autumn shroom

That First Invigorating Rush of Cool Autumn Air

It happened this morning.  

It was the break from the summer heat that sweeps in each year with the first chilling air of autumn, a breeze that designates change .  Autumn is dramatic here in Portland.  Stunning.  It is my favorite season.  (I think I might say that at the beginning of *every* season in Portland.) Autumn here is beautiful.

This time 2 weeks ago, I was lounging by the pool in back of a multimillion dollar home in Northern California.  Today, however, I have the luxurious privilege of witnessing the first of the magnificent color bursts that appear each autumn in the Pacific Northwest.  They happen as suddenly and as thrillingly as the fireworks bursting overhead during our 4th of July celebrations…but seem more breathtaking each year.

autumn colorbursts

The heat is gone now, and with each morning burst of the cool air that has finally found its way to Portland , I feel a new excitement and ardor for life.  I am happy.  I am in love.  I am thrilled to be alive.  I cannot wait for each day to begin, because with it, comes new hope, new adventures and more beauty than I can fathom.

bird on limb

My classes have been uploaded to my school’s website a week early and I am already ensconced in conducting research and writing about eyewitness testimony….how the brain handles it…and why it is unreliable.  I am writing a paper about the Psychology of leadership styles.  I am writing travel articles for a new client…about Italy, Croatia, France…. and am  making progress at my studio on the projects that I have going on there. 

What motivates me?  Love.  Whether it is the love that I am receiving from external sources, or the love that I feel simply because I am happy, this is what propels me through the day and causes me to feel glad to be alive.  I am loved, and that is the best feeling in the world.  If ever I doubted that I was, I was foolish to think so.

substrates

My husband is hard at work this morning, cutting wooden mosaic substrates for me to use for mosaics this winter.   He is making certain  that everything around the house is in good working order… gently squeezing my shoulder or kissing me on the cheek when he passes.  We are both acutely aware of the looming nearness of his departure date, and both of us are dealing with it in our own silent ways.  It is heavy, but we are not discussing it directly.  

I am mending his socks at night, making sure his vitamins and heart medications are all together, writing out healthy menus and recipes for easy-to-prepare foods for him to take with him to the Bay Area with him.   We are having longer talks about things, deeper ones than our happy summer chatter, talking about things to come, the cars, financial issues and another  important relationship in my life that flickered for an instant, but that is burning brighter now than ever.

We have a truly unusual relationship, John and I.  It is golden, special.  We do not look upon these times as sad ones, although a certain sadness does exist for awhile when we part.  We are not threatened by 3-dimensional conventions.   We simply pour ourselves into our individual, independent lives.  We stay busy.  We create.  We produce.  We communicate.  And when we come back together, we are glad until we must part again. 

Some people do not understand our marriage.  That’s ok.  They aren’t in it.  

Everything is right in my life right now…just as I want it.  The stress that I experienced over the summer has vanished into loving resolve and things are better and more hopeful than ever.  Perfection does not exist, so I embrace the quirks and turn them into artful experiences.  I never forget to be grateful….and I know that I am loved.  I am secure in this fact.  I am loved right here.  I am loved from afar. 

I have everything I need to be happy.

 

stacy flag

On Being a Mystery Writer

relationships

You are the type of person that installs monitoring equipment in your house and that taps telephones so that if one wanted to make a call in private, he or she would have to go elsewhere.  Che palle! 

Imagine you are a pseudo-detective gone undercover to inspect the same source of information every day to attempt to figure out clues and to glean information about a puzzle you are trying to fit together.  Your quest to reconnoiter is fed by your daily obsession with one source of information that you know, in your gut, has been feeding you the real facts that you seek.

Meanwhile….basically, your life sucks, but you don’t want anyone to know how much.  You plaster the Internet with old, misleading pictures that were taken before things took a nose dive …..before the truth was openly revealed.  You write false statements about happiness that you clearly do not experience.  You pour your energy into searching..searching…searching for answers that you already know in your gut. 

You are one determined, angry little hornet detective!

Then imagine that because something unbeknownst to you transpired, your primary source of information suddenly changed to reflect absolutely nothing that would be of any use to you in your quest …ever again.

That is what has happened here.

The circus tent has collapsed.

NO MORE INFO FOR YOU!

I am happy and secure. (That’s all the clue you’ll ever get.)

license plate guitar

I have everything I need.

