Tag Archives: summer vacation

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

Lazy as Pie

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I am in Mexico.

Our journey here was an easy four-hour drive.  We set out early expecting crowds at the border due to the Roger Clyne concert happening in Rocky Point this weekend (which I’ve been referring to as Clynapalooza–I’m not a fan).   But the roads were empty and we rolled through the border, got the green light, and didn’t have even one angry truck trying to mow us over in their rush to get to the beach.

We’re feeling golden.

I’ve successfully completed my second  nap of the day, and for that I blame the unusually loud ocean and accompanying winds.  The waves are roiling and crashing and the resulting sound is so hypnotic that truly, the napping was out of my control.  In my swim suit with my feet up on the beach patio, I’m reading To Kill A Mockingbird for the second time (the first being 30 years ago) and am quickly being sucked into Scout and Jem’s world.  Hubby is working a Sudoku puzzle and helping me count pelicans (I believe they fly in odd-numbered groups and am constantly trying to prove this theory).  A cool breeze wafts over us, and I’m feeling glad I packed a pair of jeans and a jacket at the last minute.  At home, it is hot hot hot, but our favorite beach here in Mexico has not heated up yet.  The ocean is warm, though the huge waves prevented us from doing much more than “wallowing” in the low tide pools. I can’t wait to swim in the morning when the waves will be calm!

In other words, we are being lazy as pie.  (“If pie is lazy, then what is cake?” Hubby asks.)

We thought our children would join us here at our favorite place, but in the end, they did not want to.  This is the story of my life.  Fine.  I can wait patiently until there are grandchildren, when our offspring will be happy to join us so we can help watch their small children.  It truly seems like just last year that Patrick was a baby not wanting to put his feet in the sand, that Eve was afraid of the “big byack fyies” buzzing about, and William crawled down the hill to the ocean so quickly it scared me half to death.  We are so blessed.

Wednesday was my last day assisting in our Kindergarten class for the semester.  Job well done, all of us.  While my teacher friends at public school finished weeks ago,  I cannot complain about having to go two weeks longer since I simply love my new school, the teachers, the parents, and of course, the children.  I will miss everyone over the summer, but I plan to make the most of my six weeks off so I will be fresh and bright when the new semester begins.

Life is good.

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

 

 

A Wild Kindergarten Wish

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As our school year winds down for the semester (only three and a half more weeks!), I’ve been feeling melancholy. Assisting in our Kindergarten class has been a wild ride, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.  I honestly feel like I’m the “best me” when I’m around these wee folks. They shower me with love in weird ways:  licking my arm, petting my hair, feeling up my toes, putting their hands up my skirt, or catching me unawares from behind on the playground with the hula hoop (you know who you are–and I WILL sue if I break a hip!).  I love those little boogers with my whole heart.

So after hanging out with Kindergartners for 10 months now, I’m convinced that if I had a magic wish, I would wish to be a Kindergartner once again.   Here is a short list of some of the things that are great about being in Kindergarten:

You are served a yummy snack every day at 10:30 a.m.

You never worry about getting enough exercise . . . or getting fat.

Knock-knock jokes are hilarious to you.

You have so many hopes and dreams.  On Monday, you are going to be an astronaut.  On Tuesday, you tell your friends you want to be a doctor.  By Wednesday, you’ve decided on being a dog groomer.  And so it goes.  The world is your oyster–and nobody ever tries to tell you it’s not.

Everything is new:  so many foods you haven’t tried, things you don’t know about, words you haven’t heard before.  You literally learn something new every day.

Fashion is not important to you; your primary goal is comfort.   You dress whimsically matching stripes with polka dots and plaids with florals . . .  and on your feet you wear crocs, sandals, or even better, cowboy boots with everything.

You can sing a little song or hum while you are playing or doing your work in the classroom and nobody thinks it’s weird.

You never wake up thinking,  “I’m going to need a lot of coffee to get through this day.”

You do not angst over the concert ticket you weren’t able to get.   You are happy listening to the Frozen soundtrack every single day.

Someone else is in charge of your hair. Girls can wear their hair in weird braids and ponytails and decorate their hair with all sorts of colorful bows or put a big flower on top of their heads.  And it’s cute!

Play dates every Saturday!  Arranged by someone else!  And when you are with your friends, all you have to do is be yourself.

