Serene Scenes, Santa Cruz Wharf

Hannah and Morgan on the Santa Cruz Wharf

The Barking Was Not From Dogs!

If it hadn’t been rainy and chilly, I’m sure the Santa Cruz Wharf in California would have been teeming with people. Since it was practically deserted, we got great views of the beach, amusement park, and Monterey Bay. Hannah heard barking and guess what, hon? Sea lions were resting under the wharf. Cool!

Extending a half mile into the Monterey Bay, situated between the colorful Santa Cruz Boardwalk and the surfer-filled waves of Steamer Lane, the Santa Cruz Wharf offers some of most thrilling views along the California coast. At 2,745 feet, it’s the longest wooden pier in the United States, resting on over 4,400 Douglas-fir pilings. Built in 1914, the timber centenarian continues to offer a timeless Santa Cruz experience. Stroll its wooden walkways-ideally with a cup of clam chowder in hand-and discover fresh-seafood eateries, local gift shops, nature and history displays, fun seasonal events, and of course, those famous barking sea lions.

Santacruz.org

Have you been to Santa Cruz? What did you do you there?

Santa Cruz Wharf, Image source: City of Santa Cruz

Looking back at the beach.

Sea lions under the wharf.

Image source: Santa Cruz Sentinel

Serene Scenes, Sunset in Santa Cruz

Snowy Egrets in Natural Bridges State Park.

Sun Sets in the West

Rainy and chilly weather didn’t stop us from visiting Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz, CA. The sun broke through ombre grey clouds and lit up the sand where Snowy Egrets foraged for end-of-day snacks. Shore birds, most likely Double-Crested Cormorants and definitely Brown Pelicans, rested on top of an arched rock, one of the “natural bridges” the park is named for.

Natural Bridges State Park is also known for its’ tidepools, coastal grasslands, wildflowers, and Monarch Butterfly Natural Preserve, where monarchs overwinter from about October to January because of “the area’s mild seaside climate and eucalyptus grove.” (CA Dpt of Parks & Recreation)Though Hubby and I visited the Preserve, we didn’t see any monarchs. We’re wondering if the chilly, rainy weather drove the butterflies further south.

Santa Cruz, which is Spanish for “Holy Cross” and is 70 miles south of San Francisco and 35 miles north of Monterey, has an interesting history.

In 1769 the Spanish explorer Don Gaspar de Portola discovered the land area which is now known as the City of Santa Cruz. When he came upon the beautiful flowing river, he named it San Lorenzo in honor of Saint Lawrence. He called the rolling hills above the river Santa Cruz, which means holy cross. 

Twenty-two years later, in 1791, Father Fermin de Lasuen established a mission at Santa Cruz, the twelfth mission to be founded in California. Across the San Lorenzo River, in what is now known as East Santa Cruz, Villa de Branciforte was established It was founded by the Spanish as one of three civil settlements or pueblos in California. The other pueblos were San Jose and Los Angeles. Villa de Branciforte later merged with the Mission Santa Cruz community across the river. 

By the 1820’s Mexico had assumed control of the area and within the next twenty years, Americans began to arrive in great numbers. California became a state in 1850 and Santa Cruz County was created as one of the twenty-seven original counties. 

By the turn of the century logging, lime processing, agriculture, and commercial fishing industries prospered in the area. Due to its mild climate and scenic beauty Santa Cruz also became a prominent resort community.

City of Santa Cruz

Serene Scenes, Pacific Coast Highway

Ocean, land and sky meet for miles on the West Coast.

Iconic Roadway. Gorgeous Vistas.

Happy New Year! I’m starting this year’s posts with views from my recent trip to California. The ribbon of highway that’s Route 1 hugs the mountains while topping dramatic cliffs that drop down to the Pacific Ocean. We of the East Coast (Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York Connecticut) aren’t used to seeing undeveloped coastline. The drive is breathtaking.

I’m hoping to keep the fresh air and wonder of nature’s beauty inside of me, to breathe deeply and visualize whenever I need to slow my heartbeat and find some moments of inner peace.

Wishing you the same, hon.

California’s coast-hugging Highway 1 is what dream drives are made of. The iconic roadway—which extends for more than 650 miles from Dana Point north to Leggett—offers endless vistas overlooking the Pacific, with plenty of redwood trees and wildlife sightings along the way. The most well-known (and photographed) stretch runs along California’s Central Coast from Santa Barbara to Monterey, passing by the unspoiled coastline of Big Sur.

VisitCalifornia.com

Wedding Week Cont’d–Brides & Bubbles

When Aline and Cherie asked about throwing their wedding at our house, they wanted to know if we had any giant games. We used to have giant Pick Up Sticks and a picnic blanket-sized game of Checkers but, nope, we don’t have Cornhole or a giant Connect Four. They rented both and also brought bubbles. The games were a hit, and the bubbles were the best!

