Friday, March 13, 2015

Vacation At Home

I've been away from Ashland for a few months and happily returned just 5 days ago.  It always feels like coming on vacation when we come home to this lovely town, so full of opportunities for entertainment and friendship.  In just these few days we have gone to two Ashland Festival Plays -- Fingersmith, a convoluted mystery about two young women caught in nefarious schemes in 19th century England;  and Guys and Dolls, the lively musical about New York gamblers and their  "dolls" during the depression.  In the fortuitous way Ashland often works, two of the play tickets were handed to me as I sat in a hair salon, by a stranger who had complimentary passes she couldn't use at the last minute.
            I also had an evening of attending the Ashmug meeting, a group of Apple users who meet monthly at the local hospital, where I learned more about social networking.  Then I moved on to a free event at the college presenting previews of the upcoming Ashland Film Festival, which this year had 1200 entries and 98 films selected to be shown April 9 to 13.  And today I enjoyed tea at the new Dobra Tea House while tonight we are going to a third play for the week, this one at the Ashland High School, which has an extraordinary group of thespians, assisted by some of the ASF staff, and always has great shows. 
Tea at the Dobra Tea House
            Ashland is a wonderful place for anyone who loves entertainment, music, wine, dance, parks, outdoor hikes, farmers markets, books and all other ways to be with friends, and feel engaged.  Wherever you go you are likely to find friends and neighbors, quality entertainment and great food. And you are likely to be there within ten minutes. 
            After a few months in California coming home is like coming to a calm abiding center with many paths into mental stimulation, connection and pleasure.  In addition to theater and music and art there are rich spiritual options: many small centers are available to meditate, do yoga, or Qigong, study Ayurveda or Chinese herbology, explore existential questions and hear progressive speakers, particularly in Buddhist, Judaic, Sufi and Christian traditions. (I have my own center here -- a place for Non-Dual education and transpersonal counseling called Shanti River Center.) There are also health and wellness programs at the Coop Market, art, weaving and every kind of dance classes or club. Also rowing, frisbee golf, biking, etc, etc.
            When I travel it is a time for seeing family, for walks on the beach, for the basics of life. But when I come home I return to work I love with people I love and a great engagement with creativity flowing all around me.  It would be too much to ask of a town of only 20,000 but somehow it all spsontaneously came together here.  No wonder it is a top retirement destination for active folks who know how to have a good time.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ashland's Love Affair With Wine and Food

Bella Fiore: Old World Beauty & New Wine

I've written about the plethora of wineries here in southern Oregon, especially in the farmland known as the Applegate, but now wineries are appearing closer in to Ashland, and the latest, opened six months ago, is the magnificent Belle Fiore, just off of Dead Indian Memorial Rd, and only about 3 miles from the heart of town.

This gorgeous place consists of two castle-like structures, One a classical French chateau, elegant with marble, glass and art, overlooking fabulous sweeping views of the Rogue Valley.  It is magical standing so regally on its hill among the vineyards, with elegant rooms for small and large gatherings, available for corporate parties and weddings, but also open for lunch and dinner in the beautiful dining room or the spacious terraces. Oh yes, wine tasting as well, with charming tiered wine holders for flights of their signature whites and reds.
It is a stunning, delicious and moderately priced place to dine, and music is played from 5 to 7 on thursday and friday nights.  It is open to all but members are invited to private events for a mere commitment of two bottles a quarter.  Currently a bocce ball tournament  with barbecue is planned, and tasting room parties happen in September and quarterly. The chateau is also open for tours on Friday afternoons. 

Here are a few photos, that cannot do it justice.  Go to for more information.

College Food Service You Won't Believe!

Speaking of food.  One of the best kept secrets in Ashland is the amazing new Hawk Dining Commons on the SOU campus, next to the dorms on Wightman St.  I would bet you have never feasted so well in a college cafeteria, courtesy of A'viands food services.  And it is a gift to the community because anyone can eat here.

Set up like a food court, with many wonderful fresh offerings every day, including plenty for vegans and vegetarians, for a small fee (ranges from $5 to $8 depending on time of year and time of day) you can enjoy any or all of it.  This includes great coffee, varieties of cold drinks, and great desserts. The stations each have a unique speciality.  I love PAO, Asian-infused stir-fry. You choose from a variety of fresh veggies, meats or tofu, starches and sauces and it is mixed while you wait.  Always fresh and delicious.  Likewise CHOPPED lets you choose your own salad fixings and watch as they are put together just for you.  The RED PLATE always has a complete meal available for you to choose your own portions.  A hamburger and sandwich bar gives you those options.  Mexican and Italian and sometimes Chinese food is available.  Every day is different and the environment is open, light and full of college students who are always fun to watch.

