Friday, August 17, 2018

Family reunion features music, laughter, food, tears, 88-year age span

Family reunion and birthday weekend for Cookie Meyers, center, featured 45 family and close friends for meals and music, and 20-plus popping in and out to share the celebration.  Here, the clan gathers from seven states and beyond.
The oldest member of the family-friend clan was 92 and the youngest four, for a span of 88 years -- like the piano's keys! 
 Cookie surrenders to the "getting ready" crew as nieces Amarylla and
Kira, right, fuss with make-up and a new hair do. Gifts were forbidden, so
people offered services, set-up, music, culinary talent, errands, expertise. 
Nephew Kenji as emcee helped engineer an afternoon of music,
stories, jokes on Cookie and a talent show including charades.


I'm thinking of "a picture is worth a thousand words."
Keller's photographs of my recent birthday weekend bash and family reunion are, as the Master Card commercial says, "priceless." So this column is long on photos. Permit me, please, a bit of prose.
In memory of two departed family, hats were worn to honor clan mother,
Ellen. A sculpture of Don Quixote stood sentinel, made by the late Bill Jones
From left, Christena Cosgriffe, Cookie, the sculpture and  Olivia Cosgriffe.
because we remember those who are absent. It is my belief that their spirits stay close.

MY PARTY was held near a memorial for family who have, as my Crow friends say, "gone to the other camp."
Brother Rick, sister-in-law Jane,nephew Steve singing. Rick
also wrote haiku, Jane sang and Steve, a chef, was invaluable.
This reunion was joyful because of recent family challenges:  illness, accidents, separations,  surgeries, the woes all families experience.  Because we are a large clan, we have more than most. On a happy note, we've also had a pair of weddings, college and high school graduations,  anniversaries and 
good medical reports. We focused on the "glass half full."
Two splendid cakes were made by my niece Aurora,
presented by nephew Orion and great-nephew Connor.
I wore one of my grandmother Olive's hats at the tribute.

THIS REUNION celebrated the goodness of our far-flung clan, our love for one another, the joy in renewing connections, reviving memories.  We've helped one another through the years -- and now we connected with music, poems, hair, make-up, clothes, toys, food, silliness and shared memories of joy and sorrow.

"You Are Our Cookie, Our Only Cookie,"
sing sisters Olivia and Misha, to the
tune of "You Are My Sunshine."

Virginia and Amarylla, from Arkansas and the Bay Area
have fun and joke a bit after the talent show.
Friend Corby Skinner presented a series of entertainment
based charades with Cookie's favorite theater themes.
The hammock Keller put up was a hit 
with the young great nieces, nephews.

Niece Amarylla, with kids Peny and
James, enjoy the weekend. Ama's
chef husband helped with the meals. 
It was a weekend of smiles and sports, talking, singing, eating, reminiscing, playing games, catching up. My Atlanta niece and her New York chef boyfriend donned their aprons to create a dozen delicious side dishes, using Montana's summer bounty.  Two nieces -- from California and Oregon -- pampered me with a make-up and hair treatment. 
Tippet Rise capped the weekend.
Here, Cookie and Keller in "The Barn."
Food glorious food -- cakes by Aurora, artfully served by
friend Cristina and sister Olivia. Many hands made it work.

My Georgia nephew emceed the traditional family talent show party with wit and sweetness. My Mendocino nephew played an electric guitar borrowed from our musical veterinarian. My Montana niece made two stunning cakes. My two brothers penned tributes -- one a heartfelt essay, the other beautiful haiku. Dear Georgia relatives crafted a poem about my interviews and  travels. My late sister Peny's widower surprised me with vintage slides. Friend Corby devised clever charades. Our Arkansas "adopted kids" (cruise friends) sang and played. I wish I could list every name, but I love and appreciate every one of the 60-plus who contributed stories, photos, food, entertainment and tributes.  I love, love, love you all.

