Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Visit to Sunnylands, winter home of Walter and Lenore Annenberg

Last year, the winter home of publishing magnate and former U.S. Ambassador to the the United Kingdom ( under President Nixon) was opened to the public. The home is called Sunnylands and is located in Rancho Mirage, California, about a twenty minute drive from Palm Springs.

Sunnylands is still used as a retreat. In the days of the Annenbergs, Sunnylands was visited by United States presidents and dignitaries from around the world.

Both last year and this year, I tried to book us on one of these tours, both times unsuccessfully. Even though tours go every 15 minutes, several times a day, Wednesday through Sunday, they sell out almost instantly. They are very popular and, with only 7 people per tour, it is nearly impossible to book a tour.

The Sunnylands Visitor Center and Gardens are open to the public, with no admission charge. ( The house tour costs $35 per person).

And, there is a free guided tour of the gardens every Thursday at 11 a.m.

So that's what we did today.

The garden tour took about an hour. Our guide, who has been part of the gardens and public programs since the Center and Gardens were started, led us through the more formal grounds as well as a wildflower garden. She identified plants, discussed hard scape, ground cover, irrigation, showed us nesting birds, and much more, giving everyone on the tour...and there were a lot of understanding and appreciation of Sunnylands.

Sunnylands also offers bird tours. On our walk through the gardens, she pointed our eyes to a nesting hummingbird. Quite the thrill.

Lenore Annenberg wanted a labyrinth in the gardens...and there is one. Jim and I went back to it after our lunch. Our gardens guide had given us tips on labyrinth etiquette, which we followed, but most there with us did not: a labyrinth differs from a maze in that you can't get lost. There is a single entrance/exit. A labyrinth is meant to be a place of meditation. The etiquette on entering a labyrinth is to wait to start until the person ahead of you rounds the first bend.

The Sunnylands Center has a lovely cafe with indoor and outdoor seating. If you want to have lunch there, go before 12:30. By then today, they were starting to run out of sandwiches and salads.

Also, be sure to view the 20-minute video about Sunnylands and the Annenbergs. It shows every half hour.

Maybe next year a house tour for us? A girl can hope.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Find My iPhone

We drove the almost-500 miles to the California desert today, leaving home at 6:30 a.m. and reaching our destination at about 3:30 p.m.

Our first stop was for coffee and a snack at a McDonald's off Highway 5, after a few hours on the road.

Then, it was back in the car and on the road.

About a mile down the road, with me driving, Jim shouts that he doesn't have his iPhone!!! He'd been using it in McDonald's but doesn't know what happened to it and must have left it on the table or in the restroom!

So, I drove another mile or so to the next exit, turned around, and raced back to McDonald's. Inside, no one knew anything of a lost iPhone. We looked around, asked a group of teens outside, asked in the adjacent gas iPhone.

I called his phone a few times and my calls went to voice mail. No one answered.

Then, I said, "Get out your iPad and let's use Find iPhone, an app that comes on all iPads and iPhones which can locate all your registered Apple mobile devices. It will also reside on your computers.

Find iPhone immediately located Jim's iPhone, right at the McDonald's where we were. I then let the app sound an alarm on his iPhone; it's a very loud long alarm. Jim was back inside listening and, the end of this frightening story is that he found his iPhone!!!

Where was it? In a trash can where we had dumped our trash after we ate.

How did this happen?

JIm lost the case in which he carries his iPhone and decided to put it in the yellow plastic bag that his Egg McMuffin was wrapped in. Then, when we were putting all our wrappers on our tray to throw away, he inadvertently put the bag of iPhone there too.

All's well that ends well and all we lost was about half an hour of travel time.

ADVICE TO ALL IPHONE AND IPAD OWNERS: Register your devices and make sure you have Find iPhone on them and on all your desktop and laptop computers. It will work as long as your devices are on, even with sound muted. If your device is off, the alarm won't work until the device is turned on, but it will work. And, if your device is truly missing or stolen, you can either lock it or erase it, remotely from whatever device you use to locate it.

Oh, and about the 26' sculpture of Marilyn Monroe, called "Forever Marilyn," which greeted us as we drove through downtown Palm Springs, she's the work of American artist Seward Johnson. She arrived in Palm Springs last May and is located at the corner of two main streets, Palm Canyon & Tahquitz Canyon, in the heart of downtown Palm Springs.

Marilyn is said to have been "discovered" in Palm Springs and now she's back, gracing the corner of what will be a major revitalization of downtown Palm Springs.

Friday, February 8, 2013


I'm often downtown San Francisco for shopping, theatre, meetings, and appointments. And, I'm always looking for places to have lunch, whether by myself or with whomever I might be meeting.

Last week, I stopped at Tout Sweet in Macy's Union Square to try some of their macarons. A Macaron, as opposed to a Macaroon, is a French sandwich cookie made of two flavored meringue disks with a flavored filling inside. I had read that Tout Sweet partner, pastry chef Yigit Pura, was featuring his Macarons here.

There are several bakeries in the Bay Area that make Macarons and you can even buy them frozen at Trader Joe's, but it is the freshly-made ones, often in colors to match their flavors, that are the best.

To my delight, Tout Sweet has Macarons in several flavors and much more.

In fact, this cheery café, overlooking Union Square from Macy's third floor, serves light meals and snacks, coffee, tea, and wine.

I stayed for lunch and indulged in the Sous Vide Poached Egg Sandwich (poached egg, leek-fennel marmalade, melted gruyére cheese...on a gougère puff), a pot of Le Palais des Thés tea (from France), and two Macarons.

Tout Sweet is bright and cheery.

The window-side tables are popular, so don't be shy about asking to share a table if you see an available spot. That's what I did and enjoyed a nice chat with my tablemate, a local woman who has made Tout Sweet her "regular" lunch spot when she's downtown.

I expect that she and I will meet again soon as I know I'll be back for more Macarons and to try their salads, soups, and other sandwiches.  Or, maybe I'll stop in before a show one evening for a glass of wine and a cheese platter.

Also, Tout Sweet sells an appealing array of packaged candy, dessert sauces, fruit curds, jams, and marmalades...perfect for enjoying at home or for a gift for the host of that dinner party you are attending this weekend. 

Tout Sweet is open during Macy's business hours. So, stop in for breakfast, lunch, a light dinner, or a snack.