Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Lovely Trip to Charleston

First, how can it be November?  How is that even possible?  Have I really been so busy in the last five months that I haven't made a single post?  Done one silly thing that I wanted to share?  Had one ornery rant that I wanted to convey?  REALLY?

Probably not.

But I did go to Charleston last week for a conference.  I had only a couple of hours total to walk around, but there was a reception at the South Carolina Aquarium.

So here are some photos, mostly without commentary....

Battery Park

A better view of the gazebo at Battery Park

private residence


Another private residence

Presbyterian Church

historic home

Episcopal Church

Historic home with some *serious* home defense!

And then we went to the aquarium for a reception.  The pictures SO don't do it justice, but I took a few that are blog-worthy....

First, they had a few rescued birds.... a bald eagle

and a kestrel (I thought they were bigger than this!)


seahorse (look closely, he's down near the bottom of the orange coral on the left)

Alien (No, you cannot possibly convince me these actually occur in nature.  ::shudder:: )

Eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Protip - avoid these if you meet one in the wild!)

Albino alligator (Protip 2: Also avoid these in the wild.)

I don't remember what this is, but it makes me smile.

Mmmmm - shrimp and grits!!!!  

The conference was amazing, by the way, but I will spare you any photos of 1500 librarians listening to speakers and attending workshops.  8-)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Hope, indeed.

I work at a lovely college.  I work with great folks, and I enjoy my job immensely.

I'd like to retire here, many moons from now.

But the only way to stay here is for the philosopher to find long-term employment in the same general geographical region as my lovely college.  And that has... not always proven to be an easy thing.

He's been teaching as an adjunct for several semesters (I started in the summer three years ago, and I think he started teaching two classes the following spring.)  This past spring, he was offered a full time temporary position to replace someone who had moved up the administrative chain.

Recently he was asked to continue the full time temporary position through the next academic year.  So for the first time in a long while, the philosopher will have a good job.  Yes, it's only for a year.  But that's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, amirite?

So here's where the hope comes in.

This position will be posted as a full time, tenure track position next spring.  And of course the philosopher will be eligible to apply at that time.

Of course, there are no guarantees.  He has to do a good job for the next academic year, and then do well in an interview (assuming he gets one).  In the meantime he'll be networking, and getting to know folks, and doing his best to fit in and prove his worth.

So yes, this is the most hopeful we've been in several years.

If you're of the praying sort, I know you've been lifting us up lo these many lean years.  Please continue. We're ready to put down some roots, and be settled.  And goodness knows we're both ready to not fret about where his next teaching gig will come from.  He's meant to be a teacher.  His oft-prickly exterior, once breached, shows a man who's dedicated to his students. He wants nothing more than to teach them how to think critically and take what they've learned on into their "real lives" in some meaningful way.

Hope, indeed.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

20th Anniversary Adventure: San Francisco

I admit it.  I was not all that keen to spend the day in San Francisco, killing time while waiting for our midnight flight to depart.

But the philosopher was willing to drive, and I was willing to navigate, so off we went!

Driving to the city from Napa entailed a trip across the Golden Gate Bridge.

 It was a bit foggy and hazy, but not too bad for seeing the sights.

We started our visit by parking near the most important place in San Francisco.... Ghirardelli Square! (Yes, I bought chocolate.  We bought an entire case of wine in Napa... why wouldn't I buy some treats for myself??!?!)

We walked down the coastline, and saw Alcatraz in the bay.

From there we headed to Fisherman's Wharf.  We ate lunch at a delightful place called Alioto's.  Clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl.  Fantastic!  We also walked through the Musee Mechanique, an incredibly quirky collection of games, from air hockey and old penny games to Pac Man and such. It's free; they make the money to keep the place open by asking folks to play all the games!

So that was the easy part.  Now we headed back to the car for a death-defying trip to ....


We had some lovely tea at Ten Ren Tea, and browsed all the quirky shops.  I will say we bought some gifts, but I won't say what, or who they're for!  ::grin::

Old St. Mary's

An interesting view of the Transamerica building from Chinatown.  Talk about a class of cultures!

Our final destination was completely inadvertent.  We were trying to find the interstate on-ramp, but because of  road construction, we were thwarted, and ended up driving the length of Market Street!  


Here's the problem with Market Street.  TOTAL INSANITY!!!!  You actually can't make left turns. (Which is of course where we needed to go.)  And if you get into the "car" lane, you can't turn right, either.  Now, those of you know are familiar with the city might say - just continue straight and head into the Mission District and you can get wherever you need to go."  Nope.  The main roads were blocked off for the 2014 Carnaval Festival.  ::sigh::

We finally ended up on the 101 headed back to the airport.  There was a brief conversation about trying to go somewhere else... Haight Ashbury, or Coit Tower, or Lombard Street, but by then we were both so exhausted that we decided to go to the airport, drop off the car, and be incoherent for a few hours before our red-eye home.

