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Stop and gaze upon the roses

 

horizontal red roses

Stop and smell the lilacs, that’s a maxim I could get behind. The scent of lilacs blooming in May is both fleeting and intoxicating.

Roses, I have found, are not very fragrant, making the phrase “stop and smell the roses” not only cliché but also misleading. But still, roses in bloom have a way of stopping one in one’s tracks, they are so handsome.

Napa cookie cutter campgroundI captured the image above a couple of weeks ago when we were staying at the Napa Valley Expo, a neat and proper sort of RV park where every lot is exactly the same size, lined up on a perfectly asphalted street. The effect is rather hypnotic, particularly when one walks her dog along the same route every time, four times a day.

Then I wake up in the morning, answering puppy’s call to nature, and notice the dew on the roses.

dewy-red-rose.jpg

It’s all I can do not to break out in my Stevie Wonder voice, “Isn’t she lovely? Isn’t she Won. Der. Ful? Isn’t she precious?”

A fanciful row of rose bushes line the main thoroughfare in the park, and I get to gaze upon them whenever I walk the dog or do the laundry. These dewy images were taken a couple of weeks ago, when most of the blooms were only buds, just waking up to spring’s welcome. Unfortunately for us visitors, it rained most of a week, but April’s showers left such perfect droplets on the roses, one might think an artist was painting circular little globs of clear lacquer on every upward surface.

red bud

We answered Wanderlust‘s call to fly home for some business (and pleasure), and then returned “home,” to our little RV in Napa Valley. The rain is gone, and the roses, still standing guard on the thoroughfare, are almost spent. We’ll be moving on soon enough, but today we’re here, and the roses demand attention.

rose bush

This morning’s wide open blossoms.

The joke, er, goat’s on you

April Fools’ Day is a major holiday on my father’s side of the family. My 102-year-old grandmother used to love playing April Fool’s jokes, and my dad loves to tease people.

I inherited 20-some years of my grandmother’s diaries when she moved into a nursing home two years ago, so I dug through her April 1st entries in search of proof of her foolishness. Among entries about lunch, ironing, quilting and visitors, she rarely failed to note it was April Fools’ Day, though in 1998 when 7 inches of snow fell and 2009 when 11-12 inches fell, the weather trumped all fun.

I should mention that Grandma lives in north central Minnesota, where winter is six months long if it’s a day.

In the ’80s, April Fools’ Day was mentioned frequently with her brother-in-law’s birthday.

1985: “April Fools’ Day and Odin’s birthday. We celebrated his birthday with the neighbors coming, too. It was a very nice afternoon.”

In other years, she only mentioned who she fooled, not how. In 1986, it was my cousin Cheri (Grandma’s oldest grandchild). In 1991 and 1993, it was her friend Clarine. In 1992: “It was quiet although I did fool a few after church when we were having soup.” In 2004, she mentions she fooled her niece, Virginia.

In 1996, the lack of fooling got noted: “Cloudy cool day. I didn’t do any April fooling.”

But when Grandma does bother to go into detail about the day’s foolishness, I just have to chuckle.

1991: “April Fools’ … Was a nice day. The New Horizon had a goat they would deliver for $10. Mary called to have one delivered to both Jim & Wally. They blame me for telling Mary.”

Mary is my Aunt Mary, and Jim and Wally are her brothers, two of Grandma’s three sons. Uncle Wally passed away last year, but this joke reminds me of his sense of humor (and is proof of the foolishness on this side of the family!). He and Grandma exchanged pranks regularly:

1994: “April Fools’. I fooled Wally with a letter. It makes me happy. I did get him!”

1995: “April Fools’. Wally planned to fool me so I locked the garage door. He was here but couldn’t get in.”

1997: “April Fools’ Day. I never fooled anyone. Wally came when I was gone and put the bench on top of the car.”

 

For me, I think April Fool’s jokes are most funny when they’re played on someone else. When someone pulls a joke on me, well, not so much.

Researchers have found apes laugh, dogs laugh and babies laugh before they learn any other language. Laughter is pretty much the same across languages, and it has the same cadence for everyone — if you “ha, ha, ha” too fast or too slow, it’s panting or, er, something else.

