Category Archives: Lifestyle

Mount Monadnock: Not for Sissies!

A few weeks ago, I paid a visit to one of my three sisters, Joanna, who resides in Concord, MA.  Another one of my sisters, Lee, lives nearby and she joined us for one the hardest four-mile hikes I have ever done!  Mount Monadnock located in Jaffrey, NH, is a 3165-feet granite monster. It is one of the most climbed mountains in the world (who knew) and was a favorite of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Emerson even wrote a poem about the place entitled, “Monadnoc”.

I was excited about our adventure as any time with two of my sisters is always good.  However, at the time, I didn’t realize I would be hiking in a vertical fashion through ice and snow.  I laughed when the park ranger said, “It takes about a mile per hour.”  I scathingly retorted, “A mile an hour? Don’t you mean four miles per hour?”  How the mighty fell that fateful day on Mount Monadnock.  Perhaps my first clue should have been when Joanna obliquely said, “There are a few hard spots on the trail I just can’t remember where they are.”

The Country Kitchen
All good Monadnockers know to stop at the Country Kitchen in Concord, MA for delicious deli sandwiches and the tastiest chocolate chip cookies. Most needed refreshment after scaling the Mount.
Three Sister starting out
With my sisters, Lee (on the left), and Joanna (on the right) at the start of the trail – back when I thought it was going be an easy photography hike.
Starting on the trail 2 the easy part
Starting off on the easy part of the trail.
the beautiful and easy trail
Still easy.
starting along the granite trail
Lee’s and my first steps on the granite roller coaster that is Mount Monadnock. How little we knew.
Climbing 1
Joanna looking good as she conquers the often unstable boulders.
climbing 6
Lee and the CCC climbing.
climbing 7 EM smiling
Still climbing.
Climbing 8
Still climbing.
climbing 4
Still climbing.
climbing 3 when the @#$! is this going to be over!
When the !@#$%! is this hike going to be over!
climbing 2 and still smiling
That’s better! Lee smiling. You can’t keep a Marlow girl down for long (unless of course there’s 3 more miles of hiking in 25 degrees with snow and ice swirling around you!).
the view 2
The view from Mount Monadnock. Yes, it was worth the effort.
Climbing in the snow
Although getting up was challenging, getting down was even more so. We had to cross over granite slippery with snow and ice. The wind was blowing 20 miles an hour too. But hey, it’s not called an “adventure” for nothing!
icey tree
As a California girl, I have no tolerance for cold of any kind. I was surprised I didn’t have a nervous breakdown at the site of all the ice-covered trees.
selfie
Of course, I wasn’t so miserable that I couldn’t take a selfie!
trees
Despite the chilly temps and icey ground, there was always time to appreciate Mount Monadnock’s beauty.
trees on the trail
The trail heading home. It looks so easy!
fall foliage
Gorgeous fall foliage. It’s easy to see why Thoreau and Emerson were so moved by this place.

On finishing the trail we were tired and very proud of ourselves. Although, Lee and I whined (a tiny bit) while traversing Monadnock, we thoroughly enjoyed it and were so glad Joanna brought us there.

Now onto the most important question – what libation would best warm our chilly bones?

Hot spiced cider
Hot spiced cider with Gosling’s Rum, of course! Here, Joanna, clean and relaxed, warms up with a  mug. Could there be a more satisfying end to a most satisfying day. Thanks Ladies! You girls are superlative sisters!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Congratulations Aimee and German! ¡Felicidades Aimee y German!

Congratulations Aimee and Germán!

Recently my husband, Brian, and I traveled to Fairfield, CT to celebrate the wedding of our friends, Aimee and Germán. We have been friends with Aimee for twenty years and were so happy when she met Germán, a wonderful person just like Aimee. The wedding was an intimate affair of fifty of Aimee and Germán’s closest family and friends. Germán’s parents, Frida and Germán Sr., and his brother and his wife, David and Janina, traveled from Lima, Peru for the occasion. Linda, Germán’s first cousin, and her husband, Sergio, came from Florida to join the celebration. Of course, Aimee’s parents, Tom and Michelle, her sisters, Meg and Colleen, and brother in-law, Kevin (married to Meg), were there to support the happy couple.

The wedding was held at the Delamar Southport, a lovely, small (only 40 rooms) hotel that catered to the bride’s, the groom’s, and their guests’ every need. (See my review on www.tripadvisor.com) The day before the wedding, we had a fantastic bridal lunch at the Gray Goose Cafe, conveniently located across the street from the Delamar. I highly recommend the “Black and Blue Burger” with a Bloody Mary – perfect lunch-time fare! The lunch gave Aimee’s friends time to get to know German’s fabulous family. On the day of the wedding Aimee treated her friends to “hair and make-up”. Janet from Salon Isa and Cheryl Ann and Kathy from Faces Beautiful helped us all look our best. The following photos are some of my favorite memories from the week-end.

