Monday, December 31, 2007

Saying Thankyou

“To have striven, to have made an effort, to have been true to certain ideals — this alone is worth the struggle. We are here to add what we can to, not to get what we can from, life.”
- Sir William Osler (1849-1919)

It's an obsession of mine. Searching for quotes where great truths are turned out in just a few words.

It is a clear pattern I have observed, those who are most thankful are the most generous. Those who are most generous with two little words, "Thank you" give encouragement to how God made mankind to live. In a state of giving grace.

The link below has a quote from a young man who just wanted to say thank you. To no one and to everyone. He happens to be a soldier. Serving far from home. A man who has fed captains and kings and seas of grunts in tents.

Martin Luther King had a dream about not seeing the color of one's skin. I would like to add to that dream not seeing the content of one's bank account. The young man featured in Diane Hardisty's column in The Californian on December 27th exemplifies the ideal.

Read the story in its entirety at

and make it a resolution for the New Year to say thank you to someone every day next year. You will be happy you did.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Quote

Simple words strung together have power to change a life.

My father quit his job when I was in sixth grade. He thought with over twenty years of experience in his field, it would be easy to get an other job. It wasn't.

My mother came to the mainland from Puerto Rico in her twenties. Fortunately, she came here an educated woman. My mother went to work as a teacher when my oldest sister was looking at college catalogs. While there were financial concerns, we were certain that my mother would not be laid off. The mortgage, the grocers and the doctors could be paid. We were far from rich, but we were safe.

But my father's extended unemployment left me with an almost irrational fear of poverty. From the day I was 12 I worked at any job I could. I babysat for a wealthy Realtor who once actually offered to pay me in jam: his wife made sure I got cash. Fifty cents an hour. I cleaned houses and ironed for other people. It was honest work and honest pay and I liked the feeling of pride that came from being able to pay my own way.

It also left me over-concerned with financial stability at the cost of all else. By the time I was a junior in high school I managed to land a job as a waitress for the now-defunct coffee shop, Sambo's. Working for tips was pleasurable. There was a direct relationship between the work performed and the money I earned. It was very good money for someone still in their teens. At the time I lived at home, had a car that was paid for and made more money than my mom did as a teacher. I had a cushy savings account.

I was quite full of myself. But because I never said "no" to an extra hour pushing pancakes,I worked myself in to a lonely position. During a time when I was growing dangerously sad, an other waitress, Becky, gave me the gift of a little parchment with the quote on it, "The Lord Respects Me When I Work, But He Loves Me When I Sing."

That little piece of paper changed my life. Before her gift, I was a Pharisee, trying to earn God's respect. I still worked hard. But I also took in the meaning of what it means "to sing". I learned to express joy and gratitude and to be loving. I took days off of work and didn't rush to fill them with chores. This new attitude resulted in a richer life than I could ever have earned. For when we "sing" we make room for God to fill our lives with grace.

I kept the quote with precious mementos through my life. Thirty years after Becky gave me this quote, the words in typed calligraphy, a local stone carver wanted to do something for me because of a story I wrote. I told him that I had always wanted this saying engraved where I could see it. On my anniversary, the stone carver unloaded the boulder with the powerful words carved in to the side. It sits prominently in my front garden, a reminder of keeping priorities straight.

Every time I read the words, I think of Becky and how precious her friendship has always been to me. Even when we have been separated by miles and years. She has always been there when I needed a friend or a reminder of God's love.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Holiday Brandied Fruit Bars

Don't you love the holidays? Even now, as this festive season is being put away for next year I think about how we can be practical roughly 360 days a year. And on the remaining days, we can celebrate with abandon. As proud as I am of my children, I am even more pleased for these breaks when we can just be freinds and enjoy each other's company.
There is nothing that does me more good than to see my oldest son, Trevor, and his wife, Leslie, look so happy and relaxed on Christmas Eve. Every year, as many as can make it gather at my mother-in-law's for dinner gather. She coordinates the "pot luck" so that the feast is traditional and the joy of all that cooking is shared.

This year my contribution would be cookies and candies. Christmas is not about practicality. It is about loving abandon. Personal favorites had to be remembered: Chocolate Chip Cookies for Kenny. Snickerdoodles for Trevor. English Toffee for my husband.Something rich, something spicy, a bar cookie and some gluten free treats for my mother-in-law to indulge in. Orange Cinnamon Cookies and Peanut Brittle. Holiday Bars for sheer opulent indulgence.

Nineteen hours in the kitchen and my feet doubted my sanity. But then I see my niece's face light up as she helps me pile the plates on the counter high with sweets.I don't feel my feet anymore. I only feel my heart, and it is happy.

On Christmas Day, we were invited to join my son's in-laws for Christmas Dinner. Steve and Lisa are not just perfect in-laws. They are perfect hosts. The feast continued with prime rib, ham and lute fiske. The second half of my bake-a-thon was set on the table. Lisa asked for the recipe for the bar cookies. Here it is.

Holiday Brandied Bars
1-1/2 Cup Golden or Ruby Raisins
1 Cup Dried Cranberries
1 Cup Dried Apricots, chopped
1 Cup Brandy
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine is Saucepan. Stir over medium heat until boiling. Turn the flame off. Let mixture stand for half an hour to absorb the brandy.
2 ¼ Cups Flour
3/4 Cups Brown Sugar
3/4 Cups Butter
Mix together flour and brown sugar. With a pastry blender, cut in the butter until texture resembles loose grain. Lightly pat in to a 10”x 15” x 2” cake pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes or until this crust golden brown.
1 Cup Chopped Pecans
Drain off any excess moisture from fruit mixture by using a slotted spoon to spread the brandied fruit over the crust. Sprinkle the nuts evenly on top.
4 Eggs
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
Beat with electric mixer on low for about 4 minutes.
1 Cup Flour
2 Cups Brown Sugar
Stir together flour and brown sugar. Blend in with egg-vanilla mixture. Spoon evenly over filling.

Bake for about 1 hour more, or until toothpick in center comes out clean.
Powdered Sugar- Generously sift over the top. Cut in to bars. Allow to cool.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Orange and Cinnamon Cookies

“ The first time I saw the site for Disneyland back in 1953, in those days it was all flat land- no rivers, no mountains, no castles or rocket ships- just orange groves, and a few acres of walnut trees.”- Walt Disney

Things were simple when I was a little girl. Driving through Orange County, Disneyland loomed large from the moment it could be spotted on the horizon. As the family station wagon zoomed past on the 5 freeway on family car trips, I believed that Disney’s Matterhorn was the tallest mountain in the world and that the castle was real.