Fort Lauderdale's Water Taxi service is fun, economical
 and a fine way to see the city's sights.
UP NEXT:  Join us as we visit a favorite American port city, Fort Lauderdale. The city's splendidly designed Water Taxi enterprise is our favorite way to see the sights, enjoy the city's history and play tourist as we glide quietly past homes of the rich and famous, sports and acting figures, wealthy investors and "old money" Florida families. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday when we post a novel look at travel, the arts, nature, family and adventure.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Tippet Rise offers stunning contemporary art, music on working ranch

Internationally known sculptor Mark Di Suvero 's brightly colored "Proverb" has a pendulum element that moves.
Happy after a recent concert, Bruce Keller, photographer, and Christene
"Cookie" Meyers stop near dusk at Tippet Rise.  An Alexander Calder
sculpture is in the far background, to welcome guests and salute the arts.



The art tour limo loads up in one of the Tippet Rise parking
lots. Small groups in a comfy Mercedes van enjoy the tour.  
THE APPROACH to Tippet Rise Art Center is through Montana's heartland.
This is cattle and sheep country.
Both of those safely graze in a landscape marked by harsh winters and blazing summers. A working ranch as well as internationally known arts venue, the land is tended as it has been for generations by people who know nature's wonders and cope with its sometimes  unforgiving twists.
DEER DART across the fields in search of summer grass to browse, and the bird life is extraordinary. Songs of sandhill cranes echo in the valleys while  hawks, eagles and dozens of smaller birds vie for attention.  Their music is a fitting prelude to extraordinary concerts held summer weekends in a small, European inspired concert hall, the multi-million dollar "Barn." There's an outdoor performance venue, too.
Yet the music is not the only attraction on the varied bill.
"Inverted Portal" by Ensamble Studio serves as shelter, sculpture and 
landscape. Each piece weighs over 200 tons and the largest cranes
in Montana were needed to hold the two sides in place for fastening. 
As one wends her way up the road from Fishtail, Montana, the terrain gives way to a surprise: could it be a sculpture by Alexander Calder? Indeed it is -- on loan from the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C.
The monumental piece greets visitors, one of two Calder works loaned to the Montana venue. The other is a lyrical mobile which hangs above the concert area in the Olivier Music Hall.
Christene "Cookie" Meyers, thrilled
to stand beneath a geologically
inspired piece of 400-ton art.
Tippet Rise offers tours of the
large art pieces on their 11,000
acre enterprise.  Each is placed
to harmonize with landscape.

Image may contain: house, sky, outdoor and nature

Parick Dougherty's "Daydreams" is made from willows and a replica
of a well used and loved structure. It is a popular attraction for visitors.
Alexander Calder's "Two Discs" greets Tippet Rise guests,
the first art they see, as it was for years at the Hirshhorn.
IT IS FITTING that contemporary masterpieces greet visitors headed for a concert.  The land was once home to impressionist artist Isabelle Johnson who like the center's creators, lived in many worlds, traveling to Paris, returning to her roots. Connecting art, music and landscape is the goal of Tippet Rise founders,  philanthropists Peter and Cathy Halstead.  They have accomplished this with imagination, flair and artistic sensibility.
"We wanted sculptures that fit the land, to annotate the music, connect with the sky, illustrate the sense of working with the land," says Peter Halstead, a musician, poet and collector of 17 of the world's finest pianos, many housed in state-of-the-art facilities at Tippet Rise. Cathy Halstead, an accomplished artist, contributed her own flair and contacts with the art world to complement her husband's talents in their remarkable achievement.
Stephen Talasnik's "Satellite No. 5: Pioneer" incorporates the need to
explore space, and the crucial component of connecting to land and roots.
TIPPET RISE embodies a medley of the couple's affections -- love of landscape, travel and classic music, with a significant nod to contemporary art. In fact, the couple considers their unique arts and music venue  a metaphor, "where the synergy among music, landscape, sky and art makes....a kind of poetry," says Peter.
A TOUR IS recommended. Knowledgeable guides enhance the two-hour venture, which stops at a half-dozen pieces of art, with short hikes to get closer and take photographs.
We toured in a comfy Mercedes van, with two other couples.  Advance reservations are necessary, and you'll want to arrive in plenty of time to get your tokens and head for the parking lot to meet your group and guide. There are also tours to focus on the center's extraordinary geological history and wonders.

