Archive for the 'California Heritage' Category

Christmas Outing in Monterey

P1030854Each December my dear friend, Barbara Benda, and I have a Christmas outing.  It started with an afternoon in San Francisco visiting the large hotels and taking in the decorations.  As you know if you look back to prior Decembers of this blog, the last few years we have made a weekend of it.  The decorations have floundered over the years and we have looked to other amusements like The Lion King and some great dining experiences.  This year a friend of Barb’s suggested that we take in Christmas at the Adobes in Monterey.  So off we went to Monterey.

P1030865 Most of the Adobes were erected between 1840 and 1860 from the clay that is prevalent in so many parts of California.  This was an exciting and tumultuous time when California transitioned from Mexico ownership, to sovereignty , to a US Territory, to a State.  The walls of these structures are over two feet wide and they have stood the test of time.  Many of the buildings are now private homes and they are open to the public only at this two evening event.  P1030863The first place we visited was the Custom House where volunteers dressed in costume and danced the popular dances.  We then visited shops and homes and the first theater in California.  Sailors paid $5 to see movies in 1850!

P1030880The 1849 Constitutional Convention that formed the State of California was held at Colton Hall.  The roster of attendees is on display there as well as other artifacts from the period.   Each building had cookies and some kind of beverage.  I particularly like the horchata.  The thing that surprised me most was the wonderful musicians that entertained us as we wondered throughout the homes.  My favorite was the Jalisco harpist, William Faulkner.  But then there were the bagpiper, harpist, soprano, pianist, flutist and various guitar players.  It was, in general, a musical event as well as a feast for the eyes.

Barb,Flo&me (2)The decorations were traditional and the decor lovely.  The company was the best.  We were blessed to only experience a few raindrops as we traipsed around to the various sites.  By 9PM our feet and legs were aching and the room was calling me back.  I highly recommend that visit the Adobes at Christmas if you ever have the chance.


Inspiration at Filoli House and Garden

The Reflection Pond with Garden House

The Reflection Pond with Garden House

There is nothing like a couple of hours in a garden to bring me and my psyche back into balance.  With the struggles of getting escrows closed (of which I could write a full book!), the positive stress of buying myself a condo in town (yes, I am moving soon – that will take many hours of relaxation as well as work) and doing far too much volunteer work these days (P.O.E., Rose Society, Artist Profile……the list goes on), I needed to achieve some balance.   My sister was in Palo Alto for some tests at Stanford and I took the opportunity to drive down and visit with her.  She had the morning before her appointments and asked “What is something fun we can do?”  Knowing that she loves architecture and gardens, we had to go to Filoli.

The Garden House provides elegant shelter to view the garden

The Garden House provides elegant shelter to view the garden

Filoli was built between 1915 and 1917 by William Bowers Bourn II.  Mr. Bourn had the benefit of a gold mine in the Sierras and built his estate on 654 acres in the Crystal Springs Reservoir area of Woodside.  This is the last of the many country estates built after the 1906 earthquake that still remains with its original acreage.  The second owners, Mr. and Mrs. William P. Roth, purchased the estate in 1936 and gifted it to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1975 upon the death of Mrs. Roth.  Most people of my generation recognize the pond above as the fight scene between Alexis and Crystal on Dynasty.   The history of the home is one of lavish parties.  The name Filoli derives from Mr. Bourn’s motto – Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a good life.

A Vignette in the Gift Shop

A Vignette in the Gift Shop

The home is spectacular.  If you have an opportunity to visit, there is a visitors center that was having an art exhibit, a coffee shop that had tasty food (I had a mushroom soup that was yummy) and of course, a gift shop.  In addition to having silk flowers and items that would enhance any traditional decor, there is a small nursery that sells some of the plants found within the garden.  It is truly a remarkable place.

Over 1300 volunteers work to keep the garden at its best as well as work in the shop, cafe and the information area.  The property is open from February to October – Tuesday through Sunday.  Be sure to check their website for hours.

Just Joey

Just Joey

While the house is spectacular, my interest always goes to the gardens.  For one thing, gardens change season to season and sometimes day to day.  This garden is known for the wisteria and towering yews.  There is an extensive rose garden but as rose gardens go, it is nothing to brag about.  (Okay, I admit to being a rose garden snob!)  There were some lovely Double Delights and Just Joeys.  Just Joey is one of my favorite roses – the flowers are huge and the color is a bit more coral than this picture conveys.



Springtime is wonderful in the garden.  Not all the roses are in bloom but the rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias are in full regalia.  Not that a garden with acres is anywhere close to my little plot I will be getting with my condo but I did get some great ideas as to placing potted plants with permanent installations.  I love pansies – easy to grow, long lasting, a memory of my childhood.  Pansies were filling beds, clustered in pots and complementing the burgundy Japanese maples.

