Friday, July 24, 2009

Mommy's Little Helpers

Doesn't she look so innocent, my little Reno?

Doesn't Tahoe look like she just wants to be my best helper?

Last week, the hawks were posted in the large trees out back. To trust the large birds with my forever puppies would be foolhardy. " Dos compadres" were left in the house with their chew toys while I went out back to trim away in the garden.

"Mom" left the door to her study open.

Then they made a bad decision. They thought my computer was their chew toy.

At least, I think it was a bad decision on their part. They were quite happy when I came inside to check on them.

Yes, that is what a laptop keyboard looks like when two dogs who think they are part cat, use the office chair for a ladder to climb to the desktop . The look on my face when I saw the keys dumped on the desk like letters from a Scrabble board folded over- I told my husband that if he took my picture at that moment, " all I need is one woman on the jury". He valliantly held back the laughter and did not aim the lens at my face.

One week, two deadlines and $26.95 later- my husband installed a new keyboard.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Love, Respect and Wine

This quote by Dario Zucconi resonates with why wine is loved. This bold wall is perfect to set the mood at California Wine and Cheese in Monrovia, California.

Last Saturday, Trisha Bowler, Edda Gahm and I were drawn there by the temptation of a Wine, Wit & Wisdom class taught by Master Sommelier Elizabeth Schweitzer. The topic of the day- the wines of Napa and Paso Robles.
This is what I have learned previously in Elizabeth's classes-

Forget your prejudices and your snobbery. Good wine is good wine.

Given respect- wine is one of the great pleasures of life. It is evocative and inspirational.

Whenever you taste a wine- think of what food would show off its personality.

Wines I already know, I associate with people, with events. As a writer, I taste scenes. My ethnic mamma matchmaker gene is satisfied by now by creating menus- for pairings of specific wines to specific foods- which the writer in me sometimes borrows.

Please enjoy my notes of what were the most memorable wines of the afternoon- with my abbreviated notes-

Maddalena Sauvignon Blanc- (Paso Robles) Very fresh, almost innocent. Tastes like grapefruit flavored kisses, with notes of lime zest and deep spring meadow grass. It will be perfect with a Caesar salad and veal piccata. Or with egg rolls.

Honing Sauvignon Blanc
is a throatier Napa Valley golden blonde. Lay the glass on its back and you can see the color open to a clear edge. Stand her up and you can see her long legs wrap around the back of the glass. The aftertaste lingers a bit longer. Perfect companion for grilled chicken with pineapple on a bed of Basmati rice.

Niner's Cabernet (Paso Robles) tastes very French. Smooth, slow. The first sip and my taste buds sent an image to my brain of sitting in front of the lit fireplace in the living room. We have large red and white checked napkins on our laps. The green salad is heaped on wooden plates and we are dipping garlic bread into Beef Bourguinon which braised all day- served in my red Emile Henry bowls.
The Wine Wit and Wisdom homepage is //

or Contact Elizabeth directly at
All wines listed in my notes are available at California Wine and Cheese, 115 W. Foothill Blvd, Monrovia, CA 626-358-6500.
More information on events can be found on their website at
Images of wine and labels are representative, but may not be exact to wine in this posting.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Taylor Camp

Every Artist's Aim
“The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life. Since man is mortal, the only immortality possible for him is to leave something behind him that is immortal since it will always move. This is the artist's way of scribbling "Kilroy was here" on the wall of the final and irrevocable oblivion through which he must someday pass.”
William Faulkner

Once upon a time, Richard Nixon was President. Man took his first walk on the moon. Wages and prices were controlled by the government. “The Pill” changed sexual behavior. Roe v. Wade made unborn children a political fulcrum. A war was fought in far-off jungles of Vietnam, on the streets near UC Berkeley and on our black and white television consoles in our livingrooms.

Dateline: Santa Fe Springs, California. Karen Gould, Joyce Stone and Lydia Lent (that’s me) served coffee for 10 cents a cup- no charge for refills or smiles at Sambo’s Restaurant. On occasion, black sedans with plain hubcaps and government tags would pull into the parking lot. The Spanish speaking busboys would climb the ladder to the roof until the cars pulled away.

