Pinterest: I Have an Addiction

The first step is admitting you have a problem...

I have an addiction to Pinterest. And I don't feel bad about it.

For those of you who are not familiar with Pinterest, it is an amazing website that allows you to make virtual pin boards of all of the beautiful, interesting, inspiring or tasty things you find on the internet and  to see all the things other members have found- organized by category, of course. This translates into crack for anyone who is remotely interested in art, design, fashion, crafts, weddings or cooking.
Simply add the "Pin It" button to your toolbar and click it whenever you find something you love or want to try. Chose the board for it to be pinned to and enter a description and you will not only have a great reference for inspiration but the photos also link back to the original article. It's great for all of those crafting projects I want to try!

To join, you can either request an invitation (which has a waiting list) or be invited by a friend (e-mail me!). But I'm warning you now- it is highly addictive. Some day I will actually stop pinning and start using all of the cool things I've found! 

Click here to follow my boards on Pinterest! 


Summerside Vineyards' Harvest Party

I'm back! I wont bore you with excuses of my absence- I just hope you'll keep reading! Forgive me, pretty please.

This past weekend we celebrated my lovely mother's birthday:
(She'll kill me if she sees this!)

It just so happened that Summerside Vineyards' 10th annual harvest party fell on the same weekend offering the perfect opportunity to celebrate with family and enjoy some of my mother's favorite things: wine, jazz, and the outdoors.
Summerside is about an hour northeast of Tulsa on Historic Route 66 and, with over two dozen types of wine, mead and juice it was quite the popular place to be, even early on a Saturday. We were greeted with live music, breakfast treats and a delicious glass fo grape juice before learning more about the winemaking process. For instance, only red wines are fermented with the skins left in the juice, port will be the only thing you find in the winery's oak barrels and all the wines get filtered through increasingly fine filters until even bacteria cannot pass through. And thanks to my mother's battery of questions, we learned a lot more! I'm not convinced she's not going to start a botteling operation in the basement.

Next it was time for grape picking- my favorite part of the day. All 60+ guests caravanned to a small vineyard minutes from the winery and in the beautiful 80 degree weather we began the hunt for The Big Kahuna- the largest bunch of grapes.
Even though the crop was down this year by 75%, it was still beautiful and serene and there were plenty of bunches to keep me entertained. You just had to peek your head up under the vines and there you'd find gorgeous clusters begging to be picked.
At one point, my aunt and I were tied for the lead for The Big Kahuna. We managed to find a six ounce cluster each but were beat by a six-to-seven-ouncer. So close! Even though we didn't walk away with the title we did taste the freshest grapes of our lives and gather a fair amount of fruit. There's always next year...
Aren't they gorgeous? They're like jewels!
The fun didn't stop there! Next it was time to get dirty and do something we had only seen in the movies- stomp grapes!
Even though it was just a few stomps, it felt satisfying to see the rich, purple juice stain your feet. And as a cute memento, we got to leave our footprints on a souvenir T-shirt- clever!

Over a tasty brunch, we were serenaded by Tulsa's own Rebecca Ungerman with sultry jazz tunes and entertained with her witty banter- what a darling woman! And the cherry on top that made my mom's birthday perfect- my cousin, a former student of Rebecca, got to sing a number.
Be sure to look for Summerside's wine the next time you're out or if your looking for a close getaway, dine at their bistro and do some wine tasting- the blackberry wine in beyond amazing! Also delicious that I sampled: raspberry wine, hard apple cider, Beautiful, and their pinot grigio.

Summerside Vineyards

Address: 441251 E. Historic Route 66
                Vinita, Oklahoma 74301
Phone:     888-508-9463


VeeV Acai Spirit: 3 Delicious Cocktails

Here is a spirit with an exotic appeal- Veev Acai spirit made with antioxidant-rich acai berries straight from the Brazilian rainforest. Blended with acerola cherry and prickly pear, the nutrients in this liqueur are 100% natural. And it tastes great!

