Thursday Thoughts: Friday Edition

Can’t Blame it On Morphine Brain
I’m sorry to any of you who tuned in looking for a book review. I’m changing it up today. It’s not that I’m feeling stuck in a book rut. It’s not that I don’t have many, many books that I could review. The fact is, I realized yesterday afternoon that I was a day behind. That is why I didn’t post my Thursday Thoughts yesterday; you see, I thought it was Wednesday. It wasn’t until late yesterday afternoon that I realized it was Thursday, and had been all day. That realization didn’t occur until I had already spent 45 minutes writing my Thursday Thoughts with the intention of posting it today. I simply didn’t have it in me to start over, so Thursday Thoughts have become Friday Thoughts. Since I haven’t had a drop of morphine since I left the hospital, I guess I just have to attribute it all to senility!

Pay Up
It’s bad enough that you have to go in the hospital, but then the bills start coming in. Time to pay the piper. I spent much of yesterday afternoon trying to figure out which bills were from my most recent hospital visit here in AZ and which bills were from my stop in the Emergency Room in Denver this past December. The claim forms are confusing and oftentimes (though not always), the folks in the insurance claims department are not a lot of help. For example, I received a notice of authorization from my insurance company for my recent hospital inpatient visit. The authorization form noted that I was the patient (check), Banner Baywood was the hospital (check), and a Cynthia White, M.D. was the provider (huh?). Though I was under the influence of pain meds while in the hospital, I was certain that I had never seen a Dr. Cynthia White. The reason for my certainty was that I never saw a woman physician from the time I walked in the ER until I left the hospital two days later. It wouldn’t have been so bad except for the fact that she is not a participating physician in my insurance plan, and the notice warned me that I might have to pay more for her services. So I called my insurance agency and told the customer service representative my situation. “Not only did I not select Dr. White,” I said, “but I don’t even know who she is.” The representative thought for a moment, and finally responded — dead seriously, “I’m really sorry; I don’t know who she is either.” It might take a few phone calls….

Clean Up
To escape having to think about hospital bills, I decided to do a bit of clean-up on my computer. Specifically, I went into my photo file and began throwing away photos of things I didn’t recognize or didn’t have any reason to keep. One of the photos that I came across was of an afghan that has lived in my cedar chest at home since 1972…..

It was crocheted with loving hands by my grandmother for my high school graduation. I clearly remember her saying that she made it for me because she always thought of yellow as “my” color. That afghan was immediately special to me, so special that I put it in my cedar chest to keep it clean. Every once in a while I take it out and tell myself that I should use it or display it in some way because it’s so pretty. Yet, it continues to live in my cedar chest. Maybe I should get a wooden quilt holder and display it in one of our bedrooms. Any other ideas?

Sweet Tart
We fell in love with the sweet/tart lemon liquor the first time we visited Italy. Bill and I sat out on the patio of a restaurant on the Piazza Navona in Rome. We finished our dinner, and to our surprise, the server brought out tiny frosted glasses containing a bright yellow liquor. It was hot outside, and perhaps that was why the limoncello (with which we were wholly unfamiliar) tasted so amazing. Or maybe it was because we were sitting on a piazza in Rome. Anyway, it is one of my favorite summer liquors. I am currently reading a novel that takes place on an island near Sicily in Italy. The island residents are constantly drinking limoncello, arangcello (orange), and limettacello (lime), making me want to sip along with them each time it’s mentioned. So day before yesterday, I stopped at one of the many stores in east Mesa that sell freshly-picked citrus fruit, and bought several lemons. Yesterday morning I carefully peeled the skin from the lemons, put them in a jar, and covered the peels with vodka. In a week or so, I will add a simple syrup to the mixture and let it sit for another day. Then I will filter the resulting beverage from the peels, give it a chance to chill overnight, and drink homemade limoncello on my own patio. Yum…..


Close, But No Cigar

We owned our AZ house a good five or six years before I ever learned that a herd (or maybe herds?) of wild horses romped and grazed and procreated a mere 15 miles from our back yard. And since learning about the existence of these wild horses, I have wanted to see them for myself.

With this in mind, yesterday morning I asked Bill if he had any interest in driving the 15 miles or so to the area near Saguaro Lake where the wild horses reside. It will require a bit of a hike, I warned him. He found that fact not the least bit daunting, and we set off on our adventure. I didn’t have a doubt in my mind that we would spot the wild animals because everyone who had talked to me about them had seen them. We knew exactly where to go.

