Sunday, June 24, 2018

Book Report

It's been a while since I've shared what I'm reading.  Here are some of my recent reads:

A Gentleman in Moscow is worthy of all the hype and accolades it's received.  It's lyrically written and, though it seems like there wouldn't be much going on for someone under house arrests in a hotel, it's a delightful page turner.

I bought this book years ago and just had the opportunity to read it. If you like a story that blends psychology and Salem witches and history with a bit of mystery, then The Lace Reader will be a good summer read for you. The notion of reading the future in a pattern of lace was original to me.

I got The Speed of Sound as an Amazon Prime free read but I would have paid for it. It's an easy, fun summer thriller.  It has an interesting premise: Eddie, a young man with autism, believes sound waves may deteriorate, but they don't disappear unless the structure containing them is destroyed.  As a result, he builds a device so that he can locate, reconstruct and listen to his mother singing, something he never heard since she died in childbirth. But others want the technology for more political purposes. How will Eddie keep it safe?

Next up:

I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Manet, Rousseau, Rivera - OH MY!

Walking up to the house through the gardens
Last week I was one member of a group lucky enough to tour a local area resident's art collection.  Now, when I say art collection, I mean ART COLLECTION.  Yes, this is someone who played with the big boys. Someone who has sold art at Christie's for almost $30 million. But someone who also was the most gracious host.  Who welcomed us at the door of his home in a jacket and tie.  Who, despite the publicly-recognized masterpieces hanging throughout his home, showed me his most precious artwork:  a drawing done by his granddaughter, installed above his desk.

That was the perfect illustration of an art collection built of items that were loved and appreciated.  Yes, the collection had impressive artworks, but most had been purchased by the owner (or his parents) before the artists were famous. They were purchased because the owner loved the artwork and also thought the artist had potential.  The scope of what he loves is very broad.  There were surprises at every turn.  Contemporary assemblage was displayed on the wall next to turn-of-the-century photography.  I couldn't take pictures of everything nor find titles for the works, but here are some of the "big name" pieces I saw.






Any favorites?

Monday, June 11, 2018

A Very Good Day

I was able to surprise my dad for his 89th birthday.  Happy birthday, Papa!  A very good day.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Climbing to Condors

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you might have seen this picture not too long ago.

It's an endangered California condor.  We hiked in Pinnacles National Park, along the Hike Peak Trail to Condor Gulch, for the chance to see it.

First off, did you even know about Pinnacles National Park?  The area had been known as the Pinnacles National Monument but in 2013, President Obama redesignated the area, along with an additional 3000 acres, as a National Park. It was new to me.

The craggy landscape seems to spring out of nowhere. The park only gets about 150,000 visitors per year, mostly in the spring and winter.  The temperature can reach 112°in the summer and fall.  That's definitely something to consider before you visit, especially since there's limited shade and no water along the trails.

The day we hiked the temperature was about 85°.  That was warm enough, thank you very much.  In the park literature, the hike we took is labelled as "strenuous".  I'm not in that great of shape but with several rest and water stops along the way, I made it.  We finished the 6.5 miles in about 3.5 hours, including condor viewing and water and rest stops, climbing 97 floors according to our iPhones.

We hiked to the ridge-line saddle you can see in the picture below, where the large form the left side of the picture comes down. The final destination: the stand-alone rock "tower" you can see on the right.  That's where the condors sometimes gather and fly on the updrafts.

There were some sections of the trail where I was thankful the engineers had come before me, cutting stairs out of the rock and adding metal railings.  These all appeared by  narrow and steep inclines with nice drop-offs to the side. 

I stopped often to catch my breath and enjoy the views.  

All that's left to do is hike to the back side of that large outcropping.  It was a bit of a tease.  We seemed so close, but alas, we had to go down slightly before we could climb up.

Seeing the condors wheeling and soaring was amazing.  They have a 9 1/2 foot wingspan.  It's hard to imagine and appreciate that size because they're flying in the open expanse.  Still, we were lucky.  A few soared close enough to get a good sense of scale.  Did you know they weigh 20 pounds?

We also watched large ravens play.  They flew up high and then tucked their wings in, doing barrel-rolls as they swooped downwards.  I'd never seen such behavior before.  Eventually we had to head back down, taking the trail you can see in the picture below.  Not much cover, is there?

Hopefully we can head back to explore other trails in the park, such as the trails through   the caves to see roosting bats.  I recommend this park to anyone interested in some rugged scenery and some good exercise.  A few endangered condors certainly adds to the appeal.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Letter Writing

My youngest is spending the next three months in Wyoming.  She's working as the infirmary assistant at a backpacking / riding / outdoor camp.  She won't return until three days before she has to move back into her college dorm.  

