Monday, December 28, 2009

Did the Ipod just die?

This is my grandniece Mila on Christmas morning. I had arrived at my nephew's house five minutes earlier, and already I think Mila was getting anxious to open the gifts. My nephew's wife Antonella was trying to get the ipod to play some music after plugging it into a player device with speakers. Mila was already dancing in anticipation of the music that just wasn't to be. As it turned out, the Ipod just needed to be recharged. After breakfast we all went into the living room to open the presents. All in all, it was a nice day spent with family.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Can we get there any quicker?

Many are looking forward to the new year with a degree of excitement and trepidation. No one seems to know if the economy will buoy to the point where people will feel less stressed about making a living and saving money. Right now, all anyone seems to hear about is how much the prices of things will be raised in the new year. I have already heard that P.G. & E. will be raising their rates for the average user. We won't be expecting any raises here where I am , that much is certain. In fact I think that we may be scaling back on some of the jobs around here. but I hope that this is not the case.

Today we have a lot of tourists visiting our building, restaurant and store. I took two groups of thirty people on tours of our facility, talking about it's history and the history of the school itself. The regular scheduled cooking demonstrations were canceled because our demo chef was ill today. I came up with the idea of offering the "Greystone Experience" as a way of compensating those who already had made reservations and were expecting a cooking demo.It is so busy with people today, I am surprised that we don't have more staff to accommodate our guests.

The picture above is of Stephanie, who is one of the most positive people you will find around here. She always seems to have a smile on her face and I consider myself very priveleged to work with her. She works in our campus store, but also works Special Events like she is in the picture above.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Santa's greeting

My brother John has been very busy this year. He has created a wonderful persona as the Chicagoland Santa which has been in development for well over twenty years . Frankly speaking, I don't think he really cares who has been naughty or nice.He just likes going out, telling stories to little kids, giving out candy canes, smiling for pictures, going "Ho-Ho-Ho" at every opportunity and making a decent wage. What a great gig ! Now since he has launched his website, it's my guess that he will have plenty of work to keep him busy throughout the year. I drew this picture above while thinking about how I envision Santa Claus. I think my brother exemplifies this effort.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Back to work

Ahhh... four days off, and back for Holiday Season at the CIA. Last night was the Open House Event at Greystone. For me, a must to avoid. I was in S.F. yesterday, visiting my sisters Martha, Rita and my brother-in-laws, Hamish and Ernie. I went there to talk about marketing my chef hats, which will be one of my big projects for the new year. My aim is to get them into Cliff's and the Spice Island Marketplace. Right now, it is contingent upon whether or not the printer, Chromagraphics can figure find a way of recreating them with the right materials and packaging them in such a way that people will want to buy them. Then it becomes a costing factor. How much will it cost to produce 500, a thousand, five thousand. Being that this is my first is my first commercial product venture, I learned a lot from my sister Martha and her staff. Right now I am looking at redrawing the tag to simplify and making it more obvious what it is from a distance of five feet. So many questions arise as I move forward with this, and so many have specific types of advice to give me. So far it has been quite educational in a field I would not otherwise have any particular interest. Some have suggested creating a web site. I think that I eventually may do this, but I want to test market these products first in an actual brick and mortar store before I go online with this.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Just another day ?

Today is my birthday and so far I have heard from three friends. Two via telephone message, the other via email. I had some floating holidays saved up, so I decided to take this weekend off. I really prefer the Spring over these late Fall days. Winter doesn't officially begin until Dec. 21st, which is the shortest day of the year. I sort of feel like I want to go into hibernation and wake up around St. Patrick's Day. I have already done my spiritual exercise for the day and now I am ready for action.

My latest taste treat concoctions are Lundberg rice cakes with melted cheese, tahini and chapoltle sauce on top. Just for fun I put a roasted red bell pepper on top of that. So I guess you could say that my tastes are unconventional.

Last night I went to see the new George Clooney movie, "Up in the Air". It was a really good story and I drove all the way from Calistoga to San Raphael to catch it. It rained pretty hard last night but I drove carefully and made it back safely. I am so grateful that I am in reasonably good health. This time last year, I was recovering from a serious motor scooter accident and was just taking life a day at a time. I am still doing that, too. It's important to be grateful every day for what you have. Today I am going over to Trader Joe's to buy some more rice cakes, tahini and chapoltle sauce.

You see, I don't need a big cake like the one in this picture to make me happy on my birthday. Sometimes, these little things can make me feel like a winner.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Birthday coming up!

This is my brother with my grandnephew, "Christopher" who is his daughter's child. He and I had a little IChat spat the other day. We both wear are feelings pretty close to the cuff, which is tricky when we interact with one another. I think it was a good thing that we were a few thousand miles apart and talking online.I will tell you more about him later in this post.

Okay, I might as well shout it from the rooftops. Sunday is my birthday and I will be 59 years "of age". Doesn't that sound better than old? Besides, I am still very much a teenager in my mind. Being a child of the sixties in San Francisco, I could not think of any practical reason to grow up. The motto then was, " Don't trust anyone over 30." We all figured that those over 30 were the establishment, and were uptight squares. It must have taken most ALL of my adult years to acquire some semblance of maturity. Anyway,in our family no one likes to be advised of ANYTHING, because every last one of us is stubbornly independent. Some more than others, so one has to be VERY careful when soliciting the advice of an elder sibling. Of course if you talk with my brother he may disagree with you on that point.

My brother is the Chicagoland Santa and he has done quite well as establishing himself in this unique business.He has a real beard that is large, white and fluffy. His wife, Ariane helps him as Mrs. Claus at some of the events he is invited to attend.Last time I spoke with him we had a flare up because I felt that he was patronizing me. This can be difficult when as an adult, we are trying to relate to each other as adults who are respectful of each other. I think we were both tired.I still love him very much.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Monday, Monday

Can't trust that day. Well, I don't know about that. As I look out my bedroom window I see the sun trying to come through the clouds.The picture above is the sun peeking through the pine trees up at Robert Louis Stevenson State park about a week ago. It was supposed to be a big gully washer today, and I have yet to see what the weatherperson was talking about. Snow down to 500 feet? I doubt it. We had snow on the Valley floor a few years ago, but that happens on very rare occasions. It is more likely that the hills around here will have a dusting of the cold white stuff. Reflection time...

I was just sitting here thinking that it wasn't until the personal computer came along did we multi-task as much as we do now. I find that I pay more attention to my computer and Iphone each day, than I do to anyone or anything else. Is this a healthy thing? What about the computer that we used to rely on in our own head? Has this device actually helped us process information better than we already do?

