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2023 Brings Covid, Quarantine, a Salamander to Smyth Family Farm and a Dutch Apple Pie Recipe

2023 Brings Covid, Quarantine, a Salamander to Smyth Family Farm and a Dutch Apple Pie Recipe

I’m sitting in bed writing because I am still in quarantine. I finally tested positive for Covid 19 for the first time in almost three years. I have been feeling crummy. Scratchy throat, fever, night sweats, achy all over, deep horrible sounding cough are all the symptoms I’ve had since Monday last week. I was able to get a prescription of Paxlovid after thoroughly working rigorously through the Kaiser system for two days. In other words, I don’t give up. I don’t like the words, “you don’t meet the criteria.” It’s true. I don’t have any of the comorbidities that qualify a patient for Paxlovid. Yet, I am well read on Sars Covid-19 and listen to podcasts from virologists who “study the science” and know the treatments. I was more eager to take Paxlovid when I heard patients are more likely to NOT get Long Covid if they take Paxlovid. I really don’t want Long Covid.

So as of last night, I have been taking Paxlovid (which works by stopping the virus from replicating in the body and limiting its spread) and I seem to feel better already. My lungs feel less heavy, I am not feverish and definitely feel less achy. I really don’t want my husband to get sick, so he has been spending more time away from me and the house than usual. I’m sleeping like a champ and hope to be better soon so I can get out and about again.

There are side effects that come along with any drug, and Paxlovid is no different. I have had a metallic taste called “dysgeusia” in my mouth since starting the drug. I’ve been sucking on Mentos candies and candy canes to help. Another symptom I’m having occasionally is dysentery, which in itself is never fun. So I’m imagining the Covid leaving my body and that helps. It can increase blood pressure, but I don’t have any issues with that. Anyone who suffers from liver problems shouldn’t take Paxlovid either.

According to the CDC, roughly 6,500 people in United States hospitals have tested positive for Covid-19, more than double the number from one month ago. More than 10,000 people have died from Covid in the last month, which is the highest four week total since the summer. The world Health Organization claims the new Covid variant XBB.1.5 is the most transmissible subvariant yet. It may be more contagious and it is evading immunity more than other omicron variants. I’ve been vaccinated and twice boosted and still got sick. At least the vaccinations can reduce my risk of serious illness, hospitalization or even death.

In other news, California has been experiencing a #BombCyclone #AtmosphericRiver weather pattern the past week and it will continue until mid January. These storms have caused significant impact to travel and infrastructure due to the heavy rain, heavy mountain snow and damaging gusts of high winds. We need the rain, so we aren’t complaining. The rains are filling our reservoirs, thank goodness, yet they have been causing catastrophic flooding, power outages and mudslides. It’s a very good time to be inside reading a book or doing a puzzle.

My chickens seem to be managing the rain, mud and cold weather okay. I keep them busy with frozen corn, whole pumpkins, greens, rice straw and worms from the compost. When it’s a sunny day, I let them roam free in the entire garden to eat bugs and explore. They love it. Only Mary Kate has been laying eggs the past two months. The other three girls are freeloading and holding back this winter. It’s a full time job keeping them safe from predators and I spend plenty of time worrying about them. I haven’t been handling them since I’ve been sick. Goodness knows, I wouldn’t want them to get what I have. In February, it will have been a year since I lost four of them to a bobcat. I’d love to get more, but it’s a huge time commitment, so we will see. I have to resort to buying eggs for the first time in months and the prices have gotten outrageous. 

I’m thankful to my older sister Sue who brought me her famous chicken soup yesterday. My friend Lise blessed us by bringing over two containers of  soup and a fresh pizza to bake. A few other friends and neighbors have offered to drop off food and or pick up groceries for us. It’s been wonderful to have people being thoughtful and stepping up when I’m under the weather. I won’t bother to share where i may have contracted the virus. It doesn’t matter and I don’t like placing blame and shaming anyone either.

I’m not up to sharing any recent excursions, although there have been plenty. I hope to be inspired soon and will send you a recipe or two as well. Here is my recipe for Dutch Apple Crumb Pie. I fell in love with this crumbly topping while having dessert at Esin Restaurant in Danville California. The owner is a pastry chef and makes incredible desserts. This crumble topping is similar to Esin’s crumb topping. I add whole wheat flour and flax meal to add more fiber and make it healthier. The almonds make it crunchy and irresistible. It was my niece Marie who pointed out to me the name of this pie. I had always referred to it as an apple crumble pie. She learned how to make pies from her Italian grandmother Doris since she spent Thanksgiving with her every year in Boston. Here is my take for the best pie ever.

Dutch Apple Pie

Single pie Crust Recipe From my Strawberry Pie Recipe

Apple Pie filling

Ingredients:

6-8 Large Granny Smith Apples (Gravenstein are good also. A combination of 3 different apples works well)

1 large bowl of acidulated water (2 Juiced Lemons in large bowl of water) For keeping apples from turning brown

3/4 C Granulated Sugar Plus 3 T extra for bottom of pie crust

1 t cinnamon

½ t nutmeg

¼ C tapioca flour (Can substitute AP flour)

4 T cold Unsalted Butter cut into chunks

Crumb Topping:

 Ingredients:

3/4 Cup All Purpose Flour

¼ C Flax Meal

¼ C Whole Wheat Flour

½ C Oats

1 ½ C Raw Sliced Almonds

½ C Cold Unsalted Butter cut into chunks

1 C Light Brown Sugar

1 t Cinnamon

1 t ground Ginger

1 t Maldon Salt

Instructions:

Preheat the oven 350 degrees.

Prepare pie crust dough, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge while preparing crumb topping.

Using a Cuisinart Robot Coupe Food Processor, place all topping ingredients (except the almonds )inside the bowl and blend until combined. Remove mixture from food processor and place on a parchment covered sheet pan and toss with sliced almonds.  You can use a pastry cutter to blend the dry ingredients into the butter if you don’t have a food processor.

Bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes. Take out and stir and place back into the oven for another 10-15 minutes until brown and crumbly. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Crumb Topping used for Dutch Apple Crumb Pie

Change the oven to 400 degrees F.

Take out pie crust dough from the fridge. Roll out pie crust into a circle. Place crust into a 9 inch Emile Henry deep pie dish. I prefer my quiche pie dish that is larger than the glass Pyrex dishes because we like pie leftovers in our house. Crimp the edges and set aside or place back in the fridge to keep cold.

Mix dry ingredients: tapioca flour, ¾ C granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside 

Peel and slice apples and place into the acidulated lemon water until ready to slice. Cut apples into equal size pieces about ¼ inch thick and make sure to remove seeds and stems. 

Toss sliced apples into dry ingredients. Take the pastry out of the fridge and sprinkle the remaining 3 T of sugar on the bottom of the crust. This helps the pastry stay sealed and keeps the crust from being soggy. Add spiced and sugared apples to the sugar coated pie crust. Dot with 4 T of butter pieces. 

Apple Pie ready for crumb topping

Sprinkle baked crumble topping onto apples covering the entire surface. Place pie onto a sheet pan and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for one hour and 15 minutes taking care to cover the pie with foil if the topping is getting too brown. Apple pie mixture should be bubbly before removing from the oven.

Baked Dutch Apple Crumb Pie at Smyth Family Farm

In case you are interested in learning more about viruses check out Vincent Rancaniello on You Tube. I especially like TWIV because the hosts Vincent Rancaniello, Dickson Despommier, Alan Dove, Rich Condit, and Brianne Barker are fun to listen to.

Might be time to get out the Scrabble game again. It’s not as much fun to play by myself, but fun nevertheless.

Ohh! And see what I found at Smyth Family Farm today in the compost pile? It’s a salamander. He was busy keeping all the slugs, mosquito larvae, spiders and worms out of my compost bin. I didn’t put him back there because one of my chickens might eat him. He was safely relocated on his cardboard box home to a damp area next to the peach tree where my old compost pile was.

Happy New Year. Stay warm, dry and enjoy what we have left of winter weather. See you again soon.

Here’s an update on my health after taking Paxlovid. I’m better, but not completely. I still sound like I have a cold and it’s been two weeks since I came down with Covid symptoms. I have a tiny cough, but it’s barely noticeable. I have plenty of energy, but I am sleeping more every night. I’m not sure I can recommend Paxlovid, unless you really think you are sick. The side effects are horrible. I didn’t like feeling nauseous, nor did I like the metallic taste in my mouth. It was gross and I would continue to eat to try to make it taste better. I’m hoping I don’t end up with long covid and that by taking the Paxlovid, it might help my case. I will let you know if I get any worse or if the heaviness in my chest doesn’t go away.

Thanks for reading and go make a pie!

Teri

 

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Inside Scoop of Where to Go Next in Napa and Chai Spice Ginger Men Shortbread Recipe

Inside Scoop of Where to Go Next in Napa and Chai Spice Ginger Men Shortbread Recipe

 Hey there. It’s been a minute since I’ve written. I’ve been all over New York, Napa, Healdsburg, and San Jose California. The weather has been glorious, so I’m loving these day trips and enjoying the time outside before the rains come. 

Me and my Mom Diane at Side
Board Restaurant in Lafayette

The last 24 hours I’ve been entertaining my Mom Diane. Her husband needed time with his grandson in Monterey, and my Mom doesn’t like to be alone. We stopped off at the closest Sloat Nursery where she found the most extravagant huge white poinsettia. I like to bring her flowers whenever she has her chemo/immuno treatments, and I haven’t been as regular about that lately. She has had cancer treatments every three weeks for the past nine or ten years, so It’s okay if I miss a week here or there. For dinner, I made grilled shrimp Caesar salad for dinner (her favorite), and we put together a cornmeal waffle batter from Tanya Holland’s Brown Sugar Kitchen Cookbook that sat overnight waiting patiently for us to cook them off this morning. Mom read me the ingredients and I put everything together. It’s not often I have my Mom overnight, so it was kind of special. We watched Chef’s Table:Pizza on Netflix and the Great British Baking Show Christmas Special and ate popcorn before our eyes got too tired to watch anything else. 

