Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Day

What a glorious day!

Some family is sharing this week with us and our spirits are aligned: arise early, a cup of freshly brewed coffee, work out, swim a bit, quiet conversation while relaxing in the hot tub, and a light breakfast to follow.

The telephone rings and calls are placed back and forth as we exchange our greetings and well wishes with children, grandchildren, brothers and sisters, aunts and cousins!

And yesterday we received wonderful news from our dear friends: their daughter-in-law had arrived safely from Iraq via Kuwait... Ireland... Maine... and was finally in Colorado where she would finally be met by her husband. Likely they will have to stay there for a little while as the snow comes tumbling down, and that sounds like a good thing with her having been gone for 15 months. Alleluia!

How truly blessed we are to live in this country and enjoy the freedoms we have.

We hope you all have made it a special day.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Joyous Christmas

Our message to you this joyous Christmas and holiday:

"Just as one season evolves into another
and growth continues, so do we.

May we always find the willingness and
goodness within ourselves and the strength
to demonstrate only acts of kindness,
understanding and love with those
around us.

May you know Peace and Joy with yourself
And your God, not just during this
Christmas season, but throughout the year."

With Love...

Our family wish you a most joyous Christmas and holiday, a happy and prosperous New Year, and may God keep us safe and bless us all.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Wine Country Fun, Part I

Travel to Sonoma and Napa valley for a visit and discovering new wineries this time of year is something we enjoy doing. It is generally a 2-3 day stop en route to North County San Diego. The Worldmark Windsor in Windsor, CA has been a great place for us to stay, and from there we have explored much of Napa and Sonoma, but the Dry Creek valley north of Windsor was where we decided to focus our attention this time.

Along Dry Creek Road in Healdsburg are more wineries than one can visit in a short period of time, so we chose a few. Generally they open around 10 a.m. so it was on our agenda to begin at that time with Dry Creek Vineyard, only to find it did not open until 10:30, so we opted to be on our way.

Well known Simi was our first taste test and it did not disappoint as we left with outstanding wines, an assortment, from a great tasting '05 Russian River Valley Chardonnay to Petite Syrah to a fine 2005 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Jim, at Simi, suggested we stop up the road at Papapietro Perry, known for their limited production of Pinot Noirs and Zinfandel, and it was a memorable stop. We talked with the gentleman pouring our wine and he proceeded to tell us how he had visited Oregon and had some of the Pinot Noirs, and when he returned to California, he "... just couldn't imagine why I would ever drink Oregon wines again". Hmm... not the most appropriate thing to say to the visitors who just said they really liked Oregon Pinot Noirs. Additionally, although we purchased a half case of their wines, he charged us $10 to taste! the only winery to do that during our visit. Not cool for return visits.

Sbragia Family Vineyards was further north. The owner, Ed Sbragia had been a longtime lead winemaker at Beringer in Napa, so we should find some good wines, and we did. A nice visit, and relying upon the quality of the other wines tasted, we took home a Zinfandel which was not available for tasting due to limited supply.

Ferrari-Carano, stunning winery and grounds, proved to be another winner, but by now my taste buds were not as discerning. My husband and I usually share the tasting from one glass, so there is not a large volume as they pour a small amount, but after several wineries, the tendency is for things to run together unless you have an opportunity to cleanse your pallet. Sorry to say that all of these had no offering of the usual crackers which tends to serve that purpose.

We were told that another must stop was Preston's, especially for the bread they bake daily. As we entered the grounds the sign indicated they had just closed... for a Christmas party. We went inside anyway, and since we would be quick, they allowed us to purchase a loaf and some fresh olives. Hungry we were, so we headed for downtown Healdsburg and the restaurant Zin.

Mexican beer battered green beans with Mango salsa... bet you can't eat just one of these appetizers... crisp fresh beans in a tempura-style batter. As a main course my husband ordered a Mexican Cobb salad. It sounded good with the roasted chicken, romaine, cabbage, tomatoes, scallions, cheese... but nowhere did it mention a pervasively dominant smoked flavor (as in a liquid smoke) which overpowered the taste of the salad. Whew! I nearly ordered the same, but thankfully enjoyed a tangy Mexican sausage served over mashed potatoes.

Back to home base. Oh, what the heck. There's Dry Creek Vineyard up ahead, so we better stop for we likely may not return. They offered crackers! We tasted more good wines, but I don't believe we appreciated them as much had they been first on the list, and we did not leave empty handed. Later we found that for seven years in a row they have been chosen as the official wines for the Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.

We had enough time to relax and get ready for dinner at one of our favorite spots, Restaurant Mirepoix, which has been a must for us over the last four years. Located in a small home in quaint downtown Windsor, it is an intimate experience in French Bistro dining, wonderful food and they only seat about 24 people, so reservations are required. We generally take a bottle of our best newly discovered wine, pay a corkage, but decided to forgo this time for the taste buds said, not tonight. Dinner was very good, but the menu this time seemed to disappoint... a lack in variety? My husband settled for steak and I for a quiche... not exactly what we had in mind. Next year we'll give it a go, one more time.

Time for a good nights rest and we're at it again tomorrow. Part II to follow.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Miscanthus sinensis 'Morning Light'

The early morning fog moved in and stayed with us for most of the day. Right outside the kitchen window the frost bitten copper colored flowering heads of Miscanthus sinensis 'Morning Light' continues to offer enjoyment in the winter garden.

