Not exactly Country Living…

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I have always been an inveterate consumer of gardening, home decorating and lifestyle magazines. If I had a nickel for every issue of Southern Living, Sunset, Country Living and Traditional Home that has graced my coffee tableand now a whole new genre of magazines which have the word cottage in their titles has captured my fancy: The Cottage Journal and Cottage Christmas (substitute Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn to cover the year!) to name few. Periodically, horrified at the amount of money I spend on this quasi-obsession,  I go cold turkey and let all my subscriptions lapse. I can stay on an even keel for most of the year but when those fall and holiday focused issues appear at Barnes and Noble and my local grocery store display I can feel that craving wash over me. I don’t really care about the perfect purse or another piece of jewelry but I am undone at the thought that there may be a life changing idea (vignette, recipe…) in one of my favs and I am going to miss it!

So, with your new understanding of my lifelong fascination with pouring over those picture perfect family friendly kitchens, blooming right-on-cue garden beds and exquisitely curated party plans, you won’t be surprised that I developed a few romantic notions of quintessential cabin life when in 2015 we bought our cedar sided cabin in Fish Camp just outside the southern gate of Yosemite National Park. Most have been dispelled by a basement full of squirrels and the stuff that comes with them, bats in the rafters, 40 year old windows and the realization that we neither have the funds nor the expected lifespan for cabin life to be magazine perfect, except possibly Handyman. Making it habitable and a fun place to host family friends was our ultimate goal in the first place and it didn’t take long for me to circle right back to that.

One lingering  and picturesque thought for me has been to host a wreath making day for my BFFs on the deck overlooking our snowy meadow. I would spend a morning clipping fresh boughs from the array of conifers on our property, arrange them beautifully in bins by variety (complete with identifying tags in hand done calligraphy) and set out all the necessary tools and supplies. My friends would arrive, all perfectly outfitted in the colorful and coordinated cold weather gear–looking like ladies who stepped right off the pages of Lands’ EndWe would enjoy a sumptuous lunch of hearty, homemade soup and crusty bread, sitting around a perfectly dressed rustic table arrangement and breathe in the fresh mountain air while we share our family holiday plans.

On our last cabin stay that thought resurfaced when my iPhone calendar reminders popped up with notations for ‘wreath making at Ellen’s’ on two days early in December. With absolutely no recollection of what these were I reached out to Ellen and we quickly determined that our quilting friendship group had decided LAST year that we would work in this activity in 2018, piggybacking on the class offered by our local River Center for which Ellen is a volunteer. The reality is that holiday wreath making in the Sierra mountains can come with all kinds of challenges: weather that can change on a dime, icy roads, gathering greenery in 3 feet of snow and packing in our lunch groceries in the same. I am not even mentioning the need for the large Lands’ End order to achieve ‘the look’ AND not freeze to death.

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Looking up from the meadow in December 2016

And so before we packed up to come home I cut a few bins worth of boughs and braved our rocky slope for some manzanita. A few days later we gathered in Ellen’s flatland garage with contributions from our Fresno yards and my mountain greens to fashion our holiday wreaths.

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Not exactly Country Living, but real life with friends sharing fellowship, food and a fun activity. We feasted on hearty, homemade soup at at Ellen’s beautifully arranged holiday table and although there was no crusty bread–there was dessert! I think we almost got the outfits right–what do you think?

P.S. Within a few days of coming down the mountain, Fish Camp got its first winter snowstorm.

10 thoughts on “Not exactly Country Living…

  1. Country living is somewhat subjective. I had more of a ‘country’ lifestyle when lived in town just a block of the Boulevard than I do now on the outskirts of a small town on the outskirts of another town on the outskirts of my hometown in the Santa Cruz Mountains.


  2. So that’s me in the white hair and the 20 year old sweatshirt, no worries about getting pitch on swell Lands End togs. Isn’t it always the impromptu gatherings that are most memorable? To her eternal credit, it should be pointed out that Ellen also forgot she had offered to host the gathering at the country home where she no longer lives, and on a date when she now had a conflict. She found one that worked, set a lovely table, served a yummy lunch, we all had blast, and have hand made wreaths to prove it! Like Kathleen, I am often paralyzed by visions of perfection, thanks for the reminder that people, not things are the perfect recipie for a great gathering.


  3. SO LOVE❤️ this last entry. Don’t we all want that picture perfect magazine lifestyle.😉 YOU have it RIGHT, FRIENDS to share tha moment is what it’s all about. Your writing is perfect and such a JOY to read. MISS you my friend. 🎄MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU AND DAVE!!!🎄 HERE’S HOPING I get an invite next year!!😉🥰 HUGS❤️❤️


    1. As time passes I am consciously trying to hold the things in my life a little less closely and the people in my life more highly than ever–you included! You are in my heart even though we don’t see each other often enough.


  4. My husband and I were shopping for a piece of land to build a cabin in the Colorado mountains a few years back when we were on a ski trip. We found the property, but decided it would be too costly to build there. Blasting rock is not cheap. Then, the wildfires hit the area. All the views were charred and black. I then decided I could never enjoy building somewhere that could burn into a blackened wasteland and take my house with it.

    We chose to build in the area we know in Texas, high on a hill on 26 acres with a huge pond for fishing and rolling views and a densely tree-line converted rails-to-trails bike path along one side of our property. We love it. The deer, coyotes, armadillos, all the wild birds you can imagine, visit us and it is very rewarding. We are close to everything we need. It occasionally snows now in this northeast part of Texas, but it is not the bone chilling cold and snow for months on end that Colorado would present us. VRBO is now our choice for new destinations to discover, and we don’t have to move there to enjoy it for a short time. And I still subscribe to all those magazines, too.


    1. What a beautiful part of the country you live in! I spent some time in the Austin area attending the Garden Bloggers Fling earlier this year and loved every part of it. I drove both east(?) to Fredericksburg and west toward the Antique Rose Emporium and enjoyed every minute. Fortunately even though our small cabin is 5000 feet in elevation higher than our year round home it is less than an hour and a quarter away, making it an easily reached welcome respite from the Central California Valley’s hot and dry summers. Enjoy your piece of paradise–the wildlife and scenery sounds amazing!


  5. I loved this lil read! I’m the same way…..look at all those magazines & one wish after another. My husband is the dreamer tho. He has read about building your own houseboat… for yrs we were gonna retire on a houseboat built by him. Then he decided we were gonna retire in a lil town 5 min from our favorite lake. Now he is paying out the whazoo for cypress lumber, that he will let sit to cure & we will retire in a tiny house\gypsy style wagon……traveling wherever our hearts desire. We still have 4yrs until our last child out of 6 is a legal adult. And at least 10yrs or 15 until he can officially retire. I’ll post in 15yrs what our retirement will actually be……& maybe there will be some new cool magazines for me to wish upon by then lol


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