You never worry about budgets, in-laws, travel itineraries, cleaning your house, taxes, appliances, or car maintenance . . . and you never wake up with a hangover.

You can fart unapologetically.

You are not afraid of bugs, or having wet shoes, or having paint on your hands, feet, legs, and you even feel proud to wear a paint mustache  because it makes your friends laugh.

And best of all?  You are not afraid to bare your soul, to actively learn to be a better person, to tell a friend (or a teacher) that you love them, and you are never, EVER afraid to tell the truth.

Cheers,
Mary

 

 

 

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

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Last night we had the kids here for Memorial Day dinner. Eve was working, but Patrick brought his girlfriend Sam, and we had a delightful evening eating hamburgers grilled with green chiles and cheddar melted on top, with sides of baked beans, and a lettuce salad topped with bleu cheese, radishes, cucumbers, and blueberries. For dessert, there was Pineapple Upside-Down Cake. A Very American dinner. For liquid refreshment there were cold glasses of hoppy Belgian White Shock Top from the kegerator. The American flag flew outside our front door, catching my eye through the window all afternoon from my “desk” at the dining room table.

When Patrick’s girlfriend comes to the house, it’s not an easy thing. Samantha is EXTREMELY allergic to cats. And we have three cats who currently are shedding like the dickens. Over a two-year time period, we’ve discovered Sam needs to avoid sitting on anything upholstered (due to the dander) and if she takes an allergy pill right away when she arrives, she’s fine. We’re always glad to see her, and trust me, the house always needs cleaning. It’s all good.

So yesterday, Hubby and I spent a few hours “de-hairing” our house, me with two different vacuums and with Hubby giving each cat the Wet Hand Treatment. This involves catching the cat, then using your wet hands to coax all loose hairs from their bodies. They seem to enjoy it once the process is in progress, but catching them can be difficult. Unbeknownst to me yesterday’s Wet Hand Treatment occurred in the downstairs shower, and it was only when I excused myself to the loo after dinner that I noticed the bales of fur in the adjacent shower stall. Good Grief. (And to think I married him because I thought he was so smart!)

While I was cleaning, I enjoyed some new tunes by Jack Garratt. I urge you to check out his music. Start with the video Chemical. I had that tape recorder when I was a little girl. And if you’re not feeling just a little hot and bothered by the end of the vid, you should see a doctor. Mr. Garrett is on tour, however, will not be coming to Phoenix (sob).

We have a new resident here at Casa Vaughan. The “Boy Who Used to Be Known as William” during the school year was very grumpy, anxious, and generally curmudgeonly, and has been replaced by a new boy who shall be known as “William Who Smiles and Gives Good Hugs.” I loved the Old William, but am glad to meet the New William. Don’t even get me started on how hard 17 Years Old is—I remember like it was yesterday and do not envy him the angst, the uncertainty, the parental bossiness, the embarrassment of simply walking amongst other humans. But here we are on Week Two of Summer Vacation, and William is relaxed and sweet. He spent the last two days painting his bathroom (for pay of course) and did an excellent job. And last night, William offered to make our dessert!

I love Pineapple Upside Down Cake. Give me a fruit dessert over something rich and chocolaty any day. I grew up on this recipe. We often camped during my childhood, and my mom made this cake in an iron skillet over our campfire. Everything tastes better when you’re camping, don’t you think so?

I will give you the recipe now after I inquire about your well being. Are the warmer temps agreeing with you? Do you feel a lightness of being? Do you have out-of-town trips planned? Or maybe you’re just happy to have your children or grandchildren more available so you can go for a spur-of-the-moment, double-dip ice cream cone at Baskin-Robbins, or maybe feed the ducks your stale bread at your local pond, or perhpas play a long game of Yahtzee while eating popcorn at your kitchen table. I wish for you all a happy start of summer.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

In a skillet, place 1 cup brown sugar, 2 Tablespoons butter, and one can of ringed pineapple, juices included. Heat to a boil.

In a medium bowl, mix 2 eggs, 1 cup sugar, ½ cup milk, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Add to that 1 cup flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon baking powder.

Grease quiche pan (or other circular baking dish). Pour in hot fruit. Spoon batter over the top. Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until brown. Serve warm. Extra delicious with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on top!

