Monday, May 21, 2018

Identity

I'm walking in the present while aware of eternity.

I'm facing today with my hands and eyes reaching upwards.

I'm rotating from one sphere to another, from a place where I needed people to influence me to a place where I realize that I can influence others.

I'm walking with brightness because I realize light passes from one person to another.

I soak in and absorb the light. I reach for it; I cling to it; I thirst for it. And then I hope that I can spread it, in any way, to others.

I spend my days naturally positive and upbeat--so different from how I once was, once upon a time.

I crave prayer and worship like I never did before. I understand getting down on my knees and lifting my hands like I never did before.

I am capable now like I never was before and I am vulnerable now like I never was before.

I stand with such a better sense of self and also the realization that it is not from myself that my strength comes--and that's what makes me capable.

Even when I'm walking over my mountains, I'm surrounded by the light.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Stone Grindz: Mint & Nib

One of the great things about Stone Grindz is the chance for me to catch up on new creations or specials (even though I suppose I still haven't tried all of their more standard chocolates . . . but there's time for that in the long term, right?). So the one I have here today is the Mint & Nib bar. Mint chocolate I have had and chocolate with cocoa nibs in it I have had--but mint and nibs together I don't think I have had before.


Opening up this package reveals sugary nibs on the back of the bar in chocolate bark style. They're like little gems on the shiny, smooth surface of the chocolate. Immediately I get the aroma of the mint in what I have been, in my recent comments about mint chocolate, calling more of the mint oil variety.


Obviously, the nibs invite you to crunch the chocolate. And nibs do have such a great, unique crunch. Naturally, there are more of them towards the middle of the chocolate and less towards the edges, so the corners don't necessarily have any nibs at all. The effect of the nibs, I realize, is the mint crunch effect that you get from cookies and candy bars--just brought out with a different type of ingredients. Crunch adds casualness while the use of nibs keeps things classy. So casual classy--would that make this chocolate chic?

The mint is mint. It didn't particularly wow me, but it stood its ground. The flavor of the chocolate, too, makes for a great flavor base; it's smooth in flavor with just enough presence to create quality while also not detracting from the main effect of the mint and nibs. Interestingly, the first time I tried this chocolate was at my usual time for chocolate tasting (mid morning), but I liked it more when I tried it again another day around evening. Those are both supposed to be the best times for tasting, but I suppose it makes sense that mint chocolate would taste nicer in the evening than the morning. After dinner mints and chocolate mint desserts all. So maybe I ought to keep that in mind as I go forward with more mint chocolates in the future.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Pangaea Dinos

I thought it was time that I shared some pictures of a few of the dinosaurs I spend so much time around* over at Pangaea: Land of the Dinosaurs. Let's start with the king, shall we?

This is the Tyrannosaurus Rex, the King of the Tyrant Lizards. Quite cocky of a name, isn't it? I mean, when he was first discovered, no one had seen anything like this--he was truly terrifying and immediately made a place for himself in our collective imaginations. Though we've since found bigger and fiercer dinosaurs, the T-Rex will never lose his place as king.


Speaking of dinosaurs bigger than the T-Rex. Do you know my friend the Spinosaurus? He became my favorite after watching Primeval; I love how Connor and Abby come across the Spinosaurus when they're in the Cretaceous. And the Spinosaurus is like a big crocodile with a sail on its back, this hulking amphibious being. It's just beautiful. Also, the first fossil was found in Egypt--which is even better. Imagine this creature waltzing around the Nile or around the pyramids (whether or not the Spinosaurus and the pyramids existed simultaneously is irrelevant). 


And here's the itsy bitsy Spinosaurus, for the cute effect. (Granted, you can't really see size in pictures; these all look much better in person. And they all move so much.)


The velociraptors (for which I am sure you were waiting) in particular are difficult to photograph. They claw at the air and they growl and they shake their heads in ferocity. Look at those claws. I'm picturing the size of an emu's claws (or are those called toenails on an emu?) with the attitude of a cat savoring the murder of some type of creature it has just caught (a lizard or a locust or a bird or something). Vicious velociraptors. 


Look at those eyes. And they blink at you, bright spots of light with slivers like the eye of a hawk . . . or the Eye of Sauron. 


And while you were distracted by the velociraptors, did you even notice the Carnotaurus coming up from behind the trees? This is the Flesh-Eating Bull. He may be smaller than the T-Rex but that's irrelevant: he's still much bigger than we are. And his speed? Thirty miles per hour--let's see if you can outrun that. 


