Thursday, August 5, 2010

Traveling well..

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I have been blessed with the desire and love for travel. My traveling demands and expectations are next to nil, and this I think, is why I am always so taken back by the amazing experiences I have. I go, and go without predetermined conceptions of what to expect, or rather, what I think I should expect. I, for the most part, roll with the punches, leave a lot to chance, have faith in my ability to “figure it out,” plus, I rely on the kindness of strangers for guidance when needed (and not). I’ve always done this. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you succumb to the realization that each of us is free and can do as we wish. We all have our boundaries, comfort levels and abilities. How far we push them is key. Traveling allows us the luxury to re-define ourselves without redefining ourselves, and be whomever ever we want to be. It opens the door for us to push the envelop a bit “unnaturally” as well. Where else can we unveil ourselves without consequence? When abroad, we can do as we wish. I love this. There is little sustainable judgment, which of course, encourages the change most important to us individually – the change we most likely, for whatever reason, wouldn’t take with our respective audiences, at home.

I usually choose the role of the cultural-loving vagabond most of the time, which incidently,  isn’t too far from how I would define myself now. I love art, history, food & wine, literary trysts, and especially “local” flavors, expositions, and the people within them. More than anything, I love the relationships that ensue, develop, and take on character as time passes – the relationships that have been encouraged at such events, when away, from my natural settings at home.  I have met the most wonderfully interesting, colorful, kind and caring people this way. These experiences define me. 

I prefer being thrown into the local mix; the non-touristy scene if you will, where the unabridged version is king. I prefer reality over pre-conceived itineraries geared towards the expectations of the unknowing masses, even if they are less comfortable and/or incomplete. Making my own reality and being a participant is important for me. I find that I am most myself when away. I suppose I take it to the next level “more readily,” when not home, which is the difference. There is a lesson in there for me, and I think I see it.. perhaps we could all “put our guards down a bit” and truly live where we are, as we are, and see what becomes of us. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Perhaps it could be that the best of us could very well be exposed!

To travel, “clink!”

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Vintage Home

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I love nothing more than the art of travel. I’m a creative type and I savor nearly every moment of it. I live in the moment! This is one of my blessings. I am a simple soul that feels and sees and hears more than most I think. Vintage Home inspires me to travel, which of course is one reason why I visit. It is one of my secret places that reminds me of a place not like most. It may sound strange but, Vintage Home makes me feel very much at home. Strange because my home looks nothing like Vintage Home. Oh sure, I have a few things from there, but just a few… my home is much more eclectic and minimal. Still, I love the simple elegance of this store and it reminds me of… travelling, of being abroad, and living simply, but well.

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Vintage Home is in Saint Helena. It’s a gorgeous little place on the corner in a historic brick building. It’s staffed by wonderful and kind souls that are knowledgeable and attentive, and it’s obvious that they enjoy what they do. I love that.  I like the colors and  love the smell of the place. The casualness of “everything,” leaves me re-evaluating my “master plan,” which is forever in motion.

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They have gorgeous linens, unique textiles, beautiful ceramics, tasteful wall hangings, lovely Italian pewter &  English crystal, a variety of antique & new lighting, and much more. I love that they have Santa Maria Novella, which is a favorite. They have a choice selection of local soaps, lotions, creams, candles and more. In the rear they offer an amazing selection of very tasteful toys, books, and miniature figurines for children (or adults) and upstairs (where their great lighting is kept) they have a design studio.

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I highly recommend checking out Vintage Home. Located at 1201 Main Street, they’re definitely easy to find. Stop in and pay them a visit. Meander after lunch and pay attention to detail. Soon after visiting a few times, you may find yourself wanting to escape on your own travels!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Antique and Vintage Bicycles…


I am in love with this old bicycle. I want it. It’s overwhelmingly charming, almost functional, and has cache. I get goose bumps looking at it. It’s as if we were once lovers and just happened to bump into one another haphazardly... it’s alluring (still). Chipped paint no matter. Minor rust spots transform into character marks and noisy gears seem endearing. Does anyone else have a fixation on transport such as this? I cannot be alone in my love for old resurfaced castaway items from the past. Items just waiting to be captured, updated (perhaps) and put back into use.

Bicycles are an excellent mode of transport. Where I live, they are highly controversial, but still an excellent way of transporting one’s self. This particular bicycle welcomes the type of person not afraid of wearing an old pair of chinos with the legs rolled up… maybe with a well worn  tee shirt or well taken care of (but also well worn) button down and pair of bucks. This isn’t the type of bike you wear designer high tech spandex (and thank goodness). No, not at all. It’s the type of bicycle that welcomes you to slow down a bit, to pay attention and enjoy the journey.

What or whom would you put in your sidecar?