Now that I am an adult, there are not-too tall buildings that dwarf all of Disneyland. If the off ramp wasn’t so well marked, The Magic Kingdom might be missed without knowing it.

But the magic of living in California is never diminished. I just close my eyes and think of the generations of Europeans who were satisfied at Christmas with a single orange as a present. Just outside my backdoor, the navel orange is loaded with the fruit and waits for me to pick of it in the morning.

Now that the evenings are cool and crisp, the fruit on the tree is first a feast for the eyes. In the morning light they are now that same day glow orange vintage post cards advertised them to be.

Before I pick any, I weigh the globes in my hands. The heaviest globes feel full of juice and are chosen to harvest. Their delicate stems are twisted and the fruit falls from the tree in to the large pocket of my apron.

I bring in the daily harvest to warm slowly in the basket on the kitchen counter. The fruit is allowed to rise to room temperature. Before using, the oranges are rolled on the counter so the pulp within will release more juice.

In perusing the internet for recipes to use some of my oranges for, I found this nice cookie recipe that marries the brightness of the orange’s flavor with the holiday tone of cinnamon. Imagine: a Snickerdoodle cookie with a California twist. Here’s the link so you can print it out and enjoy it yourself. With all the heavy and complicated food, this cookie is a nice light accompaniment to finish off a meal or even just with tea.

I would normally post the link here, but there seems to be a technical issue that is keeping it from inserting. So here is what you do. Go to - then search for "Christmas Orange and Cinnamon Cookies". She posted this on December 7,2007. I promise, it is worth the few seconds this will take.

For some reason, the link is not uploading. So for now, go to and to to her December 7,2007 post for "Christmas Orange and Cinnamon Cookies" recipe.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

When one is A Christian

By Reverend John Scharlemann,

One is boggled by how a God who created billions of galaxies, each encompassing millions of stars swirling through billions of light years of space, could volunteer to become a human baby:

One is awed by the kind of love which would reach down from such unimaginable heights and choose sinners such as you and me for eternal life:

One is uplifted by the realization that because God became a man, He empathized with our suffering and pain:

One gives gifts to others as a reflection of the great gift which God gave us in His Son:

One sees in all the Christmas lights the symbol of the light of Christ which brings grace and mercy to a sin-darkened world;

One sees in people’s holiday happiness a foreshadowing of the joy which believers will experience into eternity when we live with the Lord in heaven:

One finds great comfort and joy in fellowship and worshiping with other brothers and sisters in Christ. We know something special, after all. We are bonded in a unique community under the Lord.

John Scharlemann is the pastor of Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Diamond Bar, California
excert from The Hilltop Herald.
reprinted with permission

Friday, December 14, 2007

Taste of Summer in the Middle of Winter

Imagine: the taste of summer in the middle of winter. The wands of African Blue Basil were soaked overnight in the warmth of the kitchen. In the morning the bouquet looked refreshed. The colors were deeper, the leaves more supple, the arch of the stems slightly stronger.

Author and person extraordinaire, Debra Prinzing, posts on her blog Shed Style about one of the most important food trends, the movement towards eating in season, locally produced foods.

But what about cravings for off-season produce? I usually avoid canned foods, but the cans of Muir Glen diced tomatoes taste so good, the pressure is off the now spindly vines in my backyard. The can now rest in peace without my trying to force an unnaturally long season upon them.

What makes Glen Muir worth asking for by name? Open the can. Look inside and what do you see? The tomatoes have been insulated from any off tastes ordinarily would have been picked up in processing by the pristine white enamel coating on the container’s inside.

Now that I have discovered the Muir Glen tomatoes, I whip up a batch of Bruschetta in December and taste warm summer breeze in about ten minutes.

1 (14.5 oz) Can Muir Glen ® Diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes
2 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Basil Leaves
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme or oregano leaves

1. Stir the above ingredients together.

16 (1/2 half inch slices) of sourdough baguette, sliced on the diagonal.
Olive Oil
2. Lightly brush the slices of bread with oil.
3. Broil until lightly browned

Grey Sea Salt

4. Spoon the topping over the toasted baguettes. Sprinkle lightly with salt and serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

African Blue Basil

The bees dart about the herb walk. No doubt they were drawn there by the African Blue Basil that thrives in the borders, for they dance around tall herb wands.

My first African Blue Basil came home in a 4 inch pot from the nursery section of a little hardware store in a quaint town named Solvang. If you’ve never been to Solvang, just imagine a children’s book vision Copenhagen. Brown half-timbers accenting white building front anchored with brick. Windmills turning on bell shaped building fronts. Shop windows full of blue and white pottery and painted wooden shoes. Colorful blooms cascade over the sides of window boxes and add color to curb side plantings. The smell of apples and sugar and cinnamon cooking beckon you in though the bakery doors.

That trip was seven years ago. The plants I have now are children of that original souvenir. Basil is tender to cooler temperatures, so it is usually treated as an annual. But so far, I’ve managed to keep a small collection growing from the original plant because it roots so easily. On a day like today, when it is crisp, but before any danger of frost, I wander out to the garden with the clippers and return with a bouquet that dwarfs the countertop.

For the next few weeks, the bouquet will get more compact as kitchen shears are run through, shortening the ends. From the outermost leaves and best flowers will be diced a pungent and purple confetti. This will be generously sprinkled over the top of filled omelets and dinner salads.

There is a spot just outside the garage where the rooted cuttings will get plopped into pots while we wait for winter to be over. The heat reflected off the walkway and from the drier vents keeps plants on the potting bench there warm. The walls of the home keep back cruel winds but allow the sunshine in.

