December 7, 2015 – Thanksgiving, 2015 (a little late!)

We have ten for dinner – Mary, John, Sarah, Jonathan, Ryan, Nathan, Sam, Leigh, Rose, and John. Leigh is Ryan’s sister and Rose and John are  Ryan and Leigh’s parents. It gets confusing around here sometimes with all the John/Jons.

There are lots of contributions to the dinner. John P. made the turkey and the gravy.  I made roasted creamed onions, mashed potatoes, and brussels sprouts. Sarah made sweet potatoes. Jonathan made green beans and dressing. Ryan made cranberry sauce.  Sam made crescent rolls. Rose and John made stimparata (a Sicilian olive dish), veggies and dip, and three pies – mince, apple cranberry, and pumpkin. All the food is delicious and there really are not too many leftovers.

It is a lot of work and I am pretty tired out and my back is really hurting by the time we sit down for dinner. I need to find a way to simplify the preparation, presentation, and clean-up. I will work on that for next year!

My hollowed out squashes filled with flowers

My hollowed out squashes filled with flowers

The table all set

The table all set

John's turkey preparation ready to go into the oven

John’s turkey preparation ready to go into the oven

My roasted creamed onions

My roasted creamed onions

Everyone chooses their own plateful

Everyone chooses their own plateful

The family around the table

The family around the table

December 3, 2015 – The Daily Claus

Back in 2011 I did a series of Santa scenarios using my endless supply of Santas. I don’t think I ever put them on my blog. I guess I could write about all the hideous things that are going on in the world but I think I will post these pictures over the next few weeks interspersed with some real time events.

THE DAILY CLAUS "Dr. Santa, do you think we can save him?" "Hand me my glue gun, stat!"

THE DAILY CLAUS
“Dr. Santa, do you think we can save him?”
“Hand me my glue gun, stat!”

December 2, 2015 – Borax Visitor Center, Boron, CA

(We visited the Borax Visitor Center on November 10, 2015.)

One of the games we play in the car is “How many towns can you name that are (fill in the blank.) In this case our game is, how many towns can you name that are elements. Boron is one. Situated in the Mojave desert between the towns of Mojave and Barstow, it is kind of a bleak place. We’ve stopped in Boron before to see their museum but we’ve never been to the Borax Visitor Center which is situated just north of CA 58. After twelve years of plying this route back and forth between Pleasanton and St.George, it is high time that we pay a visit.

The Borax works include a giant pit, refinery, and visitor’s center. The visitor’s center is open daily. Down a long road you approach the refinery, then turn right past the pit, and finally ascend a hill of tailings to the visitor’s center which is buried at the top like a bunker.  There are plenty of things to see outside and at the overlook first.

The Visitor's Center is two quonset huts mashed together.

The Visitor’s Center is two quonset huts mashed together.

Here's the 20-mule team logo.

Here’s the 20-mule team logo.

Better yet, there's also a life-sized 20-mule team!

Better yet, there’s also a life-sized 20-mule team!

We wander around the yard in front of the museum and look at a big tire and also walk up to the platform with a great view of the works and giant pit.

So you think I look tire-d?

So you think I look tire-d?

Giant pit! (2 miles long, 1 3/4 miles wide and 755 feet deep)

Giant pit! (2 miles long, 1 3/4 miles wide and 755 feet deep)

Trucks entering and leaving the pit with ore

Trucks entering and leaving the pit with ore

 

A really large truck filled with ore

A really large truck filled with ore

The mine produces about three million tons of ore per year which is refined down to around one million tons of products in the on-site refinery

The mine produces about three million tons of ore per year which is refined down to around one million tons of products in the on-site refinery

Now it is time to go into the museum. We are met by an earnest young employee who shows us a movie and answers our questions to the best of his ability. (This guy who is probably in his mid-20’s has lived in Boron his whole life. It is a town of 4000 people in the middle of the desert. When we told him we were from the Bay Area he opined that he’d like to visit San Francisco some day. It’s hard for us to imagine why he would stay in Boron.)

