Good Things Thursday: Autumn

If one can be homesick for a season then I am homesick for autumn. I know it isn’t “officially” here yet but I even miss the anticipation of fall. There is little for me to love about living here in the desert southwest but this is by far the worst time of the year for me. In the next week or so I’ll break out my leaf garlands and pumpkin decorations and do my best to create autumn inside my home.

But I can’t change the triple digit heat outside. I can’t make it really feel like autumn. I can’t create that crisp, fragrant air or conjure up a maple tree with flaming red leaves outside my window. I can’t wear long sleeves. And that makes me sad.

So today I am going to create autumn in my head and heart. This is a spontaneously generated list of all the things I love about autumn:

  1. chilly air
  2. the low angle of the sun
  3. watching football
  4. pumpkin chili
  5. chocolate chip pumpkin muffins
  6. colorful leaves
  7. the sound of the breeze in the trees
  8. hot tea on a cold morning
  9. the smell of apples and cinnamon
  10. picking apples
  11. meandering in a corn maze
  12. making pies and applesauce
  13. candles flickering in drafts
  14. apple cider
  15. wearing long sleeves
  16. cardigan sweaters
  17. cold, gray, rainy days
  18. tomato soup and grilled cheese
  19. that special shade of blue the sky is in October
  20. reading a good book under an afghan
  21. Movies set in autumn (like “Step-Mom” and “You’ve Got Mail” and “Hocus Pocus”)
  22. Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday!)

Looking at the list I realize I can actually experience most of these. And I bought two new short sleeve autumn themed shirts from Life is Good so I can wear “autumn” shirts. I have a camping trip planned in October which should give me a taste of cool air, colorful leaves and the joy of evening campfires and hot tea in the morning. Not a perfect solution but better than nothing.

Did I need this mug? No. But I bought it anyway. For now I am drinking iced tea out of it.

Just like that I feel better. 😊

Photo Friday: Rose Canyon Lake

The heat here has been sickening, we are still hitting triple digits and it’s been rather humid with rain many afternoons. I promised myself I would find a day to take a picnic up the mountain and spend some time in a cooler climate. (I am increasingly homesick for autumn, seems to get worse every year.)

So yesterday I headed up to Rose Canyon Lake. It took until 5000′ to get below 90°. The lake is around 7000′ and the temperature was a pleasant 77°. It was a little warm in the sun but the area is well treed so there was plenty of shade.

I wanted to take some different photos. I need to learn how to be more unique with my compositions. I fear I have a long way to go. I really want a macro lens and try some abstract stuff.

From the South end of the lake looking North.
The South end.
A dam on the South end, I walked across it and am happy I didn’t fall off!
Saw this interesting bit on the dry end of the North side.
Pinecones mean autumn!
I took more pictures of rocks on the drive home. This looks medieval to me!

Keep Your Focus!

Big Change

I started working for the first time in twelve years. Seems there should be a blog post in there somewhere but the truth is I am too tired to write coherent sentences. The problem isn’t the job itself and I am only working part-time, between 20 and 25 hours a week. All my work is done outside. (I walk around with a computer verifying addresses for the upcoming census.) The issue? The weather. Yes, the weather. The heat and the sun have been ferocious. When I get home from working I take a long, cool shower and begin rehydrating to set myself up for the next day. Then I have to get my son from school (back out in the heat, ugh) and attempt to stay awake at least until dark.

I already find myself looking at the calendar and wishing for the end. This job is supposed to last a max of eight weeks. I am really hoping we finish early. I think about quitting as there is no end in sight for the heat, but I am not a quitter.

Instead I am working hard on staying in the moment, focusing on one day at a time. Anything is bearable for one day. Despite the forecast I can always hope for at least some clouds tomorrow. I am probably one of the few people wishing for a cloudy day! Please, feel free to send your clouds my way, they will be appreciated.

A rainbow in the clouds would be a nice bonus.

Flash Fiction: A Sweet Jam

I almost skipped this week’s prompt from Carrot Ranch. I had no ideas, zip, zero. My brain was empty.

