Saturday, March 31, 2007

Happy Cesar Chavez Day

At dinner tonight, raise a glass and toast a national hero and the farm workers he represents. Today marks the 80th anniversary of Cesar Chavez's birth. More than four decades ago, Chavez and his partners/followers formed the United Farm Workers in an effort to advance the rights of disenfranchised field workers. Using boycotts as legitimate means of advocating worker's rights, Chavez brought pressure to commercial farms notorious for exploiting workers. Efforts are underway to promote recognition of the Chavez legacy and further his vision through naming a national day of remembrance.

The Huffington Post has briefs on a lengthy string of web-articles.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Inari Sushi

I've been dreaming of inari, recalling the perfectly seasoned sushi always marked down as Uwajimaya prepares to close for the day. Then there's the sushi shop on lower Queen Anne and I'll never forget the home-made inari that Jen brought to a pot luck last year. yummmm. I'd never made it, always been a little intimidated by the tofu pouchs. Silly me, I should have known I could buy them in a can. But msg is tough to rinse away, so I was particularly happy to find some fresh, unseasoned.

Pantry (a cooler in the dining room and tub under Buttercup's rear seat) inventory- tomato paste, rice cakes, garlic, oatmeal, and nori. Not quite the makings of sushi or any other appetising meal. That settles it, time to go shopping and try something new. We made the rounds- the co-op, Jasmine's Mediterranean Market, Stone-Grant Asian Market, and Trader Joe's- and somehow managed to come home from the with out sushi rice, pickled ginger or wasabi. Not a promising start for a culinary experiment. We whisked mirin, simmered tofu skins and asked David to provide a grocery delivery service after his day at the office.

Drawing from multiple on line sources, we put together an impressive recipe I'm sure we could never recreate!

Wednesday dinner- Miso and inari.
Thursday- Vietnamese spring rolls and chili. Pot lucks make for odd combinations. Tasty all the same.

Aslin prefers inari withOUT wasabi or carrots.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


Earlier, I don't remember the exact date, we visited the San Xavier Mission. We just recently visited the Tumacacori (too-maw-caw-co-ree) Mission. They were very different but I thought Tumacacori was more interesting.

San Xavier was maintained and is still used as a church. The art and religious icons there were a bit overwhelming; everywhere you look, every inch is covered in carvings and paintings. There was no tour and not as much information as I would have liked, just one room stuffed with art.

At Tumacacori, you could explore the entire grounds of the Mission. It was not maintained very much, so is now just kind of a ruin. We took a guided tour through a lot of the church and the grounds. Shortly after Tumacacori was complete, there was the Mexican Revolution and anyone from Spain had to leave Mexico, including the priest. The Mission never got another priest. The mission was used for another 20 years afterwards (except, of course, the church), but lack of support from the government, Apache raids and the hard winter of 1848 drove the last residents away and thus the mission was abandon.

I really like Tumacacori. The Mission is old and beautiful. It's full of stories and memories- so full of life. There's so much you can't see even though it is right in front of you. There are rangers there because it is a park now. Ukiah and I got to be Junior Rangers (for a 2nd time- because we did that in Oregon too).

The people who lived here, the O'odham, lived in mud houses. They had tools and games that are so different from ours, but also the same. They cooked outside mostly and the got water from the Santa Cruz river. The women used willow and devil's claw plants to make baskets.

If you ever come to Arizona, you should visit the Mission

Graffati at Tumacacori dates back to 1849 and it's now protected by the federal government. Like San Xavier, this Mission marked the expansion of New Spain and the influence of Father Kino who first visited the area in 1691. Following a Pima (O'odham) uprising in 1751, the mission was relocated in 1753, to the west side of the Santa Cruz river, closer to the protection of soldiers at the presidio in Tubac.

A footprint of the modest 1757 original church lies just beyond the modern remains of Tumacacori. It served for 65 years, first under Jesuit missionaries, then Franciscans. Construction of the new church began in 1800. Lack of funds, disease, raids, and a host of other setbacks, including complicated design (the adobe bricks of the bell tower weigh 63 pounds each, with walls 9-feet thick at the base)- slowed the construction process. The church was dedicated in 1821, tower still incomplete, and served just 7 short years before the Spanish-born priests were expelled.

Mexican priests and a small group of O'odham Catholics continued to live and work at the Mission, raising livestock, growing native crops along with Spanish figs, pomegranates and peachs- for 20 years. In 1848, many icons and artifacts were transferred from Tumacacori to San Xavier and the Mission was abandon, bell tower scaffolding still in place.

