Photo Friday: How Many….

…leaf garlands does it take to make a house look autumnal in the desert southwest?

Let’s start with the kitchen, one above each window and two under the cabinets.

Two in the family room.

IMG_8114One in the dining room.

IMG_8125One at the top of my bedroom closet.

IMG_8119And two in the upstairs hallway overlooking the living/dining room.

And one in front of my south facing office window that would be really hard to take a picture of.  That makes a grand total of eleven.  So the answer is it takes eleven leaf garlands to bring autumn to the southwest.

 

Keep Your Focus!

 

Photo Friday

This week’s theme is Around the Yard:

IMG_8063Yes, that is 104° F at 4:30p in the afternoon (the clock is off, the hour hand is stuck).

IMG_8065Spiderweb.  It seems our spiders are getting ready for Halloween a tad early as the yard is festooned. This is one on my lemon tree.

IMG_8068Can you see all the oranges?  Of course not, they are still green.

IMG_8070Five lemons in one shot, not bad.

IMG_8064And one from the pool.  This is the 5th mouse we’ve pulled out this month.  Seems we have the world’s largest mouse trap, ew.

Keep Your Focus!

Mid-Week Ramblings

The mac and cheese incident

I don’t want my son to be one of those kids who gets to college and has no idea how to feed himself so I am slowly helping him to learn his way around the kitchen.  We have started small (he’s only 10 so we have time) and he can now make scrambled eggs.  The rule is I have to be in the kitchen when he does this.

And I also supervised him making single serve mac and cheese.  The one that comes in a cup and you add water and microwave, not too difficult (or so I thought).  The first few times I supervised but last week-end I was in my office upstairs and he yelled up asking if he could make some.  So I said go ahead and kept on working,  with one ear open but not really expecting any problems.

“Mom, there is smoke coming out of the microwave!” I hear a small panicked voice yell.  The spouse goes down first and I follow expecting to find a dying microwave (it came with the house and I am guessing it is at least 15 years old).  Instead it smells like burnt popcorn and my husband holds up a melted plastic cup.  Turns out small child forgot to add the water.  He will not be appearing on “Kid’s Baking Championship” anytime soon.

 

Halloween

Frankly the grocery store being full of Halloween candy already really irritates me.  Who needs to buy candy two months early?  Especially here where it will be all melted by the end of October.  Do people fear a dearth of candy?  That there won’t be enough for everyone?  Seems to me there is plenty of candy in the stores year round.

I was sharing these thoughts with a fellow blogger and had an epiphany.  For Halloween this year I can dress up as Mrs. Claus or an Elf and hand out Christmas candy, which I am sure will be quite plentiful in October.  Maybe we should put up our Christmas decorations along with Halloween? NOOOOOOOOOOO!

I feel like “The Nightmare Before Christmas” now occurs every year.  I want to enjoy each season, each holiday in it’s own time.  It is August, still triple digit heat, still swimming, popsicle and shorts weather.  I don’t want Halloween being shoved in my face until October.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Dying zinnias do a look a bit autumnal. (no…bad tracey, still summer, at least wait until after Labor Day to start thinking fall thoughts!)

Have a good week (if you want to, no pressure)!

Epiphany

In some cultures January 6th is the big holiday for the Christmas season. This is the symbolic date on which the Wisemen reached Bethlehem and said hi to the baby Jesus and brought him some birthday presents. 🙂 Not celebrated so much in the U.S. but in our home we use it as an excuse to end the holidays with one last bit of fun.

First we go for a hike, symbolizing the journey of the Wisemen.   Second my son gets three last presents representing the three gifts of the Magi. And lastly we eat Mediterranean food which is close enough for me to something biblical yet still tasty.

This year we had some logistical problems with the 6th of January.  Everyone else had finished with holiday time and life was reverting back to normal.  My son had bowling in the morning and I had bowling in the afternoon and then my son and husband were going to a hockey game.  So we delayed Epiphany one day.  A little sad but not the end of the world.

Sabino Canyon finally experiencing autumn color.

