My Colorado friends Steve & Donna Chase (L) and Amy & Barry Gordon (R) with Armando and Philamone, the donkey. The Gordons live in San Miguel 6 months of the year. Armando and Philamone are their next door neighbors.


On a windy Sunday morning during the pre-Lenten festivities, we had brunch at a roof-top restaurant.

This month New Orleans hosted its Mardi Gras and Rio de Janeiro, the world’s largest Carnival celebration. In San Miguel de Allende it’s Dia de Los Cascarones, the day of the cracked egg. While SMA’s crowd can’t rival the one million revelers of their South American neighbor, this city does a smashing job observing the five days leading up to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.

While exploring one day, I asked a store clerk for a lunch recommendation. “Go down 2 blocks to a little grocery store,” she said, pointing left. “Climb up to the third floor,” she continued. “They have the best pork belly sandwiches in San Miguel.” The Mom and Pop shop was nondescript with only 4-tables but the pork belly sandwich was the best I’d ever eaten (and, my first)!

A black cat crossing my path has never bothered me. Stepping on a crack breaks no one’s back. If you spill salt, look to avoid any targets before tossing more over your left shoulder. I may not be superstitious but I admit to strongly believing in Luck. So, if someone wants to crack an egg over my head in the name of good fortune, let’s do it.

During the festivities I met Donna for lunch at Nectar, a patio restaurant whose many hummingbird feeders attract our tiny flying friends. This Violet-crowned Hummingbird entertained us throughout lunch.

El Jardin (Plaza Principal) located directly across from the famed La Parroquia (church) is Ground Zero for the gaiety. The Centro Histórico is ablaze in color with mariachi bands staking out their corners. Vendors line the square, selling hand-made puppets, glitzy masks, outsized paper flowers, ice cream, churros and bags of cascarones. Mojigangas, giant costumed puppets from 6 to 18 feet tall, stroll and mingle with the crowd.

On most days I was treated to a lunch created by Cav & Blanca’s talented Senora Trini. Color me Spoiled.

What interested me most during the festivities was the cracked egg scene. Simply put, cascarones are washed chicken eggshells, brightly painted on the exterior, filled with confetti and closed again by small tissue squares glued over the opening. These handmade mini-piñatas are manufactured by local kitchen table entrepreneurs and sold on the streets in bags of 5, 10, 20 and 40. (I went big, buying 40 for 50 pesos.)

Since no one at the El Jardin had cracked an egg over my head, bringing me good fortune and luck in the year ahead, I bought my own stash of 40 eggs. Senora Trini helped me place the eggs strategically in a gorgeous bowl in O’Leary’s dining room.

Every child, teen and even Moms/Dads tote their own personal cache to toss or crush over an unsuspecting head, producing a confetti shower and bringing good luck to the victim. For these 5 days, SMA’s historic cobblestones are a rainbow of colored confetti.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I finally cracked an egg over my own head. Good Fortune reigns. I cracked another open to show you.

EL CHARO del INGENIO jardin botanico

When Donna and I were waiting to begin our nature tour at El Charo, Bob Turner (middle) helped me identify a worm-eating warbler (who knew?). From the small world department… Bob Turner lived in Boulder, Colorado and was the western states’ field director for the National Audubon Society. He assisted Aspen’s renown birder Linda Vidal and other locals in establishing our Roaring Fork Audubon group.

As I mentioned last week, El Charo del Ingenio, located near Casa O’Leary where I am staying, is an outstanding 217-acre botanical garden and nature preserve surrounded by an Ecological Preservation Zone. Besides hiking its many trails, last week Donna and Steve Chase and I took a morning tour to learn about its vast botanical collection of cacti and other Mexican plants many of which are rare, threatened or in danger of extinction due to development.

White-faced Ibis

Canyon Wren

Tropical Kingbird

Donna and I, who are volunteer Rangers in Aspen, enjoyed learning about new plants and birds.

My last night together with the Chases before they returned to Colorado. We had cocktails on the roof of their apartment before doing to dinner.


Valentine’s Dinner, Casa O’Leary

Dinner with friends, many who came for San Miguel’s Writers Conference, from Canada, Austria, the USA and Mexico.

