#earthquakewinecountrycalifornia and the Great Bobblehead Massacre of 2014.

Apparently the Napa Valley is becoming Earthquake Central. This is the second major quake we’ve suffered in fourteen years – both along the same basic fault line which runs, oh, within a half mile of our house.

We are so fortunate. The only lasting damage we suffered was a few dents in the wall where the crazy swinging ceiling fans bashed into it. One of the ceiling fans is broken. A lamp broke. One jar of raspberry jam flipped over and broke. Oscar was quite upset about this as I had only recently made the jam, he loved it, and it was our last jar. Otherwise all is well, which is both a miracle and a miracle of planning ahead.

Here is a photo of my friend’s kitchen:

Friend's kitchen post quake.

Friend’s kitchen post quake.

Aside from the jar of jam, which flipped upside down inside the fridge, we lost nothing. Not a single cabinet opened, nothing fell from the shelves in our pantry, not a bottle of wine was broken. After the last earthquake we made some changes. All our cabinets have catches which sort of prevent the doors, drawers and pull-out shelves from opening. Plus our pull-out shelves have lips two inches high on the front edge.

After the last earthquake (when my kitchen resembled the photo above) I ripped out all the shelving in our pantry and installed movable stainless steel shelving that has a lip along every edge. I placed baskets onto the shelves behind the lip with an added three inches of protection so all my canned goods and bottles, jars, etc. sit in the baskets. Nothing fell out of a basket. Not one thing.

We moved all our wines from wooden wine storage racks into a compact and sturdy wine refrigerator. Everything is a snug fit. No way is that unit going to spill a drop of wine, even if the entire unit tips over.

I moved everything away from our bed – no pictures above the bed, no ceiling fan– that’s for sure. And no mirrors! The one mirror in our room is securely anchored to the dresser.

That doesn’t mean things didn’t go flying. They did. It’s just that nothing of importance broke. I have these two amazing china cabinets. They contains all my grandmothers’ and great-grandmothers’ china and crystal. The cabinets have this ability to walk around during an earthquake. If we secured them to the wall, the glass doors would open and everything would fly out. Instead they just walk themselves around the dining room. I am the only person on our block to survive the quake with all my china and crystal intact.

Book shelves ended up all over the house, contents spilled everywhere. Yet every single piece of glassware, every picture, every cherished plate landed all by itself on the carpet or on a chair– in perfect condition. Our new roof held up as did the bolts that hold our house to its foundation. Truly amazing.

My youngest daughter’s bedroom was hit the hardest. A number of her picture frames were shattered and there was glass everywhere, but we were lucky. That was the biggest cleanup. My son drove in, bearing coffee and sandwiches– as we had no power and could barely even text via our cell phones (a cell phone tower was knocked down) and he helped us clean up. We were finished by 5:00 p.m. on Sunday.

Unfortunately my husband’s San Francisco Giants bobbleheads collection didn’t fare so well. Catcher Buster Posey broke his right ankle. Seriously. Hard to believe but yes, the bobblehead broke its right ankle.

Buster Posey breaks his ankle again.

Buster Posey breaks his ankle again.

Tim Lincecum was scalped (among other things):

Tim Lincecum loses his hair, etc.

Tim Lincecum loses his hair, etc.

Aubrey Huff (from the 2010 World Series Team) looks like the Venus de Milo without a head and pitcher Madison Bumgarner lost his pitching arm. Yeah, those poor bobbleheads. It was the Great Bobblehead Massacre of 2014.

So remember – SFCDShoes/Flashlight/Cellphone/Dog.

Most of the injuries were caused when people ran barefoot over broken glass. I always kick my flip flops off next to my bed. We keep one flashlight in our bedroom and another in our kitchen. My cell phone is on my bedside table at night and the dog jumped on our heads right before the earthquake hit. (Smart dog!) As soon as we got downstairs I put his emergency collar on him.

You have to ride it out – don’t go running around like a chicken with your head cut off in the midst of a quake. (This quake was like the Indiana Jones ride times three without the restraints.) When the shaking stops get outside as quick as you can.

We all gathered in the court to take stock. We went from house to house to make sure everyone was okay and to check gas lines and water heaters. Nobody had any cell service — we couldn’t even call 9-1-1 so we realized we’d have to deal with any emergent situation on our own. Fortunately for our court the most emergent situation was the flood of swimming pool water – everyone’s pool had emptied onto the street in one big tsunami.

As soon as we realized everyone was uninjured, I went inside and filled every single container I had with clean water. Yes, we had water but I didn’t know how long we’d have water or if it would stay potable. Figured I’d err on the side of caution and store water while it was still clean. (I didn’t want to fill the bathtub because I often find spiders in the tub. Ew.)

So, the house is restored to normal, the cat came back Sunday evening, the birds were perfectly safe in their heavy steel cage, albeit they were extremely quiet as were all the night creatures– eerily quiet even the next day and night. We are lucky to have both water and now power – just three blocks away our friends have neither. Downtown Napa looks like it’s been hit by artillery. I’m staying away for the time being. Oh, and the grocery stores… the poor poor grocery stores. I don’t know when they’ll reopen.

