Serene Scenes, Big Sur

Rushing River. Gentle Giants.

Right after New Year’s, I started a series of posts called Serene Scenes with the intention of “keeping the fresh air and wonder of nature’s beauty inside me.” I hope to find many more places to slow down, take deep breaths, and concentrate on my thoughts and wishes. I’ll share them when I do.


Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Hubby and I were hoping to see redwoods, but where? “On the western slope of the Santa Lucia Mountains, the peaks of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park tower high above the Big Sur River Gorge, where the Big Sur River enters this popular park. Walk along the banks of the river and among the redwoods, conifers, oaks, sycamores, cottonwoods, maples, alders and willows.” CA.Gov

The Big Sur River “is a relatively small river added to the federal system by Congress in 1992, as part of the Los Padres Condor Range and Rivers Act, which protected 84 miles of wild and scenic rivers and more than 400,000 acres of wilderness in California’s iconic central coast region.” https://www.calwild.org/portfolio/fact-sheet-big-sur-wild-scenic-river/

Hiking through the park, we marveled at “Colonial Tree,” which has a circumference of 31 feet and is estimated to be between 1,100 and 1,200 years old. Many more of these astoundingly tall trees tower up and out of the forest canopy.

I loved the redwoods and felt the gentle giants had stories to tell. Before we walked down a path at the end of our hike, we came across a stand of redwoods set up on a hill. Thick undergrowth covered the ground, so I climbed on top of stones and stumps until I stood high up in the middle of the trees. I touched their warm, bumpy ridges and listened. It felt like they were listening to me, too, even though I hadn’t spoke a word.

For all the panoramas, beaches, cliffs, parks, Big Sur is inseparable from the majesty of the Redwoods. Beyond their might and height, the Redwoods are a spiritual presence. Often they grow in circles as if a family, and form a center that seems to drain all sound of man and forest. You stand in the center of a grove and the stillness is almost mystical. If you have never experienced what we describe, make sure to never pass a grove on a hike, go inside it, sit on a log, close your eyes. It will change you. 

Outspoken Traveler

Hon, have you seen redwoods? What did you think?

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

Top Ten Places to Travel Virtually

Stonehenge

Hon, hope you had a nice July 4th weekend!

This year, though our friends’ holiday bbq was nixed, we still got together, socially distancing of course. Since our school district doesn’t let out until late June, July 4th feels like the official start of summer. But what does this summer hold? Will I return to work or not? Will Elegant Lifestyles publish a September issue? Is it safe to visit family in different states? Will one of my daughters have to quarantine when she returns home after four months away? Will my younger daughter’s college hold classes? The questions go on and on. One thing we can do is travel…virtually. This is a list of places I’d love to go one day. Where would you like to go?

Top Ten Places to Travel Virtually

1. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

David Attenborough leads you on an interactive tour underwater to explore the Great Barrier Reef. Through interactive time-lapses, videos, and weather maps, the tour shows you the Earth’s most bio-diverse ecosystem.

All the while, a tracker notes miles traveled, total sailing time, and the effects of climate change during your “exhibition,” making this a great educational tour for adults and kids alike!

2. The Great Wall of China

China’s most famous attraction offers virtual tours of some of the most visited sections of the wall, 3,000 miles of which are walkable. With much of the country under quarantine measures, the virtual tour offers a reprieve from the crowds who normally come from all over the world to see the 2,000-year-old marvel.

3. Iceland

Welcome to Iceland 360 VR!Select one of hundreds of locations around Iceland in the search field, panorama location list or location map or try out our location basedand themed virtual tours!

4. Taj Mahal, India

Our online virtual tour enables visitors to interactively explore the “UNESCO World Heritage Site”, the Taj Mahal at Agra in India. Visitors may tour 22 different areas of the monument and gardens through 360° panoramas, maps, narrated mini-movies, music and text.

5. Alaska

Experience virtual tours and in-depth educational videos of Kenai Fjords National Park. Journey into the beautiful landscape of Alaska to discover the wonders of the glaciers, local wildlife, geology and so much more!

6. Ireland–25 Virtual Tours

In an attempt to bring those of you that want to be here a little closer to Ireland, we’ve created a guide that’s packed with virtual tours (and 360 photos) for some of Ireland’s best-known attractions.

7. Scotland

“Immerse yourself in the amazing history, cities and landscapes of Scotland from the comfort of your own home…virtual tours of Scotland, including fascinating documentaries and Scottish museums that offer online tours. So sit back, relax, and enjoy your virtual journey through Scotland.

8. Safaris, Africa

Get up close with some of the world’s most amazing animals from the safety of your sofa.

