The Thumb: Is it a gas station, car wash, wine store, gift shop, bakery or BBQ joint?

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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.

I left the car to check it out.IMG_0878

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 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!

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The fish tank inside 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.

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.IMG_0879

What unusual gas stations have you discovered during your travels?

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10 Things I Noticed About Summer Vacation

 

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Waffles on our morning beach walk.

 

ONE
I was stressed the day we left for vacation. Had I packed everything we needed?

TWO
VRBO disappointed me. The condo was way smaller than it looked online. I didn’t realize there was only one window that looked out into a parking lot and no ocean breeze because it was on the wrong side of the building.

THREE
After three days, I relaxed. We aren’t moving into the condo for good. It’s only a week and we can make the best of it. With my glass half full, I can say it’s clean, comfortable and we love the location a block from the beach.

 

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The marina in Santa Barbara.

FOUR
We are outside every day enjoying the fresh air. It’s such a big deal to be out of the AC of home where it’s 115 degrees and more.

FIVE
Sailing was exhilarating, breathtaking and yes—filled with fresh air.

 

 

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Sailing.

SIX
We love Carpinteria because of friends. Dinners al fresco, walks along the beach at sunset, and swimming are all better with friends. We’re fortunate to have best friends who love to entertain and cook for us. We’re even more fortunate they didn’t get tired of us after a week.

SEVEN
Morning beach walks are the best. They’re better than my walk around the neighborhood and park at home. Waffles the pug loved his beach time and playing with new friends.

EIGHT
I loved having my daughter join us for vacation. I hope it’s a tradition she continues for years to come.

NINE
Swimming helped me relax. After swimming masters with my friend and her daughter as a coach, I felt good for the rest of the day.

TEN
Why don’t we live in Carpinteria? Why was our vacation so short?

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My daughter lap swimming.

It’s a Privilege: Hanging out With Grown Kids

 

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On top of the world at Deer Valley, Utah.

 

I spent five, count them, five glorious days with my 21-year-old daughter in Salt Lake City, where she’s a student. I shared a bit of her life, her territory. We had a few plans like driving up to the resort town of Park City to be tourists. But mostly, my objective was to be with her.

During the past three years when I’ve visited my daughter, there’s been zero one-on-one time for mother and daughter. We visit, my husband and I when there’s a college swim meet. We take her out for dinner Friday night, which is nice. She meets us at our favorite hotel usually with a teammate or two in tow.

I don’t mind this at all, and we love any moment we get to spend with her. But, it’s quick, clean and disinfected time together. The next morning my husband and I go for a big walk around town. We make our way to the pool 30 minutes before the meet begins and catch up with other swim parents. Then we watch the meet, which is always exciting. Afterward, we wait for warm-down, team meetings and showers.

Sundays we get all day with her, unless we have an early morning flight. We’ve been taking the 9 p.m. flight home lately, so we get extra time together.

This trip was entirely different. I traveled on my own. I had the option of my favorite hotel, my daughter’s living room hide-a-bed or sleeping in her room on a plush, thick mattress, kept for relatives and recruits. I opted to be in her room. I didn’t want to inconvenience her roommates with “Mom” taking over their living room.

 

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Waffles the pug puppy.

I wrote while she swam and went to school. I took the pup “Waffles” on walks, the first one each day to get coffee. Seriously, I don’t know how four girls survive without any coffee or coffee maker in the house? The rest of the day and evening was whatever we decided to do. We walked, played tourists in Park City, rode the ski lifts in Deer Valley, walked some more, shopped at Target for supplies, ate sushi and lobster rolls. We also spent a lot of time in her room watching Gilmore Girls, reading, and just being together.

 

I feel so honored that my daughter wanted to spend these days with me. She didn’t feel like I was intruding or that she had to cater to me. We like each other’s company. I’m very proud of how “together” her life is. She’s on top of her homework, swim practice, and does extra cardio and fitness, plus takes care of all the little stuff like grocery shopping, cooking and having a social life.

I must have done something right. Or, in spite of me, she’s figured out this thing called life.

 

About those lobster rolls! We went to Freshies Lobster Co. in Park City. I discovered this amazing place from a blog called femalefoodie. Seriously, it was the best meal I’ve had in three years of visits to the state of Utah.

What is your favorite thing to do with your grown kids?

“Be Good. Do Good. We’ll Be Doing Good.”

My son learning to dive with the swim team.

My son learning to dive with the swim team. He’s third from the right.

“Do Good. Be Good. We’ll Be Doing Good.”

These are the words my son recorded for our voice mail message when he was four years old.  I saved that for years.

