Just a Whole Lotta Lake Tahoe

Fall in Northern California is something special. I am unapologetic about photographing every leaf around Lake Tahoe…

When will I tire of standing on a hill and looking down to the bottom of the lake??

We were a little disappointed the day was so overcast. The white clouds gave a cast to the lake that took away its brilliant blue hue.

You can see every pebble on the bottom.

As Hannah and I ooo’d and ahh’d, I realized Scott was no longer with us. I started looking around and found this curious site…

He found a treasure. 🙂

There are a few years between these two pictures, but the look-what-I-found enthusiasm is just the same!

After spending some time around the northern part of the lake (my favorite spot), we drove along the edge – along MANY winding, hairpin curves – to the southern part of the lake. Emerald Bay is a big touristy spot so there are always lots of people around. We lucked out that there weren’t as many as when we were here in August.

(Did I mention it was a really windy day?!)

We stopped to walk on a beach front off the lake. It’s hard to beat beach sand, clear water and mountains in the distance.

Autumn in northern California is a thing of beauty and contrast.

There was a kid’s playground we had a little fun with too…

Hannah and I walked a beautiful trail from the beach over to a dock area for some more pictures of the lake. It’s hard to stop finding new vistas and new jaw-dropping views.

I mostly try to wait and take pictures of the scenery without cars in the way. But sometimes it’s good to see the vast size difference between ‘regular life’ and nature.

The nearby wildfires were also evident. As the sun set, the hazy smoke in the sky became more and more apparent.

Another day of magnificent granite rock and pine trees unbelievably tall and so long you can hardly bend back far enough to see it all. The aspens were making a spectacular show of things too!

The drive was picture perfect. We couldn’t have asked for a better day of brilliant color, cool temperatures and memory-making views.

Napa Valley

On Monday we explored the grandeur of Yosemite National Park (read here) and on Tuesday we drove north to Napa Valley. Yountville and Calistoga are favorites.

Of course Hannah (rightfully so!) compared everything to the movie Parent Trap! -ha.

I loved how this winery mixed fall decor with succulents. (I was taking copious notes!!)

This statue will always remind me of visiting Yountville right after my son and daughter-in-law lost their beloved dog, Max. It was such a sad time for everyone so seeing this statue entitled ‘Who Saved Who’ was very sweet.

Wandering around the old Marketplace building is enjoyable both from the perspective of the shops as well as the architectural elements of the building.

Hannah’s love for Young Frankenstein knows no end!!

Scott and I have been to the Napa Valley region in the winter, the late spring and now Fall. It’s fascinating to see how things change from season to season. One magnificent highlight dies back as a new spotlight appears somewhere else.

The French Laundry. I have talked before about my respect for this restaurant and its owner and chef, Thomas Keller. Named the Best Restaurant in the World in 2003 and 2004, recipient of the coveted 3-star Michelin award and ultimately called “the best restaurant in the world, period” in 2005 by Anthony Bourdain.

In the 1920s, the building was owned by John Lande who used it as a French steam laundry, thus the name.

The restaurant wasn’t officially open yet so Hannah and I wandered around to the back…

It was beautiful and calm in the back. Easy to imagine guests milling about on a cool, Fall evening.

But then I noticed the open windows across the way and about dropped to my knees! It was the kitchen!!! I stood for an awkward amount of time – in reverence – and watched all the kitchen staff in their sharp, white uniforms, diligently working to prepare the evening meal.

In my imagination, this was Chef Thomas Keller. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it! 🙂

The door that leads to the magic.

Not to mention that Anthony Bourdain once walked through it. Maybe stood outside and smoked a bit before returning to the kitchen to see how they prepared his delicious meal. sighhhh…..

Across the street from The French Laundry, is their garden. Without hesitation, it is the most beautifully perfect garden I have ever seen. We spent a long time walking around, reading about the different types of vegetables growing, etc. It’s the garden every gardener dreams of in their wildest imaginations.

And let’s face it – it’s all about the irrigation capabilities, right??

Bees to support the garden…

The most adorable chicken coop area…

And an enormous herb greenhouse.

It is a dream to imagine living like this. Supporting yourself through your own sustainable gardening.

We have yet to identify this nut tree. Anyone have any ideas?? (It doesn’t appear to be an almond when we broke it open.)

