Posts tagged ‘seasons/weather’
Since my first trip in 1994 to Provence in the south of France, I have always loved the flowering plant known simply as lavender. The incredible scent, the color, and the many extractions that can be made from this flower are delights that I enjoy immensely. For me, the sight and smell of lavender are one of those quintessential summer references.
The back road that leads from Glen Ellen to Santa Rosa is known as Bennett Valley. This back road is a visual feast in that the moderately hilly road has one of the most scenic drives in the Sonoma Valley — vineyards, pastures for grazing animals, barns, etc. Situated in Bennett Valley is Matanzas Creek Winery and its sumptuous lavender gardens. I must make the admission that I had never before visited this winery, nor had I ever tasted its wines. I knew about the lavender gardens and had always wanted to pay a visit. After a recent Facebook exchange with a friend in which I learned that the Matanzas lavender harvest would be happening soon, I realized I could no longer postpone a visit (thank you Laura Anderson). So last week I packed up my camera gear and drove to Bennett Valley.
Mon dieu…….. As I drove into Matanzas’ entrance and slowly continued towards the winery, I was greeted by a full bloom of purple splendor. It was mid-day of a weekday, so there were very few visitors. For the most part, I had the pleasure of wandering the gardens all to myself.
It was fascinating to observe the speed and efficiency of the harvesters. They were gracious in allowing me to follow them for a while as I leaned in closely and tried to capture the flow of their work.
There are lovely benches and chairs throughout the gardens in which to sit, enjoy a glass of wine or have a picnic. By now, all of the lavender has been harvested and the beautiful purple color will not return until next summer. However, I plan to return soon to these lovely gardens, sit myself on a bench and spend a few hours with a good book (and of course, a glass of wine!).
For more photos of my wanderings through the lavender gardens, please click here to view the Flickr gallery.
I have 4 lavender plants in the back of my house. My visit to the Matanzas gardens has inspired me to harvest the flowers and to try my hand at drying them. I am envisioning some lovely bouquets, lavender-infused olive oil, sachets. Any other suggestions?
The 4th of July in Sonoma: most locals would identify this day as their favorite Sonoma holiday. Summer time, a relaxed and festive mood, a barbequed meal and a gathering of friends and family — what’s not to love about spending a day like this.
The 10AM morning parade around the Plaza sets off the day long festivities. The parade is where Sonoma hits its Americana stride with a mix of patriotic and hometown pride. For good reason, the annual parade is a favorite among both participants and spectators, and it always draws huge crowds. Much later, around 10PM, the day’s merriment is concluded with a dazzling pyrotechnics display. The annual fireworks show takes place in an area near the Plaza and it is always nothing short of spectacular. Like the morning parade, the community comes out in masses to sit on their blankets or chairs (and usually with a bottle of wine!) to sit under the incredible light show.
The artistry of Sonoma photographer Melania Mahoney first came to my attention when I accidentally stumbled upon her website. My eyes were instantly drawn to her stunning photographs of July 4th fireworks captured from various historic Sonoma buildings (including the City Hall). This year, in an act of photographic “thievery,” I set up my camera and tripod in front of City Hall in order to try my hand at photographing what Melania had accomplished so fabulously. I had been shooting for just a few minutes, when to my surprise and delight (and a bit of embarrassment in knowing that I had been “caught” in my act of thievery), Melania arrived with camera gear in tow. I was honored to be photographing with her, side by side. I can take no credit for coming up with the idea of my fireworks’ photos — the credit and inspiration comes completely from Melania. I encourage you to view Melania’s photography. You can click on this link to see the work of this much in demand Sonoma artist.
In addition to the fireworks display, I shot photos at the morning’s parade as well as a few from neighborhoods around the Plaza. I invite you to click here to view a selection of these shots.
Rain has returned for the rest of this week. The temperatures are mild though and as I write this, I can hear the soothing patter of the rainfall.
Yet around town, signs of Spring have begun to pop up and they have been “double-take” worthy. The cherry blossoms are in full bloom, and the flower buds on the grapevines are beginning to “break” open. Tulips and daffodils have also been sprouting throughout the Valley. The season is indeed underway!
A few weekends ago I was driving to the Napa Valley village of Yountville. As I was approaching the highway’s exit, my attention was quickly diverted to a massive yellow field, i.e., the mustard wildflowers.
However, what really compelled my attention was the the number of people throughout the field, snapping away portraits of each other amidst the beautiful backdrop of the mustard blooms. Aha……inspiration for my next blog post — a “photo within a photo” pictorial essay.
And so I returned with my camera, and joined all the other photo gatherers in this veritable wildflower playground. There were families snapping shots of their beloved children; couples taking photos of each other; teen girls frolicking and striking poses. I felt a bit like an intruder, as I discretely tried to follow and capture these ongoing photo ops. For the most part, those that I photographed were gracious and tolerant of my incursions into their photo shoots. I spotted a young couple being photographed by a professional — possibly a marital engagement session. I started clicking on my shutter button as I approached their vicinity. Alas, they did not tolerate my presence and quickly (though politely) asked me to put my camera down. I did.