What a thoughtful thing for our young son to say! My husband and I adopted that saying as our family motto.

A walk on the UCSB campus during our vacation.

A walk on the UCSB campus during our vacation.

I try to do good. Be good. Some days it’s a bigger struggle than others. But, it’s something to think about, too. What are we doing with our lives? Are we making a difference? Is the world a better place because we are in it?

A lot has to do with our outlook. I’m definitely one of the “glass is half full” types. I try to look at the positive and stay away from those who are negative. Turning on the TV can put you into negativity land. I truly believe that we can stay positive by removing negative influences around us. Turn off the TV. Listen to music. Read interesting books and essays. Swim! Like Ray Bradbury said, “Garbage in, garbage out!”

My kids at the age when my son recorded the voice mail message.

My kids at the age when my son recorded the voice mail message. Vacation pic from years ago.

After spending a week in paradise—otherwise known as Carpinteria, CA—I look back on our vacation as perfect. We have great friends who live there who inspire me. I always come home with so much energy from being around positive, hard working entrepreneurs.

Also, my children spent a bit of the week with us. What a treat that was for me! With two college aged kids, having them together was priceless. We rode bikes, hiked, swam in the ocean, sailed, shared meals together. It’s hard to leave them, but I’m so thankful for the time we had together. That’s my glass half full talking as I sit in my lonely, quiet house once again.

Our main mode of transportation on our vacation.

Our main mode of transportation on our vacation.

I’m proud to say my kids look truly happy. They are definitely doing and being good.

My kids and friend.

My kids and friend.

After the Whirlwind the Dust Begins to Settle in My Empty Nest

University of Utah

University of Utah

We were caught in a whirlwind of activities and travel, running away from our empty nest. We went to the beach, Mexico, Utah, Las Vegas, Santa Barbara and Utah in that order in the past two months. Wheew!!! It makes my head dizzy to think about it.

View from University of California Santa Barbara

View from University of California Santa Barbara

Now that we have stopped running, I’m anxious to start some big projects. Emptying out the guest room and redoing the bathroom and walls. The first part of this project means I have to go through boxes and closets and books and make decisions about what to toss and what to keep.

images-2We have an armoire with a BIG TV and VCR and drawers full of movies that entertained the kids for years. I feel somewhat sad about tossing out all the Disney classics, but they’re never going to be watched on a VCR again.

images-3I have shelves of books that have followed me from childhood. The complete set of Anne books and Narnia Chronicles I will keep. I still enjoy reading them.  I’m holding on to A Little Princess and The Secret Garden, too. I think my husband wants me to get rid of them all, but they are like dear friends that I cannot part with.

images-8images-7I keep avoiding this chore of going through the “guest room” which at one point in our 22 years here, was called the “computer room” because before kids in 1992 it was where my first Apple computer lived. Now I’m on about Apple number nine, wanting to return to work in my computer room. I’m coming full circle becoming the person that I was before. It’s a great feeling, but a little scary, too.

One of our earlier Apples.

One of our earlier Apples.

Tips on How to Eat Uber Hot Chili Peppers and Other Fun Adventures of an Empty Nester

The dolphin statue in Puerto Vallarta by Bud Bottoms. It's a twin statue to the one on Stearn's Wharf in Santa Barbara.

The dolphin statue in Puerto Vallarta by Bud Bottoms. It’s a twin statue to the one at Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara.

We were on vacation in Puerto Vallarta — enjoying “empty nesting” that I first wrote about  here.  We went to a brunch at a luxurious gringo resort — complete with every type of food imaginable — waffle and omelet stations, a taco bar, sushi, every type of seafood and protein known to man, plus gorgeous arrays of fruits and salads.

I was being so good, trying to stick to a high protein, low carb plate — salmon, pork, a taste of sushi. And then I saw roasted Serrano chilis near the elaborate Mexican dishes. It wouldn’t hurt to just have a taste, would it? I plunked the single chili onto my plate next to the scrambled eggs.

Serrano Pepper

Serrano Pepper

Later, sitting at the table with my husband, friends, and a person we had just met, I cut off a small bite of the chili. POW! YIKES! Help me, Jesus! How could I sit still, be polite and nod and smile?

My eyes watered, I shifted up and down in my seat and I thought I was crawling out of my skin. I was ready to jump on the table and do a happy dance!

That was the all time hottest chili. Ever. So much for the high protein low carb diet — I began stuffing my mouth with bread, tortillas, chips — anything to get the soaring heat to die.

