Category Archives: Travel

Soup Days

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By Golly, it’s been a long time since I posted anything here.  To be honest, I was plumb tuckered after all of the many wedding festivities!  Hubby and I hunkered down for a good two weeks, only making last-minute plans with friends.  What wonderful memories we have with friends and family from the wedding weekend!!!  Thanks again to everyone for their well wishes for the young couple.  Pat &  Sam’s wedding will go down in the books as one helluva party!

But now we are back to our usual busy pace, very happy and productive. I’ve planned a Spring Break trip for Hubby and I to San Diego, and both of us have spent approximately a bazillion hours looking for cheap flights to London for a summer vacation to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.  If you fly to JFK first, the flights are reasonable, but then you risk missing connections which adds stress.  I’m sure we’ll figure it all out.  I heart London so much, and we will spend a few days there before renting a car to tour (drum roll, please!) . . . WALES!  Wales has amazingly beautiful countryside and a rich history; you can’t swing a cat without hitting a castle.  Right now I’m revisiting a novel I read in my youth about Welsh history called Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman.  At 704 pages, I’ve assigned myself 50 pages a day so Hubby can also read it before our trip in late June!  It’s so good that it’s hard to put down.

I’ve spent way too much time googling stuff the past few days and giggled while viewing my browsing history.  Here’s a brief list:

  • Dulse Seaweed butter–a chefs secret weapon (can’t wait to try it)
  • Black Panther movie trailer (looks good)
  • Cheddar Broccoli Soup recipe (YUM!!!)
  • How tall is Charlie Barnes? (never did find that–he tours with Bastille)
  • List of the busiest US airports (Atlanta, LAX, then Chicago)
  • Phoebe Buffay’s fake names (just couldn’t remember Regina Phalange)
  • What is motor boating?  (er, umm, that’s what I thought it was–too much time reading weird stuff on FB lately!)
  • Henry Plantagenet family tree (to assist while reading a historical fiction novel)
  • 24 Things Not to Miss in Wales
  • SOOOOOOO much flight pricing!!!!!!!!

I’m just INTERESTED in stuff, you know?  Now I’ll give you the soup recipe.  I changed it by adding two potatoes and decreasing the amount of cheese and butter and flour.  My family thought it was delicious!  I love to make soup.  I find it homey to have a large pot bubbling on the stove, filling the house with yummy aromas.  My daughter bakes to relax.  She must’ve had a really stressful week since she made three different types of macaroons on three separate days this week!

Broccoli Cheese Soup
1 cup butter
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 cup flour
5 cups broccoli, chopped small
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut in half
2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth if you prefer)
4 cups milk
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
salt and white pepper to taste
one teaspoon chopped garlic

Get out a big-ass pot.  Melt the butter, adding onions and sauteing until soft. Stir in one cup flour to give the soup some legs to stand on.  Add in chicken broth and milk, then the carrots, potatoes, and the star of our show–BROCCOLI!  Reduce the heat or else the milk will foam up into a huge cloud, which will spill all over your stove top and be a nasty mess.  (This happened to a friend—not me, of course.)   I simmered everything for maybe 45 minutes, testing the carrots with a fork for softness.  When all veg are tender:  add salt, pepper, and garlic, then stir in the cheese.  I used an immersion blender because the potatoes were still in chunks, and also because it’s a fun toy that I rarely get to use. Plus it scares the bejeezus out of the cats, which makes me laugh.

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Strong Women

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I am in Mexico.

Hubby and I drove down yesterday morning.  We were greeted by a smooth-as-glass sea and short-sleeve weather in the high 70s.  Bonus:  In the group of 20 single-level condos, there are only three occupied.  It feels downright sinful to have this slice of Paradise all to ourselves.  The ocean water is very cold.  After walking barefoot in the tide pools, I was eager to put on my thickest socks to warm my icy feet.

