Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

April 22nd, was the 40th time that we earthlings have celebrated Earth Day. Most of you know that the Earth Day observances started with President Nixon.

Sponsored jointly by the Nixon Library and the Richard Nixon Foundation, we held another of the Nixon Legacy Forum's, "Richard Nixon and the Rise of the Environment." The panelist were three men who were a part of the events of the day, the Honorable Chris DeMuth, the Honorable William Ruckelshaus and the Honorable John Whitaker.

The panel "streamed live", worldwide, from the Nixon Library Theater. It was great. You can see it for yourself on the Nixon Foundation You Tube channel or rnenews@nixonfoundation.org.

Again, I learned so much about what was going on at the time. We were reminded that our environment was just plain dirty, smelly and awful back then. President Nixon knew that drastic measures were badly needed and he made the issue a major domestic priority when he declared in his first State of the Union address that we make "the 1970's a historic period when, by conscious choice, we transform our land into what we want it to become." This bold action lead to the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, the Endangered Species Act, the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and more than 80,000 acres of National Parks. WOW! So how come people say that President Nixon was only a foreign policy president?

Think back to 1970. We didn't know enough to think about thinking "green." It wasn't until raw sewage flowed into our waterways, rivers caught on fire, medical waste washed ashore, and beaches were closed that we began to wake up and smell the yellow air. One of my favorite lines of the panel was when Bill Ruckelshaus, the first EPA Administrator, said it wasn't until polluted air was so bad that the people in Denver wanted to be able to see the mountains and the people in Los Angeles wanted to be able to see each other, that citizens began demanding change. The impetus came from the people and the President responded.

However, the Nixon administration took its licks on that first Earth Day. John Whitaker, in his book, Striking a Balance, reminds us that Walter Cronkite on a one hour CBS-TV special said, Earth Day crowds were "predominantly white, predominantly young, and predominantly anti-Nixon." In 1970, Theodore White, writing an essay in Life magazine, "The two natural containers of the environment, the air and the water, finally vomited back on Americans the filth they could no longer absorb." That's harsh!

Christopher DeMuth, then a young 22 year old Harvard graduate, who had been brought to the White House by Patrick Moynihan, was very involved in the work of the task force who formulated the administrations environmental policies.

We've seen a huge improvement in our environmental quality since 1970.

Air is twice as clean now, despite that fact that twice as many cars are traveling twice as many miles. Peak smog levels are one-third as high as they were 40 years ago.

Recycling is common place now and every where we turn, we are reminded to think green. This year on Earth Day, school children at Disneyland released 140,000 ladybugs throughout the resort as part of the 12-year old integrated pest-management program. Ladybugs eat 4-5,000 aphids during their lifetime. Now that's truly a creative way to celebrate a bug's life at the Magic Kingdom in a way that helps Mother Earth. Way to go, Mickey!

A green apartment complex of 132 units here in Orange County, California, held their grand opening on Earth Day. Most cities in America are probably planning like projects.

However, we have to keep finding new, innovative ways to continue to make a difference. The job will never be over. Also, not all green, innovative products are as good as the old, wasteful ones. Showers for instance. It's really hard to get warm in the Coyote Base huge, cavernous marble shower with it's weenie little low-flow, water-saver shower head. Now, please don't mess with my shower in our Jackson Hole cabin. It is old and perfectly wonderful. The fire-hydrant-like blast of hot water is a welcome luxury. Sorry, but we aren't completely green and we gotta have some of our favorite comforts of life left to enjoy.

And speaking of showers, when you have your own blog, you get to choose what you want to write about, so my complaint in the shower category is directed at shampoo and/or conditioner container designers. Since I can't exactly wear my glasses while showering, it is very difficult to tell which is which. Come on folks. Make it easier, will you please?

Remembering Dorothy Height: During the years that we lived in Washington, DC, I often attended events and had a chance to visit with Ms. Height, who died recently. Her leadership was legendary, and it is true that when she entered a room, she commanded attention. She was always a vision from heels to hat, and just as friendly and gracious. She never failed to act glad to see me, but I was always a bit intimidated and awed to be in her company. She is called the "god mother of civil rights" and she worked tirelessly her entire 98 years for the cause. I think of her today with gratitude, and salute her for all she did for our country and for humankind.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


The Docents at the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace had their annual "Refresher Course" on Saturday. Ron and I were both asked to speak.

As you know, they are an amazing group of very knowledgeable and supportive representatives of the life and career of President Nixon. Many of them have told me that they love hearing our personal stories about the Nixons.

Ron does a fine imitation of President Nixon, and he peppers his stories with amazing impersonations of the former President. Those of you that have seen him in action, know what I am talking about. Our friend Warren Adler saw "Nixon in China" in New York and called to tell Ron that he did a better impersonation than the guy in the production. Could a stint on Broadway be in his future, the next time he flunks retirement?

