Thursday, May 29, 2008

Viva la Difference

"A world without differences is a world that denies people their deepest attachments to history and to the future, to memory and to inheritance,"
- Natan Sharansky

In this nation we respect our neighbors of different races, cultures and faith. So it would seem to be quite in keeping with the American spirit to have our gardens express to the outside world honestly whom are on the inside. Viva la difference.
My garden is nothing formal. It is fun-loving. Quirky. Wants to love and be loved. An All-American Mutt of a Garden.
Like me. Like my dog, Reno. That's her on the lawn, enjoying a massage.

God Bless all the wonderful garden centers in Southern California. Like gardeners and our gardens, these businesses share personalities with their owners.
Coming home from an appointment in Pomona, I am passing The Garden, a hippie-wonderful garden center behind the proudly porched vintage bungalow on busy Garey Avenue. My car pulls over and lets me out into an enchanted land of long-ago where bees pollinate flowers, picnic furniture paint is allowed to gracefully age and I imagine chickens are free to wander.

The gravel driveway which leads to the nursery area crunches beneath my feet.
The proprietress, Dawn Van Allen, is watering way out back on the deep rectangular plot. She hollers a friendly acknowledgement. Make myself at home. She'll be right there to help.
She carries Annie's Annuals 'Fama Blue' Scabiosa . My heart skips a beat. No shipping from Richmond- YEAH. I pick out a couple. I picture their bright blue pincushion-shaped blossoms nodding on thin stems making the yellow sunshine of the "lonely" yarrow beam brighter in the sunny front planting strip.

Dawn and I get to talking roses.

To make sure I would not attempt to use them again, I have thrown out my dirty, stiff, hot leather rose gauntlets. They had been worn to the point that they were dangerous. What would she recommend?
She models the West County rose gloves. Not only are they just as gorgeous as the picture suggests- the fingers are flexible, the palms are padded, they can go in the washer and dryer- and what will be important in July and August- the fabric, while protective: it breathes.

Roses are like people. We are what we eat and so are they. Dawn is quite taken with Dr. Earth fertilizers. They nudge rather than shove, which is far better for the ultimate health of the garden. I agree. Dr. Earth products are fabulous to feed your roses when you want them to give you their very best.

The Garden is located at:845 N Garey Ave Pomona, CA 91767-4615
Call (909) 620-0199 for hours

To see the 'Fama Blue' Scabiosa click on

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Hose in Hand

Roses and cactus are both known for thorns. Okay- roses are not cactus when it comes to water. However, if you have abandoned roses because you think they are water hogs, think again. Specimens are stumbled upon along remote roadways and in long abandoned gardens. Roses are survivors.
The June issue of the Weeks Roses Newsletter comes out in a few days. One of its features this month is a lesson on watering roses. The subscription is free. Sign up at

Cindy McNatt, garden columnist for the Orange County Register penned a nice entry about the merits of hand watering on the newspaper’s Homebody blog on May 15th. Link to it at

While most of my landscape is on an automatic irrigation system, I agree with Cindy. There is still something to be said to be walking around the garden with a hose or watering can.
The timers make sure there is enough water to keep the garden alive. But if you rely totally on them, they can rob you of the restorative interaction that comes from walking with hose in hand. Up close, you can spot when rust or a pest first appears, and pluck the offenders out before it has a chance to spread. You can spot the wonder of a single water drop rolling off a leaf in slow motion. Up close, you can observe caterpillars munching on leaves- and know the butterflies are on their way.

Thank you to photographer Gene Sasse for the top three photographs.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Climb Your Mountain

Whatever your mountain is, you can climb it.
The trick is, you can't start at the distant mountain's base. You have to start where you are. You have to be honest. Pinpoint where you are. Decide where you want to go. Make plans. Prepare. Anticipate that the journey absolutely will not go as planned.
That's okay. It was no accident that when Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence for the thirteen American colonies, the inalienable right was not to the pursuit of perfection, but to happiness.

