Category Archives: Welcome to my Hacienda

Summertime and the Schedule is Craaaazy!

C.R.A.Z.Y. Soon we will get into our summer groove though and the livin’ will be easy as it should be. This first couple of weeks has been an adjustment and my beloved routine is all out of whack. With all three blessings home or headed to numerous camps and activities, I am busy and running in three different directions at once.

My blogging routine is non-existent and may have to switch to more of a Tuesday/Thursday posting with a Saturday thrown in here or there. A lot of healthy, yummy things have been happening in my kitchen and I am eager to share; so hang in there with me. I promise to have some fun stuff up soon.

Regrettably, not a lot of yumminess has happened on the baking front as I am still learning to work without sugar and am being very picky about an authentic flavor. I am turning into a bit of a mad scientist and doing a lot of research on combining natural sugar substitutes in an effort to get far, far away from the bitter aftertaste that leaves me wanting to scrub my tongue with lye. Okay, well that may be a bit of an exaggeration but you didn’t try the gluten-free/sugar-free carrot cake I made the other day.

It was pretty. But awful.

GFSF-Carrot-Cake

Pretty awful.

In small doses, like muffin in a mug or the cake in a mug I am now loving (and will share), Stevia is fine. A wonderful alternative to sugar. On a larger scale when much more is needed, bad things seem to happen. Well at least bitter and yucky things.

Thankfully, all is not lost.

Not with Salmon Tacos, Portobello Sliders, Trimmed-Up Broccoli Salad, Cheeseburger Pie, Italian Sausage and Vegetable Gratin and a gorgeous Greek Appetizer Platter just waiting to be written up and posted.

Starting next week. I promise!

For now, I’m off again to pick my girl up from theater camp. I would have gotten this post out earlier but I had an important movie date with my littlest. Ironically, we went to see The Croods, which was perfectly suited for my little caveman. Who, while waiting for me to finish writing, has made a tent under the dining room table out of my grandmother’s antique linen table-cloth that I had out for photos.

Caveman.

One last thing, my middle guy turned nine yesterday. NINE.

Happy-Birthday-David-2

I was so busy getting he and his dad ready to leave for Cub Scout Camp that I didn’t have a chance to post a proper Happy Birthday! He was so excited about his first big Cub Scout Campout. Four days of fun and adventure with Scouts from all over the valley.

And with his dad.

Which is the best birthday present ever!

Happy-Birthday-DavidHe even got a birthday can of coke for the road. Trust me, that is a BIG treat in his world. They called me from camp last night just before bed and I could tell how happy and excited he was. The whole camp sang happy birthday to him and my heart was full knowing he felt special and would soon fall asleep, exhausted, with a big smile on his face; a whole day of adventure ahead of him.

His official birthday party is just a few weekends away. I have been busy planning and will be sure to share photos and tell you all about it. The theme? I’ll give you a hint …

It’s gonna’ be a party, JACK!

Can you guess? Anybody?

Quack!

Advertisements

Backyard Visitors

On Friday, I mentioned the unwanted spring cold that has taken up residence in my sinuses. Thank you so much to everyone for your lovely comments and “feel-better” messages. I am feeling a little better after a busy weekend that didn’t allow for as much rest as I should have made time for. But I am still behind. Is it just me or are spring and summer colds the worst?

Slowly but surely, I am putting the banana bread post together and should have it up tomorrow. I decided last minute to bake up a batch of banana nut muffins to add in and have again set myself back. Honestly, I think I am way more excited about this post than anyone else could possibly be. I need to get it up so I can stop thinking about it.

But today, just for a quick check-in to say hello, I thought I would share with you a few pictures of my favorite backyard visitors. We have a lot of interesting visitors to what we call the “Brewer Nature Preserve” and it often feels like we never need visit a zoo again. Well, we don’t have tigers and rhinos (and I am most happy about that) but we do have lots of coyotes, javelinas and the occasional bobcat sitting on the fence or trotting casually through the driveway.

