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December 2010
December 27 - 31, 2010
Monday, December 27. While out walking with Frisco this morning, we had a close encounter with the neighborhood coyote. Initially, I saw him crossing the street from the retention pond (about 1/2 block away from me), he hesitated a bit when he saw us, then continued cutting through the yards. I didn't feel real comfortable about him being so close, so I turned around and walked back the way I had come, toward the golf course where several people were playing golf. Two blocks from where I had been, there he appears again, hesitating to get a good look at us and then moving on. I never saw him again after that. I don't like it! Will have to start carrying some kind of noisemaker with me when I walk.

Since Allan and Sharon are keeping Frisco for us, they invited us to go to lunch with them and also to critique some of their paintings so they can make a final decision on which to enter in the upcoming pastel show in Sedona. For me, it's hard to decide because I like them all but I think we helped them to narrow down their choices.

We said goodbye to Frisco (boo hoo!)and then headed to The Deli, one of their favorite little spots in Queen Creek, only to find that they are closed on Mondays. The Queen Creek Olive Mill is not far from there, so that was our next choice. It is a popular place and Mike and I had never been there - an easy choice to make. We all managed to find fault with some detail of our sandwiches - dry bread, too much bread, or not enough other ingredients but for the most part it was pretty good. They are known for their olives (grown locally) and olive oils, so had to peruse the store before leaving.

Back home we got busy getting stuff together for our trip. We're so looking forward to seeing Ben and Jill and her family again. Not so looking forward to a 12-14 hour drive to get there, but we can do it.

Friday, December 31. We took off from Mesa on Tuesday morning, no computers packed in the car, other than our iPhones, thus the reason for no recent updates. Right now, I'm sitting at Ben's Mac getting my fix. The drive to Bakersfield was uneventful, even going around the outskirts of LA, traffic wasn't too bad. We did see some snow capped mountains along the way, near Palm Springs. We stopped for the night at a cheapie Motel 6 and we paid for what we got; a lumpy bed, nonfunctional outlets, and lots of noisy highway traffic.

Early the next morning, we got out of that miserable place and stopped at a nearby IHOP for some Swedish pancakes with lingonberries - yum! yum! We drove straight north on I-5 for about 100 miles, then cut west to Gilroy through the Pacheco Pass. What beautiful country along that stretch; huge lakes, rolling hills, puffy clouds in the sky - it just can't get much prettier than that. On through San Jose and shortly after, San Francisco. It felt good to see the ocean again. We checked into the Seal Rock Inn (just a short distance from Ben and Jill's) and Ben joined us shortly after that. We went to the Beach Chalet for a bite to eat and then to their house where we got nice hugs from Jill, her parents Dennis and Lois, and brother Casey. It was a long and busy day for all of us so we didn't stay real long.

Yesterday started with a meetup with Ben and Ruby at the Sutro Park for some ball playing with Ruby and Frisbee playing for us. It was a cool, sunny, and breezy day but we were sheltered from the wind up there on the cliff amongst the tall trees. Ben headed home and we took short naps before joining them again at their house. Jill, Ben and Lois were busy preparing spaghetti and meatballs for dinner - another gourmet treat from one of Jill's favorite cookbooks, "The Best Light Recipe" from the editors of Cook's Illustrated. She says there has not been one recipe from there that she hasn't liked.

We had an enjoyable dinner with great company. Its so nice to be reunited with Ben and Jill and also with her family. Again, we didn't stick around too late as the Quinn's were heading back to Minneapolis later tonight. We don't envy them, as they are expecting anywhere from 2 - 12 inches of snow on Friday.

We had a great breakfast at the Seal Rock Inn this morning, then gathered up our stuff and moved to Ben and Jill's. Jill is working today, so we discussed the plan for another yummy dinner and what we were going to need at the grocery store to pull it all off. Ben was in need of a haircut, so after a walk and some ball playing in the park with Ruby, we headed to the salon, then to the grocery store - it was so busy that we had to circle around the parking lot and then wait for someone to leave.

