Bitter drinks. Better South.

On our fifth wedding anniversary, my husband, Scott, planned a weekend getaway, staying at a historic hotel in Boonville, Missouri called the Hotel Frederick. It was an idyllic weekend. The restored 1905 hotel was like walking onto a quaint movie set. The bar downstairs was filled, the rooms were each unique and it felt like you were staying at your favorite aunt’s house. Quilts and antiques. Heated bathroom floors with heated towel racks. We had a fantastic weekend.

It was there that I realized the great artistry behind a truly memorable hotel experience.

Years later Scott and I had the opportunity to play host at our own Airbnb in downtown Kansas City. I never expected to feel such honor and responsibility to make each guest’s stay as warm and welcoming as possible. It was a tremendous blessing for me to be able to bless them.

I have recently mentioned the Bitter Southerner. The bitter part of their name represents their beginnings: reviewing and writing about the greatest bars and bartenders in the southern United States. Then their work expanded into highlighting the progressive movements happening in the South. I have been devouring their podcast and learning so much about the large swath of the American South that doesn’t still ‘fight for the Confederacy’ but wants to see a more inclusive and redemptive state of southern culture.

Bitter Southerner introduced me to another historic, boutique hotel, the Wylie Hotel. Wylie is set to re-open their newly renovated hotel this year. Wylie Hotel is located in Atlanta, Georgia on Ponce de Leon Avenue in the old fourth ward. Tucked within the 1929 revival hotel is Mrs. P’s Bar & Kitchen, a dignified but approachable dining lounge offering southern eats and inventive drinks. Just like our experience years ago, Wylie strives for a home-like atmosphere in the heart of Atlanta. And just like our Airbnb, Wylie is situated at the intersection of the city market and downtown events.

I cannot wait to visit this Atlanta gem.

A few days ago we loaded up the dog in the car to run a few errands around town. We noticed we’d had a few boxes delivered which I handled with indifference until I saw the box from Bitter Southerner, sent from Wylie Hotel. A new sweatshirt that all y’all need to feel. It’s soooo soft and cozy. A Better South tote bag, one of their books of collected stories and a Bitter Southerner’s corduroy hat with its fantastic logo: ‘For the sake of the story. For the love of the South.’

I will wear them with Southern pride. AND will wear them when the opportunity finally arises to travel again and stop over in Atlanta at the Wylie Hotel. Thank you, thank you for such an exciting box of goods.

Keep them on your radar, readers. Follow them on social media so you’ll be alerted, along with me, when their doors are flung open and we can meet at Mrs. P’s for a good dose of southern cuisine and bitter spirits in the better South.

Meet Me at the Front Door

The anticipation had been building for six hours. We’d sung The Little Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly and my personal favorite, Sweet Violets. We’d found things out our car windows that started with an A, anthill. Then a B, bird! Always cheating our way through those pesky letters like Q or X. Our sandwiches had warmed to that perfect car temperature and the cheese slices with apple were beginning to form that delicious oily condensation cheese gets when warmed in the highway-bound backseat. Tolls had been paid and we finally got to open the car package Mom always made for us weeks before a car trip: the newest Seventeen magazine, some word searches, a new deck of Old Maid and a few sweet treats (Bit-O-Honey paper stuck in the corners) promised just to ourselves, no sharing required.

But by Wichita our spirits were starting to wane. Have you traveled across Kansas and Oklahoma with two daughters who believe STRONGLY in the infamous imaginary middle line that forms down the backseat? There are only so many white horses to ‘Snitch!’ before antsyness starts to settle in.

And yet, as we spotted the identifying red dirt of Oklahoma, our eagerness was stirred up anew. We were getting close! We drove through Bethany, listening impatiently as Dad exasperated, “I always miss that turn. We need to turn around and go back.” AAACK!, we sigh. We were so close we could taste it. The car would make the u-turn on one of those perfectly-curbed streets lined with brick-built houses, the wholly unique look of an Oklahoma neighborhood.

