Hiking Yosemite

Walking among California’s sequoias sort of feels like being in the movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Your neck starts to hurt looking up at what’s considered the earth’s largest trees. They’re found in groves in and around Yosemite National Park, where we just celebrated our 35th anniversary.

Frankly, nothing there is small scale. Gigantic boulders, humungous waterfalls (roaring now thanks to the winter snowstorms), double rainbows, long drives from place to place. And the magnificent trees. Sequoias are not to be confused with the coastal redwoods, though in the same family, are deemed the world’s tallest trees.

Sequoias are known for their ability to survive. Looking at them, we noticed evidence of fire, lightning, and insects. The few that don’t make it, fall and decompose in the lush undergrowth, providing fertilizer for more growth.

Hiking the groves, I thought of politics. On one hand, the trees represent resilience; they could become the symbol of the resistance movement and offer hope. On the other, I couldn’t help comment that many politicians and policy makers need to spend some time in the national parks to see the effect of climate change.

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Edna St. Vincent Millay: Happy 125th Birthday!

A couple college friends and I decided to visit the home and gardens of famous poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, in Austerlitz, NY. We were eager to find out whether the rumors we’d heard about her – that she jumped from a dorm window at Vassar College—where we went and Millay graduated from in 1917, were true.

Her infraction, presumably to meet up with a boy or two, violated the school’s parietal rules that prevented members of opposite sexes visiting each other’s dorm rooms. Though originally told she couldn’t march in graduation, then Vassar President Henry Noble MacCracken reversed the decision, perhaps recognizing the bad publicity Vassar would receive if it punished its famous poet. (The parietal rules were lifted in 1969 when the college began admitting men.)

This year is Millay’s 125th birthday and also the 100th anniversary of her Vassar graduation. To honor the event, the college library has devoted several display cases to Millay, displaying artifacts from the house that are curated with some of her poems printed alongside.

The house tour (no photos allowed) included visits to her bedroom, study, dining room, living room, complete with two grand pianos; and her library. Pouring rain prevented us from walking around the gardens except to see the in-ground pool, secluded by landscaping where Millay was known to have wild parties that included bathing “au natural,” considered shocking at the time.

Millay, who was called “Vincent, “ conveniently masking her gender from publishers eager to print her poems, grew up in Maine, the eldest of three sisters. Her mother taught her to read through poetry and to play piano. Showing a talent for poetry at a young age, she entered and won a local contest. She enrolled at Vassar in 1913, already a published poet, and continued to write poems and plays to help support her studies until she graduated in 1917.

Millay moved to Greenwich Village, NY, and developed a reputation as living a bohemian lifestyle—attracting many lovers and partying, all the while writing to rave reviews and robust sales.

In 1925, Millay married Dutch businessman Eugen Boissevain, and after her 8-month, around –the- world honeymoon, she answered an ad in the New York Times for a rundown Victorian farmhouse in Austerlitz, NY.  They purchased the property, that included 600 acres of land and began restoring the house and transforming the grounds into various gardens.

She lived at Steepletop, named for a plant known as steeplebush, until her death in 1950. In 1978, the Edna St. Vincent Millay Society was created and restorations began to open the house and grounds to the public.

After our tour, we returned to Rachel’s house and enjoyed reading some of Millay’s poems as we drank wine, acting out the lines in true Millay fashion.

 

Posted in Books, celebrations, Education, Friendship, History, Museums, galleries, Reading, travel, women, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Cycling Catalonia

Thanks to good Internet marketing, I opened an ad for MontefuscoCycling.

We’ve been to Madrid in Spain and I was curious about exploring the countryside on a bike. Catalonia, located in the northwest corner of Spain, bordered by the coast and mountains, is well-known in cycling circles by teams training for big events, like the Tour de France.

