Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Visual Aids

I haven't been in a truck stop in almost two years.  Because we're self-contained in the truck (bed, kitchen, toilet, shower, etc.) there's not really any reason for me to go in one anymore unless it's absolutely necessary - like getting a scale ticket or a receipt for fuel - but it's rare. 

We recently took a load to California and I decided to go in and reacquaint myself with truck stop goodies - I've always like to cruise the snack aisle, see what they have for sale for upcoming holidays, decide on whether or not I need some kind of clip-on, stick-on, velcro-on window gadget.

And then I went to the ladies room and saw the sign.

What the hell, people?  I'm gone for 20 months and truckers have sunk to a level where they need signs about how to dispose of trash?  I'm well aware that truckers (mostly men) pee in parking lots and leave jugs of urine for unsuspecting travelers to find, but I didn't think the women needed to be told to not throw toilet paper on the floor. 

Someone told me the signs were for foreigners coming from other countries who aren't used to good septic systems, so they don't put the paper in the toilet.  I actually knew two families - they lived in Arkansas and Kentucky - who never threw paper in the toilet, which I thought was odd at first because I'd never seen anyone do that, but once I was told why it made sense.  I just figured it was a Southern thing.  Guess not.

Shrug. '''\_(°°)_/""

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Ostentatious Chariot

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Season Has Begun

My mother decided she didn't want a "big" tree this year, so she gave me the artificial tree she bought just last Christmas.  It's pre-lit and came with brand new ornaments!  I started to fuss with it over the weekend, spreading out the plastic branches in a way I thought looked more "real".  I haven't decided where I'm putting it yet.

I haven't had a real tree since I was a kid, and honestly, don't think I'd want one.  I don't want to vacuum pine needles every day and have to remember to water the thing.  I've already killed two houseplants. 

I'll do my best to make the house look somewhat festive, and maybe I'll buy a pine-scented air freshener to stick under the tree.

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Half Flesh, Half Steel

2015: Delving Deep Into The Nefarious Actions Of A Truck Driver
2014: Delivering In The District
2013: Loving What's On The Inside
2012: When You Walk Like That, Talk Like That, Look Like That...
2011: Like And Loathing In Las Vegas
2010: Get Fresh With Me…Please!
2009: In The Blink Of An Eye
2008: Duck, Duck, Drake
2007: The Lady And Sons
2006: The Department Of Mindless Vegetables
2005: Ooo Rah Johnny Cash!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Cycling About Town

Ed and John before the ride.
Yesterday Ed rode in the 35th Annual El Tour de Tucson bicycle event, which this year drew nearly 9,000 cyclists. 

Ed's been riding more since we've been home and lately, he's been out with our neighbor John (an animated Welshman) on the bike loop in our area, logging 30+ miles each time they go out.  He wasn't really "training" because we didn't think we'd be here for the event - our run changed after Ed registered for the ride - but he wanted to stay a little bit in shape for the portion he signed up for, should he be able to attend.  Luckily, he was able to participate.

El Tour has five major ride routes - 28, 76, 54, 76, and the whole enchilada, 106 miles.  Last year Ed did the 37-mile route.  This year he did 54 miles.  Ed and John started the ride together, but they wouldn't be staying side-by-side through the course.  Each would go at their own pace and meet up at the finish line.
Ed at the start line of the 54-mile ride.
It was sunny and warm, about 80 degrees at midday, with a little breeze.  The 54-mile ride had 1,149 riders in it.  This is a panoramic view of the group waiting to begin.
A panorama of the cyclists at the start point of the 54-mile ride.
Here's a map of the route Ed rode.  If you're not from here, it doesn't mean much, but from the start line up into the Catalina Foothills is all uphill.  Then, as he rode up into Oro Valley toward Catalina State Park, it's also uphill.  I'm always amazed when I see him blazing up the hills.  I find the hills, especially the long, gradual ones, to be killers.  I can't handle it, my legs burn like crazy.
The 54-mile Route.
Ed finished the 54-mile ride in 3 hours, 50 minutes, and 1.87 seconds.  His average speed was 14.1 miles per hour.  He arrived at the finish line with a smile on his face, as always, and went to collect his medal before posting for my official photo.    

