Santa Barbara, Naturally

Santa Barbara, Naturally

Traveling alone has never bothered me, and I often seek out the opportunity to wander through cities almost anywhere in the world. Coastal towns like Southern California’s Santa Barbara are more family and couple oriented, so on this visit I was more comfortable gravitating to the many stunning areas of natural beauty that surround the city.

The Santa Barbara Courthouse was completed in 1929. Its Spanish Moor designed complex is beautiful in of itself, and it offers the most jaw dropping views of the city, mountains and sea from the top of  its 85 foot “El Mirador”clock tower.

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A wealth of natural beauty: Climb into your car and head for the Pacific Coast Highway. Head south on the iconic 101 and take 150 towards Ojai Valley which is known for its hippy vibe, or drive north to the exit for Calif. 1 toward Lompac and experience the stunning Valley of Flowers, a nickname for an area known for producing most of the world’s flower seeds.  For a wonderfully detailed overview of the Santa Barbara area, along with suggestions for travel routes and destinations, you might enjoy reading Road Trip, researched by National Geographic writers.

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The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden deserves its own post, and I look forward to researching and writing one someday soon. Founded in 1926,  the SBBG’s mission is to display native California plants in natural settings. Highlights include a lovely redwood forest, a dam constructed in 1806 by Native Americans, as well as almost 6 miles of hiking trails. It is one of the prettiest gardens I have ever explored, and my visit was one of the most pleasant mornings I’ve spent anywhere, and if I were a local Santa Barbaran, I’d be a member.

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A trip to any coastal town requires a sunset at a favorite beach, so I chose Hendry’s on a busy Saturday evening. I love this photograph because it timeless. It captures a scene that is reminiscent of the 1900s, as well as the here and now, or maybe twenty years in the future. Our pull towards the sea is universal, and I often wonder as we stand there entranced looking far beyond the last breaker, if we’re all waiting for a some signal from the great mother ship.

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Like most places I’ve visited for the first (second, third…) time I felt as though I’d only scratched the surface of Santa Barbara. Next time I (we) go however, it will better planned with a more complete list of things to do. I need to check out the booming arts district and the wine tasting bars representing various local vineyards. And yes, I’ll make sure my husband double checks his calendar and see how he likes this hotel, The San Ysdiro Ranch, which looks to me like the perfect combination of peaceful retreat and vacation resort. While we’re on the subject of fabulous Southern California Beach towns, have you checked out Grace and Frankie on Netflix? Its kind of fun watching this older cast romp around their ageless life issues, and the setting is fabulous. The house where it’s filmed is as big of a star as the cast, and found some fun information on this interesting blog “Hooked on Houses.” Until next time…

Back to the Garden, and a Monday Walk

Back to the Garden, and a Monday Walk

Hot summer days, lots of haze and a need for a local escape landed me in the north Georgia mountains to a favorite little garden center where I go to take walks, fool around with my camera and to enjoy the scenery. I like it here because it’s usually a few degrees cooler in the summer, there are lots of paths to hike around the wooded naturalized gardens or some that head off toward the more centralized more formal designs. It’s a friendly environment and the air has the cool freshness that comes from being near the mountains. One of the things I look forward to seeing here are the resident garden cats. They happily hop up from their place in the shade to welcome unsuspecting visitors in a confusing tangle of leg rubbing and twisting around the ankles until everybody’s on the ground for a belly rubbing session. Being on the receiving end of a cat’s love is one of life’s simple pleasures I think.

Every Monday my friend Jo welcomes bloggers to walk along with her on her wonderful travels. This week she showcases the coast of Seaton Sluice, a beautiful rural area where the channel meets the sea in Northumberland England. You can see her beautiful photography here: Jo’s Monday Walk: Seaton Sluice. Meanwhile, I hope you’re enjoying your summer, and wherever you’ve landed make sure to stop now and then to enjoy all that’s beautiful around you.

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My cat friends at Gibbs Gardens made me think of another blog I’d like to recommend. If you are a cat lover, and enjoy horses and the world of equestrian competition, you would like my friend David’s blog, “Through the Viewfinder” His life stories are a joy to read, his photography, wonderful.
Click on the link if you’d like to read more about North Georgia’s Gibbs Gardens.

Spring Shorts: Ode to Spring and the Return of the Birds

 

“What a strange thing!
to be alive
beneath cherry blossoms.”

― Kobayashi Issa, Poems

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Spring arrived early this year but barely made a ripple in the southern atmosphere as it painted our world in pastels, a relief considering the thrashing we took in the late winter months. The cherry trees in the yard bloomed bigger and the petals fell earlier leaving behind small orbs of dark red, eagerly devoured by chipmunks scampering though the branches like tiny acrobats. The testosterone ravaged birds arrived, puffed up and singing loudly, happily, uncontrollably. They staked their territories, built fine nests of pine straw and dried moss, cleverly disguised above the bird feeders lined like smoke stacks along the branches. The turf wars began. The squirrels, ready to feast at the tables set before them, were shamed into retreat by the flurry of beating wings, warriors suspended in mid-air.  The rains came, barely making a ripple and our world rested, preparing for the inevitable arrival of summer, and a backyard truce of sorts.

