Thursday, November 28, 2013


We had a lovely day, filled with the blessings of community.  Even Yotie had her fill. We are blessed with our freinds, family and freedom. Unlike much of the world's population, we are also blessed with clean water and good food.   Hardly gets better than that. From our household to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Evil Weasels

Please read this and tell everyone you know who is approaching or over 50 years old about it.

I started getting the 'free 90 day AARP memberships' in the mail before I turned 50. I'm pushing 60 and still get them about 3 or 4 times a year. Like most people who receive these, I toss it right in the trash can. I now realize what a HUGE mistake that has been. With my 'free' membership, AARP has been counting ME as one of the 20+ million that they represent. I don't want AARP to represent me because they believe in what profits AARP, which is probably nothing I embrace.  AARP was a big supporter of the current healthcare 'transition' because it will make them big money, not because it will help people over 50 years old.  WE will likely transition to being disposable humans.

So what I ask you to do and/or share with friends and family who receive these free memberships is to:
1. Open and remove the membership card.
2. Write CANCEL IMMEDIATELY in large black letters on both sides of the card.
3. on the page to send dues, write: "I prohibit AARP from representing me (and my spouse if that's on the address line) now or in the future unless I expressly send a change to this instruction. I revoke any expressed or implied past permission to represent me ( and my spouse). Remove my name from membership roles immediately. Do not contact me in any way henceforth, including mail or telephone."

4. Put both items in a new envelope addressed to Cindy Lewin, Chief Counsel, AARP, 605 E Street NW ,   Washington, DC 20049 

5. Put a stamp on it and send it. Keep a memo of the date sent.  

Think about what you wish to do with the included post-paid envelope.

Can't wait for my next 'free' membership so I can stop being an accidental AARP member and stop being one of the 20+ million, many of whom really are not members and oppose what AARP is doing.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Late Monsoon Bounty

Now for something a little less controversial....
This year the monsoon was bountiful. After a good July and August -- on track for a good monsoon, September blessed us with another 5+ inches of rain.  My garden went berserk. Plants that usually bloom once in a summer bloomed again. Here are some snaps of the spectacle:


This is a Chaste tree (vitex) with either Monarch or Viceroy butterflies. Where we live, vitex usually blooms in late June. Some branches that are visible have already set seeds from the earlier blooms.

These beauties include a Maximilian daisy that was so top-heavy from blooms that it fell over! The morning glories are a freebee from some bird or Johnny-glory-seed that passed by. Salvia greggii paints the background red.

I thought these purple cone flowers (Echinacea) had died. Glad I was wrong!

The green leafy stuff behind them is Jerusalem artichoke. The deer mowed them down last spring, so they are about  a month behind on their bright yellow blossoms. I anticipate lots of edible tubers in about a month!

Last, the view from the porch. (We did a little more weeding after the photo)   Hose is from the rain barrel to the new apricot tree. Shrubby tree on the right is a Mexican Elder, which this year actually produced elderberries!  How nice!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Testing the limits of tyranny?

Or just being petty and vindictive?  I really found this 'closing'  ridiculous. (I obscured the name of the site for a variety of reasons)


The last blurry line contains threatening language about prosecution if you pass the barrier.
Speaking of the barrier, here's a close up:

This Bureau of Land Management property is in the middle of nowhere. They sell nothing. All you can do is walk around a bunch of old, decaying buildings and take photos. Oh, there is a donation box, so you could donate money to the 'upkeep' of the road and old buildings, but that's about it.
I was really shocked when I saw the extent of the 'inflict pain' philosophy.
The nearest working gas pump is more than 50 miles away. Someone had to drive 73 miles from the nearest BLM office to put up these signs and cones. At least half the drive is on slow country roads, so it took about 2 hours each way, plus the time to put everything up on the two entries -- the other one is a mirror image coming from the other direction, i.e. the other end of this half-mile long road.  The main road that passes the entry gets about 15 cars a day.  Maybe one of those cars stops here.

Heaven forbid that you walk around the remnants of a ghost town unchaperoned. Except that most of the rest of the year, every year, you are unchaperoned.  Sometimes in the summer there's a volunteer living in an RV, but they usually stay in the RV because it gets very hot outside.

Makes me scratch my pointed little head.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What "Essential" Means for a Government Job

I'm getting a little frustrated with the pundits' question about government workers re: essential or emergency essential status.  The snappy quote is "well, if they aren't essential, why don't we just fire them and solve the budget problem?"

There may be some people and jobs that could benefit from that treatment.

My experience was in the field of military installation operations support. That's a fancy name for keeping the basic services working for the groups who perform the military mission.  We had lots of 'emergency essential' and non-essential jobs. Here are a few examples:

The people who cook food for Soldiers were essential every day or Soldiers did not eat. In part this is because many military units are no longer authorized cooks, so someone else does it for them. It is much more expensive to the taxpayer to have them eat out for lunches and dinners because they get additional tax-free money called 'separate rations allowance.'

