A Singular Bucket List Destination

halfdome 1
Half Dome reflected in a creek.

A news item about Yosemite National Park’s Ahwahnee Hotel changing its name — hopefully just temporarily — to the Majestic Yosemite Hotel caught my eye this weekend. I added Yosemite and the Ahwahnee Hotel to my non-existant Bucket List last fall after our first-ever, awesome visit there.

I should preface this by saying that I’m not a bucket list person. I have never, ever had any interest in parachuting from a plane or bungee-jumping from a bridge. As an editor I climbed the Great Wall in China and shopped at Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. I’m not good at crowds, so New Years in Times Square or the Indy 500 hold no appeal for me. In truth, I have been blessed with family, friends, and work that I love. I didn’t want to get “greedy” with a list of additional experiences, though I have no problem with those who do.

Yosemite, however, was a destination that had slipped through our fingers. When my children were in grade school and my husband frequently traveled to Silicon Valley, we made plans for a family trip to Yosemite. Unfortunately, just a few weeks before we were due to leave, a family emergency forced us to cancel. Then, as so often happens, life just got in the way. Jobs changed, football and volleyball camps and the annual trip to the beach crowded the calendar. You know the drill. My husband and I traveled to Napa & Sonoma a number of times without getting to the park.

Yet, Yosemite was still there.

One of the joys of retirement, of course, is a remarkably flexible schedule. And I had two free air tickets — a retirement gift from my former employer — just burning a hole in my pocket. Finally, we were able to pair the Napa/Sonoma wine country (a favorite of ours) with a visit to Yosemite, including two nights at the legendary Ahwahnee Hotel there.

What can I say, this was so worth the wait.

Yosemite is jaw-droppingly beautiful. Half Dome, El Capitan, Tunnel View and the like would be stunning under any circumstances, but under clear blue September skies they may have been even more so. For me, however, Yosemite is more than just the natural wonders. It also embodies an historic American commitment to preserving natural wonders and their ecological system. We were there in the fall, when the rivers and falls were all virtually dry, particularly in light of California’s continuing drought. But if we had visited in the spring, and I hope we do sometime, the landscape would have featured rushing rivers and powerful waterfalls driven by winter snow melt. Nature’s cycle is that powerful.

El Capitan


A view of Yosemite Valley.

A bit of history: the park dates to 1864 when President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill protecting the area and creating what was known as the Yosemite Grant. This was the first time public land was protected in this manner and paved the way for Yellowstone, the first national park, created in 1872. A few years later, Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove were ceded to California as a state park. Yosemite National Park was established in 1890.

I was especially struck by the fact that tourists discovered the area in the middle of the 19th century and a settlement was established to serve them. James Mason Hutchings and artist Thomas Ayres were among the first to tour the area in 1855. Their articles and artwork drove additional tourists to the area. The Wawona Hotel was built in 1879 to serve visitors to the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias. Imagine traveling to the Sierras by horseback and/or stagecoach!

On our first day there, my husband and I took an open-air tram tour of the park with a ranger. The tram was really more of a flat-bed truck fitted out with benches and side rails. It clearly needs to be powerful enough to traverse the mountain roads while still affording the sightseers ample views. The guide was terrific, explaining the park’s geology and history in terms that all participants, including a number of children, could appreciate. The tour made several stops at notable park locations, but we actually back-tracked ourselves to some of them to take more pictures and simply enjoy the views on our own.

Back to the Ahwahnee, or Majestic Yosemite Hotel.

The hotel opened in 1927 to attract money and interest in the park. It’s both rustic and elegant, designed for a grander time and perhaps now a little frayed around the edges, but all the lovelier for it. I spent the better part of a morning reading in the Great Lounge, where the towering ceiling is lined with beams still sporting their original stencil decoration. The lounge itself is outfitted with dozens of deep sofas and chairs arranged for groups large and small.

The dining room is equally stunning, a huge room that should seem cavernous but is actually cozy at dinner with chandelier- and candle-light. It’s equally lovely at lunch. The service is low-key but impeccable. How could you get tired of a place like this? I kept thinking of the people who have dined here.

The dining room…
…and the Great Lounge.

Can you see why, after the first day at Yosemite, my husband and I said this is a bucket-list place? Actually, we tried to text that to friends, but it’s tricky in Yosemite because cell service is really limited. Personally, I think this is just one more reason to love it. Guests can’t walk around glued to their phones because there is no service.

So, there you have it, my single-item bucket list, chosen after the fact. There is so much more to Yosemite, that what I just described: the incredible drive to get there, the Sequoias, and the sheer power of nature evident in the continung evolution of the landscape for starters.

What else would come close to add to the list? What would you add to your list?

See you next time! 

An Introduction

DSC_0036Ivy and Ironstone
is the name of this blog because neither “Antique Silver & Zinnias” nor “Hostas & Transferware” had the alliterative cachet of “Ivy & Ironstone,”  and I am a writer at heart.

