Food

Eating Lean & Green Cookbook

Hi there lovely people, Okay, so I'm continuing my theme this week of celebrating the women around me and all the amazing things they are accomplishing!

Today, I wanted you to meet my dear friend, Katie Marreel! You know the friend that is just good at whatever she does...yeah that's Katie! Creative, brilliant, kind, caring - you know that good to the core kinda person - well, Katie pretty much rocks and I feel super lucky to have had her in my life as a close friend and one of my best brain storming buddies!! Nothing better than another entrepreneurial girl to keep you going! So check this out...

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She has just launched her first cookbook and I couldn't be more proud! Woo!!!

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I have witnessed her toil lovingly over this project for a looong time but the finished product is beyond gorgeous!! Go to her website to check out this beautifully written and photographed (by Katie herself) cookbook. Chock full of delicious, healthy recipes!

So you can get to know her a little better, I decided a little impromptu interview was in order! Just like her book, she's bursting with great information and healthy tips for busy families and health minded individuals alike!

Okay here goes....So Katie.....

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What is your personal relationship like with food and fitness? (hint hint…tell us about your story. ;)

My story begins nearly 60 lbs. and 15 years ago with a quest to transform my body into something healthier. The first several years brought many new diets and exercise programs, some of which failed, and others that made their own small contribution to weight loss. Nothing, however, came close to achieving the ultimate goal.  Then I discovered the Medifast 5 & 1 Meal Plan© through Take Shape for Life©. With guidance from my physician, I followed the program and experienced radical results. I lost weight beyond my expectations and built an entirely new relationship with food. Six years later, I’m still maintaining a goal weight. Eating Lean & Green has become a way of life.

My relationship with food and fitness is always changing and growing. There are so many ideas from experts in the field, I find that I am always studying and learning as much as I can. 

When it comes to food, I have learned to think about it as fuel to power my body, and I find deep satisfaction in eating things that are nutritious.  Old emotional eating habits, using food as a reward and a comfort, continue to fade away as new healthier habits take over.  There is no reward sweeter than the satisfaction of having made the right choices!

Fitness is something I have always been passionate about, and I am dedicated to keeping it a regular part of life. I like to change it up and try new things. From yoga and strength training to running and tennis, I’m always keeping my body moving.  Although it can be exhausting in the moment, I know that it does so many healing and restorative things for our bodies. It’s worth every drop of sweat.

What was your inspiration in creating this cookbook?

As a person who has struggled with weight for most of my life, my inspiration comes from a deeply-rooted desire to help others on the same journey.  I am passionate about sharing healthy and nutritious meals that are also incredibly satisfying and delicious.  Losing weight doesn’t have to taste bad!

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What are your top three tips for incorporating healthy eating into your everyday family life?

#1:  Plan, plan, plan. It may not be the most fun task, but getting familiar with the nutritional value of your food and making a daily plan is the best thing you can to reach your goals.  I write down all the foods I plan to eat each day before I go to bed. If I’m going out to a restaurant, I will check out the menu online ahead of time and know ahead of time what I am going to order.

#2:  Don’t force it. Learning to be selective with your own foods while offering a few options for others will go a long way to getting them excited about being healthful. Forcing food choices on others will only drive them away from healthy eating.  Not everyone in my house eats on such a restrictive plan as I do, especially the kids who need more carbohydrates. The core of every dinner I cook is a healthy lean and green meal, but I will often serve a starch like beans or grains on the side to make it more satisfying for them. 

#3:  Make a daily habit. Whether you choose to read a book or magazine, listen to a podcast , or go online, spending an hour of time each day thinking about health and nutrition will make a big difference in your ability to incorporate healthy eating into your everyday life.  It will keep you focused and give you a better knowledge base to make wise decisions.

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What changes have you seen within your life and your families by implementing these healthy practices?

One noteworthy change has been in my own sense of identity and being comfortable with my body. Losing weight and maintaining it has brought a great deal of self-confidence and has opened the door to trying lots of new and exciting things in life that I might have been intimidated by otherwise.

The most exciting thing to see is the effect on people around me.  By living out a healthy lifestyle, I get to be an example for others who have a similar goal, but may have lost hope or gotten frustrated in the process.  My conversation often falls into the topics of health and nutrition because it’s something I get really excited about. I love getting to share new ideas about food that show people being healthful can also taste incredibly delicious. It’s a win win!

