Tag Archives: Dr. John Freed

Celebration of a Sweet Man

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Yesterday was my husband, John’s birthday.  He has a heart condition, so each birthday is a blessing.  As it stands, I cherish each moment that we can spend together. John is one of the kindest men I have ever met, always willing to jump in and help….not only me, around the house, but our family….and everyone, really.  If ever I take issue with anything he says or does, his response is always the same:  “Let’s sit down and talk about this. ”  He is an intellectual with a kind heart.  He is interesting, enormously talented and a lot of fun to be around.  We love taking day trips together, working on projects around the house and having long talks into the night.  He does tech work for me when I make art, and offers helpful suggestions.  He never raises his voice to me, is dependable and a good provider.  I am so lucky to have him in my life!

(Oh…and although his hair looks purple in this picture, it really isn’t. 😉 )

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Stacy and John in Reno.  Photo by Kat Wilson

My gift to him this year was a Tuck and Patti concert at the Alberta Rose theater. I have seen Tuck and Patti perform many times, beginning back in the 80s.  However, this show was the best one of them all.

My friend, Adlai Alexander opened.  He could have been the headliner.  I first heard of Adlai from my best friend, formerly from Reno, who lived and performed there at the same time as Adlai.  I was so happy to learn that Portland is Adlai’s home now.  What an enormous talent and a sweet-hearted man Adlai is!  We enjoy his work tremendously.  Tuck Andress was his guitar teacher back in Palo Alto, and he is close friends with Tuck and Patti.  The love between the trio was obvious.

Tuck and Patti are still very strong performers.  Tuck did a couple of guitar solos and told some great stories.  Patti also told some entertaining stories, one of which reminded me of John and myself.  Their relationship seems to be a lot like ours.

Like Adlai, Tuck Andress is a phenomenal guitarist, one of the best I have ever heard.  He definitely has a distinct style:

Tuck and Patti gave us a sample of a children’s album that will be coming out soon…in September, I think.  I cannot wait to buy it for Ingrid!     Rene Best

One of the highlights of the evening was when Hershal Yatovitz jointed Tuck and Patti and Adlai onstage for some amazing guitar playing and a beatuiful couple of songs. Adlai’s exquisite voice was the perfect match for Patti’s smooth-as-good-whiskey, velvety voice.

We also loved their rendition of “All of Me”.  It was fantastic!

John claims that I couldn’t have given him a better gift, which thrilled me.

Yesterday was his actual birthday, which we celebrated with family at Lauretta Jean’s pie shop, John’s favorite neighborhood haunt.  Pie and booze….which included a nice shot of Jameson for him.

I am so happy that we had this rich experience together, and I hope and pray for many more birthday celebrations together in our future.  It will be hard to top this one next year, though!

Thanks to Adlai, Hershel, Tuck, Patti, Sarah-Lynda, Nathan and, of course, little Ingrid.  It was a beautiful weekend.

Are you Depressed?

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In my opinion,  psychiatrists should first test their patients for nutritional deficiencies before writing prescriptions for Zoloftor for  antipsychotics, like Zyprexa.  Conscientious doctors send patients to get lab work done prior to prescribing drugs or increasing dosages.  There are times when people do need antidepressants.   However,  other times  spinach would go far to eliminate the symptoms of depression.   Think Popeye.

If you haven’t ever tested your nutrition levels, you might inquire with either your psychiatrist or primary-care physician. Supplements can be expensive, but you can make it back  by not having to see your psychiatrist as often. You should talk to your doctor before taking any supplements, especially if you’re on prescription drugs.

 

Vitamin D

According to my doctor, Vitamin D deficiency is a major epidemic that doctors and public health officials are just beginning to realize. This deficiency has been linked to depression, dementia, and autism. Most of our levels drop off during the fall and winter months, since sunlight is the richest source.   My doctor believes that we should be getting from 5,000 to 10,000 IU  a day.  However, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends most healthy adults get only about 600 IUs daily.  Hence, the widespread deficiency and increases in depression.

Magnesium

I am forever extolling the virtues of Magnesium, because this, like Vitamin D, is deficient in most American adults, according to my doctor, and the symptoms are not pretty.  They can, in fact, set off a chain reaction of unpleasant symptoms. Our lifestyles decrease our levels of Magnesium.  Some of the things that contribute are excess alcohol, salt, coffee, sugar, phosphoric acid (in soda), chronic stress, antibiotics, and diuretics (water pills). Magnesium is sometimes referred to as the stress antidote, the “most powerful relaxation mineral that exists,” according to Hyman. It is found in seaweed, greens, and beans. The NIH recommends a daily intake of about 400 to 420 milligrams (mg) of magnesium for adult men and 310 to 320 mg for adult women.  Magnesium Citrate can also act as a laxative, so buy your Magnesium accordingly….and time it well.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

I was surprised when my results showed an omega-3 fatty acid deficiency because I eat plenty of salmon and take fish oil supplements every day. That shows you just how much fish — salmon, tuna, halibut — or flaxseeds and walnuts we need to consume to be at an optimal level. These essential minerals reduce inflammation and play a critical role in brain function, especially memory and mood. The body can’t make them, so you need to either eat them or take supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids are just one of the supplements I take every day for depression

Vitamin B Complex

B vitamins like vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12 can provide some incredible health benefits, including reduced stroke risk and healthy skin and nails. On the other hand, a vitamin B deficiency may impact your mental health. More than a quarter of severely depressed older women were deficient in B-12, according to one 2009 study.

The best sources of vitamin B-6 are poultry, seafood, bananas, and leafy green vegetables. For vitamin B-6, the NIH recommends a daily intake of 1.7 mg for adult men, and 1.5 mg for adult women. Vitamin B-12 is found in animal foods (meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and milk) and shellfish, such as clams, mussels, and crab. Most adults should need to consume 2.4 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B-12 daily, according to the NIH.

Folate

People with a low folate level have only a 7 percent response to treatment with antidepressants. Those with high folate levels have a response of 44 percent, according to Hyman. That is why many psychiatrists are now prescribing a folate called Deplin to treat depression and improve the effectiveness of an antidepressant. I tried it and it didn’t seem to make that much of a difference; however, I have several friends who have had very positive responses to Deplin. You need not try the prescription form of Deplin. You could just start taking a folate supplement and see if you get any results. Your daily recommended folate intake depends on your gender, whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, and age. However, most adults need at least 400 mcg daily. You can also get your daily folate requirements by consuming foods high in folate, including dark leafy greens, beans and legumes, and citrus fruits and juices.

 Amino Acids

Amino acids — the building blocks of protein — help your brain properly function. A deficiency in amino acids may cause you to feel sluggish, foggy, unfocused, and depressed. Good sources of amino acids include beef, eggs, fish, beans, seeds, and nuts.