The excitement was overwhelming! Edged up on our seats, nervously looking through the front window, ready to see that beautiful white-washed brick home that held all our favorite people. They were all there, waiting for us.

Before cell phones could announce our estimated arrival time, Dad would stop somewhere once we got into town, and Mom used a pay phone to call her older sister, Mary, to say we were just a few minutes away. “Yes, yes”, Aunt Mary assured Mom, “Evelyn got in this morning and Peggy and the boys just got in about an hour ago.” “We’re all here, just waiting for you!”

Pulling up in front of that car-filled driveway held so much excitement I didn’t think I could stand another second of it. I couldn’t wait to see all those cousins. Older cousins who could do no wrong. Aunts and uncles and above all, grandparents.

No chance to knock on the front door before it was slung open to crowds of people standing in the entryway. One by one we fell into hugs and faces that lit up the whole house. The front of the pack would fade back while a new crew would take their place. Soon Pop Pop would appear, arms outstretched, asking for some sugar. It was a few minutes of whole and unadulterated acceptance. No words were fully understood as everyone talked over each other but warmth and love permeated each embrace.

The crowd would instinctively part ways as Mom Mom came into the living room from the kitchen wearing a full smile and wisps of flour dusting her long, manicured fingers. Aunt Mary was behind her as she was assisting the cooking process by taking their completed masterpieces out to the cold garage and placing them in large trash cans dedicated specifically for the purpose of holding our feast until the anticipatory air was filled with ‘Pass me the green beans, please’, quickly followed by an update on disparate lives spread out all over the mid, southern and eastern states.

Thanksgiving weekend was alive and energetic and filled with an unparalleled feeling of completeness as lives who shared a genetic code and who lived so separately all over the country began to slowly fit our edges back together into the puzzle that was Family.

And so I say to you this challenging year, let’s hang on tightly to each other, even if virtually. Let’s celebrate as an act of rebellion in our individual homes. A slower holiday season is precisely what we need, in spite of its surface disappointments. And then, once we’ve separated and bumped elbows and Zoom called our way through the next year, let’s rise up next year, full of grins and flour-tinged aprons. Slaps on the back and long-overdue hugs of love.

I will look forward to your beautiful faces and laughing spirits all year. 2020: quiet and separate. 2021: doors thrown open, crowded cousins, familiar faces and strong handshakes.

This year, cautious safety and health. But next year, with warmth and wide smiles, let’s make up for lost time. We’ve got stories to tell and hugs to share. Not this year, right? But next year – meet me at the front door.

If ya can’t stand the heat…

After numerous days over 105 degrees, we needed to ‘get out of the kitchen’.

So we threw Tilly in the car and headed to Lake Tahoe. It was still warm outside there, but about 20 degrees cooler and that felt a little like heaven.

Of course – these views didn’t hurt either.

Just a little bit of snow left on the Sierra Nevada mountains. Enough to imagine how nice it would be to make a snow angel in this July California heat.

The smell of pine overtakes you. It’s a scent that just can’t be replicated. (sorry, car freshener trees.)

This was our third daytrip with Tilly. The first two trips she got sick with all the twists and turns. This time we didn’t feed her breakfast and gave her some motion sickness medicine and she ROCKED IT! From what we’ve read, a puppy’s inner ears aren’t fully developed until about a year old, so we are hoping she grows beyond the car sickness because we love to travel and want her to be a part of those journeys. Today gave us hope.

We drove to Truckee – which is the cutest town with so many shops and restaurants. Truckee is the northern part of Lake Tahoe. Then we drove over the northern tip (which is my favorite view of the lake) then down the Nevada side of the lake. At the southern end we stopped and ate at this cute burger joint. I could have skipped it all and just had their amazing handmade shake. Oh my word…..so good!

The vastness of this area is overwhelming when you pay attention. The enormity of everything. The immenseness of pine trees. The age-rounded boulders.

