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Don your summer whites and aviator shades, and stir up this little mocktail.  You will be set for a charming summer afternoon on the patio.

Summer Berry Cooler   adapted from Williams-Sonoma

1 pint blackberries

1 pint blueberries

1/4 cup fresh mint, coarsely chopped

1 cup simple syrup (see note below)

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

Ice

4 cups club soda

In a pitcher, muddle berries and mint. Add simple syrup and lemon juice and stir to combine. Fill pitcher three-quarters full with ice and top with club soda. Serve at once in individual glasses. Serves 3 to 4.

Note: To make the simple syrup, in a small saucepan, combine 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar, about 3 minutes. Let cool. Refrigerate overnight. Store in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

My friend Deborah and I were off and running early on a recent Saturday morning.  Destination?  The Alameda Point Antiques Faire.  One needs an interest in and a long attention span for rummaging through vintage items to enjoy this place.  Deborah and I were the right ones for the job.  We both have more than enough antiques.  Her extras are stashed in her attic.  Mine are hidden in my office.  We didn’t let that stop us.  Full speed ahead!  We were ready for a treasure hunt.

Here is a sampling of what we found.

And, there was more; so much more.

I loved these shadowboxes!

What went home with me?

A vintage typewriter!

And, these paper items from one of my favorite Berkeley stores, Addison Endpapers.  Did I ever tell you how much I love paper?

We paused for lunch at the food trucks, but that didn’t slow us down much.  When we finished the first half of the faire, we decided it was time to go home.  On the shuttle ride to our car, we were making plans to visit again.

My friend Jennifer and I recently ventured out to Woodside, California, to visit the lovely Filoli home and gardens.  Thank you, Mrs. Roth, for sharing your beautiful estate.

Lurline Roth gifted this charming country estate to her community in 1975.  It is part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  What a treasure.

Mr. Bourn, the original owner, arrived at the unusual name “Filoli” by combining the first two letters from the key words of his credo: “Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a good life.”  I love that!  My house doesn’t have a name.  And, I don’t have a credo.  Maybe it is time for me to think about that.

The gardens are exquisite.  The inside of the house is worth a peek, too.  Visit at Christmas to see the house in its full glory.  The decorated house is beautiful.

We spent the afternoon meandering through the gardens, pausing for a rest on a bench that had a perfect view of the estate, and thinking of Mrs. Roth.  We left happy, inspired and refreshed.  Thank you for the lovely afternoon, Mrs. Roth.

Find more information about Filoli here.

A visit to the county fair marks the beginning of our summer.  This fair is in the middle of a bustling suburb.  It is amazing how quickly the busy suburb fades behind me as I enter the gates to the fair.  Scale it down a few notches in size, and I could be at the small-town fair of my youth.  Most things change over time, but not the fair.  Delicious corn dogs (really!), lemonade, crazy rides and even crazier carneys are still there.  Even in the 1970’s and 80’s, everything seemed so old-fashioned.  Enter the exhibition hall today and tell me you are not in the 1950’s.  Jam, pickles, quilts, sewing projects.  Even the display tables appear to be from an earlier era.  No rainbow-hued plastic IKEA-inspired displays here.

I am a 4-H alum so I have a soft-spot for all the youth entries.  Because of that, or maybe because I wanted to relive my youth, I encouraged my boys to enter the fair when they were younger.  They entered scout projects and cookies.  It was exciting for them to come home with blue ribbons or a coveted “Judge’s Favorite” rosette.  They are too old for the youth division now but not for the cookies that won a blue ribbon a few years ago.

Blue Ribbon Oatmeal Cookies

1 ½ cups quick-cooking rolled oats

¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon baking soda

8 tablespoons (one stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

½ cup (packed) light brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup raisins

¼ cup chopped walnuts

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Lightly grease baking sheets.
  • Toss the oats, flour, cinnamon, and baking soda together in a bowl.
  • Cream the butter and both sugars together in a mixing bowl until light.  Beat in the egg and vanilla.  Then slowly beat in the dry ingredients, then the raisins, and walnuts.
  • Drop the batter by rounded teaspoonfuls, 2 inches apart, onto the prepared baking sheets and bake until golden, 10 minutes.  Leave the cookies on the baking sheets for 2 minutes; then transfer them to wire racks to cool.