¡Felicidades Aimee y Germán!

Recientemente mi esposo Brian y yo viajamos a Fairfield, CT para celebrar la boda de nuestros buenos amigos, Aimee y Germán. Hemos conocido a Aimee por veinte años y nos da mucho gusto que ella haya conocido a Germán, ¡una persona maravillosa al igual que Aimee! La boda fue un asunto íntimo de cincuenta de los mayores amigos y las familias de Aimee y Germán. Los padres de Germán, Frida y Germán Sr., y su hermano y su cuñada, David y Janina, viajaron desde Lima, Perú para la ocasión. Linda, la prima hermana de Germán, y su esposo, Sergio, vinieron de Florida para participar en la celebración. Por supuesto, los padres de Aimee, Tom y Michelle, sus hermanas, Meg y Colleen, y su cuñado, Kevin (casado con Meg) estuvieron allí para apoyar a la pareja feliz.

La boda fue en el Delamar Southport, un hotel precioso y pequeño (solamente cuarenta cuartos) que atendido cada necesidad de la novia, el novio, y sus huéspedes. (Vea mi reseña en www.tripadvisor.com.) El día anterior a la boda, tuvimos un almuerzo nupcial fantástico en el café Gray Goose, un restaurante localizado al otro lado de la calle del Delamar. Recomiendo mucho el “Black and Blue Burger” con un Bloody Mary – ¡un almuerzo perfecto! Durante el almuerzo, las amigas de Aimee conocieron a la fabulosa familia de Germán. En el día de la boda, Aimee regaló a sus amigas “cabello y maquillaje”. Janet de Salon Isa y Cheryl Ann y Kathy de Faces Beautiful nos ayudaron a lucir espectaculares. Las fotos siguientes son algunas de mis memorias favoritas del fin de semaña. (Gracías a Genaro Tarín, mi maestro de Español, por su ayuda con esta traducción.)

