Search This Blog

Sunday, June 18, 2017

SNAKES AND LADDERS!

"Did you hear about the rattlesnake?," said Raul, our maintenance man.  "No!", I said, wondering if this was the opening line of a joke.  He continued, "It was up between two condos, and the guy in one of them shot it and put it in the dumpster".  I waited for the punchline.  "I took it out of the dumpster, here!" As he showed me the picture of the more-than-a-yard long creature, that this was not a joke, and the hot weather had caused the reptile to depart its usual habitat, and seek whatever it was it was seeking.  "Be careful by the pool!" Raul warned.  With my limited knowledge of reptiles, I continued to question.  "But...don't they just come out at night?" Raul paused, and then said, "If you walk at dusk, take a flashlight, and don't walk in the grass, and if you see one.....".  He left the sentence unfinished, and shrugged his shoulders.  "Oh, you will know if I see one", I said, "You will hear the screams".  

As we approached the pool, I commented to Samantha that the snakes could not come into the pool area, as they did not have the code.  She looked at me with one of her looks, and said, "Well then, you have nothing to worry about!"  I then started to panic.  "What if one falls from the trees?" I asked.  "Then you can scream, and Raul will come running!" was her flippant answer!

Needless to say, I did not spot a rattlesnake, nor any other kind of reptile, and on my way back to the condo, called to Raul that I had surveilled the area and all was clear.  

"After thirteen years of living in Texas, I am still finding 'firsts'", I commented to my mother, the following day.  Finding the rattlesnake so near to my condo was a little disconcerting, but I had been aware of their existence in the neighbourhood.  After all it is their territory.  Having a neighbour, quite nonchalantly, announce that he had got his gun and shot it, and then just threw it in the dustbin as if this was an everyday occurrence, was almost amusing. My mum was quite concerned as to the fact that such a venomous creature was within the vicinity.  I did try to convince her that this was their natural habitat and that we were really trespassing on their land, but I did not do a very good job!


Image may contain: bird
It did make me a little more vigilant when coming and going to the car.  I was not as concerned about my safety, (which surprised me more than anyone,) but that of our little feathered friends, who were now getting to be quite large, and very vocal.  Sitting up in their nest, they were calling to their parents for food quite prolifically.

We were experiencing a very busy week, again, at work, and Dana had actually commented on perhaps needing to take on another member of staff.  I was wondering how this fell into the plans of reducing the business and retiring, but did not mention it to him! All I needed for him to do, for the immediate future, was to make sure he was caught up enough to join our 'Third Thursday' soiree, which we were going to 'do' by the pool!  Since one of our original 'hosts', and (as we call) founder of the two year old group, has sadly been hospitalised, we have failed to keep regularity, but I had chatted with two other neighbours a couple of weeks ago, and we had decide to make a June date!  Dana promised he would be poolside by seven, and I was satisfied!

Having lived in Texas for thirteen years, I would have thought that some things would have become obvious, to wit, creamy desserts do not work in ninety degree temperatures.  As I was on 'pudding' duty, I had made up my mind as to what I was going to cook, and completely disregarded this thought.  With six egg whites in my fridge, I whipped up two dozen meringue cases, and then set to making a trifle.  The number of attendees was not definite and although I knew my neighbour's chicken dish would probably feed the whole community (we are like minded when it comes to preparing food!) I decided that I should probably make a quiche, for good measure! 

Upon my return from the office on Thursday evening, I went for a swim, as I had done the previous evening.  It is the perfect time of year to swim between five and six.  After a quick dip, I returned home and filled the meringue cases with cream and strawberries, then looked at my ice box and sighed.  It was not going to work! Suddenly, I experienced a 'eureka' moment.  Up the stairs I ran, and retrieved from the spare room a set of plastic draws.  Lining the draws with 'ice pops',  and a couple of freezer bags of ice cubes, I laid an aluminium tray atop, and then put some silver foil into the tray.  I then placed the meringues on the tray and closed the draw!  I was amazed at my own ingenuity.  Genius!  I had made a perfect ice chest for my desserts. Now for the trifle!  This was not as clever.  I simply placed the bowl in another bowl of ice and put the double bowled dish into a cake box.  Finally, I put everything into a large storage box, loaded up my car, and then drove to the pool.  

Image may contain: birdWe discussed local events; Dana told stories of our birds, and we discussed the wild life around our beautiful community.  We were a final group of fourteen, which dropped by a couple by the time we had finished eating the feast to which everyone had contributed. Then someone mentioned the rattlesnake!  Apparently, a couple of years ago, one had been found in a garage!  It had been shooed away, but it was not particularly encouraging!  A baby had been found in another patio area, "and if there is one baby, well", and the group, excluding me, said in unison, "There will be more!"  The paranoia was starting to settle, and I was suddenly very aware of my desert surroundings!  Talk about how best to deal with the reptiles perused, and deterrents were discussed.  Apparently, the urine of a King Cobra is a very good deterrent.  Where can we find such a substance?  "Oh I have some in my garage", said one neighbour, "I keep it there just in case we need it".  After thirteen years in Texas, I am still not used to their sense of humour!  Why wouldn't she keep such an item in reserve.  After all, if one of my neighbours, nonchalantly goes into his house to get his gun to shoot a rattlesnake, why would I be surprised that Walmart would sell such a product!  For a split second, I felt relief.  For a split second, no one laughed!  Then my sense of security was shattered and I was back to square one!  Screaming for Raul was my only option!  

The party came to an end around nine thirty, and the file boxes, despite my constant referral, had not been opened.  Someone said, "Can I take a meringue with me", and someone else said, "Meringues?  Where?"   Within a couple of minutes, the spoils had been divided, and I was left, quite happily so, with empty file boxes.  No one had quite understood why someone had brought a filing cabinet to the pool, but my ingenuity was praised to my further delight!  I always feel as if I have pulled of a coup when I impress the natives!  

Before packing away my empty boxes, into the larger one, I turned on the flashlight on my phone, and checked all receptacles for insects, arachnids and the like.  I did not want to find anything untoward in my house, or my car.  Although the laughter was loud, it was not very long, as everyone started to check their receptacles! I took the box to the car, refused to place it on the grass while I opened the door, and struggled to get it onto the passenger seat. After bidding all farewell, I drove back home and crept in to my house, so as not to wake the sleeping birds.

Friday finally arrived and the birds were looking up over the top of their nest when Samantha arrived.  She had brought her camera and tripod, in order to video the days action.  However, the battery was not charged, and the length of time left was about thirty minutes. Once again, I marveled at the difference in my life.  My daughter, quite naturally setting up her equipment to capture nature at its best. Up until now, for me, this had been confined to those folks on the television!  

We returned at lunchtime to the nest empty!  The birds had flown the coop!  Samantha checked the camera and we watched the film. There as little activity until the last few seconds, where it looked as if one of the birds was just about to take flight.  Unfortunately, the battery expired at that very time.  We were rather sad, and went down to the pool for a swim.  No snakes were present!  The message about the pool code had obviously 'got out'!
Image may contain: bird

Upon our return to the condo, we mournfully looked around the empty area.  "Look!" came a loud whisper, and I looked.  There, under the table, perched on an empty basked, atop a few flower pots, sat a baby bird.  Then we saw a second in the corner.  They were still there!  The parents were hovering and we realised that they had not quite left the nest!

