Category Archives: Wine

Arrive as Friends – Leave as Famly – Casa Mia

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Casa Mia

The Detour coffee shop was a popular landmark at 3035 Division Street, but its owners decided to move on, and now we are graced with a fabulous new replacement, Casa Mia. This is the Italian restaurant the Richmond neighborhood has needed for a long time. It is quaint, cozy, and lacks the corporate vibe that so many of the new neighborhood restaurants have. What it lacks in the hip and cool area, it makes up for in its genuine charm,  pleasant atmosphere and friendly service.

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The interior has been completely revamped since the cramped days of the Detour in a pristine solid wood and black metal decor.  Fresh roses grace each table, sleek silver mirrors reflect the soothing pale gray interior, framed, Italian-themed posters add to the decor, all tempered by the rustic cement floor.   The place looks nice!

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Chef Benito Omana, originally from the Mexico City area, loves Italian food. His humble restauranteur beginnings were that of a dishwasher who keenly observed the chefs in the restaurants where he worked, learning bit-by-bit as he observed, and who gradually worked his way up through the ranks by demonstrating his own talent as a chef. In 1992, he began cooking at popular Portland restaurants, such as Pazzo, Piazza Italia, Southpark, Wildwood, El Gaucho and ElGuero.  In 2014, Benito opened Bellino Pasta & Cafe in Hillsboro, but he lives here in my neighborhood, and when the opportunity arose to open Casa Mia, he jumped on it.

I stopped by for lunch and immediately felt a little wary, because no one else was there. I was further dismayed to note that there were few, if any, vegetarian entrees on the menu.  However, when I expressed this to Benito, he told me he could whip something up off menu, the sign of a truly good restaurant, if you ask me……and he did!  He said that he plans to add more vegetarian options at some point.

I was first greeted by a plate of delicious house made foccacia bread with good olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  I was starving, so this tasted really good.  I was half way through my first piece when my husband, John, decided to stroll over and meet me. He polished off the rest with great enthusiasm.

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Benito served us a moderately priced Italian wine made from  Nebbiolo, Nascetta, Eau-de-Vie, Pelaverga, and Dolcetto grapes, which went perfectly with our entrees.

Benio whipped up a delicious penne dish for me that had outstanding fresh tomatoes, lots of garlic, basil and some of the best parm I have ever eaten.  It was simple, and quite delicious.  I loved the fact that it was served at a very hot temperature, too.  Great mouthfeel.  Teriffic flavor that made me smile.

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John had the fresh minnestroni, right off the stove.  Every ingredient was fresh and delicious, and it went beautifully with the wine and bread.

We had cappuccinos and some of the best tiramisu we had ever eaten for dessert.  We’re talking some serious dessert here, folks. It was out of this world delicious!

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The entire meal cost less than $30, and we made a new friend in Benito, so I’d say we made out pretty well.  Wouldn’t you?

Because of its location along Division street, and the manner in which it is set back from the street, Casa Mia is easy to miss….which is why  I am writing this blog article to urge people in the Clinton-Division-Richmond neighborhood to stop by and check it out.  Benito has big plans for weekend brunch, and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner all week long.  This is a call to action to stop in and introduce yourself to the chef and delight in the wonderful food that John and I experienced at Casa Mia!

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Casa Mia – Affordable fine dining in a quaint, friendly atmosphere.

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Boutonniere Inspirations for a Wedding

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Long ago and far away, I worked as a freelance wedding planner.  My specialty was economical weddings in dramatic settings, such as beach weddings, foreign destination weddings and weddings in authentic Texas locations.  I once planned an elegant wedding in an old Austin Texas  barn, attended by some famous C&W musicians.   As they invited me to participate in the wedding celebration, we all had the times of our lives. The juxtaposition of elegant finery contrasted with the rustic elements provided by the barn was just perfect, and I was rewarded handsomely for my efforts.

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As part of my promo literature at the time, I gave tips about wedding attire, honeymoon accommodations and other useful things.  What follows is some advice I had for boutonniere inspirations.:

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Nothing can quite add the panache to a groom’s wedding attire  like the classic style embodied his boutonniere. This traditional symbol worn on the lapel of the groom’s jacket is a gesture brimming with meaning that reaches  far beyond the flower itself. Boutonnieres symbolize beauty. They symbolize the fragility of life, and love undefined all captured in a single blossom.

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Classic Wedding

A classic wedding calls for a classic symbol. A single red rose boutonniere with, perhaps, a tiny spray of baby’s breath embodies all of the characteristics any bride could wish for in a groom. The red rose symbolizes courage, sincere love, respect and a hearty congratulations to the happy couple. The baby’s breath symbolizes everlasting and undying love.

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Beach Wedding

Keeping things natural at a beach wedding is the way to go. Tiny white lily boutonnieres trimmed with raffia and miniature seashells can add a nice touch, or for something more ornate,  earthy boutonnieres with lavender, green blueberries, wax flowers and rosemary can add a subtle, yet beautiful touch the blends right in with a stunning ocean environment.

