Category Archives: Uncategorized

Magic of the Holidays

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We FINALLY have our Christmas tree up in the living room.  As I’ve mentioned, we here in Tempe, AZ are still waiting for winter to arrive. So far we’ve had only two cold days with highs in the 60s, but otherwise all in the 70s and 80s.  Most of the fresh Christmas trees we saw today were, well, not fresh.  Brown and brittle from sitting in the heat for weeks, at the fourth store, we finally settled on a 6-foot Noble Fir.  It’s so much smaller than what we usually buy, but it smells good and is cheery.  We’ll only have space for about half our ornaments, however,  I’m looking on the bright side—decorating and undecorating the tree will be so much easier this year!

I spent much of the day trying to photograph our sleeping cats wearing some feathery angel wings I found in the ornament box.  The few times I caught Cosmo in a deep sleep, the pics were blurry.  The younger cats were having none of it, but I’m still hopeful to catch one unaware at the kibble bowl! (It’s good to have a hobby.)

I hope Hubby doesn’t notice that I moved the ugly ornaments he hung at the FRONT of the tree and placed them in the back.  Everyone knows the ONLY way to get rid of the ugly ornaments is to place them on the back of the tree, just near the tip of a very thin branch.  Then when the cats or the vacuum jostle it to the floor and it’s broken, there’s really nobody to blame . . . and you’re free of one more ugly ornament! (Since most of them were gifts, it would be wrong to throw them away . . . or would it?)

Hubby has spent HOURS trying to fix our old strings of lights.  Ohhh, if only I could channel that focus into looking into (and culling) old boxes of his mementos/text books/computer parts!  I hate having so much unnecessary stuff in my home, but I’m the ONLY one who feels that way.  It’s his house, too.  And 99% of the time he is a very good room mate!  I read a funny thing on the internet that went something like this:

Wife to a Friend over the phone:  “I got your party invitation.  Should I bring my weird room mate?”
Husband to Wife:  “HEY!!!  I heard that!!!”
(I love corny jokes.)

Weird Room mate and I (aka, Hubby) are being wined and dined tonight at F&D’s house, then the four of us will attend the Desert Botanical Garden Luminaria Night.  Hubby and I have attended every year for at least 25 years.  The garden paths are lined with luminarias, and there are various musical groups to encounter as you walk along, glass of cheer in hand.   It’s quite magical.

Hoping you are feeling the magic of the holidays,

Mary

 

 

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Is it Winter Yet???

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Other than the less than stellar Thanksgiving day feast (see prior post), I had a very productive weekend.  I FINALLY planted my vegetable garden.  Our puny backyard bed which measures a meer 12′ x 6′ last year gave us more lettuce and spinach than we could eat!  I procrastinated on planting because a) it’s still SO hot here in Tempe, AZ, b) the bed was a total mess from being neglected for six months, and c) I couldn’t pawn the work off on Hubby because a few weeks ago, he hurt his back. I put on my gardening shoes and worked hard for hours while listening to good music and (annoyingly) the neighbor’s dog yapping on the other side of the fence. (Six months ago we got new neighbors, and I am optimistic that their horrible dog is elderly and on the brink of death.)  In my garden, I was able to scrape off a 2″ layer of fragrant mesquite leaves, plus pull out a summer’s worth of spurge weed, turn over the dirt, water the hell out of it, and the next day planted rows of spinach, mixed mesclun (that’s lettuce for you gardening newbies), green onions, and carrots.  Hubby bought me two tomato plants which I will get in the ground tomorrow. It was a lot of hard work, but last year this small plot brought me so much joy . . . and beaucoup salads!

Another accomplishment to crow about is getting our Christmas decor boxes down from the attics.  Good Lord, this is NOT an easy job.  It’s easy for me:  Each day I say to Hubby, “Gosh, I’m hoping you can get those boxes down for me so I can decorate for Christmas. I promise I’ll make it worth your while,” accompanied by suggestive winking.  Usually this works, and I can stand at the bottom of the ladder voicing concern with comments like, “Are you okay?” and “Don’t hurt yourself!” and “I’m holding the ladder steady!”

