Sunday, December 30, 2012

An opportunity to celebrate kindness from USA Today

While relaxing this afternoon, my husband found this link which looks like an opportunity to celebrate, and honor, kindness in our community.  The first entry on the USA Kindness Community blog also seems to highlight local businesses like our LocalFirstArizona/Tucson.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Four More Tucson Bright Spots

Local Food:

Not all good local Tucson food comes in food trucks; in the pre-Food Truck Round Up days, restaurants offered us many good times with local chefs and local owners.  One that has been around for ninety years is El Charro.  We enjoy the Eastside location on Wilmot and Broadway and Christmas wouldn't be Christmas for me without their wonderful, red tamale.  Here is my a la carte version (minus enchilada sauce and colored with shredded lettuce and sour cream).  Please note how the tamale is tied at the end, and I was delighted to have not one but two green olives in it.  Also, I recommend the rice, served with colorful carrots and peas.  Their salsa is one of my favorites and I shipped several jars to my East Coast cousin this year as a thank-you for his Jersey City/on the harbor hospitality in March.

Reid Park Serenity and Color on Christmas Eve
After our huge late lunch at El Charro, we needed to walk off a few calories, so we went to Reid Park and strolled around the lake and past the Cancer Memorial and horseshoe court.  At the lake, Mark was mesmerized by the one egret.  I like to think of the bird as a Christmas Angel.
And, as the sun began to set in the west, the golden leaves of the sycamore (?) symbolizes our own Tucson Christmas tree, perfectly shaped, contrasting gold with our blue sky.
After our walk, and before attending Christmas Eve Family Service at Catalina United Methodist Church, we headed to Starbucks at El Con and lo, and behold, we didn't find the Bethlehem star but we did find the vintage El Con sign which is a Tucson "star" of sorts.

December Food Truck Round Up at Himmel Park

I can't believe it's been since August that we last joined a Tucson Food Truck Round-Up, but I guess that's the way the months flew by this fall.  So, we made a determined visit to Himmel Park on Sunday to enjoy some new tastings of good, affordably-priced local food.  Tho the Round Up was smaller (6 trucks) than other ones we have attended or followed, we didn't lack for choices and the location was really nice with the parking available and park tables accessible in addition to those provided by the truck vendors.  Here is our sampling below.  We both enjoyed Chef's Kitchen's fare:  grilled Black Forest Ham and Swiss Cheese on Dill-Rye bread and served buttery and pressed like a panini ($5.00).  We also liked the healthy edamame ($4.00 in a large bowl, here is just the sampling) with freshly made ranch dressing with other seasonings available.

Mark has more a more adventurous palate than I do, so he savored the MexicanAsian Food Company offering of Korean Tacos (3 for $7.00).  I asked the chef for more info on the ingredients in the tangy sauce and she shared a long list that included: onions, cilantro, Kimchi, Asian beef, sesame and Romaine Lettuce.  What a pretty picture good food makes!


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Anonymous Christmas Limerick

Just so funny!  We need to laugh.

Old Man of Blue Hill
There was an old man of Blue Hill
Who when church was quiet and still
At Christmas Eve mass
Liked to pass gas
Toward a candle, just for the thrill

Monday, December 17, 2012


(my 12/5 response to the prompt to write about a song, a musical, etc.)

Once Halloween was over, Glenda's calendar opened up until the Winter Solstice came around. Most people don't think much about witches until Halloween. At that time, folks like to hang black-cloaked wizened plastic-faced old women on broomsticks on their front doors and the occasional 7 year old girl would pick "being a witch" over "being a princess" for her trick-or-treat costume.

But at least twice a month all year long, Glenda and the other twelve of the Tucson Coven would gather at the Shelter Bar on Grant Road and share details of their latest success or failures. They would mull over the details of what spells had worked and didn't, conjecture why, and how to improve their products and brands. Contract work had been pretty steady since the recession hit four years ago but there was always a need for improved marketing.

Election year 2012 had been surprisingly productive for the Coven. There was enough money flying out there this time around for a few candidates to call in magic to help tilt the elections toward a win. There had been that flurry of bad press about a 2010 candidate who was a witch but Glenda and the other pros knew she was a fake. Had she really been a professional she wouldn't have lost the election. For the most part, the election spells were quick money, easy to work and, if you knew what you were doing and added your personal witch-support to the potion, the odds were pretty good they would bring about the desired outcome. Sometimes, just for fun, Glenda monkey-wrenched the spell because she knew the candidate well enough to ensure his or her loss. But that kind of talk was strictly shared within the Coven; outsiders were kept in the dark.