Back home, we started the prep for dinner and that went on for another 4 hours before we sat down to enjoy the dinner. The menu was a salad of mixed greens with beets, goat cheese, and a balsamic vinegar dressing, a pork loin stuffed with a dressing of artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and shallots, brussel sprouts tossed in bacon, and for dessert we made date bars and served them with ice cream. None of the recipes had been tried before and they all turned out to be delicious. It was well worth the prep time.

We watched a movie, had a glass of champagne and actually made it a little past midnight. Happy New Year everyone! We certainly hope that good things happen in 2011, as 2010 was such a letdown in so many ways.

December 20 - 26, 2010
Wednesday, December 22. I'm really slacking on the old website these days. Guess there hasn't been a lot of exciting things going on, although it seems that I am always busy.

On Monday evening, we went to Norm and Chris' house for a turkey dinner, complete with all of the goodies that go along with it. We had a great time and a yummy, yummy dinner. She baked the turkey in one of those oven bags with an apple and it was so tender and juicy. Thanks much, friends!

We were both in a real funk on Tuesday, I think the emotions of this season, the news of Casey's new tumor, and especially the approach of what would be Owen's first birthday is kind of getting to us. I did make reservations for a couple of nights at the Seal Rock Inn (just a short distance from Ben and Jill's) so we can get to see Jill's family before they head back to Minneapolis on the 30th.

We've had a couple of gray, cloudy, and even rainy days. Tonight when we went to take Frisco for his walk, it was pouring out and he only got to do his business as quickly as possible in the rainy back yard. I woke up at midnight hearing some pretty high winds, so got up to check things out. We must have been getting the tail end of some of the rain that has been dumping on the LA area. They are having mudslides and flooding for the last few days.

I hope the roads are all cleared up before we head to San Francisco next week, as there just is no avoiding LA unless you head north to Las Vegas, but then we could encounter snow. I don't think we want to be doing that.

Thursday, December 23. Allan and Sharon picked us up and we headed to north Phoenix to the Musical Instrument Museum. The building itself is gorgeous. And the museum gives an around the world tour through the musical instruments, each display is accompanied by an audio and video of various musicians and their instruments. In addition to the international collections, there is an artist gallery that has instruments (John Lennon's "Imagine" piano), costumes, and other items, a hands-on experience gallery, a mechanical instrument gallery, and a theater. We took a lunch break at the Bon Appetit Cafe and talked of future plans to see a concert there. We all agreed that it was well worth the money and visit and it will be added to the list of special places where we would like to take our visitors.

Friday, December 24. Happy Birthday, my wonderful sister Rita! And Merry Christmas to all of my other readers. As I was walking Frisco this morning and having a Christmas conversation with my brother, Ron, we were describing what it looked like where we were. His image was of light snow falling, snow covered pine trees and kind of a gray, foggy appearing sky. My image was of a clear blue sky, very slight breeze moving the extra large US flag across the street, an assortment of palm trees, and the green, green grass of the golf course. I am sad that I am not near any of my family, but sure do appreciate this warm climate.

We had a very nice relaxing day, talking with most of our families on the phone, made a quick stop at the grocery store, and went to the neighbor, Arlene's house for a Christmas eve dinner and gift exchange. We were the outsiders but felt very welcome. Arlene, her sister Marilyn, and our next door neighbor Betty all grew up in a small town in Nebraska during the late 40s. They told some really great stories about their childhoods and we had lots of good laughs. The gift exchange was fun, many items were opened, cherished, but then stolen - Mike ended up with a movie gift certificate (he's been wanting to go see True Grit) and I got a beautiful candle. Not bad!

