Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Inside Activities

The rains let up today and the sun was out.What a week! The last couple of days were gloomy so I stayed inside and drew pictures. I used watercolor pencils for the picture above which I call "Flamenco" for no particular reason except that I thought it had sort of a theme going on with the fan and colors.This blog began at the end of the day on Wednesday, and today it is Thursday afternoon around 4:30 PM. I am bushed. I wanted to sleep in today. Thankfully, their weren't too many things that caused me to be stressed out today, but it is still only January.We are in the process now of setting up for the Mustard Festival this Saturday. Already, guys are dropping things, hammers are pounding and saws are whirring. Looks like I have cause to be stressed out after all. Some days, I'm too busy to be concerned about anything else except what is the next thing in front of me. The new students who arrived last weekend are beginning to find their way around. I am beginning again to learn the names, and putting names to each of the faces.Not a very exciting blog, eh?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Third Tuesday of the Month

Since 2002, I've been assisting Helen Archer ( shown in photo above ) with the monthly food distribution. I used to drive the truck down to the city of Napa to pick up the canned foods, bread, rice, beans, powdered milk and an assortment of other government issued surplus foods. They are generally pretty good, but you never know what is going to be allocated. One month, you might get box loads of cereal. The next month it will be bags of pinto beans. When the trucks arrive back in Calistoga around 9 AM, there are usually 5 or 6 volunteers there who help unload the trucks and bag up the food on four large tables that have grocery bags lined up. After a certain point, Helen will go pick up the high school kids who get community service credits for helping out. This is a fun activity, and people appreciate knowing that the food will be here on a month to month basis.

Today, it has been a week since we have been offering tours of the CIA and so far, it has been going okay. Come Monday, we will have a whole crop of new students coming in for orientation. Our new teaching kitchen is almost complete and so is the new chocolate room. Eventually we will have a cafe and a tasting area.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Tours starting today

It is Saturday, January 16th, and today we had our first group of paid tourists going through the building. This proposal of offering tours here has been met with a mixed reaction. The Instructors on the third floor wanted to put the Kibosh on the idea, but our managing director liked it and figured it would bring in some more revenue so...

Basically, I give a historical perspective of the CIA, talking about what the building was when it first opened it's doors back in 1889. From there, I gradually bring our guests through the preceding eras up to the present day and how the Culinary Institute of America established it's West coast campus here. The people I meet here are more fascinating than any history lesson one would ever think of imparting. It amazes me from how far and wide these people will come to visit Greystone. I understand that outside of Disneyland, this Napa Valley landmark is right up there as a popular destination people want to visit when they come to California. ( From it's appearance, I am still reminded of the Eagles' hit song, "Hotel California" }.

This area is so much more than grape vines, bike tours and balloon rides. St. Helena alone has become a Culinary mecca second only to the Loire region in France . Many have it that this place is where Food, Wine and Art have become the bounty of the good life. One that has emerged through the efforts of early California ancestors, including all the European and Mexican emigrants that have since worked this land over the past few hundred years.

Now our rainy season has just begun again on the West coast after a few meager starts and stops. The weatherman says that the coming front look like it could produce about 6-8 inches by weeks end.I am looking forward to getting a lot of little "inside" jobs to be completd this time of the year.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Ahhh, Conan. I found this poster more appealing than his campaign to get back his regular time slot on NBC.I'm a Letterman fan more than a Conan fan, but Conan is more likeable to me than Jay Leno. Carson was my all time favorite monologist, but Letterman provides a better show with the way he interacts with his guests.Okay, enough of late night T.V. because I don't even have a regular T.V. anymore.(( I have an Apple T.V. dontchaknow.))

The weather is nice and fresh after the rains on Monday and Tuesday. The sun has come out and things are slowly coming back to life. After the tragic earthquake in Haiti, many are counting their blessings for what they have.Yesterday, I went to the Calistoga Fairgrounds to get my H1N1 shot. This makes the second shot I received this season. Hopefully, this will keep me healthy and happy. I saw my friend Reid yesterday. We went for lunch at Yao Kiku over in Santa Rosa. We caught up on stuff, "kvetched" I think is the Yiddish term.

Friday, January 08, 2010


The big highlight of my week was going to see the movie "Avatar". More about that later...This week the store is completing inventory and is in the midst of continual expansion. The chocolatier bar is being constructed and the new teaching kitchen ranges and stove tops will be ready to fire up the first week in February if everything goes accordingly.Eventually their will be a cafe which will be sit down instead of take out. This will be a welcome sight on these frosty mornings as one will be able to greet the day with a hot latte and a blueberry muffin, all while reading the days Chronicle.The fog has been showing up in the morning, with the sun coming out in the afternoon around 2 PM. The space heater under my desk has been keeping me warm but I need to wear a comfy vest to keep my upper body warm.Greystone is a cold building in the winter,especially since most of the windows and door are open for future construction.Luckily the contractors have been able to get the heat going at the south end of the building which will be useful when the DeBaun theater opens back up, sometime this summer. Last Tuesday, I went with my friend Don to see the movie "Avatar" which was fantastic. I really enjoyed all the special effects in 3-D. The story was an adventure epic which had me on the edge of my seat for the entire two and a half hours. My only concern was that an intermission was sorely needed because the movie is just a wee bit long.Already the show has made boatloads of cash and I suspect artifacts like posters, books and other memorabilia will be showing up on store shelves very soon.

Friday, January 01, 2010

First day of Twenty Ten

The only thing waking me up last night was one firework launched at midnight which sounded like a bomb going off. The kids next door shrieked at the stroke midnight and I rolled over like a grumpy old man and tried to go back to sleep. I got up early enough to get to Noreen's house. She is my eighty-one year old friend who likes to take me out for breakfast. We drove first to Mt. La Salle for New Year's day Mass. It wasn't happening,but we paid a visit to the Christian Brothers who were there and walked around the grounds and said some prayers in the chapel. Then we drove to downtown Napa to find a place to have brunch. Gillwoods was packed, so we kept prowling around for awhile. Finally we drove back to St. Helena and had lunch at the Gillwood's there. I had a club sandwich and a cup of clam chowder. She had a Salad with ranch dressing and a cup of chowder as well. After that we went to the Cameo theater to see " Out of Africa " for Free !! It was a classic movie that was thoroughly enjoyable. The pairing of Redford and Streep was flawless. Noreen was very pleased that I went with her and kept referring to me as her "Adopted Son". What the hell, she is a sweet lady whose own family doesn't seem to take the time to visit her.