Friday, September 28, 2012

The Day Starts with Espresso

Even before we were married I had developed a love for espresso.  I believe it came from a few trips to Paris I was able to take after my father had passed away. I rediscovered traveling.  I fell in love with Paris.  I even got over that pesky fear of flying and visited Paris several times. That is saying a lot since my first airplane ticket was purchased on September 10, 2001. 

Even though I could not speak French I was able to learn how to order an espresso, and the occasional double espresso.  Other handy phrases were: thank you, you're welcome, good morning, good evening, and ten tickets please.  I also fell in love with riding the screaming rails of the Metro. 

 Another key to my traveling success was blending.  I wandered the city map-less and without any expectation of being treated any differently than a native.  I dressed in the same style as an average, working, Parisian.  I was very disappointed in my fellow Americans who would crowd into a cafe leaving bags and satchels in the aisles for the waiters to trip over, or the complaints when they weren't served immediately.  I generally stayed silent as I sipped my espresso watching the endlessly fascinating parade of Paris rush past.  I loved my anonymity and got a kick out of Americans coming up to me, leaning into my face, and shouting in English while pointing "MAY - I - TAKE - THIS - CHAIR?".  I would just nod and gesture in response, not wanting to break my spell.  

Instead of being rude I found the French in Paris to be incredibly warm.  I found myself hugged and embraced by perfect strangers (and the occasional waiter).  I lived by the rule for a tourist: "Never appear lost" and one afternoon encountered a French woman desperately lost and asking directions. She was so flustered and anxious I waited for a pause and when I tried to apologize for not speaking French she suddenly laughed, "Ah! No French!" grabbed me and kissed me.  We walked arm in arm to the nearest Metro kiosk where she checked the map there.  I love the French!

Sometimes when I end a post I feel like Proust and his Madelaine's.  One thought opens a floodgate of memory.  Paris...

In bocca al lupo. m & v

Thursday, September 27, 2012


So, once again illness is coming to our house. We know it's coming, but we don't know in what direction it will take us.  We are now riding tides of anxiety, doubt, and sheer terror.  Hope is hanging by it's rope and the crystal drops of that "knowing" that all will come out well sparkle around us in brilliant bursts of lightness of being, but they are still not quite able to break through to surround us in a confident halo.  Too soon, too scary. It is v...

So my focus is directed to our home, our sanctuary.  To our garden, to healing. Our home, our garden, our love. Our first instinct is to fold into ourselves maybe in the hopes that we will find we are wrong, that we have been mis-informed. Or maybe telling just makes it more real and that isn't what we want.  I must stop here, because that is as far as I have come.

In bocca al lupo.  m & v

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Morning Walk Along Cannery Row

We took a walk down Cannery Row one early morning recently.  Delivery and work trucks were everywhere giving the impression that the canneries were up in full swing.  It's restaurants, cafes, and plush hotels now.  The Clement Monterey, pictured above is the latest. It is a beautiful place and it is right next door to the Monterey Bay Aquarium which makes it a great place for us to unwind after a shift and enjoy some of their delicious small plates for a light supper.  It is restful, open, light, and airy.  

Bike rentals are ready along the walk.  The recreation trail runs for miles along the old small gauge railway route.  It hugs the harbor and edges the bay.

Out on the bay restaurants sit atop the old cannery foundations.

Just a peek at an upper deck of the aquarium next to a shed at the back of Pacific Biological Laboratories, Ed Ricketts old lab.

This is the best time for kayaking on the bay. The skies are clear, the air is warm, and the crowds are lighter.  The kelp has been plentiful this year, so abundant marine life is there to be observed.  It has been a very good whale sighting season as well.  

Another reminder that we are living in paradise, how good is that?

In bocca al lupo.  m & v

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Shuttle Passed This Way

It isn't the best picture you'll see of the Space Shuttle Endeavor's final flight, but it's my best picture of it. v and I went and sat by the waterside waiting for the chance to see it fly over the aquarium on its way to L.A.. We were given a time window of 8:30 to 9:30.  Well, v had an important appointment and we had to give up when the Endeavor hadn't shown by 9:15. 

After taking him to his appointment and waiting for him to be called I headed back to Monterey very sure that I'd missed it.  Then I saw people still queueing up to get a picture!  I found a good parking spot, grabbed my camera, decided not to walk all the way to where everyone was crowding, took a turn between two old buildings on Cannery Row and WOW! It was coming right at me!  I had the presence of mind to start taking pictures as it flew past. I didn't even bother with any settings, just clicked away.  What a joy!  Pretty good stuff, and right now we need that.

In bocca al lupo. m & v

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sea Otters

From 1741 to 1911 sea otters were hunted so heavily by Russian and Yankee fur traders that they were thought to be extinct along the California coast. However, sometime in 1911 a small population of 50 sea otters was rediscovered along the Big Sur coast.  Luckily the sea otter became protected by the International Fur Seal Treaty in 1911 and by the State of California in 1913.

A sea otter is kept warm only by it's fur coat.  They have no blubber to keep them warm like whales, seals and other mammals living in the sea.  The sea otter's fur consists of millions of tiny hairs, over 400,000 per square inch, which must be kept clean. Sea otters spend hours every day grooming their coats trapping air within the hairs which provides insulation much like a wetsuit provides insulation for divers and surfers.  If  an otter can't keep its fur clean it will die from exposure.

