Travel – Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve


Seeing the fields of the California poppies, those delicate orange flowers which bloom in the early spring, is truly a wonderful sight to see.  (After this harsh winter in the Midwest, I am definitely missing the sunshine and scenery of the state of my birth!)  The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is a great place to see an abundance of the colorful poppies.  The reserve is located in the western Mojave Desert, 85 miles from Los Angeles, and it is known for the beautiful fields of poppies that cover the surrounding gentle sloping hillsides.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe California poppy (eschscholzia californica) is a flowering plant native to the United States and Mexico.  The flowers bloom annually and the plants can range in height from 5 to 60 inches tall with blue-green leaves.  A single flower grows on each stem and each flower is made up of four orange petals that can measure almost inch or two inches long.  The early Spanish settlers of California called the poppy by the name of dormidera, which means drowsy one, because the petals of the poppies close at night opening again with the morning sunshine.  The poppy petals also close in cold weather or cloudy days.  The poppies normally bloom from mid-February to late May and the date can vary from year to year depending on the amount of rainfall prior to the blooming season.

The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is a protected area of the Mojave Desert and is administered by the California Department of Parks and Recreation.  The reserve offers a great viewing area for the colorful poppies that grow with a mixture of other wildflowers that cover the gentle hillsides each spring.  The California State Park leaves the flowers in their natural state and does not water the flowers.  Also in order to protect and regulate the growth of the poppies, the California Poppy Reserve prohibits sheep and cattle from grazing on the surrounding hillsides and since 1994 controlled fires have been used to clear dead brush and invasive plants within the reserve.

Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve – Travel information and tips

  • The Jane. S. Pinheiro Interpretive Center is a great place to start any visit to the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve.  The center is opened seasonally and visitors can watch a short video, see several the displays on wildflowers, plants and wildlife or pick up maps and other information.  Also on display in the center are the wildflower pencil drawings and watercolor paintings of Pinheiro, she was a local artist who was involved in the civic affairs of the Antelope Valley and instrumental in establishing the California Poppy Reserve and the center is named in her honor.
  • There are over seven miles of hiking trails at the 1,760 acre reserve.  The Antelope Loop Trail covers some of the area portions of the trail are easy gentle slopes and some are more steep climbs over the hills.  Before starting out on the trails, check with the park staff for the best hikes for your abilities.
  • Picking or destroying the poppies in the park is a violation of the California State law.  Please do not collect any items; all natural elements of the reserve are protected including other plants, rocks and wildlife.
  • Please be aware that rattlesnakes are present in the area.  If you see one on the hiking trails, they are not normally aggressive and will not attack unless threatened. The rattlesnakes are important to the natural environment of the desert and are needed to keep the rodent population down because the animals would consume and destroy the poppies.


  •  The desert weather can be very unpredictable and temperatures can vary or change throughout the day.  Be sure to wear sunblock and bring a light jacket depending on the weather conditions.
  • Please do not bring dogs or other animals to the reserve with the exception of service dogs.  Horses and mountain bikes are no allowed on the trails.
  • For the Antelope Valley California Poppy Center location or directions, please check out the Antelope Valley California Poppy Center website through the following link,
  • For the current season’s poppy/wildflower bloom information call the Poppy Reserve Wildflower Hotline at (661)724-1180 or the Theodore Payne Foundation Wildflower Hotline at (818) 768-3533.


The Phantom of the Opera – the Musical

The Phantom of the Opera 1

“Le Fantome de Opera”, was originally a French novel written by Gaston Leroux and was first published in serial form in the newspaper Le Gaulois from late 1909 to early 1910.  When the story, “Phantom of the Opera” was publish later in book form but it sold very poorly and over the years there were various films and state productions, the most successful were the 1925 silent film adaptation starring Lon Chaney and the 1986 Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical.

A brief history of Andrew Lloyd Webber and “The Phantom of the Opera”

Andrew Lloyd Webber has created some of the most recognizable Broadway plays from “Evita” to “Cats” to the hugely successful “The Phantom of the Opera”.  He has received numerous awards and honors such as seven Tony Awards, three Grammy Awards, an Academy Award, the Kennedy Center Honors Award and a British knighthood.

Andrew Lloyd Webber was born in London, England on March 22, 1948.  He came from a musical family; his father William was a composer and organist, his mother Jean was a violinist and pianist, his brother Julian was an accomplished cellist.  Lloyd Webber was a musical prodigy and he played piano, violin, the French horn and began writing his own music at the age 6.  He studied at the Royal College of Music to pursue an interest in musical theatre.

