Thursday, March 3, 2016


Today I made my third trip to the Big Valley in the past approximate two weeks.

First was the trip to the Stanley, North Dakota picnic in Mesa.

Then Monday I went to Phoenix for some t.v. business and a tour of the Japanese Friendship Garden.

Today it was Scottsdale, accompanied by SWMBO.

We made our annual visit to the Celebration of Fine Art, a very strictly juried show of about 100 artists from around the country.

The artists themselves are on hand for the two-month-long show and are happy to talk with attendees, as well as to sell their art if you're so inclined.

It is easily the finest art show I've ever attended.

From there we proceeded to The Vig at McCormick Ranch for lunch.

Judy had chosen it after seeing it featured on a local dining show on television.

We started with martinis from the beautiful bar with a mirror reflecting the stone walls next to our booth.

And then we chose our lunch from the appetizer section of the menu.

Believe it or not this plate of Nachos del Norte was an appetizer!

The plate of pork, refried beans, melted white cheddar cheese, guacamole, pico de gallo, pickled jalapenos, green onions, olives and sour cream over housemade tortilla chips easily filled both of us.

(Of course we had to accompany them with a couple of beers - a Guinness for milady and a Four Peaks Kiltlifter Scottish Ale for me.)

There is a wide wine selection at the Vig as well.

For dessert we chose one more item from the appetizer menu.

Oh, no, it wasn't only those scraps of arugula.

It was Medjol dates stuffed with goat cheese and smoked almonds, wrapped with bacon in a balsamic reduction sauce.

We loved the art show.

But lunch was beyond compare.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016


Tucked away in a 3+ acre area of Margaret T. Hance Park in Phoenix is Ro Ho En, the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix.

A caretaker told me it's one of the city's best kept secrets.

It's a serene area in the heart of a mega-city.

One can lose their cares and worries as the sidewalks take you in a winding fashion around a large koi pond, over bridges, through small forests, listening to only the sound of rushing water and birds singing.

The mini-park . . for that's what it is . . was built over a period of years as a joint project between leaders from Phoenix and Himeji, Japan . . which are sister cities.

Architects and builders from Himeji came to the desert clime of Phoenix to design and build the garden.

It took ten years as the joint delegations tested the soil, inspected foliage and found huge boulders to bring to the site.

The garden was opened in 2002.

And in case my duck-hunting pal from North Dakota is wondering . . yes there are many resident ducks here.

But he might want to avoid the ferocious Shachi, a mythical fish with the face of a tiger.

The monuments and sculptures were all donated by the city of Himeji.

Some are less fearsome than Shachi.

I spotted what I took to be a cormorant, sunning himself on a rock.

And the koi pond, which was originally stocked with the fish from Japan, is now home to many new generations.

When we lived in Mexico, Gentle Readers, we had a ficus plant . . a slender, spindly thing that grew from a pot.

This is what happens when you plant one in the ground in Phoenix where the climate allows it to grow year-round.

Now we come to the sad part of the story.

Both of the caretakers I met were quietly grieving about what has risen just adjacent to the garden to the south.

A huge multi-story condominium complex has been erected within feet of the border of the garden.

It's height eliminates the southern sun that used to shine down most of the day.

One day recently when there was a rare cold snap in Phoenix, the sprinklers had been going as usual and ICE formed on the walkways and grounds.

The caretakers, who love this calm space in an increasingly driven megalopolis, are saddened.

And so was I.

Ro Ho En. 

Ro is the Japanese word for heron, a bird symbol of Himeji.

Ho is the Japanese name for the mythical Phoenix bird, which rose from the ashes.

En is the Japanese word for Garden.

Visit if you are from Phoenix or visiting Phoenix.

It is worth your time.

It will calm you.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016


I was in Phoenix yesterday and visited a place that Sharon of Phoenix Daily Photo has made me aware.

It is a lovely quiet garden and koi pond surrounded by trees with tumbling water, ducks and serenity.


I'll have more to tell you about it tomorrow.

Monday, February 29, 2016


. . . at a distance.

Sunday, February 28, 2016


I paid a visit to a trade show at the Prescott Resort yesterday.

I had expected to see a lot of leather saddles and the like but what I saw were raw and dyed leather and scads of tools for working with it.

These are hand made knives for working with leather.

