Tag Archives: IPA

Home at Last

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Friday night Hubby and I returned from a two-week vacation to London and Paris.  We saw EVERYTHING.  (Seriously, everything.)  We walked ten miles each day, plus rode the Tube (in London) and the Metro (in Paris) many miles to get to where we wanted to be. Mostly we saw tons of art, but also magnificent historical architecture and beautiful gardens. We stayed at really cool hotels (CitizenM Tower of London and Residence Foch) and consumed lots of fish and chips and hamburgers (the meat there is sooooo delicious compared to the ground beef you can buy in the States) and British craft beers.  Hubby and did not get in even one fight, which I consider pretty amazing. Things got dicey on our last day in England, when Hubby insisted on reading EVERY didactic at the Greenwich Museum, and I was so done that I considered pulling the fire alarm and then at dinner pretended I had poisoned him (“are you dizzy?  blurred vision? throat tightening?  No?  Hmmmmm). But overall, it felt like a second honeymoon, since we’ve never gone away for more than five days without the kids before.  We celebrated our 29th anniversary on the hotel balcony with a spectacular view of the Tower of London and felt pretty damned fortunate.

The best thing about a fabulous vacation:  Coming home.  Our youngest son, William, did an excellent job of holding down the fort while we were gone—feeding and caring for our five pets and keeping the house clean is not an easy job.  His best girl, Katherine, helped out, too.  I left William a credit card and I’m sure I’ll cry when that next bill arrives and I see how much money “we” spent at Dutch Bros Coffee while we were away. Apparently we also paid him in beer since our keg of expensive IPA was empty.  (College kids—what are you going to do??)

Today getting groceries I was so happy to have eye contact with people again. My experience was that in London and in Paris, there is absolutely no eye contact with strangers, unless you are a waiter serving dinner or hotel staff helping you as their guest. I did not like being invisible.  I like to smile at people and have offhand chit chat.  I can count on one hand the people who talked to us:

  1.  The French woman at the coin laundromat who spoke no English but was able to guide us through the very unfamiliar laundry system.  I gave her my most sincere smile, accompanied by a “merci beaucoup” and felt so grateful.  Hubby and I were already feeling irritated at not being able to find the darn place having walked a mile in all directions in a fancy neighborhood, each of us carrying black hefty bags of dirty laundry!
  2. The “skin heads” on the Tube elevator in London who alerted me that the doors would be opening in the opposite direction from where I was standing.  We’d traveled so much that day and I was daydreaming, not noticing that the 20 other people on this large elevator were facing the opposite direction.  I said, “Thank you! I probably would have figured it out eventually!  I’d think, where did all the people go?  Why am I all alone?”  They proceeded to do a bit which included the guy saying, “Dear Diary, Month 15 and I’m still in the Tube elevator.  It’s not all bad.  It’s warm in winter and cool in summer.  People leave bags of chips. I’m happy here.”
  3. The woman whose feet my suitcase fell on in the Tube.  She glared at me so hard I thought I might burst into flames.  Seriously?  I was carrying a huge paper sack which held three Starbuck’s London coffee cups and three London Toblerones that were gifts for the kids.  It was unwieldy and when I shifted, my bag fell over.  The part that landed on her feet was not heavy and I apologized sincerely, but she was just mad and mean and well, I’m sorry that when you ride the Tube you are so grumpy.  I love riding the Tube.  I love watching the comings and goings, and the families and the groups of friends and the handsome young men in their skinny suits headed to and from work  (I especially love that).
  4. The young man on the Tube escalator that kept me from falling backwards when  my huge, embarrassing, American suitcase started to fall off the step behind me.  I started wobbling and made a sound like “ooooohhhhh,”and he heaved my case up to the step and gently kept me from falling.  Oy vey, so embarrassing!  If you’ve never been on a Tube escalator, I can tell you it’s very stressful.  They are inclined at an extreme angle and go up four floors!  As a person who is afraid of heights, I can say going up is easier but going down I look at my feet and breathe slowly in and out so as not to scream out, “We’re all going to die!!!!”  Which would be really embarrassing.
  5. The business woman at the St. Pancras train station in London who so nicely gave me directions to where to catch our Eurostar (Chunnel) train.  This station is HUGE and is the only international station in London.  It’s super cool . . . if you’re not in a hurry to catch a train.  I mistook her for a station information attendant because she was in a suit and was standing next to the Information sign (most stations have these with staff positioned there to answer questions). She did not laugh at me and was very sweet.  Hubby, on the other hand, mocked me endlessly, so much so that anytime we were lost after that, I asked him, “Shall I go ask a stranger how to get there?”  If you don’t get lost while on your Europe vacations, then you’re just not doing it right.  We spent two hours one night looking for a restaurant called Hot Box that some website had recommended.  It was not a “good lost” since it was in a business area with huge sky scrapers.  We finally found the place.  HA.  Long picnic tables in a dark room with expensive hamburgers.