Gradually Ashlanders are finding their way over to enjoy the great chefs, fresh offerings and easy prices and are grateful to be included.  Even tourists may be finding the spot someday.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

1st Friday Night Art Walks

Gentle Dulcimer for Art & Soul
Rocking in the Salon
Every first Friday through Spring, Summer and Fall you can wander the streets in Ashland from 5 to 8 p.m. and enjoy snacks, wine, music and art during the Friday Night Art Walk.  Art galleries, hair salons, a church  and even a real estate office host art exhibits and musicians and we always find something new, along with enough snacking for dinner.  Main St., A Street, 4th Street and Oak Street, are the main places to explore, but we found a great band in a small new salon on 2nd, drawn by the music we could hear a block away.  There are more than 20 galleries and studios in Ashland, most hosting multiple artists.  The Ashland Art Center on Main houses 25 artist studios on three floors, with many classes available for locals. Ashland Art Works on Oak houses five studios and galleries for several artists  along side a garden and stream.  Both display the works of many local artists who work with  jewelry, textiles, wood, metal, clay, oils, watercolors, prints  and photography. Gallerie Karon on 4th and A has lovely antique pieces, Asian pieces and features 27 artists. Art and Soul Gallery on Main is always a favorite with over 30 regional artists who work in oil, pastel, mixed media, acrylic and watercolor. Last Friday they featured an artist from Medford who teaches Fashion Design at the Medford Art Center there. Who thought you might spend your retirement doing fashion design? There is the Schneider Museum of Art, with changing exhibits, at Southern Oregon College and another group of artists in the old Briscoe School.  When you add it all up it seems at least half of Ashland residents are artists, many award-winning! (And the rest are writers -- they have special events too!) And then another 20% must be actors! And Then there are dancers -- soon the outdoor green performances before the OSF plays will begin! On one first Friday we watched acrobatics hanging and dancing from silk scarves at the Black Swan. (On Sundays at 4 we can go this Irish pub to listen to the Irish fiddlers who gather there). This is a wildly creative and entertaining place to hang out.

Family folk in the Parking Lot

Wining in the Valley

Spent Easter afternoon with friends enjoying the views at Trium winery, just one of over 60 winery options in the Rogue Valley and Applegate. Trium was new to us, with sweeping vineyard views that reminded us of Italy -- quiet, peaceful, a lovely magical spot in Talent, only a few miles from Ashland. Wineries are rapidly multiplying in this area, and many have evening musical programs along with tastings. A couple of wineries held family events with easter egg hunts and special prizes, but we are without young children these days so opted for the quiet.  There are several major events a year where you can do wine and food pairings at many events, and your group can designate a driver who can snack all he or she wants for a very reduced price, without the wines. Most of the wineries have wine clubs so that if you agree to buy 2 or 3 bottles a quarter you get invited to special parties and events.  We've enjoyed the Schmitt Family winery for several years with its annual mexican fiesta and a Father's Day event. Another favorite is RoxyAnn which has bands and an open dance floor  on many Friday nights and a variety of food wagons to choose your dinner, as well as a great place to buy wine, snacks and gifts.  You could visit a different winery every week for a year and still not see them all, each unique and special in its own way.  For lists and info about southern Oregon wineries you can so to, or for a commercial tour through the wine country try  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spring Events

Coming Back to Ashland is more than coming home! It is falling into vacation rhythm for us. We don't love the winter cold so we head south at that time, but returning in March is a return to a  new world. It takes a while to recover our home and yard -- here is a picture sent by our neighbor in December. But all the nurseries are blooming with new offerings and it is a spring ritual to fill my deck pots with bright colors.

Our House in Dec. -- WHY WE WERE GONE

BEFORE: Our street for a few days

AFTER:  Spring Showers

So much happens in southern oregon in the spring. Last Saturday alone was the Pear Blossom Festival in Medford,  with a parade and great food booths and lots of local informational booths, and bands in the new Commons area. Medford is gradually looking up from the 50's, reinventing itself and becoming a place where families go. Over 15,000 people came to this event.   Lots and lots of young children at the parade, who are as much fun to watch as the parade! Miles of tractors, jeeps and even a long string of beautiful corvettes from every era. (There seem to be many car clubs in Oregon!)
The same weekend offered a Home Show at the Fairgrounds in Central Point, a performance by the ensemble of the Ashland Peace Choir as a fund-raiser for the Yes to banning GMO crops in southern Oregon on the upcoming ballot, a writing workshop, a choice of 7 theater performances (always available!) and a couple of wineries with musical programs.

