Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Consider the pineapple...

I love everything about pineapples, especially during the winter.

Maybe I crave them this time of year because a cup of pineapple chunks provides 131% of the Vitamin C our body needs daily, in addition to other vitamins and minerals. In my pocket of the PNW there are so many families currently struck with severe colds and flu's, so I know we can all use a delicious extra boost of Vitamin C.

One of my favorite brunch or lunch or warm weather dinner salads features pineapple, and it couldn't be easier to make. Just mix pineapple chunks with chopped fresh mint leaves. The flavor of these two ingredients marry beautifully to create a more complex tropical fruit flavor with a rich herbaceous finish from the mint leaves. Once mixed and allowed to sit for 10 minutes or so, it is actually difficult to distinguish the flavor of the individual ingredients because they complement each other so nicely. I like to chiffonade the mint, but any style of chopping the leaves will do.

Pineapples have been the ultimate symbol of welcome, friendship and hospitality since the American colonial period. Over the past couple of years, I've been thrilled to find these petite Pineapple plants at Trader Joe's, they make for a very easy welcoming display tucked into old silver trophies and wine buckets, with a small mass of moss, near the front door. 

I first saw these little pineapples when we were driving from Durbin to the Falaza Game Park and Spa, located on the Elephant Coast, Kwazulu-Natal, in South Africa years ago. The fields filled with these beautiful gray~green spiky plants seemed to be endless. We chose Falaza because we wanted a classic tented Safari experience, and their camp only had the "BIG 3", Elephants, Rhinos and Cape Buffalo's, but no cats (the BIG 5 includes lions and leopards). We still had to be careful and follow the rules of the park, but this situation allowed us to have that experience with our young children. One of my greatest memories is the horseback safari we took as a family at Falaza. We walked and trotted through the red sand forests, with herds of giraffes coming near to play with our horses, it was such an extraordinary experience.

Since then, I've ordered these Small South African Pineapples from the produce department in my local grocery to weave into evergreen garlands for Christmas decorations. 

I love this excerpt I found in a very conclusive article on The Social History of the Pineapple by Hoag Levins.

fancy dish number 2
"In larger, well-to-do homes, the dining room doors were kept closed to heighten visitors' suspense about the table being readied on the other side. At the appointed moment, and with the maximum amount of pomp and drama, the doors were flung open to reveal the evening's main event. Visitors confronted with pineapple-topped food displays felt particularly honored by a hostess who obviously spared no expense to ensure her guests' dining pleasure
In this manner, the fruit which was the visual keystone of the feast naturally came to symbolize the high spirits of the social events themselves; the image of the pineapple coming to express the sense of welcome, good cheer, human warmth and family affection inherent to such gracious home gatherings."
If you haven't already, do hop over to read the Brief and Colorful story of a Truly American Plant by Mr. Levins to see how this coveted fruit captured the imagination of early Americans and influenced our style of entertaining, architecture and decor.

Friday, February 20, 2015


 How was your Valentines Day? 
I hope it made your heart happy!

We went to the most joyous wedding at the The Roundhouse restaurant, a Sun Valley classic since 1939, that really made my heart sing. We joined a crowd of friends and family in furalicious frocks to hear stories and listen to the vows of a beautiful couple who share a lifelong passion for mountain life.

The dramatic background, pergola fashioned out of ski's and the theme "furever love" set the tone for this festive celebration on the slopes. 

 In addition we had a warm sunny day, refreshments,

flowers and sweets;

and the most important part of the celebration: lots of love from a mountain load of enthusiastic friends and family who went all out to celebrate with the bride and groom.

I wasn't that surprised to see all of the glamorous snow bunnies looking chalet chic from head to toe...

and I loved their extra umph of style and attitude.

But I was surprised to see all of these mountain men who tapped into their dapper~Dan side to step out in these stylish get-ups...

While natural tones dominated the dance floor, some brilliant punches of color were thrown down as well.

Many couples had a blast coordinating their looks.

Plenty of cute kids came up with wonderful warm and furry looks as well.

This was an extraordinary heart~warming high mountain celebration.
I hope this fabulous couple continues to enjoy all of the joy and happiness from their wedding day furever and ever.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Mardi gras, the morning after....

I was too busy setting things up to take many pictures of the Mardi Gras party I threw for my daughter the other night, but there was still plenty to shoot the morning after the bash. I actually love "after party" shots, they tend to have a lot more personality than the perfect looking set up before the party begins.

This was the first party of this theme I've thrown, but it won't be the last, everything about this holiday is colorful, festive and delicious. Mardi Gras {fat Tuesday} is on Tuesday, February 17 this year, also the first day of Lent. This post is loaded with links to help you to throw your own Mardi Gras party with ease.