She's inspiring right? Katie is so passionate about helping others live a healthier life!

Now don't be shy...you can visit her at her website or Facebook too! Go say hi! ;)

Thanks for chatting with us Katie! You go girl!

xo,

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Art Night

Hello! How's it going? Hope all is well in your world. My family enjoyed Halloween and now we are on the fast track to Christmas. This time of year always seems to zip by doesn't it? Many months ago, I imagined myself hosting an art night. A small gathering. Maybe 6-8 women, around my dining table, all creating. The idea both thrilled and terrified me. I talked about it with several friends and received gentle encouragement to do it. So finally, it happened. A couple of weeks ago, I sent out invites and began the planning of what this night would look like. I wanted to provide lots of fun art supplies, an inspiring atmosphere, delicious snacks and wine, of course!

My formal dining room is rarely used so it was a delight to move right in and create a playful, creative space! Stringing up bits of colorful ribbon in my crystal chandelier gave the room a whimsical feel!

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I covered up the table in brown craft paper and draped the dining chairs in vintage bed sheets that I found at Goodwill.

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To provide a little more structure for those that wanted it, I set up a still life in the center of the table.

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and spread out inspiring art books...

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Each lovely lady got a journal with their initial on it and a pencil as a little gift from me. I love having lots of pretty journals around to jot down thoughts and ideas.

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A colorful, vintage tray and a bouquet of vibrant flowers in the corner created a sweet little wine bar. The guests each brought a bottle of something to share.

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Once the table was set, it was time for me to pull out all my art supplies and display them for my guests! The ART BAR was born!

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Then came the food! My dear friend Katie is an amazing cook and she volunteered to do all the food for the evening! LOVE HER! She did an incredible job...creating a 98% gluten-free spread of delectable dishes! (I apologize for the dark quality of the pictures...my low-light photography skills need work!)

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This creamy brie, drizzled with a warm brown sugar, butter and walnut sauce was a huge hit!

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These gluten-free cookies and pumpkin cake were completely addictive too!

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As the night began and my guests mingled and delighted in all the gorgeous food, I could feel the butterflies in my stomach begin to settle.

Once everyone had a plate of food and a glass of wine, the ladies took their seats and I spoke (rambled) about the intention of the night and why I had wanted to do this. My heart-felt desire was to bring women together, to connect, share, grow, create and maybe even try something new. Art can really freak grown-ups out and I want to start breaking that down. I believe art is for everyone and that it is NOT about the product but the process. I believe Art can be healing, transformative and teach us a lot about ourselves. I believe that creating is something we are hard-wired to do.

After I briefly explained the different art supplies, the ladies bravely got straight to it. I was so worried that someone would become overwhelmed and shut down but nope, these girls boldly experimented and began creating! I was honored to look up from my place and be surrounded by these women who were all willing to be vulnerable with me and get outside their box.

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There were several moments that night when the room fell silent. At a dinner party...that could be a disaster but at an art night...it was magical. Everyone was in their zone; concentrating, relaxing and centered in their creation. Loved that!

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All in all, it was a wonderful night! I can't wait to do it again! Next time, I would like to guide everyone through a specific collage/mixed media project! I truly learned a lot about myself by doing this. I was scared but sharing my passion with others was so worth all the nerves. Thank you to my incredibly gracious guests for being so open and supportive of me. And of course a HUGE thank you to Katie for all the outstanding treats!

I highly recommend trying this out with your friends, family and neighbors. Gather up all those art supplies, share and explore your creativity!

xo,

Ivy

Still life.

Hi all! How are you? We just got back from a weekend away in the Oregon Wine Country and it was blissful. I will be posting some pics from our trip tomorrow. In the meantime, I wanted to share a little still life I photographed last week. My sweet husband had picked up a whole box or beautiful, organic, California mandarins for me when I was desperately needing the Vitamin C.  I couldn't help but be captivated by their beauty. Paired with some of my antique, English ironstone plates they are still life worthy...

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They taste as good as they look too!

I'm hoping to make this a regular column on my blog. I love setting up still life compositions and capturing them.

Hope your week is off to a great start!

xo,

Ivy

 

Tea for Two

Last week, I picked Grace up from school at noon so we could go have lunch together. She begged me to take her back to the "magical tea house"...also known as the Lady Di's Tea Room. How could I say no to that? Of course, my camera joined us...

