Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bhutan Photos

Two of my very dear friends, Vicki & Dave, have recently returned from a trip to Bhutan. Vicki used her new DSLR to capture some really beautiful images. I will share a few with you because they are just spectacular.

Bhutan is in the Himalayan range - their mountains are sacred and have not been climbed like Everest and K2.

Great people shots.

Bhutan is a Buddhist country, they have many festivals. This is one of the dancers. I love the way her head is back.

Tiger's Nest - built on a sheer cliff by hand.

Bhutan is a beautiful country. They are the first to adopt the measure of Gross National Happiness as a metric for how they're doing, instead of Gross National Product. I like that in a government.

It rained last night, the first significant rain since we got here at the end of September. After a brutally windy day yesterday, today dawns bright, crisp and calm. I think we're going to put Christmas lights on the palm tree. Holiday lights on an RV are challenging, to say the least.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Spatchcocked Thanksgiving

VEGETARIANS - this may not be a blog you'll enjoy. Avert your eyes.

Spatchcock. It's a lovely word with a murky etymology. Jim and I were watching Food Network the night before Turkey Day and we saw Alton Brown prepare a Cornish game hen in a panini press. We had two game hens defrosting in the refrigerator and Jim decided that he would use this technique the following day on Thanksgiving dinner, using the grill, not a press. I am very impressed with his willingness to try this, but what the heck, with 5 pounds of stuffing, no one would go hungry if it didn't work out.

The method as demonstrated by Jim:

With the bird breast side down, remove the back bone with a sturdy pair of kitchen shears. If you don't have a pair of these, you should. Get thee to a cutlery shop.

Open the bird up, mash it down flat until you hear some bones break. Then, using a sharp knife, cut a smallish hole in the skin below the ribs. You'll be pushing the end of the leg through the hole, so make sure you've cut the hole in a place the leg can be pushed. Mock it up before cutting.

Turn him over and remove the distal end of the wing, as they tend to burn. You are done spatchcocking at this point.

Are they not lovely?

Jim rubbed them with olive oil, then sprinkled them with oregano, garlic pepper, and a pinch of salt.

After grilling you get this.

They tend to flatten out on the grill, and cook evenly. They were really really good. I think this may be our new go-to poultry dinner.

Yesterday's cooking lesson for me was to make sure that the two pans you want to put in the teeny tiny RV oven will actually fit in there, at the same time. We ended up at Safeway buying smaller disposable pans that would fit simultaneously. One gets used to having large ovens, until one doesn't!

Hope you and yours are having an excellent Black Friday. We are contemplating a new external hard drive, but I don't think we're ready to execute yet. I have GOT to start backing up more often.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy T-day from the desert southwest! Hope you are all having a wonderful day with family and friends. We're going to spatchcock a couple a game hens and grill them. There will be pictures.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Another Mystery Solved in the Old Pueblo

This is our third winter in Tucson. Since arriving we have been mystified as to why there are CO2 cartridges everywhere on the roads in south Tucson. As a bicyclist I like to think of myself and my fellow cyclists as responsible citizens, would cyclists really throw that many empty CO2 cartridges on the ground after fixing a flat? Why would there be piles of them on the ground? Was there a mass flatting? Saturday Jim asked a bicycle police officer "what's up with the cartridges all over the place?" As it turns out, the cartridges used to make whipped cream are filled with nitrous oxide (aka laughing gas). They're called whippets. Apparently there is a segment of south Tucson's population that's driving around in cars, transferring nitrous oxide from the canisters to balloons, and they're getting high - while driving. Another sign that I have totally lost touch with my culture.

Yesterday was not a good day, had a lot of pain in my face and jaw. Today has been much better. Our outing for today was to drive up to AJ's Fine Foods and Campbell and Sunrise. We also toured the Pottery Barn and Williams Sonoma. They are such pretty stores. After that I was pretty much whacked so we came home. This was taken in the parking lot. Very upscale shopping there.

Look at that sky - really blue. I am wasting perfect weather this week. It never fails.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

El Tour de Tucson

Today was the Tour de Tucson, actually for some people doing the long courses, it still is. We got up early, hoping to see the leaders come through by the RV park, but we were not early enough. The 109 milers left downtown at 0700 hours, and were already going by us at 0720. It was a chilly morning!

We drove to the 80 mile start, which was out at a community college at Irvington and Houghton. Everyone rides the same course, your mileage depends on where you start. These people had come out to view the festivities with cow bells.