The guy who ordered the food was essential half a day each week. One week he would order the food during that half day, the next week he would receive it, inspect it and inventory it off the trucks. He had levels of certification above the cooks so he could spend taxpayer money. When he was working full time, he had other duties, like menu planning, cost reduction and facility inspection but those tasks were not essential in the emergency duty description.

The people who fix broken pipes were essential so that if a pipe broke somewhere in the 9 million square feet of buildings or 40 miles of outdoor piping, it could be fixed fast. Because of the age of some of the infrastructure, we had lots of breaks.

The engineers who design interior building remodel projects are not emergency essential. The buildings need to be remodeled in the future to prevent more expensive expenditures like unnecessary new buildings, but those projects can wait a few days or weeks.

The Chaplain is essential because he/she runs counseling and suicide-prevention services for military personnel.

The organist is not because we can have a Sunday service without organ music.

The NEPA coordinator (environmental compliance officer for future projects) is not emergency essential.
The specialists who manage the hazardous waste are essential, because the law requires proper storage and disposal regardless of the budget situation. Many of the tasks require daily inspections and short timelines with BIG fines for non-compliance.

My last position as Strategic Plans Director was non-essential in emergencies because we were concerned with plans for 1 year or more from now, and the results to see whether the organization was on track. Like any business, long term planning is not a luxury, but is also not an emergency process.

There are also some jobs you wouldn't think of as emergency essential, like child-care.  Turns out that on a military base, if there's no child-care a large number of younger Soldiers call in to stay home with their kids. Missions suffer.

It's not that these non-essential jobs don't need to be done, its that they don't need to be done continuously during an emergency.

I hope that is useful information.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Self-Observation is a skill that can be cultivated

Most of us have a rear-view mirror talent to see what we should have said at a critical time, like when the boss was accusing us of something we didn't do. I had a really Crazy Boss once that gave me a stern lecture about 'attempting to shirk my duties' when his boss directed me to do two different things on the same day, same time, but 500 miles apart. I could not delegate either assignment to a subordinate because both required knowledge that my 3 new employees did not have. When I asked his boss if the second assignment therefore relieved me of going to the one 500 miles away, she said yes.  That's what we call being properly relieved of the duty in military circles. 

Crazy Boss called it 'trying to shirk my responsibilities.'  Rather than argue with a crazy person, as I had seen the trend by then, I took some lumps I did not deserve.  That is self-observation and a response of not escalating a bad situation.  Instead, I waited a few days and spoke with the Crazy Boss's boss, 'apologized' and clarified to be sure she did not see my request to clarify relief as 'shirking my duties.'  She was stunned by the question. I briefly related what happened and the ranting reprimand by my direct Crazy Boss. She then shared with me that she, too, had seen the erratic behavior and was working on a solution. She asked me to 'hang in there' and it would be fixed.  It was and did not affect my performance record.

By observing myself, my reactions and managing my behavior, real-time, I avoided a situation that could have gotten me fired. I saw myself getting angry and frustrated with Crazy Boss. I stifled the desire to argue with him, which likely would have resulted in a reprimand for insubordination. I took some crap I did not deserve, but was stronger for it in the long run. Turns out the man was in the early stages of dementia and was expressing a lot of confusion and anger in the workplace.  He couldn't direct it toward his boss, so I was the target du jour. He retired soon after.

That, in a nutshell is an example of basic self-observation.  It is the ability to dispassionately observe yourself, how you are feeling, and decide how to react to both.  Freed from the shackles of blindly acting on our emotions, things change.  Here are a couple of websites that provide more info about the skill: One from Penn State and this more esoteric one. 

As I learned self-observation skills, I had some references to help identify my emotions. A great one is  The Passions (1983 version) by  Robert Solomon.  Chapter 11 is about 90 pages clearly describing a number of emotions (and strategies on responding or overcoming those emotions) in a way that you can catalogue your feelings.  Please note, this is not about wallowing in your emotions. The process of self-observation helps you do the opposite: see what you are feeling or what is motivating your behavior and making a conscious decision about whether that is likely to accomplish your goals in the interaction.  It enabled me to observe and say things to myself like "this is me getting really angry" or "I am so sad I want to cry."  I then could choose whether to show anger or cry, or say to myself that those actions are not appropriate to the situation and behave differently.  It is a tool that can enhance your self-discipline and effectiveness.

One of the first times I practiced this in real life was when I needed help from a dreaded customer support telecenter. When I was finally answered, I very calmly told the service rep that I was an irate customer and wanted to speak to a supervisor. She actually put me right though and the supervisor made things right.

