Another fun day exploring Oregon as a food blogger. Took a chance on Hood River area hoping to find new bakeries, coffee shops, gardening shops, etc. My husband has work in Portland, so he took me along. I’m so excited to share my experience with all of you. Yesterday, I found Good News Cafe and Garden Center, a vintage boutique called Bend in the Road, Phelps Creek Tasting Room, Pine Street Bakery where I had an “Over Acheeser” piece of pizza, Apple Green Boutique, Oblation Papers & Press, and a fun dinner at Screen Door in Portland with my husband and his coworkers.
Driving from the city to the Oregon countryside is exhilarating. The was mountains on the right of the highway and the water on the left makes for a nice one hour drive. As I arrived in Hood River I came across Full Sail Brewery. It wasn’t open yet, so I wasn’t able to go in, but I was hoping to catch it on the way back to Portland.
Maybe you’re wondering how I decided to go to Hood River. I found a magazine at the Avis rental place that had an article about the Hood River County Fruit Loop. http://www.hoodriverfruitloop.com/apple-valley I knew that there is more going on from May through October, but thought I’d take a chance anyway.
I drove through acres of blooming fruit trees and scrolling hills. It was beautiful. I was disappointed to find Apple Valley Country Store was closed. They are only open Wednesday through Sunday. I guess I’m not as familiar with businesses out in the middle of nowhere and how they have limited hours. They have pies, jams, pancake and scone mixes, They have flavors like huckleberry, marionberry, bumbleberry, caramel apple jam and more!
Art shown at #TheNinesHotel Portland Oregon
Onward and upward I drove to Phelps Creek Tasting room next to the Hood River Golf and Country Club. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYkDQMj8Vik This wasn’t as intriguing to me since I was my own designated driver, but a bathroom break is always appreciated after our delicious breakfast at the Nines Hotel. Even though I am spending most of my day at coffee houses, bakeries and local eateries I always pack a croissant sandwich stuffed with ham, turkey, salami, marionberry jam, and provolone, swiss and cheddar cheese to save money. Their breakfast spread is incredible offering pastries, yogurts, fresh fruit, gluten free muffins, roasted vegetables, deli meats and cheeses, cereal, oatmeal, coffee and Stash tea.
Here’s my lunch that I made from the breakfast buffet at The Nines Hotel
Next, I discovered Bend in the Road Vintage Consignment Store. It was fun to see what antiques were floating around Oregon and purchased some Scrabble letters for an art project for my niece. I was getting a rumbly in my tummy and was excited to find Good News Cafe and Garden Center. I couldn’t resist their marionberry hand pie that they graciously warmed up for me. Here’s my recipe for blackberry hand pies. Was tempted by their smores cookie since I’ve never seen one before, but I held off for something more savory. I purchased a few packages of seeds to give out to the nieces’ and nephews’ kids for Easter.
Marionberry hand pie
I had heard good things about Pine Street Bakery which was a few miles away, so ventured in there for a peek. Inside there were lines of people waiting for their fresh baked breads, cookies and savory choices like sandwiches, pizzas, and salads. I withheld from buying their egg shaped sugar cookies, their triple chocolate, and oatmeal raisin cookies. Instead I opted for the veggie pizza made with spinach, caramelized onions, ricotta and fontina. It was moist in the center, cheesy and the perfect choice for my long drive back to town.
My tasty snack after a long day of exploring Hood River Oregon
I still had plenty of time to check out the Apple Green Boutique in the Pearl District where they had lots of Spring gifts like Easter bunny books and paper supplies. They also sold vintage material that you could make tea towels or table runners with that I almost purchased for my Mother. Her birthday is in May and I haven’t gotten her anything yet. My latest is taking out family members and having adventure excursions. It makes for good blog posts too. I wonder where she will want to go.
Oblation Papers and Press was my last stop before picking up my husband at the plant. They had colorful displays of ribbons, wrapping paper, invitations and even baby books which I almost purchased for my niece Hajara who is expecting. I’d rather let her pick out her own since there are so many to choose from.
