Category Archives: Art Museum

Home from the UK


There really ought to be safeguards in place when logging in to write my blog, for example, how long have you been awake?  Because I have been awake for (counts on fingers) 24 hours, with a one-hour nap on the plane home.  I woke up at 6am London time (the sun was so bright in our hotel room) and was so squished in the middle seat on the plane, it was uncomfortable to nap.  I’m trying to get back on Tempe time; my goal is to stay awake until 11.

My advice to you is this:  VISIT WALES!!!  There are miles and miles of verdant countryside, and from the coast road, the sea views were breathtaking.  The people were so friendly and polite and all seem gifted at the exchange of light banter, happy to ask where we were from and what we’d seen.  We saw ten castles, each different and exciting in its own way.  My favorites were the hill-top ruins with nobody around except for us, where I could close my eyes and imagine myself there 1000 years ago when the castle was inhabited . . . and I’d listen into the wind for the whispers of ghosts.

We began our trip in London, staying at my all-time favorite hotel, CitizenM Tower of London.  It’s always a thrill to be in vibrant London, my favorite big city.  We spent three days exploring the city and revisiting favorite museums, on foot and by Tube.  We are lucky enough to have visited the National Gallery the past four summers . . . and it never gets old.  I always get goosebumps seeing Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, and they had a special exhibit of 75 Monets!  He’s always been my favorite, and we spent hours looking at pieces we’d never seen before. THRILLING.  The British museum was full of school children and large, rude Japanese tour groups, but we were able to push through them and say hi to the mummies, the ancient Greek and Roman sculptures and of course, the Rosetta Stone.  We did NOT yell, “Godzilla” to distract the Japanese tourists as suggested by a friend (haha) so as to get closer to the exhibits, but seriously, the groups we came upon were impolite and did not share space well.

It was so great to get home and give BIG HUGS to our son William and his girlfriend Katherine.  Ruby the Wonder Spaniel and the cats (Cosmo, Tilly, Olive, and Maisy) were very happy to see us as well.  Shortly after we arrived home, the kids left for the movies and Hubby checked stuff on his computer in the office, so ever since I’ve been singing loudly which is something I couldn’t do for two weeks  living in hotel rooms.  We were road tripping through Wales, but any time I tried to play music, we would quickly become lost. The navigation was very demanding and I had to stay sharp:  “In .5 miles take the second exit from the roundabout to B4047.”  Seriously, any time I daydreamed and we missed a cue from bossy British navigation lady, we ended up on one-lane roads with huge-ass tractors coming at us at 40 mph.  (What you do in that situation is run your car into the hedges and exchange happy waves with the other driver.)  If I had a dollar for every time I said, “Oh shit,” our bar bill would have been covered in full!

I’m finally feeling sleepy.  Jet lag sucks, but it’s a small price to pay for my two weeks of adventures in the beautiful UK.







Is it Winter Yet???


Other than the less than stellar Thanksgiving day feast (see prior post), I had a very productive weekend.  I FINALLY planted my vegetable garden.  Our puny backyard bed which measures a meer 12′ x 6′ last year gave us more lettuce and spinach than we could eat!  I procrastinated on planting because a) it’s still SO hot here in Tempe, AZ, b) the bed was a total mess from being neglected for six months, and c) I couldn’t pawn the work off on Hubby because a few weeks ago, he hurt his back. I put on my gardening shoes and worked hard for hours while listening to good music and (annoyingly) the neighbor’s dog yapping on the other side of the fence. (Six months ago we got new neighbors, and I am optimistic that their horrible dog is elderly and on the brink of death.)  In my garden, I was able to scrape off a 2″ layer of fragrant mesquite leaves, plus pull out a summer’s worth of spurge weed, turn over the dirt, water the hell out of it, and the next day planted rows of spinach, mixed mesclun (that’s lettuce for you gardening newbies), green onions, and carrots.  Hubby bought me two tomato plants which I will get in the ground tomorrow. It was a lot of hard work, but last year this small plot brought me so much joy . . . and beaucoup salads!

