Friday, November 29, 2013

Blue Bunny

I am an ice cream addict!  I need my fix of good vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt every evening!  And here in Surprise I have discovered a WONDERFUL ice cream.  It's Blue Bunny Premium All Natural Vanilla. Here's the list of ingredients: Milk, Cream, Sugar, Egg Yolks, Natural Vanilla Extract and Vanilla Bean Specks.  (Quoted from the carton, complete with upper case letters.)

This is the absolutely best vanilla ice cream I have ever tasted!

The carton tells me that is is manufactured by Wells Enterprises, Inc., an Iowa Corporation, and gives an address in Le Mars, Iowa, and an 800 phone number.  I think I'll call them next week and tell them how delicious their All Natural Vanilla ice cream is.

The carton also informs me that they are celebrating their 100 years of making "everyday moments more memorable for families."  That might be slightly hyperbolic, but I'll go along with it.  To mark their 100 years they are helping to grant 100 wishes to 100 children with life-threatening medical conditions.

The carton also lets me know that every 1/2 cup serving contains 150 calories, 80 of them from fat.  That's over 50%, isn't it?  But hey, that 1/2 cup serving also contains 10% of your daily calcium requirements.

Now I wonder how much fits into the coffee cup that I use as an ice cream dish.  Maybe I really don't want to know!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pool Time

I tried to position these two pictures side by side to show the whole pool.  They don't fit side by side on this page even if they are both the small size.  But putting them exactly together in the middle pretty much shows the whole pool.  The deepest area is in front of the waterfall, and is 5 feet deep.  Toward the edges the depth is 4 ft., and in the whole right side (in the picture) the pool is about 3 feet deep.

We like to go there around 2:30 to 3:00 p.m., after our morning activities and our dinner are finished.

Last week Thursday there was a thunderstorm in the evening, and two nights and two days of cold, steady rain followed it.  Sunday was still cloudy and the sun finally came out yesterday.  The temperatures are still pretty low, with highs in the low 70's, but the pool is at a steady 82º, so when the sun is shining and there is not much wind, swimming is very comfortable.  Yesterday afternoon it was back to the pool for me.

I like to swim leisurely around the pool in a counterclockwise direction.  It was so peaceful there yesterday, as most people thought it was too cold for a "pool afternoon."

Two weeks ago I dropped in on the quilting time at the sewing room in the Community Center.  The two women who were working on charity quilts there welcomed me and we got acquainted.  Then a third woman arrived and introduced herself.  She and I started chatting and I found her to be very articulate and accomplished.  Her name is Kathy Brown and she is a certified sewing instructor who teaches at the sewing expos in Canadian cities.  I've been to these wonderful "conventions" in both Edmonton and Calgary, and they are very inspiring.

As we chatted she mentioned that she does tissue paper pattern fitting.  I could use a good deal of help fitting a pants pattern since my figure has changed so much over the years.  My pants pattern from my 50's just doesn't fit anymore!  She said she would be glad to do a fitting for me, and we decided that since there might be other "garment sewers" who would be interested, we would choose a date and time, and advertise this on the village email bulletin board.

This morning was the fulfillment of that idea.  Kathy and I were there before 9:30, and then several other women showed up for the class.  I think there were 8 or 9 other women attending.

I wore my bathing suit underneath my caftan, so that when the time came to fit the paper pattern, my body was available, but my appearance was still modest.

It was an excellent experience.  Kathy did a great job of fitting the pattern to my hard-to-fit body.  She was entertaining and clear in her explanations.  She also had printed notes for each person attending, so that all our attention could be given to watching what she was doing and learning.  I came home with a professionally fitted pants pattern that I can't wait to use.  At home in Alberta I have some very nice woven navy fabric that will make a great pair of slacks.  I wish it were here so that I could get started this afternoon!

Great Big Thank You to Kathy Brown!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Two F.O.s

In the Community Center here there is a sewing room.  On the door is a schedule of activities.  Quilting is listed for 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Wednesdays.  A week and a half ago I dropped in to see what was happening there.  I met two very nice women, Joan and Bev, who were working on some charity quilts for babies.  After a while another woman arrived, Kathy Brown, and we started chatting together.

