Sunday, December 27, 2015

Canon Fodder

After at least 12 years of not having an SLR camera and only an iPhone for the last seven, I have finally moved up to a Canon Rebel digital SLR!

I love photography and I'm not to proud to admit that the thing I hated most about photography was the darkroom. I much prefer working on photos in photoshop or using filters.

Sue me. I don't intend to become famous or anything so I can do what I want. I do plan to create photos in my own way. There is a lot of backlash these days about people using filters and altering reality. To this I say, ALL ART ALTERS REALITY.

I do not intend to be a photojournalist. I intend to be a photo artist so don't expect my photos to be all #nofilter. I will say, with a better camera, the NEED for filters is reduced. I don't need to cover up as many flaws. I believe having the best equipment doesn't always mean you'll be that creative. I see tons of photos online with people with fancy cameras and while they are technically advanced, they are boring.

But, I do hope to "go-ro-day." I got my first camera when I was eight years old. It was one of those instamatic things with the cartridge film. Then, I had a Pocket Camera. But, at age 14, after working that summer, I used my money to buy my first Canon AE1. I love that camera. It fell off the roof of a car when my friend and I sped away from viewing a bridge in New Mexico...and still worked (yes, it was in a case, but STILL, the plastic cameras now would not be able to handle such a spill).

So, I'm back and ready to flood the digital with my art.

Here are some photos from my launch stroll yesterday around my neighborhood.

I'm very fortunate to live in a beautiful place. Can't take credit for that!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Point Reyes National Seashore October 2015

My husband's aunt and uncle came to the area for a visit. They live near St. Louis and I haven't spent much time with them, but ever time I have, they've been absolutely delightful. My mother-in-law took them around San Francisco for a couple of days. We piled into their rental and headed for Point Reyes. I can't believe I've been in the Bay Area for nearly 20 years and never took this excursion. We met at the park visitors center for a picnic and then drove out to the lighthouse. Thank you, October weather! It was clear and mostly warm.

I've been ramping up my exercise this past year so the descent to the lighthouse and climb back were not bad at all.

The lighthouse is gorgeous and looking out into the Pacific with a little patience revealed whales!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Brand New Ro-Day Machine Goes to Wine Country

We bought a new car! 

I didn't expect to give up my tried and true 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan so quickly, as I had secretly committed to drive that thing until it fell apart. But, transmission issues, electrical issues and things just literally falling off along the I-5 on the way back from our Oregon excursion put me over the edge. Not to mention, on hot days, it smelled like old sweaty socks.

Our old Dodge got one last hurrah through Northern California and Oregon.

These kids did their part to make this van lived-in: vomit, dog poop, foam stickers that never came off, and all the goo that babies and little kids create. This and our 2002 Mazda Protege are the only cars they ever knew.

I'm very focused when I decide to do something, much to the chagrin of my husband who is much more deliberative. Having had a horrible fleecing when I purchased my first (and until now, ONLY) brand new car, I was determined to arm myself with information to not have that happen again.

I figured out my price and went at it. The Internet has made the research process a lot better, but even then, there is much confusion and I'd figure out an "invoice" price and then not be able to find that number again. So, I printed reams of paper to cover my butt.

Every dealership within 100 miles sent me automated letters with quotes--that were all outrageously high. I went to one dealership for a test drive and really liked the sales rep. When I went back with my husband and he got to test drive, we were ready to make an offer. We did. They said no. We walked. I was certain he'd be charmed by my knowledge and bubbly personality. He was unmoved.

When I got back home, I had an email from a dealership across the bay with a price that matched what I wanted. I called and we set up an appointment for the next Saturday. When we showed up, he didn't have a color I wanted so we decided to wait. I don't know why white cars are so popular, but they are and that place was swarming with big white Mazdas. I will most probably be rolling in this thing for at least 10 years, so I was not getting a white car. We trudged home from that failed attempt, and I got a call from the first guy who was willing to work with me on price. Sold.

We now own a 2016 Mazda CX5 and it really does have "zoom-zoom."

Super cute and affordable 2016 Mazda CX-5

Once home, I packed my bags and headed up to Sonoma with my sister-in-law. (I have a very understanding husband!)

A New Ro-day

It had been a while since I had been up to wine country and to do it in a new zippy car was nothing short of exhilarating. 

Karen (my sister-in-law) and I met in Healdsburg for brunch at The Parish Cafe. I'm always a bit skeptical of Cajun places, but the blue crab benedict and a mimosa was just perfect. I loved the spices, not overdone. We ordered the beignets that looked like the real deal, but they were room temperature when they got to us and didn't do it for me, sadly. Beignets MUST be scorching hot.

After brunch, we headed out to River Road for a couple of tastings. Woodenhead and Joseph Swan. Woodenhead was known for their Pinot Noir, as they should be and I came home with a bottle of their 2012 Buena Tierra, which won best Pinot Noir in California. Hoping to uncork this for our upcoming 15th wedding anniversary. 

Joseph Swan's tasting room was really friendly and casual and we got a few bottles there, especially the Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay for our upcoming pool activities!

It was so fun driving my new car on those wine country roads.

