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icycles.  33/365 #GroundhogDay

icicles. 33/365, Droid 365 Squared, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2014, photos © 2014 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




Groundhog, woodchuck, whistle pig—
six more weeks of winter?
The frozen tundra
in my backyard
may cause my mind to splinter.






-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, February 2nd, 2014
-related to: Vote For Punxsutawney Phil!

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Vertical Bubbles, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2014, photos © 2014 by Liz anne schultz. All rights reserved.


The -22°F drop in air temperature in the Twin Cities this week closed schools and businesses, persuading most of us to stay inside and curl up with a good book. But after seeing the images of photographer Angela Kelly, Liz was inspired to mix up a concoction of soap bubbles, strap her Sony NEX around her neck, and head out into the cold.

I was recruited to blow bubbles, while she chased them around the deck, hoping to grab a quick shot before they flew over the roof and collapsed into tinkling ice crystals. It was -9°F with wind gusts dropping the chill to -30°F below. Liz’s camera even froze up a few times. Yet with everything that was going on around us, she captured a sense of stillness and serenity in these photographs.


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Red Dual Bubble, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2014, photos © 2014 by Liz anne schultz. All rights reserved.


After we were back inside, warming our bones in front of the heater, we read up on the details of blowing bubbles in freezing temperatures. Here is what we learned:


1) For the best frozen bubbles, add corn syrup to thicken the water base and increase the surface tension. It is surface tension that allows the solution to form a bubble. Use the ratio of ingredients below. Then mix and let cool.

1 part dish soap
1 part corn syrup
6 parts hot water


2) Use a bubble wand, instead of your breath.

A bubble is formed by a layer of water molecules trapped between two fine layers of soap molecules. When it is very cold, and the bubble wand is waved slowly, the water layer freezes before the bubble can burst. By contrast, if you make a bubble by blowing into the wand, the bubble takes more time to set because the air in the bubble has been warmed by your lungs. When this warm air comes into contact with cold air it contracts, and the surface of the bubble sets more slowly.


3) It’s natural for frozen bubbles to collapse into themselves.

The layers of soap freeze, making the walls of the bubble more solid. After a few seconds, the air captured inside the bubble disperses to the exterior, like a balloon deflating, and the wall of ice collapses under its own weight leaving what looks like a broken eggshell.


Green Frost Bubble - 1-05-14 - 2

Caving Bubble - 1-05-14 - 2

Green Frost Bubble, Caving Bubble, Minneapolis, Minnesota,
January 2014, photos © 2014 by Liz anne schultz.
All rights reserved.


We are counting on Minnesota to produce another round of sub-zero temperatures (and less wind) so we have a chance to practice more frozen bubble photography before spring.


-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, January 8th, 2014, with gratitude to Angela Kelly for the inspiration

-Resources:  Science Fun In The Snow – Try This Out – Frozen Bubbles,  Angela Kelly’s website: Kelly Images & Photography: Acclaim for the “Frozen in a Bubble Series”

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By Elizabeth Statmore


Sunday morning, my second without Fromage. All I’ve wanted to do all week was look at profiles of rescue dogs. During standardized testing I searched Petfinder and Craigslist, reading about different available dogs and looking into their eyes. There are so many dogs who need homes, and the hole in my heart feels so huge.

But we need to get a hypoallergenic dog this time. It was a lucky miracle that David was not allergic to Fromage. So I started searching breed rescues, looking for Goldendoodles and Labradoodles who needed rescuing.

There aren’t that many breed rescue groups for doodles, in spite of the fact that they are one of the most popular breeds around these days. That means so many dogs who get given up for being too big, too active, etc. People give dogs up for the weirdest reasons. They get bored with the dog or they’re moving, so they say they have to give up the dog. They wouldn’t give up their children if they were moving, I think, but I can’t be sure.

So I started looking up Labradoodle breeders to inquire after adult dogs who might need re-homing or rescue. And I came upon Golden Gate Labradoodles just south of here, so I e-mailed Kristin the owner/breeder, to ask about rescues.

And she told me the most wonderful news I have heard all week.

They rarely get returns, since they breed first and foremost for temperament and they screen adopters carefully. But they do have a Guardian Program for their breeding dogs, and there’s one adult male they’ve recently added to their program whom they adore but who really deserves to have his own guardian family and home.

His name is Topper.

Topper was also the name of my very first pet — a dime store turtle from Kresge’s. I loved that turtle. I cared for him endlessly, fed him and petted him and made adventures for him in his little dime store turtle bowl with the red diving board and the green plastic palm tree on the central island oasis. I remember all of this vividly because he was the most interactive pet I had until we got our Schnauzer Cappy.

My eyes bugged out when I read that. I did a double-take.


Kristin forwarded me the information on their guardian program as well as some information about Topper as a family dog. It’s basically a foster-to-own program, in which the dog lives with you in your home as your pet, and a few times a year he has a breeding “gig,” for which you drive him either to the breeder or to the specialized repro vet. For male dogs, this is a pretty minor affair, dog sex being what it is — which is to say, quick and dirty (or in the case of the repro vet, very sanitary). When the dog’s breeding career comes to an end in a few years (probably four or five), ownership gets transferred, he gets neutered, and he lives with you as your forever dog.

