Saturday, June 30, 2012

Packards Use Computer $ to Save An Orchard

Apricots drying in the Los Altos Hills orchard owned by the David and Lucille Packard Foundation.

I've been visitng the Packard Orchard in Los Altos Hills several times a year, in all seasons, since I returned to my home town. I learned about it from a girl I've known since kindergarten who told me you could buy a five-pound bag of dried apricots up there--if you called ahead. 

That quantity of locally produced dried apricots available for purchase at an affordable price--well, it is almost unheard of today.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Funny Thing Happened to Me on the Way to a Certain (Unnamed) Canadian City ...

This is the photo on which I put the caption that fouled up the lady in that certain city in a central province of Canada ...

You have to be careful about kidding on the Internet, because it can lead to a certain amount of confusion as I recently learned.

I was in Quebec for a few days earlier this month and had quite a lot of fun with the signs up there, which, by law, are all in French.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Living in the Shadow of the Rich and Famous

Race-car driver Peter Revson photographed at Laguna Seca in the 1970s by Phillip Finch.

Working journalists have access to some of the most interesting, most powerful, most famous, and most glamorous people in the world. It can sometimes turn a reporter's head. 

I've thought a lot about this as I've pondered the career of my former husband, Phillip Finch, who died in February at the age of 63.

Monday, June 18, 2012

You Can Get Anything You Want ...

My Mark Cross Book Bag is all leather in and out. Mark Cross is no longer in business. Alas.

It won't surprise those of you who know me well, to learn I have a somewhat large collection of designer handbags, which I started when I was a young reporter working in San Francisco--then, the real Paris of the West.

Here's a tale related to to one of my favorite vintage bags--and how a modern invention helped me to save it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Returning Home to Actual Work (Gasp)

The weather was cooler this morning, so I tested my mother's old Apricot Yummy recipe.

No more of this wedding fun and modeling cute hats and running around Canada trying out one's old college French on the natives. I've had to actually do some work since I've returned to Fort Chapman, California from my petites vacances

For example, besides unpacking and checking in with my California Scrub Jay friends, I had to review the contract for the book I'm planning to produce for The History Press. And I've had to begin the research. Those are two of the hard things about a writing project. The writing part isn't much work at all by comparison.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Hiding the Apricots from Mr. Squirrel

'Cots not quite ripe but warm from the sun against my hands.

The little Blenheim apricot tree my mother planted a few years before she died--I don't know exactly when, but perhaps five years ago now?--has finally produced its first real crop of 'cots. The rain didn't fall at blossom time--and that helped. I added some compost--and that helped. What else went right? I don't know. But as I've said before, it is always better to be lucky than smart.

I probably have enough beautiful apricots to fill a good-sized lug this year, if I can keep those nasty squirrels from poaching all of them. Last year, of about a dozen 'cots--I was able to save only one.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Adieu Quebec et Merci Beaucoup

At Le Clos Saint-Louis, the little hotel where I stayed in Quebec.

I found Le Clos Saint-Louis, my hotel, by cross referencing Frommer's and Fodor's guides, checking where the hotels were on the map, and doing my own version of reading between the lines of hotel reviews. And, since it is always better to be lucky than smart, I was also very lucky. 

Le Clos Saint-Louis, in old Quebec City, was just what I was looking for. C'est parfait. It was perfect.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Endless Summers With the Beach Boys

The Beach Boys 2012, sounding forever young. All photos of the Beach Boys courtesy of

Robin writes: Today, a break from my tour-blogging about French Canada, and a return to something very American.  My friend, writer-director-producer, Steve Latshaw, is a big, big fan of the Beach Boys. (Hey me too!) Steve's an Illinois kid, now living in LA, who has managed to hang on to the sense of wonder he brought with him from the Midwest. So, today, when the Beach Boys released their new album, Steve was in heaven. He had an advance copy and with that in his hand, he said, it was 1976, he was seventeen years old, and he was back in Decatur, Illinois. That's how the Beach Boys worked their magic on him as he tells us in this Guest Blog Post.
By Steve Latshaw

All over the world people who have never even been to the beach, have their own special year that marks their perfect Beach Boys summer. 

These are the times when each of us has discovered the freedom of the open road (or at least borrowed the family car); days of freedom--maybe at the beach, or in my case, a Midwestern lake; nights at the drive-in (movies AND burgers); our first (or second) high school love; and, most of all, the music of the Beach Boys, which seems to underscore just about every activity and emotion we experienced.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Lower Ville And the St. Lawrence

The old port and the Lower Town (Basse-Ville) below the Hotel Frontenac in Quebec.

With the rain blown away, the old city of Quebec brightened up quite a bit. The high was a pleasant 64° F. The winds, however, were brisk--and though the Weather Channel put them at 14 mph, there were gusts near the St. Lawrence River that could just about knock you down. 

I braved it all and sampled several forms of Quebec-style transportation in my efforts to explore this delightful, historic city.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Respite From All That Sunny Weather

But officer! I'm from California! How was I supposed to know that means, "Stop?"

All around me in California there are sun and perfect weather and people speaking Hindi and Spanish and Chinese and Farsi and Arabic. Sometimes I even hear English tossed about a bit. So, coming to Quebec where it is cold and rainy and people speak French and only French, is such a nice change.

They reportedly even have language police here who make sure all the signs really are in French and no one uses ghastly Americanisms like "hot dog" and "French fries." Its chien-chaud and pommes de terre frites or you can't have any.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Feat of Wedding Feet Survival

Lena's dress was gorgeous.

Now that our family wedding is over, I can put my feet up, metaphorically and figuratively. Everyone agreed that niece Lena's dress was an absolute wow. It looked great on her and she looked mah-ve-lous in it.

It didn't even occur to me to think of what she had on her feet until I saw her on the dance floor. Shoes preoccupied everyone else, but I figured she just had on some pretty, sparkly wedding dress shoes.

Friday, June 1, 2012

My Friend, James

We've been friends for a long time. I think he is a genius.

As we were leaving the rehearsal dinner for my niece Lena's wedding this week--in which the celebration is long and Biblical in nature--I said to my sister: "That James. He and I chatted all through dinner. He is such an intelligent boy." James, by the way, is just about to turn eleven.

My sister, who has three children and five grandchildren, is a canny observer of the human condition. "You know, Robin," she said without turning around from her seat in the front of the car. "I think you have a special feeling about James." Well, yes I do. I just happen to know he is perfect!