Today, we explored Benicia after our waffle making effort.  I was hoping my favorite One House Bakery would be open because my Mother has never eaten there. Turns out, Mondays and Tuesdays most businesses are closed down on First Street. We found a cute shop called Pink Arrows where Mom found a comfy pair of Christmas Sweats. She was excited to get something new and I was happy to treat her. 

We walked through the town into a book store where she was inspired to buy a Christmas gift for her granddaughter Josie. Lucky us, we found a florist with cute wreaths, succulents and pretty fresh flowers to admire. A decision was made to head to Lafayette to have lunch and walk around Orchard Nursery. Unfortunately, it was also closed. Since Covid, lots of small businesses limit their hours and I always forget this is our new reality. Lunch was at Sideboard Cafe, but Mom wasn’t impressed even though she practically inhaled her pulled pork sandwich. 

I dropped her off at home with all of her goodies and here I am at my gym where I prefer to write. I can concentrate better here without the distractions and responsibilities at home.

The latest day trip was celebrating my younger son Andrew’s 30th birthday. My husband and I were excited Andrew had time in his schedule to go out with us. We called our other son Curtis, but he wasn’t up for a last minute day trip. Our original plans were to go to St. George’s Spirit in Alameda only to find out that they haven’t been open since Covid. What a bummer. I have been craving their pear brandy and I’ve been on the distillery tour where they explain how it’s made with my niece Michelle. There are huge crates and crates of fresh pears lined up ready for the process. We could have gone back to the fabulous Hansons of Sonoma’s Distillery, (a previous blog with an apricot ginger biscotti recipe), but I didn’t think of that at the time. So my next idea was to check out the distillery in Napa. 

Andrew loves Whole Spice in Oxbow Public Market. He loves to cook and make pickles with fancy exotic spices, so he chose several items from there. Next, I wanted to go to Model Bakery before they closed. I love their day-old pastries and we bought a ham and cheese baguette that was purchased at a reduced cost also. I love getting a deal and don’t mind the taste of a day old muffin or croissant. The Napa Distillery was disappointing. We waited for 15 minutes and the employees barely looked up at us while helping other customers. We also saw the sit down Napa Distillery in downtown Napa, but they were fully booked and not a chair in sight. Andrew was interested in their bitters, and they didn’t have any bottles in that location. Too bad, but not worth getting excited about.

Next door was The Fatted Calf Charcuterie shop. They have the best meats and cheeses to choose from. Andrew and I picked out two more sandwiches, a porchetta and a pastrami and we walked over to Fieldworks Brewery to enjoy our lunch. Andrew ordered the Sour and Dark flight for only $18.00 which included a Belgian Abbey Ale called Abigail, a Salted Raspberry called Gose, Cabana Republic a Tropical Sour Ale, Pioneers & Pirate Ship a Czech Dark Lager, the Nighttime Creatures a Pumpkin Milk Stout and a Plain ol dark Stout called Shtickless. My husband had a root beer and I had a glass of Dark Stout. The sandwiches and beer were a fun way to begin our celebration and their outdoor patio was relaxing and a fun atmosphere to hang out in.

My son Andrew, Me and husband Ken at Archer Hotel Napa

Already 3:45PM, we drove to downtown Napa and parked near the Archer Hotel. This fancy place has a happy hour cocktail menu downstairs at the Charlie Palmer Steak Lounge Bar. We were happy to arrive just before it opened and were graciously served by the nice bartenders. I love sitting at the bar and watching the circus of drinks being made. I watch with amazement at the herbs, potions and citrus they use to doctor up our libations. We weren’t hungry, since we had just eaten, but I enjoyed the Pineapple Express made with Milagro tequila, pineapple, lime and jalapeno. Andrew had the Far West Cider and we got the scoop about where else to eat in Napa. Before going to the next restaurant, we made our way up the elevator to the top floor Sky & Vine RoofTop Bar. The 360 degree view is outstanding and we got lucky to find the last three seats that were open at the bar. I had to try the margarita on tap and Andrew was treated to a beer from a stranger who heard it was his 30th birthday. What a nice guy. He left where we were sitting with his partner to get a seat next to the fire pits.

It wasn’t long before we were walking to our next foodie spot. We were hoping to find the restaurant Morimoto Napa where we had eaten before and just happened to see the grand opening of Morimoto Asia. Of course I had to go in and try to get a reservation. When I tell people I’m a food blogger, they seem to make special arrangements in their bookings for me. This time, we were able to get in at 7:45PM if we could come back. We were thrilled especially because Chef Masaharu Morimoto, a Michelin Star recipient was there in the restaurant and I’m a huge fan. He’s famous for being on The Iron Chef America, and got his start by working at the popular Nobu Restaurant.

I’m getting ahead of myself because I haven’t written about Los Agaves Napa. The bartender at the Charlie Palmer Steak Lounge recommended we order their Quesabirras (a braised beef mini quesadilla with a side of beef broth as a dipping sauce.) I also ordered their guacamole and chips and La Marilyn for $14.00 (Mescal, Malibu Rum, Domaine Di Canton and coconut.) Sooo yummy. Andrew was enticed to try the Mezcal Flight which was three one oz pours of Union Mezcal, Ojo De Tigre, and Madre Mezcal with pineapple and orange garnish for $26.00. I must say Los Agaves didn’t disappoint my taste buds. This place is FOR REAL. It’s the best Mexican cuisine that I’ve ever experienced. The mariachi band came to our table and sang to Andrew who immediately got up and began to dance. Maybe the alcohol kicking in helped to initiate this. Executive Chef Erick Lagunas also took the time to speak with us and he was excited about the upcoming several new locations in the works as well as the existing one in Santa Barbara. Our waiter Carlos brought out complimentary flan and churro with chocolate sauce desserts with fireworks shooting high in the air to surprise us. 

And don’t forget, we still had reservations at Chef Morimoto’s upscale second wine country restaurant Morimoto Asia within walking distance. The atmosphere was happening! You could feel the vibe of a restaurant’s opening night. The lighting was dim and the cuisine places more emphasis on Chinese flavors including dim sum, and sake flights.

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Andrew impressed by Chef Morimoto’s signed birthday napkin

The dedication to service was noticeable. We were spoiled all day and the night wasn’t even close to being over. I ordered the Saidoku cocktail made of Amaro, Montenegro, Cointreau and Yuzu. Obviously I didn’t need another drink, but I couldn’t help myself. It was Andrew’s birthday, and we had a designated driver Mr. Ken Smyth.He’s my everything.  Andrew decided upon a sake which they served on ice. We ordered the salt and pepper black cod, the sticky ribs with hoisin sweet chili glaze and the dim sum samplers. Lastly, they served Andrew a complimentary coconut sorbet and Chef Morimoto signed a napkin ceremoniously and wished him a happy birthday.

What a day. Not only did Andrew have a memorable time with us in Napa, we sampled tastes of the best restaurants in Northern California. If you want the inside scoop, keep subscribing to my blog and I will keep you entertained. Thanks again for reading and commenting below about your favorite Napa experiences.

Chai Spice Shortbread Ginger Men

Chai Spice Shortbread Ginger Men Cookies

Chai Spice Recipe

10 Cardamom Pods (or 1 t ground cardamom)

4 whole cloves or ½ teas ground cloves

1 T fennel seeds or fennel powder

½ t nutmeg

1 cinnamon stick crushed or 2 t ground cinnamon

1 star anise

2 t ground ginger

10 black peppercorns

Using a blender or spice grinder, place all ingredients inside and blend until finely ground. Spice mixture will keep for four months if kept in an airtight jar in a cool dark place. (Only need 1 ½ T for recipe)

Shortbread Cookie Ingredients

1 1/2 C. Unsalted Butter softened

¾ C Granulated sugar Plus ¼ divided for use w nuts

1 t Vanilla paste

1 C All Purpose Flour

1 C Pastry Flour (Can substitute All Purpose)

½ C Flax Meal

½ C Whole Wheat Flour

1 ½  T Chai Spice

1 t Maldon Salt

⅛ C Shelled Pistachios

⅛ C Cashews

⅛ C Toasted Almonds (Put almonds only into a preheated 350 degree oven on a sheet pan for 9 min. Cool)

3 4 0unce bars High quality white chocolate baking bar (Lindt or Ghirardelli preferably) You can use morsels, but they are harder to melt.

2 T heavy cream

3 T Dried chopped raspberries for decoration

Using a food processor, blend nuts together with ¼ C granulated sugar until it resembles a fine powder. Using the sugar prevents the nuts turning into butter. Or use a coffee grinder or chop them finely.

Chai Spice Shortbreadhttps://letsmakemudpies.wordpress.com

Shortbread Directions:

In a stand mixer, beat butter, ¾ C sugar and vanilla paste until creamy on medium speed scraping bowl often.

In a large bowl, stir together flours, salt, chai spice, and finely chopped nuts (save a few Tablespoons for decoration). On low speed, add dry mixture gradually to sugar butter mixture just until well combined.

Divide dough in half, form into flat discs and refrigerate for an hour or longer. Tip: I use empty cereal bags that I cut and use to roll out dough. They can be cleaned and reused.

