Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Summer Afternoon

Time out from the day to day.  That's a summer afternoon.  A slow drive down the coast to find the sun and the sand and the sea.  A chance to meet others in search of the same escape from the everyday.  

We took our friend to Esalen way down the coast from us.  We went beyond and sat at a little roadside cafe in Lucia for some tea, conversation, and a lazy hour of watching the sun and meeting some of the others enjoying the same scenery.  In the summer it is easy for us to imagine we've stumbled through some magic portal to Europe along the Big Sur coast.  We find ourselves surrounded by German, Swiss, and Portuguese travelers, their conversations in varied languages form our summer symphony of sound.

A trailing melody of voices along the paths at Esalen continued the same European theme.   

As we made our way back up the coast toward home, however, we were brought soundly back to California by the sight of the California Condors flying high above us. The largest bird in North America with a nearly ten foot wingspan, they are one of the rarest birds on Earth there being less than 300 living in the wild.  The story of the Condor has followed me nearly all of my life.  News accounts when I was in school reported their near extinction and the efforts to save and protect them.  And there they are, soaring above the sea along the coast of California.

Back in our snug little home in the fog we felt we'd gone so much further than a little drive down the coast.

In bocca al lupo.  m & v


Friday, July 27, 2012

The Baker Man

An early summer evening on the Central Coast. The sun has been eclipsed by a thick, misty marine layer.  We close the windows against the chill.  Before succumbing to the gloom v decides this is a great time to bake some bread! O happy baker man!  

Now we're cozy.  The ballgame is on the radio.  We're sipping our neighbor's new recipe for limoncello. We'll have a quick supper of bacon and eggs then play a little chess at the kitchen table.  We're in happy anticipation of a visit from a friend from Berlin. She's arriving tomorrow at San Francisco International. We're planning to set out early in order to stop at the beach for a little breakfast picnic which will, of course, include some of v's fresh bread which has rescued what could have been a very gloomy evening.

Domestic bliss!

In bocca al lupo.  m & v


Hanging out in the garden.

The daily escape from artificial light and noise. 

I like to check what has crept into the garden.  I admit I planted a nearly dead morning glory in the garden many years ago.  I felt bad that I'd let it wither and dry out.  I had no idea that it would take over our end of the neighborhood.  It covered my fence.  I discovered it peeping out of a chimney pot from the workshop roof of our neighbor.  During our restoration of this little Victorian we found it had insinuated itself under the unfortunate aluminum siding and was entwining itself along the gutters and up through the old downspouts. Although we pulled it out we still find it winding it's way through the fence boards.  

Another quick ramble through the garden while lost in thoughts.  

In bocca al lupo. m & v

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Moment in the Sun

Is there anything nicer than a sunny spot to spend a summer's morning? A pleasant room filled with the reassurance of familiar objects and memories of time spent silently reading, time spent in laughter, time spent in boisterous conversation.  On this July morning my mind drifts to the scene of v on a ladder stringing lights on our tallest Christmas tree so far with the floor strewn with the glints of gold, silver, red, and green balls yet to be hung on that tree. No rushing the seasons, however. These summer moments in reverie of past seasons and anticipation of future joys we hold greedily for as long as we possibly can.  

We take these domestic portraits to hang on our walls as our personal gallery of treasured moments and in future to make matted prints available.  Let us know what you think.

In bocca al lupo. m & v

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Home Portraits

The comfort collections

In bocca al lupo.  m & v

Friday, July 20, 2012

More on Clearing Out

I am very soothed by order.  We've spent a couple of very dis-orderly weeks clearing out once necessary but now curiously un-necessary items from our lives.  We now face the dregs of what we did not let go of (yet) and the task of fitting them into our personal puzzle that is home.

It's like taking the house and shaking it through a sifter. Whatever is left behind must go. 

We allowed ourselves a truckload, the rest was sorted then sold, given to charity, or thrown away. We have now left behind an empty storage site for someone else to fill.

Just like Marley's Ghost we have been dragging, by an invisible chain, the weight of the accumulation of our lives and even some of the accumulation of our ancestors.  We are finding we are breathing easier without that weight suffocating us any longer.  

In bocca al lupo. m & v

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Variations on a Theme

This is a photo of a gray whale skeleton at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Whales are mammals, as are we. They breathe the air, have a bony skeleton, and give live birth among other things we have in common.

Be it evolution or creation the similarities are astounding to us.  Look at the pectoral fin on this skeleton. For the uninitiated that would be what appears as an arm.  Alive we would see a flat paddle shaped appendage, but look at this skeleton.  Do you see the fingers? Fingers on a whale?

