Thursday, October 30, 2014

Travels: Quick Tips

Traveling with a curling iron? Pack it in an oven mitt.

Tight connection? When booking, pick an aisle seat near the front.

Traveling several months from now? Sign up for fare alerts at Kayak, FareCompare, Hipmunk, and others.

Checking your luggage? Use an expandable suitcase. As long as it doesn't exceed the weight amount, you will be able to add more by expanding the suitcase.

Need to save room in your suitcase? Try travel space bags which will compress your clothes and usually keep them wrinkle free.

Have a long flight and want to stay comfortable? Wear breathable fabrics like silk, cotton, or linen on the plane.

Forgot your laundry soap? Baby shampoo works just as well. You can also use it to defog your swim or ski goggles. Just dab a small amount and rinse. Throw in some dryer sheets. One in your dirty clothes bag helps with smelly clothes. Use another one to remove static. Place one in each shoe to keep them smelling better.

Need thread? Dental floss works well.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Travels: Personal Guide

When you travel, do you make all the arrangements or do you hire a guide? Do you use a travel service that provides everything or just a guide for certain sites? Are you traveling by boat, air, or car? Are you going to be traveling all over Napa Valley drinking and sampling wines? Will you be hiking in unfamiliar territory? 

While there are pros and cons for all of the above, you should decide what you'll be doing and how beneficial a guide would be for your trip. 

For instance, if you're going to some location during a time when dozens of tourists may want to seek out someone ahead of time to let you know the best days and times to visit. That guide may also have special passes or can get you a private tour.

Or, if your time is limited in a city, a guide may be your best bet.

For dive trips, we always hired a guide. We didn't just sign up for a 40 person boat where no special services were offered. You want someone who is familiar with the best dive spots if that's your vacation.

A wine tasting vacation, no matter where, is another time when a guide is a good idea. They may recommend great spots. Better yet, you won't have to worry about drinking and driving.

When visiting places where language is a definite issue, a guide could come in handy when trying to read street signs, order in a restaurant, or get a taxi.

Travels and Books

Traveling to Venice was a great opportunity to discover places, streets, canals, and surrounding areas I could use in my latest suspense, mystery novel. In fact, the cover shot is one I took the day we went to Burano.

The foothills of the Dolomites, wandering around the countryside where the prosecco grapes are grown, and highlights of other places around Venice make it into the book as well. 

Check it out on Amazon or from my website at 

Stay tuned for the next may be surprised.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Travelers: Camera Tips

Remember to pack:
Extra don't want to run out

A battery charger...this would work in place of extra batteries

Extra memory cards...know what kind of memory your camera has and pack accordingly

A lens cloth...having a smudge on your lens doesn't equal great photos

Plastic bag...if it starts raining, your camera is protected

Filters...if you use filters, remember to pack them may need to shine a little light on something

Tripod...if you plan on taking photos with long exposure times, this is essential

Friday, October 24, 2014

Travelers: Luggage Tips

Make sure your checked luggage has a tag with your name, flight number, final destination, and a phone number.

Place a business card inside your bag.

Don't check anything you can't live without.

Try to get your bag to stand out on the luggage carousel. All the black bags in the world tend to look alike as they round the corner.

If your bag doesn't arrive, file a claim before you leave the airport.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Travelers: Long Flights

If your sinuses give you trouble on long flights, pack a small washcloth in a resealable bag. Ask for a cup of hot water, dip the washcloth in it, and place it over your face. Breathing in the steam may help you breathe better.

You can also use that washcloth in the lavatory to freshen up before you land.

Also pack a toothbrush and toothpaste, some lip balm, hand lotion, and eye drops. 

If you carry a refillable water bottle, you may ask the flight attendants to fill it.

If your airline doesn't give you socks to wear, pack a pair to use when walking around the plane. Remember to pack them away with your dirty laundry so you don't wear them until you wash them. No telling what's on the floor...

Do you have trouble getting your ears to pop? Bring an apple. Then, about 25 minutes before you land...start eating it. The constant chewing will assist in popping your ears.

Candied ginger works for motion sickness.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Travelers: Numbers

Add the 800 numbers for airlines into your phone. If there are delays or cancellations, you won't have to search for the number.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Travelers: Before You Reach Security

Before you reach the security line, here are a few things to think about.

Make sure all of your documents, passport, tickets, and anything else you need in the security line are all in one place. Make sure you know exactly where that place your purse, luggage, pocket, or wherever works for you.

Place everything else you won't need until later in a different place. No sense dropping cash, tissues, your parking slip, or anything else around you while others wait for you to pick it up. And, yes I have had a lady in front of me drop everything out of every pocket in her purse. Embarrassing for her...frustrating for everyone else.

