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Home Again

Sorry I didn’t post much while in Texas the last several days.

I was in an asbestos filled hotel room, with no wifi, no Internet connection, and no safe to store any of my photo gear (which means I had to carry it everywhere with me).

It kind of felt like I went back in time by a few decades or so.

I had a very busy (but very fun!) schedule while I was in Texas.

The best part, of course, was being able to spend some time with my son.

It’s so great when your kids grow-up and you really LIKE the person they’ve become.

I got home on the late side last night.

I’ll have more details about my trip for you tomorrow.

First things first …

I need to unpack.

(A little sleep would be awesome too!)

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Thunder and Lightning and Rain!

Traveling is always an adventure.

I was up at six a.m. yesterday – early for me.

On my flight to Dallas, two kids seated near me vomited.

The short, two hour, flight suddenly seemed incredibly long.

There was also an “incident” with an

elderly man.

In other words, it was the longest two hour flight ever.

I arrived to 90 degree, very humid, weather.

I was, however, delighted when the heat turned into an amazing lightning show in the evening.

I gasped out loud at every clap of thunder … I’m not used to it.

My son laughed at me -

He’s already become accustomed to Texas weather.

I didn’t bring my computer with me so I’m going to keep this brief.

Typing on an iPad is slow for me.

I just wanted to check in while I had the chance.

I hope you have a nice weekend.

If I can, I’ll put a photo up sometime this weekend.

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Time For Texas

I’m on my way to Texas.

Or, possibly, I’m already IN Texas – depending on what time you’re reading this.

(It really isn’t a very long flight.)

Almost every minute of the next four days is booked with mother/son activities.

The activities have all been planned in honor of “Mom’s Weekend” at my son’s college.

I wish I had been able to add a few extra days to this trip so I could explore with my camera, but I just wasn’t able to do it this time.

(I don’t dare complain about being busy with photography clients, but ….)

From what I’ve heard so far, I’ll be dining in a nice restaurant at one point this weekend, along with partying with frat boys at other times.

It should be fun.

I can’t wait to spend some time with my son.

I haven’t seen him since the beginning of January.

I think I’ll have some time to update the blog each morning.

(College boys tend to sleep in until noon.)

But, if you don’t see posts and/or photos here, you’ll know it’s just because I’m busy doing Texas things.

You can also always track me down via Facebook, G+, Twitter or Instagram.

I usually manage to “appear” somewhere on social media, regardless.

And now …?

It’s time for Texas …..!

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Things I’ve Learned Lately

Things I’ve learned lately:

•  I hate the Internet on April Fool’s Day.  Seriously, folks ….

•  If my arm feels exceptionally good one day, I shouldn’t try a lot of new things “just to see what happens.”  One new thing?  Maybe.  Arm twirls to see if my arm will fall off/pop out?  Not such a good idea.

•  Really Suzanne, you should know better by now. 

•  Sigh!  Paul Newman, why do I get these great ideas on weeks when I’m not going to see you?

•  Getting a text from my son saying he’s “so excited” for me to come visit melted my cold heart into a puddle of warm mom-mush.

•  Packing for trips is something I hate.  Why is packing so horrible?

•  Texas weather confuses me.  What do you mean between 89F and 69F with fog/thunder/rain/clear skies?

•  I got curious and watched a tummy tuck surgery on YouTube.  I was alternately horrified/mesmerized/flabbergasted/horrified/amazed.  Wow!  I wanted to stop watching it, but I just couldn’t.  Kudos to doctors everywhere.  I am absolutely not cut out to work in the medical field in any capacity whatsoever.

•  The Jawbone Up24 doesn’t work for me.  I’ve heard it’s great for some people.  I’m assuming it’s because of my bum arm/not normal arm motions … but for whatever reason, it isn’t recording for me.

•  It did tell me I’m not getting enough sleep.  (Of course, I already knew that.)

•  I will forever miss being able to garden in the spring. ( I’m just not coordinated enough to do it with my left arm/hand.)

•  It really bothers me that no one knows where Malaysia Flight 370 is.  (Or if they do, they’re not making it public.)  Are we supposed to just forget about it?  I feel so sorry for the families involved.  Sad!

