Thursday, November 9, 2017

Come Together

This has been a rough year for many of us. Between health, politics, family and just everything else that's going on in the world, it's been sad and a lot of negative feelings all around.  A lot of pain around the world.  A lot of hate.  I've really thought about this deeply the last few weeks and I realize there's a lot of love and coming together too.  People reaching out to neighbors, not caring what color their skin is or what religion they are, what sex.  Look at the disasters of the hurricanes ... the humanity of those that have and are helping there.  The mass shootings ... the humanity of those that are pulling together and are helping there.  We are a nation ... a diverse nation of people ... that mostly want the same thing ... to unite and live in harmony among our fellow men and women.  Our nation has been ripped and torn but she's pulling herself together and she will have scars but I believe she will be stronger.  We must stand together.  We must love one another.  We must unite to overcome or we will fall as a nation.   

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Clutter - How it Effects Us

Since we've gotten back from Arizona it's been so hard to get myself motivated.  The weather has been storm after storm after storm.  Today it's a beautiful sun shiny day.  I should go out and take a walk and enjoy the sunshine ,,, that's what I should do ... instead I'm sitting in my chair looking at the chaos that is my living room and writing in my blog.  I have two spare bedrooms upstairs but I have all my sewing stuff dragged down here around the dining table ... well not all but a lot of it.  I am so OCD and chaos plays havoc with my mind.  So I think my project today is to get myself organized.  Take my sewing stuff upstairs and put it away then I can bring it down and work one project at a time.  I have boxes and boxes of material and patterns that I have ordered, received and just seem to want to look at and not do anything with.  It's overwhelming.  Does clutter effect you that way?  I really don't handle clutter well at all.

I've learned over the years that it's not just the clutter you see but also the clutter you think that effects you.  Memories that you can't let go of.  Memories that haunt you, creep into your dreams and sometimes just appear maybe from a smell, a sound, a glimpse of someone from the corner of your eye.  These memories stir up all kinds of emotions inside you ... clutter your mind sometimes with anger, fear and sadness ... sometimes though it's happiness and joy.  The good memories I don't consider clutter, those are the keepers.  And just like you do at home there are boxes for them all:

Trash - the ones that cause the anger - fear - anxiety - some sad ones - basically the bad memories ... those are the ones we need to throw away.  They are the ones that are cluttering our minds, our lives and holding us back from achieving so much

Donate - this is the tricky part ... this is where you take it to counseling ... they help you deal with the trash and learn to see things in a different light ... so you donate those memories to counseling and get help dealing with them, learn to overcome them.

Keep - these are all the memories that make us happy. After we have learned how to deal with the bad memories we learn how to replace them with the good memories.  We learn to be happy, to be at peace and once you have mastered this, nothing can hold you back.

I choose not to be angry.  I choose to be happy.  I choose to control the clutter in my mind.

And now, back to my living/dining room.  I guess I'm choosing the walk first and then I'll deal with the mess when I get back.  Have a wonderful day.    

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Getting Back to Nature

In the 70's Gary and I lived in a little community on a farm while he was in Law School.  We shared a garden plot with several other tenants and I scrubbed our clothes on a scrub board, ran them through a wringer and hung them out to dry in our yard.  We lived in a tiny little house out there and there were probably between 13 to 15 little houses on that farm.  The farmer rented to students and set us all up with our garden plot, we all shared electricity by square footage, our water was part of the rent.  Rent was $135.00 a month.  I had our first child while we lived out there.  I canned our vegetables and made my baby's baby food from scratch.  I made my own bread, cooked everything from scratch - all the while I worked full-time and Gary went to school.  I worked evenings and he went to school in the early part of the day so our daughter, Rachel, was at the babysitter usually 2 to 4 hours 3 days a week.  I made everything my baby wore as well as just about everything I wore.  I taught myself to knit and crochet and learned to make blankets.  I made quilts for our beds.  I never really thought about it being hard because I knew it was temporary.  It was an adventure. It's what we needed to do to not take out student loans and get him through school.  There was a light at the end of the tunnel.

