Monday, January 31, 2011

Day 308: Fresh produce at Andreotti's in Half Moon Bay

Here on the coastside of northern California we live in vegetable heaven.  There is a local grower, the Andreotti Family that supplies much or the organic produce for high end restaurants and for those of us lucky enough to live nearby.  On Friday I went to fill up my basket with this lush selection of fresh homegrown veggies. Their stand is at  329 Kelly Avenue, Half Moon Bay 94019-1633.  They keep hens, too. The fresh eggs are wonderful. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Day 307: Groating the Shower

After nearly fifteen years in this house the groat in our shower was starting to wear away.  My wonderful husband got out all the equipment and spent a whole day chiseling out the old groat and putting in the new.  It's not a simple job.  He's done a beautiful job.  I'm so lucky to have a honey . . . who does so many of the things on my "honey-do" list.  

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Day 306: Bad Art Night #2

What pleasure to sit with a group of lively women and make art all evening.  Here are three of my creations on Friday night.  

Friday, January 28, 2011

Day 305: My Altar

In 1998 I had the honor of winning Stanford's Lloyd W Dinkelspiel Award for "distinctive contributions to undergraduate education".  It was the high point of a four decade teaching career.  The award is generated by student letters, and winning it is better than the Nobel Prize from a teacher's vantage point.  Along with the honor was a cash award.  In thinking what to do with this unexpected windfall I decided that I wanted to buy a Tibetan antique prayer table.  This hand-painted chest started its life somewhere in Tibet and then was bought and brought to the USA by Asian antique traders.  We found it in a Carmel, CA shop.  I use it as an altar with candles and incense, religious trinkets and photographs of my ancestors.  From left to right (looking at the photo) Juliette Bethel Ryan (my paternal grandmother), Wendell and Lu Phillips (Ron's mother and stepfather), Correll Madson (Ron's father), our cat Buddha, HH the Dalai Lama, (far back, behind the urn is my father, Harry Michael Ryan, Jr).  On the right side (from the middle back) is Pasang Dolma and her mother, Josephine Landor, Louise Pittman Ryan (my mother), H. M Ryan (my dad), Gertrude Curtler, and another photo of my mother.  

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Day 304: Granny Ryan's Coconut Pie

Granny’s Coconut Pie             
350 degree oven

 1 cup sugar
2 eggs
½ cup whole milk
1/3 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cup coconut
Fresh nutmeg

Beat eggs and sugar.  Add milk
Then melted butter, vanilla, coconut
And nutmeg.  Mix well. Bake in
Unbaked pie shell. 
40-45 min or till brown.
(for 8inch  pie shell)
My paternal grandmother, Juliette Bethel Ryan, was a good cook.  I have lots of memories from my childhood of being in her kitchen and watching Granny with her cotton apron making something.  This recipe with only seven ingredients (plus a ready made pie shell) is one of the easiest deserts I know.  It smells wonderful in the oven.  And it last for up to a week if you keep it refrigerated.  It's best warm or at room temperature.  
After a day in the dentist chair getting a crown on a upper molar I am longing for something special from the oven.  Let me know if you give this recipe a try. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Day 303: Mount Montara

Wednesdays is Plein Air painting day.  This week our gaggle of painters assembled again at an overlook in Montara.  We were in the parking lot for La Costanera a lively Peruvian restaurant which opened a few years ago.  The view from where I stationed my folding chair is on the left.  My painting, done in two hours, is on the right.  I was looking up at Mount Montara, a cliff that my husband, Ron, loves to run.  He gets a great workout trudging up that mountain and then running down.  I must say, I prefer sitting in my camp chair with a thermos of Earl Grey tea looking out over the ocean and the rolling hills.  The weather was in the mid 60's today, clear and nearly windless: perfect for painting.  Last week at the same site we all gave up after our easels got blown all over the place.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 302: A Room Full of Improvisers

