Tag Archives: stacy alexander

Blasting the Fascia

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For me, it all started when I had some  MFR (myofascial release therapy) done on my right calf. Myofascial release (MFR) therapy focuses on releasing muscular shortness and tightness. There are a number of conditions and symptoms that myofascial release therapy addresses.

Fascia is the head to toe, arm to arm, inside-out connective tissue. It divides our muscles and penetrates them like the internal skin of an orange. It also surrounds virtually every structure of the human body. If we were able to peek inside our bodies and only see the fascia, we would look like a human form of cotton candy with mummy-like bandages running throughout. The entire fascia system is connected in ONE piece like a 3D spider-web.

When my daughter-in-law, Katherine, started talking to me about her experiences with the new fascia guru, Ashley Black, I signed on to a Facebook group that pertains to the topic of “fascia blasting”.

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Fascia blasting consists of using specific tools to loosen the fascia throughout the body, from head to toe.  It is accredited for doing everything from restoring hair loss to body sculpting, to getting rid of neck “waddle” and crows feet.  In 30 days, it can make a person go from a pockled cellulite carrier to a smooth sailing, fit-looking body babe, as shown in the pictures below.

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The Fascia Blasters, as these tools are called, come in a variety of sizes, all intended to do the same thing.  That is, release the fascia that binds fat to bone.

Ashley Black  explains there are 4 types of fascia:

  1. Structural fascia- Runs in long strips through the body. Visible in chicken meat just below the skin. The white silky membrane.
  2. Inter-structural fascia- Is present inside muscles and connects muscles to other muscles and to the bones. Visible when eating steak, the cobweb-like material.
  3. Visceral fascia- The “goop” inside our abdominal cavity that surrounds our organs and digestive system.
  4. Spinal fascia- the straw like thick casing that surrounds the spinal column

The fascia has a brush point with literally every other system of the body. It is as, or more significant than any other system. Having loose, healthy fascia is vital for overall health and well-being. Healthy fascia also makes us look, feel, and function better!

SO…..

I purchased a fascia blaster.  I also purchased a mini fascia blaster and a “fake” (not Ashley Black brand) facial fascial blaster.  I have to say, the results have been amazing!  I have redistributed the tissue around my knees to be much more attractive than it was before.  I have completely rid myself of a slight double chin.  I have carved out my abs and the under side of my arms.  I am making progress over my entire body.  Fascia Blasting really works!

The idea is to heat the fascia via a sauna or hot shower, then to blast away using the above-noted tools. Expect bruising at first, but that just tells you that the fascia blasting is working.  You can use arnica to heal the bruises quickly.  Ashley also recommends that one drink a good detox tea, because blasting fascia releases all kinds of toxins in the body….so expect to feel a little wimpy at first, but this quickly goes away, and the practice becomes pleasurable.  It feels great to fascia blast these days.

Here are a few videos that tell more:

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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.

See This Smile?

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This is the smile of a happy woman who KNOWS that  she is loved.

Simple pleasures are the BEST pleasures.

It’s Not Too Late to Bid on Art to Help Doctors Without Borders!

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You still have a few days to place your bid on my mosaic art to benefit Doctors Without Borders Auction.  Bidding is still under $100 for a piece that would normally retail for more than $300.   However, if  my piece, “Four René”  is not your cup of tea, there are 140 other international mosaic artists with offerings of wall pieces, affordable jewelry, sculpture, ornaments and more. Choose the best piece to suit your art needs.   Please help us help others by placing your bid today!

CLICK HERE to view all of the offerings and to place your much appreciated bid!

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Counting the Countless – A Good Day in Texas

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Magdalena Abakanowicz is one of my favorite artists.  She makes art about the “countless”… those countless people and animals that are so easily grouped together in life…..the homeless, the Holocaust Jews and Gypsies, the poor, the unemployed, minority women, stray dogs, bees….living creatures in groups that lose their individuality because they amass in such huge numbers that society stops viewing them as individuals and sees them blindly as one entity….the group…..the countless.  There are too many of them to count, yet each one is still an individual.  Abakanowicz is on of this world’s most important artists and one that I wholly appreciate for the depth and breadth of her remarkable creations.