Western Style Wedding

A sunset wedding on the ranch, or at the beach, calls for shades of yellow with a boutonniere made from dusty miller, billy balls and handmade wooden button flowers tied with twine. This is a winning combination that can dress up any groom’s lapel without going over the top.

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Castle or Mansion Wedding

Any  groom can  look like a prince in a beautiful purple boutonniere made of royal ranunculus buds and rose hips that are wrapped with white or purple velvet ribbon.

High Desert Wedding

Ranunculus and rice flowers in soft desert pinks, corals and yellows are a perfect combination for a high desert wedding boutonniere. An alternative choice is silvery brunia and tiny, mint green succulents wrapped in a pale pastel ribbon.

Elegant Cocktail Lounge Wedding

Imagine the beauty of an elegant cocktail lounge wedding atop a skyscraper overlooking the glittering lights of the city. What better boutonniere could adorn the groom’s lapel than one inspired by the fresh ingredients and herbs found in the fine spirits that are served there. An aromatic boutonniere made from cinnamon sticks, Douglas fir, hops, bay laurel, grains, juniper and rosemary will be the highlight of the groom’s suit.

Hawaiian Wedding

Hawaii is one of the most popular destination wedding locations in the world. The groom will fit right in with a simple orchid boutonniere, or, for a little more flare, a boutonniere made of astrantias and jasmine blooms against a background of local foliage.

Remember, a successful wedding celebration is all about the details.  The marriage?  That’s all about the couple.

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Do I Stick it in the Fridge?

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Some foods need to be refrigerated.  Others don’t.  This is a list of  foods that do not need to be chilled.

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1. Bananas – Storing bananas in the refrigerator can actually disrupt their ripening process.  Once refrigerated, a banana may never be able to resume the ripening process even if returned to room temperature.

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2. Yams and Sweet Potatoes – When exposed to cold temperatures, starches found in potatoes will turn to sugar, disrupting their flavor and texture. If you prefer tasteless potatoes that cause weight gain, however, please refrigerate.

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3. Tomatoes – Have you ever tasted a really amazing tomato right out of the fridge?  Nope, Me neither.  Tomatoes LOSE their flavor and become mushy when refrigerated.

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4. Apples -Apples  lose their texture and flavor when refrigerated.  If you want a cold apple, just stick it in the fridge about 20 minutes before you plan to eat it.  Otherwise, store them at room temperature.

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5. Onions – If you love soggy onions while also causing the rest of your food to taste and smell like onions, then you’ll definitely want to refrigerate your onions immediately.  Otherwise, try storing them in a paper bag (within a cool, dark cabinet) for maximum shelf-life.  And by the way, did you know that storing onions with potatoes will cause the potatoes to ripen too quickly and to spoil sooner?  The onions give off a gas that causes this, so be sure to separate them for storage, m’k?

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6.  Avocados – Much like the banana, refrigeration shuts down an avocado’s ripening enzymes.  If you want guacamole next month, this may be OK, but if you’re like me, you probably want guacamole today.

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7. Coffee – Contrary to popular belief, coffee is best stored at room temperature to allow the natural oils within the coffee beans to activate its pungent aromatic scent. Refrigeration can actually cause coffee to absorb odors from other foods in your fridge.

Speaking of coffee…I haven’t had mine yet this morning, so off I go.  Have a happy day everyone!

Not Roughin’ It This Time

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Not Roughin’ It This Time
First, congratulations to Lindsay and Apollo on the birth of their sweet son, Shepherd Lee.    May you enjoy and love this adorable new addition to the Lone Star State,  and may he bring tons of joy to your wonderful family.  John and I are SO happy for you, and can’t wait to hold him and cover those beautiful little cheeks with Auntie Stacy kisses!   Congratulations, you guys.  This is great news!  We’ll toast your happy family tonight.

Ok…..now back to our regular program…..

Don’t laugh, ok?  REAL campers are going to laugh about this gift….but I’m telling you, I’m ready for something like this.  I have always loved camping and have camped in the most rustic of environments. I used to take my kids camping by a lake when they were little.   When we lived in Texas, we once went beach camping in Matagora.  The campfire was burning, when literally thousands of tiny crabs raced across the beach and threw themselves into the fire!  I’d never seen anything like it.

Today is our anniversary, and we always avoid all the rowdy “stuff your face and drink green beer” plebeian activities that come with March 17th.  ick.   This year is a special anniversary and we plan to get away from it all, thanks to the thoughtful consideration of my sweet husband.

I have camped in the Kentucky woods, in black bear country.  I have camped in Alaska, in grizzly bear country. I have camped on a Tuscan hillside and within sound of the crashing waves of the Pacific.  I have camped in trees.  I have camped in desert sands.  I have camped in tents, in yurts, on top of a Manhattan skyscraper and within sight of the Hollywood sign in California…..but I have never had a camping experience like the one my husband just gifted me with for our anniversary today!  Wow! This man is something else!   I am so excited!