Oh so serious...not for long...

the most lovely sweet potato soup and cheddar and tomato sandwiches...yum! Cheese on toast for Grace...

Sweet primroses blooming outside the window next to our table...

for dessert a plate of the most delicious English shortbread! It went fast...I almost missed a photo op!

Sitting there with her, watching the rain outside and nibbling our sandwiches, I couldn't help but wonder if we were making a memory that would stay with her. I hoped so. My mom used to take me out for lunches like this, just the two of us and I always felt so special. I had her undivided attention and she smiled and listened to all my stories patiently. If I can make Grace feel that same love, that same importance...then perhaps, one day, she will do the same for her child. When I so often feel that I'm not doing enough for her...it felt good to see the happiness in her eyes and hear the excitement in her voice.

A good Mom day.

xo,

Royal Wedding Cake Designer

I don't know about you, but I'm really excited for the Royal Wedding! A prince, a princess, a gorgeous dress, a famous city, an amazing ring...I mean what's not to love? Growing up in Australia, we were very focused on the Royals, following their every move and relishing in all that lovely (and not so lovely) gossip. I even got to see Princess Diana in person when she and her entourage paraded through Sydney's Royal Botanical Gardens one summer. It's such a vivid memory to me. Her gilded horse-drawn carriage glided through the crowd as onlookers craned their necks to catch a glimpse of her beauty. She waved and smiled - a perfect princess.  As the carriage came closer, I ran to the front of the crowd and (I swear) she looked right at me and waved! I frantically waved back, grinning like a fool! I was starstruck. I was twelve and I can see it like it was yesterday...

With a childhood memory like that, it's no surprise I'm a little obsessed with the upcoming Royal nuptials! Today, I found myself perusing the official Royal Wedding site and  I couldn't resist checking out the chosen cake designer, Fiona Cairns. A perfect wedding needs the perfect cake, of course! No pressure. From what I can tell via Fiona's website, I think she will deliver a gorgeous, whimsical cake...check out these pics of her work...

Beautiful right? So will you be watching the event? My TiVo is all set to record!

xo,

 

All images via fionacairns.com

Etsy Love: Macaron Magic

Lately, I've been wanting to buy macarons. Not because I have a craving, or I want to give them as a gift...I just want to take pictures of them. Yah...I know it sounds weird but I have seen the most gorgeous photos of macarons and I want to give it a try! I've almost ran out to Pix to get some...but I decided to head to Etsy for some inspiration first! My dear friend, Amy referred me to the beautiful work of Havilah...a local Portland photographer! Her Etsy shop - dearmachine has some lovely images! Check out these delightful photographs of this most famous French cookie...

So pretty right? I love that something so simple as a baked good can look so special. Almost as enchanting as a cupcake...

xo,

 

p.s. want to try making them yourself? here's a recipe from Martha. ;)

 

all images via dearmachine

Link Love

Hello friends,

Image via weheartit

Yesterday it was perfectly rainy here in Portland. (Surprise, surprise)...and I was roaming through blogland with my hot cup of tea.

I discovered so many pretty things to show you that I was having an inspiration overload, so I thought the best thing to do would just share some of my favorites with you.

A little link love is in order. Ready? Okay let's go...click away!

Discover the snow-covered Amsterdam landscapes by visiting one of my favorite bloggers...Pia.

Enjoy some curated mood board inspiration from Melissa.

Virtually thumb through one of the loveliest online magazine around...Lonny.

Feel like baking something beautiful? Stop over at Aran's for some gorgeous deliciousness...aka...Pear and Hazelnut Tarts!

How about some holiday cheer from one of my favorite artists? Head over to see Geninne...

Hope you have fun persusing some of my favorite blog hangouts. Enjoy!

xo,

Happy Thanksgiving

Hello friends, Tonight my brother came over to make pumpkin pie with Grace.

It was so sweet. He patiently measured out each ingredient and then allowed her to add it to the bowl. With her tiny hands, she carefully emptied each cup or spoonful, making sure she didn't spill a drop. I stood back to observe the magic and take pictures...

Grace didn't like the sound of the mixer but managed a smile for me.

The pumpkin pies won't win any prizes for beauty but they tasted delicious and my brother and Grace got to bond.  I'm so thankful to have him living here in Portland! It means so much to me that Grace will grow up knowing her Aunt and Uncle.

