Whew! Have we been busy…

After ten straight days of out of town guests, all of whom we really enjoyed, I trekked down to LA to celebrate Estee’s 6th birthday and party.  She had wanted a home party so her Mom made sure she had exactly that…from a ten foot bouncy water slide, to a candy-filled pinata to a Barbie birthday cake.  What a great event.  Lunch was catered for all of the kids and their parents.  It was great getting to be with all of my nieces, nephews and their kids and all of our friends and family in LA.  Truly a special day for a special little girl.  I then spent the next few days babysitting for the girls.  We all went to see Winnie the Pooh and managed to eat most all of our meals at their favorite restaurants.  It is fun to see how they have grown up and matured…they even agreed to Japanese one night and Marlie even wanted a cucumber roll!  They have come a long way from pasta and pizza.  What a completely delightful few days with them.  It could not have been any more fun.

Steph and I then drove back to Napa where we have had a great time together, walking, talking and cooking.  I really miss her when she is not here.  Vin Dame is her new company and really doing quite well.  I am so proud of her.

This weekend we had Lee Broad our friend and author at a book signing at our home for his new novel, The Masada Protocol. Excellent read and very exciting.

The garden is prolific. We have so many cucumbers, artichokes, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, green beans, lemons, apples and pears. The blackberries are going crazy and the figs and raspberries are in their second round of production for the summer.  Every morning when I get back from my walk I carefully pick fresh blackberries from my cereal.  We have had so many blackberries and raspberries that I have made 4 crisps with them this summer….Delish!

Two of the three chickens are still laying eggs daily. Even with this reduced production we still have more eggs than we can use.

I hope all of you are having a very special summer.

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A Day in the City

What a great time we had with our cousins who came in from Boston and Orlando. One couple had only spent one day in the SF and the other had never been here.  Lar and I arrived in SF at 8:45 am and met them at their hotel on 4th Street.  We decided that a morning walk was in order and so the six of us trekked up to Sears for a terrific fun breakfast.  The restaurant is right off Union Square and has been there since 1938….truly a SF jewel and the food is still very good, at least for breakfast.

As we came out of Sears we headed up the hill to California and then continued our adventure into Chinatown.  Our cousin Mark didn’t mind the walk up the hill, it was the going down that scare the bejesus out of him. He wanted to sit on his fanny and slide down the hill, but Deb and I didn’t think that was such  a good idea.  Lar, Dennis and Michelle took an easier route. Lar stopped as asked a doorman if he had seen any deaths from visitors walking the hills. The doorman assured them that he had not and so they took a less treacherous route to meet us.

Our meeting place was my favorite Chinatown jewelery story just below Empress of China.  I had to purchase a few trinkets to remember the trip.  I also found the cutest chopsticks for kids and purchased several pairs for adorable granddaughters who love to eat Chinese Foods.  I had to call to check out which were their favorite colors.  Heaven forbid I make a mistake and buy chopsticks in green when they wanted blue, or pink when they wanted purple.

From Chinatown we walked over to Columbus and walked through Little Italy. The aromas were delicious, but since we had just finished a late breakfast we stopped only for the boys to get a Cappuccino.  We continue our walk to the wharf and checked out the Golden Gate from the crossing to Scoma’s. The fog was pretty heavy so we only got a blurred view. We continued along the wharf and came upon the Maritime Museum. Since none of us had ever been we stopped for awhile and took a few tours and checked it out.  Very cool how they have actors acting out in period dress.

It was now time to climb the hill up to the Buena Vista for a much deserved Irish Coffee.  The place was mobbed, but we found three seats at the bar. The gals got to enjoy the comfort of sitting down for awhile and the guys stood behind us.  The bartender had no personality and moved like he had not slept in a week. A few minutes later a nice looking lady came in and he became animated as all get out and we had to ask several times for our check.

We then walked the block over to Ghirardelli Square.  Looks like we weren’t going to get lunch so I suggested we might stop and get hot fudge sundaes….Absolutely, the crowd roar and we made a beeline to place our order.  I scoped out the restaurant and quickly found a table for six.  I was very quickly joined by our entourage.  The sundaes were delish.

