Be Still…Photography Therapy

Vintage Silverware | farmgirlgourmet.com

Vintage Molds | farmgirlgourmet.com

Life has been a little crazy for me lately.  Words like “I don’t have time” flow from my mouth like water.  Running three businesses can be a struggle especially when it comes to the “T” word.  One of the things that brings me back to centered is photography, especially still life.

Just before writing this post, my husband came in for breakfast.  He popped his head around the corner into the dining room to find me crouched down with my camera in my hand snapping shots of crusty old silverware.

Vintage Silverware | farmgirlgourmet.com

I just needed a minute to stop thinking about graphics, labels, website design, blah blah blah and just focus on beauty.  We started talking about our daily “stuff” and he stopped me mid sentence and said “you sure seem happier at this moment”.  He was right.  I was happier.  I was smiling, dancing in the kitchen with our dog, Khloe, and just generally exuding joy.  Note to self: stop a bit more often and do the things you love because it makes you happy.

Well Worn Roasting Dish & Spoon | farmgirlgourmet.com

The recipe for today is this:

  1. Stop and smell the roses (or snap shots of crusty props)
  2. Do it often

Mix 1 & 2 together and stir well to combine.  Repeat daily.

I am trying to get better about taking time for myself.  Even if it means the list of to-do’s will be longer or that phone calls will just have to go to voicemail.  Having clarity, focus and joy can help you achieve more, faster.  I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying “Put a little pep in your step”.  That’s what I’m doing…add a dash of pep.

Hey!  Thanks for listening to me ramble today.  Sharing what’s on my plate was freeing.  :)

Make today awesome!
~Heather

All props were purchased at garage sales or thrift stores.

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On the Road to IFBC!

Pike Place Market | farmgirlgourmet.com

All photos are from my Instagram feed which is viewable on Facebook & Twitter.

Pike Place Market | farmgirlgourmet.com

It seems like only yesterday I was chatting with my friend Marnely from Cooking with Books about going to the International Food Bloggers Conference in Seattle (IFBC).   In reality, it was last winter, but it feels like moments ago.  I knew I had to go when she said she had bought her ticket.  Yes, the conference is going to be totally great – but getting to meet my long time blogging friend in real life, well that makes this event 10 times better.

Foodista IFBC 2013 | farmgirlgourmet.com

IFBC is a conference that is organized by Foodista.com each year in a different city.  This year it happens to be in Seattle which is only a short 5 hour drive from my house.  The conference is filled with sessions to make you a better photographer, a more engaging writer and even a session to help you master SEO.  This is an intimate conference in that only 300 tickets are sold before they lock down registration.  I know what you’re thinking…”300 is intimate”????  If you’ve ever attended a bigger conference like BlogHer Food, then you know that it’s 300 x 10!  I’m definitely looking forward to the smaller group.

Seattle Space Needle | farmgirlgourmet.com

One of my local blogging buddies, Tammilee from Tammilee Tips.com, and I will be hitting the road this coming Thursday en route to one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

IFBC | farmgirlgourmet.com

Along the 5 hour trek we will cross high desert, the mighty Columbia River, then back through more desert and tumble weeds before we hit Snoqualmie Pass where the landscape goes from dry amber wheat fields to lush dense evergreen forests.  Before we know it we will be in the thick of city life.  Cars beeping, cabs rushing by, the smells of every kind of food imaginable and tall buildings surrounding us like giants.  Oh and of course my favorite home away from home…..

Sur la Table | farmgirlgourmet.com

Stay tuned for more updates while we’re at the conference.  Make sure to follow me on Instagram for all of the fun, food and landscape you can handle.  Don’t miss a second…it’s going to be a blast.  There may even be a pj party involved.

Read more about IFBC here…

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My New Venture – Savorx & a Kickstarter

HEATHER

GO TO KICKSTARTER PAGE

You may have been wondering where the heck I’ve been lately.  Well aside from glamping and a super fun trip to Austin, Texas – I have been working feverishly on a new project.