They have come to love him dearly but their home pack consists of a number of already-estabished dogs in their program, and Kristin feels like it’s not fair to Topper, who deserves to be the center of attention in a family — the most-loved dog in his pack. So she’s been looking for the right family of owner-guardians to match him with.

She forwarded a link to his profile on their web site and my heart bloomed open. He could not be more different from Fromage — fluffy, non-shedding, mellow, confident, laid back. He’s the color of cafe au lait — referred to in Australian Labradoodle parlance as “cafe,” a diluted coffee color, almost taupe, with a non-shedding coat but the same eager, loving chocolate eyes I am looking for.

Kristin said the best way to ask more questions about Topper and/or the guardian program would be to call her. She gave me her cell phone number and said she hoped to talk to me soon.

I called her yesterday afternoon.

We talked for two hours.

In my original inquiry message, I explained that we had recently lost our beloved 15 ½ year old dog, Fromage. I included David’s collage of photos and told her my story of how I’d rescued him and how we had loved him.

She received this message on May 18th, 2012 — Topper’s second birthday.


On the phone we talked about everything — training and dog-loving philosophy, Topper’s and Fromage’s personalities, and our home set-up.

She and I bonded deeply. We love our dogs in very similar and compatible ways.

I told her it was clear to me that Fromage had held on as long as he could to take care of us, but that he just couldn’t do it any more. But I told her that I knew in my bones — and in my feet — that he wants us to adopt another dog who can take care of us. He needs a new dog to take over the work of rescuing us. It took him thirteen and a half years to raise us, and he doesn’t want all that good work to go to waste.

All of this clearly resonated with her. She wants to move toward the next step as much as I do.

I told David about it and he is open to it. Since I’m the primary caregiver, he is looking to me to lead. And since I am the crazy one, he is looking for me to set the pace.

I will probably go over and meet Topper after school one day this week. They don’t live far from my school. We talked about my timing, with graduation and summer coming, and having that be the best time for me to integrate a new dog into our household.

We would give a deposit that would be refunded gradually over time as certain milestones get met. Then once his breeding career is finished, in maybe five or so years, the last portion of that deposit would go towards his neutering fee and he’d be transferred over to us for forever.

This feels like a miracle.


Topper & Elizabeth, Home At Last, San Francisco, California, June 2012, photo © 2012 by David Bassin. All rights reserved.


_________________________



About Elizabeth: Elizabeth Statmore is a San Francisco-based writer and teacher of writing and mathematics. She is a long-time practitioner and teacher of Writing Practice, which she learned from Natalie Goldberg. A frequent contributor to KQED-FM, Elizabeth’s last posts for red Ravine include Seed Starting, a piece about writers as gardeners, and Writing The “Remembering Grace Paley” Piece — a step-by-step tutorial on how she turned a raw piece of writing into a finished radio commentary. Elizabeth was also one of our first guest writers, contributing the post Abandoned Is… Fromage was her dog and spirit guide of almost fourteen years.

Healing is Part III in a series of three Writing Practices about the love and loss of Fromage. Parts I and II are Long and The Gifts Of Trash Night.

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Valentine — My Bad Hair Day, Valentine dessert from Truffles & Tortes,
Droid Shots, original photograph edited with Paper Camera, Golden Valley,
Minnesota, February 2012, photo © 2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Imagine my surprise when Liz came home from grocery shopping armed with a large paper bag full of desserts from Truffles & Tortes. We wandered into their specialty chocolates and cakes cafe a few years ago before catching a movie at nearby Willow Creek, and have continued to stop by when we get a longing for gourmet chocolate delights.

My favorite of the four desserts Liz purchased was the torched meringue over thin layers of sponge cake, lemon curd and caramel sauce — Bad Hair Day. Liz fell head over heels for Nirvana, the velvety chocolate mousse with the hidden dome of creme brulee on a bottom of milk chocolate hazelnut praline. If Nirvana with Bad Hair doesn’t strike your fancy, there is always Concerto or Red Velvet Cake. Perhaps someday, we’ll have Truffles cater our wedding.

To all, young and old, single or coupled, I wish you a day full of loving kindness. And I hope you get to share a chocolate with a friend, or even a complete stranger. Because I believe unconditional, inclusive love is what St. Valentine really had in mind. Happy Valentine’s Day!



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Red Velvet Valentine (bottom), Chocolate Nirvana, Concerto (top), Valentine desserts from Truffles & Tortes, Droid Shots, original photographs edited with Paper Camera, Golden Valley, Minnesota, February 2012, photos © 2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



-posted on red Ravine, Valentine’s Day, Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

-related to posts: WRITING TOPIC — CHOCOLATE, WRITING TOPIC — HAIR, WRITING TOPIC — KINDS OF LOVE, Goodnight Valentine’s, valentine haiku


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MarryMe1dabstext2 sharp

Marry Me Mandala, for Elizabeth on her birthday, hand-drawn mandala photographed with Canon Powershot & edited with PhotoShop Elements, Golden Valley, Minnesota, January 29th, 2012, photo © 2011-2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




On the day you were born,
it's plain to see, the Moon and the Stars
aligned with the Sea—
a wild heart so caring and free
a better Aquarius you could never be!

If beauty rises from the love we carry
I see no reason why we should not marry
let the rest of the world fight over what it all means,
I know our love is everything it seems.