Kathy is from Nanaimo, B.C. and is a Certified Sewing Instructor who teaches at the wonderful sewing expos in Calgary, Edmonton, etc.  She has had training in many different techniques and she designs patterns for McCalls--a very interesting and talented person.  When she mentioned that she can do tissue pattern fitting, I clued in right away.

I could use some help with a pants pattern, I said.  Since my "senior" figure arrived, I've had a hard time altering a pants pattern to fit.  "Oh!  I can do that!" she replied.  We explored some possibilities and then decided that there might be other women in this complex who would like to see this as a demonstration.  We chose a date and advertised in the local "e blasts" from the Community Center.  It's going to happen next Tuesday morning.

I asked Kathy how much she would like to receive for this professional service, but she said it's just a way of giving back to the community for the use of the sewing room.  That was when I decided to make a set of maple leaf hot pads for her.

On Monday I went to Jo-Ann's and found some great red Kona cotton and some white cotton with a small dot figure.  Perfect!  I also bought some Insul-Bright for the batting.  Wednesday, using the cutting table, mat and rulers in the Sewing Room I cut them out.  At home that afternoon I sewed them together, but wasn't able to turn the "tube" for the little fabric loops.  A clerk at Walmart found the "tube turner" for me yesterday.  And here's the completed project.  These are 9" square, and look nice and bright!

In the meantime I had another project on the go: a caftan for covering up my bathing suit on the way to and from the swimming pool.  This bright blue print was a gift from Karen in the quilting group back home.

Quite often someone will come with fabric to "get rid of."  This is a polyester, so it's not suitable for quilting. But as soon as I saw it I recognized a caftan waiting to be made.  I bought some white poly-cotton at Walmart a few weeks ago and started working on it.  I used a caftan I already had for the pattern.  The white had to be a triple layer in order to overcome the depth of colour in the blue underneath.

I'm really happy with how this turned out.  The Dear One says it looks really good.  It's comfortable and simple and will be just right for pool days!  Big thanks for Karen for the fabric!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Great Day!

What a great day we had on Saturday!  We went to Mesa to visit some museums there.

First up was the Mesa Historical Museum, which was somewhat of a dud!  It was very small, with one large room completely devoted to baseball, that is, spring training, which takes place in Mesa, and a few other areas.  There was one other very small room displaying scenes from a children's tv program, probably in the 60's or 70's, called "Wallace and ????" (I had never heard of this program and have forgotten the other name.)  Apparently they gave out very popular bags of prizes, which everybody wanted to take home.

We knew there was a museum of modern art somewhere around there, but had decided to skip that.  However, a woman at the Mesa Historical Museum convinced us to have a look.  And are we ever glad that she did!

 Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum occupies the lower level of this very modern building.  You can go in at the upper level and take the elevator or stairs down.  The picture to the right shows the upper level, and the stairs leading down to the courtyard.  The second picture looks down into the lower level courtyard.

There are four galleries, two fairly small and two larger.  In the first gallery we saw a display called "From Lemons to Lingerie," works by two Arizona artists.  Tom Eckert is a carver who produces works that look like cloth.  The first work we came across was a black satin chemise with one black patent leather high heel pump resting on it.  A sign next to the work warned us that "things are not always
what they seem!"  They were works carved out of wood!  You could swear that they were soft satin and shiny patent.  Several other of his works were similar.

Linda Ingraham is a photographer who combines and digitally manipulates her photos to create whimsical images of, for instance, lemons in flight.

Both artists were described as "redefining the typical still-life with their unusual medium choices and surrealist subject matter."  Their works were very interesting and entertaining.

Then there was a large gallery with a display called "Messin' with the Masters."  There were all painting or sculptures that were practically reproductions of famous works, but with an often humorous twist.  For instance there was a statue of a Japanese warrior, with "I (heart) NY" carved out of his chest.  Some of the works were very involved, large and full of symbolism.  It was an interesting collection.