The night before the wedding, Megan and Kevin, Aimee's sister and brother in-law hosted a fabulous party to celebrate the pending nuptuals.  It was another chance for us to get to know German's lovely family.
The night before the wedding, Megan and Kevin, Aimee’s sister and brother in-law hosted a fabulous party to celebrate the pending nuptials. It was another chance for us to get to know Germán’s lovely family.  En esta foto, Aimee y Germán con su papa, Germán Sr.  (Photo by Kiki.)
Andrea, la prima de Aimee, y su esposo, Bill.  Bill realizo la ceremonia de matrimonio entre de Aimee y German. (Photo por Kiki.)
Andrea, la prima de Aimee, y su esposo, Bill. Bill cumplió la ceremonia de matrimonio entre de Aimee y Germán. (Photo por Kiki.)
Our beautiful hostess, Meg, with her adorable son, Kellan. (Photo by Kiki.)
Our beautiful hostess, Meg, with her adorable son, Kellan. (Photo by Kiki.)
Kevin, el cunado de Aimee, y el hombre encantador! (Photo por Kiki.)
Kevin, el cuñado de Aimee, y el hombre encantador! (Photo por Kiki.)
My husband, Brian, and me. We've been happily together for 15 years! (Photo by Kiki.)
My husband, Brian, and me. We’ve been happily together for 15 years! (Photo by Kiki.)
Aimee being fabulous! Every bride needs a few ticky-tacky items to complete her trousseau.
Aimee es fabulosa! Every bride needs a few ticky-tacky items to complete her trousseau. (At the Gray Goose Cafe)
Me gusto esta foto! Es perfecto para el blog.
I LOVE this photo! Very blog-worthy! (At the Gray Goose Cafe)
Janina, la cunada de German, y Linda, la prima de German.  Mujeres preciosas!
Janina, la cuñada de Germán, y Linda, la prima de Germán. Mujeres preciosas! (En la cafe Gray Goose)
On the day of the wedding we gathered in the bridal suite for hair and make-up. Here's Meg looking beautiful even before hair and make-up! (At the Delamar)
On the day of the wedding we gathered in the bridal suite for hair and make-up. Here is Meg looking beautiful even before hair and make-up.  How does she do that? (At the Delamar)
The Bride's Survival Kit:  Lemon, Honey, Motrin and Tylenol, Bulgari Lotion, Champers, High-quality leather product.
The Bride’s Survival Kit: Lemon, Honey, Motrin and Tylenol, Bulgari Lotion, Champers, High-quality leather goods.
Yes, I do look fabulous. Thank you Cheryl Ann from Faces Beautiful and Janet from Isa Salon.  Could you come to my house and do this to me every day?
Yes, I do look fabulous. Thank you Cheryl Ann from Faces Beautiful and Janet from Isa Salon. Could you come to my house and do this to me every day?
Mujeres Bonitas, Chelsea (una prima de Aimee), hermana Meg, y amiga mejor, Kiki.  Chelsea y Meg estan llevando unos vestidos por Halston. Kiki esta llevando un vestido por Alaia.
Mujeres Bonitas, Chelsea (una prima de Aimee), hermana Meg, y mejor amiga, Kiki. Chelsea y Meg están llevando vestidos por Halston. Kiki está llevando un vestido por Alaia.
Such a sweet photo!  Wonderful Chelsea with German's adorable daughter, Sasha.
Such a sweet photo! Wonderful Chelsea with Germán’s adorable daughter, Sacha.
Janet from Salon Isa makes the bride even more beautiful. How is that possible?
Janet from Salon Isa makes the bride even more beautiful. How is that possible?
Lo toma un pueblo para criar una novia (o unas pocas amigas buenas!). It takes a village to raise a bride (or a few good friends!).
Se necesita una aldea para criar a una novia (¡o unas pocas buenas amigas!). It takes a village to raise a bride (or a few good friends!).
Aimee's bouquet of roses matched her Nicole Miller dress perfectly.
Aimee’s bouquet of roses matched her Nicole Miller dress perfectly.
Kiki disfruta un coctel antes de la boda. (En el Delamar)
Kiki disfruta un coctel antes de la boda. (En el Delamar)
Mujeres hermosas. Frida, la mama de German, con Janina y Linda.
Mujeres hermosas. Frida, la mama de Germán, con Janina y Linda.
Durante la recepcion. David, el hermano de German, con Janina y Kiki.
Durante la recepción. David, el hermano de Germán, con Janina y Kiki.
The lovely dining room.  The painting on the wall is by Kiki's husband, Scott Kilgour.  He is an incredible artist (and person!).
The lovely dining room. The roses on the wall are by Kiki’s husband, Scott Kilgour. He is an incredible artist (and person!). If you are interested in learning more about Scott’s work, please let me know.
The Married Lady with Kiki (and a much needed cocktail in her hand!).
The Married Lady with Kiki (and a much needed cocktail in her hand!).
Ladies enjoying the party. I know this photo is blurry and dark but it reminds of the happy night we had together celebrating Aimee and German, two wonderful people perfect for each other! Felicidades Aimee y German! Les encantamos!
Ladies enjoying the party. I know this photo is blurry and dark but it reminds me of the happy night we had together celebrating Aimee and Germán, two wonderful people perfect for each other! ¡Felicidades Aimee y German! ¡Les encantamos!

Santa Cruz Bounty

Recently, my friend, Meera, and I paid a visit to our friends’, Susan and Charles, mountain retreat.  Nestled in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Susan and Charles’ rustic lodge is surrounded by California Redwoods with a vista that overlooks the city of Santa Cruz and the Pacific Ocean beyond. One of the best things about visiting them (aside from their company) is that at the end of the visit you leave with a goody bag full of fruits and vegetables from their orchards and gardens.  Sometimes your bag is full with three types of pears. Sometimes it’s avocados and kiwis. You never know what you will receive but it will always be in season and delicious.  On this occassion, we recieved a large box of padron peppers, green apples, and vine-ripened tomatoes.  On arriving home I was inspired to prepare a meal in honor of these ingredients and Susan and Charles. Food is best enjoyed with loved ones so I invited my friend, Lisa, over for dinner to celebrate this Santa Cruz Bounty. (Yes, I am lucky to have so many lovely friends!)