While the mountain roads are steep and curvy, there’s little traffic except for other cyclists, and the rare car slows and waits with patience and reverence I’ve never witnessed. Claudio, the owner of the company, created several days of self-guided touring and he carried our luggage from hotel to hotel.

We ended in the small city of Figueres and toured the Salvador Dali museum, then spent a day and a half in Barcelona, taking in as much Antoni Gaudi architecture as out time allowed. So inspiring.

 

 

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It’s ANZAC Day! Make Anzacs!

It’s ANZAC Day; the holiday that commemorates the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War on April 25, 1915 at Gallipoli.

During the summer of 1974, I was an AFS student to Tasmania, Australia before I entered college.  I brought back this recipe for Anzac cookies (called biscuits). They quickly became a family favorite and a popular gift for others.  They’re easy to make: one bowl does it all.

Anzacs
1 cup sugar (you can cut a bit)
1 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
1 cup flour (I use ½ whole wheat, ½ white)
1 cup rolled oats
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
½ lb shortening- margarine, Promise, etc. butter not really needed
1 tb. Golden Syrup (a British sugar syrup, I use corn syrup)
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 325.   Melt shortening with syrup over low flame. Boil some water at the same time. When it boils add the baking soda to about ½ cup of water.

Mix all dry ingredients together, add melted ingredients, vanilla, and baking soda/water mixture. Lightly grease baking trays or use parchment paper. Drop batter with a teaspoon, about  2 inches apart—they spread.

Bake for about 12 minutes until golden.  They can be a bit undercooked and will become crisp as they cool.  Enjoy!

My mother wrote in her blog last week about matzo brei and how my father had suggested it was the cure for world peace. I’d venture that Anzacs are a close second.

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Biology and Chemistry got me into Medical School but the Arts made me a better doctor

Poignant post from my friend Judy Washington.

A Family Doctor's Reflection

I am an avid watcher of Public TV. My senior year in HS, my English teacher was such a brilliant man.  We were reading Shakespeare’s plays.  One assignment was King Lear.  I so enjoyed the play but it came to life for me when the PBS Great Performances series aired the play with James Earl Jones as King Lear, Ellen Holly as Reagan, Rosalind Cash as Goneril and as Cordelia.  It was my first to experience an all-Black cast performing Shakespeare.  I was mesmerized.  PBS has provided many memorable experiences for me such as Dance in America: Martha Graham Dance Company, Brideshead Revisited, and The Six Wives of Henry VIII.   I watched Upstairs, Downstairs and even Poldark I. Who could forget How Green Was My Valley and Madame Bovary?

Public TV has always been part of my life. I watched those early cooking shows with Julia…

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Letter to Congressman Lance: Protect the ACA

This past week President Trump released his budget that basically eliminates aid to the poor and elderly, and federal support of the arts and sciences. He insulted another world leader and ally, Angela Merkel of Germany, and accused the UK of spying on him. He continues to maintain that President Obama wiretapped his phones, and rants and raves and tweets about anything not going his way. He fired 46 US attorneys and defends all in his realm who hobnob with the Russians.

Here’s my letter this week to my congressman, Leonard Lance. (NJ 7th). I receive automatic email replies. I figure one day I’ll march into his office with all my letters and ask why he hasn’t answered my concerns.

Dear Representative Lance:

The House Republican plan to overhaul the Affordable Care Act will affect the citizens of New Jersey, including your constituents. As one of them, I have yet to hear you express your concern about the loss of coverage that will occur under the GOP plan, particularly to low-income adults and children. Either you believe that people have no right to health care, or you’re a complete coward and won’t stand up to a president who doesn’t care about the nation’s people.

We went to New Orleans for a few days to visit our daughter. We took a kayak swamp tour outside of the city. The guide talked about how the swamp won’t be there in 50-60 years as the salt water mixing with the fresh is killing off the vegetation. Drilling for oil trumped environmental concerns.