Time to hop a cable car back to Union Square.  We had already walked 5 miles and were looking forward to a great ride back.  The line was very long and the price went up $1 per person to $6…just in the last month. Now you have to prepay for your tickets. Something new and different.  We were in line 45 minutes, but when it was our time to board we all decided to wait for the next car so that we could get front row seats. It was definitely worth the wait.  A great time was had by all.  We rode all the way to Union Square then hopped off so that we could see the inside of the St. Francis hotel.

By this time it was late in the afternoon, we walked back to their hotel by walking through the mall and Bloomingdales.  Didn’t feel like shopping and just wanted to put my feet up.  After resting until five in Dennis and Michelle’s room we drove over to Scoma’s for a great feast. Larry and Dennis each had whole cracked crab. Lar concocted his famous crab sauce which he and Dennis shared.  They had a great time devouring their crabs.  Somehow the kitchen failed to bring Mark’s dinner with the rest of ours and it finally arrived when we were almost finished eating.  As a treat our great waiter Tim brought over 3 desserts on the house…Great dinner, great company….great fun day!  I love San Francisco.  We are so lucky to live so close!

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The Chicken Saga Continues

Simon and his sons showed up on Friday to begin rebuilding the chicken coop. First they had to dig out 8 inches of dirt so that we could wire the entire base of the pen. We let the chickens run in the yard.  They stayed surprising close to their pen and were confused as to why they were on the outside looking in.  Every hour or so I would go out and check on the progress of the renovation and check on my girls.  On one trip I could only find Gladys and Gertrude…Hortense was no where to be found.  I asked the guys who were digging, have you seen the grey Chicken?  Oh yes just a few minutes ago.

Simon had gone to the store and I caught him as he was returning to the backyard. Simon, did you see a chicken out in the front of the house…oh no…but I did see doodoo in the garage! You saw doodoo in the garage?  At first I was not clear what he was saying and then I translated doodoo with an accent to poop in the garage. I quickly hustle out to the front of the house with Simon following closely behind.  In a few minutes we eye Hortense marching down the street as if she owned it.  I did not want to frighten her, so I called her like you would call a dog…no response, she just kept marching away.  This was obviously no way to catch a chicken.  Simon and I decided to run in front of her and coax her back to the house.  After several attempts to catch her, Simon and I were able to corner her so that he could pick her up.  I was never so glad to find a live chicken in my life.

As we returned to the garden I noticed that Gladys and Gertrude had found the lettuce/spinach patch and had happily planted themselves in the planter box.  Hortense soon joined in and for the next few hours they consumed all the lettuce and spinach that they could find.

Well by 5 pm, the chickens were safely put back into their pen, all clean and fresh with the dirt turned and new rice hulls laid. By Saturday morning they were as happy as clams not having to deal with the rats….they even began laying an egg each.  I am sure they are glad to have their coop and pen back to themselves without their uninvited guests.

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Steph’s visit to Napa

Enjoying our time together

Great having Stephanie and her friend here in Napa for a few days. Steph was here for a photo shoot. Her new business Vin Dame is really getting off the ground. Check out her website. The weather has finally gotten better. It should be in the high 80’s this week and we are getting ready to fire up the Pizza oven. I am looking into adding a smoker to our outdoor kitchen. Any thoughts are welcome. Wishing all of my friends and family a wonderful 4th!

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The Rat Saga continues

Fortunately for the rats, it rained today in Napa. Hopefully tomorrow we can begin work on digging out 8 inches of dirt and laying in the heavy gauge wire on the ground and then secure it up the sides with 2 x4’s.  We will then add clean dirt and new rice hulls.  We have not seen any rats for two days. Of course I am not the one to check.  Larry has been great about checking every morning.  I think he is a little dissappointed that we have not caught any rats since we laid the traps in the coop.  Tomorrow is another day….

Steph and a friend are up for a few days.  It is always great to have my kids here. Using her best culinary skills she prepared a great dinner.  We polished off a few bottles of wine in the process and none of us are any of the worse for it.

Tonight we tried to inflate a new air mattress in the cottage, just to check it out.  Much to our dismay, after several attempts we realized that we have a faulty valve.  Can they make anything that works in China?  We will have to order a new mattress in the morning as we have company for the next 3 or 4 weeks.  It is the Ellyn and Larry Bed and Breakfast during most of the summer.  We love seeing everyone. Hopefully the rain will stop and we can start using our barbeque.  With all this rain it seems more like April than the end of June.

