travel

I Love A Parade!

by admin on February 18, 2009


I have to admit that throughout my childhood, history class was incredibly boring to me. I would memorize the facts so I could do well in the class but there was no understanding….no desire to absorb. As I’ve “matured” or gotten older I should say….I’ve come to value our past….our traditions. I think it may have really taken hold when I fell in love with the olive tree…..16 years ago….I first took note of my new love when I was sitting in a conference room in a large corporation in San Francisco….our group was chosen to evaluate the processes of the company and recommend efficiencies…the “process improvement committee”….aka PIP.

I’m not sure how it came up but our “leader” was telling us that her husband came in very late the night before and he was filthy….he had been harvesting olives for a new olive oil co that he worked for…..At that point in my career I had not given much thought to the olive…nor the tree…nor the oil it produced…so esoteric…..my dream was to get into investment banking and run a Fortune 500 company….I appreciated food…and that is why I ate out….seldom cooked….although my sister can attest to my beef teriyaki with sticky rice……and Kraft macaroni and cheese mixed with broccoli….two of my signature dishes.

As I sat in my chair…..around a boardroom table…..pitchers of water…glass tumblers and white napkins scatttered about……I locked into the words…”came home really dirty”…”harvesting olives”…..the ringing of the words sent me back to my childhood….growing up in the hills of the Napa Valley….spending most of our time outside…..playing….getting dirty….riding horses…mini bikes…giving away wild kittens at Vintage 1870….as I faded into the past…I began to visualize her husband…up in a tree….with a baseball bat (as she described it)…..hitting branches and getting covered in soot….it was at that point that I first felt the shift….I wanted a job where I could get dirty….wear jeans…climb in trees…..my heart started to beat with the pace of my thoughts…my veins began to pulsate as elation set in….I want to start an olive oil company….I’m going to start an olive oil co!

What I lack in research and development, I make up for in determination to make up for my lack in research and development….or at least I’d like to think so…. I immediately started reading every book I could on anything that had to do with the tree….and its oil…..I connected with a few people in the Napa Valley who were just getting started in the business…..and I took advantage of every class on production, etc…that was held by UC Davis. My obsession had taken hold….and as I learned more…..I fell deeper into love…..with the olive tree and its history….and its place in our world. History class had begun……

So why share this now?

There is not a place that you can look in my new home that does not wreak of history…the text books have come alive!

Today we attended a parade for Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici…one of the members of the Medici Dynasty…a family that is credited for establishing Firenze as the “cradle” of the Renaissance. The parade stopped at a statue of Anna Maria Luisa (see below) on the procession to her grave…the members of the parade gave tribute…played a special tune…said something in Italian…and then continued on ….I couldn’t understand the words that were said but I couldn’t help but feel the power….of this woman…and the reverence that was bestowed…..

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Kaelin just skipped out the door to meet her new friends for dinner and a sleepover…she met them up the street at Piazza Repubblica….as if she was headed to Main St. in St. Helena…..she has acclimated easily…helps to have english speaking friends and school…but there is something about Kaelin and Florence…she is at home. I have never seen her so carefree…..confident….jovial….She is a great kid and always happy but here…she glows…she has a skip in her step…she comes home everyday with interesting things that have happened or perspectives she hadn’t had before…her World has opened up….already!

Everything is new and exciting…and challenging here….take for instance….school supplies….now we all know how to get school supplies right? Well…not so easy here…there is no Target….and no one seems to know what we are taking about when we ask….for school supplies that is…not Target! :) …yesterday, when Kaelin and I were walking home from our haircuts we passed the numerous cafes and clothing boutiques when Kaelin shouted out..’Mom..school supplies!”..a store about the size of a walk in closet was squashed between a shoe store and a cafe….and they had binders and paper and pens and ink cartridges and planners….not a lot mind you as they had no space….but enough to satisfy Kaelin’s requirements….we were very proud of our find! I’m sure there is store full of supplies somewhere…..but for now we seem to just be feeling our way around the City….and we’re getting there….day by day!

So I think it is safe to say that Kaelin is all set!

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Settled in Florence in 10 Days!

by admin on January 9, 2009

Buongiorno!

We have had an amazing week…so packed with events that it could have been book 1 of a series! Kaelin completed her first week at the International School and with a bit of coaching, mastered the bus system in Florence. She is sporting her new uniform and has been welcomed with open arms by her peers. She can go on autopilot for now…last task for her is finding a City soccer league…then she’s set!

Emily starts at Sacra Coure on Monday…a beautiful Catholic School on the top of a hill a few blocks from the International School…..now that meeting was a short story in itself….all the nuns were in full dress….I went to Catholic School so it was not unusual to me…but Emily became very quiet….and then entered Mother Loupoi! She was an older woman who came up to Emily’s shoulder….you could see she was very Italian even though her eyes, nose and mouth were all you could see….at that point, I even got a bit scared! :) As soon as she began to speak, we felt an immediate sense of relief…she was jovial, intelligent and welcoming….she said Emily will need a tutor a few days a week as they only speak Italian…but, in their experience, she should be speaking very well in about two months…hard to believe!…they only go to school 8 – 1pm and then they stay and do homework until 3pm and then they do art, music and volleyball until around 4:30pm…

In general most of the kids in Florence go to school Monday – Saturday until 1pm only….I found VERY little info on public schools before we arrived but now know the drill….if you ever need to know.

And finally..we have a home…for now we are staying in the heart of Florence…and we love it..in a tiny apartment filled with amazing history and warmth…

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Oil And Vinegar On Every Italian Table

by admin on January 5, 2009

Thank you so much for your emails supporting our journey to Italy. It was our largest response ever! I continue to receive emails every day….and they are so encouraging…and have really meant a lot as we have had crazy days since touching ground in Florence…it is quite an experience which I will write more about in our “Let’s Chat” section as we get settled in….but just know that I have read every email and they have all meant so much….thank you!

