Monday, May 31, 2010


Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. Terrific book about tweaking your mind to break those tough habits. These two scientific Heath brothers have devised an image to help you understand how your brain responds to making changes in your life.

As you probably have read or studied, the brain is divided into two segments (you know, that whole left brain, right brain thing). You have your artistic (or emotional) and your rational (or analytical) side. The Heath's call the emotion side the "Elephant" and the rational side the "Rider".

It's the Rider (analytical) that is supposed to direct the Elephant (emotion) down the path of life. Example: You know that to accomplish certain things in your life you need to get out of bed at 4:45 am Monday through Friday. The Rider says, of course you will do that so set the alarm and get out of bed when it rings. The Elephant says, are you kidding? I am tired, I did not sleep well, and I can skip my cycling class this once to get a little bit of sleep (who could I possibly be talking about?)

So, to change behavior you do the following: 1.Direct the Rider: provide crystal-clear direction such as saying "I need to get up at precisely 4:45 am no-matter-what which means I need to be in bed by 9:30 pm." 2. Motivate the Elephant (if I get up at 4:45 am I can get then get to my fitness class and have my exercise finished and get to work on time). 3. Shape the Path for the Elephant and the Rider: lay your clothes out the night before and ask someone in your household to flip on your bedroom light at 4:45 if they don't hear you get up. Or in the case of one individual, invent an alarm clock that when it goes off runs around the floor and you can only turn it off by chasing it down and turning it off (that should wake a person up).

Direct the Rider: be specific, point to destination

Motivate the Elephant: find the feeling or emotion needed to make the change, shrink the change

Shape the Path: tweak the environment, build habits

Obviously I am really paraphrasing here but the bottom line is I found the book to be well-worth reading. It certainly has helped me get to my spin class six days in a row.

Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers is a favorite of mine. I read it once years ago and listened to it twice--I love it. Lord Peter Wimsey continues to be my favorite fictional hero and once again saves Harriet Vane. She can be a bit of a pain but they are suited to one another.

It also doesn't hurt that the entire story takes place at Oxford, you know, my Alma Mater. More about that in a future post.

Garden Open Tomorrow by Beverley Nichols - I love the way Nichols constructs a sentence. I prefer his other books about refurbishing battered English country homes, but his prose is so charming that before I know it I've read several pages about peonies, a flower which will never ever grow in my Arizona garden.

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell is a darling story about a small English village filled with predominately older, single women. You may have seen it on PBS and if you haven't then put this series on your Netflix queue as soon as possible.

And, of course, there is nothing like a little Jane Austen to listen to on the way to work. Sense and Sensibility is always a treat.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


I know this is simple, but I'm telling you this is one of the best healthy sandwiches I've made. This is our new favorite Saturday-lunch-by-the pool.

Salmon Spinach Sandwich

2 Multi-Grain Light English Muffins - toasted
1 can of salmon
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 chopped apple
Sweet relish
Miracle Whip or Mayonaise

Mix the salmon, onions, and apple together. Salt and pepper to taste. Spread a thin layer of mayo or Miracle Whip (my cute Mom was from Texas so hence the Miracle Whip) on one side of the toasted muffin, add spinach, salmon salad, and then top the other muffin with a thin layer of sweet relish. Yum.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Lanhydrock House, Cornwall, England

Chartwell, Kent, England

Can you tell I am counting the days until I arrive in the Mother Country? I came across this little gem from Britain's National Trust. Go to the website (click here) to download a free album of the sounds of houses. Sounds of walking along a pathway, the crunching of pea gravel (one of my favorite sounds as it always reminds me of being on holiday), the creaking of a staircase, a key unlocking a door, the ocean lapping on to the shore. All designed to reflect the various houses that are part of the National Trust.

I've toured two of the houses, Chartwell and Lanhydrock. Chartwell was Winston Churchill's getaway country house and it is exactly what you would picture. The quintessential English Country house with faded, worn chintz fabric covered chairs, lots of fireplaces, books everywhere, and vases stuffed with garden clippings. My sister and I toured the home in early October ages ago and we lucked out that no one else was touring so we had Chartwell to ourselves. I stood in Churchill's office looking at his stand-up desk (he preferred to stand rather than sit at a desk) and it seemed he would come strolling in any moment. The dining room is the other room I remember distinctly. Imagine all of those dinner parties with royalty and the political leaders of the day.

