Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Stan Rogers

Since I am pulling up my favorite songs, I had to introduce you to Stan Rogers.  He is no longer in the world, but his wonderful music and voice still lives on.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Creative Streak

I have been on a creative streak with my writing lately, and I am taking full advantage, writing ideas for posts and stories and filling in as I have time and inclination.
You never know when it will go cold again.
I love writing, sometimes even more than photography. Both disciplines I have rediscovered after many years absence, thank goodness!

Sitting outside in the morning on my patio with the birds cackling and tweeting is a great place to write.  I just need to find some type of sunshade for my computer screen so I can actually see what I am writing. 

However, what's been happening lately is that my inspiration sparks when I am half a mile or more from the house.  I have written how many times I’ve had to run back to the house for my camera – now it is for pen and paper.

Yes, I should just automatically take a small pad and pen, but do I spark when I have it?  Nada.

When it does happen, no matter how hard I try to lock a phrase or thought in my brain long enough to get back to civilization, as soon as I walk in the door - Poof! Gone!
And it's not just the loss of trail of thoughts -  it is a big SLAM, BANG, thank you, Ma'am, door shut in the face, kind of moment.

If my memory hadn’t been absolutely horrific even since junior high, I would be worried, but it is normal for me, however, very frustrating.   I am trying very hard to let it go, enjoy the moment and the scenery and know it was not meant to be.
I know the spark will come again.
                                                                                                     copyright 2012 Stepka

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Flowers of Coast and Sierra by Edith S. Clements

Seeing all the wildflowers and other flowers starting to bloom, I had to take out my Flowers of Coast book and leaf through all the beautiful illustrations. 
Here's a page of the preface and a few of the plates.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Nice Find

I love finding lovely little treasures like this painting. Beautiful light and color.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ally Wilks - A New Blog to Follow

I have commented that one of my favorite reads is the English version of Country Living Magazine.
I just purchased the latest copy and saw that my favoirite columnist, Aly Wilks, who writes 'Tales from a Stone Cottage" is saying farewell from its pages. 
Luckily, they posted that she has a blog.  Now, I don't have to wait a whole month to be entertained by her writings!
I love her postings about her kitty, Scarab, so here is the direct link to a story about the hunting prowless of the big guy.
Aly Wilks - Scarab

Catch her other one also, about the rat under the carpet.

Reminds me of some surprises Fitz has left me on the carpet in the past when I got home late some nights. Unfortuately, since many times I take my shoes off right inside the door, I have experienced a not so pleasant crunching sensation.
The shrieking bit she speaks of in the post - yup, I can relate!

Bruce Springsteen Break

I was going to post this video on Valentine's Day, but Brucey is fine any old time!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Solitary Hunter

I shot this photo on Valentine's Day, and it brought to mind a story I wrote last March. 
It fits like a glove.

I grew up with farm cats. 
Not just one or two or three. 

About half way through milking, I would go outside and yell at the top of my young lungs "Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty!!!"

...and there would be literally 5 cats running up from one direction down the hill towards the barn, 4 cats from another direction and 10 from 2 other directions...coming on down for their share of milk in the bowls.

I never knew anything about spaying or neutering back then.  I was just a farm kid.  Farm cats bred and then disappeared mysteriously.  A hard life...all the way around.

I had names for them all.
And I loved them all.

Matt was one of them - a beautiful yellow striped tabby.

Matt was tame as farm cats go and I remember once we shared a nice sunny, warm afternoon in the interior of an upside down chicken coop on the hill... me reading... and him stretched out beside me.
 (yes, I did say upside down chicken coop....tornado took it up, flipped it over, and brought it right back down in the exact same space.)

Farm cats are a different breed.  Tame, but extremely independent. If you saw them at milking coming in for a milk chow down, so be it.  But I do not remember being anytime worried if I did not see one for a few days.
So I remember being very surprised how Matt just settled beside me that afternoon and was just a cat. So nice.  Wonderful, special memory.

Then again it is funny how when  cats are away from the familiar settings, they are their "real" cat selves.

