I feel like I’m forgetting something…Oh S***!

Good resource if you’re looking for ideas for V Day:

http://www.askmen.com/top_10/dating/10-last-minute-valentine-s-day-hacks.html

 

Now, where did this holiday come from anyhow?

The history of Valentine’s Day–and the story of its patron saint–is shrouded in mystery. We do know that February has long been celebrated as a month of romance, and that St. Valentine’s Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. But who was Saint Valentine, and how did he become associated with this ancient rite?

The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly his jailor’s daughter–who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and–most importantly–romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.

While some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial–which probably occurred around A.D. 270–others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.

Lupercalia survived the initial rise of Christianity and but was outlawed—as it was deemed “un-Christian”–at the end of the 5th century, when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day. It was not until much later, however, that the day became definitively associated with love. During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.

Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, though written Valentine’s didn’t begin to appear until after 1400. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at theBattle of Agincourt. (The greeting is now part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.) Several years later, it is believed that KingHenry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.

In addition to the United States, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia. In Great Britain, Valentine’s Day began to be popularly celebrated around the 17th century. By the middle of the 18th, it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes, and by 1900 printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one’s feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine’s Day greetings.

Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America. Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as “scrap.” Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.) Women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.

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Dogs vs. Cats – Who Loves You Baby!?

Dogs rule.  They love us exponentially more than cats do.  Science proves it.  There’s a reason they call dogs man’s best friend — there’s nothing quite like the feeling of having your pup wait for you to come home, and then shower you with affection and excitement the moment you walk in the door. Cats just never seem to match up. Sure, they’re more than capable of showing you some love, but does a cat always seem to lose its cool just because you’re in the same room as it?

Well, it turns out that science is finally agreeing with a theory that deep down, we’ve all known: Dogs love us more than cats. Thanks to new research conducted for BBC’s latest documentary, Cats vs. Dogs, there is finally evidence to support your dog’s eternal devotion. To find out just how much either pet cares about you, researchers decided to test levels of Oxytocin, better known as the “love” and “bonding” hormone, in cats and dogs before and after they saw their owners. The researchers had 10 cats and 10 dogs give saliva samples to them before seeing their owners, and then released them for some play time. Once play time was up, the researchers took saliva samples again to see how hormone levels had changed.

The results were pretty astonishing. Contrary to the beliefs of some dog people, cats definitely love their owners. Comparing the two samples, the researchers found that Oxytocin levels went up 12 percent after a cat played with its owner.

But that’s nothing compared to how dogs love us. When the dogs came back from a good belly rub from their owners, their levels of Oxytocin went up a staggering 57.2 percent. According to neuroscientist, Dr. Paul Zak, this is pretty significant. “From this sample it’s true to say that these dogs love their owners five times more than cats do,” he said.

What’s more, Zak noted, was that dogs may even love humans more than humans love each other. In past research, Zak found that humans who see a spouse or a child typically have a 40 to 60 percent increase of Oxytocin in their blood. So the next time anyone ever tells you that dogs have no concept of human emotion, especially love, you can throw this fact at them: dogs are better at love than we are.

This study illuminates the need for higher and more frequent levels of Oxytocin in our lives.  Oxytocin leads to a reduction in stress cortisols which is a highly desirable outcome if we want to live more fulfilling, loving, passionate lives.  The best course of action is to find ways to trigger Oxytocin release.  The best methods are through social interaction with those folks whom we have a deeply connected relationship with.  If you don’t have that type of relationship with another person, then a dog will do in a pinch…

Featured Image:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/16/dog-best-investment_n_3575025.html

Yummy! Who knew?

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Recently, Jeannie found this recipe and used me as a guinea pig.  All I can say is “thank you”!  I recommend a nice Merlot accompany this dish to round out a flavor packed and healthy meal.!  Lighten up on the salt if you’d like.  We did and it was exquisite.

