Appliances, continued

September 8, 2014


Do not bother buying the official condenser coil brush.  Most of the dust is on the front coils, so just vacuum them off.

Hot Water Heater

In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned that even though the [pressure relief] valve reset, there is still a drip drip drip outside from the discharge line outside.  The online instructions said, If the valve fails to completely reset and continues to release water, immediately disconnect the electrical power, close the cold water inlet valve and call a qualified person.  So I thought that was what I ought to do.

Looked through the plumber recommendation sheet I had from Benjamin Supply, and called the first one on the list.  He was at work on Sunday or he works out of his home – he answered.  Was telling him my story and when I got to Couldn’t get the handle [of the pressure relief valve] to lift…   So asked my neighbor to lend his male strength…  he said No don’t do that!  Too late.  Done the previous day.  Seems that if you haven’t been tweaking the handle of the valve on a yearly basis it corrodes on and adding strength just breaks it.  So we said he’d come by Monday.  $85 for the house call and replacement, but he gave the water heater a clean bill of health. Said it looked like new, as I don’t use it much, and that I should watch for corrosion around the bottom.  A weight off me; at least that’s one house part that won’t break this year.

He also said no, don’t dick around with the anode; they last 12 to 15 years if you don’t have a water softener (see below).  And it just hit me (even though I put it in yesterday’s blog) that the water tank is glass-lined, so there’s little to corrode.

Each water heater contains at least one anode rod, which will slowly deplete while protecting the glass-lined tank from corrosion and prolonging the life of the water heater.  Once the anode is depleted, the tank will start to corrode, eventually developing a leak.

I am just beginning to understand what an anode rod does.  (I nearly flunked chemistry almost 50 years ago.)  It corrodes so that any exposed steel doesn’t.

The anode rod is the most important factor in determining the life of your water heater. An anode rod is a steel core wire surrounded with one of three different metals. [American uses aluminum.] The rod is screwed into the top of your water heater and protects your water heater from rusting. When the tank is filled with water the anode rod sacrifices itself to protect the exposed steel of the water heater, through a method called electrolysis. Electrolysis happens when there are two pieces of metal connected inside of water, the process makes the anode rod corrode in place of the exposed steel in your water heater. During this process the more noble (less reactive) metal will corrode over the less (more reactive) noble metal. Aluminum… is much less noble than steel, meaning it will corrode before the steel, which is why it is used for anode rods.

A water softener also shortens the life of your anode rods significantly.  Aluminum anode rods are best for places with hard water. The aluminum rod will withstand harder water than any other type. Aluminum may be a health problem, so to be safe you may not want to drink hot water and make sure to run some cold water through the faucet spout before drinking the water.  Keep in mind, our sodas come in aluminum cans too.1

And finally, when I showed him the bath tub faucet (that I hardly ever use as I usually take showers) which had started dripping after I had it running for a while, using up the hot water so that I could drain the hot water tank without getting scalded, he said that it was a Grohe, and that I needed to order both hot and cold cartridges from them, and that they would be free (!) as they are guaranteed for life.  Is that was this says below? So I emailed Grohe. We’ll see.

Residential Products: GROHE provides the following warranties on its products to the original purchaser, installed in a residential application. This warranty is effective for all faucets sold after January 1, 1997.

Mechanical Warranty: A Limited Lifetime Warranty is provided on all mechanical parts to be free from manufacturing defects in materials and workmanship under normal use for as long as the original purchaser owns their home…2


My father’s family curse (perhaps in addition to high cholesterol) is macular degeneration.  My cousin sent me this link:

What is lutein and can it improve vision? Lutein, and the related compound, zeaxanthin, are carotenoids found in high concentrations in the macula of the eye. You may already get sufficient lutein from the foods you eat, but many people do not. If you are among those who don’t, taking a supplement with the right amount of lutein has been shown to improve vision in people with atrophic age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Preliminary studies suggest lutein may also help in retinitis pigmentosa and other conditions.’s tests showed that many lutein and zeaxanthin supplements contain what they claim and meet other important quality parameters. The problem is knowing which product, if any, to choose. Formulations vary widely — the daily dose of lutein in products ranged from 4 to 45 mg, and the amounts of zeaxanthin range from 1 to 4 mg. The cost of the pills also ranged from just 12 cents to over $1 per day. Several “eye health” supplements also contained zinc and other ingredients similar to those in the AREDS formulation shown to prevent age-related macular degeneration in a major study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

You must be a member to get the full test results for lutein and zeaxanthin-containing supplements along with recommendations and quality ratings…3

OK, I’m not joining consumer lab for $36, so I kept looking online.  Here is the recommended dosage and the foods that have lutein and zeaxanthin in them:

Lutein May Decrease Your Risk of Macular Degeneration

by George Torrey, Ph.D.
Lutein is the dominant component in the peripheral retina.

Dr. Johanna M. Seddon and associates at Harvard University found that 6 mg per day of lutein lead to a 43% lower risk for macular degeneration.  John T. Landrum and Richard A. Bone of Florida International University conducted a two-person study in 1995 to find out if lutein supplements would increase macular pigment. After 140 days, macular pigment increased about 20% in one man, 40 percent in the other. Although this study is minuscule, it is the first evidence that taking lutein supplements may restore lost macular pigment.

Lutein supplements are available in soft-gel capsule form. They should be taken at mealtime because lutein is absorbed better when ingested with a small amount of fat such as olive oil. The recommended dosage is 6 mg to 30 mg daily.

The following chart shows those foods that contain high amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin. Zeaxanthin is the dominant carotenoid in the central macula.4

lutein 1We were always told that eating carrots would be good for our eyes, but spinach is more than 200 times as good!



September 6, 2014


Two months ago I noticed that the strip between the doors on my side-by-side refrigerator was hot.  Also that when I opened the freezer, there was a red light blinking on the panel with the on/off switch for the ice maker.  So I called the KitchenAid help line listed in my product manual.  The clueless woman (in India?) who answered said that the ice storage bin was too full and that I should occasionally turn the ice maker off, which I did.

Two days before I was to drive to San Diego my refrigerator died.  I came home, opened the freezer, and a cascade of water gushed out.  Took a few items over to neighbor’s second refrigerator (which was already packed) in their garage, but the ice cream was already a liquid.  Figured cheeses, frozen egg whites and so on could hold off.

The repairman came the next morning with a fan which he thought it needed, but after doing the diagnostics said that no, it was an inverter (#36 on the left in the diagram).  And when he called his parts department, they said that part had been back-ordered since January.  So instead of a $290 part (plus installation), I was told I needed to buy a new refrigerator ($2300 + tax to replace the counter-depth one I have).

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Getting ready to go down to the showroom to purchase the replacement refrigerator, I thought that I should check online for the part.  Oh my, PartSelect had it for only $218.25!  I called the appliance store back.  The parts guy called the repair guy (who had just left) and it turned out he had checked out the wrong part number.  Low and behold, their supplier had the correct part, if only one left.

So the repair guy juggled his schedule and showed up the next morning to replace that part, with no guarantee that the compressor won’t go next, so this may go on.

Ankle bone connected to the shin bone
Shin bone connected to the knee bone
Knee bone connected to the thigh bone

Do you believe that it was just an error, checking out a wrong part number?  Am I cynical/ paranoid to think they were scamming me?  This is the top appliance place in town.

Left for San Diego just after lunch, relieved that the fridge broke before I left, rather than after I left, leaving a problem for my house-sitter.

Over a month later, noted that the strip between the doors is still hot.  This time I cleverly resorted to the internet:

A failed condenser fan or extremely dirty condenser coils could cause the mullion to be warmer than normal. You can clean the condenser coils by unplugging the refrigerator and removing the bottom front grill. Clean any dust off of the grill. Clean the front of the condenser with a soft brush and a vacuum cleaner. Replace the grill when you are finished. Plug the refrigerator back in.

You can check the condenser fan by removing the bottom service panel on the outside back panel of the refrigerator. If the fan is not running then this will definitely cause a hot mullion. This type of problem will normally need to be repaired by a service technician.1

Emailed that to the appliance store with the question of what to do, as I assumed that the repairman had cleaned the coils and he said that I didn’t need the fan. The store rep called back, had spoken with the repairman, who did not remember me mentioning the heat, but we were both rushing on that morning, so he had not cleaned the coils.  Anyway, he said that I needed to open the doors, take off the bottom panel, and clean the condenser coils with the official condenser coils brush, which is long to get to the back.   I bought an overpriced one at Ace, as it’s close, and took off the panel…

Yes!  The coils were covered in dust, maybe half an inch thick.  They’re clean now, so everything should be copacetic.