Though it's not for sale in the Green Country yet, I was able to try a sample. I opened the bottle and bravely took a whiff, expecting an unpleasant burning sensation- but to my surprise it didn't smell like alcohol at all. It had a fragrant, tropical aroma with out being sweet and tasted unlike anything I have experienced before.
You can use VeeV just like you'd use vodka- on the rocks, with soda and a twist or in your favorite cocktail. They have tons of recipes available on their site for whatever mood strikes you but I decided to be adventurous and try my hand at mixology. There were no fancy tools or glasses involved- just mix it up and pour it down the hatch! See the end of the post for the recipes.

Not experienced in this realm, I played it safe for my first try: the VeeV Bellini.
The complex flavors of the Veev were nicely complemented by the sweet, floral flavor of the peach nectar. A great way to spice up your next brunch or shower!

Getting a little more adventurous: the Veev Guava Fizz.
Exchange the peach for guava nectar and you have a refreshing cocktail that lets the VeeV shine. And it's pretty and bubbly. If you're not familiar with guava- give it a try, you'll love it!

This last cocktail was inspired by a delicious fruit drink made by Hawaiian Sun- passionfruit-orange-guava, or POG. If you haven't guessed from the name, it's not something I can get in Oklahoma so I'm always trying to find something similar. VeeV was the perfect flavor to step in for the passionfruit.

I will call it the VOG:
It was so tasty I almost lost my opportunity to snap a photo!

If you want to try this tasty beverage, visit the brand's site to see if VeeV is available in a store, bar or restaurant near you. If you're in the Tulsa area, you can try VeeV signature cocktails at Ruby Tuesday. I recommend you stop by and try it- you wont find anything else like it!

VeeV Bellini:
1 1/2 oz VeeV
1 1/2 oz peach nectar
2 oz sparkling wine, prosecco or champagne

VeeV Guava Fizz
1 1/2 oz VeeV
1 1/2 oz guava nectar (Jumex brand is inexpensive and delish)
2 oz sparkling wine, prosecco or champagne

VOG- VeeV-Orange-Guava
2 oz VeeV
2oz guava nectar
2oz orange juice


Avocado Tree: Day 57

I have foliage! Well, it's at least going to be foliage. After two months of faithful watering, this little bugger has done as promised. And only a couple weeks off schedule.
See that little green bit poking out the top? Some day that will be a big, strong fruit-bearing tree. At least in my dreams. If I get one full leaf out of it I will count this as a success!
And check out this pig tail it's growing! It gets longer and longer ever day. I may have to get a bigger bowl.
Here are the links to my other posts with more details into growing your own avocado tree:


What I'm Reading: A Thousand Days in Tuscany

At times, I wish I could be transported somewhere far away. Somewhere where the simplest observances of daily life become noticeable and interesting again. Typically, this requires visiting a culture different from my own- that's where travel literature comes in to play. With in moments of opening the pages you can be picking grapes in the hills of Tuscany or climbing the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

A Thousand Days in Tuscany by Marlena De Blasi, my latest travel lit find, is one that not only satisfies my desire for travel but also my love of food. In the novel, De Blasi chronicles the seasons of her life with her Italian husband after they move from Venice to San Casciano dei Bagni, a province of Siena, Italy.
Shortly after their move, the couple meets Barlozzo, a rustic, Italian character whose daily visits give the reader a peek into the Italian mindset and way of life. The Duke, as he is referred to, also teaches the De Blasies how food is foraged for and prepared in Tuscany. He helps them build their own brick oven for baking bread, pick grapes and chestnuts and even wild greens and truffles. Things you couldn't even imagine doing in suburban America. 

