Archive for the 'RL happenings' Category

The Price of Laziness

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A bit hard to see out this windshield

I really hate having to deal with a snow-covered car in the winter. It’s bad enough having to get up on a schedule (instead of sleeping until whenever I wake up), bad enough having to pack everything that I will need for my too hot/cold, no coffee, no decent snacks, no decent cafeteria day in the office, but to then spend time cleaning the car off makes me long for a different life. I have yet to clear a snow-covered car without wearing half of the snow myself or knocking it onto the driver’s seat when I open the door. Removing snow is NOT my super power. So that’s why I insist on being able to garage my car during the winter months. I keep one half of my ostensible 2-car garage cleared for a car. I pay attention to the weather reports and will make sure the car IS in the garage when precipitation is expected. It’s not that easy to get the car into the garage, however. If I pull the car in front first, I can’t get out of the car – the driver’s door is up against the wall. I back the car in, tucking it as far to the left and rear as possible, so that there is plenty of room to open my door and the back door on the driver’s side to remove any packages. Last night when I got home from yoga I was soooo tired. Although I do seem to be back to full health, I don’t have much yet in the way of reserves. I considered backing the car down the LONG driveway and into the garage and decided against it. No snow or rain in the forecast for today. Even though I knew I’d be heading into the office in the morning I figured there wouldn’t be any problem. As you can see by the photos, I was wrong. 😦 The good news is that most of that frost came right off – it wasn’t really ice. The other news is that I am backing that car into the garage tonight!!!!!

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At least it came right off without much effort

I Am Not A Moderate

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Superstition Mountains

That statement probably doesn’t surprise some people who know me, it may surprise others. I used to swing on an extreme emotional pendulum when I was much younger. Somewhere over the years I did learn moderation and to try to skirt too much extremism. But by golly I DID hike up to Devil’s Bridge back in June and that hike is rated moderate by the USDA Forest Service. Yes, I was terrified during the steep ascent and descent, and frozen in fear at the top, but I got there and back. So when I knew I was heading back to Phoenix in September, I thought that I could handle hikes rated ‘easy’ or ‘moderate’. I’ve begun following “Hike Phoenix”, a blog about hiking in Arizona. I read several of her suggested hikes and the Peralta Trail up to Fremont Saddle sounded beautiful and do-able. She rated it ‘moderate’ and said it would take approximately 2.5 hours to hike 5 miles. I thought about that and figured it would probably be more like 4 hours for me, but if we went slow and steady I would be okay. My son agreed with my selection. We packed up water, and sun screen, and some light snacks and headed up the highway.

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Getting closer – left the highway

I make my son crazy when we are driving out there. The same way I make Honour crazy. I am oooo’ing and ahhhh’ing at the scenery and trying to take photos through the windshield and through the side windows and begging him to drive more slowly and oh oh just slow up over there! We headed up the highway and soon enough we could see the Superstition Mountains. Once again we were probably starting out later in the day than most serious hikers, but we’d already proven to ourselves that we carry sufficient water and we’re not foolish about over-staying.

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Made it!!

You turn off the paved highway onto a fairly well-packed dirt road. We traveled that for awhile, and we did see other cars. We also saw incredible scenery so it did take us awhile to make progress since I kept insisting we stop the car so I could take ‘just one shot’. We finally made it to the trail head at about 1 pm or so. We reapplied our sun screen, shaded the inside of the car best as possible, drank some water, and took photos of the sign boards. I always figure that if nothing else my phone can serve as a map should we need it. We were going to do Trail 102 – up to Fremont Saddle and then back the way we came. You are probably much wiser and more observant than I and you might see what I did not. We finally stepped out a little after 1:00 pm.

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Notice the Peralta trailhead marked at the bottom, on the left, Trail 102 leading up from there


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I really need to have a better understanding of what these charts told me

It was gorgeous. We met some other hikers – both heading out and coming back. I was envious of the young man who passed us – he had not one but TWO walking sticks. I said to my son that we needed to invest in some walking sticks for ourselves. It wasn’t warm, but not unduly hot. Sunny but there were shady spots on the trail. I took pictures of course. I figured we had 4 hours total. We’d get as far as we could in 2 hours and then turn back, even if we hadn’t made it to the saddle. That saddle was beginning to look quite a ways away.

