A Special Mother’s Day Dessert

Thinking about a special gift for mom this year? Something that everyone loves is dessert! Here is something I’ve made from the best cooking book I have ever purchased ($10 from a door-to-door salesman)

Ile Flottante

Ile Flottante

1×8-inch round sponge cake, slightly stale

3 fl. oz (3/8 cup) kirsch

3 fl. oz. (3/8 cup) maraschino liquer

6 oz. apricot jam

2 tablespoons chopped pistachio nuts

2 oz. (1/3 cup) raisins or currants, soaked in cold water for 2 hours and drained.

10 fl. oz. double cream (1 1/4 cup heavy cream), very stiffly whipped


1 lb fresh raspberries or hulled strawberries, washed.

2 oz (1/4 cup) sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice


With a sharp knife, slice the cake into four equal layers. Place the bootom layer in a large, wide serving dish and sprinkle it generously with about one-quarter of the kirsch and one-quarter of the maraschino liqueur. Spread the slice with about one-quarter of the apricot jam, then sprinkle on some almonds, pistachios and raisins or currants. Continue to make layers as above until all of the ingredients have been used up, reserving a few almonds, pistachios and raisins or currants for decoration. Place the dish in the refrigerator and chill for 15 minutes.

Remove the cake from the refrigerator and, using a flat-bladed knife, generously spread the top and sides with the beaten cream. Return the cake to the refrigerator to chill while you make the fruit sauce.

To make the sauce, rub the raspberries or strawberries through a fine strainer into a medium-sized mixing bowl, using the back of a wooden spoon to extract all the juices from the friut. Discard the pulp remaining in the strainer. Alternatively, puree the fruit in an electric blender or in a food mill.

Stir the sugar and lemon juice into the fruit, beating with a fork until the mixture is well blended.

Remove the cake from the refrigerator and spoon the sauce around it. Sprinkle the reserved almonds, pistachios and raisins or currants decoratively over the top.

Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for 15 minutes, then remove and serve cold. Enjoy!

How to Create an Unforgettable Birthday Party

Seek out a lovely place to play.


Let the ‘kid’ out. Yes, each of us has a little kid inside just looking for a chance to play. How many birthdays have you gone to that were just bland. Or phony. Well, let’s be generous. This was not intentional, but simply unimaginative.Image

The best birthday party ever was at a friend’s house – Mary Lou – she lived out in the country. We lived an adventure that will always be remembered!   The entire three hours we ran around the hills like wild ones. Why? We were on a quest. A real quest with clues and red ribbons tied on branches. The goal: treasure! Yes, a bag of ‘treasure’ such as bubble gum, pix stix, licorice, pencils etc.

You can easily tailor a QUEST to whatever age group you want. For the young ones, you will want to be close to camp. For teens the excitement will be in the exploration of the farther reaches of the Reserve. For seniors, you can make it

challenging by making the clues more difficult without being too strenuous.

What we have found is the more you play, the more you enjoy. The more you enjoy, the more you want to play. The more you play, the younger you feel. Although there are many places in nature for play, we have found that Sacred Rocks Reserve lends itself to delight in the great outdoors.


Plan it!

  • Choose date, location, invitees
  • Select the prizes, put them together at home
  • Walk the location before the party so you can know what to expect
  • Mark the clues to the treasure ie. Red ribbon tied on branch or rock
  • Keep the party outside. There are hundreds of ancient oaks offering shade.
  • Let everyone cook their own food on a grill or campfire [easy food such as kebabs, meat or vegetable]
  • Set up camp games such as horseshoes, petanque, MPH anything you enjoy that keeps you moving
  • Hang a piñata and let everyone get a whack

At the end of the day, you will be pleasantly exhausted, ready to fall into rest, and you will have an indelible memory of

this very special birthday.

Camping, Moi?

I just wrote this story for the monthly Purple Mountain Sage articles for The Back Country Messenger, The Alpine Sun, and East County Magazine. The memories are still clear decades after this trip. A friend pointed out that nearly every Christmas and Birthday gift has been forgotten but the times spent camping with my family are etched upon my heart forever. 

Taking your kids or grandkids camping can connect you together in unexpected and delightful ways.

Image“A little dust won’t kill you”, said my parents as we packed up for the family camping trip. Being the oldest of four and an obedient child, I did resolve to have a miserable time. My pout lasted all of eight minutes after we arrived. Gosh! The rocks I collected were every one more beautiful than the last. We four kids ran off into the desert with admonitions, “Watch out for the snakes” fading fast. Middle brother muttering, “Why would I want to see snakes?” Oldest brother and I grinning, “Let’s find some!”. Youngest brother whining, “I’m gonna tell if you touch one!” Typical family. But we all found rocks. We filled our pockets, then made pouches of the front of our tee shirts and lugged back a ton of these treasures. Gorgeous rocks. Some had shiny specs we knew were pieces of gold, yes, gold and we were gonna be rich. Some had straight cuts as if by a machine, we later learned was quartz. Others had multicolored striations. We could not wait to show our parents.

