Taste of New Zealand

I read a few days ago that applications from Americans for temporary residency in New Zealand are up by 70%. I won’t go into the reasons why I think this is true, but I will share with you some of its appeal.

It is a beautiful country

with lots of opportunity for outdoor activity.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are snow capped mountains 

and glaciers with runoff that turn rivers a stunning blue. Meandering through the mountains, the water reminds me of an abstract painting.

There are sheep farms

and orchards

and friendly people descended from the Mauri tribe native to New Zealand.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are numerous vineyards making, among other blends, outstanding Sauvignon Blanc.

No matter where you might choose to have that glass of wine or just sit back and relax, you can count on having a beautiful view.

Hmmm, now that I think about it, New Zealand might not be a bad place to be.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

A Quick Stop

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen my daughter moved to Franklin, Tennessee, several years ago, the hubby thought that good enough reason to drive the long road from Houston to Maine and back again.  It’s a long way for a quick twice a year stop, but I always enjoy the time we have there not only because of the visit with the daughter’s family but because Franklin is part of my earliest memories.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWould you believe I was born there right in this building that at one time was a hospital? My first view of this unimposing structure stopped me in my tracks as it triggered a distant memory of a photograph of my mother standing on those steps holding an infant that was me, otherwise I would have walked by it with no thought.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow the spot is identified with a historical marker that names Dr. Tandy Rice as one of the hospital’s founders.  It was he who brought me into this world and got me started on life’s journey.

Most of my Franklin memories revolve around my great grandmother’s house.  What a wonderful place it was to play hide and seek, and she had an old out of tune pump organ that kept me entertained for hours.  The house is still there, and not too long ago I knocked on the door, explained to the current owners my history there and they were kind enough to let me in.  The old place has been updated, but the wonderful crown molding and stair railings are still there.

My memories are of a very sleepy small town, but that is not the case today.  Franklin is a very hip place with trendy shops and eateries.

One that many of you may know is the City Farmhouse that in addition to the shop hosts popup shows that draw visitors from all over the southeast.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADowntown doesn’t claim all the changes. The area around Franklin, including some of my family’s former property,  has become home to large estates and horse farms.  Many belong to country music stars and a few Hollywood types.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne thing that hasn’t changed in Franklin is its southern pride.  Right in the middle of town is this towering sculpture honoring the fighting men of the Confederacy. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALook real close and you’ll notice part of the soldier’s hat brim is missing.  It is said to have broken during the shipping/installation process, and it was deemed appropriate to leave it.

FranklinIf memory serves me, Franklin was the unintended site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. That battle transformed Carnton Plantation into a hospital and a burial ground for the men who died there.

Yes, Franklin causes me to wax nostalgic, and I am glad that it is part of my history.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

In the Kitchen

pb032656After a full day of seeing the sights and tasting food, wine and cheese, we return “home” to don our aprons and head to the kitchen to prepare the evening’s meal under the watchful eye of Chef Michael. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere’s no mystery about what we are going to fix as in our welcoming folder the menus and recipes for the week are included.  Can you tell that each dinner is a whole lot of food?

img_8110-1Funny how cooking is much more fun with a group, and it took all of us to prepare the evening’s vittles.

We laugh and joke as we mix, stir, slice and dice

 

pb032650and discover that for some things it takes two!

Everyone has a job,

img_8198 some more tedious than others. I have to confess to being nothing more than a cheerleader when it came to making this dessert!

Everywhere in the kitchen is evidence of our effort,

img_8232-1and when all is said and done we turn out some pretty good eats!  Since I have mentioned cannoli more than once in recent posts, you might guess it was my very favorite dessert, one that will be made at home though I might cheat and use purchased shells as making them from scratch requires quite an effort. 

Now that your appetite is whetted, here is a recipe from the kitchen for you to try.  

Sicilian Caponata

2 medium eggplants

3 T. extra virgin olive oil

1 large red onion, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 celery stalks, peeled and diced

1/2 c. green olives, pitted and halved

1/4 c. capers

1/4 c. sundried tomatoes, chopped

1/3 c. red wine vinegar

2 T. sugar

1 c. tomato sauce

1/4 c. basil, chopped

kosher salt and black pepper

Cut the eggplants into 1/2″ cubes and place them in a bowl.  Toss with 3 T. of salt and let them sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.  Rinse the eggplant in cold water and drain well.  Squeeze to release excess water, then place on paper towels to dry thoroughly.

Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium high heat.  Fry the eggplant until it’s well browned.  Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.  Return the pan to medium heat and add the sliced onion.  Cook for 2 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds.  Add celery and continue cooking for 2 minutes, stirring well.  Last, add the capers and sundried tomatoes and and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the vinegar, sugar and tomato sauce and cook for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is cooked down.  Remove from the heat and stir in the basil.  Season to taste.

The caponata may be used in a variety of ways such as a sauce for fish or pasta or as a spread for crostini.

