Today I was the grateful wife of a man who had a (yawner of a) conference in Palm Springs. It was all very last minute, but I did take the opportunity to sleep in, relax and stroll mid-century furniture stores support him, rub his feet and keep him company at night.
We arrived late in the day yesterday and took breakfast this morning at Norma's, one of two restaurants at our hotel. I was in a retro-sort-of-heaven, mesmerized by lush gardens, pops of vibrant, warm colors and ridiculously good food. While we had to pass on the Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata, for obvious reasons ($1000), we did manage to leave fulfilled. He had the egg white omelet with vegetables, I had the potato pancakes with cranberry apple sauce. We shared a fruit plate and a large pot of coffee while exchanging ideas on how we could revamp our house to mimic a Palm Springs oasis. :)
We did quite a few walking tours while on our trip this past week, and I’m not ashamed to admit it! We learned so much more than I could have hoped to download from a book, plus we always took a break with our guide for coffee, sat down and chatted about more personal things. It is in those moments when you truly get insights into the people and places you are visiting. Our best guide, Jana, was from the island of Hvar, and she walked us all through town, explaining the rich history of what is today a very popular destination spot.
Later in the day we met up with Jana a second time and she drove us around the island to see Hvar’s incredible countryside which today stands only as a reminder of the agrarian community that used to thrive here. For centuries, from the hilltops on down to the water, the farming of olive trees, fig trees, almond trees, grapes, lavender and seasonal gardens took place in this rocky but rich soil. Because the hills are slopped, previous generations terraced all this land for their growing needs and when you stand on a hillside today, and look all around you at this endless system of low rock walls, it’s just amazing to think back on what this island would have looked like through the centuries while in full production.
The most exciting thing for me (other than eating wild figs along the roadside!) was to learn that the generations of Hvar's famers never had a system of irrigation in place and that all the grapes, figs and olives only got water during the rainy months, and survived through the hot summers. So interesting!
The farmers of this land began leaving their family's businesses after returning home from the Second World War, opting for an *easier* life in town. Soon thereafter, the newly formed Yugoslavian government gave the island's people pine trees to plant along the hillsides. Eventually these pines took over and the stone barriers were hidden from view and all but forgotten. Then, twelve years ago, a great fire engulfed the countryside, burned down all the pines and left what we see today. Our tour guide said she was not even aware of this history on her island before it was revealed to her in the ashes. Today, bushes are making their way back and it’s believed that in another ten years or so and the agricultural ruins of Hvar will once again be buried from plain sight.
I found it so fascinating to stand there and to look at this endless stretch of what was once bustling farmland. The youth of today in Croatia are not interested in the hard life of farming - and who can blame them - it’s been in the their blood for generations! Then you look at us – those that didn’t have to farm growing up – and suddenly the whole idea of being a farmer is romantic again! ;)
This is an incredibly special time for us as we take a week to celebrate ten years of marriage and three wonderful kids -- only, we didn't take the kids along on the celebration. ;)Today, the two of us ventured down quiet, winding country roads, lined with massive family gardens of pumpkins, squash, corn and fruit trees, to partake in a bit of truffle gastronomy. It all began at the Karlić family house, where the mother, Radmila, prepared us an incredible lunch of all things truffle.
There was salami with truffles, cheese with truffles, cream cheese on bread, olive oil and honey - all with truffles. And after the first course, we were treated to a look at all the truffles that would be added to our second course omlette!
After lunch, Radmila's son Evan walked us past a small vineyard, and down to the forest below where his grandfather began the family's tradition of truffle hunting in 1966. There were no promises that we'd find anything...
...and yet their sweet pooch found three! It was such a cool experience and one that I know we could only have had here.
Click here to learn more about the Karlić family business.
The recently opened Sunnylands Retreat in Palm Springs was without a doubt, the highlight of my week.
I had been reading a lot about Walter and Leonore Annenberg's west coast retreat in the early months of this year. There has been no shortage of press surrounding this incredible icon of mid-century design, its expansive grounds and art collection, or its historical significance. As soon as we decided to visit Palm Springs for spring break, I thought of Sunnylands (well actually no, I thought about Trina Turk's flagship store and then I thought about Sunnylands) and so I began making plans to book a tour. At 9am on March 15th, I sat at my laptop and continually pressed the refresh button on my browser until the April block of tickets opened up. I grabbed a midday slot ("Crap! That's high sun!), threw it in my basket, and in doing so, felt about 2 inches taller.
I need to keep this one short. It's late. Thirty images taken at last week's Bouquet to Arts exhibit at the de Young should be sufficient, and although I'd love to share my thoughts and what I learned about it all, I'm pretty sure no one actually cares. So I'm going to pass, and take the sleep instead. But here are shots of my most favorite bouquets, taken while celebrating my girlfriend's 40th birthday with a day in the city.
