About Me

My photo
Somewhere in the Mojave Desert, California, United States
Gazing into this abyss called Life and wondering.....what's next !?!!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Nurturing the inside...

Fall days are meant for cruising through farmers' markets to find goodies for homemade concoctions. I love soups - but only when it's cool enough to enjoy them - which is, finally, now. There is something oh so grounding and soothing in the preparations of a totally-made-from-scratch meal. Life slows down and becomes more gentle as you shred, peel, chop, and stir a symphony of smells and tastes.  Put a little French Cafe on Pandora in the background, warm up a cup of Jasmine green tea, and you've got the makings for a superbly relaxing Saturday after an early morning hour workout.....

Tuscan Vegetable Soup: (Go for organic and fresh from the farm when you can. Except for the kidney beans, chicken broth, and stewed tomatoes, everything in this batch came from local farms, grown in our spectacular Southern California sun.... Recipe follows. I don't mind sharing.)

Tuscan Vegetable Soup, the recipe:

     1 Tbsp. organic virgin olive oil
     1 1/2 c. chopped onion (I like the sweeter Maui type....)
     1 1/2 tsp. thyme (dried; if you use fresh, triple the amount)
       ground pepper, dash of oregano if you like
     3 tsps. mined garlic (or coarsely chopped if you really like garlic!)
     4 c. coarsely chopped green cabbage
     14.5 oz can of stewed tomatoes (I used a variety with green chili and garlic, you could use Italian version)
     2 c. celery (sliced or diced, however you like it. I prefer chunkier)
     2 c. carrots (same as above)
     8 c. chicken broth (I just used one 48 oz. low sodium organic, plenty brothy for me)
      3 c. diced potatoes (about 3 medium ones work - yellow or yams)
     1/2 c. FRESH basil (this is the key to yumminess in this soup!)
     3 c. halved and sliced zucchini
     15 oz. can of organic red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
Garnish:  freshly grated Parmesan cheese

*For the vegans, substitute vegetable broth instead of chicken broth
**For the carnivores who feel a veggie soup isn't considered a 'real' meal, add some grain-fed, free roaming meatballs - turkey or beef. This can be added towards the simmering part...

Saute the first 5 ingredients until tender over medium heat
Add cabbage, tomatoes, celery, and carrots; saute for about 8-10 minutes more
Add remaining ingredients sans Parmesan; bring to light boil; reduce to simmer for about an hour.
Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with Parmesan; add a warm slice of fresh multiple grain/high fiber organic bread and you are good to go!

This batch makes about 8-12 bowls, depending upon the size of your bowl. Each one is packed with nutrients and anti-inflammatory foods - good for the heart, intestines, and soul....

Bon appetit!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Cooling waters

Still viewing life from the haze of a feverish head, I'm drawn to the cooling waters of the north Pacific.... The desert isn't doing it for me at the moment. I am looking forward to that lovely glow of fall/winter light returning when everything turns magical again....

Homer, Alaska / Bishops Beach at extremely low tide. All these rocks are completely submerged at high tide.
You can't even tell they are there. I walked to the end of that bluff before realizing the tide was returning and I was about to be cut off. The steep walls of the bluff were just crumbly dirt. No way to climb out without causing a dirt avalanche.  Unless I had wings or wanted to swim, I had to triple-time it back up to dry land.              ©Diana Shay Diehl

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Happy Autumnal Equinox...

This day would normally find me doing seasonal celebrations - changing out the summer linens for the fall/winter ones; participating in one of many gatherings and parties to celebrate the change of seasons; taking a first-day-of-fall hike...  Not this year. This year I am on day 3 of fevers that won't break and going on 48 hours of laying on bed to sofa to bed back to sofa and occasionally, the cool tile floor. This equinox brought me the flu. I don't get sick. Rarely. Maybe a minor head cold once every few years ... but the flu? They usually pass me by or I'll feel a 'tinge' of it for maybe a day. This one doesn't want to let me go. What's with that??

