Friday, January 13, 2017

Land of Lupine

Iceland belies its name. One imagines a perpetual panorama of … well, ice. We found a landscape laden with lupine. Purple lupine. Everywhere.
And, terrain teeming with craggy volcanic rocks, hillsides blanketed in velvety green, punctuated with rushing waterfalls, gushing geysers, and seascapes that can only be described as “otherworldly.”

We spent four magical days in southwest Iceland, where most of the island’s 330-thousand inhabitants live. We flew into Reykjavik, the capital, in July where temperatures hovered around 65 degrees. The air is fresh and the water pure in Iceland. In many ways the country is untouched, though tourism is quickly infiltrating this enchanting Nordic destination.

The top tourist attraction is the Golden Circle: a 180-mile loop from Reykjavik. You’ll hike a dramatic fissure at Þingvellir National Park, where the Eurasian and Atlantic tectonic plates are pulling the country apart, literally, at a rate of nearly two inches annually. You’ll explore a geothermal wonderland at Geyser: a series of odoriferous sulphur springs starring Strokkur, a gusher that belches boiling water 30 meters into the air every few minutes. You’ll feel the mist at Gulfoss Falls, where it’s not unusual to see a full rainbow—or two—arcing over the powerful, plunging cascades.
We rented a car for flexibility. That meant we could go off the main ring road to hike Kerad volcanic crater, stop to pet charming Icelandic horses and capture on camera uncommon countryside filled with flowers—purple lupine, of course!

We also drove the no-less-spectacular southern coast, passing centuries’ old turf houses, taller, greener hills with more frequent waterfalls. Cue the puffins. Our destination, Reynisfjara Beach—considered one of the most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world—didn’t disappoint. The black sand pebble beach with caves, basalt columns and sea stacks creates a mystical, yet magical backdrop.
Reykjavik has a quaint old town full of Viking souvenir shops and some of the best dark chocolate and black licorice offerings. Street musicians perform for passersby, as the iconic Hallgrimskirkja church stands sentinel over the city’s narrow streets.
Nobody leaves Iceland without a soak in the surreal Blue Lagoon (silica masks included) with its milky blue waters dramatically set amidst black lava. However, we enjoyed—more—a “dip fest” in the Laugardalslaug geothermal pool that offers eight hot tubs of differing degrees … for practically free.
Unfortunately, we did leave Iceland without seeing glaciers, volcanoes and the Northern Lights.

That’s our winter trip!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

India's Palace on Wheels Delivers Elegance Spiced with Exoticism

“Namasté,” smiles Sanjay with a slight bow, hands pressed together, fingers skyward. Bedecked with marigold garlands, drums beating and a sandalwood paste dot strategically placed between our brows, we embark on an enchanting odyssey through the bygone era of erstwhile Maharajas.

India. Imagine shimmering palaces and manicured gardens graced with iridescent strutting peacocks protected by magnificent hilltop forts … or one thinks of crowds, dirt, unreliable transportation and India’s equivalent of Montezuma’s revenge, Delhi-belly. If you can’t resist India’s charms, but don’t want to deal with the undesirable elements—hop a train. A train so lavishly appointed it’s called Palace on Wheels (POW).

Named one of the world’s top luxury trains, Palace on Wheels, begins in India’s capital, Delhi. We’re treated like royalty as Sanjay and Ashok attend to every onboard need or whim while we explore the legend-laden and romantic region of Rajasthan. Each of the train’s 14 “saloons” has four en-suite rooms with two attendants. Add a couple carriages for restaurants, a gym, and a beauty salon and our moving manor is complete.

Historically, the train’s carriages belonged to different Maharajas (kings), but have been replaced with refurbished modern cars to look like the originals.

