Archive for January, 2011

The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.

~ Galileo Galilei

Grapes Leaves and Sky

Several years ago, Tom and I bought a Cabernet Grape vine while out on one of our shopping excursions. In fact, I think we were at Costco buying food. I always run through the garden section, simply because I cannot “not” go into the garden section. There they were, so we brought them home and planted them by the Gothic iron archway that Gina and Lori had gifted me for my birthday.

Gently Sun-Kissed

They’ve done really well and we’ve had fun watching them grow. The leaves are always beautiful and it amazes me how the vines themselves reach out in fearless exploration, sometimes climbing over the fence into the neighbor’s yard.

I'm always awestruck by ripe clusters of grapes in my very own garden

This year, we decided to try our hand at making grape jelly. The grapes are not sweet enough to really be table grapes and we’re still experimenting with what else to do with them.

Bacchus would approve

We cooked them in a pot with a little sugar.

..in a cauldron...

Then we put them through the food mill to get rid of skins and seeds and ‘whatnot’.

grind and grind and grind and grind

Then back in the pot for the final cook. This is where all the Magic happened. They wanted quite a bit of sugar. We put the final product in jars and ate it on toast. It was delicious!

There is definitely some High Magic going on here!

Next year, I’d like to try making Dolma with the leaves, and maybe a different kind of jam or some juice. Who knows.

Late summer grape leaves and Queene Anne's Lace

As the year fades, the leaves turn yellow then orange and finally, bright red. They dry up and fall, leaving naked vines which I cut back in February with the Roses…and we start all over.

Fading into the Sunset


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“One of life’s gifts is that each of us, no matter how tired and downtrodden, finds reasons for thankfulness: for the crops carried in from the fields and the grapes from the vineyard.”

~ J. Robert Moskin

Napa Valley Vineyard, January 2011

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Bardessono - January 2011

While in Yountville, Tom and I stayed at Bardessono, a relatively new resident in Yountville and our first official “green” hotel experience. Bardessono is so green, it touts the “LEED Platinum Certificate” , which I can only compare to the Michelin Star program for restaurants. An associate of mine who is an architect explained it this way: if the construction of the building uses materials found naturally within a five mile radius, it gets x amount of LEED points, if it recycles waste it gets x amount of LEED points, etc. As you accumulate points, you get a higher certificate, Platinum being the highest.

The upper deck lap pool wasn't very crowded on a rainy January day

When we checked into our room, it was brought to our attention that there were no carpets, bedspreads or curtains. Right away I noticed how clean it felt. I have always been one to cringe at the thought of how many people have walked on a Vegas’ hotel room carpet, or what the hell had been happening to that bedspread at the hands of the previous tenant. Eww. So, score a point from me right at the get-go!

View of the courtyard from the pool deck

We were shown the mini-fridge, which was full of bottled water. Glass bottles full of water filtered on site by the hotel. No, we didn’t have to pay $8 to drink it and then throw away a plastic bottle. It was delicious too! The toiletries were all full-sized and refillable. No waste made by bringing those little plastic shampoo and lotions home and then tossing them. The bed was made with fluffy clean linens, not some heavy gross smelly brocade thing that you hesitate to sit on, much less climb into and sleep! The windows had mechanized shades set inside the glass which automatically opened when you came into your hotel room. There was even a fireplace.

The courtyard reminded me of a Japanese garden

We ate several meals in the hotel restaurant. They had house-cured meats and some of their own garden foods, as well as local foods and wine. We drank a lot of coffee, which was all made with a French Press. We have one of these at home and always forget to use it. Time to get it out and dust it off – it’s really worth it for the extra coffee flavor.

Bardessono - central courtyard area

One of the first things I did after checking in was luxuriate in the extra deep window spa tub that was in our room.

Tub with a view

I almost always take a bath right after checking into a hotel. Have to wash off all that airport/airplane/humanity grossness. This is now officially my favorite bathtub, and I’ve literally taken baths all over the world! The window view made it even better. Our room had an amazingly ‘open’ view, but provided some serious privacy so I could relax.


We walked around the grounds quite a bit to look at their vineyard and vegetable gardens here and there amid the landscape. I realized that the gardens made me feel like I was a special guest at a country estate and not a hotel. They’ve managed to create Zen in a way I’ve never experienced staying anywhere else. This feeling was reinforced by the staff; everyone was friendly and helpful and remembered our names, helped us out with directions and kept us well fed. The valets made sure we had umbrellas when it rained and offered us complimentary bicycles to use around town.

