Sutherland’s Sunday Summary (except on a Tuesday)

Spring in Northern California…wow. From February to the end of May is northern California’s show-off time. It’s a gorgeously long season of magnificent blooms and growth. After a few months of rain, everything catapults to life.

This was just a walk around the block…

Clearly this house has mastered the art of rose bushes. The whole front yard is lined in various roses. As delicate as a rose bouquet is, a rose bush loves the heat and drought and sandy soil of California!

Isn’t the above tree so cool? I’d love to know its story.

The tree below is a crepe myrtle. The bark is SO smooth. I love these trees even when they’re not blooming.

And hey… why not grow artichokes in your front yard! Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore.

It’s hard to give an update on our lives without (endlessly) talking about our garden. After a few seasons of trial and error, we’ve hit on some successes.

As a lifelong Midwesterner, I am used to the growing season being, basically, June to September. But here, you need to plant things MUCH earlier. We (…and by we I mean Scott…) had everything planted by March. The young plants and seeds grew for a couple of months to get good and established and now we’ve covered the raised garden beds with a breezy black shade tarp to protect them from the brutal afternoon sun.

We are at the take-the-peas-and-collard-greens-to-work stage. We’re taking stuff to neighbors because we can’t keep up.

And now our first tomato has appeared. Scott ROCKED tomato-growing last year so I’m curious to see how they do in a different spot. So far they are TALL and filling up with blooms. Salsa is just around the corner. We…again, Scott… blanched a bunch last year and froze it for sauces.

How much stir fry is too much stir fry?? We haven’t reached our limit yet. Pork one night, chicken another. So yummy! And such a sense of pride that it was grown right in our backyard.

There isn’t much healthier food than collard greens. So many nutrients! (Which are only slightly hindered by the bacon and broth mixture.) I read an important statement about cooking collard greens: ‘There is no such thing as cooking collard greens too long.’ They simmer on our stove all day and are a home-run every time.

I’ve been so happy with my lavender experiment this year. Seeing all the bees buzzing around makes me doubly delighted. Tilly tries to catch the bees while they’re working. She’s going to get a muzzle full someday.

Our independent, graying old six-year-old cat, Haddie, is a real trooper with overly playful Tilly. But sometimes, a girl just has to take a break. Her favorite spot is against this graying old fence.

Tilly firmly believes she is a toy poodle lapdog. I wonder if toy poodle lapdogs have to keep their back legs on the ground for stability??

Random things:

One of our neighbors gave out May Day baskets, which was just so cute. I haven’t met them yet but I have to wonder if they’ve seen me working in the yard and made the decision to get a large print word search. -ha! (Speaking of old and graying!)

The news about Bill and Melinda Gates was upsetting. They’ve appeared to be such a successful couple who work together and feed off each others’ ideas. I read Melinda’s memoir last year which always makes me feel invested in the author’s life. They’ve done so much good in the world, I hope that can continue.

Speaking of doing good, I am still enjoying everything put out by The Bitter Southerner. They highlight the new south. The progressive stories happening in our beautiful southern states. Better South | Better World

Scott gave me a beautiful flower arrangement and card for Mother’s Day. I particularly liked his character explanations.

A long zoom call with my daughter, Hannah…

…a long phone call with my son, Baird (we never quite get them under 3 hours) -ha! He even had the good sense to marry the world’s greatest daughter-in-law (who managed to be the first to send me a Mother’s Day text.)

They made motherhood easy for me. Their continued support and love is invaluable to me. They’re good people.

I’ve already had to start manipulating the shades… open in the morning for the plants and then closed in the afternoon to ward off the blazing sun. We are taking a trip to Kansas City in early June. It will be nice to be back in temperate heat for a little while.

I grew this ruffled philodendron selloum from a single leaf cutting a couple of years ago. We brought it to California with us and, well, she likes the weather! She’s huge!

Speaking of temperature (and then I promise I’ll close this long post), I am crocheting a Temperature Blanket. I’m not sure why I decided a king-sized pattern was the right way to go, but here we are.

While the colors aren’t usually my thing, I am enjoying the challenge of it. Each row represents the high temperature that day. These colors (starting on January 1, 2021) represent the 50s, 60s and 70s. I’m very ready to move on to the next group of colors (80s, 90s and above 100) but I’m not ready to experience them in real life. There’s nothing like a king size blanket of yarn to work on in 99-degree temperature!