I know. It took me a while to get used to it too.

My two favorite visitors are the bunnies and the quail. They are sweet and peaceful and are always there nibbling on the grass or scratching for seeds when I first look out the kitchen window in the early morning.

Bunny-Blog-2

I look forward to seeing them.

Bunny-Blog-3

Bunny-Blog-9

I love that the quail are always in pairs. Do you see the second pair in the background behind the orange tree? We are just starting to see the “mommies and daddies” with a long trail of babies scrambling along after them. So precious.

Bunny-Blog-4

The bunnies are usually in pairs too. This guy heard me coming as I interrupted his breakfast; I though I was being so sneaky and quiet.

He stopped for just a moment, listening.

Bunny-Blog-7

And then he and his buddy were off for the back gate. But he did make sure to take his breakfast with him.

Bunny-Blog-8

Often times the bunnies will be just outside the gate running around chasing each other, playing in the tall brush. So much fun to watch!

Bunny-Blog-1

The bunnies and quail are definitely welcome company. And while they might be slightly more terrifying company, I do have to admit it is pretty incredible to see a bobcat just hangin’ out on your back fence post.

Or even up in a Saguaro …

untitled

This is not my original photo, I found it on-line and borrowed it. 

It is amazing to me that these cats climb up and then sit atop these sharp spiny cacti.

Before I go today, I just want to extend my thoughts and prayers to all who were affected by the horrific tornado in Oklahoma yesterday. We lived in Altus, Oklahoma when we were stationed there for two years and absolutely loved the area and the local people we met. They are kind and strong and will overcome.

We have a lot of family in Oklahoma as well and are so incredibly thankful that they were not in the path of the storm and are all just fine. We are praying for those who were not as fortunate.

The LORD is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Welcome Out-back at The Hacienda

“Kiiiids, where’s your mom?”

“She’s out-baaaaack!”

If you are ever at The Hacienda, you will be sure to hear that.

And if you are ever wondering where I am, there’s a good chance the answer is the same.

Welcome out-back at the Hacienda. So happy you stopped by! If I could, I would hand you a cold drink and invite you to find a shady spot and “sit a spell” as the saying goes.

Perhaps my favorite spot at the picnic table under the Palo Verde tree?

Picnic-Table-under-the-Palo

Out-back has not always been the most welcoming or inviting place to be though. We started with a blank slate. Actually, I wish we had started with a blank slate, it took a whole lot of work to get to the blank slate stage.

Actually, let me just show you …

Backyard-Before-5

This is the somewhat dismal view from the back patio looking toward the back gate.

The only thing I saw was potential.

My husband, on the other hand, saw the endless work ahead. We were both right.

I sure wish I had taken photos before we had done anything (this wasn’t my first reno so you’d think I’d know better). Before we started, you couldn’t even see the fountain from the back door. The Palo Verde branches were hanging down all over the ground and covering it along with many more Creosote bushes and other wild desert plants. What you see above is after the work of a determined husband with a new chainsaw.

What you see below is the same view as it looks today, a little less dismal, after a bit of vision and a whole lot of hard work.

Backyard-After-7

But first, just a few more “befores”

Backyard-Before-4

The play set in the giant sand pit was a pretty big mess of splintered wood and rotting stairs and ramps. The previous owner had wrapped a lot of the wood in plastic PVC tape to add a protective layer and prevent splinters (I’m guessing). Sadly, the black PVC tape was ugly – really ugly – and had white lettering all over it. Lovely. That was done by a guy, I guarantee it!

Backyard-Before-1

Potential.

Backyard-Before-3

Do you see it?

Loads and loads of potential.

Backyard-Before-2

Now doesn’t that look like the perfect place to put a swimming pool?

And here’s where we are today …

Backyard-After-2B

With kids and a dog, you have to have a little grass!