In 1965, Lloyd Webber had started his long collaboration with Tim Rice.  Their first musical was “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and it was an immediate success.  Their next production was the 1971 “Jesus Christ Superstar” followed by the 1976 “Evita”.  By this time, Lloyd Webber and Rice had developed a tradition of composing the words and music first, then recording an album of the music and finally producing the stage play.  Unfortunately, the successful Lloyd Webber and Rice partnership ended by the 1980s.  Lloyd Webber went on to create his first solo production “Cats”, which opened in London in 1981.

Lloyd Webber had been longing to write a romantic musical and he became inspired by the 1909 “Le Fantome de Opera” book written by French author Gaston Leroux.  In collaboration with Charles Hart and with some additional material provided by Richard Stilgoe, Lloyd Webber’s score of “Phantom of the Opera” is operatic in style while maintaining the form of a traditional musical; the songs are interspersed with the play’s dialogue. In 1982, “Phantom of the Opera” premiered in London’s West End at Her Majesty’s Theatre and is the story of a beautiful soprano who becomes the obsessed with a mysterious, disfigured musical genius.  Sarah Brightman was cast as Christine and Michael Crawford played the title role of the Phantom.  For the original West End production, Hal Prince directed and Gillian Lynne provided the musical staging and choreography.  Maria Bjornson was the set designer and she created the intricate sets that included a large chandelier that seemingly crashes to the stage and a gondola that travels through the dark underground world beneath the opera house.  She also created the 200 costumes with the majority of them being the elaborate gowns in the “Masquerade” section of the play.  In 1988, “Phantom of the Opera” came to the Majestic Theater on Broadway in New York City with Crawford and Brightman reprising their roles.  Since that time, “Phantom” has become the longest-running Broadway show in history with over 10,000 performances.

Lloyd Webber’s stage production of “The Phantom of the Opera” has proven to be his most popular musical.  The total worldwide gross receipts are the highest in history at over $5.6 billion and the total Broadway gross In the United States at $845 million.  “Phantom” has been seen by millions of people in almost 150 cities in over 25 countries while the musical still continues to play in both London and New York.

A synopsis of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” musical

Prologue – Date: 1905  Location: a fictional Opera House

As the play opens there is an auction going on at an old Opera House and theater props are being sold.  Lot #665, a monkey shaped music box, has been bought by an old man named Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny. He recognizes the music box and looks fondly at it remembering someone who was once very special to him.  The auction proceeds and the next object up for bidding is lot #666, a shattered chandelier that the auctioneer says holds a mystery never fully revealed and a strange connection to a phantom that haunted the old Opera House.  As the chandelier is uncovered it appears to glow and very slowly ascends to its original place high above the theater audience as the orchestra starts to play the overture …

 Act One – Date: 1881

 As the scene opens it is several years earlier and Carlotta, the Opera House’s leading soprano, is rehearsing her performance for that evening.  Suddenly the backdrop collapses and the frightened Opera House cast members start to whisper that it is the work of the ghostly Phantom.  Unsettled by the incident, Carlotta refuses to continue with the rehearsal and will not perform under these conditions.  The new owners of the Opera House are ready to cancel the evening’s performance but Madame Giry, the ballet mistress, tells them there is a chorus girl named Christine who has a beautiful voice and she can sing Carlotta’s part.  The owners are enchanted by her voice and decided she will substitute Carlotta for the night’s performance.

Later that evening after her debut, Christine is in her dressing room when Raoul, an old childhood friend, comes backstage to congratulate her on her wonderful performance.  Christine reminds him of the Angel of the Music stories that her late father would tell them when they were children and she reveals that the reason she sings so beautifully is that the Angel has come to visit her in the past and he taught her to sing.  Raoul, who is secretly in love with Christine, tells her the stories her father told could not possibly be true and it is just a fantasy.  As Raoul leaves, the Phantom appears in Christine’s dressing room mirror.  She becomes frightened and demands that he reveal himself.  The Phantom does and he tells her that he believes her story because he is the Angel of the Music.  He convinces Christine to come with him and she follows him to a dark place beneath the Opera House.  As they board a gondola, to calm her fears, the Phantom starts to sing to her as they travel across an underground lake and go deeper into his subterranean world.

