Handcrafted pottery is like artwork for all areas of one’s home

Ibarra pottery is all made by hand in La Paz, Mexico. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Imperfections can actually make something even more perfect.

That’s what happens with handcrafted pottery and glassware. Two glasses or bowls may be similar, even seem alike, but look closer and you’ll see each is unique.

Mexican pottery is full of vibrant colors that seem to draw one’s eye to it no matter where it is located—a kitchen, outdoors, on a table as a decorative piece.

Ibarra’s Pottery was founded in 1958 by Julio Ibarra and Juanita Chavez. They met in Mexico City where they were both studying art. They decided to join forces and create pottery together.

In the mid-1980s they moved to La Paz in Baja California Sur to where they had family. In many ways it was like starting all over as the Ibarra art was not locally known.

Julio Ibarra died in 2015, while Juanita Chavez was still working there last year.

In April 2022, Ibarra’s Pottery celebrated what it called its evolution in La Paz from 1987-2022.

Ibarra’s factory and shop is a couple blocks from the malecon in La Paz. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Today, the La Paz shop is run by the founders’ daughter, Vicky Ibarra. A third generation is also becoming potterers.

While they don’t like people to take pictures onsite, the pottery makers post pictures online of the finished work and of employees painting what is essentially a blank canvas. There are even videos of how the clay comes into being.

The store/factory in La Paz is continually turning out new work. Plates, glasses, wall hangings, pitchers, and so much more are handcrafted right there.

If you don’t find what you are looking for or you have an idea for a piece, special orders can be placed.

One of Ibarra’s Facebook posts sums up why handmade art is so wonderful, “When you are buying a handmade piece you must know it might have some small defects and you can’t blame the artisan. The truth is: it makes it unique. Why? Because when you are creating something with your hands no matter how careful you are sometimes it’s impossible to make it exactly like the others.”

A post on Ibarra’s Instagram page says each piece takes about two weeks to complete. All of the Ibarra pieces are lead free. What I have bought can go in the oven and dishwasher, though I haven’t done so.

I love that each is signed on the bottom, so you know it’s an Ibarra. (They carry other works at the store.)

To me, Ibarra pottery is functional art.

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Place of worship an architectural history lesson

The church at New Clairvaux Abbey is a work of art. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Rays of sunlight beam through the windows. It’s hard not to be mesmerized by the detail in the stonework. The triple-arched Gothic entry is stunning.

The church at New Clairvaux Abbey is breathtakingly beautiful. It’s a magnificent structure that is a blend of old and new. The guest entrance is through a 200 pound wooden door.

According to our tour guide, it was built to last a thousand years. Considering the history of the abbey already goes back about a thousand years, it seems appropriate this place of worship in Northern California should last another millennia.

Pews where the monks conduct their prayers. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Dwite, our guide, told us that about 35 percent of the stones used to build the church were from a 12th century “chapter house” that was originally part of Santa Maria de Ovila Cistercian Abbey in Spain, another 35 percent were cut in Spain, while the remaining sandstone came from Texas.

According to information provided by the abbey, this is the “largest example of original Cistercian-Gothic architecture in the Western Hemisphere, and the oldest building in the United States west of the Mississippi.”

The pipe organ came from a church in Redding. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It will be four years this month since the church opened for worship. But during the pandemic, the facilities were closed to the public until late last year. To witness the monks in prayer in their sacred place was a bonus to the day.

We were all quiet as we sat in the visitors’ area while the monks drifted in, bowed and then went to their assigned pews. It was the shortest service of any denomination I’ve attended. Mostly it was about being quiet, with a prayer and a song part of the ritual.

While the monks who reside in this monastery in Vina, about 20 miles north of Chico, worship multiple times a day, we were there for just one session. This was the conclusion of our guided tour.

Guided and self-guided tours at the monastery are available. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

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Deets:

  • Self-guided tours available Monday-Saturday, 2:30-5pm.
  • Docent led tours available all but Sundays by appointment.
  • More information is available online.
  • Address: 26240 7th St., Vina

 

Museum captures 300 years’ of cowboy history in Baja

Tools of the vaquero at the cowboy museum in El Triunfo. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The smell of new leather wafts through the entrance, an appropriate greeting for a museum all about cowboys.

Museo del Vaquero de las Californias (MuVaCa for short and the Cowboy Museum of the Californias in English) opened in the tiny Baja town of El Triunfo the first week of November. (It’s still hard to believe this was once the most populated town in Baja California Sur.)

This ode to cowboy history is as well done as the mining museum (Museo Ruta de Plata/Silver Route Museum) that is on the same street.

