Thursday, November 8, 2012

New Underground Hotel in China

How cool is this?  Scheduled to open in 2014, this 380 room underground hotel is being built into an abandoned quarry at the foot of Tianmashan mountain, 30 miles outside of Shanghai.

Rooms priced at $320 + per night.  Would you spend it?  I know I would!  

Only 2-3 stories will be above ground (depends on which news story you read), the rest all underground, built into the quarry wall.  Of course there will be a spa and many luxuries.

There you have the quarry as it appeared prior to construction.  Now this is what I call creative.  Imagine the creative mind that goes from this (above) wasteland of an old quarry to this (below) creative use of space.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Practical Magic!

No, I'm not blogging about how to cook your dinner without touching the stove - this blog is about the 1998 movie, "Practical Magic", starring Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, Dianne Wiest and Stockard Channing.

I absolutely adored the characters, particularly the Dianne Wiest character of "Aunt Bridget." (She's on the right in the B andy W photo.)


The movie, which was taken from the book "Practical Magic" by Alice Hoffman, involves the story of two sisters who were raised by their Aunts Francis and Bridget in a fabulous old Victorian house.  For me, it is this house which has the starring role in the movie.  You'll see why here:

Pretty cool structure, eh?  Unfortunately, it was built just for the movie and was only a facade, as you can see from the in progress photo here:

As with any hedgewytch, the kitchen is the heart of the home.  Although my mountain cottage kitchen is much smaller (and darker), I take inspiration from this design:

I adore all the glass and cloche arrangements.  I've been inspired to use a few in my own hedgewytchy cottage kitchen:

The Practical Magic conservatory is another intriguing room filled with plants, herbs and mysterious hand blown glass:

The last photograph is of Gary examining the conservatory with interest, prior to meeting with Sally to discuss the disappearance of Gillian's boyfriend.

If you've seen the movie, you know that one of the final scenes takes place in the parlour, another fine and wytchy room.

The parlour is comprised of soft, moss greens and nature colors with framed botanical pressings on the walls.  A soothing room filled with comfortable furniture and good memories.  The painting done on the walls somewhat resembles a Tree of Life motif.

All in all, the interior and exterior design of the home for this movie was done with great detail and care.  I have found it to be intriguing and inspiring, and I hope you've enjoyed the tour.

Happy Practical Magic!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Happiness and Politics

I haven't been blogging much lately.  Probably several reasons for this.  First of all, I spout off a lot on Facebook.  I adore using Facebook.  Although many of my friends have visited me here at the mountain cabin this summer and fall, there are still many whom I don't see nearly often enough.  All my great friends back in Milwaukee, for instance.  I miss you.  My besty MOland friend, I miss you, too.

Milwaukee has some amazing architecture and fantabulous restaurants, but I don't find myself missing that 33 years of my life.  Probably because now I have the mountains surrounding me and that's pretty much all that I need in the way of beauty, interest and geography.

Despair, unhappiness and restlessness seem to have been catalysts to writing for many important authors.  Obviously, mental stress produces a fair share of creativity.  So ...... what happens when our mental stress is minimal?  Less writing.

It seems sophomoric to talk about being happy all the time.  (Why is that, anyway?)  About the only thing I get uppity about lately is politics.  Politics are important.  Truth is important.  I get danged irritated when I see the ridiculousness bandied about and am tired of both parties avoiding many of those things which are crucial to our lives and times.  I understand a lot of the evasion, though, because when two people cannot agree on a simple, basic fact there is no way to proceed with a productive discussion.  There has to be a starting point or nothing of value will ensue.

I have a theory (of course) of why political discourse is so difficult in our rapidly changing world.  As the people of this country and, hopefully, the world, head for a crash landing into personal authenticity, those who refuse to admit to themselves who they really are will remain living in confusion and denial.  This can't help but produce a stubborn refusal to be open minded.  If one cannot recognize one's own characteristics and value them, how can one value differences in others?

