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Category Archives for "Going Places"
9

Milan: The City of Beautiful Design

Two days in Venice convinced me that every single bit of it is photograph-worthy. So when I joined my fellow Design Hounds for the train ride to Milan, I was a bit afraid I’d be in for a letdown. My most recent visit to Milan was in 1973, so I was in desperate need of updated memories. And this time I had my very own credit cards. And camera.

Moss covered building in Milan

This building is across the street from Villa Necchi Campiglio, on Via Mozart in Milan.

garden in Milan, Italy

Bunch of talking heads, perhaps? These fellows were hanging about at Palazzo Clerici.

entrance to Vittorio Emanuele shopping gallery

Entrance to Vittorio Emanuele II Shopping Gallery in Milan, named after the first king of a united Italy.

Not only did the sun shine on us for the entire visit, so did the design gods, as I saw enough to keep my status as “She Who Pauses Every Few Steps to Take a Photo.” Luckily, my friends were good sports (and also camera owners).

Selfie at the Duomo

World’s best (or most frightening) selfie in front of the Duomo. Click on the pic to meet Mary, the woman to blame (credit) for the photo.

From big (the Duomo is so big I couldn’t get it all in the frame without serious distortion), to small (a Gessi faucet shaped like stones), I was just as happy to roam around all day playing looky-loo as I had been in Venice. In front of Biblioteca Ambrosiana just blocks from the Duomo, I came across a placard for a walking tour of the area’s buildings of interest. Now I MUST return, as I love walking, history, and “old stuff.” The tour looked like it could take several days, so maybe I should return in the Fall or Spring when it’s not too hot or crowded. No matter, as a friend and I spent the morning in the Brera district, which I totally recommend you explore when you get to Milan.

Duomo, Milan, Italy

The front of the Duomo. Look very, very, very closely and you’ll see people at the top left, climbing the stairs to the top. Those people are not us.

Gessi Equilibrium faucet

It looks like two river stones, but it’s actually a working faucet from Gessi

Miessen in Milan

My back patio (or a Miessen display in Milan). Whatever.

I was especially looking forward to our visit to sponsor Gessi because I’d heard their showroom was a former movie theater, with an underground secret garden. How cool is all that, especially when Gessi’s bathroom fittings and fixtures focus on private wellness and the in-home spa experience?

Gessi sink and faucet

I don’t understand how MY sink ended up in THEIR showroom.

After spending most of the day in the sun, my descent into the cool dark of the Gessi showroom was enough to make my shoulders relax. I might have sighed too. Italian hospitality is pretty darn good. I was ushered into a lounge area where the other Design Hounds were seated. The top management people all came out to introduce themselves, and thanked us for coming. Then we were offered coffee (Italian coffee, not vending machine swill that tastes like used motor oil), champagne, water, and prosecco.

lighted Gessi faucet

Anyone with vision issues need a lighted Gessi faucet? #HandGoesUp

This was followed by a demonstration by artist-philosopher Marsel Lesko. He balanced large stones on smaller ones. We also watched a video of Lesko standing in the middle of a river, surrounded by numerous stones that he had balanced. What did this artist have to do with the company, I wondered? As it turns out, this is how Gessi works. Their mission is “to make everyday life more pleasant with objects of extraordinary beauty and functionality.” They want their faucets to be objets d’art, aspiration and decoration, so they look to nature as a source of inspiration.

Marsel Lesko at Gessi, Milan

We held our breath as artist Marsel Lesko balanced a circle of large stones on smaller ones.

After the demo we had a tour of the Indonesian, Scandinavian, and Moscow rooms. My favorite (nope, not the Moscow one even though I did Russian Studies at university) was the Scandinavian because it had the simple lines that I like. Besides, the Scandinavians like outdoor exercise and spas; I like outdoor exercise and spas. They value simplicity; I value simplicity. They are all tall and good-looking; I’m… good at side planks.

Scandinavian bathroom, Gessi

The Scandinavian in-home spa is so nice, there’s no need to leave the room, even for side planks.

I considered hiding in the showroom, knowing they had snacks, drinks and running hot water, but we had a farewell pizza dinner to attend, so eventually I came out of the shower (did you know Gessi conceived the first ceiling-mounted faucet) and took the metro home, resisting the urge to slip my number to Marsel.

Duoma close-up detail

Close-up of some of the details on the Duomo. Look for the griffin’s expression.