One reason I’m glad I was completely invisible in Europe:  I was the only person wearing leggings.  Here in Tempe that’s the norm!  Next blog will be European fashion tips!  Stay tuned!

Cheers,

Mary

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Goodbye, Lola

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It’s been 10 days and 15 hours since we dropped our youngest child, William, off at the campus of Northern Arizona University.  I expected I would sob all the way home . . . and then I did not.  I expected it would happen the next day . . . but it didn’t.  Last night at happy hour I was explaining this weirdness to two coworkers  over IPAs at a local pub and said thoughtfully, “Maybe I’ll have a good cry after I go home tonight.”  Then Lisa says, “Wait, don’t do that!  Tomorrow is Picture Day—you don’t want to be puffy!” Girlfriend’s got my back!

And seriously, that’s been the theme of the past ten days:  Friends have my back.  I feel nurtured and fussed over, and I am proud to report that friends and coworkers have been so kind in asking me almost every day how William is doing and how I’m doing.  I’ve been waiting to be sad but it just hasn’t happened yet (not too much—I get a little weepy on my drive home because usually William and his friends would be here at the house when I arrived). I’ve spent time with friends every day after work, and maybe you’d call that avoidance, but I call it taking care of myself.  My only concern at this point is that William is doing too much homework.  It doesn’t sound like he’s had much time to get out and meet people or explore the campus, but it’s only week two.  He has good friends at NAU who will take care of him if he gets too serious!

When I tell you this next story, you’ll see exactly how shallow and small I am.  On Monday, we sold Lola, our old red Miata convertible which has been our “folly” for the past ten years, and I cried more tears over losing that car than I did over taking William to school!  However . . . . it didn’t make sense to own her anymore.  With William away at school, we now had an extra car.   We’d planned on selling it, but we weren’t quite ready. But when some of our best friends made an offer, it was too perfect to refuse.  Crossed fingers they’ll take me out for a spin in my Lola some day soon.  We bought her on a whim on Valentine’s Day, 2006  when we were having some major bumps in this Road of Life, and she instantly infused cheer and optimism into our world.  It’s hard to explain how a small piece of metal on wheels can bring a person so much joy, but I will say with complete confidence that it’s 100% impossible to NOT smile when you’re driving with the top down on a sunny day, your favorite song is playing on the radio, the wind is blowing your hair around, and the scent of freshly cut grass wafts in your nose. HEAVEN.

Similarly, it’s impossible to not smile when hanging out with small children, as I get to do five days a week at the Awakening Seed School.  I laughed so hard I had tears coming out of my eyes today when a boy in our classroom presented his “Sharing” items from home, which happened to be two huge coconuts he and his dad brought home from Hawaii this summer.  He explained how they found one on the ground, and then threw other coconuts into the tree to bring the really big one down.   All of our kids were so cute today, dressed to the nines for Picture Day.    So earnest and sweet, our students come to school with fun stories and tons of  love, and always, ALWAYS make me feel special.  Maybe that’s why I’m smiling instead of crying.

