Old Men, New Cars and a Crush

In January I was headed home from a friend’s birthday party when my beloved Santa Fe gave up the ghost after 12 years. It made a clunking sound, stopped accelerating, and then that was it. I rolled to the side of the road and waited for a tow truck.

January was an exciting month. My divorce was final on the 21st, I bought a new car, and hiked 15+ miles one day. The day of the Big D I arrived at the courthouse and I sat in a typical ‘People’s Court’ or ‘Judge Judy’ style courtroom with several other individuals seeking the same thing. One by one we were called up by a young woman with Bettie Page bangs and handed her our paperwork. The judge asked a few questions and that was it. I was back to work in a few hours. That evening while I was still at work, the ex called and in the midst of our conversation I let him know that we were a done deal. He responded, “Oh, okay,” as if I had told him I had a ham sandwich for dinner. Surprisingly enough I received a Valentines Day card from him with lots of apologies. He told me he sent it in advance and with extra postage to make sure I received it in time for Valentines Day. Unfortunately I don’t check my mail every day so it wasn’t until this past Tuesday I received it. It was kind of him. I’m not sure how to feel at this point. There’s still so much hurt there and while a part of me will always love him, I don’t think the damage that was done can ever be reversed.

So, I purchased a used car about a month ago. It’s fairly new with low miles. I do miss having the SUV though. There’s something about being a little higher up while driving. I have found myself hitting curbs more often now because I simply can’t see them, being so low to the ground. Actually purchasing the car was a challenge. I dealt with this little old man with a foreign accent. He tried to sell me the car at a much higher rate than what was listed on the Internet. When I tried to pull up the Internet listing for that dealership, it would flash on my phone for a second and go blank. Those stinkers. I was able to pull it up briefly enough for him to see that yes, indeed, the car was listed online for $3k less than what they were telling me it was. Nice try. Anyway, I’m now the proud new broke owner of a shiny blue car with XM Radio (bonus!).

At the end of January I did the National Trail Trek which is a monster hike over South Mountain and the Estrellas here in Phoenix. I didn’t stick with my hiking group because I knew I’d be taking it slow due to a knee injury from December. It took six hours but I finished. Man, I was ready to drop! I ended up finishing before the group did and I saw a few members while I waited for the shuttle to take me back to the car. I waved from a distance but just needed to sit after that. That evening I had to meet the tow truck driver outside my house to receive the Santa Fe back into my driveway. It’s hard to trade in a vehicle that has a dead engine so it is sitting in my driveway until I figure out what I want to do with it (or the HOA gives me hell). The tow truck driver seemed a bit flirtatious. He asked why I was limping and I explained that I had just hiked a distance. He blew out a puff of smoke from his cigarette and said, “Yeah, I hike.” I made an excuse to go back into the house. Clearly what’s looking for me and what I’m looking for are two different things.

Speaking of which, I just gave up on someone I had a crush on for months. Oh my gosh, I somehow lost my head and turned into a 14 year old girl for a while there. Not very becoming at 45. I met D. at an 80s party back in October. We have some mutual friends that I had been speaking with and I noticed that there was this tall man in an 80s rocker wig dressed in a black concert t-shirt and jeans. He started telling me about the country he was born in and how he had lived in Boston when he first came here as a teenager. He has a slight accent which I learned was Mandarin Chinese. As he stood there talking to me I kept looking at him. He is quite possibly the most beautiful man I have ever set eyes on. To make a long story short, we probably hang out once a month or so and it’s always with mutual friends. Seeing it’s now February and things have not progressed much more than that, I’ve had to let it go.

But wait! There’s more. . .

