Friday, July 18, 2014

The Colors of South Beach, Miami

We just returned from one of our favorite, relaxing and restorative places. What I noted on this annual trip were colors. South Beach bursts with color, sometimes vivid and bold, other times soft hued and complimentary. Whether it was the brightest of blue skies on a brilliant day, or the steely grey skies of a storm tossed afternoon, the delicate pastel highlights of myriad art deco buildings, or the hot colors that make Ocean Drive shine at night, I was acutely aware of color this time.
Mornings on Miami beach are generally soft and muted. A contrast to the bright, colorful heat of a scorching day. I have come to believe a walk along the beach is a beautiful way to start any day.

This year we were back at hotel living. While I missed the lived in feel of a condo, the privacy, and a full kitchen to cook in, I luxuriated in being taken care of. Coming back to a cleanly made up room and bathroom, full concierge breakfasts and light dinners available daily, and the nicest and most attentive people greeting you when you return and opening doors for you? Well, sometimes that beats grocery shopping and cooking and cleaning. It was downright decadent. And to be able to do this in the newly renovated Marriott Stanton South Beach, with it's new sleek, cool, soft toned rooms was a bonus.

This was our bathroom when we moved to our suite for the last two days. I lingered as I got ready here.

We arrived late in the evening our first night, and what awaited us was a large cheese and fruit platter, a lovely bottle of wine, and a small chocolate lava cake  in celebration of my daughter's graduation.  Our daughters had their own room this time (double decadence!) and they were greeted with a cookie and candy platter and soft drinks (because of the under 21 year old). So, the next day I took a moment to sit in bed, have a glass of wine and look out at the view. I have come to love white duvets. Cool, crisp, inviting, a perfect compliment to any colored room. 

Our balcony provided the perfect birds eye view

of the beautiful changing colors of the ocean, walking paths, and colorful umbrellas that dot the beach on one side

and the multicolored view of part of South Beach towards downtown Miami in the distance. On bright, sunshine filled days the view is so vibrant and clear

Our morning walks along the beach and South Point provide some of my favorite views and some of the prettiest condos. A combination of beach, ocean, grassy park areas, and marina, this area just sparkles.

The marina side is always picturesque, not just filled with multicolored docked boats and yachts from all over the country, but with bold, yet sea worn colored container ships, flashy cruise ships coming and going and the more durable hues of a working port.

One of subtly colored resident marina birds looking for fish to devour

Here's a bit of color that caught my attention - and proof that mermaids exist!

Pre-storm cloudy skies and the Coast Guard coming back into port. Busy as bees the Coast Guard is down there.

and exclusive Fisher Island across the way

Bits of container color across the way at the working port where there is always activity

Our beach days were always spectacular, and with the array of towels, bathing suits and umbrellas, a spectrum of color. Not to mention the ever changing blue-greens of the ocean. (And the occasional shock of red on skin from tourists who overindulged in the sun)

The view from the Marriott's Deco Blue Restaurant and pool area where Miami Beach looks downright tropical.

The past two years 4th of July fireworks were enjoyed from the beach standing ankle deep in the warm ocean. We have been to Miami Beach a few times in July and actually I preferred the July weather over June months in the past. Because our girls have always been in school during high season, we have always gone in either June or July, and it is completely bearable. My body likes hot, humid weather though. I can't speak to the moderate weather of winter there, however, I like the less crowded, slower pace of early summer. I don't think I could handle the spring break crowds either.  And I would definitely put off going in August and into hurricane season.

We only had one really stormy afternoon. The sudden sharp crack of thunder completely caught me by surprise in the room. Florida thunderstorms are different from Colorado ones in that once a storm settles in the thunder is more rolling, and it echoes, and on this  particular day both went on well into the evening. Quite impressive. I admired how everything turned into blue-grey shades under those leaden skies

Within minutes of that first crack of thunder, lifeguard whistles were piercing the air, calling everyone in from the water. Luckily I was not out on the beach at this point. What was unusual was the red flags went up on all the lifeguard houses, the ocean rescue truck drove along the beach with loudspeaker on and actually cleared everyone from the beach. Turned out to be a good thing because the storm system above that moved over the beach and ocean looked pretty dangerous and lightening-filled and hung around.

