Thursday, March 27, 2008

a thought on friendships?

“I do not wish to treat friendships daintily, but with the roughest courage. When they are real, they are not glass threads or frost-work, but the solidest thing we know.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), poet, philosopher, writer

have you ever been completely wrong about someone you thought was a good and true friend? please share your stories and your thoughts...we can get through this together...

napa farmhouse1885

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

have you read good dog. stay?

the book written by anna quindlen? i heard about this book last year ago..wanted to read it..but kept putting if off. i knew the subject matter was the author's experience with losing her dog and i just was not ready for the emotional reaction i knew i would have. i have told you before..many much i love mosey. my question for today much do you love your dog? (or pet if you have another kind of animal)
i always assumed that i would love my dog..but i never knew just how much...i must admit..i have become one of those dog people!!?? i talk about mose as if he is my son...i worry about him..obsess about real and imagined illnesses. i was talking to a friend the other day..she also is a dog lover...and we both admitted that we even hesitate to go on vacations when our dogs cannot go with us...we miss them too much. have i really gone over the edge? (mose is now a 115 lb golden and at least i never dress him up!!)
anyway, i saw the book Good Dog. Stay. in the library last week and checked it out...last night was the perfect night for me to read the book...i have had a bit of a rough patch the past few months..a beloved relative passed away, my family is still grieving, and..someone that i thought was a good and true friend was just using me and this has hurt me deeply. i figured it was time to let out some emotions, read the book..and have a good cry. the section when the dog needs to be put down will get to you...tough to read..and i did have my emotional good cry... but the author ends the book with observations of what she learned from her dog and i found this passage very inspirational..
"and that's what i learned from watching beau over his lifetime: to roll with the punches (if not in carrion), to take things as they come, to measure myself not in terms of the past or the future but of the present, to raise my nose in the air from time to time and, at least metaphorically, holler, "i smell bacon". i'm not what i once was, and neither, by the end, was he........sometimes an old dog teaches you new tricks"

as the commercial says.."dogs rule" please add your comments regarding your thoughts and stories of the love you have for your too...


napa farmhouse 1885

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

do you like living in a small town?

now if you live in a city..or in the suburbs of a city, the question is do you dream of living in a small town? there is such a romantic notion of what small town living is all about. i grew up in the suburbs of los angeles and then lived in downtown san francisco for 15 years. growing up in the suburbs of los angeles in the 60's and 70's was a pretty mixed bag of experiences. on one hand, my parents were good friends with many of our neighbors and most weekends were spent having dinner at each other's homes, barbecues in the summer and spending vacations together at the beach or local mountains.... pretty normal sounding, right?...on the other hand, being so near to los angeles meant the academy awards telecast was (still is) as big an event as the super bowl..and everyone there wants to be in show business..if not a star...for some people everything revolves around this dream and show business is the business...i remember one time when i was just beginning my career i was touring retail stores with corporate executives from new york. we were stuck in traffic on the 405 freeway because the police had shut down a 5 mile stretch . there were news crews and media helicopters everywhere... later we found out that this was breaking news on all tv/radio channels which interrupted regularly scheduled programming for most of the day. why you ask?....well, larry hagman (remember him..j.r. ewing from the dallas t.v. show??) was in the hospital and they were airlifting a liver for him for a transplant...major news in southern california.... the n.y executives were flabbergasted that this was considered a major, day long news the time i did not even think it was unusual...scary...

now i live in napa, a town with a population of 71,000. not tiny..but pretty small..and, because of the emphasis on agriculture...lots of open space and vineyards....has a rural feeling (at least to me) and this is what i dreamed of when longing to live in a small town. i know the people who live on my street...and this never happened in san francisco...and i consider my neighbors across the street good friends. unlike the suburbs....where all get-togethers happen in backyards..and you do not talk to people you do not my neighborhood we all have front porches... front porches are one of my favorite things...we sit on the porch and neighbors, visitors and tourists (due to the many b&b's in the neighborhood) walk by all day..they stop and say hello, play with mose and just "visit"... a true sense of belonging..the daily newspaper emphasises local events, local businesses and local politics (more on that in another post). i can easily walk to main street to eat, shop, have a coffee, have my hair cut etc..and most people here are just other word for it..there is loads of passion and discourse between the long time napa residents who tend to resist rapid change here and the more recent arrivals that are more accepting of "progress" and growth. community meetings are quite lively..but you get the sense that everyone really cares. my hope is that the open dialogue and opportunities to vocalize opinions will lead to effective solutions.

