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PostHeaderIcon Ten Things To Do in Napa


#10 Check out the Napa General Store
 
On a Saturday or Sunday morning this is the place to be.  In the newly renovated downtown river walk area, the Napa General Store is combination gift shop, café and meeting place for the locals.  It’s the perfect place to spend time wandering around their selection of memorabilia, house wares, books and wines.  We spent some time talking with the owner, who being a local herself, knew all the wineries in town and shared with us the latest gossip.  Best purchase:  A frame ready map of the wine region for $15.

#9 Attend a cooking demonstration at The Culinary Institute of America 
    
Located at the Greystone castle in the Napa hills, the CIA offers classes in wine, food and fine culinary dining.  Live cooking demonstrations are performed by the renowned chef-instructors on Saturday and Sunday.  The one hour events feature recipes that reflect the seasonal flavors of the wine country.  Tickets are $15 and may be purchased the day of the demonstration.  2555 Main Street St. Helena.  For more information call 707 967 2320 or go to www.ciachef.edu/california


#8  Bike up the Silverado Trail
    
There is probably nothing more beautiful than the drive from Napa to Calistoga on the Silverado Trail.  The views are awe inspiring and it’s been written up countless times in travel magazines as a “don’t miss” experience.  For the braver of us, try biking the 20 some mile road.  If you can’t bring your own, you can rent at many places in the valley.  There is a wide biking shoulder, but be advised, cars do tend to go fast along the road.  Most of the route is flat, but there are some hills.  There are some major wineries along this stretch including Sinskey, Stags Leap and the Silverado, owned by the Disney family.  They all welcome biking enthusiasts.

#7  Enjoy a Calistoga spa
    
For over 100 years the spas and natural springs of Calistoga have welcomed those desiring pampering and relaxation.  One of my favorites is Golden Haven Hot Springs, one of the oldest still in operation.  They offer a couples mud bath, as well as hot spring mineral pools and private treatment rooms for massage and hot stone therapy.  Located at 1713 Lake Street, Calistoga, discount coupons and special deals are available.  For more information call 707 942 8000 or go to www.goldenhaven.com.

#6  Have dinner at Celadon
  
 Although the restaurants of Yountville are more famous, they are often expensive and hard to get into.  Celadon in Napa serves the best comfort food in the area and the setting, in a renovated warehouse, is beautiful.  Their garden room is especially nice on a warm evening with its view of the Napa River.  It’s an easy walk from most of the in town hotels, set on a side street where you can complete your evening with some window shopping.  500 Main Street Suite G, Napa.  For reservations call: 707 254 9690 or go to www.celadonnapa.com

#5  Visit Ceja Vineyards
    
Pablo and Juanita Ceja moved to the Napa Valley in 1967 and two of their children, Armando and Pedro established and run the the first Hispanic-owned winery in the United States. Company president Amelia Ceja is a master chef, and when not cooking for friends and family she is a guest chef at local restaurants. This is a private winery but they do have a wine club which gets you invitations to parties, dinners and their famous Bocce ball tournaments. Surely one of the most beautiful wineries in the area, our tasting there was so much fun, we didn’t want to leave. For more information, see www.cejavineyards.com.


#4  Shop St. Helena
    
The town of St. Helena offers the crème de la crème of Napa Valley shopping.  You could spend a whole afternoon taking in the high end stores, galleries and shops. A beautiful tree lined street, the main drag is a busy place on weekends.  To avoid the crowds plan a visit mid week.  In the off season, not only will you have the place to yourself, you may also score some great discounts.  Make sure to look above the store fronts and admire the 19th century facades of the original town stone buildings.


#3  Arrange a limo tour
    
It can be overwhelming to plan a tour of Napa.  Many of us just don’t know which wineries to stop at.  Arranging a day of touring by limousine may be for you.  Not only are you driven around in style, these companies have arrangements with small and boutique wineries that are not open to the public.  On our last visit, we were treated to meet and greets by the winery owners and a catered lunch right in the middle of the vines.  The real piece de resistance was that our driver owned a small vineyard himself, and regaled us with tales of the ups and downs of the business.  If you are a party of 5 or 6, the cost is very reasonable and an experience you will not forget.


#2 Take in a free event
 
All summer long there are free events to attend in the area.  Many wineries do concerts.  What better way to end your day than to sit at sunset, listening to a woodwind quartet or an acoustic guitar played by a local musician?   Pick up a local guide, and peruse the events calendar.  I recently counted no fewer than 50 special events coming up this summer, most of them at no or minimal cost.

