Monday, November 30, 2009

Bryce Canyon - a two-day diary

(Click images to view larger)
I almost didn't take my little trip to Bryce.  I had planned on going from Friday through Sunday.  But my kitchen contractor wanted to bring his construction foreman by to meet me and go over the demolition plans.  They said they would be starting this Wednesday.  I felt such pressure after that, I knew I simply had to stay home and get the kitchen all cleared out.  I got most of it done on Friday.  And then I considered going on Saturday for a short visit.  I knew there was a storm headed that way, but the weather forecasters said it wouldn't amount to much.  By 9 a.m. I decided, packed a small bag, my camera, and some warm outerwear, and headed out.

It's just over a four-hour drive by I-15.  I have in the past take four different routes to Bryce, and the one I chose, I-15 most of the way, is a little farther but a bit faster than Hwy 89 but not as far as the Hwy 12 route.  I made good time, but started hitting snow flurries just past Beaver.  I took the Hwy 20 cutoff to Hwy 89 and found myself driving in a snowstorm through that small mountain pass.  I didn't like it.  I almost turned around.

If you know me, you may know of my fears: a fear of heights, a fear of mountain roads, and a fear of driving on snowy roads.  Before this trip was over, I would face all three of these fears, and at one point all three at once.

But Hwy 20 was okay after all and I arrived at Bryce Canyon around 2 p.m. and checked into the hotel.  The long road leading to the park takes you through the Red Canyon which gives you a little preview of red rock formations.  But nothing prepares you for the breathtaking view the first time you approach the rim of Bryce Canyon and look down on the incredible color and formations - the mostly red "hoodoos" or spires formed from millions of years of layers of sediment eroded into amazing sculptures. I don't know how many times I've visited Bryce - dozens for sure - and I never get tired of the stunning beauty there.

I had a few hours until sunset, so headed right to the park.  Bryce is small; one 18-mile road runs the length of it.  As you drive along the road, there are turnoffs to the viewpoints.  The turnoffs are short roadways that pass through a forest of fir trees, and end up at the rim which is a sudden dropping away of the earth into the most amazing view you could never have imagined lay just beyond that forest.  In the past I've gone only six miles into the park, as do most tourists, visiting the most popular view points.  I drove to the furthest away, Bryce Point and Inspiration Point, and then worked my way back toward the gate, stopping at each view site.  Snow began falling lightly at first and then a little harder.  It was cold and all the paths were icy.  I was extremely cautious not to take a fall while taking many dozens of pictures.  There were few hikers.  Much too slippery unless you had special gear.

At dinner at the old Ruby's Inn, I watched the snow falling and studied the Bryce map and plotted out my Sunday morning.  I planned on heading home by noon and wanted first to get some photo shots with the snow.  I began wondering about the sites that could be seen if I ventured beyond the usual.  I wondered what the Natural Bridge was like that I saw on the map.  The literature that came with my entrance fee said nothing about it, other than it was about 15 miles or so into the park.  I decided I would try it.  When I left the restaurant, I was shocked to see how much snow had fallen.  The roads were already snow packed and I drove slowly to my hotel, the new Ruby's Inn, just across the road.  I was glad I had my car, having driven directly to the restaurant from the park.  The snowstorm was a near whiteout and I crept carefully along the roadways newly hidden by snow.  We ended up getting only a few inches overnight, and the morning dawned brilliantly sunny and freezing. 

As I entered the park, the ranger advised me to drive very slowly.  The roads had been plowed but were ice packed and some cars had already slid off.  Indeed, a tow truck passed me as I headed into the park.  I knew my route to Natural Bridge involved some twisting and steep mountainous road -- something that makes me nervous on clear dry roads.  I decided to visit the nearer points first and wait to see if the roads improved.  The plan paid off.  I got some fantastic pictures of the same sights as the night before, now transformed with layers of sparkling snow.  The sun shone brightly and despite the freezing temps, the sun felt warm on my face.  I felt confident the roads must be improving and I set out for new territory.

