Saturday, February 28

My day in pictures - Sonoran Desert Museum

Ken & I had a wonderful outing to the amazing Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum yesterday. It's a world-renowned zoo, natural history museum and botanical garden, all in one. Some of the most stunning desert vistas I've seen since we've been here. Plus some cool close-ups of desert fauna. Here are some of the (130!) photos I took while there:

Looking south.

Harris hawk in flight. Not sure what he has in his talons.

Lobo! Mexican gray wolf.

Dee-vine Sonoran vista.


Another hummingbird

My sweetie, looking ever so like a desert rat with his water-filled daypack.

And lest ye think the desert is a barren, lifeless place, consider this: the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum's animal collection consists of:

106 mammals of 31 taxa
241 birds of 72 taxa
361 reptiles of 86 taxa
122 amphibians of 23 taxa
10,700 fish of 9 taxa
840 arthropods of 78 taxa

They are caring for some 40,000 plants, representing 1,400 species, not counting the grasses in the grassland exhibit.

If you are ever in the neighborhood, this place is a must-visit!

Thursday, February 26

Waiting for April -- A Curious Evolution

I am loving the creative process -- no, let me personalize it -- I am loving MY creative process. Here are four photos that show the audition process for "Waiting for April". How interesting that all the blues eventually went bye-bye.

Audition #1

Audition #2

Audition #3

Audition #4

And, here is the finished top! It feels like it does not want a big border -- the binding will act as slim border.

What do ya think!? I love it -- so happy. "Waiting for April". In Arizona. Did I mention it was 83 degrees today?

Wednesday, February 25

A clear-headed Spring Explosion

It's 10:00 A.M. and 80 degrees in Tucson, on its' way up to 88 -- and I got itchin' to be in my studio and play with color. A delicious pleasure after a couple of days down with a sinus infection and sugar withdrawal. I'm quitting sugar again -- Day 3 and I think the worst is over. Phew! Oh, the loveliness of a clear head!

I pinned up a bunch of fabrics on my design wall that might play happily with the two blocks I made a moon ago -- the orange strip with the yellow centers and the yellow block with the Kaffe Fassett Clouds center.

Ooooo! Just seeing swatches pinned makes me so happy inside! I'll post the progress on this as I go. Interesting to look at the photo, as I can clearly see which fabrics have failed the audition!

Monday, February 23

Can you believe this forecast?!

Tucson, AZ 85719
8:57 A.M.
Monday, Feb. 23, 2009

66°F Clear
Humidity: 24%
High today: 90
Low today: 52

Tue 92° | 54°
Wed 88° | 47°
Thu 81° | 47°

Photo: Desert Cassia in full bloom today.

Sunday, February 22

OK Go! (4 guys dancing on 8 treadmills) Way fun!

Pure brilliance! This genius video is officially worth a view (or two or three! Or 44 million, because that's how many times it has already been viewed!) Way fun!! I go in every few days and watch it again any time I need a boost.

Saturday, February 21

Pandora: The Music Genome Project

Ken's buddy George just turned us on to Pandora, an internet radio site. It is so cool! You enter an artist or song you like, and based on the song's attributes, it creates a free, unending playlist for you to listen to on your computer's speakers. You can create unlimited playlists.

On January 6, 2000 a group of musicians and music-loving technologists came together with the idea of creating the most comprehensive analysis of music ever.

Together we set out to capture the essence of music at the most fundamental level. We ended up assembling literally hundreds of musical attributes or "genes" into a very large Music Genome.

Taken together these genes capture the unique and magical musical identity of a song - everything from melody, harmony and rhythm, to instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics, and of course the rich world of singing and vocal harmony.

It's not about what a band looks like, or what genre they supposedly belong to, or about who buys their records - it's about what each individual song sounds like.

Friday, February 20

Waterless River + Joyous Dawgs = Numinous Pleasures

Here, dear readers, is a photograph of a typical "river" in southern Arizona -- pretty much waterless except during the summer monsoons. In this case, the Rillito River, which "runs" right through the center of town... There is a lovely mixed-use path that borders the river for a stretch of 12 miles.

This rivers-without-water thing took some getting used to after 15 years in the lush Pacific Northwest and 24 years in the quintessential-four-season-land of New Jersey. Actually, I'm still not quite used to it.

The benefit, however, is the equivalent of a beach-walking cardio workout right in this desert town. And off-leash heaven for Roxy and her sweetheart Dzigboti, aka "Boti", the mile-high Rhodesian Ridgeback, seen here folded over in mid-pounce.

And the path next to the "river"...
My friend Marla and I headed out at 8:30 this morning and the temp was 36 (!). By the time we got back to my house at 10, the temp had eased on up to 58. The air smelled like sage and warmth. Ahhhh... once again, so happy I decided to move here.