A-Clean-Slate

We did hire out a few things. A guy with a small excavator was a life saver.

Clean-Slate-2

And the lawn curbing was best left to the professionals. My husband LOVES the natural “organic” shape I designed – it is just so easy to mow. Not really. But it’s pretty.

Backyard-After-2

The grass looks a little it rough right now as the winter grass is starting to die off as it gets warmer and the Bermuda Grass, which goes dormant in the winter, begins to wake-up and take over.

Yes, in Arizona, you have to plant new winter grass E.V.E.R.Y. winter.

Backyard-After-10I really do love how the “grass” side of the yard turned out. We won’t speak of the crying that occurred during the sod laying phase. Let’s just say our timeline got away from us and my husband could no longer put off heading to the airport for out of town business. One third of the yard was left to do, light was fading, the sod was soppy and heavy and stinky and had to be finished, the dog had tangled with a cholla cactus, the kids were hungry and fighting, I was dirty and soppy and stinky (see reference to sod). There were tears. But the dog lived. And the kids ate. And I finished. And took a shower.

Before we move on to the rest of the yard, I have to tell you what I did with the ugly play set.

Gary fixed all of the rickety and dangerous parts and put on a roof for shade and then I painted the PVC tape. There was no taking it off so I bought about 438 cans (or so) of spray paint – the kind that adheres to plastic – and painted over all of that crazy tape.

It is a lovely cinnamon color.

I was a lovely cinnamon color.

For days.

Playset-After-2

It won’t win any design awards but it sure looks better. Actually, I think it looks kind of cool.

Speaking of cool, how about that nice shady spot?

Picnic-Table-2

The lounge chair was my husband’s Father’s Day present last year. Would you like to see my Mother’s Day present from last year?

Mother's-Day-Present-2012

I am so not kidding.

But before you go turning my husband in to the “worst Mother’s Day present ever” police, this is what I asked for. I’m not a jewelry girl. When I say I want “rocks”, this is what I mean. Besides, they came with a labor agreement from the sweet man who got me a big pile of rocks for Mother’s Day.

Incidentally, I bought the lounge chair for him after I sat down a the picnic table to take a break from shoveling and hauling my Mother’s Day present and with head in hand thought to myself “I sooooo wish I could just lay down right now and take a nap. Right here. Under this tree in the breeze.” 

The picnic table was not comfortable.

So, I ordered a chaise.

“For my husband”.

Picnic-Table

It’s a nice spot for a siesta. It was so nice of me to think of him.

Backyard-Before-2

Moving on. Remember this side of the yard?

Pool-After-5Didn’t I tell you it was a nice place for a pool? Those are some of my rocks.

Pool-After-1

The pool. The pool. The pool. That is a subject for another post.

Pool-After-3Let me just say, putting in a pool is not something I want to do again anytime soon. “Monica” plans and supervises pool construction. Remember her?

Pool-Project-8She has meltdowns over un-authorized white grout in her otherwise “natural” color scheme.

The grout didn’t stay white. Monica had them fix it.

Pool-After-2

In the end, it really was well worth all the headache (and bank account ache) because it was all about the kids and they LOVE it! Actually, we all love it. I just love it a little warmer than they do.

So that is our back yard. Out-back. But there is also a “Waaaaay Out-back”.

Way-out-back-2

Just through the back gate.

(That is my peach tree in the foreground, a Brazilian Pepper to the right of the gate and the three tiny trees along the wall are a mandarin orange, ruby red grapefruit and a Eureka lemon – inside the fence I have two limes, an orange, a Meyer lemon and a fig tree). Love my fruit trees.

Way-out-back-1

The way out-back remains open for possibilities.

There is talk of a basketball court and a chipping green. But I think it is the perfect spot for a small commercial kitchen for recipe testing and catering.

What? It would be small. And a business.

And there would still be room for sports.

