Dining at the Grand Dame: An Evening at Chez Panisse

by Marilyn Noble

In the world of fine dining, restaurants come and go. Only a handful seem to stand the test of time and survive for more than a few years. Le Bernardin in New York, Canliss in Seattle, the French Laundry in Napa – all are among the few who have managed to deliver a consistently excellent dining experience without resorting to trendiness or being the next hip place.

Entrance

The front entrance. Photo by Anne Van Roekel.

Chez Panisse is one of those places. Alice Waters, known fondly as the mother of American cuisine, founded Chez Panisse in 1971, and today it remains in the same funky neighborhood a few blocks away from the University of California campus. Waters began by sourcing her ingredients – organic, seasonal, and still-bearing-dirt fresh — from local farms long before it was the trend du jour, and that practice at Chez Panisse continues today. In the meantime, she’s written cookbooks, won awards, started a foundation and a program to teach school kids about growing and eating healthy food, and been instrumental in the growth of the Slow Food movement in the U.S. and around the world.

This past spring my son moved to the Bay Area and now lives just a few minutes away from the venerable Berkeley establishment. When my family asked how I wanted to celebrate a big decade birthday this year, I told them I wanted us to have dinner at Chez Panisse.

I had heard from several people that Chez Panisse had become a faded glory; that the food wasn’t any better or more creative than any other farm-to-table place; that the service could be uneven, snooty, and aloof; and that it probably wasn’t worth the hefty price tag. Still, with all of my involvement in the food world and having met Waters on several occasions, I felt like I had to at least have the experience of eating there once.

I’m happy to report that, at least on the night we were there, the naysayers couldn’t have been more off the mark. The staff was warm and friendly, the atmosphere was gracious and unpretentious, and the food was a celebration of the best of summer in California. It was a magical evening.

We walked in the door a few minutes early for our reservation, and the host gave us the option of waiting on the newly rebuilt front deck (a late night fire in 2014 destroyed the front of the place) or going upstairs to the bar. We made the second choice, and the by time the smiling bartender handed us our glasses of wine, the host was there to seat us. We had opted for the formal prix fixe dinner in the downstairs dining room, rather than ordering off the menu in the more casual café upstairs.

California halibut and King salmon tartare, with cucumbers and fennel salad.

California halibut and King salmon tartare, with cucumbers and fennel salad.

Once we were seated at our table, our server appeared with an aperitif – prosecco with mulberry and a hint of rosemary – and a plate of anchovies and heirloom cherry tomatoes sprinkled with a little mint. The tomatoes were so sweet they tasted like candy, and we were able to settle in to enjoy the evening and each other’s company. The first course was a tartare of California halibut and King Salmon with a fennel salad and cucumbers. The halibut was so fresh it had a buttery consistency that almost melted in the mouth. Even the non-seafood-eating member of the party said he enjoyed it.

The succeeding courses were artfully presented and the flavors melded perfectly – fettuccine with sweet corn, chanterelles, squash blossoms and basil; and the main course, grilled rib-eye with marchand de vin butter, grilled onions, straw potato cake, and wild rocket. Everything tasted as if it had just been picked, probably because it had. With each course we had wine, and our server knew how to make recommendations based on our tastes, food pairings, and budget. The final flourish was a mulberry ice cream and rose parfait vacherin (a type of meringue) with fresh-off-the-tree peaches.

House-made fettucini with sweet corn, chanterelles, squah blossoms, and basil.

House-made fettuccine with sweet corn, chanterelles, squash blossoms, and basil.

Grilled rib eye with marchand de vin butter, grilled onions, straw potato cake, and wild rocket.

Grilled rib eye with marchand de vin butter, grilled onions, straw potato cake, and wild rocket.

Mulberry ice cream with rose parfait vacherin and peaches. Yes, it was a deliciously happy birthday!

Mulberry ice cream with rose parfait vacherin and peaches. Yes, it was a deliciously happy birthday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At our server’s invitation, I walked through the kitchen, where the atmosphere was peaceful and not chaotic. Everyone was focused on their tasks – obviously a group of professionals. The front-of-the-house staff was also professional, yet friendly and welcoming. We never felt rushed, and the courses came out at the right pace. No one even blinked when we discreetly took a few non-flash pictures with our phones. It was a perfect dining experience.

