Buttonwood Flowering Blossoms

Buttonwood Cherry Blossoms

Flowering trees, such as the beautiful almond tree above, are one of the best examples of feng shui plant life.  Not only do most of these trees sprout delicious nuts or fruit, but their blossoms give off an alluring scent that carries on the air.   Flowering branches also have auspicious symbolism.  Because they usually bloom in winter or early spring, these floral tendrils represent longevity and  overcoming great burdens.  There are not many blossomy trees in my neighborhood, so I usually resort to the Japanese Cherry Blossom lotion from Bath and Body Works (the smell is to die for).  However, on a recent trip to Solvang, a generous collection of these beneficial plants reside at Buttonwood Farm.

Buttonwood Back View

Originally an equestrian ranch established by philanthropist Betty Williams, the property now boasts a vast vineyard, tasting room, and organic farm.  Pictured above is is the back entrance to the tasting room, which leads out to their intricate and beautiful gardens.

Buttonwood 02

The tasting room is stylish and very serviceable.  Two tasting bars reside on either side of the space, allowing for easy flow of patrons.   I love the living chandelier of leaves – a highly conducive and artistic example of the wood element.

Buttonwood Duck

Buttonwood also has many farm-fresh products for sale, including olive oils, preserves, salsas – and my personal favorite – the Raspberry Grenache-Syrah Chocolate sauce.  Decadent and loaded with antioxidants, this sauce is ideal for desserts or a chocolate martini.

Buttonwood 01

Wine barrels are used as support for an elegant table in the middle of the room.  I love barrel furniture, and it’s a green and economical way of reusing these vessels.  Powerful and striking images painted by Seyburn Zorthian grace the walls.  Much of Seyburn’s art is highly influenced by her study of Shoudo, the passionate brush stroke technique of Japanese and Chinese writing.  She also creates the artwork featured on Buttonwood’s wine labels.  For more information about her art, please visit her website here:  http://www.seyburnzorthian.com/artist.html

Buttonwood Fountain

I was captivated by this gorgeous fountain nestled in a private garden outside the tasting room.  Working fountains with clear, clean water add beneficial and peaceful chi (energy) to an environment.

Buttonwood Grounds 01

Daffodils were in full bloom when we visited.  Also known as narcissus or jonquils, these flowers have a myriad of symbolic meaning.  In feng shui folklore, the white ones represent the flowering of one’s talents and skills, and can be used in furthering one’s career. I also think they are great examples of spring; they remind me of hunting for Easter eggs as a kid.

Buttonwood Grounds 03

There were many different wines  l sampled.  My favorites were:

  • 2010 Devin – An irresistible  sauvignon blanc.  Influences of honey, lemon and apricot come through in a charismatic fashion.  Crisp and complex.
  • 2009 Marsanne – A decadent white.  Hints of honeycomb and marzipan contrast nicely with a crisp taste and rich body.  Flavorful and refreshing.  (Sold Out)
  • 2010 Cabernet Franc – Sage and raspberry take center stage with this enticing red.   Very easy to drink.  Silky and sophisticated.
  • 2009 Trevin – An intoxicating red blend composed mostly of Cab Franc.  Vanilla, rhubarb and dark berries were the notes highlighted on my palate.  Tasteful with a lingering finish.
  • 2010 POSH – One of the best ports I’ve had.  Dark cocoa and espresso make their presence known, with a holiday influence of cinnamon, orange and cherry.  (A bottle came home with me.)

Rhea and Victoria

I also got to meet fellow feng shui consultant, writer and interior designer Rhea Peake (pictured left here with my friend Victoria).  She has many years experience in creating sacred spaces and improving environments, as well as a plethora of other skills and talents.  In addition to her strong ties with Buttonwood, she is based in Santa Barbara, Hawaii  and Vancouver.  For more information, please visit her website here:  http://www.rheapeake.com

Buttonwood Grounds 02

Comfortable seating is placed purposefully around the gardens, encouraging guests to linger with some wine and a picnic lunch.  In addition to their tastings, Buttonwood also hosts many different events throughout the year, including a crawfish boil.  I also suggest checking their website for some  stellar recipes (I will be trying the olive oil cake recipe first) as well as their informative blog Buttonwords.  I am going to try to come up at least one more time before the seasons dramatically change, so I can sit under a flowering tree with a glass of Cab Franc and just immerse myself in the auspicious environment that is Buttonwood Farm.

Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard

1500 Alamo Pintado Road, Solvang, CA 93463

805-688-3032

Hours:  Open Daily 11:00 am – 5:00 pm

http://www.buttonwoodwinery.com

Buttonwood Front Entrance

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Bacon and Bubbly

Curtained Window

I love visual art.  Growing up, I would attend museums whenever possible, and pour through coffee table books of famous paintings.  Good visual art – whether one likes it or not – makes one think and feel.  A couple of years ago, while conducting some online research, I stumbled upon a recreation of Vincent Van Gogh’s famous painting Starry Night – completely made out of bacon.   This version of Van Gogh’s masterpiece combined two things I love – fine visual art and pork.

Starry Night ComboAs one can see from the photo above, the likeness between the bacon matches the original pretty well.   A step-by-step process on how to fashion the Bacon Starry Night can be found here:  http://www.instructables.com/id/Van-Gogh-for-Breakfast/  Another amazing bacon pairing I recently attended was Bacon and Bubbly, a monthly event held at WineExpo, a boutique wine and spirits store in Santa Monica.  This event pairs five gourmet bacons with five scrumptious champagnes.

Expo Interior 01

Completely concealed from the street, a large tasting room is located in the store.  A rotating collection of elegant art adorns the walls.

Rooster Plate

Once seated, my party and I were treated to a little rose to cleanse the palette, and then we started off with our first champagne.  Unique and eclectic tableware is used throughout.  I  really want to get a set of those rooster plates.

Bacon Platter

And then the bacon arrived.  Five different selections, with bread, crackers, peanuts and olives completed the offering.  I really like that they serve all the bacon to you at once, because it let’s one taste each kind of bacon with each champagne at their own pace.  Now, I do believe these change per month, but here are the ones we sampled:

  • For the Love of Hog!  Apple Cinnamon Bacon – Subtle hints of apple .  Sublime.
  • Bourbon Street Vanilla Bourbon Bacon – My favorite of the group.  This was the perfect yin and yang combination of savory and sweet.  Highly delectable – I could eat this every day.
  • Rocco’s Private Reserve Sun Dried Tomato Bacon – My second favorite.  I would add this to spaghetti or carbonara pasta.  The tomato influences highly dominate.  Rich and sun-kissed.
  • Big Daddy’s Cracked Pepper Garlic Bacon – Ideal for breakfast, this is a bacon classic.  This would be great on BLT’s.  Robust and tasty.
  • Coastal Calliente Chipotle Bacon – This was served to us as a country-cut, which is a much thicker piece of bacon.  Spicy and sultry.  I loved it.

Curtained Table

And then there were the five champagnes, all of which were delicious.  My two favorites were:

  • Arunda Metodo Classico Extra Brut Riserva, Alto Adige Italy – This beguiling bubbly beverage uses grapes harvested in the Alps.  Sweet, lush, and addictive.
  • Gardet Selected Reserve a Chigny-les-Roses – One of two rose sparkling champagnes we tried this had the perfect amount of sweetness.  I love that pinot noir and chardonnay are the two main components,, creating a flavorful luxuriousness to the drink.

Expo Crostini

Crostini – As assortment of various crostini can be ordered on their select menu, in addition to selection offerings from Pizzas of Venice.

Bacon Brownie 02

Bacon Brownie – This tantalizing morsel was our dessert for the tasting,  Available from Bacon Freak, it’s a divine treasure and currently, they’re on sale for $1.00 each right here:  http://www.baconfreak.com/bacon-brownies.html

Expo Interior 02

It wasn’t just the champagne and bacon that allured me to WineExpo, but also the art on the walls.  In feng shui, art is vital in creating a peaceful and rejuvenating environment.  There is good, beneficial art for the home, and there are paintings and art that are not good for the home.  All the art here is displayed in a museum-like setting, and the current display is highly auspicious.  One good example is pictured above.  A peaceful landscape is brilliant for nearly any room in a home.  Here are some other tips when looking for ideal feng shui art:

  • You Need to Love It – Art is subjective, and if there is a piece of art displayed in your home that you despise and loathe, I suggest removing it, or relocating it to a place where it will not be seen often.   Art for the home has different meanings, depending on the room and environment.  But regardless, if one doesn’t like the art hanging, it will only attractive sha (negative energy) to the area.
  • Landscapes –  As I said before, beautiful landscapes are brilliant for attracting chi (good energy) to a home.  Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, and John Singer Sargent are a few of many brilliant landscape artists.
  • No War or Shipwrecks –  Images portraying war, hunting, or sinking ships are generally not auspicious for most rooms in a house.
  • Severed Limbs are Bad – The same goes with paintings of dead bodies or severed limbs.   This is especially true for kitchens and dining rooms where food is prepared.  This type of art can literally ruin a person’s appetite, and dissuade people from using the space.  Even if it’s a Salvador Dali, if there are arms and legs just hanging about in the scene, the art doesn’t belong in a room where people eat or prepare food.
  • Romancing the Stone – For the bedroom, find art that is sensual in nature to you.  This will help to attract more romantic chi.
  • Winnie-the-Pooh – For children’s rooms, find art that is pastel in colors, and images that are calming and peaceful.  Winnie and his group are great examples.

Expo Art

What do you see?  In this painting from the tasting room, I see a woman in a ball gown about to shoot an arrow.  But there can be several different interpretations.

Expo Store 03

WineExpo has an enormous selection of choice wine, beer, and liquor.  I was fortunate to also attend their 20th Anniversary Celebration, where I sampled even more of their scintillating libations.  My favorite hands-down was the Tirle ’04 Rosso Tuscano, a heavenly Italian red.  A bottle of it came home with me.   (Notice that there is a small vineyard landscape on the label.)

Tirle 2004

The staff here is absolutely excellent, Alicia, Nick, and Roberto were all friendly, humorous and highly educated about wine and spirits.  Speaking of education, they also offer wine classes among the many great events at WineExpo.  Others include their 20 Wines for $20 Nights, where one may sample twenty wines for the unbelievable price of $20.00.  These occur on Mondays and Thursdays.  The other five days of the week they have their Happy Hour, from 5:00 – 7:00, which glasses of wine are 50% off.  And on Tuesdays, for beer lovers, they have their 15 Beers for $15 Night.  Bacon and Bubbly has become an incredible hit, and is now a monthly happening!  Live music performances, gourmet food trucks, and other exciting ventures color their social scene.  More information about future events can be found here:  http://wineexpo.com/events/  Their website is updated often, and contains a wealth of wine knowledge.  A small lot provides ample parking.

My next visit will be during the month of October, when I will be attending the next Bacon and Bubbly.  I wonder if such a thing as pumpkin bacon exists?  Hmmmm….

Expo Shelves

WineExpo

2933 Santa Monica Blvd Santa Monica, Ca 90404

310-828-4428

Wine Store Hours:  Monday – Wednesday 10:00 am – 10:00 pm, Thursday – Saturday 10:00 am – Midnight, Sunday 11:00 am – 10:00 pm

Tasting Room Hours:  Sunday – Wednesday 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm, Thursday – Saturday 5:00 pm – Midnight

http://wineexpo.com/

The Scarlet Letter

Apothic Logo

Due to some circumstances beyond my control, I’ve had to deal with a lot of stress over the past few weeks.  Stress of any kind attracts sha (negative energy) to an individual and/or space. Depending on the person, stress can cause a multitude of symptoms, including headaches, anxiety, skin issues, sexual performance problems, and a weakened immune system.  For me personally, I suffer from insomnia, and the resulting fatigue and lack of energy that comes along with it.  Unfortunately, stress is an inescapable part of life.  But, it can be reduced and dealt with accordingly.  One way I like to unwind is to pour myself a glass of wine, such as the red blend from Apothic Wines.

Apothic Echos

Created by winemaker Boyd Morrison in 2007, Apothic harvests its grapes from Lodi to make some of the most tantalizing blends I’ve ever had.  I was first introduced to it  on a weekend away in Big Bear a few years ago.  It was love at first taste.  The name Apothic comes from the word Apotheca;  a mysterious place where wine was created and stored in the 13th century.  The “ic” portion of the name comes from the word epic (which this wine definitely is).

Apothic Red

Apothic Red – A seductive blend of zinfandel, syrah, cabernet and merlot.  While this is definitely not a dessert wine, I found the bold and rich taste of chocolate to be highly prevalent (probably from the zinfandel grapes used).  Vanilla, blueberry, raspberry, and mocha flavors also permeate the libation.  An excellent choice for every wine lover’s palette.  Even if you’re not an aficionado of red wine, try this.  It’s impressive taste lingers upon the senses.  Unforgettable.

Apothic White

Apothic White – I had this recently at a dinner party, and the first taste to assuage my senses was honey.  Sweet honeysuckle, vanilla, and mellow pineapple bring forth images of hot summer days in tropical climates.  A friend suggested adding actual honey to the wine, which I am inclined to do for a more digestif appeal.  Best served chilled, although ours was not; we added a few ice shards instead.  Sultry and beguiling.

Apothic Rose

Apothic Rose – A limited edition released this year, this is a very stylish blush wine.  Strawberries with hints of cream, nutmeg, and watermelon are the dominant flavors.   This pairs amazingly well with Trader Joe’s Carrot Zucchini Bread.  Charming and sweet.

Apothic Wine Art

Wine Advertisement Art by Aurie Singletary of Cargo Collective.  See more of her incredible images at her site:  http://cargocollective.com/auriesingletary/Apothic-Wine

Apothic Red Pond and Trees

From a feng shui perspective, there are many ways to deal with stress.  Here are a few things I do to help relax and rejuvenate during stressful times:

  • Gaze at some art – Whether is be online or at a museum, spend some time browsing artists of various styles.  This helps to relieve the mind of worrisome thoughts, and let’s people focus their attention on an item of beauty.  Even if one doesn’t like a piece of art, it’s always thought-provoking.
  • Clear the clutter – Remove and reorganize any clutter in your environment – especially in the bedroom   Clutter also attracts sha, stressing people out the more and more it collects. Take a half hour or so to clear some of this away from you environment, or at the very least, remove it from the bedroom.
  • Get some fresh air – Open up all the windows and let fresh air into the space, for about an hour (weather and temperature permitting).   Air and breezes from outside help remove the stagnant, yin air of the area, attracting more fresh,yang energy inside.  Taking a nice stroll around a park or neighborhood also helps.
  • Take a bath – As opposed to showers, baths helps to relax the body rather than stimulate.    There are all sorts of various things one can add for the ultimate bath experience.  I like bubble bath, some essential oil (usually lavender or eucalyptus), bath salts, and apple cider vinegar.  Why the vinegar, you ask?  It’s a skin equalizer.  If you have dry skin, it helps to naturally moisturize.  If you have oily skin, it helps to draw out the unnecessary oils.
  • Aromatherapy – Lighting candles or incense is a very quick way to alter a space for the better.  For calming, I suggest vanilla, lavender, or sandalwood.
  • Calming music – Various kinds of music can help one to relax.  Studies have shown that classical music alters brain waves, slowing down heart rate and breathing to a more calming rhythm.  Soft jazz and new age music also have the same effect.  (Enya is awesome)
  • Unwind with wine – A glass of red wine a day is good for the body and improves memory.  It also helps to relax.  After my second glass, I feel much better.

These are but a few of the ways one can de-stress.  There are many others, and they’re different for everyone.  Some of my friends play video games, or go for a mile run, or do yoga, or meditate.  Find what works best for you.

Haunting Apothic Poster

Apothic has  a choice selection of luxurious products for sale on their website, like the beautiful poster pictured above.  They also have a new black, stemless wineglass I’m sort of in love with.  All of their products are here:  http://store.apothic.com/index.cfm?method=storeproducts.showlist

Opera Wine Quote

Apothic can be found at a variety of locations, including CVS, Target and Trader Joe’s.  Also, check your local supermarket, bodega, or liqueur store.  Many of them in the Los Angeles area carry Apothic, although the rose is much harder to find than the red or white.   There is also a store locator  on the Apothic site here:  http://www.apothic.com/where-to-buy.asp  The price for this relaxation in a bottle is around $9.00 – $11.00.   I would not recommend purchasing online, as the shipping costs from all available distributors seems grievously high.

To unwind from the day tonight, I plan on having some Apothic Rose as I lounge in a warm bath courtesy of that amazing gentleman, Mr. Bubble.

http://www.apothic.com/

*Uncredited Apothic images provided courtesy of Apothic Wines.

The Earth Element…Etcetera

Map Ceiling

When I was in grade school, I used to love to draw maps of faraway places.  Usually, these were locations that existed only in the vast caverns of my mind, but others were based on real destinations such as London and Paris.  Since then, I’ve always had a particular fondness for maps and globes.  I get a slight thrill when I open a work of fiction and see a map of the story’s imagined environment printed at the start of the book.  Or when I walk into an antique store and spot an old globe among the various bric-a-brac. You can imagine my surprise when I looked up and noticed the ornately painted map ceiling at Etcetera.  This stylish and quaint French-owned wine bar, located in the Mission area of San Francisco, is one of my favorite places to visit when I journey to the City by the Bay.

Et Cetera Interior

Rich, fiery red, and earth tones of brown, taupe and oak take command of the space.  These colors work perfectly together as red, symbolic of fire, feeds directly into earth, which the other hues represent.  Red is also the most auspicious color in the palette, and is known for attracting attention, luck and passion.  Earth colors, such as yellow, mustard or brown, help to support fire tones in a healthy and beneficial way.  Etcetera makes an impressive use of these colors.  Many businesses select red and yellow (or versions thereof) to draw in people to their environment.  Notice that most fast food establishments have red and yellow as dominate parts of their color scheme. (I also chose the same colors for this website.)

Et Cetera Window

Intimate seating is located within the establishment, and outside tables flank the entrance.  I also really like the compass on the ceiling, placed right over the door.   For those not in the know, there are four main schools of thought concerning Feng Shui:  Classical, Black Hat Sect, Western and Pyramid.  Classical Feng Shui (what my personal feng shui education is based on), uses compass directions to help guide energies throughout an environment.  The other schools do not generally use them.   Also known as Compass School Feng Shui, I refer to their specific principles time and again when analyzing an environment.  But rarely do I see compasses so beautifully displayed as here.  And it’s painted right next to the map (we’ve already established I like the ceiling artwork).

My favorite San Franciscan Wendy and I went to Etcetera during their amazing Happy Hour.  Et Cetera Logo Six days a week from 5:00 – 7:00, one can get a single tapa and a glass of house red, white or rose wine for $10.00.  That is a highly auspicious deal.  So we took advantage of the special, and did two rounds of this addictive combination.  Their tapas menu changes frequently, but below are the items we recently sampled.

La Paradou 2009 Grenache

Le Paradou Grenache 2009 – I opted to go with the House Red.  Their house wines change periodically.   Lately, it has been this delicious grenache from France.  The name of the winery, Paradou, refers to old watermills scattered about the hills of Provence.  A medium bodied wine, this red was seductive and delicious.  I had two glasses.  For more information about Paradou, please visit their website here:  http://www.paradouwines.com/en/   In the photo above, one can also see the charming square stools used as seating.  These were upholstered in a lush fabric almost like velveteen.  I found them to be very comfortable, and am even contemplating building a couple for my apartment.

Prosciutto and Asperagus

Prosciutto and Asparagus – Tender asparagus drizzled with olive oil and herbs.  Fragile folds of prosciutto mingle casually among the greenery.  Refreshing and tasty.