Regarding the blinking LED light, seems it flashes with a code:

To initiate an optics check, perform the following steps:

1. Open the freezer door.
2. View the status LED. It should flash twice,pause for 1 second, and repeat the cycle for as long as the door is open.

4. Close the flapper door on the emitter module so that the infrared beam has a clear path to the receiver board.
5. Make sure that the door switch is not pushed in, and view the status LED. With the flapper door on the emitter module held closed, and the ice maker not in the 5 minute “harvest” mode, the status LED should be on steady. This indicates that the optics circuits are operating properly. If the status LED continues to flash, refer to the “Troubleshooting Chart” on page 5-9.2

Check that out: got both the double flash and with the emitter module held closed, a steady light.  So that’s OK.

Hot Water Heater

Since the house is 10 years old, and since I had to replace an AC unit and part of my refrigerator so far (my next-door-neighbor did mention that her last refrigerator, back in New Jersey, lasted for 30 years), figured that I ought to worry about my water heater.  Turns out you’re supposed to drain them every 6 months and I’ve never done it.  Scared, but resourceful, having my pal, the internet.


Draining and Flushing
It is recommended that the tank be drained and flushed every 6 months to remove sediment which may build up during operation.  To drain the tank, perform the following steps:
1. Disconnect the electrical power to the water heater.
2. Open a nearby hot water faucet until the water is no longer hot.
3. Close the cold water inlet valve.
4. Connect a hose to the drain valve and terminate it to an adequate drain or external to the building.
5. Open the water heater drain valve and allow all of the water to drain from the tank. Flush the tank with water as needed to remove sediment.
6. Close the drain valve, refill the tank, and restart the water heater as directed in this manual.
CAUTION: Do not turn on power to the water heater unless it is completely filled with water. To ensure that the tank is full, open a hot water faucet and allow the water to run until the air is purged and the water flows uninterrupted from the faucet.

Went to the circuit box outside, scooted away the wolf spider, and shut off the breaker. Ran the water in a tub until cold, closed the valve, connected the hose and opened the water heater drain valve, and…  Had no idea how long it would take to empty.  Worried that by closing off the cold water inlet, and emptying the tank, that it would create a vacuum and implode.  Actually, it kept the water draining very slowly.  No sediment or anything.  Tried flushing a bit of cold water into it.  Just got it running faster.  It had gone to a trickle, so close the drain valve, refilled the tank, and restarted the water heater.

Temperature and Pressure
Relief Valve

relief valveManually operate the temperature and pressure relief valve at least once a year to make sure it is working properly.  To prevent water damage, the valve must be properly connected to a discharge line which terminates at an adequate drain.  Standing clear of the outlet (discharged water may be hot), slowly lift and release the lever handle on the temperature and pressure relief valve to allow the valve to operate freely and return to its closed position. If the valve fails to completely reset and continues to release water, immediately disconnect the electrical power, close the cold water inlet valve and call a qualified person.3

Couldn’t get the handle to lift.  Called the 800 number on the water heater.  The man who answered said it could be hard to do if it  hadn’t been done in years, and maybe I wasn’t strong enough.  So asked my neighbor to lend his male strength.  Done.  But even though the valve reset, there is still a drip drip drip outside from the discharge line outside.  Called the 800 number back  and the recording said to call during normal business hours, Monday through Friday, 7am until 7pm.  That’s weird.  The guy had answered today (Saturday).  Darn.  Have to turn the circuit breaker back off.  No hot water until Monday.  (I can’t imagine that a drip drip drip could result in death or explosion, but what do I know.)

I also had read about the Anode Rod (#11 on the diagram below), of which I had no prior knowledge.

hot water

anodeAnode Rod
Each water heater contains at least one anode rod, which will slowly deplete while protecting the glass-lined tank from corrosion and prolonging the life of the water heater.
Once the anode is depleted, the tank will start to corrode, eventually developing a leak. Certain water conditions will cause a reaction between this rod and the water. The most common complaint associated with the anode rod is a “rotten egg smell” produced from the presence of hydrogen sulfide gas dissolved in the water.
The anode rod should be inspected after a maximum of three years and annually thereafter until the condition of the anode rod dictates its replacement.

When I had the 800 guy on the line, asked him about this, as there was a round space in the top of the water heater, filled with Styrofoam, where the anode rod was supposed to be.  He said I’d have to get a qualified professional to take out the anode rod.  So forget that.

But then I asked him how long my water heater was warranted.  He asked for the serial number, then said six years.  Great.  It was put in ten years ago when I built the house.  Do I gamble that nothing will happen until after I sell the house, or bite the bullet and buy a replacement?  Amazon has the same one for $376.33 + $82.79 shipping, but then I still need to have a licensed plumber take out the old one and put in the new, no doubt for hundreds more.

These are more fun:

Flash Mob


doughMy brother convinced me to get on Facebook just to see my daughter’s postings of my grandkids – I don’t post myself, having this blog – but I do have to pass on some posts, this and Flash Mob, above.


Family History

September 3, 2014

roadtrek-190-simplicity-interior-7dMy cousins, H and M, have been doing research into our Blair family roots.  They drove in their Roadtrek 190 camper van (outfitted like a boat, with everything having a place – like this photo from the Net) to Kansas:

We stopped in Girard, KS where your great Grandparents Blair, Joseph Sydney Blair and his wife Esther A McClure Blair lived and are buried. We found their graves, hers quite large, his a small flat stone. She died at age 38 of “consumption”. We went to the Carnegie library in town and got a lot of information about Sydney and Esther, including their obits and the land plat info.

We drove out to the land, which is now a rectangle of trees and flat fertile farmed land. We went into the woods where we knew the house was and Hal found the remaining concrete foundation walls which appeared to be two buildings, the first about 12 by 27 feet. The second building behind had two openings on each side, which made it more likely a barn. Hal took many pictures, which was hard, as there were trees and bushes growing up in the middle of the foundation. We took a small piece of the concrete.

There is a publication called the Seeker which is published by the Girard Geneological Society and it is on microfiche as were all the issues of the local newspaper. Sydney was a trustee for the local high school. Hal is now reading Esther McClure’s letters again to pull some of the new information we have. It is so fun to unravel the puzzles of the past.

Here are the transcriptions:

The Letters of Esther McClure

Several years ago, Aunt Rosalie Denyes gave me a shoebox full of old family letters written to Sydney Blair almost 125 years ago. She said that she had read some of them and to not expect much, just news of people long forgotten.

In the summer of 2003, I started transcribing them. It wasn’t easy. Most of the letters are in very poor condition. One wonders how they could have survived as long as they did, occupying forgotten corners of attics and garages.

The first letters I picked were from a woman named Esther McClure in Cutler, Illinois to Sydney Blair in Girard, Kansas. Here is her story, pieced together from these letters and other sources:

Esther and Sydney were 27 years old in the spring of 1880, living in Cutler, Illinois with their families and were talking of getting married. Sydney went with others to Kansas to find land and make a new life. Esther remained behind to help on her father’s farm north of Cutler in a prairie known, as it is today, as Six Mile. She kept house for her father, at least two brothers, and hired hands. Her mother was dead.

It was no doubt a quite self sufficient farm. She cooked using a coal stove. They raised crops and animals, made their own soap, and even wove their own carpets.

Presumably Sydney went to Kansas by rail. It wasn’t by horse because he didn’t have one when he got there. However, he did have money and bought some land outside of Girard a few miles from the railroad.

The letters contain a lot of trivial and tragic news about people long gone. There are births, baptisms, sicknesses, and deaths. The U.S. Mail obviously played a vital role for separated families and friends. The letters also reveal an interesting portrait of pre-industrial life on the edge of the frontier. Ordinary life.

Sydney thought “Kansas was the place to start at the foot of the ladder.” It was a rougher life than in Cutler, but he liked it there. By December of 1880, he had a “little black shanty” with a living area measuring 16 X 15. The primitiveness didn’t seem to bother Essie, who said “as far as rough times goes I have always thought a person can have that anywhere.” She was not interested in staying where she was—“Sometimes I think no person could hire me to live in SixMile”.

