Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Savorings. Longboard Wines Conjure Stories

Oded Shakked's name means, "Encourage the almond tree." As his life path has been like the almond's, perhaps his name was a driving omen.  According to Wikipedia- "The almond is a native to the Mediterranean climate region of the Middle East...(moved) along the shores of the Mediterranean into northern Africa and southern Europe and transported to other parts of the world, notably California, United States."

Israeli by birth, Oded came to California seeking more exiting waves than the Mediterranean offered. Studying vino culture at UC Davis in the 1980's made for spellbinding attention to his college homework. Now founder of Longboard Wines, the surfer and former professional builder of boards explains the trinity of his two loves,wine and water sport as, "Balance, harmony and nature." From the website, "Surfing is part sport, part meditation and all working within, rather than against, nature. Wine making? Pretty similar approach."

Just downstairs from the Surfing Heritage Museum and Gift Store in Costa Mesa, NapaStyle hosted a Longboard Vineyards tasting last Thursday. Store manager James Franklin found the Healdsberg winery from the most reliable source: a friend's recommendation.

James started my wine ride with a splash of Longboard's crisp Sauvignon Blanc.This delightful wine is light and leggy: a smiler. Its a tell- good -stories- to- friends- on- the- patio, serve with ripe melon followed by a plate of fresh fish kind of wine. It is as if this wine was born with a mission: to cleanse the mind of worry- like the scent of  sea air.

This week Tom Clare and Michael Melgoza of Longboard have been pouring wine and legend in Orange County, extolling the virtues of the brand's refreshments. Longboard wines are contemporary; not overwrought with ornamentation. Aging aided by vintage oak barrels, each varietal is an authentic representation of its heritage.

Next up: the Longboard Pinot Noir. This is a flirtatious  little gem. Kind of like the bad boy in chick-lit who  tempts the heroine to go a little further...only her resolve to do the right thing keeps the misbehaving appropriate:- .
Chasing sips with samplings with tiny bites of Three Sister's Serena Cheese, my mind conjures up an image of a couple flirting from a bar stools, the firelight's reflection  flickering through the ruby refreshment of this enchantress wine-  the couple goes to pour one last glass- only to ask," Why is the bottle empty?"

An alternate storyline for the Pinot. Our heroine sees potential in the the bad boy, like no one has, except his mother. She wants to tempt him  into becoming a keeper. She goes in the kitchen and does what smart women have done throughout the ages- she puts on an apron to whip up a spell.

 Boiling salted water in a deep pot, she stirs a steady stream of Polenta, her hips swaying slightly to Spanish guitar. After all the water is pulled into the polenta, it pulls away from the sides. Into this cauldron goes  puree of jalapeno, shreds of Swiss cheese, gratings of Serena, pats of Irish butter and confetti of chive and basil. Our heroine hums the whole time, knowing the man hasn't a chance. One bite: she owns him. 
Tom Clare and Michael Melgoza of Longboard, with wine fan Toma Tapia

Sitting near Toma Tapia, I asked which wine she was so obviously enjoying. The Maverick's Signature Series  label Syrah. She is right. This Rhone-style darling is the Pièce de résistance .

Remember the scene in  Australia when Drover (played by Hugh Jackman) signals to Nichole Kidman's Lady Sarah Ashley  when he strides unexpectedly into the formal event- freshly shaven, dashing and devastatingly handsome in formal attire- that he is ready for romance . Their eyes lock- this is the wine that matches that moment in intensity. 

Complex in color, the Mavericks Signature Series Syrah is romantically complex and seductive. It would be spectacular accompaniment to a a well- marbled rib eye or lavish lamb main course. One sip- you won't want to resist):-

However, the true enchantment of these delightful "field trips" that come with my profession, are glimpses that authenticate  principals of what it means to live a very good life.

When woman and child entered the store- even before they touched- the smile that came across James Franklin's face, the way his pupils dilated , it is obvious that James is a man in love. Meet his lovely wife Sarah, and precious daughter, Lily Skye- as in a place dear to his Scottish heritage- the Isle of Skye.

