Carmi at the blog "Written, Inc." posts a photographic challenge each week at Thematic Photographic. This week, the theme is "Dawn and Dusk."
I take so many pictures of the view across the canyon where I live, but that's because it's so beautiful, and, indeed, the play of light and sky make it look different all the time. Here's an early morning photo, as the sun colors the hills on the other side, while our eastern side of the canyon is still dark, and the roof of my neighbor's house still wet with dew. The setting moon is in the west, and a trailing wisp of fog floats in the air.
At dusk, the sun drops behind the western hills, and low clouds behind the saddle of the mountain flush ruddy.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Monday, December 9, 2013
Over the weekend I attended a memorial gathering for a woman who died too young. Accomplished, funny, beautiful, and in love with her husband of over twenty years, she was remembered in story after story told by friends who struggled to contain their grief as they spoke. She was a person who lived her life with gusto, who never hesitated to explore what interested her, and, who, generous with her enthusiasm and joy, shared it all with her friends.
I listened to the stories and each person told of how by a casual connection, an invitation for coffee after class, or a successful work assignment blossomed into a deep and lasting friendship that enriched their lives. I had met her, but I did not know her well - our connection was that our husbands are colleagues. At one point, perhaps, someone suggested we ask contact her about a mutual interest, but we never got around to it.
I am struck by how hit-and-miss it all is. How many wonderful people do we pass everyday, and miss connecting with them? What would your life be like if you hadn't taken that phone call, accepted that invitation, gone to that dinner party? How many friendships and enriching experiences are passing you by, right now, today?
She lived her life being open to what came. Her optimism, curiosity, and joy sustained her and those who loved her, even to the end. How did I manage to meet her, and yet miss knowing her? Who else am I - are you? - missing? It's a lesson to remember.
Sunday, December 8, 2013
|Click any photo to "embiggen"|
"There is no shortage of water in the desert but exactly the right amount, a perfect ratio of water to rock, of water to sand, insuring that wide, free open generous spacing between plants and animals, homes and towns and cities, which makes the arid West so different from any other part of the nation. There is no lack of water here, unless you try to establish a city where no city should be."He was writing about greedy cities that hog for themselves the water of rivers and streams that nature would share with the land.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
|Click all photos to "embiggen"|
Then, through the small town of Niland, past the electrical transfer station, around the bend, we could see it rise up before us, the rays of the low afternoon sun making its color blaze against the amber hills.
The post office may tell you that the International Banana Museum is in Mecca, CA, but to the traveller, it's south of that small date-growing town, along the North Shore of the Salton Sea. It's pretty much in the middle of nowhere.
From the 111 highway, the clean, bright yellow, white and blue painting building with the jaunty yellow Volkswagen beetle out front catches your eye with enough time to slow down and turn into the parking lot.
The sign on the door says the suggested $3.50 admission fee is credited to your first purchase, but when you step inside the screen door, there are no uniformed museum guards there to collect. Instead, we encountered a child wearing a banana suit. It just seemed normal, given that the entire room was filled with banana-like objects in all sizes and guises.
Display cases were crammed with banana memorabilia, artifacts of banana-flavored processed food and candy, stuffed banana toys, and plastic bananas. Kitschy banana dishware and objets d'art, banana-themed lamps, banana themed books, magazines and LP covers were arrayed all over the room.
I loved these unusual banana salt-and-pepper shakers - unusual because they were PEELED bananas.
A lovely Carmen Miranda - er, Banana - like ceramic décor piece on the bar.
I love this little boudoir lamp, with a bronze monkey holding a bunch of bananas. Note, too, the variety of banana wall décor.
The banana-girl's parents and siblings were seated at the glass-topped bar or at the small tea-tables, while behind the counter an industrial-size milkshake machine whirred away, where Fred, the museum's owner, artistic director, CEO and most devoted docent, was making banana shakes.
When it was our turn, I ordered a banana-strawberry shake, while [The Man I Love] asked Fred for his recommendation for banana-flavored soda.
|Photo from HERE|
Fred recommended Empire Banana-flavored soda, a classic dating back to the 1930s. Fred has owned the museum since 2010, having bought the collection from the man who founded it in 1972. Here's an article on Gawker about Fred and his mom saving the museum.
Beyond the museum and Skip's, there's nothing to see but flat open desert. Shimmering far on the horizon, you can see the silvery water of the Salton Sea.
