Monday, January 3, 2011

Fall and all it's bounty

Besides having the most remarkable food Fall is gorgeous especially in the Northwest. I know some may beg to differ after all the East coast does put up a pretty good argument but the one fighting argument for the Northwest's fall is that it lasts forever. Temperatures are hot and cool enough, the food is glorious and with the softened light of the fall sun the colors all around us are magical. I for one cannot get enough of the food. Tomatoes to be exact. Ashley brought me these (pictured above) from her massive green house filled of scrumptious varieties of tomatoes. But these, these....are the sweetest, most tastiest and are sweet enough to pick right off the vine or mix them with olives, feta cheese, a sprinkling of olive oil (basil or thyme or whatever herb you have on hand) broil and feast. Lovely.
Another good thing about Northwest falls is that the hiking is grand. Brown came to watch Rachel's kids while Rachel and Andy had a quick trip to NY for Andy's sisters wedding. Well for a trip to NY I may forgo a Northwest fall - but that may be the only thing. I can't remember the falls we hiked to that day but it was really nice, the kids were GREAT and fun was had by all.
All the kids walked on their own even Bella. I only had to hold Sof at the end when the blisters on her heels were too much to handle. I was a little too slow in getting her the correct size boot. I payed for it believe me. I carried her on my shoulders.
At the end we stopped to have lunch and let the kids play in the river.
See that rock (above picture) I had just asked Sofie to get off it because it was too slick and she was making me so nervous - after all she is a bit of a klutz - not unlike me. Well she did slip and through the grace of God she fell directly into that little space between the log and the rock. Nothing on her was hurt only perhaps a bruised ego. I'm telling you complete miracle.
Aunt Cydney cuddled her and wrapped her up in Eliza's sweater. Ice cream cleared up the slight drama for everyone.
All boy.
Sam and Drew exploring
The imagination is a hard thing to beat. Here is Sam's "robot" he made out of things found in our recycle bin.
Looks like mom didn't make the cut.
Sofie in her gymnastics leotard. We don't usually keep the undies on during the class but this was our initial try on to see if we liked it. We did. Another plus about fall - gymnastics!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Italy with Haley

I'm sitting here on the day after New Years Day watching the last of Ann of Green Gables. I love this show and could watch it probably as often as I watch my absolute favorite period piece "Persuasion". Matthew just died in Anne's arms. So very sad. So sad in fact I am considering not sticking to my new years resolution to be more committed to this blog! But here I am determined. So this is catch up time - May be a little boring for most but nonetheless needs to be documented.

In September my niece, Haley and I took a trip to Italy for 10 days. As most of you know I like Italy but I enjoy other places in Europe a little more. I most certainly didn't want to return to Rome - been there done that - and so I was having a bit of a time getting excited to return to Rome but knowing full well this was a place Haley needed to see. I know boo hoo. However, my amazing travel agent Sharon Perkins from AAA travel set us up on a whirlwind tour of a few must see places not only for the 18 year old but also for her ever aging aunt who thought she had seen really all she wanted to see of the land of amore. After this trip I was gladly mistaken.

Our itinerary started us out landing in Rome and staying for 3 days. As we landed we were swept off our feet by a shuttle driver - purely typical Italian salesman - convinced us that taking his shuttle was only a Euro more than taking the train into town and he would drop us right on the front door of our hotel. Well how could we refuse? Well it just so happened to be morning rush hour and if we taken the train we could have arrived 45 minutes earlier and unbeknownst to us our Hotel Diana was merely a block away from the blasted train station. It was really not all that bad we had two other charming couples with us in the shuttle and they were very talkative even after a 10 hour flight.

We got to our hotel and we were on the 3rd floor which is really the 4th floor to us. The "lifts" were always busy and knowing that I would not able to run or exercise I insisted on walking everywhere. Everywhere. My little Haley did not love that idea but was a good sport regardless.

When I mean everywhere I meant everywhere EXCEPT my insistence on taking a city tour on the double decker bus. Where ever we visit I love it. Mom echoes my love and so that is one reason we make good travel partners. Haley could have taken it or left it but again - good sport. Above is the picture of us on the tour bus in Rome
It was a week of firsts for Haley. Here she is eating her first gelato. Chocolate. She loved it and she twisted my arm (grin) to have one every day after that.
We checked in to our hotel about 9 a.m. and started hoofing it about the city. We got lost a lot but still found the colosseum. Looks about the same as it did 20 years ago but more college student tour guides on hand.

