Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Goats in Our Family

Everybody's got family stories. Here's a good one from my nephew Tony Valls, a former city kid who lives in the Northern California wilderness with his wife Mary, their three daughters and a bunch of animals. A creative bunch -- their latest project is making soothing soap with the milk of their female goats. Yes, goats.

Tony's tale about their boy goat:

"Levi is a curious goat. Levi has been watching, with interest, our dogs appearing and disappearing through our doggie door into the house. He has tried pushing the door with his head, but to the side of the doggie door itself so he was lightly butting the door. I figured it was his poor depth perception had no worries of him getting into the house.

Gidget, our golden retriever, adopted Levi has her little brother. Gidget thought Levi should be allowed in the house, so she gave him a little help. She was standing halfway through the doggie and trying to get Levi to come through....After some trial and error, it worked. Gidget was so happy, so proud that Levi made it into the house. Levi was also happy to be in the house. He greeted everyone, checked the place out and was put back outside through the front door. Levi then trotted around the front porch to the side of the house, went through the doggie door and happily greeted everyone again...Now I need a solution to keep the goat out and still let the dogs use the doggie door."

I told you they were a creative bunch.
Here's a picture of Levi and one of the other family dogs. (It seems Gidget was too shy.)
Also, the Valls handmade goat milk soap is divine.
cheers,  Joan

Monday, October 10, 2011

Creative Minds Love Exercise

So, what's the connection with being fit and being creative? A lot of us  instinctively sense that moving our bodies around helps loosen the connections in our brains -- that and a few strong cups of java. 
But is there a physical side of creativity? Now, that's something to ponder during your next walk, run or bike ride. 

Haruki Murakami, a novelist, has a book,  What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (2008) that reveals how running fuels his creative process. "Writing a long novel is like survival training" he writes. "Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity." 
Hmmm....Others pick up on this idea and run (sorry) with it, for instance, an  article in Fast Company  Upshot: If we exercise it improves our creativity so much that it more than pays for the time it takes us away from doing the task at hand. 

Welp, I suppose that's why I have to take a brisk walk with my dog whenever I  need an opening line for an article -- or for an idea to hang my next article on. And, you ask, what's the name of my idea-mongering pooch? "Einstein." Naturally.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Food, Bikes & Wit, Thanks to Twitter

As I'm cruising around the web, I've found some great voices on Twitter. 
Everyone has to get to the point quickly when they tweet - and I've become addicted.
You know I love wine, dogs, bikes and food from the garden. In that vein, here are my Twitter favs: with sample blurbs. 

@EatThisNotThat      FAT ATTACK: Uno Chicago Grill Classic Deep Dish Pizza (individual size) = 165 g fat = 12.5 Oscar Meyer Cheese Dogs!

@Chow     Make hotcakes filled with fresh summer corn and blackberry syrup this weekend 

@fastcompany     Bamboo Bikes Turn Heads In The U.S., Fight Poverty In Africa

@Richard Florida      "If you give the creative class access to the power of the industrial revolution, great things should come out of it," Mark Hatch Tech Shop 

Now I'm on the lookout for witty wine tweets, ideas?

Feels Like Fall
(photo by Ross & Mary) 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bicycles Keep Us Young

I like to think that to stay young, it really helps to have a Bike you don't have to lock and a Dog that you do have to walk.

The "beater" bike is probably secondhand and can be replaced at the Goodwill for a the price of a bottle of wine. That means you take it anywhere at the drop of a hat and don't worry about it. Soon, it becoming easier than driving for your daily errands.
As for Dogs, well, if you have a young pup you know what I mean. You will get your exercise no matter what the weather or you will have a very, very messy house. In my case, I seem to have both. How does that work?

And now, a new dimension. Young people think riding around on a bike is cool. Better than a car. Indeed the local hipster hotel H2 offers patrons a low-tech, high-design bike to find all the best cafes and wine bars. Their parents are the ones driving around town in the pricey sport cars.

I have to digest this, but in the meantime, check out this vending machine for energy drinks that takes cycle power instead of coins.
Oh yeah, my wine/food tip for August. A deep Syrah with BBQ chicken and pulled pork. Followed with great chunks of melon......cheers

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Nuts and Wine Fight Fat: Who Knew?

They say that moderation is the best approach. Well, guess what, when it comes to food and health it is not. Which is kind of a bummer when it applies to my love for potato chips and french fries.

Some people adore ice cream, but for me it's chips. And the evidence is in: they are really awful for you, in even small amounts. It figures.Potato chips and fries lead to more weight gain per serving than any other food, according to the most comprehensive and detailed study of its kind.

Yogurt, on the other hand, is the opposite. Each extra daily serving prevented 0.82 lbs. of weight. And as we expect, the more daily servings we eat of fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains, the less weight we gain as we get older. Here's how the Harvard Medical prof who led the study puts it: "Conventional diet wisdom recommends 'everything in moderation,' with a focus only on total calories consumed. But, in reality, the types of food and beverages that you consume is strongly linked to weight gain." Cola, for instance, is out.