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My husband is one of those “thoughtful” gift givers.  He really thinks about the person he is giving something to, and tries to find just the right thing for that person.  This time was no different.  This luxury camping trip,  in my opinion, was the perfect gift.  I am beside myself with happiness over this.
It is located near Olympia, in Washington, a city smaller than your average capital city.  It is a peaceful Pacific Northwest destination that is huge on natural charm. At the southern edge of the Puget Sound, Olympia’s marina hosts a collection of charming sun-bleached sailboats and impressive, stately yachts, while the nearby boardwalk hosts visitors drinking in the salty breeze. Less than a half hour to the south, the quaint city of Tenino is home to the 842-acre Millersylvania State Park, and that is where we will be camping. Blanketed in old-growth cedar and fir trees, the park contains more than 3,000 feet of shoreline on Deep Lake.  It is incredibly beautiful there.  So beautiful.

1camping3 Tucked in the heart of Millersylvania State Park, Pampered Wilderness is as far from a typical campsite as it gets.  Luxurious open-air cabins are crafted with tiered canvas and outfitted with king-size memory foam mattresses, mini fridges, microwaves, vanities, and fireplaces.  We even have a personal fire pitand a big a dining table.  Ok….don’t laugh….but the package also comes with an electric heater.

In the morning, we shall enjoy pastries and coffee before kayaking above the calm currents of Deep Lake.

John, you could have gone without the gifts and it wouldn’t have bothered me a bit…but you didn’t.  You never do….and I appreciate them and you so much.  This one is so special.  Thank you for your love, your devotion and that incurable romantic side that always makes me smile.

Happy anniversary, my dearest darling.  I love you to pieces…..to the moon and back….forever and ever, amen.

When Someone You Love Succeeds

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When Someone You Love Succeeds

I have to admit it.  Personal success feels great.  Each time I accomplish something that sets me one step closer to my goals, I feel elated.  However, that feeling pales in comparison to the emotions I experience when someone I love achieves success, be it a friend or a family member.  That’s right.  I take more joy in seeing someone I love succeed than I take in my own accomplishments.  For instance, yesterday, I received this email from my husband, John:

 

My Dearest Wife,

Early this morning,  I received the news that my “The Merchant of Pittsburgh: A Comedy” was selected to kick-off San Francisco Dramatists Guild’s  spring Footlights, staged-playreading series on March 2nd.

Attached is the invitation that will be sent out from New York in a few days.

Love to you,

J

SAN FRANCISCO FOOTLIGHTS – March 2, 2015 presentation.

Please join the Dramatists Guild for a staged-reading of John Freed’s

 

“The Merchant of Pittsburgh: A Comedy”

 

on Monday, March 2 at 7PM
Tides Theatre
533 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA

 

Play Synopsis:


“The Merchant of Pittsburgh: A Comedy” is set in an Equity-based, regional theatre in the late eighties and concerns a fed-up Jewish board member who takes over as acting artistic director in order to stage a Shylock-friendly production of “The Merchant of Venice” while being forced to confront his own set of racial and ethnic prejudices.

 

                        “A brilliant mashup of Shakespeare and August Wilson.”   Arno Selco, Ithaca College

 

 

John Freed’s Brief Bio:
East Coast native by birth, the high point of his acting career occurred at age seventeen playing the lead in “Kiss me, Kate.” He received a standing ovation for his fireman’s carry off-stage of  his co-star after her slap nearly knocked him out at the close of Act One.
Fast forward to teaching dramatic literature, especially Shakespeare,  at Penn State as well as being the theater critic for the “Erie Daily Times” and film critic for New York’s “OneWorld Magazine.” He adapted Richard Wright’s novella “The Man Who Lived Underground” as a radio play produced by the local National Public Radio station and co-wrote “When Shakespeare Was a Woman” while functioning as pro bono drama consultant for the artistic director of the Pittsburgh Public Theatre.
His own writing evolved further from developing a series of creative writing and new media courses at the University of St. Thomas in Texas and at Brandman / Chapman University here in the Bay area.   During this time he wrote  “Love me, Fuseli: A Play about Mary Wollstonecraft and her Circle of Friends” and “Figaro’s Follies” – a new adaption of  Beaumarchais’ “Le Mariage de Figaro” which had staged-readings by the EastBay Players in the fall of 2014.

 

He is currently working on the book and lyrics for a musical entitled “All Hallows at Hearst Castle” with composer, Jeff Dunn.

John bi-locates to Portland, Oregon where his wife, Stacy Alexander, is a graduate student, a professional writer and a mixed media artist.  His playwright website is http://freed98.wix.com/johnfreedplaywright .