Winter quarter at Stanford I have the pleasure of teaching two groups of lively, talented adults who join me on Mondays in a class titled: "Everyday Spontaneity:  Improvising Your Life"  This photo shows the evening section, DRA 173B, including my trusty teaching assistant, Lynne Anderson (top row far left).  These brave students show up to try on the improv games of saying yes, throwing imaginary balls and telling stories together.  I am honored to have such students who come to learn and play with me.  Next week I'll post the photo of the afternoon section.  Go Stanford improvisers!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 301: Cherry Blossoms

All of a sudden cherry blossoms appear like a happy festival of pink.  The surprise of it all brings me so much delight.  This tree is planted just in front of our front door.  What a way to greet the morning.  I bow to the beauty of the simple cherry blossom.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Day 300: Cleaning up the butter

Butter seems to be at its most useful when it is room temperature.  I own an attractive ceramic butter dish that holds my butter cube.  It lives on top of the microwave.  When the butter is finished I clean the dish and take a fresh cube from the refrigerator placing it on the white porcelain plate that underlines the butter dish.  Today when I put the fresh butter chunk on the dish I was aware that it was rock hard from being in the fridge.  I was about to toast some homemade bread and it occurred to me that if I softened the butter just a little it would be much easier to spread.
When he built our house in 1996 my husband Ron created a handy feature above the kitchen stovetop.  Under the hood are fashioned “heat lights” designed to keep food warm before serving.  There are fold down metal trays where I can place a dinner plate to keep it warm. They do a fine job. Without thinking clearly (that’s not true; I had a premonition of disaster at precisely the moment I put the open butter dish under the heat lamps) I put the butter there to soften for a moment.
About a half hour later I noticed a gummy substance trickling from the dish under the heat lamp.  A quarter of a pound of butter was now liquid and running all over the stovetop, into the stove burners, the counter next to it and the ceramic kitchen utensil holder at the edge of the stove.  Mess-o gigundo.  This could take a lifetime to clean up.
Ron was in the kitchen with me when this discovery was made.  “I’ll clean it up,” he announced cheerfully.  This is the kind of man he is.  When something messy or unpleasant occurs around the house (or anywhere) he is the first to step up to the job of cleaning the mess.  I marvel at this and it fills me with gratitude and wonder.  Thank you Ron for being my hero.  

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Day 299: Twist Cam Winner

Thursday night the Stanford women's basketball team played number four ranked UCLA and clobbered them good: 64-38 keeping the UCLA team to their lowest score ever!  One of the joys of being at Maples Pavilion to watch the home games is the half time TWIST CAM contest.  Chubby Checkers "Twist" plays on the loudspeakers and anyone who wants stands up in their seats and gives their version of the Twist. Several cameramen pan the audience and focus on various dancers whose renditions are flashed on the large video screen overhead.  Little kids are often the winners.   For the past two years whenever this music comes on I stand and twist my buns, flailing my arms and giving my all for the twist.  It's good exercise, and much needed if you have been eating any of the stadium junk food.  So, this time I WON!  And my prize is an hour massage at the Pacific TherX Fitness Center.  My niece Emily pointed out that it was a fitting prize for all that effort.  When I got home Ron snagged this short clip of my twist technique.

Today Stanford women face off against the "women of Troy" that is, USC's team.  Should be a good game.  Go Cardinal.  Beat USC.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Day 298: Bring Back Layaway

In a New York Times article today the pollsters tell us that the majority of Americans are not thinking realistically. We have become a culture of entitlements.  Everyone wants to keep full benefits for Medicare and Social Security at current levels and the the same everyone doesn't want higher taxes.  We want our cake and eat it too.  Or the article is telling us:  We have a budget deficit because people want everything and they don't want to pay for it.  I think that this view of "have it now and pay for it later" is one of the most insidious aspects of our national debate, if you can call it a debate.  Credit card debt is at an all time high, and the prospect of delaying gratification for something we want seems not to be an option.  I am fond of telling the story of "Lay Away" and its rewards.  Here is an article I wrote.