Famous Ocean Drive strip at night is truly colorful. It's fun to people watch and stroll amongst the crowds along the hotel and restaurant side, but walking  across the street on the ocean side affords the view of the deco hotels all aglow

The watery glowing blue of the Park Central

Sometimes I just like walking around the little neighborhoods of South of Fifth. Many little houses and apartments have cozy little courtyards chock full of tropical plants and ferns. They don't have the views of the large condos that dominate the edges, but there is a definite charm to the residences that appeals to me. Not to mention the prime location.

There's always something to see when looking up. You can't go wrong with the classic palm trees against a blue sky.

Or the huge, weepy trees that are so very different from our Colorado Ash trees and Evergreens. Not to mention the vibrant green Cayman parrots squawking and flying about in them.

There's always a museum exhibit or more to visit on Miami Beach. They have a lovely museum called The Bass museum on North Miami Beach, and the smaller Wolfsonian with changing exhibits and cafe within walking distance of us. A good long walk which is fine with me. We do a lot of walking there, and if it gets too hot there is always an air- conditioned shop, iced coffee stop, or gelato shop somewhere along the way. There is also a good local bus system that goes up and down Miami Beach, and for a quarter you can hop on an air conditioned bus and get to where you want to go pretty quickly. We do that quite often as well.

I love being in South Beach for World Cup. Because it is such a multicultural and international infused area, futbol is highly celebrated. There were countless venues to watch all the exciting matches. All decorated with every one's favorite colors - the bright multicolored flags of their nation.

Our favorite place to view a game was at Monty's lining the marina. This became our go to happy hour spot last year which was a 2 minute walk from our condo. Good fresh raw seafood bar and happy hour drinks and locals and a view. I always prefer to search out the local spots when we travel. You can learn so much more about the rhythm of a city or town that way and the locals are interesting and full of information. 

Yes those are life size floating soccer balls in the pool adjacent to the bar.

Monty's official entryway and it's ever present jaunty guard

And, since it's Friday! 

These are drinks and yes, I've had them all. A minty rum Mojito is always delightful, a Pain Remover is more like a Pina Colada with prominant coconut flavor. My recommendation for today's happy hour, since we're into the toasty days of summer, is a Miami Vice - a mix of a Pina Colada and a daiquiri. So delicious!

Or you could go simple. After one soccer game at Deco Blue the bartender gave everyone at the bar shots of a coconut and fruit infused rum served in these!

In a world of color, black and white is always a soothing, go to, works anywhere combination. Lest you were thinking this was a photo from a gallery or a museum, no, in fact, in a few of my favorite restaurants, the bathrooms are liberally dotted with black and white photos. They obviously think a little black and white is a cool respite from the colorful world of South Beach outside. I love this photo above. It's me in my dreams on the beach.

Speaking of color, check out this song. Love these guys. And, I think this is a very lyrically poetic song... Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Notes From The Country - Bloom Where You Are Planted

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and, taste as sweet! All my roses are in bloom. I love old fashioned roses, the aromas, the petals, the soft colors

and for the 3 weeks or so that most of them shine here, I make the most of them. They amaze me - their complex beauty, their journey from bud to full bloom. Their fragrance at different stages. Little miracles.

They all have such vastly different characteristics if you look closely.

I often pick just one of each every few days and put them in miniature vases or bowls. So lovely, and useful. They make me happy. I make rose petal vinegars, flavored sugar or honey, freeze them in ice cubes, or  make jam.

