I couldn’t resist the tulips

While my cute Mum was in town for Easter, she decided to brighten our Easter dinner table with these beautiful tulips. Now 3 days later, they are still lovely. As I was feeding the kids their morning eggs, I noticed the light coming in behind the vase. I am merely an amateur when it comes to photography, but I do love taking pictures. In this moment, I just couldn’t resist. I even moved chairs and placements for one of them. So lovely.


What do Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice have in Common? Czech Mentors!

Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice are dynamic women whose influences on U.S. and world events had a significant impact on foreign policy decisions.  Both served as U.S. Secretaries of State.

Albright is a Democrat, politically a moderate.  Rice is a Republican, politically a conservative. They are of different faiths, with different philosophic perspectives. Two powerful, but very different personalities, styles and beliefs. Since reading Madeleine Albright’s book, The Mighty and the Almighty, I have enjoyed discovering her world views, her life experiences and her views of the development of the U.S. as a nation and an international power. But I was still surprised when I learned of the political interconnections between Albright and Rice. It is all about mentors.

In her book,  U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the 64th U.S. Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton, describes her values and beliefs.  She describes being influenced by her father, Josef Korbel, a Czechoslovakian diplomat, and by Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the first President of Czechoslovakia, in whose government Korbel served. Rice also identifies Josef Korbel as a major figure in her life. So, who are these men? And how did they influence two such brilliant and unique individuals?

Tomas Garrigue Masaryk (1850-1937) was born in Hodonin, Moravia. He was a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Prague and a visiting professor at the University of London.  He served in the Austrian Parliament from 1891 to 1893 and 1907 to 1914.  He went into exile in 1914 and organized Czechs and Slovaks living outside Austria-Hungary. He developed a network of exiles who passed intelligence to the Allies while helping to establish the Czechoslovak Legions who fought with the Allies in World War I. He traveled throughout Europe and the United States from 1916 to 1918, encouraging allied leaders to force the “disintegration” of Austria-Hungary. When Austria-Hungary fell at the end of WWI, Masaryk became head of the provisional Czech Federation.  He was elected President by the National Assembly in 1918, 1920, 1927 and 1934.  He died before the Munich Agreement was signed in September 1938. Korbel briefly served in Masaryk’s government.

Masaryk was raised Catholic and, as an adult, converted to the Unitarian faith.  He married a U.S. citizen, also Unitarian.  Albright describes him as an intellect who did not consider belief in God necessary to be moral, but did believe “religious faith, properly understood, did much to encourage and strengthen right behavior.” Masaryk considered humanism and religion to be intertwined, with religion ultimately being about showing respect for every person and helping others.

Josef Korbel was born in what is now the Czech Republic.  He was a young diplomat when he was forced to flee his homeland due to his Jewish heritage when the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia. He would also have been at risk of arrest due to his diplomatic ties to President Edvard Benes, President of Czechoslovakia after Masaryk’s. He returned to his homeland after World War II, served as ambassador to Luxembourg, and fled again when the communists assumed power in 1948. Sentenced to death in absentia, he was given political asylum in the United States.  It is little wonder he had a keen interest in democracy and a love for this country.   Korbel ultimately moved to the University of Denver where he founded the school bearing his name, the Josef Korbel School of International Studies. Even though he was Jewish by birth, Korbel appears to have espoused no religious faith in his youth, and raised his children in the Catholic faith.

Josef Korbel may be best known as Madeleine Albright’s father, but he was also a mentor to Condoleezza Rice, the National Security Advisor and 66th U.S. Secretary of State under President George W. Bush.  She studied under him at the University of Denver and describes him as a central figure in her life.  Her PhD dissertation dealt with politics and policy under communism in his homeland, Czechoslovakia.

Both Albright and Rice credit Korbel with the belief that “democratic values are at the heart of peace and stability in the world.” Both women have reflected that Korbel considered the United States the “Indispensable Nation” because of its pivotal role in world affairs. They, too, share that belief.

In understanding Secretary Albright, it is helpful to understand her admiration of Masaryk, her father, and the impact both had on her world view. In understanding her father, it is important to recognize that his beliefs were broad enough to nurture two women with such diverse points of view.  It also gives us insight into the values that influence the beliefs of both women and their perspectives of faith and politics in interacting with world and national leaders. We journey on!

