San-Fran-Giving

Since Scott has to work on Thanksgiving Day, we celebrated a few days earlier by taking a day trip to San Francisco. It’s what I like to call a Scouting Trip – checking out all the sites we want to visit when friends and family come to town. It’s about a two-hour drive so an easy jog over to the bay. It was a perfect day (except a little bit of smokey haze from the fires.)

It’s hard to not think about earthquakes when crossing the many bridges in and out of San Francisco. Still, they are breathtakingly beautiful.

Seeing this couple sitting at the Bay’s edge made me think of the song, ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco’. I so badly wanted to know their love story…their life experiences. They were perfectly content to sit at the water’s edge and enjoy the weather, the people and the excited energy all around them.

We drove to the piers and walked around. While others saw seagulls and ships and tug boats and islands, I saw…

“Whoa!, look at these cool boards!!”

And Scott said…

“Those are awesome chains!”

We are a dorky couple.

Is this not a classic picture?! The water was literally feet in front of them. Ships and beauty was everywhere. And not one of them was seeing it.

Meanwhile we were all being side-eyed big time!

Fisherman’s Wharf was so wonderfully touristy. I loved it all!!

My last supper would definitely include crab. I am a big fan! And clam chowder? Gimme it alllll.

The Alcatraz Tour is definitely on our list of things to do in the near future. Looking at it, I couldn’t help but hear my son say he doesn’t buy the idea that no one could swim the distance to escape. He’s convinced it’s a definite possibility! 🙂

Total respect, cyclists. I might be able to swim to my escape from Alcatraz but there’s no way I could bike up these steep hills either!

I love, love, love, love brightly painted front doors. And even though we didn’t seek out the Painted Ladies homes (made even more famous in the Full House tv show) we did see beautifully painted homes along the waterfront. I wonder if their monthly mortgage payment is over $1000?? (hahahahahahahahahhahahaaaa)

And then we made it to the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s so amazing to stand at the base of such an iconic landmark of America.

The haze was a lens we saw everything through. But it was still mesmerizing. (I only took 6 zillion photos.)

At times, my camera had trouble focusing on anything because all it saw was haze. While some haziness is typical for San Francisco, the wildfire smoke wasn’t helping.

As the sun set, it was time for us to cross this beauty and head back home.

One of the biggest lessons we learned on our San Francisco Scouting Trip was to squeeze the day between rush hour traffic. Poor Scott – he drove bumper to bumper for hours. I’m sure some of it was Thanksgiving traffic as well but it made me wonder how many people must live and work between San Francisco and Sacramento. It took us almost double the time to get home than our quick trip out. That’s okay; it just meant more time in the car together. Music to listen to and reflections to be made.

This car made it worthwhile too. We saw it around Berkeley so I was hoping it was an English Lit professor making his way home after a trying day of lectures and student conferences.

Come visit us soon! We have a few ideas of where we can go explore together.

Rain, rain, go…away?

We are preparing for rain, here in Northern California, not unlike our preparations for snow in Missouri. Bringing in the delicate items, the lamps and tchotchkes that shouldn’t get soaked. We conjured up a lean-to to cover my succulent garden, as @inspirelovely would suggest. ⠀

My friends know how much I do not like rainy days. They mess with me. I so wish I was the person who grabs a book and a comfy spot for reading. I used to have a friend who felt creatively inspired on rainy days and could produce content ten times faster. But my spirit lags in overcast weather. I have to work a little harder to keep my mind and heart buoyed. ⠀

Obviously this is a huge benefit to living in California. Each and every day the sun comes out, the skies are blue and the clouds are fat and fluffy. Every. Single. Day.⠀

I’ve learned a valuable lesson, however, in our two months living here. Everything – sidewalks and porches and cars and plants and highways – everything is dusty. When a bird relieves himself on your sidewalk, it stays there. The smog and dust of living builds up in deep layers. ⠀

