Brussels, Belgium

Brussels's Grand Place during the Christmas season.
Brussels's glorious Grand Place during the Christmas season.

Each year Winter Wonders, Brussel’s Christmas Market, fills the city – from the world-famous Grand-Place of Brussels, around the Bourse, on the Place Sainte-Catherine and on the Marché aux Poissons. Hundreds of wooden huts offering hand-crafted toys, warming mugs of mulled wine, and moules mariniere by the bucket full fill the city centre. There is an outdoor ice rink (and a small rink for toddlers), a huge Ferris wheel and Christmas carols piped through loudspeakers. The Grand Place is home to a huge Christmas tree, and the Town Hall provides the canvas for the stunning Christmas lights show. The festivities begin in late November and continue until January 1.

Jay and I spent the summer of 1976 in Europe and a few weeks in Brussels where his parents were living at the time. The Grand Place is the most exquisite and elaborate square I have ever experienced, especially in the evening when the buildings are lit. All over the world it is known for its decorative and aesthetic wealth. Considered one of the most beautiful places of the world, The Grand-Place of Brussels was registered on the World Heritage List of the UNESCO in 1998.

Victor Horta Museum staircase
Staircase in the Victor Horta Museum

Some of Brussels’ districts were developed during the heyday of Art Nouveau, and many buildings are in this style. Art Nouveau is an international philosophy and style of art, architecture and applied art—especially the decorative arts—that were most popular during 1890–1910. The name “Art Nouveau” is French for “new art”. A reaction to academic art of the 19th century, it was inspired by natural forms and structures, not only in flowers and plants, but also in curved lines. Architects tried to harmonize with the natural environment. Victor Horta was a Belgium architect and designer and one of the most important names in Art Nouveau architecture. I remember visiting Victor Horta’s home/museum in Brussels with its incredible staircase.

Our favorite grater came from a very fun old second-hand shop, Les Petits Riens (little nothings), which we visited a few times with Jay’s mom. I just Googled and found a shop by the same name at 101, Rue Américaine! Sure would be fun to return and see if it really is the same one.

And the food… Belgian cuisine is characterised by the combination of French cuisine with the more hearty Flemish fare. Specialities include Brussels waffles (gaufres) and mussels (usually as “moules frites”, served with fries). The city is a stronghold of chocolate and pralines manufacturers with renowned companies like Neuhaus, Leonidas and Godiva. There are friteries throughout the city, and in tourist areas, fresh, hot, waffles are also sold on the street.

Belgian Chocolates, Grand Place, Brussels
Belgian Chocolate Shop in the Grand Place, Brussels

Jay’s parents remained in Brussels for a couple of years and when they visited us in Washington, DC a gift box of Neuhaus chocolates was always in the suitcase for me. Today’s reminiscing is inspired by a terrific article in the New York Times by Amy Thomas – Brussels: The Chocolate Trail… and includes a great list of the city’s chocolatiers.

“You have chocolate for tourists, and chocolate for Belgians,” Ms. Warner said of the national hierarchy in which chocolate produced by manufacturers like Côte d’Or and Guylian are devoured in vast quantities, but mostly by the city’s six million annual visitors. Bruxellois, Ms. Warner said, prefer the artisanal makers. “The big-name big houses are great. But seeing and tasting real handmade chocolate, while buying it from the person who made the chocolate, is something special.”

To prove her point, as we were leaving Wittamer, the century-old chocolatier in the center of the city that seduces both locals and tourists with its heritage recipes, Robbin suggested we go to Alex & Alex, a nearby Champagne and chocolate bar. Though its chocolates, made by Frederic Blondeel, aren’t made on-site, they’re acknowledged in some circles as some of the best in the city.

The bar is tucked away on one of the antiques store- and art gallery-filled streets that shoot off the Grand Sablon, Brussels’ central square. Its dark, cozy interior, along with the glass of Drappier rosé and array of square bonbons before me, was a lovely respite from the trolling chocolate tourists outside. I found the herbaceous notes of Blondeel’s basil ganache too reminiscent of pesto, but the “Alex’Perience” chocolates were another story. The first velvety impression of high-quality chocolate was followed by a flood of sweet, fruity cassis.

Amy Thomas’ new book, Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate) , will be released on February 1, 2012.

If you find yourself in Brussels by all means take the train to Bruges. “Much of the enchanting city center is truly reminiscent of a fairy tale, with stone footbridges spanning picturesque canals and cobblestone streets curving past turreted manor houses”… read 36 Hours: Bruges, Belgium for the full story.



Las Vegas, New Mexico

Las Vegas, New Mexico is laid out in the traditional Spanish Colonial style, with a central plaza surrounded by buildings which could serve as fortifications in case of attack. An important consideration in 1835 when it was founded. The town soon prospered as a stop on the Santa Fe Trail which was a 19th-century transportation route through central North America that connected Missouri with Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Las Vegas, New Mexico, Plaza
Central Plaza in Las Vegas, New Mexico
Close-up of a tree in the Central Plaza.
Close-up of a tree in the Central Plaza.

We were not familiar with Las Vegas, N.M. Jay’s cousin suggested we stop in as we made our way to her home in Santa Fe. Turns out it was a boomtown in its time, and has more than 900 buildings on the state and National Register of Historic Places.

Las Vegas, New Mexico, architecture
One of many restored buildings in Las Vegas, NM.

In the 1969 movie Easy Rider, Las Vegas, New Mexico, is the town where the two bikers ride behind a parade, are arrested for “parading without a permit,” and meet Jack Nicholson’s character in jail. And most of the 2007 Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men was filmed here.

Plaza Hotel, Las Vegas, NM
Plaza Hotel, built in 1881 and site of the first reunion of Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders in 1899.

The arrival of the railroad on July 4, 1879 brought with it businesses and people, both respectable and questionable. Among the notorious characters were such legends of the Old West as: dentist Doc Holliday and his girlfriend Big Nose Kate, Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, Mysterious Dave Mather, Hoodoo Brown, and Handsome Harry the Dancehall Rustler.

When the Spanish-American War was declared in 1898, Theodore Roosevelt resigned from the Navy Department. With the aid of U.S. Army Colonel Leonard Wood, Roosevelt assembled an improbable regiment of Ivy Leaguers, cowboys, Native Americans, African-Americans, and Western Territory land speculators. This group of men, which became known as the Rough Riders, trained for four weeks in the Texas desert and then set sail for Cuba. Over the course of the summer, Roosevelt’s Rough Riders fought valiantly, and sometimes recklessly, in the Cuban foothills, incurring casualties at a far greater rate than the Spanish. Roosevelt kept a detailed diary from the time he left Washington until his triumphant return from Cuba later that year, and his account of the battle was published as Rough Riders in 1899.

Historic Las Vegas, NM, Fire Station
Historic Las Vegas, NM, Fire Station

This September day the town is pretty quiet as we stretch our legs with a walk around the plaza. Many artists now live in the area and we buy a few cards at the El Zócalo Cooperative Art Gallery. A member-operated cooperative gallery on the historic Las Vegas Plaza featuring the work of over 15 diverse local artists. From there we walk over to the historic Plaza Hotel, newly restored and know as the “Belle of the Southwest” when it was built in 1882.

Las Vegas is situated between the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on one side and the Great Plains on the other. Nearby are state parks and the 1.6-million acre Santa Fe National Forest, one of the five National Forests in New Mexico. The Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge, 6 miles southeast of the city, provides an important resting, feeding, and wintering area for migrating geese, ducks, and cranes.

