Sunday, September 24, 2006

Red Hat Society Sunday

  My Red Hat Society friends and their spouses/SO are coming for a barbecue this afternoon. It's sort of the unofficial start of our group's social season. The croquet and badminton sets are out and the sun tea is steeping. I have a feeling it will get too warm for sports but not for iced tea (it's peach/apricot tea). The temperature is supposed to reach 90 F. today. We are having barbecued chicken, pasta salad with feta cheese, red and yellow peppers, tiny tomatoes and a garlic and parmesan cheese dressing to which I added a bit of homemade pesto, chips and guacamole, hummus and much more that the ladies will be bringing in about an hour. We've tidied up a bit including making our bed. That doesn't happen unless someone is coming over. Well, gotta go get dressed. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Jesus By The Yuba River

 Kerry and I picnicked by the Yuba River on our way home Monday. On one side of the car we had the river. On the other this massive stone wall. He said, "Do you think we can find Jesus or the Virgin Mary on the wall?" We joked about the old donut that looked like the Virgin Mary and other such ridiculous things. Then he said, "I think I see him." So here's a close up of the wall where we both saw him. See if you can find him. We are not telling anyone where this is. Folks in the area wouldn't appreciate millions of Christians arriving on the scene to pray. Just not enough beer in the closest saloon for everyone. If I've offended someone...well, you are just too sensitive. Laugh a little; it's good for you. Posted by Picasa

The Skipper Wears Red Fleece Not Prada

 Here we are skimming across the water in Emerald Bay at Lake Tahoe. The boat was great fun. Einar and Susan are lounging in the back and Kerry is the photographer. The deepest part of Lake Tahoe is 1,600 feet. The average depth is 1,000 feet. It's the second deepest lake in the U.S. Crater Lake in Oregon is deeper (1,949 feet). Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 18, 2006

On The Water At Lake Tahoe's Emerald Bay; Hedonism Is So Wonderful

  This is where we had lunch on Sunday with our friends Einar and Susan aboard our 20-foot speedboat (we rented it for four hours for $390 US). Emerald Bay is one of the most beautiful spots on the lake. I have to admit, however, that it looks better from the perspective of the photograph than from the water. We motored slowly into the bay, circled the island, cut the engine and proceeded to have a wonderful lunch: blueberries, Elena Zinfandel, stilton cheese with apricots (Trader Joes and yummy), vegetable chips (so we would feel virtuous and healthy all at the same time), Cambazola cheese (camembert and gorgonzola cheese), sesame crackers, bits of barbecued boneless ribs, and homegrown tomatoes cut into bite-sized pieces. We bobbed in the water under the shelter of the boat cover and nibbled our repast. It was wonderful.

I was done driving so Einar took over the helm. We headed across the lake to the Nevada side. Yes, California is forced to share this beautiful lake with the folks in Nevada. Susan wasn't ready to take the helm but the rest of us were. The speedometer was broken so we have no idea how fast we went, but it felt great.

The big trick is finding the spot from which you started your journey on the lake. The boat rental company told us to look back as we were leaving the dock so we could figure it out. Well, there was a difference of opinion on what each person saw when we left the dock. I was busy driving to didn't look. But eventually we found our way.

We didn't go far, despite our best intentions. The porch of a local bar, just a stones throw from where we docked, beckoned us. There we gazed at the lake and tried out the local libations and a few tasty treats like crab cakes, popcorn shrimp and calamari.

Finally we headed to our accomodations: The Cottages at Sunnyside. It looked like a place that Hansel and Gretel and the Little Red Riding Hood sans wolf might have once lived. We stayed in the Fishing Hole room, which faced the lake. Einar and Susan were next door, but I don't remember the name of their room.

Einar and Susan had to go home early Monday morning but we didn't. Our trip home took us to Sierraville (huge open valley surrounded by mountains), Downieville, which vied with Sacramento to be the state capitol many years ago (lost by one vote; this is before L.A. registered on anyones radar) and then down through Nevada City and Grass Valley.

