From Summer to Winter

Last week I sought the shade. Now I seek the sun on my walks.

When we left for Mexico last week, the afternoons at home were topping 90 degrees. That is if it wasn’t “monsooning” with thunder, lightening and major rains.

We arrived home Sunday afternoon. I checked my phone the following morning before our walk for the temperature. I did a double take. 46 degrees. Yikes!

I got out my leggings and fleece jacket and bundled up.

What happened to Fall? We went from too hot to too cold in a snap. I used to complain in Palm Springs that we had lousy weather. It was either too hot or too cold. There were only a few days that were just right. It seems that Arizona weather is much the same. But I missed the “just right” days. There were none in September or October. Certainly none in the summer.

My next challenge is getting into my swimsuit and jumping into the YMCA pool. They had been cooling the pool. I sure hope they’re heating it now!

What is your favorite season and temperature range?

Balloons spotted during our morning walk.

It’s all about the crust

Rhubarb Pie
Homemade rhubarb pie for dessert with guests Saturday night.

My mom was one heck of a pie baker. She’d send my brother and I out on our bikes to pick wild blackberries. She warned us not to eat too many or there wouldn’t be enough for pie.

She taught me how to make crust. The secret is to barely touch it. The more you handle it, the tougher it gets.

I remember visiting her with my infant daughter and toddler son. She had made clam chowder (my favorite) and baked a wild blackberry pie.

I raved about the pie and her perfect flaky crust.

She laughed and said she was doing something different now that she was over 60. She showed me the box of Pillsbury Pie Crusts! I was shocked. I literally couldn’t tell the difference between the boxed crust and her famous homemade crust.

I continued to make crust the old fashioned way. But I didn’t like the mess of flour all over the counter and sink. I didn’t like cleaning after making pies. So one day I folded and bought the crusts. My family didn’t notice the difference.

I noticed it was super easy to bake pies and it wasn’t an ordeal. Unroll the crust and fill it. Bake. Presto! You have pie.

I feel guilty when we have guests over and they rave about my pie. But then again, at least they’re not store bought!

Here’s the recipe from my mom’s Betty Crocker cookbook for rhubarb pie:

Rhubarb pie recipe

Do you think it’s cheating to make a pie with store-bought crusts?

Did you grow up with a Betty Crocker cookbook?

Letting go….or not

My daughter’s pug Waffles on our “chaise and a half” at our old house.

When we moved, we debated about moving the chaise lounges we’d bought decades before. To me it wasn’t a debate at all. They were coming with us. I had memories of the kids piling on me when they were young. I’d sit and stare at the stars from the chaise lounge with Angus our yellow lab laying next to me.

My husband had other plans.

The chaise lounges arrived in our new backyard and I was shocked when I removed the weather covers. The upholstery was starting to shred. A friend of mine had re-covered them twice through the years. The third time, she made slipcovers from Costco towels (see photo above). You didn’t need a towel, because the covers were towels!

Those were starting to shred also. It was time to get them redone, but unfortunately my friend with the upholstery/sewing business didn’t move with us. Since we moved out of state during the shut down, I didn’t know where to get the work done. They sat for another year under weather covers.

One day, I was sitting by the window writing and I saw a chipmunk running back and forth with a big white fuzz ball in his mouth.

I went outside to see where he was going and what the fuzz was. I saw him run under one chaise lounge.

I took off the cover and there was a giant hole where the chipmunk had been busy stealing the stuffing for their nest somewhere in the surrounding desert.

This week is bulk trash pick up. I decided to get rid of the chaise lounges. We obviously haven’t sat in them once since moving.

But then I thought, I’ll get rid of the cushions and get new ones made. If I don’t get around to it, I can take the chaise lounges to the curb on the next bulk trash date.

I dragged the cushions down to the curb. I was wearing work gloves but cactus spikes went right through the gloves into my fingers. That little chipmunk dragged bits of cactus onto the cushion with the hole.

My friend with the sewing business told me where to go in Phoenix to get the cushions made. She suggested keeping the undamaged cushions to have them recovered and then only having the one with the chipmunk hole thrown out and replaced.

So I dragged the salvageable cushions back up the driveway…

My extra wide chaise lounge with the Coscto towel cover.

Sometimes it’s hard to let go of inanimate objects that hold dear memories.

Do you have trouble letting things go? Or not?

Handy tool for plants

A money tree I recently brought home from the grocery store.

I have never been good with houseplants. I think it’s because I grew up north of Seattle where everything grows and then as an adult moved to the desert. I don’t get how to grow anything here. I never got the hang of it.

I was talking to a friend over the summer of what to do with my house. It’s going to be two years that we’ve lived here come December. But I never finished the decor inside. My friend suggested warming it up with plants. Easy for her to say. She lives in Santa Barbara where it’s damp and cool. Plants are abundant and lush.

