Category Archives: Recipes

Vicarious Vacations # 4: Luxembourg

Hello friends and Happy Friday! Welcome to our last Vicarious Vacation. I know the previous destinations have been off the beaten path but I couldn’t resist taking you here. Like many girls, I have a soft place in my heart for fairytale castles. So far…the only one I’ve ever seen, is the one in Disney World and frankly, I don’t think that counts. So, I decided to take you to the a land where fairytales castles were born – we are headed to gorgeous Luxembourg.

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When you are surrounded by three of Europe‘s most beautiful countries – Germany, France and Belgium – it’s hard not to be amazing! Map – here. The history of Luxembourg dates back to the year 963. Over the centuries, its territory may have diminished but it still stands as the richest country in the world and is often referred to as the “Green heart” of Europe. Beyond material wealth and banking success, Luxembourg offers a culturally diverse population, fantastic food and wine, breathtaking landscapes and an impressive art and theater scene. Oh, and then there are the castles…did I mention that already? Yes…there are over a dozen castles in this magical land. It makes my heart skip a little beat…

So where shall we stay you ask? We came here for fairy tales and I intend to deliver…Welcome to Chateau d’Urspelt. A castle fit for a princess right? This romantic castle has a 300 year old history and was terribly damaged in World War II.  In 2005, Mr. Freddy Lodomez came across this diamond in the rough, instantly fell in love and committed to having the Chateau restored to its original beauty. Thank you Freddy! What a prince!

Images via Chateau d’Urspelt

Lovely isn’t it? That claw-foot tub will be a fabulous treat later on.  I will try and contain the girlish squeals…but isn’t this place to die for!

Let’s go for a stroll…

This is the Grand Ducal Palace and official residence of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg – Henri and his lovely wife,  the Grand Duchess Maria Teresa.

A fairytale destination would not be complete without some Royalty, after all. As for Henri’s heir – Guillaume (William)…

well he fits the Prince bill rather nicely…don’t you think? Okay, enough Royal gawking…let’s keep exploring…

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Ahh…here we are at the Place d’Armes or as the locals refer to it – Plëss. It is truly the city’s living room and a fantastic place to people watch, listen to some live music and grab lunch at one of the numerous outdoor cafes. I’ve got the perfect one in mind…

Play to listen to the sounds of the plaza…

Here we are at Le Cafe Francais, one of the oldest brasseries’ in the city. Are you ready for some delicious food? They prepare a mix of French and Luxembourg style dishes here.  Luxembourg’s food is inevitably influenced by neighboring France and Germany, resulting in a rich blend – the delicacies of French cuisine artfully entwined with the robust, heartiness of Germanic dishes.  More recently the cultural influence of Luxembourg’s Portuguese immigrants is also emerging within many of Luxembourg’s recipes. You won’t leave the table hungry, that’s for sure. So let’s have a taste…

To pair with our meal, I have selected a lovely dry white wine, typical of the region or if you feel like bubbles, we can toast to our adventure with the local sparkling wine, Crémant de Luxembourg! Cheers!

Let’s start with a classic Luxembourg dish: Nettle Soup. Ever had this? I haven’t! Often served in the Spring, Nettle soup has a subtle, grassy taste, sweet and mild made rich with lovely cream and potatoes.

On to our next course…oooh…I don’t know about you but I am a total sucker for mussels!! So succulent, with all that buttery, wine sauce to sop up. Here in Luxembourg (in the French tradition) it is often served with pomme frites! Yum! This wildly popular dish is served in the months that have an “r”. October works, lucky for us. Here’s a recipe straight from the region. Recipe. Make sure you use a German or French Riesling for your sauce to make it truly Luxembourg style.

Okay dessert anyone? You know we can’t leave that out. How about some Questscheflued? aka Plum Tart – a local favorite. And no, I don’t know how to pronounce it. Dig in! It looks delightful and it’s heart shaped! Too cute. Recipe.

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Now that our tummies are full, I think it’s time to tour a real castle! We are heading to Vianden. It’s about an hour north of the city and is a beautiful medieval town, famous for its stunning castle and charming village. Let’s hop on the bus, I for one, can’t get into that castle quick enough!

*squeal* – sorry I couldn’t help it! Look the castle is up ahead!!

Isn’t it simply amazing? Straight from a storybook!  A little history: The castle was built between the 11th and 14th centuries and became the seat of the counts of Vianden. It was further developed until the 18th century but with the departure of the Counts of Luxembourg to the Netherlands combined with the effects of fire and an earthquake, it slowly deteriorated. The final blow came in 1820 when William I of the Netherlands sold it to a local merchant who in turn sold off its contents and masonry piecemeal, reducing it to a ruin. There were several attempts at restoration but these were hampered by problems of ownership. Victor Hugo lived in the castle for three months in 1871.Not until 1977, when Grand Duke Jean ceded the castle to the State, was it possible to undertake large-scale work, most of which has now been completed. – Wikipedia

Let’s go take the tour!