Currently, Glenda knew that the Phoenix Coven had received several requests for a 2014 Jan Brewer victory and next year's annual meeting would be interesting to attend. She, and others, wanted to find out how much steam was boiling behind that Gubanatorial effort.

But, for now, Glenda was going to refocus on December 22nd. She had no doubt that the earth would still be spinning after the 21st. The Mayan Calendar was an old school prediction tool and the newer magic was better informed about how the world would end. While non-Magicians, or Muggles as they were now commonly called thanks to the Harry Potter books and movies, thought a big bang would end earthly life, Glenda and her ilk believed it would come as it was evolving now: in significant shifts of weather changes and seemingly random acts of violence in homes, schools and communities. These occurrences reflect the non-alignment of earth to the cosmos.

December 21st the longest night of 2012 would be a celebration of witches and druids and other practitioners of the world beyond the silver cloak of reality. Cauldrons would bubble, candles would flame and Glenda would dance to tambourine music and drums. On the 22nd, the Covens nation-wide would need all of their collective energy to serve the magical needs of the world that would wake up to another day

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Stew and Biscuits

Here's a pretty fresh flash fiction story:

Stew and Biscuits—a 10 minute writing response to the prompt:  write about a romantic moment long ago 11/14, edited 11/23/12

Melanie brought the coal to the stove, her back aching from pulling in the stiffly frozen laundry from the cotton clothesline spread between the leafless maple trees.  These days the sun didn’t do much for drying the wash.  So she’d have to pull out the linen later and dry them by the fire.  But for now, she had to stock the wood in the stove and get dinner ready for Frank before he came in from the fields.  The corn had been stored away for the winter but Frank was still working on bundling the hay for storage.  After a dry summer, the hay wasn’t as thick as it should be for getting the animals through what seemed to be an early and cold winter.  Melanie stirred the stew and set the corn biscuits on the platter to bake.

A burst of cold air blasted the light from the oil lamps as Frank entered the house.  Stamping his feet on the pine floorboards, he shouted across the hall, “Mmmm, somethin’ smells mighty good for dinner, honey.”

“Oh, just biscuits and stew, nothin’ special.”  Melanie wiped her hands across her faded blue apron and quickly turned to Frank for a welcoming hug.

“Doesn’t need to be special as long as my special gal gives me somethin’ to warm me up!”

They spread arms open around each other’s wide backs, Melanie nuzzling her nose into Frank’s still chilled neck.  His grey-brown beard brushed across her auburn hair, knotted into a thick single braid.  Gently, he pulled the braid so that she turned her head upward for a kiss.  Stepping back as the stew bubbled, Melanie giggled.  “I swear, old man, you’d think you were still a young buck workin’ for my Pa.”

“No, Ma’am.  I’m a happier man now after all these years.  No pa of yours to tell me to step away from our lovin’ we used to do in the barn.  I can kiss you now anytime, anywhere, and I do.”

The stew bubbled a bit longer that night and the biscuits burned.




Saturday, December 1, 2012

about Amanda's story

While I have posted several items that I had hoped people would read, the number of reads for Amanda's Story surprised, and then concerned me.  I have deleted it from this blog because, at 4 a.m., I couldn't sleep, concerned about the possible negative effect this story, emphasis story, might have in the cyber world.

I did not know Amanda.  I was touched by her obituary because, as a parent I wondered about what would cause the death of this seemingly vibrant young woman.  As a mother, I have had experiences that I inserted into her story, and as a human being, I had connections to her story that I appropriated and used via my imagination.

In no way did I want to do anything but take the suggested prompt and imagine a wonderful, happy scene for this young woman.

So, if this story touched others--in a good way--I am glad but it served its purpose and has been removed.  And, if any way I offended or disturbed, that was definitely not my intent, and the story has been removed.

Words have power and, sometimes, words go beyond their intended purpose.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ben's Bells: A Brilliant BrightSpot in Tucson

Friday we visited Ben's Bells at the UA location. (see for more information).  Since I have been doing informal research since July on what makes Tucsonans feel happy, I have learned that Ben's Bells is an element of our community life that everyone I talked with identified as an example of "community happiness." 

When a person decides to commit to completing a Ben's Bells project, s/he is given a Kindness Contract.  In part it reads: I _____ am signing because I believe in building a kinder Tucson for the betterment of all its people...I commit to being kinder to myself so that I may offer more kindness to my community.  This includes taking care of my physical, psychological and spiritual health.... 