Another accomplishment to crow about is getting our Christmas decor boxes down from the attics.  Good Lord, this is NOT an easy job.  It’s easy for me:  Each day I say to Hubby, “Gosh, I’m hoping you can get those boxes down for me so I can decorate for Christmas. I promise I’ll make it worth your while,” accompanied by suggestive winking.  Usually this works, and I can stand at the bottom of the ladder voicing concern with comments like, “Are you okay?” and “Don’t hurt yourself!” and “I’m holding the ladder steady!”

This year, Hubby has a bad back, so I had to beg our son, William, (home from college for the weekend) to please, please, please get the boxes down.  He was surprisingly cheery about it, although was clearly nervous while perched on the very top of the ladder trying to coax hard-to-reach boxes into his hands, then pass them down.  But with encouragement from me and help from Hubby, all ten boxes were retrieved from two attics. One attic is over the kids’ shower, so that involves the ladder balancing half on the tile and half in the shower stall.  The other attic is over the garage, but the rod that the garage door hangs on goes midway over the hole.  Every year I look at Hubby and say, “Why can’t we make that hole larger???”  The lesson to be taken from this long story is that now that poor William has shown he can do this job, he will likely be doing it for us next year . . . and the year after, and the year after (methinks with an evil smile).

Other than that, over the weekend we had two lovely dinners with two different groups of old, dear, and hilarious friends (laughing with friends is one of the best things in life, don’t you agree?).  Hubby took me on a day date to the Phoenix Art Museum where we admired favorite exhibits such as Black Cloud and You Who Are Being Obliterated by Fireflies.  So beautiful and magical, and we felt like we were on vacation, even though we never left our home town.

Crossed fingers that this cursed heat will pack its bags and leave.  I’m reminded of that movie Groundhogs Day, in that you wake up each day and think things will have changed.  But no!  Here in Tempe, AZ, it is still summer! Today it was 88 degrees!  I love love love love love love love Christmas, and I’m so excited about this coming holiday season.  Perhaps we will be eating Christmas dinner in shorts after a swim?






Home at Last


Friday night Hubby and I returned from a two-week vacation to London and Paris.  We saw EVERYTHING.  (Seriously, everything.)  We walked ten miles each day, plus rode the Tube (in London) and the Metro (in Paris) many miles to get to where we wanted to be. Mostly we saw tons of art, but also magnificent historical architecture and beautiful gardens. We stayed at really cool hotels (CitizenM Tower of London and Residence Foch) and consumed lots of fish and chips and hamburgers (the meat there is sooooo delicious compared to the ground beef you can buy in the States) and British craft beers.  Hubby and did not get in even one fight, which I consider pretty amazing. Things got dicey on our last day in England, when Hubby insisted on reading EVERY didactic at the Greenwich Museum, and I was so done that I considered pulling the fire alarm and then at dinner pretended I had poisoned him (“are you dizzy?  blurred vision? throat tightening?  No?  Hmmmmm). But overall, it felt like a second honeymoon, since we’ve never gone away for more than five days without the kids before.  We celebrated our 29th anniversary on the hotel balcony with a spectacular view of the Tower of London and felt pretty damned fortunate.

The best thing about a fabulous vacation:  Coming home.  Our youngest son, William, did an excellent job of holding down the fort while we were gone—feeding and caring for our five pets and keeping the house clean is not an easy job.  His best girl, Katherine, helped out, too.  I left William a credit card and I’m sure I’ll cry when that next bill arrives and I see how much money “we” spent at Dutch Bros Coffee while we were away. Apparently we also paid him in beer since our keg of expensive IPA was empty.  (College kids—what are you going to do??)

