Wednesday, December 26, 2007

New Social Etiquette: Part 2 - Emoticons

Maybe when you first saw this ;-) or this :-( little guy in one of your emails you thought, that's cute. Or maybe you asked yourself, is that appropriate to add to the end of a business email? Now quite colorful and animated, emoticons have grown more acceptable but should definitely be used with caution. For example, while the classic smiley face is ok, a kissy face is certainly not. And you may think it funny to add a wink to the end of a slightly humorous email, but be sure to leave out the emoticon sticking out its tongue since we're no longer in grade school. Also, consider the fact that the tone of email is always open to interpretation (over a voice on the phone) so forget about using angry or indifferent faces as a client or vendor may think this is how you feel towards them.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Book Your Next Vacation Using this Website.

I have a little time off in early January and was thinking about where to go for a spontaneous vacation. Los Angeles comes to mind (shopping during those great January sales) so I was looking online for Hotel Reservations. While on I clicked on the other tabs for flights, cars, vacation rentals and vacation packages and find the prices are so great, why not go to Sante Fe and stay in a spa? But then again I've never been to New Orleans and this site has a ton of hotels in the French Quarter that are such a deal that now I can't decide. Plus, if you click on the 'Vacation Rentals' tab they have a very easy-to-use map and my cursor just lead me to Bangkok, Thailand. More tempting choices and great deals - I think I'm just going to have to take a longer vacation.

this post sponsored by:

Show-off Kitchen Knives

If you’re looking to impress your foodie friends this holiday season do it a beautiful set of knives displayed on a magnetic bar. Start with just a few Global knives like: the 8” chef’s knife, 7” veggie knife and a Santoku. These look great and better yet are some of the sharpest cutting tools around. I bought my mother a single knife for mother’s day and it was the 7” vegetable knife. She loves it and as she says its’ museum quality. It makes all of her other knives look shabby. And this one is terrific for small hands because they are made to be both lightweight and ergonomic.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The First Annual Family Christmas Paintball Party

I can usually predict with a fair degree of accuracy what is going to happen at our family Christmas gathering so I've decided to mix it up a little this year. Watching uncle Joe drink too much followed by mom and grandma fighting over how to cook the holiday ham isn't my idea of a good time, so my plan is to send everyone out into the backyard for the first annual family paintball feud. We have almost an acre so there should be plenty of places to hide from the opposing teams. I'm setting everyone up with paintball masks, tactical vests, and a spyder vs2 paintball marker. The safety gear is a must when playing paintball and using a high performance paintball gun gives you better chance of hitting your target. Plus I want everyone to have fun, to diffuse all that tension and for everyone to agree that this will be a new annual family tradition.

This post is sponsored by:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Steak Gift Boxes

There's always someone on your list that's extra hard to buy for during the holidays. For me it's always my dad. It seems like he has everything he wants and doesn't seem to want anything he doesn't have. But it's the holidays and I want to get him something nice for Christmas. I know he loves steak and usually the only option he has to purchase any is through the big chain grocery store in his town. So I was excited to run across These guys ship fresh (never frozen) USDA prime beef. I read through some of the customer reviews and decided to try it out. So this year dad is getting a box of premium Black Angus cuts (filet mignon, ribeye, etc) that I selected myself. Here's more information about ordering steaks online.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

If You Want Me, I'll be in My Massage Chair

I've tried out different massage chairs in stores and at friend's houses but have never been impressed enough to get one myself, that is until I saw this one. The Human Touch HT 7450 Zero Gravity Massage Chair is the Cadillac of massage chairs. Not only can you adjust the speed and intensity of the percussion, rolling, kneading and compression techniques, but adjustments can also be made to their location for a more customized massage. The chair itself lets you adjust the headrest, backrest and footrest and it reclines so you can get into a neutral position with your legs above your heart. Plus there's a heating option for your lower back area. Did I mention this chair also does calf and foot massages?

This post is sponsored by:

Gas For 33 Cents a Gallon?

It's late, you've worked a long day at the gas station and the last thing you do before leaving is to change the price on the pump to $3.29 a gallon - whoops - but the decimal is in the wrong place. That's what happened at a gas station in Wisconsin. The employee went home without noticing the mistake and the word got out fast. People came from miles around, lining up for hours, filling up anything that held gas. A couple of hours and nearly 600 gallons of gas later, the owner of the station discovered the error. Needless to say he let the patrons know how disappointed he was by their dishonesty.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Seconds? No thanks, I'm full.