Somehow, I knew there was a reason to ask about the shoes Lily Skye was wearing. Glittery pink, impossibly princess-ey cute, they are Tom's Shoes. Available at Nordstroms, with every pair of shoes purchased, TOMS gives a new pair of shoes to a child in need.

NapaStyle South Coast Plaza
3333 Bear St.
Costa Mesa, CA

(714) 825-0445

 When you are in the store- ask to be put on the store-specific list. You will be GLAD you did.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Perch Tree

At the terminus of  Hillside and Ranch Gate in Alta Loma stands a proud figure in the sunset. Not enough of the tree's skeleton remains to ID what name it went by when it lived green and lush before  the 2003 Cedar fire took its life- along with 2,232 human dwellings. For now, call it a "Perch Tree". Proof of the afterlife.

Even in this terminated state, it is useful.  The National Wildlife Federation has a backyard certification program . From balconies through schools and estates; they are happy to guide us all through how to provide life-giving environments from 4 simple elements: food, water, nesting and shelter.

Living in a fire area, we need to be careful not to overdo too much of a good thing. But a lone tree allowed to stand past its last breath: its outspread arms can still serve as a perch for birds; a  natural hutch for chipmunks or squirrels to store food.

In our own lives, things we want so badly can flash away before our eyes.  We may be left with just the silhouette of our dreams.

What happened in the past can be woven in the future. Inhale. Analyze. Exhale. Dust off and move on- with optimism. Life is much easier when you let God lead in this dance of life.

When life seems to be going dark as when the sun sets- take heart, the sun shall rise again.

Thank you to Gene Sasse for the images that inspired this post.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Philosophy - Life is Beautiful

So rests the sky against the earth. The dark still tarn in the lap of the forest.

As a husband embraces his wife's body in faithful tenderness, so the bare

ground and trees are embraced by the still, high, light of the morning. I feel

an ache of longing to share in this embrace, to be united and absorbed. A

longing like carnal desire, but directed towards earth, water, sky, and returned

by the whispers of the trees, the fragrance of the soil, the caresses of the

wind, the embrace of water and light. Content? No, no, no -- but refreshed,

rested -- while waiting.

- Dag Hammarskjold
This morning the surgeon cuts away the pain. It is reasonable to expect that I should be sleeping quite a bit over the weekend.

Please enjoy the words and images pre-selected for you. 

As the anesthesiologist has me count to 10 - my plan is to pray  that all who visit here know the peace and tranquility that is all around.  Seek reasons to open your eyes and heart. The observant and wise will find-

When life is hard- know that pressure is how Diamonds are formed.

When depression rains down- understand that the tears of heaven quench the forests.

Whatever life brings- embrace that you are alive. Thank God for that-  

Images by Gene Sasse

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Meg-a Watt Smiles Keep the Clouds at Bay

Saturday, the skies were threatening to make the Asians for Meg Whitman event at the Pacific Palms Resort wedding gazebo memorably soggy.

Senator Bob in red cowboy shirt. Mei Mei wearing fringe trimmed western jacket
California Senator Bob Huff had a word with " up above". The outdoor event arranged for by his accomplished wife, Mei Mei, went off without a hitch- or raindrop.

Technically an Asian-outreach event- we're very into assimilation in this end of town. Ella Wu, opened the event with two songs- one in English and one in Chinese. Currently recording her own CD, Ella sang in support of Meg's vision to make California a better place to work.

Chin- Ho Liao- wearing the dark glasses in the front row. IMHO-The man was born to sing on Broadway. After the Pledge of Allegiance he led the crowd into a rousing rendition of "God Bless America." The people you see at the front of the stage: they know what becomes so easy to take for granted. This is a wonderful country.

