Two Races and How Many Winners? Derby Day Is Officially Here With A Contest!

Kentucky Derby weekend is upon us! How exciting! Like every year we are giddy with anticipation about the big race but something is very different this year from all Derby posts of the past.

For the first time in over a decade we will not be hosting a Derby party which means no cooking menu to plan or drinks to mix. Like the horses just before post time, I myself will be posed to break out of a gate fast and furious.  It’s not a horse gate and I won’t be in Kentucky – instead it’s an airport gate and I’ll be in Washington D.C. It will be a mad dash to the hotel with just over an hour before post time but if luck is on my side I’ll make it with moments enough to spare in order to drop my bags, grab a julep and watch the horses go. Fingers crossed.

Last year’s contest and 2016’s Derby winner – Nyquist!

Last year, we hosted a contest to guess the Derby winner with a very special vintage-themed gift as a prize. Although we had lots of fabulous speculations and a couple of close calls, no one picked Nyquist as the first to line finisher. With the promise of carrying over the un-won prizes from last year to this year, we will be holding the contest again but this time during the Belmont Stakes on June 10th. That gives us a chance to celebrate the races in true party fashion. It also makes the second leg of the Kentucky Derby all the more exciting. The horses by that stage will be one step closer to achieving the Triple Crown and you’ll be a seasoned expert on the horse racing scene of 2017.

Churchill Downs Oark on left. Belmont Park on right.

This change in the contest also gives you a chance to pick two winners this year – one for the Kentucky Derby and one for the Belmont. Twice the fun!  It is super easy to enter this contest. All you have to do is pick  your favorite horse to win this  year’s Kentucky Derby and type the name into the comments section below. This will automatically and officially register your pick. Next month, you will do the same thing for the Belmont Stakes. If one, either or both of your horses are picked as winners in the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont then you will be a winner in the contest.

If you haven’t caught up with the field yet, this year holds a spectacular group of contenders. The numbers next to each horse correspond to their post position in the starting gate. If you are feeling especially intuitive select your winner via face, name or number value.

From top left: (2) Thunder Snow; (17) Irish War Cry; (6) State of Honor; (5) Always Dreaming; (10) Gunnevera; (1) Lookin at Lee; (16) Tapwrit; (8) Hence

Or if you’d like to read up on this year’s entrants visit for all the latest information, statistics and industry commentary.

Clockwise from top left: (19) Practical Joke; (15) McCracken; (13) J Boys Echo; (3) Fast and Accurate

So many fun names make up the roster this year…

Clockwise from top left: (7) Girvin); (4) Untrappd; (11) Battle of Midway; (9) Irap; (12) Sonneteer; (18) Gormley; (14) Classic Empire; (20) Patch

…Always Dreaming, Irish War Cry, Sonneteer and Practical Joke are among my favorites… but Patch is the horse of my heart this season. He only has one eye and that makes him an unusual entry, but it sure doesn’t slow him down.  A tumor in his left eye caused his handicap but he was so quick to recover and return to his normal pace that it seems destiny had decided this handsome guy’s fate long before his eye ever showed signs of sickness.

I feel a special kinship to Patch because I’m legally blind in my left eye and like him I’ve gotten along just fine all these years regardless. Many trainers believe that the power of racing comes from a horse’s heart, not their legs or their physique or their genetic makeup. It comes from their love and sheer excitement to run. One eye or two, it doesn’t matter. Patch has already proved he’s a contender in more ways than one.

Share your thoughts and your guesses for this year’s Derby winner in the comment section below. Voting closes at 5:45pm (eastern time) Saturday, May 6th, so like the race itself speed is of the essence.  There is also only one vote per person allowed, so make your guess a good one! Winners will be announced next week on the blog and the vintage prize package will be mailed out thereafter. Curious to see if  I’ll win the airport race in time to watch the horse race? Stay tuned to Instagram for that update on Saturday!

Good luck and Happy Derby Day!


Nyquist, New Items and a Derby Duel

Nyquist's photo courtesy of Coady Photography

Nyquist’s photo courtesy of Coady Photography

Ladies and gentlemen, the race has been won. And the contest almost was too! If you missed the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, here’s a two-minute replay of the race…

It was an exciting experience right up unto the finish line this year with Nyquist and Exaggerator storming down the track with just mere inches between them and the win.  Which is exactly what happened in Ms. Jeannie’s Derby contest also. While no one picked Nyquist as a winner, there were two readers who both placed favorites on Exaggerator as the horse to beat. How exciting, because he almost was!


Official 2016 Derby placers: Nyquist (1st) Exaggerator -pictured above (2nd) and Gun Runner (3rd).

Since there was no official winner, in the land of Ms. Jeannie, prizes selected for this year’s blog contest will carry over to next year, where we can all try again guessing for glory.  In the meantime, a big congrats goes out to blog readers Amanda and Renee for both selecting Exaggerator.  Will they be able to duel it out next year for permanent status in the winner’s circle? Anticipation is already building and we are still 360 days away from the next Derby date! Oh my.

Outside of the racetrack,  a horse of a different sort leads the pack of new items that just galloped their way into the bookshop. Browse a bit here…

This collection of items is all about easy, effortless living and decorating. As we gear up for farmer’s market season, the vintage cookbooks provide new inspiration in the kitchen while the wall and bookshelf art provide instant (ready to hang!) style.

If something catches your eye click on the corresponding link below the picture for more info or reply to this post and Ms. Jeanne will be happy to place it on reserve for you.

A big, big thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s Derby contest and for taking the time to pop-in and cast your vote. Cheers to you for keeping life fun and interesting!




Derby Day Fun: Pick A Winner, Win A Prize


It’s Kentucky Derby time dear readers! As you know from past years, this is always a fun and festive time in the land of Ms. Jeannie. The roses are blooming, the mint is growing and the party planning is underway. Post time for the big race is Saturday (May 7th) at 6:34pm, where 20 horses will compete in the 142nd run for the roses. As of this (blog) post publication time, the field is large this year with 26 entrants in possible contention, which means six names will drop off before Saturday.

