Sunday, January 31, 2021

New Orleans On My Mind

St Louis Cathedral, New Orleans

In January 2020, my husband and I traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana. It is one of our favorite places and we've visited it many times in the past--click here-- to scroll through a few pages to see all my past New Orleans-related posts.  We decided on Christmas of 2019 that this trip would be one of our Christmas gifts to each other in the new year, as we wanted to make many more happy travel memories in 2020.  We also had two cruises planned for that year--one that was supposed to be with our entire family--and an anniversary trip in the plans.

Of course, who knew that a few months later the Covid19 would begin to spread all over the world and cause a pandemic that would shut down travel for a long time?  Maybe these laugh manikin heads on display in a New Orleans shop window were "in" on the joke?

As it turned out New Orleans was our only trip away for 2020 and happily, it was a wonderful trip!

The early history of New Orleans at a glance.

Click on to enlarge

The French Quarter of New Orleans is rich in history...

...and architectural beauty.

It is full of antique stores and galleries...

...and street buskers, trinkets, and Mardi Gras paraphernalia. 

It's famous for its food--both creole and cajun cuisines--as well as its famous chicory coffee and powdered sugar-frosted beignets in Cafe du Monde

 Bourbon Street at night comes alive with lights and music and never sleeps.

It's a beautiful city ...

...both old and new

Isn't it easy to see why we love it so much?

In my next post, I'll show you some fabulous homes in the Garden District of New Orleans.
In the meantime, spread kindness and stay happy healthy, and safe!

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Sunday, January 24, 2021

Horace Tabor and the Tabor Opera House in Leadville, Colorado

The Tabor Opera House. Leadville, Colorado

Leadville, Colorado, is the highest elevation city in North America at 10,152 feet (3094.3 m). It lies among the headwaters of the Arkansas River in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. It was a rough and tumble mining town when the district started out as a gold placer mining settlement during the Colorado Gold Rush and was first called Slabtown. When large amounts of silver were discovered in the 1870s it became one of the world's largest and richest silver producers and its name was changed to Leadville.

 In February of 1878, an election was held in Leadville and Vermont native Horace Austin Warner Tabor (often referred to as H. A. W. Tabor) became the first mayor of the town. Tabor was a local storekeeper in Leadville and was one of the original pioneers of the area in 1860.  As a shopkeeper, Horace Tabor made a habit of grubstaking prospectors that were newly arrived in Leadville (grubstaking was the practice of supplying prospectors with tools and supplies in exchange for a percentage of any discoveries they make). 

Two young German immigrants that Tabor had grubstaked made a fabulous silver strike on Fryer Hill which would become known as the Little Pittsburg mine. Almost two million dollars in silver would be taken from the mine in just two years. Tabor's one-third interest in Little Pittsburg made him a rich man. He invested his returns in additional claims which often proved just as rich. Tabor would ultimately become the leading tycoon of the district and a prominent figure in both Leadville and all of Colorado.

Tabor wanted to bring arts and culture to Leadville so he had the Tabor Opera House constructed in 1879 in just 100 days at a price of $40,000--an exorbitant price at that time. The building materials he wanted weren’t available in Leadville, so he had them brought by wagon over Colorado’s highest mountain passes. Sparing no expenses, the massive three-story opera house was made of stone, brick, and iron, trimmed with Portland cement. Its solid brick walls stand 16 inches thick!  The opera house's ornate interior had richly painted walls and ceiling frescoes, custom carpets, hand-painted stage curtains, and the first gas lights in Leadville.  

Eventually, the Tabor Opera House became known as the finest opera house west of the Mississippi. Luminaries such as Oscar Wilde, John Philip Sousa, Buffalo Bill, actress Sarah Bernhardt, performer Anna Held, and more celebrities appeared at the Tabor.

Tabor lost ownership of the opera house because of the Silver Crash of 1893, as he lost his fortune. In 1893, Judge A.S. Weston bought the Tabor Opera House for $32,000 when the Tabors defaulted on a note to A.V. Hunter.  It has other names and owners through the years--a full history can be read on this link.  The City of Leadville bought the building in 2016 and is making progress on a rehabilitation project estimated to cost $10 million. Leadville's nonprofit Tabor Opera House Preservation Foundation and dedicated community members are finding all possible resources to save the grande dame of Leadville.

Tours of the Tabor Opera House are expected to return in the spring of 2021.  If you watch the YouTube video below you can see some of the interiors and learn more about this beautiful opera house.