This year I came across a monastery rose petal jam recipe. I had to try it because so many of my roses have a history hearkening back to those monastery days with monks tending the herbs, flowers, and vegetables, and putting them all to use in food, jam, and wine! This link provides some good instruction on the process. It was fun to make because you massage the rose petals with sugar until it becomes a paste and the smell is intoxicating. (Aside from exacerbating my current, severe grass allergies. But it was totally worth it!)

Every time you take a taste it's like being transported to a rose garden on a hot summer day - complete with stone walls, pergolas, gently cascading fountains, butterflies and big, lazy bumblebees, harp music playing gently in the background, and there are the monks tending the basil and lavender, and the knights are practicing their sword fighting skills by the hedgerow....What?? I don't know what your rose gardens look like but mine are positively medieval...

Rose petal jam ingredients: Apothecary roses, Alba Maxima roses, Loiuse Odier roses, La Reine Victoria roses, William Baffin roses, Belle de Crecy roses, Madame Hardy roses, sugar, water, lemon, patience and time.

My Apothecary rose notes from last year -June 2013

Speaking of monks and such, I made one of my favorite breads last week. This is Straun bread. It hails from this cookbook, called Brother Juniper's Bread Book. It contains cooked brown rice, rolled oats, cornmeal, and wheat bran among other things and you can substitute different grains you may have on hand. It's light and flavorful and I could happily eat it everyday. Chef  Peter Reinhart is quite the authority on bread baking, and, he joined a Christian order as a brother when he was 24. His thoughts on spirituality, knowledge and understanding, and bread making are very interesting. You can read his thoughts here in this interview. Who knew that baking bread could be so profound!

The best thing to go with homemade bread is homemade jam, and, since my rhubarb was ready, I had to go with Strawberry Rhubarb jam. (Alas, not my strawberries)

I used the recipe from this book that graces my cookbook shelves. I love Jessie's story and her blog. She's totally Rurally Screwed - in a good way. The jam recipe from this book has far less sugar than a typical jam recipe, and no store bought pectin. I used less rhubarb than the recipe called for - about a third less, and I pulsed my strawberries and rhubarb in the food processor first because I do not like big chunks of fruit in my jam. Because of the longer cooking time (without the pectin addition), and much less sugar, this jam has a more intense fruit taste instead of a sweet, sugary taste. In other words, delicious! If you like strawberries. And rhubarb. Which I do.

I also made elder flower lemonade because the elder flowers are in their prime, and I happened upon a recipe while browsing. What?? Don't you Google elder flower recipes?  Honestly, after making elder flower cordial last summer and the lemonade this, I realize I am not an elder flower fan.To me it tastes too weedy - and not in a good way. That's just me. By all means go harvest all your elder flowers, shake the bugs out, follow one of the recipes for wine, syrup, cordial or lemonade on the Internet and go for it. 

All the above goodness I made in one day. Why? Well, this. The pastures are blooming. The breeze is blowing. And I'm hiding indoors with the filtered, moist air of the swamp cooler. I never had allergies growing up in The City, however, over time here I developed pasture grass and corn pollen allergies (so said the allergist). Oddly enough, I live in the country surrounded by pastures and corn fields. Yeah. The thing is we've been gone for the worst part of my allergy season over the past few years in my dream heaven know as South Beach, Miami. Circumstances prevented our June trip this year and I am once again feeling the full brunt of my surroundings. I try to go outside only twice a day right now. Feed the animals, collect eggs, water plants, pick a few weeds, listen to the birds, and pick roses and other flowering things. Then I run back inside, rinse out the sinuses and eyes, change clothes and try to recover. My day full of jam making and such was a lovely, indulgent way to celebrate the beginning of summer indoors. You know, "bloom where you are planted", "find the joy in the present" and all that...  