Saturday, December 25. My first thoughts of Christmas Day always go back to 1964, the year my dear mother was rushed off to the hospital with pneumonia and died later on that day. I was just 16 years old and had to stay home with the rest of the 8 kids in our family and so last saw her as Uncle Vic was carrying her down the stairs. Such a terrible event to remember about Christmas. I also can't help but think that we would be celebrating Owen's first Christmas this year. No wonder I find it hard to get in the spirit of the season.

Since we weren't the only ones with no family around for the holiday, we decided to do something completely different today. We picked Nan and Dale up at 9:00 and headed to Gila Bend where stopped at the Space Age Cafe for a bit of breakfast before our desert drive. From there we drove about 10 miles west on I-8 and then took the road to the Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site, an ancient archaeological site containing hundreds of symbolic and artistic rock etchings that were produced centuries ago by prehistoric peoples. There are also inscriptions made by people who passed through during historic times. Many well- known events in Arizona history occurred near this place, including the expedition of Juan Bautista de Anza that founded San Francisco, the Mormon Battalion and the Butterfield Overland Mail. We were fascinated by the numbers and variety of pictures etched in the rocks and the evidence of past volcanic activity in the dark, shiny black rocks. The site was an Arizona State Park until it reverted to the Bureau of Land Management in 1989. There is a nice campground adjacent to the site and the camp host gave us some directions to our next destination.

From there, we headed west on Rocky Point Road (just a gravel trail) that led us through a farm where we saw some folks on ATVs and motorcycles. We stopped to ask about the area and they told us how to get to the grave of the Oatman family that were massacred near here back in 1851. Before getting to the Oatman gravesite, we came upon the graves of the Fourr family. Some area boy scouts made a marker and fenced off the gravesites as a scout project, in fact, the fellow that gave us directions made the marker and told us that the farm had been in his family for many years. The farm is huge, with large cotton and hay fields and the road goes right through their property that is adjacent to the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land.

The story of the Oatman family goes like this (copied from the internet): The wagon party had reached Maricopa Wells when they were told that the Indians ahead were very bad and that they would risk their lives if they proceeded further. Most of the families resolved to stay but the Oatman family, eventually traveled on alone and were decimated on the banks of the Gila River about 80-90 miles east of Yuma in what is now Arizona.

Royce and Mary had seven children at this time, ranging in age from 16 to 1 year. On their fourth day out, they were approached by a group of Indians, asking for tobacco, food and trifles. At some point during the encounter, the Oatman family was attacked by the group, and all were killed except Lorenzo, age 15, who was clubbed and left for dead, Olive, age 13, and Mary Ann, age 7. Lorenzo awoke to find his parents and family dead, but no sign of Mary Ann and Olive. He eventually reached a settlement where he was treated. Three days later, Lorenzo, who had rejoined the emigrant train, found the bodies of his slain family; "we buried the bodies of father, mother and babe in one common grave." (The Tucson Citizen, 26 September 1913) The men had no way of digging proper graves in the volcanic rocky soil, so they gathered the bodies together and heaped a large pile of stones over them. It has been said the remains were reburied several times and finally moved to the river for reinterment by Arizona pioneer Charles Poston.

Today a white cross marks the site where the Oatman family was massacred. At Oatman Flats, Arizona, is the Oatman cairn and a headstone which reads: "In Memory of the Oatman Family and Members of the Pioneers Massacred by Indians in 1851..."

We got back on the Oatman road but it did not connect to the road where the actual massacre site is, so we ended up missing that but having a nice drive back south toward I-8. We stopped along the way for a nice picnic lunch consisting of delicious cheese and sausage that we just received as a gift from Pat & Roger (thanks, guys - what a treat!), pickles, crackers, hummus, pineapple, brandy spiked egg nog, and chocolates. MMMMMMMM! Naturally, we all had to collect some rocks and dug for some metal that was detected by Dales metal detector - appeared to be some kind of a hinge or handle.

What a unusual way to spend Christmas day, but lots of fun! It was a very nice drive through some beautiful country, we got educated about the petroglyphs and the Oatman family, met some friendly folks, and had a nice day with good friends.

