Happy Valentine's Day!  Each year for 18 years, when Jim and I lived in Santa Fe, NM,  Valentine's Day meant a trip down to our favorite chocolatier.  A box of Twin Peaks for him and Bolitos for me.

We left Santa Fe ten years ago, so this year I decided to try my hand at recreating those two treats.  I also made a batch of "Elspeth's Mocha Butter Balls.

The Twin Peaks are made of Caramel, Almonds and Chocolate.  I've never made caramel before, so it was somewhat trial and error.  I started off with Ina Garten's recipe for Fleur de Sel Caramels (left off the salt).  I cooked it a little too long and it turned out like a brick.  The great thing about caramel is that if you get it wrong the first time, you can just melt it again, add a little more butter and cream, and Voila!

 When I finally got the right consistency for the caramel, I spooned it into mini muffin cups, that had been lightly buttered.  I placed the almonds on before I put them in the refrigerator.  While they were cooling, I melted chocolate baking bits in a bain marie.   After the caramels cool in the fridge for a bit, dip just the bottom half in the melted chocolate and put on a cookie sheet lined in parchment paper.  Put them back in the fridge until the chocolate hardens.

 Bolitos are simply truffles or fudge rolled into balls and coated with crushed nuts.  I used this recipe for the truffles and rolled them in crushed pecans.

Elspeth's Mocha Butterballs -  a recipe from a Santa Fe friend.  They are great with a glass of cold milk.

Elspeth's Mocha Butter Balls

1 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1-3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 TBS instant coffee
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups chocolate bits

1. Cream butter & sugar
2. Add vanilla
3/  Mix in dry ingredients, Dough will be slightly stiff
4.  Stir in chocolate bits
5.  Roll into 1" balls.  Place on cookie sheet
6.  Bake for 15 minutes in preheated 325 degree oven
7. Fragile when warm.  When cool, sprinkle confectioner's sugar over cookies.

Photography By: Ryannan Bryer de Hickman - Sotto Il Monte


Polo & Mint Juleps Aiken, South Carolina

 One of our favorite places to visit is Aiken, South Carolina.  Aiken is one of the original Winter Colonies dating back to 1719.  The Goodyear's, Vanderbilt's and Hitchock families escaped the winters in the northeast and built mansions and sports playgrounds here.
 It is an equestrian haven and hosts many events throughout the year.  In the spring and fall you can always catch a game of polo on Sunday afternoon.
There is a new pavilion at the polo field where you can have lunch and watch the game in the shade.  Most people tailgate along the edge of the field.  We chose to do that as well - I brought along some Mint Juleps:)

You can set up tables and umbrellas - it is a pretty festive atmosphere.  During half time everyone goes out to stomp the divots.

The horses are magnificent and it was a perfect day for Polo and Mint Juleps!

 You have to watch out for the occasional wild ball when tailgating and yes this one was heading right at Moi!  It stopped short - no harm done.

 We had intended to spend Thanksgiving this year in Aiken attending the Blessing of the Hounds.   Every Thanksgiving at 11:00 in beautiful Hicthcock Woods, 16 hounds, 65 prize winning horses and hundreds of observers come together to receive blessings before the fox hunt.  Don't forget to stop by the Wilcox Hotel for Bagels & Bloodies before heading over to the Blessing.  Afterwards there is an open table Thanksgiving Dinner at the Stables.  Our plans have changed with the upcoming move and we will be back in Texas for Thanksgiving:)

The Wilcox Hotel has hosted Winston Churchill, President Roosevelt, Fred Astaire, Bing Croxby and Harold Vanderbilt, to name a few.

Photos: Ryannan Bryer de Hickman
Bottom two Photos - 2Luxury2


The Summerville Cottage Adieu

The digital ink had no sooner dried on my previous post - when the call came in, letting us know that we would be moving yet again!
I'll remember fondly our time in this little cottage.  The house is small that when we have guests over, everyone spills out into the garden.   Our beautiful friends Bart & Katherine first introduced us to this house.    Their friendship, hospitality and southern grace, will stay in our hearts always.
 Spring and summer are so beautiful here.  The landscape was mostly in place when we moved in.  I planted a few things.  Failed at some and had success with others.  The ground is nothing but sand!
 I'll miss the Highlander felines that live next door and visit now and then.  I hope to have one of my own when we are more settled.  They have tipped ears like a bob cat.
Living here gave us the opportunity to explore Charleston, Savannah and Atlanta.    Thanks to B&K, we attended the Masters Tournament each year.  Jim scored four tickets to the Masters one year via the lottery and his best buds Mike and Frank flew out from California spend a few days.
 Many other friends and family came to visit during our time here.  It has been fun to show them how beautiful the south is!

The payoff!  Now we get to move to the Austin, Texas area to spend more time with "THE CENTER OF OUR UNIVERSE!!!!!"  Ever since this sweet little boy was born we have been working our way back to him.  He has stolen our hearts and we just can't be away any longer.  He needs his Nana & Gramps!

Bonus - We will be able to spend more time with his sweet Mama, Dada,  brother and sister.

 I fly to Austin next week - check out the housing scene - fly back to meet up with the moving company - spiff up the house a little as it is going on the market - drive back to Texas  and spend weeks unpacking!

Adieu to this little cottage and Bonjour to the next chapter in our lives!

Photos By: Ryannan Bryer de Hickman (except the last one - taken by my daughter)