It’s a big guess as to who will make the final list and who will win the Derby. Anything is possible in horse racing and nothing can be left up to certainty until hooves pass the finish line, which is one of the elements that make this Saturday so exciting. In honor of such spirited sportsmanship, Ms. Jeannie is hosting a little competition of her own right here on the blog. Post the name of the winner in the comments section between now and 5:45pm on Saturday and you’ll win a very cool vintage prize that will be mailed out to you on Monday.

Here are all 26 entrants compiled in three sets in random order. Pick your favorite, type their name in the comments section below this post and Ms. Jeannie will be in touch if you (lucky you!) have chosen the winner!


2016 Kentucky Derby Entrants: 1.Lani 2. Outwork 3. Suddenbreakingnews 4. Brody’s Cause 5. Gun Runner 6. Discreetness 7. Nyquist

You can only enter once, so make your selection count!


8. Dazzling Gem 9. Mo Tom 10. My Man Sam 11. Creator 12. Adventist 13. Shagaf 14. Fellowship 15. Trojan Nation 16. Exaggerator

You can be easy breezy about this whole contest by picking a horse by name or face value or you can read up on each of the entrants on 


17. Cherry Wine 18. Tom’s Ready 19. Laoban 20. Mor Spirit 21. Destin 22. Oscar Nominated 23.  Mohaymen 24. Majesto 25. Whitmore 26. Danzing Candy

Good luck dear readers and happy guessing! Contest winner will be announced early next week!!!

Catch up on past Derby Day festivities here.  Photo credits of all racers in this post courtesy of:, coady photography,, dylan buell, el porto roberto, horse racing nation,, clb photography

The Post-Derby Post: A Minty Affair

The mint julep is always the star of the show at the Kentucky Derby in the drinks department.  But when Ms. Jeannie’s own party plans got significantly waylaid this year, she decided instead of going all the traditional routes she was going to mix things up a bit. Instead of the mint julep, she created the Minty Donberry…


Which was a glass of chardonnay with a spring of mint and a slice of strawberry. Like a mini sangria, it was light and refreshing and looked pretty from the side…


Instead of traditional red roses, she went white and peach and purple in the flower department…


with bouquets of lilacs, snowballs, flowering dogwood and clematis.

And instead of a formal sit-down dinner following the race she went with a smattering of appetizers for a more informal cocktail party-like atmosphere.  The favorite of the appetizers was a sausage and mint brown rice meatball accompanied by a cucumber mint raita sauce.  It was a nice match with the Minty Donberry, easy to prepare ahead of time and made a lot.  So even though there was no julep –  mint was still a main attraction!

Here’s the recipe…



Sausage and Mint Brown Rice Meatballs with Minty Cucumber Raita Sauce…

For the Meatballs

1 lb. ground grass-fed organic sausage

1 cup cooked brown rice

1 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 egg, lightly beaten (preferably free range organic!)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon allspice

Prepare brown rice ahead of time and let cool. Add all ingredients together in a bowl and mix until well-combined. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour (up to one day – if you want to prepare ahead). All ingredients should look evenly dispersed throughout the mixture, like this…


Roll into 18 golf-ball sized meatballs or smaller if you want to make a miniature version. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Turn each meatball once and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes until the meatballs turn golden brown. This may require a little more or a little less cooking time depending on the size of your meatballs. Also, Ms. Jeannie broiled hers for the last couple of minutes to get a nice dark brown crust on each.


For the Minty Cucumber Raita…

1/2 large cucumber – peeled, seeds removed and then grated

1 cup sour cream

1/8 cup chopped fresh mint

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon honey mustard ( Ms. Jeannie used Inglehoffer’s which is a German mustard)

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Place grated cucumbers in a paper towel and squeeze out all the extra liquid. Then combine all ingredients in a bowl until thoroughly mixed. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.  Makes 2 cups of raita.

Arrange the meatballs on a platter alongside the raita. Ms. Jeannie served her sauce in her grandmother’s 1930’s teacup – which looked pretty! If you want to garnish the plate you can use (you guessed it) fresh mint or dill. But the meatballs don’t last long once out among the party crowd so you may not want to even bother!


Ms. Jeannie was rooting for longshot Wildcat Red…


and even though he didn’t win – it was still a great race! Now it is on to the Preakness to see if California Chrome will become a Triple Crown winner. Ms. Jeannie’s two best friends couldn’t make last night’s party so they’ve all decided to get together for round two on May 17th to watch the Preakness. It might just be a California themed event!


Twice the Fun: Two Derby Parties in One!

Kentucky Derby weekend is here again! Can you believe, dear readers, that a whole year has passed already? It seems like just a few months ago we watched as I’ll Have Another surprised everybody with the win (and the run!) of his lifetime.

I'll Have Another and jockey, Mario Gutierrez, win the 2012 Kentucky Derby!

I’ll Have Another and jockey, Mario Gutierrez, win the 2012 Kentucky Derby!

This year, Ms. Jeannie’s changing things up in the way of  her annual derby party. Since Mr. Jeannie has to go out of town on race day, it will be a Friday night Kentucky Oaks party instead of a traditional Saturday Derby party.  All the fun, plus the added bonus of watching the ladies run for the lilies! What could be better then two Derby parties in one?!


Ms. Jeannie has never really kept up with the Kentucky Oaks horses – although she’s wondering now, why she hasn’t – the stories of all the fillies are equally as captivating and exciting as the boys next door. Horses (only the girls!) have been running in the Kentucky Oaks since 1875, making it, along with the Derby, not only the oldest contested race in history but also  the only sporting events to be held in the same location since the start.  No wonder there is so much pomp and circumstance!

This year, there’s an interesting crop of horses running in the Oaks. If you want to read up on all the contestants, click here.  Ms. Jeannie has picked these three favorites to root for…

Pure Fun

Pure Fun. Ms. Jeannie’s anticipated winner!

Midnight Lucky

Midnight Lucky

Flashy Gray

Flashy Gray

There are actually three grey horses running in the Oaks this year, Midnight Lucky, Flashy Gray and Silsita. Since only 3% of thoroughbreds are grey in color, Ms. Jeannie thinks this must be a special year for the color group! There is superstition surrounding grey racehorses – some camps believe they are lucky, others believe they are unlucky. Ms. Jeannie doesn’t buy into any of that. Any horse that is talented enough to make it to the Oaks clearly has an equal chance at the big win!

