Don’t try this at home!

Healthy saguaro in the Sonoran Desert
A saguaro across the street in the nature’s preserve. It’s well over 100 years old.

Saturday was errand day. My husband and I drove to Tempe — 45 minutes away — to pick up a bookshelf for my son’s birthday present at IKEA. It’s out of stock in California, but he found it here. Our plan was to pick it up and ship it — after the one that I shipped last week was damaged en route. I’ll keep my fingers crossed on this one.

After IKEA, we spotted Dick’s Sporting Goods across the parking lot. We stopped in for a few plates of weights. At Dick’s, the clerk mentioned that their cameras had picked up the murder suspect’s vehicle during their getaway.

“Murder suspect?” I asked.

“Yes, didn’t you hear? We had a shooting in the IKEA parking lot a few days ago.”

No I hadn’t heard, and I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I googled it and it was a drug deal in the middle of the day gone bad. Yes, in the IKEA parking lot. The shooters were 17 and 18 years old!

Not the story I cared to hear about on a sunny Saturday standing right where it happened.

During the time we left the house, to the time we left Dick’s and headed to our final stop at Costco, my phone rang every two minutes. It was nonstop and I was going nuts. I was already stressed by the crazy drivers on the freeway and learning about teen murderers. I didn’t need my phone blowing up with “Spam Risk” and random lending companies.

I was exasperated and asked my husband “Why do you think my phone won’t stop ringing? What’s going on?” I finally realized I could turn the darn thing off.

“Uh, I was um looking online this morning and I saw some sites about interest rates,” he confessed. “It asked me to fill out a little information and they’d tell me where the interest rates are now. I just wanted to know.”

“And you entered my phone number???!!!”

“No, I put in mine,” he said.

“Funny! It’s my phone ringing.”

It’s now days later and my phone still rings, although it’s not constant. I asked some of the companies to take us off the list — that we aren’t interested. That doesn’t stop them.

My son said the same thing happened to him. He was looking to buy a car and there were some sites that offered to find the best deals. He made the fatal mistake of entering his name and phone number. His phone immediately blew up with car dealers from throughout California.

Don’t try this at home! Unless you enjoy your phone ringing every two minutes. If you want information on cars, interest rates or whatever, take the time to contact the businesses yourself.

Have you ever filled out an online form and gotten a million phone calls? What was it for? How did you get them to stop? What would you do if your spouse entered your info on a random website?

Living on appetizers

Charcuterie platters made by my son

I’m glad I found this photo from Christmas pre COVID, December 2019 to be exact. My son is a master at creating delicious and gorgeous charcuteries. (It only took my two years to pronounce that word). I will study how he put it together and try to make something similar.

Saturday we’re hosting his girlfriend’s sisters and one has offered to play viola for us. She suggested we could invite some friends. I immediately thought of our fellow California refugees who live a mile away. I then invited two couples I met working on the HOA newsletter.

I counted my RSVPs and my original thought of four to six people has turned into 16. My husband keeps asking me what we’re going to serve. I keep telling him charcuterie, veggies, chips, dips, shrimp platter, several hot appetizers.

“What about meatballs?”

“Okay. Meatballs, too.”

We went to Costco a week ago and they once again had samples after two years of not allowing them. Yay! We tried a number of different bites, and bought a couple for our upcoming party.

Here’s the stitch. My husband wants something with puff pastry. He doesn’t want me to cook. I had gotten some ideas from my Santa Barbara friend, who caters parties and makes her spanakopita and other delicious bites — using her own puff pastry. She gave me several ideas where I could buy puff pastry already made and cut it into rectangles or triangles, bake it, and fill it with savory or sweet fillings.

My husband said no. I know he’s trying to save me from wearing myself out and putting too much time and effort into this. He suggested it would be easier for me to pop things ready made into the oven and put them in a chaffing dish or platter and let it go.

For the past three or four days, we’ve been living on appetizers. Everything looks good on the box, but I wanted to know how quickly they cook and how they taste. By the way, Kroger’s makes a delicious spanakopita. Costco has really good spring rolls — and you can order a shrimp platter from them, too. We tried meatballs in the crockpot but didn’t like the sauce I found on Allrecipes. There are some things that I really like but don’t think will work for a party, like my favorite soup dumplings with pho.