So ends our quick tour of Las Vegas… we are eager to get to Santa Fe, a little over an hour away, and our base for the next five days.

Best Gluten-free Chocolate Brownie Mix

Always chocolate, from the beginning… memories of melting chocolate ice cream cones, foamy chocolate sodas at the drugstore, trading marshmallow treats for my favorite chocolate candy bars at Halloween… yes, my chocolate tooth developed early on.

And a taste for coffee. Mom always had a pot of coffee brewing in the morning, the rich aroma signaling the start of a new day. On hot, humid summer afternoons she sipped iced coffee and in the evening would let me have a few spoonfuls over my chocolate ice cream which tasted pretty fine. So, I sometimes add Kahlua to my brownies, liking the rich undertone it adds to the flavor.

The Gluten-Free Pantry Chocolate Truffle Brownies
The Gluten-Free Pantry Chocolate Truffle Brownies - my favorite

Gluten-free brownie mixes work well for me because I do best on a low-sugar diet which means I bake dessert infrequently, and they travel well – easy to tuck into a suitcase. Over the years I have introduced my family and friends around the country to various gluten-free brownies mixes available in their area.

Having sampled a few different brownie mixes, my favorite is The Gluten-Free Pantry Chocolate Truffle Brownie Mix. Obviously, this is a very personal decision as we all like different qualities in our brownies. I find the Gluten-Free Pantry brownie is moist with a nice chewy texture and a rich chocolate flavor (their mix has miniature chocolate chips in it). The directions are clear and easy. Dinner guests rave about them and often ask me for the recipe… then I have to reveal that they are gluten-free and a mix. No compromise with these brownies, in fact, they are better than regular brownies. I buy a case of six boxes from and save another 15% with the Subscribe & Save feature which makes the cost less than $20 for the case.

Being one of those people who uses a recipe as a guide, the same is true with a brownie mix… I always add 1/3 cup of dark chocolate chips, use a combination of butter & olive oil, and 1/2 cup of various kinds of nuts. Other additions can include a teaspoon of cinnamon or chopped up chunks of crystallized ginger, a couple of tablespoons of Kahlua or Frangelico hazelnut liqueur. Have fun.

Gluten-free brownies
Stonewall Kitchen gluten-free brownies (left) and Pamela's Gluten-free Ultra Chocolate brownies, both with pecans

In the spirit of a true taste test I also baked a batch of brownies from the Stonewall Kitchen and Pamela’s. The Stonewall Kitchen Gluten-free Chocolate Brownie Mix has the most attractive packaging and is unique in that they have a fudge packet that you swirl on top of the brownie batter before baking. The flavor was good, extra fudgy and moist. It is the most expensive of the three and has no suggestions for ingredient substitutions. Their recipe is easy and simply calls for 2 large eggs and 7 tablespoons of melted butter.

Pamela’s Gluten-free Ultra Chocolate Brownie Mix rose beautifully and are visually appealing. I find the texture a little grainy and the chocolate flavor too mild (even adding extra chocolate chips). I appreciate the many options on the bag: Original recipe using oil, a butter recipe, cake-like brownies, fudgy brownies, german chocolate brownies… or chocolate cookies or chocolate cake. Most mixes are adaptable but it is helpful to know the conversions from the source. Although the brownies are not my favorite Pamela’s Gluten-free Chocolate Chuck Cookie Mix and Gluten-free Luscious Chocolate Cake Mix definitely are.

Other brownie mixes you may enjoy:

Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-free Brownie Mix  – a good brownie with a Cream Cheese Brownie recipe variation

Namaste Foods Gluten-free Brownie Mix – will be testing soon

King Arthur Flour Gluten-free Brownie Mix – will be testing soon, have enjoyed their Gluten-free Chocolate Cake Mix

Ad-Hoc Gluten-free Brownie Mix – available from William Sonoma; the Ad-Hoc GF pancake mix is superb but does have milk powder in it as does the brownie mix and is expensive. A nice gift item.

Betty Crocker Gluten-free Brownie Mix – readily available, tastes similar to their regular brownie mix – good, but I can tell it is a mix

For those who like rich, dark chocolate chips, try Dagoba Organic Chocolate Fair Trade Certified 73% Cacao Premium Chocolate Drops in your brownies or chocolate chip cookies! My favorite.

What gluten-free brownie mix are you enjoying?

Best Travel Book Gifts 2011

It’s that time of year again…

Do you have a dedicated traveler on your gift list? Or someone who stays close to home, but enjoys reading about faraway places and other cultures? Many of us enjoy spending a cold, winter’s day inside, cuddled up and cozy, gazing at pictures of places we love or hope to see someday. Books with a travel theme make a great holiday gift. Here are some books that caught my eye and have received good reviews:

How to Read ChurchesHow to Read Churches: A Crash Course in Ecclesiastical Architecture by Denis R. McNamara. The perfect companion, small enough to fit in a pocket yet serious enough to give real answers. A must-have for architecture and history buffs, tourists, and churchgoers interested in decoding the styles and symbols of religious structures. According to the book, every building has clues embedded in its design that show not only its architectural style but also who designed it, what kind of congregation it was built for, and why. Organized according to architectural element (windows, domes, arches, etc.), each element is presented in chronological order.

Pilgrimage by Annie Leibovitz, Introduction by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Pilgrimage charts a new course for one of America’s best-known living photographers. Different from her staged and carefully lit portraits made on assignment for magazines like Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair, Pilgrimage took Leibovitz to places that she could explore without an agenda. She wasn’t on assignment this time and she chose the subjects simply because she was moved by them. To read more and see some photographs, go to my post: Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage

The Travel BookLonely Planet The Travel Book by Lonely Planet. Even the most avid readers of travel guides and travel literature will enjoy this one. It is a coffee table book size with gorgeous photographs, reasonably priced, and it is very informative. All the writers who contribute to the Lonely Planet travel guide series have put heads, knowledge, and experience together and come up with an A-Z series of capsule profiles of every country in the world, 230 in number.

Andes by Michael Jacobs. The New York Times Book Review says, “Andes is a travelogue that’s scholarly and sociable in equal measure, by an author who’s as interested in ferreting out letters from 16th-century emigrants lured by the legend El Dorado as he is in visiting a museum dedicated to Bolívar’s mistress or checking out the transvestite bars of Ayacucho.” In this remarkable book, travel writer Michael Jacobs journeys across seven different countries, Andes by Michael Jacobsfrom the balmy Caribbean to the inhospitable islands of the Tierra del Fuego, through the relics of ancient civilizations and the remnants of colonial rule, retracing the footsteps of earlier travelers. His route begins in Venezuela, following the path of the great nineteenth-century revolutionary Simón Bolívar, but soon diverges to include accounts from sources as varied as Humboldt, the young Charles Darwin, and Bolívar’s extraordinary and courageous mistress, Manuela Saenz.

The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road by Paul Theroux. Theroux writes in the preface of his early yearnings to travel…. “I wanted to find a new self in a distant place, and new things to care about. The importance of elsewhere was something I took on faith. The Tao of Travel by Paul TherouxElsewhere was the place I wanted to be. Too young to go, I read about elsewheres, fantasizing about my freedom. Books were my road. And then, when I was old enough to go, the roads I traveled became the obsessive subject in my own books. Eventually I saw that the most passionate travelers have always been passionate readers and writers. And that is how this book came about.” Paul Theroux celebrates fifty years of wandering the globe by collecting the best writing on travel from the books that shaped him, as a reader and a traveler.