Today is to be a day of renewal and relaxation for me.   I have not written in this blog as much as I would like as I consider it a luxury to take the time and share my joys.  But I have decided to take another thought process.  This is what keeps me sane.  And even though it is Sunday morning, I have handled three calls from folks looking to purchase property.   I am inspired as I bring up my smiling pansies.  What a fabulous area we live in.

Smiling Pansies - Wishing You a Wonderful Day

Smiling Pansies – Wishing You a Wonderful Day


Celebrating 200 Years at Fort Ross

When was the last time I posted at My Wine Country Village?  I guess I was riding in the 1913 roadster in the parade.  So much has happened since then that I don’t know where to begin.  Real estate is keeping me busy but not so busy that I miss out on all that is happening.

This year is the 200th anniversary of the Russians establishing a settlement at Fort Ross.   The region is in full swing of celebrating  this occasion with a variety of events.  The first was the visit of the tall ships to Bodega Bay.  Thousands of locals headed out to the coast to see these beautiful replicas in our harbor.  I made it out one day to see them sailing out to sea with a load of excited school children and beaming retirees.  I don’t think the sponsors expected such a wild response as tickets were sold out weeks in advance for the excursions and the lines were long to just get on the boat for a look at life at sea in 1812.

Being the lover of dishware that I am, I could not pass visiting the Sonoma County Museum in Santa Rosa for a look at the china servings of the Romanov Dynasty.  This exhibit spanned the reigns of Nicholas I, Peter the Great, Catherine the Great to the last tsar, Nicholas II.  Each tsar had at least one set of china commissioned.   The craftsmanship and detail were exquisite on each piece.  The first sets where made in Germany at the famous Meissen factories.  But the Romanovs wanted their own Russian porcelain producers and brought the artistry to Russia.  One dinner set had over 4,500 pieces including accent pieces as well as dinnerware.  Portraits of the tsar as well as depictions of battles and scenery were found on the plates, cups, tureens …..

The factories produced a variety of porcelain items.  One of the favorite gifts of the era was an egg.  The most famous of these were the Tiffany eggs that have toured the great museums of the world.  But the painted porcelain egg has been around much longer and is just as stunning.   We, also, saw snuff boxes with portraits of the user and decorative boxes.

The exhibit ended on May 27 and that was the day I managed to get there.  Nothing like a deadline to get something done.

Since this celebration is about the establishment of Fort Ross, a trip to the old fort has to be on the agenda.  On a beautiful, warm day a few weeks ago, we visited Fort Ross.  Fort Ross is north of Jenner along the rugged Sonoma County coastline.  I first visited the fort in 1958 with my parents.  I have a wonderful picture of them standing on the bluff with the wind in their hair.  Oh, if my scanner were working, I would find that picture right now and add it to this post.   As a college student at UC Davis coming to Fort Ross and shooting pictures of the church and the various detritus of the settlement that was abandoned in 1841 was a favorite weekend outing.  In those days, Highway 1 went through the fort and there was free reign to see the ruins.

If you want to visit Fort Ross, you will need to come on Friday, Saturday or Sunday as the hours have been limited along with all the other California State Parks due to budget cuts.

Today there is a parking lot, a visitor’s center and a path to the recreated fort.  The original church burned in a fire but the replica is indistinguishable from the original – at least to the eyes and memory of an “older” woman.  The armory is rebuilt and you can look at the guns and equipment used to defend the fort from intruders.  The Russians were very successful at working with the local Indians and it seems that the defensive actions were taken to protect the settlement from foreign enemies and not the local population.  The storeroom shows the farm implements and the cooking methods of the day.  The head of the settlement built a sturdy home for his family and brought the best of furniture and accouterments that the era offered.

The visitor’s center has an informative display about life at the fort and the lives of the native Indians. All in all, it is well worth visiting even if it is not the bicentennial year.   The fort was full of school children on a field trip to learn how the settlers and Indians lived.  Fort Ross is alive and well these 200 years after its establishement.

Take a beautiful drive along the coast and take in some local history.

P.E.O. in the Apple Blossom Parade

ImageThe Apple Blossom Parade is an annual event in Sebastopol that brings out the town.  I have worked at the parade for a few years but this year I decided it was time to really participate.  I am a member of Chapter AJ of P.E.O. and we are celebrating our 100th anniversary this year.  Appropriately for this year, many members of our chapter are also a part of the Redwood Empire Model T Club.  Melding the two groups, about a dozen P.E.O. sisters rode in seven Model T’s through the streets of Sebastopol.  Below I am riding in a 1913 Roadster.  It had a bit of trouble with the slow pace of the parade but we managed to not overheat.


