New Orleans

Sunday, August 31, 2008

My prayers and thoughts are with the valiant people of New Orleans. They have fought so hard to make a comeback after Katrina. May Gustav lose all its power and move so fast once it makes landfall so it doesn't drop a lot of rain. Carol

Memo to the Tropics

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Stop it already. Give us a break. We don't need a repeat of the 2004 hurricane season.

Sigh, Carol


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I have my fingers crossed that Gustav doesn't reform like all the weather forecasters are predicting. Heather Graham's annual conference is occurring over the Labor Day weekend in New Orleans. She began the conference to help bring business back to a city she so loves, and this year my writing chapter Florida Romance Writers is sponsoring one of the events.

Although I'm not going this year because of my extended vacation to San Fran, many of my chapter mates are going to support the cause. May Gustav die off and everyone has a fabulous conference!


Breakfast at Sausalito

On the way to San Fran, my friend and I stopped in Sausilito. We'd remember how beautiful the town was on our prior trip, and we weren't disappointed. Although it was chilly and foggy over the bay, we walked along the water before finding a bar/restaurant with a nautical theme to have a yummy breakfast. Amazing how the houses cling to the hillsides. They look like they could slide right into the water. And I shiver to think about walking up the hills everyday. But lovely town. :) Carol

Russian River Valley

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

After Benziger, my friend and I headed north into the Russian River Valley, off the tourist beaten path. After driving around the valley a bit, we headed into Healdsburg where we checked out the family-run Seghesio tasting room. I really liked one of their Zinfandels that had a note of pepper. Then we explored the main square with not only gorgeous redwood trees but also had oodles of shops.

Finally, as we headed back through Sonoma Valley, we ate dinner at the Glen Ellen Inn Restaurant; the food and atmosphere was fabulous!!!! A perfect way to end our stay in the wine country for the next day we were bound for San Francisco. :) Carol

The Olympics

Monday, August 25, 2008

I'm a fairly avid Olympics fan. I've been watching the games since I was a little girl. I remember when all events were real tape delay...and all events were shown. That meant every competitor had their moment; after all, each athlete has spent years of training. I don't care if an athlete is ranked last and doesn't stand a snowball's chance in hell; I've always thought s/he should be seen.

Nowadays, you have to be a sleuth to find a particular event on what station at what time. Somehow this time I managed to miss the horse events, which I normally love to watch, but I did catch some of the fencing.

And I could have done without the almost footfall by footfall coverage of the men's marathon the last night. I finally zoned out and switched over to a movie.

All in all, it was a great Olympics. I spent months waiting in anticipation, and the spectacle was worth it. I was so proud of the US athletes. So many gave so much.

But I'm glad the Olympics are over for I can get some sleep now. :) Carol

Benziger Vineyards: They had me at the port wine

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

For me, the deluxe tour at Benziger was the eye-opener in terms of wines. The guide takes you out into the vineyard and gives a detailed explanation of what vines are planted where. For example, one side of the hill may get Chardonney vines whereas the opposite side is planted with the Pinot Noir grapes. He covered the impact of the extinct volcanon [3rd photo below] has on the soil. Benizger has converted totally to bio-organic farming and has created its own 'biosphere' from plants to pests to critters that kill pests to recycled water.

Once the outdoor guide finishes, he hands you off to another guide inside the cellars who explains about the wood comprising the barrels and then leads you into a room for a wine-tasting. It was at this point that I realized I preferred red wines with the note of pepper. And when I tasted a port and bit into dark chocolate, which then turned the port into tasting like coconut, I was hooked. My friend and I split a wine club membership as not only Benziger is still a family owned corporation, but also because of the organic focus. I look forward to tasting many more wines from this vineyard.
:) Carol

Town of Sonoma

Monday, August 18, 2008

I'm all hunkered down for Tropical Storm Fay. Another hurricane-tropical storm factoid: just because you're not in the center doesn't mean you don't get wind and rain. Fay's feeder bands are flowing far out to the east so they're sweeping along the east side of Florida even as the center heads up the west side.

