Solvang Pit Stop

My parents took us to Solvang many times as children probably on the way too or from Los Angeles. When I was small I thought I was actually in Denmark! A child’s mind can’t understand why a town would dress itself up like Hans Christian Andersen and still be in California.

Solvang is much bigger than it used to be. An hour isn’t enough time to enjoy some good hardy food, try on a dirndl, have a pretzel and some chocolate, and to visit all the shops.

Let’s face it Solvang is as kitschy as kitsch can be. But, it’s classy and fun. The shops are somewhat upscale and the touristy shops are enjoyable too. Breweries and coffee shops line the streets now next to the traditional bakeries, antique stores, chocolate shops, and restaurants.

Next time you are in the Santa Barbara area looking for a great way to kill and afternoon transport yourself to Denmark and give Solvang a try. It’s got something for everyone.


Edible Mushrooms – Mendocino Mushroom Festival

Having eaten a beautiful and delicious mushroom meal at the Stanford Inn to celebrate our anniversary and the Mendocino Mushroom festival we had one more thing to do before leaving…

The day prior Eric and I had collected some hedgehog and chantarelle mushrooms on our guided mushroom walk.  I cleaned the mushrooms as best I could and kept an eagle eye out for worms.  I washed the mushrooms even though we were told we didn’t need to.  We took our guides advice and sauteed them in a pan with no butter or oil on a high heat.  The water within the mushrooms quickly seeped out and the mushrooms shrunk to half their size.  I dumped out most of the water and continued sauteing.  I added a touch of salt and it was the moment of truth!  Do we trust our guide?  I sent off a text message to some friends at work bequeathing them my unfinished projects and sequined office supplies and dug in.

I am happy to report Eric and I have no ill effects and truly enjoyed our unusual mushroom’s earthy but not overwhelming flavor.  It was something I have never been able to buy in a store and have certainly never foraged on my own before.  This was an excellent way to end our time in Mendocino at the festival.

The Mendocino Mushroom festival was a delight.  It wasn’t a true festival under a tent somewhere that you pay a ticket fee to enjoy.  Rather it was merely a celebration of the mushroom where festival goers can celebrate in their own way.  We spent most of our time outside enjoying nature and the beautiful weather where some could have spent large amounts of money on numerous beer/wine and mushroom pairings throughout the region.

Thank you mushroom for being such an entertaining part of our weekend.  🙂

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Mushroom Festival – Stanford Inn Guided Mushroom Walk

Saturday we came back to the Stanford Inn for a guided Mushroom walk and talk.  A guide brought all sorts of mushrooms she had picked within the last few days to delight us with.  She took us to “Mushroom Ally” a bit of forest in the Jackson Demonstration forest.  She frequents this spot because of the types of trees that grow there which attract edible mushrooms.  Eric and I, along with a small groups of others, walked through the forest for hours admiring mushrooms you can eat and mushrooms that can kill you instantly.  They were in abundance due to recent rains.  If I wasn’t scared enough of mushrooms before I certainly am now.  The only mushrooms we were brave enough to collect were hedgehog mushrooms and chantrelle mushrooms.  (We cooked these babies up the next morning with breakfast and they were delightful!)  The guided walk introduced new types of mushrooms that we did not see the day before at MacKericher.  We saw many of the same mushrooms but a large group that only appeared in this forest due to the types of trees that grew here.  Not to mention I think the guide had a better idea of where to look.  It seems she has special mushroom vision glasses on if you ask me.  Or she just knows where to look and what these mushrooms look like since many of them are rather camouflaged.  It was delightful to be out in the cool wet forest with a purpose.  Mushroom hunting was unusual and something I had never considered before.  I would do it again in a heartbeat probably leaving all of the specimens where I found them though.  It turns out many mushrooms look alike and can only be told apart by smell, whether they are slimy or not, whether they have spines not gills, whether they bruise blue and all sorts of rules that are difficult to remember.  I will just go with photographing them in the future!


A few mushroom facts:

*Mushrooms should never be eaten raw otherwise one may develop a mushroom allergy. (Even the button ones in the grocery store we commonly put in salads.)

*Mushrooms should be cooked without oil, the water within them will cook out and then they are ready to eat.

*Almost never eat a mushroom that is orange or red.

*Most mushrooms are full of maggots, gross.

*Our guide maintains mushrooms don’t need to be washed rather just brushed off.  I washed mine anyway…

*Hollywood should make a movie about killer mushrooms if they haven’t already because they are scary and aww inspiring.


Mushrooms encountered on our walk through Jackson Forest with a mixture of true names when I can remember them and made up names when I can’t!

