Spice And Oh So Nice . . .

I have loved spices for as long as I can remember. Anyone else? To be honest, I am addicted to the spice isles in grocery stores and specialty spice shops such as the 1890 Market Place in downtown Granbury. I have to discipline myself in this area because the quality of the spice does not last forever.

However, when Mr. Z and I traveled throughout Morocco I was elated and enthralled by the medinas overflowing with the century-old customs of displaying spices and other colorful bounty of the area. Of course, we did bring home an ample amount of their unique spices!

Morocco is an expansive, eclectic country with a mix of old world and new age culture about the size of California. Many of the Moroccans were exuberant hosts and shared their secrets of their flavorful cuisine. I am sharing this chicken tagine recipe with you because it is a little spice of nirvana! The warm spices including cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, and black pepper really do complement the sweetness of the dried fruit and infuse the chicken with a luscious flavor and aroma.

Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Almond – Makes 4 servings

Adapted from a recipe by Baija Lafridi at Jnane Tamsna in Marrakech, Morocco.

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, ½ teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon black pepper, 1¼ teaspoons salt, 3 tablespoons plus ¼ cup olive oil

1 (3-lb) chicken breasts, 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, 1 medium red onion, halved, then sliced 1/4 inch thick, 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped, 5 fresh cilantro, 5 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley

1½ cups water, 2 tablespoons mild honey, 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick

½ cup dried apricots, separated into halves, ⅓ cup whole blanched almonds

Special Equipment: A 10 – to 12-inch tagine or heavy skillet; kitchen string for herbs

Stir together ground cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons oil in a large bowl. Add chicken and turn to coat well. Heat butter and 1 tablespoon oil in base of tagine (or in skillet), uncovered, over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then brown the chicken. Transfer to a plate.

Add onion and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt to tagine and cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Tie cilantro and parsley into a bundle with kitchen string and add to tagine along with ½ cup water, chicken, and any juices accumulated on plate. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 30 minutes.

While chicken cooks, bring honey, remaining cup water, cinnamon stick, and apricots to a boil in a 1- to 2-quart heavy saucepan, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until apricots are very tender (add more water if necessary). Once apricots are tender, simmer until liquid is reduced to a glaze, 10 to 15 minutes. While apricots cook, heat remaining ¼ cup oil in a small skillet over moderate heat and cook almonds, stirring occasionally, until just golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Ten minutes before chicken is done, add apricot mixture to tagine. Discard herbs and cinnamon stick, then serve chicken sprinkled with almonds on top.

During our trip we explored rural villages and met female chiefs who knew how to spoil us with their ancient cuisines loaded with mouthwatering flavorful foods.

And tablescapes that made us feel so far away from home!  Traveling throughout Morocco provided surprises and delights, around every corner along with exotic scents that filled the air and spiced up our life!

Love, Mary

Mother’s Day Love . . .

I love the flurry of Mother’s Day activities and celebrations that take place this time of the year, and I think I am the luckiest woman in the world to have two mothers! My biological mother who did a remarkable job of raising me and is no longer on this earth, and my special mother-in-law who is 97 years old. Since I am a bit of a vintage soul and in love with these ‘so long ago’ photographs of her – I had to share them!

My mother-in-law was a stay-at-home mother who raised five one-of-a-kind boys, including my Mr. Z! During those early years of raising those sweet boys it was not uncommon for her to take in a nephew or niece that needed parental guidance for a time. You know, the more the merrier! It was indeed a lively and boisterous household full of boy things – baseball bats and balls, helmets and bikes, footballs and ice skates, books and games, Beatle music and Beatle haircuts, but despite all of the male influences in her life my mother-in-law never lost sight of her feminine side!

She decorated their home with beautiful fabrics, unique art pieces that always favored nature, family heirlooms and a variety of glassware that was always sparkling. She was blessed with natural beauty and a love of the finer things in life, including a deep passion for rich chocolate! And yes, her flawless boys did manage to break a few of their mother’s special things due to flying balls and shoes and she took ‘those accidents’ all-in stride!

Then in midlife, she gained five spirited daughters-in-law’s including me and she mothered and guided us on our jagged journey through life and offered me the rich wisdom of her experiences as being a Mrs. Z. It was hard for my mother-in-law to let go of her perfect sons and let them grow! She has been fortunate to watch them all develop and become very productive in their careers and personal life’s. And throughout the next seasons of her life came the joyful arrival of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren all who have become her precious jewels. At this age she had the magical formula for ensuring children’s success – give them your best and take the conditions off your love.

During this time her prized flower gardens flourished with her love and attention, and to preserve their beauty I could find her behind her easel painting the flowers or a restful nature scene. And when she didn’t have a paint brush in hand, she could be found curled up in her reading room with a stash of good reads or listening to the music from her beloved musicians. As we honor her today and every day, may she bask in the glory of being a truly amazing mother, mother-in-law and grandmother!

This coming weekend as we honor all moms, I am obsessively grateful to the mothers, grandmothers and motherly figures for their unending love and support of the children of our beautiful universe! It’s your time to shine!

Love, Mary

Photo Tip Fridays . . .

