The Biodiversity Museum – Panama City

The building was designed to tell the story of how the isthmus of Panama rose from the sea, uniting two continents, separating a vast ocean in two, and changing the planet’s biodiversity forever.

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The Biomuseo, a natural history museum, was designed by renowned Canadian architect Frank Gehry (think Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain). The design was conceived in 1999 and it was announced in 2004 that Gehry, whose wife is Panamanian, would donate this to the people of Panama; his first in Latin America.  It finally opened in October 2014 well over budget.

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The site is located at the end of the Amador Causeway facing the Pacific Ocean at the entrance of the Panama Canal.  Incredible panoramic views of the ocean and cargo ships entering the canal add the perfect backdrop.

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The building’s colorful canopies were designed in reference to the richly diverse flora and fauna of Panama.

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There are 4,000 meters of structure and will contain eight permanent exhibition galleries designed by Bruce Mau Design.  The exhibitions are led by the University of Panama and the Smithsonian Institutions and focuses on Panama’s biodiversity, one of the most biodiverse places in the world.

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I LOVED everything about this museum and I learned so much starting with the land bridge between North and South America three million years ago and the cross-migration of animals that took place.  This room was fascinating with fantastic creatures carved out of fiberglass and covered with brilliant white epoxy that allowed touching of the exhibits. The sloth was just amazing!  I was never bored as all of this was new information to me.

It’s not finished yet- three remaining galleries need completion.  One gallery is a two-story aquatic exhibit called Oceans Divided.  It was to be completed last year, but when I was there in May 2016 it was far from being done.

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Some call it post-modern genius; others a flaming pile of garbage.  What do you think?

Travel Logistics: Flight time from San Francisco is 7 hours; I paid $500 on COPA.  I would recommend staying in Casco Viejo district as there are great restaurants and shops. There is a sightseeing bus for a minimal daily rate that takes you to all the necessary spots.

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Everything Pumpkin!

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The origination of the word pumpkin is from the Greek for ‘large melon’; something large and round. The French later adapted it to pompon; the British changed it to pumpion and finally the American colonists changed it to pumpkin.  Pumpkin, a winter squash, is thought to have originated in North America with pumpkin seeds found in Mexico dating to 7000 and 5500 BC.  This  vegetable is nutritionally dense and rich in antioxidant vitamins (A, C,E), minerals and B-complex.

Pumpkin’s popularity is not confined to culinary delights as it is the emblem of Halloween not to mention folklore and the supernatural (turning people into pumpkins by witches and the jack-o-lantern warding off evil spirits). Cinderella – we must not forget about how the fairy godmother turned a pumpkin into a carriage and back again at midnight!

Typically in the fall, I start getting obsessed with everything pumpkin. Perhaps I have a Vitamin A deficiency and this is my way of satiating it.  I start searching my data base for pumpkin recipes ranging from curry, chili, pancakes, ravioli, soup, pie to a myriad of baked goods!

Another rainy day and I am about to bake my final (sigh) recipes of the pumpkin season: Pumpkin Muffins and Pumpkin Bread.  What do they say about muffins – that they are cupcakes without frosting – I love the recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction; it is the perfect muffin and not too sweet, but it has those yummy and tiny chocolate chips which makes everything so wonderful.  She includes a chocolate frosting recipe on her blog if you want cupcakes instead.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

pumpkinmuffins

1 and 3/4 cups (220 grams) all-purpose flour (careful not to overmeasure)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2/3 cup (100 grams) packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup (227 grams) pure pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 cup (120 ml) vegetable oil
1/3 cup (80 ml) milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (90 grams) mini chocolate chips

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Spray two 12-count muffin pans with non-stick spray or line with cupcake liners. Set aside.

Make the cupcakes: In a large bowl, toss the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves together until combined. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the brown sugar and eggs together until combined. Add the pumpkin, oil, milk, and vanilla until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Do NOT overmix the batter. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Spoon the batter evenly into 14 cups; fill the unused cups one-third full with water to prevent warping. Bake for 17-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.



I’ve made many tea cakes and especially like the pumpkin ones and finally I found a delicious and easy recipe from Smitten Kitchen. It has the best crispy cinnamon topping!  Do believe the recipe and be assured that there is not too much sugar in it; it IS a large loaf.  I have always gotten a few pockets of uncooked batter.  I simply turn off the oven and leave the bread in for a few extra minutes which seems to solve the problem.  And, yes, it is good at tea time and great for breakfast, too!  Try it toasted with cream cheese, jam, crème fraiche or butter.

