Dining out or eating in

For New Year’s Eve, my husband and I indulged with burgers and fries at Big Earl’s Greasy Eats.

What’s in a name? We’ve driven by Big Earl’s Greasy Eats for two years. Finally, we took the plunge and ordered the Big Earl Burgers and fries to take home.

They were just as delicious as a place named Greasy Eats promised. But then I felt sick for the rest of the day. Too much food (or grease) that I ate too fast. I couldn’t eat again for that day.

This was my burger and fries from Big Earl’s.

While we were celebrating Christmas with the family, we cooked and mostly ate in the VRBO. One of the special dishes I liked was roasted vegetables cooked by one of my son’s fiancee’s sisters. It was so delicious I made it at home.

Brussels sprouts, onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, bell peppers and carrots tossed in olive oil with fresh rosemary. Roasted in the oven at 400 degrees about 45 minutes.

The roasted veggies made me feel so much better than the burger and fries!

What are your favorite things to cook or what do you like most when you dine out?

Another year without

Robolights sculpture

Robolights

The holiday light display, previously staged at Kenny Irwin’s home on Granvia Valmonte in Palm Springs, had been open to the public for more than 30 years. But it became the subject of litigation regarding neighbor complaints about trash, crowds and traffic.

https://www.desertsun.com/story/life/2021/11/18/another-year-without-robolights-artist-planning-pop-up-exhibition-february/8672519002/

We used to go to Robolights a few blocks from our house as a Christmas tradition. Once we took the senior group from our swim team. The last time we went, we took our current Christmas Crew. It’s a very different type of Christmas display made with recycled goods to aliens, microwaved microwaves and a carousal of toilets. The highlight in my opinion is touring the one-acre lot with millions of white lights dazzling above.

Someone moved across the street from Robolights and complained to the city. I heard they even stole some of the million lights that were in storage bins. The city decided it was a fire hazard and shut down Robolights.

This year we walked during the daylight to Robolights and I took photos of the sculptures around the perimeter of the estate.

Irwin and the City of Palm Springs reached an agreement in November 2018, ending a two-year legal fight. Irwin agreed to move the exhibit to a commercial location, and the city agreed to provide $125,000 to help cover the move.

In 2019, Irwin purchased two parcels of land— one 7.5 acres and another 2.5 acres — in Desert Hot Springs behind Cabot’s Pueblo Museum off Miracle Hill Road for $350,000 and hoped to begin developing the site. At present, the land is home to an abandoned structure and the road leading up to it is blocked to the public.

The cost to begin development is estimated at $1.5 million, including $300,000 for the first phase of planning and there is no projected opening date. 

https://www.desertsun.com/story/life/2021/11/18/another-year-without-robolights-artist-planning-pop-up-exhibition-february/8672519002/

sculptures at Robolights made out of recycled parts.

Photos from our walk around Robolights.

What are your thoughts of moving into a neighborhood with a 30-year-nationally known exhibit and complaining to the city to shut it down?

A walk in the park

Ruth Hardy park

I feel like this park is mine.

I think one of my favorite things about being “back home” is my park. I would take the kids play here when they were young. I met other moms at the park and we’d sit and talk while keeping an eye on the kids on swings, slides, climbing tower and their favorite — a stagecoach. They climb into and on top of the stage coach, acting out adventures.

Then as they got older and left us for college, it was part of my morning routine. A walk around the park. I recognized many of the same people with their dogs daily and we became park friends. Especially when I was taking care of my daughter’s pug Waffles.

There was a 4 p.m. little dog group who met daily to let the little ones play.

Palm trees at Ruth Hardy Park.

A row of palm trees by the tennis courts.

When I homeschooled my daughter for middle school, we’d often start the day on the tennis courts. Hitting and running after balls.

On this Christmas vacation, I’m walking around the park several times a day. I can’t wait in the morning to get out. I keep hoping to see some of my former park friends. On Christmas day I thought to myself, “today I’m going to see somebody I know.” Sure enough my daughter and husband cruised by me on their rented bicycles!

Palm trees in the Wellness Park a few blocks from my old home and the VRBO we’re in.

Where is your favorite place to walk?

Merry Christmas from the Christmas Crew

Christmas Crew in Santa Barbara
This photo is from last year’s Christmas in Santa Barbara.