I want to wish all of my friends a very fun holiday weekend.

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What a weekend…

The weekend started off great, a delicious dinner from the garden, red velvet cake at Mary and Jason’s, time with my friend Zoe…all terrific. Then came Saturday…

I stayed in bed until 10 am so I could finish John Grisham’s book “Confession” which I was really into and wanted to get to the end. Thought I would have a lazy day, lunch with Larry, grocery shopping, nails done…you know the usual Saturday routine. Around 4 pm I decided to go check on the chickens, put some more feed in their bin, make sure that they have water since the weather is warm, feed them some greens, collect the eggs and go about my business as usual. When I arrived at the chicken pen I noticed that they had laid an egg near the feeder and not in the coop. They had never done that before. I picked up the egg, filled up their feeder, gave them clean water, closed the pen, went around to the coop to gather the eggs. When I opened the coop door to get the eggs, I was greeted by 8 rats!!! Oh shit, I had on gardening clogs and slammed the door on the coop and ran screaming blood curdling screams at the top of my lungs. I then proceeded to trip on my clogs and fall face down on the ground. By this time I was totally petrified and sure that the rats were chasing out of the coop and running after me like you see in the movies. I got up and ran as quick as I could now that I was bleeding on my arm and knees and pretty bruised by this great fall. Larry came running out of the house, sure that someone was trying to kill me. I was so hysterical that I had to go in and lie down so that I could slow my breathing down.

My hero husband proceeds to the chicken coop, sure that I had exaggerated the situation, only to find out that there were indeed 8 rats huddled between the roosting boxes and the door to the coop. He began to take a shovel and rake to get them out of the coop and they began running for cover. He came back in to report and convinced me that they had all run away. We called farmer Mary and her husband Jason for suggestions. They brought over their rat zapper and we were off to the hardware store to find solutions for our rat infestation. After spending $50+ on rat catching devices we returned to the home front armed with rat houses laden with poison and steel wool to cram into the holes in the fence.

By this time it was 5:30 pm and we all had to shower and get ready to go out to a fundraiser for the evening.

This morning (Sunday) I was off to the Board Retreat for the Temple. I left the house at 7 am and returned at 2:30 pm. After going out for a late lunch with Lar, Jenni and Jessica, I returned to the homefront and decided to check on the chickens. Again I noticed an egg laid in the pen…I now knew the rats were back with a vengeance. This time I am no dummy, I do not open the coop door. I run into the house, this time I am wearing tennis shoes…I am prepared to take on the rats, but not alone. Lar was not happy to hear that I thought the rats were back but he followed me out to the chickens…he notice the egg, as had I in the corner of the pen. He slowly opened the door to the coop and sure enough, two rats were hiding in the back. He tried to coax them out to no avail. Finally he got one and was able to kill it. Whew! One down and one to go. We decide to set a rat trap and trap it in the coop. I went into the house to gather supplies, namely our organic crunchy peanut butter, a spoon and a knife to scrape it onto the trap. Between Lar and I we are able to set the trap. Lar carefully carries it into the coop, places the trap on the floor of the coop and locks the door. The chickens couldn’t get in and the rat couldn’t get out. We go inside the house for an hour and plan on checking before dark to see if we got the rat. At 7:45 pm we once again trek out to the coop and I stand back….far back about 50 yards. Lar slowly opens the door to hopefully find a dead rat, but no…as he moves the roosting box in place the rat jumps out of the coop onto the ground. I let out a blood curdling scream, jump onto a metal lawn chair, again gash my knee and break a fingernail and Lar looks at me and says, get ahold of yourself. When I am sure the rat has run away I slowly descend from the chair and go into the house.

In frustration I looked at my favorite chicken website for a solution…www.mypetchicken.com
They were very helpful. They provided several solutions that we will begin working on tomorrow. We will have our gardeners dig up the floor of the chicken pen and attach a heavy metal wire and then put in several inches of dirt and then rice hulls. I am sure that we will be into the chickens for several hundred more dollars, but these are my girls and I must protect them from the mean rats!!