Barefoot Contessa has a barn. Barefoot Contessa can afford a barn.

Oh well, a girl can dream.

For now, I’ll just be happy with another big pile of rocks.

Backyard-After-9

Thanks for joining me out-back this afternoon. Come back, you are always welcome.

Welcome to The Hacienda

This is the story of how I ended up in my Hacienda, a 1960’s era block constructed rancher. A desperate fixer upper on two acres of neglected Sonoran Desert.

I have had several people ask me to talk about my house so today is the day.

I might think it was strange to imagine that anyone would be interested in my house were it not for the fact that I am somewhat addicted to the HGTV show House Hunters and am completely addicted to House Hunters International.

I love houses. I love to see where people live and how they decorate. When driving at night, I strain to peek in the dimly lit windows of stranger’s homes just to see what paint color they chose for their walls. And I know I am not the only one.

If I come to your home, I will never ask you for a tour (I think that is a little rude, probably because I am always terrified someone will ask me for a tour when I have clean laundry piled all over my bed and unclean laundry piled on the floor waiting to be washed and my bathroom mirror is splattered with toothpaste – which is pretty much always) but know that I am secretly dying inside with the hope that you will offer one.

Nope, it is not weird at all for me to share my home with you. I’m thankful you are interested. So come on in, pull up a chair, grab a cup of coffee and a I’ll tell you all about the Hacienda (as we lovingly call it).

The Hacienda

The-Hacienda-After-2

If you have been reading my blog even for a short time, you are probably aware that I live in Arizona in the beautiful Sonoran Desert with my husband, three kids and a very sweet golden retriever mix named Gracie.

You may also know that we live on a little bit of land and I like to grow stuff. Oh, and I like to cook. And bake. And eat. And take pictures of the desert, the husband, the kids, the dog and the stuff I grow and cook and bake and eat.

What you may not know is that I also like to renovate, decorate and push my husband to the limit of his sanity with my crazy ideas and projects; “honey, I’ve been thinking, what if we …”

I love to have a project. I need to have a project.

Which is precisely how, just about three years ago now, we ended up moving from a nearly new, neat and tidy suburban home in a nearly new, neat and tidy suburban neighborhood to The Hacienda.

Our nearly new, neat and tidy house was finished. It was decorated, landscaped and required little more that a bit of general household maintenance and a weekly mowing of the teeny tiny sliver of a backyard.

It was only a few years old. It was done. It was pretty low maintenance.

Pffffft. Who wants that, right?

Probably most people but this is my story.

So one day, out of the blue, I said to my husband, as he sat comfortably watching golf in his easy chair, relaxing, lawn freshly mown, not project in sight; “you know that great area you’d really like to live in? Well, let’s sell this place, look for a fixer upper on some land and move up there. Whadda ya think?”

He thought I was crazy. He still thinks I’m crazy. I can be a little crazy.

But he also loves me and after the initial shock and a little bit of time to absorb and consider the thought, he could see that my idea was not entirely without merit. My ideas are never entirely without merit.

We would take a huge loss on our suburban house (we all know what happened to the housing market a few years back) but if we could weather it, the benefit would far outweigh the cost. It would take some sacrifice and a lot of hard work but isn’t that what life is all about? The greatest rewards ALWAYS come from sacrifice and hard work. They also come from listening to the whisper of the Holy Spirit, “I have something better for you, something good waiting for you. Ask me for wisdom and guidance. Follow where I lead.”

You must be wise. But sometimes you also need to be brave.

So we staged and listed our suburban two-story just to see what would happen. It sold in five days. FIVE DAYS! Oh.My.Heck. We are really moving!

What followed was a mixture of panic, drama, unsavory sneaky buyers, unpleasant sellers, unscrupulous Realtors (not ours, we love ya’ Patty Jo), headache, heartache, almost everything we own packed and stored in PODS (I now ♥ PODS by they way – they saved my life or at least my sanity), two-weeks in a tiny furnished vacation rental in between closings trying to keep my children from killing each other or breaking anything that wasn’t ours, a hemorrhaging bank account and a few visits from Monica.