I was able to snag Floridian Tim Wheat (R) to be my Valentine. Canadians Tony and Joan Eyton sit nearby. Mr. Eyton, my dinner partner, was the Ambassador to Brazil and served as the Senior International Trade Advisor for the Canadian government. During his long and varied career he was posted throughout the world so our dinner conversation was quite interesting.

Señora Trini made a delicious Valentine chocolate cake for our evening’s dessert.



WELCOME to CASA O’LEARY, my home for the next 5 weeks.

Early every morning I pour a mug of coffee, stand out on the balcony and get my first glimpse of SMA through this oval non-window (located to the left in the above photo).

Seventeen years ago in April 2001, when Michael and I were driving home from an early AM yoga class, we followed a moving van turning into our Silver King Drive neighborhood. As it pulled to a halt at the vacant house near ours, we spotted a cute little guy, standing patiently with his parents, waiting for that truck to spill out the life he’d left behind in Houston, Texas.

We were smitten. And, dear Readers, that’s how I’ve ended up spending 5 weeks of this winter with the O’Leary’s in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Every February 2nd families and communities dress up their image of Niño Dios (Child Christ) with brand new clothes and take them to the church to be blessed. It falls forty days after Christmas, and is celebrated by Catholics as the “Feast of Purification.”

The priest is blessing all the babies brought to the altar.

Everyone picks up their babies after being blessed.

That little 4-year old is now a junior at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. As our lives and the O’Leary’s became intertwined we were able to participate in and celebrate the many milestones of his journey. After Michael died Blanca and Cavanaugh were among the friends who quietly tucked me into their lifestyles and families.

After the ceremony families get together for a delicious tamales feast. We sat down with the whole staff and had homemade tamales and hot chocolate for breakfast.

That evening for my first dinner, Señora Trini, the O’Leary’s talented cook, made me a flan.

More than ten years ago, they bought a hacienda in Mexico and now spend 6 months of the year in SMA. Generous with their hospitality and skilled at entertaining, their home is a revolving door as friends come and go. Although Blanca has often invited me to visit, nothing meshed until this year when I asked to visit for ‘a week or so.’ But five weeks? Who does that?


These cactus pads are called Nopales in Mexico. We brought some from this woman and brought them home to S. Trini. That night she made a delicious vegetable that looked much like green beans!

Over the years Blanca, who grew up in El Paso and I, Iowa born and bred, have created a unique friendship. Although I can’t speak to what I bring to her party, I am well aware of what she brings to mine. Strong-willed and intuitive, her passions and gusto for life run deep. Because our cultural experiences were so divergent and my ignorance and naivety about Latinos so great, we’ve never lacked for spirited conversation.

Since Blanca is on the board of San Miguel Pen, the worldwide association of writers with centers in 104 countries, we attended a evening author’s presentation. Later author Sandra Cisneros, who in 1995 received a MacArthur Genius Grant, joined us for dinner.

During our weekly hikes last summer, we discussed this upcoming visit. “If I’m coming for that long,” I said, after remembering that ‘guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days,’ “ I want it to be about learning.”

“Of course,” Cav and Blanca agreed, suggesting that was already a given.

Just a casual Saturday afternoon in downtown San Miguel. Actually these two fine people are headed to a wedding.

After spending one week in SMA I’ve already taken a deep dive into grasping the importance and significance of Mexico, our south-of-the-border friend and neighbor. For the next 5 weeks, with shorter written posts, I’m letting my photos tell the story of meals shared, celebrations observed, activities enjoyed and people encountered.

And yes, after a week of enjoying the O’Leary’s bounteous hospitality, I’ve begun mainlining my multivitamins.

I joined an early morning San Miguel Audubon birding walk at El Charco del Ingenio-Jardín Botánico. Besides seeing this Vermillion Flycatcher I viewed many birds species including the Great Kiskadee, the Chachalaca and the White-faced Ibis for the very first time.

On most mornings we take an early morning hike up to the El Charco preserve near the O’Leary’s home with our neighbor Christina.



Gingerbread Cake Roll with Eggnog Whipped Cream


During the holidays, as usual, I’m in Henderson at Anthem Country Club, the gated community where Michael and I last lived. Over Thanksgiving however, it was Bishop, a five-hour drive across the state line and through Death Valley, for family time. I hadn’t seen Emma and Clara since May. In grandmother hours, that’s a really long time.

