This is the Year of the Horse for the Chinese New Year celebrated on January 31.  Earlier this year I was in Las Vegas at the Bellagio and each year they feature a elaborate display of the Chinese New Year in their Conservatory and Botanical Garden inside the hotel lobby area.  It attract large crowds and is well worth a viewing.

I’ve found the Chinese New Year and their signs fun.  I’m quite fond of my own Chinese New Year sign which is the dragon.  I don’t think of it as the dragon lady, but as a bright and brilliantly colored sometimes fire breathing dragon.

FROM THE INDEPENDENT ONLINE:
It’s the Lunar New Year and the Chinese Year of the Horse. The horse is part of a 12-year-cycle of animals that make up the Chinese zodiac. These interact with the five elements: wood, metal, fire, water, earth. 2014 is the year of the wood horse, taking over from the year of the water snake.
Click on these images to enlarge:

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Horse Statue along with Fiori di Como by glass sculptor Dale Chihuly
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A Sample from the Flora Displays
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Chinese Gardens
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Chinese Gardens
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Year of the Hose Display

Once upon a time, a long long time ago there was a castle upon a hill in Napa Valley called, Castello di Amorosa where there are vineyards and there can be found some distinctive wines.  It has been awhile since I’ve visited the castle but I still enjoy their superb wines via mail order.  Several years ago on a vacation in Napa Valley we came across the vineyard and castle.  We took their premium wine tasting tour and were amazed at the hospitality and quality tasting that we shared with a small group of about 12 people.

Along with the almost private tasting was a lengthy tour of the castles grounds, courtyard, grand barrel room, chapel, great hall, Il Ducale Room and tasting in the Il Passito Room.   You can almost experience the tour by visiting their website a watching a virtual tour.  If you have an opportunity to visit, I highly recommend the tour and their exceptional wine.   Click on the images below for larger versions.

Castello di Amorosa Church
Castello di Amorosa Church
Castello di Amorosa
Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa Vineyard
Castello di Amorosa Vineyard
Oceanside California Pier

When we can’t be in the Caribbean we travel by car over to the California coast for a quick fix and dose of the Pacific Ocean and it’s sandy beaches.  This is a lovely spot in Oceanside, California to view on an evening walk along the beach. The building out on the pier is a Ruby’s Diner where you can get a great Kobe beef hamburger and homemade milkshake.  The water is too cold for us to take a swim.  We are often surprised by the number of swimmers and surfers venturing out into the waves.

Oceanside California Pier
Oceanside California Pier

For those with Photoshop interest. This image was enhanced with filter unsharp mask, burn and dodge tools. That was about it.

Viceroy at Mead's Bay

We departed from Simpsons Bay on the Dutch side of St. Martin early enough in the morning to catch the draw bridge at Marina Port de Blaisance and motor to customs right away.  In order to depart from St. Martin the Smitten Kitten’s captain, Stuart, had to speed off to clear all those aboard through customs so that we could go into International seas and set sail to Anguilla.  We were pretty much first in line, though a hot-shot from another charter (to remain un-named) did try to one up us.  He almost “tagged” us as he tried to snuggle between us and the shore.  He gave up quickly, rounded about and moved away to allow for clearance. After clearing customs, we set sail along the coast of St.Martin heading towards the French side.

Stmartin

As we sailed along the North West side of St. Martin (French Side) we passed several sights of interest including a mansion in Meads Bay that sold a few years back for 11 million.  This same mansion was awarded the best worldwide architectural award 2012-2013 by International Property Awards and was the winner from over 2000 entries.

Very close to this mansion is a timeshare resort called the Viceroy. It expands the coast line on Mead’s bay for quite some time.

Viceroy at Mead's Bay
Viceroy at Mead’s Bay

Along the way to Viceroy on our first day sail to Road Bay and Anguilla,  Stuart, our captain made us up some of the best pain killer cocktails ever.  You have got to try them and the secret to the recipe is the nutmeg topper. I was hoping to get the actual recipe but have guessed at the measures.  I’m going to experiment diligently but until then here is my best guess.

Captain Stuart's famous Pain Killer
Captain Stuart’s famous Pain Killer

Pain Killer Cocktail

Fill blender with Crushed Ice
1 can Coco Lopez
1 cup Orange juice
1 small can pineapple juice
Caribbean Rum to taste!!
garnish each cocktail with ground nutmeg

The mid-day appetizer made especially delicious by Jenny, first mate on the Smitten Kitten, featured spring rolls, fresh ginger and a wakame seaweed salad.  I’ve never liked seaweed but this was different.  It was light and slightly sweet.  A lovely taste.  I was surprised to see a package in Costco back in Arizona a month later that looked very similar to the seaweed that Jenny served.  Maybe it was the same dish.  This seaweed salad doesn’t have that typical taste of seaweed which I normally do not like.  I didn’t buy it to try because it was to large a package for two people but I was tempted.   These were some yummy Appetizers.

Spring Rolls with Fresh Ginger and Seaweed Salad
Spring Rolls with Fresh Ginger and Seaweed Salad

Dinner that same night was chicken stuffed with goat cheese and lemon sauce over pasta noodles. A very original dinner served by Jenny and with the help of Stuart.

Chicken Stuffed with Goat Cheese
Chicken Stuffed with Goat Cheese

We were to have continued on to Road Bay to dock for the evening but the waters were rough enough that we decided to stay where we where over night.  I for one was in favor of anchoring the boat and our butts right there and not pitching with the waves to make our way onward so quickly.

Overnight there was a constant patter of evening rain on the decks.  The poor Greek hubby left side port window open and he got late evening bath.  In the dark of night, I had to help him close the window.  I don’t think he had ever closed them himself.  Oh, well…. he demanded to sleep on that side of the bed.  His loss!  My gain!  Of course, I would probably would have closed the window a little better than he did.

Up next… Day 2 Anguilla and Guadalupe.

This long time custom and vintage car show and high end car auction has in our minds turned Hollywood.  If the rich and famous were not there, their cars were.    This year the Barrett-Jackson show expanded to almost double the size with larger tents, comfortable seating for lunch or beverages, real restrooms!!  They now have a separate area for the high end vintage car/auto sponsors  and another for the multitude of specialty vendors.   It was easier to maneuver about and see what one wanted to browse without bumping into a dozen other people along the way.