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3

Two “Hidden” Spots in Venice, Italy

On my recent trip to Italy with Design Hounds, I got to visit two places that are hidden in plain view: one on the island of Murano to the north of Venice, famous for its glass-blowers, and the other on Giudecca, the island most people see when standing at St. Mark’s looking south.

view of Murano IslandThe Seguso glassmaking dynasty began in 1397 with Antonio Filux Segusi. Twenty-three generations later (with the 24th in the wings), they are still the premiere creators (and award-winners) of luxurious glass.Seguso Glass Factory, Murano

Our tour included a complete historical overview from co-owner Gianluca Seguso, followed by a visit to the workshop, where we got to see the craftsmen creating beautiful pieces, such as a plate that became a bowl as it was twirled in the air. One thing I learned (the easy way, not the hard way) is that even when glass looks cold, it’s hot. Glad I’m a good listener.Seguso craftsman

As a surprise bonus, we got to enter the private studio of patriarch Giampaolo, who read us a love poem he wrote that’s inscribed on the back of one of his art pieces.Seguso glass

While I can’t guarantee you’ll have a poem read to you, I can say that you can sign up in advance for your own private tour. Like a number of magical places in Venice, it’s a private-ish place that isn’t widely advertised, so you’ll want to plan in advance.

seguso glassAfter we left Murano, our water taxi took us to Fortuny on Giudecca, home to some absolutely gorgeous fabrics. As you get close to the island, look around and notice how the architecture is different from that of Venice. In 1919, founder Mariano Fortuny purchased the land (a former convent that had been closed down by Napoleon) from Giancarlo Stucky, a close friend and owner of the wheat mill next door. That wheat mill is now the very imposing neo-Gothic Hilton Molino Stucky.

Fortuny Door KnockerThe Fortuny property encompasses the fabric showroom and the gardens and home of the former owner, New York interior designer Elsie McNeill Lee, also known as La Contessa. The factory is also on the property, but visitors are not allowed entry in order to maintain Mariano Fortuny’s trade secrets. Fortuny home office

Fortuny gardensAgain, thanks to the prior reservation made by the Design Hounds organizers, we got to see both the showroom (open to the public on weekdays – weekends too in the summer), and the adjacent gardens. As a matter of fact, we came right after major restoration had occurred, and one day before the pool was to be opened. Dang, missed a chance to show off my new bathing suit. Curtains at Fortuny Fabrics

Even if you don’t have a BA in Medieval Studies due to a love of European history, or didn’t grow up performing in musical theatre, thanks to a mom who had degrees in dance and costume design, you’ll still love both Seguso and Fortuny for their aesthetic appeal. Look at any painting of upper class Venetians from a previous century, and you’ll see what I mean.Fortuny fabrics

Text and photos: Alexandra Williams, MA

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15

I Went to Italy and Fell in Love

I fell in love in Italy. Not with a gondolier or pastry chef, but with architecture, history, new friends, art, the streets and canals of Venice, good design, and a refrigerator.

gondolier in Venice

Can you tell he’s waving directly at me? Yeah, me neither.

Along with a group of designers, I was part of a group that traveled to Venice and Milan. Just to be clear, I’m not an interior designer in any sense. I decorate my home in Early Dust Kitty. But I do know a lot about bribing the organizers wellness, leading an active, healthy life, and travel.

This is my second trip to Europe as the oddball blogger in a group of designers organized by Veronika Miller of Modenus / DesignHounds, and it’s fantastic to see through the designers’ eyes. Our trip was organized around a visit to the Salone del Mobile Milan, probably the world’s biggest kitchen, bath and furniture show. But of course, we spent a few days in Venice, which I’m highlighting here. Stay tuned for an upcoming post with pictures of Milan.

Venice Italy

My first view of Venice from my private water taxi

As you vicariously travel to Venice by scrolling through my pictures, I’ll share some information about Liebherr, one of our trip’s sponsors, plus tell you a story about my attack freezer.

Venice, Italy fire station

This is a fire station in Venice. Look for the red boats.

Canal in Venice, Italy

Sunlight reflected on a canal in Venice.

My younger son and I moved into a rental home that we own a few months ago. As part of our move we said goodbye to our fancy, new refrigerator and hello to a fridge that has only wire shelves that don’t do a great job holding food in place. And anything put in the back of the fridge freezes. Not a winning plan for my Dutch cheese or the celery. But the fridge is still better than the freezer, which has NO shelves at all. This means everything is sort of stuffed in. Every time one of us opens up the freezer door, the contents fling themselves at us and onto the floor. Every. Damn. Time. I hate the freezer with a passion. The freezer reciprocates.