I had gone for a walk....I walked alot around the farm.
One time I came upon Matt maybe a 1/2 mile away in a ravine.  I could see from the road his yellow shape hunkered down intently watching a certain spot in the tall grass.

I came up closer to where he was and he saw me.

His ears went back, he crouched down and was ready to spring away and I shouted to him..."Hi Matt!" 

It was so surprising to see him almost shake himself and kinda take another look at me and then ..all of a sudden his whole demeanor changed.

He recognized me.
The solitary hunter was gone.
Matt was back.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sweet Sounds

I love many different forms of music.  Rock, Ballads, Folk, French Pop, Opera - it just depends on my mood. Country - not so much, unless it is Dolly Parton, Allison Krauss, Wynonna Judd or a handful of others.
Here is one of my favorites that I have just started to listen to again.
 There is nothing like the purity of Dolly Parton's voice in this piece.
"Rosewood Casket."

(Click on the arrow on the picture above and then click the "watch on you tube" phrase.)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cellars are all the Rage Again. Or Should I Say - Culinary Caves

Photo: Audrey Whitmeyer-Weathers for SF Chronicle

Just saw in the San Francisco Chronicle that storage cellars are back again.
Of course, they don't call them cellars out here.  They call them (get this!) Culinary Caves.

This is just an example of why people outside of California just roll their eyes when someone mentions California.

Here in "Wine Country", wine cellars and "caves" are of course common, but now "Culinary Caves" ( big eye roll) are creeping back into favor too.
Ok...that's that.  Let's just call them what they are...Cellars.  Maybe they are built on the side of a house into a hill, but still...really.
They are pretty though.  Nice photo, Audrey.

I love the smell of a good old fashioned cellar - always have.

Just writing this, I can smell the old cellar under the old farmhouse - musky and damp, the scent of the potatoes off in the far bins.  My mother's canning jars all lined up in a row on their shelves, dusty, with daddy long leg spiders resting in the crevices of the rock walls. I have no problem with dirt and spiders and bugs in general. I am amazed how so many people are terrified of them, and for no real reason that they can express.

However, I was always really scared of our cellars when I was young. Come to think of it, I don't think it was so long ago I had some dream of something chasing me into that cellar. There were two cellars.  One was direct under the kitchen storing vegetables and canning,  and the other - well, the egg cellar was not only the cellar where we stored farm fresh eggs, but also my fathers old bee hives...and bees.

Let's just say, I had good reason to be scared of that cellar.
Bees flew around your head while running in and out of it to get eggs or something out of the large freezer.
Dad used to raise bees - outside.  Then he stopped and stored the old hives in the cellar - and the bees followed through a crack in the foundation.

One of my earliest memories - I was 6 or so, in the cellar getting eggs and a bee flew into my ear and stung me. It was some of the worst physical pain I ever experienced, and there was no going to the doctor for a bee sting, or pretty much anything else unless you were gushing out blood - and sometimes not even then, as my brother can attest.  That was then. That was farm life.

Still, one day I would like to have a cellar, probably cut into a hillside, if only to walk into its coolness and breathe in the scents.

I will not, however, call it (big eye roll) a Culinary Cave!
And definitely no bees allowed. 
                                                                                                                         copyright 2012 Stepka

Oh, and if you would like to check out the SF Chronicle article, here is the link.  I do really appreciate the stonework  artistry of Zdravko Terziev who builds these "Culinary Caves"/ Cellars.  All kidding aside, they are beautiful.
Digging a Space for Food

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mmmm.....What's New at Trader Joe's

Here I go again!
Was just in and there was a tasting of a new Chicken Pot Pie they just received.
Oh, My!

Just made my own tonight and must say it came out of even my oven pretty darn flaky and scrumptious.
Of course, much more saucy than it shows on the box, but yummy still and even the carrots still had texture to them and had a nice carrot flavor too. 
So 4 stars out of 5 here.

You might wonder why the only food you see here on this site is boxed and prepped. 
Well, I don't cook.  I could if I wanted, but it was shot out of my system growing up on the farm.