As we walk around the museum we see displays of ore, a giant crystalline piece of boron ore and information about Ronald Reagan and the supporting cast from Death Valley Days. There are displays of all the things that boron is used for including,

  1. Agricultural products (boron is a micronutrient essential to the proper growth of vegetables and fruits such as corn, alfalfa, coffee, fruite trees, peanuts, grapes and strawberries.
  2. Ceramics
  3. Detergent (Borax)
  4. Fiberglass
  5. Glass
  6. Flame retardants
  7. Wood treatments (Borates are effective against fungus, termites, and ants.)
  8. Flat screen TVs and computers (Borates are a key ingredient in Liquid Crystal Displays.)
Unrefined ore from large rocks to fine granules

Unrefined ore from large rocks to fine granules

John doing a thorough job of totally understanding boron

John doing a thorough job of totally understanding boron

Some television and movie notables who started out on Death Valley Days

Some television and movie notables who started out on Death Valley Days

Rio Tinto Minerals operates this mine. They have a long history dating back to 1872 when the company founders began mining borates in Nevada. The operation is now global.

Another interesting Rio Tinto open pit mine that we have visited is the Bingham Canyon Mine located 28 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. Originally a copper mine, it now extracts a variety of minerals in a pit that is 3/4 of a mile deep. It is immense and definitely worth of visit.

December 1, 2015 – Blogtacular

Over the last two months Sarah has been writing an entry every day on her blog. The idea was to get her back into the mindset of recording what is going on in her life.  There was a time when I made a post every day with a thought that was circulating through my brain, a word that had captured my fancy, and an encouragement to live a healthy lifestyle. Then I had a small siege of hurtful comments and I stopped putting personal thoughts in my blog and only wrote about family events and travel.

This month I am going to try to write a post each day. Some of it will be about events already passed like Thanksgiving. Some will be about what is happening next like the celebration of The Birthdays next week. Several will no doubt be about food, a subject near and dear to my being. And maybe I will be brave enough to say Happy Holidays again and express a personal opinion without worrying about the haters coming after me.

When I write an intention down, I am much more likely to follow through.

October 31, 2015 Halloween!!

It’s Halloween and in addition to going to Nathan’s play there is Halloween to consider. I buy some candy for Nathan and Sam and also decide to make Snickerdoodle cookies. Now I am notorious for making bad Halloween cookies. My first attempt many years ago when Jon and Sarah were kids ended up with orange pumpkin cookies that lasted for an entire year in the cookie jar without being eaten. Armed with Sarah’s recipe, though, I know I will do better.

My Snickerdoodle cookies

My Snickerdoodle cookies

After the play we go back to Ryan and Jon’s where the cookies and candies are a big hit. Nathan and Sam put on their Halloween costumes for us and are eager to start their trick or treating. Auntie Leigh has made the costumes and as usual has done a superb job.

Nathan's costume is Pacman. The entire outline lights up and the open mouth is a receptacle for Halloween candy

Nathan’s costume is Pacman. The entire outline lights up and the open mouth is a receptacle for Halloween candy

Sam is Skylanders Wash Buckler. His insignia lights up.

Sam is Skylander’s Wash Buckler. His insignia of what look like ladders light up. Ryan says that having lighted features on their costumes makes it easier to find them in the dark.

Happy Halloween!

October 31, 2015 Nathan appears in Pumpkin Fiesta!

Nathan has been working hard with his fellow actors at the Palo Alto Children’s Theater. Today we see the product of that hard work, the play Pumpkin Fiesta. The gist of the play is that there is a woman, Old Juana, in this Mexican town who grows great pumpkins and always wins the pumpkin crown at the fair. Fernando wants the crown and he tries various ways to make his pumpkins as large and beautiful. In the end he steals her pumpkins but is caught and promises to use the real best way to grow award winning pumpkins. The children take the parts of the people, vegetables, insects, and animals. Nathan is Fernando’s scarecrow and is on stage the entire time. He says his lines with artistic flair and sings beautifully. In fact he is the best singer among the cast. Who knew? He must get his vocal genes from Ryan and Jon who are both very good singers.

Nathan as Foolish Fernando's Scarecrow

Nathan as Foolish Fernando’s Scarecrow

Fernando's Scarecrow and Old Juana's Scarecrow have many interactions

Fernando’s Scarecrow and Old Juana’s Scarecrow have many interactions

Nathan on stage with Old Juana, vegetables and bees

Nathan on stage with Old Juana, vegetables and bees

Nathan knew all the songs and his lines well

Nathan knew all the songs and his lines well

Here he is singing with Toro the bull

Here he is singing with Toro the bull

He looks so handsome in his costume!