Check out the view overlooking the town of Vianden…gorgeous…

Can you imagine cooking up a feast in this kitchen?

Here is the castle’s chapel.

Oh, is that a wishing well?

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What shall we wish for? World peace? A castle of our very own? How about free plane tickets to anywhere in the world? hmmm…

Alright my friends, I think I will have to leave you here. While you ponder over your wish, I want to wish all of you the best and thank you for coming along with me on these Vicarious Vacations. I hope you have enjoyed them. I know I have. Thanks to Flickr for being a wellspring of beautiful images and talented photographers. In the future, I will be doing more travel pieces. As you may have noticed, Grace and Ivy is in a state of evolution. Lots of changes are to come and I hope you will stick with me. I promise to continue bringing you beautiful posts that hopefully give you some inspiration. Thank you for all your input. I love reading your comments. Till our next adventure…

Have a gorgeous weekend.

xo,

Audio via freesound.org

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Filed under Food, photography, Recipes, Stories, Travel

Vicarious Vacations #3: Hydra town, Greece

Happy Friday and welcome to another Vicarious Vacation. I can’t even express how excited I am to travel with you today! Our destination promises beauty, relaxation and of course some amazing food. We are off to the Greek island of Hydra. A completely car free town, that is known for its magical architecture, stunning beaches and wonderful walking trails. Rental cars are so last year…let’s use our feet and explore this gorgeous destination! We may have to forgo our stilettos but it will be worth it!

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Let’s board the ferry and I’ll tell you more about the island on the ride…

Fans of mythology will recall that Hydra was actually a nine-headed sea monster, sister to Medusa. Yikes! Don’t worry though, no such beast inhabits this majestic island.  Of course, the word Hydra is also derived from the Greek word for water…which is a little more appropriate. The island of Hydra is in the Argo-Saronic Archipelago, between the islands of Poros and Spetses. Map here. Popular with artists, Hydra town, is home to quaint tavernas, chic boutiques and a gorgeous coastline.  Being completely car free, (except for the town’s garbage collection trucks) one must get here via ferry. Donkeys…yes, donkeys and water taxis are the only forms of transportation once on the island.

Looks like we are approaching the island. Beautiful isn’t it?

Yah! We’re here! Let’s go check into our hotel…change into some comfortable (but cute) shoes and go exploring.

Welcome to the Hotel Miranda. Nestled amongst the white washed cottages of Hydra town, this historical building dates back to 1810 and was originally built by a wealthy sea-captain. Its 18th and 19th century artwork and furniture only add to its nostalgic charm.

That’s it up ahead…

I got us lovely suites, that are simple and elegant.

Isn’t that white stone archway wonderful? I love the clean white walls with the contrasting dark floors and furnishings.

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Great view from our rooms! Love the bougainvillea…

Okay ready to head out? Let’s go!

You will see this blue and white architecture all over the town. Charming isn’t it?

So pretty! Let’s stroll down to the harbor…I think there is an open market today.

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My tummy is a rumbling…so…let’s go find some gorgeous place to have lunch and soak up some sun. I’m thinking ocean side…

Welcome to the Sunset Restaurant. Famous here and highly prized by the locals and tourists alike.

Don’t worry…I got us a better table than that. Only the best for us vicarious vacationers!

Images via Sunset Restaurant

How’s this? Not too shabby eh? Amazing view – check. Sunshine – check. Now for some food and drink!

Is it too early for Ouzo? No, of course not. We have to have a toast after all…and what better than ouzo to kick off lunch. Ouzo is Greece’s national drink and has a strong anise or licorice flavor to it. You don’t need much of this potent little liquor before you understand why the Greeks love it so! The expression “Opa!” is often used upon toasting, which translates to happiness and good life!

Let’s start our meal with a traditional Cretan Salad…recipe here. So lovely, crunchy and fresh. I swear I could eat feta cheese all day…

Have you ever heard of Haloumi? Well, it’s a Greek cheese that originated in Cyprus. It’s made with a blend of goat and sheep milk, which gives it a mild, salty flavor and because of its high melting point, it can be fried or grilled. At the Sunset Restaurant, they serve it with tomatoes and pitta bread…shall we give it a go? (recipe)

When on the Grecian islands, one must take advantage of the fresh bounty of seafood! Lobster spaghetti is a true Greek delight! Recipe. Sweet, succulent lobster meat, freshly made pasta, tomatoes and fresh herbs. Yum!

On to dessert…although not on the Sunset Restaurant’s menu, I couldn’t resist including one of my all time favorite desserts (which also happens to be very Greek) – Baklava. I adore this stuff. Recipe.