You see, I hated that us 'women folk' namely my mother and I, milked cows, loaded and unloaded hay and all the rest of the things that the 'men folk' did...and still, after the men could go inside and put their feet  up, we still had to make breakfast, dinner and supper.  It didn't help that we were still cooking on a wood stove till 1976 and there was no stoking up the stove for anything major in the middle of a Midwest summer. 
Meat fried on top of the stove in lard along with potatoes, and vegetables boiled till the flavor was gone, was pretty much the norm. 
Pork chops with dumplings smothered in pork grease and applesauce was a great treat.

Now, people choose and even prefer to cook on/in wood stoves.
I must say, bread is the best baked in a wood stove.  No comparison. Wood smoke gives a nice flavor addition to most any bread or meat. 

One of these days, I may surprise myself and cook something from scratch on a day other than a Holiday or when I have guests. The memory of the pork chops and dumplings sound darn good.

Oh...one other item I picked up from the local market was a yogurt that I chose purely for the great packaging and name.

Very nice graphic..and very good yogurt too.

                                                                                                      copyright 2012 Stepka

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Reflections in Water Puddles

Look before you step.

                                                                                     copyright 2012 Stepka

Friday, February 17, 2012

Sure Not in Kansas Anymore

I had another "I'm sure not in Kansas anymore" moment today.  How long have I lived here in California? 20 years?  Seeing daffodils in February should not really surprise me anymore. 
Still, the Midwest gal inside never fails to be amazed.

In the process of running to set out the garbage cans this morning, I almost stumbled over these lovely blossoms. I did a double take, then a triple take.  When did these appear?

                                                                                              copyright 2012 Stepka

Twilight by Mary Chapin Carpenter

Settle yourself in a nice cozy chair, turn down the lights, close your eyes and experience this lovely song.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Rural Architecture and Assimilation

After writing two posts ago about how architecture is taking vast leaps into different realms, I remembered something.
Reactions by 'rural folk' to 'city folk' moving to the country and settling into old farming communities can be, well, let's say, interesting. Personally, I think it is wonderful that people moving in that have money, can restore old farmhouses and bring them back to life.
I believe it is so much better than letting the buildings rot into the ground. How depressing. And in most cases, people who move to the country, move there because they do love the rural life, and are very good neighbors.
I speak from experience. Back in the Midwest, we had "city folk" move in next door to our farm.

We loved that they were able to bring the buildings back to life.  In fact, they were obsessed with restoring the house as it had originally been built, even to the point of carefully removing old layers of paint and wallpaper, seeing what was underneath to try to recreate each room. Now that seemed a bit extreme to us, but to each their own.

So every old farmer was happy to praise their work, until...the house painters came one day and painted the house...ORANGE.

I was already away in college at this time, but believe you me, that was a major topic of phone conversation between myself and my family...and the whole neighborhood.

They had been doing such a fantastic job restoring it to it's original architecture...why the heck did they paint it orange????

Even I was shocked.
The farmers who settled the region were very conservative stock of Czech ancestry.  They would NEVER do anything to draw attention to themselves.
They assimilated into the American culture.  In my generation, Czech was no longer spoken. 
What a shame...but that was how it was done then.  You assimilated,  fit in and you had white houses.
I will say, that our home town still celebrates Czech culture...but wouldn't it have been wonderful  to have grown up with 2 languages on my tongue, which is now almost the norm in society today.

But getting back to the ORANGE house.

Back home from College one weekend, mom veered off the regular route back to the farm to drive past the object of conversation.  Yup, orange. Looking at it at a slow motion drive by, something struck me about the color. The tonality of the color looked vaguely familiar, but I could not put my finger on it.
I said to mom," so has anyone figured out why they chose orange," whereas she said, "oh, they found some boards behind the house that had orange paint on it."
Flash! It came to me right then and there what the boards were.  Farmers just threw boards wherever in a pile for possible use in the future.  Farmers like my father who grew up in the Depression were pack rats  You did not throw anything away.

Now who was going to tell our neighbors they based the historical reconstruction of their beautiful farmhouse on pieces of an old, orange Allis Chalmers Manure spreader?

