pen rainbow

Monday, June 27, 2016

Monday—Vote Your Park

Vote every day until July 5!

Grand Canyon Lodge_Summer of '26
From my gramma's photo collection

In celebration of the National Park Service's centennial, American Express has partnered with the National Trust for Historic Preservation & National Geographic to award $2 million in grants to national parks in need of preservation.

Anyone who votes can enter the National Geographic sweepstakes to win a trip for two to Yellowstone, the world's first national park!

Pretty cool!

Vote for up to 5 parks each day.

Click here to vote >>> #VoteYourPark

Info about the parks:

Denali National Park — Alaska
$220K grant to restore & relocate the historic park superintendent's cabin

Mount Rushmore National Memorial — Black Hills, South Dakota
$250K grant to restore the site of the sculptor's original studio & view terrace

Governors Island National Monument — Fort Jay, New York Harbor
$245K grant to stabilize the original, one-of-a-kind sandstone eagle atop the arch leading into the park

Zion National Park — Utah
$191K grant to upgrade & preserve the 1.1 mile Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel & highway.

Mount Rainier National Park — Washington State
$218K grant to rehabilitate & restore the Longmire Historic District structures and to provide housing for volunteer search & rescue staff

Yellowstone National Park — Idaho-Montana-Wyoming
$250K grant to rehabilitate historic stonework at the Brink of Upper Falls Overlook

WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument — Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawai'i
$250K grant to restore & stabilize one of 6 mooring quays in Battleship Row

Yosemite National Park — Tuolumne Meadows, California
$97K grant to support restoration work at Parsons Memorial Lodge built by the Sierra Club in 1915

National Mall & Memorial Parks — Washington, DC
$249K grant to restore Columbus Fountain at the grand entrance to Washington Union Station

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park — Texas
$236K grant to preserve fragile Spanish colonial frescoes and make structural improvements to the Father President's office.

Everglades National Park — Florida
$250K grant to restore the exterior of the visitor center

Minute Man National Historic Park — Massachusetts
$250K grant to rehabilitate the historic Parker's Revenge Battlefield & repurpose the 19th-Century Hargrove Barn for use as an educational center.

Pullman National Monument — Illinois
$250K grant to help preserve the exterior of the Pullman Admin Building

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial — Missouri
$250K grant to repair the historic overlooks at the north and south ends of the memorial

Grand Canyon National Park — Arizona
$250K grant to conserve historic murals inside of the Desert View Watchtower 

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site — Georgia
$227K grant to preserve the exterior of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, an iconic site of the Civil Rights Movement

Great Smoky Mountains National Park — North Carolina & Tennessee
$250K grant to restore the deteriorating Clingmans Dome Observation Tower

San Juan National Historic Site — Puerto Rico
$250K grant to restore 2 of the iconic sentry posts originally built as part of the Castillo San Felipe del Morro fortification system.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area — San Francisco Bay Area
$250K grant to restore the guardhouse and sally port at the historic Alcatraz prison and provide additional interpretive features.

Joshua Tree National Park — Southern Cali
$248K grant to rehabilitate and improve public access to the Keys Ranch and several of its structures

• visit • national • parks •

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Wednesday—Good forYou, Good for My New Swamp Cooler

The modern term for "swamp cooler" is "evaporative cooler."  Love this updated version by Honeywell

so cool!

Behold!  The Honeywell CO25AE 52 Pint Indoor/Outdoor
Portable Evaporative Air Cooler with Remote Control
$277.54 on Amazon

Welcome, Summer

  •   holds 6.6 gallons of water
  •   top-loading ice compartment
  •   non-compressor system (not an a/c)
  •   cools 300 square feet
  •   uses water to cool air
  •   light-weight (25.8 lbs) & on rollers
  •   remote control
  •   4 speeds
  •   up to 8 hours on auto-timer
  •   oscillating or non-oscillating fan
  •   low water alert
  •   energy-efficient, uses 230 watts of power 
  •   easy to move around the room
  •   strong air throw
  •   works best in hot, dry air with humidity 60% or less
  •  requires cross-ventilation & must be placed near an open window or door (about 3" will suffice)
  • easy to clean 

How it Works

An evaporative cooler works by pushing hot, dry air through a water screen.  As the dry air passes through the water screen, it picks up water particles, which cool the air.  Dry air comes in, picks up water particles, and the fan blows the cooled air out into the room.  You now have a room with humidified air.  

If you do not open a window, the humidified air passes through the water screen, but it picks up fewer water particles, and the air is not cooled as much.  The fan is blowing warmer, humidified air that raises the humidity in the room.

