Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Feliz Cumpleaños Oscar!

Our jolly janitor Oscar celebrated his 35th birthday yesterday, and to celebrate, we ordered him cupcakes, pitched in for an iPad mini, and got together to sing him Feliz Cumpleaños.  

It was funny-I felt a little like I was back at the villa, collecting activity money from my students and lighting the candles for yet another round of "Tanti Auguri"and 21st birthdays.  It never gets old, because each time you get to make people feel special and see their eyes sparkle gratefully.  And for Oscar, he really got the message nailed home just how much we appreciate all his hard work and constant smiles.

Did he want an iPad, you might ask?  Let's see:

After we sang, Oscar promptly disappeared again, and I found him washing windows.  I told him to stop cleaning, come with me, and eat cake.  While we sat enjoying our Kara's red velvet, he had a huge grin spread across his face and managed to say, "I'm happy."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


You can take the girl out of the city...and this weekend we did just that.  Thanks to Giovanna's foundation, St. Anthony's, we were able to stay in a practically free cabin in Pollock Pines, lazing and eating, floating and sunning, and generally being one with nature and our stomachs.  The foundation has been offering this perk to employees for decades, and we found evidence of this in the many guest books stacked up on the shelves, dating back to the early '90s.

On Saturday, we went to Jenkinson Lake at Sly Park, hiked to a beautiful waterfall, floated and swam around the lake, and later ended up at the (colorful) Pine Lodge Club playing shuffleboard with locals.

The lake was manmade, surrounded by pine trees, and so clean that it was even the town's drinking water.  It was lovely, and we hung out there for hours, swimming and floating and basking with our beers.  A little slice of heaven; a Zac Brown Band kind of day.

Around the cabin, we tried to convince ourselves there weren't ghosts.  We also ate a lot.  When we weren't doing one of those things, we would just read, and dance around listening to old school with no pants on (that may have just been me), and play games like the rhythmic Thumper (please see individual actions below).

Sunday morning after breakfast, we did a photo shoot and cleared out of the cabin before heading over to Boeger winery in Placerville/Apple Hill.

Boeger winery was such a treat.  Going to wineries in the Gold Country is a much more laid back experience than it is in Napa/Sonoma, and for practically nothing we got to try reserve wines, keep souvenir glasses, and wander the property, including the original building, the magnificently landscaped front lawn, and the blacksmith shop and yarn studio (well these we just peeked at through holes in the wood).  Now we just need to go back for one of their Friday night live music and pizza events.

Finally, we stopped at Boa Vista in Apple Hill for some pie before leaving town.  Every vacation should end with pie.  I already wish I could go back!  It was hella fun.  It was hella Polluck Pines.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Uma Casa Portuguesa

This weekend, in Hollister, CA, I was magically transported to Lisbon.  We went to a Fado Dinner at Léal Vineyards with a bunch of Portagees, some honorary Portagees, and a handful of culturally curious white people for good measure (it's not often I can make such a joke, and I realize my duplicitous identity crisis as I type it, but when I'm with the Portuguese family, things are just different, despite my skin's translucency).

It was a rather elegant affair, the people and the tables dressed up as if we were attending a fancy wedding.  The owner of the winery (yes, he's Portuguese, too) also owns the mansion where Ashley and Ryan had their reception, and it was the same chef they used, as well.  Dinner was delightful, and all the dishes were very gourmet with a touch of Portuguese flair, for instance the Alcatra-style Short Ribs, or the Kale Salad with Linguiça.

There were two fado singers for the evening, a man and a woman, who each sang two sets, with a couple of duets thrown in.  The favorite song of the night was probably Uma Casa Portuguesa, sung in this link by Amália Rodrigues, Portugal's most classically renowned fado singer.  The music was terribly moving, as all fado is, in a way that transcends language.  Closing my eyes and opening my heart to the music I could practically feel the ocean breeze in my hair and see the fishermen setting off from the dock.  If you ever have the opportunity to listen to live fado, please take it-you won't regret your choice.  For more rantings on my love of fado, please see my post on fado in Lisbon.  

They say you are born a fadista...I wonder if I had been raised speaking Portugese, if I would be on a different career path right now.  Maybe in another life.  

It was such a lovely evening spent with family enjoying food, wine, and beautiful music.  From what I hear Léal also does a Notte we might be back!