Last reference.

 laughing8

Loss of a Childhood Friend

Sandy was my closest and dearest friend when I was a child.  We drifted apart in high school and never really stayed in touch after that, as our lives took two distinctly different directions.  Even so, I was greatly saddened to learn of her death this morning.  She leaves behind many people that love her.

Sandy

We used to ride horses together, to swim, go to movies and attend slumber parties with our ‘gang’ of giggling girl friends.  We practiced cutting one each other’s hair, often making big messes of it all.  We discovered the Beatles together and spent countless hours talking about them and listening to their music. 

The first true love of my life was her uncle Billy, and I think I loved him as much as I did because his disposition was so much like hers…gentle and sweet.  Her dad’s was, too.  I really loved these people back then.

So today, I shed a tear for my old friend, even though at the time of her death, I no longer really knew her.  I embrace her family with love and I remember the good times with great fondness.  

So long, Goosie. 

beach view

End of Summer

The picture above is the view from the beach house where we will be staying next week as we say goodbye to one of the best summers we have had in years.  We are excited to be going from Sunday until Tuesday.   John, Ingrid and I will be taking little Beatrix to join our friends, Sheryl and Syd  in Manzanita for an end of summer get together.  Soon afterward, John will head back to the Bay Area and I will be ensconced in school and back to my maddeningly busy pace.  I must admit that I do not feel as rested as I had hoped by this time, but maybe I can relax for those two days.   It isn’t likely. 

  If anyone needs me, I’ll be the one reading the book.

books

My classes were uploaded a week early this term, but do not officially begin until the 2nd of September.  However, I have already begun work on my first interesting paper about the unreliable nature of eyewitness testimony and how the brain works in this regard.   I  have also completed two discussion questions which involved a lot of reading and research, so I’m off to a good start and can relax while we’re away. 

These two classes are already tough, but they’re interesting and I’m looking forward to the challenge.   My school was just named one of the top online schools in the nation,  and I am feeling happy and satisfied with the education they are providing. 

Although we have had  hotter than usual temperatures in Portland over the last month, the mornings are growing cooler now, and the first signs of autumn’s approach have already begun to reveal themselves.  I love autumn.. and after so much summer fun and broiling heat, I am looking forward to the change of pace…and the change of weather.  In fact, many changes are afoot.

Time to hunker down and get busy with fond memories of love and summer fun behind me.

Meanwhile….here is a little Vivaldi (The Four Seasons)  for your listening pleasure.  

(This is what I play when I cook breakfast every morning. )  :-)

Enjoy!

 

stacy-and-dad

Happy Birthday, Dad

My father turns 89 years young today, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for being my dad.  I love you so much, Dad, and wish I could be there to give you a big hug.  You are such a good person.  Thank you for everything you have been to me throughout my life.  I appreciate you very much. 

Love,

Sissy

stacy and dad2

 

meyers

Roll Your Own

Whether I use my favorite Mrs. Meyers scents :Basil, Lavender or Lemon Verbena, I enjoy making my house smell wonderful.  However, these products can be on the pricy side, so today, I went on the prowl for recipes for fragrant household cleaners that smell great and clean as well as these.  The first one I found was a copycat recipe for Mrs. Meyers Countertop Spray.  The scent comes from essential oil, and  is derived from a South American shrub of the verbena family, with lemon-scented leaves that are used as flavoring and to make a sedative tea and other fragrant things.   The essential oil brand that I recommend is DoTerra. Mmmm!

lemonverbena

Mrs. Meyers Copycat Countertop Spray
{Lemon Verbena}
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
2 cups water 
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 tsp. lemon juice
*3 drops lemon essential oil
3 drops lemongrass essential oil
Mix well in a spray bottle.

 

I also found THIS WEBSITE that has some delicious cleaning product recipes.  The site is called, “Hopeful Things” and I plan to spend more time there.  Looks like quite the inspirational  online place to visit!

oranges

ORANGE SCENTED GLASS CLEANER

Ingredients
• 2 cups water
• 1/2 cup white or cider vinegar
• 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol (70% concentration)
• 1 to 2 drops of DoTerra orange essential oil

Combine all ingredients and store in a spray bottle. Spray on a paper towel or soft cloth first, then on the glass.

lemonscouringpowder

LEMON SCOURING POWDER

Ingredients
• Half a lemon
• 1/2 cup borax (a laundry booster; find it in the detergent aisle)

4 Drops DoTerra essential oil

Drop the essential oil drops into the borax & stir thoroughly. Dip the lemon into the borax and scrub surface; rinse. (Not for marble/granite)

cleaning

Knock Off of Mrs. Meyers All Purpose Cleaner

  • 3 parts water
  • 1 part vinegar
  • a dash of dishwashing soap
  • a few drops of your favorite DoTerra essential oil
  • Mix everything together and go for it!