Wherever you live, readers, these commitments, I believe, can help you create happiness in your daily life and at this time of the Season, I encourage you to consider applying the Ben's Bells Contract to your life.  We put our green "Be Kind" sticker on our car and I plan to return another time to make a bell in honor of my mom and grandparents.  Here are photos Mark took from our visit.  Enjoy.

Entryway to Ben's Bells: 

When you enter, you are greeted by a friendly volunteer, such as the UA student here:

Inside there is a kiln for the firing clay and a studio for making the bells where we saw children gathered with their parents.  Because the weather was so fine there were also two tables set up outside for bell-making.  With their permission, Mark took this photo of friends making a bell in honor of one of them who had recently lost her mother-in-law. 

There is a permanent bench in the patio, outside of the garden building location to remind passersby to be kind.
And here's a table--just for you--should you care to join Ben's Bells.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sabino Canyon: A Natural BrightSpot

An unintentional visit to Sabino Canyon today generated these photos which give testimony to the Canyon as a natural "BrightSpot" in Tucson.

In this one, you can see Thimble Peak in the Catalina Mtns.  Look to just right of the Saguaro which is really two armed, but taken from the side, looks younger than it is.

The photo above shows the clouds beginning to move in from the south, ocotillo in the foreground off the path.
Here two young saguaros are protected by an angled mesquite, seeming to embrace them in its snarly branches.

It's later in our walk, as you can tell by the shadows arcing across this small bosque.

Nonet #1

I tried this new format, a "nonet" suggested in Writer's Digest's Poetic Asides. It consists of 9 lines; first line has nine syllables, then eight, etc. until the last line with one syllable. Some of you might want to try it, too.

Nonet #1

Slow walking in Sabino Canyon
we watch black shadows fold
into green, brown canyon walls.
A red tail'd hawk soars high
above the mesquite
trees brown'd from sun
in short fall

Friday, November 16, 2012

Good News for Tucson's Youth and Pima Library

It's important to celebrate the good news (and not get stuck in the potholes)!  Here's an important update from one of my community colleagues:

In a media world that often bombards us with gloom and doom, I wanted to share some exciting, positive news for Tucson and Tucson's youth. For the past year or so I have been working with the Pima County Library to develop a youth media program. We just received notice that we were awarded a $100,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation & Institute of Museum and Library Services to plan a youth media center and mobile lab in Tucson. We’re one of 24 communities nationwide – and the only one in Arizona – selected to receive the grant. The attached press release offers more details.

I share this with you all because so many of you are passionate about art, media, youth, and building a healthy and vibrant Tucson, and I hope we can count on you to help us build on this momentum to make Tucson nationally recognized for its work around youth media and voice.

As the project moves forward, I am sure I will be calling on many of you to help us make a Tucson youth media center a reality.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Art and Culture in Phoenix

On our recent Phoenix Friday-Weekend trip, we visited the Irish Cultural Center,  .  Mark took photos of the Irish cottage and memorial to those who died in the Irish Potato Famine.

We also made our monthly stop at the Phoenix Art Museum and enjoyed the exhibit, The West Select: A New Western Classic, on display through 12/31. .  Mark unknowingly took this museum-forbidden picture of one of the many sculptures (also photography, oils, watercolors were on display).  We hope he will be forgiven for his error if this photo encourages at least one of my followers to go to the show!

Local First as a BrightSpot in Arizona

Part of the reason we had a Phoenix weekend this weekend was to attend the LocalFirst event at Portland Park (right outside where we used to stay when our friend rented an apartment).  .  Mark and I signed up as members and we look forward to joining others in Tucson and Phoenix who are part of the "buy local" movement.  At the LocalFirst booth we learned that Arizona has the largest local network in the nation.  Not California, not New York, but Arizona.  That is really an important fact we need to celebrate and shine light on as a stellar "bright spot."  Here are photos by Mark from the event.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Day of the Dead Altar At the Mercado in Tucson

Last night we were invited to the "Art for Art (Chapa)" event at the Mercado.  This event helps raise funds to support education and health services in the fight against gastric cancer. [Go to for more information].  The event allowed us to visit the amazingly decorated Day of the Dead Altar which is pictured here.  In Tucson, partly due to the Hispanic cultural influence and partly, I would add, due to the inclusionary attitude of our community (which, as a whole, was not supportive of SB 1070), and, also because of the diverse number of artists in the Tucson area---the Halloween season extends three or four days beyond (we have a photo exhibit for the All Souls Celebration, the Procession of Little Angels, Soul Poetry) into tomorrow this year when the All Souls Procession expect to gather 45,000 people together and ends with the Dance of the Dead Concert at the Rialto.  What a wonderful abundance of culture and community!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Uniquely Carved Pumpkins

Yesterday we went to the Foothills Mall to see the Southwest Woodcarvers Association's display of carved pumpkins. .  They are amazing as you will see from Mark's photos.  As woodcarvers they pay detailed attention to their designs which take several hours to complete.  Some of the carvers paint the designs before completion.  They were doing this as a raffle/fundraiser for a local nonprofit with pumpkins donated by nearby WalMart.  Check these out and enjoy another Tucson "brightspot."