 

Dramatists Guild’s San Francisco

(end)

My response to John:

To My Most Admirable Husband,
So, once again, a public acknowledgement and congratulations in the midst of many, my darling.   What an honor for your play to kick off the season!  There are insufficient words to convey how proud of you I am.  Each play you write is better than the one that came before it.   I enthusiastically encourage you to continue with your play writing, just as you have always encouraged me with my own creative endeavors.  It is with great happiness that I  look forward to seeing what you come up with next.  Oh….and “break a leg”  (figuratively…not literally)  🙂
Your loving wife,
Anastasia

Last Update of the Year

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Last Update of the Year

I have been trying to make it over here to do an update before the end of the year, but this has been my first opportunity to do so.   First, let me thank my 590  wonderful subscribers and other readers for your continued support.  I appreciate each and every one of you and hope you have gained something from being a part of my life through this blog.   I wish each of you a happy and prosperous 2015.

As I approach the end of 2014, I have made some big changes in my life.  First, I have eliminated some unhealthy familial relationships that were dragging me down,  and have grown closer to other family members.  Both moves proved to be freeing and healing.

I have begun a regular meditation and yoga practice.  I am making art again.  I still have a four point in grad school and am slated to graduate this summer.   As for friendships….every single friendship that I had at the end of last year is still in place.  One, in particular, is stronger than ever, and I feel so blessed because of this. (4).

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Life here has been a December whirlwind!  I took a couple of fun little trips…some that I can talk about, and some that I can’t.  However, my break from school proved to be no break at all.  I had a difficult midterm that took an entire day to complete, two discussion papers to write, a paper on women in leadership roles and a psychometric analysis of a psychological testing instrument used to determine levels of creativity.  Eeeee!  I still have two papers left to write before the fourth, but I’m fairly certain I will be able to complete them on time.  I have also been finishing up a lot of work projects that I had to finish by tonight.  Those are completed and sent to my editors, so I feel great about that.

The good news is that John is home, and we have been having the best time!  We took Ingrid Christmas shopping and to Peacock lane.

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We spent a quiet Christmas together at home, then went to our daughter’s house for gift exchange and a delicious dinner.  My son in law, who makes THESE  gorgeous knifes and teaches black smithing,  hand forged an incredible cheese knife for me. I am so proud of it!  (I love handmade gifts best of all!)   For the handle, he used exotic wood that had some naturally-formed cracks in it.  He ground up turquoise, suspended it in resin and filled the cracks with it.  The picture does not do it justice.  This is a gorgeous knife! He also hand carved a beautiful wooden spoon for me and gave them both to me in a nice wooden holder.  So talented, he is! Thanks, Nate!

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John wanted to do something extra special this year, so surprised me with a trip to Sun Mountain Lodge   up in the beautiful Cascades. What an incredible trip! It was cozy and romantic, stunningly beautiful and gave us the opportunity to get caught up after spending a long time apart.  We loved it there and want to go back in the spring.

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Met some friends there, and were able to parlay the journey into a side trip Seattle where our granddaughter, Maya, is visiting from the East Coast.  We were absolutely thrilled to learn that she plans to return to the Pacific NW.  We have missed her in the 5 months she has been gone!

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We stayed with our darling friends, Sheryl and Dylan and really enjoyed the company.  Sheryl is like family to us.  It was high quality, beautiful family time.  We visited and took Ings to the park.  We went out for dinner.  We went to an incredible display of Christmas lights.  It was so much fun.  I feel so happy just thinking about it.

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Much, much more has happened, but I haven’t the time to write about it all.  Tonight, we are going to join our friends, Toni and Peter, as we did last year, for dinner, drinks and dancing.  We’ll start the evening off at a little wine bar known as “Arrivederci” and then meet other friends in another location to ring in the New Year together.  There won’t be any redneck bars and plastic cups in the mix for this year,  but as my friend pointed out, I’ve always been more of a crystal stemware type anyway, so it all works out. 🙂  I know I’m loved.  I’m happy.

I’m lucky….and I know it.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Be safe and have fun!

Today Applesauce – Tomorrow the Bay

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Today Applesauce – Tomorrow the Bay

As I sit here typing this, I cannot believe I did everything that I did today…but somehow, I got it all done.  I had to cram two days worth of work into one day, because tomorrow, I’ll be flying to San Francisco to join my husband, some of his professional colleagues and some music and theatre friends for a charter dinner cruise in the San Francisco Bay.   It is going to be catered by a really good restaurant.  This will  be a formal Halloween dance with a band that I absolutely adore, and I can hardly wait. Rumor has it that a couple of celebrities are going to be on board, too…but I am sworn to secrecy.  🙂

Meanwhile, today, I made cinnamon applesauce to take to John from three different kinds of apples.  I used the over abundance of organic apples that have been delivered to me this week and i still have some left over.  I also made a plethora of small vegetable pies that I shall take for him to freeze.  He loves my cooking and says he misses it…so this is my gift to him for the treat he is giving me with what sounds like it will be a lovely party.

