2019 in Review

January

After a very busy December 2018, traveling and then moving house, we spent the first weeks of January in a state of collapse. The California winter rain was heavier than usual so the weather was dank and depressing, but we had plenty to do indoors, unpacking and setting up our new home. I went to Seattle for an internal AWS marketing kick-off. Brendan worked on a new book. (Yes, I edited this one, too.)

February

In late February, Brendan and I went to Berlin where I spoke at the AWS Summit. It was our first visit so we did a bit of sight-seeing, but frankly weren’t up to much as we had both been ill.

view of pedestrian bridges over the river in Berlin.

From there we traveled to the UK so Brendan could finally meet my stepmum, Ruth. The three of us visited Bletchley Park, which I highly recommend. It’s nice to see Alan Turing finally getting the public recognition (and apology) he so richly deserved. (photos)

Deirdré and Brendan trying on WWII-era hats at Bletchley Park.

Then we went to Paris, the official excuse for which was an internal talk I gave to solutions architects at AWS’ Paris office. But we also did a lot of walking around, looking at sights, and eating.

shop front of Goyard Malletier in Paris.

From Paris, Brendan went home to California to speak at SCaLE 17x, and I went on to Milan to speak at the AWS Summit there. I had about a week to kill, so I stayed at an Airbnb near AWS’ Milan office, which also happened to be a great location for… eating. I did a lot of that. Saw some old friends, met some new colleagues, did my routine work for AWS, and prepared for my talk. It was nice to be back in Milan, a city I’m still fond of.

March

In mid March I traveled home and got to work on my garden. Which was a great pleasure and a lot of work… and is a topic for a separate post.

April

I made a brief trip to Seattle. Also, I got shingles – which I fortunately caught very early and was able to treat with anti-viral medication before it turned nasty, as shingles can and usually does. Get your kids the chicken pox vaccination now so they never have to worry about this!

At the end of the month Brendan and I took off for Puerto Rico, where he was to speak at a conference. 

As a connoisseur of beaches, Brendan had looked carefully at the map and decided he wanted to go to Playa El Escambron, not far from where we were staying in San Juan. Our first evening we walked around the town and thought we would be able to walk to El Escambron, but we ended up instead on the beach at La Perla, a wasteland of mud and debris from Hurricane Maria, which had hit this once-vibrant neighborhood hard (the photo below puts a good face on it).

panoramic view of La Perla, looking out to sea, evening.

The next day we took Lyft directly to El Escambron, which proved indeed to be a beautiful beach lined with palm trees, and clearly the preferred hangout of the locals rather than the tourists (the tourist beach is Condado where the big hotels are, which isn’t nearly as nice). 

El Escambron beach

Brendan likes to take pictures of me. He insists that no photograph, even by a professional, has yet captured what he sees in me – and he goes to a lot of trouble trying to capture that elusive something. (I am mystified, but of course flattered.) So it was no surprise that he was taking lots of pictures, having me pose this way and that on the lovely beach. He called me over to look at his camera screen, with some joking remark that seemed odd – he doesn’t usually tease. “I know this is something you’ve been wanting for a while,” he added, and showed me a photo of… a ring. I was still confused. He dropped to one knee in the sand and presented me with the actual ring, in a red box. “Will you marry me?” he asked. I was shaking so hard I couldn’t even get the ring on my finger. I said yes.

my engagement/wedding ring.

We had been talking for a while about a wedding, a ring, and all that jazz and Brendan knew that, this time around, I wanted it done “right.” I somewhat despised myself for caring about the traditional rituals of… well, ownership. But I still craved at least part of those traditions, including a real proposal. And Brendan pulled it off magnificently, managing to surprise me as to the time and place and manner of it, even while I knew a proposal was coming. 

After the conference, we spent a few days at a resort. The most fun thing we did was a kayaking tour through mangrove swamps at night to a bioluminescent bay. The bioluminescence itself was not all that impressive – I suspect a lot of it got washed away in the hurricane – but paddling there and back among a flotilla of two-person kayaks in the dark was a blast.

Flying from California to Puerto Rico and back again is not easy. On the way over, we took a red-eye and had to change flights in Fort Lauderdale (after very little sleep). For the return trip, you either have to leave San Juan in the wee hours of the morning, or fly via the east coast. Brendan went “straight” home via Boston, I decided I might as well stop over in New York to visit my daughter Rossella and her partner Dan. We went to see an extraordinary and surprising production of Oklahoma.