 

There are countless reasons to make one’s own cleaning products.  Doing so allows one to control the ingredients and to use ones that cause less harm to the environment, to oneself and to pets.  The colors, scents and textures can also be customized to streamline the products toward the desired consistencies and fragrances.   Making them is fun and environmentally responsible.  Plus, they make great gifts!

I think you will be happy with the results.  As soon as I’ve finished using up all of my current stock of Mrs. Meyers products, I am going to start making my own on a regular basis.

 

 

 

 

silver rabbit

Napa Valley

 

 

valley

We spent a lot of time in the Napa Valley during our nearly month-long vacation….visiting family, visiting wineries and simply exploring, as is our custom when we go anywhere.  This was a fun-filled vacation, so we are still in shock this morning, after the earthquake, as we learn more and more about the damage and what happened.  As I mentioned in my last post, none of my family members were injured, but they did sustain a lot of property damage.

Anyway….here are some random photos of the trip and our explorations.  As you can see, it is stunningly beautiful there.  Enjoy!

gargoyles

These two gargoyles keep close watch over Castillo di Amarosa!

grape press

This vintage grape press sits on the ground near the castle entrance.

chain

Chain chain chainnnnnnnn!

castle kitty

Dario Sattui’s castle kitty!

piggies

Castle Piggies

calistoga

Relax!  You’re in Calistoga.

sidewalk cafe

Sidewalk cafe in Calistoga

pique

Some Pique Assiette in a bakery window.

3triangles

These lovely glass pieces were on our table at the Quixote Winery on the Silverado Trail

vase

More Quixote

 

 gaylon stacy brent

This is my Auntie, my friend, Brent and me (hiding behind my Aunt…at Brent’s fabulous art house in the Santa Cruz mountains.

gaylonand stacy at brents

My Auntie was amazed by Brent’s marvelous abode.

grapes

Home

After ten hours on the road last night, I was exhausted by the time we got home from Northern California.  I was awakened by a message from my Auntie early this morning, however, that has caused my heart to race ever since.  Her beautiful home in Napa was wracked by the earthquake at 3 a.m.  While she and my Uncle lost many material possessions, I was more importantly relieved to hear that neither of them, nor were any of my area relatives injured.  When I spoke to her, they had not located their two cats and two horses, but their dog was ok….and I feel that the other animals are fine and in hiding.

I will do an update with more photos of our journey soon.  Meanwhile, I am filled with gratitude that my relatives were not injured, and send my love and support to those Napa residents and visitors that were not as fortunate.  This is high tourist season there, and there were many, many people staying in the area hotels and b&bs. 

Sending them my thoughts and support at this time.   My husband just walked over and gave me a big hug.  We know how lucky we are.   We were JUST there!

 

Stacy

 

happy birthday ingrid

Happy 5th Birthday, Ingrid Neko Kesswood!

You light up our lives.  

Have a wonderful birthday, full of laughter and fun.   We will celebrate again when we get home.  Love you more than words can say.  You bring us unlimited happiness.  Thank you, honey, for being you!  xoxoxoxoxoxo

tea lady

She Ain’t No “Lady” (thank goodness)

The other night, in an attempt to be sarcastic, an insecure, drunkard  (who curses like a sailor and routinely beats on her roommate),  wrote childishly,  “You’re such a lady!” (or words to that effect…).  Those words were fraught with ignorance.

drunk

 I thought to myself….”um…no, I’m not a lady…and neither are you, if you have an ounce of self respect!”    According to contemporary vernacular, being called a “lady” is not a compliment.  A backward thinker such as this drunk  might believe that the term  is, indeed,  a high compliment  (even if she, herself, does not fit the standard characterization of the term).  However, by today’s standards, the word “lady” actually distinguishes women who think less of themselves from those of us who possess self respect. 