 She says: “I feel overwhelmed by quantity where counting no longer makes sense. By unrepeatability within such quantity. A crowd of people or birds, insect or leaves, is a mysterious assemblage of variants of a certain prototype, a riddle of nature abhorrent to exact repetition or inability to produce it, just as a human hand can not repeat its own gesture”.                        

 

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This is me, standing in front of one of Magdalena Abakanowicz’s most famous installations, “Bronze Crowd” in Dallas, at the Nasher Sculpture Center.  The light scrolls are Photoshopped in, simply because I liked the affect.  We had just dined inside, and were strolling around the grounds together, thrilled, as always, by the outstanding works of art that surrounded us.  That was a particularly wonderful day.  When it isn’t crowded, Nasher is the perfect place to meditate.  It is peaceful there.  Beautiful.  Hard to believe it is even in Texas at all.

I was thrilled to be standing in front of the Abakanowicz piece.  Each statue is headless…and slightly different from the next.  The installation signifies a statement about lost individuality.  In addition to victims of atrocities, I look at this work and  think of those that try so hard to fit in with what they are “supposed” to do, and, in the process, lose who they really are.  They forget to smile.  They forget to love.  They forget to have fun  They lose their voices in the fray.  This installation is a reminder that each person on this earth is an individual with unique qualities worth paying attention to.

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Nasher has a fantastic gift shop.  In the picture above, I was wearing my new SAAKO infinity scarf  that I had received as a gift from their shop. It has flecks of gold in it and is truly beautiful! I have been addicted to these scarves since then, and have now amassed quite the collection of them.

The Nasher Sculpture Center is located in the heart of Dallas’ thriving downtown Arts District.  Going there is my second favorite activity when I visit the Dallas area. 🙂   It is located at 2001 Flora Street.  If you ever find yourself in close proximity, do go there.  It is an art oasis that you will never forget.

 

Seattle Here We Come!

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Late this afternoon, I completed my final assignments for Personality Theory class and now have a 4 day break before the new term begins. Man!  That class was difficult!  I’ve never written so much in my life, but I’m happy to say that I have a 4 point and my professor just recommended I publish my last paper, so I’m pretty pleased that all my hard work is paying off.

Tomorrow, I shall turn off my computer and put my phone away and hit the road for a couple of days of sweet R&R!

My daughter, Sarah and I are going to take 4 yr. old Ingrid to Seattle for 2 of those 4 days, in order to see Maya, my 17 year old granddaughter, shown here at Seattle’s famous Pike’s Market, fiercely armed with a pineapple!

ImageRene Best musician                          Rene Best guitarist

 

We’ll be leaving in the morning.  She is so psyched about this, and so are we!   On Friday night, we’re going to have a “slumber party” at one of my best friend’s beautiful house.   Sheryl, (shown here with our mutual friend, George, who now lives in Mexico) and I have known one another since we both lived in Texas….20 years?  Something like that.  She and her partner, Dylan, are metal artists.  Sheryl specializes in patinas.  Dylan welds.  They both do amazing work!

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Sheryl and  Dylan, have created the coziest, most fabulous  living space.  Their house is full of plants and art and is …well, just perfect, really… Comfortable, beautiful and with much character.   It is in a remote-ish area and there is plenty of time to spread out and relax while we bask in the pleasure of one another’s company.  This is Dylan with their now-deceased boxer, Buddha.  Image

Sheryl and Dylan now have two beautiful black boxers, Ella and Able.  Our little Beatrix will be no match for these two big guys.  I’m planning to keep them apart.  These two dogs are like thoroughbred racehorses, and every bit as graceful.  They’re both brilliant, too, and have no idea that they are dogs.

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 It has been a long time since I’ve had the time to just hang out and have fun.   Maya is bringing a friend, and we’re just going to relax, eat pizza, play cards, watch movies and have a good time.  I SO look forward to spending this time with my family there!!

 The coming school  term is going to be difficult.  Two complex classes, lots of writing and much time and energy will be expended.  This will give me time to relax and unwind a little…to recharge, as it were.  My daughter Sarah needs this, too.  It will be good.

Can you see the smile on my face??     Can’t wait!