Have you ever experience a situation when some one's reaction to a situation is inappropriate or really not proportional to whatever just happened? It is often from unresolved, pent-up emotion from some situation in the past where the person was hurt or wronged.  This energy is unleashed inappropriately and automatically into an unrelated situation.  It is difficult to refrain from reacting to that outburst and escalating the situation. Self-observation can help you reduce the energy and diffuse the interaction. You can learn and understand if you are doing the same thing and start to avoid the negative responses that leave both parties wondering what the heck just happened.  I have seen the technique, when used in coaching married couples, bring the couple back from the brink of divorce.

One way to start learning to self-observe is to stop yourself periodically using a timer or alarm. When it goes off, stop to jot down how your are feeling at the moment. Once that gets easier, add how you are behaving or acting and whether your observed emotion is influencing your actions or behavior. Last step is whether those actions are appropriate to the situation. Repetition of these steps will help make them automatic skill behaviors, like catching a ball.

You will need to be persistent to learn this skill, and it may never come completely naturally. Just as we make ourselves go to work or eat our vegies, just know it is something that's worth the effort.

One additional bit of wisdom gained from growing older and using these skills is that compassion does not always appear to be kindness.  It is providing appropriate help for someone who needs it, and who needs to grow. Sometimes compassion can look like being a jerk, like not giving a drunken alcoholic another drink or not loaning a chronic gambler the money to 'pay the rent.'  Sometimes someone needs to suffer through a problem of their own making for them to learn and grow.

As an aside, some of these websites reference eastern mystics or non-Christian religions. I have practiced these skills for about 20 years and find that they enhance my ability to live a more Christian life and be more charitable when needed. They do not detract from or contradict my faith at all, and have enhanced it.  For Christians, learning not to be ruled by your emotions is another potential skill toward allowing the Holy Spirit to guide your actions if you so desire.  For everyone, the skill can be valuable.

Friday, September 27, 2013

I'm confused

Is there something odd about a President that is willing to negotiate with Iran but not with his own Congress, or is it just me?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Today's "Something New"

I'm a firm believer in the old ' learn something new every day."  I figure that if I pay attention and commit it to memory, I can the go play on the computer!! Today's was so useful I thought I'd share with any of you who have allergy problems.

My allergies have long been horrible -- to the point of managing around them during parts of the year. I vacuum often, wash the bedspread once or twice a week, etc.  I stopped taking the desensitization shots about 5 years ago because of work conflicts, and am back a square one with suffering.

Over the last several weeks, I thought I was losing a tooth -- one that was crowned about 2 years ago. Not happy about that at all and the discomfort was really annoying. Went to the dentist's office, got X-rayed, etc.  No problem with any of the teeth near the pain area.  It continued to bother me so much that I actually got a second dental opinion. Same results, EXCEPT this second dentist understands physiology!  He asked about what I'm taking for my allergies and I told him which antihistamine.

He advised that I also need to take a decongestant if I start having dental pain during allergy season.  Seems the action of the decongestant reduces the swelling deep in the recesses of your sinuses and Eustachian tubes, etc. When these tissues are swollen, it can result in pressure on nerves or ligaments in the area and feels like -- dull toothache pain!

I bought some 30 mg Sudafed (which required lots of personal information being surrendered), took one, and am actually starting to get some relief!

Ya' learn something new every day!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

An open letter to Howard Schultz, CEO Starbucks

Dear Howard,

This morning, I heard your request to stop coming into your stores armed. You got it. Your patrons and staff never 'were uncomfortable' with me in the stores because they never knew whether I was armed or not.  That's because here in Arizona it's not a big deal.  If you can legally own a weapon, you can carry it, or not, concealed. Occasionally, heck maybe always, I wasn't carrying.  Doesn't and didn't matter because I felt safer at Starbucks because of your past statements welcoming patrons who exercise their Second Amendment rights.

But I need you to know what I will do to ensure I comply with your request. If you don't want me in there armed, I don't want to be in your stores unarmed.  That's because you've just declared Starbucks to be unsafe. Neither me nor my fellow citizens will be able to protect me and my family.  You've just turned every Starbucks into a potential Navy Yard or Sandy Hook.  Part of why I retired from civil service was because I felt like a sitting duck unarmed in my office, knowing that help was about a dozen dead bodies away. I gave up some serious pay in the process.  I won't volunteer to part with what's left of that pay to be a sitting duck again.

Here's what else is a consequence of your request.  As a person of logic and conscience, I will stop buying your product in the grocery store, too. After your past stance on the right to carry, I switched to Starbucks for my home brew. You see, I believe that how I spend my dollars is part of my First Amendment right. So, while you are asking me to relinquish my Second Amendment right to partake of your product, I'll also exercise my First Amendment in the process and pass on Starbucks altogether. 