Colorful accessories make it easy for guests to get "the look" on and they also make great decorations. 
Mardi Gras Glitter Top Hat

Throughout the house I made "wishing trees", a tradition we learned about when we visited Tulane University, there students make wishes and throw their beads up in the tree, if the beads "catch", there wish will come true.

Assortment of Mardi Gras Beads

These tissue paper pom~poms looked fun dangling from the trees as well.

Balloons set such a festive tone, I spilled dozens of purple, yellow and green balloons filled with air on the floor, they looked so great floating around as people danced and flitted about.

There were also dozens of balloons floating overhead with long gold ribbons hanging down.

These tissue paper balls added just the right boost of color hanging in the stairwell

and lounging on the tables.

As far as food and drinks, I went for a high/low presentation, a little touch of rustic bayou mixed in with old world New Orleans elegance, drinks were served in canning jars, and presented on antique silver trays.  Parasol straws added to the festive look. 

What was for dinner?
Big Easy Gumbo, was passed in these Weck canning jars, Muffaletta sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper, Monte Cristo Sandwiches, and cajun shrimp on plantain chips. 

For snacks, chips, popcorn and pecans prepared with my favorite spice combination, all served in large Weck canning jars on antique silver platters. 

Candies in Mardi Gras colors 

Speaking of fat Tuesday... I doubled this sour cream chocolate cake recipe 

{with the exception of the powdered sugar in the frosting, I just added the amount for one cake because I didn't want it to be so sweet}
to make this King size, 4 story chocolate cake with whipped cream between the layers. 

The courtyard was filled with Ball crystal canning jars filled with sand and candles {it didn't rain until the party was over, thankfully}.

So there it is, my first foray into the big easy...

Mardi Gras Crown Beads

Friday, February 6, 2015

Market Day, L'isle sur la Sorgue, France....

There certainly was a nice view from my window in the view room where I woke up Sunday morning at La Maison Sur la Sorgue

This was my second stay here and it felt like coming home, again. 

Below Mother Mary, the ancient rooftops and that incredible blue sky, the Sunday market was set up right beneath my windows.

{note: marinating olives, preserved lemons, roasted tomatoes, pickled peppers and other perfect picnic fare that I gazed down upon}.

After an elegant breakfast with Eric Clapton rocking in the background
{note: apples poached with cinnamon in clear containers to the left}.
Juicy citrus slices, earthy cheeses, charcuterie and fresh breads were met with hot, freshly scrambled eggs served just a few minutes after this shot.

It was hard to pull away from the paper and that second cappuccino, but the point of the trip was the market.

 I zipped through the food section though I was very tempted by white truffles,

the amazing aroma of this sauté of pork, olives and other vegetables

and all of these fragrant sides that would have been wonderful to add to any Sunday lunch.

I did slow down to enjoy a few tastes of these exquisite artisan cheeses.

There were also enticing fresh flowers for the table, including hyacinths, one of my favorites to force indoors in the winter

and buckets of mimosa.

Then finally, for dessert, massive hunks of fresh nougat.

But my business, this trip, was not in this section of the market.

I made the drive to explore the right bank of the Sorgue, where vendors had unloaded their trucks full of antiques and brocante {right where my car was parked the night before :)}.

In addition to the street vendors there inviting bridges and arches that lead to the enclaves I had mentioned last post. In this shot you can see the shop owners and their guests drinking wine and snacking in the center of Passage du Pont (L'ile aux Brocantes). When someone goes into their shop they give them a few minutes to explore and then check to see if there are anything you désirez..... if one of the vendors had gone to lunch, the other shopkeepers fill in.

There are many inviting little shops

filled with gorgeous pieces in ancient, cozy surrounds.

But there is also plenty of overflow around the square, for instance, surprisingly, this monstrous chandelier and the taxidermy live in a 3 sided tent on the square.

Though it seemed fine on this crisp, sunny January day.

Business was definitely much slower than usual, but this is a lifestyle for most of these dealers. Even though they weren't expecting as many customers as they may see in the summer months, they enjoy coming together to share their Sunday. 

Many of them probably travel from town to town throughout the week for the brocantes (each town in Provence has it a different day), but Sunday at L'isle sur la Sorgue is the major brocante in the area. While I was there we had a brief rainstorm, all of the dealers rushed to protect their precious merchandise, but while they were rushing about many stopped to point out the beautiful double rainbow in the sky.

It's not an easy lifestyle, and I really respect these dealers because I think their artistic hearts and love of beauty, particularly French beauty, is what compels them. 

Hoping you find something beautiful at the end of your rainbow this weekend.