by CJ on THE VINE
posted Sep 20 2013 11:16AM
And So We Tumble Into Fall
Many years ago in a small mountain village in Maryland, a young girl eyed the bushels of fresh-picked apples that had just been delivered to her home. No sooner had they been deposited just outside the back door, did she grab a favorite book, select several varieties of the golden and red delicious fruit and climbed up into the tall tree in her backyard, settling down to read and eat.
It was a yearly ritual that I anticipated as September came along for as long as we lived in that town. It’s hard to say which I enjoyed more, the reading, or the eating – but it’s a memory that will stay with me forever, and that I’ve tried to recreate for my own kids – a love of reading combined with an appreciation of fresh produce and the changing of seasons.
When my husband accepted a job north of Sacramento a few years ago, we made a point of getting acquainted with some of the unique places in the area. One of those places continuously referred to as one we were told we had to visit was Apple Hill Farms. Although the farms are open year-round, Fall naturally draws some of the largest crowds – what with the harvesting of pumpkins, late summer vegetables and of course the apples. I was hooked from the visit on … as I looked about with delight at all of the apples – trying to decide which ones to bring home. Needless to say, I came home with not only the fresh apples, but the fresh apple pies, the apple butter … along with some frozen treats to bake on a crisp, chilly day.
As you can see in my blog bio, I mostly grew up in states that had more extreme seasonal changes so when I settled in the Napa Valley I must confess I missed the distinct differences of Winter-Spring-Summer-Fall.
Over the years, I’ve come to love the unique marks of what has become my favorite season of the year here in the Valley. Leaves really do change color – just take a drive into the hills in north Napa Valley. Farmer’s Markets thrive into October … in St. Helena and Napa and at the organic stores like Cal Mart, Sunshine and Whole Foods. But it’s been the changing hues in the vineyards dotting the Valley with hues of red, orange and yellow that has most delighted me … and the sparkling early morning sun set against the hills while colorful hot air balloons swirl high in the valley before they lazily drift to the ground. How blessed are we to take in these sights which I do every time I drive into work on Highway 29 from St. Helena to Napa.
So enjoy that pumpkin spice latte, pick up a few pumpkins from the pumpkin patch, savor the fresh apples from the nearby markets … and let the beauty of this Valley envelop you as we tumble into Fall.
by CJ on THE VINE
posted Sep 10 2013 11:02AM
A Simple Walk Inspires Us To Pay It Forward
You’ve all seen them … those do-gooders who walk along the side of the road with a bag in hand, picking up the miscellaneous pieces of trash. Maybe you’ve even been one of them. I have on occasion done this myself, and at the end of the walk I’m even more sore than usual from all the bending it requires to remove the debris. This past weekend my husband and I headed out early Saturday morning for a little exercise and found ourselves caught up in this activity – but it wasn’t something we had planned for in advance.
To motivate ourselves to tackle a 5 mile walk, we strategically settled on the half-way mark at one of those organic markets who have a coffee bar and bakery – figuring that was a great place for a break before heading back home. (Don’t judge!) We arrived, ordered our coffee drinks and pastry and settled in at one of the little tables to relax a bit and observe the early morning weekend shoppers. Many of them included young families who seemed to have the same idea as we did – and since toddlers are always early risers, even on the weekend, this gave the parents the chance to entertain the young ones, get some exercise and get their energy up for the new day.
As we sat watching, a young boy, perhaps 10 years of age, came up to the counter and ordered a smoothie. We watched as the smoothie was given to him and he struggled to put the top cover on the plastic cup. Suddenly the whole thing slipped from his grasp and splattered all over the floor. He looked down in dismay, but before we could even react, a gentleman immediately came over, his dad we figured, and started helping him clean up the mess. An older man assisted – maybe his grandfather – and together, it was taken care of with no big fuss. My husband and I were both thinking how differently it could have gone, with impatient words exchanged towards the child, causing him shame and embarrassment … and then we saw something that absolutely amazed us!
As the spill was becoming completely cleaned up, a woman came over to the boy – his mom as it turned out. The men who had been helping stepped away and went to … their own families. That’s right, these were men who saw a young boy in trouble and immediately jumped in to help and once the task was finished quietly faded out of the picture. It was so powerful that tears sprang to my eyes, as I realized I had just witnessed the village helping to raise a child right in front of me!
My husband and I finished our coffee and headed back out for the rest of our walk. As we sauntered along the sidewalk, I spied a plastic bag and spontaneously picked it up and without any discussion we both begin picking up discarded wrappers, bottles, tissues and other litter that had been carelessly left to attach itself to bushes and dirt.
Saturday turned out to be a pretty great day – we got some exercise, witnessed love in action and was inspired to pay it forward by tending to the environment.
by CJ on THE VINE
posted Sep 4 2013 9:14AM
Smog testing a necessary stress?
I sat in the waiting room yesterday, palms sweating, heart racing, and the anxiety rising watching with increasing dismay as clients ahead of me received bad news. I wasn’t in a lawyer’s office, at the doctor’s or with the CPA … I was at … the smog shop waiting to see if my car would pass the test.
I have mixed feelings about the smog requirements for cars in California. I’m all about elevating the air quality in our state. I’ve been to enough other areas of the country to appreciate that we care about the environment and pass laws to ensure California stays clean and green. But if you’re a car owner, it’s become quite costly to pay for all the expenses to keep your car in line with the regulations.
For instance, the engine light came on nearly two years ago on my 2007 Hyundai Accent, just after it passed smog and the light stayed on until this month, when I had to address what was behind the light. I am fortunate to have a husband who has managed to navigate several vehicles through the smog process, and owned a code reader that identifies the problems related to the engine light. I’m further blessed that he can interpret those codes enough to apply the fix and hope that fixes the problem. Usually it means replacing some small part having to do with exhaust or some such thing, thus turning off that pesky engine light, and clearing the codes. But it doesn’t always work out that easily. With our Ford Taurus some years ago, we kept replacing parts but the light remained on, and the codes continued flashing, and our frustration level grew. I think we finally ended up doing a head gasket job before the car finally passed smog.
In the case of the Hyundai, the part seemed to fix the engine light issue, and the codes went away. I drove to the smog shop with some confidence, trying to be reassured that logically everything should work out just fine.
But as I sat in the waiting area, I listened as one car after another wasn’t passing. The timing of the Chevy Blazer was accurate, but now the fuel air was too rich … so fail. Another gentleman was told that he shouldn’t have his “friends” fix the car for a smog check, but take it to a reputable mechanic who knew what they were doing. And a third was just told flat out, your car didn’t pass … you need to figure this out and come back. By the time my car came around, I was already mentally prepared to pay late fees on the car registration and humbly ask my husband for some more help.
The guy came in from the garage and I held my breath, sure he was going to kindly be the bearer of bad news … when he said, “You’re all set … your car passed!” It was all I could do not to shout out a big “Yes!” He smiled and I paid … at this point not caring about the expense of smog and car registration, but just relieved that I wouldn’t have to deal with this for another two years.
By the way, of the six of us who were in the waiting room, only three cars passed. I’m sure it was just a coincidence that all the women’s cars sailed through, and the guys were sent away with work to do. And if you’re looking for a smog shop in Napa … just drive down Soscol … there’s at least five of them within a two mile stretch.