Today getting groceries I was so happy to have eye contact with people again. My experience was that in London and in Paris, there is absolutely no eye contact with strangers, unless you are a waiter serving dinner or hotel staff helping you as their guest. I did not like being invisible.  I like to smile at people and have offhand chit chat.  I can count on one hand the people who talked to us:

  1.  The French woman at the coin laundromat who spoke no English but was able to guide us through the very unfamiliar laundry system.  I gave her my most sincere smile, accompanied by a “merci beaucoup” and felt so grateful.  Hubby and I were already feeling irritated at not being able to find the darn place having walked a mile in all directions in a fancy neighborhood, each of us carrying black hefty bags of dirty laundry!
  2. The “skin heads” on the Tube elevator in London who alerted me that the doors would be opening in the opposite direction from where I was standing.  We’d traveled so much that day and I was daydreaming, not noticing that the 20 other people on this large elevator were facing the opposite direction.  I said, “Thank you! I probably would have figured it out eventually!  I’d think, where did all the people go?  Why am I all alone?”  They proceeded to do a bit which included the guy saying, “Dear Diary, Month 15 and I’m still in the Tube elevator.  It’s not all bad.  It’s warm in winter and cool in summer.  People leave bags of chips. I’m happy here.”
  3. The woman whose feet my suitcase fell on in the Tube.  She glared at me so hard I thought I might burst into flames.  Seriously?  I was carrying a huge paper sack which held three Starbuck’s London coffee cups and three London Toblerones that were gifts for the kids.  It was unwieldy and when I shifted, my bag fell over.  The part that landed on her feet was not heavy and I apologized sincerely, but she was just mad and mean and well, I’m sorry that when you ride the Tube you are so grumpy.  I love riding the Tube.  I love watching the comings and goings, and the families and the groups of friends and the handsome young men in their skinny suits headed to and from work  (I especially love that).
  4. The young man on the Tube escalator that kept me from falling backwards when  my huge, embarrassing, American suitcase started to fall off the step behind me.  I started wobbling and made a sound like “ooooohhhhh,”and he heaved my case up to the step and gently kept me from falling.  Oy vey, so embarrassing!  If you’ve never been on a Tube escalator, I can tell you it’s very stressful.  They are inclined at an extreme angle and go up four floors!  As a person who is afraid of heights, I can say going up is easier but going down I look at my feet and breathe slowly in and out so as not to scream out, “We’re all going to die!!!!”  Which would be really embarrassing.
  5. The business woman at the St. Pancras train station in London who so nicely gave me directions to where to catch our Eurostar (Chunnel) train.  This station is HUGE and is the only international station in London.  It’s super cool . . . if you’re not in a hurry to catch a train.  I mistook her for a station information attendant because she was in a suit and was standing next to the Information sign (most stations have these with staff positioned there to answer questions). She did not laugh at me and was very sweet.  Hubby, on the other hand, mocked me endlessly, so much so that anytime we were lost after that, I asked him, “Shall I go ask a stranger how to get there?”  If you don’t get lost while on your Europe vacations, then you’re just not doing it right.  We spent two hours one night looking for a restaurant called Hot Box that some website had recommended.  It was not a “good lost” since it was in a business area with huge sky scrapers.  We finally found the place.  HA.  Long picnic tables in a dark room with expensive hamburgers.

One reason I’m glad I was completely invisible in Europe:  I was the only person wearing leggings.  Here in Tempe that’s the norm!  Next blog will be European fashion tips!  Stay tuned!



A Blast From the Past


Tonight I hosted our first meeting of the new Warner Ranch Book club.  I started it by asking if anyone was interested on our neighborhood website, and nine delightful women spent the evening in my living room getting to know each other and discussing a favorite book of mine called Plainsong by Kent Haruf.   I promised dessert, wine, and iced tea and had big plans for making a cheesecake and cupcakes, however, life got in the way, and I ended up baking some old tried-and-true recipes of cheesecake brownies and lemon company cake.

While looking on my blog for my favorite cheesecake recipe, I was delighted to read about a Monday of mine five years ago.  I laughed out loud; I used to be so funny! This is how most bloggers feel.  They post something and think, ugggh, that could have been so much better.  I was also pretty much floored emotionally by how much my life has changed in such a short time.  I miss having our kids at home, yet there is a new quality of serenity and order which I truly enjoy.  Plus, Hubby is still here and since we are BFF’s, it’s all good.

Here is the post from January 10, 2012 titled, “What I Did on Monday.”  And btw, I have no idea what that novel was about or where it went.  I think it ended up in the trash where most of my creative writing goes to die.