Well, unlike Television ( which I don't now have any subscription to...) I seek out my information and entertainment in a whole new fashion. If I want to watch a show that I used to watch on TV, I will either download it onto my computer or just wait and watch a Hulu version of it for free. Hulu, who knew? I haven't ventured AT ALL into the gaming world. I see many friends and relatives getting involved in games like Bejeweled, Mafia Wars on Facebook, World of Warcraft or other such diversions. I avoid them precisely because of information overload. I think it's time to go back and take another look outside my window.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Pleasant Day in the Neighborhood

Sundays are the best days here at the Culinary Institute of America. Usually this place is a behive of activity on Mondays through Saturdays, most every week throughout the year.Today is rather relaxed because people are heading home at the end of the four day Thanksgiving feast.Where I am in the Atrium,stays open until 6PM which is in the main part of the building.The restaurant stays open until 9PM on weeknights and 10PM on weekends. The food is fabulous and the atmosphere is exquisite. I am feeling much chipper about my job today than yesterday for some reason.My whole attitude and outlook has changed.I am intuitively knowing how to handle situations which used to baffle me.Is this an extravagant promise? I think not. This attitude adjustment is being fulfilled rather quickly, because I am working at it.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Long Hike

Yesterday, I went for a hike with the Sanchez brothers and their friend to the top of Mt. St. Helena. They were very proud of thier accomplishment as this video will attest. We packed our lunches and set off from Robert Louis Stevenson State Park on a four mile trek to the top of the mountain. The boys were enthusiastic but began to gripe after an hour that they were hungry. Sebastian Sanchez and I ran ahead of the two others and hid behind a rock as the boys began calling out for us. We then jumped out and scared them with a loud growl. This was the first stop along the way.

After a lunch of bologna sandwiches and a peanut butter power bar, we continued on to the top. A lot of rocks were hurled down the hillsides and we kept our eyes out for good hiking sticks. Eventually we were above the timber line and they could see the whole town of Calistoga for the first time. Alejandro remarked how small the cars were, as if we were viewing the town from an airplane. Two and a half hours after we started out, we finally made it to the top.

The hike back down was fun as we invented a guessing game about different categories like Action heros, songs, rocks, vegetables, etc. just to pass the time. Around 4 PM the sun was beginning to go down and we still had about an hour of daylight left before getting back to the car.

When we arrived back in Calistoga, eveyone was dog tired but happy that we had undertaken this challenge.

Serving and being served

Today is Thanksgiving and I will be attending dinner at my nephew Edward's house in Napa. I suspect that relatives and friends of Edward and Antonella will all be there. It is common for me to dread these family events, until I get myself through the door. After that, I am fine. Some years ago, I attended Thanksgiving dinner at my sister Martha's house in San Francisco. I was in charge of making the garlic mash potatoes ( I read recently that this particular culinary assignment was given to Lindsay Lohan by her family their Thanksgiving dinner... a token gesture a best). I can hear them whispering to each other in the kitchen, " Well, it would be hard for her to mess that up. Anyway, garlic mash potatoes have become my forte.´

The dish came out pretty well, actually. Martha liked them, as did my sister Ellen who was visiting from Australia. This made me feel pretty good because I had been experimenting with dill pickle juice as a way of bumping up the flavor. All in all, I was proud of my meager accomplishment. Preparing and hosting an ENTIRE EVENT is quite another matter. I have only hosted one of these types of gatherings as an adult.

While working at Indian Springs Spa, I was able to secure a few cottages at a special rate. Family members from the Midwest and points north arrived to enjoy the weekend in Calistoga. I had to work and at the same time was trying to organize a picnic at one of the local wineries .Hosting a family gathering and enjoying what you have organized is not the same thing. Needless to say, one of my nephews ended up getting lost and the picnic had to be moved to another location because the reservation for the space was going to be scrapped if not everyone arrived on time. It all worked out however, and we had ended up having the picnic at a local park.

This reorganization happened because my sister Martha took charge and updated the plans. This is typical. I'm not saying that I won't ever host a family event like this again... but the likelihood is pretty strong that I won't. Thankfully, my family members have learned to be flexible. Besides, there are others who do a much better job of pulling it off.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Worlds of Flavor Conference.

This video was shot as I perused the building during my break. It looks like a lot of activity was going on in the Ventura Center so I just focused the camera on what I thought looked interesting.John from Illy coffee was preparing an espresso for me as of everyone was buzzing with excitement over what Chef Bobby Chinn would be preparing and what trends from his French/Vietnamese palate would ensue.A lot of creative energy in the building was pushing things forward.Admittedly, I am not much of a videographer. All I know is to move the camera slowly and try not to be too jerky. The results are spontaneous and unplanned and it looks like it. I should prepare more ( like remembering to compress the videos before I upload them ).Another video will follow, so stay tuned !

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Worlds of Flavor 09'

Today is the final day of our annual three day "Worlds of Flavor Conference." This week, this month, and past year just flew by. Like last year, we invited some really amazing chefs as presenters. One fellow I knew very little about was Bobby Chinn, who's Vietnamese/French Cuisine background provided the WOW factor that was second to none. We had iron Chefs' Marimoto (who, by the way will be opening a restaurant in Napa ) Cat Cora, Seamus Mullen and Tex-Mex impresario, Rick Bayless. Moroccan Chef Mourad Lahlou and Violet Oon were up there presenting their latest creations.The theme was "Street Food and World Comfort Food" of Asia, Latin America and the Mediterranean. Last night, the marketplace on the second level of the building was filled with people enjoying everything from Squid, Pork rolls, Baklava, Peanut Satay, Lobster tail, Sliced Avocados with anchovies on a crostini, and the list goes on. I couldn't sleep much last night after trying to digest all that strange and glorious food. Now, you may ask, does a smiling seal have anything to do with this blog post?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Chef Andrew's latest venture

I have created this logo following the directions given by Chef Andrew Wild and his supportive wife, Brenda. This image, I hope will bring much success to his catering business and his brand. Now that he is a proud poppa with a brand new son, I am certain that it is all systems go at this point. Perhaps one day, young Porter will be another talented chef in his own right... one never knows! Anyway, If you like this logo I am certain that you will enjoy the whole package that Andrew brings to the Culinary business.I wish him much success and prosperity.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

My Blue-Haired Grandniece

Here I thought that it was only old ladys who had blue hair.This is Cooper,who is my niece Marian's child. (who coincidentally looks a lot like her mother did when she was her age).She posted this pic on Facebook, and now little Cooper is a star on the internet.

This Halloween was uneventful for me. I drove home from work at 6 PM only to find throngs of kids roaming the main drag in Calistoga after the costume parade. The thing I found so perplexing was why the kids were then loaded onto these large buses to be transported three blocks to the fairgrounds !! I can understand the idea of having a safe Halloween party in one location, but these "helicopter" parents and the school board need to cut the kids some slack.I mean, it used to be that Halloween was the one night that kids get to assert a little independence and throw a water balloon or two. Hey, what six-grader doesn't want to "TP" old man Baxter's house just for giggles? I can just see the mothers after the kids get home from their neighborhood rounds,rifling through their goodies to make sure no one tossed a tampered candy bar in their bag.It was kind of sad for me because I only had the next door neighbor kid drop by, and the lucky bastard got all the whole bowl of goodies !

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thinking outside the box

I have heard it said "That it is not what you don't know than can hurt you... It's what you DO know that just isn't so ! " More often than not, I have been forced to eat a piece of humble pie when I take the initiative to venture off in areas where I think I have confidence and skill. Lately, I must say that I pride myself on the quick and efficient way I can break down cardboard boxes. I think that If I were pitted against someone as to who would be the fastest to break down ten, average-sized cardboard boxes into a flat pile, I would win. This month I had to correct someone who was a teacher as to how I would like these empty boxes passed on to me, so that I could break them down correctly. This teacher brings students who want to gain community service hours in order to graduate from high school to a Food Distribution site every third Tuesday of the month. It is here that I confronted the teacher when he took his box cutter out, to slice upon boxes of canned fruit for the students to place inside pre-arranged paper sacks to be distributed.

