Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Some Of My Favorite Things From 2010

As the year ends I thought it would be fun to share with you some of the unique products that I have loved using. Below each photo you will find a link to that company's website. 

Green Pan 
In general I am a devoted Le Creuset and all Clad customer so when I bought this item I had my doubts as to whether it was just another flash in the pan so to speak. I have to admit the Green Pan has become one of my top finds of 2010. It is a real workhorse and I use it all the time. I've never owned a pan that cleans up as easily as this one does.I'd happily buy it all over again.

   Truffle Salt
With all the new food trends out there I believe this is one to try. I have found I really like the earthy and different taste.Using it  really does transform any dish. It is not cheap but, what a great gift for a foodie. Budget conscious foodies could even split a jar and enjoy the flavor together. Try it on soups on steak or even on french fries.
photo courtesy of William Sonoma site

  Coffee Bean Tea Leaf Medicine Ball Tea
I think I have often seen this chain but it is only recently that I have become a regular. I enjoy their coffee but I really go there most often for their medicine ball tea. Its a nice combination of lemon chamomile and ginger. They only sell it in the store. I would love it if they sold the flavor in tea bags for home use. 

                Haven Brand Manure Tea
I've been gardening quite a bit this past year and I have become intrigued by a tea that is not at all for drinking. My friend Annie raises grass fed livestock and has developed an additional business selling manure tea bags for use in gardens and for house plants as well. The tea bags she makes are comprised of dried manure that you steep in water and use to fertilize your plants. I love Green & natural choices and this is a great product.

 Dansko Shoes
I fell in love with these shoes more than ten years ago. I was working in retail and looking around for a foot friendly shoe. I had heard that these shoes were popular with people that stood on their feet for a living. If they were good enough for chefs and nurses they would be good enough for me. I was visiting a friend who owned a pair and I tried hers on and loved them. That very trip I purchased my first pair and I have just ordered yet another pair. I can't say enough good things about Dansko shoes. 
photo by Dansko

  Chemex Filter Drip Coffee Maker
Over the years we have developed quite an arsenal of coffee related paraphernalia.In addition to the electric machine and the French press we have added the Chemex Carafe to the fold. This carafe produces an amazingly smooth cup of coffee, one of the best we have ever tasted. They have several sizes but, I opted to buy what they call a six cup. This is not meant to keep the coffee hot so we just make enough to fill our cups and the six cup Chemex does a fantastic job.

Sanders Lobster Pound 
My husband discovered this place when he lived in New Hampshire decades ago. He introduced me to Sanders in 2004 and we look forward to every dinner they provide. Great people and delicious lobster is a winning combination.
Weathertop Wovens
We were on a road trip through Silverton Colorado and decided to stop for a while and explore the town. In one of the small quaint shops I spotted a loom adorned with a beautiful purple project in progress and it drew me into the shop like a moth to a flame. The couple who own the shop weave all the fabric and create all the beautiful shawls in a wide variety of colors. I just love mine and wear it often. I don't think they have a website but I've found their info.

    Mexican train Dominoes
While on a trip to the Virgin Islands we snorkeled the days away and spent cozy evenings with friends playing game after game of Mexican train Dominoes. There is a joy in the simple pleasure of a game night and I had almost forgotten how much I enjoy it. Dominoes will forever be tied to that island memory and I will be enjoying our own set for years to come. 

William Sonoma Gold touch Bakeware
I'm always a bit skeptical when a product claims to be extraordinary in its ability improve on the norm. This product actually does just that. This William Sonoma brand bakeware conducts heat well and I'm impressed at how non-stick it is.I find the clean up is effortless and I'm gradually replacing my bakeware with it as needed. It is more expensive than others but I feel it will last me for decades. They also sell it in sets which cuts down on the price to a degree.
I baked these in my Gold Touch loaf pans

One of our traditions on any road trip is that we  will always brake for honey and preserves. I collect regional honey, jams, preserves and jellies the way others collect tee shirts magnets and coffee mugs. It was no surprise that when I pulled in the the Honeyville shop in Durango Colorado that I would emerge with more than a dozen jars. From peach honey to chokecherry preserves into our trunk it went. I have loved their products and marvel at the variety of flavors they offer. 
Pomegranate Pinkberry 
Since coming to California we have become fans of the Pinkberry chain of yogurt shops. They usually have four or five flavors at any given time. There is of course the original and they have several seasonal flavors that they rotate. Our favorite has become pomegranate and we have come to look forward to it as our "go to" California dessert.