To give you a brief respite from your fear, here is an herbivore. The Stegosaurus, who is the Roofed Lizard because he carries all of those shingles on his back. A walking house he is. Initially, in fact, his discoverer believed that the plates had been flat on the critter's back (like with a turtle); now that would have been much more like a house with a roof than the current look, in which the shingles stick up more like spines. 


Okay, enough of the herbivores. Here, lurking in the shadows, is the Allosaurus. Many, many of these have been found, quite a few of them in Utah. Picture this great predator stalking the landscape of Monument Valley. 


And last we have not a dinosaur but a flying reptile. Remember, the flyers and the swimmers weren't dinosaurs. And the flyers weren't pterodactyls; that's just a common speech name. Technically, only Pterodactylus genus can be called pterodactyls--and there were plenty of other kinds. Just think of how many different kinds of birds, for instance, we have today. You can't call them all hawks because, cool as they are, pigeons just aren't hawks. 


And on that random analogy, we have come to the end here. Just a little quick glimpse at a few of these critters. If you're in Scottsdale (or, you know, Arizona) and you have the desire to spend some time around some dinosaurs (and who doesn't want to spend time around dinosaurs?), this is the place. 


*At this point, perhaps you'd like me to add the disclaimer that if you hadn't realized already, yes, I do work for this company in one form or another. But would I be blogging about it if I didn't genuinely like the place?

Monday, May 7, 2018

Rereading Books

I don't know if everyone was like this, but when I was younger I reread books a lot. True that when you're in school, you have access to the school's library that (for every non-fictional person I've come across) ends up being an endless supply of reading material all at your fingertips. But I also owned less books and read books at home for, well, a great percentage of my free time. It was like I jumped from picture books straight to Little House on the Prairie (on reflection, it seems that I simply didn't acquire new books in that stage when you're transitioning out of picture books into chapter books). So, in a sense, those were the only books that I owned for a bit.

That meant that I read them again and again. I also got Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, and Black Beauty around that same age of about ten to eleven years old--and I read those first two again and again, too. In middle school? It was The Chronicles of Narnia. Somewhere in the middle school to high school transition, it was The Lord of the Rings. Jane Eyre also turned into my steady companion, a book that I need to read every few years just because I've let it become so much a part of me.

Books that I've read more recently, though? (And by recently, I mean in the past probably ten years.) I don't read through them a second time, even if I've enjoyed them. (Okay, I just did reread Veronica Roth's Carve the Mark to prepare for the sequel [which I strangely am having a hard time getting into despite how much I enjoyed the first book], but that was unusual. And I'm not counting books that I read for a second time during college, like Beowulf or Ceremony.) Why not? I guess the more you read, the more aware you are of books that you have not read. So it starts to feel like you can't waste time in rereading something when there are so many things you need to read for the first time.

But still, that's different.

I can sit back and read passages of Twilight or any of Narnia in my head even though it's probably been years since I opened up the pages of either of them. I can repeat exact sentences and lines of dialogue and remember descriptions. And I think, is it because I remembered things better when I was younger? I mean, maybe that's part of it, but not all--I remember the old books so well because I read them again and again. That puts things into a different fabric in your mind. So much of what we read now is only temporary; we filter it in and out and make no effort to memorize it because we know we can look it all up again with the click of a button. But I miss being able to recall everything about an author's style simply because I could call to mind the very sentences and paragraphs they formed.

There are so many of the old books that I'm craving to read again. It's like they're old friends that I've abandoned in favor of fleeting flings. Jane and Frodo and Shasta, I miss you all. And yet--if, because of the rereading I did years ago, I can picture in my head passages from your stories, is that really so different from picking up the old pages again?

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Shattell: Peru 70% Cocoa

While World Market did have a few bars from Shattell, I decided to just start with one--and now probably they don't even have the rest anymore. If that's the case, that's kind of a shame: this has turned out to be a gorgeous bar of chocolate.


I chose the 70% Cacao bar, marked as Single Origin Pucacaca - Peru. The cool thing is that this chocolate is both sourced from Peru and made in Peru. Shattell is based in Lima. So we're continuing our trend here of trying chocolate made in a greater variety of countries--and it's even better that besides just being from a country whose chocolate I don't come across often, this chocolate is made in the country in which it was grown. (That was not a wordy sentence; I don't know what you're talking about.) And it's organic, which is great, as well.

The packaging hits that trendy mark that gives a sense of the natural world, artisan products, etc. Inside the blue, llama-bedecked card box is a matte gold wrapper, which makes for a nice change from the usual gold/silver foil or clear wrap. The bar is quite beautiful. Even though the design is simply rectangles, there is a subtle curving to them that enhances the look. The surface, too, comes across as rich and red and more than usually appealing. Because the aroma is both pleasant and bitter, I worried that the chocolate might taste overly bitter.