Master Fan Wei understands the role of perseverance. He began studying the martial arts studied at Shao Lin temple at the impressionable age of 5. He chose California as where he wishes to live his American Dream.
His demonstration of fist forms and kung fu skills held the crowd's attention at the front stage as we  waited for the guest of honor to arrive.
Bob introduced Gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman. Her smile just might be the secret to her success.

There would be no energy crisis if the power of a smile could be harnessed.

 So many of us are weary of grouchy bureaucrats whose answer to everything is file a lawsuit. We are tired of being skeptical at budgets held up by the majority while they have a ballot measure to reduce the numbers needed in the legislature to raise taxes. Perhaps that is too cynical. Perhaps they think we are simply stupid.

My own opinion is that if you think the future best lies in the hands of regulators and crony politicians; if you think prosperity is a product of regulatory procedures and if you believe this state is on the right track- then you should vote for Jerry Brown. Keep the status quo. Let the fields of the central valley die as our beloved state withers under one-party rule.

If you believe General Colin Powell's assertion that, "Optimism is a force multiplier."- You probably agree Meg when she promises, " What we can do together is more than we can do alone." You probably have the same understanding that, "This is the golden state not because we looked to the past but because we look to the future." If so: then the logical, enthusiastic vote for Governor of California is Meg Whitman.  

Scanning the crowd, there were the faces of many people who have meant so much to me. To our community.  Many of the women helped organize an event- titled  "Where did all the women go?" about the perceived lack of women involved in Republican politics. Clearly that was way back in the last century):- 
Bea Yary in red blouse. Carolyn Elfelt in plaid jacket. Carolyn is a Walnut Unified School District board member
 In the red V-neck sweater, looking forever 21 is Barbara Carrera. Another former "baseball mom", she is one of those quiet dynamos who always acts like a lady- and gets it done. Finance & Administration Manager at San Gabriel County Water District, Board Member Walnut Valley Water District, President of Diamond Bar Republican Women Federated are just a few of the balls she balances with grace and style. Half the men in town are jealous of her husband, Ted.
To her right is Trisha Bowler. If she never volunteered another minute- she has already done her share. If the Guinness Records people were to award "private citizens most followed by visual media" Trisha would have to be a title contender.

 Chiropractor Thomas L Blake brought his lovely wife Jacquie.  
Aziz and Denise Amiri.
Denise is the daughter of one of the most decorated men in WWII. Her husband is a Pakistani immigrant whose family fled more than one country before finding sanctuary in the United States. Profiling his journey for our local newspaper was a journalistic pleasure.

Lydia with Damon Dunn
Meet Damon Dunn, common sense candidate for Secretary of State .

 If he only knew the number of events I have been to on the west side where there is limited understanding of the vibrant "minority" presence in the Republican party.

(L-R) Barbara Carrera, Damon Dunn and Trisha Bowler

(l-r) Mollie Lazarus /San Clemente RWF, Patty Anis, Diamond Bar RWF and  Judy Sanders.

Trisha with her nephew, Randy Evins.
Lydia with Dr. Griffith Rutherford Harsh IV
Last,  but not least, the man who knows Meg Whitman best, her husband., Griffith Rutherford Harsh IV.    The man who moved her in the 1980's, when the spirit of "Everything was possible" was in the air. Asked why he supports Meg  " She can make a difference because of her type of leadership. She is the right woman at the right time."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Savoring Sunday- Harvest Dinner

The tag line on the masthead of Western Art and Architecture is "from cowboy to contemporary". Between my husband and I, we subscribe to something over a dozen magazines and regularly pick up individual titles. WA&A is the only magazine my husband we fight over who gets to read first.

Click over to the story I wrote for WA&A on Linthicum.  View the beauty and breadth of their collection. You will understand the personal satisfaction to be have any part in sharing their story.

Close to when I wrapped my part in production, the local members of our morning email group (the modern version of coffee clatch where coffee and conversation are virtual) we decided it was time to repeat our Chick Flick Night. The gal's thought my idea of having a "last dinner" before my surgery sounded too morbid. So a Harvest Dinner and Movie became the title for last Friday's gathering. Doors opened  at 6:30 and the screen was scheduled to turn on a half hour later. 

