Saturday, December 29, 2012

Why are California schools in trouble?

Living in California has probably more benefit than downside, I mean we have the best weather, outdoor locales and jobs.
On the downside, we have infrastructure that is collapsing, high cost of living and taxes, and poorly performing schools. My little town of Moraga has a bunch of school bonds that we pay for to keep our schools rated the highest in the state. (It does make a difference, oh and the fact that parents have to pay $1000 per child to the "Moraga Educational Foundation" every year..)

Anyway, I was looking for some kind of class related to goat keeping or home-brewing for beer and went to the CSU Chico continuing education website. This is a public university and like all of them in CA they have funding issues. However I can't see that being the justification for this horrible spelling error ;

Seriously? They are going to train folks how to pass the SAT and GRE tests? I would look somewhere else.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Hotel Leger Episode on Hotel Impossible 1/7/2013

Hi Everyone!

Exciting news! The Hotel Leger episode of Hotel Impossible will be airing on the Travel Channel on January 7th, 2013. The promo commercials mention that he has never seen the whole town turn out like this to save an old hotel. 

The Hotel Leger

Anthony travels to the Hotel Leger in California to try to save one of the most historic hotels in the state. With help from the entire town, can Anthony pull off the biggest transformation in his career and save this landmark?

Here are the links from the travel channel website -

If you are curious about this town and why I think it is so unique and special, please watch the episode. I don't see any online version of the show but there has to be somewhere. I am going to record it so I can show people later as well....

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Merry Christmas! 12/25/2012

Nick and I will be going to my sister's house today for Christmas and I just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Dec 2012 - weekend visit

December Trip

(More mushrooms!)

It is so hard to believe that I only made it up to the house once in December! And that weekend was really cold. So cold that when I got up on Saturday morning it was only 29 degrees outside. I had a fire in the stove going day and night that weekend, letting it burn down in the middle of the day to just coals. I love that wood stove because it is just so efficient it heats the main floor of the house with 6-8 pieces of wood, all night long! The trick is that the cast iron heats up while the fire is going, then when the fire dies down, that heat in the metal is still being released into the house. And since I still have quite a bit of firewood left from the trees we cut down 3 years ago, it is really cost effective.

I was hoping to see if any of the mushrooms that I think are Chanterelles,(but they could be the poisonous copycat, jack-o-lantern) were growing but the freezing weather turned them to mush... however... I did find a bunch of different Bolete mushrooms. Including one this year that is a lavender purple color and one that is a very smooth cream color that were new to me. I have read a lot about boletes but still haven't gotten up the courage to try and eat one! My favorite is the one with french's mustard color underneath, and then the one that turns blue when you pick it. I also started testing the oranges on the trees and they are almost ready to pick. If we keep getting some good rain storms, and not too many hard freezes they should be ready when I go up after New Year's. My oranges are always ready earlier than folks who grow them in lower elevations because of the colder weather that I get.

New Light Purple or Lavender Bolete
 Here is the collection that I picked - they are the only mushrooms to survive the freeze.
Starting from the left front - this was a very smooth cream color top with a white stalk, next to it is the "typical" brown and light yellow, on the right is my mustard color one - back left, Greyish top and greyish white stalk, and finally my lavender one again.

Orange tree - the oranges are much smaller this year, probably because of the hot summer.
Grapefruit Tree - last year had only 2 on it, this year it is doing really well.

Perfect, pretty orange. I can eat these all day long.
I will be up there again to get the floor repaired from the water damage right after new year's day, and hopefully that goes easy! Then I am off to drive my son to Tucson... so yea things are a little crazy right now!

Hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Best wishes to you and your loved ones!


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Las Vegas Trip - 12/6-12/8 2012

My parents booked a room in Las Vegas and invited me to come for a couple of days. I went there with my sister to take a couple of days off... it was kind of a flash back to the days when it was just us 4 in the family, before we had families. Denise even tried to do my hair!