The maker and dealer brought them from his home in Libby, Montana.

And those are tools for stamping designs in the leather.

There were saddle forms ready to be covered with leather and these fancy spurs.

There were a few finished products at the show.

This beautiful and intricate design.

And one of the attendees was wearing a great jacket which he showed off for me.

THOSE are some fringes!

As you might imagine there were a lot of western hats on heads throughout the show.

And it's hard to tell in the above photo but the gent on the left had a moustach with two strands that hung down six inches or more from his upper lip.

The three-day show was well-attended and included workshops for those interested.

Kind of makes one realize once again that the days of the Old West are not that far in the past.

Saturday, February 27, 2016


I always hesitate to say it at this time of year because of the area's history of March snowstorms but this year it looks like that may be beyond us.

I checked the forecast for the next 10 days and the high temperature is only expected to dip into the 60's one day.

So winter may be over.

The wild cherry trees would seem to believe that.

This is Jim and Nancy Jo's tree across the street from us.

They're from Devils Lake, North Dakota, and probably pretty glad of it.

Denny and Marty, next door to them, also have one blooming well.

So let us enjoy the beautiful weather we're having with temperatures every day in the mid 70's and maybe hope for rain (not snow) this spring.

Friday, February 26, 2016


This is a special edition of the Friday Funnies.

Special because it's dedicated to all of you oenophiles out there.

You know.


That one is good but I think this next one is my favorite.

All right.

Have a fine liquid weekend, Gentle Readers, and always keep laughing.

Here, kitty-kitty.

Oh, no.

Have you been into the wine?

Thursday, February 25, 2016


This is about as far back as I can go.

My older brother and I when I was very young.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


As I have written before, we have a variety of  birds that visit our bird bath just outside my den window.

A large number of them are the simple House Finches. The male of the species (I presume) is the most colorful with his rose to bright red breast.

The females are mostly bland grey with some brown or black markings.

But the most brightly-colored birds that visit are Goldfinches (I presume), with their intensely yellow breasts and throats.

But they are also one of the most nervous of the birds and it's hard to get a photo of them.

This is the best I could do recently.

Right now the tree above the birdbath is just bare branches but when it leafs out it will be much more difficult to spot birds perching in it.

I remember one evening in Guadalajara when we were sitting on the roof of an apartment building with friends enjoying a sunset cocktail when a flight of parrots (I presume) came swooping into some nearby trees.

Our friends told us that was a daily event at sunset.

(BTW, seems like there's a lot of damn presuming going on in this post!  While I enjoy watching the birds, I obviously ain't no ornithologist!)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


I don't know about you but all of this Tuesday Traveling in my virtual world has worn me out.

Oh, all right.

I can hear the cries of dismay from the (my) electorate.

So here I am visiting the Grand Canyon of my adopted home state, the state I have lived in more than any other including my birth state.*

At first glance you may have thought I was holding the Royal Scepter.

Or perhaps a telescope.

I think it was a rolled poster, the subject of which I have no memory whatsoever.

That's what all this incessant traveling has done to me.

* - North Dakota: 28 years; South Dakota: 1 year; Indiana: 3 years; Texas: 2 years; Jalisco, Mexico: 4 years; Arizona: 38 years (and counting!)

This is intended for a cousin of mine in North Dakota, who whenever I speak to her asks "when are you coming home?"

My response has always been "I am home."

Monday, February 22, 2016


While brother Tom of Light Breezes was enjoying a gourmet meal, SWMBO and I were indulging in the kitchen and at the table as well.

Saturday, I made a Nigella Lawson recipe for Involtini which combines Greek and Italian flavors - thin eggplant slices rolled around a feta cheese and herbed stuffing, topped with tomatoes and mozzarella and baked.

Unfortunately, my camera stayed idle but here's a photo of Ms. Lawson's dish.

I fear her dish looks and probably tastes better than mine but then she's been cooking longer than I have.

Sunday's meal, prepared by SWMBO, was much better.

A chicken salad enlivened with candied ginger, apples, grapes, celery, green onions, celery dressed with a mayonaise-yogurt-apricot preserve sauce and accompanied by fresh-baked apple-oat muffins.

With the exception of the muffins, the master just threw that together out of her head.

And 60+ years of kitchen slavery.

I'm a rank amateur compared with those two ladies.