I know how hard it is to lose those extra pounds (I still have my holiday weight from a couple of years back) but I'm only talking about a few pounds. What if you wanted (or needed) to lose 60 pounds or more? You're probably thinking - where do I start? If you do fall into the category of obese, and are determined to lose the weight but could use a little help, you should consider a lap-band ventura. Basically, an adjustable gastric band is wrapped around the upper part of your stomach, creating a much smaller pouch, making you feel 'full' while eating less. The great part about this (compared to the more drastic gastric bypass surgery) is that it's reversible. And because the laparoscopic procedure used to attach the band is done so with only small incisions (and cameras) it is much less invasive than regular surgery. It can actually be performed on an outpatient basis.

This post is sponsored by JourneyLite

Saturday, December 1, 2007

All I want for Christmas is the Metrokane Rabbit Corkscrew

Holiday shopping - is it that time of year again? After viewing newsclips of people stampeding into stores on black Friday I decided to stay at home and shop online. Besides, what can't you find on Amazon, they have everything. I just came across the Metrokane Rabbit Corkscrew with Foilcutter. It looks cool, opens any bottle in 3 seconds while promising not to leave any bits of cork behind in the wine bottle. You've probably been to a friend's house for dinner to find their archaic excuse for a wine opener either broke the cork in half or pushed it into the bottle. Hint, hint, they'd probably love this gift.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Blogging for Dollars on PayPerPost

Reading through someone's blog a few months back I came across a 'sponsored post' and found the blogger was affiliated with a company called PayPerPost. Excited by the idea that there was an easier way to earn income with my own blog (besides the odd bit of change here and there from Google Adsense) I decided to sign up. The criteria to qualify was fairly straight forward, your blog needed to be older than 90 days, have at least 20 posts and not have more than 30 days in between posts.

I was a little short on posts but motivation to have my blog accepted got me writing more frequently. My blog was accepted earlier this month and I wrote my first sponsored post last week. I'm not quitting my day job (yet) but it is surprising how those little bits of extra income add up (I know this from my affiliate marketing websites) until suddenly you've earned a few hundred dollars or more in the month.

I know some people get their fur up if you mention paid blogging, but hey, magazines and newspapers run advertorials so I ask what's the difference as long as you are disclosing that the post has been sponsored (required by PayPerPost). Also, you get to choose who or what you write about, so if you're not interested in the topic or the product, skip to the next opportunity.

Once you've found an opportunity that you like and your blog meets all the requirements, you reserve it and start writing. Advertisers will usually request specific text or blog ads be linked back to their site. If you enjoy blogging this is the perfect way to earn extra income.

The Kitty is Using My Laptop as a La-Z-Boy Chair

We were just about to sit down to our Thanksgiving dinner when I looked over to see that our new kitten had converted my laptop into a lounge chair. I guess a warm computer was the perfect spot on a cold day.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Ultimate Tool Cabinet

I nearly killed myself the other day trying to get some recycling into the recycling bin. The reason why; my landlord's sons have gone car crazy over the last few years and now have tools strewn everywhere in the garage. I sent them some information on tool cabinets as a hint to get the place organized before someone gets hurt or tools get lost. It's an odd shaped garage but on this site,, I found a choice of small wheeled tool boxes, built in cabinets, or, if needed, they can custom build cabinets in any size and color.

this post is sponsored by:

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Does Anyone Know How to Cook This Dang Turkey?

Every year it seems there is someone in our group of friends, who gather for Thanksgiving dinner, that knows how to cook a turkey - but this year the job goes to me. I realize as I wake up and get ready for the day that I've never actually cooked a turkey before, plenty of chickens, but never a turkey. I think of all the tips I've been given by friends and strangers over the years, brine the turkey (no time, we're picking it up later today), cook it breast side down for the first hour, put stuffing between the skin and the breast meat, cook it slow, cook it fast, wow, this could be one awful bird. I found a few great tips on how to speed up the cooking of your turkey and this information on how long to actually cook the turkey:

Weight: 8-10lb (3.5-4.5 kg)
Start at 425F/220C/ for 30 mins
Turn oven down to 325F/170C/ and cook for 2.5 - 3 hours
Remove foil and brown at 400F/200C/ for 30 min

Weight: 12-14lb (6-7kg)

Start at 425F/220C/ for 40 min
Turn oven down to 325F/170C/ and cook for 3.5 hrs
Remove foil and brown at 400F/200C/ for 35 min

Weight: 15-20lb (7-9 kg)

Start at 425F/220C/ for 45 mins
Turn oven down to 325F/170C/ and cook for 4-5 hours
Remove foil and brown at 400F/200C/ for 40 min

Sounds easy enough, I'll keep my fingers crossed. Another tip: allow at least 20 minutes for the turkey to rest before carving.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Holiday Gift Boxes: Death by Chocolate

It seems like the holiday season kicks off earlier and earlier each year. This year those carved pumpkins forgotten on front porches haven't even begun to rot and boom, trees are being decorated around the city, holiday banners are aloft. And maybe the first thoughts of a holiday shopping list are forming in your brain...

