We’re in full bloom — desert style

Living in the Sonoran desert for my first Spring, it’s exciting to see flowers and growth sprouting everywhere. Here are some of the highlights I’ve seen the past few days: cactus, flowers, wildlife and grass I bought for our cat.

A cactus in bloom.
Pomegranate flowers.
Somebody is munching on our plants.
Quail outside my bedroom window.
Cactus exploding with Spring growth.
Grass for the kitty.
She loves it.

My favorite views from last week…

View of Arizona back yard mountains and cactus.
View from my backyard.
colorful blue sky with rainbow sundog
I looked up from reading a book called “The Edge” and saw this. The Edge is a book written by one of my childhood best friend’s little brother. He used to follow me around when I was in junior high and he was around four or five. His nom do plume is Clark Douglas. The book is great with quirky original characters.
Pretty long haired cat sitting at the table
My beauty Olive was fascinated and sat at the kitchen counter as I prepared dinner Friday night.
I saw mule deer severals days in a row last week. Once five walked by.
Cat on top shelf in a closet
The top shelf is at least 8 feet high. Yet there she is.

Is it a gas station, car wash or BBQ joint?

We discovered The Thumb in May 2018 — featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives — when we visited the Phoenix area with our daughter. She was going to graduate college in August and move to Arizona for a career in the financial world (which she despised.) Anyway, during our trip to Arizona, we discovered a gas station, car wash, gift shop, wine shop — that also serves the most unbelievable barbecue.

Yesterday, after a hike at Lake Pleasant, my husband and I were starving. Our car was filthy….so we remembered The Thumb. What a perfect way to top off a hike.

view from hike at Lake Pleasant AZ

Ready to hike Pipeline Canyon trail at Lake Pleasant.

I wrote this after discovering The Thumb in 2018:

peach cobbler sign at The Thumb Scottsdale AZ

Inside The Thumb gas station.

While spending the weekend in Arizona, our purpose was to check out where our daughter will start her career. While driving to dinner one evening, our car told us to get gas and directed us to the closest gas station. (I love that feature on our car because I get busy and don’t realize I’m close to running out of fuel.)

The car sent us to The Thumb. While my husband pumped gas, I noticed the two-story building that was unlike any gas station I’d ever seen before. I witnessed a stream of people leaving the building with white plastic bags with red lettering. Waving in the breeze were banners that said “BBQ.”

What kind of barbecue is found inside a gas station, I wondered.

Inside the Thumb Scottsdale AZ BBQ gas station

The BBQ counter next to the gift shop at The Thumb.

I left the car to check it out.

I was surprised to see a gift shop filled with all sorts of fun items, from Pug cha cha to lots of cactus cookie jars, shot glasses, cards and miscellaneous stuff.

There was a pretty extensive wine section plus a bakery that looked so mouthwatering. I should have tried the snickerdoodles or homemade pop tarts! They looked scrumptious. One side of the building had a huge chandelier with tables for those eating in, plus a patio with more tables for dining al fresco. A huge aquarium had several people entranced.

Then there was the barbecue. People were lined up to order and people were stocking up on the six flavors of sauce.

We ordered a pound of brisket, some coleslaw and tried a few sauces. We both decided the original was best. After getting our gas we headed back to the condo we were staying in and surprised our daughter with an amazing dinner from the gas station!

The Thumb’s website says it’s  “Just your average gas station…”
It’s been featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” on Food Network, too.

Inside dining at The Thumb Scottsdale AZ

The inside dining area of The Thumb.

If you happen to be driving through Scottsdale on the 101, I highly recommend a stop at the Thumb for a car wash, bakery, bottle of wine, barbecue, gifts — and oh yes, gas.

What unusual gas stations or diners have you discovered during your travels?

When Things Go Bump In the Night

patio with pool

This is the chair we found laying folded up on the patio.

Have you ever heard things go bump in the night? Last night I woke up at 2 a.m. to a loud crash. I heard other noises, too. I stayed up until 4 a.m. listening. Listening for more noises. I heard more. I wondered if I had locked the door to the casita? The front door? The sliders to the patio?