 Iron

Iron deficiency is pretty common in women. About 20 percent of women, and 50 percent of pregnant women, are in the club. Only three percent of men are iron deficient. The most common form of anemia — an insufficient number of red blood cells — is caused by iron deficiency. Its symptoms are similar to depression: fatigue, irritability, brain fog. Most adults should consume 8 to 18 mg of iron daily, depending on age, gender, and diet, according to the NIH. Good sources of iron include red meat, fish, and poultry. If you really want to get more red blood cells, eat liver. Yuck.

 Zinc

This one is SO important!  Zinc is used by more enzymes (and we have over 300) than any other mineral. It is crucial to many of our systems. It activates our digestive enzymes so that we can break down our food, and works to prevent food allergies (which, in turn, averts depression in some people, since some of our mood disruptions are triggered by food allergies). It also helps our DNA to repair and produce proteins. Finally, zinc helps control inflammation and boosts our immune system. The NIH recommends a daily intake of 11 mg of zinc for adult men and 8 mg for adult women.

 Selenium

Like iodine, selenium is important for good thyroid function. It assists the conversion of inactive thyroid hormone T4 to the active thyroid hormone, T3. It also helps one of our important antioxidants (glutathione peroxidase) keep polyunsaturated acids in our cell membranes from getting oxidized (rancid). Most adults need about 55 mcg of selenium daily. The best food source of selenium is Brazil nuts, which contains about 544 mcg of selenium per ounce.

Iodine

Iodine deficiency can be a big problem because iodine is critical for the thyroid to work as it should, and the thyroid affects more than you think: your energy, metabolism, body temperature, growth, immune function, and brain performance (concentration, memory, and more). When it’s not functioning properly, you can feel very depressed, among other things. You can get iodine by using an iodine-enriched salt, or by eating dried seaweed, shrimp, or cod. I take a kelp supplement every morning because I have hypothyroidism. The daily recommend amount of iodine for most adults is about 150 mcg.

Oatmeal, anyone? An Evening with Ottmar Liebert

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When my daughter was small, she would refer to Flamenco guitarist, Ottmar Liebert as “Oatmeal”.  “Listening to Oatmeal again, Mom?”  she would ask.

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Last night, we were treated to two hours of this graceful guitarist’s skilled execution of some of the most incredible music I have ever heard.  Liebert was joined by bassist, Jon Gagon and percussionist, Chris Steele.  They had definite chemistry, and put on an ideal show in an intimate Portland venue in the Alberta Arts District.

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© Stacy Alexander

Ottmar Liebert is what guitar playing is all about.  He is in tune with his craft to the point that it seemed, at times, that he and the guitar were one instrument.  He was graceful, and seemed comfortable in his own skin, playing, most of the time, barefoot, with his eyes closed, seemingly oblivious to his surroundings, riding the waves of his own creations.   I believe he was playing a small DeVoe guitar, but it didn’t have any markings on it that I could see, so I’m not certain that is what it was.

Since 1986 Liebert has lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1992 he purchased an “alt-ranchette” just outside the city, with an adobe guesthouse he built as a recording studio.  In May 2006 Liebert was ordained as a Zen monk by Dennis Genpo Merzel at the Kanzeon Zen Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.  He had a very strong presence….one of peace and goodness.  Both John and I sensed this immediately as we watched him.

(I couldn’t get the video of Luna Negra to embed.  This video (above) is an earlier performance.)

I have been unable to find a video of Jon Gagnon, his bassist, but will post one here, if i do later.  He  was simply put, rock solid in every way.  Jon had a huge presence and voice on a 4 string fretless which sang like an baritone opera singer…or, at times, a French horn.  I couldn’t figure out what one of his bass instruments was at all it.  The one shown here was huge, and had a EB-like headstock and a body shape of something like a JP and a morsh.   Its  tone was full of mwah, but soulful and crying. The  fretboard was  coated with something shiny. I’d not seen anything like it before.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 10.54.47 AMThe drummer, Chris Steele, was not to be believed.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 10.57.15 AMI did find a video of Chris playing, and I encourage you to watch it.  He is truly a unique player, and fantastically talented.

There is a video on YouTube that I couldn’t manage to embed here.  Please look it up.  It is called “Good Drums, Bad Turtleneck” by Chris Steele.  This is the video to watch to really see this man’s talent.  You can find it here:

The Alberta Rose Theater is a sweet little venue….very small and intimate, which was the perfect place to hear a trio such as this.  John and I ate the venue’s delicious  hand pies and sipped Perrier as we basked in the warmth and beauty that these musicians presented to us. We had such a nice evening.   These guys are  true professionals…plain and simple.  They were tight, knew exactly what they were doing, and provided the audience with an amazing show.  ’nuff said.  Well…no….NOT enough said, actually.

As I was sitting there watching these incredible musicians, I though about my dear friend, another musician, and felt so sad that his life has taken the path that it has.  It could have been him up there on that stage last night….but as they say…”When you lie with pigs….”  He has made some not-so-wise choices.   I’ll leave it at that.

A New Article About my Husband

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I am happy to promote this new article about my husband, Dr. John Freed, that was just published in the Brandman/Chapman University magazine.  It was written by Cindy O’Dell.  Click on her name to be taken to the original article. 

john at timberline (good)

Photo by Stacy Alexander

 

John Freed finds humor, meaning in history; turns it into theater

January 22, 2015 by Cindy O’Dell

Dr. John Freed, associate professor of humanities and liberal studies, finds it amusing that he’s immersed himself so personally in the very activity for which he describes himself as one of Brandman University’s chief boosters – being creative. But then Freed finds a lot of things amusing including the foibles of historic figures, the twists and turns his own career has taken and the unexpected but extreme pleasure of hearing himself introduced as “the playwright” by a theater director he admires.

Freed has been teaching college students about drama, particularly Shakespeare, for over 30 years. He’s also been a film and theatre critic. But it’s only in the last few years that he’s launched himself into writing plays, including “Figaro’s Follies” (a 2013 rewrite of the original Beaumarchais’ play on which the more famous opera “Marriage of Figaro” by Mozart is based) performed as staged readings last summer in San Francisco. “Creativity is a very important student learning outcome for our revised liberal arts core,” said Freed in a phone interview from his Bay area office. He teaches blended classes at the Walnut Creek, Fairfield and Travis Air Force Base campuses and online and divides his time between the Bay Area and Portland, Oregon, where his wife, Stacy Alexander, a mixed-media artist lives.

“This is an offshoot that links directly back to our mission of recovering the arts part of a School of Arts and Sciences,” he added.

“Dr. Freed has played an integral leadership role in the development and evolution of the School of Arts and Sciences,” according to Dean Jeremy Korr. “He’s developed a variety of innovative courses in online and blended formats and participated in the recent revision and expansion of the B.A. in Liberal Studies program for prospective teacher with our School of Education.”

Serious topics with a touch of humor

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The characters of Susanna and FIgaro read through their parts at dress rehearsal.