Cheers,

Mary

Have Frank’s, Will Travel

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Having a three-day weekend just days after a week of Spring Break seemed downright sinful!  Friday evening we had dinner (party of 7!) at Zipps, where I’m absolutely in love with their buffalo chicken hot wings, fries, and cold pints of Hess IPA  (I know, my appetite is like a college-aged boy’s).  Seriously.  On recent Friday nights, I’ve been a black hole for french fries and beer.  There isn’t any left for anyone else, sorry Tempe!  And chickens, save yourselves!  I’ll be eyeing your wings for my next meal! (Have Frank’s Sauce, will travel.)

Bright and early Saturday, we were at the community garden.  What a freakin’ mess.  You leave a garden unwatched for three weeks and crazy stuff will happen.  Because of our ridiculously high temps in the 90s in February, all of my lettuces either wilted or went to seed.  I could have cried.  Adieu, my dear arugula!  Sweet dreams, crisp mesclun! Apparently sunflowers reseed themselves each year—who knew?  Sunflowers had sprouted to a height of two feet, no lie.  Amazing. I pulled out most of them because they were covered in little black bugs. The good news?  Sweet peas were blooming, smelling like spring.  It felt great to dig in the dirt, admire the other gardener’s plots, and make a new friend who I’ve seen for years but never met in her job as a librarian at our Sunset Branch library down on the corner. So nice to talk gardening, books, libraries, and philosophy with you,  Trish!

After gardening we finished up the Most Dreaded of All Tasks:  Taxes.  I added up our donations and the sum of all costs at our rental property near ASU, while Hubby located and tallied all our W2s, the 409s, and the WD40s (ha).  We threw it into an envelope with a hope that we won’t be in a twizzler when the accountant looks it over.  *crossed fingers*

We had a very low-key Easter Sunday with Eve and William present for a late lunch of Spaghetti Carbonara with sides of sour dough bread, asparagus, salad, and apple cake. When our children were little, we would attend church with my in-laws and do a fancy restaurant brunch, but personally I’m happy to be done with that tradition.  It was so exhausting!   Easter was never a occasion in my childhood home. My Catholic cousins got fancy dresses and Easter egg hunts, but I got none of that since my parents were not religious.  At best, we’d join the rest of the family at Grandma and Grandpa’s house for late afternoon Easter dinner.   When we became parents, Hubby and I made Easter egg hunts in the greenbelt near our house for our children . . .  until they were too old to want to participate.  I have hopes to recreate that event with grandchildren someday.

This year’s relaxing, beautiful  Easter Sunday with our kids was a gift. We played with the pets, chatted about every little thing, and ate too much chocolate from our Easter baskets.  (And yes, even though our kids are all grown up, we still give the Easter baskets.) We watched with interest a large swarm of bees swarm and leave and return and do their “bee thing” in the corner of our back yard all afternoon. For years we’ve had bees visit us, sometimes staying long enough to make honey that pours out of our fence, and other years, staying briefly before moving on to greener pastures.   And we at this Apple Cake.

Apple Cake

1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Plus:
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced
Preheat the oven to 350F.  Grease a 9-inch square baking pan.
In a medium bowl, beat butter and 1 cup of the sugar until blended.  Add the eggs and mix again.  Add sour cream and vanilla, and mix until the batter is smooth.  On top of butter mixture, add flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  With the mixer on low, slowly mix just until combined.  In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon.
Spread half of the batter evenly in the pan.  Top with half of the apples, then sprinkle with two-thirds of the cinnamon sugar mixture.  Spread the remaining batter on top, arrange the remaining apples on top, and sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon sugar.
Bake the cake for 45-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Cheers,
Mary

 

