Italian Wedding Soup

I’ve spent time during the last two days taking down all of the Christmas decorations, both inside the house and out. I’m someone who loves the holidays, but by late December I’m antsy to put away all of the treasured ornaments, lights, garland and glitz and take a big deep breath. I now look forward to the calmness and quiet of the month to come.

Tonight I made a pot of Italian Wedding Soup to warm us on this cold winter’s night. The recipe is from the January/February issue of The Cottage Journal.

Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2  12 ounce packages caramelized onion flavored meatballs (I used Aidells)

2 cups chopped yellow onion

I and 1/2 cups chopped celery

1 and 1/2 cups chopped carrot

1 Tablespoon minced fresh garlic

8 cups chicken broth

1 and 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup orzo pasta

1 (6 ounce) bag baby spinach

Directions:

  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium high heat. Add meatballs, and cook, stirring frequently, until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon; set aside.IMG_71152. Add onion, celery, carrot, and garlic to pot; cook stirring frequently, until tender, 5 to 8 minutes.

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3. Stir in meatballs, broth, Italian seasoning, and salt. Bring mixture to a boil. IMG_7117Add orzo to pot, stirring to combine. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until pasta is tender, about 12 minutes. Stir in spinach just before serving. Serve with rustic bread, if desired.IMG_7120IMG_7119IMG_7121Simple, healthy and delicious. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

A Conspiracy of Love

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” ~Hamilton Wright Mabie

We had such fun taking a stroll through this gorgeous East Sacramento neighborhood all decked out in festive Christmas finery. I loved our walk, while others were seeing the sights in horse drawn wagons, limousines, and beer bikes/party bikes! Fa La La La Laaa!IMG_7054IMG_7058IMG_7046IMG_7056IMG_7045IMG_7055IMG_7051IMG_7049IMG_7047IMG_7059Can you feel the love? Wishing you much love, joy and peace on this special night and in 2016. Merry Christmas to all.

Tribute to a Beloved Mother

Under drizzly skies at dusk, my husband and I drove to Kid’s Inc. in Camino to see the remarkable gift of love from a son to his mother. So touched were we after reading the story in our local newspaper, The Mountain Democrat, that we had to see this sight for ourselves. IMG_6995One of Joan Delfino’s final wishes before her death from cancer, a year and a half ago was for her son to decorate the 60 foot white fir that the two had admired on their property for years.IMG_6994No small feat, after digging a trench for the 500 feet of electric cord, Chris and a few friends used a crane to decorate the tree with 1900 feet of lights, and crowned it with a nearly 5 foot star. What a beauty this is!IMG_6993IMG_6998The tree will be lit through January 1st. Weather forecasters are predicting snow for this area tonight and all day tomorrow. You can bet I’ll be taking another drive in the next couple of days to see the sight of this jewel shining brightly, surrounded by snow. Quite a gift to not only Joan Delfino, but to all of the community. Thank you Chris Delfino, and Merry Christmas to you and your family. I’m sure your mom is smiling down from heaven.

Read Any Good Books Lately?

The Little House series, Anne of Green Gables, Charlotte’s Web, The Wind in the Willows, and the writings of A.A. Milne. These were favorites of mine as a child. I have such fond memories of my mother taking my two brothers, my sister and me to the public library every two weeks to choose books to borrow. We would all browse the shelves, gathering whatever we were interested in reading at that time. I remember feeling so rich in books. Library day felt a bit like Christmas. All these years later I still get the same feeling with the riches and comfort of good books to read.

This charming garden courtyard, where vines climb up old brick walls is where my book group friends and I set up and dedicated our official Little Free Library nearly a year ago. It’s been such a pleasure to care for it and keep it stocked with quality books. I must admit my heart skips a beat when I notice someone lost in a book which was borrowed from our library. I took these photos on a quiet morning when the shops had yet to open, but most days this place is hopping! It brings me great joy to know that it’s loved by others and getting used regularly.

Right now wreaths, lights, Poinsettias, and a Christmas tree add sparkle and shine to this little nook just off Main Street in Placerville. Many thanks to the owners of the hair salon and the boutique who are the Christmas elves behind all of the festive holiday beauty. Isn’t it gorgeous?

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IMG_6784Ta dah! Here it is! This cheery yellow and blue box is full of good reads for all ages, with fiction, non fiction, and classics on the top shelf, and picture books, middle grade books and young adult books on the bottom. Go get yourself a delicious mocha from Totem Coffee (closed on Tuesdays), open up the door of the little free library and pull out the book that speaks to you. Go ahead and take it, it’s yours! Now find a seat at one of the many tables in the courtyard, get comfy and let the magic of a good book unfold.IMG_6782

Empire Mine State Park

“Let’s take our hearts for a walk in the woods and listen to the magic whispers of old trees.”  ~Author UnknownIMG_6719If these old trees could talk they’d have many a tale to whisper about. They’d tell stories of life in the mid 1800s, and mining in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Grass Valley during the gold rush and the years following.

Empire Mine is one of the oldest, largest and most prosperous gold mines in North American history. Mining started here in 1850 and continued until 1956. On the grounds are the various mines, machine shop, refinery room, warehouses, offices and blacksmith shop. A distance away from all the mining structures sits the stately English manor cottage that the Bourne family lived in during the summer months (their main residence was a mansion in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights) and the formal gardens. A clubhouse for entertaining and for housing visiting guests is also nearby, as is the gardener’s house and greenhouse. All of this sits on 856 acres of beautifully forested foothills. Woodland hiking trails wind through much of the property.IMG_6734Last Friday, on a beautiful autumn day we visited the park for their Christmas event. We enjoyed the old fashioned decorations, live music, and festive atmosphere as we toured the cottage and wandered the lovely grounds and trails. Costumed docents greeted us and shared park history, and Santa and Mrs. Claus were on hand for the little ones.IMG_6741IMG_6726IMG_6730Special arrangements were made to have the cottage (which is currently closed while roof repairs are being made) open for tours on this weekend. Yes indeed, they call this a cottage!IMG_6727Inside the cottage is quite dark, but have a look at the lovely old fashioned holiday decorations and the gorgeous windows in each room! Just charming!IMG_6723IMG_6721IMG_6720It was in 1975 that the state of California purchased the property and it became the Empire Mine State Historic Park. Check the website for tours, hours, and a wealth of information about the history of this impressive park.