Over the years, things have changed.  I've acquired a lot of "stuff".  While we were on this trip to Arizona I realized just how much waste we produce so I think it's time to try and start getting back to some of those basics.  I'm never going to wash clothes on a scrub board again, although I miss the smell of sheets dried on a clothesline that too is something I don't think is in my future unless we move out of the city.  My backyard is too shaded to have a vegetable garden so I'll not be able to grow and put away my own vegetables but I could start cooking again more often.  We eat our way too much.  Cooking from scratch is actually enjoyable although it's more convenient to open a box, can or order in - it really isn't as satisfying or as healthy.  Paper napkins, paper towels, paper plates ... when did this happen?  When did this become the norm?  I have beautiful dishes, perfectly good cloth napkins and a great washer and dryer to clean them with and lots of kitchen towels and cleaning cloths to replace the paper towels.  Those have to go.  Perhaps to be put away for things like picnics but for everyday I believe we need to use dishes, cloth napkins and kitchen towels.

I'm not suggesting we go back to a time when women were slaves to the home, their husbands, family and life ... these are modern time and I'm a firm believer in everything equal.  But I do think we all need to do our part in making our world a better place to live.  If we cut out plastic bottles, paper products (less trees cut down ... more air to breathe), eat healthier and part of that healthy eating is sitting at a table and having a conversation with your family.  Taking the time to catch up, enjoying each other's company.  This is important.  Family is important and should be first in your life, more important than whatever show is coming on TV.  When my kids were growing up we had all our meals at the dining room table together.  Breakfast every morning before school and in the summer we would sometimes take our lunch outside and have picnics in the backyard and tell stories that we would make up as we ate our lunch.  Meals were enjoyable.  I remember a lot of light teasing, laughter and fun at the dinner table as well as manners taught and politeness.  Now the only time we eat at the dining room table is on Sundays.  So, I've let that slip as well.  We usually take our meals on TV trays in the living room watching TV, very little conversation.  It will be up to me to change things again and I will.  Gary and I used to have dinner out in the sun room in the evenings when the weather allowed so we could enjoy the sunsets.  We've gotten lazy.  Sometimes modern conveniences become crutches instead of helping us they enable us to become lazy and complacent instead of moving forward.  There is nothing wrong with being happy, being content but we can't stand still and let life pass us by either.  We should always be moving forward, always.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Our Visit to New Mexico

Our first leg of our journey out west was to visit my brother-in-law in Placitas, New Mexico.  He had told us that water was a problem there but I don’t think we were actually prepared for what it was actually like.  We knew that he had bought this beautiful home there and that a new well had been drilled for the neighborhood, the owner (seller) was responsible for the payment or his part of the payment as per the agreement when he purchased the house but then that well dried up just a few short months later.  Then the neighborhood began paying to have water trucked in but my brother-in-law purchased a 12 acre lot next to his property that has a working well on it and he pumps his water from that.  We assumed that it’s attached to the house but to do that it’s another 100-200,000 to have that done so every week or so he has to take this trailer to the lot and pump 250 gallons at a time into this tank on the trailer and then haul it back to the house and then pump it into one of the two 1000 gallon tanks he has in his garage.  That’s 8 trips to fill those tanks just to be able to flush his toilets or wash dishes, his hands, take a shower, do a little laundry.  This is hot, slow, back breaking work and it takes hours.  From what I was hearing from the natives there, they haven’t had real rainfall in twelve years.  I looked it up online and was only able to get the year 2015 … for the whole year … 0.65  … that’s all they received for the whole year of 2015. That is so hard to comprehend.  No wonder the wells are drying up.  The cactus is dying and the animals are wandering into the neighborhoods looking for food and water.  It is such a sad and devastating story for such a beautiful part of our country. 
Standing on my brother-in-law’s balcony I could see for miles.  His home is in the mountains and you can see the town in the distance and more mountains beyond that.  What a beautiful view!  Miles away you could see rain falling but it never made it to Placitas.  You look down at the parched ground, cracked and thirsty wondering what could possibly be causing such a long drought.  I know places where they are begging the rains to stop, flooding so bad that people are having to leave their homes and here is this beautiful mountainous country that is begging for just a few drops of rain to save it’s plant life, it’s animal life. 

