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.