The Getaway: A Girl and Her Garden

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A lovely invitation exhorted me to travel there. I didn’t hesitate.

It’s that magical thing that happens sometimes after I stalk a place or event. It’s that interesting look from across the room, a force telling me I must meet someone. If you pop the following ingredients into a kettle: long glances as you think to yourself, “who the hell is that” and a lovely, attentive smile, you may not have concocted a bona fide love potion but your stalker’s brew could contain some insight into the laws of attraction which can lead to a meaningful friendship.  It happens when you least expect it. One of the fringe benefits of the job…I’ll take it.

I drove through a sandstorm which covered the sky the yellow of hotel linoleum that left a film of grit in my mouth. Just me myself and I, the black beast (aka Range Rover) and my tunes. I imagine long ago driving used to be a portal to freedom. Today it seems more of a chore, a nuisance. However, in the car I feel free, uninterruptedly alone with my thoughts. Yes, freedom is what I felt as I headed to The Hill, a trip to honest-to-goodness mountains to a place called Idyllwild. Tucked comfortably between the majestic San Jacinto Mountains, Idyllwild is a magical forest full of tall pines, fragrant cedars, and legendary rocks. Void of any fast-food chains, stop lights or strip malls, the spirit of Idyllwild is alive and well, as is my friend, the lovely, gracious and talented Valerie Von Sobel.

Her fabulously stunning, tranquil home in Idyllwild, CA was in UNIQUE HOMES 2009 and featured in architectural Digest. Upon arriving you feel like you are part of nature, wild with delight, far away from civilization. At first blush, one feels inspired in her presence. Valerie has accomplished so much for one lifetime: mother, Hollywood actress, interior designer, philanthropist and artist. Her history, personality and works are a combined expression of a complex person who lives a remarkable life. The design of the house and landscape are equally absorbing creative endeavors. Being an artist myself, I understand the need for the deep breath of the outdoors, exhaling all the woes of the day. Quiet solitude, finding inspiration to fuel your work.

One morning I wrote the following:

 . . .and while the day may have begun a little overcast this morning, at this moment, there is a hazy, golden cast on everything, making the most four-leaf clovers in Claire’s garden (Valerie’s Mother) even more so, even as the Buddha sits in stillness, and roses climb their way to the top of the trellis; and today, there are still a million things to catch up on, but for certain, there will be time for the gardens, and the flutter of velvet leaves and fallen sunflower petals on the afternoon July breezes. 

The significance of nomes, one of the Seven dwarfs, (is he Grouchy, Klutzy, Lazy, Sloppy, Smiley or Chubby?) massive rocks with whale-like faces, happy Lady Lucifer posing oh so regal, morning hikes, yoga, a single sunflower, chapel on the hill, ever-present Buddha, trickling streams, inviting avant-gardens, all as the moon is perfectly being itself. It all tells a story.

Did you know that fashion, just like gardening, can be an extraordinary form of art? Tired of looking to impractical street-style bloggers for fashion guidance? Fear not, my friends. I have an easy solution, and it may be lingering right outside your window…It’s called nature. What the frock you ask? Going back to nature inspires wild blooms unfolding beneath wheatsheaf hat brims; floral-smothered handbags and puffed sleeves at Chanel’s garden party; bamboo leaves splaying out across signature Armani Privé shimmering evening wear and pink blossom floral sunglasses by Gucci. Mother Nature looks even more beautiful when combined with fashion.

Like all truly wonderful fashion, Valerie’s personal style completely transcends the vagaries of time.With her innocuous brand of wit, mind for grandiose details and modern creative wizardry, every aspect of her life is her art. At 74, Von Sobel has discovered a new passion for sculpture and has set her sights on conquering the art world too. Von Sobel’s work plays with shape, space, balance and drama to create whimsical one-of-a-kind assemblage and mixed media pieces. Her collection of provocative and quirky objets d’art titled The Curious Art of Valerie Von Sobel” prove creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks and most importantly; having fun. Her next adventure? Getting to work on a mind-blowing public installation, spreading her wings and taking on the art world by storm. (I was privy to experience the early stages of this project – Genius unlaced).

Getting back to nature and standing on the top of mountains forces me to examine my life and my place in the universe. If something is unpleasant, hit the delete key (as son Ryan so eloquently stated at the age of six years old). Life is short. Perhaps the only medicine you need is a draught of morning air.

A magical retreat where nature and art became one. No one can tell me this isn’t living.

Just me and my black beast…just the way I like it.

No gate crashing required.

* Be sure to stop by  The Sage & the Butterfly in town for unique treasures from ORG by vio boho jewelry collection handmade by Amazon rainforest artisans, handcrafted accessories and men’s razors by Dylan Farnham of Sage Blades, and Violeta Villacorta custom-made garments. Viola will be there with a warm smile…

After all that shopping, stop by Cafe Aroma for a bite.

Andre Sobel – River of Life Foundation: When no other resources are available, social workers at our affiliated children’s hospitals send us urgent requests on behalf of single parent families in financial crisis. The variety of requests range from essentials, such as food, transportation, utilities, and medications not covered by insurance to funds to protect a family from eviction or foreclosure. We respond in 24 hours “when compassion can’t wait.” Contributions keep our River flowing. Please click link to make a gift.



  1. Ruth Yunker

    July 8, 2015 at 7:56 am

    Wow! Just lovely! From the photos of this artist’s hidden retreat in Idyllwild, to Sandie’s magical prose describing her experience there for us. Nature and art. All is well with the world here in this beautiful retreat.

    • thefoodstalker

      July 10, 2015 at 3:30 pm

      Ruth, let’s make a writer retreat and go up together soon. Welcome home from Greece and Paris. Look forward to getting all the skinny about your trip…xoxo

  2. Lisa Padgalskas

    July 10, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    Love love love!!! this magical bit of writing, how you intermingle fashion, nature and transcendence all together! We spent a weekend in Idyllwild once, and though I didn’t run across Ms. Von Sobel, it was absolutely delightful, PLUS I came back with the most amazing hand-knitted scarf from my innkeeper. Gotta get back!!

    • thefoodstalker

      July 10, 2015 at 3:28 pm

      Thank you Lisa for stopping by to share. Love your bohemian style and if you get back be sure to stop by The Sage & Butterfly to see will adore her.

  3. Valerie von Sobel

    September 16, 2015 at 5:50 am

    Love this divine article about our not so humble weekend. Sandie the Stalker is a joy to be with…optimistic, smart, beautiful and as appreciative of the smallest thing, as I am. I’m CASA es su Casa … The Aspen and Hampton comments witty and charming as toujour 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼❤️

With an Italian background, she cites her Mother and grandmother ( Mamie ) as the major influence of her love for food.  Yes, homemade pasta hung from the clothesline in the kitchen and rolling 100 meat balls for a holiday dinner was the norm.  Raised in Pennsylvania. she spent time in Atlanta, Georgia and ultimately settled along the stunning coast of Laguna Beach, Ca. Self taught in everything, she learned to appreciate the amazing flavors, scents and uses for exotic herbs and spices and applies her knowledge to cooking today. Despite enjoying other creative endeavors like painting, photography and clothing design, she realized she would never love another career the way she loves all the stories surrounding food.  And it's capturing those stories that has not only become her greatest passion but a culinary drug worth passing around!  After all, food is a shared experience and no one better to share it with than the entire world. And thus the Food Stalker was born, utilizing all that passion and her fearlessness to capture even the most impossible stories. It's one thing to write about food, but far more exciting to actually capture it and all those stories that make every scent come to life.  And once she sets out, there's no stopping her, because no one follows that scent better than her---and no telling where she'll end up next.  

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