I want to live with you all the days of my life,
through thick and thin, amid hardship and strife,
from deaths and births and the long Dark Night
spring Joy and Art, and a good snowball fight.

Last night when we danced on the studio floor
I felt your love swell inside once more.
In bearing witness, here for all to see,
it's your birthday, Elizabeth, will you marry me?






-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, January 29th, 2012, for Shug

-related to posts: Gratitude Mandala — Giving Thanks

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2011-08-22 18.02.04

MN State Fair Button, MN State Fair, St. Paul, Minnesota, August 2011, all photos © 2009-2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


The Minnesota State Fair kicked off last week and for the first time since 2007, I am writing my annual State Fair piece after attending the Fair. That means I can speak from the voice of experience (that, and the fact that I spent 11 solid hours tootling around the fairgrounds last Saturday). 2011-08-27 13.50.14This year there are over 80 foods on-a-stick; I recommend the Teriyaki Chicken on-a-stick from Chan’s, a new vendor for 2011. Liz and I shared the combo and topped it off with The Original Minneapple Pie smothered in cinnamon ice cream.

Of course, the Minnesota State Fair is about more than food, or the debut of Peach Glazed Pig Cheeks On-A-Stick, so our State Fair posts are always chock-full of history. Last year we covered F. Scott Fitzgerald’s A Night At The Fair, Ye Old Mill, and artist Debra Frasier’s debut of the Alphabet Forest at Baldwin Park. Debra is back again this year and you can read more about her work at her official website. Or check out red Ravine dressed in her State Fair alphabet (yes, that’s me standing a letter behind).

In 2011, the Minnesota State Fair celebrates its 100th Fine Arts Exhibition (over 2300 pieces were submitted in 2010). In the past, I’ve written about the history of Princess Kay of the Milky Way and the Butter Queens (2011 marks the 40th year sculptor Linda Christensen has carved their likenesses out of butter); Minnesota State Fair poster artists; mascots Fairborne and Fairchild; and the 2011-08-27 14.24.13 autotradition of Tom Thumb Donuts. To change it up this year, I’m going to focus on the integration of the Smartphone and digital technology into the State Fair’s 150-year-old traditions. When the past meets the present, you get a gleaming new Minnesota State Fair Smartphone App and the Minnesota State Fair History Tour on your mobile!



Minnesota State Fair Smartphone App & Mobile Web Site


I was thrilled to download the new Minnesota State Fair Smartphone app on my Droid this year (also available for iPhone) a week before I attended the Fair 2011-08-27 15.57.58. All the information I needed was right at my fingertips. The Food Finder is organized alphabetically (or you can search by food item). When you click on a vendor, all details of that vendor are listed, including a Show Map feature that pins their exact location on the2011-08-27 14.14.49 auto fairgrounds. Other tabs include Merch Search, Fun Finder, and a colorful digital map. We used the app constantly during our 11 hour visit. Oh, and if you don’t want to download the app, you can visit the Minnesota State Fair Mobile Website with Google Maps integration. I’m grateful to Liz for pointing me to the new app. If you have a Smartphone, I encourage you to go paperless!



Minnesota State Fair History Walk & Cell Phone Tour


Liz and I had a blast listening  to sounds of the Minnesota State Fair’s past on the new 13-stop cell phone tour. By calling (877) 411-4123, you can hear recorded history narratives from your cell phone (or any land line), or use your Smartphone to locate QR codes, and brush up on State Fair trivia while you shuttle to the Fair’s 2011-08-27 15.11.44 autogate. We downloaded a bar code scanner app on our Droids, scanned the QR code (Quick Response code for Smartphones) at each information board, and Whoosh!, we were jetted right to the history page for that stop. (If you press the Like button at the bottom, a link is also added to your Facebook page so family and friends can follow your tour!).

The Minnesota State Fair History Walk & Cell Phone Tour offers a fun 2011-08-27 14.57.03 and engaging way to learn about State Fair history and explore all corners of the grounds. When you complete the self-guided tour, you receive a prize (I won’t say what it is!) at the J.V. Bailey House or (before 8pm) at the Minnesota Historical Society’s booth on the first floor of the Grandstand. Tour brochures are available at information booths and the 13 tour stops. The tour is presented by the Minnesota State Fair Foundation and the Minnesota Historical Society.



_____________________________________________________________

Spaghetti & Meatball Dinner On-A-Stick, Fried Fruit On-A-Stick, Macaroni & Cheese On-A-Stick, Bull Bites, Deep Fried Tater Tots On-A-Stick, Grilled Shrimp On-A-Stick, Vintage Kids & Fair Food!, Leprechaun Legs, MN State Fair, St. Paul, Minnesota, August 2008, all photos © 2008-2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



MN State Fair – Foods On-A-Stick


Our Minnesota State Fair post wouldn’t be complete without the annual foods on-a-stick list. Here’s the 2011-08-27 17.43.36lineup for 2011 (the Sweet Corn Ice Cream really hits the spot). If you are looking for the location of specific foods at the Fair, here’s a link to their FoodFinder with a map of the Fair (0r use the Smartphone app I wrote about above!). The Minnesota State Fair runs through Monday, September 5th. 2011-08-27 17.49.10 autoAnd if you happen to eat just a little too much, feel free to visit the brand new 5,500 square foot restroom with 51 sinks and 75 shiny white toilets where many of the 22,000 rolls of toilet paper are used up at the Minnesota State Fair. Above all else, ENJOY!