I didn’t dare get up to check it out. My husband slept next to me, soundly. I shouldn’t let my imagination take over in the middle of the night, I thought. No, Marco, our homeless man who slept in our yard most certainly didn’t follow us from California to Arizona, right?

Another thing niggled at my brain. Returning from the grocery store yesterday afternoon, I parked the car in the garage. While I was unloading my grocery bags, I heard the sound of someone bringing up the recycling bin from the curb up our driveway. It was recycling day, after all. And the garbage truck must have come by while I was at the store.

I hit the garage remote and lowered the electronic garage door, shutting myself inside. The noise of someone dragging the bin up the driveway stopped. I convinced myself that it must have been the next door neighbor returning his recycling bin to his own home.

At sunset my husband and I left the house to walk down the street for our evening show of  brightly colored pink and red skies highlighting silhouettes of saguaros. I stopped noticing the recycling bin outside the garage catawampus, not put away where the trash cans belong.

“Bill, why did you leave the trash bin out here?” I asked. “I heard you dragging it up the driveway when I pulled into the garage.”

“I never touched it,” he said. “Who would do this?”

Hmmm. While I listened for strange noises going bump in the night, my mind drifted to the strange thing with the trash. Was a neighbor doing us a favor? I don’t think so. I mean have you ever heard of someone returning your trash bins from the curb to your house?

First thing this morning, feeling very tired, I looked out into the backyard. The patio chair was folded up on the ground. My husband noticed it, too. I asked him if he had accidentally knocked it over when he cleaned the barbecue after our grilling burgers last night. Nope. He did not.

Maybe it was a bobcat, coyote, or a human? But I know for a fact that it wasn’t a bobcat or a coyote who brought our trash can up the driveway.

Arizona sunset saguaro

The incredible sunset view at the end of our street.

Have you heard strange noises go bump in the night? What caused the noises? Also, has a neighbor ever taken care of your trash cans for you without you asking?

Do New Year’s Resolutions Work?

This year, I’ve decided to not make New Year’s Resolutions. It’s not that they haven’t worked for me in the past, so long as I kept them small and not overwhelming. I view New Year’s Resolutions as a “don’t do this list” rather than “try something new.” Although that’s not totally accurate, it’s how I’m looking at it for 2021. Here’s the difference between resolutions and goals I found online:

Essentially, a resolution is something you will constantly be working toward, while a goal is specific and finite. Resolutions are made up of goals. While there is a difference between goals and resolutions, they are relevant and intertwined.


What’s the Difference Between Goals and Resolutions …

quail on patio

These entertaining guys hang outside my office.

I’ve decided that I’d rather make a list of goals, not resolutions. Mostly it’s learning new things, seeing new places. In my new home, I want to learn about the birds I’m seeing, the plants, the trails and mountains.

hiking trail Cave Creek AZ

One of our first hikes in AZ at Cave Creek Regional Park.

So, a few of my goals — besides getting my house unpacked and in order — are:

  1. Start birdwatching — I already put a bird feeder in the backyard.
  2. Learn about saguaro cactus and other species of native plants.
  3. Hike on a new trail each week.
  4. Experience more sunrises and sunsets.
  5. Explore areas like the Grand Canyon and Sedona.
  6. Take a photography class online.
  7. Sketch or paint some of my new scenery.
  8. Begin a new manuscript, in a genre new to me.

    sunset in AZ desert

    The sunset from our street.

    Do you have a list of New Year’s Resolutions or goals to share?

Thoughts on Leaving California

archway gate Olive the cat sitting at our gate.

Did you know there is a private Facebook group called Leaving California? I’m not sure how I ran across it, but before we made the move, I signed up. I was surprised to find out there are more than 30,000 members!

Scrolling through the posts made me feel sad in the beginning. I wasn’t convinced I wanted to leave. I loved our home downtown Palm Springs. We were two blocks from restaurants, shops and our views were breathtaking.