As someone whose usual dining out fare is a burrito from the taco stand around the corner or a late-night salad at the local downtown Littleton pub, eating in a place like Chez Panisse is a rarity and a special treat. But if you appreciate good food, I would encourage you to splurge once in a while on a really great experience. At the very least, investigate your local fine-dining scene. A new breed of chef is following in the steps paved by Alice Waters and Chez Panisse four decades ago. They’re sourcing high-quality, fresh ingredients from local farmers and ranchers and cooking seasonal, whole foods without pretension or fussiness. And that’s a trend worth supporting.

Chez Panisse offers two options for dining. The downstairs restaurant offers a fixed dinner menu that varies on a daily basis. The upstairs café is open for lunch and dinner and offers a full menu that also varies on a daily basis. Reservations are available one month in advance.

Marilyn Noble is Rio Nuevo’s cookbook and blog editor, and has written four cookbooks including Southwest Comfort Food and The Essential Southwest Cookbook. She is also the co-chair of the Southwest/Mountain Ark of Taste committee and the Colorado governor for Slow Food USA.

 

Posted in Food, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Dining at the Grand Dame: An Evening at Chez Panisse

Arizona Farmer + Chef Connection Coming to Tucson

The Arizona Farmer+Chef Connection brings together local food producers prepared to transact at a wholesale level and introduces them to wholesale food buyers at restaurants, hotels, etc. from across the state.

Farmer+Chef is the state’s only event of its kind, aimed at building wholesale food networks at the local level. The cornerstone of the event is the Suppliers’ Marketplace, a vendor fair exclusively featuring Arizona food producers and distributors. The event will feature a concurrent series of breakout workshops and close out with a reception featuring Arizona beer and wine.

General admission tickets are available for $10 each. Vendor packages are available for $75. Vendor packages include: 6′ table space in Suppliers Marketplace, table linen, and 2 General Admission passes.

EVENT HIGHLIGHTS

Suppliers’ Marketplace:

The Suppliers’ Marketplace is an all day vendor fair featuring the best local food products Arizona has to offer. Producers, distributors and value added processors line up with displays and samples of their products, and wholesale information. Meet our producers to learn what is and will be in season, and set up future procurement relationships.

Breakout Sessions:

This year’s Breakout Sessions will occur in tandem with the Suppliers’ Marketplace, offering attendees a customizable experience. Sessions and panels will cover a diverse array of topics important to building up local food supply chains and establishing successful farm to table relationships. With a heavy focus on industry tools and skills, Farmer+Chef breakouts will equip attendees with a new toolkit, and prepare them for success in the Suppliers’ Marketplace.

Local Food Reception:

We will close out the day with a reception for attendees that features locally sourced appetizers and Arizona wine and beer. The end of day reception will run 5-7 pm.

Arizona Farmer+Chef Connection is brought to you by: Local First Arizona, Edible Baja Arizona, Tucson Originals Restaurants, Good Food Finder, Edible Phoenix, and Slow Food Phoenix.

Sponsored by: Merit Foods of Arizona, NPS National Processing Solutions, Bar & Restaurant Insurance, Green Living AZ and Tucson Foodie

**More information and registration here: http://localfirstazfoundation.org/azfarmerchef/**

Posted in Food, News & Events | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Arizona Farmer + Chef Connection Coming to Tucson

What We’re Reading: August

the-martian coverThe Martian, by Andy Weir
review by Aaron Downey

Sometimes the stars align. I received this book for my birthday at the time I was editing our forthcoming book, The Boundless Universe: Astronomy in the New Age of Discovery by Sidney Wolff, and shortly before the New Horizons spacecraft wowed us at the pinnacle of its nine-year mission with amazing photos of Pluto. So outer space was on my brain, and I devoured this finely crafted interplanetary shipwreck story.