I hope tomorrow, your family and friends will experience the delight of preparing delicious food together! Being surrounded by those we love is something I will always be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

xo,

Vicarious Vacations # 4: Luxembourg

Hello friends and Happy Friday! Welcome to our last Vicarious Vacation. I know the previous destinations have been off the beaten path but I couldn't resist taking you here. Like many girls, I have a soft place in my heart for fairytale castles. So far...the only one I've ever seen, is the one in Disney World and frankly, I don't think that counts. So, I decided to take you to the a land where fairytales castles were born - we are headed to gorgeous Luxembourg.

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When you are surrounded by three of Europe's most beautiful countries - Germany, France and Belgium - it's hard not to be amazing! Map - here. The history of Luxembourg dates back to the year 963. Over the centuries, its territory may have diminished but it still stands as the richest country in the world and is often referred to as the "Green heart" of Europe. Beyond material wealth and banking success, Luxembourg offers a culturally diverse population, fantastic food and wine, breathtaking landscapes and an impressive art and theater scene. Oh, and then there are the castles...did I mention that already? Yes...there are over a dozen castles in this magical land. It makes my heart skip a little beat...

So where shall we stay you ask? We came here for fairy tales and I intend to deliver...Welcome to Chateau d'Urspelt. A castle fit for a princess right? This romantic castle has a 300 year old history and was terribly damaged in World War II.  In 2005, Mr. Freddy Lodomez came across this diamond in the rough, instantly fell in love and committed to having the Chateau restored to its original beauty. Thank you Freddy! What a prince!

Images via Chateau d'Urspelt

Lovely isn't it? That claw-foot tub will be a fabulous treat later on.  I will try and contain the girlish squeals...but isn't this place to die for!

Let's go for a stroll...

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This is the Grand Ducal Palace and official residence of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg - Henri and his lovely wife,  the Grand Duchess Maria Teresa.

A fairytale destination would not be complete without some Royalty, after all. As for Henri's heir - Guillaume (William)...

well he fits the Prince bill rather nicely...don't you think? Okay, enough Royal gawking...let's keep exploring...

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Ahh...here we are at the Place d'Armes or as the locals refer to it - Plëss. It is truly the city's living room and a fantastic place to people watch, listen to some live music and grab lunch at one of the numerous outdoor cafes. I've got the perfect one in mind...

Play to listen to the sounds of the plaza...

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Here we are at Le Cafe Francais, one of the oldest brasseries' in the city. Are you ready for some delicious food? They prepare a mix of French and Luxembourg style dishes here.  Luxembourg's food is inevitably influenced by neighboring France and Germany, resulting in a rich blend - the delicacies of French cuisine artfully entwined with the robust, heartiness of Germanic dishes.  More recently the cultural influence of Luxembourg's Portuguese immigrants is also emerging within many of Luxembourg's recipes. You won't leave the table hungry, that's for sure. So let's have a taste...

To pair with our meal, I have selected a lovely dry white wine, typical of the region or if you feel like bubbles, we can toast to our adventure with the local sparkling wine, Crémant de Luxembourg! Cheers!

Let's start with a classic Luxembourg dish: Nettle Soup. Ever had this? I haven't! Often served in the Spring, Nettle soup has a subtle, grassy taste, sweet and mild made rich with lovely cream and potatoes.

On to our next course...oooh...I don't know about you but I am a total sucker for mussels!! So succulent, with all that buttery, wine sauce to sop up. Here in Luxembourg (in the French tradition) it is often served with pomme frites! Yum! This wildly popular dish is served in the months that have an "r". October works, lucky for us. Here's a recipe straight from the region. Recipe. Make sure you use a German or French Riesling for your sauce to make it truly Luxembourg style.

Okay dessert anyone? You know we can't leave that out. How about some Questscheflued? aka Plum Tart - a local favorite. And no, I don't know how to pronounce it. Dig in! It looks delightful and it's heart shaped! Too cute. Recipe.

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Now that our tummies are full, I think it's time to tour a real castle! We are heading to Vianden. It's about an hour north of the city and is a beautiful medieval town, famous for its stunning castle and charming village. Let's hop on the bus, I for one, can't get into that castle quick enough!

*squeal* - sorry I couldn't help it! Look the castle is up ahead!!