•  We’re having mountain lion problems here lately.  The problem is, people have invaded the territory of mountain lions.  Sadly, it’s the mountain lions who are getting punished/killed as a result.

•  It’s baseball season!

•  I love puppies.

•  I got really excited yesterday when I found the perfect travel-sized hair product.  It’s the little things in life ….

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April Means Spring

We never had winter in Southern California this year.

Still, it’s been nice to see evidence of spring on my travels these last few weeks.

California is famous for its gold hills.

They’re covered with wild mustard blooming in spring.

Click on photo to purchase, or to view larger, in 24atHeart gallery.

I took the above photo as I was driving through the Napa Valley.

I love the look of wild mustard.

It’s everywhere I go this time of year.

It definitely contributes to spring allergies for a lot of us, though.

Things are blooming at my house too:

Click on photo to purchase, or to view larger, in 24atHeart gallery.

Everything looks so pretty when flowers are blooming.

I took Mocha for a long walk yesterday.

She’s such a funny dog … she loves to bury her nose in flowers and sniff them.

As an aside, while out walking, I noticed my new Jawbone Up24 doesn’t seem to track my “steps” as well as Fitbits have in the past.

I think it uses different technology than a Fitbit.

It must rely more on the swinging of a person’s arm as they walk?

I don’t swing my arms in the same way a person with two healthy arms does.

I’m guessing that’s why the Jawbone seems to under-record my activity.

??

I’m going to give it a few more days and keep an eye on it.

I may end up passing it on to my oldest son who is a runner.

I think he’d probably get much more accurate results than I’ve seen so far.

If any of you have used a Fitbit and/or Jawbone and/or other fitness tracking device, I’d be interested in hearing about your experience.

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A Whole Lot of Shaking Going On

There was an earthquake in North Orange County on Friday evening.

Did you feel it?

(Actually, Orange County had *several* earthquakes Friday evening. And more on Saturday.  And more on  ….)

How an earthquake feels depends on how close you are to the epicenter.

At my house, I definitely felt a good, strong, unmistakable, shake.

Nothing in my house was damaged.

In earthquake terms, a 5 pointer isn’t that big of a deal.

(But?  It definitely got my attention.)

In other, unrelated, news:

•  My new Jawbone Up24 was very happy with how much I walked while I was at the beach on Saturday.

Click on photo to purchase, or to view larger, in 24atHeart gallery.

•  Sunday, however, was a relatively lazy day.  I rearranged furniture in my family room and did chores.  Isn’t that exciting?  My Jawbone was unimpressed with my activities.

•  I’m getting really excited to see my son next weekend.  There’s a mother/son event at his college.  I’m looking forward to a Texas visit, even though it will be a quick trip.

•  I’ve already suggested to my son he and I “road trip” to Texas next fall prior to his sophomore year.  I’m always up for an adventure.

•  I’m officially OLD.  I bought a recliner!  Do you have a recliner?  I didn’t know I could get so excited about a chair.  I’m so happy about my new chair.

•  Today I’m baking cookies to send to my dad for his upcoming birthday.  He loves getting home baked cookies!

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Random Friday

I keep pretending I’m still in Napa, but it isn’t really working.

Here’s a photo of Regusci Winery:

Click on photo to purchase, or to view larger, in 24atHeart gallery.

Isn’t it pretty?

It’s a small farm where they also happen to make (super yummy) wine.

In other news:

•  I’m working on my business taxes.  Working on taxes for Twenty Four At Heart, LLC is something I hate with every ounce of my being.  If you ever want to hear me swear like a sailor, come visit while I’m working on taxes.

•  Once again I’m vowing to keep better/more organized records of my business next year.

•  Baby Face worked me SO hard at the gym this week.  I guess he figured I needed it after my mini-vacation.  My legs are screaming at me.  If you don’t think legs can scream, I dare you to work-out with Baby Face.

•  I also went to the dentist this week.  Does life get much better than the dentist, taxes, and screaming legs?

•  Yes, it does.  I know this because today I’m with Paul Newman.  Paul Newman is one of my favorite people.  (He truly is a huge improvement over the dentist, taxes and screaming legs.)

•  After accidentally washing and/or ruining several FitBit Zips, I’ve decided to try out a Jawbone UP24.  I let you know what I think of it after I’ve worn it for awhile.  I’ve heard good things, but that doesn’t mean I won’t ruin it in the normal course of doing all the things I do.