The coat was red wool with large, tortoise shell button.  The collar could be turned up for both style and to protect against the wind-chill that blew in the winter in Virginia.  I wanted that coat badly, and thought about it almost continually.  I’d seen it first in the window of Lerners, a retail clothing store for women and girls on Broad Street in Richmond.  The prices there were lower than those at Thalhimers or Miller & Rhodes and significantly lower than the coat prices at Montaldos, a swanky women’s salon.  My mother had sometimes modeled at each of these fashion centers in Richmond during the 1950’s and 60’s.  I can’t remember if she owned any clothing from Montaldos.  I don’t think she did, although she always appeared to be elegantly dressed.

Lerners wasn’t the kind of shop that had fashion shows.  But they did have layaway.  Layaway was the working girl’s friend.  Five dollars down and four dollars a week, if you could manage it.  At $35.99 it would take nine weeks to “get the coat out.”    This would  work out perfectly for me to wear the coat to church on Easter Sunday, that is, if I was faithful in making my payments every week.  When you brought the item up to the clerk, she would carefully wrap it in a “layaway package” and attach the paperwork to the package.  “February 10, 1958, Layaway for Patsy Ryan,  2812 Monument Avenue, Apt 3.  Red Wool three quarter coat, number 34771, $5 down.  Customer agrees to pay $4 a week until the debt is paid off, at which time, the coat can be picked up by the customer.  If the payments are not made in the agreed upon time frame, interest in the amount of 9% a month will be added to the price of the purchase.”

In the fifties there were no global credit cards.  The wealthy and some of the middle class were beginning to own department store cards.  However, credit for the masses wasn’t even a glimmer in a banker’s eye yet.  This system built character, taught fiscal responsibility (hello, legislators where are you?) and created incentive to save.  Saving is what responsible folks did in those days.  Buying something you had no way of affording was inconceivable.

I grew up with this sensible way of handling the acquisition of “things.”   I would like to suggest that we bring back layaway

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day 297: Status transactions

When I teach improvisation the most interesting class revolves around the notion of status transactions.  The authority on this is Keith Johnstone who wrote about his discovery of status in the classic work: IMPRO: Improvisation and the Theater
He theorizes that humans are going up and down continually in a kinetic dance of raising and lowering each others status.  Usually this is all working at the unconscious level, but it affects how we relate to each  other. Much of it can be subtle, almost imperceptible.   Here is an example of an innocuous exchange of comments just moments ago.  My husband and I were sitting on the porch and a neighbor cat was meowing on the balcony next door.  Ron remarked:  "Look at that cat.  He's just sitting there."  and I corrected:  "No, he isn't just sitting there, he is meowing continually."    From the vantage point of a status transaction my comment had the clear effect of lowering Ron's status, pointing out that he was inaccurate in his comment.  If, instead of phrasing what I said as I did I would have remarked:  "Yes, he is, and he is meowing a lot, too."    This last phrasing has the advantage of accepting his offer and building upon it.  This is good, collaborative improv.  My first way of making the observation ended up being a put down instead of an addition.  You might wonder what does this matter?  I think the world can turn on such interactions.  There was simply no need to correct my husband, no need to be "right."  And, yet I see couples doing this all the time.  It is unnecessary fencing.  One-upsmanship is at work.  We feel a tiny drop in status when we are corrected.  Improv training helps you to acknowledge this and change this habit.  Of course there are occasions when the point is to make a correction.  But even then there is a loss of status.  I highly recommend reading Mr. Johnstone's work on status.  You will never be the same after learning about this.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day 296: Design X Workshop

This afternoon I have been invited by Michael Helms at Stanford to be a guest presenter at the weekly meeting of the Design X group. Check out the Wiki site information. I spent the morning making laminated bookmarks for those brave souls who show up to play games with me today.  I used the graphic from my post on January 10 of the Improv maxims.  I shall report on how this went anon, as they say.  When the coordinator of the group asked me to give him some idea of what I would be doing with the group I responded with this note:

Greetings, Michael,
I'm afraid I'm not very good at answering the question:  "What are you (we) going to do in your workshop?"  It's a natural and reasonable question, of course, but since the thing I shall be teaching (and hopefully modeling) is how to improvise, to be completely honest, I don't know what I am going to do.  I do know what my purpose is, however.  I hope to spend 90 minutes with your bright and talented colleagues playing a few games that allow us to experience the improv paradigm. While I am hopeless at explaining "what I plan to do" . . . I am likely to be slightly more successful at looking back on what I/we have done and making commentary.  So, at the end of our session we'll look at what we did or attempted to do.  I can tell you this:  improvising is always about waking up, noticing immediate reality and using what is at hand to do something useful or make something good.  It is my hope to do something useful when we are all together.  I look forward to playing with you and your fellows.  The DesignX group need only to know this:  "Don't Prepare, just show up."  

Instead of a bio, if anyone is interested my website has some stuff about me:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day 295: Our "daughter" in Dharamsala

About ten years ago Ron and I "adopted" a Tibetan refugee child living with her mother in Dharamsala.  Her name is Pasang Dolma, and her mother sells chilis on the street near the Tibetan temple.  Over the years she has sent us some of the sweetest gifts in thanks for our help to her family.  Today we received a package, rescued by the US Postal service that was in virtual shreds.  Somehow they managed to hold the whole thing together and actually find the addressee.  Enclosed are hand knit leg warmers for me and toasty socks for Ron.  I am amazed at the thoughtfulness of this young women.  And, even more astonished at the care with which the postal service kept this package together and got it to me.  All hail the USPS.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Day 294: Martin Luther King

Longtime friend, Ellison Horne, is a videographer.  His moving tribute to Martin Luther King should be seen by everyone on this MLK day of reflection. I hope you will stop and take a moment to watch this. Ellison's introduction to this six minute video tells us much. I quote him here:

"Fueled by recent events, our nation is deep in contemplation. As we embark upon this long weekend in celebration and in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, I look forward to listening to you, and sharing an abundance of ideas, actions, and outcomes as together we strengthen our resolve for a fully engaged, more responsive society.
This video is the result of using John Williams' music from the Obama Presidential Inauguration, and juxtaposing it with MLK's "Dream Speech", including historical video and photos.

An amazing and haunting thing as seen in this video is both men made their speeches facing each other, spanning decades, with the Washington Monument midway between the Lincoln Memorial, where King made his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, and the Capitol Building where Obama delivered his historic Inaugural address.

And astonishingly, it's as if the music, composed by John Williams for the Inauguration, was created especially for this video, featured the day before the Inauguration at the annual MLK Birthday Celebration held in San Francisco."
Indeed, onward and upward,

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day 293: The fruits of Bad Art Night

 Our first ever "Bad Art Night" in Half Moon Bay took place on Friday, January 14th at the home of Laura McHugh.  About a dozen artists showed up. The media was eclectic. From Photoshop to fabric art, to collage, photography . . . you name it, and somebody was doing it.  A women to my right was turning playing cards into a deck of art cards.  Very clever.  I used this opportunity to work on trying a new kind of painting, in the style of Nava Grunfeld, whose luminescent watercolors glow.  I'm not there yet, but the painting below shows my progress.  I'm working on a photograph of a bowl of cherry tomatoes sitting on a red cloth next to a purple plate.  You can see the photograph I'm attempting to capture in the group shot.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Day 292: The year of the Rabbit

Enjoy here the calligraphy of Alex Kerr.  These are two characters for the word Rabbit.  I'm not sure what the difference is, but I trust Alex whose knowledge of Orientalia is considerable.  Alex speaks and reads Japanese, Chinese and Thai fluently.  His book, Lost Japan is one of the best books on contemporary Japan.  Alex is an art collector and among the literati. I met him in the early 1980's at the Oomoto Foundation in Japan when I studied traditional Japanese arts.  His web site introduces his many gifts.   These colorful kanji celebrate the beginning of the Year of the Rabbit, just beginning in the Chinese calendar.  

