Whirlwind of Wonderfulness

I adore interesting people and their stories (surprise, surprise). And this past weekend was a whirlwind filled with interesting people sharing interesting stories–which made me a happy camper (who needed a nap afterward).

On Friday, I left my perch in the mountains and made my way to Saratoga to pick up a wonderful friend and co-founder of Anonymous Good. She was staying with some friends and before we zoomed off, she gave me a quick tour of their compound. A true compound–gorgeous at every turn–that included a vineyard, a basketball court, and two garages filled with classic cars that I promptly began to pretend were mine (especially the snazzy little 300SL Mercedes–I think it was–from the late 50’s I’m guessing).

After zipping off, we arrived very early for our meeting at Facebook so our lovely superwoman of a host took us to lunch at the cafeteria. Great food enjoyed outside on the terrace while we chatted away about how incredible her eyebrows were (those arches!) along with awesome initiatives that are underway. (I’m sworn to secrecy!) That was followed by a meeting with several more of the amazing minds within Facebook, then a tour of the rooftop garden that was a terrific end to a great day of discussions.

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(Photos by P)

We checked into our hotel and promptly found the bar. We earned our drinks, thank you very much. Wine for me and a Long Island Iced Tea for P—hold the tequila, and swap out the triple sec for peach schnapps. More conversation in the bar, seated at the table nearest the fireplace. Glowing conversation, glowing faces, and good drinks. Sushi for dinner at a nearby spot I’d found, then we made plans for an early breakfast and went off to our rooms for sleep.

The next day—Saturday—we enjoyed breakfast and chatting with the server from India. He showed us pictures of his hometown that P, by way of “coincidence,” is slated to travel to next year. Nice guy, nice breakfast, followed by a nice drive while we talked and talked en route to the mountains.

After a quick pit stop at Casa de Fruta—for restrooms and wine purchases—we kept on and arrived back at my mountain homestead and waited a short while for our mutual friend W (who created an awesome iPhone App called Mindfulness Daily). From there we zipped off to Bass Lake then picked up our catered dinner, brought it home, and prepared for more friends to arrive for a dinner party.

So when I say we all had a good time talking, here’s what I mean by that: P spent a lot of her career being a journalist, then later served as bureau chief for a major network, and she currently produces humanitarian documentaries as well as frees slaves, serves on various non-profit boards, etc., etc. One of her many, many, many skills includes asking pointed questions that spear into the pulse of something, then oh-so-gracefully will go right for the heart. She is a SKILLED woman at getting stories out of people, to put it mildly. (And no one at the dinner party would disagree with this!)

Wine and Mexican food and fantastic stories of how couples met—all around the table. “When did you know?” etc. And let me tell you, P did not let anyone off the hook and indeed was known to throw a cloth napkin at someone if their answer was…well…shit. (As she would say.) 🙂

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(Photo on left by P, photo on right by W)

The next morning, I took P and W and my pup for a tour of Sugar Pine where I was raised. Then we ventured on to Yosemite for a quick moment to pause and breath and take pictures at the river.

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Then we ventured back home where P and W packed up and, after a series of hugs and thank-yous, headed out for the airport.

When I say it was a whirlwind of wonderfulness, I truly mean that we each were challenged to turn ourselves inside out and share, and to do so in an environment where our insides were celebrated—our stories, our interests, our lives—and no matter what we shared, it was wonderful simply to be sharing with people who have, as P put it, big hearts and big brains.

xo Isla


Tahoe ~ Travelogue #2 ~ 2014

Fresh vegetables from our family friends’ garden were cooked to delicious perfection for our summer meal. Eggplant, fresh kale and tomato salad, pasta with basil, all incredible and picked from the perky garden that morning. Nothing like it! We gathered around the table on their deck in Carson City, Nevada—dogs running around the expansive lawn playing with a slobbery ball, the humans chatting and laughing and telling stories of travels and coincidences while traveling. (Funny how many people have experiences running into people they know while in distant locations. Love the way the world works.) 

Wine passed around to accompany the meal—a lovely red I wish I remembered the name of. Eventually the sun set and dessert was delivered in the form of a homemade raspberry tart with coffee (decaf, thank you!). 

My stepsis and I entertain the dogs for a little while longer (or they entertain us?) then it’s time to head back to Tahoe house. Dark roads and satisfied bellies, we’re all happily content. 

Slept soundly until Gigi puppy woke me just before dawn—again excited for another day in Tahoe. Of course now she owns the place so she wandered around, sneaking in bedrooms and doing her best to make sure everyone is up and starting the day! It’s apparently her job and she is very, very good at it. She loves people, animals, nature, and mornings. LOVES mornings, which makes me love mornings. A whole lotta morning love. 

Routine now, I pour a cup of coffee and wander out for a walk with her. Sights and sounds of other neighborhoods are fun to explore. We’re learning the ropes—this house has a huge mastiff that woofs from his stance in the window, that house has incredible birds of paradise, and over there a home with an incredible man-made rock-lined gutter for water overflow that looks more like an artistically designed creek. 

I work for awhile as everyone continues talking about books, ideas, philosophies. My stepdad, a minister, discusses the topic of his next talk and everyone dives in with perspectives. I listen from the periphery as I type away. 

Then, sadly, we must depart. We say our goodbye-for-nows, give hugs and smiles and gratitude, then off we go. 

A terrific (quick) trip and exactly right. 

xo Isla

LA Travelogue, Part 1

Ventured south to LA early in the day with Gigi puppy and her puppy nanny (aka my mom). Lovely blue sky, sunshine, bright green spring fields. Perky pistachio trees, grapevines, huge oleander bushes, and lots of other plants and flowers led the way through the central valley of California. 

