Sunday, December 29, 2019

Beef Stew and Hiking

Last week felt like it went on forever.  Probably due to the traffic and craziness that abounds this time of year, and we were just wishing for it to be over.  Yes, I know those are the words of a total grinch.  However, the commercialization that has taken over Christmas annoys me some.  Anyway, last Thursday, Jim broke a tooth.  It's not a tiny little chip, it's 25% of his back lower molar.  Happy Holidays to you!  He sees the dentist bright and early Monday morning.  They don't have the 3D milling machines that make the crown while you wait, so it will be a two visit process.

It was cold, we decided to make beef stew (which messes up just about everything in the kitchen).  We bought the pre-cut stew meat, and we are done with that.  The many small pieces provide too much surface area for flour, and require too many browning steps.  Next time we're buying the meat whole and cubing it ourselves.  We did learn something new; how to peel pearl onions.  Cut the root tip off, boil the onions for two minutes, submerse in an ice bath and then squeeze them.  The interior of the onion will come shooting out.  It's actually fun.

Did you know red wine comes in a can now?  We bought this Pinot Noir for the deglazing of the pan.  Drinking red wine from a can strikes me as somewhat weird. On the right we have my 8.25 ounce chicken stock with no salt added.  I have to get them from Amazon, since they only sell the big boxes locally, but they're good.  Since discovering Kitchen Basics I have not made stock since.  Wait, two times for stuffing, I made it then.  But anyway, for those who don't like to boil bones and stuff, this is a good alternative.

Yesterday was really windy and cold, highs in the upper 40s.  We bundled up and went for a restorative walk in the desert.

It was nice for awhile, then it hailed on us, and we went home.

Today there was zero air movement, sunny with highs in the upper 40s.  It's difficult to dress for.  The jackets came off.  We were slightly chilly without them.  We're going to have to think about our clothing choices, it all depends on wind speed and how much cloud cover there is. Tomorrow will be in the low 60s as will the rest of the week.  It could even be shorts weather.

Here is Jim on a new to us trail.  It plunges from the Krein trail down to the rocky segment of Sarasota.  I'm not sure I would call it enjoyable given the steepness and the loose rocks.

Looking back up the hill at the trail.

Other than this paltry offering of food and hikes, I have nothing much to offer!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Post Christmas Round-Up

Christmas Eve day was grey and cold.  We decided we'd take a restorative walk in the desert anyway.  We took off, and five minutes later went back to the house for jackets, gloves and ear bras.  For all that it was a southern wind, it was a very cold wind.  Here is a picture of Jim hiking in a jacket and gloves.  That very rarely happens.  Note the absence of color in the sky.

Christmas day was like being on a different planet.  It rained in the morning, and then cleared up to be a cool windy day.  We took the 7 Rocks trail out towards the big rocks.  They're visible on the left.  We did this hike in March and just hated it.   Yesterday we decided that we needed a goal so we did it again.  We missed the mark on clothing choices.  We took jackets in case it rained on us, and shirts in case the jackets were too hot.  We ended up wearing neither.  All of it ended up in the backpack.

There's a lot up up/down.  What makes it painful is the trail is covered in loose round rocks which are a pain in the butt going downhill.  Poles are a necessity for staying upright.  However it was a glorious hike.  The sun was out and the wind was howling along the upper parts of the trail.

Interestingly enough, the ocotillos on the upper hills were leafed out and looking good.  All of the plants at our elevation are still leafless and looking slightly dead.

The number of saguaros is always amazing.

Late afternoon sun on the yard.  That pile of rocks is Jim's delivery of 1,000 pounds to be distributed on the thin sections in the yard.

The Christmas cactus from Trader Joe's bloomed.

Then there was a sunset.

It was a good Christmas.  Jim and I both received hats we bought at the 4th Avenue street fair.  It's probably time to get them out of their gift bags and put them away.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Christmas Day

Have a wonderful Christmas.  Here’s wishing all of you everything merry and bright.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Retail Apocalypse

Yesterday was our last retail foray.  One of the issues of living where we do is that we're in a food desert.  There are stores within 10 miles, but they're not great.  Grocery stores tend to reflect their local demographic in the quality of the items they carry.  Which is not to say the local people are of low quality, it's just that they're not offered higher quality more expensive items.  We've noticed that in the bakery department, everything in there seems to consist of palm oil and sugar and looks like industrial food.  Since we were asked to bring dessert to our friends' house for dinner a trip north was required.

La Encantada is an outside mall smack dab in the middle of a wealthy part of town.  They have a Pottery Barn, Williams Sonoma, Crate and Barrel, Johnny Was, and a West Elm will be opening in the spring.  It's going to be a huge West Elm.  The grocery store prices are just ridiculous, avocados are $3 each, vs. four for $5 in the south end.  They're all from Mexico.  Anyway, it was pleasant to see the Christmas decorations.  They also have some lovely cactus there.