Liebherr wine cooler

The one-touch wine cooler from Liebherr. Waiting patiently for the sommelier.

Liebherr is a German company that makes refrigerators (I should mention the wine coolers too, knowing how much you all like wine). Roughly translated, Liebherr means “Love the Man,” so you KNOW I’m all over that.

Liebherr fridge

Come to mama. Glass shelves and BioFresh drawers. I hope it fits in my carry on.

dinner with Liebherr

Josef is head of sales for Liebherr in North America. You should insist on smoking a bread stick with him every time a fridge or wine cooler gets it wings. Photo credit: Veronika Miller

I found my next refrigerator. It has glass shelves (ooh, aah), is Energy Star rated, and (drumroll please) has BioFresh compartments that keep my fruits, veggies, cheese and fish fresh for days longer than a standard crisper. This last feature had me at “hello.” I’ve even downloaded the free Liebherr BioFresh app in anticipation of receiving this fridge for my birthday (hey, Liebherr, it’s in August). The app tells you how long something would stay fresh in a standard fridge, how long it stays fresh in either the BioFresh or BioFresh-Plus drawer, and how to store it. For example, I picked the Zander fish from the app because it’s similar to my family nickname – Alex-ZANDER-a – get it? The app recommends the DrySafe (low humidity) over the HydroSafe (high humidity) compartment. When it’s wrapped and stored in the DrySafe BioFresh-Plus drawer, the fish stays fresh four times longer than it would in the pitiful excuse of a fridge in my house (and probably yours). I also learned that Zander fish has Vitamins A, B2, D & E, and Minerals Flourine, Iodine and Zinc.

bridge of sighs, Venice, Italy

The bridge in the background is the Bridge of Sighs, as it’s the last bridge prisoners saw on their way to jail

Venice, Italy

This plaza (also known as a campo) was 2 doors from our Venice apartment. And your eyes are correct – the tower leans.

laundry in Venice, Italy

Venetians seem to do their laundry in color categories. Obviously, it was blue day.

Details abound in Venice, Italy

Every square inch of this building and bridge is covered in details.

head detail in Venice, Italy

Close-up of a head over the door in Venice

limoncello in many colors

Limoncello comes in many flavors and colors. Try them all! Not that I did. cough cough

Now I just have to figure out if limoncello counts as a fruit. If so, I can store it in the HydroSafe drawer. Or the wine cooler. Or, you know, drink it immediately. I hereby raise a glass to toast my happy memories of Venice and Milan, and to Liebherr for helping make my dreams come true (both the travel AND the plan to oust my attack fridge).

sunset in Venice

Watching the sun set in Venice, Italy

by Alexandra Williams, MA

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5

Can Boomer Women Be Sexy?

Back in the olden days (the late 70s), I thought my parents were really old when they got into their early fifties. Sadly, I subscribed to the idea that everyone over 30 was just….. so…… old….
How could anyone that old have even a soupçon of sex appeal?

La Boheme dance group at Solstice partyNow I laugh at my arrogant youthful self. Hahahaha. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.

The tides have turned, and nowadays I see all kinds of things on social media that celebrate Boomer women. Of course, brands are still focused on pitching “age defying” skin products to us, supplements to “keep us young,” and independent living products. Guess what?! We don’t see ourselves as old and infirm or in need of “fixing.” We just want the same things we wanted at 30, but with wisdom attached.

dancing at Casa MagazineFor example, in my twenties I loved to go disco dancing. I still love it. The difference is that it’s no longer easy to find a venue that offers it. And I don’t have a wrap skirt. Back then my younger sister and I would parade back and forth to the ladies’ room a lot, as an excuse to check out the guys let the guys check us out. If I made more than one trip to the bathroom at a public place now, people might think I have bladder issues, but I still like to check out the handsome guys. Just not the ones in their twenties.

There isn’t an age or specific date when we lose our desire to look attractive and feel sexy. Or if there is, no-one told me. And I don’t want them to. One of the many benefits to being older is that I don’t really care what other people think of me. I care what I think of me. I earned my confidence and right to be seen.La Boheme dancers performing at Soho

After a fairly rough 2015, I decided to join the La Boheme dance troupe here in Santa Barbara. I am not a professional dancer. I am a person who likes to dance. It’s stress-reducing. It helps keep my brain sharp. It’s a chance to make new friends. Most importantly, it’s fun. We wear some wild costumes. By “wild” I mean “super sexy.” Not once have I heard anyone suggest we are too old to wear these costumes. But I have heard people saying how happy they are to see women older than 20 doing dance performances in town. And we get a lot of compliments about great we look. Not “for our age,” just great. Period. As you look at these pictures, are you surprised that most of the women in them are in their 40s and 50s? One is even in her 60s. Just sayin’.
pink birthday party with La Boheme
So if you are a Boomer women who wonders if you’ve got “it,” wonder no more. All you need is a smile, attitude, and confidence. Be flirty. Dance in public. Say thank you to compliments without adding caveats that negate that compliment. And if you don’t think you can do that, act as if you can. Fake it till you make it. You’ll see.