In early summer of 1881, Joseph Sydney Blair came back to Cutler and married Esther McClure on Monday, July 4, 1881. They moved to Kansas where they had three children—Harry McClure Blair in 1882, John Elva Blair  in 1884, and Ivan Sydney Blair in 1886. She was a small woman weighing less than a hundred pounds and preferred to be called “Essie”. She was devoted—to her family, her friends, and to Sydney. She died in Kansas on Monday, August 15, 1892. She was 39. Grandpa (John) Blair was 8. As far as I know, no stories about her were ever told. However, from these letters you can see a devoted, caring, and practical woman with common sense and a dry wit who is about to leave the only home she has ever known to go to Kansas, about which she knows nothing.

For the record, John Elva Blair was father to Rosalie Blair Denyes, Esther Blair Groves, Richard Blair [my father], Margaret Jane Blair Stimson, and Elva Blair Dewsbury.

Hal Stimson, 12-21-2003

Esther and Sydney knew each other in Cutler and were planning to get married. They were 27 years old in the spring of 1880. Their families were well acquainted. They also knew people in Kansas. Sydney went to Kansas in March of 18801 without much to get started, only a little money. I don’t know how he got there but it wasn’t by horse. In Kansas, a friend (Mr. Shaw) lends him “a beast to ride”, presumably a mule. They were married in Cutler on Monday, July 4, 1881. She refers to Sydney in her letters as “my dearest friend.”

Essie remained in Cutler, Illinois living in an area known as Six Mile, an area prairie north of Cutler—presumably six miles north. He thought “Kansas was the place to start at the foot of the ladder.” It was a rougher life than in Cutler, but he likes it there. By December of 1880, he is living in a “little black shanty” measuring 16 X 15. The primitiveness doesn’t seem to bother Essie, who says “as far as rough times goes I have always thought a person can have that anywhere.” She is not interested in staying where she is—“ Sometimes I think no person could hire me to live in SixMile”.

Essie’s mother is dead so the work in the home at her father’s farm fell upon her.

The work was obviously hard, and athough she doesn’t complain about it she does tell about it:

“[I] Have been cleaning kitchen today, [I] sat down to supper got up [and] walked to & from prayer meeting[,] read[,] up & washed dishes, made yeast, caked sausage for breakfast, had worship and sat down to write at half past nine. Will tell you something I did to day & never did before, I forget to eat my dinner to day.” 12-1-1880

“It was 20 degrees below zero, but we had 8 persons for dinner besides our own family (18 in all), My! But it was fearful work, getting dinner, but it had to be done” (1-3-1881)

“I must sleep as much as I can get for my work seems to increase instead of decrease. Father has hired Albert Harris for a mo[nth]. I asked him not to but he went ahead and hired [him]. I told father I had all the work on hands I could possibly do and not more to[o]; but we can not get thing[s] to go the way we would like sometimes. (3-22-1881)

She makes her own soap.

You will please[e] excuse me for scribbling. [I] am in a great hurry, the men have to eat their supper yet. How I do not wa[n]t you to think I am making a poor mouth to try to make you pittie me; not by any means for I have much to be thankful for. I just want you to have some idea of the reason why I delayed for so long.(6-4-1881)

In January of 1881 Sydney is having second thoughts about Kansas and has talked about returning to Cutler. The very practical Essie wrote to him:

“I don’t work so extreemly hard every day as I did the day [I] forgot to eat dinner; you might come out next summer and see for your self what prospects are. I do

not want you to sell your place[.] I feel like I have lived in Six Mile as long as I

want to and longer. Sydney, I know if we ask our Heavenly Father to make a way for us He will: let us trust him. If you put up a kitchen before I go out put up a shade by all means, looks does not concern me as much as cents.”

Sydney learns a trade in Kansas, possibly to be a carpenter.

Her father had help on the farm. Men were hired to butcher the swine. There were hands hired to do the work. Essie talks about making dinner for “four men besides our own hired hand.”

She enjoys music and singing, talked about “singings” and parties where “Davie and Elmer” brought their fiddles. She wrote “the singings are still thriving”. She writes of a woman, “She thinks we have splendid singings.”

She regularly attends church and her religion, Presbyterian, is obviously important to her. However, any church is better than no church. In writing about going to Kansas she says “I guess we will have to be either Methodist or Baptist, but keep up heart.” She laments that Christians cannot agree. There is a lot of discord within her church, but she takes it well. “I did not know it [Sunday School] was to be so interesting or I would have sent a telegram for you to attend.” She reports it started off with a “general explosion” and became “an amusing, interesting meeting.” She did not take part in the argument. “It is a shame for Christian[s] to quarrel so. Then there was another quarrel last Sab. Morn before Sab. School just after S.S. [Sunday School] was over. Wm. Blair got up and said Maynard would [be] Superintend S.S. next Sab., that J.C. Blair had no right to take his place. I think it would have been better for all parties if he had spoken in a quieter and milder way. This is the day [the] Presbytery meets … It is raining and very disagreeable.” (4-25-1881)

Mostly, however, church life was peaceful and a central part of their lives: “This is the week of prayer, the two churches have agreed to unite (sing the old version) [There] will be meetings at the churches alternately in the day time, and every night at Cutler School house.” (1-3-81)

She also wants Sydney to join a church in Kansas: “Have you been to church since you left home?” (3-27-1880)

There are parties where they sing, but probably don’t dance.

Because of the distances, when she visits people, she stays with them.

The McClures own a loom, which is used to weave carpets. She weaves one for Sydney in Kansas.

She’s small, weighing only 99 pounds. She even signs her letters, “Your Little Pet”. A scale was somewhat a novelty. She reports the weights of her friends.

Dry sense of humor: When she hears that he was caught in a snow storm, she writes of someone telling her to advise Sydney not to buy in the windy part of Kansas. She also asks him how many hats he has—a subtle way of referring to their tendency to blow off in the wind—not out of her curiosity about his clothing.

“One of the items of [the] Cutler literary paper; [it] was something like this “Mike pulled the fence down and let cows in the corn field; go to Sam for particulars”. Think you had better take the paper or you will miss some important news. (3-2-1881)

“[I] Was up at Cutler this eve, [and I] was so disappointed to not get a letter from you, they said George took the news out today so don’t know whether there was one or not. “ Obviously George was not a member of the town’s brightest and best. (3-2-1881)

“There was a wood chopping at Mr. Raulston’s last Friday. I think they should have let him chop his own wood; it would just help his digestion. “ 3-2-1881)

She tells of one gentleman staying with her (12-1-1880) who sat by himself in the sitting room reading aloud and trying to pace around the room for exercise. She was alarmed because Samie could hear him “clear out to the wood pile with the doors and windows closed”. She gave him a light dinner “for his stomach’s sake.”

Sydney buys land right away in Kansas. Essie was very practical about it. She had wanted good land and timber. She didn’t care much about a house. That could come later. I don’t think he lives on the land because Essie talks about his boarding arrangements.

Christmas was modest by modern standards. She talks of a new year’s tree instead of a Christmas tree and the gathering at Christmas:

“Richmands & Maggie were there, Maggie got a string of popcorn of[f] the tree and several other things, [I] don’t know what they were. I got about two double handfuls of candy, and don’t you think some fellow give me his heart but it was broken.”

Practicality: “Your head will be leavel [level] if you keep your property in your own hands; why I would go clear wild if I had that much money.” (1-27-81)

“John said he believed a person would be justified in taking their own life if they knew they would have to suffer as his father had done. (3-22-1881)

She wants to know if he has a garden started (3-22-1881)

but how do the folk keep the chickens off the garden stuff; do they not have chickens in Kan? what about getting a cow out there; which will be cheapest to buy out there or ship from here could you get a good young cow out there? at what price? I don’t mean for you to quit your work and scour the state looking for a cow: just keep your eyes and ears on the look out when you’re back in town or at any of your neighbours. (4-6-1881)


“I don’t know anything about out doors since last Wednesday, [I] have had the measles. Samie & Willie broke out [with measles on] Tuesday & Wednesday they did not break out on me until Friday night, I tell you I was a pretty sick girl Saturday & Sabbath. I was taking them as soon as the boys but I washed and helped scrub Monday

and got to[o] damp but when they did break out they came out good that was all that saved me. I’m glad to be able to tell you this evening that am improving fast. All most every thing tastes good now. The measles are just sweeping the country. “ (1-27-81)

A sense of propriety:

When Carry Manhunt’s brother died she went to a singing with Andrew 3 weeks later. What was so bad was that after the singing she went to the store with him and purchased 3 cigars and gave them to Andrew. The store was full of boys which Essie described as “I don’t want to get acquainted with no such.”