Congratulations, Baby!  Great job!
Ed with his medal at the finish line.
Next year, the 76-mile ride?

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2016: Savoring Chip And JoJo
2015: Coastal Trees
2014: BuffaSNOW
2013: The White Dove Of The Desert
2012: A Beautiful Listen
2011: The Music Of The Night
2010: There’s No Better Place On Earth
2009: Getting Tanked In Al-Nahar
2008: Bracing For A World Of Mouse Ears
2007: At Least He’s Up Front About It
2006: Aten HUT!!
2005: Be The Player

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Opposite Of Being Seen And Not Heard

This has been the best bird sighting I've had in my yard this year.  A Gila Woodpecker.  I think it's my favorite bird so far. 

It was hard to get a picture because he didn't stay around for long - and this is the male, you can tell by the small red cap on the top of his head.  The head and body are a tan color, and I swear I saw a flash of yellow on his underbelly, close to his feet.  His tailfeathers are black with white bars and they're beautiful when you get to glimpse them from the back. The female has similar coloring, with the exception of the red cap on the head. 

The Gila Woodpecker makes their homes in the saguaro cacti.  They make holes in the saguaro cacti and then build nests inside.  I've seen the holes all over the cacti, and I've heard them many time, I
 don't always see the birds.  

Sneaky little buggers.

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El Ed Rides El Tour

2015: Not Everything Is Lost
2014: Hairspray Is Gross
2013: Breathing Retro Life Into The West End Of A Miracle Mile
2012: A Little Bit Of Wyoming
2011: A Franchophile’s Paradise

2010: 10 Things I Learned On My Vacation In Italy
2009: A Beautiful Deep Fried Pocket Of Cornmeal Dough. Or, My Mom.
2008: A Foxy Furry Little Friend
2007: The One That Got Away
2006: Don’t We All?
2005: Miss Singular

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Toy Story

Last month, Ed and I went through all our storage boxes.  We threw away, organized, and reminisced.  I found my Barbie dolls and Ed found what was left of his Mr. Potato Head.

Mr. Potato Head had been in the heat and his plastic body was brittle and broken.  His whole face was gone.  Ed laid out his body pieces and took a photo to remember him by, then put him back in the box and placed him in the "save" pile.  He couldn't let him go.

It got me thinking about the toys we had back when we were kids, me in the late sixties, early seventies, and Ed in the seventies and early eighties.

My favorite things to play with were my Barbie dolls.  I had several Barbies, a Ken doll, and a bunch of doll clothes, some sewn by my mother.  I also had a life-sized baby doll, also with a wardrobe sewn by my mother.  
We had Lionel Trains (from my grandfather), Viewmasters, Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots, an Erector Set, Lincoln Logs, Silly Putty, GI Joe dolls, Candyland, Legos, Matchbox cars, Spirograph, Hot Wheels, and more. 

We weren't spoiled - it's not like we had Atari or a foosball table - but we were fortunate to have many of the popular toys of the day.  I wanted an EZ-Bake oven like some of my friends had, but even back then some part of me knew that a lightbulb really couldn't cook a cake.  And I guess I really didn't care because I had a wrist-rocket.  That was way cooler.  I wish my mother would have thought to save more of my childhood toys, I would have loved to see them today.   

What were some of your favorite toys?

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I Am One Of The Safe Ones
2015: The Birthplace Of The King
2014: A Whole Big Lot Of Love
2013: When A Pig Wraps Himself Around A Chicken Deliciousness Ensues
2012: Let The Stockpiling Begin
2011: From The Island To The Desert
2010: The Town I Was Dying To See
2009: Gleaming Curve
2008: Color Me Casual
2007: Eddie Goes Running Friday
2006: Forever Yours
2005: Home Away From Home

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

From Freezer To Table In Less Than Eight Hours

So last night at 10:30 p.m. I got a phone call from my oldest nephew:

"Hey, Aunt Salena!  Are you guys still in town?"

