Sunday, July 12, 2015

At Last, My Musical Love Has Come Along....

It's the season of the Music Circus, and I entered this year a tiny bit reluctantly. I have worked as substitute usher for more than a decade now and I've long held the feeling I am waiting for one of the older ushers to die so I might replace him or her. I've felt a bit ghoulish and guilty. And darned if I haven't placed slick banana peels about the beautiful Music Circus venue, I mean for the sake of hurrying things along. Just sayin'...

 But it has at long last happened, all banana peels aside, the Sunday Night usher organizer Elliot, asked if I would like to take on a full time position. Just imagine - no one had to die - that I know of. OHMYGODS, be still my heart; would I ever!

So the season is now three productions in, I've for once, have seen them all, no longer having to hope and wonder if I'll be selected from the ranks of substitutes to usher at the performances I most would like to see. Nope. I am now included without exception. I can plan around being present every-second-Sunday night performance for all six Music Circus presentations. I am bound and determined to make each and every performance of the ushering. Hurrah for moi!

This season's first production back in June, was My Fair Lady, an old favorite of mine, and I always it as always love that Pygmalion presentation. The second was Bye Bye Birdie, which I saw twice actually, ushering the well attended dress rehearsal on a Monday night, as well as the regular every-other-Sunday performance.  So far, so good, and I'll leave it at that for now. *happy sigh*

Oh, and might I be alloted one more, heartfelt, YAAAAYYYYY!

Monday, July 06, 2015


Yesterday started off as a perfectly lovely Sunday. Met up with friends Nancy & Jeri and we had a ball. First we saw SPY, the new comedy with Melissa McCarthy. It was both funnier and cooler than I expected. Part of what I loved was McC had fight scenes that were every bit as hard core and real as the ones you see with male stars such as Daniel Craig. I mean, how often do you see a fat lady in an action movie doing anything other than get murdered in a funny manner or sweating. Really, the movie was action packed and genuinely funny. McC is a badass.

After the movie we decided a meal was in order so we hit Sacramento's Queen of Sheba for some Ethiopian atmosphere. OK, OK, must share pics of the food, because you know I had to photograph anything that went into our mouths.

Here is Jeri's vegetarian plate with cabbage, greens, potato with carrot in mild sauce & a little cold salad. Her Injera (bread) was special, gluten free.

Nancy had Chicken served in a mild sauce with cauliflower also served on an injera, the gluten packed sort. She said it was delish.

'They call me Mr. Tibbs!'

I, the group's super-carnivore, had spicy Lamb Tibbs, it too came on an oversized injera. The injera is prepared on a special Ethiopian grill and it resembles a crepe. All the food is served on top of a giant Injera, with additional injera served along side the meal so one meets one's daily injera requirement.

After stuffing ourselves there were still left overs so we all exited Queen of Sheba with Basenji Bags. I dropped Jeri off at her house, then stopped by Nancy's where at her insistence I visited for a while with Rick, son Adan (and natch, Tippy the dog) who all watched the Women's Soccer world championship.

After a short visit, I headed home where I found... good neighbor Bill and a Sheriff's car parked outside of my house. Long story short, I was freakn' robbed! Bill spotted a suspicious looking guy perusing houses on our block, and saw the guy peek into my garage, and seeing no car, the crook opened the side gate and went in. Bill immediately 911'd the sheriffs, who arrived, *sigh* after the thief had entered my home, then scarpered off.

Some may recall I was robbed nine years ago last February, not long after having started up this blog. Right after I was robbed good neighbor Bill started our Neighborhood Watch program which is still running strong - and I might add, still working.

I let the sheriffs in and we crept around my house looking for signs of theft (almost needless to say, one of my big ole bras was front & center in my bedroom). The only thing I knew for sure was gone, was my lightweight laptop which is, as I recall, just shy of 2 years old. The only reason it was out in
Modus Operandi
the open I just got back from a short trip a couple of days ago. Late afternoon, a fingerprints officer came by & after 2 hours dusting for fingerprints she came up with oodles of prints. It was she who discovered the crook climbed up into my 10 foot high  bedroom window from the side yard. He must have been half Spider-man. He landed with his muddy feet on my bed, and left the house through my patio door.

The prints expert got no less than 29 hand/finger prints. What a hard working, patient soul she was.

Here's creepy tidbit... later in the evening, I went in my fridge, and discovered my unopened pint of half and half was nowhere to be found. I told Bill about it this afternoon and he probably correctly surmised the guy was hot and tired from climbing in my window & probably thought a cold beer or soda was in order. Of course he wasn't finding any of that at my house so he settled for a nice cold pint of half and half. Probably a tad rich, but it gave him the strength to vault over my backyard fence with his booty - my stuff jammed into my back pack. 

My best beloved Attu Patch

So that was my adventure over the Fourth of July weekend. Bummer, eh? You know I went to bed Sunday night of the robbery tossing and turning and fretting, over what? My laptop? Hell no! I was tossing and turning because of the loss of my Attu patch which I thought, was sewed to the stolen back pack. I adore my hard earned patch so the thought of its loss was heart breaking. It wasn't until the wee hours of early morning I realized, DUH! I have two back packs and the one stolen wasn't the one with the patch. Fell into a lovely deep sleep, knowing my silly patch is safe and sound.