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Unfortunately, I will have to fly right back out on the last flight home…or the first flight the next morning….because I have a party to attend here in my Portland neighborhood, and another one down at the studio…..and of course, there’s Ingrid and our traditional Halloween crusade that will actually only take a few minutes, as we greet our neighbors and do a little early trick-or-treating before she heads off to be with friends.

I couldn’t get a seat on the last flight home, but I am on standby for one leaving from Oakland.  Wish me luck! I do have an early, early reservation for the next morning from SF, which I hope I will not have to take.  I really do need to get right back or I won’t get everything done.

I have missed my sweet husband and really look forward to seeing him.  He looks handsome in a tux, too, so I look forward to that as well.  I am wearing a pretty Dolce and Gabbana gown and a big, feathery mask that one of the theater people is providing.  I chose this gown, which is really quite full with the undergarment on, because I expect it to be rather nippy on the boat.  The color is much nicer than the photo shows.  It has gold thread in it so that it really shimmers in the light.  Very pretty dress in person.  I am going to wear my hair up.  We’ll see how all that goes…  The main thing is that I get to be with John for a beautiful evening.

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So…..

Tonight I have to finish a paper that I started today, do my research discussion paper and begin two other papers that I will have to complete before Sunday night.   If you’re starting to celebrate Halloween…have fun!  I know I’m going to!  Can she do it????

Of course, she can!

Doctors Without Borders Auction Preview!

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https://www.biddingforgood.com/auction/auctionhome.action?auctionId=208357702  <——-click here!

Here is your chance to preview all 141 STUNNING pieces of mosaic art created by artists from all over the world in the Doctor’s Without Border’s Charity Auction that will be coming up in November.  There are SO many beautiful choices!  Proceeds go toward a most excellent cause, so make your selections and get ready to place your bids!  dwb mosaic 2014Four René

by Stacy Alexander

© Stacy Alexander – 2014 – All Rights Reserved

Cute Kids – Expensive Meal!

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Cute Kids – Expensive Meal!

http://nyti.ms/1stkqAN   <——click this link to watch the adorable video.

From the New York Times:

One Saturday afternoon last month, six second graders from P.S. 295 in Brooklyn got a head start on the fine-dining life when they visited the acclaimed French restaurant Daniel. There, five waiters presented them with a seven-course tasting menu (after the trio of canapés and an amuse-bouche, naturellement). The meal was overseen by the star chef and eponym himself, Daniel Boulud, whose goal was, he says, “for the children to really discover a lot of flavor, a lot of layers, a lot of texture.” These discoveries included Smoked Paprika Cured Hamachi (the “most-foreign thing for them,” Boulud says), Crispy Japanese Snapper (“which they loved to see”) and Wagyu Beef Rib-Eye (“a big success”). To capture the children’s reactions, the magazine asked Jeffrey Blitz, the director of the Oscar-nominated documentary “Spellbound,” to make a video. The initiates seemed to enjoy the experience, but that isn’t to say they loved all those flavors and textures. At one point, after tasting a custom-made nonalcoholic cocktail, 7-year-old Chester Parish said: “This is, like, the only good course. It’s yummy.”

Welcome to the Dinner Party Download

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One of the luxuries that I afford myself while John is away teaching, is listening to the radio as I fall asleep at night.  I can’t really listen to it during the day because I have to concentrate on school and work, so as a reward in that last hour before I fall asleep, I love to listen to the Dinner Party Download from my bed. This is a light, interesting, funny and entertaining program that imparts a lot of knowledge into a one hour format.

I’m sure there are other ways to find it, and I think you can even pick it up online, but I use the Tunein Radio app on my phone. After the app is open, I click “Talk” then “Arts & Culture” and finally, “Dinner Party Download.”  The program is hosted by Rico Gagliano and Brendan Francis Newnam who have formatted it so that listeners can “win” their dinner parties.  That is, the entire program is much like a dinner party itself.

The show always begins with a corny icebreaker….just some dumb joke told by a celebrity…a one-liner, usually at about a 4th grade level.  After that, listeners hear news headlines for the week.  Then comes a bit of trivia or interesting history.  For instance, last night’s program was about this week back in 1849, when the great gothic horror writer Edgar Allan Poe headed off on his last business trip. What happened after that remains a mystery… except for the fact that he died.

So, after every detailed historical trivia story, listeners are taught how to concoct their  own  appropriate cocktails from  bars that have something to do with the historical story that was just told.   The Poe-related cocktail was from a bar named after his famous poem, Annabell Lee….and the bartender talked about how the cocktail was developed and how to make it.  Each week, it is something different.

The show talks about books, food, films and has great musical guests that select THEIR favorite songs that they deem appropriate to play during a dinner party.  Some of the playlists are great, and I’ve added them to my own iTunes playlists.  The tastes are always eclectic and usually very interesting and good.  Quincy Jones was on a few nights ago, and talked about his idol, Clark Terry.  There are new musicians, old musicians and everything in between.  It is a great way to learn some musical history and to get turned on to some great music that you might not have known about previously.