                                                                                                         copyright 2012 Stepka

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Long Walks and Valentine's Day

A few years back, I signed up for a “walk” with a group that took you thru one of the major wooded canyon areas by the coast.
It ended up consisting of walking steadily for around 25 miles. I am kidding Not!
And the strange thing is... I don’t really remember much of the walk.
I know it was a beautiful area of old growth trees, and there must have been the sound of wind and birds and the crunching of leaves under my feet…but all I remember was all of our labored breathing as the leader kept saying to all, “keep up with the group.”
This was a time when I did…keep up with the group and just plug along.
We were just like a flock of crazed sheep following a demented Little Bo Peep.

If it had happened today, I would have said…"you just go ahead, I'll just find my way back and enjoy the scenery, thank you very much.  Who cares I don't know where the hell I am."

I hadn’t known the 'nature walk', as it had been titled, was some sort of obstacle training course.  Even more surprising, it was sponsored by an environmental group.  You would think that we would take the time to “enjoy” the environment.  I was not the only one in the group who thought this way.  During the infrequent two minute rest stops, we all bugged our eyes out at one another, speaking low…”what kind of hell did we all sign up for?!”

Nowadays, I have a hard time walking steadily just for a block right outside my door.
 And pity anyone walking with me, because like a dog on a leash, I stop on a dime. 

I look at the brilliance of the color of a flower, the sound of a bird, the reflection in a puddle.
Usually this also means I either have a camera in my hand or have to run back for my camera.

A past boyfriend once told me that I never walk in a straight line.  Note the word...past.

But I like this me. 
In fact, I love this me.
It took me a while to find "this" me again.  I came close to losing her sometime back.

Then I took up the camera again.

So I guess this is a Valentine to myself… and to all who love to walk the dog… even without the dog.
Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

                                                                                       copyright 2012 Stepka
                                                                    and yes, I took that flower photo this morning...amazing.

Cargo Containers as Architecture - Anything Goes

I was just reading the SF Chronicle that in the city of Christchurch in New Zealand, which was devastated by an earthquake last year, they had used cargo containers to rebuild their demolished mall.
Reusing cargo containers is nothing new.  They've been regularly used as storage containers and even little rooms next to smog garages as waiting rooms, which always struck me as very convenient and smart. Extremely sturdy, if they can survive multiple trips on and off cargo ships and across oceans, then they have proven themselves in the durability end of things.
And honestly, why not?
Look at the gorgeous creation I found on the Internet below:

These 2 photos show both sides of the same architectural creation.
A regular house on one end and container rooms on the other...all in a spectacular, whatever you call it.  I guess a HUGE shed.

I have had this dream for some time to move back out to the country into a home of my very own, but the traditional farm house does not have the same appeal to me.  I grew up in one. 
 Been there, done that.

But I have had thoughts of just building a outdoor steel shed and insulating the heck out of it, drywalling it, having a huge open space, with a loft area and segment it by movable doors on rails. Windows would be on either end... and of course great big doors that open on most of the sides to open to the sky.  In California or the Western States, it would work.  Can't see it so much in the mosquito and fly infested states.

I love that now...anything is possible.  Yes, there would still be tongues a wagging and eyes bulging if you told your new country neighbors that you were living in a cargo container or a shed... but wait till they visited.

They'd want one too.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Spark of Imagination

A wonderful foggy morning in Northern California.

Trodding up the hill into the park this morning, admiring the fog lifting from the trees in the valley, thinking….now why didn’t I bring my camera, I heard children’s high pitched, excited voices away up the hill.
After a few minutes, our paths crossed and I saw it was a team of 3 young children, a mom and a big lab.
Two of the children, a boy and a girl, were holding up on both ends, a huge branch, nice and knarly and mossy.
Smiling, I made an assumption and said, “wow, your dog is really going to enjoy that stick”, wherein the mom spoke up, also smiling, “oh, it’s going to be for a fairy house.” 
Then I saw the bundle of tree moss in the other girls hand.