Line two sheet pans with parchment paper, or use sil pat mats.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C)

On a lightly floured surface, roll one of the discs out to ¼ inch thick, keeping the other half in the fridge until ready to use.

Use a gingerbread cutter dipped in flour and cut out ginger chai men. Alternatively, you can use any shape you desire.

Bake immediately using one pan at a time in the center of the preheated oven for about 15 min or until slightly brown.

Let cool on the pan for 5 minutes to let the cookie set. Remove from the hot pan onto a drying rack and cool completely.

In a ban marie, break up white chocolate bars into the bowl and add heavy cream. Stir until incorporated, not letting mixture get too hot or it will seize. (You can also use the microwave.)

Have a sheet pan with parchment ready. Dip each cookie into the melted chocolate mixture and sprinkle quickly with some reserved nuts and dried chopped raspberries before the chocolate dries.

Store cookies in the freezer, or in an airtight container for one week.

Cookies look best right after coated in chocolate, so keep cookie dough or baked cookies in the freezer for up to a month.

Recipe adapted from Mumbai Modern Cookbook and Amisha Gurbani also known on Instagram as @thejamlab

When serving a lot of people, make smaller shortbread cookies.http://www.letsmakemudpies.wordpress.com

Teri

 

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Camino de Santiago PartThree

Camino de Santiago PartThree

This is the list Nancy provided for us to prepare for our adventure hiking the Camino in Spain. If you haven’t read part one and two you can find them in these links. I’m writing this blog three years later. I was cleaning out my drafts getting ready to write about my New York trip last week and came across these great photos. All I can say is that traveling with these women Nancy, Beth and Jeanie was easy, care free and drama free. We all got along magically. There wasn’t a conflict of any sort, which I can’t say was the case for the trip to New York. Here are a few more great photos of my time on the Camino. But first a photo of my son Curtis and his dog Hankster. If you read till the end you will hear about all of our pets at the Smyth house.

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My son Curtis with his dog Hankster

Packing  IMG_5415

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A local resting on bench in Arzua Spain. The Camino is something everyone should experience. We walked through towns and cobblestone streets. We saw stray horses, chickens, dogs and cats and even herds of sheep running through the countryside. The food was hit or miss. Most places along the trail had Tortilla de Patatas (Spanish Tortilla made with eggs and potatoes) which is a staple in this part of Spain. Octopus was offered at most of the fancier restaurants, yet I didn’t care for the way they prepared it. Seen below we are sharing a meal at Pazo de Santa Maria Hotel. They had the best food. We were having their butternut squash soup as a first course. I loved their breakfast offerings too with many home made dark breads with oats on top.

By far, my most favorite spot on the Camino de Santiago at Pazo Santa Maria

This is us from the left Marianne, Sharon, Canadian couple, Jeanie, Beth and me having dinner at Pazo Santa Maria with our friends who happened to be just about everywhere we were.

We were so happy to find this gem  Pazo de Santa Maria located in Arzua Spain while walking the Camino de Santiago. Of course Nancy Solomon makes all of our arrangements for travel. I can’t believe how fortunate I am to get to experience these trips with her.

After walking for hours, we entered the property to be greeted by a miniature schnauzer puppy who ran over a duck pond bridge to say hello. I am a huge fan of these dogs since I’ve had this breed of dog three times in my lifetime. The first miniature schnauzer I had was named Shnopsie. Shnopsie ran away on Easter Sunday and ended up getting picked up by another family who drove him up north several hours away. I remember my family, all six of us voting whether to drive up and get our dog, or to get another dog. I was out voted. I cried and cried to the song If from the Best of Bread Album which was very popular. This was the first time I felt a loss and I was maybe 11 years old. The next schnauzer was named Katy-Did. She was a sweet dog, but she had stomach problems and we had to puree her food in a blender. She threw up all over the house and us kids always yelled “I’m not cleaning it!” The last person to say it had to clean up the barf. At the end of Katy-Did’s life, she moved in with me at Diane Nobel’s house because my Mother sold the house on 1515 Grove Way after her divorce was final to my Dad, and moved into a condo in Orinda with my brother. I lived there and rented a room in Diane’s house in Pleasant Hill with my new born son Curtis and worked as a nanny taking care of a boy named Joel. Katy-Did had diabetes and needed shots every morning, so I took care of her until the end of her life.

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My son Curtis in his Mickey Mouse Bed with our cat Woody

My third schnauzer was gifted to me by my husband Ken who bought him a week after we got married in June of 1989. We named him “Coops” after the priest who married us at Queen of All Saints, Father Cooper. He was all black with one white spot on his collar. Coops was a great dog. He made our new family complete. We already had “Woody” our cat for a few years. We got him at an animal shelter for Christmas when we lived in the Northwood Apartments and surprised Curtis who was three at the time. Curtis loved the movie Oliver and would watch it over and over again. He wanted to name him “Catty” but we settled on Woody. Woody was the friendliest cat you ever met. He always wanted to be in your lap. And he was fierce. Once he ran through our family room glass window on Ida Drive when he was chased by my Mother’s Jack Russel Terrier “Corky.” We found him a few blocks away and brought him home. Corky didn’t last long with my mother either. She gave him to a farm in the country where he terrorized those animals as well. Woody lost an eye towards the end of his life, but he was a sweet and loving cat and my kids loved him.

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My husband Ken holding our dog Coops

Since I’m sharing about our pets, I can’t forget to include Baxter who was a cross between Carion Terrier and Daschund. He brought a lot of joy to our lives. Andrew and my niece Jasmine and I went to ARF during the Christmas Holiday break. They gave away free coffee and popcorn and I’m always in the mood for free snacks. We fell in love with Baxter right away. His name in the kennel was “Grand Master Flash” and he was being pursued by the Sparks family in our neighborhood. The rule of adoption is that all members of the family have to be present before they will release the pet. My husband Ken met us after work and we happily came home with our little bundle of fur.

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Me and Baxter

A year before Baxter, we welcomed two kittens Charlie and Charcoal to our home. These animals were found behind the bowling alley in Castro Valley. My sister in law Alyson was a vet tech at a nearby veterinarian hospital and brought them over to us. We only wanted one of them, but couldn’t decide and ended up taking them both. We recently lost Charlie who lived until he was 16 years old. Charcoal died a year before that during Covid.

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Our kittens Charlie and Charcoal

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Need a Day of Respite? Cocktails and a Spa Day in Berkeley will do the trick.

Need a Day of Respite? Cocktails and a Spa Day in Berkeley will do the trick.

Have you ever had those days when you are so distracted that you get nothing done? That’s what kind of day I’m having today. Maybe it’s because it’s Monday, but I’m not sure. In any case, I need to write more and get some of my travel experiences recorded, yet I see a recipe and want to make it. Scottish shortbread was heavily on the list and so was a sticky toffee pudding recipe that I would have substituted dried figs for instead of the dates. Don’t those sound yummy? Ever since Queen Elizabeth II of England died last week, there have been Instagram and Facebook posts of the Royal family and their favorite foods. Chef Darren McGrady was a personal chef for Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana, and the Princes’ of Whales, William and Harry for fifteen years. I want to try his Scottish shortbread recipe.

I found these gorgeous figs at Rick and Ann’s Restaurant and shop in Berkeley a few weeks ago while celebrating my sister Sue’s birthday. I surprised her by including her niece Gavan who happened to be still home from college for a few days. My sister was surprised and we had a nice breakfast together. There is usually a wait at Rick and Ann’s, so get there early. You won’t be disappointed. Did I mention I hosted our family of 20 people and had a party for my sister the day before? It was a last minute change of venue, but I was happy to do it. I had been in Wyoming with my husband and his family the previous 10 days, so it was a big deal to pull it off. I tend to like working under pressure to get things done.

The Claremont Club & Spa. A Fairmont Hotel

Next, after saying goodbye to Gavan, on a whim my sister and I called the world famous The Fairmont Spa at Claremont Hotel to see if they had any luxurious massage appointments available. We were parked right in front of the hotel after all, so it couldn’t hurt to take a chance. (Rick and Ann’s Restaurant is around the corner.)Our original plan was to go on a hike in the Berkeley hills and stop by a nursery on the way home. You can imagine our surprise when we learned they had two openings for us! Sue asked for the 80 min treatment and I wanted the 50 min one. Quickly we turned back around and drove into the hotel parking lot. Parking is free if you get your card validated at the restaurant.

This place is special to me because my husband and I spent the night of our honeymoon here over 33 years ago. It’s a historic place that has been around since 1915. I even have a photo of my grandparents there when they were a young couple. My sister and I haven’t had any body treatments there for many years, but had taken our mother there for a day on Mother’s Day. If it seems like an extravagant birthday present, it was. Since our birthdays are exactly a month apart, we always celebrate them together and make a big deal about them. Here is a peek at the last time I was at Limewood Bar with my sons Curtis and Andrew and husband Ken.

We walked all over the hotel before our appointments to see what was going on there. We wandered into the dining hall called East Bay Provisions where there was a party going on. There were beautiful flower arrangements on every table, so of course I had to take a photo of all of them. 

My sister “the birthday girl” Sue and I at the Claremont Spa at the Fairmont Hotel

We found the spa on the lower level and looked at the fun items in the gift shop before signing in at the counter. My sister treated me to a new silk eye mask to help me sleep better. (That’s what we do. We spoil each other.)I mentioned we were there to celebrate my sister’s birthday and they immediately made sure we had complimentary champagne flutes filled to the brim put into our hands the moment we put our robes on. How fun is that? We sat in the quiet lounge and read magazines and sat in the jacuzzi tub to relax our muscles before we were taken in for our therapeutic massages. It’s nice to be pampered. It was heaven to have a day away without any chores or responsibilities.