For those who do not know about P.E.O., this organization was founded in 1869 by seven friends who wanted to establish a lifelong bond.  They quickly added more women from their college in Iowa and established the tradition of helping women attain their goals through higher education.  The first chapter established in Sonoma county began on February 12, 1912.  We provide scholarships locally to at least five women yearly and contribute to scholarships that are granted from an international pool.  While doing this, we seem to always have a good time.  Our chapter has 60 active members and we are one of two chapters in Sebastopol.  I am honored to be Chapter President this year.

The parade was a great deal of fun.  We are dedicated to getting more people involved in raising money to support local women.  For many years we have held a highly successful rummage sale.  We have benefited from the Dine and Donate program of Mary’s Pizza.  We do fundraising at our meetings.  When you see P.E.O., think Philanthropic Education Organization because that is what we do!


Sebastopol Cemetery Walk

Our Tour Guide in Front of the Cottage at the Luther Burbank Experimental Farm

Last night I had the delight of visiting the Sebastopol Cemetery located on Bodega Highway.  The first weekend of each October for the last seven or eight years, the Western Sonoma County Historical Society has entertained lucky observers in the historical cemetery.  The evening was wonderful.  We began with a dinner of vegetable soup and salad.  Thirty-two eager walkers gathered at St. Stephens Episcopal Church in Sebastopol.  The Hubbub Club with their brass instruments and multi-century attire  led us through the parking lot of the Senior Housing that occupies twelve of the acres that once was home to the Luther Burbank Experimental Farm and on to the cottage that provided shelter for Luther Burbank and is still the center of the remaining three acres of the Farm.

Consoling the Widow of Baxter Berry by her Daughter

This walk strolls by six graves with vignettes telling about the lives of those buried there.  The earliest resident in the line up was Baxter Bell Berry who lived until 1891.  He was elected to the Sonoma Board of Supervisors and boasted that Abe Lincoln attended his wedding.    Two of our honored residents died in 1978.  That doesn’t seem to be that long ago until you realize that it has almost been 35 years and that these people are part of the history of Sebastopol –  Joseph Giammanco of Joe’s Budget Store and Sarah Smith Ballard, daughter of William Smith, founder of Smith Bros. fishing fleet at Bodega Bay.

John Peter McDonell Argued for Incorporation

John Peter McDonell was the publisher of the Sebastopol Times from 1985 until 1911.  He argued that Sebastopol should become an incorporated city to insure that there was a sewer system and fire protection.

As we walked through the cemetery, we passed the area designated for infants.  The section is called Babyland and violinist, Michael Kane played “Brahm’s Lullaby”.

The evening ended with Apple Crisp in the cottage of the Farm.  It was a special ending to a special evening.  The vignettes change each year.  Residents are asked to tell the story of their ancestors.   We sat with a woman who comes each year.  She volunteers for the historical cemetery in Santa Rosa.  Their tour is a couple of weeks before the Sebastopol tour.  Maybe I will need to try that one next year.

Celebrating Independence Day

Every Parade Needs Vintage Cars

4th of July is a terrific holiday.  Every community in America celebrates by either a backyard barbecue, a patriotic parade or spectacular fireworks.  Many communities do their firework displays on the 2nd or 3rd to get a less expensive celebration and extend the festivities.  This year I took in the Bodega Bay fireworks, the San Jose Parade and a neighborhood barbecue in Mountain View.  I am not one to miss a party!

The Beginnings of the July Celebration

The weather was perfect for fireworks watching at Bodega Bay on July 2.  The pyrotechnics occur at the harbor but on a clear night they can be seen from many a deck.   There has not been a clear night in the last eight years but we had one this year.  The party began at around 6 pm and the sun was streaming into the house from cloudless skies.

The Night Was a Success

A great omen for a great evening.  By 9 the sun was down and the table cleared.  By 10 the fireworks were over.  It was a wonderful evening that lasted into the night with a game of Mexican Train.

Sunday was a transition day from Sonoma County to the City of San Jose.  I lived in San Jose for a number of years during my time with IBM and Lanx.  Okay, everyone knows what IBM is but who knows about Lanx?  Lanx was a great startup that was way ahead of its time.  But we had great fun and passed a few years of research and innovation in perpendicular magnetic recording.  I have wonderful memories of my time in San Jose.  I now return to the old haunts (and hardly recognize the place) to visit my granddaughter and her parents.

Maike enjoying the Parade on the Shoulders of her Daddy

We decided to take in the parade in Downtown San Jose along with the following street fair.  I don’t think that I had ever done this before.  Thankfully, we found a great patch of grass in the shade to watch the floats, politicians and cars go by.  There were more vintage VW Beetles than there were Model Ts.  I was surprised that there were no marching bands (probably due to cuts in the music budget but maybe since it was during the summer break) but we did have a couple of combos on flatbeds.