It was just playing out all wrong. After slicing open the boxes, he would hand me the part that he cut out on the top, and then the empty boxes were handed to me to be broken down by the students after all the canned fruit was placed in the bags.This little gesture forced all the boxes to come apart in several separate pieces that did not stack well. After I told him how to open the boxes correctly without a box cutter, he just ignored me. He explained that it was an easier way for the students to get the cans out of the boxes. A long shot of an explanation if I had ever heard one. I demonstrated that all he had to do was pull the flaps on the end open, pull one can out, and the rest would come out easily. Again I was ignored and he just continued to open the boxes the way he wanted them open. This encounter could have easily escalated into a shouting match, but I bailed before it got too heated. To me, this was recovery. I am letting go of situations where I would normally have fought to the finish for the short lived satisfaction of being right and making someone else wrong. At times, it may seem worth it. These times have been growing shorter and shorter as I gain more maturity.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wet and Muggy

This week has been an example of controlled chaos.The suprise storms have taken down two trees out front. Water has seeped into the building and has destroyed some of the merchandise at the Spice Island Marketplace, and yet the store will be moving thier new rolling gondola racks into the new retail space starting next week.

The campus store will be moving shortly, but not until the floors,doors,electrical,plumbing,ventilation and other preliminary procedures are complete. The air is humid and full of cement dust. The lady from our maintenance facility is running around dusting all the diplay cabinets and furniture.Most of the major work is done and yet the noise and dust is continual.Our weekends have still been very busy with wedding events, cooking classes and demos. This trend should continue right on through until the end of the Worlds of Flavor Conference.

We have learned through an email attachment that the president of the Culinary Institute is regretful that we won't be having our annual Holiday Party because of financial constrictions. We still are hosting a number of guests daily, and have visitors constantly.The picture above are a couple of my pals from the Campus Store. Maricella and Stephanie are very positive people who along with the other "Spice Girls" add charm and vitality to our retail space. The other people here are also a lot of fun to interact with on a daily basis. This is my extended family.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Reinventing oneself

Back in my youth, my challenge was to do my best at being honest, especially with my mom because she did not tolerate fibbing or outright lying. To me, that meant to not put up with anyone's Bullsh*t, unless you were doing it in jest, and it was obvious to the other person. My mom could sound so phony on the telephone when talking to nuns, though. She had this high pitched apologetic tone that sounded to me like she was grovelling. My sister and I would tease her about this, and she did not like it. I think she had a thing about nuns being "holier than thou" which was manifested when they would call and talk to her about us kids and our school work. I also think that she was well aware that we were not perfect little angels. The reason I bring this up is because as an adult I tend to fib more, and try my best not to tell an out-and-out lie when asked a direct question. Nowadays, everyone can be so political... doing their best to skirt issues that are best kept private. Now, if we are as "sick as our secrets" as the saying goes, then we undoubtedly have a lot of healing to do. Perhaps this is how one gains that priceless gift of humility.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Fall in the air

Already the wind is picking up and the leaves are all turning brown as they fly from the trees. The days are golden and rust colored and the hills absorb deep shadows as the season eases on into October. Tonight is a full harvest moon and the weather is cooler... a lot cooler. Business at the CIA is as brisk as the weather,and will continue to be right on through until just after the Worlds of Flavor Conference the first week in November.
Tonight I attended a going away party for a fine young man named Israel Ramirez, who is joining the Marines. He is doing this mainly for his education and the benefits. One can only wish him well, as
this country is still looking for Bin Laden, and the situations in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan continues to escalate. I know Israel is a serious young man, and this is a big step in his desire for a future. I gave him a bottle of good red wine that he can drink when he returns from active duty. His family I have known for over 15 years since I have lived in Calistoga. They are truly wonderful people and I wish them all well. I hope and pray that Israel comes home safely, and that God will protect him.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Prickly Pears

It's Wednesday, and after taking a nice hike around a part of Lake Hennessy I hadn't seen before was a new adventure. My friend Don and I walked about 2 miles out and 2 miles back and found a few delectable items along the way. He even brought some plastic bags to gather some Fennel seeds that were growing wild along the path. We spotted a few red tail hawks, some egrets, some deer and also a pelican. The sun beat down pretty hard and my arms were exposed. Don let me wear a long sleeve shirt because I had forgotten to bring one of my own. The day before, I had been to the dermatologist to have some pre-cancerous spots frozen with liquid nitrogen, so I needed to protect my arms. Towards the end of the hike, Don spotted some "Prickly Pears" and proceeded to cut one from a bush. I warned him not to do it because of the nettles, but he extracted one and handed it to me. Yikes !! The nettles got into my fingers and they are impossible to see with the naked eye. Nothing will get them out except time and patience.Don was as annoyed by the whole experience as I was; and yet it wasn't serious enough to put a damper on the beauty that surrounded us. I have already made plans to visit Lake Hennessy again next Tuesday with a new friend, Rebecca. Don't worry, I am going to avoid those cactus pears.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Wild Child

This post is a special tribute to Chef Andrew and his wife Brenda on the occasion of the birth of their new baby boy, Porter Andrew Wild. So far, their is not much I know about him, but I know he arrived Monday at 3:30. Now I would not be suprised if this youngster follows in his father's footsteps. Both Andrew and Brenda have a strong background in both Wine and Food, and as the old saying goes, "Apples don't fall far from the tree." I would not be surprised if this youngster gets a full-on culinary education before he reaches third grade. Now about two weeks ago, I was invited to Andy and Brenda's house on Lake Street for a party. I was really impressed with how beautiful their home is. The kitchen had all modern, state-of-the-art equipment. The living and dining room are exquisitely decorated, and the outside patio and back yard are perfect for entertaining. During the party, Brenda showed us where the baby was going to stay. She had this room "tricked-out" from top to bottom. A beautiful mural painted by my co-worker Martha Leach depicted rabbits, birds, bugs, butterflies and trees that worked perfectly. Even their dog, "Bear" lent a yellow-painted paw print to the floor of the room in anticipation of the new arrival. I know that Brenda and Andrew will make great parents and a wonderful home for little Porter, as he gets to know this new and enchanting world.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Tech not Touch

The Beatles had it right... " Ah look at all the lonely people, where do they all come from?" and " Where do they all belong?" I was sitting at a table at the Napa Valley Coffee Roastery today, and everyone was pecking away at their keyboards fixated on their monitors, sipping thier fresh Latte's parked precariously next to their laptops. No one was talking with one another. An elderly lady came and sat down at the table next to me and remarked to her friend that people aren't making any effort to chat with one another in a casual fashion any more. I overheard this, and pulled the earbuds out of my ears and turned off my IPhone. I was embarrassed to be a part of this all too obvious picture of uban life in 2009.

From the corner of the room a young college age woman was answering her cell phone... " Hello ? Hello? " Yes, wait... I've got it here." She furiously scrambled to fish a flash drive out of her purse to plug into her laptop. " Yes, the file is in .pdf format, so I can read it on my Mac." Isn't it great to be so efficient and tech-saavy I thought.
All of this zippy equipment that is supposedly going simplify our lives; And all it seems to be doing is impressing little old ladies who seem oddly out of place and hopelessly out of the loop. No one even looks up from their screen to acknowledge anyone else at the nearby tables. It reminded me of the indifference exhibited in that scene from the movie "The Time Machine" where all these beautiful people were sitting around picnicking as someone falls into a river and drowns. No one even bothers to notice. We all may as well have been in separate cubicles. Occasional spurts of intense concentration was the order of the day.