The infant basil plants won’t change much above ground. But below where we can see, the roots will grow. When the soil is warm, the pots will be carried out in to the garden. Some will go back into the herb walk. But some will go at the feet of newly planted fruit trees, where the arms of the African Blue Basil, which at their peak will reach out three to four feet, can wave in the bees.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Southern California Winter

About this time each year I begin my- I won't call it my annual garden pruning. I'ts more of the annual garden clipping. I'll take a slow tour around the garden, clippers in hand, for about the next 45 days. Taking it slowly is what makes it a ritual, not a heavy chore.
Taking it slowly also allows the opportunity to create lots of little bouquets to enjoy. Today the delicious cherry red blooms of pineapple sage and the elegant purple indigo spires salvia clippings were taken from the garden. An empty forcing vase that was lonely in my shed is now filled with their sprays.
The Betty Boop roses are charmingly informal. A trio of blossoms plunked into the sage turns the clipplings in to a floral arrangement. Every few days, I'll check the sage and salvia for roots.
Once the stringy roots reach out from the bottom of the stems are spotted, the cycle of beauty from the garden will be set to restart. From garden clipping, to bouquet to rooted specimens: places will be found for them.
I already see the New Year holding out promise to be ever more colorful.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Carolyn Wassenaar shared this poem in a Christmas card.


Author unknown

The first Christmas decoration we bought when we moved in to our current home was this nativity. It is the first decoration of the season to come out. A physical reminder of why Christmas is important to us. Even in lean years, when we fretted if there was a reason to celebrate, it was displayed. A prompt that just being able to publicly acknowledge our faith, let alone celebrate it, is something many people in this world would give everything for.
Our manger display wandered about the living room each year, as I sought a permanent place where it would have the most spiritual impact. When my husband returned from Egypt with a papyrus rolled up in his suitcase, we had it flattened and framed. And it was clear that in front of the souvenir art work was the perfect home.
Our papyrus is the pictorial account of the complex thoughts the ancient Egyptians held about the afterlife. As Christians and other monotheists do today, they believed that death is not a final stopping point, that death is simply a transition point to the afterlife.
I like that the papyrus scene rooted in Egyptian culture is behind the manger scene. For shortly after Jesus was born in Jerusalem, its ruler, Herod the Great, was visited by the Three Kings also known as The Three Wise Men. Shortly after Jesus’ birth they sought to worship him. During their journey they came to ask King Herod if he knew where the newly born Jesus,” King of the Jews” could be found. Cunningly, he said no, but asked his visitors to return with the newborn’s location, that he might worship him, too.
The Three Kings agreed. But in a dream, an angel warned them that Herod was insanely jealous and intended to kill Jesus. So after finding and honoring the newborn king, the Wise Men found an alternate route home.
Herod was enraged. He initiated the Massacre of the Innocents, the infanticide in his kingdom of all male babies under the age of two. However, before Herod’s assassins could reach Jesus, an angel appeared to Joseph, Mary’s husband and Jesus’ guardian, with a warning. Take Mary and the baby to Egypt, where they would be safe.
At that time, Egypt was a part of the Roman Empire, not subject to the rule of Herod. It was also then, as the United States came to be in modern history, a place of multi-cultural and religious tolerance.
The family entered the country at Rafah, where, according toAl-Ahram, a weekly Cairo publication, a lone and ancient sycamore tree is said to have survived since the Holy Family’s visit. They were relatively safe from Herod while in exile, although they had to keep moving to stay so. It is believed that Joseph took his wife, Mary, and the young Jesus back to Israel, when it was safe. This is commonly believed to be after the death of Herod, when Jesus would have been about four.
The story of the flight to Egypt is found in the New Testament, Matthew 2-16. There are miraculous stories about Jesus’ time in Egypt told within the text of the New Testament Apocrytha, including stories of date palm trees bowing in homage to the baby as he passed by. This part of Jesus’ history is repeated in the Quran (Sura 19:4).

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Looking A Lot Like Christmas

Since my friend Glenda Bona moved to Santa Clarita we have made it our ritual to meet whenever we can. Pasadena is the halfway point. Its Old Towne section is a model for taking an older urban area, what is beginning to decay and choosing to polish it up so it has a sophisticated patina that just isn't possible in a new development. But that is a story for an other day.

One of our favorite stops close to the holidays is Stat's Floral Supply. Unless you have the heart of Scrooge, there is just simply no way you can go in to the old brick warehouse filled floor to ceiling with Christmas decorations and wrappings and not end up smiling.

What I adore Stats most for is that if their selection of decorative ribbon isn't the largest in California- it must be close. Wired, sheer, metallic weaves, plaids and themed prints. And these are generous rolls of ribbon. Not the kind like at the local store, where one roll wraps one package.Maybe. Nope. These rolls go on and on.

Throughout the year I keep all my senses open: eyes, nose and tastebuds always on the hunt for the perfect gift. Especially on travel. As soon as I get home with an item to gift: it is wrapped, tagged and efficiently stacked and stored away until the Christmas tree is decorated.

In an envelope with the presents are samples of the papers in which they were wrapped. Sometime after Halloween I take the envelope to Stats and match up the ribbon to the papers. In the best years, Glenda meets me at Stats to share in the fun of just being is a place so openly festive.

The presents are usually far more thoughtful than expensive. Writer's have more time than money. But when the gift is wrapped with care, it is wrapped with love. Which is the only good reason to give a gift.

Stat's Floral Supply 150 So. Raymond, Pasadena, CA (626)796-8255

also in Capistrano Beach and Seal Beach

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Inspired Music Pairing

*The link to the performance of Peace On Earth / Little Drummer Boy has been deleted from You Tube. However, you can plut the title in to search and find it in several compilations of holiday music.*
Plato wrote that great "Music gives soul to the universe,wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything."

David Bowie- Ziggy Stardust- and the ultra-traditional Bing Crosby were paired in the late 1970's to perform one of the most inspired vocalizations ever.

I would like to dedicate this posting to Elizabeth Miller, who left her family far too soon. Her funeral was yesterday. Elizabeth earned her bachelor's degree in International Relations from Scripps College. Her first professional job was as Program Coordinator for Latin American Affairs at Witness for Peace in Washington, D.C. She then went on to earn her Masters Degree in Corporate Social Responsibility at UNC, Chapel Hill. There she met and married her sweetheart,the only person on the planet with a smile bigger than hers, Donald Miller, in 2005. They both accepted executive positions at Home Depot in Atlanta. She recently left that post to work in environmental programs for Shaw Industries.

What I remember most about the young lady was that when she came home from college, she always left a note for her brothers with inspirational quotes. That left quite a good impression on my sons. Rest well, dear and beautiful Elizabeth. Until we meet again...