The purpose of the open window is to let in dehumidified air so that the evaporation process can efficiently cool the air. 


Less Expensive Than A/C
It's a gazillion times less expensive than a/c, which uses a compressor and gobbles up tons of electricity.

Well, maybe not a gazillion times less expensive...but, certainly a noticeable difference.

To give you an idea of how much less expensive it is, we compared our energy usage with the a/c running for 4 hours to running the evap cooler for 4 hours with an overhead fan in the dining room and an oscillating fan in the living room. 

a/c  = 30.42 kWh
evap cooler + 2 fans  = 11.99 kWh

Cost-wise, this works out to be a savings of $7 per day.  For a 30-day billing cycle, that's $210 per month (based on our usage).  So, our unit pays for itself in 40 days. 

When the temps are up in the 95°F to 100°F range, the a/c runs off & on continuously, and very quickly, our charges move into the higher tiers.  It is not unusual to see 40 to 45 kWh days during a heat wave.

We still have to maintain the a/c once a year, but we will use it a lot less, so the unit will need less maintenance, and it will last longer.

We use energy-efficient low-watt fans, and we don't cool the whole house.  Rooms that aren't in use are closed off during the day.  Windows are opened at night to circulate cool air throughout the house.  We use passive cooling on the outside of the house (exterior retractable solar screens over large windows) to reduce exposure to the hot afternoon sun.

White Noise

This fan produces a very soothing white background noise.  It's just very relaxing!  Anyone who grew up with a swamp cooler knows what I'm talking about.  It sounds and feels like summer in the desert.    


It is not an air conditioner.  

There is no refrigerant to cool the air, and there is no compressor to drive the motor that circulates cool air throughout the house.  It cools a room by only 5 degrees.  

Our house heats up to around 80 degrees on a normal summer day (around 90 outside).  The evap cooler cools our kitchen & family room to 75 degrees.  But, on really hot days (95 and above), it's uncomfortable inside.  The evap cooler will bring it down to 80, which is tolerable, but too warm without good fans to circulate the air and create a nice draft.

On days when we really want to cool the house, we can use the a/c, but we'll use it a lot less often because of this efficient little evap cooler.

Water Usage

One thing you need for this to work is water (and ice if you want to cool even more).  Even though Gov. Brown and the State Water Resources Control Board have relaxed drought restrictions due to plentiful rainfall earlier this year, there are still mandatory percentage cutbacks in some parts of California.  Reservoirs in Central & Southern Cali are still below their averages, and the snowpack was calculated to be 87% of normal overall.  

In Nevada, Lake Mead is up by 6 feet from its historic low in March, but the lake is currently at only 39% of capacity.  

So, we all want to keep conserving water.  Our current usage is about 3 gallons a day, with ice added a couple of times during the afternoons.  It's not a lot of extra water, compared to average every day household water use.  

Overall, it's pretty efficient both electricity-wise and water-wise.  

Check it out on Amazon!  

  • have • a • cool • summer •


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Tuesday's Cupboard—Meyer Lemon Bars

Keep an eye out for bags of Meyer lemons sold at Costco

Inspired by Martha

Brown-Butter Shortbread 
Meyer Lemon Bars

Use freshly squeezed lemon juice, not bottled

Find Martha's recipe on her website

Helpful tips:

WARNING:  This is an involved recipe.  Plan on lots of pans and a couple of refrigeration breaks.  Watch the video!
  • Be sure to spray or butter the inside of the baking pan (under the parchment lining), as recommended in the recipe.  The crust is super sticky.
  • I used Martha's double-sided parchment (foil on one side, parchment on the other) with the paper side against the crust.  I have regular parchment, but the foil made it easier to wrap over the edges of the baking pan.  
  • The alligator clips are extremely useful for baking.  I removed the clips before I refrigerated the bars overnight (before cutting). 
  • I used 1 + 1/4 c. of liquid eggs (equal to 5 eggs), plus one extra-large egg yolk in the custard with no noticeable difference in the consistency or taste. 
  • Re: bubbles in the custard.  You don't need a torch.  I had one bubble & a toothpick was sufficient.

The crust is like a fresh shortbread cookie!  So GOOD


• love • celebration • desserts •

Monday, June 20, 2016

Monday—Happy Little Clouds

Flying my geek flag!  My secret crush on Bob Ross (October 29, 1942 - July 4, 1995)

The One, The Only...

Watch Bob on Netflix

"His teachings are eternal.  His hair is immovable.  He is Bob Ross."  ~Netflix tweet tagline

Admit it.  You love him, too.  