Best Women's Travel Writing 2011The Best Women’s Travel Writing 2011: True Stories from Around the World edited by Lavinia Spalding. This best-selling, award-winning series presents the finest accounts of women who have traveled to the ends of the earth to discover new places, peoples—and themselves. The common threads connecting the stories are a woman’s perspective and lively storytelling to make the reader laugh, cry, wish she were there, or be glad she wasn’t. Great book club read – fun, inspiring and thought-provoking.

Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography WonksMaphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks by Ken Jennings. Readers go on a world tour of geogeeks from the London Map Fair to the bowels of the Library of Congress, from the prepubescent geniuses at the National Geographic Bee to the computer programmers at Google Earth. Each chapter delves into a different aspect of map culture: highpointing, geocaching, road atlas rallying, even the “unreal estate” charted on the maps of fiction and fantasy. He also considers the ways in which cartography has shaped our history, suggesting that the impulse to make and read maps is as relevant today as it has ever been. Great gift for map enthusiasts.

1000 Places to See Before You Die1,000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz. A #1 New York Times bestseller, 1,000 Places reinvented the idea of a travel book as both wish list and practical guide. This new edition is the ultimate bucket-list, and has 200 new entries, like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Nicaragua, Qatar and Mozambique, plus budget-conscious suggestions for lodging and food. There are 600 full-color photographs, and the emphasis is on experiences: an entry covers not just Positano or Ravello, but the full 30-mile stretch along the Amalfi Coast.

The World's Must See PlacesThe World’s Must-See Places: A Look Inside More Than 100 Magnificent Buildings and Monuments by DK Eyewitness Travel Guides. Another beautiful coffee-table book with photos and 3-D cutaways and diagrams of places like Beijing’s Forbidden City, Mexico’s Chichen Itza and Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock. Ancient, classical, and modern sites from every continent are included. Each featured site is selected for its uniqueness, or its historical or architectural importance, and many are  on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. This book inspires readers to visit featured sights, and will dazzle armchair travelers.

Why not give the gift of travel to a child? Read my post: Best Travel Books for Kids

Happy Holidays to you all!


Best Travel Books for Kids

Giving a book as a gift can educate and inspire kids. Giving a travel book can broaden their awareness about the world and other cultures, nurture their imagination, and inspire a sense of wonder.

Lonely Planet has a new book out that may do all this: Not-for-Parents Travel Book: Cool Stuff to Know About Every Country in the World. “In this book are the epic events, amazing animals, hideous histories, funky foods, and crazy facts…”. I just ordered a copy for our 3 year old friend, Max, for Christmas. What a terrific book. Each page is a colorful collage of photos, a map, and curious details about the country. Max and his parents love books and as children’s author, Emilie Buchwald says, “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents”… and perhaps travelers as well.

Lonely Planet has also published its first series for children, Not For Parents books on Paris, New York, London, and Rome. The $15 paperbacks offer curious kids cartoons, photos and drawings packed with tidbits on local history, geography, the arts and pop culture. “Not For Parents: Paris, Everything You Ever Wanted To Know,” for example, mentions everything from crepes and the origins of plaster of Paris to a look at Deyrolle, a bizarre showcase for taxidermied animals.

You Can’t Take a Balloon Into… are wordless stories that takes readers on a great balloon chase. You Can’t Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum tells the tale of a little girl who leaves her prized yellow balloon tied to a railing outside the Metropolitan Museum. Its string becomes untied, and the balloon embarks on an uproarious journey through New York City. With a cast of wacky urban characters in tow, the balloon soars past a host of landmarks and 18 famous paintings and sculptures. This escapade is repeated in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Delightful, wordless books that explore the magical relationship between art and life. Suggested ages: 5 and up. (My 3 year old friend, Max, enjoys this book with his mom. Just depends how much adult involvement there is.)

Adele & Simon by Barbara McClintock takes us back a full century to Paris in its glory, when the Impressionists were still alive and the streets teemed with activity and fun-loving kids could meander for hours. Adèle meets her younger brother after school, and cautions him not to lose anything on the way home. The children take a leisurely route, visiting friends, a street market, a park, and two museums. Predictably, Simon leaves an item (his drawing, hat, knapsack, glove) behind at each location. How they’re returned to Simon will delight young readers as will McClintock’s detailed and intricate pen-and-ink with watercolor illustrations.

Books open up the world to children and encourage them to experience life. At Seattle’s TEDxRainier 2011 Conference, Rick Steves said “Fear is for people who don’t get out very much.” Let’s make sure the next generation is out and about, learning how much in common we all have, and what an amazing place this planet is.

The Metropolitan Opera Live in HD

This week in our yoga class Arron read from Eknath Eswaran’s Mantram HandbookThe Elephant and the Bamboo – comparing the elephant’s constantly moving trunk to our human mind. As the man in charge of the elephant gives him a stick of bamboo to hold onto in order to keep his trunk still, so may we quiet our mind by repeating a mantram/mantra. Struck by the reading I decided to write it out in my sketchbook; the watercolor elephant seemed a natural addition.

Coincidentally, at the end of yoga one of our classmate’s made an announcement… Philip Glass’s opera, Satyagraha, would be broadcast live at our local performing arts center this Sunday. Satyagraha tells the story of Gandhi’s early years in South Africa, where he developed his philosophy of non-violence. Jay and I went home and made reservations online. We were going to the Opera for $13 a piece!

Eknath Easwaran's The Elephant and the Bamboo
Eknath Easwaran's The Elephant and the Bamboo from my sketchbook

Metropolitan Opera Live in HD (also known as The Met: Live in HD) is a series of live opera performances transmitted in high-definition video via satellite from the Metropolitan Opera in New York City to select venues, primarily movie theaters, in the United States and other parts of the world. The first transmission was of a condensed English-language version of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte on December 30, 2006.

This year the Metropolitan Opera’s Peabody and Emmy Award-winning series The Met: Live in HD continues for its sixth season, featuring 11 live transmissions. Our local performing arts center is in its first year of transmission. When we saw Satyagraha, the transmission included interviews with the composer Philip Glass, the director, and some of the actors, including Richard Croft who plays Ghandi. The entire experience is incredible – picture a large movie screen, encompassing surround sound, and intimate multi-angled camera work that allows us to visually connect with the actors in a way not usually possible.

I took a quick look at the Met’s website and learned that in Washington State there are 19 venues for viewing. Russia is the latest country to join the Met’s groundbreaking live entertainment initiative; 1,600 theaters in 54 countries, including new additions: Israel and China. Don’t miss the chance to enjoy the Met live at your local movie theater or in a city you may be visiting. All the major cities have venues and click here on Met Live for a PDF of all the current locations for viewing. Can you tell I am excited about this?

There are recordings of the opera… click here on Satyagraha for information on the recording by composer, Philip Glass, with Christopher Keene conducting the New York City Opera Orchestra. And to read about Eknath Easwaran’s book: Gandhi the Man: How One Man Changed Himself to Change the World just click on the title of the book.

Clair’s Gluten-free Bread Experience

This summer found us in Prince Frederick, Maryland for our niece’s wedding and a visit with our good friends, Mary & Clair. To my surprise and delight, I discovered that Clair has embraced gluten-free eating and is baking fabulous bread (something I haven’t tried). I invited Clair to write about his experience of going gluten-free and learning to bake gluten-free bread.