The strawberry-banana shake was delicious, sweet, and almost too thick to get through a straw. The taste of banana soda was like a blast from the past - like any banana-flavored candy, popsicle, or pudding from childhood. If you like that kind of thing.
The vast, unpopulated reaches of southwestern Imperial County seem an unlikely spot for a tourist attraction, but Fred's enthusiasm seems to attract plenty of visitors who are delighted to Go Bananas!
Don't miss it if you're passing through!
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
A gibson is a profoundly grown-up cocktail. Gin, a whiff of dry vermouth, and a pickled pearl onion. That's all it is. No fancy stuff.
Recipes for the gibson go back to the turn of the 20th century. Some say that gibsons were drier than ordinary martinis, so the onion garnish helped their afficianados distinguish them. Other stories claim that the gibson was actually a trickery practiced by canny bar schmoozers hoping not to get drunk - it was mere water, and the onion garnish marked it out.
No matter; today a gibson is a sophisticated take on a classic martini. This is not your sweet and fruity cosmopolitan, or a vodka charade. It's even more hard-core than the pure, bright and citrusy chemical classic gimlet. It's unconditionally gin, and when you have one, you know you're having a goddam drink.
For the home cocktail lover, the only trouble is finding the pickled onions. Supermarket pickled onions vary in flavor and quality, and - let's face it - they look a little creepy in those teensy dusty jars that stay neglected on the shelf for ever.
This Sunday, at our local farmers' market, I noticed one stall that had baskets of assorted pearl onions for sale. White, yellow, and red baby onions, the perfect size to garnish a cocktail. What if I tried to make my own?
I make some pretty good pickled red onions for enjoying with meats, but I thought that a cocktail onion called for a little less sweetness.
Pearl onions are tricky - you have to peel off the papery outside, and preserve the whole, round shape of it. The trick is to blanch them in boiling water for a minute or two. After draining, you cut off top and bottom ends and squeeze - the center sphere of the onion pops free from the outer skin. (one internet tipster says you can buy frozen peeled pearl onions in the supermarket. You don't have to peel them. Sounds like a good thing to try.)
Wash a jar in hot water. If you want to make a batch of onions, then you'll need to process them in a water bath, but I think this is a recipe you can make in small batches and keep in the fridge.
Make a brine, and put it on the stove to boil. You want to have a 2:1 ratio of vinegar to water - so 2 cups of vinegar to one cup of water. A light vinegar is best - I used champagne vinegar because I found an old bottle in my cupboard, but you could use white vinegar, or white wine vinegar, or even rice vinegar.
Add some flavorings. You can put these in the jar before your fill it, or you can put them in the boiling brine. You might want bay leaves, peppercorns, or pickling spices. Herbs are good; so are red pepper flakes or little dried cayenne peppers. If you like gin, you might want to enhance the taste by using juniper berries. Or lemon peel, for a citrusy taste. For my onions, I used peppercorns, a sprig of rosemary, and red pepper flakes.
|The red onions turn a lovely pink!|
Boil the brine, add the peeled onions, and boil for another minute or two before taking it off the heat. Then ladle into the clean jars, fill with the hot brine, cap and cool, and put in the fridge. Wait a day or so before you try.
Your pickled onions will be crisp, delicious, and oh, so sophisticated! You'll feel just like Roger Sterling is buying you a drink!
Monday, December 2, 2013
|Click any photo to "embiggen"|
Skies and landscapes that draw the eye.
Traces of human habitation, now gone.
Or remaining, and lonely.
Or on another plane altogether.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
This post has been cross-posted at Derfwad Manor. Go visit and read more writers, brought to you by the incomparable Mrs. G!
My introduction to oysters was not a promising one. My father liked oyster stew. He was the only one in my family who did. I don’t remember what occasion sparked his appetite, but often on weekend afternoons he would eat things that he enjoyed in solitary pleasure. Like sardines, spread on saltine crackers. Peanut brittle. Canned tamales from Old El Paso. Or oyster stew.
It came in a can; it was cream colored and had a rich smell, but I thought it was gross, how the grey shapeless oysters swam and bobbed, hidden in the milky broth.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
|Palm Springs sunrise - click any photo to "embiggen"|
Although we knew it was an insane choice, we drove out on Wednesday afternoon.
Predictably, traffic was horrendous. We took surface streets from the Westside to East LA, before we got on the freeway, which was moving at 10 miles per hour until Rosemead.