My head needs to be checked…

Okay. I promise these weekly summaries won’t be this long. But it’s been a bit so I thought I’d catch up on all the (very) random things going on.

Maybe the biggest news is that the fitting rooms in area stores have opened up again. Woohoo!! It’s been a long year of buying stuff, taking it home to try on, then returning what doesn’t work. God bless the customer service industry.

Be safe! And welcome to a slightly less-restrictive summer.

for this moment.

2020. Dude. We are tired.

Just like you, I have felt overwhelmed and confused and demotivated and quite frankly, just SAD this year.

I lost a college friend today to sudden heart failure. He was 58 years old. To some of you, that may sound logical. To someone nearer that age, you know how young that truly is. He left behind a wife, two girls in college and a 7th grade son.

He has served as mayor of a thriving city for 20 some odd years. He was beloved and effective and will be deeply missed.

My physical world, currently, is immersed in fog and smoke and terrible air quality from the California fires. So not only was I feeling heavy at the loss of Mike today, but I was surrounded by the physical reminder that all around me was the loss of property and animals and memories and ancient trees and breath-taking beauty.

It’s too much, God. It’s too much. I felt listless and directionless.

Then this verse came to mind and a small shift happened in my brain. While I am raising my fists and confusion to the sky thinking WHY do we have to live through this tumultuous time of pandemic and political division and racial injustice and illness and death? WHY do the punches keep piling up? Lord – come ON. Enough!

Esther says that perhaps…THIS is the time that was meant for you. YOU are needed right now. In the midst of all the grief, it is not that you have to live through such difficulty but that the difficulty and injustice and sickness and division needs you.

If you are here right now in 2020, is it because you are needed for a task uniquely suited for your talents? Your intelligence? Your capacity for compassion and empathy? Is that why you’re here today? Is this the moment that is waiting for you?

We were each fearfully and wonderfully and wildly uniquely made. What is the moment you were created to own? To lead? To listen to? To advise or protest or hug or cry or text or smile into?

Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created.

Happy Hydrangea

Last week I bought my first hydrangea (Nikko Blue).

This week I bought all new sheets and rearranged a bedroom just because of the amazing blooms.

I’m doomed. Let the hydrangea addiction begin!

I even hung one to experiment with drying them…

There are worse addictions, right??? (Famous last words!) 

Do you grow hydrangea? If so, what kind and what zone are you located in? I need to learn!

hydrangea

Hydrangea is such a funny word. But man oh man, do they have gorgeous blooms.

I am a houseplant person. Period. I am not a gardener. So it’s with a great deal of fear that I present to you my Nikko Blue hydrangea. I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing, but I hope we can survive together. I even…ugh… joined a group. A hydrangea Facebook group.

I am now a person who joins a specific flower’s Facebook group.

My shade garden keeps getting bigger and bigger this year. And now I’m going to foolishly(??) (…yet to be seen…) try to grow hydrangea in pots on my front porch. (I asked my hydrangea group and they said it’s okay.)

I put the pots on rollers so I can manipulate their sun intake. California sun is brutal!

I love their color and hope I can maintain it. We mixed coffee grounds into the dirt for an extra boost of acidity.

The petals are so beautifully intricate. What a fantastic plant. I see why people work so hard to bring them back every year.

Our front porch now includes sansevieria, hostas, various calatheas, kangaroo paw fern, Japanese Aralia, Chinese evergreen, aloe vera, a white azalea bush, a majesty palm and a Japanese maple tree.

And now some blue hydrangeas.

Surely I’m done adding things now…

Any hydrangea owners out there who can help a girl out with some advice??

Tilly’s First Tide

Vacationing without vacationing seems to be our rallying cry this summer. Keeping things local, daytrips, and ‘cheap entertainment’. Like so many of you, COVID has left its mark on many. We continue to be grateful, however. For health and the health of our extended family as well.

And, of course, for Tilly and all of her unadulterated joy. It is her one and only goal in life: to play.