While gift baskets can be tacky, there are plenty of other amazing food gifts to be had. I'm exploring zChocolat this year, hand made chocolates from France. This company uses the top regional French chocolatiers and high quality ingredients (pure cocoa) to make their chocolates. Plus they offer gift boxes made of mahogany which can also be engraved with your message, leaving a memorable keepsake after the chocolates are gone. zChocolat ships everything 2nd day air and they have a money back guarantee. Need more holiday food gift ideas?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

What an Oily Mess!

The most puzzling thing is the seeming inaction from the authorities in charge. I don't know anything about cleaning up an oil spill but if a ship is leaking bunker oil wouldn't it make sense to launch a huge emergency cleanup campaign at that moment, not wait hours until the oil slick has moved on, drifting up the coast, uncontained? That seems to be what has happened in the San Francisco bay area with the Cosco-Busan spill. And now we are hearing reports about the devastation to the local wildlife, especially migrating birds. For those wanting to volunteer, there is more information on the Oiled Wildlife Care Network website.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Oil Spill on the San Francisco Bay

At first everyone wondered if the Bay Bridge was ok? The major artery between SF and the east bay was hit by a huge freighter yesterday. But now we know the bridge is ok but the bay itself is not. The SF Chronicle reports that 58,000 gallons of the nastiest type of fuel oil has spilled into the bay. The smell is so bad in some places people (that work near the water) left work early. But the most depressing news is the unknown devastation this may cause to the marine animals and plants around the bay and up the coast - wherever this nasty stuff drifts.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Burn Baby Burn!

Our fire pit, the 35" Urban Elite, arrived just in time for fall. It's sitting in the backyard between the new garden benches, freshly assembled and unused. We were so excited we ran out and paid too much for a box of wood. We needed something to burn (I'm looking around the neighborhood for fallen branches), something to flame up, to dance around, to sit around mesmerized, getting philosophical while staring at the embers. Aaahhhh, the firepit. It's really created a great outdoor space for us to enjoy.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Hot Sauce Only, Hold the Taco

There’s a great Mexican restaurant out in Mill Valley called Joe's Taco Lounge. It’s next to the 2 AM club and has enough variation on the menu to warrant repeat visits. I’m not a huge burrito fan because it usually means suffering through a two hour carbohydrate coma after eating one. The tostadas, however, are a perfect fit for Sunday afternoon brunch (or post hike feast). Choices include tofu, carne asada, grilled chicken - or my favorite choice - grilled snapper.

Alright, I’ll come clean. It’s not just the food, it’s the hot sauce. This place has a massive collection of hot sauce that completely fills the ledges encircling the restaurant. Plus they make their own chipotle salsa (it has a nice bite). Really I just order the food to hold the hot sauce.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Stainless Steel - A better choice for a water bottle

I'm also saying goodbye to all the plastic water bottles in my life and hello to stainless steel. The bottles run about $10 - $25, depending on their size. Why switch?

First, do you ever ask yourself where the water comes from? Apparently the tap water in San Francisco registers at a higher quality than much of the water you purchase in plastic bottles, that sometimes can cost two to three times the price of a gallon of gas.

Second, the environmental consequences of all those plastic bottles being made, traveling somewhere to be filled, traveling somewhere to sit on a shelf and then heading for recycling or landfill, is huge.

And last, what is leaching into the water you drink from plastic bottles? Maybe it's nothing but maybe...

So far the stainless steel bottles have been great. They are a bit harder to drink out of until you get the hang of them (at first they are like a giant dribble glass). I fill them up when I'm in Lake County, which has some of the best water in the state (I always see the Calistoga and other water trucks filling up) or filter water from the tap in San Francisco. I ordered 10 of them from Amazon and they arrived in about 3 days.

Kiss the Trazadone Goodbye!

Insomnia: Part 2

A follow up to my Oct 4th post - Bye Bye Insomnia - finds me drug free. After taking a commonly prescribed sleep-aid called Trazadone for over 5 years I am finally sleeping through the night without it. However, the journey to get here was a tough road that came with a few unexpected bumps.