We generally cut the grasses back around the end of February as we see the fresh new growth emerging. The very narrow green blade of grass has a tiny white band and appears to be silver when viewed from the distance. Its habit remains upright and arching at 4-5 feet in height throughout the year, and as fall approaches and the foliage begins to fade into bronze, the delicate reddish flowering plumes stretch upward and outward.

We love the ornamental grasses. . . practically maintenance free and they offer much interest and pleasure throughout the year.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Warmth In a Storm

Considering the storm we just had in the Pacific northwest and in lieu of the number of calls and emails we have received from everyone concerning how we "weathered the storm", I thought I would post this letter which I wrote to many of my family members this morning. From this you will see that all is well and that there was another purpose for writing.

Hello everyone,

It is finally light enough that I can see to write this letter to you. As the back side of me is being warmed by the small wood stove in the corner of our kitchen, I am reminded of being young again, back “home”, with the thought of that old “Warm Morning” stove in the “big room”, and except for the coal cook stove in the basement kitchen, that was the only source of heat we had for the four rooms on that level plus the 2 attic bedrooms.
(I am thankful that is a memory.)

The last several days the Oregon coast has been experiencing 90-100 mph winds while inland we have had gusts of around 50 mph. Needless to say our power went out last night around 7, and since it had done that earlier today (for a couple hours) and the day prior (again a couple hours), we just assumed it would be back on some time during the night as we slept.

So as it goes we awakened around 4:30 this morning to a rather cool house and knew the power was still off. My husband said, “I’m going to build a fire… or better yet let’s go down the hill and get a cup of coffee at McDonalds”. We dressed, dislodged the mechanism from the garage door so we could manually open it, got into the car and headed down the driveway only to be confronted with a large tree which had fallen, blocking egress, and power lines dangling in the air along the side of the road. Back up the driveway and chain saw in hand, my husband and I returned, he cutting the large logs as I threw the branches and smaller cuttings into a pile and all the while being cognizant of the wire's position. We then continued down the hill until such time as our electrical co-op might answer their phones.

Our morning was not as pleasant as we had anticipated, but clearly the times 'way back then ' were more difficult for everyone. But there were good times too, and because of our struggles we learned how to earn our way. Look at each of us now and what we have compared to what 'Bobu ' (means grandmother) had. None of us has to pick up coal along the railroad tracks or first heat the water we carried prior to bathing.

Our homes are warm, clean and comfortable, and all we do is flip a switch or turn a knob to make it all happen. We have the best and more than we need, and I don’t believe we know hunger anymore. Thank God. I am thankful for where we are and who we have all become.

That is quite a bit of reminiscing in order to get to another point of the letter: some time ago I told several of you I would make a copy of the family photo with our grandmother Tekle and grandfather Joseph. Aunt Stella, although you had not yet been born and Bobu is holding my mother, I believe it may be the only photo of your father with most of the children. (taken 1921)

I used my digital camera to take a picture of the portrait and scanned it into my computer for there was no other way. When I removed it from the frame, I found the photo to be curved and extremely brittle; in fact, it has developed a crack and any additional handling will only cause it to crumble. Evidently the glass has held the cardboard-like material intact and protected it all these years. My guess is that it will eventually disintegrate just as some of the faces are beginning to fade. When I talked with a photography studio about getting a better quality print, they said it had to be flattened for a better reproduction, so of course that was not an option. So with this we have now preserved this piece of our history and the photo as best we can, and it can be added to your genealogy books.

We will be doing a little traveling during the holidays and wish everyone a wonderful Christmas, Happy New Year, and we look forward to speaking with you soon.

Know that you are in our thoughts and prayers and that we love you.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Frost blankets our garden floor this Thanksgiving morning. Temperature registers 31 degrees as I gaze at the thermometer near the kitchen window. 'Think I may participate in an unusual event today... a nap.'

Yesterday was filled with some grocery shopping and advance preparation for today's dinner: cornbread was made as well as the cornbread stuffing; fresh cranberry and orange relish, enough to feed the neighbors; my pie crust dough awaits inside the refrigerator; the turkey luxuriates in the brine... and it is way too early in the morning to be doing this, but when the near full moon taps me on the shoulder and whispers 'just get up, brew some coffee and bake the pumpkin pies', there is no opportunity of returning to slumberland, so I comply. Absolutely, that's what most people want to be doing at 1:30 in the morning. (- O (that's me yawning with one eye still closed)

The pies are made, fresh broccoli is washed and trimmed, giblets have been cooked and diced for the gravy, yams are readied for the iron skillet, and the dried and oiled turkey awaits the oven's okay. I love to cook and especially so for those who appreciate it, and no food is wasted in our home for we enjoy our leftovers.

Several friends invited us to join them for dinner, but we decided instead to feed one of our hungry sons who decided to drive down to be with us. He had just finished his leisurely 8 mile run and instructed us to 'not hold back any butter or sugar.' We thought it would be fun to enjoy a rather low key day at home, and indeed it was!

My brother called from the east coast to wish us a Happy Thanksgiving, and the first thing he asked was, "And what are you thankful for this wonderful day?"

"First and foremost is my health, for without that all would not be the same, and secondly my family... our freedom and our friends."

