Friday, March 17, 2017

Black Cows And Gorgeous Trees

Yesterday I met with my long time hiking buddy J. for a lovely walk in one of our regional parks, Crane Creek. The day started out overcast, but later in the morning the sun peeked through the clouds and eventually chased them away.

I love this park for its abundance of gorgeous trees. Most of them are oaks, but there are a number of other trees as well.

Many narrow trails crisscross the park and you can walk on some part of the land that is shared with black cows who spend the days grazing here. What a nice place to be! They are used to the hikers and walkers who share their space, but still prefer to keep some distance from any humans.

After J. and I had a lovely picnic in the shade of one of the old oaks, we made our way back to the parking lot and J. left. However, I didn't feel like going home just then and went back into the park, walking along a different path. Very soon I came to the creek that gave the park its name - and I was not alone here.

I do love cows. Very conveniently there was a bench where I could sit and watch these beauties. This was the first time that I actually saw water flowing in the creek, usually it is just a very dry creek bed. The cows obviously found quite some pleasure here as well.

When I finally arrived back in the parking lot, I noticed the geometry of the vineyard right across the park - and how very thoughtful of this red-winged blackbird to patiently sit on the fence post until I had taken this picture.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Stitch by Stitch

You know that I love to knit - I showed a few of my projects here. However, I only now realized that I never showed you the knitted items I created over the past few months. Some of them were rather easy, others were more challenging.

The top photo shows the beginnings of a baby jacket I started at the end of September. I had just discovered this beautiful merino yarn from Australia and was eager to knit up a project using it when I found a free pattern for a cute baby jacket on Ravelry. Since this yarn is a superwash it's perfect for baby knits.

The sheep was from a different project, and I think it fits very well on this little cardigan.

When my neighbors had their first child last year in May I knitted a hat for the little girl. Since her parents love cats I decided that a kitty hat would be a good idea. Of course the hat was still too big since this is a pattern for a six months old baby and not for a newborn.

Baby hats knit up so fast and they're fun to make. When I discovered this pattern I fell in love with it and tried the newborn size of it.

The knitting starts with a provisional cast-on which I had never done before. It's quite easy, but I still had to unravel the hat before I could finish it because I didn't pay attention!

As a final touch I put a big button on the side. I love to use buttons as an accent.

I knitted some more hats, and I show you three of them here.

Seedling, a pattern by Alana Dakos:

This hat was a Christmas present for the daughter of my friend Jo. It is one of my most favorite patterns.

On Pinterest I found the pattern for this gorgeous owl hat. I knitted two of them for my little nieces in Germany, using the Navajo-Churro sheep yarn I purchased a few years ago. The perfect yarn for this hat! However, sewing on the buttons for the owl eyes was a real pain!

And last but not least the Baa-ble hat - this is a very popular pattern which comes as no surprise. The pattern was designed by Donna Smith for the Shetland Wool Week 2015 - Shetland Wool Week is a world renowned celebration of Britain's most northerly native sheep. This was a gift for Kaefer who models it in this picture.

If you look closely you recognize one of the sheep as the one sitting on the blue baby jacket that I showed you first.

After all these hats it was time to knit up some socks. I found this rubber duck pattern and had a really hard time with it - it drove me crazy! But I did finish the socks and could give them to Kaefer as a Christmas gift. I will never knit these socks ever again!!!

The next - and last - pair of socks was mere fun to knit. The yarn was lovely and the pattern is so beautiful. It looks complicated but is actually quite easy. 

Only I know where the mistakes are that I made...

I'm currently knitting a bigger project, but I can't say yet what it is since it is a birthday present for Kaefer. It is green - perfect for a spring birthday.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Scene & Story - February 2017

February has been an uneventful month when it comes to my photography. It was raining a lot here, I had to work a lot - and taking photos just didn't happen very much except for the one weekend when we had family from Turkey over.

This photo was taken on the same weekend, on Saturday morning when Kaefer and I went to the Farmers Market to buy bread. One of the bakers sells delicious dark bread that is mainly baked with ancient grains like purple barley or khorasan (my personal favorite). As someone who grew up and lived in Germany for 40 years, bread is a daily food for me - not any bread, but dark, rich, whole grain bread. It is still difficult to find here, and any baker who offers wholesome bread that is also delicious gets my support. Unfortunately this baker only sells on farmers markets, and the one closest to my home is the Saturday market - when I usually teach at the German school. But that Saturday was the long Presidents Day weekend with no school on Saturday - I was able to go shop at the market and I bought several loaves that went into the freezer so that we can enjoy them later (now!) one by one. It makes me happy.