Happy Cookie in center with nieces and nephews, siblings, friends, relatives
and loved ones from all over the United States, celebrating her birthday.
UP NEXT:  Celebrate family with us, when we present a short essay -- long on photos -- on the value of family and the bonds of clan and friendship. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday for a new post.


Friday, August 3, 2018

Travel tips: Pack a perfect carry-on, limit baggage, plan ahead, be safe

Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers atop the Space Needle in Seattle, planning their time there and another
few tickets in the drawer.  On the road for several months a year, they plan ahead and map out details to maximize time.

"Layering up" is good advice for travel almost anywhere in the world, here
in mid-autumn in a tiny village in Provence. (Cool morning, sun at midday.)


If you plan a little in advance, and take time to book a few
dinners, sidetrips and tours, you'll save precious time.
WE TRAVEL A LOT. And we have a division of labor, as most  couples do. He's in charge of electronics. I pack the reservations and confirmations, itinerary and contact numbers. If you're going abroad, decide where the passports and other critical documents will reside. Make sure you both know the location. Copy passports and important contact information in an additional place. Give a neighbor or family member your itinerary and contact information.
THERE ARE many styles, many methods of packing. Invent your own, remembering that it's important to be able to carry all your own stuff. You can't always find help at the train station, car rental, or getting out of the airport.
These tips will ease travel stress, whether you're a single traveler, couple or group.
First, the carry-on.  Even on a road trip, have a little easy-to-carry bag with things you can't do without. This includes electronics (don't forget the charger for your phone) and medications.  I include a two-day sampling of my daily vitamins, just in case of unexpected delays.
Each of us packs a toothbrush, clean shirt or top, underwear. I also carry eye drops and hand lotion (under three ounces) in carry-on, for long dehydrating flights. An empty water bottle is handy, too.
Keller's luggage (and Cookie's) are easy to spot.
YEARS AGO, I was traveling in Asia with an older attorney friend as part of an American delegation of professional women. Virginia had bee traveling for years and had a rule of one large check-through bag and a loosely packed carry-on.  I follow Virginia's example, and it lightens the physical and mental load. She also tossed out pamphlets and brochures along the way, cleverly avoiding exceeding her baggage weight limit with redundant paper.
WHEN WE travel with the Yorkies, Nick and Nora are my carry-on, so I've learned to economize on "stuff." Keller and I also put some of each of our items in both check-through bags.  That way, if one is lost for a couple days, we still have enough to get by in the shared bag.