Isn't it simply amazing? Straight from a storybook!  A little history: The castle was built between the 11th and 14th centuries and became the seat of the counts of Vianden. It was further developed until the 18th century but with the departure of the Counts of Luxembourg to the Netherlands combined with the effects of fire and an earthquake, it slowly deteriorated. The final blow came in 1820 when William I of the Netherlands sold it to a local merchant who in turn sold off its contents and masonry piecemeal, reducing it to a ruin. There were several attempts at restoration but these were hampered by problems of ownership. Victor Hugo lived in the castle for three months in 1871.Not until 1977, when Grand Duke Jean ceded the castle to the State, was it possible to undertake large-scale work, most of which has now been completed. - Wikipedia

Let's go take the tour!

Check out the view overlooking the town of Vianden...gorgeous...

Can you imagine cooking up a feast in this kitchen?

Here is the castle's chapel.

Oh, is that a wishing well?

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What shall we wish for? World peace? A castle of our very own? How about free plane tickets to anywhere in the world? hmmm...

Alright my friends, I think I will have to leave you here. While you ponder over your wish, I want to wish all of you the best and thank you for coming along with me on these Vicarious Vacations. I hope you have enjoyed them. I know I have. Thanks to Flickr for being a wellspring of beautiful images and talented photographers. In the future, I will be doing more travel pieces. As you may have noticed, Grace and Ivy is in a state of evolution. Lots of changes are to come and I hope you will stick with me. I promise to continue bringing you beautiful posts that hopefully give you some inspiration. Thank you for all your input. I love reading your comments. Till our next adventure...

Have a gorgeous weekend.

xo,

Audio via freesound.org

http://www.vianden-info.lu/en/gallery/4/vianden-attractions.html?pageID=6

Vicarious Vacations #2: Ronda, Spain

Happy Friday! Ready for our next fabulous trip? I am! Today we are headed to Ronda, an ancient city in the Spanish province of Málaga. Map here. Spending time with you in Tuscany last week was simply amazing but we have much to look forward to today.  Strolling through this historic town, we are sure to encounter breathtaking views, sip Spanish wines and munch on traditional delights. A dash of culture and a little history are on the agenda too. We have to be well-rounded travelers right? Okay, enough chit chat...let's go!

Image via flexijourney.com

Let me introduce you to Ronda. No, it's not the girl from accounting but rather an incredible city dating back to Neo-lithic times. Yes, I'm talking cave paintings and they have real ones here seen in the Cueva de la Pileta. From the Celts, to the Romans and the Moors, this city has a long standing in the history books.  Perched 750 meters above sea level, overlooking the El Tajo canyon it offers majestic views of the surrounding valley.

Now that you have been formally introduced, let's check into our hotel...

I searched and searched to find us the perfect haven. Just outside of town I found this jewel - Hotel la Fuente de la Higuera! Expensive? Of course, but if you are going to vicariously travel you have to go BIG!  Isn't it gorgeous?

Listen to the beautiful sounds of the Spanish countryside...(this is an actual recording from this area in Spain)

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We must come back here to watch the sun set over the valley and delight in a large glass of wine...

The grounds are simply divine...let's go inside and check out our room!

Oh my...

Images via hotellafuente.com

I hope this will do! Now, come on let's head back into town and explore. I'm getting hungry, as usual.

To cross into Ronda we will traverse one of its three impressive bridges.

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Let's go exploring...

Listen to the sounds of the city...

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Oooh...look at this beautiful, hand painted pottery! All the gorgeous colors of Spain...might have to get some of these. Shop for them here.

Speaking of dishes...I'm getting a tad peckish... and I just happen to know that Don Miguel is the place to eat!

Images via DonMiguel

Perched along the cliff side this dramatic hotel and restaurant are famous for the fantastic views and traditional cuisine. Let's try some local dishes! Are you game?

Let's start with gazpacho. Mmm...a lovely cold tomato soup that got its start right here in Southern Spain. Recipe here.

We simply must have the Paella! It's quite famous here! A sumptuous mix of seafood, spiced sausage and meats, fresh herbs and rice, get ready to seriously eat your fill!  Recipe.Let's wash it all down with a fine bottle of Spanish wine. In Ronda, wine is a serious business with a 6000 year old history. They even have a Museum of Wine! This is my kind of place.

What's that? Your sweet tooth is complaining...no worries, let's feast on some Churros con Chocolate!