We travel overnight, waking to new and exciting destinations each morning. The weeklong journey whisks us away to such colorful stops as Jaipur, the Pink City; the Golden City of Jaisalmer; the Lake City of Udaipur; Jodhpur or Blue City (yep, birthplace of the jodhpur riding britches); Ranthambhor National Park; Chittorgarh Fort; Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary and, ultimately, Agra to soak up the spellbinding Taj Mahal.

Exhilarating and exhausting, the daily treks to centuries-old forts, palaces, walled cities, tombs and museums are spiced with elephant rides ascending to the breathtaking Amber Fort, camel rides—at sunset—over dunes near Pakistan’s border, a jeep tiger safari, a boat ride to Pleasure Island (playground of 007 movie, Octopussy), musical extravaganzas and several 5-star hotel meals. My husband and I counted 12 different modes of transportation. Whew! And, dinner aboard POW is a 17-course adventure in itself!

Haggling with locals hawking handmade trinkets, Kashmiri scarves, and baubles at every stop is amusing, and … well, let’s just say we filled two large suitcases with treasures for the grandchildren.

If you have but a few days in India and want to experience incredible variety, Palace on Wheels is your passport to a journey that lingers a lifetime.

Friday, January 11, 2013


  It took six decades, but my husband can finally check that box – the one to visit all 50 states.  And, what a fitting finale — The Last Frontier!
     My husband and I recently returned from Gustavus, Alaska … gateway to Glacier Bay National Park. The area is a veritable playground for some of nature’s most awe-inspiring creations. Glacier Bay is home to some of the most active tidewater glaciers on the planet. It didn’t disappoint. The thunderous crack and subsequent calving of icebergs from Margerie Glacier was breathtaking—if not a little unsettling—as shards of ice crashed into the bay causing huge wakes.
     Because of its location in the Inside Passage, Glacier Bay is at the convergence of several waterways, which makes for great fishing – not only for anglers – but for whales.  Humpbacks migrating from Hawaii embark on a feeding frenzy every summer. We watched in utter raptness and delight as whales suddenly appeared out of the water with mouth agape gulping fish, slapping their fins, undulating their gargantuan bodies and flipping their flukes (tails) … or simply spouting. On one excursion, our guides were even a bit nervous when one humpback was showing off … a mere fifty yards from our kayaks!
     There is no end to the wildlife; we saw bear, mountain goats, porpoises, sea lions (my husband battled a very determined one while reeling in a 42-inch halibut), otters, puffins, various other birds, bald eagles (too many to count), moose … well, at least we saw moose tracks!
    Glacier Bay was all glacier and no bay just 250 years ago, but ice has continually receded to reveal this majestic natural wonderland and the charming town of Gustavus, a uniquely beautiful place that’s just plain … unique. The world’s only petroleum museum is there located inside a charming 1950’s style gas station. The people are friendly – waving as they pass – and honorable, too.  You can play golf and purchase elegant earthenware all on the honor system. Simply place your money in a jar.
    We stayed at Glacier Bay Country Inn, where hospitality is taken to a new level. It’s more luxury than rustic with a theater room, library and hot tub. The proprietors are particularly solicitous and set up day trips, prepared our halibut for travel and fed us like royalty. The resident gourmet chef prepares sumptuous (fresh) seafood dishes, homemade breads, creative soups and salads … and, oh, what crème brulee’!
Grab a bike at Glacier Bay Country Inn for a spin to town or the beach. Hike the surrounding mountains or rainforest; they’re mystical, magical and dripping with moss. The forest floor is a spongy four-inch thick moss carpet.  One of the more popular hikes is a well-traveled trail that’s not only shrouded in moss, but mystery.
     On a snowy November night in 1957, several members of the Air National Guard were returning home for the holidays when their small twin-engine plane crashed in some trees at the outskirts of town. The wreckage remains today—untouched, guarded by century old hemlock trees and lush vegetation. It’s an emotion-evoking quarter mile stroll back in time.