Mark Watney, the engineer and botanist of the first manned Mars mission, is hurt in a freak accident during a storm and thought dead by his hastily departing fellow astronauts. Stranded and unable to communicate with the crew of his ship or Earth, Mark must muster up every bit of MacGyvering he can to save his own life with the equipment and smarts he has available. He’s like Tom Hanks in Cast Away, except with insane temperatures, a lack of easily accessible oxygen or food, and 70s TV shows to keep him company instead of Wilson the volleyball.

The brilliance of this book is in the voice of the narrator, Mark; he logs the math and physics of everything he is doing to solve his never-ending problems, but in a totally accessible, lively, and humorous manner. And the science is legit, according to Weir, a computer scientist who dabbles in astrodynamics as a hobby. As he posted earlier versions of the book online, he received many tips and corrections from fans within the world of scientists who know these things.

The day after I finished reading this book, I mentioned it in passing to Sidney, former director of the National Optical Astronomy Observatories (including Kitt Peak). Though not her usual fare, she had just finished and enjoyed it as well. The Martian is a fast and fun read for anyone who likes science fiction, but it has major crossover appeal to those who simply enjoy a ripping yarn about good old-fashioned strength, determination, and ingenuity in the face of all odds.

land of milkThe Land of Milk and Uncle Honey: Memories from the Farm of My Youth, by Alan Guebert and Mary Grace Foxwell
review by Marilyn Noble

Alan Guebert has been an ag journalist since graduating from the University of Illinois in 1980, and his weekly column, The Farm and Food File, has been syndicated in more than 70 newspapers across the U.S. and Canada since 1993. While many of his columns are no-punches-pulled commentaries on the state of agriculture, others are reminiscences of his life growing up on a Midwestern dairy farm.

His first book, The Land of Milk and Uncle Honey, is a compilation of those columns, revised with the help of Guebert’s daughter Mary Grace. He reflects back on the days of back-breaking labor and farm-kid high jinks with love, poignancy, and a good dose of humor.

His grandfather’s brother, Uncle Honey of the title, is an especially rich target. Uncle Honey was a sweet-natured, gentle man who worked the farm with the rest of the family and hired hands, but he was inept when it came to machinery.

“In fact, the machinery-killing Uncle Honey was the inspiration of my father’s favorite quasi-Biblical axiom. ‘The Lord protects fools and children,’ Dad would often say when he eyed Uncle Honey on a tractor. ‘That’s a wonderful thing,’ he’d add, ‘because either way, Honey’s covered.’ More borderline blasphemous than sacred, I knew it wasn’t a proper prayer. Still, it worked, because in the twenty years Uncle Honey bent, busted, and beat up every piece of machinery he touched, not one hair on one person, including himself, was ever harmed by all the mayhem.”

If you ever spent time on a farm, or just wish that you had, you’ll appreciate Guebert’s portrayals of family farm life—the work, the food, playing baseball in the pasture—and the richness that comes from living a life of hard work and simplicity, things that get lost in our uber-connected, always-on, 21st century world.

This book is a beautiful trip down memory lane, whether or not the memories are yours.

boys in the boatThe Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, by Daniel James Brown
review by Caroline Cook

I knew very little about the sport of rowing, and didn’t have much interest, before picking up this book. This true story about one eight-oar crew team of University of Washington students and their road to competing in Hitler’s Olympics, however, was absolutely fascinating, nonetheless. Brown focuses on one of the students, Joe Rantz, who overcome extreme poverty and a tumultuous family life to put himself through school and succeed at the highest level in his chosen sport—a sport that traditionally had been reserved for the wealthy elite. Rantz and his teammates faced a childhood and adolescence during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, and entered adulthood as Hitler was weaving his web in Europe.

Brown puts you right in the boat with the crew with beautiful descriptions of technique and environment. You can feel the excitement and tension of each race as the team gets closer and closer to the coveted gold medal. Periodically we leave the racing waters of Lake Washington and get a glimpse at Adolf Hitler, Jospeph Goebbels, and Leni Riefenstahl preparing for the great propaganda stage that would become the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The juxtaposition is haunting indeed.