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Our Trip to Northridge

Last Monday we left for Northridge to celebrate on Wednesday the Step-up ceremony for Estee from Kindergarten to first grade and the graduation of Marlie from Nursery School.  We drove down with Jason and Mary and had great conversations for the entire 381 miles.  Lar did the driving and Jason, Mary and I did the yapping.  It was great just having a few hours to chat and catch with the kids since they returned from their honeymoon.

We arrived at about 2:30 pm, just enough time to jump in the car with Jodi and pick the girls up from school.  When Estee saw me waiting for her she started running so fast it appeared as if she were flying through the air to get to her Peaches.  We then walked across the street to pick up Marlie and I received the same welcome from her. What a joy it is to spend with these girls.  Nothing can make my heart sing like hugging and kissing on my girls.  We were then off to swim class and dinner.  By the time we got home they were exhausted.  Marlie fell asleep in the car and we gingerly took her in and put her to bed.  Estee and I had to read a book and snuggle first.  That I never mind.

The next morning we took the girls to school and then we all met at our favorite deli,  Brents for a delicious breakfast.  If you are ever in LA and close to the Valley it is totally worth the drive to go eat at the best deli in the US….if you don’t believe me, check out Zagats!  Stephanie and my neice also met us for a very fun filled breakfast.  Then my girls and I went to the hospital to visit a very dear friend who was recovering from a stroke and lots of other problems.  It was a joy to be with her.  This wonderful lady had been one of my mentors as I grew up in the business world in LA and can never thank her enough for all that she taught me.  We were then off to lunch at a cute little Japanese restaurant in Tarzana and then we rushed home to pick up the kids.  Earlier in the day Estee had brought her sports trophy from T ball to share with Marlie’s teachers and it accidentally dropped and broke into pieces.  Jodi and I almost cried and Estee was very upset.  Being the good grandma that I am, I promised that we would either glue it back together or find a new one before end of day.  Thank goodness my neice knew the gal who had provided them for the team and we were able to track her down.  She had another trophy which I was happy to go pick up and have on Estee’s nightstand when she woke up in the morning.

That evening Larry and I had dinner with some dear friends from LA that we had not seen in a few years.  We had a chance to visit for awhile in their beautifully remodeled home and then have dinner at a cute little Italian restaurant in Encino.  All in all a very busy but great day.

Wednesday we were up at the crack of dawn as we had to be at school to get good seats by 7:30 am. It was a joy to sit in Heschel Hall and be surrounded by not only familiar faces, but I got to see all of the flags with my kids names for helping Heschel to win many atheletic Championships over those many years when they were there as students. I am thrilled that our granddaughters are able to have the same wonderful experience at that school.

We had a busy afternoon getting ready for the evening activities, Marlie’s graduation.  To see these little 4 and 5 years old marching in with their mortarboards on…it was quite a sight.  Their class sang over 10 songs, all with different hand and body movements.  Marlie did not miss a beat…she was absolutely adorable.

We all got together for our family dinner, all 16 of us at our favorite Chinese restaurant. Jodi has pre ordered and we had a feast.  It was a blast and the girls were so proud of themselves.  They each got lots of presents and each had their own graduation cake with a candle to blow out.  Another great day with my girls.

Thursday we drove back to Napa and were glad to get home. Daddy was really glad to see us.  I was exhausted so we all went out to dinner.  While we were gone the chickens kept laying.  We have so many eggs.  We give them away each week, but the chickens are so cute and friendly, I would really miss not having them.  The garden is fabulous.  I cut 10 more artichokes from two of the plants.  We just planted 4 more artichoke plants. We should have enough to open our own farmers market.  The raspberries, blackberries and strawberries are the sweetest ever. I have to pick them each day or they would fall to the ground.

Saturday Lar, Dad and I went to Sonoma to see Woody Allen’s new flick Midnight in Paris…this could be his best movie ever.  Sunday we drove up to Rio Oso to have Father’s Day with Mary and her family.  What a terrific family they have.  Her Mom is a great cook and really put out a beautiful spread.  Mary made tons of cake pops and a delicious lemon cake.  Lar had given Mary lemons from our tree.  We must have 500 lemons sitting on our counter. We are over lemoned!