I completed my training and officially started work this week. I think I made a mistake. The work is easy enough and I actually like all the walking, but the heat is killing me. I am re-thinking my hours and promised myself to stick it out to the end of the week. It is supposed to cool down Friday and Saturday and I’ll see if it is enough to make it bearable. And if it is still too hot for me I will resign.

So I found myself thinking a lot about weather and finally figured out an idea for the prompt.

“Hello Spring”

Sophia walked into the kitchen and wondered where spring was.  Fat snowflakes swirled outside the window, carpeting the grass and mounding on empty flowerpots. 

“This would be pretty if it was December,” Sophia told Mother Nature, “but here in May you are just being cruel.”

She put the kettle on and popped an English muffin into the toaster.  “Guess I’ll just have to make my own spring,” she said, moving a vase of tulips to the table.  She opened her last jar of homemade strawberry jam and breathed in the sweet berry scent.  “Take that Mother Nature,” she crowed.

February 2019

I could go for some snow right now!

Old-Fashioned Family Outings

For the first week after my surgery I was housebound. Between the weather (triple digit heat and humidity), not being able to drive and how tired I felt, not leaving the house wasn’t a big deal. By the end of the week though I was bored and antsy and decided it was time to make a plan.

For my hospital stay I had picked up a couple of magazines. One was “Art Journaling” mostly because it had lots of pictures to look at. And one of the articles was about art made after a trip to the Postal History Museum here in Tucson! What! She had bought fish of the world stamps. Located near the University of Arizona I thought this would make a nice, short outing.

So off we went on Friday to view an 1800’s post office and learn all about stamps. It was actually rather interesting and I learned a lot about their education program and got some information to pass on to my son’s school. They also sold stamps and had big bags of stamps from specific countries or envelopes of stamps based on themes. You could buy just clock stamps or bicycles etc. I bought an envelope of mixed stamps of the world.

The page I created for my sketchbook project.

After the post office we went to lunch at Lindy’s, a decent burger place nearby. And then we went commissary shopping as I wasn’t supposed to carry heavy bags yet and was trying to limit my twisting and bending.

On Saturday I let the family recover from the first outing and then sprang Sunday’s outing on them: a picnic up at Mt. Lemmon. While the weather was still triple digits at the base of the mountain, up at 8000′ it was a pleasant 80°. We don’t go up the mountain much during the summer because it is crazy crowded, especially on weekends, but we decided to chance it anyway.

We lucked out and found a table and parking at Inspiration Rock. The weather was luscious and we enjoyed a simple picnic lunch and played two games of ‘Sorry’. I lost both but didn’t care, I was so happy to be outside and not melting!

Hoo-doo’s!

Then we decided to see how crowded the town of Summerhaven was. Again we lucked out and found a parking spot first try. We walked down to the Cookie Cabin to get plate sized cookies. The line was out the door and after 10 minutes of not really moving we decided our luck had run out and moseyed over to the Rainbow Gift shop for a browse and then to the General Store for fudge.

We sat on a bench outside the store eating the fudge and watching all the jockeying for parking spaces and admiring the flowers before starting our descent for home.

Hoo-doo’s from above!

At home we made popcorn and watched “Harriet the Spy” (because she was a 6th grader and that is what grade my son is starting). I declared the weekend a success despite not getting a cookie the size of my head.

On Monday when I woke up to rainy looking clouds I realized it was perfect baking weather. (Okay, maybe not perfect because it was still hot but at least it looked like baking weather.) I made my own cookie the size of my head. Bigger even! A sugar cookie with mini chocolate chips and orange (in color and flavor) frosting. And sprinkles. The perfect ending.

The ‘plate’ is actually the lid to my Tupperware cupcake container, so 12″ in diameter! I was thinking this would be cool to do at Christmas.

Good Things Thursday

Just a quick post today, we have a few errands to run and then the triple digit heat will send us into the pool!

I am learning to let go of expectations (especially in regards to my son) and so many things are making me happy this week! I am, for a change, living in the moment.

I am enjoying the return of “The Good Witch” in addition to watching “Poirot” and the last few episodes of “A Place to Call Home” (but why is Olivia letting Matthew push her around?).