Because this will be a combination party this year, Ms. Jeannie is incorporating both races into her theme…


This year Ms. Jeannie’s floral bouquets for the table will be a mixture of yellow and magenta knockout roses, which have just started blooming in her garden. Rose to Gold is a horse running in the Kentucky Oaks, so this flower arrangement is a fun twist on that name.

Simple bouquets in various sized clear glass jars will be scattered about the table.

Simple bouquets in various sized clear glass jars will be scattered about the table.

If you visit Churchill Downs you’ll see knock-out roses surrounding the statue of Aristides, who was the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby in 1875.

Statue of Artistides at Churchill Downs

Statue of Artistides at Churchill Downs

The thing Ms. Jeannie likes most about using these flowers is that they constantly enhance the table with their falling flower petals. As a cut flower they usually only last a couple of days, but that’s ok – their smell and beauty make up for their short life span. And they are like the little florists of the night – a petal here, a petal there… decorate away, my dears.

Because the flowers hold such vibrant color, Ms. Jeannie is going low-key with the plates and just using a mixture of her all white dishes. Although you can see how using a little bit of an additional pattern or color palate would still work great with the theme.  These green, white and gold Royal Jackson dishes from the 1950’s compliment the flowers perfectly without seeming too matched. They are available in Ms. Jeannie’s Etsy shop here and here.

Subtle hints of color help carry the theme around the table.

Subtle hints of color help carry the theme around the table.

Mixed patterns keep things fresh.

Mixed patterns keep things fresh.

Even though technically the napikins are a red stripe - they favor a pinkish hue when placed with pink flowers.

Even though technically the napikins are a red stripe – they favor a pinkish hue when placed with pink flowers.


Since it has been a busy year, Ms. Jeannie has picked the most mellow of all the horses as her choice for winner of the 2013 Kentucky Derby…Normandy Invasion!


Normandy Invasion

Apparently he’s the one around  the stables who like naps and lunch time best. It’s cute that he’s got such a stormy name when he has a very laid-back personality, isn’t it? Owner, Rick Porter, named him after the heroism of the troops that stormed the beaches in France. It appears Normandy, like his namesake is all business when it comes to running.  He’s just casual in attitude but clearly, to make it to the Derby, not casual in ability.

Normandy Invasion watching the day go by. Photo courtesy of

Normandy Invasion watching the day go by. It looks like he’s smiling 🙂  Photo courtesy of

Anyway, carrying on the French theme of Normandy’s name, he’ll make quite an appearance at the party in the form of French cheeses during cocktail hour and a french themed main entree at dinner.

The cheeses being served during cocktail hour are Brie, Camamberet (from Normandy!), Chevron, Bleu de Vercors and Roquefort all accompanied along with assorted hard crackers, nuts  and fresh fruit.

For drinks, Ms. Jeannie is serving a french twist on the traditional mint juleps  – the  Champagne Julep which is sort of like a mint and champagne spritzer.

Photo courtesy of

Since we are watching the ladies run, Ms. Jeannie thought this was a more natural elegant choice for cocktails! Hopefully the guys will approve! Photo courtesy of

Because there is a filly running in the Oaks named Dreaming of Julia, Ms. Jeannie pulled out her Julia Child cookbook for the recipe Filets de Poisson Gratines, a la Parisienne (also known as Fish Filets Poached in White Wine  accompanied by a Cream and Egg Yolk Sauce).  Ms. Jeannie will be using sole fish – she thought this would be a clever take on the horse,  Golden Soul, who is also running in Saturday’s Derby.

If all goes well it will look like this…

Photo courtesy of

Fish fillets poached in white wine. Photo courtesy of

Accompanying the fish, will be crisp yellow and orange carrots sauteed in butter, honey and fresh rosemary alongside blanched asparagus for a little added crunch.  The carrots are a nod to another race runner, Goldencents, and all the colors hopefully will look nice and spring-like on the plates. This makes for four horses represented in just the main entree alone!

On the menu for dessert is Martha Stewart’s recipe for Frozen Lemon Mousse, which is like a frozen lemon ice cream cake. This recipe is a little time consuming , and takes a lot of lemons, but you can make everything up to two days ahead, so if you prepare in advance, then it is a breeze to pull out of the freezer on party day.

Frozen Lemon Mousse can be served individually via ramekins or in one big cake form and sliced into pie-shaped wedges. Photo courtesy of Click the photo for the recipe.

Frozen Lemon Mousse can be served individually via ramekins or in one big cake form and sliced into pie-shaped wedges. Photo courtesy of Click the photo for the recipe.

For the final bit of flourish after dessert, there will be a coffee tasting, which pays tribute to Derby runner, Java’s War. The tasting will be comprised of five different types of coffee including a Southern chicory blend.  Ms. Jeannie has never done a coffee tasting before and the idea came to her late in the night one night last week when she was supposed to be sleeping, so this is an experimental project. We’ll see how it goes!

The blends to be sampled are Organic French Roast (oh that the French theme!), Italian espresso with lemon rind, Starbuck’s Komodo Dragon, French Market’s Coffee & Chicory, and lastly, for anyone that wants to carry the cocktails into dessert, Irish Coffee. She’ll keep you posted on everybody’s favorite of the night.


This year, Ms. Jeannie has really fallen in love with floral crowns…

This is one example from pinterest - but they come in all shapes and sizes from thin and delicate to full and lush.

This is one example from pinterest – but they come in all shapes and sizes from thin and delicate to full and lush.

so instead of doing a traditional derby hat (and because she was too late in ordering one!), she is going to make a floral crown to compliment her yellow sundress. Floral crowns are kind of like a mix between an artistic fascinator (so popular last year) but with the broad coverage of a hat.

The confederate jasmine is just starting to bloom en-masse in her side yard…

Because confederate jasmine smells really pretty, Ms. Jeannie won't have to wear any perfume!

Because confederate jasmine smells really pretty, Ms. Jeannie won’t have to wear any perfume!

so she’ll use that as the base of her wreath and then incorporate a few roses from the garden. If you need a last minute hat, and like Ms. Jeannie’s idea, here is an easy video on how to make your own floral head crown.