He looks so handsome in his costume!

He has a solo singing a song with his scarecrow counterpart. He does really great!!

He has a solo singing a song with his scarecrow counterpart. He does really great!!

The cast on stage to take a final bow

The cast on stage to take a final bow

Needless to say I am pretty teary through the whole thing. John and I are really proud of Nathan’s skill and determination.

 

 

October 28, 2015 Tapas night

While John is at work Sarah and I decide to have some fun in the kitchen. We plan a tapas dinner, shop and cook the ingredients and then enjoy the results when John gets home from work. I can’t say that I will do this again soon.  It is a lot of work!

Here are the dishes in order of their being served –

Huevos rellenos de atun (Eggs stuffed with tuna and marinated vegetables)

Huevos rellenos de atun
(Eggs stuffed with tuna and marinated vegetables)

Pan con tomate, ajo y perejil (Bread with tomato, garlic and parsley) Needs work

Pan con tomate, ajo y perejil
(Bread with tomato, garlic and parsley)
Needs work. All the recipes come from the book shown which we bought in Ronda, Spain

Anchoas marinadas (Marinated anchovies) Love the white anchovies!

Anchoas marinadas
(Marinated anchovies)
Love the white anchovies!

Gambas al ajillo (Prawns in garlic) Exceptional!

Gambas al ajillo
(Prawns in garlic)
Exceptional!

Tapa de cebollitas y foiegras de pollo (Shallots and chicken liver pate) OMG so good! These were my favorites!

Tapa de cebollitas y foiegras de pollo
(Shallots and chicken liver pate)
OMG so good! These were my favorites!

 

Lomo adobado y manzanas caramelizadas (Marinated pork (we used bacon) with caramelized apples) Surprisingly the least successful. Originally it was supposed to also have an apple sauce with it. It could have used the moisture.

Lomo adobado y manzanas caramelizadas
(Marinated pork (we used bacon) with caramelized apples)
Surprisingly the least successful. Originally it was supposed to also have an apple sauce with it. It could have used the moisture.

Queso de cabra sobre cebolla (Goat cheese and shallot jam) We considered this our dessert. Sweetness from the shallots and tanginess from the goat cheese.

Queso de cabra sobre cebolla
(Goat cheese and shallot jam)
We considered this our dessert. Sweetness from the shallots and tanginess from the goat cheese.

 

 

 

October 18, 2015 A visit to the Pumpkin Patch

On Sunday Ryan, Jon, Nathan and Sam come over for lunch and we also visit the Pumpkin Patch so they can pick out some pumpkins and the kids can play in the amusement area.

First we have lunch at Main St. Brewery. This is usually our go-to place but today the food disappoints so we may have to find a new lunch venue.

Nathan and Jonathan at Main St. Brewery

Nathan and Jonathan at Main St. Brewery

Ryan and Sam at Main St. Brewery

Ryan and Sam at Main St. Brewery

Sam peruses the menu

Sam peruses the menu

Then it is on to the Pumpkin Patch at the Fairgrounds. Ryan and Jon came up with the idea to go there for pumpkins and fun and it was a good one. The kids really enjoy the blow-up slides and games. The adults enjoy watching them have fun.

Going down the slide is so much fun for Sam

Going down the slide is so much fun for Sam

He enjoys it in various positions

He enjoys it in various positions

Nathan is not too old yet to have a good time on the slide

Nathan is not too old yet to have a good time on the slide

Nathan demonstrates how to look cool while going down the slide

Nathan demonstrates how to look cool while going down the slide

Many of Jon's shots hit the rim but when Beeba stepped up to the line, the ball went through the first time with just a swish! (I enjoyed that a lot! No way could I ever repeat it again.)

Many of Jon’s shots hit the rim but when Beeba steps up to the line, the ball goes through the first time with just a swish! (I enjoyed that a lot! No way could I ever repeat it again.)

October 5-12, 2015 Jonathan visits St. George

Jonathan arrives by plane at the St. George airport for a week of fun. During the week we go hiking, play tennis, cook some excellent meals and he plays golf. We have an great time. Here are some pictures from the week.