This may not be the most famous story to come out of the 1936 Olypmics, but it is just as compelling as any. There are no stars in crew like there can be in other sports—these nine men had to fully give themselves to and trust the other eight in the boat to achieve the perfect “swing” on the water.

Posted in Books | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on What We’re Reading: August

Today’s Travel Tip: Rocky Mountain National Park

 

Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park climbs to 12,100 feet and gives visitors spectacular views in all directions.

Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park climbs to 12,100 feet and gives visitors spectacular views in all directions.

By Marilyn Noble

One of America’s iconic drives in Rocky Mountain National Park takes you along what feels like the top of the world. Highway 34, connecting Estes Park and Grand Lake, Colo. becomes Trail Ridge Road once you enter the park. First opened to traffic in 1934, Trail Ridge Road meanders through glacial valleys; lush meadows; and forests of aspen, fir, and spruce until it climbs into the tundra above treeline. Along the way, pull-outs allow visitors to enjoy the spectacular views and watch wildlife, some of which has no fear of people and will beg for treats, despite the signs warning against feeding the persistent critters.

Contemplating the view at Sheep Lake Meadow, just inside the east entrance to the park. This is a good spot to see elk and bighorn sheep, especially early in the morning or evening.

Contemplating the view at Sheep Lake Meadow, just inside the east entrance to the park. This is a good spot to see elk and bighorn sheep, especially early in the morning or evening.

For anyone with more time and a sense of adventure, trails in the park allow for day hikes and longer backpack trips. Longs Peak, at 14,259 feet, is the highest point in the park, and is a destination for skilled mountain climbers. If you’re really feeling energetic, you can ride a bicycle over Trail Ridge Road. It will give you a new understanding of the importance of oxygen in your life.

The park, which is observing its centennial this year, provides services including picnic areas, campsites, fishing, visitor centers, and events  celebrating the history and nature of the park. If you don’t want to camp in the park, both Estes Park and Grand Lake offer many lodging and food options.

Rocky Mountain National Park is located in Northern Colorado about two hours northwest of Denver. Check the website for road and trail conditions and information about camping and backpacking. Trail Ridge Road closes in the Fall and usually opens again on Memorial Day weekend.

Forest Canyon Overlook offers views of 12,000 foot peaks and the headwaters of the Big Thompson River several thousand feet below.

Forest Canyon Overlook offers views of 12,000 foot peaks and the headwaters of the Big Thompson River several thousand feet below.

The view from above treeline just before crossing the Continental Divide and dropping into the Colorado River watershed.

The view from above treeline just before crossing the Continental Divide and dropping into the Kawuneechee Valley and Colorado River watershed.

Posted in Nature, Travel | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Today’s Travel Tip: Rocky Mountain National Park

The Peaches Are In!

By Marilyn Noble

Peach Cobbler 1To me, there’s nothing better than a fresh, juicy peach. When you bite into it and the sweet juice dribbles down your chin, you know you’ve got a good one.

I think the love affair started when I was a kid growing up in Bisbee. A few miles away is the fertile Sulphur Springs Valley, the fruit and vegetable capital of Southern Arizona. In the summer we always had fresh peaches from the Valley, and my mom turned the bounty into pies, cobblers, ice cream, and other assorted treats. One year, the Valley suffered a devastating hail storm, and my grandfather kept showing up on our doorstep with bushels of hail-damaged peaches. I think he paid about a quarter a bushel because they were in pretty bad shape. We peeled and cooked and canned and froze peaches until we couldn’t stand them anymore. But even that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm.

Now I’m fortunate to live in Colorado, where we have some of the finest peaches anywhere. Palisade peaches are in the stores and at the farmers markets now, and it’s really tempting to buy a whole bushel and can and freeze them. I’ve so far exercised restraint and instead made one of my favorite desserts, peach blueberry cobbler. Served warm with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, it just doesn’t get any better.

The nice thing about this cobbler is that you can experiment with fruit combinations. Peach raspberry is tasty, so is peach blackberry. Of course, if you’re a purist, you can leave the berries out and just enjoy the peaches. And if you don’t like peaches, you can also make it with plums or apples. For apples, substitute a teaspoon of cinnamon for the ginger.

