Friday, November 30, 2018

Tales of the Traveling Tote - Joe's Retirement Trip to Italy

If you are here for the first time, welcome to Mountain Breaths. Today I am joining a group of talented bloggers to bring you our quarterly Tales of the Traveling Tote. 
According to Wikipedia:  The "Tales of the Traveling Tote" is a group of well-preserved, dynamic women that bring a MacKenzie-Childs tote bag (or sometimes a mug) on a trip and take pictures of it in front of famous (and infamous) landmarks. I just made this up but isn't it the the truth? 

The day after Thanksgiving is always our Kick Off to Christmas and my "tote" is quite happy to spend time in the quaint village of Clinton, NY near our home instead of the black Friday madness at the mall. The Shopper’s Stroll and Holiday Parade have always been a fun tradition.   
I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. It was such a great day spending time with our family. Each year we are missing a few but they will be with us for Christmas. 
Miss Aurora (can you see her in the photo above?) was happy to go on the annual girls weekend after I got back from Italy. Six of us rented a beautiful mountain lodge in Wilmington, NY (near Lake Placid), and had a blast. You have probably heard me refer to our group as the "Scoots". We are quite the fun bunch. 

First and foremost I would like to welcome Cherry Kay from Entertaining Women to our group.  Cherry Kay is a blogging friend who sets a table and makes you feel as though you are actually sitting there enjoying her lovely collection and as well as her company.  She has an amazing collection of dishware from her ancestors as well as our favorite M-C dishes!  Her storage system is one to be admired and emulated!!  Her Traveling Tote has the clever name of Carrie Ann Hall (Carry and Haul). 

I will answer your first two questions immediately. All my local friends and family members who have seen the first two photos have asked the same questions.

1)  Q.  Did you actually ride in that little vintage Fiat?
A.  Yes we did, for a tour of Milan. Thankfully we only booked it for one hour but it was a lot of fun. My large MKC tote, Miss Aurora, stayed home in New York :-( I felt she was too cumbersome for getting on and off all the water taxis, so I brought the canvas market bag.

2)  Surely you didn't bring the MKC mug with you from home.
A.  Oh yes I did (just for photos) It's a magnet for conversation!! Even our local tour guide in Venice loved it and had never heard of MKC and wants one. 
Continuing with our recent trip to Northern Italy. Part One is here.  We were lucky to have a full moon and perfect weather in Venice. One of the highlights of our trip to Venice was the after hours private tour of St. Mark's Basilica. Our home for three days was the Gritti Palace on the canal. The days were made perfect by the exceptional weather. Our trip of a lifetime was a 14 day journey through Northern Italy with beautiful scenery and great food.  Five stars. 

I was intrigued by the gondaliers, in the blazing sun all day. We learned that the jobs are passed down from generation to generation. 
Joe's retirement job could be a taste tester for gelato. We found some exceptional gelato in Italy after trying it at several places. 
Apertivo time, alfresco preferably. La dolce vita!  We found a little Camparino Bar with refreshing Campari on the rocks with the slightest splash of soda. A bit too strong for my taste, but while in Italy I gave it a try. 

Miss Aurora was feeling left out staying home in New York. She would have made a nice addition in Venice. 
Miss Aurora would have enjoyed this legendary hotel on the Grand Canal. The lovely Rubelli silk wall coverings and textiles, including archive patterns last produced in the 18th century, were re-created, and around 280 antique pieces refurbished, as were some 600 light fixtures, among them dozens of Murano chandeliers.  Rich terrazzo floors and a muted palette, a combination that adds up to understated splendor rather than over-the-top luxury. The bathrooms compensate for their often diminutive size with extravagant cladding in marble from five regions of Italy. 

