A community blog about high desert living

The Simple Things: Family and Less Shopping

The Simple Things: Family and Less Shopping

I usually can keep tabs on new trends that are a bit more global. The High Desert may be removed from the hustle of LA city but we are still a  savvy bunch. But when the shift in store and restaurants choosing to shutter their doors for the Thanksgiving Holiday began to be a fast-growing trend, I was shocked — even flummoxed.

Arriving in Barstow.  Photo By Jonathan Cobb

Go on a Family outing

People were actually taking advantage of  The Simple Things in Life — like settling down in a sofa with the kids rather than plopping down in a folding chair in front of Best Buy. There has always been an national undercurrent of those who refuse to fight in line, fight at the counters, fight in the parking lots over their “valuable items” of choice. I just saw on the news a mom rip a “great sale item” from the arms of a little kid. Really!?! Have we come to that?

We often forget that we used to go on family outings just for the day. Some families would donate their time at soup kitchens or make a donation to a worthy non-profit foundation. And others would host an elderly person who didn’t have more family to visit with, or couldn’t travel to be with relatives.

double rainbow_01172015

Enjoy a change with a hidden surprise

These Simple Things still happen but now they have taken on a different symbol of thankfulness, one of tradition, and breaking into the shopping madness that has somehow defined our holidays.

So, I must applaud the single-mindedness of folks who stand firm and denounce Black Friday; the corporate offices of those “big box” stores who refused to open and made a statement and stuck to it. And I must recognize the little cafe’s and smaller establishments here in the High Desert who see the value of sharing time at home for one day, rather than causing all the angst compounded in a week’s worth of guerrilla shopping.

Wouldn’t that be a blessing in disguise if, over the years, Black Friday turned to Gray Friday, then Smoky Friday, Ghost Friday then just plain ol’ Friday?


Rusty LaGrange

If you like what you see here then please check out my website at www.rustylagrange.com

and “coming soon” my digital magazine: VintageWest magazine, for Southwest enthusiasts.

Thanksgiving Dining Out — Diner Guider

Thanksgiving Dining Out — Diner Guider
Are you a traditionalist or One who Dines out for Thanksgiving?

Are you a traditionalist or One who Dines out for Thanksgiving?

Sometimes cooking a large meal for Thanksgiving isn’t practical. You may not have enough room for all of the relatives, you might be traveling, you might be single without family close by. One of the options is to avoid cooking at all and visit a restaurant offering the complete Thanksgiving spread. Here’s a Diner Guider report of two restaurants open for Thanksgiving:

Marie Callender’s traditionally opens their doors for scrumptious holiday meal from 11am until 8pm Thanksgiving Day. Their menu offers ham or turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetable, cranberry sauce, with dessert of apple or pumpkin pie. The plate per person for adults is only $19.99, and for children age 12 and under $9.99. No reservations, just come hungry.

Their Victorville location is: 12180 Mariposa Rd., Victorville, CA 92392, phone 760-241-6973. Don’t be surprised to wait in line to get a table. The dinner is very popular. While you’re waiting you can always buy a delectable  Marie Callender’s pie-to-go.

 The cozy cottage restaurant of Mimi’s in Victorville is open from 7am until 8pm serving their traditional Thanksgiving Dinner with their full menu of soup or salad, turkey or ham, mashed potatoes and gravy or candied yams, their signature corn bread cranberry stuffing, and your choice of pumpkin or pecan pie.

But Wait! This year their reservations are almost filled! So hurry if you wish to have a sit-down dining experience for only $18.99 per person. You can call in to Mimi’s at (760) 244-6888 their address is 12032 Amargosa Road, south of Bear Valley and just west of 1-I5 on the frontage road in Victorville.

Notice: many of your favorite dining places in the High Desert may be closed during the holiday, so be sure to call ahead to confirm.

