Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Up, Up and Away

The excitement mounted as the balloon rose; the only sound the whoosh of the burner as the pilot fired flame into the envelope, heating the air. We floated silently, at the mercy of the winds, marveling at the world from above the trees. Off in the distance, other balloons hung in the air seemingly motionless. There were 4 people in our basket, we each stood in our own corner, watching the countryside flow beneath us. The pilot descended once, brushing the treetops with the bottom of the basket before firing the burner again. People on the ground ran out of their houses to wave as we floated by. We shouted and waved in return. The trip lasted over an hour. It was a birthday gift I will never forget.

I watched and clapped with the other onlookers as the balloons launched, back lit against a dying day at the NJ Festival of Ballooning. But my mind’s eye was filled with my own experience years and years ago.

The festival was fun, with the typical food and rides. There were mimes performing on high flexible pedestals, trampoline gymnasts, and throngs of people. The draw was the balloons. The morning launch of over 120 balloons was, from what I heard, spectacular. The evening launch that we saw, much less so. Because of high winds the launch was delayed until after 7pm, then only a few balloons rose with their paying customers.

If you go to a balloon festival I encourage you to get up at the crack of dawn to see the morning launch. Better yet, go up in one.

Friday, July 25, 2008

First Harvest

Good thing I am only growing for one.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Muir Woods

I tiptoed into the hushed fog-shrouded woods, peering up at the massive giants around me. The wooden walkway angled off in the distance. Alone with the trees, the faint twitter of birds high in the canopy and the trickle of the small creek that runs alongside the path; like my first visit to St. Peter's in Rome, I wanted to fall down and worship in the cathedral. I walked softly; breathing in the cool damp April air. I spotted movement along a fallen trunk, a liquid drop of sunshine with a tiny black beret flitted amidst the leaves. It was my first look at a Wilson's Warbler. I walked deeper into the woods marveling at the trees, reading the posted signs, tenderly touching the shaggy gnarled bark, Breathing in the piney smell. It was a day I will never forget.

I have been back to Muir Woods many times alone and with family and friends. I have been there in different seasons, but the first time was the most magical. It is not far over the Golden Gate bridge. Next time you are in San Francisco, take some time to drive up. it is so worth it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Napa Valley wine tasting

I thought it would make the most sense to stay in the town of Napa if we were going to be in Napa Valley, I have since changed my mind. Napa is at the southernmost end of the valley but the heart and pulse, not to mention the best shopping, is in St. Helena further north. Traveling the almost 60-mile elongated circle up the Silverado Trail and down Route 29 stopping at wineries was a lot of fun. There are over a hundred wineries from which to choose. Many of them have open tasting rooms and tours while in others you have to make an appointment. Not being in town for very long, we opted for open tasting. We stopped at Grgrich Hills ($10 for a flight if 4), where I remembered them making something I really liked years and years ago. But I didn’t like anything there. Huh. We then stopped to try a flight of bubbly at Domaine Chandon. They have the most incredible property. The flight was $16. for 4 different sparkling wines. They also serve food on site. We didn’t eat there, but judging from the menu and other’s people’s plates it looked good. We then drove over to Black Stallion, a newish winery on Silverado Trail with a 2 for 1 tasting card that the hotel gave us. We both really liked the Sauvignon Blanc so much that we bought a bottle.

Driving back to the hotel laughing merrily, we spied another winery called Luna and spontaneously pulled in. Walking up to the tasting room, we noticed that they were closed. Shrugging, we got back in the car; it was getting late after all. As we started to pull out of the drive, a handsome man jogged across their tiled patio with a black wine bag. Concerned that we had missed the tasting he handed us a bottle of cold wine through the dusty car window. We thanked him profusely, promising to return the next day. Peeking in the bag, we saw it was a beautifully chilled bottle of Pinot Grigio. We decided to have the Luna with olives, portobello mushrooms and roasted peppers, and cheese and crackers for dinner. It was delish. If you get to Napa you have to totally go there.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Presidential Hopefuls

I first heard Obama speak last year at the NCLR conference. He captivated a room of close to 1000 people. At that time, there were small lines and no security. My, the changes that a year can make! This year, the lines formed 2 ½ hours before the event and you had to have a ticket to get in. There was security, protesters, loads of press, button-selling supporters and a galvanized crowd.

When it was McCain’s turn, there were no protesters, very little press, no lines, but you still needed a ticket to get in and presumably there was security. The energy around the candidates was very different. McCain did not participate in last year’s meeting.
I overheard many hallway, booth, restaurant and elevator conversations about the upcoming election. It is wonderful that people are taking their responsibility seriously.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

California bound

I leaving today for a 10-day 2-conference business trip to California. I'll post some bits of it when I'm there. Stay tuned.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Black Raspberries

I plunked down on a rock next to the trail and like a bear in a berry patch, started wolfing sun warmed ripe black raspberries. My sister had called last week to tell me she'd picked enough black raspberries for a pie. I couldn't even remember the last time I had them. The wild raspberries here are all red, I told her. Sissy, I lied. Apparently we do have them, though we definitely do not have blackberries, my personal favorite. I wonder why...? Anywho, I spied these while hiking. Couldn't let them go to waste. They really are better than red raspberrries. But there was not enough for a pie.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Green Frog

On a hike in Wawayanda State Park, I walked around a vernal puddle in the middle of the path checking for tadpoles only to discover a frog had taken up residence. It did not shy away even though there were many people in the woods. I originally thought it was a Wood Frog, but it did not have the mask, so I have come to the conclusion it is a Green Frog. Look at that ear drum.

There are three things that struck me when I read the description in the field guide. "Males have swollen thumbs." Why thumbs? I guess this one is female, her thumbs look normal. Their voice is like "the twang of a loose banjo string" I have absolutely no idea what that would sound like. Would most people? And, "They seldom scream in alarm when caught." Do other frogs scream in alarm?

Saturday, July 5, 2008


The Night Writers, my writing group, met at my house last Thursday. I threw together some guacamole to have as nibbles. They all wanted the recipe, so I thought you might too.

3 ripe Hass avocados (the nubbily black ones) peeled, pit removed
1 onion chopped fine (I used ½ of a big Spanish onion)
2 fresh seeded green Serrano peppers (you can also use jalapeƱos) or to taste, chopped fine
1 red tomato (I used 2 and I think it was too much)
A handful of chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 lime

Throw all the ingredient in a bowl and mash with a potato masher or a fork. Stir gently. Sprinkle with salt and taste it. Put plastic wrap directly on top of the guacamole and pop it in the fridge for at least ½ hour. It will hold for an hour or so. Spoon it into a molcajete if you have one and serve with tortilla chips.

Friday, July 4, 2008