I signed on to co-found a local spice company called Savorx.  Savorx is a different kind of spice company in that we offer unique culinary subscriptions (think: great recipes with spices shipped to you each month), we also have over 100 spices in our online shop and in our local storefront and rubs that will make your head spin around.  Not really, but they are amazingly good and have fast become one of our best sellers.

Savorx Spice Shop Online | farmgirlgourmet.com

To top it all off, we are launching our Kickstarter today for our super gorgeous handcrafted Spiceologist™ Block.  It will make your kitchen beautiful and offers up to 44 fresh spices to make you a culinary rockstar.  I hope you can find it in your heart and your pocket book to help us make our spice block a reality (every dollar helps).  We are super excited about it and can’t wait to achieve our goal on Kickstarter and start shipping out our spice blocks.

Spiceologist™ Block | farmgirlgourmet.com

What did you think of the video?  :)  I think it turned out awesome!!!

Thank you for checking out my newest venture!  I appreciate your support!  :)

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Recipe: Life

Life | Farmgirl Gourmet

Life | Farmgirl Gourmet

While I was away on business this week, my Facebook and inbox were flooded with friends telling me about the news.  Angelina Jolie’s news that is.  You’re probably asking yourself, why would people feel compelled to tell you about a movie stars media attention.  Well, the story goes like this…..

In March of 2005, my phone rang and it was my mother on the other end of the line.  She had tears in her voice as she told me that she was no longer in remission and that her breast cancer had metastasized to her liver and brain.  2 years earlier they found a large lump and she opted to have a radical bilateral mastectomy in hopes of stopping the cancer in it’s tracks.  This wasn’t her first rodeo, it was her second bout in the ring with breast cancer and this phone call made her third!  She tried to assure me that it was all going to be ok, but it was loud and clear in her voice that this was going to be a hard fight that she might not win.  I threw together some clothes and jumped in the car for the 5 hour drive to be by her side.  There was nowhere I’d rather be then supporting her personally.  We spent 2 weeks together chatting, watching soaps and just being while she laid on the couch feeling awful from the chemo drugs and the monster inside.  I knew I couldn’t stay forever as I had 2 small children and a husband at home eagerly awaiting my return.

I spent a lot of time reflecting on life on that 5 hour drive home.  How could a woman be dealt such a horrible hand.  3 diagnosis’ of breast cancer?  My Mom was no stranger to breast cancer – her mother battled the disease on two different occasions as well and came out the winner (she’s 93 and doing great).  As soon as I got back home I decided I needed to speak to my doctor about my own health.  I thought she was my advocate, but her views differed greatly from my own.  I sought out a new woman’s health doctor and made an appointment.  That day changed my life forever.  As I sat in her little exam room and told her my story, her eyes filled with tears. She advised me to see the High Risk Breast Cancer clinic for more in-depth advice and got me an appointment the very next day.  I was given a page-full of ideas on how to approach this new found risk and was urged to speak to my mother about having genetic testing.  I had never really heard of it, but was willing to do whatever.  Thankfully, so was my Mom.  She started the ball rolling and we anxiously awaited the test results to come back.  When they arrived, our lives changes forever.  She was positive for the BRCA2 gene mutation.  A group of less agressive breast cancer strains, but still very serious.  My new-found advocates urged to keep the testing going and asked that my grandmother be next.  She obliged instantly.  Her result, positive for the exact mutation.  Next up was me and yep, you guessed it – positive.  My sister was last and in keeping with the Scarlet Letter (the nickname I gave the mail from Myriad) she was positive too.

Back to the clinic I went with 3 copies of this report in my hand and asking a zillion questions like “when will it be my turn”, “what can I do”, “I don’t want to be a sitting duck”.  In 2005, prophylactic bilateral mastectomies were not commonplace.  Oh, prophylactic means “preventing” or not medically necessary.  I hit the interwebs and spent FAR too many hours looking at options.  I don’t know if I even slept for several months, I just recall my nose being pressed to the computer monitor as I looked at stats on Tamoxifen and pictures of mastectomy scars and printed out page after page of medical reports on breast cancer.  It was all a lot to take in, but a process I needed to go through to make the biggest decision of my life.