Two weeks ago I joined a pub crawl with friends. Yes, D. was there. This was no ordinary pub crawl. We all wore white t-shirts and brought markers to write on each other’s shirts. D. wrote something in Chinese on my back in blue marker which I’m now assuming meant ‘I’m just not that into you.’ I didn’t get a full glimpse of it until I got home. It was written right next to the words ‘I want to tap that’ that some mystery attendee thought would be cute to add. So, yes, I walked around all night with that on my back. Another friend who doesn’t know D. asked who he was because ‘he seems so into you’. Well, this is how it has been for months. We show up at the same events and are each other’s impromptu date. Outside of a few comments or likes on Facebook, I never hear from him unless I’ve initiated a text first. He stood behind me at one of the stops on the crawl. I watched him chatting with friends and then I decided this was it. I was done. He walked me to my car at the end of the night and in a bold move I pulled him towards me and kissed him. He didn’t go screaming away from me in the parking lot. I backed up a few steps and I think we both stood there in shock for a moment. Then I pulled him back towards me and kissed him again. I wondered for months what that would be like or what that beautiful face would feel like. Now I know. I got in my car and drove home. Then I promptly bowed out of any mutual events we were signed up for.

Last night I hung out with my hiker friends, who I haven’t been keeping up with much. It hit me how much I’ve missed them and just how much I’ve let hiking fall by the wayside. It brings me so much peace. It seems like this year has just been crazy with obligations and things that just need to be taken care of. I’ve spent way too much time on Facebook and way too much time hanging out in places that don’t offer the same peace as being outdoors does. While I love to dance, I’ve spent way too much time around the drinking crowd, which, don’t get me wrong. I know some great people, but there isn’t the same fulfilling feeling in say, a bar, as I get from being on the mountains, laughing and hiking with friends. That point was brought home yesterday while hiking in Sedona with several friends I know well.

Well, off to walk the dog.

Beer Making 101

A girlfriend of mine recently put together an event for beer making.  There were 5 of us altogether that went to try this.  Beer making consists of three stages; the first, which was held last weekend, involved a taste testing to decide which type of beer we would like to make.  We chose a blonde ale, which tastes similar to a Blue Moon beer.  The process wasn’t quite involved as I was thinking.  The beer mixture had already been boiled so our job that evening was to transfer the mixture into a 10-gallon bucket and then stir.  Later we added the yeast and the bucket was put away until last night.   On our second visit, we took the temperature of the beer, which should be between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.  Using a laser gun, I measured the concoction and it was a balmy 70 degrees.  Perfect!  The yeast had done its job (so I was told).  Next up was take a measurement using a thermometer type device which was just dropped into the beer.  It bobbed a few times and according to the attendant, it was where it needed to be.  We then siphoned the mixture into a container that looked just like the office water cooler bottle but with a must fancier name that escapes me now.  In two weeks we will return to bottle it.  We got to pick out a label as well and add our names to it.  It will be fun handing out bottles of my own brew when I have friends over for the holidays.

The same shop also allows you to make your own wine.  One of the samples they gave us that first evening was of a black cherry merlot.  Let me tell you, that was one of the best things I have ever tasted!  We are going to return in January to create this concoction.  It should be ready by the time the holidays roll around next year so there is a bit more of a commitment on this one.

beer making

Ode to Moonlit hikes, Pterodactyls and Sushi

Thursday evening my friend Kat and I hiked under an almost full moon. This particular trailhead sits at the end of an industrial park.  While the parking lot is dark, there are street lights surrounding the nearby buildings.  As I sat in my car to wait for Kat, a lone coyote appeared under the light.  He seem to be frolicking in the grass.  A few minutes later, the sprinklers turned on.  What appeared to be play was most likely an attempt to get a drink of water.  There is something special about watching wildlife when they are out and about doing their normal thing.

night hikeKat arrived and we hit the trailhead.  I don’t think there are any pictures that could accurately describe the beauty of a moonlit desert at night.  Everything takes on a silvery tint.  We passed a few other hikers along the way but other than that we had the desert, and this beauty, all to ourselves.  We did a little over 4 miles and with the moonlight, we barely needed a light.  The mountain tops were silhouetted against the night sky, all aglow as if kissed by the moon.  I could have just sat on a rock for a good long while and just basked in all that wonderfulness.  It was so very peaceful.

We rounded one corner and heard the noise of an animal up on the ridge to our left.  We couldn’t figure out where it was coming from exactly.  It continued to squawk as we drew closer.   I asked Kat what she thought it was.  She responded calmly that is was probably a pterodactyl.  It was exactly what I would expect a pterodactyl to sound like, too.  I had this picture of a pterodactyl appearing up over the mountain with its wings darkening the sky.  Luckily these beings have been extinct for a gazillion years so the thought of this actually happening brought about fits of laughter.  So there was our run in with the so-called pterodactyl.  Ha!  We still never figured out what it really was.  Once we passed, whatever it was seemed to think the threat was gone and quieted down.  Dang pterodactyl.