•  I’m looking forward to the weekend.  Primarily, I’m looking forward to some outdoor time, some exercise, some shooting, and a little more post-Napa, pre-Texas, catch-up time.

•  Happy weekend!

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The Thing I Hate About Vacations …

It’s so great to get away on a vacation.

Even if you don’t get the chance to go too far, for too long.

It’s such a nice mental health break to change up your environment now and then.

San Francisco:  Click on photo to purchase, or to view larger, in 24atHeart gallery.

But …?

I hate coming back.

I mean, I like sleeping in my own bed again and all that sort of stuff.

It just seems to take days to get caught up from being gone.

This time, I’m only home for about a week before I take off for Texas.

I have so much work, so many errands, so many appointments, so much everything crammed into that one week period.

I have a friend who is extremely wealthy.

He’s mind boggling wealthy.

He travels all around the world, frequently, and without hesitation.

Of course, he has “people” who handle everything for him.

When he comes home the house is stocked with groceries, someone cooks for him, and he doesn’t need to worry about laundry.

In fact, there are “people” everywhere he goes who make his life simple.

Wouldn’t that be AMAZING?

We should all be so lucky to have “people” handling the simple mundane details of our lives.

I am my own people.

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Tips For Visiting Napa

I thought I’d share a few tips for visiting Napa today.

I’ve visited Napa Valley several times in my life, at different ages and life stages.

Visiting Napa is different than visiting wineries in other locations.

(Yes, it’s even different than visiting other California wineries … such as those along California’s Central Coast.)

If you have an opportunity to visit Napa, perhaps a few of my tips will help you plan your trip.

•  First of all, if you’re flying, Oakland is the closest large airport.  (I flew into San Francisco, most recently, since I had work there.  I rented a car once I was done and drove to Napa.  I flew out of Oakland on my return flight.)

•  If you’re in college, or want a drink-fest, you will probably gravitate to the wineries with inexpensive “tastings.”  I know when I was in my early 20′s I wasn’t super particular about what wine I was drinking. I was just happy if I could afford wine at all.  Now that I’m old and decrepit, I’ve come to appreciate truly good wines.

•  Napa newbies often feel like they have to go to as many wineries as possible with whatever time they have available.  I suppose that’s fine if you’re in a competition with someone over who saw the most wineries.  Personally, I like *good* wine.  I’m a proponent of visiting quality wineries (and really enjoying the experience) vs. a high quantity of so-so wineries.

•  If you’re on your honeymoon, anniversary, or some other special occasion, splurge on a nice hotel.  There are a lot of really nice places to choose from.  I knew I would barely be in my hotel during my most recent trip.  I did *not* spend money on a nice hotel.  (My hotel was clean.  It had a great shower and a comfortable bed.  That’s all I needed.)  I did spend money dining at a few award winning restaurants.  I did spend money purchasing some special wines that aren’t available at the retail level.  Decide what your priorities are for your particular visit and plan accordingly.

•  If you have underage kids, it’s better not to bring them.  I watched a mom yell at her ten year old son because he had wandered off to put his hands in a winery fountain.  She was upset with him.  She’d been drinking wine for an hour and ignoring him.  What did she expect?  You can’t expect a kid (or anyone) to happily sit and watch you drink for hours on end.  By the way, the boy wasn’t hurting anything by putting his hands in the fountain.  I almost put MY hands in the fountain as a sign of silent solidarity with him.

•  Every season has something different to offer in Napa.  Summer gets hot, but the vines have a lot of grapes to show off.  It varies based on weather, but in general, grapes are harvested from late August through October.  In November the vines don’t have grapes but the leaves turn gorgeous fall colors.  In spring, you can experience “bud break” as the vines renew themselves with fresh growth.

Bud Break

I find all seasons to be beautiful in Napa.

Here’s a spring photo of the budding of soon-to-be grape clusters:

Bud Break on Grapevine © SHaggerty 2014 W-1

A close-up of a future grape cluster.

•  Don’t fall into the theme-park trap.

There are hundreds (thousands!) of wineries in the area.  Some of them have built “attractions” in an attempt to get your business.  Do you want to spend a few hours looking at the moat at a winery?  Or would you prefer to spend that time in the vineyard of your favorite winery while talking to the owner?  It’s something to keep in mind as you plan your trip.

