Since moving to the Bay area, I have gained quite an education in the art of wine.  Before I moved out here I would drink wine occasionally and when I did I would look at where the wine was from (and when I say that I mean what state or country and nothing else).  And most of the time I would buy wines I already knew...never venturing out to expand my palette.  

A couple of weekends ago we went out Sonoma to pick up some wine from Benziger Family Winery.  This was the first winery I had visited in California last year.  And it was fantastic!  And expensive!  Before moving out here I had never spent more than about $15 on a bottle of wine and that was pricey.  We tried wines at Benziger that ranged from $35 to $85!  Now $35-$50 for a bottle of wine seems about average.  Anyway, on our last visit out there we ended up taking a tour of the vineyard/winery.  It was very enlightening. 

Benziger is one of about 50 vineyards (and I can't remember if that nationwide or worldwide) that maintains a biodynamic estate vineyard.  So I'm sure you are wondering what in the world is biodynamic and why isn't this Californian vineyard not organic?  Well, the concept of biodynamism is actually about 20 years older than the organic concept and takes it a few steps further.  Biodynamic vineyards are self-sustaining.  The owners have chosen very specific plants and trees and placed them all over the estate property in order to create, in essence, its own ecosystem.  They do use organic types of fertilization (seven-stomach Scottish cow manure to be exact) and help the earth recover from years of plantings but, technically, the vineyard can do that all on its and it does.  Such an amazing way to create delicious wine.

In addition to the biodynamic vineyard, they also built a $4 million cave to store the wine in while it sits in oak barrels.  I thought $4 million was a bit much to be spending on a big hole in the side of a mountain.  But then our wonderful tour guide furnished us with some very interesting facts. When you think of cave, you think of a cool, moist place.  If you lived in a cave, would you ever need A/C?  Nope!  Well, as we all know wine needs to stay at a certain temperature to continue aging appropriately.  The caves stay consistently the same temperature all year round.  Plus they provide a reasonable amount of moisture that keeps the barrels in tip top condition.  This prevents air from entering the barrels and mixing with the wine.  As we know, oxygenation of wine turns it sour.  That's why when you open a bottle of wine you really don't have more than a day or two to drink it before it tastes gross.  Vineyards that use actual refrigeration lose up to 12% of their wine from over-oxygenation, but cave aging decreases the loss to around 5%.  That's pretty significant.  So what we have learned here is an expensive hole saves money in the long run from zero refrigeration costs and decreases wine spoilage.  Oh! And the cave is actually underneath the vineyard so it doesn't take up space that could be used for grapes!  Space saver! 

The complexities of winemaking are absolutely fascinating!

Artist of the moment: Electric Guest

 
 
This past weekend was Memorial Day Weekend.  It is always interesting to see the different thoughts people post about holidays on any of the various social media platforms.  I do find it wonderful that people take the time to acknowledge these holidays.  However, this Memorial Day made me wonder whether some people understand the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day, for a few people in my social networks were thanking current and alive service people for their contribution to our freedoms.  

So here's the difference in a nutshell: Memorial Day is time to remember those service people who have died in the line of duty, while Veterans Day is a time to honor all service people, alive and dead, of their contributions to maintaining and securing our freedom.  

I did a little more digging to find out a little more about the history of both.  So here are a couple of tidbits on when both were started.  The first Memorial Day started back around 1865, but was originally known as Decoration Day.  It began as a way to honor the soldiers, both Confederate and Union, that fell during the Civil War.  As time has worn on and our country has participated in more wars, the commemoration of fallen soldiers has extended to all fallen Armed Forces service people.  

The first Veterans Day actually took place in 1919, but was known as Armistice Day.  It was a day to remember the heroism  of those who died during The Great War.  Roughly seven years later, Congress requested that it become an official national holiday, which was passed.  Again, as time continued and another World War commenced, the commemoration was extended to all soldiers regardless of the war they served in and whether or not they had fallen, and thus, it was renamed Veteran's Day.  

So there you go.  A little history and a small comparison of two similar but rather different holidays.  I hope that was more interesting than just a regular classroom history lesson.  Short and sweet.  
 