Tomorrow we are going to shop at the largest produce market in the City….find Emily a school…Kaelin a uniform…and figure out the bus routes….the time change is perfect because it allows me to work at night..we settle in a little more every day…it will be nice to have the kids in school and start our routine!

The first thing that struck me as we have begun to eat in our new home is the use of vinegar…..every place that we have eaten has a bottle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar and/or Red Wine Vinegar on the table. When you order a salad you are not asked what type of dressing you would like….the green salad comes out undressed…you simply drizzle the oil and vin on and voila….and it’s delicious…so simple….I think the beauty of this is that the taste of the greens can truly be complimented by the oil and vin and not overpowered by it…..

My family’s favorite salad is dressed with our Lemon EVOO vinaigrette…..and I love Caesar dressing and our Balsamic Vinaigrette as well…..but I’m going to work this style of dressing into our meals now…it’s just another example of the power of ingredients!

This journey has reminded me of how proud I am of OUR wine vinegar…they compete with anything I have tasted here…very similar…..and can I say that I miss ours? Over the years, our vinegar has been in all the major food magazines….Bon Appetit….Gourmet….Saveur…..Food and Wine…and more…and I always forget to brag about them!

Wine Vinegar is really dependent on the quality of the wine that you use….the method is which you turn the alcohol into acid….and how long you age it.

We ONLY use Napa Valley wine in our vinegar. We are the only company to do this…most companies buy bulk wine….so…I really owe it to the quality of wine that we are able to find….and it is NOT bad wine that you use to make vinegar. The wine that we use tastes good….that’s part of my evaluation….some of the wine that we have purchased is from VERY well known wine makers….not everything they produce makes the cut….and that’s where we come in. if the wine has good character….I send it to the local wine lab to test the level of sulfites….if it is is within our preferred levels then I purchase the wine and bring it into our facility…we actually have to have a Bond on our facility because we are moving wine into it.

Once we move the wine into our facility..it is blended with our vinegar that has our Mother Culture in it..that is the bacteria that changes the alcohol into acid….this is called the Orleans Method. The Vinegar is left in oak barrels until it is ready to be bottled…we then send a sample back to the lab to make sure the alcohol is gone….we taste it to ensure it is up to our liking…..and then blend it with distilled water…..the acidity level is about 11% so we have to bring it down closer to 6% so we don’t blow your socks off…..standard practice. So…as you can see…we do everything we can to ensure we produce the best we can….

I encourage you to check out the stories on all of our vinegar in the product pages and in the Let’s Chat section….great stories on our Sparkling Wine Vinegar and our Cask 85…..the oldest American Vinegar on the market!

THE FLORENCE VINAIGRETTE SPECIAL!

I’ve put together a package to make it easy for you to keep oil and vin on hand to dress your greens! I’m calling it “Florence Vinaigrette” and it includes one Sevillano Extra Virgin Olive Oil, one Red Wine Vinegar and one 6 Yr Old Balsamic Vinegar. This is normally $54 if purchased separately but we will offer it in the package for $48 and to get you totally set up….we will THROW in 3 pour spouts at no charge.

I hope this email finds you enjoying your New Year! As we sit in our chilly apartment waiting for our laundry to dry naturally….remember to appreciate your resources…not every Country is so lucky! :)

Ciao!

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Moving to Florence, Italy

by admin on December 30, 2008

Hello!

I thought I’d send you a quick note because tomorrow we are off on our adventure to Florence, Italy. The girls and I are moving there for six months! No…not the Villa scenario…..but the tiny apt with no dryer scenario! Ha! Kaelin will study at the International School and Emily is going to the local public school….and no….she does not speak any Italian! Ah….and what will I do? I have a long list of things to do..which includes spending time with our vendors….discovering more amazing products……traditions……lifestyle ideas…..that I can pass on to you!

I think it will be a great step for our Company as it is time for the stores to function without me from an operational standpoint….it’s what I’ve working on for the last year and this will truly be the test! But….honestly…..it’s been a long journey for the three of us OKelly girls ( take a look at our picture below…in the background is the first picture we took when the girls were 2 and 5!) and the true mission of our journey is to experience every moment…..and share memories with eachother that we can hold for a lifetime…everything else will be a bonus!

I have to thank my staff….they are excited for me…..and the Company……and themselves…..as we embark on a new journey for all of us……it will give us all new perspective….they will gain confidence in knowing that they can run the operation without me….and I will gain as well…..knowing I’m not needed on a daily level…it’s exciting…..a bit scary…..but it’s all perspective….and I’m choosing to see it an amazing growth period.

You really won’t even notice I’m gone….with technology today….we are so tied together that I will still be managing on a daily basis…but…I just won’t have the day to day…and believe me…..the day to day can become a full time job…..and if I’m caught in that…how do we grow?

So….I’m very excited….because I know every step of my journey I am going to experience so many amazing things that I think you will be interested in….maybe I’ll find some cool product at our local market and see if you want me to bring some back for you…..or I’ll tell you about a cool tradition that maybe you would like to adopt…..or recipes…oh recipes….I’m taking some cooking classes so get ready!…..or maybe my experience will give you that extra push that you might need to go out on a limb and chase your dream….take that risk….because let me tell you…..I follow my heart a bit naturally……but with this I’m even rattled…..for all the reasons that I’m sure are running through YOUR head since I’ve told you that I’m leaving….but……as I told my girls…..the feelings you are having right now will STOP some…..but don’t let them ever stop you…..get to know that feeling and walk right through it …..with faith…..and the World will open up to you.

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