Fun facts for St. Patty’s Day!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone! Under normal circumstances, this would be a happy day full of beer-drinking, block parties, and lots and lots of green outfits. The pandemic has put a bit of a damper on that, but we can still have some virtual fun. Here are 13 fun facts about St. Patty’s Day from MentalFloss!

St. Patrick's Day parade in New York City, 1960
A picture of New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, circa 1960.PETER KEEGAN/GETTY IMAGES
  1. We should be wearing BLUE on St. Patrick’s Day: apparently, the color green only became associated with the holiday after it was linked to the Irish independence movement in the late 18th century.
  2. St. Patrick wasn’t Irish: what?! Although he made his mark by introducing Christianity to Ireland in 432, Patrick was actually born to Roman parents in Scotland or Wales in the late 4th century.
  3. St. Patrick’s Day used to be a dry holiday: pubs were closed in Ireland and Northern Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day until the 1970s. Before then, it was a solemn, strictly religious occasion.
  4. NYC’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been happening since 1762: one of the world’s largest parades was actually canceled for the first time in its history due to COVID-19 in 2020.
  5. Chicago runs green for St. Patty’s Day: you’ve all seen it – the Chicago River has been dyed green on St. Patrick’s Day every year since 1962 (but won’t be this year).
  6. Some St. Patrick’s Day parades are…different: from 1999-2007, the Irish village of Dripsey hosted a 26-yard St. Patrick’s Day parade between two pubs. Today, the shortest one is in Hot Springs, Arkansas (98 feet).
  7. There’s a meaning behind the shamrocks: according to Irish legend, St. Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock (not a four-leaf clover, by the way), as a metaphor for the Holy Trinity when he introduced Christianity to Ireland.
  8. Credit where it’s not due?: in Irish lore, St. Patrick gets credit for driving all snakes out of Ireland. However, modern scientists suggest that Ireland has never been home to any snakes because the island was too cold to host reptiles during the Ice Age, and the surrounding seas have kept them away ever since.
  9. Corned beef, hold the corn: corned beef, a popular Irish-American staple on St. Patty’s Day, doesn’t have anything to do with corn. The name is a nod to the large grains of salt historically used to cure meats, which were also called “corns.”
  10. St. Patrick’s Day is a bar owner’s dream: it was estimated in 2017 that 13 MILLION pints of Guinness would be consumed worldwide on St. Patty’s Day. In 2020, it was expected that American beer sales would be up 174% and that Americans celebrating would spend more than $6 billion on the holiday.
  11. His name wasn’t originally Patrick: hold on, what? According to Irish legend, St. Patrick wasn’t originally called “Patrick.” His birth name was Maewyn Succat, but he changed it to Patricius after becoming a priest.
  12. There are no female leprechauns: in traditional Irish folk tales, there are no female leprechauns. Rude!
  13. The lingo makes sense: you can’t attend a St. Patrick’s Day event without hearing a cry of “Erin go Bragh.” What’s the phrase mean? It’s a corruption of the Irish Éirinn go Brách, which means roughly “Ireland Forever.”
Green Chicago River on St. Patrick's Day
Every year, the Chicago River is dyed green for the holiday.TASOS KATOPODIS/GETTY IMAGES

Must Love Dogs!

Here’s a fun, light-hearted blog for you today! As many of my clients, readers, and friends know, I’m a dog person. I love all dogs, and especially my Weimaraner, Bodie. He is my loyal companion (even if he thinks he’s the world’s biggest lapdog!). Bodie has traveled far and wide from Reno, Inverness, Monterrey to Tahoe … just an awesome companion!

Me and Bodie!

Better Homes and Gardens shared this list of Top 50 dog names in 2020, and I thought it would be fun to share! I didn’t see Bodie on there, but the freelance writer on my team has two dogs: a boy named Milo and a girl named Penny – both made the lists! Would love to see your dog, so share a picture with their name!

