Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Love the California Coast!

"The Rock" in Morro Bay

Yesterday we took our time driving from Santa Barbara (Buellton, actually) to our home in the San Francisco Bay area.

At first we were in search of a winery called Black Sheep Finds in Lompoc. We drank their 2005 Genuine Risk Merlot  while on vacation and loved it. We wanted to bring home a few bottles. We couldn't find it so we ventured to San Luis Obispo, then on to Morro Bay where we had a yummy seafood lunch at Giovanni's Fish Market.

Then on a whim we decided to go to Moonstone Beach in Cambria so Elli could collect some cool rocks and then to San Simeon to see the enormous elephant seals and their baby pups. We saw a glimpse of Hearst Castle on the hill. Then had a long and windy drive home (in the dark) along the coast - 4+ hours.

Trying to get a closer look.

The long, sloooooowww line at Giovanni's Fish Market.

View from the car window. Amazing, huh?

The sun is starting to set on Moonstone Beach in Cambria.

Collecting rocks before it gets dark.

Sammy the chocolate lab (age 2) swam in the surf.
Kahlua, the grandma (age 16) supervised.
We didn't see the NO DOGS on the beach sign until we drove away.

30 minutes later. I couldn't stop taking sunset pictures. It was so pretty.

A blurry view of Hearst Castle from the car.

See all the tracks? The big daddy elephant seal is talking to us.
I think he's telling us to "Go away, humans!"
There were hundreds of people watching and taking pictures.

Yowzer. That's quite a face.

Ok, ok. We're leaving. Soon.

A mom and her pup.

You have to see it in person to understand how HUGE these animals are.
And how many of them there are on the beach. They talk. They wrestle. They jump on each other.
They run across the beach - it's sort of a humping slide-type motion.
Ya gotta see it for yourself.

It's dark. Time to go home.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Music makes me smile.

Check out this cute little guy playing Jason Mraz's song "I'm Yours."

Here's Jason Mraz, the singer, performing the song live on stage. I think the little guy did a pretty good interpretation!!

Have a great day!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dear Santa

December 20, 2009

Dear Santa,

I don't know about you, but I'm really glad 2009 is just about over.  I'm sure the economic crisis affected your toy workshop in the North Pole, just like it affected our lives down here in sunny California.

Looking back, I would say I've been mostly nice this year. A little bit naughty. But who isn't?

I survived nearly getting fired by my client. Don and I were able to keep the business afloat and not let anyone go. We did reduce hours, but everyone had a job. Elli has been flourishing. She and I have spent a lot of time cooking together. I have accidentally yelled at her for spilling flour on the floor.  (that would be the naughty part.) I started this crazy blog and even attended a blog conference to learn more about this stuff. We're all healthy (flu aside) and of sound mind (in my opinion anyway.) I should probably spend more time with Don, my better half, instead of spending so much time on the computer and iPhone (naughty part, again.) I'm still learning how to juggle everything. And I may have had a little too much wine on occasion and called my client a few bad names, but other than that, I've been pretty good.

We did support several charities this year, including Elli's school and gave toys to the firefighters for the less fortunate kids in the bay area. We also helped a friend in need this year with food and assistance whenever she needed it. We do try hard to be there for others.

So you're probably wondering what it is I want for Christmas. I've been beating around the bush on purpose. It's a biggie. The only thing we want is financial stability - just like everyone else. I know it's a big thing to ask for. But it's the one thing that weighs most heavily on us every day. The stress of keeping the business going and supporting all 7 employees, and our family, is tremendous.

I know you won't be leaving a stocking full of gold coins or a set of tires under the tree. But if you could pass on good wishes and hope for a prosperous 2010 for us, and everyone we know, we would be most appreciative.

Safe travels to you and the reindeer.

Your friend,


PS. I made breakfast bars yesterday. I'll be sure to leave some out for you. They are delish.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Great Last Minute Gift, Custom-made Leather Wine Bags

Still looking for a unique gift for the wine lover in your life?  Or your boss? Or maybe that picky client? Well we have the answer. Check out these leather wine bags we're making at Pollin's in Napa.

They come sized for six bottles or one bottle. The divider is removable so you can also use it as a really cool tote. Each bag is one-of-a-kind. Don hand picks the hides at Hide House of Napa - so each bag is an original. Let me tell you, these are super cool. I'm trying to get him to bring one home so I can carry it as a purse.  Honey????? Hello!?