Thursday, February 19

Love, Love Dawg

Roxy, dawg of my heart, love of my life, on her 5th birthday a couple of weeks ago... 
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Wednesday, February 18

Snickerdoodle heaven

Some of yesterday's kitchen output...

The recipe called them "Easy Sugar Cookies", but they came out tasting exactly like yummy Snickerdoodles, sans the cinnamon and nutmeg. A happy accident, since I forgot I actually prefer Snickerdoodles, (how I could forget a thing like this, don't ask me!) plus I learned they're Ken's faves, too. Here's the recipe.
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Tuesday, February 17


Today's plump and satisfyingly sensuous loaf, fresh from the oven! Used Carmen's suggestion of melting butter on the top and then sprinling some salt over the butter about 2/3 of the way through the baking time.
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Monday, February 16

How romantic! Our Valentine's Day garage re-organizing project

As true-blue homebodies (especially me!), our idea of date night is a leisurely trip to Lowe's or Home Depot, imagining what delicious home improvement project we'll undertake next.

So it would come as no surprise to those who know us that Ken and I would spend Valentine's Day weekend emptying out, cleaning, de-cluttering and re-organizing our garage.

It was greatly satisfying, as this area has been sorely neglected throughout the 8-month home remodeling process -- as evidenced by the elegant toilet chair draped in red in the middle of the garage.

And despite several attempts on my part to play Ms. Bossy the Know-It-All Professional Organizer, we emerged unscathed -- and nourished by the time together and pleased with the fruits of our efforts. Time now for a little laurel-resting before next weekend -- the basement is next! (Yes, Virginia, they DO have basements in Tucson. At least in about 1% of the homes anyway.) Thankfully, our basement is only the size of our little kitchen, so we should be able to tackle that project in one day, leaving us with Sunday for more official laurel-resting. At least as important as the work itself. Sundays have definitely evolved into an experiential exploration of the fine art of intentional resting!

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Sunday, February 15

Bread-making results: the jury considers the merits of squatty loaves

Here are the results of my first two attempts at no-knead breadmaking.
Ken LOVED 'em because they were chewy and squat which reminded him of the bread he ate everyday while living in Greece and Cyprus. He urged me not to change a thing.

I thought the taste and texture were fab, but I was hoping for a taller loaf, like Jane's. What did I miss? Did I not knead it quite enough between the two risings? I am using regular yeast; is that the same as instant yeast (I think it is).

My first two loaves were baked at 500 degrees per the NY Times recipe, but they came out way too dark. The third was done at 450 degrees per Melody Johnson's variation, and I was happier with that crust.

Today, I am trying Jane's Almost No-Knead Bread recipe from Cooks Illustrated. After just poking around a bit more, I found this recipe which produces a loaf that came out looking squat just like mine. That makes me feel a bit more on target - haha!

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Saturday, February 14

Interspecies love affair

Roxy and her paramour, Kirby Walker, the cat who adopted us. And who subsequently gained 6 pounds -- not sure if there is a correlation. We named him in honor of dear friend and Ken's mentor, the uber-talented New Mexico artist Kirby Benson.

In the photo in the lower right hand corner, if you look closely, you can see that Roxy's tail is mid-thump, yet Kirby remains unfazed. Ah, so. This is quintessential Kirby.
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Friday, February 13

Southern Arizona's version of snow

Click image to enlarge and in the first 3 photos, you'll be able to see the dusting of snow on the Rincon Mountains that border Tucson to the east. The last photo is looking north to the Santa Catalinas. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 12

My first foray into no-knead breadmaking

My first two loaves of "no-knead" bread are rising! It’s been about 17 hours. I have the oven pre-heating to 515, WITH my porcelain-coated cast iron Dutch oven in it. I am using the NY Times recipe for one loaf, and Melody Johnson’s recipe for the other. Melody’s recipe called for 1-5/8 cups of water; NY Times called for 1 ½ cups. We shall see! The first one just looked too watery to me, so I added more flour, but did NOT add more yeast and salt, so I have my doubts about that one.

Today is Ken’s dad’s 89th birthday, so I am taking at least one loaf to share for the birthday dinner tonight. Yes, I feel very cool and domestic! Like my domestic goddess idol, Nigella Lawson. I shall hopefully impress the family tonight, as I have a reputation as someone who does not cook, and often makes flops. Although, I did make a pot of soup last night that was outstanding! So I have an occasional success – hopefully at least ONE loaf will be a success – and maybe even BOTH! Here are pics of the risen dough – I am feeling so competent (so far!)
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Wednesday, February 11

The Bumpy Journey to our Bathroom - photo collage

As nice as this bathroom remodel turned out, I have a heart pang and a longing for the sweet, original 1933 art deco bathroom -- complete with black and white subway tile and mini-hexagonal floor tiles. I'll see if I can dig up a photo of it.

