Thursday, April 30, 2009

Beyond Swine Flu

I'm about 10 days away from departing on my epic trip to Sub Saharan Africa and must say that I'm never thrilled about long plane flights but even less so this time. I hate being confined (not a genuine phobia - just a discomfort) and now with the specter of swine flu floating in the air I feel even more uncomfortable. Never an alarmist and always the pragmatist I've done my own research and in WHO and the CDC I trust! It's the general public that worries me. I'm just trusting that Bert, Ernie and most definitely Miss Piggy will be wise and considerate and elect to stay at home if they think they have flu symptoms.

Beyond thoughts of Swine Flu I've brought my tetanus shot up to date; have my prophylactic (love that word, comes from the Greek meaning "advance guard") supply of anti malaria pills stowed away and am about to take orally a course of typhoid vaccine. Thought I was all set and then just a few minutes ago browsing the CDC Travel Alert site "Yellow Fever" raised its ugly head. I'll put a call into the travel nurse (if I can get through) at a local clinic later this morning and check on that one.

Now I've got to practice packing! Flying BA and I am allowed a third (at additional cost) piece of checked baggage and it's much cheaper to pay in advance for that than to purchase at point of departure. I'm a light packer - the kind of gal who can squeeze all into a carry on for two weeks in Italy - to heck with looks, I'm not proud - I willingly wear my hiking boots en route. And on occasion I wear them to dinner with a little silk number! Happened a couple of years ago. I missed my connection at Charles de Gaulle and got stuffed (literally) onto a very small plane on the leg between Paris and Pisa. Standard carry on had to be checked. I arrived, bag didn't but ever planning ahead I had a perfect little dress scrunched into my shoulder pack and I met my travel group over dinner that night resplendent in my dress and hiking boots! hey, at least my hair, underwear and socks were clean. It was a group of women under the auspices of Adventure Women and in short order they rallied around and I soon had a complete (and matching, very important) outfit assembled for the next morning's crack of dawn hike.

(Digressing here but it's extraordinary what goodies women travel with. On another all women trip - this one to the wilderness of Alaska - camped on a remote island accessible only by water taxi, one woman produced battery heated hair rollers from her duffle bag! )

My excess baggage on this trip is a direct result of the shopping orgy for the 20 month old grand daughter that her other grandmother and I indulged in and the ease of on-line shopping. My son and daughter-law have cleared out REI judging by the number of 'essentials' that have arrived on my doorstep and that I now have to pack and tote. I agree that the Aveda shampoo and conditioner requested by daughter-in-law are essential items but some of the items my son ordered ...well, let's say I'm not into guy stuff. (Daughter-in law has a dream job in Ethiopia for two years, there's a link to their blog on this site).

We've finally got our Travel Partner section up and running on the website so if you are in need of a female travel partner (OK this is for women looking for other women to travel with) check it out and post - same goes for putting together a group.

Stay well. We'll update on info on Swine Flu as it becomes available through our partners at

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

No Bats In My Belfry!

Just before moving out to Tucson I remember an incident with my security system that caused a lot of gray hairs to appear. I was living in Cincinnati at the time in a two story home with an unfinished basement. Newly divorced, it was just my three children and me. This particular Saturday night I was childless and had gone out for the evening. Came home, nestled into my bed about 1:00am and fell right to sleep. I was rudely awakened at 3:30am by my security system going off. (Not the way anyone should be aroused from slumber let alone a female by herself.) I had a security pad on my bedroom wall so was able to immediately identify that the sensor in the basement was triggered. The security company immediately called to see if I was alright. Of course I was NOT alright, my alarm was blaring for all the world to hear including whoever triggered it. Police were dispatched and the security company person said that she would stay on the phone with me. She then asked if I wanted to go check the house out while she was on the phone. (This is the kind of question you don’t want to hear from someone who should know better). I told her that I didn’t think her being on the phone would be sufficient protection if I encountered the trespasser.

Police arrive and begin to inspect the home, one policeman outside and one in. The very brave policeman heads down into the basement. I stand guard at the top of the stairs, not really sure what I would do in the event but sure I would do something! The next thing I see is the policeman racing around the corner flying up the stairs two at a time yelling “I know what set your system off and you should close the basement door.” The thought processes at 3:30am aren’t real sharp but I could figure out that if I closed the door I would be closing the policeman in on whatever had him racing up the stairs. He flew through the opened door, I slammed the door shut and fell against it, no spit left in my mouth to even speak. Just held up the door staring at the policeman waiting for him to catch his breath, wondering what was going to plow through the door. Finally he said “You have a bat in your basement.” “A bat as in the flying variety bat?” I asked not able to wrap my mind around the fact that a little flying thing would send this big policeman running. “A bat” he said “And I don’t do bats.” I told him that was OK as long as he does the bad guys I could handle the bat.

As the story goes…..anything is possible. Everyone has his or hers Achilles heel.

If you live in the area where bats are common you learn very quickly that they can travel anywhere. Apparently this little creature entered in the attic and worked its way down in the walls to the basement where it found freedom. I never did catch it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Frugal Feasts - and a fajita recipe

Am I the only one to remember a couple of food shows from the seventies and eighties - The Galloping Gourmet and the Frugal Gourmet? I remember making crepes along with the Galloping Gourmet and placing rose petals in the butter that coated the crepe pan - when turned out a delicate layer of rose petals peeped through the batter - such sophistication!
Gourmet and frugal are making a comeback in tandem with one another. Was just listening to NPR and a story on a challenge to 10 top chefs to create a "gourmet" meal for four people with a maximum budget of $10.00. "How Low Can You Go", the apt title.

