Tag Archives: empty nesters

May

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Because it’s a time of endings and beginnings, May is definitely my favorite month of the year.  The spring semester ends in May, and we feel exhilarated and celebratory for all the work we’ve accomplished in our classrooms, whether we are teachers or students.  Anticipation for summer travel and summer projects is keenly felt.  Summer is a time to reconnect with friends and enjoy lengthy family dinners followed by a good game of Shanghai Rummy.  (I’m thinking a few games of Feely Cup are in order . . . )  I’m pretty sure my family would say in May, Mary is completely spastic, but I would respond saying, “I’m feeling positively giddy!” (My earworm this week is The Wind by Cat Stevens.)

May is also a time when our college student moves back home.  We couldn’t be more excited to move William home from Flagstaff this Saturday (you might recall Eve moved back home at Christmas to finish her degree and save some cash).  I’m trying not to be too worried about transporting William’s huge bed and couch to a storage unit three miles from campus in Hubby’s RAV4.  I have a strong feeling the Universe will smile upon us and all will go well.  If, instead, there is some bad karma to be reckoned with, I will be cleaning the apartment toilets at 10 pm while Hubby is out renting a truck to haul all our crap.  I’m trying not to give this move on Saturday much energy, instead focusing on how happy we will be to have William back home for THREE WHOLE MONTHS!!!!  With Eve here, too, it’s going to be a crazy, fun summer for sure.

Speaking of having our adult children back home, I wish I could travel back in time two years and slap my “oh pity me” self, who was so super angsty about becoming an Empty Nester.  OMG, what a WHINER she was.  Apologies all around to whoever had to hear my sad story about how my kids were abandoning me.  I’ve hated change my whole life, but once it happens, I’m filled with renewed vigor and vim.  (I know it’s usually “vim and vigor,” buy I’m doing a social experiment to see if I can change it.)  Hubby and I actually embraced being the only two people in our house (besides the three cats and Ruby the Wonder Spaniel).  The house was always clean and quiet, and we never ran out of toilet paper or toothpaste. There were always milk and eggs if we wanted them.  After raising three children, it felt extremely civilized (but a little boring).

If I could turn back time, slapping my old pitiful almost-empty-nester self would not be at the top of the list.  I would change a thousand things before changing that one thing.  At the top of my list of things to change would be being a better student instead of being such a wild child, visiting my grandparents in Illinois more often, being more patient with my children, and appreciating how good my life was even though we had little money.

I’ll wrap up with an interesting story from my classroom today: Our students begin the year at age three, and most of them have reached their fourth birthday now.  They are a very social, distracted bunch, so I appreciated when my lead teacher, put in place a strict lunch policy.  All children were to stay in their seats “attempting” to eat their lunches until the clock read 11:55.  This has been a challenge since our students don’t know if 53 or 59 come before, or after, “55.”  Today one boy thought he noticed the clock moving BACKWARDS, and Andrew (wise beyond his years), said, “Time never moves backwards. If any one of you can figure out how to go back in time, you will be the most famous person in the world.”  This gave them so much to think about that they quietly finished their sandwiches and fruit, their tiny containers of hummus, applesauce, and yogurt, and went out to recess with full bellies to play.

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

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Vaughans Gone Wild in San Diego

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A few weeks ago on my Spring Break from school, Hubby and I took a five-day vacation in San Diego, California.  This charming coastal town is an easy five-hour drive from our fair city of Tempe, AZ.  It was our first visit in 18 years!  We’d taken the kids to Sea World when they were little, but for whatever reason, we didn’t have a good time AND it was expensive, so we crossed it off our list.  After all these years, I’m happy to report that I HEART SAN DIEGO!!!  Mountain views, beautiful foliage and flowers, charming restaurants, great people watching, and clean beaches—-I can’t wait to go back!

And now I will attempt write a Very Professional Trip Report, and not drivel on and on like an idget like I usually do.

PROS:

  • We saw way more elderly couples than college students, which was a happy surprise.  (I was worried about obnoxious crowds of frat boys.)
  • We stayed at the Bahia Resort at Mission Beach, which was affordable and on the bay, but not within walking distance of any restaurants off site. But I felt the location between Pacific and Ocean Beaches was a good compromise. Next time we would want to stay near Pacific Beach.
  • Our hotel room was right on the bay, and directly out our sliding glass window was the marina where around 200 boats were anchored.  The two Riverboats which the hotel uses to transport hotel guests north to the Catamaran Resort go in and out of this bay.  (We never were there at the right time to ride the river boats.) We had little foot traffic by our room, except for the mandarin ducks and mud hens, which often pecked at the closed glass door to our hotel room.
  • San Diego Breweries:  There are a zillion charming places at which to drink delicious craft beers.  (Apologies for the overuse of the word “charming” but seriously, San Diego oozes charm!)  There are tap rooms which do not serve food, and there are brew pubs with full menus. We Ubered to Stone Brewery our first night, since it is, without a doubt, the mecca of breweries in the Southwest.  The service and food were incredible (quite pricey meals at $30 per plate), and the building itself is super cool with HUGE amounts of seating. Nobody has cooler t-shirts or better beer, hands down.  Lots of good people watching, too!
  • Travelling off-season, we had easy parking and no waiting at restaurants. I’m certain this is not true in the summer months.  Nice though that there was still a fun, tourist vibe . . . even though it was off season.
  • We live in the desert where it NEVER RAINS.  So though we had a few cloudy days with sprinkles of rain, that was actually a plus for us.  WEATHER! YAY!
  • Visiting the Birch Aquarium at Scripp’s was so much fun.  We arrived just in time to see the fish feeding in the humongous kelp fish tank.  Two divers swim into the tank, and the crowd can ask them questions.  It was super fun, and also very informative.  We patted ourselves on the backs for visiting this busy tourist venue at the perfect hour—NAP TIME!  All the families cleared out around 1:30, and we had the place mostly to ourselves.  We saw so many strange and wondrous sea creatures, and also enjoyed the amazing views of La Jolla from our high vantage point.
  • We visited a shell shop from which you can access a sea cave.  I’m glad I was brave and decided to follow Hubby on the 120 slippery steps down to see the cave. The cave was dug in the 1920’s, and I’m sure every owner since then has been making money hand over fist.  The line was out the door to pay our $5 per person to see the cave.
  • We had Eggs Benedict every day.  The best one was at World Famous on Pacific Beach.  It featured a crab cake base, instead of an English Muffin.  YUMMMMY!

NEGATIVES: 

  • Our Bahia Hotel was old, thus the walls were thin. The first night the neighbors (two adult men) next to us talked all night until 6am in boisterous voices.  They drew my attention later in the day, sitting at the bar, and I felt like approaching them, but instead decided to ask at the desk.  They had checked out . . . whew!  I was tired after a night of holding a pillow over my head to block the noise.  We had one quiet night, then the weirdest thing of all:  The new neighbors had their tv turned on high to a religious station. I kid you not, every few minutes I heard the preacher saying the word, “Lucifer,” in bold, chiding tones.  The next morning I went to the front desk, and they assured me they would assist me, even if it was just a loud tv.  Lucky for me, we had another quiet night.  (Hubby sleeps like the dead and heard none of it.)  (Note to self:  Investigate into sleepy drugs for our next vacation.)
  • Driving in San Diego is pretty tricky.  Thank God for Google directions, which often said, “In .2 miles, cross four lanes of speeding traffic to turn right.”  Certainly not safe after ANY alcohol, so we Ubered a lot, which added to our vacation budget, for sure.   Also driving over the mountain areas one-hour out of San Diego, we had thick fog which was a bit unnerving.  Hubby has nerves of steel, and we arrived safe and sound.
  • The Uber drivers we’ve had in the Phoenix area are very professional and good drivers.  HOLY MOLY!  Our first San Diego Uber experience was disgusting; the driver had obviously chain-smoked in his car, then sprayed some noxious odor-remover.  I rolled down my window and tried to not smell.  The next night, our driver was a young man who appeared to be a) in a hurry or b) on some sort of stimulant.  We careened down the highway, miles past our hotel when I spoke up and said, “Ummm, I believe you’ve gone past our hotel.”  Not saying a word, he made a U-Turn and had us back on track toward our hotel.  90 mph, not braking for turns, it was a Wild Ride for certain.  I said a prayer, “Thank you, Universe, for my wild and splendid life.  It appears it may be ending in a few minutes.  Amen.”  And then we arrived at our hotel.  I caught my breath and said, “Wow!  That was VERY EXCITING!” with a laugh.  In the rear-view mirror, I caught a glimpse of smile.  Until you walk in someone’s shoes, right? I don’t know what his deal was, but wow, it was frightening.  Yet we lived to have another fun day in beautiful San Diego, my new go-to for Spring Break.  Who’s in to go with us in March 2018???

Cheers,

Mary

 

Spring Break 2018

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I’m feeling very happy this evening because I have only ONE MORE DAY of school before it’s my SPRING BREAK!!!  WOOT WOOT!!!  I love my job, but I’m ready for a week away from our preschool monkeys, er um, students.  I love them, but I think I’ll love them more after a week off.  Truly we have so much fun with picnics on the big playground or picnics in our garden, dancing to new songs, playing with Beanie Babies, playing dress up, crafting so hard, and having special visitors, like Tyler’s pet guinea pig, Mr. Sparkles.  I LOVE HIM! (I meant Mr. Sparkles, but I love Tyler, too.)