 

 

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Politics & Purim

This week, I called my congressman, Leonard Lance, (NJ 7th) to urge him to vote against the repeal of the ACA. Then I heard WNYC, my local public radio affiliate, report on a fundraising letter he sent supporters where he claimed that protesters at his town meetings were paid by a Hillary Clinton Super PAC. http://www.wnyc.org/story/gop-congressman-sends-fund-raising-letter-about-town-hall-protesters/

Granted, Lance was one of the few  NJ GOP congressmen who scheduled and attended town meetings, and had previously stated: “”I believe those in the audience were constituents,” Lance told reporters. “I don’t think they were paid. I think they came here in a matter of public spiritedness.”

What turned him around? Not sure. However, I’m not the only one who finds his words insulting and another example of craven, complicit behavior that seems pervasive among GOP lawmakers.

Here’s the letter I sent to him and to many newspapers:

Dear Representative Lance:

As a constituent in our Congressional district, I am surprised to hear and read your remarks condemning New Jersey citizens.

     You said without any evidence that the New Jersey voters who attended your town hall meetings protesting your vote to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and your support of President Trump’s executive order discriminating against religion are paid by a Hillary Clinton Super PAC. 

    Such a dishonest accusation belies the integrity you swore to uphold as an elected representative. Such dishonest behavior on your part misrepresents your constituents.

    As Abraham Lincoln, the greatest elected official of the Republican Party, your party, said: “You can fool all the people some of the time and you can fool some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all of the time.”

    Here’s hoping you may take Lincoln to heart and apologize for taking your constituents for granted. 

Today is Purim, the holiday that celebrates a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination. King Achasverosh announces a contest to find a new bride and summons all the eligible women to the palace. He selects Esther, who lives with her Uncle Mordecai. Esther doesn’t tell the king that she’s Jewish. Meanwhile, Haman, the king’s evil advisor, convinces the king to annihilate the Jews because they don’t follow all the laws of the kingdom. He’s particularly mad at Mordecai who refused to bow down to him in public.  When Esther hears of Haman’s plan, she appeals to the king on behalf of the Jewish people, putting her own life at risk.  Achasverosh listens and orders Haman hanged.

The holiday includes plays and costumes, and food, particularly hamentaschen, a triangular filled cookie that represents Haman’s three-cornered hat. This year I used canned poppy seeds and made my own prune and raisin filling. Both were a huge hit at a pre-Purim dinner with friends.

The story, called the spiel, is often rewritten to music and to include current events.

I had  written a spiel in verse two years ago for a family party, including a chorus for the yet non-reading grandkids. This year, I updated it a bit. Here’s the addition. My friends enjoyed it, and granted me poetic license for my small exaggerations.

Then one November day in 2016
Donald Trump was elected, vile and mean

He’s like a king, a ruler Russian
Intolerant, cruel and villain

With speed he used his executive pen
To close the door on foreign women and men

He retreats to his resort to golf and eat steak
While claiming to make America great

Bored with his guests he called for his wife
An immigrant, no less, who sought a new life

“Melania,” Trump called, “Come here now!”
The former porn star, rushed in and bowed.

“What is it dear Donald, my king?
I came as soon as I heard the bell ding.”

“Strip for my friends!” the King ordered.
“You know I only disrobe for you,” she retorted.

“How dare you embarrass and disobey?
I’ll move to DC and in Trump Tower you’ll stay!

Alone in the White House, Trump tweets and tweets
Blaming reporters and judges for security leaks

Like Haman before him, Bannon advises ill-will
And craven Republicans concave on Capitol Hill

What can we do? What can we do?
Say Muslims, Christians, and Jews?

Like Esther we’ll march and make ourselves heard
We won’t let this tyrant have the last word!

 

By the end of the week, it’s St. Patrick’s Day. I’m boiling cabbage now and will cook a corned beef tomorrow as we’re out of town on Friday. For me, most holidays are about the food.

Keep the protests going.

Happy Purim & Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

 

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