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Zakary & Zoey’s 1st Birthday Party!

Zak and Zoey, the darling children of my dear friend, Tram, celebrated their first birthday on Saturday!

pink table

Boy has the year flown by. It seems like only yesterday that I was throwing Tram her baby shower!


Tram asked me to come over early to decorate. The twins were down for their nap, so decorating went smooth and quick.


We kept it simple, mostly just photos of the twins scattered on the tables, streamers, pom poms and balloons.

fav fam

Tram had picked up a couple of light-up Z’s, so I placed them on either side of a family portrait for the buffet.


The breakfast table was the most elaborately decorated area, with not only the pom poms and balloons, but also with chalkboard art that daddy-extraordinaire, Steve, made for each twin.

zak chalk

Zak’s first year milestones…

zoey chalk

… and Zoey’s.

3 cakes

Of course, the three (yes, 3!) cakes were the showstoppers of the table.

zak cake


zoey cake


monkey cake

And a third cake that Chef Mel Mecinas, of the Four Seasons Scottsdale, had his pastry chef make for the twins, based on their favorite book, Five Little Monkey’s Jumping on the Bed. Adorable!

menu board

Then there was Tram’s beautiful handwritten menu board. I love that huge board, and I love Tram’s exquisite writing!

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March 16, 2015   4 Comments

My mom turns 80


Yesterday was my mother’s 80th birthday. My sister, Sloane, and her kids, threw Mom a birthday party at her neighborhood clubhouse.


Sloane sent out the invite which included one of Mom’s old modeling photos.


I’ve mentioned before that my mom has Alzheimer’s, so the party was for family and a couple of her closest friends.


Mom started out sitting up and was pretty alert… but as the family arrived and the minutes passed …


… she faded fast and was slipping down in the chair. That is… until “Elvis” arrived!


Then she was wide-eyed and as happy as a clam while Elvis serenaded her and entertained the guests.


Now, I’m going to be 100% honest.

When Sloane said she hired an Elvis impersonator, I thought, “Really? How tacky.”

I could not have been more wrong! He was very talented (no lip-syncing for this guy!) and everyone loved it, especially the Birthday Girl.

Thank you, Sloane. Baby sister knows best!

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March 9, 2015   No Comments

birthday baby

dec 1 87

Twenty-seven years ago today was one of the best days of my life. I was 27-years-old and on that beautiful day, I gave birth to one of the loves of my life.

Marissa Jeff UA

Today that beautiful baby girl turns 27-years-old herself. The photo above was taken in Tucson this past Friday at the UA vs ASU Territorial Cup game. For obvious reasons, Marissa and her finance, Jeff, both UA alumni, were all smiles!

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December 1, 2014   4 Comments

a busy week “off”

monarch cafe

I had not intended to take a week off from blogging. I had plenty of things going on, lots of stuff to blog about. Honestly, I had too much going on and as a result I was too exhausted to sit down and write about it!

pallet flags

There will be recipes this week – Posole, Moscow Mules, Perfect Steamed Artichokes, and more. Then on Friday, I’ll be off to San Francisco to “Say Yes to the Dress” with Marissa, along with her maid-of-honor and a couple of her bridesmaids. We will be dress shopping, eating out, and having girl-time all weekend long!

cafe menu

But for today, I shall share images and notes from my busy exhausting week.

On Friday night, Dave took me to Café Monarch for an early birthday dinner. The Café has a prix fixe menu that changes weekly. The only thing you choose is your entrée. I had the trout and Dave had the filet. The ambiance, service and food were all pure perfection. I highly recommend!

After dinner, we drove to Sky Harbor to pick up Marissa. Having my girl home, made it the perfect ending to a perfect evening.


Saturday morning brought a shock in the bathroom. While in the shower, I looked up. There above the bathroom door – a scorpion! I got out, dried off and yelled for Marissa. It was beyond hilarious as we tried to decide how to kill it without risking it falling on us. There is a video, but it contains too much swearing and screaming to share. Rest assured, the thing is dead and we were not stung!

Con and Maris Xmas card2014 copy

Later that morning, Marissa, Connor and I went to El Chorro to meet with a wedding planner and to show Connor the wedding venue.