For us, Thanksgiving does not represent pilgrims and football and shopping, but rather a reminder to recognize life's bountiful harvest and "give - thanks"... for my husband, our children, grandchildren and especially our parents and grandparents; our extended families and friends; for this country and the freedoms and privileges we so often casually accept; for the soldiers and officers who put themselves into harms way so that we may sleep peacefully at night; for our spiritual well being... for all the good in our lives...

... and each day may we find at least a moment of Thanks giving.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Morning Thoughts of Friends

We awoke as most mornings, before many, with the quiet and darkness of the early day offering us our time of quiet study while enjoying our first cup of coffee.

A flash of light, the sound of thunder... wow, that's unusual..., the wind and a light rain began. With darkness now behind us, we decided to go back to bed, snuggle like newlyweds do, and something of which we do not often take advantage... enjoy a lazy sort of morning.

With my husband's arms around me and from our bedroom windows we watched the dance of nature, the wind brushing against the waltzing firs as they swayed with refinement and in unison, to and fro, side to side, and with the precision of the Viennese. The fog swept effortlessly through the leafless branches, rolled forward, then tenderly swept away to grace the next partner in its path while only the whisper of its presence remained. How beautiful is the richness of the dark sienna branches of the Madrone.

Wasn't everything about last night so enjoyable? It was a third in a series of quarterly dinners whereby we and two other couples, our close friends, rotate the event. Donna and Ray hosted the main course, Sharon and Ron brought appetizers, we made dessert, and each of us offered a very fine bottle of wine (or two) and all to complement that dinner.

What wonderful friends we have! How does that happen? To think that a group of us came together because of one person and that man is no longer a part of who we are. Thankfully he has gone onto other things, but we remain, a much smaller group, but one stronger as a result of what we went through together.

Are people simply put in our path and we have to decide whether or not a relationship is worth pursuing? Throughout our lives we encounter many through work and shared interests, enjoy one another, but go on about our ways. Among them there are those to whom we are suddenly attracted, a personality we enjoy, a strength we see, and some may have a certain scent about them... a chemistry is felt between you.

A true friendship is more than just opening a door. It is a gift. It is a mirror of who we are, those common interests, the values and morals which keep us together, a bond... they are like family, except they choose to be with you.

We often speak of all the friends we have, but truly those friends who really count in our lives are few. We do not take them for granted, and they have no expectation of us nor we of them, as conditions are not required. How easy it is to just be with our friends and to enjoy their companionship for simply what it is.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Seasonal Transition

In less than nine months, we have transitioned from here...

to this...

to now...

... and I cannot tell you which I prefer most nor whether one brings more enjoyment than another.

The end of February blanket-of-white was short lived (since we get very little snow), and it disappeared almost as quickly as it arrived, but ever so calmly. The peace and tranquility of the winter garden offer time of reflection and rejuvenation. The intensity of growth is greatly diminished, yet the substance remains, and although the complexity is altered, blossoms and color continue.

Quiet and calm shift into a burgeoning period of fresh new and accelerated growth, a competitive nature of sorts. Who can be the first to find its way and emerge, to blossom, to flourish above the others and find its place in the sun? The fragrance, sights and sounds, the tremors of aliveness and excitement is sometimes overwhelming.

Summer's palette of color is extended far beyond expectation and then transforms into a vibrancy unparalleled in a magical spectrum of glorious fall. It's showtime for the cinnamon exfoliating bark of the Paperbark maple (Acer griseum) and the golden Ginkgo serves as backdrop to the inflamed Coral bark maple.

New ideas emerge during this period with thoughts of expansion and contraction and simplification. This is the perfect time of year that the garden canvas yields opportunity for additional balance and harmony.

We will enjoy this view from now until very early spring, such time as we cut back those remarkable grasses and the cycle will begin once again.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Sea of Clouds

We awoke this morning to view these islands in a sea of clouds and 30 degrees being warmed by the color in the distant sky. Frost blanketed the ground and as I looked out into the garden, thoughts ranged from 'It is so intriguing how the foliage has been stripped from the tree branches of some while a few are only now beginning to transform into color (like the weeping cherry) and others hang on for a final act' to 'It shall be a good day in the garden'.

Our friends Aaron and Joan arrived this morning to pick up a few divisions from our ferns and Japanese bloodgrass (Imperata cylindrica) for their landscaping. What a relaxing and enjoyable time sharing plants, looking at the wine room we are building, picking apples for them to take, discussing our upcoming trips and holidays, having a bite of lunch... and they were on their way home for a little planting and an afternoon of football. These times of friendship and the enjoyment of such are so essential.

So it was back to work, planting a few of the divided ferns, cutting back and continuing some garden bed cleanup, listening to the turkeys yelping in the distance, and being grateful for these simple pleasures on this amazing day.

By now our Ginkgo biloba is normally in its full golden glory, but seems to be taking its time and delaying the action this year. If you happen to have one then you are aware of this specimen's splendor, not just that it is an ancient tree, the oldest living tree species, but that it orchestrates its closing moments.

All of the fan-shaped leaves are not only spun into yellow treasures of tonic, but remarkably, as a few leaves begin to release, a finale occurs, a yielding crescendo as each follows suit and all descend to its pedestal... a final bow... 'That's all for now... sure hope you enjoyed the performance'.

Before I depart this wonderland of hues for the day, I must capture these shades of burnt orange and umbers.

This most beautiful and intriguing deciduous Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) will lose all its needles shortly and expose a remarkable textured bark for winter's pleasure, and although the leaves of the Red Oak (Quercus rubra) will remain largely intact, the richness of color will soon be shed. Of course that blue of the conifer Arizona cypress 'Blue Ice' (Cupressus arizonica glabra) stays the same, regardless.

This beautiful fall day has kept me working in the garden longer than I should have been for I may have difficulty ambling adequately tomorrow, but one last stroll around. Temperature in the 50's, a clear blue sky and foliage which dances and sparkles in the late afternoon sunlight.

Another photo before I head in. The backlight of this Japanese maple, Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood' stops me in my tracks as I admire the contrast, the depth and power of light against dark... I am reminded of having placed it there when it was a spindly two foot tall bargain and have felt the pleasure all these years in watching it develop and am thankful for what it has offered.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Final Day of October

On this final day of October I think of that which a cousin of mine in Lithuania recently wrote: Time takes wings. It has been a year since my husband and I visited there for the very first time and my heart sighs joyfully as I think of the family I discovered.

Where does it go, time that is? As I look at the garden and review the photos taken throughout the year, the transformation from month to month is astounding, but the time element is even more so. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and a New Year... one year older and I don't want to let go of this year yet. I guess there is not much that can be done about it.

So with that I leave you with this remarkable colored foliage of the Fothergilla x 'Mt. Airy' as it too continues to hang on.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Opus of Fall Continues

The Opus of Fall continues.

We sat on the deck and were enjoying the remaining warmth of the afternoon while listening to the quiet, until suddenly there was such a rumble, unusual garbled sounds of rustling and movement on the hillside below us, an unfamiliar scale of conversation. Since we were positioned far enough away, I felt very brave to venture forward in order to try and satisfy my curiosity as to what it might be. We were certain of it being wildlife, but did not expect a convention of California Quail to scatter in all directions as they heard the sound of footsteps. The covey was the largest we had ever seen here... enormous group of 60, 70... I couldn't count that quickly. As they travel about our grounds they generally consist of about 10-16. This must have been an important meeting of the elders!

I love these little plump colorful critters of grayish blue with their outstanding markings of black and mottled brown and cream. They absolutely delight and offer me pause as I stop and smile and admire the forward-curving feathered plume atop the crown.

Yesterday as I turned to walk from the pole barn and head toward the house, about a dozen scurried across the path in front of me. They are as a silent movie of fits and starts, scurrying comically for a short distance, braking for a second, only to dart off again one behind the other. On occasion while working in the garden, I will hear "ka-ka-kow, ka-ka-kow" to which I gleefully respond, "ka-ka-kow... ka-ka-kow", as best I can (said timidly) . It must not be that bad a response, for he answers and we carry on this rather intimate conversation for awhile.

The female lays large clutches of eggs, 10-15 in a shallow grassy bowl-shaped nest... I can verify that.

Several years ago we participated in an International Plant Study Group workshop and opened our garden for viewing to this organization. We do not participate in tours since our garden is our private space that we prefer to keep to ourselves, our family and friends. That keeps us busy enough. However, it was a professional group of master gardeners, designers, nursery folks... a very dear friend asked us to participate, and we were a part of the group, so we decided to do it.

The preparation was exhaustive. My husband and I say it was twice that we had a tour, our first and last. Now don't get me wrong, for the two days of the tour, we were delighted. We had a wonderful experience meeting so many fine people with similar interests, who loved being here, appreciated what we had done, strangers with whom we talked for hours. There were even a few who stayed all day!

One more thing: it was tiring for we wanted everything to look perfectly, mulching every bed, raking the paths, cutting back every spent blossom, but the bottom line is no one really knew what had not yet been done. It was we who caused the stress. They all loved it just as it was, and when they came, so did we.

Now, back to my story. A few days prior to the tour, I was working around the wisteria covered pergola trimming a rose... a wonderful shady spot where my husband and I like to sit, take pause in the evening around a small round table, sip a glass of wine and enjoy! when suddenly I realized there was an unusual furry object just two feet behind the shady structure. I wondered if it were dead as its shape was unrecognizable. The brown feathers lay rather flat and supine across a six or eight inch area. What a joy! A female quail decided to lay her eggs and nest right there in full view.

Now I'm concerned for her well being, for she is in the open and in a fairly high traffic area. What can I do?! Hmm. Not much I guess. I can't even keep her from a predator.

But, I can post a sign, a large one which reads, "Shhhh! Quail nesting", and to the delight of the several hundred people who visited, they very quietly observed, and she was not disturbed and did not leave her nest, but lay there protecting her little ones.

It was a great day, and I think she upstaged us and stold the show!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Indian Summer Opus

This must be Indian summer in the Pacific northwest. Yesterday our afternoon temperature came close to 70 degrees and today should see more of the same. In fact this entire week looks to be beautiful... a time to extend our efforts in the garden with some additional cutting back, a little raking, and general garden cleanup continues.

Although we are aware that this time of year signifies a purposeful period of rest and transition, it also provides much stimulus as the colors become more alive and radiant.

The Magnolia stellata 'Star' has begun to cast its copper and golden offerings among the anticipating earth's receptacles while light strikes its magical baton atop 'Swane's Golden'.

Roses and dahlias linger and play among Hebe and lavender, while the slowly rising percussion of flowering Pampas plumes softly spotlight participation.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Limón Latin Grill

Have you ever been reluctant to tell just anyone about something you have discovered for fear that everyone may then go there and somehow ruin it? I know that is not a rational thought, but it was a thought nonetheless. So, with that having been said, I bow and tip my hat for the following truly deserves a commendation.

Subsequent to our visit at the Reagan Library, which I wrote about on the 12 October, our biggest decision was 'now, where shall we have dinner?' We did not want to drive any distance and had noticed a large new mall area not far from the hotel, thus decided to drive up and explore.

We passed several restaurants, but there was a 'No, not that one... Uhm, I don't think so... no steak tonight... Hey, there's a sign that says Latin food... let's look at their menu'. Curious that only recently we had been discussing how we loved Cuban food.

Now don't roll your eyes when I say this, but my first impression was the logo. I loved the"L" in Limón, for the very artistic playfulness of the graphic conjured images of ancient courts and jesters, while the sound of Limón (Le - moan') whispered romance in my ears.

We were warmly greeted at the door, and the interior of the restaurant offered a simplicity, clean lines of design... an inviting atmosphere. The menu presented us with a nice variety and ingredients which always tantalize our taste buds... we made reservations. And did we want to 'eat outside or inside?'.

We returned to our hotel and had a slightly chilled glass of a Murphy Goode Chardonnay, one we had purchased while en route, and enjoyed quiet conversation and the relaxation of simply being together until it came time to embark upon our new adventure.

Limón Latin Grill

We each had a slightly chilled dry vodka martini, up, and '2 olives please'. For appetizers we shared one of our favorites, a lightly breaded Fried Calamari served with a Chipotle Aioli and Spanish sauce, and it did not disappoint. Additionally, I ordered the Seared Tuna Ceviche, a fresh Ahi Tuna beautifully and tastefully presented 'on a bed of marinated cucumbers, green onions, fresh ginger sauce and garlic with lime juice'. Let me just say this: my husband eats nothing raw, that is until now, for he ate at least a third of it. That's about all I would give him. ;) (that's a wink)

The main course: my husband selected the slow Oven Roasted Pork Loin (Cuban), served with whipped potato and Pineapple Mango Salsa, and remember how I said, 'No steak', well I ordered the Churrasco, an 'Argentinean Style Steak with Port DemiGlace, Chimichuri Sauce and 2 Sides'... the waiter said that was his favorite.

A special blend of color and texture, add some zest, a wonderful ember glow, and we savored all the individual flavors that had been brought together by this marvelous chef. We had our own private symphony occurring within.

Our hats off to the chef and management! It was all absolutely delicious, not ordinary by any means, creatively and beautifully done, and an outstanding experience in every way. I know that on our next trip to the area, we will go out of our way to visit. So if you happen to like quality at what we felt was a reasonable price and you happen to be in or around Simi Valley, do stop by and look at the menu. You decide.

Totally unsolicited: http://www.limongrill.com/

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Basil Salad

We are saddened, not due to nighttime temperatures consistently in the low to mid 40's nor the increase in rain, but rather having to say goodbye to the vegetable garden. This past week we salvaged the remaining tomatoes from the vines and brought the fresh basil inside, and last evening we savored what would be the final Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Salad for the season.

A simple recipe, but oh so tasteful, and when it is accompanied by a nice grilled steak, or even some Brats on the grill, along with a nice Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon, ... my friends, that is a wonderful meal! You can't ask for anything better.

Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Salad

Slice larger tomatoes and soft mozzarella cheese to about a 1/4 inch thickness and alternate around the outer edge of the plate. Drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar; sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.

In a bowl, place the smaller tomatoes (we grew 4 different kinds this year... so colorful); sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper; drizzle extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, stir, and add any additional according to personal taste. (Half olive oil/half vinegar is good, but we lean a little more to the balsamic side.) Place this mixture in the center of the layered ones, and sprinkle with fresh chopped basil. Voila! Enjoy!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Color of Maples

The rain continues and since it is expected throughout this week, a quick shot of beautiful foliage was in order for it is about to disappear.

Golden in color is our Norway maple (Acer platanoides)...

... while our Japanese maple (left) is an ember glow. We are not aware of its cultivar for we moved it from an office property about 10 years ago, as the construction around it was doing damage to the tree. It is estimated to be 60-70 years of age and what a beauty.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Air Force One

On Thursday we headed to Los Angeles for several meetings, and in between those events we decided to visit the Reagan Library in Simi Valley. We have been there on several occasions but had not yet seen Air Force One and the new wing in which it is housed.

Any visit to the library brings good thoughts of former President Reagan. We are humbled and in awe of a man who had such a keen ability to connect and bring people along with his thoughts and ideas, those based in reality. His smile and demeanor exuded warmth and optimism, and the 'awe shucks' attitude seemed quite disarming in the face of adversity. We identified with him as he was a man for the time. We saw a kind man, a gentle man, one with vision, and we believe a great man.

We walked from the main library, down a long corridor, and as we entered the pavilion we were taken aback by the scale. The Boeing 707 and its 145 foot wing span presents itself upon the surrounding panoramic valley and appears ready for take off, except for having to penetrate the 200 foot wide glass wall which it faces. It was a daunting moment, but one filled with great pride. A beautiful sparkling plane! white, shades of blue, and silver with the Presidential seal and the American flag, one which has flown seven of our Presidents and numerous world leaders, a record of history there before us.

First a photo prior to boarding.

We stepped inside Air Force One and as we looked into the flight deck, it was quite unimaginable how one could operate all the controls and buttons which covered nearly every inch of the interior. As we turned back toward the belly of the plane we were reminded to view the "football" that was positioned in the communications area, a facsimile no doubt.

There were separate compartments: first, one for the President, followed by another for the First Lady, a lounge, staff room, and aft passenger areas, all small quarters. In the kitchen was a chocolate cake. The story is that President Reagan always wanted one on board in the event it was someone's birthday!

I was not expecting to see some of the dark paneling which graced the interior, but that was only a momentary observation, for as I walked along and gently placed my hand on the back of a seat or leaned against a door frame, there was the realization that we were being touched by the space, that same area in which our Presidents had occupied. Those were magical moments!

We recommend a visit to this historic place.


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

For Bird Lovers

For those of you who love birds as we do, take a look at this one!

The video of Snowball, the Eleanora cockatoo, is priceless! How amazing is he?

Parrot Dancing (Snowball the Cockatoo) - The most amazing bloopers are here

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

That Was Fast

We had summer and now it appears we have bypassed fall and are heading into winter. In the Pacific northwest we generally have a gradual move during this time of year, daytime temperature drops to the low to mid 70's, and of course the 50 degree nights, but rather consistently over the past several weeks the rains have come and daytime reflects a drop into the low 60's. Forecasts for the coming weeks are trending toward nights of mid 40's.

This period offers some rest from the vegetable garden as the ever producing zucchini plant, which oft appears to be on steroids while producing more than we can possibly eat in a weeks period, finally appears to be saying 'Okay, that's enough for now'. Tomatoes linger and basil is yet available to accompany them; berries are gone, fennel seed has been collected, a few eggplant linger, and we have yet to dig the last of the potatoes.

Alive and well is the flower garden as the dahlia continues to makes its presence. Changes are occurring as the fall movement in color becomes dramatically breathtaking.
Some of the shorter clump forming ornamental grasses, Pennisetum alopecuroides (Fountain grass) , have begun turning to their warm shades of yellow, orange, and bronze, while others remain in flux as their bright red tips indicate the process is upon us.

The variation this time of year is as springtime, with much change and occasional drama during the course of a single day: a momentary hail storm disappears as quickly as it arrived; a steady rain may be accompanied by wind increase, only to be followed by the tease of the sun as blue sky appears with a rainbow of color, only to remind us of youthful stories and that elusive "pot at the end..." somewhere in the base of that valley.

The berries are abundant among the trees and shrubs. Flocks of Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) hastily and gleefully propel themselves from Madrone to Madrone (Arbutus menziesii) while filling their bellies with the red fruit. I tried to get a good photo, but this is the best could be done with the frenzied moving targets and the tree heights in which they rest.
For finer detail visit wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cedar_waxwing. Are these delightful little bandits not stunning? They're already dressed for Halloween.

Acer rubrum 'Fairview Flame' exclaims the time is near, a favorite period, to put on a sweater, step outside for a casual stroll and feel the briskness of the day while understanding that there is much yet to put to bed.

It is a time to pullback a bit, reassess, reflect, and be happy for what is. It is a time to appreciate that which has been offered, that which is around and before us.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Harvest Moon in the Garden

In addition to the scent which fills the air, we know that fall is fast approaching as the morning lazily awakens and the sky's color makes it known.

During our early evening walk we realize these blossoms will soon fade as the rain will surely pay us a visit here in the Pacific northwest.
We know it's coming, for the local weather folks have forecast it for weeks, but the blue skies have clearly stated, "not yet".

Now only a memory, two nights ago the Harvest Moon in all its glory, held us captive! I cannot begin to describe the magic, but will only say, 'If you didn't get the chance to see it, the experience was far greater than this photo, although it gives you an idea.'

The butterscotch face of the man in the moon watched over the city as we had one last glimpse.

Hey. Have you ever wondered if it might be a woman in the moon? I think she's laughing.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Trade for a Gazebo

While sitting in the gazebo this morning and having a morning cup of coffee, our discussion centered around making choices. We make them every moment of every day, and over the long haul everything seems to work out for the best, at least in our minds.

Some time ago my husband and I were introduced to timeshares by very dear friends of over thirty years. Joe and Ann asked us to join them for a week at one which they owned, a two bedroom en suite with kitchen-dining-living room that overlooked the golf course. Since we are in the Pacific northwest and they in Florida, we did not get to see them often, so it was a week of great enjoyment, catching up so to speak, and in such beautiful and spacious surroundings.

After we returned home, they sent us an email indicating they had found a week of a timeshare we could purchase on the secondary market and it was a bargain. We bought it, in fact, we purchased two more after that, and over the past 10+ years have taken advantage of escaping the pacific northwest rain for California sunshine, and have always had family and friends come along and share it with us. Wonderful times and memories!

But as rates have continued to increase, special assessments and taxes, we had to reassess whether this was still a good value. When annual fees seemed fairly reasonable per week of ownership, "yes, it is worth having", but as the three year special fees became part of the permanent structure and as we could see the weekly cost per unit nearly doubling, we had to reevaluate.

We have often spoken of building 'a screened room off our kitchen'. Having researched the cost of one versus a gazebo, the latter proved to be more cost effective while serving our purpose. We so enjoy being outdoors, working in the garden and dining there. One of the beauties of the northwest is despite high summer daytime temperatures, the shade offers shelter and enjoyment of the cool breezes. Unbelievably and unfortunately, bees (yellow jackets) flock our way at the slightest scent of food, thus our eating has been restricted to indoors. Fortunately, the resort asked if we were interested in selling our timeshare.