The big event in town was the national finals rodeo, which brings in thousands of people. We didn't go to the rodeo because the tickets were so expensive, but we did go to this huge vendor exhibit. I mean huge! I went to it 2 days because you couldn't get through it all in one day. The other big thing was that we were going to see the musical "Jersey Boys" which mom really wanted to see. Things didn't work out so well with seeing the show, but that is the story of my life when it comes to New Jersey! 
Here are pictures from some of the hotel decorations, and the rodeo convention.
Mom and Dad - Black and White in front of the trees at the Wynn hotel
Beautiful "paper lanterns" that float at the Wynn

Bellagio Conservatory decorations


Restaurant at the Venetian -  Rattlecan
Restaurant at the Venetian

Jersey Boys store at Paris
This was an exhibit of young bucking bulls that will be up for sale. This guy got done bucking and is looking at the crowd like he wants someone to play with him. Surprisingly, no one did! I thought he was cute!
This guy rocked! The way the sale worked was interesting. You paid $13,500 to get a lottery ticket for one of the 13 bulls. Your ticket number told you the order you could pick one 1 through 13. Then you took him home and entered him into this competition throughout the year. When the rodeo comes back to Vegas next year, the prizes are huge and your little bull could make you money. Yes there were people there taking notes and video of these guys, who were planning on participating.

Dad checking out a replica chuck wagon you could buy at the show

They created a western town in the center for this show, each house or store represents a rodeo happening next year on the pro circuit.

Tucson Rodeo Poster
My dad's favorite ride at the show!

 The weather was beautiful there and it was a lot of fun hanging out with Denise and the parental units... although we just don't stay out as late as we used to anymore! We were back in bed by 11pm... what a sorry thing to say when you are in Vegas! Oh and yes I only lost money...


Catching up - Prior to the end of the world! 12/20/2012

Sorry everyone about the fact that I haven't been able to post anything for a few weeks.. My professional life and personal life have accelerated and collided in such a way that the only thing I do when I get home is eat, walk Casey, sit down to watch TV and fall asleep on the couch. Nick keeps laughing at me, especially when my eyelid started twitching last week! Yes I am a wreck but I am pushing on because I believe things will get better soon!

I will be posting a couple of different posts to catch you up...
First - Early December was a trip to Las Vegas
2nd -  Visit MokeHill after being gone for 3 weeks!

AND - the Riverbed Christmas party is tonight at SF city hall... I will let you know how that goes...

IF the world doesn't end tomorrow that is... 


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Trip to Bethesda, Maryland


I had to go on a business trip to Bethesda this week, and it is the first time I have been there. What a nice city! A bit cold for my taste but it was fun. We went out to a few restaurants that were all really good... but I am a crab lover. I was in Maryland and they are known for blue crab so the last night I was there I found a local crab place. I walked a ways to get there and was in the more industrial part of they city, I thought I was lost for awhile. But then I saw the awning... It was great! It wasn't any more than a glorified tent attached to a garage, with cheesy paneling and beat up furniture. But the crabs were there in their crates... and the tables were covered in newspaper. You didn't get any kind of silverware, just a wood mallet, a sharp knife and a bucket for the shells.
All they served were crabs, crab cakes, shrimp and beer. Here are the pictures...
Awning covers the outside seating area
 Table Setting - Bucket, Beer, mallet and knife

Crabs with dipping sauces
Crab cakes

It was messy but delicious and I got to talk to the locals there who were shocked I passed all the "nice" restaurants to find this place. I will be going back in January most likely so I will definitely drop by again..


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving Dinner - 2012

 — noun
1.            the act of giving thanks
2.            a. an expression of thanks to God
                b. a public act of religious observance or a celebration inacknowledgment of divine favours

The dinner was a success - my parents, my sister and her family, my cousin and of course Nick and I had a great time and the food was good too.

The menu was - 

1.Little Smokies
2. Cheese Ball
3. Crab Cakes (Nick made these and they were amazing! See pictures..)
4. Butternut Squash soup 
5. Turkey
6. Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
7. Green Salad
8. Root Vegetable Stuffing 
9. Pies

Here are some pictures from the day, mostly around food... 

My cousin Larry brought the ice cream and a bag of dry ice with it... so what do you do with a bag of dry ice? You put it in my bird bath/fountain of course!

Special Effects for the birds, thankfully they stayed away while this was going on.

Nick add water to the bucket with more dry ice.. Laine is supervising.
 Nick made crab cakes from scratch, including "picking" the meat from 4 Dungeness crabs. They were amazing!
Making the mayo for them.

Forming the crab cakes

1/2 the crab cakes, waiting to be fried.