There was much to do, each helping under my parents gentle guidance or should I say firm orders. The division of work fell naturally, Mom put up the tent (of course while reading directions). A couple of sibs helped her. Dad unloaded the cook-box and made a fire. The remaining kids helped. The tent was raised and staked. The sleeping bags all laid out, a small duffle for each of us. Dinner preparations were under way. On the campfire was a pot of gently steaming coffee and a pan heating the spaghetti sauce that mom had made at home. On the camp stove a big pot of water was boiling noodles, and at the table a couple of us were putting together our favorite desert in a dutch oven. [The dutch oven is a large pan, usually with short 3 inch legs that is covered with a heavy lid and you cook by putting in in a bed of hot coals, and piling coals on top.] Even in camp there were very special rocks to discover.

While dinner was cooking, we got out the frisbee (and looked for more rocks) and Dad played with us until the call, “come and get it”. The sun was just setting, the air, cooling off quickly, we took our plates around the campfire, said grace, then dug in with gusto. It may be hard to believe, but in all the years of eating at home and restaurants, I have found there is absolutely nothing that beats eating food you have cooked on the campfire after some hours playing in the wide open spaces. We each ate every bite, nothing was left over, and we were exactly satisfied. How did that happen? We then, had to dress for the cooler evening. Personally, I just layered my long clothes over the short ones, that way I was ready to take them off when it got hot the next day.

When camping in the open desert, due to water constraints, showers were not an option. We learned to take a washbasin bath. That is, heat up the water, put in the washbasin [about 3 inches deep and 12 inches diameter] soap a washcloth, wash the smelly parts, then rinse, then put on clean clothes and toss out the water. The boys wanted to skip that part, but not me of course! We learned about cleaning off with sand and often did so. Our parents taught us to ‘wash’ the dishes and cooking gear with sand. Initially we thought it crazy, but it worked. First, we scrubbed the dishes and dumped the dirt. Second we wiped everything off with a dishtowel. Last, we put them away in the cook box, ready for the next meal.

Soon after chores, the amazing night sky unveiled itself. A person has never seen the real sky from any place other than the middle of the desert, far from cities and towns. The term “countless stars” must have come from such as night. Shooting stars often enough to keep us glued to the view. The scent of our special dessert wafted up and despite the huge meal just eaten, our mouths began to water. We brushed the coals and ashes off the top of the dutch over and then brought it to a flat rock. Each of us was standing there with our bowls and spoons, waiting impatiently. The lid was taken off, the steam from the Cherry Dump Cobbler warmed us along with hefty scoops of the sweet delight. Sitting by the fire, our toes or backs toward the fire, we slowly savored each mouthful of the tart but sweet cobbler. We never said a word, but these were the best of times. Just our family. Close together and contented.

Then it was time to roll in. The kids went first while Mom and Dad sat close together and spoke softly by the fire. We all rushed to hop in our sleeping bags to bring the fire-warmth with us. As we whispered and told stories and wound down into sleep, we felt completely happy with our lives. I am sure we dreamed of the wonderful rock discoveries of the next day. Sometime later when the fire died down, Dad put it completely out then he and Mom came in to bed. They must have tiptoed because we never heard a thing. 

A Time Out!

kind of day was Wednesday. Staff business. PR connections. Then fun – a photo expedition for wildflowers. This week’s offerings: Wild Mountain Lilac, Neon Yellow?, and Miner’s Lettuce [edible].ImageImageImage

Purple Flower after the rain.

Purple Flower after the rain. About an inch tall.

Perhaps an inch tall. After the rain.

Camping, moi?

Remembering camping as a kid it recently dawned on me there are may who miss this fine life experience, just because they don’t know how to camp. Camping is the most affordable vacation you can ever find.
There is lots of information in books and on the internet, however the most effective way to learn is just do it. Most people at campgrounds will lend a hand if you just ask.

The three best reasons to turn your life inside out for a weekend are:

  • Getting closer to your family
  • Experiencing nature and it’s wonders
  • Eating fabulous food cooked over the campfire

Is it all fun and games? Nope, but it is worth it. Your family will feel a tighter bond, you may discover a wonderful way to let go of stress, and people who stretch themselves to do something different live a fuller, richer life. Oh, did I mention the memories you bestow on your kids and grands? They are unforgettable.

Such a beautiful day

Like a blank slate. What to do? What to do in this bit of paradise. I know. It is spring and I’ll go hunting with my camera for babies and wildflowers.