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’m sure I am not alone in “not getting” why gas prices are so high when oil is selling so much lower than last year. The San Francisco Bay Area is particularly bad; this photo is from last summer. I remember visiting Hawaii and realizing we paid more for gas in San Francisco than an island in the South Pacific, but go figure…
I also don’t get why it’s more to pick your own fruit at an orchard than to buy it at Farmer’s Market. Anyway, I do get that as summer is around the corner we are going to get hit with even higher prices to fill up. I thought this Rand McNally list was very helpful. I particularly like the bit about open sunroofs causing a significant decrease in gas mileage. So buckle up, gas up, close your sunroof and get ready for a lot of summer driving OR DON’T. Let’s hope we don’t see these prices again. Even though I think it’s a good thing to decrease driving, I can’t stomach these prices.
I like city driving; not freeways, but I can handle the Marin route out of San Francisco. So, I have made the trip to the Healdsburg area in Sonoma County three times in the last few months. Recently, for a birthday party at a lovely B & B called the Gipson Bed & Breakfast, owned by an old friend and his wife.
I had been to the same spot last summer for an epic 50th Russian Dacha birthday party, where many guests camped and a Russian BBQ ensued with a zip line, trampoline, bubbles, pool, jacuzzi and pogo-sticks for the big and little kids and of course shots of vodka and blinis for the hearty adults. This time it was for a five-year-old’s party, the daughter of my friends, the innkeepers.
Healdsburg lies at the crossroads of three of California’s most famous wine growing appellations: Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley and the Russian River Valley. It is surrounded by more than 60 wineries and is a favorite Sonoma Wine Country destination. Continue reading »
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Cherries were twelve-Euros (about 18-dollars) a kilo, a coffee in an un-trendy, un-touristy area, six-dollars, and it seemed the only deal on food was, predictably, baguettes and wine. I was stuck, trying not to spend too much money on my unplanned trip to Paris this August. I was visiting to help a friend though surgery and had not budgeted for the trip. Luckily, cooking in her adorable apartment was pleasant and she was nice enough to treat me to a few lovely meals. The dollar, however, was so weak it was painful. I know Paris well, however, and know where to find deals, where to shop and how to live cheaply while still enjoying my stay. Here are a few simple things I did that saved me a lot, without compromising my visit too much.
1) Bring a reusable water bottle: it’s great for the plane (empty it before going through security and refill before boarding.) Water was outrageously expensive, and I really didn’t want to spend twenty dollars a day on mere hydration.
2) Pack food from home. Maybe it’s the mom in me, but I packed a few simple, nourishing snacks like sunflower seeds and dried fruit. It may sound depressing on a trip to the culinary capital of Paris, but I made room in my baggage, just in case I needed it on the long flight or during my stay. I even brought a few Trader Joe’s items to the hospital and the nurses and doctors loved them. It was a peak moment for laughs when I offered them up in a very American, very un-French gesture of generosity!
3) Choose your cafés wisely. Nothing makes me happier than sitting in a French café sipping a café crème, but at six-dollars a pop, I couldn’t stop for a pick me up too often. In fact, a few days I actually waited till I got to the hospital, where a coffee machine sold a good cup of coffee for one Euro or about a buck fifty. If a coffee machine at a hospital is not up your alley make sure you find a cheaper café; prices do vary. You can also order a noisette, an espresso with a dash of creme in it. It is called “noisette,” French for hazelnut, because of the rich, dark color of the coffee. If you are pinching your pennies, or just want to save for a few strategic splurges, don’t go to a café on the Champs Elysee, rather, opt for a small cozy spot like this one pictured in the Marais District. However, if you do want to linger, write postcards, rest your weary feet or soak up the scenery, an exorbitant cup of coffee is worth the price in Paris. Continue reading »
Farmer’s Markets are the pulsing heart of a town or city. All the colors, tastes, smells, the intensity of the busy shoppers and the characters that are drawn to the scene make for a vibrant visit. Whether you go to photograph or nosh, people watch or shop, it’s always a great idea to seek out a local Farmer’s Market.
In San Francisco, miles away from the posh Ferry Building Farmer’s Market is the Alemany Farmer’s Market. Set between two freeways and adjacent to the housing projects, it’s an unlikely spot for the bountiful harvest each Saturday morning. Lots of families, eager organic eaters and people of all walks of life and ethnicities, all just trying to fill their bellies with healthy fare, meander though the dazzling array of local products. I often see Muslim women with headscarves bargaining with the Chinese vendors, Russian couples arguing animatedly about the price of cherries or seniors out with their shopping cart. The bread stand is run by a Brazilian family and the Hummus guy is Algerian. Blueberries are sold by a Russian gal with my name (I always walk by and say hello) and the Japanese cucumbers are to die for. Continue reading »