Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Attention, Attention

I got a really important letter in the mail recently. At least, the sender wanted me to think it was Really Important. It was from a Really Important department. It even had an Official Looking Emblem on it. Here--look for yourself:

I mean, "Department of Issuance"--come on! Don't you love the serious looking eagle-like symbol in the return address? And the sort-of-official-ness of the government-yellow envelope? And if you don't look closely, you might mistake "issuance" for "insurance"...

Oh, and the inside is quite good, too. I'm informed that this is an Important Notice of Benefit Entitlement and that I must Read This Document Carefully.  And my "Status" is:

Our records indicate that you have not responded to our previous attempts to notify you of your eligibility.
I probably failed to respond because none of the other attempts were as ridiculously presented as this one, so I just tossed them in the trash without taking time to make fun of them on the internet. How this for a response?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Git Along, Little Students

We've got two days of school under our belts, and we're having a good year so far. There are a couple of challenges:  two of our students just moved here from Mexico. The boy can get along in English, but the girl says nothing, and apparently understands nothing, in English. Whew...We've got the usual selection of "regular" nine year old boys, for whom sitting in a desk all day is just pure torture. And we have a few who are struggling with their inner demons, who just need to jump around all the time, I guess. But, again, I'm an optimist, and I'm pretty sure we're going to have another fine year of learning here in Sin City.

For my fellow teacher friends, I submit the following:

(click on it for a larger view)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

It Could Have Been Science

This is the last night of "summer." School starts here tomorrow morning. I think I'm ready. My room is set up, the papers are copied, the class lists are typed up. The name tags are ready to be applied. I tried on my "first day of school" outfit today after church, to make sure it looked professional, and yet I'd be comfortable. There will be no rest tomorrow. I'll be on my feet all day. I'll be "on" all day. CoolGuy will have the hot tub ready for me when I get home tomorrow evening. I'll be ready for it.

I went outside about 6:00 P.M. and got in the pool. It's still hot here in the desert. The high today was about 103, so the pool is still a wonderful place to be. I swam for a while, I sat on the edge and read the Sunday papers, then swam some more. It got dark. I'd turned on the spa before I swam the second time, so I crawled into the warm bubbling water, and laid back to stare at the darkening sky. Stars were beginning to appear. The moon is about 2/3 full, so I thought about Neil Armstrong for a while. I thought about how familiar the night sky is to me because of my childhood spent outdoors. I thought of all the things I'd learned just because I spent so much time outside. Then I thought of our downed tree at the school.

Wouldn't that have been great if we could have just left that big old tree lying there? It wasn't blocking the walkways, so it wasn't a hazard in that way. We adults were all just fascinated by it. Imagine how the kids would have reacted? We could have gone out there and examined the root system and seen how this desert tree didn't have a big deep main root. It was fed by a web-like system of shallow roots that spread out in a big pattern all around the trunk, so that any little bit of rain that came could be eagerly soaked up.

We could have made rubbings of the bark, and then peeled off a few chunks to see how thick it was, or if bugs lived under it, or if that was where the resinous scent came from when it was wet. We could have explored the branches and looked to see if there were birds' nests. Hummingbird nests are so small that you couldn't have seen them from the ground in that tall tree. But, we have quite a few hummingbirds in our school yard because we also have flowering plants, and every year we see the tiny fliers getting the nectar.

If the tree could have just been left there, we would have watched it start to decay. The leaves and small branches would have gone first, and then insects would have started living under the heavy trunk as they worked at turning that huge dead plant into their food. It would have been an interesting thing to chart each year, especially for first grade, who would have walked past it each day this year as they entered the door near their classrooms. And, as they progressed through the grades, they could have kept track of the tree, as it progressed toward it's final state of decaying matter.

But, nope. It was cut up and hauled away. A big tractor came in and smoothed over the hole that it left behind. There is just a big empty spot, that is scorching hot now as the sun bakes the bricks that form that wall. It used to be a pleasant shady place, with birds and insects. It could have been a fantastic science lab. But, it the lawyers? Or someone's obsession with "neatness?" I don't know. But wouldn't it be cool if we could have used it for Science?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

More Weather

We had a mini--hurricane on Tuesday night. We've been having thunderstorms lately, which are not uncommon in the summer in the desert. It was actually a rather nice, though humid, day with plenty of sunshine. But, by evening, the wind had picked up, which usually is an indication that a thunderstorm is on its way. Sure enough, by 8:00 P.M. the lightning was sizzling through the air above our block, and the thunder felt like it might crack the windows, it slammed through with such intensity and power.