Samantha did some research that afternoon, and it appears that when the birds leave the nest, they find somewhere to 'hide', and then continue to learn to fly, before going to a new nest which the mother has built; a larger nest to fit the whole family with ease, and one where they can grow and become stronger, before finally finding a family of their own!  

By the time I returned home, it was obvious that our 'sun room' was 'out of bounds' for humans.  I scanned the area a couple of times for predators, such as unwanted reptiles, but saw that the parents of our babies were quite vigilant.  I had left the office before Dana and told him to call me when he was finished, so I could come back and collect him and the dog!  Edward and Samantha were attending a birthday bash and were going to be gone for about four hours.  The plan was to collect Frank around ten, and take him home!  

After a swim and a short read of my new book, I returned to check on my family, and then prepared dinner.  At around eight, I received a call from Dana.  "Where is my car?" he asked, quite concerned. "Did you move it somewhere?"  I often wonder if he listens to me at all.  I told him that I had to use it to get home!  A sound of relief came into his voice, when he asked if I could come and get him, and the dog!  We parked in the sun room, and crept into the back of our house.  I was finally able to return my small step ladder to its home, as it had been kept by the back door, for instant access to pee into the nest.

I messaged Samantha to warn her to take care when she returned, as the birds were hopping recklessly over the sun room, but we then decided to keep the dog, as her return at anything past 10:30 would cause us to have to be woken from sleep.  After a week of very late nights, we were exhausted and could not keep awake much past 10!

The sun was shining quite brightly upon the floor of my sun room on Saturday morning, and I stepped out to see check on one of the little ones, as it flew into the glass and then dropped to the floor. Stunned but not hurt, it continued to flap and hop across the floor and finally stopped in the safety of a corner.  I stood for less than a couple of seconds before the birth parents came down to circle my head.  I ducked back inside for safety.  Dana left the house on Saturday morning, through the front door, something which we rarely do, due to our cars being at the back. Samantha set up her camera again, and we watched as the birds hopped and flew, flew and hopped.  We, too, left by the front door, and went shopping.  

I did not look for King Cobra urine, nor any other deterrent for rattle snakes, as I decided not to act paranoid, despite feeling paranoid!  The likelihood of finding more than one reptile was also unlikely, as although I doubt the slaying of one of their own would have spread like wildfire through the rattlesnake population, apparently, there is never more than one sighting a year.  I do understand that this simply means that there may be others, but it is good enough for me!  Upon our return, and a trek up the stairs with all our shopping, we saw one of the birds had made it to the top of the fence, and was making its way to next door's car port!

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoorThe pool was busy enough to make an appearance by any self respecting reptile a non-happening thaing and I sat and read, and dozed, after swimming several laps..  My daughter floated on a rather large contraption resembling a cow!  I chatted with a couple of neighbours who had heard about the snake, but not about the birds, and I eagerly told them my story!  I saw my next door neighbour and asked her to be vigilant when driving in and out of her car port, as I was not sure whether this would become a new temporary home!

After we returned from dinner on Saturday evening, Dana and I were a little sad.  We missed the birds.  He looked at me and said, "You know what this means, don't you?"  I did not. "We are experiencing, quite literally, empty nest syndrome!"  We were indeed!

Father's day came around and Dana and I went out for breakfast. Upon our return, we saw one of the birds fly in over the fence and settle on the table.  It was accompanied by its parents, and I felt it was reminiscent of Elsa, the lioness, coming to see Joy Adamson, in the story, Born Free.  Of course, it was probably a case of, "What are you doing going back in there.  We are watching you!", but I have my dreams!  

Born free, the birds most certainly are, as are the rattlesnakes, and despite my dislike of all things reptile, they were probably here first!  I shall continue to enjoy all my 'firsts', although perhaps, 'enjoy' is not necessarily the appropriate verb.  It is still, however, a wonder to me that I can still be amazed or shocked at my surroundings.  A happy father's day to one and all, which of course includes snakes, arachnids, birds and beasts, who presumably do not celebrate any day over another.  The summer solstice is upon us and next week will see the nights 'drawing in', little by little.  What a sobering thought!  I shall, of course, be continuing to march along with .......... another story!


Sunday, June 11, 2017

THE BIRDS!

The small planter that I have hanging, empty, in my sun room, has squatters.  About four inches in diameter, it has been filled with twigs, leaves and other pieces of natural debris, by a female cardinal.  

For many years, a wren has 'entertained' menfolk of many varieties, in my sun room.  It was quite amusing to see her fly in, call to whomever was interested, and then see a male bird (never a wren) land on the fence, and 'negotiate'.  This year, she appeared once and then disappeared once the cardinal had set up home.  At the end of last week, the cardinal had laid three eggs!

As the dawn broke on Monday morning, we had our first chick.  Quite amazing was the sight, and quite excited were we.  We had a baby!  As the sunlight started to fade by the end of the day, our first born had a sibling.

Dana was a little concerned as to the delay of the hatching of the third egg, and wondered if we might put some water out for the mother, or maybe some bird seed, but I advised against it, as we did not want to interrupt basic nature.  If she had made her nest in the trees behind our home, she would fend for herself quite well  He did put up a board on the rafters, however, to protect them from the direct sunlight, and torrential rain that we were about to endure.

The birth of the third chick happened some time during the morning on Tuesday.  Samantha and I went for a swim at lunchtime, and espied three tiny bodies in the nest, huddled together, fast asleep.  Their little hearts could be seen beating through their thin veined skin, and we hurried inside so as not to upset their mum!  By the time we left again, we could hear the faint sound of chirping.

Dana and I were quite conscious of the fact that the mother wanted to spend time with her chicks, as we could see her watching from the safety of the trees at the back of our home, and we changed our way of walking around the ground floor of our condo.  I started to prepare dinner in the far corner of the kitchen, and used old plates and utensils from a cupboard that was out of her eyesight.  If I needed anything from my 'under the stairs' cupboard, I found myself crouching, and then sliding like a reptile across the floor, so as to avoid her capturing my movement, and flying off.  

Watching our newborns had somewhat of a calming effect on the whole household.  Samantha would take care when arriving, and opened my back door very carefully, so as not to frighten the mother bird and once the coast was clear, take my small set of 'steps' to take some pictures.  

The calming effect had made me quite mellow, which helped as drove across town on Wednesday morning.  The little chicks had started to grow feathers, and were now opening their mouths waiting for someone to bring them food. 

I left the house and made my way to the highway.  There seemed to be some congestion along the road, but I was confident it would clear, as the entryway that I use is often quite crowded, and the traffic starts to move a little quicker as we leave the slip road behind.  However, the lady on the radio, in charge of the traffic news, advised me that there was a broken down vehicle, in the left lane, a couple of miles along from where I was now stationery.  I had made my way across the the left lane, as my next exit dictates I am in said lane, and I had come to the conclusion, some time ago, that the middle lane was the slowest moving, due it being the 'changeover' lane, receiving those from the left who wished to exit to the right, and those from the right, wishing to travel faster!  About twenty minutes later, I had traveled less than half a mile, and the same warning was being given.  

The mellow attitude was still quite prevalent as I sat waiting for snails to pass me, as they would be the fastest moving objects on this particular road, and thought of the wonder of nature, and how the birds, like all babies, knew nothing but to ask for food as soon as they were born, and how mothers, especially in the animal kingdom, are the ones to go and collect, feed, and protect.  Although I had a schedule this morning, and had to leave Joe by a certain time, in order to get to my nail appointment, I was not perturbed by the amount of time it was taking to travel southward!

