Do you wear a watch on vacation?


Do you wear a watch when you travel? Or do you rely on your phone as a timepiece?

I am planning the last minute details of my New Zealand trip at the end of the month. I am not going to bring my watch. At first, my reason was primarily the hassle of keeping it charged with its own charger (thanks Apple). Then I began reading a book about different concepts of time and how they affect our relationships with God and others in Becoming Friends of Time by John Swinton. The first chapter is about o’clock, a concept I first explored with my friend UK Sarah. She and Roy are very o’clock and I realize that I have become very much so since I left New Zealand. When I was living there in 2011, I was redesigning my life and intentionally being instead of doing. Now as a consultant my life is defined so much by $ per hour that I’ve lost the stake of my redesign (and it is Sarah and Roy who are being more than doing).

I am so looking forward to my two weeks in New Zealand, and yet my joy is dampened by worrying about the time I won’t have to earn $/hour. I justify my trip by plans to work on my penguin viewing guide. Why is it not enough to be in beautiful places and enjoy friends and make space for meeting new friends?

BecomingFriendsofTimeAs Swinton writes:

The desirable state for human beings living within Standard Average European Time is to be able to handle the economics of time efficiently in a world that adores speed, loves intellectual prowess (quickness of mind), and worships comfortably at the altar of competitiveness, productivity, efficiency, and self-sufficiency (using your time well on your own behalf). The implication is that to live humanly is to live one’s life effectively according to a series of culturally constructed time tracks that are laid out according to the fixed and relentless rhythm of the two-handed clock… (p 31)

I want to glean the benefits of living in this moment, and this moment, and this moment. “Living in the present moment” is a catch phrase popular among new agers and Oprah fans. Yet few of us manage it on a regular basis. Vacations are unique opportunities to do this if we allow ourselves to move with an open schedule.

I am going to fly to Auckland and then on to Blenheim. The first two nights are reserved for experiencing an amazing garden and then I’m traveling with only a few set points on the calendar. My day on the Dunedin peninsula is scheduled so I can be sure to try a particular restaurant and see Yellow-eyed Penguins. Again, when I’m in Auckland, I have a few days set apart and the rest is very much open.

I realize that I’ve moved much farther than I ever intended from my redesign. I was right to think more would be possible in New Zealand than if I stayed in the United States. My return trip gives me an opportunity to reexamine my priorities and reset the clock (haha).

It may sound a little crazy but I believe God also gave me the gift of Grand Designs (on Netflix or BBC 4), Season 15, Episode 9. This episode follows a family in Hertfordshire who crafted their house for 10 years and they still were not finished. The first time I watched it I had so much judgement, and then I watched it again and I began to feel envy, and then I watched it again and I felt inspired.

Stay tuned and I’ll let you know how my intention to be present works out on this Kiwi Adventure. And I’m definitely not taking the watch.

Going to the Birds in Bodega Bay


It started with an early morning email from Penzey’s Spice Company. I was highly motivated to get the poster commemorating the moonwalk and pie. They have a shop in Montgomery Village in Santa Rosa, CA and I have family in Sonoma County to drop a few things off. Then the dogs piled on the bed and I looked at the weather forecast. It was an easy decision to pile into the car with the dogs and head to the coast. I stopped at my cousin Kim’s, then Penzey’s, then headed toward Bodega Bay.


Alfred Hitchcock filmed the classic horror film, The Birds, in Bodega Bay. I found my way to Highway 1 and Bodega Bay via Sebastopol. It was tempting to stop along the way and would have if Gravenstein apples were ripe. (Festival is August 17) By the time I got to the town of Bodega Bay I was feeling peckish and the dogs needed some water.

The Birds Cafe is named for the film and offers great local options–chowder, fish and chips. The staff remarked that I was one of many customers with a Sacramento Republic jersey. People from the Great Valley are looking to escape the heat! I enjoyed my fish and chips and especially the view from the deck. The sky was overcast and that was a plus. In the summertime hot temperatures inland usually sucks the fog over the coast and lowers temps by 20 degrees.

The staff at Birds Cafe gave me a suggestion for a place for the dogs to play in the surf. I was disappointed because there wasn’t much beach for them to run on but the dogs went right in!

We drove on to Petaluma to see more family and for the dogs to romp some more. Again, I wish traffic wasn’t so miserable (coming and going) because it is so enjoyable to visit the coast.

Dear America, You are Beautiful!

Somewhere in Alabama or Kentucky…

One of the biggest blessings of my road trip from Greensboro, AL to Omaha, NE is the realization, again, that the United States of America is a beautiful place. Of course I started my trip thinking that my home state, California, is the most beautiful. I might have even expected that other places were going to be a little bit ugly. This is not based on lack of exposure. When I’ve driven from say Boston to Washington, DC, there are long stretches of unattractive industrial landscapes.