This blog has been percolating in my brain for a long time.

In the last few years of my editorial career, I was writing and/or editing a handful of blogs for the trade associations I worked with and I liked that writing. Quick. To the point. A little more down-to-earth than a lot of the business writing I had done. It suited my personal voice as a writer. And I liked the potential this format offered. The best blogs invite interaction with the reader. Every writer wants to know there is someone out there reading and responding.   

Along the way, I became familiar with design blogs. Okay, more than familiar. I was hooked. I have always been a bit of an interior design junkie and an avid reader of shelter magazines. These blogs were like a continually refreshed magazine on my laptop! And although they offered inspiration for decorating the mantel (you can look for my take on that in an upcoming blog post), they covered the other fun stuff that captured my interests: cooking, entertaining, gardening, antiquing, travel. You can see where I’m going here.

Of course, now I was thinking I can do my own blog. I’m a competent writer. I’ve had lots of fun, some success and even a few decorating misadventures. I love the hunt for antiques and vintage collectibles. I am an enthusiastic hostess (Note: I did not say organized or excellent or any adjective that indicates quality. I like to entertain and I think many of life’s moments merit a celebration.) I’m an avid reader (I’ll share my book group experience later, including the book club that’s more than 35 years old). And I think travel is a very good thing. 

I started writing bits and pieces of blog posts, first in my mind and eventually in a file on my laptop. But they were really just bits and pieces, not one of them was a complete post.

By now, I was no longer “newly retired” (that first year just flew by!) and I realized I had missed several blog-worthy topics, including a gut renovation of our kitchen, trips to Edinborough, London, Paris, Provence, Napa/Sonoma, and Yosemite.

I ran the blog idea past my husband and daughter. My husband wondered when I was going to do something so I could keep on writing. My daughter, who is a media professional and a successful blogger on her own, added that a blog would also help me sharpen my photography skills. (Oh, right, I thought, a lifestyle blog would require photos to illustrate it. Is this good news or bad?)

Dig in or move on. So, here I am, blogging at Ivy and Ironstone. 

Once I began working seriously on this blog and registered the name, my husband began muttering about not understanding what Ivy and Ironstone means. Perhaps I should explain. Ivy and Ironstone is both a metaphor for my own grab-bag of interests and what I hope will be a readable, memorable name.

About the ivy…

Ivy is my code for gardens and gardening. I have always loved getting my hands in the dirt, potting or planting. There is a tactile quality to gardening that I find both relaxing and creative. And, of course, there is the pleasure in seeing something grow and flourish.


Although I am the ivy (and flower and herb grower, as well as a tender of landscape bushes and plants), it is my husband who is the true gardener. He plants and tends an oversized plot in a community garden where he grows tomatoes, beans, peas, potatoes and more.  It’s a time-consuming labor of love, where you sometimes even have to carry water in many buckets to tend the plants (which explains a lot about why this is his garden, not mine).

And then there is ironstone…

Ironstone is one of the first antiques I collected. I began with pitchers but quickly moved on to platters, sugar bowls, and other serving pieces. (Then I got into transferware, a whole other story!) To me white ironstone is the quintessential antique; the lack of additional color and pattern forces you to focus on the shape, the details on handles and spouts, the mix of form and function each piece embodies. These pieces were hard-working tools in someone’s kitchen, serving up fresh milk or a Sunday roast. I like the fact that these were useful pieces.


Many of the things I collect — baskets, transferware, vintage linens — began life as useful objects, gaining their value as collectibles much later. The simple truth is that I love things with a patina, a little crazing or tarnish or a worn edge that adds character. (And if she were still here, my mother would point out that is also an apt description of me!)

Naming it

Finally, Ivy and Ironstone is the name of this blog because neither “Antique Silver & Zinnias” nor “Hostas & Vintage Linens” had the alliterative cachet of “Ivy & Ironstone.” I am a writer at heart. My first professional position (after college and my fling at grad school) was as a catalog copywriter. The details aren’t important, but I was coached by a magazine editor who critiqued every word and sent me back to the typewriter (yes, this was before computers) to edit and revise until every block of copy was perfectly crafted to capture the most sale-able essence of each item on that page.

Since then I have spent a lifetime as a writer and editor, often taking my pencil to someone else’s copy. Although the topics varied widely —  housewares, health care, fence installation, the Affordable Care Act, ceramic tile, and green building to name a few —  as a retired editor I love the prospect of writing about the things I care about. Cooking and entertaining. Collecting. Reading good books (and even a few that are not). Traveling with my husband. Chronicling this new retirement chapter in our lives.

Ivy and Ironstone. This is my new brand. I’m hoping you will spend some of your valuable time stopping by on occasion to read about what I’ve been up to.

 See you next time!