Down the street from The French Laundry is a Thomas Keller owned bakery, Bouchon Bakery. While I can’t afford the $310 a plate dinner at TFL, I will happily pay for the best croissant I’ve ever had. And the best macarons. Each time I come I think it might be a fluke, but no…they are the best in the universe!!!

Hanging in the Marketplace building is a colored drawing of the cookbooks from the local chefs of Napa Valley. I want every book – and the drawing of them!

We spent most of our time in Yountville, then drove through Napa’s plethora of vineyards. We’ve seen these vineyards in 3 seasons and each one is as fascinating as the next. It was fun to be experiencing it with Hannah this time.

Rows and rows of perfection.

Miles and miles of fun.

A perfect way to relax.

 

 

 

A Viewmaster Vacation

As a kid I remember my grandmother had the coolest Viewmaster with slides and slides of beautiful scenery and landscape. I would click and click through each slide with my eyes pressed firmly against the back – wondering where these magical places existed and how soon I could get there to see them in person. Maybe this is where my wanderlust soul took route.

As we drove closer and closer to Lake Tahoe, we kept remarking how unreal our surroundings looked. Unreal as in not real. They were like a scene from a movie or…a slide on a Viewmaster reel. And in so many ways, we kept running across a 50’s-style infomercial for traveling across America.

In my last post I mentioned we stayed in Carnelian Bay (the northwestern part of Lake Tahoe). On our first day we traveled over to Nevada, down the east side of the lake as far as Hwy 50. We stopped a million times and took pictures and walked around the various points on the east side (the Nevada side) of the lake. I don’t know if it was the lack of people or the lack of commercial/touristy areas, but this was my favorite area of Lake Tahoe. On the next day we traveled along the western side of the lake – down to the state line on the other side. (On the map below I marked our territory from star to star.) Again, each day included a million stops for pictures and walking (I refuse to say ‘hiking’. I’m not worthy.) We took our time and enjoyed each leg of the journey, feeling completely unrushed.

We started our day with some coffee and breakfast at The Dam Cafe.

There was only a little bit of snow left on the Sierra Nevada Mountains to see from the winter. This past winter was especially rough. Our daily news (in Sacramento) talked about it on the nightly news and the Tahoe locals we encountered this week were eager to talk about how rough it was. Fortunately, it filled the basins with enough water to take our area out of the drought stage and (…how they figure this is beyond my limited brain capacity…) – they say there is now enough water in reserve to support northern California for three years if it never rained again.

Lake Tahoe is biking, biking, biking everywhere. And when people aren’t biking, they’re golfing. Many routes. Many courses.

Driving was sometimes a little tense. The edges of the road dropped over to plummeting basins and valleys below.

There were also plenty of extreme curves in the road. Scott was a trooper. (Especially for someone who is NOT a fan of heights!)

Curves. Drop-offs. And plenty of steering-wheel gripping. 🙂

We get our share of snow in the Midwest. But to see the poles along the sides of the road that are flags for snow plowers to use as guides to where the end of the street is…well that’s a WHOLE lot of snowfall!

We saw a lot of ground squirrels, but no bears. Which I was a little disappointed about. (Although I would completely freeze and be eaten alive. So there’s that.)

We climbed these rocks to see the view from the top. It was fun (and I TOTALLY felt like Jeremy Collins) until the lizards appeared near my hands on the rocks. Then I was ready for the security of my passenger seat and the car’s air-conditioning. -ha!

6’3″ Scott looked like an ant next to the Lake Tahoe landscape.

We didn’t see a lot of it, but occasionally there were acres of burned trees among the incalculable amount of tall, straight, pine trees around the lake’s edge.

I couldn’t get over the amount of packed-in pine trees. And all so perfectly straight and tall!

(There were other beautiful things too…)

And everywhere – hills to be climbed. Pelaton spin class bicycles had nothing on Lake Tahoe!

We thought we’d found a geode….

 

#geodefail

We stopped at a cute roadside garden center along our way. I bought some nasturtium while Scott was off videoing the trees for sale vs the natural trees all around.

 

We also visited Olympic Village in Squaw Valley – home of the 1960 Winter Olympics.

The town at the foot of the ski runs looked like a European village. I can just imagine it in the winter snow!

