Monday, August 30, 2021

T Tuesday with Tags


Through Valerie's beautiful blog I became aware of Tag Tuesday and decided on a whim to participate in the current challenge - the theme is "shells". I love shells, driftwood and all the other things you can find on a beach.

It's been a long time since I joined a tag challenge. I did it several times back in 2010, but since then, I have hardly made any tags at all. I felt a bit rusty, to be honest. Fortunately I found a few old tags where I had already created the background (probably years ago) and used them as a start.

This tag already had a painted background and the torn piece of a page from a French book. After that I had abandoned this tag, waiting patiently for this challenge, I assume. I used mainly stamps for this project - the water plant, the seastars and the big seashell. The sea horse epoxy sticker was hiding in my box of random supplies that I had bought over the years. (Water plant and shell stamps are by Stampington, seastar stamp is by denami design) 

The second tag had a sprayed blue background.

I had wanted to use the stamp of the little girl collecting sea shells for a long time and only used it once to make an ATC. This time I stamped it on watercolor paper and painted it with Derwent Inktense pens which I then washed out with water. I bought these pens seven years ago (!) at the National Gallery in London and have hardly used them. But now I totally fell in love with the rich and brilliant colors. Shells were stamped on a left-over piece of scrapbook paper and I stencilled the top. (Girl stamp by Stamps Happen, shells by PSX; stencil by Stencil Girl)

And since I was on a roll I made a third tag that already had a painted background. 

I just added a couple stamps, some Stickles (I had to get that flowing since it was kind of dried up in the bottle because I hadn't used it in years), a little shell and some final touches using a stencil. This is actually my favorite of the three tags. (Scripted shell stamp by Club Scrap; I don't know who made the swirly stamp, I found it at a Goodwill and it's just mounted on a blank wood block; stencil by The Crafters Workshop)

I drank coffee while I was working on these tags - I love to drink it out of this mug which is one of my favorites. This is for T day!

I'm sharing with Tag Tuesday and Altered Book Lover.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

A New Trail


Today I wanted to walk around the lake again, but when I arrived in the parking lot, I changed my plan. It was an overcast and cool morning, perfect for hiking into adjacent Annadel State Park. I first climbed up a steep trail that I last hiked a few years ago.

I apologize for a photo-heavy post.

Even though you can't see it in the pictures, this is a very steep trail, littered with thick roots and big boulders. It's ideal rattlesnake habitat which is why in the summer I only walk trails like this on overcast cool mornings like today. Our rattlesnakes tend to keep away in this kind of weather and I prefer it this way.

On top there is a summer-dry meadow and a completely dried up little pond.

Signs of the drought are everywhere, but also gorgeous views.

The hills in the photo above is where the Tubbs Fire raced through in that fateful night in October 2017, destroying everything in its way. Although homes are built up there again, I can still see the scars of the fire. I wish there were no buildings on those hills.

Walking across the meadow I discovered a trail I had never hiked before and I spontaneously decided to try it out. I knew that it eventually would lead down to the parking lot of Annadel and I sure didn't want to walk that far away from my starting point (which was on the other side of the mountain), but I at least wanted to get an idea of what the trail looked like.

I'm glad I did.

The first part of the trail was rather mellow, but then I rounded a corner and saw this:

This is where last year's Glass Fire had burned in Annadel. See that tree on the right?

Like a snake is shedding its skin, these trees are shedding their burned bark and beneath it they look pretty good. It is always amazing to see how nature heals itself. However, for some trees it is just too late.

But even these obviously dead trees still offer habitat and protection for wildlife. Think of birds and little critters that make these trees their homes. I'm glad that not every burnt tree is cut down, but that nature is getting its way.

California has always had fires. This is not a new thing, however, what is new is how ferocious they have become. California has always needed fires, but now with more and more homes in the wilderness areas and a forest mismanagement over many many years a change of course is unavoidable.

Here you can clearly see the fire's way:

I eventually turned around and hiked another trail above the lake before I finally went back down the steep trail. I can assure you that climbing it up was way easier than down!

What I love the most about this area? The crooked trees.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Tuscan Butter Salmon


We like to eat salmon, and especially wild caught Alaskan sockeye. It has so much flavor! I am always on the lookout for recipes that use salmon and when I find one I follow it to a T for the first time. After that I usually add my own twist.

This recipe for Tuscan butter salmon is definitely a favorite. I have cooked it several times since I first saw it and by now I do my own version which really is not that different from the original one.