So these are the leaders 29 miles into the ride. Notice the pack bearing down on them.

The pack in hot pursuit.

At 9:00 they released the 80 mile group. They had to come out of a side street and merge in to the 109 mile group. It was successful, no one collided with one another.

And here he is, JimE who is doing the 109 mile course today.

After Jim came by, we went back to the RV, had breakfast, and then I went back to sleep for 3 hours. I'm still tired.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Graphic Pictures of my Ear!

Ok, the first picture isn't bad, I'm just giving you time to decide if you want to see the gooey side. I got home yesterday about 2:00, laid around the house and napped, had pudding and noodles for dinner so I wouldn't have to chew. Chewing hurts some. Sleeping was difficult, I have slept on my left side forever, but that won't be happening for awhile.

This incision gives them access to the ear drum. They cut there so they can fold the ear forward and work in the ear canal. They put packing behind the ear drum, graft tissue on to the ear drum and then put more packing on top of the ear drum. Then it's all topped off with a giant cotton ball and a big band aid.

The other weird side effect is a metallic taste on the tongue. One of the 6 nerves that goes to the tongue goes right through the ear where he was working. The surgeon says it always goes away. We'll see. On the bright side, I have had no nausea or vomiting, which is very common with this procedure.

So, for the next two weeks, Jim has to wash my hair for me while I hold a plastic cup over my ear so that no water can get into the ear canal. That might be worth a picture (not!). Maybe in a couple of days we'll be hiking again. No biking can be done until I can turn my head to the right side. Other than that, I have nothing new to report. Convalescence is boring.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cute pictures

This is from, a blog I read sometimes. This is her new baby. Is she not the cutest child you've ever seen? Cute, cute cute cute.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Perfect Start to the Day

Monday was a halcyon day. We rode up to the U with friends for coffee. We met a northern neighbor and spent a delightful hour sitting outside talking and enjoying the day. After coffee Jim an I rode out east on the 3rd Avenue bike way to Wilmot. Then we came back to the U. 


It was lunch time by then, so we went to La Salsa for lunch, again sitting outside. Then it was back to the park to do laundry. Riding back in the early afternoon was a treat because the wind had not come up. Someone who has not been identified left tissue in a pocket. We had little shreds of tissue everywhere. It required vacuuming the RV after hanging up the clothes that do not go in the dryer. I think we may have to go to a twice a week washing schedule. I was out of bike shorts by the time we did this. 

Thursday I am having surgery to close the hole in my eardrum, it's called a tympanoplasty. The surgeon will harvest skin from somewhere to graft on to the eardrum to close the hole. They access the eardrum by cutting behind the ear and folding it forward. While intellectually I recognize the importance of closing the hole, I'm approaching this with a large sense of dread. It's interesting how little information the surgeon provided on possible poor outcomes (facial paralysis, loss of taste and smell, loss of balance, deafness). One wonders if they just don't like to dwell on the negative, or if they assume the patient will ferret all of this out on the web. It does make me wonder about the concept of informed consent. It's difficult to know how long recovery will be, the post-op instructions say some people miss 3-7 days of work. One wonders if other people go to work the next day, or if they're out for a month. Probability is high that I will be posting pictures, how could you not want to see someone else's surgical incisions

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hiking, Mt. Lemmon and biking

Not much happening in the Old Pueblo. Friday the weather changed and it got coolish. There were clouds and wind and cold air. We hiked in the afternoon after waiting for it to warm up.

Saturday we decided to drive up Mt. Lemmon to see the top before it snows. As you will not doubt recall from my blog entry earlier this year, there was a fire in 2003 on Mt. Lemmon. It pretty much wiped out the town at the top, Summerhaven. We drove to the summit where it was 37 degrees. Cold! It's still looking pretty forlorn at the top.

This is Ski Valley, the ski area at the top. It's a small area, fairly rocky. I skied there in the 1980's and no one in Tucson would rent skis for up there, too many rocks. You had to use their skis.

There were MANY people on bicycles climbing Mt. Lemmon Saturday. As it turned out, there was a Randonneur ride up to the top. Those people are crazy, they go out and ride huge distances, up many large hills.

This guy, was running up Mt. Lemmon with a huge pack. Nutbags!

Is it not lovely?

Today we went mountain biking out at the Ironwood picnic area. There are a bunch of washes, some of them are really steep. This is Jim demonstrating his walking out of the wash technique.

So, it's becoming winter in the desert. It looks like it's going to be a 3 dog night tonight. However, it's way better than snow or nor'easters.