We very much enjoyed lunch in Torcello and visiting Burrano. So colorful. Pictured below was our two week itinerary with several stops in between. The trip of a lifetime.
Mr. C has something planned for 2019 I believe. Instead of dreading turning 60, it will give me something to look forward to. LOL

Come along and travel with:

Debbie with Miss Aurora @ Mountain Breaths (you are here)
Emily with Miss Courtney Childs@ The French Hutch
Jackie with Miss Madi K @ Purple Chocolat Home  -- don't forget to enter the giveaway :-)
Linda P with Miss Lola @ Life and Linda 
Jenna with Miss Coquille @The Painted Apron 
Patti with Miss Kenzie and Miss Taylor @ Pandora's Box
Ricki Jill with Countess de Monet @ The Sketchy Reader
Rita with Miss Luna C @ Panoply 
Sarah with Miss Merri Mac @ Hyacinths for the Soul
Cherry Kay with Carrie Ann Hall @ Entertaining Women 

We were heading to a cocktail party in Milan to meet our group. We stopped at the mirror by the elevator, and this was our first photo in Milan.
Last but not least, I attended the Donny and Marie Osmond Holiday Concert on November 29th at the Turning Stone Casino. You can see my tote in the middle photo in the collage. What a fantastic evening with my sisters. 

Thank you so much for stopping by! Hope you're still awake :-)
Stop back on March 1st for our next post.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving To All

This year I found some adorable "I am thankful for" tableware accents that feature artwork from one of my favorite artists Molly Hatch.  I am going to ask each guest to write down what they are thankful for. Then Joe will read each card out loud and we'll have everyone guess who wrote each one. I am pretty sure they will be able to guess mine. 

I've been craving soup for lunch ever since the weather got cold. I work next door to a cafe, and order breakfast once a week, and occasionally a special for lunch. But their soups are sooooo salty, and that's what I crave most for my lunches. Ree Drummond to the rescue. I used Pioneer Woman's "best tomato soup ever recipe" which took only 25 minutes. I have made the slightly labor-intensive Ina Garten recipe several times, and this is just as tasty. 

Pioneer Woman's best tomato soup ever

1 medium white or yellow onion
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
Two 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes
One 46-ounce bottle or can tomato juice
3 to 6 tablespoons sugar
1 or 2 tablespoons chicken base
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup sherry, optional
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley


To begin, dice the onion. Melt the
butter in a large pot or Dutch oven.
Throw in the onion and cook until
Now dump in the diced tomatoes and
stir to combine. Add the tomato juice.

Next - and this is important - in order to combat the acidity of the tomatoes add
3 to 6 tablespoons of sugar. Now, you'll want to start on the low side, then
taste and add more as needed. Some tomatoes and juice have more of an acidic bite
than others.

Next, add 1 or 2 tablespoons chicken base to the pot. I added 3, and it wound
up being a little too much.
Now you can add lots of freshly ground black pepper. Stir to combine, then
heat almost to a boil. Then turn off the heat.
Add in the sherry if desired. Stir in the cream. Add the basil and parsley and

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving, and count those blessings! 
I am thankful for my you! 

Sunday, November 4, 2018

National Bundt Day - Pistachio cake {again}

I got a head start on National Bundt Day which is November 15 every year. 

For my August birthday, mom always made me a pistachio cake. Everyone in my family enjoys the cake...fond childhood memories...when I asked my sister Cheryl (on the left in the photo above) what cake she would like for her November 4th birthday, I was never thinking she would say pistachio but she did :-) It is also a nice cake for Christmas and you can decorate the plate it sits on. My sister Diane (on the right) also has a November birthday, and she will probably end up having pie with the entire family. Her birthday is on Thanksgiving this year, and I am hosting. 
 Out of all the cakes that I bake in this Heritage Bundt Pan, this cake comes out perfect and doesn't stick. And I don't do anything different. 
Each year I look back on my National Bundt Day posts. I'm grateful for this little blog because without it, I would forget half the cakes I have made. LOL

Recipe for pistachio cake:
1 package yellow cake mix (regular size)
2 packages (3.4 ounces each) instant pistachio pudding mix
1 cup water
4 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 pint heavy cream
1 box instant pistachio pudding
9 oz. whipped topping (Cool Whip)

Directions In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, pudding mixes, water, eggs and oil; beat on low speed for 30 seconds. Beat on medium for 2 minutes. Pour into a greased and floured 10-in. fluted tube pan. Bake at 350° for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely. In bowl, combine the heavy cream and pistachio pudding, and fold in the whipped topping.  

The recipe is also on the Taste of Home website.

My grandmother Lana (who lived to be 100) also made pistachio cake. I've included her recipe which is very similar to the one I make. Love finding these old recipes that have been in the family for over 80 years.
Thanks for stopping by! 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

It's Pumpkin Time Again

I almost forgot to do a pumpkin post this year. We put six of mom's pumpkins out last week. The neighborhood children came over immediately :-) I love that my brought children so much joy on Halloween. 