The area where the horses live is a straight shot north of us, where the Salt River meets the Verde River. When we drive between Denver and our AZ home, we get on back highways that not only are quicker, but are amazingly beautiful. When heading to Mesa from Denver, just outside Payson, AZ, we take Hwy 87 – the Beeline Highway – until we exit on to the Bush Highway which takes us through the gorgeous Tonto National Forest, home to Saguaro Lake and the wild horses.

We parked at the base of the trail and set off in search of the horses…..

The Salt River is where the herds come to refresh themselves, and the tourists come to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

The scenery was stunning, and we saw amazing birdlife almost immediately. An egret was not the least bit disturbed by our company…..

After 25 years of marriage, you think it wouldn’t surprise me that hiking with Bill McLain and hunting for wild horses was like setting off with Lewis and Clark. He led the way, and would stop occasionally to study the footprints.

“You can see they were here because this is clearly a hoof print,” he said. And it was. I missed it for the simple reason that I was looking for horseshoe-clad prints.  Wild horses = no horseshoes. I am neither Lewis nor Clark. Hey! Mom wouldn’t let me join Girl Scouts, so haters, don’t hate.

He stopped again to point out the existence of fresh horse dung…..

It was true that we walked through more horse dung than is collected during the entire National Western Stock Show, but much of it was old and dried. Fresh dung = horses nearby.

Except they weren’t. We saw a lot of birds, many different kinds of cacti, a hole in the wall that looked to be a cave (though I wouldn’t let Bill get any nearer than this)…..

…..egrets, enormous bumblebees, and picnic tables buried under sand from a long-ago haboob…..

….. but unfortunately, no wild horses.

As far as I was concerned, the day wasn’t a waste of time because we spent the morning enjoying the desert scenery in an area we hadn’t explored.

As far as Bill was concerned, the day wasn’t a waste of time because, while we didn’t see a single horse, we did see a naked sunbather.

In case you’re wondering, here is what the horses look like, from a photo taken by someone named Brian Curtice, who apparently DID actually see the horses……

We will try again, with better luck we hope.

Fake News

While I’m really bad at a lot of things – understanding most technology and being able to help my grandkids with math being only two of them – I’m pretty darn good at spelling and grammar. It seems like you either have it or you don’t. Our grandson Alastair, for example, is an excellent speller. One day when they were a bit younger and I was babysitting, his sister was having trouble with her spelling list. The words, I thought, were quite difficult. Alastair – in that way that only big brothers can torture their sisters – was pointing out just how EASY those words were to spell.

“Really, Mr. Smarty-Pants?” I said to him. “Spell burglar.”

“B-U-R-G-L-A-R,” he said without hesitation.

Rats. I was just certain her would get the A-R part wrong.

Anyway, life can be a bit trying when you are a good speller, because frankly, many signs in restaurants and other businesses offer a variety of misspellings. Notable examples are tomatoe instead of tomato, zucinni instead of zucchini, and avacado instead of avocado.

“Do I have to be the world’s editor?” I often ask my husband.

I recently came up with an idea that could be a win-win situation for certain criminally-minded people and me. I think I should — for a price — offer to correct spelling and grammar in those fake emails we all get from fake banks offering fake help if you will click on their fake link. As you are probably aware, clicking on those links leads to something bad. I’m not sure what because I’m pretty good at recognizing a fraudulent solicitation when I see it. Hence, my services would be invaluable.

Read, for example, this email that appeared recently in my inbox. I have replicated it exactly…..


Hi %%First Name %%,

[INSERT NAME] Has Been Selected to Participate in a *FHA* Refi Survey! Take the quiz and see if your’re eligible to save $1000 on your mortgage!

StartThe Quiz!

To opt-out of receiving emails from Low Rates Shop, please send your name and email address to Low Rates Shop 909 N. Sepulveda Blvd, Segundo, CA 90245 or click here!

Now, for a fee, I would tell them that rather than saying HI [INSERT NAME], I would recommend they actually, well, insert the name. I might lose the percentage signs while I’m at it. And perhaps most important of all, leave off an exclamation point or two.

Here’s another one I recently received from a bank called Sun Trust…..

During our usual security enhancement protocol, we observed multiple login attempt error which login in to your online banking account. We have believed that someone other than you is trying to access your account for security reasons, we have temporarily suspend your account and your access to online banking and will be restricted if you fail to update.

Please click here to continue using your account. Thank you for banking with Sun Trust.

What? I would suggest to Fake Sun Trust (for a fee) that perhaps they incorporate a couple more periods in their email so that I could at least make sense of what it is they are trying to fake.