He leaves pans of water at the edge of his property for the wild animals so that they might be saved.  He hangs birdfeeders from his trees and hummingbird feeders around his balcony as well as from trees.  He’s had all kinds of wild animals visit at night.  Lately he’s had a large black bear that comes even to the balcony and drinks from the hummingbird feeders.  A bobcat drank from his birdbath and left him a rabbit’s foot the next day as a thank-you.  Coyote visit to drink from his pans as well as deer, skunk, raccoon and squirrel.  He keeps cameras around to catch sight of the animals and each time he gets sight of a different one he buys a carving of that species to add to his menagerie that he keeps on a side table.  His beautiful dog, Hudson, is always at his side.  If it weren’t for the water issue, this would be the perfect place to live.  The peaceful existence between man and nature. 

Hudson is very camera shy and fought me about taking his picture.
Isn't he a pretty boy?  Love him so much! Such a sweetheart!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Eating Out in Phoenix

Gary and I ate out quite a few times while we were in Phoenix but there are two different places I feel are really worth mentioning here. The first one is a place called Switch Restaurant & Wine Bar   The food is unique and a mixture of southern, western and Cajun cooking.  Our server was Dan and he was amazing!  He made sure we received the attention we needed, knew what we needed before we knew we needed it and was amusing with his sharp wit and great disposition.  He really made our visit there amazing.  He managed his tables well, always managed to keep up conversations without making you feel rushed and yet he kept the flow between the tables going well.  He was wonderful at his job and seemed to really enjoy it.  The food was fabulous.  For our appetizer I ordered the Fried Green Tomatoes with the Argula, shrimp-sweet corn pico and lemon aioli. To be honest I wasn't as impressed with the fried green tomatoes as I expected to be and that's one of my favorite dishes but the pico was very flavorful.  It made up for the overcooking of the green tomatoes, the green tomatoes really didn't have any taste to them at all.  They were just sort of bland and being from the south we just don't handle bland food well.  For my entree I ordered The fried Catfish which I could have cornmeal dusted or blackened and I chose cornmeal dusted.  It was to be served with a summer squash casserole.  I love squash so that sounded great to me.  The catfish was suppose to have a charred tomato bacon vinaigrette. In my mind I'm picturing pieces of fish on a plate drizzled with this vinaigrette, squash casserole on the side.  Gary orders this Smoked Adobe Meatloaf  that's made with both pork and beef and topped with Smoked Adobe Ketchup.  I believe the meatloaf is grilled after it's baked in the oven but I wouldn't swear by it and then sweet corn on the side and sweet potato puree.  When our entrees came out I wasn't sure what to expect so my plate is put in front of me and it's sort of a low edged large bowl with everything stacked on top of each other and I'm like ... Oh Lord.  I'm one of those crazy people that really doesn't like my food to touch.  I look over at Gary and his dinner is stacked like mine is ... his sweet corn ... corn on the cob that has been soaked in this sauce ... so it's like creamy sweet corn on the cob.  I know my eyes were huge, I was wondered what kind of mess I had gotten us into.  Well, we may have to ask for more napkins before the meal was over but it was time to brave the meal!  I took my first bite ... it was the squash casserole and it was like my mouth was having an awakening.  It was delicious. I make a great squash casserole but this was magnificent.  As I'm eating, Gary is eating his, cutting the corn off his the two cobs it was beyond him to eat that with his fingers LOL but we discussed the meal and shared bites back and forth.  My fish was delicious, and I'm usually not a fish eater but it was cooked perfectly.  I ate almost every bite on my plate.  I was beyond full but the food was so good I hated to leave even a bite of it behind and even now my mouth waters over that squash casserole.  Someday I will figure out that recipe!!! It was a wonderful meal, we laughed and joked and ate and enjoyed the two hours we were there.  This is definitely a place I would eat again and again!

