Monthly Archives: February 2015

Architectural Wonders- Avian and Human

montezuma castle arizonaWe visited Montezuma’s Castle and it is indeed an architectural wonder. These cliff dwellings built over 800 years ago by the Singua housed around forty people in some twenty different rooms. 

A model of what the cliff dwellings looked like inside

A model of what the cliff dwellings looked like inside

The precariousness of the cliff dwellings’ location and its size – about 4,000 square feet and five stories high proves what brave builders and talented engineers and architects the Sinagua were. 

cliff swallow nests montezumaI was also fascinated however by another architectural wonder on the monument site- the nests of the cliff swallows tucked in high under the overhanging rocks. Cliff swallows nest in colonies of up to a thousand pairs. Their nests are found at elevations as high as 3000 meters and are constructed on vertical cliff faces in canyons and river valleys. 

cliff swallow nestThe nests are formed from balls of mud the cliff swallows collect in their beaks. Birds of both sexes begin by dabbing a circle of mud onto a wall under a sheltering overhang. Then mudballs are added from the bottom of the rim up and out, to eventually form a sort of jug-shaped nest. The nests are lined with grass and feathers. 

I enjoyed learning about both the human and avian architecture on display at Montezuma Castle National Monument. 


Filed under Arizona, Nature

Last Sunday Breakfast

our bikesOur ritual here in Gold Canyon is that on Sunday mornings we bike to Basha’s grocery store and buy the New York Times.  The paper and accompanying magazine provide hours of excellent reading. Dave has been doing the New York Times crossword puzzle every weekend for nearly forty years and so that’s another motivation for buying the paper. 

coffee shop gold canyonThen we head on over to a local coffee shop where we buy coffee and breakfast, usually porridge for me and a breakfast bagel for Dave and we sit in the sunshine for a couple hours reading and puzzling.dave doing puzzleLast Sunday was the final time for this ritual however, since by this coming Sunday we’ll be heading home to Winnipeg. 

Sunday morning at Pacific Coffee with our children during one of their visits to Hong Kong

Sunday morning at Pacific Coffee with our children during their visit to Hong Kong

Our Sunday mornings here remind me of our Sunday mornings in Hong Kong which we spent at a place called Pacific Coffee where I read the South China Morning Post while Dave did the crossword. Our Hong Kong church congregation met in the evenings so our Sunday mornings were always free. 

Breakfast at the Free Press Cafe with friends

Breakfast at the Free Press Cafe with friends

I’m looking forward to renewing our weekend breakfast tradition in Winnipeg. On Saturday morning at 9 we walk on over to the Free Press Cafe in our neighborhood where we enjoy coffee – share a breakfast special plate and get a free paper which contains The New York Times Crossword puzzle. Then we puzzle and read for an hour or so unless we are joined by friends.

Sunday mornings in Winnipeg find us at services at Bethel Mennonite Church and I’m looking forward to getting back to that too. 

Other posts about traditions…..

Fighting for the Bill- A Chinese Tradition

Thai Traditions to Start and End the Year



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Filed under Arizona, Food

Arizona Days

Our final week in Arizona has arrived and its time for an update about our time here. My previous Arizona Days post was on January 31 so I have some catching up to do. 

dave golfing with ed, rudy and sueLast Friday Dave golfed the Dinasour Course with Ed, Rudy and Sue.  Later Ed and his wife Val had Dave and me over for dinner.  Val’s sister Shirley, an old high school friend of mine was visiting from British Columbia with her husband Mark. It was great to catch up with them. 

rempelsOther golf rounds included 18 holes at the Painted Desert course with Elda and Werner and enjoying a steak dinner and some good visiting at the club house after with them. golf with Paul and ShirleyWe golfed nine holes at Mountain Brook with Paul and Shirley- Dave’s brother and our sister-in-law. Dave and Paul also golfed with our younger son when he was here and after their game our whole family enjoyed a barbeque at Paul and Shirley’s condo in Scottsdale.  Dave and both our boys got in several more rounds of golf together during our family’s visit. One of those rounds was with Rob , the son of good friends of ours Fran and Marge. IMG_2519 - Version 2Later Rob and his family came here to our place for a pizza supper and the guys watched the Jets game together. 

