Fri-yay Night In

People are sometimes surprised to find out that I’m a bourbon girl. I’m not sure why that’s so surprising, but people seem shocked when I say I like bourbon. It all stems from family holidays together. My grandpa would make Old Fashioned cocktails for all the adults (i.e. not me). I never really even tried them until my grandpa’s memorial service, but the smell always reminded me of the holidays at my grandma & grandpa’s house. Now that I can drink them, I do enjoy them- especially with my brandied cherries.

I love a good Old Fashioned, but Continue reading


Happy Hours

IMG_2132@FPSouthoftheBorder, vendors stroll back and forth across the beach selling all kinds of wares. Alex’s favorite is the mango man. Perfectly ripe mangos, peeled, spritzed with lime, salted, and peppered to order. It’s perfection in its simplicity. It’s hard to find perfectly ripe mangos at the grocery store, and if you don’t want to wait for the perfect moment of ripeness, I have a secret for you: Continue reading

A Delightful Evening


img_1745Two of our neighbors decided to host a small get together to celebrate friendship.  Cute little invitations were hung on all the invitees doors. Instructions: bring a bottle of champagne, dinner would be provided.  Inscription: A friend is someone that knows all about you and still loves you.

The party was hosted at Mary and Richard’s home.  It’s one of our most grand homes, and yet it’s completely comfortable. Outside it’s a two story English traditional home, covered in stone, adorned with a slate roof. It was built in 1936 by J.C. Horton, who was a well known developer, and his wife.  Eventually a shopping plaza in Santa Ana would be named after him. Mrs. Horton was a great entertainer and the dining room still has a (working) butler’s bell hidden under the dining room rug to signal the staff to come and clear the plates. Can you imagine?  Call me immature, but I ring the bell whenever I get a chance to visit their dining room and imagine my butler Carson will bring me more wine Downton Abbey style. Ha! Mary carries on the entertaining tradition very well, but is far more casual about it than I presume Mrs. Horton was, and there are no butlers today.genMid_PW16006827_4

Speaking of lavish parties, Jess (Mary & Richard’s next door neighbor, and co-host for the evening) and Mary put together quite the spread. Pinterest would be proud of their cheese and charcuterie platter, with all kinds of scattered nuts, fruits, cheeses, meats, and crackers. They had hors d’oeuvres in the breakfast room and dinner buffet style on the long dining room table under the giant sparkling crystal chandelier. Richard had been busy in their chef’s kitchen making pasta of all kinds for dinner, including Lobster Mac & Cheese. (Did I mention Richard and Mary own a restaurant?  Yum!)

IMG_1790But, as things normally go, everyone gathered in the sun room where the bar was. Here, everyone put forth their champagne offering for the evening for everyone else to sample. To make things a little sweeter, Mary put out a bottle of Chambord for everyone to mix with their champagne. As we sampled, we celebrated the community we have built and the friends we have made. True to the inscription promise, in this community we are not alone.  In our neighbors we have a helping hand. With these friends, we create happiness. And this night, in Champagne & Chambord we were all delighted.

How to be Neighborly: A friend is someone that knows all about you and still loves you.

 Champagne & ChambordIMG_1794

  • 1 glass of Champagne or sparkling wine
  • 1 tbsp Chambord
  • Garnish with blackberry

Toast to friendship!

Noche de Altares (Night of the Altars)

Santa Ana has a very rich Hispanic culture. Every November, a good portion of the downtown streets are shut down and families set up large altars to deceased family members for Day of the Dead. Day of the Dead is an important day in the Hispanic community. It is believed that the souls of the departed return during those nights to visit family and friends and enjoy the offerings at the altar. Offerings of marigolds, bread, textiles, traditional dishes, and candles are placed on the altars. Elaborately decorated frames surround pictures of loved family members and friends. People walk the streets to see the glowing altars, several dressed in day of the dead fare with sugar skull face paint and long lace dresses and elaborately decorated hats. It’s truly unique. For such a somber day, it’s very celebratory.

How to be Neighborly: Remember those who made a difference in the community.


Reprint from OC Register, 2007

This was our first night of the altars, and I was overwhelmed by the beauty, the sense of community, and the pride each family took in constructing their altar. As Alex and I were walking through the altars, we saw a small altar set up in the corner of a restaurant our former teacher, mentor and friend had frequented. Mr. Ward…

Mr. Ward was the band director of our volunteer marching band, The Santa Ana Winds. It was the band where I met Alex. It was the group that tied me to Santa Ana, where I spent every Monday night windspracticing for 15 years. He believed in me and my creativity. He gave me the chance to be a leader. He even introduced me to this neighborhood. I was a docent at his home for the annual home tour in this very same neighborhood I would move to 20 years later. I can see his balcony from my living room window. This was the restaurant where I shared my first martini with him. And there he was on the altar, next to the owners’ other family and friends. Next to his photo was a martini.  His Martini.

I wasn’t expecting to see him, but I was so glad to see him remembered. He was there that night. I saluted him and thanked him for everything. You are missed, Mr. Ward.