From the web site:

General predictions for the Year of the Rabbit
The year of the Rabbit is traditionally associated with home and family, artistic pursuits, diplomacy, and keeping the peace. Therefore, 2011 is very likely to be a relatively calmer one than 2010 both on the world scene, as well as on a personal level.
Conversely, nations will also become more insular and increasingly lock down their borders to protect against the "other". However, 2011 will also see new art movements projecting a distinct national identity taking the world by storm. Shrewd and creative new business partnerships will also form to the benefit of all.
Rabbits who thrive on delicate business dealings are best suited to navigating the year ahead. Those compatible with the Rabbit — the SheepDog and Pig in particular — will also find 2011's circumstances inspiring them to greater personal happiness and professional success.
Others will suffer, by degree, depending on how flexible they are to the world mood. Those who have cultivated careful negotiation skills (or, perhaps more importantly, can sniff-out and swiftly dodge dangerous situations!), may attain similar good luck enjoyed by rabbits and those compatible with them in 2011.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Day 291: Your basket

A blogger that I greatly admire is Colleen Wainwright.  Here is a poem of hers that I just love.

Everyone has her basket
          By Colleen Wainwright

Everyone has her basket.
And in that basket are all the things a body gets in a lifetime:
The long legs the natural grace
The way with words or people or numbers or animals
The force field that makes money or love or ideas or children come to them first
The gene soup that makes eyes blue stomachs sturdy loins fruitful brains prodigious
Even the luck— the ponies the Kojak parking the pair of pants on sale or the person of their dreams available at the exact moment where need and want meet— even that is in the basket.

There will be days when you look down at your basket and marvel at the wonderful wonderful things inside
And there will be days when you cannot bring yourself to look at all or rather where the only place you can look is at the basket next to you and with longing.
But every day someone is looking at your basket with longing
Every day someone would trade baskets with yours sight unseen
I have been in all of those places and mostly I am grateful for the grace that forgave my foolishness
This is my basket to carry and uncover layer by layer day by day year by year
And sometimes story by story.

May your basket overflow with beautiful things of incomparable joy and wonder
And when it does not may you be visited by the same grace that sat down beside me to show me the beauty and the joy and the wonder I could not see.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Day 290: Nasturtium, the shop

Around the corner from Harbor Village lies the little gift shop called Nasturtium, Art of Living.  The exterior walls of this charming tourist shop have bright, large nasturtium leaves and flowers painted on them.  It's a little over the top and this painting, which may appear exaggerated isn't really.  The shop carries souvenir stuff, candles, local artwork and odds and ends that nobody really needs, but seem ideal for this store.  I've tried painting this shop several times. It's challenging to capture.  Immediately to its left is a blue, blue, blue building.  That is what really caught my eye this morning as our painting group spread out looking for a subject.  The weather was mild and clear and no winds disturbed our attention.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day 289: Ron's Orchid baskets

My amazing husband, Ron has more talents than I can count.  One of his hobbies is keeping flowering plants thriving on our home.  Several years ago someone gave us a bamboo basket filled with an assortment of orchids.  After the plants passed on Ron salvaged the basket and replanted it with other orchids that were on the ascendency.  A basket like the one shown here will stay in flower for up to three or four months if cared for properly.  Ron mists them nearly every day and keeps them fertilized.  I happily receive the beauty of fresh flowers in our living room.  Thank you, Ron for making our world full of color and life.  

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Day 288: Matt Smith and All My Children

Today is 1-11-11.  What a memorable date.  Tonight we are going into San Francisco to see a one man show performed by the talented and eccentric Matt Smith.  He might object to the word eccentric, but I mean it in the most loving way.  Matt is one of a kind and a brilliant teacher and actor.  The show which has a single night at The Marsh in the city is titled:  All My Children.  (Not to be confused with the Arthur Miller play of the same name.) I had the fun of seeing an early draft of this work last year when I spent a week on Orcas Island, WA with Matt and Rebecca Stockley studying improv . . . as their student.

