Looking forward to fall!

Summer is fading, and I can totally feel it, even though it was 105 degrees yesterday. The sun is rising a little later, setting a little earlier. People are getting their fantasy football teams together. The snowbirds from up north and back east are preparing to migrate to Phoenix Metro. Soon, we’ll see them on their jaunty walks in their shorts and t-shirts (while we desert denizens put on light jackets.)

I love summer giving way to fall. We do have seasons here in the Sonoran Desert part of the Land of AZ… maybe not in the traditional sense, but we do. The desert just expresses itself differently. The desert is a season-rebel. It does not conform to the norm. You have colorful fall leaves? We have colorful, blazing sunsets. You have chilly, moist temperatures? We have perfect temperatures… dry temperatures in the 70-80-degree range.

I love the heat, but hospitable temperatures make certain things possible. At some point in the late summer, I start anticipating aspects of the fall, as I know everyone around here does. Some of them can’t come soon enough. Here are 10 off the top of my head:

1). Garage gym workouts.

Cooler weather will put our garage gym back into the equation of my combat-sports fitness training.

2). Opening the front door.

Sitting in the living room at dusk with the fall breeze coming through the screen door is one of my favorite things. In the world.

3). Roasting veggies.

Brussels sprouts. Broccoli. Sweet potatoes. Purple Peruvian potatoes. Onions. Garlic. Fall in our house smells delicious.

4). Pears.

We eat pears year-round, but they come into season in the fall, and they are rapturous.

5). Pomegranates.

Pomegranate season! The flavor of pomegranates also signifies fall to me.

6). This is Us (Sept. 26) and Stranger Things (Oct. 27)

This fall, the two T.V. series I’m anticipating are This is Us and Stranger Things. I’m seriously emotionally invested in the family members of This is Us, and, like all fans, I’ve been waiting forever to find out what happens next in Stranger Things.

I would normally look forward to American Horror Story, but its early start this year puts it more in the summer than in the fall, as far as I’m concerned. Homeland is another fall series that isn’t starting in the fall this time around. Seems that the new season won’t be out until spring.

7). Candlelight writing in the early morning.

There’s something about writing in the early morning dark with just the glow of a candle flame to illuminate what needs illuminating.

8). Fall cleaning.

I’m more eager to deep-clean the house in the fall than in the spring, and the house feels so good after it’s done!

9). Creative inspiration.

Maybe it’s from a lifetime of “back-to-school” mental conditioning, but I’m more inspired, motivated, and revved-up in the fall than at any other time of the year. This is especially good this year, as I’m working on the toughest part of my book right about now. The fall magic will arrive just in time.

10). An extra cover on the bed.

For me, a heavier cover at night somehow leads to a more satisfying sleep. (By “heavier cover,” I mean the bathrobe I throw over just my side of the bed at night.)

Nenette shares my enthusiasm. Earlier this morning, I talked to her about fall, and she looked out the window like “Where is it?”

 

Late summer Nenette, awash in the early morning light.

 

Happy weekend!

 

Sunny winter in Haiku (Haiku 2: Blue Sky)

It’s a new week, and other than some residual congestion, I’m flu-free. Seven days of viral craptastic downtime makes for a giddy return to work. I only went in on Tuesday last week. I went on Wednesday, too, but I was sent home almost immediately, so Wednesday doesn’t count.

(Aside: Remember when “viral” really was just a bad thing?)

Even on Sunday, I coughed so much, Callaghan said, “There’s no way you can go to work tomorrow.” But I felt much better when I woke up yesterday. The whole day felt glorious. It was warm and the sky was extra sunny, clear, and blue – even more blue than usual – so I went outside (glorious!) during my lunch hour and took some pics. I didn’t go far… just to the art museum near my building. The museum and the adjacent little theatre.

I’m sharing some of the pics with a few more haiku, because they go together. I’m feeling the haiku these days, and it feels good. It feels good to pick up poetry again!

 

Haiku 2: Blue Sky

(by Kristi Garboushian)

1.