So after finally arriving and giving both girls giant hugs, it wasn’t particularly prudent that the first thing out of my mouth was, “When I turned into the driveway I saw those absolutely gorgeous shelf mushrooms on the poplar trees. Don’t you love their look?”

These shelf mushrooms are called Turkey Tails, a perfect decorative “look” for Thanksgiving Day.

Moment. Foot. Mouth. (C’mon, Readers, you’ve had them.) Stephen, my mild-mannered and soft-spoken son-in-law doesn’t own a scowl face. He doesn’t grimace. “I don’t like them,” he said, with a scowl-grimace combo. “They’re killing my trees.”

The girls stopped with the hugging. I sensed eye-rolls but knew their mother had forbidden them to ‘give eye rolls to Grandma.’

As for Melissa, I got an I-don’t-like-‘em-either “Ugh,” followed by “Hi, Mom.”

Although Thanksgiving ended well, the beginning, not so good. Emphasizing the holiday spirit theme, I pointed out that shelf mushrooms are actually called Turkey Tails (Trametes versicolor). They are very common throughout North America, popping up everywhere in overlapping clusters on dead hardwood rotting stumps and logs. While this fungus did not kill Stephen’s poplars, blame that on their 30-50 year time span and California’s drought, they certainly don’t help.

Nature lesson over. Subject closed. Not to be discussed again.


It was my October trip across the pond that finally persuaded me to begin streaming The Great British Baking Show on Netflix. Now it’s an addiction, watching twelve U.K. amateur bakers tackle 30 different recipes throughout a 10 episodes season. The show is light-hearted and very British in a Jolly Good, Mind the Gap manner. In Episode 1 the challenge was a Swiss Roll, a jelly or cake roll which is a sponge cake roll filled with whipped cream, jam, or icing. As we already realize, I am a rung or two down the ladder from laying claim to being an accomplished amateur baker.

Attempt #1 of my cake roll but just decorated 2 different ways.

However with a stiff upper lip, after watching that first episode twice, I found a recipe calling my name, Gingerbread Cake Roll with Eggnog Whipped Cream. It is my first attempt you see pictured in today’s blog. Readers, it took bravery to feature Attempt #1 with its failings rather than Attempt #2 which was a personal triumph and now placed safely in the freezer for a later celebration. These photos and post walk you through the learning curve.

Whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Chanukah or Kwanzaa or not at all, this is my gift to you. Don’t accept your limitations. Be open to NEW and try DIFFERENT. Perfection isn’t always the goal, as evidenced by this first cake roll. It’s the process.


GINGERBREAD CAKE ROLL WITH EGGNOG WHIPPED CREAM adapted from Dorothy at Crazy for Crust Blog




3 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup applesauce
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt


1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons eggnog (added 1 TBS at a time)

*If you are serving the roll immediately, save a small amount of filling for the top.



1. Line a 10×15 inch jelly roll pan with 1” sides with foil or parchment paper. Spray with cooking spray with flour added.

2. Beat eggs at high speed for 5 minutes. Gradually beat in sugar, applesauce, and molasses.

3. Stir together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and salt. Add to other mixture.

4. Spread evenly into pan. Gently hit/bang the pan against the counter to remove air bubbles.

5. Bake at 350°F for 8-12 minutes. Begin checking the cake at 10 minutes. You want to make sure your cake is done. A toothpick should come out completely clean. A roll must be just baked but NOT over baked which makes them roll easier and prevents cracking. Although my first cake didn’t crack, it was dry, over-baked. Ten minutes is the magic number.

While the sponge cake must be complete done, DO NOT over bake. That’s what causes cracking when rolling it up. I baked my first version between 11-12 minutes and that was too long. Although it rolled perfectly, it was too dry.

6. Carefully turn out the cake immediately onto parchment paper or thin kitchen towel. Starting at the narrow end, roll parchment paper or towel and hot cake together.

Immediately after taking your cake from the oven do the roll up, using a thin towel or parchment paper sprinkled with powdered sugar or superfine sugar. My towel was too thick for a good roll but, when making it again, parchment paper sprinkled with superfine sugar worked fine.

