Saturday, December 31, 2016

Davenport Dreams - Santa Cruz County Coastline

Jasper has his own ideas about the best way to spend a winter's day in California
Davenport Landing Beach is about twenty minutes north of the town of Santa Cruz

Monday, December 26, 2016

Messiah Sing Out and Play

For the last 25 years, hundreds of singers have gathered in Stanford Memorial Church, to sing and play Handel's Messiah. Instrument players just show up and search for their music. Choral voices gather and belt out both their own voice parts, and any others they've always wanted to sing from basso profound to the highest soprano.  Everybody sings the solos.

Check the schedule at Stanford each year. The Sing It Play It Yourself Messiah is always on the evening of the last day of fall finals.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Fall Colors: Hiking Pulgas Ridge - San Francisco Bay Area field trip

Thanksgiving doesn't get much better than a hike into the Mid-Penninsula Regional Open Space ( ). 

And what could be tastier than the sight of local fungi, toyon berries and local oak acorn cups?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Fall Colors and Pie Town - Julian, San Diego County

Cousin Martha took me on a field trip to look out for fall colors and the perfect pie
We found both in and around Julian, nestled in the Cuyamaca Mountains, an hour or so from San Diego. Julian is both an agricultural center (think apples) and home to six (or more?) businesses that focus on producing the perfect pie. It also turned out to be a great spot to stop in for a delicious classic deli lunch - imagine your back in the 1960's, when butter was still queen - after which we headed back down the road for a hike and a chance to take in colorful deciduous trees and a meadow of autumn-red California Buckwheat.,_California

CA Buckwheat

Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween with Cousin Martha - Flowering Pumpkins

Carving Pumpkins
Flowering Pumpkins

Smaller Pumpkin Ingredients
Yard Debris: CA Pepperberry and Bits of Succulents

Large Pumpkin:
Scooped Out
Filled with Gravel
Then filled with agave pup (a small succulent compmplete with root, found in my Cousin's yard), bits of succulents and CA pepper berries

Added water to the large pumpkin as some succulents may root

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Ancient Raindrops

Fossil Raindrops in Mudstone
Tonopah, Nevada
~16 million years old

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Slow Travel San Francisco: Piazzoni Murals

I visit the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park every couple of months.
Mostly, I go to see just one exhibit, and focus on that.
I always, however, stop in to see the Piazzoni Murals: The Land and The Sea on the first floor. You don't need to buy a ticket to the museum to see them.

These are portions from two of the ten  panels, from 1931, originally displayed in the San Francisco Public Library. They are associated with the Beaux-Art style.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Pumpkins - Special Delivery from New York

Country Squash from Rosie
Who lives high in Manhattan
Does she miss California?

Monday, October 3, 2016

Finest Pumpkins and Art in the West - Half Moon Bay CA, Oct 7 - 10, Oct 15-16

The Pumpkin Festival starts up in Half Moon Bay this coming weekend - October 7. I have a lot of fond memories that go back to the 1970's of visiting this annual event. And it doesn't get much more beautiful than the San Mateo County coastline.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Pismo Beach - End of the Summer Camping

Camping doesn't get much better than hanging with Cousin Martha and Jasper-the-Wunder-Pooch at Pismo Beach North Beach Campground, along the Central California Coast. Foggy in the morning, followed by temperate days. The beach is close enough for multiple daily pooch walks. We strolled into town along the sands, as well as heading south towards Oceano. Went out to eat only once, and honestly we wouldn't have needed to do that - cooking in camp was easy and lovely.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Slow Travel: Stanford Succulent and Cactus Garden (Arizona Garden)

At this time of year there's quite a bit of fruiting and flowering going on among the cactus. My mother used to make cactus jelly when I was a kid living in rural Arizona, and it makes my mouth water seeing the nopales

Walk past the Stanford Family Mausoleum - A lovely spot - And head vaguely west to the cactus and succulent garden.

The garden is not heavily visited - though it has a regular cadre of visiting walkers and dogs.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Slow Travel: Taking in Turtles at New York's Bronx Zoo

I thought it would be easy to figure out the type of turtles we saw on our trip to the wonderful Bronx Zoo, after I'd returned home to California - But the zoo has an extensive reptile collection! Should have looked more closely when I went. 

