An Afternoon at Laguna Beach


Every year Laguna Beach has a Garden Tour. We decided to take a look and celebrate Mother’s Day one day early–my daughter, grandson, his girlfriend, and I. To be honest the tour was a bit disappointing but Laguna Beach itself definitely was not. We enjoyed ourselves immensely and will return.

We decided to do the cardio tour–yes, that is what they called it. The shuttle drops everyone off at Garden 1, you follow a map, and walk the rest of the tour. The option is to take the shuttle just about everywhere. We did not do that. Here are a few photos I took along the way.


The rest of my family in front of me walking one of the cardio sections.

A door I loved in an alley along the way.

Laguna Beach is very hilly. Many houses are not only like those above but perched at the top of the hills.

Some interesting flowers along the way.

The final street of the tour was the street closet to the ocean.

Looking through the gate at the side of one the elegant houses along the sea.

Some people apparently prefer more privacy.

I found this undulating grass quite fascinating.

This and the following photo are of Shaw’s Cove, a rather hidden public beach with waves crashing against rocks and only a few locals. There is a series of steps that lead down to the Cove.

The Huntington–Gardens, Part One


Where have I been? Entertaining my son whom I had not seen in more than two years. One of the things he wanted to do was visit The Huntington in Pasadena after seeing some photos I took on a visit in January. Unless you get there as soon as they open and stay all day, it is impossible to see everything in one day. I have been there four times and only seen the gardens. The library and art gallery await for another time. Here are the photos from the first excursion with my son, Erik.

Erik took a lot of photos. This set is mostly in the desert garden section filled with cactus and succulents.
Yes, those are thorns sticking out of the trunk.

In many place in the gardens you can see the San Gabriel Mountains in the background.

I found the colors and texture of the trunk of this tree quite a contrast to many in the desert area. This photo and several that follow were taken in the Australian section.
Some of these trees are too huge to get all the tree in a photo.
On the way out. The rest had to wait for another day.

Easy Vegetarian Chili Dinner


I had some Soyrizo in the refrigerator–chorizo made from soybeans–and decided to try making chili with it. I sautéed one finely chopped onion in olive oil and added the Soyrizo after removing it from the casing and breaking it up into small pieces. After the onion was translucent, I added one deseeded and chopped red bell pepper and a deseeded and chopped poblano pepper. To this mixture I added one can undrained black beans and 1 small can chopped tomatoes. I let this mixture cook on low for several hours before serving. The Soyrizo makes it a little bit spicy, but if you want more spice add berbere, chili powder, etc. to your taste. I like thick chili but if you want it more like the consistency of soup, just add some broth or water.

The salad was made with a mixture of greens, chopped red bell peppers, dried bing cherries, and sliced leeks broken up so you can see the circles. These bowls have been in my family for decades. They were the everyday dishes my mom used when I was growing up.

Note: For those out there who question, and rightfully, some of the ingredients in meat substitutes, I do get it. However, once in a while I like to jazz up the food a bit.

An Old Bowl and the Silver Spoon


My Aunt Julia, Mom’s sister, lived to 94. She loved fine antique china, linens, and French furniture. The ordinary bowl in this photo defies those inclinations, its origins a mystery. How did she acquire such a plain bowl and why? I will never know. In spite of its age, cracks, dull finish, I have used it every morning for decades. It is my breakfast bowl, filled with yogurt or cottage cheese with dried blueberries and a handful of walnuts, or, occasionally, oatmeal.

The spoon, on the other hand, is not ordinary, but rather good silver from the set Dad gave Mom on their first wedding anniversary. Unlike Mom, who saved her good silver for holidays and special occasions, I use these spoons daily and think of her unconditional love, strong will, determination, and love for beauty.

A Christmas Tree Story


Decades ago my parents, long deceased, started going to warm Arizona from cold Missouri. They gave me their artificial Douglas fir tree. It was the old fashioned kind of tree where you had to put together a column, add alphabetically labelled limbs one by one, then add the lights of your choice, and finally the rest of the decoration. Every year I unpacked it and went to work. This year was no different except a crucial part of it was missing. I still do not know whether moving was a factor or somehow I did not pack it up correctly. Regardless, it was obvious I would not be using it. What could I salvage? The limbs, the top so I used parts of it to decorate.

I used various limbs and some unbreakable, red Christmas balls to decorate the front of my house.
I stuck the top part into a big pot and added some Christmas balls I have had for years and stuck a star on top.

Then my daughter, Ema, told me I could use her tree which is too wide for her current place. We took it out of the box, she showed me how it works, and I decorated it this afternoon. It is wider and I had to move some furniture but I love the result. I have a tree, but still could salvage parts of the tree I have treasured for all these years since Mom and Dad gave it to me.

Daylight view.
Evening view.

Now it is time to finish the shopping and wrap the gifts.

Fuerte


An “exercise” to write a poem about ones origins with the words I am from… inspired me to write this poem.