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05/13/2013

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As the search continues to find employment in this fine city, the phone interview continues to challenge the spirit.  I suppose a healthy dose of self-criticism is good for continual personal development, but the phone interview has always been one of the most challenging aspects of the job searching process for me.  I can feel really good in a phone interview up to a point and then there is always a question or two that surprises me to the point of my brain just turning off temporarily.  And, of course, you never have the time to hit the mental reset button so you do your best to push through with some semblance of an acceptable answer.  Today I had a phone interview and there were two questions that threw me.  And they weren't complicated questions, but in the realm of questions that may have been asked they did not pop up into my head beforehand.

The first question was, "What do you think when you hear the phrase 'the customer is always right'"?  The first thing that popped into my head was I don't really think much of it at all.  Then I thought I certainly can't say that.  So I flubbed my way through the question by saying something to the effect of that it depends on the situation and the customer should always receive what they expect.  Mediocre answer at best.  This question has stuck in my head and I keep answering it over and over again.  The things that keep popping up in my ever changing answer are that when the quality of service or product is matches expectation, then that phrase doesn't need consideration.  When you put in your best effort to match quality with expectation then the customer is always right because they are getting what they expect.  Yeah, that would have been a better answer.  Oh well.

The second question was, "how do you define success?"  When I'm not thinking about the above question, this is the question I keep answering over and over again.  My answer wasn't horrible but I could have elaborated on it more clearly to round it out.  I said that I define success in satisfaction.  And success comes in different sizes.  I mentioned successfully recreating a Julia Child recipe (which can be a lot more challenging that you might think) but also dealing with a disgruntled student who doesn't understand why the expectations she set for her teammates have resulted in her doing the brunt of the work at the end of the semester.  I wish I had included in my answer that when you know you've done your best and you've obtained the intended results while feeling good about it, that is satisfaction...that is success.  

By then end of the day I'll have completely re-answered these questions, perhaps thinking about it from a different perspective.  And should I have another phone interview, or even an in-person interview, I'll have a better mental hold on how to answer similar questions.  After learning more about the company from the interview, I would really love to work there, but if it doesn't work out then the right job will come along....and hopefully sooner rather than later.

Good luck to all you fellow job hunters and stay strong!
 
 
Well, folks, hardly two days passed after my last posting about the pumpkins that the green beans sprouts made their entrances into the world!  And, boy, are they growing fast! So far I have counted seven green bean sprouts.  The two pictures right below are the first day they popped out of the ground and then today.  It will give you an idea of how quickly they are growing.
That's a pretty significant difference between the two, am I right?  I'm right.  In no time at all Jack will be able to climb our beanstalk to get a better view of the city from here.

In addition to the kickass green beans, the cherry tomato plant now has two very tiny tomatoes on it.  In the picture below you can only see one because I took it first thing this morning.  It wasn't until this afternoon that the second started to take a round shape.  But you know what that means, right?  Very soon we will be able to make a spoonful of homemade tomato sauce!  Or make a tiny caprese salad.  Yeah!  That's what I'm talkin' about!  

Well, kids, I hope you have a wonderful Mother's Day weekend.  It's supposed to be a very nice one out here in the Bay area.
 
 
The cool thing about planting a garden is that you can just go to the store and buy plants for your garden.  No need to start your garden from seeds.  That's what Laurel and I did for the most part with the one we recently started.  You can see an array of pictures of the initial building of the garden in my post entitled, Green thumb: nature or nurture? (you see what I did there?).  

Of the variety of things we planted there were two that we actually did start from seed, mini jack pumpkins and green beans.  We planted the pumpkins first.  The package indicated that it would take between 7 and 14 days before they sprouted.  About two weeks later we planted the green beans and that package said the same thing.  So we waited and watered.  Seven days go by, nothing.  Fourteen days go by, still nothing.  Since we have never grown vegetables in this climate or geographical location we decided to give it some more time.  Was it too cold or did things perhaps just grow more slowly here?  We did a little research on how to care for these plants and changed our watering patterns.  Another week went by and still nothing.  We took the rest of the seeds and planted them, hoping one more shot at growing them would do the trick.

One week after that (aka this weekend) I was brushing away the area trying to either find seeds that never grew or something resembling a sprout. Lo and behold, I found four sprouts!  One I accidently brushed too hard and it popped out of the ground, but I stuck it back in the dirt and hopefully it will continue to grow.  It actually felt like a miracle had occurred!  The pumpkins were growing!!  Since the beans were planted later I'm still holding out for them.  

