First time out in 13 months! 4/8/21

John and I planned a treat for ourselves and went out to lunch, dinner, and stayed over at hotel for the first time since February, 2020. I have to admit that not being able to go to restaurants for over a year probably helped a lot with staying on a diet but now that we are semi-free to do so, I have to figure out strategies to make good choices.

Since we were scheduled for a wine tasting at Imagery we decided to go to Salt and Stone in Kenwood first. For lunch I ordered mussels and John ordered octopus. Seafood, as a long as it is not fried, is always a good choice. Giving John my bread is also a successful strategy for me but probably not for him.

Pretty outdoor setting at Salt and Stone
John with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc
Mary with a glass Chenin Blanc
John’s grilled octopus
Mary’s mussels

Our lunch was followed by a wine tasting at Imagery Winery. We sat outside and it was a perfect Spring day to do it. Flowers were blooming everywhere and the temperature was just right.

John and poppies at Imagery
Mary at the winery
Tasting menu

After our tasting we made our way to the BW Sonoma to check in, have a little rest, and get cleaned up for dinner. The hotel is very near the square in Sonoma and it is an easy walk to EDGE, the restaurant associated with Stone Edge Winery.

We had a four course meal paired with wines which had us eating hamachi, a salad, halibut, and buttermilk ice cream. Of course these were not simply the item on a plate but each course was carefully prepared with delicious accompaniments.

Dining outdoors at EDGE
Hamachi
Salad
Halibut

It was so great to go out again. We still need to be careful but now that we are vaccinated, we feel much safer than before. We are looking forward to more outings and travel soon.

Vacation wrap-up. 3/4/21

On Wednesday, our last vacation day, we played some tennis and, for Jonathan, a round a golf. The original idea was that John would play golf too.  John decided to give his weary muscles a rest and spend the afternoon doing laundry and getting packed.

We got some yummy pizza from Bella Marie’s, had a salad and drank some wine. John and I knew that we had to eat something which we haven’t had since we started this diet 1 1/2 years ago. Pizza with Italian sausage and sautéed onions and garlic, wine, and a salad with real salad dressing (inclusive of oil!) certainly filled the bill.

At 5:55 AM MST Thursday we hit the road for home and only 11 hours and 5 minutes later (4 PM PST) we were home. Jonathan and I tend to push the speed limits a bit and our stops were brief so we were home a little more quickly than usual.

We had so much fun on our trip. It was such a welcome break from pandemic living. We played lots of tennis, Jonathan went golfing twice, the hiking was spectacular even if we didn’t find what we were looking for, and mom and Jon had plenty of shopping and cooking times! I am already looking forward to doing it again!

Slickrock hiking near Gunlock, UT. 3/2/21

I found some interesting looking hikes not too far from our base in St. George. The Bowl and the Vortex are mostly in a slickrock area in the Red Mountain Wilderness near Gunlock and Veyo, UT. Veyo is famous for its cinder cones and there is still a lot of volcanic rubble around. To reach the slickrock area we had to hike a very difficult downslope full of sharp basalt rocks. I needed help from John and Jon’s steadying hands.

The trail was not well marked and the hiking guide just said to follow the cairns. What cairns!? We would come across two or three close together and then nothing. So although we hiked around the area for almost 3 hours we never did find the Vortex. Luckily the area was beautiful and there were very few people about so our hike was pretty nice regardless of whether we found our goal!

Pictures from the hike-

As it turns out our goal was between the two big piles of rocks. We were told this by other hikers after we gave up and were going back to the car.
Jon did a lot of reconnoitering but did not find the right spot.
Here he is searching in another spot.
Hiking on the slickrock
Arches
Taking a breather
Enjoying our hike
Jon took this picture from quite a ways in front of us. I am a hiking slowpoke.
Basalt outcropping
Jon leading the way

Our reward for all the hiking was a delicious steak dinner with tater tots and collards and corn. Cooking together has been a highlight of our vacation.

Rib-eye steak, tater tots, and collards and corn

After dinner we took a walk over to our old house. It appeared that someone was home this time!

Our former house in SG

 

A hike and an All-American dinner. 2/27/21

John, Jon and I went on a hike yesterday up the Huber Wash in Zion National Park. Although the round-trip is supposedly 4 miles, it was a difficult hike for me since the rock-strewn trail was tortuous for my fragile knee which does not take well to any sort of twisting. My Fitbit said I went over 4.5 miles and took 12,000 steps but I did not make it to the end of the trail due to large boulders that I was unable to scramble over. John and Jon went on ahead and I sat on a rock and waited for them as they went further down the trail. (Poor me!)

