Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving in Sedona 2009

Each Thanksgiving Fox and I make a pilgrimage to Sedona - the land of Redrocks and Polar Fleece. We use a timeshare that belongs our friends Dr. Alan Rothblatt and Dr. Sima Kahn who are both gynecological surgeons. Alan is the one who removed 24 of my fibroid tumors over a year ago. There's something poetic about that but I just can't quite put my finger on it.

As you can see from the picture above, the views are breathtaking. It's hard to take a bad picture, unless of course it is something that starts off being bad - like the sign to our timeshare below.

It's hard to pinpoint what makes this sign particularly awful but I feel most would agree it's the little painting of the mountains really takes it over the top. Surprisingly, most of the signage in Sedona is awful - not artful as you might expect. There is liberal use of turquoise and Kokopelli, use I feel should be outlawed. However, this is countered by strict regulations and ordinances. For example, there is very limited lighting permitted at night - so it gets really, really dark. As I see it you get two benefits from this: you can see stars you've only read about and you thankfully can't see the signs. This makes navigation challenging if you're from any major city where you're used to it being bright night and day, large billboards, flashing neon and someone dressed in a banana suit twirling a sign - all in the name of marketing, for the purpose of guiding you to your destination but as usual I digress.

Another surprising thing about Sedona is the scarcity of fine dining. There are a few nice restaurants - but much less than you would think. This is why I believe a Javelina took a bite out of the center of this cactus.

Isn't this cool? I love guessing what happened to the plants when we're out hiking.

Fox and I take a 3 - 4 hour hike each day we're in Sedona and this year the weather was perfect. Not too hot, not too cold--although because it is a desert it gets cold shockingly quickly. Once the sun goes down you want to be off the trail as it becomes pitch black and I mean pitch black. Not, there is a glow from the city and a street lamp (because these are no street lamps at the trails) and I can kind of see and poke my way around. No. It's like, you're absolutely going to get lost probably by walking down a wash that looks like a trail, trip on a cactus, fall on it and then end up being dinner for a Javelina--or freezing to death because you didn't wear enough layers of Polar Fleece.

Here we are. I would have included more pictures but I am ashamed because we were gross and pretty much wore the same thing everyday. This became somewhat unpleasant on our sixth day.

We're wearing hats in honor of our Dermatologist Dr Alex Khadavi. He'd probably be pleased to know there were lots more hats on the trails in general this year. I think it's because people are becoming more aware of the perils of sun damage.


These are my favorite gloves. I like to wear them
because I think if people see me hiking with them on
they know not to mess with me. And why, yes this is another day
even though I am wearing the same clothes.

Here's Fox again. Happier because he's not shaving. And yes, this
is another day and yes he's wearing the
same clothes again too.

The mountains have an obvious beauty but in the last few trips I have gotten really fascinated by how tortured the plants are - trying to grow in such a harsh environment.

Of course, nothing would be more predictable for humans than to try to improve on nature itself.

Troubling Shape
This is a small knoll near Bell Rock, a well-known vortex.
It's like a mini Bell Rock.

I love to make these piles - lots of people do. You see them all over the trails. I call them "troubling shapes" but some call them cairns and others maize. Last year, there were a bunch of people that were in a circle around this rock table and they had crystals and amulets in the center. We said hello but they didn't answer us which makes me believe they were really aliens, charging their crystals for their mother ship - similar to the movie District 9.

Path to Nowhere
Mini Bell Rock

The seed of this idea started with someone who left one stone on it's edge that Fox noted was the perfect shape for Iowa. I decided to make a long undulating (I've always wanted to use that word in a sentence) row of them. Although the concept that one stone was shaped like Iowa got lost in this new incarnation, I think it still ended up looking kind of cool.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

William Recieves Junk Mail

Today, our cat William was the recipient of junk mail. How a gray cat - who doesn't even have a Social Security number got on someone's direct mail list is beyond me. Yet, I must admit, the offer is actually enticing - a 2009 Internet Income Training Conference - for both William and a guest (we haven't determined the guest will be yet but maybe one of the doves.)