She’s got a few hours left to figure out her music for the night. For some reason this year, Ms. Jeannie’s having a tough time with this aspect. She wanted to go with a traditional bluegrass, dixieland band kind of vibe but she just couldn’t find anything that was quite right. If you have any suggestions, please post them in the comment section. Worse comes to worse, she’ll set the table outside and let the birds provide a natural soundtrack!

Ms. Jeannie hopes that you have a wonderful Derby weekend and that all your favorites come in first. Cheers to a good run and a happy party!

I’ll Have Another Wins The Derby!

In case you missed it last night, Ms. Jeannie is proud to say that one of her picks, I’ll Have Another, won the Kentucky Derby!

I’ll Have Another wins the 138th Kentucky Derby!

It was a fabulous race! And I’ll Have Another surprised them all by sailing past Bodemeister to win by 1 1/2 lengths.

Hansen (Ms. Jeannie’s first favorite) was high-strung from the beginning, perhaps burning too much energy in the line-up. He ran well staying betwen 3rd and 4th position the whole race until he he lost steam in the end and finished 9th.

Purchased for $11,000 at the yearling sale, Southern California based, I’ll Have Another earned $1.459 million for his win at the Derby.  This is a first Derby win for Mexico born jockey, Mario Gutierrez, who learned how to ride horses from his father, also a jockey.

I’ll Have Another and jockey Mario Gutierrez

Now it’s on to Pimlico Racetrack in Maryland for the second phase of the triple crown. Ms. Jeannie hopes that I’ll Have Another, really will have another win in Maryland – it would be exciting to see! There hasn’t been a triple crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

Stay tuned – the next race is just two weeks away!

2012 Kentucky Derby Party Menu

When Ms. Jeannie spent a couple of years in a rented house on a horse farm in pastoral Pennsylvania, she fell under the spell of Derby fever.  She lived in PA at the exciting time of Smarty Jones’ run for the trifecta, when friends would host ‘Smarty Partys”  and the pride of a local hometwown horse victory could be felt miles around.

Smarty Jones headding to victory at the Preakness!

Smarty won the Kentucky Derby. Everybody cheered! Smarty won the Preakness by 11 1/2 lengths. Everybody was enraptured!  Smarty rounded the last quarter mile at Belmont in the lead. Everybody was anxious. He neared the finish line. Hearts were hopeful!  Birdstone made a run from behind. Smarty and Birdstone were neck and neck. Birdstone crept ahead. Birdstone wins the Belmont.  You could have cut the devastation in half that day. It seems everybody was rooting for Smarty – even Birdstone’s jockey apologized!

And that, dear ones, is what makes horse racing so exciting! You just never know what may happen until the very last second. Sports enthusiast or not, everyone can appreciate a good suspense story and that’s just what the Derby delivers, year after year.

With just a week and a half left until Derby day, Ms. Jeannie has party preparations on her mind.  Every year, she sticks to a few traditions and then adds new elements on top to keep her guests surprised.

Ms. Jeannie always starts the party planning process by watching her two favorite horse movies…

Next, Ms. Jeannie visits and reads up on all the entrants. Ms. Jeannie is a sucker for any horse that is white or has a great name. This year she has her eye on a few…

Hansen (aka the white one!)


And these creative namers:

Went The Day Well

Daddy Long Legs

I’ll Have Another

And, because she loves all things Irish, Ms. Jeannie is throwing an extra bet on the Donegal Racing Stables entrant…


The favorite of the race right now is Union Rags, who has had an impressive race history and comes from a long line of champions. Ms. Jeannie always like the underdogs the best though. So she’s going to stick with her top picks above. Although that Union Rags is one pretty cute horse!

Union Rags

Now that she has her favorites picked out, she can start her party planning.


Traditionally red roses would be the flower of choice for table decorations at any Derby party, but Ms. Jeannie likes to mix things up, so she’ll be using red clover flowers instead. They are blooming en masse in her side yard, and look so lovely and farmy that she can’t resist picking a few bucketfuls.

Red clover flower blossoms


The Corduroy Road was an Athens, GA based bluegrass/folk/Americana band that Ms. Jeannie first heard at an outdoor market a few years ago. She loved their twangy sound and old-fashioned lyrics, so much that she had them come play at her friends surprise birthday party.  Sadly, one of the two singers left the band to go to medical school, so they don’t play together anymore, but luckily they gave Ms. Jeannie some music before they said their goodbyes. So she treasures each song dearly and plays them often.  It is perfect party music, since it is subtle but upbeat. See for yourself… here’s one of their you tube videos…


When there is a horse running in the Derby with the name, I’ll Have Another, you just have to make them the star of the cocktail hour! Ms. Jeannie always serves Mint Juleps (tradition of course!) but this year she will also serve a new drink to match the bay color of I’ll Have Another. This drink is a Southerner’s delight, containing Jack Daniels whiskey (appropriate!), pecans, sherry and an intriguing  smoked element that can either be done on the grill or the stove.