What struck me most about this novel was the beautiful, vivid descriptions of the rustic food De Blasi prepares. Not only could you easily prepare the dish after reading the paragraph but you could almost hear, smell and taste it.  If you're looking for more direction, she graciously provides formal recipes between most chapters. 
By Guido Barberis
Like all good novels, A Thousand Days in Tuscany is not short on romance. You experience the ups and downs in her relationship with her husband as well as the tender love the Duke has for his long time sweetheart. The novel also provides lessons here and there in the origins of some Italian and English words- such as compagna, or companion from con, with, and pane, bread. A person with whom we break bread. It's amazing how learning something so simple can be fascinating and eye-opening.

If you loved Under the Tuscan Sun, you will love the brilliant cultural and gastronomic descriptions De Blasi pours onto every page of this book. Looking for more to read? Visit her Amazon page here for more travel writing and cookbooks. 


Travel Lust Fulfilled: Palo Verde Boat Tour, Costa Rica

Seeing animals in the wild, whether it's a bunny in the backyard or a monkey in the jungle, is one of my favorite things. That's why the Palo Verde boat tour on the Tempisque River in Guanacasta, Costa Rica was my favorite part of the trip (see the rest of it here).
All the girls put on their big, floppy sun hats and we climb into the covered (thankfully) boat. Less ten feet from the dock, we come to a stop and our vision is directed to the branches of a large tree. There, lying lazily, is a group of howler monkeys. Our tour guide informs us they wont move for much but be careful not to make them mad- you might end up needing a shower!
Howler monkey mom and baby
We take off again down the muddy-water river and the driver turns the boat toward some large reeds on the bank. We begin to look around for a creature but it isn't until he points out the small, muddy crocodile that we see what we've stopped for. How does this guy see this stuff? Amazing!
Can you find the animal in this picture?
I spy...
There, on the middle of that tree, is a group of wide-nosed bats. He tells us that they will move in formation like a snake to ward off predators. He splashes water at them and we watch them fly away.
Wide-nosed bats
We come to an intersection leading to a wider part of the river and suddenly someone starts pointing and yelling. Flying across the sky are five scarlet macaws dressed in brilliant colors. The guide tells us how rare it is to see them, let alone so many of them. I get goosebumps. 
Scarlet macaws flying across the sky
The tour only gets better from here. We pull next to the bank to find a group of white-faced monkeys who are checking us out just as much as we're checking out them. We watch them jump from branch to branch to sneak a closer look.
And then, one jumps onto the boat! Once he sees we have no bananas, he was done with us and moves on. This tour is just getting better and better!
We take off down the river, our hands holding down our floppy hats, and pull up to a sandy bank. There, basking in the sun, are over 15 iguanas of all different sizes and colors. 
Like the monkeys, they, too, want to know if we have food and like the monkeys we let them down. Next time!
And now for D's favorite part of the trip. We pull up to a bank where the crocodiles are supposed to hang out and the guide stands up and hollers. Just like that, a big croc comes moseying towards the boat. Apparently, they're friends. 
Since we lack any chicken or snacks (kicking myself!), the guide dangles a plastic bag from a stick to see if he will bite. The croc considers it for a while, but wasn't falling for it. That was a shame because he let D hold the stick!
I cannot not get over all of the amazing things we saw in such a short time. If you ever have an opportunity to go on this tour, or one like it, take it! And don't forget the food- animals like to eat! Speaking of food, the tour was topped off with a traditional Costa Rican lunch- homemade and fabulous!