Adjust the sugar based on the sweetness of the fruit and your own taste. I like mine with a little less sugar so the flavor of the fruit comes through, but if you have a batch of tart peaches, add a little more.

Peach Cobbler 2 Peach Cobbler 3

I don’t have a picture of a serving with ice cream, because by the time the cobbler had cooled a little, it had disappeared. I’m not the only one in the house who craves it.

Peach Blueberry Cobbler

Serves 8

10 cups peeled and sliced fresh peaches
1 pint fresh blueberries
½ cup sugar, adjusted for taste
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon powdered ginger
1 tablespoon butter

Topping:

1 cup plus one tablespoon flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup whole milk
½ cup melted butter, slightly cooled

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Butter a 3-quart baking dish.

In a large bowl, gently combine the peaches, berries, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, flour, and ginger. Pour into the prepared baking dish and dot with 1 tablespoon butter. Place the dish on a baking pan to catch any drips. Bake uncovered until hot and bubbly, about 45 minutes.

Just before the fruit is finished, make the topping. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, beat together the egg, milk, and butter. Add the liquids to the flour mixture and stir until combined, taking care not to overmix.

Remove the fruit from the oven and reduce the temperature to 375 degrees F. Pour the topping over the fruit and place back in the oven. Bake for another 45 minutes until the topping is slightly puffed and golden brown.

Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

If you want to celebrate all things peach, Peach Mania at Apple Annie’s in Wilcox is going on now. If you’re in Colorado, the Palisade Peach Fest is coming up August 14 and 15.

Marilyn Noble is Rio Nuevo’s cookbook and blog editor, and has written four cookbooks including Southwest Comfort Food and The Essential Southwest Cookbook. She is also the co-chair of the Southwest/Mountain Ark of Taste committee and the Colorado governor for Slow Food USA. This recipe is from Southwest Comfort Food.

 

 

Posted in Food, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Peaches Are In!

Today’s Travel Tip — Monument Valley

By Mike Koopsen

Monument Valley Landscape by Mike Koopsen.

Monument Valley Landscape by Mike Koopsen.

Monument Valley is one of the most iconic landscapes in the American Southwest. If you’ve ever watched a John Wayne western there is a good chance that you viewed some of these landscapes in the movie. It is located on the Navajo Nation, the largest sovereign Indian nation in the United States. The most famous landmark buttes that make this area unique are the East and West Mittens and Merrick Butte, which can all be seen from the Visitor Center overlook when you first enter the Navajo Tribal Park. A 17-mile self-guided drive on a dirt road will get you closer to these buttes as well as many other wonderful sandstone formations and monuments.

Monument Valley is located on US Highway 163 and is 25 miles from Mexican Hat, Utah, 51 miles from Bluff, Utah and 77 miles from Blanding, Utah. It is also 22 miles from Kayenta, Ariz. and 121 miles from Page, Ariz.

Park hours are 7 am to 7 pm from April thru September  and winter hours are 8 am to 5 pm.

For more information contact:

435-727-5870
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
P.O. Box 360289
Monument Valley, Utah 84536

Mike Koopsen of Trails Traveled Photography lives in Sedona. See more of his work here.

Posted in Nature, Photography, Travel | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Today’s Travel Tip — Monument Valley

Today’s Travel Tip: The Wave

By Mike Koopsen

The Wave, a stunning sandstone formation in the Paria Canyon/Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness in Northern Arizona. Photo by Mike Koopsen.

The Wave, a stunning sandstone formation in the Paria Canyon/Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness in Northern Arizona. Photo by Mike Koopsen.

Coyote Buttes North is famous for its beautifully sculpted sandstone formations, especially the Wave. To get there you have to drive into Utah and then hike back into Arizona. Since many of these colorful sandstones are fragile this is a protected area and you are supposed to have a permit to go there. Twenty permits are available each day, and can, at certain times of the year, be a real challenge to get. Learn more about the permit process here. From the Wire Pass Trailhead off of House Rock Valley Road between Page, Arizona and Kanab, Utah, the hike to the Wave is approximately 3 miles. When you get your permit they will give you a map which will be instrumental in helping you find the site. Be sure to explore and enjoy the many other sandstone formations you will see as you hike around the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument area.