I told the story of President Nixon meeting with Mexican President Diaz Ordaz in Puerto Vallarta. The President had been traveling non-stop, which meant that Ron and many other aides had been away from home a great deal. Bob Haldeman took pity on some of us and invited us to travel to Puerto Vallarta and have a few days of rest and recreation. Susie Chapin, Inge Elbourne, Pat Brennan and I were the lucky ladies. The State Department loaned us two dune buggies and we explored the beautiful beaches and mountains of Mexico. We stayed for several days at the charming, but long-gone "Garza Blanca" right on the beach. When the days of fun and sun ended, we returned to the official hotel, the "Camino Real." President and Mrs. Nixon arrival day dawned. "El Biggo Dayo" we called it.

Us girls were asked to disappear, and we were glad to, but requested one of the dune buggies for our getaway. I, the only one experienced driving a vehicle with a stick shift, took the wheel. We had admired the wonderful paintings of local artist, Leppe, and we wanted to visit his gallery. The artist had a whimsical style and did several paintings with American and Mexican flags to commemorate the historic meeting. We wanted to see if we could afford any of his painting with the flags.

When we found the street where the gallery was located, we were shocked and horrified to find the street closed. Having been in the country for a few days, we were very impressed with our own ability to speak the native language, and argued heatedly with the Mexican policeman telling us we couldn't enter that street. "Muy importante," we told him. "El biggo appointamente," we said heatedly as we pointed to our watches. It worked. He shook his head and moved the saw horses that had been blocking the intersection. We were thrilled and proud of ourselves.

When we matched the address of the gallery with the storefront, we couldn't believe our eyes. It was CLOSED. Why would they close it? It was an important day for both countries. Why would the artist want to lose potential business? Then we looked around. All the stores were closed. It was then that we realized we were the only vehicle on the street. Then we saw IT. A parade was headed right for us. Motorcycles, cars with flashing lights, flags, buses . . . . realization hit. It was the President's motorcade and it was headed right toward us.

Now, we had a choice. I could pull a U-turn and lead the motorcade. Or . . . we could sit where we were and let the entire Presidential entourage pass by. There is no place to hide in a dune buggy. There are no doors to duck behind or windows to roll up. We were four blondes trying to hide in plain sight. We froze. We were caught red faced and red handed.

Ron and Dwight were in the pilot car, clapping their hands in slow motion applause. All they said to us was, "Great way to disappear, girls." The President and Mrs. Nixon were riding in a convertible. He didn't say a word, but his face said it all. Mrs. Nixon, always gracious and loving to us, said, "You girls look so cute."

All the people on the buses were laughing and waving.

We didn't think it was funny until several minutes later. Then we couldn't stop laughing. The hilarity of the whole experience overwhelmed us and we had to exit the dune buggy to clutch our stomachs and bend over to accommodate the belly laughs. I promise you, we really did think we were disappearing as requested.

Can you imagine doing that today? In the first place, we probably could never "talk our way" into a secure area, and even if we did, we probably would have been taken out by roof top snipers. I have been on the street in Washington DC a couple of times when President Obama's motorcade is on the move. Streets are totally cleared for several, long minutes before his arrival. Traffic on side streets is blocked off. Pedestrians are told to stay on the sidewalk and "cease all movement." Police people yell at the tourists, "You, in the brown coat, stand still."

Then, finally, he goes flying by in a blur of frantic limo dust action. Tourists wave. "Did you see him", they ask each other? Bureaucrats and local residents release a collective sigh and go on about their day. It's the way of life in our nation's capitol these days.

I wouldn't have missed the way we got to experience Presidential motorcades for all the tequila in Mexico!

Monday, April 5, 2010


Coyote Base was rocking and rolling on Easter afternoon! It's all daughter Marja's fault. She had said she hoped to experience an earthquake while she was living in Southern California. In the category of "be careful what you wish for" she was pretty freaked out by the actual event. She's now covering her proverbials by saying she only wished for a little one, not THE big one. Thank heavens, while this was a 7.2 magnitude quake, it was not THE big one.

Earthquakes are scary, dangerous, and destructive. I spent my girlhood in the San Gabriel valley, living in a two-story house. I slept in a four poster bed. When the "Tehachapi Earthquake" hit on July 21, 1952 at 4:30 in the morning, I vividly remember riding my bed from wall to wall, and hanging on for dear life, while my mother ran up and down the hall praying in a very loud voice. (I was 13) We teased her about it for years, but she never thought it was as funny as my brother, Rob, and I did. My Dad slept through the whole thing. She said her worry was the two brick chimney stacks on each end of the house. She was afraid they would tumble down and kill my brother in his room and my Dad snoring away on the other side of the house.

Yesterday's Easter afternoon quake hit about three-thirty. I first noticed my chair was moving back and forth. Ron announced that we were having an earthquake. Marja came flying out of her office to join us. We went into the back yard. (You are supposed to stand in a door-way to avoid any falling debris.) The dogs began barking as the pool water sloshed back and forth. Some of it splashed right out onto the deck. That was the most amazing part of the whole thing, watching a back yard tsunami happen right before your eyes.

