Thursday, February 21, 2008

Tigger does Boyne, Boyne

We took Tigger to the slopes and it turns out she's a natural! Hannah and her best buddy, Madeline (we nicknamed her Tigger because she is in constant, bouncy motion), did so well and had a ton of fun. Hannah has skied before but only about 4 times. This was Madeline's first time out and she couldn't get enough. Here's a video of Madeline (in the blue) and Hannah (in white pants and light purple coat) finishing up a run.
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We left for this short trip on Tuesday, February 19, 2008 and came home Thursday, February 21. Lucky for Hannah that Madeline had the same winter break off of school. They don't attend school in the same city so it's never a given that they will have the same time off.

It's becoming tradition to stop at the Sugar Bowl on the way up, a quaint, down-home type restaurant in Gaylord. They're known for their raspberry pie and, among us, a waitress that wears her hair like Marge Simpson. Unfortunately, Marge must have had the day off when we were there.

On the corner of a main intersection in Gaylord was an ice sculpture that Richard and the girls explored.

We stayed in the Grand Lodge at Boyne Mountain which also has an indoor water park attached to it. The girls took advantage of all that fun the first day since we didn't have lift tickets until Wednesday. Richard went off to ski and I took the girls swimming.

On Tuesday evening we met up with a friend of mine, Diane Winchell, who lives up near Boyne Mountain. Diane and I went to high school together. (Or should I say we partied through high school together?) Diane is a 'professional-level' skier; she skis 3 days a week and also races. We did get to see her race on Wednesday night and I was quite impressed. Richard went skiing with her earlier that day and he said, "Finally, she just left me. I was too slow for her."
On Wednesday we started off on the tiny, tiny bunny hill with a cool moving ramp (no more tow rope!) to give Madeline a feel for the skis. Here we see Richard, Madeline, and Hannah suited up to go.
Richard was a good teacher and Madeline learned quickly. After 3 times on that hill we all headed for the other low-key hill. It's a nice, gradual hill that is long enough to require a chair lift.

After Madeline proved her proficiency, Richard took off for the more challenging slopes. And at that time the girls were ready for warming over hot chocolate.

Here are the snow bunnies!

Richard met up with us a few times on the hill en route to his chair lift. Off to the right as you're headed down the long hill that the girls and I were skiing on was a series of small up-and-down hills, a little more challenging than just skiing straight down. Here are the fearless three, having fun on the bumps!

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I tried those bumps only to find that I couldn't slow down. I was going much too fast for my taste so I purposely crashed into the side wall which, as it turns out, was all ice. I survived with a bruise on the side of my knee. It was the only time I fell the whole day. The three of them made it look so easy!

Then it was time to chill-ax.
Here are a few silly shots of the girls in the hotel room acting like ninjas or something. Check out the picture of them showing off their muscles!
Before the girls headed back out for an evening ski, we went swimming in the other pool in the hotel. This one is part indoors - part outdoors with 2 Jacuzzis outside, also.
Hannah and Madeline decided they would get crazy and experience both ends of the temperature spectrum, cold and hot.

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We had a great time and hope to make it back next year with Madeline and her whole family! Here are a couple parting shots, one in which Madeline is holding a special toy she won at the arcade.


Monday, February 11, 2008

Healdsburg, California: Olive harvest 2006


This is a long overdue posting. Actually, this trip was taken well before the start of my blog so I do have an excuse. I hope when you read this blog you are left with a feeling of tranquility through viewing the pictures. Because that is what I feel whenever I visit our friends' estate in Healdsburg, California.

First, a little history. While Richard was an analyst at Gartner (which is where he was working when I met him) he met a guy by the name of Ridgely Evers. Ridgely was, at the time, CEO of a company that Richard covered as an analyst. (And also, you might have heard of QuickBooks. Ridgely was the 'father' of that brainstorm. Now he's taking it to the 'cloud.' He has a new product, NetBooks which is bookkeeping as a service.) Richard and Ridgely became friends along with developing a solid business relationship.

On the personal side, Ridgely owns an estate in Healdsburg, California, which is about an hour or more north of San Francisco off Hwy 101. It is a very scenic area, rich in organic beauty. He is married to a lovely chef, Colleen McGlynn. Together they host an annual olive harvest; they grow olive trees on their farm. They bottle their own olive oil; you can find their products here. I know Colleen was into making her own soap; I'm not sure if she's still doing that.

For the harvest, they invite friends and family to come pick olives in the morning and by early afternoon Colleen and her sou chefs have prepared a delicious meal with olives highlighted in many dishes.

We've attended the olive harvest 3 times, 2006 being the last. It's always held in November and the weather can be unpredictable. In 2006 we had sun but it had been raining earlier which made the hillside where the olive trees grow pretty muddy and slick. I think I slipped a couple of times!

This event is quite a production! You're instructed to arrive in the morning. Their driveway is shared a bit by the neighbor way at the top of the hill. Here is a video of the drive in to Ridgely's and Colleen's estate. Please keep in mind that even though I am calling it an estate, it does not present itself as a stuffy, uncomfortable place to be. As a matter of fact, it is quite the opposite. The house is very homey and comfortable with hardwood floors and personal touches that add quite a lot of charm.
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Ridgely is in the red shirt greeting guests and helping them get set up to pick olives.