"That broken down vehicle is still causing a problem", came the happy voice from the radio.  I continued with the 'oh well' attitude and watched the time slip away.  I had just reached the next exit along, when the clock struck the half hour.  I decided to swap lanes, as the right hand lane was definitely moving a lot faster, and it seemed the logical thing to do, despite my placid temperament.  I was now behind a large vehicle and unable to see anything ahead, but we were moving, albeit at less than a snails pace.

I spotted the flashing lights ahead, despite having another mile and a half to go until the famed broken down vehicle.  As I wondered whether the happy sounding female on the radio had somehow been mistaken as to the whereabouts of the obstruction, she came back over the airwaves with a new lease of life.  "There has been a multi-car pile up just before 35th", she almost squealed, "causing more problems.  Oh and the broken down car has been removed".  Multi-car pile up?  How?  We were not going fast enough for a multi-car pile up.  Perhaps it was merely a 'fender bender', as it is known here.  Perhaps a tap on one bumper to another, but how did they manage to achieve such an epic event!  As I passed, I counted seven cars that had been damaged.  The first had gone into the second, as the one in front of them had presumably seen an opportunity to change lanes without taking into consideration the space available.  The driver has perhaps mistaken his accelerator for his brake and depressed it with force, as the front of the fairly sturdy car was almost flat, and parallel with the steering wheel!  The next few cars were jammed together.  I sat in wonder at how this had happened, but chose not to dwell upon matters that I could not change!

The remainder of my journey was quite unhindered, and I enjoyed a pleasant chat with Gail, while Joe was repairing a coffee machine.

After my nails had been decorated to a standard good enough for
the Louvre, (in my opinion,) I headed to the radio station to collect this week's prize.  I remember when the first 'Now' album was released, and the following few that caused people to ask, by the time it got to number 10, "When will it end?" Winning 'Now 62' caused me to chuckle.  

When we returned at lunchtime, the birds were huddled together, and they had developed some more feathers.  Their heartbeats were a lot stronger.  When I returned in the evening, I noticed that 'dad' was on the scene.  He sat watching his children, it appeared, whilst mum went to get some food.  I was quite amazed.  Although I am quite unfamiliar with the 'life of birds', I had always considered that they were similar to other animals, and let mum 'get on with it''.  Dana had asked if I would set up dinner in the living room for our Wednesday night company, so as not to disrupt the efforts of our new mum, with activity around my kitchen table.  Once again, I did all my preparations in the corner of the kitchen, venturing to the other cupboards upon the departure of mum.  

Wing feathers had developed by Thursday, and 'Huey, Dewey, and Louie', (although not ducks, these three had to have names,) were now sticking their heads up with open beaks, squawking for food. Mum and dad were coming and going at intervals, and once fed, the chicks returned back to huddling together and sleeping until they were hungry again.

Friday morning was a challenge.  Samantha arrived and asked if I could 'whip up' a Swiss roll, as she needed to make a 'birthday cake' for her friend, Sandra.  "I want to make a caterpillar", she said.  I had almost finished my Friday routine, but had waited until she arrived to take care of what I had to do in the dining area, as I knew her arrival would disrupt the birds, and cause mum to fly away.  I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to 'finish off'.  We gathered what we needed from one end of the kitchen, and huddled together, like Huey, Dewey and Louie, at the other end of the kitchen, and whipped eggs, sugar and flour, into a batter and put it in the oven. She whisked some cream and melted some chocolate.  Within thirty minutes, we had a caterpillar, without disturbing the returned nursing mother.  I marveled at our ability to create and whilst not 
'life changing', it was somewhat of a great feat!

By the time the weekend came around, our babies were quite demanding.  Mum had become a little more used to the movement in the house, and would not fly away instantly.  I was able to move around my kitchen a little more freely, and she was unperturbed by the dog sitting by the back door, staring up at her.  She seemed to sense there was a glass partition between them, as she looked down.  Perhaps she could not see through as the sunlight may have caused the reflection on the glass to hide Frank, but he went from sitting to lying and back again without causing a departure.  Dad was a little more skittish, and flew away more quickly.  However, he would come and sit with 'the boys', (their feathers have not changed colour enough for us to see if they are all boys, but we are generalising!) until mum came back to take over.

Samantha and I waited for mum to leave before venturing out to the car and headed to Costco.  I had placed an order of a large number of photographs, just thirty minutes previously, and was not sure if they would be ready by the time we had finished our shopping.  However, the lady on duty at the photo department knows us well, as her husband went through the same immigration process, with some time delays, and we had swapped 'war' stories, and given her some advice, which apparently helped.  As she spotted us, she called across to say she was 'nearly there'.  She handed me a large envelope, which was quite hot, and said, "I recognised the name".  I felt quite honoured.  So much had me feeling that way, this week.  

Dinner on Saturday night was also care of the radio station.  I had a voucher for a rather posh cafe, located in the rather trendy Domain, situated towards the northern side of Austin.  This was Edward's belated birthday meal, and we met my offspring and her husband at six thirty.  Dinner at the Cafe Grand Lux was indeed grand, and luxurious.  The portions were enormous and the prices, although higher than our average norm were not outrageous, considering the size of the meals.  Individual side salads were enough for four people, and the main courses could have fed my family of birds for several months! It was a very nice experience, and one worth repeating, now knowing how to order!

As we left, and said cheerio to one set of kids, heading home to see
what the other set were up to, we heard the live group playing in 'the square'.  "Look at the mandolin player", said Dana as I danced past the musicians.  As I looked up, I saw it was one of Joe's friends.  I waived subtly, and he nodded and smiled, unable to return the wave as he was playing his instrument quite vigourously. It was all very lovely and gave the evening a Mediterranean feel.  All I needed to complete the mirage was a walk along the beach!  

The bird family settled down quite early after we had finished in the kitchen.  Dad flew off to his supposed temporary bachelor pad, and mum settled in for the night atop the kids.  

Sunday morning was rather busy in the sun room.  The kids appeared to be very hungry for most of the morning, and mum and dad were taking it in turns to satisfy our children.  We sat and watched for a while, climbing over and under furniture, so as not to interrupt the process.  I remembered thinking how my life was changed forever when I had my children and how I was now adapting so that this new mum could take care of her children with the least amount of upheaval.  

I doubt that it will be too long before Hewy, Dewey and Louie will be learning to fly, and 'fly the nest'.  Until then, they are very welcome to stay in their first home, for as long as they would like. I will keep and eye on them, and be a good 'grandmother', and try not to 'interfere'.  Perhaps I will be privy to the first flight, but that will have to be seen in ............... another story.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

VIVA LAS VEGAS!

Where to go over Memorial Day weekend was a subject we had been discussing for a few months.  Perhaps Carlsbad, New Mexico, to see the caves?  Perhaps the train ride we had seen on the television show, 'Aerial America', which travels through New Hampshire?  Then Dana suggested, "Maybe we should go and visit my mom".  I agreed.  However, all the places we tried to book were 'out' of rental cars.  Going to see Dana's mum would not necessarily require a rental car, as we could have perhaps persuaded his sister to pick us up from the airport, but there were no available flights! It was starting to look like we were going to stay in Austin.