Kodai, our boy dog, was the second most freaked out event participant. He insisted on sitting solidly in the middle of the back yard for a long time afterward. It was as if he didn't want to stand up and experience the scary sensation of involuntary movement again. His sister, Lulubelle, just wanted to play ball. That's her first choice of ways to spend her every waking moment. She runs like the wind, so maybe if you are moving fast enough, you don't really feel earthquakes like the rest of us.

Coyote Base is about 3 years old, so it would have been built in strict compliance with all the necessary codes for this part of earthquake country. That's a good thing. It is amazing to realize that our Easter earthquake was bigger than the one in Haiti. This one shook 20 million people in three states and Mexico, but it happened in an area where few people live. That was the huge difference.

I volunteered in the Museum Store at the President Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace on Easter Monday. Just about everyone wanted to talk about the earthquake, and everyone said they were so relieved when the shaking stopped. Californians hear so much about the "Big One" that experts say is inevitable. When it is only a 7.2, gratitude reigns. One geologist called it a "near miss." Hope Marja is now satisfied and will stop the wishing.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Presidential Kumquats

The Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace has a bumper crop of kumquats. The six beautiful trees, three on each side of the reflecting pool, are loaded with the picture perfect fruit. Daughter Marja and I couldn't resist. We harvested the little flavor-bombs to make kumquat marmalade.

Harvesting kumquats on the Library grounds.

I tried hard to find the Nixon/Kumquat historical background, but alas, there doesn't seem to be anything too major. The home where the 37th President was born (the very first baby born in Yorba Linda) was a citrus grove. His father, Frank Nixon worked hard to earn a living as a citrus farmer, but it was a tough task. After interviewing several docents and long-time staffers, it was decided that Hannah Nixon, the President's mother, must have had at least one kumquat tree somewhere close. I found an old reference to "Hannah's Kumquat Kitchen," but no other information was included. We have to assume that she cooked with some of the fruit that surrounded her home.

When the library grounds were taking shape, the landscapers wanted to honor it's "citrus roots". Unfortunately, the only citrus tree that could take the large amount of water necessary for all the other plantings, and especially Mrs. Nixon's roses, was the hearty, tolerant kumquat tree. Kevin Cartwright, involved in those decisions, says the kumquat came to represent all the ancestral citrus species that once lived on the site. Hazel Betts, a master gardener docent, and Bob Lyons, an original docent, still very much involved in the day to day activities, confirms this as well.

Coyote Base has been smelling way-orangey-sweet for almost a week now. When eating a kumquat right off the tree, the experience is a total flavor burst in the mouth. First the sweet rind, then the sour fruit. Wowser, wowser. It kind of makes your eyes water and your lips pucker. So, that's the reason we decided to cook them.

Kumquats are native to China and arrived in California around 1880. Today the state grows the most kumquats in this country, on about 133 acres of kumquat groves. While not widely available in grocery stores, we saw some at the Yorba Linda farmer's market. We also planted a kumquat tree in our Tucson yard.

We tried several different recipes, and decided the best, and least labor intensive was this one, that we chose to call "Presidential Kumquat Marmalade." So here it is, if you want to make some for yourself.

Yield: 8 cups

2 lbs kumquats (4 cups)
1 lime
1 lemon
3 1/2 cups sugar
6 cups of water
1 tsp vanilla
8 1/2-pint mason jars

Squeeze lemon and lime. Gather the juice and pulp.
Wash and dry kumquats.
Thinly slice them.
Remove seeds (HINT: If you cut in half, not length-wise, seeds will be on one side. I know, we were amazed too!)
Place sliced kumquats, all juice, water and sugar in a pot.
Bring to a boil.
Lower heat to medium low and cook for 15 minutes.
Remove from heat, content should be syrupy.
Cover, set aside and let sit overnight at room temperature.
Next day, bring kumquat syrup to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer to desired thickness. (Our first batch was a little watery.) Then we learned to cook it to a beautiful dark brown orange color.
Stir once in awhile, using a wooden spoon
Bring to a boil again.
Skim off any foam that develops.
Add vanilla.
Fill mason jars with marmalade.
Fill a big pot of water and bring to just under a boil. Place filled jars in water and boil for 10 minutes.
If you want to freeze the marmalade, you can skip the "canning" process.

To one batch, we added red pepper, ginger, cumin, cinnamon, apples and raisins to make a delicious chutney.

We pureed one batch and froze it for future cookies, cakes, etc.

And, how about a kumquat marmalade cocktail? Don't laugh. General Omar Bradley invented a drink using orange marmalade. He favored orange slices in his bourbon, and when he was posted to some remote area of the world, there weren't any fresh oranges. He noticed a jar of orange marmalade on the table and the resulting cocktail was named for him. It is delicious with scotch also.

Our final kumquat kount:
32 jars of kumquat marmalade
4 jars of kumquat chutney
1 large zip lock bag of pureed kumquat preserves.

We will be sharing the end product with the folks at the Library. We hope everyone will think the marmalade is as delicious as we do. It was a big project, but a fun salute to "Hannah's Kumquat Kitchen," and the hearty fruit that has come to represent Frank Nixon's citrus grove, the boyhood yard of the 37th President of the United States. Kudos to the Kumquat!