I brought a stack of novels and magazines, but instead sat in a chair on our patiodaydreaming and watching the birds dive into the ocean, admiring a long line of at least twelve dolphins swim slowly by.  I breathed in and out, letting my thoughts go here and there, losing myself in the gentle movements of the ocean.  I smiled thinking about happy hour with best friends the night before.  I LOVE my bossy friends–the strong women who don’t just smile and nod, but instead snort and say, “You’re doing it wrong!”  I was told I am too intrusive in my adult children’s lives, and more importantly that I am NOT allowed to wear sensible flat shoes to our son’s wedding in two weeks.  “But I want to dance all night,” I whined.  They patiently showed me photos of pretty shoes that would not hurt and would have hours of dancing built into them.  Another friend has been coaching my diet, sending me great ideas of how she lost weight last Fall, and another friend tells me how bad my brassieres are every time I see her.  To G, S, T, L, and L:  I will stop starving myself, and I will go to the mall this week to buy pretty party shoes and a new bra.  And I’ll consider not texting my children every day (not making any promises)!  I’m honored to have your love and friendship.

Speaking of strong women, I re-watched Terms of Endearment for probably the twentieth time.  You know, that old movie with Shirley Maclaine and Debra Winger.  (I love the expanded viewing choices on Mexican Netflix.)  The scene where Debra Winger gives her mom a small goodbye sign with her hand as she is dying gets me every time.  I thought this movie was an appropo choice since this past week I’ve been negotiating  a new situation of co-existing with our adult daughter.  The film gave me lots to think about and induced some waterworks from yours truly.

I mopped up my tears after the movie and went out on the patio to say goodnight to the stars.  Hubby and I gasped!  It was so dark you could barely see your hand in front of your face, but the sky!!!  The sky looked as if someone had thrown a hand full of diamonds onto black velvet.  It’s been years since I had a proper view of the stars.  The vastness and beauty felt overwhelming!  I was filled with an immense sense of peace while breathing in the ocean air and admiring the sparkling heavens. I felt as if the Universe was giving me a big hug and telling me, “Everything is going to be okay.” (And I’m pretty sure I heard, “And wear comfortable shoes to the wedding.”)

Cheers,

Mary

 

Hungry!

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I started a diet today.

It started out great.

I am never hungry in the morning, so I met a friend for coffee at 10 without eating first. It was an interesting exercise. The smells at The Hillside Spot were tantalizing: Waffles, eggs with a side of fried potatoes, and lush buttery pastries. My mouth was watering, and my sense of smell was keen. I caught myself turning my head to get a better whiff as the full platters went by.  I most likely resembled my Springer Spaniel following her nose about while I’m cooking dinner. My hands shook a bit from the lack of food combined with the jolt of caffeine, but I was doing well.

I felt strong.

Mind over matter.

This time I was going to stick with it and lose at least five pounds before our son’s wedding in three weeks. I was going to feel so much healthier, and wouldn’t it be nice to NOT have to unbutton my jeans every time I sat down?

But then I got home.

I sat down to my computer to do some research for a summer vacation, and that’s when it started. My mind began cataloguing the food in the fridge. First the top shelf:  Half a leftover steak. A raspberry yogurt.  A bowl of pudding. Second shelf: The bag of expensive cheeses leftover from our holiday entertaining.  Deli sausage slices!  Chicken tortilla soup!!!!

NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

I ate a banana and drank a big glass of water and got back to work. My stomach growled madly but I ignored it and started to answer email.  My mind wandered uncontrollably back to the contents of the fridge. Black beans with tomatoes and onion. Sour cream! The last slice of coconut cake.

I slowly peeled an orange and savored every juicy segment. I heated up another cup of coffee and settled back in at my laptop.

That was an hour ago. My work is constantly being interrupted. Did you hear that? I swear I just heard the pepperoni pizza calling to me from the freezer. “Just one slice. I’m so tasty. I’ll fill you up so you won’t be hungry anymore. I’m greasy and delicious. EAT ME!”

I don’t know how much longer I can hold out. The coconut cake is competing with the apple pie, and the half and half is mad I didn’t put it in my coffee. All dozen of the eggs insist I fry them up in just a little bit of bacon grease.

I think I’d better peel another orange–I am not feeling strong. I am feeling . . . HUNGRY!!!

Cheers,

Mary

Beach Butterfly Parade

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Monday, October 9, 2017

I am in Mexico.

This morning, I awoke to the most amazing sight:  Thousands of Monarch butterflies floating over our patio!  Hubby and I sipped our coffee and laughed out loud at the amazing amount of them flying by, admiring their beauty and feeling so fortunate to be here during the migration.  I tried to video the butterflies, but alas, my camera phone is no good.  Picture this:  One small orange butterfly would flitter by on the breeze just above my head, then a few seconds later two or three would come by.  We watched them float upwards and over the buildings, only to see when we later took a walk that they were flying over the roof top to have a snack on the neighbor’s bougainvillea.  Walking down the beach road with butterflies flying all about us was so beautiful and so strange,  it actually occurred to me I might be dreaming. A good pinch dispelled me of that notion. It’s late afternoon now, and there are still a few lone butterflies floating about, all of them flying west towards town.