Ahhh, Monica, she’s who I sometimes turn into with just the right combination of stress, exhaustion and low coping reserves; affectionately and appropriately named after the often neurotic, obsessive, controlling, over reactive character of Monica from the TV show friends. I’ve talked about her before in A Mary, A Martha or A Monica? . Yeah, it was that bad.

But it was worth it as we now have a beautiful sprawling Spanish Mission style home on 2.2 acres of breathtaking Sonoran desert. A fabulous home we call The Hacienda.

Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?

Oh, that is spin, my friend.

It is beautiful, it is sprawling, the desert is breathtaking. All true.

But there is more to the story.

In truth, it is sort of Spanish Mission in style. It is actually more of a 1960’s interpretation of Spanish mission. Which is a little bit Spanish mission, a little bit mid-century modern, a little bit funky, a little bit outdated and a whole lot wonderful.

Okay, a lot outdated.

But it gets better! I haven’t told you everything.

In the frantic search for a place to live – did I tell you we sold our house in five days? – we looked at several houses. We had even been looking throughout the consideration phase of this process; but nothing was just right.

Then I found The Hacienda. I knew it was the one the moment I walked through the front door.

The-Hacienda-5

When I told our Realtor it was the one, she thought I was crazy.

“This one? Really? Are you sure? It’s big and old and needs a lot of work!”

Undaunted, I called my husband and we put in an offer before he actually ever saw it.

Then our Realtor thought my husband was crazy.

He isn’t crazy though. He’s busy and he trusts me and he knows this is my thing. He knows that I would never choose something he wouldn’t approve of.

So we made the offer and then he saw it …

The-Hacienda-1

“It’s big and old and a lot of work. This one? Really? Are you sure? And it’s PINK!”

It was indeed, pink. It may look tan in the pictures but I assure you, it was pink.

The-Hacienda-3

The-Hacienda-7

The-Hacienda-4

He had just gone under contract on a big, sprawling, 60’s era pink rancher with a landscape that looked like a wasteland, a garage that his truck wouldn’t fit into and a mental project list that was growing by the second. But it was in the location he wanted.

This is just one of the many reasons I love him; he trusts my vision, even if he doesn’t always see it at first. He trusts me. He is not a push-over and I trust that when he is firmly against something it is probably for the best. I trust him. We are very different but we are complimentary and we are a team. And so far, that has worked out pretty well for us.

Fast forward three years.

No longer pink. We love the caramel/milk chocolate combo that it took me forever to pick out. Leave it to me to paint my house the color of dessert.

No longer pink. We love the caramel/milk chocolate combo that it took me forever to pick out. Leave it to me to paint my house the color of dessert.

The-Hacienda-5

The Arizona version of the Brady Bunch’s Digs! Someday, the entry will have a walled courtyard with an iron entry gate. But for now the mid-century modern vibe is alive and well.

The-Hacienda-After-3

Speaking of someday … someday, the flat roof of the garage and/or family room will be fitted with a railing and a spiral staircase, making it an observation deck which will offer some spectacular views of the city.

The Hacienda has been a tremendous amount of work and there is a lot of work that remains to be done. We have the craziest 1970’s disco master bathroom with a toilet I hate and a bidet I have no idea what to do with (sorry, you probably didn’t need to know that), septic not sewer, electric not gas, hours of yard work, trees that always need to be trimmed, miles and miles of house keeping, ugly power lines that I would LOVE for the city to bury, a broken fountain, creaky iron gates and a rusty old Chevy truck that we call Mater in the neighbor’s backyard.

Rusty-Old-Truck

I’ll take “Mater” over a Home Owner’s Association any day!