i went to the market the other day..ran into two friends...stopped and chatted..a totally new experience running into people i know in the grocery store..never happened in san francisco..never ran into anyone i knew there...could always feel pretty anonymous...not here. as i was leaving the store i ran into another friend..the president of the board of directors for habitat for humanity. we discussed a few board issues and covered off a couple outstanding items. he also moved to napa within the past few years..and he emailed me later saying how cool it was to live in a place small enough to run into friends, colleagues and neighbors while out doing errands, walking the dog or going out to eat. i realized that i too really enjoy living in a place where a sense of belonging is a way of life...i really love it here. (although i still cannot miss an academy award telecast)

please share your stories of small town living (or suburbs living, or city living) in the comments section of this post. as always, i love your stories..

napa farmhouse1885

Thursday, March 13, 2008

can you live in town and be a farmgirl?

i love reading magazines...all types really, but especially the ones geared towards food, cooking, home design and gardening. i have received gourmet and bon appetit for 25 years, am a charter martha stewart living subscriber, think food and wine is brilliant...and the laundry list continues with cottage living and organic gardening. i read these magazines and then either recycle or donate and decided last year that going forward i would only sign up for the on-line versions of any new magazines as a way to be a bit more green..will think about this option as my current subscriptions come due.

i am making one exception to this idea. two years ago i was in a bookstore and discovered a magazine totally different from anything i had ever seen. the magazine was printed on beautiful paper stock that just felt amazing..i know, kinda weird to say but if you felt it you would know what i mean....terrific photography of all..NO advertisements! the magazine is called mary janes farm and the issue i bought is their special recipe issue. i had never heard of this magazine before but after thumbing through a couple of pages i was addicted. i learned that there is actually a mary jane..her name is mary jane butters, she lives on a farm in moscow idaho, she believes passionately in promoting an organic lifestyle, she has written books, sells organic products via a website and she has legions of fans..called farmgirls..that have formed farmgirl chapters all over the world.

deborah needleman, house & garden editor at large, says:"maryjanesfarm is charming and well done — hugely appealing. it is homey, and smart and interesting ... part martha stewart living, part oprah magazine, part organic style, part nation, part ladies home journal ... full of tips, ideas, and information."

the magazine i bought was filled with recipes using fresh, organic ingredients, loads of stories about living on a farm..or just dreaming about it...and listings of the food and other products she sells on her website. i was hooked from the start...ordered a bunch of products, read her website and even ordered her book. i am a big fan of this woman and her brand. now, my farmhouse is in the middle of town and i do not have a lot of property..yet i still feel connected to the simple, beautiful, organic farmlife she writes about. her definition of farmgirl? "farmgirl is a condition of the heart", mary jane butters .
i encourage you to check out her website at i intend to share many of her ideas, recipes and her organic philosophy on this blog. for other farmgirls reading my blog..please share your thoughts about what farmgirls are all about in the comments section of this post. for now, i want to share one recipe: mary janes farm organic bakeover

mary janes farm sells a product called budget mix..kinda like an organic, really good for you, really good tasting bisquick. ingredients: organic unbleached wheat flour, Barron Flour Mill Baking Powder (aluminum/gluten-free, made w/non-GMO organic rice starch), sea salt and baking soda. vegan

9" bakeover recipe
preheat oven to 425 degrees. cut 3T. butter (i actually use extra virgin olive oil..your choice) into scant 1 1/2 cups budget mix. Add 1/2 cup water or milk. form a ball and roll out a 9" crust (for an 11" bakeover, double the recipe) place on top of 4 cups sliced fresh vegetables (preferably organic) sauteed briefly (3 min) in 1 T. butter or extra virgin olive oil in 9" non-stick oven-proof skillet. bake 20 minutes. turn contents of skillet upside down on plate and serve.