Gluten-free Country Harvest Bread
A loaf of Clair's gluten-free Country Harvest Bread

Clair TweedieAbout five or six months ago I thought I might be gluten intolerant.  So before consulting my physician I did what any self-diagnosing guy would do….stay away from gluten products for awhile.  After a few days I did notice a change in myself, but, just maybe it wasn’t that gluten thing at all… so I had a nice rich chocolate brownie.  BAM! It was that gluten thing.  My doctor went on to confirm my diagnosis as not severe but nonetheless an unpleasant intolerance to gluten.

After trying several gluten-free breads and other products from the grocery store I decided the only way to enjoy these foods again was to do the baking myself. Many years ago I baked bread and enjoyed it immensely, now, being retired, I just don’t have a lot of spare time to devote to bread making so I began research on bread machines. The result was to purchase Zojirushi BB-CEC20 (Home Bakery Supreme 2-Pound-Loaf Breadmaker). Fantastic product!

Gluten-free Country Harvest Bread and Gluten-free White Sandwich Bread
Freshly baked Country Harvest Bread and White Sandwich Bread (both gluten-free)

With the aid of a great cook book “125 Best Gluten-Free Bread Machine Recipes” by Donna Washburn and Heather Butt, bread making became quick and easy… especially since the machine does all the heavy lifting.  A couple of my favorites are Country Harvest Bread and White Sandwich Bread. 

Gluten-free White Sandwich Bread, sliced
Gluten-free White Sandwich Bread slices very nicely.

The white sandwich loaf  is moist and slices beautifully and tastes just right either toasted or plain. Occasionally, I will add a couple tablespoons of chia seed for extra nutritional value (chia doesn’t effect the flavor).

Now, the Country Harvest bread is a full bodied bread chock full of  seed – sunflower, flax and sesame.  I also add pumpkin seed for even more crunch. This bread has a bold texture and can be sliced as thin or thick as one wishes.  It can be used for sandwiches but my favorite is a slice toasted and covered with my own pure almond butter – just almonds and a touch of sea salt.

I am well aware that we do not live by bread alone – for many reasons.  I have always liked granola but find most store brands (gluten-free and regular) to be too sweet and sticky or lacking something. My research on the topic led me to and what I think is the best granola I have ever made or eaten.  Not too sweet, a bit of a ginger bite and not at all sticky and as full of dried fruit as one cares to incorporate.  In this batch I used raisins, dates and cranberries.  Great when added to yogurt for breakfast or just plain for a snack.  ~ Clair

Homemade gluten-free granola
Clair's homemade gluten-free granola

Wow, thank you Clair. The New Year may just find me baking mine own bread as well. Very inspiring.

Here is what Clair uses:


Lexington, Kentucky and the Bourbon Trail

Horse Sculpture in Lexington, Kentucky
The Thoroughbred Park Sculpture Collection, Lexington, KY

Bluegrass, rolling hills, grazing horses… Kentucky is beautiful. At the entrance to downtown Lexington Gwen Reardon’s collection of sculptures in Thoroughbred Park greets us. The park is a tribute to the thoroughbred race horse, and features thirteen sculptures. Seven life-size bronze race horses and jockeys race toward an imaginary finish line, while in the adjacent park bronze broodmares and their foals graze.

Lexington, which is named for the initial battle of the Revolutionary War at Lexington, Massachusetts, was founded in 1775. Lexington is a small city and easy to get around. We stayed in the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton which is conveniently located on Richmond Road and just minutes from the University of Kentucky and Kentucky Horse Park. Their renovated over-sized rooms feature king or two queen beds and each guestroom is furnished with Flat Screen HD TV. The young woman who checked us in was very friendly and helpful.

After a long day of driving from Maryland, we were hungry and tired. The young woman at the Hilton recommended a restaurant nearby – The Chop House. Jay still raves about the Chop House Pork Chop (bone-in, thick cut) and my filet mignon was tender and perfectly cooked. We both ordered the chopped salad which really hit the spot… crisp romaine lettuce, bacon, blue cheese crumbles, avocado – we chose the Santa Fe dressing – a ranch-like spicy dressing. And good news – The Chop House has a gluten-free menu!

A La Lucie, Lexington, Kentucky
A La Lucie in downtown Lexington, Kentucky

Historically and today, downtown is the center of cultural life in Lexington. The restored 1887 Lexington Opera House features touring professional theater groups, Lexington Philharmonic concerts and other arts performances. Downtown is home to many of Lexington’s most popular and creative restaurants including A La Lucie on North Limestone. We walked by before they were open, but the reviews online are very positive. Asking the owner about a good coffee spot she suggested Third Street Stuff & Coffee. Not only did we enjoy a great cup of coffee (voted best cup of coffee in Lexington multiple times) the whole vibe is creativity… from the 3rd Street Stuff store inside to the fun embellishments on the outside patio, and mosaic on a back wall.

Third Street Stuff & Coffee, Lexington, KY
Third Street Stuff & Coffee, Lexington, KY
Third Street Stuff & Coffee patio
Third Street Stuff & Coffee groovy patio
Third Street Stuff & Coffee mosaic in Lexington, KY
Third Street Stuff & Coffee mosaic

Lexington is home to the University of Kentucky, as well as to Transylvania University, the oldest college established west of the Allegheny Mountains. For art lovers, the University of Kentucky Art Museum comes highly recommended and is home to many American works of art by acclaimed artists such as Alexander Calder, Sam Gilliam, Louise Berliawsky Nevelson and Gilbert Charles Stuart.

A number of Lexingtonians have roots that go back generations. Kentucky writers, most notably Wendell Berry, draw deeply on this sense of place. The stunning Red River Gorge is located in eastern Kentucky (about 60 miles from Lexington) and home to 26,000 acres of untamed river, rock formations, historical sites, unusual vegetation and wildlife. Berry writes about the Gorge, revealing its corners and crevices, ridges and rapids. His words not only implore us to know more but to venture there ourselves. Infused with his very personal perspective and enhanced by the photographs of Ralph Eugene Meatyard, The Unforeseen Wilderness draws the reader in to celebrate an extraordinary natural beauty and to better understand what threatens it.

The nickname for Kentucky is The Bluegrass State. Bluegrass is actually green – but in the spring bluegrass produces bluish-purple buds that give a rich blue cast to the grass when seen in large fields. The gentle rolling hills, and the highly fertile soil are good for growing pasture which makes for good horses.

To learn about the horses and have a chance to get up close, visit the Kentucky Horse Park. On a nice summer day the Horse Park is a beautiful green space to walk around and explore. You will see scores of horses in the fields and barns. Kids can take a pony ride, adults can ride a horse, or the whole family can take a spin on a carriage ride. It’s a working farm with fifty different breeds living on the park’s 1,200 acres.

Makers Mark Distillery on the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky
Makers Mark Distillery on the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky

Limestone makes for good horses and good whiskey. Millions of years in the making Kentucky spring water, purified as it flows over limestone rock formations, is perfect for Bourbon distilling because it is free of minerals that affect taste. As we leave Lexington to drive west towards Missouri we decide to detour onto the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and pay a visit to the Makers Mark Distillery outside of Loretto.

Barrel room at Makers Mark Distillery
Barrel room at Makers Mark Distillery with tools of the trade displayed.

The history of bourbon begins in the 1700s with the first settlers of Kentucky. The Governor of Virginia at that time was Thomas Jefferson, and he offered pioneers sixty acres of land in Kentucky (then called Bourbon county) if they would build a permanent structure and raise “native corn”. No family could eat that much corn, and they found that getting crops to market over narrow trails and steep mountains was a daunting task, so it was turned into whiskey. Kentucky Bourbon is different from other types of whiskeys because of ingredients, aging, the pure limestone-rich water of Kentucky, and the Kentucky crafted American white oak barrels.