I don’t actually want to be hired by the crooks who prey on innocent people. The examples above are so obvious that it’s hard for me to believe that anyone would fall for them. However, I get emails that are far more convincing. I get fake emails from Wells Fargo – a bank with which I actually have a business relationship – that are quite convincing except for one grammatical error. They, like most of the emails, tell me that there have been multiple attempts at logging onto my account, and then they tell me that I should click on the link and they will come to my rescue. However, the concluding sentence is the giveaway:


Neither Alastair nor his Nana would fall for a sentence that ended in “that.”

Keep your head in the game when looking at those emails you and I probably get four or five times a week. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Pack a Lot into a Little

Every year, sometime during the winter that we spend in AZ, we make a quick trip back to Denver. It gives us a chance to check on the house, pick up anything we forgot that we need for spring in AZ, and most of all, to get hugs from our Denver family.

And every year when we come home, it seems to snow at some point.  It’s so regular, in fact, that I think we should hire ourselves out. If it’s been a dry winter and the trees and flowers need a boost, the farmers should pay for us to visit! This year was no exception, as it began snowing Sunday evening and continued into the night. We woke up to this winter wonderland…..

And honestly, I can’t complain much because it doesn’t even compare to the snowstorm that hit Denver 15 years ago yesterday, that being the same day that our eldest granddaughter Addie was born…..

Bill and I are big fat babies about snow these days, and we live in the desert during the winter for this very reason: to avoid the snow.  While Coloradans in general are better about snow than, say, Alabamans when they get a few flakes, we still can be heard grumbling, and our driving is admittedly not the best. On the other hand, Vermonters are not a bit put out by snow, even more than a few flakes. Heather sent us a photo of our grandson Micah at a school outing in Montpelier, VT. One of the classes his kindergarten glass takes is called Educating Children Outdoors (ECO), and they don’t let a little thing like the recent Nor’easter stop them from learning. Heather said Micah is the one drinking tea in the photo. I have to take her word for it because they are all so bundled up that I wouldn’t be able to pick him out without help. But God bless the hearty New Englanders…..

Here are a few more photos of our trip. We packed a lot into a little time…..

Court and Alyx and the kids came for dinner Friday night…..

Saturday, all of the Colorado grands wandered in and out of our house at different points in time. Alastair and Cole played outside…..

Dagny got her first personal cell phone that morning, and she spent much of the day learning about the phone, including taking a selfie of her and her Nana…..

That night, Addie’s family gathered at the restaurant at which she works as a hostess. We ate a delicious dinner and celebrated the fact that she was getting ready to turn 15. Whaaaaat????…..

Sunday, after church, Maggie Faith stopped by. When I asked her what she wanted to do, she didn’t hesitate. Go geocaching! We had a fun day……

Sunday night, Bill and I went to dinner with friends who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. What a great achievement, and what a lot of fun we had with John and Carol and a few of their friends and family. We went to an old school steak house and I had an old school dessert drink – a Grasshopper…..

On Monday, I had lunch with my very good friend Megan. I had every intention of having our server take a photo, but forgot all about it as we caught up with life.

Last night, we concluded our trip with dinner at the Zierks and grabbed a few more hugs from the McLains on our way back to our house.…..

Addie’s birthday was yesterday, and she turned 15. What does that mean? It means we must all steer clear if you see a 1997 white Subaru station wagon with a pretty girl in the driver’s seat, because this happened…..

She got her learner’s permit.

This morning, we caught an early plane out of Denver to spend a few more weeks in AZ before we come back for the summer. Our quick trip was tons of fun.

Born to Be Wild

Many years ago when I worked hard for a living, I traveled to Washington, D.C., a couple of times a year for conferences and to visit with our Congressional delegation to seek their support on affordable housing legislation. As part of my job duties, I was assigned the task of finding places to eat for the other staff members who attended, and – more important – for the board members who accompanied staff. We ate some really good food, as you can imagine. Finding topnotch eating spots is something at which I excel, and the Washington, D.C., area offered a huge selection of spots from which to choose.

One of the more interesting venues I selected was a restaurant – I don’t even remember its name – which offered what I considered to be a great perk. There was one big table that sat right in the kitchen where diners could watch the wonderful chefs prepare the food. I managed to secure reservations at that table, and we all enjoyed the adventure.

As one who likes to cook, I also enjoy watching others prepare meals.  And it’s not just fancy chefs that are fun to observe. I used to sit at the counter at my mom and dad’s house in Dillon, CO, and watch Mom cook our dinner as we talked about life. I loved watching her mix the ingredients with her loving small hands.

The other night, Bill and I wanted to go out to dinner. Our bags were packed to leave for Denver the next day. I didn’t want any leftovers and eating out seemed logical. Our neighbors had told us about a burger joint they had visited that isn’t far from our house. I love a good burger, and our neighbors are clever cooks themselves, so we took them at their word and drove to Apache Junction for dinner at the Handlebar Pub and Grill.