Sonoma Wine Country: From Mom’s Camera

It’s Saturday morning in Petaluma.  Today all four of us are ready to spend the day in the wine country.  On Friday we got an early start when we visited Roche Wine’s tasting room in downtown Sonoma.  Terry was ready to begin to kick-start our adventure as he hovered over the wine barrels.

Our wine tour Saturday morning began at the Iron Horse Winery.  It is in a beautiful setting in the hills of Sonoma with vineyards all around it.  The Iron Horse focused on sparkling wines and chardonnay.  The overall mood of the tasting room was lots of fun and the great attitude of the servers added to the experience.

We were lucky that Jake was able to break free from work for some well deserved fun as he joined us for our wine tasting adventure.  He took it seriously as he discussed with Meg which wines they each preferred.

By the time we arrived in Healdsburg we needed a break from wine tasting. We decided to stop at Wurst Sausage Grill. While I think of California as a mecca of fish, vegetables and fresh fruit, our lunch was definitely all about grease and french fries.  But the food was full of flavor and very satisfying.

Healdsburg is another town with a small town feeling.  In addition to the wine tasting room, the square is filled with restaurants, jewelry stores and gift shops.  Wine is a constant theme.  The reflection of the brick building across the street in this photograph of Papitre’s shop window suggested the tricks the mind can play as a result of “over-tasting”.

We travelled on to Hawke Winery’s tasting room with its wonderful view of the Alexander Valley.  The view was worth the visit.  The vineyard out the window was owned by Kendall Jackson.

We continued on to the Alexander Valley Winery.  It is also a beautiful location in the valley.  The wines are among Terry’s favorites, since he is a regular at Costco.  The wine cellars are quite elegant.  Meg and I both included them in our photos. To me it looks like the entrance to a medieval castle.

Our trip through wine country was a memorable experience.  We’ve had a great time and met some delightful people.  We head for home happy and satisfied.

Sonoma Wine Country: From Meg’s Camera

Meg has a J.D. in Urban, Land Use and Environmental Law. She focuses on maintaining the balance of community and environmental health, healthy lifestyles, and encouraging sustainable living.

While Mom and Terry were in town for Easter weekend, we spent a lot of time exploring the wonders of the North Bay. On Friday, we ventured around Western Marin and explored the coast. On Saturday, we visited the wine country.

As with the day before, Mum and I both took lots of photos. I used my Olympus E-PL1, and Mum used her iPhone 4S. Admittedly, I am not as good with the camera as I used to be. And learning all the bells and whistles on the DSLR is going to take me some time, but it is still exciting to visit beautiful places and captures moments and scenes along the way.

Our first wine country visit was actually on Friday evening before dinner. We went to Roche, a winery with delicious wines and a very conveniently located tasting room off the square in downtown Sonoma. Jake and I recently became members of the Carneros Club at Roche, so we wanted to show Mum and Terry where we love to go to do a wine tasting on the weekends.

To start off our day on Saturday, we drove up to Iron Horse Ranch and Vineyard. The views from this winery are quite amazing. It is set up in the hills northwest of Sebastopol. The perfect place to start our day in the wine country.

After tasting some delicious bubbly and taking in the beautiful views, we continued our trek north to Healdsburg, where we stopped for lunch at Wurst Sausage Grill and Beer Garden. Northern California has amazing food, and our Wurst sausages were no exception. With full bellies, we walked around Healdsburg. Terry occasionally pulled us aside to look at wine country real estate postings, and Mum pointed out the beautiful gallery windows. Before we headed back to the Jeep, we stopped in a little deli to get gelato.

After lunch and a stroll, we continued along the way to Hawkes, a place in Alexander Valley known for its Cabs. Our experience was somewhat unexpected. Hawkes has a great view of Kendall Jackson grapes growing across the street. There seemed to be just a hint of “sibling rivalry.” The wines were great, however, so we certainly couldn’t complain.

Lastly, we stopped at Alexander Valley Vineyards, a charming location perched up off the road with beautiful hills and tucked away in the trees. There is even a door leading to what I presume to be a wine cellar, but surrounded by greenery and flowers, it almost reminds me of Bilbo Baggins’s hobbit house nestled in the hill. The wine was also delicious.