Red Mountain Trail to Snow Canyon Overlook

Just south of Veyo is the trailhead for a long trail which ends up in Ivins. About two miles into the hike there is a half-mile spur to an overlook of spectacular Snow Canyon. The four and a half plus mile hike is the longest we’ve done in a long time and the trail is very rocky but the wondeful view into Snow Canyon is definitely worth it.

Jon and John at the Red Mountain Trailhead

Jon and John at the Red Mountain Trailhead

Hiking along the slickrock

Hiking along the slickrock

View of Snow Canyon

View of Snow Canyon

Jon at the end of the trail

Jon at the end of the trail

Happy hikers

Happy hikers

Playing tennis at Entrada

We play tennis with Jonathan almost every weekend when we are home. In St. George we play at least every other day. It is so much fun! Sometimes John is the lone man and I play with Jonathan and most of the time it is the old folks versus Jonathan. Over the years we’ve all improved and now can keep the rallies going for more than two or three shots. It is my favorite way to exercise.

Jonathan is at the net for a volley

Jonathan is at the net for a volley

Jonathan uses an extreme Western grip to give his forehand a ton of topspin

Jonathan uses an extreme Western grip to give his forehand a ton of topspin

Here's John about to hit a forehand

Here’s John about to hit a forehand…

and the follow-through!

and the follow-through!

We are looking forward to the next time that Jonathan visits St. George!

 

September 27, 2015 – Mojave Air and Space Port

 

On our way to St. George, Utah we do a fly-by (so to speak) of the Mojave Air and Space Port. It is Sunday so everything is pretty quiet. In fact there is only one other car around and they are taking pictures just like we are.

According to Wikipedia the Mojave Airport was built in 1935 to serve the gold and silver mining industry. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, it was taken over by the Marines. Until 1961 it passed among several different branches of the military and then Kern County obtained the title. Today, besides being a general-use airport, Mojave Air and Space Port has flight testing, space related industry and development, and aircraft maintenance and storage.

The entrance to the airport is flanked by a sign and a retired DC-8.

Welcome to Mojave Air and Space Port

Welcome to Mojave Air and Space Port

DC-8

DC-8

One of the companies operating at the airport is Orbital ATK which is in the space launch, propulsion, satellites and armaments business. They have an L-1011 based there.

Orbital ATK L-1011

Orbital ATK L-1011

Rotary Rocket Company, a former rocketry company, also has a building in Mojave. They developed a novel engine design and made test flights in 1999 but ran out of money in 2001.

Rotary Rocket Company building

Rotary Rocket Company building

The Rotary Rocket Roton ATV on display at Mojave Air and Space Port

The Rotary Rocket Roton ATV on display at Mojave Air and Space Port

The best known aerospace company operating at the airport is Scaled Composites, winner of the Ansari X Prize in 2004 for its experimental spacecraft, SpaceShipOne. The company was acquired by Northrop Grumman in 2007.

This way to space!

This way to space!

Mojave Air and Space Port also houses the International Flight Test Institute and the National Test Pilot School.

International Flight Test Institute

International Flight Test Institute

National Test Pilot School

National Test Pilot School

In addition to all this neat stuff, it also operates as a jet storage facility and graveyard. When we came through here shortly after 9-11, the desert area was packed with jets in storage. Now there are many fewer as the aeronautic industry has recovered.

Stored aircraft

Stored aircraft

There is also aircraft junk lying around like these old shells of fighter cockpits.

Fighter cockpits

Fighter cockpits

Finally after twelve years of driving through Mojave we take the time to stop and see what is going on here at the Mojave Air and Space Port. I am glad we did.

September 25, 2015 – Gardening

Sarah’s baskets of plants continuing to produce more vegetables…

Cherry tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes

Two ichiban eggplants and blossom

Two ichiban eggplants and blossom

Super chiles ripening. So spicy!!

Super chiles ripening. So spicy!!

Basil

Basil

Indigo rose tomatoes

Indigo rose tomatoes

We've got thyme on our hands

We’ve got thyme on our hands

Casper the Third (white eggplant)

Casper the Third (white eggplant)

Will this orange ever ripen?

Will this orange ever ripen?

Sarah has planted four kabucha squashes out beyond our fence (not allowed!)

Sarah has planted four kabucha squashes out beyond our fence (not allowed!)

