Gardens

International TravelThings I LoveWining/Dining

EASTERN EUROPE & RUSSIA, Part 6 — TURN OF EVENTS LEADS TO PARIS!

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If you’ve been following along on this journey (Helsinki/Tallinn/Riga/Klaipeda/Vilnius), then you know we had Russian Visa issues prior to leaving the US.  After the earlier-than-planned exit from Russia and with time left before our scheduled departure back home, the question then became:  Where should we go for the remainder of the trip?  You now know how the story ended, with four glorious and unplanned days in Paris (runners-up were Vienna, Prague and London).

Other than our honeymoon plus a day trip from Brussels several years ago, we’ve not spent any time in Paris.   A big consideration in deciding where to go was rearranging the flight home to LA.  Happily, I worked with AA and was able to move things around while still in Moscow, maintaining a terrific mileage ticket (85k) flying non-stop from Heathrow to LAX in First Class!  Obviously, I did not want to lose that, so we added a Paris-London flight and continued onward.  Moscow-Paris offered tons of options, ultimately selecting Luftansa with a bit of a layover in Frankfurt.

Courtyard; Park Hyatt Place Vendome
Gorgeous weather; Jardin de Tuileries
Salade perfection; Les Jalles
Musee d’Orsay

What did we do? Roamed the streets near our Place Vendome hotel, immersed ourselves at the  Musee d’Orsay, did a return trip to spectacular Giverny (below), ate at some classic bistros — including Le Grand Colbert (yes, that one — made famous in the movie Something’s Gotta Give), and just had an extraordinary time. We also had great fun perusing the incredible hotels and their remarkable floral arrangements. I am a serial advance planner, so there’s typically lots of emails back and forth with hotel concierges to make sure nothing is missed.  This stay was more about “What do you feel like doing today?”  The final day was a win/win, with the hubby going to the Louvre plus scouting the very best place to exchange currency, and I endlessly browsed the stores (strictly for research purposes).

Giverny — tulips!
Wisteria and the Lily Pond at Giverny
Exquisite purple tulips
Still reaping benefits after so many years!
Basilica of the Sacre Coeur in the distance

So another post-tax-season holiday comes to an end.  Three weeks of magnificent sights, terrific service, fun with (first-week) traveling companion Julie Shuer, and meeting so many wonderful people.  There were oopsies as always:

  • What happened to my other pair of jeans?? (Lost somewhere at stop 1 or 2)
  • Why are four keys not working on the laptop — it was only a few drops of champagne??
  • Why was the hubby the smart one to take a pair of shorts??  (It got warmer than I expected)
  • Where the hell were all the band aids I needed for all that walking?? (Can never pack enough)

Minor inconveniences (maybe the computer was a bit more than that).  As always, it is a great privilege to explore this incredible world.  Final pix below ..

Brasserie Lipp — classic roast chicken and frites and the most scrumptious Napoleon for dessert.

What’s this?  The secret entrance to the world’s most reclusive jewelry designer – Paris-based  JAR (Joel A. Rosenthal).  Not that I would be granted an appointment (even if I could afford it) for it’s a very small and exclusive club that owns his pieces and for whom he creates.  But that didn’t stop my wish to find the iconic doorbell to his atelier.  The hubby encouraged me not to embarrass myself by bothering to ring.  Point taken.

That doorbell is the only clue.
Discreetly above the door in the Place Vendome

 

If there’s one of these wherever we travel, it is our last supper tradition.
We’ll miss this beauty …
Things I Love

BOSTON & PROVIDENCE: FALL FAMILY FUN!

cheers-sign-photo
When the family (the hubby, me and the kids) had a chance to get together with far-flung relatives (Florida, NY, CT, RI) gathered together in one location for a bar mitzvah, the decision to attend was a swift one.  Three of us are self-employed (and daughter Hannah got clearance from her boss) so it was just about carving out the four days and we were off!
Boston’s Logan Airport offers far greater flying options than Providence, RI, the site of the weekend’s festivities.   We thus arrived late Thursday, rented our car, spent the night and next day in the city and drove the 90 minutes to our destination.
What does one do first in Boston?  Perhaps checkout Fenway — alas, the Red Sox were out of town. See Harvard, MIT, BU or the other schools?  No.  The answer is to find the best pizza around, which meant a return trip to Regina’s in the North End.
After meeting up with Hannah’s bestie from LA who makes her home in Boston, we made our way to Regina’s after successfully finding parking which is no small feat in any area of the city.  This was a second visit for us and it was just as delicious as before.  We walked around the area for a bit before saying good-bye to the girls for the drive to Providence.  Hannah would take a late-evening train to meet up with us.
From our Regina’s lunch — two girls very happy to be together and the insanely delicious pies
Providence to me is your quintessential New England town — sophisticated enough to entice students to either Brown University and/or RISD (Rhode Island School of Design), but quaint enough to have that small-town feel.  We found some of each.
We first met up with the family (Uncle, Aunt — who traveled with us earlier this year in India — and cousins on the hubby’s side) for Friday evening (Shabbat) services at Temple Beth-El and a light dinner afterward.  The bar mitzvah service was Saturday morning, followed by a luncheon and a party in the evening.  
Lots of Stone cousins (and an uncle!) 