Have you ever wondered what ever happened to Cheech and Chong, or Willie Nelson? I now know that. They are playing the casinos in Tucson.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

All Souls' Procession

Sunday was the All Souls' Procession in Tucson. It's a local variation of the Mexican Day of the Dead ceremonies. It was started in 1990 by the 4th Avenue Merchants. Thousands of people mass on 4th Avenue and then process for about a mile and a half. Then there is a ceremonial burning of prayers in the cauldron. Many people turn out in elaborate costumes. I don't think this young man was in costume, but you gotta love the hair.

More typical for the event.

Not sure what this was going to be, it looked like it would be elaborate.

Little girl in a shop window - she was just entranced by the whole thing.

Everybody has a camera these days. The photographer with the red sleeves was posing people, I think he was official.

This person was my favorite, I liked the mask a lot.

It was fun to see the decorated people. We didn't do the actual procession, that much slow walking kills my back so we returned home as it got too dark to take pictures.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Riding and Air Conditioning

Ken Cameron of Cameron's Reliable RV service came Wednesday with the second air conditioner. He does nice work. He lined the opening with a heavy foil, weather proofed it and made it look nice. The people at the factory do not clean the ducts, so we'll be fishing chunks of debris out of the vents for awhile.

While waiting for the A/C to be done I observed the ants. There are many ants here. This is an ant visiting an ant trap. He will not be back.

This is how the A/C gets to the roof. Rachel pushes and Ken pulls. It's heavy.

Why. I just have to ask why. Why would a couple drive a Freightliner (which is clearly marked not for hire) to tow a 5th wheel. The one ton we drive is bad enough for being truck-like, but what must it be like to take the Freightliner to the laundry, or the library? Is this a status symbol or what?

Saturday we decided to ride up through the University to go see if the construction on Mountain was done. I missed the best shot of the day, which was one of the local bars at the Main Gate full to the gills with college students in red T shirts drinking beer at 11:00 am. Mea Culpa. I'll do better next year, I promise. It was homecoming weekend. Apparently this has devolved into an excuse to drink really early in the day. The mall had a bunch of tents up. People were heading there carrying cases of beer, but there were signs up saying no external beverages allowed, so I suspect they were going to be turned away. There was a football game later, UofA vs the Wazzu Cougars. As one would predict, the Cougars lost, they're not that good this year. The local newscasters referred to them as the HUSKIES. They apologized later.

So, this is what you get at Ft. Lowell and Mountain. I swear it doesn't look any different than the last time we were here.

Going back to the RV we went through one of the old hippie neighborhoods and found a pancake breakfast and this going on. That is a hammer mill for mesquite beans. They were making and selling mesquite flour. The lady that told me what it was said that you had to check it for bugs before using it, but that it's very good for you. I personally would not know what to do with it. It was interesting to watch the process, who knew?

Then it was up A mountain. The rectangle is at the base of A mountain, and IMHO represents the craziness that is the Tucson city council. Bonds were sold for the Rio Nuevo project. There are many sub-projects in the package; one of which was improving the Convention Center, which was not started until the Gem Show threatened to pull out. This project was started sooner. They've built a brick wall to enclose the area. The plan had been to build LEED certified re-creations of historical buildings such as a church, a granary, and something else. This is a part of town that is seriously socio-economically challenged. Even if this were to pull tourists here, there's nowhere else for them to spend money. Tumacacori already has an old mission church and granary, San Xavier del Bac is 4 miles down the road, and they are authentic. Why would you spend $1.5M on fake old buildings when the roads look like they've been bombed, schools are underfunded, and etc.? The state has stepped in and confiscated Tucson's bond money, and this project is now on hold.

It's been a frustrating week. After 3 years of zero flats or mechanicals, I've had a flat on Mission, then a blow out flat going toward Gates Pass that required a dollar bill to cover the hole in the tire casing, and yesterday my back derailleur decided to place itself into my spokes. Fortunately I was going about 10 mph, wasn't actually pedaling, and no one was on my wheel. It just went into my spokes, hooked on to a spoke, bent the spoke and immediately arrested forward progress. If that had happened going down A mountain I probably would have been launched. I'm trying not to spend much time thinking about this, because then I'll become a nut bag about this as well (we're still working on the wind phobia). So today we're taking the bike to the doctor for new spokes, a wheel truing and work on the derailleur. NOW I understand why people have those big plastic plates on their back hubs.

So, that's what's happening on the home and fitness fronts.