I guess for most of us, gourmet means fine, pleasing to the palate and all that and frugal, well one man's frugal can be another's splurge. One thing is for sure though, just about everyone I know is paying attention to the cost of food (read about Genny's efforts to keep the food bill down) and those of us of a more than certain age are remembering how our mothers and grandmothers stretched the food budget and are dusting off or re creating recipes for old favorites. I used to breeze through the supermarket paying little attention to cost; I now shop more consciously and judging by the pondering going on in the aisles, I'm part of a major movement.

The upside to going frugal is a return to basics approach to food and cooking. Let the ingredients work their magic based on herbs and spices, gentle simmering; a brisket slow cooked in Guinness and then 'pressed' while hot yields wonderful, sweet meat for salads and sandwiches. I saw brisket in the supermarket Saturday for $1.99 a pound. If we are to believe all that we read, sales of pre-cooked and frozen meals have taken a nose dive and sales of vegetables are way up. Certainly the interest in growing your own veggies is more than chic now.

We had family lunch here yesterday. Seven adults and two children made short work (but lingered five hours!) of chicken, beef and shrimp fajitas. Can't remember how much the shrimp cost because they came from the freezer but the chicken breast meat was $6.99 and the beef $3.60. From the farmer's market came beautiful, huge, juicy red and yellow sweet peppers - $1.50 each and I used one of each. Spring onions came from the garden and the red onion I used was $0.40 . A dozen fresh flour tortillas were $4.00 from the farmer's market. Chili powder came from the pantry and the limes from my tree. I paid $3.00 for a perfectly ripe seedless watermelon (dessert) and the appetizer platter was a "pico de gallo" of thinly sliced jicama ($1.40) and mango (two for $1.50) sprinkled with ancho chili powder and lime juice. $16.89 for a feast for nine hungry people all cooked and eaten outdoors on a perfect day. Honorary family members brought a fresh guacamole, my son whipped up a salsa from what he had in the fridge and my daughter made a wonderful "aqua fresca" of fresh watermelon, honey and mint. I'd say lunch met the definition of gourmet! and if frugal means cost efficient, we met that standard too.

You really need a large flat cooking surface to seal all the juices in and cook evenly without "steaming" the veggies. The idea is to seal the exterior surfaces quickly. It's not really a dish that lends itself to a frying pan. I have an EVO outdoor gas grill. You can pinch hit with a large cast iron frying pan.

For 8
2 - 4 oz (maximum) meat or fish per person
2 large sweet peppers in 1/4" strips
2 bunches spring onions cleaned, trimmed and left whole
1 medium red onion cut into strips
Add other vetables if you have them - chunks of zuchini and tiny tomatoes work well.

  • Cut meat or fish (firm white works best) into 1 " chunks. For chicken sprinkle with a good, smokey chili powder, drizzle with lime juice , gently mix and let marinate for at least an hour.
  • For shrimp, sprinkle with chili powder and marinate in fresh orange juice.
  • For fish use either citrus marinade.
  • For beef just season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Heat a large griddle pan, or flat surfaced grill to smoking, toss on the vegetables, sprinkle with good sea salt and fresh or dried Mexican oregano. keep them moving and cook until just a tad brown in spots . Judge your cooking time so that vegetables are still cooking when you toss on the fish or meat.
  • Either heat the tortillas through on the griddle or stack and wrap in a damp, clean tea towel and microwave for 1 minute. Keep them covered and 'steaming' while you finish up.

I love to cook and I'm no longer shy about responding when people ask what they can bring. Sharing a meal is a great stress reliever; it brings people together; gets the conversation flowing. I love it when guests (and 99.9 percent of the time mine fall into this category) pitch in and the gathering becomes a communal effort.

Check out a couple of other frugal feast recipes at Connections for Pizza, smokey paprika stew, Cornish pasties and pasta primavera.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Solar Observing

As a long time Solar observer, I'm frequently asked what is there to see on the surface of the Sun. posted this link today.
UNEXPECTED SOLAR ACTIVITY: The sun produced an unexpected burst of activity on April 23rd when an enormous prominence rose over the northeastern limb and erupted. A coronal mass ejection (CME) billowed away from the blast site, but the billion-ton cloud is not heading toward Earth. Visit for movies of the event.

CAUTION. NEVER LOOK AT THE SUN WITH THE NAKED EYE! I use a Coronado Hydrogen Alpha filtered telescope to observe the Sun's chromosphere and no, darn it - I was not observing when this CME exploded.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Moon, Mercury and the Pleiades - Sky show

Better than Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

On Sunday, April 26th, the crescent Moon, Mercury and the Pleiades star cluster will line up in the western sky for a beautiful sunset conjunction.


NASA Space Science

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Double Header and a Sticky Wicket

I've never been a sports fanatic despite playing a mean game of field hockey in my youth and an even more cut throat approach to croquet now. But one thing I love is little league baseball. I do not pretend to know how to follow the intricacies of scoring, strikes and all that; I do know how to sit on the bleachers and take in kids having fun. Both my boys were blessed in being in a league with enlightened coaches who stressed love of the game over winning; who taught sportsmanship and fair play. Lessons they have been able to carry over into their adult life. My grandsons are equally blessed with good coaches, men and woman who emphasize skills and fair play; who do not allow tantrums from players (or parents); who do not tolerate name calling; rough play and cheating.

I am puzzled by one sign at the local park. It exhorts adults to be respectful of the umpires. "They are our children", it reads "And one day they might be yours"! I think I know that feeling having more than once informed my boys I was about to give them away! Their response was usually "nobody will have us, Mom, you're stuck". Stuck indeed and how grateful am I for that.