We love being the only people on the road. It's like the earth is ours and no one elses. We picnicked next to the north fork of the Yuba River which even now has a lot of water. Gold miners spent a lot of time back in the mid to late 1800s on the Yuba. We stopped at the musem in Downieville. There is a photo of a 39 pound gold nugget. The best part about the museum is the volunteer who staffs it. She had the keys to the community center where there was a bathroom, which was as clean as any McDonalds I've stopped at.

So now we are home. Kerry spent the last couple of hours doing some leveling of our land with his tractor. He just walked into my office covered with dust and heading for the shower but grinning from ear to ear. Tractors make men smile.

My lungs don't do well when they experience lots of change in altitude and humidity so I've had a hard day when it comes to breathing. Most people don't think about breathing, but asthmatics do. But, thanks to lots of inhalers and some herbs (nettles) I'm doing well. I feel like we were a million miles away for a couple of days. We came home to a glorious sunset and the promise of temperatures in the mid-80s. Fall is just about here. Time to plant winter vegetables. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Great Music, Fierce Storms, Good Friends And Good Food...It's Albuquerque

  We spent last weekend in Albuquerque, NM visiting my son Mark. He plays in the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra and it was the season opener. Great concert. I thought I wouldn't like the contemporary piece but ended up loving it. Most contemporary composers write stuff that sounds like screeching birds. Ida Kafavian was the violin soloist who played the work by Bill Dougherty. He wrote the work after seeing Diego Rivera's murals that depict working in Detroit on assembly lines and other blue collar work. The music was wonderful plus the symphony showed sections of the mural on a large screen above the orchestra. My son had lots of solos in the piece.

You can see his murals at

We also got to experience great rain storms while we were there. Albuquerque has been in a drought for about 7 years. Now this summer they are setting records for rainfall. I love the storms which are complete with thunder and lightning. They are fierce but don't last very long. It rains enough, however, to fill up the concrete arroyos that whisk the water to the Rio Grande River so the town doesn't flood. We don't get storms like that in California very often. Because of all the rain, the desert is in bloom. We took a hike in an open space area and saw beautiful flowers like the ones in the photo which Kerry took.

And the food, well, Albuquerque has lots of wonderful places to eat. Probably the dish I remember most is a dessert called the Chocolate Pot at the Charma River Brewery. There are actually two pots. The larger one contains a creamy, rich dark chocolate that is hot. The second pot is smaller and contains a creamy vanilla pudding-like mixture that is served cold. First you get a small spoonful of the hot chocolate and then you dip it in the creamy vanilla. Yum. It is scrumptious.

I managed to stay away from spicy food by being a lot more diligent in my ordering. I don't enjoy spicy stuff and my stomach doesn't like it either.

We spent our last day trainwatching with my son. He loves trains. We wemt to a very busy spot northwest of Albuquerque and just waited for trains to come through. Then he took pictures of the trains. His train fixation started when he was three and has not abated. It's just changed.

And my friend Beverly and I spent several hours in our favorite shoe store in Albuquerque. I got two pairs and she tried a lot on but didn't buy. We wear the same size and both have wide feet so it's great fun to shop with her. The sign on the window of the store says, "If you are looking for your wife, she's probably here." The store is "Shoes on a Shoestring". There are two in Albuquerque and one in Phoenix. The prices are great.

The temperature here is wonderfully cool so I'm going back to gardening. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I Actually Recognized A Famous Former Football Coach In An Airport!

 For all the time I spend in airports and on airplanes, I seldom see anyone famous. Now I'm not saying that Mike Ditka, former Chicago Bears Coach, is famous in the circles in which I run, but there are thousands, perhaps millions, who know the face, the name and the temperament (which probably led to his health problems).