My son and I have just about finished re-doing his room. We painted a wall, ordered cool outlet covers and light switch plates and put up a spacious wall of cubbies. We took everything out and cleaned the carpet. His new bed is delivered and the under storage is plentiful and works great. Now we just have to clear out the closet.

A few weeks ago I got a call about the Census Bureau job but the training date was only 4 days after my surgery so I didn’t think I could go. They said they would put my name back in the pool for the second wave of hiring and I got a call this week, this time with a training date in August so I said yes!

Thanksgiving in June. I figure if you can have Christmas in July that would translate to Thanksgiving in June. I made turkey tenderloins, cranberry sauce (I always freeze a bag or two of cranberries) and a sweet potato pie that turned out quite tasty. (I tried a new recipe that had maple syrup in it and whipped egg whites to make it light.)

To help add a feeling of cool to the post!

I am a bit of a weather geek and one of my sorrows is how boring the weather tends to be here. Aside from the occasional large monsoon thunderstorm (mostly in August) there isn’t much that happens here weatherwise. But this year we had snow in February and an actual spring!

Typically we are swimming by mid-May on a regular basis and June is hot, dry, cloudless and still. This year we had vast temperature swings, wind and bits of rain, enough with all the pollen to turn our pool green. My husband spent a week trying to clear it up and we finally gave up and called in the pros. Three days later the pool was clear, just in time for the triple digit heat.

We had a thunderstorm one night, very odd this time of year, but exhilarating. And we seem to get clouds and overcast skies for part of each day, very atypical. The forecast is for a late monsoon season this year. I don’t believe it.

My local library branch has bookcases in the front of the library that display new books and recently returned books, staff picks and then some sort of themed display. (Right now it is kid’s books designed to get them to read over the summer.) I love browsing these displays and stumbling on a happy surprise. Last trip I found “The Clockmaker’s Daughter” by Kate Morton. I love books that show different periods in time and at the end find out how everyone connects! Looks like that is Morton’s theme and I am looking forward to reading more of her works.

Realizing that the only way to keep my son off the computer is to get him out of the house in the afternoons. I have several adventures planned for the next two weeks, most involving lunch and a visit to various places. Today we are going to Target to get a few items for his room, the library and finally Trader Joe’s for those tiny ice cream cones.

Happy Almost Summer!

And don’t forget Flag Day tomorrow!

May Madness: Mum (And Photo Friday!)

As in chrysanthemum, not a British Mom!

In the four seasons world every fall I would put a mum and a pumpkin somewhere near my front door. And every spring I would throw the long dead mum away.

The first year I lived here in the desert southwest I continued the tradition only to have javelinas munch my chrysanthemum down to nothing and roll my pumpkin down the street until they broke it open and then ate it. We watched them do it. I was very sad.

I bought a second chrysanthemum and sadder but wiser put it safely in the backyard. And eight years later I still have the same plant! It blooms two or three times a year.

Look at all those buds!

In the heat of the summer I keep it fully in the shade and in September I pop it back into the morning sun. During the winter it gets full sun. If there is a freeze I tuck it under the patio and drape a towel over it.

Once it blooms I leave the dead stalks until the new growth underneath gets well established. I figure the stalks provide some protection from the sun in the summer and the cold in the winter.

I have been watching my plant for a few weeks now, waiting for a nice amount of blooms to open for a photo Friday shoot.

Til tomorrow…

Summer Bucket List

It is here, the last full week of school. We will have two hormonally challenged individuals spending the entire summer together. I can hardly bear the thought of it.

Keeping small child entertained all summer is no picnic. Left on his own he would spend all his time in front of a screen. Even though he is eleven it is not enough to simply tell him to turn the computer/tv off and go find something else to do. Believe me, I have tried that. Mostly he just lounges around complaining that he is bored, ignoring any suggestions I make.

I want him to do things he enjoys besides video games and cartoons. I want him to explore his creative side and get some exercise. I want him to have a good summer.

All year I have been jotting down ideas. The hard part is most of these things will have to be done together which could be good or bad. Kind of depends on how hormonally challenged we are feeling on any given day. The hope is we each get an hour or so for ourselves in the morning and a second hour in the afternoon.