We finished up our hike and headed out to a sushi restaurant that Kat enjoys.  It was a bit of a drive and an even longer drive home, but it was a really fun experience.  At this particular restaurant, you sit at a sushi bar while a conveyor belt moves around the perimeter of the bar.  On the belt are small plates featuring various types of sushi.  You grab what you want and then they charge you based on the color of plates you have left stacked up in front of  you.

In addition to sushi, they had deep-fried jalapenos filled with cream cheese (maybe because this is the Southwest?) and edamame.  I saw a pudding cup go by on a plate, as well as a single serving size of peaches in a plastic cup.  Bottled water was also served on a plate.  I’m assuming it was bottled water because the label was written in Kanji.

sushiYears ago I visited a restaurant in Cupertino, CA where the sushi floated by you in little boats.  A trough filled with water wound its way around the sushi bar.  I don’t remember the name of the place or know if it still exists.  We called it Screaming Sushi because one waiter would yell something and the rest would yell back.  I like this concept.  It was a good way to sample some sushi items that I would otherwise not order at a regular sushi restaurant.  It was very inexpensive, too!  Ten plates later and a bill around $10.  Not too shabby.

 

 

 

Lemon Oil

A Night of Exotic Olive Oil Tastings

A little over a year ago, a shop selling the most wonderful concoction of olive oils and vinegars opened in my neighborhood.  One of the services they offer are tasting parties.  I did this back in the Spring with a few friends and it was quite a success.  The only ask of the owners is that each person in attendance make one purchase of their items.  Last night I hosted yet another tasting party and it was another success.  The owners are incredibly kind so there is this feeling of being around friends.

How this whole shindig works is that I bring lots of different foods that are devoid of any dressings or oils.  Oil and vinegar samples are set up on a tall table in the center of the shop.  So once my friends pick out the food items from the buffet table they are then able to go up to where the samples are and try the different oils and vinegars to see what they like best.

For food last night, I brought spinach salad, strawberries, apple slices, bruschetta fixings and of course cheese and crackers.  For desert, I had pumpkin bread slices, brownie bites and vanilla ice cream.  And yes, all of these items can be enhanced with different oils and vinegars.  That was the biggest surprise to me.

Both strawberry and blueberry vinegars went great on the spinach salad.  The pumpkin pie flavored vinegar was amazing on the pumpkin bread.  Believe it or not, the chocolate raspberry vinegar was divine over vanilla ice cream.  I also enjoyed a banana-walnut-caramel vinegar over the ice cream.  Definitely a bananas foster taste without the added calories.  Who knew?

My favorite ended up being a lemon flavored olive oil drizzled over apple slices.  With baking season ahead this could be added into a number of things.  And finally, here is a recipe using the oil pictured here.

Lemon Oil

Ingredients:

  •  1 tbsp. butter
  • 3 cups plus 2 tbsp. flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup Meyer Lemon Olive Oil
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 3 tbsp. Grand Marnier
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • lemon zest

Preparation

1.) Preheat over to 325.  Grease a 3″-deep round 9″ cake pan and the outside of a heavy 3″-deep 3″ ovenproof ramekin or bowl with butter, then dust with 2 tbsp. of the flour, tapping out excess. Put ramekin or bowl upside down in center of prepared pan.  Alternatively, grease an 11-cup Bundt pan with butter and dish with flour.  Set prepared pan aside (Guess you have two choices here).

2.) Beat eggs and sugar together in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until pale yellow, about 1 minute.  Add remaining 3 cups flour, lemon zest, oil, milk and liqueur and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined.  Add baking powder and stir until thoroughly combined.

3.) Holding ramekin or bowl firmly in place, spoon batter into prepared pan around ramekin or bowl or spoon batter into Bundt pan, if using, and smooth out top with the back of the spoon.  Bake until cake is deep golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted in center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.  Transfer cake to a wire rack to let cool completely, in its pan.