La Boheme dancers in the 2015 Solstice ParadeAnd if you’re in the Santa Barbara area, join the La Boheme dancers. We are going to be in the annual Solstice Parade. The theme is “Legends.” Practices start April 12th. Come to a meet and greet to learn more at Brasil Arts Cafe on State Street at 7PM.

As to me, I’ll be over here disco dancing. Bee Gees and Boomer Hotties Rule Forever.

by Alexandra Williams, MA

Photo credits: Ross Barrett, Gilbert Cruz and me.

 

1

Benefits of Organic Food: Did You Know…?

Like many of you, I prefer organic food to industrial; made-from-scratch to processed. I will freely admit to being biased. Yet my preference is based on science and experience. Whether you have a strong opinion for or against organic, or just don’t care one way or the other, you may be interested in these tidbits I picked up at a meeting last week at the Natural Products Expo West.

organic milk photo: Milk milk.jpgOrganic milk has nutritional advantages over conventional – In a meta-analysis of 170 published studies, researchers found that organic milk had 56% higher healthy omega-3 fatty acid levels than conventional milk. The study, led by Carlo Leifert of Newcastle University, also found that organic dairy provides other health benefits such as higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (why do I always think of French verbs when I hear the word “conjugated”?), iron, carotenoids, and Vitamin E. The milk in this study is bovine, not plant-based.

Switching from a conventional 2 #organic diet reduced pesticides in children in just 7 days.… Click To Tweet

An organic diet can reduce exposure to some pesticides – According to a study run by UC Berkeley’s Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health (along with U of Maryland’s Institute for Applied Environmental Health & Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, 40 Mexican-American children living in agricultural and urban communities in California reduced their exposure to some pesticides by switching to an organic diet. The two highlights of this study are that a number of the children reside in agricultural communities, and that the improvements were seen after only a week. “An organic diet was significantly associated with reduced urinary concentrations of nonspecific dimethyl OP insecticide metabolites and the herbicide 2,4-D in children.”

honeybee flower photo: Honeybee DSC_7638.jpgNeonicotinoids pose a high risk to the bee population – Wonder what a neonicotinoid is? Notice how it seems like the word “nicotine” is in the middle of the word? From the Oxford Dictionary: “Any of a class of synthetic compounds having a chemical structure similar to that of nicotine and related alkaloids, used as systemic insecticides on plants and as topical or systemic insecticides on animals.” All you need to remember is BAD. The bee population has been decimated over the past few years, and a lot of scientific data suggest a link to neonicotinoid pesticides use. Want some GOOD? “The presence of native habitat in close proximity to farms may sfeguard wild bees from the negative effects of pesticide use.”

If you want to focus on a few veggies and fruits that are most affected by pesticide, these are the dirty dozen:

Apples
Celery
Cherry tomatoes
Cucumbers
Grapes
Nectarines
Peaches
Potatoes
Snap peas
Spinach
Strawberries
Sweet bell peppers

And if you are budget-conscious (aren’t we all?), this chart may help you see that the costs of organic vs conventional are quite similar.chart comparing organic and conventional

Alexandra Williams, MA

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7

California’s Central Coast (with Elephant Seal Pups)

I was THIS close to seeing an elephant seal get born.

Elephant Seals CambriaDuring our recent trip to the Highway 1 Discovery Route along the Central California Coast, we stopped at the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery that’s about 6 miles up the coast from Hearst Castle. As it turns out, January is peak birthing season, so we saw lots of pups. The docent (the volunteers are there every day) pointed out one female who was acting as if she were ready to give birth. How exciting.Pregnant elephant seal

I was so determined to get a photo that would make National Geographic beg for my private number, that I stood in the rain for about an hour, squinting through my lens at the seal as she flopped about trying to get comfortable. Watching her trying to find a comfy pose gave me flashbacks to my own birthing experiences, and I sadly saw the resemblance between me and a large “come on already, let’s get this over with” elephant seal.

