Shannon at K&A

Backyard Concert Tour Featuring Shannon Curtis

If you haven’t heard of singer/songwriter Shannon Curtis then I’m thrilled to be the one to introduce her!

Her songs take you on a dream pop journey of romance and raw emotions, guaranteed to stir the soul.

I saw her in concert for the first time two years ago in the backyard of my dear friends Kelly and Angela.

Yep. The backyard!

As an independent artist, Shannon has traded the traditional concert scene for intimate house shows hosted by fans.  During summer months she tours the United States and Canada along with her husband Jamie (Independent Music Awards nominated Producer of the Year).

If you get on her email list, she might even come to YOUR house.

But, as I was saying, a couple years ago she performed here in Boise and I fell in love with her music.  The following year I brought my best friend Brittany.  And now this year, Shannon performed not only in Kelly and Angela’s backyard, but also in Brittany’s!

Two concerts in two days? Yep. I’m a full-fledged fan.

The first show was at K&A’s.

Shannon Curtis at K&A's

Shannon and Angela met many years ago when Shannon toured through Boise with a different band and have stayed in touch through the years.

Angela, Patri and Shannon

Fun fact: one of the songs on the album Personal Songs Volume 1 (“The Depot”) is about K&A!

Shannon in K&A's backyard


The next night Shannon played at Brittany’s.

Shannon Curtis at Brittany's

When Brittany introduced Shannon she just about made the entire audience cry by talking about how special Shannon’s music was to her and how she had found it during particularly difficult time in her life.

Britt introduces Shannon

Isn’t it amazing how music influences us?

Shannon performs at Brittany's

The audience

I highly recommend that you take a minute to listen to Shannon’s current album on her website (and check out her previous albums on iTunes).  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Distillery No. 209

No. 209 Gin

My friends at BevMo! recently sent me a goody package.  I eagerly tore into it and was thrilled to find a bottle of No. 209 Gin!  I recognized it immediately because, funny story, back in 2011 I actually toured the distillery in San Francisco.  Nick and I were visiting our friends James and Crystal, and at the time James was a manager at Dean & DeLuca, a company whose family also owns Distillery No. 209.

James surprised us with the tour and we had the opportunity to see the huge copper alembic pot still used during the distillation process, as well as the shed containing the varied and fragrant botanicals that give the gin its distinctive character.  We also spent some pleasant time taking in the San Francisco Bay outside on the pier.  Sadly I didn’t snap any photos, which is a shame because in addition to being a beautiful location, it’s also unique in that it’s the only distillery built over a body of water.

Back to the present.  After opening the package, I immediately contacted James (who by this point was living in Boise) to let him know that I had received some No. 209 Gin and would he like to drink it with me sometime soon?

I set up a little drinking station which included the No. 209 Gin, tonic, and botanicals, all of which were provided for me in the goody package.  I also donned the t-shirt they sent me, which Nick stole later that night as it was clearly too big and manly for me (I have to mention though that it is super soft and I would totally wear it at the cabin).

Gin and Tonics

Once James arrived we wasted no time fixing ourselves some premium Gin & Tonics. Because I’m an oenophile who is generally unfamiliar with describing the experience of fine liquor, I’ll let the tasting notes I was provided do the talking:

No. 209 opens with a beautifully aromatic nose of predominately citrus and floral notes with a hint of spiciness.  First across the palate are the citrus high notes, with lemon predominate followed by a hint of orange.  As the spirit warms in the mouth, delicate floral notes are liberated from the bergamot and coriander.  Mid palate, there is a pepper-like warmth from the emerging cardamom and juniper with a wonderful counterpoint from the mint-like components of the cardamom.  As the gin passes the pate, the cassia and other warm spice notes become prominent.  The cassia in particular will linger in the aftertaste, encouraging another sip.

To be labelled and sold as gin, the predominant flavor of the drink must be juniper (no secret to anyone who has ever tasted it).  No. 209 is no exception, but the juniper doesn’t overwhelm every sip – citrus and cardamom pop up nicely.  James kept referring to the cardamom as a key element and source of enjoyment for him and it was fun to have the botanical jars as a scratch and sniff tool.

The botanicals are sourced from many different places around the world.  The juniper berries and bergamot orange are from Italy, coriander comes from Romania, lemon peel from Spain, cassia bark from Indonesia and the cardamom comes from Guatemala.

Botanical jars


Cardamom and juniper

Cassia bark, Bergamot orange peel, lemon zest

I had a great time hanging out and drinking delicious gin with a good friend.  We even had a little left to share!

If you can’t find No. 209 locally, visit BevMo!  You can also find No. 209 Kosher-for Passover gin and vodka AND I just found out that they have Barrel Reserve Gins, a Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, both of which I need to try, because wine.

One last thing:

Cherry Pie Martini*Cherry Pie Martini

2.5 ounces Distillery No. 209 Gin
½ cup DOLE dark sweet frozen cherries
1 ounce cherry juice
1 ounce Torani vanilla syrup

Directions: Fill a martini shaker with the gin, cherry juice, and vanilla syrup. Add the frozen cherries as a replacement to ice cubes and shake until the ingredients are well mixed. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a few of the cherries from the shaker.

*Photo and recipe provided by BevMo!

Ste. Chapelle

Ste. Chapelle Winery

There are wineries that I view through glasses of nostalgia and sentiment.  Some I visited on my honeymoon or on vacations.  One is close to home, probably the most well-known in Idaho, and that is Ste. Chapelle Winery.

My history with Ste. Chapelle goes back to my twenties.  I wasn’t really a drinker at that time, having only the occasional light beer (usually Bud Light) and if I was out dancing I might indulge in a Kamikaze shot.

I know.  Hardcore.

