One of my favorite things in the world is to plunge into a lake, preferably in the mountains, fed by snowmelt. The Pacific Northwest drought and climate change have sadly warmed the temperature of many of these glorious lakes. The upside is that swimming is more pleasant. It used to be, numbness and a deep bone chill was assumed after a mountain lake dip.
This summer, as I embark on a big birthday, I was feeling a bit shy, or let’s say not really embracing the idea of a blowout celebration. I have never reveled in birthday glory, despite being a Leo, a theatrical being, and anything but a shrinking violet. It felt so dismal to ponder, plan and pretend to be festive when I wasn’t feeling it. Instead, I just said yes to a variety of unconnected plans and invitations, and inadvertently (perhaps a little by divine design) got to experience numerous lakes this summer. I’m choosing to call it “The Summer of Lakes“ and not my big birthday summer.
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I have wanted to pick stone fruit since I moved to California more than twenty years ago. In the interim I have picked blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, apples and some cherries from my urban backyard tree. The lure of fuzzy pink peaches, iridescent plums and, as comedian Mel Brooks would say, “I love a nectarine; It’s half a peach, half a plum, it’s a hell of a fruit” is tantalizing.
Dreams of picking fruit, fresh off the tree dance in my head, particularly in summer. One of my happiest memories was wild camping in Provence waking up in our tent under a reine claude plum tree. We ate so many as we noshed on our fresh croissants and coffee.
Somehow, I always seem to miss the season here, maybe it’s my East Coast sensibility or the craziness in May and June, but finally this year, my dream came true! I had planned a day with my younger son, a good friend and her son. We would pack a picnic, drive to the East Bay and pick fruit in searing heat and then cool off in a pool or watering hole. There are many lists of U-Pick fruit orchards, I picked this one: Farmer’s Daughter Produce and U-Pick Farm.
I tried to maintain that buoyant feeling despite a wrenched ankle, that had me hobbled, and the whining complaints of the the two tween/teen boys we had brought along. I knew they would rather be playing video games, but I also knew that this was going to be fun and rewarding!
I recently went for my thrice annual hair trim, and I love these sessions because my hair guy and I talk books, music, film and travel. I’ve sent him my top recommendations and links to things I have discovered and we always discuss details of his travels and reading list.
So this time, I asked if he had any fun trips planned and he said he was headed to Cambodia in the fall for a working/volunteer vacation. Intrigued, I asked if it was teaching English, building infrastructure or joining a medical support program. He said he was so excited to be teaching Cambodian sex traffic survivors the high end hair and cosmetology skills to help create a new path for them. It was through an organization called Justice & Soul. The program, started by two passionate activists connected to the beauty and fashion industry, seeks to “transform the lives of trafficked young women, young men and children globally into confident, self-sufficient and financially independent individuals.”
I saw the film Woman in Gold recently, a true story starring Helen Mirren as an octogenarian Austrian Holocaust survivor seeking to reclaim her aunt’s famous portrait. The title painting, called “Woman in Gold” for many years so as not to name her aunt Adele Bloch-Bauer, and to obscure her Jewish heritage, is now so well-known it is featured on fridge magnets and mugs.
I visited this painting and other Gustav Klimt works in Vienna’s Belvedere Palace Museum many years ago, lingering in front of my favorite works for what seemed like hours. At the time, I was obsessed with his protégé Egon Schiele and his early, untimely death from the Spanish flu at the age of 28 in 1918. Besides the music, Freud’s house, coffee and cakes, these paintings were what I wanted to see in Vienna. Continue reading »
I packed silk long underwear, my warmest pants, boots, socks and other sundry cold weather gear for a last minute trip to NYC. It’s been years since I have visited my home town in February, and this year I was told the relentlessly arctic weather was unprecedented. Multiple images of the frozen Hudson River and moaning on Facebook made me truly ponder what to bring and how I was to survive the deep freeze.
Once there, I was pleasantly surprised that my California outdoor gear was fine, better than fine, I actually enjoyed the blistering cold. I gave up on the outdoor ice skating idea, but one day my sister and her kids and I went sledding in Central Park. For some reason sledding other places is never as fun, and after an hour or so on the slope behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I artfully entered the museum to thaw out, grab a cup of coffee and take in some art—a wonderful New York combo of winters sports and culture.