Smoke Signals cocktail

Smoke Signals – Makes 4

  • 2 cups pecan wood chips (or hickory)
  • ice cubes
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
  • 10 tablespoons Jack Daniels Whiskey or 10 tablespoons other whiskey
  • 6 tablespoons amontillado sherry wine
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  1. Line heavy large pot with heavy-duty foil. Sprinkle wood chips over bottom of pot; cover. Turn exhaust fan on high. Heat pot over high heat until smoke begins to form inside pot. Fill 9 x 4 1/2 x 3-inch metal loaf pan with ice. Place in pot; cover tightly. Smoke ice until just melted, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool slightly. Cover loaf pan tightly with plastic wrap; freeze until firm, at least 6 hours. Using ice pick, cut ice block crosswise into *large* smoked ice chunks allowing 1 per glass. Wrap tightly in plastic and keep frozen.
  2. Bring 1 cup water and sugar to boil in medium saucepan over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add pecans; reduce heat to medium and simmer until syrup tastes like pecans, about 12 minutes. Strain; discard pecans. Cover and chill pecan syrup until cold, about 2 hours.
  3.  Place 5 tablespoons whiskey, 3 tablespoons Sherry, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 3 tablespoons pecan syrup in cocktail shaker. Fill with plain ice cubes; cover and shake until cold. Divide mixture between 2 old-fashioned glasses. Repeat with remaining 5 tablespoons whiskey, 3 tablespoons Sherry, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 3 tablespoons pecan syrup, and ice. Place 1 smoked ice chunk in each glass and serve.
In honor of all white Hansen, Ms. Jeannie will serve an assortment of white cheeses from Trader Joe’s. She is keeping appetizers low-maintenance this year since the Smoke Signals cocktail is a little more involved. Plus, everybody loves cheese and Trader Joe’s carries a wide variety from all over the world.
For the main course, carrying the Irish theme for Dullahan, Ms. Jeannie will make a Braised Brisket with a Bourbon Peach Glaze.  Of course the peach glaze, gives it a southern flair, but it retains its Irish roots by being braised in beer! Ms. Jeannie will also being using locally raised grass-fed beef, other than that she will follow the recipe exactly. If all goes well it look like this:

Braised Brisket with Bourbon Peach Glaze

For a side dish, Ms. Jeannie will make homemade, oven baked bistro french fries, which for the occassion, she will rename, Daddy Long Legs, after one of her favorite Derby contenders in the creative names category.

For the recipe click here Bistro French Fries with Parsley and Garlic

For a second side dish, Ms. Jeannie will make a wilted spinach salad with goat cheese, dried cranberries and toasted walnuts, along with a homemade white wine dressing.

She’ll throw a few loaves of crusty french bread on the table as well and call dinner done!

For dessert, she will carry the Went The Day Well theme and offer her guests a bountiful array of locally grown strawberries (now in season!), crumbled dark chocolate pieces, smoked almonds and espresso. If she planned correctly, her guests will have indeed felt that in fact the day went well!


What’s a derby party without a hat! Ms. Jeannie still needs to get her derby hat, so don’t you panic either, there is still a little time left. Etsy has a large selection, depending on your budget. Here are Ms. Jeannie’s favorites in the following price points:

Under $20.00

Ivory Rose Fascinator by CastleMemories – $18.00

Under $50.00

1970’s Picture Hat from the Vintage Hat Shop – $42.00

Under $60.00

Wide Brim Black Derby Hat by theoiginaltree – $54.99

Under $80.00

Hot Pink Fascinator by HatsByCressida – $80.00

Under $200.00

Blue Sinamay Derby Hat by daisyhere – $175.00

Or you if you are of the crafty sort, you can make your own homemade derby hat from things lying around the house or the craft store. Either way, you’ll look stunning!
If you have any Derby traditions you’d like to share, please send us a message or a photo!
Cheers to all you race fans!

The Week In Review: A Date With Julia, Washington DC and Finding A Lost Bird

Like the thrill and excitement of watching those horses speed around the track during the Kentucky Derby two Saturdays ago so was my trip racing around Washington D.C.. To follow-up from the post before this one, we did make it to D.C. just in time (with about 3 minutes to spare!) to meet up with friends, watch the Derby AND drink a mint julep. Perfect timing!

Always Dreaming! Photo courtesy of

If you missed the race Always Dreaming was the big Derby winner, leading the whole entire way from start to finish on a very muddy track. It was definitely a well deserved victory although I was really rooting for Patch the whole way, who wound up coming in 14th.  It appears as if no one else was dreaming about Always Dreaming as the first-to-line finisher in our blog contest either so the festivities continue on through the Preakness (this Saturday!) and into the Belmont (on June 10th).  Stay tuned this weekend to see if Always Dreaming wins part two of the Triple Crown!

Meanwhile, back in Washington the week fell in three parts…art, Julia and Virginia. The last time I spent more than a day in Washington D.C. I was 10 years old and visiting my oldest sister who lived and worked right in the heart of downtown. This time around I was staying on the Maryland side of the metro D.C. area.

With a view that began and ended each day like this…

Morning on the Potomac!


Evening on the Potomac!

it was hard to go wrong from the beginning. Add in the welcome committee…

quaking their way through news of the D.C. day… and it was lovely from day one.

Staying in such close proximity to the Capitol, I had mighty plans to see about 10 different sites throughout the city on this visit which included five museums, the Botanical Gardens, the Library of Congress, the Franciscan Monastery, the National Archives and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  I realize now on my return that this was totally ambitious, but I thought in my pre-trip planning days that if I was fast on my feet and spent only an hour or two at each place I might be able to fit it all in during a three day stretch. After all Charles Dickens did nickname this metropolis the City of Magnificent Intentions. Technically I was right on track.

Of course once I stepped through my first museum and saw all the intriguing things that lay ahead of me I realized that I would never be able to keep up with such a strict and rigorous time schedule. It only took me one museum to realize that Washington D.C. is best digested slow.

There is no room for frenzied pace setting or shy glances in this historic environment. From street to sky, everything in D.C. is fascinating whether you are walking on centuries old cobblestone in Alexandria or admiring architecture on Pennsylvania Avenue time is what you need plenty of in order to ingest the experiences of our past presidents.

This is the house where Lincoln died. It’s located right across the street from Ford Theater.

So that’s exactly what I did. I took some time. I abandoned my wish list of seeing everything fast, and focused on seeing a few things slowly. Highlights from the three museums I managed to get through are as follows…

At the National Portrait Gallery…

This famous portrait of Benjamin Franklin painted in 1785 hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. Because I had seen this picture a zillion times in books and all over the internet I thought I’d pop by, say hi and be on my way. But Ben had other plans. He was a wise 79 years old when he sat for this painting. And you can tell Ben’s got things to say from the second you see him.

The artist, Joseph-Siffred Duplessis translated an expression in Ben’s face that reads “Hey there, I have some interesting stories for you. Stay for a minute and I’ll explain.” And so I did, lured in by a magic painting spell.  All the achievements he accomplished, the foresight he had, the contributions he made to the forming of our country, swirled around in those eyes and that smile, ready to break at any moment. He was captivating in all the right ways.