I do love exploring the wine country, and I was excited to try new places this time. There is so much to see around here, we explore a new place every weekend and still not see it all in our lifetime. Of course, that won’t keep us from trying.

A Day on the Coast: From Mom’s Camera

Northern California is an amazing place to visit.  It is even better when we are hanging out with my favorite people. Terry and I spent a long weekend visiting Meg and Jake’s favorite places in Sonoma and Marin Counties.

While Jake worked Friday, Meg, Terry and I loaded up Meg’s Jeep Patriot and our cameras and headed for the coast.  Well, I don’t want to overstate this, Terry and Meg have real cameras, I only had my iPhone, but I was anxious to see what kind of photographs I can get out of my newly upgraded iPhone camera.

Our first–unexpected–stop happened when we happened on this great tree by the road. We stopped, turned around and drove back for our first photos of the day.  It isn’t just a great gnarly tree, it is tree that gives new meaning to the concept of having a rocky start in life. Meg’s photo was on our blog yesterday.  Here’s mine.

Minutes later we arrived at Point Reyes Station, a lovely little town near, but not on, the coast.  It’s population is either 340 people or 848 people, depending on which source you believe.  It is such a great old town. I mean, when is the last time you saw an automobile repair shop with an entire row of deer heads on the wall?

There was a community garden and an organic market that surprised me by offering beautifully arranged produce, at least some of which was from–Mexico.

Meg and Terry were looking for tasty beverages while I focused on the wonderful “Born in the USA” look of this little town.  We happened on the Cowgirl Creamery that actually makes cheese right in Point Reyes Station. The cheese and the bread they sold were as visually appealing as they were delicious. We purchased a bag of sample sized cheese for under $15.  The cheeses were a hit at dinner.

With regret, we left this great town and continued on.  Ultimately, we arrived at Bodega Bay, well-known for its beauty, but also as the location for Alfred Hitchcock’s wonderful movie, “The Birds.”  The Tides restaurant is still serving tourists, and the gulls continue to sit on the picnic tables and stare down from the eaves of the buildings.  Not hard to see how a creative mind could see them as menacing. But they are actually delightful and add to the atmosphere.

The views were beautiful.  We were ready to try to find a way to move here just for the privilege of waking up every morning with one of the world’s great scenery.  Unlike many of the places we visit, mile high condos have not yet spoiled the view.  There were actually modest cottages within a block of the water.  Who wouldn’t want to want to be “Sittin’ on the dock of the bay,” if the bay was in Northern California.

We headed to the Bodega Bay marina. Obviously, just around the corner, but it had its own personality.  Commercial fishing is serious business here. Even the boats have just the right amount of rust to be authentic workings boats.

The best of the “fishing” was for crab.  We stopped at the Spud Point Crab Shack crab.  Just about all it sold was crab, crab and crab.  But why not!  It was freshly caught and it was wonderful. We shared a sandwich and were on our way.

The area had fun with its heritage.  Carved wooden sailors graced more than one establishment and gave a festive air to the marina.

Our last stop along the coast was Bodega Head.  It is a beautiful view of the ocean and is considered a major destination for anyone who wants to watch for migrating whales.  We looked, without success.  But we watched the waves as they came in over the rocky beach.

It was a great day on the coast, and we’ve had a great time comparing my iPhone pictures with the pictures from Meg’s camera.  Next, it’s off to the wine country.

A Day on the Coast: From Meg’s Camera

Oh the joys of living in California! While it’s difficult over the holidays to be so far away from family, we are fortunate this holiday weekend to have family come to us. It helps us enjoy a balance of living in a beautiful place and maintaining our strong connection to our loved ones. Plus, it’s a fabulous place to come visit!

It has been a beautiful Easter weekend, with Mom and Terry out to visit from Kansas City. They arrived Thursday evening and we all had a yummy dinner at home. Then we rested up for our weekend adventures.

For our first day of exploring, I took Mom and Terry for a day on the Coast. We first drove from Petaluma out to Point Reyes Station. Of course, there are a million things to see along the way. The first of these many sites was an old tree perched up off the road. We have not yet identified the specific type of tree, so if you are familiar with it, please comment below.

