Sunday, August 30, 2009


It is such a treat to spend a few days in Coronado, California. It's definitely a splurge to stay at the Hotel Del Coronado but the deals offered this summer took the sting off a bit.

In August my sister and I usually spend a few days at this pretty resort. We have a favorite room and suprisingly it is not in the main building. We prefer the Ocean Tower because it is just steps from the ocean and at night the sound of the waves lulls us into relaxation. The pictures above are taken from our room as is the next picture.

Look at all of those pretty white umbrellas (above) just waiting to protect the lunch crowd from the intense sun on a cloudless day. And this past week the sun was out in all her glory!

This is my favorite view from our room. And this room is not even a full ocean view. Love, love, love this view.

Above is the new Beach Village at the Hotel Del. These little villas have full kitchens, living room, and separate bedrooms. The porch is gorgeous and has a firepit (you can barely see it in the picture, the dark spot in the middle of the lower wall). Wouldn't it be great fun to gather up all of your friends and rent this out for a great girlfriends week? I think yes!

No need for a rental car when you stay at the Del. We spend most of our time at the Del hanging out on the beach (you know, wearing a big hat sitting under an umbrella slathered with sunscreen). Then we walk or bicycle through the darling neighborhoods on our way to breakfast or dinner. I love the border along the sidewalk in the above picture.

On the way we do a bit of house and garden stalking. Isn't this house pretty?

Gorgeous, purple clematis drapes this little arbor entry way.

A very English cottage a 1/2 a block away from the beach. We think our friend, Leslie, would love this house. And it has a cheery red door which looks great next to the charcoal gray trim.

The house below is my sister's favorite.

Besides living near the ocean I think I'm most envious of the gorgeous hydrangeas that grow effortlessly in coastal areas. The pink and green of these blooms are my favorite color combinations.

We always have breakfast at least once at Clayton's Coffee Shop. There is daily pancake special--the day before it was chocolate chip pancakes, the day we were in it was banana, the following day it was strawberry pancakes.

I figured that the bananas would be mashed into the batter, but no, even better the bananas were sliced and placed on top of the pancakes as they were cooking. This meant the bananas caramelized and required very little syrup. These were the best banana pancakes I have ever had. Aren't they gorgeous?

Another lush and full front yard just beckoning you to come have a seat and breathe in the fresh, fragrant sea air.

Despite the privacy wall there is something inviting about this home. The gray and white are crisp and the American flag looks like the cherry on a sundae.

But, this house below is my favorite in Coronado. I love the second floor balcony--the doors completely open and there is a open family area with a kitchen. Can you tell I've seriously stalked this house? I first noticed it two years ago when a family was living there. We would walk by at night when it was all lit-up inside (every house stalker's dream). I especially love the light fixture on the second floor which you can't see but trust me, it is perfect.

The views of the ocean are from the second floors--if you look to the left you can see an outdoor fireplace to take further advantage of the views. Sadly, this house sold last May so I missed the boat on this one. And although it is about a block away and around the corner from the beach it sold for $4.1 million. If I had only known it was for sale...and had a fairy godmother to grant me dozens of wishes.

The front door is one of my favorite designs. I've seen it in the Phoenix Arcadia neighborhood on a few houses but it is always painted black. This dove gray is just right for the beach.

We stayed three nights in Coronado and then drove up to Newport Beach stopping at San Clemente along the way.

We hit a few of our favorite haunts (Roger's Gardens) and visited a few new places such as Sherman Library and Gardens. We also went to a new little shopping area on Pacific Coast Highway between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach (directly across from Crystal Cove State Park). It had a Red Mango Yogurt shop which was very good, similar to our own Ocean Blue, a casual and yummy restaurant Pacific Whey Cafe and a new favorite home store called Juxtaposition.

We stayed one night at Marriott Newport Coast Villas and then took the last flight out from Orange County to head home. A few days on or near the beach is a nice little freshen-up for the mind. Sigh...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I used to make frittatas all the time, I love them. It is a great meal to use up eggs and any bits of veggies you may have.

This recipe comes from How to Cook without a Book by Pam Anderson. Don't know why it's the only thing I've ever cooked from this book since I've had great success with this recipe. But now that I've got the book out I see several items I need to make.

Pam's cooking philosophy is to know several recipes by heart and that once you have the basics down it is easy to add a little of this and a little of that to quickly make something yummy. The basics of this recipe are easy to memorize.