The Diner Guider is brought to you by HighDesertBogging.com

And Rusty LaGrange. www.RustyLaGrange.com

High Desert Blogging Network

High Desert Blogging Network

What is the website, HighDesertBlogging.com, all about and who are the authors? If you’ve been wondering, it’s about the High Desert in Southern California, especially the Victor Valley area. It is also a blog. Not sure what a blog is? Think of a blog as a web-log, a website, a journal online, articles, etc. This particular blog is not just written by one person (or blogger) but by multiple people. Therefore, it’s called a blog network.

Our bloggers write specifically about topics related to the High Desert area of Victor Valley.

HighDesertBlogging.com Network Topics

Our bloggers write about a variety of topics which are all related somehow to the High Desert. The blog post may be about things to do in the area, written by or about one of the local writers or artists, an event happening, or places to shop, etc. The newest topic is our diner guide. Topics include:

  1. Blogging
  2. Book Publishing
  3. Books
  4. Cash Flow
  5. Comedy
  6. Community
  7. Contests
  8. Decorating
  9. Entrepreneurs
  10. Food
  11. Frugal Living
  12. Gardening
  13. Day Trips to and from the High Desert
  14. Jobs
  15. Beauty and Fashion
  16. Fitness
  17. Vintage
  18. Shopping
  19. Route 66
  20. Southwest
  21. Spirituality
  22. Poetry
  23. Writing
  24. Things to do, sites to see, and places to go in the High Desert

We have writers who also have other blogs like:

If you are interested in joining our blog network or want to submit an article about one of the topics listed above, contact Rusty or Angie at hdblogging@gmail.com.

High Desert Bloggers Meetup

Angie, Owner of

Rusty, Copywriting and Editing

Rusty, Editor at HighDesertBlogging.com

A High Desert bloggers group that meets monthly through Meetup.com/High-Desert-Bloggers:

High Desert Bloggers, Route 66 Molly Brown's

High Desert Bloggers at Molly Brown’s on National Trails Highway


Thank you for visiting our blog. We hope that you will come back often and join us in the comment section. We love to hear from our readers.


A New Feature This Season: DINER GUIDE-r

A New Feature This Season: DINER GUIDE-r

Your  favorite restaurant could be just down the street or clear across town. The list is growing as the “foodies” in the High Desert weigh in with their choices across the Internet and inside their favorite food blogs.

Same here. You can stop by and see some of the High Desert’s restaurants, cafes, diners, and out-of-the-way comfort food places — whoever knew grilled macaroni would become so iconic — just by checking out our Diner Guide-r.

But we can’t do it alone.

Let us know what your favorite place is to dine. We”ll be listing places to eat from drive-thrus to takeout to gourmet restaurants. We won’t be selecting any based our taste-buds — only by what we hear and read.

It will be a list of places you just gotta  try for yourself. If I were a gourmand, I’d be 600 pounds and not a nickel to my name. So we’re relying on you to share and be fair. Help us develop our Diner Guide-r. We might even have a few dining gift cards to  toss into a drawing.

To start the list:

Johnnie D’s has been around for over 30 years. There menu is mainstream American with a good variety of large portions on their dinner plates. Breakfast is a big draw as well. The place is just west of Apple Valley and Bear Valley roads. They offer selected menus for Seniors Over 55 so the restaurant is a favorite among the silver-haired crowd.

Johnnie D's near Home Depot

Johnnie D’s near Home Depot

Burger Depot

Burger Depot — for 36 years

While we’re thinking about great places, my granddaughter, stopped by to add her favorite spots to eat. One was Burger Depot, a little place with only a few tables, an efficient drive-thru, and their theme inside is the history of trains.

David and Karen Mount, the sole owners, have served Lucerne Valley customers for a little over 35 years. “The food is amazing,” my granddaughter says.

She’s quick to note that the other best place to eat in Lucerne Valley is Cafe 247, right at the intersection where Hwy 247 makes a turn northward. The menu has not only pizza and breakfast burritos with gravy, but it also has for a new addition jalapenos poppers.