7. Cool completely. Cooling will take at least 2 hours. Once the cake is cool, carefully unroll it.

For the second cake, I sprinkled superfine sugar on parchment paper before rolling it up to cool. When using powdered sugar, it tends to “spread” and “stick” to the cake. I do admit to being heavy handed with the powdered sugar.

8. Beat cold heavy whipping cream in a stand mixer at medium speed with the whisk attachment (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer) until soft peaks form. This usually takes about 2-4 minutes. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Slowly add eggnog 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue beating until stiff peaks form but be careful not to over whip.

9. Although I did not do this with cake #1, grab your 12” ruler and a sharp paring knife and slightly trim away the edges of the four sides which tend to be crusty.

After the cake is cool (about 2 hours) and carefully unrolled, it’s time to spread the filling. (In the second cake roll, I used a 12 inch ruler and sharp knife to take off a slight bit of the crust on all 4 sides of the cake.)

10. Spread evenly about 1/2 to 3/4 whipped cream over all the top of the cake, only leaving an edge at one end without frosting. Starting at the narrow end that is frosted, re-roll the cake tightly into a log. As you roll it up some filling may spill out. Have a knife handy to scrape off any excess but not to worry, you will trim off the ends before serving.

When frosting the cake with filling, frost totally, covering the surface, except for the end of one of the short ends.

11. At this point you can wrap the cake in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. When ready, place cake on serving plate and top with some of the remaining whipped cream or frost the entire top of the roll and dust with cinnamon or lightly dust with powdered sugar. Trim off the ends for a prettier look.

12. Slice and serve.


1. Refrigerate your mixing bowl and beaters 30-minutes to an hour before making the filling.

2. Because the roll, without the decorative top, can be made and refrigerated for up to two days, you will need to make some additional whipped cream (heavy cream, vanilla and powdered sugar) for the topping, Using more eggnog is optional.




Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake with Buttermilk Icing

Let’s start at the beginning. Several months ago, spotting a cost-friendly Norwegian Airlines package to London/Edinburgh on Travelzoo Top 20, I clicked three times and magically owned an October trip across the Pond. For the past 15 years I’ve received Travelzoo’s weekly “amazing” offers and lived the dreams. Obviously I considered it time to play out my fantasies.

The view from my hotel room in London, the Tower Bridge. The historic WWII battleship HMS Belfast is moored on the far side of the bridge.

My reality became an international trip by myself on an airline I’d never flown. Buyer’s remorse? Uhhh, kinda. For me, whether it’s a project, party or voyage, I’m a planner. Realizing this would be the first trip abroad I’d taken alone without Michael or without the destination being the Institut de Francais or meeting a tour group, my motto became Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail. Here’s how it rolled…..


Betsy and I saw the vibrant and colorful Takashi Murakami special exhibition at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Having been in a plane crash, I don’t fly well. I short-circuited a long non-stop flight by stopping in Boston to visit my blogging colleague, Betsy Pollack-Benjamin. During my 30 hour-layover we not only cooked dinner together, but also spent the next day visiting the Lexington Community Farm and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. I walked in to Flour’s Bakery & Cafe only to be surprised by Tricia Stormer, our French Fridays with Dorie colleague, who drove from Pennsylvania to see me.


Let’s Go…

About Norwegian Airlines. NA’s twin-engine Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner is modern, beautiful and fuel-efficient. Now I like comfort as much as the next gal but riding in economy with 300 of your new best friends didn’t seem a hardship, more of an adventure. Service was spectacular. (Economy does not translate to riff raff on NA.) I had a touch screen that spewed out amenities galore. A cocktail? Screen. Touch. Order. Within 5 minutes a steward was delivering it, with flourish, on a small, white-clothed tray.


I dropped by Foyles Book Store and Cafe to see where JK Rowling wrote her first Harry Potter Book.

JK Rowling hung out on the 5th floor of Foyles and wrote her book. I hung out for about an hour and didn’t feel the inspiration.