Non-verbal, and mostly unconscious signals like these only serve to isolate ourselves from others. I am certain that this is how it looked from this elderly woman's point of view. Many mobile devices these days are such a bloody fa├žade. A blue-tooth device that sticks in your oh-so-self-important ear seems to say, "Excuse me," I am in the middle of a conversation that is more important than anything you have to tell me. So,even if what you have to tell me is that my car is getting ticketed outside... buzz off !

These laptops, cell phones, Ipods and blackberries are creating barriers between us. If this scenario actually happened, I imagine it would be a wonderful lesson to those that were observed by that woman and her friend. People are missing the opportunity to make themselves available for friendly conversations with other human beings. Hmmm... perhaps this is because we are all just too busy getting ahead.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Friday on my mind

Today, I am hoping to hear from the Peanut Board. I have 2,425 Buddy McNutty hats sitting in the living room of my one bedroom apartment waiting to be shipped. Do they go 2nd Day or 3rd day ground. Decisions, decisions... as I wait patiently. Holding myself in quiet anticipation for the big push. I have been busy since last April putting together what was flippingly assumed could be turned around in a week's time ( yea, right ) Anyway, no more small token orders of less than a hundred hats sent off for a summer camp via Fed Ex overnight. This is the big one.Besides, a lot of TLC went into preparing this order. Aside from it being my first ( an admittedly a test run ). It will not be my last... but most likely not as large the next time. Each of these hats had to be fed through my fourth ( yep fourth ) Epson printer. Twenty- four ink cartridges, and around 40 crumpled and rejected hats later , I have reached the magic number of 2,425. Hopefully, I will hear from my client in the morning via phone or email. But for now... I will rest.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Losing Important people

This week has been a great shock in terms of two leaders that we have lost. The first one was Senator Edward Kennedy; Despite the cloud of controversy that hung over his political and personal life with regard to the incident at Chappaquiddick, He still championed the causes initiated by both his brothers, John and Robert. His life served as a testimony to valiant liberal causes. He was a very effective politician and spokesperson for liberal ideals like human rights and civil liberties. He, along with the other Kennedy brothers have left an unerring legacy in this country. The other leader that will be sorely missed is Deacon Bob Little of the St. Helena Catholic Church. He was killed in a motorcycle accident over in Sonoma county, not far from his home.This man was a great orator and inspirational person. He also was a great guide to people who weren't always forthcoming with their religious beliefs. He will be missed in the community, especially by Father Brinkle, who is getting older and was very dependent on Bob to assist him with a lot of the parish duties. We shall see very quickly how much the legacy of these to men will be carried out in the days to come.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A New Semester

Today a whole new crop of students checked into Vineyard lodge. And... a whole bunch more were moved off campus to Pacific Union College to stay in those dormitories temporarly, because Vineyard Lodge 2 has not been completed. Sure it is Leed (i.e. Green, sustainable ) Certified, but these students preferred making just one move in this semester. Thankfully, it is a good group and they all look eager and willing to do whatever it takes to have their experience at Greystone be one of the most valuable of their lives.Besides in a week or two they will be able to transition into the brand new dorm only a mile away from campus. A car pool was set up so even our shuttle system won't be taxed too heavily. The image above is called "Starborn" to signify the talent that comes from adverse conditions. It is my hope that there will be whole group of students that will shine as the new classes get underway.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunny Sunday

The drawing above is of a dagger that I reinterpreted from some clip art that I saw today. I am switching around to drawing objects for awhile, just to see how well I can embellish them. It is enjoyable to add a lot of "filigree" surrounding the outside of the object itself. The image was modified quite a bit in Photoshop as any seasoned user might be able to tell.Today I went to mass at O.L.P.H. which I haven't been to in awhile since they consolidated the 8am and 10am masses. I have been going to mass in St. Helena since that time, and I actually prefer St. Helena for Sunday services. The Calistoga church needs a more articulate orator to better serve the English speaking parishoners. Fr. Manuel means well, but cannot be heard past the first or second row of pews. Even with the microphone on, he does not get is message across.It was nice however, to connect with old friends from the men's club, even though I haven't attended meetings after stepping down as president. Also, the church needs the new energy efficient lightbulbs and to have ones that are burnt out, replaced. Okay, enough of my griping.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Keeping up the drawing

Stardate: Friday, August 14th, 2009. Today I stayed at home most of the day. I drew the picture you see above. I got the image from an old book which had a poster that i wanted to re-create in my own style. I enjoy the "tooth" of the Canson paper that I used to color this picture. The prismacolor pencils are one of my favorite mediums for coloring and drawing. The paper destroys fine lines and makes everything more uniform whether you like it or not.I am still exploring doing landscapes. I am not drawing from life lately, even though I will sometimes do that just for practise. Even when I am drawing from life, I am also drawing from my interpretation. This style is more illustrative and something I am not sure I will stick with... we shall see.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

In too deep

Today I went to purchase a DVI to VGA adapter plug to enable my monitor to be used on my new Mac Mini. Now I find out that I need a USB 2 Firewire cable to transport all my files and folders from the old Mac to the new computer. You would think one of the Apple Genius'at the Apple Store would have thought of asking me if I needed any of this stuff before I travelled forty miles over the hill to downtown Santa Rosa from Calistoga, three times! This whole digital world has gotten out of control. I have been a Mac user since 1998 and have owned a Powercomputer,Powercenter 132 (a Mac Clone),a Performa, An Emac, a Titanium Powerbook, a MacBook, a Power PC Mac Mini and now an Intel Mac Mini with a whole assortment of Epson Printers, Scanners, External hard- drives,Flash drives, Digital cameras, Video cams, Speakers, Mics, DVD/CD burners, FIVE IPods a Cell Phone and now an IPhone. I have had accounts with ATT,COVAD,METRONET,AOL,EARTHLINK and now COMCAST. I have purchased heaps of software from all the big companies and I am not really happy being chained to all this crapola. I know a woman who doesn't own a digital thermometer and doesn't really want to go this route ...who can blame her?

Have you been to the local coffee shop lately? It should be sectioned off into cubicles there are so many laptops, blackberries, cell phones and Iphones. It is sad how these things have dramatically affected our lives... and unfortunately people like my friend is getting steam rolled. Where have all the public phones gone? The fine art of letter writing? Penmanship...ahem! Too bad for her though, for not jumping on board with Online Banking, Blogging, Facebook and Twitter, and me for being unable to shun all this supposed wonderful digital "inovation". I want to walk away from all this crap but I can't now... I am in too deep and it has destroyed my ability to have sustainable relationships with family and friends because I am interacting with MACHINES and not people. This society is just becoming a swarm of technological servo-mechanics. Our minds have been molded to offer endless opinions and observations about pretty much anything and everything. This practise alone has trained us also to become editors in our own right, who would'nt dare utter a word of discouragement lest we be read, and brought to task by landlords, employers, ministers, family doctors, therapists and love interests and co-workers! Thanks a load for this grandiose Internet Tower of Babel and this digital groupthink monstrosity called "Social Networking", (damn you, Facebook, Twitter and every digital camera anyone has ever used to post images to the Net !)But hey, isn't this a nice little logo I designed in Adobe Illustrator, for the Bakery dream of one of our CIA Baking and Pastry graduates? I just HAD to post it to my blog, dontchaknow? ;-}