Yesterday's harvest or perhaps, slim pickins'

Yesterday’s harvest or perhaps, slim pickins’

September 14, 2015 – Dinner at La Toque, Napa

In celebration of John’s 66th birthday, we go up to Napa for dinner at La Toque. It is nice that the restaurant is connected to the Westin Verasa so that we can just ride the elevator down to the restaurant and back up to our room afterwards. We decide to have the chef’s tasting menu which is nine small plates. We also get the wine pairing. Most of the dinner is very good. There are a couple of dishes that we like less but we are on the whole quite pleased. The service is outstanding. Here is what the tasting menu consists of –

Since they know it is John's birthday, they pour a celebratory glass of Roederer champagne

Since they know it is John’s birthday, they pour a celebratory glass of Roederer champagne

Along with the champagne we have an amuse bouche consisting of (l. to r.) lobster with avocado, fig with ricotta and balsamic, potato with lardo, and crouton with chicken liver mousse. The chicken liver mousse bite is best and the potato with lardo is the least successful.

Along with the champagne we have an amuse bouche consisting of (l. to r.) lobster with avocado, fig with ricotta and balsamic, potato with lardo, and crouton with chicken liver mousse. The chicken liver mousse bite is best and the potato with lardo is the least successful.

First course - chilled veloute of lunga di Napoli (a type of winter squash) served with creme fraiche and Chinese kaluga caviar. This is really tasty. John says it tastes like salted butterscotch caramel. If I made it I might substitute Trapani sea salt for the caviar. The soup is paired with a Taittinger 2007 Le Reve, Domaine Carneros champagne.

First course – chilled veloute of lunga di Napoli (a type of winter squash) served with creme fraiche and Chinese kaluga caviar. This is really tasty. John says it tastes like salted butterscotch caramel. If I made it I might substitute Trapani sea salt for the caviar. The soup is paired with a Taittinger 2007 Le Reve, Domaine Carneros champagne.

Second course - Japanese shima-aji with melon, cucumber and Thai vinaigrette served with a La Toque sake bomb. The dish also has a tasty green powder made of mint, basil, and cilantro. The sake bomb is a mixture of Japanese white beer and Midnight moon sake. (I am not a sake fan.) The dish is very enjoyable.

Second course – Japanese shima-aji with melon, cucumber and Thai vinaigrette served with a La Toque sake bomb. The dish also has a tasty green powder made of mint, basil, and cilantro. The sake bomb is a mixture of Japanese white beer and Midnight moon sake. (I am not a sake fan.) The dish is very enjoyable.

Third course - Our favorite of the night! Mendocino red abalone with daikon root and Konbu salad. The abalone and grilled daikon radish are delicious and the micro-salad has a touch of sesame seeds which really makes the dish. This is paired with an off-dry 2011 Mosel Riesling.

Third course – Our favorite of the night! Mendocino red abalone with daikon root and Konbu salad. The abalone and grilled daikon radish are delicious and the micro-salad has a touch of sesame seeds which really makes the dish. This is paired with an off-dry 2011 Mosel Riesling.

Fourth course - This is a blurry picture of skate wings with red grapes and a crispy piece of cartilage. Very good! The grapes give it a nice sweetness and we add a little salt. The pairing is a 2012 Michel Chablis, premier cru.

Fourth course – This is a blurry picture of skate wings with red grapes and a crispy piece of cartilage. Very good! The grapes give it a nice sweetness and we add a little salt. The pairing is a 2012 Michel Chablis, premier cru.

Fifth course - Twice cooked dry aged squab with roasted delicata squash and red onion tatin paired with a 2010 Pinot Noir, DuMOL, Russian River Valley (Dutton Ranch). The vegetables and leg of squab are really tasty but the breast is less so. The broth is heavily soy and it really overwhelms the flavor of the breast.

Fifth course – Twice cooked dry aged squab with roasted delicata squash and red onion tatin paired with a 2010 Pinot Noir, DuMOL, Russian River Valley (Dutton Ranch). The vegetables and leg of squab are really tasty but the breast is less so. The broth is heavily soy and it really overwhelms the flavor of the breast.