A decision we might not make again was our verrrrrrrrrrrry backroads trip to see a waterfall in Fallen Leaf Park. The gravel road was too narrow for two cars so everyone had to take turns pulling off to the side of the road when an approaching car came toward you on the other side. Most of the road was unpaved.

But there were some cool houses tucked inside the forests. Houses that looked like they were begging writers to come seclude themselves there and write an award-winning novel.

It doesn’t look like much in the pictures but if you can find the people walking along the granite edges, you can get a better perspective of the size.

It took us about an hour to get to the waterfall. I’m glad we saw it, but the trip there and back was……rough.

Before leaving Lake Tahoe and heading home, we stopped at Camp Richardson.

It looked like an area frozen in time. Everyone on bicycles. Kids running in and out of the general store, slamming the screened door behind them as they bought candy bars then raced on to their next adventure.

Nearby, campers were set up in the grove of the trees. Camper doors open for the coming and going of family members as they spread out to find awaiting adventures.

It was an amazing few days away. We returned home feeling like we had just traveled three states away – not just an hour and a half. We are already anxious to return soon. Come visit us and we will take you to our favorite Lake Tahoe spots.

Because now…we’re old pros!

sea level: 7000+ ft

We had the crazy idea to travel the breadth of California this week.

We live in the middle of the state. On Sunday we drove 1 hour and 31 minutes to San Francisco (sea level: 0 ft) on the far west side of the state, then on Tuesday we drove 1 hour and 53 minutes to Lake Tahoe (sea level: 7,000 ft) on the far east side of the state. It was a fabulous choice of ‘themes’ for this week of vacation. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous scenery going in both directions.

There is absolutely no way to do any of it justice. And yet, I have multiple blog posts with an excess of pictures trying to at least give some idea. Feel free to blow through them quickly (or blow them off entirely.) I get it…looking at family vacation slides has never been high on anyone’s list. 😉

A co-worker of Scott’s told him we must eat breakfast at Smokey’s Kitchen in Truckee, California. So we got up early and made our way to the cute town of Truckee. This is a town we will definitely revisit – to shop at the shops and also to attend their big Thursday night farmers market/flea market event they host down the center street of town.

I love jadeite!

Obviously I took this picture through a shop window, but we really liked this wood etching showing the differing depths of Lake Tahoe. Very clever idea.

In every town – we find a coffeeshop and a bookstore. *all the heart eyes*

And since we are at Donner’s Pass – how about having a little fun with it at their expense, huh?!

(Actually, many things are named after the Donner Party in this region. But as far as I can understand the situation, this was a party of pioneers that took ‘a new route they’d heard about’, got lost, waited 4 months for help to arrive and noshed on the members that didn’t make it. None of that sounds worth of name-memorializing to me. *shoulder shrug*)

We stayed in Carnelian Bay on the northwest corner of Lake Tahoe. Homes were gently tucked into forests and forests of pine trees. Our Airbnb was a log cabin-type home that had a separate section/entrance for guests. We slept with the windows open and woke up to the sun peeking through the pines that filled our room with Christmas tree aroma. It was delicious! (This was our morning view out our window…)

You will never, ever convince me that the bottom of Lake Tahoe is not painted blue and turquoise – like a backyard swimming pool. The color…….. I’m not even going to try to adequately describe it. It is simply magnificent. Every marketing material photo I’ve seen of Lake Tahoe makes me assume there was some photoshopping done to it. That’s cool. It’s the way things are done. But everywhere we looked, all we saw was ‘photoshopped’ reality. It’s a place you must see to believe.

so. many. pine. trees!

The water is unbelievably clear. In some of these pictures you can see the rocks at the bottom of the lake. The camera didn’t capture just how far out you could see to the bottom. The turquoise shores turned into a dark blue center, the deeper it got.

Scott took some video…

We spent significant time along the northeastern shoreline. Personally, I think it was my favorite spot to see the lake. Most people talk about Emerald Bay (below) at the south end of the lake – and while it was beautiful, there were SO. MANY. PEOPLE. crowding around, taking pictures, etc, it was less enjoyable. We were practically on our own up north.

If you squint your eyes and use your imagination, you can see the Vikingsholm Castle on the island, built in 1928 after Lora Knight purchased the island for $250,000. Two hundred workers were hired to hand hew the timber, carve intricate designs, and for the interior walls they hand planned the wood. Much of the materials used (such as the timber and granite rock) came from the Tahoe Basin. There are sections of the Vikingsholm Castle that contain no nails, pegs, or spikes. The castle was heated with six fireplaces – all in a Scandinavian style.