Friday, November 30, 2007

Meet Author Nan Sterman

Author and Gardening Expert Nan Sterman
How to Green Your Garden
With an Introduction by Jan Smithen

Sunday, December 2 at 2pm
Los Angeles County Arboretum
Reception and book signing to follow
Call 626.821.4623 for reservations, or you may pay at the door
$10 Arboretum members/$15 non-members

Nan Sterman is one of my favorite people. Her first solo book is California Gardeners Guide vol II, published by Cool Springs Press. If you can't make the talk and book signing at the Arboretum- the book is on display at the Border's in Brea. Call them and have them hold a copy for you. They will happily hold it for you for 3 days. The striking cover image of Matalija Poppy alone is worth the price. It's also a great book to have an extra copy of in the trunk of the car to help with garden questions while you are on the go.

From the LA County Press Release:

Nan Sterman is an award winning garden communicator, gardening expert, and garden coach who lives in Encinitas, California, and writes about beautiful and unique gardens and gardeners. Her expertise includes plants for California's Mediterranean climate, sustainable gardening, landscape design, edible gardening, specialty nurseries, and gardening how-to.For several years, Nan was garden editor for San Diego Home Garden Lifestyles Magazine. Today, she writes regularly for regional and national publications such as the San Diego Union Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Sunset, Organic Gardening, and Better Homes and Gardens. After contributing to several gardening books, including the most recent edition of Sunset Western Gardens.

One of Nan's most recent projects is A Growing Passion, an award-winning television program whose pilot episode airs on the San Diego PBS affiliate. On the show, Nan visits real gardens created by ordinary people who happen to be extra-ordinary gardeners.? The show explores the inner passion of these individuals as expressed by or through the gardens they create.

For the last four years, Nan has been a regular guest on These Days radio talk show on San Diego Public Radio, KPBS (89.5 FM).?? The Do-It-Yourself Network has featured her in several of its shows and she has been a guest on several network newscasts.
Nan is a regular on the garden speaker circuit, addressing audiences at county fairs, flower shows, community meetings, Master Gardeners, garden clubs, and professionals in the horticulture industry. She teaches gardening classes to homeowners at the Water Conservation Garden, and low-water gardening classes sponsored by the Metropolitan Water District.

Nan Sterman's horticultural education includes a Bachelor's degree in botany from Duke University and a Master's in biology from UC Santa Barbara. She was trained in organic gardening methods, sustainable gardening and raised bed gardening at the Farallones Institute in Berkeley, California.Ms. Sterman has served as a Master Composter and Master Gardener as well.

In her own home garden Ms. Sterman tests a wide range of plant materials. She also consults on garden design and plant selection. Ms. Sterman is a board member of the Garden Writers Association and is chairperson of the Encinitas Garden Festival. She is active in the San Diego Horticultural Society and also coordinates a 5,000 square foot school garden.

Jill Berry, Program Manager
Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden
301 North Baldwin Avenue
Arcadia, CA 91007-2697
Phone: 626.821.4624
Fax: 626.821.4642

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Rosemary Tree is Up and Decorated

The ovens are cleaned right after Thanksgiving. To my mind that makes the slate clean to bring in Christmas. The doe-see-doe of changing Thanksgiving to Christmas has begun in earnest. The succulent cornucopia is now at home outside and the rosemary topiary anchors the decorations on my kitchen island.
The ribbon featuring gingerbread men and candycanes festooning the tree was found at I Love Country in La Habra. The rest of the decorations have been added to each year.

This layering of the decorations may not be the most professional way to do things. But it keeps the holiday spirit alive. There is both consistency in the familiar. And the mind stays open to discover new additions for the family to notice when the family gathers.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Bay Laurel Wreath

When a fresh bay laurel wreath is hung over the refrigerator and the timer for stained glass gingerbread house is plugged in, that is my signal to our household that the Christmas season is underway. Over the next week our house will be transformed from autumn and Thanksgiving to the celebratory nature of Christmas.
We have a bay leaf tree. It sits just outside our kitchen. Potted up, it does not grow overly large. Every few years the tree is yanked out, the roots pruned and some fresh soil packed around the roots.
Bay laurel trees can be a little pricey for their size: but compared to the cost of the stale leathery leaves in the grocery store: that little tree more than pays its way with fresh leaves for potpourri, wreaths and kitchen seasoning.
Where did the legend of the Laurel Wreath begin? In ancient Greece. Recall the ancient myth which tells of when an arrogant Apollo, son of Zeus, held out to ridicule the God of love, Eros. Apollo doubted the power of Eros’ arrows. Annoyed, Eros gave Apollo a demonstration. He shot Apollo with a golden arrow. His flesh pierced, Apollo fell immediately, helplessly, endlessly in love with Daphne. Not finished, Eros then turned and shot Daphne with the antidote on an iron arrow so Apollo’s feelings could never be returned. And so the smitten Apollo came to be doomed to pursue the ever- fleeing Daphne.
When Apollo was about to overtake Daphne, she pleaded to the earth goddess, Gaia, to save her from his lust. Gaia complied by turning the lovely Daphne in to a laurel tree just as Apollo was about to overtake her. Despondent in his unrequited love, Apollo took some branches from the tree wove a wreath to wear on his brow made from the leaves of his beloved.
Since ancient Greece, the laurel wreath resting on the brow is synonymous with triumphant victory. Perhaps that is why I like it as a signal to the Christmas season. For as a Christian, this is the season where the story begins which ends at Easter. In my faith, it is believed that Jesus ultimately offers the gift of victory over death to all who call him the Son of God.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was always a special holiday growing up. When we were young we would go to Uncle Frank and Aunt Doris' house. They lived in a small Spanish bungalow in Orange County. The house was set on a large rectangular lot near Magnolia High School. May be an acre of very flat land. They had a chicken coupe, a couple goats and a horse. One year they had a Steer named Dusty. Uncle Frank would let us chase her, which I thought was fabulous and my Aunt and Mother threatened him if he encouraged "the girls" to do anything so dangerous again. After dinner "crazy" Uncle Frank would lift me way up high on the horse's bareback to watch the Disneyland fireworks.