The rain started up, dropping Oreo-sized drops on my patio, while my co-worker a few blocks away got hail stones, she told me the next day. The rain quickly increased and soon washed down on our street, but the wind got crazy. It didn't back off, but got more wild and blew with such ferocity that, instead of running down the gutters, the water on the pavement was picked up and blew in sheets ahead of the cars. Our palm trees were being bent to the left, their fronds forced out straight like pennants on a sailboat in a gale.

It raged like this for about 20 minutes, flinging shingles and shopping bags and the occasional piece of patio furniture across the neighborhood. Seriously--the next morning, some friends from church posted a photo of one lady's plastic chairs lying in the bottom of the other lady's pool after they were blow over the wall that separates their backyards.

I arrived at my school, for the first official day of Back To School for the teachers, to find one of my favorite trees like this:

It was lying on its side, across the side yard of our school. This sidewalk is the one that many teachers use to go in the door nearest to where we can access our mailboxes.

You can see how shallow the roots are, because it is a desert tree. The roots of this type of tree spread out in wide, not deep, pattern, the better to take advantage of the least bit of moisture that may reach the soil in which it is growing.

Part of the problem was that the tree had been growing all summer, without any trimming, so its branches were filled by the narrow leaves, creating a lush shady canopy. That lush greenery got really heavy, and then we got the mini-hurricane.

This was such a lovely tree. It was as tall as the roof of the school. It's one of those resinous plants that gave off a lovely scent on rainy day. Sigh...someone will have to come with a chainsaw and cut it up to get it out of the way of the students who will come on Monday. I almost wish that the yard workers won't get to it before that first day of school, because I know the students would be thrilled to see this huge tree lying on its side along the sidewalk they use to go up to the playground. It isn't really blocking the path, but it is pretty impressive.
You can see the wet sidewalk and puddles in the rocks. It rained so much, starting Tuesday night and then all day Wednesday, that we here in Las Vegas went from drought conditions to normal rainfall amount for the year in just one day. I took the long way home on Wednesday so I could drive past the flood control channel and see it filled and roiling. I wasn't disappointed. Today, all the water has drained away down to Lake Mead, and all that is left of our exciting day of monsoon-like weather is the drifts of dirt and gravel where the swift water raced along the streets or pooled up all across intersections. Everything else is clean and damp and the air is fresh and clear. Crazy weather!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

It Rained

It rained in the desert a couple of nights ago. I'd seen the lightning zapping the mountains to the north as I came out of the temple. It was hot. My truck thermometer registered 105, at 9:00 P.M. It's's going to be hot. I drove home, watching the lightning skitter over the sky as it slowly advanced toward our house. I'd been home about a half hour, when the thunder claps started on our block. The windows shook, it was so close. When the lightning lit up the whole yard around the house, I opened the front door so I could watch without being out there in it.

Soon, the sidewalk began to receive huge splashing raindrops, but very few of them. You could easily count them because there was enough space between each. I watched as each drop hit, spread out bigger than a quarter, and then immediately began to fade and evaporate until there was no evidence of its having been there. I realized the sidewalk was still so hot, that it took only seconds for the rain to dry up as it landed. I counted--ten seconds from splat to dry.

But then, the tempo of the rain picked up, new drops fell so quickly that I could no longer distinguish one wet spot from another. It started to drip off the roof, and soon it was pouring off in a stream. Roostertails of water flew from the car tires as people drove down the steaming street. In a moment, the sidewalk was puddling and a trickle ran off into rocky dirt so dry it couldn't absorb it for a few minutes.

The spicy scent of creosote and sage filled the fresh air that wafted across our street as the clouds unzipped. The leaves opened every pore to drink in the fleeting moisture, letting their pungent resins spread through the atmosphere. The splatter of the raindrops caused the palm fronds to wave gently and I breathed deeply the cool, fragrant smell of rain in the desert. The thermometer on the patio registered 88 degrees. It was 10:15 P.M.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Back in the Game

And by that, I mean the Cute Shoes game. I've always had weird feet, and I've always searched for cute shoes that would fit on my weird feet, and allow me walk in them. There are a lot of cute shoes out there.
 But I can't really wear most of them, especially now, because they don't offer the support need by my newly reconstructed tendons.
I don't have room in these for the icky new shoe inserts that I ought to wear. But mostly, I'm just not able to balance enough to wear heels like this. My toes aren't really helpful like they used to be. 