At the end of 2005 I told my doctor that I was ready.  Ready to be the one calling the shots – not that nasty breast cancer gene, and that I wanted to have a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy, TRAM flap reconstruction and a full hysterectomy.  Basically all parts that made me a woman needed to go.  We started the ball rolling with picking surgeons and I spent the next 6 months talking about the big day with plastic surgeons, breast surgeons and OB/GYN’s until the team was assembled (my 3 Amigos as I liked to call them).  I had to go through genetic counseling to make sure I was ready for what was about to happen to me.  It was definitely no light matter and was taken very seriously.

May 6, 2006 I showed up at the hospital very early in the morning with my husband, Mom, Dad and kids in tow.  They wheeled me away after a lot of kisses and tears for an 11 hour surgical journey that would take my risk of getting breast cancer from 90+% to less than 5%.  I spent several days in the hospital after that day with tubes and drains and a morphine button that didn’t always seem to work.  Ok, it did, but I was in so much pain that the 8 minute intervals between button pushes felt like years.  I spent the next couple months unable to stand up straight and shuffling along as if I were a 100 year old lady.  It was no easy ride and I wouldn’t wish the pain on my worst enemy.  All the while I was dealing with this new body of mine, my mom was still battling her demon.  She was so incredibly strong for me, encouraging me and taking care of me when she really should’ve been taking care of herself.

7 years have gone by since that 11 hour surgery.  I know that this new body does not make me invincible and I still worry that breast cancer may cross my lips one day, but waking up every day and knowing that I did what I felt was right for me and my health, gives me hope.  Hope that advances in medicine to be preventive may give me the opportunity to tell my grand children some day that I managed to live my life without ever having breast cancer.

I applaud Angelina Jolie for coming forward and talking about her decision.  It’s not easy to do.  After my surgery I would tell anyone with ears what I did which was usually met with the glazed over, deer in the headlights look followed by an awkward look down at my breasts.  It’s information that most people can’t wrap their minds around.  “You did what?”  So hearing that a high profile celebrity with a far reaching audience has done the same and is speaking openly about it has brought me to this post (and a lot of urging from Heidi the past 2 days).  I felt that it was time to put it out there – when the media is filled with the uncomfortable information of choosing to have your breasts removed, in hopes that the deer in the headlights look has diminished a little and eyes are wide open to take it all in and absorb it and embrace it.

In closing – follow your heart.  There are some things in life that you may feel compelled to do that may not be cool, mainstream, or thought to be too radical, but if you believe with all your heart that it’s right for you, for your health and longevity, you need to listen carefully.  It knows the way!  Always.

In January 2007 my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer and elected to have a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy and has been healthy since.  On February 17th, 2007 my beloved mother lost her 13 year battle with breast cancer but gave our family a gift of genetic information which will help our children and their children make informed choices about their own health and well being.  She is missed everyday but her strength and beauty surrounds us always.  My grandmother is 93 and a 40 year breast cancer survivor.  She’s a true testament to health, courage and strength and I will be blessed to be half the woman she is.  My daughter and son will have the opportunity to have genetic testing at ages 16, if they choose.  Genetic testing is a choice that is not for everyone and I respect whatever they decide to do whole-heartedly.

Thank you for reading.
xo – heather

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Kaufmann Mercantile – Walnut Cutting Board Review

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Black Walnut Trencher | farmgirlgourmet.com

I was recently contacted by Kaufmann Mercantile about sharing their company with my readers.  I get a slough of emails daily asking me to share this or that, so I am quite choosey when it comes to saying yes.  Kaufmann Mercantile won me over almost immediately with their subject line: “Buy Once, Buy for Life”.  Our current environment is one of “throw away”.  Everything we buy these days seems to be upgraded to the hottest new version ever the instant after we purchase it.

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I will admit, I fall victim to the newest shiny objects at times, but I also truly love my old, tattered, still working as good as the day it was bought, gadgets.  The pieces that have seen many hands over their years but still perform better than anything new you could buy today.