Sunday, December 26. Sitting here this morning, we realized that we have only today and tomorrow to get ready for our trip to San Francisco. No problem. I got the laundry going and that was soon out of the way. Frisco got his nails trimmed and a bath and a nice long walk.

We were considering going to see the movie "True Grit" today but then we decided maybe we should see it while on vacation. Nita and Spike invited us over for a *bleep*tail this afternoon and we really enjoy chatting with them so we took them up on it. She had all kinds of snacks ready for us including some yummy smoked Salmon from Washington and some of her tasty fudge. Had a great chat - I think we're pretty lucky to have some really good neighbors surrounding us.
December 13 - 19, 2010
Monday, December 13. Last night when we got home we said that today was going to be a "do nothing" kind of day. Yeah, right. We did move pretty slowly but managed to get a whole lot done. The major project was to scrub all of that dirt and dust off the Jeep - inside and out. The washing part is easy here because our park has 2 car wash stalls - you just pull in and turn the water on and you are set to go with everything you need right there - and we don't have to pay for the water.

I ordered a new airbed to put in the guest room when we have visitors and it arrived today. We put the thing up in the living room just to check it out and it definitely meets my approval - nothing like the old camp airbed that we used to have. This thing has the motor built right in - it inflates and deflates in about 5 minutes - has baffles on the inside to keep it firm, and even has little clamps that keep the sheets in place. Its guaranteed to give you a good night sleep. So... all you faithful readers need to get your butts here for a visit.

Wednesday, December 15. The goal was to have all of our Christmas shopping finished and ready to be mailed by today and we made it! It has been very difficult to get inspired about the holiday this year, hard to come up with ideas for gifts, and even harder to get motivated. We did our shopping yesterday and are done.

Norm and Chris invited us over for happy hour so we could see their completed flooring project. Its really amazing what a difference it makes once you get the old carpet out of these places. Now, we're all talking about future projects, like doing the same in the bedrooms. I plan to tackle my bathroom before that, as it has carpet and I really dislike it. That small room won't be bad at all.

Today we went to Glendale and had a CB radio installed in the Jeep. Mike opted for a small handheld unit that is mounted just to the right of the steering wheel and can also be used in the motorhome (it will need some components installed first. Now we have to learn how the thing works, come up with handles, and learn the lingo. It seems like there is always some new electronic gadget to learn about - maybe that is helping our senior brains, but it sure doesn't feel like it. Anyway, we are ready for the next drive.

Thursday, December 16. Today just had to be laundry, housecleaning and grocery shopping day - we've been putting it off and things are piling up and getting a protective coating of dirt and dog hair. Imagine that! The nice thing is that its a little house and it doesn't take long when the two of us get at it. The grocery shopping is another thing, as I've mentioned before, I just can't do that quickly - it seems to take hours for me.

Had a girl's night with Monica and Nan at Monica's apartment. On our arrival, she was trying to kill a scorpion that her cat, Al Pacino Ursino, was stalking. It had disappeared on her and she couldn't find it but didn't want to just let it go. We finally found it, badly injured and it didn't take much to finish it off. Its the first one I've seen since I got here.

We had pizza and played Bananagrams, it as a nice time!

Saturday, December 18. Last night we invited Nita and Spike, our neighbors for dinner. We've been wanting to have them for dinner to show our appreciation for the help that Spike gave us with our flooring installation. They are a very nice couple and kind of remind us of our old neighbors, Don and Ruth, in Ocala that became such good friends of ours. I roasted a chicken on the grill and it turned out delicious.

While I was cooking rice in the microwave, it died on me with 7 minutes to go before the rice was done. We tried everything and it was just dead. I dug out the receipt and then remembered that this was the 2nd one we got back in March (the first lasted only about 2 weeks). We returned it to Lowe's, and since they only carry GE, we got our refund and headed to Best Buy. So now we will see how the LG brand works out. If this one dies, I think we might have a problem with the power coming into our house - at least on that circuit, although we haven't had any other problems with appliances.