By attending the complimentary Conference, William (and his guest of course) receives:
  • a free lunch or dinner

  • a free MP3 Player (although the stipulation is that he be at least 18 years of age or older. However, we feel this is up to interpretation as he is over 18 years old in cat years.)

  • free Internet Marketing strategies.

  • We're not sure if we're attending quite yet. We are going to first call and see if they are serving tuna.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Blue Jay and the Peanut

This morning when I was working on the computer, I noticed some commotion on our patio. When I looked over I saw this Scrub Jay, in a smart blue suit, white shirt front, black mask and black leggings, an outfit appropriate for today (09/09/09) where someone told me you should be dressed to the nines, with a peanut.

He was so excited about his good fortune in finding this entire unshelled peanut he was hopping all over our lawn furniture. Yet, every time he put the peanut down, you could see his worried little bird head moving side to side, assessing the angles where a marauder might sneak up and steal his prize peanut away from him.

The morning was cool and our patio is covered with an open trellis with a lazy, bright pink, Santa Barbara Bougainville climbing over it - really a perfect place for a Scrub Jay to enjoy a breakfast peanut. But I never did see him enjoy it. He nervously flitted around for about 20 minutes and then flew away with the peanut in his beak.

I think there must be some Aesop moral here about enjoying what you have at the moment., unless of course he was a thief himself. Then the moral would be completely different.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Los Angeles Fire, View From Southwest Airplane, June 5, 2009

The Los Angeles fire from the sky. Whereas I am sure part of this is just clouds, I do think a lot of it is smoke. If you look towards the top of the picture, in the center you can see the heart of the fire. The fire is eerily beautiful from this height.

On Saturday, we flew up to San Francisco for a friend's daughter's wedding, which is when I took this picture. We almost didn't got because the fire looked like it was creeping up on us the day before.

It was a little weird going to a wedding where I had never met the bride before. I don't think I've ever been to a wedding where I didn't know someone in the wedding party. But, I guess that is probably not unusual if you go as someone's date. I think my husband met the bride once - however, we are close friends with the parents, Amy and Michael and it was very important for us to be there for them for this rite of passage.

The wedding was simply gorgeous, every detail from the floral arrangements to the seating cards. And the bride was stunning - I think weddings are more about the brides than the groom. I mean the groom walked down the aisle but before he was even at the front everyone was turned around to look at the bride. No one really cared about him.

It was definitely one of those weddings you see in Town & Country, ones that have the pastoral settings, beautiful people and gourmet food. Everything down to the bread was made from local artisans from organic ingredients. There was even a sign at the door that read "N&K ranch." Wonderful but from another world.

See! These are the newlyweds - Nina and Kent. Isn't that arrangement in front of them magnificent? Every arrangement had that same feel - full of gorgeous late summer and fall flowers, bursting from the sun with lazy sprigs of amaranth throughout. The mother of the bride, Amy, who has impeccable taste spent about half a year putting her personal touch on everything.

The menu read like a 5 star prix fixe dinner - especially if you're used to a tired piece of chicken with wilted salad forcing you to go to McDonalds on the way home.

Paradise and Cowtrack Farms Garden Greens with pears,
humboldt fog chevre and glazed pecans with Champagne Shallot vinaigrette.

Main Course (Family Style)
Rancho's Fresh Catch of the Day
Max's Bourbon Baby Back Ribs
Grilled Garden Herb Chicken

Lemon Thyme Roasted Potatoes
Seasonal Vegetables
Farro Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes and Arugula

Local Artisan Breads
Buttermilk Cornbread
Sweet Olema Butter

Wedding Cake
Little Sweets

The cake was a marble cake with a whip cream, light frothy frosting. And little sweets consisted of shortbread cookies shaped like stars with a white frosting, gourmet chocolate brownies, miniature lemon meringue pies with a raspberry on top, peanut butter cookies with a huge chocolate drop on top, miniature custard tarts with fresh strawberries. The wedding planners had to literally guard the desserts when they were brought out with the cake because the photo ops weren't done yet! People, including me were absolutely frothing trying to get at them.

The next day brunch was good too - they had little cream puffs in the shape of swans which were a big hit.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Los Angeles Fire, Helicopters, September 4, 2009

Helicopters at the reservoir loading up on water and fire retardant.