I'm standing in line at Starbucks in the Phoenix Airport on Friday late morning. The line is taking forever. Kerry is sitting down with our sandwich and I'm starving so I want the line to move. I turn around in the line and there is Mike Ditka, former coach of the Chicago Bears. His name popped into my head and out of my mouth. He's actually fairly short but has great hair and he banters very well. We did that until I order my coffee ala "L.A. Story" half caf, half decaf, room for cream, on ice, grande size. He gave me tons of grief about my coffee order. Meanwhile the skinny stooge behind him was trying to impress me with all the things Mike is doing. I asked Mike, "Is that your agent?" Reply, "Nah, he's my assistant, he follows me around." My reply, "sounds like a wife in the 1950s to me". The stooge looked very uncomfortable. Another way you can tell male celebrities...they have twice as much product in their hair than normal men. He was going to New Mexico for some reason. I never asked why. I saw him on the plane way up front in the good seats on Southwest (that was a joke, the only good seats on Southwest are the ones that are not close to a crying baby). He said hello and I noted that he must have boarded with the children because he was so close to the front. He grinned from ear to ear and his stooge just grimace. Banter is so much fun. I hope I never get out of practice. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Miss Kate Has Left The Building...On to Albuquerque

 It was great to have Miss Kate (pictured here) with us but alas her owner, Doug, came back from Burning Man. Kate and Doug are on their way to a fly fishing spot in eastern Oregon. We, on the other hand, are on our way in the morning to Albuquerque. My son Mark plays trumpet in the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra. This weekend is the start of the new season so we will be there to applaud his fine musical ability. The main piece of the night is "Pictures at an Exhibition". We will eat far too many spicy foods at The Range, which my stomach and taste buds don't like but most of all we will be with Mark and our friends Beverly and George. The weather report calls for cool and rainy. Love it. Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 01, 2006

Burning Man Festival 2006

  My long-time good friend, Doug, is at the Burning Man Festival in the Black Rock Desert about 130 miles north of Reno, Nevada. He took these wonderful photos. This is his second time at the festival. Approximately 35,000 people arrive for one week at the end of August. Before they arrive there is nothing there; after they are gone there is nothing there. The land belongs to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The weird and the wonderful are a big focus of the week. Aren't the cupcakes wonderful? The sand surfer looks like a ballet dancer to me. People build things there, bring things and improvise. And of course the usual deviant behavior occurs, I'm told by Doug. If you want to find out about that you'd better go to the Burning Man web site: You can even view the webcast which supposedly is real time. The New York Times is also featuring photos from Burning Man. You can see those at

Meanwhile, Kate, Doug's dog (they aren't allowed at Burning Man) and I are heading out to water the vegetable garden. Life is good. Posted by Picasa

Hummingbirds: Ace Fliers At Warp Speed

 First of all, I didn't take the picture. I found it on Google Images. Hummingbirds are one of my favorite birds. They are amazing for a bird that weighs less than a paper clip. Some hummers migrate twice a year between the the Texas coastline and the Yucatan Peninsula. They do it in one non-stop flight over the Gulf of Mexico. If there is a stiff wind or a storm they drop from the sky because they've run out of energy. That's why birdwatching is good along the Texas coast in both the spring and the fall. In the spring it's the first place migrating birds land for food. The Audobon Society has set up feeding stations with water for the birds right near the beach. About 20 feet away from the food there are bleachers for birdwatchers. Very cool. In the fall it's the last place they eat before they start their incredible voyage. Birds are tougher than any human I've ever known. Back to why I started this blog.

For three years now we have had one hummingbird feeder. It's right outside my office window in the shade of a big, old oak tree. Lots of other feeders there too, mostly for finches.

This week I decided to add another hummingbird feeder about three feet to the left of the original one, but still under the oak tree. This one is a different shape. Hummingbirds are very territorial so I wanted them to know which was which so they could decide if one or the other suits their needs. This has caused a great deal of confusion and bickering among the hummers. They make a little clicking sound that is barely audible. The ones using the first feeder want to lay claim to the second one as well. First they feed at one feeder and then move to the next. Any intruders are chased away at warp speed. Meanwhile the finches just try to stay out of their way.

In Costa Rica I stood in the midst of ten humming bird feeders. I didn't move and closed my eyes. The hummingbirds flew so close I could feel the touch of their wings on my cheeks. It felt like an angel or a spirit had kissed me. Very mystical. In Costa Rica I saw 8 different types of hummingbirds. Amazing creatures. Posted by Picasa