My kids are very good with houseplants. My daughter can grow a plant from a cutting. Their living spaces are filled with green. I showed my daughter a few of the new plants I bought. She immediately sent me a link on Amazon to a tool she said would help me.

Moisture Meter.

This is very handy. You stick it in the soil and it instantly tells you if your plant needs water. I was losing one plant, the leaves were turning black, and my daughter told me I was over watering. With this Moisture Meter I discovered the soil was wet. The pot wasn’t draining. I quit watering it and the plant is still alive.

So far so good.

My daughter told me to occasionally shake the fiddle fig from the stem to imitate strong winds.

In my old house of 28 years, I never had a house plant that lasted more than a few months.

Are you good at growing things? Do you have any tips to share?

Random thoughts

Roadrunner.
Roadrunner in my backyard.

On my morning walk I saw a huge coyote run across the street into my friend’s yard. I marveled at his beauty and wasn’t afraid like I’ve been before with a coyote sighting. His speed told me he wanted to get far away from us.

Olive the cat and I watched quail in our backyard. They were squawking and fighting as they scouted for birdseed. I’m amazed at how quickly the babies grew up. All the quail are the same size now. I wonder if the quail stay together as families from newborn chicks through adulthood?

I’ve been fascinated watching Harris hawks glide and circle above my backyard. I’ve tried to video them, but it’s difficult because the sun is in my eyes and I can’t see if I’m capturing them. Perhaps I shouldn’t put birdseed out because it attracts the quail — who then are prey for the hawks. I should have learned my lessons when the hawk crashed into a window and broke it!

I went to the hardware and grocery store and everything I needed was in stock. In the spring there were empty shelves. I remember looking for Tater Tots for weeks, but they weren’t available. We were having friends over for burgers and I wanted to serve Tater Tots.

During the pandemic, I would grocery shop for my dad who was in his late 80s (he’s 90 now). We didn’t feel it was safe for him at his age to go out. I felt like I was putting my life in danger grocery shopping. They were always out of my dad’s favorite Jimmy Dean’s sausage, egg and cheese biscuits.

Who would have thought Tater Tots and Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches would be in demand during a pandemic?

Quail in the backyard.

Watching a Harris hawk circling in the sky.

Besides toilet paper, what do you remember having trouble finding during the pandemic?

Question about dog owners

Olive the cat
I’d be a dog owner if it wasn’t for Olive, who doesn’t like any dogs except for Angus, our yellow lab RIP.

I’m working on our neighborhood newsletter — the final one for 2022. At the annual meeting and quarterly board meeting, residents voiced their concerns. Can you guess what the number one issue was?

Dog poop.

Seriously, I walk our neighborhood streets every morning. There is more dog poop on the streets and sidewalks than when we moved here in 2020. One morning there was dog poop on our driveway.

It’s weird. Who doesn’t pick up after their pets? This is a nice neighborhood and people take care of their yards and homes. Neighbors are retired professionals, successful trades people with empty nests or younger working families with kids and dogs.

A neighbor, who has a well-behaved labradoodle who is being trained as a therapy dog, asked me to put something in the newsletter about dog poop. She told me that one of her friends in a nearby neighborhood addressed this by DNA testing every dog — and then testing poop. The guilty were slapped with a $500 fine.

DNA testing? The neighbor thought that was over the top, but said other ideas were having bags at the park and putting up cameras — plus fines.

The neighborhood isn’t big on cameras. It seems too Orweillian.

We do have lots of wildlife here. I looked up javelina and coyote poop. I read it looks similar to mid-sized dogs. Maybe it’s not bad dog owners but wild animals?

Walking through the neighborhood, we stop and pet dogs who are out with their owners. Both the dogs and the neighbors don’t seem like the type to leave pet droppings around.

On a brighter note, thank goodness our number one issue isn’t crime or homeless!

What suggestions do you have for our task force tackling dog poop?

Am I worth it?

Triple milled soap from Italy.

Our good friends, who live at the beach, returned from a trip to Italy right before our beach vacation.

I didn’t expect my friend to bring me something from Italy, but she did. She brought me hand soap that has a rich rose scent. I thought that was so thoughtful. I wouldn’t think to do that, especially trying to get gifts into my suitcase.

The soap has been sitting in it’s lovely wrapper for weeks on my bathroom counter.

I thought about putting it in the guest bathroom where guests could use it. My mom always had special soaps in our guest bathroom — carved little blue roses or scented soaps.

I thought to myself, wouldn’t my friend want me to enjoy it? My other thought was that it’s too nice to use at my own sink daily to wash my hands. It definitely belongs in the guest bath.

Also, I don’t have a soap dish to hold it. it’s a large block of soap.

A quick trip to Target solved that issue. Now I’m luxuriating in the wonderful feel and scent of rose soap imported from Italy and I think of my friend — every time I wash my hands.

Why do we have nice things for guests, but don’t feel like we should use them ourselves?