#1 Do a picnic lunch
    
Although there is enough in the Napa region to keep you busy for a week, and the wineries are great fun, at some point you just can’t do any more tastings.  When that time comes, take a break and allow yourself to soak up the warm sunshine and summer breezes.  Between the town of Napa and Calistoga there are delis, cafes and markets where you can pick up a sandwich or salad.  Find a spot to sit and linger, make new friends and savor what you have experienced.  One of the best places to do this is the Beringer Vineyards.  The oldest continuously operating winery in the area, it’s the home of the Rhine House, built by Frederick Beringer in the early 1800’s.  The grounds here are expansive, with fountains and flowers.  Their wine shop is one of the best around and there is plenty of parking.   2000 Main Street, St. Helena  707 963 4812

Contributing writer Steve Wallace will be posting a monthly travel blog.  Feel free to contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it with suggestions or comments.

 

PostHeaderIcon Gary Stevens – The Art of Sculptural Bowls

Imagine using a chainsaw to cut enormous sections of wood from the Earth and having to transport them to your artist studio using tractors and cranes. This is what artist Gary Stevens does. There they remain, waiting for him to decide how they will manifest themselves into works of art.

“I’ll look at a piece of wood for months or even years before I decide what to do,” he says. “I’ve got a 3,000 lb. burl waiting outside, but I still haven’t decided what to do with it. It’ll hit me eventually. I wouldn’t say the wood tells me what to do, but it has a big influence.”

In the early 90s, Gary found a dream property in the mountains of Northern California. After building a home and studio there, he discovered the land was covered with fallen wood and tree stumps left my early logging.

Driven by a desire to protect the environment, Gary began harvesting this tremendous wealth of material, all within a short walk of his home.   He discovered gnarled burls more than a thousand years old, often weighing more than a ton.  His love of nature and commitment to the environment runs through every aspect of his work.  “I’m very conscious about only using woods that nature has provided for me,” he says.
 
He does 90 percent of his work with the chainsaw, roughing out and hollowing the form, as well as creating his trademark fluting on the interior and exterior of the piece. Smaller chainsaws, powered carving tools and sanding discs are used for the fine carving and final touches.

A sculpture can take up to a year to complete, depending on its size and complexity. Redwood is a caustic material, with a tannic acid within the wood. Despite working with masks covering his mouth and eyes, he can only work in short periods before being physically effected, the fumes burning his eyes and throat.

The works have hand rubbed finishes of up to five coats, applied over a period of five days. The resulting works are as stunning in detail as they are as sculptural forms, celebrating wood as a precious material.

The works are exhibited in museums, galleries and private collections across the country, as well as at Gumps in San Francisco.

Building upon these experiences and studies, all of Gary’s work is influenced by the natural world in some way, though not always as one might expect. The Firedance Series captures and celebrates the natural element of fire, a harsh reality of the California forests. The forms and pattern suggest erupting flames, twisting and reaching into the sky.

 “It’s been locked up for two thousand years,” he says of the materials he digs out of the earth. “You can see how time and patinas are running through it. This adds so much character and beauty to the work.”

Today Gary holds down two jobs. He works in the construction industry for a firm that does commercial construction. While his career on building projects can be stressful, working in the studio provides a balance and escape into creative endeavors.

“For me working in the studio is a safe refuge from high stress,” he says. “I’m still excited every time I start a new piece—the possibilities seem endless to me.”

Learn more about Gary and his work at www.artbowl.com - SEW

Story supplied and co-written by contemporary art expert and director of the Beatrice Wood Art Center, Kevin Wallace.  Writer of more than a dozen books on art and artists, Wallace has curated shows at The Los Angeles County Museum of Art and gives seminars worldwide.

 

PostHeaderIcon Wine, Women & Shoes Event Tonight

What do Deborah "Debbie" Gibson, Jerry Rice, stylish shoes and a fat-sucking machine have in common?

They will ALL be at the St. Rose Hospital Foundation’s Second Annual Wine Women & Shoes event from 5 to 8:30 p.m. tonight, Tuesday, April 13.

"Anyone who has a passion for fashion and a love for wine must definitely attend. It is the type of event that brings it all together- wonderful women, style, a great venue and a noble cause," said Pamela Russo, executive director of the St. Rose Hospital Foundation.

There will, of course, be a fashion show with shoes, accessories and handbags on display. If you don't remember Gibson, she's the former 1980s and 90s teen pop icon who at age 17 was the second youngest artist (second to George Michael) in history to write, produce and perform a Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 single (in the USA) with her song "Foolish Beat."

