What I’m Digging Right Now – November Favorites

Why hello, December! I can’t believe it’s already time to recount the blessings of November.

November was all about road trips and nesting and family. Between driving from Austin to Phoenix, and Phoenix to San Jose, and San Jose back to Phoenix, we clocked in more than 40 hours on the road… and it was worth every second. November’s main highlights were moving back to Arizona and going to spend Thanksgiving with my family in California.

November’s “BEST OF” to note:

1). Being back in the desert.

 

This was actually taken yesterday (in December), but it continues November's brilliant sun and gentle warmth, so here you go. Sitting outside in a t-shirt, blessedly dry in the absence of humidity!

This was actually taken yesterday (in December), but it continues November’s brilliant sun and gentle warmth, so here you go. Sitting outside in a t-shirt, blessedly dry in the absence of humidity!

 

Phoenix date palms lit up for the holidays

Phoenix date palms lit up for the holidays

 

2). Music: Steve Earle, my favorite country artist and one of my all-time favorite musicians, period. He’s a wonderful poet, and I love his unique sound… it flows between country, country-rock and alternative country, rich with folksy, rock n roll and bluegrass flavors here and there. He’s just amazing. I made a playlist of my favorite Steve Earle songs and burned the CD for our trip out of Texas. It was perfect!

 

My Steve Earle CDs: El Corazon, Townes, I Feel Alright, Copperhead Road and Jerusalem.

My Steve Earle CDs: El Corazon, Townes, I Feel Alright, Copperhead Road and Jerusalem.

 

3). Target’s generic brand energy drink (Archer Farms). We think it out-red bulls Red Bull, and it’s very tasty.

 

The energy drink that fueled our many hours on the road in November. It's Target's brand. I love the raspberry flavor, too.

The energy drink that fueled our many hours on the road in November. It’s Target’s brand. I love the raspberry flavor, too.

 

4). Living in downtown Tempe.

 

On the patio at the Handlebar in the middle of the night, just because we could. I guess it's debatable whether living near Mill Ave is a plus or a hazard. Nah... it's definitely a plus.

On the patio at the Handlebar in the middle of the night, just because we could. I guess it’s debatable whether living near Mill Ave is a plus or a hazard. Nah… it’s definitely a plus.

 

Arizona State University's Sun Devil Stadium, down the street from our apartment. We get to hear the fireworks when the Devils score, and that's a lot these days!

Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium, down the street from our apartment. We get to hear the fireworks when the Devils score, and that’s a lot these days!

 

5). Re-visiting favorite old hang-outs.

 

Alice Cooperstown, Alice's sports bar/restaurant in downtown Phoenix. Major points for nostalgia here.

Alice Cooperstown, Alice’s sports bar/restaurant in downtown Phoenix. Major points for nostalgia here.

 

6). Feeling truly at home again! After books, houseplants define “home” to me.

 

Our first houseplants in three years! They're temporarily named "His Plant" and "My Plant," respectively (L - R). I have a special fondness for spider plants.

Our first houseplants in three years! They’re temporarily named “His Plant” and “My Plant,” respectively (L – R). I have a special fondness for spider plants.

 

7). My house-warming gift to myself, which didn’t cost me a cent.

 

I took some old books to Bookman's and traded them for the hand-made Greek (Rhodes) Bonis plate on the right.

I took some old books to Bookman’s and traded them for the hand-made Greek (Rhodes) Bonis plate on the right.

 

8). Dexter.  We binge-watched the entire eight seasons, starting in Texas and ending in Arizona.

 

Our favorite serial killer. And everyone else's, I suppose.

Our favorite serial killer. And everyone else’s, I suppose.

 

9). November’s rave-worthy beauty product was (and continues to be) Garnier Fructis Triple Nutrition Miracle Dry Oil for Hair, Body & Face. I spray a little in my palm, rub my hands together and run them through my dry air, and it leaves a nice sheen. Callaghan also loves it for his skin.