It was heating up in the valley so we checked into our hotel (Hilton Sonoma in Santa Rosa) and hung at the pool in the afternoon. 

The pool at the Hilton Sonoma.

That night we had great pizza and salad at a place called Rosso Pizzeria and Wine Bar. Karen and I enjoyed sharing and not overstuffing ourselves. The pizza was delicious and we loved the pera arrostito salad. Incidentally, my sister-in-law is fluent in Italian so it's always comical when she sees things on the menu that are "made-up." We were cracking up because neither she nor the waiter knew what some word was. It was just on the menu, an imposter Italian word. Sadly, I can't remember what it was.

Beautiful round barn right near our hotel.

The next day we headed out again in the CX5 for a visit to Iron Horse and The Barlow. Iron Horse especially blew us away with their sparkling wine and their Rued Chardonnay. Not to mention the gorgeous view.

Great views for sipping at Iron Horse Winery

The fun gal pouring wine for us at Joseph Swan recommended The Barlow in Sebastapol. It's an old apple cannery that has been turned into a modern tin-shed food and wine court. We didn't know what to expect, but it was pretty nice, but a little sleepy. Surprisingly not crowded for Labor Day, which worked out well for us, but I wonder what it's like when it's a bit more hopping (is it ever?). We did a little wine sipping and had a nice lunch at Vignette. (You never have to worry about a lack of pizza and salad in Sonoma Valley, let me tell ya). I loved the big open sheds that allowed the breezes to flow. It was pretty hot that day, but all the spaces felt really comfortable.

Wine bar at The Barlow in Sebastapol

The Barlow

We went back to the pool again and when dinner time came I was determined to find something that was not pizza and through Yelp, found out about a Peruvian restaurant called Sazon. What a find! We had no idea what a treat we'd be in for. San Francisco has a couple of pricey Peruvian places. I really love the cuisine, but don't eat it very often because of the price. This place was very reasonable and the family that runs it made us feel like we were in their home. Amazing ceviche, empanadas. We were able to sample a few dishes and ended with a wonderful chocolate torte. I want to go back to Sonoma just to eat here.

Fantastic Peruvian sampler at Sazon in Santa Rosa, CA

Not a bad first ro-day for my new little toy!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Big Ro-Day: Redwoods, Crater Lake and Portland...August 2015

Not only did we decide to take an old-fashioned family truckster trip up to Oregon via the redwood forest in a rather beat up 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan, but we invited my mom and dad to come along!

First stop, the Chandelier Tree where we waited in a long line of cars for the requisite photo op. My dad drove too close to the passenger side so I couldn't get out for the big pose. I compensated.

We were all really taken with the beauty of the redwoods. We stayed right outside of Avenue of the Giants. We took the time to walk through a few groves and drove through the park and out to the Lost Coast. This proved to be a pretty taxing journey for our jalopy, but she made it.

Our Lost Coast loop spit us out into Ferndale. Very cute town, although pretty dead on a Sunday afternoon...

We loved the very cute and very clean vintage cabins of the Miranda Gardens Resort and would recommend a stay there. 

Totally worth stopping in Klamath to say hi to Paul Bunyan and Babe!

He talks to visitors. And waves!

Miles and Audrey had their National Park Passports out for stamping. Miles ended up leaving his at the visitor center of Redwood National Park. I decided to call a few days later and they had it at the cashier and mailed it back. We were very grateful and the thank you note has already mailed!

From the coast, we crossed over to Crater Lake. I didn't know much about this park but for some reason, a whole host of friends visited this summer, so I was able to get a glimpse. There's something about the story of a relatively recent mega volcano explosion that subsequently filled with snow and rain to form a giant bowl of pure water that makes you gasp in awe. I can't explain it, but the fact that all those years snow was falling and melting and accumulating in that bowl. 

There was a lot of smoke from nearby fires and I heard after we left, things got worse.  I hope thing settle down soon. I hastily talked everyone into the boat cruise on Crater Lake, not fully grasping how strenuous the hike down and back up would be for everyone. Lawd, I thought I'd kill my parents. Actually, I thought they'd kill me for having them do this. It was rough going down and really rough coming up, but we all agreed so worth it to be in the lake, on that amazing water. We also all agreed we wouldn't do it again. Our kids might. They weren't even sweating on the way up. Ah, youth. 

Near Crater Lake, we rented a private home that was right on a river. Really lovely. We looked at the stars, listened to music and played cribbage. Very nice. 

After Crater Lake, we hiked up to some civilization and explored Portland. We all felt that we didn't spend enough time. My parents took a bus tour to see the Columbia Gorge. We nerded out at Powell's and sugared up at Voodoo Donuts. I also got to see an old friend who had moved up there about 10 years ago and that was so wonderful. And, I also met a Facebook friend in person and her amazing husband while downing some potent tiki drinks at Hale Pele!

Note: Portland's traffic is suprisingly horrible! Light rail the way to go!

After Portland, we started coming back home to the Bay Area with stops in Salem (state capitol building is really art deco cool), The Simpsons mural in Springfield (and also a really wonderful pioneer mural behind it), and lovely Ashland and a quick peek at the Sundial Bridge in Redding, Ca. 

It was a wonderful big ro-day!