The Screen Door Restaurant is where we landed for dinner. Their menu is Southern Cajun Creole style. Hushpuppies, shrimp & grits, crispy fried buttermilk chicken is what they are most known for. Everything we had was delicious and I won’t forget my first taste of the sweet tea vodka cocktail. Someone suggested combining the sweet tea vodka with lemonade for an Arnold Palmer cocktail. Sounds delish. I’ve never been to New Orleans, only Florida so I’m not as experienced in critiquing this cuisine. We didn’t stay for dessert, although they had options like pecan pie, cara cara upside down cake, rhubarb custard pie by pastry chef Erin Eberlin Sage. Yum.
Overall, the day was something to remember and I’m happy to share my stories and recipes with you. Here’s to Hood River and Portland Oregon and their weird vibey culture. Thank you for a delicious and fun filled adventure.
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It’s Tuesday. These days I rarely know which day it is. My husband and I spent last weekend in Eldorado Hills and Amador County’s Shenandoah Valley with our friends the Cowies and Castiglione’s. It was refreshing to have social time again especially with some of my favorite people. It was nice to introduce good friends to our other good friends who happen to live in the same town. In today’s blog I will reflect on our weekend away and tell you what I’ve been up to lately.
The last four months have been interesting. Every day, I wake up, check on the latest news, water my vegetable garden, check email, have my coffee and a bit of breakfast, and do whatever chores are needed to get done. I’m not currently working, but I have worked harder in the past four months than I ever have. It seems there is always more laundry, more cleaning, flour to mill and bread to bake, fresh pasta to make, pies to bake, or a new cookie or Rice Krispie treat recipe to try.
Two of the masks I made for friends to protect themselves from Covid19
Covid masks made for the little people in my life
I’ve also made a dozen or more masks for family members, using up material I have had for years. It is rewarding to up cycle many fabrics that I’ve saved, knowing I could find a way to use them eventually.
My strawberry plant blossoms. Just one of the many plants I am growing in my victory garden
Just a few of my baby seedlings poking up through the soil
I’ve started an enormous vegetable garden, growing many varieties mostly from seed months ago. Not knowing whether we would have access to fresh fruit and vegetables, because of Covid 19, I decided to grow a victory garden. I’ve had edible gardens in the past, but never like this one. It is rewarding checking on the size and color of the tomatoes and picking them off the vine when ripe. Many of them don’t make it into the bowl, but get popped right into my mouth. So tasty.
Many varieties of flowers from my March garden in Walnut Creek. Photos taken by a friend Linda Kwong
So when our friends Elaine and Craig Cowie invited us to their new home in Eldorado Hills, we jumped at the idea. They have postponed the visit at least three times, because the Bay Area has been on lock down. My husband and I have been good about not going out unless we wear a mask, and we social distance if we see one of our friends or family. We felt safe about going North since there aren’t as many cases of Covid there. The population is less, and it’s not as crowded there.
We have known the Cowies for over 30 years. We met them after moving to our second house in Concord California. They lived directly across the street, so we had many dinner parties with them. Also included into the mix were the Faulkenberry’s. The Cowies and Faulkenberry’s have been friends since college at Chico State. Our son Curtis took Taekwondo classes from Ray Faulkenberry when Curtis was in elementary school and we’ve loved them ever since.
Every year, the three families have stayed connected taking turns having dinner together, even after we moved to Walnut Creek. We’ve had great times together watching our kids grow up, attending weddings and sharing meals over the years. We were happy to finally meet again, this time at the Cowies new home in El Dorado Hills. They moved there in February, after selling their home in Concord, to live closer to their daughter Leslie, son in law Kyle and two precious grand kids.
Two couples enjoying the day at Iron Hub Winery and Vineyard.