(Joyce, Karen, Lydia at screening)

Across the Pacific Ocean, life was being lived in a different dimension. The culture was being fought in a clothing optional hippie enclave at the end of the road in Kauai. At about the time the local officials were attempting to take charge of the situation by enforcing vagrancy laws, the brother of Elizabeth Taylor, Howard, and his wife, bought property adjacent to a state park. Their intent was to build a family home. When Howard went to the local officials with plans drawn for building permits, he was informed his property was going to be condemned for parkland- so forget building. Howard bailed the hippies out of jail and gave them permission to camp on their unbuildable property. Taylor Camp was born, lived and died. An experiment in living which was at the same time was idealistic and confrontational: a microcosm of what was happening Statewide, perhaps washed with serenity by the waves of the Pacific Ocean.

The trade winds of time lifted the three of us Californians along different life journeys where our paths seldom crossed. Karen married and moved to Washington State for a very long time. Joyce- I lost track of after my wedding. Joyce had a brother, Bob, whom we looked up to. Not just because he was 6’4” tall. He was just darn polite- very quiet- and so talented with a camera. Bob moved from the Westside of LA to Maui.

Fast forward to June 2009. Bob Stone was coming to Santa Monica for a special preview screening of his feature length documentary about Taylor Camp. I didn’t know what to expect. Karen from some PR gathered it might be about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. It was more than that.

Director Bob Stone teamed with John Wehrheim to create a film with the authenticity of Ken Burns. With the opening notes of Iron Butterfly thumping In a Godda Da Vida- I was born again, seventeen. Reliving the story of my generation, as seen through the eyes of those who chose to seek their personal Eden at Taylor Camp.

(L-R John, Bob)

Bob and John captured the crossroads of innocence and tumult in photographs and interviews of both the campers and the locals: who often felt invaded by the counter culture. Bob and John thoughtfully recorded the price of free love in the death of Minka, who died of AIDS, because at 21, she had a relationship with a male who did not know he was infected.

The portrayal of life in this Eden is undeniably romantic. Children were born. They played. But there were no major injuries or deaths. Drugs appeared to be more available than clothing, particularly marijuana. But there were no major medical incidents. Probably not so much from wisdom as from the good fortune which shined on this Eden. I was a bit edgy that the resident Vietnam Vets who went there bore such bitterness towards our country. But, that is who went to Taylor Camp. So my concerns were eased by truthfulness.

Comfortable as I am in this middle-class existence, the housing appears flimsy. Dangerous, even. But to some of the campers, it was the most permanent life they had known. For some it was respite from war. For some, from drugs. For others, a place to escape abuse.

The movie transports the viewer to a time the fabric of our society needed stitching up. The preview edition transported me back to those formative years, when the world outside was ripping apart. We were a generation that hurt. We worshiped freedom, rebelled against authority and sought spiritual enlightenment, not always wisely. These were years when the Beetles Song, “Helter Skelter” inspired the infamous Manson Family Murders. The movie, by pulling me away from my comfort zone, made me confront my own prejudices. Why did a group of young families, disillusioned military veterans, surfers and candidly, druggies, converge on the paradise known as Taylor Camp. To what end?

In the end, Taylor Camp reminded me how powerful the beauty of nature is as a healer. I left with an appreciation for the continuity of people who chose to deal with life differently than I. Many people my father would have riled about as worthless hippies- grew into productive, well-adjusted citizens.

Director Robert "Bob" C. Stone didn’t understand the full scope Taylor Camp would become.”It started out as a 15 minute slide show as a fund raiser for KKCR Kauai public radio. After 1,000 people showed up at the theater for the screening and after I met some of the Taylor Campers, we decided that it might make a compelling documentary.”

It does. As with all great art, the love of the creator for the story is evident.
The soundtrack alone is worth the price of admission.
The editing- the scenic interludes: awe inspiring. When the movie is over- it will stir your soul for long after.

To learn more- Go to

Taylor Camp Cover Images by John Wehrheim.

(Me with Bob at screening)

Bob and Karen catching up.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Watching Like A Hawk

Dateline: Diamond Bar

It is 97 outside . The hills beyond the reach of aquamarine are dry as old parchment. The sky is bright as an aquamarine. A couple young hawks have been raising quite a ruckus in my backyard.