We thought it was time to venture out and introduce her to the Pacific Ocean for her four month birthday. She’s 16 weeks old and we have had her for exactly half of those weeks. She’s changed and grown in a million ways! (And literally grown. When we got her she was 6.3 lbs and is now 26.8 lbs!)

The beaches were full, but nothing like what you see on tv. People were broadly spaced and many wore masks. Bodega Bay is a more liberally-minded area of Northern California so it was nice to step into their heightened concern for public well-being and not feel like the odd man out like we do sometimes in the Sacramento suburbs.

It felt so good to hear the waves and smell the salty water. Driving through the mighty pine trees was also filled with the undeniable scent of fresh pine in the air.

Tilly loved the water. No surprise. But what she was mostly interested in were the other dogs and people! She is a quarantine puppy so she’s been severely people-limited. I’m not sure how socialization will go in the future, but she seems to be endlessly curious about all these potential playmates!

She ran Scott up and down the incoming waves!

She was a mess when it was done, though! Her curly hair was not quite curled right since it was naturally blow-dried in the ocean breeze.

We ate in town – crab and fish. This town is known for their crabbing and oysters. Someday Scott plans on doing some crab catching at the cove – hopefully with a fish-loving dog in tow.

We also ran across this crazy flower. I don’t know what kind of flower or plant it is. Seems like it would be on a cactus but I don’t think that’s what it was. The bloom was as big as a dinner plate.

What a day! Admittedly, it was a lot more stressful than if it had just been the two of us, but we were excited to introduce Tilly to the ocean and were thrilled that she loved it!

Here are a number of videos of her first time experience…

 

It was slated to be a hot day in Sacramento (dry heat or not, 107 is HOT!), so we did the only logical thing and headed to the shore. The sun was high but it was 66 degrees of pure heaven.

Oroville

We originally planned to head to the Bay area this week but so many of the parking lots are still closed, it would be difficult to get to the beach and even a gamble on whether or not the beach would be open to the public. So we nixed those plans and decided to go northeast instead.

Scott had heard about Lake Oroville from co-workers so we woke up the next day and headed north to Oroville, California. It was the perfect day – overcast for the early part of the day and the temperatures were almost too cool in the mid-70’s. The perfect daytrip weather!

Most importantly, this was Tilly’s FIRST public outing since finishing her PARVO shots. (For new dog owners, you know how thrilling it is when you can finally let your dog walk somewhere besides your own backyard!)

We stopped for a hike at the Bidwell Bar Bridge – a suspension bridge that was the first steel suspension bridge in California in 1855, costing $35,000 for the 240 foot long bridge. It is now two suspension bridges open for foot traffic only. 

Tilly couldn’t get enough of the smells along the bridge! -ha!

I’m sparing you (believe it or not) the 6.7 million pictures I took of these manzanita trees. Their reddish, smooth bark is amazing and the gnarly, twisty way they grow is so interesting! Our hike took us through a canopy of them. (They’d make a great Halloween-inspired hike.)

 

 

 

 

Everything about the trail seemed magical and otherwordly with a beautiful view of the lake. Boats are waiting for all the summer fun.

Gnome or fairy house, maybe??

Being the seasoned hiker that I am – the below picture means we’re heading in a specific direction. North, south, east west…it’s one of those.

Oroville Lake was formed from the creation of the Oroville Dam and winds through the Feather River canyon. The shoreline has been extended to allow for the melting snow from the nearby mountains in the spring. 

There were fishermen out enjoying the gorgeous day. Scott can’t wait to fish here this summer too. We will definitely be back.

How about a little community of houseboats?? Livin the life! -ha

 

 

The foothills looked pretty, but honestly – I really wanted to cut down these dried grasses to bring home for arrangements. But I played nicely… (that, and there was a park ranger nearby.)

We stopped for lunch and a quick restroom break for all three of us. The public restrooms were really nice but THIS SIGN was on the entrance. WHAT?! The surveillance footage of me stooping down to check under the sinks and behind the toilet and all the corners of the room were probably entertaining to someone. -ugh! “She must be from the Midwest.” 

The restrooms had an open air slat system that convinced me that some rattler was ready to pull an Indiana Jones on me at any minute. 

Our picnic basket left a little to be desired but we were going for a 1950’s style lunch. White bread sandwiches with PB&J and maybe a bologna or two for good measure. It was fun!

