Monday, October 12, 2015

Elected Citizen Architect

San Jose, CA Post Office (now Museum)
  An interesting topic has emerged on Bob Borson's group topic discussion in "ArchiTalks." The topic is "Citizen Architect."

As one of the few women elected officials nationwide - who also happens to be a licensed architect, this topic is of great interest to me. I am a Napa, CA City Councilmember, elected in 2006, re-elected in 2010, and re-elected in 2014.

 On a regular basis, I encourage my architect colleagues to jump in and help on committees, working groups, boards, commissions, non-profit leadership, service clubs, and neighborhood associations. Since so many architects tend to be introverted, there is often resistance. My dear friend and a former City Council member is famous for saying "Come on. It'll be fun!" I've tried that line with other architects, and FUN does not seem to be their motivating factor. What I have found that resonates is, "We have a problem with _____, and need some "good heads" to help solve this problem. Can you come to a meeting on ______?" Or, "We need to generate some ideas to solve _____ (problem x)." 

Architects are trained problem solvers. Architects can generate ideas better and faster than any other "civic-minded" group. They are not judgmental, but instead are open-minded and used to working on complex problems with diverse groups of people. They are excellent volunteers.

At the heart of the "Polis" - or City - is high-functioning self-government. According to Plato, the four qualities of a "just city" are wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice. He did not discuss infrastructure.

There is a lot of infrastructure in a modern city. Just think about how often an architect deals with the streets, water supply, sanitary sewer, electric utilities, gas utilities, cable and fiber optic lines, storm sewers, trees, sidewalks, traffic management, parks, and city planning. Along with "wisdom, courage, moderation and justice," architects know how to get things done in the complex world we live in. 

When I go on a campaign to "save" an historic building, I turn to a non-profit group, Napa County Landmarks, whose board is heavily weighted with - architects.

Save the Historic Napa Post Office
Help Save Our Historic Napa Post Office

Recently I attended the League of California Cities Annual Conference in San Jose, CA. Of great interest to me was a city that would build this Romanesque structure to house their Post Office. Then, when the Post Office was no longer interested in occupying the building, the city turned the structure into a signature element of their museum. 
San Jose Museum of Art
I encourage other architects to take that step to help shape the "Polis" or "City" where they live. The city will be richer for it - wherever that city is. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Spring Garden - part 2

Jackie is very proud of her peony and iris border.

'Krinkled White' peony

In 2011 we attended the annual American Peony Society Convention in Wilsonville, Oregon. We saw many peony plants and photographed many blooms submitted by growers all over the country.

Spring Garden - part 1

Many of our peony plants have now been in the ground two years. Jackie the Bernese Mountain dog has been very careful not to trample them.


These photos were all taken in early April - when the tree peonies bloom first.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Bernese Mountain Dog puppy turns one

Little Miss Jackie the Bernese Mountain Dog turned one year old this week. She weighs in at over 90 pounds, quite a change for the "runt" of her litter! In honor of her birthday, I made a dog birthday cake. After searching for recipes, I found that there are very few good ones out there, so offer up my own version of a whole wheat, carrot, banana, peanut butter cake.
Dog Birthday Cake

This is completely edible for humans, too!

Jackie wants some cake! "When do I get some?"

Queen for a Day

Whole Wheat Doggie Cake

1 C whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 C natural ( no sugar) peanut butter
1 mashed banana
2 shredded carrots
1/4 C. olive oil
1 egg
2 Tbsp. honey
1/4-1/2 tsp. cinnamon

This is a very simple cake. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil small (6 in x 3 in) springform cake pan. Mix dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients and add to dry ingredients. Spread batter in the oiled pan. Bake 40 minutes or till cake springs back when touched. Cool on rack.


2 oz. cream cheese
1/4 C. peanut butter
2 Tbsp. yogurt
1 Tbsp. honey

Cream the peanut butter and cream cheese, add yogurt and honey and frost as you would any cake. Decorate with doggie treats, carrot slivers, banana slices or other special goodies your dog loves.

The cake is actually quite good. For dogs, do not add nuts, raisins or other indigestible or dangerous ingredients! Jackie had no problem digesting the cake.