 

This oil defies the dryness of the desert without leaving you greasy. LOVE IT.

This oil defies the dryness of the desert without leaving you greasy. LOVE IT.

 

10). Two Very Happy, Satisfied At-Home Kitties.

 

Nounours at home on his blanky!

Nounours at home on his blanky!

 

Ronnie James at home on the love seat!

Ronnie James at home on the love seat!

 

And last, but far from least: Thanksgiving in California, a last-minute decision that was the best decision ever!

 

An Idyllic Fall Weekend in the Country with Family

Somewhere north of Dallas, about four-and-a-half hours away from here, there’s an A-frame house nestled on the side of a country road, surrounded by sycamore, pecan and walnut trees. Inside live my cousin and her husband. Their three grown kids have headed out to their respective urban pastures, but the kids’ personalities bound throughout the home with so much liveliness, you’d think they still live there! And that’s wonderful, because Callaghan and I missed them when we went up to spend the weekend.

 

We spent a perfect fall weekend with my cousins at their home in the country just north of Dallas.

We spent a perfect fall weekend with my cousins at their home in the country just north of Dallas.

 

So that is where we went when we took off early on Saturday morning, and where we stayed until late Sunday afternoon, and that is why this post is a day late – because of all the pictures! I took over 200, and it was revealed after the fact that somehow, the image file size setting in my camera had gotten bumped up to 16mgs, which made re-sizing them rather time-consuming. Add to that the usual selection process and some errands to run, and, well, here we are on Tuesday with Monday’s post. (Sorry about that.)

In addition to re-connecting with my cousins, the weekend involved fossil-hunting in their creek-bed (there’s a creek and a bridge on their property), a go-kart spin on their road, a visit to Ray Roberts Lake, a visit to my cousin’s daughter’s house (which was excellent, because we got to meet their new son-in-law, though their daughter couldn’t be there), and a visit to the University of North Texas, where my cousin’s husband works.  Most importantly, there was lots of conversation over great food. (Note to Self: ask cousin for the recipe for her delicious vegetable curry!) It all made for an interesting and fun and totally unique time that we wished could have gone on longer. We hope it isn’t too long before we can see them again.

With that, here’s a slew of photos, which fail to convey the splendid and unexpected fall magic that is fossil-hunting in northern Texas. Imagine going apple-picking for the rarest of apples in a privately-owned orchard! Honestly, though, I think the company we were in had everything to do with the marvelous time we had. There is nothing like family.

 

Fall is lovely in the country north of Dallas. This is my cousins' bridge. The creek lies beneath.

Fall is lovely in the country north of Dallas. This is my cousins’ bridge. The creek lies beneath.

 

 

A fossil amongst the fallen leaves in the creek-bed

A fossil amongst the fallen leaves in the creek-bed

 

 

Look what we found!

Look what we found!

 

 

Fossil finds

Fossil finds

 

 

Turning the bend

Turning the bend

 

 

A perfect little fossilized shell!

A perfect little fossilized shell!

 

 

I can smell the fragrance of the country fall air just looking at this picture.

I can smell the fragrance of the country fall air just looking at this picture.

 

 

Stories in the stones

Stories in the stones

 

 

Fossil finds

Fossil finds

 

 

Fossil finds

Fossil finds

 

 

The part of the creek that had water in it in spite of the drought....

The part of the creek that had water in it in spite of the drought….

 

 

Fossil finds

Fossil finds

 

 

In the creek-bed

In the creek-bed

 

 

Fossil finds

Fossil finds

 

 

Fossil finds

Fossil finds

 

 

Fossil finds

Fossil finds

 

 

Callaghan and me (with an ancient snail)

Callaghan and me (with an ancient snail)

 

 

Hidden corners...

Hidden corners…

 

 

The treasures we found!

The treasures we found!

 

 

Our collected fossils

Our collected fossils

 

Saturday night…

 

The Christmas lights they leave up year-round make the place even more magical!

