Southern Arizona Wine Country Tuesday, Mar 13 2012 

Believe it or not, in southern Arizona they’re growing wine grapes.

When traveling through this part of the country, it’s hard to  imagine that it’s possible to grow anything.  But…in a tiny little spot on the map called Elgin, Arizona, they’re doing it and they’re doing it well!

Several vineyards and wineries can be found in the Sonoita-Elgin area, about an hour or so southeast of Tucson:

Charron, Kief-Joshua, Wilhelm Family , Village-of-Elgin/Four Monkeys, Rancho Rossa and Callaghan Vineyards along with Canela Hills Winery and Lightning Ridge Cellars.  We visited many of the above vineyards and all had great wines.  I was surprised at the variety: Tempranillo, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, riesling, sangiovese, etc.  One location even had “Christmas in a Glass” , a gluhwein type drink.  It was December and it was delightful!


And after visiting many of these fine wine makers and tasting along the way, you too may see something like this…..

Was he really green? I can’t really say because I can’t quite remember after all that wine!



Photoshop Fun Tuesday, Mar 13 2012 

There are several trips I’ve taken recently that I’m way behind on blogging. I’ll get to them soon, I promise!

In the mean time, I took this photo while in Arizona visiting my dad in December.  We were wondering around La Paloma Resort and I found an interesting area of wall.  Light was shining on the way in a way that made it look sort of like ripples of gathered fabric.



I knew once I’d taken the photo of this great wall that it was going to be fun to play around with it in photoshop.  So today, I did a little experimentation.

Here is the result, you tell me what you think.



Wedding Photographer for a Day! Saturday, Feb 25 2012 



Yes, that’s right. I did it!  It was never in my plan to be, or even attempt to be, a “pro” photographer, much less one who photographs weddings.  I’ve had this trusty Nikon D3100 for just over a year and prior to that, I really didn’t know much other than point-and-shoot. While I’ve learned a lot in the past year, I have a loooooooooooong way to go but consider myself very lucky to have both a father and father-in-law who have a great deal of experience with photography and have helped me get to where I am today.

So the story goes…a little over a week ago my friend Kori contacted me asking if I could not only make a small cake for her mother’s wedding but also be the photographer.  The cake – no problem! 6″ cakes and cupcakes are my specialty and I was happy to do it.  However, the thought of being the wedding photographer sent me into a nervous panic.  How would I respond? What would I charge – or would I charge at all?  At first I recommended my father-in-law, because if they were were looking for a pro, he would be the guy for the job and I could play apprentice.  After sitting on the idea for a day or two, while Kori did what she could to boost my esteem with her confidence that I would do a great job, I finally agreed.  Then I ran out and picked up an SS-400 flash, figuring I was going to need it and had been wanting one for a while anyway so this was a great excuse! Thanks Kori!

The wedding was on Monday at 3:00, a somewhat casual in-home wedding with about 15 guests.  I arrived at 1:15, after having stopped by my in-laws to borrow a strobe and get a quick tutorial from the pro.  I promptly set up the cake and started in on what would be roughly 5 hours of picture taking. Nearly 700 photos were taken that day!  On the drive home I felt like I’d been hit by a truck, complete exhaustion.  While I never felt stressed during the event, obviously the day had taken its tole.  Of the photos, only about 150 of them were too dark or too blurry to keep, not bad!  Another 200 went into a “2nds” folder so that the family can have everything, just in case there is something in there that might mean something to them. Of the remaining photos, the majority went into Photoshop for editing, cropping, converting to black and white, etc.

As of this morning, I am done editing everything with the exception the group shots. There are about 10 of them.  Now that I see them, I realize I WAS exhausted by 5:00 and I think that my brain might not have been aligned with my eyes. I could have done a much better job organizing people. A few people are squished behind others so you can barely see their faces but I think, all in all, there may be one or two shots of the group that aren’t bad.

I want to personally thank Kori & Dan for having confidence enough in my skills to hire me, Karla and Herb for their trust in allowing me the opportunity and pleasure of photographing their wedding, and to all their family and the minister for putting up with the constant flashing camera in their faces all day!


Napa: Castello di Amorosa Saturday, Jan 21 2012 

It’s been coined Daryl Sattui’s Tuscan Wonderland. This massive, medieval castle of Napa opened in 2007 and is right off of the St. Helena Highway in Calistoga.  If you ever happen to find yourself in the Napa Valley, this is not to be missed!  We booked an advanced reservation for a tour and tasting and let me tell you, the place is amazing and the wine is delicious!  The walking tour takes about an hour, followed by another good hour of wine tasting.