I had a beautiful and productive Monday. Here are some of the things I did:

Read the newspaper and snickered over the bickering Republican hopefuls.

Went to the library and picked up a copy of The Secret History by Donna Tartt, an old favorite of mine.

Met Amy at Starbuck’s for a morning of writing.  Chatted with Amy for 1.5 hours and wrote for .5 hours.

Discovered I have lost an entire chapter from the novel I’m writing. (I’m hoping Hubby can help me locate it on my computer.)

Had a lovely lunch with Lynn at Hong Kong Buffet. The big news of the day:  She has a grandson due to be born any day now!

Feeling ill from too many crab puffs, I took a break with The Secret History and alternately burped soy sauce-flavored burps and pet Lucy.  Isn’t it nice how cats don’t care if you have bad breath?

Did some research on the artists I am now assigned at the art museum, Seymour Lipton and Mike Kelley. I must say I so do not “get” contemporary art . . . but I’m trying.

Vacuumed downstairs and sucked up enough cat hair to make a new cat.

Found three bowls, two forks, a spoon and a plate under the couch.

Went to the bank.

Mailed birthday presents to my sister and my step-mother-in-law at the post office.

Gave Eve a wedgie. “That’s for leaving your dirty dishes under the couch!”

Discovered my Aunt Chris’ 60th birthday is January 16th. (I should’ve known that, but thank you, Aunt Linda, for the reminder!)

Went to TJ Maxx and bought four fabulous scarves. Which one should I send to Aunt Chris? The others go in my “emergency gift” stash in the closet. Found some super-comfy oh-so-cute Seven7 brand jeans for only $16.99 and HAD to take them home. I love you, TJ Maxx.

Came home to find Lucy having a serious coughing fit. I gently stroked her back, and she began to purr. She found a comfy warm spot on Grandma Summer’s blanket and took a long nap. She is still hungry for dinner, so we are not yet at the end. I hate hate hate that she is sick. She looks normal. Her fur smells sweet like it always has. (Maybe it’s all a big mistake?)

Made the kids eat leftovers for dinner (the fridge was too full, and I do not believe in throwing away food). Talked Eve into eating the dried up leftover cauliflower from four days ago—more revenge for the dishes under the couch (hee hee).

After the kids were in bed, found the cauliflower dish under the couch.

Took William and Nathan to Boy Scouts. Said “Happy New Year” to all my Scout friends, and gave Patti L. a big hug because she very gracefully turned 50 over the weekend. (My friends make it look so easy . . . why do I dread it so?)

Came home and made two individual cheesecakes. I have two six-inch springform pans that produce the cutest little sweets. I took a photo of a decorated mini-cake at Whole Foods and totally copied it (who was it that said there is nothing new under the sun?), and I must say I am quite proud. I am taking it to my dear friend Mrs. Brown because today we are celebrating her birthday.

I had fun decorating the cheesecake with fresh fruit, which always looks better when you put a little melted raspberry jam on it to make it look shiny. I used blueberries, strawberries and mandarin orange slices. I stood back to admire my masterpiece and took a lick off the jam spoon. WHAT??? PEANUT BUTTER? Who on earth would put a peanut butter knife into the almost-new jar of raspberry jam? I think I owe Eve another wedgie. Does this stuff happen to Martha Stewart?

Here is the recipe for a basic, easy cheesecake that turns out perfect every time:


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Butter two six-inch springform pans OR use a regular pie dish.

Smush a graham cracker crust into the bottom of your pan.

In a large bowl, beat 8 oz. cream cheese (softened) with ½ cup sugar and two eggs. Add 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon or fresh orange juice, ½ teaspoon vanilla and a dash of salt.

Bake for 25-40 minutes (depending on your pan) until it is firm in the middle. Cool before decorating!





Big news:  I’m a winner!

That’s right—for the first time in my whole life, I’ve won an election.  I guess it’s not that amazing if you consider the fact that I’ve only ever “run” for something once before, and that was for 5th grade class treasurer.  I was new to Rural Elementary that year, having just moved from Illinois, so I’m thinking it must’ve been my mother’s idea.  I remember making posters decorated with tin-foil coins and buttons I made classmates wear that read, “Keep it rockin’—vote for Mary Koppen.”  It was not a surprise when Mary Ann Hendrickson won—I mean, she’d gone to school with those kids since Kindergarten . . . and in all honesty, I was a bit relieved.