 Argan Oil
I remember way back when there was a product called silk oil that I would use on my hair. It's been years since I have noticed anything like it around the shops. Lately I've been hearing a great deal about argan oil. One of the brand names is called Moroccan oil. I've had salespeople let me try it a time or two and I recently purchased a bottle to try at home. I purchased a brand called one and only at Sally's Beauty Supply. This was about eight dollars but I've seen the other brands for about thirty. I like the way my hair feels after I use it. I only use the slightest bit at a time so it should last a long while.
      Argan Oil

            Liberte Wine 
  We like many people, have our favorite wines and our favorite varieties. We have enjoyed a wonderful selection on trips from Temecula to Napa and Chianti to Bordeaux. We love seeing how the regional differences effect the end product. Some bottles cost more than others but it is especially nice and unusual to find a delicious wine that is in the ten dollar range. Liberte Cabernet Sauvignon from the Paso Robles region was recommended to us from Trader Joe's and it is indeed a winner.
Interesting wines from Trader Joe's 

Pre De Provence Linden
What is more relaxing and restful than a  bubble bath.I'm always on the lookout for a special bath product and I love this one. Over the years I have tried many good products and some of my favorites are part of the Pre De Provence line. All the scents by this company are lovely but, the one I'm recommending today is their Linden scent. Whenever I use it I'm transported to a French garden.
Pre De Provence has wonderful bath products

Scoop Colander
We found this terrific kitchen tool in a little shop in old town Albuquerque.I now see them in all the popular kitchen stores. I saw it in Sur La Table just the other day. I use this all the time. It is perfect for small straining jobs and for pastas of course. I easily use it several times a  week. I truly don't know what I did before  had this marvelous scoop. The company has a great selection of innovative kitchen implements. Well worth checking out.
  joseph joseph. scoop-colander


Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Photographic Memory



     When I was seven my grandmother bought me my first camera. We were going to Canada to attend EXPO 67. She thought it would be rewarding for me to create my own memories of the trip, viewed from my own perspective. That was the beginning of my lifetime love affair with photography. We developed the photos and lovingly placed them in a special album that I have and treasure to this day. I remember the sense of pride I felt when people would remark about the photos I had taken, using phrases like “well composed” and “natural aptitude”. They called my photos beautiful and I was forever changed. 

     I know the complements and praise I received motivated me to take more photos and continue to experience that wonderful feeling of accomplishment. It didn’t matter if I was really a junior photography savant or just a lucky little girl surrounded by support for anything I would have embraced.

     As the years have come and gone the camera has practically become an extension of my arm. My attic houses a camera museum of sorts. From Kodak Brownie and the family Argus to the Disc camera and even some leftover blue dot flash bulbs. they are all up there, each having played their part in the story of my life. Each has been a friend, traveling companion and learning tool. I’m still never without a camera. The equipment has changed and become more advanced. The instamatic of my youth, with the rotating flashcube has been replaced by the digital Nikon with multiple lenses. What has not changed is the excitement I feel when a shot turns out just as I had intended it, or the sentimental comfort I feel when I stumble across an old travel photo and I am transported to another place and time, where for a moment I can walk though the past and smile.

      Here it is forty-three years later and I am still sorting and categorizing my photos and videos. I married a man who loves photography and travel as much as I do. Together, no longer constrained by the confines of film photography we happily and regularly stretch the boundaries of our seemingly limitless digital capability.  The sheer volume of media we produce makes the organizing and archiving process painstaking at times but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love to explore how our photographic representations of the same subjects reflect our individuality and our similarities as a couple. No matter how many years have passed, whenever I compose a shot, sort through my best work or lovingly archive my memories the feeling of love and pride instilled in me by my grandmother are still fresh and strong.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Playing outside

Written January 2010

     It’s been cold and gloomy here, which is not surprising weather for the weeks surrounding Christmas. It is easy to get into the habit of staying inside cooking, organizing and curling up in front of the fire with a good book or movie.

     Yesterday right in the middle of this mid-winter routine we experienced a warming trend. What a gift to be given an unexpected sunny warm spring day right in the middle of January. The thermometer rose to nearly 70 degrees and I couldn’t wait to get out in the yard and rake some leaves, remove all the dead plants and turn over the soil. 

     I didn’t realize how much I needed a day like this until I was outside enjoying it. Certainly we don’t get this excited about the routine yard chores in the summer and fall when we are required to do them on a regular basis. 

     This balmy, breezy day made being outside and working feel like a celebration. I thought about what a good workout I had just had. The progress I made gave me a feeling of satisfaction. Even the areas I had not attended to yet served only to make the groomed sections seem more neat and uniform.

