Sunday, November 6, 2011

Vegan Lifestyle

Well, this post should have been put up about 8 months ago: on March 28th we both decided to go vegan! I guess you could say that it was just the right time in our lives to make that change. Neither one of us have been huge meat eaters, but we were definitely eating a lot of chicken, ground turkey, fish, eggs and cheese in order to make sure we were getting enough protein in our diets. Not only are we animal lovers and interested in the well being of our planet, but we had been having many conversations wondering why soooo many people get cancer. Cancer seems to have no rhyme or reason, with many seemingly healthy people being attacked by the disease. At about this time a few great books coincidentally entered our lives:

   In The Kind Diet, actress, activist, and committed conservationist Alicia Silverstone shares the insights that encouraged her to swear off meat and dairy forever, and outlines the spectacular benefits of adopting a plant-based diet, from effortless weight loss to clear skin, off-the-chart energy, and smooth digestion. She explains how meat, fish, milk, and cheese—the very foods we’ve been taught to regard as the cornerstone of good nutrition—are actually the culprits behind escalating rates of disease and the cause of dire, potentially permanent damage to our ecology.
   Yet going meat- and dairy-free doesn’t mean suffering deprivation; to the contrary, The Kind Diet introduces irresistibly delicious food that satisfies on every level—it even includes amazing desserts to keep the most stubborn sweet tooth happy. Alicia also addresses the nutritional concerns faced by many who are new to a plant-based diet, and shows how to cover every nutritional base, from protein to calcium and beyond. Alicia knows that changing life-long dietary habits is a process, and that each person progresses at a different pace. For that reason, The Kind Diet encompasses 3 separate levels, from Flirting to Superhero. Flirts learn to dip a toe into the vegan pool, reducing their meat-eating and swapping out a few key foods for plant-based substitutes to see quickly how even small changes can reap big results. Vegans get to experience the life-altering effects of forgoing animal-products entirely, while still enjoying many convenience foods and meat substitutes in addition to the wonderful grains, vegetables and fruits that form the core of that diet. True enlightenment comes with the Superhero program, based on the principles of macrobiotics and built on a foundation of whole grains, vegetables, and other yummy foods that Alicia describes in detail.

 In The China Study, T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., details the
connection between nutrition and heart disease, diabetes,
and cancer. The report also examines the source of
nutritional confusion produced by powerful lobbies,
government entities, and opportunistic scientists. The New
York Times has recognized the study (China-Oxford-Cornell
Diet and Health Project) as the “Grand Prix of
epidemiology” and the “most comprehensive large study
ever undertaken of the relationship between diet and the
risk of developing disease.”

“After a long career in research and policy-making, I have decided to step ‘out of the system.’ I
have decided to disclose why Americans are so confused,” said Dr. Campbell. “As a taxpayer who foots the bill for research and health policy in America, you deserve to know that many of
the common notions you have been told about food, health and disease are wrong.”
“I propose to do nothing less than redefine what we think of as good nutrition. You need to
know the truth about food, and why eating the right way can save your life.”

   What's better than eating? (If you say "sex," you're either a liar or a pervert.) The answer is: Nothing! There's nothing better than eating! We're total pigs and eating is, without a doubt, our favorite thing to do. We love eating so much, it makes us mad. We have, like, a violent passion for food. When we go out to eat, if something we order is really good, we talk about killing the chef. Or our pets. Or ourselves. Good food makes us want to die.. .you know, like that expression, ".. .to die for." But ironically, we also care about our health.
  It was these two things—our obsessive passion for food and our concern for health—that led us to write Skinny Bitch. If you haven't read Skinny Bitch yet, get your head out of your ass and go buy a copy. It will change your life. Seriously. Don't be fooled by the title; it's not some dumb, fluffy, weight-loss book. It's a comprehensive guide on how to eat well and enjoy food. But it's also a well-researched exposé documenting the shady business surrounding what we eat.
   Much of what we learned while researching Skinny Bitch blew our minds. So we've made it our personal mission to share this information.

The wellness expert and best-selling author—her new book, Veganist, is out now—shares the secrets to compassionate, mindful eating.

1. To make a change, you have to lean into it. When I decided to become a vegan, I did it gradually: one thing at a time over the course of a few years. If I had pushed myself to stop eating all animal products at once, I might have given up.

2. There's fun in the hunt. Veganism is like a sport for me. I roam supermarket aisles searching for new foods—recently, I found a coconut-based ice cream that's unbelievable. And I love the challenge of "veganizing" recipes: mashed potatoes with soy milk, or pizza topped with tapioca-based cheese and veggie sausage.

3. Compassion is a muscle that gets stronger with use. Eating consciously is an exercise in kindness, and the more I work at it, the more empowered I feel. When I eat food that's grown in the ground or in trees, my mind is clear, my body thrives, and I'm more deeply connected with the world.