My London plans revolved around the British Museum and theatre, Harry Potter & the Cursed Child 1 & 2. A home-town bonus was meeting 6 young people from Aspen at a local pub. Gant concierge Wesy Amour-Cook had told me she, Nathan and their friends were also going to London and suggested we meet for a beer. It’s not for nothing that Wesy is a great concierge. After I arrived in London, she located a pub near my Tower Bridge hotel, e-mailed me and at 5:30pm one misty London evening, I walked into the pub’s noisy bedlam only to be greeted by those 6 smiling Colorado faces.

From 610 S. West End Street in Aspen to a pub near London’s Tower Bridge, Wesy and I are having a beer.

The Portland Vase, Rome. 15BC-25AD. I spent several days at the renown British Museum. Founded in 1753, the British Museum was the first national public museum in the world, protecting and displaying treasures which represent the history of our civilization. (We can have the debate about stolen treasures at a later date.)


Edinburgh evolved into an unexpected but glorious three days. Prior to leaving Aspen, I contacted Araminta and Charles Ritchie who I only knew virtually. For the past 7 years I occasionally rented their apartment in Sanary-sur-Mer located in southwestern France. I invited them to have dinner with me when I visited Edinburgh. Instead Araminta insisted they pick me up at the airport to stay with them. Hospitality reigns!

As we drove down a long drive-way I catch my first glimpse of The Grange, their home located just outside of Edinburgh. These are Araminta’s miniature Shetland ponies.

Their exquisite historic home, The Grange, is located on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Araminta is a Lady-in-Waiting to the Queen’s daughter, Princess Anne who is recognized and admired for her charitable work to over 200 organizations. Being a modern-day lady-in-waiting, which is defined as a personal assistant attending to a royal woman, is a life-long appointment. Princess Anne, who Araminta calls, The Boss, has 11 Ladies and Araminta is one of two women who live in Scotland. Charles retired five years ago as a Colonel after a lifelong military career, being posted throughout the world. As you might imagine, I was full of questions and loved our conversations/dinner table talk.

Paul, quite the chef, is buttering the pastry just before cooking the pot pie. I think, in this photo, the American in the room had just blurted out, “Puff pastry from scratch? Who does that anymore!”

Mom is obviously in charge of the flour.

Recognizing that we had never actually met each other, Araminta got me settled while Charles popped the champagne cork. (Bubbly is a relaxant, don’t you think?) Paul, their son who was visiting, withdrew to the kitchen to make a delicious venison pot pie with a homemade pastry crust. Salmon to begin dinner, fruit tart to end it.

Venison Pot Pie with a Puff Pastry Lid.

Note the AGA (I had stove envy.)

Now get this, when the Princess is in Edinburgh unofficially, she often stays in the bedroom where I slept. (I know that because I saw her name in their guest book.) The Ritchie’s were amused I loved the idea of that but I suggested it was as close as I would ever get to the Lincoln Bedroom!

How delicious does this look. And, it was. Note the steam.

What a beautiful table.

I was sorry to leave England. This journey, a mission to broaden my horizons and expand my knowledge also enhanced my desire to ‘Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.’ as Frozen’s film director Jennifer Lee suggests. That’s exactly what I needed to do.

Our last photo before Araminta took me back to Edinburgh: Paul needs to get to work. Araminta has a tennis game in town. And Charles is off to a meeting. The portrait above our heads was commissioned after his retirement and painted by our mutual friend, artist Jean Miller Harding, one of Canada’s premiere portrait painters.



To celebrate my safe arrival home, I baked a sublime pumpkin spice bundt cake. This recipe is from a 2005 issue of Gourmet Magazine. Being a loyal subscriber I faintly recall making this recipe. My memory suggests I didn’t realize at the time that canned pumpkin pie filling and canned pumpkin (pumpkin puree) are two different animals! Please dear Readers, canned pumpkin, please.


12 servings

EQUIPMENT: 10-inch nonstick bundt pan (3 quart)



1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin puree
3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs (room temperature)


2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons well-shaken buttermilk
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar


1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter bundt pan generously, then dust with flour, knocking out excess.

2. Whisk together flour (2 1/4 cups), baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together pumpkin, 3/4 cup buttermilk, and vanilla in another bowl.

3. Beat softened butter (1 1/2 sticks) and granulated sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add eggs and beat 1 minute. Reduce speed to low and add flour and pumpkin mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until batter is just smooth.