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tucson Chili Festival and Cook-Off: another BrightSpot

You still have time, if you live in Tucson, to head downtown to El Presidio Park (just west of the Downtown/Main Library) and enjoy the varieties of chili offered by Tucson Firefighters. You can listen to music, watch "Zombies" walk through the crowds, cool off you palate with Eegee's ice or frozen yogurt.  We went down for lunch today and enjoyed another "BrightSpot" in Tucson.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sawmill Run in Summerhaven

Mark and I try to do a "mountain Monday" every month and often it is to our wonderful Mt. Lemmon.  We stopped at the Sawmill Run restaurant during the summer which was our first visit to the new place that "replaced" the famous (or infamous, depending on your experience) "Pie Lady's" place which served up mostly pies all year long.  The Pie Lady died, and the new place was built with an extended patio, bar, and expanded dining area inside with a welcoming fireplace.  Our first summer visit to Sawmill Run was very good and so, even though we had only planned on sharing a piece of pie (they offer a more limited dessert menu but you can still go crazy with apple, peach cobbler, a decadant brownie or crumbly cherry pie, a la mode, of course, which is what we had)--we couldn't resist the tangy taste of a pulled pork BBQ which we also shared.

They added a side for each of us (one side, normally accompanies the sandwich and a pickle) and we relished our entree.  The BBQ was a good blend of sweet and salty and the pork was tender and came in ample chunks on the solid bun.  The veggies, a combination of red peppers, zuccini, corn, and yellow squash, were finely diced and sprinkled with carroway seeds.  Mark said he liked the "peppery flavor" that balanced with the BBQ.  I had macaroni and cheese, made with white cheddar and sprinkled with panko crumbs.  Unlike most M&C at diners, this was not salty and I could have doubled my portion I liked it so much. 

But then I wouldn't have room for dessert and the cherry pie was exactly how my mother and grandmother would have baked it.  The bottom crust was thin and buttery, the crumbles on top of brown sugar, butter and bits of flour were light.  And, ah, the filling was full of plump whole cherries, tart and sweet. 

We both will return next month and maybe the chill in the air will contribute to our first experience by the fireplace.  Check out their menu and hours of operation at .

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Tucson Meet Yourself: a very bright BrightSpot

This weekend was the 38th year for the Tucson Meet Yourself Festival.  The weather yesterday was cooler than usual and so we packed in three hours with visiting Ohio-Green Valley friends.  We started off with tacos and Pico de Gallo and then visited the booths before being entertained by the Maguire Academy of Dance.  One of the dancers, second from the right in the photo, is the seven year old daughter of my physical therapist.  She's lucky to have a dad who will always be taking care of her ankles, knees and other dancing joints!!

A display of quilts, some from the Arizona Centennial Exhibit at the Arizona Historical Society, was one stop I didn't want to miss.

By the Convention Center, Kidlore had a fun corner with cardboard boxes and chalking making on the sidewalk.  Remember when kids could have fun with just boxes or chalk---well, they still do!!
Hopefully, if you are a Tucsonan, you were able to enjoy the Festival this year.  If you are an out-of-towner, plan for it next year--and there are now ongoing events you can plug into if you want to take on some of the light of this Tucson BrightSpot.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Here's another video link to a movie I want to see and which others have recommended.  There are many signs in the universe pointing to UP^.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Mark Grushka writes a review

The Curry Leaf Indian Restaurant has become my favorite place to get great curry dishes. This small place has great food and reasonable prices. A lot of people have gotten use to “Buffet Style” Indian food but do not be put off. If you want variety, order your entrĂ©e “Thali” style and you will be treated to a great variety of side dishes including Tandori chicken, soup, Naan and lots of other delicacies for under 10 dollars. The quality is what makes this place so great. The owner will often come out and is very interested in answering questions you may have about the food. The Chai is also the best I have had in Tucson.

Here are pictures of two “Thali” style plates.