It was cold. It was a good day if the temperature hit 20 degrees Fahrenheit while I was there. I was lucky to be introduced to multiple cozy spots to warm up and enjoy the inside world of winter in the Big Apple. Continue reading »
The sharing economy seems to be changing how we manage fundamental parts of our lives. Companies like Uber, Airbnb and Zipcar are dramatically altering transportation, travel and our relationship to these services. It is not without controversy though, and it remains to be seen how we reconcile some of these very necessary services with other important factors such as insurance, safety, liveable wages and unionization, not to mention the housing cost crisis in many popular destinations here in the U.S. and abroad.
As 2014 comes to a close, and the U.S. economy strengthens, more and more “sharing” seems to be happening. Even in my little sleepy San Francisco neighborhood these free street libraries are popping up and the robust trading of garden harvests is bringing people together and making use of food that might just rot on the vine otherwise.
A recent article in the New York Times typified the small gestures of sharing that can make an impact on people’s lives. In Naples, and across Italy, the idea of paying something forward, albeit as minimal as a coffee, is being revived and taking root. A simple anonymous gesture, paying for an extra cup of coffee for a future needy patron or simply as an act of kindness has a lovely aroma to it. Continue reading »
Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos in Spanish, is a colorful, celebratory holiday that mixes the macabre with the mundane and the magical. A day to remember, honor and celebrate those family members, friends, pets and even strangers who have passed.
It happens about the same time as Halloween hijinx and mixes some of our spooky shenanigans with Mexican rituals, but, without the fear of those that have moved on. Although ghosts and skeletons play important roles, it is an enchanting and not so creepy portrayal of the un-living. Parties gather in cemeteries, bestowing offerings for those who have moved on.
A good friend took a group of kids and parents rock climbing in the Sierras recently. We walked ten minutes to a steep rock face and unloaded the gear and started setting up. My son has taken indoor classes at a gym, and hanging out in that atmosphere, I have never been enticed to join in, but in the mountains, out in nature, it was a totally different story.
I know my limits. Jumping out of a plane, bungee jumping from a bridge, crossing the Atlantic or Pacific in a small boat or running a marathon are not even remotely on my bucket list. That said, it’s invigorating to try new and adventurous activities at any age, to keep your mind and body fit, flexible, and to constantly look for new challenges.
It’s not that often a new, jaw-dropping cliff-side trail is opened. After much controversy and many years of debate, the Devil’s Slide Coastal Trail and companion tunnels are now in full swing and if you haven’t had a chance to walk, roll or run on the path it is certainly a great quick getaway for Bay Area folks. If you are planning a trip to San Francisco and want a manageable walk with Pacific Oceans views, make the trek just a 20-minute drive from the city.
As a rule I tend to avoid tourist hotspots, but sometimes it is fun to be a tourist in your own city. On a recent #OrangeFriday, (when San Francisco Giants players wear orange jerseys and fans do the same on Fridays during the season) I escorted two 10-year-old baseball fans on a Duck Boat Tour to McCovey Cove. The small cove next to the ballpark hosts a multitude of kayakers, paddle boarders and cocktail cruisers, and we were going to join them on a land- and sea-worthy Duck Boat.
We boarded the bus/boat at Fisherman’s Wharf all bundled up for the three-hour tour. I would recommend eating before or bringing a very portable picnic on the ride. The open air Duck Boat, based on the famous World War II amphibious design, was a fun way to travel and the kitschy mood on board was infectious. The driver was cheeky and cheesy but all in all he was quite entertaining.
We drove through North Beach and Chinatown, the Financial District and some of SOMA, till we plunged into the Bay, adding a Coast Guard trained guy to assist the one-man crew. It was a beautifully clear, warm night and as the sun set, the orange light twinkled on the Bay. The captain let the boys drive in the water and peppered the crowd with historical and amusing tidbits about the city. He was a one-man band, often cutting away to an appropriate tune: Otis Redding’s classic, Janis Joplin and other San Francisco inspired songs.