Month: September 2009

Turkey, Bacon, Avocado Rollup Appetizers

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These roll-up snacks are delicious.  People seem to love them, and often ask me to bring them to their parties.  They are pretty simple to make, although some of the prep (like cooking the bacon) is a little time-consuming.  You don’t have to be exact on the amounts of the ingredients, but here is a general guideline.


Package of large flour tortillas

Package of cream cheese

Bunch of lettuce (I like romaine) (washed and dried)

1-2 lb. sliced deli turkey

Package of bacon

2-4 avocados (diced)

Plastic wrap

Cook bacon to really crispy (I usually cook it in the microwave for maximum crispiness), then line up ingredients in the order that they’re listed above.  Spread thin layer of cream cheese on tortilla, place a leaf of lettuce on top, then a few slices of turkey, then a handful of avocado pieces, and then crumbled bacon (I place the majority of ingredients toward one end, making it easier to roll).  Roll tortilla starting from one end, then wrap it securely in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator.  Do this with remaining ingredients.  Chill for about 2-3 hours.  Just before serving, remove plastic wrap and cut into rolls, about ½ to 1-inch thick. Arrange and serve.  Note: these are best when you prepare them about 2 to 3 hours before serving them (keeps bacon crispy and avocado green).


Charming Carpinteria – Beachy Fun

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One of my favorite places to spend the day is the charming beach city Carpinteria (located between Ventura and Santa Barbara).  The main part of town is Linden Avenue, which leads to the beach and features several restaurants, antique shops, and little stores.  It’s also where you find the train station and the cute little historic (circa 1904) Prufrocks Garden Inn (600 Linden Ave., the only Bed & Breakfast in town. 

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(From left): Carpinteria Beach; view from beach up Linden

Carpinteria is dubbed “the world’s safest beach,” because it’s in a protected cove with calm waves and terrain.  It also has a campground right next to the beach. 

 One of the fun local spots is Island Brewing Company.  Located off Linden at the railroad tracks, the microbrewery features an indoor and outdoor setting, and six great beers (my favorite is the Island Blonde – light and fresh).  My husband and I like to sit outside, where we can view the railroad tracks, campground, and ocean.  The weather has been perfect every time we’ve gone – sunny, with a light beach breeze. 

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(Top) views of Island Brewing Company; (Bottom, from left) inside brewery; Island Blonde 

We also like Cabo’s Baja Grill & Cantina (5096 Carpinteria Ave., 805-684-5507).  The atmosphere is fun and tropical – you can sit in or outside (I prefer outside) – and the food is great (the menu’s pretty extensive so it can be hard to choose).  I’ve had Cabo Mucho Platter (which had a little bit of a lot of different things – tri-tip, grilled skewered shrimp, chicken, served with beans, rice, cabbage, salad, and corn tortillas – way too much food for one person).  I’ve also had the chicken fajitas (sautéed with bell peppers and onion, pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole, flour tortillas, whole pinto beans and rice).  There’s also chips and salsa, and great margaritas.

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(From left) Views of outside of Cabo’s; strawberry Margarita

 Another good restaurant that locals rave about is Zookers (5404 Carpinteria Ave.,  When we were there, my husband and I split an amazing Cioppino (Italian stew with mussels, clams, shrimp, scallops, fresh fish, spicy tomato sauce) and a Coleman Farms Caesar salad (fresh Carpinteria grown organic romaine, croutons, fresh grated parmesan, and Caesar dressing).

Pretty Flower Box Favors

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These make great favors for a bridal or baby shower (or a wedding).  They are elegant and simple to make.  You just need mini boxes, ribbon, silk flower heads, and a glue gun.  Fill them with candy (such as foil-covered heart chocolates).

Spicy Tropical Floral Arrangement

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This cute and simple little arrangement adds some spice and a tropical twist to your table.  All you need is a simple mixed bouquet of tropical looking flowers (or flowers and greens from your yard) and a few bell peppers (if you have some pieces of floral foam it’s easier to arrange and lasts longer).  Hollow out the peppers (and put pieces of water soaked floral foam inside) and assemble the flowers.

Shrimp Scampi

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12 ounces of penne pasta

1 pound of shrimp (precooked, thawed)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

4 cloves garlic, sliced (or more if you love garlic)

1 cup white wine

Juice from 1 lemon

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon basil

½ to 1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper (or more if needed)

Fresh basil leaves (to garnish)

             Cook pasta, drain, and return to pot along with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter.  Mix, cover, set aside.  In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil.  When hot, add garlic, precooked shrimp.  Cook about 2 to 3 minutes.  Add white wine, lemon juice, basil, oregano, salt and pepper, and stir.   Cook about 2 to 3 minutes more.  Remove from heat.  Add shrimp mixture to pot with pasta and stir together.  Garnish with fresh basil leaves.

