Saturday, January 21, 2012

Full Of Hot Air!

Let's start this post a little differently than usual- with a shout out to my "90 sumpin" year old mother who went out this last week and bought herself a new laptop and wireless router so she could stay on top of the cyber happenings in her life. How cool is that! Way to go mamacita!

Actually, I was gonna bring her up regardless because I borrowed the title of this post from her. Well, maybe not directly, but at least indirectly as she has been known to use a number of "sayings" throughout her life as it relates to her children- not the least of which is, in response to something I may have offered into evidence at one point or another....."Oh, you're so full of hot air!"

No claim on my part that that led me to be intrigued by hot air balloons, but I can't rule it out...and it works for this story, so it is what it is. My bucket list (and Marilyn's as well) has always included being able to attend the big balloon festival in Albuquerque, NM in the fall of each year. While we haven't made the "big one" yet, we sure got a terrific introduction to ballooning by traveling up to Lake Havasu City, Arizona for their version of the balloon festival- about 60 balloons instead of hundreds, but impressive and kind of awesome none-the-less. We caravan-ed the hour and a half journey with some of the Brenda Gang which added even more to the adventure of the day. It is good to have a support group any time it is necessary to get up in the dark at 5 in the AM and head out by 6. Yuk. But it had to be in order to arrive in time for the flyover and mass ascension of the balloons that was set to start just before 8 o'clock. And so it was....

We have seens balloons drifting over before, usually in Florida where they float high above and drift effortlessly across the blue heavens. A pretty sight, but tranquil. No sense of excitement and anticipation and marvelous adventure that comes from standing close enough to touch them as they are inflated with air, then heated to vertical, before lifting off the ground right beside where you are standing taking a picture. No ropes to stay behind. This is not like staying 7 miles back to watch the space shuttle go up. This is the here and now, the present and accounted for, the hands on ( hand me that line, will ya?), this is happening and YOU ARE THERE that Walter Cronkite used to deliver on the news so long ago. (If you are embarrassingly young, you can Google Cronkite - see if I care)

The sights and sounds of the day- or maybe the lack of sounds of the day, made for spending some fascinating time, and there is a lengthy slide show for sharing. The dueling cameras of Greg and Marilyn were firing repeatedly and this is what's left after we weeded out the few shots that we could stand to delete, albeit difficult. Perhaps the best experience of the day for us was walking into the massive balloon that was resting on its side - fans blowing air in to inflate it, so that folks could walk into the balloon and get a feel for the size and magnificence of the hot air container. Surely upon seeing the images of her now aging son actually in the middle of a hot air balloon, she will come to the realization, if she hadn't already done so, that, at least on occasions, the old boy IS "full of hot air." Just sayin'.

And for those of you wondering what on earth we have been up to during our most recent extended silence- we have been building a kayak rack and a "stand-up" garden box for growing some vegetables out of reach of the dad-gum rabbits but well within the reach of my sometimes sore back. Both are heavy duty and starting to go into service now, although not 100% completed at this point.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Pink Dice and Jambalaya

The ham and bean pot from Christmas day was converted into a gigantic pot of jambalaya for the New Year's Day celebration in the "big tent." We had a full house and Chefs Lynn and Jude did not disappoint with what I easily rate as the best jambalaya I have ever had anywhere. Even though we had a full house, there will be left overs and Happy Tuesday has been moved up to Happy Monday to accommodate both the leftovers and the funny goings on with the Rose Bowl parade and game this year. Hey! Any excuse for a party! Marilyn rallied and enjoyed the festivities for several hours and then we came home for her cold-drug induced nap necessities. It was a lovely meal with good friends who love only one thing more than a good meal- a good laugh.