The Oroville Dam is the tallest dam in the United States at 770 ft. Looking over one side is no big deal. Looking over the other is a whole different thing. – yikes!

The foothills of the Sierra Nevada on a white cloud, blue sky, clear day. 

For those of you who know Monica Smith, the buttes around the foothills is near where she lives and where her brother, Doug, pastors a Nazarene church in Yuba City. It’s always fun to see the wide open areas when we drive to see her.

 

Okay guys. I’m just telling you what they’re telling me. I kept telling Scott, “I’m not buying this” but if it’s on an historical sign – we’ve gotta believe, right? 

In 1856, a judge planted this orange seedling and it has survived all these years (including a relocation), making it the oldest surviving orange tree in California. The Mother Orange Tree.

I know.

I’m assuming someone somewhere has proof. 

 

My family saw the last few years of the Wye Oak Tree in Talbot County, Maryland before its final demise. It had grown there since 1540. 

How do we have proof of all this, people?  But hey – I’m just here for the site seeing.

Still producing fruit all these years later. Impressive, Mama. Impressive.

In the back of my mind – in the neverending list of ‘coffee table books’ I’d like to attempt someday, will be the mid-century buildings in California. They’re just so classic. This was a nature center next to the Mother Orange Tree. If you love mid-century, California offers it in spades.

Admittedly, I had a moment looking at these flags. California has endured. The US has endured. We’ve fought about how and when but there were some moments of national and global unity that I will always hold in memory of COVID Spring 2020. 

This was a BIG surprise for us. On one of our stops we were walking toward the site with other people social-distanced behind us. Just walking along, enjoying the day when we realized we had to go down some steps to get to the sidewalk. All of a sudden Tilly FROZE. She just stopped. She’s never seen or been on stairs before! We live in a ranch-style home so this was a complete first for her and it didn’t even dawn on us. Scott urged her along with the leash while I coaxed her like a soccer mom as people passed us on the stairs. It’s so funny the things that never occur to you about an infant or a puppy. Each step she took was like a new adventure. She tackled it, though, like a pro!

We were feeling all proud of her until…..BABOOM!….there it was again. A rattlesnake alert. This time, we had to walk through a gauntlet of snake heaven to get to where we were going. Rocks and rocks everywhere. I knew they were out there. Each and every one of them curled up and ready to attack!

To make things worse, this was the last sign we saw before entering the rock wonderland…

As I read the sign it says: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, MAN!, stay on the sidewalk so as to not entice the bevy of rattlers (the end.)

Please tell me this isn’t snake nirvana. I was stepping high and moving fast. Scott and Tilly were on their own! 

(Dear Lord, thank you to the person who left me a little balance reminder in the rocks.)

But it was worth getting to one of the spillways of the Feather River.

(I almost had a perfect view except that one person being that one person enjoying….the view??? ugh – move!) 

There is a fish hatchery streamway that runs along the side of the river. They say (…and yes, I looked hard for some!) that salmon jump as high as 12 feet in the air coming out of this overspill. Oh to be able to fish here!!

Because of the dam (which primarily provides water irrigation, hydroelectricity and flood control), fish migration up the Feather River has been constricted and the controlled flow of the river has affected river habitat. As an attempt to try to counter the dam’s impacts on fish migration, they constructed this salmon/steelhead fish incubator on the river, which began shortly after the dam was completed in 1968.

(no jumping fish today, though)

The river water was SO mirror-like calm up top. I stood there thinking the top was January and February of 2020. Then March happened……

Hoping we are nearing the end of the white water chaos and entering the blue waters again soon. 

(How far can I take this metaphor??)

You were wrong. I can take it a little further…

Where was our siren call about COVID?! Why didn’t it sound sooner???

In all seriousness – the day after we visited the dam, Michigan’s dams overflowed and caused such complete chaos and possibly long-term environmental damage. It was difficult to listen to those news reports and not imagine what it would be like if we were here and the dams broke nearby. They are an ingenious invention until they give way and no longer function. 

 

Manzanitas and oaks, but always-present palm trees.

What a day. I wish it had stayed overcast a little longer. I certainly don’t want to ever complain about the endlessly sunny days in California. But the high sun makes photography challenging. The occasional overcast day is nice too. 