This year, Hubby has a bad back, so I had to beg our son, William, (home from college for the weekend) to please, please, please get the boxes down.  He was surprisingly cheery about it, although was clearly nervous while perched on the very top of the ladder trying to coax hard-to-reach boxes into his hands, then pass them down.  But with encouragement from me and help from Hubby, all ten boxes were retrieved from two attics. One attic is over the kids’ shower, so that involves the ladder balancing half on the tile and half in the shower stall.  The other attic is over the garage, but the rod that the garage door hangs on goes midway over the hole.  Every year I look at Hubby and say, “Why can’t we make that hole larger???”  The lesson to be taken from this long story is that now that poor William has shown he can do this job, he will likely be doing it for us next year . . . and the year after, and the year after (methinks with an evil smile).

Other than that, over the weekend we had two lovely dinners with two different groups of old, dear, and hilarious friends (laughing with friends is one of the best things in life, don’t you agree?).  Hubby took me on a day date to the Phoenix Art Museum where we admired favorite exhibits such as Black Cloud and You Who Are Being Obliterated by Fireflies.  So beautiful and magical, and we felt like we were on vacation, even though we never left our home town.

Crossed fingers that this cursed heat will pack its bags and leave.  I’m reminded of that movie Groundhogs Day, in that you wake up each day and think things will have changed.  But no!  Here in Tempe, AZ, it is still summer! Today it was 88 degrees!  I love love love love love love love Christmas, and I’m so excited about this coming holiday season.  Perhaps we will be eating Christmas dinner in shorts after a swim?

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

 

My New Green Tutu

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I’ve heard that one sign of having a job you enjoy is that time flies by quickly while you’re at work. I love my job, and definitely the days pass so quickly that I’m not sure where the time goes.  Today, too much of my time was spent in the bathroom, but our three year old students are still working on “control” (if you know what I mean).  One particularly stinky incident this afternoon activated my gag reflex—oh my goodness, I’m so glad I did not barf on our wee student!  (Enough about that.)

After school, a lovely gentlemen from Ideal Energy came to my house to conduct an energy audit.  My brother and sister-in-law had one performed at their house recently with great results, and after a recent summer family dinner here where everyone was gleaming with sweat even though our AC was blowing full blast, I thought it was either time to give up summer parties . . . or get the danged AC fixed.  The energy audit results will be emailed soon, but apparently we have lots of duct work problems.  GOOD GRIEF.

When our auditor first arrived, he explained the process, then I allowed him to proceed through the house.  He’d been up and down the stairs twice before I realized there was a bad smell coming from that area.  Upon closer inspection, I found a HUGE cat poop mixed with dog kibble right in the middle of the landing.  UGH.  I was so embarrassed.  I’m certain Ruby the Wonder Spaniel is the culprit . . . and just eeeuuuuwww.  I got to be embarrassed again a few minutes later when the auditor pointed out the large pile of ashes in the fireplace and asked if I could cover them so as not to make a mess when he did the pressure testing.  Clearly these ashes were from last winter (January to be exact) since the temps here in Tempe, Arizona are still in the 90s every day.  I paused and thought about making up something about celebrating Fall early or some such BS, but instead just turned pink and covered the mess.  (Cleaning the fire place is a dreaded task.) Then, as I walked the auditor out, I noticed the body of the ginormous scorpion I killed last night on the front door mat.  Nothing says “Welcome to our Home” like a dead scorpion, right?  Add onto all that the fact that I got really excited opening my Amazon package and yelled, “MY NEW TUTU IS HERE!!!”  (I was sharing the good news with Eve, who was here doing homework.)

It’s a weird world out there, and I’m counting on the fact that the energy auditor has seen way stranger households than ours.  And I’m truly very excited about my tutu:  It’s forest green and super fluffy.  It fits perfectly.  It’s part of my Halloween costume!  I’m dressing as a flower garden, or maybe Mother Nature, or perhaps a character from a Midsummer’s Night Dream.  I don’t have to decide yet and am excited to have something new to wear to the school carnival.  I’ve been the Tooth Fairy WAY too many times.

The auditor is gone.  Eve went home.  Hubby has happy hours every day this week due to a local conference.  The house is very quiet.  I decided I’m gonna bake some pumpkin muffins in my new tutu and singing loudly to my favorite tunes.  Best Tuesday ever.

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

 

A Love Story

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Once upon a time there was a girl and a boy.  She was a freshman in high school, and he was a junior.  They were in marching band together, and he thought she was really cute. He asked a friend to tell her he liked her . . . to which she responded, “Eeeeuwww!”  This boy wore aviator glasses, and his favorite attire was a brown suede vest with sheepskin lining.  He always teased the girl, especially when she was trying to be funny. Desperately in need of a haircut, he did not (at first glance) seem like the dreamboat this girl was hoping to meet in her first year of high school.

