UC Davis Arboretum Just Got Better!

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I have always loved walking around the UC Davis Arboretum. It was well established when I was a graduate student in the late 1980s, and even then it had a serious water quality problem in Putah Creek. The algae and other problems caused duck die offs and some stinky stretches. Now with a new design to help clean up Putah Creek, you can actually see the turtles swimming in the creek. The redwood grove has new plantings on the floor, and the new trailhead in downtown Davis is complete. If you haven’t been in a while, it is worthy of another look.

The new infrastructure in the creek helps to keep the water clean. Plus it introduces the sound of running water to your walk along the trail. You will get a healthy 3.5 miles of steps if you walk the entire loop. Along the way you’ll enjoy over 20 gardens, interesting bridges and paths and only occasional glimpses of campus life. I’m sure it’s kept many a student sane.

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Watch for slider turtles. The iNaturalist app suggests this is a painted slider.

I belong to the Arboretum so I learn about their plant sales and enjoy a discount. The Arboretum is free of charge. Most days you’ll have to pay for campus parking if you are starting from the oak grove side near the medical campus, so instead park behind Mikuni’s restaurant (by the closed Whole Foods). When you finish up you can enjoy a meal at Pluto’s or Mikuni’s. I’m taking my grandson on Friday!

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Trailhead accessible at end of D Street, in downtown Davis. Put “Arboretum GATEway Garden” into Google Maps.

 

 

 

 

Powerscourt: What a Garden!

img_6286One of the best gardens in Ireland is in County Wicklow less than an hour from downtown Dublin. Powerscourt gardens are beautiful and delightful even in the end of November–the mark of a garden with good bones. The house is a shell of its former glory since a fire ravaged it. The living spaces have been replaced by specialty shops and cafes. The stable at Christmas sells Christmas trees and greens. The garden drew me back and it still satisfies.

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This folly gives a great perspective of this corner of the garden. This is the area where Scouts are invited to camp each year.

The entrance fee for an adult is 10 pounds from March through October and 7.50 pounds in winter. There are discounts for seniors, students and children and it is 25 pounds for a family of five. There are headphones with additional information and an introductory film, both available for free. Although the repetition of how proud the owners/descendants are of the property gets tiresome.

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The Japanese Garden is well established and maybe needs a good trim.

I first discovered Powerscourt many moons ago when I traveled around Ireland with Cameon, my chum from high school. I had won airfare for two in an Irish-American Club raffle on St. Patrick’s Day. We flew to Dublin and rented a car to travel around the island. We started by driving north so our stop in Powerscourt was towards the end of our week. I remember it fondly and have frequently wanted to return on other visits. Even though it is only 40 minutes from Dublin, I could never include it in my itinerary. I’m so glad I made it back.

 

Entering into Pacific Grove Life for 3 Days

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I was driving home from the grocery store and I spied this garden as I drove by. I parked nearby and walked back to take some photos. The homeowner was at the mailbox so I asked permission to take photos. Cindy invited me to get a closer look.

I used to live in Pacific Grove in the mid-80s. A lot has changed since then, and at the same time it is still a delightfully “normal” place to visit. The neighborhoods and downtown on Lighthouse Avenue are charming. It is bounded by Ocean View Avenue with a rugged and beautiful coastline. I prefer to stay here over any other part of the Monterey Peninsula.

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Cindy and her family moved here in 1987 and incrementally created this garden over the years. They don’t have a backyard, but we agreed that we typically only use one or the other. This is better allocation. 

In the past I have stayed at motels and hotels. This visit I am with my daughter and her family so we rented a home. We looked on VRBO and Airbnb and we found the 2 bedroom 2 bath home we are renting on Airbnb. It has been more comfortable than 2 hotel rooms and about the same price.

  • We can cook meals.
  • There is a living room where Calvin can make play with his toys (and make a mess).
  • We can play dominoes at the dining table and laugh without worrying about waking up a sleeping toddler.
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Cindy even invited me to come in to the house to see her paintings. I shared some of my favorite artists on Instagram. We had a great conversation.

There is a debate raging about the phenomenon of vacation rentals and how it is changing the neighborhoods and city finances of Pacific Grove (PG). My daughter saw a sign for Measure M. I did some research and learned that Monterey and Carmel have tight restrictions on the vacation rental market and PG does not. Also residents have been complaining about over-concentrations of homes for short-term rent for over 3 years and the city council had not taken any action. I had noticed that many of the motels and hotels had vacancy signs, which is uncommon in my memory. There is usually some kind of conference going on at Asilomar or tourism that keeps them near full.