The roadblock to climbing my mountains- both figurative and real- was not really hard. Except making the commitment to start. Then it was simply one foot in front of the other.
This is the story of some of what transpired on the journey from being the person in the photo on the left to becoming the person in the photo on the right.
This journey was much easier because of the professional staff at Fitness Advantage in Diamond Bar, California. This month, they chose to feature my success story in their newsletter. This is my testimonial-

My Life has changed since I joined Fitness Advantage.

Originally, I joined to lose some weight. For every pound I lost, I gained
confidence. Eventually, optimal health became my new goal.

As my weight went down, so did my blood pressure. My blood sugar and
cholesterol levels normalized. Being part of a family where diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke are common, it is really satisfying to see real results that prove that taking charge makes a difference.

Looking back, what I appreciate most is the professional attitude of the staff. Every step of the way, my trainers were there to guide and support me. Having a tailor-made program to suit my needs (as well as my goals) was instrumental to my success.

Achieving optimal health and fitness has positively affected every area of my life. Earlier this year I broke my arm. My doctors were amazed at my speedy recovery. I credit this to two things: 1.) My overall health and physical conditioning and 2.) Having done my physical therapy with Chuck Barstow, Fitness Advantage Physical Therapist. He is an outstanding therapist. Thank you Chuck!

Trust and professionalism are not words often associated with fitness centers. I trust my health and the fine professionals at Fitness Advantage.”

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A National Day of Remembrance

“Since the inception of the United States of America on July 4, 1776, every generation of Americans have been called on to defend freedom and liberty. Over the years more than forty two million American men and women have served their country in time of war. “
-Department of Defense, United States of America

With our nation apparently on the verge of war, George Lent was seventeen when he enlisted in the Navy. His mother wasn’t thrilled. But she was a widow and he threatened to run away and join any way if she didn’t’, so she signed. He was stationed in San Francisco, about to watch a movie when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.Towards the end of the war his arm was broken when he was jumped by an ethnic gang. That landed him at Bethesda Naval Hospital, where he met a pretty Puerto Rican WAVE, Ethel Sepulveda. With a degree in chemistry, Ethel was working as an occupational therapist. The doctor on duty thought they made a cute couple. So George stayed in the hospital maybe a little longer than he might have otherwise.
That is the story of how my parents met. It is why honoring those who paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we could live in freedom was always remembered in our home growing up. Not as a sad day, but more like an Irish wake, where the sacrificed lives were celebrated and held up as eternal heroes.
As the sun rose on Memorial Day, the family’s American flag with 48 stars was retrieved from where it was properly folded. It was hung on the side of the house from a bamboo pole, cut from a clump in the backyard, stripped of its leaves and outfitted for duty with a couple cup hooks.
As in all cultures when the dead are remembered, the food was ample. Hot dogs and hamburgers were barbecued over coals that smelled of lighter fluid. It was a day when we there would be extravagances: real buns, potato chips and sodas, although not usually the name brand. My father was a man whose taste buds were fulfilled with Brew 102 Beer. He was not going to spring for Coke or Pepsi when a store brand would do. My mother always baked a cake from a boxed mix. The three of us girls took turns whipping frosting out of shortening and powdered sugar with a little artificial vanilla flavoring.
I offer the following statistics, abbreviated from what can be found on the Memorial Day Foundation<
without comment, for your consideration and discussion on this hallowed day.

