Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Happy Birthday to my hubby

This man is amazing.  He takes care of me,  He loves me unconditionally, even when I'm not very lovable.  He married a woman with four children between the ages of 6 and 16, and took on the role of stepdad amazingly well.  I knew he was a keeper when he told me, "I can love your kids if they'll let me, and we can adopt more if we decide we want more.  I just want to be part of a family."

I read a quote once that said "It takes a strong man to step up the the dinner table and finish the plate another man left behind."  That is my Paskie.  My rock, my best friend and partner in crazy adventures.  We have had a lot more down times than up.... and we are still here standing, loving each other even more than we did when we met... Life gets better with every passing day, and we are seeing things improve to the point where we are starting to enjoy life again and not just exist.  I hope we both live to be 100, healthy, with all our marbles,  So we can continue on this beautiful adventure of life. Here's to another 49 beautiful years!

I am so thankful for all of the detours I took to get to the place I was at the exact moment when the timing was right for me to meet this man.  I wouldn't be who I am without the crazy roads I took along the way.  Like our favorite song by Rascal Flatts says:

Every long lost dream, led me to where you are
others who broke my heart, they were like northern stars
pointing me on my way, into your loving arms
this much I know is true
that God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you.

Happy birthday to my wonderful man!  I love you babe.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Napa Palisades Saloon

We stopped in here for a drink and appetizer.  It's a casual place that serves pub food.  I had the mac and cheese with bacon, the hubby had hot wings.  The wings were crispy outside but tender and juicy, not dried out and over cooked. They had just the right amount of spice and the blue cheese dip was really nice.  The Mac and cheese was a gooey, cheezy, baconey, delight.  I haven't really eaten it since I was a kid, and it was so good I've been craving it ever since.  It's located next to the ice cream shop on the corner of second and main streets in downtown Napa.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Secreto Iberico

 Photo credit here

I was checking out a new blog the other day  Chica Andaluza  She is an Englishwoman who resides in Southern England and Andalucia in Southern Spain.  Her blog is full of lovely posts with recipes and daily life in Spain and England.  It's very inspiring and funny.  Please check her out.  While browsing through her recipes, I came across a post called Secreto Iberico (Iberian Secret) and was intrigued.  I instantly asked my resident Spaniard "Hey honey, what is this secret, and how come we never had it when we were in Spain?"  This is when I got a lesson in meat butchery in different parts of the world.  Since he is so familiar with animal anatomy, and having done business with several different countries in the food and feed industry, my Spaniard knows a lot.  So here is the lowdown...

It is a cut of meat that does not exist here in the States because of the way the animal is broke down at the slaughterhouse.  Most butcher shops get their meat already broken down into large pieces that they butcher up into chops and steaks etc.  It is difficult to find a butcher shop that breaks down the whole animal.  Well, optomistic little Pollyanna that I am, I was CONVINCED we could find it here in Napa Valley if we found it anywhere.  There are so many fine restaurants and I figured someone would know about it around here...  ummm... NOPE.   Armed with a diagram and my husbands useful Spanish language skills, we beat the streets, trying every butcher shop in town to find someone who knew about Spanish butchery.  No luck... The best we were able to ascertain in our search was that it is a flap of meat in what would be the brisket area of a cow.  It's at the front end of the ribs, boneless and tastes like rib meat, marbled with fat and traditionally grilled with salt and pepper and a little lemon.
Photo credit here

I was disappointed that we couldn't find this mystery meat.  As we were looking at all of the wild game meats, my Spaniard spied a stack of meat labeled meat for sweet and sour BBQ.  No cut specified.  "This is it!"  he says, presenting it to me with a flourish.  It was boneless spare rib meat basically.  We should have taken it to the butcher counter and asked him what that cut of meat was for future reference.  But we were so happy to find it and so hungry at this point we ran home right away and threw it on the grill!    It was delish.  We paired it with some colored carrots, asparagus spears and squash grilled in oilve oil and garlic.  Together with some bread, Spanish cheese Idiazabel (my personal favorite) and some membrillo, we had a lovely Spanish lunch at Casa Machinga.

photo credit here

So try this cut of meat.  Check out Chica Andulaza's blog in the comments section of her Secreto Iberico post.  There are some links to diagrams of pigs and how they are butchered in Spain.  That helped, showing the photo.  I guess you can just ask for the boneless spare rib meat, but it may not be the same stuff.  Please post a comment here if you know where it can be found locally and if you know what the cut is actually called in the States.