Third gallery was the best, at least the one I enjoyed the most.  The title "Devocionales" grouped many very complex, dense and full of narrative, paintings done in the style of traditional retablo altarpieces by Patrick McGrath Muniz.  His words explain it best: "The intention is to provoke the questioning of our present day socio-economic conditions and what role corporations, money, profit and the neo-liberal policies play in our citizen life."  He fearlessly holds up for critical inspection, through the use of wit and sometimes sarcasm, the dominance of our society by the values of profit and power.

I was fascinated with these paintings and found his social criticism to be penetrating and exact.  I especially enjoyed the sly "Faux News" label on some of the portrayals of journalists and photographers.

The fourth gallery did not interest me.  I forget the names of the two collaborating artists because I was totally unimpressed.  No report on that gallery!

When we came out of the museum I saw a very interesting artful wall.  The facade of the building facing the museum had a huge screen, perhaps 5 stories tall and just as wide made of thousands of small squares of some reflective material.  They must have been hanging on hooks, as the whole field of silver "scales" shimmered as the breeze flowed over it.  It was beautiful!  I took a short video of it with my digital camera, but it doesn't upload to the blog.  There may be a way, but I don't know how to do it.

It was after 1 p.m. by this time, and we were headed toward the Arizona Natural History Museum about two or three blocks away, looking for a restaurant to have a light lunch.  There was an "art fair" in the neighbourhood that day; the block of MacDonald between Main and Pepper was roped off and there were perhaps 25 to 30 small tent shelters for vendors to display their wares: beads, wooden toys, scarves, pictures, etc. that they had made.

Along the way we came upon a table with the sign, "Free hot dogs, pop and chips!"  What a fun treat!  We each had a hot dog and a pop, and I had some Fritos.  I think the last time we had a hot dog was one time in the 90's as we were travelling through Wisconsin and stopped in Ashland where a Target store had a grill set up outdoors and were selling hot dogs for $1 each.  It was delightful yesterday to sit on the sidewalk and enjoy this "all American" treat.

Next stop was the Arizona Natural History Museum, and that was a treat too.  Here's the lobby with its Wooly Mammoth skeleton.  On the left you can see just the tips of the Mastodon's horns.

We spent a long time in the dinosaur and early civilizations area. Lots of wonderful displays and lots to see and lots to read.

I highly recommend visiting either the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum or the Arizona Natural History Museum, both in Mesa. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Knitting Again!

Last March my right hand ring finger started hurting.  I thought it was caused by arthritis.  By the middle of August I realized that it was a case of "trigger finger" and I quit knitting for the time being, because it was "throwing the stitch" that gave me the trigger finger.

I've really missed knitting!  I had been in the middle of knitting a pair of socks for D.S. #2.  We plan to visit with him and his family in the middle of December, and I would like to have these socks finished so he can start wearing them.

Yesterday I picked up the knitting again.  But with a difference!  Now I am knitting left-handed.  That is something I learned about 15 years ago at a "Philosopher's Fair Isle" workshop.  Fair Isle knitting uses two colours of yarn per row, and what was taught at that class was the technique of keeping one colour on your right hand and the other colour on your left hand.

If you've always done right-handed knitting, left-handed feels extremely awkward at first.  But persevere!  After a while it becomes much easier.  My friend, S., had suggested that I finish the socks left-handed, but I didn't try that until yesterday.  Thanks for the idea, S.!

I need to use my right hand for a few things yet: the first three stitches on each needle need to be fairly tight, to prevent a gap between the needles, so those first three stitches are knit with the right hand.  To do increases, I loop the yarn around my finger and slide the loop onto the needle.  My right hand will do that without thinking.  My left hand is laboriously learning this skill.

But all in all, after about 12 new rounds (at the increases for the heel) I'm pleased with this progress.  I think this is doable.  And when I do knit a few stitches with my right hand, I hold the yarn between my thumb and index finger and move the whole hand to form the stitch, rather than flicking my fingers out to throw the stitch around the needle.  I think this is going to work!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Nice Hike

We went to a very satisfying church service this morning, at West Valley Christian Fellowship.  A traditional, but not stuffy service.  Wonderful organist: the offertory was "Jesus, Priceless Treasure" by Bach/Leupold, and it was beautifully played.  There was communion, which we were welcome to join and glad to do so.