Another view.  There's a scapula.  They have ribs and a spinal column, very much like our own. If you look very carefully and see the tiny triangular shaped bone hanging just below the last ribs you are looking at the vestige of a pelvic bone (and there are two).  

We mammals are like works of art created in an artists' workshop. The Instructor brought out a basic skeleton and asked the class of talented artists to create variations on the same theme. Each varied skeleton was then decorated to each artist's preference. Some mammals are furry while others are "naked as a jaybird". Take off our wrappings and we all have parts that correspond to the parts in every other mammal out there.
V says to me: "we are all related".  Looking at skeletons makes me believe.

In bocca al lupo (another mammalian relative) m & v

Fog's End Distillery, Gonzales, Ca.

Our neighbor has a distillery in Gonzales which is toward the southern end of Monterey County.  It's just a small town along Highway 101 established a hundred years, or so, ago by Swiss-Italians who found the region reminded them of their homeland in Northern Italy.  They established farms and dairies and many are still in operation and continue to be family owned. It is Ag Country.

Craig, our neighbor, is a retired Deputy Sheriff.  He was young enough, when he retired, to begin a new career and he decided he'd become a distiller.  He is virtually the only distiller in Monterey County, his product line now includes five lables: California Moonshine, Monterey Rye, White Dog, Primo Agua Ardiente, and a kit called Fog's End Hand Craft Your Flavor which is sold with oak sticks to add to the bottle and age at whatever length of time the home crafter prefers.  

Fog's End Distillery is a one man show.  Craig does it all, the brewing, the distilling, the bottling, the sales and the marketing. He drives out of our neighborhood in the wee hours of the morning to be at the distillery by 3 a.m.  He puts in many 18 hour days, sometimes more. He is meticulous, surgery could 

be performed on the premises it is so clean.  V got involved when Craig got his idea for the kits. He needed the sticks cut to specific proportions and v's got a nice little woodworking studio just beyond the garden.

A year, or so, ago Craig was featured on a cable television show called Drinking Made Easy.  Business began taking off.  The kit was a hit! V was making sawdust and Craig was shipping cases.  So it has now evolved that v has taken on some of the sales and marketing. He has many connections with the restaurant trade in the area and is also well known in the theater community. His showmanship and natural Italian charm makes him a natural salesman.  

Aside from really wanting to see our friend and neighbor succeed, we are very excited that this is a local, artisanal,  product! Buying a Fog's End product reduces our carbon footprint on the Central Coast and all over California. Less carbon is dumped in the ocean.  How good is that?  If you see it please try it. Many area restaurants and bars are stocking it. Nepenthe and Post Ranch in Big Sur serve it, Mission Ranch in Carmel and the Clement Intercontinental Hotel in Monterey have it on their list as well. I'm excited that chefs are developing recipes using it. 

It's just nice to see such a mild mannered, soft spoken man like Craig, succeed. 

Thank you, Craig and v for letting me get in behind the scenes to take my pictures.

In bocca al lupo. m & v

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Summer in Monterey


Sometimes summer appears to be happening somewhere else, but a day doesn't go by that we don't think that we've, somehow, found paradise.

In bocca al lupo.  m & v

Friday, July 13, 2012

Clearing out

What a week!  We have been working very hard this week.  Tension has run high, nerves have been frayed and, frankly, stepped on.  

We've been having a clearing out of the accumulation of the two households we brought together several years ago.  We've made discoveries about ourselves and each other through the process of letting go of the  fragments of our past lives.  We've had to, once again, say good-bye to loved ones whose belongings were kept as a bridge to a past that has passed.  We have distilled our memories to essentials.  

A couple of discoveries on my part are these: 1. a bad photograph does not improve with age, and 2. we could build a small house out of the books we have accumulated.  

We are letting go, saying good-bye, and lightening our load. 

At the end of the day a nice long soak.

In bocca al lupo. m & v

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Doubtless Hours

When I was a child my family would have Sunday dinner at my grandmother's tiny apartment by the sea.  When dinner was over the adults would all sit around the table with their after dinner coffee and tea and talk for what seemed like hours, and it probably was.  I spent the time on the floor with my grandmother's button box.  She would thread a needle with heavy thread and I could spend the rest of the evening stringing endless combinations of buttons.  

Strings of buttons were like strings of precious jewels.  Sometimes they'd be like dolls and I'd create stories around them.  They would be knights, dragons, mermaids and sea monsters. They clicked and rattled and felt cool in my hands. 

