Thursday, April 29, 2010

In Which I Read About Dogs

I am currently reading "Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know," by Alexandra Horowitz (2009). The author's goal is to present what it's like to be a dog from the dog's perspective, not our human one of what we think a dog is. I'm only one quarter of the way into the book, but I can comment on several things already. It's well written, so it's easy reading. She begins most chapters and sub-headings with anecdotes about her own dog (which any dog owner will recognize, although happily my two haven't ever rolled around on top of a dead animal). I particularly like her cogent and concise argument against modern-day trainers who espouse the 'alpha dog' and 'dog pack' mentality. I've always hated those concepts, but my argument usually boils down to "My dogs know I'm not a dog, so why would they think I was some kind of super dog?" Horowitz, however, rebuts those proponents with a well-balanced discussion of dog behavior vs. wolf behavior (which is where the alpha dog and pack dog arguments began).

And I learned that humans have 6 million sensory receptors for smell in our noses (I think I learned this eons ago in a human physiology class), but beagles have more than 300 million. Three hundred million! Can you imagine what the world must smell like to a beagle?

Although, with my allergies finally starting to bother me (but after a long, delightful reprieve), I think I probably only have about 4 functioning sensory receptors in my scratchy, red nose.

Monday, April 26, 2010

In Which I Take You Hiking

We here in the Nest are great hikers, and used to go hiking every other Friday with a dear friend, but life, especially full time work, intervened in recent years, and the hiking trips dwindled. As the dogs got older and less able to hike any great distance, hiking stopped. (Yes, the dogs have their own backpacks for hiking.)

But while away on my business trip last week, my team and I had the opportunity for a quick, 1-mile hike in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. I'd never been there, so was very excited even though the day was overcast and the skies sprinkled on us a few times. So come with me on a virtual tour of Palm Canyon at Kofa, so named because the furthest northern stand of native palms grow there, way up on the rock face.

The entrance. A small gravel path winds through this entrance.

The famous palms. The two other team members tried to climb up to this point, and while The Botanist had done so several times, including last year, they didn't make it this year. I'd already fallen down the sides of three mountains on this job, so I sat the climb out and just enjoyed being miles and miles from anywhere, almost completely by myself. No sounds but a twittering bird. No billboards. No telly in every doctor's office and post office. Just beautiful nature.

Beavertail cactus and brittlebush. The spring bloom was still ongoing, and the desert was carpeted in brittlebush--magnificent!

I can't believe I wasted several years without hiking. I am determined to start hiking regularly again. My eyes need it. My lungs need it. My soul  and peace of mind need it.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

In Which Food Photos Tantalize the Gentle Reader

Here you go, Gentle Reader, photos of the fabulous meals discussed in the last post. My, I love good food! Eat your heart out.

First up: vegetable curry, nestled in a coconut.

Next, the pistachio-encrusted salmon on black beans, with a chipotle salsa, and a microbrew from the Pacific Northwest.

And finally, my chicken stuffed with brie, atop portabello mushroom ravioli with a cream sauce.

Yum!!! Delicioso!!!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

In Which We Dine Extravagantly Well in Yuma

I am gobsmacked by the food in Yuma. Who would have suspected such incredibly delicious food in this sleepy town, already shutting down for the very long, hot summer to come? Yuma is not a big city; in fact, half its population is composed of snowbirds who've already left town to return to colder northern climes that are just starting to warm up. It's known to the rest of Arizona as the border town with California, the last stop in AZ on the way to San Diego. Quiet, dull, nondescript. That's what I expected. Boy, was I wrong when it came to dining in Yuma.

The first night we walked seven blocks from the hotel to Casa Gutierrez for delicious Mexican food. My favorite type of food, I had huevos rancheros (my barometer for comparison amongst Mexican restaurants). My only complaint--the salsa was very thin, but it wasn't too hot and that's such a minor complaint I almost hate to mention it. Casa Gutierrez is housed in a small, converted house a couple of blocks from the library, and is delightfully decorated. Best part--I'd spotted it while driving back from the market and the other two field scientists loved it, too.

The second night we went to Juileanna's Patio Cafe, which The Botanist picked online (he'd never eaten there despite his many work trips based in Yuma). I had Salmon Julieanna's, and it was delicious. Light, perfectly cooked, and accompanied by tropical iced tea and tres leches cake for dessert. This was voted one of the 25 best restaurants in Arizona by the magazine Arizona Highways in 2009. The strolling peacock and macaw could have put it over the edge, but it didn't. Julieanna's walks the line of being very good without falling over into pretentious. The waitress was attentive, the manager unobtrusively spotted by The Botanist making sure everything flowed smoothly, and the decor a little funky and eclectic new Mexican/American. All three Scientists agreed it was delicious.