Pumpkin Bread

pumpkin-bread

1 15-ounce can (1 3/4 cups) pumpkin puree
1/2 cup (120 ml) vegetable or another neutral cooking oil or melted butter (115 grams)
3 large eggs
1 2/3 (330 grams) cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Heaped 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
Heaped 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Two pinches of ground cloves
2 1/4 cups (295 grams) all-purpose flour
To Finish
1 tablespoon (12 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 6-cup loaf pan or coat it with nonstick spray.In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs and sugar until smooth. Sprinkle baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinanmon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves over batter and whisk until well-combined. Add flour and stir with a spoon, just until mixed. Scrape into prepared pan and smooth the top. In a small dish, or empty measuring cup, stir sugar and cinnamon together. Sprinkle over top of batter.

Bake bread for 65 to 75 minutes until a tester poked into all parts of cake (both the top and center will want to hide pockets of uncooked batter) come out batter-free, turning the cake once during the baking time for even coloring.

You can cool it in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove it, or cool it completely in there. The latter provides the advantage of letting more of the loose cinnamon sugar on top adhere before being knocked off.

Cake keeps at room temperature as long as you can hide it. I like to keep mine in the tin with a piece of foil or plastic just over the cut end and the top exposed to best keep the lid crisp as long as possible.


I do hope that you try the recipes and enjoy them as much as I have.  Let me know some of your favorite pumpkin recipes!

It’s been a long time……

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I’m back!  Yes, it has been a long time.  Some sadness, joy, lots of exploring and adventures since I last posted.  The latest news is that I had hip replacement surgery on December 27, 2016.  So, I will no longer be running or entering races yet for now the focus of this blog will not change.  The mantra remains the same: Keep moving!  I believe that is the secret to a healthy and happy lifestyle!

Since many of you have asked, let me share the hip surgery experience with you and offer some suggestions if you should ever have the need for this course of action.  A few years ago on a walk around downtown San Francisco, I felt my right leg give out and I experienced the worst pain.  I couldn’t fathom what had happened and just chalked it up to another running injury. Once I determined where my hip actually was (don’t laugh!), I decided it was out of alignment and had a few visits to the chiropractor.  But, it wasn’t getting better  – time for a doctor’s visit – and the x-ray machine.  Verdict: acute arthritis and I was suddenly on the short list for hip replacement.   But you know me – I thought “I can beat  this”.  I stopped running (last race was the SF Giants 5K, August 2015), went to PT and diligently did all the exercises; to no avail.  The pain was increasing and now occurring during the night – it wasn’t getting better.  Several people I know had waited too long  and were in constant pain and on narcotics for months before their surgery.  This, I didn’t want (first words of wisdom: don’t wait until pain is unbearable – surgery dates are often months out).  I called the orthopedic surgeon and set the date for December.

My health plan is with Kaiser and they require a class  taught by a physical therapist prior to surgery  as their philosophy is to minimize your time in the hospital.  In this class I was given more exercises to do prior to surgery – DO THEM CONSISTENTLY (more words of wisdom) especially the arm exercises.  The exercises are simple ones, but you will be amazed after surgery how important they are.  I also recommend supplementing the arm exercises with weights and walk/hike as much as you are able. Be in the best shape you can.

You will need a walker, cane and raised toilet seat.  I bought a sock assist tool – I could have never  gotten my socks on otherwise.  Think in terms of pants that you can get on/off easily and are loose fitting (you will be swollen and bruised).  I recommend pajama bottoms as the clothing of choice when you leave the hospital.  I also bought a couple of pairs of scrub pants (KOI brand through Amazon) as they are roomy with lots of pockets.  I did not take my knitting or a book to the hospital as I thought I would be drugged and sleeping – big mistake!  I was extremely alert, exercising with a PT hours after surgery (including stairs) and in need of entertainment.  I could not eat the hospital food; if possible arrange for some food to be brought to you – essentials for me were green smoothies, Gatorade and chewing gum. 