Gibson, 39, is still at it: writing, singing and performing, but will take time out Tuesday night to host the fashion show at Berkeley's

Claremont Hotel Club & Spa, 41 Tunnel Road.

OK, we’ve covered the women and shoes part of the night. What about the wine? Thirteen different Napa and Livermore valley wineries will be on hand offering up all types of vino to accompany hors d’oeuvres provided by the Claremont.

Adding to the star power – the always lovely, fashion-forward thinking Miss Chiquita (think bananas) will be on hand for the event. In keeping with the spirit of the evening, Miss Chiquita will have a first-ever wardrobe change for charity. Italian shoe designer Angelo Anastasio is creating a unique designer shoe for Miss Chiquita to wear and it will be unveiled.

"Miss Chiquita is the essence of Chiquita and we couldn’t be happier to have her present among these dynamic women as we partner with St. Rose Hospital Foundation to sponsor this event," said Brian Kocher, president of Chiquita Fresh North America. "The privilege is ours to be part of an event that will make a significant contribution to helping children in the community. Our passion is to empower people to maintain healthy lifestyles and this core purpose is shared by our friends at St. Rose."

As luck would have it, the event coincides with the 2010 Phil Hellmuth Celebrity Poker Tournament starting at 8 p.m. at the Claremont. Guests who register early for the fashion show and wine tasting event will receive a complimentary spectator admission ticket to the Celebrity Poker Tournament as well as two passes to the Professional Golf Tournament hosted April 14-18 2010 at TPC San Francisco Bay at Stonebrae. 

Former 49er Jerry Rice will also be making a celebrity appearance for charity, organizers said.

And if that's not enough, there will also be an eyelash extension demo, the display of a fat-sucking machine, (really!) and a dermatologist on site doing demonstrations.

Last year, more than 350 guests attended the event, raising more than $58,000 for St. Rose Hospital’s women’s and children’s services.  Established in 1962, St. Rose Hospital in Hayward is an independent, nonprofit community hospital that has 163 licensed beds and more than 300 physicians.

Tickets for Wine, Women & Shoes are $75 or $95 for the VIP seating.

To attend, call 510-264-4007 or go to www.srhca.org and click on "donate now" to register for the event.  ---ME

 

PostHeaderIcon Chow Down in Danville

We’ve been going to Chow Restaurant in Danville since it opened about a year and half ago.  It’s always been a fun, happening place to eat. Using an abandoned Blockbuster Video building, Chow is open, lively and colorful. 

The place is a masterful blend of design, comfort and function with its long antique bar that stretches the length of the restaurant, red pendant lights and walls of oak siding.

Although the place can be packed inside and out on a weekend night, you always feel the service is all about you. 

Where else can you dine in a place where a fireplace and ficus trees share space and the servers sport tattoos?  Add to this a second-story glass wine storage, open kitchen, funky artwork and you’ve got the most unique dining experience in the East Bay.

On our last visit, our waiter, Glenn Barrack (who insisted we just call him Barrack) was funny, attentive and knowledgeable about the menu. The specials that night were Belgian white asparagus and mushroom soup, a mahi mahi sandwich, yellowtail with beans and roasted beet, sustainable fish tacos and organic chicken taquitos.

Barrack insisted we try the soup, and he was right on the money.  Rich, creamy and brimming with flavor, it could have been a meal in itself.

For entrees we had a veggie burger and the classic pot roast. The veggie burger was piled high with goodies and the pot roast was enough to feed a small family. We ended our meal with a slice of chocolate crème pie.

Chow attracts just about every demographic. On one side of us was a table of single girls with cosmopolitans, on the other side was an older couple who at first seemed taken aback by the non-traditional waiters, but ended up joking and sharing stories with Barrack. On any given night, you’ll see families, young couples on dates and friends enjoying an evening out. 

Chow is open until 10 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on weekends, so it’s the perfect place to have a drink and light dinner before starting your night out, and a great place to end up after a movie or strolling through downtown Danville.

Prices are reasonable and you can check them out beforehand on the online menu.  In many cases they offer two sizes of entrees and always a small, medium or large salad.  It’s the perfect mix of comfort food meets organic fare.  Chow resources from local farms and the desserts are made onsite.

The wine list is simple, but clean, with good offerings in a range of prices by the glass or bottle.They stock all kinds of boutique beers and have a full bar. 

Tables can be close, the energy is high and the hip edgy servers always seem to be on the ball.  Weekends are popular for breakfast and in the summer, take advantage of the al fresco dining.  They don’t take reservations, but you can call when on your way to have your name put on the list.  There is plenty of free parking in the city lot behind the restaurant.

