Posts in Books
Connaisez-Vous Sharon Santoni?

I heard distant rumblings about Sharon Santoni from her first book, My Stylish French Girlfriends, then she was featured in the May/June 2018 Victoria Magazine, sharing with us her just-released second book, My French Country Home, and her gracious taste in French country living in Normandy, France, and I was hooked. 

Sharon Santoni grew up in England, fell in love, married a Frenchman, raised their four children in a rural dream home and cultivated garden, and embraced her French life. Soon to be an empty nester, Santoni got the idea to start a blog, My French Country Homesharing her daily life in rural France and all that it offers.

Fast forward, her blog is now read by thousands all over the world, two beautiful books under her belt, and an accidental entrepreneur with her quarterly subscription mail order Stylish French BoxFrom spark to fire, sometimes life is like that! She muses frequently  about reinventing oneself, lessons we can all learn from her.

If that is not enough, Santoni loves to troll nearby brocante flea markets for unique treasures for her home, garden, and entertaining. She is my kind of girlfriend!


Victoria Magazine, May/June 2018

New Pocket Guide to Poultry Breeds
“Photography by © Adam Mastoon, from   Poultry Breeds  , © by Carol Ekarius, used with permission from Storey Publishing.”   

“Photography by © Adam Mastoon, from Poultry Breeds, © by Carol Ekarius, used with permission from Storey Publishing.”



This is a great time to scour your seed catalogs and make your "seed wish list" for this spring and summer. If you raise chickens, like I do, this is also a great time to check out online hatcheries for specialty breed day-old baby chick selections. Poultry Breeds by Carol Ekarius is a great new pocket size book that gives you a lot of information at your finger tips. Ekarius describes 104 essential poultry breeds and their attributes, along with beautiful photos.

As I mention in my book, Gardening with Free-Range Chickens for Dummies (Wiley 2013)chicken breeds are as diverse as dog breeds, so do your research on what types of chicken breeds will work best for your and your family's lifestyle, location, and specific desire for raising chickens.

I have two remaining hens, Copper Penny and Amelia, from my original flock of ten chicks in 2012. Some of my flock I gave away to good homes, and some passed on with shorter life spans. Copper Penny and Amelia have ended their egg drought recently, having molted and stopped laying for about 8 weeks. With increasing day lengths and turning 5 years old this May, it is really amazing. I won't get eggs everyday at this age, but their eggs are golden. My seasoned hens will help with my new pullets (young hens) this spring, showing them the ropes around the chicken coop and garden.

I am currently looking at some of the more uncommon poultry breeds, supporting the Heritage Poultry Conservancy. Lifestyle expert, P. Allen Smith, at his Moss Mountain Farm in Arkansas, is a great advocate and enthusiast for heritage poultry conservancy. Three great online hatcheries I recommend to order a variety of day-old baby chicks are: My Pet Chicken,  McMurray Hatcheryand Cackle Hatchery. Hurry, as I see many breed selections are sold out for the time being or have limited availability already this spring.

Remember, "Love Thy Chickens, and Keep on Clucking!"


Legend, Lunch & Lemon Dressing
Outside Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, California

Outside Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, California

Last August 2016, I finally found myself outside the hallowed Chez Panisse Restaurant and Cafe in Berkeley, California. Founded in 1971 by Alice Waters and a few other like-minded friends, the food principles that perpetuate this eating establishment have changed our food culture forever in this country.

Alice Waters, food activist and food icon, has taught has us the value and pleasure of eating locally, supporting our artisan farmers, eating seasonally, supporting food sustainability, and igniting the concept of school gardens for our children.

I meet Alice Waters at Chinos Farms, part of their Good Food, Great Chefs events for the celebration of her latest cookbook, The Art of Simple Food II. 

Meeting Alice Waters at Chinos Farm, Rancho Santa Fe, December 2013

Meeting Alice Waters at Chinos Farm, Rancho Santa Fe, December 2013

Over the years, Alice Waters has mentored many talented floral designers, talented chefs, and cookbook authors such as David Liebowitz and Joanne Weir who worked, trained, and enhanced their careers at Chez Panisse.

Alice Waters has influenced me. She has that gift to inspire and motivate others. When I read food books about Paris and Provence, occasionally I run across her name and presence. The week after I visited Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, Alice Waters was actually cooking in Thomas Jefferson's kitchen for an event. She has inspired me to grow as much of my own food as possible, be sustainable, and eat seasonally.

Cafe Water Carafe Etched "Chez Panisse"

Cafe Water Carafe Etched "Chez Panisse"

Lunch was delightful and delicious, needless to say. The entire time I kept savoring details of lunch, the table, the clientele, and the setting. I share with you now Alice Water's Creamy Meyer Lemon Dressing I had that special day over bright green billowy bibb lettuce .