All photos were found via google search.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Oxbow Market

Downtown Napa has a really cool place called the Oxbow market.  It is an indoor market that has produce, meats, a bakery. Oyster bar. Cupcake shop, groceries and other specialty restaurants.  We went Friday night for dinner but all of the market stalls were closed.  We ate at this restaurant.  We shared a mixed green salad with balsamic vinigarette and an artichoke pizza.  I had a glass of Chardonnay and the hubs had water.  Total bill was $42 with tip.  Kinda pricey since everything is al la carte.  The food was very good, but not anything we couldn't make at home.  We make an excellent Italian style thin crust pizza for pennies that is better than anything we've been able to find in a restaurant.  You can get the recipe here.  In spite of the fact that we had to sit in the walkway, it was a pretty private dining experience, and a nice date night.  During the day when things are bustling, it would probably feel crowded.  They do have outdoor patio seating with heaters.  It was closed for a private event Friday night, but is usually open on weekends.  

 We spent Sunday afternoon leisurely strolling through the stalls.  I bought some spices from the herb seller.  We tried locally produced olive oils, vinegar, bath products and salami.  You can get pizza, craft beers or a glass of wine.  The cheese shop has an extensive selection of imported cheeses and we were perusing the Spanish options.  Much more than just Manchego, for sure!  They have tables inside and out.  It's pretty crowded on the weekends, but totally worth it.  

We walked down to the river walk.  They have completely redone this area since the last big flood.  It's a lovely place to walk on a sunny day.  We really enjoyed our Lazy Sunday exploration.  We walked from Oxbow down First street to Main Street to the visitors center by Morimoto Restaurant (yeah the Iron Chef guy) and back.  It took us a couple of hours because we stopped and took photos and poked around in shops.  It's really only about a mile round trip, if that.  

A haunting memorial sculpture in veterans park with names of local soldiers killed in action.  

So next time you are in the Valley, check out downtown Napa!  It has a lot to offer.  

Monday, February 29, 2016

Iratxe Arrives today!

This girl, or our That Girl ( she reminds me of That Girl)  from the Basque country arrives today. Her name is pronounced EE-ra-tsay.   She is our daughter across the water.  We  spent 2 summers with her and we love her like she is one of our own kids.  Visiting on a 4 week trip in San Francisco for school, she doesn't want to spend her weekend doing touristic things in the city.  Since she has already done that on her previous trips... She prefers to spend them with us!  So we will figure out some fun things to do on the weekends while she is here.  

When we were in Spain for Christmas of 2014, she and her family took us all over their area, wined and dined us in true Basque style...  For those not familiar with Spanish culture, the Basque are KNOWN for their cooking.  There are cooking societies called Sociodad gastronomica (hope my spelling is correct) , It is usually men, but some allow women.   They go to cook and eat and socialize, think Loyal order of the Water Buffalo with guys cooking Flintstone sized cuts of meat.  Her dad pays a fee of I think he said $30 euros a year which includes unlimited use of the space for any party or event he wants to have.  They (the society) come and clean it up afterward...  It has dining for over 100 people, a huge commercial kitchen with a pit to cook goat, pig or cow outside and a fully stocked bar for cocktails.  You bring your own wine.   OMG the food her father cooked for us was amazing! 

Sadly, her mother passed away when she was eight.  We went to the village where her mother grew up, and where her parents were married.   A cute little Gothic village on the sea called Leucatia.  They have the family home here still but they only open it in the summer.  

all of us with her father, brothers and dads girlfriend

the lovely Gothic cathedral where her parents were married

the square by the harbor

a fishmonger selling fresh caught fish out of a little cart next to the water.  

a little island across the harbor that can be reached by foot on a sandbar at low tide

Iratxe, Yousef and Xabi

Iratxe and her dad

Mini Kings cakes... MAN I love these things!!!

Alberto cooking us a HUGE steak that is like a Porterhouse cut here in the States.