Just as his academic interests range over a wide field, Freed’s plays defy narrow descriptions. They take on serious topics – the conflicts among classes, genders, ethnicities – but he does it by moving away from haranguing audiences and toward the comic.

“While Figaro (in both the opera and the plays) is a comic figure, he’s also challenging the hierarchy and class structure of his time. Nobody can read the original 18th century play. It’s five hours long. There are three-page long speeches that blast the aristocracy, but the play itself may well have been the catalyst for the French and other European revolutions that followed. My goal was to deliver Beaumarchais to a 21st century audience – to make the play fun and profound at the same time.”

Freed genuinely appreciated the comment forwarded to him by the literary director at Brown University: “On a personal note, I want to tell you how much I enjoyed reading “Figaro’s Follies.” I thought it was a fabulous adaptation, and that it both honored and enhanced its source material. Its cleverness and vitality made it a joy to read.” His other completed plays are “Love Me, Fuseli: A Play about Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Circle of Friends” (2012) and “The Merchants of Pittsburgh: A Comedy” (2014). Thanks to that trio of works, he was invited to join the Dramatists Guild of America in November. Freed prefers to think of himself as coming from the David Ives tradition drawing from both history and existing writings or plays to create his own works. In “The Merchants of Pittsburgh,” he drew on his own experiences with a Pittsburgh theater company and Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice” to create a world where a Jewish theater board member takes over a production to create a more Shylock-friendly play. “You can see why somebody who has taught “Merchant of Venice” for so long can imagine a Jewish oriented version and have things believably come out that way,” said Freed. “At one critical moment near the end of the play, Shakespeare, in Portia’s voice offers Shylock that option to demonstrate the true value of the ‘quality of mercy.’”

Venturing into new worlds of theater

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 All Hallows at Hearst CastleWith his fourth work, “All Hallows at Hearst Castle,” which is currently in progress, Freed is venturing into several new worlds that are also fact-based. It’s a musical. He has a collaborator, the composer Jeff Dunn. And it’s based on redeeming the reputations of William Randolph Hearst and his life-long companion, Marion Davies, from the savagery of Orson Welles’ fictionalized version of them in “Citizen Kane.” “What he [Welles] did was horrible and just not true. They were incredibly hospitable people and very progressive in many ways,” he said and then adds, “I’m a huge San Simeon fan. In many ambivalent ways, it’s the ultimate icon of American exceptionalism.” There’s Charlie Chaplin developing a scene for “The Great Dictator” with a giant beach ball borrowed from the San Simeon pool and all the other comings and goings of the insulated world created by Hearst. “Welcome to this dear little, queer little world,” said Freed, echoing Davies’ greeting to her guests. Expect it to also include Clark Gable, Bette Davis – even Dagwood Bumstead – secret love, music, dancing, political intrigue, swordplay and self-discovery. “Things happen in history that you can’t make up. Nobody would believe it,” said Freed who wants to enlighten as well as entertain audiences.

This past year Dr. Freed has arranged with the following theaters to provide an on-going, greater than 50 percent discount on tickets for all college students, educators and members of the military (with ID cards). Contact the individual websites or box offices for details. CenterRep Theatre at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek: http://www.centerrep.org 925-943-7469 The San Francisco Playhouse in downtown San Francisco: http://www.sfplayhouse.org 415-677-9596 Island City Opera Company in Alameda: http://www.islandcityopera.org 510-759-9771 Enlightenment is also what he wants for his students, calling teaching a lifetime activity. “No one retires from what they love to do. I feel the same way about writing as I do about teaching. In my life and career, these two activities are converging very nicely,” he said. He makes sure his students “experience” theater as well as “read” it, working with San Franciso Bay Area theater companies to provide discounted tickets (see box for details).

He brings in Michael Butler, the artistic director of CenterRep Theater in Walnut Creek, to teach a master class to his students to help them understand the background and the effort that goes into an actual live theatre performance that they had just witnessed. From academics to housing and back again Freed began his university teaching career at Penn State University, but left after 10 years, having grown “exhausted by the banality of 18 and 19 year olds.” He renovated Victorian houses in Pittsburgh and was a low-income housing community developer for Neighborhood Housing Services. Then his life did a 360, returning him to higher education. He was hired as the dean of continuing education and that first semester assigned himself to teach adult learners in the evening at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. “That totally revolutionized what I knew,” he said. He begins his courses now by going around the room (digitally speaking, if it’s an online class rather than a blended one) and asking his students what they’re experts in. And they all have “phenomenal” answers. Then he tells his students, usually in their mid-30s or older, “You were all 18 or 19 and college-worthy back then, but what would you have said you were an expert in at that age?” Usually they say “nothing much,” although a few will candidly admit that they thought they knew everything at that age. “Now the challenge is to learn from and teach that classroom of experts and be creative enough with my own materials and assignments to tap into it.”

He also appreciates the School of Arts and Sciences’ multidisciplinary approach to curriculum development that encourages him to go from “The Iliad” to Google in a single, culture and media studies course rather than just “being marooned on the island of the 16th and 17th century literature.” That’s the fate he describes had he stayed at Penn State.

“All of these opportunities are why I love to work with my students and brilliant colleagues here at Brandman.”

School Days…..

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I have just rounded a corner…wait…Can one actually *round* a corner?    Let me begin again….

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I have just TURNED a corner in my current school term, one of the most difficult of my academic endeavors.  This is the end of midterm.  During this week alone, I  have read 4 dense, technical chapters on brain chemistry, I have written a tediously detailed research proposal regarding a new protocol for biofeedback in the treatment of depression, and am currently working (hard) on a paper about the APA Ethics Code with regard to a schizophrenic man that has lost his feet due to frostbite.  Gripping subjects, both of them, but at this point, I am fantasizing about the arrival of summer.  I am tired.  This term has been challenging, yet invigorating at once.  I love/hate school.

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Our sunny spring in Portland lasted only a couple of weeks…and then the rain returned, bringing with it cool temperatures and dark skies, so it has been like winter all over again.  There has been a chill in damp air that has necessitated my wearing my thick, terry cloth bathrobe in the mornings rather than that graceful cotton kimono that I love to wear during  the summers. We have had a fire burning in the fireplace in the mornings.  It does not seem, at all, like May.

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Today looks promising, though.  I think the skies are supposed to clear up and the temperature is predicted to rise, so we will have typically beautiful Portland spring weather now.  Welcome once again!!

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My husband has returned for the summer…sort of…He has a graduation to attend in Sacramento and a business trip to San Diego, but other than that, we will be together until the beginnings of our concurrent terms at the end of summer.  Unfortunately, I have been so busy with school, and he with his online class and play writing,  that he and I have spent very little time doing anything together since his return.  That will change next month when his teaching term ends and my learning term ends.  We have many fun plans on the back burner for now.   I am going to take a term off just to unwind and recoup.  This has been a long, tough haul, but I only have 5 more classes to go!  Then, I’ll have my masters in organizational psychology to add to my other degrees and can move ahead with this business that my friends and I are planning to open.  Really looking forward to that.