Hubby and I dithered over vacation destinations and settled on San Diego.  I almost booked us to Cabo (cheap this time of year) and found out it’s a hot destination for ASU fraternities and sororities.  GOOD GRIEF!  I would have been sooooo mad spending our money to be in the middle of a scene from Girls Gone Wild!  The last time we were in San Diego, William was in a stroller (now he is 20).  So likely 18 years ago. It’s a five-hour drive, and I’m enticed not by the beaches (California beaches are terrible compared to our beloved Puerto Penasco, MX beaches), but by the seafood and breweries!  I’m calling our trip a “brewcation.” I’ve mapped out our favorite craft breweries—we’ll visit Stone, Ballast Point, St. Archer, and Coronado Brewing Co.  I’ve booked us a whale watching trip one afternoon.  I’m skeptical if we’ll really see a whale, but the boat has cocktails and snacks, so I’m all in!

The best thing is we’ll come home mid-week, and I’ll still have four free days before going back to work.  I plan to get some stuff done around the house and do some hiking and see friends.  On Friday night, William returns home from college for his Spring Break!  I miss him sooooo much.  (We all do.)  We’ll have him for a whole nine days—LIFE IS GOOD!

I’m getting the laundry done so I’ll have all my clothes to choose from to pack for our trip.  It’s going to be about ten degrees colder than here, so brrrrrrr that it will be only in the mid-60’s and cloudy every day . . . but don’t you just know most tourists will be wearing sun dresses and flip flops.  And I will want to wear sweaters and boots, because 65 and cloudy is COLD.  We desert dwellers are an odd lot, this I know for sure.  Our new-ish clothes washer sings a beautiful little ditty to announce the load is done.  I thinks it’s the greatest thing ever, and I need to know if there is a job called “Appliance Composer,” and if so, how does one get that job?  How many man hours did it take to create the 25-second melody?  Did several musicians spend weeks dreaming up the perfect tune?  Did executives in pin-stripe suits solemnly sit around a conference table while said ditties were presented and chosen?  To me, the whole thing is very curious.  I have questions.

And now I have to share with you the YUMMIEST recipe.  It’s currently in direct competition with broccoli soup for my favorite lunch dish.  It’s Creamed Spinach with jalapeno peppers . . . and it’s absolutely heaven on a plate.  I found the recipe online and changed several things.  For one, the original recipe called for evaporate milk.  WHAT???  I substituted regular milk, and it was great.  It occurred to me you could skip the oven and do it stove top to save time, but I think baking it gives it a better texture.  ALSO, it only made enough for maybe six people.  Next time I will double it to have leftovers.

CREAMED SPINACH WITH JALAPENO PEPPERS

2 12-ounce packages frozen leaf spinach
4 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons flour
1/2 cup yellow onion, minced fine
3 cloves garlic, minced fine (I often use the stuff from the jar–don’t judge)
1/3 cup whole milk (or half and half)
1/2 teaspoons each salt, and white pepper
8 ounces Monterey Jack Cheese, cubed
1 jalapeno pepper, minced fine (add another pepper if you like spicier)
1/4 cup bread crumbs (optional)

Cook spinach according to package instructions, saving the spinach water (I use a Pampered Chef microwave steamer).

In a medium pan, melt butter, then add the flour to create the roux.   Add onion, cooking for about five minutes.  Add spinach and remaining ingredients, stirring over low heat until mixed well.

Place in a greased 9×13 casserole.  Sprinkle with bread crumbs and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

Cheers,
Mary

 

 

A Snow Storm

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It is Sunday, and again I’m cooking broccoli soup.  I did not fully disclose the reason for last week’s broccoli soup:  we had leftover veg from school snack.  Each school day a student is asked to provide a specific snack, and two Friday’s ago it was broccoli and crackers.  The parent brought in a 3-pound bag from Costco for 13 children, most of whom won’t even EAT broccoli.  So as you can see, I was doing everyone a favor by using up the remaining 2.5 pounds of broccoli leftover from school snack.  Last week’s pot of soup was SO YUMMY that all three of us enjoyed it for many lunches.  I feel terrible when I purchase vegetables and don’t use them—I always picture the migrant workers, bent and tired, picking the broccoli so we can have it on our tables.

In the oven is a new creamed spinach recipe.  It’s easy to stir up creamed spinach, but this recipe has an jalapeno pepper in it!  If it’s good, I’ll share the recipe next time! And Hubby, aka The Grill Master, is marinating sirloin steaks we purchased at Costco this afternoon.  It will be a veritable feast!