If you want to add giant soap bubbles to your next outdoor event, here’s what you’ll need:

  • big bucket
  • bubble wands
  • giant bubble solution
  • sense of magic

*Wands and giant bubble solution can be purchased or made.

(Click on each pic to view full photo.)

Wedding Week: DIY Flowers, Cake, Chuppah

Aline’s bridal bouquet, created by Wildly Floral Co., was a combination of pink anemones, yellow calla lilies, white daisies, craspedia yellow billy balls, and eucalyptus.
Cherie’s boutonnière echoed Aline’s bouquet.
Matching sparkly sneakers.

Aline and Cherie’s flowers, cake and chuppah were as sunny as the day! What made everything even more beautiful? The love and affection flowing from friends and family to the two brides. I loved the flowers–yellow and white with soft green accents, Aline’s lace dress, Cherie’s blue suit, and the couple’s matching sparkly sneakers.

Aline and Cherie’s friends built a chuppah out of birch logs. Wishes from friends and family were printed on green paper, cut into leaves, and laminated. Shout out to Aline’s sister Gavi for sewing the leaves onto the fabric that created the roof of the chuppah.

Aline assembled bouquets to adorn the chuppah.

The gorgeous, rustic-looking, strawberry shortcake wedding cake was baked by Cherie’s sister Cristal. Shout out to Cristal for maintaining her focus and composure while the house and yard buzzed with people setting up and arriving from out of town.

Wedding Week: Table Decor

Visual interest was created by the use of both farm and regular tables.

It’s amazing how tents, tables and chairs can transform a space, especially after tables are decorated. At my niece’s wedding in our backyard, a pretty and relaxed tone was set with gauze runners, long boughs of eucalyptus, small and medium bud vases, wood-framed photos, and wooden coasters. Hon, you know I love texture and color, so I found the play of filmy blue fabric, soft green leaves, sharp wooden edges, smooth clear glass, and bright yellow flowers a pleasing combination.





Tents, tables and chairs created places to gather and eat.

Set on top of light blue gauze runners, eucalyptus boughs encircled wooden frames, bud vases and wooden coasters.

My niece created DIY decorations/favors by modge-podging photos onto wooden coasters.

Aline and Cherie’s dog, Mochi, may have been with a dog sitter, but she was there in spirit.

Poetry & Blooms–Balms for a Reflective Time

L’Shana Tovah! Happy New Year!

It may be 2021 in the secular world, but according to the Jewish calendar it’s 5782. Every year, as the High Holidays approach and summer comes to an end, I look inward, assessing the previous year’s relationships, family, health and work.

Rosh Hashanah (literally “head of the year” or New Year) is the Jewish New Year. Yom Kippur, which comes ten days after Rosh Hashanah, is the Day of Atonement. Together, they are sometimes referred to as the Jewish High Holidays. They mark a period known both as the “Days of Awe” and the “Ten Days of Repentance,” during which Jewish people are supposed to reflect on the sins they have committed during the past year. Rosh Hashanah combines the joy of a New Year celebration and its theme of renewal with the seriousness associated with confronting one’s failings and seeking forgiveness both from God and from those one has wronged. Yom Kippur is considered the holiest day of the Jewish sacred calendar.

adl.org

This year there’s much to be grateful for and look forward to and also so many things to worry about. My husband’s mom’s health is the biggest worry for our family. And days before the holidays started, Hurricane Ida devastated many of my town’s businesses and homes. Sometimes, hon, I can barely take a deep breath.

But vivid colors call to me and I contemplate how a blue sky and white clouds frame bright yellow petals, and I search for words to write and read.

Breathe.

A Boat, Beneath a Sunny Sky

Lewis Carroll – 1832-1898

A boat, beneath a sunny sky
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July—

Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear—

Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream—
Lingering in the golden gleam—
Life, what is it but a dream?

Top Ten Facts About Bald-Faced Hornets

Bald-Faced Hornet, photo source rescue.com

While walking Lucy one recent morning, I came across a huge wasps’ nest that apparently fell out of a tree and split open. The wasps were busy inside, trying to repair the damage and salvage their nest. They were not at all concerned with me, so much so that I was able sit down on the road to take a closer look.

I’d never seen Bald-Faced Hornets before. Interestingly they are actually wasps, a type of yellowjacket, with patterns of white bands and lines on their abdomens and tips. The inside of the nest was amazing! The cells were perfect hexagons. Outside, the whorls reminded me of seashells.