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On the Peralta Trail

We’d been walking 10 minutes and I thought – I need to rest. I stopped, sipped some water, felt my pulse calm. I started up. I was beginning to feel stressed. My knees were fine (they have been problematic in the past). My foot was good too – I wasn’t feeling insecure in my footing, nothing hurt. And yet – I couldn’t seem to keep pushing on. Every 10 minutes I needed to stop and get my breath. My son is wonderfully patient. He never gives me a hard time about “let’s get going” or “you can do this”. He is supportive and says we’ll take it at whatever works for you. We’d been heading up for probably 30 minutes by now. I didn’t feel like we’d gotten anywhere but I also didn’t feel like I could keep going. By this time I was saying to myself that we would just go as far as we could go in an hour and then turn back.
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We met people coming down the trail from the saddle. 3 young women and their dog. They were fairly exhausted. When they met us they were saying “oh my aren’t we at the bottom yet?” They told us it was much more strenuous ahead, that it was a stiff climb, upwards, always upwards. In their opinion it wasn’t going to be worth it to me to keep trying to get up there because beautiful as it was, it was a beautiful view right where we were there.
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It was already after 2pm. I dreaded going any farther up the trail. I might have been petrified with fear on Devil’s Bridge, but I never doubted that I could get there or back. I was starting to fear that I wasn’t even going to be able to make it back to the car once I decided to turn back here. I simply could not get enough air. Nothing hurt, it wasn’t too hot, I just could not get enough air to breathe. New Jersey girl – meet the mountain elevations!
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I looked at my son and said “I can’t do this. I’m very sorry but I don’t think I can go up any higher. I’m not having fun. It’s not worth it to me. If I push myself to keep going I’m afraid I won’t be able to get back home.” He said it was my call and he was fine with turning around right there and heading back to the car. So we did.
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I made it just over 60 minutes on that trail – basically 30 minutes up with lots of resting, 30 minutes back. It’s beautiful. I’d love to do it some day. I was extremely disappointed. Obviously walking for 4 miles through the Rutgers Ecological Preserve is NOTHING like walking in the mountains of Arizona. 🙂 There is a HUGE difference between walking about and walking UP. If we’re talking walking ABOUT, hey, I can DO moderate. If we’re talking UP, I’m not a moderate. *grin*
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This little guy scampered along with us for quite a bit of the trip back down to the car

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final backward look

If It Was Good Enough For Marilyn

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The center courtyard, Piestewa Peak in the background, fake ivy-covered construction wall cutting across the green

Although I absolutely LOVED my time at The Boulders in June, when I headed to Phoenix in September I wanted to stay a bit closer to my son’s house. Remembering the tips I got from my SuperShuttle drivers, I checked to see if I could get a room at the Arizona Biltmore. I remembered them telling me that the Biltmore had Marilyn Monroe’s FAVORITE pool. It is a historical site as well, with the architecture and grounds designed by Albert Chase McArthur, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright (who consulted on the design). I could indeed, and there was even a “special” rate. Keep in mind that this ‘special’ rate was more than half again as much as I paid per night for The Boulders. That fact will become important in the telling. Although it was a bit more than I’d hoped, it was for fewer nights so I figured it would all be fine.

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sitting in the outdoor restaurant, enjoying the view

Let me say that the grounds are GORGEOUS! The architecture is stunning. All the people working there (with one exception) were lovely, friendly and helpful. The pools are stunning. The views are sensational. Every grouping of rooms has its own pool and gardens and signature. I was staying in the Terrace Court section of the resort. There are many maps out there on the internet showing the grounds of the resort. I was given one when I checked in as well. It would have been helpful to have familiarized myself very carefully with the aerial view right from the start. I didn’t and maybe it would have helped, but maybe nothing would have helped. Anyway, the Terrace Court was pretty much as far from the check-in desk as you could be and still be on the grounds. 🙂 (That is a slight exaggeration but not a complete fabrication.) Even so – it wasn’t far. Once I understood the layout, and once I found my shortcut, it looks farther from things than it is.

left walkway to Terrace Court

the LEFT walkway to Terrace Court. Construction on the right, Piestewa in the background