Warm Potato & Acorn Squash Salad | farmgirlgourmet.com

Enter this cutting board.  Yes its new, but it will be a piece that I will give to my son or daughter someday.  It’s handcrafted of Black Walnut and is almost too beautiful to use.  The versatility of this board is amazing.  One side is completely flat for cutting anything your heart desires and the other is slopped with a ridge for collecting juices when cutting things like a succulent roasted chicken.

Kaufmann Mercantile was excited about sharing this piece of craftsmanship with my readers and agreed to give one away (see below).  How cool is that?  Also, if you sign up for their newsletter, you will receive $7 off your next order from the store that is chock full of quality artisan goods that are beautiful and lasting.

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About the Trencher Artisan

In 1967, the independent woodworker who makes these boards started his move through various workshops like converted gas stations to perfect the wooden tableware and kitchenware items that eventually brought him to expand his business, train more employees and open a second shop. Read more….

So what do you say?  Want to win this beautiful cutting board?  Of course you do.  Fill out the form below to be entered.  You can enter DAILY – you know you want to!

Black Walnut Trencher Board

Disclaimer: Farmgirl Gourmet was provided a Black Walnut Cutting Board free of charge for review.  This is not a compensated post.  I am sharing it with you because I believe in it – not for money.  One winner will be chosen via random.org and shipped a Black Walnut Trencher board from Kaufmann Mercantile.

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Grow Your Own – 2013 Garden Plan

Garden Plan 2013 via farmgirlgourmet.com

Garden Plan 2013 via farmgirlgourmet.com

Today was the first day that I felt like maybe….just maaaaaaybe Spring might be on its way.  Maybe that Puxitawny Phil guy really is on to something?  We shall see.  I have been inspired over the past few days to bust out my garden plan and a few people showed interest in knowing what I was going to do, so I made it all purty for you.  Below are some great links to sites I buy seeds from and other information about starting your own raised bed garden in a small space.  I hope you find this post useful in your own gardening endeavors.

Side Garden 2010

As you may have read in my About Me page, we sold our 20 acre farm in 2010.  We lovingly tended that 120+ year old homestead for over 7 years.  My husband and I were just talking today about that transition from city-slickers to farmers and how it changed our lives and relationship for the better.  Selling it was bittersweet, but we had reached our limit when it came to the necessities of owning a home and property that old.  Which is a nice way of saying it was a money pit and our money tree croaked.  Anyway, we sold the old farm and upgraded to a 1912 craftsman on a double city lot in town.  The photo above was taken right when we moved in.  Lots of grass.  Lots.

Garden 2011

Since 2010 we have added 6 raised beds that are 4’x12′ in size.  We used 2x8x12 lumber that is not pressure treated.  You may ask “why would you do that, it will just break down faster?”  You’re right, but I chose not to use the pressure treated due to the fact that it’s injected with chromated copper arsenate (CCA) which is a wood preservative that will detour fungus and insects.  Sounds alright, but arsenate means arsenic.  No thanks…not near the food I want to eat.  So I go the route of untreated and plan that I will need to replace the boxes every 8-10 years.  It’s worth it…in my humble opinion.

Mac Daddy Pumpkin

This past Spring, I commandeered the side of our driveway.  It was a space that wasn’t being used for anything except weed propagation.  My neighbor was sweet and gave me some extra raspberry canes he was planning on tossing so I started a small patch.  I also added in a nice long row of strawberries.  Nothing better than a sweet sun ripened strawberry to really get you in the summer spirit.  That little feller in the pic above turned into the Venus Flytrap from Little Shop of Horrors.  See below.

Mac Daddy Pumpkin in the Side Garden

It just kept growing and growing and choked out 2 cantaloupes and 1 watermelon in the process.  It’s a pumpkin that I started from seeds I saved from our farm days.  We somehow made a hybrid and so we named it the Mac Daddy Pumpkin.  This past year it turned out that it lived up to its name.  They were enormous – 3 of them were over 100 lbs each.  Crazy big!