I receive regular emails from a travel company, to which I must have inadvertently subscribed at sometime.  'Ten National Parks you must visit', was the title.  After scanning through and dismissing seven, the eighth was strangely appealing.  'Death Valley' was not somewhere that I would have actually thought of visiting, but it was over to the west, and possibly a location where we could leave on Friday night after work, rather than Saturday morning, thus giving us a whole weekend away.  I looked up the nearest airport and found it to be, non other than, Las Vegas.  They had rental cars.  They had flights, and they had room in hotels.  In fact the choice was abundant!  

Dana and I discussed the different hotel options.  The travel site we used gave us quite a few options, and although many looked quite nice, there was one that was a cut above the rest.  Now, it is possible that I may come in for some criticism, sarcasm, or loss of readership, but so be it.  The hotel that we chose was non other than that belonging to the current President!  The price was the same as the other hotels in the vicinity, but the amenities were better, and the rooms offered were 'DeLuxe'!  Flights were at 7:30p.m., on Friday, and we would return on Monday at a reasonable hour.  

By the time I had arrived in the office on Thursday morning, Dana had called the hotel to request as high a floor as possible, and was looking for options for either a Hoover Dam tour, which incorporated a lunch cruise along Lake Mead, or a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon.  This trip was going to take in more than I had expected, as both sites had been on my 'bucket list', but when researching for previous 'getaway' breaks, I had not considered Las Vegas as a starting point! Lunch on the Lake as not particularly appealing.  I had been on two boats during trips with Samantha, and while one was far worse than the other, they both had me feeling rather nauseous.  I understood that the Lake was not particularly turbulent, but I was not willing to take a chance.  That left the helicopter ride.  With travel sickness wrist bands, and a healthy portion of Dramamine, I should be fine! We were going on the trip of a lifetime!

Closing the office at four was the plan, but of course very few people took notice of the note at the end of each email Dana sent out, advising of our early departure.  However, we were on the busy road by 4:45pm, and at the airport and through security by five thirty.  We were upgraded from Austin to Houston, which was rather pleasant, and I took advantage of the situation by ordered a Bacardi and coke! I was given the small bottle with my glass of soda, and poured half, leaving the other half for another time.  It was enough for me!  The second flight was not as luxurious as the first, but we had a nice extra leg room seat.  Our flights were on time and we arrived at to the 'ching, ching' sound of one armed bandits as we exited the jet way, despite the time approaching eleven! 

The line for the bus to take us to the car rental facility was very long. However, the efficiency of the system made the wait shorter than expected, and we were fourth in line at our particular rental company.  "We don't have the car you asked for, but for $20 a day, we can upgrade you to a....".  I stopped him right there.  "We are not going to pay extra because you do not have what we were promised", I said, in my best English accent.  I was tired, and whilst maintaining cordiality, I was not going to be hoodwinked.  "If you do not have the car we ordered, the onus is on you to provide one at no extra cost".  We were offered a Jeep.  "Too big", I said.  "It's a smaller mid size vehicle", came the reply.  "It's a bus!" I said, quite sharply, as tiredness overcame cordiality. "Do you have a Rogue, or similar?" All the while, Dana was playing 'head tennis', looking from one to the other, wondering when we would stop, and he would receive the keys to his vehicle. "I can give you a Ford Edge", was the next offer.  "No extra charge?"  I responded.  "No extra charge?" he sighed.  "Done!" I chimed!  

Another appealing aspect of the hotel where we were to be guests, (albeit paying,) was that their valet parking was gratis.  We drove to the plush front entrance, after driving down 'The Strip' and taking in the sites, and were greeted by staff, who opened our doors, helped us out with our luggage, and then guided us into the hotel, before bustling off to help the next person, without the usual pause to see if they were going to receive a tip.  It was rather refreshing.  The reception area was busy, and although there were several desks manned, the queue was quite long.  It appeared we were not the only people to choose this hotel.  

The fifty fourth floor was definitely high enough! Our room was a beautiful suite, with a 'straight line' view of 'The Strip'.  The bathroom was as big as some of the rooms in which we have stayed, and the toiletries were two inch square, brown and gold bottles, which I quickly took as mementoes.  As the time approached one, I called my mum, as she was now eight hours ahead of us, and told her that we were settled into our beautiful temporary home.

An early morning was not the hardship I had anticipated, as we were still on Texas time.  Breakfast was taken in the restaurant, as we splurged on smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels, and yoghurt parfait, with fruit and muffins.  It was all very civilised. The hotel is one of two in the area that does not have a casino, and this was also quite refreshing!  The restaurant was as elegant as the rest of the hotel.  

The bus picked us up outside the hotel at 9:40 am, and drove us to the small airport that housed several helicopters and a couple of planes.  We queued to 'check in', and as we stood by the desk, I realised that I was on a scale!  Each person was weighed to determine the seating arrangement inside the chopper!  We watched a few tours take off, and then we were called, along with two other couples; one from New York, and one from The Netherlands.  The Dutchman stood a full head taller than my husband, which was quite amusing.  "I am six foot nine, and I too am not used to looking up to people.  But it happens", he said, when Dana said he was used to being the tallest in a group. We were seated, given a quick safety talk, (having received a full briefing inside the 'terminal' and given a sticker to show we had attended; mine fell off almost immediately, and I had to quickly scramble to find it to prove I had been in attendance,) and then boarded the aircraft ready for take off.  

Turbulence in a helicopter is, thankfully, less obnoxious than that in a plane, or at least to my sensitive being!  The wrist bands and Dramamine did their job, or at least I assume they did, as both were applied, and we headed out across the divide to Arizona.  The views were, indeed, spectacular, and the drop over each hilltop was deeper than the last.  We circled the Hoover Dam, and then continued on.  I must admit, I was not as 'wowed' as I thought I would be, as I think my trip a couple of years ago in the propeller plane over the Rockies was just as spectacular, and a good view of Greenland, from thirty eight thousand feet, is also rather striking, but it was an arresting experience, and certainly one I am glad I saw!  We landed on the corner of a rock, and deplaned.  4000 feet down into the Canyon, we looked up and around.  The steep cliffs were certainly quite astounding, and the thought of those first explorers, Francisco Vasquez de Cornado, and John Wesley Powell, attempting to travel along this amazing place, was quite exhilarating. Powell had decided to go along the river, and there really was no safe haven!  I could imagine the Havasupa tribesmen atop the crags, watching our every move.  

Lunch was rather fun!  We sat on benches, under a canopy, eating sandwiches, crisps and fruit, and drinking champagne.  We were also provided with plenty of water for good measure!  The highlight of the trip for Dana was to hand feed a chip monk, with a 'Pringle', as the little animal would not consider a piece of apple! The ravens were not hand fed.  We considered that our hand may be the feed should this be attempted!  

We took off again and headed back to the airport.  A different way gave us a different view, just as spectacular as the outbound journey. As we entered the terminal, we were told that the bus was just about to leave and we headed out of the door and onto the large vehicle, just before the doors closed.  

Once back at the hotel, we were able to fully appreciate the days events.  It had been quite an amazing experience, and I was glad to have been able to tick it off the list.  We headed down to the pool area to have a couple of hours rest and relaxation, before dinner!  