Translation: Fried dough dipped in warm, rich, chocolate...sigh...drool. Recipe.

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What's next? Oh right...we have to get our culture/history fix.

Did you know that modern bullfighting originated here? Ronda's bullring is the oldest and most ornate in the country. In the 18th century bullfighters went from horseback to the pedestrian matador that we think of today. Ronda's own famous fighter was Pedro Romero, who apparently slayed many thousands of bulls without injury. You may think that this bullring sees regular use but today, the sport is more of an annual event. I'm sure the bulls appreciate this.

Every girl likes a spa but how about an ancient bath house? Sound intriguing? Let's take a little walk and head below the city to the Arab Baths dating back to the 11th century.

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These bath ruins are some of the best preserved in Europe. Amazing aren't they? It's no coincidence that the baths are at the entrance to the city, since Ronda was the gateway to a large Muslim population who believed that one must purify themselves upon entering.  It's fascinating to understand what it took to heat the waters. I'm a bit of a nerd when it comes to anything anthropological, so if you are curious and want to learn more watch this video.

Okay all that eating, drinking and learning has made me rather tired. Let's head back to the hotel and nap, poolside.

Ahhh...that was a lovely trip wasn't it? I so enjoyed learning about this incredible town. So full of history!

What did you like on our trip? Have you ever actually been to Spain?

Thank you for joining me. Next week we will be headed to beautiful Greece! Don't miss it!

xo,

p.s. If you are wondering why I didn't take us to the big cities of Spain or Italy, it is because I am trying to focus on the more hidden spots...the not so obvious destinations. I feel like it gives us more of a sense of discovery...finding secret places to explore. Make sense?

Audio via freesound.org

http://www.flickr.com/photos/deftgurl/4603347839/#

Vicarious Vacation # 1 : Casole d'Elsa

Happy Friday and welcome to our Vicarious Vacation. Today, I'm going to whisk us off to the quaint, little town of Casole d'Elsa in the hills of Tuscany. Strolling down the ancient cobblestone alleyways, decadent wine tastings, a visit to the Siena marketplace, a brush with history and of course a large helping of the local food are all on the agenda. Sound good? Okay, come on!

Image via casalecapita

Let me tell you a little bit about this beautiful town. Casole D'Elsa is located in the Tuscany region in the province of Siena. Conveniently located between Florence and Siena, it provides a peaceful respite from the bigger, touristy cities. See map here. Pedestrian friendly streets, intimate cafes and a few notable historic attractions should keep us busy but not overwhelmed. Leaving plenty of time to soak in the Italian sun, sip Chianti and gobble up the local delicacies. Now where are we staying, you ask? Well...

I hope you don't mind but I booked us into a rather fancy hotel just outside of town. I think we deserve it, don't you? Welcome to the Relais La Suvera. Steeped in history this medieval fort turned sumptuous Mediterranean villa is our place of relaxation and refuge after all that sightseeing. Sigh...isn't it simply dreamy!?

Ready to see your room? Images via Relais La Suvera

Fit for a princess right? Okay, freshen up and let's go exploring. I know you are tired from the trip but it's nothing a glass of Chianti can't fix! Besides, we have massages scheduled later at the spa. Yes, even medieval fortresses in Italy have spas!

Let's go for a walk...

Press play to listen.

[audio http://graceandivy.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/italian-walk.mp3]

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Am I Hungry? Of course I am! This place looks charming...let's stop here - Osteria del Caffè Casolani- and have some treats.

Here's what I'm thinking...wine, cheese & cured meats. The local cheese -Pecorino di Pienza and fresh cold cuts such as salumi di cinta senese, will make the perfect blend of tastes and textures. Creamy and nutty in flavor, the Pecorino is a perfect pairing with the saltiness of the meat and sweetness of the wine.  The celebrated local wine is aptly named Erta, meaning steep slope, indicative of the agricultural landscape of the region. A completely organic wine, it is a lovely blend of 95% Sangiovese grapes and 5% Merlot. Subtle herbal notes and deep cherry overtones will delight your palette! Want more...why don't we try the testaroli? It's a crepe like pasta usually combined with pesto. Yummy! This place is famous for it!

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Now to walk off all that scrumptuous food...

Ooh...before we go...is that a little bakery I see?