Creamy Meyer Lemon Dressing

Makes about 1/2 cup. This is a creamy dressing that coats lettuce in a luscious way. The flavor is light and sprightly filled with lemon juice and zest. Alice Waters especially likes it on sweet lettuces such as butterhead or romaine or a mix of small chicories and radicchio.

Stir together in a large bowl: 1 Tbsp. Meyer lemon juice, 1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar, grated zest of 1 Meyer lemon, salt, and fresh-ground black pepper.

Taste and adjust as needed. Whisk in: 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, and 3 Tbsp. heavy cream. Taste for salt and acid and adjust as needed.


Lunch in Provence Cooking Classes!

I Have a Place Setting for You and Friends!

I Have a Place Setting for You and Friends!

Many thanks for everyone's interest and enthusiasm in the "Lunch in Provence" Cooking Classes. Perfect to treat yourself, a special friend, or loved one for a birthday, milestone, or to just experience a relaxing day in South France.

There are still a few place settings available for the Thursday, October 6, 2016 "Autumn in Provence" cooking class and the Thursday, November 10, 2016 "Que Syrah, Syrah" cooking class, see FALL CLASS SCHEDULE DETAILS.


Carolyne Roehm, Garden Glamour
Carolyne Roehm Signing Books After Her Presentation

Carolyne Roehm Signing Books After Her Presentation

The Prado at Balboa Park was the perfect setting for a rare San Diego visit last week by one of America’s most important tastemakers, Carolyne Roehm.  Roehm has been a part of American design culture for decades with career chapters in fashion, gardening, entertaining, publishing, and decorative arts.

Currently traveling the country promoting her latest book, Carolyne Roehm at Home in the Garden, The Village Garden Club of La Jolla was pleased to present Carolyne Roehm as this year’s “Meet the Master” grand event.  

“Meet the Masters” was inspired by one of the club’s founders, Adrienne Green, and is held yearly in her honor. Each year The Village Garden Club of La Jolla brings world-class floral designers to San Diego to speak and demonstrate their master floral creations. This educational event is a gift to the club’s members, the greater San Diego Community, and beyond.

Beautiful, stunningly statuesque, and dressed in a bone-colored monochromatic pant suit, Roehm spoke to over 230 devoted luncheon attendees in a warm and charming manner about her 33 years of personally creating and refining the pastoral lands, gardens, and ponds on her historic 1765 property in Connecticut called Weatherstone.

Roehm shared her incredible life’s ups and downs, paralleling her Weatherstone property’s ups and downs, often using metaphors between life and a garden.  One common thread throughout her life has been her love affair with flowers, and “a garden is a canvas for making colors, textures, and shapes.” Her passion for flowers is what drives her garden philosophy. She carries her garden palette, what she is planting, tying it through to her table, dishes, and what works best with what.

Roehm ended her presentation with one of her favorite quotes from Frank Lloyd Wright, “Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature.  It will never fail you.”

A timely article from One King's Lane visits Carolyne Roehm at her Weatherstone home. For more information, visit Carolyne Roehm.

Entrance to The Prado, Balboa Park

Entrance to The Prado, Balboa Park

Paris, Provence, Patricia Wells

DSC_0026 Patricia Wells has a new cookbook out, The French Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Lessons from Paris and Provence. Last weekend, Owner and Founder, Susan McBeth's Adventures by the Book hosted culinary legend Patricia Wells at Torrey Pines Lodge. Check out Adventures by the Book, you'll never go to another regular book signing again. McBeth features what I call value-added creative author interactive book events, such as author-guided travel, fund raising, intimate dinners, receptions, and more.

Wells is delightful in person, very warm and friendly. She spoke briefly to local fans on some of her guidelines, principles, and tips she showers her students with during her week-long cooking classes in her Paris kitchen studio or her 18th century Provencal farmhouse. Wells has had a very storied culinary career with many accolades, four James Beard Awards amongst her many cookbooks to start, but what I cherish about her is her willingness to share all that she knows about Paris, Provence, and her food world. Who her favorite cheese monger is, her favorite chefs, her favorite wines from all regions, her favorite markets--I could go on and on. The French Kitchen Cookbook is filled with delightful recipes that urge you to make them now. Wells also shares many of her personal styling tips and kitchen suggestions that are fabulous.

I have been extremely delighted with her suggestions through her articles and books over the years, and have used her recommendations for the backbone of my Provence itineraries. One such adventure was eating at Le Bistro du Paradou Provence, Karma or Coincidence, and having a chance encounter with Princess Caroline of Monaco.

Ironically, after being a long time devotee of Wells, she and I are both coincidentally in the magical book, Lunch in Provence that was published fall 2012, by coauthors Jean-Andre Charial and Rachael McKenna. Wells wrote the engaging introduction, and I am serendipitously quoted in the book on the radiating beauty of Provence. This I know for sure, "like attracts like" and we both share passion for Paris, Provence, and delicious food.

