had bought earlier at the market. It then came to my attention that I did not need a farmer to provide such a "gourmet" item to enjoy. I could do it myself in my own pots on the patio. Since that experience I have found The Sprout People, a website where you can buy seeds and find tips on sprouting.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sunday Morning Chocolate Chip Pancakes

 There is nothing better than waking up on a Sunday morning to the smell of sweet pancakes on the griddle. I  am usually not the one waking up to the smell, but the person who is making the smell.  And what a sweet smell it is! Sometimes I can hardly wait to make all of the pancakes before I get to sit down to eat. For years I made pancakes for my family, but it was only three years ago that I found the PERFECT recipe, the right combination of several recipes! I knew I really had something when I made them at my mother's house last year. My mother is not a pancake fan.....but she is now! So here is the recipe that I think is the best when served with real maple syrup, ripe berries, and whipped cream.

Sunday Morning Pancakes


2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour, sifted
  • 3 Tbs. sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 4 Tbs. butter, melted
  • Mini chocolate chips as needed per pancake


  • 1
     In a bowl, whisk eggs until frothy. Add the buttermilk & the melted butter.
     Make sure that the butter is not too hot. Add the sugar, flour, baking soda, &
     baking powder. Whisk until the batter is smooth. Do not over mix.
  • 2
     Heat griddle to medium heat. Lightly grease the griddle. You can use spray or butter.
     Pour 1/3 cup batter into the pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips over batter. Cook 1-2
     minutes. Flip the pancake when you see tiny bubbles surface. Keep warm until all the
     pancakes are cooked.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Little Lamb's Ear

The first time I ever gave herbs any thought at all was when I visited the J. Paul Ghetty Villa in Malibu, CA. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Ghetty Villa is home to ancient artifacts and gardens that are replicas of Roman Antiquity. The herb garden is the one thing that seemed to stand up and say, "hello!" The specific herb I loved the most was called Lamb's Ear.

It's green silver fuzzy leaves give Lamb's Ear it's unique name. It is a cousin to the sage that we all know and love in our stuffing and stews. I remember picking (shhh don't tell) a leaf or two. I still have them dried, but still fuzzy in a music box 20 years later! This lovely little plant flowers in the Spring white and purple tiny flowers. Bees love the thick fragrant stalks. Lamb's ear is usually used in children's gardens and as boarders in herb gardens that are in Mediterranean or moderately dry climates. It grows like crazy and can be hard to get rid of. I like it clumped with other purple flowering herbs like lavender. 

This cuddly herb is not really seen in our culinary delights, but it was used by the Greeks and Romans as an antiseptic, a pain killer, and as a soothing tea for an upset tummy. So, this Spring when you are adding new greens to your yard or pots grab some Lamb's Ear. It will make your garden!

The Red Butte Garden

 We are almost three weeks into the new year of 2012, and I am already dreaming of gardens. Mind you, I do live in Las Vegas where I see some green. It is not quite the same though as seeing a well planned out garden. An herb garden! The one I have been dreaming about is buried under snow right now. It is non-other than The Red Butte Garden at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

 Sitting high on the hills of the Wasatch (or "the bench" if you live in Salt Lake City) this tucked away garden is home to thousands of varieties of Utah native plants. They have an herb garden, a fragrance garden, a medicinal garden, and a children's garden. There are hiking trails, a tranquil pond, and many pathways to explore. In the Spring, The Butte Garden has their bulb competition and their annual plant sale. You are sure to find a rare "something" for your garden. The Summer yields up great summer camps for the kiddos! Trained professionals guide the children through the world of nature with painting, science, and cooking camps. My kids LOVE them!

All year round the garden has classes for adults; composting, wreath making, xero-scape gardening, photography, bird watching, etc. Once I was walking in the garden, and I came across an early morning yoga class at one end of the garden, and a tai chi class at the other end. It was truly magical! They provide facilities to have dinners, children's birthday parties, and beautiful weddings, and have a very profitable concert series with big name artists who play at an outdoor amphitheater. No matter what level of interest one has in gardens or in nature, there is sure to be something inspiring in every bend in the paths of the Red Butte Garden.