Lanhydrock is far more grand than Chartwell. I remember two things about that estate. First, the gate house alone was quite grand with its spires and windows and, second, the Long Gallery was stunningly long (kids would love to rollerblade in that room). It was the first English home I toured of that magnitude--acres and acres of property, a separate parish, gardens, woodland, parkland, and of course the prerequisite sheep grazing on the hill.

Since then I've visited a lot of properties owned by the National Trust and have never been disappointed. One of its star holdings is the beloved Hill Top, the home of Beatrix Potter in northern England. My personal favorite.

Back to the album, here is the description from the National Trust webpage:

"Jarvis Cocker, best known as the former front-man for the band Pulp, has worked with us to produce the album, entitled National Trust: The Album, comprising of British natural sounds including birdsong, crashing waves and wind breezing through a country garden.

Eleven of our special places across England, Northern Ireland and Wales feature on the album, so we hope you'll enjoy listening to the sounds of these places - to hear them for real, come along for a visit - we're closer than you think."

If you are intrigued, click here and enjoy!

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I absolutely love living in Arizona. Here are a few of my favorite places/restaurants:

Favorite part of the State: Greer
A lovely little hamlet tucked at the base of Mt. Baldy. Eastern part of the state about 25 miles from the New Mexico border.

Favorite hike: the trail above and beyond Wind Cave - Mesa
Wind Cave trail is great but the trail that veers off to the right above Wind Cave is spectacular. It is steep but when you get to the top you will find amazing views of the Superstitions, Four Peaks, and the Goldfield Mountains. Not for little kids.

Favorite plant nursery: Baker Nursery - 40th Street and Osborn, Phoenix (pictured above)
I've been going here since I was a kid. A serious plant nursery for serious gardeners.

2nd place: Berridge Nursery - 46th Street and Camelback, Phoenix
Berridge is another favorite not too far from Baker Nursery. It is laid out beautifully and has a fun little seasonal shop.

Favorite cinnamon rolls: Belinda's Kitchen (4301 E. McKellips, Mesa)
My oh my. Delicious. Both the cinnamon rolls and the orange rolls.

Favorite cookie shop: Jacob Lake Inn (Key Lime, German Chocolate, Lemon Zucchini, etc.)
Jacob Lake Inn is found on the long drive to Utah. It is near Fredonia at the very tip top of Arizona near the Utah border. Stopping at the Inn is the reward for a long drive.

Favorite fish tacos: Rancho de Tia Rosa - Mesa
Salmon tacos, Shrimp tacos, Halibut, crab--all are good. But my favorite combination is the Salmon taco followed by the sweet Shrimp taco.

Favorite chicken tacos: Blue Adobe Grille - Mesa
Love this often overlooked restaurant--shredded chicken with sliced cabbage in soft corn tortillas.

Favorite ice cream shop: Mary Coyle - Phoenix
Growing up in Phoenix, when my sisters and I received a good report card this is where we went to celebrate. Now my 12 year old niece loves it, too.

Favorite pizza: Grazie - Scottsdale
Best thin crust pizza. Love sitting outside (weather permitting).

Favorite decadent dessert: Dolce Della Casa (Hazelnut and Banana Calzone) at Grazie (even better eaten outside next to the fireplace) Slightly Charred Sweet Calzone filled with Chocolate Hazelnut Sauce and Banana topped with Vanilla Ice Cream

Favorite pancakes: Rendezvous Diner in Greer
The pancake batter is a homemade concoction that the owner described to me. I didn't even bother writing it down since it was so decadent. But the pancakes are the best I've ever had and so lacey and pretty.

Favorite local breakfast splurge: Crackers & Co. - Mesa (the Vatican Skillet, yum)
Well seasoned food, but portions are large so the great thing is I can get 2-3 meals from this yummy dish.