Leaving the chores, the garden and kitty cat behind, Ken and I happily drove North and were graciously greeted by Elaine and Craig when we arrived. We unpacked the car with all the goodies and clothes and enjoyed the tour of their new home. I was excited to learn their floor plan was similar to our other friends the Castiglione’s, our friends from our current Walnut Creek neighborhood who have also recently relocated to Eldorado Hills. Kayla and I have been in the same book club for over 20 years. I was happy to set up a day for the two couples to meet. We decided to get the six of us together on Sunday while wine tasting. Unfortunately, the Faulkenberry’s couldn’t stay overnight and join us having to get home to their puppies and cats.
We relaxed by the pool on Saturday while snacking on chips and mango salsa, fresh fruit skewers and pinot grigio. When the Faulkenberry’s showed up, I visited with their daughter Meg, who is a writer and social media expert. She wrote a book called Summer Rain. She had all kinds of great tips about how I should use Twitter to share my blog and many more new websites to check out like Blue Host, Hootsuite Wattpad, Booksie, 750words.com, Quotev.com and who to follow on Tik Tok. She should be teaching classes on these social media tools.
The weather was warm and yet there was a nice breeze which kept us cool. Elaine and Craig made fish tacos for dinner which we gobbled down and I made two apricot dishes for dessert. The first dessert was an apricot pie. I picked these ripe and juicy Patterson apricots from a farm in Tracy a couple of weeks ago. I also made two gluten free apricot turnovers with Teff flour and Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Flour. These were special. I had heard about the Teff flour from The Sourdough Podcast, so when I stumbled across it at Lunardi’s Grocery Store I quickly swept it into my cart. I had a little sticker shock when I got to the register. It was over $7.00 for a small bag, but was worth the price. It is high in fiber, high in protein, has more calcium than any other grain and is the only ancient grain containing Vitamin C. Teff flour has a subtle hazelnut earthy taste, is cultivated in Eastern Africa and is found in Ethiopian flatbread called injera. I enjoyed these hand pies more than the apricot pie made with all purpose flour.
After the Faulkenberry’s left Saturday night, we got on our “jammies ” or pajamas and watched a couple of episodes of Schitt’s Creek on Netflix. Ken and I had never seen it before, so it was nice to find a new funny night time splurge. I haven’t laughed that hard in years. It was so fun.
Before bed I assembled my Overnight Baked French Toast recipe and placed it in the fridge. I make it with two loaves of cinnamon bread, cut it into thick slices and pour a custard over the top to soak overnight. In the morning, you spread on a brown sugar, butter and maple syrup mixture on top of the soaked bread and bake in the oven for one hour. I made a fresh blueberry sauce ahead of time, before we left for our trip. I served the sauce along with maple syrup on the baked French Toast. I was introduced to this recipe from my friend Carolyn Regan. She made it when we went on a St Mary’s religious retreat in Guerneville many years ago. It is the perfect breakfast served with Italian sausage or bacon.
Sunday morning, Ken finished off preparing the breakfast and baked the French Toast while I stayed in bed a little longer. Most people know I love to sleep. At 9 AM, we ate breakfast and got ready to drive to the wineries. My husband Ken drove since he doesn’t drink. It was a gorgeous day and it was nice to drive through the countryside.
Ken and I outside at Iron Hub Winery
Our first stop was Iron Hub Winery and Vineyard. The views here were simply spectacular. They only charge $10.00 for a tasting and if you buy a bottle of wine, they give you a tasting for free. The pours were tiny, but we tried two whites and four reds. There was hardly anyone there with the exception of one other family of three tasting at the end of the outside bar.
We had an appointment at Cooper Vineyards at 12:15 and met up with our friends Kayla and John Castiglione. The six of us sat outside in a shaded patio where we shared stories and drank more delicious wine. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of all of us this time. We will have to go back again the six of us. The Cowies are members there, so our wine tastings were free. That’s a bonus. The 2017 Barbera Riserva was the group favorite and the server generously gave us another pour.
