What changes your outlook?

Sonoran desert view in Arizona.
View from my backyard.

I can’t tell you why, but the past few days I feel better. I didn’t feel bad before, but my attitude has improved. I wake up with more energy and passion for the day.

What have I done to change my outlook?

First, I restarted the “Three Blessings” exercise. In the evening I write down three things that I’m grateful for that happened in my day. And why. According to Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, he’s used this exercise at U Penn on his students and patients and found it to be as effective as anti-depressants.

So, it could be that.

Or, another change I’ve made this week is getting more exercise. I take my morning walk of about 45 minutes. When my walk is over, I either jump in the backyard pool and swim or I hop on my bike for a 20 minutes bike ride. I mix it up according to what I want to do. Yesterday after swimming laps, I treated myself to climbing on the float from Costco feeling the breeze on my wet skin and staring at the sky. It was heavenly.

Today, I biked and enjoyed the breeze and felt good about how much better I did climbing the hill to our house. Yes, I could feel my heart rate rise, but it wasn’t a struggle like it was earlier in the week. Also, I managed to stand up for a few pedals, which I couldn’t do last week. Those are tiny things, but the improvement felt monumental. On the bike, which I haven’t ridden in years, I feel like a kid. I’m not listening to headphones, I’m listening to nature. I get a bit smile as I coast down a hill, trying not to squeeze the brakes, but let myself fly.

Maybe it’s the hard labor I’ve been doing to fix up our rental house before the new tenants come in. Or, the good book I’m reading.

Whatever the reason is, which is most likely a combination of all the above, I like the way I’m feeling today.

woodpecker on a saguaro
I saw this woodpecker on a saguaro as I left my front door.

What improves your attitude? Have you noticed changes in how you’re feeling lately?

Quiet time outside with kitty

cat asleep on pet grass.
Olive is sound to sleep today on her pet grass next to boxes of grass I’m growing for her.

Yesterday as I recovered from my big day of DIY with sore muscles, I decided to put the harness and leash back on Olive, our 10-year-old cat. Olive used to spend half her time outside until we moved. Now that we’re living with a bobcat, hawks, coyotes and other wildlife, we’ve been advised to keep the cat inside.

I ordered a harness and leash online when a friend who lives nearby said it worked for her cat. I’ve tried it a couple times and it’s been a disaster. I don’t know why I thought about giving it another try, but I did.

cat in harness and leash
Olive wearing the harness and leash.

Olive seemed more comfortable yesterday. She sat on my lap, nose sniffing, ears moving in rhythm with birds chirping. Her tail twitched. I moved from the comfort of the cozy outdoor chair at the table to our patio bar. There’s a saguaro with baby woodpeckers living inside across from the pool. They make loud chirping noises when their parents are gone and there’s also the excitement of the parents coming in and out to feed them. I thought it would be a lively place to sit with Olive to have an unobstructed view of the action and sounds.

Where Olive wanted to jump on the bar for a better view of the woodpecker’s nest in the saguaro.

She leaped from my lap to the bar. I grabbed her mid leap and ended up with a bloody scratch on my thigh. I don’t know why I didn’t give her the freedom to make the leap. She was on a leash after all. But it was my instant reaction to protect her.

We sat for a while longer and I think we both enjoyed the quiet time outside just listening and observing nature. At least I know I did.

Do you get outside to sit, listen and watch? I’m finding it very peaceful and entertaining. What are your favorite views?

Views of flowering cactus

I thought the blooms on cactus would be over. But we seem to be having another round. Living in the Sonoran Desert for the first time, I’m learning how each month or week brings new sites and new life.

blooming saguaro

Our yard is currently a mess. We had a broken pipe in the yard that formed a large pool of water. Then after that one was fixed, another one burst. So we hired our gardener to completely replace the entire system. Our yard is a criss cross applesauce mess of trenches and pipes laying everywhere. It’s been five days, it’s not done, and we are watering plants with a hose or watering can. I think I lost my gardenia plant.

blooming cactus

My husband has gone full Bill Murray from Caddyshack. He comes in with hands and arms filled with almost invisible stickers after trying to stop the rabbits and chipmunks from eating our plants. They love to munch on cactus. Who knew it would be so tasty? He’s tried traps, solar zappers and smoke bombs. Nothing seems to help. They not only eat the cactus above ground, they burrow underground and eat the roots. We’re skipping the poison method because we don’t want to kill the hawks or our bobcat.

red buds on cactus
white blossom on cactus
This blooming cactus is outside our front door.
cloudy desert sky
I was hoping for rain yesterday, but it never happened. Beautiful clouds though.