Copper stills at Makers Mark Distillery
Gleaming copper stills at the Makers Mark Distillery

Production of Maker’s Mark started in 1954, after its originator, T. William “Bill” Samuels Sr., purchased the distillery known as “Burks’ Distillery” in Loretto, Kentucky for $35,000. The first bottle of Maker’s Mark was bottled in 1958 and featured the brand’s distinctive dipped red wax seal. The distillery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 31, 1974, and designated a National Historic Landmark on December 16, 1980, listed as “Burks’ Distillery”. It was the first distillery in America to be recognized, where the landmark buildings were in active use for distilling.

The tour of the distillery begins near the stonewalled creek that runs through the peaceful, landscaped grounds, where you’ll hear a brief history of the distillery. Its black buildings feature bright red shutters with a Maker’s Mark bottle cutout. Unlike larger distilleries’ 600-barrel-per-day production, Maker’s Mark crafts its bourbon in 19 barrel batches. This is a free tour and no reservations are needed. Tastings are given in the gift shop area at the end.

Located on the grounds of the Makers Mark Distillery is The Toll Gate Cafe, housed in a toll house built in the late 1800s. Completely remodeled, it has a pleasant atmosphere – historical photos on gray-toned walls trimmed with the traditional Maker’s Mark red. The menu has some bourbon-inspired recipes and we decide to share some bourbon BBQ which is delicious. The perfect ending to our visit and fortifying as we continue to Missouri.

Bourbon’s All-American Roar an article by Mickey Meece in the NY Times talks about the current trend in bourbon and rye and has the winning recipe for a great Manhattan.

Charles Cowdery’s bookBourbon, Straight: The Uncut and Unfiltered Story of American Whiskey  follows the trail of America whiskey-making from its 17th century origins up to the present day. In his book, readers discover the history of the American whiskey industry, how American whiskey is made and marketed, and the differences among various types of American whiskey. The many fascinating characters who have made American whiskey what it is today are introduced, and a complete tasting guide with 35 detailed product reviews is included.

Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Recipes

macy's holiday parade portland OR
Raggedy Ann leads the way in the Macy's Holiday parade in Portland

Last Thanksgiving found us in Portland, Oregon, enjoying a delicious meal at the Heathman Restaurant in the Heathman Hotel. Before making our reservation, I called the restaurant and asked if there would be gluten-free options available for the Thanksgiving dinner. The answer was yes. The day of when we were seated, I let our server know my need to order gluten-free. She helped me navigate the menu offerings and I had a delicious meal. When eating out, doing a little advance work can help make the occasion less stressful.

This year we are home and will be celebrating the day by going to our community Thanksgiving Dinner. My research this year is checking out all the different gluten-free Thanksgiving recipes in newspapers and blogs… I am pleased by all the attention we are getting around the country. You know gluten-free eaters have reached a critical mass when chefs and major newspapers join the parade.

From the New York TimesGluten-Free Thanksgiving Stuffings. Gather your celery, onion, sage and thyme… here is the one of Martha Rose Shulman’s five new ways to make stuffing:

Wild Rice and Brown Rice Stuffing With Apples, Pecans and Cranberries


3/4 cup short-grain brown rice
6 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small or medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup diced celery
2 garlic cloves, minced (optional)
1 tablespoon butter
2 apples, cored and cut in 1/2-inch dice
1/3 cup lightly toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
1/3 cup dried cranberries

1. Combine the wild rice with 4 1/2 cups stock or water in one saucepan and the brown rice with 1 1/2 cups stock or water in another smaller saucepan. Add salt to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer the brown rice for 35 to 40 minutes, until the rice is tender and all of the liquid has been absorbed. Turn off the heat, place a clean kitchen towel over the pot and return the lid. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Simmer the wild rice for 40 to 50 minutes, until the grains have begun to splay. Drain through a strainer if there is liquid in the pot, and return to the pot. Place a clean kitchen towel over the pot and return the lid. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

2. While the grains are cooking, prepare the remaining ingredients. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until the onion begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the celery and a generous pinch of salt, and continue to cook until the onion is completely tender, another 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook, stirring, until it is fragrant, another 30 to 60 seconds. Remove from the heat and transfer to a large bowl. Add the cooked grains and stir together.

3. Return the skillet to the stove and heat over medium-high heat. Add the butter, and when the foam subsides add the apples. Cook, stirring or tossing in the pan, until lightly colored, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add to the bowl with the grains. Add the remaining ingredients and stir together. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a lightly oiled or buttered baking dish and cover with foil.

4. Warm the stuffing in a 325-degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.

Yield: Makes about 8 cups, serving 12 to 16.

Advance preparation: The cooked grains will keep for 3 days in the refrigerator and can be frozen. The stuffing benefits from being made a day ahead.

From Eat Right For Your Type (eating for your blood type), Dr. D’Adamo’s Newsletter has a Thanksgiving feast that is good for all the blood types. One of the vegetables from the feast:

Shallot and Bacon Creamed Kale


5 slices turkey bacon
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided use 4 large shallots, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 bunches of kale, chopped
dash of ground cloves
sea salt to taste
1 tablespoon ghee
2 tablespoon arrowroot flour
1 1/2 cups rice milk

1. Start by cooking bacon in a medium skillet with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Heat the skillet over medium, drizzle with oil and cook bacon 2-3 minutes per side or until crispy.

2. In the meantime, heat a medium pot over medium heat and add remaining olive oil. Sauté shallots and garlic for 2-3 minutes just until aromatic and softened. Add kale a handful at a time, stir until wilted and continue adding by the handful. This will help manage the kale, and helps it cook faster. Season with a dash of cloves and sea salt.

3. Remove the bacon from the pan, crumble and set aside on a paper towel. In the same skillet, make a roux by melting the ghee over medium heat and whisking in the flour until free of lumps. Slowly add the rice milk, whisking continuously. Continue heating and whisking until thickened. The mixture will bubble and become the consistency of a thin yogurt, at which point it can be added to the kale.

4. Stir crumbled bacon into the kale, add crumbled bacon and serve warm.

Washingtonian Magazine has done a nice job of collecting Gluten-free Thanksgiving Recipes from many of the popular gluten-free bloggers. Including three turkey recipes, homemade gravy, and Celiac-friendly cornbread stuffing.

Udi’s Gluten Free Foods offers up a Gluten Free Pumpkin Sausage Stuffing partially baked in the pumpkin and then served in the pumpkin.

One of my favorite gluten-free bloggers, gluten-free girl, has compiled a blog post of all her Thanksgiving recipes. As she says “foods that will make everyone feel happy and safe”. She has rounded up recipes for roast turkey, side dishes like Curried Sweet Potato Gratin, vegetables, salads, baked goods, desserts and a delicious sounding Cranberry Cocktail.

Last month I posted a recipe for Gluten-free Pumpkin Loaf Cake which I will be baking next week, and a favorite in my family is Pecan Pie…

Gluten-free Thanksgiving Pecan Pie


1 9-inch gluten-free pie crust, unbaked and chilled (I like The Gluten-Free Pantry Perfect Pie Crust Mix)
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
6 tablespoon butter, melted
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
1/3 cup molasses
1 tablespoon dark rum, optional
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cup pecans (1 cup whole, 2/3 cup chopped)
5 large eggs

1. Whisk together 5 eggs, brown sugar, butter, honey, molasses, rum, vanilla and salt. Stir in chopped pecans.

2. Pour filling into uncooked pie shell. Arrange whole pecans on top of pie.

3. Bake 10 minutes at 400 degrees, then about 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

4. Cool before serving.

One last addition, 5 Desserts for your Thanksgiving Feast, from Patricia Conte at She Knows… Gluten-free dark chocolate pumpkin brownies, Gluten-free cranberry-pecan peanut butter cookies, and more chocolatey pumpkin delights!