Shamelessly easy, the savory dip is simply a blend of one package each of  defrosted creamed spinach and garden vegetable cream cheese spread to which a dollop of  NapaStyle Marinated Parmesan Dip was stirred in. Freshly grated Romano cheese was sprinkled over. It went into the oven 15 minutes ahead of the "gang's" arrival.
l-r Judy Duvall, Lydia Plunk, Edda Gahm and Trisha Bowler
Learning from our first Chick Flick Night- before my friends arrived, we scooted furniture so all the seats offer equally good movie viewing. Serving stations for the pot-luck were arranged by course- with serve ware nearby.

The informality of the evening made it perfect to try some fun sounding wines from the Wine and Cheese shop at Tom's Farms. Vintage cut crystal glasses are at the ready where the wine waited in a sink full of ice.  My new "wine journal" was at the counter, ready to record our impressions and imaginations conjured up.

The featured newbies (to us) are by Oregon's oldest winery, Honeywood.  The garnet-colored Loganberry wine is a smoothly finished friendly wine. Low in acid- the berry taste would be excellent served with a cheese tray or ham dinner.
Next up was "Holiday Cheer" a brightly colored  white table wine blended with cranberry juice, orange extract and cloves gave it an added bite. An obvious choice for a ham dinner- this would be an excellent picnic wine. Think of a sandwich where turkey, cream cheese and cranberry are layered between thick slices of  a quality bread. Mmmmmm

Back at the appetizer station atop the movable kitchen island, hot and savory is joined with cool and sweet.

A platter piled with  apple and persimmon slices surround a bowl meant for dipping. It held cream cheese whipped light with a touch of half and half, a splash of vanilla and just enough powdered sugar for irresistibility.

A thin layer of Muirhead Pecan Pumpkin Butter over one side of the dip: sublimely decadent for those who dared go further than the naked appearing cream  cheese.

Edda's green salad was perfect foil to Trisha's rich green beans in cheese sauce casserole.

Having received an extra writing assignment last week- plan A of flaunting my homemade lasagna had to be scratched. Not enough time. However,  a couple rotisserie garlic rosemary chickens from Albertson's and a tray of a  a very special macaroni  from the wonderful  Middle Eastern market in town combined for a fine main course.

The movie selection:

  The Young Victoria.   Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend were splendid together in this dramatization of Queen Victoria's teen years and early rule. The enduring romance between the Queen and her Prince Albert- I love this movie more every time I see it.  Which is, so far- 4 times.

Judy's top-secret berry dessert was a perfect ending to a delightful evening.

The macaroni dish- I am sorry I am afraid I don't know how to spell it- but this description will get you served:  It is made fresh every Friday- a seasoned ground beef interior makes it like a  Middle Eastern lasagna.  From

Aljibani Halal Market
23385 Golden Springs Dr
Diamond Bar, CA 91765-2028
(909) 861-3865

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Philosophy - Leadership Sails The Winds

"... a leader must treat public opinion the way a sailor deals with the wind, using it to blow the ship in one direction or another, but never trying to go directly against it."

Gus Dewar in Ken Follett's Fall of Giants.

I was in elementary school when I read Jame's Michener's Hawaii. It made my top 10 reading list because  a character explained to his youthful charge that it is unethical to take advantage of someone when they are down. The specific passage involved a real estate transaction. What I recall was the property could have been bought for not much more than what was owed,  however the broad the virtue of fairness in dealing from a position of power left an indelible impression.

I have not yet finished The Fall of Giants. At  this point in life- the quote at the top is not formative, it is illustrative. If our political leaders are to be wise, they would take counsel of the fictional diplomat. Effective leaders do not force their power upon the people. Instead they lead through the practice of active listening.