I was so eager to stop taking medication to sleep that it did not occur to me that going cold turkey might have consequences. For me, the major side effect was depression. In fact, it wasn’t until recently that I was able to open up to a friend about my dark state that she reminded me that Trazadone was initially prescribed to people as an antidepressant.

Also, after completing my 10 day Chinese herbal remedy, I slept soundly for several nights and then started heading back into the torturous cycle of sleeplessness. I was not in Lake County near the herbalogist and was extremely reluctant to take any Trazadone but a call to Rory lead me to try Anmien Pien (another Chinese herbal remedy that thankfully came in a convenient pill form and did not require an hour and a half of cooking). It did the trick. After a few days I was able to stop taking it and sleep without any aid.

And I have turned the corner on both my insomnia and short bout of depression so the report on the Chinese herbal remedy is still very positive.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Devastating Fires in Southern California

Thankfully the hot weather and Santa Ana winds have resided giving fire fighters in Southern California a break fighting the recent wildfires. Currently there are over 400,000 evacuees in need of help. While you're thinking of it, send a donation to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. They are an amazing first response organization and will need a lot of cash to help with this recent disaster. Many years ago I had some friends who's apartment burnt to the ground. They lost all of their personal belongings. The Red Cross was there immediately to offer them vouchers for shelter and food as well as some much needed clothing.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Downloading Movies

I realize that many people would agree that Netflix is a fantastic service but I would have to disagree because I've found Ok, upon first glance you would say that the selection is not great - and it isn't, but it's been enough to satisfy my needs. And the reason I give movielink a high rating is that often I decide to rent a movie at the last minute and this has become not an easy thing to do. If you have 'pay per view' then you are set up to watch recently released movies (soon to be on DVD) but what if you are in the mood for something Spanish? or something independent? Yah, well best of luck. A recently flopped blockbuster - well it is probably on every 'pay per view' cable selection.

Movielink offers a purchase and rental option, old and new release, foreign and independent, documentary and gay or lesbian, tv series and free releases. You can download a movie in about 45 minutes and if there is a problem an online agent will correct it (or so they have with every issue I've had to date). And they were just bought by Blockbuster Video so the selections should get even better.

I actually have an option to rent movies at a DVD rental store in Lake County (in the town of Cobb) and I hope they will stay there forever (but the business is listed for sale). It brings me back - to what - 2000, when you could actually go the DVD rental store and pick something up. I ask the owner what he likes and he recommends the best of the latest. I miss that option (not available in the city as all my neighborhood movie rental stores have long closed) but the city does still plenty of great movie theaters, even better.

Anyway, if you aren't in a city with a great choice of movie theaters and if you want to watch a movie on short notice (and netflix has not yet arrived) then I recommend giving a try.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Couch to 5K - start running again

I used to run about 3 - 5 times a week, then it was twice, once and finally... And I have every excuse in the book why this form of exercise no longer is suited to me. But my sister recently directed me to a great running plan - the C to 5K. Instead of just heading out for a 20 or 30 minute run when you haven't run in years, this is a plan to slowly build you back up to running 5k (3 miles) in about 9 weeks. I'm starting next week so I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Urban Poaching

As if we don't have enough to get depressed about when it comes to the environment, I've just read about the growing threat of urban poaching. How bad is it? Wildlife officials now estimate that the number of animals poached last year equals the number taken legally (and that probably doesn't include road kill). Why are they doing it? Besides the fact that some sickos get a thrill from urban animal stalking, there's also a thriving black market for certain animal parts (the rest of the animal is just left behind). Fortunately people are cluing in to the problem. It's not just the loss of wildlife but also the threat to innocent bystanders from stray bullets or arrows that's making people take notice. There are huge fines and jail time for anyone caught. Rewards are also being posted to help catch the poachers.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Listen to This!

If you’re looking for a good internet radio station check out: This is a search engine for radio stations (currently in Beta) that offers the listener a well organized platform for finding all genres of music (main stream and eclectic). You can also listen to great talk radio, comedy and international stations. It is easy and user friendly, which is very important. I just added it to my favorites.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Bye, Bye Insomnia

Having a 5-year bought with insomnia and having to rely on a nightly prescriptive sleep-aid (Trazadone) to sleep, I began to feel like the pharmaceutical companies had one up on me. Deciding to change my fate, I made an appointment with Rory of the local Herbal Collective in Middletown, CA to see what could be done.

Rory did some tests, including checking the moss on my tongue, which was hard to figure since I brush my tongue so diligently, there should be none left. But anyway, after a series of pulse counts, questionnaire filling, and poking here and there I was instructed that my herbs would be ready the next day for pick-up.