My recovery was fast (I attribute this to being in fairly decent shape and doing all the exercises several times a day)- I went home the next morning; took no narcotics once I left the hospital and was out walking around the block four days after surgery and back at work on the 15th day. Since my leg was swollen and bruised, I did take internal arnica with the permission of my doctor.  I applaud Kaiser for their efficiency and their home health care (physical therapists) for their expertise which definitely kept me on track.  I was overly cautious not to dislocate the hip since I tend to move quickly though I am told that is very rare. I read 7 books in two weeks. 

On a final note, be prepared for anything you touch to fall to the ground taunting you to pick it up.  Seriously, anything.  Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?  I thank my friends, Linda and Gary, for sharing their experiences with me; their information was invaluable.

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First walk around the block 12/31/15

Any questions, please ask.  I would love this forum to be a way of learning, sharing and networking with each other as we navigate  our course in life. Here’s to new beginnings……….. Be kind! 

BELIEVE      EXPLORE      DESIGN

Wildflowers

It was a beautiful day for a hike at Pt. Reyes National Seashore today.  The conditions were ideal: sunny day, lots of visibility, a slight breeze, a new trail, great views and the last of the Spring wildflowers.  Enjoy!

How many can you identify?  I encourage you to take advantage of these beautiful days and spend some time exploring new trails.  Don’t forget the sunscreen!

Against the Wind

I have never run in a 5k race.  The distance seemed much too short for me to get up early and drive to the starting line.  I also believed this distance was for the more serious and much faster runners.  But, I did revisit this since I hadn’t been running much (if at all) and this shorter distance no longer seemed short.  An opportunity presented itself from the Dick Beardsley Foundation  (a non profit organisation assisting those suffering from chemical dependancy) to enter their virtual ATW5k on March 31st. 

Most runners have heard of Dick Beardsley, but for those of you that haven’t, in the 1980s he was one of the top U.S. runners.  At the age of 24, he ran against Alberto Salazar in the 1982 Boston Marathon.  Now known as the Duel in the Sun , these two elite runners battled it out while running five minute miles, leaving the other runners far behind and breaking the 2:09 barrier for the first time.  Beardsley’s time of 2:08:54 was a second place finish to Salazar’s 2:08:52 – A TWO SECOND DIFFERENCE on a very hot and hilly course.  I highly recommend the book, Duel in the Sun!  Subsequent to the race, Beardsley injured his leg in a tractor accident ending his running career.

What is a virtual race, you ask? A virtual race is a sporting event where everyone sets their own course and runs their own race wherever they happen to be on the planet.  You sign up online, receive a bib number, run your race competing with people from all over the world who are running the race on the same day. Since it is impossible to verify first, second, and third place, top prizes are awarded for various place finishers (e.g. 2nd place will be #1982 (the year of the Duel in the Sun race) and, obviously, you will not know where you rank until all the times are submitted.  Other prizes would be awarded randomly and there is also a virtual goody bag!

This  sounded like a no-brainer and the perfect venue for me.  Most normal runners would pick a course that was to their advantage and score a personal best, but knowing I was going to be in San Francisco that morning I immediately recruited Lucy to run with me.  Not being the friendliest dog on leash, I wanted to avoid all contact with other dogs (primarily so I wouldn’t trip over the leash  and do a face plant). I outlined a course through Dog Patch and Portero Hill which translates to several steep hills! I ‘should’ be running this distance in under 27 minutes and knowing that wasn’t going to happen I am looking forward to gaining a few PRs in the future (the only distance where this just might be possible).

Of course, rain was on the forecast!  Luckily when I awoke it was overcast, but dry.  With my Garmin in place we were out the door and enjoying a rather warm run (since I overdressed).  I should say I was enjoying it; Lucy thought I was a bit daft for leading her about the streets as I did.  I misjudged the distance with about 1/2 mile to go which meant another hill  and then the rain drops started.  They weren’t gentle and the wind was fierce. Running up 18th over the freeway overpass, I understood what Against the Wind meant in real time.  We had to leave the sidewalk to avoid the blowing tree branches and we couldn’t see with the rain blowing in our faces, but the end was near.  A huge shout out to the SF muni driver who just shook his head as he passed us with a wide berth!  It was over, I was freezing and Lucy was willing to continue!

I promised her the Whole Foods gift certificate should I win that for her boundless energy.  We won no prizes, but I did get a pair of New Balance running shoes since I was part of the Pub Runners’ team and they qualified in some category.  I loved this concept of running (a ‘fellow’ runner was competing off the coast of Angola, Africa where he was based on a Chevron oil rig – how cool is that?) with the low entry fee and complete freedom to run the distance as you choose!  More, please!