We saw so many beautiful things at the beach this weekend.  I love teasing the hand-sized crabs who think they are hiding so well in the sand, but when gently prodded with a toe, quickly scuttle away sideways. (The crab is my astrological sign which I do not think fits in any way; the Cancers who I know are not crabby at all, but are very happy, thoughtful people.)  I spent time sitting in a warm tide pool and was happy to see small Sergeant Major fish floating in the same pool as I was.  The majestic Osprey stood stoically on his man-made perch just east of our place. The nest is overly huge, so I’m thinking he must have eggs or babies he is protecting. Twice a day we see the man with his horses for rent walking down the beach.   All of them are tethered except for one young dark-brown foal who hangs back, testing the caballero who leads them, then when they get too far ahead, the young horse begins to feel worried and gallops to join the rest of the group.  It makes me laugh every time. We’ve tried to identify the many birds we see on the beach, but our bird guide is for California and is of no use.

As we swam in the warm water yesterday afternoon, we were enveloped by huge clouds of tiny silver fish.  Two-inches long and completely metallic silver, we “think” they are sardines, but neither of the two zoology books in the condo have info on them. We’ve certainly seen them before.  The birds loved the great fishing; we loved the feeling of being in a huge school of tiny sparkly fish (I’m talking thousands of fish swimming densely together) tickling our legs and toes.

Today the pelicans returned to their mostly odd-numbered flocks, allowing me to stand by my completely unscientific analysis of coastal bird behaviors.  In that same vein, Hubby shared with me that he’s noticed when the tide is all the way in, it is flat at the shore, and when it’s coming in, the tide is angled toward the west . . . and when the tide is going out, it’s angled to the east.  I narrowed my eyes and said, “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”  He shrugged and said this scientific finding was in direct correlation to how many beers he’d consumed at that time.

There is magic in this place. I can feel it as soon as my bare toes hit the warm sand and I inhale all the rich ocean smells. Maybe all beaches are like this: full of surprises, unexpected beauty, and interactions with nature that leave one full of questions. I fell in love with this place when I was here for the first time at age 13; at 53 I’m still in love with this gentle Sea of Cortez, our little neighborhood called Las Conchas, and this small town of Puerto Penasco, Mexico.

It’s finally happy hour, and there’s a cold bottle of Pacifico waiting for me in the fridge. Tonight Hubby and I will watch the bright stars twinkle in the dark sky over the ocean, and we’ll wait for the waning full moon to slowly climb up the eastern horizon.  We’ll feel grateful for this beautiful day, along with a hint of regret at having to return home tomorrow.

Cheers,

Mary

 

It’s Not My Dog

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Saturday morning, Hubby and I loaded into his SUV these things: our suitcase, our weekend reading, a bag of snacks, a jug of water in case of a car breakdown, and a large dog named Baxter whom we’d never met before.  And thus, we began our three-hour journey to my sister’s cabin situated high on Mt. Lemmon, NE of Tucson.

Let me explain the dog:  Baxter is a lovely mixed beast, part Lab and part German Shorthair.  Aside from being in desperate need of a bath, one couldn’t have asked for a nicer dog to travel with.  My sister had agreed to dog sit for a friend who lives near us.  It was easy for us to transport Baxter south to his ward for the week while his owner was on a vacation.  He was nervous in the car, so I sang a favorite song to him, which made his tail wag.  When we stopped in Summerhaven for a restorative coffee and cookie, people admired him and asked about his breed.  We had no answers, replying with a shrug, “He’s not our dog.”  We got giggling remembering a favorite similar scene from a Pink Panther movie.

Getting to Peg and Dean’s cabin is not for the faint hearted:  Their’s is the second highest on the mountain (elevation 8200) and is accessed by a series of rocky, hairpin, unpaved, steep roads.  Each time we visit I’m terrified on the journey up the mountain, certain we’ll end up in a flipped car with our lives flashing before our eyes.  This did not happen.  We arrived safe and sound to good food, interesting conversations, and I can quite safely say I made a few new friends (Baxter promises to write, lol).  We took several long walks through the woods, spotting fluffy squirrels, soaring hawks, and picking up all sorts of unusual rocks.  I’m currently in the process of trying to identify the minerals so I can share them properly with my students.  I’m also very curious about the swarm of small black butterflies which flitted about us at a look-out point on our ascent.  I can’t find any info on them online, but am eager to identify them.  I have to say after a weekend with highs in the 70’s, it’s hard to return to 110 degrees at home.