Livesay Orchards: Delicious, Seasonal Produce

,After last weekend's Porter Peach Festival, we were itching to bring home some delicious Porter peaches of our own. Though the bushels of peaches sold at the festival auction were tempting, we decided to follow a hunch and the trail of cars that followed the road-side signs to Livesay Orchards. And I'm so glad we did.
We arrived at the largest peach orchard in the state to a crowd of people clamoring to grab a peck of Porter peaches to call their own. There were racks and tables full of beautiful, fragrant peaches, each labeled a different variety. I had no idea there were so many!
We asked an employee to help us decide which kind of peach to buy and he sold us on the Glohaven- the sweetest they had available. I grabbed my peck peaches only shortly before the variety had run out- phew!
Livesay is not just about peaches. They had the most amazing cantaloupe I have ever seen. The fragrance of the sweet fruit permeated the air around it and I just couldn't say no. It smelled like candy! To try my hand out at pickling, I picked up some short and stout cucumbers in a brilliant green. Also available was fresh okra, squash, watermelon, and tomatoes.
In addition to selling some of the freshest fruit I have laid my eyes on, Livesay also sold a variety of peach flavored condiments such as peach butter, jam and salsa and even peach BBQ sauce. I picked up a bottle of sweet sorghum, a syrup similar to molasses that is mentioned in the Lee Bros cookbooks. I'm excited to see what it tastes like and what I can do with it!
Livesay Orchards is a perfect place for a family outing or weekend getaway. Open mid-June to October, you can find the freshest produce of the season Monday through Saturday 8am-6pm and Sunday 1pm-5pm. When the crop is good, you can even pick your own! Peaches in the summer and apples and pumpkins in the fall. Can't wait for that apple pie and big jack-o'-lantern that is to come!

Livesay Orchards
39232 E 231st St S
Porter, OK 74454


Porter Peach Festival

The peach has a short window in which to find that perfectly ripe, sweet and juicy specimen. So it's no wonder that the Porter Peach Festival in Porter, Oklahoma was crawling with visitors even with temperatures soaring into the 100s.  For the past few years I have been itching to go to the festival, held the second weekend in July a short drive from Tulsa, and this past weekend I got to try all the peach goodies I could find.
We arrived on Main Street, Porter shortly after the parade had finished to find a charming street lined up and down with amusement rides, artists, vendors, and lots and lots of food, including all of your fair favorites. This was my kind of place! We perused the stands and formed our plan of attack for trying as many peach-flavored treats as possible. But first- lunch.
An Indian Taco. Chewy fry bread topped with seasoned ground beef, beans, lettuce, cheese and salsa. No, there were no peaches in this. It's a crime I know, but it was so good!

While enjoying our most healthy meal we sipped on peach iced tea. This wasn't peach-scented tea like you can buy at the store, this was tea bursting with peach flavor and made with fresh Porter peaches. Absolutely incredible.
After the tea, I was excited for dessert. Warm peach cobbler, rich in cinnamon topped with ice cream and peach ice- like a fresh peach icee and packed with flavor.

If you were looking to take some of the festival home with you, there were plenty of local organizations selling homemade cobblers, breads, butters and jams all celebrating the Porter Peach. I searched my hardest to find a copy of the festival's cook book but no luck. They must have already sold out!

But the festival isn't all about digging into peachy dishes. Miss Peach and her court helped auction off bushels of peaches to raise money for local organizations- and they went for hundreds of dollars! Those are some good peaches!
Also part of the festivities was a 5K run, Miss Peach Pageant, dog contests, car show, live music and turtle races to name a few. Yes, turtle races. I'm sad I missed that one!

As you can see, this is no small affair for the Peach Capital of Oklahoma. And they have reason to be proud of their delicious fruit! Want to buy some peaches of your own? Get them while they last at Livesay Orchards and The Peach Barn and Orchard.

Not sure what to do with all of your peaches? Check out these recipe collections:


Dining Out: Bamboo Thai Bistro

After working up an appetite whiffing golf balls at LaFortune park, D and I decided to try the Thai restaurant on the corner- Bamboo Thai Bistro. With its plain facade and strip mall local I learned not to judge a book by its cover. Things are not always as they seem!

Though its name professes it to be a bistro, I was shocked to find that it actually looked like a bistro inside. The interior was freshly decorated and the modern, crisp white china added to the sophisticated look. Most importantly- the food was affordable and fantastic. We had just found a diamond in the rough!