I realize there are lots of gun shy patrons who don't understand the Bill of Rights. I'm not one of them. I will take you up on your request, but will do so fully. In for a penny, in for a pound. I hope other Second Amendment fans will do as we do, whether they choose to carry or not.

I hope that the message from us will be as clear as your message to us.

UPDATE: Here is the link to the original Schultz letter.  Also, despite the dialogue about 'open carry' please note that the request, which was stated twice, does not single out 'open carry' but states: "requesting that customers no longer bring firearms into our stores or outdoor seating areas"
Note that the underlining is from the letter (second statement of the request), not added by me.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Monsoon Morning Walk

We've had a splendid monsoon this year with above average rain.  Flowers we've never seen before are blooming. More than a dozen native grass varieties are heading out now.  Thought I'd share a few, mostly the flowers as grasses tend to look all the same to anyone who isn't a grass nerd.

Yellow daisies, compositae, are blooming profusely now.  There must be at least a dozen different types, shapes and sizes.  Here are a few:

This last one is a native sunflower, a major source of quail food.
Other favorites are the native morning glories, especially the blue and red/orange ones. Seems desert species tend to be yellow, blue or purple and white.  The reds and oranges are rare.  These little red ones are about half an inch in diameter at the widest part of the bell. 
The blue ones are a little over an inch in diameter.

Lots of the fuzzy caterpillars this year, too.
Another sweet little flower that only blooms when there's a lot of water.
Can't remember seeing as many devil's claws as we've got this year.  They are strange plants with leaves almost the size of your hand.  Pretty but somewhat inconspicuous flower with somewhat hidden pods about the size of green chili.

Two of my favorite grasses, both are grammas.

Here are a few shots of the profusion of flowers of all types:

The purple asters are about gone for the year, but these waited around for picture day!

Signing off for today after a monsoon walk in Arizona!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Slippery Slope Toward What?

Of late I am increasingly suspicious when there is much ado about nothing.  Seems it is often one of those tricks where we're watching the right hand while the left on picks our pocket or slips an icepick between our ribs, figuratively speaking of course.  BEWARE, the following may be controversial, but I mean to provoke your thinking, powers of observation and pattern recognition.

So what about Gay marriage? Quite frankly, I'm starting to believe the whole ruckus isn't about Gay marriage at all.  I believe it is about breaking the societal and legal paradigm of "one man and one woman" constituting a marital unit. What about one man and three women? If two men are OK as a marriage, why not polygamy? Why not one man, three women and a few boys? There you go again with bigotry and biases bubbling up in your mind! NAMBLA members would certainly be in favor of a marriage like that last one! After that, we can have some 8 year old girls married off to 60 year old men and left for dead on their wedding night, as was in the news from the mid-east recently.

How about the recent short sentences for male teachers raping young female students? Judge seemed to think she had consented.  Maybe she wasn't covered from head to foot and had enticed him...ever hear those arguments from judges in other countries?  Seems when female teachers have sex with willing teen age boys, the women get long sentences.  What's OK for men is taboo for women.  Hmmm, sounds a little like Mid-Eastern standards to me, minus the stoning, of course.

So is Gay marriage a stepping stone to other types of marriage and conjugal relationships not currently sanctioned in the US? Is the virtual news blackout on honor killings of young woman part of this transformation of our sensibilities? Are we on the slippery slope toward acceptance of Islamic views on what constitutes marriage and other societal norms? If so, then beware married Gay people. You may merely be a short-lived tool to soften up a society for a form of bigotry far beyond any you've seen in the US for decades. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

You've got to be kidding me....

I don't usually get political on this blog, but today's an exception. With everything that's going on in the world, here's what my Congressman decided was a high enough priority to send an e-mail: What he's doing about 'Women's issues' and all the good girly-stuff he did on the 93d anniversary of our right to vote. No joke. Nothing about the huge national debt, or that Syria thing. Thanks for that 10 September e-mail with such timely and important info, Congressman!  Did I miss the e-mail with an invitation to a town hall about the 2014 budget while you were home on recess? Oh, never got one, did I?  Perhaps you couldn't be bothered to drive the 50 miles down here to have one.

I am so impressed that you started a Women's Leadership Council.  I'm sure they will have a major influence on your almost 100% party-line voting record. I am so glad that you reminded us of Women's Equality Day. News flash: many of us aren't that shallow. We don't need your paternalistic BS. We need you to grow a spine and get tough on the national borrowing and spending issues, defunding the looming healthcare nightmare and keeping us out of a new front in the Middle East.

I'll let you all know if I get a 9/11 e-mail.  Maybe it will be about the important steps he's taking to ensure that billboards along local Interstate highways have at least 3 colors so we won't suffer from eye fatigue.

