Apple Hill

Field Trip Friday--California Dreamin'

October 20, 2017

Northern California was particularly photogenic this month. Instead of telling you about my trip, I’m going to share a few of my favorite photos. (Neither of my parents lives in an area threatened by wildfires—at least right now—though we could smell and see smoke some days.)

One of my favorite things to do when I visit my mom is to walk every morning on the land that I grew up visiting every summer. I snap photos of whatever flora and fauna I come across. (Alas, no horses next door this year.) How fallish it looked (click on photos to make them bigger):

The cows came over to see what I was up to:

Loved this mama and baby:

Nothing much has changed since I was a child. I still drag my mother to see horses. This time, we went to the Wild Horse Sanctuary in Shingletown. Interesting place. These are wild ones:

When I visit my dad and step mom, I also get to see my feline “sister”:

This year, we dropped in to see my step mom’s brother, who is the manager of Funderland, an amusement park that’s been open since 1946. He remembers going there when he was a child! The rides were adorable and I want to devote a page in my travel sketchbook to them: 

The day before I came home, we visited a couple of the farms that are part of Apple Hill. In addition to apples, cider, donuts, pies, and lots of other tasty treats, High Hill Farm, where this was taken, had a number of craft booths which were interesting to walk through. You can see the smoke in air in this photo:

 Rainbow Farm had pumpkins and gourds in addition to apples:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this sneak peek into my visit to California. I miss it already. Even though I’ve now lived in Florida longer than I lived in California, since I grew up there it will always feel like home.


Happy at Home

October 24, 2016

I came home from my trip to California to see my parents to find the weather here has turned fall-ish! Between that and the rejuvenation of my visit, I feel like a new person.

I indulged in some favorite simple pleasures, such as stopping at Granzella’s for a sandwich and a walk through their gift shop. I practiced yoga twice, and took several walks around my mom’s property, making the acquaintance of some cows and some horses.

How now brown cow?

The ladies next door

One of my favorite things is the way it smells out there. I breathed deeply as I explored the landscape of my childhood summers.

I bought books at Cal’s used bookstore (and had to have them shipped home since they wouldn’t fit in my suitcase). One afternoon, my aunt and cousin came for tea and a cutthroat game of dominoes.

At my dad’s I went shopping with my stepmom, filled up on my dad’s delicious salad, admired the changes they’d made to their home, and loved on their kitty.

Best. Salad. Ever.


I always become introspective on trips. Somehow the distance from my everyday life lends itself to pondering. This trip was no different. Two main themes developed: consciousness of mortality and gratitude.

I don’t think about dying often but on this trip I realized that continued life is not a guarantee. I’m blessed to have my parents still living, but they are both aging and have health problems (though they’re hanging in there and following doctors’ orders). I can’t help but worry about them and wish I could check in on them in person more frequently. Seeing their challenges makes me want to take better care of myself to give myself the best chance possible to have healthy senior years.

Also, to bring the mortality theme home, while I was in California, a good friend of mine from high school died from an aneurysm. He was just 52.

While I’m sobered, I’m also filled with gratitude. I love my life right now! Overall, things are going the way I want them to go. I have work, friends, family, and animals that I love. I was ready to come home when my trip was done instead of wanting to extend it for more days.

I’m all unpacked and the suitcase is put away. Because of the East Coast/West Coast time difference, I’m still having trouble going to sleep (and staying asleep), but that will pass. I’m back at my Monday morning exercise class today and will likely ride Tank tomorrow. I’m grateful. I’m lucky.

I’m happy at home.


Scenes From a Morning Walk

December 11, 2015

Trying not to take for granted the beautiful place I live—despite the less-than-ideal climate, I do love to take a walk in the morning. The pictures in this post come from two different walks, but are indicative of what I see when I make time to look:

You can barely see it, but there's a hawk on the sign!

If we were to move, I think our trail would be one of the things I’d miss the most. Why is it we take for granted the simple pleasures that are always available to us?

What treasures, what simple pleasures, are right under your nose?

Everyday adventures

Homes Sweet Homes

October 20, 2014

Lucky me.

I can call more than one place home. There is, of course, my home here in Florida, where I’ve lived for more than 20 years, raised my son, put down roots. And there is California, the home of my birth and growing-up years, where my parents still live, and, I confess, where a piece of my heart remains. I just returned from a 10-day trip to California, and while I loved my time there, I was so very happy to come…home.

Always have to stop here for coffee!
When I arrive in CA, I always want to do everything at once—hug everyone, pet the cats (we all have cats), hear what’s been going on, go shopping, play games, and eat all the special foods they always have for me. I told everyone that I mainly wanted to just hang out and relax; they weren’t to worry about “entertaining” me. I run around enough at home. So that’s mainly what we did—I was able to sleep eight and nine hours a night without an elderly dog waking me up, I had time to read, and I even did a couple of watercolor sketches! We did go on a few planned outings—to Turtle Bay and the Sundial Bridge (look for a Field Trip Friday soon), and my favorite used bookstore with my mom; lunch out and a shopping trip with my stepmom. And since my Rays were not in the playoffs, I rooted for my stepmom’s favorite team, the San Francisco Giants, in their playoff games against Saint Louis. (They won and will be meeting the Kansas City Royals in the World Series starting tomorrow.)

One of my favorite places--the old cow barn at my mom's


My dad making my favorite salad.
When I come back to Florida, I want to sleep in my own bed, drink my morning coffee made just so, wear the clothes I didn’t take on the trip…you get the idea. Now that I’m home home, I’m appreciating my life more: my work, my leisure, my little routines and treats. Whether it was because of the rest I got while in CA, or the fallish (for FL) weather, I feel reenergized and more awake. Ready to tackle daily life again. Grateful for the people, pets and places—the simple pleasures and everyday adventures—that feel like home.