      There is no shortage of adventures—recreational, scenic or culinary—in Gustavus, Alaska. The fishing, kayaking, whale watching, beachcombing, hiking, exploring, feasting or curling up with a good book overlooking a flower-filled meadow will keep any traveler entertained and satisfied for days.
The sixty-year wait was worth it!

                                              (800) 628-0912                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Watermelon Experiment

I never like to waste food—especially fruit. Fruit to me ... is like gold. It's a precious commodity. I absolutely love fruit! All of the variaties, quite frankly. Yes. Even papaya! I've been known to get rather passionate when I talk about fruit. Well, who doesn't like a good melon, eh? Succulent, refreshing, luscious, satisfying sandia! (See, there I go—I get all revved up talking about it).

On that subject of sandia—sandia is spanish for watermelon, by the way—I found myself with some leftover watermelon after a little family get together recently. Generally, I make "agua de melon," a favorite Mexican drink made with pureed watermelon, sugar and water. This time, I decided to try a dessert; a watermelon pudding tart. It's incredibly easy and fast, and oh-so light! And I didn't waste a bit of the red stuff.

1 c graham cracker crumbs
4 T butter, melted
2 1/2 c watermelon flesh

2 t lemon juice
2 eggs
1/4 c cornstarch
1/4 c sugar
Whipped cream

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-inch removable-bottom tart pan, or pie pan with baking spray. In medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs with the butter, stirring until well mixed. Press mixture into prepared tart pan. Bake 12 -15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Meanwhile, in a blender puree the watermelon until completely smooth. You should have 2 cups of juice. Strain the juice through a fine-mesh strainer into a small saucepan. Add the lemon juice. Over medium-high heat, bring the juice to a simmer.

In a medium, heat-safe bowl, whish together the eggs, cornstarch and sugar until smooth. In a slow and steady stream, pour the hot juice into the egg mixture while continuously whisking. Pour the mixture back into the pan and continue to cook, whixking until thickened. Pour the watermelon pudding into the baked tart crust.

Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding and refrigerate until cold. Serve with whipped cream.

I'm still working on my food photography skills, but it looks tasty, no? I'm anxious to try using this little recipe substituting ataulfo mangos instead of watermelon.

Monday, May 9, 2011

It's All About the Hat!

Sure, they call it, "the greatest two minutes in sports," featuring races with some really fast horses, big-money wagering, and the traditional mint julep—which, incidentally, we found someone to make us a virgin with ginger ale instead of bourbon—but the Kentucky Derby really is a race for the best and prettiest hat; the largest brimmed, the floppiest, the most creative, or the best coordinated with sundress and sandals.

My husband, Wayne, and I were in Michigan in early May visiting family, when we realized we had a couple of extra days on our hands and that the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby was that coming Saturday, May 7th. We switched our flights, rented a car and drove the seven hours from Ypsilanti to Louisville, Kentucky. The "Run for the Roses," after all, was on our bucket list and we thought we may never pass this way again.

There was just one problem. I didn't have a hat! Never mind that we didn't have tickets to the derby or a place to stay. Where was I going to find a hat before the big race?

After asking around, a tony neighborhood was suggested. While driving along Frankfort Avenue, we spotted a consignment store with several stylish hats in the window, but it had closed for the day. There was a particularly fetching red one. We drove a block and found a boutique still open. But after checking the prices and very gracefully trying not to show shock, I left the boutique. The hats ranged from $800 - $1200. I wanted a hat, a pretty one, but not that desperately!

We returned the next day; the day of the race and found the red hat still in the consignment store window. It fit well enough. Sold! It cost me only twenty bucks!

I didn't have a pretty dress or strappy sandals, but I had a red hat! And I felt a part of the festivities. I think a horse by the name of Animal Kingdom won the Kentucky Derby. Mmmm...I'm not sure. Oh well, I was thoroughly entertained by the "scene" at Churchill Downs; the people and all those wonderful hats.

Here's the name and address of the consignment store if you find yourself in Louisville, derby weekend, sans hat.