  1. Alligator Sausage on-a-stick
  2. Baby Potatoes on-a-stick
  3. Bacon (Fried) on-a-stick
  4. Bananas (chocolate covered) on-a-stick
  5. Beef Kabobs on-a-stick
  6. Bologna (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  7. Bomb Pops on-a-stick
  8. Breakfast Lollipop
  9. Butterscotch Cake on-a-stick
  10. Candy Apples on-a-stick
  11. Candy Bars (deep fried) on-a-stick
  12. Caramel Apples on-a-stick
  13. Caramel Apple Puppies on-a-stick
  14. Catfish on-a-stick
  15. Cheese on-a-stick
  16. Cheesecake (chocolate covered) on-a-stick
  17. Chicken on-a-stick
  18. Chicken Teriyaki on-a-stick
  19. Chicken Bites on-a-stick
  20. Coffee (frozen) on-a-stick
  21. Corndogs on-a-stick
  22. Cotton Candy on-a-stick
  23. Custard on-a-stick
  24. Espresso (frozen) on-a-stick
  25. Fruit (fresh) on-a-stick
  26. Fruit (fried) on-a-stick
  27. Fry Dog on-a-stick
  28. Fudge Puppies on-a-stick
  29. Gyro on-a-stick
  30. Hot Dago on-a-stick
  31. Hot Dish on-a-stick
  32. Hot Dogs (wrap) on-a-stick
  33. Jerk Chicken on-a-stick
  34. Key Lime Pie Dipped in Chocolate (frozen) on-a-stick
  35. Kufta Kabob on-a-stick
  36. Lamb (leg of) on-a-stick
  37. Macaroni & Cheese on-a-stick
  38. Marshmallows (Chocolate-dipped) on-a-stick
  39. Mashed Potatoes (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  40. Meatballs (porcupine wild rice & ground pork) on-a-stick
  41. Meatballs (Greek) on-a-stick
  42. Meatballs (Scotch) on-a-stick
  43. Meat Kabobs on-a-stick
  44. Northwoods Salad on-a-stick
  45. Nut Roll (chocolate-dipped) on-a-stick
  46. Pickles on-a-stick
  47. Pizza on-a-stick
  48. Pizza Kabob on-a-stick
  49. Poncho Dogs on-a-stick
  50. Pork Chops on-a-stick
  51. Pretzel Dog on-a-stick
  52. Pronto Pups on-a-stick
  53. Sausage on-a-stick
  54. Sausage and Cheese Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers on-a-stick
  55. Scotch Eggs on-a-stick
  56. Shrimp on-a-stick
  57. Shrimp (grilled) on-a-stick
  58. S’mores on-a-stick
  59. S’mores (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  60. Spaghetti & Meatballs on-a-stick
  61. Spudsters on-a-stick
  62. Steak on-a-stick
  63. Taffy Pops on-a-stick
  64. Tater Tots (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  65. Texas Steak Dinner on-a-stick
  66. Texas Tater Dog on-a-stick
  67. Tornado Potato on-a-stick
  68. Turkey Tenderloin (bacon-wrapped) on-a-stick
  69. Turtle Puppies on-a-stick
  70. Vegie Fries on-a-stick
  71. Vegetable Kabobs on-a-stick
  72. Waffle (Belgian) on-a-stick
  73. Walleye on-a-stick
  74. Wild Rice Corndog on-a-stick
  75. Wonder Bar (chocolate-dipped ice cream) on-a-stick


Total Number of Foods-On-A-Stick: 75*


New Minnesota State Fair Foods In 2011
(including *6 new foods on-a-stick not on list above)