I had a hankering for Thai food last week when I was stuck in the house post surgery and I wanted nothing else but Bamboo Thai Garden. Luckily, when you're sick people are there to help you with things like odd cravings and pain medicine. D was nice enough to agree to pick up the order and even sacrifice his choice in entree for the sake of research.

To start: Fresh Rolls with peanut sauce and Crab Ragoons.

The Fresh Rolls ($3.95), rice paper stuffed with veggies, shrimp, pork and rice noodles, were crisp and refreshing  and the Crab Ragoon ($4.95) was stuffed with more crab than anywhere I have seen. Dine in and you get those tasty shrimp chips- you know, the ones that look like styrofoam and taste kind of curious but you eat the whole basket anyways?

I chose the Chicken Drunken Noodle ($8.55) for D to try:

Tasty, wide, rice noodles with a flavorful brown sauce along with onions, scallions, bamboo, bean sprouts, basil and egg. If you like things spicy they will prepare it for you as hot as you like. D and I both loved this dish- the noodles were light but there was nothing subtle about the sauce. Delicious!

The first time we dinned in at Bamboo Thai Bistro I ordered the Pad Thai- which was super tasty- and D got the Pad Thai Curry. Once again I was plagued by dish envy. So this time I got myself the Chicken Pad Thai Curry ($8.55) and I have a hard time believing I will ever order anything but:

This dish is fabulous because it has the wonderful, warm taste and the creaminess of curry with the brightness of the Pad Thai so that it is not too rich. And I love rice noodles- my favorite!

If one of these dishes doesn't do it for you, check out their other menu offerings at the Urbanspoon link below. Tom Yum Soup, Basil Fried Rice and Peanut Curry caught my eye!

The next time your are looking for good Thai food and want to be nice to your wallet, give Bamboo Thai Bistro a try!

Bamboo Thai Bistro on Urbanspoon


Travel Lust Fulfilled: Costa Rica

I've kept you in the lurch for a while on my Costa Rican vacation. Let me tell you- it was wonderful! At the end of a lot of vacations, you're ready to come home and resume normal life- not this one. I don't think I've worn a watch since I've been back!

We traveled to the Guanacasta region on Pacific coast for a wedding and stayed at the beautiful, all inclusive Villa Cascada. The accommodations were fabulous- great food, awesome pool and they were very helpful in planning excursions. I highly recommend it for your destination wedding or family get-together.

A short walk from the villa was a beautiful, black sand beach with a bar and grill right off the beach.

I loved Costa Rica because it was such a laid back experience and was incredibly beautiful. Everywhere you looked there were beautiful plants and animals- mimosa trees, mango and papaya trees, plants we only have here indoors, birds, butterflies, iguanas! And just wait until I tell you about the river boat tour!

We spent one day wandering around the city of Coco, a short cab ride from the villa. Lined with souvenir shops, bars, eateries, and oddly enough quite a few Italian restaurants, we enjoyed walking up and down the main street and seeing the sights. We also popped into the local grocery store to pick up some coffee and hot sauce to take home- I always think it's interesting to see what they're like in other countries!

After spending the rest of the afternoon playing in the waves and lying on the beach, we stumbled across a beachfront restaurant and had the best meal of the entire trip. A typical Costa Rican meal consists of rice and beans, plantains, a small salad and a meat. We decided to have the fish and fifteen minutes later they bring out a whole, fried red snapper. It was incredible.

As a gift to the guests, we took a sunset cruise on a beautiful sail boat, the Don Bosco. I hear it's for sale- any takers? Sail boats are one of my favorite things. I haven't been on many but they are gorgeous and nothing beats that feeling of cruising through the water with the wind in your sail. And I also love just being by the water- it has an instantly calming effect on me.

If you are looking for a tropical getaway, give Costa Rica a thought.  Rental cars are relatively cheap- it makes it easy to check out the volcanos, waterfalls and hot springs with ease. We only scratched the surface of things to do there!

Coming up soon- our Paolo Verde river boat tour experience!