Seared Chicken with Mango Salsa & Spaghetti Squash

From EatingWell:  January/February 2016

A quick mango salsa gives this easy chicken dinner recipe a tropical flavor boost. A generous serving of spaghetti squash rounds out the healthy meal.

4 servings | Active Time: 45 minutes | Total Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
  • 1 fresh jalapeño, minced (seeded if desired)
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 spaghetti squash (about 3 pounds), halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 2 8-ounce boneless skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and halved
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or canola oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Preparation

  1. Mix mango, jalapeño, onion, cilantro, vinegar, brown sugar and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Place squash cut-side down in a microwave-safe dish. Add 2 tablespoons water. Microwave, uncovered, on High, until the squash is tender, 10 to 14 minutes.
  3. Pound chicken with the smooth side of a meat mallet until about 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken until an instant-read thermometer registers 165°F when inserted into the thickest part, 3 to 5 minutes per side.
  5. When the squash is done, use a fork to scrape it from the shell into a medium bowl. Toss with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Serve the squash with the chicken, topped with almonds and the mango salsa.

Respect the Craft(s)

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Two of every American’s favorite things…Beer & Pizza!  Huzzah!

Local hand crafted beer meets award winning artisan pizza! Tony Gemignani, 11 time World Pizza Champion, has teamed up with the 2014 World Beer Cup Gold Medal Winner and local favorite Lagunitas Brewing Company. Together they have created a limited release Handcrafted Craft Beer Infused Artisan Pizza.

Sunday, May 3 will launch the first of twelve Respect the Craft(s) monthly collaboration events. Lagunitas is hosting a patio takeover event at Tony’s of North Beach in Rohnert Park near the Graton Casino.

Join Tony Gemignani and the Lagunitas folks for some sweet Sunday afternoon patio lounging with outdoor music, five different Lagunitas Beers on tap and one amazing, limited release collaboration pizza infused with a special Lagunitas Brewing Company crafted brew.

See more at: http://www.sonomacounty.com/node/20617#sthash.InndCG7W.dpuf

Northbay Jobs on the Rise

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Strong job-growth in the six counties that commonly make up the “North Bay” made 2015 an impressive year.  Leading sectors include construction, retail and health care, despite a slight rise in some of the counties’ unemployment rates in December, according to the latest state figures.

Unemployment rates in Sonoma, Solano and Marin counties remained the same last month from November, while rates for Napa, Mendocino and Lake counties inched upward, according to monthly figures from the state Employment Development Department released Jan. 22. However, all those counties’ joblessness rates remain below rates from 2014.

“Most of the North Bay counties show the unemployment rate bottoming out in September and starting to creep up a bit,” said Robert Eyler, professor and chair of economics at Sonoma State University and interim CEO of Marin Economic Forum. “It’s likely that the figures will stay stable, [changing about] 0.5 percent through 2016.”

SONOMA COUNTY

The preliminary unemployment rate estimate for Sonoma County was 4.2 percent in December, unchanged from a revised 4.2 percent in November but below the year-ago estimate of 5.0 percent.  This compares with an unadjusted unemployment rate of 5.8 percent for California and 4.8 percent for the nation during the same period.

The county slipped to sixth place from fifth for among the lowest jobless rates in the state, preceded now by Orange, Santa Clara, San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties.

Sonoma County Economic Development Board noted that the highest unemployment rates were in Forestville at 7.1 percent, Guerneville at 6.5 percent and Cotati at 5.6 percent. The lowest rates came from the communities of Bodega Bay, Occidental, Graton and Glen Ellen, all under 2.1 percent. Santa Rosa’s unemployment rate was 4.7 percent, slightly above the county average.

Total employment in Sonoma County increased by 6,200 in 2015, up 3.1 percent. The number of Sonoma County nonfarm jobs for December was up 300, or 0.2 percent, to 199,800, and for the year up 5,800, or 3 percent. Farming employment for the month increased by 100 to 5,400 jobs, up 1.9 percent, and for the year up 400, or 8.0 percent.