Meanwhile, for the remaining part of summer, John and I will be two cool cats, just hangin’ out by the pool, traveling to some places and having fun.

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Hockney in San Francisco

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A press conference attended by my husband, John, was held today to celebrate the exhibit, David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition, opening on the 26th and staying up through the 20th of January at the De Young Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

 

The celebrated British artist  talked about his work and how he has embraced new technology to create much of his work on the iPad these days.

Hockney, one of my idols,  is the most influential and best-known British artist of his generation. More than 300 works are being shown in 18,000 square feet of gallery space, making this the largest exhibition in the history of the museum.

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This exhibition highlights Hockney’s ability to engage with—and gain mastery of—a wide variety of tools and media. Works range from simple pencil drawings on paper, to Bigger Yosemite, five drawings created on the iPad that capture the majesty of the American West. “Like an artist alchemist, in one minute Hockney uses a fancy digital device to make a colorful iPad drawing; in the next he shows us that he is one of our greatest draftsmen by rendering an exactingly detailed charcoal drawing of a forest scene in East Yorkshire,” notes Richard Benefield, deputy director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and organizer of the exhibition.

Hockey is probably best known for this painting, which I’m sure, many of you will recognize:

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When I heard he was going to be there today, I told John that he MUST go.  He agreed, but when he got there, he learned that it was a Press-only event.  Therefore, he promptly told the keepers of the gate that he was reporting for the Arte California blog and they gave him press credentials and let him in!  That’s my man….always thinking ahead.  🙂

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I regret that I could not be there myself, but it was great that John could attend.  He said that he shot about 12 minutes worth of video which I shall upload once he sends it along to me.

This collage was John’s favorite piece in the show”

hockney collage

Thrilling experience for John.  I am so glad he got to go!

Waking in the Trees (Watch for the Giant Dragonfly!)

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The road to our friends’, Brent and Susanna’s house is scary at first….but breathtakingly beautiful.  The narrow trail  winds through a redwood forest in the Santa Cruz mountains near Los Gatos, dangerously close, at times, to the edge of the mountain…but the air is fresh and smells of eucalyptus and I get high from the joy of even being there.

windy road

I loved it that our directions told us to “watch for the giant dragonfly”.  I think that summed up the entire experience quite nicely!

Apart from my husband and children, I admire Brent Sumner more than just about anyone…and now that he has married his beautiful love, Susanna, there is another person in the mix to love and admire.   Brent is an artist in every respect of the word.  His entire life is a work of art, and it appears he has chosen the perfect partner to share it all with.  Susanna is a practitioner of Ayurvedic medicine and together, they are building a beautiful home on the side of the mountain.

brent and susanna

The instant we arrived, we were surrounded by creativity, art and beauty….not that there is a difference between any of those things.  Brent seems to have mastered the art of living.  He is respectful of the earth, and tries to minimize his impact on it.  He uses things from nature to carve out this incredible existence, and is one true inspiration!

This our car at the beautiful entrance gate that Brent built.

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Their house is a work in progress, still under construction, built into the side of the mountain, almost entirely from recycled materials by Brent, himself.  It is multi-leveled and beautiful and cozy, at once.  When we arrived, Brent was working on the upper level, creating a room for Susanna to practice her Ayurvedic medicine

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The picture above was taken facing the house.  The picture below is of the view from the other direction.  Everything is about nature there.   Everything is beautiful.

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These sweet tempered glass mosaic globes line the walk up the drive to the house.

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They are solar powered.  At night, they glow with beautiful color, lending a magical overtone to the environment.

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There are artful little touches everywhere, such as these mosaics on the steps that were created by Brent’s lovely dynamo of a mum, Dhaj, in her 80’s and currently visiting Turkey.  Dhaj lives in New Zealand, but visits Brent and Susanna when she can. We were sorry to have missed her again this year.  Dhaj is a force to be reckoned with!

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The living room/kitchen of the house is a long, narrow room with a bank of windows that overlooks the mountainside.  Susanna and Brent prepared a lovely dinner for us the night we got there, and a delicious breakfast the next morning.

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brent coffee

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We had cocktails made from the passionfruit that grows right outside their door.  Brent scratched some designs into the fruit even before it was picked.

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Everything about this hobbit house is artful and beautiful.  Brent did a lot of the interior work using his product, Darjit! a sculpting compound that he makes from recycled materials.

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Perhaps the highlight of our stay was sleeping in the treehouse that night.  Brent built this himself, with a little help from his friends.  I think my son, Myles, helped at some point, too.

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It was sooooo wonderful waking up in the forest with such a magnificent view!  The air was fresh and crisp and cool, and the sounds of the forest were incredible!  Brent had warned me that I probably wouldn’t want to get out of bed the next morning, and he was right.  I could have stayed in that spot forever!                              

stacy treehouse bedThe picture that follows is a view of the upper room of the treehouse as seen from the bed on the far end of the room.  As you can see, it is open to the air…(and the lions and tigers and bears, oh my!) on one side.  Delightful!

treehouse room

This is the beautiful outdoor shower in the main house.  It smells of fresh spearmint and flowers.   This is what it looks like when you face the shower….

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However, if you turn around and let the water wash over your back, THIS is your view!  Nirvana!

shower view

There were happy little hummingbirds all over the place.  They are my favorite birds.  I think I know how they feel living up on the mountain near Brent and Susanna, and I must say…..I am a little envious.

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Feeling deep gratitude in my heart today, that Brent and Susanna are our friends, and feeling very thankful for this beautiful experience that they gifted us with.  Thanks, guys.   With love.

Places in the World a Woman Can Walk

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Today, it started to sprinkle a little bit….not really rain….but I was in the mood for a walk, so I grabbed John and told him that I had a surprise for him….and we set off for Powell Butte, one of the many urban forests in Portland.  It was such a beautiful experience for us both.  I had hiked on Powell Butte once before, but without John, and I didn’t even tell him where we were going until we got there.  He had never been, and was very happy when he saw our destination.

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So hard to believe this forest is only 15 minutes from home!  Powell Butte is the site of an  extinct cinder cone volcano that rises near the headwaters of Johnson Creek – an urban creek that runs near our daughter’s home.  It has a remnant populations of native salmon and steelhead that one can see occasionally from the shore. The park is comprised of 608 acres of meadowland and forest.  We went to the densest forest area that has trails running up the side of the volcano.

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Before the turn of the century, the large meadow area was cleared and an orchard planted, although there are no signs left of it today.   In 1925 the City of Portland bought  the property from George Wilson because they planned to build future water reservoirs there.  However, they continued to lease the northeast section of the property to Henry Anderegg, a farmer and owner of Meadowland Crest Dairy, until 1948 when he retired. . However, dairy cattle were permitted to graze on the acreage to preserve the pastures. In the mid-1970s the Water Bureau prepared a development plan for Powell Butte that called for the construction of four 50-million gallon underground reservoirs to be located at the north end of the butte. In 1981 the first, and only, reservoir was built and still serves as the hub of the Water Bureau’s distribution system. Also, the Powell Valley Water District has three reservoirs on the butte. In 1987 the City officially established Powell Butte as a nature park and the park was opened to the public in 1990.