Today is a beautiful Friday because my Mr. Z is back to share a photography tip! With over 40 years as a natural light photographer, he is pleased to explain the importance of our backgrounds as we photograph what makes our hearts flutter. The stage is yours Mr. Z . . .

“Always be aware of your background. The background is a very important element within a photograph, though it is often overlooked. It can make or break a photograph. Choice of camera angle and the use of shallow or extended depth of field, can dramatically affect your main subject. I chose a shallow depth of field to draw the viewer’s attention to the bee enjoying breakfast. As a result, the background that had distracting elements is rendered soft, and out of focus. In this scene, there is photographic harmony because the background compliments, rather than completes with the subject for attention.”

Thank you, Mr. Z for the photographic tip!

Love, Mary

Celebrating National Orchid Month . . .

Photo by Lynn O’Shaughnessy

The month of April is National Orchid Month, and since 2006 we have been celebrating these little mysterious and fussy species! Why would we be excited about a family of plants with over 25,000 different species? In 2006, Lynn O’Shaughnessy an orchid aficionado honored Mr. Z and I for our charity efforts with Airedale Terriers and named one of her new, rare orchid flowers – Masdevallia Ziegler’s Love (M. Pixie Lavender x M. Falon Sunrise). We were speechless and overjoyed with such an honor, as she knows we always bloom where we are planted!

According to Lynn, “This flower has M. decumana, M. coccinea, M. veitchiana, M. ignea, and M. estradae in the background. M. decumana and M. estradae are both dominant for form -especially in the shape of the lateral sepals. These two species are what give the lateral sepals of this cross its look. The only hint that there are orange flowers in the background come with a little orange towards the tips of the caudae. I thought this name would work well to honor both Mary and Randy at the same time. This flower seemed perfect since it was a soft pink with a star in the center. The star signifies that they have been Leslie’s shining star since they first met. It also has the shape of an upside-down heart. Both Mary and Randy have given their hearts to Leslie and her Airedale Terrier, and their lives will never be the same. Masdevallia Ziegler’s Love was registered at the International Registration Authority for Orchid Hybrids, Nottingham, England April 25, 2006.”

You may wonder if our home is overflowing with exotic Masdevallia Ziegler’s Love orchids? Unfortunately, not at this time as our ‘green thumbs’ are currently on sabbatical in this area as our travels and curiosities have taken us on novel paths.

Additional websites to enjoy Masdevallia Ziegler’s Love Orchid –

Orchid, Masdevallia Ziegler’s Love Masdevallia (davesgarden.com)

Masdevallia Ziegler’s Love ‘Glowing Pink’ – California Sierra Nevada Judging Center (csnjc.org)

Please join us in lifting a cup of luscious orchid tea to celebrate all the beautiful orchid plants and the award-winning growers throughout the USA!

Love, Mary

A Tropical Vacation . . .

I recently experienced a tropical vacation in my kitchen after making this bread recipe from THE ROSE TABLE – Savoring life’s pleasures! I made a few changes to her recipe, which are noted in bold text. I have served this delicious, tropical bread on many occasions and will soon make it again thanks to the lovely pineapple gift from our dear neighbors Gary and Phyllis. You two are full of unexpected surprises!

Pineapple Bread
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar (I used only 1/2 cup of sugar)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used 1/2 cup of gluten-free flour and a cup of regular)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 – 15 oz can and 1 – 8 oz can pineapple tidbits* (I used fresh and diced into tidbits)
3/4 cup shredded coconut
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling (I omitted to reduce total sugars)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9″ loaf pan. 
  2. Pour pineapple into a sieve to drain the syrup while you get started on the batter.
  3. Cream together butter and sugar in a stand mixer until light and fluffy, about five minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
  5. Add eggs to mixer one at a time, mixing well in between. Add half the sour cream than half the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated. Add remaining sour cream and flour, mixing just until combined.
  6. Fold drained pineapple and shredded coconut into the batter and pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle with a bit of turbinado sugar on top and bake for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool pineapple bread in the pan for twenty minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely. Slice and enjoy!

*Note: if you can’t find pineapple tidbits, just get pineapple chunks and chop them up to tidbit size.

Cheers to tropical kitchen vacations! Mary

Wise Wednesday . . .

On this wonderful Wednesday, I am sharing wildflowers and a few of my favorite lighthearted, inspirational reflections. May they vibrate with your soul!

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. ~ Proust

Sow good services; sweet remembrances will grow from them. ~ Madame de Stael

Beauty is not caused. It is. ~ Emily Dickinson

Though we travel the world to find the beautiful, we must carry it within us or we find it not. ~ Emerson

Far away in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them and try to follow where they lead. ~ Alcott

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. ~ John Muir

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. ~ Emerson

Live sweetly, Mary

Monday Blues . . .

Over the weekend, I was looking through my tableware for some Moroccan infused dinner plates for a future celebration, when I let my thoughts drift to the ‘blue pearl’ of Morocco known as Chefchaouen, which was founded in 1492. This blue city nestled in the hollows of the Rif Mountains of Northern Morocco is breathtaking!

Mr. Z and I found enchantment in getting lost wandering the maze of narrow and steep stoned passages that have been polished by countless feet over the centuries.