Leading job-adding industries over the year were construction, adding 1,400 jobs, or 13.6 percent, to total 11,700; education and health services, up 1,100 jobs, or 3.4 percent, to 33,700; professional and business services, up 2,200, or 11 percent, to 22,200; and retail-dominating trade, transportation and utilities up 1,100, or 2.9 percent, to 38,600.

Job losing industries over 12 months were manufacturing, down 1,100 jobs, or 5.4 percent, to 19,100; mining and logging, down 100 jobs, or 33.3 percent, to 200; state government, down 200, or 3.8 percent, to 5,000; and state government excluding education, down 200, or 7.7 percent, to 2,400.

SOLANO COUNTY

Solano County unemployment rate was figured to be 5.6 percent last month, ranked 18th out of California’s 58 counties for lowest joblessness. That rate was unchanged from a revised 5.6 percent in November but below 6.6 percent a year before.

Job-gaining industries over 12 months were construction, up 1,200 jobs, or 14.5 percent, to 9,500; trade, transportation and utilities, up 900 jobs, or 3.2 percent, to 28,600; leisure and hospitality, up 7.9 percent, or 1,200 jobs, to 16,300; and professional and business services, up 5.2 percent, or 500 jobs, to 10,200.

MARIN COUNTY

The unemployment rate in Marin County was 3.2 percent in December, unchanged from a revised 3.2 percent in November and still in second place behind San Mateo County. The joblessness estimate a year before was 3.6 percent.

Job-gaining industries over 12 months were professional and business services, up 1,700, or 9.3 percent, to 20,000; trade, transportation and utilities, up 1,000, or 5.1 percent, to 20,600; and educational and health services, up 2,100, or 10.4 percent, to 22,300.

NAPA COUNTY

Napa County’s unemployment rate estimate was 5.1 percent last month, up from a revised 4.8 percent in November 2015, and below the year-ago estimate of 5.6 percent. The county ranked 13th in the state last month, down from 11th place in November.

Job-gaining industries over 12 months were leisure and hospitality, up 300, or 2.5 percent, to 12,400; manufacturing, which includes winemaking, up 700, or 5.9 percent, to 12,600; and trade, transportation and utilities up 300, at 2.9 percent, to 10,600.

MENDOCINO COUNTY

Mendocino County’s preliminary December unemployment rate was 5.9 percent, a rise of 0.5 percentage points from the revised November figure of 5.4 percent. The year-over rate was 0.8 percentage points below the December 2014 rate of 6.7 percent.

Mendocino’s rate fell to No. 24 statewide last month from No. 17.

Total Mendocino industry employment ebbed by 130 jobs from November to December, down 0.3 percent, but was is up for the year by 620 jobs, or 1.9 percent. Eight industry sectors gained jobs, one remained unchanged and three declined.

Farm jobs over 12 months grew by 70, or 5 percent at 1,460, and nonfarm jobs increased by 550, or 1.8 percent, to 31,580.

Job-gaining industries were education and health services, up 240, or 3.9 percent, to 6,400; government, up 130, or 1.8 percent, to 7,260; construction, up 60, or 6.6 percent, to 970.

Losses for the year were professional and business services, down 10 positions, or 0.6 percent, to 1,570, and financial activities, down 30, or 2.8 percent, to 1,040.

LAKE COUNTY

The unemployment rate in the Lake County was 7.3 percent in December, up from a revised 7.2 percent figure for November but below the year-ago estimate of 8.6 percent. The county’s rate ranked 32nd last month.

One of the largest gains in employment for the year was the service industry, adding 390 jobs, or 2.7 percent, to total 14,810. Also gaining for the year were education and health services, up 170, or 3.7 percent, to 4,720; trade transportation and utilities, up 130, or 4.4 percent, to 3,060; and retail trade, up 110, or 5.0 percent, to 2,330.