The weekend before was the 13th annual Ashland Film Festival, with over 80 films.  It is always special for many Ashlanders, who stand in line for an  hour to get into each event and enjoy the time chatting with new neighbors and old friends. The films here tend to be adventurous documentaries and touching features. Awards are given for achievement to a few celebrities who show up.  One I especially enjoyed this year was with Barbara Koppel, the winner of two academy awards for documentary film-making, who was interviewed. Clips were shown from several of the films she directed, folk music from Appalacia was played by a father and son musician (the father's music was featured in her first award-winning documentary about the battle for unionization in West Virginia coal mines 30 years ago.) A lot of variety for a great and educational program!

Miles of jeeps in parade
Cute Characters
Here are some photos of the events!
Great Strawberry Shortcake
 Food and wine tasting from Harry & David's 
Roller Derby Girls

A Few Band 

Peace Choir With Young Friends

The Peace Choir is over 100 members who sing for the love of peace and singing. The main choir is open to all and the ensemble is by audition. They hold concerts    and special event performances in Ashland, and their are rumors another group will be forming in Medford.  It is one of several outstanding choral groups in the area.
Another is the Threshold Choir, who sing at the bedside of folks who are ill or dying.
There are also male and female Barbershop Quartets.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Jazz Experience in Medford

         The most fun to be had in southern Oregon has to be the Medford Jazz festival, held the second weekend of October, which just celebrated its 25th year.  Hundreds of people come from all over the country and have the freedom to roam four venues, all vibrating with a variety of   jazz groups, plenty of space to celebrate or dance away the blues, demonstration dances, dance classes, and lots of laughter. The new Inn at the Commons (formerly the Red Lion) hosts much of the event, with the Imperial Event Center, Howies On Front, and Studio C (channel 5) as additional sites this year. Free shuttle buses take party-goers from place to place while jazz is piped over the intercom.  

        The professional bands come from as far as New Jersey and St. Louis and feature saxes and clarinets, guitars, drums, keyboards and strings,  raging lively music from New Orleans to Memphis, with the perennial favorite, the passionate Zydeco violinist Tom Rigby and his band Flambeau, who come from Berkeley but spend most of their time on the road playing at similar fests around the country.  Another favorite is traveling saxophonist Bob Draga who shows up on various sets to raise the energy and bring the audience to its feet. In attendance are many senior groupies dressed in glitter and dancing shoes, who follow their favorite bands around the country, and make a retirement hobby into a traveling party. These people can really dance! Extravagant dance dresses can be rented by the hour, and volunteer dance partners are available by request with the raising of a dance paddle.

       Although most of the bands are repeats from many years, called back by popular vote, a recent addition is Dave Bennett and the Memphis Boys (from Texas), playing 50's rock and roll, with a bass player who handles his instrument like a steel guitar, a pioneer player who is too excited to sit down and can sing like Little Richard and Elvis, and a guitarist who sometimes throws his guitar over the back of his head and plays upside down (so does the bass player -- see photo below).  The Southern Oregon jazz band is part of the action and the Oregon Coast Lab band, a large and remarkable group of  talented and personable kids from Oregon coast towns who know how to rock.  You missed it this year but check it out for 2014 at You'll be amazed at the quality of the show. It made me realize EVERYONE should dance -- It is so good for the spirit! Here are some pictures, but without the music they are a limited experience, so imagine the music!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Oregon Gardens in Silverton

If you enjoy gardens you are sure to love Oregon.  One of the most famous gardens in Oregon is called simply the Oregon Gardens, located in Silverton, a small town near Salem and less than an hour south of Portland. It's a popular weekend getaway. We traveled up that way recently and stayed at a lovely resort Bed and Breakfast in the Gardens, where we were free to walk and enjoy or take a shuttle with a guide to hear about the projects and various themes of plantings in the hundreds of acres  there.  We had a great dinner at the charming Creekside Cafe, in a former railway station in town, but there is a lovely view restaurant in the resort as well.  August may not be the best time of year for flowering in most places but it doesn't seem to have much impact here. It is gorgeous and many plan weddings and special events on the grounds. There is a children's garden, a fountain garden, an herbal garden, rose garden, area highlighting trees of Oregon, a model for fire-safe planting, and other demonstration areas.  You can easily find the Oregon Gardens and the Oregon Gardens Resort on the web.