I wonder if these are the same variety of turtle that lives in the turtle pond at Central Park, just below Belvedere Castle? We had a very lovely picnic there one evening in late August.

This zoo not only has great extensive natural habitats for it's non-human animal inhabitants, it also has wonderful landscaping that made our hot summer day very pleasant. Their are many varied eateries too, which is handy if you didn't bring along a peanut butter sandwich like I did!

Riding the zoo monorail was an especially nice treat as you look down on many endangered animals not viewable from the main zoo. I've long been partial to wild Mongolian Przwalski's Horses who live in the monorail-only area.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Slow Travel New York City

* Dutchess County is a doable field trip from Manhattan. I'd love to go during apple harvest season
* My daughters apartment is two doors down from a Saturday Farmer's market. A little local below seems to appreciate the beans he found there!
* The Metropolitan Museum of Art, only 6.5 blocks from my daughter's apartment (!) is famed for it's Egyptian collection. I always return to the Temple of Dendur - whole enclosed within the museum

* I'm quite partial to the enormous (looks to be life sized?) blue whale in the Natural History Museum - another splendid place to visit. 
*We were lucky enough to hear the Boyd Family singing gospel music, beneath the arches of the Terrace adjacent to the Bethesda Fountain They can often be found there - Their music is also available on amazon - though I bought mine then and there!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Nancy and the Mysterious Case of the Undefined Object

A few months back, I switched my mobile app development from the IOS environment (apple) to non-native JavaScript. I'm enjoying coding a great deal more than I was with IOS, but still.... debugging is hard.  

Oddly enough debugging is what I missed most when I was off pursuing teaching as my interim career. Missing the looking-for-clues part of programming is what I missed most about not coding.

So when my husband replied with his usual 'Oh, I'm sorry.' response to my description of my morning's work I explained to him. You never expect the detective to get it figure out on her first shot. If she did the book just couldn't go on for 250 pages!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Period Pilots - The True Cost of Time Travel (Ticket Cost Estimator)

Period Pilots - Time Travel Cost Estimator

Period Pilots - Tickets Through Time

The Most Economical Way to Step Back Into The Past

And Be Sure You'll Return To Your Own Era!

Period Pilots Ticket
Price Your Time Travel Ticket*


Add Ons * :

Total: $

* Base Ticket Price ( without add-ons) Includes:
Dress - Appropriate Middle Class
Overnight - Rough It
Ground Transport - Shank's Mare

Monday, May 9, 2016

I was lucky enough to visit Jasper Tree recently to enjoy the spring bloom. Though we were, repeatedly(!), told we had missed the best-in-100-year bloom, we still saw scads of wonderful desert flowers.
Hedgehog or Calico Cactus
In California, we have a lot of different ecosystems
  • Deep Green Forests of Redwood and Douglas Firs
  • The Mediterranean Look - Oaks and Chaparral
  • An Extensive Coastline
  • The Great Central Valley - A huge agricultural area that feeds not only the state, but many others as well
  • Deserts

Joshua Tree National Park is in an area, in Southern California, where the High Mojave Desert and the Low Colorado Desert come together

Read More About.... Joshua Tree National Park

Sunday, May 1, 2016

California Immigrant Raisin Buns

I love the raisin rolls in the bread-for-the-table baskets at Max's Opera Café  (I ask for only raisin rolls to avoid getting half white rolls) and thought I'd make my own. However, it was harder than I'd thought, finding a recipe for raisin rolls in any of my bread books. I found the original base recipe for these delicious rolls at a Dutch site, Weekend Bakery -

When these rolls immigrated to CA, they developed some new ideas. They altered. That's the way it is when you move to a new country. So enjoy the new version, as well as the old.

