Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Perfect Wedding- It takes a Village!

It really takes a village to make the dreams of a young bride's wedding come true.
Walking into a chillier than normal hotel room , full of white and green flowers, the groom's mother and friends are creating beautiful floral arrangements for the next day.  The rooms smells wonderful and the flowers are amazing. 

Mercury glass vases hold arrangements of hydrangea, roses, queen anne's lace, hostas, and silver sage.  Lovely, indeed.

Receiving our instructions from Penny, the bride's mother, her friends create floral covered
candlesticks for the gift table.

And embellish the birdcage for cards.
The groom's mother made delicious butter mints in the bride's chosen colors- blue and silver.

We place them on an antique silver tray and embellish it with roses and their petals.  

The simple white tiered cake is embellished with sugar magnolias, roses and fresh sweet peas.

The brick walled terrace is embellished with tussie mussies of the chosen flowers.

 White lanterns  line the fountain where cocktails will be served.
Now entering the cocktail hour, the bridal party.( Note Molly- in the back! carrying a little bundle of joy.  She just gave birth to a sweet baby girl- the first niece of the bride!  And she fit in the bridesmaid dress!!!)
And now enters the bride and groom- from the terrace above.

Beautiful, lovely, sweet Kate.

Could she possibly look any happier?

All smiles-

Wearing a drop dead gorgeous beaded gown

With one of the most beautiful dress backs that I have ever seen.

And the perfect coiffure- a softly upswept style- embellished with flowers.

Notice the beautiful details of the bodice.

Smiling up at her new  husband- can you tell she loves him?  So much!!!
Entering the dining room for dinner, a soft romantic glow is cast over the room.
Full of white linens and white flowers, it is a romantic bride's dream.

 The food is simple and good- a mac and cheese station- yum! A real hit with the guests.

Menu signs were designed and made by the bride for each station.

Caprese  Salad- made by her sister's true love.

Grilled chicken and fruit salad
Mediterranean Salad
Add a little Pork Loin and Apricot Sauce and an open bar, and you have the perfect combination.

It was an occasion for all to gather and celebrate-


nieces and nephews

And finally- the proud parents- who were  so proud of their beautiful daughter
and so happy to be celebrating with family and friends- Penny and Greg.  

And to the newly weds- wishing you a long life of happiness and joy together.
Congratulations to Kate and Craig.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The American West- A Road Trip

I just spent 2 weeks on the road with my husband.  We drove from Chicago to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  What gorgeous land!!     I wanted to see Mount Rushmore before we moved from the Chicago area, so my husband and I decided to plan a road trip and check out a few other destinations along the way.

First night- Sioux Falls, South Dakota

We had dinner  in the happening downtown Sioux Falls  at Minervas - the absolute best walleye pike that I have ever had in my life.
It's a fancy supper club type of atmosphere and the food was awesome.  But the big surprise was a patisserie located about 3 doors down the street called CH Patisserie.  A customer told us to try the salted caramel macaron and I am so glad that we took her advice.  It was the most incredible cookie that I have ever tasted in my life.  The chef , Chris Hanmer, is a world champion pastry chef and Bravo's Top Chef winner.  I am still craving these macarons.  You can check out the bakery at
Who would have thought one would find this delightful treat in Sioux Falls? 
The next day we drove to Spearfish Canyon, near the town of Deadwood, South Dakota.
Of course on the way, we passed Mitchell South Dakota, the home of the world famous
Corn Palace.  I had to stop!!!!!  My husband rolled his eyes-

 Yes, the murals are made of different varieties of corn that the local farmers grow. I wonder how they keep the squirrels and mice away??  As my friend Penny says- " this is truly the 8th Wonder of the World"!  
I was surprised by the raw beauty of western South Dakota.  Zipping along I-80 at  a posted speed limit of 80  miles per hour, you pass through the Badlands and fields of sunflowers.

 The beautiful Badlands in South Dakota

 Finally you arrive in the Black Hills at the Mount Rushmore monument.

Then it was on to Deadwood- a wild west town full of casinos and tourist shops.  

 Before leaving the Deadwood area, we had to stop and get a couple of bottles of Red Ass
Rhubard wine- award winning wine!