This afternoon we went to the White Tank Regional Park, quite close by and hiked the Waterfall Trail.  The waterfall is present only when there is a heavy rain, so we knew we would not see it today.

The first part of the trail is quite level and leads to an area of many petroglyphs.  Very interesting to see and know that many hundred years ago the people in this area created those rock drawings.

The Hohokum people lived here until around 1400 A.D., and then disappeared.  The reason for their disappearance is not known.  But while they lived here they farmed using irrigation on their crops which were mainly corn, squash and beans.  They had no domestic animals, only dogs, so their meat was obtained through hunting.  They also gathered food from the wild surroundings.

They developed a method of etching shells to create beautiful jewelry, which they used in trading with other tribes, possibly for foods they didn't raise themselves, or other goods that they did not produce.

I have great admiration for those long ago people that they created a community and a culture from what was available around them.  Also that what they left behind was not a contaminated wasteland.

The trail gradually became steeper, but never
excessively so.  Just behind the rocks in the lower left hand corner of this picture is a small pool, the remnant from the waterfall.  Probably the nicest thing about making it up to this end of the trail was the shade from the rock cliffs, as it was a very warm afternoon, and we were sweating from the climb up to this point.

We enjoyed the place and then turned around and headed back down the trail.  This is the view from part way back down the trail.  The flat
valley lies ahead and just visible is a green
strip in the middle which is the area that is still farmed.  A great deal of what used to be
farmland is now devoted to housing, much of it 55+ communities for people like ourselves who want to get away from cold and snow.

There was a new Nature Center/Library at the entrance to the park.  I thought the Nature Center was more of a shop selling souvenirs than an actual interpretive center.  What I did enjoy was the many signs along the trail explaining the local flora and fauna, and also the history of the peoples in the area and the origin of the name "White Tank," which comes from the "tank" like depressions in the white rock which hold moisture at certain times of the year.

We enjoyed our hike very much and will return often to the park, as there are many miles of hiking trails here.  A nice bit of exercise on a warm afternoon!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Another Saturday Jaunt

For our "tourist" experience today we decided to drive into Phoenix and visit the Capitol Museum.  This lovely building was built in the last years of the 1800's and put into use as the state capitol building in 1901.  It was used continuously until 1964 when the legislature and the governor's office moved into spacious new buildings.  The new Senate is to the left of this picture, and the House of Representatives is to the right.

The original capitol building was turned into the Capitol Museum, and what a good idea that was!  It's a lovely building, with all those beautiful wood floors and the lovely wood trim around doors and windows.

On the first floor there is an extensive display of the battleship, the U.S.S. Arizona, commissioned in 1916, refitted around 1928.  Never served in combat, and was stationed in Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941, the "day of infamy," the devastating Japanese attack on the large number of U.S. Naval vessels stationed there.  The Arizona received a direct hit from a large bomb which detonated its fuel and arms storage.  It blew up in a fireball and sank within minutes.  One of the Japanese airmen said it looked like a volcano erupting.

The picture shows a piece of the hull which was later salvaged.  On the screen beside the fragment is a video of a young sailor who survived the attack, though burned over 50% of his body.  There is footage of him as a senior citizen, recalling that horrific day.  Well over 1,000 sailors died on the Arizona.  There is a fine memorial building on the scene today, but it needs to be replaced because of subsidence.

This was intended to show the chandelier hanging from the dome, but really highlights how shiny the tile floor is.  This is the "well" on the second floor.  You can look down into the first floor or up through the third and fourth floors and into the dome.  That always makes me feel so vertiginous!  I stay away from those railings.

I thought the ceiling was interesting and attractive.

There were several other displays in the building also: history of the postal service in Arizona, the state emblems (bird, fish, etc.), statues commemorating the various groups of workers that helped create the state (minors, cowboys, etc.).