I learned a lot at this Uncle's house. Mostly about how much fun it could be to break a few rules. When I was nine he let us skewer the wedges of pineapple which were neatly arranged back in to the halved pineapple. Only the wedges weren't yellow- he had done something to then to turn them leprechaun green. What he had done was marinated the fruit with a little creme de menthe liqueur. My parents were really upset with Uncle Frank for serving their very minor daughter alcohol. But I never loved him more.

Until dinner. Instead of the usual turkey-with-the-fixings- we had this really delicious prime rib dinner. Some time during the meal I realized I hadn't seen Dusty and I asked where he was. I wanted to play with him.

Only I couldn't, And I wouldn't be able to again. Dusty had been 4H'd.

Now if you ever get a chance to purchase a 4 H animal "after the fair", go for it. Dusty was "my first" taste of hand-raised meat. Made me understand how a farm family could stand to part with what I saw as "pets". They taste way to good only to play with.

The years have passed, traditions have changed, the world has changed. Tomorrow, unless I wake to better news than I have been following the last 2 days, I will be praying for the safe return of 3 little children whose mother decided it was better to go on the lamb with than obey a court order to give an extended visitation with their father's parents. I can't imagine the pain of not knowing where the grandchildren are.

And while I go to God to ask for the safe return of these children, I will be thanking him for this very good life that I live. I am still with the husband of my youth. Our sons are honest and productive members of society, They have chosen wisely women to share their journey in this life. I live in the greatest place in the greatest nation on earth. And I can speak and pray freely.

I wish you all many blessings throughout this holiday season.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


"As for rosemary, I let it run all over my garden walls, not only because my bees love it but because it is the herb sacred to remembrance and to friendship..."
Sir Thomas More
The selection of rosemary topiaries in the stores is excellent right now. Before they are picked over, grab one. It is nice to have a living plant in the home at Christmastime. As they are very much an outdoor plant, mine will not come in the house until the first week of December. That will give its best chance of surviving through the holiday season. Just after the first of the year it will be planted outside.
Rub the needles of a sprig between your fingers. The distinct aroma will linger for hours. Close your eyes and breathe in. The scent is something like camphor and pine and eucalyptus. You will never forget it.
Perhaps that it why rosemary in ceremoniesis associated with memory. Greek scholars wore crowns of it into exams to heighten their mental acuity. Sprigs are tucked into bridal bouquets as a symbol of fidelity to the groom and as a sign that the bride would not forget the family she was born to. In some cultures, a sprig of rosemary is tossed into the lowered casket to symbolize the deceased would not be forgotten.

Perhaps most appropriate to the season is the story of when the Virgin Mary on her journey to Egypt cast her cloak over the small white blossoms, they turned blue.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Post Fire in the Garden

Outside it doesn't seem as though two weeks ago the air was thick as smoke and California was in many parts a refugee camp. Tonight it is crystal clear, the indigo night sky studded with stars.

For those of us lucky enough to have been spared fire damage it is time to go out and clean the garden.

Think of the leaves on plants as their filter. That is why it is so it is important to keep the leaves clean. This means in the typical 20 gallon hose end sprayer add 1 cup of baby shampoo and 1 cup antiseptic mouthwash and then fill with water. Then wash away! Preferably in the morning, when the leaves will have a chance to dry before the sun goes down. I like to do this chore just before Thanksgiving, because then everything is clean before the Christmas lights go up.

If you have old mulch that hasn't worked itself in to the soil, rake any build up away from plants. Don't let it build up to the point that it becomes a nesting place for rats.

If you have diseased rose leaves- rust, blackspot or other disfigurement- pull off and throw away.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Pretty surprise

Okay. This is a little over-the-top as far as kithcen cabinets interiors. I think my husband was working in Egypt when I decided to wallpaper the inside of the cabinets. When it is time to change the paper- I think I will sell the house first.

The lace edging came later. The corners of the paper was wearing and I am not ready to sell the house- so the lace was found on eBay, ironed and hotglued, It is protected by the invisible corner protectors sold at any home center, cut to fit the inside of the shelf edge.

And yes- the packets of instant dressings and the like are alphabetical.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Live In The Moment

The garden teaches that when a beautiful moment is at hand, stop and savor it.

A few moments after this shot was taken, the indigo had lifted from out of the sky. The display of Indigo Sprires Sage and the red Pineapple Sage is still beautiful: but it doesn't glow quite the way it did at that moment the moon sun first broke open the daylight.

The purple blue Indigo Spires Sage is the result of a happy accident of natural cross breeding. It popped up one day in the 1970's at the Huntington Library and Gardens.It is assumed to be the child of two mexican heritage sages which were growing nearby, S. farinacea and S. longispicata.

Indigo Spires is not a shy plant. It grows in most conditions, but best in full sun with moderate water, where it stretch to a good 5 x 5 floppy bush,with the calyxes reaching out up to another foot. This plant shouts for the attention of butterflies and hummingbirds. If you have room, I highly recommend it.

The Pineapple Sage is fussier about sunshine. It requires lots of it to bloom like this. However, its greatest attribute is its sweet smell. Plant it where you can enjoy the aroma when you brush against it. While the variety in the picture is the standard type, there are smaller cultivars readily available.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Beauty is Not in Perfection

If you can't read the words on the picture click on it, reading the words will bring back memories and uplift. If not, then perhaps your heart has problems not of the type solved by a cardiologist.

Beauty is not in perfection.

It is in friendship.

This engraved stone monument reminds me to be grateful that I have not had to journey through life alone. I owe so much to other people who have entered my life. Some on purpose. Some quite by chance. Some stayed. Some ran out quickly.

There is a companion quote by the Roman orator, Cicero.

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”

It is an irony of life that from this vantage point, I know there are those wonderful individuals that can never be repaid directly. The ones that when I stumbled showed forgiveness, love and a helping hand back up.

One of the beauties of having a garden is that when I am alone in it, I get lost in thought. Sometimes in the wonder of anonymous freindship. Of happenstance meetings that changed my life for the better.

When I am in my garden, I thank God for all of you. And pray that when I come upon someone in need of a hand up, that I will follow your example.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Offer Holiday Cheer to Families of Fallen Heroes

¯Ralph Waldo Emerson said,“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, and to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

I would like to refine that statement a little. When you are honorable, compassionate and generous with whatever you are able to, that creates happiness within.

