Friday, December 30, 2016

A West Coast Winter Day

  Living on the coast of California has it's good and bad sides, like anywhere else.
  Bad sides? A drought situation that has latest for years, way too many people, costs of living that can be extreme, the fear that any day now the 'Big One' (earthquake) will hit, ridiculous traffic jams, and knowing that the rest of the world views us as laid back surfer/stoner/hippy/flakes. 
  I may have had my day as a hippy, but I've never been a flake. Or a surfer. 
  Just so you know.

  There are lots of good sides, but for the sake of this blog post, let's just say that you can't beat the winter weather here.
  Tourists flock to our area in the summer, expecting it to be like a scene from "Baywatch", with warm sunshine and girls in teeny bikinis on the beach. 
  Not so.
  Our summers are mostly cold, grey and foggy.
  I watch the throngs of people as they shiver in their shorts and T-shirts, buying sweatshirts emblazoned with the California flag…it's ironic. Sure, it's plenty hot and sunny ten miles inland, or down in the Los Angeles area, but here on the coast we learn to dress in warm layers from June through August. 
  It's freaking cold.
  The big payoff comes later, in fall and winter.

  Take yesterday, December 28…


Monterey's harbor.

  The local weather guy called for a high of seventy degrees, so Johnny & I decided we should take a much needed day off, work in the garden, and take the bikes out for a spin.

  We have been working non-stop all month, getting our new gallery space up and running, and a wee break was just what the doctor ordered. After all, rain is eventually on it's way, we hope, and the cold weather (for us, any temperature under 55 degrees) is coming down the pike soon enough.
  But yesterday was the day to play.

The annual winter Ice Rink had several people wearing shorts
and T-shirts as they scooted around...

We had our scarves, but Johnny didn't even need a sweater.

Riding along the bike trail, the views are fantastic.
This is Fisherman's Wharf from the backside.

  It's been a few weeks since we've taken the bikes out, and I really wanted to play some dominoes and such. 
  Our favorite spot for wine and dominoes is along the ocean, so it was perfect. I was hoping for some outrageous colors at sunset…the clouds were so nice in the late afternoon-

Not a bad place to call 'home'.

Didn't see any whales, but I loved this sail boat.

This panorama shot looks towards our house, over there.

  We live about five minutes from the beach, if you drive, and we take our morning walks on the bike path just above the beach. On these clear winter days, it's beautiful.

There's our little town.
And that's the beach we walk along...

A little color at sunset, as we look towards the
Monterey Bay Aquarium.


As we headed back home, it was getting dark enough to enjoy Christmas lights on some of the sailboats in the harbor. We were bummed that we missed the Christmas "Lighted Boat Parade" this year, so it was fun to see these.

I love the lights reflected in the water, of course.
We live back across the bay, where the lights are in the distance.
It's a perfect bike ride for us.

Seasons Greetings from Fisherman's Wharf-
We couldn't believe how many people were around! 

A last swing by the ice skaters.
It started to cool down, once the sun set.

And just a few more pretty lights, before we bike back home.

    Whether here, or in Umbria, I guess Johnny and I do know how to have some good fun.
    Happy Holidays and Happy New Year…Here's to making the best of life, wherever life finds you.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Now That 2016 Is About Done...

  So long, 2016. It's been, umm, well…
  See ya.

  Now can I start to think about 2017, and Italy? 
  Why yes, yes I can. And ain't nobody gonna stop me. 

  Just knowing that in a few weeks we'll be back in Umbria makes my heart flutter (sure beats my heart pounding, which has been the norm since, oh, let's say November).

  First big view of Panicale is from the valley, after we've taken the train down from Florence, picked up the rental car and firewood, and hit the road home...


   I really can't wait to be at the very top of town, toasting our arrival as the sun goes on down...

Baby! We're back!

  It's pretty quiet in town when we first arrive. Our apartment is waiting for us.