In the afternoon we went to the reservoir to watch the helicopters. There were two types of helicopters, red ones and orange ones. Our understanding was that there was a total of four but we didn't know how to tell them apart except for the color. The entire time we were watching, they never stopped or took a break. It must have been both exhilarating and exciting for the pilots and as exhausting as well.

What was really amazing was how they maneuvered these huge contraptions so gracefully. It was like watching ballet. I am not sure exactly why, but this process was completely mesmerizing. Pilot skills are really commendable. They would get their hoses into the red rings without missing each time. One of the red rings supplied water, and the other had fire retardant mixed in and was red.

Apparently, once the helicopter is full of water, the blades get a steeper angle because the load is heavier. Once this phenomena was pointed out you could see the difference but it was subtle.

Our vantage point proved popular. And we were quickly joined by other residents including this little girl, her mom and grandmother. She told me to be cautious of the deer flies if I went out hiking and that the deer flies like your elbows. The grandmother theorized it was because deer had bony legs, they liked similar bony parts on humans.

When the helicopters departed, you could see a little spray drop out of the hoses. This was very "cool" and interesting to me each time it happened. If it wasn't so impossibly hot and humid, I could have watched all day. The orange helicopter on top had just loaded up with fire retardant. You can see the faint red over spray if you look closely. Sadly, I had a really cool video but lost if accidentally when I transferred everything online. Next time, bringing the Flip.

Los Angeles Fire, Monrovia, September 4, 2009

From our balcony in the morning. The window you see
on the left hand side is where I sit typing.

This is what we woke up to. The fire is obviously far away but it's still really disturbing. It looked like a volcano erupting and more so as the day went on.

This is a close up of the house on the top of the hill. You can partially see the "M", which stands for...Monrovia. On Monrovia High School foot ball games, it gets all lit up. Interestingly, the lady of the house is also a crazy cat lady. A few years ago, she left us a note complimenting us on Fox's grail design and asked for our contractor - promising not to use our design. But we told her we would be flattered if she used it...and she did! Flattery does get you everywhere.

Here is a view behind our house later in the day. As you can see, it is garbage day! Everything north of our street was used as the arbitrary dividing line between possible evacuation or not. (Wendy - Google Earth actually has the wrong house for us.)

Later in the day you can see the cloud gets more billowy as it blows out. This is picture going up our street.

Around 4pm when I took the picture above, we got another reverse 911 telling us that the smoke we were seeing were from the backfires. I am sure the fire department got inundated with stressed out Monrovians all day.

I can't imagine how the people whose houses were close to or actually burned down. When you think about it, houses really are complete tinderboxes. It makes me want to throw out every piece of paper I have.

At this point the fire is about 25% contained - so it's no longer the nightmarish angry force it once was. Sadly I think, in about 2 weeks, despite the havoc it wreaked, most people who aren't impacted or inconvenienced by the fire will move on to something else. Since it's Los Angeles, it will probably be something really, really important.

Another apocalyptic view of the fire east of where we live.

This is my favorite picture I took today.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Los Angeles Forest Fire - Sept 1, 2009

I took this shot coming from the Home Depot.
This is very close to our home.

It is so smoky today. Smoky, hot and miserable. It's hard to breathe and because the air quality is so bad, I constantly have a headache. Everyone is suffering from allergies. Maybe it's time to buy Benadryl stock. Of course, my air conditioner in my office decided to break down too. So just sweltering in here.

Last night, at 2am, we got a reverse 911 call to let us know we'd be hearing helicopters and possibly trucks. They were going to start clearing brush behind our neighborhood and digging trenches. Apparently all the poor fireman now have Poison Oak from digging trenches. I believe when Poison Oak burns, it releases it's noxious toxins in the air so there is no getting away from it. (It's like that Australian tree, Maleleuca that they introduced in Florida, which has taken over. If you do anything that stresses it, fire, cutting or spraying it releases more seeds. Sometimes I wish I were that resilient.) So imagine, battling this raging fire, not really being able to shower, sleeping in some camp - not in your own comfy bed and top that whole experience off by having Poison Oak.

I fell asleep but Fox hasn't slept in days. When we woke up it was snowing ashes.

