Friday, December 31, 2004

Thursday, December 30, 2004

The weather has been a bit unsettled this week, and promises to continue that way through the New Year's weekend. Too bad. No golf.

However, there are a few compensations. For instance, catch this view from our back yard this morning:

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

We're still exploring the restaurant environment in our new hometown of Walnut Creek, and last night found a true winner. It's not cheap ($40 w/wine), but it's fascinating.

That's the chef, Kelly Degala above. He's Hawaiian, and he runs a loud, exciting, busy exhibition kitchen at Va de Vi on Mt. Diablo Boulevard. We were without reservations, and so were seated at the counter where we could watch the activities.

The deal here is small plates, bigger than h'ors d'oevres, but smaller than entrees. Lots of choices, myriad influences, and a plethora of tastes. We shared a rib-eye steak, shrimp w/peanut sauce, and pork ribs w/plum sauce. Prefaced with lobster bisque and closed with a four-piece dessert sampler. Wow, it was good.

The counter setting also provides for easy friendship with neighbors. Next to us was Giuseppe Cagnoni from Umbria (next door to Tuscany in central Italy) who imports Italian delicacies, including his family's "Etruria" olive oil. He had just delivered a paper bag with Italian white truffles to Kelly and had him put one on a plate to show Mieko. About 3" by 2", it cost $700. Not bad.

Highly recommended by the mystery restaurant guest (me.) We'll try it again with an old college roommate next week, for lunch this time.

Go to

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Wedding Anniversary Day. Here's a photo we found recently showing George and Mieko at the Tonga Room of the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. The date is December 28, 1966:

We haven't really changed much, have we?

Friday, December 24, 2004

St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall. Mieko & I were there in 2001 and we shared a plate of fish and chips right here:

Yes, I know that the timing is a bit off, but it looks warm outside, doesn't it?
Merry Christmas and a Very Happy Holiday Season to all from Nut Crik!

Friday, December 17, 2004

Cheers to all the new homes in the Winnacker family!
Here's one from Bromsgrove...(aka MKW's infamous two story brick?)

Monday, December 13, 2004

We could talk about moving, right? It's an exhausting, degrading, unintellectual, boring process. But you knew all that, right? In honor of another traumatic change for the three cats that we have recently been living with, let's look at a satisfied feline:

We'll check in from a new location as soon as possible.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Remember that paper-mache Japanese face that we painted one eye onto about 5 years ago? It's called a daruma. Sort of a promise of good luck in a chosen endeavor. Well, our endeavor was HiltonHouse in Nut Crik, and here is the daruma in place on the window seat, just waiting for his/her second eyeball to be painted in, in less than a week. :-)

And, I just couldn't resist on final photo of the new wind vane. I'm beginning to like that heron:

Saturday, December 04, 2004

I just thought that this was a neat padlock photo (hat tip to

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

OK, back to wine in the foothills. (It's been going down to 25-30F at night up there this week.) (Unusual, but not unheard of.)

Unlike the Napa/Sonoma area, wine tastings in the Gold Country are still free. That's good, and it's good business; makes me want to buy a bottle of wine to take with us.

The smaller wineries are by far the most interesting. Usually just one person serving, often quite knowledgeable, and there are no crowds unless there's a limo or a van out front.

I'm thinking here of Spinetta, Serenidad, Terre Rouge, and Easton. All within 15 minutes of each other off Shenandoah Road in Plymouth. Get a sandwich in town, buy a bottle of wine at the winery, and enjoy a wonderful luncheon picnic. Go now!

Here's a picture of the vineyards on Shenandoah Schoolhouse Road:

Two weeks to go on HiltonHouse, and it looks like maybe we'll be on schedule, although the driveway will lag by about a week. Remember that earlier post about Mieko's cupola? Well, here it is, in place and looking good, although the damned bird appears to have pooped a bit already:

And, even the exterior is beginning to look presentable. If that truck isn't moved pretty soon, I think that I'll claim it.

Friday, November 26, 2004

The other adventure that has occupied our late summer/early autumn has been tripping to Gold Country in search of one of California's new wine centers, the Sierra Foothills. This includes Calaveras, Amador, and El Dorado counties, and they are eye openers.

There's a controversy underway up there, between the big-money operations and the boutique vineyards. Both sides appear to have taken long looks at what's happened to Napa-Sonoma and have reacted, one favorably, the other in horror. Let's illustrate with what's going on in the Shenandoah Valley in and around Plymouth, on Highway 49.

The wineries that are organized around active tourism have lavish layouts, paved parking with bus and RV spaces, on-premises food, and large wine paraphernalia shopping areas. Along with the wine-tasting bars of course. I've enjoyed hot lunches at Villa Toscano and Bella Piazza with Frank Sinatra crooning in the background.

More later. . .