I got in around 1pm Arizona time, 4pm ET. I wanted to get to my room, have something cold to drink, maybe a small nosh to eat, and relax. I was only carrying my bag and my rolling carry-on luggage – not too much to handle on my own. The sweet young thing at the check-in desk gave me a map and told me to head to the right once I was outside, and then continue bearing left to get to the Terrace Court. That would have worked. But unbeknownst to the check-in clerk, the grounds on Friday afternoon no longer resembled the grounds on Thursday night. They have begun digging up the gardens in the center of the grounds. At the point where I should have headed left, there was a construction wall up. I kept heading straight. I ended up in Ocatilla. I knew I was not in the right place but I really didn’t know how to get to where I needed to be. The ground crew and room staff were very concerned, and wanted to help but, alas, they did not speak English and my Spanish was not up to this task. (Hola Paco, Como esta usted? really doesn’t get you very far in most day-to-day conversations.) I could tell by their reactions that I was nowhere near where I should be. I backtracked and found a walkway that led left but it appeared to end at a wall. I figured I had nothing left to lose so I walked that way. Lo and behold – there was a walkway to the right, along the construction wall. I followed that and made it to my room. I was hot and cranky at this point. All I wanted was to relax.

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Does it look like a through-way to YOU?

I always check out my room before I unpack – bathroom, safe, doors, locks. I couldn’t lock the balcony door. I’m not stupid nor am I incompetent. I was pretty sure the door was broken. I called to the front desk. They assured me they would send someone to help me with the door. Indeed, it was probably only about 10 minutes or so before 2 men came to help me with the door. It took them only 5 minutes to realize they could not help me – the door was indeed broken and they’d need to drill out the entire lock mechanism. They called down to the front desk and explained that I should be given a new room. So I sat and waited for the next person to come help me.

Terrace Court courtyard from above

Terrace Court courtyard from above

This was Pete from the bell staff. Pete is a star. He alone made up for all that happened so far and that would happen after. He was upbeat, funny, helpful. We walked down the hall to another room. We went in, checked the balcony door. He headed out and I walked into the bathroom. Where there was water running. Loudly. Except – there was no water running. Just the sound of water gushing down. I ran to the door and shouted down the hallway to Pete, who was still in sight. He came back. He heard the water. He suggested that it was the people above me taking a shower. I said, possibly, except we are on the top floor and there is no one above me. He acknowledged this and we both looked around trying to figure out where the water might be. I said “this is not going to work for me.” He said, not a problem, we’ll get you another room. I’ll be right back.

Terrace Court courtyard

Terrace Court courtyard

Ooooookay. So much for kicking off my shoes and making a cold drink and eating a nosh. Another 10-15 minutes and Pete returned. He led me to a room on the other side of the building. The first 2 rooms had views of the interior grounds, which are lovely, but under construction, whereas this third room had a view of Piestewa Peak. It also had a view of roofs and roads but Piestewa is a magnificent sight, and exactly the kind of thing I WANT on my vacation balcony. Pete and I checked every door. We turned on the shower, we turned on the bath. We turned off the bath and the shower. We flushed the toilet. We hardly dared to look at each other. I went to try the room safe. It was locked. A room safe should be left open when the previous occupants leave. Pete called for security, because locked room safes were beyond his authority. At this point we could do nothing but laugh. I mean really??? For what I’m paying per night for this fabled hotel and nothing in the plant is maintained properly??? I told Pete he owed me a drink and that if I had to change rooms AGAIN he was going to owe me chocolate and flowers. He smiled triumphantly and said “I’m on top of this” and handed me two drink vouchers.

terrace court pool

terrace court pool

Two security men arrived, one of whom it turned out was the head of security. They fiddled with the safe. Nothing. They fiddled more. And again. Finally AHAH!!! The safe OPENED!! It was, of course, empty. So with all 3 men watching me, I locked the safe, and then reopened the safe successfully. Finally!!! It only took 3 hours to get me a room where everything worked. I waved goodbye to my entourage and finally unpacked. I locked the door with a do-not-disturb on the knob, changed my cloths, grabbed my snack and went out onto the balcony to stare at Piestewa and read my book.