"Two in the shade?" was the offer from one of the attendants, as I asked if there were certain areas that should not sit, such as the cabanas, or larger sofa chairs.  He said he had just noticed a couple of people leaving, and set us up a tier behind the front row, and under an umbrella.  It was perfect.  I swam and then joined my husband in a brief, but welcoming afternoon snooze!  "Cocktail?" asked another pool attendant, who was offering a sample of a signature drink they were promoting.  It would be rude to refuse! I have never been a lover of gin, but mixed with Prosecco, bitters and a drop of honey, this was rather delicious.  Atop the champagne coupled with the heat, however, this was lethal.  I started to giggle. Dana found this to be highly amusing, and took pictures to send to Samantha.  "Your mother is drunk again", he said in jest.  

Once back in the room, I noticed that all of the toiletries had been replaced!  I opted for a pre-dinner Jacuzzi, which was pure joy! I had to sit in the corner of the bath, as it was much longer than me, and I almost slipped under as I lay back the first time!  We have stayed in some very nice hotels, as well as some that were ghastly, but this was, for a high rise, perhaps one of the finest I had encountered.  

The Wynn Buffet was quite exotic.  The variety of food was prolific, and we ate far more than we should!  However, call me blaze, but a buffet is a buffet, and no matter the quality, it is still a trough.  There appears to be no appreciation for the food itself, just the quantity that is available.  I chose judiciously.  I wanted to savour and sample each bite.  From the pickled vegetables to the roasted duck.  I was not disappointed with the food, but thought that a more traditional restaurant setting would have been a better choice.  However, we enjoyed what we had, and our table was in a secluded area.  

We wandered around the hotel, which was very exotic, and ostentatious, as would be expected in Las Vegas.  The casino was smokey and very much alive.  It seemed to go on forever!

We had planned to take the shuttle to Caesars Palace and walk along 'The Strip', but Dana was feeling the pressure of wearing closed in shoes all day, and his feet were somewhat sore.  I did not press the issue, and we returned to our gold tower to watch a movie.  After all, we had not come to  Las Vegas to 'do Vegas'.

The next morning was another early start. I had an early morning swim at 7, and was rather surprised to see that the cabanas and large sofa bed loungers were already occupied.  Breakfast was not on the menu.  We both felt as if we had eaten too much the night before, and opted for a croissant and a cup of coffee to take on the road.  

Our destination was over the border into California.  The sign to say we had entered the Golden State was non existent on the road upon which we traveled.  The topography, however, changed drastically, and the red rock and granite hills turned into sandy peaks and pastel rainbow striations.  The temperature started to rise as we entered what was known as Death Valley.  We parked the car and walked about a hundred yards up a winding slope to see the view of what was once (so we were told) a lake of some sort.  Now it was just sand.  Miles and miles of sand.  Surrounded by dunes, we took pictures and drank in the view.  I had taken a sleeveless shirt to put on over my dress, and decided to lift it up to cover my shoulders, but it was too late.  In the two or so minutes that I had failed to cover my skin, my shoulders had become victim to a very subtle, but still noticeable, sunburn.  

We continued to the visitors centre, where we received a rebate for the three tickets we had inadvertently purchased!  Upon entering the park, there are pay stations.  It is obligatory to purchase a pass, but there are no enforcements, such as 'checkpoints', and many go through without donating. However, Dana had pressed the button three times before realising that the ticket had been produced, thus charging his card triple dollars.  At the visitors centre he challenged the three purchases and found out that the ticket machines were going to be removed, as the employees spent most of their time refunding money!  He did not feel quite as foolish!

It was 115 degrees at the centre, and the air conditioned facility was very welcome, despite the walk from the car being very short.  By the time we were back up to 'Sea Level', the temperature had dropped fifteen degrees and we were heading for cooler climes as we drove past the sign welcoming us to Nevada.  

After eating too much the previous night, we opted for a lighter dinner.  The hotel restaurant offered a 'chef's seasonal sampler', which we though would be nice to try, before heading out for our 'Strip' tour.  We 'dressed up', and were led to a table.  The waiter gave us the menu, and we saw what was on offer.  Gazpacho soup with avocado mousse,  a seven ounce New York strip, with potatoes and vegetables, and a slice of cheesecake.  "I must warn you, the portions are smaller", advised the waiter.  I was unsure as to what was small about a seven ounce steak, and the soup would be considered a 'bowl' in most restaurants around the Austin area.  The cheesecake was a regular size in my opinion!  However, the 'regular' prices would dictate a heftier portion!

Dinner was delicious, and after we left the restaurant, we made our way outside to catch the shuttle.  Caesar's Palace was in the realm of 'typical' for most Las Vegas Hotels. We could not avoid the casino, as we walked through to try and find the exit.  Once outside, we found the footbridge to the Bellagio, and walked through its casino to the 'chocolate' shop, where the cakes and chocolate statues were being studied in awe by those who were around us.  It was just as I remembered.  The botanical gardens and conservatory were decked with oriental designs.  I remembered the first time I had visited and there were butterflies everywhere.  It was quite decorative.  We decided to walk a bit further down, but contemplated crossing the road to go into the Paris and Venetian hotels.  As we walked along the promenade, the Bellagio water and music show stated.  The fountains danced to music and mesmerised the crowd watching.  By the time the show was over, Dana and I had decided that the crowds were a little too much to bear and we headed back to find the shuttle.  Had we planned a trip to Las Vegas to 'do Vegas', we probably would not have minded the densely populated hotels and pavements, but our trip had been about something else and we did not want to have to fight our way along the streets to see on the ground what we could view from our room. We had both 'done Vegas' before. 

Monday morning arrived all too soon.  We packed up our belongings, and waited for our car to be brought out from wherever it had been housed.  We checked out, and were asked how we had enjoyed our stay.  We commented on the aspect of having no casino, and the receptionist said it had proven to be a big draw!  I mentioned that I had seen some air crew members the night before, and that they had been completely 'wowed' by the entrance, and the walk to the elevators.  The receptionist was quite delighted with my comments. Nothing had been too much for the staff, and everyone appeared to be happy to be working in the hotel.

The drive to the car rental facility was quick, and the bus was waiting for us when we exited.  We went through security without a hitch, and found somewhere to have breakfast.  We had been upgraded on both our flights back to Austin, and sat in comfort. Dana started to watch a film on the first flight, and finished watching it on my phone during the second, as there were no televisions in the seats!  "Gin and tonic please", I asked, having found  new appreciation for the spirit.  I am not sure how many small bottles she added to the drop of tonic, but it was a little too strong for me.  I asked for more tonic, and she was rather amused. "Sorry, was it too strong?" she asked, smiling.  I told her that a sniff is usually enough and I should have told her previously!  I was then presented with a basket of goodies, and told that I could take as much as I pleased.  A bag of crisps and a banana was perfect. A little later I asked if I could have a cup of coffee and if she had any cookies in the basket of goodies  She presented me with my beverage and a couple of Orio's!  I was quite happy, and crocheted whilst watching Dana watch his movie!

We landed in Austin and drove home.  I went to the pool for a couple of hours, and Dana went to the office.  We then met Samantha and Edward for dinner, where they wanted to know all the details of our trip, or at least what the hotel was like and what we actually did whilst in the downtown area.  It is their favourite destination, and they could not fathom that we chose not to embrace the madness!