Finished cakes with the piquillo pepper vinagrette.
I made butternut squash soup on Sunday and froze it. On Thursday, I just put it in a slow cooker on low until dinner... worked really well!
Butternut Squash soup frozen

In the slow cooker - that morning.
We had a "heirloom" turkey for dinner. Prior to eating it, I brined it for 24 hours and then let it "air-chill" until we were ready to cook it. I didn't have enough room in my refrigerator so it "chilled" in a cooler below. Next year, I think I want to hunt my own for dinner or find something a little cheaper than this!
There is a turkey in there just "chilling"

Before cooking, rubbed butter and herbs on it.

Sliced and ready to serve
The kids table... with Jacob, Nick, Mom, Laine and Dad
 I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!


Garden Update - 11/2012


I got to go to the house for a couple of days this Thanksgiving weekend and I am sad because I won't be getting back up there for at least 3 weeks to maybe a month. I am travelling a lot this month for work and family reasons. 

But this weekend, I did buy a "set" of red onions, called "Early Burger" and planted them in the raised bed with the garlic and lone rutabaga. The leaves are turning into the fall colors right now and I took some pictures from my deck.

Beautiful Fall Colors from my deck

"Set" of onions

Planted in the bed with the garlic

Rutabaga? Or Turnip?

Look at the size of this worm!
  Don't you love the size of that worm?! ( I don't have a small hand... in case you are wondering.)  It tells me the dirt in the veggie garden is starting to come along and will hopefully be full of worms and other good stuff soon.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! Enjoy!

It is my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, because it allows all people to participate regardless of religion or ethnic heritage. AND you don't have to spend a fortune buying gifts for everyone. AND you are required to be thankful.. AND there is turkey.... AND football.

I am hosting this year but in Moraga... The Hill House is not in shape with the stinky frig and the floors. I have gone out and got a "free-range heirloom turkey" from Whole Foods. The thing cost a fortune but I want to try what these birds taste like so if I get a chance to raise (or hunt) one I will know if I like it.

The next couple of months are going to be a blur...I am travelling a lot so I might not get to go up to the house for a bit. The floor repair is scheduled though for  Jan 3rd and 4th... and hopefully my flooring will be in this weekend so I can pick it up.

Enjoy your family and friends - don't worry about Christmas until Friday!

Best Wishes!


Sunday, November 11, 2012

First Cold Weekend - Nov 2012

This weekend I celebrated the first fire in the wood stove! I love my wood stove for heating that house because it does a great job and it costs me so little money with all the firewood I have. It was really cold, down to 29 degrees on Saturday night and Friday overnight it poured rain. I am hoping for a wet winter this year.. like the first 2 winters I was there. Last winter was cold and dry which is a bad combo for my fruit trees. They can take the cold if they get enough water. 
I met with the flooring guy on Saturday and I am waiting for his quote on fixing the floor. I am crossing my fingers that the insurance payment will cover it all. I sure hope so! That floor has cost me so much time and money it is almost becoming comical. But I have to say that I really love it... isn't that just like love? :)

I started my second year of lasagna gardening, with my winter prep work. For those of you new to this blog, this is not about growing pasta. It is a method of gardening that works with layers of materials to block out weeds and build up the quality of the soil. The dirt in that garden was pretty poor and full of weeds that I just can't keep up withn and last year it did seem to a have a positive effect.  The first step was last week where I pulled out the old veggies and other plants and put them in a pile.
Next is a layer of newspaper- and I wet down each layer.

Newspaper over the plant material

Next was a layer of cardboard and water that down and poke some holes where you see water pooling

Last layer is another bunch of bags of potting mix
I liked the results last year especially in terms of the weeds being kept away, so we will see how this works out. I would like to get a couple bales of straw and put it on top but not sure if that will fit in my car. Since we sold the truck, I really miss it!

With the storm that passed through we had some fantastic clouds late in the day. 
Sunset Pink and Purple Clouds

This was just before sunset and the light is refracting through the clouds making these beams shoot out. You might need to save this on your computer to see them.
When things get overwhelming it is this kind of  beautiful nature events that just make you appreciate life.

I am hosting Thanksgiving for the family here in Moraga, and will be trying for the first time a "heritage" turkey. This is one that is not the standard commercially grown, white feather turkeys but one that is closer to a wild turkey. We will see how it turns out. My family is really traditional about Thanksgiving dinner, one year I wanted to not have mashed potatoes and gravy and you would have thought I suggested they eat eel!.