Thank you for all the the warm thoughts and comments. Spending time with a good friend has been good for the soul. I have a core group of girlfriends that I've known for over 20 years. We have seen each other through many different phases in our lives. Susie makes me laugh like no one else can. I recently spent time with another dear friend of mine in Arizona. Stephanie Maraz Gray is an exceptional textile artist. From her I've learned about passion for life. She collects antique and vintage textiles from around the globe and turns them into wearable works of art under her label "Love Apples". Stephanie is a beautiful and vivacious woman, and brings passion to everything she does. My camera was in meltdown mode when I was there so I was only able to take a few images of her. I've photographed her work many times in the last 20 years and will share some of those images in another entry.
The images below (except for the last one) were taken by her husband and fellow photographer, Gator. More images of their work can be viewed on their website: Any Where Imports

I loved the shoes she had on that day - orange pumps!
Sotto Il Monte Vinyards


I worked for a daily newspaper for 18 years.  It was hectic much of the time and some days were worse than others.  On those days a colleague of mine would diffuse my frustration by standing up and announcing "Let's Go Dancing".  It never failed to make me smile.  My truck is loaded down and I'm headed off to attend a month long music festival - and there will be dancing!  I've been attending this festival for a very long time.  It is the "Kerrville Folk Festival"  in the beautiful Texas Hill Country.  My dear friend Susie attends along with me.  We have been friends for 30 years.  She has lived in Europe for the past 10 years - but returns every year to spend a month at the festival.  It is really the only time during the year that we have this much time together.  We do have our differences though.  She has become very involved in the festival and is happy to camp for an entire month on the ranch were the festival is held.  I on the other hand - love camping - for a few days - not thirty.  I'm rather fond of running water!  So to that end - Jim and I bought a little cottage just down the road.   Susie and I have both had a somber week.   My family lost my 51 year old sister-in-law to a brain aneurysm and her father-in-law died on Wednesday.
My heart is heavy for my brother and his children and hers is for her family.  So we will do what we always do - talk for hours, work through whatever is on our minds and get each other laughing.   A little music, dancing and laughter will do us good.  
But for right now - I think I'll go float on the water and soak up some sun.



My favorite place to stay in the Phoenix/Scottdsdale area is the Royal Palms - Bar None.
I love everything about this intimate hotel - from the luxurious spa to the gorgeous gardens and wonderful dining. The Royal Palms is a historic hotel that started off as a private residence. Built in the 1920's by Delos Willard Cooke at a cost of one million dollars. It was later converted into a hotel in 1948. Although it has been renovated a few times, it maintains much of the original landscape and architectural details.
The Royal Palms sits in the shadow of Camelback Mountain and is shaded by hundred of palms and orange trees.

In the 1960's a sign that advertised "Cocktails" hung over the front entry. Glass and metal doors have been replaced by these antique doors. The plaster on the buildings was done by Hopper Finishes. Hopper does really beautiful work, creating finishes that look as if they have been on the building for 100 years. He mixes paint and all manner of different things into the plaster to achieve just the right hue and modulation.
Pathways, gates, arches and outdoor rooms create an intimate feel in the gardens.

While seeming very intimate, this resort can host large events. It is a favorite place for weddings. We have stayed in both the cabanas and the regular rooms. I like both.

The restaurant at the Royal Palms is T. Cook's. The Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Celery Root Gratin and Roquefort is on of my favorite recipes from T. Cook's. I've made this many times for dinner parties - it is always a big hit.

Grilled Beef Tenderloin


4 Filets of beef, 6 oz each

Season the filets liberally with salt and pepper. Grill the filets over high heat on a BBQ on both sides until you reach medium rare, about ten to twelve minutes. Let rest for four to five minutes so the meat relaxes and retains its juices. Reserve.


2 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced (1/8 inch thick)
1 celery root, peeled and sliced (1/8 inch thick)
1 cup Roquefort cheese, crumbled
1 cup heavy cream

In an oiled, nine-by six inch casserole dish, start with a layer of potatoes on the bottom. After the bottom is completely covered with potato, season with salt and pepper. Start a new layer of the celery root. When the celery root layer is complete, sprinkle half the crumbled Roquefort on top. Drizzle half the cream evenly over the entire dish.
Repeat the layering process with potatoes, celery root, cheese and cream. Finish with a layer of potatoes and cover with aluminum foil. Bake dish at 350 degrees for thirty-five to forth minutes or until a knife slides easily through all layers.