padron peppers
We started with roasted padron peppers. Toss them in light olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees until their skins are charred and cripsy (about 20 minutes in my oven). Top with Queso Fresco and you’ve got an, “OMG! I could eat this every day!” dish.
tomatoes
Tomatoes off the vine. Salt. Pepper. Toss. Is any other way to enjoy one of Mother Nature’s most fabulous treats?
risotto
Mushroom Risotto – because I can’t live without carbs. This recipe is from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. My friend, Aimee, introduced me to Marcella 15 years ago. Marcella’s Essentials is still my culinary bible. For ease, you can sautee the mushrooms the day before and add them when you are almost done cooking the risotto.
watermelon salad
Charles’ Famous Watermelon Salad. Charles prepares this salad by tossing the watermelon with some lemon and/or lime juice, salt to taste, thinly sliced white onion, mint, and feta cheese. This salad is the perfect compliment to a heavier dish like risotto. A tip Charles shared with me is to soak the sliced onions for about 30 minutes in water. This takes the sharp bite out of the onion so all you taste is the onion’s savory essence and it doesn’t overpower the melon.
wine
Of course, we can’t forget about the cocktails! Lisa brought this really yummy zinfandel. It was medium-bodied with a little bit of spice, almost like it wanted to be pinot (but really, what wine doesn’t  want to be a pinot?). A perfect addition to our meal.
apple tart 2
Apple Gallette for dessert. Meera encouraged me to use my pizza gallette dough for this tart. It was divine! To prepare the apples, I used the apple pie recipe in the Fannie Farmer Cookbook. Fannie Farmer is another one of my culinary saints.
lisa
Lisa enjoying the bounty!
em
Good food. Good wine. Good Friends. Marcella and Fannie would be proud!

CCC On Tour: Cocktails on Cape Cod Part 3 The Final Ride

My last full day on the Cape, my sisters, Lee and Annie, and Andrea, my nephew’s fiancé partook in one of the most popular tourist attractions on the Lower Cape – The Shining Sea Bikeway. It’s a 21.4-mile round trip ride from North Falmouth to Wood Hole.  Named in honor of local girl, Katherine Lee Bates and her famous song (does “from sea to shining sea” ring any bells?), the perfectly paved, perfectly flat bike path hugs the shore along the Vineyard Sound. The ride provides glorious views past marshes, beaches, and cranberry bogs. It doesn’t get more Capey than that!

biking 9
Our trip starts with bike rentals from Art’s. In business for more than 30 years, Art and North Falmouth denizens are growing old together.
If anyone looks good in bicycle helmets it's these three ladies: Lee, Annie, and Andrea (L to R)
If anyone looks good in bicycle helmets it’s these three ladies: Lee, Annie, and Andrea (L to R)
Views from the bikeway: a classic Cape Cod marsh.
Views from the bikeway: a classic Cape Cod marsh.
Yes, a real cranberry bog.
Yes, a real cranberry bog.
Sippewissett  beach on the way to Wood Hole. Summer fun.
Sippewissett beach on the way to Wood Hole. Summer fun.
Annie and Andrea riding free and easy along the Shining Sea Bikeway.
Annie and Andrea riding free and easy along the Shining Sea Bikeway.

Is it cocktail time yet?  YES! The best part of the ride is ending at The Landfall Restaurant.  Great foods, great drinks, a perfect place to rest before the 10-mile ride home.

OMG! The lobster flag and a SAAB?  WASPs welcome.
OMG! The lobster flag and a SAAB? WASPs welcome.
Annie enjoys lunch and a pomegranate martini!
The Landfall is such an easy cocktail place. My sister, Annie, nephew, Marlow and his fiancé,  Andrea enjoy Bloody Mary’s and pomegranate martinis (responsibly of course)!
My gorgeous sis, Joanna, and her wonderful boyfriend, Drew, enjoying cocktails and company.
My gorgeous sis, Joanna, and her wonderful boyfriend, Drew, enjoying cocktails and company.
The view heading home. The Shining Sea Bikeway is lovely in both directions. A most recommended Cape Cod attraction!
The view heading home. The Shining Sea Bikeway is lovely in both directions. A most recommended Cape Cod attraction!

It’s always so sad to say good-bye to Cape Cod. But never fear, dear readers, I will return with more adventures to share. Thank you for being such a fabulous partner in my journeys! XOXO!

CCC on Tour: Cocktails on Cape Cod Part 2: The Scraggy Scramble

One of my favorite Cape Cod activities is to do the Scraggy Scramble with my sister, Lee.  The Scraggy Scramble really is a scramble over two miles of boulders and large, loose rocks that form the outer banks of Scraggy Neck.  Scraggy Neck is a long spit of land or neck jutting out into Buzzards Bay.  It’s a beautiful place with a lush forest at its center. Lovely beaches and coves adorn Scraggy’s edges. Many people have summer homes here and a few live all year round.

The Scraggy Scramble begins easily along a soft, sandy beach.
The Scraggy Scramble begins easily along a soft, sandy beach.
scraggy scramble 7
Quickly, the packed sand disappears and the scramble begins.
Lee scrambling over a boulder.  We also call the
Lee scrambling over a boulder. We also call the Scramble the “Fountain of Youth Walk” because as long as we can do it we’ll always be young no matter how old we are.
Scramble, scramble!
Scramble, scramble! I do love the shoes I am wearing. I never thought I would own a pair of Tevas but these are great. Lightweight, quick drying, and very supportive. Perfect for tackling Scraggy’s terrain!