After lunch on Sunday we went for our hike.  It was the warmest Epiphany hike to date.  I got a little “hottish and sweatish” in my jeans and t-shirt but enjoyed meandering along the scary dry creek bed and scuffing through the fallen leaves and catching a bit of autumn color. Sabino Canyon Rec Area was pretty crowded but we got off the beaten path awhile and enjoyed the bird song and solitude.

I have never seen it this dry before. Hopefully we will have some winter monsoons this year.

Then my son opened his last three gifts. I don’t buy anything extra or special, I just put three gifts aside when I am wrapping presents.

The last three gifts.

And then we had dinner and homemade chocolate pudding.  Which thankfully turned out this time because the batch I made for Christmas Eve did not.

And now the holidays are over.  For real.

                                                                                          The End.

Twelve Days of Christmas: Days 9 – 12

I love the idea of a yule log burning the whole 12 days of Christmas. Sadly I do not have a ginormous fireplace or a full time staff to oversee the 24/7 burning of a giant log. I thought about a candle but who would leave a candle burning unattended for long periods of time? Not me. So this year I went with a chocolate yule log from the the Vermont Country Store.  Each day we shared 1/12th of it.  It helped depict the passing of the holiday season in a tangible way. (But next year I really want to use an LED candle in some sort festive yule log/holiday way.)

 

Day 9

Today we went to the Pima Air and Space Museum.   The weather was a perfect low 70’s and we quite enjoyed walking around both  inside the hangars and outside looking at all the aircraft. We also enjoyed lunch at the Flight Line Grill.  A little pricey but the food was better than I expected.

 

The SR-71,  my favorite aircraft.

 

Lots of WWII memorabilia. 

Day 10

Today I let E choose what he wanted to do between two options: I could take him to Office Max to use a gift card he received from Santa or I could take him and a friend to a playground.  He chose the playground and spent a very happy two hours running around with two friends.  Again the weather was perfect, 70’s and cloudy which is good.  Even in January the sun can be uncomfortably hot here.

Day 11

Today we went to Bookman’s, my favorite used book store.  My son had a $10 certificate the store sent him on his birthday and I still had a $15 credit from the last batch of books we took there.  We spent a happy hour browsing and then enjoyed a late lunch at Beyond Bread.

Day 12

Today presented a bit of a problem.  The last item we had to do was find some snow at Mt. Lemmon.  Too much gorgeous weather means no snow. Plus celebrating this many days in a row is rather exhausting!  And my son still had some school work to finish. So I must confess we rather fizzled out today.  We opted for a jammie day with both of us getting our needed tasks done in the morning and then spent the afternoon watching a movie he got for Christmas. (“Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Long Haul”.)

 

How cool is this painted plane?
Yup, that is part of the plane!

So there you have it, Twelve Days of Christmas.  But the season is not quite over yet, next up: Epiphany!

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Days 5 – 8

I had to ponder a bit about how to set up this years’ twelve days.  Over the course of a few months I jotted down a list of activities as the ideas came to me or as E mentioned things he wanted to do. Then I narrowed it down to twelve and made little tags.  But I didn’t want to actually assign activities to days until the time was close due to weather and how we were feeling and other things that may pop up.  So I came up with the idea to put the labels for the days on envelopes and made all the tags the same size.  Now I could just slip a tag in an envelope when the decision was made. Easy Peasy.  Really glad I did it this way as I ended up switching things around a lot!

An example day.

Day 5

Today we went to the movies and saw “Wonder”.  My son and I had read the book together earlier this year so we were excited about the movie.  And the movie did not disappoint. I may have shed a few tears.  And I loved that Julia Roberts looked, not fat, but lets say “real”, like a real mother of two kids.  Made me very happy.  And small child enjoyed it too, along with a large popcorn.  He is a growing boy!

Day 6

Fiesta Bowl day.  Now when I planned out this activities theme we had not yet won tickets to the Fiesta Bowl.  So I had a bit of a problem.  Going to a football game is not really a treat for my son. I finally came up with a tag good for one junk food item (he picked red licorice) at the game and the promise that January 7th could be a jammie day.  Okay, January seventh is after the 12 days of Christmas but it is also the last day of winter break from school and so I went with it.  Flexibility is good and E was happy.  We rooted for our PAC-12 Brethren Washington Huskies who sadly lost to Penn State.  But it was a good game.