Our younger son was here for five days and our older son and his family were here for twelve days and we had such a wonderful time. The weather was hot and perfect everyday so we could use the community pool. We went on hikes, Dave and I babysat while our son and daughter-in-law went to a couple movies and went on a bike ride, and we went to a Phoenix Suns game together.  Later after our younger son had left, the rest of us made a trip to Sedona and the Grand Canyon.  catherdral rockWe did a beautiful hike at dusk to Cathedral Rock, enjoyed some wine tasting in Cottonwood, visited Montezuma’s Castle, went on a Hummer ride in the desert and had a day exploring Grand Canyon National Park.  We spent the kids’ final day here at the Phoenix Children’s Museum. 

arizona opry mesaWe’ve enjoyed some good music- a fifties night at the Arizona Opry, a blue grass night at the Handle Bar pub and a great singer, guitarist and harmonica player at a wine tasting bar in Cottonwood. 

Our son Joel and his wife Karen cooked some terrific meals for us when they were here and also treated us to an amazing supper at the Heartline Cafe in Sedona. Dave and I decided to share a bevy of appetizers and dessert and it was great! We also went on a food tour in Scottsdale which I blogged about in a previous post. Dave made his famous chili when we were invited over to Rudy and Sue’s for supper one night. Ed and Millie friends from Steinbach were visiting as well and we brought along Paul and Shirley- but despite the large group there was still lots of chili  left for us to enjoy for future lunches and suppers.  

warming up baseball arizonaThis final week is Dave’s baseball playoffs so depending on his team’s performance he may be playing ball three days this week. If they lose their first games there may still be time for a few more Arizona adventures before we pack up the car and head back to snowy Manitoba. 

We’ve had a wonderful time here but we’re also looking forward to getting back home and reconnecting with friends and family in Winnipeg. 

Other posts about Arizona Days…..

Arizona Days- Post One

Arizona Days- Post Two

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Eating Our Way Through Scottsdale

the house restaurant scottsdaleThis is The House– a quaint French restaurant that was the first stop on a walking dinner tour of Scottsdale we took on Sunday.ponderosa pine the house scottsdaleThe House is a former private home that has been turned into an elegant dining establishment with a cozy and inviting patio canopied by a huge Ponderosa Pine.

food tour scottsdaleWe were accompanied on our tour by Dave’s brother Paul, our sister-in-law Shirley and their friend Carrie. Also joining us were two recently widowed women from the west coast, one who worked for an agency that provided professional development to teachers and another whose family was in the logging industry. A British doctor who has a weekly BBC radio show about movies rounded out the group.brisket on a biscuitWe were served brisket on a biscuit the signature appetizer of The House.  For several in our group it was the favorite dish of the evening. Shaved brisket on a homemade biscuit with melted cheese, chili jam, horseradish and pepper. It quite literally melted in your mouth. The glass of champagne that accompanied it was a delightful way to start our evening.

evo scottsdaleWe walked over to Evo an Italian eatery for our second course. evo saladThe Evo salad had baked kale, pine nuts, goat cheese, fried brussels sprout leaves, pears and pancetta. I want to try making this at home. It was fantastic!evo meatball

We also had an Evo meatball in pomodor sauce.

sunset daveMy husband Dave said his favorite part of the tour was strolling through Old Scottsdale between our restaurant visits and learning more about the community from our guide Jason. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset as we walked to our third restaurant. 5th and Wine scottsdaleWe had our first main course offering at the fun venue 5th and Wine.They feature lots of live music and special events. sampler 5th and WineThey treated us to their Mac and Cheese with paprika and white cheese, their pork, veal and beef meatball and their humus with cucumber. 5th and wine restaurantThe artwork in 5th and Wine was bright, fun and interesting. 