     As I finished for the day I wondered how many of our routine every day tasks could be made into mini celebrations if we only allowed them to be. How many times does our attitude about a task effect our experience. My yard work became a play day largely because I made it that way. I saw the weather change as a rare treat and acted accordingly. Perhaps it would be wise for us to view more of our routine activities as opportunities. If we could find the joy and beauty in the mundane, it would make each day more of a celebration.

Falling for Fall

Written October 2009

     There is a fall feeling in the air today. It has been raining alot for the past ten days but, mostly it has been a warm jungle rain forest type rain.  Yesterday the temperature dipped into the fifties and Fall arrived somewhere between breakfast and lunch. Turtle necks and long sleeve sweaters were pulled down from the upper regions of the closet and the transition from shorts and sandals to cords and boots began.   

     School here has been in session since the end of August when the weather is warm and the days are still long. For me, this is the  weather that reminds me of my back to school days . We always started after Labor Day and usually there was a bit of a nip in the air by the beginning of September. I remember the excitement of  new book bags and  school supplies, as well as the  the  bittersweet  end of summer feeling that found me dreading the loss of  daylight savings time. “Spring ahead” and an extra hour of daylight  had run it’s course and now  we needed to  “fall back” and lose that cherished hour of  sun.I still dread the end of daylight savings time, I resent feeling  like its bedtime before  the Oprah show is over.

     When Fall arrives I can’t get my mind off of apples. Thoughts of apple picking, apple pie, apple crisp and apple sauce drift through my head like red and yellow leaves in a New England wind. The smell, the look and the crisp  taste of a fresh  apple is to me, the herald of Autumn. As if to offer some compensation for the end of summer,the sensory delights of clove,cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar  join with the apple to carry me through the holidays and linger with me till the first buds of spring emerge.

     In the spirit of the sudden onset of the season I prepared a hearty white bean soup yesterday and today there is a warm spicy chili simmering on the stove. It is the  perfect night to put on comfortable clothes curl up in front of the television with someone you love,  share nice bottle of red wine and a bowl of chili. Tonight we will sleep well in the the crisp cool night air under our cozy comforter, yet we can never forget that we live in Texas and tomorrow may find us poolside in our swimsuits drinking margaritas and slathering on the sunblock.


Friday, September 17, 2010

My Fiftieth Birthday

 April 2009


     I will turn fifty in a couple of weeks and I’m very excited about it. My birthdays are always a big deal to me and I anticipate the festivities for weeks in advance. To some it might seem frivolous but to me it is cathartic. 

     I view it as an opportunity to celebrate who I have become and the possibility for growth and change that the year ahead will bring. I try to do something new and exciting each birthday. I’ve ballooned above the Napa valley and above Monticello in Virginia, swam with dolphins in San Diego and manatees in Florida. I have visited turtle habitats, lighthouses and explored on horseback, both the Rocky Mountains at daybreak and the vineyards of Carneros at sunset. All of these adventures represent a physical manifestation of the philosophy I have adopted.

     A lot has happened since my last birthday. I began that day getting my first marriage license which more than met my new beginnings and adventure criteria. John and I spent the rest of the day exploring the coast of Maine with our dear friend and surrogate Sister/Mom Judy. We spent a perfect day eating lobster rolls, steamers and walking along the beach collecting rocks to be used as escort cards and in vases during our wedding. Judy baked me a cake with a giant candle in the center we ended the day with laughter and smiles creating priceless memories. I was single last year and this year I am married; my first married birthday.

     This year John is taking me to Europe where we’ll rent a car and explore France and Italy. We have both been overseas before but never together and never married. I plan to be standing under the Eiffel Tower on my birthday with a glass of wine in one hand and a pastry in the other.

     There are people who approach birthdays with a real sadness and trepidation about getting older, especially milestone birthdays. I feel lucky I’ve never felt that way. I’ve had a few people inquire about my feelings on approaching fifty. I’m very grateful when those who love me want to make sure I’m OK with the number. I’m great with the number.

     As I begin my next fifty years I have to say that I’m energized and I have big plans..  I am married to the love of my life and we look forward to exploring this world together making memories and holding hands. We have committed as a couple to living a healthy lifestyle that allows for balance and treats as well. As an extension of this commitment to clean eating, this girl who grew up in Manhattan is learning to grow a vegetable garden. My husband and a host of gardening friends on Twitter support and encourage me daily and I think I will do well.