Until 1908 when the Mission became a National Monument, soldiers, cowboys, treasurer hunters and natives cycled through Tumacacori, building cook-fires in the sanctuary and carving their names above the holy water fountain. The chior loft is gone, the baptismal room crumbling. Hints of color offer some evidence of the 12 frames where the apostles once hung. The parks department and the O'odham natives now work jointly, not to restore the Mission, but to "keep it standing" after 250 years of weather, use and graffiti. -Nora

Friday, March 23, 2007

9 Beers

E 44th St. isn't where you'd expect it to be, neatly situated between 43rd and 45th or at either edge of the 4400 block. The lack of numerical flow in S. Tucson took us a mile or two out of our way and found us seeking directions at a surf/ski wear shop. Nimbus brewery sits at the far end of a light-industrial development, adjacent train-tracks, the freeway and a nondescript manufacturer with a fleet of yellow cargo vans.

Our lack of familiarity with Arizona liquor laws occurred to us a little late. Sure, they sell tequila at the grocery store, but does the brew pub have a kid's menu?
Brad went in ahead check the under-age policy. He asked the guy behind the bar, "Can kids come into the pub?"

Bar-man lowered one eyebrow and turned to the pinball machine where a six or seven year old pretended to play. "I guess so."

Brad, "cool."

Guy, "you're a parent?"

Brad, "yeah."

Guy, "seems ok as long as they're your kids."

From a table in the back, we watched through the open loading-dock door as the sun set over the mountains to the south. Table service may or may not be customary, we couldn't tell.

Brad ordered a sampler tray ($8) from the bar and had a menu tossed at him.

Nimbus has 6 beers on tap, two rotating specials. Our tray of 9 beers- 5 dark, 2 light and 2 amber-ish, included a short glass of smoked porter sitting on the "red" tag, a stout on the "brown ale" and the brew in the "blond" spot, was anything but. The Grateful Dead played played a quiet soundtrack to the Kansas-S. Illinois game. Another brewery with no commitment to mastering the fine art of micro-brewed root beer or ginger ale, we ordered Sprite and french fries ($3), relying on a process of elimination to identify pieces of the beer puzzle.

Ms. Pacman, foosball and the change machine were all out of order, but wall mosaics, t-shirt selection and quality of the beer carried the evening. Usually a fan of the darks, I was especially impressed with the Dirty Guera (blond)- "a mesquite honey ale, with cara-pils and Munich malts and a slight floral nose."

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Heavy drops. Falling anywhere but the desert, they'd form the kind of puddles that invite stomping. Today from Catalina Park, we watched the clouds roll in. Reunited with the van, we took our wonder lust just outside of town to walk the birding trail. Through desert scrub and riparian terrain, we listened to the birds prepare for the weather. The air of the mesquite bosque shifted as birds took cover and the lightning flared in the distance.

A short second trail took us through the Romero Ruins, remains of a Hohokam village dating back to about 500AD. Archaeologists have identified dwellings, the remains of irrigation systems, a ball court, and just beyond the settlement walls- trash mounds.
(If a fully organic landfill is discernible 500 years after it's abandon, how long will ours plastics, metals, and asbestos tell our story?)

With windshield wipers set to high, we took a quick tour of the campground. Among those roughing it was this fine example of RV craftsmanship, accomponied by a Hummer, for day trips I suspect.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Feels a lot like home

Except when the wind kicks up, the sky changes color and the scent of dew hangs in the afternoon air, we've can't expect any actual rain to follow. Weather differences aside, we've settled in quite nicely.

This week in Tucson...

-Dinner with new friends who gave us a tour of their incredible gardens and lessons on many specimens in their mineral collection.

-Hand tossed pizza and margarita night.

-A fantastic student production of The Good Doctor, a Neil Simon adaptation of Chekhov shorts.

-Time with the cats- walking Mochi, wondering if Diane will strike and relaxing with Sid.

- Chicago jazz at a local club.

-A couple games at Spunky Shooters, the resident dining room/pool hall here in the.

-The continuation of the stairwell project- testing colors and aiming to paint poorly hung drywall.

-A walk to Trader Joe's. With the van back in the shop awaiting fuel-pump transplant, Ukiah and I went as much for root beer as to get out of the house. The thing is, once you're at Trader Joe's, you realize that you might also need some gnocchi, frozen blueberries, kalamata olives and sparkling water. Sure seemed like home when we ran into a neighbor who offered to drive us and our two bags of snack food- home.

If it were time to retire, we'd stay for a round of musical-houses that seems to come up here in the community. For now, we're just enjoying spring in Arizona.