So, there you have the experience of a Foodie Adventure.  If going to interesting places, staying in a wonderful villa and having opportunity for  hands on cooking appeals to you, you just might want to join in the fun.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Impressions and Tidbits

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn 7 days it is not possible to experience all that Sicily has to offer, but we did get a good taste of the southern part with visits to Modica, Siricusa, Ragusa, Ragusa Ibla and Scicli plus a few other spots.  While none have very large populations, all have tightly packed residential and business areas.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASicily is largely agricultural, fascinating considering the rocky terrain.  Clearing the land must require back breaking labor and  what happens to all those rocks?   It appears that most become dry stone walls which mark plots of land and define boundaries.

img_8240Not all crops are out in the open.  There are literally thousands of green houses dotting the landscape which I suppose allow year round farming.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWithout question there is a lot of food emphasis in Sicily, and I loved the combination of flavors in dishes like arancini.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFood goes beyond what is eaten.  According to our guide, food references are common to every day language.  For example, being told you look like mozzarella means you have a very white body.  Being compared to ricotta implies no muscle tone.  A nice person is said to be sweet as honey and straight, glossy hair is like spaghetti.  Are you getting the drift?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA real delight was learning that Sicily is known for cannoli, one of my very favorite sweets.  I made it a point to have at least one each day and justified it by telling myself that I was walking it off!   Can I tell you how good cannoli is when the shells are fresh made and filled with creamy homemade ricotta.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother find is Modica’s chocolate made in the Aztec tradition dating back hundreds of years. It has a somewhat grainy texture and is not as sweet as most chocolate. The bars are said to be good not only for eating but perfect for delicious hot chocolate made thick by adding a dab of cornstarch.  Hopefully, my chocolate will last long enough for me to try it!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA special treat at the chocolate maker was trying traditional mpanatigghi biscuits filled with chocolate made from carob.  The  prickly pear was a tasty complement that required special skill to peel without puncturing a finger.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASicily does not appear to be as noted for art and architecture as say Tuscany or Rome, but it has its own unique character and flavor.  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is much to enjoy and for sure, no visit would be complete without a stroll along one of its beautiful beaches.

In a nutshell, these are some impressions and tidbits of Sicily.  Next, I will share the important part of a Foodie Adventure, time in the kitchen.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments  you leave behind

Foodie Adventure #4

For the fourth time, the hubby and I have joined Chef Michael Salmon for a Foodie Adventure, this time in southern Sicily.  Now, before sharing bits of the adventure with you I’ll answer the question I’ve been asked again and again: What is a Foodie Adventure?

The simple answer is it is a delightful week of eating, touring, eating, cooking and eating with 16-20 other fun loving and adventurous folks who come from all over the U.S.  Some will have met on another of the Foodie Adventures so friendships are renewed.  For sure it is an experience to be savored.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChef Michael and his energetic wife Mary Jo of Camden, Maine’s Hartstone Inn always find wonderful places for us Foodies to stay.  This time lovely accommodations are at Cavalonga in wide open spaces  surrounded by olive, citrus and almond trees near Ragusa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen we arrive we are greeted with appetizing antipasti trays and refreshing beverages perfect for tired travelers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWaiting in our rooms are lots of happys that Chef Michael and Mary Jo have left for us.  The most important one is the apron that will get lots of use and more than a few stains as we prepare nightly feasts.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASettled in, we are ready to begin the adventure.  Each day begins with breakfast prepared by Chef Michael who gets up earlier than the rest of us.

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Then it’s on the bus for a day of visiting local points of interests

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Learning to make cannoli

plus places having to do with food.  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALadies, of course, always want to do a little shopping, and the guys just shrug their shoulders and look for the nearest place to have gelato or a glass of wine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALate afternoon we return to our temporary home, wash our hands, don the apron and head to the kitchen to prepare the evening meal under the watchful eye of Chef Michael.  

By the time we are finished, we’ve worked up an appetite for our 4 course meal, and we appreciate it enormously for having worked together to make it happen.

So now you know about a Foodie Adventure.  Next, I’ll have to share a bit of Sicily and a recipe or two from the week.  Do come back.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Cliff Dwellings of Mesa Verde

Being totally unfamiliar with Mesa Verde,  I had no idea what to expect when our Durango hosts suggested we go there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASee this flat topped mountain?  It is Mesa Verde and for some 600+ years, it was home to Ancestral Puebloan people who farmed and hunted on the very rocky terrain.  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday Mesa Verde is a national park and World Heritage site that has some of the best preserved archeological sites in the United States.    That fact alone made it a very interesting place.

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Spruce Tree House

What attracts most people to Mesa Verde are the cliff dwellings which from their earliest days became more and more sophisticated.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs you might guess, not all the dwellings are available for exploration due to their fragile state, and this day Balcony House was the only one allowing visitors.  To get there required climbing a 32 foot ladder.  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI must admit to having second thoughts about that, but I gritted my teeth and with eyes glued to the wall in front of me, I made the climb with the park ranger cheering me on!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAArriving at the top, the view was amazing.  When I saw how far a drop from the ladder would have been my stomach did a little flipflop!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAccording to the park ranger, Balcony House had 45 rooms and 2 kivas.  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAConsidering how high up it is, I could only wonder how building materials were hoisted into place and marvel at the construction ingenuity of its inhabitants.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt also dawned on me that the people must have been quite small as there were some very narrow spaces through which one had to pass.

Though no one seems to know why the cliff dwellers left Mesa Verde or for sure where they went, it is estimated they were gone by 1300.  It is thought they were possibly starved out or experienced such drought that it was impossible to live there without water.  Whatever the reason, the early Puebloans left behind an incredible legacy.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Hats, Boots & Beauty

img_7609This statue says a lot about Durango,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAa Colorado town all about hats

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand boots especially during October’s Cowboy Poetry Weekend,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAa celebration honoring the heritage of cowboys

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand cowgirls.

No motors allowed in this parade.  All horsepower is provided by the four legged kind!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAway from all the festivities, the landscape is a celebration of a different kind.  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis time of year  in Colorado God’s artistry among the aspens is glorious

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand from His hand the mountains may be getting an early dusting of snow.

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Around every bend, there is beauty

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwhich makes even the most ramshackle building appear as a work of art.

In the midst of such beauty, it is no wonder that folks find relaxing ways to enjoy its bounty.  I’d be so busy looking around I’d probably never know if a fish was biting!

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

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