Things that aren't cool about being bed-ridden ill:

  • You can't go out to play.
  • The weekend to-do list doesn't get even touched.
  • Sub plans are a bear to put together and you never know who's gonna show up. 
  • Nothing tastes good.
  • The 4-legged family members try to comfort you - at the peak of your fever - by wanting to lay on top of you - all 4 of them.
  • You miss the Saturday farmers' market.
  • You miss all the social offers for the weekend.
  • You simply feel like crud.
Things that are sorta cool about being bed-ridden ill:
  • You get to watch your favorite flicks all day - and it doesn't matter if you fall asleep in the middle of them because you've already seen them dozens of times.
  • Lipton's Cup of Soup (because you're too tired and too sick to make homemade...)
  • Applesauce
  • Extra sleep is an expected necessity rather than feeling like stealing time.
  • Listening to books on tape (because reading hurts your feverish eyes).
  • Not minding you didn't get your first-day-of-fall hike in because it was overcast and muggy and too hot unless you went out between 6/7 and 10/11am - which you couldn't do anyway.
  • A cold washcloth on the forehead.
  • Iced green tea with honey and mint.
  • Getting to play with Light Room 4.
  • Sorting through thousands of photos to re-catalog.
  • Things slow down.
  • More sleep.
And so, this post's photo is from one of those purging and sorting sessions - between high and low fever spells. I love this one. My son was totally jazzed about seeing this mural by Shepard Fairey, founder of the OBEY company. This one is by the Navy Pier and, I believe, unveiled just a few months before we arrived in November of 2011. We made 2 passes by it to try to get a quick photo. No luck in the dim light from a moving car. So, after many twists and turns under and over passes and many one-way streets in downtown Chicago to find someplace to park, we trudged over more street intersections to get an up close look. 

It was worth it.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Things that make me go aahhhh....

I love the textures, subtle colors, and evidences of the cycle of Life on a quiet beach - the only sounds are feet crunching on rocks and the rhythmic lap of waves to shore. With my camera in tow and head bent down, it's a walking meditation.....focus on the present. See what is before you. When I am focused on the beautiful things of that very moment, it's hard to kvetch over the Machiavellian behaviors of those I must rub elbows with more often than I care to from late August to mid June.... when the children are kinder and play more fairly than the adults.

Best medicine out there for saving my peace of mind and quieting my bruised spirit....

2012 © Diana Shay Diehl / Bishops Beach, Homer, Alaska

Monday, September 17, 2012

Happy Constitution Day

On this day, 225 years ago, our 'founding fathers' gathered together to sign the Constitution of the United States of America.  I wonder what they would say to our political climate of today? My students and I previewed a few kid friendly Scholastic News video clips on the Constitution and its beginnings. Have we really strayed that far from its original intent or is it that there are SO many more of us inhabiting this Earth with such diverse interpretations that makes it all seem so complicated now?

Many thanks to those who came together with the intent to provide a model of cooperative statesmanship and the art of compromise for all of us who followed...

In spite of all that is flung around on the political 'news' front, I am grateful to live in a country where I have choices - still....

2012 © Diana Shay Diehl

Sunday, September 16, 2012

BW kick continues...

Still on my black and white kick. Things we usually see in all the glory of their colors look quite different when stripped down to simple high and low contrasts. Have you ever noticed the texture of strawberries? I'm usually distracted by their rich, red color and the anticipation of how sweet and juicy they will taste.

Do they look as appealing now in black and white?

 2012 © Diana Shay Diehl

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Timeless black and white...

Another perspective of the bridge I shot at twilight in a previous post, except this time it was early morning. I love black and white photography. It will never grow old with me...

 2012 © Diana Shay Diehl / Mission Bay Bridge, San Diego, CA

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Lycopene and sunshine

This is what summer tastes like....

2012 © Diana Shay Diehl

101 ways to use tomatoes.....here are just a few of my every day favorites - less than 30 minutes prep/cook time:

Place tomato halves on broiler pan
Brush with olive oil
Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and ground pepper (garlic, too, if you wish)
Lightly broil
*We ate tomatoes this way for 'brekkie' in New Zealand every morning

Place thick slices of tomato on a platter
Lay one fresh basil leaf on each
Place a thin slice of fresh mozzarella on each
Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Add fresh ground pepper/sea salt if you wish
*My favorite summer caprese salad

Cut up a tomato
Sprinkle with garlic and olive oil
Add fresh ground pepper/sea salt
*My favorite 'quickie' for lunch

Saute 5-8 diced tomatoes in olive oil and LOTS of garlic
Add fresh ground pepper/sea salt
When the tomatoes are 'saucy', add fresh basil until it wilts
Toss with fresh cooked linguine
*My daughter's favorite quickie home cooked pasta

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Change of scenery...

I feel like I've been in a washing machine of late.... The start of school, two of my 'children' moving (I'm grateful they are both where I love hanging out - San Diego), getting new jobs (not me, them)....back and forth, back and forth. It's all good.