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Barack Obama in Austin

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Barack Obama in Austin

Once again, under extreme fire from the Right, Barack Obama calmly, and oh, so cooly, tells the GOP and Texas Delegates what time it is. Last Thursday night, in Austin, Texas, the president slammed the Republican agenda, and brought up their pending lawsuit. He makes it very clear this ain’t his first rodeo.

In his own words:

“As long as Congress will not increase wages for workers, I will go and talk to every business in America if I have to. There’s no denying a simple truth: America deserves a raise, and if you work full-time in this country, you shouldn’t live in poverty. That’s something that we all believe.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. There are a number of Republicans, including a number in the Texas delegation, who are mad at me for taking these actions. They actually plan to sue me. Now, I don’t know which things they find most offensive — me helping to create jobs, or me raising wages, or me easing the student loan burdens, or me making sure women can find out whether they’re getting paid the same as men for doing the same job. I don’t know which of these actions really bug them.

The truth is, even with all the actions I’ve taken this year, I’m issuing executive orders at the lowest rate in more than 100 years. So it’s not clear how it is that Republicans didn’t seem to mind when President Bush took more executive actions than I did. Maybe it’s just me they don’t like. I don’t know. Maybe there’s some principle out there that I haven’t discerned, that I haven’t figure out. You hear some of them — ‘sue him,’ ‘impeach him.’ Really? Really? For what? You’re going to sue me for doing my job? Okay.

I mean, think about that. You’re going to use taxpayer money to sue me for doing my job — while you don’t do your job.

There’s a great movie called ‘The Departed’ — a little violent for kids. But there’s a scene in the movie where Mark Wahlberg — they’re on a stakeout and somehow the guy loses the guy that they’re tracking. And Wahlberg is all upset and yelling at the guy. And the guy looks up and he says, ‘Well, who are you?’ And Wahlberg says, ‘I’m the guy doing my job. You must be the other guy.’ Sometimes, I feel like saying to these guys, ‘I’m the guy doing my job, you must be the other guy.’

So rather than wage another political stunt that wastes time, wastes taxpayers’ money, I’ve got a better idea: Do something. If you’re mad at me for helping people on my own, let’s team up. Let’s pass some bills. Let’s help America together.

Portland Waterfront Blues Festival

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I have been to many, many blues festivals and concerts throughout the world in the years that I have been a music enthusiast.  Our annual Waterfront Blues Festival is one of the best, at least in America, and is just one more thing to love about living in Portland.  This festival is set in a park, right on the banks of the Williamette River in the middle of downtown.  One can hop on a bus or the trolly and be dropped off right at the gate.  The crowd is always mellow and the music is outstanding!  Even the food is exceptional!
This morning, John presented me with our tickets as a nice “good morning” gift, as he is prone to give me spontaneously.  (Both of us have a thing about gift giving and give to one another regularly.  Keeps things hoppin’! )  With company arriving within the next few weeks and travel plans on the horizon, I had not thought to buy tickets myself, so I’m really happy that he did.  We have a great lineup of artists this year and I look forward to going again.    The thing I look most forward to is dancing with the other happy attendees.  We do have a great time when we go!