What an amazing part of the country and just a few hours from our front door. We feel immensely blessed to be living here and experiencing this part of America.

Tilly had a big day. She came nose to nose with another dog. She has not been that close to another animal except our cat, Haddie. We met a dog trainer who was walking some of her dobermans. Tilly has no concept of her size. She is very subservient to other dogs. (Which is the part I regret about her pandemic birth timing.) We talked to the breeder about how difficult it has been for all of us to find dog training classes that are open. Since we all keep our distance while walking, she doesn’t come into close contact with other humans or animals.

(if only you could see the side-eye she was giving this curious dog!)

Our current problem with Tilly is that it appears she is a…(google title)…subservient urinator. UGH! She ‘shows her deference’ to others by immediately peeing. It’s a definite problem! She’s so curious about other people. She isn’t aggressive and doesn’t cower. But as soon as someone pets her, she lets it all go. Unfortunately, I’ve read this isn’t something they necessarily grow out of. We have some serious socializing to do with this one!

What a beautiful day. It was a thrill to not burn up in the intense heat but rather enjoy the gorgeous colors of a stunningly beautiful part of the country.

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.

THE NAME JAR by Yangsook Choi

I remember it clearly. I was in 4th grade, Mrs. Adams’ class at Alton Elementary School and I was up next to give a talk about myself: WHO I AM. I collected the usual data about where I was born and what my birthday was, etc. I don’t remember being overly nervous about standing up and talking to my class, but I remember being very nervous…embarrassed…about my name.

Before there was a Greta Thunberg or a Greta Gerwig, or even a Greta Van Susteren – I was the only ‘Greta’ I had ever heard of. And then there was my middle name – the maiden name of my grandmother…Rains. Greta Rains. It seemed like everyone in my class had names like Susan or Roger or Kellie or Kevin. And their middles names were Sue or Allen or Edward.

Even though I was born and raised in the United States, I still felt a lot of empathy for the main character of our book – Unhei.

Unhei had just moved to the United States from Korea when she found herself a week later, standing in front of her new school classmates being introduced as a new student. When her classmates eagerly asked her what her name was she simply replied, “Um, I haven’t picked one yet. But I’ll let you know by next week.”

Her classmates dove right in to help her pick out her name. They filled a suggestion jar with possible names for Unhei to choose from. Caught between the love for her grandmother in Korea (who helped pick out her name) and the pressure of fitting in at her new school, Unhei had a hard time picking her new American name. She sought advice from her parents and even Mr. Kim at the neighborhood Korean market. But ultimately, it was her new friend, Joey, who helped her decide on the name she would be called.

May has been Asian American month. THE NAME JAR is a wonderful way of celebrating our unique and wonderful differences while also recognizing the ways in which we are all so similar.

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. 

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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. 

 

Artifact Uprising

Now that Christmas is over and all the gifts have been given, I wanted to share with you some albums I passed out as gifts this year.

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In May my extended family visited us in California. (Everyone except my daughter who was in the busiest time at work and couldn’t get off.) Scott and I showed them all around Northern California: San Francisco Bay, The Redwood Trees, Carmel-at-the-Sea, Napa Valley etc. A million pictures were taken that week and I wanted to capture the memories in a single, condensed form.

I’ve ordered pictures from Artifact Uprising many times in the past and am always overwhelmed with their quality. They take your pictures and create magazine-worthy products. Their signature matte finish brings it all together beautifully. So of course I went to them to create my trip keepsake.

After receiving my 50-page book in the mail I quickly realized I wanted to buy one for each family unit who came to visit us. I tweaked each book to have more pictures of their individual families in their unique book.

The books are clearly titled on the cover. I’m envisioning a shelf with many similar books lined up from other special daytrips we’ve taken in the years to come. I’m so excited about the possibilities!