Over time button stringing faded away without notice. Other games and interests took their place.  But now, as I look at bowls and jars of buttons I have collected, when I am asked what gift would I like and I answer "old buttons", I know I can trace my love of buttons to that warm and secure time when the voices of my family surrounded me on those long evenings.   The doubtless hours.

In bocca al lupo. m

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sunflower Season

The sunflowers keep coming! This year's beauties were planted by the birds, I had no hand in this. They are even more spectacular than last year's showing. V insists they're over 10 feet tall.  The camera was pointing almost directly skyward.

They glow even without the sun, however we are lucky today and the sun came out for a few minutes just as I was taking these shots. The gloom is settling back in, but that's the summer here. I have a correction: v insists they are most probably 11 feet tall...

In bocca al lupo.  m & v

Looking out the window

Sometimes I just want to look out a window and nothing else at all.

It's been a busy week.

In bocca al lupo. m & v

Friday, July 6, 2012

A Walk in the Garden

In bocca al lupo. m & v

Monday, July 2, 2012

Sanderling Saga

The Sanderlings.  They are related to sandpipers.  We see them here, on the Central Coast, mainly in the winter. They are the little birds frantically running away from encroaching waves only to chase the receding wave back across the sand.  In the summer they are in their nesting grounds, the Canadian tundra.

The Sanderlings have one of the longest migrations of any bird.  Some Sanderlings migrate as far south as Tierra del Fuego. They travel along the Atlantic coast from Canada. Returning north they follow the Pacific coastline of South, Central, and North America. Except for when they are in their breeding grounds of the tundra the Sanderlings will be found almost exclusively on beaches.  

The Sanderling populations have decreased dramatically in the past 30 to 40 years. Total population has decreased by as much as 80% since the 1970's.  One of the most important stops for the Sanderling along its southern route is the Delaware Bay where their main source of nutrition is horseshoe crab eggs. Due to increased harvest of horseshoe crabs their food supply has been drastically reduced. This is devastating for these birds who arrive nearly starved along the shores of  Delaware Bay each spring. Development of beachfront property and the draining of wetlands also have a critical effect on Sanderling populations.

All shorebirds are impacted by the loss of habitat and the contamination of water and food supplies by the over use of high nitrogen fertilizers and pesticides.  What may not seem as obvious is that the use of these fertilizers and pesticides in areas that aren't near the coast can still negatively impact shorebird populations.  Effected ground water seeps into streams and rivers which eventually empty into the oceans. 
We all can take the time to explore more eco-friendly options in home gardens and dispose of pesticides responsibly.  It really has to be us, there's not a lot of time left for passing on the responsibility.

In bocca al lupo.  m & v

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Fish Stories

Back to the sea and the animals within.

The  California Sheephead.  The Sheephead arrived in the Monterey Bay during one of the warm El Niños and never left though their presence is still considered uncommon.  Their range now extends from the Gulf of Mexico to the Monterey Bay.  All Sheepheads begin life as females with rosy colored bodies. Between 7 and 13 years the female changes to male if needed. There is only one male in a group of Sheephead. If the dominant male is removed another female will change.  When the Sheephead changes its sex the head and tail become black.  They live in the kelp forests and feed on sea urchins, molluscs, lobsters and crabs.  Their protruding teeth help crack open the shells of their food.  Sheephead can live up to 50 years.

Another interesting fish is the Ocean Sunfish, or Mola Mola.  This is a very prehistoric looking fish. A lot of people remark that it looks like only half of a fish. They are the world's heaviest bony fish and have been recorded as being 11 feet long and weighing 5,000 pounds.  In California they've only been recorded as 3 feet long and weighing as much as 500 pounds.  It is not known how long they can live.  

They may have derived their name from their habit of swimming at the sea surface during daylight.  They've been observed leaping up to 10 feet out of the water.  Since most molas are heavily infested with parasites it is thought that this leaping behavior is for dislodging the parasites. Another behavior that has been observed is that of a mola basking in the sun at the surface of the water waving a pectoral fin in what is surmised as an attempt to attract birds that will come to remove and eat the external parasites.

The mola is a vertibrate, however its spine is shorter than its brain.  A 7.5 foot mola has a spinal cord that is less than 1 inch long. 

To see a mola is to notice its mouth is always open.  They feed by sucking and spitting. Their teeth are in their throats and are long and clawlike. They hold their prey (jellyfish, squid, crustaceans, fish, algae, and eelgrass) in their teeth and force water back out of their mouths tearing it apart for reconsumption of the smaller pieces.

There are generally one or two mola in the Open Sea exhibit of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The Sheephead is found in the Kelp Forest. Both fish have their own faithful who come specifically to catch a glimpse of one of these favorites.

In bocca al lupo.  m & v