Favorite soda pop shop: Pop the Soda Shop - Scottsdale
A really fun soda shop with rows and rows of interesting flavors and delicious bottled pop.

Favorite Independent Book Store: The Poisoned Pen - Scottsdale
One of the last around. Great mystery books and weekly discussions with visiting authors.

Favorite French Bistro (yes, in Phoenix): Vincent's Market Bistro - Phoenix
This feels like a tiny, Parisian cafe. And you are given the best mini-croissants with your lunch. Also excellent prices.

Favorite Lunch Salad: Roasted Beet and Spinach Salad at Taylor's Cafe in Phoenix
Healthy and yummy (the salad, not the entire menu).

Favorite "Let's Share a Dessert at Lunch" place: Nordstrom Cafe (love that Coconut Lemon Cake) - Scottsdale
Nordstrom Cafe is so easy and lots of good choices. Best tomato basil soup.

Favorite place that is no more: Don Jose's Mexican Restaurant (sniffle, sniffle) - Phoenix
My parents loved this place and would be sad to see that it closed. My sisters and I continued to go to this restaurant right up to the last week they were open. Best Mexican food ever.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


My friend, Leslie, and I are planning a late summer trip to Belgium and England. Both of us have been to London many times but there is always something new to see or something old worth revisiting. Half the fun is planning the itinerary. It's been a while since I've spent much time in London so I'm taking a pre-trip tour on the web visiting various London sites.

While arm-chair touring, I came upon a few things which reminded me of why I love London:

This from the Liberty of London store: "Liberty is open seven days a week to allow you extra time to spend with us." Isn't that a much lovlier way to say, "Open 7 days a week"?

Abbott and Holder is a favorite shop where I've picked up a few watercolors for my home:

"This site introduces you to Abbott and Holder Ltd and to our stock. While some pictures are illustrated and images of all others can be e.mailed we intend that the site remains secondary to 30 Museum Street where English watercolours, drawings, prints and oil paintings from the last 250 years are on view over three floors and five gallery rooms." Clearly, this is an establishment not overtaken by the Internet. I'm guessing they aren't tweeting or facebooking.

I could live at Fortnum and Mason, Grocers to the Prince of Wales don't-you-know, where one can pick up lovely picnic hampers, groceries, kitchen items, and such. I'll for sure be purchasing this little reusable bag for 4 pounds.

I could spend the day reading the descriptions of the grocery items at Fortnum and Mason. They are so very British. Read this description of English Shropshire Honey:

"After a busy time pollinating crops for grateful farmers, the bees' well earned vacation in the river-bank flowers, ancient lime trees and organic clover adds distinction to this complex blend." And don't you love these lidded jars? My friend, Lisa, filled the empty jars with cotton balls--wouldn't that be pretty on your bathroom counter?

How about this description of Welsh Heather Honey:
"This is honey as it should be eaten – pure, clear and complete with the crumbly honeycomb that it came from, a sight that makes you want to put your whole paw right in. Very good on sourdough bread with unsalted butter."

Or, finally, this description of Rose Petal Jelly:

"This is a preserve pièce de résistance, made with rose petals grown in a single garden in Oxfordshire. The petals are picked in the evening when they are at their most scented and ripe, and transferred the next morning to the jelly, thus capturing the fine fragrance. Other such jellies use dried rose petals, but they can be chewy, so we prefer to use fresh petals for a more delicate texture. This is divine with scones and cream or spread on soft, yeasty white bread with unsalted butter. It also works well as a savoury with white meats. Use sparingly – it is so aromatic that less is easily more."

One of the highlights of our time in London, will be to visit the Grace Kelly: Style Icon Exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum. I'm about to purchase tickets online because we certainly don't want to take any chances not getting into this exhibit. The V&A does the most interesting exhibits. I remember one summer with my Dad and sisters touring the V&A Tiara exhibit. Tiaras small and grand were gathered up and displayed in several rooms. We felt like royalty just visiting.

And for the best Sticky Toffee Pudding we will be dining at Rules, London's oldest restaurant. I've made reservations for our first night in London at this classic eatery.

Later that night we will be participating in the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London. Leslie has secured tickets for this coveted event.

Less than three months and counting....