This week’s election was for the Warner Ranch Phase II HOA Board.  My competition was a lovely neighbor who has served on the board for years, and a cranky woman I’ve never met who ran on the platform of breaking up “the old boys club” who didn’t even bother to attend the annual meeting!  I was a shoo-in, but still, I came home from the meeting feeling special about my glamorous new appointment.  (I’ve threatened to run for years.) My (hidden) agenda is to try to convince the board we really don’t need to call the attorneys every time somebody leaves their car on the street overnight.  I’m all about saving us some cash, yo.

In other news, Ruby the Wonder Spaniel is having a health concern.  Suddenly her breath is terrible, and when I say terrible, when we drove by the dairy farm in Maricopa last weekend on our way to Mexico, our car smelled BETTER with the windows down to allow her stink OUT, and allowing the cow small IN.  Her breath is so terrible the cats back up with their ears down and run away when she attempts to kiss them.  It’s so terrible that my car still smells like her death breath a week after our road trip, even though I’ve been driving around all week with the windows open.  Ruby has a teeth cleaning scheduled in two weeks, so hopefully it’s something as simple as a rotten tooth that needs pulling.  Her teeth have rarely been brushed since we are very selfish and value the existence of having ten fingers over Ruby having healthy, clean teeth.

This next week is HUGE.  You may want to sit down to hear this news.  Are you sitting? BASTILLE IS COMING TO TOWN!!!! My favorite band is coming to town on Tuesday, and on Friday, Hubby and I are driving to Vegas to see them a second time.  I’m giddy.  More than giddy, I’m nervous something will go wrong and I won’t get to go to the concerts. A sick child, a car accident, the loss of a finger when brushing a dog’s teeth.  I know I’m being ridiculous.  I’m THAT excited.  This morning I hugged Hubby and said, “You are the sweetest husband in the whole world to take me to both Bastille concerts this week!!!”  I think he’d forgotten because he looked stricken . . . and now I’m looking for a sub for him on Tuesday.  I think our daughter will go with me.

I know I should be embarrassed to be so excited about a musical group at my advanced age, but answer me this:  Why is it okay to be gaga over classical music, but not progressive music?  I went to hear Gustav Holsts’ The Planets a few years ago and there were PLENTY of old people there who were clearly exhilarated to hear this performance, yet when I mention going to a rock concert, I feel the quiet mocking.  And let me tell you, Bastille concerts are 100% more interesting than the Phoenix Symphony playing Holst (it was quite the snooze fest).

Last but not least, I was happy to see a new sculpture installed in the lobby of Phoenix Art Museum.  I’m a big Yayoi Kusama fan, and her large-scale aluminum pumpkin with holes cut out of it is whimsical and charming.  Come check it out!








Is there a time of the week more heavenly than Saturday morning?  The whole weekend lays before you with so many possibilities for fun.  Tonight I hope Hubby will take me out on the town–maybe stop by the new Samurai exhibit at the art museum, then over to Angel Trumpet Ale House to try one of their 31 flavors of beer on tap, or maybe over to Taco Guild for their drool-worthy beef&blue cheese&cherry tacos (I swear they are the best food invented, after chicken shwarma).   I’m going to zip up my sexy tall leather boots and find my reddest lipstick, and uh oh, now I have Lyle Lovett’s song, What Do You Doin my head:

“You could put on some makeup
And you could pile up your hair
And at least try to do something
With what you’ve got there
You could tell me you love me
To put off my blues
But what do you do
Say what do you do?”

But now we are suiting up for a hike over at the War Paint Trail.  I’ve been walking a lot this past month, but not really getting my heart rate up.  So even though I prefer to bear to the right and go on the flat trails, I’m going to be brave and say, “let’s go left” which means steep inclines that leave me gasping.  Or maybe we’ll go straight and do the zig zag trail Corona del Loma trail that rewards you with a beautiful view of the Gila River Indian reservation to the south.  It’s the best time of year for a dusty walk among the blooming creosote and stately saguaros.