Five days later, as you can see from the photos, I am drinking an assortment of cooked and strained herbs. What’s in them? Don’t know. Rory is a terse British guy and other than the written herb-cooking instructions which were: ½ hour boil, simmer then strain followed by ¾ hour boil, simmer and strain, there was nothing else. So I cook up each bag of herbs (he gave me 5 bags to last 10-days), each one lasts for 2 days, drinking 2x each day between meals.

An insomnia cure? So far, so good, I've been sleeping without the use of Trazadone for over 2 weeks now. Stay tuned!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Come Fly the Unfriendly Skies

OK, so airfares haven't risen much in the US and airlines are scrambling to cut costs wherever they can: forget the meals, no more complimentary cocktails once you hit international skies, goodbye to the cleaning crew and if you want a smile...wait, isn't friendly free?

Unfriendly doesn't begin to describe the service on a US Airways flight I took from JFK to Paris. It was a night flight, and thankfully empty enough to sequester a few seats for sleeping - if you could find a few that were clean enough. My designated seat was covered with a large piece of melted chocolate. Like I said, the flight was fairly empty so I moved myself into something a little cleaner and tried to get comfortable in a space that would challenge even a hamster. Ok, this meant putting a foot up on the tray table (not cool) but does that give the flight attendant the right to smack my arm, demand that I put my feet down, and when I didn't immediately comply, he threatened to call the air marshal and send the plane back to JFK. As Spalding Gray once said, 'Once the wheels go up, we're all hostages.' Anyway, I guess you get what you pay for, but I’d say I went a little too discount with this airlines. Luckily my morning was greeted with a view a Paris and the opportunity to deplane.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Getting Back on the Horse

Oh my - don’t horses look so beautiful and calm. Not necessarily so. In fact, last month my friend offer me a ride on her horse, the one she rents at Tennessee Valley Stables in Mill Valley, CA. The peaceful-gentle looking horse decided, once I got up on him, that it was time to head back to the barn and without me on board.

I later learned, after being thrown from the horse, that most horses look forward to getting back to the barn. I also learned that the horses can detect a novice rider.

So the story goes that moments after I climbed up on the horse, he starts galloping back through narrow mountain foot trails. I heard my friend yelling: “Pull back on the reigns, pull back on the reigns!” After that, I was on the ground. Luckily nothing was hurt or broken.

The moral of the story, I’m getting back on the horse.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Highway 50: Finding Adventure on Americas Loneliest Road

In July of 1986 Life Magazine wrote a negative article about Highway 50 in Nevada, a road that stretches from Ely(on the Utah border) to Fernly (close to Reno), entitled, “The Loneliest Road” warning motorists to not even bother going there. In response, Nevada tourism decided to make lemonade out of lemons, and coined the phrase “The Loneliest Road in America”. They also created “The Hwy 50 Survival Guide”, a 16-page document taking you from Fernley to Great Basin, Nevada.

So, to test ourselves in the face of loneliness, we decided take the tour in our VW Vanagan. The 287 miles making up the loneliest part of Highway 50, is composed of a two lane road that cuts right through the center of Nevada. And it's true, you can drive for hours without seeing another car or even any sign of civilization. Here’s what we did find:

An isolated hot spring (Spencer) inhabited only by a nomadic man named Karl known for traveling the country in his housecar (like a houseboat). A strangely beautiful spot with free camping.

A lonely town called Ely

The living ghost town of Austin, NV

Empty stretches of sky and highway

A lonely group of Bristlecone Pines, at Great Basin National Park

A lonely tour of Lehman Caves at Great Basin National Park (actually,
not that lonely but instead, rather crowded but we were trying to keep the theme going).

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Visit Ancient Trees in the Bristlecone Pine Forest

If you are an avid hiker and tree hugger don’t miss an opportunity to explore the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest located at an elevation of 10,000 feet, on the eastern side of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Why visit? Bristlecone Trees are the oldest living trees on Earth, and a specimen Bristlecone named, Methusela, is recognized as being the oldest living tree in the world at over 4,600 years old.

Take a visit in September, which offers cooler weather and a peaceful traveling experience. However, late September can bring a little snow at higher elevations so be prepared. How to get there: take hwy 168 east from highway 395. The ancient bristlecone pines are located in the Inyo National Forest and the road into the Bristlecone Pine Forest is usually open from mid-May through sometime in November.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Attention Female Shopaholics

Over the Labor Day weekend we joined our friends at their barbeque, and to get to the point of the story, one of the guests did what we were all doing: writing whatever she felt on the paper table cloth. But, what struck me, was this one woman’s great enthusiasm, who after writing her choice words laughed, “viral marketing.” I asked her what her site was about and she replied an e-commerce site.