The drama of leaving her home:

and it will be four more long mo[nths]. before I can see you; well, I’ll not tell you again to go to Kan. without [me.]… I can go; you can be sure. We are trying to arrange so I can go when you come back. I don’t have, nor will [I] not have time to get lonesome but would be so glad to see Sydney occasionally, if it were possible. (2-17-1881)

Father has not said for me to “get up and git” yet, but he hasn’t said [I] shan’t go (3-22-1881) She is 27 years old, yet is showing strong deference to her father.

The most touching letter was written in April of 1881. It begins:

“as [I] will not have to work as hard as usual tomorrow (our fast day) [I] will sit up and talk to Sydney a while to night; [I] wish [I] could whisper it in your ear for then [I] would not have to wait so long for an answer.


I have thought and prayed much over this subject, all I ask of you will be to not think hard of me for being home sick, as I expect to be; yo[u] know I never was away from home except that winter in Sparta and I was just at home there[.] Mattie always seemed like a sister to me; you know she lived here until she married. I am sure of one thing I would not exchange you and your humble home for any of the Six Mile boys with their hundred of acres. I know I am leaving a good home but I feel like I was going to a good one. So far as waiting longer goes, I do not want even to think of putting in a whole year of waiting to see the one I love: My!  Three months is as long as I want to be in suspense. If [I] could see you once or twice a mo.[month] it would be quite different. I don’t want you to think I am half dead to get married; it isn’t that I want a change from this constant work: I don’t have any idea if I could stand up to the work here another year if I could get throug[h] another year I don’t suppose I would be worth coming after. I know we have to work any where if we get along; but people can work better to their own plans than to others. I do not know what Father will do he has not decided yet and these dear brothers; Sydney that is the only thing that trouble me. Father is able to take care of himself and his habits are settled, but the boys are just at the critical point of their life.

There was a grand moon light picnic in Cutler last night. So grand they sent for Pinckneyville brass band and they came. And the only entertainments were the band[,] Ed Gordons stand, of candies, peanuts, lemonade and ice cream. I saw what I never saw in my life before, ladies eating ice cream wrapped in heavy shawls. It was very cool, unusually so. What do you think, I was there. I had just got Emma persuaded to go with the boys & I would stay at home; when we went out to milk[,] the band began playing,

(as we did not know it was to be there). When I heard that soon changed my mind: would have enjoyed it a very great deal better if a certain gent[tleman] in Kansas had been along. (6-4-1881)

1In her letter of March 27, 1880 she is thanking him for a buggie [buggy] ride. This is obviously in Cutler or very nearby. She had never been outside of Illinois.

They emailed me the photo of our grandparents in Kansas leaving for their honeymoon which I posted in this blog:


home 001home 003Home from my travels, welcomed by my cat and an overgrown yard – I guess we had a lot of rain, but the Web says only 2.43″ in August!   My Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida ‘Purpurea’), in a pot on my deck, loves the heat and is full of lavender flowers, and my Butterfly Vine (Mascagnia macroptera) is also abloom.

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There was a large wolf spider trapped in my water bucket (which I, of course, dumped into the rosemary), and a cottontail stopped by to drink from the plant saucer.  The hallucinogenic Sacred Datura (datura wrightii) plants1 have sprung up all over the yard and the three red bird of paradise (caesalpinia pulcherrima) plants are finally flowering. Yellow butterflies abound, but don’t seem to ever alight, and there is an occasional Monarch.

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Repairing a damaged drip line two months ago, exerting more muscle than a wimpy woman has, I ended up with tendonitis.

Tendonitis most often is caused by repetitive, minor impact on the affected area, or from a sudden, more serious injury.  There are many activities that can cause tendonitis, including gardening…

Anyone can get tendonitis, but it is more common in adults, especially those over 40 years of age. As tendons age, they tolerate less stress, are less elastic, and tear more easily.

First-line treatment includes:

  • Avoiding activities that aggravate the problem
  • Resting the injured area
  • Icing the area the day of the injury
  • Taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines

It may take weeks to months to recover from tendonitis, depending on the severity of your injury.2

The first week I ignored the problem, and continued to go to all of my exercise classes, although ratcheting down from 5 lbs to 4.  Then I was scheduled for my yearly physical and the doctor told me all of the above.  So I continued my qigong (no weights), but stopped going to Silver Sneakers, and stopped heavy yard work.

Felt better this weekend so decided to stop taking Aleve.  And started trimming back the enthusiastically growing bushes and vines and drooping tree branches.   And a new spouter occurred in the yard that I had to repair it this morning.  The necessary work has sent me back to Aleve.

It is 10am on Wednesday, September 3, 2014.  A young coyote, dragging from the heat (97° with 33% humidity, temperature to climb to 104° with supposed thundershowers), just slogged across my driveway.


This is more from my cousin about the parabens in my sunscreen and rosacea cream3:

This is info on oregano oil for rosacea4. We put a few drops in argan oil. Look up parabens on the site to see why you don’t want to put that on your skin.

Here is info on argan oil5. It is very healing to the skin and a good carrier oil for the four or so drops of oregano oil for rosacea. We have found that when H’s gut is inflamed, so is his face. The gut controls your immune system. Mites on the face are involved in rosacea as well. Oregano oil repels them and is antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal. Argan oil is expensive but can be bought at a little cheaper. Or you could put oregano oil in a small amount of organic cold pressed coconut oil. Better than parabens that are toxic. Doctors are idiots! Patients must be educated.


Dallas/ Fort Worth

September 1, 2014


I realized that I had been to see my cousins, H and M, many times, and they live just outside Fort Worth, but I had never visited the Kimbell Art Museum, designed by the American architect Louis Kahn (widely regarded as one of the outstanding architectural achievements of the modern era.  [The Kimbell Art Museum] is especially noted for the wash of silvery natural light across its vaulted gallery ceilings.)  Plus, after many years of trying to decide how to double the size of the museum,  the renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano was chosen to design a companion building, which opened November, 20131.  Here is the model, Kahn’s building on the left, Piano’s on the right:

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Can’t see much from what used to be the entrance (now facing the addition with the new entrance on what used to be the back, seemingly an afterthought from the parking lot), as there are so many trees.  Hard to get a good photo without a helicopter.  Photo of me and H by the previous front.

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Denver Dallas 144But took lots of photos of the details, which my cousin said that he would never have noticed.  The sliver of light on the edge of the vault of Kahn’s building.  The handrail.

The overhang on Piano’s building.  And the way he inset the entry mat and air vent with the glass entry walls and door stop.

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Denver Dallas 149In addition to the pristine buildings, the collection is pretty awesome.  Here a Rembrandt, Bust of a Young Jew.

The artists include Bellini, Bernini, Boucher, Braque, Caravaggio, Cézanne, Corot, Courbet, Cranach – Lucas the Elder, Degas, Donatello, El Greco, Fra Angelico, Fragonard, Gainsborough, Gauguin, Goya, Frans Hals, Léger, Maillol, Manet, Matisse, Michelangelo, Miró, Mondrian, Monet, Munch, Noguchi, Picasso, Pissarro, Rembrandt, Reynolds, Rubens, Sisley, Tiepolo, Tintoretto, Titian,Turner, Velázquez, and Watteau.1

Denver Dallas 165Photo of my cousins in the Kimball’s buffet restaurant with 5th century mosaics on the wall behind.

Then walked one block to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, which was designed by Philip Johnson.  Johnson is known, among other buildings, for his glass house, built in 1949 (photo left from Architectural Digest), “universally viewed as having been derived from” the Farnsworth House design, now  just as famous as the glass Farnsworth House Mies van der Rohe built in 1951 (photo right). 

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But the Amon Carter Museum is not one mentioned in architecture classes (where we were taught to worship at the Kimball).  I didn’t even bother taking a photo of the front.  (This from the museum web site2.)

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Denver Dallas 172Preferred Johnson’s addition (left).  I am more partial to the Pennzoil Place, a set of two 36-story towers in downtown Houston, Texas (below left)designed by Philip Johnson and John Burge, for which Johnson was awarded the 1978 AIA Gold Medal and became the first laureate of the Pritzker Prize in Architecture.  Unfortunately, Johnson and Burge also designed New York’s Sony Tower (below right), fondly know as the Chippendale Building after the open pediments characteristic of the famous English designer’s bookcases and other cabinetry.  (All photos from the Web.)

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Oops, I’ve gotten away from Dallas/ Fort Worth and am into an architecture lecture.  Sorry.

The art collection was very nice, including this Thomas Hart Benton depression art, an O’Keefe and a large Louise Nevelson.

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My favorite (just a detail here) was Denver Dallas 167Ease (1882), by William M. Harnett.  (You must click on this to see the detail.)