Dinner and Drinks with Sue at Limewood Bar and Restaurant in Berkeley at Fairmont Hotel

After showering and cleaning up a little, we met at the Limewood Bar and Restaurant for a drink and dinner upstairs. The hostess was able to secure us a spot on the terrace overlooking the breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay. The bartender made me a fun cocktail called the Oakland Bramble: Hendricks Gin, St.-Germain, lemon juice, muddled blackberries, soda water and mint. So yummy. Sue had a class of La Crema, Sparkling Brut Rose from Napa. We shared the kale and strawberry salad with ricotta salata and the rib eye steak with scalloped potatoes, confit of allium (garlic) and a demi glaze and Sue picked up the tab. How generous is that? 

The Oakland Bramble Cocktail served at Limewood Bar at Claremont Hotel in Berkeley

We met two new lady friends and asked them to join us. One of the ladies lived in Washington, and was in town to celebrate her girlfriends’ 60th birthday. We thought it was surreal that my sister had also turned 60 and we compared stories for the next hour or so. It couldn’t have been a more perfect day.

Should I make the sticky toffee pudding now? This wasn’t the plan to write about Berkeley today, but now that I have, I’m glad I did. Time to feed the chickens more grubs that I’ve discovered are in my compost bin. They love grubs! And I need to make a risotto for dinner because my younger son Andrew is coming for dinner. He wants to learn how to use the bread maker. Maybe he will want to help with the Sticky toffee pudding recipe, or the shortbread. Which should we try first? I will keep you posted and updated with recipes and photos.

Thanks for reading and hopefully signing up to receive more blogs and recipes. I will try to stay focused and next time write about the vacation in the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and Jackson Hole Wyoming. It’s been a fun filled summer and I’m grateful for how fortunate I am every day.

 

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106 Degree Heat Wave, Filoli Gardens, French Dip and Ice Cream kind of Day

106 Degree Heat Wave, Filoli Gardens, French Dip and Ice Cream kind of Day

It’s been a hot few days here in Northern California. It is currently 111 degrees and it’s only the beginning of September. A month ago, my friend Marie and I decided to celebrate her birthday today. We were hoping to go towards the coast to avoid the hot weather. I chose to spend the day with her at Filoli Historic House and Garden in Woodside which is located 30 miles south of San Francisco, nestled on a slope of the Santa Cruz Mountains and have lunch after. Here’s a tip:It’s best to purchase tickets ahead of time online. I brought my Aunt Teri here a year ago when there was a  last minute change of plans because of a fire along the Highway and I had to buy the tickets in the parking lot on my phone.

Me and my friend Marie at Filoli in front of the Sunflower and Vegetable Garden

She left her house at 7:40 AM and didn’t arrive at my place until 9:00 AM. Since school has started, we’ve had to factor in more time to get places and Marie lives further inland. We were excited to spend the day together and didn’t mind getting an early start.

Marie and I at Filoli Gardens. This pool was built after the owner had a stroke to help him recover

We arrived at Filoli by 10:20 AM and practically had the whole place to ourselves. It wasn’t much cooler than the East Bay, but we were happy to see the statues, wrought iron gates and beautiful gardens. The property has a Georgian revival-style mansion and is considered to be one of the best remaining country estates of the 20th century. The gardens are from an English Renaissance era with stunning hydrangeas, rose of sharon (a hibiscus shrub), purple and red salvia, tiny cyclamen, pink amaryllis, roses, English lavender and a deep blue ‘Hidcote’ lavender in the summer, and camelias, orchids, magnolias and citrus blossoms in the winter just to name a few. The spring display features thousands of daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and blue violas.

I was excited to see the prolific newly renovated vegetable garden on display. They had everything you could think of. We walked down rows and rows of green beans, amaranth, squash, tomatoes, peppers, artichokes, herbs, Swiss chard and much much more. We barely got a glimpse of the cut flower garden that included massive sunflowers, bachelor buttons, zinnias, bright and tall yellow marigolds, echinacea “purple cone flower” in every color and waist high dahlias that were popping up everywhere. 

Eventually we needed a rest on a bench in the shade under a massive Oak tree where flying insects began swarming into our eyes and mouths. I swallowed a bug, basically inhaled it and Marie had to put her sunglasses back on to keep them out of her eyes. Obviously, we didn’t sit there long. There were massive Elm trees, Oak-Madrone Forests, Redwood Groves, Chaparral and Irish Yews (evergreen conifers) from Muckross, olive trees, heirloom apple orchards and hundreds of acres of natural lands situated on the 654 acres of ancestral lands of the Ramaytush Ohlone people. There are 5 distinct ecosystems there and a 1 mile Estate Trail that we had to miss because of the heat.

We stumbled upon the gift shop where we could find shade and cool air. There I purchased sunflower seeds for Marie and I to plant in the Spring, wildflower honey, and a cute white and pink ‘marshmallow’ fuchsia plant for a new planter box that Marie’s husband made for her. Marie loves sunflowers, so these were the perfect gifts.

Marie in front of the squash and sunflower patch

We didn’t walk around the gardens as long as we wanted to because it was very warm and we had lunch reservations a few blocks away. The Village Bakery Restaurant was a glorious next stop during our birthday celebration for Marie. We had developed an appetite and decided to sit inside even though both of us prefer to stay safe and eat outdoors if possible because of Covid. I had been there many years ago when my sister lived in Belmont. It is 10 times better now than it was years ago.

The waiter was quick to bring us cold water and offer us fancy libations like aperol spritz and various cocktails, but I was driving and Marie was happy with an iced tea with lemon.

Chilled Cucumber Gaspacho at The Village Bakery in Woodside California

We started with a chilled cucumber gazpacho served with a cherry tomato panzanella, extra virgin olive oil and mint. The waiter was kind enough to split it for us and give us individual servings. It was cool and refreshing with just the right amount of acid from the tomato and crunch from the crouton and the cucumber. Delicious! And since we were at a bakery, we had to order the Parker House Rolls with flaky Maldon sea salt and sweet butter. My favorite!

Grilled Chicken Caesar, French Dip, Cucumber Gaspacho at Village Bakery

Next Marie ordered the Caesar salad with grilled chicken which practically melted in your mouth and I had to have their French Dip (Prime Rib thinly sliced, caramelized onions, gruyere on a toasted baguette) with au jus. These were simply divine. The restaurant began to get busier and busier and both of us became a little uneasy, so we decided to skip the dessert. The waiter again thought of everything, and brought Marie a large chocolate chip cookie “to go”. It should be mentioned that there is a 20 percent service surcharge already added onto the bill to help pay the staff in support of the San Mateo County employer mandate. Many restaurants are establishing these rules and I’m happy people in the food industry are beginning to be paid what they deserve.

Lastly, we stopped in San Ramon at The Lot City Center Bishop Ranch for ice cream at Salt & Straw. This is a fairly new shopping center with many restaurants, shops and a theater. I ordered the Marionberry Coconut Sherbet in a waffle cone and Marie picked the Chocolate Gooey Brownie in a waffle cup. The $5.95 each scoops are enormous and the waffle cones are $1.50 extra, but who’s counting? Not me, certainly. Locations are popping up all over California including San Francisco, Palo Alto and Burlingame and many in Los Angeles if you want to give them a try. They have seasonal flavors no one else has like Spiced Goat Cheese Pumpkin Pie, Plum & Chocolate Hazelnut Shortbread, Wild-Foraged Berry Slab Pie, Pinot Poached Pear Sherbet and Honey Lavender. These are so interesting that you want to taste all of them!

Me and Marie at Salt & Straw at THE LOT City Center Bishop Ranch in San Ramon California

I can’t imagine a more perfect day. Marie and I have been friends for over 43 years. (Tammie Berg -my bestie pal from high school. You have her beat with 44!)(Donna- It’s been 36 years!)(Denise -It’s been 20 plus years) (Kathi- It’s been 34 years) (Sherri- It’s been 27 years) But who is keeping track? Marie and I met in 1979 at Mr. Steak Restaurant while working as hostesses. We’ve been through a lot of years raising 5 boys and two husbands between us and keeping in touch regularly. I’m so happy we could take time away from our busy schedules to make it a special day. Here is our day together last year in Napa.

Thanks for following my blog and reading my stories. I will be sure to share a recipe here when the heat subsides. Until then, stay cool and enjoy life.

 

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Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop Celebrating My Birthday

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop Celebrating My Birthday

It’s been quite the birthday week. Day trips to Yountville, lunches at my favorite restaurants in Danville with friends, relaxing pedicures, a wine tasting experience in Livermore with a niece and sister, and a fun birthday celebration for a girlfriend which included an overnight stay at the Harkey House in Yuba City with my husband. I’m a lucky girl and I am grateful every day for the friends and family who are in my life. I can’t forget mentioning having my sons over for a home cooked meal. They brought me my favorite See’s Candy and pastries from an Asian bakery in Concord. Just wow.

My sister Sue and her daughter Marie in Livermore at Murietta’s Well

I’m not always running out for special dinners and wine tasting. Just yesterday, I unloaded a truckful of good soil from Macalveys Nursery in Martinez. I carefully dug up old annuals first and replaced them with the new soil. It’s too hot to plant anything new and we are on water rationing here in California because of the drought. Instead, I will toss some wildflower seeds into the beds and see what comes up in the fall after the rain. 

My garden has been an extra handful this year. I selected special seeds in March and began growing them under lights and on heat mats in the garage. I grew several varieties of tomatoes, watermelon, pumpkin, peppers, zinnias and more. After planting them in raised beds or in broadcloth cages (to protect them from gophers), many of them were eaten by the ground squirrels. We’ve never had a problem with these critters before even though we live next to open space. It’s been WAR. 