So, laughter is like sleep. We all do it instinctively, and no one really knows why. Maybe it’s God’s joke. In any case, a good laugh is good for the soul, which may explain Grandma’s longevity.

May your day be filled with laughter.

If it’s green, it belongs in this smoothie

In my mind, it began as a Green Elvis smoothie. The King of Rock and Roll enjoyed peanut butter-banana sandwiches, so goes the legend, and I figured I wouldn’t even taste the fresh spinach I picked up at the grocery yesterday in there.

But the only peanuts I had were salt-and-pepper peanuts, and that was more savory flavor than I could stomach in a smoothie. You like kale in your smoothie? You might like salt-and-pepper peanuts, too, I don’t know, but I’ve tried kale in my smoothies, and it’s disgusting. Smoothies should be like dessert, not like a meal for a toothless old coot.

(I’ve also heard Elvis liked bacon in those peanut butter-banana sandwiches, and for a brief moment, I considered putting bacon in the smoothie and calling it a Green Elvis & Ham Smoothie, but no. That’s just wrong.)

OK, so how about a little less Elvis and a little more green? How about pistachios, a green nut?

Perfect.

And what’s this in my fridge? Leftover avocado? Green apple? It’s destiny.

Thus, my breakfast yesterday morning was born. It’s a stick-to-your-ribs 400-calorie smoothie that’s a perfectly balanced mix of carbohydrates, fats (the good kind) and protein. The yogurt makes it creamy, and the chia seeds make it thick. I’m sure Elvis would have hated it (he probably slept through breakfast), but you might like it.

Green Smoothie

Green-Greener-Greenest Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 banana, sliced and frozen
  • 1/2 Granny Smith apple, cut into chunks and frozen
  • 1/4 avocado, cut into chunks and frozen
  • 1/2 cup spinach
  • 1/2 ounce pistachios (shelled of course, do I need to say that?)
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (I prefer fat-free)
  • 1 scoop vanilla-flavored whey protein powder
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon green tea leaves
  • 1-2 teaspoons stevia
  • 1/4-1/3 cup water (you need only enough water to help your blender work; too much, and your smoothie will be more drinkable than spoonable, and that’s no way to eat a smoothie)

Directions:

  1. Combine ingredients in a blender (I love the single-serving glasses for saving on washing dishes later). Blend until smooth. Consume with gusto.

Art in the old west

art opening

Maybe not everyone’s first choice on a Saturday night would be to attend an art opening, but just the thought of mingling with other art lovers while sipping a glass of wine and listening to live piano music in the background thrilled me.

It wasn’t my Beloved’s first choice either, but he indulged me on the promise of ice cream treat on the way home.

Window Dressing

Window dressing at the downtown show.

Even if art openings aren’t your thing, maybe you’ll appreciate a quick peek at the show that opened last week at the Yuma Art Center. Minus the wine and ice cream.

Among the works I took in was the microscopic photography of Robert Schaal. His portion of the show was titled “Hidden Beauty,” and indeed he revealed the unseen loveliness that surrounds us.

Agave Rising

Agave Rising by Robert Schaal

artistBecause it was an opening instead of simply an art show, I got to meet the artists behind the works. Schaal told me he places slices of household items–an agave plant, in the case above–on a microscope slide, adjusts the lighting to his liking and takes a picture. He then chooses the crop and orientation and names it. Many of his pieces look like otherworldly landscapes. It’s hard to remember one’s looking at a microscopic slice of something.

I appreciated the abstract nature of the prints, but the concrete thinker in me appreciated the exhibit didactics.

Here are a few more pieces:

The Red Tear and Desert Evening

The Red Tear and Desert Evening

The Pinwheel

The Pinwheel

Two other artists also showed works at the opening. I found them less cerebral, but interesting nonetheless.

Hector D. Llamas offered “Las Damas de Llamas,” a blend of futurism and traditional Mexican culture.

where secrets turn into dreams

Where Secrets Turn Into Dreams by Hector D. Llamas

And Tyler Voorhees showed “Tall Tales,” sort of a surrealistic approach to western art.

Drew

Draw by Tyler Voorhees

TV sigI appreciated Voorhees’ sense of humor, evident in his exhaustive exhibit didactics and even in his signature which embraces his initials. He told me the control buttons on the TV represent his children.

