Sunday, August 29, 2010

Escape to Big Bear

A couple of weeks ago, we went to Big Bear for the day with our friends Phyllis and Richard. It's a great way to beat the heat--with the elevation around 7000 feet, it's much cooler up there, and it's just an hour away! Above: Bill and Richard at lakeside, taking it easy.

Phyllis and I went further up the path along the lake. Indian paintbrush everywhere!

Earlier, we headed up a dirt road to Holcomb Valley, where we had our lunch and went for a walk under the tall pines. We were amazed at how many wildflowers were still out in mid-August, including the tiny gem Phyllis is holding here.

Bill took this picture, as yet untitled, which he'll be showing in the 29 Palms Gallery in September.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Desert Time

The annual Desert Writers issue is just out from The Sun Runner Magazine. You can read the entire issue by clicking here. My personal favorite is a piece called "Fanfare Generator." There's a poem of mine in there called "Desert Time" about the stumps of a dead yucca along our front walkway. The photos show the stumps, the poem is below!

Desert Time

For months I want
to take out the stumps
of the dead yucca.

It’s what I can’t see
that stops me.

I wiggle the largest,
and a lizard darts out,
the size of my pinky,
and a fraction as wide.

What’s the hurry?
I decide to wait
until winter—
maybe longer.

The more I wait,
the more the stumps
look like rock—

And the earth
around them cracks
and sinks. They will not
last forever.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bon Appetit!

This has been the summer of salad nicoise. It all began with watching early episodes of "The French Chef," which you can get on Netflix. The first DVD has footage of Julia in France at the farmer's market in Nice, buying gigantic capers and tiny Nicoise olives for salad nicoise. That and the bouillabaisse episodes are well worth the rental!

So, we have come up with our own version of the famous salad, see above. No hard-boiled eggs or anchovies. We get the potatoes and green beans from our own farmer's market, and the tuna is marinated ahi from Trader Joe's. Dressed with my version of Julia's basic vinaigrette (half olive oil, half lemon juice, a touch of mustard, no vinegar), this salad is ooh la la!

I also attempted to make an authentic pain d'epices (literally, "spice bread") from a Julia recipe. I was inspired to do this after reading MFK Fisher's reminiscences of Dijon. I was there in the late 1980s, and pain d'epices was everywhere. The recipe turned out to have wonderful flavor but the weight of a fruitcake, or a brick. You could use it for a doorstop. Plus, the top, which initially rose to a glorious height, subsequently caved in (I hate it when that happens!) So, my search for a more congenial recipe continues.

Some people think we live way out in the boonies, but the truth is that Vons, with its excellent organic produce section, is 10 minutes away; there are two farmers' markets every week; and we have our choice of two Trader Joe's, in Palm Springs or Palm Desert. So it is easy to eat well. This is one of our favorite dishes, lamb in charmoula sauce, which is full of fresh herbs, paprika, and other spices. Yum yum!

PS: I'm on a quest for some delicious vegetarian main dish recipes. If you have favorites, please pass them on!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

New Life

Over the past couple of weeks we've watched a pair of black-throated sparrows building a nest in the cholla alongside our front walkway. They are master builders, creating an exquisite, deep nest in a very hidden spot. In the photo above, one of the pair is perched just to the right of the nest, which is hidden in a dark hollow.

It seemed that almost as soon as the nest was built, the babies hatched. There are three of them--here you can see one with a wide open bill.

We have a quail family with a passel of tiny chicks that have been coming to the water dish. I'll try to get a picture of them and add it to this post. Meanwhile, here are some photos of the other regulars. Above, an antelope squirrel at the dish, with a cottontail happily resting in a cool hole in the ground, and a couple of doves looking on. Below, a jackrabbit.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


A couple of weeks ago we were hit by a summer storm. For awhile the clouds sat right above us, and we got a half inch of rain in a very short time with lots of big, booming thunder and lightning. Here's a view of the clouds after the deluge, looking towards Joshua Tree National Park.

The paper reported that three lightning strikes started fires, but fortunately none of those fires made any headway. One neighbor's house just escaped flooding. Our neighborhood's dirt roads, which had just been scraped and surfaced, ended up full of ruts and much work had to be redone. At our house, all that happened was a small pond of water accumulated near the front door.

The storm inspired a poem where the language is a bit overblown, just like the event itself.

Summer Storm

Someone rattles a sheet of metal
in the clouds, a hollow sound.
From a lost grief, thick tears
pelt down, slashing rivulets
on the mesa’s sandy face.
The deluge hits in waves,
pierced by the sudden flash
of a jagged platinum dagger—
fierce fire-starter, thwarted
by too much water. Engorged,
the electrified air wants more,
and the stalled clouds give their all—
until, cool and still, a hushed aftermath
fingers the horizon.