I was at two games last night. The youngest grandson is at the level where the coaches pitch and still have to remind the kids which direction to run. Last year Henry was in T Ball. His hat displayed a large W. His team was the Rattlers. So what's the "W" for?" I asked. "Wattlers" he replied in full innocence. These kids cheer on both sides; and hug their team mates in an imitation of the behavior they see in adult leagues. Let's hope that's the only behavior they emulate.(Wish more of those professional players could understand how truly rich are their lives in their ability to be a role model for kids. ) They shout encouragement along the lines of "run", "go back", "great hit", "good eye" and of course, "heads up" as the assembled parents run for cover. I was remembering a game one of my boys at that age played many years ago. One small player between bases was being urged to both make it to second and to stay put. He turned to the side line "Mom" he yelled.

The older boy is in the majors! Hot stuff. They don't spit but they do wind up, give those weird hand signals and gaze with total trust at their coaches. Oh and let's not forget the slides any opportunity the long, sometimes graceful, always dramatic, slide onto the plate. What wonderful concentration and total enjoyment. A couple of weeks ago Ben got to throw out the first ball at a U of A game. Such pride and focus. And I wonder at what stage does winning above all creep in and the joy of the game give way to that stress. Last night, between his game and his brother's game I took Henry for a hamburger. "Man" he said "we won by seven runs and they won by nine". Winners all!

Ben and Henry play in Canyon View Little League in Tucson. Kudos and major thank you to the truly superb coaches they have...the example they set will be with these young kids for life.

Perhaps what I love most about these baseball games is the gathering of parents, grandma and grandpas, uncles, big brothers, chirpy little sisters, dogs; gossip flows; connections are made; a springtime community is created. A world away it reminds me of the village cricket matches of my youth. Blankets on the grass, cucumber sandwiches, men, young and old fielding a village team, impeccable in "cricket whites"; games often lasting over the entire weekend; rain, more often than not stopping play for half-an-hour. There was real community in those matches; gatherings at the local pitch was an extension of the 'over garden fence' way of connecting people.

I get nostalgic for a small, connected community way of life. It is so easy to go each our own way , heads down, windows up. Baseball games remind me of the simple pleasures to be had in gathering with others and sharing a more gentle life.

As for a sticky wicket - it's a cricketing term meaning a difficult situation - comes from wet grounds making it difficult for the batter - the bowler has the advantage in that the ball can bounce unpredictably on the wet grass. My sticky wicket today is more literal - I have Gorilla glue on my hands. Was trying to repair a beautiful yellow pot that got blown over in last week's winds!

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

More Blessings

This is a charmed week! Just in an e mail from the friends with the 2 ft. long rattlesnake in residence. It appeared again this morning to sun itself by their pool - this time Jim kept an eye on it while waiting for the fire department to come out so they were able to successfully relocate it.
Went for routine mammogram and was totally charmed by a woman in the waiting room. 90 years old in May - perky, bright-eyed, engaged with the world. Filling out the history form she made some rather tart comments in reference to the section on whether or not she was pregnant. I hope for similar spirit when I reach that age. She was wearing emerald green sneakers.
Then the dentist. It seems that this time every year I get an infection under the same tooth. Injected with antibiotic and a hug later "no charge" he tells me, "you make me smile".
Stopped at my local Starbucks for my usual double espresso with just a touch of steamed milk. "On the house" the cheeky young man tells me. "Why" I ask? "Because I feel good today" he responds. And then adds soto voice , "we saw you coming, I made your drink and so did Becky ... we'd have to throw one away!"
Hummingbird junior has poked his/her head over the rim of the nest several times in the past half hour ....surveying the world ready for flight lessons - such incredibly tiny creatures.
Hamish is under my desk hiding out. Despite repeated negative experiences he can't resist snapping at wasps and once again he caught one. I guess this old dog is not about to learn.
As for me, I'm learning that facing the world head up and with a smile works magic.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Far Away Tweets

Are any of you birders? I'm not the fanatical list keeping type of birder but I can easily lose an hour watching a single bird as I did this morning. Mom hummingbird was on and off the nest and I set up my spotting scope for a great view. Scrawny looking kid she's got ...all beak!
I carry binoculars and bird book wherever I go and do occasionally make notes; for the most part I just marvel at the variety and beauty out there.

Came across a terrific new support for travelling birders looking for a birding pal along the way. - lists local birdwatchers in all corners of the world and provides e mail addresses so you can meet virtually and get the scoop, even a tour, once you arrive at a destination. I've already connected with someone in Ethiopia. What fun this internet (and birds) be!

However I am not so thrilled with the Gambrel Quail family who have taken up residence. They are systematically and neatly biting off leaves from my red cabbage plants. I've tried explaining that the bird block is for them but no - they seem intent on the cabbage. Perhaps I should mention I'm thinking of Quail Braised in Red Cabbage as a Date Night Dinner! They are rather endearing - hang out as a couple and share responsibility for the kids.

Apropos of Genny's rattlesnake experience - a friend just e mailed to say he almost stepped on a twofooter one on his patio this morning. They called the fire department for humane removal but the firemen couldn't find it. That means it's out there in their garden somewhere....just gives me the willies thinking about it.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Simple Gifts

I seem to be in the midst of a charmed morning full of simple gifts - directly related, I don't doubt, to being receptive.
Windows open I awake to the perfume of blooming jasmine filling my room.
5:30 a .m. tea in hand sitting on front patio , a brilliant male Cardinal sings to me from an Acacia tree. I find sufficient ripe strawberries for a mini feast.

Still on the patio a movement catches my eye and I focus in on a tiny hummingbird nest. Spotting scope out I finally settle my eye and can see a fledgling in the nest.
Also note that a Nancy Reagan rose is in full bloom.

Dog walk while the air is cool and we meet up with children at the school bus stop - Hamish gets a bounty of "he's so cute", head rubs, smiles and one unfortunate child's breakfast!