For instance, I went to visit one winery purely to see the grounds.  I knew the photography opportunities would be spectacular.  I had no interest in the wine, and I knew it going in.  On the other hand, I only did that with ONE winery.  I planned the rest of my visits focusing on the actual wine at the wineries.  (You might do something similar if you’re a fan of architecture and want to check out an interesting winery because you’ve heard they have an amazing building.)  Put a little forethought into your visit so you don’t get distracted by every shiny object that comes your way.

Lake Jade at Chateau Montelena

•  In general, I recommend visiting two to three wineries per day.  If you do more, you’re probably not going to remember much about them.  (Of course, depending on a given situation/geographical location, it may vary.)  If you’re only doing tastings and no tours, you’ll be able to fit more into each day …. but how much wine can you drink before you  get trashed  need a nap?

•  If you’re headed to Napa for a drink-fest, please hire a driver or pre-determine a designated driver within your group.  In fact, getting a driver is a good idea for everyone.  Even if you don’t intend to drink much, it’s easy to have one sip too many when there’s so much delicious wine surrounding you.

•  Napa police have regular DUI checkpoints, as they should.

•  It’s easy to research wineries ahead of time, but you can also pick up a winery map for free at almost every Napa hotel or restaurant.  The map will give you information about all the wineries, including whether or not you are free to “stop in” or need an appointment ahead of time.  If you do want to call for an appointment, the map is useful because it also includes the phone numbers and addresses of each winery.

•  If you’ve never been to Napa before, I would suggest starting with a tour of one of the large production wineries.  It really is fascinating to learn how wine is made.  It’s also very interesting to understand the differences in how a large winery and a small, family run, winery operate.  On my recent trip, I took my guest (a Napa newbie) to Mondavi Winery.  It’s a huge, beautiful, winery.  For thirty dollars we went for a 75 minute tour which included a great educational introduction to the history of Napa and winemaking.  A tasting of three wines concluded the tour.  It was nice to have that experience first as we progressed on to smaller, more intimate, wineries.

•  There’s a difference between a “tour” and a “tasting.”  Tours include tastings but also give you a look at how the wine is made, a bit of history about the winery, information regarding what is different about *that* wine vs. another winery’s wines, etc.  During a tour you might see wine being bottled, you might have the opportunity for a barrel tasting, you might be able to taste a grape or two off the vine, and/or many other experiences you wouldn’t have if you were at the winery just for a tasting.  I enjoy meeting and talking to the people at a winery.  I like the experience of immersing myself in the culture of, and really understanding, a winery.  That being said, I wouldn’t want to “just” tour all day.  For my recent visit, I scheduled one tour per day.  During the rest of the day, I visited wineries for tastings and/or (since I’m a photographer) for their visual appeal.  (By the way, it does vary, but most tours are about 90 minutes long.)

•  If you have a favorite Napa Valley wine, it’s a smart idea to book a tour at that winery when you plan your trip.  Many of the wineries only allow a limited number of people per tour.  Smaller wineries can be difficult to get into without prior scheduling.

•  Napa Valley is divided into appellations (micro-climate grape growing areas).  Many people plan their visits geographically by appellation.  For instance, if you love cabernet sauvignon you might want to compare the wines from neighboring wineries in the Stag’s Leap District to see which winery makes your favorite cab.

•  There are some world-class restaurants in Napa Valley.  Some of them are booked months in advance.  If you’d like the experience of dining in a Michelin Star restaurant, plan ahead.

•  Some wineries, and some restaurants, offer pairings.  You can experience a wine and chocolate pairing.  You can experience a several course meal with a wine chosen perfectly for each course.  If you love wine and food, you’ll love Napa.  (As an aside:  Most wineries have food/dining events periodically throughout the year for their wine club members.  Some wineries even offer cooking classes.)

•  Don’t forget, the Napa area has a lot to offer besides wine.  There are plenty of absolutely amazing restaurants and spas.  There are a lot of hiking and biking opportunities.  There’s shopping, golf, movies, horeseback riding, art galleries, etc., etc.  Take the time to breathe in the scent of the vineyards and enjoy your visit.