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Another "Stay-cation"

I enjoy staying close to home. When you live in the Napa Valley, why go anywhere ( except perhaps the south of France ) to enjoy the cool mornings and warm halcyon days somewhere else. This is why I live here. I do miss San Francisco, however and perhaps will return there sometime in the future.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Vacation TIme

Yep, I am off until the 19th of August. I left a note on the Concierge desk for my co-worker who comes in on my days off, so she doesn't get the idea that I got the axe. On this note I wished her well and made menton that I would be off until August 12th. ( WRONG ! What was I thinking? ) After five years of employment at the CIA, you get three weeks of paid vacation ... not two !! and I am going on SEVEN Years ( I can hardly believe it myself, considering I usually start looking out the back door around four years ). The truth is, I love my job and I am learning to respect those people I have held grudges against. Admittedly, I do get upset from time to time, but other staff knows that it is only because I don't want to disappoint anyone. In the business of Hospitality , It is all about having a "Sense of Urgency" that Thomas Keller refers to at his establishment, The French Laundry ( The sign is posted above the kitchen door ). It strikes me that without this presence of mind, the ball gets dropped and things don't get done in an efficient and timely manner. It has also been said that the "Devil is in the details" . Don't I know this... when a guest needs a recipe at the cooking demo and I am short a few, I have to get a fresh batch printed out and brought to the Theater before the demo progresses too far. This happened on Saturday and I freaked out because my co-worker wasn't getting these copies to me fast enough. I stopped what I was doing,and ran out of the theater, 50 yards toward the place in the building where the copier is located. I met her half way as she was coming towards me explaining how slammed she was at the Concierge desk. I just wanted the recipes without any time to spare. I was completely out of breath when I got back to the theater and in the heat of a tense moment, I broke down. Luckily, is was not in front of guests... but my team... Patricia and Andy. They were both very supportive until I could bring myself into some semblance of composure. It was clear to me, then and there, that a vacation was eminent.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Blogs (Bugs?) Life

If you are going to keep a blog, It is important to have a life. Today I went and cleaned out my closet of a bunch of old clothes and donated them to the Salvation Army over in Santa Rosa, CA. ( okay, so I missed Spring cleaning, so this is Summer cleaning ).Then I went shopping for groceries at the Grocery Outlet. Later this morning, I went over to my friend Reid's house and saw the swing set he put up for his kids.( Good Job I might add, but initially the plan was that we were going to hike up Channel Drive but canned that idea because he had to go pick up his son, William ) After that, I left Reid's place and went to meet my friend Dieter for coffee at Pete's in downtown Santa Rosa. I paid for my parking using my debit card in this new system that has replaced the meters on Fourth Street for the first time. I took the ticket that was issued with me and was reminded while meeting with Dieter to return it to my car and place is above the dashboard near the steering wheel otherwise, how would the meter person know that I wasn't parking there illegally...duh ! Then he and I went to Best Buy to see about a new battery for his mobile phone. It turned out that he did not need a new one because he had inserted the old one the WRONG way and it caused the phone to lose power ( back atcha Dieter ! )Then we went to Trader Joes for some items that I couldn't find at the Grocery Outlet... things like Irish Cheddar Cheese, Golden Flax Seed Cereal and dehydrated blueberries. Then it was time for a late lunch, so we went to have some Sushi at Yao Kiku on Yalupa street only to discover that they were not open until 5pm. which sucked because I was hankering for some Yellow Tail Himachi. Our Plan B for lunch turned out to be a Mexican Restaurant where Dieter ordered three carnita tacos with salsa and a horchata drink. I ordered a combination platter of a Chile Rellano and a Chicken Enchilada with Lemonade to wash it all down. I made a pig of myself. Then I drove back to Calistoga and Dieter drove back to St. Helena where he lives. Like I said in the beginning of this submission journal submission, you have to have a life to blog.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fishing for a faster connection

I am being placed on hold as the Comcast agent Alea restarts her computer which apparently is giving her some trouble. I want to get cable so that my internet connection will be a little faster than it is now. DSL has been rather underwhelming and expensive. I really feel that I have ridden the crest of a wave as the internet has grown over the years. Starting out with a 14.4 modem for dialup back in 1996 and eventually upgrading to a 56K modem in 2000, made me feel like I was in hog heaven... for about 3 weeks. Then DSL became all the rage because of the download times. Initially I signed up with COVAD because they were the only carriers available in my area. I have been with Earthlink now since 2001; and although Earthlink has been very helpful when I have called, their tech support calls are farmed out to India and a few months back my cell phone bill was outrageous! The problem involving my airport wireless connection was more an Apple issue than an Earthlink one, but the Earthlink server still drops out over my DSL connection even though I am able to retrieve it when needed. Hopefully cable will be simple, fast and trouble free when I get it installed. One can only hope. The image above was done with household bleach on black construction paper and highlighted with color pencils. Then I scanned the work and brought it into Photoshop for some tweaking. Pretty cool, huh? It sort of looks like a dangerous fish that would sit at the bottom of the river ,waiting to gobble up some unsuspecting creature that saunters along.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Fireworks Finale

Watch this video until the end. It will only take a minute. The kids next door let out a big Scream at the very end. Well, today is Tuesday, July 7th. I've ordered a Cable Internet connection because my DSL connection kinda sucks. Hey, If I am gonna blog and upload videos like this one, I'd better have a high speed, high bandwidth connection. Lately I've been enjoying my summer even though I haven't taken a vacation. I am not even sure that I will get one this year because of my suspension from work back in February. We shall see. I was called for Jury duty on the 20th and won't know how long that will take until I call on Sunday the 19th. Yesterday, I went for a swim and movie. I saw the movie "Heist" with Gene Hackman and Danny De Vito. It was okay. I fell asleep so It couldn't have been that riveting. My Great Nephew Mika, was baptized on Sunday. I worked that day,so I missed it (damn). It seems like the only social events I get invited to these days are either class reunions, baptisms or birthdays. Admittedly, I haven't felt very socialable lately. It's weird, I work all week for a couple days off and all I want to do is sit around and draw or post stuff on the puter. Exercise has NOT been on the agenda lately, either. The fireworks were fun to watch. The kids next door sat on thier dad's pickup truck as they OOOoooooOOOo'd and AhhhhhHHHhhhh away the evening

Sunday, June 28, 2009

That takes the cake!

Michael Jackson, Farah Fawcett and Ed McMahon all passed on this week. It was difficult to imagine the first two people ever getting old, but Ed McMahon seemed almost as if he was born into the persona of the eternal uncle or something. It's all pretty sad nonetheless, to have these icons of our era pass on in so quickly. It has been said by many people I have talked with; That celebrities leave the planet in three's. Well there may be something to that... I wonder if a serious study has been done about that Last night I sat up drawing the cake shown above using colored pencils. The whole time I was drawing I was watching videonews podcasts about Michael Jackson. All in all, I think I saw the video, "Thriller" and "Beat it" about two dozen times !