We were walking on Asilomar Beach with Calvin and a dog and then another 2 year old and her dad joined us. We did the usual back and forth about the kids and then he asked where we were staying. We admitted that we were staying in a home nearby. He shared his frustration with the vacation rental situation. “They aren’t paying the taxes they owe the city.” He also alluded to the partying and recently moving from Nashville, which was a party town, he was hoping to escape that scene. Sarah and I weren’t quite sure what his point was as we haven’t witnessed anything but deer roaming the streets and senior citizens power walking in the neighborhood. I mentioned that my neighbor has dedicated his investment property (across the street from me in Midtown Sacramento) for AirBnB rental. People are coming and going during the week and weekends. They typically empty a lot of “bottles” into the recycling, but to be fair, they have yet to disturb anyone.

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Not all people in Pacific Grove are this friendly, nevertheless if you stay open, you are more likely to have a great experience and possibly meet a kindred spirit.

As a consumer of temporary housing when I travel, I appreciate the range of choice available today. At the same time I am also sympathetic to the challenges it creates, especially in housing markets where rentals are already scarce and prices are rising. I also remember the signs posted in Venice, Italy protesting Airbnb and the perceived effect that it was pricing “real Venetians” out of Venice.

As we walked back to the car, Sarah and I discussed our conversation with the local who is going to vote to limit vacation rentals to the coastal zone (1 mile from coastline) and the business district. He wasn’t unfriendly, just frustrated. We wondered if we shouldn’t have rented the home we are staying in, and decided that we were unaware of the controversy, we are in the coastal zone, and it isn’t illegal. We’d like to come every year, so we’ll have to think through our options next year. Also, does Airbnb pay the local transient occupancy tax or expect hosts to do so?

IMG_5238When I lived here in the 80s, the prices were climbing well beyond the ability of people mostly working service jobs to afford to buy. Then the problem was that some of the supply was taken off the market by people who could afford to buy a second or third home on the Peninsula. They only spent a few weeks a year in Carmel or Pebble Beach and this had a ripple effect in the entire housing market. The Airbnb phenomenon makes it possible for upper middle class people to buy a vacation home and afford it thanks to additional rents.

It is complicated. When Airbnb started I thought it was restricted to host-occupied residences. It was both the attraction and the turn-off. I prefer a hotel to a Bed & Breakfast because I prefer to be left alone. Now it has become a platform for entrepreneurs with enough cash to invest in a dedicated vacation property. I use ride sharing services and appreciate the greater availability of cars where I am, the app’s easy way to pay, but it has not been so great for taxis. A lot of these apps disrupt the existing order of things and create new opportunities for consumers and the industrious. Hopefully Pacific Grove will find the right balance.

Designing Woman: Modern Tips from a Turn of the Century Woman with Impeccable Taste

IMG_4635 The first time I visited the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum I went on the guided tour. It was like taking information in from a firehose and there wasn’t time to pause and stare at your favorite bits. So much of the museum is about the atmosphere Gardner created. I wholeheartedly recommend the tour, and I am glad I was able to return and spend a couple of hours on my own.

Isabella Stewart was born in New York City in 1840 and moved to Boston when she married her husband Jack Gardner at age 20. She inherited her father’s fortune and began collecting art. Her friend Bernard Berenson helped her pick up some magnificent Italian Renaissance art from Venetian royalty experiencing hard times. She began designing a Palace to house her collection with exquisite attention to detail. It is located in Fenway and you gain admission with just $15.

When I looked back at my photos (non flash photography is allowed) at days end I realized that I was taking more pictures of decorating ideas that I was of the most renowned pieces. (Check out  January 25 blog). Here are the top 8 design tips:

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Gardner’s private entrance
  1. Make the most of first impressions. Don’t let your foyer become just a shoe dumping ground.

IMG_46212. Paint at least one wall “zappy blue”. The last paint color that inspired me was Jefferson’s choice of robin’s egg blue in Monticello. This is even more exciting. Gardner created the recipe and sent it to Italy to be mixed. I wonder if my local Sherwin  Williams can recreate this.

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The summer light is harsher on the collection–everything appears a little dustier and worn than in winter.

3. Take your objects d’art out of the cupboard and dedicate a sideboard or table to displaying them.

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4. Add walls or doors when your art collection outgrows your display capacity.

 

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5. Find clever space for bookshelves on top of hallways and doorways.

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6. Take your “great room” to the next level. I once went to a fundraiser at the Governor’s Mansion that the Reagans built but Jerry Brown refused to occupy. It’s owned by a couple who filled every square inch with furniture. This sparse version (and only half is in photo) feels so much more grand.

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7. Build around a courtyard. I’m creating this out of my postage stamp backyard.

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8. Create a snug. Room too large to be cozy? Use fabric to create a room within a room.

And remember good design is timeless.