Oh, by the way, Miami here we come!!!!!  Let's celebrate!  I made this cocktail at the end of my jam making day, with Vodka (only the best please), a dash of homemade bitters from last summer, and a smidgen of rose petal paste before cooking it into jam, shaken until icy cold - with little rosy ice crystals floating on top. It was quite refreshing with a hint of knightly sweetness. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Notes From the Country - Country Roads, Comfort Food, and, of course, Aprons

 There were some new faces on our road this past week. This is the time of year calves are weaned and on their own and being curious, baby hawks have found their wings (and their voices - which they use to screech with all day long), baby skunks are exploring their surroundings with their parents (outside our front door), foxes are out in force "grocery shopping" for their young (at my chicken house), and horses and alpacas seem to think the grass is always greener in someone else's
pasture (or the front yard)

This is one of neighbor's horses on the outside of her fence. She was on the road munching on the grass by the ditch one evening when we went for a walk.

When you live in the country things like this periodically happen. Over the years we've helped round up various horses, cows, dogs, even a cat during really windy weather, and we've had neighbors show up at our door with our dog ("Missing a Corgi?) or a phone call saying they've seen our alpacas wandering up the road. It happens.

No matter the time they've been out, they're always excited to get back home and their pasture mates are always excited to have them back. This was the pre-excitement face saying, "Hurry up and get her back in here"

Do you realize just how many feathers there are on a chicken? Ok, I haven't actually counted, but let me tell you there are so, so many. I wouldn't have showed you this picture if my chicken had actually succumbed to the fox. Fortunately,  years of living here have honed my hearing instincts to recognize those routine animal noises and those out of the ordinary. A chicken squawking wildly after the sun sets is not in the realm of ordinary. I've learned to run very fast when I hear sounds like this and so when I heard this sound last week I was out of my bedroom, down the stairs, and out the back door in record time.

As I ran outside I saw white feathers blanketing green grass, my chicken down by the pasture fence, and a fox right beside.  The fox actually hesitated as if to decide how much of a threat I was. As I started yelling - not in a pretty way - he took off and I was left with an injured chicken in shock. (Mouth hanging open, not moving, panicked look in her eye - ok I made up that last part) After much spritzing of antibiotic/antibacterial spray to the open wound, and holding, petting, and comforting with soothing words (It calms them!), she is healing and has forgotten the whole episode. 

And all these feathers were just from under her wing! Moving along,

I have been craving green drinks lately. Fresh, fresh, fresh. I love how these fruits and vegetables...

 turn into this (with the help of a good juicer). Fresh, organic, healthy fruits and vegetables for us, and the leftovers for the chickens! There are so many recipes out there for green drinks, but honestly I just add some of this and some of that, a little veg and a little sweet fruit and it ends up really delicious!

 I usually reserve this type of food for the winter months, but there was a cool day recently, and I had ground beef and potatoes, and discovered my new favorite food blog so Shepherds Pie it was!

The potato crust was blended with roasted garlic, uh huh, and the filling had all kinds of goodness in it. The recipe actually called for Guinness beer, which I did not happen to have (I only have Guinness in the house on St Patrick's Day), however, a good bottle of red wine? Well, yes!
 This was the best Shepherds Pie! So full of flavor with a great consistency, topped with the garlic mashed potatoes, and cheese. I am definitely going to make this one again. Here's the link. Jonathan is so funny and comes up with deliciously different takes on recipes. And his photos are gorgeous.  I've made a few of his other recipes. Blt sliders. Again I changed his recipe a bit. I made a fresh herb mayo because I didn't have avocado, but orange marmalade to top it off? Amazing! And grilled chicken Caesar salad. (Not just grilled chicken but grilled lettuce and homemade grilled croutons!) So refreshing and unique. 

Finishing up my new apron shorties. Simple, easy, when you just want a bit of coverage, for endless uses! This is the Up Cycled Shortie. Coffee bean bag in this case.

The Whimsy Shortie. Collecting eggs? Gardening? Or just having a bit of fun in the kitchen.

Coming to my shop - well - sometime soon!

ps. Will have options for guys and girls!