So it's nuts and fruit instead of chips -- which are a tastier trade anyway. And definitely wine instead of sugary lemonade or soda. My favorite for an evening on the porch with friends after a bike ride: Mixed nuts and cherries with an exotic deep-red Charbono wine from Tofanelli. We can feel decadent, while our hapless and stubborn pals are off counting calories per french fry. Tomorrow -- after they read this -- maybe they'll join us.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Ethnic Food in the Movies

If you enjoy lots of flavor in your people, parties, activities and food, you've got to like ethnic meals. Color, spice, texture and energy---that's what we're talking about. Thai dishes are my favorite, of course, thanks to my Thai blood. But then there's Indian, Nepali, Chinese, Mexican, Vietnamese, Italian, Spanish. Most are lush and healthy, which is kinda my mantra. Sparkling wine is a happy match.
I think movies can totally get you in the mood for joyous ethnic eating. Have you seen these tasty culinary jewels? (via netflix.)






Makes you want to stop by the fruit stand and local Asia/Mexican/Italian market and start the rice pot boiling....

Friday, April 1, 2011

Can Your Town Make You Fat?

I thought that we stay healthy here in the land of vineyards and Farmers' Markets by eating and drinking well and enjoying the great outdoors. Welp, it seems I was only partly right. The town you pick to live in, can make the big difference in how fit and sassy you are.
As Aussie researchers put it, " People living in more populated neighbourhoods with well-connected streets and shops within easy walking distance are more likely to be active and less likely to be obese." Getting out for a coffee or to mail a package or pick up a quart of milk without a car is real exercise. Yes it is.
Here are the facts.
Indeed, "for each kilometre walked by respondents, there was a decrease of 4.8 per cent in the risk of obesity. And for each hour a day spent in their cars, there was an increased risk of obesity of about 6 per cent."

My friend likes to tell me "walk a hound, lose a pound." which is totally true in my household.
Now we can add "Pick a Town, Lose a Pound." Hey, it's a good mantra on the road too, where we can pick hotels in the center of things and use leg-power to get around. Gold Country in the Sierra Foothills is full of such cool, walking towns.
Also, my best tip: CATALINA ISLAND near Los Angeles (in the picture above), where there are nice wine stores, fresh fish tacos and almost no cars at all.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Juanita is Gone

Juanita's Restaurants: Raunchy Side of Vine Land
"Her first local restaurant, Juanita's Galley, opened in El Verano in 1960 and introduced the Valley to an eccentric personality who let an endless assortment of pets have free run of her dining room and sometimes used her pendulous breasts to profoundly embarrass her dumbfounded guests."

"There will almost certainly never be another Juanita Musson. There couldn't be. It would violate various laws of nature and society. Juanita, who hasn't needed a last name for decades, died on Saturday at 87, closing one of the most colorful chapters in Bay Area restaurant history."

This was written by my editor pal David Bolling. About the bohemian element of our world -- large, loud, loving, profane, passionate, garrulous, generous, outgoing and outrageous.


Friday, February 25, 2011

My Ode to Trader Joe's

Good food has lousy shelf life. That means to cook fresh food and drink wine at home regularly means you have to go shopping a lot. Even if -- like me -- you think going to stores is not recreation, but a big pain in the butt. To cope, I think of my shopping excursions as conversations between me and the market. "Hey, this looks good," or "Here's a good deal for you," it tells me. "Whatever," I yawn.

Hence, I offer this question: If Whole Foods and Trader Joe's were people, who would you want to hang out with?
My answer is Trader Joe's, hands down. I think that place is made for non-shoppers like me who love a bargain and a story. It's the only chain in these parts that is almost as interesting as my favorite neighborhood markets.
Why? They screen what they offer me, to weed out the crap (First-rate fish, peanut butter, bananas, chocolate, etc.) And they make it easy and cheap to eat healthy -- without lecturing or scaring me about bad ingredients. Plus the wine selection gives us tons of choice for everyday Porch wine, including tasty, local brands. Pity they don't have a tasting room.
In all, Trader Joe's feels like a worldly, practical, witty pal. While Whole Foods, in contrast, seems a bit snobby, judgmental, humorless -- more of a friend to upscale nesters rather than to scrappy explorers.

With exercise, the trick is to find something you love to do and do it often. Same with stores, I guess. Your favorites?

Now, if TJ's was only within bike distance from my home......

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cycling, Coffee and Being Cool

The pretty holiday lights are long gone -- but the cold remains. Ahhh winter.

This month my chilly thoughts have turned to bicycles and social revolution. Between rainstorms we can still cycle, despite the frost and fog. And the more of us who ride our bikes to the corner store, the sooner we can start a revolution away from oversized autos and from what I call the "One Syndrome." One person, one mile, one auto. Even worse is if the one-mile trip is to the gym, where we pay money to pump our legs indoors.

But I'm just ranting now.

Anyway, about bikes. I'm hoping I'm riding a trend. Last year outdoor bike coffee bars popped up in New York, including Rapha's (closed during winter --the snow thing). Every Wednesday evening Rapha's showed classic cycling movies. Around the world there is even more bike action; some even say it's a global trend for 2011.....

Another cool development is that folding bikes are finally becoming mainstream. Years back Hubby and I bought red folding bikes on eBay. They were for weekend jaunts because they fit so nicely in a car trunk or in a small plane. Of course they look foolish with their tiny wheels, so we fondly call them our "clown bikes." Those little bikes have had some adventures, chained outside pubs and diners all over the West. Now folding bikes are cheaper, less than $200, and they come in cloth packs you can carry over your shoulder. Very smart, really. Citizen Bikes are a good example.....

So bikes are making me hopeful about the New Year. As the politicos fight in the background -- in the foreground we can save gas and keep our healthcare costs down, just by cycling around. And if your bikes are as goofy looking as mine, you'll also have plenty of change to smile at curious passers-by. Smiles are nice in the cold.

cheers, Joan