• Breakfast Lollipop (sausage patty dipped in corn muffin batter, deep fried and served on-a-stick with a side of maple syrup)
@Axel’s, located on the southeast outside corner of the Food Building
• Carnitas Asian Fusion Taco (pork carnitas served on a flour or spinach pepper, and topped with Asian sauces)
@San Felipe Tacos, located in the Food Building
• Chocolate Covered Jalapeno Peppers on-a-stick (a hot and spicy confection)
@Andre’s Watermelon, located on Underwood Street next to Ye Old Mill
• Coushari Rice with Lentils (rice and lentils with Holy Land sauce, served with a side of pasta or fried onions)
@Holy Land Deli, located inside the International Bazaar, southeast corner
• Crab Fritters (crab meat, Caribbean herbs and spices with veggies all rolled and deep-fried into a fritter, served with a side of southwest dripping sauce)
@Ollie’s Crab Fritters, located on the corner of Underwood Street and Murphy Avenue
• Deep-Fried Cookie Dough (fresh cookie dough coated with a sweet batter, deep-fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar)
@Sonny’s Spiral Spuds, located in the Food Building
• Dirt Dessert (Oreo cookies, vanilla pudding, whipped cream, cream cheese and gummy worms)
@Spaghetti Eddie’s, located on Cooper Street and Dan Patch Avenue
• Fresh Fruit Wrap (sliced fresh fruit wrapped in a soft tortilla shell with a sweet and creamy cheese spread)
@Fried Fruit, located in Carousel Park east of Grandstand Ramp
• Grilled Yankee Apple Pie & Chocolate Sandwich (Minnesota grown apples sauteed with spices and topped with chocolate, grilled in Brioche bread)
@Moe & Joe’s, located on Judson Ave. by the CHS Miracle of Birth Center
• Jamaican Jerk Fries (french fries dusted with Harry’s own Jamaican Jerk seasoning)
@Harry Singh’s Caribbean Restaurant, located in the Food Building
• Mexican Horchata Beverage (cold drink made of rice, almonds, cinnamon, vanilla and sugar)
@El Sol Mexican Food, located on the southwest outside corner of the Food Building
• Minneapple Pie (homemade deep-fried apple pie served hot with vanilla or cinnamon ice cream)
@The Original Minneapple Pie, at the corner of Judson Avenue & Underwood Street, north of the Dairy Building
• Northwoods Salad on-a-stick (a caprese salad-mozzarella cheese and grape tomatoes on-a-stick with dressing and served over a bed of Minnesota wild rice)
@Giggle’s Campfire Grill, located on Cooper Street and Lee Avenue in The North Woods
• Pizza Kabob on-a-stick (three individually flavored Green Mill Pizza rolls served on-a-stick)
@Green Mill, located near the Baldwin Park Stage
• Pretzel Dog on-a-stick (a hot dog baked in pretzel dough, served on-a-stick)
@Der Pretzel Haus, located on Liggett Street, in front of the Horse Barn
• Sweet Corn Ice Cream (cream-based ice cream with blended sweet corn kernels, served in a waffle cone with a choice of wild blueberries or caramel bacon topping)
@Blue Moon Dine In Theater, located at the corner of Chambers Street and Carnes Avenue
• Teriyaki Chicken on-a-stick (served with fried rice, egg rolls, and spring rolls)
@Chan’s Concessions, located on Judson Avenue near the Dairy Building
• White Razzie Puppies on-a-stick (Belgian waffle with white chocolate baked inside, then dipped in dark chocolate and drizzled with raspberry sauce)
@Granny’s Kitchen Fudge Puppies, located on the outside west wall of the Food Building


State Fair photos on Flickr.


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

-related to posts: double Ferris wheel haiku, MN State Fair On-A-Stick (Happy B’Day MN!), On-The-Go List Of Must-Haves (MN State Fair), Nightshot – Carousel, MN State Fair On-A-Stick II – Video & Stats, food on-a-stick haiku

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By Sandra Vallie



It’s hot, pushing 100, and I have to wait until it’s cooler to water the heat-sapped garden. Until it’s cooler, or dark, or 7 pm, the time the city allows watering – whatever measure I decide today is the tipping point where the amount of water soaking into the sand is greater than what the bone-dry overheated air is sucking up into itself. In the house, safe out of the sun, I’m anxious looking at the heat-limp plants across the yard. Corn leaves curled into points, drooping tomato plants and cucumber leaves flat against the ground. I know the plants are well-watered; some of what I see is self-protection and some a part of the taking up and giving off of water. As soon as the sun moves further toward the west and I carry water to the plants through the hose, the leaves and stems will fill with water and this limp spread of green will become plants again.


I’m from Michigan and this is my first year trying to grow vegetables in New Mexico. I pretty much planted the garden twice because I hadn’t learned that we can still have below-freezing nights even when the temperature in the day is 80 degrees. How much water is too much and what is enough. Why, when I asked the woman at the nursery about gardening in New Mexico, she told me to not even try. Half the plants I put in my son’s yard last fall didn’t make it through the winter, falling to the cold and what I haven’t learned yet.


For 20 years, I watched peonies, lilacs, tulips, hosta, coneflowers, azalea, iris, daylilies and butterfly bushes grow tall, wide, and fragrant. Lush. Luxuriant and juicy. Moisture in the air reflected the hundred greens growing around the yard and the air glowed. Lettuces, green, red and purple, came in the spring, followed by peas and beans that reached across the raised beds to share the poles supporting plants and pods. Tomatoes grew so fast and heavy they kicked away their cages. Cucumbers ran across the garden to the corn and climbed high enough I could pick the fruit without bending over.


I exaggerate. A little. Lush it was, very different from my yard here, each plant holding to its own space, as if each one feels it deserves only so much water and so many nutrients from the spare soil. I’ve never seen plants grow so slowly; at first it’s almost as if each morning they decide whether or not to push up, out, forward, just one little bit. As if they know that growing higher will put them closer to the sun and they’ll be hotter. My plants in Albuquerque work harder than plants in Michigan. In this place where there is so much space, where I finally feel I can be as big as I am, exuberant, joyful, expansive and – well – lush, my vegetables appear so tentative and afraid.


Cactus spread, although I don’t know that I’ll ever call them lush. There are several in the neighborhood I’m drawn to, even a couple I’m lusting after for their deep, almost hallucinatory red-purple blooms or their improbable flowers, yellow and ten feet above the plant their stalk grew from. Cactus, though, and weeds like the silverleaf nightshade, the most prolific plant in my landscape cloth- and gravel-covered yard, are what led me to write a few years ago after a visit: “Everything green here bites.” I know I’m never going to embrace a cactus or walk barefoot across the goatheads and foxtails to get to them. I yearn to load my arms with heavy-headed peonies and stargazer lilies that are deep enough to serve soup in, although I’m afraid I’d have to drain the remaining water out of the Rio Grande to do it. Before I moved here I asked a friend if I could grow roses in Albuquerque. “You can grow anything you want in Albuquerque as long as you can afford the water.”


