Saturday, December 31, 2011

Visit to San Diego

Happy New Year everyone! I wish you a year of happiness, in which everything you hope for comes to pass. Well, at least some of the things!
Yesterday afternoon we went down to San Diego where we met with Richard's co-worker, a graduate student in the PhD program at UCI named Tracy and her new husband, Chris, for some haute cuisine and great conversation. We stayed overnight in a motel and the next day, went to my favorite haunt, the San Diego Zoo.
But before we went to dinner, we went to Balboa Park and visited the Museum of Photography there. It's a small museum, but full of wonderful things. One of the exhibits showing consisted of photographs that had won an award the past few years for representing environmental and social issues worldwide. There were a number of striking photographs, but my favorite was the Chinese photographer, Yao Lu, who did brilliant photos that were parodies of ancient Chinese nature watercolors. I'll post one here from the following URL:, the 798 Photo Gallery, and you'll see what I mean. More about this visit later.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Advertising the Book

I have been nervously awaiting the release of my chapbook in mid-February. Though I haven't yet done my page or book trailer, both things I know I need to do, I have sent links and letters to a number of bookstores in Orange County and LA. No dice yet, not even at UCI, my alma mater. Of course, I guess they can't have every graduate of their MFA program read; they'd never have any other readings if they did, but this is an unusual book. There are bound to be lots of people who wouldn't usually attend poetry readings there.
Most places say they don't do readings for chapbooks. I have to wait till the full collection is published. Although it is out there, no word yet on that. I wonder whether anyone will let me read, and if not, what else can I do? Set up a stand on the street? I'd probably get busted.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Yesterday, Friday Dec. 23

Every few years I do a holiday dinner for friends where I go all out cooking latkes and soup and all the fixings. Yesterday was such a day. It didn't go as well as I am used to. Generally, I start fixing things a few days before, so the latkes are pre-made and frozen (not commercially, but by me), the dessert is done, appetizers, etc. But for various reasons, not the least being a full freezer and fridge, I had to cook everything in one day. And as often happens when one is in a hurry, things didn't go so well.
It all started with the dessert. I decided to do that first. It was a galette of apples, currants, and pine nuts in Calvados brandy. I decided to use a frozen pie crust to speed things up, and defrosted it the night before. The problem was that it leaked juices and butter onto the oven, which caught on fire. The house was filled with smoke, and Jeremy ran out and pulled out the plug! That meant I had to clean the oven, a laborious task, and figure out how to start the thing back up again. The touchy smoke alarm went off, even after the oven was clean.Then Richard rigged up a device to keep the tart from leaking onto the oven, and things went well. It was ugly (looked like a heap of junk) but tasted good.
Then the curried sweet potato latke recipe a friend from synagogue gave me didn't work. The latkes didn't cook, or they shriveled up and fell to pieces. I ended up with tasty bits and pieces, not latkes. For the other variety of latkes, I just used my usual recipe, which is no recipe at all, and threw in zucchini and parsley. They were perfect, as usual! Thank goodness!
The two soups turned out fine. And R ran out at the last minute and bought some crusty bread. I didn't have time to make any, as I usually do.
So we had a lovely dinner with Denise and Ray. Denise is my yoga teacher, and she is a very special person. She is funny and smart, though not formally educated. She kept us all in stitches. Ray is a very nice quiet guy, and he and Richard got along well. I hope that they will visit again.
Denise gave me a lovely Indian box and dreydl and a beautiful basket full of fruit she grew in her garden. We had a great time.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Festivities of the Season

Last night the choir had its annual Chanukah party. I think it's becoming more fun every year. Even though I had a terrible cold and was feeling pretty miserable, and Richard groused about the admittedly hellacious ride up to the far reaches of North Orange County on packed freeways (can't blame him), once we got there everyone was smiling!
There was the usual tons of wonderful food, brisket, latkes, salads of various kinds, roasted vegetables (love those roasted blue potatoes!), and my homemade cranberry upside down cake with homemade chantilly cream (whipped cream with sour cream and orange zest).
Then we sang (though I couldn't really do much of that) and played parlor games and chatted and generally had a wonderful time.
I love my community!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Back to Wood Canyon

Although the wind is blowing again in most of the area, at Wood Canyon, under the sheltering boughs of the live oaks, it was quiet and still. There were about 12 people on today's hike down into the dells and up Rockit, a steep hill crowded with boulders and reckless mountain bikers that climbs for quite a while, evens out, then climbs again. This was the place where those beautiful pictures I posted earlier were taken.
I was slow as usual, but not last. Someone brought a husband who hadn't been hiking before, and he supplanted me as resident slowpoke! No one seems to mind. Everyone is cheerful and willing to wait up.
Today I must cook for this evening's choir Chanukah party and tomorrow evening's Chanukah dinner for my yoga teacher Denise. I don't remember whether I said what I would be preparing. It's the usual latke and soup extravaganza: two kinds of latke-- zucchini/potato and curried sweet potato with home made apple cranberry sauce, roasted mixed Asian mushrooms with tamari glaze, and an apple current galette for dessert.
Lotta work to do, so I'll go get started.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Big Rain