So shoot us an email if you're interested to We can ship it FedEx as late as December 23rd. (You know you want one!)

6 Bottle Tote $150
1 Bottle Tote $55

Don Mulkey

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hello there!

Sorry I've been M.I.A. I'm on day 12 of the cold/flu bug and I'm finally feeling better. My horrible cough is almost gone. I don't need triple doses of Advil to get rid of the headaches. I'm starting to feel alive again. I just couldn't deal with the blog when I was sick so I kind of just let it sit for a week.

Speaking of which, what to do with the blog.....

I've been trying to figure out what to do with this silly blog of mine. I've had a lot of fun writing it. But sheesh it takes a lot of time and energy. Maybe I'll feel differently after I've hired someone at work and don't feel so exhausted every day.

All I know is that it's not a good thing to spend a lot of time on something that annoys the heck out of Don, and I only have a handful of readers. So basically I'm writing for myself (and my mom.) That doesn't make much sense does it? Maybe I just need a diary. Then I can really write down what I feel and there won't be pressure to publish something new - for myself. As I write this I'm really starting to think that I have a few screws loose. I think I need to reconnect with the world in a real way.

Yesterday we spent the day at Pollin's, our store in Napa (pictured here.) I love our store and want to spend more time helping to build sales. I just can't do it all. Or at least that's how it feels. So maybe I need to redirect my energy and write a blog that ties in with our business. hmmmm

Sigh...........All this thinking for the past two minutes has given me a headache.

If you want to read a fun and interesting blog check out The Pioneer Woman. She's amazing. She lives on a ranch outside of Tulsa, home-schools four kids, cooks, writes, takes amazing photos and never complains. I wish I could be like her. I definitely need to lighten up. I've turned into miss cranky pants.

So if I do come back I promise to be full of smiles and happiness. No one wants to follow Debbie Downer. And if I don't come back, enjoy TPW. She's the best.

Enjoy the holidays!  Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas!!

Your friend,

Monday, December 7, 2009

Don's Crab Fettucine

We cracked open our first crabs of the season on Sunday. I am so sorry if you don't live here in the Bay area. You are missing out big time. The Dungeness crabs are soooooooooo good. The meat is sweet, and tender, and oh-so-delicious.

Don had a hankerin' for his famous crab fettucine so I skipped right on over to Whole Foods and picked up two whole crabs - which they clean and crack for you. Which trust me, makes getting the meat out a whole lot easier. No pliers or hammers required.

I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but Don is a good cook. In fact, he's the whole reason I wanted to learn how to cook. He's the kind of cook that doesn't use a recipe or a cookbook. He has that natural gift of knowing what tastes good together. I am so envious of that talent. He's also an amazing artist, photographer, interior designer, etc. In other words, he's the creative one in the family. I'm the other one! Just kidding. I'm creative. In my own special way. I try hard.

So I've already annoyed him by jumping in the kitchen to take pictures of his masterpiece. Cuz you know he's not crazy about the blog. But sheesh. It's the first crab of the season. Gotta write about that! So I'm keeping one eye on him as I write this so I can document the recipe. He's not much of a talker either so unless I watch him, we'll never know his secret.

Don's Crab Fettuccine

Crab Preparation
2 large, fresh, Dungeness Crabs, meat removed.
Squeeze some lemon over the crab.
Season with a dash of salt and pepper
Combine in a bowl and set aside.

8-10 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 T butter
2 T olive oil
1 small bunch of basil finely chopped
~1/2 cup parsley chopped
~1 T fresh oregano finely chopped
~1 T fresh thyme finely chopped
1 14 oz can whole plum tomatoes with sauce, broken up in the pan
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Pepper 

1) Prepare 1 lb fettuccine in very salty water. Cook until al dente. Drain, but don't rinse.
2) Remove crab meat from shell. Place meat in a bowl with a squeeze of lemon and some salt and pepper.
3) In a large skillet, saute chopped garlic in 2T olive oil and 1 T butter until soft. 

4) Add one can of plum tomatoes with juice, fresh chopped basil, oregano, thyme and parsley along with a good splash of white wine. 
5) Cook for a minute or two. Add crab. Let simmer for 10 minutes. 
6) Season with salt and pepper. Add pasta to sauce. Turn heat off. 
7) Add 2 cups fresh grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese. Give it a quick stir and serve.