That boy and girl were Hubby and me back in 1978.  Even though I was not romantically interested, we hung out a lot and got to be really good friends.  We were pen pals during the summer while he was visiting his grandparents in Decatur, AL.  When he returned to Tempe in August, (after a year of friendship), we had our first kiss.  It was August 19, 1979.   We were serious for a year, but then Hubby went off to college, so we broke it off and dated other people until we (luckily) got back together again in August of 1997. We were married on a very hot Saturday in July in 1988 with friends and family in attendance and celebrated with a week-long honeymoon in Hawaii. (If you can hear me in Heaven, thank you Clifford and Evelyn! Our honeymoon was amazing!)

Fast Forward to Saturday, August 19, 2017.  Hubby and I were hashing over our “To Do List” for the day when I looked at the calendar and gasped.  “It’s August 19th!” I said.  We haven’t celebrated this date in a LONG time, so I had to explain to Hubby what it meant. I made him do the math . . . it was the 38th anniversary of our first kiss!  We had a lovely long smooch, and then both of us grimaced realizing how incredibly old we are!

But the funny thing is that when you marry your best friend, it doesn’t feel like a long time.  You have fun. You don’t argue.  You agree on almost everything.  You problem solve together.   You have things in common!  We both love the beach.  We both love good art. We both love craft beers.  We’re foodies.   We love our pets (three cats and a dog). We’re both worried about what’s happening in the world and talk about it every day.  We are frugal on every day stuff so that we can travel each summer and see cool new places. Hubby is sweet to attend concerts with me (I love seeing live music) even when he isn’t familiar with the band, like last week when we saw Jillian Banks at the new music venue, the Van Buren in downtown Phoenix.  We like to work in the yard together and go shopping together.  Hubby is an amazing listener; and when it’s my turn to listen to his job stuff, I try SO HARD to not go to my happy place in my head while he describes his travails with the WAN and the LAN and his other computer networks.

I’m trying to think of things we’ve argued about over the years, and I guess the biggest thing would be laundry.  I LOVE to do laundry, because basically you bring stuff downstairs, put it in a machine that does all the work, then you move it to another machine that does all the work, and when it beeps, you retrieve it and you feel like YOU have done all the work!  So Hubby has to deal with wrinkled laundry (because nobody likes to FOLD laundry, right?)  Besides laundry, there have been weekly discussions about work/life balance (uh hum), but overall, I can’t imagine being married to a better guy.

We enjoy each other’s company best over anyone else’s–excepting the company of our children, of course.  We support each other and try to do the right thing (though we don’t always succeed).  I’m the idea guy; he’s the implementer.  I smush the bugs; he picks them up.  Well, you get the idea.  Hubby,  I love you and hope to have 38 more years of kissing you!!!

Cheers,

Mary

 

Yawns

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It’s been quite a month of travel for me.  I’ve had exciting adventures and slept in many different beds, so how wonderful it felt to get back to my own bed this weekend.  I slept like the dead–until about 7am when my ears were accosted by the sound of tweeting birds, which is very unusual at our house. These birds were serious about their songs; they did not let up, and after an hour, when (half asleep and half awake) I weighed plans about getting ridding of them (BB gun pellets? Sharp bird pest strips planted on the roof?).  I woke up enough to realize it was Hubby’s alarm clock that we both had slept through. ON A SUNDAY MORNING. I seriously wanted to punch him.  I told him he needs to go back to the old-fashioned BEEP BEEP BEEP alarm or else I will be slumbering in a different room.

Hubby is gone for a week to Georgia on a business trip so his alarm clock will not be disturbing me, but I still haven’t slept well for days.  The last night I was in Illinois, I sustained 60 mosquito bites–45 on my left leg and 15 on my right.  These were not the pesky little mozzies we have here in Tempe whose bites disappear after an hour.  These big-ass Midwestern mosquitos left some sort of toxin in my skin, causing each bite to swell to the size of big red nickels . . . and they are so itchy it’s hard to keep my fingernails off them.  It’s been a week and they show no signs of healing.  If they aren’t better by Monday, I will seek medical attention.  I keep wishing I’d used the bug repellant spray offered but nooooooo, I didn’t want the chemicals on me.  UGH.