Enjoy the day with your family and friends… and happy eating this Thanksgiving.

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.  ~Thornton Wilder


Seattle’s TEDxRainier 2011 Conference

Sue's TEDx Rainier notes, page 2
One page of my sketchbook notes from the TEDx Rainier Conference

Heading off the island Friday evening we are full of anticipation about tomorrow’s TEDx Rainier event. This year’s theme is Gained in Translation: Ideas Crossing Frontiers, featuring over twenty five speakers whose ideas and extraordinary work span across domains and fuel innovations and insights. Followers of TED for years online, this is our first live experience.

Earlier on Friday I received a book I had ordered from Amazon – An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers by Danny Gregory. I couldn’t wait to get on the ferry with no distractions and go through the book slowly, page by page.

An Illustrated Life, cover
click on book for more info

As Gregory says in the introduction, “a book full of sketchbooks and illustrated journals from all sorts of people who love nothing better than to hunch over a little book and fill its pages with lines and colors”. This treasure of a book has 78 five star reviews out of 84… it is stupendous with creativity overflowing tremendously inspiring.

This was just the creative jumpstart I needed and somewhere along the way from home to Seattle the idea was born to capture the essence of each talk creatively in my sketchbook on two facing pages. So I arrived with Jay at the Conference Saturday morning with sketchbook and pen in hand. The first few moments I had some self-consciousness as the first speaker began… where and how to begin, is anyone watching me??? All the usual fears. Fortunately, I was able to move through the fear, pick a starting spot, realize everyone is mesmerized by the speakers (not me) and plunge into it. By the third speaker there was no looking back, I was totally hooked on my project.

Sue's TEDx Rainier notes, page 1
My second page of sketchbook notes from the TEDx Rainier Conference

Jay & I enjoyed many of the speakers, some of the highlights included:

  • Rick Steves‘ frank talk about how global travel brings us together, saying “Fear is for people that don’t get out much.” Rick is a world traveler and author of over 80 very readable helpful books on travel.
  • Amory Lovins on Reinventing Fire – how to transition to zero carbon clean renewable energy by 2050… I liked his quote – “Not all the fossils are in the fuel.”
  • Peter Blomquist on being humbled in his encounters with the kindness of simple traditional cultures. Peter is principal of Blomquist International, focused on organizational development, philanthropy, and global engagement. His words of wisdom – enter humbly, stay for tea, listen and learn.
  • ITGirl librarian Chrystie Hill on how libraries are transforming and evolving in the new world. When kids were asked what they would like in a library where everything is allowed, one replied – to hear the sounds of the forest as I approach the books about trees.
  • Leroy Hood on how insights from the human Genome project are bringing fundamental advances in early diagnosis and treatment of disease. P4 Medicine is his belief – predictive, preventative, personal and participatory.
  • Pediatrician Dimitri Christakis on how focusing on the first year of a child’s development can have stunning effects on the potential of the child, for the rest of life. Dr. Christakis is author of The Elephant in the Living Room: Make Television Work for Your Children.
  • Jenn Lim on happiness. Jenn Lim is the CEO and Chief Happiness Officer of Delivering Happiness, a company that she and Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos) co-created in 2010 to inspire happiness in work, community and everyday life.
  • Adnan Mahmud on “Climbing the ladder that matters.” Adnan tells his story about how he came to create Jolkona, a nonprofit that helps people raise large amounts of money through small donation, and receive proof of how the donations helped make a difference for those in need.
  • The three  Interfaith Amigos, Pastor Don McKenzie, Rabbi Ted Falcon, and Imam Jamal Rahman on religious discord, and how to get along. Their presentation received a standing ovation. It was at once funny, touching and brimming with promise and hope. Their new book is Religion Gone Astray: What We Found at the Heart of Interfaith.

For both of us, the most powerful talk was given by photographic artist Chris Jordan. Jordan, a former corporate lawyer, explores the detritus of mass culture, using photographs and images to, at a gut level, convey the impact we are having on the earth. Earlier this year we saw his exhibit – Running the Numbers – at the University of Oregon’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in  Eugene, OR.

Let’s see I’ve covered the Travel, Sketch, Write areas… now we get to the part about doing all this while eating gluten-free. This trip to Seattle we experienced two new restaurants. Both casual, affordable, gluten-free friendly and yummy.

Friday night we had a late dinner at Uneeda Burger. Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Uneeda Burger is a casual, roadside-style burger shack with seriously delicious burgers. I had the lamb burger special on a gluten-free bun with a side of spicy sweet potato fries while Jay splurged and went with the Whidbey Island Crescent Harbor 100% Wagyu (Kobe) grass-fed beef (additional $3) with caramelized onions, watercress and blue cheese. Both were deliciously juicy and messy and enjoyed with one of their craft-brewed beers. Not a beef eater, not to worry, they have chicken and veggie options.

Saturday at our lunch break two of the student volunteers at TEDx Rainier suggested we try Shultzys. Nothing better than to walk into a busy restaurant and find a quiet seat near the fireplace on a rainy fall day. Jay tried the “Schultzy”, a char-grilled sausage burger made with mild Italian pork, served on a toasted, garlic-buttered roll with grilled onions & peppers – very good subtle flavors. I had the Bratwurst, a mild but nicely spiced pork and beef sausage, served with grilled onions & sauerkraut. Easily gluten-free by eliminating the bun. Very tasty. The service was prompt and our food came quickly which we appreciated given our limited time.  Seattle’s Wurst Restaurant is located at 4114 University Way NE.

I end with a tip from my sweet husband… Looking for an idea for taking your sweetie out on a date? Go to a TED conference. Ideas are hot! Follow up the conference with a nice dinner, in a quiet romantic place, and prepare to have some great conversation. TED talks will inspire, enlighten, and fill you with hope.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR

Crystal Bridges Museum, Bentonville, Arkansas
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas

Leaving family in Missouri we head to Bentonville, Arkansas for an overnight. Yes, this is the home of Walmart and Jay wants to visit their flagship store, Sam’s Club, where they are practicing state of the art sustainability.

We have no trouble getting a room at the Hilton Garden Inn in Bentonville.  A friendly young man checks us in and makes a few suggestions for dining in the historic downtown area of town. Today is Labor Day so the area feels like a ghost town with few places open.

Table Mesa Bistro, Bentonville, AR
Table Mesa Bistro in downtown Bentonville, Arkansas

Three restaurants are recommended: Table Mesa Bistro, which offers multicultural dishes featuring seasonal ingredients (fire grilled lamb pita), Tavola Trattoria where they serve excellent Italian food (Kobe meatballs) and is the sister restaurant of Table Mesa, and Tusk & Trotter American Brasserie.

Soldier sculpture in downtown Bentonville, Arkansas
Soldier sculpture in downtown Bentonville, Arkansas

We locate all three in a drive around town and find only Tusk & Trotter open. They have a limited menu in the bar because of the holiday but we have a delicious and satisfying meal. Jay starts with a draft Guinness and then we both decide on the grilled romaine salad and ribs with truffle fries. Jay declares the grilled salad the best he has ever had – light smokey flavor permeating the greens. The ribs are meaty and the fries are wickedly good. And all are gluten-free.