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Today, miles of trails accommodate hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders.   In fact, we were almost run off the trail by a group of 10-yr. old mountain bikers that shattered our serenity with their war cries and shrieks as they sped down the hill.  After they had passed, however, the quiet was restored.

Abundant wildlife populates the park, including rabbits, ring-necked pheasants, ground squirrels, raccoons, gray foxes, skunks, bats, chipmunks, coyotes, and black-tailed mule deer. The park is home to many birds of prey with its open meadows, groves of wild hawthorn trees, forested slopes of Western red cedar, and wetlands near Johnson Creek.

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We didn’t see any wildlife today….not even birds, but the walk was splendid, regardless. The weather was cool and breezy, and we felt the occasional raindrop….just enough to keep us cool during our brisk walk.  We walked all the way to the top, too!

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I loved all the moss growing on the trees…and the ferns on the forest floor.

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I loved everything about this walk!  John and I had a great chat as we strolled up the path to the top of the ridge, and then back down again.  He called me,  “Sacagawea” because I have a real knack for finding my way around in a forest.  He claims to always get lost.  I told him I would rescue him.  No problem.  🙂

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This was a nice end of summer walk…and we both remarked about how it was beginning to feel like autumn a little bit.

A new season for new adventures….

A Good Time was Had by All

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This is my husband, John, the birthday boy, standing in the walkway that runs through my studio.  He is wearing the bear paw suspenders that I gave him as a joke.   Yesterday was his birthday, and we attended an artists gathering for breakfast.  My contribution was this chard, goat cheese and pepper quiche.

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Seattle friend, Shannon Kringen (The Goddess Kring) joined us for the weekend, and we were absolutely  delighted that she was our guest!  Shannon is a fellow artist, great person and delightful character.  Shannon had the longest-running cable TV show in Seattle.  It was on for something like 10 years….I’ve forgotten the exact number of years, but it was a long time.   She is shown here with John at the studio breakfast.  Image

Artist Annie Grigch cooked blueberry pancakes and potatoes and other goodies.   So nice of her!

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Katie Altermatt, one of the artists from the studio, brought out some of her cool art.  This is a neck piece that emulates those fox skin wraps that women used to wear in the 40’s.  I thought these were so funny and great!  She makes some fantastic paintings, too. Image

There is art everywhere at  Studio 640!

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After we ate, we went out to the art festival at Marylhurst University.  John used to be Vice President of Academic Affairs there.  It is where I graduated….and also where my daughter and son-in-law graduated.

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After we left Marylhurst,  we took a tram ride, high over Portland, and took pictures.  The day was sunny and beautiful, and the view from up high was spectacular!

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Shannon took lots of pictures!

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All of us  enjoyed the view.

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After that, we all went out for a delicious Thai lunch.

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We went for ice cream afterward, at the new Salt and Straw…but I neglected to take photos.  I had the strawberry cilantro lime cheesecake.  John had something with birthday cake in it.  Shannon had something chocolate…..BEST ICE CREAM EVER!!!  It truly is incredible!  They use only the finest ingredients and have some of the most unusual flavors I have ever witnessed.

We returned home after that.  Shannon fell in love with Portland, so we took her out to look at a few neighborhoods.  Then, she hit the road back to Seattle.  John and I had a quiet evening at home continuing the celebration.  I am so glad this man was born.  I could celebrate his birth every day of the year!

Happy birthday, darling.

The Perfect Beach Day

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Today was one of those perfect days….sunny, breezy….gently warm, but not hot.  The sky was a brilliant blue and perfectly lovely.

We decided to take a little day trip down to the coast, first to Cannon Beach and then to Manzanita.  Traffic was sparse and the entire trip was stunning.     The gently rolling hills and curvy roads formed a picturesque backdrop for our conversation as we made our way from Portland to the coast.

 

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We stopped in Cannon Beach and walked through a few galleries.  I fell in love with this little bird piece and others by this husband and wife team of artists. I will publish their names here as soon as I find where I put their card…Loved their work!  Loved it!

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I also enjoyed padding about on the cheetah carpeting at a little boutique where I tried on clothes for my husband who was kind enough to treat me to a pretty new dress.

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There were beautiful flowers all over the place in Cannon Beach! We took a nice walk to the vista that overlooked the beach, then finally dropped back around to the Volvo and drove to Manzanita.

As we approached the village, just about 15 miles down the road from Canon Beach, we pulled over and stood at the ledge of the cliff for a long time, overlooking the beach.  The water was the most gorgeous color.  We talked about how peaceful we both felt…how happy we were.  It was a nice moment for us both.

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When we pulled into Manzanita, John wanted to go immediately to El Mariachi Loco, a little greasy spoon Mexican place that reminded us both of a little place in Reno that a friend recommended we go to when we were there in March.  This place isn’t as good as the one in Reno, though, but we still enjoy it when we visit Manzanita.

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The food was ok.  I think I was just anxious to get outside and walk on the beach.  In fact, I only ate about half of what was on my plate and split, leaving John to stop by his favorite Manzanita ice cream shop for a strawberry sorbet.  I always have been a little hyper….)

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The walk on the beach was perfect, albeit a little windy.  I practically had the whole beach to myself!

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There were some windsurfers and a few people on horseback, but for the most part, the beach was isolated.

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The small dunes were particularly nice.

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After I walked about a mile, I turned around and headed back to where I entered the beach.  John met me at the gate, and we walked for another couple of miles.  Then the wind REALLY picked up!  I was wearing a wrap-around dress and hat.  First, my hat blew off my head and went tumbling down the beach.  Next, my dress began to flip and flap and I had a major wardrobe malfunction.  I was so glad that my husband was the only person that saw it….and he claimed to have rather liked it, actually, so all’s well that ends well, I suppose.  😉

He looked at me right after that and pointed to the little metal sculptures below and said, “Wanna duck?”    (He’s pretty corny sometimes…)

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And well….the rest is history….

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Click here to listen to Janis Joplin sing, “Summertime” the perfect song for today…

Ring In the Love!

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We have moved from Reno, and are now staying on the edge of  Tahoe  in a beautiful little ski-lodgy-type house among the pinion pines, coyotes, owls and leftover snow.  It is peaceful and serene here and a nice contrast to the faster pace of Reno.   At night, we have been building a fire in the wood burning stove, putting on some jazz, pouring ourselves a little wine, cooking  a good meal and having relaxing evenings, taking best advantage of this time off from our high-pressure jobs.  Both of us are winding down and feeling rested and good, in general.  I, for one, feel a lot better,  like I’m finally recovering from that horrible illness that I had for 14 weeks.