     I find cooking and baking satisfy my soul and I’ll continue to experiment with recipes and techniques. Fortunately John and I both enjoy cooking and love sharing our creations with those we love.

     I will continue to learn and push myself as I explore the world of social media. I embrace Facebook, Twitter U-stream and have found a real sense of community in a medium that would seem on paper to be cold and distant, but in reality makes the world a variety of small friendly cyber- villages. I’ll be spending more time freelance writing and plan to continue studying new and exciting methods of photo and video production.

     I feel better than ever and I’m in better shape than ever. I feel confident and secure in my decisions and in my convictions. I know who I am and what is important to me and I’m OK if that does not suit everyone.

     I plan on working to promote change that is close to my heart. I’d like to help people learn how to choose wisely when feeding their families, prepare good food on a budget, promote community gardens and healthy living in general.

     I love and appreciate my friends both old and new, they are my family and although they are scattered all over the globe I plan to continue to always acknowledge their importance in my life. I’m going to treasure being a wife to the best husband I could ever have dreamed of finding and I will always make sure he knows what a blessing he is in my life. 

     Finally, I plan to always continue on the path of learning and self-discovery as the years go by. It's a great ride so far and it seems to me that my next fifty years are going to be the best fifty yet.



Preserve Your Memories

I’m a person who loves photography and videography. I have always derived a great deal of joy from documenting both special and everyday events. I have accumulated an enormous amount of photo and video information over the years. In order to enjoy these special memories, they must be easy to find and reference. I thought I would share the way that I have found to archive, back up, preserve and store my precious images. I hope it will assist you in organizing your own collections.

My first cardinal rule is that I never delete the photos or videos from the camera until I have them backed up in at least two places.
1.    On the appropriate labeled computer file and.
2.    On a DVD archival disc.
3.    Where video is concerned I also burn a viewable home movie disc in addition to the computer back up and the archived raw data DVD. Well worth the extra step.
Once I have the data backed up ONLY THEN will I format my camera.


So where do you start?
Pick a drive on your computer to house your media files. Make sure the drive is large enough to accommodate the space needed for video and photo files. I recommend investing in an external drive for media if possible. The prices have recently dropped considerably making even a terabyte drive, which stores a thousand gigabytes very affordable.
I have developed four Folders within my external media drive.

1.Video Archives
2.Video NEW
3.Photo Archive
4.Photo New

In the two folders marked VIDEO NEW and PHOTO NEW I place data that has NOT yet be archived by burning it on to a DVD and that has NOT been erased from camera yet.

I use these folders as holding tanks and I like to get my data backed up in these folders (ASAP) as soon as the event or trip is over, just in case of a camera mishap, loss or damage.

The two key folders are always the VIDEO ARCHIVE and PHOTO ARCHIVE folders
In my archive folders I break down the entries by year for easy reference.
I like to archive my information by date, I always have done it that way and it works for me.
It looks like this

(Folder in your Drive) PHOTO ARCHIVE

(sub folder of photo archive) 2006

(sub folder of 2006) 2006 1 New Years Day

(file of 2006 1 New Years Day) dsc9753 files photo pertains to 2006 1 new Years Day

(file of 2006 1 New Years Day) dsc9754 files photo pertains to 2006 1 new Years Day

(sub folder) 2006   2  trip to California
(sub folder) 2006   2 Valentines Day .

(sub folder of photo archive) 2007
(sub folder of 2007)
2007   4 Road trip April in NYC
(sub folder of 2007)
2007   6 Wildflowers in June  MD.

(sub folder of photo archive) 2008

(sub folder of photo archive) 2009

(sub folder of photo archive) 2010


Note: the number following the year indicates the month the photos were taken so
1-12 =Jan.-Dec It serves to keep the photos in date order within any given year.

       This system also works very well for old photos. As you scan your old photos they can be filed by year or even by decade depending on how many old photos you need to archive.

It is also a good idea to store your archived data discs or additional copies of them with a family member or friend in a different location. If the unthinkable happens and you experience a fire, flood or robbery you will still have your precious photos and videos secured for the future


In Manhattan I didn’t grow up using any kind of specialty tools. We had hammers, pliers and the usual household arsenal, of course but nothing that would stand out as unique or special. My husband John grew up with every kind of tool and implement known to man. His Dad was a tool and die maker at Proctor and Gamble and a genius at creating and using tools. 

I believe that is where John gets his mechanical engineering DNA, as well as his ability to wade through mazes of information and architect usable software programs for his clients.


