Saturday, November 25, 2023

small pleasures at home


a view taken on Vulture Peak road

We've been enjoying quiet times at home, mixed with a little local desert exploration.

so beautiful - so painful.....

 Dave is, as usual, puttering around, keeping busy refinishing cupboards that have irritated him since we moved in, adding a small safety fence in the back yard for a possible future event, and getting Beluga ready for a little, two-week trip to Palm Springs and Lake Havasu on Monday.

I even persuaded him to "relocate" an unusual, night blooming cactus that is rarely seen in the desert.    

off he goes, shovel and pail in hand

 The Peniocereus greggii greggii, commonly known as the night blooming cactus, is ugly.    Sorry, but it is.    It looks like no more than a bunch of dry twigs or sticks growing at the base of a Mesquite or Palo Verde tree, but once a year, at night, it produces a spectacular and extremely fragrant bloom. 

there is one in this picture, believe me...

 By morning the flower is gone.   Cool, eh?      I always get cross-eyed looking for one as we drive along in the desert (never actually finding one....) but this lady was discovered behind our very own house!

The other unusual thing about Queenie (that's her name now, don't judge) is that she doesn't have a normal root system.    Her "root" is a huge, turnip shaped tuber that reaches deep into the ground.      Poor Dave, he had quite a time digging a new hole deep enough to accommodate her turnip!    He's a prince.

on hands and knees

And, here she is!    Can you see her?    I placed a gargoyle next to her, to protect (and so that we wouldn't accidently step on her) the new site.    Now, to see if we will be able to catch that flower when it arrives in June!   Keep your fingers crossed.

The weather has turned fall ish.   We're finding ourselves enjoying happy hour in front of the fireplace instead of outside more often these days.     The skies are still beautiful and blue but by 5 o'clock it is a little chilly, so the warmth of the fire is welcome.

Most people notice fall has come when they see squirrels squirreling away nuts for the winter or caterpillars growing wooly coats.     One of our interesting heralders of fall are ants.....not the biting kind of the summer (eww), but the industrious kind that carry and stash away things.

For days we had a long, orderly line of them marching diagonally across the driveway carrying dried, yellow blossoms from a bush in the front yard to a chosen spot in a cement crack.     Others would then swarm out and take over the duties while the transporter ants went back for more.   

  Remember, I titled this post "small pleasures".   We spent some time watching this procession, wondering why these bits were so valuable to them - food, nesting material?     Ah well.     Then they were gone, not a scrap of debris to show how hard they worked.     

even Dave got in the act!

down went the blossoms.

As I said, the weather has started to change.    We even had a bit of rain the other day.      

It didn't last long, but the clouds that brought it here left us with a beautiful farewell display.

And.....if those pictures aren't beautiful enough for's little Annabelle!

sitting is a skill not completely mastered yet.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023



second cup in the sun

The hot weather has broken.... we're enjoying blue skies, warm days and coolish nights.  Second cup and happy hour are always outside in the beautiful soft air.     Sometimes even dinner happens under the stars.

Steve and MonaLiza came to share dinner under the beautiful Hunter's moon the last Saturday in October.    The weather was just a little chilly, so we pulled the table over to the chiminea and took advantage of its warmth and fragrance.   Dave found some pinyon pine, it burns hotly and the smell is wonderful, it reminds us of northern Arizona.     We had to improvise with our seating, however, since our patio chairs were away being re-slung (is that a word?).    Extra dining room chairs were pressed into service.     No matter, friends understand these things.  

trying to get the perfect shot of the rising moon

our chef, cooking Spanakopita burgers by headlamp

 The patio chairs have finally come home, six weeks after they left for the "spa".   Next time our al fresco meal will be more comfy.

 Earlier that day, we got a new addition to the back yard.   Summer wasn't kind to one of our bushes; it was stressed by the heat and....died.    To make the best of it, I picked out a cool cactus to fill the recently vacated spot - an Argentine Giant.    If all goes well, he should give us large white flowers.

see the sparrow on the orange?