A spark just flew across my heart.
A fairy house!  Of course!

I looked back up and saw the foggy landscape in a whole new way.
What fairies and magical creatures are living out there in the foggy hills?  I thought of Ireland and its fog encrusted hills.  The wee folk, wings brushing by just out of corner of the eye.   Magic!

I wanted a fairy house.
Look at all the materials on the ground just waiting to be creatively constructed into something magical.

Let’s face it, day to day adult life is not magical.  It is full of mortgage or rent payments, gas bills, work, work, work....
Where did we leave behind that spark of imagination a child has?

How about that just for an hour...go build yourself a fairy house.
Or...draw a picture, take some photos...write a story.
I dare you.

Double dare you!

                                                                                            copyright 2012 Stepka

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What's That!?

I felt like I needed to take a nap this afternoon. It has been cool and rainy and it was just time to vegetate a bit.  Fitz had run out of the patio door this morning, looked up and then down at the wetness at his feet and came running back in.  And he's been in all day snuggled up in the chair.

So I Really planned on napping myself as I was driving up to my driveway from grocery shopping and starting to turn in.  Then I saw them.

How did I not see them before?

What month is this?  It is only February?!
Well, that was that.  Had to get the camera out.

Just too lovely. Amazing what rain brings to California.

Even the moss on the trees was springing to life in great oranges and golds.

Nap time could wait.

                                                                                           Copyright 2012 Stepka

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Beach and The Super Bowl

What a great excuse to go to the ocean.
I went down to Ocean Beach Sunday to take some shots of some cozy spa wraps for Phuong, owner of Tourance in San Francisco. She creates the absolutely most coziest throws, baby blankets, jackets and wraps.
All washable.  All U.S.A. made!

She had the great idea of taking product shots in front of the ocean and what a beautiful morning for it.

Take a look at all her wonderful cozy products!

And after the shoot...the Super Bowl.
I am not a big football fan, but it was fun to watch, and a great excuse to eat lots of great, bad food!
In all...A very good day.
                                                                                  copyright 2012 Stepka

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Never Having to Say You're Sorry

"Sorry, only peas left and that's all you get, so eat it!"

Well, maybe not "never" having to say to say you're sorry, but for some reason I have been realizing that "sorry" has become my new catch word for just about everything I do these days.
I'm always saying "sorry" when I don't even have anything to be really that "sorry" about.
And not just me... I have been hearing many more people doing it also.
What is this phenomenon?

"Sorry", as you almost bump into someone in the Goodwill store.
"Sorry", when you do not have the correct change.
"Sorry", I am taking so long to gather my correct change.
"Sorry", if you reach the wrong phone number.

"Sorry, I gained 5 pounds", I tell myself as I spoon another gob of delicious store bought single slice of white cake and ice cream into my mouth.
"Sorry", with a little backward wave...I almost cut you off with my car and ran you into the ditch back there.
"Sorry", I don't have time to take or want another telemarketing call.  Well, sometimes I add on a bit of a derogatory designation after the "Sorry" part.  That reminds me, I need to cancel my phone land line.

Heck, I am even telling my cat, "Sorry", when I am stepping over him...as if he cares!
He does however care when he has eaten all his chicken and vegetable cat chow and is left with just the peas.  The glare he gives me.
By the way..."Sorry, I couldn't get his glare in the photo above."

You get my meaning.
Saying "Sorry" has become as mundane and incidental as saying, "bless you" when someone sneezes.

I think it may have something to do with the general reality of this economy.
We all know people without jobs, living paycheck to paycheck, working 2 plus jobs to make ends meet, and vacation?...???  What's that!?
We are a sorry bunch of people right now in general...but with great manners.
And when it comes right down to it, saying "Sorry" is a nice thing to do.
But I admit, I am getting tired of saying it. 

There are a lot of other people out there that really need to say it much more often... mean it...and act on it.
Hint:  Can you spell l-e-g-i-s-l-a-t-o-r-s?
Now that would be a great phenomenon!
                                                                                       copyright 2012 Stepka

And guess what, a local paper actually published this in a shortened version.