So why the blue you may ask?  We curious ones needed to know too! We received various explanations from the locals, which included the following: blue symbolizes the sky and heaven, it is the color of the sea, we are preserving the legacy and heritage of our past, it attracts tourist and photographers from around the world. We found the explanations all very agreeable!

Enjoy the blue oasis of calm! May you all have a week filled with good thoughts, kind people, pleasant moments and spiritual blessings.

Love, Mary

Photo Fridays . . .

I am pleased that Mr. Z has agreed to share some of his photographic instruction and reflections on my blog only on Fridays, but not every Friday!  As most of you know he is a respected natural light photographer with over 40 years behind the lens, his photographs have appeared in worldwide publications and corporate installations.  Take the stage Mr. Z . . .

Simplify, Simplify –

This profound statement by Henry David Thoreau holds true in photography as it does in life.  I have always found that the best images, including my own, follow this axiom.  You should really strive for simplicity in your photographs.  I have seen too many photographs that were on the cusp of greatness only to be undermined by too many details in the image that robbed the photograph of good, clean composition.  Always remember what Thoreau said, “Life is frittered away by too many details,” and so is a photograph. Present your strongest statement photographically speaking in the simplest terms.  Do not let a potentially great image get ‘frittered away’ by too many unrelated details.  A good photograph needs rhythm and harmony, not chaos in the image. This is why one my favorite ‘walkabout’ lenses are a Nikon 70-200.  It forces me to compose tight and it helps me to reduce the extraneous or superfluous and concentrate on the essential elements.

Happy Friday friends, and I wish you much success as you infuse his artistic instruction into your photography.

Love, Mary

Blossoming into Spring . . .

We have orbited into spring in our little corner of the world, and Mr. Z and I have commenced transforming our best winter’s dreams into spring’s magic. How are you harmonizing with spring this year? Is your spirit continuing to soar? I am inviting the springtime to blanket me in my own life and take root to rejuvenate my sense of wonder. We all know the seasons do not start and finish abruptly, but they arise and go gently, each one overlapping and blending with the previous, and it is indeed a beautiful experience! I love the big bouquet of magenta flowers that are gracing these trees in our part of the country. Yes, they too are celebrating the sun and light by creating these beautiful blooms for us to enjoy and for Mr. Z to photograph!

Inside our home we are celebrating spring with this whimsical tablescape.  On the first day of spring, I brought out some heritage pieces of my Belleek C. Fermanagh china collection from Ireland. The company located in Northern Ireland is celebrating 165 years of creating lovely products for tableware enthusiasts who appreciate a little green country flair! The pearly colored plates with hand painted, pastel green shamrocks brought out the soft colors of the eggs in the bunny-approved centerpiece.

To hold artisan confections for celebrations this spring, I discovered these three-legged little dishes were made for a bit of green moss and a handful of chocolate, gold wrapped eggs. The delicate pink flowers on the gold rimmed dish add just the right amount of charm. I hope you agree!

This spring I am wishing my dear readers an abundant path full of creatively, joyful adventures, and blissful fun as you awaken to your authentic, beautiful selves!

Love, Mary

Along the Way . . .

Last week with the spring equinox on our minds Mr. Z and I decided to restore a sense of wonder to our daily round. In our pursuit to experience and learn about Texas history our sojourn took us to another divine location, St. Peter’s Catholic Church at Lindsey, TX. Here is a tiny summary about this historic church written by Grotto Design in 2018.

Lindsay is one of the many German Catholic immigrant towns in Texas. In October 1892 the site for the church of the new St. Peter’s Catholic parish was chosen with the help of Rev. Joseph Blum of neighboring Muenster. The first church was built in 1892.  In 1905 there were 500 people living in Lindsay, all Germans. In the span of 26 years, three successive churches were built, each more impressive than the prior. The second church was built in 1903, an impressive wood frame brick veneer church that was destroyed in a tornado on May 31, 1917, only 14 years after it was finished. The current St. Peter’s is the third church for the parish. This German Romanesque church was built in 1918, right after the second church was destroyed.

With the elaborate painting and stenciling inside, St. Peter’s can be considered one of the Painted Churches of Texas, though most are in central Texas. The Painted Churches get their name from the elaborate stenciling and painted faux marble, stone and gold leaf. German and Czech immigrants used this for decoration and ornament in their churches so they would be like the churches of their homelands. They lacked materials, artisans and funds to make them otherwise, but the results are inspiring and breathtaking none the less. St. Peter’s is one of these gems.

The artistic painted artwork and the meditative quietness that surrounded us in the church gift wrapped the extravagance of the day for both of us! Well almost, until we stopped at the popular Fischer’s Meat Market at Muenster, TX known for their German sausages and smoked cheeses. Who could resist obtaining some!

And then the famed Rumpy’s Little German Bakery and Deli located within a service station off the interstate near our Gainesville’s exit. Here was a world of delicious morsels including fruit kolaches and German strudels with light, flaky crusts. Indeed, the day was rich with one good thing after another literally overflowing with an abundance of food for the eye and soul!

How will you be celebrating the spring equinox this year?