Saturday, November 2, 2013


Today is All Souls' Day in Hispanic culture . . . when graves are cleaned and decorated and, in some places, picnics, music and drinking occupy the people left behind.

Here are a couple of somewhat typical shrines or ofrendas (offerings) as displayed at the main library in Phoenix recently.

And so El Dia de los Muertos, (the Day of the Dead) comes to a close.

Friday, November 1, 2013


So here's how I feel this morning.

Last night was our first Halloween in many years that we tried to ignore.  We went out to comida (early dinner) in the late afternoon, then returned home and turned out most of the lights to discourage trick-or-treaters.  That worked great for awhile.  Not once did our doorbell ring.

(Side comment: the worst thing about this strategy was that THERE IS NO LEFTOVER CANDY FOR ME IN THE HOUSE!!!  Whose idea was this anyway??!!!)

So I was walking down the hallway in the dark when I ran into a chair, making a loud crash followed by an unprintable yell from me.

A little later, walking down the same dark hallway but being more careful this time, I saw a red glow that came and went regularly from the front window of a house across the street.  Curious, I went and got my binoculars and tried to see the house through a narrow front window.  Too small.  So I opened the front door to step outside and saw something slip by me and dart outside.  BLACKWELL!

Now those of you who follow this blog regularly know that our Big Black Boy Cat is totally black except for a mostly-invisible smear of white on his belly.  You also know that he is an indoor cat who came to us some years ago as a feral lurker.  And you also know that he is a Damned Escape Artist!  He loves to dart out the door when one of his keepers is least expecting it and go out to explore the outdoors.

So there we are.  It's Halloween night.  Probably around 8 o'clock. Darker than sin outside and we're trying to lure a totally black cat back inside the house.  He crossed the street, meowing all the way as I kept saying "NO!" (which has worked before) and calling his name "Blackwell" (which probably struck fear into the hearts of our neighbors.)

I was barefoot so I went back into the house to don some sandals and notify SWMBO.  She muttered some vile epithet, also unprintable here, and came out to help in the effort.

Blackwell was staying fairly close, only venturing across the street a couple of times but staying out of reach.  Finally SWMBO suggested I open the garage door just a crack, enough for him to enter.  I did and we continued the pleading calls as the dark blur foraged the neighborhood.

Then he came up near the garage door but would not enter until a car came around the corner.  He darted inside and SWMBO and I tried to push the garage door down.  Unsuccessfully.  So I hurried around, went in the front door, out to the garage and asked SWMBO several times if he was still inside.  No answer.  Apparently she couldn't hear me.  So I took a deep breath and pushed the automatic garage door closer button.  The door closed but no sign of the blasted cat until I called his name.  Then he darted out from under the car and ran into the house.

Well!  That was 20 minutes of Halloween fun at our house.  SWMBO didn't speak to me much the rest of the night except to say she was very upset with me.  But she has recovered her humor this morning and came to my office to ask if Blackwell had apologized to me yet.

And so it goes.

That, by the way, is not one of our cats.  Nor is this next one, whose name is probably . . . Pussy.

Happy Friday, y'all.  I hope your Halloween night was better than mine.

Thursday, October 31, 2013


The days of autumn can be a bit cool, even in the Southwestern desert.  As I write this at 10 a.m. on Halloween it is 68 degrees F. outside.  The mercury descended to 48 earlier this morning.  It was chilly in the backyard after dark the other night as we watched the Space Shuttle fly over though clear skies.  I continue to be amazed.

With cooler weather comes an appetite for cool weather food.  I think the dish I made last night with potatoes, broccolini, eggs and Parmesan cheese qualifies.  The recipe came from Deb Perelman's blog Smitten Kitchen.  Here is a link to her post and the recipe.

As usual my frittata looked a bit different from hers.  Here's mine:

It wasn't bad but I should have cooked the potatoes a bit slower and longer to make them more tender.  And it could have used some more seasoning.  We have noticed this in a couple of her recipes before. Her palate seems to be perhaps more sensitive to spice and sweets than ours.  Some Mrs. Dash added to the recipe would have "kicked it up a notch."