malee's thai bistro

We moved on to Malee’s Thai Bistro.malee's bistroAs we had at each restaurant so far we had our choice of various kinds of red and white wine to go with our food. food sampler Malee's Thai

We were getting pretty full by now but it was hard to resist these delights- drunken dragon wrap, vegetable dumplings and minced chicken.

az 88Dessert was at AZ88 a very modern looking buildingdigital art az 88 with interesting digital art over the bar.desserts AZ88

We shared strawberry shortcake, key lime tart and Golden Gate cake all freshly baked on site.

jason our food tour guideOur knowledgeable and affable guide for the evening was Jason. He told us Scottsdale has some 600 different eating establishments. wine bottles the house Scottsdale is really a paradise for foodies- something I certainly didn’t realize and definitely something I’d like to explore further if we ever spend time in Phoenix again.

arizona food tourAt the end of the evening Jason asked us each to share our favorite part of the tour. Although most people mentioned various restaurants or food items I said my favorite part had been the interesting people I’d met on the tour and the chance to visit with them and learn about their lives. 

Other posts about food tours……

A Taste of Toronto

Devour the District

Wine Canyon

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What Are People Saying So Far in 2015?

baseball in arizonaDean Croy the headmaster who first hired Dave and me for our teaching  jobs in Hong Kong said my posts about the Missing Wife and Dave Playing Ball in Arizona were excellent.  Dean, a ball player of some renown himself, said he’s glad to see that Dave is still playing ball.

 the goldfinchMy sentiments exactly,” said my former teaching colleague Meena after reading my post about the novel The Goldfinch.  My cousin Carol said she totally agreed with my point of view.  My art gallery colleague Perry said he also had ambivalent feelings about the novel and pointed me to his review of The Goldfinch. He also recommended the book How To Be Both as an alternative novel about a young person’s engagement with a masterpiece. My brother was hoping I had a copy of The Goldfinch for him to read but unfortunately I had downloaded it on my Kindle. 

cathedral rockOur friend Bill reading about our hike in Sedona said when he was in Sedona he engaged in some cliff jumping into a river and encouraged us to try a similar experience. 

grand canyonOur friend Beena thought we had been very lucky to be able to see the Grand Canyon without having to pay an entry fee to the national park surrounding it. 

dave photographerOur Ontario friends Erwin and Ruth commented on my post about Dave As A Nature Photographer. They said they had visited a similar butterfly conservatory in Florida and had seen many of the same butterflies. 

aboriginal art australiaOne of my blog readers Ruth Goudreau said the photos in my post Australian Inspiration were great and the quotes I’d chosen for each one were perfect. Thanks Ruth. 

The post that received the most response was on the movie American Sniper. A fellow Manitoba Writing Guild member Dora said my post had confirmed her decision not to see the movie.  Robert, a former classmate of mine referred me to a similar review by Chris Hedges.  Fellow church member Adelia, said she admires my discipline in reflecting on the movies I see, and a former colleague Darren thought the movie might be an example of gundolrity. Mindi, a member of my writing group said she’s tired of the way guns have come to define America. John, the pastor of the church we attended in Hong Kong observes that in most of his movies really all director Clint Eastwood has to say is another version of ‘make my day.’    Lisa, one of my art gallery colleagues pointed out that I had erroneously said in my post that Jesus calls us to forgive our enemies seventy times seven, when in fact he calls on people to forgive ‘their brother’ that many times. 

weavers needle arizonaLisa, the pastor of our church in Winnipeg said my post about our hike Up to Weavers Needle had reminded her of the movie Wild.  Larry, a former member of my writing group said he’s going to give this hike a try his next time in Arizona. Our friend Les said he liked the photos, a compliment for me since Les is a professional photographer. 

dave, me, cindyI did a post about my former student Cindy and how proud I was that her artwork had appeared on the Google home page for New Years.  Cindy liked the post and said she’s proud to be one of my former students. Thanks Cindy. with don and marleneAnother Cindy, Cindy Rempel Patrick, the creative director of the Steinbach Arts Council made this nice comment about my first post of 2015. 