Considering a couple of weeks ago, we had no idea where to go, and had almost given up hope of a trip out of town at all, without having to drive for hours, this turned out to be quite the trip of a lifetime!  From the spectacular tours to the spectacular hotel, and the spectacular views, it was the most amazing weekend.  It seemed such a shame to spoil it by having to go back to work, but I imagine that is what made it all the more spectacular; a diverse contrast!

The week that followed had its moments, as did the weekend, but I will not embark on anymore for the time being.  Enough is as good as a feast is my motto, and anything else can be held over for ...... another story!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

HERE COMES SUMMER!

My neighbours were excited on Monday at lunchtime. "Summer's coming", one shouted.  "Is Tracie swimming?" asked another.  It appears that Daylight Savings, and Quarter Days are just there for fun! The real way to tell whether it is the beginning of summer, is if I go to the pool to swim!  As I departed the area, and walked back to my condo, our trusty maintenance man was sitting in his shady cabin having his lunch.  "Ah.  It must be summer", he said, followed by a big beaming smile.  I wondered when I had become the barometer!

Thunder and lightening prevented me from swimming on Tuesday, but that was par for the course.  It's summer, and it is Austin.  I had prepared dinner early, and put it in the crock pot, hoping that the storms would not cause a problem with the electricity.  There are few things that make me sigh more than coming home, having prepared dinner and put it in the oven on a timer, or in the crock pot, only to have a midday power cut, and find the raw ingredients sitting pretty, and cold!  As tornado warnings were not abound, I was confident that there would not be a break in my utilities!  I walked around the circuit, and came back to the office at lunchtime, before returning home to a fully cooked meal.  

I sent Joe a message on Wednesday morning, just to check that he was in the shop.  I made two small black current cheesecakes, with the idea of bribing my favourite barista in return for coffee and waited for the tell-tale hammer sound of a return text message.  The lightening bolt and thunder clap that was heard during the time my cheesecakes were baking, was an indication that I would not hear back from Joe in a timely manner, as although he only lives a few minutes away from the roasterie, it was now raining quite heavily, and that meant a slow down in traffic.  Of course, I use the term 'slow down' rather loosely, as traffic would have probably come to a standstill!  I pottered around the house for a while, before heading out to go to the office.  En route, Joe sent me a message to say he had just arrived and could I still make it.  I declined the offer but asked if Thursday would be a viable option.  I also added that I could bring cheesecake!  "I shall be there early!" was the response!

Jason was late.  He had messaged Dana to say that he was due to arrive about ten minutes early, but it had started to rain.  His GPS had told him, in an instant, that the fifteen minutes he should expect as a travel time, was now thirty seven, and was increasing as he messaged!  

By lunchtime, the rain had stopped, and the clouds, although still gathering, broke with enough space to cause the ground to dry, and the sun to steam the Terra firma.  I walked around to the supermarket, and was grateful for the respite, as the cool air hit my face upon entry.  I collected a few items that would enhance my dinner for that evening and strolled back in the quite debilitating heat.  By the time I reached the office, I was exhausted, and felt like I had trekked across a desert with no protection!  (I have never trekked across a desert and trust this will be taken 'without prejudice' should anyone who has trekked across a desert be reading!)  It took a long time for me to cool down and I did not change back into my work attire for about half an hour!  With all the electricity around, however, it would not have been a good idea to swim.

Towards the end of the day, the sun had started to shine a little more, and the heat intensified.  I received a call from one of our clients, asking if we had any news on a paper that had been sent to Colorado.  I could not find any reports in emails or otherwise and said that I would call the server taking care of the project, as I was quite sure they were going to make an attempt earlier in the day.
As the 'Centennial' state was seven hours behind GMT, this meant they were an hour behind us and probably still in the office.  I promised to call back our client upon any response.  "Oh I am sorry, it wasn't safe to drive today", was the answer to my question as to whether the paper was attempted.  "Started to rain last night, then we woke up to a foot of snow, and blizzard like conditions". My immediate response, whilst looking outside at the sun scorching the pavement was, "Really?"  Apparently the area in which we were hoping to have the paper served, was made up of small towns, each one now separated by severe snow drifts!  "I understand", I started and then continued, "Well actually I don't. We are currently nearing triple digits in our temperature, and I cannot begin to fathom your situation",  The laughter from the other end was genuine, and we both mused over our different weather phenomena at this time of year!


I drove to Joe on Thursday, quite happy with my new tyre on the
highway.  There is a bump in the road as I transfer from one freeway to another and I have been quite concerned of late, that my tyre would not cope with the impact.  My small car tends to be less resilient to harsh abrasions in the road, but this morning I drove over the ledge with renewed confidence.  The cheesecake endured the journey with poise, and was almost demolished before my departure.  I left after a brief, but lively, political discussion, which was most enjoyable.  I received an apology from a member of Joe's staff for his passionate discourse. I told him that no apology was necessary, as it was a delight to be able to debate, adding that it is rare, in recent times, to be able to express an opinion, without the other side taking it personally.  One's political opinion, no matter how the other side sees it, is an opinion.  Facts can be quoted, agreed with or disputed, but the reasons as to why one person votes differently to another, is because in their opinion the one voted for is the best choice.  I thanked him for the opportunity, and I think, dismayed him that I had not been offended!  

I made all the right motoring decisions on my way back, taking the lower roads, which although meant sitting at traffic lights, rather than passing over to avoid them, allowed me to be further ahead at the point of turning off one freeway to another.  I got back to the office a little after eight.  

As the tornado warnings had started to be announced, I chose a walk again at lunchtime.  It was quite hot, and the breeze did nothing to cool, but instead created a hot air fan, which blew warm air out rather than vacuumed it back in.  I also had an overnight package to drop off at the 'Fed Ex' box, and as I reached the strip where the post office is located, I walked across the car park to the deposit box.  I noticed a black truck in the car park, with the words 'mobile repair' upon it, and a phone number, which was not local. A man was talking, rather emphatically to a young lad, standing beside his car, which appeared to have a small dent.  As I approached I could hear the owner of the truck telling the young lad that he was only in town for one day, and could not do the repair another day.  The interpretation was that if he did not say 'Yes' there and then, he could not promise a good a deal, should he be in the area again.  I recognised the scam, (I make no apology for calling it what it appeared to be, in my opinion,) but did not stop.  I deposited my package, and heard the young lad trying to protest. He would have to check with his dad.  Once again, the mobile repairer gave him the bad news that it would be too late to do anything once the lad had contacted his father, and they had discussed the options. He really needed to make an affirmative decision now! It was time to make my move.  I walked back across the car park, and was about to walk between the two vehicles next to which each was standing, and looked at the repairman, just as the young lad repeated that he would have to call his father.  As I slowed down, and made eye contact with the repairman, it was 'message received'.  "Okay, no problem!" he said and got back into his truck.  I do not have an overwhelming presence, normally, being only five foot two, and not particularly bulky, but I am no spring chicken, and the silver hair cascading out of the back of my cap, probably gave away my maturity!  "Well done!" I said to the young lad, who was now walking towards the shops.  "Thank you", he said, quite nonchalantly.  It was at that point that I think he realised the predicament in which he had nearly become involved.  He turned and said, "Thank you.  I appreciate that!" and with a spring in his step, continued to his destination.  I was not sure if he was thanking me for recognising his ability to thwart the over zealous salesman, or for my intervention.  Either way, I was glad the situation was resolved.  

