Landscapes that tug at my heart

by cheri sabraw


My brother Steve took this luscious photograph while in Montana last summer when he and his son Tyler fished the Madison River.

Wouldn’t this scene make for a splendid landscape painting? The lone tree presiding over an obedient river tamed by orderly fencing and blushing grasses appeals to many sides of my personality.

And what about this scene?


This melody in pastel blues and mustardy yellows was taken by my sister-in-law, Lue when she and her family visited the Carrizo Plain, a large grassland in San Luis Obispo County, California.

What appeals to me about Lue’s photograph is the presence of two explorers who seem to be walking on a salty sandy earth.

And then there is a photograph I took several years ago in Buonconvento, Tuscany.

P1000212One might be inclined to enhance this photo but what I love about it are the muted blue-greens and the small house in the background.

I’d like to be sitting on that bench, peeking through the cypress trees.

Landscapes provide many avenues of thought.

Romantic escape.

Aspirational destinations.

The past.

I am still pulled by and drawn to scenes of the west.


I took this photo in Yellowstone National Park. The two bison are heading my way. I am absolutely enthralled.


Ron’s photograph of an old abandoned shack off Highway 50 in southern Utah looks almost too perfect to be true. I’d like to host a small party in that  shack, bring our Weber and some steaks (although that might upset the cattle peering on), crack open some wine and wait for the Sons of the Pioneers to show up and seranade us with Red River Valley.


I took this nostalgic photo in Scipio, Utah. The greens caught my eye and of course, the well-preserved gas pump and barn door. I’m attracted to the way men might have dressed during the years when this pump was in use. I say men because I don’t think women would have been pumping their own gas.


If you have followed this blog for more than five years, then you know Ron and I have made two trips to the site of the Battle of the Little Big Horn in eastern Montana.

I love this photo, not only for the wispy dry twigs and yellow mustard that shelter the graves from the judgemental stares of most who view them, but also because there in the middle is the spot where Custer himself got his just desserts.

If you have thoughts or photos of a landscape that tugs at your heart, send them to me and I will post them.

Posted in My painting, My photography | Tagged , , , , , | 16 Comments

Phobia Schmobia


by Dinah, the Labrador

Hello, Cheri’s readership ( all ten of you)!

In Cheri’s composing, anytime she mentions my name, I have asked her in no uncertain terms ( I do this by repeatedly putting my paw with overgrown nails on her thigh while she is trying to write on her (damn) computer), to notify me and secure my approval before she uses me for her own personal entertainment.

This request has always gone by ignored. (Shock)

You regular readers, all ten of you, must know that when she photographed me growling at the Dyson vacuum last year (as if it were weird to be frightened by a sucking machine with a see-through canister that holds so much of my own hair), she did not ask  my permission.

That I now have developed a perfectly normal aversion to coming down one stair from our entry way to the only room I am allowed in, the “family” room,  is no big deal.

I decided to beat Cheri to the punch and put that psychological diagnosis right out on the table before she could use  me for your amusement.

She tends to that with many people and pets. I call that habit “ruthless.”

My decision to elevate my concern about trotting down one tile step started when I must have tripped either going down or coming up. I’m overweight; my nails look like a fortune-teller’s; is it any wonder that a 70-lb person ( I mean, dog) who walks on four legs with over-grown nails might worry about “getting a grip???”

I asked Cheri to describe the pre-dance that I now do before I can come down that one stair.

She likened it to a Roomba vacuum (there’s that V-word again) stuck in forward-backward motion, trying to move but unable to do so. The clicking of the nails on the tile, the readiness of a creature to step down (but not), the locomotion of a falling object accented by whining and whirring…

It’s really gotten out of paw. I refer to Cheri’s angst.

I find that being stuck in limbo (between the entry and the family room) in a place outside the powder room draws incredible attention to my predicament although Cheri’s husband, the good judge, could “care less.” He appears to be more concerned with his Wheat Thins and vodka tonic than my anxiety on the stair.

Last night, Cheri had had it watching what she termed a “pathetic situation.”

Finally, her brain clicked into gear.