Features of the original base recipe I found appealing :

1) The picture looked right!
2) What is more Californian than raisins? We grow tons of raisins in the Great Central Valley of California. Well apparently if I were Dutch, I'd feel the same way. The original baker uses a very goodly number of raisins He/she says...
 "The amount of raisins used is usually the same as the amount of flour used. It seems like a lot, but you need this amount to get a good raisin bun so you do not ‘have to bicycle from one raisin to the next’ as we say."
3)What is more Californian than lemons and oranges? Our Dutch friend includes a sweetener made from orange and lemon zest, something I often include in my own bread recipes.  

However I altered the original recipe - which I make in a bread machine.  I only make my bread dough in the machine. (The Dutch version has by hand instructions you can follow) I then shape that dough into rolls, proof them in a 200 degree oven and then switch the oven to 350 degrees for baking. That is how I always use my bread machine. I never use the baking cycle, because it came out weird when I first tried, and it's so easy to do the baking in my own pans in the oven. It's the kneading and temperature setting right that is work/challenge when making bread.

A) I converted the European measurements to American cups, teaspoons etc. I rounded some things up, and just changed a few, based on my own experiences making break. I think I increased the butter just a touch, and maybe the flour. (When I ran the measurements through the European to American converter, I did not get an equal amount of raisins and flour, btw) I may have changed some other things...
B) I noted that the Dutch baker suggested using more liquid for American flours. I used more than twice as much liquid - though he had only suggested 10-20 percent more. That was based on the taste I was going for. I like airy bread. 
C) I used more yeast. Again - I like airy bread.  If you want to be more rustic, use less and check out the amounts in the original recipe. 
D) I use a combination of buttermilk and water (half and half) and, as I said I use a lot more liquid than in the original. I use buttermilk a lot. Buttermilk makes dough rise more. Did I say, I like airy bread? I love the taste too.

The original baker uses milk.
E) I use a mix of CA black raisins and CA golden raisins. The Dutch baker has an interesting writeup in the original recipe, about raisins, currents and more,  that is definitely worth reading.
F) I do the hurry-up version of prepping the raisins, alluded to by the original baker (see 'Prep 1')

* * *

Here is how I make these California Immigrant Raisin Rolls - They are delicious

Bread Machine Note: (Different machines require different  ingredient order. In my machine you put in the dry stuff and then the liquid. My old machine was the opposite)

Prep 1
- Put on tea kettle to boil water
- Measure out 2.5 cups of mixed raisins (Today that's 1/2 cup golden , 2 cups black - but whatever I have on hand)
- Pour boiling water over raisins. Let them soak 5-10 minutes or more. Strain in colander/strainer. Add enough flour to take away any residual moisture. This is by feel. I don't want wet raisins. Work them by hand till they feel relatively dry. Do this in the colander/strainer over the sink so that extra flour falls through.

Prep 2
Grate peel from one big  CA lemon and one CA navel orange, Mix with 4 T sugar.

Measure out another 1T sugar, and set aside

Dry  Stuff 
4 cups bread flour (has higher gluten) I admit when I run out of bread flour I use all-purpose.
1 and 1/2 teaspon salt (don't skip this) - but remember that salt retards yeast growth - so I always put the salt far down in the machine or at least not near the yeast

Wet Stuff
1 egg yolk
1/2 stick (4 T) butter I use unsalted 


Primero/ I put the dry stuff in the machine
Entonces/Then I put in the raisin mix in the machine
Entonces/Then I put in the orange peel mix in the machine
Entonces/Then I put in the wet stuff in the machine
Entonces/Then I add that last 1 T sugar to the machine
Entonces/Then I put about 2 and 1/4 teaspoons  of GOOD FRESH YEAST in the little trap on the top of my machine . My yeast goes in a trap door on the top of the machine. OR If you add the yeast to your dry ingredients inside your machine instead, then I recommend making a nest in the flour and putting the 1T sugar and yeast together. Yeast likes sugar to grow

(2 1/4 is a typical package of yeast sold in grocery stores around here. (Also my machine won't hold more than that amount of yeast!) However, I buy large bags of yeast at Costco and keep it in a jar in the refrigerator. I always smell my yeast and if it doesn't smell yeasty, I get fresh yeast. Those Costco bags are so economical that even if you put half of it in the compost bin, it's still more cost effective than the packages - Watch the expiration dates on the packaged yeast too. If if doesn't smell like yeast. It won't do the job.)