There weren't as many visitors beyond that initial six miles, but enough that I didn't feel all alone.  The roads were only fair with still a lot of ice, especially in shaded areas.  When I reached the steep switchback sections, I felt nervous but was surprised with myself that I was still calm and confident.  The road was a typical mountain road with drop-offs to one side or the other as you made your way up.  I didn't look down - just focused on the road.  I watched mile marker signs.  It was a long slow 6 miles until I reached a gate across the road with a sign "Road Closed", just one viewpoint before Natural Bridge.  I would not get to see it -- that site would have to wait for another visit.  This time I would see Far View Point which was the end of the line that day.  The views there don't show the dense hoodoos of the nearer points, but instead offer far vistas with wonderful flat-topped mesas in the distance.

Driving back down the mountain was better as the temperature was just above freezing and the ice on the road was turning to slush.  I made a few more stops in the park, and finally reluctantly turned my car toward Salt Lake and home.  I took over 200 photos, and now the trick is to narrow it down to just a few.

 Red Canyon approaching Bryce
 Storms can move in very quickly.  This one did.
 Hoodoo rock formations reveal millions of years of sediment layers.
 Trails ranging from easy to very difficult are popular in good weather. How many times did we hike the Navaho Loop with the kids in years past.  Steep descending and ascending, but otherwise an easy walk.
 Starting to snow, time to go to dinner.
Day 2:  Ice-packed roads, temps below freezing.  Drive and walk carefully.

 The end of the road.  Can't get to Natural Bridge today.
 The little Nissan with excellent snow tires, got me there and back.
Good-bye to Red Canyon, heading home.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Things are cookin'

And by that I mean the Thanksgiving dinner.  I'm so glad I gave all the kids assignments this year.  I usually do the whole things myself.  But with each of them bringing something, there's that much less I need to prepare.  And this year, instead of a full bird, I decided on just a turkey breast which needs just two hours to roast.   I'm including some wonderful salmon too as we have vegetarians among us, and when I have served salmon and turkey in the past, the carnivores seemed to want salmon as well.  So plenty for all, but not so much as to have lots of leftovers.  This is not a year for leftovers.

I feel relaxed.  We are eating early - 1 p.m. or so - because some of the kids have to work tomorrow and they don't want to just eat and run.  This will give plenty of time for socializing too.

The weather is looking iffy for my trip.  A big storm is headed here from the northwest.  It is splitting and half heading north and half heading south.  It's the southern part that worries me as they are now predicting snow flurries at Bryce Canyon.  There's no way of knowing just how severe those flurries might be, but I've driven in that part of the state in severe snow, and it is treacherous.  I'm keeping my options open.  Since the Wasatch Front is predicted to be missed by both parts of the storm, I may just head west.  Although Wendover is not my idea of a destination.  I may just postpone for better weather and just start getting ready for the demo next week.

Back to cooking.  Happy turkey day everyone.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


My whole body is clenched with tension.  We start demolition next week.  Everything got moved up a week.  All the workers are full-steam ahead.

Today I decided on the marble slab.  I decided on the floor tile.  I visited the appliance store and upgraded my choices a bit.  Looked at a lot of backsplash options.  Met with the contractor and went over the timeline.  He said the cabinetmaker is well underway and will install a week early, which means everything needs to happen fast to be ready for that.  Eek!

I have to put on the big T-day dinner tomorrow, and then immediately start unloading cabinets.  And despite the pressure, I'm still taking a little out-of-town jaunt.  I need this little getaway.  The weather is perfect.  I'm not putting it off.  I can unload the kitchen on Monday.

I need a drink.  (Just kidding, everyone, relax.  I actually think I AM going to cry, though.)

Oh.  Oh.  I keep thinking of things I need to do.  Oh!

Poetry Wednesday: Ancient Music

It's bitter cold out and I'm bundling up to go look at granite slabs in hopes of finding a countertop. So it seems appropriate, at least to me, to share a wintry poem. Ezra Pound offers us a parody on an ancient canon.

Ancient Music
Ezra Pound

Winter is iccummen in,
Lhude sing Goddamm,
Raineth drop and staineth slop,
And how the wind doth ramm!
Sing: Goddamm.

Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
An ague hath my ham.
Freezeth river, turneth liver,
Damn you, sing: Goddamm.

Goddamm, Godamm, 'tis why I am, Goddamm,
So 'gainst the winter's balm.
Sing goddamm, damm, sing Goddamm,
Sing goddamm, sing goddammm, DAMM.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Awoke at 3:30.  Five hours of sleep.  It's not enough, but my mind is too busy to sleep.  So I'm starting the day early, coffee and browsing tunes on YouTube. 

