Sutherland’s Sunday Summary (except on a Tuesday)

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

This was just a walk around the block…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Random things:

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

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

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

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

A long zoom call with my daughter, Hannah…

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

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

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

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

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

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

My head needs to be checked…

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

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

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

lemons as neighbors

We certainly know we’re no longer in the midwest when we come home to a bag of fresh lemons on our front porch. Our neighbors across the street share their bounty with us. It’s been such a good way to get to know them.

And their taste far outweighs grocery store produce, for sure!

Thank you for your bounty, California

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.

Happy Hydrangea

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

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

I’m doomed. Let the hydrangea addiction begin!

I even hung one to experiment with drying them…

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

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

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.

Patio, Pups and Projects

Our neighbor had an intrusive tree removed last year that made a lot of sense for her. Cleared up her backyard nicely. But this spring I’m noticing how MUCH more sun we are getting on our back patio (and we got a lot to begin with.) The hardest adjustment to California from the Midwest has been the unbelievable LEVEL of sun rays. It gets very hot very quickly when in the sun. 

So, we decided to rearrange a few things and get a table umbrella to shield a little bit of the intensity.

I seem to prefer neutrals and nature colors on the inside, so it feels like I’ve gone off the rails on color in the backyard this year. -ha. And it all started with a rug.

I love our ‘CBS Sunday Morning’ sun we lovingly bought a few years ago in honor of Charles Osgood’s retirement. (Has it been as good since he left?) I also have enjoyed the ombre growth of this ivy up our fence (old as it is.) We tried to direct the ivy up the fence last summer and some of it has decided to cooperate. Hopefully more of the ivy on the ground will take notice and decide to do a little scaling themselves this year.

I very much like the color blue. However, I rarely use it. I’m not sure why but I’ve never gravitated toward it in my own home – while appreciating it in others’ homes. Something crazy struck me, however, and I fell instantly for this outdoor rug. Everything else grew from that.

Last year we severely trimmed back the oleander bushes. The back of our yard still has plenty (and are currently heavily sagging because the pink blooms are getting ready to break open.) The white bushes on the side of the patio have a sturdy ‘trunk’ so we trimmed them to look more like trees than bushes. And they are blooming beautifully.

Salmon, navy, teal and touches of purple are in the rug so the plants and pillows followed suit. 

(Please tell the person who jimmy-rigged this ‘hanging’ pot to cut off the janky strings and try to make it more presentable.) (aka: it was me.)

I think this sassy parrot is my favorite part of the backyard update. How can you not feel energized by her while sipping your morning chai?

By the way, reader, we are firmly ignoring the nasturiums that I repotted and now they’re acting dead. They’ll come back – they just can’t help themselves.

Is the parrot pillow my favorite thing or is this stunning variegated Japanese aralia? It’s a close call.

Two important ‘life discoveries’ I’ve made (…or recently admitted to…) this spring have been

  • I have done it, lived it, studied it, and now – I’m done with succulents. They are too temperamental. Every time you touch one to deadhead it, the other leaves get knocked off so planting them is a huge pain (think: the delicate Operation game of our youth.) Even though I still have a ton – we will eventually part ways. Melanie – I wish you were here to give them all to. They need youth and patience and I’m sorely lacking on both accounts.
  • And secondly, I am not a flower person either. I have been spoiled by houseplants. They’re strong and sturdy and I at least know how to read them better than flowers in the California sun. Many lessons learned.

It’s all about self-actualization, people. Growth and improvements, right?

Tilly and her old man eyebrows and soul patch. As long as she has a leaf or a dead plant, she’s in high heaven!

The thing about oleander flowers is that they bloom all summer long. Well into fall, actually. They last a long time when you cut them and bring them indoors and their foliage is a staple for flower arrangements. You literally have to throw them away before they die. -ha. 

I love wonky pottery. I found this one years ago at an antique mall and it called to me. This little blue vase (that needs more water, I see) houses our once and done gardenia flowers. What a powerful scent! I love them so much!!

Haddie. Always around. Always on-point and watching all the activity but wanting to play it cool like she doesn’t care. She teases Tilly and loves the attention Tilly gives her. But admitting love is just not in her character. 

If you follow me on Facebook you know we tried to create an area of the sideyard for Tilly to go to the bathroom. But after training her to go outside ANYWHERE, it’s been difficult to condense her to just one spot now. So we are going to try a fence with a gate – cordoning off the patio area as separate from her play and go area. California backyards are small and we were lucky to get a little spot of yard in the back and now we don’t want to give it all over to a new puppy. 