That evening, Connor went to work while Marissa, Dave and I went to Steve and Tram’s annual Okbirthdayfest party. Steve’s birthday is October 9th, hence the “Okbirthdayfest” instead of the usual Oktoberfest.

menu board

But, as you can see, Birthday Boy-Chef Steve cooks up a traditional Oktoberfest menu. How about that gorgeous job Tram did on the chalkboard menu!?! Love me a chalkboard menu!

chef steve

Chef Steve with his prized heat lamp-board of outstanding tender and delicious Sauerbraten!

marissa and zoey

Plus a very happy Marissa – holding sweet Zoey!


Guests were asked to bring their favorite cocktail to share. I brought Moscow Mules. Recipe later this week.

night before

Sunday was our neighborhood Fall Fling. It was a blast! I spent the entire preceding week hunting and gathering items for the party.

hunt and gather

All patios and nearly every flat surface was covered with party fixings. This is the part of event planning I love.

party patio

I love the party part too. Over 100 neighbors had a great time.

restroom and more

Even the set up was fun.


We had plenty of things to do for young and old alike.


As usual, I didn’t take nearly enough pictures. Darkness fell quickly on a cloudy night. The cleanup consisted of getting everything off the street and onto my driveway and patio.

morning after

This is what greeted me on Monday, my birthday, morning. Thankfully, my kids and my fantastic neighbors also woke up early and helped clean it all up.


An added bonus – my beautiful friend and neighbor, Karin, brought me birthday flowers! How sweet and thoughtful!

birthday flowers

Before the day was through, I had flowers from not only Karin, but also from Dave and from my beloved friend, Lori, all the way from Tokyo! xoxo


Connor took the day off work, which was a gift in itself. After cleanup, he and Marissa took me to The Biltmore Spa where the three of us had hot-stone massage pedicures! The perfect thing for weary legs and feet! We had a delicious early dinner at Pizzeria Bianco Town & Country.

salty sow

To end my “mom and kids” birthday, after we dropped Marissa off at the airport, Connor and I stopped by the Salty Sow and tried a bunch of different cocktails and had quality mother and son time.

Tuesday brought a birthday lunch with my dad, an HOA committee meeting and work that night.

Anne and Cruz

Wednesday I spent most of the day trying to put away all the party stuff. As of today, it’s still not all put away! Maybe by the end of this week.

Peggy and Anne took me out for birthday dinner at Rusconi’s. We met at Peggy’s house, where grandson Cruz was visiting and Anne fell in love.

rusconi cocktails

If you haven’t discovered Rusconi’s American Kitchen yet – get over there and thank me later!


As you can see, we loved every bite and wished it was in good taste and manners to lick the plates.

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November 3, 2014   6 Comments

Happy Birthday Hubby


I happily stumbled into the opportunity to take Dave to Garland’s Oak Creek Lodge for his birthday weekend.

A friend, whom I have yet to met in-person, offered it and I snagged it up the second I saw it.

orchard ladder

Betsy is a follower and frequent commenter. I did a little research and found that  Betsy has left 50 comments here. Betsy, you are awesome!

Garlands map

Anyhow, Betsy and I are Facebook friends too. On August 20th, Betsy posted that she would not be able to use her reserved weekend at Garland’s and asked if anyone would like to take it. I jumped at the opportunity!

garlands garden

Garland’s has a long history of being difficult to get into. Guests hold on to their treasured reservations from year to year. And since Betsy’s weekend happened to fall on Dave’s birthday, I just had to have it. I sent Betsy a check, she made the arrangements with Garland’s and we were set.

Arkansas Black

Dave had no idea where we were going. I just told him what to pack a bag and then I drove north.

gourd garland

He was surprised and thrilled when I pulled off beautiful State Route 89A, crossed Oak Creek and into Garland’s 10-acre/16 cabin property.

garlands kitchen window

Garland’s is an American-plan lodge; it includes full breakfast, afternoon tea and gourmet dinner.

Banjo Bill

The food is a big part of the experience. We enjoyed Roast Pork Loin with Port Plum Reduction on Friday night and Pan Seared Halibut with Romesco Sauce and Saturday.

orange cranberry muffin

Oh, and the warm Orange-Cranberry muffins we scarfed down on Saturday morning…. to die for!

chef brian widner

On Saturday night, I had a quick look into the kitchen and met Chef Brian Widmer. Chef Widmer could not have been more gracious, warm and welcoming. Thank you Chef for taking a few minutes during your crunch-time to talk with me!