…he painted trompe l’oeil (fool the eye) still lifes, arrangements of life-size objects rendered so realistically as to seem three dimensional.  In Ease, which was commissioned by James Abbe, a Massachusetts businessman, he offers a glimpse into a Victorian gentleman’s library.  Harnett selected items that would best convey his patron’s emotional, intellectual, and spiritual sides,  The owner is a very real presence in this interior.  He has momentarily set down his lighted cigar and will return, we feel certain, before it burns through the newspaper.


We spent most of the day at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden3.  (Two Botanical Gardens in a week – can you tell I’m studying landscape architecture?)  This was A Deal.  H bought the parking ticket online at half price ($5), and we got in for only $1 each during August Dollar Days!  M, having broken a toe, was wearing The Boot, but she was a real trooper as we tromped around most of the 66-acre gardens, in the heat, 100° with the humidity over 30% (uphill both ways).

These are labor-intensive gardens, with huge swaths of flower beds replanted each season.  H and M had moved back to Fort Worth 14 years ago, and had never been to the Gardens.  They have vowed to go back next season.  (Yes!  I took these gorgeous photos.)

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We had lunch in blissful air-conditioning at the DeGolyer Estate, and then took a tour of the house – two photos here.

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We saw all these, I believe: All America Selections Trial Garden, Boswell Family Garden, Crape Myrtle Allee (but we didn’t walk down to the  pool at Toad Corners), Jonsson Color Garden, Lay Family Garden, Martha Brooks Camelia Garden, McCasland Sunken Garden, Nancy Clements Seay Magnolia Glade, Nancy’s Garden, Nancy Rutchik Red Maple Rill, Palmer Fern Dell, Paseo de Flores, Pecan Grove, Rose Mary Haggar Rose Garden, Trammell Crow Visitor Education Pavillion (where we saw a short video on what the gardens look like each season – this was at the end and the room was air-conditioned!), Trial Gardens, A Woman’s Garden, Crape Myrtle Allee, Jonsson Color Garden, Karen’s Gazebo, Lay Family Garden, McCasland Sunken Garden, Poetry Garden, Rodriguez Gazebo, The Lower Meadow, Cissy Thomsen Welcoming Water Wall, Dann Talley Kincheloe Courtyard, Fogelson Fountain, Magnolia Allee, Orchid Hollow, Junkins Fountain, Palmer Fern Dell Bridge, Wind Harp, A Woman’s Garden Pool, A Woman’s Garden II Bridge, Grotto, Octagon Fountain, Indian Courtyard Arbor, Wolf Brothers Urns,  Rodriguez Gazebo, and the Woolf Circle.  Phew!  (Can you tell that a lot of rich people donated?)

Denver Dallas 219Got a photo out of the car window of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge over the Trinity River in Dallas, designed by Santiago Calatrava, a world-class architect. (OK, I won’t go into projects that he has done.)

Denver Dallas 220Also, through the window,  Fort Worth’s City Center Towers Complex, comprised of two towers designed by noted architect Paul Rudolph.  (When you google famous architecture in tucson az you get Mission San Xavier del Bac, founded in 1692.)


We spent the morning taking a tour of the Bass Performance Hall4 in Fort Worth (the crown jewel of a city which boasts the nation’s third largest cultural district4).  The symphony was practicing in the hall, so we only got to peek in (no photos).  Art deco.  Ceilings painted by Scott and Stuart Gentling.

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Two 48-foot-tall angels sculpted by Marton Varo from Texas limestone grace the Grand Façade.

That evening H and M’s daughter and her new husband came for dinner.  Lots of chatting about The Family.  H and M are doing significant research into our Blair family.  More about that in the next blog.



August 27, 2014


A day in the People’s Republic of Boulder (as it is fondly called in Denver).  Fist to the Dushanbe Tea House for their famous chai.

Denver Dallas 129The ceiling of the Teahouse was carved and painted with intricate patterns traditional of Persian Art. The teahouse ceiling was originally built, carved and painted in Tajikistan. Absolutely no power tools were used in the original construction. The work was crafted by hand exactly as it was centuries ago.

Inside the Teahouse, there are 12 intricately carved cedar columns. These, were sent from Tajikistan with the original gift. No two columns are alike.

Denver Dallas 130Eight colorful ceramic panels, created by Victor Zabolotnikov, grace the building’s exterior and display patterns of a “Tree of Life”. Each panel was sculpted in Tajikistan, cut into smaller tiles, fired, and then carefully packed to be sent to the USA. Once here, they were repositioned together by Victor, who was visiting to help with construction.1

Next a stroll down the three-block-long outdoor pedestrian mall when friend K picked up a few things.  Not a Target in sight.

Denver Dallas 134Then to Celestial Seasons (which seems to make maybe a thousand varieties of teas, mostly herbal, for the American and international market, including dozens of varieties of Green, Herbal, Wellness, Rooibos, Chai, Estate, Holiday, Sweet Zinger Iced, Serene Moments, Cool Brew Iced, K-Cup®, Kombucha, and Natural Shots Teas) for a tour of their plant, of course all mechanized.  Even a suction Denver Dallas 135lifter of large boxes full of small boxes of particular teas – the machine can tell by weight which tea it is to know which crate to put the boxes in.

In 1969, a group of passionate young entrepreneurs founded Celestial Seasonings upon the belief that their flavorful, all-natural herbal teas could help people live healthier lives. They harvested fresh herbs from the Rocky Mountains by hand, and then Denver Dallas 136dried, blended and packaged them in hand-sewn muslin bags to be sold at local health food stores. By staying committed to their vision, the founders of Celestial Seasonings turned their cottage industry into an almost overnight success. Today, Celestial Seasonings is one of the largest specialty tea manufacturers in North America. We serve more than 1.6 billion cups of tea every year, and we source more than 100 different ingredients from over 35 countries to create our delicious, all-natural herbal, green, red, white, chai and wellness teas.2

No photos were allowed on the tour, so above are a few of their teapot collection.

On to the Chautauqua enclave, which I had never heard about before.  This short definition from Wikipedia, but you can learn lots more from the website3.

Chautauqua (shə-TAW-kwə) was an adult education movement in the United States, highly popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Named after Chautauqua Lake in New York where the first was held, Chautauqua assemblies expanded and spread throughout rural America until the mid-1920s. The Chautauqua brought entertainment and culture for the whole community, with speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers and specialists of the day.

Historic buildings associated with the movement include the Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder, Colorado.

dining_hall_nightFirst an early dinner at the dining room, which has been serving since 1898 (!) savoring spectacular views from the enchanting wraparound porch while enjoying classic American cooking3.  (This photo from their website.)

Then the concert in the historic auditorium to see Asleep at the Wheel, with front man Ray Benson, who at 6′ 7″ does dominate the group.  Funny that he’s a 63-year-old Jewish native of Philadelphia.  (Photos were not allowed, so this is from WIkipedia.)

Asleep at the Wheel is a western swing group that was formed in Paw Paw, West Virginia but is based in Austin, Texas. Altogether, they have won nine Grammy Awards since their 1970 inception.

Eddie Rivers, looking like a good ol’ boy, with his extensive paunch and cowboy attire and hat (here on the right), was kinda funny, as each time he played a solo on the steel guitar or sax and got a huge applause, he’d look up surprised, as if he didn’t know there was an audience, and give a cute smile.

Ray was name-dropping like crazy, of stars they had recorded with such as Merle Haggard, the Dixie Chicks, The Blind Boys of Alabama, and especially Willie Nelson.  (2009 Willie Nelson and Asleep at the Wheel release “Willie & The Wheel” and earn a GRAMMY™ nomination for Best Americana Album.) Because the dude from Metallica showed up at Rod & Gab, I had hoped that Willy Nelson would turn up here, but he didn’t, darn.

But Ray didn’t even mention the President!  (Then Presidential candidate Barrack Obama joined Ray Benson on stage for a performance of “Boogie Back to Texas” at an Austin Fundraiser4:


I felt like the only person in the entire Denver Airport with a book.  Made of paper.  10% on their tablets, 89% on smart phones.  (I’m generously giving 1% for books.)  The restrooms in the airport also serve as tornado shelters.  Lots of attendants around to help those with confused looks.  I would have to have gone down another concourse (there are three) to get to a Starbucks the guy with the sheriff’s badge said.  So I compromised for a local coffee concession for breakfast.  There are two terminals to serve all of the airlines, but I think that everyone has to walk approximately seven miles to their gate, one moving walkway after another.