Had a long meeting with my kitchen contractor last night and went over one million details - at least.  I have been all over the place on the size of the island, the size of the pantry, and the placement of everything.  I think together we finally figured out what would be best.  Worked out lighting issues.  We didn't quite resolve the tile selection for the floor.  He's going to try to negotiate a better price on the Italian tile I had picked out and then rejected because it was too expensive.  He thinks the Home Depot alternate I found is too cheap.  I'll go looking again and try to find something more moderate.  He also wants to roll the countertop guy into the project and not have it a separate deal.  I agree as it gives him more leverage with the guy.  The countertop price is very good and it won't change for me.  I'm supposed to go pick out the slab tomorrow morning. Oh yes, I need to shop for the sink and a fixture there, too. And finalize the appliances.

We talked about a few extras like replacing light fixtures in the three bedrooms.  So I need to do some shopping for lighting fixtures.  Something pretty for over the sink, and the dining room.  Maybe move the ceiling fan into a bedroom and then two other new bedroom fixtures.  I've wanted to change out these lights for a long time and this will finally be done.

And he'll close up the hole in the ceiling that was left when they removed the swamp cooler.  I've lived with that for over a year. 

And I asked him to quote separately, in case I'm really getting in too deep, to replace all my interior doors.  I still have the old hollow core brown doors from the 70's, original to the house.  And I'd like to replace with white six-panel doors.  And replace the brown closet doors with white with no louvres.  I so want to replace those doors.  I hope the cost is manageable.

So I can't sleep.  I wonder why.

All the workers expect to be finished before Christmas..  I really will be surprised if that happens, but they are quite sure.  Still I realize most people stop projects this time of year and don't want the house torn up, so I'm using a window of opportunity. 

I am anxious to make these changes.  For me it's part of moving on from my marriage, from my past life.  Starting over with a new life. The physical changes in my house will, I believe, help me to get on with that transition.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fine Art: Old Lviv

(Click image to view large; see closeups, below)

Prior to my divorce, during the worst of times, my husband at the time was having the time of his life, traveling, meeting people, and spending money like we were rich. On one such trip to San Francisco, he returned with an original oil painting he had bought at a gallery there. He gave it to me saying he knew how I loved street scenes. It was beautiful. But I was angry. He'd spent an outrageous sum of money on it. We aren't people who own artwork that costs that kind of money! (That's how I thanked him.)

I was sick. Our savings were dwindling fast on episodes like this. I had no appreciation for the beauty, only how it was further adding to what would surely be financial ruin for us. I determined not long afterward to file for divorce, with plenty of grounds, not the least of which was self-preservation. I decided the painting must be sold. But it stayed in my house through the separation and divorce.

It was an unframed oil on canvas. I finally had it framed and determined to have it appraised. One gallery I took it to said it was a fine contemporary work and could be of interest to collectors of Russian art, of which there are a number in our area. A good friend who is an accomplished painter himself examined it and gave me his opinion of a value about 25 to 40 percent higher than it's original price. Still I didn't try to sell it. I kept it in a padded slipcover I had made for it to keep out dust and prevent damage while transporting. It now leans against the wall in my office.

Here's what little I know about the painting. There is an inscription written by hand on the back of the canvas in a language I don't recognize, even in a different alphabet. I asked my friend from (Republic of) Georgia who also speaks Russian if she could translate if for me, and luckily she could. It is in Ukranian and similar enough to Russian that she could make it out. She told me the artist is Ukrainian artist V. A. Demchak. I can find nothing on the internet about her, but I know only she is a woman who has a gallery in San Francisco. The inscription says “Old Lviv, Stock Exchange on Akademichniy Street, (2004)". Lviv (also called Lvov) is a city in Ukraine. The inscription also says 60 x 90 cm (unframed) which we determined was the canvas size (I think framed it's about 24" x 36").

I've included some close ups of parts of it so show some of the fine details. The photos here don't really do justice to the sharpness of the fine lines.

Nicholas' post today at Intelliblog inspired me to show this and write about it. It is interesting for me to see how my feelings toward this painting have mellowed. I managed to survive financially and am doing just fine. The money spent on the painting and many other things is long gone and can never be recovered. But I do have a painting to show for it. And it is lovely.

Now I may not sell it. Not right away at least. I suppose there is no harm in owning one piece of very fine art.  Since I own it, I may as well hang it up and enjoy it. And I know where it will be. I'm moving my hutch out of my dining room to the empty space between living room and dining room, and the bare wall that remains will feature this painting. It will be lovely when my remodeling is done.