Monday, August 19, 2013

My Mamma Told Me...

You'd better shop around!  For some time, I've been looking for a very specific item to wear to a very special family wedding.  The wedding will be in an unfamiliar geography in an unfamiliar venue, so the jacket and dress need to span a range of 'formal attire' definitions and cultural interpretations. Yes, I want a black, heavy Venetian lace bolero jacket, unlined, to go over a deep jade green evening gown.  No problem. Because it will double for some other duties, including summer travel (stuff in a shoulder bag to slip on before touring churches or cathedrals if wearing sleeveless shirts) it also needs to be mostly synthetic without looking like it,  so it will dry quickly if washed in a sink along the way. Oh, and it needs to be around $100, but look like a designer item.  No sweat.

Finally, through the magic of the Internet, I found one!  So what's the big deal?  Here's the designer item that came closest before I found the one. On eBay, it was $1700, used. Welllllll, I don't need an extra $1600-worth of name (Prada), ever. Drat, keep looking.

Thanks to eBay, I've ordered one that I like even better (nicer neckline and beautiful medallion back), though I took an unusual risk, at least for me.  I made an international purchase from...Malta!  Thoughts of Knights Templar fill my head. Once it arrives, I'll let you know whether it is a good thing to engage in commerce directly with the Maltese. 

Sounds like my own Bogart movie in the making,
just a few  decades too late!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What is "Being Awake?"

Not talking about the blog, but the state of mind.  Lots of people sleep walk through life. They blindly ingest advertising, instruction and robotically do what is expected. They want the big car or house  ... because.  Women wear fake fingernails and this year's hideous fashion... because.  They are democrats or republicans... because.

Remember The Matrix? You can choose the path to a clearer understanding and involvement in the world, but there is no pill. Consciousness, in the truest sense, takes work and discipline. It may not make you happy, but neither will keeping up with the Jones family, or even being the Jones family.

It takes baby steps.  Studying a bit of logic helps.  Lewis Carroll (mathematician Charles Dodgson)syllogisms were my first logic puzzles.  Logic helps clarify thinking and identify inconsistencies we may hold in our thinking.  I'll start with an example of a controversial inconsistency.  A large group of Americans are in favor of liberal abortion but eschew capital punishment. Actions include protesting in favor of the former and against the latter. Sorry, but that seems almost insane to me, from a perspective of LOGICAL THINKING.  Favoring the killing of innocents but not killing those who are guilty of heinous crimes is illogical. Either be pro-life or pro-death. That is basic logical thinking.

Thinking that some action is OK if done by group A but not if it's done by group B is also illogical and inconsistent. The news is rife with examples, so I won't elaborate. It's an area of discovery!

Sure, it's not all black and white, but learning to question logically is the basis of forming awareness of being manipulated, and understanding of what you believe and why.  It also leads to better decisions and actions.  Our actions stem from our beliefs.  When our actions violate what we espouse, then we must have a belief somewhere that drives the action.  We see happily married people throw it away for a brief fling.  What was that belief? Possibly "I'm getting old and unattractive" or "I believe my life is too boring" seem to trump "I am committed to my wonderful wife."

Your brain is a complex and powerful thing.  Learn to be aware of what's going on in there and to take charge. Learn to Be Awake!

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Book for Adult Caretakers

For any of you who are taking care of your elderly parents, or have or are thinking about it, this kindle offering is important to read.  If you were a follower of the Barklee Pontree blog, it is Dick Lane's edited three-year journey taking care of his father who suffered from Alzheimer's.
 You will laugh and cry, be frustrated and joyful.
It is not a how-to book, but you'll wonder if you could DIY. If you have done it, you will relate.  If you are considering being your parents primary caretaker, you will be better informed about the joys and sacrifices involved.

Above all, you will come to respect and admire a son who loved his dad, and lived to share their story.

Monday, July 1, 2013

New Blog. Especially good for those caring for elderly parents

If you are a caretaker for an elderly parent, or recovering from those duties, please check out this blog:

It is interesting and well written. His previous blog, written while he was caring for his father was:

The amazing part is that he has managed to keep a sense of humor. 

That speaks volumes about the man.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Bad Day at Black Rock

It's a long story but Bitsy's previous owner changed her mind and called law enforcement who threatened criminal charges if the dog wasn't returned -- after almost 3 months.

Lesson learned: always get a release in writing and register it with local animal control when adopting a pet.

We are in a funk. Yotie and Bitsy had become buddies. The big dog spent the day sleeping on the closet floor and looked forlorn when she came out.