* * *
Because this is a high rising recipe - you need to make sure you don't just assume your dough cycle will stop on time. I messed up my old machine leaving dough in for too long. So set your machine to the dough cycle, but start checking around 1 hr 30 minutes and keep an eye on it to avoid the dough rising out of the canister and into your machine. I let my dough rise as high as it will go. You can stop sooner for denser bread. Same thing when you proof it. I think some bakers might think that I over rise my bread. I think it's a matter of taste and what you like.
* * *

About 1 hr 30 minutes after I start the machine... I turn my oven onto 200 degrees and spray my muffin pans with cooking spray. The original recipe made 12 regular rolls. My version makes 15 very large rolls. I think you could get 20  (or more) out of this with no problem.

Once the dough cycle is done  to my satisfaction (I run mine for 1:40 - 1 hr 50 minutes) then I take the dough out. Shape the rolls in the muffin pan. The dough is very sticky - because I use so much liquid I think. Watch out for the dough spilling into your oven if you overfill pan (I put a cookie sheet below in case of dough drips, because we like the bigger rolls)

I put the rolls in the 200 degree oven to proof for 20 minutes. You can go longer if you forgot to set your oven early, or if they just look like they need it.

Reset the oven to 350 degrees - It's OK that the rolls are in the oven as the temperature changes.

I last baked them at this temperature for 28 minutes. I checked them around 20 minutes, and simply stuck a good old fork in to test.  Ovens vary. Pan thickness varies. Check them early, maybe eat a sample roll or whatever works to get the right bake on your rolls.
* * *
These rolls don't need anything on them. But I'm sure cheese, peanut butter or butter would be good.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Always Something New to Learn from my Pooch

Seems like I've always got something new to learn - especially in this technology-rich world. It's tempting to put it off. Do you ever do that?

Yesterday, I helped Jasper -my wonder dog- learn how to climb this and descend. He didn't like it, especially the going down part. But he persevered and after several attempts he didn't need my arms around him anymore for the slip-sliding down part.

I learn a lot from this pooch.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

SLO Dreaming - Loma Grande

The name Loma Grande translates directly to English as "Big Hill".

Some folks say, however, that you should never translate the word loma, because it means a lot more than that.

Loma Grande is, in fact, an historic ranch in Edna Valley. It lies inland from Pismo Beach, about five miles. It's also around eight miles from the town of San Luis Obispo. How long has it been a working ranch? All I know is that it's barns are over a hundred years old. The local wedding industry helps to support the working of this long-time agricultural site.

If you are interested in getting married at Loma Grande, you can email

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Saturday, February 13, 2016

From My Journal: While the Basses Rehearse - Steve Sano - Stanford Symphonic Chorus

I sketch Steve Sano in my music while the basses rehearse alone
The movement of my pencil, helps me focus on their sound
Stanford Symphonic Chorus Director Steve Sano encourages the sopranos (I sing first soprano) to listen to the basses. We are often singing the same note, except it's an octave apart. It's one of those things we don't always think consciously about, but we like the feel of it - the way the deep voice part vibrates in our brain, as we relax our throats, raise our soft palettes and let the high notes resonate in the roof of our vocal apparatus.

Performance of Poulanc's jazz-infused Gloria, coming up the last weekend in February. Funny how I always appreciate the music more and more as I really learn to sing it!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

From My Journal: Along the East River

Hey Birdie! What's news?
Flying up the East River
Upper East Side NYC

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Journal Notes- Downton Abbey - Positive Ending Note

Getting ready to enjoy Downton Abbey, especially it's clothes, and hats.
What future pretties will I create, based on this BBC series?

Of course soon this show's historical scenes will be history itself.
Instead of being sad, I vote we focus on telling our own stories!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Shall We Dance ? Stanford Arboretum Cactus Friends

Alluring Stag Horn Cholla dancing withBeavertail Pkicklypear 

Shall we Dance?
On a bright cloud of music, shall we fly?
Shall we then say goodnight, and mean goodbye?

Saturday, January 9, 2016