Last night I hosted another one of Kate's cookie classes for all my girls who could not make the first class in December. The theme was Valentine's, and the students were a great mixture of neighbors and friends.
Here are some pictures I took of Kate's art - cookies decorated the night before so that *students* could have a little inspiration. If it's not obvious from these shots, let me tell you: they were flawless! (I say *were* only because Kate and I ate them all while cleaning up the kitchen.)
Here Kate shows us the proper *technique*. Oh the jokes that followed... ;)
I'll leave you with this shot below - one Kate forwarded me from her phone, of some recent work she'd done. (OK fine, I grabbed her phone and forwarded it to myself.) Who knew I needed a pear-shaped cookie cutter? And a lemon one to go with it? Well now I know. Thanks again, Kate! xoxo
If you live in the Bay Area, and would like to throw a cookie decorating party with Kate as your instructor, it's such a great way to get a group together, morning, afternoon or night. She charges $45/head and pretty much does it all! You leave with some great, new knowledge and a box of your cookie art. For more info, you can contact her at kateplaskon(at)gmail.com or at 415.225.7516
We had the rare opportunity to break away this afternoon and do a long bike ride through the Dry Creek Valley, just the two of us. So I gathered together all my protective clothing, most importantly, my neon flowered flip-flops, and set out on a 20 mile *peddle* through the countryside.
Daddy didn't want me to get run over by a tractor and insisted I wear a helmet. Fair enough, but I always insist on wearing a brimmed hat. The outcome looked like this:
Not sexy. And yet I swear it took everything out of the man not to dry hump my leg all day. ;-)
The temperature was an ideal 84 degrees and so we peddled and chatted, chatted and peddled until we reached Healdsburg in time for lunch.
We had hoped to try the new SpoonBar at the h2 Hotel, but were disappointed to learn it was closed for lunch on Tuesdays. So we made reservations for dinner instead, and walked around oh-ing and aw-ing all the great landscape, architectural and interior details.
Just outside the restaurant's entrance was this incredible work of art paying homage to, what else, the spoon. The sound of water drizzling down a wall balancing hundreds of teetering spoons was just so sweet and calming.
Inside the lobby, I had a seat on a multi-patterned Missoni couch (when are they not?!), and looked beyond some highly lacquered coffee tables of reclaimed wood to a stunning piece of art by Stephen Galloway. It all tied in very well with my flip-flops, don't you think?
On the way home, I took this picture:
I just love the sight of an endless field of agriculture, interrupted only by a barn's corrugated metal roof.
The food truck frenzy has made it's way to Marin! We headed down to the ferry building tonight to see the line-up, eat dinner with friends, and dance with our kids.
As much as I love the idea of spending my Friday nights at a food truck party (and coming home to a clean kitchen!), I have to say, it was rough trying to hold my kids down long enough to get them to eat. Even then, it was nothing containing vegetables. Next time I will pack some carrots and fruit to bring along and supplement their take-away meals.
The kids loved everything - running around, running into friends and running back and forth between bites of their pizza politana (which was excellent). My muffaletta vegetarian sandwich from Suzie Q's was mighty tasty too!
The big boys enjoyed pulled pork sandos.
I'm sad to say that there was one small disappointment at the Food Truck Crush - the cupcake truck. Way. Too. Sugary. I hate to complain about a small business, really I do, but I had two bites of a Samoa (coconut, caramel & chocolate) and saved the rest for the chickens. Maybe I'll give them another shot down the road.
For Mother's Day, I spent a couple hours with my *moms* and one of my sisters, walking the open studios of the ICB building in Sausalito. This was probably the fifth year I've toured the open studios and ICB is always my favorite spot because there are so many incredible artists all in one place. Not to mention, Heath Ceramics is just next door.
These were some of my favorite artists today:
Kim Ford Kitz standing in front of Chinatown. I was so excited to discover Kim's work after seeing her fliers around the building featuring a beautiful abstract image in shades of greens and teals. When I finally made my way into studio No. 282, I was amazed to find a varying body of work. While I came for her abstract work, I ended up falling in love with this piece. (I've made arrangements to bring it home this week :)
After Thursday's tour of Straus Farm, we headed up the road a couple miles to one of our favorite spots, Nick's Cove. It was our date night, and we weren't planning on going home 'til the sun came up.
Nick's is the best - a real West Marin landmark. We've made it out here several times, once for a special farm-to-table community dinner and another time for our anniversary.
There is a neat little hut at the end of Nick's dock where you can go to order drinks and food. We just stopped by for a visit.