I love how this guy is pupping.

This is similar to my Opuntia Gumby.  They could be cousins.

An Agave Parryi, also known as an Artichoke Agave.  We have a prickly pear cactus in the front yard that's not looking so good, so we've been eyeing these as a replacement if he expires from natural causes.

However, look at this bad boy!  There is a lot going on here.  This might be a more interesting specimen to have.  We have yet to find a nursery that carries cool looking plants instead of the cactus you see everywhere.

Dessert was obtained and we fled the area.  There will be no entering of stores until Friday or so.  Hopefully we bought enough food so we can hunker down and wait for the retail nonsense to die down.  Unfortunately it's pouring rain most of this week.  There will be no restorative walks in the desert, which is kind of a bummer.

It's dark here!  The driveway lights are controlled by a light sensor and they were on until 10:00.  None of the solar lights worked well yesterday, and I doubt if they'll come on at all today.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Winter Solstice

Happy longest night of the year!  It's our anniversary, as well.  Today marks 34 years of wedded bliss.  The weather in Tucson warmed up enough for us to get out for a hike.  It was a good hike. 

Today's journey started with the Seven Rocks trail, to the drainage ditch trail, right on Yetman, then left on the trail that goes by Preacher Hill.  There's a way back that we were looking for so that we don't have to come down a really steep section.  Here is the drainage ditch trail.

After the right turn and the left that goes by Preacher Hill, one walks up the very steep bit until this cairn.  It's in the middle of the center.  One goes left here.

See the diagonal trail going from the right to the left, gaining elevation?  That's what we don't like going down.  Too steep and to many loose rocks.

This is a cool shot of the saguaro.  The cloud behind him looks like a halo.

Golden Gate and Bren Peak.

So, we did find the alternative route back to the house, I took zero photos of it.  We both know where it starts, so we can do it again.  Quite often on has to walk a trail in reverse to find the start.

It was a good day.  My feet hurt.  However, my hip did not hurt.  I'm hoping the PT I'm doing every night without fail will put an end to the hip suffering.

The Weather in Seattle

Being the petty person that I am, I enjoy looking at the weather in Seattle in the winter.  This time, I'm extending them some sympathy for how terrible it is.  This article is from KOMO.  The atmospheric river of water referred to is what we used to call a Pineapple Express.  It's like being drenched with a fire hose originating in Hawaii.

SEATTLE -- December 20 is already among the longest nights of the year but did it feel like the sun forgot to get up today? Amid a torrential, record-breaking, hours-long rainfall that saw Seattle get over 3 inches of rain in 18 hours, now word comes it was among the darkest days on record as well.
Sunlight measuring equipment at the University of Washington's Atmospheric Sciences Building only registered 0.37 million Joules of sun energy Friday -- the lowest amount recorded since those measurements have been kept at UW over the past 20 years, according to professor Cliff Mass.
The previous record was 0.39 mJ measured on Dec. 14, 2006, says UW research meteorologist Mark Albright. If that day sounds familiar, it was the day of the infamous Hanukkah Eve wind storm.
But today you had the perfect ingredients for a record breaker: A date on the calendar just about on the Winter Solstice when the sun is at its lowest point in the sky and shortest duration above the horizon, combined with a nearly historic atmospheric river event keeping thick cloud cover over the region all day long.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019


This is from the front page of the Huffington Post.  The House voted tonight to impeach.  The vote went pretty much down party lines.

I think we all know he'll be acquitted in the Senate, especially given the statements these two have made thus far.

So, December 18, 2019 he was impeached.  It's also Keith Richard's 76th birthday

Leaf Travels

It's cold and it's windy.  It's supposed to die off tonight and that will be a good thing.  Our neighbors east of us have a Desert Willow tree.  It has lots of thin little leaves.  They just returned for the winter, and have not yet removed the tens of thousands of tiny little leaves that cover their front yard.  Since the wind is currently out of the north-east, our driveway is receiving many of those leaves.

It's interesting, first they stop in front of the garage.  Then they move west and eddy in front of the gate.  They they go under the gate and into the entrance walk way.   The red line is from the bougainvilleas.  I'm looking forward to a change in the wind direction.

That's it!  Piles of leaves is all I've got.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Pigs are Cute Until They're Not

The Tucsonans are freezing!  I'm freezing.  It's in the 50's and it's pretty windy.  I will be very surprised if there is any hiking today, especially on my part.  As I age, I seem to be losing my tolerance for cold.

Yesterday we were confronted with this.  This is the neighbor across the street's garbage being assaulted.

The pig  javelina has zero fear of humans.  I got pretty close to him banging two sheet pans together to make noise, he just looked at me an kept digging in the bag.

