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December 2013

My New MST Tradition - Gift Myself

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With Mexico being the norm.

See, here's the thing.  Look how happy these pictures of Casa de Mita in Mexico make us.  Compared to the doldrums and horror of the snow and sludge and cold of winter in most of America at this moment.

I was just there at de Mita last month for my b-day (a big fat treat to myself) and listen, to me...there is pretty much no place on earth right now that rivals this magical little haven.   I have been multiple times, but this time - yet again - solidified that I not only am looking for a guarantee of happiness in my travels, but I'm also really super jazzed about being taken care of while out there.  

Lalo and Memo are sent from above as far as their social skills, drink making skills, and humorous attitude day & night.  Really, everyone there is a spectacular artform in their ability to make me feel at right at home and very far away all at the same time.  

I can practice my Spanish, I can walk the beach 24/7, I can eat incredible food, I can read book after book, I can work the killer tan, and I can play with the doggies while missing Minka - (I have a heartwrenching tale I will share sometime about their newest pup Madison some day, but I'm still too tender over it all to go into it - however, she is a rock start and doing great)!  

Thw owner, Marc, has created the perfect paradise in my fave place on earth (well, it ties with Indo) and I simply cannot wait to get back.  Again, the cold is here in these dark mountains and Mexico tends to be a place in my soul where the sun always shines, the smiles always burst, and the drinks are always frosty cold.  

Bless you, Casa de Mita.

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The Road Trip Home - Hello Snow...

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Reminds me how much I loathe snow...and cold for that matter.

That said, it was the perfect road trip.  Me 'n Lis loaded up the Disco, made a mega cozy bed for Minka, and hit the road straight up outta LA.  

Yep - we got caught in every snowstorm all cause I was on the hunt for tiny towns and better than average food.  Plus, when you have to take dog friendly hotels into consideration...and I'm not super keen on staying at chain hotels...well, let's just say a 3 day road trip turned into 8 days! But, full of such amazing food and charming towns.

Probably one of the best dog friendly hotels EVER is La Posada in Winslow, AZ (you know the name from the Eagles song).  First of all - this historic monster has an amazing restaurant, The Turquoise Room,  and literally the best honey butter doused cornbread ever to be made (like, each piece was so soaked in it, it had to be picked up with a tong).  

2nd of all, the whole joint (save for the restaurant) is dog friendly...and has tons of game tables, a big ole fireplace, a massive yard and best of all a full blown HAY STACK MAZE.  Omg, Minka played forever in this enormous gift from the doggie heavens, especially after being trapped in the truck on horrific roads - though she adored the snow and played HAWD in an Arizona dog park with a puppy doberman.

Anyhow - La Posada  also had this soup rockin' that was insane.  1/2 black bean and 1/2 creamed sweet corn.  Sounds a bit off, but was once again, something out of the history books for taste sensations.  Lamb posole was also on the make (and we all know from my Isla Mujeres days that I'm a posole nut)...also with juicy red wines on tap.  

I will def be stoppin' there on the way back through.  In fact, I'm pretty much basing the whole trip back to LA around that maze.

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Why the Kitchen Matters Oh So Much...

Flo kitchen

For starters, it makes any and every place feel like a home.

Pretty much everything shakes down in the kitchen.  If you aren't a cook, I hope you have friends who love to get messy behind the stove with a few drinks in hand cause it is the very best way to live.  To always have something brewing up on the stove or simmering away in the oven is a little piece of heaven to me.

The kitchen in the Flo is pretty small, but oddly perfect.  I can spin from stove to sink to fridge on a 3 point turn, with access to all my spices and cookbooks and drink elements within arms reach.  Minka can sprawl on one of her many rugs, resting patiently until a crumb of something delish flips her way, and anyone who wants can plop down at the tiny bar (with a drink in hand) and watch it all unfold or simply get involved.   We don't have a TV on floor 1, so it's all about the music (best thing ever - hidden speakers in every room) and the convo and the food.  I love finding serving platters and funky stuff to put food on.  Even the plates I got for the Flo are awesome.   All handmade and engraved with lace imprints and elephants and such.

My parents kitchen is the same way.  We start cooking about 4p - anything that suits our fancy (lots of soups, gratin's, salads...very homey stuff).  Last night, my mom had a fire burning outside, so we slung some potatoes on them.  I almost caught myself on fire using a little too much olive oil, but man...were they swoon worthy.  The dogs just lay about, on the watch for when the next stewpot is coming, and I'm lovin' the wine shop on the mountain cause I've been trying all kinds of new pinot noir's.  They have quite a special selection :)

When we were driving across country home to TN, I stopped in Austin to visit a way/way old friend from when I lived in Germany, and her husband had the house smelling all good with pork roast wrapped in bacon - guess where we all hung out?  The kitchen.  With 3 dogs, a ton of drink and a mess of memories...laughing til we cried.  Way better than going to a restaurant.