While we booked a room off the water and across the street, we got lucky and were offered an upgrade to a cottage on the water.
Because we didn't have three kids or a dog to wake us up, we slept in until an unimaginable, 7:43. This was the view outside the South facing window when we woke:
And this was the view outside the West window:
After eating a breakfast in bed of complimentary fruits, fresh baked pastries and hot coffee, we headed home to pack the family up for our Spring Break *staycation*. But more on that tomorrow.
Yesterday was the day I had been looking forward to for weeks - it was our day to tour of the Straus Family Farm in West Marin. The farm is home to Albert Straus, son of original owners Bill and Ellen Straus, his family, as well as 300 gorgeous, healthy, happy cows.
Beautifully situated on rolling hills that kiss down on Tomales Bay, you'd never know you were passing this beloved family farm as there are absolutely no markings to indicate such, only a simple number on a sign.
Straus cows are happy cows. Nobody needed to tell us that, it was just clear as day, right there in front of us. They graze in the pasture all day long, eating grass and socializing.
They do get some supplemental feed, which they love, but not enough to cause health issues that you hear of with factory farms. These cows never receive antibiotics, pesticides in their feed or growth hormones. The grain was stored undercover in a sort of open-air barn (I'm sure it has a name), divided into three different areas. We were told it took a long while for them to source 100% organic, non-GMO feed for their girls, but they are very proud of the fact that they did and that their heifers receive the best money can buy.
Some really interesting, dust covered cobwebs on wood posts dividing the feed storage areas.
Harley, the farm manager, jumped in and out of our tour, sharing his incredible knowledge of all things dairy farm. These are his boots:
Everyone's favorite part of the tour - baby heifers. Man were these little girls sweet! Immediately, their unique personalities were revealed to us. Some ran, hopped and kicked around the pen, some rested peacefully in the hay, while others came straight up to us at the fence trading licks for pats. About six months ago, Harley started naming all the newborns with the intention of every Straus cow having a name someday. I just love that!
This is Monique:
This little girls just tore at my heartstrings when she approached my open hand and started sucking on my index finger.
The only disappointing part of the tour was learning that all calves are separated from their moms at birth. (Industry standard, sniffle, sniffle) Everything else about these cows lives is amazing - truly it is. But in order to run a dairy, cows can only be used for one thing and that's milk production. So the baby boys are sold and the baby girls are raised on the farm, in a barnyard setting. There is a machine (The Urban U40!) that provides them milk on demand and we got to see it up close and personal. When a calf enters one of it's two stalls, it scans her tag and provides her access to her daily quotient of cows milk, on demand. Here are some images of it:
Towards the end of the two-hour tour, it was time for the ladies second milking. They were all sauntering down the hill towards the milk parlor. I just love this picture; can you see what's going on here?
All these ladies, with their utters down to THE GROUND were just standing next to this truck, watching the mechanic work.
When I looked at this lady and jokingly remarked, "Ouch - I remember those days!", the farm manager asked, "Oh, you worked on a dairy farm?!" Er, uh - sorta...I've had three kids - does that count?!? ;)
They have a lot of advanced technology on the farm (remember the Urban U40?) but some things are still old school.
The Milk Parlor. All the ladies line-up and take turns, fourteen at a time.
What would a tour of the Straus Family Farm be without some organic ice cream? Cheers!
To learn more about Straus Creamery or to take a tour of their farm, visit their FAQ page.
I am super excited to announce I have just graduated the big kids to nonfat milk! The best part being, we now buy all our dairy in glass containers!! See, despite my efforts to go all glass in the past, I just couldn't get the speaking children to warm up to Straus' low-fat milk with all it's little bits of floating fat at the top. No matter how much I shook that bottle, I was never able to get the cream at top to fully blend with the 1/2 gallon of non-fat milk below. The baby was another story. We started him early so he didn't know any different.
But after last weeks tour of the dump and learning that glass is the best solution, that No. 1 plastic can only be recycled one more time and that cartons can only go into landfill, I was inspired to make a change. I remembered our pediatrician encouraging us to move from 1% to non-fat, and so I (enthusiastically) took the plunge.
End of story. Turn the page.
In other Straus news...
I just got an email from Marin Organic announcing the unique opportunity to take a tour of Straus Creamery in Marshall, CA, next Thursday! How convenient that that just *happens* to be our date night. Baby and I are going to raise the roof! Nothing more romantic than engorged utters and warm milk with cream on top! (Hi, Honey!)
So I've made us a reservation and afterward we'll take it one step further with a sleepover at Nick's Cove, just down the road.
I'll be sure to post (the G-rated) pictures when the time comes!