Military Casualties

Revolutionary War1775 - 1783 4,435
Mexican War1846 - 1848 13,283
Civil War North1861 - 1865 364,511
Civil War South1861 - 1865 199,110
World War I 1917 - 1918 116,516
World War II 1941 - 1946 405,399
Korean War1950 - 1953 36,574
Vietnam1965 - 1975 58,209
Operation Endure Freedom- Afghanistan2001 -
Operation Iraqi Freedom2003 - 4,029

I am fortunate. My favorite veteran, my mother, is still alive. This week she is raking in the flowers. She received a couple roses with no stems to make potpourri with. She got a pot wrapped in red white and blue filled with chrysanthemums and decorated with a flag. Then today she got to arrange the roses from my garden just as she used to do when she had a garden of her own.
I wish you all a Memorable Memorial Day. Put up the flag. Rev up the barbecue. Give flowers. In the Minute of Silence at 3 pm local time, pray for God Speed to all who serve us, past, present and future.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Dove at the Fountain

It's a blustery day. Heaven's cold breath is slowing down the pace for a few precious days. It's the kind of day to hang-out inside. Take a break. Look back at recent photographs. Think about what lessons that might have been missed in the rush of immediate concerns the day they were taken.

Look closely at the top photo: you will see a dove on the far right edge, peering at the camera, deciding if it is safe to take a drink with a human so close by.
The dove has decided I mean it no harm. He turns and teaches. I wonder: is it the bird's easy acceptance of the large creatures we people are compared to him that has made him a universal symbol of peace?

California is in a budget crisis. People are concerned with how they will stay afloat in economic uncertainty. Yet, the papers report about grand plans to expand nature centers. Not that this isn't a well-intended idea- but- Is this the time?

If the goal is to ingrain an appreciation for nature in children- which really teaches a more valuable lesson- a nature center they have to get on a bus to be lectured at- or to have those same children become actively engaged in creating a wildlife-friendly garden at home? What say you?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

CAT Scans and Puppy Paws

The caller ID said it was our son. Should be him calling to wish his father a happy birthday. But on the other end of the line was a voice we didn’t recognize. The ambulance siren could be heard in the background.
Our oldest child had collapsed playing golf. He was conscious now. We had the name of the hospital. We got directions and started a list of Thank yous to God.
Thank God he was on a golf course and not driving. Thank God he had his cell phone in the cart. Thank God it wasn’t locked so the men he was with could scroll through 300 numbers and find one named “Dad”. Thank God his wife was reachable. She was concerned, but didn’t panic. Thank God for our sister-in-law who picked up the phone. She lives closer to where our son was. Of course she would meet our son’s wife at the hospital. None of us said it out loud- but just in case.
Thank God the traffic was light on a get-away Friday. Pulling into the hospital parking lot two hours after we were notified that our child was having a medical emergency , we prayed that at the end of the day, all our thoughts sent to heaven remain proclamations of Thank God.
Good color. Alert. He looked pretty good when we turned the corner to where he was now surrounded by loved ones waiting for test results. The nurse told us that the CAT scan results would be back soon. I asked if there would be a puppy scan to follow. Aren’t you glad with this sense of humor that I’m not your mother?
In were wheeled two of the CUTEST Pomeranian puppies. They were wearing their hospital uniforms- vests that designate them has having successfully passed rigorous training through Animal Samaritans. They work as Therapy Dogs. The volunteer taking them on rounds was Martha Smilie. She explained that the hospital can be a stressful place, but people will often relax around the dogs. I sure did.
To learn more about the SPCA 501 (C) (3) organization dedicated to using the goodness of the bond between animals and people, please log onto
Our son is doing well. The big lesson of the day turned out to be to drink lots of water before spending the day out in the sun. Dehydration is not just dangerous. Sometimes it is quick.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Dream It. Live It. Own It.

"It’s been a long road to get here and stand before you as a new male vocalist,” Ingram said in his acceptance speech tonight. “To anyone who has played my music on the radio, anyone who has come to a show with three other people in the audience, anyone who has been moved by the words of my songs, and anyone who has big dreams and high hopes…DREAM IT, LIVE IT, OWN IT. In the end the only thing that is important is not giving up.”

Jack Ingram started recording in 1992. Tonight, in March 2008, at the 43rd Annual Academy of Country Music Awards he is named new male vocalist. YAHOO!
The first time I saw Jack perform, I had not a clue who he was. I was a newspaper editor who snagged a couple extra tickets to a CMT Outlaw taping Toby Keith was doing. Along for the fun were a couple girlfriends.

