Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Food, Friends and a Crow Bar

 November 16 - December 12, 2020
Tombstone, Arizona

Although we returned from California to above normal temps, they are thankfully short-lived. By Thanksgiving we're enjoying 60 degree days and 40 degree nights. Feels much more like Fall, more like the holidays are close.

Our San Pedro River Cottonwoods give us a pop of color.

Jeff and I take the scenic route to Tucson on a cold and clear afternoon. I've gotten picky about canned tuna (of all things), and can only eat Trader Joe's brand. Their unsalted option is worth a drive to the big city. Tucson is strict about masks and TJ's limits the number of shoppers, making for a comfortable experience. 

Pretty vistas along Hwy 83 
Before Jeff starts school on December 4, he and I paint his room and add some furniture to give him designated space for remote classes. It comes together nicely.

With a large gray dresser and TV to the right, he's all set.

Like most people we choose to stay home alone for Thanksgiving, and still manage to cook enough for a large family gathering. Everything is delicious, and with Bill doing the turkey and dressing, and Jeff making mac and cheese, I get off easy with deviled eggs, candied yams and mashed potatoes! 

Bill makes the best BBQ'd turkey and this one is exceptional!

We enjoy days of leftovers - why don't we do this more often??

November ends with the arrival of dear friends Darryl and Dawn. We first met at the Boondocking Rally in Quartzsite a few years ago, then connected in Michigan and back in Arizona last year. Adding 50 amp and water hookup spaces to our property last year was a priority so we could share our little piece of desert with friends. It's wonderful to have Darryl and Dawn here for a fun week.

On the coldest and windiest day of the year we head for birds and rocks - a great time for three of us as Bill isn't feeling great. 

I'm so happy when we arrive at Whitewater Draw to see there are more Sandhill Cranes than I've seen before!

Several species of duck share the water space.

With the high winds, the incoming cranes seem to hover in midair while landing.

With almost no one else at the Chiricahua National Monument we're able to enjoy the warmth of the Jeep while slowly making our way through the amazing rock formations.

Acres of hoodoos.

Masks are a bonus on a blustery day!

It's always a treat to share Cochise Mountain with new people. You can't not see his face!

After Dawn treated us to her chicken salad in Michigan it's become a tradition (in that we always say yes please!) for our get togethers. This time we enjoy sandwiches and fruit under the majestic rocks.

We share some yummy meals in both our homes, and of course hours of conversations about the important and the ridiculous :-) 

Back in California Elliott is already turning one month old!

On their last day, Darryl, Dawn and I have another adventure. Tessa comes, Bill stays. Since I've only been once, I'm really looking forward to seeing Cochise Stronghold again, and I'm confident they will enjoy the natural beauty.

Entering the park we're greeted with a little end of the season color.

More amazing rock drama.

Tessa and I on the history trail. They do a great job of telling the story of Cochise and his people. Not as windy, but yes, it's cold!

New for me too, Dawn and I take the half mile nature trail where good signage identifies numerous plants.

Sotol, like Agave, makes a tasty distilled liquor.

Long views from the top of the trail.

We actually remember to get a pic of all of us (thanks Jeff). Bill, Jodee, Tessa, Dawn and Darryl.

The week went by too fast, as all good times do. We all agreed to mask when we were together and while it's more comfortable without them, I'm confident it's the right thing to do. 

Inspired by how good Jeff's room looks, I decide to take on the half bath. More than just painting, the half wall of metal paneling has to come off. Which means the toilet, vanity and baseboard have to come off. When the water valves won't budge we call our buddy who remodeled our kitchen last year for help. I remove all the baseboard, and Billy and Josh show up the next morning to replace the water valves. They move out the toilet and vanity so I can remove the paneling, scrape, sand and paint, then put them back and hook everything back up. We're a good team!

Lots of glue behind the paneling holding tight since 1968 - glad we have a crow bar :-) Note the dated medicine cabinet. I forgot to capture the faded wood vanity.