I walked around to the supermarket, in the hope to find a law official.  The is always a policeman on guard at the large store, not always the same one, but always one on duty.  Except today!  The saying "Never a policeman around when you want one" was never so true!  I was not going to suggest any charges be brought upon a wrong doer, as no wrong was done, but I did consider that the presence of perhaps a 'panda' car (as we used to call them, presumably because they were black and white, rather than the fact they contained a 'bear') would discourage the repairman, who was still stalking the car park.  However, I returned to the office, thinking that if I had just saved one person.......!

Despite the possibility of another electric storm, and possible tornadoes, temperatures in the low nineties, with a 'feels like' indicator of nearly 100, drove me to the pool at lunchtime on Friday.  It was a little windy, but so refreshing.  I swam and felt so much better for doing so.  The weekend was not going to afford such activities, so I took the opportunity while I could!

Thunder storms were abound all Friday night, and hail was rather prolific on Saturday morning.  When I was ready to leave the house and go on my rounds, I donned my jeans, jacket and wellington boots.  It was very wet!  I drove to Costco, did my shopping, sampled hot dogs, and filled my car with petrol.  The rain was slowing down, and by the time I made my next stop, the heat had returned.  I slipped off my jacket and took my umbrella, just in case.  I wandered around a few stores, and caught sight of myself in the mirror.  I chuckled.  Standing in front of me was the reflection of a 'Stetson'd" head, sleeveless collared shirt, and jeans tucked inside pink wellington boots with faces of Julius, the 'Paul Frank' trademark monkey!  With the silver locks cascading not only down my back, but over my shoulders, too, I resembled a farmer, rather than a cowboy, but I quite enjoyed the diversity.  Of course, I did not take into consideration the fact that I might happen to come into contact with my new neighbour upon my return home.  It was a pleasant meeting, and she explained that she was helping her daughter, and her daughter's two friends, set up in their first 'home' as they each embarked on their first job!  My first thought was, 'Odd numbers of girls.  Ain't gonna work!', but decided that it might not be the best way to endear myself to the newest 'kids on the block'.  After all, when my friends Lesley, Lynda and myself got together seven years ago, we had a great time!  Maybe this generation of girls do not need to be in even numbers!  All these thoughts were flashed within my mind in a second.  I did not make the comment that I do not always look like a farmer, and am usually quite conservative in my mode of dress.  That too seemed to be an inconsequential remark!  "Don't worry.  They are not college kids", my new neighbour's mom told me, as if to put my mind at rest.  I was not concerned about their age.  I was still on the 'Odd number of girls,  How is that gonna work!"  (This comment will be understood totally by any of my female readers, especially of my generation!)  We bid our farewell, with my offer of assistance should it be needed, and I unloaded my car of my wares.

Dana and I went out for dinner on Saturday night, and upon our return home, were stopped by another two neighbour's who live a couple of doors away.  "How are you?  Haven't seen you in forever", came the voices from inside the car.  We responded that we were well, and I remarked that now summer has officially arrived, we shall see more of them!  They agreed.  Dana was quite polite and chatty.  When they drove away, he told me that he had no idea who they were, and how did I know them.  I explained that the remark, "We will see more of you", was more apt than I had realised, as when I told him who they were, I added, "You are used to seeing more of them!", to alter the age old quip, "I didn't recognise you with your clothes on!"  My husband rarely sees most of our neighbours outside the pool area!

Storms gathered, stormed and moved on all through the night. Swimming was not going to be on Sunday's agenda, but I had enough to do inside the house to keep me busy in the afternoon! We were definitely not going to see more of anyone on Sunday, as the rain keeps all but the ardent dog walkers indoors!  I may venture out for a walk later, but only if the skies are clear.  Tornadoes are still rampant apparently, together with all sorts of turbulent weather, baring snow!  Snow, in Austin, in mid-May would cause everyone to be writing ............ another story!



Sunday, May 14, 2017

ANCHORS AWEIGH!

My daughter informed me that she would not be around for the weekend, and that this year was not my year, should I wish to spend either one of the two mother's days with her!  Normally, we have a celebration, of sorts, for the English day, (what we still describe as proper, although if I am gracious, I would use the word 'original',) and spend the other one together, usually eating at the Mexican restaurant, where they hand out t-shirts, all of which are still in pristine condition in my wardrobe!  We have long given up the pretense of surprise, so I knew that she would not appear at the restaurant.

It was a strange experience breaking with a tradition, despite it being a relatively new tradition.  There was a vague sense of loss, but it was not as bad as I had expected.  Assimilating into my new life has taken a turn towards permanent.  Although I have never considered this move to be anything but permanent, there are times when I still feel rather alien, and traditions that have been forged since arriving in Texas have been of great strength.  When I did not experience an horrendous, overwhelming, feeling of anguish, (as is my custom when there is an alternative to the 'norm',) I felt as if I had loosened yet another string, and would one day 'drop anchor' totally!  

We walked this week, rather than swam, as the meteorological conditions were stormy.  The rain did not start falling on Monday until we were about a hundred yards from the office, but it was enough to make us very wet.  The storm did not last for too long, and it did little to quell the high humidity that had become somewhat of a burden.  There were some short, sharp cloudbursts throughout the day, but they, too, made no difference.  Our delight at seeing rain, on a day approaching summer, once again loosened the ties and I felt the anchor brush the ocean bed, albeit gently. Every so often I become more aware of my assimilation, and this week was one of those 'every so often' times.  

I made pastry cases on Tuesday, with the idea of filling them on Wednesday, with a new concoction.  When I left England, I was still weighing in pounds and ounces, and most of my recipes were in the Imperial measurements.  Fortunately, when not using 'cups', most USA recipes, and packages, have not transferred to metric, and my ingredients can be bought without having to calculate how many grams make up six ounces!  I was using a very old recipe for lemon meringue pie, but instead of using the citrus base, I was swapping it out for coffee.  I had an idea, and I was going to experiment!  I reveled in the fact, as I have probably mentioned on more than one occasion, that my new life here has afforded me the opportunity to be able to do so.  I was further inspired by my friend Gail.  I had mentioned to her that it was easy to serve up a dessert that was 'not quite' right, as no one knew how it really should taste. Gail said that she never had any problem serving up anything, traditional or otherwise, that was 'not quite' right, as it was her variation and, therefore, not for anyone to say how it really should taste.  Such inspiration led me to the coffee flavoured pudding!

Gail was not at the shop on Wednesday, but Joe and Logan, tasted the desserts and were quite complimentary.  Logan suggested that perhaps I add a tad of chocolate, to take away the slight bitterness of the coffee, and I concurred.  I had considered that.  However, I had also added a little more coffee than I had anticipated, as when I tasted the mixture, the flavour was a little too subtle, and I had over zealously poured, rather than spooned, in the granules!  Another employee arrived, and asked what we were doing.  "She wants to know what is wrong with these", said Joe, altering my original quote, "I am open to critique!"  The response, after swallowing the treat, was equally as complimentary as that which I had received previously.  "What's wrong with them?  I don't think anything is wrong with them.  They are good!".  I was quite chuffed!  I mentioned about putting a meringue atop each one, and the suggestion of adding chocolate to the egg whites was given.  I was ready for 'round two'!