This morning I made a guest appearance on KVON, the local Napa radio station with Dorothy Linn Salmon as the host.  We had a great time.

Very exciting news this afternoon in the garden….the green beans are ready to be picked.  I stir-fried the beans with fresh zucchini and onions from the garden, made lemon chicken, one of Lar’s favorites and a hubbard squash from last year’s crop.  We topped dinner off with berries from the garden…Felt just like a farmers table. I am loving it!

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Saturday in the Garden

What a great day.  Larry and I got up at the crack of dawn and did a 2+ mile walk on the river. We saw beautiful swallows and blue jays.  We could the woodpeckers pecking away in the back ground.

When we got home I decided to clean the chicken coop and fill up the chickens feeder for the week.  Boy can those chickens make a mess.  I have named them so they feel welcomed around here, Gertrude, Gladys and Hortense.  Whenever I have a question about the chickens I go to www.mypetchicken.com for the answers.  Great website if you want to learn about taking care of your flock.

The garden is loving the sun.  We have about five green tomatoes.  I was a little surprised since last summer it took forever for the tomato blossoms to turn into tomatoes.  I see alot of tomato soups, sauces and gratinee’s in the coming months.  Larry is ready to fire up the pizza oven. We are signed up for a pizza making class in a few weeks.  We are both looking to the finer points of making pizza at home.  They were really delicious last summer but we still need to perfect our techniques.

After picking about a half dozen beautiful strawberries I mosied over to the raspberry and blackberry vines. Wow the crop has arrived.  Every day I am able to pick enough for the day. The flavor is so vibrant…you can just taste the goodness of a fresh picked berry.  Sometimes I am so eager when I am picking them I just have to eat a few before they are washed!  So far I haven’t gotten any side effects.  Everything in the garden is organically grown using drip irrigation, so how bad can it be…a little bee could have peed a little, but big deal.

Had a great dinner at Armadillo’s in St. Helena last night with some new friends and this afternoon we are off to a pool party and BBQ…the first of the summer…very exciting.  I have told you how much I love Napa…this is the best place to live, ever.

I would love to know how all my friends are doing so feel free to add to summer fun on my blog.

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My first post!

We have such an exciting summer planned that I wanted to share it with our friends and family. Larry, Jason, Mary and I are on our way down to Northridge to help celebrate Marlie’s graduation from nursery school and Estee’s “Step-up” to First Grade!  Wow what a wonderful experience to share with those two adorable young ladies. We promise to take lots of pictures and share them with you soon.

The garden is in full bloom. We are hoping for great hot weather so that we won’t have to wait until August for our tomatoes this summer.  The onions, red cabbage, artichokes, lettuce, spinach, arugula are already plentiful.  I have to keep coming up with creative recipes to use all of this wonderful produce.  The lemons are just finishing their best crop ever.  We must have picked over 1,000 lemons…I am not kidding.  Our friends have enjoyed our sharing them as well.

We are looking forward to our cousins Dennis and Michelle, and Debbie and Mark joining us right after 4th of July for a few days.  We will join them in San Francisco and then they will be our guests in Napa for a few days.  We will all enjoy our great food and wine. I plan on showing them the true beauty of our Valley.

I have just become the President of our Synagogue and loving every minute of all the work that needs to get done.  Our new Board of Trustees have great plans for making our Synagogue the Jewish Center of Napa Valley. Many congregants are working very hard to bring some great programs to CBS.

Larry is starting the planning on his model railroad that will be constructed in our garage with his friends Mike and Pete.  I can’t wait to hear the whistle blowing!

I am still very involved with VOICES and am looking forward to continuing my role to help put together an Individual Donor Program that will help fund the Napa and Sonoma programs and hopefully help them to open the VOICES National Training Institute.

Maria, Stephanie and I are working hard to kick off our first Destination for Life career transition workshop.  We just about have all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed. Check out our website at www.destinationforlife.com

Steph is also involved with her own company as well.  Find more info at www.vindame.com

Jason and Mary just returned from their honeymoon and had a wonderful time.  Check out Mary’s blog to get the full report.

Hope everyone has a great week.  I plan on blogging away all summer! Hugs to all!

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