You know what I had to do, hon? Research! The following are the:

Top Ten Facts About Bald-Faced Hornets:

  1. “Bald-faced hornets are considered a beneficial species because they prey on flies and other yellow jackets (notoriously aggressive).” They also eat other insects and, in late summer, will collect nectar.
  2. In these large social colonies numbering 200-400, all have specific tasks. The queen lays hundreds of eggs and raises sterile daughter offspring. The females enlarge and maintain the nest, forage for food, and raise the offspring. “The male drones function is to be ready to fertilize a receptive queen.”
  3. The queen lays all of the eggs in the colony and fertilizes them using stored sperm from the spermatheca. What is a spermatheca? It’s a structure inside the queen which allows her to control the fertilization of eggs. She can lay eggs that are either unfertilized or fertilized. Unfertilized eggs develop into males or drones. Fertilized eggs develop into females, which may be either workers or virgin queens.
  4. Non-fertilized eggs have only half as many genes as the queen or female workers. The resulting male drones have no sting.
  5. Males have an additional white band on the first abdominal segment and on their tip.
  6. Queens, which measure 18-20mm as compared to workers which measure 12-15mm, are the only members of the colony to survive the winter.
  7. Adults will chew flies into a pulp and feed them to their larvae.
  8. Their large, aerial, gray nests are made from paper like material which is created when chewed wood fibers are mixed with saliva.
  9. Inside the nest, there are 3-4 tiers of combs that resemble honeycombs.
  10. “Nests are built every year. The abandoned nests are often destroyed by birds looking for food.”

Sources: insectidentification.org, naturemapping.org, rescue.com

Second Snake Sighting and Top Ten Cool Rattlesnake Facts

Eastern Garden Snake found in front of my house.

Another Snake Sighting!

I’ve seen many different animals while living in New Jersey, especially since my house abuts the South Mountain Reservation. Want to know what I’ve spotted? Check out Animal Kingdom in the Suburbs. But, I’ve never seen skunks despite smelling them, and I’ve never seen a snake…until last week.

While walking Lucy, my neighbors (shout out to Jeanne and Jim) said there was a snake on the road ahead. I kept an eye out, but it must have moved on. I returned home to see our cat Midnight batting what looked like a small branch. It wasn’t a branch? It was a small snake! I figured it was a harmless garter snake so, you guessed it hon, I picked it up! So cool! It was smooth and surprisingly warm. Another neighbor (shout out to Heather) was walking her bear–umm, I mean giant, black, fluffy dog Gracie–when she said, “What have you got there?” She thought the snake was cool, too.

You know who wasn’t that interested in this exciting finding? Lucy and Gracie! They were all like sniff, sniff, done. But Midnight stayed half hidden in his “jungle” (the garden in front of my house), watching. Why? Because he wanted to finish the job he started! That poor, little snake had an injury–a wound on its underside with a spot of blood. Midnight wasn’t just playing with it. 😦

I nestled the little snake in dense brush. I hope its’ wound heals and returns to doing whatever it is Eastern Garden Snakes do.

How strange that I go for years without seeing a wild snake, and in the span of a month, there are two in my path? Hmmm, is it a sign or coincidence?

The other snake I came upon was, you may remember, coiled and rattling in New Mexico. Hon, of course I wanted to know more about rattlesnakes! Wouldn’t you?

Top Ten Cool Rattlesnake Facts:

  1. “Rattles are segments of keratin that fit loosely inside one another at the end of the snake’s tail. These segments knock against each other to produce a buzzing sound when the snake holds its tail vertically and vibrates the rattle. Each time a rattlesnake sheds its skin it adds another segment to the rattle.”(Source: Madison, Wisconsin herpotologist Sara Viernum.)
  2. In addition to rattling, rattlesnakes warn by hissing.
  3. Snakes do not communicate with each other by hissing since they’re deaf to airborne sounds. Their hiss is a warning for animals that can hear.
  4. There are 32 different species of rattlesnakes.
  5. The snakes can are found everywhere from sea level to a high elevation of 11,000 feet (3,353 m).
  6. Several generations of rattlesnakes will use the same dens.
  7. “Mothers can store sperm for months before fertilizing the eggs, and then they carry babies for about three months.”
  8. “Rattlesnakes are ovoviviparous, which means that eggs incubate inside the mother’s body. Babies are born live, encased in a thin membrane that they puncture after being born.”
  9. “The digestive process can take several days, and rattlesnakes become sluggish and hide during this time. Adult rattlers eat about every two weeks.”
  10. Rattlesnakes most distinctive features are their triangular heads and vertical pupils.

Sources: Rattlesnake facts: Live Science and Reptiles Magazine; Photo of Western Tanager: South Dakota Birds and Birding