What a difference for the Dallas Airport.  Got off the plane, crossed the aisle to baggage claim (honest – right across from the gates!), walked out the door and there was my cousin.  At this airport the planes have to taxi the seven miles to the gate.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about Dallas.

Chemicals in your life

My cousin M recommends for vitamins and supplements along with her frequent mentions of Costco for buying in bulk.  Also:

  • Food Info on toxic stuff in food and other stuff
  • Weston Price Foundation Info on nutrition and soy etc.
  • Best site for sunscreens, makeup, lotions, pesticides on food list, gives toxins found in these products.  Aubrey sunscreen best in effectiveness and low in toxins.



August 26, 2014

Was in Denver visiting a friend of mine, K, for a few days.  We met as fellow FEMA volunteers in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, figured we were cousins as we have the same last name (also cousins with Tony Blair), and have stayed in touch.


Wesselmann-Smoker_releaseStarted with the Denver Art Museum.  Two exhibits were particularly spectacular.  One was Beyond Pop Art: A Tom Wesselmann Retrospective. Fantastic immense paintings, collages, and sculptures.  This is one of my favorites, Smoker, 1 (Mouth, 12).  (All photos from the museum website as we were not allowed photos of this exhibit.)  This “sculpture”,  Still Life #60, which is a grouping of paintings, each supported from behind, is 25 feet long.


Then there was Daniel Sprick‘s Fictions: Recent Works.  (My own photos.)  The center of each portrait looks like a photograph – but you can tell they’re paintings as you look at the edges of the hair or the bottom of the painting.  Totally awesome!  Sherry and Hone Philip.

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Denver Dallas 005There was another exhibit,  At the Mirror, Reflections of Japan in 20th Century Prints.  My favorite was a color woodblock print by Masami Teraoka.  This is one of his series, 31 Favors Invading Japan.  (Sorry about the reflection in the glass.)

My 31 Flavors Invading Japan Series in the 1970’s … reflect my cultural heritage from Japan. The Ukiyo-e or wood block print tradition represents my cultural identity. Geisha and samurai images I use are a way to depict traditional-thinking Japanese people.

Many years ago (’93?) my brother had taken me to an exhibit at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, and there were two huge paintings by Masami Teraoka, one of a traditional samari, but then you noticed he was wearing golf shoes and wielding a golf club.  The other was a traditional geisha, but then you noticed that she was holding a hair dryer.

Denver Dallas 058In addition to these temporary exhibitions, I saw all of the exhibits, African, Oceanic, Western American, Modern & Contemporary Art, in the new, very modern Hamilton Building by architect Daniel Libeskind, photo here.  (You have to click on this gallery cross sections below to read the exhibits.)


Denver Dallas 015In the Western American Art exhibit there was a Deborah Butterfield horse that hadn’t first been made out of driftwood, then cast in bronze, which I’ve seen dozens of times in museums and airports.1

Deborah Butterfield  is an American sculptor… known for her sculptures of horses made from found objects, like metal, and especially pieces of wood.

Then Northwest Coast, American Indian, Pre-Columbian, Spanish Colonial, and Asian Art in the North Building (by Italian architect Gio Ponti) until I was tuckered out.  I have tons more photos, but here is this view from one of the museum windows.

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Denver Dallas 054Anyway, not too tuckered out to take in the large-scale sculptures outside, such as the 35-foot high Big Sweep by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, a husband-and-wife team (two of my absolute favorite sculptors – especially their Shuttlecocks2), nestled under the museum’s angle (see the size of the door behind), and Mark di Suvero’s soaring outdoor sculpture, Lao-Tzu, (thirty feet tall and weighing in at 16 tons) seen next to the museum in the photo above.  (Click to see it larger.)

rod & gabIn the evening we went to the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, which is spectacular, posed in the hills above Denver.  We had high enough seats to see the city lights as strings of flickering beads above the stage, to see Rodrigo y Gabrielaa Mexican acoustic guitar duo whose music is influenced by a number of genres including nuevo flamenco, rock, and heavy metal.

After they had played their sets they were joined by Metallica pal, bassist Robert Trujillo.  (Both guys looked great in their tight T-shirts and tight jeans, Sanchez in denim blue, Trujillo in black – but I enjoyed the music too.  Hadn’t taken my camera, as I assumed it would be too dark for photos, so these from the Net.)

Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero have been playing together for more than fifteen years. First as young thrash metal fans in their native Mexico City, then as innocents abroad and street musicians in Dublin, Ireland at the turn of the millennium, and finally as the globe-straddling, film-scoring, record-breaking artists they are today.


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In the morning we hiked in Eldorado Canyon State Park.  We drove by the technical rock climbers on “Eldo’s” golden cliffs to the visitor’s center.

Then K’s cute broken-coated Jack Russell Terrier pulled me up the Eldorado Canyon Trail, which gains over 1,000 feet in elevation and has fabulous views. (View from the trail, above, and K with pooch.)  I let K handle her on the way down.


Denver Dallas 123In the evening we went to the Denver Botanical Gardens, which had an incredible installation (all through the gardens) of Dale Chihuly‘s glass work.  We stayed until after dark to see it lit up.

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I told my cousin’s wife, M,  that I would feature her warnings about the chemicals in our everyday products in my blogs.  (My cousin has beaten cancer three times and looks fabulous.  Until he got grey hair I though that he had an aging painting in his attic, a la Dorian Gray (a scarey movie I had seen in my youth based on Oscar Wilde’s 1890 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray3).

M found parabens listed in my sunscreen and the gop I put on my face every night for my inherited rosacea.

Parabens is a term used within the vernacular of the specialty chemicals industry to describe a series of parahydroxybenzoates or esters of parahydroxybenzoic acid (also known as 4-hydroxybenzoic acid). Parabens are widely used as preservatives by cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. Parabens are effective preservatives in many types of formulas. These compounds, and their salts, are used primarily for their bactericidal and fungicidal properties. They can be found in shampoos, commercial moisturizers, shaving gels, personal lubricants, topical/parenteral pharmaceuticals, spray tanning solution, makeup, and toothpaste. They are also used as food additives.

Their efficacy as preservatives, in combination with their low cost, the long history of their use, and the inefficacy of some natural alternatives like grapefruit seed extract (GSE), probably explains why parabens are so commonplace. They are becoming increasingly controversial, however, because they have been found in breast cancer tumors (an average of 20 nanograms/g of tissue). Parabens have also displayed the ability to slightly mimic estrogen (a hormone known to play a role in the development of breast cancer). No effective direct links between parabens and cancer have been established, however. Another concern is that the estrogen-mimicking aspect of parabens may be a factor in the increasing prevalence of early puberty in girls.


This is just cute, from one of my friends’ Facebook pages.  As a retired English teacher, I know how she feels.


San Diego

August 10, 2014

Last week stayed with my friends of 45 years, L and P. Unfortunately, first had a memorial service for my cousin Carol Casper.

mom & carolCarol was the last living relative on my mother’s side of the family. (Mom was the youngest in the family, so everyone else predeceased her.)

Was looking for later photos of Carol, which I know I have, but all I found were lots of pictures of her as a kid before Mom was even married.  This is a photo of her with my mother.

When I was young, every four years we would drive from Detroit to LA to visit my grandmother, aunt, uncle, and cousin.

Because Carol was a lot older than I was, she was an adult with a red convertible Sunbeam, and I was so delighted to sit behind the front seats, in a section about eight inches wide, when we drove up to Big Bear Lake.  That was probably in ’54, when I was eight.  (Who was in the front with Carol?  Probably my mother.  That year we took the train to LA and flew home ’cause Dad thought that we ought to experience a train before they became extinct, so we had no car of our own to drive.)

Carol was a teacher and I remember when she and one of her two best friends, P, taught on an air force base in Germany one year so they could travel around Europe on weekends and vacations.  I was envious.

Carol was probably the nicest person I’ve ever known, always helping others.  When her housekeeper was pregnant, with little money and no health insurance, Carol paid for the hospital.  When she was visiting a friend dying of cancer who was worried what would happen to her dog when she passed, my cousin adopted the dog (which her friend M now has).

Helped M (the other friend, P, passed away five days after my cousin), with one room of my cousin’s house, folding up all of Carol’s clothes (and she had a lot) for the garage sale next weekend.  But M still has the entire rest of the house to do, then getting it reading to be put on the market.

Los Angeles

ethel-davies-walt-disney-concert-hall-part-of-los-angeles-music-center-frank-gehry-architect-los-angelesThen my friend L wanted to go up to LA for two days to see the Norton Simon Museum and Huntington Gardens.