May

A few days after I got home from that trip, my old friends Sue and Jeff came for a visit from Kansas. They helped a lot with wedding planning, and insisted on working on my garden, as well as doing some of the usual Bay Area touristy stuff.

Sue and Deirdré in a rose garden in Yountville CA.
Sue and Deirdré in a rose garden in Yountville

June

Seattle again, for an internal digital marketing summit.

Aperol spritz and cornetto, Princi Seattle.

There’s a Princi bakery in Seattle which is just as good as the one in Milan. No one in Italy would have a cornetto and an Aperol spritz together, but… I’m a food rebel. Back at home, lots of gardening and wedding planning.

July

I spoke at OSCON for the second time…

Enjoyed a bachelorette spa day in Carmel with some of my besties.

Returned to Seattle for yet another internal summit, this one for evangelists (no, I’m not exactly an evangelist, but our team has a bunch of them and I work closely with many).

August

Wedding! (More on that… later.)

panoramic view of Poipu Beach, Kaua'i.

Then we took a short honeymoon in Kaua’i while Rossella stayed with Mitchell and was an awesome big sister: she taught him to ride a bike and eat new foods, took him and his buddy Leo to the drive-in and the beach and, the last day before school started, to the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk.

Michell at Santa Cruz beach boardwalk, photo and Instagram post by Rossella.

September

streets paved in a black and white wave pattern, Lisbon.

Brendan needed to attend a conference in Lisbon, and later in the same week I needed to be in India, where I had been invited to join the board of Woodstock School. With some really awful travel, starting with a flight from SFO and then an overnight in Dubai, we managed to combine the two (I don’t recommend this route). Lisbon was enjoyable, not least for the crowd of the usual Linux kernel suspects we were hanging out with. Then it took us another 24 hours of travel to get to Mussoorie, beautifully green and misty in the late monsoon season.

fern-covered tree trunk, Mussoorie.

After all these decades of being involved with Woodstock School as a student, a very active alumna, and a parent, it was past time for me to join the board. So far I’m a member of the General Body, which does not wield much power compared with the (much smaller) board itself. But it does have one very important responsibility: identifying, vetting, interviewing, and proposing potential future board members. My vast network among alumni and elsewhere will be helpful here. I’m also trying to help the school in other ways, such as marketing.

members of the Board of Woodstock School, India, 2019.

From Mussoorie we went to Goa for a few more days of honeymoon. Though we stayed in a very nice hotel (the Taj Fort Aguada), September was not a good time to be there – the ocean was still dangerous to swim in and the beach still full of debris washed up by monsoon storms, so we didn’t get to enjoy the beach at all. But we enjoyed more great food, did some shopping, and on our way out of India spent a day in Bombay to celebrate with some classmates. (Photos: India)

panoramic view of Fort Aguada, Goa.
panoramic view of Fort Aguada, Goa

October

The rest of September and most of October were full of work stuff for both of us.

Brendan and Mitchell about to go biking.a

Brendan and Mitchell started biking as a father-son activity

Meanwhile, I had grown tired of having no eyebrows – they never really grew back after chemo, and I’m not good enough at makeup to draw them on nicely. So I had them microbladed, a form of tattooing. Yes, it hurts. But it was worth it.

On the right you can see what they looked like after the first session. The color tends to get strong after a few days, then fade a bit over a month, so you go back for a second session to adjust color and fill in any spots that didn’t take well the first time. After that, it should last about two years.

At the end of October we went to Portland (my second visit this year) where Brendan was speaking at USENIX LISA. I wasn’t attending the conference, but went along to hang out with him and see other friends – I know many of the regulars because LISA is a conference I have attended, one way and another, for many years.

November

At AWS, November is the run-up to re:Invent, our biggest event of the year, which takes place the week after Thanksgiving. It’s always hectic, and I was busier than ever with the Open Source blog, as well as preparing in various ways for the event itself. re:Invent had an open source track for the first time, so there was plenty to do.

December

Brendan and I both spoke at re:Invent (mine was a builders session for just six people, a freewheeling discussion based on my Marketing Open Source talk – those sessions don’t get recorded). I was also live-tweeting open source sessions from the AWSOpen Twitter handle.

