We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Portraiture in Palm Springs and Wellness Salad

by Michelle

I captured the portrait of my husband in the heat of a summer's day in Joshua Tree National Park.

   I love the adventure of a road trip. A few weeks ago my husband and I drove from Tucson to Palm Springs, a short six hour drive. The impetus for the trip was for me to attend The Portrait Masters Conference so that I could further pursue my interest in portrait photography. My husband tagged along because he considers spending a few days at a Hyatt Regency and swimming in the lovely pools a swell idea.
   I began following and learning from my photography mentor on-line nearly six years ago. When The Portrait Masters Conference was announced back at the beginning of the summer I vacillated on whether to attend. The ticket price was high enough to give me pause, and I would also need to factor in the cost for lodging, food, extracurricular activities and transportation. I got over the hump by rationalizing that the money spent on attending the event was not an expense, but rather an investment in myself. In other words, given enough time, I can talk myself into anything.
   It's been a turbulent couple of years riding shotgun with my sister on her rough and tumble journey with breast cancer. (I shared our story in Linda and the "C" Word.) After Linda's death at the end of March I was left with the realization, once again, that life is short. Incredibly short. So I said yes to Palm Springs and yes to following my interest in photography and yes to a mini-vacation with my husband. Yeses all around.

A portrait that I captured of my daughter, Maddie.
   While heading west to California we drove into a massive monsoon in the Mojave desert. People are terrified of other natural disasters, but there doesn't seem to be much of a fear factor related to monsoons. For the uninitiated, that is. But let me tell you, between the lightening strikes, the booming thunder, the gale force winds and the shear downpour of torrential rain, monsoons can cause significant damage in a minimal amount of time. While Hurricane Irma was terrorizing the East Coast, there was a mini Irma creating havoc on I-10 near Joshua Tree National Park.
   My husband and I were caught in the eye of the storm, just where we didn't want to be. Even with very low visibility, cars continued to rush past us in the left lane at 50 miles per hour as if there were no storm at all. An eighteen wheeler stalled in the right lane, which made driving even dicier as traffic narrowed from two lanes to one. Even though it wasn't a great situation, at least the stalled truck made traffic slow to stop and go traffic for many miles. Unfortunately the majority of drivers don't seem to know how to merge anymore. A few rude drivers wanted to rush around merged cars and cut in at the last minute. As Tom Robbins would say, "People of zee wurld, relax!" We made it to the hotel a little worse for the wear. That's why God created happy hour.
Into every life a little rain must fall, even while on vacation.
   The next day we visited the Palm Springs Art Museum where we particularly enjoyed the mind-bending Kinesthesia exhibit. After exposing ourselves to art (figuratively, not literally - c'mon people) we drove to the nearby Colony Palms Hotel to eat al fresco at the Purple Palm restaurant, which resides in the beautifully landscaped inner courtyard adjacent to the large rectangular pool. This is a resort where the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Kirk Douglas, Clark Gable and many more Hollywood film stars used to hang out back in the day. I'm glad I did my restaurant sleuthing in advance because this place is a gem.
  Initially it seemed like a good idea to eat on the covered patio but we urgently had to move indoors midway through our meal. The sky unleashed its wrath and let loose a vicious storm that came barreling over the tall peaks of the San Jacinto mountains. It rained so hard and for so long that we could not leave the restaurant after we finished our meal. I had my camera with me and I did not want to risk it getting wet while dashing to the car. Or, worse yet, falling and causing injury to myself and my camera while dashing to the car over slippery pathways. So we waited, then waited some more.

Scenes from Palm Springs (above) and a photo opportunity at the Kinesthesia exhibit (below). 
   As we sat at the bar and waited patiently for the raging storm to pass, we watched with increasing trepidation as the patio began to flood, and the water in the pool rose ever closer to escaping over the deck. The rippling water on the patio threatened to flow over the threshold into the restaurant. The monsoon was showing no signs of stopping anytime soon so I decided to while away some additional time by indulgently imbibing in an adult beverage. Although the air was not frigid, it was after all September in the Mojave desert, the pounding rain and ominous gray thunder clouds induced me to consider ordering a coffee drink even though the temperature was just below triple digits.
   Our cheery waiter, Michael offered to go off menu and make me his favorite coffee drink, the one, according to him, he frequently makes at home. Gotta love a guy that routinely makes strong coffee beverages at home. Michael delivered to me a large steaming mug filled with two shots of espresso, a full shot of Jameson Irish whisky, half shot of Bailey's Irish Cream, half shot of Kahlua and topped with frothy steamed milk. One sip and I was sold. Thank you, sir! I'd love to make one every morning henceforth, if I could, without, you know, the stigma of starting off a day with two shots of the hard stuff in my double cappuccino. But, the holidays are coming, and without a doubt I know what I'll be making on Christmas morning. Merry Christmas to me.
Sipping the "Michael Special", an off-menu adult coffee beverage at the Purple Palm.
  The photography conference was just what I needed to help me find that spark I've been searching for these past six months since Linda passed away. Including my mentor, I learned from seven of the best portrait photographers in the world over the course of the event. I networked by chatting with the trade show's vendors, introduced myself to new acquaintances and along the way, I decided what I want to do moving forward. To jump-start my plans, I came home and ordered more camera equipment. Although word on the street is that the quality of the equipment doesn't make the photographer, well... it certainly doesn't hurt the creative process either. As Oprah would say, this is what I know for sure.
   I'm building a portrait portfolio so that I can launch my business website later this year. Stay tuned for that and more announcements to come. Hopefully 2018 will look much different than 2017. I know that many people will share the same sentiment after experiencing a bummer of a year, too. Can I get an amen? In truth it's been more than a single bummer year, it's been a difficult couple of years dealing with Linda's illness and then sorting and finalizing all the subsequent "stuff" that needs to be settled postmortem. 
   Here's to all of us investing in ourselves and walking steadily and firmly towards what we really want with focus and determination. And, along the way, as I venture down this new path, I will mix up my routine and eat more salads like I enjoyed in Palm Springs. One must stay healthy to feed inspiration and to achieve big goals. The old adage is true, if you don't have your health, you have nothing. Stay well, my friends, stay well. 