She saved my life by putting an old towel (now dirty with rainy paw prints) over the one stair.

I’m coming down no problem.

Life is good.


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From the sidelines

by cheri block

My husband is playing golf at this very moment with Bob.

Bob was a year older than we were in high school. He was the star football player and a heart-throb. All of us younger girls began to drool when Bob and the other senior football players walked through the Quad with their kelly green lettermen’s sweaters on.

To me, their shoulders looked like big rounds of bedrock attached to very trim torsos.

If ever there were a human body oozing with perfect coordination, it was Bob’s.

I was the head cheerleader for two years in a row during  those years when cheerleaders actually lead cheers.

We were not gymnasts, bimbos, pom-pom airheads, or idiots.

We lead cheers from the side lines when high school football was popular in the San Francisco Bay Area eons ago in the 60’s.

From my vantage point there on the sidelines, I had an opportunity to assess the game as it progressed through the quarters. After all, I needed to call monosyllabic cheers such as
“Block that kick,” and “Touch down.”

Every now and then, I would branch out and insist that the rooting section, dressed in white, would try its hand at spelling “W- A (clap, clap) R- R (clap clap) I -O- R -S (clap clap).”

I would ask my squad to lead what today we would call  politically incorrect cheers. Today, those cheers would be censored. Everything has become so beige.

For example, if you can spell, you  read that our mascot was the Warriors. Lakota Sioux Warriors. Copying the cheers I had heard at Stanford University across the Bay, I lead the spirit squad in this one: “Give ’em the Ax, the Ax, the Ax, Right in the Neck, the Neck, the Neck.”

How violent. But boy did the crowd stand up and roar. It was especially effective when we were playing our arch rivals–the Huskies. Poor dogs. De-capitated by a strong and noble Indian tribe.

While on the sideline I was supposed to be 100% focused on the business at hand (the game), but I occasionally checked out the many hunks whose bodies were stuffed into tight white football pants.


My boyfriend Ron was on the football team at that time and most of the time, I was staring at him in his white pants. He looked pretty good too.

But every now and then, my eyes wandered over to the star of the team in 1966-67.


So it was fun to see Bob today, fifty years later. As we talked, my mind drifted back to those wonderful years on the sidelines.

But I was a good girl and said,

” Bye guys, have fun!



Studio vs. plein air painting, 2017


by cheri sabraw

I returned to oil painting last year after a 50-year hiatus, setting up  my studio in one of our guest bedrooms.

In order to acquaint myself with painting in general, I tried several subjects in acrylic paints.

Bunny and Kitten and Labrador Acrylics 2016

“Bunny and Kitten” 11×14 acrylic on canvas and ” Dinah” 9×12 acrylic on canvas

And this one, again from my photography, taken on a lonely road trip down Highway 25 on the eastern side of King City, California.

"Highway 25" Acrylic on Canvas 12x24

I was ready to oil paint, asking my friend Linda how to clean my brushes!

The process has been stimulating to be sure. I’ve read many articles about oil painting, consulted some of my friends who paint, and studied the paintings of the 17th century  by the Dutch Masters in order to learn glazing.

The results? Well. At this point, I can say I am satisfied with my progress but have so much to learn. As my friend Glenys reminded me…once a painting is done, varnished, and hung, the errors begin to make themselves known, like small fears bubbling from the unconscious.

I am a slow painter, adding layers of color gradually, trying to establish a depth and luminescence.

I think I achieved my goal with this 24X30 oil on canvas titled “At Rest.”IMG_1101

Again, using my own photography this time, I painted “The Tenant,” one of our barn owls from last winter.


The last painting I completed in 2017 is this one, a large oil (24×36) on canvas of a bison with an impasto set of curls approaching the photographer. It is titled “No Discouraging Words.”


“No Discouraging Words” 24×36 oil on canvas

I was feeling pretty good about my accomplishments in 2017 until I enrolled in a plein air painting class way out by the Salt River in the Tonto National Forest.

There, I learned just how difficult it is to mix every color of the rainbow out of 4 base colors plus white.

Trying to mix the oils and then draw and paint a well proportioned horse proved to be a challenging and (at times when the horse switched directions) frustrating  experience.