Day 7 – New Years’ Eve

Today’s theme was all about pizza.  We made pizza totally from scratch: crust and sauce.  I was surprised at how tasty the pizza turned out.  I bought pizza flour from Hayden Flour Mills and used the recipe on the box for the crust.  For the sauce I just added Italian seasoning and garlic to a can of tomato sauce. Simple is so often best.  E also got a pair of pizza jammies and the Lego pizza truck.

Day 8 – New Years’ Day

Today was play a board game day. It was my effort to get my spouse away from the television a bit and small child off the computer.  I was sort of successful.  My son did play outside with a neighborhood friend for awhile and then they played some games on the WII.  After dinner all three of us played a few rounds of Sagrada, a very addictive game we got for Christmas.

 

Four fun days left this Christmas season!

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Days 1 -4

In my house we celebrate the whole 12 days of Christmas plus Epiphany.  It started sort of by accident when my son was small and I had bought way too many gifts.  So I took all the arts and crafts supplies and parceled them out one day at a time.

Over the years I have done different themes:  books, matchbox cars, candy.  One year I bought a book to represent each month via a holiday or season.  One year all 12 books had a winter or Christmas theme. (I bought most of them used at Bookman’s so it wasn’t terribly expensive.)  For the candy I did one chocolate bar, two turtle candies, three peppermint patties etc.  At the larger numbers I used things like 10 skittles and 11 m &ms.

One year I got really crazy and tried to follow the song.  My favorites that year were fried chicken for dinner for “Three French Hens” and a pogo stick for “Ten Lords a Leaping”.

Another key piece is that the gifts are hidden and my son has to find them.  Some days I think the hunt is more exciting than the gift.

This year I decided to focus more on activities and less on stuff.  I am going for a balance of at home mellow days and out and about things to do days.

Day 1 – Christmas Day

Since this day is already pretty full I just went with the 12 Days of Moose Munch from Harry and David.  I thought the little bags of popcorn would be good to take with us on some of our outings.

Day 2- Boxing Day

Yes, this is the day we pretend we are British and have Christmas Crackers and something British for dinner.  This year it was Somerset Rabbit from Nigella Lawson’s book “Feast”.  I found real imported UK  cheese and mustard at the commissary.  Yum! Yum!  I will be making this again.

For dessert I went with box shaped cupcakes with a chocolate glaze.  Both homemade and scrumptious.

The Penguin is actually a Christmas Cracker.  You can find them on-line and usually at World Market.

Our activity for today was a sleepover by the Christmas tree.  We pulled out the sofa bed and spent the evening reading next to the tree. It is fun because it is not something typically done and it feels special.

The view from my one night only bed.

Day 3

After lunch at Chick-Fil-A (you know, three French hens) we headed to the Reid Park Zoo.  It was nice to get outside and it even seemed a bit wintry with a layer of clouds.  Chilly enough for a sweater it was as close to winter as we seem to get these days in the desert southwest.

Yes, I went with a picture of an anteater. I love how unusual they look and their coats are so pretty.  Do the zoo keepers brush them every morning?

Day 4

I opted for an at home day today.  I gave my son what will probably be his favorite day:  unlimited computer use.  To go with that I gave him his first Bitsbox.  I got him a one year subscription to help him learning coding.  I know coding interests him but I don’t think he has found the best way for him to learn it yet. Hopefully this will help (and keep him off Minecraft for at least a little while!)

I don’t think this is a calling bird but he sure is pretty!

 

Eight more days of Christmas are coming!  One must be patient and enjoy each day.

Desert tortoises seem to be pretty good at enjoying things slowly.

 

Mostly Pictures, Few Words

Outside, Autumn won’t arrive here for awhile yet.  But inside….

 

Sign I hung on my office door.

 

The scarecrow head says “hello”.

 

Yes, my inside fall does make me happy.

 

I hung this on the kitchen pantry door this year.