But we also have some room to breathe. Our kids have room to run, build forts, ride bikes and be loud. We have a beautiful natural environment that we adore, a fantastic view of the city, the best school and teachers a parent or a kid could hope for and we have a home that is uniquely us.

We have taken something that was neglected and unwanted and made it something special. We have made it into a home. A home that we can see ourselves in for a long, long time. A home that we can see our children grow up in and eagerly come back to.

Most importantly, we have the peace and satisfaction of seeing our hard work – our teamworkevolve into something that we love and are so thankful for. Yes, my husband has come to love The Hacienda as much as I do.

The-Hacienda-After-6

I knew he would. It’s my job to know.

We are so thankful for this home God has blessed us with. We will always seek His council and follow where He leads. And I am so happy, as crazy as it was, that He led us here.

So that is how we came to live in The Hacienda.

Thanks for reading and for indulging me. And, if you are still interested, tomorrow I will share a little more of my home with you.

How about the backyard? We’ll enjoy a little lemonade under the Palo Verde tree.

I promise, you can’t see Mater from there.

Sharing Spring in the Sonoran Desert

Yesterday, we did our best the celebrate Cinco de Mayo or as my sweet friend who made a pinata out of a paper gift bag and hung it over her railing for her kids tagged it, #gringodemayo. She is one of the funniest people I know.

Sadly, I didn’t have a chance to make the blackberry margaritas I mentioned on Friday. Between it being a late evening for my husband on his National Guard “drill weekend” and an afternoon Cub Scout leaders meeting for me, it just didn’t happen. So we made do with chips and store-bought salsa, a glass of red wine and quick and easy soft tacos on whole wheat tortillas. #gringodemayo

Maybe next weekend I’ll get a Mother’s Day Blackberry Margarita?!

While it was a busy weekend, it was a beautiful spring weekend, moderate and breezy and so enjoyable. We are just on the verge of the summer heat and many of the spring blooms are beginning to fade. So, I think it is about time I share with you a little of the beauty of the Sonoran Desert as it comes to life with color each spring.

My camera and growing interest in photography have given me a new appreciation for just how fantastic this unique landscape is and how blessed I am to get to enjoy it everyday. If you think the desert is brown and desolate, take a look, you might just change your mind …

Ocotillo-Blossom

Ocotillo

Ocotillo-Blossom-2The Ocotillo is one of my favorite desert plants. I love the architecture of its long thin spines and the beauty of the orange tufts that appear at their tips each spring.

Palo-VerdePalo-Verde-in-Bloom-2Palo-Verde-in-BloomPalo-Verde-in-Bloom-3We are on 2.2 acres and have more Palo Verde trees than I can count. Well, I probably can count them I’ve just never actually had the inclination to do so. What I can tell you is that in the spring, our property is ablaze in the beautiful yellow blossoms that cover these gorgeous trees. Palo Verde means “green stick” which characterizes the deep green trunk and branches of the tree.

Staghorn-Cholla-Blossom-2Staghorn-Cholla-BlossomThe Staghorn Cholla produces some of the most beautiful blooms in the desert. I think they  look a bit like wild roses. I love the contrast of something so lovely and delicate coming from a plant that is so harsh and hostile.

Teddy-Bear-ChollaHostile? Very. Cholla are pretty vicious plants, particularly Teddy Bear Cholla like this one. An ironic name as this is not a cute and cuddly plant. The thousands of barbed spines give it an almost “fuzzy” appearance, hence the name “Teddy Bear” Cholla. They are also called “Jumping” Cholla as sections of the plant almost seem to jump at you as they get drier and lighter in order to be picked up in the wind and seed. They are beautiful but they are not a plant to be tangled with. Literally. Those spines are painful and we’ve had a few run-ins prompting us to remove many of them from the property. This one sits right over the eastern wall of the backyard where it doesn’t cause any trouble.

Prickly-Pear-in-BloomPrickly-Pear-in-Bloom-2Another cactus that we have in abundance is the Prickly Pear.

