July 30, 2010

Foggy, With a (110%) Chance of Nostalgia

On the drive to my grandparents' house I go by my old elementary school in Wooden Valley, just over the hill from Napa Valley. This week as a went past I noticed the fog was beautiful, as it often is on summer mornings, so I stopped to take a picture of the view from the playground looking west towards Napa (above). What you are witnessing here is Napa's automatic and natural air conditioning system; simply put, as hot air rises from the valley it creates a vacuum, pulling in cool coastal air (and fog). As kids we'd say that King Kong's bath tub was overflowing.
Here's the view a little more towards the north. If you continue around that golden hill and up a ways you get to my family's house. It's picturesque and a bit remote, but not nearly as remote as it might look.
And here is a shot of the schoolhouse (note the stickers to deter birds from flying into the windows). When I graduated there were four kids in my class, and twenty-eight in the entire school. That is pretty tiny for a public school, especially in California. Enrollment didn't increase much in the next ten years, in fact it decreased, and Wooden Valley Elementary flirted constantly with closure. With the State's fantastic financial woes, the end finally came this June. Even after all these years of anticipation, it seemed unreal to see the school stripped of its sign. [Edit: I've since learned the school district may not have been responsible for this removal. Vandals!].

Speaking of the (missing) sign, you can see it in this old photograph (below) I came across while sorting through a box of treasures from my dear late friend and mentor, Jean Hill, a talented artist and life-long resident of Wooden Valley. He taught art at the school for many years.

Perhaps it was these BB guns which were responsible for the dimples in the ornament at the top of the flag pole (below).
I also discovered this more recent photo (below) taken in April 1963, which shows just about the same view as my photo (second from top), only with orchards instead of vineyards. I suppose this is proof that things are always changing in the valley, but still the closure of the school seems a very sad end of an era. I am depressed it is over, but feel lucky to have been a part of it.

July 28, 2010

Flowers in the Stream

I spent Sunday and Monday in a remote mountain community near the home of a close family friend who recently passed away. Traditional florist flowers didn't seem appropriate for the surrounding rugged alpine landscape and the man who loved it, so the family requested I design something with more of a wild feel. I brought along garden-grown hydrangeas and privets, supplemented them with market-purchased bachelor's buttons, eryngium, and freesia, then incorporated local pine, oak, wild sweet pea, and lupines (gathered from private property).
I was able to design the flowers for the family's home (above) in the motel room, but had to check out before it was time to put together the flowers for the burial ceremony. To escape the hot, dry heat of midday, I found a stoney stream bed under the deep shade of a cement bridge. The flowers could be kept cool in the icy water (below left), and I worked surrounded by the peaceful sound of the rushing stream  and the view of the billowing thunderheads (below right). It seemed very appropriate.

July 26, 2010


J & V
Senior Testers
Department of Extreme Lambs Ear Stuctures
The Monkey Flower Group
East Coast Campus

Dear Madames,

I wish to inform you that research for The Collar continues (above), though persistent technical difficulties continue to thwart production of a working prototype. Progress is steady, however, and I am optimistic that the ultimate goal will soon be attained. In the meantime, efforts at fabrication are yielding interesting results (documentation forthcoming) which I have reason to believe you will find satisfactorily ridiculous.


Senior Researcher
Department of Extreme Lambs Ear Structures
The Monkey Flower Group
Napa Headquarters

July 24, 2010

Whoosh, Shiver, There It Goes!

Shel Silverstein got it right; summer will be gone in no time if the weeks keep whooshing by like this! I'm feeling a bit tuckered out, so I'll just post a few photos of today's market's headbands, bouquets, earrings, necklaces, pins, and bracelets. Have a fabulous weekend!

July 19, 2010

Horticultural Haven

After Saturday's market my mom and I took a little trip down to see my sister and her "new" major, major fixer-upper in Menlo Park (home also to Sunset Magazine, and described by that venerable garden authority as possessing an "ideal horticultural climate"). Not surprisingly, the garden (and house, for that matter) is dripping potential, as suggested by these colorful roses which survived years and years of neglect beautifully.

The house's current lack of a functional kitchen or inhabitable dining room was not a problem; my sister expertly grilled up some amazingly tasty salmon, which we ate on the patio table with fresh mozzarella and lemons, basil and tomatoes from the garden (below).

Sturdy wine glasses such as the adorable one below (which has survived since the 1988 Napa Town and Country Fair), added a homey touch.

July 17, 2010

Wear Flowers to Jury Duty

Powder blue agapanthus (above), lush ferns, and hydrangea ranging in color from baby pink to antique lavender set the tone for this market's bouquets and flowers to wear (below).

Many, many times throughout the day I hear people lamenting that they have nowhere special to wear flowers. . . I say all the better! It is a proven fact that nothing livens up mundane tasks (such as jury duty, checkbook balancing, or typing, as I am now) like a pretty glimpse of flowers on your wrist and the festive rustle of ribbon bows (below). Three is a bit excessive, I know, but I do it for the cause (test-running some orphans after the market, below). In all but the most extremely boring situation, just one will do the trick.

July 14, 2010

Lavender Bundles

Even after three weeks back in California I am still readjusting to some local botanical wonders which I previously took for granted, such as rosemary or jade plant hedges, neglected oleanders flourishing along highways, pruned manzanita branches laying in piles to be chipped into mulch, and extensive use of lavender in all sorts of landscaping applications.
Not surprisingly, there are already so many vendors selling these hardy, fragrant beauties at extremely reasonable prices as to make my doing so redundant. But that doesn't stop me from bundling up some from our garden for home use. Yum!

July 12, 2010

California Fruit Love

There are some people I would dearly love to entice (back) to California, and while I realize posting these photos is a slightly unfair tactic, I am going ahead with it anyways. Forgive me.
 After running errands in town I dropped in on some old Napa friends.  As usual, I left with more amazingly perfect and ripe fruit from their gardens (this time plums, peaches, and figs) than one person could safely consume in three days. Luckily I do not live by myself.
Add some brie and Mom's homemade San Francisco sourdough croutons (always in short supply, above) and you have the perfect California lunch (below). Wish [you] were here!