The Scraggy Scramble is not all pain. The scenery is gorgeous and Lee and I love to gawk at the beautiful homes visible from the rocks.

A classic Cape Cod beauty.
A classic Cape Cod beauty.  Do you think they’ll ask us in for a cocktail?
Are these Adirondack chairs teasing us?  So tempting to sit down and rest!
Are these Adirondack chairs teasing us? So tempting to sit down and rest!
One of the private beaches along Scraggy Neck. Very aspirational.
One of the private beaches along Scraggy Neck. Very aspirational real estate.

It takes about three hours to do the full seven-mile loop around Scraggy Neck and when Lee and I arrived home our sister, Annie, welcomed us with Strawberry Daiquiris and Mystery Dip! The perfect combination to replenish ourselves after the Scraggy Scramble.

What is Mystery Dip, you ask? Only the cheesiest, tangy-est, deliciousness you have ever had.  It's a
What is Mystery Dip, you ask? Only the cheesiest, tangy-est, deliciousness you have ever had. Mystery Dip is made daily at the West Falmouth Market and loved by all. If you visit the Falmouth area, Mystery Dip is a must try. Yum! (The daiquiris weren’t bad either!)
My sister, Lee, smiling because she just did the Scramble with my dad, Tom, smiling because he didn't.
My sister, Lee, smiling because she just did the Scraggy Scramble with my dad, Tom, smiling because he didn’t.

While enjoying outdoor activities is a major part of the Cape Cod summer, eating and drinking (responsibly) also play an essential role in the Cape lifestyle.  After our daiquiris, Mystery Dip, a swim, a rest, and a shower, we headed to the Lobster Trap, a popular local haunt, to celebrate my mother’s birthday.

The food is delicious and the atmosphere is delightfully Capey.  See my review on tripadvisor.
The food is delicious and the atmosphere is delightfully Capey. See my review on tripadvisor.com.
My nephew's fiance, Andrea, enjoys her lobster salad.
My nephew’s fiance, Andrea, enjoys her lobster salad.
Is there a drink more suited to the Cape Cod lifestyle than a Captain and Coke? I think not.
Is there a drink more suited to the Cape Cod lifestyle than a Captain and Coke? I think not.
My three fantastic sisters, Lee, Annie and Joanna, enjoying life and lobster with my parents.
My three fantastic sisters, Lee, Annie, and Joanna, enjoying life and lobster with my parents. Could there be anything better? I think not.

 

CCC on Tour! Cocktails on Cape Cod Part 1: Strolling, Boating, and Homemade Pizza

Recently, I spent a long week-end at my parents’s summer home on Cape Cod.  Our little corner of the Cape, North Falmouth and Megansett, is probably one of the loveliest spots on earth (outside of California, of course!).  As a child and young adult, I spent my summers here enjoying the Cape’s natural beauty and spending time with my wonderful grandparents,  Lee and Lavinia Gamble.  It had been more than a year since my last visit and the first thing I did to shake off the discomforts of United’s “Red Eye” was take a stroll along North Falmouth’s verdant country roads.

Green and peaceful. I have taken many a happy walks along these little streets.
Green and peaceful. I have taken many happy walks along these little streets.
A view from the road. The Cape is a combination of marshes, bays, inland lakes, and of course, the Atlantic Ocean.
A view from the road. The Cape is a combination of marshes, bays, inland lakes, and of course, the Atlantic Ocean.
cape cod stroll 4
One of the many beautiful stone structures built by Manuel Brazil.
Cape Cod stroll 2
Megansett homes with stone fences, walls, and fireplaces built by Manuel Brazil are sought-after real estate.

No trip to the Cape is complete without a little water time and after my post-flight walk I was ready for an outing on my mother’s 17-foot Boston Whaler, “Lavinia”.  My mother, Beverly, and my sister, Joanna, are expert mariners with both power and sail boats.  My mother grew up sailing on Buzzard’s Bay and on this trip we headed across the bay to Black’s Beach.

Skipper and Crew.  My wonderful mother, Beverly, and gorgeous sis, Joanna.
Skipper and Crew. My wonderful mother, Beverly, and gorgeous sis, Joanna.
The sailing lessons start early in Buzzards Bay.
The sailing lessons start at an early age on Buzzards Bay.
My beautiful niece, Claire (right) and her friend, Clemmy, kept us company on the trip.
My beautiful niece, Claire (right) and her friend, Clemmy, kept us company on the trip.
We arrived at Black's Beach just as a storm was coming in.
We arrived at Black’s Beach just as a storm was coming in…

black's beach

...but with enough time to swim beneath warm, clear water.
…but with enough time to swim beneath the warm, clear water.
Oh, happy day! At ease on Buzzards Bay.
Oh, happy day! At ease on Buzzards Bay.