Mike Koopsen of Trails Traveled Photography lives in Sedona. See more of his work here.

Posted in Nature, Photography, Travel | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Today’s Travel Tip: The Wave

Today’s Travel Tip — Bisbee 4th of July

By Marilyn Noble

When I was growing up in Bisbee, 4th of July was my favorite holiday, coming as it did between my mom’s birthday and mine. It meant a whole week of celebrations, but the 4th was special. We started early in the morning with the coaster race down Tombstone Canyon, then we would move to my aunt’s house in Warren for the parade, go back uptown (sometimes — many years we needed naps) for the hard rock drilling and mucking contests, and then head back to Warren for the variety show and fireworks. This was pretty much the routine from the time I was born all the way through my college years and until I moved to Colorado in my 20s. I was bitterly disappointed to find out other places don’t make nearly the big deal out of the 4th that Bisbee does.

The celebration has calmed down a bit since the rowdy mining camp days, but Bisbee on the 4th is still a magical place where people celebrate the heritage of the old mining town. The day starts with the coaster race, a Bisbee tradition since 1914. Kids build Soap Box Derby-type cars powered by nothing but gravity and then ride them one at a time down the Canyon. In the old days, adults in two man teams riding coasters built of bicycle tires and scrap wood careened through the streets, but after a series of tragic accidents, the race has evolved into its current tamer version. Castle Rock is the most popular place to watch because of its thrilling S-curve.

Watching the parade in front of my aunt's house, around 1969.

Watching the parade in front of my aunt’s house, around 1969.

The dump trucks used to roll down the parade route every year when the mines were still in operation.

The dump trucks used to roll down the parade route every year when the mines were still in operation.

After the coaster race, move down to the Warren District for the parade at 11. When I was young, I was fascinated by the enormous dump trucks and other mine equipment that lumbered by, but since there’s no more mining, you’ll have to manage with floats, bands, horses, and Shriners in their funny cars. Spend the afternoon up the Gulch (Brewery Gulch) where modern-day strong men try to emulate their hardrock mining forebears with the drilling and mucking contests. While you’re there, visit historic St. Elmo, the oldest continually open bar in Arizona, where miners have been whetting their whistles since 1902. You’ll also find plenty of places in the historic district for lunch or dinner, but be sure to check their schedules to make sure they’re open on the holiday.

Finish the day back in Warren at the Vista Park next to the Warren Ballpark, the oldest professional baseball stadium in the country. This year there will be entertainment in the park beginning at 5:00, and the day will end with fireworks at dusk.

Bisbee is located about 90 minutes southeast of Tucson, and at a mile high, it’s a nice respite from the desert heat. Learn more about accommodations, shopping, dining, and more at the Bisbee Visitor Center.

"Bisbee panorama 2009" by TransporterMan (talk) (Uploads) - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bisbee_panorama_2009.JPG#/media/File:Bisbee_panorama_2009.JPG

The historic mining town of Bisbee is about 90 minutes southeast of Tucson. “Bisbee panorama 2009” by TransporterMan Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Posted in News & Events, Travel | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Today’s Travel Tip — Bisbee 4th of July

Review of Hummingbird Plants of the Southwest

9781940322032The Native Plant Society of New Mexico has reviewed Marcy Scott’s new book, Hummingbird Plants of the Southwest, in their New Mexico’s Voice for Native Plants newsletter.  An excerpt of the review by Renée West follows: you can read the full review on page 9 of the newsletter here.

this [book] is different from the step-by-step instruction manuals. Hummingbird Plants is decorated with many gorgeous pictures of flowers and of hummingbirds. But this offering is decidedly more contemplative, more in the inspirational mode. It offers lots of information and tidbits that you might not have considered before (physiological, chemical, environmental) and challenges you to make your own choices. . . .

Scott uses skill, humor, and information to help us recognize the loss of habitat that can be attributed to our kind, and gently urges us to do our own little part to reverse some of the bad.