Balcony view of Piestewa Peak

View from the balcony – Piestewa Peak

My son was joining me after work. I told him I would meet him in the lobby because I didn’t think he would EVER find his way to the room, given all the wrong turns I took, especially because it would be after dark by the time he came. He called to tell me he’d arrived and that he’d just given the car to the valet to park, because he didn’t feel like dealing with finding the self-park garage. I met him in the lobby and escorted him back to the room with only one wrong turn on the way. It was dark, and that walkway that appeared to end in a wall was tricky to see.

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I loved the shadows

We were both very tired. We knew we wanted to head out hiking the next day, and we had plans for eating out to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, so we thought we’d simply take advantage of our free drink vouchers and eat in the hotel, although neither of us found the menu all that appetizing. We found our way to the outdoor restaurant with no problems. We had a pick of tables. We sat. And waited. A hostess came by and apologized and said things were busy and gave us menus and took our drink orders. That was the point when we noticed our drink vouchers were for “up to $15/drink” and most of the drinks were over $20. Seriously? I no longer remember every single detail (thank goodness for that) but dinner was a flop. Our waiter, when he finally showed, was terrible. Service was worse. We needed water desperately and I got up to try to tackle someone somewhere to give us water. On my search I ran into one of the security men from the safe episode. He promised to get us water. When our check finally showed up, I had my son figure the tip and bill it to the room. We were both disgusted with the whole meal and with everything up to that point. As we started away I asked if the drink vouchers had been applied. No, they had not. We turned and went back and I cornered the waiter. I explained about our drink vouchers, that the hostess had taken them, but that they should be applied. He not only applied the vouchers but he comp’d us the drinks completely. Honestly – at that point it had reached the point for us of ‘well yeah you’d better comp us’.

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Room Service

We headed back to the room. I HAD laid down a trail of breadcrumbs so we could find our way back but it was very dark at this point and there were NO LIGHTS along the construction wall. We took that misleading walk to the wall and turned right into the dark and were nearly run over by the room service bicycle. Thank goodness he saw us because we weren’t expecting him. We got back to the room totally astounded at the terrible grounds conditions and the crummy meal. The room was nice but we were both a bit disgruntled when we went to sleep.

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Paradise Pool (early in the morning, before the crowds)

The next morning we wanted to get a relatively early start so we could have breakfast before we headed out for a hike. I picked up the phone to call the valet to have the car readied. No dial tone. I switched to another line. No dial tone. THE PHONE DIDN’T WORK!!!! Pete and I had not thought to check THAT! At that point I thought this is simply the pits. I’m paying nearly twice for this room for what I paid in The Boulders, where everything was exquisite. This is a fabled historic ballyhooed hotel and NOTHING WORKS. We headed to the front desk. My son went to get his car and I headed for the concierge. I went through the entire litany of misery. I figured they owed me something at this point. Indeed, they did end up comp’ing me an entire night stay. Part of me feels they should have been sending fruit trays and flowers to us as well but I suppose I shouldn’t be greedy.

paradise pool from the cabana

Paradise pool seen from the cabana

As I was talking to the concierge my son came up. Pete had guessed that he was my son and asked him if I had gotten the chocolates that Pete had sent me. My son, who had seen a candy bar I’d brought with me, said yes. When my son relayed this whole story I went out to Pete and said “Chocolates? You sent me chocolates? I never got them.” He said “Not only did I send you chocolates but I sent you a cupcake as well!” Jumping to the end of THAT story, because I had a do not disturb on my door and because my phone was out of order, room service had no way to tell me that they wanted to make a delivery. For the want of a phone the cupcake was lost. Needless to say, when we returned later that day we had both chocolates and cupcake in the room. AND a working phone.

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The view from the balcony walkway around the courtyard

From Saturday night on I have no complaints about the hotel. Things worked as expected. They FINALLY put up signs directing people around the construction so that you could find Terrace Courts without having to use a GPS. They also mounted lights all along the construction walls so that you could see oncoming traffic in the narrow walkway. What we also realized in the daylight was that had we turned LEFT once we were outside and bore to the RIGHT around the gardens, we’d have gotten to Terrace Court with no problem. They like to send you to the RIGHT because all of the stores are on that side. 🙂 We ended up using the left walk for the rest of our stay.

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Look! A sign AND Lights!!