Captain Kangaroo, Mr. Rogers & Bob Ross.  The three calmest human beings who ever lived.   

Now, thanks to the special people at Netflix, we can watch whole episodes of his 1991 series, Beauty Is Everywhere. 

Watch Bob paint happy little trees.  Listen to Bob talk about his rescued animal pals, Peapod, the pocket squirrelHoot, the baby owl; and Kathy & Richard, the baby robins.  You won't be disappointed.  It's mesmerizing. 

And, if you feel like it, beat the devil out of a brush.  Get crazy, what the heck!

You can also watch Bob on YouTube & Hulu.

Fun Facts
  • Bob was a drill sergeant in the Air Force for 20 years (1961 - 1981).  After his military career, he said he never wanted to scream at anyone again.
  • Bob was born in Florida, but was stationed at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, where he first saw mountains and snow.  
  • Bob was missing a finger.  He accidentally cut off part of his index finger while woodworking with his father.  If you look carefully, you can see his cropped finger on the hand that he used to hold his pallet.  
  • Bob permed his hair as a way to save money on haircuts during the first season of his show.  He disliked the frizz, but kept his hair permed in order to preserve his image.
  • Bob popularized the oil technique known as "alla prima," a classic technique used by painters since the 15th century.

You, too, can paint almighty "pitchers."

• shoot • let's • get • started •


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Father's Day 2016

Why is this man smiling?

For Dads

June 1988

For today's blog, I thought it would be nice to post a sweet picture of my husband snuggling up with our darling children.  I looked and looked through endless stacks of photos from 1988 and 1989, positive that I'd find the one that would make my heart melt with motherly joy.    

12 thousand photos of the kids in various stages of development.  At least, ten pix of my infant son with jaundice.  Was I high?  I wish.  Was I not aware that kids in underpants is not necessarily the most adorable thing that anyone has ever seen?  And, I really enjoyed the background shots of unfolded laundry and wandering, confused-looking pets.  How many photos does one need of a baby in a high chair eating gruel?  

So many, many pictures of my husband and me looking like we'd been hit by a bus, then dragged for several miles.  Then, trampled by a herd of stampeding cattle.  

It's pretty obvious that we stopped caring what we looked like.  What in God's name was I wearing?!  I should have never worn leggings.  Or, pants with vertical stripes.  Or, knock-off Polo shirts that were both stretched and shrunken by at least 2 sizes.  This is an indication of how much attention I paid to laundry back then.  

I have no memory of my husband ever owning a white wife-beater undershirt.  Nice combo with the bubble shorts, by the way.  These were clothing choices that were the result of shopping with kids.  Grab-'n-dash shopping Hell at Target.  

"I'm in line!!  For the love of freakin' whatever, get me out of this store!" kind of shopping.      

No, I was sober, but in that state of mind that makes parents delusional enough to disregard most of what is actually going on around them.  I might add that this form of altered consciousness cranks up and lasts all the way through the teen years.  

It is why parents of the last kid graduating from high school look like the walking dead on grad night.  They are different from the other parents, grayish and zombie-like, stripped of normal emotions, operating on decades of REMless sleep.

I want to thank that slightly disheveled dad who, for some reason, was holding our son in a patriotic Snuggly.  We'd been in our new house for about a month, and it still had the custom silk draperies hanging in the living room from the previous owners.  Don't ask me why our kitchen table & wicker chairs were also in the living room.

He has been the calm anchor of our family since the beginning.  A calm dad is a gift, and our kids were lucky to have him around.  He indulged them too much.  But, he also opened the doors to a universe of information so that they could explore and follow their dreams.

He made me a better parent.  As much as I wanted him to roar, he simply could not.  It's not in his nature.  

Because of him, we spent more time playing and laughing together as a family.  Our kids learned music because of him.  As frustrating as it was for me sometimes, he was the "yes" parent.  He was always willing to listen to them.  He found ingenious solutions to problems that could have been more easily solved with a "no."  He was a reasonable dad.

I am grateful that he was there for them and for me.  

Happy Father's Day to a really good dad.  

With love. 

• for • the • good • guys •

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Good forYou, Good forFitted Sheets

2 great suggestions from Martha!  

How Not to Fold Fitted Sheets

1.  Use flat sheets only

2.  Put fitted sheets on the bed straight out of the laundry.  No folding! 

my clothesline

Smart Martha.  

But, if you really want to know how to fold a fitted sheet, watch this...