This afternoon we check into our Palm Springs VRBO to celebrate Christmas with our two kids and our son’s girlfriend’s family. Also, my dad who is turning 91 in a few weeks lives close by. We’re going to be a smaller group this year due to two sisters in Europe and the mother not well enough to make the trip from the Bay Area. One daughter is staying home with her. All in all, with those not coming, we’re down five people. So our party of 12 is now seven.

Merry Christmas!

Who are you spending Christmas or Hanukkah with this year?

Time Flies!

It’s official. We left California for Arizona two years ago! I can’t believe how quickly our years flew by — and in some respects how long it has seemed.

Here’s what I thought about moving two years ago today:



Moving van
The moving van arrived.

Friday was moving day. Our movers arrived at 9 a.m. and we thought it would be a couple hours and we’d hit the road. No, we were wrong. By 5 p.m. the movers realized their truck was full and we still had a bunch of stuff in the garage like bikes, a wheelbarrow and my daughter’s desk. Plus the STORAGE UNIT where we’ve been squirreling away boxes and stuff for months.

Yikes! The movers had to rent a U-Haul and we gave them the keys to our storage unit. Of course there weren’t any U-Hauls in town and they had to drive to San Diego or some place to find a U-Haul. They said they’d come back to our California house the next morning and pick up the rest of our stuff in the garage when our housekeeper and dear friend Delia would be cleaning.

We drove to Arizona and our new home, minus our furniture that night. We thankfully packed suitcases and bedding. Our fellow swim team parents and close friends drove one of our cars packed to the hilt, plus their car complete with all the stuff from our freezer and fridge. Now, those are true friends who volunteer to drive an 8-hour round trip to make our move easier!

I have driving anxiety and panic attacks driving on freeways. I couldn’t face the four-hour drive on Interstate 10. Our daughter promised to fly down from SFO and drive one car and help us unpack. Then California went into lockdown. Our daughter didn’t feel good about flying. So our friends volunteered to help us out and meanwhile our daughter’s supposed flight was cancelled. It all worked out in the end.

moving boxes in house
Our new living room. So much work to do!

We got to our Arizona home at 10:30 p.m. We unpacked our suitcases, settled into bed around midnight exhausted beyond comprehension. Thank goodness we bought the furniture in the casita from the sellers. Otherwise, we’d have been on the floor. We never saw our friends who drove our car for us. They not only drove our car, but they filled our fridge with all our condiments, frozen foods and perishables — before heading back to California.

The next day, the moving van and U-haul arrived at 2 p.m. We worked throughout the weekend to get the kitchen in order and our closet organized. Kitty is stressed and hiding under the bed in the casita, where we’ve been living.

pink skies at sunset in Arizona
My new backyard as the sun begins to set.

I don’t recommend moving after living in one house for 28 years. It’s an unusually hard task, mentally and physically. But, when we’re more settled the sunsets will make it all worthwhile.

Cactus Arizona sunset
Sunset and saguaros in the neighborhood.

What’s the longest you’ve lived in one place? How did you handle packing and going through years of stuff when you moved? Did you think of moving during the COVID shutdowns? A lot of people did move.

Play dates? Let the kids play!

blond boy playing with the garden hose.
My son playing in the backyard.


I saw a blogger on TV talk about “banishing the play-date.”  You can read his post here.

I reminisced about my childhood. I played in and out of neighbors’ backyards, rode bikes from dawn to dusk — with no adults bothering me.

When I had kids, I found they didn’t have freedom like we did. One of the reasons was there were zero kids in our neighborhood besides mine. Then the nine-year-old boy who was kidnapped from his front yard and murdered — 20 minutes from us. It left moms frightened to let their kids out of their sight.

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I went to Mommy and Me with my son at the Palm Springs Pavilion. We learned to sing songs together like “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “I’m a Little Teapot” with a dozen other moms and babies who apparently needed the coaching. Each week, we took turns bringing snacks of grapes and string cheese. I look back at this as a training ground for the proverbial play-date.

merry go round at the park.
This was what the original equipment was like at our park.