So over the weekend I proceeded to check out her written word, which was Wow, I thought, this is really something. Now, I find myself checking this website daily to see if there is something I need to buy.

To give you a nugget from their website, here it is:

What is it that you love about shopping? The thrill of discovery? Getting something special at a discount? The satisfaction of treating yourself to a small indulgence? is an every day shopping adventure dedicated to putting the joy back in shopping. We cut through the retail clutter and bring a highly edited and ever-changing showcase of products that are insanely useful, a fantastic value, or just downright fabulous.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Scorpion Control - Part Two

Since late spring I've found 4 scorpions in and around the basement of our house - two dead and two alive so I've decided to move forward with my earlier suggestions on scorpion control (7/26/07). First, all the cracks that could allow entry into the house are getting caulked. Second, I'm spreading aromatic cedar chips around the basement to repel the scorpions, especially around the air vents. And last, the posse of spiders that make their home in our basement (new clans arrive daily when previous tenants are vacuumed up) are being removed on a more frequent basis. I've also read that there are fairly benign pest control products that can be sprayed indoors to help mitigate the scorpion problem.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Fun at the Drive-In

As a kid my parents took us to a few drive-in movies: I have a vague memory sitting in the back seat of my parents then 1962 VW Bug. That was a fun memory, although I can’t remember anything about it, except that it was summer time and that my parents thought this was a fun adventure, too.

Fast forward plenty of years - where have all the drive-ins gone? I'm happy to say I've found one: Lakeport Auto Movies. I can also say now, with full memory intact, that it is really is fun watching movies outside on a hot summer's night.

We arrived at the outdoor screen 15 minutes late; the movie started at 8:15pm, making it a bit difficult to scope out the best spot (because, if you arrive late there’s a no headlight rule once you buy your ticket and enter). Fortunately we managed to carve out the perfect space between 2 other vehicles, set the radio to the prescribed fm station for sound (no speakers hanging on the window anymore) and dive into the snacks. And, just before turning my focus to the movie, I caught sight of a shooting star.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

New Social Etiquette

I was amazed to learn that there’s a whole world of social etiquette for IM, (instant messaging) text messaging and sending email. But before learn it you have to enter a world where a) you actually care to learn it, and, b) you have someone to use it with.

To give you an example: LOL, is an abbreviation for Laugh Out Loud. Now that makes sense. But here are some abbreviations which border on mind numbing. Ready? OK see if you know what these abbreviations stand for: ILYBYFIWH, DTMITY, IHACBOH and YMMFS.

Do you know?
ILYBYFIWH is: I Like You But Your Friend Is Way Hotter
DTMITY is: Don’t Text Me, I’ll Text You
IHACBOH is: I Have A Clean Bill Of Health
YMMFS is: You Make My Fingers Sweat.

Easy abbreviations to remember: BRB (Be Right Back); JK (Just Kidding) and GA (Go Away)!!

But really, for anyone keeping up on this stuff, I say: STBY (Sucks To Be You).

To learn more on the New Social Etiquette visit:

Thursday, August 30, 2007

When to Consider Tree Removal

Removing a tree from you property is often not an easy decision, but sometimes it has to be done, especially when the tree is considered hazardous in its location whereby if it comes down poses a threat to your home and/or other structures nearby. Cost for tree removal varies; large trees can cost thousands of dollars, sometimes 10 to 15 thousand.

In my case, I have a 90 foot Ponderosa Pine standing solo, no more than 8 feet from my house, over 2 bedrooms. The tree has obviously weathered many changes since it began standing, including grade changes, and what appears to be removal of some of the major stabilizing root which was done probably 15 years ago to add a concrete driveway to the neighboring home.

Factors leading me to move forward on tree removal:

90 foot pine that will certainly destroy my house and those within if it comes down

Tree is suffering from a mild case of pine borers

Tree may have more serious problems internally; however, this is only a guess

Tree has lost a portion of its’ stabilizing roots through construction

Tree has suffered from grade changes due to construction

Cost: Approximately $3,000

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Women over 40 get an annual mammogram

It makes perfect sense to get in the habit of scheduling your annual mammogram ahead of time. I was reminded by a friend, who used to be a mammographer and happened to have been my mammographer, the first time I went for one of those kinds of appointments.

Although getting your first mammogram is a right of passage, it is also a reality check that you’re getting old. I am convinced that getting one annually is the right thing to do, especially after my best friend was diagnosed with DCIS.