2014 Featured Artists for the Portland Waterfront Blues Festival

  • Gregg Allman

    Gregg Allman

  • Los Lobos

    Los Lobos

  • Dumpstaphunk

    Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk

  • Boz Scaggs

    Boz Scaggs

  • Maceo Parker

    Maceo Parker

  • Lee Fields

    Lee Fields and The Expressions

  • Los Lonely Boys

    Los Lonely Boys

  • Charlie Musselwhite

    Charlie Musselwhite

  • John Nemeth & The Bokeys

    John Nemeth and The Bo-Keys

  • Joan Osborne

    Joan Osborne with The Holmes Brothers

  • Bombino

    Bombino

  • Blind Boy Paxton

    Blind Boy Paxton

  • Homemade Jamz

    Homemade Jamz

  • Lil' Ed & The Blues Imperials

    Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials

  • Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas

    Nathan and the Zydeco Cha-Chas

  • Otis Taylor with Mato Nanji

    Otis Taylor with special guest Mato Nanji

  • The Soul of John Black

    The Soul of John Black

  • Sugaray Rayford

    Sugaray Rayford Band

Additional Artists

  • Ellen Whyte

    Albert Reda & Ellen Whyte

  • Andy Stokes & Lisa Mann

    Andy Stokes, Lisa Mann & the Oxford Allstars

  • Big Monti

    Big Monti

  • Cooper

    Cooper

  • Paris Slim

    Frank “Paris Slim” Goldwasser

  • Good Foot Allstars

    Goodfoot Allstars Tribute to James Brown

  • Samba School

    G.R.E.S. Grianças de Zumbi (Children of Zumbi) Samba School

  • Jim Pugh

    Jim Pugh

  • Puppet Show

    Juste À Temps (Just In Time) Puppet Troupe

  • Libertine Bells

    Libertine Belles

  • Lloyd Jones

    Lloyd Jones Struggle

  • Rad Trads

    Rad Trads

  • Rose City Kings

    Rose City Kings

  • Smut City

    Smut City Jellyroll Society

  • Bonepickers

    The Bone Pickers

  • Tim Williams

    Tim Williams

  • Too Loose Porch Band

    Too Loose Cajun/Zydeco Band

  • Lisa Mann Really Good Band

    Lisa Mann & Her Really Good Band, featuring Diane Blue

  • Liz Vice

    Liz Vice

  • Margo Tufo

    Margo Tufo

  • Mary Flower

    Mary Flower & the BBQ Boys

  • Chris Baum Project

    The Chris Baum Project

  • The Strange Tones

    The Strange Tones & DK Stewart

  • Duffy Bishop

    Duffy Bishop

  • American Music Program

    American Music Program

  • Andy T and Nick Nixon Band

    Andy T & Nick Nixon Band

  • Anson Funderburgh

    Anson Funderburgh

  • Lauren Sheehan

    Lauren Sheehan

  • Ayron Jones

    Ayron Jones & The Way

  • Ben Rice

    Ben Rice Trio

  • Chris Bergson

    Chris Bergson Band

  • Chris O'Leary Band

    The Chris O’Leary Band

  • Commander Cody

    Commander Cody

  • Curley Taylor

    Curley Taylor & Zydeco Trouble

  • The Frank Bey & Anthony Paule Band

    The Frank Bey & Anthony Paule Band

  • Hillstomp

    Hillstomp

  • Jeffrey Broussard

    Jeffrey Broussard and The Creole Cowboys

  • Kara Grainger

    Kara Grainger

  • Karen Lovely

    Karen Lovely’s Prohibition Orchestra

  • Leif Totusek

    Leif Totusek’s Candela Blues

  • Leo

    Leo “Bud” Welch

  • Lilla

    Lilla

  • Linda Hornbuckle

    Linda Hornbuckle’s Old Time Gospel Hour

  • Miz Dee

    Miz Dee

  • Rae Gordon Band

    Rae Gordon Band

  • Simon Tucker

    Simon Tucker Band

  • Ural Thomas & The Pain

    Ural Thomas & The Pain

  • Yvette Landry

    Yvette Landry

  • Horace Trahan & Ossun Express

    Horace Trahan & Ossun Express

  • Trancendental Brass Band

    Transcendental Brass Band

 

What a Glorious Day!

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The temperature hovered around 77 degrees f all day today.  The sun was out, a soft breeze was blowing.  Couldn’t have been more perfect except for the fact that I spent most of the day working.  When I finished, however, John and I decided to walk to the local organic market for some veggies, and I grabbed my camera.  What follows are the pictures that I snapped today.  The battery on my camera was low, so some of them didn’t turn out as sharp as they could have.

This is the time of year when the roses and some of the other flowers are at the end of their lives.  Days like today seem to perk them up and they look beautiful even in their withering state.  The plant life in Portland is so vibrant and alive!  These are happy plants.  This is a city that is pretty happy overall.  I just love it here!

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Hope you have a wonderful week!

A Woman of Many Hats

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I am a hat wearer.  I love hats….I have collected them for years.   Recently, my darling friend, Marilyn, sent me an entire box of hats that spokes-toddler, Ingrid Neko Kesswood was kind enough to model for me today after we got out of the pool.  Ms. Ingrid is having a sleepover with me tonight and playing dress up is one of our favorite things to do.

