down on the farm

Back home in Missouri for the holidays, we headed out of the "big city" (Springfield, of course) and drove southwest to the boonies for a little pre-Christmas Eve country celebration. First up was a lesson in clay-pigeon shotgun shooting. I was two for five...a pretty good record, if I do say so myself. Then we piled in pickup trucks and some sort of 4WD golf cart on steroids that looked like it was going into battle in Afghanistan and drove down to the levee to watch the ducks come home for the night. It was freezing, but it was worth it to see so many groups of ducks fly in from all directions and land in the water at sunset.

Lucas showing us how it’s done before we all took turns shooting (top left); Seb turned out to be a good shot – beginner’s luck, I’m sure (top right); Lucas giving Raine a lesson in holding the gun (above); Skyler also proved to be not bad – she hit her first two (below left); ducks coming in for the night (below and bottom) 


where is the snow?

We have been snowless all month in Lake Tahoe. The skiing is not great, but that hasn’t stopped us from going up every weekend anyway. In lieu of doing laps on the single open run, over and over, we spent one afternoon hiking. The landscape changed from dry, desert-like conditions to a snow-covered path leading to a frozen lake. Winter is not in full swing, but we are hopeful, and until then, we will enjoy the mountains any way we can.


a winter wine tour

One perk of working at a travel company that sells wine tours is occasionally getting to go on one. The day after our office holiday party, we boarded a limo bus for a second office Christmas celebration in Napa Valley. Napa in the winter has a calmer atmosphere – harvest is over and the leaves have fallen off the vines, leaving the valley relatively empty. We visited two wineries – Black Stallion and Michael Mondavi. Located in a pretty, farmhouse-style estate overlooking the vineyard, the Michael Mondavi tasting gallery is a fabulous place to sip wine, with its large, comfy back porch. Even though the sunny, 60-degree weather was more spring-like than Christmastime, we had plenty of holiday cheer.

Michael Mondavi winery (top left [photo courtesy winecountrythisweek.com]); a vintage Porsche tractor outside Michael Mondavi (top right); the sunny back porch (above left); the Mondavi vines may be bare, but the view of the rolling hills is just as lovely (above right); view of the sunset, the city and the holiday lights as we drove across the Bay Bridge, back into San Francisco (below)


the nutcracker

Earlier this month we got into the Christmas spirit at a San Francisco ballet performance of the Nutcracker. This always-great ballet was even more magical at the War Memorial Opera House, performed by the company that originally brought the Nutcracker to the United States in 1944.



and another winter begins…

I am very happy to say we have secured another ski lease in Lake Tahoe for the 2011-2012 ski season, and it’s even better than last year’s. This year’s house, just down the road from Squaw Valley ski resort, is a cozy A-frame cabin that’s been home to the same family since the 1950s. It’s truly well-loved and well-used, and it reminds me of another family weekend home on a lake far, far away… 

With updated kitchens and bathrooms, the house has maintained its rustic, retro charm while allowing us modern conveniences. It’s pretty perfect, and we're going to have a fabulous winter. There’s not much snow yet, but I know it will come.

The exterior of our A-frame ski lease (above left); our first night, hanging around the wood-burning stove – talking, just talking…there’s no cable or internet (above right); another outside shot (below left); our first day on the mountain this winter – it’s pretty bare (below right).


it’s christmastime in the city

The Union Square tree is up and the palm trees are twinkling – must be the holidays in San Francisco! (Please excuse the bad quality – taken with my phone.)  


turkey day down under

Another international wedding took us to Perth over Thanksgiving, which meant I spent the holiday on the beach, soaking up the hot Western Australian sun and thinking of my family back in chilly Missouri. It was a wonderful week of relaxation, including a leisurely Thanksgiving Day snack of risotto balls and beers at Black Salt Brewery and beach bar.

Day one – straight to the beach (top left); an afternoon in King’s Park, overlooking the Swan River (top right); Thanksgiving Day snack and beers at Black Salt Brewery (above); spending Thanksgiving Day afternoon at the beach (below left); sunset over the city on Thanksgiving evening (below right); ending the week with a round of Supa Golf in the Swan Valley (bottom).


santa cruz

Seb and I spent last weekend in Santa Cruz, a college town (home to UC Santa Cruz) on the coast about two hours south of San Francisco. Together with the seaside village of Capitola, immediately south of Santa Cruz, the area is an awesome place to hang out. There’s a big surf culture (the main reason we were there) and a nice downtown with outdoor cafés (such as Café Delmarette, where we had a lunch of roasted red pepper and fennel soup and sausage-and-cheese scones) and pretty old houses that have been turned into restaurants (such as Caffe Pergolessi, where we had beers, and Red Restaurant and Bar, where we had a delicious dinner of spaghetti and meatballs and a cheeseburger and fries – classic favorites done well). Much of the area is set up on the coastal cliffs, which made for beautiful runs along the ocean, even with the rain clouds. 

On the way down, we stopped at a fantastic BBQ place in a very modest location – on the side of Highway 1 in Pacifica in an old train car. It’s called
Gorilla BBQ, and it’s pretty good, even when you have to sit down on a curb in the parking lot to eat it while fending off the wind coming off the ocean. On the way back to San Francisco, we made a stop at Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport, where we had chocolate-covered strawberries and a rhubarb turnover. The cute, general store-like farm stand offered everything from homemade soup to coffee for $1 to all the berry products you can imagine. What makes it even more charming is the honor system way of paying for your goods and the picnic tables and Adirondack chairs set up in the front yard so you can enjoy your treats with an ocean view.

Driving down Highway 1 (top left); Gorilla BBQ on the side the highway in Pacifica (top right); walking along East Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz (above); surfers in the water between Santa Cruz and Capitola (below left); view of the Capitola pier and Monterey Bay from the cliff-top road (below right).
Cute Capitola buildings along the water (above right); Capitola beachfront (above middle); Capitola village (above left); view of Capitola and the pier from the cliff-top road (below).
Cute Capitola houses lining the canal (above left); view of Capitola out to the ocean from behind the old railroad tracks (above right); beautiful mural on the road in Capitola (below).
A path made in front of some very nice ocean-view houses in Capitola (above); enjoying the sunshine at Swanton Berry Farm (below left); Swanton Berry Farm farm stand (below right).