Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Little things

It really is the little things in life that make every day worthwhile. This summer I’ve taken great pleasure in perusing the garden in the evening and it seems every visit there is something new to see.

Just last week the raspberries and blackberries started to fruit, turning from light green globules to pink to purple.

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The wee Serrano plant is practically raining peppers. Every time we inspect the plant there are more little green nubs forming a new spicy package.

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The watermelon plants that had until recently been modest little guys have recently exploded in every direction and flowered. I find the tendrils of these plants fascinating as they form perfect curlicues and grab everything within their reach.

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And the tomato plants! All five of our plants are growing nearly out of control. The most picturesque are the chocolate stripe tomatoes with their light and dark green markings that will soon turn red and brown.

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Our cherry tomato plants have been slowly producing little reddish fruits. This is the most recent harvest (that avoided Seth’s mouth):

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Not a recent discovery, but we have been seeing more and more aphids on the tomatoes and brussel sprouts.

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Seth did a little spraying of soapy water on the plants but we finally brought in the biological weapon – the ladybugs! We bought a little sack of about 1,500 squirmy ladybugs and set them free in the late evening. Some of them immediately found little puddles in leaves and nearly drowned themselves, others roamed around seemingly aimlessly, others got right to coupling, and a few did locate and start a little insect dinner. In the next few days their numbers dwindled and we seem to only have a small group that remained. Oh well.

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While pulling off some flower buds from our sage plant I came across the cutest little praying mantises! As you can see in the photos below they are quite small and adorable.

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Anyways, the backyard is proving to be a pleasant surprise every evening. Who knows what will happen next!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Being in the water may not be for me

Day three of the Lisa-G California weekend was a trip to the Channel Islands – a National Park. We had a half day of sea kayaking planned and possibly some hiking.

I knew that I wasn’t a natural in the water, in fact I am a bit nervous about being in the water. I put that behind me and thought the sea kayaking would be no problem when we booked the trip. Oh was I wrong.  After not many tips on how the sea kayak and paddle worked, we were launched onto the water. Literally within two minutes I had flipped my kayak and was flopping around in the cold water.  Thankfully we were wearing wet suits but it was still pretty cold. About 15 minutes later we were paddling through a cave and while I was in the narrow part of the cave, I flipped again. Not only was I feeling cold, but now I was really starting to feel embarrassed and incompetent. Not one other person flipped their kayak for the entire trip.

To make it worse, I wear glasses and had on my prescription sunglasses. I had not brought my actual glasses with me on the kayak. The sunglasses were covered in salt water and one lens never quite cleared. So, I couldn’t see very well unless I closed one eye. If you are nervous around water, trying to paddle a sea kayak around and not fall in while keeping one eye closed isn’t the easiest task. I decided to bag it half way through. Such a feeling of relief in stripping off the wet suit and retreating to a picnic table in the shade to read my book for an hour or so. It was soooo nice.

So, the good parts of the day included seeing sea lions on the ferry ride out to the islands:


When Lisa finished the kayaking trip, we went on a short hike to an overlook. Here are some shots of the islands and the trail along the way:





While we waited for the return ferry we sat on the rocks at the shore and I examined the flora and fauna there – basically seaweed and snails:



Day four was our final day and we got in a bit more beach time at Carpinteria State Beach. I basically spent the entire time crawling around on rocks during low tide taking macros of more anemones, crabs, limpets, and more. This guy (a green-lined shore crab) was hard to capture in photographic evidence but I got him! This macro makes him look big but he’s a little bit bigger than the size of a quarter:





The beach is so relaxing and soothing, it was hard to leave, but we eventually continued our drive on Highway 1 back to the LA area for our return trip to Colorado. Until next time California…

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Beach, wine, beach

Day two of our California trip included 5 wine tastings sandwiched between two beach trips.  Wonderful!

We hit El Capitan State Beach, north of Santa Barbara, by 9:30 am. Here I spied a clump of rocks, which meant one thing – tide pools!

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Lisa and I walked among the rocks looking at the pebble-covered anemones and barnacles and caught glimpses of the mini crabs as they scurried under mussels and rocks to hide themselves from us. I couldn’t get enough – I loved all of it! We even spotted a few starfish!

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We eventually wandered back to the towels and took in the sounds of the ocean and the relatively quiet beach (not too many people), we read our books and Lisa got in the water. Next we headed out for our wine tastings! 

First stop: Solvang, which is a small town in the Ynez Valley with a strong Danish influence. Here wineries are nestled among the Disney-like Danish windmills and authentic bakeries and tee shirt shops and other cute places.  Our favorite spot was the Dascomb winery – they had good wine *and* they paired it with micro-cubes of amazing cheese. Here are a few shots from our wine tasting times in Solvang:

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After lunch we moved on to Los Olivos – a town that is just about all wine tasting rooms. We were challenged with how to choose among all the different wineries. We were lured into Saarloos + sons by the attached cupcake case. The wine was ok and I didn’t turn out to be attracted to any of the cupcakes, but we did enjoy this little photo booth thing they had. Here is one of the photo outcomes:


By far, our favorite stop was Refugio Ranch. The wine was good and the feel was laid back. If I could have wine from one place again, it would be here.

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After this last wine stop, we grabbed some jalapeno-cheddar popcorn and a pellegrino and headed back to El Capitan State Beach. This time it was just playing in the water and laying on the beach as the sun retreated. It was so nice…

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Santa Barbara (not the soap opera)

It all started with a discussion of Lisa’s upcoming 40th birthday and a failed attempt to get away together in May when her agency canceled travel due to “the sequester.” We decided that Santa Barbara, California, would be a lovely place to spend a few days. It has the beach, wineries, good weather, the Channel Islands, and more. Perfect – we booked it for the last weekend in June!

So, one sweltering June morning we  boarded a plane for the west coast. For those of you who may not have enjoyed a plane ride from Colorado to Southern California during the day, if you have a window seat, there is plenty to see. First you go over the Rocky Mountains and then you get to see the Grand Canyon! Here’s what the big canyon it looks like from this perspective:

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We did arrive and safely made it to our lovely Lavender Inn room, just blocks from the coast in Santa Barbara.  We were giddy to find that the hotel provides a complimentary bottle of bubbly with real champagne flutes! I recommend this hotel – not only did we get the free bubbly and, of course, a continental breakfast, but there is also an evening wine and cheese service (complimentary) as well as tasty cookies at night. I was also impressed by the well-kept grounds full of flowers and succulents and other climate-appropriate plants.

Anyways, we spent the rest of the evening perusing State Street in Santa Barbara, getting dinner at Pierre Lafond, and watching the sunset on the beach. Here are some photos to give you a feel for our experience:

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Stay tuned for the second installment of the California trip!