Call out to a previously unacknowledged neighbor that he's doing a great job clearing dead cactus. He thanks me, notes I have mistletoe in a Palo Verde tree and offers to clear it for me.
Dog's curiosity leads me to check a pot and I find a clutch of quail eggs.

The fig tree shows off the first fig of the season.

Red Yucca blazes against a background of Desert Museum Palo Verde and blue sky

Lyrid Meteor Shower

MORNING METEORS: Earth is entering a stream of debris from Comet Thatcher, the source of the annual Lyrid meteor shower. Forecasters expect the shower to peak on Wednesday, April 22nd, with a display of 10 to 20 meteors per hour over the northern hemisphere. Occasionally, Earth passes through a dense region of the comet's tail and rates surge five- to ten-fold. In 1982, for instance, observers were surprised by an outburst of 90 Lyrids per hour. Because Thatcher's tail has never been mapped in detail, the outbursts are unpredictable and could happen again at any time. The best time to look, no matter where you live, is during the dark hours before dawn on Wednesday morning April 22nd. for full coverage.

LUNAR OCCULTATION OF VENUS: Even if the Lyrids fizzle, there is still something wonderful to see on Wednesday morning, April 22nd. The crescent Moon and Venus are going to have a close encounter of jaw-dropping beauty. Look low and to the east just before sunrise. Observers in western parts of North America will see a lunar occultation: Venus will disappear behind the Moon's limb just after 5 am PDT and reappear again an hour or so later. Details may be found in this Science@NASA story - heads up.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

An Unplanned "Singlehood"

My comment in a blog on 4/15/09 Retired Spouse Syndrome generated several comments and many more emails to the editor@ I appear to have touched on a topic relevant to many men and women over 50 when I commented that I was an "unplanned single".
"Me too", was the response from a variety of readers. A couple asked me outright what my personal experiences had been navigating these uncharted waters at 60 plus and others shared snippets from their journeys.

Like many couples, my late husband and I fell into the the "we'll do that when" type of thinking. For us it was a case of when the business could stand on its own feet; for others it's when the kids are out of college, when the mortgage is paid off, when I retire and so on. We are superb at putting off dreams for a better time. When D was first diagnosed with prostate cancer there was a period of denial and a search for alternate as well as traditionally valued treatments. The cancer spread to his bones rapidly without regard for his age - he died 16 days after his 62'nd birthday - and with no regard for the plans we had postponed. All sorts of dreams in the making that we as a couple would realize died with him. Lessons learned this way are heart wrenching...and yet it is the way so many of us learn the downside of putting off, living for tomorrow not today. I'm not alone in this thinking. And certainly I'm not alone in thinking that when I entered this second marriage in my early fifties, that it was for life. I never for one moment considered that we would have less than ten years together as a married couple.

An unplanned single at just 63 and statistically in one of the poorest probability areas for re-connecting - hey, doesn't get much worse on paper than being a woman, 60 plus, living in a area of the country known for retirees and when the numerical odds are overwhelmingly in favor of men finding a mate. I think the latest figure I read was a 4-1 ration of single women over 60 to men!

I like my independence; I have always been independent; I am a capable woman- I've been known to solve the occasional plumbing problem and the only thing I shriek at are snakes. I am not needy. I have taken off on my own on trips to Alaska, Italy, Libya to name but a few and in three weeks I leave for Ethiopia, Rwanda and Kenya . None of that stops me from wishing to be a "we" again. Partnership with another is nurturing; it is healthy; it is energizing and besides - if the hormones are churning, skin and hair look fabulous! It's the chance to remember the day over a glass of wine; the chance to re-live ; the chance to continue to build on history. My moments of feeling totally alone come when something in the day happens that I want to share; they come when I think about preparing dinner and want to have someone in the kitchen stirring, tasting, talking. They come when I do eat my dinner quickly and I remember dinners that lasted several hours, of laughing, solving the world's problems, of feeling complete.

Last night I got out the date books from the past three years and flipped through the pages counting. I was astounded to add up the numbers and learn that I have met 20 men in those three years! Some the 'gifts' of friends ...."You might like him, at least give it a chance"...others chance meetings while traveling or through shared interests - birding, hiking, writing, Solar observing. I've never tarted up and headed out to a bar in search of a man! heaven forbid - didn't do that when I was younger and I'm not about to do it now - but I have allowed myself to smile at strangers, to respond to a smile and to start up conversations. I joined one boutique on-line site that was interest specific. Encounters have lead to coffee, dinner dates or hikes; others absolutely nowhere! I have been pursued by a small number of men who held no attraction for me whatsoever; I have been on the opposite end of that scenario in one situation. Of that twenty, only two 'clicked', only two had that "je ne sais quoi" that makes the heart leap and the possibility of connection come alive.

I don't spend my days surfing dating sites, stalking prospects! I live my days for each fire-fly moment of joy that they bring. E mail received last week told of belonging to the Big Box dating sites plus their more exclusive cohorts (Chemistry and E Harmony). One woman wrote that she had written over 500 e mails of introduction and garnered a total of two responses; she said that she spends upwards of six hours a day "working the sites" and that "some days I don't even go out of the house I'm so determined to find someone"! Wow. That's a no win situation.
Love to hear your take on this.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mr. Rattlesnake Comes A Knockin'

It was a very relaxing evening at home last fall. Still warm out, this is Arizona, so we had the back door open with the screen shut to keep in our little precocious 8 pound poodle. Two of my three children were home watching TV with me. Chip was out. My then 18 year old daughter walked by the back door to see what our poodle was barking at. There coiled, rattling and ready to strike was a four foot long rattlesnake angry and wanting the dinner spotted on the other side of the screen door.

Daughter screams. I jump up calmly, sure that it is just a black snake. I wanted to show my girls how to deal with nature in the right way when it comes a knockin’.