4. Seitan is a vegan's secret weapon. At a dinner party a few years ago, I served "veal piccata"—but with seitan, a meat substitute made from wheat gluten. One of my guests, a Midwestern guy who loves his meat, said to me, "That's the best veal I've ever tasted." I felt so proud for pulling off the switch.

5. I'll be forever grateful that alcohol is vegan. An occasional martini is good for the soul.

Read more:

  We feel like a whole new world of food has opened up to us. So many great new recipes, new vegetables and new ideas. We really haven't missed animal products AT ALL! Even sushi, which we love so much has still been very satisfying when you order delicious veggie rolls. The key is having one of these good books because they really teach you which products are good, how to use them and where to find them. Once you learn the basics it is pretty easy. Believe it or not, our husbands quickly got on board, then the kids and then our parents. We are not extremely strict with them. The kids eat this way at home, but when they are out they still eat what is available to them. The boys will eat the occasional hamburger and they all still enjoy cheese pizza. We believe that they are learning to make healthier choices in their lives and that by making the change at home, a huge percentage of their diet has changed for the better. Most visitors and guests to our home are served a vegan meal and they always LOVE it!!(Usually they don't even know.)
  No more counting calories or carbs. We are enjoying whole foods and any extra weight is slowly falling away. We will give you an update at our one year mark - that will be our check point to see if our bodies have sort of found their natural state of healthy well being.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Hard Day's Work

Delivered a lot of beautiful Recycled Wine Bottle Candles to Napa and Sonoma today. We decided to enjoy our lunch break at Clos Pegase with a crisp bottle of their Sauvignon Blanc. We sat next to our favorite old Italian fountain next to the vineyard, under an old walnut tree. The fresh fallen walnuts and a few fallen grapes made for the perfect snack. This is a great stop if you are in the Calistoga area. Clos Pegase is known as "America's first monument to wine and art." It's a really fun place to explore with an amazing array of sculpture, art and architecture. Ask for Cherilyn and tell her the candle girls sent you!

Friday, October 28, 2011

We Love SF!!

It's been great living in Northern California . . . we have become regulars in the city thanks to our frequent trips to Napa and our good friend Cindy's Starwood Preferred Guest status. We just wanted to give you an update on our newest favorite places to eat, drink and enjoy the good life. Here's a start to the list and I will add photos and links this evening.


Westin St. Francis


The Clift


Greens Restaurant



Good Life:

Palace of Fine Arts

HD Buttercup

Muir Woods

Ocean Beach


Fox Theatre in Oakland

Cafe du Nord


Redwood Room

Sunday, October 9, 2011

New Candle Labels

We have added a new line to the Recycled Wine Bottle Candles: Vintage Postage Stamp Labels featuring nature, animals, cultural interest and vintage international posters. These have been really fun and they are going great in aquariums, zoos, museums and gift boutiques across the country. These are making the perfect eco-friendly souvenirs! Our latest delivery was down in Long Beach for The Aquarium of the Pacific. If you know us, you know we love animals - so we are so happy to be working in this arena and we are excited to donate $1 per candle back to the non-profit organization where it was sold. You can check them out on our website: New Labels

Just drop us an email if you would like more information.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Our Latest Favorite Reads

All books by Marina Fiorato:

Botticelli Secret
The Glassblower of Murano
The Madonna of Almonds
Daughter of Sienna

Our all-time favorite Kathleen McGowan:

The Expected One
The Book of Love
The Poet Prince

These and more of the books we love available here:
Notice a common theme here? Yes, rather predictably these are mostly Italian & European historical novels. Our absolute favorite type of books to read. Throw in some mysticism and controversy and what could be better? You can learn about history, become more familiar with your favorite places in Italy, France & Spain and get a good dose of romance and intrigue.

If you have read any of these we can chat about them below and start our own book club!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Napa Wine Tasting Guide

Of course it is pretty hard to go wrong in Napa these days. There is so much to see and so many great wineries to visit. If your budget is unlimited and you know what kind of wine you like then just go for it. Drive down the 29 through Rutherford, Healdsburg and St. Helena and stop wherever your heart desires. Most of the wine will be great. But if you want to narrow it down a little bit, these are just a few of the places that we like to visit on a regular basis. They all seem to have something a little bit out of the ordinary.

Please note: these are in no particular order! The cave tastings have to be pre-scheduled and take about 1 1/2 - 2 hrs. so your best bet is to pick up a local winery map - they have them at all the wineries and shops, or look at this one on-line: before you go and pick your destinations according to your scheduled tour times and  how many days you have to enjoy the Napa Valley.

Schramsberg - Charming and full of grand history, this is one of our favorite spots. Schramsberg sparkling wine has been served at many presidential dinners and it is great to see the commemorative photos and invitations on the wall to prove it. Great cave tour, fab sparkling wines, very educational and great people. You'll leave feeling like a personal friend of the winery.