The tension is gone from our quaint little neighborhood (which I talked about in my last entry).  Our mentally unstable neighbor is in jail awaiting his bail hearing.  SO SAD.  There is a bustle of activity at their house as his wife prepares the home for sale.  It’s lovely with high-end everythings so will probably sell quickly.  Come be our next door neighbor!  I’d say the only annoying things about living next door to us is Cosmo occasionally walks the fence and might take a wee catnap on your patio, and Ruby the Wonder Spaniel barks every time I take out the trash.  She thinks the bag is a doggy pinata and often manages to bite a hole in the bottom, rewarding her with some stinky trash.  Good dog.  I hatched a plan to scare off any undesirable potential neighbors touring the house:  I’m going to fill a bag with beer cans which will be thrown on the lawn, and in my bikini will do yard work while listening to rap music played at a loud volume.

Happy Saturday!!!




Peaks and Valleys


I had a super angsty weekend.  After taking our youngest son back to NAU yesterday (our goodbye looked like this), I came home and wrote a long, boring essay asking the question, “Who am I? Am I still a mom even though my kids are grown?”   There were references to my own college days and a link to this song which I danced to every Thursday night at Devil House when I was William’s age and attending ASU.  I turned it up really loud and danced to it in my kitchen, and memories came flooding back . . .  which made me even more worried about my young adult children (lol).  So then (since I was feeling angsty) I sat back down and wrote about all my youthful hopes and dreams that didn’t come true. I woke up this morning and I deleted that huge, stinking bucket of drivel, sipped a cup of coffee while watching the sun come up, and had a very nice day.

We loved having William home for a whole month over the holiday break!!!  He and his girlfriend were good company every afternoon and never made me feel like I was intruding on their time together–they are good kids, and I love them.  I’ve always been a  “Speech Sponge” which means I unwittingly pick up other’s speech patterns, slang, and accents.  I realized I’d spent too much time with William and his friends when docenting at the art museum Friday morning.  I commented that I didn’t care for a certain painting because the paint was “super shiny.”  My friends mocked me. (Note to self:  Eliminate the words super, awesome, yo, nasty, chill, and bounce from my lexicon.)

BIG NEWS:  Over the weekend, our oldest son became engaged to his lovely girlfriend, Samantha! (This was one of the things that was causing me to be angsty–how can my little Patrick be getting married?? Where did the time go??).  They have been dating for three years, and we’ve seen first-hand that they are a great team.  Patrick is 25 and a half, and Samantha just turned 23–the same ages Hubby and I were when we got hitched 28 years ago.  Sam is wearing Hubby’s grandmother’s diamond.  It’s been sitting in a drawer for the last ten years since Evelyn passed, so we’re happy  it’s out shining in the world again.  Evelyn and Clifford were married for 60 years, so that’s a Good Luck Diamond, don’t you think so???   I could not ask for a better DIL, and how fun to look forward to a wedding next year! THANK GOD it’s not soon,  because I have 30 pounds to lose so I won’t look like a Macy’s Day parade balloon in the wedding photos (menopause has not been kind to me).

So goes life:  a series of peaks, then valleys. I’m keenly missing my school friends and students, but on the other hand I’m enjoying catching up with old friends and having energy to be active.  I’ll not say too much, but recent health concerns are still being dealt with, but all in all, I feel 80% back to normal.   I’ve hiked (slowly) the War Paint trails, lunched at Mac’s, at Pita Jungle, at Indian Delhi Palace, Wildflower, etc., and found out it’s a treat to walk over to Teakwoods to meet friends for happy hour (it’s a mile each way walking through the neighborhood).  I love being home with our four pets.  Our house is tidy, and I have energy to make yummy dinners. Every day I’m reminded of the old adage, “the grass is always greener” because many days I wish I were still at my special, amazing school.  But as a favorite teaching friend, Rhoda, once said, “You can only  put your tuchus in one seat at a time.”  Every day I remind myself that my tuchus is where it’s supposed to be . . . and working from home means pants are optional.