Today, Nan and Dale had us over for Christmas dinner with Monica and Dylan, as neither of them will be around for Christmas. As we entered the house, we were greeted by the smell of fresh pine (candles), and a yummy prime rib dinner. Monica and Dylan both left right after dinner, but we had a nice time with them and the dinner was excellent.
December 6 - 12, 2010
Monday, December 6. This morning over breakfast we decided that it would be a good day to just go for a ride and explore something new. We decided on South Mountain Park
, located on the southwest side of Phoenix - a mountain range that we had seen many times but never ventured to take the drive to the summit. Once on top, there is a beautiful view of the rambling metropolis of Phoenix and the suburbs - all covered with a cloud of yellowish-brown smog - a result of a recent cold spell, folks burning wood in fireplaces, and very little wind to blow it all away. Regardless, we had a nice ride, a walk, and the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful day away from the bustle of the city.

Thursday, December 9. Today is the 11-month anniversary of our grandson, Owen's death. Although the memories recede a bit at times, the days surrounding an anniversary are especially vivid - and lately he has been on my mind so much. I can imagine him as a busy little boy, crawling, supporting himself on the furniture, possibly walking, giggling, playing in the park, sitting in the high chair, walks in the stroller, playing with Ruby, the list is endless. Not only Owen, but the struggle that Ben and Jill have gone through - my heart goes out to them. And the holidays are supposed to be happy times.

I just don't know where this week has gone, although we have been busy from sunup to sundown. I stocked up on groceries - a project that takes me at least a couple of hours - no matter the size of my list, if its a weekly shopping trip, I take forever. Yesterday, Mike and I went shopping for some clothing to replace worn out and tired of items. We spent quite a bit, but would have spent lots more if it hadn't been for all of the great sales.

I made a batch of lasagna yesterday and invited Nan and Dale over to share it with us. Had a nice visit with them and an enjoyable dinner.

Today, I made a dessert for the TGIF on Friday and also tried a recipe for some snack crackers that we had at last week's TGIF. The lady doesn't share her recipe (she's afraid someone else will bring them, I'm sure), so I searched for something similar on the internet. The one I tried this morning wasn't quite what I expected, so will try again tomorrow.

It was such a beautiful day that we decided to take Frisco to the dog park this afternoon. He had a great time and has been sleeping ever since.

Sunday, December 12. The alarm went off at 5:00 this morning, so we could get ready for our first day trip with the Jeep Expeditions group. We met up with the group of 9 cars at Buckeye, AZ, about an hour's drive from Mesa. We found them all to be friendly folks and were glad to see that we were interested in joining them. From Buckeye, we headed west for another 60 miles where we met up with a couple more Jeeps near Hope. And then it got serious. Folks started letting the air out of their tires, dropping the air pressure to about 20 psi (this gives a softer ride). We decided to keep our just as they are for our first time out and several others did too. Some of the folks carry compressors with them so they can fill them up when they get back to the highway. Yes, the list of things we need started to build right here - first of all, a CB Radio, as we were the only ones that couldn't communicate with the rest - also we weren't able to hear what the guide (Ladybug) had to say about geological or historical features. Mike will be delighted to have to shop for this type of stuff.

The destination for today was several former gold mines that are scattered throughout the Granite Wash Mountains that are north of Vicksburg, AZ. Just outside the town of Hope, is a sign that reads "Your Now Beyond Hope" - now that's a town with a good sense of humor. Its hard to imagine that these roads were actually built back in the 1800s to get people into these remote areas to dig for gold. The Desert Queen Gold Mine was one of the major gold producing mines of the area. We traveled along the Calcite Wash, and past the Winchester town site (a town that had a population of 2000 back in 1909 for only about 2 months, as long as they could bring up gold!

