I’ve written before about how tastes change as we get older. It’s true not just for toothpaste and foods and books. It’s true for style, too, including architectural styles. I was in San Francisco today, and as I was heading back toward the Golden Gate Bridge, I decided to drive by a house I used to love. When I lived in the city, if I was anywhere in the neighborhood of this house, I’d drive by and sigh wistfully. I thought it was so cool, with its grand entryway and curved staircases. I would dream that it was my Italian villa and imagine fantastic parties I’d have there when I was rich and famous novelist like Danielle Steele (another mansion I’d drive by — that one was on the route to a friend’s house).


Villa? Maybe in Tuscany. Not here.


Guard lions. Every villa needs ’em.

Now, I think this house is a tiny bit pretentious and out of place, not to mention that in a city with breathtaking views, this house is not oriented to maximize them. In fact, it looks like it’s shrouded by trees — combustible, non-native eucalyptus at that — and is likely dark inside.

While some things change, others remain constant. I still love walking the city’s hilly streets, even if I’m not as fast as I’d like. I especially love when walks lead to stairways. Bonus points when the streets are so steep that they have stairways instead of sidewalks, like this.


Steeps. I mean steps.

The views still make me happy, especially on sunny days like today when you can actually see them. I still look at Alcatraz and think, “Someday, I want to swim from there to shore.”


View. That house to the right has a rooftop garden.

And I still like to take photographs. I tried to get an artistic shot going down the steps, but it very nearly ended up with me tumbling down the steps. I know, what goes up must go down, but she doesn’t have to go down head first.


Artistic? Nah, just weird and dizzying. Yay for handrails.

I’m all for safety warnings. People should be informed if they’re in an avalanche or tsunami zone. In national parks, you’ll see warning signs complete with pictograms indicating that you’ll drown and get crushed by rocks if you try to swim in the idyllic-looking watering hole near the top of the falls.

This, however? Just not necessary.


Don’t do it.

In preparation for taking more photos in the new year, I’ve been organizing and culling the old photos.

In addition to a lot of animal photos, I found a series of photos in a theme. It made me wonder about myself…or more appropriately about the company I keep. Why do I hang around people who treat me thusly?

Allison shirks from hug

Derek cringes from kiss

Et tu, Cindy?

Oh, right, because they’re my people and we laugh a lot together.

In my last post, I wrote: “I know life holds no guarantees, but we’re all living longer.” No guarantees? True. All living longer? False. My dear friend passed away unexpectedly last month, just as I’d begun to feel joy again after the loss of my mom. Sadness, it seems, wants to be a permanent resident in my life.

I could try to ascribe meaning to it all – how I’ll come out stronger in the end, etc. – but the world needs more trite aphorisms like California needs more drought.

Speaking of drought, this blog’s been dry lately. I blame sadness. That bastard’s been telling me that it’s shallow to write about beer-tasting classes, that it’s stupid to write about local adventures, that nobody cares what I’ve been reading. Sadness tries to convince me that it’s wrong to feel joy in the midst of mourning. But I do, and neither Mom nor Tricia would want me moping around. They’d hug me and tell me to go for a walk or a swim. Both were excited when I said I was going to swim from Alcatraz and ecstatic when I said I was writing a novel.

So cheers to them. I’ve got blog ideas and a new novel started. This weekend I’m swimming. Shove off, sadness! I’m leaping back into life.


Here I go. Leaping!






Crater Lake: shockingly cold but beautiful and fun.


Use it or lose it. That’s the lesson hammered hard over the reunion week of the Class of ’54. The most lucid of the octogenarians didn’t just live it, they preached it: “Staying active is the key to aging well.”


Take this photo for example. I could title it “Father-Daughter Fun,” and leave it at that. Or I could have the Banana Splits theme song playing in the background, intimating that it was all laughs and careening around singing “Tra La La.”

Yes, we did have fun on the golf carts, but what the picture doesn’t show is the fact that we had to take the carts because half of our party couldn’t make it up the (small) hill from the parking lot to the clubhouse.

And while I don’t play golf, I would like to be one of the octogenarians who could play twice a week and walk the course and not need a golf cart. I know life holds no guarantees, but we’re all living longer and I want to be as mobile and active as possible in my sunset years. (I renewed my active-vow as soon as I got home from the reunion.)

A post for another day: why I think the other keys to living well ’til the end are being social and learning new things.


