Free day in Napa/Sonoma then home again

Today was less planned than yesterday, allowing us some flexibility for anything we might have missed.  Our hotel had recommended “Cornerstone” in Sonoma as an interesting place to visit, so off we went.  On the way there (and back), we tried to find the Windows “Bliss” location – you know, that green hillside picture on some Windows OS systems – it’s in Sonoma!  We found it too, sort of.  Well, the Cornerstone was not what we expected, but it was so much more!  It was a sculpture garden for the most part, and we had the best time just looking at the sculptures and the artists’ installations.  It was a great way to spend a morning.  Next stop, Napa Premium Outlets again.  Because it was unseasonably cold around here, Barbara had been wearing Jeffery’s leather jacket all weekend.  She now wanted one, and so did Courtney.  I didn’t mind because the prices were so cheap for such an expensive item.  Both girls got $60. jackets that were really worth a lot more.  Our lunch reservation was coming up, so we trucked up to Yountville to our last foodie location – Mustards Grill.  Mustards is a place that my wife and I go to just about every time we’re in Napa.  We like the place, however, this time; the prices had really gone up!  This forced us from the “premium” menu items to the burger section to keep things under $100.  The burgers were fantastic, and just about as good as Andy’s Café.  The problem with this is that we wound up paying about $100 here, where we had spent under $40 for Andy’s burgers.  We may not be back to Mustards too soon after this trip.  Andy’s and Carpe Diem are so much better.

After this stop, it was back to home.  I had to go to class tonight to teach an hour-and-a-half long lesson.

Birthday in Sonoma

Happy Birthday to me!  The day started off right with the high-end coffee that our hotel provides.  The family then got in the van to begin our full day of eating and wine tasting in Sonoma.

We began at a marketplace/winery called Viansa.  Frankly, the exterior grounds were more interesting than the marketplace.  It was too early to drink, and this place, as a winery, was not in the top 15.  We left quickly.  Because my wife didn’t have enough olive oil yesterday at the Oxbow, she requested that we go to Jacuzzi Winery, which also has the Olive Press.  The kids liked the architecture and the grounds.  Barbara bought olive oil.  Next stop was to Ferrer Vineyards, where there was supposed to be a decent champagne wine tour.  We took the tour, which turned out to not be all that great.  Still, the kids mostly enjoyed it.  I enjoyed the champagnes, but I really, really liked the now discontinued 2009 Merlot.  I bought one of the last 100 bottles.  By this time, it was time for our lunch reservation, so we headed into town and went to La Salette, a Portuguese restaurant.  The food was good, but not quite in the fantastic category.  Still, under $100, which was good for lunch.  After that, we headed back to the wine trail.  I had heard that Gundlach-Bundschu Winery had some fantastic views, so we went there.  We were not disappointed.  It is a pretty place.  The kids went hiking around the pond.  I tried wines and fell in love with a Spanish variety wine called Tempranilla.  It’s rare here, but apparently common in Spain.  I bought a bottle.  The next winery was also supposed to be pretty.  With a name like Buena Vista Winery, I sort of expected a view.  There wasn’t one, but it was indeed a pretty place.  I was served by a Czech wine steward and I was in a section alone with a German family from Frankfurt.  We had a great (wine induced) conversation.  It was very enjoyable – more so than the wine in this place.  Ravenswood also did not produce much memorable wine.  The kids wanted to get downtown so we stopped going to wineries and started hitting stores.  First stop was the Vella Cheese Company, a favorite of Barb’s and mine.  We bought a lot of cheese.  After that, we toured shops until our feet got sore, then rested in the central park for about an hour.  Our dinner reservation was still an hour away, but we were hungry so we decided to ask if we could arrive early.  We sure could, so we ate out back at “The Girl and The Fig,” our favorite restaurant the last time we were here.  Being that it was French food, you could expect it to be a bit expensive, and it was.  Even with no wine, the bill came to $200, but it was a pretty great meal.  The crème brulee for dessert was divine.

VBS Ends, Hello Napa!

This week was a bit more fun.  While the rest of my family went to VBS all week, I did homework and group projects for school.  We had a lot of kids at the house all week because parents still work, but their kids did VBS and then would come to our place rather than to their empty houses.  Our house was messy and noisy much of the week as a result, but that’s OK.  One of my son’s friends, Apollo, started playing my guitars, which I understand are better than his guitars.  Turns out, he’s better than me on both electric and acoustic, so I invited him to play in the band this week… and so he did.

The band played behind the big curtain, just like we did last year at the end of VBS.  It was a lot of fun for the band.  This year, however, I would be in the congregation rather than behind the curtain.  After church, Bill and I took down the big curtain using my 16’ extension pole for solar panels and a 15’ ladder.  It was just enough for the 25’ tall backdrop/curtain.

After we had completed this, my family went home.  What the kids didn’t know was that we had planned a three-day “food and wine” get-away to Napa and Sonoma for my birthday.  The kids packed quickly and then we were off.  When we got to Napa, the first place we hit was the “best burgers in Napa” joint, Andie’s Café.  I think the press was right – awesome burgers.  We then proceeded to the nearby Napa Premium Outlet.  We window shopped a lot.  The kids and I had a demonstration of some of Bose’s new gadgets.  Right before we left, my son bought a $260. Leather jacket for $60.  Now that’s a savings!  After we left there, we went to the Oxbow Market, which was a lot smaller than we thought it would be.  We dropped our stuff off at the Wine Valley Hotel, our hotel for the next few days, then went to a WONDERFUL tapas style dinner at Carpe Diem Wine Bar.  I highly recommend this place.  Even with all the food we ate (and champagne I drank), our bill was just under $100.  What a great way to end our evening!