Roquefort Butter
1 lb. Softened butter - Room Temp
1/4 cup Roquefort Cheese, crumbled
1 tsp. Shallot, minced
1 tbsp fine herbs, chopped (equal parts chervil, Italian parsley, chives, tarragon)
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together, Place butter on a sheet of plastic wrap and roll it up like a cigar, twisting both ends. chill. Cut into 1/4 inch discs and keep chilled until ready for plating.

Demi-Glace & Vegetables
1 cup Veal demi-glace
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste
Add 1/2 tbsp of butter and 1/2 tbsp of olive oil to two separate hot sauté pans. Add the carrots to one and the celery to the other. Sauté for two to three minutes over high heat. Add 1/4 cup of chicken stock to pan to finish cooking the vegetables. Reduce the chicken stock until the pan is almost dry and season the vegetables with salt and pepper.

Composing the Dish:

Place a scoop of the gratin in the middle of the plate. Spoon some of the carrots and celery around the gratin. Drizzle some of the demi-glace around the vegetables. Place the beef on top of the gratin. Add a disc of the Roquefort butter onto the filet and serve.

My notes: I sometimes change up the carrot/celery and add baby squash as in the photo above.
Also, I have found that a mandolin is very helpful for slicing the celery root. Roquefort is quite a strong cheese. If I feel that I may have a guest that might not like Roquefort - I'll substitute a mild blue cheese. A biscuit cutter works quite well for cutting the gratin and looks elegant as well.

Photography By: Ryannan Bryer de Hickman
Sotto Il Monte Vineyards

Now for the wine ~ Silver Oak. I have served this with both the Napa and the Alexander Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon. Both are beautiful wines. Silver Oak Winery focuses all their energy on making these two outstanding Cabs.
And the shoes? A pair of elegant sandals and some comfy loafers should suffice.



I've always had a love for Spanish Colonial Architecture and was pleased to be able to go to San Miguel De Allende one year and photograph some of the best examples in Mexico.
Mixed in with the Spanish Colonial you will find Baroque Architecture as well.
One example is the 18th century Templo de San Francisco, above.

I walked for miles along the cobblestone steets and didn't even put a dent in all that there is to see. I could live here.......................and spend lots of time reading on this portal..........................

Another example of the Baroque influence.

As is my usual habit - I tried to fit too much into one trip and wasn't able to photograph everything that I had planned to. I was working on three stories - a travel story - a story on Mexican Architecture and one on Dia de los Muertos. In addition, I was attending a Master Photography workshop. A month would be a good amount of time to spend there.
My days were filled with appointments and photo shoots. Each night we would all go out to dinner and sometimes dancing, sometimes just staying up way too late singing and strumming the guitar. It was downright fun and the time went by far too quickly and was a bit of a blur.
San Miguel Night Owls................................

The local laundry with spring fed basins.
Color is everywhere in San Miguel.
Some houses are left un-stuccoed - built with local stone.
A peek into a dining room.................................................................
I had the pleasure of popping in on Dianne Kushner - gracious owner of the wonderful B&B Casa Luna.
I first met Dianne in Santa Fe. She was there visiting her friend, Baron, who had just purchased a house that my husband and I built.
It was a house that I particularly loved (even though I've learned not to get attached) but I was happy that the new owner was also a photographer. Baron was the very first photographer for Rolling Stone Magazine, lived in San Francisco for many years and was relocating to New Mexico. The house was designed with gallery like spaces, a big beautiful studio and a darkroom. Diane was there to give him some tips on how to decorate. She has done a fantastic job on Casa Luna in San Miguel as you can see from the photos below.
The door from the street opens up into a lush courtyard with fountains. Once inside you are surrounded by vibrant color and cozy rooms.
Each room is different and filled with local craftsmanship, Mexican antiques and folk art.

The view of La Parraquia Church in the Jardin from an upstairs balcony.

Dianne in her beautiful kitchen. She gives cooking classes at Casa Luna. Next time I go - I'm going to make sure and take a class or two. Sweet Dianne gave me a copy of her cookbook "The Tortilla Papers". It is filled with great local recipes. My favorite - Basi's Chilaquiles Verdes. I had never had Chilaquiles before I went to San Miguel and don't see them on the menu much in the States. The restaurants in San Miguel are some of the best I've experienced in Mexico. Yeah, I could live there - maybe start a winery - Mexico needs help in that department!

Photography By: Ryannan Bryer de Hickman
Sotto Il Monte Vineyards

Traveling Shoes Note: Take tennis shoes!