My husband Ken bought an airsoft gun after no success with the traps. I learned how to use it today, but still haven’t managed to shoot one. I know. It sounds horrible and I usually love squirrels, but when they eat all the leaves from my new Meyer lemon tree, the leaves from the new almond tree and many of my perennials, they’ve got to go. Many of the vegetables I’ve had to cover up with crates to keep them from being eaten. I don’t mind sharing, but this has been devastating seeing all of my crops and plants taken from me.If you have any ideas for me, I’m all ears. Thank goodness I don’t have to live off my land, or I would starve.

I was invited to go to lunch at Bistro don Giovani’s in Yountville with my friends and neighbors Luann and Sandra. I was blown away by Luann’s offer to take me out for my birthday, as we have gone wine tasting before, but never to celebrate our birthdays. They have expanded their outdoor patio and have added fans and heat lamps for the evenings. The meal was delightful and the service outstanding. We had the calamari with shrimp, fennel and green beans for an appetizer and I couldn’t have been happier. Luann ordered a bottle of sauvignon blanc which the three of us shared. Raviolis, focaccia, a peach, marcona almond, goat cheese salad and chocolate cake with vanilla gelato dessert were also shared by all of us.

Bistro Don Giovani in Yountville with Sandra and Luann

Just down the lane from the restaurant is Ashes and Diamonds Winery. The ladies weren’t ready to head back to the Bay Area yet, so we ordered another bottle of wine and sat under the umbrellas to chat. I should mention that they don’t sell just a glass of wine. Either you order the tasting menu, or a bottle of wine. The least expensive bottle was the 2019 Blanc which was $45.00. I paid for the wine and tip since my friends picked up the tab at the restaurant. How often do you get to hang out with girlfriends for hours? This was a treat. We got caught up, drank tons of water and had olives and crackers before Sandra drove us home. 

Me and my girlfriend Marie before our lunch date

Another very special day was spent with my friend Marie. She and I met 43 years ago while working at Mr. Steak. She took me for a pedicure at Bollinger Nails Salon in Danville. She was surprised to see how fidgety I get when someone touches my feet. I guess you either love it or tolerate it. I love the final look and being able to look presentable while wearing sandals.

Next we ate at my favorite restaurant Esin. The owner is a pastry chef and always has exquisite desserts to choose from. Their food is always excellent. We started with their marinated citrus olives and French bread with olive oil. I ordered their salmon tartare with avocado appetizer and chips and Marie had the Caesar salad with grilled chicken. We ended the meal sharing the lemon meringue pie with a toasted marshmallow whipped topping and raspberry sauce. This meal was perfect in every way and mostly because I had one on one time with my best friend. Priceless.

My husband Ken sitting on porch at Harkey House Bed and Breakfast

Staying at the Harkey House was delightful. We checked in at 4:30PM after spending the day with my friend Kathi at her 60th surprise birthday party in Lincoln California. I brought two cakes that I decorated the night before. There was a chocolate with candied orange, chocolate frosting and whipped cream with raspberries and a yellow cake with whipped cream, fresh strawberries and strawberry jam. My poor husband had to balance the white cake on his lap the entire way to the party. Kathi was surprised and even cried from all the excitement. It was a nice day, but we were happy to sneak in a quick nap at the B&B before going to dinner.

My friend Kathi’s 60th surprise birthday blowing out candles on the cakes I made

There weren’t many choices of places to eat by the time we woke up from our naps. We landed at Sutter Buttes Brewing in Yuba City just 10 minutes from the B&B. Yuba City was once a thriving bustling town. It’s not fancy by any means, but we were pleased with the Harkey House and the pub food and porter beer for dinner.

The weather there was very hot, almost 100 degrees, but we found the restaurant cool and inviting inside. The waitress was friendly and happy to help us and we didn’t feel rushed even though they stopped serving at 9PM.

We slept great at the Harkey House and were welcomed downstairs for an elaborate breakfast at 8:30AM. The owners Lee and Bob have been running the place for forty years. We sat out on the back patio with another younger couple from Santa Cruz who were lovely. It was a relaxing atmosphere and we sat around for at least two hours enjoying each other and eating until we were stuffed. They made us each mini individual herb quiches,tomato salsa, a jalapeno and egg omelet, Canadian bacon, corn souffle, Oregon grape jam with lavender scones, orange juice, watermelon, fresh strawberries and coffee. Lee would come out to check to see if we needed anything and share a story or two. She also gave me a few new suggestions of books to read for my book club. They were Visionary Women by Andrea Barnet, Women Rowing North by Mary Pipher, The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia and What Happened to You, by Bruce Perry,M.D. She let us take a huge Sutter Valley grown white peach home with us and we ate it in the car. What hospitality!

Satisfying breakfast plate served at Harkey House in Yuba City

On the way home we stopped at a fruit stand where I bought a berry jam, strawberry jam, green beans, jalapenos, tomatoes, and lemon cucumbers because I can’t go by one of those places without stopping. 

When I arrived home, I had exactly 30 minutes to bring treats to the chickens and get ready for a day with my niece Marie and sister Sue. The three of us ended up at Murrieta’s Well Winery. We enjoyed their exquisite tasting menu with a few olives, nuts and crackers. This place had live music, a shaded outdoor patio and great service. You are surrounded by rolling hills, oak trees and vineyards.

Reservations were needed at Range Life in Livermore just down a little ways from Murietta’s Well. Luckily my niece Marie knows all the fancy foodie places. It must run in the family. Again we sat on their small outdoor patio under a large oak tree. They had fans and plenty of shade to keep us cool since it was hot and possibly 90 degrees.

My Sister Sue, me and niece Marie at Range Life in Livermore

I’m trying to recall everything we ate. I think the tasting at the previous place might have skewed my memory. We started with the Monterey King Salmon Crudo with blackberries, nardello pepper and cipolla verde, the Melon and Shishito’s, and Caesar salad with gem lettuce and an amazing pangrattato, tiny bread crumbs with parmigiano. This place is Michelin Star rated and I totally see why. Of course we had to try the fritto of cucuzza squash blossoms stuffed with chanterelle aioli. It’s summer in California on a plate. Everything is served family style and it’s a good thing because the Klingeman Ham Chop with polenta, valley corn, cabbage and a nectarine relish was enormous. You just want to order everything. I brought a bottle of wine to help with the cost and it served its purpose. Drink and eat. Drink and eat. That’s my life. I can’t leave out the one serving of 72% Mababu Askinosie Chocolate Sorbet with cacao nibs which could possibly be the best bite of chocolate I’ve ever had. Immediately I’m looking up the bean to bar Missouri based chocolate company and following them on Instagram.Here’s another famous chocolate shop in Portland Oregon.

I’m pretty sure we didn’t need more dessert, but we still went to Lotties Creamery in Danville on the way home. If nothing else, it sobered us up a little before driving home. We each had the vanilla salted almond toffee ice cream on a waffle cone. So delish.

Ham Chop with polenta, cabbage and nectarines from Range Life in Livermore California

Can I just say that this has possibly been the best birthday month I’ve ever had. I believe Covid has made people take more time to be with the people we love. I haven’t stopped celebrating even though it’s already almost August. Next week my younger sister Julie is meeting me at San Damiano Retreat for our traditional “buddy lunch.” It’s our little secret spot up on a hill in Danville. We make eachother lunches and sit in the most peaceful and spiritual place where we chat and get caught up on sister talk. It’s the best.

And my hiking group friends are taking me to lunch at Round Hill in Alamo next week also. I tried to put off being the center of attention and wanted to wait until September when there will be two other birthdays. Why is it that I don’t like birthday attention? I guess I will take a closer look at that.

My best news is that a very close friend is finally home from the hospital after having a serious life saving surgery. I’m overjoyed she is okay and now home with her family to heal.

Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot. Off to the farmers market for fresh fruit and vegetables and to get greens for my chickens.

Thank you Luann and Sandra for the Birthday cake at Bistro Don Giovani
From the right. My niece Marie and her boyfriend Jeff’s sister Rachel sporting our new Smyth Family Farm logo t-shirts

I decided to add this delicious rice recipe that I love to make. I had a surprise visit from my niece and her almost sister-in-law Rachel last weekend. We made tamales, coconut rice, and a gluten free peach crumble. We never took any photos of the food unfortunately, but had tons of fun.

This rice recipe was shared from my neighbor Jen’s best friend. Jen and her husband have a Holiday party every year and their friend Vasuki Narayan

always brought this dish to go with the roasted turkey. I was blown away by the taste and spices that I had to ask for the recipe. You will love it too. You may have to take a quick trip to a specialty Indian store and have them help you find the ingredients. It’s the best rice I’ve ever had. We added it as a topping for the extra spicy chili that I made this week. It went well and cooled down the spices a lot. Why do I always add too much jalapeno grown in my garden to my recipes? Ugh.

  Coconut Rice

(Thengai Saadham)

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp. Canola or Grapeseed Oil

1.2 tsp. Mustard seeds

1 tsp. Urad Dal

1 tsp. Channa Dal

1 Tbsp. Broken Cashews

4 green chilies (Thai or serrano)

5-6 Curry Leaves

1 C Shredded Fresh or frozen Coconut (Found at Indian stores)

½ tsp. Kosher Salt

1 tsp. Sugar

2 C. Cooked Rice (Jasmine is nice) Make ahead of time and cool

Directions:

In a heavy pan or wok, heat oil. Add mustard seeds.

