Monday, November 29, 2010

Day Trip: Armstrong Redwoods

On Sunday, we had to drive down to Bodega Bay to drop off my niece. On the way back we decided to take a side detour to Guerneville to do a grocery run (they have a Safeway!). The town of Guerneville is eclectic. It actually has an old school Five and Ten. It's packed with just a little bit of everything: craft supplies, toys, cards, puzzles, gifts, candy. It reminded me of Woolworth's, but at a much smaller scale. (Tangent: My first job was at Woolworth's. I made minimum wage - $3.35/hour. I still have my name badge.)

Just a few miles north of Guerneville is the Armstrong Redwood State Natural Reserve.  How is it that I grew up just 1.5 hours from this place and never heard about it before? Well, I guess it's not surprising, since my parents considered the 15 minutes drive from Napa to Vallejo a long drive.

The Armstrong Redwoods SNR is an old grove of majestic coast redwoods. Nothing quite compares to standing among trees that are 1,000+ years old. Talk about perspective. What I love about forests and groves is how quiet they are, yet, when there is a sound, it is super amplified because everything around it is so quiet. Did that last sentence make any sense? I think you know what I mean. For example, a squirrel in the leaves sounds like something ten times its size.

The reserve has a nice walking trail along the valley floor which takes you by some of the largest trees. They do a good job about keeping cars out of the reserve. You can park in a lot in front of the grove and walk in for free, or pay $8 to drive in. Since most people are cheap like me, most people walk in for free!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Project: Life List

Picture by flying white
Here is my life list - a running list of things I want to do, in no particular order. This list is inspired by a blog I read, Mighty Girl.
What is this life list stuff? It's all those things that have words associated with them like “I’ve always wanted to visit that place” or “wouldn’t it be fun to try this” or “I’ve always wanted to learn how to do that."

Sometimes I forget the things I want to do and try, so this list will be helpful in that regard. It will also be a good reminder that I just need to make time and plan for these adventures and experiences.

So, without further ado ... my list:

1. Gondola ride in Venice
2. Visit the Biggest Ball of String in Minnesota
3. Go on a tour of the US Capitol
4. Southwest US National Park Tour
5. New England in the Fall to see the changing leaves
6. Multi-month Mediterranean trip (Northern Africa/Southern Europe)
7. Give a talk to an audience of over 500 people
8. Help during harvest on a farm
9. Milk a cow
10. Participate in an overseas service project
11. Take dancing lessons
12. Learn to bake really good bread
13. Start my own small business
14. Have a repertoire of 12 songs on the accordion
15. Spend the night in the wilderness, alone
16. See a space shuttle launch
17. Read the texts of the major world religions
18. Pet a lion, tiger or other big cat
19. See the Aurora Borealis
20. Help five other people achieve something on their Life List (#1, #2, #3, #4 and #5)
21. Own a potter’s wheel and kiln
22. Learn to play the harmonica
23. Attend each of my nieces’ high school graduation
24. Take my nieces on a memorable trip
25. Participate in a Moth storytelling event
26. Have a “Readers Write” piece published in The Sun
27. Write lyrics for a musical
28. Host a fantastic girls’ weekend
29. Create an anonymous public art project
30. Take a photography class
31. Make a dutch baby pancake
32. Attend a TED event
33. Make a quilt
34. Ride on a motorcycle
35. Visit all four of my grandparents' graves
36. Make an article of clothing for myself
37. Participate in a Scrabble tournament
38. Attend the Olympics
39. Attend a rodeo
40. Have a mud bath
41. Help someone overcome a fear
42. Go on a multi-day kayak trip
43. Live outside the country for a year
44. See the monarch butterflies in Michoacan, Mexico
45. Walk across the Golden Gate bridge
46. Chicago for St. Patrick's Day
47. Drink a mint julep at the Kentucky Derby
48. Watch plane land at Princess Juliana Airport in St. Maarten
49. Refinish a piece of furniture
50. Put a lock on the Locks Fountain in Montivedo with Bob
51. Make a two-tier chocolate cake (and frosting) from scratch 
52. Spend the night on a sailboat
53. Attend a taping of a TV or game show
54. Be an extra in a movie or TV show
55. Attend a sporting event in another country
56. See the 9/11 memorial, Reflecting Absence, in NYC
57. Host a multi-course vegetarian dinner party for 12.
58. Take a painting class
59. Take a cooking class in another country
60. Learn to hula hoop
61. Make a meal from mushrooms that I foraged
62. See a silent movie with piano accompaniment
63. Drink beer, eat chocolate and see the Manneken Pis statue in Belgium
64. Go to the Thanksgiving Day parade in NYC
65. Go to Cuba!
66. Attend Burning Man
67. Self-publish a book of my own
68. . ...more to come

Have you created a life list? Feel free to post a link below. I love seeing what others have on their "list". Also, if you need some inspiration to get started, you can check out these tips at Chookooloonks.

Here's to new adventures, learning new things and "going for it."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Day Trip: Mendocino

We were planning to go to Denver last weekend, but our trip was postponed due to Chaucer the cat getting sick. (I am happy to report he is doing much better!) Not wanting to call the weekend a total waste we hopped in the car and drove up the coast to the town of Mendocino. Just about 1.5 hours away, the town of Mendocino is picture perfect (but I totally forgot to take pictures).

