Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Na Pali Coast

The Most Beautiful Places on Earth

Na Pali, which means "the cliffs" in Hawaiian, are located on the northwest side of Kaua'i.  It has been touted as the most beautiful coastline in the world and I agree whole-heartedly.  It was another place in the world that I had to leave kicking and screaming even though I looked like the Creature from the Black Lagoon when I came off the trail. 

My traveling buddy and I had no intention of hiking the Kalalau Trail along this coastline.  We were snorkeling at Ke'e Beach when a young couple from Alaska plopped down on the beach after hiking for three days.  Their speech was full of enthusiasm.  "It's awesome.  Fantastic.  Gorgeous.  You gotta see it."   I put on my espadrilles, threw a sun dress over my swimsuit and off we went.  The trail tilted upwards immediately, but the promise of the view kept us going.  We passed underneath a canopy of  trees and tropical flowers, our first taste of a jungle wilderness, and kept on.  The trail became so muddy that I started to slide downwards.   My buddy held out his hand and pulled me back up.  He had on sturdy tennis shoes.  I looked down at my new taupe espadrilles with the cute little ankle straps..  One of the hemp soles was unraveling.  "Come on," he urged.  "It can't be too much further."  My legs burned from the rapid ascent.  Fortunately, the mud ended but then I had to maneuver over several unstable rocks.  My other sole unraveled.  And then it started to rain. 

We came to a waterfalls and finally to one of many spectacular vistas of the cliffs and the raging Pacific Ocean below.  After a couple of hours, we were forced to turn back, soaking wet ,thirsty, hungry and sore.  We learned later that the Sierra Club had rated this trail a 9 out of 10 for difficulty! 

The above photographs give you an idea of how steep the trail is and what kind of terrain you will be traversing if you decide to tackle it.  Was it worth it?  Oh, yes!  And I learned a valuable lesson that day:  I now take hiking boots with me whenever I travel! 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Weekend at Lake Cachuma

Lake Cachuma is located on Highway 154 between Santa Barbara and Solvang.  Although it's always been a popular recreational spot, it's a reservoir lake so locals tend to talk about it in terms of water levels.  "Cachuma's low this year," is always a worry.  But in recent years, the lake has been full and for the first time ever, they have allowed kayaking.  We recently discovered the yurts, situated in prime locations around the lake.  This is Mimi's idea of camping--sitting on a deck reading a book, looking up every so often to stare at the beautiful scenery.
Maybe one of these days I'll talk her into renting a boat and we can actually go fishing!  But for now, cooking burgers on the grill and uncorking a bottle of Syrah is about our speed.  Something about the serenity of the lake combined with the warm winds makes us utterly lazy.  In fact, I think it's time to crawl back into my yurt and take a nap.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Chumash Rock Art

Chumash rock art can be found throughout the mountains behind Santa Barbara, but their locations are guarded with secrecy.  However, the very best of these petroglyphs are available for the public to see.  They are located about two miles up on Painted Cave Road, just off Highway 154.  It is a steep, windy road to get there so be forewarned.  These beautiful abstract paintings, though, are absolutely worth the drive!

The symbols remain a mystery to scholars today.  They were probably drawn for religious purposes.  Indeed, the afternoon we visited them last week, a small offering had been placed before the cave.  Whatever supernatural beings they were intended for are still being sought after today. 

The paint pigments come from local minerals.  The red is from iron oxide or more commonly known as red ochre.  The white comes from diatomaceous earth, which can still be seen around the Lompoc area.  The black, of course, comes from charcoal or manganese oxide.  They were painted in the 1600's.