4. Spoon batter into pan, smoothing top. Softly band your bundt pan against the counter to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 15 minutes, then invert rack over cake and re-invert cake onto rack. Cool 10 minutes more.

5. While cake is cooling, whisk together buttermilk and confectioners sugar until smooth. Drizzle icing over warm cake. Sprinkle chopped nuts over the top, if desired. then cool cake completely. Icing will harden slightly.


1. I spray my bundt pan with Pam’s Baking Made with Flour just before pouring the batter into the pan. This eliminates the spray from pooling at the bottom of the pan. It also allows your batter to “rest” a few minutes.

2. Cake may be made 3 days ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.

3. For a variation to the pure pumpkin taste, add 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts and 1/2 cup of chopped dried cranberries. (Do NOT use Cranraisins.)



Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche & Fleur de Sel

As you’re reading this post, I’m throwing last-minute essentials into my suitcase before leaving for a week in London and Edinburgh. Thanks to the low-fare transatlantic carrier Norwegian Air International now with more direct flights to London than any US airline and a British travel agency, I found a vacation package unable to ignore.

Braised Mediterranean Lentils with Roasted Spaghetti Squash


Our Emma was chosen by her classmates to be the Junior Princess at her high school’s homecoming in Bishop, California. Escorted by her family onto the field, she was crowned by sister, Clara, now a freshman, during the game’s half-time show. A happy moment for our family.

For the past five years I’ve tried to follow these two wise mantras: 1) What’s not life-threatening is manageable with minimal stress; and, 2) If Not Now, When?

Just before dawn, these healthy, gorgeous bears, Mama and Baby, often arrive to drink at the stream near my condo building. When I need to get in my car, to leave the parking lot, Mama Bear and I are wary and cautious but always good neighbors.

Look carefully and you will see Baby Bear climbing down the tree. I walked out to get into my car and Mama called the baby to come down and be near her.

This Fall two hit-and-run accidents put a large dent into my #1 mantra. Imagine being an innocent 2008 Lexus, already a little worn with mileage fatigue, parked in your owner’s condo space only to be walloped not once but twice on separate occasions. Both culprits drove off leaving no notes. Readers, who does that? Little goes on at The Gant that others don’t see so one fender-bender was reported to our front office. The unpleasantness that followed taxed my ability with that manage with minimal stress thing.

To add more protein to the Lentils and Squash dish, simply add sausage or the meat of your choice.

This year Mantra #2 has been changed up to If Not Now, Now and that’s precisely why I went out on a Norwegian Air wing, sorta last-minute, and booked this trip. Remember when you were a child and did something without asking permission? That’s what making these plans feels like to me.

Renown Chef José Andrés and his World Central Kitchen team have served more than 1 million hot meals to the needy and Responders in Puerto Rico.

Since late September our French Fridays with Dorie and Cook the Book Fridays blogging groups have been donating to Chef José Andrés and his World Central Kitchen network to support their efforts in PR.

London is not unfamiliar to me, Mind the Gap and when curbside, look left, then right, then left, again, but I’ve never been to the British Museum. Being my birthday week, spending three luxurious days visiting a vast collection dedicated to human history, art and culture is a perfect gift. I also picked up theatre tickets for “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two” which, incidentally, begin previews in New York in mid-March. As for Edinburgh, I’m lucky to have good friends who kindly offered to take me under their wing during my visit.

Adriana Angelet, a health administrator in PR and our food blogging groups’ colleague and friend the past 8 years, ran with her team in the Chicago Marathon last week. Adriana blogs at

Donating to Chef Andres was a way to honor Adriana, (holding flag, far left). Despite many obstacles her running club managed to get to Chicago for this long-planned event.In her own words, “Flag across chest. Ears attuned to every “Puerto Rico” cry in the crowd. Each “dale Boricua!” placed the heart closer to the finish line. The legs followed it. Most of the time running, sometimes even dancing. Walking too, but never in defeat.
There will never be another race like the 2017 Chicago Marathon and that’s alright.”


The chocolate cake mixture is ready for the oven.