Sixth course - Grilled lamb heart, fresh chickpea falafel with Medjool date and cumin scented carrot puree paired with Swanson 2009 Merlot. Who knew that Swanson of pot pie fame has a winery! We were really looking forward to this dish because it's a little out there what with the heart but instead of the heart having a nice chew but tender from braising, it is disturbingly squishy. I've only ever had chicken heart so I don't have a lot to compare this to. We would have liked more of the carrot puree and less cumin.

Sixth course – Grilled lamb heart, fresh chickpea falafel with Medjool date and cumin scented carrot puree paired with Swanson 2009 Merlot. Who knew that Swanson of pot pie fame has a winery! We were really looking forward to this dish because it’s a little out there what with the heart but instead of the heart having a nice chew but tender from braising, it is disturbingly squishy. I’ve only ever had duck heart so I don’t have a lot to compare this to. We would have liked more of the carrot puree and less cumin.

Seventh course - Epoisses with black garlic and fermented plum paired with a Broadbent Madiera verdelho. Love the epoisses and the black garlic but wish the fermented plum had been a little sweet not just bitter.

Seventh course – Epoisses with black garlic and fermented plum paired with a Broadbent Madiera verdelho. Love the epoisses and the black garlic but wish the fermented plum had been a little sweet not just bitter.

Eighth course - the palate cleanser a cantaloupe cucumber ice cream with a crumble. I don't like desserts but this is so yummy especially the crumble. This and the following dessert are served with a 2014 Moscato d'Asti.

Eighth course – the palate cleanser a cantaloupe cucumber ice cream with a crumble. I don’t like desserts but this is so yummy especially the crumble. This and the following dessert are served with a 2014 Moscato d’Asti.

Ninth course - This is the less successful dessert and I don't understand why you need so many desserts. I would have been happy to call it quits after the cucumber melon ice cream. Anyway this is roasted peaches with toasted corn ice cream and popcorn brittle. The toasted corn ice cream has limp pieces of popcorn in it - not a great texture.

Ninth course – This is the less successful dessert and I don’t understand why you need so many desserts. I would have been happy to call it quits after the cucumber melon ice cream. Anyway this is roasted peaches with toasted corn ice cream and popcorn brittle. The toasted corn ice cream has limp pieces of popcorn in it – not a great texture.

And of course we are sent away with a little baggy of cookies in case we wake up in the middle of the night hungry.

I know this sounds like a lot to eat. And it is but the portions are very small. There is about three full spoonsful of soup in the first course and tiny bites of fish etc. Although there is a lot of wine, these are also small pours and have been drunk over three hours. Nonetheless, I am really glad that all we have to do is find the elevator and go to bed.

John has now informed me that he is planning on eating healthy and getting more fit in his 67th year. Oh, joy.

August 23, 2015 – Hookslide sings in Mountain View

Jon and the guys perform at the San Antonio shopping center. It is unfortunately not well attended. I guess the shopping center did not do any advertising. So it is the family, some die-hard fans, and some shoppers who happen by the venue which is well out of the mainstream of the shopping center. But we have fun and as always enjoy it.

Hookslide singing at the San Antonio shopping center

Hookslide singing at the San Antonio shopping center

Sam

Sam

Nathan

Nathan

Jon doing his solo (as you can see the venue was not conducive to much foot traffic)

Jon doing his solo (as you can see the venue was not conducive to much foot traffic)

August 15, 2015 – Trinidad, California

In order to escape the heat and smoke in the air, John and I decide to take a short trip up the California coast to Trinidad. I find a vacation rental that is on the ocean where we can “chill” out for a few days.

The rental itself is kind of odd. The whole upper floor seems to be someone’s house. The lower floor where the rentals are seems to be a renovation done as cheaply as possible. There’s no stove in the kitchen just a toaster oven and a convection burner. The bathroom is situated as far away from the bedroom as possible so it is quite a trek in the middle of the night. But it’s okay and we will manage.

Our rental is by the string of lights

Our rental is by the string of lights

We go to downtown Trinidad, find the smallish grocery store and buy ourselves some steak, baking potatoes, and a bag of charcoal. John sets about cooking and, even though it is a bit nippy, we sit at the outdoor table overlooking the ocean and Whale Rock.

John with Whale Rock in the background

John with Whale Rock in the background

Tonight's cook

Tonight’s cook

Great view for dinner!

Great view for dinner!

