Independence Day; Fireworks or Not

 

On the barge
Shaver Lake circa 1982 with Bart

Dear Reader:

I have one really vivid Fourth of July memory. I was about ten years old…so that was 48 years ago! It was also the year that I fell out of love with sparklers! Since then Independence Day celebrations have been pain-free and carefree.

During the late seventies and early eighties, my husband (then just a boyfriend) and I enjoyed spending time at Shaver Lake at his family’s cabin. We spent the Fourth floating on the barge just like any other summer day. Fireworks were not legal, but they weren’t missed. The evening was spent on the deck of the cabin perched among the trees drinking and eating.

After we married and had our daughter, firework shows were de-rigueur. But, perhaps because of that early experience with a burn, I’ve never really needed the light show to make the holiday special.

Hope you have a glorious day!

Michele

On-board The Coast Starlight Train

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I am so impressed with this picture taken from my train window!

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I know it’s blurry, but I was on a train taking a photo of the railroad crossing sign…fun!

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Love the rows of green…love California!

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It was nice to leave the driving to someone else this time!

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Madonna and Bishop Peaks…I’m almost there!

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Time to toast the Cal Poly 2018 Graduates!

 

Dear Reader:

Amtrak’s Coast Starlight runs daily from Seattle, Washington to Los Angeles, California, via the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s a convenient option for me as it makes a stop in Salinas, which is less than 20 miles from my home.

I just need a ride to the station and I’m off! The kid in me seems to come out as I stand on the platform waiting for my train. I can’t help it. First, I see it, and then as it gets closer, I hear the great rumbling sound of the beast that will deliver me to San Luis Obispo.

For an additional twenty dollars, I’ve upgraded to a business class ticket so I’ve got a large seat with plenty of space to stretch out. Upon boarding, I settle in and unpack my brown bag lunch and prepare to just sit…and do nothing more than marvel at the beauty of my beloved state.

As the train leaves the station, it makes a steadily increasing chugging sound and the whistle sounds. I’m on my way to celebrate the graduation of one of my daughter’s friends from Cal Poly.

As a business class traveler, I’m entitled to free WiFi, but I know that perk is really no perk at all because most of the area between Salinas and Paso Robles is so remote that it’s without service. I find it oddly comforting to know that there are vast stretches of my state that remain undeveloped or sparsely populated and agricultural. So for three and a half hours, I sat back, relaxed and snapped photos on my iPhone to share with you.

Shortly after arriving, I continued to enjoy my day with a glass of local wine made from the grapes I saw from my train window.

Cheers,

Michele

 

The Comfort of October

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“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

—L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Dear Reader:

There’s something so comfortable about October. It’s a month to simply enjoy. It doesn’t ask much of us, unlike November and December that bring with them expectations and responsibilities.

This month I’ve enjoyed:

  • artichokes in balsamic with sun-dried tomato aioli (bubbles on the side)
  • a visit to a pumpkin patch with three lovely Cal Poly students
  • hot chocolate with whipped cream on top
  • cozy sweaters, warm socks and dachshunds in my lap
  • pumpkin bread, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin everything

I  ask only a couple of things of myself every October:

  1. I begin my holiday shopping! It gives me such pleasure to find the perfect gift for everyone on my list. (My daughter’s birthday is December 20th, so I get to buy twice as much for her!)
  2. I fill up bags of food and warm clothing to donate at my local food bank and homeless shelter. It is somehow even more rewarding to help others as the holidays approach.

And every year I find myself, quite unconsciously at first, reflecting on the year that is drawing to a close and the year ahead of me. The chill in the air and my plans for the future exhilarate me in a way that the month of January does not. I love October!

Hope you’ve had a wonderful month, too.

Michele 

Take Me Out to the Ballgame!

Dear Reader:

Baseball is seductive. I have not always been a fan, but it didn’t take long for me to surrender to its charms. My husband introduced me to the game about ten years ago and I’ve loved it ever since. I’m in the enviable position of being a San Francisco Giants fan. We grabbed the title in 2010, 2012 and 2014. We play in AT&T Park. With its expansive arcade bordering the San Francisco Bay, it’s one of the most beautiful ballparks in the country. There’s no better place to be when we’re winning.

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But, alas, baseball is like life:  you win some; you lose some.  There hasn’t been a lot of winning this year. So, my expectations were low when we showed up last week to watch our boys battle the Chicago Cubs. I figured we’d lose badly, but enjoy ourselves nonetheless. After all, being at AT&T allows one the opportunity to enjoy the sites and flavors of being in the city by the Bay. And, my husband and I were being joined by my daughter and her friend, so it was sure to be a good time.

First stop for me at the park is always the Farmer’s Market Stand where I order a Crazy Crab Sandwich and glass of Cabernet (organic, of course)! My younger companions had other priorities, and who can argue that the Ghiradelli hot fudge sundae is not worth the calories?!