Matt introduced me to some amazing improv games that have given my own teaching an infusion.  Break a leg, Matt.  This is actor's well-wishing, for those who may think it rude.

PS: on Wednesday morning . . . the show was dazzling/fast/funny/heartbreaking/bizarre . . . a lifetime in 90 minutes.  Matt is the consummate monologist.  We were lucky to have this show at the Marsh.  I hope they bring him back for a long run.  Well done, Matt.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Day 287: Everyday Spontaneity

Today, Monday January 10 is the day one of my Continuing Studies class entitled:  Everyday Spontaneity:  Improvising Our Lives.  I have been teaching this class for over fifteen years.  At one point I won the prize for the CS instructor who had taught the most classes over the years: seventy plus, I think.  This class is my opportunity to put some of the ideas from my book Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up (Bell Tower, 2005) into practice. I join 20-30 adults in a room on Monday nights and afternoon to play games together that access our imaginations, tone up our reflexes, and challenge our attention to reality.  What a privilege I have to share this time with intelligent, motivated adults.  
The watercolor shown here is something I threw together today to remind us of the improv principles that guide our action when we play.  The first three phrases I got from Robert Poynton in his fine book, Everything is an Offer.   He suggests that all of improv training can be reduced to three phrases:  Let go, notice more, and use everything.   I would add, cherish it all "as a gift" as the moral frame for improvising.  

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Day 286: Everything changes

Things can change in a heartbeat. The flag next to our local El Granada postoffice joined others in our nation to fly at half staff.  This is honoring those who died or where injured in the senseless killings in Arizona recently.  How can we process the actions of a madman?  Perhaps there is no way to "understand" such a tragedy.  But we must live with it, focusing our prayers on the Congresswomen fighting for her life in a hospital, and the shooter being held by police struggling to find the reason for this carnage.  What demon drives a man into unspeakable violence?  Have our polarized politics and the media attention it receives contributed to the madness that spawned these acts?  Is there anything that each of us can do to stop things like this from happening in the future?  Is there anything we can learn from this?  I have no answers or advice.  It is dumbfounding.  

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Day 285: The White Elephant Event

The Madsons have a yearly tradition for the week following New Years.  It is our annual White Elephant extravaganza. Those attending shown here with their treasures for the 2011 frolic are:  Peter Vaernet, Bjorn and Lily Vaernet, Marcus, Larry Miller, Gary and Carmen Bacon, Patricia Madson (first row).  Joan Madson, Nick, Cara, Ed and Cassie Alter, Sue Fujimura, Mark and Kathy Heath, Patti, and Will Whitted.  Not in photo: Jim Forkner and Ron Madson (the photographer). 
In case you have never heard this story I post it here for your edification:   
                     The Story of the White Elephant
       It seems that in the early part of the April of 1861, the Shah of Persia visited President Abraham Lincoln in Washington DC, and, as has always been the custom of the Persians, the Shah brought a gift.  No, not gold, nor frankincense, nor even myrrh, but a rare white elephant.
       It seems the white elephant was received in Washington with some enthusiasm, and there was a bitter struggle in the President's cabinet over who would get to be the keepers of the beautiful beast.
       After some time and debate, the State Department won the right to house and care for the elephant. However, the huge pet's welcome wore short fairly quickly when it was recognized that she could only eat and survive on the leaves of a specific tree that grew in Persia, and a tree which did not take kindly to life in the United States.
        Needless to say, the supply of leaves brought over on the ship for the gift's intake did not last too long. Now importing leaves from Persia became quite an expensive and ritualistic ordeal, and was quite costly to the State Department's budget.
        And so... when the War Department had a huge celebration after a particularly long and bitter battle that ended in victory for the Union, as a gift, the State Department bequeathed to them the white elephant.
        The elephant spent little time at the War Department, however, and she was very quickly shuttled to the Smithsonian, then to the Department of Justice, and we are given to understand, back to the State Department, prior to her moving on to the Department of Treasury, then back to the Smithsonian, the War Department, the Vice President's office, and the State Department.
        This beautiful creature became a symbol of things we have, but don't really want, a symbol of things we give to one another, that we find either useless, or more costly than they are worth, so pass on and on.
        I do not know what finally became of the elephant, there is little mention of her in history after her move back to the State Department, where she started.. but she is a part of American folklore.
       There you have it, the story of the white elephant.