While trying to always look forward, I still hug each memory of this gorgeous season in the mountains and joyful days for a grandma with teenage grand daughters. My cup runneth over. Plus, this month’s Cook-the-Book-Fridays recipe, Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche & Fleur de Sel, is a stunner. Take a look at Half Baked Harvest, Recipes from my Barn in the Mountains , a new cookbook by Colorado’s own Tieghan Gerard. I made her Braised Mediterranean Lentils with Roasted Spaghetti Squash.

Spaghetti squash is magic. Here’s the squash, cut in half, S/P and ready for roasting.

The magic of turning squash into spaghetti …

Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche and Fleur de Sel is basically a molten-center (liquid) chocolate cake. David Lebovitz’s version from his My Paris Kitchen cookbook takes this to a supreme level by adding dulce de leche (a Spanish caramel sauce) and flaky sea salt. He uses 4-ounce ramekins. I added a larger souffle dish, baking it 5-10 more minutes. Rich, for sure but a perfect sweet to complete a meal. Serve small portions, please, with vanilla bean ice cream or crème fraîche. Link to the recipe here.

Half Baked HARVEST Cookbook, Recipes from My Barn in the Mountains by Tieghan Gerard

Half Baked Harvest Cookbook, Recipes from My Barn in the Mountains by Teghan Gerard is my one cookbook purchase this Fall. I subscribe to Gerard’s HalfBakedHarvest blog and look forward to cooking through this book. Braised Mediterranean Lentils with Roasted Spaghetti Squash is my first effort. Very tasty. Unique flavoring. Here’s the recipe link.

Don’t miss seeing the compelling documentary “Wasted! The Story of Food Waste” produced by chef Anthony Bourdain. Voted Best Documentary at Aspen’s Film Festival this month, it was my favorite of all the films. Since in this country we waste 1/3 of all our produced food, 133 billion pounds, it’s a must see for everyone and is now in the theaters nationwide and on video-on-demand. Creatively-made, irreverent
and important.

If you wish to DONATE to Chef José Andrés and his World Central Kitchen network, here




As counterintuitive as this may seem, Summer 2017 has been wonderful, my happiest since Alzheimer’s knocked at our door thirteen years ago. That’s in spite of, maybe even more so because our country and world is in, let’s admit it, chaos. It’s darn hard these days to stay aboard that happy train. Even Joy the Baker, my effervescent blogging pal from NOLA, took up the how-to-do-happy-better theme this week.

“We all need a little spark of a reminder sometimes,” she wrote. “ A little confetti in the air. A little whipped cream on top. A little something-something.”

I’m loving going to the Cooking School of Aspen this summer.
The Science of Cooking: Sweet and Salty, a combo class presentation by Rob Ittner’s Cooking School of Aspen and the Aspen Science Center. Great fun and learning with our local scientists, David Houggy (L), president of ASC and the guy who helped create it, Mike Simmons, (R) who is also a volunteer ranger with me.

We can’t expect our end game to always be handsprings and high fives but, Loyal Readers, don’t we deserve the best Life we can muster? Now as you know, I love lists. My days evolve around my to-do list. So you might expect I have an on-going “Tweaks” list which I pull out when myself needs tweaking. If yourself needs a tweak or two, I’m willing to share. If you’re doing mighty fine (and, lucky you), just skip down to the recipes for my to-die-for Peach Upside-Down Cake topped with homemade Buttermilk Ice Cream.

Five chefs and scientists participated in our class of 24.

My Golden Happy Tweaks

For more of my adult years than I care to admit, I believed it possible to be joyful only when the stars lined up perfectly in my life and my family’s world. I always truly believed if one tried hard enough…well, you get it. I know, I know, what universe did I live in? When we stumbled into something that couldn’t be fixed and could only end with a bad result, I hit a wall. (Memo to the World: Walls are bad.)

When I was young my father made our ice cream in a wooden ice cream bucket. Churn. Churn. Churn. With my Cuisinart ice cream maker, it’s effortless.

More than a decade ago there weren’t many tools, books or avenues to help caregivers be caregivers. I stumbled my way up the learning curve but often didn’t do it well. Throughout those early years I just survived. Then a psychologist suggested that ‘pain was inevitable, but suffering, always optional’ so I traded suffering and sadness for laughter and a smile. Since I was slowly losing my side kick and best friend, I also became my own best friend. I still am. A Golden Tweak: Greet each day with a smile, laugh out loud and treat yourself as wonderfully as you do your spouse, partner or best friend.