Monday, March 19, 2007

4 years and counting

Round two of the Gulf War was announced 4-years ago to the day. The objectives stated continue to go unmet.

The fair citizens of this nation are protected the discomfort of viewing photos of our fallen soldiers. With a civilian death toll nearly 20x that of US servicemen/women, the citizens of Iraq are offered no insulation from such disconcerting images.

Read more at the Huffington Post, Moderate Voice, Raw Story, or any of the 2,000 other sites offering Iraq war news, history, analysis and plans for action.

When the Mayor of Salt Lake City is calling for impeachment, could it be the time has come?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

St. Patrick's

We honored the day mixing green plaster- American Clay with napa olive pigment and just a touch of choco latte. Sure, the colors dried lighter than we'd have liked, but the clay is terrific. A forgiving texture and completely non-toxic. The clay's ease and allure over other (unnamed, inferior) stucco products, called for celebration. Guiness all round.

In other holiday news, Aslin hooked up with cohousing friends on their way to an Irish dance recital. Keeping with the spirit of all things green, she'll be having a "sleep-out" on the lawn tonight.


Friday, March 16, 2007

San Xavier

52 feet separate us from the saints of the domed ceiling. San Xavier Mission is a Marian Shrine. Among the sculpted and painted icons, 50+ statues, images of Mary reign supreme. She cradles babes, more midget than infant and studies visitors from every corner. Unbending in what appears to be a vintage bridesmaid dress, Mary is almost within reach.

An on site museum and PBS film reveal a San Xavier web sticky with details of prehistoric people, modern natives, colonialism, Catholicism, migration, irrigation and war. Follow-up reading did little to help me discern the greyrobes from the backrobes or the timeline of the Mission's transition from Jesuit to Franciscan. San Xavier was founded by Padre Kino in 1692. Under Spanish occupation the Pima basin (modern Tucson area) and her people were exploited in the quest for silver. Violent disrespect of native hunting and migration prompted aggression and confrontation between colonialists and natives. San Xavier mission continued to grow in spite of "disturbances" in surrounding areas. Grow. Not prosper. Unlike many, this mission was never wealthy. According to the formal transfer of property recorded June 16, 1765 on arrival of a new priest, the possessions of San Xavier included:
- 334 branded cattle
- 1 gentle mule
- 7 sawbucks
- 1 mason trowel
- 1 curtain of striped satin
- 1 gilded tabernacle with key
- 4 jugs of wine
- 10 hunks of salt

Construction of the mission ended in 1797, with it's second tower mysteriously incomplete. The native Tohono O'odham, many of whom converted under Father Kino's guidance, are recognized for building the mission, but no records remain of the artisans responsible for the Mexican baroque and Roman Catholic stylings of San Xavier.

Spanish occupation of the region ended in 1821 with the establishment of the independent Republic of Mexico. The mission changed hands again in 1854 when the Gadsden purchase brought the territory under US control. While states swapped command of the area, the Mission continued to evolve, adding new construction even as the original structure was deteriorating.

In 1978, an independent non-profit formed to refurbish San Xavier. A team of experts, including local Tohono O'odham artist/restoration/curator apprentices, spent years dedicated to the restoration of the Mission. A second team, a local construction company, lead the external rehabilitation. After years of failed experiments, they discovered what the Tohono O'odham knew 200 years earlier. The best mortar for desert conditions is a mixture or lime, sand and cactus juice.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


The Titan Missile Museum is free for children age six and under. Here, just south of downtown Tucson, kids can pick up a "Junior Missileer Program" to help them learn all about the Titan ll missile, "how it worked and why the United States needed it." Opting out of the tour, we directed ourselves through the single-room exhibit and attached gift shop. Inside the front door, a nostalgic miniature of the 9mega-ton sat quiet, unable to deliver the force of 9,000,000 tons of TNT up to 5,500 miles with in 30-minutes. In it's role as a gallery of graphs, charts and educational paragraphs, the mini-Titan exposes us to hazards of another type. In red white and blue, it proclaims the triumph of our cold war efforts, hailing the success of "peace through deterrence". "Overkill" (over production of weaponry) the replica assures, was "necessary to account for weapon failure," to "ensure 100% saturation."

Freeze-dried ice cream and uranium-symbol temporary tattoos line the gift shop counter. Impulse purchases. Shelved with original photographs of mushroom clouds over the Nevada Test Site, was a 1950 publication by the Office of Civil Defense.
"Six Survival Tips" made the centerfold of Survival Under Atomic Attack...

