You know how when you go to the mailbox (snail mail) and there’s nothing in it but junk mail, it’s kind of a disappointment? Now suppose that junk mail had a return address from someone you hadn’t heard from for a while. Then you opened it up and it really wasn’t personally for you, you’d be more disappointed. Kind of like getting a “Lower you mortgage rate now!” from a friend.

That’s kind of the way I feel when I get an email from someone I haven’t heard from in a while and the content is some “forward” and it’s not really addressed to me alone. Sure, if you’re my kids or friends that write to me often, feel free to send something along with a note. But, not just out of the blue without a “hi, how are you? Here’s what’s new with me.” No, usually it is something to do with how to protect myself from the ax murderer who wants to stuff me in the trunk of my car or some right-wing political statement.

I think maybe it’s because of this blog that people feel empowered to send me stuff. The difference here is that I don’t deliver my blog to your mailbox. If you want to look at my blog, fine. It will contain my thoughts, experiences and opinions. You can read it if you choose. You can comment if you want to. I’ll probably comment back.

But don’t disappointment me with your personal spam.



Have you ever been in a restaurant and noticed the conversations going on at other tables? I don’t mean exactly eavesdropping but just overhearing because maybe you’re not having a conversation and the other people are talking loudly. What interesting things other people talk about!

When we ate at Mustard’s Grill in Yountville a while ago there was a table of landscapers sitting next to us. They talked about pesticides opining that a product called “Common Sense Pest Control” was the best to use. Then they went on to talk about gophers. It was their feeling that your gophers get to know you. And the gophers can tell who is in the garden by the sound of their footfalls. Interesting.

The best conversation I ever overheard was years ago in Boston at a little restaurant called The English Room. Lots of students ate there because you got a starter, main course, two vegetable selections and dessert for $3.00. When I say years ago, I am talking about around 1970. Well, anyway, the tables were really packed in and it was extremely difficult not to hear what the people at the next table were talking about. This one day we were sitting next to a couple and they were discussing the purchase of a bed. But apparently they were part of a ménage a trois and they were debating the merits of different size beds that the three of them could fit in. Interesting.

Maybe I should start bringing a list of topics to talk about when we go out to eat so I won’t be tempted to listen to other peoples’ conversations. Or, more fun, maybe I’ll make up outrageous stuff and give the next table an earful.



Today is Ryan’s birthday. She is our very special daughter-in-law. And this is an extra-special birthday. Why is Ryan getting the extra-special treatment? Lots of reasons. She makes Jon happy. And she is so accomplished in many ways. She is an Applications Software Developer at Stanford’s Highwire Press, a reviewer of horror movies at her site www.theyrecoming.com, an expert cake decorator and she gave me this blog. Let’s see what, else? Oh yeah, she’s going to be a mother!!!!!!!

Yes, Ryan and Jon are going to have a baby in February. I have hugged this tasty little morsel of news to myself for a few months. It seemed too exciting to write in a post. But on this day, Ryan’s birthday, they found out they are going to have a baby boy!!! WooWoo and BooBoo (silly grandparenting names John and I call ourselves in honor of Woodward and Bernstein) are just over the top. Having referred to the baby as Little Bruno or Brunella (which is what we called Jon before he was born) for these past few months, we are now ready to indulge in the real baby naming race. We ran Xerxes by them today. They didn’t seem impressed although calling him X-boy seemed a good nickname. Anyway, I’m sure you’ll be hearing a lot about it in the days to come.

So happy, happy birthday, Ryan. Thank you for making our family kinder, happier, more curly headed and bigger!

Love from your Marymom.



Recently the Census Bureau released a report saying that St. George is the second-fastest-growing metropolitan area in the country. I can attest to the fact that there is building going on everywhere here. While there still is inexpensive housing, the market has heated up some and locals are complaining about the increasing difficulty for families to buy homes.

The pluses for living in the St. George area –

Still relatively inexpensive housing.
Incredible scenery.
Within 3 hours of 3 National parks and Lake Powell.
Home to Snow Canyon State Park.
Nearby skiing.
Nearby rafting and fishing.
Great hiking.
A lot of golf courses and tennis courts.
Within 2 hours of Las Vegas and 45 minutes from Mesquite, NV.
Nice people.
Fall, winter and spring have excellent weather.

The minuses for living in the St. George area-

Unattractive downtown.
Limited shopping.
Liquor laws that inhibit restaurant growth.
Few good restaurants.
Mostly eveything is closed on Sunday.
No nightlife at all.
Near polygamist towns.
Dominant religion is very powerful.
Quite right-wing.
Very, very hot in the summer.
Second homes are taxed at double rate.



With one destructive hurricane behind us, one on the way, and who knows how many more possible, it may be time to consider some way to pay for all the rebuilding necessary. I understand that the administration does not want to raise taxes and that “Operation Offset” is a way that some in Congress are proposing to try to pay for reconstruction. Some of their ideas are to freeze funding for the Peace Corps, the Global AIDS Initiative, and U.N. peacekeeping operations. They would eliminate the EnergyStar program, grants for state and local energy conservation, federal subsidies for Amtrak, funding for new light-rail programs and the hydrogen fuel initiative. Also eliminated are grants for safe and drug-free schools, and teen contraceptive programs. They’d probably also cut funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts.

I agree that it is time to take a good hard look at where we are spending our current tax dollars but rather than just take a bludgeon to programs that help people, don’t you think that the American people would agree to a one time surtax to help their fellow citizens? If individuals and corporations paid this one time surtax, we could rebuild people’s lives and businesses without increasing an already bursting federal deficit. I would think that Congress could find out how much tax revenue was expected for this year, get a good estimate of reconstruction costs, and pass a bill for the percentage of surtax needed. 1%, 2%, 4%? Americans have shown that they are incredibly generous and caring. Perhaps it is Congress that is being small-minded.