This fine looking young man strode on stage with the presence of a young Mick Jagger, without any of the annoying mannerisms. He didn't just sing "Never Knocked Me Down". He lived it. And so did every one in the audience. Including the young lady with me, who had cancer.

This was Cobi's first night out since she was given that awful diagnosis. Since was largely responsible for my discovering the music of Toby Keith, I hoped hearing him would lift her spirits. We didn't make through the whole evening. Her energy wouldn't let her. But there was a difference in her demeanor after Jack's words to not give up. She started to fight. To live.

The next time I saw Jack Ingram was at an in-store acoustic performance at the now defunct Tower Records in Brea. It was a rainy Martin Luther King Day weekend. It was pretty close to a private performance.

Getting a couple CD's autographed, I mentioned what hearing "Never Knocked Me Down" that first time meant to my friend, whom I judged to be not much older than he. He stopped writing and looked up. Jack asked, "How is she doing?"

Which is why I am so happy for his success. This is a man has a heart.

Jack's voice isn't pretty in the conventional sense. It's better. It's masculine. It's strong. It's authentic. It takes the listener on a primal journey through the range of all our human emotions.
My hairdresser and friend, Sylvia Claborn, went with me to hear Jack with me at the historic Whiskey in LA. Towards the end of the show, he was telling a story about one thing he knew for sure, that there was a price to be paid for everything. The price he was paying at that moment was having to be away from his family. He threw his guitar pick in to the audience and moved away from the microphone. You could feel the tug of his ambition to perform give way to the tender love of his family as he gave the simple words of "Goodnight Moon" eloquence by singing just as though he were at his child's bedside. Tears ran down Sylvia's face.

Congratulations, Jack! Thank you for the inspiration to work through the struggles when you believe in what you are doing. We did eventually lose Cobi too young to the cancer, but not without her fighting back. Your asking how she was doing was a little bit of grace to her at a time she needed a lift.
To learn more about Jack. please go to

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Perspiration and Inspiration

I usually devour a book as quickly as I can. But Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways is like a really good meal. Not to be rushed. Debra Prinzing’s words are perfectly paired to William Wright’s photographs.

By slowing the pace, the layers of visual pleasure are better appreciated for their individual flavor components.

That is why Stylish Sheds became my companion on the treadmill the past few weeks. It was a delightful companion, helping make the road back to my pre-accident self enjoyable.

More than a “how-to-decorate” book with pretty pictures, this publication is a loving reflection of how individuals reflect their past, present and future dreams using the art of architecture as their medium. Sometimes pint-sized portions, sometimes grand courses, each example featured is a perfect fusion of the flavors found in home and garden. Taking in a page is as much about savoring nuances of the psychology of place as it is about the architecture, decoration or horticulture. The culture and heritage of the owners were integral to the text and were as varied as lutefisk and chili.

Perspiration mixing with inspiration, I began to re-imagine my own shed. Using the matrix Debra used as an executive summary for each project, this is how I plan to make the highest and best use of my own shed.
Mission: My shed is the playhouse I always wanted, but growing -up never had. Think denim and lace for style. The shed serves as a big treasure chest of the parts for the hobbies integral to my lifestyle (doesn’t that sound so much better than “storage”). Started with great intentions, it is in need of tlc.
Must- Haves: Finger-tip storage system so that when I am inspired, I can move on a project without delay.
Inspiration: The leaded and beveled window which was on top of a neighbor’s trash.
Design Challenge: To give a child-like personality to what is mostly a utilitarian outbuilding and keep it from being a catch-all. The storage needs to be as attractive as it is functional.
Creative Solutions: My husband and our sons got this project off to a good start years back by maximizing the footprint potential with a 1 ½ story design. Electricity expands the hours it can be used. Lots of shelving in place.