Due to his wealth and popularity in Leadville, Tabor was elected as Lieutenant Governor of Colorado in 1878 and served as interim U.S. senator from 1883-1884. Tabor, a married man, had an affair with a young woman, Elizabeth McCourt, who was nicknamed "Baby Doe." He divorced his wife Augusta and married Baby Doe in March of 1883. The entire affair was considered scandalous. Subsequent attempts to run for governor in the 1880s were unsuccessful as Tabor's status among Denver's elite soured, and he lost support for his reelection.  Horace Tabor died penniless, of appendicitis, in 1899. Baby Doe moved back to Leadville to live on one of Tabor's last holdings, the Matchless Mine. She lived alone, in a cabin at the mine, for over 35 years. During the winter of 1935, Baby Doe was found frozen to death in her cabin.  You can see Baby Doe's cabin and the Matchless Mine on my blog at this link.

Leadville is certainly an interesting place to visit, full of rich mining history and legends of the wild west that once walked its streets, such as Horace Tabor, Baby Doe, Doc Holiday, and Molly Brown.

To see more photos and attractions of Leadville on my blog click on this link. To see a beautiful scenic train ride my husband and I took with friends on the Leadville Colorado and Southern Railroad click on this link.

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Sunday, January 17, 2021

Some Kind of Heaven Film Review

Are you retired? Do you, or people you know, live in 55 and over retirement communities where the golden years of life are projected to be "fun under the sun" and full of carefree leisure time activities and fellow aged camaraderie?  For many, retirement is a time of fulfilling one's desires to enjoy life and accomplish the dream one has put aside when work requirements and raising a family were priorities. I know as retirees, my husband and I have been enjoying our life in our new location in the state of Colorado.  We have relished living close to our children and grandchildren, to be able to volunteer in our community in many interesting ways, and being able to have the time to travel to some far off places we always dreamed about.

 I was recently offered a chance to review a new one-hour twenty-one-minute documentary called  Some Kind of Heaven, directed by Lance Oppenheim and produced by Darren Aronofsky, The New York Times, and Los Angeles Media Fund. The film premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival to critical acclaim. The film was acquired by Magnolia Pictures and was released on January 15, 2021. It follows a few people that live in what is thought of as a fairy tale retirement community in Florida called The Villages.  Created as a "Disneyworld for retirees" by developer Howard S. Schwartz in Central Florida in the '80s, in what was, at first, a trailer park. With housing and commercial development, it became a 30 square mile self-contained Active Adult Retirement Community.  It now houses over 120,000 residents and offers around 3,000 activities and clubs, 42 free fee golf courses, pools, walking trails, shopping, restaurants, health facilities, etc. All are a golf cart ride away for residents. 

Here is the documentary's official trailer:

Life in The Villages certainly sounds very idyllic, and for many residents, it is! This documentary, however, while showing many of the pleasures of The Villages, also focuses on four people within the communities whose experiences are not as happy one would expect. One is a widow, whose move to The Villages did not bring her the love and friendship she desired. Another, is a couple almost married 50 years who find their marriage strained under the husband's discontent and depression, which led to his use of illegal drugs.  Finally, we meet a drifter who is homeless, living in his van, and who is hoping to find a rich widow living in The Villages who will support him in his last years.  

The film is a fascinating look into some of the aspects of aging and retirement and its expectations. It shows the fact that happiness does not come from living in a place, or from a time in life, but from what makes us happy our whole life. Happiness and contentment are within--a state of mind and purpose that no sunny weather or unlimited golf or pickleball can bring us. This documentary is a candid look into four lives that have to learn that lesson and how to change their expectations.

Full disclosure: I was provided with a preview link to the film "Some Kind of Heaven" and no further compensation. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way.

A local view that makes me happy!

Spread kindness and stay happy, safe, and healthy!
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Monday, January 11, 2021

Trader Joe's Gnocchi al Gorgonzola with Langostino

Trader Joe's Gnocchi al Gorgonzola with Langostino

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, 
for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire:
it is the time for home.” 
~ Edith Sitwell

January begins a quiet, cozy time of the year. The hustle of the holidays is over and our houses are put back into their usual order and they suddenly feel empty without the sparkle of a Christmas tree and other decorations. The day's light begins to grow longer, minute by minute, but there is a frosty chill in the air. The freshness of the New Year still reverberates in our minds, with hopes and expectations in our hearts. 

As current and ongoing events have brought unexpected turmoil to the news, may we find even more comfort in making our home our refuge, and that definitely includes some tasty homecooked meals.
I'd like to share with you this week a very easy recipe that has become a holiday favorite side dish for my family for the past few years.