We really enjoyed our 2 days in the Basque country, and hope to spend more time there when we go again.  We really want to enjoy the few days we get with her doing something fun.  We are trying to think of something she would like that she hs not seen here in Nor Cal yet...  We know a trip to the outlets is a must, this girl is a shopper!  Gotta get our thinking caps on!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Daroush & Paraduxx

Their labels are all gorgeous and many different styles.

water features, high ceilings and a server per party.  They take time to explain, not just pour and glug.  
This winery is unique.  It's Persian, named after Darius l who was a king of Persia.  Daroush is how you say Darius in Persian.  The grounds of the winery are lovely.  The tasting room is by appointment, and a more intimate experience from what we saw. Lots of chairs and couches for tastings.  We did not taste here, as it was Valentine's  day and they were booked.  We will be back to check out the wines here soon.  

Paraduxx (pronounced pair a ducks) was another lovely surprise.  Owned by Duckhorn.  Reservations are required, but they do have tables in the main area for walk in customers.  We will definitely be back to lounge on the terrace in the sun and enjoy their wines.  A tasting comes with all the wines poured on a tray.  A server sits with you and explains them all, then leaves you to enjoy them at your leisure.  They also bring you cheese and little toasts.  The cheese they served was called Happy Cow creamy Swiss and it really paired nicely with the wine.  We've been looking for it but have not had any luck finding it yet.

Parduxx indoor tasting area and main entry where they seat walk in's.  So check if they say by appointment, many times they can accommodate you.  We just went to look and they asked if we wanted to taste.  We told hem we didn't have reservations and they said the tables here were for walk in customers... So of course we tasted!

our tastings poured and ready to enjoy.  BTW we liked the 1st, 2nd and last ones best... but they were all good.  Hubs was just sipping each one once, so I got the rest, and quite tipsy as a result.  

Paraduxx terrace tasting area by appointment, lovely views of the vineyards and huge oak trees, you can see their picnic tables in the background.  Ok to picnic as long as you drink their wines.

So check out these wineries next time you are in the valley... We had a nice experience at both!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Howdy, Happy New Year, Happy Valentines day and happy almost Spring

I was reading over my posts in December, and like a lot of my plans and intentions, I bit off more than I could chew.  Planning Christmas, packing, moving and doing all of the footwork as a general contractor for our new home remodel really had me tied up.  I did cook a few more meals after the ones posted, and we had a great Christmas brunch... but my family revolted big time!  I had to break down and buy food, even though there was PLENTY to eat in the house.  So my experiment was an epic fail...  However the Spaniard and I are working away at the food stores.  We have a teeny tiny refrigerator and freezer on loan from our daughters boyfriend that is a little larger than a bar fridge, which holds much less than an average fridge.  It is crammed to bursting with a lot of things left over from the other house...  It never seems to go down.  Don't tell the Spaniard, but I may throw away some items while he is on a business trip just to have a little more room in the fridge.  and we REALLY won't tell him about all that I threw away in the trash at the old house that never even made the trip...

Here is a look at the front of our new house...  Smurf Blue.  All original 1943 amenities... and we LOVE it.  We had an interesting discussion on perspective the other day when my Spaniard was Skypeing with his family in Spain...  He was showing them the house, and they were commenting on how big it was.  Compared to their apartments, it is quite big.  But by American standards, its a really small house at just over 800 sq ft,  We are finding it is big enough for our needs actually the way it is... and have debated over whether or not to do the remodel...  But we have decided to go ahead and do it.  The electrical keeps blowing fuses, we only have 80 amps in the whole house...  the plumbing is shot, the pipes corroded and the water tastes funny so we are drinking bottled water.  We are looking at camping out in the garage this spring as an adventure.  We will see how that actually goes.

My plan is to document the process here... the good, the bad and the ugly of remodeling while living in the home..  Thank GOD we live in wine country.  And a double thank God to the fact that the Napa Valley has a Napa Neighbors program that gives Valley residents free wine tastings at over 200 wineries up and down the valley!  So guess what we do every weekend we are home?  Yep, wine tasting, and other touristic things in our new town.  I do rate all the places we go on Trip Advisor, you can check me out there for more detailed reviews of the places we visit.

My goal this year, I say goal cause I don't know that I will actually attain it, is to post at least twice a week with various upcycling, lifestyle, travel and home improvement tips...  Lets see if I can actually do it.

In the meantime... here are some photos from the last couple of lovely sunny weekends we have had here in the valley...