There was an interesting display about the "Harvey Girls."  I had never heard of them before.  A Mr. Harvey convinced the railroads that they would attract more clientele if they provided good, clean eateries along the way.  He recruited young women, built lodges and restaurants staffed by these pleasant, well-trained young women and it was a huge success.  Passengers could let the station master know what they wanted to order for dinner.  The order was then telegraphed ahead, and when the train made a stop, the order was ready to be served.  That meant passengers could have a good meal and not miss the departure of the train to the next lap of the journey.

There was also information about the formation of the government and the various ways that citizens participate, through referendum and initiatives, in addition to voting, and the use of recall.

We had had an easy drive into Phoenix, along Hwy 60, Grand Avenue which runs at a true diagonal from Wickenburg to the heart of Phoenix.  We find that Saturday is an excellent time for venturing into the busy city.

When we went back to our car in the parking lot (surrounding a lovely little park) there was a huge number of motorcycles and motorcyclists there.  Kind of tough looking people.  We no sooner got into our car to leave when they all congregated behind the car, and we weren't able to back up.  After a bit they thumped on the trunk--a little scary, but they were just interested in letting us know that they would move out of the way so we could drive away.  They had gathered there for a "Ride for Veterans."  We smiled and waved and were on our way.

Really, around 2 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon downtown Phoenix streets are almost empty.  We went east on Jefferson and north on Center Street and were soon at the Phoenix Museum of Art.

We stopped in the cafe, which had been recommended to us by the woman in the Museum Shop.  It was noisy!  That surprised me.  We each had a bowl of turkey, white bean and carrot soup.  Delicious and filling.  A little expensive at $22 with a tip for the two of us.  That is, just simply a bowl of soup and a glass of water, no crackers or biscuits.

Then we spent the next three hours at the Art Museum.  So much to see!  Jim especially enjoyed the Chinese/Japanese rooms, with their explanations of the symbolism in the artwork and the focus on the meaning of death and the afterlife.  I find it hard to relate to Oriental art and feel more akin to traditional European and American art, of which there was a lot.  We did not manage to visit all the galleries, and for myself I really skimmed through the displays the last half hour and still didn't cover everything.

Coming home there was a bit more traffic, but it wasn't bad as Grand is three lanes each way all the way.  Most of the distance the speed limit is 45 mph, but traffic tends to exceed that by about 10 mph.  So we arrived home in good condition just before 6 p.m., after another good day of doing the "tourist thing."

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Just a small repair

This morning on the way home from my walk with my sister I stopped at the condo office to ask about a problem we're having with the outside faucet.  I wanted to wash some windows and the patio tiles, but the faucet has an extra "ring" around it that has all holes in the perimeter.  When you hook up a hose and turn on the faucet, the water all gushes out of the holes, and none gets into the hose.  It means you can't use the hose for washing off the screens or the patio floor.

The maintenance man, Sam, was there when I stopped by and promised to take care of it right away.  And, true to his word, he arrived within 15 minutes with a new faucet, turned off the water supply to our unit and replaced the old faucet.  Done in no time!  I thanked him, very much!

So instead of going shopping for a pair of bluejeans, I took off the screens, washed the windows inside and out, hosed off the screens, washed them both sides with a soapy rag and hosed them off again.

Then I took the furniture from the patio to the front walk and hosed off the patio a few times, as it was quite dirty, mainly from dust blowing in while it was not occupied.

Here we are all cleaned up and bright.  A small repair made the clean up easy!

Yesterday we spent time at the regional library which has a good supply of magazines and some newspapers.  Today we went to relax by the pool in the afternoon.  I find it so pleasant to swim leisurely back and forth (good exercise for the arms) when the sun is shining.  The pool is kept at 82ºF, so very pleasant but not too warm!

One of these days I'll remember to take the camera along and you can see how inviting the pool looks in the afternoon.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Some Culture

Sunday afternoon Jim and I went, along with my sister, to a wonderful orchestra concert given by the West Valley Symphony, at a high school near here, not in the high school gym, but in a terrific concert hall, part of the high school.  Large and comfortable, it can seat over 1300 people.

The concert was billed as a "Birthday Bash" as the symphony orchestra is celebrating reaching 45 years as an organized group.  It also celebrated the 200th birthday of Richard Wagner and Guiseppe Verdi, two very different composers, but also two composers whose operas were mainstays for almost two centuries now, and the 100th birthday of Benjamin Britten.