We made it home safely despite the thunderstorms.  Was I ever ready for a cocktail!  My sister, Annie, and I headed to the store for libations and ingredients for a family dinner – tomato salad, sauteed fennel, and homemade pizza with flourless chocolate cake for dessert.  I love to cook and I love cooking together with my family even more, especially when we can enjoy a glass of prosecco at the same time!

This one tastes like tart green apples and honey. A perfect apres-boat beverage!
Villa Cornaro tastes like tart green apples with a drop of honey. A perfect apres-boat beverage!
My sister, Annie, at work on the flourless chocolate cake.
My wonderful sister, Annie, beating eggs for the flourless chocolate cake.
Claire working on the fennel.
Claire at work on the fennel.
Fennel ala Sandy. My friend, Sandy Peccerillo, taught me this recipe.  Slice fennel bulbs about a half-inch wide. Heat olive oil in a pan and sautee the fennel until it nicely browned and tender. Toss with salt and pepper and serve warm or room temp.  !Que sabroso!
Fennel ala Sandy. My friend, Sandy Peccerillo, taught me this recipe. Slice fennel bulbs about a half-inch wide. Heat olive oil in a pan and sautee the fennel until it is nicely browned and tender. Toss with salt and pepper and serve warm or at room temperature. !Que sabroso!
Easy pizza. For the crust:  1 cup whole flour, 1 cup white flour, salt. Combine in a food processor. Add one and a half st
Easy pizza (Adapted from Bon Appetite). For the crust: Pulse together 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup white flour, a pinch of salt in a food processor. Add one and a half sticks of butter, cold and cut into pieces. Pulse in the food processor together with the flour mix until just pea-sized pieces of butter remain.  Pour the dough into a bowl, add a quarter cup of ice water and mix first with a fork and then with your hands until the dough is smooth and there are no more lumps. Do not overknead.  Make the dough into a disc shape, wrap it in plastic, and chill for at least two hours. When you are ready to use the dough roll it out on parchment paper covered with flour. Put on your favorite toppings. I like sauteed swiss chard, crimini mushrooms, crispy pancetta, and ricotta cheese. Roll the edges of the crust over the toppings about one inch and brush with egg.  Bake for about 30 minutes at 400.  !Buen Provecho!
My sister, Lee, my mom, Beverly, and nephew, Marlow enjoy wine and snacks on Lee's beautiful porch before dinner.
My sister, Lee, my mom, Beverly, and my nephew, Marlow, enjoy wine and snacks before dinner.
Our dinner time view and the view from Lee and her husband, Bruce's, porch. Summer time and Cape livin' is easy.
Our dinner time view from Lee and her husband, Bruce’s porch. Summer time and Cape livin’ is easy.

I am lucky to have two family homes to visit on the Cape.  For those of you without such well-placed relatives, a Cape Cod rental is the way to go and guaranteed to give you that summer feeling.  Check out these sites for more information: homeaway.com and VRBO.com.  Stay tuned for Cocktails on Cape Cod Part 2!

Sunshine in SF = Hiking in Marin

Every once in a while during the chilly SF summer, there is an absolutely, glorious warm sunny day. Everyone freaks out trying to cram as many summer activities into the 24-hour respite from the fog as possible.  Recently, we had such a day and I took myself for a hike in Marin County. Just a short drive from SF across the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin County is home to the world-famous beauties, Muir Woods and the Point Reyes National Seashore. It’s a sublime combination of accessible hiking (more than half of the county is public park lands) and sophisticated town living, i.e. a cocktail is never far away!

Heading out on the Matt Davis Trail towards Stinson Beach.
Heading out on the Matt Davis Trail towards Stinson Beach. Park at the Pantoll Ranger Station for $8 or on the street for free.

For this hike, I consulted my trusty guide,  101 Great Hikes of the San Francisco Bay Area by Ann Marie Brown. (See pages 156-159) It’s a 7.8 mile loop starting at the Matt Davis Trail to Stinson Beach and returning on the Dipsea Trail up Steep Ravine.  During the summer, especially on week-ends, it’s best to get an early start (before 9am) as both parking and the trails get crowded.

 A view of the trail.
A view of the Matt Davis trail.

The Matt Davis Trail is some of my favorite kind of hiking.  Lush and quiet with groves of ferns at your feet while elegant bay laurels arch overhead.  Even during the drought Table Rock Creek bubbles in the background providing a perfect soundtrack.  The trail ends at Stinson Beach where many hikers choose to take a break for lunch.  Stinson is always too busy for me in the summer so I continued on towards my next leg, the Dipsea Trail.