...Okay, this first photo is of the bathroom as it looked when we bought the house (gulp...)

The previous owners had painted it a sort of army-olive sage green. They have a good eye -- it was just adorable.

Remodeling this room was our first project when we moved in. This collage of 4 photos shows 3 progress pics and the last frame is the finished space.

We were planning on Ken's 88-year-old dad moving in with us, so we tore out the tub to put in an easier-access shower.

Of course, that led to re-doing the tile. And the floor. And replacing the toilet. And re-painting. Twice. First, with a spearmint-y green that turned out to be a bit TOO spearmint-y. Then finally settling on this gorgeous Benj. Moore "Almond Beige". Which is a misnomer if I ever saw one, because it's more of a raisin color, or a mauve-y mocha than Almond Beige. We also added a door to the adjacent bedroom, which was to be his (and is now my quilting studio).

After the bathroom was almost done, his dad decided to stay put in the assisted living place. It was a good decision in retrospect, especially for his dad. But I still miss that sweet original bathroom (sniff, sniff).

We took the room down to the studs and joists and found that the floor joists had several large notches cut into them. This weakened the joists such that they would not have supported the tile installation. In fact, our contractor wondered how it even had supported the old tub that used to be where the shower is now.
The photo in the upper left hand corner of this collage was taken mid-remodel. The rest are of the finished space.

The other hidden blessing in the remodel was that the contractor was able to correct a serious plumbing problem inside the wall which was a huge 'This Old House' disaster-in-the-making. We were able to make the repairs easily once the wall was open - AND much more affordably than if we'd not discovered the issue in advance of any inside-the-wall, middle-of-the-night plumbing explosions.

Tuesday, February 10

Dee-lish Dining Room photo collage

And, the dee-lish dining room, my second-favorite room this time of year. (Click to enlarge.) The sun streams in the arched window almost all day. It's enough to make a gurl swoon!

I just painted the French doors this past weekend... Benj. Moore "Eggplant" to coordinate with the chimney and the sofa and the dining room chair cushions. What do you think? I say it's Plum Heaven! I think I'll stop with the eggplant for now. Even though I have more than a half-gallon left. But first, I'm gonna paint the two doors in the Arizona Room!
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Creative Kitchen photo collage

And the kitchen. With dawg, of course. (Click to enlarge.) This is the only main room that we have not painted. It is currently a sort of Pottery barn-esque khaki. We are taking a break from painting for a while. Actually, Ken is taking a permanent break. I have officially released him from duty, as he has more than fulfilled his end. Perhaps I'll paint it while he's in Europe in April.

We are thinking either to continue the pale buttery yellow from the Living Room and Dining Room... partly because we bought a 5-gallon pail of it and only used up 2/3 of it. And partly because it is THE most yummy color and it makes me sooo happy. Ken loves it, too. Plus, I am a firm believer in yellow kitchens, period. We have had at least one vote for a pale peachy-terra cotta, which certainly has merit.

The trick will be in working with the red undertones in the cabinetry, the yellow undertones in the hardwood floor, and the orange undertones in the backsplash. I can see why the previous owner wnet with the khaki. Last week, I even toyed with the idea of a happy avocado/apple green. Though I am firmly in the camp of using warm colors in kitchens. Especially this kitchen, which, with its western exposure, is the darkest room in the whole house, except for a few hours in the late afternoon.

Any thoughts? Input welcome and invited!

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Luscious Living Room photo collage

In response to the oft-repeated request for more house photos from the Divine Miss M, I will be posting some interior collages. Here is the first, our luscious living room. You can click on the collage to get an enlarged view. Photos just taken at 9:30 AM. Tucson temp: 44 degrees.
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Monday, February 9

Fresh Grapefruit in February

Right now, fresh grapefruit for-the-pickin', from the tree in our backyard. Paradise at 2600 feet, latitude 32° 13', North. Ah, New Jersey -- who remembers New Jersey?
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Kirby the Fearless, as evidenced by these amusing spread-eagle sleeping positions

This is the neighborhood cat who adopted us when we moved in to our house last Spring. First we gave him his own bowl. Then we gave him a name. We took him to the vet when he showed signs of lupus. We spent big bucks at the vet to get him all better. He is fearless. He sleeps butt-to-butt with our sloppy-lovey 75-pound Labrador, Roxy. When the house is too warm, he sleeps soundly in these spread-eagle positions that look somewhat uncomfortable. And now we think he is officially ours. Or we are his. More likely the latter.

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