A few years ago I began an unexpected correspondence with a total stranger. She was working at one of my client’s office, and I was struck how cheery and sweet her emails always were (rather than the usual sour and curt ones more often received at work). We emailed back and forth for a few years, letting more and more personal info slip in between negotiating fees and scheduling, and when she eventually left that company our email friendship blossomed almost immediately. We nicknamed each other Avis and Julia, coined after two other pen pals who became literary friends before ever meeting in person (names that proved to be prophetic when I packed up and moved to France last year). Though we’ve only actually visited each other less than a handful of occasions, I was honored that my penpal invited me to share her bridal shower getaway the other weekend near the foot of Mount Diablo. It was no surprise to me that someone this lovely would have so many other wonderful people in her life, and I count myself lucky to have spent this weekend in such a gorgeous setting with her nearest and dearest. Sweeping grounds, a rambling manse, a heavenly veranda, 4 acres of gardens, and 2 shetland ponies with hilarious friends made for one escape I didn’t ever want to have to leave.