Monday, June 22, 2009

Summer 09' Commences

It is early morning and I just went out on my deck to look at my tomato plants. I have two of them. They both are doing well.What is it about tomato plants that make you feel like you are getting something accomplished in life? Whatever it is, I like it. The sun is just coming up and a new day is dawning. My breakfast this morning is a bowl of Special K with strawberries. One could survive for years just eating cereal .Maybe that and a Heckle and Jeckle cartoon.I have cut back on dairy using this Silk stuff instead. It's not bad and seems to go well with the cereal. At least it hydrates the dehydrated strawberries enough to make them edible. Otherwise, these things taste like those red strips that they used to put inside of flavor straws that turned your milk pink. Remember those? If you do, than you are surely dating yourself. But hey, at least you are dating someone !

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Trade offs

Me and my big mouth. Here I go telling everyone about my quest to loose thirty pounds by exercising every day. Well, one little distraction and my inner slob takes over. The good news is that when I get a little depressed I do my best art work. The drawing i did above is from a picture I found in an old lettering book by Speedball. I just loved the color, and the idea of taking color pencils to Canson™ paper was more than I could resist. Lately, landscapes have a lot of appeal. Anyway, the tradeoff to not exercising and indulging my artistic ability is that I can feel good about both or either. One will actually compliment the other. When I am running or swimming, I think about creative stuff. When I am drawing or painting I think about getting out and going running ! So go figure...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Short Trip

Monday I went to S.F. to participate in a focus group. I got paid $75.00 for determining if "Skype" was a viable alternative provider for making wireless calls internationally and/or domestically.Not bad, huh? Well I arrived early in the day and went by Cliff's Variety Store to visit my sisters and my niece. Martha was about to take her lunch break so we went next door to fetch a few Turkey Sliders and some drinks. All in all in was a great visiting family. My sister Rita said that she was getting off at three and if I thought about it, I would have invited her to go see the movie "UP" at the Castro Theater at 2 PM. I am sure Martha would have let her cut out early. I went off to see it myself from 2- to 4 PM .The movie was a family film and a bit of a tear jerker.The movie was and animation story, that required 3-D glasses to get the full effect of the graphics. After the movie, I had time to visit the Apple Store on Stockton street to pick up an adapter device for my Apple TV.The focus group lasted about an hour and a half. Afterwards, I visited the Hyatt Hotel where I used to work when I first got involved in the Hospitality field. The place has a new look at the top in the restaurant but the view is still one of the best in the city. All in all, it was a great getaway for the day.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Opening Day!

This is a picture of Dianne Martinez who is the Vice-President of the Calistoga Community Pool Project. She is also the landscaper/gardener at the Culinary Institute of America where I work. Today I took the day off to attend the ribbon cutting of the new pool(s) that were constructed for the families and Community of Calistoga. Being that I was the first place winner in the logo design contest, I received special recognition and several pool passes along with some swimming lessons thrown in! I was introduced by the mayor of Calistoga, Mr. Jack Gingles and received applause, as I went up to stand next to the committee that was responsible for bringing the project to fruition. Everyone there was thrilled to see this long time dream of local visionary Sylvia Scott come to life. The pools are absolutely gorgeous and I plan to take movies/pictures throughout the summer when I visit this place with my family and friends. This is going to be a great summer!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Lake Hennessy

Tonight was the second time in a week that Dieter and I went for a hike up at Lake Hennessy. The evenings could not have been more peaceful and beautiful. The first night ( Wednesday ) we gave ourselves about a half-hour out and a half- hour back, which amounted to around 3.5 miles total. We did not make it as far as the dam the first night, but about ten minutes shy before we headed back. We saw a few ducks and geese and blackbirds who made a host of natural sounds that made the whole gestalt quite lovely. Thursday evening we went all the way to the dam which took us about twenty minutes to a half-hour longer to complete.We talked about work, food and our travels. He is quite the world traveller. The only person I know who has probably travelled more than he has was my dad. My dad visited every country on the planet and brought back many items from many exotic places just to prove it. I forgot just how much my dad flew throughout his life, but boy did he log those miles. After tonight's hike, Dieter invited me to have an incredible abalone dinner at his house. Man, who could refuse that ! What a great way to end the day.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Baaaaaah !

This past week has been challenging. I have worked out every day in some form or another. One day I will ride my bike, the next day I will run a couple of miles with three pound weights in each hand, then the next day I will go for a swim. The Calistoga Community Pool has not opened yet, and won't until the 16th of June so swimming won't be something I will be doing on a daily basis for a little while longer. My muscles are sore an tired, but some have mentioned that I am slimming down a little bit. I think that is most noticeable in my face rather than my gut ( which is the last to go and the first to show back up again ). Last post I talked about my before picture which is on my home computer and you won't be able to see until I get a suitable "after" picture. I may go for a long walk when I get home tonight, but have not decided as of yet. I still feel spent from the extensive exercise I have been doing most every day this past week. I did not even get up in time to go to mass this morning. The rest I get will be on my days off.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Before and After

Okay, so I am not the Mona Lisa but I am going to be a work of art I tell you.Yesterday, I went to the St. Helena high school track to run laps. This morning I rode my bike about four miles. I have been eating right and getting enough sleep. It is day four of my summer routine. My friend Joe wants to sell me some nutritional products to help me along the way and I just may go for it. So far I am a stout 183lbs. at 5'8" and to my way of thinking that is around 30 lbs. overweight. So my goal is to get down to 150lbs. by my birthday in December.I am NOT going to TRY... I am going to DO IT. I put a before picture of me that I am afraid to look at... just because it disgusts me. Enough about that. You will see me looking lean and mean come this Fall I am sure. Any of you reading this are welcome and encouraged to ask me about my progress. If I start to slack off, you have my permission to give me a swift kick in the Keester. But beware, I will be a force to be reckoned with because I don't intend to be a slacker.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Marisella is out in the garden picking flowers for the campus store. It pleased me to see her smiling face in this natural setting. She is so friendly and personable when you go by the campus store to pay a visit.This has been a rather slow week here. No weddings are planned for this weekend. The weather has been spectacular and yet people haven't yet shown up here as a part of thier vacation.
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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Amuse Bouche

This term represents and item that a chef will present to a guest to tantalize thier taste buds. It is usually a one-bite hors d'ourve that will keep one intriqued enough to ask for more. I have been picking up a few French culinary terms this week just for giggles. Today is the third day I have gone out and run a mile after returning home from work. I intend to loose a lot of belly fat this summer if I can just get back into a steady routine of exercise and diet restriction. I guess I will be limiting myself to quite a few "Amuse Bouche's" as opposed to having full-on meals this summer. The latest about the chefs hats are that I have submitted a bid to Bob Coyle from the Peanut Board. I hope he can accept it, because it would help me establish an account with the company that makes the chefs hats. I can then further my creative pursuit by making a whole assortment of graphic images to be displayed inside the toques. Tonight I was watching a video podcast about a festival down in Santa Monica that has theme called "Glow". I think these lighted toques will be a good fit for this event. Hmmm... I 've got my work cut out for me.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Fingers crossed, Hopes high

Okay, so now I know a couple of things about disposable chef's hats. They CAN be printed on, but not on a laser, offset, or other traditional type of printer. They can be silkscreened. The material is almost like a coffee filter type of substrate. It absorbs the sweat from the brow of a chef toiling away over a hot stove. I still don't know if the manufacturer ALSO prints anything on them, or if I will have to purchase the hats outright and have them sent to the Printers who say that they can apply the logo right on them. ( Worse case scenario is that I would run these through Epson Inkjets, but that would be impractical at this point.) The hat vendor may be a one-stop shop. I am still waiting on the artwork from the buyer, and the people that actually manufacture the hats. Once I can get a price breakdown, I can figure out how much I will charge for each. Phew ! So much is contingent upon each entity, each step of the way. I hope and pray that this deal doesn't fall through the cracks. Besides, I have a lot of cool ideas for chefs' hats that I may be able to market once I have a little capital to build on... We shall see.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

May Day, May day !