Beaut of a butte. (had to do it)

 

On the drive home we played some travel Scattergories. Musician that starts with a B….

After exhausting the Beatles and Beach Boys and BTO and Beethoven, I won with the best one: Baird. 

img_5958
We suck at selfies. Especially trying to get Tilly in the picture!

 

Maybe we will have perfected it by our next adventure!

We got back home early but were ALL wiped out by 6pm. It was very nice to be able to get out of town safely and enjoy some adventuring again. We’ve missed it very much these past few months. 

Great day. Great company. 

 

This is 55.

Scott and I had a few days off together around my birthday. A double nickel birthday… that seems impossible. My mind completely disagrees.

I have a favorite birthday cake. My mother made it for me and after she was gone, my mother-in-law made it for me for many years. For the last two years, Scott has been making it in California. It is a delicious banana cake with a coffee icing that is to DIE for. We made the whole thing, ate a few pieces, and then froze the rest for future days when all you need is just a little bit of cake.

Thank you Thank you Thank you, Scott… for the love, the calories, and the very fond memories of Mom.

Here are a few highlights from the last few days:

For any of you who are fans of the 2014 movie, Chef, (and all of you should be because it’s such an enjoyable movie) starring Jon Favreau, there is a Netflix series out called, The Chef Show, where Jon Favreau and Chef Roy Choi explore food with renowned chefs. It’s a somewhat unique food show that’s entertaining and very informative. We are big fans here at our house. 

We were recently watching an episode in which they made corn tortillas from scratch. Scott (who has a deep and abiding love for cast iron) was intrigued. Before the show was over he’d ordered a tortilla maker and a few days later we were having one of our favorite roasted salmon fish taco recipes from Ina Garten. The meal – and the corn tortillas! – was delicious. What a fun experiment. 

This is not a good foodie photograph (it was a hurry-up-I-want-to-eat-this kind of photograph) but you get the jest of the taco. Dill, cucumber, avocado, lots of lime juice…like I said, it’s one of our go-to recipes. Fresh and scrumptious.

Scott suggested we go check out an exotic plant store I’d heard about. It’s not a very big place, tucked in behind some buildings, but we spent a solid hour there. Flori-Culture started out as an accompaniment to the orchid society. But then they started growing and swapping unique plants with area botanical gardens and zoos and people started taking notice. They are now known for their unique and rare types of plants (along with their amazing orchid collection, if you’re into that kind of thing.) 

The owner was there and was so gentle with all our questions. He wasn’t demeaning (some plant people can be), and he was thorough in his answers (not to hear himself talk but to truly help us make a decision.) It was a fantastic experience. 

The spores on this plant…amazing.

The below Trichogiottis brachiata was interesting to see how it grafted itself onto a tree. The aerial roots were amazing.

Something cool about the shop: Plants had different colored plant tag stakes stuck in them. If it was a blue tag, that meant it was a mother plant. Some had numerous red tags stuck in them. He explained to us that if you’re interested in a propagated rooting from that plant, you write your name on a tag (phone number and date of request) and stick it in the mother plant. When they can, they take a cutting from the mother plant, root it and when it begins to show growth, they start calling the people on the red tags. So cool, right?! (Okay…cool for plant nerds anyway.) The below plant was one that I stuck a red tag in. 

I have the below plant – a peperomia or Baby Rubber Plant. Mine is smallish and growing straight up in a pot. I saw this one and asked him why theirs was so different. He told me it’s really a ground cover so if I move it to a shallow dish, it will branch out like this one. (Duh! I had no idea. And immediately went home and repotted it.)

I’m not an orchid person but I can certainly appreciate them and the work it takes to get these beautiful blooms.

One of the benefits of living on the west coast and most everyone else I know lives a few hours ahead of me, is that I can wake up on my birthday to a phone filled with birthday messages. It was a nice way to start the day!

I don’t ever recall my birthday being on Ash Wednesday before. And for us, it was also Voting Day. We have been VERY diligent about looking at all the candidates. We’ve waited as long as we could to make the right decision and thoughtfully watched each debate –  and STILL, it was difficult. In fact, I’ve never been so split on who I wanted to vote for in the primaries. There is the added pressure of voting in the California primaries where there are 416 delegates so the pressure was on thick for us. We sat down with coffee and filled out our ballots and dropped them off at the early voting locations. After months of struggling, it was all over. Votes cast.

