Monthly Archives: March 2016

Blogging from A-Z Challenge 2016

A2Z-BADGE [2016]

Oh my stars and garters–it’s almost April! How can that be? It seems the older I get, the more I find my self exclaiming about time’s swift passing. Tempus fugit all over the place!

Here in Tacoma, WA, April brings clear skies (occasionally), blossoming rhododendrons, the constant sound of gardening machines (Shut up, already!), and for us, a total kitchen remodel. Starting on the fourth, workers will be traipsing in and out, tearing out the 1956 kitchen down to the studs and then rebuilding. The whole process will take seven weeks if we’re very lucky. If you’ve ever landed on this blog before, you’ll  notice that I enjoy cooking. In the archives under “The Leftover Project” you’ll find several original recipes to help you re-purpose your leftovers, as well as other seasonal treats.

But seven weeks without a kitchen! I know, first-world problem, right? Trader Joe is about to become my new best friend, as I work my way through their ready-to-heat meals.

To keep my sanity during this chaotic time, I’ve taken on the A-Z blogging challenge. Starting April first, I’ll be blogging each day except Sunday, working my way through alphabetical topics, as well as visiting a plethora of bloggers who have also accepted the challenge.

And my topic is…(Please provide your own drum roll)…(very nice)…Making the most of early retirement. Tah daahhh! See you on April first.

Little Incivilities

It’s raining, blustery, and cold. I pull into the parking lot of the local Safeway. I’m in a bit of a hurry, but who isn’t at five P.M.? I’m in luck! A young woman is loading her groceries into her SUV. She returns her cart to the corral, climbs up into the driver’s seat, switches on the ignition…and sits there. Behind me, a line of cars is building. I scoot to the side as far as possible and put on my turn signal. Gusting winds shake my little sedan. I wait, hopeful.

What is she doing in there? Something on the seat beside her requires her urgent attention, it seems. She’s not tending to a child; in fact, she seems to be alone in the car. Her motor is running, her lights are on, but—no movement. She hunches forward.

Ah. The phone.

Perhaps she absolutely must attend to some urgent business. Maybe she’s just received a job offer, and is consulting her mate or her mom for advice. Perhaps negotiations at the office have broken down, and she must act now to save the project from utter failure.

But how long does that take? It’s going on five minutes now since she climbed into her car.

Maybe she’s just received some tragic news via text, and needs a moment to process her emotions. She doesn’t look very emotional, though. In fact, she appears to be frozen. Is she in distress? Has a huge spider crawled out from under the seat? No, surely she’d exit her vehicle if that were the case. I wait.

Oh, I get it—she’s no doubt waiting for someone who’s still inside the store. Perhaps her friend had to pee, or ran back to grab a forgotten item on her grocery list. I wait. No one joins her.

Most of the drivers behind me have given up by now, have passed me and are heading for the far reaches of the parking lot. But damn it, I’m not going to give up on this prime parking spot that’ll save me from getting drenched in the driving rain. I wait.

Behind me, someone honks. Look, Dude, I left you plenty of room to pass me, and my turn signal’s on. Am I blocking someone’s egress? Nope—all clear. I wait. The SUV non-driver hunches. I give my horn a little tap, just a tiny toot, and then give her the “What’s up?” shoulder shrug. She does not look up from her phone. She does not shut off her engine, to demonstrate her intention to stay put. She hunches. I wait.

Another shopper emerges from the store. Alas, I’m blocking her access to her car. She glances up at the SUV-sitter and shoots me a sympathetic look.

I admit defeat. Clearly, the SUV driver has some sort of extraordinary problem that requires intense concentration. I can’t keep this other driver waiting because, as Mama taught me, it’s rude to keep people waiting.

I drive off, breathing deeply, trying to keep this little mishap from spoiling my day. I find a parking space at the far end of the lot and brave the nearly gale-force winds that rip my umbrella inside out and plaster my glasses with icy rain. Just as I reach the front of the store, I spy the SUV driver—putting down her phone at long last, a carefree expression on her face, and driving off.

