Archive for the 'Adventures and Fun Places' Category

It’s STILL My Dream

I want to be the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Do I need to add more to that? Is there any little girl who has seen The Nutcracker ballet and NOT wanted to be the Sugar Plum Fairy? Not for me Clara, or the Waltz of the Flowers or Chocolate or Coffee. I want to be the Sugar Plum Fairy.

We went to the ballet last night with my sister and her husband. I LOVED seeing all the little girls coming in their best “going to the ballet” outfits. There were 2 little sisters in pink tulle with (fake) fur stoles and their hair up in ballerina fashion. There was a little girl in black and red plaid with a huge red bow in her top-knot. The little girl in front of me in her lovely black velvet dress with a white kitty on the front spent most of the ballet sitting in her mother’s lap. And *I* alternated between directing the live orchestra and clutching my husband’s hand in excitement.

After the performance several young ladies were gathered in the lobby to pose for photos. That is, once they had been collected from pirouetting and attempting en pointe. 🙂 Oh you have no idea how I yearned to spin and twirl too. I should have dressed for it. When the young ladies were finally in line, they were all cradling their very own Nutcrackers. It was wonderful.

I’d not been to a live performance of the Nutcracker in about 20 years. I asked my son yesterday if he remembered the ballet and how the tree GROWS RIGHT ON THE STAGE!!!! He said “yep”. Ahem. Thank you thank you thank you to my husband for suggesting we go.

When I grow up I want to be the Sugar Plum Fairy.

An Unexpected Visitor

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We had a guest at lunchtime yesterday. We’re not really sure who she (he?) is, nor from whence she came, but we were delighted to see her and have her share (so to speak) her meal with us.

We live in the suburbs. Houses all around us, sidewalks, paved roads, house lots averaging 50’x100′. IMG_9809Yet living here we are surrounded by wildlife. We have opossums, raccoons, groundhogs and of course roving gangs of deer. (I fully expect one day to see a gang scene straight from ‘West Side Story’ between the herds.) In the last few years we’ve seen more and more crows. I’ve been told that the mountains to our north and west were the original rookery, but there has been so much development up there that they, like the deer, have been pushed out to us. I’m very familiar with turkey buzzards. I used to watch them from my office window. But I’ve never seen a falcon in the neighborhood before.

IMG_9815I was getting ready to heat up some soup when my husband began calling me urgently to come to him. I met him at the deck door and there she was – up on the privacy screen. She was gorgeous. I don’t know why I decided she was female – it might have been a male. Or maybe even transgender, I wouldn’t want to presume. But since I don’t know I’m going with female. I went to grab my phone to take pictures. We didn’t dare open the door so I had to aim around the grids in the door. I was sure she’d fly away any moment.

IMG_9800She continued dining, tearing at whatever tasty morsel she had up there. My husband is fairly certain it was a squirrel – he said he could see the fur. We went up to the 2nd floor and peered out from above. I stood on a chair so I could shoot over the screens. Drat my phone – I couldn’t not zoom in as much as I wanted. I kept clicking and clicking and clicking. She kept eating. I took a video. 🙂 She wasn’t going anywhere.

IMG_9778I went downstairs and to the dining room window. Again I stood on a chair to get above the screen. I think that at times she may have heard me, or saw some movement through the window, but other than staring at the window, she didn’t seem bothered. I clicked and clicked and clicked.

IMG_9820Finally I realized my pictures weren’t getting any better or any different than the 264 pictures I already had and I stopped. I watched her out the deck door for a bit and then I went back to getting tasks done. At one point I glimpsed a huge wing span and looked. She was gone.

IMG_9833We have been trying to identify her. My husband says she was larger than a red tail hawk. She’s smaller than a turkey buzzard. She’s bigger than a falcon we saw in Orlando. (That’s a great story – the falcon looked a trifle injured. It was hiding UNDER a parked car, because there were 3 crows surrounding the car. I’m fairly certain that somewhere in my phone I have those pictures too.)