Deborah Madison's Book Signing at Chino Farm










If you love to grow and eat vegetables, you are going to love Deborah Madison's new vegetable bible called, Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom, with over 300 Deliciously Simple Recipes. On Sunday, October 6, 2013, the world famous Chino Farm right in our San Diego backyard, presented Deborah Madison as part of their ongoing Good Earth Great Chefs series. Look for Alice Waters and Kermit Lynch's event at Chino's on December 7, 2013, 11:00am to 1:00pm.

This event was more than a book signing. Deborah had personally selected a recipe from her book, "Corn Simmered in Coconut Milk with Basil, served with Coconut Basmati Rice," for lucky attendees to sample. An additional unexpected surprise was lightly grilled shishito peppers and sweet potato leaf as garnish. San Marcos Stumblefoot Brewing Company provided the perfect beverage accompaniment.

Madison's book is as beautiful as it is massive. Instead of presenting her vegetables by season, she has grouped them by families. She shows us how vegetables by family have remarkable similarities, and can be interchanged in recipes. She also explains how the pairing of similar family vegetables, also share the same culinary characteristics, too. I love how she explains vegetables, first hand from her own gardening experience.


Madison is the author of eleven cookbooks, and is considered an authority on vegetables. In the few minutes I shared with Deborah Maidson, I sensed a peaceful spirituality about her, yet strong-mindedness to pursue issues of biodiversity and sustainable agriculture. It was a pleasure to meet her in person.

Please don't forget about my own upcoming book signing, Gardening with Free-Range Chickens for Dummies. RSVP and more details at  San Diego Botanic Garden, 230 Quail Drive, Encinitas, this Saturday, October 12, at 10:00am- 11:30am.

What I Am Reading These Days

Gardening for the Birds If you are looking for help attracting more beautiful birds and butterflies into your garden, take a look at George Adams' new book, Gardening for the Birds: How to Create a Bird-Friendly Backyard George Adams is not only the author, he is an artist including his pen and ink drawings, and contributing colorful photography, too.

This book is well-organized into four sections that systematically provide you incredible amounts of information to help you create a bird-friendly garden, plants with purpose for birds, and regional bird directories.

I particularly liked the detailed calendar for seasonal fruiting by region. I have never seen anything like this before. Adams stresses that planting native plants and trees for your region is key in attracting birds. This is a great guide for studying and reflecting over in a comfortable chair.  I wouldn't necessarily want to carry it around with me in my garden. It is visually attractive and superbly detailed  with charts and listings with keys such as nesting plants, shelter plants, nectar for butterfly plants, host plant for butterflies, fall color, showy flowers, and more.

My only disappointment in this book, is that I absolutely love it when a covey of quail venture onto my property and into my garden. I consider it a magical day, and simply love their presence, sounds, and their quirky behavior. I would like to attract more quail, more frequently, and Adams briefly mentioned quail only once in the book, and that they are ground dwellers.

I would recommend George Adams' book, Gardening for the Birds (Timber Press), for all of you who would like a more bird-friendly garden.

The Roses at the End of the Road Pat Leuchtman is one of my garden writing friends and blogs at Common Weeder . She lives in the country down a dirt road in Heath, Massachusetts. This is a gardening region vary different from mine here in Southern California.

I have enjoyed her book, as it is a lively memoir of her life, family, and gardening. Although her book has distinct chapters, this book is a beautiful read about "a life well lived."

I always knew Pat loved her roses, but now I know how this came to be, and how her Annual Rose Viewing was born. A delightful read for those that love roses and especially for me, since I know Pat and her kindness. You can purchase her book, The Roses at the End of the Road at Common Weeder.

Gardening with Free-Range Chickens for Dummies

51DJ+VHcuBL._SY300_ Hot off the press! My new book, Gardening with Free-Range Chickens For Dummies (For Dummies (Home & Garden)) with coauthor, Rob Ludlow of, is now available on amazon and in bookstores. You can order the book now from my right side bar below. Please tell all of your chicken-loving friends! Gardening with chickens is a great way to create sustainability in your garden, enhance your soil, eliminate pests and weeds, produce a delicious home-grown protein source, and all the while--be amused by these little "garden warriors." We give you basic animal husbandry elements needed to provide a healthy environment for chickens, what you and your family should expect if you are new to chickens, and how your garden will be enhanced with the addition of chickens. We focus on garden basics, and how to create a beneficial garden where chickens will be happy, healthy, and thrive. We help you understand garden structure, layering, and how to create an ornamental garden as well as an edible garden for you and your chickens.

We provide all different plant lists and purposes which are helpful for chickens free-ranging in your garden. We help you understand what is good to feed your chickens, and what is potentially harmful. We also help you with deterring predators with common sense management, innovative products, and specialty fencing.

We're excited to share our new book with all of you, whether you are new to chickens, new to gardening, or already experienced in both. Stay tuned as we launch the book!