Saturday, April 26, 2008

to keep or to give away?

it happens to most of us. a friend or family member will give us a gift is just not to our taste...sometimes it can be pretty awful. but we know the person picked it out because they thought we would love it..or because it was something they really liked. what to do? keep it and put it out for display or wear it if it is clothing? keep, but store in a closet or attic? give away?

i have such a hard time with this topic. my personal style is pretty clutter free...and i just am not comfortable with a lot of "stuff" around. yet i have major guilt issues with giving away items given as just feels wrong... i believe you can be really grateful for the thought and effort that went into buying or making the gift..even if you do not care for the actual piece. even worse are those items that have been in the family for a long time..not valuable heirlooms...but handmade items...made with love. a perfect example is a doll collection my mom saved for me. these were dolls that i played with as a child. a few were handmade by my grandmothers..some were hand-me-downs from relatives..the rest were purchased by my parents or other family members. my mother lovingly kept all of them for me.. in case i ever had a daughter to pass them to. well, i never had children of my own..and i only have what to do? putting them on display is so not my style..and i can not fathom giving them away..especially the handmade ones. so there they sit..packed away in the attic. seems wrong. i am starting a company where all the items are made from repurposed, reimagined, recycled and/or reused materials and this process has really inspired me to lose the clutter..and donate or reuse to avoid adding to the landfill. i am getting better with giving away the non-sentimental items..i keep telling myself that donating will do some good, and other people will enjoy...but am struggling with the rest of the "stuff". my sister, kathi, has a good solution for her home. when her house was being built, she designed a special cupboard..she calls it the "memory closet"...where she stores items with meaning for items..the crafts her boys made when they were small...anything that she wants to keep..but does not want on display in her home. when she is feeling sentimental she opens the closet and enjoys the contents. when she is through she shuts the all goes away!! unfortunately, the closet is completely full so any other "memories" will be a problem :).

while i feel that giving away/donating to charity the non-sentimental items is good for the planet..i cannot bring myself to tell the gift giver what i am doing. how do you tell someone you just do not like their gift? and i still do not have a good solution for the family "memories". but just writing about the topic is helping.

so today's questions..what do you do when given a gift that you just do not like? what do you do with family hand-me-downs or other sentimental items that do not fit your style? please add your tips, suggestions and/or comments to this post. ( the way..the photo in this post was a free download from the net..could not use an actual photo of something someone actually gave me..that would just be mean...)

napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style™"

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

do you "make up" recipes?

by "make up" something terrific at a restaurant and try to recreate it at home..without a recipe??? i do this all the time cause i really do not like following recipes unless i am baking. i love trying to figure out all the ingredients used in the original recipe and duplicate..or..even better..improve. sometimes this results in a big success..sometimes..omg!!..disaster..

happily, today's effort resulted in the former option. it was one of those days that seems to been happening more and more frequently..a friend or two will ring me up and ask what i am doing..somehow this leads to the aforementioned friends being invited for did that happen? i did not have time to shop..and had on hand fresh eggs from the farmer's market, organic asparagus, and really good french bread from an amazing bakery here in napa. i remembered a dish i had last month at a restaurant in a small town near here called was amazing..and decided to try and recreate. well..every bite was eaten..requests for me to make more occurred and everyone asked for the recipe. here is the dish...not really a recipe..

poached eggs with asparagus and truffle oil (serves 4)

2 bunches of organic asparagus
8 eggs (organic and fresh from the farm if possible)
best quality truffle oil
parmesan-reggiano much as you like
organic grey sea salt
fresh cracked pepper
best quality french or sourdough bread-sliced into thick pieces
best quality extra virgin olive oil (i love big...make you cough.. e.v.o.o.s but pick your favorite)

steam asparagus until crisp-tender.
poach eggs..i use the vinegar in the barely simmering water trick..and put each egg one at a time in a small shallow bowl before sliding in the water..cook until the whites are set but the yolk is still soft (about 2-2 1/2 minutes)
meanwhile, toast or grill the bread..when browned to your preference..remove from oven or grill and drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil.
divide asparagus among 4 plates and season with salt and pepper. drizzle with truffle oil and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese. top each plate with 2 poached eggs and season eggs to taste with salt and pepper. drizzle dish again..including the eggs with additional truffle a bit sparing with the truffle oil..a quality version will be quite strong...
serve with the grilled bread.