We had better stop in and grab some dessert! This region is known for its pastries and traditional sweets. One of the oldest treats around is the famous Panforte margherita!  This "spiced bread" is a magical combination of dough, almonds, candied fruit, cinnamon, all spice and a generous sprinkling of powdered sugar. Isn't it beautiful?

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On to some history...

This is the Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta, which dates back 1161! The original Roman bell tower still remains with the upper half of the building being constructed in the 14th century. Inside are the sacred tombs of Beltramo Aringhieri, by Marco Romano, and of bishop Tommaso Andrei, by Gano di Fazio.

Directly next to the church lies the Museum of Sacred Arts. A beautiful collection of religious art can be enjoyed here, including the works of Alessandro Casolani and sculptor, Marco Romano.

Got your culture fill? Let's go to the Siena Markets!

Press play to listen to the bustling market square...

[audio http://graceandivy.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/31429_fonogeno_mercato_di_montevarchi2.mp3]

How gorgeous is that fruit?

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Don't you love all the amazing colors and textures?

I don't know about you but the hotel spa is calling my name...let's head back and end our trip on a relaxing note.

You go on and get your massage. I'm heading down to the hot pool for a nice soak...so lovely...

Images via Relais La Suvera Spa

I hope you enjoyed your day in the Tuscan countryside. Loved vicariously traveling with you! I learned a lot and loved seeing this little corner of the world. The village of Casole d'Elsa was enchanting, the food delectable and the Siena markets were utterly inspiring.

Join me again next Friday, when we head to Spain!

Have a beautiful weekend!

xo,

audio files via freesound.org

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Peonies & Peas

Yesterday the rain poured down one minute, only to be replaced by the glorious sun the next. It's the nature of Spring in Oregon and we love it. Unpredictable but beautiful. Silver light and gold. With a bouquet of gorgeous peonies on my table and a handful of fresh spring peas I figured it was the perfect afternoon for a little team work with Grace. She was so excited to pop open each pod to reveal the tiny green peas. While she delighted in this task, I took pictures. I really loved the green of the peas with the pink of the peonies.

At the end of this lovely afternoon, I cooked up a fresh Spring inspired meal from Rachel Ray's cookbook. Check out the recipe here. It was delicious!

Happiness all round.

xo,

Ivy

Maui continued...Mama's Fish House

Finally got wireless internet at our new home. We are moved in and loving it! I will be posting more interior design stories as the place unfolds. Right now it's a maze of boxes and randomly placed decor...not too pretty. It will take some time but I'm looking forward to growing into this house. Anyway, flash back to Maui. Wanted to share a little adventure we went on. It was about an hour from where we were staying in Lahaina but it was so worth the drive-

Introducing: Mama's Fish House

Located just outside of the beach town of Paia, Mama's Fish House has been a favorite since it opened in 1973. In fact, it was Maui first fresh fish restaurant!

The food, setting and service was outstanding...as for the $16 Mai Tais - they were worth every penny.

This, my dears, is the fantastic, postcard-like view that you have while enjoying your meal...not too shabby eh?

Our meal began with a complimentary shot of their famous ginger-tomato soup, which was decadent and velvety with the perfect kick of ginger zest. For lunch we shared the seared Ahi Tuna. (Surprise, surprise) It was melt in your mouth delicious and crusted with sesame seeds and ginger. The menu changes daily based on what is fresh and in season. Be ready to drop some $$$ at this place but it's a wonderful splurge!

The interior is very unique, with Polynesian flare, natural textures and materials and fresh tropical floral arrangements. Warm sea breezes flow freely through the space filling it with the heavenly fragrance of the ocean. Sigh...I wish I was there right now...

A happy little Tiki guy wished us farewell. We will be back for sure!

If you go to Maui you must stop by here. You won't regret it!

xo,

Ivy

A cake fit for a queen...or a princess.

I went dark there for a while with all the family coming in and then our vacation to Hawaii so I've got some blogging to catch up on. I know this happened back in April but I had to share the cake that our dear friend Katie made for Grace's 4th birthday. It was truly inspiring and Grace was beyond delighted.

I can't even imagine how many hours she put into this cake...

She made each tiny little flower by hand and then painted them too!

Grace was amazed by the cake and couldn't take her eyes off of it...so cute.

Katie let her apply some of the delicate little blooms to the castle walls.

A VERY happy Birthday girl!

Thank you again, Katie for all your hard work, talent and friendship. I know Grace will always remember this cake!