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Wasn’t that an amazing Greek meal. I’m stuffed.  How about a hike up to an old monastery ending up with a nap on the beach?

We could ride this cute little guy…but I didn’t spend a fortune on these hiking sandals for nothing. Come on, we’ve got calories to burn.

Almost there…

This monastery was actually built in 1813, by the monk Ierotheos. Of the four monasteries on Hydra, this one is the most famous and frequently visited. Four monks still reside here. What a peaceful existence it must be, nestled among the mountains, overlooking the town.

So beautiful…

I am ready for some down time. Let’s head to the beach to work on our tan and have a little snooze.

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I think Mandraki beach will do nicely. Can you believe the color of the water! Stunning! Sit back, relax and enjoy the sounds of the waves.

Thank you so much for coming to Greece with me. I hope you enjoyed our little adventure on this jewel of an island.  Next week we head off to a new destination. It will be the last of this series (for now at least). Where are we going? It’s a surprise! Make sure you come back on Friday so you don’t miss it.

Have a fantastic weekend!

xo,

audio via freesound.org

Gallery of images can be viewed here.

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Vicarious Vacation # 1 : Casole d’Elsa

Happy Friday and welcome to our Vicarious Vacation. Today, I’m going to whisk us off to the quaint, little town of Casole d’Elsa in the hills of Tuscany. Strolling down the ancient cobblestone alleyways, decadent wine tastings, a visit to the Siena marketplace, a brush with history and of course a large helping of the local food are all on the agenda. Sound good? Okay, come on!

Image via casalecapita

Let me tell you a little bit about this beautiful town. Casole D’Elsa is located in the Tuscany region in the province of Siena. Conveniently located between Florence and Siena, it provides a peaceful respite from the bigger, touristy cities. See map here. Pedestrian friendly streets, intimate cafes and a few notable historic attractions should keep us busy but not overwhelmed. Leaving plenty of time to soak in the Italian sun, sip Chianti and gobble up the local delicacies. Now where are we staying, you ask? Well…

I hope you don’t mind but I booked us into a rather fancy hotel just outside of town. I think we deserve it, don’t you? Welcome to the Relais La Suvera. Steeped in history this medieval fort turned sumptuous Mediterranean villa is our place of relaxation and refuge after all that sightseeing. Sigh…isn’t it simply dreamy!?

Ready to see your room?
Images via Relais La Suvera

Fit for a princess right? Okay, freshen up and let’s go exploring. I know you are tired from the trip but it’s nothing a glass of Chianti can’t fix! Besides, we have massages scheduled later at the spa. Yes, even medieval fortresses in Italy have spas!

Let’s go for a walk…

Press play to listen.

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Am I Hungry? Of course I am! This place looks charming…let’s stop here – Osteria del Caffè Casolani– and have some treats.

Here’s what I’m thinking…wine, cheese & cured meats. The local cheese –Pecorino di Pienza and fresh cold cuts such as salumi di cinta senese, will make the perfect blend of tastes and textures. Creamy and nutty in flavor, the Pecorino is a perfect pairing with the saltiness of the meat and sweetness of the wine.  The celebrated local wine is aptly named Erta, meaning steep slope, indicative of the agricultural landscape of the region. A completely organic wine, it is a lovely blend of 95% Sangiovese grapes and 5% Merlot. Subtle herbal notes and deep cherry overtones will delight your palette! Want more…why don’t we try the testaroli? It’s a crepe like pasta usually combined with pesto. Yummy! This place is famous for it!

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Now to walk off all that scrumptuous food…

Ooh…before we go…is that a little bakery I see?

We had better stop in and grab some dessert! This region is known for its pastries and traditional sweets. One of the oldest treats around is the famous Panforte margherita!  This “spiced bread” is a magical combination of dough, almonds, candied fruit, cinnamon, all spice and a generous sprinkling of powdered sugar. Isn’t it beautiful?

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On to some history…

This is the Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta, which dates back 1161! The original Roman bell tower still remains with the upper half of the building being constructed in the 14th century. Inside are the sacred tombs of Beltramo Aringhieri, by Marco Romano, and of bishop Tommaso Andrei, by Gano di Fazio.

Directly next to the church lies the Museum of Sacred Arts. A beautiful collection of religious art can be enjoyed here, including the works of Alessandro Casolani and sculptor, Marco Romano.

Got your culture fill? Let’s go to the Siena Markets!

Press play to listen to the bustling market square…

How gorgeous is that fruit?

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Don’t you love all the amazing colors and textures?

I don’t know about you but the hotel spa is calling my name…let’s head back and end our trip on a relaxing note.