I am from the dark side of the moon, blood born, secretly shining.

Fuerte

I am from puma, stalking your memories, invading your minds,.

Fuerte

I am from Gottlieb, who left Swiss mountains 150 years ago at 18 to avoid

becoming a mercenary, moved to Missouri, created a farm. His cultivator

sets in my front garden.

Fuerte

I am from persons Gujarati, Bengali, Punjabi, who sailed seas, met strangers, loved.

Fuerte

I am from Esan, a Nigerian tribe about which I knew nothing until a DNA test revealed,

ancient, black, beautiful.

Fuerte

I am from Latin America, Colombian, Peruvian, Puerto Rican–wanderers, explorers.

Fuerte

I am from Slavic peoples. Byzantine, Macedonian, Alexander the Great.

Fuerte

I am from brave wandering ancestors–Asian, Latin, Toscani Italian, French, German, Swiss, Slavic, Iberian.

Fuerte

I am from J haploid group, people who left the northern Middle East 7000 years ago,

wandered, explored, populated Western Europe.

Fuerte

I am from farmers, Doyle and Barbara, who grew corn, wheat, soybeans, Hereford and Charolaise cattle

to whom I carried salt blocks as a child.

Fuerte

I am from Sacred Corn, the nourisher, singing on hot summers, growing.

Fuerte

I am from the sweet smell of Jasmine, Roses, Honeysuckle, winding up walls, overgrowing gardens,

giving people hope.

Fuerte

I am from lemons, figs, dates, pomegranates, golden, dark, red, tropical, lingering.

Fuerte

I am from Stars, universal child, born on sacred ground, singing infinite songs.

Fuerte

Moving 4–Bittersweet


Today I made the first leg of my journey from living in the Panhandle of Texas to living in the San Gabriel Valley in LA County, Ca. I have crossed New Mexico many times at various times of the year. I doubt I will ever again drive all the way across it again. One thing was very different this time, green. Usually, by this time toward end of summer, it is dry and hot. Not this time. Emerald green contrasting with the red rock outcrops proved quite lovely and dramatic. The green prevailed all the way to Flagstaff. The hottest temperature today along I-40 was 83 in NM and briefly a bit above 90 for a few miles in Arizona.

Just before I left my daughter’s house in Amarillo, I took a few photos. I have been going to her house for more than 18 years. My 17 year old grandson has spent almost his whole life there until a month ago. Will I ever return? Probably not. Nevertheless, the lovely memories of their life in this house will linger for the rest of my lifetime.

Barbie Doll– a poem about my mother


Barbara Lewis Duke, pretty, petite, blue-eyed and blond, my

mother, one fearless, controlling woman. Long after Mom’s

death, Dad said, “Barbara was afraid of absolutely no one

and nothing.” They married late, 34 and 38. He adored her

unconditionally. She filled my life with horses, music, love,

cornfields, hayrides, ambition. Whatever she felt she

had missed, my sister and I were going to possess: books,

piano lessons, a college education. Her father, who died long

before I was born, loved fancy, fast horses. So did she. During

my preschool, croupy years, she quieted my hysterical night

coughing with stories of runaway horses pulling her in a wagon.

With less than one hundred pounds and lots of determination,

she stopped them, a tiny Barbie Doll flying across the Missouri

River Bottom, strong, willful, free.

My mother many, many years later with Dad. I took a photo of a photo I have hanging in the hall–the sun reflecting in the windows.

Christmas Baking


Some years I do a lot of baking. Not so much this one because not going to see so many people because of Covid. Today I baked anyway, made pumpkin bread using Mom’s recipe. Many go out and buy new appliances. Not I. In this photo you will see the electric mixer my parents gave me decades ago. Yes, it looks a bit used and rough; it still works perfectly–metal, not plastic, but not heavy like the popular brands now.

Mom always baked her pumpkin bread in cans like this and gave some for presents. One can is just plain pumpkin bread, the other two have chopped walnuts. Mom’s recipe is on page ten in the cookbook, “You’re Gonna Eat That!?” I alter it a bit and here is the general way to make it:

Sift 3 cups flour with 1 tsp cinnamon–I used cinnamon from Ethiopia, 1 tsp grated nutmeg, 1 tsp allspice, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda. Set aside. Mix 2 cups sugar with 1 cup oil–I used avocado, add 3 beaten eggs and mix in the mixer until thoroughly blended. Add 1 tsp vanilla and a couple drops of clove essential oil. Add I small can pumpkin; mix. Gradually add the dry ingredients. Blend thoroughly. At this point I spooned the mixture into one of the cans. Then I added a cup of chopped walnuts to the rest and spooned that mixture into the remaining two cans. Bake at 325 for an hour or until tester comes out clean. Cool on rack and remove from the coffee tins.

Tomorrow I will make Mom’s pumpkin pie also in the memoir/cookbook.

Happy Holidays to all of you!!!