I had been “in the field” for some time and was ready to return to my car, when the most exquisite photo subjects entered the mustard field for their photo shoot — a bride and groom, with their photographer!! Luckily I already had my telephoto lens on my camera, so I excitedly (and as discretely as possible) made my way to photograph their session from a mid distance. They were young and lovely, the bride and groom — a perfect match for the rural beauty of that mustard field.
Our winter Sonoma weather has been rather mild thus far. Though it becomes seasonably cold at night, with accompanying below freezing temperatures, the afternoons have been downright spring-like.
Now that my Project 365 is finished, my immediate goal has been to organize, delete and edit through the countless images that I shot last year. I tried to keep up with them during the year, and actually did a fairly decent job. However, an inevitable backlog occurred.
One of the batches of images I just organized through was of last year’s trip that Sean and I took to the East coast. During Spring Break, we traveled to Washington, DC and New York to visit a few universities. Though it was Spring at the time, the weather was far more winter-like — almost like the inverse of what we are experiencing right now. It was fun to pour through the photos I shot while there, and to reminisce of those few cold and damp Spring days spent in one of my most favorite of U.S. cities.
I invite you to click here to view my New York City images.
In late October the seasonal fall foliage began appearing in their amazing red, yellow and orange hues. The colorful leaves from trees and grapevines have been such a beautiful visual transition from autumn to winter. As I have driven by, cycled or walked past the tri-colors in this region, I found myself constantly doing visual “double takes” — the beauty has been both overwhelming and unbelievable.
While enjoying the beauty of the fall foliage, I’ve also been reminded of a certain ironic “poetry.” The colorful beauty derives from the fact that the leaves have past their peak green color and have now “died,” and will soon fall off their branches. The symbolism of the “completed life cycle” + “beautiful death” = “life renewal” equation is not lost on me.
I love the song Autumn Leaves (especially Edith Piaf’s version). I find it interesting that in French, the song’s title is Les Feuilles Mortes, which literally translates to The Dead Leaves.
Sean and I have been dealing with an unexpectedly premature “death” of a shared personal dream. Our “tree” was Sean’s highly anticipated school year abroad in France. But the leaves on this “tree” were put to death when faced with a very harsh reality: the host family in France were terrible and unkind people who made Sean’s daily life a nightmare. The situation could not continue and I made the terribly difficult decision to have Sean return home. As a parent, I know I made the correct decision, but in doing so, I delivered the final death blow to the dream.
I spent 48 hours in France, assessing Sean’s host family situation, and then ultimately making the difficult decision to end Sean’s stay there. During this time, Fall foliage was in full seasonal tilt. For a few hours of respite, Sean and I took a walk around the tiny, but beautiful village of Cauvigny, where he had been living. Amidst my disbelief, anger and sadness, I tried to capture some of nature’s beauty that I saw. Perhaps it was a “photography as therapy” coping mechanism that was at work.
Will this unexpected “death” scenario finds its way into my “competed life cycle + death = life renewal” equation? The door on this dream has closed — will there be another one that opens? I think so. But in the meantime, both Sean and I have been licking our emotional wounds, while also doing our best to keep our chins up, face each day, and being ready to greet the new open door with our open arms. The holiday season is now upon us, and we are already feeling better.
Although these photos are painful memories for me, perhaps they are also part of the process that will lead us to that open door………..
We are now in the third week in September, and only very recently has it felt like summer weather; the kind of hot, dry days when the temperatures soar well into the 90′s. I like to beat the heat with enjoyable dips in the swimming pool and refreshing sips of Rosé. But the hot summer weather is also synonymous with the fabulous summer tomatoes that can be found in farmers markets and especially from my garden.
Bruschetta, Caprese salads, canned sauce for the winter — just a few of the many ways I use these savory summer delights.
The seasons come and go — with many associated traditions and rituals. In the seasonal “food ritual department,” summer fruits and vegetables are probably my favorite of the entire year, especially all the wonderful berries. Here in Sonoma, blackberries usually ripen in late July/early August. Throughout the town where many wild blackberry bushes grow, it is customary to see Sonomans of all ages, holding their baskets or plastic bags while harvesting away.
My friend Holly has several blackberry bushes on her property, and for the past several years, she has generously let me have my harvesting way with her berries. From these wonderful berries I usually bake a pie or two, but what really interests me is to go into serious jam-making mode. Indeed, producing dozens and dozens of half pint jars of this blackberry delectable has become a summer ritual for me.