This story originally appeared in The Northbay Business Journal on January 22, 2016

The Perspective is the Key

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Recently, I had the pleasure of hiking Taylor Mountain Regional Park’s east trail. It’s a pretty good cardio run at 1.6 miles up and 1.6 miles down. Steep climb with a few areas that level off at almost the perfect interval for recovery.

I like this park. It’s not to big, not to small, located in south east Santa Rosa making it easily accessible from 101 or Petaluma Hill Rd. It is almost as challenging for me as Sugar Loaf while taking 1/2 the time to get there. There is also an 18-hole disc golf course for those who partake and while I’m not a disc golfer, the views are pretty killer.

From the top of the East Trail you can see all of Bennett Valley, Rincon Valley, Montgomery Village, pretty much all of Santa Rosa all the way down to Rohnert Park.  That is a lot of real estate to take in.  And that real estate is getting to be very expensive, whether you’re buying or renting!

Sonoma County rents have risen 30% over the last 3 years alone and are likely to continue climbing for one simple reason; basic economics, supply vs. demand.  Sonoma County ranks no. 1 in the United States in terms of rising rent costs in any metropolitan area.   The price for an average apartment costs nearly $1,600/mo.  This may seem like a small number in comparison to the other counties surrounding the San Francisco metropolitan area, such as Alameda, San Mateo and Marin, but for county residents who’ve lived here for more than 5 years, that number represents a massive change in cost of living and has some folks very concerned for their futures.  Will they be able to live here if rents keep soaring?

Good news may be on the horizon though.  There are several major housing developments in Rohnert Park that are coming to market over the next few years.  The first, referred to as the University District by Brookfield Homes, will bring some 1645 new housing units to the area.  A new 244 unit luxury apartment development, Fiori Estates, across from the new Graton Casino will add to the dismal supply of apartment choices in an already full Rohnert Park/Cotati rental market.  Additionally, Rohnert Park has plans for a total of around 4300 new housing units to be built over the next 5 years.

Steep Competition For $400-A-Month Affordable Housing Complex In Santa Rosa

While these new home projects are more than welcome, they won’t soon impact the regions escalating housing costs.  The county’s rents are rising due to local hiring and to a lack of new rental units. These new developments that will open in Rohnert Park in the coming months will be the first built here since 2008.  We’ve got a lot of catching up to do and until then, the cost of living in our beautiful county will be at the whimsy of supply and demand.  #LoveMySoCoLife

Cool Down with these Easy Summer Drinks

On hot summer days, keep cool from the inside out with refreshing homemade drinks.  The following concoctions are healthy, non-alcoholic beverages that range from easy to exotic.

All-purpose punch

For a lively punch that satisfies and is easily made in large quantities, mix together apple juice and ginger ale. Chill with ice.

Custom lemonade

Booths offering fresh-squeezed lemonade are among the most popular at summer fairs.  This simple recipe makes a pitcher of lemonade that’s good enough to sell.

Cut in half three lemons. Squeeze the juice into the bowl. Get rid of the seeds, and save the peels. Pour the juice into a pitcher, add a cup of sugar, and fill the pitcher three-quarters full with water. Stir thoroughly to dissolve all of the sugar. Throw in the lemon peels for added flavor, and add ice.

Mango madness

Blend a cup of plain yogurt, a half-cup of mango pulp, a cup of crushed ice and three tablespoons of sugar. Chill thoroughly. Serves four.

Going green

Green tea is a benefit to health and weight loss, hot or cold. Go green this summer with peachy green tea.

Boil six cups of water and two sliced peaches in a pot. Pour the boiling water and peaches over six green tea bags. Steep for six minutes. Sweeten with maple syrup or honey. Once the mixture has cooled, refrigerate it. Serve it chilled in glasses with peach slices at the bottom and a spoon alongside.

Watermelon smoothie

Watermelon is a summer favorite. It also makes a healthy, refreshing drink.

In a blender, purée two cups of watermelon without seeds, one tablespoon of honey and mint leaves to taste. Add a cup of lemon yogurt and a dash of cinnamon, and blend only until smooth. Chill. Serves two.