Yesterday I drove on surface streets for about two hours in each direction to a city on the northern outskirts of the county. I don't drive on freeways, which is the way most people in this spread-out area of the country get around, because they are rather insane, increasingly gridlocked, filled with people in multiple lanes who do not signal, enormous behemoth trucks, and generally a pace that I cannot tolerate. So for my own and others' safety, I stay off the freeways. This rather limits where I can go
in the area.
On the way home, in the dark, I got lost and ended up around Disneyland, far from where I was supposed to be, looking for a familiar street, which I finally found. It began to rain, one of those Southern California downpours in which all the stored up moisture comes at once, flooding the streets and making them as slippery as an ice rink. Lightning lit up the sky down to its very roots, and enormous booms of thunder startled me, close by in the hills. In all this, my windshield wipers were not working well, so that it was difficult to see, more difficult than even the pouring rain would normally make it.
I maintained my cool, and got home in one piece. This morning, the world (and maybe even my dirty car) looks freshly washed and lovely, though I think the rain is not done with us yet.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Today, Sat. Dec. 10

Yesterday I went with my hiking group on a non-hike. We traveled up to L.A. to view and experience a series of spiritual sites. These included a Hindu temple in Corona, a Buddhist Temple in Hacienda Heights, and after an Indian vegetarian lunch in Santa Monica, a final walk around the lake at the Self Realization center in Pacific Palisades.
The first site was in Chino Hills, which is a suburban area located on an enormous feedlot. Or that's what it smells like! There are lots of cows there, in fact, though I don't know if they are kept mostly in dairy farms or raised for slaughter. Probably a bit of each. The smell never lets up, which makes it sort of hard to feel spiritual, but all the same, this amazing site would inspire awe, if nothing else would.
From a distance, the Shri Swaminarajan Mandir and Cultural Center, a Hindu temple, one of several of this sect's sites scattered throughout the world, looked like a huge corporate office park grafted to an ancient Indian temple, and that indeed was what it was.
Incongruous though the combination was, the beautiful hand-carved hardwood, intricately carved with peacocks (India's national symbol), gods and goddesses, lotuses, and other religious symbols was a wonder to behold.
Inside the welcoming center, a service was going on, which made hard to absorb the guide's interesting and informative talk about the temple and the sect. But we all looked around at the carvings that filled the inside of this cavernous place, with its shining marble floors (we had to take off our shoes, of course!), and at the shrines, enormous and imposing figures in gold and bright colors.
We went into the store, and people bought various Indian snacks at the gift store, though the welcoming center gave us all some Indian snacks for free also and invited us to come back for a service and banquet another time.
I got into an interesting discussion with the guide about the notion of a "saint" in this culture. For this group, one can decide to become a saint, giving up material things and family connections. I tried to explain that this was totally unlike the western notion of a saint, but the guide (and our Indian hiking group leader, Harish, also) did not really grasp the difference I was trying to explain. Interesting. These points of difference are very revealing about cultures.
Then we got back into the car and went to Hacienda Heights, a Chinese section near LA, where we went to the enormous Hsi Lai, a Buddhist Temple set high on a hill. At the Temple, workers were busily setting up decorations for the New Year celebration, coming at the end of January. We entered the temple and listened to the chanting for a few minutes, watching the solemn monks and nuns file by in their robes, and stopped to study curious statuary of buddhas, goddesses, and other assorted divinities. There was a wonderful tea house I want to come back and visit another time, but I was trying not to eat everything I saw.
Most people (not me) were very hungry by that time. We headed way way across town to Santa Monica for an Indian vegetarian lunch. And then a little bit further north up the coast to Pacific Palisades, to the Lake Shrine, dedicated to Paramahansa Yogananda, my favorite of the day.
I have been to the Lake Shrine before, but this time I spent more time and more attention on it than ever before. It is a peaceful beautiful place, with its windmill house and lotus archway, swans, and beautiful gardens.
The rest was all the ride home. Most of the group went to Venice Beach where they gawked at tourists and others and watched the sunset, but we just wanted to go home and collapse! What a day!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Links to Genesta Stores on Facebook

I mentioned in a previous post that John Genesta did the cover photo for my book, and that Lisa Genesta is a silversmith, who makes wonderful jewelry. Here are some links for their stores, so you can do some last minute shopping!
John on FB:!/profile.php?id=620774334 (click on photos to see his photography album (his page is in the process of construction on FB right now)

Lisa on FB: (antique and vintage textiles, fabrics and trimmings)!/pages/Ruins-ca-Antique-Vintage-Textiles-Fabrics-Trims/149949833494
Lisa on Ruby Lane (antique and vintage textiles, fabrics and trimmings)
Lisa on Etsy (antique and vintage textiles, fabric and trimmings)
Here's one to Lisa's beautiful jewelry site!

Got it Covered!

I heard from Karen Kelsay at White Violet Press, publisher of the chapbook. She came up with a lovely cover, using the photo John Genesta took yesterday. I attach it here. Now I have to get someone to take a pic of me. I'd also like there to be a picture of Nina, the artist who did the drawings, but there is apparently no place on the cover for that. There will be an extra drawing on the back of the book though!
Here is a link that will take you to White Violet Press, where you can pre-order the book, or else you can order it from me at

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The cover!