Clueless about the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art until our waiter at Tusk & Trotter fills us in, we drive over to the park to take a walk and peer through the fence into the museum construction area. A 120 acres of forests, gardens, and long hiking trails connect the museum with downtown Bentonville. Its patron, Alice Walton, is the descendant of the Ozarks’ first family: her father, Sam Walton, opened a discount store called Wal-Mart in nearby Rogers, Arkansas, in 1962. Today Walmart is America’s largest private employer. The Walton Family Foundation gave the museum a $1.2 billion endowment and Ms Walton and the museum have amassed an enviable collection of treasures spanning most of American history.

Crystal Bridges Museum, Bentonville, Arkansas
Crystal Bridges Museum still under construction in Bentonville, Arkansas

I learn more from an article in The Economist:

Crystal Bridges takes its name from Crystal Spring, which flows on the grounds, and from the multiple bridges around which the museum is designed. The architect is Moshe Safdie, best known for his half-brutalist, half-playful Habitat 67 complex in Montreal. Crystal Bridges comprises several discrete but linked structures that meander around and above two spring-fed reflecting ponds, a design that Mr Safdie says is meant to echo the surrounding topography. Much of the museum’s roofing is copper, which currently has the umbral hue of the foliage around it—the leaves dying in autumn, the copper brand new—but which will of course gradually darken, turning a deep rust red and then dark brown before taking on the familiar light green patina in years to come.

And just as the buildings nestle into and hug their surroundings, with few right angles, so the roofs arch and swoop and fall, mimicking the region’s mountains. Trees surround the museum; as they grow they will enshroud it with leaves in full summer and expose it in winter. Crystal Bridges does not look like a traditional Japanese structure, but something of the Japanese aesthetic—simplicity and cleanness of design, reverence for nature, the impulse to build in harmony with rather than atop the natural world—pervades it.

The museum’s collection manages to be both thorough and surprising. Those who wish to see works by major American artists such as Winslow Homer, Thomas Hart Benton and Robert Rauschenberg will not be disappointed. But Don Bacigalupi, the museum director, says that in building a collection at this late date he looked at “identifying new scholarship and new research that led us toward artists and moments less well discovered”. That has inspired a particularly strong focus on women in American art—as patrons, subjects and creators. Janet Sobel, who made drip paintings several years before Jackson Pollock, gets her due. Among the museum’s first-rate collection of portraits, nothing exceeds Dennis Miller Bunker’s sombre, haunting image of Anne Page; and in its contemporary galleries Alison Elizabeth Taylor’s marquetry “Room” is, like the museum itself, a chamber of wonders in an unexpected place.

When the museum opens Nov. 11, many of the paintings will be on public display for the first time because Alice Walton bought them from private collections.

Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage

Photo of Sigmund Freud's couch by Annie Leibovitz
Sigmund Freud's couch in his study at 20 Maresfield Gardens in London (source: NY Times)

Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage charts a new course for one of America’s best-known living photographers. Different from her staged and carefully lit portraits made on assignment for magazines like Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair, Pilgrimage took Leibovitz to places that she could explore without an agenda. She wasn’t on assignment this time and she chose the subjects simply because she was moved by them.

The photography exhibition is presented in conjunction with a new book – Pilgrimage by Annie Leibovitz, with an introduction by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Here are some notes from the book:

She chose the subjects simply because they meant something to her. The first place was Emily Dickinson’s house in Amherst, Massachusetts, which Leibovitz visited with a small digital camera. A few months later, she went with her three young children to Niagara Falls. “That’s when I started making lists,” she says. She added the houses of Virginia Woolf and Charles Darwin in the English countryside and Sigmund Freud’s final home, in London, but most of the places on the lists were American. The work became more ambitious as Leibovitz discovered that she wanted to photograph objects as well as rooms and landscapes. She began to use more sophisticated cameras and a tripod and to travel with an assistant, but the project remained personal.

Leibovitz went to Concord to photograph the site of Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond. Once she got there, she was drawn into the wider world of the Concord writers. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s home and Orchard House, where Louisa May Alcott and her family lived and worked, became subjects. The Massachusetts studio of the Beaux Arts sculptor Daniel Chester French, who made the seated statue in the Lincoln Memorial, became the touchstone for trips to Gettysburg and to the archives where the glass negatives of Lincoln’s portraits have been saved. Lincoln’s portraitists—principally Alexander Gardner and the photographers in Mathew Brady’s studio—were also the men whose work at the Gettysburg battlefield established the foundation for war photography. At almost exactly the same time, in a remote, primitive studio on the Isle of Wight, Julia Margaret Cameron was developing her own ultimately influential style of portraiture. Leibovitz made two trips to the Isle of Wight and, in an homage to the other photographer on her list, Ansel Adams, she explored the trails above the Yosemite Valley, where Adams worked for fifty years.

“From the beginning, when I was watching my children stand mesmerized over Niagara Falls, it was an exercise in renewal,” she says. “It taught me to see again.”

Virginia Wolf's Bedroom, Annie Leibovitz
Virginia Woolf’s bedroom in her country home, which is a few miles from Charleston, England (source: NY Times)

Dominique Browning interviewed Annie Leibovitz, here is an exerpt from A Pilgrim’s Progress in the New York Times:

Gazing at the traces left behind by her favorite artists, traces of their lives, their creature habits, Ms. Leibovitz finds something to nurture all of us — something about integrity, staying true to a vision. She forges a connection to the past that informs the way she is moving forward. “I would encourage everyone to make their own list,” she says. “My book is a meditation on how to live. It’s an old-fashioned idea, but you should always try to do what you love to do.”

Photographs from Pilgrimage will be exhibited at New York’s Pace Gallery, 545 West 22nd Street, from December 1 to 3, and will then be at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC, from January 20 to May 20, 2012. Following its presentation in Washington, D.C., Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage will tour nationally.

Martin Luther King and Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorials

Tidal Basin in Washington, DC
The Tidal Basin, Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC.

I was born (in the USA…) and raised in the Washington, DC area and I love to return to visit. On this trip east we have one day in DC and decide to walk along the Tidal Basin, through the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, to the new Martin Luther King Memorial.

The Tidal Basin is a partially human-made reservoir between the Potomac River and the Washington Channel in Washington, D.C. It is part of West Potomac Park and is a focal point of the National Cherry Blossom Festival held each spring. We are here in summer but spring is a beautiful season especially if you can time it with the cherry blossoms.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt will always be intimately connected to the National Park Service. During a speech in 1936, President Roosevelt noted the special quality of national parks by stating that “there is nothing so American.” He captured the essential truth of the agency by declaring, “the fundamental idea behind the parks…is that the country belongs to the people, that it is in process of making for the enrichment of the lives of all of us.” Years ago I read the two volume biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, a woman whose values and birth date I share – Eleanor Roosevelt, Vol. 1: 1884-1933 and Eleanor Roosevelt : Volume 2 , The Defining Years, 1933-1938 – both by Blanche Wiesen Cook. I remember being absorbed by both, the first volume is more about her personal life whereas the second volume is more historical, covering the social justice movements in this country at that time and Eleanor Roosevelt’s anti-racism work. Doris Kearns Goodwin has received high praise for her book, No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II. Might be time to revisit the Roosevelts.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt with his dog, Fala, at the FDR Memorial in Washington, DC
Franklin Delano Roosevelt with his Scottish Terrier, Fala, at the FDR Memorial

“They (who) seek to establish systems of government based on the regimentation of all human beings by a handful of individual rulers… call this a new order. It is not new and it is not order”.