Even my condo in Chicago that I still have - I bought it cause a/it was on the lake and b/it had a perfect cottage kitchen - and at that time in my life, when I was traveling all over the world for shows...it was all about having something good to come home to.   I now have that on the Flo.  Plus, it's got a killer view!

And, let me put it this way, the meal I made on the Flo for Thanksgiving was just simply epic.  Not your typical Turkey day meal, but a little MST spin on it.  It all just makes me so so so happy. Chicken pot pie with a puff pastry crust; creamed kale and caramelized mushrooms made in a Japanese tagine of sorts; the house salad with dill buttermilk dressing; warm brussel sprout salad with bits of sweet bacon; and homemade cranberry sauce with pineapple of all things.  And of course, my moms banana pudding!

Guess what I'm trying to say...I just feel right at home in the kitchen - no matter who's it is.  Finally...a home...everywhere!  Turns out, it's not a specific place that's home.  It's a room that happens to span the globe.

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Flo living

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Pork

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Just Some Neat Things

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And, it's all really the tip of the iceberg.

For my birthday, my bud Lis got me the BEST Scrabble board ever created.  We got to playing Scrab a ton this past year or so - started it in Indo at Alila with an few early afternoon old fashioned's and a long drawn out game before dinner...and it continued to dominate our days once we were back from Bali.  She had this board handmade (even the letters) and somehow, magically all the colors really brought together the little living room of the Flo.  It swivels and literally makes my day every time I see it (thinkin' about word ass-whoopin', I suppose).

Then, a random stranger who had read the LA Times article on the Flo dropped off a really sweet present - the artilces pix were fixed up nice in a lovely frame and delivered to me.  Who does that?  He was just delighted with the FLO and I def owe him a nice tour!

Best of all, in my quest to find a perfect little office, I found that my sailboat, Enola, works like a charm.  Its right next to Flo - perfect for Minka walks, drink replenishes, stirring the soup as needed and just generally a super fly set up to edit and write in.  Who needs 4 walls when you've got the Pacific?

And, I cannot wait to get home to do a mega rearrange on the Flo.  Gonna make the bedroom the great room for the SO CAL winter and my friends Nando and Bessie already did the flip for me (what would I do without them?).  Now, I gotta get home and mystify it...I love CHANGE!!!  I will def post pixs of all the little updates I'm planning for the winter and spring.  Dang, a whole new crop of plants are needed, as are new subscriptions, new idea boards, and just a mega life refresh.  'Sall good...

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Best Words Ever - Appalachian Bistro

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2nd Best Words - Tableside Hot Toddy

Of course, you know the first thing I do when I get home to TN is look up the best farm to table food happening 'round the way.  A little gem called Terra Mae pulled up and I was off like lightening.  Dont'cha know I learned 2 really great things over lunch.

#1 - I love, love, love hot toddy type drinks, especially when they are made tableside.  Good lord, what a contraption.  Took about 5 minutes for it to infuse and boil up into the top vessel, then it spit itself back into the bottom jug and our waiter reappeared outta nowhere to pour us a couple of warm delights into Moscow Mule style mugs.  YUMMMMM.

#2 - Pimento cheese is a force to be reckoned with.  I've been a mega fan since it was on tap at my grandparents house as a kid, but then my bud Lis started making it out in LA and it was like a drug...the very best cheesy, mayo coated kind.  Now, I can add to my life list - BEST PIMENTO CHEESE EVER FOUND.  This was a buttermilk blue pimento that was solid snow white and tasted nothing like blue cheese.  Instead it tasted like the best thing you will ever eat.  I bought a giant vat to haul home to my parents and they too were stunned.  This is a recipe from the heavens...I'm def gonna have to play with it til it comes up winning.

This little restaurant downtown was adorable and a few pals met up with us.  We kept picking the cheese of Mark's burger (I'm back on no meat) and it too was some kind of freaky good.  Now, ya'll know I chow on great food, but man...this was some kinda southern twist I wasn't expecting.  Pickled shrimp; some redic corn risotto; a duck reuben of sorts that Lis loved; sweet potato/rosemary biscuits with apple compote; candied bacon (oh - I guess I do taste test the meat now and again when it comes to treasures like that); perfect deviled eggs.  It was all just spot on.  And, I had forgotten how damn good Amaretto Sours were.  Make that 2!

I just love the South.  

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A Dog's Life in Tennessee

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Stewpot Love

I've introduced my mom and dad's dog, DOC, to the wonders of stewpot and the ferocious 24/7 love of Minka.  They are peas in a pod no doubt.  