To be undulant,

an unfinished votive dream

soothing chess-players.

 

Blue sky with theatre box office.

Blue sky with theatre box office.

 

2.

Elasticity:

five hundred sodden leaves around

the arctic building.

 

Blue sky with art museum.

Blue sky with art museum.

 

3.

Plumage battering

an alternative fossil –

carnage emerging.

 

Blue sky with fake lava.

Blue sky with fake lava.

 

4.

A feast of words held:

tense, shy, the gloved telegrams,

chronological.

 

Blue sky with art museum, 2.

Blue sky with art museum, 2.

 

I love how Haiku encourages pictures in 17 syllables.

Cold weather joy!

This last week we’ve had quite the cold snap here in Phoenix Metro, which I believe we can actually attribute to El Niño. A few days ago, our state registered the coldest temperatures in the U.S. while everyone else basked in unusual warmth. Hell has frozen over here in Sun Devil country!

It’s all good, though, because cold weather means a lot of enjoyable things. Such as:

1). Cold weather means I can light a lot of candles in my office at home.

 

Forest of candles.

Forest of candles.

 

It’s normally too warm for so many candles at once, obviously.

 

2). Cold weather makes savory, hot food even heartier.

 

Bocca burger at Red Robin (with iced tea, which I love in all kinds of weather).

Bocca burger at Red Robin (with iced tea, which I love in all kinds of weather).

 

We eat stuff like this year-round, but I find it most fulfilling when it’s cold outside. This particular visit to Red Robin was especially welcome because it was the day after we got back from France, where I’d spent over a week subsisting mostly on salads, bread, and the Larabars I’d packed. Those salads were wonderful, for sure, but by the time we got back I was ready to sink my teeth into something savory and hot!

 

Roasted purple potatoes.

Roasted purple potatoes.

 

Pinto beans in the slow cooker.

Pinto beans in the slow cooker.

 

Pinto tacos!

Pinto tacos!

 

Side-note: Did you know that Field Roast makes vegan cheese? I didn’t know until we found it at the store last night. It was great in these tacos! My favorite vegan cheeses have been Follow Your Heart and Daiya, but now there’s Field Roast. Daiya probably still works best on pizza, though. I might have to do an experiment to find out. There are other vegan cheeses out there, too.

 

3). Cold weather means that chocolate tastes like Christmas.

 

Stonegrindz Chocolate

Stonegrindz Chocolate

 

This chocolate is made locally, and it is delicious. Somehow, cold weather and Stonegrindz’ midnight dark chocolate really go together. Callaghan even likes it, and he generally doesn’t care for dark chocolate! We get it at the Farmer’s Market down the street, of course.

 

4). Cold weather makes garage workouts possible.

You know it’s been cold if you see that my elbows are bruised… it means that I’ve been working out on heavy-bags in the garage, a thing you can’t do in Arizona heat if there’s no A/C out there.

 

I waited seven months for this.

I waited seven months for this.

 

(A selfie was going to be impossible, so I took these pics with the web cam… that’s why they’re kind of grainy and dark.)

 

Garage workouts once again!

Garage workouts once again!

 

Because let’s be honest… there’s nothing like an intense workout on heavy-bags to relieve your frustrations. Any shrink would back me up on that, I’m guessing.

The cold also means that I can lift weights in the garage, since we have some dumbbells out there. I need to build up some strength.

Did I mention, by the way, that my strength-training attempts at the work gym ended in failure? The plan was to go during lunch, but evidently the rest of the world had the same idea. I couldn’t get the weights I needed because they were always in use, and I didn’t have time to wait. I gave up after three or four days.

 

5). Cozy winter kitties.

 

Nenette in her favorite windowsill sunbeam on a cold day.

Nenette in her favorite windowsill sunbeam on a cold day.

 

Nenette asleep on the back of the couch, one of her favorite spots.

Nenette asleep on the back of the couch, one of her favorite spots.