Western Hills Garden a Gem

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There is so much to see and do in Sonoma County. There is the coastline, the Russian River and the party town of Guerneville. You can wine taste in Healdsburg or Sonoma. Great food abounds in Petaluma and throughout the county. Many of the historic Italian dining rooms dotted throughout the western county are still serving lunch and dinner. One that holds many memories for me is Union Hotel in Occidental, California. I don’t know how young I was the first time I rode in the car from Occidental, up and over Coleman Valley Road and dropped down to Highway One and the Bodega Bay on the other side. Dramatic scenery abounds and if it is foggy it adds an element of terror to the ride. I have a romantic spot in my heart for Coleman Valley Road.

When my Auntie J sent me the notice about the Western Hills Garden reopening for visitors this summer and I saw the address (16250 Coleman Valley Road), I got a little thrill. We needed to go on Saturday because that is the only public day that I generally have free. I saw that dogs on a leash were welcome so I packed up Lulu the adventure dog and we headed to Petaluma to pick up my Auntie.

IMG_4468We drove the backroads through Valley Ford to Occidental. Coleman Valley Road deadends in to the middle of town. The garden is part way up the hill from town on the right. There is parking along the road. The garden and plant sales are open Saturday from 10 – 4 as well as Tuesdays and Thursdays by appointment.

The entrance fee is $12 for adults. The garden provides a map but the 3 acres of paths are straightforward. Lulu was so excited by the smells of garden cats and wild animals. We were excited by the amazing plants–oversized lilies, large rhododendrons, and a tremendous diversity of plants.

We saved some time for plant shopping. I found some specimens that are hard to find in most nurseries. Now that I have so much shade, I can consider some plants that couldn’t survive in my Central Valley garden with hot summer sun.

IMG_4478I’d go back to shop for plants (no entry fee needed) or to show the garden to friends. It is always inspiring to see a truly well designed garden.

We returned to Petaluma via Sebastopol and to Amy’s Drive In in Rohnert Park. Amy’s features delicious vegetarian diner food. It is just a block from an In-N-Out if you prefer a double-double.

 

 

Not Every Adventure Needs to Be Big

 

b61eeea5-c8d5-4e6c-80c7-689460b67ea6At least once a week I go on an adventure with my grandson Calvin who is 16 months old. He reminds me of the joy and wonder of noticing the things we adults often overlook. Like the inlaid wood and carving at the Crocker Museum. Or the joy of going to the nursery in springtime.

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Looking for Gramma J

Today we went to the Plant Foundry in Oak Park, Sacramento, California.

72d1407c-f0af-4696-9082-14ab161b3a94The challenge is getting plants whilst enjoying it from a wee man’s perspective. So glad my daughter was along to help out this time.

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In a recently published book, 1001 Things to Do with Kids in Sacramento by Sabrina Nishijima, there are many ideas for kids of all ages. I have been looking for more ideas so I plonked down my debit card to buy this from Time Tested Books on 21st Street near K. Just remember, sometimes you can keep it simple and have a great adventure, like the time we never made it into the Railroad Museum because the wooden sidewalks and rocky paths were so fascinating.

Personal note: for a variety of reasons I’ve fallen behind on posting my travels. I am going to catch up but my sharing may be out of order to the timeline I traveled, so hang on!

Shopping Spree on Humboldt Bay

Everytime I go to Humboldt County to visit friends I don’t have a serious intention of shopping. Then Harriet and I start fossicking around Arcata. All of the shops are unique and interesting–no chain stores on the Plaza. There are certain stores we always pop into. This particular day Nora wanted to have brunch at Renata’s Creperie. We stopped at the aptly named Fabric Temptations and I bought a wonderful book called Hygge Knits. Then on to Hot Knots to browse at clothes and the Garden Gate for garden related gifts. We walked across the street to Caravan of Dreams where I found the ceramic pie pan that had been elusive.

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Special of the Day at Renata’s Creperie

We moved on to a new store that I’d never explored: Scrap. It is like a thrift store for paper, fabric, and all kinds of interesting items for collage and assemblage! I had a fascinating time, bought enough stuff to fill the back of my Mini and only spent $43.

We drove around the Bay to Eureka and started at Henderson Center where my favorite yarn shop has moved and I bought wool for a new project. There are many other wonderful stores including a Japanese market and a very good toy store. I was able to buy my grandson’s birthday present instead of relying on Amazon.

Then we continued our mooching in old Town Eureka. The wonderful local writer Amy Stewart and her husband own Eureka books. I went a little crazy getting used classic children’s books to donate to my local elementary school. I found another beautiful knitting shop in Old Town called Knitterly. By this time were famished again and stopped as Los Bagels for a sandwich.

It was a super day and I have no buyer’s remorse. It makes me happy to boost the Humboldt County economy.