Makes 4 ½ dozen cookies.

Living in the Northern California Bay Area, it is hard not to be excited about food.  I mean, Chez Panisse is here!  And, once you start down the foodie road, it is hard to go back.  I have read James Beard’s and Ruth Reichl’s books, books about Julia Child and have checked out Craig Claiborne’s NY Times Cookbooks from the library.  And, Marion Cunningham lives in my neighborhood!  So, I had no choice but to bring home “The United States of Arugula – The Sun-Dried, Cold-Pressed, Dark-Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution” book by David Kamp when I saw it at the library bookstore.

It outlines the history of the modern food world.  This history was interesting, but what I enjoyed the most was learning about the relationships between the chefs.  One chef that I had never heard of stood out:  Pierre Franey.  He was Craig Claiborne’s cooking partner.  I wanted to learn more about him when I read a quote from the New York Times’ former food critic, Bryan Miller.  He said, “Pierre was the most completely content, happy man.  He started out cooking when he was fourteen, and his life was to serve others.  When he got behind the stove, something happened to him.  He whistled – he always whistled when he was cooking.  He loved his métier, he loved the people in the business, and I never heard anyone ever say an ill word about him.”  Why hadn’t I heard of him?  I finished the book yesterday afternoon before heading out to do some errands.

On my way home, I made an unplanned stop at a thrift store.  Look who/what I found there:

Hello, Pierre Franey!  I couldn’t believe it.  I hugged him tight.

And, I found Marcella Hazan who was also prominently featured in the “The United States of Arugula:”

There is definitely more to the universe than meets the eye!

There is just something about a book.  This Modern Library collection belongs to my hubby.  He started the collection before we met, and it is one of the reasons I married him.  Not because I wanted the books, which I did, but because I thought it was so awesome that 1) he had a collection, and 2) it was a book collection!  I especially love the beauty of these Modern Library books – the lovely fading covers, the slightly yellowing pages, and the wonderful gold torchbearer emblems.  Look closely and you can see the torchbearer at the top of spines.  I ♥ books!

This past weekend, my son’s college friend Scott was stopping over at our house on his long drive home.  While my son slept in, Scott sat at our kitchen counter as I cooked breakfast.  I was surprised that a 20 year old young man that I had met only a few times would want to sit with me while I cooked and my son slept.  I just smiled to myself as we chatted.  I would venture to guess that most 20 year old young men would find the nearest computer or iPhone to distract themselves with in this situation.  Then, he said, “You really know your way around a kitchen.”  I was tickled and curious.  He went on to say he liked to cook and described things he made for dinner.  I am still thinking about him today.  He and my son are college students with little time to cook but like to experiment and produce tasty meals.  This is a recipe for them.

It is an easy recipe that tastes like a complicated recipe.  The poblanos add a nice depth of flavor.  I wasn’t sure what poblanos looked like but asked the produce manager for help.  Turns out you need to look for poblanos or pasillas. They are the same thing.  They are large in size and mild in flavor.  Here is what they look like:

You cook the poblanos first to soften them and char them a little before adding the other ingredients.

Chicken Poblano Burritos  adapted from Bon Appetit

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 medium-size fresh poblano chiles,* seeded, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breast halves or cutlets, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick strips
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 cup red salsa (Casa Sanchez is good – located in the deli area of the grocery store)
  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 6 burrito-size flour tortillas
  • 2 cups grated four-cheese Mexican blend cheese (about 8 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add poblano chiles; sauté until beginning to soften, about 7 minutes. Add chicken, cumin, and chili powder; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until chicken is almost cooked through, 7-10 minutes. Mix in salsa; cook 1 minute. Stir in corn; sauté until heated through, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat; cover to keep warm.

Working with 1 tortilla at a time, heat tortillas in a pan until beginning to soften and brown in spots, about 15 seconds per side. Spoon chicken mixture in strip down center of each tortilla; top with cheese and cilantro. Fold in sides of tortilla over filling; roll up, enclosing filling.

*Poblano chiles are often called pasillas; available at most grocery stores and Latin markets.