UPDATE: THIEF CAUGHT!  This afternoon Bill came by, and said the sheriff's called him over to where 'my' thief was nabbed. He was caught trying to burglarize more homes - once again - in the same neighborhood. Well, they say crooks aren't necessarily the brightest crayons in the pack. The guy was easily ID'd as the one seen racing away from my home yesterday afternoon. Since his finger prints were taken from my house, that's a nice clear case. The crook had a pick-up with other people's goods in the back but not my stuff which he had already had enough time to fence or whatever. I believe that my stuff seems gone does not bother me probably as much as it ought. Could I possibly enjoy shopping that much? I think not.

I must say, thanks to good neighbor Bill and a Sheriff's Department for outstanding work. YAY!

Friday, June 12, 2015

A Night in Casablanca

Out of the blue I got in call from my friend Jeannie to attend the birthday dinner of her S.O., Ron. I'm looking forward to visiting Hawaii with them later this year - I. Can't. Wait. We usually rendevous at a local Korean BBQ restaurant, but this time Jeannie thought something out of the ordinary was called for. What better venue is there in Sacramento than the Casablanca? None I tell you!

Smaller on the outside

I was looking at reviews and read a comment that made me laugh. It refers to how the outside of the restaurant is a dismal & tiny storefront, but when you enter, "...the Casablanca is like the tent Harry Potter goes into before the Quidditch world cup - the inside is larger and brighter than the outside would suggest." Well, I'll say! 
Larger and magical on the inside
Haven't been to this bit of north Africa in the suburbs since my friend Diane was here 6 years ago, way too long a time ago.

Tonight Ron, Jeannie with grandson, daughter Stephie with her toddler baby and Signif. Other. Seven of us gathered around the low, broad, brass tray, most seated on the big poofy hassocks while the birthday boy and I sat on the comfy bench. I was happy to see Maurite on hand. He is the wonderfully sweet and funny founder and owner. He and 2 hijab clad waitresses wended their way around the room. Maurite joyfully tended his guests. Periodically, when shouts of delight rang out, I knew Maurite was jesting with a diner. Geeze, but I miss Maurite! I had arrived first and he seated me, but I could tell his recognition of me was on the edge of his memory and I thought I'd give him time for that 'Oh, that's who this is!' moment.

Beef Tangine
After our group was seated comfortably, Maurite came over to pour warm water over our hands & into a silver salver which is always fun to watch people experience for the firs time. I pretended the water was scalding which made Ron reluctant to hold his hands out, but the water was refreshing and warm. Later when our waitress arrived, I pretty much insisted we go with the 'Sultan's Feast', my favorite. The feast begins with hot bowls of lentil soup, followed by Moroccan style salads (i.e., spicy cold beets and pickled, chopped carrots & mild hummus all accompanied by triangles of pita bread. Next came the strange and wonderful Batista or Pastille, which is filo dough stuffed with chicken,
almonds, boiled eggs, cinnamon and saffron, sprinkled with powdered sugar. The main course was plates of the chief's choice: skewered lamb kabobs, spicy meatballs, Cornish game hen in, beef in honey/sesame sauce and beef tangine. Jeannie and the gang wanted rice but asked for and got that lovely saffron tinted couscous. Um.... Then just when we thought were going to burst, the dishes disappeared and in came dessert - honeyed baklava and hot mint tea. I was surprised Jeannie's grandson had to be coerced to try the baklava and he didn't like it, swallowing it because there were consequences to spitting it out. However, to my delight, he adored the hot mint tea, finishing up his and every other unclaimed glass of the sweet tea on the table. I pronounce there is hope for the kid yet!
The young master enjoys a new treat - Moroccan Mint Tea

Now it is important to note, everyone visiting Casablanca comes away feeling like they dined at the home of a close family friend - that's the charm of the place. However - 'ahem' - I always feel extra special because I visited it with my fellow state workers, back when Casablanca first opened it's doors in the 1990s. GAK! That was more than 30 years ago. Back to tonight, at meal's end I knew I had to give Maurite a hint. When smiling he approached our table, I asked, 'So Maurite, how is the rabbit?' Now the reason asking about rabbit is because that was what I always ordered back in the day when rabbit was still on the menu. I nearly burst with happiness to see the glow of recognition in his eyes, and an even brighter smile on his face, "Claire! I knew I knew you!"

Awwww...Color me flattered! It's so sweet or what? It's been six years since I was last here and heck, Maurite remembered me - awww... shucks! Soon I was caught up on all the news in Maurite's world. I told him I was amazed as, I swear, he hasn't aged in the past couple of decades.

  Hear a little of the Casablanca's spirit 

All in all, we left Casablanca, surfeit with sensuous, tender tidbits of the orient. Ron enjoyed his birthday bash, and really, 'what magic is this?', eh?