Cooper Vineyards tasting room and patio
Safety Instructions everyone must read and attend to while wine tasting at Cooper vineyards
The last place we ventured into was Jeff Runquist Winery where John and Kayla were members. We enjoyed the beautiful and welcoming tasting room, especially the fresh wild flowers of black eyed Susan, clarkia, yarrow, daisies and queen Anne’s lace in vases in every corner. We tried their Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Barbera, and Petit Verdot. At the end of the tasting, we said goodbye to John and Kayla and sat outside for a quick picnic before driving back to El Dorado Hills. It was lovely and the perfect day with friends. It was nice to see John and Kayla exchange numbers with Elaine and Craig. Especially since they are practically neighbors, living less than 10 minutes from one another.
We had hoped to check out the Amador Flower Farm in Plymouth, but it was getting late and we still had to drive back to the Bay Area. The weekend couldn’t have gone any better. We thanked Elaine and Craig for the generous hospitality and good food, packed up our things, cleaned and changed the sheets and were off. Our drive home was uneventful and I had plenty of time to get home and water the garden before dark. It’s nice to know our friends won’t be lonely since they now have a new couple (The Castiglione’s) to play golf with or have dinner with.
Today, I’m back to my cleaning, cooking, gardening, baking and writing. It’s good to be home, back to my meowing kitty and small homestead. I’m grateful for friends, their generosity and love. We have so much to be grateful for, even during a pandemic.
Stay healthy. Thanks for reading and following my blog. I promise to add a recipe next time I write.
One last photo to bless you with. This photo was taken at Ben Runquist Winery’s tasting room
A little known fact about me that most people don’t know is that I write my blog at my gym. I belong to Club Sport one of the nicest gyms in the Bay Area. It’s located about 20 minutes from my home and I like to come here to decompress. I know. Most people go to their gym so they can work out and get a good sweat on. Not me. I like taking an occasional spin class, yoga class or weight class here, but most of all I like to sneak away from home and write my blog.
No one interrupts me here. At home, I have to contend with my animals, kids and husband. I’ll be honest, my pets are high maintenance. As soon as I walk in the door, the dog and cats are dying to be fed. We have a doggie door that they use to come in and out of all day long. They have plenty of dry food to eat, but they demand canned food the instant I walk in the door. And it doesn’t stop there. My two cats are 12 years old. They will meow when they want to come in your room even if it is 6 AM. We could leave the bedroom door open, but my 14 year old dog has a doggie dementia and he walks around the house tapping his little paws all over the wood floors and it wakes me up.
This is why I am sitting in a comfortable chair at my gym near the hotel entrance where I’m not taking up a chair at the bar or cafe. It’s fairly quiet and I’m able to focus on the task at hand, writing my next blog.
People ask me why I post pictures of my food and write a blog. I guess at some point I would like to own a bed and breakfast place. Maybe I will work in a professional kitchen again or teach cooking classes again. I’m not sure what’s in my future. For now, I love to bake and cook and share recipes.
Currently and for the past 7 months I have been working as a nanny. The job kind of fell in my lap. I wasn’t looking for an opportunity like this but it came along and I went for it. The baby is super cute and we are buddies. She loves spending time with me and I can’t wait to see her read her my newest children’s book. She’s the best baby, sleeping through the night for many months now and her parents are really cool animators at Pixar. They are wonderful people and I am lucky to share in taking care of their little one.
Many mornings last July I would walk the baby and pick wild blackberries from the running trail and make blackberry hand pies. These turnovers were to die for especially warm from the oven.
Who knows how long they will need me or if they will have more children. At least I have a job for now and am enjoying every minute I get to spend with the little one. Babies are a ton of fun and this one in particular has my heart. I’m finally able to cook for her some meals which makes me happy.
Here is my recipe for Blackberry Turnovers.