On Sunday I rented us a cabana for the day. We made a run to the local Walgreens after breakfast and I made sure we had extension cords so we could power all of our electronics while we were at the pool. (My son wasn’t really on vacation – he had work he had to be doing. While I was lounging in the refreshing water and napping on the chaise, he was working away at the table.) The pool food and service was wonderful – as far from our Friday night experience as possible. The cabanas at the Orlando Hilton give you more food and drink, but the Arizona Biltmore cabana has its own bathroom. 🙂 That IS a plus.

Terrace court pool in the afternoon sun

Terrace court in the afternoon sun

By the end of my stay I could see why Marilyn liked the Biltmore so much. I didn’t swim in HER pool – I was quite happy with the Paradise pool and the Terrace Court pool. I’d like to see what they end up doing in the middle court. It had beautiful gardens. I saw the broken up walls and churned up clods of dirt. Pete assured me that he had seen the plans and it would be spectacular. He told me I would have to come back when it was completed. It’s a possibility, Pete, it’s a possibility. 🙂

leaving Phoenix

Leaving PHX

The House of the Dripping Phlegm

With most sincere apologies to The Animals

There is a house in New Jersey
They call The Dripping Phlegm
And it’s been the sorrow of many a soul
Now count me one of them

My sinuses once worked quite well
I breathed both in and out
I talked, I laughed, I inhaled smells
I even walked about

Now the only thing a cougher needs
Are drops and pills and sprays
I inhale steam in my hot tub
It’s been this way for days

Oh mother tell your children
not to do what I have done
But stay away from germ-y friends
Go to a beach with sun

Got one foot in the front hall
The other’s out the door
Searching for the miracle cure
They claim it’s at the store

Well there is a house in New Jersey
They call The Dripping Phlegm
It’s been the sorrow of many a poor soul
Now count me one of them

dirty tissues

Not Quite the Holiday I Envisioned

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Yes, I have bins full of paper goods for all occasions

Good thing for me that I follow the Jewish calendar and the New Year starts on Rosh Hashanah, which happened back in September. Although there were some bumps in the road then, too, I got to spend a wonderful holiday in Arizona with my son, welcoming the new year. I have a zillion photos that I’ve been meaning to share with you about that, sometime. 🙂 But even if Rosh Hashanah is “my” new year, I love to party with the rest of the world when the calendar switches from December 31 to January 1. Of course by now you should know that I just love to party. 🙂

The first decision is always HOW to party – throw a party, go to a party, quiet party, loud party. You might remember that last year was my party-to-end-all-parties – the unveiling of The New Kitchen!! That party took at least 4 blog posts to describe. *grin* This year I decided that I was a bit worn out and wanted a quieter celebration. We decided to go back to our traditional NYE party – a group of friends over for dinner. We have a group of friends that I call “the gang of 8” – us and 3 other couples. Sometimes it’s the gang of 9 when my son joins us, sometimes it’s the gang of 10 when my sister and her husband join us, but for many, many years I have used the shorthand of ‘gang of 8’ to describe us (as in over 20 years, I believe, maybe getting close to 25 years). Anyway, we opted for dinner for the gang of 10.

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I seem to remember much smaller hens – do they shrink in cooking?

Originally I thought that we’d make the 18 pound turkey we have in the downstairs freezer. Of the possible 10 eaters, 2 are vegetarians. That’s a lot of turkey for 8 people when you figure there will be side dishes as well. Then I was reading Jinjer’s blog and saw she was making Cornish Game Hens. Wow!! I haven’t thought about those in YEARS! There was a time when they were the ‘in’ food and EVEN MY MOTHER cooked them (my mother never cooked if at all possible). *smile* I thought that individual game hens was MUCH better than 18 pounds of turkey. My husband found frozen game hens at the local grocery store and a decision was made.