Last night I was scouting for more appetizers and I swear my car took over and stopped at Burger King on the way home from the grocery store. I ended up with two Whoppers for dinner.

Any suggestions for easy appetizers? What are your favorite finger foods? Do you have a delicious sauce for meatballs in the crock pot?

Here’s the link to Alexandra Simpson’s website who will be playing viola for us. Her website has her bio and videos of her playing. She’s visiting Arizona to play with Kygo, who I never heard of before her upcoming visit. Have you heard of Kygo?

The road to Christmas

view from Santa Barbara during rain storm
Waiting for the kids to arrive during a California storm.

We arrived at our Christmas destination amidst a rain and wind storm. I’m so thankful that our day of driving was the day before the storm. We spent the night with friends close to our airbnb. I had anxiously awaited our kids and my son’s girlfriend’s family who drove from the Bay Area as all of California was engulfed in rain, wind and flooding

In the meantime, my husband and I trekked to Costco about 15 miles away from the airbnb. I’m a nervous nelly on freeways and with the rain, visibility was zero to three feet. I white knuckled it as a passenger and thought, “I’m only doing this for my kids.”

Once at Costco, we got drenched walking from the parking lot into the store — trying to cram both of us under one small umbrella. On the way home on the 101, the rain got even heavier if that’s possible. We watched in horror as the car in front of us tapped his brakes, spun out, then headlights moved towards us in our lane. Then he stopped, thankfully, made a U-turn across the three lanes and made his exit.

I was literally shaking. My husband slowed down and we crawled at 40 mph towards our exit, only to get a google warning on maps that there was a wreck right before our exit. We got off the 101 and took surface streets and safely, thankfully, arrived at the airbnb.

Our kids’ drives should have been five and a half hours, but turned into eight. The entire 101 freeway was closed due to flooding and boulders in the highway somewhere around San Luis Obsipo.

We stayed up waiting for them all to arrive. I knew I couldn’t sleep until everyone was accounted for. I gave big hugs to each carload that arrived. My daughter’s car arrived first, and finally my son’s last. Everyone was safely tucked into their beds. I finally got a good night’s sleep. This morning the sun is shining and we’re ready to celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Merry Christmas! Stay safe and enjoy your time with your loved ones.

Christmas Eve view from Santa Barbara. Blue skies.
This morning on Christmas Eve, the sun came out.

Talk about penny wise…

This is a post where I throw my husband under the bus. He wasn’t “pound foolish,” but rather flat out plain foolish. I know I wrote that I wasn’t going to complain about my husband ever again in this post, but that was so last week.

sunrise in the Sonoran desert reflected in swimming pool
Our first sunrise back at home.

We drove eight hours from Santa Barbara to our Arizona home on Saturday. The car hadn’t been driving as smoothly as it normally does. Anytime we got close to 80 mph it shook. It’s never done that before. But we managed to keep it in the 70s and we had an amazing drive home without hitting traffic.

Now for the penny wise part. After we unloaded the car, I noticed the right rear tire had gone flat. I had taken the car into the dealership twice — once for servicing last month and for a recall days before our trip. I was told both times that we needed to replace the two back tires. The first time I was told this, I called my husband. I didn’t trust the dealership because one, I’m a woman, and two, some dealerships try to upsell you. The being a woman thing in my experience is that I don’t know enough about cars and mechanics and dealerships can take advantage of that.

So I relied on my husband. He said the tires were fine. He didn’t want to spend the money — the penny wise part.

We were too tired to deal with the tire after our eight-hour drive on Saturday. We called Triple A Sunday morning to change the tire. The spare tire turned out to be a little skinny thing I call “the donut tire.” Triple A came three and a half hours later. My husband said when he saw the back tire, he was shocked. It was down to metal without tread! That was on the inside of the tire where he didn’t check it — obviously — when he told me we didn’t need new tires.

We called Costco and other tire stores and NOBODY had our tires. They said it was a supply chain issue. Service at the dealership was closed.

