Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Magical Memory of Cooking in Provence

Last October, Rick booked a cooking class in Provence as a gift for our 31st wedding Anniversary through  We were to meet our cooking instructor at 9 AM under the Clock Tower in the main square.  After about 15 minutes, a young woman came rushing towards us with apologies, saying that she was training a puppy, and that we were her only students that day. We didn't mind waiting, and had fun wandering through the square, which was full of flowers, cheese, meats, clothing, and soaps!  It was much larger than any farmers market that I've seen in the States.
 Here we are, in front of the most amazing produce!
Hillary, our instructor, wanted us to have a authentic experience, so we purchased the food for our lunch from local merchants and made change, using as many French words as we could muster. Luckily, we were coached, because my french from college totally failed me!  The vendors were so kind, and seemed pleased that we were making an attempt to speak their language.  Vendor space is passed down from generation to generation, and we were surprised to learn that some of these families had been selling in this square for hundreds of years!
Hillary holds classes in her upstairs apartment which was once a convent, later a horse stable.  This space looked so french, with the quaint shutters and vines!
We toured the streets, led to Hillary's favorite wine, cheese, and pastry shops.  The ubiquitous scooters are everywhere- a perfect way to get around in these crowded streets!
Once back at her Apartment, we opened our parcels and Hillary gave us a lesson on how to use a knife correctly...who knew after all these years that we were doing it wrong!  On the menu was Feta Salad, wine, bread, cheese, pumpkin soup, and pastries. We sliced up the pumpkin, pureed it, and then using a portable blender mixed it with milk and spices

We practiced knife skills by cutting these up into smaller pieces.
Here I am steaming up the place!  These little blenders are very efficient-
 I may have to have one!  
Hillary was a wonderful teacher, and we had a great time!  Someday I hope to go back to this lovely place.

Below is the yummy soup recipe.  

Ronald's Pumpkin Soup

1 Leek
1 Onion
1 Shallot
9 Tablespoons Butter
1 Carrot
2 lbs pumpkin
6 cups chicken broth or water
3 cups milk
5 tablespoons heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
Top with Blue Cheese or Feta
In a large pot over medium heat, melt t Tablespoons of butter.  Chop your onion, leek, shallot and carrot, and add to the pot. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Turn up the stove to high heat, and add chicken broth/water, and chopped pumpkin, salt and pepper.  With the heat on high, cook for 15-20 minutes. until pumpkin is cooked through.  Reduce heat and add cream and 3 tablespoons of butter.  Blend with a hand mixer until all the ingredients are blended together.  Serve with a wedge of Blue cheese on top. Make sure to have the cheese at room temp.  You can garnish with mint or basil as well.
Serves 8- 10

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Earring Looks for Autumn

I love Autunm, even though I hate to see summer end!  This has been an especially great summer for Oregon- no real rain since last May until last Thursday, when we had a humdinger 'Mid West' storm with thunder- lightening and two inches of rain! With all this great weather, it's been hard sometimes to hunker down in the studio and work on jewelry.  However, I love the rich colors, shapes and sparkle of the Czech Beads; they are pretty and fun to work with!  Here's a peek at some of the earring I've been designing for the season -
Woodland, nature inspired earrings, never go out of style, and these simple antique brass with pearls are a classic 'go anywhere' look.
More Woodland, with a touch of Whimsy
For a more modern and classy look, I love these Mocha and Orange faceted glass dangles for office or evening.
 Or, these gorgeous silver circles for a real statement!
It was fun to make these Bohemian Chandelier Earrings, with teal, lemon and peach crystals.  I think they would be perfect for a late summer wedding or garden party!
Well, back to work...I know this looks bad, but believe it or not, I'm actually pretty organized in my real life.  I just can't work if things are too neat in the studio though!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Fourth of July in Manzanita