There you go.

Don didn't really measure anything. He just adds a little of this and a little of that and voila - bon appetit! So you can imagine how happy he was that I was taking notes.

I hope you enjoy this Don original.

Friday, December 4, 2009

George Clooney prrrrrrfect

First off, let me say I love my husband. He's the man. He's my mister.

Now on to George Clooney. Prrrrrrr.....he's my Hollywood fantasy man. The dashing good looks, cocky demeanor, amazing voice, sexy smile, the twinkle in his eye that is part trouble, part dude......sheesh, I guess I should stop, I'm gonna be in trouble. NOT. Don doesn't read the blog. I'm safe. (I'll tell you about his crush on pretty little Scarlett Johannsen some other time. Cradle robber.)

Anyhoo, George is in a new movie, "Up In the Air", that is getting rave reviews, pre-oscar buzz, and I can't wait to see it. We saw "Fantastic Mr. Fox" last weekend in which he plays the voice of "Mr. Fox." He's fantastic as the fox. But I can't wait to see his mug in this movie.   meow!!

So get on out there and go to the movies people. Show George some love. Maybe he'll invite me (and the fam) to his Italian villa, aka, mansion, for a little vaca to celebrate. Wouldn't that be awesome!?!

Ciao! All this talk has has made me thirsty for some Italian wine. A little Prosecco maybe? Better skip on over to BevMo!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Homemade Mac and Cheese

I don't know about you. But I grew up on Kraft Mac and Cheese. There's nothing wrong with Kraft, but there is nothing like the creamy goodness of homemade mac and cheese. It wasn't until I was an adult that I had real gourmet mac and cheese. Oooh la la. Heaven on a plate is what I say.

I've made Martha Stewart's recipe with the breadcrumbs on top. Delish. I've made the Barefoot Contessa's with tomatoes on top. Awesome. This time I made Ree Drummonds aka, The Pioneer Woman, with nuthin' but cheese on top. Divine.

Since I'm a cheese lover I made it with really good white cheddar and aged gruyere. Oh. My. Gosh. So creamy and delicious. It was fantastic. It tasted delicious before we baked it. And it tasted super yummy with the crispy cheese baked on top. You have to try this recipe. It's seriously good.

I have a new love for Gruyere cheese. I bought aged gruyere at Whole Foods, or maybe it was Trader Joe's, I don't remember. It was good, though. Buy the aged gruyere 120 or 150 days - it tastes the best. I used it on all kinds of stuff. - the enchilada's, the toast I paired with potato soup and now it's gone. Just a memory. Dork. Kidding! Time to go shopping again.

So what to make next. I haven't baked in a while, maybe I should do that. I wish my freezer was bigger I would start making Christmas cookies. But it's teeny weeny. So I can't do that. Bummer.

I think I should look up some lighter (as in fewer calorie) recipes. Cuz, I'm starting to feel a little thick. Couldn't be from these cheese........ sheesh all this talk about food and wine is making me hungry. And heavier. Not fat. Just heavier. Which is not good. Better get my buns moving!

Ta ta!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Lasagna with Mushrooms and Ham

We were talking about cooking in my office the other day. My boss, Josh, was saying there is no need for cookbooks anymore. And my other co-worker, Sue, sort of agreed. I told them it's true you can download and print just about any recipe anymore, but I still like a good old-fashioned cookbook. I love the stories in cookbooks, how personal they are to the author and I really appreciate photos of the recipes.

They then proceeded to tell me their favorite, "must-have" cookbooks and all their favorite recipes. The first book was Julia and Jacque Cooking at Home and the second book was Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. Why don't I have these books? Where have I been? Of course I wrote down the names of both books and made a mental note to purchase them as soon as possible. I actually love cookbooks and have quite a collection. So I was kind of shocked that I didn't have these.

Josh, who happens to be my boss, has worked with me for three years now, and knows me much better than I thought. He actually made a stop that afternoon on our way to a client meeting and purchased the Marcella Hazan book for me - and had it gift wrapped. He said he knew I would be ordering it immediately and thought he would beat me to it, that it is his very favorite cookbook. Wow. This is exactly the type of thing I like to do for people. And he did it for me. So on Sunday I made two of his favorite recipes.