There is an importance in rain. A washing away. A starting again. A renewed and fresh shine, left in its wake. Rain serves the purpose of watering and feeding nature, sure. But it also gives our everyday surroundings a much-needed facelift. ⠀

This particular rain is an important one. The wildfires have caused so much damage, even far beyond the point of burn. Our atmosphere needs cleansing so our lungs can breathe fresh clean air.⠀

Rain as rejuvenation. As renewal. Washing away the ugly. The discarded. The build-up. Leaving behind a squeaky clean new beginning. ⠀

So instead, I will lean into this rain with a new understanding. And when low-spirits lurk, I will check on the succulents in their safe tent and know we are all going to be just fine.

California or bust. (Spoiler alert: it was kind of a bust)

I had big plans to split up and blog our trip to southern California into segments based on all the places we visited.

Then the fires happened. It has been so sad here in California. And the thick smoke in the air is a constant reminder. That said, it was very interesting to be here while it was starting. I was fascinated – as a new Californian – to hear the new-to-me terminology and reporting. I learned so much that first day.

But as a result, we couldn’t get as close to the spots I had mapped out to visit. Hollywood, downtown LA, Calabasas, Santa Monica, etc. Instead, we went into the outskirts of Los Angeles and then took a different highway home. (Our original plan was to take Highway 101 on our way back north.)

So here’s a compilation of our few stops. Scott and I stayed in Ontario, California for a week – about an hour outside of LA – while he took classes for work. It happened during the daylight savings time change so our evenings were practically non-existent to be able to go sightseeing. So we planned on sight-seeing on our way home on Saturday and after class ended for the week at noon on Friday. The fires, however, raged on Thursday. So we quickly and deeply edited our list…

On Friday, Scott and I got in the car, checked the traffic to see which way to drive. Scott used to live in the Santa Ana mountains so he headed us further south toward Orange County. (You betcha I watched for Vicki, Shannon and Tamra at every intersection!!)

We took Highway 74 over the Santa Ana mountains which was absolutely fascinating for me – but I wasn’t driving on a two-way, winding road on the edge of the mountains. Scott did this even though heights are NOT his favorite thing!

(A very healthy grip -ha!)

I continue to be amazed at the difference in the mountains here as opposed to the Rocky Mountains – which I am more used to. But c’mon…where I’m from – the Midwest doesn’t have either so I have been loving all this new landscape to take in.

There’s been something about the mountains that I couldn’t quite pinpoint until this trip. I told Scott they look biblical! I can imagine the disciples walking through these valleys or Bin Laden hiding in a hole somewhere. I may be (…probably…) way off base but this is how I imagine the mountains of the Bible to look.

We stopped at the San Juan Capistrano Mission to look around. The swallows of Capistrano? This is the place. Swallows migrate 6,000 miles each year from Goya, Argentina to San Juan Capistrano in large groups.

But guess what I was more impressed with?! (just sort of joking) These cacti were huuuuuge! (Scott is 6’3″ tall for reference)

I mean! Again, I’m a Missouri gal. We don’t do succulents and cactus except in little pots on our windowsills. INSIDE! Is this even real?!

I really loved this cross and beads. It was large and heavy and….well, expensive. So I’ll settle for a picture of it.

We left the mission and drove to Dana Point Harbor at Doheny Beach. We walked out on the rock pier and I was NOT dressed for the occasion. But it was just a quick look at the Pacific Ocean for the first time since moving to California.

I promise to stop talking about them but this succulent was bigger than my head!

The picture below made me giggle a little bit. It made me think of all the filters you can buy on photo apps…

We ended up eating outside at a sweet restaurant. Salmon and delicious veggies at the perfect time as the sun set behind us. The cool breeze. The sloshing water on the boats. It was truly ideallyic.

…which ended with ice cream, of course. For the special cherry on top of a perfect evening.

These seals barking at the fishermen…… I die.

This was the view right outside our hotel. Three things to note: 1) Mt. Baldy loomed large everywhere we drove. 2) In-N-Out deliciousness and 3) All of this on G Street (big, stupid grin)

And then we drove home….