3 C. Flour
3 T granulated Sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
8 Tbsp cold unsalted butter (1 stick)
¼ C. Shortening
3 Tbsp H2O
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tsp white distilled vinegar
Directions for making Pastry
In a large bowl combine flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry blended and working quickly to prevent butter from melting into flour, cut in butter and shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (or put mixture in food processor and pulse until combined) Another pie recipe here:Strawberry pie
In a small bowl combine water, egg, and vinegar. Stir to mix. With a fork, mix egg mixture into flour just until dough clumps together and moist enough to pat together. If dough is dry and crumbly, add more water 1 Tbsp at a time. Dough should not be wet or sticky. (I use the food processor and pulse until combined.)
Wrap and place in fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll with pin to flatten
Pick two or three cups of blackberries (or purchase 2 fresh packages/ or buy a package of frozen blackberries and defrost and drain). You can substitute blueberries, apricots or peaches. Use whatever is in season.
Sprinkle 1/2 C granulated sugar (more if not as sweet), 1/8 C tapicoa flour, ½ t Maldon or Kosher Salt, 1 T lemon zest, and 1/2t nutmeg in a bowl of washed blackberries. Place about 1 t unsalted butter on each pastry before sealing w egg wash (1 egg whipped in a small bowl. You can add 1 tsp water or milk if you wish. I don’t)
After rolling out pastry, cut into large circles or squares. Separate them by placing on parchment paper or tin foil on a baking pan leaving a little room (about an inch) in between. Scoop about ½ C onto each pastry and dot with 1 t butter. Fold over, seal, crimp with your fingers of with a fork before slashing with a knife in two places, brushing with egg wash and sprinkling them with a little turbinado sugar. Pop into a 400 degree preheated oven for about 14 min or until brown and bubbly.
Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or a cold glass of milk. These are great after school snacks or a quick breakfast on the go. They never make it till breakfast in my house.
Or make a blackberry pie!
Do you have a secret place you like to sneak off to? Leave your comments below and thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I really appreciate my readers who inspire me every day. It means a lot.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Happy Saturday everyone. It’s been a rough week at Smyth Family Farm. I cut the palm of my hand while juicing oranges last night and spent an hour and a half in the emergency room getting stitches. The worst part of the week was waking up to feathers everywhere on Thursday morning. Four of my chickens were eaten by a neighborhood bobcat when the door to the coop didn’t automatically close.
I’ve been feeling extra sad and guilty for not checking the camera on Wednesday evening before bed. My husband would usually do a quick check on his phone so see if they had all gone to bed. It’s been freezing cold here at night, so I never imagined them not wanting to be inside the coop. It wasn’t a normal evening, because both of my son’s came over for a family dinner. They are my everything.
I know in my heart that I gave those chickens the best life they could ever have while they lived. I had them delivered to me from Mc Murray Hatchery in Iowa a year and four months ago. I ordered them while my Mother in law Nilda was still with us, and they came a few days before she died. It was cathartic to have baby chicks to care for and manage while grieving. I had many of my family name them. We had Burtha, who Michelle named. Dolly was named by my niece Laura. They were the first visitors after we got them. Caramel Corn was named by my great niece Tamara who is only 6 years old. Babe was named by my Mother Diane who loved going for a ride one day in the car to visit her. My Mother has had a cancer called multiple myeloma for the past 9 years and suffers from anxiety. Babe always comforted her and brought her joy.
All of these four chickens are GONE. I can’t believe it. They have given me a purpose and a reason to get up in the morning while going through Covid times. Many months of isolation were met with laughs and cuddles when I was not able to see my friends or relatives. I’m crying while I write this, but I know it’s best to feel my emotions and express myself as I feel fit. I’m pretty much a mess right now.
As for the other four chickens that are still with me, they are wandering and scavenging the entire back yard as I speak. Bee Bee was named by my son Andrew. And it’s so cute because the girl I nannied for Billie, had a nickname “Bee Bee”. Billie and her sister Sammie have been here to visit the farm and the chickens last year while wearing masks and social distance. I had to give up my job with them because of Covid.