Here she is Lady Kesswood modeling some of the more splendid chapeaus.

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Doctors Without Borders Auction ….again

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My husband is leaving this morning for the Theater Communications Group convention in San Diego.  This is a huge deal for John, who has been working diligently on his 4th play , and who has many irons in the fire in terms of networking and production. I am feeling anxious, as his heart has been giving him problems lately.  His coloring is bad.  He is short of breath, and I’m worried…but far be it from me to ask him to refrain from doing what he loves to do.  I’m happy that he is happy.    He leaves with high hopes, while I have full confidence that he will come home with either a deal, or firm leads toward a production deal.  The reviews of his work have been quite promising, thus far….so we’ll see….

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So, apart from cleaning our home from top to bottom in preparation for the arrival of a guest,  I was thinking that I should plan to get down to my studio and start to work on some of the guitar installation that I want to do.  However, when my friend, Kim Larson, posted the  picture (above) of the beautiful mosaic that she created for the 2014 Doctors Without Borders auction, I felt a wee twang of …I don’t know….something…over having been left out this year.  I wrote to Lin Schorr, the woman that coordinates the event and asked, “Has my past work not been up to par?”  Why wasn’t I asked to participate this year?

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I have been so busy, and this is the first extended break from school that I’ve had since I started my masters program. I have literally been working from 10-18 hours a day on some days.  Really working HARD, between work and school.  Now that I have a break,   I really want a constructive project that I can sink my teeth into.  She wrote back to tell me that, of course, I wasn’t left out!  I AM on the list and my piece is due on August 1!  So now I’m in panic mode.  As soon as I get back from driving John to the airport, I shall begin to design something.  These pieces are small…only 10″ x 10″ and this year, we can do whatever we want…so I might do a 3-d object, or I might just stick with a flat piece.  We’ll see.  I am very happy about the prospect of again creating something that will benefit others in a charity auction.   This is how I roll.  When I experience something stressful, as I am experiencing at this time in my life for a number of reasons, the best way to handle it is to do something for someone else.  Since Kim did a butterfly, I don’t think I’ll make one of my own butterflies.  (below)  Mine pale in comparison….not that it is a competition, but I think I should come up with a different design.

flutterbyFor those that aren’t familiar, Doctors Without Borders delivers independent emergency medical care to victims of armed conflict.  They administer relief in the aftermath of natural or man-made disasters and they fight deadly epidemics in over 70 countries around the world.  Whenever I start to become self-absorbed over some problem that is occurring in my life, I consider those who have it much worse than I do…and I reach out to help.  It is a humbling experience, something that makes me feel proud.

Lin Schorr has coordinated a large group of international artists that create and donate our work that will be shown at the Northville Art House, 215 W. Cody in Northville, Mi.  from November 7 – December 6.  There is also an online auction at BiddingForGood.com where our pieces will be auctioned off during the last two weeks of the exhibit.

I am so proud to be a part of this project and to have been a part of other projects that Lin has put together for charity.  I find that when I am going through stressful times (as I am right now), doing something for someone less fortunate always gets me back on track.

So now…it’s off to the airport….then back to the drawing board!  I’ll have to come up with something cool and unique this year.  I’m ready.

 

 

Ecola State Park – Cannon Beach, Oregon

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What better adventure is there on a beautiful Oregon afternoon in June, than to take off for places we’d never been?  This time, it was Ecola National Park near Cannon Beach on the incredible Oregon Coast.   We have been to Cannon Beach many times, but this was our first trip to Ecola Park.  William Clark, of the Lewis and Clark expedition wrote about this place, “…the grandest and most pleasing prospects which my eyes ever surveyed, in front of a boundless Ocean…”

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We hiked through a couple of trails and stood at the apex of the cliff and watched the azure waves undulate slowly across the sand below.  It was breathtaking. I thought of a friend, far away, enduring the sweltering heat and mosquitoes inherent in an unsavory environment, so I shot a little video and sent it via text message so he could share this moment with me.

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John and I must have walked for miles. Each view seemed to be more spectacular than the next.  So hard to believe this is so close to our home.