Here is what you will need:

  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2-4 salmon fillets, skin on and patted dry
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tbsp butter (I use unsalted)
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (or more if you like)

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet (I use my cast iron). Season salmon all over with salt and pepper. Cook salmon skin side up until deeply golden (about 6 minutes), then flip over and cook 2-3 minutes more. Transfer to a plate.

Reduce heat to medium and add butter. When butter has melted, stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add cherry tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. When tomaotes are beginning to burst add the spinach. Cook until spinach is beginning to wilt.

Stir in heavy cream and Parmesan and bring mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce is slightly reduced.

Return salmon to skillet and spoon the sauve over the fish. Simmer until salmon is cooked through, about 3 minutes more.

If you like you can add lemon wedges for garnish - I sometimes do and sometimes I don't.

Another option is to add some herbs when you stir in the heavy cream and Parmesan, like basil. I find basil often overpowering, but it certainly is a good match for the tomatoes.

Often I bake focaccia that we eat with this dish. It's perfect for mopping up the sauce. A light rosé wine complements this dish.

Monday, August 16, 2021

T Stands for Wine Country


If you think I have lost the ability to spell correctly because there's no way "wine" starts with t, let me assure you that I do know that. However, I have decided to play along with the Altered Book Lover's "T" posts. T stands for Tuesday and refers to posts on Tuesdays that are somehow related to a drink. Since I live in wine country, I thought I start with wine.

We grow a lot of wine in Sonoma County and I do have to say that it is pretty good wine. You can find many vineyards in almost every corner of the county except near the ocean. Sometimes we just take a drive through the vineyards - they look pretty no matter which season we have.

And of course the grapes are lovely as well. This year, though, there are fears that because of water restrictions caused by our severe drought not all of the grapes will make it. It seems over the past few years every year brings its challenges to the winemakers, be it fire, smoke (last year a lot of the grapes were smoke damaged) or drought. It is a hard business.

Every weekend you could visit a different winery for some wine tasting if you feel like doing that. We love to do that when out of town friends or family come to visit, like some of our family members from Turkey a few years ago.

The Geek and I sometimes do some wine tasting and love it when food pairing is involved. However, due to the pandemic we haven't done any wine tasting in a long time.

So we just drink our wine at home.


Monday, August 9, 2021

Closing a Chapter


Today would have been my first day back at work at the high school library after the summer break.

Would have been... however, I quit over the summer. It's a long story and I don't want to bore you with it. I did feel though that this job no longer was healthy for my own well-being.

The past year, which definitely was the weirdest school year I ever experienced, gave me a lot of opportunity to re-assess what is important in my life. At the beginning of 2020 - when no one was talking about COVID-19 - I had turned 60 which for me was the point where I seriously thought about what to make of the time that I still have. When I started this job in the high school library - right after my daughter had graduated from the same school - I enjoyed it even though every now and then it was quite a drag. Except for the first year, every year I worked there was marked by major school closures due to wildfires (the Tubbs fire in October 2017 that burned down several neighborhoods in our city was the first one), smoke and preventative power shut-offs. We dealt with it, grateful for the long summer break that gave us the opportunity to relax and start the next school year with new energy.

I started with that same level of new energy after last year's summer, but something changed profoundly during the pandemic school year. The workload was okay and I finally had the time to get tasks done that I had wanted to accomplish for a long time. But I did not enjoy it anymore. Yes, there are always periods when the job is not particularly enjoyable - but this was somehow different. 

I wrestled with the situation for a long time, tried to tell myself that this would be temporary, that I am a positive person who is resilient and most of all, who DOESN'T QUIT. I even started to meditate hoping that it would help me with my anxiety that I had developed (very new for me) and that would get me back in the "right mindset". But there was another voice, first quite low, but eventually getting louder and demanding to be heard. It was a constant "do you really want to go on like this?".

So I thought - one more year. That perked me up for the remaining weeks of the school year. And then, at the end of the last day of the school year, when I was ready to go home, I took all my personal stuff with me - not that there was a lot, just a couple photos of my daughter, a couple pens and a notebook. There was this thought, "maye I don't come back for another year, so take your things just in case".

Five days later I wrote my letter of resignation.

Now I can solely concentrate on my teaching job at the German School which has become considerably more work intensive over the past 15 months and which is the job I truly enjoy and love. The overwhelming emotion at this point is relief. This morning, when I woke up my first thought was "I'm so glad I don't have to go to the high school anymore!".

Just like my daughter said five years ago after graduating, I say today "I'm done!"