And then there was Drago, the beautiful young and muscular quarter horse, who modeled for us at the Scottsdale Artists’ School.

Alas, my rendition, done in 1.5 hours as the light changed, makes healthy Drago look as if he is ready for the knacker.


I thank my newly-made friends from that class–Cindy Lou from Dallas, Shelley from La Jolla and Marla from Madison for their good cheer and instruction.


Posted in My painting, My photography, plein air painting | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

An Evening Walk

by cheri

IMG_0151Painters and photographers know that the best light often comes at the end of a day, like a stimulating conversation over a cup of tea or a glass of wine.

As I set out the other night for a much-needed walk up the road with my dog, I felt the hills summoning the rain rather intensely. They pulled out all the stops: make-up, fragrance, beguiling glances, and undo attention.

IMG_0167 2

The light on the hills afar revealed the extent that they would go to attract the rain. Is that war paint? Sensual blush? Embarrassment at such a lack of modesty? Even the oaks circle around curiously, their canopies arching for a better look at  such an obvious display of neediness.


On my way down the road, I turn my attention to its other side, away from the northern frenzy and to the west, where the mountain top communes with the cloud cover in a manly way. There, the oaks sink to their roots in adoration and quiet.


IMG_0181The rain moves in. The fence braces.

It’s going to be a gully-washer, those lucky hills.

Posted in My photography | Tagged , , | 29 Comments

My friend Glenys

by cheri

This morning, I roused myself from a restless slumber and descended the stairs into our cold kitchen, followed ritualistically  by our fat yellow Labrador named Dinah waiting for her sugarfree breakfast of dry kibble and two pills.

On the adobe tile counter, sat a forlorn box of oatmeal I had retrieved last night from the dark and lonely recesses of my pantry. The oatmeal, or as my pen pal Glenys calls it–porridge– had been hidden by old pink and orange boxes of Annie’s Bunny pasta that I buy for my granddaughters when they come from Portland to visit Dinah.

Instead of retrieving an emotionless cold cereal bowl and dropping several dollops of Siggi’s vanilla yogurt (with 14 g of sugar per  8oz in it), I am making porridge. After all, the health benefits of eating it are well-documented..

Glenys, of all the people I have met in the last ten years, has influenced me the most about food, sugar, and now, old-fashioned but tried and true, health remedies.

I’m positive that somewhere in our pasts–perhaps as Renaissance middle-class women interacting at the local market place or as two sisters heading west on a Conestoga wagon in the 19th century or as two budding artists skipping through the Witwatersrand hills in Johannesburg–we made mischief, good food, and fine art.

In June of 2016, Ron and I met Glenys and her husband Richard in person in London. 

Within in minutes of our introductions, while walking down the street on the way to St. Paul’s Cathedral, Glenys enlightened me about the perils of sugar.  When I returned home to California, a book by Dr. Gordon Lustig titled Fat Chance was waiting in my box. Who would take the time to send a friend a book? Someone who is deeply committed to its principles, that’s who.

Since that time, Glenys and I have corresponded about many topics, most of which will remain between the two of us.

Now she has me curious about all things oatmeal from not only enjoying a hot bowl of the steaming sugar-free elixir but also slathering it on a bruised or painful joint in what Glenys calls a “porridge poultice.”

I will admit that not all has been smooth between us. For example, in taking care of a burn she once experienced, she described it this way:

As it was bedtime and this was not an option [immersing the burned hand in ice water], I tried the porridge treatment and found that by covering it with a piece of kitchen paper and then cling film  to avoid a mess in the bed!  within 20 min the pain had completely gone!  so worth remembering.

Hmmmm. What is kitchen paper? What is a porridge poultice? Is cling film the same as clear food wrap?

I asked her if kitchen paper was the same as waxed paper.

As it turns out, kitchen paper is the same as what we in the US might call paper towels. Cling film is clear food wrap and luckily, we both know what tin foil is although ours is made of aluminum.

In  my childhood,  when I left my family each summer to go to horse camp, I would wait eagerly for a letter from my mom, describing for me the comings and goings of Stevie, Cindy, Jimmie, and my German Shepherd, Dickens.