Arrived in time to check into hotel in Manhattan Beach–ground floor since we had puppy–and made our way through lots of ooo’s and aaa’s about Gigi’s cuteness. I don’t blame these people. I ooo and aaa daily. 🙂 

Left mom and Gigi and went to a meeting in Redondo Beach at a lovely home. Chatted for hours with two incredible women–forces to be reckoned with! Filled with appreciation to meet people contributing so positively to the planet, we sipped wine, exchanged ideas, and discussed ways to join forces. 

Back to the hotel then we head for dinner. Mom and I split an artichoke and spinach pizza–we seem a wee bit addicted to artichokes at the moment– and cheers with margaritas. 

Early to bed– feels good. We all settle, read on our iPads (Gigi should have one too), then snooze. 

LA Travelogue, Part 2

Woke at 4am with puppy. She went back to sleep while I edited another chapter of Work In Progress. Then she and I walked through the early morning–her happily traipsing through the dewy grass–to get coffee from nearby cafe. 

Out and on the road before 10am, we sighed into our drive along Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu (only got flipped off once–not entirely sure why but once isn’t bad considering it’s LA!), walked around the little shops at Cross Creek, tried to locate the Alexis Bittar store but to no avail. Breakfast burritos for us, ice water for Gigi who’d already eaten (oddly, each restaurant we visited on the trip served her ice water…go figure). 

From Malibu we drove through the Malibu Canyon to Calabasas. Paused for cappuccino and tarts in the sunshine amid gorgeous roses and water fountains at Le Pain Quotidien. The commons in Calabasas are beautiful!  Gigi gets more attention, of course, and enjoys the shaded table outside where a HUGE doberman, and little bitty dogs walk by. She’s entertained as usual. 

Drove along highway 99 at a good pace while mom and Gigi nodded off and I worked through some character development for next book. Driving is great for that. 

Home before dark. Unpacked, ate some dinner, checked my deck for animal remnants (bat poop) then let Gigi run around. We’re all happy to be home. 

Back in My Mountains

The back and forth from SF to the mountains generally keeps things interesting. My lil pup and I just returned from the city and had a great time, save for the trip to the dentist. (But I actually like my dentist so, ok, I’ll deal.)

While in SF, Gigi got to walk on leash for the first time in the city. She did amazingly well amid the various loud honks and engine rumbles. She eventually clamored to go faster! Faster! My little 4-month old adventurer.

We arrived to lovely weather and departed on an equally sunny day but in the middle, during our stay, we experienced pounding rain while sitting outside the fantastic pub, Liverpool Lil’s. Beer was enjoyed by the humans while sticks and leaves were enjoyed by Gigi (pic above). Quite lovely, though chilly, the scent of nearby eucalyptus trees refreshed the air as it does. Love that smell. The Bay Area in California is the only place I’ve been to in the world where that refreshing and earthy smell just permeates.

As usual, I itched to write while gone. I am definitely one who thrives when creating, putting my imagination to work. Without it, without that feeling of creation and productivity, my energy dips and the inner doldrums take over (I say, ever so dramatically). So I’m back in the mountains, writing with my pup snuggled at my feet.

Happy weekend to all.

xxo Isla

Dara Visits From NY – Part 4

Dara is leaving this morning. Le poo poo! Gigi puppy up before dawn as usual (me too, of course). Construction workers outside working on deck renovations. Turkeys gobbling and giggling that it’s Friday.

We will miss our Dara. She flies home to rainy New York and today we have sunshine and warmth in the mountains of California. We had so much fun laughing yesterday that her eye makeup ran and she ended up getting Gigi eyes. 🙂

Happy day to all,


Dara Visits From NY – Part 3


Dara’s last full day with us in the mountains. Bummer! But it’s been amazing, or as our inside joke says it—amEEzing—having her here.

Yesterday we all sought comfort spots in different parts of the house, creating our own little cozy habitats. Rain poured on and off outside, the California drought-laden land soaking it all up. The turkeys talked, the deer played, and the birds sang, all adding to the mountain experience for our NY visitor. I worked on a second draft of my WIP from my brightly lit room, Dara set up camp complete with warm blanket outside on the terrace and finished reading one book then started another. Gigi played and slept and played and slept and played some more. As puppies do. We decided on takeout for dinner—Japanese. Delicious, hot, and flavorful (yay soy and teriyaki sauce).

Today’s plan is to locate a couple of gifts for Dara to take home to people. Also more reading for her, editing for me, playing for Gigi. Likely more finding of silly faces on inanimate objects like hats (which of course makes us giggle).

Maybe make some grilled cheese with tomato inside and fried cheese on top as I made yesterday. Indulgent but perfect for a drizzly grey day.


Dara Visits From NY – Part 2

Getting into routine with grooming Gigi in the morning. So much fur! Her little spring puppy coat is growing in more and more each day. Used to not have any hair featured on my clothes. Now I sort of resemble her—I have my own spring coat coming in. ☺ The blossoms are peaking out—yesterday we went to daffodil hill after picking up bags and bags of Mexican food from El Cids. Delicious. Rain is on the way tomorrow so we’re going to soak in the sunshine today. That’s a plan we can all truly get behind. Especially since Dara’s home-city of NY is experiencing winter. We’re all appreciating the perky springtime weather. More smiles, more fun stories. So good to catch-up with my buddy. 🙂 xo