Calistoga, California

I spent a week in California: visiting old friends, seeing my hometown with new eyes but with the very same heart, and exploring new nooks. Here are a few photographs of a new-to-me place: Calistoga.  It should not be news to me, but man, northern California is so so beautiful.  I was swept away by the oleander and succulents and miles and miles of hardy drought tolerant plants. Still magically lush.

I stayed with a friend at a spot in Calistoga that had the most plentiful rosemary and lavender hedges. It’s like when you live in Washington, DC, and you pass by the Capitol, you get swept away by its role in the landscape, its beauty. That’s how I feel about those hedges and their intoxicating scent.IMG_7972 massive lavender hedge

massive agave!

I might even be a morning person here DSC_1039 DSC_1056

a tiny vineyard just before harvest

Why am I not growing edible flowers?  Can you imagine having these sprinkled across a summer salad?  On my growing list next spring!

DSC_1068 DSC_1072
still dreaming of giant succulents

DSC_1084 My new friend Juan Luis is a groundskeeper where I stayed, and he very generously spent an hour to talk with me about his work caring for this incredible land. He is pictured here with his Colombian coffee tree that he is attempting (albeit skeptically) to grow on their property. He’s quite proud of its progress so far. 🙂

DSC_1086 these lines on an oak cork tree


And finally, the treasures from my nature walk. Until next time, California! xo

Calistoga, California

Hike: Potomac Heritage Trail

Hiking is one of those things that I always want to do, but never end up making the time.  So for my birthday weekend, it was my first choice.   We explored the Potomac Heritage Trail.  It is so close, and has everything I want in a hike: shade, water, and rocks to scramble!  I can’t believe how close it is to the city, and yet feels a world away.  It was actually pretty technical, and, at my best, I felt a bit like a billy goat.

I had the loveliest day — calls from family, singing nieces and nephews, and sweet thoughts from friends throughout the day.  (Thank you everyone!)  And the people here in my life, made the entire weekend so very special.  I went to sleep with enormous gratitude for having a body that could enjoy that hike, and grateful for the many thoughtful people I am very lucky to know.

I can’t wait to get back on this trail.  Next time, I plan to stop and take photos of all the baby ferns I adored along the way.  But for now, the rocks.  🙂

Hike: Potomac Heritage Trail

Rolling Stones gather Moss

 We sat outside one evening this week, and a little bug friend joined us.  (S)he stayed relatively still until we put on music, and then this happened.  We couldn’t stop laughing. Rolling Stones really do gather moss!  Enjoy.  Also here are few things I enjoyed around the Internet this week.

Want a picture perfect adventure?  Rent a VW Van to tour the South of France.  Prefer staying home?  They have one dreamy Instagram.

What’s better than getting seeds in the mail?  Here’s the organic seed-of-the-month club.

Frida Kahlo and her garden at the NY Botanic Garden.  I am dying to see it.  Open till Nov. 1!

A lovely little travel piece on the Redwoods.

Cup of Jo “beauty uniforms”, where women discuss how they nurture their bodies inside and out.  I love them.  This one inspired me to ditch all of my face products. It simplified my mornings and my skin feels happier.  Plus, I am saving money!

For the green thumbed introvert. 🙂

Happy almost weekend!  I can’t wait.  xo

Rolling Stones gather Moss

Propagating Rosemary

Rosemary, hardy as it can be, takes time to establish.  Tiny rosemary plants typically don’t do well under my watch.  Last fall I bought a bushy hardy mature bush, and it’s thriving!  So to save a little money, I am attempting to propagate it.  Take a stem, one that is still soft and not woody, and cut about two inches from the plant.

Remove leaves from the bottom to about 2/3 of the way up.  Make sure no leaves are submerged in water.  Save for dinner.

Et voila!  Place your Rosemary in a glass of water and leave in a sunny spot.  You can apply growth hormone, or wait a bit longer.  I opted for the latter.  Wait a few weeks and a root system will begin to form.  Soon you can transplant your little plant into a pot.  

