We drive up and I am immediately covered in the softest kisses from my honey-eyed Nala girl. It has been raining all day, so everything is lush and dripping. I am so inspired by this place. After ten months away things have doubled in size, even the dog looks bigger. The light is perfect, the sun retreating behind the volcano, the rain clouds moody and dissipating. I explore with camera in hand. Then I ditch my camera and take Nala for a run, and we are treated to fire in the sky all the way home.
As soon as I got of the plane, Raeann and I went out for lunch at La Indita. We were not disappointed. I spoke to Salvador, the owner, and he said they have been in business since 1985, back when his hair was still black. Fine, fine establishment.
Besides the people, my favorite thing about Arizona was all the flowering cacti. The prickly pear blossom is incredible and came in so many colors.
On Saturday I visited my dad's parents, Margaret and Hu, at their home in Green Valley. I can't even describe how good it was to get some quality time with them. I haven't seen them since our wedding, but I was so distracted by getting married that it hardly counts, and before that it was years. I don't even remember how many, so in my adult life it's been pretty limited. Fortunately, my grandmother is a very skilled emailer and it has not been difficult staying in touch. I feel very lucky to have relationships with three of my grandparents. And these two are the best kind of people: spirited, generous, kind, hilarious, and wicked smart. My grandfather just returned home after spending six weeks in the hospital, and is understandably feeling a bit feeble. Although he sounded just like his normal self, which was enormously reassuring.
Their home is a museum. Note the two Marina paintings, and do you recognize the model in the painting on the right?
We had lunch at The Stables, a restaurant at the Tubac Country Club south of Green Valley, and the food, views, and company were terrific. I ordered fish tacos with mango salsa, and learned that my grandmother has never in her life eaten a fish taco. I learned a lot of things on my trip. The entire time I was there I felt so grateful for the opportunity. If there are people you need to visit, MAKE IT HAPPEN! It is so so worth it, and you'll only regret it if you don't.
I said my goodbyes (after a few more photos) and drove back to Tucson. Raeann took me to the top of "A" Mountain (or Sentinel Peak) for the view.
That evening we ventured out to Sabino Canyon for a sunset hike. Just like that it was my last night in Tucson and I tried to savor it.
Desert sunsets are pretty special.
In the morning, Raeann and I drove up Mount Lemmon.
We went for a hike up near 8,800 ft. The surrounding area was recovering from a fire, so all the trees were growing back really fluffy and dense and we hiked pretty high up but it never opened up enough to get a view. It was chilly up that high, but scorching by the time we got back down. We pulled over on the side of the road to photograph some cacti. The saguaro were in full bloom (they're the state flower of Arizona) but the blossoms are so high off the ground that it's a challenge to get a decent photograph.
Thank you Raeann, Margaret and Hu, for showing me such a WON-derful time (as my grandmother would say). Tucson, you're lovely!
A beautiful friend whom I love and admire, the desert at sunset, and a pineapple: pretty much a winning combination. I loved visiting Tucson. I'm so glad I got the opportunity and I can't wait to share more.
Isn't she lovely? It's hard to believe we've been friends for 12 years. And I am so proud of her. She just graduated from the University of Arizona with her Master's Degree in Public Health and is moving back to the Bay Area! Yay!
Arches National Park
Colorado National Monument
Maroon Bells outside of Aspen
Ralph Lauren's Double RL Ranch
Telluride Bluegrass Festival
Thank you Colorado. I feel really lucky to have had this opportunity, for the change in scenery, to see a part of our country I knew little about. Everywhere we went the people were friendly and the landscape was dramatic. The high desert is an amazing place. Still hot at high elevations, even if surrounded by snow, and everything was in bloom. And thank you Sadie for being my driving companion and for wanting to stop along the way.
My friend Sadie and I rented a Fiat 500 and drove through California and Utah to Colorado. We stayed three nights in Grand Junction at her grandparent's ranch at the base of the Colorado National Monument and took day trips to Aspen, Telluride and various National Parks.