Weekend in Flagstaff

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Hubby and I celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary last week up in the lovely pines of Flagstaff, Arizona. Just three hours from our home in Tempe, it was an easy, relaxing way to spend a long weekend. We stayed three nights, which gave us ample time to hike and try out the local brew pubs. Every afternoon a thunderstorm rolled in, which took us awhile to catch onto. Eager to hike up to “Fat Man’s Pass” the first afternoon, I was stricken to see the sky turning ominous whilst we were standing on top of a mountain. “Well, it’s a glamorous way to die,” I rationalized to Hubby. “We’ve had a good life. Heck, we’ve had a great day! A fun road trip through the mountains and a tuna sandwich from Subway for lunch. This is a fine day to die.” I gave him a passionate kiss and told him I loved him. Then lightening cracked nearby, and we practically ran the two miles back to the car (and we were not killed by lightening).

According to http://www.legendsofamerica.com, “Flagstaff, Arizona is often called the “The City of Seven Wonders” because it sits in the midst of the Coconino National Forest and is surrounded by the Grand Canyon, Oak Creek Canyon, Walnut Canyon, Wupatki National Monument, Sunset Crater National Monument, and the San Francisco Peaks.” It’s a charming, historic city with fantastic people watching.

Both of our older children attended Northern Arizona University, for one year each. The summer weather is amazing but the winters are long and harsh. My desert-raised kids thought it was fun to live through a snowy winter—once. Our youngest says he wants to try it, too, which makes me happy because it will give us more reasons to visit this charming town.

Let me tell you about our hikes! I loved all of the hikes but for different reasons. Fat Man’s pass was the most challenging. We had to be careful to not twist an ankle as we climbed over small boulders and followed the steep trail. My avoidance of the gym in recent months was evident when I had to stop frequently to catch my breath and let my heart rate slow to a normal pace. But the sight of fat lizards scampering over the rocks and numerous butterflies made it worthwhile.

The next afternoon we hiked out to Sandy’s Canyon to Fisher Point. A beautiful meadow hike, this was not steep at all, but just long. We hiked six miles, which is longer than we ever do. It felt good to stretch our legs through huge expanses of meadow with all different colors of wildflowers, and lots of butterflies.

Our last hike started halfway up the mountain where the Snow Bowl Ski Resort operates during the winter months. This hike to Veit Springs was not very strenuous and was my favorite of the three hikes. This hike is in a nature preserve, with old-growth Aspen and huge boulders in a dense forest. Our trail book told us where to find Ludwig Veit’s cabin, built back in 1892. We also saw his cold storage building which is still standing. So quiet except for the sound of the wind through the Aspen leaves, it truly felt magical. We went off the path and climbed over boulders, hoping to find the elusive petroglyphs mentioned in the hiking guide (we never found them). I wondered who Ludwig Veit was. Did he raise a family here in this wild part of America, so far from town? Was he a trapper, or perhaps looking for gold? What I do know for sure is he settled in an idyllic wood.

In the evenings, we sipped beers and played gin rummy at all the major breweries in town, but quickly discovered three pints of microbrew will fill you up so much that you feel like you ate Thanksgiving dinner! I loved small Mother Road Brewery with all the dogs and happy families on the patio. Lumberyard had great people watching and the best IPA. Beaver Creek and Historic were fun as well, and next time, we will stay within walking distance of downtown so we can stay longer and not have to drive.

It was all very relaxing, however, I a not very good at relaxing. I was happy as a clam to get back home, start the laundry, sort through the mail, and make a grocery list. Even though I love to travel, I am a homebody at heart. I kissed all the pets. I watered my plants. I scooped the cat boxes. Standing in line at Fry’s behind Grumpy Lady with Eyelash Dandruff Who Has the Boy with the Huge Head (I can never remember her real name, but sometimes we are at the same neighborhood parties), I laughed at myself, so happy to be back into my rut, and happy to be back home.

Cheers,
Mary