Top 25 Female Dog Names

  1. Bella
  2. Luna
  3. Lucy
  4. Daisy
  5. Lola
  6. Sadie
  7. Molly
  8. Bailey
  9. Stella
  10. Maggie
  11. Chloe
  12. Penny
  13. Nala
  14. Zoey
  15. Lily
  16. Coco
  17. Sophie
  18. Rosie
  19. Ellie
  20. Ruby
  21. Piper
  22. Mia
  23. Roxy
  24. Gracie
  25. Millie

Top 25 Male Dog Names

  1. Max
  2. Charlie
  3. Cooper
  4. Buddy
  5. Milo
  6. Bear
  7. Rocky
  8. Duke
  9. Tucker
  10. Jack
  11. Oliver
  12. Teddy
  13. Leo
  14. Bentley
  15. Zeus
  16. Jax
  17. Toby
  18. Winston
  19. Ollie
  20. Louie
  21. Finn
  22. Murphy
  23. Moose
  24. Loki
  25. Gus
My freelance writer’s dogs, Penny (L) and Milo (R).

Even though Bodie didn’t make it, Finn did! I always said if I got another Weimaraner I’d name it Finnegan and “Finn” for short, whether it was a boy or girl. Did your dog’s name make it?

Thanksgiving Trivia!

Let’s have some fun this week! It’s Thanksgiving week and I hope you all are planning a safe, socially-distanced, and delicious holiday meal. You may not be able to gather with family like usual, but you can always do a video call and quiz each other with some Thanksgiving Trivia. Read on:

The first Thanksgiving lasted how long? (answers at the bottom)

  1. One day
  2. Two days
  3. Three days

Which Indian tribe taught the Pilgrims how to cultivate the land and were  invited to the Thanksgiving meal?

  1. Apache
  2. Wampanoag
  3. Cherokee

What is a snood?

  1. The loose skin under a male turkey’s neck
  2. A hat worn by a Pilgrim
  3. A hot cider drink served at Thanksgiving

Which President is believed to be the first to pardon a turkey and start this annual tradition?

  1. President Lincoln in 1863
  2. President Roosevelt in 1939
  3. President Harry Truman in 1947

Today, our Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday of November because…?

  1. It is the date the Pilgrims landed in the New World
  2. This was the date set by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 and approved by Congress in 1941
  3. It was the date people voted to have it on

What is a baby turkey called?

  1. A chick
  2. A nestling
  3. A poult

It has been estimated that how many Americans eat turkey at  Thanksgiving?

  1. 88%
  2. 50%
  3. 75%

True or False: All turkeys gobble

  1. True
  2. False

Ready for the answers…? See how you did! Scroll down.

The first Thanksgiving lasted how long? 

  1. One day
  2. Two days
  3. Three days

Which Indian tribe taught the Pilgrims how to cultivate the land and were  invited to the Thanksgiving meal?

  1. Apache
  2. Wampanoag
  3. Cherokee

What is a snood?

  1. The loose skin under a male turkey’s neck
  2. A hat worn by a Pilgrim
  3. A hot cider drink served at Thanksgiving

Which President is believed to be the first to pardon a turkey and start this annual tradition?

  1. President Lincoln in 1863
  2. President Bush in 1989
  3. President Harry Truman in 1947

NOTE: Lincoln was the first to do it, some say Truman, but he never pardon, the first president to do so was Bush.

Today, our Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday of November because…?

  1. It is the date the Pilgrims landed in the New World
  2. This was the date set by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 and approved by Congress in 1941
  3. It was the date people voted to have it on

What is a baby turkey called?

  1. A chick
  2. A nestling
  3. A poult

It has been estimated that how many Americans eat turkey at  Thanksgiving?

  1. 88%
  2. 50%
  3. 75%

True or False: All turkeys gobble

  1. True
  2. False

NOTE: Only male turkeys gobble. They do so to attract female turkeys.

Oktoberfest: Just one of the things we have missed this year!