NOT A BLACK SNAKE. Mom reflexes acutely in tune, I slam the sliding glass door shut and LOCK IT!

My other daughter starts laughing. “Nice Mom” she says, “Lock the door so the snake can’t get in.” If looks could kill she would have been 6 feet under.

I called the local fire department. The dispatcher asked me to keep an eye on it. That was not a problem until it moved away into the grass. Was I or anyone else I loved going to go in the backyard to “keep an eye on it?” Not in this lifetime. The dispatcher sent out the poor fireman that must have drawn the short stick. He was in the yard for what seemed an hour, probably only five minutes, looking through all our beautiful landscaping that would be a haven for a snake to hide in. (Note to self…trim bushes tomorrow) Just when I started feeling guilty about having this man rummaging through the yard putting his life on the line, he walks up to the door with the snake snagged on a long pole.

Here is the great part. He asks me if I want him to just throw the snake over the fence or to take it away in a bucket. Really. He asked me that. I told him that throwing it over the fence was not an option unless he had the arm that could hurl that thing 50 miles. Away went the fireman with snake in tow. Adventure over.

There is no avoiding it. Rattlesnakes, scorpions, javalinas, bobcats and an occasional mountain lion are part of desert living.

Thank you Metrofire! It is a great side service you perform.

Trivia about rattlesnakes. They are very territorial. Had he thrown the snake over the fence there would have been good odds of it’s return.

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A Nice Cup of Tea and Bobcats

It's a perfect morning that began on the high note of a G Chat with with my son and daughter-in-law in Ethiopia. I made tea and took it out to the front garden. Was conscious of a musty scent in the air. A small movement behind a brittlebush on the hillside caught my eye and there I watched two Bobcats making their way across the hillside on direct eye level with me . (My garden is carved out of the hillside). What a treat and what elegant, beautifully marked creatures. Immediately to the east of my property is a wash with a culvert that runs under the main road and it appears that I'm on a a daily migration route for several species of wild life....Javelinas for the most part but this is the third time now that I've seen the Bobcat couple.

My life is rich with family, friends and interests but it's on mornings like this when such a gift of nature is placed in my hands that I feel extraordinarily lonely. What I wouldn't give to have a partner with whom to share these treasures.

Photo and video AZ.Gov.OrgThank you for taking time to read. To support this blog and help our main web site remain viable and current, please support our advertisers by visiting their sites.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Drunk Dialing

Heard a story on NPR this morning about the ongoing development of devices to control "impulse" dialing when tipsy. The story implied that this problem was limited to the younger generation however we published an article several months ago that suggested a Twelve Hour rule for fingers that both dial and type and that are not all that young!

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Nothing in Common - So much in common

"We have so much in common", she gushes, raving on about the latest "new" man. "We have nothing in common anymore", he says, staring into his beer, forlorn as a wet dog on Sunday.

This "common" stuff - whatever it is, it seems to make or break relationships. Common bonds, points of joint identification, shared history - they all appear to be essential glue in first attracting and then cementing togetherness. We're all familiar with the marriages that breakup in mid-life, one partner having re-connected with an old high school or college sweetie. Certainly happened to me. Nineteen years and three children and he began questioning his mortality, his purpose in life. In perhaps the cruelest blow to me, my father died suddenly and the then husband said it was that sudden loss that sent him searching for meaning in life. He found it at a high school re-union. "She saved the corsage I gave her for the prom; she shares my history".

(Some time ago Connections For Women published an article by Old Flame expert Dr. Nancy Kalish)

There's nothing like wake up moments in life to get the old nostalgia and search for meaning emotions rolling. Kids leaving the nest, retirement, job loss, downsizing, move, illness, loss of a parent or child. These seminal milestones trigger a yearning to be connected, to share "remember when " moments. Most couples first meet through some form of shared history - cultural -location-experience. They form a family unit and build a new history where the 'we" figures largely. "We did this -remember when we...we like - we think- we do". And the stories get told over and over again, the history becomes enmeshed; it's the two of you as one entity - THE COUPLE.

It's trendy of late for couples to take separate vacations, guy time, gal time. Nothing wrong with that. I did it. The danger point through is when the alone time becomes more important than the shared time; when preferring to be apart takes over from wanting to be together; when you start to build new and separate histories with memories that are not shared.

In the search for a new love , a new 'we' - both the men and women I talk to speak and write of wanting to find points of shared history on which to hang this new relationship. They see a new love having better chance of survival and maturing to full bloom if there are already common bonds. They look for a shared cultural past, a common language in which to tell and build upon their story. These bonds are simple elements in life. In my search, bonds that have opened conversations have been a shared catholic upbringing; world travel; a similar "remember when moment" at some cataclysmic moment in history (one man and I discovered we were in the same crowd when the Berlin Wall came down) . Little hooks on which to drape memories and build from there.

A comment posted under my posting Retired Spouse Syndrome" moved me to tears this morning. Pam wrote "I still love him very much but would rather be alone.". What loneliness in that phrase and I wonder what has caused the shared history of 37 years together to be something she wants to walk away from.

Bye Bye Venus - Here come the Lyrids

NASA Science News for April 17, 2009
A meteor shower. A crescent Moon. A disappearing planet. These three things will be on display next Wednesday, April 22nd, when the Moon occults Venus during the annual Lyrid meteor shower.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

I ain't got no satisfaction

When the mood hits I take classes through OLLI (Osher Life Long Learning Institute). It's definitely a gray-headed crowd. Between classes last January, a classroom door opened and the participants of that class surged out, talking, laughing. One elegant, silver haired woman using a walker suddenly burst forth singing, "I ain't got no satisfaction", and an equally elegant man, presumably her husband, played to the crowd with, "Oh honey, and I thought that was going to be our little secret". Their audience dissolved into a round of more laughter and ribald comments.