In the Middle of Nowhere -- Cafe 247

In the Middle of Nowhere — Cafe 247

She says her dad loves them, but she won’t try them yet. “They’re hot!” The business is under new management since April, and the hours have changed for the winter. If you come out for the quiet ride into the desert, be sure to call ahead 760.248.6088.

Well, that’s enough to start the restaurant list. Let us know, in Comments below, what and where your favorite place to eat can be located.


Rusty LaGrange

From “Fall Back” to “Jump Time”

From “Fall Back” to “Jump Time”
Ice forming in storm clouds

Ice forming in storm clouds

When we get word through the TV news or a notice in the newspaper that we must set our clocks back an hour, suddenly my world stops.

Vivid skies appear as the nights get chilly

Vivid skies appear as the nights get chilly

double rainbow_01172015

A double rainbow is gift before freezing

I find that I go directly to holiday mode in my mind and each cold breath of winter approaching is a reminder that I only have a few weeks ahead before the holidays take center stage. For me it’s Jump Time. Time seems to jump forward and days fly by so quickly that even planning seems futile. By the time I plan, time has run away.

Is this a bad thing? How do you cope with the changes in weather and in events to prepare for it? Does your world feel like it’s running away from you? Share some of your strategies for

making holiday time fun for your family. (You might check out some of the cool nonprofit organizations that make gift giving easier.)

To help corral this feeling I find that using sticky notes on the calendar do help. Beyond that I try to begin my decorating in the week of the holiday. If I wait too long the decor will be out 24 hours and then put away. I’ve never been a Martha Stewart-type of person. I have good years and bad when it comes to decorating and baking for holiday events.

I must admit that some years we run away and go camping just to avoid the mental clutter of the prep time. Too much to do, to buy, too many to see, and purchase gifts. And don’t get me started on holiday cards. One year I sent out 55 Christmas cards; another year only five. Some cards I make from scratch, others are bought last moment as I race out of the grocery store. Whatever.

This year I plan, notice the operative word “plan,” to get all of my cards completed before Christmas Eve. I plan to have turkey soup made after the turkey is carved on Thanksgiving instead of finding the carcass two years later freezer-burned beyond recognition.

I have two newborn twin granddaughters to welcome into our busy schedules. Actually, they control the schedule as preemies will in the hospital’s NICU wards. We must succumb to their feeding times. A terrible burden of love. So there’s “scrub in” time, “holding” time, “goo-goo in their face” time, “feeding them 4 milliliters” time, and if I drank there would be Miller time.

Time seems to be my biggest hindrance. Wait a minute! If time is the bugaboo here, and I control my own destiny, then I can kill time, waste time, offer up time, and ignore time. I can have time on my hands, time will tell, and time in a bottle.

Getting a bit crazy here. I need some down time.

Rusty LaGrange

Taking time to post in her other blog — VintageWest Magazine Blog and at www.RustyLaGrange.com


Last Minute Halloween Treats

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All of us get overwhelmed with the events of life and find ourselves scurrying at the last minute to put together something to take to a Halloween Party or to feed guests that we invited over.  Sometimes, when the responsibilities of work take more time than they should,  I find myself at the last minute trying to hurry and put together something just for my family.

What follows are five simple ideas that I’ve found on the internet that I think can help solve the question of what can I make?  Warning:  I really like candy corn, so it may be unfairly featured here to the exclusion of other types of candy or food.

Harvest DecorThe first item in our roundup is a simple mixture of candy corn and nuts that I found  at Kitchen Hospitality. The combination is nearly addictive.  It can be placed on a table for guests to serve for themselves.

candy corn, a hug, and a pretzel make halloween candy.The next recipe is for a simple candy that ‘s great to make with your children because the ingredients are so simple to put together.  We found this combination of Candy Corn, Hugs, and Pretzels from Patty Cake’s Pantry, and it was a hit with everyone.