S
o what’s the first thing unique about this?  The synagogue’s roots date back to 1849, more than 110 years prior to the founding of the one my family has called home since 1986 — LA’s Stephen Wise Temple.  LA has one nearly that old — founded in 1862 as Congregation B’nai B’rith — which over many years (and in different locations) ultimately became Wilshire Boulevard Temple.  But back to Providence ..
We used the time between events to do a bit of exploring around Providence, and the first stop was at Brown — one of our country’s oldest colleges and the third smallest of the Ivy’s.  Downtown Providence is bustling as most state capitals are, with a fair share of shopping and food complexes along the banks of the Providence River.
From top left: An Urs Fischer untitled sculpture (other than Lamp/Bear) on the Brown campus; Providence River; main quad; welcome sign; metal sculpture (artist unknown)
 
The party was as it should be — mostly friends of the “man of the hour” Ben Stone.  The music was loud and lively and everyone had a terrific time.  And since it was at our hotel, it was a fantastic commute — i.e., none!  We likewise gathered the following morning for a lovely brunch and a chance to say our goodbye’s.  We headed back to Boston for a few more hours of sightseeing before going to the airport.
Ben’s priorities are in order:  sports, family and lots of dessert!
Oh, would that the trip home had been as pleasant as the rest of our stay.  I will spare you the utterly disastrous experience courtesy of Virgin America for another post.  For now, we’ll savor the 3-1/2 days of family fun and New England sights as they aptly deserve! 
 
After parking in the underground garage at the Boston Public Garden, we exited into the Garden and quickly found out we were smack in the middle of a weed festival … like we’d entered Woodstock (I guess!)  Groovy, man ..
 
                     Picture-perfect weather made for a terrific afternoon.
Things I LoveThings You Should KnowWining/Dining

FUN WITH FALL FOODS

am having a blast with fall foods.  Pretty much every Sunday morning, the Hubby and I head down to the Studio City Farmers Market to see what’s in season.   We don’t linger like lots of families with toddlers in tow, but rather are in and out before the crowds get really large.  We have our favorite vendors with whom we chitchat for a few minutes and are on our way.

 

Delicious late-season plums
Such glorious colors! Love these sweet peppers

 

One of the delights is seeing what’s coming in and saying good-bye to others until next year.  To me, summer melon season is always too short. But having the good fortune of living in So Cal means never going without wonderful produce all year long, so absolutely no complaints!

 

I am so thrilled with my own Fuji apple tree!  The fruit is nearly ripe and plentiful due to netting and  sprinkling with ground pepper to keep everyone away!  
 
Small but delicious (below)

 

So what am I buying and cooking now?  Well, here’s a few items that are so delicious I buy them and then think about what to do with them.
 
The sweet peppers (shown above) became one of the ingredients in a frittata, along with onion, fennel, leftover corn on the cob, eggs and cheese.  Instructions follow below.

 

 

Saute onions in butter using cast-iron skillet; add fennel, pepper & corn – cook
for a few minutes; add beaten eggs (I used 9) and sprinkle with mozzarella; cook 
in the oven at 375 until set (20-30 minutes) 

 

 

 

Before cooking above; after below
 I cut the frittata into wedges (below); great to pop in the microwave
 for a quick and easy meal.
 
AS for the apples, I made a delicious crisp as seen below.  I skip any type of flour in the crust in favor of a dollop of vanilla ice cream later on.  The slow-churned flavors from Dreyers are relatively low-cal and terrific.
 

 

 

 

Directions: Mix the topping: 2 cups oatmeal, cinnamon, 1/2 cup brown sugar and enough room-temp butter to moisten the dry ingredients.  Chop the apples. Spread topping over the apples and bake at 350 until the top is brown and the apples are soft.  
 

 

The aroma in your house will be amazing!

 

Things I Love

VISITING A FAVORITE ART SHOW

One among many semi-annual local events that is much anticipated and looked artSHOW in Beverly Hills.  The event (held the third weekend in May and October) has been going on for 44 years(!) and attracts not only locals but folks from all over SoCal. As both months are ideal weather-wise, this event makes for a fun outing.  And, as a side note, the show and gardens are completely dog friendly which makes for lots of canine interactions.