The museum captures more than 300 years of cowboy traditions throughout the Baja peninsula. Details include aspects about life before the Spanish arrived, their influence, life after they were conquered, and the war with the United States that resulted in a large swath of Mexico becoming part of the U.S.

One display points out, “During the war between the United States and Mexico, rancheros and vaqueros joined together to defend their lands. On December 6, 1846, at the Battle of San Pasqual (in present day San Diego County), Californios defeated U.S. forces while armed only with lances, swords, and a few firearms.”

In other words, the Mexicans won at least one battle before losing the war.

Information is written in English and Spanish, as is the case at the mining museum.

The detail in this saddle is exquisite. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Walking in there are displays of cowboys in all their garb. The circular layout then leads visitors to the small theater where a film (also in English and Spanish) gives a thorough history about the vaqueros up to present day.

This is a good foundation to have before visiting the main museum which is in a separate building across a walkway that includes a tiered concrete seating area where outdoor presentations could be conducted.

There is so much to read, see and absorb in the museum that it would make sense to go multiple times. There is no way to grasp everything in one visit.

While the story and evolution of the Baja cowboy are fascinating, I seemed to be most enamored by the clothing for the people and the horses. The detail in the saddles was stunning. It was like artwork.

One display said, “The Baja California Sur saddle was designed to manage cattle safely in the harsh environment by protecting mount and rider from spines and thorns.”

The desert is not a forgiving place so protection is necessary, even today.

Museo del Vaquero de las Californias in El Triunfo has been open since early November. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Because living off the land is hard work no matter where one does it the early vaqueros had to be resourceful.

“As the population grew, hides, tallow, milk, cheese, and other products were transported through the Sierra of the peninsula to towns and cities that depended on the ranches for their supplies. In Alta California, the international tallow and leather trade gave rise to a boom; some families amassed huge tracts of pastureland for thousands of cattle,” one display reads. “The importance of livestock ranching as the economic base and the proliferation of wild cattle prompted the systematization of rodeos, the establishment of controlled herds, and the mark of ownership through branding.”

Today, one does not have to go far out of any town in Baja Sur to come across a ranch. Cowboys are still very much a part of the 21st century.

“The mountains of Guadalupe and La Giganta are home to hundreds of families who live a life similar to their ancestors of over 300 years ago,” the museum teaches. “Today, nearly 5,000 people continue living much of that lifestyle: tending the garden; making tools, leatherwork, cheeses, and knives for sale preparing food; and performing the many tasks it takes to remain on the ranches.”

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Details:

  • Hours: Thursday-Monday, 10am-5pm
  • Cost: 100 pesos ($5) adults, 75 pesos for BCS residents, 60 pesos seniors
  • Email: info@muvaca.com
  • Address: Calle Ayuntamiento (entre Gral. Márquez de León y Minero Num. 1), El Triunfo
  • Website

Lassen park’s visitor center worthy of a stop

The Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center at Lassen Volcanic National Park is a destination unto itself. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

There’s a good reason the word “volcanic” is part of Lassen Volcanic National Park’s name.

This park in Northern California is home to all four types of volcanoes that can be found throughout the world. Lassen Peak is a plug dome, Brokeoff is a composite, Prospect Peak is a shield, and Cinder Cone is, well, a cinder cone volcano.

While I’m an advocate for getting out in nature in all seasons, I’m also one who likes to learn a bit about what she is seeing.

Hiking friends had told me to take the time to peruse the visitor center. I finally found the time this fall on a drive with mom. It was definitely worth it.

A few times a day the visitor center shows an incredibly informative 20-minute movie called “The Story Behind the Landscape.” (The visitor center is closed Mondays and Tuesdays in the winter.)

Enjoying all that the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center has to offer is time well spent. When the building opened in 2008 it was heralded as the park’s first year-round visitor center. It is located about one mile from the southwest entrance.

The name comes from what the Mountain Maidu call Lassen Peak, which means Snow Mountain.

While Lassen Peak hasn’t erupted since 1921, it could again.

The National Park Service website says, “The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) maintains a National Volcanic Threat Assessment that considers the relative threats posed by U.S. volcanoes and identifies which volcanoes warrant the greatest risk-mitigation efforts by the USGS and its partners. The Lassen Volcanic Center (is) one of 18 volcanoes assessed as very high threat.”

Lassen became the 13th national park in August 1916.

Besides the film being educational, the visitor center has displays that captivate. Some are interactive—good for youngsters and the not so young. After all, the entire park is a geological wonder. Bumpass Hell “is the largest boiling springs area west of Yellowstone,” according to information at the center.