Point being is that they obviously did get a great deal of satisfaction out of their partnership and I couldn't help feeling a twinge of envy having lost that possibility with a man I loved. In a time of "throw away" marriages, particularly at the danger time of retirement and empty nest, I wonder how much thought goes into understanding the reality of loneliness. It sounds so liberating to throw off someone who annoys or bores you; to take that great leap into the glamorous sounding world of "independence" - your own condo or house; you in control of your money; free to walk around in your jammies all day and eat jam sandwiches for dinner; travel- see the world. Such enticing daydreams.

I guess I want to caution men and women both about overestimating tossing out the old and familiar. Absolutely get out of a relationship where mental and or physical abuse dominate you; get out of a relationship where cruelty , put downs and sarcasm are the norm - but reconsider if something just feels old and jaded. Begin by thinking about what made you fall in love in the first place; get him talking about your first date; the proposal; the early dreams. Guide the conversation to re-living those first years together. Anne Perry, who writes for , has an article going into the May issue that refers to a study showing that couples who get out of their rut, try something new and challenging together, have a good chance of rekindling love. Personally I'd try sky diving into a lake of alligators before throwing the baby out with the bathwater!

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Retired Spouse Syndrome

I'm reading an excellent book right now. As Time Goes By - Abigail Stafford - it has the subtitle :- Boomerang Marriages, Serial Spouses, Throwback Couples, and Other Romantic Adventures in an Age of Longevity!
It's of particular interest to me because, like so many of my generation, I'm "unplanned" single at a time of life when companionship is so enriching. I was widowed four plus years ago and have dabbled in a couple of promising relationships in that time. In reading this book I see why they were destined for failure - in each situation we were at vastly different stages of life and the common ground beyond a strong physical and intellectual attraction was non existent. Sure, we had interests in common but not life stage in common. In one case he was throw caution to the wind, adventure above all and stability be dammed; in the other he only identified through his career, no sense of self existed beyond that sphere and so the chance to really connect with another human being was doomed from day one. No balance in life in both cases.
Today the New York Times reports a bright note in the economy - a upsurge in Matchmaking Services and both and E Harmony report large increases in subscribers over the past six months. We want to be connected and even more so in troubled times. The idea of weathering out a storm alone holds little appeal; there is comfort in a hand to hold; in companionship.
The Retired Spouse Syndrome that Stafford writes of hit close to home recently. A long married couple in my circle are contemplating divorce. What started out as a throw-away line over dinner has now become the topic of serious discussion. They agree that they are "used to " each other but that they don't enjoy being around one another all the time. He recently retired from a high-powered position in the financial world and admits to missing being "important". They bicker constantly and at a recent dinner party, the atmosphere was so loaded that it was uncomfortable. The latest bulletin is an agreement to spend some time apart to "think things through". She's going to visit a sister in New Zealand and he's staying at home claiming, "travel isn't what it's cracked up to be, been there done that". I have the feeling that she will see the world as an exciting place offering opportunity while he becomes increasingly bitter and isolated. What a shame. Being at the same stage in life appears to be crucial to a relationship in this third age.
Lots of food for thought on a bright, brilliant blue sky Tucson morning. I'm just back from the local coffee shop and I watched two older couples, "retired" stamped on their foreheads (in one case literally - on the bill of his cap!), sit and gaze outwards. In each situation they appeared to have nothing to talk about - a bit like strangers sharing a bench at a bus stop. A third couple came in literally vibrating with energy - she whispered something to him as they stood in line and I watched as he responded by pinching her behind! Lovely. Wonder what the difference is. What creates their energy.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Croissants from heaven

As a Solar observer I subscribe to feeds that shower me with tidbits of information about the skies above. Delighted to learn this morning that CME's (Coronal Mass Ejections) are croissant shaped. That's what I like - two of my passions connecting - food and Solar observing. Must be close to lunch time.

NASA Science News for April 14, 2009
For the first time, NASA spacecraft have traced the 3D shape of solar storms known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs). It turns out the most ferocious storms resemble something from a French bakery. Read today's story to find out what:

The Java Pigs are back

Javelina's, or Java Pigs as a friend calls them came cruising around 6 p.m. yesterday. I'd rewarded myself for day of housework and taken a glass of wine out onto the deck along with binoculars (no, not spying on the neighbors - birds). A slight movement across the road caught my eye and then the full parade came on including a mom with two of the tiniest babies I've seen. My gate was wide open and I had newly planted Yucca. The first contingent marched across the driveway, ignored the open gate and continued on into the wash. The rear guard, two young males, struck a pose and definitely considered coming in but by waving arms and shouting "shoo" I deterred them and they too continued on. Hamish meanwhile sat on the deck emitting the occasional mellow "woof".

This is a neighborhood family group; I often see them on morning walks and dog and I beat a hasty retreat. I'm told that they are not related to pigs; that they are from the cameloid family. Whatever their origins I never fail to thrill at seeing wild creatures in their natural habitat. The biggest thrill so far at this house was sighting two Bobcats sunning themselves in a Palo Verde tree just outside my gate on the day after Christmas. I didn't have my camera handy then nor last night but I'm ready now.

Packus Ratus Gigantus and his family is back too so I have to start baiting the trap routine all over again. I'm desperate to keep them out of the garage. I also know something is living in the log pile because Hamish runs straight to it whenever he's in the lower garden area. Hmm, not so keen on figuring that one out - but I do have a house guest arriving today!

I love living in the desert - the morning chorus and antics of the Gambrel Quail families are an endless delight, as is the light that creeps over the Catalina's just after dawn.

I'm on grandma duty this morning. The 7 year old grandson is not feeling well so he's coming to snuffle and sniff away the morning at my house. If this plays out par for course, he'll be miraculously recovered within an hour of being dropped off and we'll go out for coffee!