Do you know if you need to remove your shoes, jacket, and belt? If you are TSA Pre, you won't need to. Otherwise, in the will. 

Do you have to remove your laptop or tablet? Know this ahead of time.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Travelers: Check Your Flight

This may seem like a no-brainer...but remember to check your flight status before you leave for the airport. If you live far away this might not work. But, for anyone close to their airport this is a crucial step.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Travelers: Plane Tips

 Especially if your flight is a long one, your feet will swell. Think about packing a shoe horn in your carry on luggage.

Remember to charge all your devices before you board your flight. 

Noise cancelling headphones are your friend on a long flight.

Eye drops come in handy to help wake up after snoozing.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Travelers: New Flight to Sydney

Recently I read this post on

Qantas has launched Airbus A380 flights between Dallas/Fort Worth and Sydney.
The introduction of non-stop A380 services from Dallas/Fort Worth direct to Sydney means travellers can now choose A380 services from two US hubs, Dallas/Fort Worth or Los Angeles.
Qantas Executive Manager International Sales Stephen Thompson said the introduction of the A380 on the DFW-Sydney route would lead to greater opportunities for both tourism and for trade.
“We’ve already carried more than 300,000 passengers on the Dallas/Fort Worth route and we’re confident the introduction of the A380 will attract more travellers and introduce more Americans to Sydney and Australia,” said Mr Thompson. “The new service will mean an additional seat capacity of more than 10% each week and we will continue to work with our partners to boost visitor numbers from this important market.”

The Qantas Airbus A380 aircraft is configured in a three-class cabin layout accommodating 14 first class seats, 64 in business, 35 in premium economy and 371 in economy.
By utilizing the A380’s range capabilities in replacing Qantas’ 747s between Sydney and Dallas/Fort Worth, the airline is now able to serve this route non-stop in both directions – while the 747 required a stopover in Brisbane on the return flight because of headwinds.

“With the A380’s unmatched cabin comfort, Qantas now offers all its passengers a best-in-class experience on this ultra-long range route,” said Thomas Burger, the A380 Product Marketing Director at Airbus. “This includes its luxurious first class cabin, which was not offered on its 747s previously serving the route. Economy passengers enjoy seats with widths of more than 18 inches, which is Airbus’ benchmark standard and a key differentiator of our cabins.”
Qantas’ non-stop Sydney-Dallas/Fort Worth service covers more distance than the previous longest-range A380 route: the Dubai-Los Angeles flight performed by Emirates, which has a trip length of 13,420 km.
Qantas will operate the A380 service six times per week (every day except Tuesdays).

Friday, October 10, 2014

Travelers: Suitcases

Planning on purchasing a new suitcase or piece of carry on luggage? What you purchase will help determine how light you can pack.

Typically, a 22 inch roller suitcase is considered lightweight if it weighs in under 10 pounds. You'll see the term ultralight if it weighs around seven pounds.

Seven pounds is good, provided it's sturdy enough to withstand use and abuse by airlines, baggage handlers, and conveyor belts. You would want one with a decent enough frame to protect your items inside. The rolling duffle bags are good, but keep in mind they don't have an actual frame.

If you're going to use it as a carry on bag, you won't have to think as much about its sturdiness. 

Check out brands online, stop at luggage shops, and read reviews by those who travel for a living. Prices, sizes, weights, and usefulness of the bag vary from brand to brand. While the pricier ones are not always better, there is something to be said for buying a quality bag that costs a little more than the cheapest one you can find.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Travelers: Trouble When Traveling

Hopefully you will never be arrested when traveling in a foreign country. But, if that should happen, even for a minor infraction, here are some things to think about and do.

As soon as you are arrested, ask to speak to the American Embassy or US Consulate. According to the State Department, this is a critical step and can't be skipped. Legally, under the Vienna Convention, you have the right to receive assistance from the United States. Bottom line...keep making the request until it is granted.

Understand, however, the American Embassy is not like a get out of jail free card. They are there to assist you...not clear you of any wrong doings. 

Then, ask an officer for a written statement of your rights. Ask for interpreter if necessary. Don't chance your limited knowledge of a language you don't easily speak or understand.

Keep in mind, your rights in other countries are going to be very different from those in the US. Also remember when you are in a foreign country...their laws and rules apply. 

Try to get a phone call and give pertinent, factual info to that person. This is to alert your family, etc. as to where you are, how an attorney can reach you, etc.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Travelers: Learn About Foraging!