It's always fun to take a ride up the Oregon Coast on the 4th of July weekend, especially since we often have company.  While the guys are crabbing, the women love to break away for lunch and shopping in Gearhart and Astoria!  One of my favorite places to take visitors is Yankee Trader on Hwy. 101 in Gearhart. See more photos from this fun place  from a 2009 post:  Carrie Bergin only opens her shop from Memorial Day through December. The rest of the year she makes these spectacular seasonal themed 'cakes' and changes her shop around.  If you've ever seen her amazing shop, you'll realize this is no easy task!
Another vignette ... 
We stopped at Marie Antionette's Cupcake and Espresso Parlor for one of their famous cupcakes.
Of course, the Fourth wouldn't be complete without the Manzanita Parade.  We've had an entry for over 20 years.  When the kids were younger, we were the 'Original Boat' float, but for the past several years, we've entered the 43' Willy's, which was Rick's grandfather's, that he had restored.
Our friends, Mark and Barb were just back from Croatia, but couldn't stay away. They have been our 'partners in crime' for many years, since Barb and I met at a New Mom's class when our oldest were babies!
I felt sorry for this poor guy! This is the second year he's dress up in Oregon Duck regalia!  I think he enjoys it since the crowd goes wild when they see him.  He must really be a Die-hard Husky fan, since nobody in their right mind would bet against the Ducks these days!
Here, Dear Daughter is practicing her best parade wave!  She was supposed to be wearing a gray Old Navy T-Shirt and walking in front of the jeep like everyone else, but somehow morphed into a 1940's Diva!
Katie doing her best Eva Peron imitation!
Well, the guys came through with crab!  Since it's not an R Month, the shells were a bit softer, but none-the-less, delicious!  Our Forth of July menu never changes; it's always hot dogs and burgers, baked beans, potato salad, sliced melon, and berry pie!  AND, brownies! It makes it easy, and you don't feel too bad indulging when it's only once a year! 
Bryan on the BBQ. It's been awhile since both kids have been home to celebrate the forth, but since Uncle Kevin and family were here, they wouldn't miss.
Great to have the family here, especially fun with Jacob and Hayden, nine year old twins who kept things very fun and lively!
More cracked crab for breakfast!
There's no place like Manzanita Beach on the Fourth, but SSShsh!  Don't tell anyone!!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Memorable Birthday - A Drive Through the Columbia River Gorge in Late September

Last September for dear husband's birthday, we decided to have a different celebration - who needs more stuff? I think after the age of 10, experiences are always the best gift anyway.  
We took the day off and headed east on Scenic Hwy. 14, past Vancouver, WA.  Our first stop was Dickey's Farm Store, which is like an old fashioned hardware store where you can find just about anything!  Garden, pet supplies, one-of-a-kind items, produce, you name it, they had it.  
I'm a nut for pumpkins (and fall decorations), so had to photograph them from every angle. We were planning to be in Europe in October, so I resisted the urge to stock up!
After checking out this cool place, it was time for lunch, so we continued further east near the Bridge of the Gods.  It was so much fun heading off for a day with no real agenda.
We stopped at a place called Andrews Pizza on the Washington side, and had a delicious lunch.  They are
famous for their pizza, but I have to say their chili soup and sandwich were yummy too.  
On our way down the highway, we stopped at Maryhill Winery, and were treated to a stunning view of the   Columbia River Gorge.  Maryhill Winery has some lovely wines, and some big name summer concerts. We especially enjoyed their Malbec and Merlot.
There's plenty of lovely scenes like this along the way. You wouldn't think land this rugged would be good for wine grapes, but amazing reds come out of this region.
Our next stop was Maryhill Museum of Art, which looks like an English Castle, and houses a diverse assortment of treasures from paintings and sculpture by Rodin, American Indian Baskets, to Palace furnishings and personal items once belonging to Queen Marie of Romania.  There's a fascinating story of how these items were acquired and her friendship with Sam Hill who built the museum. It's my favorite museum, next to the Frick Collection in New York...OK, the Legion of Honor Museum in SF is right up there too!  But, Maryhill is definitely amazing!
I took this shot through glass in a room when these busts were stored.
We then went to this beautiful replica of Stonehenge, which commemorates the dead from WW 1. This monument was also built by Sam Hill who was a pacifist. Sam Hill is also buried here.
The way the late evening light passed through these openings was pretty amazing!
We drove along the Historic Columbia River Highway past Crown Point and had amazing views of the Gorge.  Unfortunately, smoke from Eastern Oregon forest fires presented a lot of haze.
Finally, we met our son, who bought us pizza and beer at the Double Mountain Brewery in Hood River. All in all, it was a pretty spectacular day, and a great new tradition.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Summer Street Dance in West Linn

I often find myself writing about happenings on the Oregon Coast and ignoring what goes on locally.  I didn't even know about this fun Street Dance a mile away in Willamette until a friend posted on Facebook.
On a warn summer night on July 13th, the main road through town, Willamette falls Dr. was closed and the fun began.

It was so great to see a good turnout on this lovely summer night, with the street was closed, people and pets  plopped down on lawn chairs and hay bales to people watch and enjoy a meal, which the local restaurants were glad to provide.  
It was a 'bring your own lawn chair event' starting at 5 PM with a Frank Sinatra Tribute by John English, followed by a juggler.  I thought they should have had the juggler first, since people were in the mood for more music and they had to wait over and hour for the band.

Local royalty was on hand ...
When the band started, the kids formed a line dance, and it was fun to see all ages up dancing and having fun until 11 PM!
The band, Pressure Point provided lots of great variety with tunes from Motown to Disco, up to present day.
It was fun to see a revival of this fun tradition from the early 1900's.  If you find yourself in West Linn next summer, this is an event worth checking out!