The Roaring Fork Valley – Colorado

Pristine. Elegant. Primeval. Exciting. Breathtaking. Awe-inspiring. All of these and more have been used to attempt to describe the Roaring Fork Valley, that area that encompasses Aspen, Snowmass, Basalt, Carbondale, and Glenwood Springs. Some define these as world-class ski towns, and while that’s true, it’s also so much more! Some have focused on that the Valley is home to a literal who’s who of the artist community. Legends such as the late John Denver, Mariah Carey, John Summers, Kevin Kostner and many more have all made this unbelievably beautiful town their home. In a place where the median price of a home is just over 1.5 million dollars, such big names are to be expected, but the big point is WHY they live there when they could live anywhere in the world, and that is simply because there is no place else quite like it.

Like most ski towns in North America, these came of humble origins. Silver mines were behind their founding, but when the incentives to explore for silver went away, the men and women who’d come to love the land stayed on to create a far more precious treasure by cherishing the land they so loved. Though each has its own unique story, the details fade away into insignificance as the common tale emerges: There’s just something so pure and refreshing, so clean and alive about these mountains that you can’t imagine ever wanting to leave.

Today’s Roaring Fork Valley is far more cosmopolitan than those early settlers would ever have imagined. Who would have thought that a sweet hideaway nestled in the middle of the Rockies would one day become home to the Aspen Institute and have celebrated world leaders attending meetings there, or that such big stars would elect to live somewhere other than Hollywood? But Aspen has indeed become an international cultural center as well, without giving in one bit to the quint small-town “Aspenglow” feel that made the place so famous.

World-class museums and artisan’s galleries, legendary performers sharing their gifts on the Wheeler Opera House stage, The Aspen Music Festival and School, Historical Society, Center for Environmental Studies, all that and much more… and yes, some of the best skiing on the entire North American continent. All that and much more are found in this most unusual and exquisite of mountain paradises.

Whether you’re enjoying fishing, golfing, kayaking, whitewater rafting, mountain biking, canoing, hiking, rock climbing, cross country or downhill skiing, no matter what activity you’re engaged in, summer or winter, the Roaring Fork Valley is simply the best! You can experience a hot air balloon ride, go back into the mountains by 4×4 or horseback, see a riot of colors laying their tapestry over the mountains in the fall… Learn to make stained glass, or enjoy homemade beer from a local micro-brewery. Snowboard or improve your guitar playing, enjoy an avant-garde film or a luxury spa. Where else can you find so many things to do in such an incredibly postcard-perfect place? The Roaring Fork Valley truly is an indescribably rich treasure, and each of these and many more gems are there for the taking when you visit. Come for a week, or a lifetime. Just ask those who live there, or the vacationers who return year after year. In all the world, there is no finer place.

© 2007 RightNow Communications

Gourmet Food Gift Baskets From the Wine Country of the California Central Coast – Santa Maria Valley

In the Central Coast region of California, gourmet foods and world-class wines abound. You will find a tremendous variety of uniquely delicious foods that are ideal for gift baskets. Anyone who enjoys wine would be delighted to receive one of the many exceptional wines from this area.

On the northern end of Santa Barbara County are the Santa Maria Valley and the city of Santa Maria. This valley has a long history of ranching and agriculture, a part of the economy that now flourishes alongside the burgeoning wine industry. With the ranchers came the Santa Maria Style Barbeque that has become a regional culinary tradition. All along the central coast there is a lively entrepreneurial spirit that has led to the creation of many small artisanal food companies and boutique wineries. The foods are wonderfully varied, and there are many exceptional wines now being produced.

In early California cattle ranching days, America’s first cowboys, the colorful vaqueros, held large beef barbecues following every cattle roundup. This was the beginning of the barbequing tradition in the Santa Maria Valley, and it has continued to the present day.

The Hitching Post Restaurant has been a local favorite for many years. It is known for its California-style barbequing, as well as their superior Pinot Noir Wines. Since the movie ‘Sideways’ their notoriety has expanded worldwide. Many of their foods are available for purchase including their tasty Hitching Post BBQ sauce and their own Hitching Post Pinot Noir wines.