(Yountville, CA, September 24th 2014) -- The Jessup Cellars 2014 TasteMaker Speaker Series goes wild on Saturday, October 11th at its Yountville Tasting Gallery with with renowned forager Connie Green and Executive Chef and Owner Sean O'Toole of TORC, one of Napa’s hottest new dining destinations. The forum and tasting’s subject, Foraging ~ Ancient & Modern Flavors from the Untamable World, will explore this delicious culinary adventure on Saturday, October 11th from 6:30pm to 9:00pm at the Jessup Cellars Tasting Gallery in Yountville, California.
While Green will showcase a selection of freshly harvested wild ingredients, Chef O’Toole will feature his Chanterelle Mushroom “HUMMUS” with Autumn Tomato and Dill, and House Eurasian “BOAR HAM” Crostini with Wild Mushroom Tartare and Huckleberry paired with select Jessup Cellars wines. The evening also opens resident artist Cynthia Carey’s Foraged & Found Sculpture exhibiton. Tickets are $75 each and available online Ticket includes interactive forum, meet-and-greet, and wine and foraged food tasting.
“Far, far outside tidy human civilization and agriculture, culinary treasures like porcini, chanterelles, and truffles destined for the French Laundry or NOMA come only from wild places and foragers like me,” says Connie Green, owner of Wine Forest Wild Foods and co-author of The Wild Table. “This ancient craft lingers in our hearts as a legacy from our ancestors and pulls greats chefs like my side-kick Sean O’Toole out of his kitchen at TORC to forage in our great forests.”
Green has been foraging mushrooms, berries, greens and other wild foods for thirty years. As founder of one of the first and one of the largest wild foods businesses in the United States, she has sold ingredients to most of the top chefs in California and around the country including Thomas Keller, Daniel Patterson, Traci des Jardins, Gary Danko, Michael Chiarello, Cindy Pawlcyn, Stuart Brioza and many more.
O’Toole is chef and owner of the recently opened and highly acclaimed TORC in downtown Napa. He has spent more than fifteen years in some of the most noteworthy restaurants in the United States and Europe. At TORC, O’Toole focuses on the region’s bountiful selection of fresh products and his relationships with the people that produce, forage, and glean them. Green has been his foraged food purveyor for nearly twenty years.
About The TasteMaker Series
The TasteMaker Series presents thought leadership forums staged in the Jessup Cellars Tasting Gallery in Napa Valley’s village of Yountville, just a block north of the famed The French Laundry. Each event is integrated with the launch of a thematic art exhibition, bringing together Jessup Cellars wines, food, art and people into fully realized sensory forums. Jessup Cellars Tasting Gallery is located at 6740 Washington St., Yountville, California. To learn more about Jessup Cellars and the TasteMaker Speaker Series visit Jessup Cellars or call 707.944.8523.T

Monday, October 6, 2014

Travelers: Santa Cruz Boardwalk

Recently, Budget Travel named the Santa Cruz Boardwalk as one of the most awesome boardwalks in the US. I agree...

The coastline is pretty awesome as well.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Travelers: Burano

Burano, an island in the northern Venetian Lagoon, has been referred to as one of the most colorful places on earth as well as one of the top 10 most colorful cities in the world. Approaching Burano from Venice, it’s easy to see why. Brightly colored houses, all of them, pop against the green waters of the channels. At first glance, their narrow streets and impossibly bright colors appear almost tropical. One more look and you feel like you’ve just stepped into a postcard view, as small boats line both sides of the canals and the bright colors rise above.

Legend has it the houses were painted brightly so returning fishermen could see them from long distances. Today, your house can be painted certain colors. Just send a letter to the government to see what color you may use. 

It won’t take you long to walk the entire island, but take some time to wander away from the main squares to find a small bar to sip your espresso or spritz and people watch. Eat lunch here and sample the local catch of the day or fantastic risotto. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Travelers: Wine Facts From Italy Magazine

Some interesting facts from Italy Magazine...take a look.

La Vendemmia

Throughout mainland Italy and even beyond, on remote offshore islands; in every single one of the country’s twenty regions; wherever grapes are grown (and that means almost everywhere), this is the heady time of year: la vendemmia. The harvest is the culmination of a year’s labour, its relative success or failure determined in conjunction with the fickle and arbitrary fortunes of Mother Nature and the weather. A sudden summer hailstorm can entirely strip the grapes and foliage from one row of vines, yet leave adjacent rows virtually untouched; torrential autumn rains can dilute and sometimes even destroy an entire year’s effort and toil.
The earliest grapes may be gathered in late August or early September, while the main harvest continues through the autumn months, sometimes even well into November. This is a busy and exciting time. Teams of workers in the vineyards, old experienced farmhands who have worked the land forever alongside a new, younger generation, undertake the backbreaking task of selecting and picking the ripe bunches manually (mechanical harvesting is still a rarity in Italy), putting them into small containers to carry over to the trailers that wait at the ends of the rows. The grapes, once picked, must be transported to the winery as quickly as possible to minimise oxidation and ensure that fermentation does not begin prematurely.

