Summer Travel Map

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Back to “normal”, whatever that is...

March 11, 2012
Peoria, AZ

Late in the day yesterday, things turned windy.  Coupled with a brush fire about 45 miles away, we were treated to an interesting sky.  Nothing like the haboobs of the summer monsoon season, but interesting nonetheless.

Later in the week, things settled back into a “normal” groove.  Being retirees, we hit the grocery stores on Wednesday (first Wednesday of the month) to take advantage of the 10% “senior discount”.  We did pretty well for amateurs at this whole “thrifty” thing, once again making the freezer an exercise in the art of vacuum sealing and precise packing.  If we were more into the whole meal planning thing, we’d probably be able to shop once a month and save even more, but where’s the fun in that?

We do miss having the auxiliary freezer out in the garage.  It bit the dust over the summer, failing to cool at all when plugged in in November.  It went the way of all good things when the City had its “bulky waste pickup” in February.  We’ve held off on a replacement since we’ve made it this far through our visit here, but we’ll probably pull the trigger on a small standalone freezer as soon as we get back in the fall.

Thursday I baked bread and Friday, well, I baked bread.  The former was a bread machine batch and the latter a large amount of ciabatta.  I put up the ciabatta starter last week, so it was ready to go.  It takes pretty much all day to create ciabatta with the initial mixing, first and second rises, and eventually the baking, but it’s well worth it.  The dough recipe is enough for two large loaves and about a dozen rolls.  Mmmm...

Friday was also “test kitchen day”.  I tried a new recipe for Lamb Bolognese, plus took a shot at making fresh pasta from scratch.  The sauce came out reasonably well, although we’ll probably doctor it up a bit the next time around, adding more tomato product and less of a “pinch” of pepper flakes.  The pasta required a little experimentation to get the semolina-all purpose ratio right, adjust for the dry climate here, and get the kneading down.  I’m a little worried about the Kitchen-Aid mixer, since it didn’t knead well, but I gotta say that the pasta roller is the bomb!  I made some tagliatelle, linguine, and fettuccine.  Some needed to be rolled thinner, but the pups didn’t seem to mind.

Yesterday was Geri’s turn in the kitchen.  Yes, we have enough experience to know that our kitchen is only large enough for one cook at a time.  It’s not that we bother each other; it’s just designed for one.  I spent the afternoon over at the coach, puttering around a bit and fine-tuning my list of “things to do before we hit the road”.

Anyway, she made a recipe she found online (as opposed to TV’s Food Network or Cooking Channel for a change) for Taco Pizza.  We have several recipes that substitute “Mexican” ingredients in traditional formats (Lasagna, Shepard’s Pie), and this was no different.  In reviewing it later, we concluded that it was designed for rookie cooks, though, substituting store-bought rolls flattened out in place of real pizza dough.  Since she’s the queen of homemade pizza, we’ll try it again with “real” dough.  It did go quite nicely with a pitcher of “George-a-ritas”, though.

Today, we relaxed for the most part, enjoying another beautiful day in the desert.  We slept in (actually even the pups slept late), Geri made me a fantastic Sunday Brunch this morning, enough to hold us through the whole day.  Some time in the study, a little napski on the patio in the afternoon, good selections from iTunes through the speakers all day; what more could you ask for?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Bicycles and Baseball

March 6, 2012
Camelback Ranch, Glendale, AZ
Does it get any better?
Now that “winter” (well, meteorological winter, according to the TV weather people) is over, the return to nice temperatures means we can get the bikes out and ride around a bit.  We can’t really complain much at all, since this year’s La NiƱa weather pattern has meant a mild and dry winter -- as opposed to last year’s cold!
I’ve tried to maintain a one hour ride three times a week pace, although it doesn’t always happen.  Geri needs to work up to a sensible schedule for her.  And, every once in a while, we’ll plunk the pups into the baskets and take them for a ride as well.  They aren’t particularly comfortable there, and we’ve added small leashes that keep them attached to the basket, but I’m still afraid they’ll try to jump out, especially if we happen upon another pup on a walk.  But, they seem none the worse for wear after short rides.
Today, we took in a spring training “Cactus League” game.  It was good to do this again after a couple of years away from the month-long “season”.  There are several new stadiums in the area, and the whole league has consolidated into the Valley of the Sun around Phoenix (the Diamondbacks used to train near Tucson).  We’ve been to our local park here in Peoria a few times over the years but this year we decided to branch out.
Using StubHub, I was able to pick up some pretty nice seats at Camelback Ranch in Glendale.  This new park (opened in 2010, I think) is about as far away from home as the Peoria park, just in the other direction.  Actually, we drive right by it every time we go to the Vet over in Litchfield Park.  It’s the Spring Training home of the White Sox and the Dodgers.  All of the parks are shared facilities between two teams, generally one from each League (American and National).
I chose a Dodgers game because they were playing the San Francisco Giants.  Not that we’re huge fans of either team (I’ve never forgiven the Dodgers for abandoning Brooklyn, and I was only 2 at the time), but Shawn Sanford, grandson of our friends Barbara & Jim, was invited to Spring Training.  We didn’t get to see him pitch, but we did see him after the game, which the Giants won.  This was a good thing, I suppose, since we were seated in the Giants rooting section, right behind the visitor’s dugout.

