Thursday, July 22, 2010

California Dreaming

Eleven women, two convertibles (and a small SUV), a mansion in the hills near the Mayacama mountains, a pool that made me feel like we were movie stars, yoga lessons in the morning, wine tastings, mud baths and massages... This was the most I've laughed and relaxed in a while. We were all there to surprise Trina for her 40th birthday, a year-long plan by her husband, Chris.

Who knew that I'd love driving a convertible red Mustang?

The air where Chris and Trina live in Oakland and where we stayed in Sonoma smelled so good because of the copious amounts of roses, honey suckle and other flowers in bloom. The weather was idyllic. There was great food, easy conversations and to lighten the mood even more, fru fru dogs wearing clown collars at the stores where we shopped.

Annie Ramirez, Trina Burns Scoggins and Liz Christiansen -
the Burns sisters.

Kate's favorite automobile... the red enamel horses wanted to run faster than I would let them.

The movie star pool, at our rented place in Sonoma.

Liz Christiansen in the Sonoma town square near the rose garden.

Tammie Willis at the Blackstone Winery in Sonoma.

Dustan and Kate in Piedmont, CA.

Kate with Mason, Chris and Hannah Scoggins.

I got to visit the Sonoma, CA ashram. Our yoga instructor lives there, and she gave me a tour. Above is a photo of their clothes drying rack, situated next to what she calls their grocery store, the large garden, pictured below. With the garden and a few goats (milk), the ashram is almost self-sufficient, food-wise in the summer, except for grains. Their website can be accessed here.

Here's one last photo of us together. We're at the Blackstone Winery (website here). This visit to California was a memorably good time, and I came home just in time for the final push to get ready to move to Finalnd for a little over ten months. Tampere, here we come!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Summer is not overrated.

Grandma Aune's 93rd birthday celebration went well. She told me that she never used to think about her age or about how she was getting older until her 90th birthday. Then, when she read the many cards she received, all congratulating her on turning 90, she started to feel old. I turn 40 this month and don't feel old but am seeing and feeling time's effects. That's okay. Grandma and I are not alone with July birthdays in our family - my cousin Ben and his wife, Marissa's daughter, Saela, turns 1 this month.

At Grandma's party, we celebrated all three birthdays with two amazing cakes (banana/vanilla buttercream/chocolate ganache and yellow chiffon with raspberry buttercream icing) from Negaunee, Michigan's Midtown Bakery. If you're ever in Marquette, Michigan or that area and are in the mood for dessert, visit that bakery! Click here to read a write-up in "Hunts' Guide to Michigan's Upper Peninsula" about the Midtown Bakery and other sites in Negaunee.
If you've never been to the Upper Peninsula (Michiganders call it the "U.P."), make sure to eat a pasty while you're there. Pasties are of Welsh origin but were adopted by Finnish and other miners, as they were easy to eat for lunch during the mining hay days of the early to mid-1900's. U.P. pasties are half-moon shaped pie crusts filled with ground beef, potato, rutabaga, onion, carrot, salt and pepper. When I make them at home, I usually omit the ground beef or replace it with ground turkey or a vegetarian substitute and add parsnip as well. Delicious!

Another thing not to miss if you're in the Marquette, Michigan area during summer, is taking a brisk swim in Lake Superior. There's a nice beach area at the end of the road on Marquette's Presque Isle, or you could go to Presque Isle's Black Cove, where the brave jump from a cliff into the cold, cold water. I have never jumped there and would not recommend it unless you're with an informed local, as there are areas along the cliff where the rocks are close to the surface. That said, for those who are willing, it looks like a lot of fun.

Here's a photo of my nephew Patrick taking the plunge. Bring water shoes or sandals to Presque Isle, as pebbles and rocks make walking in the water painful if you're barefoot.

The below photo was taken on July 3, 2010 at Sunset Point on Marquette's Presque Isle. It shows Grandma Aune, her children, grandchildren and their spouses and children (except for Joe, Erin and Kevin) and three friends (Paul and Pat Makela and Patrick's friend, Collin).

Summer swings forward and birthdays continue. We were lucky on July 4. After we got home from Grandma Aune's, Julie and Isaac drove to see us. Isaac turned five that day. They had been at a family reunion near our home, and Mr. I seemed tired at first. Once Bryan showed him how to use the balloon inflator, he brightened and put it to good use on his candles!

Here's to a great next year for all of our family and friends who celebrate their birthdays in July (Aune, Kate, Isaac, Hannah, Saela, Keyton, Trina...). With our upcoming travels to Finland in mind, here's how to say "happy birthday" in Finnish: Hyvaa syntymapaivaa! Pronounce it sort of like this: hu-vaa soon-tu-ma-pie-vaa.