This book is a good example of why it is important to read. Master storytellers, like Ken Follett broaden the perspective and focus attention on great principals without our having to sacrifice to learn anew that it is better to be good than  rich, famous or powerful.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Savoring Sunday - Hand feeding

Considering what runs through the neighborhood, I'm glad it was only baby lizards running reconnaissance last week.

My husband thought they were cute. I believe there is enough commotion when the puppies slam up against the sliding door barking loud enough to hear in the next county when they spot a squirrel in the backyard.
Lord help us if they spot a lizard in the living room!

I prayed for the little guys' safety as each was released back out in the garden. I won't mind seeing them when they are bigger. If they are outside):-

Oregon Sue Maxwell sent this must-watch video from Alaska Hand feeding hummingbirds.

When the weather is cool and drizzly- scents wafting from the kitchen are magnificently welcoming.  A friend is coming by later for a glass of wine. A simple social nicety I have long been remiss in  proffering. When the door opens and the scent of freshly baked focaccia greets her, I expect to see her signature smile grow larger even if she chooses not to eat.  

Yesterday my foot held up through the Site D workshop. The object was for the public to have a chance to hand feed the government our opinion on plans as they currently are proposed. Fallow fields are owned by government entities.  The LA County Flood Control District. property bisects the City of Diamond Bar's 1 acre plot from the larger 28.7 acreage in the care taking of the Walnut Valley School District. These owners have been working through the process collaboratively and have now reached a critical point in the process.

As a veteran of many painful workshops where the participants are controlled by consultants paid by vested interests- this one was a delight. Hobble-along here did not get to participate in the site tour, but my small sub-group picked me to record our thoughts when we gathered back at Castle Rock Elementary School. My table mates were open, articulate and respectful. Others were more skeptical, but I believe this open process where the consultants gave up control of the input will be given the respect it deserves.

One of the very fair questions asked was why sell now while the real estate market is down?  A very fair answer is because the school district did not sell at its peak. The school district is in real distress: there are schools and students needing to be served; taxpayers to be respected.

Another question was what wisdom is there in the school district bearing the cost of the entitlement process?
The property's worth is tied to its entitlement. As long as the end decision is wise,  selling with some assurance of what can go forward is a good idea as it guarantees this middleman portion of the profits to serve the public good.

Last night I dreamed of the corner at Diamond Bar Blvd and Brea Canyon. "Back in the day," before we were a city, on the opposite side, there once was a fountain. Frequently filled with bubbles after a weekend- it was always a delight. Perhaps this is an opportunity to bring back parts of our heritage that have gone missing. The high water table could be used to make a symphony of the sounds coming from a fountain. Perhaps the peak could be shaped in the image of our ever-resent hawks. Power to pump the water came from a windmill like the one hidden the trees in the Ralph's center.  A solar system on an interpretive shed-roof provided backup power for the fountain-and lighting.  A sculpture of cattle represented the ranch this city was built on. In my mind's eye it was bronze- but maybe- if walnut trees must be sacrificed- it is better ethics  to send such trees to craftsmen for sculpting than send it to the trash heap or fireplaces.

Of course, dreams remain dreams unless there is funding. If the residences can be protected from the negative impacts that come from commercial and it can be shown why this location is better suited than existing- then the goodwill needed from the local community could bring a project to viability.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Philosophy- Be Steadfast

"This is the mark of a really admirable man: steadfastness in the face of trouble. "
Ludwig van Beethoven

Maria Magdalena van Beethoven, the composer's mother was married, miscarried and widowed by the time she was 18. Remarried, she confided to a friend that her marriage to the composer's father  as a "chain of sorrows. "
This did not stop her from being a good mother.

Deafness did not quash  maestro's gift as a composer. It was simply a hurdle that illuminates his genius and inspires us to reach further than we think possible.

Victor Perez knew the truck matched the description of a gang-banger who abducted an eight year old girl. Instructing his cousin to call 911 while he took chase is inherently dangerous. But he didn't hesitate.  “It was the right thing to do.”