It’s all about the YETI

Yeti cooler "The Roadie."

It’s an especially hot week in Arizona — and in Palm Springs — my old home. I’m talking high teens hot.

We splurged this weekend on two things. We rented a boat for a half-day and bought a new cooler.

view from the boat on Bartlett Lake

View from the boat.

I hadn’t heard about YETI until I was writing an article for a trade magazine about top Christmas gifts at hardware stores. Exciting stuff? Eh. I got paid 🙂

I also learned something new. Everyone I interviewed mentioned YETI as a top seller.

“Can you spell that?” I asked the first time. “Can you tell me what that is?”

Then my son, his girlfriend’s family and my daughter went camping last summer in the Redwoods. My son said he bought a YETI cooler, the Tundra — which is the biggie. His girlfriend’s family are seven adult siblings who are athletes. They eat a lot — especially the youngest who is the only boy and is rowing in college. Hence the need for the largest YETI made.

My son said it was unbelievable — both the redwoods and the cooler. He said his ice lasted the entire trip of three days and all the food stayed cold.

I’ve wanted a YETI since he told me that last summer — the summer of lots of camping with his bubble during the pandemic shutdowns.

We rented the boat and invited new friends who are moving here from Seattle. They asked me if there was water around here and I told them about the lake. They currently live by Lake Washington and love the water. I told them next time they were in town, we’d show them the lake. They’re here visiting and we decided because of the heat and hours in a boat it was time to invest in a YETI.

I sent my son the photo of the new cooler and he gave me instructions on how to use it. He said the secret is to cool it down the night before by putting in a block of dry ice. That wasn’t going to happen, so I used ice from our freezer. He also told me to pack the cooler full, no empty space. So, I’m glad a got “The Roadie” model which is smaller than my son’s. The third secret he told me was to make sure anything I put in the cooler is already cooled. For example, if you put in warm water bottles they will absorb all the energy to get cold. To top off my son’s advice, he sent me a YouTube of how to pack my YETI! You’d think at my age, I wouldn’t need YouTube to pack a cooler! It was actually helpful.

We spent four hours yesterday touring Bartlett Lake by boat, dropping an anchor to dive into the water and cool off. It got unbelievably hot, which meant lot of anchoring and swimming. The YETI cooler was smack in the sun, but the sandwiches, water, veggies, watermelon and dips all stayed ice cold.

view from the back of the boat on Bartlett Lake

It was a beautiful day at the lake with our friends. One day, I hope to repeat the fun when it’s not quite so hot.

What is your favorite way to stay cool in the summer heat?

A mid-week adventure: don’t sweat the small stuff

Afternoon view of Bartlett Lake

We did it! We drove up to the lake after my husband finished work last week. I packed a picnic dinner of chips, sliced peppers, cauliflower and dip, fried chicken, coleslaw, spinach pasta salad and fresh strawberries. After discovering Bartlett Lake on Memorial Weekend, we made a deal that we’d head back up during the week when it would be less crowded.

It’s unbelievable how quick the drive was through the Tonto National Forest. There aren’t any trees so I’m not sure why it’s called a forest. But, it’s breathtaking all the same. Once at the lake, we headed for a campground we discovered where you can park your car on the shoreline. We were thrilled to see only five other vehicles there. On Memorial Weekend there were hundreds. We picked a nice empty area and set up our pop-up tent and chairs.

My husband immediately dove into the lake for a swim. I was getting myself ready when the pop-up tent got hit with a gust of wind and it cartwheeled into the lake. I was yelling for my husband, but he had his head in the water and didn’t hear me. I ran into the lake and grabbed a leg of the pop-up tent before it sank.