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They were a lot of fun to grow and tend, but this year we are devoting that much needed real estate to corn, peas and flowers.  (See the graphic up above)  Enough about that…let’s get to the goods.  The seed companies.

Seed Companies – some of my faves to buy heirloom seeds from

  • Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds – this catalog is big, glossy and filled with drool worthy photos.    The seed selection is top-notch and the company is a small mom & pop & daughter shop.
  • Seed Savers Exchange – Looking for super rare seeds?  SSE has you covered.  Members can donate seeds to the bank that have been saved by Aunt Mable for 50 years which could end up for sale in the catalog.  They even have seeds that were carried over the Trail of Tears.
  • Annie’s Heirloom Seeds – No Hybrids – it’s on their header (and I’m a firm believer in heirlooms only).  I love getting Annie’s catalog in the mail.  It’s small but it’s loaded with seed varieties.

Organic Fertilizer – not just poop

  • Sea Magic – this will be your secret weapon in the garden. 1 cake will last you all summer long, if not longer.  I have been using it for several years and I’m a firm believer in this magic seaweed juice.  I suggest buying a Miracle Grow sprayer and toss the blue gunk in the trash, then fill it 1/4 full with the diluted Sea Magic, hose down your garden and watch it send you thanks with it’s abundance.  It really is amazing stuff.
  • Micro-Ag Natural Organic Fertilizer – if you can get your hands on this tiny box of amazing, do it!  It’s $10 for a bitty box, but it will last you for eons.  My orchids love a good feeding of the diluted seaweed granules.  If you live in the PacNW – check Northwest Seed & Pet.  It’s a small brown plastic box with a white sticker.  Make sure to save me one.
  • Make Friends with a Farmer – this is the best medicine for the garden.  Good ole rotted manure.  Make sure that you buy it well aged or it could be too hot for your garden and burn everything in site.  Aged Poo = Good.

Seed Starting – grow your own

  • There’s nothing more gratifying than filling a tray with soil, popping in a tiny seed and watching it emerge from the dirt.  I carve a space in my basement where I start my own seeds on heat mats under grow lights.  Here’s what you need:
    • Heat mat – baby seedlings love having warm toes.  Starting your seeds on a heat mat makes them grow big and strong in a much faster time frame.
    • Let There Be Light – You can get all fancy pants with it and buy a grow light from the garden store, or you can hit up the hardware store and go cheap.  Shop lights can run as little as $12 and make sure to head to the light bulb department and pick up some grow light bulbs while you’re at it.  One stop shopping that won’t kill the wallet.
    • Cell Planting Trays – these babies are available everywhere.  You can go fancy like the ones here from Park Seeds or you can hit up the home improvement store and buy them.  I prefer either cheap plastic ones or the fiber pots that can be directly planted in the soil.

Well I think I’ve given you a good idea of how I garden.  I’d love to hear about yours and what you’ve got planned for this coming growing season.  Tell me in the comments below.

Happy Gardening!

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Puerco Asada & Restaurant Wars – #TopChef

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bravo, top chef

Content and/or other value provided by our partner, Bravo.

Did you watch Top Chef Seattle last night?  I’m sure I am not alone when I say that restaurant wars is the episode I most look forward to.  Chefs get to be creative with not only food, but creating a dining space in a matter of hours.  Last night, the Cheftestants were really put to the test.  I won’t spoil it in case you haven’t watched it yet, but I will say this…I let out a scream when Padma announced who was going home!  And it wasn’t a good scream.
bravo, top chef

The Restaurants:

Sheldon Simeon gave us “URBANo” named after his grandfather.  A restaurant with “elevated” Filipino food.  Filipino food is amazing and I could definitely see myself eating at this restaurant.  The Puerco Asada looked like it was melting on the forks of judges Tom Colicchio, my buddy Emeril Lagasse, Gail Simmons, Padma Lakshmi & Danny Meyer.  Melting pork = true love forever.  I digress.