The rain has been pleasant and a nice surprise to have around here this first weekend in May. Lately, I've been going through an attitude adjustment around my work and social life. Most of the time I come home, have something to eat, play on my computer awhile and then into the sack ( this is usually around midnight ) Then I wake up around 3 am with this restless feeling (probably because I've gobbled up a snack before I went bed in the first place ). Well I get up, go to the bathroom, get a drink of something sweet from the fridge and then back into bed. fortunately, I will usually be back to sleep in ten or fifteen minutes then right on through to 7:30 am when I get up to shower and prepare myself for work. Do you have this pattern going on? Lack of exercise, motivation and general laziness are the culprits. I'm looking for positive change in my life but haven't yet taken the initiative to get something going. Some good news however, I am working on a contract gig where I hope to make some extra $$$ jing to put a little spring in my Spring. I will keep you posted.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Getting Grateful

Sundays are my Fridays and the next couple of days are usually spent doing things I like to do... even if it's going grocery shopping or hiking with my friend, Don. I like that I get to sleep in on Monday mornings when the neighbors are all starting their cars at 7:30 am and getting their little jitterbugs off to school. Of course this week I have swapped days with my coworker, Marty so she can attend a family function. Tuesday, I will be doing a tour for Houlihan's restaurant execs after my regular business hours. Any opportunity for a few more shekels is much appreciated in today's economy. Last night I attended the "Quencinera" my neighbor Anotonia had for her daughter, Jessenia. It was held at the fairgrounds and I saw a lot of people from the Hispanic community, and a few people from work. I enjoyed cake and got to dance a Latin celebration number with Antonia. All in all it was a nice time. Jessenia is a sweet teenager who takes care of her little brother and works out dance routines in her spare time. Many times I will come home and both she and he boyfriend will be making out on the stairway up to my apartment. I always greet them by saying, "Good evening, young lovers!" They always smile coyly and wait until I pass to go back to their business. This is just another aspect of life in the hood.Below is one of the dance routines that Jessenia performed with her crew.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Another day, another 5 cents

Today was payday and it is also the same day my direct deposit turns around and automatically pays my rent. Let me just tell you that it takes two paychecks to pay a month's rent.This is insane. I am not getting ahead, and yet I still live here in the lap of luxury. This past weekend I created the logo above for the new pool that is opening this summer. I have entered in a contest that may fetch me some passes when the place opens up. It also may give me some publicity if anyone wants to enroll my services as a logo designer. This week I took a health screening and found out that my cholesterol count is back to normal but my blood pressure is still high. I am also about twenty pounds overweight. Maybe if I win these pool passes I can start getting more exercise. That would be nice.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Sad Day

We leaned today that two of our Students were killed in an accident that happened over on Pratt Avenue, not far from our off-site housing complex.It is suspected that alcohol may have been involved but the toxicology reports have not come back from the autopsy yet. The driver who was not a student, was driving a white BMW too fast down the straightaway on Pratt Avenue around 1am on Friday morning. It is alleged that the students were participating in Karioki night at Ana's Cantina, a local watering hole where a lot of the students go for a beer. Apparently, they came up on a turn and lost control of the vehicle and plowed into a tree. A security guard from the CIA happened to be driving down Pratt Avenue when he discovered the tail lights. He called 911 and the Local Police along with an ambulance were summoned. Their were three deaths total, including the driver who was a 45 year old man from Petaluma. The entire campus took on a stunned silence as classes took place during their regular times on Friday.Many students were seen sobbing as they learned the news of their classmates.Our managing director, Charles Henning called a meeting in the Teaching Kitchen to announce this unfortunate incident to the entire student body. Funeral Services are still pending.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Holy Week

I drew this picture after having an idea of making this into a T-shirt and selling it to a tourist shop down the coast at "Half-Moon Bay." Obviously, this visual pun may appeal to the people there... then again, it may only appeal to the tourists. This week really marks new beginnings for me. Easter Sunday has always represented rebirth and redemption in the Catholic tradition. Starting thursday, I plan to fast for four days. This will both be a cleansing and an attempt at making a spiritual connection. If this sounds a bit sanctimonious, I don't mean it to be. The past winter was probably the roughest one I have had in many years so I am getting with my program to the best of my ability. Also, I am still trying to recoup my losses, not only after the motor scooter accident, but also after being suspended from work for three weeks ( some defects of character I've held on to tenaciously and the price is getting to high to pay to keep them ). Material growth only comes after spiritual growth I've learned . So I cannot rest on my laurels in sobriety, it's grow or go! The fast will be about conditioning as well. Working at the Culinary Institute has made it all to easy to overindulge in fabulous food, and now I am at least 20 pounds overweight. On another note, I was planning on moving into a new apartment here in Calistoga, but the place is too small, does not have storage or a deck, and I would have to take a downstairs apartment. Staying where I am is about the best I can do for now. Not long ago, I was interviewed in Napa Valley Magazine for an article about Affordable Housing ( where I live is managed by the affordable housing group ). I have been living here for over 13 years and it used to be affordable... now it "barely affordable". I have to earn two paychecks before i can "afford" to pay my rent each month. That does not leave a whole lot of money to pay bills and buy groceries with; But I have learned how to budget and buy only that which I can really afford. Needless to say, I purchase most of my clothing from second hand shops and buy my groceries at the Grocery Outlet ( formerly the Dented Can Market ). The article featured a picture of me and some glowing remarks about the affordable housing market in Calistoga. Nowadays,My luxuries are hiking, swimming, artwork,digital photography and doing other stuff on my computer like blogging and maintaining a portfolio site. So, I pay my bills and look for some extra money doing art/graphic commissions and hope for a brighter future.I live a very modest life if you must know. If you are reading this, you might consider having me do a design for you. Check out my portfolio at: Thanks !

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Healthy Kitchens

The Harvard Medical School along with the Culinary Institute of America has this conference twice a year now.First one in early October, this one in April. The Conference goes over four days and features the best recipes using sustainable ingredients and organic produce along with locally grown ingredients and foods. Being that the Napa Valley is an agricultural preserve, we have numerous vendors and cottage industries in this area who come here to showcase wares and upcoming trends in the industry. Doctors are very interested in these trends, because it dictates what can be considered a varied recipe structure for an optimum diet which they recommend to their patients. Some attendees will suit up in their running clothes to go for a jog during the lunch breaks which gives you an idea as to what particular clientele are drawn to these events.The conference ends tomorrow afternoon.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Saturdays at the CIA

Today went a lot smoother than last time we featured Saturdays at the CIA. Today I know what is expected of me, and at what time I am supposed to do whatever it is that I am supposed to do. On the main level of the budilding,The cooking demo featured Corn beef and Potato gratin. Chef Steve does a great demo, he is quite entertaining and good about answering questions from the audience (quite the showman).Sometimes we bat it back and forth during the demo just to keep each other on our game. I run the cameras and help him with the plating of the dishes. I am grateful for the fact that I still have a job and am a valued employee where I work. I still yearn for those long hikes in Bothe State Park however, in spite of the poison oak that I have acquired. My bank account these days is slowly getting whittled down to nothing, and I was not paid for the time I took off. Unfortunately, suspensions don't count as vacations.Bah !