Chow Restaurant is located at 445 Railroad Ave. in Danville. For more information, call 925-838-4510 or go to www.chowfoodbar.com Chow restaurant also has a location in Lafayette and two in San Francisco.   --SEW

Pricing:  $$ for two

Scale:
 $--cheap eats
$$--inexpensive
$$$--reasonable
$$$$--special occasions only
$$$$$--Get out the gold card

 

PostHeaderIcon Soroptimist Honors Women and Girls

Violet Richardson was the president of the first Soroptimist club when the organization was founded in 1921 in Oakland.

Nearly 80 years later, the Violet Richardson Award recognizes young women who make the community and world a better place through volunteer efforts in fighting drugs, crime and violence; cleaning up the environment; and working to end discrimination and poverty.

Recently, three young women, between ages 14 and 17 from the San Ramon Valley, were honored with the award. They were: Kristina Meyer, who won first place and $1,000; and Melanie Pyle and Sana Sareshwala, who each received $500 for a second-place award. Also honored with the award from the Pleasanton-Dublin area were: Tara Wolskin and Sarah Williams, who both received $500. Savannah Mann, a college student, was awarded about $2,400 for college expenses.

Richardson (left) believed in personal responsibility and the motto, “It's what you do that counts.” She lived her life accordingly, as an active member in her community who was committed to creating opportunities for girls and young women, according to background information on the club.

Since 1972, the club has also given out the Soroptimist Women’s Opportunity Awards to provide financial resources to women who are primary breadwinners. Money is for higher education, or obtaining additional job skills and training. The award can be used for tuition, books, child care, transportation or any other education-related expense. These women have often overcome hardships, such as domestic violence, illness, and addictions and have risen above to get an education and support their children, club officials said.

The winners of the 2009 Woman’s Opportunity Award were: Flor, Kim and Julia. On the request on the Soroptimist club, allnewsnoblues.com is not running the women’s last names to protect their security.

Flor, who received $3,500, is attending Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill and intends to pursue a career in human resources. Kim, who was awarded $2,500, is attending Chabot College in Hayward, aspires to have a career in the medical field as a respiratory therapist. Julia, who was given $1,500, is attending Mills College in Oakland and intends to become a science teacher.
Headquartered in Philadelphia, Pa., Soroptimist offers programs that improve the lives of women and girls through economic empowerment, elimination of violence, and gender equality. There are nearly 100,000 business and professional women in 120 countries who are part of the nonprofit organization. Each year, more than $1 million is distributed to help women. The next call for nominations for both the Violet Richardson and the Women’s Opportunity Awards is in October with applications usually due in December. For more information on Soroptimist, visit http://www.soroptimist-sr.org/
--KB

 

PostHeaderIcon Andrea Hits The 40-Pound Mark

This past week, I shed another 2.4 pounds, bringing me to a total of 40.2 pounds lost over nearly six months. This is a huge milestone for me for a number of reasons. 

First, I have lost only a small amount of weigh lately. 

This has been tough. Many times I thought, "If this keeps up it will take me 10 years to reach my goal."  One thing I did different this week was track my points four out of seven days. I wrote down everything I ate on those four days. And even on the days I didn’t track points, I think I was more conscious about what I put in my mouth.

Because I got a little off course last month, I was curious about how that impacted my weekly weight-loss average. So, I checked the Weight Watchers’ Web site. On average, I have dropped an average of 1.7 pounds weekly.

The program suggests that members lose between 1 and 2 pounds weekly. So, I'm in the range for healthy weight loss. Good news - that increases my chances of keeping the weight off. And, I'm halfway to my goal.  If I can lose the other 40 pounds in the next six months or so I will be ecstatic. The sooner I get there, the sooner I will achieve “lifetime status” and will not have to pay to attend meetings.
 
In case you wondering how Weight Watchers measures up to other diet programs in terms of cost, I also figured that out. I have paid 5.97 per pound lost That is a striking statistic, isn't it?  Backsliding will have an impact on my lifetime status goal but it will also have a financial impact. Knowing that per pound number will help me stay on track. 
 
And since we are talking statistics: I will also say that this is the most weight I've lost during my half dozen WW attempts and this is the longest I have stayed in the program. 

Why did I give up so easily before? I'm not sure: boredom, self-pity, or a misconception that I'd lost enough weight and looked "good enough?"  Well, this time, good enough simply isn't good enough--AV
 
See you next week.

 
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