Today, we decided  to go into the historic district of the  nearby town, so off we went.  We had a delightful time poking around in shops and chatting it up.  We ate at Moody’s where in 2004,  Paul MacCartney did an impromptu little concert.

You can read about the Sir Paul gig  here:

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/life/people/2004-03-30-paul-mccartney-tahoe_x.htm

We had a couple of cocktails and a delightful lunch.  Then we strolled down the street and looked in a few shops.  We were in one, a handmade jewelry shop that both of us loved.  Fun shop with a lot of cool art and hand made jewelry.  We left, and then John ran back in “to get his wallet” and came back out with a surprise early anniversary gift!

It is a blue tourmaline (one of my favorite stones) set in yellow gold.  The white gold band is both smooth and textured.  These pictures do not do it justice.  Suffice it to say, I love it…but I love him more.  What a sweet thing to do!  I need to think of something good to give to him.  I have a few ideas…..

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How to Be a Happier Person

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Yoko Ono once said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “The quest for happiness is the chief source of unhappiness…” (or words to that effect.)

Perhaps Yoko was right….because people do struggle to be happy. …or they think they are struggling toward happiness. Much of the time, they are actually just making themselves miserable.   Being happy,  is not all that difficult.  It shouldn’t be a struggle .  The struggle comes from the ego, and from trying to move in the wrong direction….perhaps a direction that someone else believes the person should go, or a direction that is dictated by society rather than by one’s own heart.

Be quiet.  Listen to your heart.  Do what it says.  This will make you happy.

We have all witnessed those who appear to be perpetually happy – those who can bounce back after a trauma and get on with their lives, letting negativity roll off their shoulders easily.   While they do feel sadness when it is appropriate, they do not allow sadness  to  overtake their lives.   I think I fall to the right of the middle.  I’m not happy all of the time, but I am happy the majority of the time.  As I age, I learn more and more about what it takes to be happy, and, for the most part, I am!

I have observed that truly happy people all seem to have certain characteristics in common.

Here are some of them:

1. An appreciation for life

Truly happy people wake up thankful that they are alive each morning. I used to not do this, but I do now.   They have a childlike sense of wonder toward their lives and are able to focus upon the beauty of all of life’s aspects. These are people who try to make the most of each day, and who don’t take anything for granted.  Yes, they do take life seriously.   They just don’t sweat the small stuff.

I spend a lot of time with 3 yr. old, Ingrid these days.  She teaches me a lot about the wonders of life….snails, flowers, clouds, things that are funny….  She has made me stop and observe the small things once again.  Seeing things through her eyes really helps me have a new appreciation for life.

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2. Make wise relationship/friend choices

Happy individuals surround themselves with other happy, positive people, friends who share their same values and goals.  They wisely choose friends who share similar ethics, friends and partners who help them feel good about themselves.

I used to have a thing about trying to make people who didn’t like me, love and accept me.  I think a lot of people share this trait. They feel that if only they can win over that one disapproving person, they will be validated.   Thankfully, I let go of that a long time ago, and now focus on people….friends and family….who DO love and accept me.  The others?  Well…more power to ’em.  They don’t have to like me.  It’s ok.    I am much, much happier because of this.  Shedding a rejection complex can do much to propel one toward true happiness!  I have more great friends and loving family members than I can count on all my fingers and toes.  That is how life should be!

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Ok, yuck….This is a terrible photo of me, but the shot brings back very fond memories of a show I was in at a Bay Area gallery.  These are all artist friends who I love dearly and miss a whole lot.  Everyone was so supportive that night.  It was a happy occasion.

3. Kindness, benevolence and consideration

When people are truly happy, they can more readily accept others for who they are, rather than trying to change them,   and they can touch the people with whom they come into contact,  with a kind and generous spirit.  They offer to help when they  are able, and don’t spend time concocting conditions put into place to  change the other person.  Happy people attempt to brighten the days of everyone with whom they come into contact. They don’t obsess about personal slights.  It is easier to be kind than not kind.  Period.

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4. Always open to learning

Happy people are smart enough to know that there is always something new to learn. Even someone who has “mastered” something, if wise, will continue to try to learn more about it and not let his or her ego take over.  Boasting is so unbecoming!

Happy people  attempt  new things and show an interest in finding out more about the world and themselves, including the things that they already know. They explore other cultures and try to view the world from multiple perspectives.  They are not afraid to take up new hobbies and interests, visit new places, try new things.

This type of exploration does not  have to be anything huge.  For example, one day, I might decide to learn a new song on the piano or practice my guitar.  The next time, I might teach myself how to fold an origami crane or work on a new mosaic.  Right now….I’m learning to belly dance!  I just try to make a point of learning or doing something new, each and every day.

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5. Solve problems creatively

Truly happy individuals refrain from wallowing  in self-pity and learn creative solutions for their problems.  Just as soon as a challenge comes upon them, they get busy finding a solution without allowing the setbacks to  affect them adversely.  Happy people view each new obstacle as an opportunity to make a positive change.   They make the most out of any situation.  They do not WALLOW. 

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“Fluffy”

6. Love life

Happy people do what they love….and love what they do.  That is how they spend their time.  They are not lost in dreams of what could have been…or what might be one day.  They live in the here and now and they engage in activities that they love.

This is my friend, Genie Webster.  She and I have a lot in common, in that we both like to try new things and always have something exciting going on.  Right now, Genie is working on a one woman musical show near Cleveland…either her second or third.  She takes belly dancing lessons, meditates and plays her music virtually every weekend.  I create art, study my own music, write and try to go someplace new to explore every week.  I, too, have taken belly dancing lessons, yoga…whatever appeals to me at the time.  Life changes, and I like to change with it!

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Happy people take time to stop and smell the roses.  They don’t view life as a “chore” nor look at each day as something to “get through”.  Truly happy people know how to live in the present moment.  They  know how to cherish every minute that they are alive.  They live neither in the past nor in the future.  They have a playful attitude about life and ENJOY themselves to the max!

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8. Chuckle…giggle….laugh out loud! 

Happy people know how to laugh at themselves….and they laugh a lot!  They seem to be able to find humor in most situations and are the first to admit that no one is perfect. They are always looking for the bright side of life and enjoy a good belly laugh as often as possible.

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9. Easily forgiving

Holding a grudge has the amazing and surprising effect of hurting the person who is holding the grudge more than it hurts the person toward whom the grudge is focused.   Happy folks know how to forgive others for their own peace of mind. When they make mistakes, they own up to them and  learn from them.  They forgive themselves and others,  and then move ahead.

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10. With Gratitude

Happy people are graceful….as in full of grace….loving, forgiving…willing to see the good in others and in themselves.

They are grateful for what they have and they know how to count their blessings; All of them – even the things that seem trivial.