Even these cuties don't offer enough support, and I'd just be aching and limping if I wore them for  few hours.

However....CoolGuy was looking on-line recently, and found a website that offered clothes to people who love to go to certain car shows and have a particular taste in music: rock-a-billy. He was looking up the details for the Primer Nationals in Ventura, California, that is held on the Labor Day weekend each year. We went a couple of times and it is quite fun. The show is for cars and trucks older than 1968 and motorcycles 1969 and earlier. CoolGuy's bike is a 1969, so he sometimes thinks of entering it. I don't know if he'll enter it this year, but I think we'll still go. We lived in Ventura County for six years, and we'd really like to live there again, actually. But it is a fun weekend to take the motorcycle, and just spend a couple of days checking out old cars and motorcycles, and riding up and down the Pacific Coast Highway.

So, here's what CoolGuy found for me on this website:

Kitty Face Mary Janes!! Check out the tail below:

They are leather, they have those nice thick soles and they support my stupid feet very nicely. I've been wandering around the house wearing them since the FedEx guy dropped them off. I'm SO excited to wear them to school. Don't you want some, too??

Monday, August 13, 2012

Need An Idea for a Wedding Reception?

I went to the church on Saturday to practice for the Sunday hymns, and there was a wedding reception being created. I don't know who the bride and groom are. Apparently, there were a number of weddings on our side of town scheduled, and this couple had to book our building, because the buildings in their stake were all spoken for already. It's weird living here in almost-Mormonland, because the geographic size of the stake boundaries are so small, compared to most of the other cities in which I've lived. But, the decorator was busily working and I just wandered around admiring the theme.

The bride is enamoured of the "country" motif, and the groom, although not-so-much, signed off on the decor. It wasn't over the top, but actually really tasteful and I just wanted to share a few photos because it was so cute. And, hey, maybe one of you out there is planning a wedding and would like some ideas.

For example: the canning jar chandelier! I know I've seen this on some website, so it isn't original, but it is adorable. In the bottom of each jar is a battery powered votive candle. When it is dark, it will be illuminated and very attractive.

I didn't take a good close-up of these tables, sorry, but the centerpieces are also a series of jars, painted with matte paint, inside and out, in varying shades of brown and tan. And each grouping included a brown root beer bottle. The painted jars, which were all different sizes (some quart, some pint, some wide mouth, some narrow)--(they were canning jars and pickle jars and jam jars)--were filled with flowers later when the reception was about to start. Each jar was tied with ribbon or lace or raffia, and some had romantic sayings glued on in place of a label.

 (I sneaked back up there, just to see the final result, but there were lots of family members milling about, all dressed up, and even I didn't feel comfortable snapping pictures when no one knew why this weird lady wearing jeans was crashing their party... The flowers were in shades of orange and yellow and cream/white. They used snapdragons, daisies, sunflowers, mums. It was terrific!  There were flowers everywhere. Some of the vases were  hidden in cowboy boots placed around on the shelves and other decor surrounding the edges of the room.)

Also, notice the bows on the chair covers: wide burlap ribbons, tied into bows! The runner in the center of the table is burlap, too. They used burlap ribbons all over, some tied into bows, other strips were threaded on a string so that it formed twisted loops. It was very attractive. Along the side walls, there was a tall picket fence, natural old wood, and from the fence were hung photos of the bride and groom, pieces of country-stye decor (old lamps, rake and hoe, branding iron) and lovey sayings painted on wood posters. Here's one I especially liked:

They used the burlap and lace theme for hanging the photos and the pieces of decor on the fences, too.

You may be wondering, "What was the clothing theme?" Well, I just happen to know...The night before, I'd gone to the temple to be with a friend who was attending for her first time. Unfortunately, I lost my fabric envelope when it apparently fell out of my pocket, and even though we searched all over for it, it wasn't found. So, one of the nice ladies suggested that I return in the morning and check at the laundry because they have a Lost and Found there. So, on Saturday morning, as I was walking back out through the temple foyer, after successfully retrieving my newly laundered (!) fabric envelope, I saw two young adult women dressed in simple peach-colored, knee length lace dresses, wearing identical brown cowboy boots walking in the door. Hmmm...So that's what the bridesmaids are wearing, huh?

