Merry Christmas from Balboa Island, California where Daisy and I have been hanging out with my folks for the holidays. Daisy may not be too fond of car travel, but she certainly found her sea legs. The drama queen of dogs – was all whimpers and sad puppy eyes the entire journey here, but the tail wagging at

Ferry to Balboa Island

100 miles per hour and the bounce in her gate when she spied the beach (and my parents who like to spoil their granddog) gave her act away.

Xmas House Decorations

Apart from our long walks on the beach, her favorite pastime is barking at all the dogs that dare to walk past her new found beach home, but she wasn’t quite sure what to make of the penguins outside this house. The people of Balboa Island definitely like Christmas!

Important messages

We’re all a bunch of overgrown kids trying to convince Santa we’ve been really, really good this year.

Decor details

Decor details

Not a detail was left undone – including one of the most magnificent firework displays I’ve ever seen to mark the beginning of the Newport Beach boat parade.

Fireworks to open the boat show

Fireworks to open the boat show

I remember looking on in awe at the lights on the Plaza in Kansas City as a child, but the boat show evokes that same wonder on steroids!

The Newport Beach Boat Show

The Newport Beach Boat Show

A gazillion lights, water, and  jubilant crowd cheering them  on are guaranteed to send that Christmas spirit


soaring. Some more traditionally than others. Well we are in California, so it is quite Clausible (excuse the pun) for there to be a surfing Santa in addition to the one with the reindeer and sleigh, don’t you think?IMG_8219

Even the sharks got in on a little Santa action this year much to the delight of the crowd.

Julie Anne Rhodes

Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy, Healthy, Successful New Year!

Beefy Barley Soup

Beefy Barley Soup

This is one of my favorite soups that my mother does, and she often substitutes ox tail for the short ribs. Either way it is a winter warming hit in my household – perfect for the chill in the air here at the beach this time of year too!

Servings: 8
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours


Beefy Barley Mushroom Soup

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 pounds short ribs
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 3 stalks celery chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 quarts beef broth or stock
  • 28 ounces canned fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 3 cups dried mushroom blend rehydrated, reserving liquid for soup
  • salt and pepper to taste


Beefy Barley Mushroom Soup

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season beef short ribs with salt and pepper, and brown in batches. Set aside on a foil-tented platter.
  2. Add remaining olive oil, onions, celery, carrots, red pepper, and garlic. Cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add beef back in, cooking an additional 2 minutes.
  3. Add beef broth, diced tomatoes, bay leaf, pearl barley, mushrooms, and reserved mushroom liquid to the soup. Stir well and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaf, adjust seasoning to taste, and serve hot.

Serving Suggestions

This is a robustly filling soup on its own, but you could serve with freshly baked crusty rolls or biscuits.

Heat To Eat

Heat individual portions in microwave proof bowls for 5 minutes in the microwave on full power; or heat in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat until brought to boil, about 15-20 minutes.

Sante after a very long night!

Sante after a very long night!

PS. Clearly Santa is exhausted after all that gift giving last night. What did he bring you this year?

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  • December 25, 2012
    10:55 am

    Have a wonderful holiday with your family! I think this soup is going to be on my list of things to make this week. Sounds like it would warm me right down to my chilly bones. Hugs to you and Daisy!

    • December 26, 2012
      8:10 am

      Hope you had a wonderful day too, Ruthee!

      And congrats on the Kitchenaid Aussie Mum – you’ll get so much good out of that machine for years to come.

  • December 26, 2012
    1:11 am

    Looks like a lovely destination.
    Enjoy your time away with the family.
    Hugs to Daisy.

    P.S. I finally got a Black KitchenAid mixer for Xmas. So excited. My old one was on it’s last leg and finally gave up.
    I feel like a little kid with brand new toy.

  • January 8, 2013
    4:12 pm

    I have a little bag of pearl barley I haven’t gotten round to using, so I might try your recipe come winter (it’s summer here down under).