Not so in Alabama, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa. First, it is super green. The snow and rain that flooded the Missouri and Mississippi rivers also keeps middle America verdant. Wow! The planters at gas stations and strip malls were bursting with coleus and flowers–plants that couldn’t survive outside in our Mediterranean climate of California. There are also great swaths of trees along most highways. The dead animals along the roadways are a kind of confirmation that there is a lot of life in the woods of middle America.

There are ways we can be better in taking care of the land–especially our soil–and water. America is still so open, so rich in resources, with relatively little population pressure. We have a lot to be thankful for and a lot to see. I have two states left to visit and I will have been to all fifty! Montana and South Dakota in 2020!


#Bookstrong: Eight Hours in Des Moines

Another Midwest Indie Bookstore from the Roadmap!

If you add up all the hours I spent in West Des Moines and Des Moines it totaled about eight hours (minus sleeping). Of that time, half was spent eating well. My son Tevis and I dined at Barn Town Brewing for dinner one evening. We enjoyed our food and smiled at the popcorn brought out to every table instead of bread (see below). With our cousins David and Diana (and friends) we also enjoyed an Italian meal at Billy Vee’s.

On my last day in Iowa, I had a later flight so I met up with my cousin John at a local coffee place (while a chain, still very much an Iowa place). The Smokey Row is a great place for coffee, ice cream and breakfast and lunch items.

I made a quick trip to Beaverdale Books to check out my last Midwest Indie Bookstore from the Roadmap. Then I went to the Des Moines Art Center. Admission is free, so it easy to spend as little or as much time as you like. I lingered over a special exhibit, “Lea Grundig’s Anti-Fascist Art.” Then it was time to head to the airport and return my rental car. I was worn out from driving but happy with the amount of time I had with friends and family.

#Swatch: Quilting Masters in the Family

One of Geri’s “tree skirts” that no one has the heart to cut into!

I was blown away by the talent of my cousins Kathy Fitzgerald and Geri Pieper. Geri has entered her quilts in the Iowa State Fair and won third overall! These cousins live walking distance from each other in the countryside outside of Stuart, Iowa. They both love to select the designs and fabrics, piece the quilts and add the backing. But then they both send their quilts to be quilted by someone who loves machine quilting. This allows them to piece more quilts!

Another of Geri’s amazing tree skirts.

I enjoyed going through Kathy’s quilts with her. She is hand quilting one of her pieced quilts. It is going to take a long time, compared to machine quilting, but this particular quilt turned out too thick for machine quilting. Kathy is going to yell at me for including this photo of her since I dropped in and she wasn’t expecting to be on camera!

The quilting on the left is done by machine. And it is very impressive. But look at the quilting below. Kathy and my great/grandma Mildred quilted this one by hand. And it is far more intricate. We just shook our heads with full respect for how much time and talent that takes!


#Bookstrong: Omaha, Nebraska


I am one state closer to fifty! I have visited Nebraska. I drove from Stuart, IA to Omaha to enjoy lunch and to check out a few more bookstores on the Midwest Indie Bookstore Roadmap. I drove directly to Old Market and then spent some time finding Our Bookstore. This bookshop is a well curated collection of novels, art books, and US history. I was able to find some interesting books on Native Americans for my brother’s birthday.


The Our Bookstore shopkeeper suggested I also check out Jackson Street Booksellers, a used bookstore a few blocks away. It had a lot of interesting books, but to be honest I felt a little claustrophobic and as a Californian it is hard to shop in a store where it is easy to imagine being buried in books in even a small earthquake.


I drove deeper into the suburbs to check out The Bookworm. It was more like Barnes and Noble with lots of gifts as well as books. There was this fun penguin game (below) that kids stopped to play. I was ready to find a post office to mail home a lot of the books I’d purchased along my road trip, especially to the friends and family I’d have to ship their book gifts to anyway.


I made one other stop in Omaha. I dined at Spezia Omaha since it is rare to find a family name as the name of restaurant. And I was craving Italian food. I was able to enjoy really good pasta garnished with a small steak. It was hugely satisfying–especially the tiramisu.


Omaha is a very pleasant city. What I experienced reminded me a lot of Sacramento… twenty years ago. I would have gone to the Omaha Zoo if it was not so darn hot that day. I figured if I wanted to hide in the shade, so would the animals. It is also in the top 10 zoos in America. (Not surprising given the Mutual of Omaha’s longtime relationship with wildlife television shows.) When I returned home and learned that my young neighbor is a nursing student at Creighton University, I could honestly tell her I liked Omaha.


How Does Your Garden Grow?


I dropped in on my cousin Kathy for a visit. I found her in her garden and she gave me a tour. Her garden is very intuitive. She moves plants where she believes they’ll thrive. Some are seeds from family or friends.

She grows enough food for herself and shares with many in the Pieper clan. That day she was baking a couple of pies for the family gathering and putting a couple in the freezer. I was jealous of her space, and not jealous because I know how much work it entails.

Black Raspberries

I do enjoy eating the fruits of her labor!