The Dipsea Trail, famous for its grueling 7.5 mile trail race.
The Dipsea Trail famous for its grueling 7.5 mile trail race.

Since 1905, stalwart runners have taken part in this challenging race from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach on the Dipsea Trail. The race traverses a stairwell of more than 300 steps and hills named “Cardiac” and “Dynamite”.   My hike covered one of the more even sections of the trail though it was not without stairs and hills!

The Dipsea Trail- arid and sun-exposed. So different from Matt Davis.
The Dipsea Trail, arid and sun-exposed. So different from the Matt Davis.
The Pacific Ocean views from the Dipsea are spectactular.
The Pacific Ocean views from the Dipsea are spectacular.

After a little more than a mile, the Dipsea connects with the Steep Ravine Trail. Climbing 1000-feet in two miles, the trail earns its reputation as steep! Once again, I am back in my favorite terrain, shady, with towering redwoods above and the crystal pools of Webb Creek below. There’s even a 10-foot ladder to scramble over lending a true rugged feeling to the hike.

Some of the many stairs along Steep Ravine.
Part of the Steep Ravine Trail.
Redwoods. Nature's Cathedral.
Redwoods. Mother Nature’s Cathedral.
Advisory: Can I make it?
Advisory: Can I make it?
I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.
I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.
I made it! Of course, no decent blog is complete without a selfie!
I made it! No decent blog is complete without a selfie!  (Hat by Jim Thompson)

My three-hour hike brought me back to the parking lot at Pantoll Station where I had cocktails on the brain.  Fortunately, my wonderful friend, Meera lives close by and she invited me to her beautiful Marin County home.  Meera is a fabulous chef and an invitation to dine at “Casa Meera” is not to be refused.

Our wine, full-bodied and smooth with hints of smoke, plum, and leather.
Our wine, earthy and plummy. A perfect post-hike libation.

On my arrival, Meera greeted me with a hug and a glass of orange-lemon water (for hydration).  We also enjoyed a glass of delicious red wine, Chateau Saint-Aubin. For lunch, I was served Greek Salad made with heirloom tomatoes, my first of the season I am ashamed to say. (It’s particularly shameful because there’s a fabulous farmer’s market in my neighborhood. Visit Noe Valley Farmers Market to learn more.) Meera ended our meal with homemade flour-less chocolate cake – gluten-free never tasted so good!

My lovely hostess and wonderful friend, Meera.  She is wearing her glamour lady sunglasses that I love and an authentic leather Australian Outback Hat. (We are both avid sun-avoiders!)
My lovely hostess and wonderful friend, Meera. She is wearing her glamour lady sunglasses that I love so much and an authentic leather Australian Outback Hat. (We are both avid sun-avoiders!)
Enjoying good wine, good food with a good friend.  Could there be more perfect end to this perfect day?
Enjoying good wine and good food with a good friend. Could there be a more perfect end to this perfect day?

 

Summer Fun – The American River, Part 2

Summer in SF is all about escaping the fog and one of our favorite escapes is camping along the American River.  It’s secluded, serene, and imbued with California history. A perfect escape for the cocktail camper who enjoys a libation in a locale that is both beautiful and historic. Plus, the fly-fishing for wild trout is excellent!

American River 1
Along the peaceful banks of the American River.

From 1848-1855, the American River had a starring role in the California Gold Rush.  During that time, 300,000 “forty-niners” made arduous, often dangerous, journeys from the East Coast, Latin America, and China to claim their riches in gold. While some individuals did become rich, most did not. Men and women spent their lives along the American River enduring hardship, violence, disease, and death with little to show for their efforts.  Today, the American River makes a delightful week-end trip for the cocktail camper.

(Check out the excellent book, The Age of Gold by H.W. Brand, to learn more about the California Gold Rush.)

One recent week-end Brian and I loaded up the Highlander with our favorite gear, foods, and cocktails but no trip to the American River is complete without a stop at Ikeda’s Country Market in Auburn, CA.  The Ikeda family carries the freshest summer fruit direct from their own orchards. Peaches, nectarines, and plums straight from the tree always give me that extra-special summer feeling.

Do I dare to eat a peach? Yes, I do! Thanks to Ikeda's!
Do I dare to eat a peach? Yes, I do! Thanks to Ikeda’s!

