Sunday, March 28, 2010

Must Have Mondays

I often create Spotlights as companion pieces to my blogs. Doing research I come across many talented artists who also believe that
Style, Beauty and Utility
are compatible concepts. Many of us endeavor to reflect that dynamic in our work. To introduce these artists I thought I might put together an occasional
Must Have Monday Spotlight
to showcase creations that are practical, add beauty to the everyday, speak to your senses and maybe help support an independent artisan.   

The first spotlight called "Hatitudes - Beneficial and Beautiful" a collection of fanciful sun solutions from Etsy and 1000Markets artisans. Just click on the thumbnail photo in the spotlight and the link will take you to the artisan's shop. The spotlight is also posted at

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Excellent Birthday Adventure

Early on St. Patrick's Day we packed up the truck with garden tools, hiking gear, books, and a cooler of cookables. We were headed to a friend's cabin at the beach for three days of unplugged bliss with no distractions but for the sound of the ocean.

We did our gardening chores first: trimming the weeds, pruning shrubs, repotting plants for the patio. Why is it always so much more fun and less of a chore when you are puttering in someone else's garden? Never could figure that out but we've volunteered to return on a monthly basis to work and stay.

With the chores done, the next stop was the reading room, to read of course, but to also work on warming the tones and reducing the glare of winter skin. I worked at the coast for 34 years and springs were always windy and cold. The big exception was El Nino in 1997 and this sure seemed a carbon copy. It was 70 degrees with only a light breeze in the afternoon. We're talking shorts and a tank top weather! Coffee in the same spot at dawn to watch the sun come up, though in long pants, bundled against the morning chill.

Presents Everywhere

The ride home was awe inspiring. We headed south on Hwy 1 for a few miles and then turned up into Mt. Tamalpais State Park. We have a couple of favorite places up on the mountain to sit and just be. This view looks south towards SF west of the Golden Gate Bridge. Off to our left was a view of Oakland, Berkeley, Mt. Diablo and SF and to our right the Farrallon Islands. When it was time to go we dropped down to Bolinas and headed home on Hwy 1, one of our roads travelled.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Walk Back in Time

The weather turned to perfect yesterday so we headed to Jack London State Park in Glen Ellen for a hike.

In 1905 Jack London and his wife Charmian began purchasing parcels of land that would become the 1,400 acre Beauty Ranch. They built a small cottage (pictured above) to live in while their dream home, Wolf House, was being built. 

Though he was known primarily for his adventures, writings and politics, he was also a visionary. Much of the land purchased for the ranch had been over farmed for years and the soil was worn out. Jack decided to change that and after writing each morning, he turned to ranch management. He read the latest agricultural bulletins, and consulted with Luther Burbank in Santa Rosa and scientists from UC Davis.

He developed a vision of sustainable farming, recycled ranch materials and as few resources as possible came from off site. He terraced the hillsides to lessen erosion, dammed a creek to provide gravity-fed irrigation, and used the manure from his livestock as fertilizer. His vision was prophetic, but at the time California agriculture was dominated by big business (sound familiar), and only today is his model appreciated for it's considerable benefits. A section of the ranch remains under grape cultivation for wine today. 

Wolf House was designed by San Francisco architect Albert Farr. It was a 15,000 square foot 4-story building constructed of volcanic rock, which came from a quarry in the Valley of the Moon; the roof was constructed of Mexican-style tile, which came from Oakland; the wooden beams on the outside and the trim on the inside came from Redwood trees which were cut and seasoned on their property. The house had 26 rooms, 9 fire places and a reflection pool. 

Construction started in 1910 and it was nearly completed when it burned down in August 1913. Several years ago, a team of forensic experts studied the cause of the fire and concluded that the fire was started by spontaneous combustion, perhaps from the oil soaked rags left by workers finishing interior walls. Much of the stonework of the ruins remain and are worth seeing. There is a scale model in the museum built from pieces of stone and wood that survived the fire. Jack vowed to rebuild the Wolf House, but had no financial means to do so. Instead, he built an annex to the cottage, where he worked for the next three years and where he died in 1916.  

Charmian built the "House with Happy Walls" in 1919. It was similar to Wolf House but is much smaller and more formal. She lived here from 1934 until 1945 whenever she was not traveling abroad or staying with relatives.         

After her death in 1955 at the age of 84, her will directed that the house be used as a museum and memorial to Jack London. Items on display include a scale model of the Snark, the boat they built and sailed to the South Seas in 1907, and became the basis his book The Cruise of the Snark. There is also a complete set of first-edition books by Jack London, many of the items he and Charmian brought back from their travels around the world, and many stories depicting his life and adventures.  It is definitely worth a visit and there are several other hikes to enjoy on the property from 1.6 to 8 mile round trips.

Food for thought: Jack London's Credo:

I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark
should burn out in a brilliant blaze
than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor,
every atom of me in magnificent glow,
than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Oh Lucky Day

This Winter Has Been Full of Surprises

Taken from the porch March 8, 2010

Thursday, March 4, 2010

What's in a Number?

On St. Patrick's Day 2010 I turn 65 and become a certifiable, card carrying senior citizen. Excuse Me? What was that?

In 19 ought 80 something I took my first trip to Hawaii to celebrate my birthday with friends in Waimanalo. When my then boyfriend, now husband of 23 years, picked me up at the airport he had placed a bumper sticker on my Subaru that caught the essense of it all.

"I may be getting older but I refuse to grow up"

I've always had a positive attitude. I think it's a combination of genes, the love and support of my parents and their willingness, hesitant as they were at times, to let me be a free spirit. I actually turned out to be quite a responsible individual with a career that spanned 33 years as a financial manager. Now retired I get to follow my dreams and creative muses as a designer, photographer, writer and explorer of blue highways.

Aging: The truth is nobody gets it until they get here. It's not a thing to be feared but rather relished, flaunted and celebrated. Who cares what anyone else thinks? You've earned the right to not act your age or behave according to someone elses expectations!
Attitude is everything: I may be 65 according to the calendar, but I am ever 27 at heart, albeit with a few more sound effects.
Aha Moment: Nobody is going to take care of this body but me. I now work out regularly. It's always more fun if you have a partner in crime so my husband is also along for the ride. We're in better shape now than when we were at 40.

Don't put it off until tomorrow: Life is short and there are so many things to see and do and experience.
Find your passions and get on with it: Explore your local parks, take up line dancing, learn photography, start a hobby business, put that scrapbook together, walk the Pacific Trail, or maybe explore the country in an RV.
Start giving back: Mentor a child, volunteer your time, work in a community garden, or donate what you can to causes you believe in.
Save a life and adopt a pet: Rescue a puppy or a kitten, or an older dog or cat from your local Humane Society. It's a known fact that a pet can improve your health and longevity.
Make a difference in someone's day: You know what I mean, little random acts of kindness like smiling at a stranger and saying good morning, thanking a soldier or police officer for their service, or opening a door for someone. 
Look around and really see: The spider web with dew on it, wild mustard in a field, a bluebird on the fence, or small child stomping in puddles. There is so much to be thankful for and much of it is right in front of our eyes if we take the time to look.
Laugh at yourself: From an old  birthday card I keep framed on the kitchen counter "Blessed are we who can laugh at ourselves for we shall never cease to be amused". Here's to being a little old lady in tennis shoes with an attitude. Now go play outside....

Photo Ages: 25, 37, 47, 64