Friday, March 27, 2009

The forecast looks sunny for the next week. We have been having very nice weather here in Calistoga. This morning I put my house plant "Warren" to sleep. His instructions recommend that I cut back his stalk and leaves at the base of the roots. I think that he will be ready to bloom again next fall. Spring here is allergy season and yesterday I mentioned that my eyes will start itching. Well today I have discovered that I have itching on my legs and ankles. Oh no ! It's Poison Oak ! All that hiking I was doing during my time off makes me think that I must have brushed up against some small crop of poison oak. I will go by Smith's Pharmacy to pick up a bottle of Aveeno cream to keep the itching and scratching down to a bare minimun so that it can heal.The picture in this post is Warren after he bloomed. I feel sorta bad that I had to cut him down to the quick. Yah ! Well, that's about it for now folks.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Beginner's Mind

Today is sunny and bright. Spring is in the air and it is also the beginning of Allergy season. Little hints like scratchy red eyes and a little post nasal drip , along with ringing in my ears are tip offs. I take a prescription of Allegra when it really gets out of hand. I am returning to work today with what the Zen masters call "Beginner's Mind". I have an attitude of quiet anticipation of what the day will bring and I withhold judgement whenever I encounter something difficult. I ask my higher Power for guidance and direction, as I am sure it will come. Wish me luck !

Monday, March 23, 2009

Liz to the rescue l

It's only the second day of Spring, so started out fiddling on my computer restructuring my web pages and updating the colors, text, pictures and links. By 10 am I knew I had to make a call to Bob Graham to let him know that I intended to return to work on Wednesday at 9:30am ( too long a story to go into here ).By 2:30pm, I had a light lunch of Mackerel and Broccoli and head out the door to go for a hike up to Coyote Peak. I called Don, but I think he was in jewelry class at the JC today. I just wanted to get out into nature for a little P and M ( Prayer and Meditation ). When I got there, I took my jacket off and then my fleece shell I have for extra warmth off and left it on the front seat of the car. I put my jacket back on and made sure that my IPhone was in my pocket. I closed and locked the door. Two and a half hours later, after a very serene hike, I return to my car and noticed that the engine is running ! OMG!!! I left the keys in the ignition with the car running ( don't laugh this isn't the first time I have done this.) Now Luckily, it was past 5pm and I knew that my neighbor would be home, so I called Andres. He was just about to take a shower but understood my predicament and agreed to come by and pick me up. Just at that moment , my co-worker Liz comes driving up offering to take me home to get my extra set of keys. I call Andres back and thank him, but inform him that it won't be necessary for him to come and rescue me. I had a good talk with Liz and gave her one of my drawings that I thought she would like. Thankfully she did, so it made my day when she let me off to I get back into my car and drive home. Liz is a very spiritual person, and I love her way. I got home and Andres invited me over for some Barilla(?) , a Mexican chicken dish that was fabulous. For dessert we had some fresh Mango with cucumber, broccoli (second time today) drenched in lemon juice and salt. I have not tasted something this fresh and delicious in what seems like a very long time. Today, I feel very hopeful about the future, and the kindness of friends like Andres and Liz. The picture posted here is called "Skybird," and it is the one I gave to Liz.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patty's Day Hike

My friend Don Freeland and I went for our usual jaunt up to Coyote Peak today. It has been quite awhile since we have done this hike at Bothe Park. Don's wife Pat used to hike the Ritchie Creek Trail and be able to identify a great number of the plants there. Today, Don proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he received a vast botanical education from his deceased wife. It certainly opened my eyes to a host of plants I had previously overlooked. I learned about the Trifoil plant, the Stream Orchid and the California Lilac (cera something ). The Stream Orchid was very rare according to Don. He mentioned that Bothe Park was one of the few places,that it may be found. We counted about 20 of them along the trail.It really feels good to make the time to go for these brief hikes ( all in all about 2hours total ).March is a beautiful month, with winter almost over and everything looking so green. The Vernal Equinox is in four days. Today I have a lot of hope for the future in spite of the economic downturn.

Now in honor of St.Patrick's Day, my brother posted this humorous list via email...

What it means to be Irish ( I have edited a few to my liking ).

1) You will never play professional basketball.

2) You can screen strangers better than a Nazi check point.

3) At least one of your cousins is a
fireman, cop, bar owner, funeral home owner
or holds political office. And you have at least one aunt who is a nun, or uncle
who's a priest.

4) You think you sing very well, and will sing louder to prove it.

5) You have no idea how to make a long story short!

6) There isn't a big difference between you losing your temper or killing

7) Much of your childhood meals were boiled. Instant potatoes were a mortal sin.

8) You have never hit your head on a ceiling, but you are not beyond wearing lifts in your shoes to make you look taller.

9) You spent a good portion of your childhood kneeling in prayer (Catholic guilt

10)"Irish Spring" serves as soap, deodorant and mouthwash after being caught swearing.

11) Raisins were added to a Irish soda bread recipe when they couldn't figure out what else to do with them.

12) You will be punched for no good reason...but all in good fun mind you.

13) Some punches directed at you are from legacies of past generations.

14) Many of your sisters and/or cousins are named Mary, Catherine or Eileen..

15) Someone in your family is very generous. It is more than likely you.

16) You may not know the words, but that doesn't stop you from singing.

17) You can't wait for the other guy to stop talking before you start talking.

18) You're not nearly as funny as you think you are ... but what you lack in
talent, you make up for in frequency.

19) You are, or know someone, named Murph.

20) If you don't know Murph then you know Mac. If you don't know Murph or Mac
then you know Sully.

21) You are genetically incapable of keeping a secret.

22) You have Irish Alzheimer's... you forget everything but the grudges!

23) 'Irish Stew' is a euphemism for 'boiled leftovers.'

24) Your skin's ability to tan.... not so much.

25) At this very moment, you have at least two relatives who are not speaking to
each other (not fighting, mind you, just not speaking to each other)...

26) Childhood remedies for the common cold often included whiskey .

27) There's no leaving a family party without saying goodbye for at least 45



Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Keeping my chin up

Last night was cold.I went to bed around 10 PM and turned off the heat before I jumped under the cover of my down comforter. I awoke around 7:30 AM and noticed frost on the roof of the apartment next door. After taking a shower and getting dressed, I began thinking about the people that care about me and love me. It is important that I maintain my relationships with these people. I have been blessed with a host of friends, but only a handful know me as they may know their car or a house pet. I think more people "know of" me rather than know me. I am okay with this, because I too, try to respect people's privacy and personal space. Yesterday, I had put my plant, "Warren" outside for some sunshine and fresh air. I regret to tell you that I left him outside overnight in the cold. I think the frost almost killed him. I forgot to bring him back in after sunset. This situation has caused me much grief and stress. It seemed to be an apt metaphor for how my life has been going lately. I gave Warren a few eyedrops of plant vitamins and propped him up next to the window as the sun shone through.Eventually, his leaves began to straighten out, as did his long stem and bud. However, he is not out of the woods just yet. As you can see by the picture I put a neck splint on him because his head fell over . All of this has made me hopeful that I can still bring him back to life.