After 25 years, I finally took a tour of Harris Hall, often called the Carnegie Hall of the Rockies. The acoustics in the hall are reputed to be among the best in the world. During the tour, this gentleman from Ireland volunteered to demonstrate the veracity of that statement by singing “My Wild Irish Rose.” A treat for the 25 tourists taking the tour and a bonus for me.

Now I’m not asking you to deny or normalize the challenges we face personally and publicly but recognize your limits. That doesn’t mean I don’t stay engaged and honor my values and beliefs. I gravitate towards positive and optimistic people, hanging with friends who are energized by their passions, ideas and activities. I walk the walk, quietly doing my best, but I no longer talk the talk. Stress and hurt are not my pals. A Golden Tweak: Avoid what drags you down. Learn to say no. Don’t be a martyr.

An unforgettable moment for this young lady – A gentleman from Ireland singing to her (“My Wild Irish Rose”) on the stage of Harris Hall, Aspen, Colorado.

If you’ve committed to greeting the day with a smile, why not get a head start by going to bed happy. Turn off your electronics by 8:30-9pm. Have an engaging book or two nearby or watch a fun series. Mozart in the Jungle on Amazon Prime was my summer headliner. Or, just talk, have a conversation, or call a friend. A Golden Tweak: Get good sleep. No, 4-5 hours is not enough.

This Mama Swallow is maneuvering her body into this exhaust vent area where she has her nest of babies who are hungry and squawking.

And, of course, stay physically active and eat well. If a slice of Peach Upside-Down Cake topped with homemade Buttermilk Ice Cream doesn’t lighten your load then you aren’t half-trying. That’s what Cook the Book Friday is dishing up this week. Here are the recipes and my tips.

The baby swallows are still hungry but the Mama checks that the coast is clear before leaving her babies again.


GLACE AU LAIT, HUILE D’OLIVE ET FLEUR DE SEL by David Lebovitz, My Paris Kitchen

No egg yolks. No tempering. The corn syrup (or, honey) makes it smooth and creamy for days.

Makes about 1 quart


1 3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup (substitute honey, if you wish)
1 1/4 cup buttermilk

Fruity, extra virgin olive oil
Flaky sea salt


1. In a small saucepan, warm the cream over low heat with the sugar and corn syrup, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Chill the mixture in a bowl thoroughly, at least 8 hours or overnight.

2. Stir the buttermilk into the chilled sweetened cream. Freeze according to your manufacturer’s ice cream maker instructions. Once churned (about 30-50 minutes), transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container a few hours, overnight, or until firm enough to scoop.

3. Just before serving, scoop the ice cream into bowls, using a chilled ice cream scoop. Drizzle each serving with olive oil and sprinkle with a flurry of sea salt or use a topping of your choice. Since I was topping my cake with this ice cream I didn’t put anything on it.

PEACH UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE by Laura of Tutti Dolci

(This recipe appealed to me because I love cooking with my 10” cast-iron skillet. If you don’t have cast iron, use any ovenproof container.)


3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 medium peaches, peeled and thinly sliced

3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour (If in altitude, use high-altitude flour.)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk, at room temperature
1/2 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt, at room temperature
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 tsp vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Grease a seasoned 10-inch cast iron skillet. Combine butter and brown sugar in skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, until butter has melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Top with peaches and set the skillet aside.
3. For the cake, whisk together sugar, flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture.
4. Whisk together egg, buttermilk, yogurt, melted butter, and vanilla in a small bowl; add to flour mixture and stir just until combined.
5. Dollop batter evenly over peach layer and smooth with a spatula. Bake for 30 minutes, until cake springs back to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs attached.
6. Remove from oven and let the cake rest for 5 minutes in the skillet, until any juices have stopped bubbling. Use a thin spatula to loosen cake from skillet and carefully invert onto a cake stand or serving plate.
7. Let cool to slightly warm before serving.

Called the Chunnel, this is the underground connector from Harris Hall to the 2400-seat performance music tent where most concerts are given. I had never seen this before. Why does it make me think of Iowa?