There are many varieties with different colors of blooms and pads. Soon the blossoms will be replaced with an edible Prickly Pear Fruit. I haven’t used the fruit yet but maybe this year, you’ll see a few “Prickly Pear” recipes here at Welcome Company. Sonoran-Desert-LandscapeWe have a little garden of this particular variety with its delicate yellow blossoms (which I think is the New Mexico prickly pear), right outside the front door.

Agave-1We trim and manage our own landscape which means several trips to the dump each year where they recycle the yard wast into mulch. On one of our dump runs, I rescued about 15 of these little aloe plants that had been thinned out and discarded (probably by the same landscapers that hurriedly mow down with hedge trimmers prune all of the neighborhood and commercial landscaping into unnatural geometric shapes leaving it looking like a horrible martian landscape – I’ll do my landscaping myself thank you). I guess bringing something home from the dump technically makes me a “picker” but I couldn’t just leave them there. They have recovered well and look great!JasmineOne of my favorite things about spring is the Jasmine that grows right outside the living room windows. Jasmine-2After dinner when we are sitting down watching some TV or reading, the heavenly scent of the jasmine blossoms floats in through the open windows and perfumes the evening.

Red-Yucca-2

Red-YuccaThe blossoms of the Red Yucca are long-lasting and attract humming birds which we love to sit and watch from the back porch.

Yucca

But the delicate white bell-shaped blossoms of the Blue Yucca are short-lived. I wish they lasted longer but I look forward to their return each spring.

In fact, most of the blossoms I’ve shared with you don’t last much beyond the spring. Which is part of what makes spring so special.

Luckily, we are blessed to have many plants in our desert landscape that provide us with beautiful color throughout the year.

Desert-Flowers-3Desert-Flowers-2Desert-Flowers-1Bottle-BrushLantana-1

When we moved out here nearly three years ago, the back yard was a wasteland and the landscape neglected and out of control. We have worked hard and it has been one of my greatest joys to care for it and watch it come to life.

I’ll share a little more of that journey with you this week.

One last thing …

Turkey-Vulture-2

Turkey-Vulture-1

A few days ago, I was sitting at my desk working on a post and looked up, spotting this guy through the french door window. I raced for my camera, switched the lens and somehow managed to get these two shots of him. When I saw him through the door, I thought he was a hawk but he turned out to be a huge Turkey Vulture.

Pretty Incredible place we live in.

The Saguaros are just starting to sprout the beautifully unique flowers that will soon crown the tops of their bodies and arms. I can hardly wait to share those photos with you.

And keep checking in because one of these days I’ll get that hawk picture I’m after!

No More Bird Watching in my Pajamas!

My sweet husband, apparently unimpressed with my Ninja skills and tired of my less than socially acceptable early morning wild life photography in my PJs, called me in from the backyard this morning to have the kids give me my Mother’s Day present early.

A new 55-300mm lens for my camera. How did they know? You’d think I’d been talking about this lens for months. They know me so well, it was just what I wanted.

You see you have to get VERY close to your subject to get a great picture with an 18-55mm lens. Which is fine when your subject is a cake but when it is a quail, well that’s when Ninja stealth is required.

Giddy, I popped that lens on and raced out the back door; still in my PJs. Here’s what I got …

Quail

I love quail and we have them everywhere!

Dove-&-Quail-2

This may be an indication that we are getting old but we love to sit on the back porch and watch the birds as they come to the feeder hanging from the Palo Verde Tree in the center of our back yard. We each have our own chair. Side by side. We always sit in the same spot. We are old.

Warbler-1

Pretty soon we will have bird watching books and I will be able to tell you every species of bird that comes to visit.

So very old.