Mia Wasikowska was on the program talking about her film work.

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Steve Martin talked about his endeavors playing the banjo.  Geoffrey Rush was on.  Mads Mikkleson.  The guests are interesting, and they talk about things from unique angles.  It isn’t one of those trite celebrity gossip shows.  The entertainment is pithy and gives in depth looks into these people’s lives and work.

This show is a winner, folks.  I highly recommend it.

 

To My Best Friend

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Drinking Vinegars Anyone?

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Drinking vinegars are not something that would have appealed to me before I started eating at the world class Thai restaurant, Pok Pok,  located a block away from us.   Every time I went into the restaurant, I would see them on the menu.  I watched as glass after glass left the bar and heard enthusiastic exclamations from happy customers until I finally gave in and decided to try one for myself.  I’ve been hooked ever since.  They are delicious!  My first was honey flavored, but I have graduated to more complex flavors since.

The practice of drinking vinegar for health reasons is an ancient  practice in many cultures around the world, dating back to colonial times when “shrubs” were a common tonic. They are light, delicious and refreshing drinks with a nice tartness coming from the vinegar and concentrated flavors of fruit, vegetable and aromatics.  (Think a less sweet, lighter version of lemonade.)

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Pok Pok has been serving these vinegars since 2005, both diluted with soda water as a soft drink and at full strength as a mixer in several of their awesome house cocktails. Their house brand, “Som” is handcrafted in Portland using natural flavoring, organic cane sugar and quality natural vinegars.  Until today, I had never tried a drinking vinegar with alcohol. I usually enjoy them for their light, thirst quenching qualities, and rarely drink alcohol at all…but this afternoon, after a grueling day of homework, I decided to give one a try.

I walked down the street early this evening to the French boulangerie called, St. Honorie, where I frequently grab one of their delicious beet salads.    Their mixologist, Jacob Grier has come up with a delicious cocktain that contains drinking vinegar, so I tried one of those.  It is called “Midnight in Paris,” and  combines Finnriver Farmstead cider, Lillet Blanc, sweet orange drinking vinegar, elderflower syrup and orange peel. It’s on the sweet end of the spectrum, but the Lillet Blanc and vinegar lend creative and complex flavors.  It was the perfect complement to my salad.

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My son-in-law  makes drinking vinegars at home.  This summer, he made raspberry, pear, blackberry and strawberry flavored vinegars.  They were stronger than the ones sold at St. Honorie and Pok Pok, but man!  Were they delicious!  I’m a fan of his full-fruit flavors and additional tartness.

Here is a general recipe that can be adjusted to taste:

Ingredients
2 cups fresh, whole berries (frozen also works)
2 cups vinegar (we like using Champagne or apple cider vinegar, though distilled white vinegar may be substituted in a pinch)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, or more, to taste
Tools
Large glass jar with lid
Cheesecloth
Funnel
Clean glass bottle
Combine the fruit and vinegar in a large jar, tightly screw on the lid and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Let infuse for one week at room temperature, shaking daily. Strain the juice through a double layer of cheesecloth and funnel into a clean glass bottle. Add sugar and shake to combine. Refrigerate for one week before using, shaking daily until sugar has fully dissolved.
To dilute in a drink, add one ounce (or more, depending on taste) to five ounces of soda water. Serve over ice.
Following the method outlined above, you can experiment with these other flavor combinations:
Blackberry + fresh thyme
Cucumber + mint + honey
Cherry + vanilla bean + maple syrup
Ginger + Demerara sugar
Apple + agave
Strawberry + basil

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If you’ve not tried drinking vinegars and would care to,  you can order 16 ounce Som here:

Cheers, dears!   (clink!)

Home

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Home

After ten hours on the road last night, I was exhausted by the time we got home from Northern California.  I was awakened by a message from my Auntie early this morning, however, that has caused my heart to race ever since.  Her beautiful home in Napa was wracked by the earthquake at 3 a.m.  While she and my Uncle lost many material possessions, I was more importantly relieved to hear that neither of them, nor were any of my area relatives injured.  When I spoke to her, they had not located their two cats and two horses, but their dog was ok….and I feel that the other animals are fine and in hiding.

I will do an update with more photos of our journey soon.  Meanwhile, I am filled with gratitude that my relatives were not injured, and send my love and support to those Napa residents and visitors that were not as fortunate.  This is high tourist season there, and there were many, many people staying in the area hotels and b&bs. 

Sending them my thoughts and support at this time.   My husband just walked over and gave me a big hug.  We know how lucky we are.   We were JUST there!

 

Stacy

 

Protected: She Ain’t No “Lady” (thank goodness)

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Protected: She Ain’t No “Lady” (thank goodness)

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I am laughing.

