Cooking Class at Cafe Merlot

At the end of May our team at work did a cooking class, as a team building. We had a blast… what a treat! Lots of laughter, lots of food and lots of learning!

Our class started off with an introduction and some background from Toni Kraft, one of the proud new owners of Cafe Merlot at Bernardo Winery, the oldest continuously operating winery in Southern California. Bernardo Winery is hidden in the hills of North San Diego County (in Rancho Bernardo, as a matter of fact)… a quaint family run winery boasting jazz on Sunday afternoons, a large courtyard to stroll through, a coffee shop, restaurant, a farmers market on Fridays, shops & artist studios and a beautiful lawn leading out to some of the vineyards.

Please, if you do anything this summer… make sure to visit Bernardo Winery. (But don’t tell anyone else – we want to keep it “hidden”!) ; )

We had some appetizers…

And then Toni handed us off to Chef Daniel Reynolds, who schooled us! (In a good way…)

Let’s see… what did we learn/make?

– We made bruschetta (and he explained that if we were pronouncing this word “BROOSHEDDA” then we would be laughed at). Note to self: It’s “BROOSKET-TA!”
– We made a citrus viniagrette
– We made his Universal Marinade (did I write down all of those ingredients?! phew!)
– He showed us how to make his famed omelets, as well as how to FLIP an omelet! (I failed!)

Through all of those cooking lessons Chef Daniel shared with us some of his kitchen tips (like why it’s important to “spank the herbs”), a few chef secrets, the importance of LABELING everything in the kitchen/refrigerator (product, date, etc), tips on the proper julienne cut and explained the dice, aka “brunoise”.

After each lesson we’d get to taste test what we had made, of course

And by the end of the day we were so full we had to sit down…

And once we sat down they brought to us one of the most amazing mimosas I’ve ever had in my life. I’m telling you – they serve a special mimosa that you’ll have to try for yourself… using a unique-to-them champagne (that’s apparently rather difficult to acquire), blood orange juice and I believe there was a third ingredient (which I can’t seem to recall at the moment).

What a great day… we learned a lot, we ate some amazing food (THAT WE MADE OURSELVES) and have I said yet how much we laughed ?! Oh yeah, and one more thing we took away from the day? Don’t pull a Lori!(obviously referring to how I failed on the one-handed flip of the omelet…nice!)

enjoy your time in the kitchen…


All we needed was another reason to have a party…

But first off let me show you what the sunrise looked like this morning when I sat down at my desk!


Then I had to finalize a few details on our Trick or Treat event…

I made Red Velvet Cupcakes and brought in some decorations. Some of the decorations were homemade and some were store bought.

I made the headstones … but bought the “Have a Fang-tastic Halloween” food picks.

As usual, we commandeered the closest conference room and made a mess of it.

I set out some wicked scary decorations…

… and I’m still buzzing from all the sugar over-load!

I made a few more of these, and figured I ought to share them as well: paper pop-up pumpkins

What are YOU doing this Halloween?

Life is good…

Fun with Lee’s co-workers

The group of people Lee works with had a post-work party… and they invited the spouses this time. They had just completed a week at work that required a lot of extra blood, sweat and tears. (OK – they’d never admit to the “tears” part… but I had to include it.)

So one of their team offered up his house for a little party. And what a beautiful place they had… a sprawling backyard with eucalyptus trees, vining roses, a pool, lots of little places to sit and ponder life.

I asked them if I could move in.

Lee looked at me strange…

I got to meet his co-workers and their spouses. We ate, we laughed, we had a good time.

And then I took a walk towards the roses. They were calling my name…

I think I’ll just sit here a while and ponder life… Lee wants to take me home tonight. So I’ll soak it up while I can!

I’m sure glad the guys worked hard so we could have a party to celebrate…

Oh happy day…

Happy BIRTHday, that is… to several of my co-workers! Today we ate at Casa de Bandini for birthday lunches for Marsha, Maya, Chad, PJ, Erin and Claudia! In fact, I was the only one at the table who wasn’t celebrating… so I took pictures!

And ate a little bit of everything… and my dish, Camarones al Mojo de Ajo, um… I’m going to have to go back, taste it again, and come home and try to make it here! So, be watching for it… holy cow…

There was also Ceviche (wow!), Queso Fundido (double-wow!) and some really phenomenal chips and salsa! They mean business, with their chips and salsa, folks!!!

If you live in the area, you HAVE to check it out! (And make sure to call me to let me know what time you’ll be there! I’ll save you a spot!!!)

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

All about my sabbatical…

My to do list for sabbatical
– take a nap everyday
– type hand-written recipes into computer
– burn rest of the music cds to computer
– dust silk plants in house
– sort boxes of photos
– shred old documents
– enjoy some lunches with friends
– overall, get organized
– take some day trips for photography purposes

What I did…
– sorted through 10+ years of photos
– painted the bathroom
– cleaned out/painted the laundry room (top to bottom)
– took the long road to/from my errands
– went out on a few day trips for photo fun
– stayed up late, later than i’ve seen in years
– slept in late, later than i’ve seen in years

What I thought I would do… but didn’t…
– get a daily nap in
– exercise more regularly

What I lost…
– shredded 10+ years of old documents
– purged stuff from closets and under beds
– 8 large trash cans full of junk

What I gained…
– knowledge of many things (caught up on reading)
– desire to be at home more
– inspiration
– appreciation for routine

Did I spend the 6 weeks like I thought I would? No
Would I change any of it? Maybe just a few things
Do I wish I could have travelled somewhere? Sure … but being at home during the late winter/spring isn’t all that bad when you live in San Diego!

Am I the luckiest girl in the world?! Yes! My company gives me paid time off every 5 years and I get to use this time however I want to… on top of my regular vacation benefits. Such a great benefit.

I love my job. Seriously – I know full well that not most people can say that. I love how my strengths are put to work and my weaknesses are challenged. I love how it makes me grow as a person and a friend and an employee. I am far from perfect when it comes to how I do my job, handle conflict or work on a team – and for those things I’m grateful that I’m where I’m at. They give us room to grow and the opportunities to stretch our wings doing what we love to do.

Yes, I’m the luckiest girl in the world! I get to do what I love in so many areas of my life…