Mendocino is where episodes of Murder, She Wrote were filmed. Do you remember that long-running 80's TV show with Angela Landsbury as the mystery writer who helped solve murders? The town was hopping with a lot of visitors since Mendocino was one of the hubs of the County-wide mushroom festival. The downtown main street is super charming, with dozens and dozens of 100+ year old hotels, stores and homes. Early logging money built the town, but now it's clearly a tourist destination.

Highway 1 between The Sea Ranch and Mendocino is dotted with a few tiny towns here and there, but it is really undeveloped with sweeping ocean views or lush green fields with cows or sheep.

I've never been to Ireland, but I imagine it would look a little something like this stretch of the coast.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Meeting the Local Vet

There is one vet in a 50-mile radius. Fortunately he is a good-natured and practical kind of vet. He says it like it is and doesn't candy coat a thing. We've come to know him quite well over the past couple of weeks since Chaucer has developed a certain gastrointestinal condition and spent a few nights at the vet. Without going into gory detail, Chaucer has been diagnosed with megacolon. You can click here if you want a quick overview.

I'll save Chaucer the embarrassment and won't tell you all of the creative things the vet had to do to get him to poop. Poor kitty ... poor vet! The three x-rays of his colon were pretty cool though.

We are happy to have our big boy home and recovering. He'll be on a special diet and likely require daily medication, but the prognosis appears to be good at this point. We expect him to be up and playing word games and picking fights with the other cat in the next couple of days.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Festival of Lights

Friday evening we attended a Diwali-related event at the local arts center. Diwali, known as the festival of lights, is a five-day festival in Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism.  The event was part of the art center's global heritage series, so it was probably more a mix of Indian cultural activities that was timed with Diwali.

The festivities started off with a ritual at an alter to invoke God Ganesh, destroyer of all obstacles and for harmony in our lives; and to welcome the Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess of prosperity and happiness. All attendees were invited to pass a tray with burning incense and other items in front of the two statues of the god and goddess.

Everyone shared a delicious vegetarian meal that included pakora and samosa appetizers and then we had dal makhani, paneer jhalferezi, natarattan korma, channa chat, rice, boondi raita and puris (lentils, cheese with peppes and mushrooms, veggies in curry sauce, bean and mango salad, rice and breads). We have really been craving Indian food (no restaurant in a 60 mile radius), so we savored every bite. Dessert was halwa and gulab jaman (cream of wheat pudding and fried milk balls in syrup). I am not sure who came up with the gulab jaman dish, but what a sweet treat!

During the meal, there was odissi dance performance by a Berkley-based dance instructor, Guru Jyoti Rout. The dances were a combination of invocation for auspicious beginnings and story telling through dance and very emotional eyes. She captivated the entire audience, that was for sure. After the meal, the audience was invited to participate in a folk dance that included sticks (dandia ras). Some were better with the sticks than others.

Being at the event, listening to old Ravi Shankar songs, smelling incense and eating great food reminded me of our trip to India in 2003. When we got home, I reminisced by looking through our trip photos. Here is one of Bob and I, in our youth, dining at the lake palace in Udaipur.

Newlyweds in Udaipur (2003).

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Reflecting on Three Months

Hard to believe we have reached the quarter point of our one-year stay up here. We arrived early August and it's already November. I figure this is a good opportunity to document what I've done so far and what I want to do in the rest of our time here. This post will also  provide some general thoughts on the experience to date. First up:

What I have done:
  • Hosted 10 sets of different visitors
  • Kayaked on the Gualala River
  • Attended classic movie night at the barn
  • Attended a lecture at the art center
  • Went tidepooling
  • Volunteered at the River Run
  • Several farmer's market trips
  • Enjoyed our 7th anniversary dinner at St. Orres
  • Joined Rotary International
  • Soaked a lot in the hot tub
  • Read more books
  • Started this blog
  • Swam laps at the pool
  • Camped at Gualala Point Regional Park
  • Made three trips back to Southern CA for work.

And some things I would like to do, or continue to do in the months ahead:

  • Read a book a week
  • Volunteer with the docent program for the harbor seals (they have pups close to our house in spring)
  • Visit the farm where we get our CSA
  • Check out the local winery (Annapolis Vineyards)
  • Go to Bowling Ball beach
  • Visit the Marin French Cheese factory in Petaluma
  • Swim more laps, more consistently
  • Maintain this blog
  • Attend a movie in Point Arena
  • Road trip to Arcata to the old college stomping grounds
  • Publish my "Life List" on my blog before Thanksgiving

And now, my overall impressions:

  • The stunning landscape surprises me most days
  • I love seeing wildlife everyday
  • Hearing the ocean any time of the day is awesome
  • The small town of Gualala has most things you need, just not a lot of selection
  • People are very nice, but it's been hard to make friends
  • Working from home makes you more productive
  • Working from home can be isolating
  • We've been cooking more, which I really enjoy
  • A three hour drive to the airport (OAK or SFO) is a drag.

I'll plan to do a six month update in February. Until then, I hope you all keep exploring where you are!