While we are in Trinidad we take a walk through Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park’s Fern Canyon Trail. Water draining into the sea from a retreating ocean carved canyons and left cliffs millions of years ago. The microclimate in these canyons is extremely damp and perfect for ferns, oxalis, frogs, and salamanders. We walk through this corridor of ferns dodging fallen trees and a small stream. It is quite a wondrous place.

Beginning of the Fern Canyon Trail

Beginning of the Fern Canyon Trail

A wall of ferns!

A wall of ferns!

Downed trees

Downed trees

We go as far as we are able without having to climb over too many of the fallen trees that block the path.

We also visit the Lady Bird Johnson Redwood Grove established by President Nixon in her honor for her tireless efforts to save the old growth redwoods on the Pacific coast. Once again we are in a special misty place with 600 to 800 year old redwoods towering above us.

Lady Bird Johnson dedication

Lady Bird Johnson dedication

Looking up towards the misty sky

Looking up towards the misty sky

Mary inside a tree

Mary inside a tree

Little John, big tree

Little John, big tree

I have only booked three nights and they go by swiftly. It is so nice to be in the cool of the coast. The temperature never got above 65F. Leaving Trinidad we take the long drive to St. George, Utah where we can experience the other end of the temperature spectrum. I think we need to spend more time at the coast in the summer.

July 29, 2015 – This week in gardening

Along with Sarah’s hanging gardens, we have quite a few other edibles in our tiny garden. The cooler weather plants are not enjoying the combination of hot weather and reduced watering due to the drought so they are showing some stress and the parsley is starting to bolt. So far we have eaten two tomatoes, one eggplant, thyme, basil, oregano, marjoram, and sage. Also, as you can see in the ground pictures our patio and garden are being inundated with tiny flowers from our pagoda tree. John blows the deck off daily but the flowers seem endless.

Sarah and I also went to the Farmer’s Market this past Saturday and found Italian eggplant! We made so much eggplant parmesan. We have enjoyed the eggplant for three dinners and one lunch so far. There is still a small portion left.

Produce from the Farmer's Market

Produce from the Farmer’s Market

So much eggplant parmesan!

So much eggplant parmesan!

July 24, 2015 – Nathan in the play, Princess Kaguya

Nathan is attending the California Theatre Center’s Summer Theatre Conservatory In Los Altos. John and I are invited to see him in the play, Princess Kaguya. In the production he plays the part of Satoshi, a narrator/guardsman. He speaks clearly and loudly which is a real plus to our old ears. Many of the children speak very quietly or are looking down or facing away from the audience so it is difficult to hear them.

The gist of the play is that a bamboo cutter finds a baby girl in the mountains and takes her home to live with his wife and him. She grows quickly and soon the father is looking for a husband for his daughter, Princess Kaguya. She is not interested in marrying anyone and sends a series of suitors away on impossible tasks that they cannot complete. However, the emperor decides that she will be his wife anyway. At this point, it turns out that Princess Kaguya is actually from the moon and her moon father has decided it is time for her to return to the moon. The emperor mounts an attack to keep her earthside but is no match for the moon people. Princess Kaguya bids everyone a tearful farewell and leaves a group of sad but wiser suitors and family.

Nathan does a super job staying in character and saying his lines. Afterward he poses with the scenery that his class has made, his friends, and family.

Nathan as Satoshi

Nathan as Satoshi

Nathan with his sword

Nathan with his sword

Nathan with his friend

Nathan with his friend

Three generations of Pilat guys

Three generations of Pilat guys

Ryan and Jon with Nathan and Sam

Ryan and Jon with Nathan and Sam

Nathan with Auntie Leigh

Nathan with Auntie Leigh

Sam doing his interpretation of a big smile

Sam doing his interpretation of a big smile

July 21, 2015 – Sarah’s vegetables!

Over a month ago Sarah began growing container vegetables. She has four baskets hanging from the overhead trellis. Each basket contains plants growing both up and down from the containers. From left to right super chiles and Japanese eggplant, basil and cherry tomatoes, thyme and indigo rose tomatoes, and sweet peppers and Casper eggplant.

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Today is the first harvest!

P1000865 (1024x768)It is a perfect little indigo rose tomato.

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The flavor of the tomato is both sweet and tart. Perfect! I guess it is not really the first harvest since we have used the basil and thyme but the tomato is very exciting. There’s also a five inch white Casper eggplant that if almost ready to pick. The sweet peppers are turning yellow and there are lots of super chiles. Sarah tends her crops every day making sure they have enough water and sun. She has big plans for next year when every available sunny space in our tiny yard will be filled with vegetables!