Play-dates developed from the Mommy and Me group. We had a park day, which was fun and healthy. Moms sat together on quilts on the grass and talked for hours while our kids played on the now-banned playground equipment — a super tall, steep slide, a merry-go-round, and a stagecoach that they could climb into, on top of and jump off of. Sometime during their early childhood years, our city tore out the dated, dangerous equipment and put in rubber ground and safe equipment. Our kids never liked to play on the brightly-colored equipment and our park play-dates vanished. We laughed about the slide where the kids would get stuck going down. It was a “sue proof” slide.

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One day, I got a phone call from a friend. She homeschooled her daughter and hand-picked her friends for a weekly Friday Play-Group. She hired a teacher to run play-group, and each week included a lesson, theme, craft and snack, followed by 10 minutes of supervised play on her backyard swing set.

I felt honored to have my children chosen for the select group. My kids had made the cut. Months later, she took me to lunch at CPK and told me she had some big news. She was uninviting one of the boys. I hardly saw this is earth shattering, but perhaps there was more to this luncheon. Maybe it was a warning!

Years later, when my kids were in high school, they reconnected with friends from play-group. NOTE: This wasn’t just a play-date, it was play-group. They remembered it as if they were fellow Mouseketeers, having survived a bizarre childhood experience.

FYI, I’m using The Playgroup” as the basis for a manuscript I’m currently writing. It follows the friendships and lives of four moms with their young children. They are all bound by the cryptic “Playgroup.”

When my daughter reached 6th grade, we tried homeschooling. Every Wednesday, I picked up her best friend from the local middle school, and brought her to our house to play until her mom got off work. This was another sort of play-date. We moms thought it was an ideal way to keep their friendship going. Since my daughter loved arts and crafts — homeschooling allowed her to try ceramics, mosaics, and quilting — I said that the two girls could do an art project each week.


But that didn’t happen. I was tired from supervising my daughter’s activities to the half hour, and my daughter just wanted to hang out with her friend. So, I retired to my room and left them alone. After a few weeks, the friend didn’t want to come over anymore. She said she was promised an art activity and she was disappointed that they weren’t doing one.

Child at Carpinteria State Beach.
My daughter on a camping trip at the beach.

That made me think about our kids and their overly structured lives. I love having quiet time. I hope my kids do, too. We need to unplug, unschedule, and let our kids regain their creativity and inner peace. They need us to leave them alone and let them be kids.

What are your thoughts about arranged play dates, play groups and activities for kids? Do you think kids are over-scheduled today? Did you have to arrange play time with friends for your kids or did you live in an area where they could go outside and play?

I’m not a cold weather swimmer

swimming pool with clouds
A view of my former city pool in wintertime. I miss my teammates and coach, but at least I’m still swimming.

My husband and I cut our morning walk short yesterday because it was miserable with a cold wind blowing.

When my lap swimming reservation came up I was tempted to cancel. I’m not fond of swimming when it’s cold out. But, having started my YMCA membership four weeks ago, I’m trying to stick to my workout schedule. So I went.

The water was cool. The wind was chilly and fierce. I’m proud of myself for going. Especially after Monday’s barre class that killed me. It was the hardest class I’ve had yet.

The worst part about my swim was getting out of the pool. While swimming, I kept moving to keep somewhat warm. Getting out was freezing! My teeth were chattering. I ran into the locker room to dry off when I normally take my time on the pool deck.

I’ve decided to skip barre class Friday to try Pickleball. A woman in barre class said there’s a beginners class on Fridays. I’ve heard so much about this popular sport and I want to give it a try. It’s at the same time as barre, but frankly my body could take a break and I’m thinking pickleball won’t be as painful!

I’m enjoying my YMCA life. Except for their app. I’m supposed to use it to make lap swimming reservations, but I get an error message. It says I need a valid membership. Yet the app works to check me in. I asked at the front desk for help and so far nobody knows how to correct it. One young guy told me I needed a new phone!

I emailed IT support that I found on the app and explained that I couldn’t make lap swimming reservations and told them the error message I received. I got an email back telling me that I don’t need reservations for taking classes. UGH! Did they bother to read my email? They said if I was continuing to have an issue to email back. I did immediately with a screen shot of the error message. I’ve heard nothing.

So, I am resigning myself to making reservations in person when I go in for the week ahead. Face to face talking to real people. What a concept!

Have you tried pickleball? What are your thoughts about technology that’s supposed to make life easier but doesn’t work?