Pictures just don’t do this place any justice in my opinion.  Honestly, when you arrive and enter the gates, you can’t believe your eyes.  Turrets and massive stone walls, hand forged iron work – it feels like the real deal!  A reported $30 million and 14 years went into creating this 121,000 square feet of Tuscan delight. The castle has four stories above ground and another four stories hidden in the ground underneath. With a dry mote, drawbridge,  iron gates, 107 rooms, a chapel where Latin Mass is held every Sunday, wine caves, a grand ballroom, armory, and dungeon complete with torture chamber including an original iron maiden…you really can’t believe your eyes.  While on our tour, the guide explained that every piece of iron work, down to the nails, were hand forged in Italy.


On our way underground, to the wine caves and dungeon.

I’ve decided to join this wine club because I’ll be back to Napa again this summer and there is a good chance I’ll return again and again throughout my life.  With that, Castello di Amorosa’s superb italian-style wines, my husbands interst in medieval history, the amazing looking parties they hold that I want to attend at some point (the halloween Pegan Ball for example) and the dicounts you get with the membership…well why not!?!?!

Do check out their website, read the history of Daryl Sattui’s vision, passion and dream.  It’s pretty impressive.

The STACK! Sunday, Jan 15 2012 

But just not any stack…the boombox stack!

Back to Napa Thursday, Jan 12 2012 

I promised that I would follow up with more photos of Napa Valley, so her we go.


The name comes from an old Native American tail of a stag that escapes hunters by leaping across cliffs that are near the winery.


A 1892 stone Manor House with beautiful gardens containing old massive palms.  It holds legends of bootleggers and gangsters, while having an historic speak easy in the basement.  In the 1920’s it was called Stag Leap Manor, a popular country retreat in Napa.  It was also a navy camp before being abandoned in 1953.

There is much history at this winery and it was certainly one of the most interesting to visit and tour. The winery itself began most recently, in the 1970s, founded by Horace Chase who’s motto was Ne Cede Malis a latin phrase for “Don’t give into misfortune.”


Already getting ready for Halloween Wednesday, Sep 14 2011 

I love old gravestones and pioneer cemeteries.  While in Napa in July I took about 100 photos in the Yountville Pioneer Cemetery/ Ancient Indian Burial Ground, where George  Yount himself is buried.  I’ve doctoed up some photos to look old, grainy and more “scary” for purposes of our dark, Victorian inspired music room we’re creating and will be printing these out and framing them in baroque style frames to adorn the walls in there at some point.  For now, joy…





Yountville – A Foodie’s Paradise Friday, Jul 29 2011 

When visiting the Napa Valley, there’s really only one place you can stay where you can eat and drink yourself from one end of town to the other without having to go more than a couple miles on foot.

Yountville is literally Foodie Paradise. Restaurants by famous chefs like Thomas Keller,  Michael Chiarello and Richard Reddington surround you. I can pretty much say that I haven’t eaten so well, nor so much in such a short amount of time, as I did in the week we were in Yountville.

So lets just start with this, shall we?

Each morning the Napa Valley Lodge, our place of lodging, provides Champagne Brunch poolside!  I realize the champagne is missing from my breakfast here, as is the pool, but as you can see this is more than your typical “continental breakfast” offered by most hotels.  We are poolside here, though sitting by the fire waiting for that chilly San Francisco fog to burn off. And the reason for lack of champagne, well I am all for mimosa’s but champagne at 8 am invites one hell of a headache for me, so I’ll stick to my coffee and OJ.


Owned by Chef Richard Reddington, as far as I’m concerned the best restaurant in the Napa Valley for both food and service.

REDD: First Course – Chilled sweet corn soup, succotash, basil oil

REDD: Second Course – Twelve vegetable ragoût, gnocchi, herb butter

REDD: Third Course – Dessert – Chocolate · peanut butter beignets, bitter caramel ice cream, bananas

Oh but wait, your beignets blew up so they took too long so for your wait we want to give you both what you ordered (above) and an extra dessert. All for Free! We were sick!

Butterscotch pudding, vanilla anglaise, pinenut rosemary cookies

Before we left town, we went back for a second meal at Redd since it’s our favorite spot.

This time we sat in the bar and had salads. No main course and no dessert.

I had this fabulous Burrata cheese concoction.  If you haven’t tried this cheese – you need to! It’s what they skim off the top of fresh mozzarella and then add heavy cream and do something fabulous to it.  YUMMY!

Mom had the stone fruit salad with ricotta salata.


Owned by Chef Thomas Keller, best known for The French Laundry.

Bouchon had great food but they were a bit of a let down in that they had one reservation available left for the week, a 9 pm reservation.  So I booked it a week in advance and when we got there, they sat us as a tiny table in the bar.  It wasn’t the ideal experience and I let them know it, however I will say the food was excellent and I would go back.

First, amazing fresh baked bread with some kind of white bean spread that was to die for.

Salade d’Arugula et Fruit Frais d’Été

Marinated stone fruit, wild arugula,
Marcona almond praline, fromage blanc
& peach vinaigrette

Gnocchi à la Parisienne

sauteed gnocchi with a fricassee of garden vegetables & brown butter sauce

By the way, we didn’t even have dessert at Bouchon because by the time we were done it was after 10 and we were stuffed.