My mom's newest addition

Misty, my dad and stepmom's cat
Like I said, lucky me.

Has anything reenergized you lately?


Where We Love

September 30, 2011

After spending a few days with my mom and step dad, I headed back down to Sacramento to return my rental car and meet my dad and step mom. My companions on the drive:

I loved the drive to and from my mom’s house—it’s straight and easy, up Interstate 5, a trip we took many times when I was growing up. The drive gave me time to think, to sing along with the iPod, to watch for landmarks from my childhood letting me know I was getting close to my destination. I love the openness, the flat fields backed by misty little hills in the distance.

Sacramento was HOT. One hundred degrees a couple of the three days I was there—but, say it with me, it was a dry heat! And it was cool in the morning and evening, so still not as uncomfortable as Florida.

My step mom and I spent our time doing all the things we enjoyed when I was growing up: shopping, going to the movies and visiting with family. My step brother came over for dinner and we visited my step grandma at her assisted living facility, where my step uncle met us. (My dad and step mom have been married for more than 30 years, so her family is my family.) And, of course, there’s my “sister”:

One of the highlights of the trip: Harness racing at Cal Expo. My dad used to take us to these when I came to visit him in the summer. I adored watching the horses race, and one memorable evening, we got to ride in the starting car. Occasionally we’d arrive early and walk through the stables where I breathed in the scent of hay and horse and walked on air for hours afterwards.

Harness racers are standardbreds, who trot or pace around a track pulling a two-wheeled cart (called a sulky) and driver, at up to speeds of more than 30 mph. (In the pace, the two legs on the same side of the horse move forward together, unlike the trot, where the two legs diagonally opposite from each other move forward together.) Most races are a mile long. The most famous race is the Hambletonian, held every year in August at The Meadowlands racetrack in New Jersey, but you can see harness racing at many county and state fairs all over the U.S. (For more information, see To learn more about standardbreds, go here.)

We ate dinner at the Turf Club and spent several hours watching the races. And let me tell you, it’s far too easy to place bets. You can buy a voucher for whatever amount you want, then slip your voucher into a machine, use a touch screen to place your bet and away you(r money) go(es). I limited myself to a $20 voucher.

My system of betting was highly scientific. First, I chose a horse whose name had some meaning for me. I got my dad to decipher the racing form and quickly read up on the horse’s stats. I usually placed a “win, place, show” bet, so that I would win if my horse came in first, second or third, and I liked to bet on long shots (or at least not favorites). My first race, I chose “Racetrack Diva” in honor of my friend’s horse, Glory, an off-the-track thoroughbred. Diva obliged me by coming in third. The next race I bet on, I chose “Amazon Dot” because of my love affair with Dot won the race! I began to feel pretty proud of my system! You can guess what happened next. For the rest of the evening, none of my choices came in better than fourth. I ended the evening with a net loss of $3.90, which I consider well worth it for the amount of entertainment I got.

My family—both sets—basically spoiled me while I was in California, and gave me a much-needed break from my everyday responsibilities. I felt so lucky to be able to see my California family while my Florida family took care of themselves.

Monday, I asked, “What makes a place home for you?” This morning, I found an answer: “Where we love is home—home that our feet may leave but not our hearts.” (Oliver Wendell Holmes)



September 26, 2011

I returned late Saturday from my trip to California—and thank you all for your good wishes! All went well, and I came back refreshed in body and mind: no alarm clocks (except for the day I left: 3:45 a.m.!), and plenty of time to eat, drink, talk, read and even think (occasionally).

Before I go any farther, I’d like to thank my husband and mother-in-law who kept things running on the home front, making it possible for me to make this trip—love and gratitude to you both!

I flew to Sacramento, where I was born and where my dad and step mom still live, then rented a car and drove a couple hours north to where my mom and step dad live. I split my eight-day visit between the two of them. This blog post will cover the first half of my trip, and Friday’s will cover the rest.

I’ve written about where my mom lives before. Since we moved a lot as I grew up, this house is the closest thing I have to a childhood home. Many of my happiest memories occurred here, and it will always be one of my favorite places. It’s strange to me that though I grew up in California, went to college and got married there, I’ve now lived in Florida almost as long if not longer. (I don’t want to do the math!)

My first full day at my mom’s, I took a walk through part of the property, revisiting places I’d loved as a child:

 The acreage behind the house

The bee hives

The barn

The irrigation ditch

I returned covered in burrs:

I’d made two requests of my mom: visits to Trader Joe’s and to Cal’s Books, an awesome used book store in Redding, CA. TJ’s, as we always used to call it, was more an exercise in torture, because I couldn’t bring back much of anything…though I did buy some snacks and wine to enjoy while I was in California. And Cal’s…well, if you know me at all, you know the attraction there. I found only two books this time, which was probably just as well because I didn’t have room in my suitcase for more.

The last day of my stay with my mom, we checked out Anderson River Park, on the banks of the Sacramento River. After eating our lunch there, we spent the afternoon reading, chatting, relaxing and playing musical chairs trying to stay in the shade. Every so often, a breeze would blow off the river to cool us down. I wandered about a little, taking pictures.

This trip brings up the complicated question of where my “home” really is. Is it the place I grew up, where my birth family lives, and that I still love? Is it the place my husband, son and I live? For me, it’s both—the place of my roots that I will always long for AND the place I currently live with the people I love. I don’t have to choose—the more places that feel like home, the better.

What makes a place home for you?