Dream Big

Okay, so it’s been over a year since I posted.  It’s really started to hit me that I need to get back.  For the past year I’ve been in deep thought but didn’t feel the need to record those thoughts.  Sometimes you just have to let it be.  So here I am.  I’m back.  Hopefully to stay this time.

A little over two weeks ago I finally made the decision to end my marriage for good.  I had been separated for almost two years and in that time I kept waiting to see what he’d do.  Of course nothing changed.  It’s funny how we can fool ourselves into thinking that if we give it enough time that it will work out.  When I was done being angry about the situation I grew very sad.  Maybe these were the so-called phases of acceptance of the situation.  After all, no one goes into a marriage with expectations of things ending several years later.  I sometimes wonder if there were things I could have done differently.  I’m not sure.  He had an addiction problem.  I can’t fix that although, my gosh, I tried.  I often told him that it was no different than my trying to wrestle a knife out of his hands so he wouldn’t hurt himself.

When I first moved to Arizona 12 years ago, I remember passing a billboard for a sign that made a divorce look like it was so easy you could go out and get one as if you were running to the store for milk and bread.  I thought it was insulting to marriage in general.  How disposable our society has become!  But here I was, in the same business 12 years later, and it was as easy as it sounded.  Just a few signatures later and voila!  Over.  A girlfriend came with me that day.  We entered the building that looked like it hadn’t had an update since 1987.  I gave the pertinent information and they advised me to return the next day once the paperwork was printed up.  I went on my lunch break the next day with the same girlfriend.  We sat in a room in front of desk that showed no sign of any personal aspects.  Just a cold plain room with an old newspaper clipping from 1996 mounted on a faded frame exulting the business to be made off of divorces.  I found it a bit insulting.

After realizing the paperwork printed was incorrect and waiting for the correct paperwork to be printed, I sat in the room and had this feeling of dread.  There was a deja vu feeling.  When had I felt this way before?  I remembered bringing Monsoon to the vet for the final time a little over two years ago.  I remember holding her precious ill body to my heart for the last time knowing that at any moment the vet tech was going to come in and take her from me for the last time.  That is how it felt.  In moments a woman was going to arrive with the correct paperwork and would end my marriage.  Ironically enough, on the day of the vets the ex couldn’t be there because he was working.  So he said.  Finding a charge on the bank statement a few months later revealed where he really was that day.  Heartless.

The door finally opened and a too cheerful of a woman arrived and set the paperwork in front of me to review and sign.  She commented on our handbags.  When she left I told my friend that they were way too happy for this.  She agreed.  In tears I signed the paperwork.  My heart felt so broken but on the way back to work I started to feel like a weight was taken off my shoulders.  He received the papers this past week and he took it better than I thought.

Anyway, in these past two years I have discovered so much about myself.  I’ve become an avid hiker and kayaker.  My attitude is so much healthier and I have met some wonderful people.  I’ve also weeded out some negative ones as well.  It was time.  Perhaps beyond time.  I talked to my Dad this past week.  He told me he was proud of me and that it was time I dream BIG.  Sound advice.

I look forward to getting back to blogging and reading blogs.

End Of Summer

Taking a Hike

Here we are at the end of August already.  My gosh, how time flies.  This summer, so far, I’ve done a lot of hiking.  Two of the best trips took place in Sedona, with one being at the beginning of this month.  Years of exploring Sedona and I never knew of these hidden gems.  The most recent hike had us traveling along the red rock which opened up into a swimming hole.  People jumped off the cliffs into the water.  It was a very hot day so the water proved to be very refreshing.  Athletica has also joined the same hiking group that I belong to.  Here is a picture of the swimming hole:

The Rules Have Changed (Apparently)

Athletica was asked out on date recently by someone in our hiking group.  According to her it wasn’t a date, but being the great friend I am it didn’t stop me from razzing her about it.  I texted her to ask her how her ‘date’ was.  She responded with, “It’s not a date!”

“Okay,” I texted back.  “How was your ‘it’s-not-a-date’ date?”  No response (lol).  She told me later that it couldn’t possibly be a date because he had used a Groupon to pay for dinner.  So that’s how it is determined these days.  Guess the rules really have changed in the past decade.  Who knew?

