Thursday, January 31, 2008

Home At Last

Yesterday we arrived home safe and sound, after being gone for several weeks of Florida travel visiting family and friends. A great time, but there is nothing quite like being home again and getting back to normal.

We flew from Orlando, and as we approached Salt Lake City, this beautiful sight was presented:

Our continuing flight was delayed about an hour due to a hydraulic leak, and as they brought in another plane and we boarded, our estimated arrival home would still be mid-afternoon.

For several days snow had been falling and accumulating in the west, and when we landed and began our drive home, it was obvious that the warming temperature had melted much of the snow; it still lay piled to the sides, but the roads were clear.

As we approached the bottom of our steep driveway, it was apparent that the taxi driver would allow us to fend for ourselves from this point on. It had been plowed in by the road crew, so we hoisted our luggage, trudged through the snow embankment and then set out to conquer the Douglas Fir tree which stretched before us and blocked our ascent. BUT we were thankful, for the overhead power lines appeared to be intact, a sign that we would have electricity.

(Note: Last month, one of our neighbor's fir trees took down the fence and power line as it fell across our lower drive. The shallow root system of this fast growing tree, accompanied by strong winds in soggy soil, tend to be disastrous.)

Once our house key was located, my husband changed clothes and headed back down to shovel the snow away from the gate, so it could be opened. He could then drive the four-wheeler and take the chainsaw to cut the tree which blocked our driveway.

All I wanted to do was help. . . so I decided to back the car down in order to load the luggage. If you look at the photo just above his head, there is a very narrow and steep nearly 180 degree turn to the right. You're way ahead of me, aren't you? As the snow masked the edge of the drive and after I rounded the bend, the car slid off to the left with two wheels now sitting slightly off the driveway.

I climbed to the passenger side, got out of the vehicle, looked down to the gate where he stood shaking his head and saying 'no. . . no'. He walked up toward me, and then told me twice what I had done (like I didn't know what had just happened. . . duh). He then got into the car and tried to move it forward, only to have it slide further down to the left. . . ;-)) . . . that's me smiling. We briefly discussed how I only tried to help.

Action plan: I called AAA. All those years we have paid membership and never had to use the services. . . this was the time. The truck arrived within an hour, but it couldn't get up the hill. . . no four-wheel drive. Really? The driver proceeded to tell us there was only one other company with that kind of vehicle, and they had a two day backlog. So. . . I called them, and within several hours they arrived, and in minutes our vehicle was back in the garage.

Showered, partially unpacked, but it's time for dinner, a nice glass of wine and a relaxing evening. We toasted our day's adventure as we normally do, "Here's to loving you."

Isn't life wonderful?

P.S. Happy Birthday to my brother.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Florida Travel Log; Delta Airline, Bad Business

Monday, 12 Jan 2008

Last night's dinner had been anticipated for quite some time. Pappas', a Greek restaurant in Tarpon Springs, has been a place frequented over many years, that is when traveling to this area. A mile to go... half a mile... turn right... and as we rounded the bend there it was before us, unlit, dark... roped off. It was closed! and who knows for how long? As an established restaurant, I just thought it would always be there.

Since it was 8 o'clock and we were hungry, we selected a seafood restaurant from Gramella (our GPS), but she led us down a path several miles away that ended in a not-too-pleasant neighborhood with no restaurant to be found. So we backtracked, and at this point almost anything would be fine. There's a Longhorn Steakhouse.

Let us just say this about that: 'we were there twice, our first and last.' The steak was expensive considering the gristle and somewhat granular texture, that which indicated a tenderizer had been used, but our tummies felt somewhat satisfied and a good night's sleep came quickly as provided by the clean and comfortable Country Inn and Suites.

Our morning was as most during this trip: a leisure pace, breakfast, but a change of plans. There were several open days in our schedule, so we decided to condense a few visits and take a side trip to see family in another state on the east coast. My husband called Delta and after patiently and repeatedly trying to communicate with Delta's representative, over and over and over again: "N, N as in Nancy, H, H as in Helo. . . no, that is N, N as in . . . what do you mean you can't find my reservation. . . no, I did not ask to go to New Jersey. . .", until finally after several minutes of this craziness and with a continued calm and politeness, my husband resignedly said, "Please, let me talk with someone who can understand what I am saying", and then "If you cannot get me to someone who can understand me, I am going to hang up."