From that, I saw how lucky she was to have had the mammogram detect cancer at a very early stage. She would not have caught it with a regular breast check.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Summer’s no fun for some wine retailers

If you’ve ever met a cranky entrepreneur, who happens to sell bottles, and cases of wine, and tasting flights, you might see if coincides with the summer. According to a number of cranky SF Bay Area wine retailers and even those who work in wineries, summer time sucks! Why you ask, especially with all of the tourists, spending money freely while enjoying their holiday?

Well they don’t. In fact, the summer crowd of tourist - generally with the whole family in tow - is more interested in finding good tourist information and figuring out where the best ice cream shop is for their kid than spending lots of money on wine.

No. The better time for our irritated wine industry retailers is definitely going to arrive soon. For the irritated merchants out there, just be patient. Soon kids will be back in school and then the more serious buyers will once again return.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Fix My Garden!

When the phone rings with the client pleading for an emergency garden visit, you have to wonder what’s going on. In the first place, too many homeowners make the mistake of planting just about any plant that looks great at the nursery and imagine that it will stay the same size and shape, and be a nice addition in their garden.

So when the phone rang, the client asked me if I could remove all of the Fig and Magnolia trees. She reminded me that when I originally saw her planting I commented that Fig trees make wonderful street trees; now she gets the point. Her tiny backyard can’t possibly accommodate all of the large size trees and shrubs she planted. Well, back to the drawing board!

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Forget the pesky woodpecker (mentioned on the 5/2/07 post), we've discovered scorpions living in our outdoor living area. I don't think the problem is as bad as somewhere like Arizona (the area we live in goes below freezing in winter) but after reading more, it seems this is a hard critter to get rid of.There are two routes to choose from: toxic or non-toxic. The first involves a pest control company spraying chemicals around and in your house every few months, definitely not very appealing to me. Dealing with scorpions more organically involves several steps: first, you must remove everything the scorpions desire from around your house. Clear out the spiders, ants and other bugs, which for them, is food. Close up any openings they might use for a den. Pack the areas around your house with cedar chips which equals repellent. And set up some scorpion traps. Here are more details about scorpion control.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Hot Air Balloon Rides in Napa

You've seen the ads for hot air balloon rides in wine country but have you actually seen the balloons taking off in in the early morning Napa sky? A stunningly beautiful scene. The sun just rising over the vineyards, vines green with early summer foliage and young grape clusters -and on the horizon - colorful hot air balloons rising. Seeing the balloons in flight definitely encourages one to book on the next ballon ride and the post flight champagne brunch is included.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Summer travel plans? Try something closer to home

I was just reading an article in the local paper about vacationing this summer and they say "an unprecedented convergence of problems will make this the worst air travel season since 2000". Hmmmm, so I'm rethinking my travel plans. Maybe a destination closer to home isn't such a bad idea. From the Bay area, a day or two of driving can get you to a lot of great places in Northern California. How about the eastern Sierras? Bishop and Mammoth Lakes are beautiful and not as trampled as somewhere like Yosemite. And there is plenty to do - camping, fishing, swimming, soaking in one of the hot springs, hiking, biking, rock climbing and so on. Plus there are some landmarks to visit such as Mono Lake and Bodie(see photo), a must see if you are a fan of ghost towns. The portion of this town that survives has been left as is, broken down cars, rusting tin cans and all.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Vanity Fair Article on Tokyo Fish Market

Ok, this is the last comment on the fish market - I promise. Check out this month's issue of Vanity Fair (June, 2007) and you'll find a 12 page article on the Tokyo Tsukiji fish market with plenty of photos. I think they say it all.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Where to find the largest knives?

In Saiki Japan knife making has been going on for centuries. In fact, the worlds’ sharpest blades are made in this Japanese town. I don’t know about you, but I am very interested in cutting technology. I am by no means a Samurai Warrior. However, I do love to cook and I do love to garden. I love Global knives and I love ARS pruning tools.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Best Sushi: Tokyo Fish Market

Take a look at the photo of this bowl of sushi. If you are wondering if it really pays to spend more money for the best, freshest tuna sashimi, salmon, yellow tail, the answer is YES!! Fortunately, however, at the Fish Market in Tokyo, in the little side streets you can find little gems that are very inexpensive. 5 Star Michelin? At least for the sushi, perhaps not the décor: you can forget about the white table cloth and fine linen décor. This little lunch spot (go for an early lunch after visiting the Fish Market) was heaven on earth. Definitely the best sushi I’ve ever had. Price: $15.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Tokyo Fish Market Not to be Missed!!