My son's mother-in-law got permission to share this letter. Please consider participating in any way you are able to. This is a very organized effort and is first-come best choice on assignments. The organization has a web site for any who need more information

Dear Family and Friends,

If you are a proud American and want to give back to those who defend our freedoms please read this and forward it on to everyone you know. We need your support and your help to get the word out and get people involved!!!

Dan and I volunteered for an organization called Snowball Express in 2006. We had such a wonderful and touching experience that we are now on the committee for 2007. Their mission is to reach out to the surviving children and parents of our fallen heroes, specifically the US service men and women killed during the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Snowball Express, a non-profit 501c3 organization, provides these families with a fun filled, all expenses paid weekend in Orange County. Between November 30 and December 2 they will attend an exclusive concert at the Grove in Anaheim, a spectacular party at Oakley headquarters in Foothill Ranch and a day at Disneyland. Many mothers who attended last year said this was the first time they saw their children feel joy since the passing of their father. Also, in bringing these families together it connects them to others who share and understand their difficult reality.

These families have made the ultimate sacrifice and their lives have changed forever. Because of these service men and women’s heroism we continue to enjoy the lifestyles and freedoms we have grown accustomed to and sometimes take for granted. I became part of this organization because I felt that we should all do more to show our gratitude, give service to these families and let them know their loved ones have not been forgotten. I’m hoping others will get inspired and get involved too.

We are looking for donations of money, toys, or time from many people and companies. No gift is too small, every dollar helps. Please talk to your friends, neighbors, family and employers about this wonderful program and get on board with us. We have specific volunteer needs and we are open to your ideas as well. Share your talents and special skills or lead a fundraiser at your work or school. Please join us and help make a difference in these families’ lives!!! If you would like to donate or learn more please visit If you are interested in becoming a volunteer please e-mail me at

Best Regards,

Michele Barto

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Xotx Tropico

Need something Tropical for your garden and can’t find it here in the suburbs? Xotx Tropico is an amazing corner nursery not far from the old Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles. In terms of biodiversity per square inch- this is the most diverse and exciting an adventure as you are going to find without needing a malaria shot administered.

The hibiscus in the picture is in front of my home. It is a RARE weeping hibiscus. How rare is it? Xotx Tropico is the only place in California I have seen them for sale. To see a mature weeping hibiscus in full bloom is to understand that a weeping cherry tree can appear understated in the landscape. If you miss the opportunity to see the examples for sale at Xotx Tropico, then the next closest specimens of this floral cascading bouquet in shades of pink cotton candy may be in one of two places. Hawaii. Or Florida.

With the spelling of the Xotx- I was a little concerned that behind the jungle would be a strip joint. The owner- he looks like he could play a bouncer for someone really important. He spouts Latin better than a priest.

Now, as the daughter of George of the Jungle. I know something about tropical surroundings. True story. My father was named George. My mother, from the tropical island of Puerto Rico, was afraid to go home because of hurricanes. So she brought the jungle to where we grew up in Whittier.

When I was in high school, the whole jungle thing mortified me. If someone wanted to know where we lived, all one had to say was “go to the jungle” and everyone knew where our house was. No further instructions were needed

So, take it from me. This is one AWESOME place to seek out the unusual. Not just thirsty tropicals- but lots of bulbs from South Africa, where the weather is hot and the rain doesn’t fall any more than it does here.

Xotx Tropico
900 N Fairfax Ave
West Hollywood, CA 90046
(323) 654-9999

Monday, October 1, 2007

Summer Crossing Autumn's Threshold

Living on an oversized hillside lot is not without its challenges. But it presented the opportunity to create a rare convergence of different ecosystems. We have trees providing everything from deep to open shade. We planned for understory, forest opening, field and chaparral conditions. By providing food, water, nesting, and shelter: nature entertains, educates and fulfills.
I have come to observe that summer crosses the threshold of autumn when the large owls start return to roost in the neighborhood’s mature trees. When the sun turns in for the night, these avians equipped with night vision spread their giant wings and start patrolling the neighborhood to stop any mischief. When their hooting echoes in the dark, the mockingbirds understand they should not entertain with an all-night jam session. Besides quieting noisy mockingbirds, the owls like to eat mice and rats and snakes. But not pets. So I love owls. I wish they would do like the hummingbirds. Decide that the living here is easy, the food ample and free: why migrate?
We also have a very handsome coyote who has taken up residence nearby. Long legs, well-muscled, thick coat. Likes to show off his luxuriant coat on his morning jog. He’s quite the dandy. At least he’s not a vampire. Daylight does not seem to bother him at all.
Picked the first apple off my tree! Nan Sterman, the gal who wrote the recently released California Gardener’s Guide, Volume II, recommended I try Sundowner. This Western Australian variety crisps up nicely without much chill. Light texture, low acid, delicious right off the tree. You can’t imagine the thrill that went through me as I took that first bite. I was so happy to beat the squirrels to it. Thank you, Mr. Coyote.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Be Seduced by Food

Americans may be getting fat because we are seeking satisfaction in all the wrong places. McDonalds is a one night stand of taste. Quick and perfectly forgettable.

On the other hand, when you look at how you eat as part of how you relate to the world, you have the opportunity to develop a satisfying relationship that is healthy and sustaining. Inspiring even.

Roasting the lemons prior to using them in a marinade takes the acidic edge off the citrus. There are good commercial marinades on the market- but taking time to blend and precook the fruit and use herbs fresh from the garden in the virgin olive oil resulted in a flavor that is layered and subtle: most intriguing. When you close your eyes to take that first bite and the moment is suspended in satisfaction- you have been seduced in to the world of understanding that food can nourish the soul as well as feed the body.

The only other time I remember the chicken being as moist and tender was when I baked a pair of chickens in a kosher salt meringue. The boys took one look at the salt-entombed chickens and were certain their mom had gone off the deep end. Insisted I take the first bite. When I didn’t choke- they got out their forks and learned something about the magic of imagination and keeping an open mind.

Flavored Oils and Vinegars by Michael Chiarello is the book that inspired the chicken marinade. Michael’s cooking style is quite intuitive. Many of his recipes aren’t meant to be followed, they are meant to be played with. Buy it. Use it. Have fun with it.

Second Helpings from Union Square Café by Danny Meyer and Michael Romano is the source for the Salt Baked Chicken recipe.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

When Time Stands Still

There are moments in our lives when time stands still. Moments of such intensity that the picture in the mind cannot be erased.