Will call an attorney tomorrow to see whether I have any options. At minimum I'll go to small claims to get repaid for all my expenses.  Won't help fill the empty spot.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

New Mexico Red Sauce and Enchilada Recipe

This is the one my Mama taught me. She grew up in southern New Mexico in the 1920's and was taught the traditional recipe by her Hispanic neighbors. Notice there is NO tomato juice. That is mostly a gringo thingo.


(for enchiladas, huevos rancheros, etc)

12 dried chile pods  
 2 1/2 cups water
2 to 3 tbs corn oil or lard
1 to 2 tbs flour (optional)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp crushed cumin
cool water
 salt to taste ( at least 1 tsp)              

1) remove stems, seeds and veins from the chile

2) bring the chile pods in the water to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for at least 12 minutes (covered). (I usually break into pieces and let them rehydrate for an hour or two after turning the stove off)

3) mash chile through a wire sieve to remove the bitter skin from the chile meat (you can put in a blender for a few spins to chop up the chili first, or use pieces during the boiling process, rather than the whole chili)

4) add the spices

 5) Fry the chile sauce (remember that the chili pulp is raw at this stage):

          a) heat the oil or lard so it is hot

b) add the mashed rehydrated chilie and cook for two to three minutes.

 6) reduce heat to medium low and slowly add about half a cup more water with the flour dissolved in it,

7) cook to allow the sauce to thicken

 8) add water (or tomato juice) until the sauce is to your desired thickness.

(a little can go a long way, especially hotter chile)



1) if you use cornstarch, use half the ‘flour’ measure

2) The sauce freezes well. Use within six weeks for best flavor

3) avoid inhaling the steam during rehydration. Wash hands after handling Chile, it can irritate your eyes and nose. I wear disposable vinyl gloves whenever handling the chile. 

A great way to use this sauce is:


(four servings)

1 dozen corn tortillas
2 cups red chili sauce

2 cups grated sharp cheese
4 to 8 eggs

1/2 cup chopped onion
lard or corn oil


1) fry the tortillas until soft. Don’t make them crisp!! You only need a little hot fat, don't deep fry.

2) quickly dip tortilla in red sauce covering both sides

3) put on plate and add a layer of cheese and onion (if you really must, you can add shredded beef or chicken, but it takes away from the wonderful chili flavor)

4) layer until you have used 3 tortillas on each plate

5) add a generous spoonful of red sauce to the top of the stack

6) place a sunny-side-up or over-easy fried egg (or two) on top of each stack.
Serve and enjoy!
(a small scoop of traditional guacamole is great with this. That recipe will be here soon!)

Enchilada photo from West Vista Urban Farm School website

Recipe is from my Mama!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Roadkill Chili

I've waited a while to post this for reasons that will become obvious.

So what is Roadkill Chili? I'll try to make the long story short.  The premier chili-growing areas in the US are in southern Arizona and New Mexico, with the area along the Rio Grande in New Mexico being the most famous.  Most operations still dry their red chili outdoors in dry October and November air, and then ship the product before Christmas.  By leaving the fruit on the plant later and drying it slowly,  desirable complex flavors develop.  This is what gives this area an advantage over peppers that are just hot.

Shipping is where we enter the story.  Most of the growing areas are rural, and the product must be transported on smaller roads and 2-lane highways to central collection points for further processing. For years I have seen the tell-tale red spots by the side of the road during the shipping season. These feather light dried husks of deliciousness float out of the tops of open wooden crates on these back roads. These free-range chili lay in the stubble by the side of the road, about 5 feet beyond the end of the shoulder, glistening like rubies awaiting discovery. (Aerodynamics of chili pod travel: they weight almost nothing and are shaped like arrows when dry.  Trucks are going about 65 MPH on that stretch of the road, which also has a slight curve, so the pods fly out as small projectiles.  They either glide to a point where they fall gently to the ground or smash into the ground and shatter at higher speeds.)

This past December, with all my free time after retirement, I decided to stop and glean this roadkill chili.  I determined that it had been less than a week since they chili shipped and it had not rained since that time. The chili should still be in peak condition!

I used a scientific method for gleaning, of course.  With my trusty plastic grocery bag, I went approximately 1/10 mile in each direction from my car, first on one side of the road and returning on the other side.  I did not pick up pods that had been shattered, crushed or that looked like they had been munched by critters.  I was able to fill the bag with about 2 pounds of splendid red chili for enchilada sauce extraordinaire.
So here's the part that made me wait to post until now.  This chili was essentially beautiful and perfect, so I did it again, filling another bag for about 4 lbs of pods. It runs about $5 a pound in the grocery, if you can get it.  I was planning to send Christmas boxes in the next few days anyway, so what the heck, several of my special friends got premier roadkill chili and I kept enough to make a big batch for me.  I did not mention the 'Roadkill' part to them.  Heck, dried pods need enough cleaning and cooking before use that the roadside dust wouldn't make a difference anyway, right?
So next December if you see little red spots by the roadside in southern NM and AZ, think about whether you want to try Roadkill chili, too.  Let me know if you'd like me to post the recipe for killer red chili sauce from pods! It isn't hard to make but takes time and there are a few tricks to the trade, passed down through the generations.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Lost my mind....