With this years Covid cancellations of Oktoberfest in Munich and even our local events in Walnut Creek & Clayton there as been a drought of lederhosen, dirndls and maybe even some German bier. Oktoberfest has been cancelled 24 times primarily due to war and cholera epidemics, and now Covid. The last couple of years I was invited to a friends house who does a wonderful Oktoberfest in her backyard. Like me they also lived in Germany and it is always a fun celebration of friends, food and bier. Thus I thought it was worth sharing a bit of trivia this last week Oktober regarding the Oktoberfest celebration!

Did you know, Oktoberfest actually starts in September? The original Oktoberfest was held October of 1810 in honor of the wedding between Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. Oktoberfestbier is brewed only by the breweries within the city limits of Munich. These are also the only breweries allowed to participate in the annual Munich Oktoberfest. For beer lovers, you might enjoy the “want to know link” below as to why they needed a festival in October to finish off the beer casks

Here are some fast facts and trivia about Oktoberfest. You’ll also want to know the history of this event, as well as the differentiation between Oktoberfest the fest, and Oktoberfest the brew! Once you’ve mastered those, try your luck at this Oktoberfest quiz. I did pretty well myself!

Should you decide to host your own Oktoberfest in the future, here are some tips about clothing and food. This year, you can just wear your lederhosen and dirndle for Halloween, but that seems to be cancelled too….

Ringing in the fall season

Yesterday brought us the official start of Fall with the Fall Equinox! That means it’s time for the cooler air to come through, as we settle into the time of changing leaves, Turkey Trots, and Pumpkin Spice Lattes. I wanted to share a few items that come with this season – ranging from silly, to important!

First, I just have to point this out: Krispy Kreme has released a new pumpkin donut for the season. I know pumpkin is all the rage during Fall, but even for non-donut lovers this has to be kind of exciting. I personally am on the fence about all things pumpkin, but look forward to squash soups and a chill in the air.

Next, check out this article on paint colors from Real Simple. If you are in a house where you think your painting duties are overdue, this is a great resource. Try to enjoy the time indoors (COVID-19 + smoky air = more time inside, right?) by repainting parts of your house that need a little touch-up. Instead of spring cleaning, it is fall touch-up!

Also, it’s almost playoff baseball season! As a sports fan, when I think “Fall,” I think playoffs. I also think football. The NFL is underway and college football has started in certain parts of the country, but the A’s just won the division and the Giants are battling it out for the final spot in their league. I know we can’t go to games, but are you watching? How do you think our local teams will fare?

My last random point of the day is to get out – when and if you can – to enjoy the changing of the seasons. Even though we don’t get snow here in Walnut Creek, we do get at least parts of all four seasons. The change from summer to fall is always spectacular, and I hope you get out and hike or just walk around and take it all in! And, last but not least Apple Season is here, so if you want to take a day trip up to Apple Hill off of 50, pick some apples, drink some wine, and get donuts and cider here is a link to the Apple Hill and a map. Oh wait, one more random thought about fall. I just picked a bunch of figs and was planning to make a fig, blueberry, pepper jelly, do you think I could find canning jars? NO, I went to every store I could think of and they were all out … at Ace, he said it is that time of year, they haven’t had a shipment since last week, next year I will plan better.

There are still adventures to be had during a pandemic

I know this pandemic has been difficult for a lot of us. Trust me, I love going out to try new restaurants, to go on adventures far and wide…and don’t even get me started on the ramifications and impact it has had on all of our work situations! But, I want to offer a glimmer of optimism – there are plenty of ways to get outside and still have fun, despite the virus!

For example, I make regular trips to Lake Tahoe and the Reno area. I love it up there, and my son lives in Reno, so I try to go up there as often as possible to visit, ski, or both. Additionally, we live in a great region where we have Shell Ridge and Mt. Diablo right in our backyards! When the weather cools and the smoke clears, you can try a new trail!

If you’re a foodie like me, you may be struggling to find good places to eat and new places to try that offer correct social-distancing practices. At wineries, however, they are seating outdoors at their beautiful gardens, thus you can distance yourself from other people quite easily. My friend Veronica and I recently did this at Rombauer Vineyards and Bennett Lane in the Napa region.