Kristen Kish’s restaurant was “Atelier Kwan”.  She served up dishes like a Charcuterie plate and Beef Bourguignon that made me swoon.  Although the food looked incredible, what was more interesting was the back biting going on in the kitchen between Kristen and Josie.  Comments were flying about “hiring dishwashers to do the job”.  It was a train wreck you couldn’t take your eyes off of.  Don’t you think?

Sound Off: If you watched last night, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the show in the comments section below.  Did you think the person asked to leave deserved it?  Do you think they would’ve been spared had they spoken their true feelings?  I’m all ears.

Which chef do you think should be saved this week?  I know who I’m voting for.  Don’t let your favorite get sent home forever.  Tweet your favorite to save them.

Stay tuned for a giveaway starting next week after Top Chef episode 12 for a years subscription to Food & Wine Magazine!

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2012 Holiday Gift Guide – 20+ Gift Ideas

Farmgirl Gourmet Holiday Gift Guide 2012

It’s here.  The holidays have hit, Cyber Monday has passed and everyone will be in a frenzy for the next 4 weeks to buy gifts, make gifts, host parties, string lights, drink gallons of eggnog and be merry.  I thought I’d compile a list of my favorite holiday gifts for 2012.  Some are small businesses and some not so much.  I hope you enjoy this compilation and if you need my address, just let me know.  😉  Click the images to be taken to the item.

Happy Holidays!!

1) Every foodie needs a pretty KitchenAid mixer!
2) From Key Ingredient – the easy to use recipe reader to keep all of your favorites at your fingertips!
3) Sweet and Dandy Candy Co’s Smokin Hot Cashew Brittle – hot, sweet and crunchy. This is the perfect gift for the spice lover on your list!
4) I LOVE these dish towels from MissintheKitchen.com. Miss sent me a set and I reach for them more than any others. Great design and a small business to support.
5) Magimix Vision Toaster. If a toaster can be sexy, than this one is DEAD SEXY. In my opinion.
6) Harry & David Mistletoe Christmas Gift Basket is filled with all things H&D(elicious). This is a great gift for that “hard to buy for” family member!
7) Savor Sweet’s Salted Caramel Candy Pops. The bacon flavor is off the hook delish and she’s a small local business!!
8) I experienced the Advantium oven in May at the GE Monogram Design Center and it was incredible. Any foodie would love this in their kitchen!
9) The Cheney Historical Museum just came out with a compilation of historic recipes. Help support this little museum buy gifting their cookbook this year.
10) From OpenSky.com – the Dalton-Ruhlman Wooden Spanker set.  These are the nicest wooden tools I own and they are beautiful to boot.
11) What foodie wouldn’t love this Masterbuilt 30 inch smoker? I know I’m pining for one in a big way.
12) Marx Foods is all about gourmet products and this Charcuterie Sampler would be an amazing gift for the guy in your life.
13) Can’t afford a lot this holiday? How about giving that foodie in your life a subscription to one of their favorite magazines. Food & Wine happens to be one of mine.

14) Restoration Hardware isn’t just for beautiful furniture but also cozy slippers. I *need* these in a bad way! Here that Santa?
15) I am in love with infinity scarves right now, and this one from Michael Kors at shopnordstrom.com is adorable!
16) Knit headbands are a winter essential to keep your head and ears warm, why not look adorable at the same time? This headband from Shabby Cowgirl fits the bill in my opinion!

17) All the rage – the iPad Mini is the newest edition to the Apple family and I must say, it’s pretty cute.
18) For the guy who has everything, how about a wood iPhone case from Minion.com? I think my guy would love one of these!
19) Not interested in wearing brightly colored blinged out headphones? Check out these beauties from Bose.

20) HE’S BACK! or is it a she? Either way the Furby has made its way back to the shelves hotter than ever! My teenager even wants one!
21) Just Dance 4 – the addicting dance game is all new and improved. Maybe now I might win the kids!
22) Every kid has an inner foodie and this little kitchen from PotteryBarn.com would just be hours of fun. How I wish I was 6 again!