That experience with Benjamin Franklin reinforced the fact that I couldn’t zoom past everything and expect anything to have an impact. There was so much significance in the air around me that I was going to have to slow down in order to appreciate it all.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery are both connected in the same building so you can cross over long hallways from the art museum to the portrait gallery in just a few steps. On the art museum side I found these favorites in the painting department…golden framed beauties covering two centuries  including a large scale John James Audubon bird painting from 1836…

Clockwise from top left: Angel by Abbott Handerson Thayer, 1875; Washington Sea Eagle by John James Audubon 1836-1839; Round Hill Road by John Henry Twachtman 1890-1900; Our Lady of Guadalupe by Pedro Antonio Fresquis 1780-1830

Downstairs on the ground floor I discovered colorful cafeteria art of the 1940’s…

which was from a series by Gertrude Goodrich titled Scenes from American Life (Beach) and which originally hung in the cafeteria of the city’s Social Security Building. I loved the bright colors and all the commotion going on – each figure in the painting has their own personality. Here are some up close snippets..

It really is a lively improvement from the food diagrams and nutrition charts found in most cafeterias today, don’t you think?

At the National Portrait Gallery – 

Just like my time spent with Ben, I was equally captivated by an exhibit called The Face of Battle: Americans at War from 9/11 to Now which featured intimate glimpses into soldier’s lives… black and white leisure portraits taken in camp, paintings of wounded soldiers in full uniform, photographs of deceased soldiers home-based bedrooms, a creative video piece of a casket returning stateside. As you can imagine it was really moving and very sad. One of the exhibits inside the exhibit was a 5,000+ piece collection of small wallet sized pencil drawings of American servicemen and women who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. This installation was completely hand-drawn by the American artist, Emily Prince. It took up three walls of one gallery and from a distance looked like a big Scrabble board. This is a snippet of one wall…

And upon color inspection…

And an even closer view below. This is just one example of the thousands Emily has hand-drawn. The exhibit is titled American servicemen and women who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, but not including the wounded, nor the Iraqis, nor the Afghans.  Read more about Emily and the project here.

We were visiting D.C. during the start of Police Week so uniformed men and women from all over the world were everywhere. At the airport, teams of officers six or eight to a group met flights as they came in containing passengers whose family had died protecting the country. The officers stood across from each other with arms raised in salute as people walked off each flight.  The officers recognized the families they were meeting either by Hero t-shirts or by camera phones recording the walk from the plane to the gate. It was bittersweet. Sad that people had died but wonderful that the military and our protective services were still honoring their contributions.

On a cheerier note…

at the Museum of American History…

a very special face was also on display. I was definitely determined not to leave Washington until I saw this lady and her famous kitchen…

Julia Child!

In an exhibit detailing the transformation of American food from the 1950’s to the 2000’s, Julia Child’s kitchen from her house in Cambridge, Massachusetts sat front and center.

It’s a little tricky to get good photos of it because the whole kitchen itself is sealed in. Small cut-outs covered in plexi-glass serve as viewing stations, so there is a little battle to be fought with glare from the plexi-glass and the fellow visitors who squish in to see. But you can get the idea of a 360 view (in parts!) from the following…

Everything in the kitchen is as Julia left it when she donated the entire room and all its contents to the Museum in 2001. It was full of surprising  little details including lots of cat art, a fridge full of magnets (she was was a fan of the King Arthur flour brand!), family photographs, a rubix cube tucked behind a telephone and all the little odds and ends that you can find in anybody’s kitchen famous or not. She had a junk drawer. She labeled things with masking tape and handwriting. She hung onto favorite pieces of equipment outdated or not.

As revered as Julia had become it is easy to see in this exhibit how normal and ordinary a person she actually was.  Her kitchen reflected that. It wasn’t photo-shoot ready. It wasn’t glamorous. Not everything had a place. Her cookbooks were used. Her counter tops were messy. But it was functional for the way she liked to cook. It was a fun play space for her and in turn it was a fun exhibit for me.  I think that is what still makes Julia Child so admired. She was an unpretentious lover of food and of cooking and her kitchen reiterates all that. The manner in which it is displayed there at the Smithsonian you can easily imagine that she just popped over into another room of the house, perhaps to fetch something for her husband Paul and that in any second she was going to come right back and get to cooking.  Aided by video monitors playing clips from her cooking shows around the exhibit, your imagination does not have to stretch far to picture her standing at the sink peeling potatoes or at the stove flipping omelettes.

There is a fun 5 minute video on youtube that explains how the museum staff takes care of her kitchen. It also gives you some up close behind-the-scenes info on specific items within the display.

Also in the History Museum was an interesting exhibit on the clothing worn by the First Ladies (mostly during inaugural balls or welcome receptions) and the china patterns that each selected for their White House term. The oldest in the collection of both dress and dish belongs, of course, to Martha Washington…

Clockwise from top: The entire display of china starting with Martha Washington and ending with Hilary Clinton. Bottom left: A dress Martha Washington wore from the 1780’s,  and the  banquet china pieces she and George used in their presidential mansions in  New York and Philadelphia.

Most of the china patterns were variations on a theme… gold bands/eagles/jewel tone colors, etc. but Lucy Webb Hayes, wife of President Rutherford B. Hayes commissioned an artist in the 1870’s to design a set of china that incorporated the flora and fauna of the United States. To this day, Lucy’s china pattern still remains the most creative of all the administrations.

That’s Lucy on the far left!

I may not have made it to the Botanical Gardens on this trip but to serious surprise and complete excitement equal to that of seeing Julia Child’s kitchen,  I stumbled into this big beauty in the gardens of the Natural History museum next door…

the passenger pigeon sculpture by Todd McGrain from the Lost Bird Project that we wrote about in 2013! She’s tucked inside a walled garden just off the street so I almost walked right by her. In the busy world of modern day urban life, she sits surrounded in the museum’s Bird Garden by flowers and real-life bird flocks flapping their wings here and there so she’s in a great spot. If you missed the post about the Lost Bird project and Todd’s mission to memorialize extinct birds catch up here.

