Monday, January 15, 2018

Winter Wine Road 2018

We're checking in and claiming our wine glasses

It's Winter Wineland time again, coinciding as always with my birthday week. This intoxicating event, spanning two weekend days, invites ticket holders to visit as many of the 112 participating wineries as they want. The wineries meander through three stunning valleys in Northern Sonoma county---Alexander Valley, Russian River Valley and Dry Creek. We always go Sunday only.

Right off the bat we bought three bottles of chardonnay from Taft Street. 25% off event special---how could we resist?

We picked up chardonnay # 4 from Hook and Ladder. Then onto La Crema. Though they produce one of our favorite chardonnays, we hadn't been there since they moved to their spacious new location in 2012.

                              This old truck decorated the hillside as we drove into the winery

We  found our glasses once again and entered the winery for more fun. They didn't disappoint. As well as delicious chardonnay and pinot noir, they were serving farrow salad with roasted squash and duck confit. I had three servings.

      Dean stepped out into the damp winter day for a breath of fresh air and a view of the vineyards.

We enjoyed this bottle on Thanksgiving

We needed another taste of great chard, so we headed up Slusser Road to Sonoma-Cutrer. They had closed the winery to the public so Wine Road people could have the grounds to themselves. We wandered around the light-filled rooms tasting wines, sampling small plates and trying our hand at the croquet contest. Dean looked like a pro but  failed to hit the goal to win a bottle of wine. I came in way short, so we left without our fifth bottle of chardonnay.

La Crema is my kind of winery

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Peace In the New Year

Lawai International Center, Kauai

In the hope of encouraging peace in 2018,  I'm presenting images of some of the unique Japanese shrines populating the hillside paths of the Lawai International Center on the island of Kauai

The Lawai International Center, a non-profit community project, is an archaeological and cultural treasure in a valley that has long been recognized as a healing sanctuary. In 1904 the first generation of Japanese immigrants built 88 shrines replicating an ancient pilgrimage of 88 temples in Shikoku, Japan. Today, it is the only such site existing outside of Japan and is one of the oldest Buddhist temple sites in the country. When the shrines fell into disrepair in the 1960s, the nonprofit Center was formed to restore the site. The maintenance and restoration work continues to be done today by a network of devoted volunteers.

It was fascinating to glimpse into each miniature shrine and marvel at the objects within

     We called the Center when we arrived in Kauai and made arrangements to visit the site. They are open to the public two Sundays a month, but if those days don't work, a volunteer will open the Center when it's convenient. When we arrived we were offered tea and were told the history of the valley. Then we were given walking sticks to help us clamber up and down the uneven paths and peer into each shrine to discover the unique offerings placed inside. Many are still tended by family members and offerings are replaced or repaired when necessary.

Treasures inside a shrine

Here's Dean peeking in
another interior

      I conclude with this peaceful shrine from the Lawai Center,  hoping that peace will bloom out of every nook on the planet, like the orchids of Kauai.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas 2017

                                               Merry Christmas to All

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thyme for the Holidays

    Here's a clever idea--- stems and leaves of fresh thyme tied into an herbaceous crown, created and modeled by a young woman at the Riverdog Farm stand in the Berkeley Farmer's market.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Ghosts are Compostable

                                                             So are skeletons (real ones)

                                                                        And Witches

                                                   And Pumpkins can go in the Green Bin too

                                                      HAPPY HALLOWEEN

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Amador County Big Crush 2017

           Saturday October 7th we headed to Amador County for this year's Big Crush celebration

We had no real plans, so when we reached Plymouth we took Shenandoah Road and after passing a few familiar wineries, we stopped at Vino Noceto for the first time.

Amador county is known for its zinfandels, but the staff was also pouring a delicious moscato blend from a jug. Both wines complemented the pizzas they were serving.

Dean relaxed after the long drive while I took took photos of the signpost which gave directions and distances to Noceto, Italy (5,921 miles), Walnut Creek (110 miles) and Vino Noceto (49 feet.)

Next we drove up the road to Andis where I bought a rosé, tasted the curried squash soup and enjoyed the view from the ultra modern hilltop winery.

On to one of our favorites, Amador Cellars, which has excellent reds and a small scale crush every year-check it out

We always visit Helwig with its beautiful amphitheatre overlooking a hive of activity: people drinking and eating, playing cornhole, listening to live music and enjoying the beautiful weekend.

the happy couple leaving the winery with wineglasses in hand

Our last winery was one I had never heard of, but the Hungarian name and the chicken paprikash were appealing, so we headed up the long and winding one lane drive to Dobra Zemlja.

The setting was idyllic. We sat at tables on a huge green lawn with our wine, and gazed at the pond full of splashing ducks and a beautiful snowy egret hunting for his dinner.

By now it was late afternoon and the event was over for the day. We collected our souvenir big crush glasses and headed home.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Foraging for Nasturtiums

A bouquet of nasturtiums on my table

I love nasturtiums, probably because they were my mother's favorite flower, and I am so lucky to be living in Berkeley where the colorful blooms pop up everywhere throughout June. They thrive in our Northern California climate. When I want flowers on my table, I head to the streets and forage. No one seems to mind that I pluck their cheerful nasturtiums into beautiful bouquets and head straight home to put them in water. In fact, strangers start conversations while I'm snipping, commenting on the beauty of my bounty, probably assuming I'm picking from my own garden.

I've picked in the flat lands

I've picked in the hills
And most often I pluck from a side yard in the Gourmet Ghetto

During nasturtium season I enjoy the freshly foraged flowers on my dining room table and on a recent Sunday afternoon my guests raved about the vivid centerpieces at an alfresco lunch on our deck.

The red wine BBQ chicken is still on the grill