Now that Stylish Sheds has inspired me to get out of my own way, the plan is to finish the stained glass transom window started an embarrassingly long time ago. The brick floor deserves to be cleared of plastic containers. A vintage bed frame is going to be a sofa for the puppies and me. I've already replanted the window box in succulents for less upkeep, the brass door fixtures polished and the faded paint is being freshened.

THANK YOU Debra and Bill for the inspiration! I hope to report to you this summer that the perspiration from your inspiration paid off when I finish the shed I call my own.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Rose-aholic Alert: Oprah's Legend's Rose

There is a limited pre-release of the 'Legends' rose in California. That voluptuous beauty that Oprah proudly holds on the cover of the May edition of O magazine.

These are the locations which should have, or will have, within the next week.

When this stock is gone- no more will be available until the official release for the 2009 planting season:

Armstrong’s Nurseries- these are the locations which have been confirmed:
Carlsbad, El Cajon, Morena, Pasadena, Artesia, La Canada, Monrovia, Tustin, Encinitas, Del Mar, Laguna Niguel, Temecula and Long Beach.

Fremont- Regan Nursery- also does mail order.

Cupertino- Yamagami’s

This list was found by independent research. So it is possible a couple other locations escaped my sleuthing. If I run across any others, I will post under comments. Please feel free to do the same.

Imagine. If you can get hold of one of these beauties before this special offer is sold-out: you will have the biggest valentine-red bouquets ahead of anyone else in the nation!

Until it blooms in your garden- you can gaze upon the gorgeous photo of it by Gene Sasse. Used with permission.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Momentary Miracle

“You can tell a lot about a person by looking at his environment. It’s as dangerous as telling someone your dreams.”
- Charles Arnoldi

The wings of the hummingbird were soft against my cheek. A momentary miracle that made my heart dance.
Hundreds of birds entertain us. Hummingbirds to hawks. Finches to falcons. Not in a faraway park away on holiday. No. This is here. All day. Every day. In Diamond Bar.
Our garden is friendly to wildlife. Purposely so. Food. Water. Nesting. Shelter. Providing these makes chirping the alarm we wake to. We watch wings being washed and preened by tiny beaks and we believe. What we do makes a difference.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

How wonderful to have Mother's Day in May, when so many flowers are in bloom.

I may sometimes wonder where I end and where my garden begins. But I never wonder where I end and motherhood begins. For once you are a mother, the love of that child never leaves you. Not when he leaves the womb. Not when he leaves the home. And God forbid, not if the child leaves this earth before either parents does.

Sometime, instead of fathers and children celebrating their mothers, I think we mothers ought to be celebrating fathers and children. Pull out all the stops and let them know how much they mean to us. Without them, there would be no Mother's Day.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Prayer Request

Prayer is a part of a good life. I believe in its power.

This morning I received a note from Patty Gee asking for prayers for a very special young man, her nephew, Patrick Jue. He is only 21, but at the time of this writing he is fighting for his life in the ICU at Berkeley.
Patrick is a student at Berkeley. How he has chosen to live a full life- despite being afflicted with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) is an inspiration to many. A simple cold has his father traveling from Boise to be at his son’s side during this crisis.
His Aunt and I invite you to join us in prayer for Patrick’s and his family. We ask that God touch his body and heal it, and for his heart to be touched, as well. We pray for wisdom and guidance for the doctors, nurses, and others involved in Patrick's care.
As Christians, we believe that salvation is through faith. So when a loved one has chosen to keep his thoughts on faith private, it can be stressful facing possible separation in the next life. We pray above all else, to see him there, free from his infirmity.

Please join us in praying for this very special young man. The following is his nomination in 2006 for the 2006 Idaho Personal Achievement Award in recognition of his inspiring academic excellence and personal achievement.