The world famous restaurant where the menu is 9 courses that are fixed and change daily.  Choose from either the Chef’s Tasting Menu (for the meat eaters) or the Tasting of Vegetables (for us vegetarians).  Each menu is a series of smaller focused meals, where no ingredient repeats itself twice throughout the meal.  There are no choices in what you are served and but you can be darn sure it’s all going to be good.  Why? Well, because it’s Thomas Keller and because it’s $270 not including your wine and reservations book up 2 months in advance.  I heard from a local that it’s a 4+ hour meal from beginning to end. Now, that is a meal.

We didn’t eat at The French Laundry because I wasn’t up for spending that kind of money on one dinner at this point.  Someday I will go and eat there, maybe next year when I take Brent to the Napa Valley.  But for now I look at The French Laundry cookbook that I’ve had for about 3 years now and dream.

You’d never know by the outside of the place, what magic is taking place inside!

And across the street, they’ve got their own farm! You can find the staff foraging with their list of needed ingredients, picking vegetables.



Pastry chefs work all night making some of the best goodies ever!

Mom and I took a bottle of wine and stopped by the bakery for a couple of goodies before dinner.

Smores in a cup…

The biggest and best macaroon you’ve ever had. This particular flavor was hazelnut. I had caramel, espresso, hazelnut, and then another hazelnut and another caramel and then came home with an entire box of pastry for Brent!

Bastille Day was July 14 and we were lucky enough to be in town for the festivities. Though we didn’t do much more than walk through and check out the sites (and crowd) it was fun to be a part of it. The afternoon when mom and I stopped by for our goodies (above) I noticed what looked like a fondant cake in the back window off the courtyard. Sure enough, they were busy putting together quite a cake and many other tasty treats for the celebration.


Michael Chiarello’s restaurant, Bottega.  Great service, good food. The waiter said Michael was working that nigh, but we never saw him.

More Burrata cheese for me! Topped with some mixture of peas, pesto and arugula.

And you guessed it, more gnocchi.  Apparently, besides salad, the vegetarian’s option for dinner in Yountville!

Delicious every time!

So, yes it’s kind of embarrassing that I documented almost my entire food experience in Napa Valley.  All those that know me will understand. I hope that you enjoyed this and I’m guessing your mouth is watering for something about now.

Chelan, Washington, Hood River, Oregon, and Everywhere in Between Tuesday, Jul 26 2011 

After the novelty of the Leavenworth Drive wore off, we found our way to Lake Chelan, Washington.  A beautiful place with some amazing wineries.

Though I had several wineries marked on the map to visit in the few hours we had in Chelan, we only made it to two before we got hungry and needed to get on the road to Hood River.

Our first stop was Tildio Winery.  Tildo is a small winery that makes a perfect Malbec.  In fact, this is the winery that I visited back in 2007 which introduced me to Malbec and started a love affair with that wine.

This says it all…

The second and last vineyard we visited was Benson.  A beautiful Tuscan style winery that offers FREE flights of 5 wines. Yes, folks FREE. I neglected to get any decent photos of the building itself, but as you can see below the rolling hills of grape vines seem to flow off the hillside and right into the lake.


And we’re off….bye bye Chelan, hello long road to Hood River where we’ll stay for the night.

First item of note is the Fred Redmon Memorial Bridge. Only one word can describe this massive bridge and the area where the “historical marker” rests – WIND TUNNEL!

Between getting the car across the bridge while fighting the wind, to getting out of the car and feeling like you were going to be blown right over the edge, it was pretty scary.

And of course, the windmills.  Massively monstrous pillars with long, and what look to be sharp blades, standing in formation like soldiers across the wide open spaces that are “middle” Washington State.

The mighty Columbia River at dusk.  A view from the Stonehenge Memorial on the Washington side of the river.


The fields of lavender in Hood River should be in full bloom in June, however thanks to this year’s cold and wet spring they were a little behind.  That’s Mt. Hood in the background, still covered in plenty of snow.

And on the drive home we decided to go around the mountain for a more entertaining drive than I84.  It was a beautiful day.

We Made It! Friday, Jul 8 2011 

1000 cars and probably close to 4000 people descend on Leavenworth at once!  There was really no easy way to get a photo of this but it was pretty insane. It wasn’t long before the town got real rowdy!

Here we are parked in front of the hotel with fellow enthusiasts.

More drivers, cruising the “strip”

Someone else taking photos, but wow…I see an accident in his future. I know there would be one in mind if I were on roller-blades with a nice camera!

We managed to check out the Accordion festival and got schooled on the ins and outs of accordions.  Very interesting.  Lots of vintage models.

Check out these two, wearing their lederhosen. What country are we in?



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