Painted Cave Road

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mimi Wears Vintage

As soon as Autumn arrives and the days shorten, I pull out my two favorite outfits, both found in obscure little antique shops.  I spotted the above blouse way up high on a cupboard full of depression glass, old books and tacky jewelry.  When I asked the owner (a gentleman as old as the antiques he carried) if I could see it, he had to retrieve a ladder in order to get it.   I felt a little sorry for him as a cloud of dust fell off the mannequin's torso and made him sneeze.  The silky animal print felt luxurious in my hands and when I looked at the label it read, "Couture Givenchy Paris, Made in France."  My hands started to shake.  "How much?" I asked.  "Well," he said, noticing I was inspecting the fabric which had torn away from the cuff.  "Ten dollars.  Is that too much?"
This outfit is quintessential Sonia Rykiel Paris.  Why anyone would want to consign it is beyond me.   Just add a beret and you have a "Little French Girl" outfit for Halloween.  I tend to wear the sweater and skirt separately to avoid looking like an Eloise caricature.  I like to wear the sweater with jeans and a black blazer and the skirt with a J. Crew cashmere cardigan.   However,  I adore Sonia Rykiel.  She began her career in 1968 with a little boutique in Paris.  She was then, and still is today, the epitome of Saint Germaine style. Her knitwear is sought after throughout the world by young and old fashionistas everywhere.  Her company is now in the capable hands of her daughter, Nathalie, ensuring that these storybook clothes will continue to be made for many years to come.

And so this is why I brake for antique and consignment shops.  You just never know what you will find in a dusty little shop in an obscure corner of the globe.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Fashion Designer and Joshua Tree

I was hooked the second I read Maya Singer's review of Jeremy Laing's Spring Summer 2012 runway show.  She writes that a trip to Joshua Tree National Park inspired his entire collection.  Since Joshua Tree is one of my absolute favorite parks in California.  I immediately clicked on the slide show at  I have been clicking on it every day since!  The colors of the clothes reflect the massive boulders in the park and the prints pick up the pattern of the cactus.  She writes that the fabrics were cracked, mud-dyed, hammered, washed and worked to give them a sun-aged effect.  Wow! 

Joshua Tree is a rock climber's Eden.  The geologic landscape was born more than 100 million years ago when molten liquid oozed upward and cooled forming these massive granite boulders.  Flash flooding washed away the dirt on the surface, exposing the rocks, which now seem to be stacked one upon the other.  This part of the Mojave Desert is truly otherwordly.  Laing was struck by "the beauty of decay."

The Joshua tree is a member of the agave family.  It is a twisty, spiky creature whose clusters of white and green flowers after the Spring rains are beautiful to behold.  The tree is very important to the ecosystem here, providing habitat for birds, mammals, insects and lizards.  Spring is definitely the time to visit the park.  Wild flowers carpet the flatlands between the rocky areas.  Bravo, Jeremy Laing, for immortalizing the beauty of this incredible place.  Mimi and I will await your collection next Spring with great anticipation!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Shopping on Main St.

Although these pictures were taken along Main Street in Ventura, California, this blog is about shopping on Main Street, U.S.A.  I have an ongoing debate among friends.  Mall vs. downtown shops.  Costco vs. the Farmer's Market.  Target vs. United Thrift.  Which is better?   The debate gets pretty heated, at times.  These friends cite the advantages of free parking and one stop shopping.  I counter with quality, freshness, individual style.  They counter back with cost, and I respond, "Not necessarily so."

I have seen first hand how the Big Box stores have killed little mom and pop shops.  I cross America and every town along the way is starting to look the same.  The same stores, same restaurants, same fashion.  I simply do not understand this week's stampede at Target to buy Missoni.  Do you really want to look like everyone else?   

Mimi's Friends       

"Besides, " I argue.  "Shopping Main Street is just plain fun."  Who wouldn't want to go into the above shop and buy these dresses right off the mannequins?  Where else can you buy ox-blood red pumps from the 1950's, a mink cloche and warm cozy Pendleton jackets?  On Main Street, you can buy complete outfits and be guaranteed you will not see your clone on the other side.  You can sit down at one of many restaurants and enjoy hot homemade food and not be rushed.  In Ventura,  I had my choice of Italian, Indian or Mexican and not a single one was a franchise!  It makes for a perfect afternoon and not a single one of my friends can argue with that!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

San Buenaventura Mission

The San Buenaventura Mission is located in downtown Ventura.  This was the 9th of the 21 missions to be built in California and the last one founded by Father Junipero Serro in 1792,  and completed in 1809.  It is still a very active parish.  Like most of the missions there is a lovely garden and a small museum on the adjacent grounds.