We also still have Mary Kate, who was named by Ken, my husband. He wanted the two Red Star breed sisters to be named twins:Mary Kate and Ashley. Soon enough, Ashley was forgotten because Tamara wanted to name her Caramel Corn. Caramel Corn was one of my favorites. She loved cuddling with me every morning and evening. She trusted me the most. And I always had two brown eggs every morning religiously from this breed.
Arthur was named first by my niece Keri who saw a post on my Instagram feed. Poor Arthur was sickly and smaller then the rest of the baby chicks. I would feed her by making a split pea puree to squirt down her throat. I didn’t want to lose her. Then my sister in law Nancy came to meet the chicks and said I didn’t have to force food down her throat. It was okay that Arthur was a little smaller. Nancy has worked at the local Alexander Junior Lindsay Museum which houses injured birds and wildlife in Pleasant Hill California. I would take my kids there when they were young to learn more about turtles, owls, mountain lions, foxes, ravens, snakes and more. We even rented bunnies and guinea pigs for a week at a time from there.
It’s hilarious that Keri named Arthur a boy’s name. She didn’t know they were girls. But that’s what makes her extra special. And Keri is a special niece since she and her sister Jamie grew up in my neighborhood. We would spend time with them more than the other family, even though most of our family from both sides live fairly close by.
My older sister Susan named Mabel, who is also one of the sweetest and coolest chickens. Mabel has another name. My sweet niece Josie who is only six named her Violet when visiting the farm one day. Josie loved collecting the feathers and eggs from my girls when she would visit. It’s crazy because we haven’t seen much of anybody during the pandemic. It’s been so different from the way we lived our life before Covid. Has it been this way for you? Josie goes to school, so we haven’t felt comfortable having her here even though my husband and I have both been vaccinated and boosted.
I think I will sign off for now. It has been quite a week. And it’s not over. All I can do is heal from my hand injury and enjoy the chickens I have left. My eyes are swollen from all the crying. I can remember when I had to give Scooby Doobie Doo my rooster away to a farm in Auburn, I cried and cried. It’s like that. Only one other time did I cry so much that my eyes were swollen. It was when my friend Sherri and her son Danny moved away back to Florida. I cried and cried. She was my neighbor and a true friend. I was sad to see her leave, but she left an abusive relationship after our Avon 3 Day walk over 20 years ago. I was happy she left this guy and lived closer to her family where she was needed. I was inspired to go back to college and get my Bachelors Degree after the Avon walk. We walked 60 miles in three days and raised money for breast cancer. It was a challenging experience, but I am grateful for the time I had with Sherri, and Heidi who also walked.
As for the other four chickens that are still with me, they are wandering and scavenging the entire back yard as I speak. Bee Bee was named by my son Andrew. And it’s so cute because the girl I nannied for Billie, had a nickname “Bee Bee”. Billie and her sister Sammie have been here to visit the farm and the chickens last year while wearing masks and at a social distance. I had to give up my job with them because of Covid.
We also still have Mary Kate, who was named by Ken, my husband. He wanted the two Red Star breed sisters to be named twins:Mary Kate and Ashley. Soon enough, Ashley was forgotten because Tamara wanted to name her Caramel Corn. Caramel Corn was one of my favorites. She loved cuddling with me every morning and evening. She trusted me the most. And I always had two brown eggs every morning religiously from this breed.
Arthur was named first by my niece Keri who saw a post on my Instagram feed. Poor Arthur was sickly and smaller then the rest of the baby chicks. I would feed her by making a split pea puree to squirt down her throat. I didn’t want to lose her. Then my sister in law Nancy came to meet the chicks and said I didn’t have to force food down her throat. She told me that it was okay that Arthur was a little smaller. Nancy has worked at the local Alexander Junior Lindsay Museum which houses injured birds and wildlife in Pleasant Hill California. I would take my kids there when they were young to learn more about turtles, owls, mountain lions, foxes, ravens, snakes and more. We even rented bunnies and guinea pigs for a week at a time from there.