I used to grow tomatoes when I was growing up in FL. It's pretty cut and dry on how to properly maintain vegetables/plants in FL.  Out here in CA you never really know what the weather is going to do.  You can look at a forecast but it's not particularly accurate.  Also, in Sausalito, it can be 85 degrees and sunny and then all of the sudden the wind starts up and it can drop to the 60s in no time.  One is certainly never bored with the weather here!
 
 
Happy Cinco de Mayo to you margarita-drinking and enchilada-eating lovers!  Today is the day for both of those activities in honor of Mexican heritage and pride.  This day should not be confused with Mexico's independence day which occurs sometime in September I believe.  I know I've always appreciate great Mexican food and a delicious margarita.  It seems to be, in my experience, if the margarita and chips and salsa are good a Mexican restaurant then the entree with will excellent as well.  So far that theory has been supported, again, in my experience.  

So in my own honor of the day I made a burrito and a margarita.  Both were delicious.  I've never personally made a margarita from scratch (and I'm not talking about the frozen kind you can buy in the freezer section of the grocery store). Since we have Don Julio in the liquor cabinet I decided to visit the Don Julio web site to see what type of recipes they for margaritas.  I made the Don Julio Blanco Luxury Margarita.  It was simple and delicious.  When making adult beverages I have always believed that less is more in terms of ingredients.  This recipe had tequila, simple syrup/agave nectar and fresh lime juice.  It was great! Suffice it to say I will not be buying margarita mixes anytime soon.

PS. If you read my last blog entry I told you that I never looked up a word because I was too lazy. Well, my curiosity got the better of me and I looked up the word.  The word was connivance...go ahead, look it up!
 
 
When I was young the best book was a picture book.  Or in my case, I loved National Geographics...they had great pictures of things and people from all over the world.  I preferred being outside in a tree than inside in a book.  I suppose at that point in my life I didn't need an escape into someone else's life or story.  And I certainly had enough to do outside making up my stories, which I most certainly did.  Sometimes my sisters and I would make up games or scenarios...pirate ship (we lived on the intercoastal) or coffee shop.  It was good enough for me.

As I've gotten old and had to read more and more for school, I started enjoying the stories I'd come across  The first book I ever really loved was Freak, The Mighty.  I actually read it three times.  Other books that kick-started my enjoyment of reading are The Great Gatsby (read it three times as well) and To Kill a Mockingbird.  I have found that I really love books that speak in the first person and share that character's experiences and thoughts on what is going on.  The Perks of Being a Wallflower was great...I was in Barnes & Noble one day looking for a books to take overseas and just stumbled upon it.  Loved the title so I took a chance on it.  Recently I read a collection of essays called, The Disappointment Artist.  I wasn't sure at first about reading a collection of essays but I ended up enjoying them very much.  I'm finding that there is a definitive pattern in the types of books I like to read.

I'm not a constant reader, but when I do read I really get into it.  I was just thinking about the fact that I have four books going currently.  Then I wonder why I was reading so many at one time. So I thought about it and determined that there are so many platforms for reading now.  One book (Life of Pi), I just finished listening to on Audible.  Another book (The Sportswriter) I have on my Kindle and two other books (Elegance of the Hedgehog and The Casual Vacancy) are actual books.  

As much as I love technology and computers, I kind of rallied against e-readers.  I never liked reading long passages or articles on the computer so I figured it would be the same for the e-readers, but it turns out I was wrong.  I love an actual book (the smell, the feel, the ability to manually flip a page and close the close when I've finished it), but there's so much more to reading on an e-reader.  For instance, how many times have you looked up a word that you read in a paperback that you didn't know?  Me?  I never do.  I was reading The Casual Vacancy this afternoon and I came across a word I didn't know.  All I wanted to do was put my finger on the word and pull up the definition.  Then I realized I couldn't, but could easily grab my phone and look it up.  Unfortunately, my phone was miles away on the coffee table in front of me so I couldn't use that (yes, that's a pathetic and lazy excuse).  So I never looked up the word.  Granted I can live without knowing the definition but if I had had my Kindle, I would have been one more word knowledgeable. 

I love the fact that there are so many ways to read a book. Each form is a completely different experience that allows me to be able to read more than one book at a time and not get the contents confused. Thank you technology and the people behind the creation of it.