Another neighbor got him to move, but he came back.  Eventually he moved on and we cleaned up and put it with our bags.  I think this is why we have in-ground trash cans.  It's so the food waste can be locked up.  I still hate using them because I don't think it's good for the backs of the sanitation workers.  The truck used to come early, but now it's pushing 11:00 before they get to our street, so there is time for the pigs  javelinas to raid the bags.

Yesterday afternoon we did a short fast hike through the desert.  We saw a bone.  If you look at the top of the photo, there is a clump of pin cushion cactus.  Those things can live anywhere.

Here are the lengthening afternoon shadows.  We were out for an hour of fast walking.

Last night we made Coq au Vin in the instant pot.  It took forever to come up to pressure - 20 minutes.  We pressure cooked for 10 minutes and then did a natural release for 10 minutes, and then vented it.  I am still not using the saute function, it's just easier to haul out my big pan and do the saute step in the pan.  The main advantage is being able to get the pan under the exhaust fan in the range hood and vent the cooking smells.  It was good, there's enough for dinner tonight, so we're happy about that.  This recipe also messes up everything in the kitchen.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Fourth Avenue Street Fair

Yesterday we went to the 4th Ave Street Fair.  We go on Fridays because the crowds are smaller.  It makes it easier to walk, but you miss a lot of the good people watching.  We've noticed an increase in the older demographic on Fridays, they're not nearly as interesting as the college students.  This year there was an increase in non-craft vendors such as DISH satellite television, GEICO, a hot tub outfit, and such.  The people staffing the tents were not shy about hollering at people to come in and switch their services.  Sure, I will go to a street fair and switch all my insurance policies because I enjoyed your spiel.

Anyway, I gripe about this every time we park in the parking garage near campus, and this year will be no exception.  How much student housing does the UofA need? Half of what you see here is new.  The Islamic Center (look center photo) is being surrounded by students.  The new building on the right does not appear to have balconies.  That may be (and I'm guessing here) due to students dropping things from their balconies on the left.

Here is another one going up.

On to the street fair.  The pink thing being worn by the young woman was kind of cool.  You can pull the sides up if it's hot and ventilation is required.

As always, there is terrible food to be had.  All of it is boiled in oil.  Looking at the bottom of the sign, you see "carne asada fries."  These have been popping up everywhere.  It's a plate full of fries with meat all over it.

Exemplars of food that has been boiled in oil.

Rotating large something.  We're not sure what species was involved here.

This is a 1954 Mack truck fire engine.  It was found in a lot somewhere, barely running.  The Last Alarm Foundation spent ten years restoring it to its current level of beauty.  They use it to transport family members of firefighters who have died to their final resting place.  It's pretty impressive how much they were able to bring the vehicle back.

Caruso's is still here.  It was here when I was here in the early 80s.  Also, look at the color of that sky.  Yesterday was a good day.

This was seen on the way back home.  The university has bull dozed yet another block of businesses to build more student housing.

Today we got the road bikes out and did a puny flat eighteen miles.  It was predictably demoralizing since we haven't ridden since August.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Maiden Voyage Was Not Terrible

Yesterday we were awakened at four in the morning by thunderous thunder.  It was loud, the kind that shakes the house.  It pretty much rained pigs and chickens all day.  It's from that storm that came from the Pacific and is now marching across the US bringing terrible weather for all.  Today it's not warm but the sun is out.  Much better.

So before the terrible weather, there were hikes in the desert.  Jim has been riding some, but I haven't felt up to it.  Soon, maybe, but not today.  Here are some random desert photos.

This cactus has a lot going on.  He's waving at the very least.

Looking back at Golden Gate.

A Saguaro has died over the winter, it's always sad to see them on the ground.  This one is still in the process of drying out.

Sunday we took the Instant Pot out of the box.  There is a lot of stuff in that box.   I think there will be more of a learning curve than we anticipated.   We made Chicken Adobo as our first venture into cooking with pressure.   I will say, that we managed to mess up everything in the kitchen.  We were running late, so Jim did the water pressure test, while I browned the chicken in my giant pan.  We assembled the rest of the ingredients, put them in the pot and turned it on.  It's kind of weird watching it come up to pressure. 

It was supposed to look like this.

Ours was slightly more pale and had more liquid because we did not saute on high for 20 minutes at the end.  Next time we'll add more liquid so there's more to spoon over the rice.  We did the rice in the rice cooker, there is no chance that we'll be getting a second instant pot for rice.  While on Facebook I made the mistake of looking at the Instapot for new users group and somehow joined.  I think I'm getting 20 - 25 Facebook things a day from them.

I was wondering where the heck the Instant Pot came from.  They're everywhere.  Here is a good article on the founder of the product.

Other than cooking and hiking, there is not much to report upon.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Baby Critters

The javelinas were on parade tonight.  There are two new babies that are just adorable.  Too bad we can't pet them on their little heads.

There were a bunch of adults crossing the road, as well.