my latest wishlist courtesy of

what a brilliant website - any antique you could possibly yearn for, be that jewellery, furniture or clothing

Superb 18karat gold and engrave cornaline wax seal. mounted in the form of a coussin surmounted by foliage and terminating in a ring set with 2 citrines

1940s vacheron & constantin watch

18k yellow gold soft bangle bracelet by paloma picasso for tiffany and co. italy
modernist 18k yellow gold bracelet. the tubular bracelet forming a 2 3/8" concave circle, hinged at the side for ease of wear

1930's 17.50 carts of diamonds & 7.50 carats of french cut square sapphires

lalaounis serpent and gemstone bracelet. greece. 1960s


20th century. articulated diamond snake necklace with pave diamond head and cabochon emerald eyes. the body with diamond encrusted scales. fred leighton.

the bascule desk

available in forged and hand-beaten wrought iron or polished steel finish. the drop in top can be made in any material including stone, goatskin leather, slate and wood.

yes please - i'll take it in leather and iron.

someone enjoyed a buffet-style, serve yourself, all you can eat supper tonight

scallops no less

these are locally-made jams from Upton upon Severn, close to where my parents and sister live. G likes them so much that i am sure he will receive an assortment for every birthday, easter and christmas forever more courtesy of my mother and sister.

G is a happy jam-eating man.

scallops with tomato compote + blanc beurre

followed by pork tenderloin with prunes in brandy

the scallops recipe was from Eric Ripert;
the pork from

slowly but surely, regaining my mojo....i hope

THIS is a freaking excellent site!

i love this calligraphy tattoo of a chap's daughters' names

by Betsy Dunlap via Cup of Jo's blog

it's almost like springtime today. the sky is blue, the sun is out and the temperature is in the high 60s!

flor is wearing her new puffa jacket and spent the morning playing with her best friend chiquitin.

life is good.

now it's time for a nap

he beat me to it - riding in a wheelchair and then on the back of a cart at the airport. it's okay though, i will get my turn in May!

transport courtesy of Denver International Airport

our last dinner in Vail: Larkspur

a lovely restaurant, with a great viewing kitchen and wine collection.

we started with a mushroom consomme (disappointing as it was quite tasteless), followed with colorado rack of lamb for G which he described as tender as butter and not to be beaten (also Why can't we get this in DC???!!!), and i had the black truffle gnocchi (which was very tasty but came with a foam of mushroom which is my worst nightmare in terms of texture and thus made me gag). pudding was doughnuts and a quartet of sorbets (chocolate, strawberry, banana - my clear favourite, and blood orange).

G's doughnuts were good - basically beignets rather than what we've become used to in the states (krispy kreme soft dough). it was accompanied by a shot of delicious and warm apple cider.

we struggled to read the menu (we're oldies who refuse to wear glasses, and the lighting was very low) so they gave us a lit magnifying glass!

this is my bracelet from Blossom Himalayan Arts - you can just about see the wool skirt too. it's such a treat to be out of jeans or skipants for the first time in two weeks....

'nuff said

the worst thing about the smoking ban

as relayed by Jeremy Clarkson in The Times Online

As we know, the ban on smoking in public places, and the misery of being forced to stand outside like a naughty dog every time you want a fag, has caused almost everyone to give up. This has had a profound knock-on effect on our social lives.

In the not too distant past, the notion of not being allowed to smoke in someone’s house would have been as alien as not being allowed to use the loo. Now, most people I know run a fresh-air policy, and those who do allow you to light up always make a huge song and dance about finding something that can be used as an ashtray.

Worse, even when you are allowed to smoke, there’s a sense still that you shouldn’t. That if you do, you’ll be the only one. Lighting up at a drinks party is a bit like standing there masturbating.

One chap I know has an electric cigarette. Sucking on it delivers a hit of nicotine and causes the tip to glow red. It’s like the real thing in the same way that a blow-up doll is like Scarlett Johansson but he always brings it out at parties and waves it around because it looks realistic and tricks other smokers in the room into feeling that if they go ahead, they won’t be the first.

Smoking, then, has become like freemasonry or homosexuality. We have our secret signs. Our equivalent of funny handshakes and gaydar. We use tricks and nods and winks to establish a bond with other smokers. We coerce them into lighting up first, to gauge the reaction, and then we huddle around the lone ashtray, feeling lost in the room but somehow emboldened by one another’s company.

As a result of all this, I have grown to hate parties. On the way, terrified that I won’t be allowed to smoke, I puff away like a madman, trying to fill myself up with a nicotine bank that will last the evening. It doesn’t, though. You can no more store nicotine than you can store sleep.