We went up Friday before Labor Day Weekend and it was the perfect time -not crowded, though they said they were booked solid for the holiday weekend. We had a great one on one experience at Bennett Lane and enjoyed most of their wines which was determined by what we toted to our car. We then headed to lunch at (Farmstead), and enjoyed the nice weather and lunch on the patio, although the hostess was a bit snooty as we showed up 15 minutes late. We had the trout and brick cooked chicken, along with shishito peppers from their garden. You can see the menu here.

Rombauer Vineyards has a beautiful view as noted in the picture with the roses in the foreground and their Zinfindel and Chardonnay are among my favorite wines. An interesting tidbit that I did not know, Co-Founder Koerner Rombauer’s great aunt Irma authored the cookbook The Joy of Cooking, and his ancestors originated from a famous wine-growing region in Germany.

What’s Cooking for the 4th?

I just took a long weekend to Reno to see some friends and my son. Time there is often spent having great dinners. I love to cook and it gives me an opportunity to try out some new recipes on my friends. This time I grabbed the Better Homes & Gardens magazine that was sitting in our office with a fabulous cherry cobbler on the front cover and made a couple of the cherry recipes from the July issue, just in time for the 4th!

July Issue … Cherries!

The Cherry Caprese Salad with Burrata on page 92 and it was a big hit and Barbs, my friend’s mother, is the best cook ever. She shared some good tips and helped a lot. I served it with marinated fresh shrimp courtesy of my neighbor from Osprey Seafood, where I can place an order and pick it up down the street, leaving my check in the box (he knows where I live) and served it with a mango jalapeño salsa. The next night I attempted the cobbler and it turned out amazing. The recipe asks to brown the butter and then freeze and grate it into the dough. I thought it was more work, but the brown butter makes the biscuit. Brown butter makes everything better!

Wishing you a Happy 4th of July spent with friends, family, and some wonderful food. (text or email me if you want the recipes)

Escape Room: So much fun!

Have you ever done an Escape Room? I didn’t know what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it. We did “Cash Me If You Can” and it was fun! We went to Red Door at the Veranda in Concord, which is on the top floor of the shopping center with a great view! This one had a dual purpose in solving how to get out and collecting chips in a casino environment. There is also a Da Vinci Code element to it with ciphers and thinking outside the box. In the end, it was exciting and challenging.

You might ask, “what is an escape room? Is it claustrophobic, can I get out, etc.?” Well, Red Door Escape creates immersive escape rooms that encourage human connection where teams of 2-8 people need to solve puzzles, hints, and clues to escape a series of rooms in under 60 minutes. 

Each escape room episode is uniquely themed where your team has a common objective in order to escape the room. The episodes can deepen relationships, encourage communication and collaboration. They can do team building events, obviously.

Luckily we had one person who had done this before and was a big help in helping solve the puzzle. We actually escaped under the allotted time and got bumper stickers saying so. It helped that I unknowingly cheated on part of it, but hey isn’t that thinking outside the box? It costs about $35 a person and a great family or friend building experience that requires lots of communication and teamwork.

Every week they post a new riddle on their board. Can you figure out the riddle from the sign above? It’s a tricky one. Post your answer on at the Contact Me page. The first correct answer will win a $10 gift card of their choosing!

Do you have a Book Club?

It could be said, one of the rites of passage of adulthood is joining a Book Club. Amazingly, I have now been part of the BBC book club going on 16 years. We were a group of parents whose kids went to the same elementary school and many of the kids were on the Dewing Park Swim Team. Our co-founders, Allison and Janet, started discussing it on the playground while waiting for the kids to get out of school, invited friends, and, thus, in September 2004, the BBC Book Club was formed. I have never been exactly clear on the acronym for our book club, but it came about by the first book that was read: Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik. So, it is the Bon Bons Book Club, but that is too many B’s for BBC – maybe it was condensed to “bonbons” as one word. 