Another outstanding sauce is the Buckshot BBQ Sauce from Cowboy Flavors. They began as a catering business out of Los Alamos, a small town down the road from Santa Maria, and now have their own TV series! They also sell among other items, the excellent Cowboy Flavors all-purpose BBQ seasoning.

Susan Righetti, whose parents own the renowned Far Western Tavern restaurant in nearby Guadalupe, started a Santa Maria company called Susie Q’s Brand. Celebrating their family recipes and Santa Maria style BBQ, they offer recipes, sauces, salsa, the delicious local pinquito beans, and their signature Susie Q’s Brand seasoning.

Any of these items could be combined to make a terrific gift basket for the BBQ cook in the family. Add a superior bottle of Pinot Noir wine, to make it a perfect gift from the Santa Maria Valley on the California Central Coast.

Peruvian Silver Jewelry is Among the World’s Finest Artisan Jewelry

Why does Peruvian silver jewelry rank among some of the finest artisan jewelry in the world? One reason is that the silver in Peruvian jewelry is high in quality. It is always sterling silver, which is defined as containing a minimum of 92.5% pure silver. But Peruvian silversmiths move one step beyond this 92.5% minimum standard, using 95% pure silver in their handcrafted jewelry. Too soft to hold up on its own, silver jewelry is always strengthened with other, harder metals, such as nickel or copper, thus the small percentage that is not silver.

Unlike the jewelry that is ubiquitously available in local malls and department stores, handcrafted silver jewelry from Peru is fashioned by artisans whose families have been creating it for generation upon generation. Their traditions stretch back into the mists of time — in some cases back even to the ancient, aristocratic Moche and Inca Civilizations. Over the centuries, these age-old techniques have been lovingly passed from parent to child.

However, Peruvian silver jewelry is not always confined by tradition. Many Peruvian artisans are so talented they’re able to combine tradition with modern, bold and dynamic designs. The result is innovative jewelry often more vibrant than that found elsewhere.

Their deep appreciation for exotic, native materials is another reason Peruvian artisanss are able to create some of the world’s finest silver jewelry. For example, the striking, red jungle seeds called “huayruro” are the centerpiece of some of today’s most captivating Peruvian silver jewelry. In conjunction with their handsome, hand-crafted settings, these densely-red, dried seeds — either singly or in clusters — make bracelets, necklaces and earrings of electrifying beauty.

Another exotic native material often used in Peruvian silver jewelry is the spondylus shell, highly prized for generations — all the way back, in fact, to the ancient Moche Civilization of the 1st to 8th centuries AD. In the past, Moche kings, queens and other royalty were buried with large quantities of these highly-prized shells. And archaeologists have uncovered, not from one, but from several ancient pre-Columbian civilizations in Peru, enormous quantities of beads made of spondylus shell. Today, set in rich, hand-crafted sterling-silver settings, this time-honored material makes for some exquisitely enchanting and captivating organic jewelry.

From deep in central Peru, in the valley of Huancayo, comes another exotic Peruvian material. For at least 4000 years, Huancayo fathers have handed down to their sons a special technique of carving on dried Peruvian gourd. Today this ancient technique is still being practiced in the Huancayo valley, and placed into modern sterling-silver settings, these one-of-a-kind miniature works of art provide stunning jewelry that will turn heads wherever it’s worn.

Completely apart from the aesthetic reasons for finding Peru’s artisan jewelry attractive, this handcrafted jewelry is becoming a hot fashion item to the modern American woman because of her desire to spend her money wisely. Peruvian silver jewelry is produced by artisans struggling for economic independence in a third-world country undergoing rapid change. So purchasing their wares gives socially conscious buyers a chance to help these hard-working Peruvians become economically self sufficient: an example of the sought out win-win situation that is most appealing to savvy women shoppers. This is a bargain and luxury purchase at the same time with buyers walking away with some of the highest-quality, most time-honored, and most exotic silver jewelry being made in the world today.