Check out Katie's fabulous blog for more info on how she designed and constructed this gorgeous creation.

xo,

Ivy

Keep calm and have a cupcake

Between family coming into town to celebrate Grace's birthday, moving into a new home, trying to figure out how to furnish this new home AND stay in budget, not sleeping and preparing to go out of town, I'm feeling a little exhausted...frayed and frankly, a bit overwhelmed.

Today, my mother literally sent me to my room and told me to take a nap...I think I was being a tad crazy.

A nap was needed.

Upon waking I knew what I must do.

I had to go on a mission to buy cupcakes for Grace's classroom birthday celebration tomorrow.

I grabbed Grace and my mom, led them to the car and took off like a mad woman to Saint Cupcake Deluxe on SE Belmont!

I wasn't coming home until I had two dozen beautiful cupcake creations in my possession.

Well, at least I got one thing on my list done.

For the first time this week I felt a bit better, calmer.

Amongst the chaos, the boxes, the mess...I sat, devoured a chocolate cupcake and smiled.

Hope you are having a productive and happy week so far.

If not...go on a cupcake run.

xo,

Ivy

p.s. As a sweet bonus, this newly remodeled Saint Cupcake location is tied to a fabulous home decor and gift store called Noun - a treasure trove of unique vintage decor, accessories and art. Yummy treats for your tummy and your home. Love that combo.

Check out some of these lovelies...

And the charming shop...

Images via holiday jenny, saint cupcake and noun.

Birthday treat - Chocolate Bread Pudding

Today was my hubby's birthday, so Grace and I decided to make him his favorite dessert - Bread Pudding! We had a blast putting it all together and it tasted fantastic. We are quite the team in the kitchen!

The best part about the recipe - it's from Cooking Light so it's not super loaded with fat!

Here is it.

xo,

Ivy

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

A while ago an adorably quirky and fresh chef came on the scene - The Naked Chef - aka Jamie Oliver.

He's come a long way from entertaining cook to food revolutionary, changing the food and nutrition in the UK's school system.

He's landed on our shores with a mission to do the same thing here...and boy do we need it. Watch as kids try to identify basic vegetables/fruits...it's sad.

If you haven't been tuning into Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution...you really should. I could rant and rave, but I won't.

If you care about what is going into your body and the mouths of your children (and I know you do) check it out.

Catch up with the episodes...here.

Have a lovely Thursday.

xo,

Ivy

I heart cupcakes

It's Friday. It's been a long week. I need a cupcake.

Not sure why, but cupcakes always make me smile. Maybe it's their size, or the promise of a sweet reward...but whatever it is, it's pretty tough not be happy around cupcakes.

These precious little creations come from Kylie Lambert of Le Cupcake in Sydney, Australia and they are almost too pretty to eat!

So go on...have one. You deserve it.

Happy Friday!

xo,

Ivy

Lunch at the Corral Creek Coffee Co.

Sorry for the delay...but we did go into town yesterday and had a lovely lunch at a quaint little cafe. Decorated with vintage cowboy decor, family run and completely cozy, the Coral Creek Coffee Company delivered great service. We enjoyed home-made spinach, feta and bacon quiche, honey espresso lattes (see recipe below...so yummy)  and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

Grace did have a melt down upon sitting down - apparently we were not sitting at the right table and her peanut butter sandwich was made with crunchy peanut butter instead of smooth (oh the trials of being three) but besides that drama we had a great afternoon.

xo,

Ivy

Honey Espresso Latte

1 tsp honey

1 shot espresso

Steamed and foamed milk

Cinnamon for garnish

In an 8-ounce cup, combine honey and espresso. Fill the cup with steamed milk, top with a small dollop of foamed milk and sprinkle with some cinnamon. Then serve immediately.

YUM!

Clear skin with Papaya

Image: Forkable Blog

Who knew that this amazing tropical fruit is thought to help cleanse our digestive system and skin! Treat yourself to a yummy morning shake full of nutrients and skin clearing power.

Enjoy...

  • 2 cups chopped peeled and seeded papaya (about 1 medium)
  • 1 cup chilled pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup low-fat (1%) milk
  • 1/2 cup sliced banana
  • 1/4 cup raspberries
  • 4 ice cubes
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

Tip: Trader Joe's carries frozen papaya chunks to make this even easier!

xo,

Ivy