I noticed that one of my back tyres was rather low when I left the shop.  Three out of four tyres are 'run flats', and apparently can 'run flat' for about fifty miles.  However, the last time I put air into the back tyre, the pressure was a single figure, hovering towards the zero end of the scale!  As I do not use my car very often, I thought that I would put some air in, and then see what happened.  The tyre light on my dashboard had illuminated a couple of times, but upon pressing the button by my handbrake, (which apparently re inflates for emergencies, or something - perhaps I should re-read the handbook!) the light had gone out!  I wondered if, perhaps, the mechanism which controls the light, has realised I am not going to do anything about it, and just goes out at will!  Am I giving a machine too much credit?


Work was continuing to flood in throughout the week and I was rather glad I had taken my car in with me on Wednesday and Thursday.  I did not leave the office until after seven on the latter, but Dana arrived home almost an hour later!  The chocolate meringue atop the coffee cups was a tremendous hit!  Pastries are not a regular dessert here, unless visiting a specialised cafe or restaurant, and I have become somewhat of a specialist in the eyes of those whom consume my wares!

Friday arrived, and Samantha had taken off, leaving us with the dog.  I had to make a trip to the post office at lunchtime, and walked alone.  "Where is a picture of that beautiful baby", came the voice from behind the counter, before the door had closed behind me.  All heads turned, and I smiled.  This is the part of my life that I enjoy, and that makes me feel as if that anchor will settle one day.  I took out my phone, and displayed pictures of my two gorgeous grandsons, and was proud to show off my two beautiful boys! After exchanging some more pleasantries, I left the facility, with a big smile on my face, and sending joyous felicitations to all!  I arrived back at the office feeling as if I had come through another heavy shower, although there was not a cloud in the sky!

The storm that took place on Friday afternoon did clear the humidity, and although the temperature did not drop, the atmosphere was far more pleasant.  I went home to prepare dinner, and Dana was not too far behind!  I did make a detour to the garage and put air into the flat looking tyre.  The pressure read '3', and that is when I took myself to one side and gave me a good talking to!  I would never have allowed this to happen in England.  I would not have relied upon anyone but myself to get this done.  Since moving here, I have relied upon Dana to 'get things done', as in the beginning, I lacked so much confidence.  However, with the anchor being in such close proximity to the ocean bed, I knew it was time to break another of those ties!


I decided to take the proverbial bull by the horns on Saturday morning, and take my car into the tyre place.  The last time I had needed to have my tyre replaced, I went to Discount Tires along the highway, and they were very pleasant and helpful.  I knew the name of the road but not the number, and I had the choice of two. Although I had planned to call, I saw that I could actually book an appointment online.  It was all very simple.  I checked my car in, and ticked the boxes as to what service I required, then clicked 'confirm'. Within seconds I received an email to say that my appointment was confirmed.  It was all very simple.  However, when I checked the map, I had chosen the centre on the south side of the highway as opposed to the north.  This would not be a problem if I could leave the house within the next ten minutes.

Driving along, I realised that it would have been a far wiser decision to have made the appointment earlier and had the tyre changed before going shopping, for more than one reason.  If I had a new tyre put on the car, it would be safer to drive, and I would not risk having to change it in the supermarket car park, because it was flat.  Another reason would be that it was quite warm, and I needed to buy frozen items, eggs and butter!  

Feeling confident, and putting doubts behind me, I drove to Walmart.  I arrived a little before eleven.  I had an hour and a half until my appointment.  I raced around the aisles but was slowed down at the check out.  Amazingly, no one in the queue that I chose had problem items.  I loaded my items into the insulated shopping bags, put them into the boot, and checked the tyre.  It still looked as if it was inflated.  I drove around the back of the complex and looped around to get onto the other side of the highway, and sped back. 

As I reached my exit, I had to once again 'loop around' to get over to the other side of the highway.  I still have to concentrate when on the highway, and remember that there are very few 'left turns'. Rather than cross the traffic, at a junction, most of our 'left turns' (or going against the flow of the traffic, dependent upon which side of the road one drives) are under or over the highway, in the form of a traffic light stop, or a loop around.  I have to remember to be on the near side of the road if I want to get to the other side. Looping was going to be the order of the day!  

Costco was not particularly busy, and I raced around the aisles, stopping to sample wares along the way, and put the items I purchased into the insulated bags in the boot.  The tyre was still inflated.  

I looped under the highway, again, and with plenty of time to spare, drove south on the highway.  I was not quite sure where to exit, and passed several ramps before finally coming off at what I considered to be a good choice.  It was. I looped under the highway again, and once on the frontage road, saw the sign for which I had been looking.  I drove into a very busy garage, and parked my car. 

"Can I help you?" asked the young man behind the counter.  I explained that I had made an appointment, but I was early.  He brought up my details on the screen, and we then walked to my car, where he inspected all the tyres.  Such was my confidence in this particular establishment, that I asked him what he thought needed to be done.  We walked back inside the centre, and he showed me the level of tread on my tyres, on a picture scale.  As I do not use my car very often, he did not recommend changing any of them, except the back one, which was going to 'run completely flat' in the near future.  It was also quite worn on the inside.  I was then shown a comparison in prices between tyres, cheap and not so cheap, the quality which I had in place at the moment, and the run-flats which were now comparable to the ordinary.  I chose the run-flat, as it was just two dollars more expensive.  The young man was actually the first to inform me that if I had a spare tyre, there was no real need for a run-flat.  Of course, I knew the real reason why I considered there was an argument to that case!

Image may contain: 2 people, hat"How long have you lived here?" he asked, curiously.  When I said I was in my thirteenth year, he commented on how I had kept my accent.  I told him that it was important to me to keep it, and he said that he had made sure to lose his.  "Spain" was the answer to my question as to his birthplace.  I was just about to say that my family originated from there, when his colleagues all jumped in and said, "Oh no he is not!"  Apparently, he was born in Mexico but found it rather romantic to have ties with the motherland!  Having celebrated their Independence Day last week, 'Cinco de Mayo', I was rather amused at his wish for cultural inclusion!  All three young men agreed that the English accent was worth keeping.  I thanked them, profusely, and paid for the tyre.  "Like your hat", said a fourth member of the team.  "Why thank you", I responded. "Wow, and the accent!"  I accepted the flattery for what it was, and although very thankful and gracious, did not feel the anchor drop more firmly!  

With a new tyre, and having taken on a minor challenge (one small step for man, etc,) I went home.  I was wondering if the butter, milk and eggs had made themselves into pancakes whilst being left in the boot for the duration of the tyre change, but they were as cold as when I bought them, or thereabouts.  I swam and read my book. Dana and I went out for dinner, and we had a pleasant evening eating ice cream and watching television.  


Image may contain: 2 people, flower
Keeping up the tradition, Dana and I went to the Mexican restaurant for lunch.  Samantha, not surprisingly, was not there, but I did receive my tenth t-shirt to add to the nine that are in the cupboard.  All except the first one are dated with the year. Presumably the first one was not expected to have been such a hit, and worth repeating!  

I would like to send out Mother's Day wishes to all the mums that are in countries that are celebrating, and a special thought for those that are parted from their kids for any reason.  Life goes on, despite all our efforts to keep it from doing so, or at least from changing in directions we feel we cannot cope, or survive.  Although it is very hard living across the ocean from my son, and the rest of my family, I do know that I am blessed to have had my life changed in a good way, always leading to .....another story!