1. Get shielded - Ideally in a basement or subway
2. Drop flat on the ground - This puts you out of harms way as trees, walls... may be flying/falling through the air
3. Bury your face in your arms - Protect your face from burns and prevent blindness
4. Don't rush out after a bombing - Wait 1-hour for lingering radiation to die down
5. Don't take chances with food or water in open containers - Eat only canned foods, drink water sealed for protection
6. Don't start rumors

Memorize These

Wow. Talk about your road-side attraction.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Atrocious grocery find of the day

AJ's Fine Foods, La Encantada Mall
2905 E Skyline Dr.
Tucson, Az

Cajun Speciality Meats-Turducken, 14 lbs.
Frozen. Sale price- $99
Serves 10-12

*Note. Selected works of John Lennon will be on display at the mall March 16-18.

Friday, March 09, 2007


Sun tea season is here. Back in January at the Cambria Farmer's Market, I bought some Yunnan Dian Hong tea from the Swan Sisters. "Spicy with a touch of citrus," it's outstanding as iced tea. An important discovery, as the past few days we've seen temperatures in the 80s. The locals are bracing themselves for summer. I heard it explained that it's difficult to appreciate the moderate weather of early spring. A sunny day, even one in the mid-70's with a mild breeze, is a reminder that June is on the way. And June is unbearable because there is still September to endure. With the monsoons, July and August aren't so bad; at least there are interesting weather patterns to watch.

Warmer weather=flowers in bloom=bees=Aslin got stung. The bees here are huge, the wasps even bigger. Her finger swelled and she comforted herself with a reminder that it wasn't as bad as the time she got stung on the eye lid. Swimming went a long way towards soothing the pain and itching.

Have Cracker Jacks prizes always been such a let down? Last week, we split a bag and watched the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Chicago White Sox 9-3 at Tucson Electric Park, the spring training field they share. There was no arguing over the paper pencil-top decoration we found in the popcorn crumbs. No disputes on the field either. Where the game was slow, the vendors picked up the slack. "lem.ade" "Fresh squeezed, you know you want some" "World's finest, factory fresh" Song birds of the stadium. In an hour, we could identify them by their calls- mullet man, missing tooth guy, SuperVendor with the ability to balance cotton candy and blue raspberry lemonade.

The Colorado farming season is not yet underway. And it seems as though Roswell, Santa Fe, Carlsbad Caverns and the rest of New Mexico isn't going anywhere any time soon. So we've been putting our energies into leisurely tourist outings, wondering when we'll wear out our welcome here in Tucson. Undertaking a little construction project on the basement stairs was our way of being helpful, of saying "thanks" to the family who's shared so much with us. 160 pounds of mortor later, it could be interpreted as something else entirely. Turns out working with stucco is a skill we have yet to acquire. Maybe a lime wash in a nice spring color. Periwinkle or coral...

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


Rainbow, TV, Freeze, Octopus, Blob
This afternoon kids gathered on the lawn, running, throwing shoes, shouting instructions, using ultimatums to direct "fair" play, and changing the game every 90 seconds.

Sort of like following the campaign season, if it were conducted with more maturity and vision.

Monday, March 05, 2007


Monday night is organic potluck night in the cohousing community. Our contribution- overcooked edamame. Also on the table were roasted carrots, a baked beet dish, bulgar, ginger tofu with vegetables and for dessert, "cookies in the shape of brownies" as Ukiah describes. A savory dinner, flavorful conversation. No burgers. No diet Coke either. Though not for the same reasons expressed in World of Burgercraft. (scroll down for original post)

Leisure time in Tucson has, for some of us, been dedicated to revisiting Warcraft 3.

Friday, March 02, 2007


Now that I'm visiting this great co-housing community and thinking about it...
regular neighborhoods suck!

If your going to live in apartments or condos and share a wall with somebody, then you might as well get the benefits of co-housing too. Back home, I know maybe... 4 of our neighbors, but here, you just know everybody - Oh, hi, how's it going? Ya, see you later - it's great.

2 words: Communal kitchen. You could go to a communal dinner or potluck almost every day if you wanted. People here are really friendly. We got to play pool at one of the neighbors' house, watch the Oscars at another. There is always somthing going on here- and you can join, or not.

Other communal rooms such as the art room, stuffed with pottery, teapots, tea cups and even a small bust sitting on the table, The "Teen multi-purpose room", which is less of a teen room than a room with tread mills and a tv, are really nice spaces. If people want an espresso machine, they can pitch in to get one.

I'm a really big fan of the buildings here, the communal buildings are straw-bale with adobe on the outside. The houses are colorful and also adobe (but not straw-bale, I don't know what they are) The shared gardens, adobe, colorful houses and winding pavement are an extremely attractive combination in my opinion.