Eventually she fell asleep. I checked back in with the docent, who said it could take anywhere from an hour to 24 for her to give birth. I guess she wasn’t imminent enough to comply with my schedule. Dang it anyway.Cambria-Rocks-1

I didn’t have any childhood memories of seeing the elephant seals during family travels, but I discovered that the seals didn’t start coming to the rookery until 1990, which explains why (I was a full-grown A-Dult by the 90s). Now you can see them year-round.

Hearst Castle

patio at Hearst Castle

Hearst indoor pool

pool detail from Hearst CastleAnd this was my first trip to Hearst too, odd as that seems for someone who’s lived most of her life in California. Coming in January was perfect, as there were no lines at all. I especially liked the exhibit at the visitor’s center. Lots of pictures and history. I love history, and actually have my BA in Medieval European History. My dad said it qualified me for government work (that was the early 80s).

We were THIS close to seeing an elephant seal pup being born. Click To Tweet


Sunset near Cayucos

duck at Moonstone Beach

Besides our visit to Covell’s Clydesdales (click to read about it and see the pictures), we also went on quite a few walks – Moonstone Beach and Boardwalk, Fiscalini Preserve, downtown Cambria, and Harmony Headlands. Our hotel was El Colibri, which sits in a quiet spot right at the start of Moonstone Beach. For pics of my sister planking on a Fiscalini bench in the pouring rain, read her post about our multi-generational travel experience.Moonstone Beach rocks

Beach near CambriaWhen you go to Cambria, try any of the restaurants we ate at – Linn’s, Indigo Moon, Robin’s, Moonstone Beach Bar and Grill, and Black Cat Bistro. All of them were fantastic, and had lots of choices for vegetarians. Really, really friendly staff too. Really. I also suspect that sweet potato fries are the official food of the Central Coast. This is a good thing.Evening sky in Cambria

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Alexandra Williams, MA

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2

Multigenerational Travel: Pack Nana’s Walking Sticks

Highway 1 in Central California – the Discovery Route to Getting Smarter, Healthier, and Wetter

Where do you go and what can you do when you have three generations, four days to travel, and a goal to achieve at least 10,000 steps per day? Let me rephrase that: what place meets the needs of middle-aged twins who want “active travel” options, a 19 year old who is game for whatever as long as heavy exertion is not required, and a mom/ grandma who needs to make decisions based on safety?

Click on all images to see the captions.

When Alexandra and I, both baby boomers, were offered the opportunity to head up the Highway 1 Discovery Route, we were all over it like elephant seals on sand! Wait, did I just compare ourselves to large, rotund animals? Moving on. (But first, we would like to thank, acknowledge, and disclose that our trip was sponsored by CA Highway 1 DiscoveryRoute (highway1discoveryroute.com). Local businesses and organizations teamed up to promote the many options the area offers and we were the lucky bloggers chosen to get spoiled.)

Turns out the Cambria/ Harmony/ San Simeon area (best known for Hearst Castle) is the ideal vacation destination for multigenerational travel. Even better, winter is an ideal time to visit this accessible section of central California. Crowds are down; prices are low; and the number of things to do and see is sky high. Seriously, I had thought of the area as “sleepy” but we could have spent a week and still not have exhausted the options. I might have started fighting with Alexandra after a week together. Willing to find out though!

Why fight when you can find Harmony? Home of 18 residents and the Harmony Glassworks Studio, this tiny “city” is worth checking out. Don’t blink or you’ll miss the exit. Whether you want to try glassblowing, shop for handmade gifts, or wait in the car while the crazy middle-aged sisters brave the rain to get some pictures, you’ll be glad you ventured here. Skin is waterproof, so bring on the wet!

A quick tour and interview of the Harmony Glassworks

Where do you go when you have 3 generations, 4 days to travel, & a goal to achieve 10k steps… Click To Tweet

New experiences and nature spark the brain. Great for our mom, who wants to retain her memory and cognitive skills. She loves to travel, though can no longer do so alone. Catching the elephant seals in winter is perfect as that’s when the pups are just born, so the rookery is chock full of new seal families. Super accessible and interesting for all ages. And we almost saw a seal give birth.

Cambria-mom-Aidan-1

I think my mom is pinching her grandson’s hiney. What else explains her expression? Photo credit: Alexandra Williams

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Walking and healthy foods enhance health. Say, that sounds good to all of us, including my 19 year old nephew. He was keen on the high quality restaurants and varied food choices. He fully embraced the antiquing, beachcombing, and massage at the El Colibri Spa and Inn, where we stayed.