 

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Suzie Katz and my girl…one sundae, two spoons!

 

I prefer a bit more “grown-up” dessert myself. I wait until the sun has set and the air is cool to enjoy another San Francisco treat:  the Irish coffee. Tourists have flocked to San Francisco’s Buena Vista Cafe ever since 1952 when Americans were introduced to the Irish coffee. Bartenders, wearing white jackets and black ties, make nearly 2000 warm, sweet frothy drinks a day. The parks version compares well, despite the fact that the bartenders are a bit under-dressed by comparison!

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Mmmmm…Irish coffee!

 

So, as you can see, we enjoyed the flavors of the park. But, as in baseball and life, one can be surprised. And, we were. We saw two well-played games…we won two well-played games! We felt the old familiar glory…for a couple of days.

I don’t care if I ever get back,

Michele

 

P.S. If the Giants win, the crowd is treated to the sounds of Tony Bennett’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” That never gets old.

I Remember a Tree

“People don’t remember each tree in a park but all of us benefit from the trees. And in a way, artists are like trees in a park.”

Yoko Ono

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Carmel Valley Ranch

Dear Reader:

There once was a tree. I remember it well…a large oak, in the center of a parking lot, that regularly shaded my car. Unfortunately, the beautiful oak reached the end of its life a few months ago. I remember the day; the entire property looked different without its grand  presence.

The tree is once again part of the landscape in the form of a bench. I’ll remember a particular tree every time I pass by or stop to rest on a particular bench.

Michele

 

 

I Believe in the Mayor of London, Sunscreen and Smiles

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Dear Reader:

I believe in pretty packages… generosity, feminism, friendship and flowers…art, whimsy, birdwatching, dogs and truth…long lunches and dinners on pretty dishes. I believe people don’t change but that the people we’ve loved and lost become part of us. I believe in Disneyland and Christmas and that my life has been blessed with a few angels in the guise of a teacher, counselor and grandmother. I believe in the power of personality, words, coffee, sunscreen and lipstick. I believe in smiling and asking for what I want because most people like to help and I like to get what I want. I believe in California and Californians. I believe in London and its mayor. I believe in creating a beautiful home and celebrating and entertaining frequently. I believe in the young and the old… modern and classic and that everyone has a story.  Most importantly, I believe in my own strength, the love of my husband and the beauty of my daughter.

And, of course, I believe in pink, as Audrey did!

What do you believe in?

Michele

P.S. And, I believe as Crash Davis does, that “there ought to be a Constitutional Amendment outlawing the designated hitter.”

Wisconsin

Dear Reader:

The food on the top shelf of the fridge is melting because the upper light will not turn off and it’s generating too much heat. Meanwhile, the ice-maker in the freezer has stopped working altogether. Annoying!  It’s January 22…two days after the inauguration. I’m on the phone speaking (well, negotiating) with a customer service representative from Sub-Zero. The contractor who completed my remodel did not register the appliance so I may have to pay for the repairs despite the fact that I think the appliance is still under warranty. Will the company representative agree? She can not miss the fact that I am sick; my voice is compromised, or sexy, as only my husband would say. I don’t know why I’m calling today, except that I should have called last week. Maybe she will feel sorry for me.

I attempt to create a rapport with her while we wait for her computer to retrieve the pertinent information about my appliance. I ask her where she’s located. She’s in Wisconsin. I wonder silently why “Wisconsin ” should generate a slight reaction within me. Hmmmm? Ah, yes…it is one of the states that helped elect our president. She apologizes for her very slow computer and asks me about the weather in California. I do not want to boast, but it is nice, I tell her. “However,” I add, “as you may have noticed, we get nasty colds in California, too! ” She laughs and continues to make enjoyable small talk. I get the feeling that I would like this woman.

Finally the computer is displaying the needed information and we are ready to get down to business. She asks me a few questions and we share another laugh this time at the expense of contractors who do not follow through with paperwork.  It is beginning to become apparent to me that I am just outside the warranty window when she says “Ok, it’s done! You are covered; here’s the repairman you need to call!”

I hang up thinking that she seemed a very nice woman…a very nice woman from a red state.  I am convinced that she could not possibly approve of the way the man in the White House speaks about women and minorities. She couldn’t possibly believe him fit to lead. And, yet…maybe …

Politics has always been of interest to me, and I have always delighted in vigorous debate. But, this moment in history is different. I remain deeply unsettled about this election. I am exceedingly  grateful for any small act of kindness shown to me from a friend or stranger. I feel that I am looking for a general reassurance that most people are good and want the best for the country and each other. After all, everyone has appliances that break, computers that freeze and colds that last much too long. That may not be enough to bind people in the long run, but it was enough for two of us today.

Michele