Cheers,

Mary

First Day of Summer

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Yesterday morning I awoke excited to greet the official First Day of Summer. The night before I’d been as blue as a pool in June (that’s a saying) at the loss of our end-of-school traditions. When the kids were little, we’d attend an afternoon pool party, then we’d come home and burn all of the school papers and workbooks from the year outside in the chiminea. Then we’d cleaned up and go out for a pizza dinner, toasting the completion of another school year. I miss those days and did a bit of maudlin moping.

But yesterday I was feeling great. A cool breeze blew across the backyard as Ruby and I sat reading Hold Still, a memoir by Sally Mann. Hummingbirds buzzed happily, pausing to slurp at the feeder overhead. Elongated white styrofoam clouds moved slowly across the denim blue sky. I sighed with contentment. Yes, this was going to be a wonderful summer.

That’s when Hubby poked his head out the back door. “We need to get rid of this blueberry cake. It’s full of ants.” Whoops. I guess he was several bites into his breakfast before he noticed the deliciously moist creamy cake center was teeming with the little guys. A little extra protein never hurt anyone, right?

A little later I heard my phone ring. It was a rare call from Patrick, our oldest son. He sounded upset. “Mom! I’m driving down Broadway and they’ve cut down all the orange trees!”

I sighed. “I’m sorry.”

“Well it’s not YOUR fault, Mom,” he replied.

I explained, “What I mean is,  I’m sorry for always being such a nut about trees your whole life. Most people probably didn’t even notice the orange trees were gone.” In the fifteen years we’ve lived next to a greenbelt, we’ve seen lots of senseless tree removals. We’ve seen budget trimmers come in and hack at lush olive trees until they look like Van Gogh abstractions. We’ve snuck out like thieves after dark, scissors in pockets. Our mission? To cut through red plastic ribbons tied to healthy trees marked for removal. One summer they removed one quarter of the trees in the greenbelts near us so that the “grass would get more light.” I am not kidding. Just last year the HOA removed an adorable 30-year-old fan palm that lived near the community pool entrance. The board was convinced trespassers were using the palm tree to climb over the fence and into the pool area. I assured them this was not the case and that by removing the palm, it would actually make it EASIER for the high school kids to climb in. I cried the following week when I drove by and saw it chopped into small bits, thrown in a truck headed to the landfill.

Back to my phone call with Patrick. I explained to him that the city was “improving” the road and likely would be replacing the 50-year-old orange trees with some drought-resistant feathery trees. “Haven’t you seen the new ones in our neighborhood? They took out the stately pines (they were too messy and dropped debris in people’s pools) and put in new “trees.” They’re more like bushes. They’re not even bushes—they aspire to be bushes. More like tall weeds.” We had a hearty discussion about water in the desert and came up with some great ideas. “We need to get rid of all the of the golf courses in Arizona. If you want to golf, go to Illinois or Iowa . . . or Scotland.” We ended our call with the family mantra, “If I were in charge of the World, things would be a LOT different!” I hung up with a smug smile, so happy that something I’d done in his childhood had stuck with him.

The dishwasher repairman arrived a bit later with a whole new motor (under warranty). We are now back in business. My grandmother never owned a dishwasher—no wonder she was always so busy. Washing dishes by hand is a very time consuming and thankless task.

That afternoon, Eve moved back to the ASU House. The bathroom remodel is complete so there was no real reason for her to stay here. I knew she was leaving, but still got a little teary when I heard the sound of the zipper on her suitcase. I hid her kitten with hopes she might leave the darling thing, but Eve insisted she could not stand one more day in our home and was leaving. She is not shy about being bratty when she is irritated and can indeed be very nasty and mean to her mother, as can many 19-year-old girls. Yesterday I appreciated her sharp tongue as she flounced out the door, “OMG, I need at least one week without having to talk to you people!” It certainly made it easier to say goodbye. But we all miss her kitten.

The flying termites have diminished, and the ants are almost gone as well. The smell of fresh paint drifted through the house all day as William painted the upstairs bathroom. The mildew on the ceiling was out of control and no amount of scrubbing helped. He tried to get a summer job, but because of marching band rehearsals and camp, it just didn’t seem practical. So I’m paying him to do stuff around the house for me.

And so begins the Summer of 2015.

Cheers,
Mary