The Phantom of the Opera 2

Christine becomes frightened by something and faints. She awakens to the sounds of a strange little monkey music box.  She sees the Phantom composing music at his organ and curious about what is hidden behind the Phantom’s mask she cautiously approaches him and as he is distracted with his music she takes off his mask to find that his face is hideously deformed.  He is shocked by her actions of revealing his face and he shamefully confesses to her how he longs to look normal and wishes she could possibly love him despite the way he looks.

While the Phantom has Christine underground, Madame Giry delivers a note from the Phantom to the Opera House owners demanding that Christine replace Carlotta in his new opera, II Muto, and if they fail to meet his demands something terrible will happen.  Carlotta is very upset about the Phantom’s request and the owners assure her that she will remain the lead soprano.  But during her performance that evening the Phantom causes her to croak like a frog as she tries to continue singing.  As the ballet dancers try to go on with the show, suddenly the body of the stagehand Buquet appears hanging from the rafters and falls to the stage floor dead.  There is panic on stage and the owners plead for everyone to remain calm explaining it is just a horrible accident but a sinister laughter from the Phantom can be heard somewhere in the theater.

A frightened Christine finds Rauol and tells him of her previous encounter with the Phantom in his underground world but he does not believe her and swears to love and protect her from harm.  The Phantom is in the shadows and overhears the conversation and claims he will seek revenge against Raoul.  The scene ends with the Opera House’s large chandelier crashing to the stage and the curtain falls on Act One.

Act Two – Date: six months later

As the scene opens there is a gala masquerade ball being held and the Phantom is in attendance and disguised as the Red Death.  He reveals himself to the guests tells them he has written a new opera, Don Juan Triumphant, and demands that it be produced immediately and that Christine play the lead role.  Once again he warns that unless his demands are met there will be horrible consequences.  Christine is now engaged to Raoul and the Phantom approaches her and grabs her engagement ring and vanishes in a flash of fire and smoke.

The new opera goes into production with Christine as the lead and Raoul has a plan to set a trap to capture the Phantom, knowing the he will be attending the première. Distraught and torn between her love for Raoul and her sympathy for the Phantom, Christine goes to visit her father’s grave and wishes that he were still there to guide her.  The Phantom appears in the cemetery and Christine is once again starts to fall under his spell but Raoul arrives to rescue her.  The Phantom challenges Raoul with his words and Christine pleads with Raoul to leave with her.

On opening night of the new opera, Christine is on stage singing her duet when she realizes that she is singing with Piangi, the lead tenor, but with the Phantom.  The Phantom has strangled Piangi and uses this opportunity to express his love for Christine but she rips off his mask exposing the Phantom and the audience is shocked by his deformed face.  The Phantom grabs Christine and flees the theatre.  Madame Giry tells Raoul where to find them in the Phantom’s underground world.

The Phantom forces Christine to wear a wedding dress and Raoul finds them but the Phantom captures him.  The Phantom tells Christine that he will free Raoul if she agrees to stay with him forever and if she refuses his demand Raoul will die.  Christine comforts the Phantom and having experienced compassion for the first time he agrees to set both of them free.  After they leave the Phantom starts to weep and covers himself with his cape just as an angry mob searching for Christine arrives down in the underground world but the Phantom has vanished and only his mask remains.

Celebration – Mother’s Day

mothers day lilacMother’s Day is coming up this month and (hopefully) sons and daughters around the country will be remembering their mothers.  Traditionally Mother’s Day is an annual holiday celebrated on the second Sunday in May.  This special day is meant to recognize mothers and acknowledge their contributions to our lives through their care and support of their families.

A Brief History of Mother’s Day

Back in 1868, there was committee establish by Ann Jarvis with the purpose to reunite families that had been divided by the Civil War.  Previously she had organized a “Mother’s Day Work Club” during the war to improve the sanitation and health conditions in both the Union and Confederate encampments at the time of a severe typhoid outbreak.  After the war, she continued her efforts to establish an annual memorial day to honor the service of these dedicated women who had work so hard for their sons during and after the Civil War.  There were only limited celebrations at a local level and unfortunately the idea never became popular at a national level during her lifetime and Jarvis died in 1905.

After her mother’s death, her daughter Anna Jarvis worked with a Philadelphia businessman named John Wanamaker to organize a small service at a local church in West Virginia where her mother taught Sunday school and this celebration honoring her mother took place in 1907.  In the following year, 1908, the first “official” Mother’s Day celebration was held again at the same local church in West Virginia while on the same day a much larger celebration was held at the Wanamaker store in Philadelphia.  Then, the next year there was an even larger celebration was held in New York City.