The American River is one of the finest in the state for fly-fishing.  Wild rainbow and brown trout abound and the river’s accessibility make it an excellent  fishing spot.  (To learn more about fishing and enjoying the American River visit: www.theamericanriver.com)

Brian has been fly-fishing since he was 11 years old. He is an expert fisherman and it’s the rare day he doesn’t catch a fish.  I am still learning though no stranger to “cast, drift, set” as they say in fly-fishing parlance. (Translation: I caught two fish on my own.)

Brian at ease fly-fishing in the American River.
Brian at ease fly-fishing on the American River.

In fly-fishing live bait is not used and you must release all the fish you catch. This means the fish are beautiful, healthy, and often marked by scars from previous "man vs fish" battles.

In fly-fishing live bait is not used but rather tiny, artificial flies. You must release all the fish you catch. This means the fish are beautiful, healthy, and often marked by scars from previous “man vs. fish” battles.

Everyone once is a while man wins. A brown trout and back in the river he goes!
Everyone once in a while, man wins. Brian catches a brown trout. Back in the river he goes – catch and release only.
I enjoy fishing but I also love to watch the movement of the crystal river. It's a vacation in and of itself.
I enjoy fishing but I also love to watch the movement of the crystal river. It’s a vacation in and of itself.

Of course, no day along the river would be complete without a cocktail and nothing says warm weather like rum punch. We created our own punch: coconut rum and pineapple juice over ice.  It definitely needed some tweaking (and a blender) but we enjoyed it by our river view nonetheless.

EM 2
Enjoying my rum punch (sort of). But with the soothing sounds of the American River below how much can I complain?

Fourth of July on the American River

This Fourth of July, Brian and I loaded up the Toyota Highlander with our favorite goodies and libations and headed to the American River. We were ready to escape the San Francisco Fog for some fly-fishing, cocktailing, and warm, sunny weather.

Brian makes a drink.
Brian smiling as he makes us this week-end’s signature cocktail, The American River Spritzer. Pour prosecco (our favorite is La Marca available at Safeway Stores), sparking lemonade, and a splash of club soda over ice.  Enjoy!  (Remember, part of enjoying the California cocktail camping lifestyle is drinking responsibly. Falling-down drunks are such a bore. Absolutely NO drinking and driving.)

The American River was an important part of the Califonia Gold rush. Gold miners often used explosives to divert parts of the river creating a dry river bed that made mining for gold much easier. The lure of gold riches brought many men seeking fortune to the American River. At the Gold Rush’s height more than 10,000 people lived along the river’s banks.

Today, the American River is place to fly-fish for wild trout and enjoy a little bit of paradise.  Brian and I love to escape here for the warm weather, peace, beauty, quiet, and of course, the excellent fishing!

Enjoying a cocktail by the river.
Enjoying an American River Spritzer with the pristine American River in the background.
our lake view. It's private and all ours.
The beautiful pool along on the American River. The water is about 55 degrees fahrenheit. A (very) quick dip in the lake is a perfect way to cool off on a hot summer day.
Enjoying a cocktail.
All cooled off and enjoying another American River Spritzer (responsibly, of course). I love this bathing suit too! It’s perfect for the relatively fit middle-aged lady who can no longer rock a string bikini (what a sad thought).
Brian in the kitchen.
Brian standing proud in the outdoor kitchen.

Our American River campground contributes that “smidge of roughing it” appreciated by the cocktail camper.  This means that the campground is rough but not too rough!  It has a great outdoor kitchen with several grills, a sink with running water, and lots of counter space.  Brian is a master of the grill and always makes sure we have plenty of delicious food to accompany our tasty cocktails.

“How can I practice the cocktail camping lifestyle?” you may be asking yourself.  It’s easy. You just need a few staple items as the foundation of your cocktail camping fun. Below are some items we are never without during our cocktail camping adventures.

We never leave home with out Coleman coolers...
We never leave home without our Coleman coolers. Two coolers are critical. You will have plenty of space for your favorite foods and drinks. AND most important, lots and lots of ice. Important for cocktails but also hydration!
Always filled with h2o.
This 5-gallon Coleman cooler is ALWAYS full of fresh water and ice.  We fill it up before we leave home.  Water is key in the hot weather and when enjoying cocktails.  You can never bring too much water.
the highlander....
Our trusty Toyota Highlander.  It’s easy to load and unpack with room for all our cocktail camping gear.  It makes the drive down to the river with ease and cleans up nicely too!
camp shower...
Ahh, the solar shower.  How wonderful to rinse yourself off with clean, fresh, and warm water after spending the day fishing in the river and applying coat after coat of sunscreen!  A perfect way to look fresh and lovely for dinner.

What’s next on our cocktail camping agenda this summer?  More trips to the American River for sure! Stay tuned for more signature cocktails, delicious dinners, and roughing it (just a little bit) in the glorious state of California!