A spirited time was had by all.  Probably the most unique gift is show here by Kathy Heath:  a can of "Poop Freeze" to be used to freeze dry your dog's you know what when you take him for a walk.  "Makes pick up easier," it promises.

Most friends are already getting ready for next year's event.  

Friday, January 7, 2011

Day 284: Hats off to fine dentistry

I spent most of yesterday afternoon in a dentist chair in San Francisco.  This was the much dreaded "long appointment" in which a major upper molar which was damaged was being prepared to later receive a gold cap.  If you think of this event like a construction project it is the time when the old structure is torn down, gutted and excavated, new foundation innards are put in place, and these new filling "walls" need to be sandblasted and carved into a form that will accept the new cap.  The whole thing takes around two and a half hours.  I have a good dentist with a perky smile and a trustworthy assistant.  Around two o'clock yesterday we all went to work to get this construction project done.  Being awake, while anesthetized is an odd experience.  All kinds of loud and invasive stuff is happening as the walls come down and the debris is swept up, but everyone is calm and focused.  I was grateful for the mad scientist who invented novicane (or whatever it is they use now) and for the guy who also figured out that nitrous something or other takes the edge off anything scary that is happening.  And I want to thank the scientist who invented the adhesive and the materials used to make the temporary cap.  All this is a modern miracle.  We in the twenty first century are fortunate indeed.  All hail modern dentistry.    
And, this morning all of the strange numbness has worn off and I'm back crunching some homemade bread and marmalade.  I couldn't think of a truly appropriate photo for this post, but I just love this butterfly drinking for the morning glory.  My sister, Kathleen Ryan took it.  Beautiful, isn't it?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

day 283: No Problem

Styles in social banter change, I know.  But I wonder if anyone else has noticed an alarming trend.  It is the use of "No problem" as a standard reply to "Thank you."   A dozen times this evening in a new local restaurant waiters brought me something, filled a water glass, or took care of a request.  When someone does something for me I am in the habit of acknowledging my awareness of these actions by saying "thank you."  I get the oddest feeling when my "thank you" is parried by "no problem."  Think about it for a moment.  The result of deflecting a thank you with a no problem is to toss away the acknowledgement as unnecessary.  Students of status will quickly see that using "no problem" as the reply to "thank you" has the effect of lowering the status of the one who gave thanks.  It is the same thing that happens when you deflect a compliment:  "Your hair looks great!"  "Oh, it is a terrible new cut I just got."  Instead of appearing modest the the one who responds this way makes the complimenting friend seem to have poor judgement.
I am hoping we can bring back the old fashioned:  "You are welcome" as the reply to a thanks.  This raises the status of the speaker instead of suggesting that nothing has been done.  I believe that those waiters who use the no problem reply actually think they are being polite.  I wish some boss or aunt would set them straight.  And, then there would be no problem.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Day 282: Sitting by the Marina

There has been astonishingly lovely weather this week.  Our plein aire painting group met today near Barbara's Fishtrap restaurant next to the Marina at Pillar Point Harbor.  I set up my easel looking south toward the restaurant.  The sun was in my eyes at first but it shifted during the morning giving me a lovely hazy view of the hills behind.  The photo shows the view I was painting and here is the watercolor.  Ron's son remarked that this view reminded him of Ireland.  

