Thursday, November 30, 2017

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Monday, November 27, 2017

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Weekend In New York

The north-facing view from the 86th Floor of the Empire State Building.  
Our first trip out of Arizona took us across the country and landed us in New York City.

I was so thrilled driving across the country, seeing the last of the fall colors and enjoying the cooler weather.  My soul was energized.  I didn't realize what being in Tucson has done to me these last 19 months.  Sure, the two-days-a-week work schedule was nice, but that left the other five days to be spent in the desert.  So much sun, no break from the heat, no clouds, no cold snaps, no change of seasons, no crisp air, no fall colors.  I have truly missed it.

The weather on the eastern half of the country has been right up my alley.  It was around sixty in Tennessee, and when we got to New York, the days were in the high fifties, and the nights were in the mid-forties.  Walking around the city in the cold weather was invigorating!

Our first stop was the Empire State Building.  I've been a few times but this was Ed's first visit.

Once we got into the building, we snaked our way through the Sustainability Exhibit.  In 2009 the Empire State Building started to retrofit the building - windows and doors and lighting and more - to save money, reduce energy costs, and reduce carbon emissions.  They've also done updating to the lobby area, which was noticeable and beautiful. 

On the way up to the observation area, the elevators stop on the 80th floor.  This is where you'll find a large gift shop with everything Empire State.  Magnets and t-shirts and mugs and keychains and King Kong stuffed animals.  The shop used to be on the 86th floor, but in the 14 years since I was last there, they've moved things around.  The 80th floor is also where you'll find the Dare To Dream exhibit.  Great history of the construction of the building, which pictures and documents from that period, "paying tribute to the pioneering work of the architects, builders, and laborers of the day".

The next stop is the Main Deck on the 86th floor.  It is the largest open-air observatory in New York.  Here you have access to a 360-degree view of New York.  It was chilly - with the west side of the building being especially windy - but the colder it is, the 
better the view.  And the lights were spectacular.  They never disappoint.  It's fun to peer down to street level and pick out the buildings and locations you are familiar with.  In the photo above, the big bright spot of light is Times Square. 

Once at the 86th, Ed decided he wanted to go to the very top, the 102nd floor.  It's the highest visitors can go and the ride up is taken in a manually operated Otis elevator.  There was actually an elevator man!  This area is small and glass-enclosed.  It was nice to visit, to say I've been that far up, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone else.  I don't think it's worth the extra money and I think the unobstructed views from the 86th floor are much better.  We did meet a great employee, though - Gordon, who has worked in the building for ten years and was chock full of New York City information.  He even regaled us with stories of celebrities he's met at the building, which included Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Ben Affleck & Jennifer Garner, and some boy band I can't remember the name of.

The tower lights change color throughout the year to recognize different occasions and organizations.  The night we were there the building was lit in n
avy, purple and yellow in honor of Everyday #GivingHero and the Carnegie Medal.  I love the lights of the Empire State Building, no matter what color they are!

The Empire State Building is probably the best-known skyscraper in the New York skyline, but in my opinion, the Chrysler Building is much prettier with its gleaming Art Deco style.  And the beautiful thing about being on the 86th-floor observation deck is the unobstructed view of that beautiful building and so many more! 

It's definitely a must-see spot for any tourist.  Just trust me and skip the top deck.  Save your money for souvenirs!

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A Friendly Village

2015: Happy Thanksgiving!
2014: I'd Like A Parking Spot For Two Please
2013: I Desire A Snack Eaten Off An Owl Plate
2012: Pulpy Plumes
2011: Saturday Slow Down
2010: Let The Crazy Begin
2009: For Everything Thy Goodness Sends
2008: A Look On The Inside
2007: Free! Gratuito! Gratis! Ummm…No Charge!
2006: Life Giver vs. Indian Giver
2005: The Spaghetti Thanks You

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Indoor Outdoor Food, Drink, And Fun

Last week Ed and I ate at Culinary Dropout, a new restaurant that's housed in the old Grant Road Lumber building.  I've never been into the Grant Road Lumber building, so I don't know what it looked like before, but this place was really cool inside. 

It's open like a big warehouse would be, with a bar in the center, a stage for musical performances that sits in front of the beautiful glass-enclosed open kitchen, an outdoor seating and play area - ping-pong tables, bean bag toss - and a private dining area called The Coop. 

I think because it's new - it opened in September - they might need to iron out a few kinks because I can't say I was in love with the food we ordered.  I'm willing to give it another shot though. 

Because I still need to try the 36-Hour Pork Ribs and the honey drizzled Fried Chicken

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2016: Off The Charts Mouthfeel
2015: Pre-Turkey Day Snarl
2014: A Sign Ignored
2013: One Woman, Ten Looks
2012: Came For The Dog, Wound Up With A Beefy Italian
2011: The Master Carver
2010: Waiting For The Good Stuff
2009: Getting Some Bird A Day Ahead Of The Crowd
2008: The Only Reason Men Do Things Is Because Their Wives MAKE Them
2007: Here’s Looking At You
2006: Just Outside The Door
2005: Trying To Mask The Boredom

Friday, November 24, 2017

A Warm Welcome

Yesterday I got to have Thanksgiving in one of my favorite states - Tennessee!  Sadly, my best friend in Nashville was out of town visiting family, but I still got to get my hands on some delicious turkey.  Now we're heading up to the East coast for the weekend, and then down South.  

Ed strung together some great loads to get us across the country.  I even got to see some colorful fall leaves still hanging on! 

Have a great weekend!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Happy Thanksgiving!

2015: Remembering Italy
2014: We Are Not Government Issued
2013: A Railfan Mecca
2012: When I Was A Kid
2011: Nuts About Thanksgiving
2010: On The Way To Turkey Day
2009: Winding Down For The Big Holiday
2008: Pssst! The Fish Are In The Water. Check The Water.
2007: Elphaba’s Long Lost Sister?
2006: What Boys (And One Girl) Do On Thanksgiving
2005: Cold Turkey

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?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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 - 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 tail feathers are black with white bars and they're beautiful when you get to glimpse them from behind.  The female has similar coloring, with the exception of the red cap on the head. 

The Gila Woodpecker makes their homes in the saguaro cactus - they make holes in the saguaro and build their nests inside.  I've seen the holes all over our cactus, and I've heard them many times hammering away at the tree in our yard (and occasionally the metal flashing on the roof), but 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.

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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!