Now, as a grandmother, I wait eagerly for an email from Glenys.



Posted in Education, healthy eating, Life, People | Tagged , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Research the old-fashioned way


by cheri block, Mrs. Sabraw, Cherylann B. Sabraw,

My dear friend Richard in far-off England sent me a Boris Johnson solution for peace in the Middle East in commemoration of  the 100th Anniversary of the Balfour Agreement on Friday, November 3, 2017.

My kind-hearted high school friend Bruce up in the California gold country sent me an article this morning from the Daily Signal which chronicled the plight of a small  Indian school–the Havasupai Elementary– located at the base of the Grand Canyon– which can’t seem to stay open for the business of educating its children. Bruce and I both have concerns  about government-run educational institutions.

I am, at times, an old-fashioned girl: I like soda fountains (and sodas), nylon stockings, patent leather belts, British cars with stick shifts, and libraries ( especially the Dewey Decimal section of 813. 52 on literary criticism).

“Libraries, you say? Are those places where Cicero’s works are now housed? Who goes to libraries any more? Why would we NEED to go there when we have Siri???”

This morning, as I cogitated over the material Bruce had sent me, I wondered if the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is housed under the Federal Department of Education.

So, I asked Siri, who in her robotic sexiness directed me to Wikipedia.

When responding to Richard–and I know Richard will forgive my staccato and over-simplified answer to him–I asked Siri the following:

“Hey Siri, what is the difference between Fatah and Hamas?”

Siri wanted to help me. Sincere Siri. That’s who she is. She was not crude as those on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update with Dan Aykroyd.

But Siri sent me a link for the difference between feta cheese and hummus.

It seems like only 1950 that I finished my Master’s thesis in 2014. Where was Siri when I needed her then? To think of all the databases and Google Scholar (an oxymoron, for sure) references that I called upon in trying to support my ideas. To think of all of those 40-mile treks to the Green Library at Stanford, the bridge toll, the parking, just to sit in a study carrel  and ruminate over my chosen topic. To think!

At heart, I believe in 813.52 and here is my 2009 blog post which I offer to you as solid evidence that shows how all  of us will go to any length to cut corners.

Oh, and btw, :), ;), I asked Siri the following:

“Hey Siri, what IS the difference between feta cheese and hummus?” Siri responded, “Hello Sheree, what is the difference between FedEx cheese and hummus?” and sent me some links.


by cheri block sabraw

In the days before 1995, in order to read literary criticism,  students had to go to the library, use the Dewey Decimal System, and browse the stacks with heads clicked to the right, ear to shoulder.

This is a story of repetitive ambush  the old- fashioned way.

As usual, this is my story.

But it is really the story of cheaters, the story of parents who want their kids to go to Stanford at any cost, the story of desperate over-scheduled  kids who are too busy to think for themselves, and finally, this is the story of a teacher who had nothing better to do on her Saturday and Sunday afternoons than to…..well. Let’s get on with the story.

Good Morning everyone.

Sorta Good Morning, Mrs. Sabraw.

OK. We’ve finished The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible and now it is essay time.

[Sigh.] Can’t you put this off?  All of our other teachers have given us way too much to do this weekend. Pleeaasseee.

No way. You guys enrolled in too many A.P. and honors classes for your own good.

No way. Listen. Just listen, Mrs. Sabraw. Just listen.

For physics, Mr. Van Bloy assigned an egg case design. We have to insulate an egg that, when we drop it from a crane, won’t break. That assignment alone will take us all weekend.

[Mrs. S is thinking about this request, and the awkward use of English.]

And Mrs. Needless is having us translate part of Moliere this weekend.

O.K. As I said five minutes ago, it’s essay time.

But before I pull the screen up to reveal your essay topic, I’d like to discuss how I want you to go about the assignment.

First, you are not to contact last year’s students or read any of their essays. Everyone, put up your hand and repeat after me: I, state your name, will not contact a senior about his/her Scarlet Letter essay.

I, state my name (ha ha), will not contact a senior about their Scarlet Letter essay.