 

L.A. Shorts: The Phantom

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On previous visits to Los Angeles, I had only driven by the Walt Disney Concert Hall at night, and each time it reminded me of a shimmering phantom ship rising above an urban ocean. This time, on foot and during the day, it had the same fantastic effect, fitting for a building that bears the name of Disney. The architecture is a flawless wonder, tricking the eye into constant motion, making it difficult to rest on one spot. It is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic and designed by Frank Gehry, who is best known for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, the Dancing House in Prague, the Experience Music Project in Seattle among many others. If you will be in the the Los Angeles area I urge you to make room in your schedule for a visit. If you don’t have time for a formal tour, it’s easy to walk the perimeter and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by a rooftop garden tucked inside the gleaming exterior.

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Breaking News: The Color Green Goes Missing

Breaking News:  The Color Green Goes Missing

Atlanta, Ga.   Reports are coming in that the color green has been missing from the Atlanta area since late November of 2013. Green, known as the symbol of nature, fertility, and life, is a popular color in the Southern U.S. for farmers, gardeners and more importantly, fans of the Masters Golf Tournament. Clues left at the scene of the crime include, but are not limited to, leaves scattered on the ground under stunned trees, a landscape drained of all color, and hundreds of small animals furiously digging tiny holes in the ground for no apparent reason. The primary suspect, Winter, seen in the area during the first hard frost in December, is said to have “dug in deep.” After the recent capture of warm weather antagonist Jack Frost at the recent Green Bay, 49ers playoff game in Wisconsin, Winter went into cahoots with a more dangerous accomplice who goes by the name of Polar Vortex, wreaking icy havoc on a good part of the North American Continent. Spring, who has a vested interest in the safe return of Green, is offering a reward in the form of lush grass, tender new growth and an addictive fragrance in the air that has been known to melt even the most hardened of hearts, and inducing random outbursts of singing in many people. To assist authorities in locating the missing popular color, please visit your local garden center. And fertilize.

Getting Your Glow On

I’ve wanted to go to the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s “Garden Lights” display since its inception three years ago, and decided that this year I would cast aside all self-imposed holiday duties and make a beeline to the beautiful mid-town gardens with my family. We were not disappointed. A million plus twinkling lights displayed artfully throughout the woods and gardens made for a fun and festive evening. Enhancing the adventure is a popular detour from light gazing, the Glow Bar, where beverages of choice (wine!) are available to toast the holidays with loved ones in this magical setting. If you find yourself in the Atlanta area mid-November through early January this year, try to make the effort to take part in this enlightening and extremely enjoyable experience. My advice is to check the Weather.com forecast before you make plans and pinpoint the evening with the warmest temps. If it includes a warning about a POLAR VORTEX, you may want to keep your eye out for a friendlier weather day. Polar Vortex = Not Much Fun Sightseeing Outside at Night. For more information check out the Atlanta Botanical Gardens website.

Ice Ice Baby

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The ice plant is a drought tolerant, bunny resistant plant whose flowers close at night, open in the morning and slowly follow the path of the sun until nightfall. Its name is a curiosity and I can’t walk by this low-growing patch of bright pink flowers without thinking of the one hit wonder by Vanilla Ice,  Ice  Ice Baby. It’s funny how the mind works…..everything in my world is reminiscent of  a song. The ice plant is native to South Africa and is naturalized to many warm climate regions across the globe. It is a succulent, meaning it’s a plant that stores water in its leaves and stems so that they can tolerate dry conditions. It’s known by a variety of descriptive names, including “highway ice plant,” “pigface” (I don’t get that one) and “sour pig plant,” because of its edible fruit. The fact it has small, clear engorged hairs on the surface of the leaves that look like frozen droplets of water makes the most sense to me for the name. The ice plant is what I call, a keeper.

Even though Rolling Stone Magazine listed it as the fourth worst song of the 90’s in a reader’s poll, I still crank up the volume when this hip hop song comes on the radio.

Rain, I don’t mind. Shine, the world looks fine.

Rain, I don’t mind.  Shine, the world looks fine.

My favorite perennial, Geranium Roxanne, did not disappoint this spring. Prolific and drought tolerant, Roxy endured an unexpectedly harsh winter for the southern U.S. and graced our garden with style. She is one of the few plants in the yard that the resident wild rabbits find unappealing to the palate. Roxanne is a fighter, and I love her for taking a stand.

Title quote from the lyrics “Rain” by the Beatles, released in 1966

The Art of Condensation

The Art of Condensation

The fluctuating temperatures plunged our garage into a greenhouse effect the other morning, covering the windows with a thick layer of condensation. I took advantage of the steamy conditions and focused on a favorite rose that was making a dreamy climb along the window frame. In love with the results, I thought I’d share my “condensation art.”