Spring Training brings the fourth of the big waves of snowbirds to the Phoenix area.  The first wave (which I suppose we’re part of) arrives as soon as it gets chilly “back home”.  This is usually in early November.  The second and third waves follow the Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Years holidays, respectively, for people who can take a little cold but want to be “home for the holidays”.  During January and February, you can tell the percentage of out-of-state plates has increased.  In March, there’s another bump in the population, and you notice more license plate frames and stickers on cars with team logos.  In early April, there’s a big exodus, as the baseball crowd usually only comes for the month, often following their team around the valley and going to most every game.  I have no idea how they can afford this, since prices rival big-league parks.  By late April, only the locals are left.  At least I think that’s the case, because we’re usually gone by then, too.

Friday, March 2, 2012

It’s all about the women...

March 2, 2012
Peoria, AZ
Nothing wrong with that!  The past few weeks have been about Geri and Maya Lynn.  Geri’s great and Maya’s better -- now.
To begin with, we celebrated our anniversary and Geri’s birthday on the 16th and 17th, respectively.  It was relatively low-key this year, especially since her key present (deferred all the way from Christmas, for crying out loud) -- a new recliner -- has finally been selected but is being built and won’t be here until late-March.  I can sense a whole living room do-over in my future at some point, but that’s OK...
Anyway, we did a little birthday lunch at Olive Garden and were invited for a nice dinner at Ana & Larry’s, so we did get a little celebrating in.  A bouquet arrived from Connecticut, and all was well with the world.
No sooner was the celebrating over than our attention turned to Maya Lynn, our 8-year old Silkie Terrier.  She had a tumor in her right rear flank, and it had to come out as the biopsy showed evidence of Stage 2 MAST Cell activity.  It started out about 1cm in size, but a round of steroidal treatment shrunk it to about half the initial size.  Surgery was scheduled for February 20th, as soon as she finished with the Prednisolone (easier metabolized form of Prednisone) treatment.
As is common in veterinary medicine, once they have you “in the shop”, anything on the “watch list” is fair game.  In Maya's case, she had a couple of skin cysts that needed to be frozen off and hadn’t ever had a “dental” under anesthesia, so she was in for a full day.  We dropped her off at 7:30 AM (aka “oh-dark-thirty” for those of us who aren’t early risers).
We went to pick her up around 4:00 PM, with some degree of trepidation.  Geri remembers well how weak and wobbly she was after she came home from being “fixed” at six months.  Of course, that story always seems to involve references to me being away on a business trip at the time...
Anyway, you wouldn’t have known she had surgery when we picked her up.  She was wide awake and pulling on the leash to get to us, and then get to the door.  They said she did well except for fighting the anesthesia like a trouper.  In addition to the planned procedures, she ended up having a few loose teeth removed.  All in all, everything looked OK, pending pathology reports.
We got her meds (antibiotic and pain) and headed for home.  The first few days were a bit of a struggle, since she needed to leave the incision areas alone of course.  She didn’t take well to the “cone of shame”, just sitting in one place and crying at length.  She also didn’t take well to the combination of the meds, making night time not sleep time - for anyone.  If Maya’s up, everyone’s up!
After a couple of days (and sleepless nights), things settled down.  We went back this week to have stitches and staples removed (actually twice, since they missed a staple the first time), and she’s healed up well.  We’ll give it another week or so before getting her to the groomer, but otherwise she’s good to go!