Then in the summer of 2004 I found myself living in a house that had grape vines growing up and over the patio and, naturally, my roommates and I decided to make wine.

Or buy it, whatever happened first.

There we were, wine newbies, with no idea what was what, looking at a sea of wine bottles at our usual grocery haunt.  My eye caught the Ste. Chapelle label and I thought, I know that place!  My mom had danced at events at the winery in years past and shared the experiences with me. So, I grabbed the bottle off the shelf and brought it home to share.

That happened to be a bottle of Soft Chenin Blanc, which is now known as Soft White.

Soft White is a blend of Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat Blanc.  It’s sweet, easy drinking and low in alcohol.

I drank a lot of it that summer and it was my gateway into the world of wine.

Ah, memories.

Fast forward to 2010.  Nick and I are engaged and ready to take photos.  After telling our photographer we’re having a wine country honeymoon, she suggests we choose Ste. Chapelle for our setting.  We agree and end up getting beautiful pictures that fill our wedding guest book.

Guest Book Pages

Fast forward again to a few weeks ago when I found myself out in Idaho’s Snake River Valley wine county with my friend and fellow blogger, Jessica Wyman, looking for an open winery.


Ste. Chapelle

We decided to do some tasting and secret project scouting. Yeah.  I haz a secret. Haha!

As you drive into the grounds it is impossible not to notice how gorgeous it is out there.  The beautiful entrance gives way to a big park area and the tasting room.



Tasting Room

The tasting room itself is in the round building.  It’s a wide open space with a bar that can accommodate many tasters, and of course there is a large gift shop.

At the counter Jessica and I were greeted by a cheerful wine host.  $5.00 buys your choice of five wine tastings from an extensive selection and your choice of a stemmed or stemless take-home glass.  There are also reserve wines that you can taste for an additional $1.00.   I tasted the following:

2012 Sauvignon Blanc, subtle on the nose and palate with hints of citrus and a crisp clean finish. B

2012 Snake River Cabernet Sauvignon, jammy on the nose and toast on the palate, a breakfast wine.  Brunch if that makes you more comfortable.  B

2010 Winemakers Series Syrah, this was the full bodied star of the show.  Wonderful berry smell which translates on the tongue with light and a nice long finish. A-

I also tasted two dessert wines, the Late Harvest Riesling and the Almond Roca Cream Wine (which is AH-mazing).  Fun facts:

The Late Harvest Riesling is simulated in-house in the style of ice wine, but Idaho has not had an ice wine season since 2007.

Almond Roca Cream Wine is produced at Ste. Chapelle for the Chocolate Shop (as they are both owned by Precept Wine) and I’m told is excellent as a shot in your coffee, in French toast batter, or poured over ice cream and brownies.

Yeah. I’m going to need to try all of the above.

Oh. And then this happened:

Wine Jello Shots sign

Doing Wine Jello Shots

Looks like some things never change.  I’m still doing shots!

After the tasting we lingered for a while, browsing the gift shop and the event space above the tasting room.

Ste Chapelle Collage

Then we went out to the park area and took in the scenery.


It is lovely at Ste. Chapelle Winery and because they are such a big part of the Idaho wine industry, producing around 130,000 cases a year, there is something for just about everyone so I highly recommend visiting.

*Photo Credit for our guest book: Jayme Montoya Photography

Featured Image

How to Dice an Onion without Crying

Some people learn the basics of cooking through their mother, grandmother, or even home economics class (do they still teach that?).


I picked up the basics from a South African woman while living in a missionary school in Ireland!

Yes, you read that right.

It was an amazing time for me and maybe someday I’ll tell you all about it.  But today, I’m going to share a trick I learned during that time that has saved me many tears over the years.

Here’s what you’ll need:

An onion

A cutting board

A knife (I like to use a small utility knife, but it’s just a matter of preference, a longer slicing knife or chef’s knife works)

Here is what you'll need

Step 1: Cut off the tip of the onion.

Step 1 remove the tip

Step 2:  Place the freshly cut side of the onion down on the cutting board.

Step 2 onion on board tip end down

Step 3:  Slice it in half through the bottom.

Step 3 cut in half

Step 3 onion cut in half

Step 4:  Place the onion on the cutting board with the newly sliced side down.

Step 4 onion slice side down

Step 5:  Peel off the dry outer layer of the onion skin.

Step 5 onion skin off

Step 6: Slice through the onion vertically beginning in the middle and working your way out.

Step 6 slice vertically

Step 6 continuing  vertical slicing

Step 6 slicing vertically

Step 6

Step 7: Slice horizontally from the top to bottom.

Step 7 slicing horizontally

Step 7 slice horizontally

Step 7 onion sliced horizontally

Step 8:  Discard bottom and repeat with the other half.

Step 8 start on the other half

Step 8 remove skin

Step 8 slice vertically

Step 8 slice horizontally

Diced onions

Onions diced


TAH-DAH! You’re not crying!  And you’ve got a nicely diced onion ready for use.

In the hot air balloon

A Hot Air Balloon Ride in Pictures

Recently Nick and I went on a hot air balloon ride!  It was a much anticipated event as we had been trying to get in the balloon for some time, but due to weather we had to keep rescheduling.  Finally, after three failed attempts and two summer seasons, we went up!

Here is how our little adventure unfolded:

Balloon pic 1

Balloon pic 2

Balloon Pic 3

Balloon Pic 4

Balloon Pic 5

Balloon Pic 6

Balloon Pic 7

Balloon Pic 8

Balloon Pic 9

Balloon Pic 10

Balloon Pic 11

Balloon Pic 12

Balloon Pic 13

Balloon Pic 14

Balloon pic 15

Balloon Pic 16

We landed safely and softly.

If you ever have the chance to take a balloon ride, I highly recommend it!