And that's just what we did.

20th Anniversary Adventure: Napa Valley

From the wilds of Yosemite, we traveled northwest to the serene civility of Napa Valley.  We encamped at a lovely Bed and Breakfast called Hennessey House.

We stayed in an hidden upstairs room away from the hustle and bustle.  Ahhhhhhhh.

Our first day we signed up with Platypus Tours, a quirky company that visits off-the-beaten-path wineries.  Our driver/guide was named Chris Largent, and he was awesome.  There's a great pic of our whole group on the Platypus FB page... 

Anyway, there were four very different places on our tour.  We started at Honig Winery.

It's a small, lovely place.  Our host was great, telling us about about the family history and each wine we sampled.  (I say "we"... though I only actually tasted a bit of the philosopher's tastings!)

 This is not an uncommon scene - vineyards stretching in every direction!

Our next stop took us to Benessere Vineyards up the valley in St. Helena, where we got a very different feel.
Instead of sitting around a table and tasting, the host encouraged us to wander about on the grounds and come back in when we wanted the next sample.

The host was very generous with his pours, so it's a VERY good thing we also stopped here for our picnic lunch!

Favorite Picture from the Entire Week (well, at least from Napa!)

After lunch we shook off the sleepies and headed yet further north, to the Calistoga area, and to Tedeschi Winery.
Talk about small, family-owned!  Our host (who also helps with the winemaking) liked to say "each year we store fewer barrels of wine than some wineries spill!"

 (That's Chris, our Platypus guide, telling us a bit about the family!)

We got a full tour, from a talk about the grapes and how they're espaliered to a look at the de-stemmer and wine press.  (I won't bore you with pictures of everything... you'll have to come see my scrapbook when it's done!)

From there we headed to our last stop, and the largest winery on our list, Ballentine Vineyards.

Another absolutely lovely spot!  

Chris actually gave us the full tour, taking us into the barrel room and "behind the scenes".

 Then we got to the tasting.  We were all pretty tired - and totally happy - by this time.  ::heh::  But here is where I finally found a wine I adored. Their 2013 Malvasia Bianca Frizzante.  Oh. My. Goodness.  I bought two bottles...  ::sheepish grin::  ...the only double-up we did all day!

We ended the evening at a lovely Italian restaurant called Ristorante Allegria in downtown Napa, and crashed for a long nights' sleep.

We spent the first part of the day at Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa.  We had lunch at the Oxbow Cheese and Wine Market, and had a cheese sampler with a flight and pairing.  Yum.  We visited the spice market and bought fenugreek, and hit up the honey stand too.  We *really* wanted to grab some fresh strawberries and cherries, but how the heck do you pack those in a carry-on?

After all that we staggered back to the B&B, rested a bit, and then it fell to me to drive to our afternoon destination: Stag's Leap Wine Cellars.

This is what the philosopher has been waiting for.

Unless you're a wine fan, you probably don't know the story of the Judgment of Paris.  In brief, in 1973 a Cabernet Sauvignon from Stag's Leap, in a relatively unknown-at-the-time Napa Valley, took on France's best Bordeaux wines and won in a blind tasting.  That win, plus another Napa win in chardonnays during the same event, is what put Napa Valley on the map.  Of *course* the philosopher was looking forward to this!

It's another beautiful place.

(That's stag's leap promotory there in the background)

  This is where we went big.  We'd made reservations for the tour and estate tasting, and it was worth it.  We got to go through their caves, which immediately called to mind Gimli's exultation of the Glittering Caves of Aglarond!  (And as obvious it is that the philosopher was looking forward to this tour, of *course* I have to come up with a Tolkien reference!!)

(He didn't drink them all, just the four in front of him, and... well... most of mine, too!)

We finished the tour with an estate tasting, which basically means we tasted their best wines.  And according to my resident expert, they were indeed excellent.  We tasted a chardonnay and three cabs, and it's a good thing we didn't have unlimited funds for this trip, because this place could have blown our budget. We did end up with four bottles of Artemis, and plan to lay them down for several years.

We capped off our last night in Napa with dinner at Brix Restaurant.

The food was magnificent.

And so was the view of their gardens!

This endeth our stay in Napa.  I've already promised the philosopher than when he scores a tenure-track position, we'll come back again, take another Platypus Tour (or two), and I'll buy him a bottle of Cask 23 at Stag's Leap!