The Christmas lights they leave up year-round make the place even more magical!

 

 

A little décor near the front door. LOVE IT.

A little décor near the front door. LOVE IT.

 

Sunday morning…

 

Callaghan on the go-kart!

Callaghan on the go-kart!

 

 

My turn

My turn

 

 

Pile on!

Pile on!

 

 

The four of us

The four of us

 

And in the afternoon:

 

Overlooking the beach at Ray Roberts Lake

Overlooking the beach at Ray Roberts Lake

Close Encounters of the Kitty-Snatching Kind

We’re all happily ensconced in our place now, but the getting here was not without its perils. The Ronnie James kitty almost got abducted by a UFO the second we stepped over the threshold into our new apartment.

To begin with, it had been a long journey for the little guy. First, the morning we left France, he fell terribly ill as a result of the vet-prescribed sedative – NEVER AGAIN, by the way – we gave him and his brother, Nounours, in preparation for travel. (Thankfully, Nounours did not have this adverse reaction.) Next, there was the cramped, cold and damp taxi ride to the airport in Lyon two hours away, where we boarded a flight to Frankfurt, Germany.

At the Frankfurt airport, kitties sat patiently in their pet carriers while Mommy and Daddy sucked down beers, waiting to board our next plane. (What. It was Germany! Having lived there for two years, I’m incapable of stepping foot in that formidable country without imbibing their ambrosiatique – there, I just invented a word – brews.) Then there was the long flight to Houston, Texas… trans-Atlantic, halfway across America, non-stop. It was a 10-hour flight, but we were actually on the plane for 12 hours, since bad weather in Frankfurt caused a two-hour departure delay. Two hours sitting on the plane on the ground, 10 hours in the air. Our boys were beautifully behaved the entire time. No one even knew they were there. We were so proud!

We're American kitties now!  Rah Rah Rah! Now let us out!  **NEWSFLASH**: the inside of these carriers look the same here as they did in Europe.

We’re American kitties now! Rah Rah Rah! Now let us out! **NEWSFLASH**: the inside of these carriers look the same here as they did in Europe.

We spent the night in a motel in Houston. Ronnie James and Nounours knew exactly what to do… I opened the kitty suitcase to bust out their litter box, and they used it immediately after I set it up. They drank water and gobbled down their crunchies and the canned food we set out for them. They raced around the room, took flying leaps through the air onto the sofa, bounced around on pillows and cushions, got more cuddles and kisses and praise than they knew what to do with, and slept. The next morning, we packed them back up in their carriers, buckled them into the back seat of the rental car (being the responsible parents that we are – “BABIES ON BOARD!”) and hit the road for the three-hour drive to Austin.

A friendly sign along the way.

A friendly sign along the way.

In Austin, our final stop was supposed to be our new home, but there was an unforeseen problem with the apartment. We found ourselves pulling a fast Plan B out of our ass and checking into another motel room, where we stayed for four days; thankfully, that was as long as it took to find and move into our ideal new place.

By the time we’d secured that new place, though, Ronnie James and Nounours had already decided that they were home. In the motel room.  They had a double bed all to themselves, courtesy of the large, gruff-looking man behind the counter who’d kindly insisted that we take a free upgrade since kitties “might be more comfortable in a larger room.” They might enjoy a bed to themselves, he reasoned. (It turned out that the motel staff loved cats. We were told the story of how the night shift guy’s cat followed him to work every night, lording over the front counter with Daddy.)

How right he was! Kitties did, indeed, adore having their own bed.

Our own bed? THANKS NICE MOTEL PEOPLES.

Our own bed? THANKS NICE MOTEL PEOPLES.

They also enjoyed the maid service. We straightened up the room every morning and always made sure to leave the “Do Not Disturb” hanger on the doorknob before going out (me being paranoid that kitties would slip out and get lost if someone went in), but at the end of each day, the room would be immaculate, and there kitties would be, lounging like little princes on their bed, looking suspiciously as if someone had brought in silver platters of caviar and sea-brine champagne while we were gone. They probably got smothered with complimentary kisses and attention while we were gone, too. They were as content and purring as kitties could be. Ronnie James looked particularly blissful.

