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.

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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.)

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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.




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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?

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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!



July 6, 2014

I just love it when the monsoons hit.  Yesterday evening the little wash behind my house was running, from the canales.  The temperature had dropped 20°.  At one point the wind was coming almost parallel to the ground and I couldn’t even see the hill behind the house.  This video by University of Arizona Atmospheric Sciences tells it all:  Humidity’s up to 35%!  (But nothing like Mississippi or South Carolina.)

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My neighbors, who said they’d call the police when my yard crew started to trim one of their mesquites that hung way over my property, lost a huge limb off that mesquite.  I’d chortle if I knew how.  At least now I’ll have my view from the kitchen window back after they dispose of the downed limb.  (Break at bottom left.)

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storm 003A family of quail came by this morning with five almost-grown chicks, when I was outside with no camera.  Another family with four little ones, using my stone path.  This guy is a Brown-crested Flycatcher:

 Landscape Design

Another design feature I learned about in Landscape for Living (this from Wikipedia):

A ha-ha is a recessed landscape design element that creates a vertical barrier while preserving views. The design includes a turfed incline which slopes downward to a sharply vertical face, typically a masonry retaining wall. Ha-has are used in landscape design to prevent access to a garden, for example by grazing livestock, without Ha_ha_wall_diagramobstructing views. In security design, the element is used to deter vehicular access to a site while minimizing visual obstruction. The name “ha-ha” derives from the unexpected (i.e., amusing) moment of discovery when, on approach, the recessed wall suddenly becomes visible.

I can see how this would keep cattle and sheep from chewing up the large lawn of an English estate, and the idea of having no fence is nice, but would it work in the desert?  Know the ha-ha would keep out javelina, but you’d need a large declivity to keep out about deer (who can jump up to 12 feet but have never jumped over my 4-foot fence into my yard, they’re so skittish), coyotes (who can jump a distance of over 13 feet, so you’d have to measure distance, not height), bobcats (who can jump up to 12 feet).

On the other hand, the main reasons for the fence were to keep in the dog (now deceased) and to have the 4′ fence required by code for the spa, to keep out kids who want to drown themselves.  A ha-ha would work for the kids, but I can see a dumb dog jumping out after some animal and breaking a leg!  Better for photos, but not if the animal is in the ditch!

big bobcat 003A friend had asked me to name the vine curling up my trellis.  Didn’t know, but found it in Cool Plants for Hot Gardens: it’s a Yellow Butterfly Vine (Mascagnia macroptera), not named because the flowers attract butterflies, but because during summer, chartreuse ‘wings’ unfold on the seed pods that look like butterflies.


July 5, 2014


July 3, 2014

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rattlesnake 006As I was having my morning coffee and newspaper, noticed that my cat’s hackles were up.  The adult bobcat on the spa deck again.  It didn’t stay too long, but later I noticed something else there.  Turns out it was a three-foot rattler.  I may start wearing cowboy boots outside to do my yardwork.


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Later in the day, when I was getting changed for qigong, the bobcat was back.  Sat on the spa cover, then opted for the cool ground cover.  Looked up when I took a photo from upstairs, but my flash went off in its eyes.

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Continuing my reading on landscape architecture.  (Believe this was from Landscape for Living.)  Fascinated by a “whisker dam”.  This from 1937.


July 1, 2014

Sunday morning a coyote strolled by the fence, but her young twins came into the yard to explore.  Only one came to drink.  (Bad photo through screen and window reflection.)  They roamed around doing their own thing, which is why I only have a couple of poor photos to prove that there were two of them.   One of them left the yard soon and the other tried to pull the cover off the spa.

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two coyotes 021two coyotes 038Bobcat

This morning I opened the bedroom drapes to see a large bobcat relaxing on the spa cover.  My cat growled at it.  The bobcat was startled to see the drapes opened, but then didn’t care until I went upstairs to the deck.  Guess it didn’t want any animal above it.  It allowed one more photo, then slithered through the fence and into the underbrush.

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1056The patches in the asphalt parking lot at the college are starting to melt.  But it’ll really be hot by Sunday.

Soap and Salve

June 28, 2014

soap 002For the box of creosote leaves that I sent my cousins1, they sent me back two aromatic bars of soap – atai tea and honeysuckle – which she makes, and a small jar of Green ‘Heal All’ Salve, which he, a naturopathic doctor, makes.  Its fourth ingredient was larrea tridentata, which I had to look up:

Larrea tridentata is known as creosote bush and greasewood as a plant, chaparral as a medicinal herb.