What’s extra special about his week has been the wave of love and support from my family and friends. My son Andrew brought me flowers and chocolate yesterday. It was right after I cut my hand, so we had to run to Kaiser, but I was surprised he did this for me. So thoughtful. My other son Curtis called and left me a message. When I called him back he was super sweet and caring. I felt all the love. And in the morning, my niece Marie surprised me with my favorite donuts from Johnny’s in Lafayette. OMG, I was floored. Marie has the biggest heart and empathy. She is a gift to this family.
If you want to learn more, follow me on Instagram or this blog. I will share my trip to Petaluma with my friend Kathi on the next blog.
I’m excited to share our last family day trip in Half Moon Bay California. We were celebrating my son Curtis who recently had a birthday. The last adventure we had before that was on Thanksgiving day at the Sonoma Mission Inn enjoying their spa treatments, pool and scrumptious dinner. Neither of my son’s had ever been to Half Moon Bay before, so this day was going to be extra special.
We started off leaving Walnut Creek at 10:30AM so we could get to the coast as early as possible. None of us like waking up early, with the exception of my husband, so 10:30 seemed like a good compromise. We made it to the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company by noon, just in time for lunch and a cocktail.
We loved their outdoor dining set up with plenty of tables and chairs available. The staff was outstanding accommodating our every need, and the cool, fresh ocean air was delightful. Some days are completely fogged over near the coast, but not this day. It was sunny and gorgeous, the perfect kind of day to celebrate a birthday.
Curtis ordered his favorite handcrafted cocktail the Brewco Bloody Mary served with Tito’s Habanero Vodka infused in house.He loves the spice! Andrew and I went on the more conservative side and ordered beer. He sampled the Saison Farmhouse Ale: 6.8%ABV a pilsen malt that lends a soft dry mouthfeel with notes of bread crust and honey. I ordered the 16 oz Tactical Sunglasses: IPA-New England 6.4% ABV which had pineapple and passionfruit with hints of ripe stone fruit and citrus lime from HBC 735, Citiva and Citra Hops. After we managed to finish these, we shared a Flat Mars Society IPA-New England 6% ABV which is floral and fruity with passion fruit, grapefruit, pineapple, orange, and lemongrass overtones from Nelson, Citra, and Simcoe. Their house N. E. yeast blends lends to a nice juicy mouthfeel, with a soft and clean finish. My favorite was the Tactical Sunglasses IPA. Ken always orders water since he doesn’t drink alcohol.
Enough about beer, although we were at a Brewing Company. Isn’t it always about the food? Fresh Crab was available, but I didn’t notice it on the menu. They also served cioppino which had ½ crab, calamari, 3 prawns, linguicia, tomato, red and green onions, fennel, and an in house tomato base served with garlic bread. I have never made cioppino, but I have a recipe from my dad’s cousin’s husband Skip which I have been meaning to try. I will be talking about Skip again later in the blog.
We ordered their cheese bread with a delicious tomato sauce as an appetizer. This was devoured almost immediately. My best bite of food that I have eaten in a long time and we make a lot of cheese bread in our house. My husband ordered the fried chicken sandwich with caesar salad, I ordered the pretzels and cheese sauce and grilled artichokes which were a little over cooked to my liking. But I had to because we were near Watsonville where artichokes are grown. The Blackhawk Grille where I worked as a pastry chef had the best grilled artichokes. They were to die for, but I don’t think they are on the menu anymore.
Andrew ordered a Portuguese seafood soup with clams, prawns and garlic toasts. He loved it. And he is my budding chef. He loves to cook, has no problem cooking with a lot of spice and makes his own fermented vegetables. Curtis ordered the beer battered seafood sampler with calamari, prawns, cod and French fries. This was served with both tartar sauce and cocktail sauce and plenty of lemon. It was very tasty, but isn’t deep fried food always tasty?
We stopped off at the inside bar and ordered a 6 pack of something that Andrew wanted to try and I bought Curtis a hoodie with Half Moon Brewing Company on it so he would have something to remember the day with. Next stop: The Ritz Carlton.