Monster mash snack mixHow about some Halloween themed snack mix?  Check out the recipe for Monster Mash Snack Mix at Our Three Peas.   This combination of treats is both delicious and scary.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-zfpV30hXR2U/TneTrL_zgZI/AAAAAAAAAa8/J202xvJtLqI/s1600/Monster+Mash+Popcorn+Mix1wm.jpgAnother version of Monster Mash Snack Mix can be found  at In Katrina’s Kitchen.  This Monster Mash Snack Mix is composed of clusters.  They are delicious even if they look like melted chickens.

Ghosts in the Graveyard Image 1Lastly, I present my family’s favorite Halloween Dessert, Ghosts in the Graveyard.   The recipe can be found at KraftFoods.com.  It goes by many different names.  Some people just refer to the recipe as mud, and as you may guess, mine is always topped with some candy corn, mallow creme pumpkins, and of course, cookie tomb stones.

We hope you enjoy this list of Last Minute Halloween Treats.  If you are looking for something a little healthier or with a little less sugar, try making the mud with sugar free Oreo type cookies and use sugar free pudding.  If you eschew artificial sweeteners and want more natural foods, check out our previous post A Healthy Twist on Halloween Treats.

Please leave a comment below and tell us about your favorite Halloween Treats.

**Patti, the author of this post, in addition to guest blogging at HighDesertBlogging.com, is a frequent contributor at SimplyHealthyEats.com, a website dedicated to helping people make healthy food choices.  It features recipes,  many of which are gluten and dairy free.  She can also be found at PattyCakesPantry.com where she tries to limit her blogging to stocking a pantry, budgeting, and recipes.  She isn’t always successful. 

Alternative Treats for Kids

Alternative Treats for Kids
Candy Alternatives

Candy and Sugar Highs Used by Permission from http://houstonblognetwork.com

Trunk or Treat festivities have begun. You’ve already decorated your trunk, purchased several bags of candy, and helped your children choose costumes (or picked out your own). Right?

If that doesn’t describe your agenda and you are shopping at the last minute for a party on October 31st, then how about a totally out-of-the-norm candy substitute?

Did you ever wonder how candy became popular for Halloween? I was curious about it and did a little online research. According to history.com, Halloween’s history can be dated back to All Souls’ Day (a practice of honoring the dead) that began on November 2nd in the year of 1000 AD. Poor people would visit wealthy homes and receive soul cakes (pastries) in return for praying for the homeowner’s dead relatives.

A type of community trick or treating became popular in the 1930’s. Then sugar rationing came with World War II. After the war, “candy” treating became popular for Halloween which is now the second largest commercial holiday with approximately $6 billion spent by Americans.

What if parents nationwide decided to rally together and begin a new Halloween tradition of candy alternatives that would minimize candy and promote family and nutrition? Imagine with me, and let’s come up with ideas. Send in ones you come up with in the reply/comment section on this page. I’ll start off the list of possibilities and alternatives.

NOTE: This post contains an affiliate link which means if you click on it and make a purchase, I make a commission. This doesn’t cost you anything additional. These commissions help to keep the rest of my content free, so thank you!

  1. Oranges
  2. Raisins (mini boxes)
  3. 100 calorie packets
  4. pretzels
  5. dried fruit
  6. coins
  7. glow sticks
  8. coloring books of popular kids’ movies
  9. toy cars and trucks
  10. Bubbles
  11. organic crackers
  12. red foam clown noses (fun for Christmas stockings, weddings,and  birthday parties, too)
  13. Glow in the Dark spider rings
  14. organic animal crackers
  15. fun stamps for kids
  16. whistles
  17. stickers
  18. crazy straws
  19. mini colorful containers
  20. smiley face squeeze balls

That’s 20 alternatives to candy. Now it’s your turn.