Women OR  men that  use the term “lady” to describe those they believe  are “classy” are ignorant of what the word really  means.   For starters, ones gender should not dictate that person’s preferences for social behaviors. I got a real kick out of this meme that has been going around Facebook:

lady

The term  “Lady” once implied a “proper” woman who is not to be disrespected, one that crosses her legs at the ankle, and never talks out of turn. She doesn’t work; she lunches….and she never, ever uses profanity.  She is the type that expects men to take care of her, and that gauges who she is in the world by her relationships with men.  “Lady” was, in the past, thought of as a respectful term that was used as the female equivalent to gentleman or lord.  Of course,  300 years have passed, and things have changed.  American Writer, William Allen White  related that a woman who had paid a fine for prostitution came to his newspaper to protest, not that the fact of her conviction was reported, but that the newspaper had referred to her as a “woman” rather than a “lady”.   After the incident, White assured his readers, his papers referred to human females as “women”, with the exception those women who had been arrested,who were all “ladies”.  Another writer, Robin Lakoff,   in her book “Language and Woman’s Place”, notably raised the issue of the ways in which “lady” is not used as the counterpart of “gentleman”.  It is a good read that can change anyone’s opinion about thinking that the term is a GOOD thing. 

One linguist pointed out that the word, “lady” is the linguistic equivalent of exercising on a stripper pole.  It has been adopted as a catcall or, as a way to objectify women.  In the Beastie Boys song, “Hey Ladies,” they rapped  “I threw the lasso around the tallest one and dragged her to the crib…”   Really??  No thanks. If that is what a lady is in your eyes, Beasties, I’ll pass.

Our  society BEGAN as a sexist society, where women were perceived to be the weaker sex, and were regarded as the property of our fathers, and then our  husbands, until death.  We were second class citizens, unable to own property, vote, make our own decisions, hold “real” jobs, etc, and were seen as inherently inferior to men.  Sorry, drunk.  I’m not inferior to anyone. 

sandwich

Today, women  are still underrepresented at the highest levels of business, politics, and education, and are still  routinely paid less for the same work as men.   Sexist language is a part of this problem, i.e. “businessman”, “policeman”, the use of “his” to represent something that could apply to all people, and: “LADIES”.   Engaging in social behaviors that are determined by one’s sex is self-deprecating.  The connotation of “ladies” to label women  suggests that women are perpetually young, genteel, quietly SUBSERVIENT, well-mannered and non-aggressive people.   The term does not reflect the TRUE nature and vast potential that women have. Some women ARE, indeed,  quietly subservient….and don’t curse…but that is a choice made, not because they are “ladies” but because it is their preferences as human beings.  Some MEN are also quietly subservient and do not curse.  In terms of social behaviors (rather than sexual behaviors), if a woman fails at something, she does not do so because she is a woman.  She is responsible for her own shortcomings.  If a man fails at something, he does not do so because he is a man.  He is responsible for his own shortcomings. 

equality

Women and men should view themselves as equals and should treat one another lovingly and respectfully, because at the end of the day, everyone wants the same thing, whether he is a he or she is a she or he is a she or she is a he. 

The famous psychic, Sylvia Rossi, aptly stated:

 psychic

…and I might add..”whether you are a man or a woman.”

Females  over the age of 18 are women, not girls, gals, or ladies. We are women, and we should be proud of that.  “Woman” is a strong term.   I gain freedom through my strength.   “Woman”   is the un-sexist term, and the CORRECT term.   Proudly using the words, “woman” or “women” is letting the world know that we are strong, that we are  not meek, limited, subservient inferiors to men anymore.  

Words are powerful.  Please use them responsibly.

rosie

Take THAT, “ladies”!!!

We are WOMEN.  Hear us ROAR!

I am laughing.

Ha. Ha. Ha.  Laughter is good for you! 

laughing

.3smilesha hamarilynnerudastacyonphonelaughing9pemalaughing8laughing3old woman laughinglaughing4laughing6laughing5laughing7laughing2laughing1laugh1tee heelalughingjohnny cashgenielaughingkels subwaykaugh1stacyonphonesharron angle

Try it!  Laughter is the best, most  joyful music on earth!  Regardless of what might be “wrong” in your life, you’ll feel a lot better if you can just find something to laugh about!   Laughter is medicine.

bay11-old vs new

Where Little Cable Cars…..

bay6-bay bridge

The new Bay Bridge soared majestically over us yesterday as we headed into the city to catch August Wilson’s first play, “Jitney.”  John and I have been August Wilson fans for decades.  In fact, the class that I took from John, in which we fell in love, had one of Wilson’s plays on the syllabus.  We saw that play together in Texas, and felt sentimental about seeing this one last night.