"Yeah, we're still here.  What's up?" I said.

"I have a favor to ask," he said.

"Sure.  Whadya need?"

"Well, I was wondering if you can help me cook two turkeys."

"Two?" I said.  "When do you need them?"


"Thursday??  Um, do you have the turkeys?" I asked.


"Are they frozen?" I said.


"How much do they weigh?"

"One is 19.2 pounds and the other one is 18.5 pounds." He said.

"What are they for?"

"The FCC alumni dinner," he said.

"Okay, well, takes like four to five days to defrost a 20-pound turkey.  And you need it Thursday.  Okay, hmm, okay, well.  Can you bring the turkeys here?"

"Yeah.  I'm with my FCC friends.  Is it okay if I bring them too?" he asked.

"Sure, no problem.  Bring them and the turkeys.  Ed and I will start Googling."

So by eleven o'clock, I had my nephew, six of his friends, and two turkeys standing in my kitchen.  Well, the turkeys weren't standing, but you know what I mean.

I was perplexed.  Because we don't have time to fridge defrost, and doing a water defrost means immersing the turkeys in their wrappers in cold water that needs to be changed every thirty minutes.  A 20-pound turkey, using the cold water thawing method, would take ten hours.  I was not staying up for ten hours to babysit a bathing turkey.  And in Tucson, the cold water out of our tap is 70 degrees, which isn't cold enough for a safe thaw.

So we decided to cook them from their frozen solid state.  And the only place big enough for two turkeys was Ed's smoker.
We couldn't smoke them because the low-and-slow heat wouldn't work for a bird of this size, frozen or not.  The meat would not be able to be brought to a safe temperature for cooking.  So Ed set the smoker temperature at 325, like an oven, put the two birds in, and closed the lid.

Three hours into cooking, the birds had thawed enough for me to reach in and pull out the neck and the giblets.  Ed stuck each bird with a digital temperature probe and we monitored the birds from inside the house.  As we got closer to both the time and temperature, I started to brush them with the herb butter mixture I made.  The skin was getting crispy and they started to smell delicious.
 We had them in the smoker for seven and a half hours, and according to all of our temperature probes - including my very expensive, America's Test Kitchen-approved digital thermometer, the Thermapen MK4 - the turkeys were cooked to a safe internal temperature, indicating doneness.   
We all tasted a little piece of wing meat that fell off the bone when we transferred the birds to pans for transport - oops - and it was amazing.  I was dying to rip off a piece of crispy skin and reaaaally wanted to taste a slice of breast, but the bird had to go.  Hungry college kids were waiting.
In addition to the turkey, I made gravy with the pan drippings and also threw together a pan of Roasted Rosemary Potatoes and three pans of Cinnamon Swirl Cakes to add to the bounty.  I figured one can never have enough potatoes or crumb cake.   
I was thrilled to be able to help my nephew.  I love when he comes to me with something I can actually help him with.  Usually, he needs computer or gadget help, and that's Ed's department.  But the cooking questions are totally me.  And I was so happy to oblige.

From what I was told, the turkeys were a big hit.  Delicious, they said.  I stalked the Instagram accounts of his friends and saw several pictures from that night - one of them included several of the guys standing around the turkeys, carving with smiles on their faces! 

After we packed the food in my nephew's trunk and sent him on his way, Ed and I high-fived each other on our success.  We cooked two mother-clucking turkeys from a frozen solid state!  We had no room for error.  We had no backup plan.  And it's not like you can just go buy a cooked 20-pound turkey anywhere.  