Part of my theory relates to those whose sexuality remains hidden because of their shame and fear of admitting who they really are.  Why do many Republicans fight against and ....... dare I say it ......... seem to hate all who are different from them?  Because they fear recognizing who they are themselves.  If you are a man in your forties (or older) who has had several attractive girlfriends, none of whom is ever "good enough" because it's just too hard for them to live up to "good ol' mom", you might want to think again about just what, precisely, drives your resistance to finding the right woman.  

If you can't admit to yourself the truth of your own sexuality, appreciating the wide range of sexual preference in others would be nearly impossible.  Hence the near hatred focused on those who are "different."  The Republican party seems to have this covered.  Revisit the conventions of Republicans and then Democrats and note the immense differences of the attendees.  One crowd virtually all the same; the other quite diverse.

I want to say to these closeted Republicans, "It's OK!  It's OK to be gay or whoever you are. Maybe your Mom and Dad won't like it, but so what.  Do you want to spend the rest of your life closeting who you are just to please people whose narrow mindedness has made you so fearful?"  Imagine the freedom of being yourself and hence, allowing yourself to not be threatened by the differences in others.  

Imagine a world with no religious prejudice, no racial or gender prejudice, and no judgment regarding sexual preference.  

I enjoy and try to live by that wonderful Wiccan (GASP!) saying, "An it harm none, do as ye will." 

Blessings to all you happy people out there.  As for the rest of you still seeking your path, I wish you an accelerated path to enlightenment.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I adore Nadia G - don't you? Or .... OYSTERS G_FELLER comin' up!

Ok look, people.  If you're not watching Nadia G ("Bitchin' Kitchen" on the Cooking Channel) you're missing out on one of life's primo experiences.  Yeah.

You just can't beat the "Breakup Bonanza" episode.  Here's a taste:  "In this episode we learn how to successfully sever a relationship with a dinner custom-made for dumping. Your soon-to-be-ex is going to get served... a sweet fig & pesto salad with an aged-balsamic reduction; a juicy Hawaiian burger with spicy chipotle mayo; and tender peanut-butter-banana fritters."

Did I mention that with every episode you also get free relationship advice?  Yeah.  Take it.

Ok, here's what made me want to clue you in today:  the recipe for Oysters G-Feller.  YUMMERS.  Are you ready for this?  It's heaven on the half shell.  Here it is, enjoy:

Oysters G-Feller

  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly gratednutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly cracked pepper
  • 1 cup baby spinach, julienned
  • 1/2 cup finely diced pancetta
  • 1 cup rock salt
  • 1 dozen Malpeque oysters, shucked


For the sauce: Heat a pan over medium heat and melt the butter. Add the garlic and fry until golden, about 1 minute. Add the cream, and then turn the heat down to medium-low. Keep stirring until the cream begins to steam; do not let boil. Add the Parmigianno, nutmeg, salt and some pepper, and stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is thick; do not let boil. Add the spinach and stir until wilted. Remove from the heat.

For the oysters: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Heat a pan over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and renderuntil crispy. In a baking tray, lay down a bed of rock salt and place the oysters in their half shells atop the rock salt to stabilize them. Add 1 tablespoon of sauce per oyster. Sprinkle with the pancetta, Parmigianno, panko and drizzlewith the olive oil. Bake until golden and bubbling, about 10 minutes.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Life with Raúl

I was never going to get another dog.  I mean never.  My last dog entered my life over 20 years ago and I fell in love with him.  Philippe du Bois was his name.  Tall, white, fluffy, smart ..... poodley. Oh, and he had a fetish.  A foot fetish.  I'm not kidding.  He adored women's feet and would stare at them.  Heaven help you if you took your shoe off - especially a high heeled shoe.  He went insane and forced his licks upon unsuspecting women visitors.

So here we are, more than two decades later and something bizarre came over me.  What .... what could it be?  This face, perhaps?

No, I think it was more than that.  After all, I decided to start looking for a puppy, and then I found Raúl.  Sure enough, somehow I came across an ad for a Havanese.  That's Raúl's breed:  Havanese.  They are the Cuban cousin to the Bichon Frise.  Small, smart, loving, adorable.  What's not to like?