With the old sink still usable, some white paint saves us the cost of a new vanity.

Still need to put up the new white cabinet above the toilet and install the new faucet and towel ring, but you get the idea. Better I think :-)

We get much needed rain, but for only a few hours. It's been a dry year on top of everything else.

Sheepshead to the north shrouded in low clouds.

Plains to the south getting a much needed drenching.

Ezra (he's getting so tall) calls his dad outside to see if he sees them. Do you see them?     
Peacocks in the old dog run :-)

Do you sometimes see things, just in your daily life, that make you chuckle? Here are a couple seen at Lowe's and the post office:

Should I have been worrying about this when buying toilet paper???

I bet they're working on changing their name, and their slogan!
Like our Thanksgiving, our Christmas will be small this year. Happy to have Jeff with us, grateful we and all our family and friends are healthy and safe. 

Fa, la, la, la, la

Holiday hugs from M&M!

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Grand(s) Time in SoCal

October 15 - November 15, 2020
Tombstone, Arizona - Frazier Park/Acton, California

Happy Thanksgiving all!

Once back from our New Mexico jaunt we return to our slow and quiet lives at our little desert oasis. The weather continues to be much warmer than we like, and it's a lot dryer than it was last year. 

Still hard to believe we've been here a whole year!! I don't imagine there's anyone who isn't saying "hard to believe" about most of 2020. 

A quick storm cools our temps for a couple days.
The motorhome goes to the shop for it's coolant notification and engine light issues. Not living in it means we can leave it for several days - another new experience for us. They don't find anything major and replace a cap that wasn't holding pressure. Hopefully that will be all it was since that simple fix cost a fortune :-( 

There's already "the list" of things we want to get done before heading out this Spring, none that keep us from traveling now. After two and a half weeks back at the house, we're packing up. Jeff is going with us this time too.

It's a very important trip to SoCal - to welcome our sixth grand child! Ezra's brother is due on November 4 and we head west on November 1. 

The longest drive we've done is the 380 miles to Desert Center, California, and we do it every time to break up the 600+ mile trip to see the kids and their families. All I-10, some of it pretty, some of it city traffic, none of it very exciting.

We moochdock at our friends' new place, and enjoy getting caught up with them over a nice dinner. Of course I fail to get any pics.

Spectacular California sunset.
Leaving Monday morning we hear from Brian that Shalise has been in labor for a couple hours (OMG!), but no rush. Their new house is an hour from the hospital so I can't help but feel a little bit rushed :-) 

The 250 miles to Frazier Park, California, go by quickly despite the added excitement. Except for the brakes coming on in the Jeep going up the Grapevine (I-5 grade out of Valencia). So glad we have that handy light that comes on when the Jeep brakes engage! Bill wiggles the thingy and they go off. Thankfully.

Back in the golden state.
We have a baby coming!

Set up is just plugging in and jumping in the Jeep at Lake of the Woods Mobile Village about six miles up the hill from their house. The "up the hill" becomes relevant later in the week.

Brian was right. There's no rush. Still, labor is happening and after giving us a short tour of the new digs, they're off to the hospital! Glad we didn't wait another day expecting the due date to be too early. 

Elliott Alexander Smith arrives on November 3, 2020. 7 lbs, 6 oz, he is a healthy little boy with a full head of dark hair and gray eyes. Ezra is excited that his little brother is finally here, and does well staying home with his Uncle Jeff for two nights.

Hours old.


Ezra sees Elliott for the first time.

And shares him with the family.
I'm grateful to have this lovely experience to keep my mind off the election. Even when it's fairly obvious that Biden has won, it will still be a week before I can finally take a deep breath of relief. 

The newest family member and his parents arrive home to a very happy big brother, grand parents and uncle on Wednesday afternoon. Elliott sleeps most of the time, each day becoming more alert, giving us an occasional smile. He's a sweet and easy baby.

We visit and cook and eat and watch movies and play games each day, arriving about 10, leaving about 8. It's a lovely week of just enjoying family and welcoming little Elliott Alexander to the world. 