Brendan’s talk on BPF was well received; don’t miss the “BPF theremin” demo that I tweeted:

Brendan’s new book, BPF Performance Tools, was also finally released in electronic format that week. (Print came later.)

We spent the remaining days until Christmas recovering from all that, visiting neighborhood light displays and finally putting up our own. The lights are our favorite thing about the holiday season – next year we’ll do more. 

We had Christmas dinner and present opening with Mitchell’s mother on Christmas eve, because on Christmas day we flew to New York to visit Ross and Dan. Manhattan was unbearably crowded with tourists, but we saw a couple of museums (also crowded), ate a lot of good food, and generally enjoyed each others’ company. We flew home on the 31st and on New Year’s Eve we… went to bed early.

It would be nice to have a few more weeks off to recover from this year, but it all starts again next week!

My Wedding Dress

Had we been able to make a trip to India before our wedding, things would have turned out very differently. We both like and are comfortable in Indian clothing, and would have been happy to buy (or have made) something Indian, probably a lehnga for me (I have not worn saris enough to be able to wear them gracefully – it’s an art). Brendan looks very sharp in a long kurta, and could definitely rock an achkan.

But this was all happening on a short timeline. We couldn’t go to India before the wedding (we’d be going there in September, after the wedding), and I was not able to find anything Indian readily available and to our taste in the US. 

On the other hand, I was not going to wear a traditional western wedding dress – at my age and our stage in life (second marriage for both, already lived together for years) the “virgin bride” symbolism of a white dress would be wildly inappropriate. 

May

By mid-May, with wedding plans well underway, I was still not sure what I was going to wear. I knew I wanted to dress up (something I do rarely), but had no clear ideas on any particular style.

Meanwhile, something else was percolating in my mind. As you know if you’ve ever seen me, I have disproportionately large breasts on a narrow torso and shoulders. Yes, the boobs happened naturally and, frankly, if there was a way to make them smaller without major surgery, I’d take it. (The lumpectomy to remove a tumor took a chunk out of my right breast, but not enough to make much difference.) 

Large breasts are heavy. A good, well-fit bra will support them, and I’ve been investing in good bras for years, but at best you have a tight band and metal underwires cutting into you all day, and some of the weight is nonetheless suspended from your shoulders. I have deep grooves in my shoulders from bra straps, and frequent shoulder and neck pain.

I had begun to wonder whether a corset might be a good alternative, but I didn’t know enough about them. Corsets are complicated. I had no idea how to buy or fit one, but I did know where to look for information: Cora Harrington’s The Lingerie Addict. And there I found a beginner’s guide by Marianne Faulkner, a corset designer at Dark Garden in San Francisco.

I had been aware of Dark Garden – perhaps the premiere corsetiere in the US – for many years, and always had an idea in the back of my mind that someday I’d have something made for a very special occasion (the SF Symphony’s Black and White ball, maybe?). So, on a day in late May when I had other business in San Francisco, I stopped by. Just to try something on. Really.

With very necessary help, I tried an off-the-rack overbust corset. The attendant got me all laced in, stepped back, and said: “You’re crooked.” I could see in the mirror that she was right. Like many other girls, as a schoolchild I had been diagnosed with a mild scoliosis, then never thought about it again. But, with the multiple vertical lines of the corset fitted tightly against me, it was easy to see that my right shoulder and hip were slightly higher, so the verticals weren’t quite vertical. And, of course, one breast is noticeably larger than the other since the lumpectomy.

The solution would be a custom corset, made to fit me precisely and balance the unbalanced. And, if I was going that far, I might as well have a skirt made and turn this into my wedding dress, right? Of course right. At that point, I was talking with Marianne Faulkner herself, and getting very excited about the whole idea. Back when I was in school in India, I had quite a lot of clothing made – that was almost the only way to obtain clothing in that time and place. But I’d never done anything like this.

What about color? Dark Garden’s off-the-rack collection runs to dark colors, which much of their  clientele prefers as part of a steampunk or Edward Gorey esthetic, and of course there’s the BDSM crowd with their black and leather. But the talents at Dark Garden can certainly handle color

What color, exactly? That was easy. Brendan likes to wear and looks very good in pink.