Some of you may remember the posts on our enormous golden retriever, Yotie, Queen of the Thunder Chickens.  Well, in a moment of temporary insanity, I adopted another dog.  She is a puppy mill rescue, now about 11 months old. She's been with us about 5 weeks. 

Bitsy this morning

She is apparently a Yorkie, or at least Yorkie enough.  She weighs just under 8 pounds. Previously, the smallest dog I owned was about 30 pounds.  That leads to her name, which is now BITSY. Corny as is it, it's just her personality and demeanor are of an itsy bitsy dog. 

She's sweet, but does have a bit of a temper. She has learned to manage Yotie, but Yotie doesn't seem to mind. Bitsy always leaves a little food in her bowl, which Yotie gladly cleans.
Bitsy: day after adoption

Our greatest achievement to date is that she is almost housebroken. Second achievement is that despite being 'free' initially, she's probably the most expensive dog I've had. Puppy package at the vet, collar, halter, kennel cough meds, small travel kennel, grooming, on and on...

Would love any advice from others who have made the transition from large dogs to small. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mothers' Day

Wishing a great day to all you Moms out there
 and fond remembrances of those who have passed.

Sunday, May 5, 2013


Although this post is primarily for the ladies, any fellow whose beloved may need this procedure may wish to read it.

A while ago I had an abnormal mammogram. A region in my left breast developed a cluster of calcifications. Standard of care seems to be anywhere from 'repeat in 6 months' to immediate biopsy.  I split the difference and waited to have the biopsy done until after I had some problematic trees trimmed.  Because there was no 'lump', the biopsy required use of imaging technology to ensure that the right stuff was sampled.  The procedure is called "stereotactic biopsy."

Reading about the procedure made it sound pretty straight-forward. I went to the state university's breast clinic, expecting the latest technology.  I don't think I got it.  The rig was a regular mammography system that had a special platform for stereotactic biopsies.  Ideally, after positioning you so the target is visible in the images, the robotic biopsy equipment is added and the process is completed.

After explaining the procedure ad nauseum and getting signatures for every aspect of informed consent, we got started. The technician futzed around with my breast in the booby-smasher for about an hour before realizing that the position she started with, me lying in an uncomfortable position, would not work due to the thickness of the tissue.  There was no way for the biopsy apparatus to fit on the machine. Seems like she could have figured that out before doing all the extra smashing.

Next was sitting in an adjustable chair and doing the same thing again. Finally got the calcified area in the right location and the MD entered. We had spoken prior to the lengthy smashing session, and I had confidence in her, but not so much in the technician. That trend continued.

Dr. C quickly numbed the area deep into the breast tissue, which was a good thing. In advance, all warned that this would be uncomfortable and may burn. The warning, at least for me, was overblown. That part of the process was probably less noticeable than a flu shot. 

With that part done, the biopsy apparatus was placed and centered above the target spot. Dr. C made a small incision in my skin so the biopsy "needle" would enter straight and not rip my skin.  The needle for a core biopsy is different from the one used for an aspiration biopsy. A core needle takes a cylinder of tissue that preserves the relationships between the calcification and the surrounding tissue. To do that, there is essentially a needle within a needle, allowing the cylinder of tissue to be cleanly removed.  To do this, the biopsy needle is rather large, almost the size of a #2 pencil.  Yup, it's a harpoon.

I was doing fine as the biopsy started, but then primal physiology asserted itself.  I had what's called a vasovagal reaction.  It's a primitive neurological response to trauma, probably the same process that we call 'shock.' Got the white clouds, sweats, crashing blood pressure, etc.  Felt really not so good.  Meantime, I'm harpooned, pinned at the left boob to this apparatus and unable to do the thing I wanted to do most, which was faint.

I was aware of what was happening and mentioned the phenomenon to the MD, who coached me through.  She helped me manage my breathing while she positioned and started the robotic part of the core process.  If we stopped, it would have been a nightmare. I'd probably have needed to return in a few weeks for a repeat.  No thanks!

Once she had the cores and withdrew the needle, it took the technician about 4 requests from the MD to lie the chair back.  Tech couldn't find Kleenex or anything else to help with the profuse sweating.  MD then directed her to provide a washcloth with cool water for me. After the third request from the MD,  I got one that was piping hot. Fortunately the air conditioning in the clinic was set to 'polar' so it cooled quickly and I could feel my blood pressure coming back up. After about 20 minutes I could see faces again, where only sparkly blanks had been.