I actually liked this method.  No defrosting turkey in the fridge.  No disgusting juice dripping out of the bag on the floor, my shoes, the counter, the sink.  And since I don't brine a turkey and I never cook stuffing inside the bird (I like my stuffing on the dry side, not wet like a newborn baby), the cooked-from-frozen method might be my future go-to method. 

The USDA approved it as safe, and several other websites we checked - The Kitchn, The Spruce, Williams-Sonoma - all had instructions on how to do it properly.

We'll probably be on the road for Thanksgiving this year so I won't be making my own turkey, but I'll definitely be keeping this little secret in my back pocket just in case I come across anyone else who needs an emergency turkey.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Blade Runner

2015: Goodnight 'Bama
2014: No Fear
2013: A Cozy Little Dinner With My Favorite Bird
2012: Western Winter Sky
2011: Men At Work
2010: Everyone Is NOT A Winner
2009: Text Me
2008: Going The Way Of Astatine*
2007: Picture Perfect Pilot
2006: Not Falling For Winter Yet
2005: I Miss You Already

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

No Flitting Taking Place

Clients waiting for their color transformations to take place.
I've been coloring my hair since I was a teenager.  At that time I used colors that my Poppy (maternal grandfather) said, "weren't natural".  I beg to differ - eggplant color is found in nature, and the purple tone looked great with my brown hair.

I've never had a desire to be blond, and never did highlights when all my friends were doing it (hello, high school).  My first attempt was an utter disaster.  My second attempt - hair pulled through a cap (by Ed) and highlighted - was much better.

Last Saturday I went to my local salon to get color done professionally.  I combed the internet for examples and brought two examples I thought were reasonably achievable.  After two hours of sitting in the chair getting "foiled" and then more time under the heat lamp, I was ready.  

I wasn't in love.  It was....brassy.  We went outside to check it in the sunlight.  Too gold.  So she toned it down a little and it was, well, less gold.  She styled it and I went home.  Over the weekend I decided I didn't like the color and wanted to go back, but the salon was closed Sunday and Monday and I wasn't sure if I'd still be in town on Tuesday, so I panicked a bit.  But then our load canceled and I was able to make an appointment for a re-color.  I had her add more brown, with a sort of eggplant-ish tint (Sorry, Poppy). 

The name of the salon is Gadabout.  According to Merriam-Webster, Gadabout means "a person who flits about in social activity".  I'm not really feeling it, the social activity and all.

I took the picture above while I was sitting at the table with foils in my hair, to record a moment at the salon that at one time would have been an opportunity for ladies to gossip or share recipes or swap stories about their kids.  But today, in 2017, not one woman looked up from her device.  I looked around to catch an eye - there were six other ladies at the table - but no one looked back.

So I spent my time reading magazines.  

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We Do More Before 9 A.M. Than Most People Do All Day

2015: Grand And Important
2014: Winter Is A Table Set With Ice And Starlight
2013: The Romance Of The Road
2012: Celebrate With A Wild Desire
2011: Powerful Stuff
2010: Falling In Love With Ugly
2009: A Love Like This Can Know No Death
2008: Peace To This House
2007: The Sultan Of Love
2006: It’s Even Better Than Arbor Day
2005: Sorry, no post on this day. The blog didn’t start until May 2005!

Monday, November 13, 2017

It Spells *Some* Things Correctly

My mother and I were texting about wedding stuff and I was telling her what I thought I wanted to do with my hair - a rhinestone headband or maybe a flower thing.  I've been combing through Pinterest (it's a damn black hole) looking for ideas.

We probably should have talked on the phone because it's clear by her text (in gray) that spellcheck was giving her fits.

Although it doesn't seem to have trouble with all the words.