Be grateful for your home, your work and most importantly your family and friends. Take the time to tell them that you are happy they are in your life.  This is one area at which I am very confident.  I KNOW I have a lot to be thankful for.  My family.  My friends.  My good life, in general.  I am so grateful for it all!

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11. Invest heavily  in loving relationships

Happy people always make sure that their loved ones know they are loved…. even in times of conflict.  Nurturing and growing  one’s relationships with family and friends pays off in the long run.   Happy people are supportive!  Go ahead and send that card, or pop a little gift into the mail.  Pick up the phone just to say, “I love you!”  It’s all good….and when someone gives to you, reciprocate!

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12. Keep promises

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…honesty is the always best policy.  When you make a pledge, whether in a relationship or on the job, do what you say you’re going to do.  Be loyal and reliable.  Be a solid foundation for yourself and for those around you.

Every action taken  by happy people is based on honesty.  Truly happy people are honest with themselves and with their loved ones.  When they give their word, they follow through on it.

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13. Meditation

Happy people meditate.  Meditation gives the brain a rest and helps people find inner peace.   EVERYONE should meditate!

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14.  MYOB! 

Happy people do not obsess about others. (Fluffy??)    They concentrate on creating their lives just as they want them. They take care of themselves  and their families.  They are not overly concerned with the words and deeds of others.  They do not get caught up in  gossip and they do not unfairly  judge.

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15. Optimism

Happy people attempt to look on the bright side of any situation and to make the best of what life deals them.

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16. Love Unconditionally

Happy people do not place limitations on love.  They never say things like, “If you REALLY loved me, you would………”  They simply love.  Unconditionally.

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17. Happiness is being proactive! 

Accept that which can not be changed. Happy people do not waste a lot of energy on circumstances beyond their control.  Sure, one can work toward affecting change….but it also helps to be content with what life has given  you.

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18. Caring for oneself

Happy people take good care of their minds, bodies and health.   they get  regular medical check ups. Eat healthful foods and they work out.   They make a point of getting enough rest.   They drink lots of water.  (I drink lemon water)   They exercise their minds by continually energizing them with interesting challenges.

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19. Confidence

Happy folks do not try to be people they are not.  No one likes a phony. Happy people determine who they are  on in the inside, and are true to that being.  They cultivate their  own personal preferences.   They are  confident in who they are.   They do the best they  can and do not second guess themselves.  They do not put on shows for others to impress them.

20. Happy people are responsible! 

Happy people know and understand that they are 100% responsible for their own lives.   The place where someone is in life is not the fault of the ex husband.  It is not the fault of the former girlfriend.  It is not their parents’ fault.   Happy people take responsibility for their own attitudes, feelings, thoughts, actions and words. They are the ones who are first to admit when they have made a mistake and they do what they can with what they have, to make their lives exactly what they want them to be.

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Sending love to everyone today.

Oh….and don’t worry.  Be happy!  😉

 

Our Christmas Tree – 2012

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The house is filled with the smell of Douglas Fir. We had a little tree decorating party last night. I put the final touches on it tonight, and think it is very pretty!

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My husband is in this video…. Gangnam Style!

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Should I laugh ….or should I cry? Or should I run away and hang my head in shame?

I think I’ll laugh…

That’s John-O, my husband, seen when the counter hits 1:18, in the black shirt and shades, dancing with a group down the stairs.  He’s only there for about 4 seconds….if you can stand to watch it that long.  It’s really bad…but sort of cute and funny.

CIBO – The New Kid in the Hood

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My husband arrived home from San Francisco yesterday. Within 15 minutes of his arrival, we were strolling hand-in-hand, toward the new Italian restaurant  in the hood, Cibo. (Chee-bo, meaning “food” in Italian).  Both of us adore good Italian food….as do most folks, I’d guess, and this place is only a few blocks from our Portland house.   In the short time it has been open, it has already become a watering hole for the hip crowd, l as was symbolized by this  stunning ‘ fast-n-cool’  chrome motorcycle that was parked out front.  John and I aren’t all that fast n cool…We just like good food. 

Seeing this incredible all-chrome bike  parked there gave both of us the distinct impression that we were about to be in for a treat.

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We were!

Cibo is an 80-seat, 2000 square-foot restaurant with a chic,  industrial-lumberjack/hipster ambiance. The place is centered around a 60-foot U-shaped bar—made from the  wood from a single Oregon White Oak tree.  Those “stripes” that you see on the far wall are repurposed rustic wood planks that have lighting behind them.  While more casual looking in the daylight (as per the photo below) the place has quite the  romantic ambiance at night with the special lighting.  Very pretty, soft lights with good music on the sound system.  It is a nice place to hang on a sultry evening.

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The bar wraps around an open kitchen that sports an INCREDIBLE  wood and gas fueled oven imported from Liguria.   Interestingly, our waiter told us that it cost more to transport it across town from the Portland seaport to the restaurant, than it did to bring it to the US from Italy! It is stunning!

The interior spins around and cooks the food to absolute perfection. There isn’t another one exactly like it in the entire country!  This is the Ferrari of pizza ovens!  

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The restaurant has a very interesting drink menu, with designer drinks that pair perfectly with the food items that they offer. For example, this black rum daiquiri with Averna & Herbsaint over crushed ice looked succulent and thirst appeasing…but alas, I will try it another time…:

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…and this S&P – Hendricks Gin, grapefruit, Peychauds, lime, triple sec on salted rim served up, looked fabulous!

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They serve a Cucumber Collins – with muddled cucumber, lemon, Aviation Gin, and soda water on rocks and a Cibo’s cup with Pimms, limoncello, lemon juice, muddled mint, and Cock & Bull….but I just wanted a simple glass of wine, so chose the Chateau Montpezat Bordeaux and John had a Commons Modrone Amber…both were delicious.

We went to Cibo to try the pizza, something that we do not eat very often, but as the cool breezes that usher in the autumn had found themselves in Portland that evening, we decided it was perfect weather and we were in the perfect mood. We chose two small pizzas, first, the Margherita Fior Di Latte was a perfect blend of homemade sauce, fresh basil and fresh mozzarella cheese. This is a pretty common pizza flavor, but there was nothing common about this particular pizza! It was absolutely the best pizza either of us had ever had! They served it whole, with scissors to cut the crispy, delicate crust. We loved it!  

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There were only two vegetarian offerings on the menu, so we chose the Vegetariana as the second option, only had it rolled into a Stromboli for variety. It had grilled red peppers, goat cheese, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, fresh basil and mushrooms amidst a delicate blend of spices. Very rich. Quite delicious! The Stromboli was served with a two handled mincing rocker knife on a curved plank of wood. It was wonderful!

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For dessert, we split a velvety tiramisu….because, next to Bananas Foster, this is my favorite dessert.   The presentation was delightful with its espresso-soaked  stand of ladyfingers layered between mascarpone, high quality  cocoa and a simple sprig of mint….and the coffee flavor was bold among the creamy ladyfinger delight.  Big fan of this dessert! 