Jarvis worked to establish Mother’s Day as an official United States national holiday and in 1910 West Virginia was the first state to established it an official holiday.  In 1914, the U.S. Congress passed a law designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day and President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation declaring the first national Mother’s Day as a day for American citizens to honor those mothers whose sons had died in the war.

Eventually the Mother’s Day holiday celebration became overly commercialized and the original meaning of the holiday was quickly lost.  In a strange twist, Anna Jarvis, the women who worked so hard to establish an annual Mother’s Day to honor her mother and the mothers of sons that died in the war, became a major opponent of the commercialization of the holiday.  She spoke out against the practice of purchasing greeting cards when people became “too lazy to write personal letters” to their mothers.  She was so strong in her opinion that she “wished she would have never started the day because it became so out of control” and she was even arrested in 1948 for disturbing the peace while protesting against the commercialization of Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day is now one of the most commercially successful American holidays.  It has become the most popular day of the year to dine out at a restaurant and it generates a large portion of the U .S. jewelry industry’s annual revenue from custom gifts like the mother’s ring.  (I must admit that we bought my mother one of these rings with the birthstones of her for daughters)  Americans also spend approximately $68 million on greeting cards, $2.6 billion on flowers and over $1.53 billion on the recent idea giving gifts to pamper our mothers like spa treatments.

Mother’s Day Gift Ideas and Suggestions

Mother’s Day gifts are available in wide range of prices, from the very expensive and extravagant to the inexpensive, thoughtful and very personal hand crafted items.  Listed below are some great gift ideas for Mother’s Day:

  1. Breakfast in bed – this idea can be as extravagant as a catered meal to a special menu planned and cooked by the kids with the supervision of their father.  As an extra special touch consider serving the meal on custom hand-painted plate by the kids and purchased from the local pottery store.  (this idea needs to be planned in advance because there is usually a processing time to pick up a completed fire-kilned plate)
  2. Flowers – these can range from expensive florist shop flowers, to ones purchased at the local grocery store, to ones hand-picked from the garden, to tissue paper flowers made by the kids.
  3. Jewelry – the price range can be from an expensive necklace, bracelet or ring to inexpensive hand-beaded items made by the kids (macaroni necklaces can be charming idea but check out the jewelry aisle at the local craft store for something a mom could wear everyday)
  4. Gifts to pamper – ideas can range from a gift certificate to the local spa for a massage or facial to expensive perfumes, bath salts or lotions from the local upscale retail department store, to bath and beauty products from a store like Bath and Body Works.
  5. Family photographs – this can range from a formal/informal portrait by a local professional photograph either in a studio or at a special outdoor location or maybe some casual photos of the kids shot at home or in the backyard.  Remember to present the photographs in a beautiful frame either professional matted and framed at a studio or done with supplies from the local craft store.  Don’t forget that older photos also make great gifts, take a look at the family photo albums and I’m sure you would be able to find that perfect photo to copy and frame.  Look for old family photos of her parents and grandparents or maybe a photo taken of her with her baby on the day he/she was born.
  6. Clothing – When purchasing clothes it is a could idea to know sizes for purchasing a beautiful dress or lovely blouse, just try to decide on something a little more special than a pair of jeans or a t-shirt.  If you don’t know the size, consider a fabulous handbag.  If you can’t find anything she would like, think about a gift certificate to one of her favorite stores and with the card include a special note with an offer to babysit the kids while she is shopping!

Please check out this month’s Craft posts, Floral Purses and Childhood Handprints, for complete instructions and supply lists for two great craft project to create for Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day Trivia

  • The Grafton Church in West Virginia, where the first “official” Mother’s Day celebration was held in honor of Ann Jarvis is now a National Historic Landmark.
  • In 1934, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved a stamp commemorating the Mother’s Day annual holiday.
  • Carnations have long been associated with Mother’s Day when Anna Jarvis distributed 500 white carnations at the first “official” celebration in 1908.  The carnation was chosen because it was her mother’s favorite flower.  Since that time, many churches have adopted the custom of giving carnations at their Sunday services on Mother’s Day.
  • When there was a shortage of white carnations for Mother’s Day, the floral industry invented the idea of wearing a red carnation if your mother was living or a white one if she had passed away.  This idea was so heavily promoted by the florists that evenly became a very popular custom.