Understanding Ekphrastic Poetry

Mary Langer Thompson
Mary Langer Thompson

Retired educator Mary Langer Thompson lead the workshop on Ekphrastic

Last weekend High Desert Poet Mary Langer Thompson taught a class on the Greek art form of ekphrasis. Imagination is the key component in ekphrastic art.

Study a toddler in playtime. Toddlers are amazing. For instance, watch a 2-year-old play with a group of stuffed animals. You hear comments, such as “You have to be quiet, Doggee”, “Don’t be sad”, “You gotta hurry”, “Come on, kitty”, “Come on, Elephant”, and “Go to sleep”. When it’s bedtime, the toddler can think of several reasons for not going to bed. The books come out, and the mom or dad reads with sleepy eyes. The 2-year-old still has energy left, however, and takes over the reading for the grownup. “Once upon a time” the toddler “reads” while observing the pictures and finishes each book with “The End!”.

Picture (or photo) reading isn’t for toddlers only. Adults look at photos and get an impression of what is taking place. That’s what happens when you read the comics, the ones without captions. Not everyone gets it, though. Could that be because, from toddler stage to adulthood, some are just more observant than others?

Ekphrasis, is a type of picture reading that is an old Greek art form. A story is told from impressions received by looking at a piece of art. Creative imagination and skill of the writer comes together in the literary art form of ekphrastic poetry. The goal of the poet is to make readers feel as though they are part of what is happening in the picture.

Take one piece of art and pass it around to a group of seven, and you’ll get seven different impressions of what was happening in the picture. It’s similar to the four gospels in the New Testament. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John tell the same story of Christ from four different viewpoints.

A person’s imagination and perception are formed by family life, events, conditions, and circumstances from the beginning of life. Naturally, each individual sees things differently. Otherwise, it would be a boring world.

Learn more about ekphrasis and other poetry from Mary Langer Thompson. Look for her upcoming poetry handbook coming out in 2016. For more information, you can contact Mary at her website and purchase her newest book Poems in Water.

NOTE: This post contains an affiliate link which means if you click on it and make a purchase, I make a commission. This doesn’t cost you anything additional. These commissions help to keep the rest of my content free, so thank you!

Poetry by Mary Langer Thompson

Poems in Water
Mary Langer Thompson

Art Appreciation Through a Poem — Ekphrastically

Art Appreciation Through a Poem — Ekphrastically

A poetry workshop, focusing on Ekphrasis poem form, was recently held at Hi-Desert Oasis Used Bookstore in Apple Valley. Mary Langer Thompson led the workshop and helped those attending to understand how this poem form was an extension of the art world as early as the 1700s.

Retired educator Mary Langer Thompson lead the workshop on Ekphrastic

Retired educator Mary Langer Thompson lead the workshop on Ekphrastic poetry

Mary is California’s state senior poet laureate of 2012, a member of High Desert branch, and a retired school teacher and administrator.

Members from High Desert California Writers Club enjoyed learning how the arts can influence poetry

Members from High Desert California Writers Club enjoyed learning how the arts can influence poetry

An Ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the “action” of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning.

In this session color cards of Pierre-Auguste Renoir acted as our close-up gallery so each poet could study a portrait to glean the details and tones of the works of art. Then poets analyzed and wrote key feelings that each portrait emitted. Then followed the task of writing an Ekphrastic-styled poem to exhibit how the painting reached them.

Others in our workshop created poignant visions of Renoir’s portraits. We shared our concepts and how the artist is able to capture so much nuance from subtle colors, body language of his subjects, and details in jewelry and clothing of the time period that all add to the experience of the poem.

A Renoir painting helped poets envision their feelings

A Renoir painting helped poets envision their feelings

And, as an example, here’s just the first few lines of my poem based on a daughter standing and mother sitting in a somber room:

            “Her Daughter Julie”

We walked slowly from the hilltop monuments.

The Reverend held my mother’s hand until

the sounds of the small brook brought a sigh.