Motorcycle Summer

 This summer has been one of the funnest ones on record.  Outside of the crazy heat I will be sad to see the seasons change.  I went with Matteo about a month ago to a biker bar to see a band play.  Let me tell you I saw some crazy stuff that night!  Very fun though.  I got in at 3:30am!

Its been interesting hanging with Matteo.  Back in Boston in the 1970s bikers there were either stared at in awe or were feared.  We had a biker bar down the street and I remember my father discouraging me from looking at them as we drove by.  I remember being on the freeway in the family station wagon and peering out the window in the most casual manner my 10 year old self could muster, at the couple on the Harley passing us.  A thin tan blonde woman sat on the back of the bike.  She wore leather pants with matching bikini top.  Her long hair was woven into two braids.  I don’t quite recall what the man looked like but most then had long hair and bushy beards.     Riding with Matteo has fished these memories to the surface.  Sometimes I’ll hear his bike pull up to the driveway and I’ll peek out the slats of the kitchen shutters at him, dressed in his bike garb.  I swear I lose my breath for a second.  Maybe it’s just my rebellious Catholic school girl nature.  I don’t know.  But where there is this tall, dark handsome man standing in my driveway next to a Harley, I can’t help myself.  (I can still hear my sister’s voice from that day on the freeway back in the 1970s: “Dad told you not to look”).  I started wearing a bandana around my face when we ride because Matteo has taken the windshield off the bike.  He reminded me that I should probably remove it before we entered a liquor store this past weekend.  I guess I would have made a few folks a little nervous.

Speaking of Matteo, he is off to New Mexico for the weekend for his highschool reunion.   He has become a great friend and sometimes when I’m with him I realize how many great experiences I’ve had since I let go of the past.  I’ve come to realize that letting go, as hard as it is or as scary as it may seem, often opens the doors for new things.   With that being said though, there are still things that need to be let go of.

Matteo’s bike:

   Florida/Race Bound

In a few weeks I will be flying to Florida for another fun trip with my best friend, Quasimomma .  We did this last year and had a blast.  I will fly into the gulf side and we will drive over to my aunt’s condo the next day.  The Smokester will be kenneled at her vet.  Not sure how I’ll handle Abby yet.

We are running in a 5k the first Saturday there.  We have always wanted to do a 5k together so I’m really ecstatic that our dream is coming into fruition.

Letting Go

Yesterday was not a good day.  I’ve been fighting with my ex for pretty much a week now.  While I haven’t mentioned it before, I will say that he has an addiction problem that he refuses to see.  It’s very frustrating.  We are still in contact although he is living really far away.  Sometimes I will call because I need an answer to something and I can hear in his voice that he is not sober.  I wish sometimes I could record his voice and play it back for him so he could hear how stupid he sounds.  When I ask him if he is drunk he will often lie and tell me he was asleep and that’s why his voice sounds that way.  It hit me the other night that I really do need to let go.  It’s not worth getting angry over anymore.  I’ve had a lot of anxiety over this the past couple of days and he is also scheduled to come back to Phoenix for a visit starting tonight.  We need to get together to talk about a few things.  It hit me today that we have been separated for almost a year.  He’s got until January 1st to get himself straight.  If not, then it’s time for me to move on for good.

I call this one Ruben:

So. . .I pretty much fought with him over text messaging on my way to work yesterday (I have the voice activated option so was not texting while driving).  I got into work to find the Internet down.  I looked up the number to our service provider from my phone.  I called and received that stupid recorded prompt which only told me to go their website for technical support.  Luckily I found another number and a man there was able to reset the modem from wherever he was.  I logged into email and found a scathing response from a client I had left a voice mail message for last week.  She had multiple changes to a project we are working on and each time she placed a change request she would promise it was the last one.  I simply asked her to sit with her documentation and outline all the changes in one fell swoop rather than piece mailing it.  I didn’t think I came off as angry or anything, but by her response I could tell she was ticked.  I did call her and straighten it out; however, it did get me thinking.
Was she angry because she felt that I was trying to rush her?  Or did I come off as threatening without even realizing it?  I’d have to say that my rapport with most clients is great.  Still though, I wonder at times if I come off a little abrasive.  I need to chat with my boss about this.