Then in the fall, my daughter came out for a visit. Her trip was a completely different season and therefore a different experience. We visited Yosemite National Park – a first for us all – as well as the other special areas of northern California. Her photo book was very different than theirs – although I added some group shots in hers so we all had pictures of the family together.

The reaction to the books was more than I could have expected. Each family ooo’d and ahh’d over their photo books as they opened them at the same time.

I am so thankful for Artifact Uprising’s commitment to excellent work and timely delivery. I am a true fan (and not being paid in any way for this post.)  One of the best parts of the process is that the album can easily be put together from your phone on their app.

I’ve already started working on a daytrip Scott and I took to Bodega Bay recently. Here’s a look at it from their app…. looks like a good one, doesn’t it?! I’m so excited to get it finished and ordered and placed right next to my other photo book. May they increase in volume as we continue to travel and learn about our new home state of California.

Thank you again, Artifact Uprising! Please go check out their website. They offer many types of gifts as well as just photo prints, if you’d like. They make great gifts – even to oneself!

A FINE ROMANCE by Candice Bergen

This has been one of my favorite memoirs to read.

The original Murphy Brown TV show came out when I was in the throws of motherhood. I loved watching her show (from a VCR!) The writing was funny and her character helped me feel more secure in my own evolution as a woman. All things seemed possible.

My mistake, however, was subconsciously assuming the character Murphy Brown was, in fact, Candice Bergen. Bergen historically plays strong, independent, female roles. I have also loved her roles in the tv show, Boston Legal, Sweet Home Alabama, Sex and the City, Book Club, etc. All unflappable characters.

Reading her memoir, A Fine Romance, changed many of my misconceptions of her and broadened my respect for Candice Bergen as Candice Bergen.

Candice walks her readers through her early career, her marriage to French director, Louis Malle and their daughter, Chloe. We caught a glimpse of Candice Bergen as a mother and wife which was a complete thrill. She is warm and gracious and her love for their daughter was – to be honest – somewhat convicting. She was a truly incredible and nurturing mother.

Bergen spends time on the Murphy Brown years – which I particularly enjoyed. She spoke of her relationship with the other cast members – and humor, always humor. She talks of her current husband, Marshall Rose. I related to the struggle she went through after her divorce and before remarrying again many years later and her adjustment to another person being in her life. She was honest and transparent about her two marriages.

The biggest thing I enjoyed was her openness about aging. It is tough, this getting older business. I laughed often and appreciatively.

Thank God for my friends. Mothers in their 50’s – running to beefy now, the traditional thickening through the middle. We clumpt together in our middle-age camouflage – black pants, long sleeves, more make-up than in years past – compensating with wit, attention, intelligence, experience. Bringing to bear, not the extra 15, 20 pounds we all seemed to be packing, but our confidence in who we were. The sizeable weight and force of our personalities.

I was initially interested to read this memoir about a woman who shaped many of my generation’s views on feminism. I was pleasantly surprised to find a woman who is all I expected – independent and strong – but also so many other layers of depth were revealed. She is a wonderfully loving woman who seems to have the gift of giving small tokens of love to those she holds dear. She was always, always, always gracious to the subjects about which she wrote.

Unflappable, yes. But moreso – cultured, loyal, well-traveled and fluent in French. An affectionate mother and friend. She seems to possess that powerful concoction of femininity + strength. An ever-evolving and relevant woman even now.

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.

sea level: 7000+ ft

We had the crazy idea to travel the breadth of California this week.

We live in the middle of the state. On Sunday we drove 1 hour and 31 minutes to San Francisco (sea level: 0 ft) on the far west side of the state, then on Tuesday we drove 1 hour and 53 minutes to Lake Tahoe (sea level: 7,000 ft) on the far east side of the state. It was a fabulous choice of ‘themes’ for this week of vacation. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous scenery going in both directions.

There is absolutely no way to do any of it justice. And yet, I have multiple blog posts with an excess of pictures trying to at least give some idea. Feel free to blow through them quickly (or blow them off entirely.) I get it…looking at family vacation slides has never been high on anyone’s list. 😉

A co-worker of Scott’s told him we must eat breakfast at Smokey’s Kitchen in Truckee, California. So we got up early and made our way to the cute town of Truckee. This is a town we will definitely revisit – to shop at the shops and also to attend their big Thursday night farmers market/flea market event they host down the center street of town.

I love jadeite!

Obviously I took this picture through a shop window, but we really liked this wood etching showing the differing depths of Lake Tahoe. Very clever idea.

In every town – we find a coffeeshop and a bookstore. *all the heart eyes*

And since we are at Donner’s Pass – how about having a little fun with it at their expense, huh?!

(Actually, many things are named after the Donner Party in this region. But as far as I can understand the situation, this was a party of pioneers that took ‘a new route they’d heard about’, got lost, waited 4 months for help to arrive and noshed on the members that didn’t make it. None of that sounds worth of name-memorializing to me. *shoulder shrug*)

We stayed in Carnelian Bay on the northwest corner of Lake Tahoe. Homes were gently tucked into forests and forests of pine trees. Our Airbnb was a log cabin-type home that had a separate section/entrance for guests. We slept with the windows open and woke up to the sun peeking through the pines that filled our room with Christmas tree aroma. It was delicious! (This was our morning view out our window…)

You will never, ever convince me that the bottom of Lake Tahoe is not painted blue and turquoise – like a backyard swimming pool. The color…….. I’m not even going to try to adequately describe it. It is simply magnificent. Every marketing material photo I’ve seen of Lake Tahoe makes me assume there was some photoshopping done to it. That’s cool. It’s the way things are done. But everywhere we looked, all we saw was ‘photoshopped’ reality. It’s a place you must see to believe.

so. many. pine. trees!

The water is unbelievably clear. In some of these pictures you can see the rocks at the bottom of the lake. The camera didn’t capture just how far out you could see to the bottom. The turquoise shores turned into a dark blue center, the deeper it got.

Scott took some video…

We spent significant time along the northeastern shoreline. Personally, I think it was my favorite spot to see the lake. Most people talk about Emerald Bay (below) at the south end of the lake – and while it was beautiful, there were SO. MANY. PEOPLE. crowding around, taking pictures, etc, it was less enjoyable. We were practically on our own up north.

If you squint your eyes and use your imagination, you can see the Vikingsholm Castle on the island, built in 1928 after Lora Knight purchased the island for $250,000. Two hundred workers were hired to hand hew the timber, carve intricate designs, and for the interior walls they hand planned the wood. Much of the materials used (such as the timber and granite rock) came from the Tahoe Basin. There are sections of the Vikingsholm Castle that contain no nails, pegs, or spikes. The castle was heated with six fireplaces – all in a Scandinavian style.

Let me get this straight –  your own island in the middle of a beautiful lake and acres and acres of pines, in a castle with giant fireplaces and decorated in Scandinavian style??! Am I awake? Is this heaven? Please don’t wake me.

Later that evening we were lucky to catch the sun setting as we walked around Tahoe City after dinner. It was an amazing memory.

We quickly ran out of ways to say, ‘That’s SO amazing!’ As always, I am happy we were experiencing this beauty together.

(more about our trip in the final post: A Viewmaster Vacation)

Semi-Stay-Vacation

Scott took a week of vacation this month and instead of packing it with the many activities we’ve done on vacations so far this year, we decided to have a more ‘quiet’ vacation week this time.

We decided to travel the breadth of Northern California. We live in the middle of this area, so we are spending a day on the west coast side, coming home, regrouping, then spending a couple of days exploring around Lake Tahoe on the east side – completely new territory for us! We’re very excited to make our Trial Run trip to Tahoe. It will be our first pancake. Our trial-and-error adventure so that next time, we’ll be even more prepared to know what to do and what not to do. We’re staying at an Airbnb in Carnelian Bay at the northwestern edge of the lake. I can’t wait to share it with you all!