John and Jonathan on the Huber Trail
Mary and John on the Huber Trail

That being said, this is why I felt totally deserving of my all-American dinner of a hamburger on a ciabatta, tater tots, and salad. In my less exhausted mind I would have had a small burger, no roll, half a small baked potato, and the salad.

Hamburger on ciabatta, tater tots, garden salad

Jonathan did a super job cooking the burgers to medium rare. I used some of the leftover fennel, onion, and red bell peppers to enliven our salad. And what can I say about tater tots other than that they were easy and yummy!

Sunday will be a recovery day for John and me. And I am planning something a little saner for dinner tomorrow night!

 

Visiting St. George with Jonathan. 2/26/21

We decided to take a week’s trip to St. George to enjoy the sunshine, the beautiful scenery, and to celebrate our vaccines. We invited Jon to come along since he is a great lover of the St. George area. He can play tennis, golf, and hike as well as accompany me to the grocery store and cook while he is here.

We have rented accommodations at the Villas at Entrada where we know the units are fastidiously cleaned and the tennis courts are a short walk away. We have stayed here before and are always interested in how one unit varies from the other. In this one, 2502, there is a separate potty room in the master suite bathroom and a powder room for communal use. We are up pretty high in the development so the views are spectacular. The kitchen is equipped rather poorly but we have brought along things that we felt we would need and can manage quite well.

Living/dining area
Kitchen

On our first day here we take a trip to Harmon’s to get our groceries for the night’s dinner. Shopping is a special mom and Jon activity. In the afternoon we play tennis. It is pretty chilly here but out in the sun even temperatures in the 50s are okay when we are running around.

Jon about to hit backhand
Jon set up for forehand
John about to hit forehand

After we are cleaned up we take some pictures from the little table and chairs in front of our villa. It has a great view of Snow Canyon.

Jon enjoying a Negroni Sbagliato
Mary and John
John and Jon

Our welcome dinner is the always fabulous Kenwood shrimp. It is a group effort with Jon and me cutting the veg, me cleaning the shrimp, and John doing the cooking. I think it turned out the best we have ever made it. Could it be that adding all the cream makes a difference!?

Kenwood shrimp – shrimp in a Pernod/white wine sauce with brunoise vegetables served over rice
Close up

Trip to St. George, UT 11/8/20

Braving the pandemic, John, Jonathan, and I took a trip to St. George and stayed at the villas at Entrada. We stayed here in August when we were escaping the smoke and felt confident that we could enjoy ourselves here without taking undue risks.  The captioned pictures narrate our visit.

View out of our “villa” towards Snow Canyon
Jonathan loves being in St. George
Going to the grocery store and cooking are a couple of our fun events. Here we make a fancy dinner of scallops.

We have managed to pick a very cold week to be in St. George which limits the amount of tennis playing we are doing. But we can go hiking and we have a great time exploring Gold Butte National Monument.

Entering Gold Butte National Monument
John and Jon on a hiking trail at Gold Butte
Mary hiking in Gold Butte
Jon at Whitney Pocket
John peeking out a window
Devil’s Throat is kind of a sink hole and really not much of an interesting sight
This is a new fence that they have put up since we were here last. I guess the land has become more unstable.
One of the sections we had not been able to find in our last trip to Gold Butte was Little Finland, so named due to rock fins. Luckily Jonathan found it for us by climbing up a steep trail which we had not noticed. I could not see all of it because I was afraid of falling but Jon saw the whole thing which he said was quite amazing. This is a picture of John on the way up.
A dragon formation in Little Finland
Going to Harmon’s almost everyday is a special Mom and Jon activity. Here are some meals we made while we were in St. George
Kenwood shrimp – in a Pernod cream sauce
Lamb chops, roasted potatoes, and Brussels sprouts

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We did get to play some tennis too as it warmed up as the week progressed. Here is a shot of John.
Jonathan
Finally we had to take a look at our old house. We peeked in the windows this time since there seemed to be no one home. It looks exactly the same like the new people have done nothing in almost two years to personalize it. Here is a picture of Jon near the Indian sculpture by our old house.

We had such a good time! Hopefully we will make another trip with Jon in February or March. Maybe we will be vaccinated by then!!

Halloween celebration. 10/24/20

Today we travel over to Palo Alto to see Alex and Sam (and also Jon, Ryan, and Leigh.) We have come bearing sweet treats for Halloween.  Jonathan has made a brunch and we all enjoy sitting around distanced outside while we catch up.

Alex opening her goodie bag
Sam watching Leigh with her phone
Mary and John on the porch swing
Left to right, Jonathan, Sam, Alex, and Ryan in family Halloween costumes

Wine tasting at Imagery. 10/19/20

Today we visit Imagery Winery to pick up our shipment and I have also scheduled a wine tasting. We sit on their back patio with the tables set far apart. Our server is masked as are we except when sipping.  We have our own pens and disposable water. They have taken great pains to make sure we are safe.

