This is Syri. She is my 25-year-old Arabian mare, born right here on the terraces on Cinco de Mayo, 1987. She spent a few years at a boarding stable down in San Timoteo Canyon after my parents left the house and moved in with me in L.A.

I brought her back to the ranch once I remodeled the guest house and we were able to have a renter/caretaker living here. I did the guest house before the main house for that reason. Sometimes I think I did the whole remodeling project just so she could come back.

In this photo she’s trying on the new halter and lead rope we got her at Calabasas Saddlery. They’re sold as a matching set nowadays, and I think the black really pops against her bright chestnut color, while the plaid is an unexpectedly tasteful touch!


This is what my kitchen table

looked like last weekend when I was sorting through boxes of family photos from the ’40s through the ’60s! This is a scene I found on Pinterest:

Since these photos are someone else’s inheritance and history, I can look at them for their visual beauty–without the worry of trying to identify everybody and figuring out how to preserve them!

One thing I am doing with the latest photos and slides–tons of slides–I’m sorting is to have Steve scan them so I have the digital files. He also suggested uploading them to Snapfish so any family members can order prints they want.

We’ve found some beautiful slides, with that beautiful, vivid, crisp color quality we associate with early Technicolor movies or ’60s Polaroids. I’ll feature some of the prettiest ones here now and then.

A Storybook Ranch, Balboa Peninsula

I saw this cute yellow ranch house at the end of the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach. It looks to be in beautiful condition and hasn’t had exterior “improvements” like new vinyl windows to replace the diamond-paned originals.

I admit that new windows are probably more energy efficient, so there’s that downside to not updating. But I think there’s an aesthetic and even philosophical benefit to keeping the original look:

Keeping original features of an older house can honor the “mid-century modest” ethic (from Pam Kueber of Retro Renovation, This is perhaps just a different kind of energy conservation–that of opting for less consumption and resisting the impulse to spend money in new products just because they’re new and everyone’s doing it. (Kind of sounds like an adolescent mindset when I out it that way, doesn’t it?)

Even if the product one would be buying, in this case, is a greener product, it’s possible that not updating means not consuming the energy it takes to manufacture, transport, install, and dispose of all the materials involved.

I’m sure there are such cost/energy comparisons out there for updating vs. not updating ….

Has anyone seen something like that related to windows?

Redlands Sunset

I took these two photos as twilight began when we were at the house three weeks ago. The view up to the San Bernardino mountains is always sublime at that time of day (on a clear day). Mt. San Bernardino is the large peak to the left and Mt. San Gorgonio or “Greyback”–actually the tallest peak in southern California–is far at the back to the right.


A little later toward sunset, the view north out over the valley and up Cajon Pass is inspiring too. Sad, but the layer of smog does make the sunset colors more dramatic — it actually looks like a mai-tai, doesn’t it?


Yellow Child’s Desk & The Buff Orpington Chicken

Here is the little desk I wrote about in a prior post. I love the white drawer pulls, which are the perfect accent to the vibrant yellow.

Right now, it’s early morning here in Redlands; the day’s heat hasn’t come on yet. Luckily the forecast says it’ll be cooler than the 100+ it’s been lately. We came in late last night from the city, where it was also incredibly hot, and we had to stay inside because of smoke blowing our way from a brush fire in the Sepulveda Pass.

Sophia, my daughter, is already out helping Fran, our renter and caretaker extraordinaire, feed the horses and the two Buff Orpington pullets. Here she is with the two of them when they were smaller.

Buff Orpington chick

Sophia w/Buff Orpington Chick

I hadn’t heard of this breed until Fran and her husband Bill brought two chicks to add to the little flock (which is now back down to just these two).

Bill bought them solely because of the name! As a poet, I can absolutely relate to that! He told us he’d always remembered the name from when he was a boy listening to the Dagwood radio show, which ran from 1939 – 1950. The show was adapted from the comic strip. On the show, “Buff Orpington” was the name for two characters, a stereotypical fat-cat rich man and his wife.

“Mr. Buff Orpington” does sound rather preppy and pretentious, but Orpington is actually the name of a town in England after which the breed was named. And how snobby, really, can anyone be whose name is the name of a chicken breed? Obviously the Dagwood & Blondie crew we’re getting in their satirical digs!

Italiano: Primo piano frontale di una gallina ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I found this great post about these chickens, “Buff Orpington: Our Favorite Backyard Chicken Breed.” It’s a blog called “The Tangled Nest” ( ).

Check out this lovely site, subtitled “Cultivating an Urban-earthen Household,” for more info and photos of the Orpingtons, and so much more.

The blog author (and nature writer) Lyanda Lynn Haupt describes the Buff Orpington as “the classic Beatrix Potter chicken, the round barnyard beauty with the many-toed socks that Mrs. Tiggy-winkle, the hedgehog laundress, found so troublesome to wash.”

I’m all for a chicken with a good cultural pedigree!