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Ha. Ha. Ha.  Laughter is good for you! 

laughing

.3smilesha hamarilynnerudastacyonphonelaughing9pemalaughing8laughing3old woman laughinglaughing4laughing6laughing5laughing7laughing2laughing1laugh1tee heelalughingjohnny cashgenielaughingkels subwaykaugh1stacyonphonesharron angle

Try it!  Laughter is the best, most  joyful music on earth!  Regardless of what might be “wrong” in your life, you’ll feel a lot better if you can just find something to laugh about!   Laughter is medicine.

Serenity At Its Best

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feetpool

This was a good day…a quiet one, with no visitors, no pressing issues to attend,  and perfectly perfect weather.  I meditated at the far end of the pool for a long time this morning, then stretched out on the diving board and read for hours.  John was nearby with is laptop, working on his class.  One more week here, then a couple of days on the Pacific at the Oregon coast, which I really look forward to….then back to work and school as I head into my final year. 

This afternoon, I decided to make some pasta out of butternut squash that I picked up at the Farmer’s Market the other day.   I was planning to do a Beurre Blanc sauce, but John got hungry before I did, so he made a concoction of different kinds of mushrooms, garlic, and kale with some excellent, aged Parm-Riggiano. It was outstanding, and I was grateful to him, because I truly did feel like being lazy by that time.   I seldom get any rest, and this was much needed.

pasta

I took Maddie for a walk and saw a herd of deer just across the road.  They were so beautiful.  One of them had a big rack…huge, actually, and I felt a wee bit threatened, because they were all such big animals, and Maddie and I were standing there out in the open.  That feeling quickly passed, however.   I responded to them respectfully and they responded to me in kind.

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I tended the lovely flower gardens in the front of the house, which is something I truly love doing…and I also tended the herb garden on the side of the house, harvesting some rosemary to infuse in some olive oil for cooking. 

It truly was a good day…a little romance in the afternoon…skinny dipping….a wonderful dinner with some world class wine…and now, we’re going to watch a film together…so night all.

Pack Up and Go -5 Tips for Packing Your Travel Bags

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Pack Up and Go -5 Tips for Packing Your Travel Bags

For me, August usually means travel time.  This year is no exception.  Travel means getting things ready for the house sitter, running extra errands and packing those awaiting bags.  Although I prefer to travel light, I seldom do.  Forgetting an essential item is not only disappointing.  It also means that I have to scramble to find the nearest store in my destination to replace the item…so I pack thoroughly.  Here are 5  packing tips that can make packing much less painful:

1.  Try rolling instead of folding.

roll

Travel experts—including backpackers, who are forced to stuff months’ worth of clothing into a pack the size of a box of wine—agree that rolling is superior to folding. Tightly rolled clothes take up less space than folded ones. Plus, they are much less likely to getting deep wrinkles from fold creases.

2.  Make a list and check it twice, even if you are already aware of who is naughty and nice.

list

I start my packing process days or even weeks ahead of my departure date.  In fact, because I travel as much as I do, I keep a bag partially packed at all times.  Thinking ahead gives one  time to craft a complete packing list, plus purchase any additional items that are needed for the trip. Creating a packing list is a fail-safe way to ensure that you never, ever forget to bring something important.

3.   Pare down!

bag

 Even though I pack thoroughly, I try to reduce the number of items that I do pack, to the essentials.  For instance, I might take a dress that can be changed by adding a scarf or belt or jacket, rather than packing 3 different dresses.  Economize when packing.  Pack wisely.  It’s a lot easier to lug one or two bags around than it is to pack 6 or 7 and traverse the airport, even if you do get assistance from a SkyCap.

4.   Don’t take “the good stuff”.

diamonds

I own a lot of very nice jewelry.  However, I do not take more of it with me than I can wear at one time.  I might take a nice ring, or a nice pair of earrings, but frankly, traveling with one’s nice jewelry collection is tantamount to asking for trouble. If you choose to take it all, be prepared to have it lost or stolen.  ’nuff said.

5.  Keep the basics in one place.

champagnerosesUse a large purse, backpack or tote bag to keep items that you may need along the way, easy to access.  For some, this may mean a hairbrush, deodorant, lip gloss, or makeup.  For me?  Champagne and roses, of course!

Happy Trails!

 

Four René

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This is my contribution to the Doctors Without Borders Auction for 2014.  I will post details when they are available.  I call this piece, “Four René,”named after my best friend.  I tried to create a piece that would convey the happiness that his friendship brings to me, so I made this one as bright and sunny as possible.   It was the best I could do, considering I didn’t have all of my materials available to me at the time.

dwb

FOUR RENE

10″ x 10″

Glass, ceramic tile, vintage jewelry on wedi board with wooden frame

by Stacy Alexander

2014

Native American: As in other cultures, ceremonies and ritual acts are repeated in fours. The Native Amercican cultures have used the number 4 most frequently as in the four cardinal directions. The four winds are depicted by the symbol of the cross and by the symbol of the swastika. The swastika as some misbelieve was not created by Hitler. It was instead borrowed from the Native American and occult beliefs of which Hitler had great interests. Hitler derived his “insanity” of power from his misdirected interpretation and use of metaphysical principles. He used knowledge that his human consciousness couldn’t possibly understand and the use of this knowledge for personal gain is part of the imbalance that creates the chaos and karma.