This peaceful day of reading Here Be Dragons on the couch under a blanket and puttering in the kitchen was well-deserved after our 24 hours away to Flagstaff on Friday /Saturday to check in on our youngest, William.  We’d had several angsty texts from him over the week, with worries ranging from health issues, to a failed Chemistry exam, to not being able to find affordable housing for the next school year.  I was born with strong empathy (not exactly a gift, I assure you) and was worried all week.  I am sooooooo lucky to be married to my best friend who usually agrees with me  . . . and who also felt it was a good idea to drive the 2.5 hours up into the mountains to check in our boy (who is a sophomore studying Chemistry at NAU).

Well.  We knew it was going to snow, but little did we know we were driving into a snow storm!  I was excited to see snow falling from the sky since it had been seven years since I’d seen that magic in motion.  We were two hours up the mountain when the snow started to come down hard.  Visibility was good, but the road was slippery.  Cars were avoiding one snow-laden lane completely, so we proceeded slowly up the mountain in single file, each driver happy to follow the path carved out by the cars leading this strange parade.

Still daylight, it was hard for me to enjoy the postcard-perfect views of the snowy forest out the window when I knew Hubby was tense and anxious about road conditions.  On the right side, two SUVs had slid off  the road and were without passengers in the ditch.  Just before Munds Park, a semi had jack-knifed into the grassy area that is the median, blocking one lane completely.   (We later found out that ADOT closed that stretch of highway an hour after we had driven it!)  We arrived safe and sound, only an hour late, and were so happy to take William and his girlfriend to dinner and for groceries.  And by golly, I believe we solved all the problems, arranging for a two-bedroom for Fall and after his roommate graduates, an adorable, tiny studio for the Spring semester.  It was fun to be sooooo cold; yesterday was 20 and when we went to bed Friday night, the temperature was 4 degrees!  4 DEGREES!!!

I’m always grateful that our three children have stuck so close to home.  It feels good to be able to swoop in and save the day (as long as it’s welcomed help), and have a little adventure, too.  I’d forgotten the peacefulness of falling snow.  As Hubby fixed their apartment dishwasher,  I stood on the patio, watching the wind blow snow out of the trees in the quiet forest area outside their front door.  I was awed by the humongous ravens cawing and flying about, and breathed the cold air deeply into my lungs.  I  thought to myself, surely this is a precious moment that I will hold close for a long time.

Cheers,

Mary

 

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

 

Peace and Quiet

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As a teacher, I look forward to the long holiday break as a time to see friends and family, and even more so as a time to get loads of peace and quiet.  Hubby also has off a week at Christmas, and besides organizing the garage and fixing stuff about the house, he also anticipates our quiet week with time to sleep late and and time for reading on the back patio.

Imagine our distress on our very first day of holiday break.  At 6am we were awakened to the sound of a bobcat in reverse. “Beep! Beep! Beep!”  We put our pillows over our ears, but this continued for hours. What kind of madman would schedule home renovations on the 23rd of December?  Turns out it was our neighbors two doors to the west of us.  Seriously?  Whatever happened to the etiquette of not having work done on the weekends?  And two days before Christmas?? The beeping and other construction noises continued until yesterday.

Christmas Day was quiet in the hood.

But the day AFTER Christmas, we were greeted by the sound of a wood chipper in front of our house.  WTF???  Whose idea was it to have all the neighborhood trees trimmed while so many of us were home for the holiday break??  The sound of chainsaws, Mexican music, and wood chippers are still being heard today, two weeks post-Christmas.  We have many common areas in our neighborhood with many trees. Since I am on the HOA board now, I’m definitely going to do my best to get the schedule changed for December 2018.  As I often say, if I were in charge, things would be a LOT different!!!

On the bright side, I got enough peace and quiet that I was eager to get back to school Monday.  I simply feel better when I’m on a schedule.  I truly missed my wee preschool friends–they’re just so stinkin’ cute (three years old)!  Today a boy arrived a bit late, and one girl was so happy to see him that she ran up and planted a big smooch right on his kisser!  The boy’s reaction was one of being completely stunned . . . and then the girl looked right at me, knowing she’d been naughty.  We talk a lot about germs, and they all know kissing is a no-no at school.  I totally let it go because it was such a heartfelt greeting that warmed my heart.  It was an adorable, unexpected moment . . . just one of many I see at my school each day.

The wood chippers are finally gone, and one of the sounds in my home is William playing computer upstairs on Skype with friends.  He leaves for college in two days, and I will cry.  We miss him so much when he is away, but are proud of the good grades he got last semester while pursuing his Chemistry degree.  Another sound is my persistent hacking.  It’s been two weeks now, and I’m tired of this cough!  And lastly, there is the sound of our daughter’s voice.  Eve decided to return to our nest for financial reasons.  We are proud of her grades, too, and (crossed fingers) she will be graduating from ASU with her Bachelors of Science in Biology in December.  Here’s hoping all of you found peaceful moments over the holidays.  Here’s wishing you all the best in 2018!

Cheers,

Mary

 

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