I am hoping to reduce this down into a great sauce when I get home.
After checking out Deadwood, we headed about 20 minutes away to Spearfish Canyon.

Majestic rock formations lined the canyon road.

It is a trout fisherman's paradise.  The creek was behind the lodge, where we spent 2 nights.

I captured this shot at the historic fish hatchery in Spearfish, SD.
If ever visiting the area, be sure to have dinner at The Homestake Chop House in Lead, SD.
Do not judge the place by it's outside!  Inside you will find huge crystal chandeliers over big dining tables with oversized leather chairs and exposed old brick walls.  The food was 'to-die-for" and they sell little layered ice cream sundaes in mason jars to go home with you for dessert!
Leaving South Dakota, we headed up through the corner of eastern Montana.

Over gently rolling hills, the road goes on forever.

You pass by sage brush and open range for miles and miles and miles.

And you certainly quickly understand why they call it Big Sky.
But be sure you take a bathroom break before you enter this part of Montana, as  this is the only
establishment that we passed  for hours!

 I'll bet this was quite the scene.
Next it was on to the historic site where the battle of Little Big Horn was held.  I was totally dreading this stop, but my husband wanted to see it.  Boy was I wrong!  The park ranger gave a talk about the 24 hour battle between the US army and the American Indians.  His account of this horrific battle made the hairs on the back of your neck stand at attention.  For 50 minutes, he recounted the battle, ending with the gory details of the killing of General Custer. Everyone in the audience sat spellbound listening to the ranger. Driving through the now desolate battleground, a spiritual feeling overcomes you. It is a must stop, if ever in eastern Montana.
The 4th night was spent in Billings, Montana.  We got there late and had a wonderful dinner.
If ever staying there, have dinner at TEN, in the Northern Hotel.
Getting up early the next morning, we headed to Livingston to pick up my son and his family. We were headed further west to Stevensville,Montana so my husband and son could float the Bitteroot River. Our accomodations were at the Stevensville Hotel, a re-furbished hospital!  My husband and I stayed in the Doctor's quarters, while my son and his family were in the Recovery Room! I just hope that the hotel has recovered from my active 3 grandsons and their scooters! 
The Stevensville Hotel

The hotel owner was a gardener and grew the most beautiful zinnias.

Every evening we had appetizers and wine on the front porch in rocking chairs and then went to dinner.

Stevensville is an extremely small Montana town- One road through Main street kind of town! But some of the homes were adorable, like the one above.

But the sunsets in Stevensville- unbelievable!
And the most fascinating thing about this small town in the middle of nowhere, is there were TWO phenomenal restaurants.  The Catered Table and the Mission Bistro both served us wonderful meals.
The old fashioned soda fountain in Stevensville with my family enjoying ice cream .
I was fascinated by the stacked fabrics on the shelves of the local drug store.
After 3 nights in Stevensville, we headed back to Livingston to spend  some time. We stayed at the Yellowstone Valley Lodge and I highly recommend it, especially the larger units with the kitchenettes.
It is located about 20 minutes from Livingston in the Paradise Valley on the Yellowstone River.
The views are spectacular.
The view from our porch.


Make sure you make dinner reservations in advance for their restaurant as they fill up fast.
The view of the river and the wonderful food are unbeatable. They also serve a continental breakfast in the morning that is wonderful.  The home baked pastries, especially the scones, are divine.
While spending three days of fishing on the Yellowstone for the boys and shopping for the girls in Bozeman, I commissioned an antler chandelier for our new home from Fish Fisher in Bozeman.
He is quite the artist. We drove out to his studio outside of Bozeman.

This one is 54 inches wide and 72 inches tall!

I love the mix of different types of antlers on this one.
Need one of these for Christmas!!!!  He is quite the artist.  I want a large antler chandelier with crystals for the center of our new home and he totally got it!  Most men would think I am crazy.
Again, the restaurants in Livingston are great.  Make sure you have dinner at the Second Street Bistro and the Livingston Grill. 
2nd Street Bistro's Cioppino - so good.
Finally, it was time to head to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.   The most direct and scenic route was straight through Yellowstone Park,  We entered the North entrance by the iconic gates.

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

We followed the Yellowstone River almost the entire route.