We remember where we were when there are events of historical importance. I was watching television with JoAnn Turovsky in her parents' family room when the news came in that JFK was shot.

We remember moments that are out of the ordinary. I remember the first time I heard Mick Jagger sing "Satisfaction". It was on my first trip to the Grand Canyon, around Prescott. My very staunchly conservative father turned the radio up full blast, and we all sang along, even my father.

And I remember the day the original OJ verdict came in. I was wearing a red tunic T shirt, dividing the salmon daylily in this picture.I don't remember the species name, just that they were a dormant thatch. A couple bulbs of them had been my first catalog mail order purchase. Half a decade later they fatly filled this narrow border just below the vegetable path.

My garden fork and spade were pitched in to the earth when the acquittal came over the radio. I was stunned.

Fast forward to this month. On the same day the book on OJ and the murder, "If I Did It" was published, out came the news that OJ was under suspicion for armed robbery in Las Vegas. He repsonded to the charge "If I did it..."

I gaze at the same border now. It is apparent that while little changed about the hubris of the former athlete, this little piece of Eden had evolved and improved. The daylily now has good company in the pink carpet roses and two types of purple verbena. On the long stems of the verbena bonarensis, little birds perch and sway in the breeze.Bunches of lavender call in the bees.

The still lifes we look back on in our memories are history. But life moves on. Gardens live. Give companionship to what grows in your garden now. By adding diversity and abundance we create the opportunity for a future masterpiece.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Summer turns to Autumn

The world is very small. I know Sue Maxwell even though she lives in an other state. Our mutual friend, Trisha, thought we would enjoy each other's writing. I was so moved by how she described this time of year, I asked her permission to publish her link, and she gave it. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND pasting this address into the address line of your browser.

Sue moved from Temple City to Rogue River, Oregon just about 10 years ago when her husband and she retired from the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department.

For about 10 years, until Sue's husband, Jerry, passed away, they enjoyed living together on their 20 acres filled with wildlife. A partial list of God's creatures who have graced this Eden include deer, elk, possums, skunks, bears, cougars,and many, many birds, including owls, vultures, hawks, finches, towhees, hummingbirds.

Sue writes about the view from her front porch on page 2, and she invites you to be her guest on the site she maintains on the web. On the first page is a short tribute to her partner of 33 years. Sue misses that terrific and interesting man. But she keeps connected with my family and friends.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

No Expiration on Passion

“There’s no expiration date on passion.”
Paula Panich carved those words in to my writer’s soul. They are found in her inspiring instruction book, “Cultivating Words: The Guide to Writing about the Plants and Gardens You Love”. My copy of that little blue paperback is dog-eared, highlighted and underlined. Great truth is often simple, its boundaries reaching outward from the subject it addresses. While her book is ostensibly about garden writing, it is a wonderful guide for anyone interested in cultivating or harvesting the bounty of words.
When I learned that Paula would be teaching a class on writing the Getty Garden, even though a weekday getting across the Los Angeles Basin may take longer than a flight to San Francisco, it was a double opportunity. It was a chance to develop my craft as a writer. And it was a chance to see this controversial garden through the eyes of someone who loves it with passion.
If I spent three hours driving the freeway to maybe arrive before the class started, the chances of being fresh, receptive and creative were not likely. Since being armed with the proper attitude is important to the learning process, I called Patty Gee, travel agent extraordinaire. She booked an overnight stay the night before at the safe and sane Hotel Angelino. Now, the morning of the class, the alarm might not go off, the traffic could be insane: I would still be on time. This decision created a bonus opportunity to leisurely take in the Big City as is was crossed.
My sons are both college graduates. By the time they were in elementary school, I remember reading about The Cook’s Library and wanting to go. This isn’t part of the county library system. The Cook’s Library is a store front bookstore dedicated to cooking and to those who are passionate about what is brought to table. But in two decades there never seemed to be time when I rushed home from whatever called me to that part of the city. My mistake. Packed with books stacked floor to ceiling, nooks and crannies: this charming shop should be a pilgrimage for anyone interested in the culinary arts.
The smell of yeast rising to me is primal. The feel of the dough becoming alive as it is kneaded is sensual. The sight of fresh loaves on a tray laden with fruit suspends time. And the touch to the tongue of bread freshly broken open, the steam melting butter to its silky best, is proof that heaven on earth is achievable. And this little nirvana is available to everyone with no distinction of class, race or ethnicity. It can be had for the cost of a loaf of homemade bread.
Last summer I took a class on baking bread. But I did not find a book that tempted my hunger to bring home to use as guide to bake bread. Not until I walked in to The Cook’s Library. There, in this charming bookstore are yards of bookshelves filled with volumes on baking. All proficiencies and areas of interest are represented.
Better than the internet or big box bookstore, the help is passionate about food and beverage. It is their calling to help those of us who want to drink in the knowledge of the printed word. Alan Zumel and Tim Fischer (pictured above left to right)asked a few questions to help discern my individual desire in a book, then they narrowed my search far better than I would have on my own. They led me to “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice”.
Now, over the coming months I will practice my belief that books are like faith, best when used.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Spritz the Garden When it is This Hot

Sunday, in the time it took to clip a bouquet of basil from the herb garden and walk it back to the kitchen, it was already wilting.
On days when the heat is oppressive, it is nice to spritz anything green in the garden. My lawn likes beer. It can be leftover, flat from the can or still fizzy and cold. No beer? Ice tea will also refresh and pick up anything green.
Below is my favorite hose end sprayer. It doesn't clog nearly so easily as any other brand or type I've used.

Ace - Ortho® Tree & Shrub Spray-Ette (0833810)

Ice tea and beer is so mild- I don't worry about the dilution rate. Just pour in the container, fill it with water, and spray away!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Cleaning with Baby Shampoo

All five senses engage the part of our brain in charge of memory. The loud stereo of the neighbor’s high schooler can trigger thoughts of what you were listening to when you were the one being asked to “turn it down”. The sight of the first boyfriend’s picture in an old yearbook can make you ask, “What was I thinking?” The taste of lemon meringue pie recalls summer picnics when the whole extended family came over for Sunday supper after church. The feel of a handshake from a business associate can remind you how much you trust- or not- that person.
Still, as strong as these senses elevate memories, is there any more powerful emotional trigger than smell? Do you ever wonder why? I can only guess that it is because scents are ephemeral. Smell is the only sense that we can adjust to and shortly forget its presence. We notice scents for just a short while, quickly adjust and soon take the gift our breath bestowed on us for granted. And then good or bad, only if a particular scent is reintroduced will we associate a particular memory with it. Being the most elusive of the five senses to quantify, scent is not the most accurate indicator of an experience. But what it lacks in accuracy, it makes up in power.
The scent of a baby, clean from the bath, conjures memories innocent and pure. I found this short poem by Maureen Hawkins that sums up the experience of motherhood

Before you were conceived, I wanted you.
Before you were born, I loved you.
Before you were here an hour, I would die for you.
This is the miracle of life.