Picture I colored to put in my son’s lunch on Friday.

There is plenty more autumn in my home but you get the idea. (If you want to see a few more pictures check out the Pretending it is Autumn post.)

WELCOME AUTUMN!

 

Pretending it is Autumn

Still triple digit heat here which is rather depressing. But there is no doubt a change to the angle of the sun and shorter days. And the calendar does say September!
My new carpet installation triggered a bout of spring cleaning that will most likely last into next week. It was an excellent excuse to put away summer decorations and that means I got to decorate for fall a few days earlier than normal.

This is where Halloween Town will go in a few weeks.

So here is how I pretended on Monday that it really is autumnal around these parts:

  • I made Fiesta Turkey Casserole for dinner, a recipe from my Gooseberry Patch “Autumn with Family & Friends” cookbook. A little spicy and warming without being too heavy, perfect for Monday Night Football.
  • I walked the dog at dusk.  The sky was a mass of gray clouds and bats were flitting around.  It looked autumnal even if the still in the 90’s temperature said otherwise.
  • My beloved Denver Bronco’s were on Monday Night Football (with a nail biter of a win over the Chargers!).  During halftime I enjoyed a piece of homemade apple crumb pie.  Made with apples we picked ourselves a week ago.
  • I “lit” the fireplace and had to snuggle under my Bronco’s fleece as the a/c kicked down to it’s nighttime setting.

Ah, nothing like the soothing light of a fire. 🙂

I was sitting right in the path of a vent so it really did feel a bit chilly when the a/c was running.

Tuesday morning autumn continued:

  • I started a loaf of bread in my bread machine.  Nothing smells better than baking bread except for….
  • I put apples in the crockpot with a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to make a batch of spiced applesauce. That smells wonderful too.
  • I washed my fall quilt and hung it outside on the line to dry.

You know, it doesn’t feel like pretend autumn at all for it is autumn in my head and my heart and my home, all the places that matter!

 

A Taste of Minimalism

We are finally getting our upstairs carpet replaced as I write this.   Ever have flooring done while you are living in a home? It’s a huge pain and a big disruption and a lot of work.

Ten days prior to the install date I started moving books, pictures and knickknacks. So I had a few days of an empty-ish bedroom. All the furniture was still in it but the shelves and tops were bare. It felt weird.

Then on Sunday we moved out all the smaller furniture and I got a taste of what my bedroom would be like with only a bed and a nightstand.  I thought I might like it.  My room is pretty small (10’x11′ I think) so I thought having some empty space would feel nice. Turns out I didn’t love it.  I felt like I was in a very small hotel room or a hospital room.  Bare isn’t for me.

I like having stuff.  My dream for my forever home is to have one full wall of shelves filled with books and a few knickknacks.  I like having a decent pile of clothes to choose from. I don’t want to wear a “uniform” and frankly I don’t find it hard to get dressed in the morning.

My hang up with stuff (specifically with spouse and small child) is that it has to have a “home”.  A place where it needs to be when not in use.  Apparently I am the only one of us three that knows how to put things away when I am done. Clutter just lying around drives me nuts. My son leaves his library books everywhere: on couches, chairs, the floor etc. Other than the book I am actually reading my library books are on a specific shelf in the living room bookcase. I always know where to find them and never have to spend time running around looking for books that have come due.

I don’t like it when there are too many things for a space.  And I agree with getting rid of things you don’t use or like or need. But I think there is too much extremism going on right now. The choice doesn’t have to be a 4000′ mansion or a 400′ tiny house.  You don’t have to limit your clothes to 33 items or having a closet so stuffed you can’t get things out.

Me?  I am shooting for a forever home that is probably around 800′ to 1200′ depending on the layout. I want to be surrounded by my books and mementos from my travels. I want a kitchen that I can cook and bake in with all the pans and bowls I need. I want a front porch and space for a few flowers, maybe a tomato plant and a spot to grow a pumpkin.  Nothing teeny and nothing humongous.  I want a life that is sized just right for me.

* The picture is of the Redwoods in California. I don’t think you can have too many trees or that they can be too big.  🙂