Then I went out to the breeder for a visit.  Lost my mind completely, I know.  I didn't want a dog again.  Training it, taking it out, cleaning up poop.  The whole nine yards were something I never wanted again.  I went, anyway.  This is what I saw:

Yep, a little pile of adorableness.  Raúl is the one with the grey beard and eyebrows.  Just like his Daddy!  That's him at seven weeks.  I put a reserve on him and that was that.

Now the little guy lives with us and even though his Daddy's first reaction to my visiting a breeder was an arduous, "NO!", you couldn't tell now by the way the little boy has his Daddy twisted all the way around his little finger.

We're working on the potty training and teaching him not to eat the kitty food (no luck at all on the second thing yet).  For us, loving him has happened already.  For our five kitties, well ............ that's taking some time, but they are making headway.

The kitties have gone from loud hissing to nose to nose sniffing.  Ok, Bob still smacks Raúl on the butt every time Raúl turns around, but we take that as a bit of a love smack.  At least the kitties are intrigued by this little brown jumping bean who so very much wants to play with them.

Oh-O ..... Daddy's home.  Time to go.  I'll keep ya posted.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Religion as Your Go To Subject Matter

Sub-title:  What the heck is with this fascination we have for promoting stories about attractive young women?

What brought this subject to mind again this morning?  Interviews with Lauren Scruggs' parents.

In case you've been joyfully languishing under a lovely rock for the past few weeks, Lauren Scruggs is the cute young woman who walked into a single engine airplane propeller.  She sustained major injuries, losing a hand and an eye.

Of course this was intensely sad for her and her family and I wish them all the best.  She seems like a young woman with energy and motivation and also appears to be recovering quite nicely, or as nicely as one can after losing two body parts.  I can only imagine the trauma for her and especially for her parents, seeing their child in this condition.

Here is my "issue", for lack of a better word right now.  Religion.  Check out the first interview:

GMA Scruggs' Parents First Interview

Religion.  God.  Religion.  God.

I'm happy for them if their religion really does give them peace of mind.  I'm pleased for ANYONE whose spiritual beliefs motivate them to be better, kinder people.  Here's what naggingly irritates me:  why talk about it so much?  Why make this the cornerstone of your interview rather than your daughter's condition and recovery?

I've heard two interviews now with the Scruggs and the second repeats the focus of the first.  My first reaction to the first interview was, "Hmmm ...... wonder what would happen if I were interviewed and my focus was primarily MY spiritual beliefs?"

I feel that making my spiritual beliefs the focal point of an interview regarding an entirely different subject would be not only out of place and annoying, but would give evidence to underlying motive not pertinent to the topic at hand.  That's how I feel about the Scruggs' interviews.  What are they trying to prove?  Why must they be thrusting these ideas into every conversation?  Why isn't one's spirituality a privately sustaining basis rather than one to be preached and thrust upon the public who may be interested in their daughter's condition?

The second thing I wondered when viewing the Scruggs' initial interview was this:  had this horrific accident happened to someone who wasn't cute, or an aspiring model, have garnered so much attention?  It would seem that our fascination with cute young women overrides so much which is at least AS important and some which is MORE important.

Middle aged male producers, perhaps?  I don't know.  Just a good story with a pleasant-to-look-at subject?  Maybe.  It does seem to me that, as usual, more emphasis is placed on a story with an attractive female as its subject matter.  We feel, somehow, sorrier for her because she WAS attractive and now, poor thing, she has lost some of what we found so alluring.

Back to the parents' constant comments about their religion and how God has saved her and God has healed her, etc. etc.  I've often wondered what this really means.  If she had not been "saved" or "healed" would this mean that their god had deserted her ..... and them?  Would this mean that their god refused to answer their prayers because he/she (no doubt he) just doesn't care for them all that much?  Or does the rationalization then become that their god decided that he wanted to take Lauren "home"?  It seems that there is always a rationalization.