I also bake my own bread. There is something very satisfying in kneading and rolling the dough, seeing it rise and shaping it in form, letting it rise one more time. The smell that fills the house when the bread is in the oven is heavenly - and earthy at the same time. It is so basic, so natural. It connects to the essence of life (at least for me), it doesn't need much - flour, yeast, salt and water. The first cut to fresh bread after it has cooled is always exciting, because only then will I know how the bread has turned out. That first slice with a bit of butter, still slightly warm from the oven - it is the most delicious thing!

You can find more Scene & Story posts by clicking here.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

A German-American-Turkish Weekend

Imagine our surprise when a few weeks ago we received a message from Hubertus, a cousin of the Geek. He was wondering whether we could see each other when he and his girlfriend were spending some time in California. The last time we had seen him was in the late 1990s when he was 13 or 14 years old and living with his parents on a horse ranch in the northeast of Germany. Now he is a pilot with Turkish Airlines and lives in Istanbul. His girlfriend Burçin is Turkish and works as a flight attendant for the same airline.

It turned out that the weekend they wanted to come and see us was the long Presidents Day weekend - the same weekend that Kaefer had planned to spend with us. What a wonderful coincidence!

We had a full house last weekend - and we had an absolutely wonderful time. Yes, it was cold and rainy, bu that didn't keep us from having fun and showing them a tiny little bit of our beautiful county.

So on Saturday, despite the occasional rain and overall gray skies we took them out to the coast. It was windy and chilly, but the ocean is breath taking no matter what the weather is like.

There was a lot of foam on the beach that the wind quickly blew all over.

Kaefer was the center of the attraction - isn't it funny how we're all taking pictures of her being goofy?

And did I mention that it was a very windy day?

Further up the coast to the north on famous California State Highway 1 we visited Fort Ross. From 1812 to 1841 Fort Ross was a thriving Russian-American Company settlement. This commercial company chartered by Russia's tsarist government controlled all Russian exploration, trade and settlement in the North Pacific, and established permanent settlements in Alaska and California. Fort Ross was the southernmost settlement in the Russian colonization of the North American continent, and was established as an agricultural base to supply Alaska.

Only one building is a true original building; all other buildings have new parts and have been restored. However, the entire place gives a good idea what it must have been like "back in the day".

I loved all the little details we saw - barrels and big bundles of - what? Food supplies?

This old Russian bell was gorgeous and it had a very melodious, rich and deep sound.

We were able to go into every building, look around, look out and look back.

There was a real fire in the big oven. The storeroom was full with stuff - a feast for the eyes.

Look at those windows! I loved the view outside, but I also liked to see what was inside and on the windowsills. I would love to have one of those bottles, especially the teal one.

Beside the windows the doors were fascinating, too. What do you think?

After all this touring we had become hungry. We went down to Bodega Bay where we treated ourselves to a nice seafood dinner in The Tides Wharf - I had clam strips and fries and it was delicious.

On Sunday it was raining and we couldn't do any decent sightseeing. So, what can you do in Sonoma County on a rainy Sunday when you have family or friends over? Wine tasting, of course.

I love the Dry Creek Valley, so this is where we took Hubertus and Burçin. The valley has the size and approximate shape of Manhattan, but instead of skyscrapers and crowded streets it has country roads leading through vineyards and passing wineries with more or less nice tasting rooms. The tasting always costs money, but you can taste some truly delicious wines.

We first went to Quivira Winery which has excellent wines and a rather plain tasting room with the only decoration of these old vines high up on the wall.

Then on to Dry Creek Vineyard which makes my favorite Zinfandel and we ended our tour at Francis Ford Coppola Winery. This winery has developed in a center of fun for the entire family especially in the warmer seasons since it has a big pool, lots of entertainment for the kids, an excellent restaurant, shops - and, of course, wine. Many of the bottles have artful labels which you can also buy as big posters.

We actually didn't want to taste the wine here - we were hungry and wanted something to eat. We had to wait about 30 minutes for a table, but waiting in a place like this doesn't get boring.

(The top picture was actually taken in the Dry Creek Vineyard tasting room)

I was so happy that Kaefer and Burçin got along so well. They had a lot of fun together and it didn't matter at all that there were 10 years age difference between them.

The food in the restaurant was excellent - I had a Moroccan dish which still makes my mouth water just thinking of it - and so was the wine. We rounded the meal out with chocolate mousse, espresso and cappuccino.

When we finally left it was dark, still raining, but the lights outside were beautiful.

Hubertus and Burçin left the next morning and Kaefer left in the early afternoon. Suddenly it became very quiet in our home again with just the Geek and I. The weekend felt like a mini vacation that provided us with lots of beautiful memories.