 

Sleepy Nounours and his little pink freckled nose.

Sleepy Nounours and his little pink freckled nose.

 

Blanket weather!

Blanket weather!

 

It’s supposed to warm up a little starting today, but it’ll still be cold enough to be magical!

Looks like this turned out to be something of a “favorites” post, which I didn’t intend, but it’s great because I wasn’t going to do one for December. (At the end of the month I’ll do a “best of 2015,” instead.)

Thanksgiving, TALC-versary, NEW KITTY PICS!

Today falls between two days of significance: Thanksgiving and my TALC-versary, the latter being more of personal significance, of course.

So, happy belated Thanksgiving, American readers!

And happy 3-year TALC-versay to me, which actually feels like an extension of Thanksgiving, because I’m grateful for this blog. I’m especially grateful for all of you who read it. I wrote my first post on November 28, 2012 after creating my WordPress account sans clear idea of what it would involve. Sometimes it’s more fun not knowing, though, and fun, it has been. I can’t say it enough: Thank you all for reading! Here’s to the next three years!

Yesterday marked our first Thanksgiving here in the Land of AZ since we moved back. It was just the two of us and kitties this year. We talked to Mom and Dad on Skype and then did the traditional thing of eating a lot and catching up on Scream Queens.

For the food, I kept things simple and made savory dishes to satisfy the palate the same way as the traditional Thanksgiving spread. I made quinoa and brown rice pilaf with sautéed mushrooms and garlic, roasted baby red-skinned potatoes and onions, roasted Brussels sprouts, and thick eggplant slices lightly fried in olive oil. We had fresh, cooked broccoli with Veganaise for an appetizer, and fresh raspberries for dessert.

 

Thanksgiving dinner 2015.

Thanksgiving dinner 2015.

 

Now for some pics for a mini visual kitty update!

 

No one lounges like the Nounours.

No one lounges like the Nounours.

 

No one poses better than la petite Nenette.

No one poses better than la petite Nenette.

 

I managed to catch Nounours in a rare moment of being properly illuminated for the camera. You can even see the blue of his eyes!

I managed to catch Nounours in a rare moment of being properly illuminated for the camera. You can even see the blue of his eyes!

 

Nenette has taken to resting on the back of the couch to be near us.

Nenette has taken to resting on the back of the couch to be near us.

 

It's funny how these two often sit near each other on this end of the couch.

It’s funny how these two often sit near each other on this end of the couch.

 

Also! Kitties’ Aunty Carol captioned one of Nenette’s pics from the last update:

 

"What is HE doing here????"

“What is HE doing here????”

 

Yes, Nenette really says that sometimes when she’s in the same space as Nounours, and he says the same thing of her. Their dynamic is mysterious and Callaghan and I mostly try to avoid intervening too much, but I admit that I’m a helicopter cat mom who sometimes hovers over the furbabies to make sure Nounours keeps his intimidation tactics to a minimum.

Today, we’re hiding from Black Friday madness. It feels like the day after Christmas, and that’s awesome.

Welcome to the Hotel NOT CALifornia!

First of all, Happy 4th of July, fellow Americans! I’m coming at you from a coffee shop this morning because our internet at home is down. And hey, how about that dust storm last night?! The luscious scent of creosote enveloped us the second we stepped outside this morning… it’s going to rain. Monsoon season begins!

Whoa, I’m feeling scattered here. Let me focus on sharing with you my latest favorite discovery.

The first time we spotted a vehicle with a “Not Cal” decal, we did a double-take. The second look was necessary because we’re used to seeing California pride decals that say “So Cal” for Southern California, or “Nor Cal” for Northern California.

We thought we were looking at a “Nor Cal” decal, but the “r” wasn’t right… it looked more like a “t.” It seemed to spell “Not Cal.” Squinting and looking closer, I realized, Hey! It DOES say “Not Cal!” Then I saw that the lettering was centered over a beautiful bronze graphic of the state of Arizona, which was resplendently merged with the Arizona flag. Not California. Arizona. I was stoked.