Thanks for checking out my list of holiday favorites for 2012.  Happy Holidays from my kitchen to yours!

 

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Harry & David – A Southern Oregon Experience

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The gang with Matt from Harry & David.

A week ago I had the great opportunity to visit beautiful Medford, Oregon and the wonderful folks at Harry & David.  If you’re like me, you probably have heard about Harry & David, and most likely have either ordered from them or received a beautiful gift basket at some point in your life.  I can recall my mother receiving the catalog every holiday season and thumbing through the pages of deliciousness.  So when the email came through that they wanted me to come visit their facility and hear about their products, I was over the moon excited.

I arrived in Southern Oregon and settled in to the Magnolia Inn in Jacksonville, just outside Medford.  Can I just tell you – the Inn was incredible.  The owners, Susan & Robert Roos, made each of us feel like family.  Every morning the smell of bacon wafted through the historic home and every afternoon we were met with delicious goodies like Oreo Brownies that Susan found on Pinterest.  Yum!

The cars came to pick us up for dinner at Sandy’s house.  If you haven’t checked out Sandy’s blog www.reluctantentertainer.com you are in for a treat.  Not only is she beautiful, talented and a great gardener, she’s also an AMAZING hostess.  She treated us to a Harry & David infused dinner, including a kicked up version of H&D’s Wild Mushroom & Leek Soup, in her gorgeous home.

It was a wonderful evening and I had the pleasure of meeting some food bloggers in person that I have made great online relationships with and reconnect with some of the bloggers I have met on other trips.  Here’s the complete list of all of the fab friends that came:

Day 2 started with a trip to the Royal Crest Orchard.  It was a brisk and beautiful morning.  We were greeted by some of the Harry & David executives as well as the H&D Chef who gave us nibbles of crisp endive, Rogue Creamery Bleu Cheese and of course…pears.  We learned that the Royal Riviera comice pears are grown on a quince root stock to keep the trees from becoming too tall to harvest and the quince roots love the sticky clay soil of the Rogue Valley.

After our orchard visit we headed to the Harry & David factory where we had the opportunity to see the world famous Moose Munch being made.  Then we headed to the testing lab were we had the opportunity to taste test some of the best chocolates in the world.  One was considered as 2012’s best chocolate.  Yum!  If this isn’t ironic, I don’t know what is.  The head chocolatier at Harry & David….his name is Charlie.  I’ll give you a second to think about that…….

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?  Ya, totally cool.  He was super informative and is actually a 3rd generation chocolatier.

We headed to the amazing city of Ashland for a wonderful lunch at The Peerless Restaurant and Bar and some shopping.  Every little detail of this trip was well thought out.  Building in time to shop and just chill out was really a wonderful surprise.

Day 3 started with a visit with the merchandising crew and a long and interesting discussion about future products that Harry & David will be rolling out as well as some prototypes still be considered.  It was a lot of fun.  We enjoyed a delicious lunch by the pond and enjoyed mingling with new H&D faces followed by a nice stroll around the pond post lunch.

After lunch it was time to get to work.  We headed back to the facility and into the basket making abyss.  We started through the fruit sorting area where we saw pears the size of your head.  Yes, really.  Huge pears.  Then on to the basket production line where we had the chance to make a basket on our own and then ship it to whomever we wanted.  My grandmother is going to get a great surprise in the mail today!!  We headed off to the Harry & David store for some serious shopping.  My box came in the mail today I can’t wait to make a luscious dinner from the goodies I bought there.

After shopping we headed back to the inn for some R&R.  And by R&R I mean massage.  Oh yes, every detail.  Sandy, you rock girl.  It was amazing and refreshing.

To end the day we headed for dinner at a surprise location.  It turned out to be a wine cellar where we would be having an 8 course meal.  How exciting…we all love wine.  We mingled for a minute when our attention was shifted to one of the H&D executives who had a special message to share with all of us.  Not only were we having 8 courses paired with specific varietals, but those varietals would be none other than Harry & David’s new line of wine.  Our wine guy Matt was beaming from every pore!  We tasted a few before heading to the wine cellar for an amazing meal prepared by H&D’s chef.  I took a few phone pics, but it was dark, my phone camera lens is scratched, so I won’t bore with you the unsavory photos.