Fame and fortune are seductive. Dangerous liaisons when skies are troubled.

Yet, to avoid them in favor of safety or pleasure is no way to live.

When trials come, pray for courage Speak kindly the truth.

Act primarily with conviction  that what you do is for the greater good.

Thank God for the opportunity to be forged into a better person.

Thank you to Gene Sasse  for the link to the Victor Perez link on Dr. Laura's blog AND the imagery of darkened autumn clouds.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bona fide Wedding

Bona fide: In good faith. Genuine.

Everything about the Sunday 10-10-10   wedding  of Miss Gennina Tan to Christopher Bona was bona fide.
Rancho Camulos  is old California personified.  Inspired by the success of Harriet Beacher Stowe in calling attention to the plight orf African Americans in Uncle Tom's Cabin, novelist  Helen Hunt Jackson  set her novel Ramona  using Rancho Camulos as her inspiration to romanticize the plight of the American Indians. A full century ago D.W Griffith  chose Mary Pickford give life to the silent movie epic  Ramona. 

Walk with me on across lawns and aged brick pathways cutting through the splendidly humble grounds. See California as she is meant to be seen. In a garden.

Historic plantings add the aura of timelessness. Impossibly tall palm trees were pregnant with bunches of fruit hanging from on-high.

Arms of cactus reach up through boughs of blooming eucalyptus.

An aviary breeds life to a yard on the side of a long grape arbor.

An ancient black walnut is on life support, timbered up to keep it standing tall.

The sun helps roses reach up to the ancient bell,  hung over a path. If it chimed, the stories it could sing.  It would ring stories to remind us to seek beauty not just in what is shiny or new. Time has patinaed this place, but have not made the grounds less glowingly beautiful.

The gardens were lush in a thousand shades of green, despite the  creeping barely over 100°F  afternoon.

At half past four in the afternoon, the chairs near the fountain facing the wooden chapel  were filled.
Loved ones came from near and far. Santa Clarita to Chicago, Kansas, Missouri and South Dakota.  
Guests flew in from Germany and the bride's native Philippines to witness bona fide love.

Glen Thompson, the groom's grandfather with daughter, Gayle
The Reverend Lee Peppin officiated the lovely sand ceremony.  Two vases of sand, each representing the bride and groom, were poured into a central vessel. As Gennina and Chris were separate people before they were married, when they were pronounced man and wife, they are now like the sand. Inseparable. 
Mr. and Mrs. Chris Bona
Mariachi Latino made the moment, serenading with perfectly tuned instruments.

A traditional disc jokey augmented the music with songs including a selection by the Zac Brown Band .

The Bona family. Papa Paul is handsome at 70. Behind Chris and Gennina is Jonnie. Glenda was pregnant with him when soon after we became friends. She is an AMAZING woman. Talented, intelligent and exactly who you want by your side when things go wrong.
Gennina and Chris- May you always love each other as much as it showed on the dance floor.

The wedding cake.  I LOVED it. Fine's Family Bakery miniature commerical fishing boat was delightful. It was perfect because it so  personalized Chris's interest in deep sea fishing- and sanctified  Gennina's acceptance of who Chris is.
John Nardone occasionally broke into song. Here he simply enjoys the company of his son, Rudy
Two of my tablemates.

Wrapped in gauzy pink packages, the wedding favors were gold fish.  My table mates took advantage of my having had two glasses of wine (remember: 2 glasses of vino in public is how I ended up coming home with a chihuahua from a dinner). They poured their goldfish into this wonderful centerpiece by Jenny Lopez of Forget Me Not Flowers The centerpiece was two pieces. 
I was thrilled at their offer to take home the 2 part arrangement. The top was an island of greenery with heavenly scented  stargazer lilies, alstormeria and cattails. Underneath, a goldfish bowl carpeted with pebbles and a tiny light that magically lit the imagination.

Chris is the owner of Bonafide Hydroponics
2822 E. Imperial Hwy
Brea, CA 92821