Let me start out by saying that Apache Junction is not considered to be the food mecca of the East Valley. If Arizona is the Wild Wild West, Apache Junction is the Wild wild WILD West. You half expect to come across a gun fight at any turn.

We drove up to the Handlebar with some trepidation. It looked to be a motorcycle bar, nothing less. I’m not particularly nervous about a biker bar, but I don’t think I would expect great food or drink someplace that could get wrecked in a bar fight on any given night…..

However, we were greeted pleasantly at the ourdoor host stand, and there were plenty of folks waiting for a table, usually a pretty good sign. We were preparing for the 30-minute wait when the host asked us if we wanted to wait at the counter overlooking the cooking area. We were told we could even eat there if we were so inclined. We, in fact, were not only inclined, but eager to watch the goings-on.

The counter was outdoors in a covered area overlooking a large grill, a large flat griddle, and a cookstove. At the stove, there was a woman who looked like she had hopped off her Harley five minutes ago stirring some seasonings into a huge pan of cut-up mushrooms. We realized quickly this wasn’t your typical biker bar…..

One look at the menu confirmed our suspicion. Not a French fry in sight on the menu…..

We had such a fun evening eating our amazing hamburgers – Bill’s a bleu cheese peppercorn burger with a side of pecan maple acorn squash…..

and mine a green chili burger with jack cheese and a side of balsamic Brussel sprouts that were parboiled and then cooked on the grill…..

We chatted with the cook and his sous chef (who looked like a motorcycle gangster and his biker babe). We watched him grill everything from chicken breasts to asparagus topped with feta cheese, while she prepared the Brussel sprouts, the mushrooms, and the onions cooked in Guiness beer…..

It seems as though I’m not pleasantly surprised very often any more. Most restaurant menus look disappointingly similar. Once in a while you might come across some truffle salt tossed on French fries or a bit of gorgonzola cheese on a burger. But finding a hidden gem like this in the middle of Apache Junction made our day for sure.

Next time I might have the bleu cheese potato salad, but I will for sure be eating at the counter watching the cooks prepare the meals.

Saturday Smile: Welcome Hugs

Bill and I got in around 10 o’clock last night, grabbed our suitcase, and ordered a ride from Lyft. Our driver kept us awake with stories — most likely fake — of all of the rides he’s given to big sports figures and other famous folks  visiting Denver. He purports to have given a ride to Jim Carrey, who supposedly paid thousands of dollars to ride with him. Right.

Yesterday morning Jll and Maggie Faith stopped by on the way to school. I can’t believe I didn’t take a picture, because Maggie was photo-worthy. Her school was having a St. Patrick’s Day party, and she was dressed quite literally from head to toe in green. She even had a headband that sported shamrocks on her antennae. We were happy to get some smiles and hugs on her way to school.

Last night Court and Alyx came for dinner with Kaiya, Mylee, and Cole. We all caught up with each other’s business, laughed, and reminisced about such things as Court’s early days of driving. I managed to capture this photo before they all left for the evening….

Hard to take a serious photo!

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Woman in the Window

I love Alfred Hitchcock movies, and Rear Window, starring the adorable James Stewart and a stunning Grace Kelly, is one of my favorites. Being one who will “write” a story about someone after just a quick observance, I always loved that he put together – and solved – an entire murder mystery just via what was really just voyeurism. I can overlook the tad bit of creepiness involved.

Because of my love of that movie, the plot of the novel which was purported to be the next Girl on a Train or Gone Girl grabbed my attention. The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn seemed to be right up my alley. From the first pages, the plot grabbed ahold of me and it never let go.

Anna Fox spends her days in her New York City apartment where she has become a victim of her own agoraphobia. When she isn’t watching old movies and drinking way too much wine, she is peering out her windows watching her neighbors. Just like James Stewart in Rear Window, Anna believes she witnesses a murder.

The police don’t believe her; in fact, they think she’s pretty crazy, because it seems the woman she claims she saw murdered never actually existed. The man she believes killed his wife disavows that woman’s existence, and introduces her to his actual wife. Their son seems scared, but supports his dad’s claims. What the hell?

Anna pursues the matter, though fully unable to venture even a few feet out her door. The more she digs, the more the reader learns about Anna herself. The twists and turns in this absolutely gripping thriller are unpredictable and made me shout out loud in dismay. How could I have missed this? The ending, while wholly unpredictable, wasn’t the biggest surprise this reader faced in this clever book.

The Woman in the Window is the author’s debut novel, and it is a mighty good first effort. If you like thrillers or are a fan of Rear Window, grab this book and settle in as soon as possible.

Here is a link to the book.