The morning after I took the sunset photos I awoke in the dark and checked my watch: 5:47 am. I googled "Grand Junction Sunrise," and got "5:48" so I jumped out of bed and grabbed my camera and got to witness the monument transform as the sun came up.
What an incredible backdrop. The ranch was amazing. And every time we walked through the doors of their beautiful 1960s log cabin, we were greeted with wet kisses from Lizzie, the Bernese Mountain dog.
Sadie's grandparents are some of the nicest, most generous people you'll ever meet. They have been married for over 56 years and work together every day to maintaing their ten acres. It is definitely a little piece of paradise in the high dessert. Thank you Grandma Sue and Grandpa Bill for showing this Californian how wonderful Colorado can be.
Over the weekend, Jeffery and I drove to Mendocino County to celebrate my 25th birthday in Anderson Valley. On the way up Friday night, we stopped in Healdsburg and had dinner at Campo Fina. The restaurant had great ambience with an outdoor pizza oven, bocce ball, and really beautiful landscaping. The staff was super friendly, and the food was pretty good. The meal was mostly small plates, and they didn't have to a cook much, instead it was finished with a lot of of pickled garnishes and arugula. But it was overall a satisfying meal.
We stayed at the Boonville Hotel, which we had heard good things about. It far surpassed our expectations. The staff was amazing, the rooms are beautiful. As soon as we arrived we were upgraded to a suite. And the food...wow. More on that later.
Flowers in every room.
On Saturday morning, (after a breakfast of homemade granola, local strawberries, yogurt and scones), we drove through the redwood trees to the coast, stopping for a trek to the Navarro river.
I finally got a good shot of him. No awkward face.
It was so beautiful inland, and then when we got to the coast it was windy and cold and the water was choppy, but there was still sun and the fog was lifting.
We came back to the valley for lunch and picnicked at the Philo Apple Farm, which pretty much stole my heart.
Next stop: Toulouse Vineyard. We were glad to have just eaten, because they were generous with their pouring. The atmosphere was relaxed and everyone was extremely friendly and knowledgeable. They waived the $5 tasting fee with purchase (some bottles were on sale for as low as $16!). We left very happy with a bottle each of pinot noir and pinot gris, both tasty and affordable.
We parked back at the hotel, and with a frisbee in one hand, ice cream cone in the other, walked to the Anderson Valley Brewing Company Brew House to taste some beers. We tried all the ones we'd never had and Jeff was extremely fond of the Bourbon Barrel Stout, which is aged for three months in Wild Turkey Bourbon barrels.
Arms full of bottles in brown paper bags, we walked back to the hotel for eats.
We dined at Table 128, the hotel's in-house restaurant. It was the best meal of my life.
It started with a bite of shiitake mushroom in puff pastry and a complimentary splash of rosé...Then there was a curried cauliflower soup with savory bread salsa crumbs and romesco sauce drizzled on top...A mixed baby green salad with slices of blood orange, ricotta salata, savory candied pecans and an apple balsamic vinaigrette...Roast duck leg over shiitake, farro grain and black olive topped with a fennel and fava bean tapenade...And lastly, early strawberry and rhubarb shortcake with warm cream sauce and orange caramel.
All of the flavors were so clear and developed. The soup was simultaneously subtle and surprising. I wanted a whole lot more of the salad, and I could have licked my duck plate clean. The textures were spot on, everything was cooked to perfection. And my shortcake came out with a candle on top.
I went to bed feeling filled to the brim, filled with delicious food, with love, beauty, peace, all those cheesy things and awoke Sunday morning to birds chirping. Great weekend. I'd do it all again.
Great friends. Perfect light. Old barns and old trees. Beautiful equipment. Fresh air. Green grass and sunny daffodils. Window shopping. New hat. Cold beers.
We spent 29 hours out of town and it was incredible. Nickel and Nickel is stunning and we learned a lot about winemaking. But I sill prefer beer. And it's particularly nice to have one in a bar with twinkle lights and seating, where you can carry on a conversation and put your feet up. Thank you Josh and Katie for sharing it with us. Here's to many more weekends.