Our next stop along the way to Point Reyes Station was the Nicasio Reservoir. It is quite a beautiful setting, a huge expanse of water in the middle of Western Marin County, with beautiful rocky hills and windy roads all around.

Finally, we reached Point Reyes Station. We parked the Jeep and walked around the little town, which I believe has a population of only a few hundred, but it is surprisingly lively for such a small place. The main street has several cafes, a bakery, bank, general stores, and even an old saloon. It only took us 30 minutes to walk around the entire town, but you could easily spend hours exploring every nook and cranny.

After acquiring a particularly delicious cup of chai from Bovine Bakery, we departed from Point Reyes Station and headed up Hwy 1 toward Bodega Bay. I don’t think I’ve ever driven this stretch of Hwy 1 before, but it is a very windy road! The scenery is beautiful, of course, and the weather was sunny. What a great day for a drive.

Once we reached Bodega Bay, we popped into the Tides and looked out at the bay. Even though we were still full from our delicious breakfast earlier that morning (Mumsy makes amazing onion and mushroom scrambled eggs), we still made the executive decision to get ourselves a crab sandwich. So off to the Spud Point Crab Shack we went, and one long line and 15 minutes later, we had our crab sandwich in hand. It didn’t last long.

Since we were already part way around the bay (the crab shack is near the Bodega Bay marina), we ventured the few more miles up to Bodega Head to look out on the ocean. What a wonderful setting. It was mid-afternoon, the sun was shining, and even with the constant whipping winds, it was positively beautiful. We walked down to the beach and watched the waves breaking on the surrounding rocks, reflecting on our fabulous day.

Our next adventure? Well, touring the wine country, of course!

I hope you are all having a wonderful Easter weekend. We are sure enjoying ourselves out in sunny California.

Today is a Beautiful Day

It is a beautiful day.  Well, it is rainy and cool, but beautiful, nonetheless.  KU’s defeat is in the past.  We rejoice that Ku made it to the finals, although I am sad that MU did not.  Terry and I are Planning a great 4+ days with Meg, Jake and the greyhounds.

To all of our friends and followers we hope you have a day as beautiful as this picture.

Jayhawk Pride: Rock Chalk Jayhawk, Go KU!!

My husband and I both went to University of Kansas for undergrad. We are Jayhawks through and through. Naturally, we have been glued to our big screen during the last several weeks of March Madness. With KU’s amazing history of basketball, it’s hard not to get sucked in to the Rock Chalk madness. Beginning in 1898, with the father of KU basketball, James Naismith, the Jayhawks have always been a force to be reckoned with. I even learned a few years ago that Phog Allen, one of Naismith’s players and his successor as head coach, grew up in the same house my grandparents lived in for years. So there you have it, I was destined to be a Jayhawk, and to love KU basketball.

For last night’s big game against Kentucky, we drove into the city to meet some friends (mostly PHS crew: Ryan, Ted, Eddie, Stephanie). We went to the Mad Dog, completely decked out in Kansas gear, some of us wearing the exact same attire we’d worn throughout the whole tournament. Even though we didn’t pull out a win, we still had a blast. I didn’t realize how many Jayhawks there are in San Francisco! Once inside the bar, the level of Jayhawk pride almost made me feel like I was down on Mass. Bill Self would’ve been proud.

Our loss against Kentucky last night was a tough pill to swallow. We all feel a little wounded today, but our guys played their hearts out. Withey even scored a new blocking record. And while we may not yet have another national title under our belt, I’m proud of our players. Trust me, we’ll still be there for them next year, and every year after, no matter how the games end.

For all the other Jayhawks out there, Rock Chalk!

Springtime in Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza

It is a beautiful week in Kansas City. The tulips are in full bloom.

Pansies are everywhere, even in a “wishing well”.

The trees are starting to bud.

The Plaza is all decked out for Easter, with an oversized rabbit, turtle and other brightly colored animals for children to climb on and be photographed with.

Most exciting, the first of the Plaza’s fountains have been turned on.  It is our own little bit of heaven.  Pomona, an original sculpture by Donatello Gabrielli, is the Roman Goddess of the Earth.  She stares out on the Plaza as though aware of our comings and goings.

The Plaza is at it’s very best.  Ready for tourists and locals alike.

Have a great day!