The roots of my grandmother’s peonies I carried south are in pots out back, not growing. Soon, not yet, I’ll have to admit what I know and stop watering. I didn’t have time before we moved last fall to lift lilies or divide a few coneflowers. The rose bush by my bedroom window, though, is the same as the one that died in my Michigan garden a couple of years ago, my grandmother’s favorite. There are green tomatoes on the plants and sooner than I know they’ll be full and red enough for dinner. Lush is changing, from the huge bushes and plants that grew in the Michigan rain to the sound of water rushing through the garden hose, the sight of it spreading around the watermelon plants and at the feet of the raspberries, the corn leaves unfolding as the still skinny stalks draw up water from the soil, and the gratitude I feel that I have water to grow food with. The air may not be green from the plants, but the sky is crystal blue. While I’ve written this, it has become late enough to head outside to water and the first flowers on the cucumber plants have opened today in the heat.




_________________________




About Sandra:  My fairly recent move from my job and life in Michigan to Albuquerque, New Mexico, has opened up the opportunity (for which I’m gut-wrenchingly grateful) to write in spans of hours instead of stolen minutes. Although I’ve written mostly poetry in the past few months, I’m enjoying the process of exploring different forms for different subjects. I’ve been fortunate to have a community of encouraging and creative writers in the Albuquerque Ink Slingers, a local Meetup group, and my husband’s graceful willingness to live and work in 100 degree temperatures.


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By Bob Chrisman

The temperature at 3:50 p.m. is 101 degrees with a heat index of 106. Chocolate melts in these temperatures. I can’t even buy it and put it in my backpack without arriving home to a glob of a candy bar wrapper that, at one time, held a perfectly solid bar of chocolate.

I’m going into withdrawal in this heat. Either I eat the chocolate as soon as I buy it or I don’t have it. The summer isn’t fair to us chocolate eaters. I pray for cooler temperatures, ones below the melting point of chocolate.

Perhaps that accounts for my foul mood of the last couple of weeks when temperatures soared into the upper 90’s and I abandoned any attempt to purchase chocolate and walk home with it. The withdrawal has reduced me to a feral human being scouring the fridge for substitutes. Carrots won’t do it, neither will broccoli or Brussels sprouts. I could always eat butter and crackers, but the mere thought of being without any chocolate, even for chocolate emergencies which occur quite frequently in my house, has made me sullen. I WANT CHOCOLATE…a bar of chocolate, a chocolate kiss, a dish of chocolate ice cream, a piece of chocolate cake…no, cake won’t do…it’s not the pure joy of the taste of chocolate on my tongue.

Pure chocolate (and I’m talking milk chocolate) melts on my tongue and wraps each of the thousands of taste buds in the bliss and ecstasy of the taste. They go orgasmic surrounded by the luscious liquid that bathes them in milky darkness. The saliva fills my mouth at the thought of the experience. This isn’t a good thing. No, I must quit thinking about chocolate or I’ll go crazy and rush out in the heat to a store where I will buy and eat chocolate bars until I satisfy this craving.

Reminds me of the time I decided to diet. I found myself in church with a friend who recommended the minister because of his good sermons. As he got up to deliver his address, I noticed that he walked like a chicken. The thought of chicken made my mouth water and from there my thoughts descended into all my favorite chicken dishes: fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy, chicken in a tarragon cream sauce, and finally my mind settled on cashew chicken from my favorite Chinese restaurant with a side of the greasiest and best egg rolls on the planet. My mind danced with the image of that dish, the smell, the taste. My stomach rumbled with anticipation.

Cashew chicken. I must have cashew chicken. I’ll die if I don’t have it. Feed me cashew chicken.

I felt the drool running down my chin and quickly wiped it away.

My friend turned to me, “Did you enjoy the sermon?”

“Yeah, I did. Is church over?”

“Sure is. What do you want to have for lunch?”

“Chocolate.” No, that’s now, not then. Right now I want chocolate in whatever solid form I can have it, heat or no heat.


NOTE: WRITING TOPIC — CHOCOLATE is the latest Writing Topic on red Ravine. Frequent guest writer Bob Chrisman joined QuoinMonkey in doing a Writing Practice on the topic.

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Chocolate – One Of Life’s Simple Pleasures – 28/52, BlackBerry 52 – WEEK 28 BlackBerry 52 response to Jump-Off from Lotus, Around the City: Simple Pleasures, July 15th, 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


It’s late in the evening at the end of a long week, so I’m going to make this Writing Topic short—and sweet (the way I like my chocolate). Though today we think of chocolate as having at least a hint of sweetness, it wasn’t always so. According to the Smithsonian’s article A Brief History of Chocolate it is estimated that chocolate has been around for over 2000 years, and for about 90 percent of that history, it was strictly a beverage, and sugar didn’t have anything to do with it. It wasn’t until Europeans came to the Americas that chocolate was sweetened with cane sugar and honey.

The Timeline of Chocolate History at The Gourmet Chocolate of the Month Club states that in 1765, the first chocolate factory appeared in the United States in pre-revolutionary New England, where the production of chocolate proceeded at a faster pace than anywhere else in the world. And in 1797, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe toured Switzerland and insisted on having chocolate available at all times, along with a chocolate pot.