Thursday, November 25, 2004

No news on HiltonHouse since October, but that's because most of the activity moved inside until very recently. You know the drill: gypsum board, taping and texturing, painting, cabinets, flooring, plumbing fixtures, electrical. Only the kitchen appliances remain, and then clean up of the interior. The outside is mostly complete, and we're looking forward to exterior landscaping, hardscape and softscape, probably in the Spring.

Very much a horizontal house, wouldn't you say? That's what we wanted. It compares and contrasts with the vertical house that Rudy and Betty will be moving into:

We will miss the magnificent, typical California live oaks.

Next time, I'll post some interior shots, and then we'll be done.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Monday, November 01, 2004

Since we're posting pics of houses, how about this one?
Not quite as momentous as Hilton House, but maybe a bit shinier?

Kinkaku, "Golden Pavilion", in Kyoto.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

The nice thing about Sundays is that the HiltonHouse site doesn't look like a parking lot for white pick-up trucks. (And, why are most pick-up trucks white, these days?) Anyway, this noon we swung by the project to record the progress. Below are two shots, one today, and one back in May of this year. Note that the tree out front appears unchanged.


We have provided, on the left, a wing of the house that can be a separate one-bedroom place. This is a photograph of the living area (studio kitchen is behind the camera on the right.) Not bad at all:

And this is the view of the back yard, overlooking the adjacent new subdivision in Lafayette (we're in unincorporated Contra Costa County.) The bright spot on the right is reflection of the flash off the window. and I'm sorry for that.

Now, a few non-construction notes from the weekend.

1. We are blessed in the Bay Area by having big-time, exciting, sports teams. Athletics and Giants, Raiders and 49ers, Cal and Stanford. Wow! What exciting, winning teams! (Well, at least Cal won on Saturday.) And San Jose State beat Rice 70 to 63. . .that's football, not high school basketball.

2. We attended a wine tasting Friday evening. Big, earthy reds, complex, musty, just enough tannin to hold hope for the future. These, my friends, were ALL recent (2000) California Sangiovese specimens, and I was truly impressed. They were procured at Solano Cellars in Albany, moderate cost ($12 - $24) and if you're in the neighborhood, do drop by. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Ah well, in California one never knows for sure. One week after the September 14 post below, we had rain, heavy at times. Thank goodness, most of the roofing was on, and we had only a few spots of floor that were drenched. It could have been worse.
For now, we are at the phase of construction where some things go very fast. The roof is on, the windows are in, the exterior doors are there, and we're almost buttoned up. Today, the exterior plasterers (stucco) people were slapping chicken wire all over the exterior, and the gypboard guys were slapping their stuff all over the inside. This going very fast.
Today, 2 pm, partly cloudy (fog remnants), about 70F.

And, for those who know the Piedmont manse, you will quickly notice that HiltonHouse is quite different. Here's a shot of the living/dining area under construction. Quite a difference!

Those are Mieko's 3 square windows over the main window. Ask her about them (she's very proud!) :-)

More later. . .

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

One week later and the windows are in, the roofing is going on. We'll be ready for the rainy season when it comes in November. Taken today at 10:30 a.m., 75 F, cloudless skies.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Pretty darned warm around here this Labor Day weekend. We even had to blow off a 9-hole golf game with the Rudy Winnackers inside the race track at the Alameda County Fairgrounds this afternoon. The golf was scheduled for the end of the 2004 Scottish Games with 2000 kilted bagpipers marching down the track playing "Amazing Grace!" Now that's the way to play good golf! (We did it last year.)

Meantime, HiltonHouse was partially cleaned up, with only one truck in the courtyard and the paper cut off to reveal most of the window openings.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Whew! The roof trusses were placed quickly and the overhang is almost complete. This thing is beginning to look like a house, finally. This shot is today at about 3 p.m., temp 84F, cloudless sky.

And this was last Sunday, the Robinsons' traditional Sunday Wine Tasting at the Pool (Orinda Country Club.) A bit warm, but a nice breeze. The wine was all French Burgundy, which I found quite undistinguished, and undistinguishable, but perhaps that's just me. Sorry about the contrast, but I haven't figured out Picasa and I don't have Photoshop. Betty, Rudy:

And finally, we got in 18 holes of golf at a new course out in Dublin. It's a par 63, which is quite comfortably played in 4 hours. I took this shot showing an old Tri-Valley ranch building with the new houses crawling up the hill toward the ranch. This is the way the valley is going, more's the pity, but we Californians do not like to live in highrises. (I've saved a larger version of this same shot as wallpaper on my computer. If you want one, just ask me at

Monday, August 30, 2004

Just another country church - site of recent wedding of Peter & Sheila down in Devon

Friday, August 27, 2004

What else can I say? ? ?

R O O F T R U S S E S !