You see the mountains at the base of the picture. And the sad, red cloud of smoke hovering over it all.

The below picture is a little difficult to make out but you can see the Los Angeles city outline with the horrible cloud of smoke surrounding everything.

This was our view for quite a while as we headed back north – driving through the Sierra Nevada mountains.

By the time we got home around 9pm that night, our city of Fair Oaks, CA was thick with smoke and a very weird smell. It’s not a pleasant smell like burning wood or even a campfire. There is a chemical smell to it. Almost like a huge burning school nurse’s office. Our whole house had the smell – especially our garage. We tucked into bed, grateful to have a home to come back to. But also so very prayerful and saddened by those who were losing everything.

We had a wonderful trip together. We stopped at gorgeous fruit and nut farms and bought delicious fruits that we snacked on all the way to and from LA. We had delicious dinners together every night and saw amazingly beautiful country that was so very different than where we were raised. A lot of laughing and talking and being together in this new California Adventure. We were sorry we couldn’t see all the tourist sites but know that we’ll have other opportunities.

We are headed toward our mid-fifties and are determined to still experience and see new and exciting things. What a huge blessing. I am grateful, grateful, grateful.

Clean(er)

I would venture to bet that the majority of people can’t rid their homes of all toxins immediately and right.this.very.instant. Man, would I love to. Had I only won that last lottery drawing…⠀

It’s hard to make choices for a clean, ethically-centered, toxin-free home. Clean cleaning supplies. Clean beauty products. Slow fashion. Slow living. ⠀

For us, (like many of you) it’s just one step at a time. One less candle; one more essential oil. One less toxic cleaning supply replaced with a more environmentally-friendly brand. With each choice at the point of sale, our home is moving ever-so-slowly toward a healthier space. ⠀

It’s not about chasing fads (and yes, ‘all-natural’ can be a trendy fad for some companies), but it’s about making a healthier choice whenever you can. As Anne Lamott would say – it’s not about dieting, it’s about doing better today than you did yesterday.⠀

I think that’s a perfect motto for just about everything in life, don’t you think? Don’t beat yourself up for what you can’t do. Just take it product by product. And season by season. (Because some seasons are about trying to afford diapers and school supplies and spring soccer. And that’s okay! Taking care of your family is number one. No matter what that looks like for you.)⠀

One of the free things I did recently was detox my Pinterest account. I have been unpinning many of the elaborate, multi-step projects I’ve had pinned on there for years. Instead I’ve been pinning clean products for our home and simple (read: not elaborate) ways to celebrate the holidays as well as the everyday. Detoxing my to do list or my dream lists is one way to add space and time for relationships and (…always…) reading. Hygge, if you will. Pinterest is an enormous resource for just about anything you’re looking for, but it can also be an ever-growing guilt list of things you’re not getting done. I needed to let some of that crap go. I’ve linked to my Pinterest in my profile if you need some jumping off places to declutter your mind and your online Pinterest bulletin board.

What are some ways and products you’re choosing for a healthier home and life? Teach me some of your ways…

Work Trip to LA

I have heard it said before that to transplant a Joshua Tree (which can live up to 100 years), you must face it the exact same way that it has been growing originally.

As a recent transplant myself, I can understand this concept. I am experiencing so many new and disorienting views. Which way does the sun rise? When should I plant my spring bulbs? ‘Winter’ season is really just a ‘rainy’ season? Finding my mooring has probably produced some proverbial yellowing of leaves and a few dropped blooms.

Going too far with this plant analogy?? Regardless, seeing these gorgeous trees making their way out in the deserts of southern California was absolutely intriguing. I couldn’t stop staring at them. They start out as a rosette with no stem at all. Over time they produce the thick trunk and branches. Quite a transformation and a fantastic lesson on adaptation.

Scott is in Los Angeles (technically a suburb to the east of LA, in Ontario, California) for a week of training. So of course I came along for the experience. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to do as much sightseeing as we would if this were a vacation, but we are determined to cram in as much as we can while we are here this time. Future visits already in the planning stages.

