Grape and Cheese Appetizer

Grape and Cheese Appetizer

Grape and Cheese on a Pretzel Stick

I prepared this for a Saunterers party, but I got there too late so I did not bring it in. Good thing, it was not a successful experiment. The cheddar, which I left out overnight to soften, just dried out along the edges. Is was too dense to accept the thick “butter twist” pretzels — the cubes just cracked. The butter twist pretzels were disgusting. Synthetic frankenfood. But the grapes would accept them.

I went back to the store and spent $3 on good pretzel sticks, but only used about 15. Next time, I have to find a small, snack-sized bag. Still, the cheddar was too dense. I need something like Velveeta or something more whipped. I used the green grapes with the orange cheese for aesthetics, then discovered that transporting them in the upright position was problematic. To use a shoebox, I needed an oblong plate. I guess I could transfer them from the box to the serving plate at the party.

The pretzels quickly become soggy, so this isn’t something that can be assembled in advance. Making this appetizing was trickier than I expected.

Elkhorn Slough – Moss Landing

Elkhorn Slough – Moss Landing

Elkhorn Slough
The King Tide (+7 feet) coincided with a spectacular full moon, flooding the salt water marsh just north of Monterey, CA. We were able to get much closer to wildlife than usual, and were surrounded by friendly sea otters and wary seals. Banks of kerlews lined the edges of the water and formations of pelicans punctuated the sky.

Liam, Anet, Jane, Becky

Photographer Trey Steinhart paddled with us both days. Because he takes the pictures, he rarely appears in them. I took this photo of him, but he took the next few following.

kayak Trey Steinhart

Kayak sail

Liam sailing back – photo by Trey

Curlew Flock Elkhorn Slough

Curlew Flock – photo by Trey

photo by Trey

We got an early start on our first day, Monday, and it was quite chilly. The Petaluma Paddle Pushers set out in two waves: some about 30 minutes before us, and the rest about 15 minutes before us.


The King Tide flooded areas that were normally dry. Here Jane hugs a “State Patrolled Hunting Area” sign.

Elkhorn Slough

Our Leader, Jane

This submerged bridge is not passable, even in dry weather.

Submerged Bridge

We had a great lunch at nearby Phil’s Fish Market. Luckily, Trey knew how to get there.

Trey, Becky, Lori, Jane, Liam with the Inflatable Snowmen

We were lucky enough to get a table right on the beach, with an admiring audience of hungry sea gulls.

Phil's Fish House

Liam, Lori, Becky, Trey, Jane

Had a great two-day paddle, enjoyed our stay at the Lone Oak Lodge and our hunt for a Thai restaurant one night, and an Italian restaurant another. So much fun!


Inner Resource – iRest

Inner Resource – iRest

We all have hardwired within ourselves an Inner Resource that we can call upon in every moment. This Inner Resource is a powerful ally that enables us to remain grounded, self-controlled, at peace, in harmony, and at ease within ourselves; it helps us respond to each and every situation we encounter throughout our lifetime.

The Inner Resource is unique to each of us; a powerful companion of unchanging stability; a foundational stone in our practice of yoga, meditation and iRest that supports true health, healing, resilience and well-being.

Richard Miller, PhD
Link to free, downloadable mp3 meditation


Wright’s Beach – Black Friday 2017

Wright’s Beach – Black Friday 2017

Sunrise Sat 25 Nov 2017

It was a real treat to meet Jane Richter who invited her O.B.N.D.Y. MeetUp group to her annual Black Friday camp-out at Wright’s Beach. It is halfway between Doran Beach and Jenner on the Kortum Trail, but I had never been before because it is part of Sonoma Coast State Park and reservations need to be made online six months in advance at Lori P. and Jane were on the phone as they made the reservation for site 13 which is a pull-through at the end of the inside loop (about $10 cheaper than the oceanside sites) which was ideal for Jane’s cute fiberglass trailer. Lori’s van and Liam’s pickup all fit in the site behind Jane’s rig, and there was room for Liam’s tent, too.

I shared adjacent site 18 with Trey Steinhart and his wife Becky, also tent campers. I nestled my little green tent in the trees between the two campsites and decorated the gnarly trees with battery-operated string lights so that I would not clonk my head during the night. There was a campground-wide celebration of the wedding anniversary of someone in a family I surmise are regulars, but they were well-behaved and the night was quiet and dark. I slept well to the sound of pounding surf. Love it, and if I go back by myself, I will try to get campsite 11 which is slightly off the loop road in a little interior eddy and has the most cover. Jane pointed out the spot where she likes to stretch a hammock when her car has been relegated to overflow parking.

