Sunday, September 28, 2008

What a Fine Day

What a fine day we had right on through the evening. We were pleased with our work in the morning garden, dead heading, picking vegetables, and apples were collected from the trees. However, when the back begins to ache a bit, we know it is time to head in.

Lunch in the gazebo and a cool breeze allowed us to relax and enjoy another piece of the day. A few more chores, and before we knew it the evening was upon us and preparation of dinner began: fresh Ahi and a few smaller zucchini (cut in half lengthwise), both applied with a bit of extra virgin olive oil; freshly ground pepper and chopped macadamia nut to encrust the tuna, and some lemon pepper for the zucchini. . . zucchini grilled on high on each side for just a few minutes so as to maintain its crispness. . . and the Ahi pan-seared on high for just a few minutes on either side.

During the preparation we turned on the tv and discovered Michael Bolton performing at the Casino Rama. He spoke briefly of having spent some quality time with Luciano Pavarotti and then proceeded to sing one of my favorite aria's, Puccini's Nessun Dorma. My husband and I stood still, mesmerized, listening to this wonderful voice and the powerful music which always fills me up and has my eyes well with tears.

It doesn't get much better than that. . . a fine evening with a simple meal and a favorite Pinot Noir, the man I love at my side, music that touches our soul and the glow of the setting sun giving us a wink and a nod as we look out over the valley.

For your enjoyment, I was able to find this video of Michael Bolton singing Nessun Dorma.

The Tree Fairy

Although we have planted more than 50 specimen trees on our several acres over the course of some 15 years, there always seems room for just one more, particulary when it is one we especially like and at a good bargain.

I don't know why we haven't planted a Sycamore (Plantanus x acerifolia 'Bloodgood') before now, but over a month ago we happened upon a one-half off tree sale. How could we resist a healthy and beautiful tree that had great potential to grace the landscape even further, for just $16.5? I know, that's hard to believe.

We have cared for it in its pot and kept it partially shaded until now. As the rainy season will soon arrive, we decided to plant it so it can be viewed each day. Likely we will not experience the trees eventual 90 foot height, but the peeling bark and multi-tones of creamy white to olive green are the visual pleasures we anticipate.

As is our habit after planting something that can be viewed from the window, we stood this morning viewing the long pathway that embraced this new addition, and my husband exclaimed, "the tree fairy came last night".

And I still laugh when he says it.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Family Came To Visit

When family comes to visit, it is time for relaxation, fun, and simply the pleasure of one another's company, whether it is staying at home and enjoying the surroundings or venturing out for a bit of exploration.

Of course we walked in the garden, picked berries for this evening's dessert and baked fresh bran muffins with berries. Other family members came to visit to say hello to our niece from Michigan, and dinners were enjoyed in the gazebo overlooking a part of the garden. We had some quiet time, periods for reading, and had lunch at a favorite winery overlooking the valley and vineyards. There was always good conversation and a whole lot of laughing! And yesterday, although a bit disappointing, was still a great day.

Our niece had not been to the west coast, so we wanted her to experience the most beautiful coastline not far from us, and since it was over 80 degrees inland, we were anticipating the coolness of the air once we reached the Pacific.

It is generally an easy hour drive from our home to the first glimpse of white sand dunes which peer across a piece of the horizon and announce ones arrival. Down into the old part of town and along the river is a quaint and historical restaurant which serves a very fine lunch. Perfectly done calamari as an appetizer, fresh cod, oysters, salads and slaw, filled our tummies for the days journey.

Our first stop was along a jetty on which we planned to walk, but upon leaving the car realized the sand lay high above and over the entire structure, something we had never seen before, and as the wind whipped the stinging sand against our shins and cheeks, the decision was to return to the car and save the walk for another part of the journey.

As we headed northward, the fog began to teasingly dance about the highway, and with the continuing journey we wondered if those rays of sunshine would reappear. 57 degrees, and we were pleased to have brought along a sweater.

Several sites along the way could not be clearly seen, but suddenly a clear view of a bridge lay ahead, the blue sky offered an opportunity. . . several were going to test the cold waters of the Pacific to see just how cold it was.

As we ventured inland, the temperature increased a sudden 11 degrees within just 6 or 7 minutes. . . it would be hot by the time we returned home.

My brother called, and I told him of the day's events to include the bout with the fog and our disappointment that much of the coast was not as bright and sunny as we expected. . . to which he quickly replied, "Tell K she has likely seen all kinds of photos on calendars and books of the Pacific coast when the sun is shining, but not many as she experienced today! " He made me laugh out loud. Love that guy.