Concessions and compromises! 

On the other side of the fence is our cactus garden. I am AAAAMAAAAAZED at how quickly the cacti have grown over the winter. We started with nothing and they have practically taken over the back of our house. I love the desert vibe they give out and have loved watching a completely new kind of plant grow.

Scott’s BBQ grill is kept going year-round. As much as possible we cook out there!

Dad gave me some castor bean seeds last year that have grown ominously on the corner of our house. They’re about ready to take over our blue agave (Agave Maria)!

I once read that California was never meant to have inhabitants because there are so many natural elements to overcome. It’s interesting how wildlife and humans have adapted to the unique environment of the Pacific coast.

Just like a kid, we do our best to wear her down every evening. She looks happy and satisfied, don’t you think??

What I would normally consider Spring in the Midwest is ending here in northern CA. We are staring summer in the face next week – many 100 degree days scheduled. But this week has been mild and enjoyable. I am learning that California doesn’t believe in easing anyone into a new situation – it just drops it hot and smoldering in your lap. 

We’ll be very happy with our new umbrella shade. 

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND!!!

Oroville

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

Gnome or fairy house, maybe??

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

I know.

I’m assuming someone somewhere has proof. 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(no jumping fish today, though)

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

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

(How far can I take this metaphor??)

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

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

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

 

Manzanitas and oaks, but always-present palm trees.

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

Beaut of a butte. (had to do it)

 

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

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

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

 

Maybe we will have perfected it by our next adventure!

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

Great day. Great company. 

 

Paradise and Growth

I broke down last week and bought a ‘California requirement’. Or at least it seems to be a requirement when living in California. But first a quick backstory.

When we lived in Kansas City I bought a Giant Bird of Paradise at our local Walmart. While ‘giant’ is in the name, this houseplant was not overly large. [As a sidenote: I try to go to places like Walmart or hardware stores very early in the Spring to buy houseplants or flowers. They’ve been recently delivered from the nurseries are in good shape and much less expensive than independent nurseries. However, once the plants have been there for more than a month, you’re inviting problems by shopping at ‘non-nursery’ stores for your plants. Garden centers are aware of each plant’s specific watering and light requirements as opposed to a Walmart employee standing with a watering hose, drowning every plant. Or setting a sensitive plant out in the sun to shrivel and die. The worst, is that these two specific conditions (incorrect watering and sun-exposure) open up the plant to disease and bugs. No disrespect to Walmart – they have sensibly-priced toilet paper and dishwashing pods. But Walmart employees are not well-versed in plant care. That’s a money-making side hustle for Walmart – not their primary purpose.] All of that sidenote said, I bought a beautiful houseplant for $25.

When we lived in our sun-drenched, tall-ceiling’ed loft downtown, my Bird of Paradise flourished. Oh man – I loved that plant!

20180211_135901470_ios

But we knew when we moved to California that we couldn’t take it with us so I gave her to my sister and it’s SO happy and content at her house. It’s tropical vibe is perfect.

My thought was that I would simply buy a new Paradise plant when we moved to our new home across country. What I didn’t know was that a $25 Giant Bird of Paradise doesn’t exist in California! Oh there are plenty around but the starting price is usually $100. So I’ve put off getting a new one, waiting for the perfect sale or situation.

Meantime…there are a plethora of the smaller versions of the Bird of Paradise plant. The smaller versions bloom and are most well-known to people. They’re exotic and tropical and…I’ve never really loved their blooms. [insert shock and awe] Florists love to use the blooms in arrangements and weddings have been saturated with Bird of Paradise blooms for years. To me, however, they look like inverted shrimp. You know when you bend your cooked shrimp backwards and all the legs pop up (…stomach turn…), that’s what these blooms have always looked like to me.

Here are some pictures from online:

bird of paradise

I know it’s a rather twisted way of looking at something others see as so delicately beautiful, but you know how it is when something gets stuck in your head.

Then I recently heard that the ‘bird’ aspect of the bloom is not what I expected either. I’ve always loosely seen the flower as a bird’s head with a plume of feathers on top and a big beak from the flowering shell. (You see that, right? I’m not crazy?) But in actuality, the shell part of the bloom has nothing to do with the ‘bird’ aspect. What I saw as the plume of feathers is actually the birds taking off for flight.

I can see that, too. And it made the bloom a lot prettier to me. A beautiful flock of birds getting ready to take flight in delicate ascension. Like a group of butterfly wings. (I feel like it’s similar to one of those trick posters at the mall: What do YOU see in this group of dots? Jesus? Or a pineapple?)