I like having a quest. You know, when you look endlessly for something? Here in Utah searching for the quest item is much more challenging than finding it in California. It really makes it more fun. And truly, the searching is a lot more entertaining than the finding.

Some of our recent quest items include:

Tamarind pulp – we looked everywhere for this to make pad Thai. We found some pods in a grocery store here in St. George and found a block of it in a store in Concord, CA. They also have it at Sigona’s in Redwood City, CA.

Wustof paring knife – now this is an easy item but not if you are unwilling to pay full price. Sarah and I found a couple of these at Marshall’s and I am still looking for one more. $4.99, you can’t beat that price!

Rice papers – These are becoming much more popular and thus easier to find. You can always find them at an Asian grocery but, guess what, no Asian grocery in St. George. We found them at Dixie Nutrition which has all sorts of odd things. (Aside: this part of Utah is called Dixie because it was originally settled as a place to grow cotton due to its mild climate year round.)

Fish spatula – John really likes fish spatulas. They have a diagonal, bendable blade. Once again we are looking for one that is off-price. They carry them at Williams-Sonoma but for more than we want to pay.

Fried calamari – this is part of our restaurant quest. We originally had the best calamari ever at Starz in Oakville, CA. It has since gone out of business. I think we hit the jackpot a week ago on our trip to wine country. Mustard’s Grill in Yountville has some mighty fine fried calamari. See review below.

Mustard’s Grill, Yountville, CA

Last week when we were visiting Sonoma and Napa , we stopped at Mustard’s Grill in Yountville for lunch. We’ve been there many times over the years and we’ve never been disappointed.

Since we were both having seafood, we ordered the Viognier flight, three half glasses from Praxis, Saddleback and Miner wineries. This is a fun way to try and compare different varietals.

We started out by sharing Crispy Calamari with curried slaw and Fresno chilies. THIS IS THE REAL DEAL! THE BEST FRIED CALAMARI ! One caveat, these are delivered to your table with the slaw on top. Remove it immediately so the calamari don’t get soggy. The calamari were tender and perfect with a light tempura type batter. The slaw was really tasty and included pieces of arugula and cilantro.

John had Mahi-mahi Tostada with jicama slaw, black beans and feta. This was much like a fish taco with perfectly cooked fish but with perhaps a bit too much slaw on top.

I had risotto with scallops. It was pretty good although the dish came very hot and the scallops which were perfect when the dish was set down became a little done in the hot rice during the meal. The rice was creamy but had a very firm center.

John’s overall grade – A-
Mary’s overall grade – A-

Crispy Calamari grade – A+



Once upon a time there was a sparrow named Sparrow. Sparrow lived in the city of Las Vegas. He (let’s pretend it is a boy sparrow) had become familiar with the ways of man. “Where’s a good place for breakfast?” the Sparrow wondered. Now by careful observation, he realized that humans, especially young humans, often drop bits of food. So he decided to look for his breakfast at the outdoor play area of McDonalds.

“What do I spy?” exclaimed Sparrow bobbing and looking carefully at the ground, first with one eye and then the other. “It looks like a french fry!” Over he hopped and picked up the fry carefully in his beak. But it was too big. By careful manipulation he managed to grab the end of the fry and shake it back and forth until a tiny bit broke off. “It’s a little cold but still good,” he chirped as he shook and ate his fry.

“Oh, no! Who is this but my mean friend, Other Sparrow, who has come to take my fry away. I must run and hop and flutter holding on to my fry and try to get away from Other Sparrow.”

So off around and around the playground they hopped, Other Sparrow in hot pursuit. Finally, since Other Sparrow was somewhat bigger, Sparrow gave up and dropped the fry.

The moral of this story could be 1) that I am easily amused; 2) that sometimes birds are more interesting than people first thing in the morning; or 3) that if this bird had lived in the Galapagos Islands and there were a McDonalds there, it would have evolved so that it had the kind of beak that could eat a french fry fast enough to keep it away from other birds and this type of bird would ultimately have been called the McDonalds sparrow.



Are you the only kid on your block without a TiVo (DVR)? Is there no happy little TV icon inhabiting your set? I know your excuses, “I don’t really watch much TV,” you say loftily. Or, “I only watch PBS.” Yeah, I bet. Because, really, if you watch anything at all, if your TV is not just a repository for holding a flower vase, you need to rethink your position.

I was once like you. I disdained the new media electronics. I held myself above the common man in my sense of TV-watchingness. No, I needed no DVD player, no digital video recorder. My children came to the rescue.

Two years ago at Christmas, after urging us to join modern times, they took matters into their own hands. We received both a DVD and a TiVo. Of course, our TV was so antiquated that it couldn’t handle the new technology so we had to go out and buy a new one. Wouldn’t want to disappoint the kids and not use their gifts! Once we were all connected we could start setting up our season passes. Pick a show, push a button and the TiVo records all the showings. Well, what did we usually watch? Lots of cooking shows. Stuff from the History Channel, some A & E things, endless tennis. And, yes, I admit it, some sit-coms: Scrubs, Arrested Development. But it was all very hit or miss because we couldn’t remember what night they were on or the networks kept moving them about. Now they are all neatly recorded and categorized on our “Now Playing” page.

Once you have TiVo, it’s like the garage door opener, the garbage disposal and the myriad other things that you didn’t know you needed but now cannot imagine living without. If you watch anything on TV, even if you only watch PBS, a DVR should definitely be on your wishlist this year. No more commercials, promos, or boring parts. You get to back up, go forward or play slo-mo. You get to watch what you want, when you want.

Seriously, you should get one. (I do not work for TiVo or any DVR manufacturer.)