There is something magical about living with wildlife. The piercing call of the young hawks heightens my awareness. Nature is not just beautiful. It can be dangerous. But, within reason, the beauty is worth the danger.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Real World

Real life is not perfect. It isn't at all like the oxymoronic "reality" TV shows.

The past is defined. The future is never without risk. The only certainty is that nothing we do will ever be as dangerous as living. So we should always be aware.

These beautiful peach Angel Trumpet flowers. When they first fall to the ground, they are slippery like a banana peel.

I found that out looking up for bees dancing inside them when I should have been watching where I was going. What a metaphor for modern life- obsessed by physical beauty- moving too quickly on our path with no awareness of obvious practical details. Woops!

I landed hard on the only flat piece of open cement in my garden. I was winded. Shook up. Hurt. A week later, listening to the squishy sound when I probed the knee cap , it was time to have my doctor check it out.

The knee will be fine. But my blood work was not.

I have diabetes. It is the enemy in my maturity.

Do not pity me. This is not my first battle with health. One thing I know for certain is that neither circumstance nor genetic predisposition can force a contrary result without my personal permission.

Diabetes is not the first enemy to be my companion. Depression was the unseen companion of my youth. I am certain- just as I beat depression into submission before I married over three decades ago, the diabetes will not be given permission to get in the way of living a good life.

Having a goal is helpful. When I die, I have always wished it to be in old age, lying quietly in the arms of the man I love. To have any chance at that, I must be careful of what companions I keep- depression and diabetes are Barbarian acquaintances- absolutely not found on the guest list.

I respect the diabetes as a powerful opponent, which if I am complacent, it can win. The battle plan consists of diet and exercise. To defeat this scourge, the strategy involves seriously training my muscles to be activated troops. I am working out five days a week. I am relearning to cook, eat and celebrate. It is too soon to declare victory- but in less than a month I’ve dropped 9.5 pounds and have been able to post pretty darned perfect blood glucose readings already.

The rewards have been fast-coming. Facts relegated to GOAB (getting old is a bitch) disease are noticeably improved. The mind is again nimble. Energy is activated. My hair shinier and my skin clearer. Not to mention, my clothes are fitting more the way I like them to.

Dear readers, I raise a glass to your good health! Never take it for granted. And when it is threatened- fight for it. Your life depends on it.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Independence Day

What is Independence Day to You? Is it firecrackers and fireworks?

Is it red, white and blue?

Is it looking closely into the center of a 'Wild Blue Yonder' rose and seeing how much the pattern of the stamens look like fireworks exploding in a purple sky?

Is it baseball? The Star Spangled Banner? Memories of children's games when holding a bunch of roses named 'Home Run'? Shouldn't hedges of them surround the outfield fences at parks across this nation?
However you celebrate this most American holiday- I wish you Godspeed. Long live this living experiment- The United States of America. Whatever our faults as a nation, let us put them behind us, if just for today. Today we should celebrate while we contemplate- the world is better off that we existed. That we have thrived. That when we suffer, we do not weep for long. We get up off our feet and get to work.

The dog photo is courtesy of "Oregon" Sue Maxwell.
The rest of images are by photographer Gene Sasse.
Used with permission

To learn more about the fates of the 56 signors of the Declaration of Independence please go to

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Coming Home

Home. One word. Four letters. My whole life.
Nothing is so sweet about travel as coming home.
Home to my husband.
To our forever puppies.

To the bounty of the summer garden.

Three days in Sedona and I feel that I have grown.
A short side trip to the artist colony of Jerome-

I have a better understanding of the world view of people living in circumstances far different than this suburb of Los Angeles. A renewed appreciation for my little plot on this earth.

The purchases brought home serve as reminders of what I learned.

The Southwestern inspired outfit Sherry sold me at the boutique “Made in Sedona” reminds me that there are still stores that sell clothing made in the USA.
How nice it is to have my own "style". One not found in every mall.

This lovely labradorite rock specimen. Totally impractical. But look at the spectral coloration- like peacock feathers crystallized and petrified. A type of feldspar, it crashed into the earth from outer space, bringing with it extraterrestrial lore that it can “stimulate mental acuity and to reduce anxiety and stress.”

The memento became a Father's Day gift to my husband. A token of love and respect. My thought is it will be for his office here in our home. But being a gift, it is his decision. Or it wouldn't be a gift.