You go on and get your massage. I’m heading down to the hot pool for a nice soak…so lovely…

Images via Relais La Suvera Spa

I hope you enjoyed your day in the Tuscan countryside. Loved vicariously traveling with you! I learned a lot and loved seeing this little corner of the world. The village of Casole d’Elsa was enchanting, the food delectable and the Siena markets were utterly inspiring.

Join me again next Friday, when we head to Spain!

Have a beautiful weekend!

xo,

audio files via freesound.org

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Filed under Dreams, Food, photography, Recipes, spas, Travel

Jitterbug Magic

Tuesday evening was magical. I hosted my book club for the first time and had a blast decorating with Tom Robbins book, Jitterbug Perfume as my inspiration.

This my first Tom Robbins novel and it won’t be my last. I was completely enthralled with the story and all of Robbins’s philosophical musings. His analogies are like nothing I’ve ever read before! Honestly, this book is both crazy and ingenious. I didn’t even think I would like it, but I threw caution to the wind and dove right in. It’s one of those novels that stays with you long after you lay it down.

Check out my beet themed centerpiece. If you’ve read the book, you will get this connection. If you haven’t, check out this synopsis. Let’s just say that the humble beet plays a very important role.

The silver tea pot relates to the one of the main female characters, Kudra. The book discusses extensively the art of perfume creation, so I wanted to include apothecary elements too. I love my little mortar and pestle that I found at a local antique store.

I served a Greek themed spread in honor of the Greek god Pan, who also played a major role in this novel…yes like I said a tad crazy. A roasted beet and feta salad that I made was super easy and loved by everyone.

The rustic texture of the beets contrasted with the silver and glass makes for a lovely and original arrangement. This has definitely inspired me to create more centerpieces with vegetable elements. It’s a lot less expensive than flowers too!

We dined alfresco on my patio under twinkling candles and a spray of fairy lights strewn through my wisteria.

The conversation was very stimulating to say the least. Robbins really challenges you to be open-minded and encourages you to view things in an entirely different way. Among the fascinating meanderings of Robbin’s mind he throws out truly prolific lines:

“We waste time looking for the perfect lover, instead of creating the perfect love.”
Tom Robbins

“The unhappy person resents it when you try to cheer him up, because that means he has to stop dwelling on himself and start paying attention to the universe. Unhappiness is the ultimate form of self-indulgence. When you’re unhappy, you get to pay a lot of attention to yourself. You get to take yourself oh so very seriously.”
— Tom Robbins

“Our individuality is all, all, that we have. There are those who barter it for security, those who repress it for what they believe is the betterment of the whole society, but blessed in the twinkle of the morning star is the one who nurtures it and rides it in, in grace and love and wit, from peculiar station to peculiar station along life’s bittersweet route.”
— Tom Robbins

As a little take home gift for my ladies, I created my own version of the famous K23 or Kudra perfume. I couldn’t resist getting out my essential oils and giving it a go. It’s a jasmine themed scent with a lemon and tangerine top note and a sandalwood bottom note. (I didn’t have beet pollen on hand so it had to do). My friends seemed to enjoy it, deeply inhaling the fragrance and applying it to the inside of their wrists.

All in all, it was a fabulous night. Good friends, plenty of french red wine, yummy food, a riveting novel and wonderful discussion – doesn’t get better than that.

Hope you are reading something inspiring.

Happy Friday!

xo,

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Hydrating Rose Oil

The roses are blooming everywhere, so now is a great time to create your very own hydrating rose body oil.

The essential oil of roses is found to be very nourishing, moisturizing and restorative. It is good for almost all skin types and works well even with sensitive skin. The aroma is relaxing and heavenly. You will love making your own rose oil – plus it’s easy!

You’ll need:

1 cup fresh organic rose petals

1 cup sweet almond oil or sesame oil

1 wide mouth glass jar with a lid

Directions:

1. Place roses in jar and gently crush to release their oils

2. Pour the oil over the petals.

3. Secure the lid and place the jar in a dark, cool place for a week.

4. Strain the oil and place into pretty bottle.

5. Apply after bath or shower while skin is still moist.

Enjoy!

xo,

Ivy

Image via Flickr

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Peonies & Peas

Yesterday the rain poured down one minute, only to be replaced by the glorious sun the next. It’s the nature of Spring in Oregon and we love it. Unpredictable but beautiful. Silver light and gold.

With a bouquet of gorgeous peonies on my table and a handful of fresh spring peas I figured it was the perfect afternoon for a little team work with Grace. She was so excited to pop open each pod to reveal the tiny green peas. While she delighted in this task, I took pictures. I really loved the green of the peas with the pink of the peonies.

At the end of this lovely afternoon, I cooked up a fresh Spring inspired meal from Rachel Ray‘s cookbook. Check out the recipe here. It was delicious!

Happiness all round.

xo,

Ivy

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