I've also often wondered just what this means when a sports team (Tebowing comes to mind) asks their god to help them win.  Does this mean that the other team isn't as important to god?  How do Christians explain this?  If I were to open my arms to the sky and praise the Goddess every time I'm pleased with my results, would this appear ...... oh ......... WEIRD in any way?  If so, how is it different from "Tebowing"?  I'll tell you.  It's not.

Picture the lawyer in a courtroom dropping to one knee after he's won a case and "Tebowing".  Har!  Now that makes me chuckle .... but how inappropriate would that be?

Religion and spirituality are privately held beliefs for the most part.  Or at least, they should be.

The neighbor who left a Palm Sunday cross and information on my back doorstep should be embarrassed and regretful that she is trying to push her personal, private religion on me, but I know she isn't.  After all, HER religion is the ONLY true religion ....... right?  This nature worshipping, Pagan-ish neighbor should realize that ......... right?

Wrong.  Enjoy your religion.  Praise your own, private spirituality, but keep it to yourself for your own personal enjoyment and sustenance.  Please.

Friday, March 16, 2012

I want you to know this:

Being in your sixties is the best, yet.  I know, I know, I've said it so many times before, but it bears repeating.  Every decade gets better.

My lesson for today came during the preparation of and enjoyment of a simple lunch at home, by myself, with no sounds but those wafting through my open windows.  Spring birdies, kitties meowing their questions until they found my location, occasional wind chimes on the breeze.  That was my cooking accompaniment.

My kitchen looks south towards Garden of the Gods.  From my kitchen window I see my little fenced back yard, witchy cabin, parts of Manitou Springs' main drag, mountains off to the left and the stunningly majestic red rocks of Garden of the Gods off to the right.

The kitchen of the Manitou cabin is a U shape.  Actually, it's more like  U and a half.  Everything is convenient.  I have never had such a pretty and convenient gourmet style kitchen.  Black granite countertops flecked with gold, black appliances, JennAir cooktop ...... you get the picture.  I feel kinda fancy when I'm whuppin' up a grilled cheese in this environment.

Yesterday I moved my Mexican style bar and stools into the eat-in portion of the kitchen.  Why didn't I think of that before?  Now I have one of those kitchens that truly looks like it's ready for entertaining.  "Gather 'round the bar, folks, and pour your margaritas while I whip up a little meal."  Yes!

Today I started with some organic, whole wheat spaghetti noodles.  Cook those up in an open skillet with plenty of water, a little olive oil, some garlic salt and fresh ground pepper.  When the pasta is nearing completion start up a second skillet with plenty of olive oil and several big scoops of fresh, organic spinach.  You can even get this kind of spinach at the Walmart now.  Woot!  As you're cooking down the spinach add some ground garlic sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

Since I've been reading far too much lately about the demerits of using a microwave (and wouldn't you know, I just bought a great big one for my new kitchen), I will heat my organic, glass jarred tomato-basil sauce in a pan on the stove.  As it starts to simmer I always add extra organic basil flakes.  Yummers.  If this combination of smells doesn't entice you to eat, nothing will.

Once it's all complete, pile it up like this:

- put your delicately sauteed spinach on the plate first, making a nice little pile of garlicy greens;

- place your whole wheat pasta atop the beautiful spinach;

- pour your tomato-basil sauce directly on top of the whole wheat pasta;

- top this all off with a few sprinkles of either freshly grated parmesan or even some bagged, aged mozzarella.


Add a little more spinach on the side if you like and remember, almost any vegetable will be delicious added to this tomato sauce.  Mushrooms and sauteéd onions are my favorites.

Accompany this charming little lunch with an exquisite Camino Del Inca Malbec, 2009 (Argentina) and you've just made yourself something as delightful as you will find in any primo Italian Ristorante.  Even better because you will be surrounded by purring fur balls who watch every move you make.  No doubt Sharmayne will be whipping this little meal up by herself next week.

My suggestion for aprés lunch?  Siesta time!  Open the window, let the breeze in and curl up with a kitty and a delicious novel.  Once siesta is complete, I hope you have a delicious slice of rum cake waiting, along with a tasty little espresso.