  November 1, we set off on the first of a couple short getaways before the Christmas holidays.     We planned a two-day trip north to Cottonwood, AZ to do a little wine tasting and a scenic train ride in the Verde Canyon with Steve and MonaLiza.     Two days of training, wineing, eating, and laughing. 

We drove separately and met up with them for lunch and wine tasting at Page Springs Winery.    Lunch was great, wine was good, but we left without buying a bottle (s).

we see you Steve.....

 It was too early to head to the hotel so we asked our great waitress for a nearby recommendation.     She pointed us to DA Ranch, just up (down?) the road.    It was a WINNER. 

DA Ranch

The grounds were lovely, and the wine was very good.    We walked away with our tasting glasses and two bottles of their red wine.

little Superman howled quietly while his mistress sang

After a quick check in at the Tavern Hotel in "downtown" Cottonwood, we walked across the street to a delicious dinner at Nicks.

nom nom nom

We gobbled up our dinners way too fast for any pictures, but.....I did manage to capture people enjoying the dessert offering.    Yes, we all shared the trio of Creme Brulee. 

she pronounces the chocolate brulee the winner!

all gone

  The next morning we walked across the street to Crema for breakfast.     Laughs and breakfast.

Steve's bloody Mary, complete with bacon, egg, lemon, olives, etc. 


taking the top off pepper shakers produces his desired results

After breakfast and a stroll down Main Street,  we headed to Clarkdale for our scheduled train ride. 

Edith Ann?

they wait while we browse

Dave and I took this excursion train many years ago, so we knew we'd enjoy the trip.   After picking up the tickets we were surprised to see that our seats were in the "Wickenburg" car!     Each coach was named after a city/town in Arizona i.e. Sedona, Tucson, Cottonwood, Phoenix, Wickenburg, etc.

Our seats were very comfortable and private with 4 large windows on either side.   We were served a champagne toast and individual charcuterie boxes before the train left the station.

Once underway though, we spent most of our time standing on the outdoor observation car next door.    The scenery was just too beautiful and the day too perfect to spend indoors, no matter how comfy.

we disappear into the tunnel

Verde River cuts a green swath through the volcanic scenery

The train ride was about 4 hours and by that time we were thirsty again.   Yes, again.    Steve had a brewery in mind, just around the corner, and since it was too early for dinner we decided to try a brew at the Smelter Town Brewery.  

two of the four of us liked our choices
 The atmosphere was pleasant, in an industrial sort of way.    The nicely renovated 100-year-old building also houses a boutique hotel.  

Burp.....shall we hit another winery before bed?   Yessiree!    The newly built and opened Merkin Vineyards Hilltop Winery and Trattoria towered over our hotel and piqued our interest.   

The winery and tasting room were set high on a rise overlooking the mountains and city of Cottonwood.   It is surrounded by tiers of grape vines and has a gelato shop at the base, near the funicular (wine and gelato -   interesting pairing)

 The much-touted funicular was out of order, or rather the operator was "out of order", so Dave and I drove around the corner and up to the top of the hill to their parking lot.     The Lowes took the stairs.        Beautiful facility, every detail attended to but.....they are still working out their staffing issues.    No judgement at this point since they'd only been open for less than a month.     We finally snagged an outdoor table and decided to just have a light meal with a wine tasting.    This and that were unavailable, just ran out of...., no longer offering, etc. so we ended up with the wine tasting and a few small bites from the appetizer menu.     Perhaps we'll try again in a year or so.

After a good night's sleep, we met for breakfast and then went our separate ways back to Wickenburg.     Steve had a job to do when he got home, and we decided to take the slow route, through the mountain town of Jerome and on to Prescott Valley before ending our mini vacation at the mondo tourist trap called Rock Springs pie shop.

We've passed it many times and have never stopped.    It was lunch time so we thought we'd give it a try.    Yep, tourist trap on a grand scale.    The pie wasn't that good.    Ah well.

On the positive side, it prompted me to find a recipe for Tennessee Lemon Pie and make it at home today.    Mmmmm, I'm glad I did.

And, since I'm now a grandmother, here's another completely gratuitous picture of our sweet funny girl.