Here’s a simplified primer on what happens next.
I Vini Bianchi – White Wines
Once the grapes arrive at the winery, they are first de-stemmed (la diraspatura), a process done by machine as gently as possible in order not to damage them. They are then usually lightly crushed, then transferred into a press. For white wines this is usually a cylindrical pneumatic machine capable of working at very soft pressure levels to avoid extracting harsh flavours or tannin from the skins and pips. The free-run juice (mosto fiore) that percolates out of its own accord with no additional pressure may be collected and vini-fied separately. Whether free-run or juice from a light pressing, the grape must is next allowed to clarify by gravity, filtration or centrifuge, before fermentation.
Fermentation begins when either the wild yeast present on the grapes or, more normally, specially selected strains of yeast introduced by the winemaker, provoke the miraculous process of transforming grape sugars into alcohol. One of the most important developments in modern white winemaking has been the widescale introduction of the use of stainless steel fermentation vessels that allow fermentation to take place at low computer-controlled temperatures (18 to 20 degrees C). This helps to make white wines that maintain fresh, fruity acidity with the crisp, clean flavours that modern consumers demand.

Fermentation may sometimes also be carried out in barriques (225-litre French oak casks) for a portion of the harvest, or for select, superior crus (wines from a single vineyard). This is a costly and labour-intensive exercise, but the results, when handled well, can be impressive, adding layers of complexity and structure, alongside the sleek, sometimes buttery, vanilla tones of new oak.
Before bottling, wines are racked (removed from the sediment of dead yeast cells), and fined and filtered to remove any other solid matter and ensure the wine is crystal clear and stable. Most Italian white wines are produced to be consumed young and fresh. Therefore they may be released as early as the Christmas of the year or harvest, or else some time in the early spring. More serious, well-structured whites, on the other hand, might mature in barriques or in vat and bottle for upwards of a year or longer prior to release.
I Vini Rosati e Rossi РRos̬ and Red Wines
Rosato and red wines gain their hue from contact with the grape skins which contain all the colouring elements as well as the tannins that allows them to age. Therefore, once the de-stemming has taken place, the grapes are usually lightly crushed (la pigiatura) to release the juice, then pumped into the fermentation vat.
Wine destined to become rosato needs only the briefest period of contact between juice and skin. Depending on grape variety (some are more highly coloured than others), the juice may macerate on the skins for just a few hours before being drawn off to the vat where fermentation proceeds as per white wines.
On many modern wine estates, as for whites and rosato, the use of temperature-controlled stainless steel fermentation vessels has become almost de rigueur (though large wooden casks as well as glass-lined concrete and fibreglass vats are also still used). Once the grapes have been de-stemmed, crushed and pumped into the vats, fermentation commences. Temperatures are allowed to rise higher than for whites (26-30 degrees C), but it is important that the permitted levels are neither too low nor too high. As the grape must ferments, colour as well as tannin and flavouring elements are extracted from the mass of skins that remains in the vat. It is important to keep the fermenting grape must in frequent contact with this solid mass. The process known as rimontaggio is one of the most effective means to achieve this. This involves pumping wine from the bottom of the fermentation vessel back up to the top where it is sprayed through a sort of shower-head over the mass of skins once or twice a day, the juice percolating through the wine-drenched skins and extracting colour and tannin but avoiding the harsher flavours and hard woody tannins that can come from over-extraction.