One sign talks about how the location of the park is where “four significant biological regions overlap—the Cascade Range, the Sierra Nevada, the California Central Valley and the Great Basin of Nevada.”

If you don’t have the time or desire to snowshoe or hike in Lassen, take the time to be enthralled by the visitor center.

Spooner Lake evolves with visitor center, amphitheater

Spooner Lake and Backcountry Visitor Center is open as of Nov. 17. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

While the natural beauty of the 13,000 acre Spooner Lake backcountry is captivating in all seasons, a man-made structure has actually enhanced what this Nevada oasis has to offer.

On Nov. 17 the $8 million visitors center and amphitheater was unveiled.

“Our focus is on environmental education and sustainable recreation,” Bob Mergell, administrator for Nevada State Parks, told the assembled crowd.

The amphitheater from which he was speaking is expected to be the center of outdoor programs. Four rows of granite benches, so to speak, form a semi-circle facing the podium. Each is broken into sections for ease of seating, and coming and going.

Philanthropist Linda Pascotto, left, with Amy Berry of the Tahoe Fund. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Mergell acknowledged a project of this size is a group effort, which he pointed out included prison inmates building all the cabinetry inside

The building houses a shop to buy souvenirs, resource guides and the opportunity to talk to someone to obtain more information. Also onsite are indoor rooms for classes or meetings, as well as a warming hut. What might excite many recreationists are the nice restrooms.

Donors are recognized on these metal bears. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

With 150,000 visitors to Spooner Lake each year using the 60 miles of trails, the built infrastructure was beyond outdated. Limited parking and a few port-a-potties are all that greeted people. What was there was 35 years old. Even the old kiosk to pay one’s entrance fee looked like a dilapidated hut.

Prior to the festivities, Mergell in an interview said planning for phase three of the project is under way.

“We are going to put in a kayak launch to make the lake more usable,” he said. A fishing platform is also in the works. A start and end date can’t be set until designs, permitting, and funding are secured.

It’s possible to fish at this late that sits at 6,983 feet, but it’s hard to get on the lake unless it’s frozen. That’s when ice skaters show off their skills. It’s about 23 feet deep.

Bob Mergell with Nevada State Parks talks about the Spooner project on Nov. 17. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

A price tag for this next phase has not been set, but one of the key donors was at the dedication.

Linda Pascotto, who has a house nearby, has been re-creating in the area since her parents bought a place at Lake Tahoe in the 1970s. Later she and her husband bought their own place.

Pascotto is a philanthropist who has donated to many causes in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The Haldan Art Gallery at Lake Tahoe Community College is in honor of her parents, Jim and Ethel May Haldan.

The amphitheater will be the site of outdoor education at Spooner. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

She is one of seven donors to the Tahoe Fund that accounts for that nonprofit’s $300,000 contribution to the current Spooner project. Pascotto and the others have metal bears scattered near the amphitheater with their names on them as a sign of thanks.

Pascotto’s next contribution of $250,000 is for phase three, which she wants to pay for the wildlife viewing platform at Spooner Lake.

“My dad was into wildlife,” she explained after all the presentations were over. “I wanted to do something for my parents.” After all, they are the ones who introduced her to the Spooner Lake area.

Huntsman World Senior Games brings amateur athletes together

2022 was the 35th year of the Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George, Utah. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Peace, health and friendship are the principles of the Huntsman World Senior Games.

This month marked the 35th year for the multi-sport event for athletes who are at least 50 years old. It’s billed as the largest such event in the world. People from more than 86 countries have competed. Some years more than 11,000 people participate.

Daisy and John H. Morgan Jr. founded the southern Utah event in 1987 with the goal of turning the St. George area into a senior resort. He died Jan. 14, 2022, at the age of 98. He was still playing tennis in his 90s.

“In 1989 Jon M. Huntsman, chairman of the Huntsman Corporation, became the games’ principal sponsor after recognizing that the games not only fostered lifetime fitness, but also expanded Utah’s economic vitality. A proud supporter of the games, the Huntsman family continues to open the games personally,” the event’s website says.

It was tennis that drew me to this two-week competition. I was there for one week as I only competed in the singles event based on my age/ability level. Others in my circle played women’s doubles, mixed doubles, volleyball, archery, shuffleboard, and indoor rowing.