July 18, 2015 – Hookslide 15th Anniversary Show

On Saturday we attend Jonathan’s Hookslide 15th Anniversary show. We sit at the family table. Sarah joins us and Rose and John as well as Ryan, Leigh, Nathan and Sam are there for at least part of the time. Since the show is at Angelica’s in Redwood City, dinner is part of the experience as well. It is really my first outing since getting sick on the cruise and I am careful not to get too close to anyone. However, it is sweet that both Sam and Nathan give me hugs. I haven’t seen them since they were with  us in St. George at the beginning of June.

Hookslide does a great job singing and also telling funny stories about their experiences over the years. Jon does his beatbox solo which is always a big hit. We have a really good time.

Hookslide rocking!

Hookslide rocking!

Sarah at the concert

Sarah at the concert

July 1, 2, 3, 2015 – The End

The last two days of the cruise include a trip to Cologne, Germany and then to Kinderdijk, Netherlands to see the windmills. My last last two days are basically spent in bed. John is so sweet ferrying food to the cabin and going out in Cologne to find cold medicine. But this is no ordinary cold, it is the wrath of all the bacteria and viruses concentrated on a cruise ship.

Our cabin attendant, Zita, is so sweet.  In between asking if I need to go to the hospital or should she call an ambulance, she makes whimisical towel animals to cheer me  up.

My towel elephant

My towel elephant

I stumble up on the deck the second day and take a picture of windmills.

Windmills

Windmills

The non-stop from Amsterdam to San Francisco is endless. I am so sick.

Turns out I have pneumonia and here it is two weeks later and I’ve taken all the medicine but I am still not totally better. I am hoping for a better plan of action when I visit the doctor today (7/16).

The cruise was fun. Being with Peg and Ted was great. John and I, though, are just not cut out for the tour group kind of travel. We want to see what we want to see and spend as much time as we like looking at it. We enjoy the adventure of being in a foreign place not in a little pod of transported U.S. shuffling along on a pre-determined itinerary. We like to try new foods. We enjoy talking to real local people.

Maybe my views are colored by the fact that I have gotten so sick. I think you stand a better chance of remaining healthy on vacation when you are not in the same accommodation with same people day after day.

For the first time in a long time I am not planning or looking forward to my next trip.

June 30, 2015 – Koblenz, Germany

This morning we sail through the Rhine valley. It is very picturesque. I am still not feeling quite right but hope that whatever is bothering me will go away.

It is very scenic with lots of castles.

Castle along the Rhine

Castle along the Rhine

Castle along the Rhine

Castle along the Rhine

Castle along the Rhine

Castle along the Rhine

The trifecta - a castle, a cute town, and vineyards

The trifecta – a castle, a cute town, and vineyards

One of the perks of booking the Explorer Suite on Viking is that you get a personal invitation to visit the captain in the wheelhouse. Since I have no interest in doing this, I arrange for Peg and Ted, who are avid water people, to visit in my stead. John takes some pictures. While we were going through the high water our clearance under the bridges was really tight. The top deck was closed to the passengers and the whole wheelhouse sank into the body of the ship on hydraulics.

Captain in the wheelhouse

Captain in the wheelhouse

Hydraulics used to raise and lower the wheelhouse

Hydraulics used to raise and lower the wheelhouse

Peg and Ted watch the captain

Peg and Ted watch the captain

The captain steers the whole thing with a joystick

The captain steers the whole thing with a joystick

Ted is so happy in the wheelhouse with the captain

Ted is so happy in the wheelhouse with the captain

Captain's view

Captain’s view

When we arrive in Koblenz Peg and Ted go with a group to the Marksburg Castle. John and I opt for the Mosel tour and wine tasting. It is more our area of expertise.

Wineries in the Mosel Valley

Wineries in the Mosel Valley

A visit to Richter Winery

A visit to Richter Winery

Mosel Valley

Mosel Valley

In the winery

In the winery

We meet for drinks and dinner.


After dinner we listen to the Sounds of Europe. It is enjoyable.

Violinist

Violinist

Mary enjoying the music

Mary enjoying the music