And to that end Fran and Barlow put on their twin Michigander shirts and got out the pink pool noodle to beat up some interest in a game of chance called Flip Flop (some call it "Shut the Box"), a high stakes game (it costs a quarter a round to play) where-in you throw the pink dice and tip the numbers over until you can't roll any further. Winner takes all. No one cheats, but only because everyone else has eagle eyes on the player in turn, and also because if she suspects you might cheat, Marlene will come and sit next to you. That girl cracks me up!

The still shot is of the kettle of jambalaya stock bubbling away mid tent. As the precise time before 2 PM dinner bell, the rice and then the shrimp were added. The first bowl was dipped precisely on time....

Perfection in a pot. In a tent. In the desert. Happy New Year!

A December To Remember?

When we pulled into Arizona the end of the first week in December, we had a long list of things to accomplish in short order, and a powerful hankering to have some fun in the form of cookouts, trail rides, exploring new areas, and checking out the world's largest flea market- Quartzsite.

I was also looking forward to getting back to some reasonably responsible and regular posting -which I haven't been very good about recently. There was some rain the first few days in camp. Not the norm for here, but when all was said and done a double rainbow appeared and gave promise to a December to remember.

We quickly set out to accomplish our top priority- running a new water line and hooking up to a big water softener we dragged across the country with us. Trenches were dug, pipe was stuck, connections were made....and sure enough the system worked and made soft water of the well water here which is among the hardest in the world and is full of particulate that make it quite nasty without adequate treatment. This was a good start. Everything was right on schedule!

But about as soon as we wrapped up that project, I came down with an awful cough. Long and disgusting story made short- I went to see a doc in town and found out I had acute bronchitis. Steroid shots, a regimen of pills and some serious cough suppressant helped some but the problem still lingers. Marilyn fought off a cold of her own, but eventually succumbed to what in camp we are collectively calling "The Crud." We have it, but we are not alone! The misery index of the physical symptoms stayed with us and limited our ability to accomplish much else if anything all month. But it was still an interesting and special time. For starters, an illness of this nature is a much better experience in the west then it is, say, in the north east. You might be all congested and snotty and hacking away, but at least you can do it sitting outside in light weight clothing with the sunshine beating down on your face. You may not feel all that great, but there is at least something comforting about the circumstances....and there is no chance that when you breathe in or "blow out" that your fluids are gonna freeze on the spot, on your chin, your mustache or beard, whatever. It is A COLD, but it is in THE WARM. Something to be said for that!

One afternoon when we were sucking on cough drops and drinking Gatorade and drifting off on a mid-day nap, who should appear in their miniature sleigh, but Dandy Don and the Lovely Lady J- our dear friends and former neighbors from the Island of Roatan off the coast of Honduras. Never in a million years would we have anticipated a Christmas visitation from them, and it lifted our spirits and made an otherwise reasonably depressing day a very uplifting a special day to be sure. They were just "passing through the neighborhood" on the way to Phoenix, so it was short visit but one of the best ever surprises.

Over in the Happy Tuesday and Merry Christmas tent, the Brenda-blenda, Lynn, turned his focus from fresh squeezed lemonade drinks to ham and bean holiday soup. It was one awesome pot of viddles and we ate on it for the next three days. Our appetites have been seriously diminished by cold remedies, and our taste buds have been hampered by the same, but this was gooooood!

We stayed in the game through Christmas, but last night when it came to staying up to midnight for snacks and a New Year's toast with the gang, we totally crapped out. Our bad! Hopefully we can rally to help with the big pot of jambalaya for New Year's day. As far as the long list of Honey Do's- nothing, or at least not much got done. No energy. Not yet. Maybe soon? I did pick up some materials so if I can ever get to feeling like being active again, I'm ready.

Meanwhile the gang rides in and out of camp on long and exciting rides and all we can do is wave bye bye. That's gotta stop too!

In the past, I've always made a year end review and written it up with some stats and some recollections and some opinions and maybe a few conclusions about life in general. But this year? Consider yourself "spared...."

Until we feel better and have something to write about: Happy New Year Everyone!