Rain and mist (finally!) create gorgeous vistas and ideal hike conditions. For me this meant heading to the Harmony Headlands Trail, a 4-mile walk through meadows and rolling hills to get to rugged coastline.

Tree on Harmony Headlands trail

Opening to the coastline from my Harmony Headlands hike

Harmony Headlands Hike

My kind of hiking conditions. Cool, misty, and open. Harmony Headlands Trail

 

Mom on bench at Moonstone

Our mom warms the bench while we navigate the sands and tides. Photo credit: Alexandra Williams

My sister, mom, and nephew headed to Hearst Castle meantime. Hot tip to you baby boomers who bring a parent along — walking sticks will really help with steps, castle climbing, slippery streets, and strolls along the Moonstone Beach boardwalk.

Originally, I was scheduled to kayak with Cubby of Kayak Outfitters. But when the words “tricky” and “high surf advisory” came into the discussion, I decided to return in fall for this adventure. Apparently fall is the best time to paddle out.  So that’s when you can count me in. Yes, I plan to return as I enjoyed the area so much and have other hiking trails to check out.

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Visiting Covell’s Clydesdale Horse Ranch is another insider tip for those of you who want to step back in time when the land was pristine and undeveloped. You can read more about this unique, historic, and privately held ranch dedicated to conservation in this post my sister wrote. Great photos too!: Hidden Gem in Central California. Again, the set up appealed to all four of us, and the owner was very sweet and accommodating of our varied needs and interests. I am not normally a horse person (they scare me, ok?!). But seeing the Clydesdales up close was a once-in-a-lifetime, inspiring experience. What may appeal to some of you even more is getting access to this private and vast property. Being able to perambulate and drive through more than a thousand acres of “original” California coastal land is the tour to take advantage of while you can.

Another travel tip Alexandra and I figured out is that we can work in some hikes and walks while the generation above and below take a nap, fondle their smart phones in the hotel room, and get spa treatments. With the Fiscalini Preserve just a mile from our hotel, we braved the elements and had the coastline to ourselves.

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Got older kids and nana along? Wake early to catch scenery while they sleep in.

What’s left to say? If you want to start your day with beauty (see above) and end it with more beauty (see and sea below), then get yourself and family to Highway 1 in Central California. For sure in winter. Then again, who wants to meet me there in fall? We can double kayak and take a hike!

Sunset in Cambria

Every age can appreciate these kinds of sunsets and tidepools and sunsets, right? Photo by Kymberly who shows a modicum of promise here.

ACTION: Have you been to Cambria and the surrounding area? If so, what is one of your fondest memories? Comment below. Or lay some emoticons on us.

Photo credits: Photos of me taken by not me, aka Alexandra. Photos that look professional also taken by Alexandra. Photos that look pretty darn good for an amateur with little clue about lighting taken by me!  If you really want to know who took what, click on the images and all captions reveal themselves.

Kymberly Williams-Evans

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4

Go For a Walk; End Up with Lovely Photos

If you regularly follow this blog (or my Facebook or Instagram accounts), you know that I have combined my love of outdoor walks with my love of photography. One good habit led to a good hobby.boats at anchor

Now that hobby is leading to an attempt to pay our health insurance. Which is a polite way of saying that I am now selling photo notecards. Please take a look at the following photos, as they are among the photos I’ve made into cards.sculpture in Santa Barbara

Manhattan Beach Pier

picture of Parasailing

fallen logs on the beach cliffs

rocks at Hendry's in Santa Barbara

They make great gifts, especially for Valentine’s Day, hint hint. Or for sending money to your college-attending spawn. Or you can save them and say you knew me waaaaaaay before I became a famous photographer. Sadly, that usually happens after the artist dies, but what an investment, eh?!Santa Barbara harbor

close-up of Clydesdale horse

sunlight & fog in Yosemite

Sunset over water

Single cards at the gift or drugstore are $5.00 each and up. Mine are only $14 for a set of eight 4X6 blank cards (which is only about $1.80 per card), plus shipping costs. I don’t charge a scammy “handling fee;” I actually lose a few pennies on shipping, but it’s easier for you if I round off.

Shipping for 1 set = $1.50
Shipping for 2 sets – $2.00
Shipping for 3 sets = $2.50

Just add .50 shipping for each set. These are U.S. postal prices. Anything else, you just have to ask and I’ll check at the post office. Notify me at info@funandfit.org with the number of sets you’d like. See how easy it is to enjoy California without paying airfare? I’m thoughtful that way.parallel masts in the harbor

bike and garage

Santa Barbara Mission

Alexandra Williams, MA

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6

Covell’s Clydesdales: A hidden gem in Central California on Highway 1

Want to know about a hidden gem in Central California that is walking distance from downtown Cambria? You are probably already thinking “yes,” and once you read about it and see the pictures, you’ll be grabbing your phone to make a reservation at Covell’s Clydesdales. And yes, you can combine it with a trip to Hearst Castle, as they are both part of the Highway 1 Discovery Route.