That’s his/her. Everyone is a singular indefinite pronoun.

[Groan. Ticked off, but trying to maintain sycophantic façade.]

Second, you are to do your own work. No tutors, no older brother’s help. No Cliff’s Notes. Remember [ I take my worn and underlined yellow/black copy of Cliff’s Notes out to show them I know it by heart.] Everyone put up your hand and repeat after me: I, state your name, will do my own work and will not contact a tutor, an older sibling, or use Cliff’s Notes.

I, [grumbling]   James Lee, Iris Wu, Kavya Bulgari, Anu Pommu, and Chris Johnson, will do my own work and will not contact a tutor, an older sibling, or use Cliff’s Notes.

Third and last, reading literary criticism and then restating it in your own words without citing your source is cheating. Since you all are so overloaded this weekend, you might be tempted to plagiarize. Desperate people can do desperate things. Do not go to 813.52 at the library. Just think for yourselves.

Repeat after me: I, state your name, will not go to 813.52 at the library.

I, [highly irritated but hatching a plan]  Caleb Kim, Emily Geddy, Vijay Singh, Trinh Tran, and Mario Puzo, will not go to 813.52.

Great!! The paper is due on Monday.

[Bell rings and the week is over.]

On Saturday afternoon, around 1:00 pm, I arrive at the library, dressed in jeans and one of Judge Blah’s old army t-shirts. I have my camera, a stack of dittos with the pledge taken only a day before, solemnly and sincerely.

I find a study carrel, one near the window [for the view], one hidden from the stacks.

I am here.

At 813.52.

Before long, I hear voices, voices of accomplices who plan to get in and get out, quickly, so they can get back to the mink-lined egg case they are designing.

In their hands are small ripped pieces of paper, with numbers hastily scribbled on them: 813. 51, 813.67, 813.82.

Titles accompany the numbers.

I wait until at least four of my students are standing in front of literary criticism, heads cocked, searching for their falsie [so to speak].

Hawthornian vocabulary circles my intentions. Phantasmagoric. What an ignominy. Certainly, they are on the scaffold with their sins.

Flash!!  [Photo taken.]

Hello. What are you guys doing here?

We are looking for notes on Moliere.

Or gravity.

Or poultry management.




Posted in Education, Life, My childhood, My Thesis, People, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

The ‘Young-old’ are going to lunch in November

by cheri

One of my old friends invited me to lunch sometime in the next several weeks.

I say “old” because we have known each other for 35 years and because she just turned 70.

According to AARP, we are part of the “young-old, ” that is,  those of us from ages 65-75. The “old-old” are 85-95.

After 95, AARP doesn’t seem to have a designation but I would say Decrepit.

Please don’t be mad at me because I, like many of my friends, are in the young-old category and working my way down to decrepitude.

Our email thread was something to behold, sort of like a first kiss that went awry. You know: he kept his lips closed and you went in open mouthed. Or he tried to French-kiss you and you turned away, so his tongue hit your cheek. That type of “something to behold.”

I will confess that for my part, I was not on my computer but rather on my iPad, hunting and pecking a note. I was also at the beach with a glass of wine. There! That’s my excuse.

I suspect that my friend (whom  I will call Ipanema to preserve her anonymity) was also on her tablet or phone in her responses to mine. She doesn’t drink, so who knows?

Here’s how it went:

Ipanema: Know your birthday is either coming up or just past Wanted to wish you the best and thank you again for coming to my 70th  If you are in town would love to take you out to lunch this coming week Aside from a dentist Appt on Monday I am free


Cheri: Thanks so much.
My birthday was October 9.
Just in time for it, I fell off my bed doing a stretch and fractured my toe along with dislocating it. It was sticking out like your husband’s little finger.
Had it reset twice without anesthetic.
Anyway, in a boot.


Ipanema: (Several weeks later): Any ideas on date and time for lunch?


Cheri: Are you available on Thursday, November 3?


Ipanema: November 3rd will work. The next day, Friday, I’ll be headed to my son’s for a weekend of babysitting. They are traveling to Austin. Actually they’re only coming back on Tuesday so Ill probably be trying to catch up on sleep, the rest of that week. Let me know what time and where on the3rd!!