When you get the car parked, your 'outdoor' shoes on, and your 'hellos' out of the way, you begin picking olives from the olive tree orchard which begins right across the driveway from the house.

Here's a bit of a silly video of Richard and me getting started. Notice the buckets worn around your neck. The technique that produces the best results, I found, was to position the bucket under the tree and with both hands begin plucking the olives free and letting them fall into the bucket. If you bother to pick them one at a time you would never get your bucket full. Sorry for the quality of this one video but it gives you a feel for what we're up to.

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Here are a couple pictures of Richard and me amongst the olive trees.





































It sure is a beautiful sight to look down into your bucket!.

















Just a few olives on this tree.

After picking for a while the bucket gets pretty heavy. Ridgely sets up large bins that everyone dumps their olives into. The first year that we attended this event back in 2002, I believe, there were 3 of these big bins put out and filled up. In 2006 only one bin was filled. Not sure what happened to everyone's enthusiasm; Richard and I continued to enjoy the experience.

Watch these beauties as they're added.

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And these, too!

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Various olive-picking pails after their job was complete.









After picking olives there is a bit of time to relax before sitting down to the feast. This is the ultimate place to chill.



Ridgely and Colleen own about 22 acres that they farm. This is a picture of part of their yard surrounding the house.


Need they say more?






While everyone is picking olives or relaxing, Ridgely, Colleen, and all their help is busy setting the tables and cooking for about 100 people.





They serve their own DaVero wine and olive oil. Everything here looks ready to go!




















If I recall correctly, the bread that was served was cooked in the brick oven, behind these chefs. This was the outdoor cooking station.



Dishes for an army!








Just to give you a feel for how much is put into this event, here is a video of the porch as it awaits guests.
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Introducing Chef Colleen!







Now we're all seated and enjoying the meal. What a perfect day with the sunshine and warm air. There was fresh chicken on the menu, freshly plucked the night before. They also served up some venison sausage along with various veggie dishes that made creative use of their olive oil. And don't forget the brick oven bread to dip in the oil! Yum!




Ridgely talking to the guests.







The two on the left are Lace and Sam, a couple we met at the first harvest we attended. They are an extremely friendly couple who also live in California, Sam retired from Visa. Sam's father actually lives in Detroit so we had something to chat about.


















I couldn't eat another bite!


If I could, I would live in California. This area north of San Francisco is beautiful. It is so hard to describe the difference between California and Michigan to people here in Michigan that have never been. It's more than just the scenery. It's a feeling of calm, peace, and time standing still that overcomes me when I'm out there. The ability to be near ocean or mountains or desert or rich earth whenever you fancy is the main pull for me, I think. Now if I only had enough money to buy something out there...


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Do I dare

Some subjects are hard to bring up and talk about even with good friends because I'm afraid that I won't get my point across in just the way I want to. Politics and religion usually fall into this category.

My husband was (maybe still is) a bit of a Ron Paul fan. When I first heard of him and did a bit of reading, usually through reddit.com, I thought I finally found a candidate that speaks some sense. Ron Paul made a lot of sense to me when he spoke about how government is too big and our leaders do not govern in line with the Constitution. But then I did more reading and found out that he, an educated OB/GYN, is anti-choice. This told me that Ron Paul really doesn't 'get it' when it comes to understanding the Contitution. Yes, I am a prime-issue voter. I could never vote for someone who is anti-choice because it feels as though they hold shackles over my head as a woman. Now, I could vote for someone who would never have an abortion but believes that it should be a personal choice. That, to me, is someone who 'gets it.'

Someone posted a superb article on reddit that was written by a Canadian doctor,
Garson Romalis (right). This article helps me get my point across about some aspects of my pro-choice views. What a brave person he is.

I'm always perplexed at men that have anti-choice views. I can bet that most of these men don't view their sperm as 'living humans.' But they'll gladly 'donate' them to whatever female suits their fancy at the time. "Here! Have these! But, if you get pregnant, I get to tell you what to do."

I visited my mother last night. She's 73. She commented to me after hearing something on the local news how she thinks this country is becoming a communist country. "Before you know it, the government is going to tell you the kind of pot to piss in!" I have to agree with her. There are too many laws governing our every move. I can only hope that my 4 daughters and all the granddaughters down the line have the option of a safe, legal abortion if they find it necessary. I can't imagine living in this day and age with the possibility of a botched abortion leading to death.

All of you who read this that might be leaning in the opposite direction as me, think about your daughters. And their daughters. And read Dr.
Romalis' article.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Signs of spring

I know I'm being a bit optimistic here but didn't you just love last night's thunder and lightning? It's a sure sign that spring isn't long off. I opened my bedroom window so I could hear it better. Then I turned off all the lights to let the lightning penetrate the room and me. Only 44 more days until it's official! (Can you see me doing the uhh-huhh dance?)