My sister pre-ordered tickets to a Mothers’ Day Tea way back in early November, which for obvious reasons didn’t turn out as planned. My godmother Nuala came with us, and we had a great afternoon together. When she held me at my baptism and promised to be my spiritual guardian, I’m sure she didn’t expect I would cash in on that promise so many years later. Nuala’s been a wonderful presence in my life. When I was younger, she gave books as gifts. She introduced me to Silverstein’s “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and Konigsburg’s “From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.” She’s well-traveled, well-read, well-spoken, and fun to talk to. Books and movies remain favorite topics of conversation, but I particularly love the way she calmly says things like, “Oh, I don’t care for white-water rafting, I much prefer rappelling” or “Next week, I’m going heli-hiking.” (Both of those statements made when she was at least 60.)

Fairy Godmother

My sister Deidre also deserves kudos. She’s working hard to keep our family together, and she’s raising a pretty amazing son. On top of that, she’s quick to laughter, so we often end up cracking up when we’re together. (Just don’t ask about when she taught me how to ski. It’s a sore subject.)

Always Laughing

Final Mothers’ Day shout-out to my mother-in-law, Anne. She’s a badass. She has a PhD from Cornell and she worked on computers back when computers were as big as rooms and women just didn’t do that. She just wrote a differential equations textbook. And despite being way smarter than me, she welcomed me into her family with open arms. She encourages my writing and is my most consistent blog-reader. Plus, without her, I wouldn’t have my husband.Mom Noonburg

Thanks to these amazing women, and cheers to moms everywhere (including mine, too, of course).

PS – Sorry for the throwback wedding photos. I intended to take photos yesterday at the tea, but that never happened.





We’re swimming in building samples, drowning in decisions. My friend told me the term is “decision fatigue.” Remodeling a kitchen or a bathroom entails a lot of decisions; building a house, so many more.

Building Samples-1

Kitchen options

I’m not good at this kind of decision. I wonder, worry, second-guess, then start the whole process over again.

Building Samples-2

Flooring options

But now that I’ve seen many of the samples in person, I’m getting excited again. Derek reminded me, “If we moved into a house with any of these options, we’d think they were cool. We’re thinking too hard.”

Building Samples-3

Bathroom options

I offer these photos as proof of effort and progress, not as a call for input. That would only start the second-guessing all over again.

What, you may ask, are we going to do with all the samples when we’re done? Coasters, of course!

I’ve discovered a few things recently that I find surprising.

Playing with flashlights and long exposures is fun.

light painting

Dinosaurs frolic amongst the fence posts. They frolic with Santa, too, but Santa didn’t show up until after I took these photos.


Giraffes in captivity lick everything — each other, trees, fences, everything. And they drool like crazy.


My shoelaces look like tasty worms.

shoelace snack

Pigeons can be scary.


The shadow of my upper arm is freakishly skinny.


My nephew is fearless.


And the thing I find most surprising of all? That on a sunless rainy day like today…I feel happy and contented.

Setting sail for Europe.

Setting sail for Europe.

My mom passed away last month. I felt compelled to speak at her funeral, the hardest public speaking event of my life (despite knowing it was the most sympathetic audience I’ll ever have). I feel compelled to share that here, too.

My eulogy spoke of what my mom gave me — besides life & good looks — and there are three main things:

  • Love of music. While she didn’t always love what she called my “blatt-blatt noise,” she did enjoy music, and would blast Edith Piaf and make me stop to appreciate it. She would also burst into song if what you said reminded her of lyrics.
  • Love of travel. She always told stories of her intrepid solo travels through Europe, of riding her bike (sometimes getting a ride to the top of mountains from truck drivers), of seeing new places, of making new friends. From a super young age, I knew I wanted to follow her traveling example.
  • Love of friends. Mom had friends from grade school, high school, Europe, church, her neighborhood. So many people, when I called to tell them about her passing, said, “We were going to meet soon for lunch.”

The really amazing thing, though, was that Mom’s love of friends included MY friends (and my sister’s and brother’s, too). Our friends were invited to dinners, to functions, to weekends in Sonoma. In this way, Mom expanded her family.

My mom gave love. And I hope to carry that forward, to be half the friend that Colleen was.

And a piece of advice from Mom: “Put on some lipstick. It will make you feel better.”


We closed escrow on Friday. We are now the proud owners of a whole bunch of weeds!

over there

Apples, over there! (After we whack down weeds.)

I’ve always loved the idea of having a little house with a backyard where I could read and soak up sun – preferably in a hammock. I never imagined building a house around open space, apple trees, and a pond. Who the hell has a pond? It’s a little hard to wrap my brain around the whole thing, even now that there’s no backing out.

Sadly, not permanent residents. (Photo by D)

Sadly, not permanent residents. (Photo by D)

But now that it’s “official,” I’m getting excited about finding an architect, designing a house, negotiating permits, planning a garden, researching animals. Even with pre-fab construction, it will likely be 18 months before we have a party there. In the meantime, I’ll try to be better about posting updates.