As for clothes, the point is to take things that make you comfortable, that allow you to have fun, relax and feel properly turned out -- whether for fancy or casual time.
Take time to "smell the roses" and savor each moment,
here on sunny Lanzarote in the Canary Islands.
For a cruise, I pack a nice formal top but I no longer haul long formal gowns and sequined shoes, and Keller doesn't take tuxedo gear anymore. (Those formal guy tux shoes and glittery girl heels are space hogs, and the black-tie gear gets worn only once or twice.  Most cruise lines now don't insist on a tux; a sport coat or dinner jacket is sufficient. Nice dressy slacks or skirt and a cocktail top are fine for women.) Deciding on your attire really depends on what you do when you're there. Develop a theme before you go.  Are you "outdoorsy, active, casual" or "formal, fancy, elaborate" -- or like me, somewhere in between. This little categorization will help you craft a wardrobe that won't waste suitcase space. For example: If you're hiking in Scotland, Spain or
Cruising can be fun and dressy, without depleting the suitcase space.
Here, Cookie, far right, enjoys a European cruise with niece Amarylla,
mother Ellen Cosgriffe and sister Robbie Cosgriffe Townsley.
Switzerland, or sunning in the Caribbean or Greek Isles, you'll need little more than casual -- cottons, denims, wash-and-wear. Throw in a pretty top and shawl for dinners out. The "layer up" edict is time honored. Start a cruise or tour morning with slacks, shirt, sweater and light jacket tossed over your arm. Strip away the lawyers as the sun warms the Earth. Friends of ours also take their oldest underwear abroad and toss them as the trip winds down.
Keep some money in your bra or money belt -- as Cookie did in Vietnam.
You may still have to fumble a little (I always do) but it is handy.
CHECKING IN to the hotel: We immediately put the phone number and address in our phones.  You may also ask to see the room before you finalize check-in, particularly if you have paid hundreds of dollars. Find out about public transportation at the concierge desk.  Ask prices so you're not surprised when you purchase tickets. Make sure you get the wifi password before you head to your room, and be wary of using free wifi at public places.  Have the porter bring ice -- or if no ice machines, ask him to order it from room service. (Much faster than ordering it yourself.)
Before you relax in your hotel room, a few quick things will
make your stay more pleasant. Here, Pan Pacific Seattle.
Make a little check-list tailored to your own trip. Notify credit cards before you go of your plans, so they don't deny a charge that looks suspicious. Use your room safe for your passport, if the front desk hasn't taken it at registration. Carry a copy when you leave the hotel. Put some cash in your bra or money belt. We also divide credit cards and cash so someone always has some.  Put some cash and a credit card in the hotel safe or a secret stash in case your purse or wallet is stolen or lost.
ABOVE ALL, if you've thought of treating a relative to a vacation, do it now. Carpe diem. You'll never be sorry.