According to the Smithsonian, we often misuse words related to the origins of chocolate:

Most experts these days use the term “cacao” to refer to the plant or its beans before processing, while the term “chocolate” refers to anything made from the beans. “Cocoa” generally refers to chocolate in a powdered form, although it can also be a British form of “cacao.”

Etymologists trace the origin of the word “chocolate” to the Aztec word “xocoatl,” which referred to a bitter drink brewed from cacao beans. The Latin name for the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, means “food of the gods.”

Nectar of the gods. The Midwest Writing Group I am in never meets without indulging in a few bars of gourmet chocolate. (And it’s no secret that our teacher Natalie loves chocolate.) Reading, writing, and chocolate just seem to go together. Have you ever read Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or delighted in Gene Wilder’s portrayal of Willy in the film (based on Dahl’s book) Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory?

______________________

The Secrets Of ChocolateWhat is your favorite chocolate? Do you prefer milk chocolate or dark chocolate? Do you believe chocolate has aphrodisiac properties? Scientists have isolated phenylethylamine (PEA) which is a stimulant found in chocolate, and also in the brain. A miniscule amount of PEA is released at moments of emotional euphoria, raising blood pressure and heart rate. Is there a connection between food and the brain?

Last week Liz brought these chocolate bars home from Trader Joe’s. She chose the dark with walnuts and pecans; mine is the Swiss milk. Let’s put a slightly different twist on this Writing Practice. Instead of writing Chocolate at the top of your page, head into the kitchen and rip open your favorite chocolate bar. Slip a square right on top of your tongue, and write down what connects pen, page and a delicious chunk of chocolate — 15 minutes, Go!


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, July 16th, 2011

Lotus and I will continue to respond to each other’s BlackBerry Jump-Off photos with text, photography, poetry (however we are inspired) for the 52 weeks of 2011. You can read more at BlackBerry 52 Collaboration. If you are inspired to join us, send us a link to your images, poetry, or prose and we’ll add them to our posts.

-related to posts: the velveeta cheese of donuts haiku, WRITING TOPIC — CANDY FREAK, Homage to a Candy Freak, On Candy, Candy Stash — Barter Is Better

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Happy 4th Birthday red Ravine!


In Gratitude for another year of red Ravine, with much appreciation to our readers and guests. You keep the community going strong and inspire me every day with your courage, grace, and humor. red Ravine was conceived in Taos, New Mexico, born on November 3rd, 2006, and launched as an Aries, April 7th, 2007. It seems important to mark the passing of time, to reflect and remember how far we have come.

On the first anniversary in 2008, we were living dangerously. The second year, we celebrated poetry with a Postcard From Billy Collins — Kicking Off National Poetry Month. Year three explored the range of horoscopes of our readers. Here we are at the end of year four. I saw my first butterfly this afternoon signaling the birth of Spring. It held all the promise of a passionate year five. Thank you for all you have given!


-posted on red Ravine, in celebration of her 4th Birthday & Blogiversary, Thursday, April 7th, 2011

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The Key To Success (Backspace) – 9/52 (Haiga), Week 9/BlackBerry 52, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.





the key to success,
no matter what type you are —
know when to backspace.





Week 9′s Jump-Off in the BlackBerry 52 collaboration with Lotus sprang from the keys of my Royal typewriter on a Sunday afternoon in the Casket Arts Studio. Feel free to join us if you wish. You can learn more about the project’s beginnings at BlackBerry 52 Collaboration.


-posted on red Ravine, Monday, March 1st, 2011

-related to posts: Waning Moon (Haiga), A Warm Game Of Texas Hold ‘Em (haiga) — 6/52, Celebrating The Lunar New Year — Postcard From A Friend, Flying Solo — Dragonfly In Yellow Rain, The Mirado Black Warrior, icicle tumbleweed (haiga) – 2/52, Best Of BlackBerry 365 — First Quarter SlideShow, BlackBerry 365 Project — White Winter Squirrel, haiku 4 (one-a-day) Meets renga 52

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Joy Is, Joy Is Not, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis,
Minnesota, December 2010, photo © 2010 by
QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


The days are dark, the nights long. Five days until Winter Solstice. Holidays draw us to friends and family, gift giving, service work. I want to go inside. Reflective heat, ambient light. Darkroom blues. I have spent hours under red safelights in black and white darkrooms. What color is Joy?

At times when there is the least light, we need to find ways to tap more joy. I look to the small things. Sunrise, Tuesday morning. Snowstorm, Friday night. Digging out. Digging deep. An old recipe. A new flame. Joy takes many forms. Clay dangling from red string. One new liver. Two hibernating black bears. Three things I am grateful for.

Some are afraid to feel the full strength of Joy. The intensity makes them fearful. What if Joy leaves in the middle of the night. How will I fill the hole.

What brings you joy?

Joy is a giant taproot of swirling lava at the center of the Earth. Joy is a burning ember in the middle of an indigo night. Behind every Black Dog, Joy sits like the mountain.

Write I feel joy at the top of your Writing Practice notebook. Or sink into the underbelly — I don’t feel joy

Joy is, Joy is not. Ten minutes, Go!