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2016: A Night Out

2015: Hustle And Bustle In Ancient Guatemala
2014: The Flakes Got Up Early And Stayed All Day
2013: Headed For A Slow Boat To China
2012: A Roaring Forties Tasmanian Devil Of A Blue
2011: Waiter! There’s A Beer In My Soup!
2010: I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Wolf
2009: Eddie Getting His Licks Friday
2008: The Place Is In Ruins
2007: Winter Shadows
2006: The Angels Of The New York D.O.T.
2005: Sorry, no post on this day. The blog didn’t start until May 2005!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

They Grow Everything Here

This week our load took us out to California.  Through the land of TV and movie studios (Burbank), through Kardashian Country (Calabasas), and into one of the most productive agricultural regions in the nation, Ventura County.  That's where I came across the farm equipment crossing sign.

Does anyone know of a website that provides crop identification?  Some things are easy to identify (like artichokes or cabbage), and some fields even have signs indicating what's being grown, but I would really love to have a place to go to look up the plants I'm seeing. 

Any ideas?

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2016: Calling All Car Freaks And Geeks

2015: Waiting For Turistas
2014: The Still Before The Storm
2013: Sizzle, Drizzle, And Pour
2012: Dreams Explored Over Dinner
2011: I’m In Love And It’s Not Even Valentine’s Day Yet
2010: Eddie As Fisherman Friday
2009: Birds And Barbells On Muscle Beach
2008: A Girl On The Shores Of Cozumel
2007: I’m Not Exactly Sure What You’re Proposing Here
2006: The Blizzard Of 2006
2005: Sorry, no post on this day. The blog didn’t start until May 2005!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Rise Above The Bullshit

I found this poem on Instagram and didn't know who wrote it until I did a little Googling.  I discovered it was written by Cara Alwill Leyba, an author, podcast host, and master life coach.

I think it's a really great sentiment and wanted to share.  Pass it on!

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2014: In The Nick Of Time
2013: This Business Means Business
2012: A Nodding Donkey On The Hill
2011: What A Croc
2010: Flash Of Pole
2009: They Hire ‘Em Young These Days
2008: Setting Sail At Sunset
2007: Happy Bee
2006: It’s Not Unusual
2005: Sorry, no post on this day. The blog didn’t start until May 2005!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Turbines In The Valley

This photo of the wind turbines in Coachella was taken by Ed this week on our first trucking trip to California in 31 months.  Coachella is located approximately 30 miles west of Palm Springs, in the Coachella Valley area of California.  

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Acute Nostalgia

2015: The Ancient And Mysterious
2014: The New Rest Area
2013: Sidestepping Nemo Wasn't All That Hard
2012: Fun, Fresh, Fabulous Little Neighborhood
2011: What Do You Get When The Daily Rant Meets The Plum Trucker? A Plum Crush!
2010: Industrial Morning
2009: Sunset On Venice
2008: Knots And Nautical Miles
2007: What Is The World Coming To When The Girls Next Door Think They Are Fat??
2006: T.T.D.L.I.T.H.A.T.I.F.
2005: Sorry, no post on this day. The blog didn’t start until May 2005!

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Soups And Stews And Chili, Oh My!

I finally broke out my beautiful new Le Creuset Dutch Oven.  It's just beautiful.  The color is delicious. 

I decided to make a pot roast.  I looked up a few different recipes and pulled what I liked from each of them.  Once the roast was browned on all sides, and I'd thrown in a few sprigs of fresh rosemary from my plants outside, I put the lid on and let it cook for almost five hours.  

The photo of the ingredients in the pot before they cooked down is more appealing than what they looked like after five hours, so you'll just have to take my word when I tell you that it was amaaaaazing.  My only regret was not putting in more vegetables.  I'll do that next time.

Now that its made the journey out of the box, I plan on using it more often.  Soups, stews, braising, chili.  I have endless ideas and the weather will be perfect for those kinds of meals. 

Winter is coming. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~2016: Speechless

2015: Market Lighting
2013: Pulling The Curtain Back
2012: A Great Way To End The Week
2011: Squirreled Away In Olean
2010: Home Sweet Home
2009: You Build It, We’ll Haul It
2008: The Canadian MJ II
2007: Eddie In The Half Moon Hall Friday
2006: The Italian Death March
2005: How You Doin’?