Haley couldn't keep the boys away even these cute gladiators were gawking at her.
Atop St. Peters basilica

Spanish steps - Rome. Pompeii (last day) We were in and out of this place in 2 1/2 hours. We were baking. Not a good day to wear black pants. They have some magnificent renovations going on right now but I recommend getting a guide for certain in this city. There is no rhyme or reason to that place. We almost had to stay 3 hours because we were so turned around. Luckily someone pointed us and pointed us again in the right direction. Again, I seem to get lost an awful lot.
This is THE most horrible city in Italy - Naples - dirty, crowded, gross. Just gross. We rented a car here from Hertz. I asked if I could check it before we took it off the lot for any scratches and dents and the turned me down and said "Lady, this is Italy - no one cares." We didn't mind driving after we left Naples. Driving on the Amalfi coast was magical. We got lost again - well I'm not the best navigator and Hertz wouldn't give us a GPS. I hate them I really do. However we found our Hotel Panorama and it really was Panoramic. We had a great view of the Mediterranean however our neighbors were the pits! Up all night hacking and coughing and talking and it was basically a nightmare for me.

Trying to return our car in Naples even more of a headache then picking it up. There was so much construction and traffic that we literally drove around the city for 1 solid hour trying to find the place where we could return it. We finally stopped some police who were very kind, they basically escorted us, stopped traffic and dealt with the seemingly incompetent Hertz workers. So in Naples - liked the police - hated the city.

Our first night in Sorrento (sorry, I seem to be jumping around quite a bit) they had the most amazing fireworks show that I kid you not last 1 1/2 hours. Every time a new "turn" would start it seemed like a finale finish. Haley and I kept turning to go to sleep (as we could view it from our ocean view room :-). We also liked Sorrento because Haley had constant contact on Facebook. Heaven. We had difficulty in Rome and Florence finding internet cafes but not in Sorrento. It's definitely a drug for her. She was much happier after she was able to get online even if for only 10 minutes.
Florence. One of my favorite Italian cities. Ponte Vecchio (bridge) I think Haley will appreciate it a little more after her college humanities classes. Hello - David is nothing to scoff at.
We ate at this Cafe Basilica 3 times we loved it so in Sorrento. Above is my most favorite dessert - maybe ever - They made the most fabulous Panna Cotta. They also made these yummy pita chips. Sounds crazy but they were crazy good. And their caesar salad - oh my gosh!!
Our daily 3 o'clock snack. I really did like that dark, dark chocolate. Believe it or not I lost weight over there. 4 pounds! Maybe I need to consider a gelato and fish diet. I like it....Can't tell from my arms.
Haley and I on a tour boat going around the Island of Capri. Man I hate my arms.
Yet another first for Haley. Calamari. She liked it. She got it again on our last day in Sorrento
Our last days were spent in Sorrento along the Amalfi coast. WOW - Island of Capri. Think deep blueish, green waters bumped along side hundred feet high cliffs lined with charming hotels that cost an arm and a leg to stay in so one must stay and ferry over from Sorrento to Capri to then sunbathe on the rocky beaches, cool off in the greenish clear mediterranean and try not to be too conspicuous as the poor american amongst the rich and famous europeans. Actually we could have probably gotten by quite well except we were the only ones white as doves, not smoking and breasts covered. So this is where New Jersey girls get their inspiration. Maybe we did stand out a bit.

Rome 3 days, on to Florence 1 day, down to Sorrento 3 days, Pompeii, home. I had a wonderful time. I would go back and do it all again. Haley was a champ and had a lot of patience with her senile aunt. She's a lovely girl and I love her to pieces. Ciao bella!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

1st day of school

Well Monday August 30, 2010 we started back to school at Woodinville Montessori. I like montessori more and more especially as I'm talking with some of my friends and they are bolting around looking for deals on school supplies. With montessori we are spared that headache. However they do make up for it in the tuition.

Sofie starts kindergarten this year. Her teacher is Miki and she seems really great. She is a luncher this year which has been bittersweet for me as I will miss her and my one on one time but quite honestly I am not missing the 3 hour drive time back and forth, back and forth. Sofie loves helping the kids that are younger so she is in her element. The kindergartners are the oldest as there are some preschoolers and she is such a mother hen. She really hounds Sam about being more responsible every day in the car. Today it was about his toothpaste. I need to remind her every once and awhile that I'm the mom and she can be the mother (hen) to all those cute little preschoolers.

Sofie's favorite color is blue. Her favorite breakfast is danish pancakes. Her favorite dinner is tacos and her favorite dessert is ice cream.

She's gorgeous--bottom line.

Sam is in the 2nd grade. As I dropped him off the first day he couldn't dash faster to his classroom. He was very excited. The sad news is neither Hunter nor Adil is back. The good news is Nick is. He has the same teachers LeeAnn Brown and Alexis Plunkett.

Sam's favorite color is gold. His favorite breakfast is danish pancakes. His favorite dinner is spaghetti and his favorite dessert is frozen cookie dough melted in a ramekin for 15 seconds. He loves money and is willing to work hard to get it.

He's gorgeous--bottom line number 2.