IMG_9834I thought, from the various pictures online, that she could have been a peregrine falcon. My husband thinks she’s a gyrfalcon.

IMG_9855After reading about their respective sizes I think he may be correct. If a peregrine is near to crow size, this bird was definitely bigger than a crow. We are both fairly certain that this bird could have taken our cats, it was that impressive.

Whatever she is, she was gorgeous, and we are so glad that we had the chance to meet her.

Almost Like Old Times

If you’ve read this blog from its inception, you know it began as a chronicle of my adventures in Second Life. Although I still maintain my (premium) account, I’ve not logged in for well over a year, maybe even longer than that. IMG_9753But for several years Friday night meant hanging about in SL, and listening to live music. I could always count on hearing Komuso Tokugawa, Von Johin, Taunter Goodnight, Keeba Tammas, Euterpe Queller, and Noma Falta. I loved them all but 2 of my best buds were friends with Noma. Friday nights would find me hanging with them for an hour, rocking out with Noma, who covered a lot of the strong women rockers, with a lot of Melissa Etheridge’s work. I loved my Friday nights filled with music, whether the live performances or hearing my favorite DJ Calli spin the tunes.

IMG_9745It’s been a very long time, as I said, and not only do I not get inworld anymore, I rarely get out for live music in the RL (is that outworld?). When my husband asked me a few weeks ago if I’d like to hear Melissa Etheridge I couldn’t say YES fast enough. Last night was Melissa-night.

We headed out for dinner in town first. We love catching an easy meal at the bar of one of the local restaurants. We love the bar (I mean the physical tangible wood, shape, look), the bartender (we’re on our 2nd bartender there), and the bar menu. I’m less thrilled with the dinner menu – the chef is enamored of pork in all forms and I don’t eat treyf. We were in luck all night long. There was room in the parking garage with a spot right near the exit door we needed. We walked to the restaurant and it wasn’t too cold nor was it raining. Given the weather lately, that was extremely lucky. There were seats at the bar (often come the holiday season the bar is full). IMG_9744When I told Matt (the bartender) I wanted something that would be warm and comforting he mentioned they had hot mulled red wine. PERFECT!!! My husband and I both ordered our favorite selections and sipped our drinks, chatted with each other, with Matt and had a great dinner.

We headed up to the theater and although it seemed like it might start raining, it stopped after just a very light sprinkle. We were warmed up from our meal so I have no idea if it was cold or not. *grin* Funny thing happened as I went through the bag check. The usher was looking in my bag and saw my lip gloss (really a lip moisturizer). She saw the brand name and got all excited saying she had wanted to try that brand, how did I like it? *laughing* So I stood there discussing cosmetics with her before being waved on through.

IMG_9757Perhaps my memory is faulty, but I seem to remember that when someone went to a concert there was no food or drink allowed in the theater, people listened to the performance and being there was about enjoying the performance, NOT about having conversations and wandering all over the theater. Times have changed. I admit I like being able to take a drink to my seat. But I noticed the gentleman in front of me reading recipes on his cell phone (I was standing, he was sitting and I happened to glance down). Really? Melissa is rocking the joint and you’re reading your cell phone?

I’m old enough to remember folks lighting cigarette lighters or matches as appreciation for the artist. IMG_9766I do not find folks holding up their cell phones to shine that light to be anywhere near as intimate and compelling as the fire. 🙂 I also marvel at the people who spent most of the night filming Melissa instead of putting down the phone and WATCHING her DIRECTLY and moving to the music.

It was a great night, don’t mistake me. Melissa has such energy, such passion up there. As my husband said on our way out “she has energy like Bruce” and I agreed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone who has Bruce’s energy but she may have come the closest. Oh really, you need me to tell you who BRUCE is??? Shame on you.

