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Shenanigans; The Beginning

I started desert and  accidentally meandered my way through fifty plus years.  I say accidentally because not much of it was planned. This is a place where I can share my love of this desert I call home, nature, travels, family and a few shenanigans along the way.  I’m glad you stopped by and welcome.

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Yucca Root Solar Chips Aren’t Yucky

I really miss chips and salsa.  Well it’s really the chips that are the issue. So we went on  a quest to create the perfect non fat veggie chip to go with the salsa I crave daily.

The four veggies we tried were sweet potato, yams, beets and yucca root.   The yucca root raw is, well, yucky so I had my doubts.  Sliced and on trays we left them for about 6 hours to bake in the sun.

Here is what we learned; 1. Slice them as thin as you can.  The thicker ones were chewy.  2.  Lightly coat with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.  3.  Place on a rack instead of cookie sheets.  4. Different vegetables dry at different rates.  5. The Yucca Root is Delicious!   Who knew?

Now for the test with Salsa. Each flavor added something unusual & I  can’t decide which one I like best.     I DO know I am making more of these tomorrow.

Note: The goal making this solar oven was to make it with found materials.  Craigslist free BBQ for the stand, A metal box surrounded by styrofoam & wood, glass from a picture frame.   It boils liquid even in the winter but cooking outside in the summer sure helps keep the house cooler.  The solar oven adds another way to do just that.  sola ov (2)Let the sun shine!

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Dear Liver

Dear Liver, I feel so betrayed.   I have been focused on eating properly and proud of exercising routinely.    I was prepared for the doctor to say something like “woo-hoo great job”.  Instead we had the talk.  Since my doctor is much younger than I am  he says things like “it comes with age”.  Really little boy?  Does it? Child, I am fully age aware every morning as I get out of bed as  it sounds like popping bubble wrap and  feels like various bones are breaking.  Just when one gets used to a new wrinkle, silver starts showing up in the hair. Get used to that and an old knee injury turns chronic on what is now the last ski run one will ever take. So now organs are rebelling?  Great. It’s not Dr. Babyface’s fault. He’s only trying to help.  As a matter of fact he spent a lot of time investigating happened.  Here’s what we found and the reason I feel betrayed.

The past 6 months I  eliminated  many unhealthy foods. I completely cut out  Diet Coke, drink less alcohol, less red meat, cut out processed foods etc. Imagine my shock when I am suddenly in a dangerous range. The young doctor saw the look of horror on my face and started the investigation. “What’s changed in the last 6 months?”  It turns out in my quest to be healthy that smoothies made with a low calorie almond milk contain over 2 grams of the worst kind of fat!  In another twist, the organic/non GMO/Omega 3 bread also low calorie contained another gram. So  my healthy smoothie-a-day was trying to kill me.  I don’t like taking prescription drugs so he gave me 3 months to bring it back down on my own.  He graciously said “you did it before so maybe you can do it again but the obstacles are genetics and age”. Challenge accepted.

I often wonder if I had a time machine, I would  go back and tell my young self to take better care of this body.  The answer is no. I wouldn’t miss a minute; not one mogul flying down a mountain, not one wipe-out, not one vodka, not one all night party, not one tamale, not one prime rib… I would tell my young self just do it.   It was all worth it.  As the jaded young doctor says, “it comes with age” anyway right? Perhaps my attitude is how I ended up here. Truthfully this time products labeled healthy were poisonous.   At least now I have more ammunition to fight the inevitable  with everything I have.   So dear liver, you are on notice for the next 3 months. The great experiment begins.

Note from Dr. Babyface:  Look for monounsaturated fats  in all nut milks such as Silk Unsweetened Almond Milk- (click on Nutrition facts ) It shows 30 calories, no saturated fats.  Great right?  Wrong.

Note from Me: Damn it now I have to give up chips and salsa.  (Stay tuned for solar cooked sweet potato and beet chips)

 

 

Grad Night – Hey Mister…

I recently attended a high school graduation and what an entertaining evening.  REALLY.  I’m not kidding.  Okay so here’s what happened. G & I arrived about 10 minutes early to packed stands.  We took the first two openings we saw, row 2 on the 30 yard line farthest from the stage.  (There were also chairs set up on the field for people with tickets).  Soon “Never-met-a-stranger-G”   was entertaining our section of the bleachers.  A family with 4 of the most well behaved children I have ever seen were right in front of us and the kids immediately started interacting.  What happened next was entirely G’s fault as he encouraged the kids per usual.

Kid 1; “Hey Mister, Where did you get that hat?” G-“Mexico”.  Kid 2 ( adorable girl 5 years old) “You mean real Mexico?”

Kid 3; (Middle girl trying to get in on older brother and younger sister’s action) “Mister, Why are your boots so pointy?”  *All 4 kids, their parents,  and an old man left of  G look down at his feet*  G-“That’s so I can kill the bugs in corners.”  Now, I could see the emotions pass over their face, ‘should I laugh or am I going to get in trouble if I laugh?’ He smiles, they laugh. Old man next to G: “What did he say?” His wife: “He kills bugs. BUGS”.  Old man looks back down at G’s boots visibly irritated.

