Neil and I have just returned from a four day vacation in Napa Valley, CA. We have gone before and it has been one of those spots we like to visit often. It never disappoints us in anyway. It is “off season” at this time of the year, but the weather is perfect for us…sunny days and cool nights. The landscape is beautiful and the pace is slow and relaxing, giving us time to enjoy the natural surroundings. The grape harvest is over, but the leaves are all still on the grape vines and have changed to a wide range of classic fall colors. These colors with the backdrop of the varied greens of the mountains is breathtaking and another inspiration for fabric collections. I love the reverence given to agriculture in this region. Every acre is lovingly planted and cared for, including the raised gardens in the parking lots of many restaurants.
I have tried to capture the essence of the valley in one of my recent paintings that I now have grouped with a collection of vintage pottery (not shown) reflecting some of the same hues in the picture. Each time I look at it, I am reminded of the trips we have taken to Napa Valley.
One of my favorite visits this time was to the Culinary Institute of American in St. Helena. For those of us who love to cook, it is a must to visit. I attended a demo on Saturday and was inspired when I got home on Sunday to start pulling my recipes and cookbooks out to plan for the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend. We have guests starting on Wednesday night and staying through Sunday. Not only is the Thanksgiving meal important, but many meals need to be planned to make everything go smoothly so I can enjoy everyone’s company as well. So, I do a great deal of planning and prep work before the big weekend. It is so much easier for me to spread out the work over a few days. Nothing seems overwhelming. Right about now I will make a few soups that I can freeze. They are always handy for a quick supper. If they are hearty enough, a sandwich or salad makes a full meal. I will also get a few cookies ready and freeze as well. I like to have a few rolls of icebox cookies ready to pull out and bake. All the fuss is done, and they make the house smell great while baking.
Last year, my daughter asked me to go through the steps I take to prepare for the Thanksgiving dinner. Perhaps someday she will put these tips to the test, but for right now, we are all very happy with our traditional arrangement of Thanksgiving at our house. I picked up a copy of the 2015 Cook’s Illustrated All-Time Best Thanksgiving Recipes while on vacation. It has some really great recipes in it as well as great tips on make ahead recipes that I am certainly going to use this year to make my whole Thanksgiving weekend even easier. Check out the Berry Blog post tomorrow…Thanksgiving Spectacular -Stress Free.