Last night, I noticed the donut tire and left rear tire were both losing air. I called the dealership this morning at 7 a.m. and the service person said they didn’t have the tires either! I called back and asked to order tires and the guy in the parts said they DID have the tires.

I told my husband I’d follow him to the dealership. He pumped up the donut tire and put in “fix a flat” and pumped up the left rear tire with a bicycle pump!

I prayed as I followed him for 25 minutes to the dealership, watching the tires get lower as he drove.

I was shaking when we finally made it. I am so thankful we didn’t have a blow out during our eight-hour drive home from California. It could have happened anytime — on the freeway through Los Angeles — or in the desert in 110 plus heat without any cell service. We could have been stuck anywhere along the way with NO tires for days. As annoying and inconvenient as the past two days were, we are safe and it could have been a whole lot worse.

green desert views after monsoons
It must have rained while we were gone. The desert is so lush and green. Even the hillsides are green.

Have you or a family member ever been penny wise and pound foolish? In what ways? Would you do things differently if you had a chance? Have you had any experience with car dealerships or mechanics taking advantage of your lack of car knowledge?

7 Tips for parents of college freshman on move-in day

Move-in day for the parents of college freshman can be overwhelming. Here are a few tips I wrote when we moved our daughter into her dorm room this week four years ago.

 

The check-in table at Move-in day.

The check-in table at Move-in day.

Yesterday was move-in day for our youngest. It was easy to spot check-in with bright red pop-up tents, a field of red carts and dollies, and a line of students ready to help move us in. Not us, but my daughter. It sure felt like us, though.

Being 15 minutes early was an excellent idea. There was parking. There were carts. There was a small line. Later in the day — parking was in the outer limits — and it was wall-to-wall students and parents making their way to the dorms with carloads of matching “Big Box College-Bound” gear.

In her dorm room getting settled.

In her dorm room getting settled.

Once in the room, we began lifting bedding, towels and clothing out of the cart. I wondered if I’d be strong, without tears, and how I’d get through the day. 

Here’s what worked and didn’t work:

1. Don’t try and unpack for your kid. Don’t try and put things away. This is their space, their new home. They need to make it their own.

2. Don’t hover and stay in their room. Make sure they have what they need and leave them alone. Be sure to be nearby for when they will invariably call.

3. Be prepared to shop multiple times during move-in day. We made one trip to Bed, Bath and Beyond, Home Depot and Costco — and five to Target. This was after we drove a packed-to-the-hilt Sequoia through four states with everything she needed.

4. Make lists. The large stores have lists for your student to make shopping easier. Of course, they have way more things on their lists than you actually need, but it’s a good starting point. Make your own list with the store’s list as a guide. After you move in your freshman’s things, you’ll discover what you didn’t think about or forgot — like strips to hang up pictures and art. Revise and rewrite your list as the day goes on.

5. Don’t try to stay up with the roomie. Some roommates will come equipped with flat-screen TVs, $1,000 bikes, and the best and latest technology. Don’t worry about what they have and you do not. In a dorm room, keep remembering the mantra — LESS IS MORE!

6. Don’t go out and buy a router for the dorm’s WiFi until you read the section on technology on the college’s website. Most likely routers are not allowed and it’s a simple passcode that is needed instead.

7. Feed your student. He or she may be so intent on getting unpacked and settled and meeting dorm mates, that he or she won’t take time to eat. Make sure to stock bananas, apples, yogurt and other healthy snacks in their room and fridge.

The swim tee shirt quilt I made for my daughter's dorm room. Years of memories.

The swim tee shirt quilt I made for my daughter’s dorm room. Years of memories.

I made it through the day without tears — mostly. It was a long, busy and tiring day. When my husband and I stopped for lunch — alone — and I realized that we were truly alone — the tears ran down my cheeks. I wiped them off and prepared myself for battle for the next stop at Target. When it’s time to say goodbye — well, I’ll tell you how that goes. You can read about how I said goodbye here.

18 years ago.Here’s a song “Teach Your Children Well” that fits my mood today. Listen and enjoy!