Since I had shuttered up the back side of the house when I went to San Fran [in case a storm developed while I was gone], all I had to do today when I got home was throw the shutters across 4 windows. Yesterday I hauled out the generator for a test run and bought a second day's worth of gasoline. Although the power company supposedly has done a lot to strengthen the infrastructure since Hurricane Wilma, they have not been in my it may not take much more than a puff for us to lose power.

The tricky part will be timing the storm bands to take Maddie out.

Now on to better times. My friend and I spent a day going up the Sonoma Valley into Russian River Valley. We first stopped for breakfast in a bakery shop on the main square of the town of Sonoma. First shot is simply down one of the streets. Imagine having that view. At the theatre they were having summer camp for kids, which was a great idea. Also on the square is the last built Franciscan monastery and then an old soliders' barracks. I wish we could have more time to wander around the town, but we had to head up to Glen Ellen and Benziger's Vineyards.
:) Carol


Thursday, August 14, 2008

If my memory serves me right, the Rubicon Vineyard used to be Inglenook. For a peirod of time, Francis Coppola owned it. My friend told me there used to be quite a display of movie memorabilia; there's still some but more limited. The 'magic lantern' collection is fascinating.

The guest register on display had some famous names. Note Clark Gable and Jean Harlow's signatures; Jean had a good sense of humor, noting herself as 'platinum blonde'.

Rubicon was one of the more expensive wine tastings; we arrived toward the closing time so we went through the displays before heading down to the wine tasting. :) Carol


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Okay, since I'm suffering through another night of staying up past 1 a.m. to watch the Olympics, I have to wonder at "women's" gymnastics. I'm very proud of USA getting a silver. I know they wanted the gold, but given the injuries, I think they did well. But "women's"....

Only Germany had a 'woman' on their team. I think the Olympics should call a spade a spade and rename it "Girls' Olympics". One look at the host country's team...

:) Carol

Napa Valley-Beringer Vineyards

After we left Sterling Vineyards, Diane and I drove along the main artery of Napa Valley. Initially, we were going to see the advertised 'Old Faithful Geyser', but we took one look at the entrance and left. While the geyser itself may have good, threading our way through all the tacky tourist stuff just didn't seem worth the time; hence the photo of the sign. As it turned out, we later got caught in a major traffic jam and had to change our dinner reservations. We stopped at the Freemark Abby Cellars that served yummy barbecue and we sat outside on a gorgeous day. Among the breath-taking vistas, there are quirky notes, such as the smog station.

Next vineyard stop was Beringer's. The old mansion was covered with scaffolding; they're retro-fitting it for earthquakes so no inside tour was possible. However the facility had an outdoor terrace where you could sit, listen to lovely music and taste wine as you look out over the stunning scenery. Sweet.

Next post will cover Rubicon, Francis Coppola's former winery. :) Carol

Sterling Vineyards

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

First, a big shout out to the US Men's Gymnastic guys rocked in the team competition!!!!!!!!! They showed tremendous resolve under difficult circumstances. We're all proud of you.

Now...following the balloon ride, my friend and I headed to the Sterling Vineyards. What a vision as you wind along the road: a Greek-style white stucco building against the green trees and deep blue sky. However, to get to their facility, you have to ride a tram up the hill/mountain side. Absolutely stunning vistas! The tour is self-guided with videos running in strategic places to explain the wine making process. Then there's one wine tasting on a patio looking out the south side of the valley [please note the artsy photo of wine glasses on the table] and then a final wine tasting on another patio facing the north. For romance enthusiasts, the last shot is of Danielle Steele's Napa Valley retreat, according to the staff member who served us.

At Sterling I discovered a white wine new to me: Vignonier wine. Lovely! :) Carol

Back to Napa Valley: In Flight part ii

Monday, August 11, 2008

Okay, all the techie problems are either smoothed out or in the process of being smoothed. Before returning to the hot air balloon ride, and I want to high-five our Olympians. The men's relay last night rocked!!!!!!! I thought the women's gymnastic team also held it together remarkably in the face of continuing adversity of injured players. Boy, the women's saber team was awesome!!!!! I'll be glued to the set again tonight. :) Carol