Since I moved in with John I have been introduced to all manner of drills, vices saws and equipment, some of which I’ve never seen before. I’ve enjoyed watching him use these items to create and or fix things we use every day. 

When we set out on our spring garden project I began using the hoe, shovel and big rake to attack the hard root infested clay we have here and found it quite a trial. One day the clouds parted and John came home from the hardware store with a new addition to our tool family. 

He called it a mattock.  I thought it looked like a pick axe, but John explained the difference to me. I grabbed the Mattock and have not let go since. We have become garden best friends, I’ve named him Spike and there is not a day that goes by I am not happy we met. 

With Spikes help I am able to sail through tough root bound earth and create lovely gardens. I feel empowered with the strength of ten gardeners when Spike and I tackle a deeply rooted weed or an old solid stubborn root.  With his pointed end I am able to get into tight spaces and clear out weeds that previously would just mock my efforts to eradicate them. 

When Spike and I get together in the garden I feel like a cross between a pioneer woman on the Oregon Trail and a super hero. Everyone should have a pal like Spike. At the end of a hard day I feel like buying him a beer.

That’s what’s on my mind today

The Spring Garden




     The seed was planted just before Valentines Day. This year John and I decided that the best gift we could give each other was a vegetable garden. We have been working so hard to make intelligent decisions about our food choices and have been encouraged by the results. The natural progression of that effort is to know where our food comes from and to make sure that we eat as cleanly as possible. We have been spending some time learning about how food gets to our table and the information has been disturbing to say the least. In a perfect storm of health consciousness, consumer awareness and Valentines Day we were inspired to plant each other a garden. We wanted to forgo the candy hearts in favor of nurturing our physical hearts.

     We decided to construct the beds of cedar, which is a far more durable material than pine. We set about building our prototype. After the initial wood purchase I calculated just how much these beds would cost and I knew there was more I could do to make this project greener and more economical too. After several calls to scrap wood businesses I was given a great lead on some used cedar. I called a local fence company and excitedly related my garden plan to the friendly and patient voice on the other end of the phone. I asked if there was any leftover, older wood that could be had at a bargain price. She must have liked my idea because within the day she called me back. She said yes, I could for a fraction of the retail price come down and load up as many boards as I required. Not only did this save us money but, I felt good about using the unwanted wood and giving it a purpose in my project.

     Last weekend in the spirit of an Amish barn raising we had our friend Jim over and he helped John create our Vegetable beds. John and Jim brew beer as a hobby and we wound up with enough extra wood to create six small planting boxes for their hops, a small planting box for my mint crop as well as a four foot square garden for Jim to take home. It was great to know that Jim to would be planting a garden for he and his daughter to enjoy all season long.

    It was now time to think about filling the vegetable beds .Our yard is comprised of thick clay where soil should be. This clay sprouts the weeds that fight the grass for dominance in our yard. I did some research at our local nursery and as luck would have it the manager had a real expert knowledge of vegetable gardening. John who is also quite an experienced gardener spoke with him about our options and which choices would be best for this project. We discussed and settled upon what we would and would not need for the optimal mix. The staff was able to recommend a local supplier for vegetable bedding mix that was located just down the road from our home. I was overjoyed that this process was moving right along as I in my excitement had already planted a garden of seedlings that would soon need a permanent home.

     As we planned to contact the soil company we were asked by our neighbors to include them in the plan. They were also preparing a spring garden and suggested we share the delivery fee and get the soil at the same time. We were glad to include them and I was pleased that this little project of ours had yet again been a benefit not just to us.

     I love it when two hobbies collide and both are made more enjoyable by the collision. For sometime I have been embracing twitter, the popular social media phenomenon. I find it a way to connect with people who share my common interests. I have developed several twitter friends who also garden and have given me more helpful hints than I could ever have wished for. I will always be especially indebted to Lisa and Jan for all the kind advice and camaraderie they have shown me. Many of these twitter friends have been gardening for years and have embraced this newcomer to the soil with kindness and friendship.I love that my garden project has put me in touch with such a great group of friends.

     The weekend had come and it was time to fill the beds with our newly acquired soil. We woke up excited and energized only to find five inches of snow blanketing the yard. We laughed at the irony of a snowstorm on the first day of spring. As the day passed it warmed up enough to fill at least two of the beds before dinner. I sit here at the end of the day with my garden project off to a wonderful start. I’m reflecting on how many people have been a part of this new project of ours and as the garden continues to grow I think about all the good it will do for our health our hearts and our souls. It has done so much for us already before the first seed had been planted.