In the midst of all the flurry, it's nice to just stop and allow the calming waters to sooth the soul while enjoying all the coastal communities offer. I like getting out of the desert now and again, even more so lately.....

2012 © Aubrey Diehl

My favorite day spa - even better shared with people you love who love you back....

Mission Bay Bridge, San Diego, CA

Sunset on the bay
Seaforth Marina...love sleeping to the clang of rigging on poles,
the gentle sway of the boat,
and briny shrimp and sea critters scrabbling on the hull...

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Blue moons and little toads

Happy New Year! For me, January 1st is simply time for a new calendar. The end of summer is all about things new and renewed. A new class. New supplies. New ideas. Clearing out things that don't work anymore - from things stuffed in the back of closets and drawers to toxic relationships. You can't welcome new experiences as you grow when you are hanging on to things that only take up precious space. Appreciate what was then bless it and let it go.

This is what full moons are all about - and a 'Blue Moon' is an opportunity to do this clearing out twice in one month.  According to pagan folklore, today, September 1, marks the time for new beginnings since yesterday was the true "Blue Moon" - a time for appreciation and release.  To mark the occasion, I took myself out for an early morning hike before the heat set in. Having completed my first week of teaching, this first 'day off' promised a much needed long, long walk. I was the only one on the trail. In fact, I was the only car in the trailhead parking lot.

This time of year usually finds me planning and orchestrating hikes for groups of people. No longer. Now, it's just me, my journal for notes, and my camera to record what interests me. I missed the company on the trail until I realized there was no one to kvetch about how fast/slow we're moving;  no one to make snide remarks about their superior hiking abilities as compared to "the back of the line";  no one to roll their eyes when I (or anyone else) get back to the vehicles last because 1.) good leaders don't blow past everyone leaving the last person to fend for themselves, 2.) I like to savor what I walk by, or 3.) maybe I'm just tired. The sounds of sand crunching under my feet; the clink of poles hitting the ground; the wind blowing through the brush and boulders kept me company enough on this day.

It was a glorious morning - warm but breezy enough to keep me comfortable. My thoughts were full of the coming months being ripe with possibilities; with time spent getting reacquainted with friends from long ago now returning to my life; with adjusting to the empty space my two oldest children left as they fully move out and on with their lives (this week in fact...). Endings and beginnings.

The cycle continues...

Here are a few shots of my peaceful, morning trek:

All to myself!

Yes! Water on the trail. This particular trail is one of my favorites when I want about 6-7 miles and don't have all day. I was hoping there would be water with the recent rains.

Tadpoles!! I honestly don't know what type of toads these will become - red spotted toads perhaps? I need to talk with my ranger friends. Truth be told, I cannot remember seeing this in a very long, long time. Not only was this pool of water active with the tadpoles and other creatures stopping for a drink, the ground I was standing on was full of........

.....hoppy, teeny, tiny toads!  They were in various stages of development. A few still had a bit of a tail on them. This one looked fully developed - and not at all happy about being in my hand. They were all frantically completing their short-lived cycle of life. Birth, growth, reproduce, die. The bushes were full of interesting birds - no doubt waiting for me to leave so they could snack.

Just past the pool of water was an area of grass by the wash. The grasses were completely matted down - evidence of a critter resting spot. Big horn sheep? Mule deer? A pack of coyotes? I've hiked by this area many times and the area above the wash is always trampled...

This was the end of the trail for me. I only had maybe another 1/2 to 1/4 mile to go before reaching the willows. The recent summer rains completely changed this area - so much so that I didn't feel like I should continue on - alone. Usually you just hike around these boulders continuing up the wash. But, this time, there was a 3ish foot drop into more water with a lot of debris. I saw one set of footprints on the other side but couldn't figure out how they got to that side. The prints did not come back my way. These pools are also packed with thousands of tadpoles - and mosquitos who literally covered my arm if I stood still more than 10 seconds. And they meant business.....

Another view of where I stood. Not much better chances of getting around those boulders without hopping over more pools of water in narrow spaces.... Not this time anyway.

Scrub oak with galls. The fruit of the native scrub oaks are acorns - which were ground by the Native Americans inhabiting the higher desert areas in the summer. Sometimes you can find mortars, a bowl-like depression, in nearby granite slabs. These beautiful, apple-like galls are the tree's response to an insect parasite. (Thanks to my Facebook friends for providing the facts to this photo.) Other than to protect the tree, I'm not sure if these galls were used for anything else.

Recycled life in the wash....

The desert has its own version of fall colors........

There's always a sign to point the way - if you pay attention...

Happy New Year!