Our weather has been unseasonably cooler than typical summers. (The tomatoes in my garden just started to ripen late last month.) I began contacting Holly in late July: ”Are the berries ready to harvest?” Each inquiry was met with a “not yet.” Usually by mid-August, my pantry is filled with numerous half pint jars of jam that will last me for the year. Lamenting the cooler summer weather that was keeping my beloved berries from ripening, and seeing my empty pantry shelves, made me realize something — I love blackberry jam…………but even more, I love the summer ritual of jammin’ — that is, making jam. It was time to look to the other summer fruits. I resolved not to let my jammin’ be deterred.
Summer peaches and plums from the Tuesday evening Farmers Market and a trip to the local strawberry patch (profiled here in this previous blog post) were in order. Serious jammin’ ensued. After a 3 day “jam session,” I can report that the kitchen was a huge mess, but the results were worth it. This particular summer ritual has now been satisfied. My morning’s of coffee and toast will have its sweet accompaniment in the upcoming year.
(I invite you to double-click on the images in order to see them enlarged.)
During the months of January, February and March in this “neck of the woods,” the fields and vineyards lie dormant for the winter season. Yet during this time, a yellow hued visual feast crops up on many of those sleeping fields. It never ceases to wake up my eyes to witness another one of nature’s seasonal beauties.
Wild mustard flowers are currently in their full blooming glory — enveloping fields, hillsides, and vineyards. The mustards are indeed magnificent — whether looking at a tender bloom up close, or from afar as it carpets a field with its glistening yellow lawn.
The mustard season is so quintessentially “Sonoma.” As I was setting up this blog several months ago, it was an easy “no brainer” to decide which photo I would post on the Home Page — a classic “mustards in the vineyards” shot.
During this time of year, the cameras (both professional and amateur) are loudly clicking away, as the beautiful blooms provide an incredible subject matter.
In the past few weeks, I have been scouting out different locations to shoot. On Sunday (an atypically warm day for this time of year!) I drove around town to the chosen spots. It was a solitary effort — just me, my Nikon, my tripod and the mustards. But on the last location, there was a young family: a husband, wife and their 2 sweet young daughters. The father was photographing his daughters as they frolicked through the blooms. I struck up a conversation with the mom who told me that photographing their daughters in the mustard fields is an annual tradition for them. She was delighted to allow me to photograph her husband and daughters as they partook in their annual tradition.
My son is now 15 years old and probably would not want to frolic about in the mustard fields for the benefit of his mother’s camera. I guess I have missed that photographic opportunity!! But I think the mustards themselves will provide my own annual outing to capture them in their blooming beauty. These final 2 photos are from my 2010 edition.
(You may notice the new look of this blog. I have “upgraded” to another site. I have to admit that I am experiencing growing pains. In other words, , my “low tech” self is still trying to navigate through this new website. You will probably notice some “glitchs” in this post. I apologize and hope to have them worked out soon. Please remember that you can click on any image to enlarge it.)
Another rainy spell is currently underway for us Northern Californians. This past weekend, it felt terribly appealing to remain warm and dry inside. However, I love the look and feel of the coast during such weather. Why not take a few hours’ jaunt to the coast of western Marin County? A scenic drive through Sonoma, Petaluma and finally to Tomales Bay? A bowl of clam chowder anyone? A destination for lunch at Nick’s Cove was in order.
The drive from my doorstep to the doorstep of Nick’s Cove is just under an hour. The journey there by car is one of my favorite excursions. Immediately upon leaving Petaluma, nothing but vast stretches of countryside lay before one’s eyes: hillsides of cows out to pasture, farm land, barns, horses — a rural paradise. After meandering through and around this landscape, one is visually rewarded by the waters of Tomales Bay, as they come into sweeping view. I was definitely hungry by then and could almost taste the chowder, mopped up with some crusty bread and washed down with a glass of wine.
Upon reaching the end of the road, one can only turn onto Highway 1 — the famous coastal route that traverses through all of California. At this particular point, Highway 1 passes through the small village of Marshall, situated along Tomales Bay. Marshall is a tiny and rustic fishing village; oysters being a particular specialty.
Nick’s Cove sits along the water and opened its doors for business around 5 years ago. Composed of a few buildings built primarily in the 1930′s, some of it is situated on land, while other parts of are built on pilings over the Tomales Bay beach. The building sat abandoned and unused for many, many years. For many miles, Nick’s is the only commercial establishment along this area of the Bay. There are a few cottages nearby, but that is it. The menu offers fresh and local ingredients, in a rustic and comfortable atmosphere — a coastal, casual chic, if you will. A warm fireplace dominates the room as one enters, followed by an area where staff busily shuck freshly caught oysters, a nearby bar area. Finally, the tables look out through large glass windows that offer a wondrous view of Tomales Bay.
The food? Since this is a photo essay, I guess I should have shot some nicely composed photos that showcased the truly delicious food. But the truth is that I was too busy enjoying my chowder – food trumped photography!! But after the meal, the rain took a pause. So I spent a bit of time walking around outside, wandering along the adjacent pier and being amused by many of the quirky “decorative” touches that surround the restaurant.