Ashes on Fox's Car

As the fire made it's way to Mt Wilson, a public statement was made about the safety of Monrovia. All the statement made reference to was "their strategy." Not very confidence building, fueled later on when the bordering city, Bradbury got evacuated. But the fire does seem to have moved in another direction at the moment.

Los Angeles Forest Fire - August 31, 2009

What's shocking about the fire, is the sheer magnitude. You can drive along the freeway for 30 minutes and there is constantly fire outside your window. Apparently, this is the worst recorded fire in California since 1895.

Here is a view from the ABC/Disney building (by Michael Graves). Doesn't the cloud in the center look like it's sticking out it's tongue at you?

There are all sorts of hot spots created from the fire. It seems when one gets under control, the another one appears. This one was just billowing and pumping huge plumes of smoke.

As the sun set you could see this eerie red glow from behind the mountain ranges and when it got darker, you would see these huge flare ups. Flare ups that were easily as tall as 3 - 4 telephone poles. What would happen is that the fire would rage into a valley - and since a fire is all about consumption - it would just devour all the fuel - brush/trees and all the oxygen supplied by the Chimney effect. Until you see it, it is unbelievable how quickly a fire can completely overtake and destroy an entire valley. It is just so fast. It's "whoosh" and then the fire moves on.

It is so hot here. I can't imagine what it is like for the firefighters.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Los Angeles Forest Fire - La Canada/Flintridge August 30, 2009

On a bridge near La Canada/Flintridge

Today, the smoke was much worse. When I woke up, the sky was grey. You could definitely smell the smoke in the air and after being outside for a short while your eyes would start hurting.

There were people out today but less because the conditions have become increasingly uncomfortable. I can't imagine what the firefighters are going through. They also had to rescue two people who decided not to evacuate. Instead, they stayed home and sat in their hot tub as they felt the cold water in the hot tub would protect them from the fire. They both had to be helicoptered out and one of them is still in the hospital. I am sorry, but how stupid can you be to think sitting in a hot tub would protect you from a forest fire of this magnitude?

Here is a DC 10 releasing some fire retardant. Apparently, they can drop 35,000 gallons. What they would do is circle around doing reconnaissance then drop their load. The fact there was not wind was a plus and minus. A plus because it didn't fuel the fire but bad because visibility was so poor for the pilots.

After the drop, the red retardant drifts really slowly almost lazily onto the mountain ridge. You can see the ridge turn slightly red afterwards but it's hard to notice for long as the fire gives everything a reddish glow.

There are three planes I could identify. The DC10 was the most spectacular. It was usually preceded by a little white plane that dropped something you couldn't see. And lastly there are helicopters, which obviously technically aren't planes, that had a red hose with a bucket type thing hanging from them that would drop something as well.

I took a few pictures of the people watching today.

Look how rapt and in awe there people are of the fire.

These women were pointing at the DC10.

I didn't take too many pictures at night as nothing was really turning out. It just would be black with red blurry dots. But just before sundown, as they were calling off the planes, I took this particularly ominous photo.

Los Angeles Forest Fire August 29, 2008

These were taken the second day of the fire when it was beginning to gain momentum and reach epic proportions. I took them as I drove home from the gym (and except for this picture while we were at a light, I did pull to the side in case you are wondering.) It's hard to believe it started from a scrub fire.

You could definitely smell the smoke yesterday but it wasn't overbearing.

Later that afternoone, Fox and I drove up the 210 freeway and pulled off into some of the communities closer to the fire and there were ashes falling, like snow. I know it's horrible to watch, but there is something about fire and the ocean that is so mesmerizing and fascinating. What a picture doesn't show is how dynamic the fire is, nor how it seems to have such a frightening, powerful life force of it's own. A lot of people were out watching. Some with lawn chairs and beers. It was very surreal.

The smoke looks so ominous and evil from this angle as it rolls over the mountain top. It doesn't seem real - more like something you might see in a summer block buster apocalyptic movie.

The cloud you see on the left is called a pyrocumulus cloud, that is, it is actually a cumlus (fluffy) cloud that is formed by the fire. Isn't that weird? I just heard it on the radio.