Gummy Jelly mushroom – edible.  Grows on dead wood.


Purple Death cap.  (One of the prettiest colored ‘shrooms out there.)


Orange coral! (Coral…tell me this doesn’t look like it belongs under water.)


Red coral! (As if orange wasn’t pretty enough red coral is all over the place…)


White Coral  (White and close to white anyway.)


Orange Buttons of Death


Pigs Ear Mushroom – edible as long as there aren’t worms! (I have to admit this one didn’t look too appetizing.)



Purple and slimy.  These babies will definitely kill you and anyone you have ever met if eaten.


Bright orange blades of grass.  Mother nature is a creative lady!



Mendocino Mushroom Festival Part Two – Stanford Inn Mushroom Dinner

We made reservations Friday night at the Stanford in for the Mushroom dinner.  It did not disappoint.  The Stanford Inn is a Vegan restaurant so having a five course mushroom dinner seems apropos.  The photos are a little dark because the room was a little dark.  But, please enjoy the menu, the mushroom “bacon” flat bread, mushroom “clam chowder”, mushroom risotto with chantrelle, and candy cap mushroom creme brule.

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Mendocino Mushroom Festival – Day one

It’s no secret Mendocino is special to me.  Eric and I took our first real camping trip to MacKericher State Park, my favorite place to camp in all of California.  And he and I got married in Mendocino.  Mendocino is also home to the best baguette in California at Cafe Beaujolais! 🙂 We go back any chance we get probably camping there at least twice per year.  This year we decided to celebrate our anniversary attending a festival I have always wanted to visit…the Mushroom Festival.

We arrived on a friday and set up camp.  If you have never been to MacKericher you have been missing out.  I will surely blog all about it another day.  But, one of the awesome things about this coastal campground is its forest.  And in November this forest comes alive with mushrooms.  The mushrooms make the coast and the forests mystical and interesting.  And while I might lament the lack of fall colors for only a second they are totally crowded out by fall mushrooms.  We even had multiple mushrooms right in our campsite.

Before going anywhere for the festival we embarked, with Amelia in tow, through a large grove of forest that is parallel to the ocean.  The mushrooms were overwhelming and plentiful.  And since it is a state park no one was able to pick them.  There were tiny delicate mushrooms, large red dangerous mushrooms, mushrooms with personality, mushrooms that looked like they could kill you, blankets of mushrooms, mushrooms that could win the prize for largest mushrooms, mushrooms that could take the prize for smallest mushroom, mushrooms that looked like candy, and mushrooms that looked like they were freaks of nature.  Anything you want, this forest did not disappoint.  At this point, we were totally uneducated on what any of the mushrooms were called and if any of them were safe to eat.  

Stand by for part two of the Mushroom festival to come soon…


Muddy sailing in Ireland

Ireland has a strong connection to the sea. It is easy to see why so many songs were sung with hope and anguish related to the water. The famed Irish sweaters, with their knitted family patterns, were created as a way to identify lost sailors who might wash up later.

Ireland is full of surprises. It seems everywhere one goes even the most benign things are beautiful and interesting. For me every town, and every bit in between, brings something charming and new.

While traveling from Kinsale along the southern coast of Ireland we came upon these boats in a harbor bent over waiting for the Tide to awake them. I love how the small town is going about its business behind the boats normally. The boats seem to have personality to me. They look like proud boats just waiting for the tide to slowly regain their glory.

Below are a few Sea shanties to get you in the mood.

The Holy Ground

Fare thee well my lovely Dinah a thousand times adieu
We are saying goodbye to the Holy Ground and the girls we all love true
We will sail the salt seas over and then return to shore
And still I live in hopes to see the Holy Ground once more.
Fine girl You Are.

Now when we’re out a-sailing and you are far behind
Fine letters will I write to you with all the secrets of my mind
The secrets of my mind, me girl, you’re the girl that I adore
And still I live in hope to see the Holy Ground once more.
Fine Girl You Are.

Oh, now the storm is coming, I see it rising soon
For the night is dark and dreary, you can scarcely see the moon
And the good old ship she is tossing about and the rigging is all tore
But still I live in hope to see the Holy Ground once more.
Fine Girl You Are.