The big goals are not to let one or two bad days derail the whole idea, be flexible, and once in awhile shake things up and go have an unplanned adventure. (Every summer I plan all these get out of the house ideas and every summer the heat or monsoons press us back indoors. So adventures this summer will be spontaneous because if we think about it we won’t go!)

I have decided the first day of summer vacation we will go to lunch at our favorite ice cream place (they serve food too) and discuss plans. And then we can head over to the new Hobby Lobby (conveniently located in the same plaza) and maybe find a project or two.

Here are some ideas of hopefully fun things to do:

  • Swimming. We have a pool and once I get him in the pool he loves it. Last year he made a lot of excuses to not go in which was really annoying. This year he won’t have a choice. For Easter I bought a bunch of pool toys to help tempt him into the water.
  • Book Club. We do make it to the library on a regular basis and we can easily find YA books we both enjoy. I thought it would be fun to read a book at the same time and then discuss it. Maybe have a themed lunch that day to go along with the book.
  • Cooking. My son has shown an interest in cooking and baking. Every once in awhile I’ll let him plan a meal/dessert, shop for it, and prepare it. A great way to practice so many skills.
  • Christmas. I am going to get a craft kit or two and we can have craft time for a few weeks. He can make Christmas presents for relatives. So much easier to do it now than when he is juggling school and sports.
  • Take an on-line class together. The local community college participates in ed2go. ‘Drawing for Absolute Beginners’ seems perfect for us.
  • Movie nights. It is getting harder to find movies we all enjoy (and haven’t already seen), but not impossible. Popcorn helps.
  • Skee ball. Skee ball is hands down our favorite arcade game and we got a small version for Christmas. Playing tournaments with innovative prizes will be fun for all.
  • Board games. We have a ton of games and go in spurts playing them. I have a secret goal of playing each one at least once!
  • Sketchbooks. I like the idea of doing something creative together, but not too structured. The Sketchbook Project seems like a good idea and it is pretty cool to think of our work going on a tour and then being kept in an art library. I ordered a book for each of us and splurged on the digital addition. There was a 20% off code when I ordered which made the price a little easier. This should pair well with our on-line drawing class. Hopefully after the class he will be more confident in his skills and it will be cool to have before and after sketches for both of us.

This year our vacation is near the middle of the summer break which is nice. We are going to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon which we are very excited about. This will help divide the summer into two halves, the first being what I think of as swim season. Very hot and dry and then the second half which may be the rainy season. (Monsoons are pretty unpredictable.) But it will be good to have inside plans because rain or heat are both unpleasant to be out in.

Also, right after vacation I am having my hysterectomy. They do it robotically so it is not the big deal it used to be. But I will still have one to two weeks with limited lifting, bending and twisting. And no swimming for four to six weeks, a killer!

I am hoping small child will be helpful those first few recovery days. I suspect I am kidding myself. A more realistic prediction is that while Mom is knocked out on pain killers he will be grabbing all the computer time he can!

I can make all the plans in the world but really, I have no idea how the summer is going to go. Fond memories? Or a nightmare best forgotten? I am assuming no matter what we will both survive. No one has ever actually died from hormonal teenagers or menopausal moms, right? RIGHT?

May Madness: Mission

My mission today was to do a photo Friday post. I have been taking an on-line nature photography course and picking up some great tips. And this morning serendipity struck! I found a spider (I believe a Wolf Spider) trapped in my dog’s food dish. And we have had two javelinas foraging through the neighborhood the last few mornings.

Javelinas can be dangerous so I try and keep my distance. I saw them up the street when I was returning from school drop off this morning. I planned on washing my car, taking advantage of a cloudy morning. Just in case I grabbed my camera and put my zoom lens on. Sure enough, a few minutes later they came down the street and went into the wash next to my house. Another neighbor came out with his son to look at them, from safely across the street.

I went to the middle of the yard and snapped a few quick pics. And then one of them heard the shutter clicking and I slowly backed away. (But not too slowly!) As they worked their way down the wash I was able to go in my backyard and take their picture from behind the safety of our 5′ cinderblock fence.

Wolf spider, did he think they were real flowers in the bowl?
Don’t call me pig! Javelinas are actually related to the elephant family.

Til tomorrow…