How to Fold a Fitted Sheet

• happy • home • making •

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tuesday's Cupboard—Cauliflower Crust Pizza

...with feta, portabella mushrooms, peppers & olives

Cauliflower Crust Pizza
with feta portabella mushrooms
peppers & olives

makes 2 - 8" pizzas

An explosion of flavors!
Adapted from Weight Watchers Magazine_March/April 2016

  • large cookie sheet with a silpat or parchment to prevent sticking
  • food processor


  • 2 cups cauliflower crumbles, processed until tiny (the size of quinoa or rice)
  • generous 1/2 cup shredded cheddar & jack
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup egg-beaters or 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. minced, dried garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. cracked black pepper
  • olive oil PAM

Use your food processor to grind these down to a granular consistency

  • 2 chopped portabella mushrooms
  • One half of each: 1 red + 1 yellow + 1 orange bell pepper, sliced into 1/4" thick slices
  • 1 bunch chopped green onions
  • pre-cooked, pre-crumbled bacon (optional)
  • 1/3 c. sliced black olives 
  • 2/3 cup crumbled feta
  • a dash of red pepper flakes (optional)

Best of Summer fresh veggies

make it!
  1. Preheat oven to 450°F
  2. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with a nonstick Silpat or parchment.  Spray the Silpat or parchment lightly with olive oil cooking spray.
  3. Place cauliflower crumbles in a food processor & process to a granular consistency.
  4. Spoon into a large mixing bowl; add remaining crust ingredients & stir to combine.  
  5. Spoon even portions of crust mixture onto the baking sheet & shape into two crusts. Smooth with a spoon to form an even layer of thickness, about 1/2-inch.  Smooth up any scraggly edges.  (Unlike traditional pizza dough, this dough is not sticky, and it is easy to work with!)
  6. Bake until medium brown, about 20 minutes.
  7. Use a pancake turner to carefully flip each crust.  Bake until evenly browned, about 5 minutes more.
  8. Add mushrooms, sliced peppers, green onions, bacon (optional), black olives & feta cheese.  Sprinkle on red pepper flakes, if desired.  
  9. Bake until heated through, about 10 minutes.
  10. Remove to a heat-proof cutting board & slice each pizza into 4 pieces.  

bon app├ętit!

fantastic portabellas!

I used half of this amount for 2 pizzas (3 bells, cut in half)
Each pizza gets 1/4 of each color

I did 2 batches in my small food processor

Boy, is this stuff easy to work with (a nice change from regular pizza dough)

Believe it or not, these are easy to turn over.
The dough has a lovely, toasted consistency when baked.

enjoy • home • cooking •


Monday, June 13, 2016

Monday—Lin-Manuel Miranda's Sonnet

In 2009, we flew to New York and saw, In the Heights, at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway.  

Our night out on Broadway 2009

The Work

Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote the music and lyrics for In The Heights and performed in the lead role.  For his performance, he was nominated for the 2008 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical.  The show won Best Musical, and he received a Tony for Best Original Score.   In 2009, he won a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album.

He is currently performing on Broadway in the lead role of Alexander Hamilton in the musical, Hamilton. He wrote the book on which the musical is based, and again, scored the music and wrote the lyrics.  For this achievement, he was awarded both the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 2016 Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album.  

Hamilton was nominated for 16 Tony Awards.  Last night, it won 11 Tonys, including Best Musical, Best Original Score, and Best Book of a Musical.  Mr. Miranda was again nominated for Best Actor in a Musical.

In accepting the Tony for best score, he read a sonnet that he had written in light of yesterday's tragic violence and loss of life in Orlando.  A resolute message from the heart to those who perpetuate hate and violence and intolerance.  

His wife's name is Vanessa, and Eliza refers to the wife of Alexander Hamilton, a key character in the story.


My wife's the reason anything gets done
She nudges me towards promise by degrees
She is a perfect symphony of one
Our son is her most beautiful reprise.

We chase the melodies that seem to find us
Until they're finished songs and start to play
When senseless acts of tragedy remind us
That nothing here is promised,
not one day.

This show is proof that history remembers
We lived through times when 
hate and fear seemed stronger;

We rise and fall and light from dying embers,
remembrances that hope and love last longer, 

And love is love—is love—is love—is love—is love—is love—is love

Cannot be killed or swept aside.

I sing Vanessa's symphony, Eliza tells her story

Now, fill the world with music, love and pride.

• • •

• love • endures • love • conquers •

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Sunday—Tahoe Wildflowers!

Peaceful & beautiful Tahoe in June

Tahoe in June

bluebells & white yarrow

white yarrow

Pretty in Yellow_not sure what this is_St. John's wort?

Martis Meadow in bloom

Pine in bloom

Condo at Northstar — 19 years!

Leaving Northstar

• keep • tahoe • blue •