Also, the two winners of the cookbook are listed at the bottom of this post. 

Our Xavier went on a pumpkin hayride a couple weeks ago, he will be three in March.
  If you've been following my blog for a while, you may recall that Mom loved carving pumpkins and she carved at least 125 pumpkins over a ten year period. I previously did a post on her pumpkins explaining that Mom used the "carvable" foam pumpkins and Pumpkin Masters patterns. After she finished carving the pumpkin, she traced around a quarter coin on the bottom back of the pumpkin and cut a hole for the light. The trick or treaters and neighbors looked forward to the display each year. Our local TV station also featured them. After mom passed away, we distributed the pumpkins to family members. Our "pumpkin lady" left us with wonderful pumpkin memories, and Halloween will always be a fun time for our family.  

Each year I show you mom's pumpkins..she was the master :-)

"When you do it with heart, that's art!"
The cookbook winners from my last post

Bev Sunderman
Emily from The French Hutch

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Hilarious Cookbook Giveaway

Do we have any Mean Girls fans out there? I thought I would amuse myself with this new cookbook on a night that I was about to bake an apple cake and discovered that I haven't baked since Easter and was out of flour.  

If you look closely in the photo above, you will see Strawberry Toaster Doodles from the 
 The Burn Cookbook by Jonathan Bennett (aka Aaron Samuels himself!) and Chef Nikki Martin.  This hilarious, delicious cookbook is a must-have for chefs (and wannabes) everywhere! Jonathan Bennett dishes out a tasty parody of Mean Girls, serving up behind-the-scenes stories from the movie alongside awesome recipes for treats that your favorite mean girls should be enjoying in Girl World. This is a must-own book for any food lover still trying to make fetch happen.

Since I had no flour in the house, and we kind of wanted something sweet for dessert, I made the toaster doodles which is like a toaster strudel and made with puff pastry and strawberry jam. This is technically a breakfast food, and we both enjoyed this as a dessert. No too sweet, and it hit the spot.

Disclaimer:  I was offered TWO cookbooks as a giveaway, and will pick TWO winners on October 31. You are welcome to take a look inside The Burn Cookbook and let me know if you are interested. 

The Burn Cookbook: An Unofficial Unauthorized Cookbook for Mean Girls Fans
THE BURN COOKBOOK is a hilarious, delicious must-have cookbook for chefs (and wannabes) everywhere! Jonathan Bennett (that's right, Aaron Samuels himself) dishes out a tasty parody of Mean Girls, serving up behind-the-scenes stories from the movie alongside awesome recipes for treats that your favorite mean girls should be enjoying in Girl World. Like math, the language of food is the same in every country, and this cookbook is packed with amazing creations like Fetch-uccine Alfredo, You Go, Glenn (Hot) Cocoa, and Just Stab Caesar Salad. Written with the help of rock star chef Nikki Martin, Jonathan also shares his favorite recipes from his own childhood, like his mom's famous stuffed shells, mandarin chicken salad, and other specialties that will round out any special event. Perfect for happy hour (don't forget it's from 4:00 to 6:00 PM), Wednesdays, or when sweatpants are the only thing that fits, THE BURN COOKBOOK is a must-own book for any food lover still trying making fetch happen.

Jonathan Bennett is an actor, television host, and food lover. He is best known for his role as Aaron Samuels in Mean Girls, as well as starring roles in Cheaper by the Dozen 2, Van Wilder: Freshman Year, MTV's Awkward, and All My Children, among others. He competed on season nineteen of Dancing with the Stars and is currently the host of the New Year's Eve celebration in Time Square and Cake Wars and Halloween Wars on Food Network.

Twitter: @JonathanBennett
Instagram: @Jonathandbennett

Nikki Martin is a private chef to the stars, blogger, and TV personality. She has appeared on several Food Network shows, and was known as "The Grill Next Door" on Food Network Star season eight. She has also appeared on Bravo's Going Off the Menu which featured The Roulette Society, her private dinner club. 

Facebook: @itsnikkimartin
Twitter: @ChefNikkiMartin
Instagram: @itsnikkimartin

Thank you for stopping by! Let me know if you are interested in winning the cookbook. You don't need to be a blogger, I have heard from five of you by email that would like to win. 


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