My Catfish dinner up front and Gary's meatloaf dinner further back

Fried Green Tomatoes Appetizers

The second place I want to mention is Alexi's Grill.  Where Switch was more a casual setting, Alexi's Grill was more fine dining.    We wanted to sit outside and enjoy the night and the clear sky, the stars, the evening was beautiful.  We found out that most restaurants in Phoenix don't open their outside dining until late September due to the heat so we were seated inside near a window so could still see the evening.  The manager was a woman and very sweet and made our evening special.  She wanted to give us dessert on the house since she couldn't allow us to sit outside but we declined the offer as there was no reason to do so.  We weren't offended and meal was exceptional.  The only thing I didn't like was their salad dressings, they had a choice of two ... both were creamy ... balsamic vinegar or mustard (that's yellow mustard folks and yup it tastes like yellow mustard!)  I wasn't impressed with either one.  I hate balsamic vinegar and the mustard dressing was really too strong and overwhelmed the salad completely.  So I only took a few bites of that and I was done.  Again, I was looking to be disappointed.  Gary had ordered steak and as neither of us really like potatoes we asked for vegetables to be substituted in place of the potatoes.  I ordered pork loin topped with sauteed mushrooms in a garlic Marsala wine sauce. I ordered Pinot Grigio to drink with my meal and I don't remember what wine Gary ordered.   They brought out our food and it was perfect!  They replaced the potatoes with candied carrots and oh my goodness they were delightful! I haven't had candied carrots in I don't know how many years ... and the broccoli was cooked to perfection.  There were three pork medallions were as large as a small steak.  There was no way I could eat three of them and the sauce was brilliant!  The Marsala wine didn't overpower the mushrooms ... the mushrooms were tender and fresh.  It was a most satisfying meal.  I actually ended up taking 2 of the medallions and the broccoli back to our hotel with us and then we took it to the condo so Gary had it for lunch the next day.  I didn't leave him any of the carrots LOL.

Doesn't that look delicious?  I didn't even take a picture of Gary's meal.  It was a steak and vegetables.

So if you find yourself in Phoenix and you need a place to eat, either one of these are great places.  One is more casual and one is more fine dining but both I would rate 4 star to 4.5 star.  Both had excellent service and food.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Desert Botanical Gardens - Phoenix, Arizonia

Everywhere we go, I have to visit the local Botanical Gardens.  I love it because they usually always have flowers, bushes, trees and plants native to the area and of course the Desert Botanical Gardens did not disappoint.  We have very good friends in Seattle, Washington and his hobby is cacti.  He collects as many different species as he can find.  Now you know he has to baby them in that area as it's cold, cloudy and wet a lot of the year but he does a great job with them.  He's built a green house so he can baby them as much as possible.  He belongs to a group there that works mainly with cacti.  But anyway, We we went to visit the gardens early Friday morning, our last morning in Phoenix. We probably got there around 9:30 that morning and it was already pushing 100 degrees so I knew we wouldn't be able to to wander the whole 125 acres.  We spent about 2 hours wandering the trails and admiring the flora.  I really don't know much about cacti but after visiting and examining a lot of different species I think I will study up on it a bit.  I found a lot of it fascinating.  Some of pictures I post I will have comments on.  I have no idea what most of this is ... if you do ... feel free to comment!
This is at the entrance.  The lightest trees are made of glass and donated from a local artist.

I had no idea what this was but it looked like some kind of fruit.  I know, I know us silly southerners ... but once I was told what it was I recognized the name ... it's a prickly pear plant.  Not only is the fruit edible but so are the leaves.  I found that very interesting and wanted to pass it on just in case there are others out there that have no idea like me.  LOL.   