Wishing you all the best in 2015 –  I love your outlook on each day filled with something new, something good for you, and something that makes you smile! Let’s live it!

I so enjoy all the responses I get to my blog posts and the conversations that ensue. Thanks for reading and responding everyone. 

Other posts about what people have said about this blog…..

What Are People Saying– August 2014

What Are People Saying– August 2013

What Are People Saying- October 2012

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Filed under Reflections, Writing

Inspiration on a Walk in Sedona

arched tree trunk sedona cathedral rockAll experience is an arch to build on. – Henry Adams

above ground tree rootsFor a tree to become tall it must grow tough roots.- Nietzschephotographers at cathedral rockYou don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved. ― Ansel Adams

woods near cathedral rock sedonaThe woods are lovely, dark, and deep, but I have promises to keep- Robert Frosthollow log sedonaDead trees are homes for birds, insects, animals, flora and fauna. Dead trees are full of life. – Mother Earth Newslog bridge cathedral walk sedonaThe hardest thing in life is to decide which bridges to cross. – David Russellfoot print in the sandIf you have a footprint be happy because it means you are not a shadow. -Mehmet Murat ildanwater wheel on cathedral rock hikePeople think life is a ladder but its really a wheel. – Charles De Lintriver cathedral rock

If it weren’t for the rocks in its bed the stream would have no song. – Carl Perkinstree cathedral rock sedonaBe strong enough to stand alone. – Mark Amend

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Filed under Arizona, Inspiration, Nature, Reflections

Tin Can Art and Feeding the Homeless

Alexi Devilliers I was introduced to the work of Arizona artist Alexi Devilliers yesterday when we visited the Phoenix Children’s Museum. Devilliers’ art pieces are created from tin cans.  Devilliers uses the can’s contents to make meals for homeless people and then turns the cans into tin sculptures. He buys the food at a discount grocery which sells dented cans.

Devilliers, a commercial maintenance engineer is of Cuban descent. He was born in New York and grew up in Florida. He learned to cook from his mother.  

Every Saturday he and his wife get up at 5:00 am and prepare between 100 and 150 meals for homeless people in Phoenix. Later in the day Alexi packs the meals into his van and goes to various homeless centres in the city to distribute the food.  An article in The Arizona Republic reports that he works particularly closely with Justa Center, a day-resource program in Phoenix for people over 55. The center helps them find housing, medical help and employment. art work alexi deliversUsing the cans from the food he’s purchased he makes sculptures of animals, robots and other creatures. He sells them and uses the proceeds to buy more food for the homeless. art by alexi delivers25 cans typically create two sculptures which can be sold to buy food to make 100 meals. In an interview for the PBS show Art Beat Alexi says that each can in his art work has a story behind it. “Every single one of them either fed an elderly homeless person or a battered woman at the shelter.” Alexi began his project four years ago when he noticed how many homeless people were near his home in Phoenix. Alexi says he is trying with his art to “alleviate some of the tragedy in these people’s lives.”

Other posts about art and Phoenix……

Visiting the Phoenix Art Gallery

Art in the Garden

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Making Wishes in Sedona

cathedral rockOn our trip to Sedona we did a hike to Cathedral Rock  just before dusk. All along the way people had built these stone cairns of different shapes and sizes. 
stone cairns cathedral rockSedona is known as the site of four special energy vortexes- swirling centers of gentle spiritual energy that interact with the people who enter the vortex area. This energy is said to strengthen people’s spirit. Cathedral Rock is designated as one of those vortex sites. Perhaps because some people recognize the spiritual energy of the area they have built cairns to mark their visit there. I assumed that each represented the hopes and dreams of those who built them.
cairn cathedral rockI created two little cairns of my own and said a prayer that the dreams they represented would come true.