But for today, some Pacific Ocean wandering along the Bay then over to Berkeley to reconnect with our hippie vibe. We love hanging out in Berkeley! I have a quick hook-up with an online friend in Oakland and then we’ll head back home – undoubtedly filled with more information about the Bay Area then what we’ve learned so far. In our other trips into San Francisco we’ve concentrated on all the touristy things to see. This time we hope to hit some more out-of-the-way places to experience the area in a whole different way.

It will be a fun adventure together. No pressures. No timelines. Just plenty of pictures and plenty of reconnection. We’ve needed the time together and are looking forward to being away from all the normal routines for rebooting and revamping our ways of communication and connection.

I hope you’ll enjoy discovering things along with us! Many more pictures to come, I’m sure…

Sideways to Napa – part two

(continued from Part One)

If we saw nothing else but the  countryside along the way, the daytrip would have been worth it (two hours our house.) The grass is a brilliant, neon green right now.

The below picture is a blurry snapshot from the car window as we sped past. But with all the luscious grapes being grown, I’d pick the cactus any day over the eventual wine! 🙂

Working the steep hills with huge, brimmed hats on vs palatial homes sitting up above. It was an interesting contrast.

This bookstore was a dream. Copperfield’s Books. I left with a long list of books to add to my To Buy list. I’m so glad to be connected to Copperfield’s now.

Calistoga was more shop-friendly. Antique shops and knick-knacks. Nearby there is a geyser park and there are natural hot springs mineral spas all around this area of California. To recap: massages, spas, antiques, books and wine. It’s a total package!

I don’t know why but I fell head over heels in love with this adorable travel lodge. It was so cute and neat as a pin. Mid-century greatness. Calistoga Motor Lodge

Matching bicycles for the guests to get around town… So adorable.

Sometimes we feel very lucky when we accidentally fall into a good daytrip. And other times, it seems like God is directing our path… -ha!

Such a beautiful place for a wine tasting, no??

We happened upon Bale Grist Mill – a historic mill built in 1846 by Edward Turner Bale.

This fully restored water-powered grist mill still grinds grain.  Visitors can watch the original set of French Buhr millstones in action when the miller grinds grain into Bale Mill flours and meals. In the late 1800s, Napa Valley farmers brought their grain to the mill where it was placed into the boot of an elevator to be mechanically transported upstairs to be cleaned and sifted by various types of equipment – a technical wonder for the Pioneers. The slow turning of the old grind stones gives the fresh meal a special quality for making cornbread, yellowbread, shortening bread and spoon bread.

I was equally fascinated by the plants growing on the stone wall out front. If I’m not mistaken, I believe those are pilea growing out front (unless their nasturtium – but that’s not the bloom for a nasturtium.)

Notice the telephone pole below. Then the size of the pine tree next to it. Scott noticed it first – we definitely drove away from palm trees and into the huge, straight pines of the Pacific Northwest.

We took a different way home than the way we came (doubling our adventure.) The way home was perfectly encapsulated in the sign below. VERY curvy. Not dangerously, but it kept us on our toes as we wound down and up and down again, around the lake on the other side of the mountain, Lake Berryessa.

Each time we go through a rocky pass, I wish my daughter-in-law, Ryann, was in the car. She’s a geologist and could explain their formations.

What a day. What a day. What a day. We have gone south, west and north now. Our next destination is to go east to Lake Tahoe (we’re waiting for the snow to die down some first.) We have a lot of family coming at the end of May and that’s on the agenda – as is discovering new things at the spots we’ve already visited briefly.

There are ups and downs about being in a new area of the country. But the endless adventures and explorations are certainly a plus. We live in the middle of many different kinds of landscape and culture. Just like all the movies and lore that has gone before it, Napa Valley was a dream-like place filled with wealth and breath-taking scenery. It’s hard to believe some of these places truly exist.

Come visit us soon and we’ll go exploring again together!