But you know how it goes - - -

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Once upon a time, many years ago (actually it was 36 years ago - 1977!) your faithful scribe and his lovely SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed) used to costume themselves for Halloween parties too.  (See yesterday's post)

This was our getup for a party at the BRD's house that Halloween.  Both costumes were made by the dark-haired lass in the photo.

That was probably our dressiest of Halloweens.  A few years later SWMBO only used her make-up skills with which to frighten the little trick-or-treaters who dared to ring our bell.

That alluring smile hid a darker side of the wretch.

As for me, I have to use the techniques of the computer to make myself fearsome.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Now, I KNOW it's Halloween season.

I had inklings of it because of the decorated homes around us.  (I remember when that was only done for Christmas.)  I had seen the occasional youngster trying out his or her costume.  I had noticed the plethora of candy being displayed in stores.  I had seen jack 'o' lanterns.  

But nothing spells Halloween to me more than the first pictures of the BRD (Beautiful Rich Daughter) and her Beau Jack in their party costumes and paint.  O.K.  Stand back from your screen.  Here it comes.

The costumes will change this weekend.  That's when the two of them host their own party but this year's is not a Halloween costume event. Well, not really.  But I can imagine there will be a number of party guests in Hawaiian shirts and flowered gowns looking to get leied at their Luau Party.

Monday, October 28, 2013


My grandson and his wife recently celebrated their first wedding annivesary.  WITH A TRIP TO IRELAND!  As SWMBO commented "that's what young people can do if they put off having a family!"  From all the pictures I've seen, they had a great time, even though they apparently rented a car and were seen driving on the wrong side of the road!

All of which gives me an excuse to post this picture of said grandson.

I particularly like this one because someone, presumably his wife, caught him without his characteristic smirk.  It's a thoughtful pose of a young man looking out to sea.  I could weave a whole story about an Irish lad imagining what his life might become in America.  But since this lad was born in Phoenix and grew up in Colorado I think I'll just leave well enough alone.

By the way, his name is Russell but born, as he was, with bright red hair I've always called him Rusty.  The red seems to have disappeared from the top of his head but still clings to his beard.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Yes, folks, there is a difference.

Macarons (pronounced: ma-ca-rones) are not the same cookie as macaroons (pronounced: ma-ca-roons.)

Macaroons have been a part of American cookie cookery for decades. They are made by folding shredded coconut into a base of egg whites and sugar whipped until very stiff.  The batter is then dropped onto a baking sheet by spoonsful and baked into a little haystack.  They may be dipped in chocolate once baked.

Macarons come to us from fine French patisseries.  It starts off the same way as macaroons with egg whites and sugar whipped until stiff. But then a combination of powdered sugar and almond flour (or finely ground almonds) is folded into it.  The resulting batter is then piped into exact circles and the tops of half of them gently smoothed with a finger dipped in water.  Once baked, the tops and bottoms are combined in a sandwich with a flavored buttercream inside.  By the way, the cookies are even more elegant if the dough is colored with food coloring to match the flavor of buttercream . . yellow for lemon, green for mint, etc.  SWMBO found that chilling the sandwich cookies helped to set up the buttercream a bit.

This was her first attempt and they're not perfect by French standards but they're pretty darned good and she learned a few things about making them.

They're a little crunchy, a little chewy and a lot delicious!

Saturday, October 26, 2013


It was a bit early but the Mesa Arts Center hosted a big Day of the Dead fiesta today.

SWMBO declined to attend, given as she is to an aversion to all of the skulls and skeletons present at these events.  Plus she wanted part of a day with the kitchen to herself as she tackled her first macarons. She learned a few things but I can attest that they are delicious and seem properly both crunchy and chewy.

But back to the celebration.  In Mexico, it is a three-day celebration. On October 31st (All Hallows Eve) children make an alter to invite the spirits of dead children back for a visit.  On November 1st, all of the spirits come for a visit on All Spirits Day.  November 2nd is All Souls Day, when families of the departed go to cemeteries to decorate their ancestors' graves.  Marigolds, photos of the dead relatives, perhaps some of their favorite foods and drink are brought and it frequently develops into an hours-long picnic.