But there I was, rocking out to Melissa Etheridge on a Friday night. It was like SL, but better. 🙂

The Yearly Pilgrimage

Every year my husband and I take at least one drive up to the Delaware Water Gap and then meander our way home. Sometimes we do it in the spring, but usually we do it in the fall. Sometimes we do it both seasons, now that we have the convertible. 🙂 This past weekend was our pilgrimage. Although it was bright and sunny, it was also in the 40s with wind. We decided to leave the top UP on the car.

My husband loaded the back seat with CDs: Blind Faith, John Mayall, Manassas and more of the same ilk. I confess – *I* thought we’d listen to football. I was wrong. 🙂 I didn’t even get to check scores until after we’d been driving for nearly 3 hours.

Driving with my husband is a lot like driving with Honour. Neither of them will take pictures out the window for me and neither of them wants to stop anywhere. IMG_9569I thought we should not cross the river at the Gap but drive to Belvidere. I’m fairly certain we’ve never been to Belvidere. And there is a free bridge in Belvidere that we could have taken across to Pennsylvania. I’m all about free bridges (other than Rt 80 right through the Gap), which is why I refuse to take the Rt 202 bridge. There are so many cool little towns on both sides of the river with great (old, small, FREE) bridges.

But my husband had our itinerary planned before we ever left the house, so we crossed at the Gap and meandered down along the river on Rt 611 and Rt 32, until we took the bridge to Stockton. Those of you who know me as Ms Leadfoot would undoubtedly have been shocked to see me pulling off the road to let cars that had accumulated behind me go by. We really were meandering. Fiesta was a bit annoyed, but ultimately even she relaxed and enjoyed watching the scenery.

The painting on the overpass is in Easton. I hung out the window while I was stopped at the red light. One of these days I’ll let someone else drive (hah) so I can also get a picture of the donkeys at the narrow end of the abutment.

My husband’s goal was dinner in a lovely restaurant in Ewing, NJ – Erini’s. We’d eaten there a few weeks ago with friends and I had to agree it was a great place for dinner, even if we had NOT been driving for 4.5 hours. Our waiter Matt did an excellent job. A lovely meal. When we came out to go to the car, the moon was gorgeous in the clear night sky. I took a picture, figuring there was no way this would come out as anything but a big blur. I was happy to be wrong. Into the car for another hour of driving. I suppose for some that much driving would be a horrible time, but we do enjoy our pilgrimage.
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Flora and Food

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IMG_8864My son is settled in Tempe, and my renovations have leapt forward. I do have just a bit more to share about Tempe before returning to the kitchen, although food is on my mind.

There is soooooo much good food in Tempe!!! My first meal was at Snooze – an A.M. Eatery. It was the perfect post-flight meal. Lox, cream cheese and artisan bread, and a sparkling strawberry mimosa. We even ate outside because the terrace was lined with misters to cool the air. Most of the upscale outside spots had misters. Definitely not tolerable without misters and huge umbrellas for shade.

After that it was a combination of simply finding whatever sounded good or heading for specific restaurants. There are so many choices available – pretty much any kind of cuisine you can imagine and many you might not. There were fusions of Mexican/Asian and Mexican/everything else. Truly a foodie’s paradise. IMG_8824We had yummy Thai food for dinner my first night and it was the perfect meal for such a long day.

The next morning I woke up early and decided to plan out part of our day. I found what sounded like a great restaurant 5 minutes from the hotel – Biscuits. Absolutely fabulous biscuits and everything else was tasty as well. The service was wonderful and warm. That night we treated ourselves to a “known” experience by heading up to Tommy Bahama restaurant in Scottsdale. TB had always been one of our meals when I went down to Florida. Friday breakfast was back to Biscuits because it was too good not to do it again.

IMG_8892We spent a lot of Friday meeting people and looking at places. We were in downtown Tempe and we thought we’d just walk a bit and see what looked good. We ended up at Rula Bula, which was fantastic. It’s an Irish pub and has all the traditional food and drink. I indulged in a traditional Pimms cup. 🙂 Once again the atmosphere was warm and upbeat and the waitstaff was great. Saturday morning we headed back to downtown Tempe to try somewhere new for breakfast, even though we’d no complaints about Biscuits. It simply seemed we OUGHT to be trying new things. We went back to downtown Tempe for First Watch. My son had some fabulous egg concoction. I’m very boring in my breakfast choices but what I remember about that breakfast was the phenomenal bread and the delicious coffee, and the helpful, pleasant waitress.