I look forward to filling pots with flowers for our stay.
They will line the steps, getting photographed by
visitors from all over!

This is why we get some wood before we go up the hill-
Johnny loves that first fire.

  It's funny…I realize that our life in Italy is so routine now. No big changes from year to year. We may take some day trips to new places, or even spend a couple of nights in a different town, but really? All we want to do is what we always do. Some painting, walks in the country side, lots of wine drinking, foosball, good food, time with pals…it's enough. It's sweetness.
  I. Can't. Wait.

  Poor Mr. J has lots of work to do, but he doesn't mind. He knows there is wine at the end of the day.
  Maybe some pasta…

Last painting of this gorgeous day….

Is it finished?

  Johnny is happy to just walk around the walls of town, taking it all in...

  …a walk at the lake is always on the agenda...

  …finding odd, old buildings can be fun, too.

 This one will do just fine,
thank you.

  I feel like I'm just along for the ride, most of the time.
  No problem...

I don't even care where I'm going,
except when it's time to leave.

  For me, everyday in Umbria is a day to discover something new and tasty.

Making pizza in someone's laundry room?
Hey, it was a fantastic evening of fun with pals!

That sly smile is all about the knowledge
that soon I will be eating something delightful, in Florence.

What really gets me excited is pizza.
Pellicano Pizza, thank you very much.

  We like to just hang out together, mostly. Like at home in California, we spend most of our time together, in our little world of two. 

  There are many favorite places we like to visit, and the surrounding landscape is a never ending wonderland to explore.
  We tend to do it with gusto.
  The lake, Lago Trasimeno, always delivers...

Coming into the port on Iso;a Maggiore.
We will spend time on this island at least once every year.
Johnny likes to paint here.

A walk at the lake is a great way to spend time.
There are several favorite spots to stop for wine or lunch.

This year we found some new hill towns with awe inspiring views of Lago Trasimeno.
Having a day of perfect weather is sweet.

Because we are there to watch the change from winter to spring, we get to watch colors explode all around the area.
  I will never get tired of seeing the wisteria come into bloom, or coming across a field of red poppies.

  These are the things I look forward to…spring flowers, foosball, potato chips with wine, pasta to die for and pizza that is good enough to be a last meal. Ever.

  Anyway, back to those spring blooms….

I loves my new camera….

Apple trees in bloom are a mind blower.

We visit this flowering cherry every year.
It comes and goes so fast...

Yes, the poppies are all over, but they don't last long, either.

When the scotch broom start up, it's about time to head home,
dang it.

I see iris planted all over. They just make huge colonies where ever they land.
Here, they are quite perfect under the olive trees.

  The landscape is always changing while we visit.
  Always breathtaking.

Wheat in full 'bloom'.

A perfect spot.

My favorite critters, with bells on.
Thanks for the pecorino, ladies!

We do enjoy our pals.

Spending time with friends, old and new.

Celebrating a birthday at Bar Gallo, of course.

  We do enjoy our favorite spots for wine, too...

Kicking back to watch the world go by.

A little hideaway we enjoy.

Many, many visits here each year.

Mr. J soaking the last rays of sun in front of a favorite spot.

Wine, chips and dominoes.
Dare I say…it's a lifestyle?

One of many spots near the lake.

But of course, we always come home to Aldo & Daniele's…What would life be without Bar Gallo?

  We have been working our fannies off getting the new gallery space up and running, and now that we are open, we are starting the yearly countdown to leave. It seems odd, but the trip was already planned, and this is why we do work so hard all year.
  To return to Umbria is the Big Gift. The Big Payoff. 
  As I write this, on December 28, 2016, I can't tell you how much we both need this. We have all had a bit of a rough ride, and putting 2016 to bed, knowing that it's scant weeks before we head on over to Panicale…well, it's a really good band-aid for us. 
  I am pretty sure our Panicale gang is feeling the same way.

The Prize.

  Let's toast out this bitch of a year, and get the party started, ok?