 

Posted in Books, Gardening, Nature, News & Events | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Review of Hummingbird Plants of the Southwest

Mindy Muehlhausen and the Practice of Photo Therapy

Topock Gorge on the Colorado River by Mindy Muelhausen

Topock Gorge on the Colorado River by Mindy Muelhausen, the winner of the spring people’s choice award.

Mindy Muehlhausen is passionate about lots of things – people, animals, the place she lives, the changing sky – and she takes photos of all of them. But unlike many other serious photographers, she’s not a gearhead. Instead, she prefers to use her cell phone or a Canon Power Shot XS 400. She’s also not, like many of her shutter-snapping brethren, a world traveler, shooting most of her images in her immediate surroundings, which provide plenty of subject matter. “I take ninety percent of my pictures from my yard,” she laughs. Her people’s choice award winning image was taken on the Colorado River near her home in Topoc, Ariz. “It gets very hot here, so we spend lots of time on the river,” she explains.

Muehlhausen 1Muehlhausen 5

Muehlhausen 4Muehlhausen 6

Muehlhausen got into photography when her son was four – he’s twenty-four now and also shoots photos with his HTC 1 cell phone – and started with a 35mm Canon given to her by her mom. Her learning has been hands-on and by trial and error, but she calls it photo therapy. “It brings me joy and happiness,” she says. “I can be mad at the world and go out and take a picture and feel better.” She also believes in nurturing the next generation of photographers. “The best gift you can give a child is a camera,” Muehlhausen says. She spends plenty of time with her five-year-old niece, teaching her to use an old cell phone to take pictures.

Muehlhausen 2Because she’s a people-lover, Muehlhausen decided to set up a place for other photographers to share work. Her Facebook group, Beautiful Photos of Mohave County & Surrounding Areas, has gathered almost 700 members in just six months. The page is filled with images from the northwestern corner of Arizona, as well as Nevada and California, and many of the members, including Muehlhausen, have earned photo of the week honors in the Arizona Highways photo contest. Some of the members of the group have taken their friendships beyond the virtual world and go on photo expeditions together. “It’s been great seeing the camaraderie and friendships forming for people who love photography,” she Muehlhausen 13says.

While she doesn’t use sophisticated equipment, Muehlhausen is no stranger to technology. She uses an inexpensive clip-on cell phone macro lens that she bought on Amazon. “I really like macro. Bugs and flowers are fascinating when you get close to them.” She also bought a twenty-five piece lens kit for about twenty-five dollars and uses a blue-tooth remote. For processing, instead of PhotoShop she prefers Camera 360, a free app that lets her edit photos and add special effects in her cell phone. She says, “A cell phone, wi-fi, and apps take photography to a whole new level.”

Muehlhausen 14Muehlhausen 15Muehlhausen 11Muehlhausen 10

She might one day switch to shooting with a DSLR, but she says she’s a little intimidated at the thought of that. “Once I get comfortable with the PowerShot I might step up to a DSLR, but really, it’s so easy and convenient to just use my cell.”

Muehlhausen 3Muehlhausen has become so adept at manipulating images with her phone that she has a side business called Sweet B Photography and Editing Services, which is her outlet for editing photos for others. And this is where her love of animals plays a role. One of her goals for the business is to create a charity that will help people with vet bills. She’ll take pictures of people’s pets in return for a donation to the charity. When someone has an unexpected vet bill, the charity will pay it, and, she hopes, the beneficiary will someday give back to the fund so that she can continue to help others. “I just love animals and people,” she says.

Muehlhausen 16Muehlhausen 12Muehlhausen 8Muehlhausen 9

What’s next for Muehlhausen? She’ll continue to spend time with her flock of backyard poultry; hang out on the river with Ron, her husband of twenty-seven years; and stare at the sky, all with her camera in hand, practicing photo therapy.

Mindy Muehlhausen, her husband Ron, the boat, and her cameras.

Mindy Muehlhausen, her husband Ron, the boat, and her cameras.

Posted in Nature, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Mindy Muehlhausen and the Practice of Photo Therapy