At today's early celebration, faces were painted like skulls and skeletons and many other types of skulls were everywhere.

Unlike the American Halloween the depictions of skulls and skeletons are not intended to frighten but to remember and celebrate the relatives who have gone on before us.

The Arts Center did a marvelous job of decorating it's buildings and grounds for the festival.

As at any Mexican celebration there is an abundance of color, beautiful costumes, music and dancing.

The youngest dancers gathered at the side of the stage to watch their mentors.

Here are a couple of videos of what they saw and heard.

As I turned to go, I was struck by the look of intense concentration on the face of this nina

 She seemed lost in a world of dreams as she watched the adults dancing, thinking perhaps of the day when she would be an adult and . . like them . . still dancing and bringing joy to the rest of us.

Friday, October 25, 2013


Curiously enough, all of my Friday Funnies this week come from "someecards".  I think the first one is my favorite.

This next one may not be so funny but I found it worth using anyway.

And finally, one that's always good.

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, October 24, 2013


I stopped by the main Phoenix library today to hear a talk by Valerie Plame, who has a new book out, called "Blowback".  In case you've forgotten, Plame is the former covert CIA agent whose cover was blown by several people in Washington after her husband, Joe Wilson, contradicted claims by the Bush administration that Iraq was trying to buy material for nuclear weapons.  Plame today talked about the background of the case and described the civil suit she and her husband filed that was eventually dismissed.

She is a very intelligent lady who has begun a second career writing mystery novels from her new home in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  She drew a fairly large turnout of respectful people today, as judged by the questions she was asked.  I only regret that the close-up picture I took of her was so blurry.  SWMBO said it must have been because I was trembling at being so close to this beautiful woman.

Update:  I just figured out why that picture is blurry.  The batteries in my camera were on their last legs.  I've replaced them.  Now, where's Valerie?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


So alright, already.  I had a routine doctor's appointment today and after it, SWMBO and I headed for the Desert Botanical Garden in Papago Park in Phoenix.  First stop was Gertrude's, a first class restaurant which opened this year on the grounds of the park.  It's named after Gertrude Divine Webster who founded DBG back in 1939. The restaurant has been getting raves and even though we were just lunching we soon found out why.  

SWMBO had the Sonoran Dog, a bacon wrapped Schreiner's beef hot dog, topped with avocado, tepary beans, Cotija, and tomatillo relish on a poppy seed bun.  (In keeping with his locavore style, Chef Stephen Eldredge uses tepary beans, which have been grown in the Southwestern United States and Mexico by native people since pre-Columbian times.)

As for me, I was drawn to the "3 Napkin Smoked Sow".  It was smoked pork and Arizona Cheese Company jack accompanied by cilantro, pickled apple and pickled onion on a ciabatta bun.  A red chile jus was there for dipping and, as Emeril might say, "to kick it up a notch."

Both sandwiches were delicious but the triple fried potatoes with sea salt were the stars of the show.  Yum!

So, bellies full, it was on to walk some of it off.  The Desert Botanical Garden is a wonderland of cacti (or cactuses, if you must) and native plants.  It is mysterious and spectacular, no lie.

The ones just above are said to be endemic to Argentina and reminded me of nothing more than a nest of rattlesnakes, I'm sorry to say.  Fascinating, though.

Then it was on to a special exhibit that had brought us here today: the Mariposa Monarca butterfly exhibit.  Here's a short video I shot.

And to give you a better look, here's a photo of one of the Monarch butterflies.  They were brought over from California and will live the rest of their brief lives in this exhibit space.

The native monarchs winter in the state of Michoacan in Mexico and migrate north as far as Canada.

On our way out of the park today, I spotted one of my favorite cacti.

Looks soft and fluffy like a bunch of rolled socks but I wouldn't want to get too close to those prickly spines.

SWMBO spotted what she called a Pregnant Barrel Cactus.

See?  I'm not the only one in the family who makes oddball observations!