Then we went to the River City Grill tonight and were astonished. It was absolutely fantastic! I cannot rave enough about this restaurant. I had the brie stuffed chicken with mushroom ravioli, The Botantist had the pistachio-crusted salmon, and The Team Leader had the vegetable curry. The curry was served in an open coconut. I tried a bite of the salmon and it was incredibly delicous. My chicken was just lovely. I was the only one gluttonous enough to order dessert, but with entrees like these, how could I resist a dessert that promised to be equally special? The chocolate bread pudding was out of this world. If you got to Yuma, or drive through Yuma, you have to stop and eat here. It is comparable to four star restaurants in San Francisco and Seattle according to my dinnermates.

The River City Grill is also housed in a converted building, probably a home, but it's been opened up inside to one large room, with a mural on one wall, mirrors on the other, and the metal fish you see on their webpage featured prominently over the small bar. What look like fish murals on the upper right of their webpage are really three stained glass windows on the front wall of the building. A friendly waitress and Pacific Northwest beers made the experience truly delightful.

The Botanist lamented not having his camera to take a photo, but Yours Truly had hers, so photos of these stupendous meals are coming. Sadly, since they were served on white plates, mine is washed out, but I'll post it anyway.

Oh, and a super honorable mention to Garcia's in Blythe, California, where we had lunch today. A favorite of The Botanist's, it was another tiny Mexican restaurant with incredibly delicious food. Outstanding refried beans, chicken enchiladas with succulent, moist chicken, and I, who usually avoid the Spanish rice, ate every single rice morsel. A standout.

Monday, April 19, 2010

In Which I Send Greetings from Yuma

Hello from Yuma, the sunniest place on the planet (according to the Guinness Book of World Records). The sun reportedly shines here 90% of the time. The Nerdy Scientist is doing some field work of a most unusual nature for her, a collaboration with 16 others, mostly engineers, but two other scientists are present as well. Yuma was famous as the site of the Yuma Crossing, the shallow point where historically it was possible to cross the Colorado River. It later served as a honeymoon destination for Hollywood stars of the 1930s. Today it is largely inhabited by snowbirds, military, and a small permanent population. And for the next week, Gentle Reader, Mossy herself.

In fact, my hotel window looks out on the Yuma Quatermaster Depot State Historic Park, built at the site of the Army's Quartermaster Depot. This was the point where goods were unloaded from boats that could only navigate up this far on the Colorado, for transportation and dispersal throughout the Territory, but its importance was supplanted when the railroad finally arrived out West. I hope I have time to run over late one afternoon and check the old structure out. An old steam engine sits next to the hotel.

By the by, there is a possibility of some rain here tomorrow. The engineers are all concerned, but I've lived in the desert long enough to believe it when I feel it raining on my head. We shall see if we get to experience that other 10% of Yuma weather. That would be quite ironic and completely in line with the rocky start to the project this morning, but I won't bore you with that. Suffice it to say, engineers and government employees are not the best communicators.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

In Which We Take Another Step Towards a Cure

I joined my friends, Lady Scientists J and D, and D's daughter R, on my eleventh consecutive Race for the Cure this morning. While I do miss hosting a pancake breakfast afterwards at my house (which I did when I captained Team DAI for three years), J, the other J and I have gotten into the habit of going to Ghini's for breakfast instead. Nothing like a 5K for an excuse to eat delicious hash brown practically dripping in butter, brouillade, eggs provencale, or pancakes with a mountain of strawberry coulis.

There are so many inspiring stories you witness at one of these Races: families with photo t-shirts, men in pink wigs and tutus, Native People who dance the entire Race barefoot to beating drums while a woman walked behind with a an incense offering and praying a blessing, a garland of linked bras stretching half a mile down the golf course fence.

The camaraderie is always great. The weather today was perfect. There are no famous races with glamorous celebrity masters of ceremony for the cancer that struck both my parents, or the other cancers in the family. But I reckon every little bit of knowledge we gain about one cancer will shed light on another. And I've started wishing I lived somewhere more temperate so I could tackle a half-marathon.

Monday, April 5, 2010

In Which A Tree Awakens

Another sign of spring:  my desert willow has started to bud.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

In Which We Pick Grapefruit

Grapefruit in its natural state is not a perfectly circular orb.

They are lumpy and squat and  big or small or lopsided.

I have a grapefruit tree that has something like 14 dozen fruit every year. And I hate grapefruit. I've given bags of them to neighbors, foisted them on unsuspecting coworkers, and donated them to the Community Food Bank.

This year, I brought them to work, I left them on doorsteps, I gave them to friends who took them to their workplaces, and then I had a little grapefruit picking party. My coworker D and her kids R and A came over, picked fruit, and then we ate pumpkin cookies. And then, they took the fruit to the Community Food Bank for me. Seventy-two pounds of grapefruit. 72! And there are still lots of fruit ripe for picking. Now, to find me an unsuspecting fruit lover...