I was in San Francisco for a pre planned Paella Dinner which we turned into a birthday celebration for Mike.  I chose the paella menu as I had never made it before.  Since Christopher did all the planning and preparation I still haven’t cooked it!

No excuses, but it has been a wet several weeks and the morning temperatures have been in the low 30s and my YTD mileage is low and my training abysmal though there have been a few good hikes.  First quarter mileage: 151! Happy Easter to all!  Spring is here and I hope to see you on the roads and trails – virtually or in person!

Austin

There are some windows of our lives that are more dense than others; rich with friends, activities and challenges.  My late 20s was one such time for me.  I worked in advertising when it was fun, lived in Malibu, had a wonderful network of varied friends and life was good!  I was young, invincible, mischievious with a sparkle in my eye and had way too much energy – anything and everything was possible!  We shared secrets, dreams, ambitions and imagined our lives as Paul McCartney sang in the movie, Yellow Submarine, ‘will you still need me………..when I’m 64’!  Getting old wasn’t a reality and so, so hard to imagine.

But we all know life isn’t static, but a constant whirlwind.  People relocate, change careers, get married, have children – the busyness continues but in a different direction.  I moved to Mill Valley, didn’t work and embraced my new surroundings with vigour.  I went back to LA, I think, once.  It was no longer on my radar as there were so many other destinations to explore.  Eventually I lost touch with most of that era only keeping in touch with a few friends and their news in the annual Christmas card. 

Then came the ‘in your face’ electronic age.  Email and social networks were abundant and I was able to instantly reconnect via Facebook with many MIA friends and a more frequent connection with the others.  If for only this reason, I love Facebook – nobody would have been MIA if this medium were available years ago.  This and email are such an easy and unobtrusive way of staying in touch.

Why is this entitled Austin, you ask?  I decided to visit one of these friends.  After 30+ years I was actually going to see my friend, Mary and her husband, Richard (his website if you are looking for some great art).  I didn’t have any concerns (and discovered she didn’t either) – we just picked up the face-to-face conversation where we left off those many years ago.  We may not have grown old ‘together’, but we were no longer invincible yet that mischievous sparkle was still there.  I loved every minute of our reunion!

Just as advertised by the media, Austin was a lovely city albeit one filled with young people.  This was a constant reminder of the way we were when we had first met.  As the capital of Texas, Austin is their fourth largest city and its official slogan is “The Live Music Capital of the World” and is home to the University of Texas Longhorns. It is an enclave of liberal politics in a generally conservative state.  The Italian Renaissance Revival style Capitol completed in 1888 is interesting.  It is mostly built of limestone and covered with PINK granite (it was constructed by convicts and migrant worker often a thousand at a time).  The Colorado River is pretty and offers many outdoor venues and a wonderful setting for the city (I still don’t understand why they call part of it a lake).  It is the HQ of Whole Foods and many high tech companies have offices here.

I was able to see a lot of the city and even ventured to the hip SoCo (South Congress) neighbourhood as I wanted to buy a pair of cowboy boots at Allen’s Boots.  I am happy to report I was very successful!  Another highlight for me was having a martini at the legendary, Driskill Hotel.   The Romanesque style building was completed in 1886 by cattle baron,  Col. Jesse Driskill.  In more recent times, former President Lyndon Johnson had his first date with his future wife at this hotel and it became his campaign HQ for much of his career. It was here he addressed his supporters after his 1964 Presidential Election victory.

So I say to y’all, don’t wait any longer – take the steps to reconnect with somebody that was important to you once in your life.  It will make for a rich and rewarding experience!

Unplug

Remember when the kids were young and how everybody looked forward to ‘quiet time’ (not to be confused with ‘time-out’).  In our house quiet time was not only for Christopher who was often involved with massive amounts of Legos or immersed in listening to a Books on Tape.  It was also a moment in the day where I could enjoy a cup of tea while reading a chapter in my latest book.  TV or video games on school nights was not even an option.