We are 20 members strong and usually have 12-14 people show up for our monthly discussion. A few have come and gone and we have added some new faces, but it remains always fresh and interesting. We alternate hosting, and the host gets to pick the book and provides the refreshments. You can imagine with that many women it is sometimes hard to get a word in edgewise and keep the discussion focused. We may talk about the book for a short time, or it might be a very involved discussion depending on the book. Sometimes it will get sidetracked and we catch up with each other’s personal lives or new books to read.

We now have known each other for so long that we have been there through many trials, tribulations, joys, and happiness. We’ve been together when our children going off to college and out on their own. There has been support in times of trouble and sorrow and just as many celebrations. We will occasionally do a movie book club of a book that we had read instead of meeting at a house and then going for dinner to discuss. We have had stays at a cabin, got together for a tutorial in painting by our in-house resident artist and craft guru Julie Zouzounis. And then there is our annual Christmas exchange meeting…my favorite of the year!

We usually gather at Erica’s house, because it is one of the most festive and earliest, fully decorated homes of the group. We do a themed gift exchange where everyone brings a gift worth $25-30 and puts it under the tree, wrapped of course. This year’s theme was consumable gifts, i.e. candles, honey, etc. (and then there were a few not-so-consumable things like angel teaspoons and a cutting board, but they do promote consumable items!). Once a gift is opened (we draw numbers to determine the order of opening a gift), you have the option of stealing an opened gift. It can be stolen twice before it’s frozen.

Some people really hate that concept of stealing because they don’t want to upset anyone, but I love it! There is banter and laughing and at the end of the day everyone leaves with a nice gift that was meant for them, even if it didn’t feel like it when a gift you really liked got swiped out from under your nose. 😉

We have also done a few charity programs. This year, we donated diapers to the Monument Crisis Center. In the past, we have put together cards for Kids Creek Care and some have adopted families for Christmas at the Trinity Center. I think books were the initial draw, but the glue of this group is the friendships and experiences we have shared! And that is why this BBC continues to endure as a group.

Do you belong to a Book Club or would you like to start one of your own? Would love to hear your comments or questions.

Here are the names of our voted favorite books each year – we each get three votes. Some years there is a tie, so I have added them too.

2005: Kite Runner

2006: Broken For You

2007: Glass Castle

2008: Plain Truth

2009: The Help

2010: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

2011: Cutting For Stone & The Hunger Games

2012: The City of Thieves

2013: The Fault in Our Stars

2014: The Night Circus

2015: The Orphan Train

2016: Boys in the Boat

2017: Small Great Things

2018: Nine Women, One Dress & Before We Were Yours & Beneath the Scarlett Sky

2019: Where the Crawdads Sing

Best camping spots near San Francisco

It seems like I’m coming up with one of these blogs every Fall, and rightfully so – it’s a gorgeous time of year to get outside in the Bay Area and have a campfire, pitch a tent, and take in the beautiful nature that surrounds us.

Today, I’m re-visiting this list and pulling out five campsites that I think are worth your time while the weather is still nice. Read below and let me know if I missed any!

Kirby Cove Camp – Golden Gate Recreation Area

Just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, you can settle into a very private campsite with astonishing waterfront views of the city. Bonuses: You’re walking distance to the beach and a picnic area.

Image result for angel island

East Bay Camp – Angel Island State Park

Angel Island is a quick ferry ride from Pier 41 or from Tiburon. There are 11 sites, and they may be a bit of a hike from your landing, but nowhere else can you get 180-degree views of the East Bay hills or San Francisco.

White Gulch Beach – Tomales Bay

You can’t beat kayaking into a campsite along the shoreline of Tomales Bay. This specific site is protected from the wind as its back in a cove, and you might see a ton of wildlife!

Steep Ravine Campground – Mt. Tamalpais State Park

This is a bit less rugged, considering you can book a rustic cabin here that overlooks the Pacific. There are normal camping options, too, and you’re just steps away from the gorgeous Steep Ravine Trail.

Image result for redwoods

Sempervirens – Big Basin Redwoods State Park

There are few settings more beautiful to camp in than under the redwoods, which tower over this state park. You can pull your car right up to the highway here and enjoy modern sites with picnic tables and fire rings.