Below is Gabrielle Murphy's bridal shower. I wanted to do it all in white but ended up having a little green as an accent. I served a sangria and cucumber, mint water for drinks and for the sweets I made single serving pavolova's (wish I had taken a picture--they were gone pretty fast) with a lemon cream--topped with blueberries and golden raspberries. Miniature french silk tarts, rice pudding topped with grilled peaches and I had Trophy make their coconut cupcakes--yum!

I served savory palmiers and marcona almonds to even out the sugar kick.

Dave set up lights everywhere. It's amazing what lights do for an evening.
I could only get green umbrella's (so had to go for that green accent) but they were fine--not great--but I wanted an umbrella you now for "shower". I know kind of corny.
OK so below are the grilled peaches. I am telling you these are amazing.

They don't look too appetizing in this picture but really added a nice summer depth to the rice pudding.

I think you may have my rice pudding recipe but here it is just in case. This is not low fat in anyway but I guess that's why it's so delicious.

1 quart milk
1 pint heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
1 vanilla bean
1 cup sugar divided
3/4 cup rice, uncooked
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cup cream whipped (optional--depending on your mood)

In a heavy saucepan, combine milk, cream, salt, vanilla bean, and 3/4 cup sugar. Bring to a boil. Stir well, add the rice and allow the mixture to simmer gently covered for 1 1/4 hour on a very low heat until the rice is soft. Remove from heat and cool slightly. (Sometimes I just end here and it is so good) however for a bit more richness---Stir in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the egg yolk. Allow to cool a bit more.

Preheat broiler (or use a torch) stir in all but 2 TBS of the whipped cream and pour mixture into a souffle dish. Make sure the mixture is cool, then spread the remaining whipped cream in a thin layer over the top. Place under the broiler until pudding lightly browned. Chill before serving. (I rarely do the broiler part because it is pretty fancy and time consuming and besides by this point I'm ready to dive in)

Grilled Peaches: (about 4 peaches--cut in half)
1 TBS butter
1 tsp lemon zest
2 TBS mint leaves cut into very small pieces
2 TBS brown sugar

Muddle the mint and the sugar together. I use a mortar and pestle. Heat all the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan just until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. This is where they say strain the sauce--I don't

Baste the peach halves with with the sauce and place them cut side down on the drill over me-low heat. Cook about 3 minutes and turn.

Spoon some of the sauce into each peach half lightly cover with a foil and heat for another 4-5 minutes until soft and warm.

These are the parting favors and the napkin ring. You can really find anything you want out there anymore. I think these rings were 4 for like $1.00. I did popcorn because the bride and groom love movies so I just made a kettle corn--actually Royleane totally helped me out here. She did 30 for me. I am so indebted to her! I actually am indebted to Cydney and Barbara, my kids and of course Dave. He's the miracle maker.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Last of the Ranch memories

In all my writings I have forgotten to put a picture in of our playhouse. So here it is. Dave had since put it away in the metal building--that is until LuLu can come over to play at Thanksgiving. Sofie wants curtains but I'm not sure that will happen knowing my sewing capabilities. She could, however give Aunt Cydney some extra loves.
This is the spot where we are planning to build. Yea!
Some last minute loves on the 4 wheeler. Sof was so cute she would just hold on so tight to Sam on that thing. He loved it. He was very protective of her.
A little promo pitch for Cory.

A little sulky today. She didn't like our hike up the mountain for a family picnic. The long grass scratched her legs.
We made this yummy bread.

Blueberry Loaf

1 C white flour
3/4 C 50/50 flour
2 Tbs Sugar
2 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 egg well beaten
3/4 C milk
1/4 C sugar
1/3 C vegetable oil
1 C fresh or frozen blueberries (drained)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare muffin tins (for 12 muffins) or loaf pan. Mix flours with sugar, bp, and salt in mixing bowl and make a well in the center. In a separate bowl combine egg, milk, sugar and oil. Add all at once to dry ingredients; stir until ingredients are moistened. Fold in berries. (if doing muffins fill tins til 3/4 full)
Bake for 25 minutes or until top is golden brown.
At the fair.
The 6 pack paid off.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

How to win friends and influence people--NOT

Sam--tortured Dave then couldn't take the consequences :-)

The beautiful rich and famous

We, the poe folk here in Star Valley Wyoming are a little jealous that we didn't get to head east for some sailing or even our annual beach week on the sunny shores of New Jersey but hey our 4 person heavy duty raft got us down the Salt River twice and we hope it may even last an additional year. We did pay a little extra this year.

While here we have had 2 new additions to our expanding family--yea!! Charming Charles Davis Markoff (better known as Charlie)

Our second beautiful addition is Lovely Lucy Lee's

Below Sotir and Aidan being pulled by 007 supermodel

Jason and Merissa

Miss LuLu and Sotir
Sarah and Lucy
Ryan, Sarah and Lovely Lucy post delivery