The show represented dichotomy: microscopic landscapes, modern tradition, Old West surrealism. So often, Saturday night is a one-note soiree, but this art offered the flip side of things.

Magnolia Pearl was a jewel more like diamond in the rough

magnolia-peal-side

When something you see on the side of the road causes you to turn around and double back, you know it must be something special.

magnolia-pearl-frontMagnolia Pearl was one of those surprising delights on the road taken recently. This magnificent building is new, believe it or not, built entirely from reclaimed wood. It’s the flagship store for Magnolia Pearl, a women’s clothing line I would described as distressed, wrinkled and ruffly (it’s not cheap either; T-shirts start at $95). While the clothing was not my cup of tea, the building was amazing and aptly mirrored the designer’s aesthetic.

Described on its website, the “old German grain barn-style building” reflects the architecture of nearby Fredericksburg, a quaint German nestled in the rolling hills of Texas wine country.

magnolia-pearl-office

Even the office looked inviting. The interior was decorated with a fantastic mix of sleek industrial and beat-up antique pieces.

When you walk inside, you’re surprised by the openness and light. It’s built exactly like a house might be (if you ever built a barn to live in). There’s a kitchen, and the bathrooms all have bathtubs.”Among our store’s grand architecture is a hand-crank platform elevator that was used in the late 1800s in an old cotton mill,” the website says. Looked like work to raise, but that elevator was a beautiful addition to the environment, not an eyesore. I saw a recently engaged couple getting their picture taken on the stairway, it was that picturesque.

The old oaks surrounding the building encouraged the illusion that it had been there forever. Magic had been worked there.

magnolia-pearl-back

Airy porches filled three sides of the building; this is the back.

Magnolia Pearl is absolutely worth a stop if ever you find yourself on Highway 290, east of Fredericksburg, Texas, and you’re looking for a new frock or some architectural inspiration.

Minnesota Wonderer is up to something

Interested in catching up with Minnesota Transplant’s latest passion project, heavy on the passion? Check out my author blog here. Maybe you’ll find your next favorite read.

Girl, put your records on, tell me your favorite song

Ever notice how Pandora internet radio plays the same 10 songs by Sting over and over or how Maroon 5 eventually appears on every playlist?

You might not get irritated by Pandora’s lack of variety if you’re an infrequent listener, but this lowest-common-denominator approach to deejaying becomes apparent on a long road trip.

That’s when you’re grateful for having had to clean out your entire house and rid yourself of a decade’s worth of detritus. Or at least consolidate like items together and make neat piles. I know exactly where to find every single fingernail clipper I own, for example. And every single music CD.

Whatever cassette tapes I might have accumulated in the ’80s are long gone, but my Beloved and I invested in a couple hundred CDs in the 2000s that we couldn’t bear to shed when digital music came along. There were a few in my car, a whole bunch in my office, a stack in Tyler’s office and a couple more stashed in various cupboards and drawers around the house. They’re all in one place now — the pickup truck cab, and we’re working our way through the pile during long days of driving.

After enduring an earworm of Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On,” I was sadly disappointed to find the jewel case with her smiling mug empty. Her CD was not stashed in someone else’s case either, so that means it’s gone and the earworm’s two lines of lyrics continue to ring. But they also make a great title for a blog post.

Today’s treasure trove of music CDs purchased and loved a decade or more ago offered up an eclectric music mix: Sonya Kitchell, Marvin Gaye, Five For Fighting, Train, Stone Temple Pilots and The Who. Oh, and the soundtrack for “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” I skipped over a custom-burned CD lettered with my Beloved’s distinctive script as “Trip 1.” There’s also a “Trip 2” and “Trip 3.” Some other day.

But I popped in a sparsely labeled disc with what I believed was code for something even he had surely forgotten: “S.R.V. In the Beginning.”

Before the first note even played, he smiled at the road ahead and said, “Stevie Ray Vaughan.” He hadn’t forgotten. One of his favorites. An hour’s worth of incomprehensible guitar proceeded to fill the cab of the truck while we drove past mile after mile of small mountain ranges and semiarid climate.

Not my first choice. But better than Maroon 5.