And it suits me, too. I looked through Dark Garden’s samples of satins and silks, and quickly zoomed in on a double-faced satin in a warm, hearty pink which subsequently proved difficult to name or describe (or photograph). It’s not orange enough to be salmon, but it’s not the typical pale color that people think of when they hear “pink.” Anyway, here it is:

This would be the fabric on the outside of the corset, but it wouldn’t be suitable for a skirt, especially in summer. Marianne and I discussed doing an overskirt in lace, with a pencil skirt underneath for modesty. She happened to be heading to LA on a fabric buying trip, and said she would look for some possibilities there and bring back swatches.

In the meantime, she took lots of measurements to begin work on my corset, and we made an appointment for a month later for my first fitting.

I did consider having a suit custom made for Brendan at a nearby bespoke tailor, and stopped by there to discuss fabrics. But I knew that, in the throes of finishing a book, there was no chance he would make the multiple trips to San Francisco that would be necessary. I put off the question of what Brendan would wear to… later.

The dress was going to cost a lot – a bespoke corset on its own is expensive due to the time, materials, and highly skilled work that go into it. I rationalized the expense (to myself) as follows:

  • I’ll be able to wear it again, either skirt and corset separately, or together for some other fancy occasion since it’s not a white wedding dress. The corset will look great with, say, black velvet or black leather pants.
  • I was seven months pregnant at my first wedding, so I wore a white elastic-waisted embroidered skirt and shirt combo from Bali – definitely not the princess-waisted, full-skirted dress I had pictured for myself (not that I could or would have spent a lot of money on a dress at that stage in my life, even without pregnancy). I had missed out on having a fun wedding dress then.
  • I can afford it now.
  • I’d be supporting artisanal couture.
  • On average, I spend little on clothing, especially now that I work from home a lot and, when I do go to the office, I don’t need to dress up – jeans are just fine at Amazon.

But, to be honest, this was all just rationalizing a decision I’d already made. I wanted to look beautiful. I wanted my groom to be knocked off his feet and proud that he was marrying me.

June

Building a custom corset is expensive in part because the process requires several wearable mockups. This was my first:

As you can see under my left armpit, Marianne pinned the mockup to show where it needed to be adjusted to fit better. You can also see yellow chalk marks on the front where more adjustments would be made. Wearing it felt… fine. A bit of a shock when they tightened it the first time, but I quickly got accustomed to it and felt comfortable, contained and supported rather than constrained or constricted.

Marianne had, as promised, brought some swatches of lace, but I ended up not liking any of them. This one was a candidate (the color matched the corset fabric far better than appears in this photo), but I decided it was too gaudy.

We discussed instead using a solid fabric for the skirt, probably a darker color, in silk. Dark Garden had some options in stock.

But Marianne also recommended that I look at silkbaron.com for a wide choice of silk types and colors. Oooh, yes – my kind of website! (Though I would have been even happier to see all these beautiful fabrics in real life.)

I ordered swatches of silk in a dozen different shades and, when they arrived, tried them out one by one against the corset fabric.

It was impossible to show in a photograph what I was seeing in real life, in artificial or natural lighting, I suppose due to the contrasting textures and reflectivity of the fabrics. I was sending photos to a friend or two to get opinions, but ultimately had to decide based on what my own eyes were seeing. I settled on “rhubarb,” which was the same shade of pink as the corset fabric, but a completely different texture in dupioni silk – what we used to call “raw” silk. 

Here are the two swatches together against my skin:

I was carrying fabric swatches with me everywhere, obsessively matching colors…

In late June I was back at Dark Garden for another fitting, in corset mockup #2, with an off-the-rack skirt in the same style that would be used for my own pink silk skirt. At this fitting Autumn, the proprietor of Dark Garden (a woman-owned business in San Francisco for 30 years!) brought her experience to bear in adjusting the corset to compensate for my tilted torso.

July

Mockup #3 was ready in mid-July (I was wearing dark glasses because I’d had my eyes dilated that day for an eye exam):

At this point, the fit was just about perfect: close-fitting with no “muffin top” bulges, supportive and comfortable. Yes, still a bit of a shock when first laced tight but, in the few minutes I was able to wear it in the shop, I quickly got used to it

My friend Melinda came with me for one of the fittings because, as a former theater person, she had experience lacing corsets, and I was going to need her help on the wedding day (and before then)

I did not show any of the photos to Brendan – I wanted the dress to be a surprise. He knew the color and had figured out that there was a corset involved. He kept saying that he “wasn’t that turned on” by corsets, which was a bit deflating. But my friends and everyone at Dark Garden just smiled knowingly and said: “He’ll change his mind when he sees you in it.”