Christene "Cookie" Meyers stands under The Inverted Portal, one of three
sculptures at Tippet Rise created by internationally known Ensamble Studios.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Handlery Hotel: Fabulous, free Friday night jazz and much more

There are two family-run Handlery Hotels in California.  This one, in sunny San Diego, and one on Union Square
in San Francisco.  The southern California property is famous for its spectacular Friday night jazz shows.


The Handlery Hotel in San Diego features a no-cover-charge
Friday jazz happy hour.  The house is also packed and the music is tops.

EACH FRIDAY afternoon in San Diego, just off Interstate 8, a line begins for happy hour begins forming outside the  Handlery Hotel. It's an hour or more before the 5:30 curtain but inside the Mission Valley property, musicians are tuning up, rehearsing for a full house which will soon crowd in to secure seats for the traditional free Friday night jazz concerts.
The Handlery Hotel in San Diego
offers R&R, Friday jazz, location
and a pretty wedding venue. 

San Diego's Handlery Hotel is one of two handsome California Handlery properties.  The family-owned pair of friendly, personalized-service hotels also includes an attractive San Francisco property on Union Square.

San Francisco's Handlery Hotel on Geary Street is ideally located for
a work or play get-away. The property is family run, one of two in California.

BESIDES ITS famous two-hour Friday jazz concerts, the San Diego Handlery property is  known for its lovely weddings.
Stand-up bass players -- the best in southern California --
are a treat to hear, often in jazz trios at the Friday concerts.
The always temperate weather gives San Diegans a leg up for wedding plans and the hotel is justifiably proud of its outdoor garden ceremony settings, with pretty ballrooms, al fresco patios, and highly rated cuisine. Our experience at the Handlery is that the staff is gracious, accommodating and goes out of its way to make a visit pleasant.
Our favorite waiter and drink server, Lupe, has been with the property for years. He has our beverages waiting when he sees us enter. This kind of welcome is vanishing in our high-tech, less-talk world, so we look forward to  the weekly greeting and Lupe's cordial welcome. The no-cover-charge feature is rare, too.
Jazz flutist Holly Hofmann schedules southern California's
top jazz performers each Friday night at the Handlery.
IN SAN FRANCISCO, the Handlery is known for its lovely conference facilities and its inviting "drop off the grid" weekend specials. The property is beautifully situated in the heart of one of America's most beloved cities. Bed and breakfast specials look enticing and the property is dog-friendly -- good news for us Yorkie lovers.
The San Francisco location, 351 Geary, can't be beat, either. Fabulous dining awaits in any direction, with top theater and shopping, cable car service and other public transportation all within quick walking distance.
The musicians are always top-drawer at the free Friday jazz concerts
at the San Diego Handlery Hotel's popular 950 Lounge.
IN SAN DIEGO, thank the collaboration between public radio Jazz 88.3 and the hotel.   Jazz flutist Holly Hofman schedules world class musicians every Friday from 5:30-7:30PM.  We enjoy the sample platter with a tasty mix of shrimp, quesadillas and chicken, and the hamburger is one of the best around.
Recent headliners included Vocalist Sacha Boutros Trio with Mikan Zlatkovich and Evona Wascinski and pianist Richard Thompson with Mackenzie Leighton and Charles Weller. Vocalist Allison Adams Tucker is up this Friday, July 27, headlining with her trio including Peter Sprague and Rob Thorsen.
"California's finest" is how Holly Hofmann bills her guest jazz players.
On Aug. 3, enjoy pianist Chase Morrin Trio with Max Kraus and Fernando Gomez; Aug. 10, guitarist Frank Potenza with Rob Thorsen and Jim Plank, Aug. 17,  the Echos Quartet with Matt DiBiase, Max Bessesen, Evan Levine and Chase Kuesel; Aug. 24, bassist Rob Thorsen with Hugo Suarez and Richard Sellers; Aug. 31, alto saxophonist Paul Combs Trio. San Diego's public radio jazz program, Jazz 88.3, sponsors the 5:30-7:30 p.m. jazz happy hours.
The hotel also offers reasonable rates, a fun, full menu in the restaurant and the unusual perk of complimentary shuttle service to the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, SeaWorld, Fashion Valley Mall and Old Town. For more:;; for more on either hotel and the Friday jazz treats.

Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers on a recent tour of Vietnam.
Next week's column gives pointers on making the most of any vacation.

  UP NEXT: A few tips in planning your summer vacation will make the journey run smoothly and give you the most bang for your buck.  Whether you're planning three weeks in Europe or Southeast Asia, or a long weekend of camping near home, it's important to have your ducks in a row before you leave home. Book tours, hotels and even some meals before and get all your paperwork in order and you'll come out on top. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays when we post each week, a fresh twist on the arts, travel, nature, family and more.  

Friday, July 20, 2018

World class musicians open doors for young players at Tippet Rise

Elliana Broscious, eight, had never touched a cello, but was making a pleasant sound by the end of an impromptu lesson. 


Violinist Krista Bennion Feeney played "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"
after showing aspiring violinists a few points at Tippet Rise this week.