*recipe can serve 8 for a lunch or light dinner

this dish is really easy..even for beginning cooks..however, i have been spending a lot of time lately with friends and acquaintances that just do not cook..and are hesitant to try even easy we have been having informal..very classes in my kitchen while i prepare dinner. when they see how easy it can be..nothing complicated or requiring loads of technique..but roasting, sauteing, steaming, grilling, etc..they gain confidence and want to try for themselves. i actually get help in the kitchen now which is new. even better, i know that my friends feel comfortable stocking their pantries with quality ingredients, shopping at farmer's markets for organic produce, meats, fish and good bread..and cooking for themselves and their families..really cool.

do you have favorite recipes that you "created" after tasting them somewhere else? share them in the comments section of this post, or email me..let's build a recipe collection for napa farmhouse 1885!!

also, if you have questions about specific techniques used in the recipe above..or are a beginner cook..feel free to email me for answers. if i don't know, i will research and get back to you..


napa farmhouse 1885
"live a green life of style"

Thursday, April 17, 2008

what is "coopetition"?

no..this is not a misprint...the word is "coopetition"..what is it and where did it come from?..first..let's go back a bit... i wrote in earlier posts about my disillusionment with the corporate life. i loved leading/managing my team..and the actual work. but i grew so tired of all the politics, and one-up-man-ship..for those of you that have been know those endless meetings planning future meetings?..the ones where you just know the individuals that will need to make a point..even if the point has already been made..because they just have to talk..hoping to make an impression on the senior most executive in the room. nothing is more frustrating than the time wasted in these meetings. ick..i just could not take it anymore. i also never could get used to the dishonest people..the ones that would steal ideas and not give the proper credit..the ones so insecure that they looked at everyone else as competition..and tried to eliminate that competition. people that could not help or support others because they were jealous and thought if others were successful it would somehow make them less so....i have seen this in major corporations..and in small local businesses. where does that come from?

this is why i continue to be so impressed mary jane butters. i have talked about her before..she started a company called maryjanes farm which is a combination of organic food, gardening, farm living and giving back. please see my earlier post can you live in town and be a farmgirl? to get a bit more background on this amazing woman. today, i want to talk about her philosophy on supporting others in business. although she is working very hard to ensure her business is a success, she believes wholeheartedly in sharing and supporting other people in their businesses. there was a post to her online forum that articulates her philosophy really well.

this was written by brenda from spokane..aka past blessings:

"MaryJane has a wonderful philosophy on business. She encouraged me when I was dealing with someone not handling competition in a very kind way. She
said she fully believes in what she termed "coopetition" which is combining the words cooperation with competition . . . meaning we help each other even when we may be involved in similar things. For example she is very into organic farming, but rather than acting like she should be the "only organic farmer" she encourages others to come walk beside her in their endeavors.She has been a huge encourager to me with my endeavors in antiques and other creative venues. I think embracing one another in our talents and abilities is something she encourages and she truly likes seeing other women succeed.I think this thought process is what has helped us to be so endeared to her.If only the rest of the world operated like this . . . seems to me wars and famines could all be a thing of the past. I am honored to know someone of such high standards and example." often do you see this in business? mary jane butters exemplifies the best of a businessperson..and a human all that she does. i really encourage you to check out her website her her products and her will be glad that you did!

one more thing to illustrate the character of mary jane..i emailed her to ask if i could quote her philosophy in my, she does not know me from adam..but she personally assistant here...and this is what she said:
"But of course you may use it and THANK YOU so much for asking first. Your blog is adorable. I love this blog trend. It gives so many unsung female heroes an outlet for their creativity. Write on! MaryJane"

need i say more?..i can not think of anyone in business i respect more than mary jane...

which business leaders do you admire..and why? please share your stories in the comments section..

napa farmhouse 1885
"live a green life of style"

Monday, April 14, 2008

burrito passion/burrito controversy?? just never know when your comments/questions/opinions will start a firestorm!
so... last week i posted a poll on this blog asking people to vote for their favorite burrito filling. why? who knows? i saw this poll on a website and thought it was a funny question. i did this without a lot of thought and..even though i am from southern california and grew up eating loads of really good, amazing mexican food...did not put too much thought into listing the filling choices. well guys are really passionate about your food!! i started getting email after email from people telling me that i forgot their favorite filling and how disappointed they were that they could not vote! one person asked why i missed carne asada..another about the missing chile verde. tons of you commented that forgetting breakfast burritos was a crime. some just got picky.."you said bean and cheese, but i only like black beans, not pinto and you did not give me a choice" or "you forgot bean and rice, i do not eat cheese" i discussed this poll on a maryjanes farm the same type of comments... whoa...people, please forgive me...i will make amends.

now, since a few of you did vote, i cannot add additional choices. and..since this was a poll not a blog could not leave your comments for others to read..hence the many, many emails....ok..stop the email barrage. i am writing this post to give everyone a chance to comment on the blog about your favorite fillings. i would love to have you share your favorite recipes too...leave them in the comments section and i will pick some to feature on the blog..and give you the proper "burrito expert" recognition. and one more thing...let's keep the poll going..just vote for your favorite of the choices listed....