Sister Act Consignment
2912 Frankfort Avenue
Louisville, KY 40206

The Kentucky Derby is always the first weekend in May. Let me know if you want information on how to buy tickets, experience Millionaire's Row, navigate the "Infield," concoct a virgin mint julep or you just want to know the best place to see celebrities.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

They Actually Paid Me to Do This?

In my next life I want to be a professional golfer. I started golfing just too darn late in this life to make money at it. I did, however, feel I was living a small part of my dream lately when I participated in a photo shoot for the PGA -- PGA Tour Experiences, that is. The company based out of Florida needed ... well, more mature types for a shoot at TPC Scottsdale. The photos will be used for its website advertising travel packages that include golf instruction by PGA Academy pros.

These are some of the photos. I have to admit I really like the one blasting out of the sandtrap. Cool, huh? I got paid to hit golf balls out of a bunker at TPC Scottsdale, practice my putting and driving while receiving top-notch coaching from PGA professionals. Not bad for a day at the office!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fun Stinks!

Article written by Teresa Gardner for the North Plains Beacon NewspaperFUMI. It's a rather curious looking acronym...and an even more curious sounding one. FUMI has nothing to do with the highly pungent properties of garlic, but rather a group of folks looking for fun at the family-friendly 13th Annual Elephant Garlic Festival in North Plains.

FUMI organizer Cynthia Parker was intrigued by the event's billboard, "Fun Stinks" on Hwy 26. "I have driven past that sign for years and have always wanted to get involved. I love local events and it happened to fall on the same weekend as our family reunion, so I decided to make it part of the family activities."
FUMI, pronounced foo'-me, stands for Family Unit Most Important, a family organization formed in 1974 - complete with constitution and articles - to promote family closeness amongst the Walter and Gloria Richardson clan of Forest Grove. After 36 years, FUMI is still going strong; the focal point being a reunion biennially. One of the reunion activities this year was a trip to North Plains to enjoy a little family bonding at the garlic fest fun run. Fifteen members of the family - aged 3 to 63 - donned sneakers and made their way to the finish line of the two mile run. Some held hands; others wagered a friendly competition and one mother even carried her toddler in her backpack the entire route.

Parker opted for the shorter run instead of the 10k race because all ages and levels could participate and it would be a great way to unify cousins, aunts, uncles, siblings and grandparents. "We're all big runners in our family and garlic eaters too! The event combined two of our loves. The elephant garlic we "won" for finishing the race was a nice touch also. Everyone had a ton of fun...a cherished memory for our family."

After the race and thinking of creative ways to use the elephant garlic for the remainder of the reunion weekend, family members joked that maybe the family should change the pronounciation of FUMI to...well, fyoom'-ee! Fun really does stink, at least in North Plains.

Monday, May 17, 2010


When you hear the word, "rhodies" - I know, you immediately think of "roadies" - groupies.
Well, now that I actually think about it - maybe my mom and I are "groupies"; groupies for rhodies. We're always hangin' around rhodies and other beautiful flowers.

Flower afficionados call rhododendrens "rhodies" for short. And rhododendrens are a colorful variety of flower that flourishes in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, there is a town in Oregon by the name of Rhododendren.

On a recent trip to Oregon to visit my mom we stopped by the Crystal Springs Rhododendren Gardens in Eastmoreland neighborhood of Southeast Portland.

God or Mother Nature must love mothers, because the climax of color is during Mother's Day. So May is the perfect time to visit this photographers paradise.

There are 2500 different kinds of rhododendrens at Crystal Springs and numerous varieties of azaleas; a kind of little sister to the rhododendren. The gardens are situated on nearly 10 acres with trails, ponds, and an interpretive center and plenty of wildlife and waterfowl. Open seven days a week, the admission is $3. Tuesdays are free.