A second call was placed, and a similar situation occurred trying to speak to two people in India who had no command of the English language and have no business interfacing in this kind of business. He finally called new reservations in the U.S.; there was acknowledgment for our frustration, and he was transferred to someone in International flights (huh?) who then transferred to domestic reissue?!?!?! What makes one think Delta can continue to operate like this? Needless to say our flight plans were not altered.

We decided to try Barnacles for lunch, highly recommended, and as we entered I seemed blinded by the change in lighting. It appeared to be a large dark room with flashing lights, and as my eyes adjusted, I realized the perimeter of the room and center bar were lined with televisions, 467 to be exact, plus 12 big screens, and all on a variety of channels. Clearly this was a place of ultimate lets-go-out-and-be-entertained-and-I-don't-have-to-talk-to-you kind of event. Well. . . okay, let's give it a go.

Clam chowder and calamari for thee, the former being tasty but the latter heavily breaded and overcooked, and 'mir', an Asian tuna fillet with sesame seeds, seared and served with a wasabi ginger vinaigrette on a bed of greens and proved to be very tasty. $8.99 was especially nice.

Anytime we visit a restaurant, the test is, "Would we go back"? Longhorn Steakhouse and/or Barnacles? "Nope".

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Crazy Sorta Day

As winter storms have blanketed some of the west, yesterday we saw rain, snow, sun, rainbows, fog, and rain again within a matter of minutes here in the Pacific northwest. Temperature lows have been at freezing and below while daytime has given us mid 40's for highs.

As I stood at the kitchen window the sun brushed over that which made me smile: a Hebe in bloom for gosh sakes. Does it not know it is the 6th of January? Just look at the purple stem and glossy deep green and purple foliage and purple flower.

These evergreens come in all shapes, sizes and colors, and this one is particularly handsome and giving at this time of year.

Today: snow at 1000 foot elevations and snow-capped Carrie hoists her basket and stands calmly near the beautiful red Coral Bark maple... the heat of the color amidst the cold of the day is outstanding!

Crazy sorta day. Exciting don't you think?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Wine Country Tour, Part II

The December 17 post featured Wine Country Tour, Part I, should you prefer to read that first. If not, then proceed.

Day II


The following morning we headed northwest on highway 128 toward Mendocino. About 10 miles of highway is very winding and slow traveling, but enjoyable nonetheless, and in little over an hour we arrived in Philo and Navarro, a winery from whom we have ordered but not visited.

A charming tasting room, attentive and excellent customer service, very good wines and at reasonable prices, we were happy to have traveled the distance and selected an assortment for them to ship back home. By the way, we understand they have the oldest Riesling vines in Anderson Valley.

Santi and Geyserville

Upon return toward Windsor, we stopped in Geyserville. 'Gramella' happened to list Santi as the first restaurant we would approach, so we decided to take her advice and due to hunger, it was time to stop for a light lunch. (See Dec 16 post regarding Gramella.)

'A glass of water... no ice please', while we look at the menu. Atop the white linen tablecloth was placed a basket of bread sticks, long and very narrow pencil sized ones which tasted of olive oil and fennel... umm.

Spaghettini al Sugo Calabrese was my husband's choice... a rich sauce of beef and pork ribs, tomatoes and herbs topped with Pecorino Romano, and Cannelloni al Forno stuffed with chicken and pork with tomato and bechamel was my order. And as is our normal fare, we share one another's entree. Mine selection was outstanding, but my husband's Spaghettini was out-stand-ing! So much so that the table next to us, as they were listening and how could they not as I kept oohing and aahing, changed their order.

Homemade Italian cuisine with fresh ingredients begged of a fine glass of red wine, but due to the calendar of events yet to come, more wine tasting, we promised the next time to revisit and have the full deal! Who can have Italian without a glass of wine!