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NOT the usual counter displays I share with you 😦

I have to tell you that planning dinner for the gang of 8 is a challenge. There was a time when we were all much younger when we had fewer food issues. Now – well now I almost think the challenge of preparing a menu and dishes is almost as much fun as getting to spend time with my friends. *grin* But that is definitely another post. Anyway, I had a great menu planned. Then I woke up on the morning of December 21 with congestion and a fever. Okay, I can deal with this: liquids, more liquids and rest. Except I kept getting worse. I was working that week (or at least nominally working) and was hard pressed to concentrate on the monitor. Definitely a fever. Definitely a hacking cough. Definitely SICK. All week. I was sleeping in a chair for 3 days until I threw my back out. So even though I felt better Thursday, I couldn’t move from the pain. We had a major party to attend on Saturday evening. I spent Thursday and Friday horizontal on ice packs. Saturday came. Yay for decongestants, cough drops, Advil and nose spray. We made it to the party and back again. I even managed Sunday morning to do all the grocery shopping for NYE dinner. And of course I picked up a treat for the kitties (obligatory photos included). Made it to my sister’s and brother-in-law’s for a phenomenal Sunday dinner of standing rib roast and the most amazing potatoes ever and heavenly salt stick rolls.

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How DO you take good photos of black cats?????

Woke up Monday morning realizing that I was NOT healthy and NOT feeling like there was anyway I could throw a party the next night, no matter how relaxed. When I saw my husband taking the hens out to defrost I told him to put them back. Monday night I sent out an email and rescheduled our dinner to Saturday, January 4. I was in bed (in the chair again) on NYE by 10 pm, with decongestants, nose spray, cough drops, tissues, advil. The ball dropped at Times Square without my help. 🙂 Last night, January 1, my husband said “I’m going to take a dip (in our hot tub) because I’m feeling a little congested.” Oh no!!!!!!! It was inevitable but still horrible – now he is sick. I know several people who have gotten this chest congestion and coughing and misery. It seems to last FOREVER. With any luck my husband will shake it off faster than I did, okay, I still haven’t. In my head I figure Saturday night dinner is not happening.

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Sigh. A lot of this dinner party food is perishable. And this is only the downstairs refrigerator.

This is not the best way to start a new year. On the other hand, maybe if we get all the germs out of the way NOW, the rest of the year will be healthy. One can only hope!

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Better slightly blurry cat pictures than photos of waste baskets full of tissues!

Default Setting = Cats

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First night of Chanukah 2019

Happy Chanukah! We got our chanukiah up and lit and placed in front of the window. I probably should have wiped down the soil there after I moved the plant from that spot. I was more concerned with making sure that the cords for the blinds were out of the way. Please forgive the dirt.

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Cat on a Winter’s Day

I was looking forward to Christmas, too, because I have that day off. I had planned to bake and cook and read. Unfortunately for me, I woke up Sunday and thought “gee, I don’t feel all that well”. I was worse on Monday and really worse today. 😦 I don’t anticipate much baking or cooking in the near future. My day revolves around heating hot water for tea and filling a tall glass of iced water. As my mother would have said, I’ve drunk enough clear liquids to float a battleship.

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It’s VERY difficult to get good pictures of monochromatic cats in bright sunshine

I have lots of role models, however, to help me figure out how to spend my time. I made a little nest for GC on the couch. I took the fleecy liner from the cat carrier and an unused door-draft-blocker and made her a spot. I appear to have been successful in pleasing her as she has been curled up there since its creation. WC even left her red couch to join in for an afternoon cuddle. BC loves the box on the radiator. It’s been there for years now. GC likes it too. I don’t think I’ve ever seen WC in that box. She definitely likes cushioned comfort.

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Another adorable monochromatic cat in sunshine

A blog is a piece of the internet, and we all know that the internet is all about cats. From all of us being relaxed and slow. Wishing you and yours a joyous holiday season!

Because I Can

biscuits

baking powder biscuits fresh from the oven

*grin* This post is for my Fundy Bay Friend. I am in awe of all she does and accomplishes way up north in her new home (well new to her but oh so old in many other respects, hence all her accomplishments). She does things mechanical, takes fantastic photos, deals with demanding beasts (both 2 and 4 legged), deals with border police delaying her packages, and so many other successes out there on the island. She insists, however, that she can’t bake. We were discussing baking the other day and she cut me off each time I attempted to suggest she make her own pastry for her upcoming culinary treats. This is for YOU, m’dear, because it’s fun to tease. I woke up the other morning and it was cold and gray and I thought “Biscuits!!!” Warm, fresh biscuits would make this Monday morning palatable. Warm biscuits, fresh coffee. Ahhhh. Let me know if you want the recipe. I promise it’s simple. As for the coffee – *laughing* – I’ll buy a drone and fly some to you.

biscuits and coffee

Ahhhhh


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