One of the purchases I always make for our traditional, Italian style,  Christmas Eve Seafood Dinner is the 2-pound package of Wild Langostino from Costco.  Although langostino is Spainish for "little lobsters," and has a similar taste, they are not lobsters but another genre of crustacean, similar to a hermit crab.  I usually simply saute them in a skillet in some butter, garlic and fresh chopped parsley and serve them as one of several seafood sides. One Christmas Eve, however, I had the idea to make a couple packages of Trader Joe's brand frozen Gnocchi al Gorgonzola in a large skillet and then add the langostino to that. Voila!  It was a hit with my family, who referred to as "the best mac and cheese they ever ate!"  

The Trader Joe's Gnocchi al Gorgonzola come frozen in a one-pound package and serve three. I prepared two packages, as we usually have 8 adults and four children at our table on Christmas Eve. The gnocchi pasta and included squares of gorgonzola cheese sauce cook in about seven minutes, according to the package directions.  When the cheese sauce is completely melted, and the gnocchi are cooked, I added the two-pounds of langostino. The Costco brand langostino come pre-cooked and frozen, so after defrosting and draining they just require warming up.  Before serving I added some grinds of black pepper and a handful of chopped parsley

Easy as that, and so, so, good! 

Since langostino may be difficult to find year-round, you can substitute shrimp, crawfish, bay scallops, lobster meat, etc, adjusting cooking time as needed to make sure the seafood is cooked. 

Using the frozen packages makes this a quick and simple meal, but if you don't have a Trader Joe's in your area from which to buy the frozen Gnocchi al Gorgonzola--click here--for a recipe to make your own.  

A beautiful January sunset! 

Remember: "One kind word can warm three Winter months"

Spread kindness and stay happy, safe and healthy!

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Sunday, January 3, 2021

Happy, Hopeful and Healthy 2021!

 Happy New Year!

I hope that 2021 will be a happy and healthy year for us all!

I am hopeful that as people become vaccinated against the novel coronavirus this year the risk of contracting the virus will be diminished. I am realistic that this will not happen quickly, and that mask-wearing and social distancing will still be the advised protocols for most of this year, but at least we have hope for an eventual return to normalcy.  I know I will continue to live cautiously this year, but as long as my family stays healthy I will be happy.

Our community was full of holiday cheer in December, and we were excited to have clear skies to see the historic conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter event occur far above our house.  One neighbor dressed up as Santa Claus and gave out candy canes on certain nights, and another neighbor lit their home with a very creative light and music show.  I enjoyed watching religious services streamed online during this Christmas season, all from different churches that have been special to me during my life. Online live streaming has been one of the unexpected bonuses of the past year. We also had fun zoom conferences with friends in lieu of get-togethers and parties.  Life is different, but we certainly learned how to enjoy it as much as possible in its revised way.

This year I baked Gingerbread House Pumpkin Cakes for our children and grandchildren, using the Pumpkin Buttermilk Pound Cake recipe I posted here, and Gingerbread Men Pumpkin Bread Cakes for our friends, using this recipe I posted quite a few years ago which is still a favorite.

I love using my Nordic Ware pans to make both shape cakes.  We wrapped them up and delivered them to my family along with some tins of favorite Christmas cookies I bake every year.  

To remain safe, as they are not all practicing a strict quarantine, our children and grandchildren celebrated in their own homes this year.  We were able to deliver some favorite seafood dishes that I made for them to enjoy along with our gifts on Christmas Eve. We wore our more protective N95 masks when doing so, and it was fun to be able to spend even a short time together!  

New Year's Eve was a quiet celebration at home, but New Year's Day brought some visitors to our backyard! They enjoyed searching for dead leaves to munch on under the snow.  

It is always fun to watch them, and...

...I have a feeling that they also enjoy watching us!

I'm glad to be back after my little holiday break and hope to visit your blogs soon.  Stay happy, safe, and healthy!

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 I'm linking this post to some of the following blog events:

 Mosaic Monday, All SeasonsBlue Monday, Through My Lens MondayLittle Cottage Link PartyHearth, and Soul Link PartyYou Are the Star Blog Hop, Inspire Me MondayHome Matters Linky Party,  Good Random FunNature NotesGrand SocialTravel Photos, Happiness Is HomemadeOver the MoonCreate, Bake, Make Our World TuesdayRuby TuesdayTuesday Turn AboutTuesdays With A TwistLet's Keep In TouchWordless Wednesday on a Tuesday,  Party in Your PJ'sWordless WednesdayNanahood WWOh My Heartsie Girl's Wonderful Wednesday, Your Whims WednesdayWednesday My Corner of the WorldWonderful Wednesday Little Things ThursdayThankful ThursdayThursday Encouraging Hearts and Home,  Thursday Thinking Out Loud, Friendship FridaysFriday Features Linky Party, Skywatch FridayPink SaturdaySunday on Silverado

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