When the seeds pop, add urad dal.channa dal, and cashews. Lightly fry until the cashews are golden brown.

Add green chilies and curry leaves. (I substituted red dried chilies and bay leaves). Fry lightly until the curry leaves are crisp, less than 1 minute.

Add grated coconut, salt, sugar and fry for 1 minute.

Fold in cooked rice slowly and mix thoroughly.

Remove from heat and serve immediately.

This is the chili dish with added cheese and blueberry corn muffins. The next time we ate the chili, I added the leftover coconut rice. It was divine.
 

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Me and my Sister having a Foodie Few Days in West Shore Lake Tahoe

Me and my Sister having a Foodie Few Days in West Shore Lake Tahoe

I traveled last week to the West Shore Lake Tahoe area with my older sister Sue. Tahoe is her favorite place and she graciously invited me to enjoy it with her.

On the way there, we stopped at Boa Vista Orchards for apple cider, fresh nectarines, cherries and blackberries. I would have loved to grab a apple cider donut or fresh berry pastry, but we wanted to get back on the road and the line was too long. It was still a thrill to go back, even if only for a short time. Here is my blog on that area if you want to check it out.

Enjoying the view of Lake Tahoe with my sister Sue while sitting at the Sunnyside Restaurant

When we arrived, we checked in at the Sunnyside Restaurant and lodge and were given a table on the patio at the restaurant. I had Ahi Tuna dish with wild rice and my sister had a halibut dish. She tried their slushie with rum and I drank the lavender lemonade with vodka. No regrets with those decisions. We walked around the property and the quiet neighborhoods close by. We sat and admired the lake for hours and even ordered their famous Hula Pie with toasted macadamia nuts, vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream on a chocolate cookie crust.It was enormous and delicious. The bill came to a little over $144.00 plus tip, but well worth it and great service.

I was happy to get up and move around after sitting for hours in the car and the restaurant. We walked around the neighborhood, checked out the cute West Shore Market and stopped in for chapstick. I wanted much, much more, but we couldn’t eat one more thing. I noticed Wednesday through Sunday they have flatbread  pizzas like brie and apple with caramelized onions from 4:30 until 7:30PM. Yum! Too bad today is Monday. Across the street from the market was West Shore Sports where they rent bikes, paddleboards and kayaks.We inquired about a bike rental for the next day for me because my sister didn’t have room in her car for my bike. Ohh. And they have three locations: Homewood, Sugar Pine Point State Park and Sunnyside Lake Tahoe. I should also mention there was a tiny place called Spoon Restaurant tucked behind the bike shop. They had a special that night: Paella broth with clams, Chicken and Spanish Sausage, King Salmon, coconut matcha cake with kiwi and a s’mores brownie with chocolate sauce. It all sounded great.

The hotel had a very comfortable king size bed and we slept like babies all night. My sister is an early morning gal, so she walked to the beach with her book and coffee and enjoyed watching the boats on the lake. I slept in, meditated and met her for breakfast on the deck. The Sunnyside Restaurant had a fabulous spread to choose from. I ate a piece of whole wheat bread, cream cheese, smoked salmon, tomato, onions and capers, Greek yogurt, a hard boiled egg, orange juice and a cinnamon roll with raspberry jam. They also had a wonderful granola which I took with me on our bike ride that day. We sat and ate it while sitting by the Truckee River. There were plenty of people to watch floating down the river. So fun.

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Breakfast buffet at Sunnyside Restaurant and Lodge
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My sister looking at birds along the Truckee River.

After breakfast, we lathered on the sunscreen and took off to the bike rental. Sue has her mountain bike and I rented a cruiser. I was a little intimidated to go on a trail ride with her because my sister is a serious bike enthusiast. She rides up Mount Diablo like it’s nothing and has been riding since her college days religiously. I fared pretty well, considering we were out on the trail from 11AM until 3:30PM. We stopped a lot to look at the birds, munch on granola and relax by the river. 

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Trail Map sign along the bike path along the Truckee River. There was a bike pump located next to it.

I noticed an ice cream food truck/trailer called Little Truckee Ice Creamery and made my sister cross the street to get a Dark Horse Coffee ice cream cone. She refused a sweet treat and wanted lunch, but not before she found a necklace for herself at Blue tone Jewelry. Syd’s Bagelry and Espresso was highly recommended for a good place to grab a sandwich, so we rode our bikes across the street and found it right away. I bought lunch, since my sister paid for our accomodations. Sue wanted the hot pastrami and I ordered the turkey with bacon and tomato. Everything tastes good after a long bike ride. Across the street was Rosie’s Cafe which is known for their great breakfasts and they have an old fashioned bar inside if you wanted a cold beer or a mimosa with your meal. It looked like the local hang out.

We decided it was time to head back from Tahoe City and return the bike. I was excited to stop at Tahoe House Bakery and Gourmet. They had cookies galore, beautiful cakes, cheesecake, and a huge lunch menu with everything from special sandwiches, a daily soup and five superb salads. I bought an asiago bread and was lucky enough to get another free loaf since it’s a buy one get one free between 2PM and 3PM every day. Great deal. My second loaf choice was the whole wheat made with molasses. It is now tucked in the freezer for another day.

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Menu at Tahoe House Bakery and Gourmet

Well, I’m off to the bar to meet my sister who has been waiting for me. Yes. We are hungry again.Thanks sister for the fun vacation.

I will have to add to this post a little later. I have pet chickens that need to cool off.

 

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Cocktails at Brasswood, Margarita at Acacia House and Hiking in Napa Valley

Cocktails at Brasswood, Margarita at Acacia House and Hiking in Napa Valley

I’ve been trying to get motivated to write a new blog and it’s a struggle. I’m always inspired and excited after a fun day out experiencing the foodie experience, but too tired to get it on paper. When I’m home, I always find something else to do like work in my garden, cook, clean or bake. So here I am at the gym where I am not distracted from all of those duties.

Lise and me at Bothe Valley State Park last week

I will write about my day in Calistoga last Thursday with my friend Lise. She organized a hike at Bothe Napa Valley State Park with a bunch of our hiking friends. Many people had to cancel at the last minute because of Covid or other obligations, so it was just the two of us who went.

I loved this hike. Lise picked me up at 8:15AM because it has been extremely hot in the Bay Area lately. I usually am the driver, so it was a nice change to have someone else drive. We got to the park at 10AM and walked for 2.5 hours. It was relatively flat and easy to walk. There were many tiny frogs crossing the path as well as several varieties of butterflies everywhere. The birds were singing and the trail was along a rambling creek, so we heard the trickle of water while hiking. So refreshing, especially since we are in a continuous drought in California. We were hoping to swim in their pool, but it was only open on weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day. There is a $10 fee to park.

This gorgeous place had beautiful red wild flowers called Indian Pink-Cardinal Catchfly- Silene laciniata and another spectacular green bush with bright pink flowers called Pink Fairies- Clark’s Pulchella Pirsh, neither of them I had ever seen before. After we hiked, we were hoping to visit Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park, but it is only open on weekends. This place is a block or two from Bothe State Park and they are both sandwiched between Calistoga and St. Helena. 

Onward we went to Brasswood, which is a little south of the park where we hiked and it is on the way home, a huge plus. I have been to Brasswood once before with my boys Curtis, Andrew and Andrew’s girlfriend Shannon and my husband while wine tasting last year. It’s a lovely place and I was able to take time to explore the property more extensively this time. Lise and I walked into the restaurant and immediately sat at the bar. My friend wanted to finish the rest of her peanut butter, honey and tomato sandwich that she brought with her. I’m all about trying the latest and greatest each restaurant and bar has to offer. Lise agreed to order the beef carpaccio made with capers, watercress, sea salt, parmesan, lemon garlic aioli, evoo and crostini. It was delicious. We also ordered the focaccia served with squash blossom and fennel pollen butter. So yummy. I had a Fellini’s Muse cocktail that was made with Malfy Rosa grapefruit gin, fresh grapefruit, Fever Tree elderflower tonic, and an orchid ice cube. I can’t seem to get enough grapefruit lately. Lise had her first Arnold Palmer, which consists of iced tea and lemonade. She loved it! And last but not least, I had to order the Flying Goat Affogato for dessert. It was made with house-made vanilla ice cream and Flying Goat Coffee espresso. Incredible and the best way to end a meal. 

Not only does Brasswood have a restaurant, but it has a winery, gallery and bakery on the premises. They sell gifts like cocktail  cookbooks and glassware, a wooden chess set, clothing, coffee, colorful mugs, and special teas like herbal chai, Assam, Moroccan Mint, Earl Grey and Premium Green Tea from Napa Valley Tea Company. 

The Bakery has a large lunch menu offering several salads, sandwiches, pizza and house made potato chips. These are the rage these days. Top Brass Wines are $12.00 and sold by the can. One can equals two glasses of wine. Rose from Russian River Valley or a Charbono from Napa Valley that tastes like plum and black cherry. Or you can buy a 4 pack for $48.00. Also offered were wines by the bottle for between $48 up to $125.00 each. They provide cheese platters, charcuterie boards or lunch boxes available for pre-order for those who plan ahead of time. I also spotted homemade Sauces: marinara made with organic tomato, olive oil, garlic confit, oregano and black pepper; the arrabiata made with organic tomato, basil, garlic and Calibrian peppers; and a short rib sugo made with organic tomato, onion, sage, thyme, cremini and portobello mushroom and Brasswood Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Extensive beer menu at Brasswood Bakery and Cafe

Fresh berry tarts, cheesecake, and panna cotta were just a few of the deserts being offered, as well as many cheeses, cinnamon rolls, cookies and croissants. Believe it or not they sell popular beer and cocktails as well.  Manhattans, Martinis, a St Germain one and plenty of tequila drinks were just a few.