I don’t know about you but when lemons get thrown at me I see how fast and how hard I can throw them suckers back. They don’t taste good, make you pucker and have no real redeeming qualities. Fortunately not everyone has my type of attitude. There are some people out there who can do this and I have gotten to know one of the best lemonade makers that I would ever hope to meet.
My name is James Ebbers. I have worked at the Nampa Fire Department for the last eleven years and it was through this organization and the local muscular dystrophy office that I got to meet this special person. As a firefighter I was involved in the departments “Fill The Boot” drive from the time that I was a rookie. I really did not know what kind of organization it was that I was helping to support and where the money went but did it just because everyone else was doing the same thing. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I was approached about being a counselor at an MDA camp. This was where I met Patrick.
Before going to camp I met with the local MDA representative and she told me that since I was a firefighter and had some EMS experience she was assigning me to a camper with a great deal of needs. This camper was unable to do most all of the everyday things that the rest of us take for granted. She asked me if I was okay with this and that is when I made one of the best decisions that I have ever made, I said yes.
It was a week before camp when we first met. Here was this young man(13) who was very shy and reserved. He only had controlled movement of his head and his right hand which he used to steer and tilt his powerchair. His mother basically translated everything for me because his voice was so quiet due to his diminished lung capacity. The meet was at a picnic and his parents spent the entire time taking care of and feeding him. I was given a short novel that his parents had created on how to take care of him. They informed me that this was to be the first time that he had spent any time away from them and that they would be camping that week in an area close to our camp. It was then that I really began to wonder about what I had gotten myself into.
Camp week was upon us and I finally got to know my camper. Patrick turned out to be an inspiration to me and everyone else around him. He showed me how little an almost total physical disability didn’t limit the life that he lived. His smile is infectious and shows up often. We were involved in most camp activities including arts and crafts, waterfront games, board games and of course hanging around the big boys cabin where the computer, extra snacks and movies were. Where he was not able to accomplish things for himself I became his arms and legs. The chess matches he had with Ian became something of a legend in the camp. When they became involved in a game there would be quite a crowd around them by the time they finished. Everyone enjoyed the masters making their moves. Then there were the marathon Monopoly games. Made all the more interesting by Patrick’s smart aleck comments, especially about the flea bag hotels that I liked to have on Boardwalk and Park Place.
Patrick did not like to talk about his disease much. As he was already in a power chair when I first met him I asked when he was first restricted to a wheelchair. He told me that he got his first chair when he was about two and had just begun to learn to walk. His life expectancy, optimistically, was twenty-one. Most of his nutrition was given to him at night through a feeding tube. He enjoys getting something to eat at mealtimes but is not able to get much done as everything he eats must be pureed. At night he wears a breathing machine so that he is still able to breath when he lays down. During the night when he becomes uncomfortable and needs to move he must notify someone so that he can be turned to one of the three positions he is comfortable in. Then in the morning there is yet another machine to help expand his lungs and get him ready for the morning. After that it is back to the races to go out and enjoy another day at camp.
These are many of the things I learned about Patrick during our first year. When I left camp I was exhausted but yet exhilarated by my experience and realized that I had met someone extremely special. But I was also truly saddened. There was no way that this kid was going to be coming to camp next year. He had already taken a trip sponsored by the Make A Wish foundation where he visited Washington D.C. and his condition was only going to get worse without a major medical breakthrough.