1) Lasagne with Mushrooms and Ham
2) Bolognese Meat Sauce

We ate the lasagna Sunday night. It was fantastic. Full of flavor and creamy goodness. We paired it with the Testerossa Pinot Noir Palazzio '07 - that we didn't drink on Thanksgiving. They tasted fantastic together. Wine and Spirits gave this wine 91 pts.

We'll have the bolognese later in the week. Or maybe next week. I might just put it in the freezer for another time. We have a whole pan of lasagna to eat this week.

These recipes require a whole afternoon to cook. They're not hard. They just take time to simmer and simmer and simmer and simmer.................

The mushrooms simmer in a pan for eternity, until all the liquid has evaporated.

Finally, it's time to assemble the lasagna. I didn't make the pasta. I would if I could.
But I don't have a pasta maker, so I didn't. But you should if you have one.

Ready to go in the oven.
(Don't ask about the blue pan. I have no idea where it came from, or where my clear pan is.)

Hot out of the oven. Cheesy goodness.

One of the messy end pieces.

Thanks for the cookbook, Josh. I love it!

And if anyone wants these recipes you'll have to buy the book. J/k. If you really want them I'll scan them and send them to you. Just leave me a message/comment and I'll get right on it.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Our whirlwind day in Wine Country

Yesterday we decided to head up to Napa and St. Helena. Then just for fun Don decided we should trek over to Healdsburg too. Not exactly in the same area. But what the heck!

We started out at the store, Pollin's, to check on a few things. Elli went nuts when we pulled in the parking lot because there was the perfect pile of leaves right in front. She couldn't resist.

Then we headed to St. Helena to have lunch at Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen. I had the mushroom tamales filled with grits, almonds and chard with Yukatan salsa. The chard was a bit tough. Don had a salad - grilled rare ahi tuna, udon noodles, nori strips, sesame seeds and a miso glaze. Elli had chicken fingers that weren't very good - my little foodie said they were burned. And she was right they were a bit like chicken jerky. But her fries were awesome. So I was disappointed. The food was ok, but not great. And the service was ok. Bummer.

Next we stopped at Olivier in St. Helena to fill up our Olive oil bottle with yummy Manzanillo olive oil.

From there we headed to Healdsburg to find Michel Schlumberger Winery. I've read a lot about their wines and was looking forward to a taste. Lucky for us they let us in. It's by appointment only. Oops. The wine was great. The cabernet was definitely our favorite. The nice guys here recommended we head to downtown Healdsburg and check out Williamson Wines. That sounded good to us. The town is so cute. Plus, we could grab dinner.

We made a quick stop at Twomey so Don could taste the Merlot that I think is so good. It was quick. We got there at 4:55. They close at 5:00. Then we headed to town.

The Williamson wines were great! They pair each wine with food so you can really imagine what it would be like to drink the wine with a meal or appetizer, or dessert. It was an amazing tasting. One of my all time favorites. We liked it so much we joined their wine and cheese club. So now once a quarter we'll be heading to Healdsburg to pick up our wine and cheese. Fun!

We ended the evening at Manzanita 336 for pizza and salad. The pizza's totally hit the spot. Don had "The daily special" which was a mexican pizza with chicken and avocado and I ordered a chorizo and shrimp pizza. Of course Elli had pasta. We have lots of leftovers for lunch today.

The Napa Wine Train.

Tra Vigne and Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen.

Don looks like a secret service agent. He and his dog Sam were very serious.

Tasting wine at Michel Schlumberger in Healdsburg.

That's it. Have a great day!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Coconut Cream Pie - Heaven on earth

I tried Emeril Lagasse's Coconut Cream Pie for dessert tonight. There is only one word to describe it. Heavenly. It was the perfect ending to the perfect day. Of course we did do the meringue twice - because I forgot to add the sugar to the egg whites the first time. It came out perfect the second time - as you can plainly see.

There was only one other glitch. The rolls didn't really work out either. They never rose. They tasted like pretzels! But it didn't matter. It was still a great day. I hope yours was too.

I almost forgot, the wine for the evening changed slightly. Don pulled out a wine from the wine cellar for tonight. It was the 2000 Chimney Rock Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Oooooooh, was it good. And now it's all gone. Too bad.

Now it's time to settle down and watch a movie with the family.

See you tomorrow!