Monday, August 23, 2004

Just returned from a weekend in Orange County. Interesting, and I found a fun restaurant/oyster bar/brew pub in Brea, which is Jue's home town. Try "Taps" at the corner of Imperial Hwy and Brea Blvd. Nice new (looks old) brick building with a great fish menu and above-average beer.

Our former neighbor, Bob Knapp, psychiatrist, has just retired from the Army Reserve and his unit, the 113th CMS (I think) has just returned from Baghdad. Colonel Knapp has completed his 20, so he's out with his pension, and we thank him for his service!

** UPDATE** I forgot to mention that Col. Knapp received the Bronze Star, which, to me, is a Big Deal. I'm impressed!

Here's the presentation of medals and awards to the enlisted guys, who saluted smartly but were dressed casually. The Top Sergeant, Commanding Officer, and one other are on the left.

And here's the Colonel's retirement cake:

Back home, Hilton House has slowed down a bit, but we're rebuilding the old garage, now officially "Mieko's Garage". It's on the left, and the new Winnacker garage is on the right. Interesting juxtuposition.

** UPDATE** At the Mauna Lani Golf Course (I did par the 18th, you may remember) the battery-powered golf carts all had solar panels on their roofs. Makes sense and pleases the environmentalists among us. I like that!
However, for the sceptics among us, while walking past the cart garage, I noticed all the next-day's golf carts were washed, shined, and plugged into the house current!
I'm smiling a bit.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Here's a little napkin-sketch of an idea:

Saturday, August 14, 2004

This week Mieko has announced that she wants a cupola on the roof of Hilton House. I'm thinking that I'll cadge this design from a neighbor up the street.

Any thoughts from anyone out there? Just post them on
Meantime, the roof trusses are delayed by two and a half weeks! Lots of groaning going on here.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

It's great to see 'Tempdisplaced" posting to this blog! Thanks for the parade pix from Looe, Hanako; now tell us how to pronounce that name!
We're back from a week in Kailua-Kona, golfing and renewing old acquaintances. It's been about 20 years since my last visit, and it was good to see not much changed. One change for the better was a non-stop flight from Oakland to Kona on an Aloha Airline 737-700. I didn't know that it was legal to fly 5.5 hours in a two-engined plane!
Kona has not been noted for fine/fun dining, but we did find an exception at Kenichi/Pacific in the Keahou Shopping Center. Put tablecloths on the tables and move it to Nob Hill and you could charge $150/person! The food is memorable, and the price okay at $40 each including wine.
Here is Mieko at the 14th "mountain" par 3 at the Kona Country Club:

And here's calamari at Kenichi/Pacific (with Dynamite Shrimp in the background:

Mieko stares provocatively across the choppy bay waters at City of Refuge:

A final view of the North Kohala Coast from the end of the road:

And now, back to reality, and a view of the progress at Hilton House in Walnut Creek. It's coming along nicely, and more or less on schedule. Keeping our fingers crossed!

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Summer Parade in the small Cornish town of Looe

Friday, July 30, 2004

Leaving town for a week; extensive property inspection out there on the Kona Coast. Back on 8 August 2004. Swung by Hilton House today, once the sun came out, and was pleased with the progress. Ben and his Band of (Roumanian) Brothers are fast!

This is looking down the bedroom hall to the kitchen wall way down there at the back. Living/Dining wing is to the left.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Nice cool weekend in the Bay Area today - lot's of fog.  We took a trip to Hilton House this morning and, for the first time, strolled around on the floor, albeit the subfloor, not the finished floor.  In any case the floor is framed, insulated, and the subfloor is going on today. Next, the exterior walls, then the roof trusses.

This is a view from the end of the living room overlooking the neighboring subdivision with the hills beyond:

And this is a view from the kitchen with Mt. Diablo in the distance.  We'll be negotiating with the neighbor to maybe move her garden shed:


This was taken from the Entry area overlooking the guest apartment and the trees beyond:


And, finally, the view out the window of the Master Bedroom:


We'll keep everyone posted on further, major progress.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

A picture of Tewkesbury Abbey, on Hanako's way to work - the weather is typical for this summer thus far! Hmmm...not quite Copperopolis.

Monday, July 19, 2004

It appears that learning this Blogger stuff may be a bit more complicated than I had anticipated. Anyway, the humungous pix of last week have been erased. I have reformatted them to be only 600 pixels across and I'll try to post them now. For posterity, I'll repeat that these are pix of 155 Quail Meadow Court at Saddle Creek in Copperopolis, California.
This is the backyard view:

A shot of the unfurnished living room (with its off-center mantlepiece) and den beyond:

  The kitchen is below, with the dining area beyond:

  The rear of the house with the covered lanai/porch/whatever:

  And, finally, the front of the house.

These were taken on Wednesday, 14 July.  Temperature was 88F, typical of July in the Sierra foothills.  Enjoy!
(I'll try to post some construction pix of the Hilton Road house later this week.)