Other posts about wishes and dreams……

Walden Pond

Lucky Locks

When the Coin Rings Luck Springs

Traditions to Begin and End a Year

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Filed under Arizona, Nature, Religion

Reading The Goldfinch- A Love/Dislike Experience

I just finished reading the Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I loved the first part of the book in which a young Theo Decker comes into possession of a priceless painting of a goldfinch.  I felt such empathy for Theo. I could hardly wait to find out more about the mysterious elderly man and his granddaughter Theo encounters in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Theo’s mother dies in that museum as a victim of a terrorist bombing.

Tartt kept me engaged as Theo moved in with a school mate’s family after his mother’s death. The Barbours were far from perfect but they were quirky and interesting, and basically kind to Theo as was Hobie a furniture maker who turns out to have been an associate of the elderly man and his granddaughter. Hobie offers Theo friendship and sanctuary in his furniture shop. Theo has lost his mother but still has people who care about him. I felt hopeful for him even though it was clear he was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. 

the goldfinchThen author Tartt threw me for a loop.  She sent Theo to live with his alcoholic, drug addicted, gambler of a father and his messed up girlfriend in Las Vegas. I know a book needs conflict to succeed and I know heroes need challenges but Theo is too young and too damaged to meet this challenge. He makes best friends with a boy named Boris and the two of them sink into an endless round of drinking, drug use, theft and junk food orgies. It’s not their fault. They both have experienced severe trauma and have dysfunctional parents who leave them to their own devices, but their sad existence goes on and on and on and on and Tartt describes each revolting, damaging binge of Boris and Theo and its after effects in great detail. Would it never end? I felt sorry for Theo but I got so tired and disgusted reading this section I put the book away for a time.

Thankfully when his father dies Theo is able to go back to live with Hobie, who provides Theo with love and acceptance.  But Theo is now irrevocably scarred and messed up and continues to be involved with drugs. He no longer enjoys learning. He is depressed. He becomes engaged to a woman he doesn’t really love. The petty thievery of his youth becomes more serious as he scams Hobie’s furniture patrons out of money and enters the underworld of art theft.

Things do not wrap up with any sort of satisfaction for the reader. Yes some of Theo’s most pressing problems are solved but the novel does not really give us hope for Theo’s future.  The book ends with Theo spending a great deal of time philosophizing for the reader about the meaning of life.  I read this part slowly. I thought about it. I read it again. But most of it wasn’t a philosophy I could espouse, nor would I want people I love to live their lives with Theo’s philosophy. Here’s a quote to give you an idea.

Because I don’t care what anyone says or how often or winningly they say it: no one will ever, ever be able to persuade me that life is some awesome, rewarding treat. Because, here’s the truth: life is a catastrophe……. better never born, than born into this cesspool. Sinkhole of hospital beds, coffins, and broken hearts. No release, no appeal, no “do-overs”……….no way forward but age and loss, and no way out but death.

I’m not sorry I read The Goldfinch. I loved certain parts of the novel and really didn’t like others. It wasn’t the novel I expected. I have read some novels many times.  I won’t read The Goldfinch again.

Other posts about books……..

Art Tours Inspired By Books

Why So Many Dysfunctional Parents?

The Orenda- I Want to Believe People Are Good

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Humming Along in Sedona

jeep ride sedonaYesterday we went on a Hummer jeep ride in Sedona with our son and his family.  It wasn’t as exciting or scary as the Pink Jeep Ride we took a number of years ago, but with a three year old along it was perfect. We saw many of the interesting red rocks around Sedona each with its own unique shape and story. driver hummer
sedona red rocks
sedona jeep tour
sedona red rocks
After our ride we enjoyed sandwiches and smoothies on a sunny deck looking out over the mountains. What a lovely morning!marylou sedona

dave sedona
Other posts about rides…..

We Put Our Lives in His Hands

On the Road

Agnes McDonald


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Filed under Arizona, Nature