Follwing the procedure, you get wrapped in a wide ace bandage for some pressure on the wounded area to reduce internal bleeding. More instructions for your recovery are provided.

I should have my results by the middle of next week. Most calcifications are benign, but a small percentage reflect a specific type of cancer in the duct tissue.

Here are my lessons learned from the process:

1. Don't assume the latest technology from the local university medical center. If I had to do it again, I'd probably do a little more research on what the latest technology is and where to get it. 

2. Pay attention to the technician. If they seem less than exceptionally competent, ask to see the MD and get a change of personnel.  I'll be writing a letter to the university about this one.

3. Pay attention to yourself. Make sure you eat something somewhat substantial with lots of protein that will keep your blood sugar up during the procedure. I followed the directions to have a light breakfast an hour before the procedure. Unfortunately, the appointment was at 9 a.m. and the actual procedure didn't start until almost 1130. At that point it had been 3.5 hours and my blood sugar was dropping.  I suspect the intensity of the vasovagal reaction would have been less if I'd had higher blood sugar.

4. The process is uncomfortable but no more painful than your regular mammogram plus a flu shot.  Don't dread it or put it off unnecessarily.  I was within the 6 month window of the initial recommendation from the radiologist despite taking the extra month to get a crew in to trim my trees.

5. Follow all the directions for preparation and recovery.  Don't schedule the procedure right before heading out to your ski vacation or your wilderness canoe trip.  Really bad idea.  Unlike my normal behavior, I am following the directions and resisting the temptation to do more sooner. So far neither the pain nor the bruising are uncomfortable.  I've been wearing a snug sports bra (including during sleep) since taking off the ace bandage wrap 24 hours after the procedure. The sports bra reduces any jiggle that could restart internal bleeding.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Sprung again

Despite calling it a cutting garden, I rarely cut these flowers to bring in. In addition to tickling our allergies, they are just nice to see on their plants.

 The peonies are one exception, mostly because they are so fragrant and only bloom for about a week.

These heirloom bearded iris are in almost everyone's yard in town.
If yours die, just ask a neighbor for a start.

Roses are not well suited for the desert, but these have hung on despite the neglect and diseases that haunt them here. The pyracantha behind them provides a nice background in spring, and the birds really like the berries.
Love this color!

These, too!
Here are the peonies, probably will bloom mid- to late May.

A bit of fragrant English Lavender starting to bloom.  Planted about 18 months ago, this is the first year of blooms. Lavenders developed in the depleted volcanic soil of the Med and thrive on neglect, but do need a little water. In my area, English lav's are hardy enough to be perennial, but the French are not.  Spanish lav's will last through mild winters, but not if the temps fall much below 30 degrees. Lavender is becoming a cash crop in the western US.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Spring has Sprung!

We have a brief but beautiful spring.  Brief because the winds persist until the heat of the high desert summer moves in.  Only the strong or well-nurtured plants survive.  Here are a few of the more productive perennials that are making it this year:
Gala and Fuji apples.  Have since thinned them for larger, healthier apples.

Black currants. Lots of small yellow trumpet-shaped blossoms lead to lots of yummy black berries. This plant appeared after a small flash flood swept through town in 1999.
They make the most amazing preserves! 

Nectarine. This is the third year this dwarf has been in the ground.
Probably won't get any fruit, but the deep pink blossoms were lovely!

Serviceberries (also called Saskatoons or Rocky Mountain Blueberries): Though not related to real blueberries, these alkali-tolerant dark purple berries taste a lot like the real thing.
They also make great jam or preserves.

Pomegranate: The Feb 2010 deep freeze across the southwest really hammered the pomegranates. Many died or died back significantly. Because they only produce on wood that is 3 or more years old, these are the first blossoms I've had since 2009.
Real blueberries: This spot in the yard may have been where coal ash was dumped many years ago. Most of the area has a pH of around 7.5 to 8, which is not suitable for blueberries. We planted several native trees here, all of which died an agonizing death. After buying a pH meter, we discovered a pH of 5.5 in this area, about 10 X 10 feet. Despite the alkaline water (also 7.5 to 8 pH) the blueberries are faring well here and have a lot of little blossoms (grayish white) hanging on.  Last year the birds beat us to the ripe berries. This year, the Walmart netting fabric will go up so we can throw them in the mixed berry jam.

Prickly Pear Cactus: the new, brighter green pads are ready to harvest for nopalitos, essentially a fresh green vegetable. 

The beautiful blossoms will turn to red fruit, great for juice or jam. For now, they are a feast for the bees, like the busy one inside this blossom!

Next post will be photos from the cutting garden -- those few hardy flower-bearing non-natives that I keep for their beauty and fragrance.