Don’t miss the experience of visiting the best fish market in the world where you will see every kind of fresh sushi fish around. Get to the fish market early, the wheee hours of the morning are best. There you will enter into the bustle of hundreds of vendors/merchants slicing fine tuna sashimi, salmon and fish beyond your belief. We bought fresh Toro tuna and managed to buy wasabi and soy sauce for a picnic. Note: if you’re squeamish or not a fish/sushi lover this experience is not for you! You will see merchants cutting heads off live eels, sawing giant tuna. It seems like the harvest of the ocean was in that market.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

How to deter a persistant woodpecker?

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to stop a woodpecker from 'drumming' the metal chimney (and possibly the roof itself) of my house? I haven't climbed up on the roof yet to see if the bird is causing any damage so potentially it's just a loud annoyance (that I can live with, holes in the roof - no). The suggestion I've been given was to shoot it. Killing the bird would certainly take care of the immediate problem but my guess is that it would only be temporary, that is until the next woodpecker moves into the territory. I would prefer a more harmonious solution since I didn't move to nature to wipe nature out. I've read that you can put something on the roof that starts to move as soon as the bird lands to scare it away. Has anyone had any luck with this option? Anything that you can buy to shoo away woodpeckers? Besides running out in your bathrobe like a crazy nut, screaming at the bird but mostly scaring the neighbors.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Great Soap! And the smell it leaves in the house is amazing.....

A friend just gave us a bar of the 'bliss' 'herban jungle' exfoliating soap - wow. First, the smell it gives off in the house is fantastic and the smell after you wash with it...well, you have to try it for yourself. We have the eucalyptus, fresh rosemary, spearmint, lavender and orange version. Really? can you go wrong with something like that? It's amazing!

Monday, March 5, 2007

On a Lighter Note....

We got hit with a little snow which is nothing unusual for many parts of the country, but in the Bay area and Napa county, it is. There was maybe an inch or two on the ground so it meant heading out early to enjoy the snow covered landscape before it melted away (which it did by the end of the day). Anyway, here's an example of what can happen when you don't have enough material for your snow sculpture - you get a sad-looking (or hilarious), single level snowman.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Wine on the brain

Living within close proximity of one of the US’s premier wine grape growing regions, Sonoma and Napa Valley, means that tasting and discovering new wine is part of the lifestyle, and tourists aren’t the only ones tasting at the wineries. Being a member of a winery has advantages that locals can take advantage of, and some include complementary flight tasting and enjoying annual picnics and events. Three include: Steele Winery in Lakeport, CA (Lake County), Navarro Vineyards in Navarro, CA (Mendocino County) Taft Winery in Sebastopol (Sonoma County).

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Respect your Elders

One thing that each of us has to deal with (if we live long enough) is that growing old will happen. And as we get older, life seems to speed up at a rate that brings back the voice of your parent saying "I don't know how I got to be this old." But we do, and they did. I think that we should revisit our connection to growing old and our disconnect and denial about the subject. The fact is if you don't grow old; you won't get to experience important years of life. We need to celebrate our birthdays, and with the respect for our years on the planet, not letting our cultural insecurities take over. Age = Wisdom.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Far Away Family

Over the past decade it's been customary for me to fly from West to East Coast to visit my immediate, nuclear family. Some years I look forward to summer visits where I can spend time in an idyllic east coast stupor without going to places like the Hamptons, Marthas Vineyard or Fire Island. Just the regular enjoyment of visiting the old Westchester, NY town that I grew up in, and even though high school is over 20 years away, I'm still hoping to run into a high school friend at one of the local French patisseries that cropped up but wasn't around when I was a teenager. I think that it is important to make plans to visit family and friends. It keeps us all young in spirit.

More support needed for the Elderly

When you hear that an elderly man or woman has fallen and broken bones; usually a hip, it's a reminder that mobility and balance declines as we age. In San Francisco, it is not uncommon to see a fragile senior walking across the street. My heart goes out each time, especially when all alone and definitely needing some human assistance, care or interaction. The mixed message here is that many elderly people are lonely, especially if living alone, and with few family and friends to visit with. There are many fragile ones who should be using a rolling walker (a walker with wheels and 4 legs; not a cane.) I have seen too many old people hunched over, trying to cross a busy driving street (Van Ness Street) with impatient drivers ready to gun the gas as soon as a green light comes. This puts the elderly person in a very dangerous situation. The curbs with a cane can also be very dangerous, so can climbing up the stairs of a bus, without help. If you are young and able, take the time to be a loving person and offer your help.