Let me get this straight –  your own island in the middle of a beautiful lake and acres and acres of pines, in a castle with giant fireplaces and decorated in Scandinavian style??! Am I awake? Is this heaven? Please don’t wake me.

Later that evening we were lucky to catch the sun setting as we walked around Tahoe City after dinner. It was an amazing memory.

We quickly ran out of ways to say, ‘That’s SO amazing!’ As always, I am happy we were experiencing this beauty together.

(more about our trip in the final post: A Viewmaster Vacation)

Semi-Stay-Vacation

Scott took a week of vacation this month and instead of packing it with the many activities we’ve done on vacations so far this year, we decided to have a more ‘quiet’ vacation week this time.

We decided to travel the breadth of Northern California. We live in the middle of this area, so we are spending a day on the west coast side, coming home, regrouping, then spending a couple of days exploring around Lake Tahoe on the east side – completely new territory for us! We’re very excited to make our Trial Run trip to Tahoe. It will be our first pancake. Our trial-and-error adventure so that next time, we’ll be even more prepared to know what to do and what not to do. We’re staying at an Airbnb in Carnelian Bay at the northwestern edge of the lake. I can’t wait to share it with you all!

But for today, some Pacific Ocean wandering along the Bay then over to Berkeley to reconnect with our hippie vibe. We love hanging out in Berkeley! I have a quick hook-up with an online friend in Oakland and then we’ll head back home – undoubtedly filled with more information about the Bay Area then what we’ve learned so far. In our other trips into San Francisco we’ve concentrated on all the touristy things to see. This time we hope to hit some more out-of-the-way places to experience the area in a whole different way.

It will be a fun adventure together. No pressures. No timelines. Just plenty of pictures and plenty of reconnection. We’ve needed the time together and are looking forward to being away from all the normal routines for rebooting and revamping our ways of communication and connection.

I hope you’ll enjoy discovering things along with us! Many more pictures to come, I’m sure…

A Work in Progress…

I love a good Before and After shot.

Actually, it’s not necessarily a Before and After but more like a Before and During.

When we first moved here, I took a picture of our little backyard. There were three ratty, over-grown rose bushes behind the house and that was it. The previous owners had a hot tub over in that square cement area in the far corner. The hedges were all over-grown and it was hard to tell what was what.

But there was potential.

The biggest eyesore we couldn’t change was the neighbor’s palm tree with all the dead fronds going up it. (Could CSI tell which direction a fire dart came from?! I’m asking for a friend…)

This is after our spring work. We tried pruning the rose bushes in the fall but they were just so overgrown with dead brush, volunteer trees, etc, so we cut them all the way down to the ground. We figured it would be easier to handle them from a new starting place.

We installed a standing flower box, three planters for grasses and palms (and petunias and ivy.) Scott built all of the above. We put up LED string lights over our patio furniture and added a few more pieces.

The rose bushes are coming back to life in a much more manageable way.

We added a small cactus garden (which just about didn’t make it because this is a low area in the yard so all of the buckets and buckets of rain we’ve gotten, all collected here. *head smack* We’ll see how they do this summer but I might move them over closer to our agave on the other end.

We have pink jasmine started in three different areas of the yard so sitting outside is a very sweet treat. In fact, just raising the windows inside makes for the most fragrant breezes blowing through the house.

Long story, short: Haddie has become an outside cat. She escaped one day and then meowed like crazy to be let back out. (Her eyes were opened to new possibilities!) -ha.

You can see one of the jasmine vines in the background below. Unfortunately, we had one hummingbird but we haven’t seen him for months. We weren’t really prepared when we put up this feeder, but I’ll study up on it and maybe we’ll get a few more. The jasmine are supposed to attract them as well.

We still feel so blessed to have been gifted this beautiful agave plant. Agave Maria. She is a lovely shade of blue-gray and matches the house perfectly.

On the side of the house I started a succulent garden in the fall. It seems to be progressing nicely, although the amount of attention I give it is really pretty embarrassing. If it rains for more than a handful of hours, I go out and cover them with boards Scott made for me. Then I uncover them so they’ll get some sun. All winter long I have babied them. I should be committed…

The gutter in the middle of it all is certainly not eye-appealing, but hopefully they’ll eventually grow up over it and cover it up a bit.