 

The AZ flag with its copper star and sunset rays. (AZ is famous for its copper mining industry and sunsets.)

The AZ flag with its copper star and sunset rays. (AZ is famous for its copper mining industry and sunsets.)

 

[Side-note trivia: In the 2001 poll taken by the North American Vexillological Association, the Arizona flag ranked #6 on the list of 10 Best Flags in North America – the sixth best flag out of 72 flags! New Mexico’s flag took first place, Texas came in second, and Quebec’s flag ranked third with its elegant fleur de lys design. Interesting, right? See the poll results here.]

Broken down geographically, the residential picture of my life looks like this:

First, I lived in “Nor Cal” for 18 years (born in San Francisco, raised in San Jose), spending most childhood summers with extended family out of state (Hawaii). I moved away after I graduated from high school. I’ve spent the last 27 years in “Not Cal.”

Over those 27 years, I lived overseas for five years (three years and three months in West Germany/Germany, six months in Saudi Arabia/Iraq/Kuwait, one year and six months in France), and five months in Texas… and I’ve lived in Arizona for 20 years and eight months (interrupted only by the time spent in France and Texas).

The point being that I was born and raised in California, but I’ve lived more of my life outside of California than in it, and over 75% of that time, I’ve lived in Arizona. I couldn’t be happier in a place, and I especially couldn’t be happier to NOT be in a place. For all its beauty and the fact that people I love live there, California and I are not a good fit. I’m a California native who feels like an Arizona native, and I’m not alone… we ‘Zonans like to joke that anyone who’s lived in the Land of AZ for 10 years or longer qualifies as a native, since most people who live in Arizona moved here from somewhere else.

(Apparently, a significant percentage of transplants in Arizona come from California. My friend and real estate agent Nick once remarked that every time there’s a natural disaster in California, Californians stampede to Arizona.)

So when I saw the “Not Cal” decal the first time, I was amused.

The second time I saw it, on a different vehicle, I was even more amused, because then I realized that “Not Cal” was a thing, which meant that it could be had. I found it online, ordered it, and Zach-the-Not-Cal guy got it to our mailbox within two days.

 

Bugsy all glammed-up!

Bugsy all glammed-up!

 

So, Zach and everyone at Not Cal Clothing and Big Cartel (funny coincidence… I’m at Cartel right now), thank you! Thanks for helping us ex-Californian ‘Zonans represent. =)

HABOOB!

We’ve arrived at the end of a beautiful but windy week that brought our first dust storm of the year… a whole two months early! Our dust storm (aka “haboob”) season here runs between May-September. Late Tuesday afternoon, we left the living-room window open even after the vertical blinds started whipping around to the tune of the wind-chimes on the balcony.

Click here to see the video.

Ronnie James and Nounours aren’t dust storm fans… yet. They’re new here. They’ll get used to it.

I remember my first Arizona dust storm in the early ’90’s. I was driving, and suddenly (and I do mean suddenly), a towering, opaque wall of dust came toward me. I was a new transplant in the Land of AZ, and it was an odd moment of surprise while feeling at home at the same time. The dust storms here aren’t as violent as the ones I’d experienced in Saudi Arabia, but they can be dangerous, and tragedies do occur. Still, we like them, we do! They’re a part of life in the desert, and they’re somehow mystical.

So, if Tuesday’s dust storm is any indication, our April and May houseguests from France might be in for something really, um, new.

The last time we hosted visitors from France was in July 2011, right before we moved over there. We collected Callaghan’s friends from the airport and took them directly to the small diner across the street from our Chandler apartment – it was one of those small, ‘50’s-inspired trailer diners – and while we were sitting there eating dinner, this happened:

 

 

We’ll see what happens this time when our visitors are here! Maybe nature won’t give us anything more dramatic than its usual spring splendor of desert blooms.

And with that, I’m off to downtown Phoenix to pay a visit to the V.A. facilities. Have a great Friday and weekend, everyone!