We also drove the Glory Hole Mine Trail that had a narrow section of shelf road (one with a rocky edge) up to a saddle (a ridge between 2 peaks). To actually get back to the mine, we had to walk about 200 yards - what we saw there were several huge holes in the ground, some old wood that braced the walls, and lots of pilings. Jim, a former Mining Engineer, was very helpful with identifying minerals and types of rocks. Naturally, I picked up a few to add to the collection in our yard.

In the middle of the day, we stopped for lunch and had pulled pork sandwiches, burgers, brats, potato salad, cole slaw and Christmas cookies. They even had Christmas decorations on the tables and played Christmas music from someone's satellite radio. What a fun day and it was nice to meet a great bunch of folks that we will definitely be seeing again. It kind of reminded me of the drives we took with the old cars and Miata Club back in Wisconsin, an activity that we have always enjoyed.
December 1 - 5, 2010
Wednesday, December 1. We spent several hours today attempting to make appointments for our annual checkups. We had learned there was a Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale and thought that would be a good place to get established with a primary care doctor. Unfortunately, there was only 1 doctor affiliated with Mayo that was listed on our insurance company's website. Calls to the clinic itself led us to believe that they do contract with our insurance company. A call to our insurance company informed us that yes, they do, but only as an out of network provider at only 60% of the charges. It became quite upsetting and frustrating, so will go back to that project another day and forget about the Mayo Clinic.

It was a beautiful 70 degree day, so we spent a lot of time outdoors this afternoon. While I was walking Frisco this morning, I met up with a couple of women from the park that invited me to join them in February to go see "Menopause, the Musical" that is playing at the Mesa Arts Center. I got on the list and paid my money - so am now committed on that event - sounds like it should be a fun evening. We also walked to the clubhouse and signed up for this week's Friday social hour and dinner and the Christmas party on the 12th.

Thursday, December 2. Just as I was leaving the house this morning for my walk, I saw a Coyote cross the street and go behind the neighbor's house. My neighbor behind me called out to see if I had seen it. Down the street, 2 more neighbors were our chatting about the thing. I hoped that I wouldn't see it again and changed the direction that I usually walk. Guess I need to do more research on what to do if I encounter it again.

Why is it so hard to find a doctor? Perhaps we are trying too hard and should just pick one and if we like them, stay and if not, try again.

I got the grocery shopping out of the way this morning and then took on the role of Mike's barber when I got home. It was such a beautiful day with lots of folks out and about, that 2 neighbors stopped by to chat as were doing the haircut on the patio.

Our park is having a Christmas raffle on the 18th, so I packaged up the 4 wine glass that I etched and delivered them to one of the gals that is collecting donations. I did a Kokopelli design on them that turned out pretty nice if I do say so myself.

After dinner tonight, I worked on another ribbon Christmas tree while watching TV and sipping on a glass of wine.

Saturday, December 4. Yesterday we just hung around the house, doing a bit of cleaning, making a salad for the potluck, finishing the ribbon tree and stringing up some lights outdoors.

We had a very nice time at the TGIF and potluck. Each week a couple volunteers to prepare the main course and others bring dishes to complement it. This week was pork cutlets and they were excellent! We had a real nice time, met some new neighbors, and had lots of good conversation and plenty of laughs.

Today we went to the Tempe Festival of Arts on Mill Avenue with Chris and Norm. We had planned to meet another classmate of Mike's at the wine tasting but they had to cancel out. Will have to try to connect with them again some time.

We perused the booths of artworks, had a beer, petted lots of dogs, and had a nice dinner at My Big Fat Greek Restaurant. Mike had never tried a gyro and it had been many years since my first attempt (a cold sandwich that didn't encourage me to try one again). Our first order came to the table cold and since everyone had told us that they are not good cold, we sent them back. The second time around, they were served nice and hot and we both liked them a lot. Because of the mishap, they ended up giving us complimentary baklava for dessert.

Created on 12/01/2010 09:31 PM by bridge
Updated on 01/01/2011 03:08 PM by bridge
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