Anyway, it was very creative, cheerfully casual, and personal wedding reception decor. I hope the sweet couple had a pleasant wedding and that the party was as nice as the motif.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

More Good Eats

This time I think I need to praise olives. Recently, we went to our favorite pizza place, Settebello, and I got the capricciosa: it features Greek olives, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and thinly sliced Italian ham. As I was savoring the olives, I recalled my olive evolution.

As a little kid, we ate olives fairly often, as I recall. They were not just reserved for special event meals, like Thanksgiving or Easter. Although we always had them on those occasions. It was always black olives. Sometimes they had pits, but sometimes not, because I distinctly remember putting olives on my fingers, and you can only do that with the pitted kind. As usual, my mother was serving 10 people most of the time, so everyone knew that you got three olives and that's all. But, we'd still put our olives on our fingers. I don't know why it is so irresistible to do that. But it is still occurring...

Black olives are really fine. They're good as a snack or with a meal. They are tasty cooked into things, they are great sliced up on pizza. They're just delicious. Then, I discovered green olives.

Green olives or Spanish olives, became my teen aged snob food. They weren't tasty to little kids. They are very sharp and vinegary and had a serious kick when you ate them. But I loved them! I felt sophisticated when I ate them. These were definitely only bought by my mother for holidays. But when I finally got a little cash of my own through babysitting, I bought my own bottle. The kind I found in our little grocery in the mountains always came with pimento stuffed inside. This just made them even more appealing because pimento was also exotic. To me. Then, I moved to California.

I could buy green olives with almonds stuffed inside. Or green olives with garlic stuffed inside. I even found green olives stuffed with jalapenos. Many of these were offered at the market stands that were along side an orchard. I'd buy bags of oddly shaped oranges that couldn't be sold to stores, but were perfectly delicious. They were offered at a bargain rate, so I'd have enough money to treat myself to exotic versions of green olives.

I don't know when I first tried Greek olives. I didn't like them. So, I avoided them for years. However, there must be something about being a Woman of A Certain Age, because now, they are my favorite version of olives. I buy them at the olive bar in markets that offer hummus and marinated mushrooms and sell specialty cheese. During school, I'll make a salad for lunch, and carry kalamata olives and fresh cooked beets in another container to add so that the marinade from the olives and the beets is the dressing. Yummm....salty and vinegary! Just the thing to satisfy for entire afternoon.

 I know that olives are an ancient food, mentioned in the Iliad, even.  The Bible references olive trees and olive cultivation over and over. I know that there are olive trees that are documented to be over 2000 years old. It is astonishing to me to realize that a plant can live so long and be productive yet.Olives and olive oil are such a part of Mediterranean culture and cuisine that I'm amazed that they made it, even in the canned form, to my little Wyoming world so long ago.

 Olive oil is so versatile, so amazingly varied and so healthy for you. I've watched television shows where the host joins in the olive harvest, and helps with pressing the oil. They drink it right from the press in a little cup and savor its amazing variety of flavors. When I looked up facts about olives, I learned that there are more than twenty varieties. I also found that more than twenty countries have a significant olive crop, Spain being the leader. Not all of them were Mediterranean countries either---Peru! Australia! Olives and the production and consumption of olive oil are no longer exotic. Both are world wide staples. I hardly use any other type of oil in my cooking.

So, when you feel tempted to put an olive on each finger tip, go ahead. Then slurp them off, one by one and savor the taste. Olives are full of fat, but it is the "good" kind. You'll be helping your heart with your consumption of olive oil and olives, and you'll be eating a food that the world has savored for millennia.

Thursday, August 02, 2012


Occasionally, the weirdest things happen. Take last night, for example. CoolGuy went out and turned on the pool filter, in preparation for heating the spa. It's done every night. A little water mixing to get the random fallen flower or leaf out of the spa and through the filters, then he switches it so that the water is just filtering within the spa so that the heater is only changing the temperature of that smaller amount of water. He turned on the pool lights to see that everything was working as it should, since he went out after dark to start it up. Then, per usual, we ate dinner while watching Jeopardy (yeah, yeah, old geezers...)

Then, he went outside to start the heater for the spa so that we would be able to do another nightly ritual--take a nice soak before bedtime. And, bonus night: full moon. It's lovely every night to soak in the hot tub and gaze at the night sky, but the full moon makes it especially pleasant.

Suddenly, he poked his head through the patio door and called, "Come and look at this!" I was thinking, "Extra special full moon?" Nooooo....invasion!!