We enjoyed an informal dinner at the Tides restaurant in Bodega Bay.

Strong winds and high surf made kayak-crabbing inadvisable on Saturday morning, so we took a walk at the bird sanctuary with Nancy, one of Lori’s friends whom we met, along with body-surfer Kate, at the Doran Day Use area. Liam and I spent some time in the afternoon planning our Sicily trip in October 2018 while the others went to buy crab for Jane’s crab fest.

Tray and Jane Cook Crabs

Rosso – Rebuild Santa Rosa

Rosso – Rebuild Santa Rosa

Rosso Pizzeria on Montgomery Ave. teamed up with neighbors GoguetteBread and Riviera Pasta to host lunch on Sunday October 15 for friends and neighbors as a way to heal and connect with each other. This was a chance to meet Martha’s parents who moved to Villa Capri on Fountaingrove about eight weeks ago so that they could be closer to Martha and her sister Sally.

Things were going so well, Martha took her her vacation, planned months in advance, to Croatia. She returned on Tuesday, October 10. By then, this is what her parents new home looked like. The evacuation was a debacle, and Martha’s parents were left behind, in the dark, standing in the lobby in their bedclothes in the middle of the night.

Villa Capri Fountaingrove

The Remains of Villa Capri – the Oval of Ashes

Martha’s sisters picked her up from her trip with the news that her own house was okay but that she was under an evacuation order (which was overly cautious — she was not). They all huddled at Sally’s for several days, so this chance to go out and socialize was very welcome. Martha loves Rosso’s pizza and her father really enjoyed the Pesto Penne. Martha was thrilled to see them both sip a little wine — this would improve their much-needed afternoon nap.

David and Lilias

We enjoyed a Monepulciano d’Abruzzo from Faranese. It was nice to start to unwind after such a stressful week. We chatted with people at the tables around us and shared stories. The food was great!

Like many people, I eat to self-sooth. Most choose sweets, I like really good bread. GoGuetteBread decorated the bar with special loaves made for the occasion.

Warm farewells all around as Martha and her parents went to her place to give Sally a break. Don’t they look great for being in their 90’s? Thanks, Rosso, Riviera and GoGuetteBread!

Martha and her parents

The scorched remains of their life may have been removed without permit. Photo by Martha. Click photo for related article.

Villa Capri ruins by Martha

Photo by Martha of her parent’s home at Villa Capri

Tubbs Fire – Narrow Escape

Tubbs Fire – Narrow Escape
Tubbs Fire Santa Rosa CA

My House Is Red X Lower Left, Hwy 101 Bisects Santa Rosa

My phone rang at 1:30 a.m. It was barely Monday. The woman said, “This is Kim, your next-door neighbor. I’m in Dallas and I can’t reach my husband. There are fires in your area.” I had smelled wood smoke three hours earlier when I left the Roxy in downtown Santa Rosa, which would be an inch or so south on this map. I was leaving “Blade Runner” by the side door and felt like I was emerging into another scene of the long movie because the wind was gusting insanely and particulate matter was ricocheting through the air — mostly leaves on this October night.

“Mark West Springs Road is on fire,” (blue line at top of map) “and they are evacuating our homes. I can’t find my husband.” I asked if she wanted me to knock on his door, so she held on while I went outside. The wind was gusting violently and our garbage cans had been knocked over but the street was quiet, his car wasn’t there, there was a light on in the house but no answer to the doorbell. (red X at lower left)

“There’s an evacuation order for our neighborhood — did you receive it?” Kim sounded anxious. Well, there was one for an adjacent neighborhood but our street was silent.

“Wait,” I said. “Geez, all the doors on the street just opened and everyone is coming out. There is a new alert. The evacuation zone has been expanded to include us.”

“Get out now,” Kim said. “Go to Finley Center now. Round Barn is on fire.” The historic old barn is on the other side of the freeway so I took a few moments to grab the Trust Documents and my passport, my computer and the backup drives with my client info. People were driving crazy on my short 2 a.m. trip. I got one of the last parking spaces and went inside to something that looked like registration day for first grade. Lots of dazed kids clinging to parents trying to hold it together. I promptly crossed the courtyard to the Senior wing which the parents apparently did not know about. Emergency personnel were streaming into the Senior wing, but no civilians.

