I went to two Craft Shows and a Farmer’s Market when I recently visited my daughter in LA. I go to these events at home in Connecticut as well so I can see some regional differences in style and substance. The first thing that struck me is that unlike Connecticut, the LA Craft Show sold lots of plants.

craft show plants

The most interesting plant related item I saw was something called  LA Urban Farms. They are large, tiered, plastic structures designed to hold shoots of plants and keep them efficiently watered. These shoots will grow into full-fledged fruits, vegetables, flowers or herbs, whatever you choose to plant.

Urban Farm

These gardens not only conserve space and water but they are easier to care for. For those of us in the East, you don’t have to deal with the rocky, poor quality soil in your backyard. Check out LA Urban Farms at

I noticed at the craft shows that LA is obsessed with their dogs. There were lots of booths devoted solely to dog products, like collars and leashes, dog biscuits and themed chatchkis. What shocked me were the number of booths devoted to dog clothes! They sold hats, shirts and dresses that looked like they were meant for children. At one craft show, I saw someone pushing a specially designed dog stroller for small dogs!

craft show dog photos

craft show dog with hat

I also discovered the world of vegan chocolate. It is delicious! There were several booths devoted to vegan products but this one blew me away. Apparently regular chocolate contains all kinds of chemicals and even wax that act as stabilizers and preservatives. Vegan chocolate is chemical free and only contains pure, basic ingredients. The taste was rich and intense and the texture was smoother and creamier than any chocolate I have ever tasted. I plan to order Vegan chocolates to serve to my friends at home.

vegan chocolates

I went to a Los Angeles Farmer’s Market as well. I was struck by the tables filled with different loose teas and mixed spices. I haven’t seen that much variety and volume on the east coast. The only place I’ve seen that before is on my trips to markets in France.

farm mkt spices

farm mkt teas

The citrus fruits were also stars at the LA market, as expected. The displays were beautiful and bountiful

As were the tables that were overflowing with fresh vegetables like beets and carrots. I particularly loved the table covered with at least 6 baskets of funky mushrooms in all shapes and sizes.

farm mkt mushrooms 2

farm mkt mushrooms

I was intrigued by the variety of food products as well as life styles that were on display at the LA markets and shows. That is one of my favorite things about traveling – getting a glimpse into how other people’s everyday lives differ from mine in my home state.

craft show LA art


From Paula:


You don’t have to wait in lines or purchase tickets to see it. It is out there open to everybody and free and it changes the character of a town or at least some parts of it. It is called urban art and I love it.

Finding urban art in a town like this isn’t easy. We aren’t urban. Not even suburban. More like exurban or downright rural. Still, there is something.


I’m not sure when this piece was put together. It predates spray paint and graffiti. My guess is it was created around 1888 — the hey day of our town. That was when the Blackstone Valley was the center of New England’s mill and American industry. The river was lined with factories and mills end-to-end.

The river is a lot cleaner without mills, though the town is much smaller than it was at its peak. There’s nothing “urban” about Uxbridge in the 21st century … but it’s a good place to live.


I am professionally retired, which means whatever I do — like write or take pictures — is (by definition) a hobby.

“Professional” has a specific meaning. To be a professional anything, you have to earn money at it. The only thing I get paid for these days is not working, which means my profession is retirement.


Professional equals paycheck. This isn’t a judgment on the quality of anyone’s work, talent, or dedication. No matter how hard or well you labor, if you don’t get paid, you are not a professional.  I’ve had people argue with me about this, but I don’t care. There is a definition for professional. It isn’t a matter of opinion.

A professional is someone who gets paid to do that thing. Even if it’s only a little bit of money, if you never get paid anything, you can’t claim “professional” as your title. Mind you, there’s nothing demeaning about not being a professional. Especially in the arts, the finest creative work is often done by people who can’t earn a living at it. I’m pretty sure Van Gogh never sold a painting.


Creativity and professionalism are often at odds. I worked my whole life as a professional (commercial) writer. If I had not worked my whole life as a technical writer, I might have written something else. Like a novel or two. Would it have been great art?

Maybe. Maybe not. How would I know? It never happened.


You can’t write for a living and have anything left at the end of the day to create great works of fiction. You have to choose what you want to be … and be prepared to sacrifice to achieve your goal. I have a passion for writing, but I have a greater passion for a roof over my head and food on the table.

In the past, I got paid to be a writer. Now, writing is a favorite pastime or activity. A hobby. My standards are no less professional than ever. Just — no one pays me for my efforts. Pity. I could use the money.


Photography is and always has been, a hobby. I’ve been taking pictures nearly as long as I’ve been writing. Except for a very brief stab at wedding photography, it’s been a labor of love. Which translates to “unpaid.”

My foray into professional photography lasted exactly long enough to reinforce my belief that baby pictures and weddings were not my career path. But photography has proven to be the perfect hobby.


You never outgrow it. You are never too to take pictures. It’s never boring. You can spend a lot of money … or a little bit.

Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, the best equipment in the world will not guarantee excellent pictures, but a good eye will yield great photographs using minimal equipment.


Meanwhile, used and refurbished equipment offers a viable route to owning quality cameras and lenses on a tight budget.

So in retirement, my previous professional occupation — writing — has become a fun hobby. And my previous fun hobby — photography — is still a fun hobby.

I merely wish professional retirement paid better.



His heroes have always been cowboys. Garry loved them all from Randolph Scott, to The Duke. Being in Arizona, the place where so many of his heroes rode the dusty trail to greatness in their classic movies was a special time.





72-Road to Mountains-GAR-Sunday-011016_188

While Marilyn was deep into her favorite sport — shopping — I discovered the iron cowboy. There he was, sitting on the fence.


Watering his horse. Wizened from the sun, dusty from the desert. Stolid against the perils of the trail, impervious to thirst and heat.


The rain was closing in and sunset was near. Time to hit the long and dusty trail.


This is our car dealership. No, really. It is. They sell cars and we’ve bought the last two cars there. But it’s also a pop art museum with some incredibly cool stuff. They added a restored Worcester Dining Car (the original diner, made right here in Worcester County). The owner keeps developing his collection, making this a place to come and just look at stuff, even if you aren’t even thinking about a car.

It also takes the sting out of having to wait while your car is serviced.





Whatever else you can say about humans, we are — as far as I know — the only species that creates art. Any kind of art. For any reason.


The belief that art is not for everyone is relatively new. The Chinese, as far back as the Song Dynasty, made art for the royal court … but they also created art for peasants and servants.


Their belief — with which I agree — was that everyone needs art. There is no one so poor, uneducated, or unimportant to not deserve some beauty in their lives.

macro fuchsia

Art — not speech, nor the opposable thumb — is what sets us apart from other creatures. Beauty for its own sake is a very human thing.

Tang horse

Beautiful things soften the edges of our lives. What is beautiful to me may not be your idea of beauty, but that’s unimportant. What is important is that the place you live, the place that nourishes you be a place that feeds your soul, your heart, your eyes. Through color, texture, smell, shape.


It doesn’t even have to be “official” art. Whatever feeds that piece of you where beauty lives, you need some of that, to see it, touch it, have it with you.


If you don’t know what you need this Christmas? Buy yourself — or someone you love — something beautiful. Feed a soul this holiday season.