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We rated this new restaurant very high on the scale of places we love in Portland. We were blown away by the exceptional food in the simple, casual atmosphere.  We will definitely return.

Fantastic to have Cibo in our neighborhood!  

 

Day # 23 – PAIR

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Photo a Day – AUGUST

Day # 23 – PAIR

©Stacy Alexander

This is a picture of us at our wedding recommitment ceremony at a San Francisco art gallery.  A friend from Oakland,  Darwin, officiated.  Our ceremony has Buddhist elements, but did not focus on any one religion (Buddhism is not a religion.  It is a set of rules for living, many of which are also included in Christianity.)   I wore the antique, white kimono, shown below.

It is in  cold storage right now, but the plan is to put a rod through the top of it and hang in on the wall of our bedroom .  I dried my bouquet of Equadorian roses and they are hanging there now.  Still almost as pretty today as they were back then….only dry.

My husband  wrote our beautiful ceremony!  Our  Seattle friend, Sheryl, who flew down for the occasion,  gave readings.

For entertainment, a Brazilian dancer did two modern dances.  We had a jazz singer, a jazz guitarist and a jazz didgeriedoo player! It was a lovely and unique array of entertainment and fun.

After the ceremony, we took everyone out ….the entire congregation….to Millennium  ( http://www.millenniumrestaurant.com/) for dinner and champagne.  It was truly fabulous!  After that, everyone went over to our little hotel suite on Alameda for cake and coffee….and more champagne.  Beautiful memories!

Day # 22 – HOME

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Photo a day – AUGUST

Day # 22 – HOME

©Stacy Alexander – 2012

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This photograph represents my family, my friends in general, and one special friend with whom I am very close.

The Perfect Evening

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John and I went to Tom Yum for dinner this evening.

He had the broccoli and mushrooms in pepper sauce (with tofu):

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And I had the pineapple fried brown rice with tofu and lime:

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Tom Yum is a real discovery for us.  The food has an interesting flavor profile.  The atmosphere is very pleasant, and since they serve produce from the area, it is the perfect place for a couple of locavores such as ourselves .  Great place just to pop by every once in awhile.  We had a nice dinner, which we shared with one another.  We chatted quietly while we ate and generally enjoyed the air conditioning that we do not have at home.  (It only gets hot in Portland about 2 weeks a year.  This was one of those weeks.)

After we ate, John said, “Let’s go ride the ferris wheel!”  so off we went, to Portland’s Oaks Park.  This place has been around since 1905, and remains one of the ten oldest amusement parks in the country.  It is a sweet place.  There is a skating rink there with a spring loaded, wooden floor that will rise in case of a flood!  There is a beautiful old Wurlitzer  organ suspended from the ceiling, and someone plays it while the skaters go round and round.  Lovely!

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The ferris wheel is old, and sort of creaky, but very pleasant.  It faces the Wilamette River and the rest of the amusement park with its lights and general pleasantries.  Very nice to be there at night with a cool breeze blowing through our hair.  When we stopped at the top, he kissed me softly, and I felt like a teenager again.

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When we were at the top, I imagined I was a dove, soaring above the park and the swift river below,  with views of the castellated towers of the funhouse and surrounding buildings.  I loved the perspective, but as romantic as this fantasy sounds, it was actually put into place to offset the abhorred thraldom of my own fear of heights!   Eeeeee!

When we exited the ferris wheel, we strolled hand-in-hand and snapped some more photos.  The atmosphere at Oaks Park is not a loud and frenetic one, but rather soft and gentle.   One feels safe there, heights fear or no.

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I don’t want a pickle.  I just want to ride my motor-sickle.

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Of course, I cannot see a pinball machine without thinking of my old friend, Arthur Brown who played the priest in, “Pinball Wizzard” with the Who.    Bing!  Bing!  Clang!

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I did a sort of desultory vacillation between the various arcade games that were there, simply because of the many photo ops that they afforded:

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We walked the length of the park and finally wandered back to our car and drove, with skylight open and the windows down, home.   We made some sweet memories this evening, and I am still smiling.

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Fondu for Dr. Freed

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My husband was in the mood for fondu tonight, so I decided to whip some up for a nice dinner outside, under the stars.   Fondu is the easiest thing in the world to make, and quick, too.

I began by whipping up a simple baguette. I prefer the heartier flavor of a whole grain bread with my fondu, but some people prefer a more delicate bread.  John would probably eat light bread, if I would let him, but I won’t. 😉

While it baked, I began the fondu.

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I use a very simple recipe that begins with a cup of white wine.  I always use an inexpensive, yet tasty, Italian pinot grigio, because the flavors are less delicate than the pinot from the Napa or Willamette Valleys or those from France.  (We reserve those wines for drinking.)  The Italian pinot grapes are much more pronounced, crisper and better (in my opinion) for cooking with cheese.  This varietal is a nice, pale, straw color and has a crisp flavor with hints of melons, peaches, limes and lemons.  It is light and dry….so you could also drink it with this fondu and it would be nice…but I prefer to use it for cooking.

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So….to make this cheezy concoction, simply pour one cup of the white wine of your choice into a pan and bring it to a boil.

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While the wine is heating, make a roux from butter and flour in another pan.  When it is done, set it aside.

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This recipe uses both swiss and gruyere cheeses, 7 ounces each.   Do not skimp on the cheese, because this is the key ingredient….so buy the finest cheese that you can afford.  Shops that specialize in cheese are highly recommended for the best selections.

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Cube the cheese and add it to the hot wine .

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Stir continually over medium/low heat until it melts, but take care not to overcook.

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Just before  the cheese has finished melting, add a little nutmeg.  Do not use nutmeg from a can.  Grate a nutmeg seed with a grater.  The flavor difference is wonderful, and it goes all through the cheese.  Fresh is always best!

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Next,  while keeping the mixture on low heat, slowly integrate the roux into the melted cheese mixture.  Continue to stir until it gets nice and thick.  The texture should be smooth.

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Once the fondu has thickened, transfer it to the fondu pan and serve with a variety of breads, fruits and veggies.

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For this meal, I tossed together a spinach salad with micro greens, candid pecans, walnuts, gorgonzola cheese, dried cranberries and blueberries, and a fresh, homemade raspberry vinegarette dressing.   It’s funny, because  I went to four different stores to get these ingredients when, in fact, Trader Joes sells a similar salad all in one bag.  Thing is, the one from Trader Joe’s is not organic, so I passed on it.

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We sat out on our little deck, under the stars, and listened to Winton Marsalis, talked softly, had a few laughs, a few soft kisses, sipped some very nice wine,…..and felt lucky to be alive.  And thankful.

This whole fondu thing is VERY fattening, so we don’t want to do it very often, but for tonight, it was the right thing.

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Ahhhhhhhhh!

A simple thing like a meal can mean so much.  Life is sweet.