I was especially thrilled to read a historical narrative of the vestments on display.  There has always been a disconnect in my mind between the hardships endured by the mission dwellers and the luxurious fabrics found in the museums.  Statues portray these priests in plain brown cotton robes.  Yet, the museums are filled with silk, damask and brocade.  Where did these robes come from and were they really worn?

There were 23 robes in the museum dating from the earliest days of the mission.  They were fashioned from flowered-silk purchased in China and brought to California on the Manila galleons.  These Spanish trading ships sailed once or twice a year between the Philippines and San Blas, Mexico.  They began sailing to the New World as early as 1565 and finally stopped in 1815 when the Mexican War of Independence put a stop to trading.

History is complex.  Mission history begins in Baja in the 1600's when the Jesuits obtained permission from the Viceroy to go to California for the purpose of converting the inhabitants.  The land would be taken on behalf of the King of Spain.  Converting the natives proved to be a difficult task and history is divided as to whether the locals were enslaved or enlightened.  The Catholic rituals and ornate symbols were part of a calculated strategy to strike the so-called savages with awe.

In The History of Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, I read that the San Buenaventura Mission had frequent trouble with the "Indians".   Many of these tribes, especially those on the Mupu and Piru Creeks, were particularly warlike and dangerous.  The soldiers stationed at the mission often decided not to pursue them when they made a raid on the stock.  In 1825 the mission owned 37,000 head of cattle, 600 horses, 30,000 sheep, $35,000 worth of foreign goods, $25,000 in silver and gold coins and $61,000 in church ornaments and clothing.  That earlier disconnect is starting to make sense.  Not only did the Manila galleons take silver back to Spain with them, but I suspect, provisions from the missions as well. 

The acres of land that surrounded the early mission is now built up with stores, restaurants and houses.  Now, it is an enclave of peace and serenity within a bustling city.  When I was there, an older man and woman were praying the rosary together.   The woman was weeping, and I felt like a cad taking pictures when they were obviously seeking comfort.  I waited until they finished.  Yes, we pad our history with idealism. Even in the brochure I was given, it claimed Fray Junipero Serra  "prayed that he might be permitted to forsake his comfortable circumstances to take up the Lord's work among the aborigines in the New World."  Nearly 250 years later, his presence is still felt.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Glass Bracelet

I bought this glass bracelet from Richard Paluch at the Sunday Santa Barbara Arts and Crafts show.  I tried on several of these exquisite bracelets before deciding on this one.  He claims that these glass creations can make one feel "at peace in body, mind and spirit."  Over time, legend has it that wearing glass bracelets can open and expand a person's psychic capabilities.

I smiled as this friendly artist chatted on.  "And I have names for all of them," he added.

Now that caught my attention.  "Really?  And what do you call this one?"

"Go with the Flow."

I didn't even hesitate.  "I'll take it," I said.  Maybe there's something to all this psychic mumbo-jumbo, after all.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Arts and Crafts by the Beach

A woman walked by me last week with the most amazing necklace.  It was made of tiny pieces of iridescent green fabric.    I stopped her and asked where she got it.  "The Sunday Arts and Crafts Show down by the beach,"  she said, and like the typical local I am, the only time I go down there is when I have company.  I had completely forgotten about this weekly event.  Nearly two hundred artists set up booths every Sunday from 10 am to late afternoon at East Beach by the wharf in Santa Barbara.  They sell pottery, jewelry, leather handbags, photographs, paintings and sculptures--all handmade, beautiful and one-of-a-kind.   

I found the cloth necklace, but chose this scarf instead.  It reminded me of strips of seaweed that wash ashore up and down our beaches.

I also found this knitted hat.   Although not unique, it was handmade and the colors are gorgeous.  It will be perfect for a trip to Germany I'm taking next month.  (And it was only $20!)

I am becoming more and more convinced that accessories should be purchased from local artisans.  Such talented people deserve our patronage.  It helps the local economy and assures that cottage industry will never be totally replaced by Big Box manufacturing.  I shudder to think!