Bird-Feeder-1

I can tell you that these visitors are Peach Faced Lovebirds and a Mourning Dove who have landed to enjoy breakfast at the just filled feeder (it will be wiped out in only a couple of hours). There is something in the mixture that the Lovebirds are partial to, you should see the seed fly as those sassy birds fling it out in search of their favorite snack. We joke that they are picking out the cashews – mixed-nut reference, no body wants the Spanish peanuts. I know you know what I’m talking about.

We make bird jokes and laugh at our “cleverness”. We are old.

Dove-&-Quail-1

Luckily, there is quite a cast of characters gathered below just waiting to clean up the mess.

Baby-Birds-1

I have to tell you about these little guys. I have no idea what they are other than absolutely adorable; remember, I don’t yet have a bird book.  They are still babies but are old enough to fly and are starting to forage for themselves yet are still little enough that they make quite a fuss for their mom’s attention, fluffing up their feathers, flapping their wings and sqwaking for a nibble. Watching their antics is so much fun; could it be because their demands are somehow so very familiar.

Old people use the term “antics” when referring to the actions of the young.

Morning-Doves

This one is my favorite. Mourning Doves, perched just outside the back gate, waiting patiently for me to move away from the bird feeder. Incidentally, I have always thought they were “Morning” Doves until a google search just revealed that they are in fact “Mourning” Doves; boy do I need to get that bird book. I find that somewhat depressing and much prefer “Morning” Doves.

Cottontail-Rabbit

Ooooh, and there was a bunny too!

So for now, I will no longer need to build the “blind” I had planned or sneak around in my jammies and slippers disturbing the wildlife.

Hummingbird-1 Hummingbird-2

These two pictures were shot a few weeks ago with my smaller lens. I was crouching down taking a picture of a hibiscus blossom when this little guy came in right next to me to get a drink.

I simultaneously heard him and saw him out of the corner of my eye.

He didn’t even know I was there.

Ninja.

Pretty good for an old lady.

Disclaimer: This post was in no way intended to offend the aged. I have three young exhausting children. I am tired. Don’t judge.

Pool Season Begins with My Polar Bear in His Underwear

Sunday evening, after all of the Easter festivities had wound down and Sara and David were getting ready for bed, my husband decided to do a bit of quick swimming pool maintenance. Nathan was still playing outside (no school for him the next day) and of course, when he saw his dad inside the pool fence (the most highly coveted back yard destination), he was more than eager to “help” daddy with the pool. “Helping” daddy quickly led to Nathan stripping down to his underwear and leaping unabashed into the water.

Cold water.

Rather than fish him out and warm him up, we decided to let him have a go, be a kid.

To him, it was a 110 degree summer day. Lip quivering in pure joy.

This child is a polar bear.

Swimming-1

He had so much fun and seemed to avoid any sort of hypothermia so last night, we officially declared the start of pool season! Well, at least for the crazy little people who are willing to brave the 73 degree water. I, however, am not crazy and will swim at 90 degrees thank you.

The crazy little people I live with …

Swimming-2

Swimming-6

Swimming-4

Swimming-5

Swimming-7

Sara, how’s the water?

Swimming-8

COLD!

She made it about 10 minutes and was the first one out. Smart.

Swimming-13

David made it a few more minutes but was soon done and snuggled up in a towel. Warm.

And then, there is Nathan. Wild.

I have a significant amount of grey hair. I would like to share with you why that is …

Swimming-11

Swimming-10

Swimming-3

Swimming-9Swimming-14Swimming-15

A fearless and impulsive boy who LOVES the water but is built like an anvil; 70 pounds of thick, solid iron that should sink and yet, swims like a fish.  My husband said it best when he compared watching Nathan swim to watching a helicopter fly; “It defies all logic and yet, there it is, flying” – or swimming as it were. I guess it doesn’t hurt that he is also strong as an ox!

Swimming-12

“What!? I not cold!”

He would have swam and leapt and dove and splashed and cannon-balled all night if we’d let him. But pool season has only just begun. There will be plenty of days ahead for all of that!