IMG_8886We ran MORE errands on Saturday and didn’t have time to eat until nearly 2:30p. We thought we’d try downtown Tempe again but once we saw Rula Bula we knew that was the place for us. We sat at the bar and chatted with the bartender, Vinny. Vinny told us his views on where we should be looking for apartments, and other key things to know about the area. He was of the opinion that the room we’d just seen before lunch was in a great location and would be a great choice. We were coming to that conclusion ourselves. As we sat there chatting, my son got a text that one of those 2 available rooms had just been taken. He texted back that he would take the other, even though we had one more meet-up to do that day. IMG_8845We made arrangements to do the paperwork Sunday morning. (That would be after the night in the inferno of a hotel room.) We stopped for dinner at an Indian restaurant, the Curry Corner.We found it using search and it was 10 minutes from our location. Once again we had a tasty, filling meal. I’m beginning to think that there is NO bad food in Tempe area. 🙂

Sunday morning we fled the hotel, did the room rental paperwork and went back to Snooze. Wow, does that place get crowded for Sunday brunch! Especially since school was going to be starting in a week or so. They have a seating concept I’ve not encountered before: open seating. This was a high table with stools, with seats for 8. There were 6 people there already (3 groups of 2).We took the last 2 seats, facing each other. It was like eating at a bar, instead of sitting at a private table. It was fine, and it meant we got seated immediately instead of a 40 minutes wait. Worked for us. 🙂

IMG_8830As we drove about and around Tempe, I made my son stop the car so I could take pictures of flowers and trees and cacti. Unlike some with whom I’ve traveled, he was very tolerant and WOULD pull over and indulge my attempts at being a photographer. The cactus with the face is only a few houses away from his new lodgings. We cruised the neighborhood noticing the artistic touches on many of the houses. I’m not sure how comfortable that flamingo can be in the desert, but there it is. I took photos of the iron work art on the houses as well. I kept waiting for a police car to come by and check out the “suspicious car, occupants taking photos of residences”.

IMG_8865I took many photos of things that appealed, only to deny them a place in this blog. When I looked at what else was in the picture, I’d see green grass. I consider growing grass in this area to be a ridiculous (or even, perhaps, obscene) waste of water and effort. Since no one has asked my opinion on this matter, I am indulging in my own private rebellion by refusing to display grass. 🙂 Sunday night we spent at the hotel, as mentioned in a prior post. Monday we treated ourselves to a fine steak dinner at The Keg Steakhouse – a reward for 1st day of work for him and birthday for me. 🙂

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Leaving. Not Leaving. Leaving. Not….

Well. This has been an eventful week. The walls are spackled and sanded, and the painter has begun priming the walls and painting the ceiling. My understanding is that he will be done sometime on Saturday. I have no pictures to share, however, as I am not there. I am in Arizona. Lucky and glad to be here, too!

IMG_8791WHY Arizona in July??? Because my son has gotten a new job here in Tempe. He and a friend took a week to drive from Orlando, FL to Tempe. The friend flew out on Wednesday and I flew in to help with house/room hunting. The flying-in process was messed up and annoying but did work out ultimately. I think in the long run I may even have come out ahead.

You may have gotten the impression that at times I decide I neeeeeeeed to be treated as a princess. *grin* Flying is one of those times. I booked 1st class tickets using 2 different airlines so that I would have the most comfortable accommodation AND the most convenient flight times and fly non-stop. Odd as it may sound to you, the convenient fly-to-Phoenix time involved getting up at 4:00 am to get to the airport for the 5+ hour flight. I was just shutting down my applications in preparation for sleep when I received a text message: your AA flight is cancelled.