Used the salve on my hand right away – had been out trimming, for the Brush & Bulky Collection, mesquite and grey thorn bushes which have volunteered in the drainage, next to my house, from the cul-de-sac and guess I got stuck through my gloves because a right hand knuckle was swollen; the next day it had gone down but some swelling had spread to the neighboring knuckles.  At least it doesn’t hurt any more.


Finished I Am Malala (read by Archie Panjabi with that lovely Indian/British accent) and am into a series which is rather less serious, Outlander, a bodice-ripper spiced up with time travel and real historic events and people in 18th century Europe.  I asked friend M if she was the one who had recommended the series (of eight novels):

Yes…. I am sure it was me.  She  owes me royalties! ;) Working at a book shop I was intrigued by the number of women asking for Outlander…especially since I saw that it was categorized under scifi, romance, historical fiction AND plain fiction. ???
I had religiously managed avoided shelving in the romance aisle, but got a copy and my interest was piqued by a description that included Scotland, medicine, plants and a very fascinating resume of the author Scottsdale authoress Diana Gabaldon.  I googled her and she started as a scientist whose father was a famous Arizonan politician… and she wrote a 900 page book kind of as a lark.  Plus the covers were cool.  Hooked, I am.  Can you imagine a grown woman hiding in the woman’s room to read just a little more?  
Lots of recent activity… because STARZ is presenting a 13 episode series in August.  I just read she just released 8th? 9th? in the series and I admit, there are moments of ridiculousness, but I don’t care, I just love that series, which is pretty bizarre because I came to fiction late… most definitely a non-fiction gal most of my life.  
She manages suspension of disbelief really well (hampered by what turned out to be an increasing need for another another another book in the series, but I don’t begrudge Diana’s crazy reaches… I just love Claire and Jaime).  I love all the detail of historical political Scotland around 1735, the plants, the medicine (Claire also was a nurse in WWII France) and the great and varied character development. She even has a sub series spin off of a character from the original series.
Her fan base is crazy sick large.   I have always wondered why it wasn’t picked up for visual media, but it finally has been filmed.  I am torn because I think  it will be hard to capture all the historical fiction detail and viewers will just be left with mawkish bodice ripping with a somewhat shallow appearance, but I am hopeful.  The sets in the trailers look very promising… and who can resist a man is a kilt.  There are trailers for the series online… and the huge fan base seems pleased.  There is even a musical that Diana G. approves of (in Scotland).  
I have read all the books  AND listened them on tape.  When I don’t think I can sleep I put my CD player under my pillow and if my husband sees that he jokingly and accusingly says “Is that Jaime?”  When I worked at the bookstore my love of costume and history of having lived briefly in Scotland had me dressing the part and speaking with a brogue for fun… and my whole family jokes about my addiction.  
I have sold SO many copies and even buy copies of Outlander now when in Bookman’s, so I have them on hand to dispense when I get somebody else interested. Bookman’s says they don’t have copies in very frequently.  People either LOVE them or HATE them.  Detail is the byword.  Lots of men show up at her lectures at the book festival.  So… I will sign up for Starz in August and keep my fingers crossed that the screenplay doesn’t make me seem an idiot.


Only in the NY Times could you find quotidian in two articles in the same section (one in a review by Salman Rushdie of the oeuvre of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who recently rose up to Heaven as myriads watched – sorry, that’s from One Hundred Years of Solitude, the other in a mini-review by Jeanine Basinger), and antediluvian, a word which just that morning I had said was no longer in use!

two cowsTwo Cows

You’ve heard this joke before, but check out VENTURE CAPITALISM and AN IRAQI CORPORATION:

TWO COWS – Matthias Varga

You have 2 cows.
You give one to your neighbor.

You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and gives you some milk.

You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and sells you some milk.

You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and shoots you.

You have 2 cows.
The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other, and then throws the milk away.

You have two cows.
You sell one and buy a bull.
Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows.
You sell them and retire on the income.

You have two cows.
You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows.
The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island Company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company.
The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. You sell one cow to buy a new president of the United States, leaving you with nine cows. No balance sheet provided with the release.
The public then buys your bull.

You have two giraffes.
The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.

You have two cows.
You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows.
Later, you hire a consultant to analyze why the cow has dropped dead.

You have two cows.
You borrow lots of euros to build barns, milking sheds, hay stores, feed sheds, dairies, cold stores, abattoir, cheese unit and packing sheds.
You still only have two cows.

You have two cows.
You go on strike, organize a riot, and block the roads, because you want three cows.

You have two cows.
You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk.
You then create a clever cow cartoon image called a Cowkimona and market it worldwide.

You have two cows,
but you don’t know where they are.
You decide to have lunch.

You have 5000 cows. None of them belong to you.
You charge the owners for storing them.