Purple Palm Wellness Salad

The festive Purple Palm restaurant located within the inner courtyard of the Colony Palms Hotel serves this refreshing salad and a complimentary view of the rectangular pool that is surrounded by an interesting variety of frolicking sun worshipers in various stages of undress.
   Our waiter, Michael recommended this salad topped with shrimp. He said what normally puts people off is the sound of the pomegranate yogurt dressing, but I can assure you it is quite delicious and the crunchy granola topping is such a good idea that I don't know why I haven't thought of it myself while garnishing salads in my home kitchen. It pays to get out of the house! Of course you can add any protein that you like to the salad. Michael recommended grilled shrimp, so that's what I ordered. A girl needs to be able to take advice. Just say yes! Yes is my new mantra.
   I didn't want to recreate the wheel on the dressing. A quick Google search yielded a recipe from the cooking blog Homemade and Yummy. I changed the recipe ever so slightly to use regular balsamic instead of flavored. To my delight, I discovered that this recipe tastes just like the restaurant's dressing. I couldn't be more pleased. If you are wondering what to do with the leftover pomegranate juice, I am confident that my sister Linda would have recommended starting the party by making cocktails, such as her Layered Cosmopolitan or Hard Strawberry Lemonade

I always brine shrimp before cooking. Click here for directions.

Pomegranate Yogurt Dressing:
3/4 cup Greek yogurt, such as Straus Family or Redhill Hill Farm's Plain Goat's Milk Yogurt
1/4 cup avocado oil or other mild, neutral oil
2 Tbsps honey
1/4 cup pomegranate juice (I highly recommend POM Wonderful™ pomegranate juice)
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp sea salt

Wash and dried mixed greens, such as torn butter lettuce, baby spinach, and arugula

Suggested Toppings:
mixed berries such as raspberries and blueberries; boysenberries and strawberries would also be tasty
pomegranate seeds, if in season
diced avocado
rinsed and drained black beans
quinoa, cooked according to the package directions, then served chilled or at room temperature
your favorite granola
grilled or poached jumbo shrimp
We happily ordered the Wellness Salad and the Blackened Fish Tacos. 
1. Brine the shrimp, if  using.
2. Mix the dressing ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate until needed.
3. Wash and dry the greens. Refrigerate until needed.
4. Remove the shrimp from the brine and cook your preferred way: grill, pan-fry, boil and shock, or sauté. To boil shrimp: Bring 8 quarts of water to a boil. Near the stove, prepare a large bowl of ice water. Drain the shrimp and discard the brine. Add half the shrimp to the boiling water and stir frequently. The shrimp will cook quickly so keep an eye on them. As soon as the shrimp begin to curl and turn pink, about 1 minute, the little guys are done. Quickly transfer the shrimp, using a large mesh spoon, to the ice water bath. Let the shrimp cool 2 to 3 minutes and then transfer to a large container with a lid. When the water returns to a boil again, repeat the process with the remaining uncooked shrimp. Once the shrimp are cool, remove from water bath. Eat right away or chill. The cooked shrimp will keep one to two days stored properly in a tightly sealed bowl in the refrigerator.
5. Toss the greens with enough dressing to lightly coat. Divide the dressed greens between plates and garnish each salad with the add-ins. Serve immediately with additional dressing on the side, if desired.

Somewhere in the middle of nowhere, also known as Joshua Tree National Park.


  1. I truly enjoyed this post. Happy to see you moving forward with your photography plans. I'm definitely going to try the salad recipe.

    1. Thank you for leaving a comment. Feedback is always appreciated. I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as I do.


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