A week in our timeshare or months of outdoor enjoyment in a gazebo overlooking the peaceful valley and mountains? Hmm. Let us think about that for a moment. OK!

We walk from the kitchen door directly into a lovely screened in area. Trade for a gazebo... great deal!

If you happen to be passing by, join us for lunch.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

It's Almost Here

Step outside. A slow deep inhalation while closing ones eyes, tells me it's here. Not only do you smell it, but you can feel... fall is in the air, and a welcoming time of year for me.

August was the usual warm month in the Pacific northwest, and happily we had a few days with some rain, but our standard fare is generally hot and dry. In years past we have gone as long as three months without a drop of rain in the summer, so an occasional bit of moisture is an absolute welcome, and because of this climate, our garden has been transformed over the years from 'oh, let's plant this beautiful specimen' to 'how drought tolerant is this one?' (An interesting factoid from the weather.gov site of historical local climate data shows that in 1939 the temperature in mid September was a high of 91 and a 53 degree low. Sixty-eight years ago, it was about the same. Hmm.)

Daytime temperatures hit 90 just the other day and 50 for the nightly low, a 40 point differential, which is normal. Thankfully we have had some overcast days this past week, allowing our summer sun-stressed garden to enjoy a bit of a respite. And despite no watering on our part for several weeks, the plants look pretty dang good this evening.

As we walk along the garden paths, the Cupressus sempervirens 'Swane's Golden' puts on its best display with this evenings light.

Remember when I wrote about the dogwood on June 29? Seems it just won't quit. Even as the berries have formed throughout the tree, we still have some blossoms appearing.

The Datura flourishes on a gravel path, and the beauty of this no water required species stops me in my tracks as I explore the remarkable green throat within the beautiful and distinctive trumpet shaped blossom...

and the delicate flowers of Nicotiana sylvestris await at the paths end and point us back into the garden proper once again, where the electric color of the Fuchia presents itself so eloquently in the coolness of the shade.

This evening bids us adieu as we look out over the valley, and we are filled with thoughts of a wonderful day, a pleasurable experience of which we are proud to have been a part, and thankfulness... for we are blessed.

Sunday, September 9, 2007


Persicaria orientale (aka Polygonum orientale) or the more delightful name of Kiss-Me-Over-The-Garden-Gate appears in our garden after having been absent for several years.

I have read that these were grown by Thomas Jefferson in his garden at Monticello. An annual and an old-fashioned heirloom seed, I thought it would be fun to have them as part of the English cottage style section of our garden, so I purchased a packet of seeds years ago.

They grew, self seeded, and then for several years only an occasional one would yield a tiny version. But this year they stand a proud 6 feet tall at the edge of the patio and path, a place where no one ever planted the seed, and we must bend as we go around this fun specimen in nature.

The brightly colored magenta catkins dangle and bounce freely with the breeze, nodding and arching and touching like two young lovers sneaking a kiss over-the-garden-gate.

It brings a smile and a sense of wonderment to consider what brought it to this place. And how could I say it cannot be here?

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Outside My Studio Window

While working at my computer, this weekend morning is as most. I scan the headlines, read that which is of interest and then I may bring up a blank Word sheet and begin to type as I do now.

The quiet atop this hillside offers an opportunity for uninterrupted projects and wonderful moments of meditation and silent introspection. Thoughts tend to flow more freely here, and while trying to compose those, I generally glance out one of the windows and rather than think of all these trees and plants which we placed in the ground, one by one over the course of some thirteen years, I am mindful of what is before me while thoughts continue in the direction of the writing.

The breeze gracefully lifts the lower lying branches of the Tri-colored beech, which circulate the space within its reach, then gently lays them back into position. Suddenly the Steller's Jays (the west's cousin to the Blue Jay) glide playfully from tree to tree announcing their station with that cacophonous "bark", and occasionally one will appear at the gutter above my window and give it a peck or two, as if to alert me back to work. Almost as quickly as these arrive, they depart. And there is silence once again.

Lo and behold! From nowhere appears this unexpected visitor, a giant monster eerily scaling, peering, appearing up over the towering 100 foot Douglas Fir trees and is heading towards our house! "Hurry, come quickly", I yelled to my husband, for I was uncertain as what difficulty may lay ahead. Had they gotten off course? Were they in trouble? Grab the camera, remove the screen, open the window and snap!

In a matter of moments my fear was allayed. As I ran to the deck, I realized this was a unique opportunity, a Kodak moment, for I saw the giant monster being gently ushered away from the house and garden ...

and was just in time to turn back around into the early morning light to see another approaching.
How quickly it slid above me. I imagined how perfectly the complementary colors of blue and yellow were mixed on the sky's palette to yield the balloon's green stripe.

All was silent until the whoosssh of the ignited gas sent warmth into the balloon. The air became calmer as we stood and watched the sun caress the morning tree tops and the two visitors hover calmly, balancing the framed sky and allowing its passengers one last glimpse of the valley and coastal range prior to their descent.

What a magnificent way to start a day, and I just happened to be "thinking" outside my studio window. Isn't the unexpected wonderful?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Vacation, part 4: Vancouver, BC

(See July 21 & 27, August 1 for parts 1-3)

Our last day in Vancouver

At 7:30 a.m. we walked across the street to the Sheraton where we were picked up by a motor coach and driven through downtown, Stanley Park and to the train station located in North Vancouver. As we boarded the train and found our seats in the Glacier Dome car, our anticipation was that this would be a good day, one to sit back, relax... no one had to drive, and we would all enjoy the beautiful scenery. The three smiling and friendly attendants in our car served us orange juice with a little "sparkling", and at 8:30 as the Whistler Mountaineer began its forward motion, we all toasted to the beginning of the day's adventure and our climb into the mountains toward Whistler.

The attendants commented throughout the journey, offering historical facts and figures relevant to the various landmarks as we passed under the Lion's Gate bridge (the suspension bridge fashioned after the Golden Gate in San Francisco), over the Capilano River, into West Vancouver and through the waterfront Ambleside Park, one of Vancouver's original parks.

The tracks tightly paralleled the eastern shoreline of Howe Sound among the closely situated homes and condominiums which hugged the hillside within the smaller communities. As we snaked our way along the waterway, people walking, jogging, having their morning breath of fresh air from the overhanging patio, waved us passing through. The BC ferry quietly pushed its way across the glacially carved inlet of Howe Sound, and as we looked toward the water, the more densely wooded areas permitted only a fleeting glimpse of any home nestled among the towering Douglas fir trees.

The sheer rock cliffs allowed us to edge our way along the inlet, over trestles and highways, through wild and tamed, yet untamed... past hillside walls of twisted Ipomoea, those white morning glory blossoms, tangled, however prevailing, among the mounds of blackberry vines feral and unattended.

There was no room to breath between the side of the train and those sheer black walls as we passed through the darkness of Horseshoe Bay tunnel and began our ascent at the beginning of Howe Sound. Civilization gave way to stands of Doug firs, western red cedar, hemlock, shore maples... and the Buddleia (butterfly bushes) interspersed among the evergreen, made us feel comfortably at home.

As we rounded the bend the haunting sound of the train whistle gave notice. The highway followed above us, and about 11 kilometers north of Horseshoe Bay we passed through Lion's Bay, a small community of about 1400 people, a municipality with its own mayor, but no gas station, and whose name is well known for their mountain search and rescue team.

Halfway to Squamish, we passed Deak's Creek (mile 21), a place not on the map and whose waterfall is present only due to run off from the large amount of snowfall this past year. Mile marker 25, a campground... and Porteau Cove lends itself to scuba diving due to the artificial rubber tire reef and sunken ship which attract marine life. Furry Creek sports 2 golf courses, and the once booming copper mining town of Britannia, population 100, holds the BC Museum of Mining and is now showing signs of life with construction, as they begin preparation for the 2010 Olympics.

As we begin leaving Howe Sound and head toward the mountains, a giant granite monolith, Stawamus Chief Mountain rises stalwartly, perpendicularly 2300 feet (702 m) into the clouds and beyond our view but within our imagination.

We pass through Squamish. It is estimated that the current 15,000 population shall double within the next several years as it will become a bedroom community for Whistler and the 2010 Olympics.

Around mile 52 we begin our 2.2% grade climb (almost 2000 feet) into Cheakamus Canyon, where daises, foxglove, mullein, wild filbert and ferns
paint their welcoming ways along either side of the train track, and a bald eagle soars overhead as if to greet and delight.

As we approach Brandywine Falls and enter the temperate rain forest, I was fortunate to quickly capture this 1000 foot waterfall, and as the train steadily and slowly ground its way up the mountain... much to our surprise, was happening upon these friendly faces in the wilderness.

We arrived at the end of the train ride and were shuttled to Whistler village. It was recommended that if we were not spending the night, we might consider taking a gondola ride, but the several hours we had there afforded a casual stroll along the cobblestone streets, admiring the quaint European influenced architecture, a happy visitor, some light lunch, and a return to the bus which took us back to the train.

The entire day was cloudy with intermittent showers, but as we awaited the boarding of the final passengers, the sun broke through the sky's cover...
a mid-afternoon salute, a smile to bid us safe journey back down the mountain.

We passed Daisy Lake which provides hydroelectric power for Whistler, and I was calmed by the milky jade green of its waters.

As we again approached the Cheakamus Canyon, the panoramic basalt walls and columnar peaks stood firmly as they rose from the river and guided us across the bridges.

We had one last look at the canyon and depth before us.

Four o'clock and it is time for afternoon tea. Jasmine Butterfly for me, thank you. We were served lovely sandwiches: cucumber, cream cheese and watercress; salmon and cream cheese; a little ham; grilled red pepper.

Then the sweets arrived: strawberries dipped in chocolate; a lemon tart; a biscuit, strawberry jam and thick cream. Oh my! Reminiscent of being in England and partaking of the popular and sinful ;) clotted cream tea. Just the thought of it puts pounds on my thighs, but there is no sign of wavering during the ever so palatable experience. If you have never had this and you travel to England, it is a must to try.

As we approached the Lion's Gate bridge, we looked up to see a lady sitting at her window and waving as we passed by, perhaps thanking us for visiting and being a part of her afternoon.

It was a wonderful experience... panoramic views of spectacular scenery, excellent on board service, and a day of total relaxation and enjoyment of one another. We hope you enjoyed the journey with us.

Of interest:

* June 1792 Howe Sound was named after Lord Howe, Admiral of the British Navy
* http://www.rockymountaineer.com
* Whistler tourism site: http://www.tourismwhistler.com