He was only getting some stuff out of the way so he could concentrate on other things. This year will be our eighth camp together. Since I met Patrick he has graduated from Capitol High School with a grade point average that I didn’t think was possible. Just graduating was of course not good enough for him. These are just some of the things he was involved in and awards he has earned:
National Honor Society-based on 4.0 GPA, community service, faculty nomination
Bausch and Lomb Scholarship-nominated by faculty, science award finalist
Best History Student-outstanding paper/fictional
US Bank/University of Idaho-top 10% of Idaho juniors
Who’s Who Among American High School Students-based on faculty nomination, GPA, extracurricular activities
Spanish Student of the Year
Boys and Girls Club Ada County-tutored younger kids with homework
Going Places Making Choices-University of Idaho summer camp for urban transportation, environmental impact issues
Student Equality Achievement League-club member and Sophomore Class Representative-emphasized accepting diversity
Aaron Brooke Place Assisted Living-volunteered as companion to residents and even made a videotape of one resident who was a veteran serving on Oahu after the attack on Pearl Harbor during WWII
Rivers United of Idaho-picked up trash on Boise River Greenbelt, painted warning signs on storm drains
Self Taught HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and made his own webpage
Self Taught how to make signs and cards-converted into a job creating door hangar advertisement for legal services
You could say that all of these things were things he did so that he could accomplish something that he had always dreamed of. Patrick’s father, grandfather and several other family members had attended and graduated from the University of California Berkeley. Berkeley admits about 8,700 freshmen per year. There are on average about 36,400 applicants every year. According to the school, 99% of the freshmen graduated in the top 10% of their class with an average weighted GPA of 4.24. They must also take the SAT-I (Scholastic Aptitude Test) once, SAT-II three times and score extremely well (min 1400 out of 1600 on SAT-I and 530 out of 800 on each SAT-II). The University then looks at your high school grades, your extracurricular activities and what you can bring to the diversity of the school. Patrick Jue is now in his second year at Berkeley and has already achieved junior standing. His current interests, not surprisingly, are working with the disabled. He has had a couple of hospitalizations that have temporarily set him back but he has fought through them and is determined to finish school and not be a “bum”. He wants to get a paying job so he can get off the government dole. Patrick has made a habit of surprising me with what he can do and what he has accomplished over and over again. When I was asked to write this recommendation for him I was told that we were already late getting it in and that there was not much of a chance of him receiving this recognition. My only thought was don’t bet against him, I never will.

Thank you in advance to those of you who are moved to pray for him.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Creating Eden

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty…”

From formless emptiness long ago, the landscape on a barren planet was sculpted from land that rose above the waters.
Once the conditions were right to support life, God planted a garden. It was lush and peaceful. He filled it full of living creatures. Once this garden was ready, God created mankind. So believe the followers of Abrahamic religions.
Creating this first garden is how the Almighty acted as the first gardener. We need no formal training to follow His lead in creating our personal Eden. We need only look to His good example. In His wisdom, He planted gifts for all our senses in the garden. To promote healthy body, mind and soul, all the senses need nourishment.
There is no more delightful awakening than to the cheerful serenade of birds. A tiny pond motor will force still waters to gurgle in a pot or fountain- a natural audible tone that calls thirsty birds to sip. But water alone is not enough. Fill a hanging feeder with black Nyjer seeds: then listen for the soft staccato of finches. A larger feeder set on a firm post platform filled with a songbirds mix attracts even more birds that prefer solid footing to be coaxed into singing for their snacks.
Try choosing a plant as you do perfume. Drop by your favorite garden center. Stand in front of any display. Lean in with your eyes closed. Inhale. Select a jasmine, rose or lavender based upon how the scent makes you feel. Take your selection home. When the plant is in your garden, touch the blossoms and wear their scent on your fingertips.
The Internet has opened the world of horticulture discovery. Go on the Internet to look up Greenwood Daylily Gardens at The owner, John Schoustra, is passionate about providing plants that thrive in our Southern California climate.
He is introducing a line of no-fuss lilacs requiring so little chill that they bloom with abandon, even along the coast. The white blooming ‘Snowy’ Beach Party ™ lilac is now on the market and available through Greenwood Daylily Gardens.
May is peak season at their growing grounds in Somis, near Thousand Oaks. It is worth finding driving directions on their website to see a horticulture business operating in its native habitat.
The grounds are only open to the public briefly, from 9:30am -4:00pm on Saturdays, now through June. Some plants, including tables loaded with scented geraniums, are available only if you visit.