One More Day

Oh, have you heard the news, me Johnny
One more day
We’re homeward bound tomorrow
One more day
Only one more day, me Johnny
One more day
Oh, rock and roll me over
One more day
Don’t you hear the old man growlin’
Don’t you hear the mate a howlin’
Don’t you hear the caps’n pawlin’
Don’t you hear the pilot bawlin’
Only one more day a-howlin’
Can’t you hear the gals a-callin’
Only one more day a-rollin’
Can’t you hear the gulls a-callin’
Only one more day a-furlin’
Only one more day a-cursin’
Oh, heave and sight the anchor, Johnny
For we’re close aboard the port, Johnny
Only one more day for Johnny
And your pay-day’s nearly due, Johnny
Then put out your long-tail blue, Johnny
Make your port and take your pay, Johnny
Only one more day a-pumpin’, Johnny
Only one more day a-bracin’
Oh, we’re homeward bound today, Johnny
We’ll leave her without sorrow, Johnny
Pack your bags today me Johnny
Oh, an’ leave her where she lies, Johnny
Only one more day a-workin’, Johnny
Oh, come rock ‘n’ roll me over
No more gales or heavy weather
Only one more day together

Heave away

Come get your duds in order
For we’re going to leave tomorrow
Heave away, me jollies, heave away
Come get your duds in order
For we’re going to cross the water
Heave away me jolly boys, we’re all bound away
Sometimes we’re bound for Liverpool
Sometimes we’re bound for Spain
But now we’re bound for St. John’s town
To watch the girls a-dancing
Now it’s farewell Maggie darling
For it’s now I’m going to leave you
You promised me you’d marry me
But how you did deceive me
I wrote me love a letter
And I signed it with a ring
I wrote me love a letter
I was on the Jenny Lind
Sometimes we’re bound for Liverpool
Sometimes we’re bound for Spain
But now we’re bound for St. John’s town
To watch the girls a-dancing




Phoenix Wildlife Zoo & Aquarium

While visiting family in Phoenix we decided to feed our mutual love of animals by visiting Phoenix’s Wildlife Zoo and Aquarium. I have to be honest…I was wondering how it was possible to have a zoo in the intolerable Phoenix heat. (Thankfully it was a perfect 88 degrees during my fall visit.) Well, it turns out the park was built on an old piece of agricultural property with TONS of mature trees and lots of luxurious shade.

Highlights for me were watching people feed the giraffes, eating next to the shark tank, petting a manta ray, colorful poison frogs, black panthers, penguins, turtles, white tigers, a sloth, and hundreds of lovely birds.

I never grow tired of admiring exotic animals who seem well cared for. It’s a wonderful way to visit with family who I don’t get to see often enough.

So here’s to family homecomings shared with furry friends!

Please excuse the lack of fancy good camera photos. These are a few fun photos taken with my iPhone.


Brownshill Dolmen – County Carlow Ireland

There are many things that make visiting the Celtic world interesting.  Dolmen, Burial Mounds, and Stone Circles are certainly some of them.  Fascinating, powerful, energetic, mystical, and unknown.  Archaeologists have spent countless hours digging, researching, taking historical accounts, but we will never truly know what they are about.  And, that is what makes it so interesting…the not knowing.

Brownshill Dolmen is considered a portal tomb.  While that, of course, is unusual and fascinating the true interest with this tomb is its size.  In the photos where people are present you can see how massive it is.  It is one of the largest in the Celtic world.  One must have been able to see this dolmen for miles when walking to it for ceremonial purposes.  But this begs the question…how did they build it?  The rear stone is a giant bolder.  Without modern tools like a trackter or crane it is nearly impossible to behold moving this stone not the mention the smaller yet still large ones that are holding the stone up.  Archaeologists believe it was levered up in small bits then filled with dirt while the larger stones were placed below it.  Then the dirt was removed to leave the large bolder elevated by the smaller stones.  Whatever the method the outcome is spectacular and is a must see if visiting County Carlow Ireland.

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Lemay Car Museum – Seattle Washington

It’s really no secret that I am willing to travel anywhere. I seem to find enjoyment and interesting things and people anywhere I go. (Not to say anyone has to twist my arm to get me to Seattle.) But, it was my husbands birthday and I wanted to take him somewhere to celebrate. He is a Car Guy so I thought it would be fun to take him to a big car museum. We very much enjoyed visiting the LeMans Car museum in France and so I thought I would search something out a little closer to home. The car museums make my husband happy and I get to have something to photograph with consistent lighting that doesn’t move, cry, or complain! The two big museums that came to mind were Lemay in Seattle and the Ford museum in Michigan. So, I made the logical decision and went with the cheapest airfare which was of course was Seattle. The weather was amazing and the city was welcoming.

The museum did not disappoint. It had gorgeous architecture and was full of interesting and top rate cars. It turns out looking at my photos again that I must enjoy photographing the details more than the entire car. So, the results are lots of bits and pieces of cars and very few shots of the entire thing! I hope you enjoy them.