Buddhism: The Damba Tree of Life has four limbs and from its roots four sacred streams of Paradise that represent the the four boundless wishes of compassion, affection, love impartiality. It also represents the four directions of the heart as well.

Chinese Buddism: there are four celestial guardians of cardinal points are Mo-li Ch’ing, the East, with the jade ring and spear; Virupaksha, the West, the Far-gazer, with the four-stringed quitar; Virudhaka, the South, with the umbrella of choas and darkness and earthquakes; Vaisravenna, the North, with the whips, leopard-skin bag, snake and pearl.

Chinese: Four is the number of the Earth, symbolized by the square. There are four streams of immortality. Four is even an number. It is Yin in polarity.

Christian: Four is the number representing the body, with three representing the soul. Again we see the theme of the four rivers in Paradise. There are four Gospels, Evangelists, chef arch-angels, chef-devils, four Fathers of the Church, Great Prophets. There are four cardinal virtues–prudence, fortitude, justice, temperance. The are four winds from which the One Spirit is said to come. There are four horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Revelation: There four angels standing at the four corners of the Earth, holding back the four winds of the earth (Rev 7:1). The great multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language (four-fold description) – Rev 5:9 11:9 13:7 14:6 the four-fold description indicates that these people come from all over the earth.

Egyptian: Four is the sacred number of Time, measurement of the sun. Four pillars support the vault of heaven. There are four canopic jars placed around the dead at the four corners guarded by the four sons of Horus who are associated with the cardinal points. In the Hermetic it is the divine quaternity. It represents God.

Gnostic: belief in Barbelo, the Four-ness of God.

Greek: Four is the sacred number of Hermes.

Hebrew: Four represents measuring; beneficence; intelligence. In the Kabbalah four is memory; four represents the four worlds of the Kabbalah.It also represents the four directions of space and the four levels of the hierarchical organism of the Torah.

Hindu: Four is Totality; plenitude; perfection. Brahma, the Creator is four faced. The temple is based on the four sides of the square, symbolizing order and finality. There are four tattvas the four bodies bodies of human and kingdoms of nature which are animal, vegetable, mineral, mind. There are four yugas. Four is the winning throw of the dice. There are four castes and pairs of opposites.

Islamic: tradition the four terms of the quaternary are the Principle which is Creator; Universal Spirit; Universal Soul; and the primordial matter. These correspond to the four worlds of Kabbalism. There are four angelic beings and four houses of death. There are four levels to the Bardo.

Mayan culture four giants support the celestial roof. Four is seen as the number of support .

Pythagorean: Four is Perfection; harmonious proportion; justice; the earth. Four is the number of the Pythagorean oath. Four and ten are divinities. The Tetraktys 1+2+3+4=10.

Scandinavian: there are four rivers of milk flowing in Asgard.

Sumero-Semitic: Four astral gods are indentified with the four cardinal points.

Teutonic: four dwarfs support the world.

Taoist: There are four celestial guardians, Li, with the pagoda; Ma, with the sword; Cho with two swords; Wen with a spiked club.

Reconciliation Over Revenge.

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Reconciliation Over Revenge.

The illustration above exemplifies the need for peace on a global level…but with all things global, change begins with the individual.

Where does one begin to affect reconciliation, peace and understanding on a personal level?

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When I feel violated I can usually just blow it off.  After all, I have a good life and much for which I am thankful.  I’m pretty easy going and definitely forgiving. It can be difficult to simply let go…but I’m pretty good at doing that.

Peace begins in one’s own heart, right?  Who wants or needs trouble?  Who wants or needs drama?

Well, it seems that some people thrive on it.

Before I start sounding as though  I think I am morally superior to anyone else, I must say that just like everyone else, I have buttons that can be pushed, and when they are pushed, I can come out swinging.   I make a pretty good sparring partner when I set my mind to it….but why waste the energy getting dragged into some trashy lower-life situation?

 

boxer2

Under certain circumstances revenge sounds sweet, but it never is…Not really….not on a personal level and not on a global one.  It is a vexation to the spirit.

However, what does one do when the other person does not stop?

Simply let it go.

let it go

I find this decision the universal solution.

The best thing to do when someone is in your face is to simply move forward.  Try to affect good in the world.  Reach out in peace and in the spirit of love and try to understand the other person’s  perspective.  Be better than anyone  that is  trying to hurt or anger you.  Reach out in love.

This applies to every person on every level.  Be good.  Be kind.  BE BETTER. Send love.

be better

Take pity on those that malign you, for they do so from issues that have nothing to do with you.   Try to view the world from their perspectives in order to better understand what they might be experiencing.  Be better.  Add no fuel to the smoke and simply let the negative feelings fall away.

After all…they are only smoke.

“Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud and as the early dew that passeth away, as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney.”