The first 4 photographs are by Gene Sasse and used with permission and gratitude.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Open Lots of Books and Lots of Bottles

How did Elizabeth Schweitzer get to be one of only 8 women master wine sommeliers in the world? "I open a lot of books and a lot of bottles."
The Diamond Bar Friends of the Library holds an annual charity wine tasting for the local branch of the Los Angeles County Library. If you don’t know Diamond Bar, this is a small city in Los Angeles County where the citizens take on the political process with gusto. Things can get so heated around here, that in a former life as a planning commissioner, a bystander asked if I wore a flak jacket to the legislative meetings. What is wonderful about this annual wine tasting is that by breaking bread and discovering new wines together, wounds are healed and friendships forged.
Right before the event, the volunteers are treated to a class (with lots of delicious samples courtesy of the major sponsor of the event The New World International Wine Competition) at Dacor, the high end kitchen appliance manufacturer whose impressive showroom is just around the corner from City Hall.
Dacor is one of the fine companies rewarded for actualizing its company value statement.

Elizabeth Schweitzer led this year’s class. Her enthusiasm for wine spills over. With joie de vivre, the former chanteuse recommended we should all slow down to really enjoy wine. See it. Smell it. Taste it.
Hold the glass up to the light. See the color. There are as many colors of white wine as there are shades of blond. Notice the clarity.
To appreciate the full character of the wine, she recommended taking "little puppy breaths" to catch the initial scent before the first taste. Then swirl the wine around in the glass like you see the host at restaurants do when they want to impress their guests. Draw in a deep breath. Taste again. Compare the first impression to the second. The two sips will not be the same. You will have experienced the range of taste in a single glass.
Notice how the wine feels in the mouth. Some wines are light and thin. Some boast a fuller, heavier texture.
All of these little rituals will cause you to really think about what food will go with the particular wine.
A lot of people spend an extraordinary amount of time throughout the year to make the event special. These are just a few. Tony Torng works with local restaurants to make sure there is plenty of food to sample between sips. Nancy Lyons gathers up items to auction. Rick Rodgers is in charge of marketing.

Robert Block is in charge of finding and training the wine pourers. He makes sure that the pourers have Rick Rodger’s fine notes about wine and serving and arranges for a new class each year so that we are helpful to the event’s patrons. He does his best to assign us to wines we like on the most convenient shift for our schedule.
There are others who deserve acknowledgement, but we will save that for later, so they can be properly thanked.
Equipped with a little knowledge from the class, I enjoyed this year’s tasting more than ever.
Here are my notes from the event, which I shared with a friend right after the event.

Knapp Fingerlakes Chardonnay. New York. A nicely sippable wine that would be great conversation starter served with white cheeses spread on light, crisp crackers.
Stephen and Walker had a nice 2003 Pinot Noir. Dry. Just warm enough on the back of the throat to leave a nice "goodbye". Would serve with lighter Italian fare. Maybe a spaghetti with fresh sauce or spinach-ricotta dumplings with sage in a light sauce with shaved Parmesan like at Cafe` Firenze in Moorpark. Bedria at the deli at the Aljibani Halal Market in Diamond Bar, makes an Egyptian lasagna on Fridays- white sauce with no cheese, very lean ground beef- much lighter than most Italian versions- which would also be a wonderful pairing.

And White Springs Springhouse White. New York Proprietary. A lightly sweet wine that would be absolutely gorgeous served with peaches on the patio in summertime. The patrons were lined up for this one until there was no more.
Funniest moment of the night was when I couldn't get opener to work on cork. Probably because it was a screw cap.
But the best was last. I had taken a left-over bottle of South Dakota's finest next-door for Chuck and Sandra to try. Walking home, Lorraine from across the street is bringing me cupcakes- so she and her husband got the rest of the bottle. I suspect there are not many neighborhoods where the residents are running door to door with samplings of food and wine just because. This is one GREAT place to live.

For more information on classes taught by Elizabeth Schweitzer, please write to her at But beware, be prepared to be delighted, enlightened and entertained.

Copywrite 2008 Lydia Plunk