Just about ready to turn over the Tucson Page of Connections for Women and we've got our first thread going on the Discussion Board.


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Monday, April 13, 2009

Eight Pounds, Post-Menopausal with Attitude

What does it take to be heard around here? I think of myself as pretty darn cute, maybe a little annoying with an edge about me but overall precious. I am 10 years old for goodness sakes. That is 70 years old in human years. The lengths I must go to just to let them know I am hungry…FEED ME. Can’t manipulate a can opener or I would feed myself.

So what do I do to get noticed you asked? Well, I grab one of the many balls around the house and start playing soccer with it, barking and carrying on. Really. It is exhausting and why this catches their attention I will never know. Works every time. I should win an Oscar, an Emmy or a gold medal, something. Tummy is full….nap time.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Remembering to breathe

It's a cold, miserable day in Tucson; snow on the Catalina's and a mixture of heavy rain and hail most of the day. I've been working on a couple of articles for May Connections for Women; I visited a very damp Tucson Community Garden at 8 a.m. and had that experience to write up. Despite the energy of the community garden, I was feeling sorry for myself and bemoaning the weather.
I should add that the forecast for tomorrow is near perfect (I have a crowd for what I hope will be an outside dinner) and that a day like this is an aberration.

Hamish, a dog of refined sensibilities in terms of weather preferences (he can hold "it" for 24 hours on a rainy day...he doesn't like his hair to get frizzy) but limited vocabulary, "what's for dinner"-doesn't matter what time of day, all meals are dinner - has had his nose pressed against a window like a petulant five year old (and I had the windows cleaned yesterday!) most of the day - occasionally sighing and resolutely refusing to go out. About 20 minutes ago he came to the study to get me. His buddy, the Soft Coated Wheaten who stops by most evenings for a romp, was on the road above the garden and turning homeward. His owners, not seeing my car (it was in the garage) thought I wasn't at home. I raced out and called to them. Dogs united, rough-housed and then both clamoured to come inside where adults had taken shelter.
An hour earlier, a Chicago based friend called and laughed when I complained about the weather - didn't do a thing to improve my mood.
I've just gone out to the sala fresca to survey wind, hail and rain battered flowers and vines moaning about "ruined" and "darn it why today" when something wonderful happened. I remembered to breathe. I looked beyond rain burdened geraniums; there, in my fountain, one perfect Water Iris is in bloom. Thank you Sylvia for giving me what appeared to be stalks in a pot this time last year! I must remember to breathe more often.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Grandmas Gone Wild

Don't get excited. We're talking about T shirts but not wet ones! Chris and I did our raid on the Carter outlet yesterday and cleaned up big time. Amazing discounts on so called seasonal clothing for toddlers....seasonal meant anything remotely connected with cool weather and since Ethiopia is heading into winter, that's exactly what we were looking for.
This little girl is going to be pink and frilly but also practical in that we found great little yoga pants and tops, dresses with matching leggings , Mary Jane style shoes in pink with no slip tread soles and so much more. The nice thing too here is that as Maxine outgrows clothes, they are passed down to needy children.
Our entire haul of about 20 mix and match outfits and two pairs of shoes was less than the cost of 3 outfits we priced at an upscale kiddies store - and they were on sale! Years ago I was a partner in a retail clothing boutique and after seeing the mark-ups taken by shops I vowed never to pay retail for an article of clothing again.
When my daughter was small I made a lot of her clothes and I don't think she's ever forgiven me for the bell bottoms in white polyester printed with the words "Love" , "Match", "Game". She hauls out that photo to prove nature overcomes nurture in that she survived my lousy taste back then. The boys were more fortunate in that once we moved to Tucson and they were liberated from Midwest proper shirts, ties and jackets, I discovered a boutique that sold wonderful, fun children's clothing. I didn't realise however that once again the Mom concept of cute was taking a disasterous toll on their social and academic life. I sent Ben to kindergarten wearing a sweater with a mouse on the front, when you pressed the nose, the mouse squeeked! Other kids found this delightful but I got called and asked to bring a "normal" sweater to the school. Nick's fall from the cool crowd came by way of the sneakers that had a large lion face with a mane bobble on the toes. He finally asked if he could have "normal" shoes.
I have a load of Connections For Women work to do today but first it's walk the dog time - make that a slow amble, he likes to take his time and get all his sniffs in.

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One Tuna Noodle casserole too many - The Pot Luck Rides Again!

I'm wearing my benevolent dictator hat this week - in other words, I'm being bossy about Easter dinner. I have family and friends who love to cook but, no offense guys, they lack discipline! We often gather here or at other houses for weekend brunches and dinners and generally everyone pitches in - and that's where excess comes into play. My daughter, a superb all round cook but brilliant dessert maker cannot stop at one thing. "Sweetie, why don't you do dessert" usually results in a variety of delicate tarts, scrumptious cakes and oh, for good measure, in case we're short she just happens to bring along a tray of appetizers as well. This family will never run out of food at a gathering.
My kitchen here is relatively small and does not lend itself to multiple cooks hence the dictatorship. I colluded with a friend of my generation to come up with a menu and promptly sent that forth with checks against those items already assigned with the memo, "select a dish to bring and get back to me ASAP". It might just work. I know we won't have 5 Tuna Noodle casseroles but I do know that at least two people on the list will stray beyond their chosen dish and bring extra; I also know that it will be out of love for both the people gathering and cooking.

The plan is to get together around 5 p.m. and eat in the sala fresca - the outdoor dining room. Yes, poor east coasters and mid westerners, here in Tucson we can do that at this time of year - can't do it mid summer so it all evens out. And that reminds me as a child, growing up in North Africa, we kids used to sit under the shade of a palm tree and ask the deep, philosophical question, "would you rather be too hot or too cold?"