 

                       The beautiful Beverly Gardens Park are ideal                       for the show’s setting with meandering paths
yellow blocks map
Area of the show is shown above.
Food trucks (seen below) are located on Canon Drive
which is closed to north/south traffic as is Beverly Drive.
When one is a regular attendee, the opportunity to create relationships with the artists is pretty much a sure thing.  In fact, we’ve found them to be most gracious — and that includes the offer of coming to one’s home to see if a piece of art fits.   The hubby is seen below with artist Sang Choi.  After considering one of his pieces last year, he not only brought it to our home but he and his wife helped us move pieces around to find the perfect spot.  We bought the piece and love it.  
In addition to art, sculpture and jewelry from 240 artists, there is non-stop music (see below) plus two areas offering traditional seating with either “Beer & Brat” or “Wine & Dine.”  And, if that weren’t enough, the location is just a short block from a variety of restaurants on several nearby streets.
So, mark your calendars for the next show in May 2017.  You never know who you might run into as evidenced by the unplanned but happy encounter with my sister Janie and her husband Richard at last year’s show.  Maybe next time she and I will check our calendars beforehand and spend more than a few minutes chatting!
Things I Love

IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS IN LIFE …

 

Pretty much any home gardener will tell you that there are frustrations … most particularly going outside to pick something and all that’s left of what you had JUST SEEN is a half-eaten something. Wouldn’t it be lovely if one didn’t also have to clean up after those darn varmints???
 
 

 

 
Thus, one can only imagine the sheer joy I recently experienced when not only did enormous heirloom tomatoes stay on the vines (more about that later), but they actually ripened and were duly picked for use. Waiting and watching can be a painstaking effort and I freely admit to being an early picker.

 

My only Santa Rosa plum!

This season has not been without it’s “fruits” … I have been enjoying some delicious Sungold and Black Cherry varieties (shown above). But the big ones have not been a success in the past.  In fact, earlier in the season in my “kitchen garden” — so called for it’s placement just outside my kitchen door, with pots of tomatoes and herbs — my pesky perpetrators thought nothing of high-jacking tomatoes just about before my very eyes! The gall!!  My revenge? A generous sprinkling of freshly ground pepper. Everywhere.  Other than my sneezing, it proved a terrific solution.

First-year production of berries has been steady
 
Without further ado, I present a recent bounty of 6+ pounds picked at once with a couple more pounds left ripening on the vines.  Here’s how I multiplied them to enjoy at a future time while still maintaining that homegrown taste …



Top Row:  Saute chopped onion in good EVOO then saute chopped garlic briefly (I add shredded carrots for sweetness); add coursely chopped tomatoes

Middle Row:  Add good quality jar of marinara (Rao’s or Silver Palate are my faves) and simmer for an hour or so — I add salt, pepper and oregano at this point (all to taste); Tomato skins peel away easily after simmering
Bottom row:  Immersion blender (“boat motor”) is used for blending; Leftover scraps headed for compost bin

 

Two large batches of sauce above and separated for freezing below; to date 9 containers of 4-5 cups each!  

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SPRINGING FORWARD

If you pay attention at all to the calendar, you are probably aware that on March 13 we turn the clocks forward to allow for progressively longer days and more sunlight.  We “lose” an hour initially and many of us will be waking up to darkness, but then many are able to make their evening commute with more light.   Those interested in the history of Daylight Savings Time should click here — lots of fun facts and controversies as well.
 

 

Patio tomatoes from seed are starting to pop indoors

 

For this “Gardener Girl” (the hubby’s term of endearment), this time of year signals abundance and a promise of things to come.  While thus far, the enormous El Nino has not fully materialized, we southern (and northern) Californians have still enjoyed the most rain of the past 4-5 years so “spring is busting out all over” as the saying goes.
 

 

Roses and daisies — first blooms are a bit early this year
from our warm February

 

This is year two of my produce garden and I am delighted to report that all of my fruit trees have prolific blooms! The berry vines are spreading out, the flat of celery (I was already home when I realized I hadn’t bought italian parsley, to be honest) is growing like gangbusters, carrots are progressing and there are tons of daisies.  The roses have started to come out and my incredibly reliable cymbidium orchid has many spikes.  The indoor phalaenopsis orchids growing in my kitchen window have many plants with spikes and a couple have bloomed.   All in all, I am uplifted by the beauty of it all!
 

 

Indoor phalaenopsis orchids rebloomed, and my
stalwart cymbidium comes back yearly

 

 
This tray with pea gravel is above the kitchen sink, where it
loves the light and humidity
A bunch more, all with spikes
Goldmine Nectarine, Santa Rosa Plum, Babcock Peach and Fuji Apples —
all with tons of blooms.  Not shown:  Golden Amber Apricot
Berry plant left; celery right — good thing I like it!
I always try to give credit where credit is due — mostly to my maternal grandmother (Nana), who was a prolific rosarian, and to my mom who babied her plants for many years … thanks for the inspiration!