This stewpot is loaded with lots of good chicken, broth from the bones, bits of carrots, peels of potatoes, and chunks of celery that simmer all day long (meanwhile, I'm shovin' the french onion and chips mom just grabbed from the store).  The whole house smells like a real home all day long, and then the pups get a bit of stewpot, a bit of kibble and some broth.  Heaven.  

Minka runs from here to high heaven in the back 40 all day long.  She cannot believe the very fact that she can go outside the front door LEASHLESS.  She turns back - like WTF?  We let her and Doc out about a billion times a day and they already have a mega sked that keeps up with mom's.  She checks in on the dogs that the neighbor boards multiple times a day, which means that Doc and Pea must check in as well.  They are the best of friends.

All over the yard are wild mushrooms and some kind of wild garlic we tossed in Lisa's spaghetti resides next to the wee house in the pet cemetery. Earlier today, I discovered a pile of huge onions growing out of the dirt.  Good Lord - it's homemade come to life in the hills of TN.  All dogs included :)

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A Bit About Why I Never Post Anymore

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Well, it's called a homemade life.

 

That's the reason why.  It's cause on a daily basis on the Flo, something homemade has to happen - and usually it's multiple elements in the kitchen. 

Typical day of cooking - some kind of delish soup (not just all fresh from the farmers market...but also there's gotta be shaved corn, roasted tomatoes, topside snipped basil, just made spicy chile oil); a nice sauced up old fashioned is usually somewhere in the mix; been rockin some really good breads - gluten free cornbread & flatbreads; and for real, who attempts homemade TOFU!  Oh, but I did it...and I fried em...and I honey'ed em...and it was just like New Orleans beignets!  And this was straight out of the Burma cookbook.  So easy & so good.  And from chickpea flour, no less.  Which I just happen to have laying around.

Then, the daily Food 52 email pops up with potato salad that must be made immediately (they use pickle juice and mayo, for the love); throw in the daily Remodelista email which gets me all jazzed out and reminds me to head over over to Gardenista for the daily doins'; cut to Homeland is on and we've got a few eps of The Voice and SOA to catch up on; Lis pops in a text - she's got Nashville on her TIVO and a bit of homemade winter whisky on the make...so me and Pea stroll on down to her place for some good watchin'.  Oh right, still editing...but that's why I have insomnia - I can go to bed early (uh, sundown), wake up at 3 am and just get back to it in the pilot house.  But not before reading the latest issue of Garden & Gun.  Man, what an AWESOME magazine.  Soul of the south is right.

And, here's the kicker - I am for certain I'm gonna get every wilder with it in the new year.  I wanna make my own yogurt and cheese.  Rock some tinctures.  Dabble in way more breads and salad dressings (the house dressing is a kind of dill'ified ranch that is totally drinkable, but I'm gonna lighten things up a bit in the new year).  I need to pickle some shit.  Like everything.  Also - esp. since I managed to kill a no less than a few tubs of Mayfield's french onion dip and lots of bags of chips in a 24 hr timespan in TN, I've realized I might have a mayo problem.  So gonna try to make my own (mayo and french onion dip) and maybe I wont like it as much!  Highly doubt it, but why not.  Try it all!

Ok - back to editing.  For real.  I'm so close!

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A quick update from God Knows Where...

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Trust me, I have no idea why I can't post

something awesome every single day. 

I've been all over the place this past year (Minka has been to Mexico 8 times for gods sake)...but it's like I'm in a vortex of some kind.  Damn near impossible to tear away from these 2 shows I'm editing...obsessing over...BUT the good news is, they are literally days away from being done and done and let's all say a little prayer that they GO OUT FRESH N SOLID in the new year!

Now - Loreto.  Stole down there not only for my 40th b-day but also to edit uninterrupted except for fish tacos, SUP'ing, Minka chasing kites, horrific amounts of maragaritas, loads of ceviche and and lots and lots of beach walks.  I just love it there, especially the houses in Loreto Bay.  It's like a little village in the Med but on the Sea of Cortez instead. 

I promise (and I know I say this every time) that I am going to get back HAWD on the tooth.  There is simply so much to share - tons of cool travel, secret scores, insane food, road trippin, doggie finds, etc...I just gotta get back to it!

I'm currently in TN after an epic food and dog adventure road trip thru every major storm the US has seen this winter season.  Finishing up the editing, drinking delish wines from the cool wine shop on the mountain, making lots of good food (Lisa's spaghetti is insane), watching Minka fall in love with my parents dog, and just simply enjoying finishing up these shows and getting ready for a road trip back out west. 

Let me just put it this way, I love the south and I finally made it to Fairhope, AL and Ocean Springs, MS - both of which are adorable and perfect coastal towns!

OK - back to work, but just a touch of Mex makes everyone's day!

:)

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