Crystal Springs Rhododendren Garden
S.E. 28th & Woodstock Blvd
Portland, OR

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Un Mundo Aparte

Historic Haciendas of Mexico; A Step into Another World

A trip to Mexico normally connotes beaches, big-game fishing or climbing archeological ruins. But before heading to the Pacific or Caribbean on either side of this vastly diverse country, consider an excursion inland to the lesser known state of Morelos in the south-central part of the country. Though small, Morelos and its capital, Cuernavaca, are resplendent with culture, beauty and colorful history. Such figures as Spanish Conquistador Hernán Cortés and Revolutionary Emiliano Zapata lived there, leaving an indelible mark on the landscape – literally.
Cortés arrived in the 1520s and immediately went about subjugating the local Indians. After ten years of ravaging much of Mexico, he chose Cuernavaca to live out the rest of his life because of the mild climate and he built an impressive palace there. Incidentally, Cuernavaca is known as “the city of eternal spring,” boasting annual average daily temperatures of 70 degrees and lush vegetation.
Cortés ordered haciendas – large land estates with mansions - to be built surrounding Cuernavaca and appointed Spanish Lords to run them, often mercilessly over the natives. In their heyday, each hacienda was a rural, autonomous social unit. The haciendas in Morelos became some of the world’s most important sugar plantations of the 16th and 17th centuries.
The Mexican Revolution of 1910 – 1920 proved the downfall of the haciendas. Zapata and his followers roamed the country, burning and pillaging every hacienda in sight, eventually restoring land and rights to the people.
These venerable structures conjure up surreal images of ruined palaces, but still possess a faded grandeur. Some were built to resemble the chateaux of France, castles on the Rhine and grand Italian villas. The haciendas are mysterious, yet magical and many have been rescued from decay and transformed into magnificent resorts today. They’re not highly polished, but luxurious out-of-the-way sanctuaries for travelers who want to experience romantic old Mexico.
Exploring the haciendas is like stepping into another world. Walking the grounds is an adventure in architecture and a veritable feast for the eyes. Strolling palm tree-lined paths, past purple jacarandas, shock- orange tabachines trees, and fluorescent fuchsia bougainvillea, you’ll find fountains, sculpted gardens, stunning pools ringed by centuries-old columns and aqueducts, talavera -tiled patios, secluded terraces, and walls overgrown with vegetation.
Each hacienda is unique, with artifacts from the time period incorporated into the décor. Each hotel room is unique with an eclectic blend of modern and antique. All the haciendas offer recreational activities, such as tennis, swimming, horseback riding and golf with luxurious spas. Divine cuisine from their award-winning restaurants is a major attraction. Some of the tastier offerings include: apple-cilantro soup, pumpkin-black bean soup, pink mole, mango crepes and mamey crème brulée (mamey being an indigenous fruit).
Weddings, receptions and conventions are mainstays of the haciendas’ business today. Every hacienda includes a chapel on its grounds due to Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries sent from Spain, who played a key role in the brutal expropriation of lands from the Indians.
The sturdy stone walls show just the right amount of crumbling and the oversized and significantly distressed wooden doors serve as the perfect backdrop for films. These character-laden edifices have played host to the likes of Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Anthony Quinn and Harrison Ford. In fact, Quinn wrote in one guest book: “Whoever has dreams that aren’t fulfilled here, ought to leave dreaming alone.”
The finer haciendas in Morelos are:
· Hacienda de Cortes
· Hacienda San Gabriel de las Palmas
· Hacienda San Antonio el Puente
· Hacienda San Jose Vista Hermosa
· Hotel Hacienda Cocoyoc
All are located within a 30 minutes’ drive of Cuernavaca and 90 minutes from the México City International Airport.
One hacienda entices visitors with the invitation, “Un Mundo Aparte.” Truly, a visit to any one of these haciendas is “a world apart” - a place that plunges one into the grandiose past of Colonial Mexico and revives the energies of all who stay within their walls.

Click here to see article featured in the Arizona Republic