Jitney is part of Wilson’s Century Cycle, and is about a group of blue collar men who offer gypsy cab rides to and from African American communities in Pittsburgh where city cabs refuse to go.  We have attended other plays in the same venue, which was once an Episcopal Church, and love the small, intimate environment that makes the audience feel like it is a part of the play’s environs. 

4bay-alcatraz

A luxurious fog bank was beautifully rolling into the city by the end of the day, but Alcatraz was still visible as we crossed the bridge.  Of course, Robin Williams was on my mind as we entered San Francisco, as was my best friend, René.

  3bay-city

See how the streets sparkled in the photo above?  Everything looked silver and blue.  It was beautiful!

 bay8-embarcadero

We took our customary drive down the Embarkadero, but did not get out and walk as we usually do, because we wanted to catch a bite to eat before the play.  Again, I thought of Robin Williams, because he used to jog here, and further down the way near Chrissy Field.   There was a definite Robin Williams vibe going on in the city.  I think all of us are still shocked.

bay7-sculpture

As always, there were interesting things to see, as in this amazing metal sculpture. called SOMA.  The 60-foot sculpture combines metal and LED lights to mimic brain neurons and create an interactive experience for visitors.  The piece was first built five years ago by the San Francisco artist collective Flaming Lotus Girls. The group is known for the fiery statues they feature annually at the Burning Man festival in northern Nevada’s Black Rock Desert .  When it is lit, it is magnificent!

The usual Mimes were entertaining tourists, and a lot of people were out walking around.  It was a glorious day!

bay9-mime

We also drove over to the Haight, hoping to eat over there, but it was ridiculously crowded, so we went elsewhere.  I did snap a shot of this cool mural, however, even though I couldn’t capture the entire thing.  Kind of reflects on that whole hippie, Haight-Ashbury thing from the days of Jimi and Janis.   Doesn’t it? 

bay12-mural

We drove close to the theatre and decided to walk over to Kala Udon Kitchen, a nearby cheap noodle place that serves some of the best udon imaginable.  We had veggie tempura sushi, tofu, and our bowls of steaming hot noodles.  It was way too much food to finish, but we ate until we were full and had a great conversation.  We were both excited about the upcoming play.

bay1-food

We arrived early for the play, so John took a couple of shots of the very simply constructed set.  When writing is as good as that of August Wilson, a fancy set is not needed.  The work speaks for itself.

bay13-set1 bay14-set2

We held hands during the play and enjoyed one another’s company AND the play, more than I can say.  It was really good.  In fact, I was shocked that it was as good as it was since it was Wilson’s first.  I loved his later work, but this first effort was very strong.  It was well-acted and thoroughly entertaining. 

Overall, our date night was a big success! 

balloons

Clicking Off Items on the Bucket List….Up, Up and Away….

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to take a ride in a hot air balloon.  I have done this, in a small way, in that I went high into the air in one years ago, but the balloon  was tethered by a long rope.  Soon, my Auntie and I will be embarking upon the real deal, by floating high above the Napa Valley in an epic photo opportunity among the clouds.

balloon2

The first hot air balloon launch was in September of 1783, when a scientist named Pilatre De Rozier,  lauched the Aerostat Reveillon.  The balloon’s passengers were a sheep, a duck and a rooster.   The balloon stayed in the air for a grand total of 15 minutes before crashing back to the ground, and I read no accounts of how the animals fared…but I hope they survived.

balloon4

My former husband (and still good friend) and I used to go to the Albuquerque International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta to see the spectacular and creative air ballet danced by balloons in the wildest shapes and colors!  It was always so beautiful and exciting to see what people would come up with.

balloons3

There were balloons shaped like trains and cars and airplanes.  There were balloons shaped like houses and animals.  There were star shaped balloons and psychedelic balloons.  It was always so much fun to see them drifting by.    There was great music there as well.   It would play as the sun went down and all of the balloons would light up creating a fantasy wonderland of colorful whimsy. 

balloons5

Of course, I’m a little bit nervous about the flight.  Accidents do happen….but I prefer not to give those thoughts my energy.  I anticipate a smooth, beautiful ride with a chance to see the Valley from a perspective that I have not seen it before.  It will be fun to do this with my favorite Aunt, who is also a fun loving individual.  I’ll be sure to take a lot of photos, and will let you know how it goes! 