Okay. I’m not particularly brave, but I am filled with curiosity. If I were a cat, I would have died a long time ago. I loved being a mother to active little boys. I had to find out, what would happen if I were to scrub the tile floors with the suds of baby shampoo. I wanted to know, what I would feel even before I got up from my hands and knees. Would it be any different from the usual cleaning routine?
“No More Tears” cleaned fine. Old Johnson and Johnson was strong enough to clean the floor and replenish my spirit. My eyes attentive to specks needing to be removed, my right hand drawing concentric circles with a slightly dripping sponge dipping in and out of a blue bucket, my mind was taken back to some of the things little boys could manage to cover themselves in. Decades ago this same scent had been there as my sons were cleaned of caked-on mud, smeared on grass stains and spots of what might have been tar. I remembered days when they filled the spa with bubble bath, to my kissing the hurt of scrapes away and packing lunch pails for first days of school.
Such a simple touch. Baby shampoo may cost less to use than what I used before, but with it a chore transformed in to a ritual. What was a mundane chore is now a ritual rich with daydreams. I smell “no tears” formula and it isn’t long before my tear ducts have traces of happy memories forming along the rims.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Golf Fore the Arts

It's that time of year again! When people of all abilities get a chance to golf and help raise funds "fore the arts and music" in our local schools.

The Walnut Valley Rotary Club will be hosting this annual event at the California Country Club in Whittier on the morning of September 6,2007. Foursomes are $500, individuals are $160 and sponsorships are welcome!

For more information or to register, give Tom Giannini a call at (626) 653-0673 .

THANK YOU Ruth Clark Photography for the lovely photograph. It was taken at the tournament last year. I'm pretty sure my golf swing is why she got this shot of me in the cart. You see, I didn't really get to take up golf until November 2005. It is my later-in life love.

For me golf is Yin and Yang balanced to harmonious perfection. It is a completely outdoor activity, but is civilized. Because it is played with others, it requires social interaction- yet it is an individual pursuit. There is mental focus and freedom of body movement within every swing. Not to mention the complete range of emotions experienced during the course of a round. The best picture no one ever got of me was from a birdie from a putt off the green. Not that I should brag, it was in a scramble tournament and the shot was set up by my teammates. But when that dimpled white ball dropped in to that cup on the fourth hole of the first tournament I ever played, my heart didn't care. I'm addicted and in need of a fix. Time to go out and practice...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Butterflies Sail Above Plumbago

Now, as the summer air grows warmer and small regattas of butterflies silently tack among invisible swells in the air, I am glad that I hold back the temptation to over-use chemicals in my garden. The plumbago is a bully of a neighbor. It does not respect its neighbor plants’ right to also flourish. Yet earlier this year I did not unmercifully wield a machete at unwanted volunteer shoots of plumbago and then hit the stubs with Roundup. I did not spray all the caterpillars on their march up tender flowering spring branches. I am so happy I didn’t. The evidence that the caterpillars growing fat on the bounty of my plants tender spring shoots pales in importance compared to the beauty before me now.
Floating through the air are diminutive fleets of butterflies. On their miniature sails, they proudly display the colors of their species: the orange of the monarch, the bold yellow and black stripes of the swallowtail, and the lemon yellow of the sulfa. This miniature regatta floats leisurely by, holding its position above the abundant blue froth of flowers, waiting for me to back away. When I do, the butterflies navigate slowly downward, to gently dock and silently sip the sweet nectar within. Refueled, they will drift away, ghost ships leaving no tangible evidence to prove the magic of the moment. It is a lesson from the garden, that not having evidence doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The House Smells of Abundance

The house smells of abundance tonight. The bread was freshly baked, crab cakes fried, chicken barbecued for the salad and three tri-tip roasts were braised.

When our guests arrived, there were trays of sweetest summer fruit piled high on trays on my kitchen island and baby quiches for those who would like something light to munch on.

I'm hoping when I rejoin the party in a few minutes, that the bread pudding with rum sauce has been inhaled. I made it mostly as an excuse to buy the rum, which I can divide what is left among my roses and clematis tomorrow. This week some of them bloomed together just like the illustrated books from the east coast publishers promise. These cooperative bloomers must be rewarded with spirits. If I get to this task quickly, the fall bloom may reciprocate with branches bent down with blossoms generously as that first big spring flush.

I am exhausted, but pleased. I don't look nearly as good as the house, but I can hear laughter on the patio and in the room where cards are being played just outside my closed study door. Making our guests feel important by the care with which the meal is planned and presented is what brings me happiness on a night like this.

Back to these friends.

Thursday, August 9, 2007


Welcome to my home on the internet. This is a bit of a grand experiment, so I ask your patience and understanding in advance, as I learn how hosting a blog works.

When I wrote a first person column when my sons were in high school, they lived in fear that I would write about them, and embarass them in the ways only a mother can. I imagine that when they find out I am posting on the internet, they are going to thank God that they grew up and left home before I tried this broad a communication!

There are many people I will thank over time for this new adventure, but for right now, I would like to thank the Madrid based photographer, Ilana Panich-Linsman. I met her when I was Editor of my hometown newspaper, The Windmill. Immediately after she graduated from Scripps College in Claremont, she gave up her summer to raise funds to purchase medical supplies for those whose lives were disrupted by Hurricane Katrina through Bike Across America. I remain in awe of the obstacles she and Colin Mortensen overcame as they planned and then crossed our continent-wide nation, powered mostly by the muscles in their legs and character in their hearts. Later, she was kind enough to share her own blog with me. Without her pioneering inspiration, I might not be brave enough to try this out.

So to those of you who read this, I wish you many blessings,

Lydia Plunk