14 February 2015

A New Toy


Really loving this photo option I found on our Mac desktop. Makes me feel creative!


31 January 2015

Tiny House

The area we stayed in had no landscaping.

I get big ideas. I convince myself of the llogic, the practicality, the potential of something. Some of my big ideas die a quick and riskless death. Some get filed away for later or for someone else. Some stay on my front burner for months and years, waiting for timing, opportunity, a lightening strike. Some move forward, cost a few dollars, then fizzle. Most don't soar. O.K., none have soared because by nature and by nurture I am not a risk taker.

This tiny house thing has intrigued me for years. I'd almost convinced myself and had begun drawing others into conversation about the ingenuity, the practicality, the beauty of living small. 

We don't live small nor do we live large. We live medium in a 2,000 sq.ft. 2-story townhouse, a with full basement. We have stuff. I've spent years as a hunter-gatherer. First primitive antiques and kitchen gadgets; then dinnerware and French Country accents. 

Oh, I've sorted and passed on many treasures--to family, to friends, and even to strangers. Yet, the elephants(s) are in every room and our basement--I'm no minimalist. I'm someone who draws comfort and creative energy from my stuff. 

I digress... We had the opportunity to live small this week; very small. Well, of course it'd work well!

Guess what? I hate it. Hate it. It's been claustrophobic and boring. The necessities are here, but there's nothing lovely to feed my hungry soul. The house's amenities are fine. Just o.k. The setting is not. It could be. The Napa River is right here, but no one has made any attempt to make the river bank inviting. The owners of this community have fallen apart when it comes to curb appeal. We won't come back.

Our weather this week has been phenomenal. Much better than we ever expected. Sunshine and 60s.  All week. The area of and surrounding Napa and Sonoma are lovely. Natural beauty is everywhere in the undulating hills and valley; in the forested Calistoga area; in Muir County Baylands. At these sights my soul is happy. 

I am not an extrovert. I need solitude and quiet activity to exist. My filters are wacky; too much gets through. My brain drains; my energy wanes. Beauty is required. (As well as a decent Internet connection,)(Or, at least more than 2 lousy Cellular bars.)

Napa General Store.

We had a lovely brunch today--patio seating with umbrellas, sunshine, and lovely food. At one point a cool breeze drifted though. CA laughed when I told him I'd be oh-so-happy to pay extra for that breeze. If it'd been on my brunch menu this morning:

          Filtered sunlight with intermittent gentle breezes ....................... $20.00

I would have asked our waitress to add it to our check. Hands down. Zero hesitation. Soul food. 

27 January 2015

Almost Grey in Napa

The sun was missing this morning, but our day brightened as we entered Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery in Yountville for our morning coffee. This is a combination patisserie-boulangerie, and the products are as beautiful as any we've seen in France. I immediately tell CA that I want breakfast here every day we're in the Napa Valley. And, I am not kidding. 

We somehow manage to poke about all morning into the early afternoon, with a second coffee at Model Bakery in St. Helena, and then lunch back in Yountville at Mustard's. A delightful ambience and well-prepared and presented food. 

We're easily at Cardinale for a 3:00pm tasting. Cardinale's winemaker is Chris Carpenter, and we're privileged to spend almost two hours tasting 4 Cabernet Sauvignons and being absolutely drawn into the Napa culture by Chris' enthusiasm, experience, and knowledge. My Chris is ecstatic, although his low-key demeanor rarely gives a hint. 

Today with Chris Carpenter at Cardinale is a pinnacle point for CA. Those points are all too rare in any life, but I recall another one in London when a World Soccer Official CA met at the Marble Arch Marriott arranged tickets for Chris to attend an Arsenal-  match. 

Thank you Chris Carpenter for spending so much of your valuable time making your high school freshman-football coach so happy. 

26 January 2015

Spring-like Napa

Gorgeous sunny day--68° in the Napa River Valley. This is a dream trip. CA's, not mine, but I will find plenty to enjoy.

I've already expressed contentment in driving up and down the valley, everyday will be fine. Beautiful views of mountainsides and blue, blue skies. My soul drinks it in. And, I will write and take photos--interspersed with great coffee and meals.

We visit our first tasting room this trip--Miner Family Winery--eventually choosing a white wine, The Iliad, 2012. CA has plans to transport 4 bottles in his checked bag, a carefully selected 4 bottles. I'm guessing a couple more will end up in my bag...