The time taken for the fermentation process varies from one to three weeks, depending on a number of factors, including the weather at the time. Once complete, the wines are racked off the grape residue (provided this wasn’t done earlier) and transferred to clean vessels, either large oak botti (such large casks, made from Slavonian oak or chestnut, don’t lend wood flavours of character), small new or nearly new French oak barriques, or stainless steel, concrete or fibreglass tanks. The wine-drenched mass of skins, known as the vinacce, may be lightly pressed to extract some press wine – which may or may not be added back to the racked wine – or sent to the distillery to be transformed into grappa.
How long a red wine is left to age is determined by whether a wine is destined to be enjoyed young and fresh or in a more mature state after ageing or affinamento e maturazione. Novello wines may be released within just weeks after the harvest. For more serious reds, on the other hand, the ageing may be determined by the legislation for particular DOCs and DOCGs which specify a minimum time in wood and bottle before a wine can be released, often a number of years.
I Vini Passiti – Wines made from Semi-Dried Grapes
In addition to wines made from fresh grapes, a wholly unique range of Italian wines is made from semi-dried grapes: Vin Santo (Tuscany and Umbria), Amarone and Recioto della Valpolicella (Veneto), Sagrantino passito (Umbria), Greco di Bianco (Calabria), Moscato di Pantelleria (Pantelleria, Sicily), and more. Selected grapes are carefully taken in small containers (so as not to crush or damage them) to the winery where they are laid out on racks in airy attics or hung up in bunches from rafters or even (in the South) laid out on straw mats in the direct sun to dry and shrivel. This period of drying, which may be only a matter of days or else for weeks or even months, is known as the appassimento, and the process concentrates grape sugars and flavours, while diminishing acidity and lending raisin-like aromas and character. The varied range of passito wines that result can be truly amazing!
In Italy, probably more so than anywhere else in the world, age-old tradition works alongside modern technology, winemaking science and new ideas. Still, when all is said and done, the transformation of grapes into wine remains nothing short of an annual miracle.

- See more at:

Travelers: Smarter Travel Staff Fare Finds

Here's the latest from Smarter Travel for airfares... Check out what they found

It's only the start of fall but it's never too early to start planning travel through early spring. American, Southwest, and United compete for your business, offering airfare sales through the day's end on October 2. Tickets must be booked at least 14 days in advance. Flights start at $61 one-way ($122 round-trip).
Flight availability is for any day except Friday or Sunday through March 5.
Additional Southwest restrictions: All routes prohibit sale travel on November 25, 26, 29, 30; December 1, 19, 20, 26-29, January 3; and February 16. Puerto Rico travel is valid October 7-December 11 and January 13-March 5. See the sale provider for further route-specific restrictions.
Additional American restrictions: All routes prohibit sale travel on November 30; December 1, 19, and 20. See the sale provider for further route-specific restrictions.
Additional United restrictions: All routes prohibit sale travel on November 21, 22, 25, 26, 29, 30; December 1, 2, 18-23, 26-30; January 2-5; February 16; and March 5. Either a three- or Saturday-night stay is required.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Travelers: Sounds Like a Fun Time...Check it Out

North Bay Stage Company is going to the dogs; at least for its October production. A resident theater company of Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, it presents Sylvia, a lively, humorous look at how man’s best friend can impact the lives of others. The show will run 8 p.m. Fridays October 3, 10, 17 and Saturdays October 4, 11, 18 and at 2 p.m. on Sundays October 12 and 19, 2014. Performances will be held in the East Auditorium stage which is located at Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95403.

The play, written by A.R. Gurney, explores the post-dog phase of life for two Manhattan empty nesters who suddenly find themselves with a four-legged friend. Amid the laughter the couple poignantly finds life has a way of giving them exactly what they thought they didn’t need.
The cast and crew of Sylvia, first produced in 1995 at the Manhattan Theatre Club includes Bonnie Jean (Sylvia the dog), Jeremy Boucher (Greg), Regie Padua (Kate), and Mike Mathis (Tom/Phyllis/Leslie).
Nominated for Drama Desk Award’s Outstanding Play, Outstanding Actress in a Play (Parker), and Outstanding Costume Design when it opened, the North Bay Stage Company version is directed by Jon Vissman.
“Playwright A.R. Gurney gives us a very hilarious look at ourselves as we seek harmony in the midst of an ever changing world, mid-life crisis and the meaning of love. Sylvia gives us a fresh look at age-old problems,” said Vissman.

During the run of this show, North Bay Stage Company will collect new and recycled dog items as well as cash donations for Green Dog Rescue Project, a Windsor-based non-profit that provides rescue, rehabilitation and relocation services.  Sunday matinees will feature select adoptable dogs and sale of The Wurst hot dogs.
Refreshments for purchase include ‘dog bone’ cookies, Lagunitas Dog Town Pale Ale, and Coppola wines.
Upcoming events include Unbound which showcases the talents of one of Sonoma County’s most popular dance troupes, the RISK Dance Company, The Angel of Chatham Square written by local playwright Audie Foote, Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution and The Producers by Mel Brooks.

About North Bay Stage Company: Their mission is to provide regional actors, singers and dancers, technical crews, musicians and upcoming artists with opportunities to learn or showcase their talents. Activities include productions, play readings, group discussions, and education.

Tickets are $26. Box office: 707.546.3600  Details: