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:

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: 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.