I really want to believe there’s such a thing as karma. May Princess I’m-the-Only-Person-in-the-Whole-Wide-World-Who-Matters get what’s coming to her. And thanks to all those who give a thought to their fellow humans and wait to check their phones until they’re no longer holding up traffic. Your mamas taught you well.

Beer and Loathing in Las Vegas

Paris in Vegas

Las Vegas is not my favorite vacation destination, but some dear people live there, so we went.

I should be more specific: I don’t enjoy the Vegas Strip. I can see why it’s called “Sin City”: gluttony, drunkenness, lust, avarice, gambling, unwise applications of spandex—it’s enough to make a religious person blow a gasket. Mind you, I’m not a particularly religious person, but the Strip grates on my nerves the same way that amusement parks do: too many people, nowhere to sit down unless you purchase something, tacky merchandise, aggressive salespeople, flashing lights and annoying noises, blingblingblingblingbling… Yikes!

This time, we stayed in the Luxor. Our room was spacious, but the air was stale, damp, smoky, and no amount of adjusting the air conditioning could remove that sticky, toxic feeling. You can’t open a window, lest it spoil the clean lines of the big pyramid. And sure enough, both Hubs and I came home with a nasty cold. Humans were not meant to live in such conditions.

Of course, I’d enjoy the Las Vegas experience more if I enjoyed gambling, but I just don’t. I was delighted when my husband and his son returned from the craps table with a substantial pile of bills. But when I see money disappear into the drooling maw of the casino, all I can think of is the hours of work it cost me to earn that money. Not fun—more like nauseating.

However, there were some highlights, besides our visit with the aforementioned dear people. We had the chance to drive through Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, just outside of Las Vegas, which afforded views of, well, Red Rocks, along with other gorgeous rock formations, the remains of what were once gigantic sand dunes. The visitors’ center is very informative too. Hubs is still recovering from his knee replacement surgery, so we didn’t hike, but we did enjoy our drive through the thirteen-mile scenic loop. Definitely worth a visit.

Red RocksMore Red Rocks

We also visited the Mob Museum, just off Fremont Street, where we learned about the history of organized crime in the U.S. and especially in Las Vegas. Fascinating—we could have spent a whole afternoon there.

While Hubs and his son played darts, I took a walk down the Strip, dodging beggars, hustlers, pimps, drunken tourists, and time-share pushers, until I reached the Bellagio. Ah, the Bellagio, an oasis of calm and beauty. Of course, there’s the lovely floral lobby ceiling created by Tacoma’s own Dale Chihuly.

Chihoully's Flowers

There’s the indoor garden, this time decked out for Chinese New Year.

Bellagio gardenMore Bellagio garden

Aren’t the monkeys clever? Monkeys and peaches

Even the casino is calmer here. I wandered until I found the lovely courtyard, so civilized, so European-ish.

Bellagio courtyard

Even the statuary is snooty here.

Snooty crocodile

I breathed deeply before plunging back into the throbbing throng on the Strip. Back at the Luxor, we went to the obligatory show—can’t do Vegas without a show. This time, it was the Blue Man Group. What fun! There were marshmallows, and bugs, and smoke rings, and Twinkies, and paper streamers, confetti, and of course drums, the element that holds this delightful conglomeration together. If you find yourself in Las Vegas, you should go see these guys—big fun! (But buy your tickets at the same-day half-price stand.)

On our last night, step-son and his darling girlfriend took us to the Hofbräuhaus, a very authentic-looking beer hall with very authentic Bratwurst and Jägerschnitzel, plus good beer, of course. And there was a real German band! It was a lovely taste of home.

So it seems that there’s lots of fun to be had in Las Vegas, but the best stuff is located off the Strip, except for the shows. Next time, we’ll find a hotel far from the fear and loathing, with windows that open.