Then last night Ruby the Wonder Spaniel got me up FOUR TIMES to go out and do her business between 2am and 5am.  She’d eaten so many cicadas before bed that her tummy was literally buzzing.  She does this every year, and while watching her leap about the yard for her summer snacks is Youtube-worthy, those crunchy treats always give her a case of the runs.  I gave her a Tums that she licked at loudly for a good 15 minutes, but then we were back outside soon after that.  Complicating the situation is that I’d taken a Benadryl to try to calm the itch from the bug bites and couldn’t figure out which way the door was!   Several times in the past few weeks, I’ve woken up in the dark thinking Hubby and I are still in our fabulous British hotel room with the magical view of the Tower of London.

Next week school starts and I will be back to an “early to bed and early to rise” schedule. It will be a difficult transition after a summer of staying up past midnight either reading or watching Netflix, waking up with no alarm clock, then napping mid afternoon.  But I am excited to meet the new staff members, new parents, and most of all our students . . . and be living a useful life again after the long, restorative summer break.

Cheers,

Mary

 

Home, Then and Now

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It is 7:30 pm on Sunday night, and I am in the middle of cooking my mother’s famous lasagna recipe.  It involves making your own bechamel, and it is the best lasagna I’ve ever tasted.  I seem to remember that she found it in a Better Homes and Gardens magazine which seems hard to believe, but you must remember that in the late 1960s and the early 1970s Julia Child was on tv encouraging housewives to venture away from meat loaf and pork chops.  I’m not going to share the lasagna recipe here because lately I’ve found it hard to amaze my dinner guests, which is not surprising when the NYT and Epicurious send us their best recipes on a daily basis.  Better, sometimes, to reach back in time and return to the classics.

Tonight I was so happy chopping onions and garlic and stirring pots and singing along with Florence Welch and then it occurred to me that WHOOPS I’d forgotten about the pasta. Our stove is awful and takes forever for a burner to heat, so now I am in a holding period waiting for the ziti to cook.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  I am making my mother’s famous lasagna recipe using ziti, simply because the lasagna noodles located on the top shelf (way in the back) were so petrified they quite possibly may have been purchased during Obama’s first term.  You see, our cupboards are very deep, and I am short and cannot see to the back.  And I’m lazy to fetch a chair to look into the bowels of my cupboards.  I hope I gain back some of your faith when I tell you I used fresh oregano from our backyard garden in the meat sauce.  That’s about all that’s left growing in this tremendous heat. That and a basil plant that has quadrupled in size during the few months since I bought it at Trader Joe’s.  I completely forgot it was there and am sad thinking about all the days when I could have had Caprese salads.

I’m making this complicated lasagna recipe so Hubby will have comfort food when he comes home to an empty house each night during this coming week.  William and his friends are off camping up north in the cool mountains, and tomorrow I get on plane to see my aunts and uncles and cousins in my hometown in northern Illinois.  I have not been in three years and am so excited to see my family . . . and to see and feel and smell the town where I was born and where I lived until I was ten years old.

In my dreams I ride my bike down the streets of this little old town.  I go through the squeaky screen door to hug my grandmother and then at other times, I have coffee with my Aunt Linda and my cousin Bridget.  In my dreams, memories of my young self get tangled up with the reality of the older self I am now.  Because I am the oldest of three, I keep the childhood memories of this place for all of us.  I tell my brother about driving to Grandpa Koppen’s house when a tornado was coming, our mother shouting at us to roll down the windows, we will be there soon!  Our own basement was mud walls and big spiders, and grandma and grandpa were just up the street with a lovely finished basement complete with pool table and full bar.  I say to my siblings, don’t you remember when we lived on Grover Street and Aunt Linda and Uncle Bill and Matt and Bridget lived just twenty steps from our own front door?  Their dog, Arfrang, was so cute and was always jumping at their screen . . . and their spunky little cats, Amos and Andy, were so fun to chase and pet.  Remember Thanksgiving and Christmas at grandma and grandpa’s when we would sit at a fancy long table in the dining room?  Then after dinner the men would smoke and drink, and the women would do dishes and talk in the kitchen.  So much laughter, and I remember it all so fondly.  I try to keep this place of my youth alive for us because I am the oldest thus have the most stories, and this is the place where we were born.

I could share here many more childhood memories from my small town in Illinois, but a big storm is moving in, and I’d rather watch that through the window than continue driveling on here.  We have lightening and huge storm clouds and a rumbling of thunder in the distance.  We so rarely get weather here in the desert; this storm is a treat.   As always, thank you for reading my words.

Cheers,

Mary