Click images to view larger.  In some of the close ups you see the grain of the canvas due to reflection of the camera's flash. 

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Sorry friends, I'm getting caught up in all the busy-ness and business of getting my kitchen remodeled.  I'm running around meeting with workmen, looking at samples.  Trying to make decisions.  It's more painful and time-consuming than I'd like.  The hardest part -- and I knew this in advance -- is getting educated about everything you are spending money on in order to make a smart decision.  You've all been there.  When you buy a car, a TV, a couch, you end up needing to ask lots of questions and make lots of comparisons so you don't make a mistake and have regrets later.  It's time-consuming.  I just don't want to have to know that much about some things.  So I will learn it now and then promptly forget it.

I'm trying to keep up on all your blogs via Google Reader, but I'm not commenting as much as usual and I apologize I don't have the time to join in all the discussions as much as I would like.  This may last awhile.  I may not be back in stride until the new year.  Ah well.

I'll try and get the before photos up soon.  They start building the cabinets in the shop this week.  Demolition starts in about 2 or 3 weeks -- I'll know more on Monday.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Today I took a day off work to watch my two-year old grandson while his parents are at work.  He just has a little cold, it's not the flu.  But a suspected ear infection too.  The little guy has been asleep since he arrived.  But when he awakes, grandma is ready with her famous homemade pancakes.  It's not the recipe that's so famous, it the shapes we create on the griddle.  Not satisfied with Mickey Mouse, I have done the entire cast of Sponge Bob.  Never fails to cheer up little children who are under the weather. 

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Non, je ne regrette rien. No, I regret nothing

If you haven't seen it, I recommend the movie La Vie En Rose, about the life of this tiny but powerful singer.  In this video is Edith Piaf in a live recital, Holland, 1962.

Non, je ne regrette rien.
(No, I regret nothing)

Considered the best singer France gave to the world, Edith Piaf was born Edith Giovanna Gassion on December 19, 1915 in Paris, France. She died on October 11, 1963 (one year after this recital) in Paris, France. Edith Piaf stood at only 4'8". Her musical abilities took her out of the streets and placed at the top of the musical world at the time.

-----------------------------FRANÇAIS--- ------------------------

Non! Rien de rien ...
Non! Je ne regrette rien
Ni le bien qu'on m'a fait
Ni le mal tout ça m'est bien égal!

Non! Rien de rien ...
Non! Je ne regrette rien
C'est payé, balayé, oublié
Je me fous du passé!

Avec mes souvenirs
J'ai allumé le feu
Mes chagrins, mes plaisirs
Je n'ai plus besoin d'eux!

Balayés les amours
Avec leurs trémolos
Balayés pour toujours
Je repars à zéro ...

Non! Rien de rien ...
Non! Je ne regrette rien
Ni le bien, qu'on m'a fait
Ni le mal, tout ça m'est bien égal!

Non! Rien de rien ...
Non! Je ne regrette rien
Car ma vie, car mes joies
Aujourd'hui, ça commence avec toi!

-----------------------------ENGLISH---- ------------------------
No! Absolutely nothing...
No! I regret nothing
Neither the good that I've done nor the bad
All this is much the same to me!

No! Absolutely nothing...
No! I regret nothing...
It is paid, swept away, forgotten
I don't care about the past!

With my souvenirs
I lit a fire
My sorrows, my pleasures
I need them no more!

Swept away the love affairs
With their tremors
Swept away forever
I leave with nothing ...

No! Absolutely nothing...
No! I regret nothing
Neither the good that I've done nor the bad
All this is much the same to me!

No! Absolutely nothing...
No! I regret nothing...
Because my life, because my joys
Today that begins with you!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The kitchen leaps forward

Well the project leaps forward, anyway.  I have selected the cabinetmaker and the design.  They will start building next week and will install before Christmas if all goes well.  My contractor says my house will be torn up for about three weeks.  If that's all it is, I will consider myself lucky.

I have to pick out countertops next.  And floors.  I've decided against removing all my carpet.  I just thought the options weren't as good as what I have already.  Laminates are afforadable but not recommended.  Hardwood is recommended, but just too expensive.  Now I'm planning to do tile in the kitchen and keep my carpeting everywhere else.  My carpet is still very nice and not worth ripping up for something disappointing.  Maybe next year I'll consider doing floors.