At this point I have to interject that  the procession of 367 seniors had begun through a gauntlet of parents on the field (you know, the ones with tickets). They lined up in 2 lines for the grads to pass through all the while taking pictures. At times, in their zeal, they completely blocked the progress.  Three songs played…then started over again. Therefore our banter wasn’t making us miss any action on the field.  Plus we were on the second row and a gaggle of people with balloons & signs were still streaming in trying to find seats blocking any idea of a view. Okay. Back to the conversation;

Kid 1:  “Mister, (pause…looks up while he is thinking ) You’re reeeallly old”.  Kid 3 (Middle Girl not to be outdone) “You’re older than my grandpa!”  To which G replies-“I AM OLDER THAN YOUR GRANDPA.”  *Parents nervously laughing*

Mom of the  inquisitive kids: “How old are you?” G answers-“73”     ALL FOUR KIDS EXCLAIM “WOW!”.   (Kid 2-, the adorable 5 year old covers her eyes).

Old man to the left of G (not their grandpa): “What did he say?” His Wife shouts: “He’s seventy-three” (people behind him laugh and nod at G)

Mom of 4 inquisitive kids: “I thought you were in your fifties!  You look young”. Old man (who I think is not yet even close to 73 but looks older than G)  shakes his head, GETS UP, MOTIONS TO HIS WIFE & THEY LEAVE!

Preteen Girl on my right who has been listening: “Are you in love with him?” (which I think is kind of a weird out of the blue question but hey, we ARE the entertainment during this turtle walk the grads are doing so I answer) “Well yes, we have been together 25 years”  Teenage girl:  “Woah. That’s quite an accomplishment!” to which the surrounding couples above her chuckle too.  We are all sitting in the bleachers to celebrate accomplishments so I roll with it.  The mood around us remains festive, total strangers striking up oddly personal conversations all thanks to my G.

For the rest of the night our section enjoyed the celebration together.  We all shared a belly laugh  when unbeknownst to the owner of a huge bundle of balloons, a wind had blown  the balloons to engulf a man walking past in the opposite direction. The poor man was trapped in a sea of blue, gold and black.  The trapped man  panicked, struggled, batted and swam his way out of the mess.  What WE saw were balloons,  elbows, balloons, knees, man twisting around, more balloons. What we HEARD was Squeaky squeaky squeak “Sorry dude” just as the balloons finally set the captive free. They just kept going walking  away in opposite directions like it never happened.

We all listened to the same speeches together and a collective wave rippled through the bleachers from over 30 year old onlookers as we questioned why so many speeches by the top graduates referenced TV Shows as inspirational. One recounted episodes and praised  the accomplishments of a fictional character as if she was presenting that character an award. The only other quote was taken from Cardi B.   Not one literary quote in ANY of the speeches.  None.  No standards like Walt Whitman, or Mark Twain.   Perhaps my time as a lover of books is old fashioned now.  I’m the old woman in the stands thinking  “kids these days…do they know how fascinating  it is that   Harper Lee is still relevant?” Perhaps the student speech givers knew that their peers understood why the quote from Cardi B was special, and why Kim Possible or Ron Stoppable is inspirational even if I wasn’t in on it.

Every speech from the  hall of fame inductees to teachers to students  had some reference to the support received from the community. Whether it was from fellow students, family, teachers, or the community itself, all of them called out each other for kindness and support they received.  I found that so comforting and somewhat unique in the political rhetoric speeches have become today’s norm. Perhaps that is the epicenter of  this school’s success. A community celebrating each other’s accomplishments.

This diverse school had  nearly 5 million dollars worth of scholarships, so many awards to the senior class including awards in academic decathlons, a 92% rate of continuing education from this class alone, national awards in things like ROTC, and even in Fashion.  These were opportunities we didn’t even have “in my day”.  It came as a surprise to me that the biggest cheer of the night was for the principal like he was some kind of rock star.   What a great time to be a graduate.  Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of the school is exactly that, making us all wish we were one of them.

Two and a half hours later many families had already duck-walked in front of us out of the stands as soon as their grad received a diploma.  I KNEW their student had received a diploma because 3 foot  pictures of their grad were produced, screams, horns & booming confetti cannons shot over us all as the names were announced.   The confetti cannons were such a hit with our new  friends that, for a while at least, the children  were occupied with collecting. “I get red, you get blue…” Those of us in our little section stayed to the end. Together.  We helped each other gather belongings, amble out of the bleachers and bid goodbye like we were long lost friends.  Kids gave hugs to G, hands were shaken, good luck offered.