It’s hard to tear yourself away from the property, but Dave and I did venture out on Saturday afternoon to visit Slide Rock State Park, which just reopened on Wednesday of last week, after the Slide Fire of this past May.  It was packed!

slide rock

We also drove into downtown Sedona to buy some fresh Sandia Chili Pepper Ristras.


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October 6, 2014   6 Comments

celebrating my cohort

Sending out big birthday wishes to my cohort in crime – Sheila!

at Big Daddy's

We shop for vintage and salvage together.

rose bowl

We go on road trips to find the best stuff.

break in

We break into houses when necessary … don’t worry, it was Sheila’s own Coronado Island cottage!

sheila craft table

We host craft-parties together.

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June 4, 2014   4 Comments

Connor’s Sriracha Cauliflower

23rd birthday dinner

I found the inspiration for the final recipe of “Connor Week” on one of my favorite cooking blogs, White On Rice Couple.

Connor requested Roasted Cheesy Cauliflower which I also happily made. I figured, if one head of cauliflower is good, then two must be better!


The major change I made from the original White On Rice Couple recipe was to simmer and soften the cauliflower before roasting.

The Result?

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May 29, 2014   No Comments

Connor’s Summer Salad

summer salad

Connor did not request this salad for his birthday dinner, but I needed something cool, refreshing, colorful and healthy to add to the menu that was heavy with ribs and BBQ sauce.

I’d be happy eating this all summer long! Add some feta or goat cheese if you’d like. I left it out because those aren’t Connor’s favorite things, and on your birthday, you should never have to eat something you don’t like!

summer salad stuff

Summer Corn, Cucumber & Tomato Salad

Cilantro Vinaigrette
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
tablespoon champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
tablespoon chopped cilantro

16 ounce package frozen corn, thawed
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2  English cucumber, diced
1/2 red onion, peeled and diced
2 avocados, diced

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May 28, 2014   2 Comments

Connor’s Baby Back Ribs

This is going to be “Connor Week” where I share with you the recipes I made for Connor’s birthday dinner. Yesterday was Connor’s Cake, a beautiful “candy cake,” today the main course is the star.

Baby Back Ribs1

This is the second year in a row that Connor has requested baby back ribs for his birthday dinner. Last year’s recipe focused on the homemade BBQ sauce and the slow dry cooking of the ribs. This year, I slow cooked the ribs in liquid and used purchased sauce. Although this recipe is less labor intensive, we all agreed, both methods produced delicious results.

connor charlie and the ribs

We had a “special guest” at the dinner this year. Connor has been house-sitting for nearly two weeks at Kim’s house while she and her family are in Machu Picchu. Connor wanted to spend the entire day here at home, so he brought along Kim’s adorable pooch, Charlie. Charlie LOVES Connor. Coincidentally, Connor loves Charlie too, and so do we!

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May 27, 2014   4 Comments

Connor’s Cake

Connor worked on Saturday night, so we celebrated his birthday on Sunday. Marissa is in town for a wedding, which was also on Saturday, so it worked out perfectly since she could then celebrate with her brother too.

kitkat m&m cake2

This is the cake I made for him. I found the image on Pinterest, of course. No need for an actual recipe. Use your favorite cake recipe or a box mix. Frost with your favorite icing, I used a chocolate butter cream, recipe included. Then decorate and trim with KitKak bars, M&M’s and a ribbon. That’s all there is to it!

candy cake

Connor’s Candy & Cake Birthday Cake

Chocolate Butter Frosting
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 to 4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk, half-and-half, or cream

Two 9-inch round cakes (from 1 box cake mix)

Three 4.5-ounce Giant Kit Kat Bars
One 12.6-ounce bag M&M’s
Kitchen string

cream butter

Chocolate Butter Frosting:  In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream together the butter and vanilla.

add cocoa

Mix in the cocoa powder.

alternately with cream

Add the powdered sugar alternately with the cream. Beat until light and fluffy. If necessary, adjust the consistency with more milk or sugar.

frost cake

Place one of the cake layers on a cake stand or platter and frost the top with the frosting. Place the second layer on top and frost the top and the sides.

first package

Immediately after the cake is frosted, begin placing the individual Kit Kat sticks to the sides of the cake, leaving a very small space in between each Kit Kat (you need to do this before the frosting has time to dry and set up.)

second package

Three giant packages is the exact amount you need to completely surround the cake.

3 packages [

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May 26, 2014   3 Comments