So, decisions yet to make:  floor tile, counter top, backsplash tile, lighting fixtures.  And review appliances.  May upgrade a bit since I'm saving so much on the floors.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Insipid Christmas Music

I have a new post at RedStateBlues on insipid Christmas music.  I'll just link you there rather than cross-post here: 

Saturday, November 7, 2009

We go to the symphony, and I buy myself something sparkly

Brahms.  What can you say.  Right in the center of wonderful, pure classical music.  No hint of baroque, no wandering off into the romantic melodies or modern dissonances.  You become so absorbed in the music and feel infused with it to the point of almost melting inside.  It was an entire evening of Brahms for us last night.

We began with Concerto No. 1 in D Minor with pianist Jonathan Biss, unknown to me, with the orchestra conducted by the famous Pinchas Zuckerman.  We had a large strings contingent and small woodwinds, brass and percussiion.  Our pianist was dynamic, even at times athletic, leaping from the bench with a particularly grand flourish at the end of a marvelous run or phrase. Well leaping is probably too extreme a description, but definitely putting daylight between himself and the bench.  Zuckerman had the symphony performing at its best.

After intermission we had Symphony No. 4 in E minor.  Zuckerman appeared to be really enjoying himself.  I love it when a conductor doesn't need to look at the music, but has such great knowledge of the score, can fully interact with the orchestra.

One day I'll blog about the fashion trends in symphony artists.  And symphony-goers for that matter.  Times have changed even in just the past 30 years.

Ou evening began with dinner at Little America.  Everyone goes to Grand America these days - or so we thought.  Actually there was a long line waiting all evening long.  I arrived first and secured a table for us.  This was a sentimental journey for me, as Little America was a favorite of mine and Doug's -- I can't guess how many times we had dinner there, or lunch or brunch, or just coffee and cake after the opera.  I ordered coffee while I waited and had a moment for old times.  The good years.

The food was wonderful, and afterward we had extra time, so we browsed through the hotel shops.  I reminisced how Doug would often just buy me something on a whim in those shops.  Overpriced yes, but he was like that.  So when I came across an exquisite little beaded purse for a relatively reasonable price, my friends insisted I must buy it and it would be a way of remembering the good times with Doug.  I hesitated -- I am not as impulsive as he was.  But I gave in and did it.  No regrets.

We rode the light rail train to symphony hall and back as it was so convenient.  With hours of chatting, laughing, eating, hearing the wonderful symphony, it can only be judged a perfect evening once again.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Poetry Wednesday: The Heart

In my clearing out of rooms, closets, drawers, I keep running across interesting things that distract me from my task.  One such thing was a collection of poems in a book entitled Poetry Out Loud.  It contains a considerable amount of classical poetry, but also some more modern works.  I've already used a couple from the book.  Today I've selected another to share for our poetry Wednesday.  The ending of this poem is the title of a best-seller book (which I haven't read).  The complete, albeit short, poem is more shocking and graphic.  As observed in the book, a parable with an appalling lesson--"the human capacity for alienation and self-hate that feeds upon itself and twists the mind."

The Heart
Stephen Crane

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, "Is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter--bitter," he answered;
"But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart."

Sunday, November 1, 2009

It's November, did you fall back?

After advising everyong to set their clocks back, I not only did not, but I also did not turn off the alarm clock as I promised myself.  Consequently, I was up and making coffee at 5 a.m. (which is now 4 a.m.).  I've spent the morning catching up on news, blogs, and facebook, and playing CDs and YouTube videos.  Wasting time really.  The weather is lovely out, and I could rake up those leaves now, and cut down the dead perennials.  I could start cleaning the basement, or continue the garage.  But I don't want to do any of it.  My house is clean (well not the basement), I have so much food left over from my luncheon, I don't have to cook or shop for a week.  I'd like to take the day and just be lazy.

It's so hard for me to give myself permission to be lazy.  I feel I must be productive every day.

The luncheon and movie were fun and only marrred by the fact the freeway was closed down and my friends had a hard time figuring out how to get to my house.  But all finally made it and all was well.

November finds me focused entirely on remodeling the kitchen.  Of course, there will be other things happening in my life, but I am determined to make this happen.

But today . . . it remains to be seen whether I'll be lazy or not..