-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

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After The Break - 313/365

After The Break, BlackBerry 365, 313/365, Goldsboro, Pennsylvania, November 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.





Scorpio birthday
the NightOwl’s idea of fun,
playing pool with Mom.





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Note: The night I flew into Harrisburg was the eve of Mom’s birthday. Lady Luck smiled down. We went out to dinner with Paul, won $120 on the push tabs, and had a great time playing pool to jukebox tunes. Mom beat me almost every game. Amelia is a good pool player.


-posted on red Ravine, Monday, November 22nd, 2010

-related to post:  haiku 2 (one-a-day)

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Mr. Calavera

Mr. Calavera (calavera is the Spanish word for skeleton), pen and marker on graph paper, doodle © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




The Missus will be happy. I finally finished the drawing of her husband. He’s not an easy man—a hard-drinking, hard-living type who would have driven any good woman to die of love. But he’s also an old-fashioned guy, opens doors for women (probably too many doors and Lord knows where they lead) and his kids crawl all over him when he comes home late smelling of whiskey. He can ride a horse and slaughter a cow, grow a garden, hold his liquor. A man’s man. And a decent poker player, to boot.

And you know what? He’s just as devilish in the afterworld as he was in this one. But that’s OK, because over there life is easy. For the both of them. No guilt or sin or any of the baggage that keeps us running in circles in this world.

The Missus (aka Dying Love)Day of the Dead was celebrated last week on November 2nd. I hope my lovely couple—fashioned after my grandmother and grandfather, although if he really were Grandpa, he’d be wearing jeans and a cowboy hat, and a bolo tie if he had to dress up; everything else is the same, though—had a great time.

In this world they had a combustible marriage. Too many poker games, plus that damned redhead on Coco Street, and gambling away dinner for the next two weeks, which brought about a swing of the broom, or worse, when he came home late at night with his paycheck gone. But they were bigger-than-life-sized characters. I wouldn’t have wanted them to be any less explosive or colorful or real. I’m thinking of them this early November. Realizing how with each passing year I inch a little closer to taking their place in my family chain.

Happy Day of the Dead, all you living (for now) folk!



-Related to post Ghost Hunting — Tips & Tools Of The Trade

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Sunrise On Lake Michigan, Sheboygan County

Sunrise On Lake Michigan, Bob walking 10,000 steps on the beach, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, October 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Sitting, walking, writing with the Midwest Writing Group on the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan. This is the 7th time we’ve met. The first was October 2007 at McCreedy’s in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin. Somewhere in the middle, there was Kansas City, Missouri. The last retreat was on Lake Pepin in Lake City, Minnesota.


We arrived on Thursday; the Moon was new. The mornings and afternoons are silent. Here’s our daily schedule:

  • Wake up in Silence.
  • 9am to Noon — Sit, walk, write.
  • Noon to 1pm — Lunch in Silence.
  • 1pm to 4pm — Free Time. Read, write, walk, sleep, stare out the window.
  • 4pm to 6pm — Sit, walk, write.
  • 6pm — Dinner. Free to talk and break bread.


 

Writing Home, Lake Michigan

Writing Home, Lake Michigan, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, October 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 


If you’d like to join us, here are the first 14 Writing Topics. During Day 1 of Sit, Walk, Write (Natalie Goldberg style) we wrote 14 practices at 10 minutes each:

  • Reading under a blanket
  • Fortunate life
  • Friend of the family
  • Piano lessons
  • I’m waiting for
  • Bits of garbage
  • Should I stay or should I go
  • I guess I’m doing alright
  • Walls
  • A path through the weeds
  • Cries for help
  • Don’t tell me it will be alright
  • Distractions
  • Luckiest person in the world


 

Sit, Walk, Write

Sit, Walk, Write, Lake Michigan, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, October 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 


Observations:

  • Took all of Day 1 to debrief & unwind from busyness
  • Travel days take a lot out of you
  • Resistance high on Day 2
  • Breathing deeper on Day 3
  • Staring at the lake calms me, blood pressure drops
  • Walking the beach spurs fresh creative ideas. I’m part of something bigger than me.
  • After 3 years, I feel comfortable & safe with these writers. We’ve worked out the logistics of living, eating, sleeping in close quarters.
  • Everyone holds the space
  • Grateful to the timekeeper who holds the structure
  • Writing about family, place, home, writing projects
  • Free time is essential. Sleep & rest without guilt is essential. Silence is essential.


Back next week. Get out your fast writing pens and spiral notebooks. We follow the Writing Practice rules. And try to Make Positive Effort For The Good. Sit, walk, write.


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, October 10th, 2010

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Me: I love my new Spin class.

Mom: Ew, I don’t think I could do that one; I’d throw up.

Me: Yeah, I feel pretty bad for the first 15 minutes, but more my breathing than my stomach.

Mom: But aren’t you really dizzy after all that spinning??

Me: What do you mean? Just your legs are spinning.

Mom: Just your legs??? I thought…don’t you…well, what is Spin class anyway?

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This is for the person or people who recently landed at red Ravine by searching the following term:


spider growing in face



I didn’t want you to be disappointed.



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Spider Growing In Face doodle, pen and ink on graph paper then stylized in Photoshop Elements, image © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





-Related post: NEWSFLASH: You Can Reach red Ravine Via This

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