ImageThe Pacific was in front of us and the forest behind us, and  beautiful Forsythia, a widely cultivated ornamental Eurasian shrub, was in bloom everywhere.  Ingrid and I talk about a magical white deer that feeds on Forsythia.  The story goes that if you see the deer, you will have five continuous days of good luck.  When we go on road trips, this is what we talk about, and four-year-old Ingrid keeps a watchful eye out for him at all times.

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There were many little streams running through the woods, so we could hear those gurgling with the roar of the ocean in the background.

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The water, beaches and forests of Cannon Beach abound with wildlife.  Whales pass by during their bi-annual migration.  The shoreline teems with birds, including many types of gulls, stellar jays, chickadees, nuthatches and hummingbirds that hang out locally.  Many other varieties stop by during migration.  Elk and deer can be seen in the forest and meadows.  Raccoons and squirrels are plentiful as well.  This place is a true wonderland!

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Even the forest afforded us magnificent views of the ocean!  Every time we turned a corner, there was another natural phenomenon to behold.  We were literally surrounded by beauty every minute that we were there!

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There were spectacular views everywhere…

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Others were out enjoying the day as well, but it wasn’t crowded at all.

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What a nice day trip this was!  We are both thankful to live so close to this kind of magnificence.  Never let it be said that we do not appreciate that which surrounds us.  It is awesome….in the old, pre-Bill and Ted’s Big Adventure sense.  Awesome.  Visit Oregon! You’ll be glad you did.

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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Stacy Alexander

 

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Stacy Alexander – ARTE CALIFORNIA – Welcome!

Welcome to My blog!

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stacy and puppy     Stacy Alexander

October 6, 2013

Snow Day in Portland

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It snows infrequently in Portland.  This morning, when I saw the first flakes drifting from the gray sky, I thought to check the hummingbird feeder.  Sure enough, it was frozen solid, so I brought it indoors, thawed it out and refilled it with nectar concentrate, this time, using warm water.  No sooner had I hung it back out than this little guy discovered it and took a long, thirsty drink.

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When the snow really started to come down, I grabbed the camera and walked around the block to get a few shots. Not all birds fared as gracefully as the hummingbird.

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Some of our plants had been fooled into thinking spring had come early.  Unfortunately for them, it clearly has not.

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I love how the snow instantly transformed the hood into a winter wonderland.   And even in the snow, love still abounds.

 

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The tree branches gently caressed the falling snow which contrasted beautifully with the green moss.

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Even the gargoyles are tucked up tight against the freezing wind.

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And the snow leaves its cryptic messages on the walk….

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Even my little spring-colored mosaic Zen house is shivering!

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It is still snowing as I write this.  Puppy is snug and warm by the fireplace and I am getting ready to enjoy a bowl of homemade Tom Yam coconut soup, firey hot with peppers and kale-stuffed dumplings.

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 Beatrix and I are going to hunker down and be thankful that we are warm and safe.  This is going to be a peaceful evening.

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Yuppie Scum Pizza & Root Beer

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As many of you know, I am currently working on a vegetarian cookbook.  My angle is to take traditional recipes and turn them into more healthful vegetarian versions.  This is easier said than done.  Back when I ate meat, there is no denying that I was an excellent cook.  I knew all of the traditional Italian, French and even Chinese dishes and could knock your socks off with some dynamic and dramatically delicious meals.  Today?   It is not a given that whatever I cook will turn out well.  I have drastically reduced the amount of fat, salt and sugar that I cook with.  I seldom use dairy.  I never use meat or meat by-products such as chicken broth or beef broth, so I have had to find ways to compensate for this.  Sometimes they work.  At other times, they do not.

Lately, I have been experimenting with pizza.  My kids used to make fun of my pizzas because I was never much into the red sauce and piles of meats and cheeses on top.  I’ve always gone the gourmet route.  They used to call them my “Yuppie Scum Pizzas”.  The other night, I was experimenting with this one:

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This isn’t a great photo, but it is shiitake mushrooms, organic baby greens (kale, chard, spinach), garlic and chèvre on a light, herbed crust with pesto.  This was a delicious pizza.  When I was cooking it, I had the windows open to air out the house, when I heard a knock on the door.  It was my friend, Dave, homemade root beer in hand.