August

I went back to Dark Garden on August 9th to try on the final corset and skirt. It was magnificent, exactly what I wanted. I felt like a queen, and like Wonder Woman in her armored bustier.

But there was a lot more involved in pulling together my wedding “look”…

red rhododendron blossoms.

A Lifetime of Gardening

Although much of my life has been lived in urban environments, I have a lifelong (if often frustrated) love of growing things. I’m not sure exactly how that came about.

The time I remember most in my early childhood was spent in Bangkok, even then a large and very urban city. But it was also tropical, and, for the latter half of our five years there, we lived in a large house surrounded by a lush tropical garden filled with plants that I came to love and now identify with the happier parts of my childhood.

bougainvillea
bougainvillea

Our front fence was entirely covered in bougainvillea, which produced masses of magenta petals surrounding tiny white blossoms. It was also abundantly provided with thorns – an additional deterrent to burglars.

There was a bed of monstera or something like it near the back porch. It never produced any flowers that I can recall, but I loved the big, fleshy leaves.

spider lily – photo taken in Australia

There were clumps of spider lilies, whose delicate white blooms only lasted a day or two, and less than an hour if cut and put in water (I tried, because they were so beautiful that I wanted to be able to look at them always).

There were trees as well. One produced a fruit called rose apple, of a roughly conical shape with a waxy white and pink skin (hence, perhaps, the name). It was edible, though not particularly tasty, but I ate it anyway, because I liked that I could just go pick something off a tree and eat it.

We also had a huge rubber tree, towering over our two-story house. Like all rubber plants, it tried to propagate via long roots that trailed down from its branches. I used to climb up into the crotch of the tree, about eight feet off the ground. I wound the roots around and filled the resulting nest with cloth scraps. This nest was for myself, though I don’t recall how long it lasted – presumably not through a rainy season.

I suppose we had someone who took care of the garden, mowed the lawn, etc., but this probably took place during my school day; I don’t remember doing any hands-on gardening myself, nor observing anyone doing it. But I kept a loving eye on my favorite plants.

I was envious of friends who had banana trees in their yards, not for the fruit (which we could easily get anyway) but because someone showed me how to make a hobbyhorse out of a banana leaf. Sections of banana trunk were also used to create the floating candle boats that would be set out on the river for Loi Krathong, the festival of lights.

me and a friend at Khao Yai National Park, ~1970

A favorite family getaway spot was Khao Yai National Park, where we’d go for long hikes through untouched rainforest. There I learned to look, but not touch: a great deal of the tropical rainforest vegetation would fight back with thorns and stings. And I learned to walk carefully on the narrow trails, avoiding vines that looped down and thorny branches obtruding on the path.

Then we moved to a dingy apartment in Pittsburgh. Fortunately, my soon-acquired stepmother liked houseplants, so we had several of the types that were popular in those days, like wandering jew and Swedish ivy. People would trade around cuttings; perhaps easy propagation accounted for the popularity of these particular kinds of houseplants among broke hippie students –  I rarely see them around anymore.

During the Pittsburgh years we used to visit a friend who lived on a farm a few hours away in western Pennsylvania, so I saw something of the cycles of farm life, learned to curse the blackberry brambles that grew in low loops like croquet hoops always ready to catch your feet as you walked over the rolling hills, and kept up my tree-climbing skills.

When we moved to Dhaka, Bangladesh, we lived at first in the same house as my dad’s office, which had coconut trees growing around it. I observed their lifecycle: growing new palms, shedding old ones, growing coconuts and dropping them, often when the nuts were too immature to develop into trees (I was never sure why they did that).

plumeria –photo taken in Hawaii, 2017

It was decided that we should have private quarters away from the office, so we moved into a house across the street, on a double lot which meant that we had a huge, empty back yard, dominated by an enormous mango tree. The smaller front yard had been made into a flower garden. When we arrived, there was a plumeria tree – one of my lifelong favorites for its beautiful scent and association with Hawaii, where we’d lived for a year when I was small. I was devastated when the tree soon died of some tree disease.

rose bush behind me

But there were also two magnificent white rose bushes flanking the front door, and lots of room for other flowers. There was also Bapak, the ancient caretaker/gardener whom I could work with and learn from. I was doing correspondence school on my own while both my father and stepmother worked. That only took me two or three hours a day, and there were no kids my age living nearby, so I had plenty of time to dedicate to the garden. I experimented on the rose bushes, learning to encourage them to change their shape by pruning, and watched over other flowers and plants which I chose in the market.