PALAK PANEER: Homemade cheese cooked with fresh spinach

LAMB CURRY: I always get it “medium” hot

Happy Movie

This will make you smile:

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sonoran Glass School: Another BrightSpot

As my followers know (but to update newcomers to the blog), I periodically write about "BrightSpots" in the Tucson region that demonstrate the good things about living here.  This week, I want to shine the light on the Sonoran Glass School,

For three years, or so, I have wanted to go to their Open House for Pumpkin Glass-Blowing and this year, we made it.  They had a waiting list of 3 1/2 hours of folks want to "blow their own" pumpkin, acorn or ornament.  There is a nice gallery of items for sale and the prices are very reasonable.  We bought two magnets for $4.00 each (2 for $8.00 or 1 for $5.00).  There was a table of "seconds" with small flaws in the products and a very nice mark-down. 

Besides watching the glass blowers, we also watched one of their faculty making glass beads.  Both of us want to take a class sometime and hope to invite visiting relatives and friends to stop by and consider taking a class as well.  Mark, the "safety man" was very impressed by the ventilation system and overall standard of safety in the building.  To quote him:  "it's a very well designed ventilation system" and "it showed some real forethought in reducing the hazards."  That's high praise from him.

So enjoy these pics.  There are other photos we can post if you comment back and let me know you want to see more!


Monday, October 1, 2012

Grain Field in Marana, Arizona

I recall this season in the midwest: when grain stalks were tassling, the days were shortening and a full moon shone so my Grandfather could linger longer in the fields. Here is a sorghum field and cow pasture in Marana.

Late Summer Poem
Farm fields are farm fields. 
Cows are cows chewing dry grass
Flicking their tails
with the wind.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Getty Villa Mosaic: man in the middle

I posted other photos on but this one didn't seem to fit with others.  Why is that I wonder?  Maybe it's the incompleteness of the mosaic, or the expressions on the faces that speaks to me not of serenity but of masculine beauty but also dominance--particularly the muscled arm of the man in the middle.  Hmmm, I feel my imagination for story stirring....

Muse from the Getty Villa

Here are two shots Mark took from the Getty a couple of weeks ago.  There were several statues of the Muses in one of the galleries, but the wistfulness of this one I especially liked.  In particular to my writer-friends--doesn't she look like someone you can trust?
And here's the text to explain her story.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Splash Park is a new Tucson BrightSpot

Saturday was the launch of a new Splash Park (and Jungle Gym) at a urban core neighborhood park in Tucson, 4th Ave. and 2nd Street.  Mark and I stopped by the next day to catch shots of the park--there were about a half dozen kids nearby but he tries to not take shots of kids in order to honor their privacy.  Funded mainly by a Federal Community Development Block Grantshows, it is an example of how we do need and use federal funds at the broader community level.  Although I no longer work for HUD, when I see projects such as this, I feel proud to have been a part of HUD's Community Builder Program a decade ago. I think this project earns my "BrightSpot" posting, do you?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering 9/11/01

I was getting ready to head to Sierra Vista, Az. for a meeting with colleagues as part of our Building Social Capital Project.  This project, coordinated by the Arizona Community Foundation and funded by The Ford Foundation, was designed to "connect the dots" between non-profits, government and other community elements in border towns in Cochise, Pima and Yuma counties.  We had already been working on this project for a year when 9/11 came around on the calendar. 

As I watched the real time t.v. coverage of the attacks on the towers, the Pentagon and, later, the plane crash in the Pennsylvania farm field, all I could think of was how important it had to be for us to continue to act "as if" this would, somehow, not cripple our country.  By the time I got to Sierra Vista, Ft. Huachuca had started to shut down access to their base and traffic was tightening all around the city.  But we all showed up, probably driven by the same sense of civic duty as I was feeling.

News was still unraveling about the attacks, but we knew we had to have moments of silence, share whatever was welling up in our hearts and minds, hold hands and yes, continue to do our civic duty.  So, on the 11th Anniversary I fondly think of all us in that circle and reach out to you and to others.

On a mini-vacation last year, Mark and I discovered that at Pepperdine University, they set a flag on the hills of Malibur for each of the fallen that day. Their flags also identify the nationality of each of the fallen.  I have learned that Tempe, Az. also has done something similar to honor 9/11 on their "Healing Field" memorial.  So--to recall those hours, days, and months after 9/11, here is a photo from Pepperdine U., taken by Mark.  He also has photos of the 9/11 Memorial in NYC that we visited in March.  Those will be posted later today.