Home at last and a + 30 degrees. . . 87. Happy to be here and to have enjoyed this wonderful day with our niece.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

We Dug Potatoes

We dug potatoes last evening, in fact, nearly a bushel of them. . . mostly reds, but some Yukon Golds. The irony is that last year our planting produced so few potatoes that we decided it was not worth the effort, so this year we chose not to plant any. Huh? It's true. We didn't plant them. I guess there were enough of the smallest tubers that remained in the ground and over wintered, and this year conditions allowed them to go gangbusters.

Earlier in the day we harvested a similar amount of pears. The past several days we found one or two on the ground, so we chose to remove them all from the two (dwarf) trees and for now place them in storage on the back covered porch. Soon I will package them and put them in the extra refrigerator, and many months of enjoyment will come from those beautiful fruits. Likely we will be do the same with our apples over the next several weeks.

We are anticipating the arrival of a niece this Saturday. I suspect we will continue to enjoy the bounty of fruits and vegetables from the gardens during the week while she is here. No stranger to a garden, her father has the family farm and although he should be retiring from that kind of life, still harvests fields of blueberries.

Another season is fast approaching. We anticipate the fall, but grudgingly so, only because of the bounty from our gardens.

Monday, September 1, 2008


We had such a great day yesterday; actually, the day before that too, and it is hard to believe that it is September 1. It seems as though it was June and now September?

Saturday we worked in the garden and began our cutting back process. The spent blossoms of the lavender must be trimmed now so that new growth begins to emerge in anticipation of next year's display. And boy do we have lavender. . . in nearly every bed, at the edge of paths, adorning the landscape. . . we do love it. Spiraea, ceanothus, hebe, daylilies, boxwood. . . all need trimming, and the giant impatiens have to be removed. These delightful 6 foot high annuals with flowers of white to medium and dark pink send their seeds spiraling following blossoming, so they require immediate containment.

Following our morning walk yesterday, we harvested vegetables and basil, and as we continued the process decided to make a spur-of-the-moment call to some friends who had not been to the garden yet this year. "Have dinner at your house?, we'd love to", they said.

August and the early part of September is generally a dry time of year, but amazingly it rained. Likely we had about an inch, and happily, by the time our guests arrived, the rain was gone and the sun was out.

Dinner would be simple: fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil, kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, and a little extra virgin olive oil, served on a multi-grain crostini, yielded bruschetta that made our friend (a chef and restaurant owner) say, "Umm. . . I can make a meal just out of this!" A 2004 Artesa Sauvignon Blanc was its companion.

A 2003 Hanna Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve accompanied our walk in the cool evening garden of bright and delightful scents. Conversation about a particular plant, a mention of something significant (or insignificant) that might have occurred, astonishment at the compelling growth of the Ginkgo biloba and discussion of how it drops its leaves, the fragrance of lilies wafting through the fresh evening air. . . were all reasons to take occasional pause in the paths as we made our way around the garden.

One of our favorite pieces of meat is a tri-tip. I rub just a bit of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a dry rub of spices (to include a lot of good freshly ground pepper), and my husband grills on high so that it sears the outside but is juicy and tender on the inside, and serve with some fresh crimini mushrooms, quickly cooked in just a little bit of butter and a touch of kosher salt at the very end. Grilled zucchini, again with a gentle rubbing of olive oil and a sprinkle of lemon pepper, is cooked ever so slightly on high, retaining that wonderful crispness of a fresh vegetable. The salad: an assortment of tomatoes, ones large enough will be sliced and layered alternately with the fresh, soft mozzarella around the plates perimeter, while the bite sized tomatoes remain whole and piled in the center; diced basil, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic, ground pepper and sprinkles of kosher salt have been added to the smaller tomatoes and tossed prior to serving. And all was accompanied by a wonderful Pride Merlot.

What a great statement when people come together and enjoy one another with such ease that five hours slips by without realizing the time. What a fine time we had! Oh, dessert? We had picked strawberries and blackberries in the morning; what a beautiful color combination it was and frankly all that was needed after the meal we had.

As I write I hear turkeys outside the window. . . likely down over the hillside. As we drove back up our hill following our walk this morning, there was a mess of those critters walking alongside the country road. I yelled out the window, "you guys better get goin'. . . there's a couple turkey buzzards atop a tree just down the road, and the way they were positioned, I think they're having discussions about you."

We hope your weekend was an enjoyable one. Tomorrow should bring us something interesting.