1400 Schramsberg Road
Calistoga, CA 94515
707-942-4558 for reservations (tell Lisa that Wendy & April from Zengari sent you!)

Mumm Napa - perfect patio and fabulous tasting portions. This is a good place to just chill for a little while, especially if the sun is shining through the clouds over the beautiful Napa Valley. This is one of my favorite views of the valley with the mountains across the way. Love it! They have an art gallery you can enjoy with a glass of champagne. Culture, stunning views and delicious sparkling wines...also a great gift shop.

8445 Silverado Trail,                                         
Rutherford, California
800-686-6272 - no reservation required

Del Dotto - cave tour and tasting. The Rutherford winery is very Italian & full of marble with opulent caves that have barrel tasting and venetian chandeliers. Great wines, fun guides and snacks when you are done. We haven't been to the Historic Winery yet, but maybe we will go this week! We hear it is even more authentic as the caves were some of the first in the Napa Valley dug by Chinese laborers in 1885.

Historic Winery & Tasting Room                     Del Dotto Estate Winery
1055 Atlas Peak Road                                    1445 St. Helena Hwy South
Napa, CA 94558                                            St. Helena, CA 94574
707-963-2134                                                707-963-2134

Brix - beautiful views, great garden, cozy bar with fireplace, intimate velvet couch seating for dinner. Perfect happy hour! This is our normal stop after a hard days work.

7377 St. Helena Highway,
Napa, CA 94558


Coppola - Rubicon Estate - historic mansion, beautiful surroundings, deli, fountains, and nice wine & gift shop.

1991 St. Helena Hwy
Rutherford, CA 94573

Rombauer - THE stop for a nice oakey chardonnay. Small and intimate with a cult like following.

3522 Silverado Trail North


Must have: THE HOMEMADE BUFFALO MOZZARELLA. Don't be surprised if it doesn't come with tomatoes when they are not in season, you actually don't even need them. The bread is garlic rubbed and crunchy and the cheese is to die for.

1050 Charter Oak Ave.
St. Helena, CA 94574

Castello di Amorosa - worth the visit to see the Italian replicated castle and the gift shop. Great for exploring and taking photos. The gift shop has lots of pretty glasses, tablesettings and candles.

4045 North Saint Helena Highway
Calistoga, CA 94515

Mustards - delicious, seasonal, local fresh foods. Cindy Pawlcyn opened here 27 years ago with the organic garden supplying great fresh flavor combos and of course a huge local wine selection.

7399 St. Helena Highway      
Yountville, CA 94558

Oxbow Public Market - fun because it has it all;
food, wine, coffee, tea, dessert. We like the oyster bar only $1 oysters during happy hour.

610 & 644 First Street
Napa, California 94559

Silver Oak - "Life is a Cabernet" great tagline and they make a great Cabernet!

915 Oakville Crossroad
Oakville, CA 94562

Frank Family Winery - Down to earth wine experts who tell great stories, low key atmosphere, always a fun place to hang out. Great wine too & one of the best Chardonnays.
1091 Larkmead Lane
Calistoga, CA 94515

Burgess Cellars - a personal favorite as it is family owned by our old college friend Steve Burgess, his father Tom and his brother Jim. A little bit off of the Silverado Trail, but worth a visit for vintage cabernet and a great, authentic &  friendly tasting experience. Tell Steve we sent you, enjoy the views and make an appointement for tasting.

1108 Deer Park Road
St. Helena, California 94576

Dean & DeLuca - perfect for picking up snacks for the road. also has some nice home shopping items

607 South St. Helena Hwy
St. Helena, CA 94574


Harvest Inn - beautiful gardens, cozy & quaint. Request a King Vineyard room and enjoy the rustic charm with a fireplace and jacuzzi tub overlooking the vineyard. Blissful!

One Main Street
St. Helena, California 94574


Indian Springs - A trip to Indian Springs is not complete without experiencing our Olympic-sized mineral pool. The pool is the heart and soul of Indian Springs. Built in 1913, the Mission Revival-style pool replaced the original 19th century "plunge."

The view from the pool is of the nearby mountains and steam rising from Indian Springs' geysers. The 230-degree geysers keep the mineral pool at 102 degrees in the winter and 92 degrees in the summer. The water's warmth adds a healing element to the bathing experience...soak, rest and then soak some more.

1712 Lincoln Avenue
Calistoga, California 94515

On the Sonoma side:

Kenwood Inn and Spa - perfection . . . there is nothing else to say.

10400 Sonoma Highway
Kenwood, CA 95452

There are many gorgeous wineries in the Sonoma area as well; Viansa, Gloria Ferrer, Kunde, Ledson, St. Francis, Chateau St. Jean, Imagery, etc., etc. Lots of wineries here with a great country feel.

Send us your faves & we will continue the blog of THE most enjoyable places in the Napa/Sonoma Valley :)