In other news:

William has settled in well to his college apartment near NAU.  He is very happy with several of his professors, something I never heard from his older siblings during their college careers.  This is a good thing!  He is catching the bus outside his apartment and has a 20-minute-ride to the “science side” of campus.  William is excited be studying Organic Chemistry, Physics, and is taking a biology class called Unity of Life II: Lives of Multicellular Organisms.  While I have a natural curiosity about my environment, I will say he’s definitely his father’s son in that he is eager to study these sciences and learn very comprehensively about how things work.  Go, William!

This afternoon, Hubby and I went refrigerator shopping.  The one we bought in 2004 has an ice maker problem that created a glacier in the entire upper half of the freezer.   After chipping at the glacier with a small red-handled pick for weeks, we decided it was time to replace the dang thing.  The plastic is cracked throughout, and the door seals are worn.  I feel comfortable with the number of years we used it before replacing it (don’t you hate sending things to the landfill?). We set off to Home Depot resigned to stainless steel even thought I really hate it, and it doesn’t match anything else in my kitchen.  I like soft warm colors, like bisque.  (Hubby teased me they probably didn’t have appliances in avocado or harvest gold either.) But can you believe our luck, that after choosing a fridge, we discovered it was $100 cheaper in BISQUE!  We were so excited that Hubby and I high-fived, shouting “Bisque!  They said it couldn’t be done!”  (I am no longer bothered by what folks think, one of the advantages of being the advanced age of 53.)  The young Home Depot clerk did not appear to share in our joy, but I’m excited about our new fridge, which arrives next week.

This Friday past marked the end of my third week back to school.  Our students are delightful and give us so many smiles throughout the day.  They are like little sponges, eager to learn about anything and everything!  This job is so rewarding but is a definitely overstimulating and physical . . . and at this point is still kicking my ass.  I need to get more sleep; I’m like a child at bedtime: “I don’t wanna go to bed!  I wanna watch more tv!”  I’ve never been good at transitions but am tired of, well, being tired.  I have new bedtime goals, as well as new “remember to take your vitamins” goals— and am excited to get back to work tomorrow.  I hope all of you had a lovely Labor Day weekend!

Cheers,

Mary

Up, Up, and Away!

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Saturday morning we drove up, up, and away to Flagstaff to take our youngest son, William, to college.  It’s his sophomore year, so the event was not nearly as emotionally charged as last year, when sending our youngest to college meant we were for the first time (drum roll, please):  EMPTY NESTERS!

We arrived at William’s apartment and greeted his room mate, Drew, and Drew’s parents (our friends for many years), unloaded our vehicle to find out we’d forgotten approximately 20 things (which was better than last year’s 50 things).  Luckily for us, William’s girl friend will be back down in the Valley next weekend and will gladly pick up and drive back things we left behind:  dish towels, bathroom cleansers, an acoustic guitar, his non-allergenic orthopedic pillow, sun block, a desk chair, laundry hamper, small cereal bowls, etc.

We spent most of the weekend assembling IKEA furniture, something our family hasn’t ever done before.  I personally don’t like the IKEA aesthetic; it’s practical and no frills.  I prefer impractical with lots of frills, preferably antique or used . . . and with a great story. (When you walk into my house, you think, yikes, I’m at Grandma’s house.)  And when I say “we” were assembling IKEA furniture, I mean rather William and Hubby were assembling IKEA furniture, while I unpacked boxes, made suggestions for furniture placement, chatted with everyone, and generally kept morale high.  (I am the least handy person in my family, including my extended family, but it’s not because I CAN’T do it.  It’s because I hate reading instructions.) Over the years I have perfected my faux attempts at helping to assemble stuff by crouching near the project, reaching for tools, carefully holding washers and screws, making concerned noises (hmmm) accompanied by a furrowed brow, and asking everyone if they’re doing okay and might they need a glass of water?  I’m pretty sure I’m not fooling anyone.