Moving on from museums and spending time waterside in the fresh spring air, the charmer on top of our whole trip was spending half a day in Alexandria, Virginia. We had lunch on the wharf…

and then spent the afternoon walking around town in George Washington’s footsteps.

The first tenement house George and Martha built in 1797 for investment purposes.

Every street was cuter than the last. I definitely could have picked any one of those houses to live in. I even found my ideal car…

This is where George liked to eat!

We stopped into a local pub and met a local (imagine that!) who gave us a little verbal history tour through his town.

Murphy’s Pub

and we found the house where they filmed scenes from the PBS show Mercy Street…

So pretty! You can access Alexandria by car or ferry – both just a quick trip from D.C.. Like easily imagining Julia in her kitchen it is very easy to picture George and Martha Washington or Ben Franklin or any other early colonials walking down the historic streets. Everything is all brick and cobblestone, clapboard and flower boxes. History plaques make a self guided walking tour easy and your camera won’t stop clicking for all the pretty photo opportunities.

Since I didn’t make it to all the places on my original list that still leaves so much to do on future trips back to the D.C. area. I think you could live in this section of our country for two dozen years and still not see everything! But that’s what’s marvelous about Washington – it’s a never-ending series of new (old) places to discover upon every return.

Cheers to that! Or huzzah as our noble men Ben and George liked to say!

Vintage Recipes

Every month, we whip up a handful of vintage recipes from old cookbooks. Ranging from the 1920’s to the 1970’s these cookbooks run the gamut from timeless classics like Julia Child’s 1960’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking to lesser known but equally delightful niche cuisine like The Art of Greek Cookery brought to you by the ladies of St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church in 1950’s Long Island, New York.


These vintage recipes are a passion project in the land of the Vintage Kitchen because often times older cookbooks get covered up by newer, modern models. It’s true that you won’t find many gluten-free options or trendy foam infused foods or extraordinary diet conscious dishes like the recipes infiltrating the cookbook market today, but what you will find here in the Vintage Kitchen are meals designed around home-grown gardens, international interest and budget savvy planning. It’s simple fare, fresh food and seasonal eating at its most authentic, when cooking had to be both fuel for the body and flavor for the belly.

You can find all these vintage recipes in one of two ways here on the blog…

  • by whimsically browsing the Food & Wine section of the blog which organizes each recipe by the date it was published (most recent recipes first) or
  • by clicking on the following subjects below for more precise browsing…

Breads & Baked Goods


Soups & Salads



Beef & Pork




Step by step instructions and photographs help you along the way and backstories about the recipe, chef, cookbook or place of origin help paint a colorful picture of what you are about to eat and why. Some recipes even contain a little event pairing like Viva La Vintage: 1960’s Dinner and a Movie (Italian Style) or the annual Kentucky Derby dinner and race menus which change every year based on the colorful names of the runners.


If you have fallen in love with a particular recipe yourself or find that you have tried and then tweeked one of the recipes found here on the blog, please comment below, so that we can all learn (and cook!) together.

Cheers to history!  Bon Appetit to a great meal!

Cleared For Strange Ports: Traveling Abroad with the Roosevelt’s in the 1920’s

The Roosevelt's Cleared for Strange Ports

The Roosevelt’s Cleared for Strange Ports

Nepal! Kashmir! Siberia! Kenai! Travel in the early days of the 20th century was fraught with drama, romance and the unknown. No other American family traveled with such gusto to the most magical of places quite like the Roosevelts. Pursuers of big-game hunting, scouts for museum science collections and recordings of natural history carried both male and female members of the family around the world seeking exotic experience.

Theodore & Edith Roosevelt

Theodore & Edith Roosevelt 

Following the death of Theodore Roosevelt in 1919, his wife, Edith, escaped her grief and memories wafting around their Sagamore Hill house on Long Island, NY by traveling abroad to the most exotic of destinations. A collection of her travel experiences along with the equally thrilling escapades of other family members dating between 1920 and 1926 were collected in the now rare book..

Cleared For Strange Ports published in 1927.

Cleared For Strange Ports published in 1927.

Today we are going to take an intimate look into the journal-style writings of four members of the Roosevelt family who dared to travel to the farthest of far-off places. So grab your pith helmets and your binoculars dear readers, as we head back 90 years to see first-hand what it was like to ride an elephant in India, chase a tiger in Bhadravati and travel across frozen ground in Siberia.

“There was so much to see and think about – so many impressions to seize and try to hold forever, as the minutes raced by, all crammed with new sights. I prayed that passing years would not blur the brightness of memory, and that this wayside magic would remain with me a treasure-store, vivid and keen, for the years ‘when we are old and gray and full of sleep.’ “ – Belle Willard Roosevelt, 1926

Belle Wyatt Willard and Kermit Roosevelt

Belle Wyatt Willard and Kermit Roosevelt

Heiress Belle Wyatt Willard married Theodore and Edith’s son, Kermit. In 1926, she traveled to Kashmir with Kermit, her sister-in-law Ethel and Ethel’s husband Richard Derby. She wrote Ms. Jeannie’s most favorite entry in the book entitled: The Land Where The Elephants Are

Belle Wyatt Roosevelt on her Howdah Elephant

Belle Wyatt Roosevelt on her Howdah Elephant

” The long-line of elephants in solemn procession were a source of never-failing joy. There was always their preposterous conformation to ponder over; the enormous flapping ears and the ridiculous minute inquiring eyes; the strange toothless leer of the tusk-less ones; the great loose knees which turned outward with a baggy shuffle and the delightful incredible toe-nails. The whole massive gray bulk finished off by a spindle-tail with a thorny end gave such an inconsequential air to an otherwise dignified creature. The huge lumbered beasts stepped ever so carefully, a long trunk poked and felt about investigating every propitious spot before each foot was placed gently, softly with exact precision.” – B. W. Roosevelt, 1926

Crossing the river on the way to a tiger kill.