When I see this bike I want to ride it up and down the street of of a town where time has been forgotten. I have visions of Italy, France, Spain, even Argentina.

For the moment, it remains categorized on my list known as “drool,” waiting patiently to be explored. Someday, you might see me riding it up and down the streets of Sausalito!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies and Grgich Hills Zin!

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Can I just tell you how much I love chocolate chip cookies?

A lot!!!

Chocolate chip cookies are to me what dreams are made of. They’re enough to take you back to your childhood and can change your demeanor instantaneously. Like me, I imagine for most, the smell and first bite of a warm (or nearly too hot) cookie is like a ticket to unadulterated nostalgia! They’re the perfect combination of ingredients, they’re easy to make, and I’ve never met a soul that doesn’t like them.

When I smell freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, I instantly think of my grandmother’s kitchen. I used to have the recipe memorized. Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookies is what she made (and what my sister and I learned how to make). I still make them. Nestle has made it oh so easy to do so (the recipe is on the back of the chips bag). Sometimes I change chocolates and even make my own “chips,” but I rarely deviate from the recipe in any other way. I might add more vanilla if I’m feeling particularly daring. Why change a good thing?!

I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies the other day for houseguests. Nicolas loved them and so did Jan. We had them for dessert after dinner. Nicolas had his with his favorite non-alcoholic juice. Jan and I had them with one of mine: a glorious 2007 Grgich Hills Zinfandel.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Canelé de Bordeaux

Canelé de Bordeaux are truly scrumptious! They are among the most amazing little mortal pleasures you could ever hope for. They have a hard burnt sugar outer shell and a cake-like moist custard inner consistency. The combination of their respective outer and inner make the Canelé de Bordeaux a complimentary culinary treasure.

I've found that our local Patisserie chain, La Boulange, makes them just as perfect as I've found anywhere. Their website is They have stores all over the bay area now and surprisingly enough, manage to maintain authenticity within their product line (a rarity when expansion of this level takes place). I'm particularly fond of the location where I first had a Canelé... the Pine Street location in Pacific Heights, but frequent the one in Mill Valley more often as it's closer to me.

Should you find yourself yearning for a treat developed hundreds of years ago; one that maintains it's authenticity and stands alone, try a Canelé de Bordeaux! I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the taste, texture and pleasure gained by doing so.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Far Niente Chardonnay

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I’ve found THE Chardonnay for all of you Chardonnay lovers! I have to admit, I rarely purchase white wine. However, when dinner guest Sherae Q. accepted her invitation, I asked if she had a preference in wine and she expressed her preference for white wine. I really hadn’t thought too much about it until I realized that I didn’t have any white wine at home. I enlisted a fellow wine-loving  friend to make suggestions and ventured out.

My choice for the evening: 2007 Far Niente Chardonnay. A special wine for a special occasion and special guest. I wasn’t surprised that it was good; in fact I expected it to be great - what I didn’t expect was to be blown away. It was absolutely amazing (and I don’t drink Chardonnay, but I may start now).

Sherae Q. seemed pleased, which in turn pleased me. Another night of entertaining with a guest I haven’t seen for almost… 5 years! It was wonderful re-connecting with Sherae Q. sharing simple food while listening to Nouvelle Vague and enjoying a local selection!

Robert Parker says this about Far Niente’s 2007 Chardonnay Estate: “Far Niente’s beautiful 2007 Chardonnay Estate offers up copious aromas of lemon blossoms, poached pears, and brioche, crisp acidity, a hint of tropical fruits, a greenish-light gold color, and medium to full-bodied, elegant, pure flavors. It should drink well for 3-4 years.” He gave the 2007 a score of 91/100 – not bad!

Check them out:, or visit them! I plan on making a visit later this week and wine report back if I feel “inspired.”

Friday, May 28, 2010

Wine, Cheese and Nibbly Things


Isn’t it true that some of life’s greatest treasures are also some of the most simple? The only thing I like more than being entertained is entertaining! Spring is here (finally) and more guests are coming… bring it on I say, there’s room for another!

Having a little get together doesn’t have to be a carefully planned orchestration. Sometimes all it takes is a wedge of cheese, organic berries from the farmer’s market, a few olives, a little salami or other dry cured meat, a sliced bread choice, maybe some other nibbles if desired, and a choice wine! I find that if I keep it simple, I entertain more. This makes me happy, so I keep doing it this way. Why not, it works for me?!

I was thrilled to have Gigi M. come for a visit on Sunday. Once again we spent hours taking about everything under the sun and  laughing until it hurt. I can’t wait for her return visit and for our Summer soiree, which I know she will love. She will once again be the life of the party!

Sharing laughter, food, & wine with those you love and care for makes life worth living! I treasure and cherish these moments. Fortunately, so do my friends.