Note: Harry & David’s wine line will be out in early 2013…so stay tuned.

Leaving on Saturday morning was incredibly hard.  We had so much fun.  So many laughs.  I think I left part of being in that beautiful valley.  Many thanks to Harry & David and Sandy from Reluctant Entertainer for inviting me on such a fun trip.  I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my experience in gorgeous Southern Oregon.

Disclaimer: I was not compensated to write this post.  I was however, provided airfare, hotel and meals.  All opinions expressed here are my own.

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24 Things I’ve Never Told You!

Heather Small

Good Morning!  I thought it would be fun to do things a bit differently today.  I know you come here to see food, but I thought maybe you’d enjoy hearing about the chick that makes the food. 

A little human interaction.
It’s not going to be all roses…but that makes me real, right?
I’ve decided to share 24 of my habits, crazy quirks, and a few closely guarded secrets…
  1. I am double jointed in my elbows and shoulders.  I probably should’ve been a gymnast that worked the parallel bars.  I can do crazy things with my arms that usually releases gasps of horror from on-lookers.
  2. I bite my fingernails.  A lot.  It’s gross.  I know it’s gross but I haven’t been able to make myself stop.  
  3. I love the smell of tomato vines.
  4. My all time favorite movie is Spaceballs.  I could watch it over and over again.  In fact I just watched it for the 8,329th time over the weekend while I was glampin. (it’s not really that many….I hope)
  5. I went to 3 different schools in the 7th grade.  My Mom was “finding herself” that year.
  6. I believe in ghosts.  
  7. I have a 2 inch long scar on my knee from when I was 8.  I was cardboard sliding and hit a chunk of obsidian and gashed my knee open.
  8. I subject my family to listening to classical music on Sunday.  The rest of the week it’s a mix of all other genres, but Sunday is reserved for classical.
  9. I wear flip flops from April until October.  Clean feet are only a Winter luxury.
  10. I love interior design almost as much as I love cooking.  Almost.  Close second.  :)
  11. I am the happiest when I own an old house that needs fixing.  We tried living in a brand new home once, and it was not good for our marriage.  Old house and projects are now a requirement when house hunting.
  12. I love expensive shoes.  If I won the lottery today, that would be my first splurge.  Then airplane tickets to somewhere swanky so I could wear them.
  13. I lived in San Francisco for 8 years.  I love that city.  I love visiting whenever I can, but would never give up living in a small town or on acreage for the big city life again.  
  14. I am going to be 42.  There…I said it.  PHEW! :)
  15. I have walked the 60 mile long Breast Cancer 3 Day four times.  That’s 240 miles of walking.  
  16. I am actually very shy.  If I don’t know many people at a party, I stay for a short time and then leave.  
  17. I am a social butterfly at my own parties.  If I know everyone, I can turn on my alter ego that is not one bit shy.
  18. I never went to college.  I did go to University of Phoenix (not the one in AZ) for a short time, but never graduated.  
  19. One of my many jobs was as a Balloon Decorator.  Need a 20 foot spiral balloon arch?  I’m your gal.  
  20. I am most likely 100% grey.  “Most Likely” because I will probably never know the true percentage!  My motto is “dye til you die”.
  21. I was an only child until I was 23 when I found out I had a sister that was 27.  
  22. I have never been overseas, other than to Hawaii – which technically is over “sea”.  
  23. I question whether we could be the only beings in the Universe and would love to see a crop circle in person.  Weird, right?  It’s on my bucket list.
  24. I love sharks and grew up wanting to be a shark biologist.  I was discouraged by a respected adult who said that “women can’t become shark biologists, it’s a man’s field” and never pursued it.
Well, that’s 24 interesting facts about ME.  
I’d love to hear a bit about you! Feel free to post in the comments about your own quirks or habits.  Ready?  Go!  :)
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