Here she is gulping her first bite!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Roasted quince, pear and apple tart

For my dear friends and owners of a mature quince tree, I'm including here a recipe for a roasted quince, pear and apple tart. Karen and Bob have shared their Carneros quince with us for several years. Our young quince tree set many fruit this year, but I had to pinch most of them off so that they would not break the spindly branches. In a few years it will be as sturdy as the persimmon tree we planted by the dining room windows.

I found a recipe on Epicurious for a roasted pear, apple and quince crostada. Unfortunately, each piece has 923 calories, and the recipe uses three sticks of butter and over one and one-half cups of sugar. I changed the shell and the filling and made them gluten free.

Here's the adapted recipe.

Roasted quince, pear and apple tart

Roasted fruit
2 quince, washed, cored
2 firm pears, washed and cored
2 firm apples, washed and cored
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh ginger
1 cinnamon stick, broken
4-6 whole cloves
2 Tbsp. Lucero Lemon White Balsamic Vinegar
dash salt

Tart shell
1 1/2 cups packed almond meal flour
4 Tbsp. butter, melted, cooled
3 Tbsp. sugar (or ginger flavored sugar)
2 Tbsp. ice water

Almond filling
1 cup almond paste
1/4 cup egg whites (about 2 large eggs)
dash freshly ground cinnamon

Sugar topping
1 1/2 Tbsp. Turbinado sugar
1/4 tsp. sea salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash, quarter and core quince, apples and pears, then cut in  one inch chunks. Toss with lemon juice, sugar, ginger, cinnamon stick, cloves and balsamic vinegar in a bowl. Transfer to large shallow baking pan, and roast, stirring once or twice, until fruit is soft and caramelized - about 1 to 1/14 hours. Remove from oven, cool on rack (about 30-45 minutes), discard cinnamon and cloves.

Meanwhile, make tart shell. Mix almond meal, sugar, butter, and ice water with fork till mixture clings together. Press into 8 inch tart pan and up sides.

In food processor, mix almond paste, egg whites and cinnamon till light and fluffy.

For sugar topping, mix Turbinado sugar and sea salt in small bowl.

Assemble tart by spreading the almond filling in the tart shell, arranging the cooled fruit over the filling, and sprinkling the sugar topping over the fruit filling.

Bake on baking sheet till filling is slightly puffed and fruit filling begins to brown. This should be about one hour. Cool to warm, remove side of tart pan, and place on serving plate.

The very best accompaniment is Tahitian Vanilla ice cream from the recipe of Goitsemedeme Booq, cook for Mrs. Constantine Nurt at her estate in Napa, Gottalottaguapo.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Bernese Mountain lap dog

Jackie the Bernese Mountain Dog continues to grow. With large breed dogs, the changes are not gradual, they are instant. She is too big for me to pick up any longer. From her first days home at 18 pounds, she has grown to over 60 pounds at 7 1/2 months.

Jackie at 10 weeks

Jackie the lap dog, 7 1/2 months, photo by John Poole

A little snuggle, please? She's still a puppy and only about 2/3 grown. We spent the day harvesting and crushing grapes last weekend. She was denied her constant daily attention while we were out in the vineyard. (Grapes can be toxic for dogs.) She is hoping to be the next winery dog, though there are several dogs in the wine group. This one could actually pull a cart loaded with grapes some day.

Here's a video of her right after she arrived. She is meeting the neighbors and Otto, an almost record breaking Great Dane.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Time for Puppies

It's time for puppies in our little corner of Napa. Jasmine, the wonderful Lab/Aussie companion of 12 1/2 years passed away right before the New Year. Our new little Bernese Mountain Dog "Jackie" has been learning how to be a good dog.

Jackie the Bernese Mountain Dog puppy, 6 months old
She is now 7 months old and is eager to work! Here is a little video of her doing her first job. This little 18 second video had more response on my facebook page than anything in recent memory.
She is eager to please, and eager to work. Praise, little treats and the joy of hearing "good job!" seem to be all the motivation she needs. She is starting to bring me my slippers so we can get the day going each day. What a pleasure to have her in our lives!