You get my point. I am seeing the bloom a little differently now.

white bird of paradise

So there we were in Home Depot last week. I was overlooking the blooming Bird of Paradise and concentrating on shrubs when Scott brought one over to me. “Hey!, this looks like our Bird of Paradise we had in KC. I’m buying it!!”

“Whoa, whoa, buddy. Wait a sec. That’s one of those shrimp-inverted Bird of Paradise.”

“I don’t care. It’s mine. I’m buying it.” (He gets that way sometimes.)

Furthermore, he put the one he was holding back down and picked up 2 or 3 other ones, inspecting them carefully. I mean…you gotta love a man that is that picky about plants, right?? Sure enough – he selected one with a newly unfolding leaf. AND, it’s a white flower, not the rather sharp orange color.

$19 for a new beginning. A flowering plant that is so prevalent it seems like a California requirement to own one. And so now we do. It may never bloom inside our home (and yes, I’m secretly okay with that) but the leaves are beauty enough. And if it does bloom, I will see it as a group of exquisitely gentle birds, breaking forth and taking flight.

Much like we did when we made this cross-country big move.

And that makes me love them all the more.

If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen this pothos I started training to climb the side of this pantry. The below picture was taken right after I started it in August 2019. I used clear Command Strip hooks, mounted to the wall, then tucked the branch into the hook. I’ve tried to ‘tuck’ near a leaf so the the leaf kind of covers the plastic hook.

And then October 2019 is below. The branches are starting to reach the bell. The biggest thing for me is that the plant is still thriving at the base (keeping very full) and the leaves are still growing upward. You can see in the original picture that I have some ‘bald spots’ on a couple of the branches to the left which is why I decided to try it as a climber. When they’re climbing upward, all the branches are being exposed to more light as opposed to laying on top of each other, draping over the edge of a pot. So those bare spots will remain. No matter how you display your pothos (hanging or climbing) you need to watch for spaces between each leaf. If there is a large area of branch with no leaves on it, that means it’s not getting enough sunlight. If that happens, it’s a great place to cut it and propagate it (which I usually propagate them back into the original plant to make it fuller.)

That said, besides the original bald places, the branches have been growing with plenty of leaf growth in small sections indicating the plant is happy with the light it’s receiving.

Then I took another picture last week. First of all, I’m out of Command Strip hooks and need more because the branches are falling over themselves with nothing to hold onto the wall with. And secondly – can you believe it’s grown this much in about 5 months?! This has been a very fun project to experiment with. Pothos are forever patient with you so they were a good plant to play with for this project.

I’m starting to see many new leaves on a number of my plants around the house. It makes me anxious for Spring since they must sense it’s right around the corner! Every summer I wonder which plants are going to be the rockstars that year. Who will grow the tallest? Most times I turn around and suddenly realize they’ve outgrown their pots in what seems overnight. (Not too unlike a growing kid and their shoes! -ha!)

What big plans do you have for your garden this year? Flower beds? New houseplants? What’s on your Green Agenda??

SLOUCHING TOWARDS BETHLEHEM by Joan Didion

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

acs_2500

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!

ABODE: Thoughtful Living with Less by Serena Mitnik-Miller and Mason St. Peter⠀

This book sits on our coffee table, not as a decorative piece (although it certainly falls into that category) but as a reference book. Since purchasing it a few months ago, I have come back to it again and again for inspiration and ideas.⠀

Serena and Mason are the owners of General Store in San Francisco. In Abode, they encourage their readers to live intentionally and in a gracefully simple way. Their home is filled with wood and stone and always with an eye to the outdoors. Their storefront celebrates artisan goods with warm tones and beautiful focal- point items.⠀

I also appreciate that they write about pieces they desire but cannot yet afford; this resonates with all of us to some degree. But keeping our eye on the ‘ideal’ is not a bad thing as it motivates us to hold the end result in mind even while using a ‘place maker’ until the final product can be acquired.⠀

Dual purpose items and editing your possessions are some of the common themes throughout this book. I am grateful for their approach to creating a welcoming home filled with beautiful items that doesn’t overwhelm the senses or the environment.⠀

I have been guilty of buying ‘pretty books’ because I liked the way they looked around my home. I was definitely drawn to the warm tones of this book cover, but its content is what sealed the deal. This will be an oft-used book of reference links and idea inspiration. (I also can’t wait to visit their California storefront!)

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.