I couldn’t decide between a few candidates so I did the drop-the-pen-and-see-where-it-lands thing. It landed on Tulsi Gabbard (eyeroll) so I went back to comparing the facts and issues.

Ballots cast, time for a trip to Green Acres Nursery. Scott has been researching composting and I am always up for a plant trip. This particular Green Acres in Rocklin is the last one we haven’t visited (it’s the newest) and might be our current favorite.

I fell in LOVE with these wonky pots. I love their texture and uneven design. They look like they were just pulled off the potters wheel.

The below tree – triangularis – is on my long-term Plant Bucket List. I love the leaves so much.

The Rocklin houseplant area was really nice to walk through and dream.

We stopped by In-N-Out (because California) where this cute employee was standing outside talking to a group of twenty-something’ers. He was really cute to watch.

Then we went to get a hydro massage (some people call it ‘going to the gym’ but let’s be honest…it’s all about the hydro massage bed!) My gym clothes consist of this t-shirt… -ha!

And please don’t hate me for my fanny pack. Honestly – this is a great invention. I’m sold on it. Kangaroos have known the secret all along!

This text message was nice to see pop up on my phone – especially compared to the news alert that came at the same time.

In all honesty, it’s a little eery around here with regard to the coronavirus. Feels like a ticking time bomb, particularly as they keep flying more and more people into the states here in northern California. 

These are a few of the plants I picked up over the last few days. I think I’ve become a Hoya fan. There are so many different types – it’s fun to think about collecting each one. Some refer to those hoya collectors as Hoya Heads. 🙂 I might be heading straight toward that title soon.

At the exotic plant store I bought this Pinguicula moranensis which is a carnivorous plant. The rosettes (its winter dormancy) will flatten out like the lower leaves which have a sticky surface. My plant gnats have numbered days ahead! Once the gnat lands on the leaf, they can’t get off and die and the plant absorbs its nutrients. Do I feel badly for the gnats? Not.one.bit. They are the downfall of having a houseful of plants.

I picked up some more oxalis at Green Acres. I don’t have the green version and it seemed most appropriate for upcoming St. Patrick’s Day. 

A few additional hoyas I added to my beginner ‘collection’…

This one (not yet planted) is called a String Bean Hoya – I know…right??!

My Angel Wing Begonia has started unfolding a new leaf for my birthday 🙂 

And my Christmas/Valentine’s Day/Martin Luther King Jr/Easter cactus is also blooming again.

My cut flower garden has turned over about 3 times now. I’m cutting them as quickly as they’re producing new blooms. It’s been a thrill. I’ve started giving away bouquets to neighbors like people try to get rid of their zucchini and tomatoes! (Speaking of which, Scott also planted some tomatoes, peppers, chives and cilantro this week. Salsa is just around the corner.) 

To wrap up my birthday, we stopped by this hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant we like. Each time we get fortune cookies, we decided beforehand what their messages will apply to. Since it was my birthday, we dedicated them to Greta 2020. -ha.

I’ll gladly take these messages; I identify with them. I love unveiling the mystery…that’s where the fun is.

It was a fun and somewhat laid-back birthday. I deeply appreciated the cards and phonecalls and texts and social media messages. It’s always a great opportunity to stop and think about each person and how important they are to my life. Thank you.

Honest Abe

In December I met some friends at this coffeehouse – a first for all of us. The chai latte is good, but what drew me in was their clever play on the street on which the coffeehouse rests: Lincoln Street (in Roseville, California.)

Fourscore Coffee House is filled with old desks and comfortable sofas, tables and chairs tucked in along the windows and beyond.

This is a misleading picture of Abe. It’s actually a large mural on the wall – no doubt for selfies galore.

Scott and I packed up our laptops and books and headed here last week to have a “Family Meeting” about our gardening projects and expectations for the Spring. People huddled together, conversations exploding all around us.

I laid out my case of what I wanted to accomplish and what projects I was hoping he could build for me. I had my gardening bible, complete with tabs and more tabs!