This is my sweet little lizard that seemed to be as interested in us as we were in him.  He was watching us and kind of walking and keeping pace with us while we strolled through a certain area so I stopped and snapped his picture.  He got very camera shy and skittered off after that.  I guess I offended him.  

That's all the pictures I have of the gardens.  I only had my cell phone with me and it died while I was there.  I forgot my camera completely and wasn't prepared which seemed to be my mantra for this whole trip when it came to pictures but we did enjoy ourselves so I guess that was really what mattered the most.  We bought ourselves a bottle a water and stopped and refilled at the refill stations along the way while we walked.  It was a very hot day and the sun was extremely unforgiving but the gardens were beautiful and well worth visiting.  There are some shaded areas and lots of benches scattered throughout the trails so that you can sit and rest which we took advantage of from time to time.  There are birds that sing and many types of butterflies that flutter about from one flowering cactus to another.  they have nice rock water fountains so you hear the birds singing and water running almost like a brook in different places.  Then in one area there is this wonderful shaded place that has this great vine thing that has grown up and over and makes this cool area and they have little pots of flowers there and chairs to sit in and I think they had a soft flute music coming from somewhere but it was very tranquil and in the center because there are like 3 or 4 sitting areas there ... in the center this is this large flat rock with water that runs over it ... it's another type of fountain.  Just very peaceful and restful.  It's a wonderful place to just sit and meditate.   They have done a wonderful job on these gardens.  

The Apache Trail in Arizona

Hi all we're back from our trip out to Arizona.  I'll be talking about our trip in different posts as there's so much to tell.  One of the most memorable parts of this trip was our little trip along the Apache Trail.  It was really an after thought, Gary's procedure had been pretty tough he was tired, the weather was extremely hot and we thought ... we'll take this drive.  We'll be in an air conditioned car and get to look at pretty scenery, how much more relaxing can it be?  Well ... LOL ... first of all.  It's a six hour drive if you do the whole drive from Phoenix but it was worth every minute.  You drive through the Superstition Mountains, the majority of the Apache Trail remains unpaved.  I think the whole trail is about 40 miles but the first part of the trip is paved and two lanes.  It's actually a fairly relaxing drive, lots of places to pull over and take pictures and oh my gosh ... breath taking scenery.  Mountains and gorges so colorful you feel you are looking through a kaleidoscope!  We passed beautiful lakes that I later learned were the Canyon Lake and the Apache Lake.  Water so blue and at times the mountains reflected in them they were so clear and mirror like.  Just beautiful.  I kept complaining about the electrical lines that were ruining my pictures (lol) because it was as if modernism was invading nature.  It was so wild, so majestic and so wonderful. Then we arrived to this tiny little trading post area that again I later learned they called a town called Tortilla Flat.  It had a small store and a pub/restaurant and I think that was it.  I'm sure there were houses somewhere but they were no where near that road.  Now ... this is where things get interesting ... most people have enough sense to turn around and head back the way they came because at this point the paved road ends ... now if you continue on it is only dirt road and a very narrow dirt road at that.  But, being as the road we had traveled thus far was so easy to travel we figured the dirt road couldn't be all that bad and we really hadn't seen the map so we didn't know about all the curves (extremely sharp hair pin curves ... one after the other ) one after the other on about 25 miles of dirt road.  We kept seeing these signs that would caution us for these one lane bridges and it was like ... really .. like this is a two lane road???? It was a very interesting drive and although there were many places I wanted pictures, there was no place to get out of the car to take them.  There were places where the mountain hung over the road and I would catch myself holding my breath as we drove under it.  Would I do it again?  In a heartbeat!  With a much better camera and in a jeep with the top down so I can take pictures standing in the seat.  I have never seen anything so beautiful in my life!   Here are the pictures I took ... they really don't do the mountains justice but I'm still going to share them.  I would like to share the  Apache Trail Website

This is a map of the trail we took ... the brown was the dirt road we took.