i have made this recipe hundreds of times with whatever vegetable i have on hand..sometimes add cheese..sometimes beans.. and it is always a hit. even easier..mary janes farm also sells different kinds of bread mixes that can be used in place of the budget mix

Organic Black Bean Corn Bread

Organic Buttermilk Biscuits

Organic Chili Batter Bread

Organic Corn Bread

Organic Focaccia Bread

Organic Garlic Pesto Fry Bread

Organic Shepherd's Pan Bread

all for now..but much more on mary janes farm in future posts.


Sunday, March 2, 2008

what is habitat for humanity?

remember when i told you that one of my goals in retirement was to spend more time "giving back"? i spent 3 years serving on the board of directors for a non-profit based in san francisco..but with the work a million hours/travel constantly thing, i really did not get to spend much time actually volunteering..i just attended board meetings. once i left the corporate life i vowed to combine the two..serving on boards for non-profits and actually volunteering. my former company encouraged..actually expected..their executives to join non-profit boards. they felt it was the right thing to do and set a good example for the other associates. the chairman of the board for my company gave me some terrific advice. he said if i wanted to do something that felt good..volunteer. if i wanted to do something that would really help a non-profit succeed in the long term..join their board..and then give it your all..just as if it was your corporate day job..they needed a team of people with the ability to provide governance and fiscal oversight..just like a for-profit company.

well i wanted to do both..volunteer and witness what giving back was all about..and join a board to offer some of my 25+ yrs of management and leadership experience. i hit the jackpot with habitat for humanity. everyone has heard of this organization...mostly people think of jimmy carter...but i find that many people are unclear as to what we provide. habitat's mission is to eliminate substandard, poverty housing worldwide. their motto is to provide a hand up not a handout. the basic premise is this...habitat works in partnership with a prospective homeowner. we build the home..through mostly volunteer labor, donated materials and monies raised through constant fundraising activities..and sell it for below market rates with an interest free loan. we hold orientation meetings for interested prospective homeowners and explain the program. we create a pool of eligible the most eligible and begin the build. so the first question you probably have is..what constitutes eligibility? well, the family must prove 3 things..need, ability to pay and willingness to partner. need= income below upper income limit..usually 50-80% of median income for the city/town and currently living in substandard housing, ability to pay=must be able to pay the monthly mortgage..remember, the home is sold below market rate with a no interest loan and be able to make a $500 down payment, willingness to partner= each family must put in 500 sweat equity hours actually helping to build their home, help with habitat activities and attend homeowner classes.

let me tell you something..when these families become homeowners..magic happens! the excitement, pride, hard work and dedication that goes into the homes cannot be easily described. people change..lives change...homeownership..a dream for actually achieved. without exception..the families talk about giving back..they volunteer for future habitat home builds..they maintain their homes in such a way that they are usually the pride of the neighborhood.

for me, giving back is best when long term change happens. i thoroughly acknowledge the importance of helping with immediate needs..i.e. feeding the homeless and the poor..and give to these charities whenever possible. but this seems to be a bit of a band-aid cause change does not happen. i like to work to find solutions to eliminate the need for a charity and to me habitat is not a is a solution. remember the hand-up not hand-out motto? how can we create models for charity organizations similar to habitat's? if you have ideas..or volunteer/serve on boards and want to share their missions, please post a response or send me an email..i answer every one.

now, i started this post talking about volunteering vs. serving on a board of directors. i do both with habitat. there are millions of stories..really fun and heartwarming regarding volunteering..cause this is where a bunch of volunteers actually build a house...and stories a bit like the dilbert comic strip regarding board work...these are people that you mostly love..sometimes want to kill..and unlike for-profit companies..can't fire!!! many, many, many of my posts will be about these stories.

i also look forward to sharing stories of habitat families with you. these people are truly amazing. for additional information about habitat for humanity please check out our website. this is the site for the solano-napa affiliate.

napa farmhouse 1885™