Realized I’d only been to LA two times since my brother moved to San Francisco after his marriage, which was probably 35 years ago.

One gettytime I flew to LA to hear Frank Gehry speak at the Disney Music Hall, a Michigan State fundraiser for alumni on the west coast.  The other time I drove over from Tucson for a weekend to see the Getty Center, designed by Richard Meier, when it had just opened. (Photos from the internet.)

Had never been to the Norton Simon Museum before.

lyn & lynneFriend L and me with Rodin’s The Burgers of Calais, completed in 1889.

It serves as a monument to an occurrence in 1347 during the Hundred Years’ War, when Calais, an important French port on the English Channel, was under siege by the English for over a year.

England’s Edward III, after a victory in the Battle of Crécy, laid siege to Calais, while Philip VI of France ordered the city to hold out at all costs. Philip failed to lift the siege, and starvation eventually forced the city to parley for surrender.

Edward offered to spare the people of the city if any six of its top leaders would surrender themselves to him, presumably to be executed. Edward demanded that they walk out wearing nooses around their necks, and carrying the keys to the city and castle. One of the wealthiest of the town leaders, Eustache de Saint Pierre, volunteered first, and five other burghers joined with him. Saint Pierre led this envoy of volunteers to the city gates. It was this moment, and this poignant mix of defeat, heroic self-sacrifice, and willingness to face imminent death that Rodin captured in his sculpture, scaled somewhat larger than life.

Although the burghers expected to be executed, their lives were spared by the intervention of England’s queen, Philippa of Hainault, who persuaded her husband to exercise mercy by claiming that their deaths would be a bad omen for her unborn child.

First we toured the In the Land of Snow: Buddhist Art of the Himalayas exhibit and the Asian Art collection.

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Then the Modern and Contemporary Art and Edgar Degas collections. Was totally blown away by the number of classic art pieces that they had.   There were many portraits.  Imagine is you’d asked Picasso to do a portrait of you and it looked like one of these by him:

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Degas’ most famous sculpture, The Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen, finished in 1881.

Degas dressed the wax figure in a silk bodice, gauze tutu, and fabric slippers, with a satin ribbon in her real hair wig. The wig, slippers, and bodice were covered with a layer of wax to help unite them with the rest of the work, while preserving their special texture.

A Giacometti.  One of Marino Marini’s Horsemen.  (Compare to the one with the detachable penis in front of the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice1.)

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A Rousseau.  (Unfortunately, they’d put glass over the oil, and it reflected.)

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LA 043We’d been there almost from opening to closing but only saw about ⅓ of the museum.   We hadn’t even gotten to the European Art: 14th-16th C., European Art: 17th-18th C., European Art: 19th C., the 3-D Wall, and the Rembrandt van Rijn collections.  I took a few more photos as they herded us out.

Do these look familiar?  Portrait of Joerg Fugger by Giovanni Bellini, 1474, and Adam and Eve by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1530.

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I took tons more photos and also got photos of the gardens, which looked pretty nice until we went to the Huntington Gardens the next day.  It blew me away.

LA 071It was Free Thursday at the Huntington Gardens.  (You need reservations.)  We spent the first two hours in the Desert Garden.

The Huntington Desert Garden is one of the largest and oldest assemblages of cacti and other succulents in the world. Nearly 100 years old, it has grown from a small area on the Raymond fault scarp when in 1907-1908 William Hertrich brought in plants from local nurseries, private residences, public parks, and from collection trips to the Southwest and Mexican deserts. Today the two dozen families of succulents and other arid adapted plants have developed into a 10-acre garden display, the Huntington’s most important conservation collection, a most important mission and challenge.
The desert garden features more than 5,000 species of succulents and desert plants in sixty landscaped beds.

LA 047

Managed to catch the Lily Ponds ( photos here of lotus and koi) and Herb Garden on our way to a quick lunch.  (We decided not to spend the $29/person for the Tea Room buffet.)

LA 077LA 078

LA 084Then two and a half hours in the Japanese Garden with its large collection of bonsai (this one hundreds of years old, dug up from the coast) and the Chinese Garden with many buildings and lily and lotus ponds.




LA 101
But had to leave by 3pm to miss most of the LA traffic.  (See comment by friend L: Return trip 4 hours and 15 minutes.)  Missed the Australian Garden, Camellia Garden, Children’s Garden, Conservatory, Jungle Garden, Palm Garden, Rose Garden, Shakespeare Garden, and the Subtropical Garden. Nor did we get to the Huntington Art Gallery or Library. Must go again.

Home, Sunday August 10, 2014

Drove home Friday.  Only a 6-hour drive, but wipes me out.  Still few critters to be seen at my house, just a black widow on the outside of the office window, spinning her sticky web as I type, a huge Colorado River toad on my patio after dark, and coyote scat on my spa deck.

Hanging laundry out to dry yesterday it felt pretty humid, so I checked.  35%!!  And looks like we’ll have rain the whole time I’m home!  I do love the monsoons, if not the humidity – but only in the 30%’s, not like South Carolina where it’s in the 80%’s – so what am I complaining about?

tucson weather

Note: today’s rain amounted to about 14 drops here, and no thunder and lightening.



July 25, 2014

I thought that this was great -

Photo Tip #55: When shooting candid portraits be careful to avoid distracting elements like chandeliers that appear to grow right out of your subjects' heads.

Photo Tip

A friend of my brother edits Shutterbug, a photography magazine.  This on his Facebook page-

Photo Tip #55: When shooting candid portraits be careful to avoid distracting elements like chandeliers that appear to grow right out of your subjects’ heads.

I am presently reading The Experience of Landscape, by an Englishman, with comparisons to the Mannerist school of painting, the Picturesque school, the Arcadian myth, quotes by Milton, Spenser, Alexander Pope, and Tolkein – you get the idea.  It is very dense, but I’m getting a lot out of it.

I remember feeling that the gardens at Versailles were a bit much, then getting to England and loving Capability Brown’s landscapes.  Now I know the error of my ways.  The top is his design, the bottom drawn by T. Hearne according to “picturesque” principles.

capability brown


The large mesquite tree has been exploding seeds all over the yard, but since I’ve been home, have seen nary a deer or javelina or coyote1 eating them.  Maybe it’s too hot for them (102°) and they wait until it’s dark.  Not even a bobcat sighting, so here is one of my rants:

Child Tax Credit

Our world is already overpopulated. We are driving more animals to extinction, cutting down more forests, which allow our planet to breathe, polluting our water, and heating up the globe by our overuse of fossil fuels. So why should we subsidize people for having more children?  Because of our belief in the United States of freedom to do whatever we want as long as it doesn’t hurt another person (doesn’t matter what we do to animals or the environment), we can’t restrict families to two children. (China can make rules like that, can even get away with forced abortions.) But why should New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie be featured on HBO Sports Series Hard Knocks talking about his 12 children with eight different women! Or why should we have a reality television show 19 Kids and Counting!

Opponents of the child tax credit argue that children should not be subsidized by the government and such favoritism in the tax code is inappropriate. According to this argument, the decision to have children is a parent’s choice on how to consume income, and therefore should not be favored under an income tax. The phase-out of the refundable portion adds 5 percent to the marginal tax rates of households above $75,000/$110,000 of income, which can disincentivize work. Opponents also argue the credit is wrought with fraud, often pointing to a 2011 Treasury Inspector General report that describes how $4.2 billion in child tax credits were refunded to individuals who were not authorized to work in the United States, but allowed to claim the credit under current law. Furthermore, some anti-poverty advocates argue that the $57 billion annual cost could be much better targeted, since much of the child tax credit (particularly at 2018 levels) goes to middle-class rather than poor families.2

What got me started on this tirade was an article in the New York Times about “a cadre of Republican intellectuals [who] has created a bold new platform for the GOP…” which mentioned,

Senator Mike Lee’s Family Fairness and Opportunity Tax Reform Act which proposes two tax rates, 15% on income up to $87,850… and 35% above that. It would also add an extra child tax credit and repeal taxes associated with the Affordable Care Act.


Oregon Coast

July 22, 2014

My daughter, son, and two grandsons camped in Sunset Bay State Park, south of Coos Bay (which, with a population of almost 16,000, is the 002011largest town on the Oregon coast) while my granddaughter and I took cooking classes at OCCI.  But we camped with them the first night, saw a large herd of elk, had a ranger show us how to make rope for bracelets from cattail leaves at the Interpretive Center, and spent some time at the beach, where a molting elephant seal was cordoned off.