To add to my uncertainty, my “adult children” were beyond furious. That was the only home they’ve known prior to moving away for college and their adult lives. They both believe we made the biggest mistake in our lives by selling our home. It does have “location, location, location.” It is beautiful. But it also had its downsides. It was rustic without many modern amenities like closet space or a roomy kitchen. I was always freezing and my fingers went numb. It was big on charm, though. It was also big on expense. For some reason — partly because it’s located in California and also that it was built in the 1930s — it was terribly expensive to keep up.

birthday party for dog My kids celebrating a birthday with Natasha our rottie years ago in the family home.

The kids were so angry with us that they didn’t speak to my husband or me for a bit. This made me more sad. We invited them to come home to say good-by. We also asked the buyers if we could stay for one last Christmas. They said, sure, no problem — $8,000 and Christmas was ours. We passed and decided to bite the bullet. We left our home close to 30 days of selling.

I bring this up about my kids because I noticed this week on the Facebook Leaving California page, that a lot of people are going through the same thing with their adult children. The latest post garnered close to 400 comments. Most said “Tell them to buy it if they want it.” Others were a little more understanding to the kids’ feelings.

prom photos in backyard We celebrated several proms with photos in our back yard.

I understand how my kids feel. My mom had to sell our childhood home, which was gorgeous with stunning views, too. Unfortunately, she had to sell after she and my dad divorced and she could no longer afford the expenses. I can tell you, that was an extremely upsetting way to lose my childhood home — and my nuclear family. I felt like my world turned upside down and there was no gravity to keep me on the planet.

My husband felt our kids were acting spoiled. They weren’t entitled to the house. He said he’d been working since age 13 and didn’t want to work until the day he died to pay to live in our home. Although, he’s still working now in our new home, there will come a day in a couple years where he won’t have to.

My kids are coming to accept our new reality. I’m looking forward to COVID-19 vaccines and their visits to our new home. I can’t wait to show them the hiking trails we’re discovering, the quail running through our backyard and the sunsets and sunrises.

Nothing can take away all the great memories we had of 28 years living there. I truly believe that home is not a structure, but is with the people who love you.

view of gorgeous Palm Springs backyard Our backyard in Palm Springs.

What are your thoughts about selling a childhood home? Would your kids understand? How did you feel when your parents did the same?

 

 

What I’m grateful for in 2020

Saguaro profile in desert

A saguaro cactus I pass on my morning walk.

We can all agree this year was crazy. I hear over and over how people wish to leave 2020 in the dust and welcome in 2021. While I was on my morning walk today, I looked back on what this COVID year brought us that was good. Was there anything to be grateful for?

There were a few things. Mightily few. But here’s my list:

ONE

My daughter came home when the Bay Area went on lockdown. She had just moved into a new apartment and didn’t know her roommates. She felt uncomfortable being locked down with strangers. We thought it would be for three weeks — that’s what we Californians were told. She ended up working from our guest room remotely for several months before getting furloughed, rehired and then permanently let go. During the time she was home, we played tennis in the park, walked with Waffles the pug, swam with a bungee cord and played Smashball in the backyard pool. We ordered take out from all our favorite restaurants. We got to spend an extended time with our adult daughter — and that would never have happened without COVID-19.

TWO

My husband has worked remotely since March. We don’t know when his office will reopen. Although at times it got on my nerves to have him home 24/7 there are some benefits, too. We are closer than ever. We count on each other like never before. We were able to test the housing market and put our house up for sale. It sold above asking price in three hours — due to people fleeing the cities for more space because of COVID and working from home. We made the big move to another state and have a whole new outlook and view of life each day.

THREE

My friendships grew during this time of lockdown and not being able to hang out. I have four friends who were diagnosed with cancer during the pandemic. All are surviving although it’s one heck of a time to go through surgeries, chemo and radiation. I’m thankful for all my friends, their health and this tough time made me realize how important they are. I love them and continue to pray for their health and recovery.

Sunrise colors over swimming pool

Watching the sunrise in my backyard is a daily event.

What are you grateful for during the terrible awful year called 2020?