We talked and hashed out plans. We each compromised. We dreamed big. We talked logistically. Home projects are our jam. I love to dream big and Scott usually is able to deliver the dream right out of his workshop garage. (The perfect combination!)

As we got up to leave, I noticed a cool neon sign on the wall behind us and took a picture of it. It wasn’t until I was thumbing through my phone pictures later that I realized the awesomeness of the sign! Fourscore and flowers – exactly what we were there to discuss!

Kismet, no??!

Scott and I have dreamed some big dreams together in coffeeshops all over the United States. Our first date was in a coffeeshop in Columbia, Missouri where we sat together playing cards and getting to know each other. Many conversations have crossed small bistro tables and steaming cups of coffee. Many of the projects realized. Some of them dreamt just for fun.

On the way home we stopped by our favorite garden center, Green Acres Nursery and Supply. We bundled up against the bitingly cold wind and walked around their outdoor flowers and spring plants. Our beds aren’t ready for planting yet – but man oh man is it fun to dream about the season to come. Especially when it’s next to my very favorite partner in project dreaming!

SLOUCHING TOWARDS BETHLEHEM by Joan Didion

 

SLOUCHING TOWARDS BETHLEHEM is the third Joan Didion book I’ve read in as many years. Her relatable voice holds its own unique place in journalism. I am awed at her use of language and her ability to beautifully sculpt a story out of seemingly ordinary beginnings.

The title, taken from a Yeats poem, represents a collection of essays written by Didion during the 1960’s. The essays are mostly about California (adding a personal benefit for me as a new Californian.) She talks about things like having dinner with John Wayne, growing up in the Sacramento Valley, and specifically about her journalism (…we would now say she was ‘embedded’…) during the Haight- Ashbury days in San Francisco. Among the many stoned-out hippies she encounters during her San Francisco travels she meets Susan, a five-year-old on acid. Susan tells Didion she’s in High Kindergarten. She lives with her mother and some other people, just got over the measles, wants a bike for Christmas, and particularly likes Coca-Cola, ice cream, and the beach. For a year now her mother has given her both acid and peyote.⠀

The chapter I connected with the most was: On Keeping a Notebook. She describes the odd and random things she writes in her notebooks. Things that wouldn’t necessarily make sense to anyone but her. Quotes that aren’t necessarily about the words, but the feeling evoked when she heard them.⠀

“The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it… Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things. I sometimes delude myself about why I keep a notebook, imagine that some thrifty virtue derives from preserving everything observed.”⠀

Oh how I understand this sentiment. My children will someday find my notebooks of phrases and desultory thoughts and may very well give up looking through them and simply toss them away. My hope is that they don’t throw them away in youth, pre-50’s let’s say. They’ll find more use for them as they age. So much of what didn’t make sense before will eventually begin to weave together their history. Their shared story.⠀

SLOUCHING has been sitting on my shelf for over a year. I am so grateful to have read it for #theunreadshelfproject2020. Grateful that the words have now soaked into my marrow, the way all Didion writings do. This also checks off the #mmdchallenge to read something from the decade you were born (I’ll save you from looking it up: it’s the 60s. -ha!)

The book ended up heavily underlined by the time I was finished; ideas and phrases I want to be able to look back and remember. I’m so sorry I haven’t read this collection sooner. I thoroughly enjoyed it…proving that you don’t have to read the ‘latest’ books. This 1968 publication was just as relevant today. (Hoping this 1965’er can be as well!)

Just a Whole Lotta Lake Tahoe

Fall in Northern California is something special. I am unapologetic about photographing every leaf around Lake Tahoe…

When will I tire of standing on a hill and looking down to the bottom of the lake??

We were a little disappointed the day was so overcast. The white clouds gave a cast to the lake that took away its brilliant blue hue.

You can see every pebble on the bottom.

As Hannah and I ooo’d and ahh’d, I realized Scott was no longer with us. I started looking around and found this curious site…

He found a treasure. 🙂

There are a few years between these two pictures, but the look-what-I-found enthusiasm is just the same!

After spending some time around the northern part of the lake (my favorite spot), we drove along the edge – along MANY winding, hairpin curves – to the southern part of the lake. Emerald Bay is a big touristy spot so there are always lots of people around. We lucked out that there weren’t as many as when we were here in August.