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Last Flight out of Tucson

Cactus Wren feeding on Saguaro Cactus blossoms

Yesterday started with me eyeballing a Harris Hawk that soared past my rental car as I headed for the north district of Saguaro National Park. Wish the bird had been heading for the park so we could rendezvous there. Despite it being largely Harris Hawk free, I enjoyed most of my morning, driving the 8 mile loop, taking short - and I mean short - hikes along the route. Of course, the only reason I ever set foot in deserts, now I'm not a field biologist anymore, is to take pix. In other words, I don't do it for exercise, forwarding my knowledge or for love of sandy gravel, I do it solely for the photo ops.
Managed a through-the-cactus shot of this little Harris' Ground Squirrel
A trotting and annoyed Gambel's Quail hen
Gila Woodpecker engaging in deep research

As I did last year, I checked every Saguaro cactus along that long, l-o-n-g route hoping to see an ElfOwl peeking out of a cactus hole: no such luck this year.

Post-Saguaro NP I decided to check out Colossal Cave Mountain Park. The park was HUMONGOUS with two distinct areas to it. The first was, no surprises here, the cave.

Cave and its Entryway on the left, HUMONGOUS rest of park, on right
I only spent a short time at the Cave area and declined actually taking its tour. Honestly, when it's too warm, it would take either the world's largest, calorie free ice cream sundae or something tempting and illegal in several states to get me hiking.I was willing to walk - a bit - in a butterfly garden. The garden was located in the way-far-off-distance of the above park picture.

The butterfly garden was in the La Posta Quemada Ranch portion of the park. The ranch has a riding stable (no I also won't ride when the temperatures mean both the horse and I are sweaty at the stand-still). There wa also a Ranch HQ that back in the 1960s was a ranch house with a family. Here's a view inside the HQ.
Today a park HQ, once-upon-
a-time ranchero living room

V. nice building, and it must have been fun to live in, that is, not to beat a dead & ailing horse, if hadair conditioning. Anyway, had a modest lunch bought at the HQ, then headed off to the butterfly garden next door.

Butterfly Garden and teeny bit of desert tortoise habitat
Nice and shady, which meant there was less swearing than I normally indulge in when walking around hot areas. There were goo-gobbers of butterflies alighting everywhere. Here were the new ones for the week, that is, the ones that deigned to hold still for a shot.
I present her majesty, the Queen Butterfly
Mormon Metalmark
 After the butterfly garden I did some touring around, and the best sighting was the mangiest coyote I've seen this year. I can't say it was the mangiest I've ever seen, as I saw one a couple of years go that was so astoundingly ugly and mangy it nudged me towards believing in chupacabras. I had considered posting that coyote's picture on line, but I didn't want to be responsible for children accidentally viewing it and developing a life long aversion to the internet.

The butterfly garden was a nice end to a short week in south east Arizona. How much do you want to bet, the minute I leave for home, the Plain-capped Star Throats will invade once again?

UPDATE: Yes. In mid July, a Plain-capped Starthroat flew into Madera Canyon. Hum... just how did that bird know I'd left?   

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Ramsey Canyon Score

Ramsey Canyon view
Today was day two of 'Find the Flame-colored Tanager'. I headed up Ramsey Canyon,Quest, not actually expecting to find the bird.  When I made my way to the where the tanager was is said to hang out, there were many birders, who hadn't seen the bird as yet. Several false starts happened that set groups of birders hiking up and down the canyon trail with me trailing along, in total fear of missing the bird altogether. But today was miracle day and eventually a tanger-ish melody wove in and out of the pines and sycamores, causing everyone to race for the source of the song. Finally I looked up, and there, on a darkened branch in the shade was the tanager. Suddenly I had myself a new life.
First view of the tanager, in a not-too-sunny spot
After five minutes or so the singing male moved into a brighter spot
If I were a female Tanager, he'd be my choice
Must have taken a b'jillion photos of Mr. T (Tanager), who sang like he was auditioning at an auxiliary branch of the Met. It took 2 days, but I got my bird.YAY! Having seen my first, and hopefully not the last lifer of this trip, I headed back down the canyon, and got yet another treat. A birder, going wild snapping shots in a small tree, shot me a massive grin and pointed out a tiny little nest only about 10 ft, if that high.

"It's a Plumbeous Vireo nest. The birds are over in that tree over there, but they'll be back if you wait." The birder, still grinning headed off downhill.

I stared at the clever little nest, made with dry leaves and bits of cottonwood fluff. After a few minutes, the little Vireo, the species of which was a lifer for me last year, flew in.

'Babies... Mama brought you a num-num!'
Awww... who're the cutest nestlings in the canyon...? You are!'
I watched the vireo and the nest for quite a while, and made sure to honor the unwritten birding code and made sure I put others to viewing the nest before moving on.

I also saw a massive sycamore tree, with a broken limb that hung right over the trail. Into said limb, I watched a Sulfur-bellied Flycatcher slip into, but the silly bird wouldn't come out again and do it all over again for my photographic benefit. Happily I did get another shot at a Sulfur-belly. I went Canyon hopping again, visiting Ash and Miller Canyon. In Miller Canyon a Sulfur Bellied Flycatcher bounced around and gave me lots of nice pix.

Sulfur-bellied in Miller Canyon
Sulfury tinge is visible on that stripped belly