It was too cold, too sad, too early to be

Lain to rest in our countryside.

The Renoir that inspired my poem

The Renoir that inspired my poem

Anyone can be inspired to share how they feel — and how the painting, sculpture, or other form of art made them feel. A poem of this style can be written in free-verse or rhymed, loose or structured. In any account, the act of sharing and speaking out about the art is just as important as looking at it on a wall or in a museum gallery.

Rusty LaGrange

A Healthy Twist on Halloween Treats

A Healthy Twist on Halloween Treats

Halloween is one of the biggest party times for adults.  It’s also a huge party time for kids. Unfortunately, Halloween is not considered a time for good nutrition, but it should be. I have collected a few healthy ideas from around the internet to help you celebrate without sacrificing good nutrition.    These treats were well received by both adults and children in our test group.  In fact, these treats prove that it’s possible to have fun food that’s healthy, too.

http://i2.wp.com/www.simplyhealthyeats.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/FullSizeRender_2.jpg1.  First up is a really disgusting looking ear wax covered q-tip that I found over at SimplyHealthyEats.com.  It’s made from jicama and the “ear wax” is nut butter.  While it looks disgusting, it’s surprisingly tasty.  The “gross” factor is just what was needed to get our kids to try them.

Frankenstein Kiwis Recipe – (Another!) Healthy Halloween Treat {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}2.  Next up is an idea that’s too cute to resist, and it’s extremely healthy, too.  Frankenstein Kiwi from TwoHealthyKitchens.com.    Did you know that you can eat the skin on a kiwi after you rub off the fuzz?

Apple Mummies Recipe … A Healthy Halloween Treat {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}3.   This idea for Mummy Apples also comes from TwoHealthyKitchens.com.  The expression about an apple a day being good for you certainly continues to apply on Halloween, right?

leaves and a stem on an orange jack-o-lantern4.  This orange jack-o-lantern requires some work on the part of the diner.  They will have to peel it, but it looked like a fun idea.

orange pumpking and orange jack-o-lantern5.  If you don’t want your guest to have to work to eat their food, there’s always the option for a peeled orange with a celery stalk stuck int the top.  I, personally, think this works best with mandarin oranges or tangerines.   I saw the original idea over at 100 dollars a month.

Pumpkin Veggie Tray Recipe6.  How about a vegetable tray shaped like a jack-o-lantern with cute little dishes of dip for the eyes and nose.   This idea came from taste of home.

7.  This skeleton crudite is one of my favorites, but it’s always reduced to something unidentifyable within minutes of being served, so we make several when we have a large group over.   This idea came from  Feeding Frenzy.

Curried Devil's Eggs8.  A little protein goes a long way to prevent blood sugar spikes and crashes, so deviled eggs make an excellent addition to your buffet table.  These came from HiCookery.com.  You may think I linked to the wrong page, but scroll down.  The devil eggs are on the bottom of the Easter Egg Post.

9.  There’s a secret to these deviled eggs from I Lived I Loved that makes them look scary.   I love the use of red to make the eyes appear bloodshot.

10.  Trying to cut down on cholesterol, try filling the center of the egg whites with guacamole like this idea from food.com.  (Sorry.  No permission to use the photo was received prior to publication.)  Follow the link and you’ll see what I mean.  A slice of ripe olive on top of the guacamole gives the appearance of an eye.

There you have it.  Ten healthy Halloween recipe ideas.  I hope you consider adding some fruits and vegetables to your Halloween Party Buffet.  It’s good for you and for your guest.  Happy Halloween.

Leave a comment to let us know what you like to have on your Halloween Buffet.

**Patti is a frequent contributor at SimplyHealthyEats.com, a website dedicated to helping people make healthy food choices.  It features recipes,  many of which are gluten and dairy free.  She can also be found at PattyCakesPantry.com where she tries to limit her blogging to stocking a pantry, budgeting, and recipes.  She isn’t always successful. 


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