Pot Lucks were a staple of the seventies entertaining and I see no reason not to let the practice become chic all over again. It's an easy on the host and economical way of entertaining, especially for larger groups. My preference (bossy again) is to let the host determine the menu and be responsible for the main entrée , then it's just a matter of farming out the accompanying dishes. I see no shame either in requesting that guests bring along a bottle of wine. Gatherings of friends and family are renewing; they invite real connection; they build family. I remember the days when I would resolutely refuse help with dinner parties and spend days preparing sauces (I was a big Julia Child fan) and sweating over elaborate dishes - even the sorbet had to be home made! Wow! those days are long gone. I had a lovely dinner with friends last weekend where only the scallops lightly sautéed in a delicate curry paste were made on site. The accompanying sweet potato fries came frozen from Trader Joes and the tiny peas served with fresh mint also came from the freezer. Easy on the cook and plenty of time for conversation. They also allow for last minute additions - in the past 20 minutes one son called to say "can we set a place for ..... she has no family here in town" and another guest made a similar request - with a Pot Luck you can say yes without angst. I love it.

Appetizers (of unknown type but the couple who signed up for this duty are known for innovative and fun nibblies)

Two cold main dishes (NO, not the above casserole)

Pork tenderloin with tonnato sauce
Salmon and curried rice in puff pastry

Fingerling potatoes with olive oil and fresh mint
Asparagus with hard boiled egg sauce

Roast beet and watercress salad
Baby greens with lemon vinaigrette

Dessert (s) ...daughter opted for this so I know there will be more than one!

There we go - a complete do ahead menu for about 10 . Wishing you and all Connections for Women readers, a lovely holiday weekend. Visit us on AllTop too.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Grandmas can do what they want!

This afternoon I get to play! My grand daughter is in Ethiopia with her parents and the other other grandma and I are going to the Carter's outlet this afternoon to load up on size 2T outfits for her. We'll ignore the parents and go overboard on frills and pink. I leave for two months in Ethiopia in a month and so my suitcase will primarily be packed with things they cannot get over there. We G Mail talk at least once a week and this morning Maxine very clearly said "I go outside" She also said "no" several times in a very authoritative, don't mess with me voice! I know, soppy grandma getting all teared up over baby steps. Can't wait to see her. Her aunt Lisa Fedexed a whole girly package a few weeks ago. Pink boa, gauzy skirt, fairy wings and wand - the works. She commented that she hoped the package got through and didn't fall into the hands of pirates along the coast. My son assured me this morning that I should bring trucks. "She plays with trucks" he said. Fat chance.

I spent yesterday in mud glorious mud, wallowing in my garden. Well, I had to create the mud since it's as dry as a desert here in the Sonoran Desert this month. I divided an Agarve with the delightful name of Manfreda Macho Mocha! I planted three single guys a year ago and as they overflowed their pots they multiplied - there were over 20 offspring! A friend got me back for my stealth dumping on doorsteps of my more than abundant crop of eggplant last year - I found a basket of beets on my doorstep. Good, love to roast them and dress them with a little bit of grated orange zest and chopped parsley for a lovely cold salad. I transplanted seedlings, pruned and tied vines and all in all, am pretty pleased with my now 15 month old garden. It's got the woolly, untamed look that I enjoy and is a great attraction for hummingbirds and butterflies as well as a prolific source of salad greens, spring onions, red kale, radicchio and herbs right now.
Saturday I'm visiting a local community garden. I'm anxious to learn the ropes and see if I can start one in my neighborhood. Will post the findings in next week.
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Visit Us On ALLTOP

We are connected! Visit our blog and other great blogs of interest to women on
We've also got the interactive side of up and running. I keep reminding Genny that we operate with an "if we build it they will come" approach to life so ladies, we've built it, come and visit and tell us what you think. Use the Bulletin Board to post announcements of non profit events, to organise groups (think books, hiking, travel) and the Discusion Board is there for you to voice your thoughts on issues relevent to women.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Final Four

I'm all for cultural fusion but am the very last person you want to invite to a major sporting event (except sheep dog trials); so knowing full well that not even my nearest and dearest will invite me to watch the Final Four games with them, I 'm doing my bit by suggesting that you score as either guest or host by ditching the hot dogs and making Cornish Pasties.

It's been an exciting week at Connections For Women - the going interactive element that has eluded us for so long is finally in place.

Spring and all those good new life shoots emerging from thawing earth puts me in mind of renewal. I scheduled a sort of 60K mile personal maintenance for this month. Bone density, eye exam, general physical....that sort of stuff. Certainly doesn't hurt to keep the motor running as smoothly as possible. Interesting comment from Michelle Obama to Oprah . They were talking about exercise routines and taking care of oneself. The First Lady commented that she knew full well that if she needed to make time for her girls, she would do so and realised that making time for herself should also be a priority.- something we women are not very good at. Jenny Anchondo has a great "fit it in anytime " practical work out for all fitness levels. Check it out.

Tomorrow, if the wind dies down, will be a major spring planting day. I love getting my hands in the soil and anticipating harvest.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Singles Supplement no more!

It's no joke. April 1 we launched the interactive side of Many thanks to Peltier Effects for the hours put in untangling and adding new code and for a smooth launch of exciting new features.
Registered users can now post comments on the Bulletin Board (think barter, exchange services, form book groups, community gardens, walking groups, swap houses, promote a charity event) as long as it is in good taste and there is no monetary transaction, it's there for the using.
Banish the singles supplement; roam alone no more. The Travel Partner page is a place to post a search for like-minded travel partners and groups.
And finally we have a Dicussion Group board. Let's get the conversation moving.