The FDR Memorial spans 7.5 acres and depicts the 12 pivotal years of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency through a series of four outdoor gallery rooms. The rooms feature ten bronze sculptures depicting President Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt and events from the Great Depression and World War II. The park-like setting includes waterfalls and quiet pools amidst a wandering wall of red Dakota granite, into which Roosevelt’s inspiring words are carved. It is the first memorial in Washington, DC purposely designed to be totally wheelchair accessible and is open daily except Christmas.

FDR Memorial in Washington, DC
FDR Memorial in Washington, DC

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little”.

After the park-like setting of the FDR Memorial, the Martin Luther King Memorial feels bold and stark. The sculpture, called “Stone of Hope,” stands looking onto the Tidal Basin, across from the Thomas Jefferson Memorial and next to the FDR Memorial. King’s head, his upper body and the tops of his legs emerge from stone. Lei Yixin, a granite sculptor from China, designed it so that King is part of the stone. The sculpture’s name refers to a line in King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. “With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope,” King said. His statue is designed to look as if he were once a part of the “Mountain of Despair” but is now the “Stone of Hope.”

MLK Memorial in Washington, DC
MLK Memorial in Washington, DC

There is controversy about the MLK Memorial. Our friends in DC tell us that some are upset about the sculptor chosen, others think the likeness to King is not good, and we hear that the quote on the sculpture is incorrect or taken out of context**… As I take in the memorial and find my critical mind start to work, I hear three older African American women talking among themselves. The first woman says she is looking forward to a few years from now when the landscaping has grown in. Her friend agrees and says she thinks it will be beautiful in the autumn with all the falling leaves on the ground… and the third woman says they must return in the winter when it snows, how beautiful it will be then. They have the vision. Martin Luther King has arrived on the mall.

** Update on 2/10/2012: Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Inscription To Be Changed To Full Quotation

“Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”

Full Quotation from the “Drum Major Instinct,” a speech King delivered two months before he was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn.

MLK Quote Wall at the MLK Monument in Washington, DC
One of MLK's inspirational quotes on the granite wall.
MLK Monument in Washington, DC
His statue is designed to look as if he were once a part of the "Mountain of Despair" but is now the "Stone of Hope."

After our visit I read in the Washington Post that some 10,000 spectators arrived on the National Mall for the dedication of this memorial. Among the speakers were a who’s who of civil rights leaders as well as President Obama. This $120 million monument with a 30-foot stone sculpture that depicts Dr. King’s greatness and a curved granite wall inscribed with 14 inspirational quotes from his speeches was officially unveiled on the National Mall to commemorate the work done by Dr. King and many other civil rights activists.

Quote from the MLK Monument in Washington, DC
Another quote from the MLK Monument in Washington, DC
MLK Monument Quote Wall in Washington, DC
View of the MLK sculpture with the curved granite quote wall.

Several years ago around Martin Luther King’s birthday, The Huffington Post asked its readers for their favorite MLK books. The top three were:

Harry Belafonte supported the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and was one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s confidants. His new book, My Song: A Memoir, talks about about his political and humanitarian activism. The sections on the rise of the civil rights movement are described as the most moving in the book: his close friendship with Martin Luther King, Jr.; his role as a conduit between Dr. King and the Kennedys; his up-close involvement with the demonstrations and awareness of the hatred and potential violence around him; his devastation at Dr. King’s death and his continuing fight for what he believes is right. Belafonte is a great artist and another great man.

In 2015 the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture, which is being built near the Washington Monument, will open and will be the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, art, history and culture.

It is now mid-afternoon, we are thirsty and hungry, so we drive over to Georgetown.

Georgetown is a neighborhood located in the Northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C., along the Potomac River waterfront. The primary commercial corridors of Georgetown are M Street and Wisconsin Avenue, which contain high-end shops, bars, and restaurants. Georgetown is home to the main campus of Georgetown University, and numerous landmarks, such as the Old Stone House, the oldest unchanged building in Washington. The embassies of France, Mongolia, Sweden, Thailand, and Ukraine are also located in Georgetown.

Baked and Wired in Georgetown area of Washington, DC
Local hangout, Baked & Wired, in the Georgetown area of Washington, DC

After determining that the waterfront eating options are not appealing, we ask the woman in Starbucks where she would suggest we dine. She recommends J. Pauls up on M St., so off we go. As we walk up Thomas Jefferson St. we come upon the irresistible Baked & Wired. High quality, handmade baked goods made in small batches. Today they have two gluten-free choices – Nutella brownies and peanut butter cookies. I settle on the brownie which is moist, with a divinely rich hazelnut-chocolate flavor. Our niece, Gabrielle, would love these! The connected coffee shop (Wired) is equally small and smart. For those in the know, their coffee comes from Stumptown Coffee Roasters and Intelligentsia Coffee.

J. Paul’s has the windows and doors open and the ceiling fans blowing, for it is a gorgeous summer day, warm but not too humid. An American Saloon that is known for fresh oysters, it is a fun, casual place to dine and watch the action on M Street. Jay orders one of the specials – Salade Nicoise with fresh grilled tuna, and I chose the J. Paul’s Burger without a bun and instead of fries substitute their delicious Peppered Green Beans. The waiter is very helpful and knowledgeable about how to create a gluten-free meal.

During lunch Jay totally surprises me by suggesting that we walk up to the Apple Store on Wisconsin Ave. and purchase a MacBook Air… for me! Certainly sharing a laptop while traveling is challenging for two bloggers… but this is a total surprise. An early birthday present. I am ecstatic. Brownie, burgers, new computer – all I need are balloons.

Gluten-free pumpkin pancakes

Ella's Halloween card
Ella's haunting Halloween card - BOO!

Halloween is a big event on our little island. Saturday was pumpkin carving outside the local bakery, and hayrides through town. Halloween day the vendors in town will greet the children trick or treating with goodies, the grocery store will be decorated outrageously (the meat dept being my favorite), and the Odd Fellows Hall will host the dance of the year (no one would dare show up without a costume).

Gluten-free pumpkin pancakes
Gluten-free pumpkin pancakes with pecans

So in the spirit of Halloween, jack-o-lanterns, falling autumn leaves, and cool crisp morning air – I woke up with pumpkin pancakes haunting my senses. I could smell them on the griddle, taste the pumpkin cinnamon flavor and melting butter… Last weekend I made a gluten-free pumpkin loaf cake which left me with about 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin – just what I need for pancakes.

Recently I received a very thoughtful birthday gift, Ad Hoc Gluten-Free Pancake & Waffle Mix developed exclusively for  William-Sonoma. The taste and texture is delicious and each box contains 2 mix packets which yield 4 traditional waffles or 8 Belgian waffles or pancakes. They are easy to prepare – just add milk, butter and eggs… and 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree (canned or fresh), 1/2 cup chopped pecans, and some cinnamon for pumpkin pancakes. My dairy tolerance is low so I add almond milk to the mix, but beware the mix does have milk powder in it.

Two other gluten-free pancake mixes I like are Pamela’s Products Ultimate Baking & Pancake Mix and Arrowhead Mills Wild Rice Pancake/Waffle Mix Wheat-Free (vegan free). Both are flexible to substitutions and I often add pumpkin or applesauce for moisture and natural sweetness, blueberries, chopped nuts, cinnamon or ginger. Easy to have fun with pancakes, and gluten-free pancake mixes are great gifts and good for traveling – easy to take along when you head to grandma’s or go on vacation.

What are your favorite pancakes?