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“I couldn’t help but notice that delicious aroma coming from your house when I walked by, so I thought I’d bring you some of my homemade root beer.  Whatever you are cooking will probably taste pretty good with this!”    and he was right.  This root beer was spectacular, and the perfect compliment for my pizza.  He joined me for pizza and root beer and we had a lovely evening watching, “The Last Waltz” together.

Sassafras, sarsaparilla and wintergreen, the herbs use to make root beer, are surrounded by a bit of controversy.  All of them contain safrole, which was once thought to be a carcinogen.   Then again,  this article from Nourished Kitchen explains why there is nothing to fear.

“Wintergreen leaf, though almost always an ingredient in most traditional root beer recipes, replaced sassafras as the prominent flavor in root beer during the 1960s when a study conducted on lab animals implicated safrole, a naturally occurring polyphenol, in liver cancer.  Of course, the lab rats were fed massive quantities of safrole – the human equivalent of consuming about 32 twelve-ounce bottles of root beer a day. After the study was released, the FDA required commercial soft drink makers to remove sassafras from their brews. Of course, cinnamon, nutmeg and basil also contain safrole but this seemed to escape the attention of the FDA.

Interestingly, while massive quantities of safrole caused liver cancer in lab animals, it seems that small doses may actually play a protective role for humans.  Some studies indicate that safrole may actually stimulate the death of cancer cells, particularly oral cancers though it may also do so in lung and prostrate cancers.

Wintergreen, already an ingredient in root beer, offered a flavor profile strikingly similar to that of sassafras, and made a ready replacement.  Most root beers made today contain neither sassafras nor wintergreen and are instead made with artificial flavors.  Even wintergreen extract, the preferred flavoring for many home brewers, is difficult to attain and typically is made with propylene glycol – a petrochemical.”

One should  consult with a doctor, health care practitioner or herbalist before consuming any herb, especially if  pregnant, nursing or have some kind of medical condition that requires medication.  There is always the possibility of danger when mixing herbs with medications.  

Homemade Root Beer:

A variety of other herbs have also been used in traditional root beer recipes (including sarsaparilla, burdock, anise, licorice, astragalus and others).  Dave’s simplified version is much more budget friendly as many of these herbs are hard to source and expensive. 

Before beginning, it is important to have the culture ready to go.  Dave uses a homemade ginger bug in this recipe as it gives both the flavor and carbonation, though any type of natural culture could be used.

Homemade Root Beer
 
Old Fashioned Root Beer Recipe Nourishing and healthy Homemade Root Beer

A simple and nourishing fermented homemade root beer (non-alcoholic) with herbs and beneficial cultures.
 
  • ½ cup Sassafras Root Bark
  • ½ teaspoon wintergreen leaf (or more- try this to taste but start with a little as it has a very strong flavor)
  • 1 cup unrefined organic cane sugar like rapadura
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 1 cinnamon stick or 1 tiny dash of ground cinnamon (optional)
  • dash each of coriander and allspice (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons of natural vanilla extract
  • 3 quarts filtered water
  • ¼ cup lime juice (optional but good for flavor)
  • ¾ cup homemade ginger bug or other starter culture like whey or vegetable starter
 
Instructions
  1. Put the sassafras root bark and wintergreen leaf in a large pot. Add cinnamon, coriander and allspice if using.
  2. Add 3 quarts of filtered water and turn on high heat.
  3. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Strain through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth to remove herbs.
  5. While still warm, add the sugar and molasses and stir until dissolved.
  6. Let cool until warm but not hot and add the lime juice and then then ginger bug or other culture and stir well.
  7. Transfer to grolsch style bottles or jars with tight fitting lids and allow to ferment for several days at room temperature.
  8. Check after two days for carbonation and when desired carbonation is reached, transfer to refrigerator and store until use.
  9. Enjoy!
 
 
If desired, the following can be added to the original boil but they are not needed:
-2 cloves
-1 tablespoon licorice root
-1 tablespoon grated ginger root
-1 tablespoon hops flowers
-1 teaspoon of anise or fennel