Peppers

Peppers

The next evening at dinner, I listened to one of our friends tell a story about when he was in college and ate his first jalapeño. He was told that the secret was to keep the chili from getting any air. So right from the jar, he slipped the jalapeño into his mouth and closed his lips tight. Then he chewed and was blasted with unbelievable heat. He said the guy who told him “the secret way to eat chilis” laughed so hard that he’s probably still laughing today — 40 years later.

Now that I’m away from the freshly roasted peppers, I looked up a few things about chilis. First, serrano chilis are typically eaten raw and have a bright and biting flavor that is notably hotter than the jalapeño pepper. No kidding!

The Scoville Scale

The Scoville Scale

There is a thing called the Scoville Scale that measures the spicy heat of the pepper! Who knew? 

What makes a chili hot? The answer is capsaicin. What is that you ask? 

“Capsaicin (/kæpˈs.ɨsɪn/; 8-methylNvanillyl-6-nonenamide) is an active component of chili peppers, which are plants belonging to the genus Capsicum. It is an irritant for mammals, including humans, and produces a sensation of burning in any tissue with which it comes into contact.” — from Wikipedia.Chilito_verde

If you ever have the horribly uncomfortable occasion of biting into a super hot chili — milk and dairy is the answer. I did not know this. Do not drink water, tea or coffee. Try milk, yogurt or cheese to cut the heat. The next best thing is bread, rice or pasta.

Besides the great food and hot peppers, what did I enjoy about Puerto Vallarta? Try this!

View of beach in Puerto Vallarta.

View of beach in Puerto Vallarta.

Missing Angus at the Beach — a Good Dog Story

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ANGUS

AUGUST 7, 2014: I’m missing Angus a lot lately. We’re on vacation at the beach in a little cottage where Angus slept on the front porch with his head sticking in the doorway into the living room. Every morning at this cottage for nine years I took Angus for a walk up the hill. In the evenings, the family took him for his nightly swim in the ocean. He’d jump through the waves chasing a tennis ball. Everywhere I look, I miss him. So, I’m reposting this story I wrote in honor of my son and Angus’s birthday last March.

MARCH 14, 2014: Next week my son turns 21 years old. Officially an adult. He shared his birth date with Angus, our yellow lab. But, sadly, this year Angus isn’t with us. He made it from my son’s 1st grade birthday to his sophomore year in college.

 

My kids with Angus at the beach.

My kids with Angus at the beach.

The following is a story I wrote when Robert invited 50 kids to his second grade birthday party. It was published in the Los Angeles Times Kids’ Reading Room. 

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Camping with Angus in Carpinteria.

A Birthday for the Dogs

“MOM, I’m inviting 50 kids to my party.”

“What, Robert?” Mom said. “That’s too many. Do you know 50 kids?”

I sat in the back seat while Mom drove home after school. My eighth birthday was in two weeks. 

“There’s my class, plus Cub Scouts, and playgroup.”

“I can’t afford to take 50 kids skating or bowling. And I don’t want 50 kids in my house. What about the city pool? It’s heated, open year-round, and it’s only 50¢ a kid,” Mom said.

“A swim party, that’s cool!” I said.

“I’ll say yes to the party, but no to presents. Fifty presents is too much for one 8-year-old. It’s decadent.”

“What’s decadent?” I asked. Mom used words I didn’t know.

“Self-indulgent, corrupt.”

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Angus watching the kids on the playground at Ruth Hardy Park.

I sat silently and thought I’d be sad with no presents. Then I remembered Angus. Mom got him for me as an early birthday present. We were on a waiting list for two years with Guide Dogs of the Desert. He was being trained as a companion dog for people who couldn’t see. We got him because he had poor hips and couldn’t be a working dog. Angus was big, yellow, and I loved him. We shared the same birthday.

“I have a great idea!”

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Angus at his front porch post at the beach cottage.

“What?” Mom asked, glancing at me in her rearview mirror.

“I’ll ask for money for Guide Dogs of the Desert.”

“Ah?” Mom made a weird swallowing noise.

“It’s Angus’s birthday, too.”

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At the cottage.

In the rearview mirror I watched Mom dab at the corner of her eyes with a tissue, and nod her head in agreement.

Two weeks later, I had a great birthday. Fifty kids came with bathing suits, towels and money. Instead of opening presents after cake, we counted dollars they had stuffed into a large jar decorated with photos of Angus. 

Together, we raised more than $1,600 for Guide Dogs. Mom called me a “philanthropist” – whatever that is.

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The birthday boys, Robert and his dog Angus.

 

Here’s a link to a video of Angus doing his daily chore of getting the paper.