Cheri: Friday or Thursday? 2nd or 3rd?

Ipanema: Sorry you said Thursday Nov3 and I didn’t check I knew I had to be at my son’s on Friday so I assumed that would be the 4th Yeah Thursday the 2nd will work
Cheri:You are right.   I am available both days.  Let me know which one is best for you
and it will be a date!
Ipanema: Ok Thursday the 2nd at 12:30 Elephant Bar? or any other restaurant you chose!!


Cheri: Ok . Elephant Bar has closed.How about the crepe place in the Raley’s shopping center? Petite Crepe or something like that…Thursday November 2 at 12:30. I will email you to confirm.

Ipanema: Oh Cheri promise you won’t write a blog about this email thread ,but it is hysterical Had no idea Elephant Bar had closed and I am in that neighborhood quite often because of my mom! Okay, crepe place it is Thurs. Nov2      12:30pm
Shall we synchronize our watches? Oh I forgot No one wears watches any more.
*  *   *   *   *
I can’t remember how AARP labeled the 75-85 year-olds, but I need to find out.
Posted in Life, People | Tagged , , | 22 Comments

Light and beauty all in one


by cheri sabraw

I’ve been drawing horses for the last several months in preparation for a class I hope to take in Arizona entitled “Drawing and Painting Horses in the Light” so you will understand why I stopped at the bottom of our road to photograph some new additions to Mel and Jim’s herd.

The Clydesdales now come to see me when I approach if they are grazing on our side of the hill. Privy to 80 eighty acres only 1/4 of a mile next to a major freeway, these gentle giants are lucky, indeed, to have the space.

I’m a sucker for paint horses so as I sped down the road, imagine my delight to see this sight on the hill.



His buddy, Black Beauty, was keeping him company.


One of the Clydesdales, the mare, called to me in what seemed a jealousy flare.


And then, another new chestnut girl came over the hill and right up to the fence line to check out whether I had an apple.


Alas, the apples were gone so she opted for an oak instead. I love this photo. It would, however, be difficult for me to paint with all of those shadows.


You can almost feel how soft that nose is, can’t you? I rubbed it and tickled her under her chin. That act, in itself, made my day.

I must remember to pack carrots on my way down the hill next week.

Posted in clydesdale horses, Life, My photography | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments

I’m going, stag.

by cheri block

I drove home yesterday (carefully with a modified boot on my injured foot) from a birthday lunch with my sister and her husband. Still warm with the pot roast and mashed potatoes inside, I gingerly stepped out of the car with my left foot, balancing myself like a pro.

I gimped out of the garage, my eyes sensing movement on the upper lawn. My brain registered “turkey” but my eyes saw “stag.”

With an eight-point set of antlers, a charcoal dark nose, and taupe muscular body, he and I spied each other simultaneously.

Four thoughts registered:

  1. What a magnificent animal!
  2. How did you gain entry?
  3. Please don’t go up the road any farther or those there at the end will shoot you!!
  4. Have you been in our olive orchard, weeks before our harvest is to take place?

He trotted up the lawn at the sight of a human with a large black foot and an old yellow dog. As usual, the dog could have cared less although she did perk up, sensing available deer poop to add to her daily special–a smorgasbord of turkey poop and acorns.

We have a deer fence to prevent this type of stealth entry but somewhere a flaw exists in our design.

I managed to hobble to the telephone and electronically open our gate.

Then, gimp gimp gimp back to the buck, who stood frozen like a bronze statue on a lawn destroyed by prairie dogs.

I put up my arms and waved them, coaxing him softly, “Go on boy, out the gate, up the driveway, out the driveway, up to the park district land, avoid the end of the road, Bambi’s father.”

Unlike the frenetic tour jeté of does and fawns, the stag listened to reason, high-stepping out to freedom.

How many olives did he eat?, I wondered.

Why didn’t I have my camera with me, I lamented.


His girlfriends, taken last week when I could walk up the road.

Posted in Growing Olives, Life, My photography | Tagged , , , | 19 Comments