Up, up and awaaaaaaaay!!!!! 

 

 

 

 

Serenity At Its Best

feetpool

This was a good day…a quiet one, with no visitors, no pressing issues to attend,  and perfectly perfect weather.  I meditated at the far end of the pool for a long time this morning, then stretched out on the diving board and read for hours.  John was nearby with is laptop, working on his class.  One more week here, then a couple of days on the Pacific at the Oregon coast, which I really look forward to….then back to work and school as I head into my final year. 

This afternoon, I decided to make some pasta out of butternut squash that I picked up at the Farmer’s Market the other day.   I was planning to do a Beurre Blanc sauce, but John got hungry before I did, so he made a concoction of different kinds of mushrooms, garlic, and kale with some excellent, aged Parm-Riggiano. It was outstanding, and I was grateful to him, because I truly did feel like being lazy by that time.   I seldom get any rest, and this was much needed.

pasta

I took Maddie for a walk and saw a herd of deer just across the road.  They were so beautiful.  One of them had a big rack…huge, actually, and I felt a wee bit threatened, because they were all such big animals, and Maddie and I were standing there out in the open.  That feeling quickly passed, however.   I responded to them respectfully and they responded to me in kind.

flowergarden

I tended the lovely flower gardens in the front of the house, which is something I truly love doing…and I also tended the herb garden on the side of the house, harvesting some rosemary to infuse in some olive oil for cooking. 

It truly was a good day…a little romance in the afternoon…skinny dipping….a wonderful dinner with some world class wine…and now, we’re going to watch a film together…so night all.

An Afternoon among the Ghosts and Goblins…

At first, the thought of spending hours in a cemetery might seem grim  However, we spent the afternoon shooting photos at the Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, where many Bay Area residents go to jog, picnic, walk and read the tombstones that date back to 1863.  Cemeteries have interesting ambiances and one can tell a lot about the history of a place by reading the inscriptions on the tombstones.   I used to go to this particular cemetery when we lived in the Bay Area, because I found it to be the perfect place to meditate.  The place was designed by the same landscape architect that designed Central Park in New York, and  is now a famous historic cemetery nestled in the foothills of Oakland and Piedmont.  John and I had such a nice walk here today.   Bay Area families have found our many fountains, gardens and panoramic views comforting for more than a century. 

Here are some of the pictures that I took there on this bright, clear August afternoon:

Golden Gate Bridge from a Distance

gg bridge

The New Section of the Bay Bridge

bbridge

Mr. Chang

chang

Cemetery as Seen from Upper Level

c1

Triumphant Runner

1a

1 Year, 4 Months, 9 Days

1yr

Tombstone

1aa

Old Rugged Cross

1cross

Overlook

1o

Pondering

pondering

Statuary

statuary

Louisa Kohler

1louisa

Trio

1trio

 

 

 

quixote

A Trip Up Valley

gold dome

I have long been a fan of the architecture of the late Viennese architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser.   This week, we visited Quixote Winery, the facilities of which were designed and built by Hundertwasser himself.  It  will stand out in our minds as a stellar day, as we had a wonderful time.   The art….the wine….the company…the perfect weather made this a memorable occasion. 

hundertwasser detail

 Quixote Winery produces Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon varietal wines under its own “Quixote” label.  The fruit used in this exceptional wine is sourced from the 27 acres, sustainably-farmed Stags’ Leap Ranch estate vineyard, and was planted in 1996.  It is  located between Stags’ Leap Winery and Shafer Vineyards off of the beautiful Silverado Trail, near where my family lives.  The interior and exterior alike were all about art…and design…and stunning beauty.  It felt like a wonderland to me.  I loved it all!       