I’ve been through tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes. The power of nature boggles the mind. We are so grateful to be alive and well.

Here are a few photos of our area~

Crushed cars.

Collapsed carport

Cars trapped beneath carport

Cars trapped beneath carport

Our neighbor's sidewalk.

Our neighbor’s sidewalk.

More sidewalk.

More sidewalk.







Sidewalk at the end of our court.

Sidewalk at the end of our court.

Exploding curb. (All over town.)

Exploding curb. (All over town.)

One of the cracks in the street.

One of the cracks in the street.

Hubby's study. He hated that lamp anyway.

Hubby’s study. He hated that lamp anyway.

P.S. Oscar has an emergency radio. He was so excited to use it during this emergency! The first time he cranked it up the crank broke. He was so mad and it was so funny.


Posted in book bloggers, book reviews, Books, nature, Slightly Off Topic, Travel | 12 Comments

Busting Nutrition Information Redux- We Need Fat.

Why do our bodies need fat? Good question!

Let’s start with the infant nervous system. From the Journal of Pediatrics:

Fats are necessary for the development of your young child’s central nervous system, vision and intelligence. Fats surround the nerve cells in the brain and protect it. Breast milk contains the fats DHA and AA which are critical for brain and retina development. Infant formulas are fortified with these important fats. 

Parents, listening to conventional (anti-fat) wisdom, often impose a low-fat diet upon their infants and toddlers. This brings up another question – I’m not going to answer it, I’m merely going to ask it. Is it possible that the noted increase in autism spectrum disorders, ADD and ADHD is related to a low fat diet in infants and children?

A study published in 2008 out of India, where over half of the children under 5 years old are considered malnourished, found that malnourished children suffer cognitive developmental delays. The children in this study had poor motor skill, language, visual and social development. They had poor memory and lower IQs. Calories provide your baby’s brain with the energy it needs to function properly. 

Fats are our single most important source of calories, or they were once upon a time.

Take a moment to consider Native Americans. When whites first encountered the Plains Indians, they were struck by the following — their longevity (provided one wasn’t killed during an inter-tribal skirmish or on a hunt), their lean body mass and muscle development, their good health, their height, their strong white teeth. The Plains Indians did not suffer from tooth decay.

Again, we have a question. Why? Why did the Plains Indians not suffer from tooth decay which was endemic among Europeans at the time? Well, for one thing, prior to encountering white people foods the Plains Indians didn’t eat sugar and processed carbohydrates or, for that matter, many grains. Of course there were a few wild grasses that were harvested, some wild corn and oats, and among Northern tribes, wild rice (which is not related to Asian rice). And there was some trade with tribes that did produce varieties of corn- the Mandan, for example, who lived in settled villages along the Mississippi River and were known far and wide as traders. But the dietary staple of the Plains Indians was wild game, especially the buffalo, the fatter the better. Fat, meat, organ meats, bone marrow– the liver was the first thing eaten, raw, cut from the still warm kill. Fat cuts of meat were prized and considered the most nutritious, as opposed to our day where lean cuts of meat have become the norm. Same goes for Eskimos. Diabetes, heart disease and obesity were unknown.

Kinda makes you think, don’t it?

1. Without fat we can’t absorb fat-soluble vitamins– Vitamins A, D, E and K. So eating those leafy greens without fat won’t do you much good, aside from any benefit you receive from fiber.

2. There is some indication that a lack of dietary fat may lead or contribute to dementia and other nervous system/brain disorders. Our nerve/brain cells require saturated fats in order to function properly. Here is an interesting article by Dr. Emily Deans, an Evolutionary Psychiatrist: Dementia and Other Stories of How Saturated Fat is Good for You

3. Dietary fat does not make us fat. This isn’t a post hoc ergo propter hoc sort of scenario. Rampant obesity became a problem in the United States after we adopted the lowfat/fat-free diet. (Nobody wants to say it but therein lies the French Paradox. It ain’t wine. The French eat fat.)

A final question- What’s a confused foodie to do?

Read this and eat that.

Read The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet by Nina Teicholz

Big fat surpriseEat butter and other dairy fats, eggs, olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, lard, duck fat, schmaltz… At least that’s what I’m doing in addition to my daily portion of nuts and peanut butter. Seed oils, aside from toasted sesame oil (for flavor) and a little Cannola are now verboten in my pantry.

(We changed our eating patterns three years ago, incorporating red meat and animal fats into our diet. Since then, my husband’s HDL levels– what’s known as good cholesterol– went up by 10-12 points after being stuck in the 30′s for two decades. (He was a vegetarian.) I am lucky enough to have genetic high HDL’s. However my HDL’s increased from 84 to 100. But then I’ve always eaten butter, cheese and eggs, just not red meat or the fat associated with meat. One of my sisters eats plenty-o-fat and she too has high HDL’s. My vegan no-fat sister recently told me her HDL levels are shockingly low– in the 20′s. She expected the levels to be off-the-charts high because she is a vegan. Interesting stuff. I predict significant changes in our eating patterns over the next decade. Of course this is all considered anecdotal but I believe low-fat and non-fat are the worst things to happen to the American diet, ever. Of course it’s going to take some time for the FDA, the AHA, the school lunch police, and the media to catch up with the latest research.)