The parade had a number of entries from the local Reserve Unit and some great vintage military vehicles.  The diversity of the day was emphasized by the Muslims for Loyalty contingency and the Thai statue decked out as the Statute of Liberty.  Uncle Sam was an African American and Miss America was Asian.  The WWII veterans were represented by a selection of photos carried by descendents led by a WWII veteran of Mexican heritage.  This was a display of American at its best.

We enjoyed Pad Thai noodles, chicken satay and scoops of ice cream at the Street Fair.  There was a booth for Friends of  the San Jose Rose Garden as well as theater groups and local businesses.  Music was sponsored by First Tech Credit Union which was recently merged with what had once been the HP Credit Union.

We all needed a nap after the midday sun and were up and raring to go in time to hit the neighborhood barbecue in Mountain View.  It was a wonderful 4th of July that will be remembered by all as a terrific day with friends, family and extended community.

Our Troops On Display - USA Style

The Sebastopol Rotary “Mystery Tour”

First Stop on the Mystery Tour

The Sebastopol Rotary chapter is an active and wonderful group of people.  Believe it or not – I am not a member!  I say that because I am a member of so many great organizations – just not this one.  However, that does not mean that I won’t take advantage of an opportunity to participate in fun activities.  Yesterday was one of those opportunities.

Sally Ewald

The “Mystery Tour” was introduced three years ago at the Rotary Club of Sebastopol Lobster Feed and Auction.  (You can learn all about Rotary in Sebastopol and the wonderful auction items here.)   It was such a huge success that it was brought back this year.  The concept is 40 women on a bus bound for ???  The major force behind the tour this year is Rotarian Sally Ewald who knows how to show a crowd a good time.  Rotarian Dorothy Rodella of Exchange Bank teamed with Sally to give us a memorable day.

Happy Bus Riders

The day began with a Continental Breakfast and mimosas at the Community Church.  Colorful hats with hand painted scarves were stacked on the tables and the colors were in consort with Cinco de Mayo.  By 9:30 AM we were on our way to San Francisco with a photo op at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge.   The margaritas were flowing and the raffle prizes being given away as we pulled up at Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant on Geary Blvd. between 23rd and 24th Avenues.  Tommy’s margaritas are world famous and the bar boasts the “largest vintage selection of 100% agave tequila on earth.”  Julio gave us an academic lecture on tequila as we had tequila and margarita tasting.

Not Much Different than Wine Tasting

The tequila was followed up by a tasty lunch.  As we were starting to pull out from the curb, Julio ran into the bus with yet another tequila and we got the traditional shot straight from the bottle to the opened mouth.  Not all of us are skilled at this drinking technique and I believe that the aroma of spectacular tequila was evident throughout the day!

Victorian Decorative Peacock

The mystery continued with a personalized tour of a restored Victorian Mansion near Alamo Square – home of the Painted Ladies.  This home not only had the architecture of the Victorian era but all of the requisite collectibles.  I took about 50 pictures but my favorite is the stuffed peacock in the dining room.  The home was crammed with Egyptian statues, player pianos, velvet upholstered furniture, porcelain figurines, postcards and signs.   The owner (and occupant) of the home was on hand to tell us stories of its history.  A very special stop.

Off we went to North Beach to take in the grandeur of Saints Peter & Paul Parish, Catholic Church.  This is a small church by cathedral standards but is filled with marble alters, stained glass windows and mosaic art.  Calming to the senses and a nice respite from the chaos of Victorian clutter.

The Latest in Heels

What else must be done when in San Francisco?  Shopping, of course.  And what better place than Nordstrom’s on Market and Fifth?  After a private meeting with the managers of the jewelry and accessories departments, we hit the first floor – not only for jewelry and accessories – but hats and shoes.  After all, what is Nordies specialty item?   This shoe caught my eye.  No, I do not wear high heels.  No, spikes are not common on my shoes.  But this is pretty memorable footwear.  Maybe it could find itself in the modern equivalent of a Victorian home.

By 6:00 PM the bus was getting a bit quiet.  What could get us jazzed for the evening?  The bus took us along the Embarcadero and then we saw the tented roofline.  We were on our way to Teatro ZinZanni.  The dinner theater is spellbinding and only partially because of the charm of the antique “spiegeltent” in which it is performed.  The meal was excellent and our own Sally Ewald became a star in the show.  I cannot recommend the experience more highly.

A wonderful day was had by all – including the cute 30-year old Chris who waited on all of us throughout the day.  Raffle gifts were abundant – I have a bottle of Camellia Cellars Sangiovese to add to my goodie bag.  We were all ready for a comfortable bed as we pulled into the parking lot around midnight.  My greatest thanks goes to Sally and Dorothy for putting this together.  I wonder where the next Mystery Tour will take us.

Sally Outside Teatro ZinZanni


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