It looked like leaves floating on the pool surface, or flower petals or something. But it didn't make sense because the wind was not blowing, the leaves on our tree are all green and the yearly wilt-with-the-heat had passed anyway. was flying bugs who'd been attracted by the pool lights, apparently. Lots and lots and lots of bugs. Drowned and floating on the surface, piling up in drifts on the steps, covering the bottom of the pool as they sank.

It was ridiculous! In seven years of living in Nevada, I have not seen this many insects, cummulatively. Seriously. This is a relatively bug-free place. I mean, what are they going to live on? Sand? Dirt? There's not much food for insects here.

You can see the orange flowers that fall from a climbing vine we have, then get blown into the pool. But they are so random, that it isn't a nuisance. But the bugs!! We think it must have been some swarm that just happen to fly by, and seeing the lights on the pool, were attracted to their doom. Since it was dark, I could only get a couple of photos near the edge with the flash. It doesn't do justice to the vast numbers floating on the entire surface, and covering the bottom.

Weirdest thing this year. They were not ants, or termites. I have no idea what they were. They had long lacey wings, and bodies shaped like a little worm. And there were gazillions of them drowned in our pool and spa. So...we scooped them from the spa, ran the filters for another half hour in the pool and they all went away. See if we leave the pool lights on at night anymore!  

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Summer Temples

I spent a lot of time traveling this summer, and as a result, I passed a number of temples. On the afternoon after my family reunion, I decided to go to the sites of some of these temples. I first drove around the Logan Temple. This is the second temple built that is still in service as an operating temple. (The St. George Temple is first. I visited there two summers ago.)

 The Logan Temple was dedicated in 1884...a really long time ago. It is another monument to people whose lives weren't that easy, yet knew that they needed the blessings of this edifice, so they sacrificed to construct it.  I've been inside a couple of times, for weddings and sealings of relatives. It's obviously a very old structure when you're inside. But, like the older temple in Southern Utah, it is clearly their very finest effort. I read an article about a family who honored one of their relatives who worked on this temple and lived in Brigham City. Their ancestor hiked over the hill to work on the temple, so the family reunion included the 27 mile hike.

Well, now, those people who live in Brigham City don't need to hike, bike or drive up over a pass (elevation: 5868 ft.) and through a series of canyons in order to go to the Logan Temple. They are getting their very own temple in September. The open house is August 18 through September 15. My aunt and uncle lived in Brigham City for about 40 years, so I've been there, and traveled on that canyon road in the winter. It's a really treacherous drive. I'm so excited that people don't have make that trip for the temple this winter. They can just go to this site now.

 It looks enormous, but it isn't really. It's a rather small design, only 26, 000 sq. ft. The Oquirrh Mountain temple is 60,000. But it is very lovely and looks terrific. I'm so happy for the people of Brigham City and the whole area.

Then, I drove south on I-15 toward Salt Lake City. I couldn't see the Odgen Temple from the freeway. They are remodeling it, and when you go to various websites, you can see how it looks now. As I continued on my trek, I knew the next temple I'd see from the freeway was the Bountiful Temple. It is a striking sight, too, perched high up on the "bench" that forms the lower part of the Wasatch Range along that section. These benches are portions of the shoreline of ancient Lake Bonneville. The settlers named their town Bountiful in 1855, and it lived up to its name because it was planted with orchards for many years and was an agriculture center. It's a very nice town, still, and during my drive around, while I hunted down the location of the temple, I was impressed by the obvious prosperity. Fewer orchards, more really nice houses.

This temple is perched on the bench and built down the slopes. The parking areas are on different levels, the view from everywhere is SPECTACULAR. You can see all across the valley that includes the entire Great Salt Lake. It's simply breathtaking. I'm really impressed at the engineering that got this building on this site. I also wonder how the patrons drive up there in the nasty weather that winter can bring. Especially during the "lake effect" storms that pick up the moisture off the lake to the west and dump many feet of snow on the east side. I guess this is the purpose of  snow tires and four-wheel drive, huh?

Well, next summer, I will have completed my endless master's degree studies (crossing my fingers) and so I will not have to attend classes in June. My friend and I have been planning a trip and we'll have to finally take it: the I-15 Temple Tour. Or possibly the I-5 Temple Tour. Either way, we're going to have a great time. The plan is to take an interstate, and attend each temple that is near it, from border to border. Although, now...there's a temple in Vancouver, B.C. so that will entail a border crossing. Cool. I'll keep  you posted. In a few years, we could start in Tijuana...hmm.  Maybe we'll have to do the I-15 trek first.