Posted in book bloggers, book reviews, Books, Food, nature, popular culture, Wine, writing | Tagged , , , | 15 Comments

I made it all by myself- with no ice cream maker!

It’s really good– Frozen Vanilla Custard!

Yummy vanilla custard.

Yummy vanilla custard.

I had to use up some raw milk and raw cream and fresh eggs before we left town. I’d recently tasted frozen vanilla custard from a new place in Napa. I was determined to make it for myself but aye yi yi! No ice cream maker!

No problem!

I successfully improvised. This method totally worked. Here are both the recipe and the method~

Frozen Vanilla Custard

1 1/2 cup whole cream

3 cups whole milk

8 large eggs, whites and yolks

2 cups sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

In a large stainless steel pot whisk the eggs and sugar until thick and lemon colored. Whisk in cream, milk and vanilla. Turn on heat, cook over low, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens and becomes nearly pudding-like.

Pour into a heat-proof container and refrigerate for one hour. Remove from fridge and pour contents into a mixer. Mix on low-medium for 4 minutes. Return contents to the container. Stick in the freezer. Set a timer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove from freezer and pour into mixer. Mix again for 4 minutes. Repeat 3 more times. Freeze overnight and voila! Delicious creamy vanilla custard!

It’s really really good. (I’m repeating myself! But it is good. And I don’t even like ice cream.) If you make this please let me know how it turns out.

Posted in book bloggers, book reviews, Books, Contemporary Romance, Food, nature, popular culture, writing | Tagged , | 8 Comments

What’s beneath that kilt?

Oh Jamie Fraser. I love you so. You epitomize the romance hero. (Don’t tell Oscar.)

The truth is, in my mind Jamie is Gerard Butler, the way he was back in the day, when he was Jamie’s age – mid-twenties.

Gerard Butler

There it is!

But the new Jamie is not bad. I can accept Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser. He may be a little too pretty, but he’s appealing. He has promise, a great voice, he’s sweet, he’s sexy, so I’ll suspend disbelief for the moment.

The new Jamie.

The new Jamie.

I’ve waited years for someone to bring Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon, to life. It’s not a book that would translate well to the big screen, but it works as a series. Starz surprised me. They’ve made some smart moves. They hired my favorite director, Ron Moore, oh he of Battlestar Galactica fame. Ah those Sharons… The casting is terrific. I have pretty much zero complaints. The feel of 18th Century Scotland is spot on. The dialogue may be a tad stilted, especially Claire’s expletive- Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ – but I think this little problem will work itself out over time.

If you have a subscription to Starz and you’re an Outlander fan, you won’t be disappointed. Totally worth your time.

Posted in book bloggers, book reviews, Books, Contemporary Romance, popular culture, romance, Romance/Suspense, science fiction, Scottish Highlanders, Travel, True Love, writing | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Schrodinger’s Cockroach and a Jake Update.

While in Los Angeles we stayed at this upscale high rise hotel. Actually it was Newport Beach. Anyway… You all know the story of Schrodinger’s Cat, right?

In a nutshell:

So Sunday morning I hopped out of bed only to step right next to a giant cockroach, or as my grandmother used to say, cock-a-roach. I screamed and jumped back on the bed.



My husband grabbed a shoe and tried with all his might to kill it, but the cockroach slid under a loose piece of carpet which my husband then beat on like a fiend. We were afraid to lift up the piece of carpet so we decided to treat the cockroach like Schrodinger’s Cat. Until that piece of carpet is lifted up the cockroach is both alive and dead and we didn’t want to see it in either state of being.

Now onto happier tidings~

Jake goes for a rebound.

Jake goes for a rebound.

My dog is a basketball idiot savant. I swear it. Last week he began practicing a new skill– throwing the basketball with his forearms.

Jake understands rebounding. For several years now he’s been able to stand on his hind legs and grab the rebound with his front legs, bring the ball to the ground and dribble away.

Last week I watched him stand on his hind legs, catch the ball, and then attempt to throw it out of bounds before his front legs came down to the ground. I did a double-take. No. Way. He could not be doing what he appeared to be doing.

But he was. He practiced all week and now he’s got it nailed. He’s taught himself a new skill. He can now stand on his hind legs, catch the ball between his forearms and then throw the ball over the out-of-bounds barrier before he has to drop down onto his front legs.

Jake is one scary German shepherd dude. Scary. Scary. Scary. I’ll do my best to catch a picture of him doing it. Promise I’ll try. Julia

Posted in book bloggers, book reviews, Books, humor, nature, popular culture, sports | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments