The Sonoma County that we love!

I have heard a lot about Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary but I’m a workaholic and I’d never made the time to go. It’s located in Freestone, CA which is just 20 minutes from where I live. The marketing manager, Melena Moore, and I have been running into each other at a variety of events for years but it wasn’t until a few months ago when she invited my friend and I to come out and have a cedar enzyme bath that I actually made it there. I can’t believe it took me this long. [See my Flickr photoset of the day.]

There was no cell reception! Score one for relaxation. Once you walk in, you see the resemblance to a Japanese tea garden, quiet and peaceful, with wood lined walls. We checked in for our enzyme baths and were brought into a ladies locker room. Clothes off, robes on, we had our own private tea garden to enjoy. We were served tea that helped digestion while we marveled at the beauty of the outdoor surroundings. I wandered out to enjoy myself and look around while we waited for our bath to be prepared.

The bath chamber was a rectangular box filled with wet cedar chips. There were two places scooped out for my friend and I to lay back in. The two of us were in the same box, which aren’t the easiest to get into, with a view out a big window. The room was steamy and humid. The enzyme chips felt and looked like soggy raisin bran. Imagine being folded into it like a bowl of ingredients, tucked in as if with a warm blanket. There is a moment of claustophobia but when you realize you can pull your arms and legs in and out as you see fit, it passes quickly. We giggled at the odd sensation but ultimately truly enjoyed the 20 minutes of humid warmth. The bath attendant regularly returns to wipe your face with cool cloths and hold a cup and straw up to your lips for drinking. When they help you out of the box, you brush your body free of wood chips with a large brush. The chips get everywhere. This visit I wore a bathing suit, next time I’ll go without. Outside there is a shower to rinse away the wood. I did a pretty thorough job, my friend struggled to get clean.

Next we were brought up to a relaxation room. Laying on pads, we put on headphones to listen to Metamusic® which helped us to further relax and balanced brain wave activity. I wanted to stay in that room all day. The word “peaceful” simply doesn’t do it justice.

We only had the one service so we donned our clothes and headed out onto the grounds to visit the Japanese mediation garden. If you’ve seen Osmosis, you really need to go all the way in because the front doesn’t tell the whole story. From hanging hammocks to the garden itself, the farther you walk, the more removed you become from your stressful life. I found out they have Dharma Morning Meditation where you bring your own cushion and join others in meditation (free of charge).

This peaceful location and the quiet that permeates the grounds was exactly the antidote to the stressful and fast paced life that I live. I want to thank Melena and owner Michael Stusser for hosting me and a friend to come enjoy this experience. In order for me to stay whole and healthy, I do believe that Osmosis may play a large part in it. [See another experience I had at Osmosis just a couple weeks later here.]

SAY Beat the Cold BBQ

The huge pile of socks

I attended Social Advocates for Youth Annual Beat the Cold BBQ on 12/9/11 to end teen homelessness. The admission was a pack of socks. It was cold outside. I mean really cold. SAY runs the only teen homeless shelter in Sonoma County, the Dr. James E. Coffee House. Matt Martin, Executive Director, had many facts to share when he spoke to the standing room only crowd. Among them that there are over 700 homeless teens on the streets of Sonoma County. But the fact that grabbed me by the lapel is that when asked, 100% said they were hungry.

So the next time you see a kid on the street, don’t assume they are up to no good. They may be safer on the streets than in their own home. That’s an absolutely horrible fact, but it’s true. Reach out to them. Show them you care. Help them on their way. Your interest and attention may be all that’s keeping them with us. You were once a troubled youth, right? Weren’t we all?

Want to know what you can do? Donate your time or your money. Visit SAY’s site to learn more.

If you’ve read my blog before, you’ve noticed I talk about Leadership Santa Rosa a lot. I love being involved (as you can probably tell) and even though this entry mentions LSR, it’s about much more. See the Flickr Photo Album.

Jill, Cat, J, Julie & Sean - coordinators

J Mullineaux, Julie Montgomery, Jill Sanford and myself got together to brainstorm ways to stay connected with the rest of our classmates. J had a great idea to have a dinner party for Social Advocates for Youth’s (SAY). I can’t express clearly enough how amazing they are! SAY is a youth advocacy organization that provides: shelter for homeless teens, a foster transition home, meals for the hungry, counseling, crisis intervention, youth employment, helping encourage graduation, mentoring, low cost tattoo removal for ex-gang members, and a sense of support and belonging.

We chose to make a pre-Thanksgiving dinner at the Mary and Jose Tamayo House. Tamayo House is transitional housing for teens that have aged out of the foster care system yet still need guidance in the form of shelter, safety, job training, life training, and provides them with a sense of family. With 50 kids aging out of foster care every year, the 25 beds at Tamayo house are desperately needed. Otherwise these kids hit the street. In the recession, they’ve seen that the kids are staying longer (they are eligible 18-24).

I can’t imagine not having a family. I don’t know what it’s like to have no one to turn to when you want to learn how to cook, open a checking account, get a job, find a place to live, apply for college, or need a place to stay. These kids pretty much have nothing the minute they turn 18 and are out of foster care. I do know what it’s like to need crisis intervention and have a safe place to go. I was 16 when my family and I called SAY for help. The Dr. James E. Coffee Emergency Teen Shelter had a different name and location when I stayed there but the focus is the same.

We knew that these kids may not get a Thanksgiving meal so we brought it to them. 14 out of our 28 classmates divided up the menu and got to cooking all the traditional fixings. The tables were set for a harvest celebration and the sparkling cider flowed. Several turkeys, mashed potatoes, yams, stuffing, green salad, green beans, bread, pumpkin pie, apple pie and pumpkin cheesecake (I have an awesome recipe, just ask me in the comments). These kids lined up with their plates and demolished the meal, some came back again and again. There were plenty of leftovers.

The Thank You

We didn’t know each other and they didn’t have to come out of their rooms to eat with us but it felt like a family dinner nonetheless. It was such a happy night and we laughed, joked, and ate with each other as if we’d done it every year. Not so secretly, I’d like to do it again and again.

In the theme of Thanksgiving, I am grateful for:

  • SAY and the lifesaving work they perform
  • Mary & Jose Tamayo for helping SAY to keep kids warm, safe, and off the streets
  • my own family that keeps me warm
  • my awesome LSR classmates, for we are all of the same heart, striving to help others and make a difference
  • Jill, J, Julie, Vicky, Steve (for putting in so much time) and all the rest that made such amazing food
  • the dishwashers!
  • the kids that sat with us, trusted us, and let us in
  • Cat Cvengros and Matt Martin, just two of the amazing angels at SAY
  • and that pumpkin cheesecake recipe!

May your Thanksgiving be full of warmth, love, and lots of wonderful food to eat.

The Wonderment Machine

Sometimes a magical thing happens by accident. Sometimes by design.

Santa Rosa was lucky to have the Handcar Regatta for 4 years in Railroad Square.  It was an art festival, street fair, costume show, and creative event by Ty Jones and Spring Maxfield. A maker, steampunk event that asked it’s participants to create vehicles that could ride the rails under their own power. Timed trials and fun ensued. I was only able to attend 2010 and 2011 events, years 3 and 4. But it may happen never again. I expect that magic is over.

They used the train tracks for the timed trials and we have S.M.A.R.T. coming through bringing rail service with it. We desperately need a solution for mass transit but it is sad to see the end of a whimsical event. All I can say it that I know Ty will come up with more amazing events! I can’t wait.

See my photo albums from Handcar Regatta 2010 and Handcar Regatta 2011.

courtesy of Summer Nights at Railroad Square

Last year was the start of a wonderful neighborhood event here in Santa Rosa, Summer Nights in Railroad Square. On the first Friday evening of June, July, August and September you could expect to enjoy yourself with neighbors, food, wine tasting, art, music and the sunset. I only went to three of the four last year but I made sure I was at each and every one this year. For $20 you can get a wrist band and taste wines up and down Fourth Street in Railroad Square. You can enjoy food from one of several food truck vendors or patronize the great establishments up and down the street. The art, music, and people are entertainment that surrounds you. Every time I went, I saw lots of people I knew and had an unreasonably good time.

I wanted to say thank you to Ty Jones and Kernan Coleman and anyone else that had something to do with creating this lovely event. I am so pleased that it’s yet another great time, here in Sonoma County.

Medlock Ames Surprise

Click for full photo set

I was invited to the open house of Medlock Ames in Healdsurg, CA earlier this year not knowing what to expect. It’s a roadside bar, a vineyard, a winery, a tasting room, a great place to enjoy the outdoors with friends and all around beautiful place. I enjoyed the wine and gardens. They have bocce and an outdoor oven where they were making scrumptious foods. The tasting room/bar looks really rustic and you can tell they chose to go that route. It felt a little like I was stuck in a sepia toned photo. They also have a summer concert series. But outside, oh the outdoors of this venue, are simply spectacular. It’s the cover of Sunset magazine out there. Just go.

UPDATE: Just hours after I hit publish on this blog, I saw Beth Costa of the Wine Road post an article from Entrepreneur Magazine about Medlock’s sustainability practices. Kismet!

Tom Schmidt, Josh Silvers, Duskie Estes, John Franchetti, Sheana Davis

Sonoma County is truly an amazing place. I think it’s a “body double for heaven”. Not only do we have exceptional cuisine, wonderful vistas, an abundance of art and entertainment but the people are pretty awesome too! Leadership Santa Rosa is the longest running Chamber of Commerce leadership program in the U.S. at 28 years. I’m president of the alumni association so you can bet I believe in the program and the knowledge it provides the participants.

We added a new day this year, Hospitality & Tourism Day. I wanted to thank Jeremy Little of Carle Mackie Power & Ross LLP as well as Adam Peacocke of City Life Fellowship for being co-chairs on what is sure to be a day that goes down in history as a top notch LSR day! It wouldn’t have happened without you (and the committee).

See Flickr photo album of the day.

The mission of this day was to capture “A day in the life of a Sonoma County tourist” (see the Hospitality and Tourism Day Agenda). Normally LSR days are about Santa Rosa (hence the name) but because this location is so rich with treasures, we extended it out geographically.

The day started at Relish Culinary Adventures with breakfast sponsored by Relish, Costeaux Bakery, and Carle Mackie Power & Ross LLP. I got there as the first panel was just getting started. We were honored to have Karl Bruno of the Kenwood Inn & Spa, Brad Calkins of Santa Rosa Convention & Visitor’s Bureau and Tim Zahner of Sonoma County Tourism Bureau to talk about the micro to macro view of tourism in Sonoma County. The Kenwood Inn is known far and wide as one of the most amazing spa locations on the planet. No exaggeration. If you have the chance, go! It happens to be directly across Highway 12 in the Valley of the Moon from my favorite place in the world, no joke, see my video of my favorite view. Brad and his team work very hard to help tourists and residents get the most out of Santa Rosa and they do a fine job. Tim Zahner has to be one of the funniest people I’ve ever met and he will charm your face off.

Then we heard from some business owners/managers; Douglas Keane of Cyrus, Shimo, and Healdsburg Bar & Grill; Will Seppi of Costeaux Bakery; and Percy Brandon of Vintner’s Inn and John Ash & Co. We learned a lot about the challenges and joys of owning a business here. Doug was honest and shared with us lessons learned with the new Shimo, adjustments he had to make, as well as how passionate he is about his businesses and how they are run. Will talked about updating a business with a long life to meet the needs and tastes of the customers. Percy is a tremendous long-time supporter of LSR and it was enlightening to hear how you keep a location with such a famous name fresh to the locals. (Happy Hour at the Front Room at John Ash is wicked awesome, go!)

The next panel is where things got really fun. We were thoroughly pleased to have: Sheana Davis, Chef/Cheese Maker/Owner of Epicurean Connection Shop; Duskie Estes, Chef/Owner of Bovolo, Zazu, and Black Pig Meat Co. also of Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef; John Franchetti, Chef/Owner of Rosso’s Pizzeria & Wine Bar;  Tom Schmidt, Executive Chef at John Ash & Co.; and Josh Silvers, Chef/Owner of Petite Syrah and Jackson’s Bar and Oven. Whew! We learned a lot about the Farm to Table movement, keeping your sources for ingredients local, knowing the farmer and the land where the food comes from and what makes Sonoma County so special when it comes to cuisine. The energy in the air was electric and when the chefs went into the kitchen to put the final touches on the food they brought with them, the attendees were practically clapping with excitement. It’s not every day that you get a line up like this to bring you food from their own kitchens! (Video of the chefs in the kitchen) After we served ourselves, everyone sat down at a table with a chef so we could eat and talk. The food was absolutely amazing and you shoulda been there!

Anyone that’s ever sat through an all day seminar knows how important it is to get up and stretch after lunch so we sent them on a walking tour and treasure hunt in Healdsburg’s downtown. Then it was to Vintner’s Inn.

I moderated the Vine to Market: Wine and the Business Side panel featuring: Beth Costa, Wine Road; Gerry Forth of Forth Vineyards and board member of Sonoma County Vintners; and Hardy Wallace of The NPA and the winner of Murphy Goode’s “A Really Goode Job” (Ranked #5 of the World’s Best Jobs by Oddee). What I thought was going to be about wine, business, and tourism ended up being more about how social media has changed the way they market their product and reach their customers. Since I am a social media consultant, I was excited to hear how heavily it effected them (though I kept trying to steer them to other subjects) and I was stoked to finally meet Hardy after he’d become an ambassador for wine and social media marketing. We’d “run into” each other a lot digitally but we finally got the chance to shake hands.

And there’s more!!! The next panel was Sonoma County Happenings: Greg Fisher of Levi Leipheimer’s King Ridge GranFondo, Bike Monkey, and Cycle City; Ty Jones of Regatta Arts/Handcar Regatta; Steve Page of Infineon Raceway; and Jennifer Sloan of ARTrails. They talked about the good, the bad, and the ugly of having a great idea or service, the challenges of delivering and the unexpected occurrences they encounter. Again and again, I was blown away by the sheer volume of quality events we enjoy here in Sonoma County on a daily basis.

We got some tastings of lovely vintages by the Vintner’s Inn’s sommelier and relaxed and enjoyed ourselves in the Front Room for happy hour.

This day was full of unbelievable people, information, ideas, conversation, food, wine and camaraderie. I personally want to thank everyone that spent time with us, shared with us, and left a little piece of themselves with those listening. I wouldn’t trade the experience of this day for anything. Leadership Santa Rosa, here’s to another 28 years!

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