So if you happen to be close to Geyserville, try this charming restaurant for lunch or dinner, but call for reservations for they may be busy. (totally unsolicited)

We continued on highway 128 toward Healdsburg for a stop at Sausal, a winery known for it's Zinfandel wine. Years ago my thoughts of Zinfandel was something similar to a Rose, light and pink colored, but we have come to know them as something very different.

We tasted several of their wines and took away several, but one which caught me so off guard with it's nose and flavor was the Private Reserve Zinfandel, produced from dry farmed 90-year-old vines and aged for 17 months in French oak barrels. It was earthy, dense, and unlike anything I had ever smelled or tasted... so very appealing. We were told it would cellar for at least 10 years. Hmm... just writing about it makes me wish we had ordered more.

On to the next, and we have an appointment for a private tasting so we can't be late.

Garden Creek Ranch Vineyards Winery

Friends of ours who love and collect good wines told us we had to visit this winery, and so we did.

Karin Warnelius-Miller and Justin Miller, a delightful husband and wife team, greeted us in the vineyards and shared their story of growing up and now managing the family ranch and vineyard. They have just released their first wine, a 2002 and it is in limited quantity! A Cabernet Sauvignon blend, they call it Tesserae... a wonderful find for us.

Read their story: or better yet, contact them and order some wine.

We took our purchase with us and headed down the highway as we were very pleased with the day. Stryker for a quick stop... I mean, we were passing by, but I must say our palettes did not shout of outstanding, so we left empty handed.

Time to relax, and dinner tonight is a combination of leftovers from this day and the previous one, accompanied by a great bottle of wine we discovered today. Doesn't get any better than that!

We hope you have enjoyed the wine tour, and perhaps you can join us again on the next one.


Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Year! It is fun to go on holiday, but it is especially great to be back home.

Traveling to southern California in early December is something we have done for well over ten years. Joe and Anne, very dear and longtime friends, introduced us to a timeshare by inviting us to join them for a week at Lawrence Welk Resort in Escondido, CA way back when. Now don't turn your nose up and say 'Lawrence Welk'?

We had such a wonderful time and it was such a beautiful place: two golf courses; four swimming pools and hot tubs; dinner theatre; each villa has two master suites, full kitchen, dining area and living room with a walk out patio and wonderful views of boulder covered mountains and wide open spaces. That and the warmth of the winter sun were all good reasons for us to take a break from the pacific northwest period of rain. Oh, and having purchased several units way below cost on the secondary market was an additional plus.

We have shared these units each year with our family and friends, and this year was no exception as several brothers and their spouses came to spend time with us. Fun, rest and relaxation has always been the order of the day (although occasionally business has occurred).

And it doesn't take much to entertain us: right outside the villa, a flock of noisy birds continuously pecked and scurried around the broad arms of the oak. At first I thought it to be the Downy woodpecker, but upon closer examination it appears to be the Acorn (Melanerpes formicivorus). Approximately 7-9 inches, these comical creatures with their red-capped crown, black nape and white striped band running across the eyes flitted about the tree, pausing only momentarily and flew off with immediacy, only to return and begin the dance again.

Several days prior, as I returned from the gym, resting atop the evergreen was this powerful looking bandit, scanning, searching, and patiently waiting for the opportunity to feast. I am afraid I am hard pressed to identify this species of hawk.

Our visits here have been enjoyable and memorable ones, but at some point all good things usually come to an end. Two days of driving and the ever expanding highway system and horrific traffic have caused us to enjoy that travel less in the past several years. This year the Welk group offered to buy our three weeks, so with the ever increasing maintenance costs, we decided it was probably time to move on, make a good financial decision and explore the next chapter... perhaps closer to home.

So with that we thank you for having shared 2007 with us and making it most pleasurable. I hope you have found something of interest: a nugget to tuck away for future reference; a photo you enjoyed; something which tugged at your heartstrings; a note which 'reminded'; or something which made you chuckle and brought a smile to your wonderful face.

May your 2008 bring you continued health and prosperity, and as we turn the page and a new chapter begins, we look forward to your visits.