Propagating Rosemary

That Desert Sage




“There is not a tree, nothing but sage.  As moonlight unto sunlight is that desert sage to other greens.  Not a house, windmill, hill, only that jade-gray plain with lilac mountains on every distant horizon.  The mountains companionably move along with you as the dirt road flows behind.  The plain, like a great Lazy Susan, turns gravely, and as it turns it brings into view primroses blooming in the sand, and cactus pads with great red and yellow blooms showy as hibiscus.”

– Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose

That Desert Sage

Away: New York

I took a day off work, and boarded a bus for New York.  Years ago I listened to Beethoven on a bus from Washington DC to New York, and now it’s my ritual.  The uplifting piano concerto no. 5, the brooding and moving piano concerto no. 4, and always always the Eroica variations.  The bus unloaded a stone’s throw from the entrance of the High Line, which was a bit of luck; it was the only place I wanted to be that day.  I spent the day shuffling up and down, looking for (and getting) inspiration for my own planting.  I want every city in the world to have a stretch of garden nestled above the city streets.

The new Whitney Museum — situated at the end of the High Line — showcases New York City as much (if not more) than the works of art.  Wonderful vistas highlighted every floor.  And pockets of fresh air on the patios broke up the visit nicely.      

John Chamberlain crushes cars and calls it art.  I didn’t always appreciate it, but now I get a thrill when I see his work.  Also I’ve seen others take a similar approach with similar materials, but it honestly doesn’t have the same effect.  For me it took seeing an entire warehouse of his crushed cars in Marfa not once but twice before it started to resonate.  In hard shapes I slowly noticed order and soon saw entirely elegant forms.  
My very lovely hotel, 500 feet from the Whitney and the end of the High Line, was recommended to me by my friend who always knows unique and affordable places to stay.  So, from my hotel guru, let me introduce the Jane Hotel.  Perfect for a solo traveler.  All my future solo visits to New York will include the Jane.  There is no skimping on the quality of materials or cleanliness.  The rooms are fun-size, making them affordable at around $100 per night.  $100! per night! in New York!   With staff attired in bellhop uniforms and an elegant display of peacock taxidermy, it looks like a Wes Anderson film set.  My minimalist heart went wild.   

Some other stops, including the very perfect urban concrete garden at MoMA.                     

New York is the easiest city in the world to be alone. Should I add for only a few days?  Okay, New York is the easiest city in the world to be alone for a few days.  When a good friend moved to the city, she remarked that she didn’t know many people, so Central Park was her best friend for the time being.  Which really just means that she was her own best friend, a sentiment I strongly support.  I am a better partner/friend/me after filling my adventure cup with solo travel, and letting a few days unfold according to my own whims.

What are your favorite solo adventures?  I want to know.

Away: New York

on humidity

   “The middle of June is past, and it is dry and hazy weather.  We are getting deeper into the mists of earth; we live in a grosser element, further from heaven these days, methinks.  Even the birds sing with less vigor and vivacity.  The season of hope and promise is passed, and already the season of small fruits has arrived.  We are a little saddened because we begin to see the interval between our hopes and their fulfillment.  The prospect of the heavens is taken away by the haze, and we are presented with a few small berries,” writes Henry David Thoreau in Wild Fruits.

The humidity rolled in early this year.  The transition has been less melancholy, in my view, than what Thoreau writes, but it feels true that the anticipation is behind us.  Summer is here and things are slowing down.  I garden less.  But I think on it more, looking for cool windows of time to get in the soil.  How does anyone do hard labor under a hot sun?  I am of cotton-picking stock, and I can’t even.

But there is something luxurious to me about the wetness in the air.  The garden is fecund.  My eyes are rested.  Like the weight of many blankets, I relish the atmospheric hugs.  Hugs imposed on us from the sky.  My desert soul draws near, welcoming moisture, and enjoying the few small berries.

on humidity