People could also participate in:

  • Badminton
  • Basketball
  • Bocce
  • Bowling
  • Cowboy action shooting
  • Cycling
  • Golf
  • Horseshoes
  • Lawn bowls
  • Mountain biking
  • Power walking
  • Race walking
  • Racquetball
  • Road races
  • Rugby
  • Shooting benchrest
  • Shooting handgun
  • Shotgun sports
  • Soccer
  • Softball
  • Square dance
  • Swimming
  • Table tennis
  • Track and field
  • Trail running
  • Triathlon
  • Walking tours.

Other activities are part of the games, like an opening ceremonies (I didn’t see this), a bike tour (we did our own that was a bit more challenging), a friendship festival (we had each other), and the health screenings.

This is definitely something I would go back to. The vibe was great. The competition good. The moto of peace, health and friendship was definitely more than just words.

A Wonderland of musical theater

 

The Tuachan Amphitheatre in the Padre Canyon in southern Utah. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Usually my mantra is the book is always better. The movie, the television show, the play—none of them will do the printed version justice.

Boy, was I ever wrong with Wonderland.

When I reviewed the book several years ago I wondered what all the hoopla was about.

I would never have guessed this could be made into an entertaining, captivating musical. The play used to be called Wonderland: Alice’s New Musical Adventure as well as Wonderland: A New Alice. It was written by Jack Murphy and Gregory Boyd, with lyrics by Murphy, and music by Frank Wildhorn.

There is actually an Alice in Wonderland musical. This debuted in England in 1886. It, too, was based on Lewis Carroll’s books Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1871).

The adaption I saw this month builds on the original works, taking the concept to a deeper level that makes it much more enjoyable. Plus, it was not convoluted like the book I read. The play was easy to understand, enjoyable and memorable in a good way. The music was enjoyable, the acting outstanding, set design creative, and costumes fun.

Considering most of the audience was adults, this clearly was not a children’s production. While kids may not understand the adult nuances, I think they would be entertained.

Adding to the experience was the setting. If you are ever in southern Utah, check out Tuacahn Amphitheatre. This outdoor theater set among the red rocks is impressive.

Friends I was with have been to Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado, and while that is larger than the Utah venue, they prefer this one for the overall beauty.

At Tuachan it is possible to see multiple productions in one visit. Also playing while I was there last week were Mary Poppins and Joseph: The Amazing Technicolor Dreamboat.

 

Sandstone cliffs of Drakes Beach create dramatic scene

 

The cliffs at Drakes Beach in Marin County are breathtaking. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Hundreds of feet tall, the sandstone cliffs at Drakes Bay rise in dramatic fashion from the beach.

Looking at the ocean it’s easy to feel small. Turn around to face the cliffs and your stature is further diminished.

In many ways it felt like there was no way out. It seemed impossible to scale the cliffs without equipment. Even then, the sandstone was sure to crumble. The Pacific Ocean, while rather placid on this particular day, is still often an uninviting mass of water.

The tide was out, so we had plenty of beach to meander along. No worry about being trapped and not getting back to the vehicle. But this ruggedness had me imagining what it might have been like way back when before a paved road led me here.

Sue looks rather small standing near the sandstone cliffs of Drakes Beach. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The beauty is captivating—all 360 degrees. We could have walked for miles in either direction. We sauntered, appreciating the debris deposited onto the sand—whole crab shells, evidence a pelican lost a fight with some predator, kelp that resembled art.

History proves this is not where you would want to be marooned in a storm. Today, though, this stretch of land in Marin County is part of Point Reyes National Seashore.

“The sands of the Drakes Bay cliffs were deposited in a shallow sea 10–13 million years ago, compacted, then uplifted. Erosion has revealed the striations of this story in the cliff faces,” according to the National Park Service.

At the visitors center a slew of panels touch on the history of Francis Drake, the namesake of the Pacific Ocean bay.

A stranded crab at Drakes Beach. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The Englishman accumulated his wealth by attacking Spanish ships and stealing their gold. Signage says, “Spanish witnesses reluctantly admitted that Drake treated his captives well and often released them with gifts—unusual practices for his time.”

Less controversial is the fact Drake was the first person from his country to circle the globe.

He entered what is now known as Drakes Bay to repair damaged ships. They spent 36 days there.

Drake called the bay Nova Albion, or New England, “because the cliffs reminded the homesick sailors of the white, chalk cliffs along the English Channel.”

Drake and his men were the first Europeans to visit this part of California.

“This Bay of Francis Drake and the land of Nova Albion were marked on the world’s maps, and led John Smith to name New England after Drake’s claim on the other side of the continent,” according to the Park Service. “Nova Albion was not erased from maps and charts until 1846, when Great Britain agreed to the present boundary between the United States and Canada.”