Lucky us, we happened upon a free parking spot along the coast walking trail on the way to The Ritz Carlton. Otherwise, they do have 25 available spots to park in for the hikers at the hotel. They have been known to charge a day rate to park there, which I don’t love.
It was lovely walking along the path next to the golf course and the ocean on the other side. We don’t get out to the coast as much as I’d like. So today was the day. Ken and I can walk for hours, but Curtis complains of going too far because of his knees. He was also sore from a basketball game he played in the night before.
Eventually we made it to the hotel. I like looking around, but am happier at the bar. We chose the inside bar, since there were 3 seats available. We loved our adorable bartender Vienna, who poured generous portions of a 2019 Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma County alcohol 14.0%. I try to order wines from the Russian River because that’s where my dad’s family is from. My dad was raised in Guerneville and would swim up the Russian River to visit a friend at Korbel Winery (his friend’s parents worked there), and then swim back down the river to his home.
The Ritz Hotel is stunning inside and out. If it were up to me, we would have stayed for dinner and dessert at The Conservatory, their signature restaurant. They serve everything from a Niman Ranch Pork chop, a Rack of Lamb, or a American Wagu Ribeye served with duckfat potatoes, brussel sprouts and red wine Jus.They served a beet salad with burrata, toasted pine nuts, peach balsamic and sourdough croutons. Grilled octopus, pumpkin soup, baked oysters and Marin County Cheese platter with Point Reyes Blue, Marin Schloss Nicasio Reserve and Walnut Bread. My kind of food right here. And much, much more was offered, but we decided upon another pour of the wine, Andrew had a blackberry beer and Curtis switched to wine after he drank the Purissima Mule: Purissima Vodka, fresh lime, strawberry mint syrup and Fever Tree Ginger Beer.
As the night grew darker, we found ourselves on the patio getting warm from the fire pit and enjoyed visiting with the hotel guests. It’s always nice to chat with people from all over, yet these locals were from Santa Rosa. They was a charming young couple celebrating their Baby Moon, which is a vacation you take before the baby comes. The woman happened to be a special education teacher and was fascinating to talk with. We shared our son Andrew’s diagnosis of autism and explained how he overcame some of his challenges. It was a win-win for us all. Here is the blog where I explain our story on raising a son with special needs. Ken and Curtis talked business as Curtis is in sales and has admired all of Ken’s achievements in his career as an Information Technology executive.
Overall, the day couldn’t have gone any better. Ken and Curtis walked back to the car and Andrew and I waited at the turn around for them to arrive. It’s a glorious place. You feel spoiled and special even if you only stop by for drinks.
I hope you have enjoyed my story about our fabulous day with our son’s Curtis and Andrew. It’s days like these that give me great joy to know they still live close and we can run away if only for a few hours to spend time together. It may not be this way forever and this I understand.
So here is a Blue Cheese Dressing recipe that was shared from my dad’s cousin’s husband Skip Cassidy who is 85 and lives in Guerneville, California. He and I chat from time to time. Last year he generously gifted me four marajuana plants that I grew and harvested last year. I make apple cake with the dried leaves and it helps me sleep. He’s a gem.
Skip’s Blue Cheese Salad Dressing from Casanova’s Restaurant in Cazadero
1.5 C. Milk
10 oz Blue Cheese
¼ C Apple Cider Vinegar
3 C Best Foods Mayonnaise
2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 T No Salt
4 Cloves sauteed garlic
1 tsp Accent
¼ t black pepper
Heat milk in a medium size pot on the stove on medium heat. Watch to make sure it doesn’t overboil. Add crumbled blue cheese and stir until melted. Saute’ garlic in a small pot with a little olive oil. Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until combined, being careful to cool the warmed milk and cheese before adding liquid in a blender. Place in the fridge and the dressing will thicken.
Place cleaned and dried greens in a large bowl. Pour dressing along the inside of the bowl. Toss greens to coat. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper and add any topping you wish.
I served mine with pistachios and a cup of warm apple butternut squash soup.