Maid came to change mah sheets!

Maid came to change mah sheets!

So when the time came to check out, Ronnie James balked. Because, you see, not only were kitties being treated like royalty by the motel staff, but there was an armchair in the room. As far as Ronnie James is concerned, home is where the armchair is… especially if said armchair gets daily catnip treatments, as that one apparently did. Throwing everything back in the suitcases and approaching Ronnie James with his empty kitty carrier earned me this expression:

What is that you have there OH HELL NO I am NOT getting back into that carrier. There is nothing wrong with this armchair, see.

What is that you have there OH HELL NO I am NOT getting back into that carrier. There is nothing wrong with this armchair, see.

For the first time in the whole five-day ordeal, he resisted us. He cried all the way to the new apartment. And when we brought him inside and released him, his world blew apart in a mist of terror when he stepped out, looked up, and spotted the Unidentified Flying Object from hell:

Spinning black blades. Lights and flickering shadows. Wind. WE COME FOR YOU NOW.

Spinning black blades. Lights and flickering shadows. Wind. WE COME FOR YOU NOW.

It was unlike anything he’d ever seen before. Adding to the problem was the fact that, being in his carrier, he’d seen nothing between his cozy motel room and this.

He did not get to see our harmless-looking apartment from the outside.

Not scary. Top floor, corner unit. It's peaceful. Summer quiet (students gone) or all the time quiet, I don't know, but it's lovely!

Not scary. Top floor, corner unit. It’s peaceful. Summer quiet (students gone) or all the time quiet, I don’t know, but it’s lovely!

He did not get to see our completely innocuous front door.

Not scary.

Not scary.

And he did not get to see the benign view from our breezeway.

Not scary.

Not scary.

He only saw this:

The menacing, spinning bladed aerial beast lies quietly in wait.

The menacing, spinning bladed aerial beast lies quietly in wait.

His level of alarm took me by surprise. It hadn’t occurred to me that the sights and sounds specific to a warm-weather place would concern the kitties, but of course… duh! In France, kitties never knew the low-grade hum of an air conditioner, and they certainly did not know ceiling fans.

It took almost a week for Ronnie James to adapt. The first two days, he huddled alternately under the bathroom sink (having quickly learned how to open the cabinets) and in the corner of the kitchen counter, where we brought him food and water. (Meanwhile, Nounours was fine. As Callaghan put it, you could drop a piano in front of him, and he wouldn’t blink an eye. He is, however, terrified of garbage bags.) On Day Three, Ronnie James ventured out to use the litter box. I picked him up and held him close in his favorite cuddly position. His eyes widened to the size of CDs and he shook violently with fear in my arms as he watched the flickering of shadow caused by the ceiling fan in the next room. My heart broke.

Finally, he realized that the rest of us were still alive after four days of normal life activity under the ceiling fans, and he started to gradually lower his guard. This process was helped by his discovery of the beat-up old armchair we’d found just for him on Craigslist:

Mine! Mine mine mine.

Mine! Mine mine mine.

He’s all fine now, our little Wrah Wrah James, wandering around and making his little “wrah wrah” happy noises.

UFO? What UFO? I'm chilling under my ceiling fan!

UFO? What UFO? I’m chilling under my ceiling fan!

Belly rubs pleeze and thanks sez the Ronnie James

Belly rubs pleeze and thanks sez the Ronnie James

Too much excitement around here. I'm out.

Too much excitement around here. I’m out.

And Nounours (AKA “Mr. Sheds-a-Lot” – no need for the year-round winter coat here!) has been enjoying the company of his brother again, whom he’d missed during his week of hiding.

Ah... now we're really home!

Ah… now we’re really home!