You have two cows.
You have 300 people milking them.
You claim that you have full employment, and high bovine productivity.
You arrest the newsman who reported the real situation.

You have two cows.
You worship them.

Everyone thinks you have lots of cows.
You tell them that you have none.
No one believes you, so they bomb the ** out of you and invade your country.
You still have no cows, but at least you are now a Democracy.

You have two cows.
Business seems pretty good.
You close the office and go for a few beers to celebrate.

their website: and her note on Facebook:

I can’t seem to get over these summer nights… Phoenix, it’s COOL at night and cooler in the morning.  And there’s this other thing that might be difficult for me to explain, but I’ll try… there is MOISTURE in the air. But maybe that is related to this other odd event that happened tonight called RAIN. Yes, we do still miss a great many things about the desert, but there were a few things we missed about Appalachia first, crickets, frogs, lightning bugs… the night air has a different look, feel and sound to it out here, so FULL.


June 26, 2014

tomatoes 002I love the cherry tomatoes from my garden.  Ten times the flavor of those from the market.  However, the birds love them too.  So as the bush grew I added one, two, then three levels of chicken wire that I had sitting around.  The happy plant has grown beyond that!  If you look close up (click on the photo, then hit the +) you can tomatoes 007see that the red one not screened on the upper left is half eaten.

But tomatoes do not all ripen at the same time, as the plums on my tree did…  Forty years ago I had an older house In Town with a fabulous garden –  apricot, peach, plum, fig trees, roses, and lots else (plus lawns front and back).  The birds loved my plums but only took one bite out of each one. It wouldn’t have bothered me so much if they’d finish one at a time!  At any rate, the tree was large, so I decided to use bird netting on just one branch, and let the birds have the rest.  (I actually don’t like eating plums, but I love the jam.)  So all of the plums on that covered branch grew big and lovely, and the branch, being too heavy, broke off.  So much for trying to subvert Nature.

Anyway, the tomatoes were scrumptious with a bit of olive oil, za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice blend), some grated Parmesan and toasted pine nuts sprinkled on top.


coyote 006The morning after the Resting Bobcat1, a large, lean coyote nosed along the fence. I thought about how slim both the bobcat and the coyote were. Imagine if our 11 million obese adults (34.9% of 318,281,000, total resident population of the United State as of June 26, 2014 – statistics from Wikipedia) had to chase rabbits to eat! They’d be thin too.

Wolf Spider

Went to sit down on the couch to watch a movie and there was a wolf spider in my place.  Put a cup over him, a card under him, and dropped him into my infamous rosemary.  Later, noticing a few ants doing broken-field running around my kitchen, thought that I should have taken him there.  Don’t think those tiny ants would have filled him up, but might be a nice solution to the ant problem.


Continuing my study of Landscape Architecture, I have read most these books so far:

  • Cool Plants for Hot Gardens by Greg Starr, award-winning horticulturist, nursery owner, and master gardener in town.  The book is subtitled 200 Water-Smart Choices for the Southwest.  I emailed him asking why he hadn’t included one of my favorite trees, the Vitex, which I have planted at the last three houses, and his short answer was, I had to stop somewhere.  It’s a great reference book with nice color photos and good Descriptions,  Landscape Applications, what to plant with what, and Precautions, such as Rabbits will probably eat young plants…  If you need a book on desert plants, this is the one to buy.
  • Landscape for Living by Garrett Eckbo, was first published in 1950, and even though it was reprinted in 2002, it is quite dated, both in the language (not Politically Correct), landscape for living2and the photographic examples in black and white.  On the other hand, contrasting housing developments developed with landscaping included, as opposed to the Ugly Houses2 being built down the street on scraped land, Eckbo wins. The book is wordy (by today’s standards, and I’m not even thinking about Twitter) and a good soporific, so I may never finish it.  But this is one paragraph I enjoyed:landscape for living
  • Desert Landscaping: How to Start and Maintain a Healthy Landscape in the Southwest by George Brookbank is an excellent book for newcomers to the desert.  Both Part 1 – How to Start and Maintain a Desert Landscape, and Part 2 – A Month-by-Month Maintenance Guide are great.  Having lived here for over 40 years and having maintained gardens in six different houses, I knew most of Part 1, and Part 2 is something I google most months (mostly on which veggies to plant), but I think a lot of people around here could use Brookbank’s practical advice.brookbank

For “fun” I am “reading” (ok – it’s an audio book) I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb.  Malala is 14 now, and after many surgeries in England has recovered from being shot in in the head for saying that girls should be able to go to school (in the Swat Valley of Pakistan).  The book is interesting, adding details to a lot of what we know, and I think that all middle school girls should read it.



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