But when we left today, William’s apartment looked amazing.  He reported that his new Tuft & Needle mattress was super comfy.  We replaced the apartment’s shower head with a new one with an extendable-arm so you can get “everything” clean (if you know what I mean).   We walked around campus and found his classes (which are all in the same places they were last year because he is a Chemistry major) on this beautiful campus full of trees and blooming flowers and old brick buildings.  I spent a lot of time drinking in the view out the front door of his apartment which abuts an undeveloped wooded area. And the clouds:  I never get tired of admiring the huge mountain clouds drifting in the huge sky!

Part of me wishes so hard I could live there, too.  What’s not to love?  Flagstaff has wildflowers, vast meadows with horses chewing grass, snow-topped mountains reaching to the sky, and the scent of pine trees always in the breeze.  Besides, it’s hard to say goodbye to my kid.  A HUGE part of me will miss William immensely.  I love all three of my children equally, but I can honestly say that of the three, he is the most open and the most chatty and most importantly, the most present . . . and was such great company over this summer.  I did not cry when we left. We hugged, told him we loved him and that we are proud of him.  I was strong and brave and reminded myself that everyone is where they’re supposed to be.

At 3pm we were on the road back to Tempe. The first half of the drive is so pretty, with scenic mountain views and wildflowers blooming by the side of the road.  We admired the scenery quietly for a while, then turned on the radio.   I was touched to hear an old favorite by Paul Simon, An American Tune.  So many years ago, I sang that melodious song to my children as a bedtime lullaby. Tears came to my eyes as I softly sang along, thinking about all the years that have gone by, all the memories we’ve made, and all of the good times yet to come.

Cheers,

Mary

Summer’s End

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I always have a song running through my head.  Today’s lyrics were “after the boys of summer have gone.”  Really creative, oh brain of mine!  Tomorrow I return to my job at my wonderful school, and while I am so excited, part of me always feels melancholy about leaving summer behind.

This summer was one of extreme periods of busyness followed by extreme periods of laziness. Hubby and I took vacations to Mexico and then a few weeks later to London and Paris.  After that I visited family in Illinois for a week, and Hubby is currently on business in Atlanta. Preparing for trips takes a lot of energy, as does recouping afterwards.  Between vacations, I facilitated the remodel of our house by Arizona State University where our college-aged children lived for the last seven years (and then sold that house). I’m not sure how I had time to be lazy.  But I did.

I had goals this summer to go the gym daily, yet with my youngest son home from college for the summer, I found myself wanting to stay home to hang out with him, eating grilled cheese sandwiches while watching Games of Thrones, New Girl, and The Ranch. Isn’t it so much more fun to watch tv with friends??  I hope to find my way back to the gym once William and his girlfriend, Katherine, return to Flagstaff in a few weeks, and I don’t regret the five additional pounds around my waist from couch potato-ing with them while eating pizza and french fries.  William is my youngest, and I’m keenly aware of the fact this may be my last summer having one of our kids living at home.

Here are some of the other shows I loved this summer:

Indian Summers is a great drama set in the Himalayas in 1932.  The show focuses on the social politics of the British Empire and the birth of modern India.  If you loved Downton Abbey, you will likely appreciate this PBS mini series which has great acting, dramatic scenery, and beautiful costumes.  Watch it on Amazon Prime.

You can watch Versailles on Netflix.  If you loved The Tudors, this is right up your alley.  I was fortunate to visit the Palace at Versailles a few years ago and found this historically- accurate series to be very interesting, not to mention quite titillating with all of the sexual conquests.  Again, very beautifully filmed and wonderful acting.

I love New Girl.  I rewatched the whole show on Netflix with my kids this summer.  It’s clever and hilarious and awkward, and I love it so much.

Rectify.  OMG.  I can’t seem to talk any of my friends into watching it.  I had no idea there was a fourth season on Netflix, and since it had been so long since I watched the first seasons, I started over from the beginning.  The acting is amazing.  The pacing and tension reminds me of Six Feet Under, but I love Rectify so much more.

I re-watched old favorite movies like The Right Stuff, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, 13 Going on 30, Millers Crossing, and The English Patient.  Okay, I’ll admit I like many different genres, but I love revisiting an old favorite.

This summer may be one of the best I’ve ever had. The angsty words from the Eagle’s Boys of Summer are still playing on repeat in my head, but I’m feeling so hopeful and excited for a fabulous new school year ahead!

Cheers,

Mary