We looked for my nephew who we were there to celebrate and met the family off to the side of the common area, out near the vending machines.   He was number three Senior in his class and remained humble and grateful for the support from his parents, brother, aunts,  uncles and cousin who were present and gathered in a circle around him taking pictures in terrible lighting.   Oh and score! We got out of our parking space onto the street like the parking gods were watching.     Yep we REALLY had a blast at this graduation.

Lorelei:  (aka kid 2 -five year old adorable girl ): “Hey Mister, are you gonna come to my graduation?”  G- “Yes I am so you better work very hard.” Lorelei: “Okay I will.” and runs to her dad.  

See you in 2031 Lorelei. 

Organ Pipe National Park – A Desert Showcase

Okay so it’s in the middle of nowhere, UNLESS you are traveling to Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico).  Every single time we pass it I say “I wish we could stop”, but the lure of the Mexican sand beach & fresh ceviche keeps us on course.  We discover our friends felt the same way so we decided to stop on the way back!  The Organ Pipe National Monument is a large stand of these unique type of cactus.Similar to the saguaro this forest of organ pipes thrives in the South West corner of the Sonoran Desert. lrg_dsc05137A stop at the Visitor’s Center to check in and then off to a 2 mile loop trail for an overview.The views are incredible from the top of the loop.lrg_dsc05142From here you can see the border wall and into Mexico. You can’t miss it.
img_0527‘It’s easy to see where the cactus got it’s name.

I was surprised to see the difference in structure of the interior of the Saguaro versus the Organ Pipe.

Bonus, the Ironwood trees were in bloom creating pink patches of color.

Believe it or not this area was a large cattle ranch owned by the Gray family for a century.  The last cattle taken off the land with the death of Robert Jr. Gray in 1976.  lrg_dsc05148It seems there is a lot left to discover so we will return, camp, and explore another day.  For now we will just relish in the refreshing hike and head home.

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Close-up of the Organ Pipe Cactus
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The Hohokam did live on this land for a time and leave petroglyphs. This rock was lying near the path. Who knows if it is part of an actual petroglyph or simply a rock scribble.
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The saguaros in the area are blooming.

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When They Serve

Today we celebrated the life of my dear friend’s  98 year  old father, a decorated veteran.  I learned so much today about service, military honor, and what it means to love to serve. He was one of thousands who survived WWII  but I KNEW him my whole life and never asked. As the color guard unfurled the flag taps played beautifully.(Fort Huachuca color guard).folded-flag-2Tears rolled down my face as I realized the enormity of what he had done. When Sargent Kelly handed the flag to the family I lost it.  I KNEW this beautiful man and never asked. How easy it is for us to never ask? This man always had a smile for me, a scrawny awkward little girl.  He was my neighbor, father to my friends, and part of my life. mr-rogers-hello-neighbor

Some of my family members have served, some even active duty.  It is popular to say to veterans”thank you for serving” but just saying it because one is supposed to isn’t enough. Today I FELT it. I felt his sacrifice.  His life continued  serving others even after he became a civilian.  A 98 year old man has a lot to say with his actions if you pay attention. What he said to us is that what is important is family, loving, treating all people with respect. This simple man who I grew up knowing as the neighbor continues to teach beyond his life on this earth.  Isn’t that just the kind of person you come across in the Bible?At the end of the service we sang an Irish toasting song, pouring a little of our spirits into a glass for him and then toasting together.  I loved that. He would have loved that. 5_champagne_glasses

Here’s to you William Leek. william-leek-tucson-az-obituaryThank you & Well done.

 

A Most Extraordinary Gift

Only 2 years apart, G grew up with his Uncle O with G’s older brother in between. Their mothers provided the three tiny children with a frying pan, some bacon & eggs,  and watched as the very young boys climbed the side of the mountain behind their side by side houses. Soon there would be a small glimmer of a fire and the boys made their own breakfast.  All day the boys would be immersed in their cowboy existence on that Phoenix mountain. mountain (2) By today’s standards the boys would be considered too young to be making a fire, climbing trails, staying on a mountain all day, shooting 22’s at an imaginary enemy.  It is their experience to share and their memories together.

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G’s Bronzed Boots from those days.

This week O presented G with a most extraordinary handmade knife. Using an antler and a piece of steel, he forged and polished to such a sharp edge it slices through a piece of paper so easily, sharper than a razor.img_9926When someone shares a piece of their artistic soul, their art, you just KNOW that you are holding a piece of their heart in your hand.img_9927Thank you Uncle O for such a memorable gift.

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Wait up guys! 

 

Wheelbarrow Yoga Anyone?

Calling all Yoga Enthusiasts!  Wheelbarrow Yoga FREE this weekend!   Join us for a free session 10-noon this Saturday only.  First come first served.  Includes Bharadvaja’s twist (filling wheelbarrows with dirt), deep Malasana pose (digging dirt) along with weight bearing exercises (emptying wheelbarrow).  Your choice of wheelbarrow color & shovel size.   Session bound to fill up soon, ACT FAST!