Quixote is not just about the wine.  It is also about the art.  The owners have a staggeringly beautiful collection of contemporary art.  The furnishings were astounding…and even the wine tanks were covered with colorful canvases. 

winery1

interior1

interior2

color chair

vase

 

The wine, which retails at $90 per bottle is bottled with screw caps rather than corks for better quality and storage.   I am rather old school in this regard, and was taken aback by the screw caps, but after tasting this exceptional wine, I have changed my opinion about the need to always use corks. The wines are highly rated and receive numerous awards. Deservedly so. Food and Wine Magazine rated Quixote one of the twenty best new wineries in the world between 1999 and 2004.    We are now proud owners of a case of Cab from there, one bottle of which we enjoyed last night after we got back to the Bay Area.  Except for the one bottle that we shared with our friend, we will save the rest for 6 years.           

quixote wine

The building, including grounds, is the only United States project built by Hundertwasser and it is magnificent!  Some of his original art hangs there as well.   The winery is designed in a whimsical, exotic way,  with ceramic tiles, irregularly rounded and painted columns.  The deliberately uneven floors are designed for their tactile effect on occupants’ feet. There are no right angles, except in the basement. The design style has been called,  “…phantasmagoric, psychedelic, and Dr. Seuss-like”. It resonated with my very soul! I loved everything about it. The winery structure is dominated by an onion dome covered in gold leaf, as well as a living roof topped with grass, bushes, and trees.  Even the light fixtures were artful.

light fixture

hundertwasser original

tasting room

mosaic q-winery

dome

One of my favorite trees there was the Buddha’s Hand. These citrus fruits can fill a room with their light, wonderful fragrance. I sometimes buy the fruit at Whole Foods, but had never seen it growing on a tree.  I just place it in a dish and its fragrance fills the whole house with lemony goodness.

buddhas hands 

Ours was a private tour, and Carlo, our guide, was terrific. The sweet French-German wine expert made sure we had the low-down on Quixote’s history and plied us with delicious imported cheeses and dark chocolate as we talked about the wine. And oh, the wine! It was so magnificent! I had not tasted a wine that resonated with me so much in years!

 carlo

After we left Quixote, we took our guest to see Castillo di Amorosa. We didn’t tour the castle this year, but instead, walked around the grounds and hung out for awhile and snapped some pictures. Lovely experience, as always.

castillo

 When we left, we went into Calistoga and bopped around in some art shops, had veggie burgers at our favorite Hydro Bar and then headed to St. Helena to pick up some English muffins from Model Bakery.

shoeslegs

These legendary English muffins were featured on the Food Network when one of the country’s top chefs recommended them as a “must try” item.   We tried them last year for the first time, and just had to buy more this year. Pricy, at $14.00 per half dozen, they are worth every penny! I have never attempted to make them, but did find a recipe online to share with you this morning.

Overall, I’d say we had a damned good day yesterday! 

english muffins

Model Bakery’s English Muffins

 Ingredients

  • Biga
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup/ 75g bread flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon instant (also called quick-rising or bread machine) yeast
  • Dough
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 3/4 tsp instant (also called quick-rising or bread machine) yeast
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 1/2 cups/ 510g unbleached all-purpose flour, as needed
  • 1/4 cup/ 35g yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
  • 6 tablespoons melted Clarified Butter (recipe follows), as needed

Procedures

  1. 1

To make the biga: At least 1 day before cooking the muffins, combine the flour, water, and yeast in a small bowl to make a sticky dough. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours. The biga will rise slightly.

  1. 2

To make the dough: Combine the biga, water, yeast, olive oil, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Affix the bowl to the mixer and fi t with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the mixture looks creamy, about 1 minute. Mix in 3 cups/435 g of the flour to make a soft, sticky dough. Turn off the mixer, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let stand for 20 minutes. (To make by hand, combine the water, biga, yeast, oil, and salt in a large bowl and break up the biga with a wooden spoon. Stir until the biga dissolves. Mix in enough flour to make a cohesive but tacky dough. Cover and let stand for 20 minutes.)

  1. 3

Mix in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough that barely cleans the mixer bowl. Replace the paddle with the dough hook. Knead on medium-low speed (if the dough climbs up the hook, just pull it down) until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface to check its texture. It should feel tacky but not stick to the work surface. (To make by hand, knead on a floured work surface, adding more flour as necessary, until the dough is smooth and feels tacky, about 10 minutes.)

  1. 4

Shape the dough into a ball. Oil a medium bowl. Put the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil, leaving the dough smooth-side up. Cover with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until almost doubled in volume, about 2 hours. (The dough can also be refrigerated for 8 to 12 hours. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before proceeding to the next step.)