Brie Crostini with Fig

Brie Crostini with Fig – Warm figs tucked under a blanket of melted brie, on a hardened bed of crostini.  Rich and decadent.

Stuffed Tomatoes

Stuffed Tomatoes – Cheese and mellow spices nestled in tomato halves.  Comfy and appealing.

Beet Tiramisu

Beet Tiramisu – I had no idea beets could be so sensual and alluring.  More of a beet parfait than a tiramisu, this savory creation starts with a prime foundation of beets at the bottom, with a second story of beet mouse built atop that.  The penthouse level is unsweetened whip cream.  A beautiful wood element in the form of a single orchid is planted amidst the cream.  Although I’m not particularly a beet enthusiast, I found this parfait to be sublime and delectable.  Perhaps I should explore the world of beets more often.

Alsacian Pizza

The Alsacian Pizza (Flammenkuche) – A flammenkuche is a classic dish originating in Alsace, France, similar to a flat bread pizza.  Melted cheese is not always present, and creme fraiche acts as the sauce base.  My favorite is the Alsacian.  Soft, diced ham, slight browned, and carmelized onions completely cover the luscious crust.  This is not on Happy Hour, but I have to get it on each visit.  Intoxicating, this accompanied the grenache extremely well.

Et Cetera Art and Sconce

Rotating artwork from various local artists cover their gallery wall.  I also really like the wall sconces, which permeate the room with a soft, warm glow.

Wine Barrel Half Table

I am also fond of repurposing items for new use.  I love this wine barrel table.  It is literally a wine barrel spliced in half, and makes for a great conversation piece.  I also like the elements present here.  First, you have metal as part of the barrel.  Wood is also a part of it, but the wood here is dead, therefore it’s actually more of an earth element.  The brown hue also lends itself to the earth family.  Water is represented in the black shade of the metal, and in the curvature of the table.  I would absolutely have this in my home.

Et Cetera Sombrero Globe     Although they are not technically made of earth, maps and globes are definitely suggestive of the earth element, and can be used to further enhance earthen concepts in an environment.  To our left we have a globe that resides in one corner of Etcetera.  I’m not sure what the story behind the sombrero is resting upon it, but I’m sure there is one.  I also like the rooster and the lion.  In feng shui folklore, this bird is said to bring luck and joy into people’s lives, and is the only animal capable of eating a centipede (one of the Five Poisons.)  Roosters are also the only animal that acts as nature’s alarm clock, crowing every morning to celebrate the start of each day.

Lions have a rich history in feng shui folklore as well.  This large feline is a powerful symbol of protection, and is used throughout the world in front of palaces, banks, hotels, casinos, businesses, museums, and private homes.  (Some of my favorite metal lions reside just outside the British Museum).  In addition to their protective and guarding qualities, they are also known for attracting good fortune and wealth.   Other lion-esque creatures also roam the folklore landscape.  The most prevalent of these being the Fu Dog, a combination Lion-Dog.  These are usually placed in pairs, one male and one female, and act as sentinels for entrances to prosperous environments, such as select buildings, gardens, or neighborhoods.

The service at Etcetara is top-notch.  We were well taken care of by the stylish Alexandra and the debonair Alejandro (I believe it was his first or second day on the job).  Aside from their Happy Hour, they also have a few other deals present, such as their Tuesday Night Special:  One pizza or two tapas and a bottle of select wine for $35.00.  Various events are hosted here throughout the year, and board games are available on request should one have an instant craving to play chess.  Although I am back in my native Los Angeles at present, it will only be a matter of weeks before I find myself traveling the globe again to San Francisco, and having some wine … at Etcetera.

Et Cetera Row Houses

Etcetera Wine Bar

795 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

415 926-5477

Hours:  Tuesday – Thursday  5:00 pm – 12:00 am,  Friday – Saturday 5:00 pm  – 1:30 am,  Sunday 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm,  Happy Hour – Tuesday – Sunday 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

http://www.etceterawinebar.com/