(Did I mention it was a really windy day?!)

We stopped to walk on a beach front off the lake. It’s hard to beat beach sand, clear water and mountains in the distance.

Autumn in northern California is a thing of beauty and contrast.

There was a kid’s playground we had a little fun with too…

Hannah and I walked a beautiful trail from the beach over to a dock area for some more pictures of the lake. It’s hard to stop finding new vistas and new jaw-dropping views.

I mostly try to wait and take pictures of the scenery without cars in the way. But sometimes it’s good to see the vast size difference between ‘regular life’ and nature.

The nearby wildfires were also evident. As the sun set, the hazy smoke in the sky became more and more apparent.

Another day of magnificent granite rock and pine trees unbelievably tall and so long you can hardly bend back far enough to see it all. The aspens were making a spectacular show of things too!

The drive was picture perfect. We couldn’t have asked for a better day of brilliant color, cool temperatures and memory-making views.

Napa Valley

On Monday we explored the grandeur of Yosemite National Park (read here) and on Tuesday we drove north to Napa Valley. Yountville and Calistoga are favorites.

Of course Hannah (rightfully so!) compared everything to the movie Parent Trap! -ha.

I loved how this winery mixed fall decor with succulents. (I was taking copious notes!!)

This statue will always remind me of visiting Yountville right after my son and daughter-in-law lost their beloved dog, Max. It was such a sad time for everyone so seeing this statue entitled ‘Who Saved Who’ was very sweet.

Wandering around the old Marketplace building is enjoyable both from the perspective of the shops as well as the architectural elements of the building.

Hannah’s love for Young Frankenstein knows no end!!

Scott and I have been to the Napa Valley region in the winter, the late spring and now Fall. It’s fascinating to see how things change from season to season. One magnificent highlight dies back as a new spotlight appears somewhere else.

The French Laundry. I have talked before about my respect for this restaurant and its owner and chef, Thomas Keller. Named the Best Restaurant in the World in 2003 and 2004, recipient of the coveted 3-star Michelin award and ultimately called “the best restaurant in the world, period” in 2005 by Anthony Bourdain.

In the 1920s, the building was owned by John Lande who used it as a French steam laundry, thus the name.

The restaurant wasn’t officially open yet so Hannah and I wandered around to the back…

It was beautiful and calm in the back. Easy to imagine guests milling about on a cool, Fall evening.

But then I noticed the open windows across the way and about dropped to my knees! It was the kitchen!!! I stood for an awkward amount of time – in reverence – and watched all the kitchen staff in their sharp, white uniforms, diligently working to prepare the evening meal.

In my imagination, this was Chef Thomas Keller. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it! 🙂

The door that leads to the magic.

Not to mention that Anthony Bourdain once walked through it. Maybe stood outside and smoked a bit before returning to the kitchen to see how they prepared his delicious meal. sighhhh…..

Across the street from The French Laundry, is their garden. Without hesitation, it is the most beautifully perfect garden I have ever seen. We spent a long time walking around, reading about the different types of vegetables growing, etc. It’s the garden every gardener dreams of in their wildest imaginations.

And let’s face it – it’s all about the irrigation capabilities, right??

Bees to support the garden…

The most adorable chicken coop area…

And an enormous herb greenhouse.

It is a dream to imagine living like this. Supporting yourself through your own sustainable gardening.

We have yet to identify this nut tree. Anyone have any ideas?? (It doesn’t appear to be an almond when we broke it open.)

Down the street from The French Laundry is a Thomas Keller owned bakery, Bouchon Bakery. While I can’t afford the $310 a plate dinner at TFL, I will happily pay for the best croissant I’ve ever had. And the best macarons. Each time I come I think it might be a fluke, but no…they are the best in the universe!!!

Hanging in the Marketplace building is a colored drawing of the cookbooks from the local chefs of Napa Valley. I want every book – and the drawing of them!

We spent most of our time in Yountville, then drove through Napa’s plethora of vineyards. We’ve seen these vineyards in 3 seasons and each one is as fascinating as the next. It was fun to be experiencing it with Hannah this time.

Rows and rows of perfection.

Miles and miles of fun.

A perfect way to relax.