IMG_8793Of course I stressed out immediately. My husband had already gone to bed because he, too had to get up at 4 to take me to the airport. Immediately after the text about the cancelled flight I got a text that I had been re-booked to leave 6.5 hours later, from a different (inconvenient) airport with a stop in St. Louis. There was no way that would work for me. I knew that UA, which I was using to fly home, left EWR 45 minutes earlier than AA. I called UA to see if they could modify my flight to include flying to Phoenix. They were happy to sell me a 1st class ticket for only $1500. Ummm, no. She recommended I call AA and see if they could put me on the UA flight.

I called AA. I chatted with a pleasant man named Michael. As we talked, about changing my flight to UA (where he claimed he saw no seats despite the fact that *I* could see that 1st class seat still) he told me my flight was reinstated. I was again leaving on my AA non-stop flight to Phoenix at 6:45 am. I didn’t get any text message about this, nor did I get an email. He assured me that I was indeed on that flight, but my boarding pass was not good anymore – I’d need a new one. What that SOB failed to mention was that while I was reinstated on the flight, all my seat information had been wiped. Poorly played, American Airlines, poorly played.

IMG_8827When I got to the airport, and printed my boarding pass, it said I had no seat assignment. Please keep in mind I’d paid over $300 extra to be in 1st class. I hate to sound money-oriented or cheap but that is a significant expenditure. I’m going to summarize here but keep in mind I had to live this for over an hour, with many, many, many other unhappy people.

When I got to the boarding gate, and went for my seat, they offered me a middle seat all the way in the back of coach. I said no way, I paid over $600 for 1st class, where the heck is my seat?? They explained that when the flight was cancelled, all that information was lost. I said that nice Michael had assured me I was okay. They said well maybe he’d fixed everything but they claimed that the flight had been cancelled and reinstated several times overnight. In the end, the 6:45 am flight was ON, BUT the 10:15 am flight was cancelled, and all of THOSE people were also on the 6:45 flight now, and 1st class was full. I said there is no way this is acceptable. They would not refund the price differential. They offered me $200 voucher as compensation BUT because the flight was now oversold, they’d offer me $500 voucher to not fly. I said are you out of your minds? Either put me in first class or refund the entire differential. They said – how about a $1000 voucher to give up your seat and we will put you on a non-stop leaving at 9:00 am?

IMG_8806My son will now live in Tempe, AZ. There will now be family traffic between EWR and PHX. As long as I bought the ticket for my son (in his name), I could use my voucher for it. $1000 would buy either a lot of trips for him in coach, or a round-trip for me in 1st (he’s not a princess *grin*). I did not have to be in Phoenix at a specific time. Although they did not have a 1st class seat for me on the 9 am flight, I decided that this was actually a good deal and I accepted it. I watched as that plane was crammed full, out of overhead bin space, every seat taken. I accepted my new boarding pass and my voucher, thinking I was well off that plane. I texted my son and gave him the new flight information and wandered off to find some coffee and breakfast.

While I was eating breakfast and relaxing, I got a text message. The 6:45 am flight (which I was no longer on, remember) was not leaving at 6:45 am but now leaving at 7:45 am. I thought – those poor people, stuck on that plane. A little later I got another text. The 6:45 flight was now leaving at 9 am. Omg, I thought, are they STILL stuck on that plane??? I was quite relieved to be sipping coffee in the restaurant with lots of room to either side of me.

IMG_8829After breakfast I wandered back to the boarding gate where I saw scores of familiar looking people, and bins filled with water and juice bottles. Yes, it was the 6:45 am flight. I began chatting with some of them and it turned out that the pilot had never made it to the airport – they were waiting for a new crew. The night before we’d had torrential rain in NJ. Apparently the pilot was on Rt 80 on his way to the airport when they closed down that interstate due to flooding. He couldn’t move forward, he couldn’t get off, he couldn’t get to the airport.