2 tbsp. olive oil
Two or three filling ingredients (veggies, meats - use what you have on hand, see my notes below)
Salt and ground black pepper
1 medium garlic clove, minced
8 large eggs
3 tbsp. grated Parmesan
3 oz. of additional cheese
2 tbsps. minced fresh parsley or basil (thyme would be good, too)

Turn on your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Chop your filling ingredients and saute them with the garlic and oil in a 10 inch skillet on medium heat until tender. If you are using a filling like potatoes, put the potatoes in first with a few tablespoons of water. Then cover and steam for a few minutes before uncovering and adding the rest of the filling ingredients.

While the filling ingredients are sauteing, mix your eggs, Parmesan, herb, salt, and pepper in a bowl.

When the filling ingredients are soft, shake the pan to distribute the ingredients, pour on the egg mixture and let it set for about one minute.

When the edges of the eggs have set, move the skillet into the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes.
When the frittata is fluffy but set, slide it onto a plate, cut into wedges and serve.

My notes: I used 3 new potatoes diced, 1/2 red bell pepper chopped, 1/4 cup Spanish olives chopped and 3 ounces Gruyere cheese as my filling ingredients. Excellent combination.

P.S. If you make this with different ingredients please report back and let me know how it turned out!

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Well, it's August. In Arizona. What more can I say? However, we have had some abnormally cool mornings (you know, around 5:30 am).

In Arizona you just have to get through August and hope all of your plants survive. So we've taken a little break from gardening just making sure everything is well-watered.

We solarized the flower bed (you can see Kipling standing guard) a few weeks ago. The weeds were impossible so fingers crossed that the little devils will be baked to death under that thick plastic. The plastic will be removed in early September and we will have a little seed planting party with our niece and the twins next door.

The basil is growing like crazy and the thyme and rosemary are doing great. Our two vegetable garden plots are empty and the compost is cooking along. I cannot believe how grass, straw, and kitchen garbage make gorgeous soil. Sure am looking foward to October.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


As usual, I skipped some of the books on my nightstand and read a few new ones.

I finished The Game of Kings or, more truthfully, skimmed it. It is very well-written but I just couldn't get into it. It is a historical fiction about Scotland in the mid-1500's fighting to keep its freedom. I understand why this series has a huge following but it didn't work for me.

Loved The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. Quirky little novella about the current Queen of England stumbling into a library van and selecting a library book for the first time in her life. Her new-found love of reading wreaks havoc on the palace staff.

Bringing Home the Birkin was both educational and disappointing. As a handbag junkie, I enjoyed reading about the most coveted handbag in the world--the Hermes Birkin Bag. The mystique about the ridiculous two-year waiting lists is intriguing to me so it was great fun to read all the details but the writing is subpar and crude. Seriously, what is the role of a book editor??

Two books on tape, Jack in the Pulpit and The Cranefly Orchid Murders, were great fun. Cynthia Riggs is the author (in her mid-70's), lives on Martha's Vineyard which is also the setting for this murder series. The protagonist is 92-year old Victoria Trumbull, a sharp and all-knowing Vineyard maven. Good story lines, good character development, and lots of island tidbits. (Doesn't a little visit to Martha's Vineyard sound good right now?)

Cassandra loaned me the book The Help which I started this morning. Both Cassandra and her sister-in-law, Pat, loved it therefore I am reading it. It is rare that I read a current best-seller and I'm always surprised when it's on all the must-read lists and I like it as well (don't know why that is). But I am only on page 17 and am already sucked in.

Next up: The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield, a serial written for a British magazine in the 1930's that was later turned into a book. Looks delightful.

I continue to skip over The Brothers Karamazov and Middlemarch, although I am half-way through the latter. Maybe those are both winter reads.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


My friend Alicia made these gorgeous and yummy empanadas. She also generously gave me a package of dough to make some on my own which I haven't done yet. But I wanted to pass this recipe along to you. I loved them and plan on making them soon.

"La Saltena" empanada dough ( "para horno" meaning they are cooked in the oven, not fried). This is an Argentinian product found at the Mexican Market on Main Street in the frozen food area. They come in packages of 12.

This recipe should be enough for 24 empanadas.

1 lb ground beef
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 cup Spanish olives, chopped
1/2 to 1 cup raisins
2 chopped hard boiled eggs
salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of oregano and Italian seasoning
Pinch of Knorr Swiss chicken flavor bouillon - optional
1 egg

Cook the beef with the onion, garlic, and pepper, until done. Add olives, raisins, boiled eggs, and seasonings.