We stayed at the Hotel Jasmine Fiore was Murdered In

Last week we stayed at the L'Auberge Del Mar which is really a gorgeous hotel. Everything about it, from the minute you drive up is sheer perfection. The entry road is paved in stone, you are greeted with friendly staff, there is an perpetual indoor/outdoor fireplace, at night the driveway is lit with candles. When you walk in, you have a stunning view of the ocean and often that salty breeze as well. Everything from the light fixtures, to the cutlery to the graphic design on the menus is so well done - and it's not really even my taste.

That is, except for the fact it is likely Jasmine Fiore either died or was dead in one of the rooms before she got stuffed into her own suitcase.

When we first checked in, we got a ground room which we didn't want. It had a really stunning outdoor patio that overlooked the deck, however we felt that it would be too noisy and got a room on the second floor. However, while we were waiting for our new keys, we did notice the patio had heavy, white, canvas, privacy curtains. One on each side to block out your neighbor and one in the front to make it a completely private cabana.

The next morning we had breakfast on the deck which is featured on the site. It overlooks the ocean and in the morning is cool and shady. While we were eating we noticed a ground room patio had all it's curtains drawn.

Later, during my husband's meeting, one of my husband's colleagues mentioned he thought Jasmine Fiore was murdered at the hotel.

This made us check the papers more carefully. Sure enough, Jasmine Fiore was last seen alive at the L'Auberge. Apparently Ryan Jenkins (her husband) and Jasmine checked in, then left at 2am for a Poker Tournament. Ryan returned alone at 4:30 am and then captured on security cameras carrying arm loads of clothing into his car. The police believe he was emptying the suitcase he was going to put Jasmine into. They are not sure how he got her back in the room, they think a back door was used and they believe at that time she was either dead or dying. My guess, is after he got her back in the room, he put her in the suit case on the patio ad hair and blood was found there. Then at 9am he left. What was he doing? Sleeping? Resting? How can you sleep or rest after you murder someone?

If that were not enough, the last thing in the article was they stayed in a ground floor room. I think that's the room we noticed with the curtains drawn at breakfast!

I understand this is an horrible tragedy. You have someone who had so much life ahead of her as well as the loss her family and friends have to endure. And you have her husband, someone who seemingly on the surface would look like he had a charmed life who ended up taking his own life. All that said, I am freaked out that I unknowingly stayed somewhere where something so violent happened.

Fresh flower display at the L'Auberge.

PS If I am right about the room and you want to avoid it, it is a ground floor room, third from the main part of the hotel and located on the right side of the deck when you're facing the ocean.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

My Mega Millions Lottery Ticket

What is important to note here is that not a single number on my lottery ticket matches the winning numbers: 1 17 31 37 54 31 (August 28 drawing for $333 million jackpot).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Knocked Up Doves

Oops they did it again.

Last night I went to feed the doves. The dish that they are generally fed in is the dish you see above. Yes, the one with the dove inside of it. When I went to move the dove to fill the dish here is what I found. Two eggs.

Notice the feather in the dish. This is what a dove considers nest building. For a dove a feather is actually quite elaborate.

Now, two eggs by themselves generally doesn't cause me any alarm except I knew what was underneath the other mom dove.

Here is the other mom dove on the left. Despite the humble look on her dove face, she is actually quite prolific, the Octomom of doves so to speak but, without her own reality show. And that is the issue. Underneath her feathery breast is four eggs. Four. That makes an unnerving total of six dove eggs.

The good news is that despite her regular laying of a clutch of two eggs, (doves always lay two eggs) none of hatched since the Christmas population explosion. One can only hope these four also do not hatch.

Two of the eggs have been in there for a while so I think they may be getting dried out. It typically takes about 14 days for a dove egg to hatch. I've read all sorts of information on how to tell if the egg is fertile or not, but the doves seem to be able to figure out although it takes time. When they are dried out and brittle, the eggs get dents and when they get dents, they are tossed out unceremoniously onto the bottom of the cage and pecked by the other doves until they become something not unlike a dove egg omelet except you probably wouldn't want to eat it even with some salt and sour cream.

OctoDove is prolific but, not a good housekeeper. Look at her nursery.