Fun Stuff to Do in Vegas

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Some of the popular things to do in Las Vegas are a given: gambling; seeing shows; eating; drinking; people watching; shopping; swimming/sunning; nightclubbing; the water fountain show at the Bellagio; etc.  While my husband and I like most of those things, here are a few other fun things we’ve done on our various Vegas trips (some of these might be a given also, but oh well).

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Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay

My husband and I are suckers for aquatic displays – especially ones that feature sharks.  We used to live in Monterey, where we were members and frequent visitors of its famous aquarium.  So, naturally, we have visited the one in Vegas.  It was just as an aquarium should be: all the fishes and other creatures (such as crocodiles, octopuses, Komodo dragon, piranhas, etc.) in their places, and a dark and eerie shark exhibit, which surrounds you.  It’s chilling to see sharks swimming overhead.  Visit

 Gondola Ride at the Venetian

Touristy, but still, we had to do it.  We, being Italian, love all things Italian, no matter how cheesy or goofy.  When in Rome (or Venice) … The gondoliers actually sing to you as you glide through the shallow canals, under bridges and through center of The Grand Canal Shoppes.  The canal is surrounded by cobblestone walkways and several shops (selling gifts, apparel for women, men, children, shoes, jewelry, and specialty items), art galleries, and restaurants (where you can dine “outside” beneath streetlamps and charming facades).  Everything is situated under a very real-looking faux sky with fluffy clouds.  There are street performers and Living Statues.  This place is truly unique (The Venetian in general is my favorite place in Vegas).  Visit



 Rollercoaster at New York, New York

I don’t really like roller coasters, but my husband loves them.  So, I agreed to go on this one.  I even let him talk me in to sitting in the very front.  For me, it was terrifying; for him it was exhilarating.  This thing takes you really high up and then drops you, twists you this way and that, jerks you around, turns you upside down, and leaves you hanging.



Fremont Street Experience

Head off the strip into downtown and you’re in old-school Las Vegas.  This area has its own appeal with a number of casinos and hotels, and notably the Fremont Street Experience, which is an outdoor overhead animated light show set to music.  This free show takes place every 30 minutes or hour in the evenings via a several block long canopy that is 90 feet above the ground.  The canopy consists of millions of lights.  Shows featuring amazing visual and sound effects vary each time they play.  Also, while you’re downtown, you might want to grab a $1.99 “Original” shrimp cocktail (or a “Big” shrimp cocktail for $3.99) at the Golden Gate Hotel and Casino (in the Shrimp Bar & Deli).  Visit


 Sky Show at Rio

The Masquerade Village Show in the Sky at the Rio is free and takes place hourly from 7 p.m. to midnight Thursday through Sunday.  It’s really worth seeing.  The entire casino gets dark, colorful lights start flashing, and a parade of magical floats begin to glide through the sky.  The vibrant floats feature engaging costumed performers who dance and toss beads to the audience.  Visit



 Wine Tasting at Rio

When you’re at the Rio, you might also want to visit the Wine Cellar & Tasting Room.  We had been to the Rio many times, to see the Sky Show, visit the Voodoo Lounge (which is on the 50th and 51st floors and provides a breathtaking view of the city), and to dine at the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet.  We were thrilled to accidentally discover this not-so-obvious downstairs enclave.  When we entered, we no longer felt like we were in Vegas.  No crowds, no slot machines, no neon lights.  Just rock walls, brick and rock archways, decorative enormous bottles of wine, private little seating areas, room at the bar, and a friendly and knowledgeable sommelier.  This place has a vault with 50,000 bottles and just about every wine you can think of.  Visit



Santa Barbara Zoo – A Zoo with a View

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As far as zoos go, the Santa Barbara Zoo is one of the prettiest – set near the coast in beautiful Santa Barbara.  Breezy, green, and charming, it’s a fun place to go to relax, learn, explore, and enjoy the outdoors.  You can even see the ocean from various vantage points.  Hop aboard the Zoo Train for a behind-the-zoo-scenes look.  Explore on foot and marvel at the amazing animals – the magnificent elephants, the sleeping lions, the playful penguins, majestic gorillas, busy meerkats, and the hungry giraffes (which you can feed from your own hands). 

View from SB Zoo
View from SB Zoo


Majestic Elephant
Magnificent Elephant

 Last time I was there, I got a little spooked by the leopard that seemed to glare hungrily as he slowly walked all the way up to the window – a couple feet from me (he then turned around and walked away).  I got a kick out of this clever white bird that kept digging into the side of this large rock formation.  When I looked closely, I could see that it was holding a rock in its beak as a digging tool. 

Sleeping Lion
Sleeping Lion
Clever Bird
Clever Bird

 For more information on the SB Zoo, visit