The Yellowstone River tumbling over the cliff into the pool below.

Trumpeter Swans on the Yellowstone River.

Lots and lots of Buffalo.
This guy refused to leave the road, causing quite a traffic jam through the park.

Antelope grazing in the meadow.

Yellowstone Lake
Leaving Yellowstone through the south entrance  ( takes about 5 hours to drive through the park from North to South),   we entered the Grand Teton National Park.

Kelley lake in the Jackson Hole area.
High on a mountain overlooking Jackson Hole.
Two birds in flight over the Grand Tetons

The French discovered the Tetons.  Teton is the French word for "breast"!  See the resemblance.

The iconic barn that you always see in paintings  and photographs of Jackson Hole.
I loved getting this shot of 4 photographers in the process of capturing their perfect image!
Wild life was abundant in Jackson Hole.

I purchased a new telephoto lens just for this trip and I love it!

A huge moose that my husband spotted on the morning we were leaving.
Sunrise in the Grand Teton National Park while out early looking for wildlife.
Breathtaking at 6 am in the morning.

Antler arches are on all four corners of the Jackson town square.  They are made from the naturally shed antlers from the elk on the Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, where 7500 elk winter every year.
The Boy Scouts gather the antlers and sell them at a sale every May.  They keep part of the proceeds and the rest goes to the Elk Refuge to pay for feeding the Elk during the harsh winter. Pretty cool.
We stayed at the Rustic Inn Creekside Resort and Spa, which is about 4 blocks from the center of town.  It was the perfect location- easy walk to the center of town, but just far away enough to feel like you were away from traffic and tourists.

The property consists of individual luxury cabins flankingbeautiful Flat Creek.  Tepees and fire rings with chairs are through out the property.  Guests can purchase s'more kits to enjoy around the fire pits during the evenings.  Guests are allowed to fish the creek, which was heaven for my husband.  A little trout fishing after dinner was like dessert for him.

Flat Creek
The first night we decided to eat at the Rustic Creekside Inn  restaurant.  It is small and has a very limited menu. But I have to say,  their fresh trout was divine!

Grilled trout with fresh herbs, blueberries and zucchini- so pretty.
The second night we dined at the Wild Sage  Restaurant in the Rusty Parrot Lodge.
Again, a very small venue, but the food was outstanding.  My husband enjoyed the Grilled Elk Chop.

mixed greens,  mango and avocado salad.

The last night,  we had dinner at the Snake River Grill.  I loved it.
The log cabin d├ęcor was well done, sophisticated and we were seated at a table by an open window.
It was perfect.

A delightful dinner of cornmeal crusted  trout with a shrimp, corn and pepper topping.

A house specialty- Crispy Pork Shank with Barbecue Sauce on a  bed of Southwester corn relish..
Wonderful and very filling.
Shopping in Jackson was awesome. While my husband fished and floated  the Snake River all day, I shopped.
Gourmet patisseries, leather shops, art galleries and boutiques were everywhere. 
I fell in love with one artist- Pete Zaluzec- who is actually a Chicago area artist. His photographs of wildlife are printed on a special Japanese paper.  I think a couple of his works of art will be perfect for our new home in North Carolina.

 He photographed this wild mustang in New Mexico.

This store- Belle Cose- is right on the square in Jackson.   A tabletop dream store.  Everything from Jan Barboglio to linens to fine china.  I had to purchase one of these fabulous slabs of stone for serving charcuterie .That's the advantage of driving.

The serving stone is about 30 inches long and 10 inches wide.

Another Jackson artist makes these adorable leather bags and they are trend right with their fringe.

There is a cell phone pouch on the back of the bag. 

Beautiful journals are going back to Lake Bluff.

Beautiful pastries from Coco Love in Jackson

I loved this town and I wish we could spend a couple more nights here, but it is time to head home.
It has been a wonderful trip. 

  With our book on tape loaded in the CD player, we head out.
The long flat boring  sections of I 80 are made much easier as my husband and I listen to John Grisham's Grey Mountain and discuss the possible outcomes.
 The drive goes by quite quickly. 

Time for a rest stop before we cross the Wyoming state line into Nebraska  and we are reminded- yes- we are in the American wild west!