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Day 281: Walking the Coastal Trail

One of the joys of living along the coast side of San Mateo county is the Coastal Trail.  It runs next to the waterline of the Pacific from the town of El Granada virtually all the way to the Ritz Carlton Hotel ten miles south.  It is ideal for biking and walking, and its paved surface is a pleasure to use.  This week I've had some issues with my back, and my trusted chiropractor advised me not to go to Curves and bounce around for a while.  Instead, I chose a long walk today along the trail.  The sky was a brilliant blue and the tide was very high.  At one point the white breakers crashed up onto the trail.  Had I been a few feet behind I would have gotten a full wave in the face.  I'm not as strong a walker as I used to be, and I was musing about aging and worrying about how much longer I'd be able to walk these trails.  "Intimations of mortality" I think it is called.  As I was pondering my own fate I caught sight of this lovely women, beautifully dressed in a bright red wool jacket and black skirt.  At the moment I noticed her, her daughter, a women near my age, stepped forward and said: "That is my mother."  I remarked how much I appreciated seeing her walking the trail with a walker.  "She is 85 and fell a year ago, but she loves to be out walking."  What an inspiration.  I never take this trail and the beauty of the coast for granted.  I stopped and had a chat with the red-jacketed lady who said:  "I feel so grateful to be able to get outside.  It is lovely here.  We lived here a decade ago.  I miss the ocean."  I want to keep this image of her, leaning on the walker beside the sea.  

Monday, January 3, 2011

Day: 280: Living with Ambiguity

My talent in life seems to be the ability to help people learn how to improvise.  This means that I lead them and assist them in trying new things and hanging in while making discoveries.  All too many of us flee at the first sign of insecurity.  "That feels scary.  I won't go there."  Improv training is all about be coached and supported as we jump into uncharted and unfamiliar waters while in the presence of others who are strangers.  This in itself is remarkable.  No one likes doing something in front of others that is not well prepared.  But the study of improvisation is just this.  "Try-See" is the motto.  We go with our first thoughts and impulses and then maneuver to make these work, make sense.
A blogger I admire said it well:  "Learning to live with ambiguity is an important skill, but doing something despite overwhelming uncertainty and conflicting information is the leadership skill of the 21st century.  Some of the most effective people I've met lately have one thing in common--a stint doing improv.  Using some basic techniques you can learn how to parry anything that comes your way and build on it."  Ann Oliveri. 

This watercolor is of the harvested artichoke crops from a hillside above Half Moon Bay done a month ago.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Day 279: The Value of Rivalry

In a well protected case across from Maples Pavilion the famous Stanford Axe is housed during the school year.  This icon, symbol of the rivalry between all Stanford teams and those of UC Berkeley or "Cal" as it's called, is proudly displayed.  Whichever team wins the "big game" in November, the football match between Stanford and Cal, is allowed to keep the Axe.  It has been the object of many pranks and lots of hoopla over the years. 
Today, Stanford plays Cal in women's basketball.  Our beloved team, who just two days ago stopped UConn's streak, will face the Lady Bears on their basketball court.  As an away game this is not part of our season's ticket package.  However, my husband has entreated me to cross the bridge and cheer for our women.  
Seeing the Axe has made me muse on the value of rivalry.  It appears that a healthy rivalry is useful in promoting excellence in a team.  Wanting to win against a special  opponent can provoke great effort.  I've noticed that motivation isn't just a red herring in sports.  Focus and desire to win along with considerable effort and practice can be a winning combination.  I think this desire was a big part of our win against UConn.  Cal's women aren't ranked but have traditionally been a sporting team.  I look forward to this game today and seeing our women face their first Pac10 opponent.  
Go Cardinal, beat CAL!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Day 278: Earl Grey Meyer Lemon Marmalade

Our Meyer Lemon tree is overflowing with fruit. Once a year I get out the marmalade recipe and boil the jars. As I write I'm eating a slice of homemade herb bread (recipe compliments of my sister Kathleen) topped with this marmalade I made yesterday. It doesn't get much better than this. The new year looks very hopeful today.