I picked a corner near a power outlet and plugged in my phone. It dinged again, a text from Kim. “Fire has crossed Freeway. Hopper evacuated. K-Mart on fire.” Now, this isn’t supposed to happen. I believed:

  1. Forest fires don’t happen in cities. We have nice, polite, one-structure-at-a-time fires that are near fire hydrants.
  2. Fires don’t cross the Freeway. It’s, like, a zoning regulation.

The two green circles show the 101 Freeway that separates the rich on the right side, from the poor, on the left (sinister in Latin, gauche in French). The strong diagonal line at the left edge of the yellow hashmarks is the SMART train track. My house is on the “other side of the tracks.” That was lucky, because the tracks became the main firebreak that everyone thought the freeway would be. We were shocked when the flames leapt over.

We have three hospitals in the area and two were evacuated at the same time I was. They are both in or close to the yellow area you see above — one up by Mark West Springs, and Kaiser Hospital which is just east of the square “492” exit sign for the freeway. The mobile home park adjacent to it, “Journey’s End,” was incinerated.

So were all the homes in the Coffey Park area which is the piece of the fire stretching down toward my house. They stopped it about a mile from my house. They stopped it 11 houses from my friend Alice’s house. My friend Joyce was not so lucky. Her house is now about six inches high (see photo below), and they had to leave behind her husband’s car because he cannot drive. He had been released from the hospital just a few days earlier after an eight-hour operation on his heart. As they fled, their neighbor’s house was already in flames. They couldn’t get to Finley center because of the gridlock on Piner Rd.

Tubbs Fire Coffey Park

Joyce’s House Monday 9 October 2017

The Senior wing filled up quickly and soon I heard a familiar voice. Carolyn and Rich Gibbons were there, in their pajamas, because they left their Brush Creek home promptly. Kim found her husband, a city worker, had been called in at midnight to cope with wind damage. Later, he said, “The winds on Sunday night were breaking off big tree limbs and blocking Fountaingrove Parkway. I couldn’t stand up, the wind had to be 60 mph.” (PG&E measured winds of 75 mph.) “From the top of Fountaingrove I saw the fire come down from Calistoga, then JUMP to Mark West Springs Road. It didn’t burn through — it was like a torch being lit. It was a terrible sight.”

This is what daybreak looked like on Monday Oct 9.

Tubbs Fire Daybreak

A couple of hours after I took this picture, I walked a mile through the thick smoke to bypass the police barriers and found my house standing but the electricity and gas off. I shuttled back and forth for a couple of days as the fires continued, but the high winds forecast for Wednesday night sent me to Jill’s in Petaluma. Thursday evening, the electricity was restored. On Saturday afternoon, PG&E turned on the gas and re-lit the pilot lights on my furnace and water heater. The fires are not out yet, but many of us are feeling more hopeful.

NYTimes article with charts and graphic showing how and why this fire got so big so fast. My friend Janice lives a few blocks closer to the edge of the fire — her condo is only a half-mile from where the fire was stopped. She moved here to be closer to her daughter and two grandchildren who lived in Coffey Park. Here is their house now.

Janice’s Daughter’s Coffey Park House

Women In Conversation

Women In Conversation

Had a great time at the Press Democrat/Sonoa County “Women In Conversation” event at the Sonoma State Campus, compliments of my friend Linda H. who gave me two tickets for the 3:30-6:30 Experience. My favorite was Clo’s company, Clover Dairy, who gave me TWO free bowls of coffee ice cream — a new flavor for them.

My friend Joyce R. took this picture of Clo in her denim dress. Many of the women in attendance were wearing beautiful dresses and shoes. The women motivational speakers were wonderful, including the sensational yoga teacher, Trish Pascual. We had chicken-finger sandwiches, shrimp with mango salsa, small batch chocolate, cold-press coffee, hibiscus tea and some amazing gazpacho from Ramekins.

There were doctors offering free blood pressure tests, interesting to Joyce whose husband is in skilled nursing for a few more days, recovering from double-bypass surgery and the installation of two new pig-valves in his heart. We were gratified to learn there are several post-op services specializing in long-term heart wellness after surgery.