That, however, did not end up being the case. The first phrase that came to mind initially was cherry bark. I guess the flavor was halfway between sweet and zingy. The texture, from the start, was slightly dusty. Quickly, the flavor developed into that specific taste belonging to cocoa nibs; this is a flavor that can be potentially bitter but in this case didn't register at all as such. There is definitely some sweetness to this chocolate; it's the sweetness of unrefined cane sugar, though, along with warm cocoa flavor. So simple, that's how this chocolate's flavor comes across--and yet it is so specific that it feels quite artful. It hits that line where it tastes of chocolate but is also sweet and yet not in that weird "sweet dark chocolate" way at all.

And that slight dusty texture? It continues throughout, but it works here and somehow goes beautifully with the flavor. I don't know, it makes me feel like someone just made this chocolate in their home in front of me and then offered it to me and I ate it like a piece of gingerbread. There truly is something stylistically different about this chocolate compared with the usual chocolates made in the U.S. or U.K. or Europe. So I'll repeat what I said earlier: this chocolate is gorgeous.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Saguaros in Bloom

Okay, not just saguaros. I mean, saguaros are one of the coolest of spring flowers, but I have a couple of others to share, too, like these pretty orange ones:


But back to those saguaros. Saguaros blossoming is one of the pieces of magic belonging to the Sonoran Desert. The cactus trees start growing little knobs on top of each arm and then each knob blooms into a flower for one day only. That is, each flower only lasts for a day; the series of blooms will last longer. So you'll look over and see a flower and treasure it. 


These are all from the Desert Botanical Garden. These awesome red tongues were growing from octopus arms of cactus beams. The yellow that you see around belongs to the yellow flowers of the palo verde tree. 



Look at those flowery caps on the saguaro in the back; they're natural crowns. 


So pure and simple, no?


And this one. I always pass by this cactus and yet it's so easy to miss these red fruits on it because they, too, only last for a short time. 


The rest of these pictures are from maybe a week later, on a cloudy day. 



A classic pink cactus rose. 


And pale lavender flowers. 


And these, these are wonderful. All the year, you can read the sign about the flowers that attract flies because they smell like rotted meat. But these are no flowers. And then they come--and they look like bruised purple starfish that someone just placed randomly among all of the little cactus fingers. Once more, yellow from fallen palo verde flowers. 


Springtime, springtime, still enjoying spring--though summer is riding fast on its heels.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Pompeii in Phoenix

The Arizona Science Center has had their exhibit on Pompeii for a few months now--it closes in just a couple of weeks here. Naturally, though, everyone (including me) is currently looking at the calendar and saying, whoa, I need to go see that before it's gone. I had how long and yet I had to wait until May?

Timing doesn't matter, though, as long as you do make it over. This is quite the exhibit to see, not one to miss. Was it, though, everything I wanted it to be?

That's a strange question. Pompeii is one of those settings, like the Titanic (the Science Center had a pretty good exhibit on that several years back, too), that is romanticized because of its tragedy and just exists in this crazy fictional space in our heads despite being historical. The fact that we're talking about real people almost increases the fictional side of it all. So you go in thinking about the marketing image of the volcano exploding--and you want that romanticized horror factor. You can't pretend that you aren't seeking that.

But honestly, that's sad. Pompeii, the place known as the city where so many people died, is sad. So this exhibit was sad. I don't want to give away the final couple of rooms in case anyone hasn't been to see it yet--but they set it up well to give an effect. So if you're coming in to see tragedy, you'll see tragedy.

And the rest of it? You do get to see some great artifacts. Marble statues, mosaics, furniture, dishes, jewelry, money, tools, theatre masks, gladiator gear, etc. They're extremely old and also from a part of the world that, well, we don't get many artifacts from here in the Southwest. It's fascinating to see all of these little details from the Roman culture. The mosaics and furniture were some of my favorites to see, I think. But even all of this still brought me back to that sad feeling. Coming from my personal perspective, so many aspects of the Roman lifestyle just make me feel sad. I came in expecting to be sad about how these people died but I ended up feeling sad about how they had lived. And yes, yes, this is why I emphasize the phrase "personal perspective." I'm not trying to be judgy about dead people. But how can you really go in and read things about, for instance, gladiators and not feel at least some shred to regret? (And seeing things like this that stand out in past cultures can remind us of things that will stand out to people in the future about our culture, bringing these around to a reminder of what we can be doing better. So, yes, sadness about the failings of our humanity in general.)

We live and then we all die. That is the story of the Pompeii exhibit.

What are the footprints that you want to leave behind?