Monday, March 31, 2014

Winter Wonderland

The sun was blazing when we got to Yosemite, the granite sparkling in the afternoon light, bits of snow clinging to the ridges and wrinkles.
Rain was forecast for the next day, so we hiked to mirror lake...and around the valley.  Crisp, fragrant, almost empty.  No shouts echoing off the granite walls, no cars.  A pair of Acorn woodpeckers scolded us as we walked past the nest they were building.  A Stellar Jay screeched and followed us, hopping and stropping his beak on the branches.
Mirror Lake is a dry sandy wasteland for most of the year.  It's silting in, becoming a meadow.  
But not yet.
I love this old hotel.  The Ahwahnee dining room.
With deer just outside the windows.
The kids romping on the lawn at sunset, making memories.  
Some day, when I am just a memory, these kids will be here with their kids, watching them practice somersaults.
We went to bed with the rain hammering on the roof.  Half way thru the night it got eerily quiet.  In the morning we knew why - 
We went to sleep in a rainstorm and woke up in a postcard.

Half dome wore a cape of clouds:
Mist, magic.  
Yosemite Falls looked like a Bierstadt painting:
And then it started to melt:
And we got really wet.  
By noon you'd never know there'd been snow.  But we will remember the winter wonderland that was.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Vase With A Waist

It was for my friends Maryam and Karyn that I started picking flowers - a handful each week, shoved into a jam jar or a straight-sided jar that held spices.  A fist full of violets, 
A handful of daffodils.   Or three.

An armful of iris.
I'd always collected garden flowers for dinner parties, and I'm sure looking at the flowers lowered the expectations for the meal - surprise! dinner is delicious!  

But I have discovered I love having flowers by my bedside.  And on the breakfast table.  Fresh flowers, fragrant flowers.  My flowers.  Our flowers.
And so does Wally.
Sure, I go to Ron Morgan's classes, and to Bouquets To Art.  But mostly to marvel at something I'm not good at (yes there is something - finally - that I'm not good at.  Deal with it.)  

Some how, something must have sunk in - by osmosis? and I'm discovering I have quite strong opinions about flower arranging. And I am quite pleased with the result.

1.  From the garden please.  Gotta get something for those ridiculous water bills.  Use those prunings.
2.  Foliage is king.  You only need a few flowers (Ron) or maybe none (Shane Connolly).
3.  Airy Fairy is contemporary.  It's all the rage in London.  Shane is the master; I'm learning.  
4.  Fragrance please on the bedside table.  And no fragrance on the dining table.  (The moose doesn't care.  He's in the hall.)

5.  And!  (this is my best discovery)  Flowers look better in a vase with a waist.  At least mine do.
The next time I go to the flower market I'll be looking for vases with waists.  Leaving before dawn - call if you want to come along.  

Monday, March 24, 2014

One Perfect Day On The Bay

Sparkling clear - a rare day on San Francisco Bay.  Fog and gloom and damp are the usual fare. 
Wally said "Let's take the ferry to Sausalito and have lunch at Poggio.  With Lincoln."  Brilliant.  Started at the Ferry Building, one of the best things about SF...

Plus it's where you catch the ferry.

Everyone who has a boat was on the bay, racing alone...
 ...or in flocks. 
Sausalito sparkled in the sunlight, cool and crisp - it was the kind of day that makes you want to run around like a little kid, spinning and swinging your arms.  
At Poggio diners in sweatshirts shivered on the patio.  Seemed like a good idea at the time.  Warm and smug inside we ate squid ink pasta and crab and bottarga.  Fabulous pasta, interesting pairings. Check out the menu.

Passing the Golden Gate on the way home the ocean was hammered silver...
and Lincoln was as close to the side as he could get, his head hanging over.  Don't tell his mother.
It was a perfect day.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Bouquets To Art

Shane Connolly is Irish, and the darling of the London flower world.  He's  Prince Charles' flower arranger, did the flowers for his wedding to Camilla.  

Ron Morgan is the toast of American garden clubs (and mothers and brides everywhere), jetting across the country lecturing and charming and getting daughters married off in style (sometimes for the second or third time).

Yesterday they were on stage together at Bouquets To Art, lecturing and arranging side by side. Very different styles, and besides being fabulous and inspiring they were hysterically funny.

They did maritime arrangements.  Shane arranged flesh colored tulips in a flesh colored shell.  Ron, hands on hips: "That's it?  That's your maritime, that dinky little thing?" 

Ron had an upside-down Corinthian capital and gold leafed barnacles to start with.  Shane: "I didn't know Liberace was in the Navy..."  

Ron:  "Oh yes.  He was decorated several times!"

Ron brought a fabulous twisted branch from a Camperdown Elm, a very slow growing tree, and said "I'm pretty sure this came from the Midnight Supply Company."  Think about it.  If you're missing a Camperdown Elm...
Ron's Grinling Gibbons arrangement:
And Shane's. 
So different, both spectacular.  

They did Chinoiserie, and English Country House Party, Ron facing the audience:
Shane wandering around his arrangement. 
Both keeping up a steady stream of advice and gentle insults.  
There was a lively discussion of the correct height of an arrangement for a dinner party.  Shane said "The English find it rude to talk across the table.  You're supposed to talk to the person on your right, then when the table turns, to the person to your left." That's advice for the gentlemen.  If everybody spoke to the person on their right, the dinner table would look like a conga line. 

So the English make arrangements for the dinner table that are quite tall.  And dense.  And Americans make arrangements you can talk over.  

Ron's Spring:
 Ron said "This is my interpretation of..." and groaned when he tried to move the arrangement.

"Childbirth, by the sound of it." Shane shot off.

Ron place a spray of trembling orchids in his Chinoiserie arrangement and said "Look at how they move!  Just like fish swimming thru the arrangement!"  Shane asked "Do you write Fairy tales in your spare time?" 

"Honey, I am a fairy tale!" Ron shot back.  

"So when did your self doubt start materializing?" Shane asked.

Ron cocked his head and said "About five minutes ago." 

Monocolor, the new English paradigm.  By Shane.  
Shane's style is loose, no oasis.  Ron's is controlled, every flower knows who's boss.  So different, both fabulous.  And inspiring.

There were many more stories - Ron:  "Years ago the Garden Club ladies had chosen a rose to be named for Eleanor Roosevelt, and when Mrs. Roosevelt saw the description of the rose: 'Not good in beds, great against the wall' she declined the honor."

Shane: "There was a man who had a plant named after him.  Some little grey wrinkly leaved thing.  When his wife saw it, she said "Oh honey, that's perfect!"

And of course there were the Bouquets To Art themselves  Winter:
(note the painting being interpreted just behind)

My friend Najat Nicola's painting:
 And her amazing arrangement.  I would have no idea where to start, she nailed it.  Even if it wasn't near the painting you would know to which painting it belonged.
There was some wild stuff:

and some wonderful.  A David Hockney video of spring and this:
A white wall in the hall made into a modern woodland.
Mark your calendar for next March, go to some lectures, and get your tickets early.  They sell out fast - I know why.