So, after the first glass of wine, you feel compelled to ask if it’s okay for you to light up, which requires as much courage as it does to ask a girl out. You are terrified that the answer will be no — not because you’ll have to go outside; you’re used to that — but because you’re English and you’ll have embarrassed your host.

And you’re even more terrified that you’ll get an if-you-must yes, followed by lots of huffing and puffing and tutting as the hostess goes off to look in the bottom of the wedding present drawer to see if she can find an ashtray. And then, when she comes back with it, and you light up, you can feel the eyes upon you, and you pray with curled toes and a pile-driver heart that someone else will join in . . .

And here’s the thing, smokers of the world. They always do. If you start smoking at a party, I can absolutely guarantee that within five minutes everyone else will be smoking too. And what makes this even worse than being made to stand outside is that they will be smoking yours.

Since the smoking ban, no one has given up the tabs. They’ve just given up buying them, and this is the most annoying thing in all of human history.

I should make it plain that I’m not a mean man. When I was confronted by those harrowing images of bodies being tossed into mass graves in Haiti, I was on the phone in a jiffy, offering money, goods and even my children, if that’s what the charities wanted. This is natural because, all of a sudden, the rainy day for which I’d been saving didn’t look as if it could ever be as dark and gloomy as the rainy day that had been inflicted on those poor souls in the Caribbean.

I would give someone a kidney or a pint of blood. But my last cigarette? No. I’m afraid not.

Last weekend I took a crisp, unopened packet of 20 to a friend’s house, where I’d been invited to spend the day shooting. And over breakfast one of the chaps said: “Ooh, can I nick one of those?”

Naturally this prompted his wife to chime in with a request as well, and that sort of opened the floodgates. So, by the time we’d pulled our boots on and set off, I had only 10 left. Ten wouldn’t be enough. When a smoker has only 10 fags in his pocket and there’s no shop for miles, it’s an all-consuming problem. You do a lot of maths. When can I get to a shop? How many hours till then? And just when you’ve worked out you can have one only every 40 minutes, the hordes descend again: “I say, you haven’t got another fag, have you?” So now you have only five.

What party smokers don’t understand is that proper smokers don’t smoke for fun. It’s a drug. We need it. Running out of cigarettes is not an inconvenience; it’s a matter of life and death. Literally. Because in the same way that a heroin addict will mug an old lady for his next fix, a smoker will get up from a dinner table at midnight and, so pissed he can’t even walk, drive into the night to find a petrol station and more supplies.

To get round the problem, I now take four packs to a party. But this is never enough. On New Year’s Eve I had 50 people round for supper. None of them smokes. But that didn’t stop them getting through a carton of 200. I’d rather they’d nicked my furniture.

The smoking ban, then, has had a devastating effect, not just on pubs and clubs — which are closing at the rate of one every four hours — but on society, which has now become divisive and bitter.

There are, as I see it, only two solutions. Either the government can come clean and admit that without the tax revenue from smokers, the NHS would be finished. Or, to level the playing field, it can ban smoking completely.

Apparently, such a move is being considered right now in Finland. Though we shouldn’t pay too much attention to the outcome because when a Scandinavian is forced to give up the tabs, he will simply revert to the region’s second-favourite pastime: committing suicide.
the toad in the hole was the disaster of the week. the gluten flour was icky, it made the filling more spongey than anything, and the sausages were those fake american oscar wiener (sp?) type ones that have a scary pink colour even when cooked. i miss good old english sausages that actually taste real minus the consistency of luncheon meat. we struggled through 3 mouthfuls of the revolting dish then gave up and had ice cream instead. so the evening wasn't that bad after all.

the photographs say it all really.

tonight's supper: toad in the hole

if it turns out as badly as my previous suppers this week, it will be renamed tail between the legs.

i am not holding out much hope for a culinary success...mainly because the flour (one of the main ingredients) is gluten-free. eeeek. every gluten-free product i've ever eaten has been revolting. suffering from a wheat intolerance for several years, my mother would bulk buy rice flour/milk/pasta. all vile. nasty textures and always disappointing results. after my rejection of all things rice related, she moved onto corn - pasta primarily. absolutely VILE. then along came products labelled gluten-free and i was filled with relief. someone had actually put time and energy (and their tastebuds) into creating flours, biscuits, breads etc that i would finally enjoy. wrong wrong wrong. i suppose the lack of gluten is bound to have an effect on the end product. without gluten in breads or pastries, where does all that wonderful texture come from? it doesn't, in my humble opinion. cakes and breads are dry and crumbly rather than moist and springy. pasta made without gluten is chalky.

back to tonight's supper...