Don’t worry if you forgot to have breakfast. Brasswood has you covered. Chilaquiles, bagels with salmon, breakfast sandwiches and breakfast burritos will fill you up on an empty stomach. I swear. I’ve never seen so many food and drink options in one location.

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Flowers from Tesoro Florist at Acacia House

As if we needed anything more, we had to stop off at the Acacia House in St Helena. This place pulled out all of their magic tricks for us to make it an exceptional experience. Of course I tell everyone I’m a food and travel blogger and they turn up the volume on our visit. The bar was closing within 45 minutes, but they graciously took us in. I didn’t even need another drink, but here we were in Napa Valley. Right? Can you blame me? Josh the bartender hooked me up with their famous margarita. It was a $30.00 margarita, but totally worth it. They make a special foamy concoction to dress it up with called “salt air” and it’s fabulous. They wouldn’t give me exact amounts but it has versa whip, xantham gum, lime juice and water in it. Also adorned by fresh lime zest which is something you don’t see every day. Acacia House has the most amazing flower arrangements by Tesoro Florist. Lise had their Zero Proof Non Alcoholic Grapefruit Rosemary Spritz. This is made with Ritual Zero Proof Gin, grapefruit, rosemary simple syrup and sparkling water. Very special. We met a nice man at the bar named Efrain with Efrain Interiors. He is trying to set up a flower and champagne business in the area called Bubbles and Bloom. Fabulous!

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Josh surprised us with a dish of their chips and dip. It is served with whipped labneh (strained yogurt), salmon roe and chervil. We weren’t even hungry, but of course we had to eat it. I’ve been to this special place twice. One time I came for my birthday with my husband last year and one time I brought my older sister Susan. Each visit was extraordinary. 

Whipped Lebneh and salmon row with potato chips at Acacia House

Have I told you this unique wine country property/resort has a luxury hotel attached? Alila Napa Valley has a gorgeous spa and lodging. In fact, Sean showed us the presidential suite and took us on a personal tour of the property. This review will give you a better look at the accommodations. Fun fact: In 1907 this Acacia House was a physicians house. He treated people with Tuberculosis.

I splurged and bought myself and Lise a face serum called Be Here a Summer Solstice Serum at their Spa. It is made from a local farm in Saint Helena with antioxidant oxidant rich biodynamic olive oil, calendula, St John’s Wort, tulsi, German chamomile, Roman chamomile and wild yellow dock. I grow many of these herbs. Wouldn’t that be something to be able to make potions like this someday at Smyth Family Farm?

Fun art display in the Spa at Alila

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you how much I loved the great day hiking and enjoying the food and drinks of the Napa Valley. Thank you Lise for organizing the great hike. We even made it back in time to watch the Warrior play offs.If you are in need of respite and a fun day trip, head North and just see what you might find. Napa County in Northern California is a destination for everyone to enjoy. Thanks for following me and reading my blog. It’s pure joy sharing stories and recipes with you.

 

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How to Drink Your Way Through Disneyland

How to Drink Your Way Through Disneyland

Hello again. A quick update about what’s going on at Smyth Family Farm. My mom is turning 80 tomorrow, and we are celebrating at Blackhawk Grille in Danville. This is the restaurant that I worked as a pastry chef at. I will be bringing three cakes for my mom tomorrow: A white cake with elderflower liqueur, strawberry jam, and fresh strawberries and whipped cream, a lemon cake doused with limoncello and simple syrup, meyer lemon curd, whipped cream and a lavender white chocolate buttercream. Last but not least will be the carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. I picked up the white tulips that I will try to decorate the lemon cake with. I am inspired by the wedding cake I saw last weekend at Kevin and Lora Mahlman’s wedding. Incredible. We’ll see if I can pull it off. More photos at the end of this blog.

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Whipped Cream and cut up strawberries to fold into the center of the white cake.
My husband Ken, me and my girlfriend Marie and her husband Ron at their son’s wedding last weekend.

Also, we have another surge of Covid spreading across the Bay Area where I live. My son Andrew was exposed at his Blackhawk Choir concert last weekend, where 10 of the singers came down with covid. My good friend Denise, had to cancel a trip to Napa because she was exposed at a women’s group meeting where she volunteers. I’m super sad that she and her husband are leaving the state. It’s one of the many who are exiting California. This past year has been full of loss whether it be from sickness or moving out of the area. I’m not happy about it, but I understand. 

Here is my continued blog from the Disneyland trip I took in February 2022. Here is part one, if you missed it.

Day two of Disneyland adventure.

Woke up at 6:15 and got ready in our nice hotel. It’s convenient to stay at the Grand Californian because it’s close to the park. Kathleen, Keri and Jamie and I met up with the Louies in the lobby. We took off to Guardians of the Galaxy. It replaced the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in 2017. It is much more fun now. I wasn’t crazy about dropping hundreds of feet, but Guardians of the Galaxy is different and brilliantly done.

Toy Story Midway Mania ride was next. We love taking aim at moving objects and try to score more points then our riding buddy. The Pixar Movie Toy Story came out when my youngest son Andrew was three years old. He loved Andy, Buzz Lightyear, and the Woody character and would watch the movie over and over again. There is something about being in Disneyland that reminds you of being a child, and or bringing fond memories back of raising your kids.Loved the ride. I’m not great at scoring points, but it’s fun to try.

Incredicoaster was next on the list. All day, Kathleen is monitoring all of our lightning passes which were previously called Fast Passes. She is monitoring her phone and the Disneyland App to see when she can book our next pass. These lines are much smaller and it saves a ton of time. Only two passes are allowed per individual per day, which is why Kathleen asks us to purchase two park passes per day. It’s a lot of money, but totally worth using your time wisely at Disneyland. There is a strategy to her madness. She researches blogs and internet tips for months preparing for this trip. I don’t think Disneyland knows we are purchasing two tickets each. It’s illegal, and we would be kicked out of the park if they find out.It’s a risk we are willing to take to make our experience even more pleasurable.

Incredicoasteris located at Pixar Pier and is the fastest ride reaching a high speed of 55 miles per hour. You will be greeted by JackJack, Edna, Elastigirl, Violet and Dash, the characters from The Incredibles Movie. I’m not usually a huge roller coaster person. When I was 12, my dad made me ride the Tidal Wave Ride at California’s Great America previously called Six Flags. It was built in 1976. It terrified me. Since then, I have overcome my fear and have more fun taking pleasure in these roller coasters.

We bought a “Nom Nom” Cookie which I need to try to make myself at home. They are served warm and are an incredible cookie. Of course we share them because it’s too much cookie for one person.

Some of us purchased a latte or coffee to go with our treats.

Soaring Around the World was just as much fun the second time. It’s fun to get on this ride and sit in the first row. Your feet hang down and you feel like you are flying in the open sky. Not too far from here was Monsters Inc. We got on a “taxi ride” where we were entertained by Mike and Sully rescuing a human child. I’m not as familiar with this movie because my kids didn’t get into it. I’m also not as familiar with Tangled and other princess movies since I had two boys. I’ve had to rely on my nieces to introduce me to some of these films.

We tried getting on the Cars ride next, but there was a 30 minute wait. We never wait that long for a ride. On to see Ariel and her Under Sea Adventure from The Little Mermaid with my sister in law Terri-Ann. Ariel has always been Keri and Jamie’s favorite princess growing up. Over the years, we would get to visit each princess and take pictures with them. Of course, they are all special, but Ariel was always the family’s most loved princess. All of the others in our group went on Goofy’s Sky School Ride.

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My nieces Jamie and Keri at Carthay Lounge

All of those rides can make a girl thirsty, so we were grateful that Kathleen made reservations in advance at the Carthay Circle Lounge. I ordered the Soba noodles with salmon edamame and a ginger soy vinaigrette. Sooo good. The VanWinckel’s ordered the shrimp spring rolls and more. I enjoyed a double pear martini. It is made with Double Cross and Absolut Pear Vodka, Pear Nectar and fresh lime complemented with a baby pear and mint leaf. Just delightful! Keri had a Sparkling Mare. This is made with Saint-Hilaire Sparkling Wine, St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur and Aperol Orange Aperitif. Jamie ordered the Negroni I think. I’m trying to figure it out by looking at the menu and her drink from my photos. It was a few months ago and I have a horrible memory. Having drinks with these girls is a lot of fun. I get to sit back and watch the sisters interact and not have a care in the world. These drinks cost between $15 and $18.50 each. We are there for a limited time since Kathleen has us on the go, but not before the girls order their second cocktail which I believe included tequila. Interestingly enough, no one gets too inebriated. We all relax and have a good time.

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Star wars Ride

The most anticipated attraction at Disneyland is Star Wars: Galaxy Edge called Rise of the Resistance. It is four rides built into one and about 15 to 20 minutes long. It’s epic and you won’t want to miss it.

After all the excitement, it was time to slow down and have a drink and pizza poolside at the Grand California. We sat in the hot tub to soak our tired feet and had long conversations. We’ve all missed our family gatherings since Covid started, so there was a lot to catch up on.

My drawing. I have no idea which character this was.

Next we all met at Animation Academy located at California Adventure Park. This 23 minute long hands-on attraction allows you to draw with the cartoonist. They teach you how to draw a Disney character. The whole experience is fun and challenging, especially for me since I can’t draw. So it was evident that I would lose my marbles and laugh uncontrollably when I heard Keri laugh. It was one of those awkward moments when you think you will be kicked out of class. Maybe it was the cocktail? I’ll stick with that.