One hour to go!

Wow.  I don't know about you, but there has been a flurry of activity in my kitchen. Elli has been my sous chef all day. It's awesome. She's old enough that she can actually lend a hand. Like stirring the milk for the pie for 4-6 minutes so it doesn't burn. Love it. We've only had one disaster so far. We didn't hear the timer go off for the pie crust. So it's a good thing I bought frozen pie crusts and they come two per package.

The meringue is not quite right. It looks all wrinkly. So I just checked the recipe and realize I forgot to put the sugar in the egg whites. DOH! I'm going to scrape it off and do it again. Don's sleeping. He'll never know. Ever. He never reads this blog. So unless you tell him we're good.

Everything else is pretty much done. Just have to make the gravy.  I'm waiting for the turkey to finish to do that. Then I'll pop the dressing and potatoes in the oven too. Everything tastes sooooooo good. I don't know if you've ever had Ina's parmesan mashed potatoes. But they are divine. I've sprinkled some Parm on top so they will get a little cheesy top. Oh yeah. Hopefully the rolls will have risen so I can bake them. Fingers are crossed. If not, we'll have them for leftovers. No worries. It's just the three of us. And at the moment Don is sleeping on the couch watching the game. So actually, I can have dinner ready whenever I want. He'll never know the difference.

I definitely underestimated the amount of time they needed to rise. Probably should have made them this morning. Oh well. I've also decided to nix the green beans. I have a ton of food for three people.  We'll eat the beans when we make leftovers.

I'm sipping on my first glass of wine, BV Rutherford Cabernet. It tastes so good. Wilfred gave it 92 pts. He's right. It is good. It's twenty bucks at BevMo right now. (hint, hint)

It also feels GREAT to sit down for a minute.

I hope you are all having an awesome day!

Happy Thanksgiving!!! Blogging live today....yeah!

Good morning everyone! Or good afternoon to my east coast friends. I'm live blogging today. So if anyone is out there tell me what you're up to!!!

I'm out of my funk and totally enjoying my day so far.  We're watching the parade. I made a yummy breakfast of fried eggs, english muffins and chicken sausage which will hopefully tide us over until dinner at 3pm.

I ran into a friend yesterday (literally, I nearly bonked her with my cart in Safeway) it turns out she and her daughter don't have plans for today so hopefully they will be joining us for dinner this afternoon. I really hope they come. Thanksgiving should be spent with friends and family.

Menu for today is roast turkey breast, the Barefoot Contessa's fabulous Parmesan Mashed potatoes,  steamed green beens, cornbread dressing, home-made cranberry sauce, The Pioneer Woman's dinner rolls and Coconut Cream Pie for dessert. Phew.

I've got chicken broth simmering on the stove with carrots, celery, and herbs to use for gravy and the dressing. I made the corn muffins last night and chopped up the bread to let it dry out a bit.

I need to figure out the timing of everything.  So I gotta run.  I'll be back.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving - I'm not feelin' it this year.

I don't know what's wrong with me. But I'm just not into Thanksgiving this year. Actually, I do know what it is. We're not going anywhere and we're not having everyone over. I should be planning, shopping, cooking - and I'm not. Don doesn't want a big dinner, and I obviously don't want to cook a bunch of food for just three people. But we have to eat something. So what to do.

I made a boneless turkey breast one year. It was ok. Maybe I'll look for a new recipe and try that. I don't know. But I better figure it out. Thanksgiving is tomorrow. Zoiks.

I don't know about you, but my favorite things to eat on Thanksgiving are smoked turkey, parmesan mashed potatoes, home-made cranberry sauce, warm rolls and pecan pie with home-made whipped cream. Maybe I'll do just that. Keep it simple.

Elli will be really disappointed if we don't do something to celebrate. She's been learning all about the pilgrims and indians and what it means to give thanks. Check her out in her cute poncho. This was hand-made for her by a friend in Napa. We have so many people and so much to be thankful for.

Including my friend Rob Jensen at Testerossa. We'll be drinking his fantastic Pinot Noir wine on Thanksgiving. So what else will the mister and I be drinking? If my dad were here we'd start with bloody mary's or mimosa's. I've got some sparkling ready for that. mmmm. Then we'll move to wine in the afternoon.

Ok. I think I'm startin' to feel it. Better get shopping!