Before the sea otter was reintroduced into the Monterey Bay in 1963 the kelp forest had been devastated by unchecked populations of sea urchin and abalone. The abundant sea life we enjoy in our bay was only a small fraction of what we have today.  Sea otters play an important role in maintaining the balance of sea life in the bay.  That said, not all sea otters eat abalone, and not all eat sea urchins.  It's been found that sea otters learn to eat whatever diet their mothers enjoyed, much like humans tend to gravitate to the flavors they grew accustomed to as children.  Their diet consists of mostly invertebrates including mussels, clams, snails, squids, octopuses, crabs, sea stars, and more.  Some are opportunistic and will just feed on whatever is available, but studies find that many stay within the "mother preference" diet.

The southern sea otter is a threatened and endangered animal.

SORAC (Sea Otter Research and Conservation) is a program established by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in 1984 to study and try to save the southern sea otter. To date 540 stranded sea otters have entered  into the program.  As much as possible the animals are rehabbed and released back into the wild. Sometimes their injuries leave them too vulnerable and they are either kept on exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium or they are adopted by another aquarium or zoo.

Currently the sea otter exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium is undergoing renovations and will be closed until March 2013. In the meantime there is a great new station set up on the aquarium's deck allowing people to observe and learn more about the otters in the wild, many of whom are tracked by SORAC.  Recently one of the sea otters who was a successful rescue and has been reintroduced to the wild, was observed paddling by on her back, very close to the deck, with her new pup resting on her stomach.

It is important to remember that as cute as the sea otters are they are still wild animals with very sharp teeth.  Kayakers, boaters, and others out on the bay, or the ocean, need to keep a distance from the animals of 100 feet, or more, for their own protection as well as that of the animals.

For more information on SORAC and sea otters please click the link to the Monterey Bay Aquarium at the side of this blog.

In bocca al lupo.  m & v

Friday, September 14, 2012

1st Year as a Volunteer

The next new group of volunteers are in the midst of their apprentice training at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  It's been nearly a year since v and I joined and began this magical journey.  Recruitment now occurs twice a year, spring and fall.  

Yesterday we were delighted to act as personal guides for a group of friends of ours from out of town. I am amazed at how far I've come since joining the aquarium. A year ago I was only sure I could tell a fish from a dog.  Now I'm able to interpret the life cycle of jellies, explain that sea cucumbers, sea stars, and sea urchins are related, and direct folks, without hesitation to the nearest restroom.  I have great pleasure introducing children to living sea creatures and helping them look through a window at that very special world under the waves.

When we go tide pooling, or just walking along the shore, we see so much more than we ever saw before. We can identify things that we never even noticed before such as the egg case of a Moon Snail encrusted with broken shells, and corals.

I have links included in my links list to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Blog and to their website as well as MBARI (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute) where amazing videos can be viewed.  v's favorite is the Mimic Octopus.  Check it out. 

In bocca al lupo.  m & v

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Pacific Grove

This afternoon we decided to take our supper on the road. We packed our thermos with soup, picked up a baguette and wine at the market and headed for the coast.  The light was so delightful as we passed through this little neighborhood in Pacific Grove I stopped and took some photos.  We love the houses throughout this little town that calls itself "America's Last Hometown".  Originally Pacific Grove was a Methodist summer camp, but it didn't take long for the campers to decide this would be a perfect place to live year round so they built permanent structures at their campsites. 

 Many of the homes bear plaques announcing the name of the original resident.

In July Pacific Grove puts on the annual Feast of Lanterns festival.  Many homes decorate their porches and gardens with colorful lanterns.  

The town, situated at the point of the peninsula, is no longer a Methodist retreat.  It is a charming seaside town with a wide variety of year round residents. Each neighborhood is a delightful mix of architecture and color, we just wanted to share this one with you.

In bocca al lupo. m & v 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Hello/Good-bye to Summer

Labor Day weekend used to be so bittersweet. School would be starting Tuesday and we would all say good-bye to summer. Growing up in Southern California meant we would collect scrap wood and haul it to the beach. There were big concrete fire rings all along the shore where we'd build our bonfires.  We'd spend the daylight hours alternately swimming, surfing, or just splashing in the water, building sand castles, and lying in the sun refining our summer tan before classrooms would render us pale again. 

As the sun set we would light the fires and enjoy watching the flames and talk the evening away about our dreams for the future.

Well the future is here and summer doesn't end with Labor Day any more.  In fact, living on the Central Coast, there's a good argument that summer is just beginning. The garden is getting more sun and warmth than it's had for the past several weeks and the tomatoes are finally showing up ripe and sweet.  The green beans have to be picked daily, and we're given armloads of corn from our friends who planted earlier than we did.  It is finally warm enough to sit outside in the early evening and enjoy a glass of wine and conversation carried on the breeze.  And we still while away the time talking about our dreams for the future.  

Summer: when all things are possible.

In bocca al lupo. m & v

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Birthday and Golden Gate Park

To celebrate v's birthday, Friday, we drove up to San Francisco to visit the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, and to take in a show, War Horse.  

We don't always check out the view from the observation tower, but Friday we decided we would.  It has a 360 degree view of San Francisco.  The sun just peeked out briefly while we were up there.

We did get some sunshine Saturday morning on our way back through the park.  We were taking a drive I hadn't taken before so I was delighted to discover the  Conservatory.

The Conservatory was completed in 1879 and was patterned after the Conservatory Kew Gardens, in England.  The San Francisco Conservatory was a gift from "public minded citizens" to the city. I'd heard of this building, but had never seen it before.

Next to the Conservatory is the glorious dahlia garden.

We've, neither of us, ever seen so many dahlias. The colors are intoxicating.  Blood red to snow white. Tiny tight buds to magnificent giants with long spiky petals.

We'll leave you with these images for now.

In bocca al lupo. m & v