To think, that in today’s world, people are craving what a recent NYT article calls the Joy of Quiet.  In planning vacations, people are now paying dearly for the privilege of NOT having TV or internet in their room and choosing remote destinations to get back in touch with themselves.  The article mentions that the average American spends 8.5 hours in front of a screen and sends/receives 75 texts every day.  Whew, I think, this does not apply to me; I don’t even watch TV that much (are reality TV shows appealing to anybody?).  But wait!  I work on a computer many hours a day and though I might not be spending  59.5 hours a week in front of a screen I am easily spending 50% of that time just on work related projects.  A recent ad I saw emphasized that there are over ½ million apps available for the iPhone.  The iPad comes without directions.  What?!  Recently, I could not find the internet connectivity on a borrowed laptop and was told this was intuitive.   My intuition is far more primal and doesn’t relate to machines.  That was when I decided it was time for me to unplug.  Not pull the plug entirely, but choose wisely how I wanted to spend my allotted time in front of a screen.  Last year I made a conscious effort to spend much less time during non working hours on the computer. It is so easy to research something  before realising how many hours have been lost. It’s best not to begin.  This year I hope to spend even less time on it.  The 17C French philosopher, Blaise Pascal, remarked all of man’s problems come from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone.  Little did he realize how true that was to become!   I was finally going to buy an iPhone this year.  I will wait, I don’t need another learning curve and certainly not another screen.  I am choosing to forsake the knowledge I might gain and experience life instead.  Balance can be difficult at times.
 
Today emphasised the need to unplug even more fiercely.  It was the memorial service and scattering of the ashes of my friend and running coach, Rick Batty, who died suddenly last month in Montreal.  We all think we are invincible (I know I do) and times like this remind us of how precious life and how we choose to live it have become.  Time is my most precious commodity and I hoard it like a miner might have done with his stash of gold.  Living and experiencing every moment of life has become my top priority. It was such a perfect day; the weather was glorious on Mt. Tam – sunny, warm and massive views were abundant.

Caroline and I had planned a hike before we knew of this service so we decided to head down the Cataract Trail to the falls.  Normally this is an extremely populated trail, but today we virtually had it to ourselves.  It has been years since I had been on it and remember fondly taking the dogs, Wolfus J. Hound and Magoo, hiking here.  It was beautiful! We ended the hike meeting Mike at the relaxed ceremony for Rick at the large meadow at Rifle Camp.  It was wonderful to  share memories and meet so many of the friends he had mentioned over the years.  It was a bittersweet day as today would have been his 60th birthday; the ceremony ended with the singing of Happy Birthday!

Studies now show that Americans are deficient  in Vitamin D and rather large doses are recommended.  Wouldn’t going outside daily in the sunshine be another alternative? Just
asking.

It was cold in the mornings this past month and I didn’t get as many sole related miles in as I would have liked.  I ended the month with 48.3 miles; all of them walking or hiking (I hope to add running this month).  I need to justify the new trail shoes I want to buy!

Do you spend too much time in front of a screen; do you plan on unplugging? 

Wine Road

Wine Road is an association of wineries and lodgings in northern Sonoma County’s Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys  which was founded over 30 years ago.  It began with a mere nine wineries and today’s membership is over 150. This was the 20th Anniversary of Winter Wineland Weekend with over 140 participants. 

Typically, when crafting a tasting itinerary, I would choose some of the high visibilty wineries or those that are generally not open to the public.  This time we opted not to drive very far from our starting point and essentially visited wineries in the West County area and a few on Olivet Road.  Not only had I never been to any of these wineries I knew nothing of most of them.  This is a cooler growing region so we were primarily tasting Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah.

Hanna Winery
Balletto
Taft Street
Red Car
Dutton Goldfield
Sunce
Hook and Ladder
Harvest Moon
DeLoach

What a delightful day it was – relaxing, the weather sunny, warm and beautiful (I had to keep reminding myself that it was January!).  We weren’t disappointed and enjoyed all of our choices.  I loved Red Car – this was only a tasting room and I am not sure they have an actual winery – not only were the wines good, I was pleasantly influenced by their branding and their labels.  The best decor was Hook and Ladder with t-shirts from different fire stations hanging from the ceiling not to mention the vintage fire truck out front.  Now that I have experienced this quieter approach to a big event, I highly recommend that you try it.

Several wines were purchased and I chose the non-wine purchase route this time: a bottle of yummy hot sauce as a benefit at Hook and Ladder and a blue pottery bowl from artist, Peggy Parr, at Harvest Moon.  I did say I wanted to visit new wineries this year – Life is good!