9. Israel

Coronavirus messing up your plans? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Join us for a virtual tour of the most beautiful places in Israel with our popular series, Postcards from Israel.

10. Redwoods, California

Join an interpretive ranger in series of VR episodes about some of the natural and cultural history of the park. Move your mouse, handheld device, or wear VR glasses to experience this in 360 degrees.

 

 

Skype-a-Thon with Second and Fourth Graders

California Connection

Sometimes a week is just a week, and sometimes you do something awesome like Skype with second and fourth graders at Stagg Street Elementary School in the LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District)!

Shout out to Vickie Waite, ITF, Instructional Technology Initiative who reached out to me through Microsoft Educator. I read chapters from The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, and we discussed what makes the book fantasy. I read chapters from two The Terrible Two books by Jory John and Mac Barnett, and we discussed what makes the books humorous. The kids prepared questions, asking where I get story ideas, do I have a favorite manuscript, who is my favorite author, and what’s it like to be a writer? Then the kids met Lucy! Fun! 

According to Waite, our session was “timed for the Skype-a-Thon, which provided much-needed funding for impoverished countries calculated on the cumulative miles Skyped.”

The Microsoft Education site reported that 23,629,665 virtual miles were traveled!

“Hundreds of thousands of students, teachers and guest speakers in 102 countries gathered over Skype and in 48 hours helped raise the funds needed to educate up to 35,000 children in need in WE Villages – supporting UN Sustainable Development Goal Quality Education.

It was amazing!”

DIY Wedding Decorations, Food and Drinks (Part 3)

A table set with love.

Head Table

Linh and Dan didn’t sit much, but their table was set with His and Hers wine glasses, votive candles and an array of succulents, ranunculus and roses. Dusty green, pink, peach and ivory were carried through the centerpieces and decorations.

Toast the newlyweds.

How great is this bottle cork heart? It sat by the bar where a sign (below) featured a drink called the “Berry Marry Sangria” and said, “Eat, Drink and Be Married.”

Centerpieces.

The centerpieces were creative and lovely. Tables were wet with stacked books, clustered corks, votive candles, and mason jars of succulents, ranunculus, roses and hydrangeas.  This place setting would be beautiful at a brunch, engagement party, bridal party or–think picture books–a baby shower.

Opaque bottles decorated the dessert table.

Lots of “Love” to go around.

 

 

 

 

 

Birds and a birdcage are sweet accessories.

Wedding cake.

I’m guessing the wooden perch that the cut-out birds are resting had stakes to stand inside the cake.

Happy party planning, hon.

Related Posts:

DIY Wedding Decorations, Ceremony (Part 1)

DIY Wedding Decoration, Cocktail Hour (Part 2)

 

DIY Wedding Decorations, Cocktail Hour (Part 2)

Welcome-to-the-Celebration-Table

Wedding Wishes

One of the benefits of an October wedding in Paso Robles, California is dry weather. In the  Northeast, there’d have to be a rain date or a tent!

Welcome-to-the-Celebration-Table

The table displayed the light, airy and romantic mood with its floral lace tablecloth, photos of the bride and groom, handkerchiefs, bubbles, potted plants, and sweet accessories.

Guests were invited to take dainty handkerchiefs–for tears of joy, of course.

I love the potted succulents and ranunculus!

Jenga Advice along with Shabby Chic  “L & D” and stacked books.

Advice for newlyweds? Guests could pen theirs on Jenga pieces.

Next Up: The party continues.

Related Post: DIY Wedding Decorations, Ceremony (Part 1)

DIY Wedding Decorations, Ceremony (Part 1)

Wedding Season

Hubby and I attended an October wedding in Paso Robles, a city in San Luis Obispo, California where we were amazed by the ever-changing landscape. One minute, there were farms, the next wineries, forests and the Pacific Ocean. Gorgeous!

Not only was the landscape a treat, the wedding was beautiful and–hon, you know I love a theme–I appreciated the DIY details that the bride attended to. Shout out to Linh, the lovely bride who put it all together.

Wedding Greeter.

A chalkboard sitting on an easel greeted guests.

This way!

How cute is this sign?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Handprinted signs pointed the way. We didn’t know that ceremony would be under a..

A screen of flowers hung as a backdrop to the ceremony.

…300 year-old tree. This floral backdrop set the mood for the romantic, airy wedding.

Bride and groom.

Lining the aisle.

Lining the aisle were mason jars hanging on hooked stakes.

A lily pond and mini waterfall were nestled along the path. So pretty!

Next up: DIY wedding decoration continues all this week. Happy planning, hon.

Related Post: DIY Wedding Decorations, Cocktail Hour (Part 2)