Simplicty creates a restful atmosphere

I would love to stay there again next year, unless we decide to go up into the mountains a little further. I’ll be saving my pennies though, Bardessono isn’t the most inexpensive place in town, nor should it be – they’ve exceeded too many expectations. We lucked out this year, despite our super-tight budget, and were able to use points we had accumulated on a credit card. Whew! Everything fit into place and we loved our peaceful and delicious stay.

entry to the Yountville Walking Trail right behind the Bardessono

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The town of Yountville has to be one of my all time favorite places to stay for a romantic getaway. It’s not really about what there is to do there, but what there is NOT. It could just be my imagination or the fact that we like to visit during the off season; I have never seen trash in the gutter anywhere, heard noisy or obnoxious people or cars, seen an altercation of any kind, or had bad food or wine. There seems to be a ‘hush ordinance’ and everybody follows it. Everything is green and growing and freshly rained on and trees! Lots and lots of trees!

Maintaining order in Yountville

There aren’t a lot of children and even the few I witnessed in a school yard were quiet and subdued. (This is an important quality in other people’s children when I’m having a romantic weekend.) The most chaotic thing I’ve ever experienced is the long line outside of the Bouchon Bakery. There will be no review for the bakery, since I’ve never been in there. For some reason, I don’t like to wait in line for coffee.

in the quiet schoolyard - I wonder who she was.

The effect of all this order and quietude is that I actually relax. There are old towering oak trees everywhere and people really leave you alone, allowing me space to breathe in nature and fresh air, to hear my own thoughts, to dream of that little farm I’m going to have with a vineyard and some goats and maybe a chicken or two….well it’s fun to dream!

the "Stone Mushroom Garden" by Rich Botto in the center of town

One morning, Tom and I took a walk from our hotel around the village. It was a cool, foggy morning after a day and night of rain. The sense of peace that came over us while we walked was worth the flight up there.

Hopper Creek

It doesn’t take but a few blocks to be out of town and in the country. Vineyards and gardens and old oak trees are all you see for miles.

wild mustard and fog

Happy California Cows

While we walked, we loosely mapped out our day. Take a drive through the mountains and look at trees. Pull over when we see a winery we’d like to taste. Stop for lunch somewhere…

I love these trees

…maybe dinner at one of our favorite restaurants; Hurley’s or Bistro Jeanty

there's nothing quite like old vines on an old building

…and since it was so foggy and rainy, there’s was a lengthy discussion on the taking of naps.

fog rolling through the Napa Valley

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“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
~Charles Darwin

grape leaves in autumn

Ok, let me just say right up front that this has been one of the hardest fall/winter seasons for me that I can remember. No details here, since this is not a bitching post. The fact that there have been no recent entries here speaks for itself. Also, I haven’t gardened in so long, there’s no telling what’s alive out there! But, I’m here now, and with some happiness intact, if not my sanity. Perhaps there are a few more crows feet, some weird thing with that nerve that runs down the back of my hip and leg, my belly put on a few pounds of comfort food, and I certainly drank a little solace wine along the way. Oh, and I completely lost my temper at some strange man who insisted on following me home and stalking me up the driveway to personally critique, and subsequently report to the authorities, one possibly over-brief visit to the stop sign two blocks from my house on a particularly horrible afternoon – he will certainly not be doing that to any other woman. Ever. I assure you. Silly man probably still doesn’t know what hit him. Bwahahaahaha! So, as far as damages go, not too bad.

Miss Peanut stalks a Dandelion poof. She's probably wishing for a mouse.

Yesterday was Tom and my 16th Wedding Anniversary and a very good day all the way around. It came at just the right time, at the end of a very long quarter, and seemed to put a cap on the season, leaving some optimism in its wake. Some important and worrisome projects we’ve been working on made progress in a very positive way, we shared a good day for our business with a happy client, and finished off the day basking in the glow of still being deeply in love and happy together. And so much has changed. When you’ve been with your partner for so many years, neither of you are the same person you were then, or even yesterday. The ability to be changed and accept change in others is the key isn’t it? And not just with relationships – it’s that way with every area of life. Ok, enough of all that and back to point of my journal!

go ahead, make a wish!

Somewhere in all the chaos and worry, Tom and I booked a little trip to Napa to celebrate our 16 years and get away from the office for a few days. We literally dragged ourselves up there, completely unprepared and clinging desperately to all of our obligations as if we didn’t think we could survive without them. We tried really hard to relax and almost succeeded! The photos came out really well and I’m enjoying the trip more through the photos than I did when I was there. Weird, but true.

Jungle Peanut

Here’s my plan, which I’ll put in writing to give it a better chance at fruition;

* finish work today and take the rest of my Saturday afternoon to rest
* Tomorrow I will start posting fabulous Napa photos and then head out to the garden to assess the winter’s damage. I know winter isn’t over yet and I have lost a lot to frostbite and neglect, but my garden muse is out there somewhere, dormant in the muck, and I need to wake her up.
* Monday I start cleaning up the messes made over the last couple months, everywhere! The year-end filing alone would make a lesser bean counter cry. Hell, sometimes it makes me cry. But the Moon is waning, so the timing couldn’t be better for cleaning up and clearing out – office, garden, closets, brain….well, I guess you can’t make changes without making messes. Oh, and you know what else I learned? Growing pains actually HURT! See you tomorrow!

a little Napa teaser...

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