We ate dinner at the Lamplighter Lounge, which again needed to be booked in advance. The Lobster Nachos are always a hit so the Van Winckel’s  always order two. I find them a little over rated. I don’t find them to be very “lobstery”, but I go with the flow.

Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Fireworks, It’s a Small World, Oga’s Cucina for drinks (An Absolute MUST), and the Pirates of the Caribbean finished up our day.

That finishes up day two of our Disneyland 2022 trip.

I will post day three and four next time.

Thanks for joining me and reading my blog. I hope I’ve inspired you to take a trip to Disneyland.

Wish me luck completing and pulling off the birthday cakes for tomorrow. They are already in the freezer just waiting for the decorating final touches. I will post photos of them and my mom’s special day next week.

Here are the cakes I made for Mom’s 80th. The recipe for the white cake is in this link.

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Strawberry Jam. White Cake and a great premade frosting to whip up.
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Creating the White Cake with strawberry Jam and whipped cream.
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It’s good to make a whipped cream edge so the jam doesn’t escape.
 

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A Break From Life at the Farm and a Cocktail Themed Vacation in Disneyland

A Break From Life at the Farm and a Cocktail Themed Vacation in Disneyland

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Best fried chicken served at Plaza Restaurant Disneyland

A lot has happened since my last blog in the beginning of February. I was fortunate enough to get invited to the family Disney trip again. I went last weekend with two of my sister in-laws, four of my nieces, one nephew, his wife and their significant others. It was a nice distraction from the sadness that I have been feeling about losing four of my pet chickens.

I am sharing my Disneyland experience with you since it is not like any other. Exactly a week ago, at 7AM, my husband Ken drove my sister in law Kathleen and her two daughters Keri and Jamie to the Oakland Airport.He saved us a lot of trouble and cost not having to drive ourselves and drag our luggage from the extended parking lot near the airport. We were surprised to see the huge line going through security. Luckily, all of us have Pre TSA and were able to fly right past them in our own special line. The process of qualifying for the Pre TSA is paying extra money and showing your passport and ID ahead of time in a screening process. It’s totally worth it, in my opinion.

We stopped off for mimosas, waffles, oatmeal and fruit at the Escape Lounge which is affiliated with American Express. It is all free to members and their guests. This is a special way to begin your vacation and I feel fortunate to be traveling with my sister-in -law who is a member.

We boarded the flight without any complications and landed at the Santa Ana Airport at 11:00AM. We were given strict instructions to not remove our masks during the flight so we wouldn’t be exposed to the CoronaVirus.Since I was staying in the same room as Kathleen, I needed to be safe. After we landed, my niece called an Uber driver to take us to the Grand Californian Hotel next to Disneyland. This hotel is gorgeous. It has every amenity you can think of: Pools, jacuzzi’s, a spa, a fireplace, a bar, restaurants, a grocery store, and more. My sister in law always pays for the hotel for the family. She is extra generous to me, her daughters and to the Louie family. I wouldn’t normally be able to afford this kind of luxurious vacation. I love going with her and her daughters and my other sister in law and her family because it is extra special family time. It’s worth mentioning here that we haven’t had many family get togethers the last two years because of Covid. Before Covid, we would celebrate birthdays and see each other at least once a month.

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Decor inside Disney’s Grand California Hotel

We dropped off our luggage at the hotel even though our rooms weren’t ready. Check in time is usually at 4PM, and the front desk will text you when the room is ready. Until then, the bellhop will store your items in a secure place. Next we entered Disneyland park and went to our pre scheduled reservation at the Plaza Restaurant. The four of us shared the fried chicken platter served with mashed potatoes, green beans and a buttery biscuit and we ordered a huge piece of the dark chocolate cake (shown above). It was a large amount of food and plenty for the four of us to share. My niece Jamie grabbed two corn dogs from the Little Red Wagon next to where we were sitting for us to share. These corn dogs have the best cornbread covering. It’s enormous! I tend to purchase a lot of the food since I know it helps Kathleen with the cost of the trip. We were asked to download the Disney app ahead of time to be prepared to purchase items from the stores, bars and so we could get our lightning pass tickets. These were previously called fast passes. You pay extra for these and get a limited amount of them per day. Again, Kathleen managed all of our rides on her app the entire vacation. She was on top of it, always looking to see if a ride was open or closed. She also prepares much of the itinerary before we arrive, by booking all of the restaurants and bars for each meal. This is all new. Disneyland has changed a lot since the pandemic began. They had to close down for a year. 

Thunder Mountain Railroad was our first roller coaster ride of the day. Buzz Lightyear was our next ride. Of course we didn’t stand in long lines because Kathleen is smart and has a strategy of when to go on which ride most efficiently. We stopped for a pickle for Jamie because it’s her favorite snack of all time. They are big and juicy and hard for her to resist. Personally, I’m a sweet pickle kind of girl and usually only eat them when I’m making tuna salad sandwiches. 

Off to California Adventureland Park where we went on Soarin’. This ride is especially fun and involves a fantastic airborne hang gliding flight which takes you through the wonders of the world. Web Slingers located in the Avengers Campus was the next obvious choice since it is the new Marvel Spider Man Adventure interactive screen ride where you wear 3 D glasses. There is a huge wall outside of the ride where spider man flies around doing aerial somersaults for the audience and people walking by. It’s very cool and popular for the little ones. I’d also mention how funny it is to see many of the children wearing costumes while in the parks. It’s hilarious to me when you see a toddler sound asleep in a stroller wearing a complete Spider-Man costume including the mask. Many of the little girls are wearing princess dresses and have their hair pulled tightly up into a bun with a tiara on their head. You really feel like a kid walking around seeing the magic all around you and remembering how you felt when you were a child in Disneyland. It’s so exciting.

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Spider man at Disney California Park

The girls were ready for some shopping time. They thought that they could order clothes and have them delivered to their hotel, but that option wasn’t available this time. Kathleen uses her Disney credit card all year long and gets points to use towards the restaurants and merchandise at the stores. It’s a win win for my nieces who appreciate wearing all of Disney’s attire. Kathleen actually purchased matching Disney sweatshirts for the four of us to wear during the trip. She thinks of everything, and I love being spoiled by her.

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Girls gotta have fun
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Thirsty girls in Disneyland

We were thirsty, so we ordered drinks from the phone app from Pym Tasting Lab. They give you a time to pick them up and you tell them when you arrive. Our drinks were ready and we sat and drank four outstanding cocktails. I had the “Molecular Meltdown” a Garage milk stout with vanilla ice cream and marshmallows. Keri and Jamie and Kathleen had the X-Periment drink with Patron Silver Tequila, mango and habanero syrups,  and mango flavor filled boba. These were so good that we went back for more throughout the weekend. 

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Cocktails at Pyms Tasting Lab at Disneyland

Goofy’s Sky School roller coaster was up next because Incredicoasters ride was down. I didn’t remember going on Goofy’s Sky School before. It was twisty and turny and jerky. Not my favorite, so I skipped it the next time the group wanted to go on it. Matterhorn was our next ride. I was terrified of this rollercoaster when I was young, but decided to go for it and go with the flow. It was fun. It’s even more fun at night.

I talked the group into the Winnie the Pooh ride. He’s my favorite Disney character. I love the music on this ride. Rabbit, Piglet, Tigger, Roo, Owl are cute and colorful and fun. I’ve always read these stories to my kids and provided videos for my oldest son Curtis to watch when he was a little guy while I cleaned houses. 

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My oldest son Curtis as a baby

We ate at the Blue Bayou Restaurant for dinner. They offer only a few choices and have a New Orleans cajun style menu. We shared the steak and salmon which they cooked perfectly. It’s also right next to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and it is a little dark but has many hanging lights. It’s very relaxing after a long day of running through the parks. Of course Kathleen had dinner reservations for us that she made ahead of time.

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My Sister in law Terri Ann and me on the Winnie the Pooh Ride

Keri, Jamie, Kathleen and me were all very excited to check out the new Star Wars ride “Rise of the Resistance.” It was an epic attraction and worth the purchase. Space Mountain was where we headed to next. This ride brings back so many memories for me because my son Curtis hated this ride when he was about 5 or 6 years old. He spitted and said it was “stupid, stupid, stupid!” We shouldn’t have tried to go on it with him. He has been scared of roller coasters ever since and this is why he doesn’t come with us to Disneyland. I don’t think he would enjoy all of the walking either. Turns out, we walked 22,000 steps that day according to my niece’s Apple watch. We landed at the pool bar called GCH Craftsman next to the Grand Californian Hotel where we were staying. We met my sister in law Terri Ann, her daughter Laura and Laura’s girlfriend Fiona at the pool bar. Eventually, my nephew Peter and his new wife Alex joined us. It was nice to connect with more of the family. I had a chocolate sundae since I don’t like to drink too late into the evening. It wasn’t that great as far as chocolate sundae’s go. The whipped cream tasted fake and it wasn’t sweet and there wasn’t enough chocolate sauce in it. But I’m a chocolate snob, so there’s that.

It was back to the hotel room to catch some zzz’s. I like to shower before bed, so I can be clean when I get into clean sheets. I’m not a morning person, so I get as organized as I can by laying out my clothes and having everything ready for when the alarm goes off.

I will have to continue this blog at another time. I have three more days to write about plus details about my sister in laws strategy to get in as many rides as possible each day. And cocktails! Lots more cocktails! I will leave you with this funny photo taken several years ago in Cancun when all three of our families the Van Winckels, The Louies, and the Smyth’s went on vacation together. Thanks for reading, and follow my blog for more recipes and stories of my travels.

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Cancun shenanigans
 

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