the marketplace store where we get our groceries has a limited stock. some days it has fresh vegetables and fruit, butter, juice - other days it has run out. it can be a bit hit and miss. as a trip to Safeway was inconvenient today, i had to rely on the marketplace for tonight's ingredients.

gluten-free flour (it says it's perfect for baking etc - yeah right, we'll see)
sausages (the only kind they had was pre-cooked in apple or garlic; i went for the garlic ones, god help me)
eggs (ok you can't go wrong with these)
milk (they only sell organic milk which is fine - if you're a millionaire)

sugar - so i don't need this for the recipe, but it's a necessity in our household. the first packet i bought - without looking properly - turned out to be organic evaporated palm sugar, blonde. for some reason that i can't explain, i only saw the word palm, got confused with cane and bought it. it wasn't very blonde - it looked like ground up toasted breadcrumbs in shape, size and colour. although it's not totally disgusting, it does give a slightly weird aftertaste. we persevered, not able to bring ourselves to trash a packet of sugar that cost $8. yes, i forgot to look at the price tag too. on returning to the store to find real sugar, they told me they only carried the palm variety. nice. so, rather than buy another packet, i have been knicking packets from the breakfast room. what a cheapo.

to give you an idea of how outrageous the prices here are:

2 pint carton of milk $6 (i actually don't know if that's good or bad)
1lb of weird hippie sugar $8
mini bottle of instant coffee (you can get around 8 cups of coffee out of it) $7
small jar of honey $14 (and i mean small)
500ml of olive oil $19
packet of pancake mix $15

all the above are the cheapest option too. i could have gone all out and chosen a bottle of olive oil for $88 or a pancake mix with chocolate chip cookies included for $17, but felt they were a touch over-priced.

okay, back to the and update later.
Blossom, Himalayan Arts

i have walked past this store so many times in the past 10 days but only ventured in this evening. it is awash with the most beautiful Tibetan jewellery, clothing, gloves, scarves, homeware.

the owner, Samten, moved with his wife to the US 10 years ago and relocated from San Diego to Vail this summer. this store is a sister store to one in Steamboat Springs (another ski resort about 1.5hrs from Vail) which his wife runs.

i picked up a handknitted woollen skirt, a prayer bracelet in a stone remarkably jade-like but not, and a birthday gift for a friend in DC.

i could have spent hours in there perusing all of the beautiful handmade jewellery, not to mention the baskets full of handknitted gloves, booties and hats in every colour and design imaginable.

unlike the rest of Vail, their prices are more than reasonable - especially as most everything is handmade.

i wish they had a website i could link to, but as they don't, you will have to visit one of their stores in person. you won't be disappointed.

it's COLD and snowing outside. the skies are grey and visibility is poor.

this photo makes me happy. i don't like summer's barely-there clothing, so this outfit is perfect - cool (temperature-wise) and effortlessly chic. a semi-sheer blouse over fitted linen or cotton trousers. i am looking forward to wearing less chewbacca-like clothing soon.

this is by designer vanessa bruno

after seriously losing my mojo for the past 3 suppers, i managed to regain a little bit of it back for today's lunch. cauliflower and celery soup. it was made with a simple tomato sofrito, chicken stock, celery and cauliflower. at the end, pasta elbows were added to make it more of a meal.

it's cold today with a lot of snow, so this was the perfect comfort meal to eat at home.

after lunch, while i braved the mini snowstorm to get groceries, someone else took a siesta.

i just stumbled upon this website - excellent!

last night we went to dinner at Sweet Basil, as recommended to us by several people. it was busy, but we were seated rightaway (thankfully we'd made a reservation). it's a large restaurant and can probably seat 200 people easily. it was packed - people were at the bar as well as seated at tables. the ambience was nice - more city feel than any of the other restaurants we've tried. we were in our snow gear though others were in heels and jewels (the women).

we had west coast oysters and brioche crusted marrow bones for starters. we had the same main course - lobster and lobster coral taglietelle. we finished with an orange creamsicle for pudding.

g liked his half dozen oysters, i really enjoyed the marrow bones. the taglietelle was nice - nothing special. the creamsicle was delicious - blood orange ice-cream, buttercream, grapefruit sorbet.

i highly recommend this restaurant for at least one meal if you're Vail. the service (our excellent waitress was Hungarian) was very good and attentive, but not too much.


yesterday's lunch was at Pepi's Bar - a semi-informal restaurant. part of the menu is Austrian. we both had the bratwurst with sauerkraut, red cabbage and mashed potatoes. pudding was apple struedel. both very good and satisfied our appetites. it's just around the corner from our condo, so we might just find ourselves back there for today's lunch...a neighbouring table's wiener schnitzel looked good....