The opening number was Verdi's overture to La Forza del Destino, familiar and very enjoyable, a great opening.  Next came the complex and very German Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde by Wagner.  Very well performed!  And then the invigorating Triumphal March and Ballet from Aida.  What wonderful work in the trumpet section!  Thrilling!  Actually the whole orchestra was excellent.  It's just that I was so taken with the trumpet work in the Aida.

The maestro, Cal Stewart Kellogg, gave comprehensive and enjoyable introductory remarks for each piece.

After intermission we were treated to the Tannhauser Overture by Wagner and then Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, a work I had never heard before.

What an enjoyable afternoon that was!  Their next concert will be on December 22, Amahl and the Night Visitors.  Wish I would be here for that!

This afternoon we had a leisurely swim in the pool and sat in the sun reading.  So relaxing!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Another Weekend

On Saturday we went up to Wickenburg, a small town about one hour drive north of here.  We understood there was an excellent museum there and other things of interest.  We happened to come on the one day of the year that they were holding the "Tour of Homes" and because of that our entrance fee to the museum was $25 each!  And we didn't even want to tour the homes.  Oh well, that went to help support the museum, so I guess we practiced some "inadvertent charity."

It was a very nice museum/art gallery.  Called the Desert Caballeros Western Museum it was all about the art and history of that area.  Some of the art was really arresting.  The history part was set up very well as a small historic town, various rooms in a home illustrating different periods, a small blacksmith shop, and an adobe ranch house.  The docents were very informative also.  We enjoyed it.

The we visited the "caboose" which is used as a Chamber of Commerce Information Centre with an older couple dressed in costume, talking about how the caboose was used in the days of shipping cattle to market.  Next door was the old train station which is now the Tourist Information Centre.

We had planned to take the self guided walking tour of the town, but in the end decided to skip that and go directly to the Hassayampa River Preserve south of Wickenburg.  This was an interesting area with an informative visitor centre, staffed by a fellow who lives in Vermont part of the year, and works in this Nature Conservancy centre the other part.

Most rivers that we've seen here were, as far as we could tell, rivers of sand.  The Hassayampa River differs from the others in that for a certain distance it flows, not under the surface, but on the surface, the reason being that the bedrock comes up close to the surface, and carries the river up with it.  That creates an oasis of green, year round, surrounded by the usual Arizona/Sonoran Desert.  It was a good place to go for a gentle walk around Palm Lake (actually an artificial lake, created for a spa/resort there in the 60's.)

This Sunday we decided to visit a church nearby and had a rather unsettling experience.  Since it is Reformation Sunday, the celebration/remembrance of Martin Luther's posting the 95 theses on the church door of Wittenberg, the service commemorated that with the singing of A Mighty Fortress, the most well known of Luther's many hymns.  This was a Lutheran church and I found the music slightly different from what we are used to, and the words quite different, and not nearly as majestic and forceful as what we are used to in our hymnal.

The service included communion, so Jim went to ask permission for us to partake and was turned down!  That felt very strange and very much of a rejection to be told we could not take communion with them.  Later I read in the bulletin that their policy is
"that if you are not a [sic] active member of Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod or the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, that you not commune with us."  Well, everyone has the right to make their own rules I guess.  But we found it very offputting to be told that, even though we are believers, we don't qualify to "commune with them."  It won't become our home church here!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Geese and such

Here are the geese in their "permitted" area, part of the golf course.  This is perfectly fine for them, but I wonder about the golfers!
 Here is the lake we walk around in the morning, a very lovely area.  As I said the lake is shallow, manmade and part of the water purification system.  All the "grey" water is recycled and used to water the grass and other plantings.  I think this area was first built in 1986, so they were well in advance at that time in creating this system.
This is a cute little duck couple, always swimming or strolling around close together. I wonder which one is the gander, the pure white or the partly tan duck.

Tomorrow we plan to visit Wickenberg, up highway 60 from here.  We understand there is an excellent museum there, a good walking tour and a river preserve.  We'll see what we can find.