Covell's Clydesdales rolling hillsWhen the tourism bureau booked the tour for us, we weren’t quite sure if it was a place where you ride the horses, ride a wagon behind the horses, pet them in a stable, or view them behind a fence. Turns out it’s none of these – it’s something way better.

two Clydesdale horses from Covell'sWe got a personal tour from Ralph, the owner of the approximately 2,000 acre ranch that stretches from the ocean to the mountains, and has over 80 (if I am remembering correctly) Clydesdales who roam the property. They aren’t exactly wild, nor are they tame – they are beautiful creatures with names who will happily come up to you (while you stay safely in the vehicle), let you pet them, sniff the vehicle hoping for hay, then wander off to roll in the grass or scratch their chests on a fence post.

Just a few bits of info about Covell’s:

pine conesIt’s one of five California locales for native Monterey pines and probably the healthiest, due to the care the owners took back in the 1800s.

The house Ralph lives in was built in 1860. When you take the tour, you’ll get a full history of the house, the horses, the property, the personalities of the various owners, stewards and visitors, and the legacy he is continuing forward. Along with the history, you’ll get quite a few entertaining anecdotes too, as Ralph is quite the raconteur.

Trees and hills at Covell's in CambriaExperts told Ralph he could take a portion of his ranch, turn it into 46 buildable parcels of land, and make a fortune. Something along the lines of $30 million. His reaction? He turned it into a nature conservation easement to protect it for future generations. The views will make you cry, they are so astounding, from pine forests to rolling pastures (and “rolling” really is the correct word). I swear you can almost see all the way to San Simeon.

Boy in Oak Tree, Covell'sWhen I went to Hearst Castle, I kept wishing I could walk instead of taking the tour bus, as the views were begging for me to photograph them. Even with a fast shutter speed, I was still frustrated, as the glare from the bus windows was a problem. But as soon as we got out on our first hillside stop at Covell’s, I got my wish. But better. I could have fit my whole family for a portrait onto one of the branches of the oak tree that my son climbed. I could zoom out for ocean and mountain landscapes, or zoom in for pine cone close-ups, and take my time.

Clydesdales horses at Covell's in Cambria

close-up of Clydesdale horseHorses!!!! These are champion Clydesdales, and it is obvious as soon as you see them. The horses know the sound of Ralph’s truck and come up to it when he arrives. Roll your windows down and keep your camera ready, as they will stick their heads in to check you out. I know nothing about horses, but for pure aesthetics and wonderment, these are the best (my favorite was Debutante, due to her freckles). And once Ralph tells you their stories you’ll be even more impressed. I took a quick 3-minute video that you’ll want to see (follow me on Periscope while you’re at it)

water barrel for horses at Covell's in Cambria

tree framing a hillFor various reasons, Covell’s Clydesdales isn’t easy to find on social media (and the website is temporarily down), but that just makes it easier for YOU to have it to yourself, because we know the secret to making a booking. You can call Ralph directly at (805) 927-3398 or follow the Highway 1 Discovery Route link. Once the website is back up, you can go to CovellsClydesdales.com too. Or email CovellsClydesdales@mac.com. A bit more work than a few computer clicks, yet that won’t deter you travel and nature lovers, right?

by Alexandra Williams, MA

Our visit to Covell’s Clydesdales was supported by California Highway 1 Discovery Route. We did a four-day inter-generational tour of some of Highway 1’s most stunning and accessible coastal towns in Central California. Contact them for suggested itineraries and all the other travel info that will make your trip as fun as ours was.

Sign up to start "youthifying" today.

4

Catalina Island for the Baby Boomer Winter Win!

Catalina Express and Casino

What do the Catalina Express (right) and Avalon Casino (left) have in common? Both dance over water; Neither has ever offered gambling.

Wondering where you can go in winter that offers lots to do, great promotional deals, and zero crowds? My husband and I just lived through our first holiday season as empty nesters. And you know what? We had a great time! Not because we didn’t miss our daughter, who is living in Australia for a year. We miss her every day.