  1. 5

Using a bowl scraper, scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface. Cut into twelve equal pieces. Shape each into a 4-in/10-cm round. Sprinkle an even layer of cornmeal over a half-sheet pan. Place the rounds on the cornmeal about 1 in/2.5 cm apart. Turn the rounds to coat both sides with cornmeal. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until the rounds have increased in volume by half and a finger pressed into a round leaves an impression for a few seconds before filling up, about 1 hour.

  1. 6

Melt 2 Tbsp of the clarified butter in a large, heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium heat until melted and hot, but not smoking. In batches, add the dough rounds to the skillet. Cook, adjusting the heat as needed so the muffins brown without scorching, adding more clarified butter as needed. The undersides should be nicely browned, about 6 minutes. Turn and cook until the other sides are browned and the muffins are puffed, about 6 minutes more. Transfer to a paper towel–lined half-sheet pan and let cool. (It will be tempting to eat these hot off the griddle, but let them stand for at least 20 minutes to complete the cooking with carry-over heat.) Repeat with the remaining muffins, wiping the cornmeal out of the skillet with paper towels and adding more clarified butter as needed.

  1. 7

Split each muffin in half horizontally with a serrated knife. Toast in a broiler or toaster oven (they may be too thick for a standard toaster) until lightly browned. Serve hot. (The muffins can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.)

  1. 8

To make the clarified butter: Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until completely melted and boiling. Cook until the butter stops sputtering, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Skim the foam from the surface of the butter.

  1. 9

Line a wire sieve with dampened, wrung-out cheesecloth and place over a medium bowl. Carefully pour the clear, yellow melted butter through the sieve, leaving the milky residue behind in the saucepan. (Discard the residue.) Pour into a small container and cover. Refrigerate until ready to use.

yotexas

So Much Ignorance….Yo, Texas!

I lived in Texas for 18 years and while I am still close to the majority of my friends there, I am still astounded by the amount of ignorance that exists in Texas.  Just plain stupidity.   Take creationism, for instance.  Republicans on the Texas State Board of Education have been fighting a desperate last ditch battle to shoehorn their superstitious creationism and climate change denial into public school science textbooks, but in the good news of the day, the board voted this morning to adopt the textbooks without compromising the science.

TEXAS TEXTBOOK ADOPTION IS A MAJOR VICTORY FOR SCIENCE EDUCATION

No Compromise on Science Instruction about Evolution or Climate Change in Textbooks, TFN President Says.

Despite last-minute efforts by some board members and political activists to derail the adoption of two textbooks, the State Board of Education today voted to adopt all of the proposed instructional materials up for adoption for high school biology and environmental science. Throughout the adoption process, publishers refused to make concessions that would have compromised science instruction on evolution and climate change in their textbooks, said Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller.

“It’s hard to overstate the importance of today’s vote, which is a huge win for science education and public school students in Texas,” Miller said. “Four years ago this board passed controversial curriculum standards some members hoped would force textbooks to water down instruction on evolution and climate change. But that strategy has failed because publishers refused to lie to students and parents demanded that their children get a 21st-century education based on established, mainstream science.”

The board voted to adopt all textbooks and instructional materials submitted by 14 publishers for high school biology and high school environmental science. None of those textbooks call into question the overwhelming evidence supporting evolution and climate change science.

The adoption of the Pearson biology textbook is contingent on the review by a panel of three science experts of factual “errors” alleged by an anti-evolution activist who served on the official state review team this summer. The publisher has insisted that the alleged errors are, in fact, accurate representations of established, mainstream science.

The board adopted the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt environmental science textbook after the publisher submitted a document agreeing to revise material that might be outdated. Scientists who have reviewed the publisher’s proposed revisions were satisfied that none of the revisions would compromise the integrity of the science in the textbook, Miller said.

There’s a reason why the Republican Party fought so bitterly to insert their junk science into these textbooks: book purchases made by the state of Texas are so large that they have a strong influence on which books are published and used by the rest of the nation. If the religious right had succeeded in Texas, the effects would have been felt far beyond the Lone Star State.

They lost. And science won, this time. But don’t kid yourself — the anti-science right will be back. They always come back….because ignorance is rampant in the state of Texas….people choose to believe what they want to believe and proof of the contrary has absolutely nothing to do with it.  If someone can make the rest of the world believe that things are hunky-dorey, that’s all they need….never mind reality.  Oh, well….I love you anyway, Texas…or, at least, I love certain people that live there….and thank goodness they still love me, too.

stacy orange