This post is very picture-laden. I try to limit pictures on my posts but I couldn’t decide which ones to leave off. I will try to limit the pictures on the subsequent days. (Although ‘editing’ has never been my forte’.)

We had 3-4 highway choices to drive from Sacramento to LA. Taking Highway 1 is on our California bucket list but that’s something we want to take our time enjoying. We opted for Highway 99 which for a great deal of the way could have been a trip through the Midwest – if you replace the corn and wheat fields for acres and acres of nut trees. It took us straight down the middle of the state.

It’s a little difficult to see that this Halo building is a BUILDING. Full-size, large building in the shape of a Halo bucket of mandarin oranges. (One of my favorite treats!)

We stopped in Bakersfield, California at a fruit stand/nut stand in the middle of an orange and lemon orchard. We sampled ourselves to death and then bought a number of trail mixes, red pears sweet Medjool dates, and lusciously sweet apples.

A number of years ago we were in Salt Lake City for three weeks and I fell madly in love with the Wasatch Mountains. Driving through the San Joaquin Valley, the Sierra Nevada Mountains had a similar look. I like the baldness of the mountains. You can see the rock and the formations so easily (as opposed to the beautiful pine-covered mountains of the Rockies.) There is something about their rugged terrain that conjures of western stories and cattle drives. 😉

The burned grasses (which seemed much more beautiful than green pastures) reminded me of the Andrew Wyeth painting of the girl on the hillside (Christina’s World). Maybe it was the time of day when we drove through. The late afternoon shadows made everything so much more magical.

We saw quite a few railroad tunnels as we drove through the mountains into Los Angeles. It is difficult not to imagine the workers who forged those tunnels decades ago. How many lives were lost? How long were they away from their families? There is a route in Sacramento where Scott works that the engineer and conductor must take a special bag filled with air tanks. Should they ever get stopped in the tunnel, they would eventually suffocate because of the length of the tunnel, the engine exhaust…

(I MUST figure out my video settings and why they appear to be sideways. UGH. My apologies. They play the right way up though…)

This is a little glimpse into how I could spend the rest of my life. They are living their best life!!

Somewhere around Bakersfield we encountered the most wind turbines I have ever seen in one place before. It was exciting. Oh how I wish Kansas would get on board with capturing the amount of wind that state produces! When I worked for the U.S. Green Building Council, the chapter in California was always heads above the rest of the state chapters. It is one of my favorite things about California – their attention to the environment.

Then all of a sudden, while I was concentrating on the wind turbines, here came a little engine that could…

Scott says there are some mountains out here where the train actually passes its tail-end as it winds its way around and around.

My favorite view of the mountains is through the hazy early morning or late afternoon. It looks like it is straight off a 70’s album cover. Maybe Lobo? Me and You and a Cat Named Blue? (We should have named Haddie ‘Blue’…which, for the record, she was riding along with us in the backseat. She has VERY unwillingly become a traveling cat!) (Not living her best life.) -ha. (Even though she is a very easy traveler.)

After leaving the orange orchard fruit stand, we put our big bag of goodies in the trunk. Silly us. Not long down the road we had to stop and get them out for a quick taste. These honey covered sesame sticks were awwwwwesommmmme!!!!!!

Orange slices will forever be my travel food of choice. My sister makes so much fun of me for that. I am squarely in the gummy bear area of life!! These were so juicy. You have to eat one by chewing it all up together. The next one requires patience as you first let the sugar melt off before biting into it. (Although this feat usually ends up much like the ‘how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll pop’!)

More of this stubbornly beautiful tree…

We didn’t quite make it to our destination before the sun went down. But boy was it a beautiful sunset as we made our way through the mountains into the LA basin.

I told Scott these power lines looked like a man and a woman. Don’t you see it too?! Maybe the drive was getting a little long at this point…

A wanderer I will always be.