Sunday, April 6, 2008

can you sing?

can you sing well? i cannot..i have the world's worst is bad..really bad. when i was a kid i would sing all the day, when i was about uncle looked at me and said..."you have the world's worst voice. no one in this family can sing, but your voice is the worst!" now on paper this sounds kinda mean..actually this uncle is one of the nicest and kindest people i know. this was said with love and humor..and has remained a family joke for years. the comment..and subsequent joking has taken its toll...i can not sing in public. now by in public..i do not mean in front of an audience...i mean i literally cannot sing in front of anyone but my husband..poor man..or my nephews when they were babies. in situations where people must carols or happy birthday for example...i do this weird whisper lip sync thing where it looks like i am singing...but no sound actually comes out. this is not by design...i try to sing..just cannot do it... when i am home alone, or in my car...i sing at the top of my lungs..even i know it sounds horrible but i am alone so who cares? one day when my nephews were toddlers i flew down to southern california to spend a weekend with them. my sister picked me up at the airport in her van and the boys were in car seats in the backseat. i opened the door to put my bag in back..their eyes lit up..they started smiling and laughing like mad and gestured for "auntie" to sit in the back with them smushed between the two car seats. the three of us started singing songs like wheels on the bus and itsy bitsy spider at the top of our lungs. all of a sudden my sister joined in and immediately the boys yelled "no sing..only auntie!!" one of the happiest moments of my life..i actually had fans of my voice!!..ok they were two yrs old..but my sister thought it was hilarious but remember..the entire family has horrible voices and.. i fear..the boys inherited the singing genes from our side..not their dad's..too bad for them.

anyway, last sunday i was in church and the adult choir started singing the entrance song, alleluia! give the glory which is sort of a bluesy, rock song. the entire congregation was really into it. i, of course, was doing my whisper/lip sync thing..but having fun. a woman standing next to me tapped me on the arm and said "why are you doing that?" now, i did not feel like getting into this with a total stranger (although since i am posting to total strangers on this blog i am not sure why) and just said that i did not have a good voice. she looked at me and said "so?" and i did not have any type of answer for her..i don't want to hurt the ears of people around me?, i don't want people to flee church on account of my voice? how do you answer that question? i looked at her..she was probably in her late 60's, impeccably dressed. you know the type..short grey hair..actually a perfect short blazer, black pants, black handbag with a gold chain, black flat pumps with gold buckles, pearl earrings, perfect makeup..that type...she smiled and started belting out the song..i mean she was loud! and guess what? her voice was bad..really bad...maybe not as bad as mine but really close. she was so bad and so loud that people discreetly started turning around to look at her. she had a massive smile on her face and was having so much fun..and was so joyful..that people started smiling back. they were not laughing at her..she was actually bringing them joy.
now i wish that i could say this transformed me..that i too started singing out loud..but that would be a big fat lie..although it would have made a better story. what i can say is that i kept singing my whisper song..but a bit louder than normal..and i stopped thinking about what everyone else was thinking...who knows...maybe one day i will skip the whisper and just sing..softly..but sing. i do think though that karaoke is out for least my nephews still want me to sing with them..although they are now who knows how long that will last??

is there a talent you wish you had? i would love to hear your stories...or at least some thoughts of wisdom regarding my lack of singing talent.. please share on the comments section of this post..other readers will enjoy your stories too...

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

have you heard of the clark brothers?

i am not a fan of reality t.v. shows..are you? my exceptions are shows focusing on music..i love rock, blues, jazz, classical and wrapping it all together in a style i call "austin rock". have you ever been to austin, tx? while it is the capital of texas, i think it is better known as the live music capital of the world. my favorite radio station in the world is based in austin... ksgr 107.1 radio austin. luckily for me they stream over the internet so, although this is an austin station, i can listen all the time here in napa, ca...sometimes the internet rocks! you can check out the station...the link is listed under the favorite links section of the blog.. let me know what you think.

anyway..back to the reality shows point. i watched a t.v. show last fall called the next great american band...found it by accident but happened to catch it during the performance of a band called the clark brothers...i was hooked..these guys are amazing...terrific musicians..original arrangements..great voices..and they seem like really nice guys..and they are brothers. i was so blown away that i started watching this show weekly..just to see their performances. it was one of those vote a group off each week shows, so i did not know how long i would be watching as the other groups were not anywhere near as good and i would stop watching when the clark brothers were gone. happily they won! i know that i am gushing, (and i am not normally a gusher) but i am waiting for their first album to be released which is one of the prizes for winning the show... i read today that they are performing tonight (wed) on american idol. a tip from me is to watch the show..i know, but just tonight...and catch this performance. i am hoping that their raw, natural personality comes through..and that they have not gone "hollywood". i have included a couple of youtube performances from the show. the first is their rendition of the song saved, the second is a killer version of the stones "gimme shelter" and the last is their take on rod stewart's "your in my heart" which will make you weep, it is so beautiful. take a listen..and please comment regarding your thoughts.

one last thought..i have been overwhelmed with your emails commenting on the friendship, so many of you have had just horrible experiences with people you thought were your friends. i have read your mail..thank you so much for sharing..and i promise that i will respond to each one individually.
as always,
best from napa farmhouse 1885