I know she's going to have fun.  The camp has permits that allow them to pack trip, hike and climb in the Tetons and in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.  I wonder if she's going to learn how to make splints out of branches or how to treat the flu with plants from the forest.  I know she had three days of wilderness first aid training coming up.....

because the camp is in the middle of nowhere.  There's no cell service or WiFi in camp.  That means, old school communications. Old school = snail mail.  I'm prepping for lots of letter writing.

I'm not like a prolific letter writer like Thomas Jefferson or John Adams, both of whose letters were rich and poetic.

Thomas Jefferson Letter to Reverend John Barrow, May1, 1815
Image from University of Cincinnati digital library
No, my letters are very dull by comparison.  I mean, how often can I engage my daughter talking about the basil in my garden?  How can I write lyrically about the daily turf war raging between me and the resident chipmunk family?  Nor do I think The Youngest wants to hear about hot flashes, my deep thoughts about politics and culture, or the themes from the latest book I read.  

Enter the postcard.  I can write snippets and send them off.  They'll be far more entertaining for her than a tome about mulching or dog walking.  And, with this nifty product I found, I can customize each card.  I simply print out one of my pictures on paper, and stick it to the back of the adhesive, pre-printed postcard.  

Look how some of them turned out!  I admit that I took a little memory joy-ride as I was sifting through my albums, finding good pictures to print.

I think they'll also be fun for her to receive.  I'll probably still make a few fabric cards, but these are so quick and easy.  I can probably make and send a few each week.  I managed to get my first off today.  I have lots more to make, to get her through the entire summer.  What do you think; shall I make a card with this picture? 

Too much?  Probably.

All that aside, I do enjoy writing letters and would like to do so more frequently.  It's fun to get something beside junk mail and bills in the mail. Anyone want a pen pal?  

Saturday, May 26, 2018


Do you get migraines?  If so, you're one of the estimated nearly ONE BILLION people worldwide who suffers from them.

I get them.  Those are the days when moving is difficult.  When light causes terrible pain.  (How can something that doesn't have form hurt so much?)  I'm nauseous.  All I want to do is lie in a fetal position in a dark room, jamming my fist into my right eye socket.  Scooping out a section of my brain with a spoon seems very appealing. No anesthesia necessary.

It's no surprise, then, that I was very interested in attending a recent screening of "Out of My Head", a documentary film about migraines.  The filmmakers interviewed doctors, migraine sufferers, and their families/caregivers to show how devastating migraines can be, as well as to illustrate some of the difficulties in treating migraines, since they don't present the same way in all people.   A few facts from the film:

*  Migraines are passed along maternal lines. 

*  75% of migraine sufferers are women.

*  Many neurologists don't want to treat migraine sufferers because there's no "cure", no definitive and permanent way to solve the issue.

*  Funding for migraine research is not commensurate with the number of people they afflict nor the $100+ millions of dollars lost due to worker absences on account of migraines.  At the time of filming, only $20million was allocated to funding research.  

* A migraine is more than a headache, though for some it results in enhanced creative output.   Apparently Georgia O'Keefe suffered from migraines and painted things as she saw them during a migraine.  During the Q&A afterwards with the filmmakers, some audience members shared their stories about creativity arising from their pain.

* Your head and your gut are incredibly connected.  Twenty percent of migraine sufferers have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and 20% of IBS patients have migraines. There's also abdominal migraine, which typically afflicts children, and manifests as nausea and vomiting when no other symptoms are present.  My eldest struggled with this.  

A new drug targeting migraine prevention, called Aimoveg, has just been approved by the FDA.  It's the first drug of its kind.  It will definitely provide relief to some.  Hopefully its success will spur other large pharmaceutical companies to invest in migraine prevention medication.  

Do you get migraines?  I hope not.  But if you do, you're not alone.  Learn more and/or be part of the broader migraine community at the American Migraine Foundation. And, there are still opportunities to see "Out of My Head" in the NY metropolitan area and beyond.

(Graphic taken from American Migraine Foundation website)

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Work in Progress

I have a few projects with looming deadlines. I get distracted if there are multiple pieces on my design wall.  Because of that, I wanted to clear off a work in progress that doesn't have a "due by" date.  Besides, all my cut pieces were all over my sewing table.

My goal is to create the feel of ocean waves with the colors and the piecing.  I first wrote about this project here, last October.  Yes, I know; it hasn't moved for months.  (That's a solid clue to how busy I've been with other things.)  This past week, Foam (working title) got some TLC.   I've finished the segments that will make up the larger panels.  But now I don't know.  Do you think the bottom panel looks busier?  Choppier?  I'm inclined to rearrange some of the segments.  What do you think?

"Foam", a work in progress