Add the egg and stir until cooked through. Wet the edges of the empanada disk. Place spoonful of filling in the center and fold. Seal with fork or scallop with fingers. Place on greased cookie sheet. If you want you can also egg wash them so they look pretty and shiny when they come out of the oven. Bake at 375 F for 25 min or until golden brown.

I think these would be great filled with chopped apples, cinnamon, sugar, and walnuts with a sprinkling of turbinado sugar (that I'm sure you purchased to make the yummy berry cobbler) on the tops of the empanada. Yum.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Recently my friend Darcey and I took a quick trip over to Laguna Beach and toured a small, coastal garden. What could I possibly translate from a coastal garden to my desert garden? Hydrangeas? No, I wish! But I was inspired to add a few embellishments to dress things up.

First stop: Target. Picked up three trellises for trumpet and jasmine vines in the side yard. That added a little charm to my young vines.

Second stop: My Secret Garden in Phoenix (just north of Camelback, west side of 7th Street). What luck! They are having a 50% off sale on everything in the store. And no, they are not going out of business, just trying to make room for shipments (which were piling up while I was there).

I bought a darling copper obelisk with a sweet little bird perched at the top. When it cools down (October?) I will plant some type of climbing rose at its base. Won't that be pretty?

And of course, every visit to Orange County demands a visit(s) to Roger's Gardens. On this visit I picked up this apple green garden seat. The plan is to put it outside between my two vegetable garden boxes. But since there is nothing lush growing in the garden right now I am going to wait to place it outside when the boxes are filled with promising edibles.

Until then, I've placed it in my entrance next to the chest. And please don't feel sorry for the spindly little plant in the blue pot. It is a Ti leaf and was given to me by the sweetest native Hawaiian woman as I was sitting in the Lihue airport leaving Kauai last January. This darling woman was carrying these gorgeous Ti leaf plants and I commented on how pretty they were.

She had cut them from her Kauai home and was bringing them to her Honolulu home to plant them in her yard. After insisting I take one as a gift I accepted. It looked like a gorgeous green feather duster when I first planted it in a vase of water. Then slowly it dropped its leaves but formed the necessary roots so about a month ago I planted it. And so far it is growing! Even in this dry climate. So fingers crossed that it looks lush enough some day for me to send a photo to its previous owner.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

APPLE CAKE - Smitten Kitchen

This is really a hearty coffee cake perfect to serve at a brunch or actually, Christmas morning (I will tuck that idea away). We (the royal we, meaning me) think it is better the second day--the flavors are more developed and it is moist. The cake slices hold up nicely which is always a plus.


6 apples (I used Anna apples from Leslie's tree)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
5 tablespoons sugar
2 3/4 cups flour, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional) (I added)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tube pan. Peel, core and chop apples into chunks. Toss with cinnamon and sugar and set aside.

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.

Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread half of apples over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean.
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

Saturday, August 1, 2009


This is one of my favorite pasta dishes. My friend Leslie made this for me several years ago and I was surprised at the depth of flavor in this simple looking dish.

Red peppers, corn, fresh basil are all plentiful right now. By roasting the peppers and the corn extra flavor develops. Grilling the marinated chicken just adds more smokey flavor. Balsamic vinegar and oil dresses the dish and chopped fresh basil dresses it up.

Try it this summer--you will love it. By the way, this is a Bobby Flay recipe before he was "Bobby Flay!".

Chicken Bow-Tie Pasta

Serves 4-6

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
½ cup soy sauce
2 T Ginger, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 ears of corn roasted
2 red peppers roasted
1 pound farfalle pasta
3 T basil chiffonade (or 1 T dry basil)
Salt and pepper to taste

3 T balsamic vinegar
½ c olive oil

Place soy sauce, ginger, and garlic in small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let sit for ½ hour. Place the chicken breasts in a shallow dish and pour marinade over. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Season with salt and pepper and grill. Remove to a plate and let sit for 10 minutes. Slice crosswise into strips.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove all the silk and all but one layer of the husk; dip each ear into water to moisten. Arrange the corn on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes. Scrape kernels from the ears with a knife.

Roasted Red Peppers:
Preheat oven to 350. Place peppers on a baking sheet and roast 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and place in a brown paper bag for 5 minutes. Peel the blistered skin away from the pepper flesh and seed the peppers. Slice into strips.

Place the vinegar and oil in a small bowl and wish to mix. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and place in a large bowl. Add chicken, corn, and peppers and toss with the vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper and add the chopped basil if using fresh basil.