Last night I didn’t sleep well.  It was just one of those days.  Before work though I dedicate at least 30 minutes to prayer and meditation.  I say these out loud and as the words left my lips this morning I could feel such a release of tension.  Just a total letting go.  Letting go of the fight with the ex, letting go of the work stuff.  I felt lighter.

Camp Bound

Saturday morning I will pack up the SUV and head north to camp for another Labor Day weekend.  I won’t have the camper this year because the ex has the truck with him that I would usually use to pull it.  I did look into renting a U-Haul pick up truck but the connector for the brakes and lights isn’t correct.  Another place has the perfect truck that is affordable but the deposit is almost as much as my mortgage.  I just can’t risk that.  Looks like me, the pooch and the weasel are tenting it.  I’ve been so spoiled.  Hope we do okay.

And finally, more hiking. . .

  I’ve joined yet another hiking group and did a night hike Monday night.  It was really great fun and in addition to meeting some new people, one lady from Boston, too, we got to see some of the wild life that comes out at night in the desert.  Here is one of those said critters (yes, it’s a rattle snake): 

There’s another night hike tonight.  We’ll see what this trip yields.  :)

American Potato Salad Recipe

After spending years purchasing the store-bought stuff I finally decided to make my own potato salad.  The women in my family have always made marvelous potato salads from scratch.  My grandmother made the best.  Afterall, her family had been potato farmers.  I recall that she won a ribbon at a fair for her potatoes.  I don’t know why I have been reluctant to learn to make this.  Maybe it has just been too easy to purchase a plastic bucket at the grocery store because I had a coupon.  I found this recipe on Martha Stewart’s website.  It was quite enjoyable, not to mention easy to prepare.

 Potato salad combines wonderful textures and tastes if done right.  There’s something about the tang of vinegar and mayo, the crunch of the celery and onion, and then the star of the show, the potato itself!

 

 

 

 

Ingredients: 

-4 lbs russet potatoes (about 8)

-1 tblsp, plus 2 tsps of salt

-3 tblsps cider vinegar

-3 large eggs

-1/2 cup plus 2 tblsp of mayo

-1/2 tsp celery seed

-1 tsp dry mustard

-1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

-3 stalks celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice (3/4 cup)

-1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4 inch dice (1/2 cup)

-1 medium onion, finely diced (1/2 cup)

-10 cornichons, cut into 1/4 inch dice (1/4 cup) -(these are actually mini gherkin pickles –I had to look these up online because I had no idea what a cornichon was!  Leave it to Martha.  ;-)  )

-3 scallions, thinly sliced (1/2 cup)

-2 tblsp freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley

-1 tsp paprika

1.)Place potatoes in a large pot with enough water to cover by several inches.  Bring to a boil over high heat, add 1 tbsp of salt, and lower to a gently boil.  Cook until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, about 25 minutes.  Drain into a colander.  Using paper towels or gloves to protect your hands, peel potatoes, and cut into 1-inch dice while still hot.  Drizzle with vinegar; set aside. (I let the potatoes cool a bit and then ran them under cold water before handling –we don’t wear gloves in Arizona)

2.)Place eggs in a small pan with enough water to cover by 1 inch, and place over medium-high heat.  When water comes to a boil, turn off heat, cover, and let stand for 13 minutes.  Drain, and place in a bowl with cold water to cover.  When cold, peel eggs.  Chop 2 into 1/4-inch dice.  Slice the third egg into 1/4-inch thick rounds, and set aside for garnish.

3.)Combine diced eggs, mayo, celery seed, mustard, 2 tsps sale, and black pepper in a large bowl, and whisk to combine.  Add reserved potatoes to mayo mixture.  Add celery, red pepper, onion, cornichons (gherkins), scallions, and chopped parsley.  Stir to combine.  Chill for 30 minutes before serving.  Garnish with paprika and reserved hard-boiled egg rounds.

 

Serves 10 to 12.

Just as a note, I omitted the celery seed and the scallions and it still came out just fine.  Enjoy!