I was furious. I had asked my husband if we should bring the weights for the pop-up, or buckets to fill with water to tie it down. But no. We couldn’t find the weights that came with the tent. We might have left those in the RV that finally sold last month back in California. He thought a few rocks to anchor it would work. It did not.

My husband surfaced and saw me clambering after the pop-up. He joined me and we dragged it out of the lake onto the rocky beach. The pop up was obviously beyond repair as it laid with broken legs poking out at uncomfortable angles.

Now we had no shade for our dinner and it was 101 degrees. My husband implored me to swim with him and not let the broken pop up ruin our evening. After floating in the lake, my anger swam away.

We enjoyed the view from our chairs with our feet in the water. We snacked on the peppers and cauliflower and had a pleasant time. My husband said he’d tie the pop-up to the back bumper of the car and we could haul it up to the dumpster several hundreds yards away up the hill.

“No, we can do this.” I jumped up and started dragging the fractured tent to the dumpster. We got it there in a matter of minutes.

Sitting next to the dumpster were three other broken tents. On top of the dumpster heap, I counted another four. Who knows how many were inside buried from sight. We weren’t the only unprepared idiots. Next time we’ll be more prepared.

I think this was a lesson for me to relax and not sweat the small stuff. Material things are just that. Material things.

“What’s the point?”

Statue outside a gallery in Old Town Scottsdale
Statue in Old Town Scottsdale

“What’s the point?” my husband asked yesterday morning. “I’m starting to lose my patience with this.”

“We are taking a walk, exploring Old Town,” I answered more than a little frustrated.

Sugar Bowl ice cream shoppe
The famed Sugar Bowl often seen in the comic “Family Circle.”

What a different approach we have. It was Memorial Day morning and we drove to Old Town Scottsdale to get our steps and take in some new scenery besides the saguaro cactus in our own neighborhood. I was content to walk through the streets without a destination. My husband, on the other hand, wanted to know where we were going. He cannot aimlessly wander.

I thought maybe he was getting hangry so I googled breakfast spots in Old Town on my iphone. I had a destination for us to walk to and he was a happy camper. Although in reality, we weren’t doing anything different than before. We were walking around town, looking in windows, stopping to take photos.

Outside the cafe we found for coffee and breakfast.
Schmooze sign Old Town Scottsdale
We stopped at Schmooze Cafe and all was good. It was around the corner from where we parked the car.
Cowboy sign in Old Town Scottsdale
Main Street in Old Town Scottsdale.

Do you need a destination for your walks and exploration — or can you aimlessly wander like me?

Scottsdale Civic Center Plaza Horse Statue
Scottsdale Civic Center Plaza

Favorite sights from the past days

gorgeous Arizona sunset
I walked up the street to find the best view of the sunset this past weekend.

I’ve had some interesting sights this week. The desert is bursting alive with blooms. Baby bunnies are everywhere. I had bright red cardinals in my trees. A red-headed woodpecker sucked all the red juice from the hummingbird feeder I hung out and he’s pecked holes to make nests in our saguaro (not our favorite bird.)

We went for a hike in the nature’s preserve across the street and decided to veer off the trails we know. I thought the trail Hawknest would save us time, but it added. It didn’t loop back but headed straight down the preserve away from our house. It’s unsettling to not know where you’ll end up, but finally we found a trail crossing that we knew would lead us back home. Next time, I’ll bring a paper map! The phone was not cutting it.

I was smiling before we veered off familiar trails.
Bouquet of May Day flowers
My husband surprised me with May Day flowers. I kept walking by where he had them placed. Finally he asked if I had dusted the living room. I was offended and thought “WHAT??? Why is he asking me about dusting of all things!” There they were, on a shelf.
peter cotton tail bunny
Bunny in the front yard.
bunny in the yard
Bunny in the back yard.

Our bobcat made an appearance mid-day waltzing through the yard like he owned the place. Sorry I didn’t capture a pic.

Saguaro with eight arms in the Sonoran Desert
A majestic saguaro we saw on our hike. It must be well over one hundred years old.
Quail hanging out at the pool bar.

What are some of the interesting sights you’ve seen this past week in your neighborhood?