A final day of shorts and sunshine.

The big boys play a game.

The Smith boys.

On Friday the weather takes a big turn with rain, snow and wind. It definitely feels like we're in the mountains, and with the RV park 500 feet higher than the house we're below freezing all night for our last three nights. It's beautiful and magical.

Now a fan of snow zoomies!

Backyard at the motorhome.

Backyard at the house.
For the first time in many years, my Steelers play Bill's Cowboys on Sunday. It's a fun game although those having-a-horrible-season 'boys nearly beat my undefeated team!!

What a blessing to have this very special time together. I'm so glad we arrived in time to be there for Ezra, and to welcome Elliott home.

Sunday night we drive to the rig in snow and ice, more than I've ever driven in! The next morning there's 3" of soft and crunchy white around and on us. We make a quick drive down the hill (the road is clear) to say our good-byes to the family who are headed out for a doctor's checkup.

While we're getting ready Ezra has brought his "snow bowl" inside to play with.

Such a lucky big boy!
First deep snow prints at the new house.
Back at the motorhome we have a new adventure! Heavy snow built up on the large slide topper keeps it from coming in all the way. Oh dear...... Bill pulls out the ladder and a broom and is able to clear it away. The sun on the other side has melted enough for the other two slides to come in easily.

At least we have bright blue skies!

Once we're slides-in and jacks-up we take Hwy 138 across the high desert to Hwy 14 to our next stop in Acton, California. Our usual park in Valencia is booked for the month of November so we were happy to get the last spot in this nice park about 25 miles from the rest of the family. Bright and sunny, it's still chilly for the next four nights. 

Even with COVID restrictions all of the Valencia kids are working so we manage to squeeze in visits with all but Richie, our youngest, Bill's number four. He's possibly been exposed to the virus and is being responsible. We're bummed to miss him, but appreciate the reality of today's world.

We spend a few hours in Nick and Jillian's backyard. Our second oldest, Bill's number one. Maximus and Mason are lots of fun, keeping us all entertained. They're growing too fast, and we miss being able to spend time with them. Fortunately their parents are great about photos and videos and chats while we're not here. 

Mason talks the whole time while Maximus plays with his very cool toy. 

Emily isn't able to get away from work :-(, so we spend a couple hours with the grand daughter and her daddy Travis, our fourth oldest, Bill's number three. With five grandsons, Reese is the only pink in a sea of blue for us. And of course she is the cutest little girl who ever lived!! What a bundle of happy giggles and wiggles she is. Her first birthday was Tuesday and it's so hard to believe she's already a year old.

Daddy and his beautiful little girl.

A room full of toys but nothing as cool as a pair of sunglasses.

Our last night in town Corey and Christie come to the park for chili bowls. Bill's second oldest, our number three. They celebrated their first anniversary in October and are both doing great. Of course I fail to get a photo although we have a great visit.

With COVID numbers rising again and shut downs imminent, we return east on Saturday morning. Sadly it means we don't see grand child number six - Henry Miles is my "borrowed daughter" Megan's little guy who will already be a year old the end of December. I hate missing a chance to see him again :-(

Henry, our munching Munchkin!
I'm hoping we can come back in February to get some more time with all these kiddos! Our summer plans include spending time here on our way to the coast. Praying the good vaccine news and stronger leadership will make a real difference in all our lives by then.

We again stop for the night in Desert Center. This time we sit around the fire with our friends, and enjoy the beautiful desert views of where we spent so much of our youth.

Desert twilight
Back to Tombstone, the motorhome is unpacked, parked and plugged in. A few projects will keep us busy, some visiting friends will make us smile, and the holidays will be quiet. I'm hoping our 80 degree temps will drop soon and we'll get some much needed rain. 

Elliott two weeks old
I'm missing the babies, wishing they were all closer, and that visiting wasn't such a chore. And I'm grateful they are all safe and healthy and happy.