There’s about to be a burst of yellow outside our bedroom windows pretty soon. They gave me so many rose bouquets last fall; I’m excited to see what they produce during the summer.

These Mexican lavender bushes were also a purchase not long after we moved in. They were three little bushes that have grown so beautifully. Each time I walk by them and hear the buzz of the bees that saturate their flowers, makes me feel a little sense of pride and contribution to the planet.

This is our current project. I bought 4 mandevilla vines to crawl up and take over this area of the fence. I only have about 2.7 zillion trellis ideas and need to whittle that down quickly because they’re ready to climb! Our neighbors have a rusted shed next door that sticks up in the corner (and a reason we put Scott’s BBQ tent and grill over there.) I’m hoping to build a trellis up above the fence so they can crawl up nicely and cover a lot of the site of the shed.

This side shade garden is part of Summer 2020. I have been THRILLED these hostas and bleeding hearts came up this year (from bulbs) but I decided to not spend a lot of design time over in this area. Next year I want to have Scott build an arbor over the area that leads to this shade garden. But that’s for another summer. (I do – occasionally – try to temper my enthusiasm!)

We have bags of mulch to be laid down, tiki torches to put up (because Scott insisted we bury PVC pipe and cement them in – all I wanted to do was stick them in the ground when we had people over! -ha.)

We’ve trimmed back the hedges a lot, but we have more to do and need to figure out how to best shape the ones we have. I’d like to see a full year of them (and what they do/bloom/etc) before making too drastic of a change. The grass is a whole other area of improvement needed. But that’s another stage – right?

And that’s the main thing: learning what California weather is like and where the sun shines (and doesn’t shine) in our yard. It’s the best thing about working in nature. You are on IT’S time schedule. You are forced to exercise patience. But in the end, after all your planning, the surprises come in the most beautiful forms. I’m anxiously waiting to experience them all…

I recently read the book Placemaker: Cultivating Places of Comfort, Beauty and Peace by Christie Purifoy. I have always tried to be a Place Maker. Even when it was a temporary home for a short period of time. Filling a space with your things, your designs, your styles…it shapes how you see the rest of your life. When you feel welcomed and comfortable at home, everything else seems manageable. I’ve lived in small, large, really small, and even hotel spaces. The size of your home doesn’t matter. Nor does it’s age. Settle in and make it home. Your home. Invite others in to share it with you. Do NOT be consumed by comparison. It is the killer of joy. Learn how to manage your reactions to social media accounts that seem to show complete perfection. Pinterest is great for ideas and inspiration, but when you feel the drudging feeling that you’ll never have enough or you can’t compete with this or that – get off. You’re on option overload. Spend time imagining your space in your mind. What do YOU want? What resources do you have? What resources do you have to live within? You do not have to have unlimited talent or money in order to make a place cozy and comfortable. Don’t be led into the lie that buying just.this.one.more.thing will make everything better. (I have it on very good authority that it won’t.) Fill you house with friends and family – that’s the best design feature a home can have.

We are making our mark in California – for as long as we’re here. And we are having a lot of fun doing it. Step by step. Stage by stage. No hurries. And most importantly, taking the time to fully enjoy it. Speaking of which, chicken is on the grill and the rains are coming in again tonight so succulents must be properly put to bed…………. 😉

It’s a girl!

(I think.)

I’ve been watching the growth and birth of this ruffled-leaf Philodendron Selloum (Philodendron bipinnatifidum) leaf since I first saw its tiny presence on March 17. It took 22 days from my first video to my last time-lapsed video this evening.

Baby and Mama are doing fine. She’s registered at Bergdorf Goodman…

Now it’s time to fully open up and enjoy her new grand duchess life. I’m so proud!!!

Fun side note: I set up my iPhone on a pile of books I had nearby. It took a couple of hours to record the final progression out of her protective sheath. About halfway in I looked closer at the pile of books and realized (with the exception of a few good men) it was a bunch of strong-hearted women who were helping in this birthing process. Something they were fully used to doing – birthing and nurturing and working together to get the job done. Go, girls, go!!

It won’t take long now for her to look as strong and dark green as her playmates. Sometimes nature is just SO cool…