VBS week cometh

I guess I’m back to writing once a week!  This week was kind of boring, so you didn’t miss much. I’m still getting over that whole coughing thing.  Today was setup day for this year’s VBS.  Just like last year, we would be putting up this massive 25’ tall “sky” background.  Last year, the Himenes brothers built a plane for VBS, this year, they built a castle complete with towers and a drawbridge.  The Sieverts added to this by building a catapult.  VBS is going to be fun!  As per usual, we had to get the lift out and get it up and down a few stairs using wood, levers and a bunch of manpower.  Since I’m still sick, Barbara told my team not to let me do physical stuff, only go up in the lift.  Even so, by the end of setup, I was completely drenched with sweat.

A big multicultural book day

Today was sort of different: my family took off to the river today with many friends.  This left me at home all day today, which was fine because I had to read an entire book – yes, an entire book – for class tomorrow.  Fortunately, it was a pretty good read.  The book was “Fifth Chinese Daughter,” the story of a Chinese girl brought up in San Francisco’s Chinatown in the 1920s – 40s.  She found herself living in two distinct cultures and had to balance between the two.  Tomorrow, I will present this book to my multicultural class.  The class, by the way, is pretty good.  I’m now three weeks away from finishing the class, and graduating.  In the background, I’m also greasing the path for a quick turn-around on my credential so I’ll have it in hand by the start of the school year.  It may not matter though, so far, I haven’t had an interview for a job.  Still, you never know what will happen as school approaches.  Jobs open up suddenly due to unexpected enrollment shifts and sudden departures by teachers.

So, getting back to my day… as I was having lunch and about to start a movie (to take a break from reading), my main contract employer called asking me for a quick turn around on a chip.  Suddenly, I spent two hours modifying a chip and getting it taped-out.  I had not planned on that.  I still watched my movie, though I shouldn’t have due to time constraints, and was still able to finish my book by the time my family got home at 11PM.


Seems I’m suddenly back to a once a week journal.  The coughing lingers – no better, no worse – and I still have no energy.  All week, I’ve been doing homework and chip work.  Neither is tough, just time-consuming.  In the evenings, I watch movies with the family.  There really hasn’t been a lot of variety in my week.

Today though was different: I taught a Sunday School lesson this morning, and then played a particularly electric-heavy service after that with me on electric.  By the end of church, I was pretty much wiped-out.  But my day wasn’t over because we went to lunch at IHOP and had to wait (standing, in the sun) for 45 minutes.  That made me even more tired!  I now feel that my cough/sore throat is getting worse again.

Pacific Rim

The highlight of the day was watching a free movie preview with my son and with two good friends.  The movie, Pacific Rim, will probably be forgotten in the long run, but it was enjoyable to watch.

My daughter is on a mission trip this week, and my wife is at a three day teacher’s convention for AVID.  My son and I will be alone for a few days.

So long Serena

Over the last few days, my cough and sore throat has gotten neither better nor worse.  I’ve completed my round of antibiotics, so now I’m hoping that I don’t catch something new or that something doesn’t flares up.  I’m still tired.  My daughter seems to have recovered.  My son got worse, so he’s been to the doctors twice and is now on antibiotics.

I have managed to make major progress towards completing my chip.  I may only have three more hours to go, which is good because I’m only seven hours away from maxing out on the PO.  Beyond that, I’ve also completed week 1 of all of my homework.  It feels good to be caught up.  I might even begin to work on one of my project/presentations that is due in a couple of weeks.

Yesterday, one of our bunnies, Serena, died.  It was very sad for my daughter, as it was her bunny.  Serena always had bowel issues and I guess she spent our entire vacation sitting on her butt in poop.  Her butt became infested with maggots who were literally eating her alive.  The vet gave her little chance for survival, so we put her down.  Since our vacation was so short, we opted not to have a bunny sitter this time around.  I guess we should have.  The litter box was not cleaned for three weeks, giving time for maggots to grow.

As of this morning, both of my girls are away.  My daughter is on a mission trip all week and my wife is at a three day teacher’s conference.  This leaves my son and me at home alone to recover.

The sickness continues

The congestion is gone, but now a dry hack and a very sore throat remain.  I spent much of my day drinking fluids to avoid a lot of pain.

The big event of the day was going to NHU with my wife.  She wanted to see the place and set up a possible field trip for next fall.  We met with Augustin, who sets these things up, then met with a couple of my teachers.  One of those teachers is my teacher now, and he supplied me with all the homework I needed to do over the weekend.  He also told me not to come to class tomorrow, as it was July 4th.  Good thing he told me!

Both my kids are still sick as well.  Courtney still coughs, and Jeffrey has developed an ear ache.


My wife set up quarantine areas for me and disinfected the entire house.  I spent the day not really seeing my family.  She also got food and started cooking, mostly vegetables, since I hadn’t seen a vegetable in over a week.  I sent emails to church, school and my Wednesday morning breakfast buddies saying that I would not be there this week, and that if anyone had a persistent cough, they should go see their doctor.

Since today was 7/1, I did my quarterly stock report.  Things are looking good, though I suspect that next quarter won’t look as good.  The market is beginning to drop.

TdF was the team time trial today.  The event itself was pretty boring, but the lovely views of Nice, France (a place I’ve been to a couple of times) were spectacular.

The antibiotics appear to be working: lung capacity is up and most of my congestion has disappeared.  The persistent cough and a very sore throat remain however.