John outside of Imagery Winery
Menu of wines tasted

It is a beautiful day and we enjoy our tasting. We buy some bottles and pick up our Wine Club shipment. It is almost like being normal.

John at tasting table
Yay for a day that seems almost normal

 

Evacuating ourselves to St. George. August 24-31, 2020

After a weekend of thunderstorms which included a lot of lightning hits, California is ablaze with wildfires. The town next to ours is under an evacuation warning and we decide to get out of the fouled air and scary circumstances for a week in St. George, Utah. We rent a two bedroom “villa” in the complex where we used to have our vacation home.

Since Sarah is coming with us we have three drivers for the long trip. This is the first time we are on the road since the pandemic started and it is a little scary to be finding bathrooms and take-out food on the road. But it all goes smoothly and we reach St. George around 6 PM after a very early start.

We have had to make two reservations – one for the first night and then move into our digs for the the other six nights. The first one seems nice but we are so tired that we hardly notice it. The second one is unfortunately less nice and has many corners cut which seem like false savings for the owners. Polished concrete floors, terrible paper products, bad noise insulation, and no non-stick cookware are nits that really effect the quality of our stay. We even go out and buy a non-stick frying pan so we can cook eggs!

Living room in our villa
Dining area that we never used except to put our tennis bags on the table
Ill-equipped kitchen

Sarah spends her time moseying around, taking some pictures, accompanying me to the grocery store, and reading. John and I get up really early several days to play tennis. We walk over to the courts in the semi-darkness at 6:45 AM. St. George is really far west in the Mountain Time Zone. Although we can use the tennis courts, we cannot reserve one which makes me quite nervous as to whether our getting up before dawn will come to naught. However, although some other people use one of the courts there is always one open for us. It is warm early in the morning, usually in the low 70s but the sun does not emerge from behind the cliff until about 7:45 so the weather is tolerable. Later in the day it will be over 100F.

John ready to play
Mary on the court

Our other major activity is figuring what to make for dinner without our usual pantry to help out. A trip to our local grocery store, Harmon’s, is a daily activity. It is a beautiful, well-stocked store. Even Sarah is impressed.

Harmon’s

We also take a trip down memory lane and take a walk over to our old house. The landscaping has really grown. It definitely needs to be cut back. We look from the front and the back. We are afraid to get too close. While we are in St. George I am nostalgic for our old house and even look at real estate listings but everything is too expensive! Plus taking that 10+ hour drive is beyond what our old bones want to do.

Our old house from the front
The house from the back across the pond

Fortunately the fire does not reach our town and the fire teams do a great job getting it under control. By the time we get back the danger is passed and even the air has improved. I think we will consider taking another vacation to St. George, though.

Portland road trip, day three. 2/12/20

Our plan today is to visit the Portland Art Museum. It is about one half mile from the hotel. Walking to attractions and restaurants is reminiscent of being in Europe where you do so much walking that it burns all the calories from all the yummy food you eat.

Along the way we come across a statue of Abraham Lincoln. Since it is his birthday I snap his picture. Since the U.S. is going to hell in a hand basket I find an apropos quote of his. “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” Abraham Lincoln

Sigh.

Abraham Lincoln

The Portland Art Museum is full of welcoming people. We buy our tickets and drop off out outerwear and start our perusal. First we look at a display of photos and paintings about Mt. St. Helens. It is actually pretty close to Portland. I always thought of it as a Washington thing.

Then after some difficulty we find the European collection. There is quite a bit of 18th century French stuff  (not my fave)

Jean François de Troy, Allegory of Poetry, 1733,

and some mid-19th century proto-Impressionist paintings which are interesting.

Charles-François Daubigny, Field of Poppies, 1860/1878

I am pleased to see that there are some early Renaissance/Renaissance pieces as well.

Christ on the Cross, Sandro Botticelli, 1500
Madonna and Child with Donors,1386 Cecco di Pietro

Unfortunately before we get to the modern wing, I am feeling not too well. The combination of eating fried foods and drinking which I am not used to is rearing its ugly head. We return to the hotel around 2PM and have a quiet afternoon waiting for my system to calm down.

Luckily I am okay in time for dinner! We walk to a place called Q for dinner. They have small plates as well as entrees. We decide on small plates and order two vegetable dishes as well as duck spring roll and rabbit pâté. Thank goodness the vegetables come first because these are the biggest small plates we have seen. I am basically finished after the vegetables. The roasted root vegetables are great.

Roasted root vegetables on the left and roasted cauliflower and greens on the right
Duck spring rolls (upper left) and duck pâté

Tomorrow morning we are meeting very old friends for breakfast. I am really looking forward to seeing them!