Again I laughed to myself and thought I’m so glad I’m NOT on this flight. They loaded up the plane again and as I sat there, waiting to see the plane leave, I heard the attendants paging “Passenger Heliosense, Passenger Heliosense, please come to the desk”. Heliosense is fairly common name around these parts but I went up to the desk and said, am I the Heliosense you are paging? They said: Ahuva? I said yes. They said, we can put you on this plane. It was the same young man I’d talked to before. IMG_8835I said I am NOT getting in the back of coach in a middle seat. They assured me that I was in a window seat, the first row behind 1st class, and I would keep my $1000 voucher and my carryon could be stored in an overhead bin. This was again a decent offer so I accepted and texted my son again with changed information.

The attendant walked me down to the plane and led me on. My overhead bag was placed in a bin in 1st class. *grin* My bag knows how to travel. I went to row 7 but….. it was a middle seat. Apparently the couple in the middle and aisle seats had decided that the window person wasn’t coming and he’d moved over. The whole plane was now waiting on me to sit down so I did – in the middle seat. But I performed my own rebellion – I kept my OTHER bag with me, despite not having a seat under which I could store it. It was gray, my pants were gray, I tucked it behind my legs and hoped no one would notice or if they did, they’d ignore it. And that’s how it worked out.

The flight was not bad, I had plenty of room since there was no row ahead of us, the couple both slept, each slumped to the side of their seat AWAY from me. I arrived in PHX around 11:15, only 2 hours later than originally planned.

I went outside to wait for my son to get me and …… OMG. It is HOT here. I love heat, I love sun, I am a sun worshipper (HELIOSENSE – get it????) but oh my. It was 116 degrees F. I have been in the Negev and the Sinai desserts and I do not believe I have EVER felt heat like this. But the sky was clear and there were MOUNTAINS, and I was in PHX AND I have a $1000 voucher to try this again and hope it’s less eventful. 🙂 I’ll leave this story here for now, but I warn you…. the saga continues with the hotel……

(Apologies for the poor photos – many of them were taken from a moving car. Although my son is better than Honour at stopping for photos, sometimes we did have to keep moving.)

A Day at the Beach

IMG_8581Literally. There’s been a lot happening with renovation and personal issues. I’ve started several blogs but have been too crazed to finish and post. The short summary is that I had some minor surgery on Friday – part of the being crazed and then being totally exhausted. My niece, operating from her own POV and life (do other people REALLY have lives that do not center on ME???? 🙂 ) contacted me and her mom (my sister) and suggested a beach day. The Jersey shore is my idea of heaven on earth so I “let” them “twist my arm”. We piled into the convertible and headed down the shore. *grin* Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” blasting from the speakers, passengers singing along loudly:
“Woah, we’re half way there
Woah, livin’ on a prayer
Take my hand, we’ll make it I swear
Woah, livin’ on a prayer”

I said to my sister: We’re being filmed right now. We must be in a movie or a commercial. 🙂

We are spoiled Jersey Girls – we NEVER go down the shore on the weekend – we always take off during the week. view of NY and shipsSo we were astounded at the backup to get into Sandy Hook. It must have been over 30 minutes to go those 2 miles. Of course I did NOT wait there. 🙂 And NO, I did NOT line cut right at the end. I headed south past the exit, found a place to turn around and come back from that direction. Much faster. We found a great parking spot, a great blanket spot. The weather was perfect, the neighbors were orderly, quiet, no cigarettes, no music, no screaming. It was all perfect beach sounds of wind, surf, seagulls, and happy people. Only 2 sounds marred the perfection. The first was a drone but mercifully it only went by twice. NOT a beach sound. The 2nd was the sound of the group next to us with their battery-operated blender (against park rules, btw). But everytime they crushed that ice, omg, I wanted to go over and make friends. 🙂 I’d consider getting one but I don’t want to have to shlepp the ice.

Anyway – I’m sharing my day of healing and escape with you. I don’t have a premium account so I can’t upload the video I made just for you.

Renovation recording will resume.

view from my blanket


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