Mr. Ward’s Martini

  • 3 oz Bombay White Gin
  • Splash dry Vermouth
  • Spanish Olives

Put gin in a cocktail shaker with ice.  Add a splash of vermouth.  Shake vigorously until ice cold.  Pour into martini glass. Top with olives.  SAWinds2000

Toast to a teacher that did something special for you.

Painting Poles

We don’t just live in a historic home, we live in a historic area.  Our streets have street lights and street signs just like every neighborhood, but our lights are very special. They are typical 1920’s lampposts made from solid cast iron and they’ve been illuminating our homes for over 80 years. Anything that old needs a facelift every so often, so we paint them every two years- north side on even years, south side on odd years. The problem is that we live in a city with very little finances for such up-keep, so the volunteer neighborhood association has to maintain them. We do this just prior to the annual home tour which raises money for our scholarship foundation and neighborhood events. Annually in March on a Saturday morning, a group of about 15-20 neighbors get together and paint the poles. One group cleans, one group paints, another group “manages supplies.” Alex insisted that we get involved in the neighborhood association early on and volunteer for this. I secretly think it’s because he loves to play with his ladder (that’s him below on the top step).

The first year, Alex and I were on a painting team and we were paired with another Alex, who lives on our most elegant street. He and his partner Mason own one of the younger historic homes which was designed by the owner of a Hawaiian hotel chain.  The house looks as if it could be plucked off the Waikiki shore, with waves washing up against the palm trees scattered around the front yard. Naturally his home is full of 1960’s Hawaiian splendor and has a lush tropical garden in back surrounding a huge pool. As a prerequisite to the painting, we got toIMG_0880 work discussing the history of our respective homes. Eventually we got around to painting. You can’t imagine the number of innuendos possible when painting light posts. As if that weren’t fun enough, imagine my delight when the “supply” team arrived with screwdrivers (and I don’t mean the tool type) and doughnuts. Fifty-ish poles later and we had made a notable difference in the appearance of our streets. Our poles were clean and shiny. We were dirty and slightly sauced. Good day.

How to be Neighborly: You have to get a little dirty for some good clean fun.

Bloody Screwdriver

  • 1 part vodka
  • 1 part orange juice
  • ½ part ginger juice (*)
  • 2 parts blood orange soda

Combine vodka, orange juice and ginger juice in shaker and shake. Put in glass with ice, and top with blood orange soda. Garnish with orange wheel and mint.

(*) See Ginger Juice recipe below


Ginger Juice


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This is the perfect mix in for a cocktail, not too sweet and just enough heat.


  • 2 Tbsp Honey
  • 4 c water
  • 6 inch piece of fresh ginger, chopped into 1 inch pieces


Place all ingredients in a blender, and blend until ginger has been pureed. Strain into 2 mason jars. Remaining ginger pulp can be saved for soups, marinades, or other uses.

Martini Night


It was April.  I’m a CPA and each year, I go into a work induced “hibernation” called “busy season.” While the rest of the world enjoys winter and gets excited over the first signs of spring, I work. Alex, on the other hand, has a bit more freedom at this time of year to be outdoors, which he loves. One of the ways he passes the “alone time” is to walk Wiley. Wayne and Merle are avid dog walkers. Their dogs, Elzaer and Akiki, are a unique breed- Basenji’s- and are well known throughout the neighborhood. The fact that Wayne refers to them as “Devil Dogs” should not imply that they are mean, but I will admit they do have a mischievous side. Wiley, Elzaer and Akiki began to see each other a lot at this time of year, and Wayne and Merle would constantly invite Alex and I to Martini Night, which apparently happened every Friday that the local Baseball team was at an away game (Wayne & Merle are season ticket holders). I would always be working, or tired, or you name it… Well, eventually Alex, proclaimed, “Summer, they are going to stop inviting us if we don’t go at least once. We have to do this.” So, one April evening, we took on Martini Night. That night, Wayne’s mother Virge was visiting from Canada, and two of their friends Jerry and Kelly were visiting from another neighborhood. We chatted all night, first about the history of the home (of course) and then about each other. We found out that Wayne and Merle were going to get married that summer. Maybe it was the Martini’s, maybe it was the hope of friendship, but after one night of getting to know each other, Wayne had invited us to the wedding.

How to be Neighborly: Being neighborly opens new doors.

A bit about Wayne & Merle: They know everyone. They help with everything. They form the fabric of our community. They are the definition of great neighbors. If you need anything, they will be there for you. Their home is beautiful (also French style) and they love sharing it with others.

As a former wedding coordinator, I’m a sucker for a good wedding. There was no way I could possibly say no to that invitation. It was that wedding that would introduce us to a new family. This is the martini that started it all, or at least my version of it.


W&M’s Jalapeno Martini

  • 1 inch slice cucumber, plus more for garnish
  • 1 inch slice jalapeno
  • 3 oz vodka
  • 1/3 oz olive juice (or pickled Jalapeno Juice if you like it very spicy)

Place cucumber and jalapeno in cocktail shaker with ice and muddle until cucumber and jalapeno are mashed.  Add vodka and olive juice (or jalapeno juice if using).  Shake until cold.  Serve in martini glass.  Garnish with cucumber and/or jalapeno.