Bapak suggested that we plant vegetables in part of the backyard, which we did, though I don’t recall exactly what. I also wanted pets. After several disasters with dogs (two puppies that both got hit by cars, one dying in drawn-out agony), I decided on goats. We went to the market and got two black goats. The female was much larger, but the male made up for his diminutive stature in testicle size and sexual enthusiasm.

Bapak warned me that goats are difficult to pen, and he was right. Oddly, and much to my annoyance, the many times they escaped, they would ignore the vegetable patch right next to their pen and make their way into the front yard to eat my flowers. By the time I went off to boarding school, it had been decided that the goats were too much trouble to keep, so we donated them to Bapak’s Buddhist temple, where presumably they would be kept for milk and breeding, rather than to be eaten.

Himalayan red rhododendron tree

I then lived for four years in the Indian Himalayas, surrounded by mountain forest. Oddly, I did not learn much about the local vegetation at the time (I was too busy being a teenager), but the magnificent red rhododendron trees were unmissable in their season. (The photo at the top shows the red rhododendron I got for our new San Jose garden. It will take decades to achieve tree height.)

I did not have much opportunity to grow anything after that until I was married and settled with my family in a small apartment in Milan. It was not the most promising place to garden, but I was not alone in my determination to make our two tiny balconies flourish. Italian balconies, no matter how small, are often vibrant with plants and flowers. There were shops and market stalls selling plants. Some flowering plants, such as primula and cyclamen, would show up seasonally even at the local vegetable shops.

flowering balcony in Lecco.
flowering balcony in Lecco, 2004

The first plant I bought for my new home was a little yellow primula. I was devastated when, after a while, it began to die. I could not figure out what I was doing wrong. Too much water? Too little? Too much or too little sun? Having had most of my exposure to gardens in the tropics, I had never grasped the concept of an “annual” plant that was supposed to grow, flower, seed, and die within a year. I thought all plants just kept growing, all the time, forever, as tropical plants did, with some merely having a dormant period in winter (like trees). But to just up and die on me? It took me a while to figure this out.

My balcony garden got more crowded, and was difficult to keep watered, especially in the hot summer when we would go away for weeks at a time. Fortunately, the balcony I grew most on was outside our bathroom. I hooked up a watering system with a timer, supplying it from a pipe under the sink. My then husband was convinced that there would eventually be some problem that would cause a leak, and he was right – the bathroom flooded and then the water puddled out into the hall, but those floors were marble and terrazzo anyway, so I think only a little of the wood floor in the adjoining bedroom got warped. This did mean I had to give up on automatic watering, and resign myself to everything dying over the summer.

daffodils on the balcony, Lecco

Then we moved to an apartment in Lecco, where I planted flower boxes on the balcony with daffodils, irises, and more. And then we bought a house which had its own garden, and I began gardening again in earnest. I wrote and photographed a lot about that at the time (eg, in March and June, 2007). A garden is a long-term project, and one of my few regrets in leaving Italy is that I have not been able to see all my work has come out. During my final visit last year to collect my remaining belongings, I observed that the roses badly needed pruning, but that was not surprising since Enrico had been out of the house for months following a stroke.

Colorado native flower

Back in the US, I lived first in someone else’s house in Colorado. I didn’t try to grow anything there, but took walks around the semi-wilderness nearby and observed the local wildflowers. In my various California apartments, I’ve been a dedicated balcony gardener. (At the Oakland apartment, I also took charge of the building’s front patch, tidying it up and adding plants and seeds to an area that had been sadly neglected for years).

Now we’re renting a house with a lot of gardening space that has been needing attention for some time. It even has a greenhouse, something I never dreamt of. I don’t know exactly what to do with it, never having had one before, but I’m experimenting. Given some recent experiences in this and other (visited) houses, Brendan’s expectations of our future lifestyle have changed from: “We’ll have a condo with a view of water” to: “We need a private pool and a greenhouse.” Well, that gives us something to aspire to!

orange azalea blossoms in our new San Jose garden, 2019