Tomorrow is our big treat--a tasting at Cardinale Vineyards, arranged by a former student of CA's. Actually, a man whom CA coached in freshman football in the years before Northern Illinous embraced soccer, and CA never looked back. He is still coaching high school soccer, to great success. 

Fine coffee today at Napa Valley Coffee Roasters--the Grapevine Blend is outstanding. And, lunch at R+D Restaurant in Yountville was excellent. My buttons got pushed, and CA exclaimed superlatively over his Thai Steak and Noodle Salad. 

Dinner is almost beside the point, but we go late to Oxbow Market and enjoy some small plates.

21 January 2015

The Interval

So... We're home for a short interval, then on to Napa. I get the chance to re-center, focus, and to prepare and eat some homemade meals. CA is always appreciative when I deign to cook.

Tuesday night, I managed this...

Easy Cream of Broccoli Soup and Gluten-Free Peach Crepes.

The basis for my gluten-free crepes.

Filled with peach jam.

The crepes are a bit fragile. No gluten does that.
The Easy Cream of Mushroom Soup was a concoction I put together when we were at the beach many years ago. Just a few ingredients, and yet tasty and filling. This time, I actually did the mirepoix, but in the past I've just sautéed onions. The proportions are as follows:

Easy Cream of Broccoli Soup
1 cup Carrots, sliced or diced
1 cup Celery, thinly sliced
1 cup Sweet onion, diced
3 T. Butter
1 bag Broccoli, frozen
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
1-1/4 cup Half-n-half, or milk (as preferred)
Salt and pepper, as desired.
  1. Sauté vegetables until somewhat soft.
  2. Stir in Cream of Mushroom soup.
  3. Add soup and milk.
  4. Heat through.
  5. Season to-taste.
  6. Blend together until mixture is still somewhat lumpy.

Gluten-Free Peach Crepes
1 egg
1 cup Milk
3 T. Butter, melted
3/4 cup King Arthur Gluten-Free Pancake Mix
Peach jam
  1. Mix liquid ingredients together.
  2. Stir in pancake mix, stir just until dry ingredients are mixed in,
  3. Measure 1/3 to 1/2 cup of batter onto oiled and heated crepe pan.
  4. When top of crepe is almost dry, spoon on 1-2 T of peach jam.
  5. Gently filed crepe in half and then quarters.
  6. Makes approximately 4 crepes.

I got a late start this morning and CA had gone about his errands and appointments, but I made this for myself...

Eggs-in-baskets. Gluten-free, Udi's bread.

Then for dinner tonight...

My Americanized version of chicken curry.

Mise en place.

I chopped the chicken while the sweet potatoes roasted in the
oven at 400º. And, this time I sautéed the apples separately.

After the chicken was almost cooked through, I added the onions.

Chicken, onions, apple chunks, white raisins, and curry paste.
About 1/3 of the jar, or to-taste.

Our curry paste, of choice.

First time I've tried this. Worked fine.

The fresh Cilantro really kicked it up.

Our chutney, of choice. Quality and price.

We've experimented with adding sweet potatoes to the sauté raw and boiled slightly. The results were under-cooked and over-cooked. This time, I oven-roasted the sweet potato chunks in a bit of olive oil. I then placed the Jasmine rice and roasted sweet potatoes side-by-side into the bowl and ladled the  curry over.

Chicken Curry
2 sm Sweet Potatoes, diced
Olive oil
1/2 med Onion, diced
1 med Apple, diced
1 cup Raisins, white
1 cup Peas, frozen
1 whole Chicken breast, boneless; diced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper (for chicken as it sautés)
1/4-1/3 cup Curry paste
1 can Coconut milk
Cilantro, chopped

  1. Oven-roast sweet potatoes at 400º until soft and slightly browned.
  2. Sauté apple chunks separately in olive oil, if desired.
  3. Sauté chicken breast chunks until almost cooked through; add onions and continue sautéing until onions are translucent.
  4. Add apple chunks to chicken-onion mixture; stir in curry paste.
  5. Stir in raisins and peas. Heat through.
  6. Pour in coconut milk and heat thoroughly.
  7. Serve over both rice and sweet potatoes.
  8. Sprinkle on Cilantro, if desired.