Feds Remove S-Word From Locations Throughout The U.S.

We all know the N-word. Now there is the S-word.

Earlier this month the federal Board of Geographic Names removed more than 650 instances nationwide where the word “squaw” was part of the name. This includes 80 locations in California and 34 in Nevada.

The site of the 1960 Winter Olympics is now known at Palisades Tahoe. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

“The term has historically been used as an offensive ethnic, racial, and sexist slur, particularly for Indigenous women,” the Interior Department said last year after Secretary Deb Haaland declared “squaw” a derogatory term.

A task force has been studying what locations should be changed.

In Placer County, Squaw Creek is now Washeshu Creek and Squaw Valley is Olympic Valley.

I grew up skiing at Squaw Valley. Still call it my favorite Tahoe area resort. But it’s not Squaw anymore. It’s Palisades Tahoe. That change came last year. I still think a better name could have been found, but that’s irrelevant to this story. The ski resort was one of many entities throughout the country that has proactively changed its name.

I completely understand and agree with removing the S-word. I do wonder when one references the 1960 Winter Olympics what it will be called. I wonder if one has hiking and snowshoe books with the S-word if those should be changed.

This is not the first time names have been replaced en masse. The federal government replaced a slew of slurs for Black and Japanese people in the 1960s and 1970s.

Here is the list of S-words that have been removed, the new name, and where it is located. Locations with new names include valleys, streams, reservoirs, ridges, flats, summits, pillars, gaps, springs, bays, islands, slopes, lakes, basins, cliffs, areas, bars (not the drinking kind), guts, capes, canals, bends, benches, and crossings.

Point Reyes Lighthouse a beacon of history

 

The Point Reyes Lighthouse in Marin County is a federal historic landmark. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

While California is known for its pristine beaches, plenty of boat captains can speak to the rugged, treacherous coastline.

Today the Point Reyes Lighthouse is a standing reminder of navigational tools erected in the 1800s to help steer ships clear of the rocky, foggy and potentially fatal land mass north of San Francisco in Marin County.

More than 70 marine wrecks have occurred at this stretch of coast, with 37 being total losses, according to the National Park Service.

The lighthouse, which began operating Dec. 1, 1870, is now owned by the National Park Service and is part of the larger Point Reyes National Seashore. It is a historic landmark. The lighthouse stopped operating in 1975.

The lighthouse structure is at the bottom of more than 300 stairs. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Today those navigating the waters of the Pacific Ocean rely on an automated beacon located on a structure below the original lighthouse. A horn bellows at regular intervals and light flashes to alert those at the helm of a boat of the land mass.

While the rest of the California was sweltering on Labor Day weekend, those at the lighthouse were bundled up. The wind was howling, though nothing like what it can be. Spring is the worst when winds can be hurricane force—exceeding 130 mph.

One thing that makes the Point Reyes Lighthouse special is the Fresnel lens is still intact. A handful of people at a time are allowed to enter the lighthouse where a docent gives a super short talk about the significance of the lens. It’s worth the wait.

“The 6,000-pound lens sits on a clockworks mechanism that rotates the lens using gears and counterweight. One complete rotation takes two minutes. As the lens rotates the beams sweep over the ocean like spokes on a wagon wheel, creating the signature Point Reyes Lighthouse pattern of one flash every five seconds,” according to the Park Service.

On a clear night it could be seen 24 miles away.

The Fresnel lens is still intact at the lighthouse. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The Point Reyes Lighthouse has what is called a first-order lens. It is comprised of 1,032 pieces of hand-ground crystal.

This is the only lighthouse in the United States with its original first-order Fresnel lens, clockwork and tower that is still operational.

It was hard work to keep that light shining and the fog horn echoing.

“Once the (oil) lamp was lit, the keeper wound the clockwork every two hours and 20 minutes to rotate the lens and create the flash. Throughout the night, he kept the lamp wicks trimmed so that the light would burn efficiently,” the Park Service said.

On foggy nights it took 140 pounds of coal every hour to ensure the foghorn—which was really whistles and sirens—would blare.

To get to the lighthouse requires descending 313 steps. They are wider and shorter than normal stairs, so it makes it easier, but the width of them is narrow so it’s a tight squeeze when people are climbing up at the same time.

If you aren’t up to this, the viewing platform is 0.4 miles from the main parking area. However, those with handicap stickers can park closer. The viewing area is outstanding. The lighthouse and rugged coastline are spectacular from there. On super clear days the Farallon Islands can be seen.

The stairs are open Friday-Sunday, 10am-4pm. No cost to visit.

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