“Silently, alert and rigid, in anticipation we started off in single file, elephant behind elephant, in long line. The giant jungle grasses in many places waved some eight to ten feet above our heads as we stood upright in the howdahs. Below was a dense mass of lineas and thicket through which the elephants mowed their way, uprooting and tearing aside with their trunks any serious obstruction.” B.W. Roosevelt, 1926

Kermit Roosevelt (1889-1943)

Kermit Roosevelt (1889-1943)

Tragically Belle’s husband Kermit committed suicide in 1943, seventeen years after they traveled by the elephant train pictured above. An explorer from the very beginning, Kermit was a passionate hunter determined to understand the natural movements and motivations of animals, the environments they existed in and the impact they had upon culture. Nowadays with conservation hot and heavy on everyone’s mind it seems almost impossible to understand how anyone could shoot a tiger or a bear, chase down a wild pig or hunt game birds but thanks to the explorations of men (and women!) like the Roosevelts our knowledge of the natural world grew far beyond our own backyards.


“We were eager to get for the Field Museum as a representative a collection of Indian fauna as the limited time of our disposal would permit….These early morning stalks, although they netted us but little for the collection, were always a delight. You never knew what you might come across, as you slipped through the underbrush to pause at the edge of some forest-glade. The dewfall was heavy and in a half-hour you were drenched to the waist. We wore shorts so that there were no soggy trousers to cling to your knees and impede your going.” – Kermit Roosevelt, Balharshah, India 1925

The Roosevelts collected specimens for the Field Museum in Chicago which were incorporated into many exhibits within the museum including dioramas, many of which can still be seen on display today.

The Field Museum of Chicago's Ovis Poli diorama currently on display at the museum.  These specimens were  brought back by Theodore Roosevelt Jr. diorama. Photo via the Field Museum.

The Field Museum of Chicago’s Ovis Poli diorama currently on display at the museum. These specimens were brought back by Theodore Roosevelt Jr. Photo via the Field Museum.

Its important to note that all the animals hunted during these trips were killed for scientific collections and studies. Nothing was wasted or killed in vain and if hides were all that were needed to take home than meat of the animals was given to local villagers as food source.
mowgli picture

“To a student of “The Jungle Books,” the native nomenclature of the animals offered no difficulties, and we all felt at home chatting about Baloo the bear and bandars that swung through the trees ahead of the beaters; even Ming the bat was among those present.” – K. Roosevelt, India 1925

The Roosevelts were as well-read as they were well-traveled. Book references are mentioned over a dozen times within Cleared For Strange Ports showcasing how a good book can be just as thrilling an adventure as travel itself. Books even served as travel companions. Among the belongings of one Roosevelt safari was a 60 volume set of leather skinned classics that the Roosevelts were hoping would acquire a little bit of weathered patina upon their journey!

Safari camp set-up was explained by Belle…

“Our quarters were luxurious, a large double tent: two bathrooms for each couple; a dining tent, and a living-tent opening onto the great log fire, around which we sat after dinner under the stars.” – B. Roosevelt, India 1926

Ethel Carow Roosevelt & Richard Derby

Ethel Carow Roosevelt & Richard Derby

Surgeon Richard Derby married Ethel Carow Roosevelt (Kermit’s sister). When Richard traveled he not only took time to write down his thoughts on his surroundings but he also spent equal time photographing the landscape. One of the cameras he used during his travels was an Akeley motion picture camera, developed by Carl Akeley who traveled with Richard’s father-in-law Theodore Roosevelt in Africa. Richard contributed a gorgeous piece of writing in Cleared For Strange Ports about seeing Alaska in 1925…

Mountain range and moose sightings by Richard Derby

Mountain range and moose sightings by Richard Derby

“…and I saw the real Alaska – a country which lays its iron hand upon strong willed men and holds them in everlasting fealty, a country whose beauty and natural resources are so stupendous that man obeys its beckon and becomes its slave. Not a slavery of the soul, however, for Alaska only attracts the high-spirited romantic, developing his individuality and self reliance, and cultivating those traits which are only born of an eternal matching of wits with nature.” – Richard Derby, 1925 written on an Alaskan liner bound for Seward

Of course transportation wasn’t without its trials in these remote places. Kermit writes of his experience aboard the Trans-Siberian in 1925…

In Siberia

The Roosevelts in Siberia

“The wash room was frozen solid, but our porter was well used to such conditions, and came in brandishing a four-foot iron poker, with its end-heated red hot. This he rammed down the pipes and circulation was temporarily restored.” – K. Roosevelt, 1923, aboard the Trans-Siberian Railway

The weather in Siberia in the winter often times reaches in the -minus 60’s to 80′ s. Indeed it was a cold January when Kermit was there…

Edith Roosevelt in Harbin

Edith Roosevelt in Harbin

“It is true that the Russian bundles himself up well in furs, but even so it made us shiver to see the men and women sitting chattering on the benches along the streets, apparently as comfortably and unconcernedly as if they were enjoying a bock in front of Cafe de la Pain in July.” – K. Roosevelt, Harbin, 1924

In warmer climates like India it was the locals as much as the wildlife that made quite an impression…

Water Carriers in India

Water Carriers in India

“The women from near-by villages came swinging along with their brass water-bowls on their heads; when they had filled these and departed, the monkeys trooped down to drink, chasing away the lean pariah dogs who retired snarling. In the trees the gaudy peacocks screamed.” – K. Roosevelt, 1925

Paraguyan Market Posados, 1926

Paraguyan Market Posados, 1926

“And we stepped into a new life which I supposed was not to be found outside of books or cinema…” – Edith, Posados, Buenos Aires, 1927

In her passage about elephants Belle described riding through jungle as mythical, extraordinary and startling. There was no telling all at once what was scurrying, slithering or silently sitting in all that lush vegetation. The jungle unfolded around her scent by scent, step by step and sight by sight.

This is exactly what Ms. Jeannie experienced reading Cleared For Strange Ports. Endlessly fascinating her Roosevelt writers explained it all – the exotic travel experience unfolded page by page in poetic prose and incredible imagery.


The Roosevelts being fellow book lovers themselves would approve of this volume in particular. It contains the best of weathered patina – loose pages, foxing, an errant ink stain, that wonderful old book smell and various smudge stained paper. It’s lived a thrilling life – just like the Roosevelts!


If you are interested in reading Cleared For Strange Ports, please visit Ms. Jeannie’s shop here. And if any readers have visited the Field Museum in Chicago, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the Roosevelt collections!