135After our class we drove up the coast, stopping at the historic Yaquina Head Lighthouse, Oregon’s tallest and second oldest continuously operating lighthouse, but we just missed the tour.  The cold winds drove us back to the car (no doubt why it used to be named Cape Foulweather Lighthouse), but the kids loved the Yaquina Head Interpretive Center.  

137On to the condo I had rented for two days in Rockaway Beach, halfway back to Portland airport.  It was on the first floor (European term), carports on the ground floor, with a lovely barrier of grasses between us and the beach.

It was quite cold, but the kids were fine in their bathing suits, if not swimming.

One day we toured the Tillamook Cheese Factory (where they produce 167,000 pounds of cheese each day), had grilled cheese for lunch, and ice cream from their Creamery Cafe.  (They also make 18,000 gallons of ice cream per day.)

171Portland the last day, warm, with the kids playing in the fountain.

Home, July 22, 2014

texas rangers 001I heard that there had been some marvelous storms while I was gone.  No fair!  That’s the only thing I like about July in the desert. But the texas rangers were bursting with happiness and buzzing with an assortment of bees.

texas rangers 007
Since then it has just gotten hotter: 106° today, 109° tomorrow, but at least some rain is predicted (30% chance of rain tomorrow, which usually means that 30% of the city will get rain).

Street Art

Thought that these were great:

Roads Scholar

July 19, 2014

Friday, July 11, 2014
I am in Coos Bay, Oregon, with my 8-year-old granddaughter, on a Roads Scholar Intergenerational program, Cooking With Your Grandchild Along the Oregon Coast.

How does food get from the farm — or ocean — to your table? Share in the ultimate culinary adventure with your grandchild as you join chefs from the Oregon Coast Culinary Institute (OCCI) for a hands-on approach to bringing fresh, local foods to your plates! Learn how to catch and prepare your own seafood along Oregon’s beautiful coast, and select delicious local produce as you meet local farmers. OCCI chefs offer their expertise in kitchen safety and cooking techniques as you and your grandchild create dishes from the ingredients you have caught and harvested. From blueberries and herbs to produce and seafood, your introduction to Oregon’s gastronomic delights is sure to be delicious!1

014Today we went crabbing, but stopped on the way to sample cheese at Face Rock Creamery and see how it’s made.

020Crabbing meant dropping crab cages, baited with a quarter chicken (a crab’s typical diet), off the side of a high dock. Had to throw the crabs “we” (my granddaughter) caught back in because one was female (can only keep males) and another was undersized (we had a ruler to judge minimum size).

019The woman (not in our group) fishing next to us with a line caught a seagull.

Then we went in groups to the farmer’s market to buy the groceries for dinner.  Afterwards we drifted down to the Cranberry Sweets Company, which has maybe three dozen different samples of chocolate throughout the store.  We overdid.

Luckily, the chef had purchased a few crabs as none of the group (14 grandparents + their 12 grandkids, both boys and girls, 8-12) caught any large ones within the two hours we fished.

When we were learning about cooking our dinner, the young volunteers in the class who were 028supposed to rip the bottom shell off the live crabs for the demonstration worried about whether it would hurt the crabs (!) so the college student aides took the crabs off camera and smashed them first. (You could hear it – we all squirmed.)

We usually made half of our dinners, the aides making the rest before we get into the kitchen.  (They also do all of the cleanup – what a deal!)

•Dungeness crab with cocktail sauce
•Baked salmon with compound butter (with orange zest and ground fennel)
•Garden vegetable sauté (zucchini and yellow squash)
•Pesto pasta (we made the pesto)
•Ice cream sandwiches (made with chocolate chip cookies the college students made)
And each night we adults got wine!

034Sand volleyball for the kids and our host, Jeremy Jones, Assistant Housing Director of the college, after dinner.

We are staying in the dorms at the Southwestern Oregon Community College, taking the classes from Chef Wendi Ginther of OCCI.

036Saturday , July 12, 2014

Blueberry picking today at Hazen’s Riverside Blueberry Picking2, a 48-acre farm with 5 acres of U-pick blueberries. The berries are almost organic; he only uses Roundup on the weeds.  We asked about birds.  He said that one year a couple thousand cedar waxwings descended upon his farm.  Nothing he could do other than run about, chasing them out.  That was not his best year, but he bought the farm for his retirement and he said that he does just fine.

We had to pick 60 pounds, total, for the pies, jam, and salad. You could eat as many as you want.  No one starves on 043this trip!

Then swinging on a rope swing and a picnic lunch.

•Caprese s’mores stacks (Caprese salad on toast, not chocolate and marshmallows, to the disappointment of the kids, but the cheese had some carmelized sugar on top, done with a kitchen blow torch)
053•Spinach salad with blueberries, chevre and citrus vinaigrette
•Grilled flank steak with citrus chimichurri (a green sauce used for grilled meat, originally from Argentina, which we made)
•Focaccia (made by the aides)
dinner2•Blueberry pie (which wasn’t cool enough, so we had to eat it the next day)
•Biscuits and homemade blueberry jam (which we got jars of to take home, along with bags of leftover blueberries)



Sunday, July 13, 2014

We had to get on the bus at 5:00am (!!) headed for the docks for a morning of deep sea fishing, Betty Kay Charters3.  It was way cold, the seas were high, and the sun never came out.  (This snap from a video they gave each of us on the last day.)  I was queasy, only the second time I’ve been seasick, and stayed in the cabin except for forays out to take photos.076

We had to catch 62 fish before we could go back.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t that hard.  This photo of BamBam (yes – it’s his given name), who helped all of the kids all at once it seemed, with their fish.  “We” caught rockfish (tiger, blue, black, vermilon, china), cabazone, quill back, ling cod, and perhaps others.  We had to throw back the yelloweye rockfish, as they don’t mature until they’re 20, and can live to be 120!  (147 is the record.)

080When we got back to stable land, the smallest 31 of our fish were professionally filleted, at incredible speed, and we took the 31 largest fish back to learn how to fillet them.  (We threw out the heads and guts, but could have used them to catch crabs.)

My granddaughter was at very low ebb as we cooked this afternoon.  Rather than mandating a nap for the two free hours we were given, I let her go crawfishing in the river behind the dorms, organized by our host.  They used sticks, string, paperclips, and pieces of hotdog.  One girl 079walked out onto a log and fell in.  Glad she wasn’t mine.

•OCCI garden greens with mustard vinaigrette (We’re getting good at whisking vinaigrettes.)
•White fish en papillote (with “garden vegetables”)
•Fresh baked rolls (made by the aides) with compound butter
•Blueberry pie from yesterday

Monday, July 14, 2014

090This morning – the Mystery Basket Competition.  Each of the five tables got: blueberries (surprise!), fillets of fish (surprise!), compound butter, lots of parsley, zucchini and yellow squash, tomatoes, and salad greens.

We had a half hour to decide upon our menu, 2½ hours to cook it for lunch.  We could use any other ingredients the kitchen had.  A bit daunting for me, as I usually use a cookbook!  Anything baked had to be done at 350°.

089Menu theme The Northwest:

•Parsley/greens salad with edible flowers (which the kids picked right outside) and a lemon vinaigrette
•Baked tomatoes with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Sautéed julienned vegetables
Sautéed fish fillets with compound butter
•Wild rice pilaf
•Peach/blueberry crumble
(Champagne flutes filled with edible flowers for decoration)

093We were judged by the college aides by a 4-point scale on:
1. Utilization of mystery ingredients
2. Menu theme
3. Creativity
4. Flavor
5. Cooking methods – consistency and texture
6. Utilization of time (can’t be done too early or too late)
7. Presentation

Our team got 3rd place with 3/4/3/3/3/1/4.  (We were the last ones done.)  This was our group:

mystery basket
That afternoon Chris Foltz, Executive Chef of OCCI, cooked a Native American dinner for us: fish-head soup (which the kids just loved – hah!) with flatbread (fried, but not deep fried as the Tohono O’odham do here in southern Arizona), planked salmon (which he filleted with lightening speed), and foil-wrapped corn on the cob.  As we were at the OCCI classroom building, with no sand to stake the sticks, Chris had devised a contraption to hold them.


After dinner we went to the loading dock for the cafeteria where he and two of his students did ice sculpture. He competes for the United States at the World Ice Art Championships, presented by Ice Alaska4.


We were sent home with the booklet of all of our recipes, the video of our days, and a contact book with everyone’s photos, addresses and email addresses.  What a great week!



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