Today I went to Laguna after yoga class and had tea with my friend Lisa Genesta. She showed me around her colorful place in Laguna Canyon, which has a lot of history, being the haunt of the counter culture in the late 60s and early 70s. She was reading a book about the period that featured people her husband John had known and been friends with during those times.
Then John took the picture and worked with it on the computer for a couple of hours. You may recall that I had the idea of having an origami lotus made out of the pages of a book. I don't know how to make things like this, even though I found instructions online, so I ordered one from an origami store on Etsy. Would you believe that there were a number of different such lotuses for sale at that store? It seems that whatever someone can imagine, she can find it online someplace.
I brought some black silk for the backdrop, and John took a wonderful picture. When he sends it to me and the cover is ready, I will post it here.
Anyone who needs a photographer or wants to buy a photograph as a gift should consider looking into his Facebook store or, if you are local, going to the winter Sawdust festival and checking out his work!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Two in a Row

I skipped yoga this morning to attend a docent led walk (too short to call it a hike) in Blackstar Canyon, also in Trabuco Canyon. It was about the Red Rocks of Blackstar Canyon. You may recall that this is the place I went several times with the Wilderness Workshop, years ago, to watch the moon rise. I wrote two poems about it, and there is a very good photo of me in the process of writing one of these taken there.
The Irvine Ranch Conservancy led this hike. They are a very different sort of organization from OC Hiking, which is part of Meetup, and thus rather informal. This is a Nonprofit, with a capital N, with a very organized hierarchy and website, etc.
The docents are very knowledgeable people, who are carefully trained and supervised, not just folks who like to go for hikes. They learn all about (or already know about) geology, biology, botany, astronomy, and lots of other relevant topics.
During the daytime, Blackstar is lovely in a different way from at dusk. The red rocks recede a bit into the deep blue sky, and one gets to see the details of the animals and plants that live on them. Today I took up the docent's challenge, and spotted the abandoned nest of a golden eagle, winning the prize of a bottle of water.
I also looked with interest at several oak galls, one in a tree and one on the ground, and some dudleya, which looks like a type of echeveria, a round, pinkish green succulent that likes to grow on cliffs and rocks.
I learned about mule fat, which is a plant that, according to the docent, is a euphemism for mule fart, since supposedly this is the effect it had on mules, back in the days when lots of mules came through this canyon.
I even heard ghost stories about a massacre of native Americans that took place there, and people say the souls of those people now haunt the canyon at night, but certainly, mountain lions and other beasts, including bears, haunt the canyon, and make me want to keep close to the parking lot if I go there at night again rather than wandering the trails as we did today.
It was cold and windy, and I wasn't dressed warmly enough, but I enjoyed it very much. A good day's bit of learning.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hike at the Monastery

This morning, despite reservations about whether I would be able to keep up, I went on a hike with the notable character and OC Hiking leader Harish up on the hills near Cook's Corner, which is not far from my place, but in a spot I am reluctant to drive to. Cook's Corner is a hangout for motorcycle gangs and hangers on. It is difficult to park or to pull in or out of lots because there are always cars and motorcycles coming from all directions at high speed and people and bikes darting out into the road.
But today I got a ride to the trailhead, and found this to be perhaps my favorite hike of all I have taken. There were some quite steep hills, several of them, that made me huff and puff a bit, but it was a beautiful hiking day, about 60 degrees, with a clear, deep blue sky.
There were large old live oaks all over the trails and wonderful overlooks that gave us an opportunity to see many different trails in the area, all the way to the beach. In fact, we could see Catalina Island from up there!
I love live oaks. They do not at all resemble the oak trees I know from back east. They are more slender, their leaves smaller, and they have elongated acorns that are quite a bit larger than regular oaks'. When they get large, their branches and boughs grow along the ground, forming a sort of canopy one can sit under and be completely sheltered from the surrounding world.Birds and other animals love this, and the trees are usually loud with the sound of these creatures doing what they do.
In addition to a hike, we also got an extemporaneous lecture of sorts from the hike leader, particularly when we visited the monastery and walked their trail of shrines for all the major religions. He has quite a group of fans, who come on all of his hikes. I enjoyed their company, and though I'd like to discuss some of these things Harish said rather than just listening, I would certainly do the hike and others with this leader again!
The monastery had an amazing, peaceful atmosphere. I felt comfortable and safe there. I would like to go back again, perhaps even to do a reading there. I wonder if they'd be interested?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Hard Time

This is a difficult time to be a Californian. The great universities of the state are imploding. Yesterday I spoke with a former professor who told me that the French department had closed, lecture series and chairs had been eliminated, and the whole place was generally folding.
Since we came here in 1980, I remember when the University was much smaller, and it would not seem so bad to me should it return to those earlier days, since there is always the chance it could wait for better days and unfold again, like a lungfish cocooned in mud to await the rains. But I am not sure it is that benign, this diminishing, that impermanent.