But thanks to the Catalina Boat House Hotel and Catalina Express, we zipped our way to a three-day jaunt over Christmas on Catalina Island off the Southern California coast. Full disclosure more than a Jerry Springer on-camera confession: the hubster and I received complementary hotel accommodations and a reduced boat ride rate with an upgrade. More on the Commodore Lounge later. Opinions of our trip are my own. My husband’s opinions are also mine. Ha haah haha. (Good thing he rarely reads my blog.)  The great weather was provided free and courtesy of our good fortune!

Click the images above to see the captions.

Super Secret Revealed About Avalon Bay and Catalina

Catalina Christmas tree

Christmas tree, palm tree, people free.

Have you ever had one of those excursions where everything seems to go right? I know, I know, it’s more fun to complain about travel travails. But allow me to let you in on a big secret: Catalina in winter is the way to go! You get all the clear ocean water, steady sunshine, and beauty the island has to offer but none of the summer hordes! Notice what my photos have in common? Hint: Something is missing. Did you spot the pattern? Lack o’ people.

Click each image above to see the captions.

We roll up to the Catalina Boat House Hotel to discover we’re the only guests that night. Snap, that meant we got upgraded to the room with the best view.  Oh, and “welcome to the hotel, where we also give you free tickets to the Botanic Gardens and Glass Bottom boat ride. Just cuz’.” Well, this trip is starting out well!

Who Wants Money Saving Tips?

Double bonus whammy (especially for those of you who are like me — frugal and  keen to land a good deal) — prices are lower and promotion packages are more plentiful over Christmas and into March compared to the heavily popular summer. I’ll tell you the BEST deal in just a bit — AFTER you click the link above that leads you to the “Best of Winter” discounts and packages.

Where can you go in winter that offers lots to do, great promo deals, and 0 crowds? Click To Tweet

But first, below are a few ways to save vacay dollars on the island:

  • Book one of the Catalina Boat House rooms that includes a kitchenette. Walk 5 blocks to the Von’s so you can have a few meals and snacks NOT at restaurant prices.
  • Avalon Bay and Descanso BeachSay “yes” when the adorable young men at the hotel offer to take you for free in their golf cart to the Botanic Gardens and the next day to the trail head. Put the dollars you just saved on the shuttle or golf cart taxi towards a tip for this friendly staff.
  • Rent a double kayak instead of two singles. You’ll have paddle power, someone to steer while you watch for rays and fish, and you’ll save dollahs. Winter time bonus that you WON’T experience in summer — the kayak rental crew gave us 20 extra minutes “to get our vests on and stow our stuff in their handy dandy bins.” Bam! We did that in 3 minutes and used the rest of the time rounding bays and commenting on the moored boats we passed as we glided along.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland … and Hiking, Kayaking, Swimming, and Sightseeing

One of our favorite adventures, that the active among you will particularly enjoy was our Hermit Gulch Trail hike. This four-mile loop takes you to a peak where you can see both sides of the island in one calorie-burning, totally amazing, panorama. We did the trail in under three hours at a casual, scenic pace. The only thing more impressive than the views was us with ourselves for feeling happy and comfy the whole time.

How do you celebrate hoofing it up to about 1800 feet elevation on Christmas Day? By discovering you’re the ONLY people in the Catalina Express Commodore Lounge for the one-hour boat ride back to the mainland (world traveler, hipster talk for “the port of Long Beach”). We had three crew members dedicated to us as we raised our water bottles to Avalon Bay disappearing in the sunset behind us. Translation: extra pretzel snacks, extra chocolate chip cookies, an additional free beverage, and an interesting conversation with a young man pursuing his captain’s license.

It’s Your Birthday So Accept a BIG Gift!

View from trail peak Kymberly

Midlife, empty nester Christmas in Catalina: a PEAK experience!

Now to keep my promise to tell you the BEST deal you can snag that will really make a visit to Catalina affordable. It’s called the Birthday Island promotion. Go to CatalinaExpress.com to get more info, but basically you get a slew of discounts, upgrades, and freebies including free round-trip boat tickets if you travel over on your actual day of birth and return within 30 days.

This trip was my husband’s and my Christmas gift to each other. It turned out to be one of our better celebrations. What was your favorite holiday or most recent birthday present?

Beward of trashy foxes!

You can vacation where bear warnings litter the signage (see what I did there? ) or you can experience the unique island fox caution. Available only on the Channel Islands. Basically I got a kick out of this sign so I took the pic. Random, I know.

ACTION: We hope you’re fortunate enough to book a night or three in Catalina. But for sure you can subscribe to our site to get all weather, always in season active aging tips twice a week.

Kymberly Williams-Evans