TIME SPENT with a brilliant musician can be life-altering for a child with a song in her heart.
Such is the case at the Tippet Rise Art Center family concerts, when world class musicians take children under wing to teach instrument basics and encourage curious kids to study music.
New York cellist Myron Lutzke, shows young students how
to properly hold the bow at an "Instrument Petting Zoo." 
We took my great-niece, Elliana Broscious, and her brother Connor to a recent concert at this inspiring multi-million-dollar venue near Fishtail, Montana. In blending art and music with nature, Tippet Rise is gaining an international reputation for originality, excellence, beauty and daring.
Elliana, 8, hadn't decided on her instrument of choice yet.  Her older brother, Connor, 13, is studying both piano and trumpet.
So on a lovely sunlit Sunday, we strolled from the Center's cafe to the Tiara acoustic shell to see if Elliana might choose her instrument at the "instrument petting zoo." Enter, the cello!
Add caption Stewart Rose of New York City Opera Orchestra and St. Luke's
Chamber Ensemble, both in New York, took time to encourage youngsters.
THE FREE FAMILY concerts are designed to showcase Tippet Rise guest artists in an informal venue. Musicians work with children,  sharing their love of their instruments, telling anecdotes, performing short pieces to hold the attention of young, fertile, fast-moving minds.
ELLIANA FIRST spent a half hour with amiable cellist Myron Lutzke, who joined other players from New York's renowned St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble.
  Pianist Pedja Muzijevic, violinist Krista Bennion Feeny, French hornist
Stewart Rose and cellist Myron Lutzke share stories and music tips for families
Lutzke, a soft-spoken middle-aged man who adores his 18th Century instrument, showed Elli and other aspiring musicians how to hold their pint-size cellos.  Gently, he  instructed them on positioning their hands on bow and strings. "Not too far up," he urged.  "Keep the bow near the bridge for the best sound -- to avoid a scratchy tone."  As he worked with the children, they listened and improved, learning how to make sounds more vibrant, stationing the bow near the bridge, moving the bow "down" and "up."
"Look how quickly Elliana is picking it up," beamed Lutzke. "She has potential." When told the day could be life-altering for her, he smiled, "That's the goal."
Elliana's mother, Aurora Pierson-Cosgriffe, said the experience "ignited a joy in Elliana for the cello. I see an eagerness to learn. It fueled her passion for music."
Professional players instructed youngsters on proper
positioning of hands, and how to hold the bow.
MEANWHILE, Pedja Muzijevic, pianist with St. Luke's, encouraged children to try their luck on the keyboard, while violinist Krista Bennion Feeney played a playful "Twinkle
Twinkle Little Star" to enraptured ears, and Stewart Rose instructed youngsters on holding the French horn in place, pursing the lips and making a sound. He later played cuttings from famous movie themes -- "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" -- to illustrate  how music delights us and permeates our lives.
AFTER THE "Zoo" closed, acclaimed pianist Muzijevic and colleagues kept the action lively, performing excerpts from Bach, Scarlatti and Brahms. The sold-out concert included a nod to  movies, when Feeney played "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg,
Vintage photo of the writer
(Christene "Cookie" Meyers)
playing saxophone, age 9,
framed by her beloved piano.
beloved song from "The Wizard of Oz."
 My own musical exposure began as a 15-month old when I was assisted up onto a piano seat to plunk a tune. Music surrounded me. Both my classically trained mother and her mother played beautiful piano. Daddy played trumpet, and piano on black keys by ear, like Irving Berlin. While I learned classical music, my exposure included other genres: ragtime, jazz, show tunes, folk and gospel. I segued from piano to organ, saxophone, clarinet, flute, guitar and violin. My sister Peny, played several instruments, too, including piano, viola and trombone. Other siblings studied; ours was a house of music.
THE MUSICAL PETTING Zoo at Tippet Rise is part of an extraordinary artistic endeavor on a working ranch near Fishtail, in Stillwater County. Tippet Rise Art Center is in its third season of concerts by world-renowned musicians. Tours of its sculptures are available. The center is open through Sept. 8, on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Tickets are available for the next family concert, Aug. 15. Reservations are required to visit. More at
Friday jazz at the Handlery's 950 Lounge is always a packed house.

  UP NEXT:  On another musical note, the Handlery Hotel in San Diego is home to a wonderful tradition:  Friday night jazz. We take you inside this family run hotel, which offers delightful free Friday concerts with some of Southern California's finest jazz musicians.  Comfy seats, intimate concert space and great prices on happy hour drinks and appetizers await.  Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays when we post for each weekend, a novel look at travel, art, adventure, nature and family.