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So my school is doing something to boost attendance, and every month the 3-5 class that has the best attendance gets to do a scooter race. My class won for September (there’s only 10 of us, so it wasn’t TOO hard…).  Here’s a few pics and videos from yesterday’s race.  You can hear me cheering; one of my kiddos was using my camera since he couldn’t race.

 

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Disclaimer: No Jeep belonging to the blogger was ever on the other side of the border.  Though we did see…well, you’ll have to find out.

One of my favorite transformations here in AZ is driving up from Corona de Tucson into the high desert grassland of Sonoita.  It’s wine country; looks a lot like central CA (to me!) and is a total switch from our scrub and ever-present cacti.  We have to take people there just to show them the difference a couple thousand feet of elevation makes around here.

We drive east from our house, heading to Sonoita, and as we climb, the desert gives way to golden grass, small trees, bushes and (in the winter) scraps of snow.  This time, Todd enjoyed the change, but Iryna was the one who got really excited.  Evidently it looks a lot like Crimea, where she spent summers growing up.  She hadn’t been sure she really liked the Tucson area (though she found it interesting), but we were all three amused and surprised at how happy she got as we got further into the grassland.

We didn’t see a coati on the Jeep trail (we had seen one this spring with other friends), but Iryna caught a glimpse of some javelinas.  We had started in Patagonia, a little town with several trails going off into the Santa Ritas (mountains behind our house).  As we got further into the semi-wild land, with free-range cattle, scattered ranches, ghost mining camps and towns, Iryna continued to exclaim over how similar even the bushes and trees were to her Crimean summer place.  We kept seeing border patrol — Kent commented on how many there were, compared to other trips.

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When we finally got to tiny Lochiel, we drove down to the border fence, just south of town, and drove along the border.  We weren’t sure we were supposed to drive along the border; there weren’t any signs around it, other than directional signs.  We did keep passing and repassing an SUV from Colorado with lights on top, but it seemed to be a work vehicle rather than something official.  So we drove on.  ‘Muricans and all that.  At least, no one from the border patrol was around just here!

For all the talk about building a wall, the border’s really not much more than an extra-hefty cow fence, taller in some spots than others, but mostly just stranded wire and some railroad ties.  We did notice the wire was cut in a couple places.  Cows, maybe.  Certainly there were cows on the other side of the fence — though they didn’t moo in Spanish!

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The monsoon rains had definitely done some damage; a (very steep) hill we’d steamed up this spring was washed quite thoroughly and we didn’t want to risk the Jeep.

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Kent probably could have navigated it, but the time it would take (we were already starving) would get us to Tubac too late to eat at all.  So we turned around to head back to civilization and shopping.

Only…as we came to the last part before we turned to rejoin the Jeep trail, we saw movement ahead. People running. With backpacks on. Toward the fence and one of the place the wire had been cut.  They disappeared onto the other side of the fence and we just looked at each other — wow! Kent gunned the Jeep and we went the other way, fast.

I spent the next few miles thinking aloud about whether someone in the group might have had an assault weapon they could have picked us off with, whether the blue SUV we’d kept passing was waiting for a pickup and we’d unknowingly interfered, and various reasons why they would have been running TOWARD the border.  Also, wondering if the increased border patrol vehicles had been the result of a tipoff and if we’d stumbled on the edge of a raid!

When we got to a crossroads with choices to go towards Nogales (the border town here) or back to Patagonia, I said we should go back the way we’d come — of course, given what we’d just seen!  About ten (bumpy) miles further, Kent said, “We’re almost back to Patagonia! We took the wrong turn!”  We ended up about fifteen miles out of our way, and having missed a great view around the shoulders of the southern end of the Santa Ritas.  He was NOT happy with me…

We did make it to Tubac, had a snack, and managed to see everything we’d wanted to, pretty much, before they rolled up the sidewalks at 5.  We were covered with dust and sunburned from having the roof off, and looking forward to homecooked tomatoes and onions…and more macaroon tart, which we devoured with alacrity.

And so the international travelers saw a bit more than they bargained for…

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Trigger warning: this post is all (mostly) about wonderful food.  Back. away. from. the. fridge.

I made peach muffins for breakfast (sorry, no picture) that were appreciated even by the non-fruit-lover in our midst (looking at you, Todd!).  Then Kent and Todd rushed off to the Pima Air and Space Museum to geek out over the planes while Iryna and I got down to business (or up to mischief?) in the kitchen.

Iryna concocted dark chocolate-almond meringue torte, while I attacked the butternut squash with wild rice and cranberries.  I had gathered the ingredients beforehand, since it’s quite far to the stores here, but realized in the wee hours of the morning that I had neglected to buy a butternut squash.  Only a main ingredient, no problem.  So I’d gotten up early (pre-muffins) and acquired a squash from the nearest venue. Eleven miles away. Sigh.

Iryna was meticulous with the meringue, and I took a break from squash to melt the chocolate and help dot with almonds.

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Yes, it was a decadent as it looks! *swoons*

I finished up the butternut-wild rice-cranberry combo — it made a LOT! and we headed off to meet our starving geeky boys.

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We had heard there was an exhibit of Frida Kahlo art at the Tucson Botanical Gardens, so we thought we’d check that out.  It turned out to be only biographical art by other people (though it was still interesting), so not the absolute win we’d hoped for.  But, not having been to the Tucson Botanical Gardens, we didn’t know about the butterfly house.

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Black butterfly open…

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…and closed.

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I thought this one looked like an old colorized photo.

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Blue poison arrow frog

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Three kinds: blue morpho (closed) on the left, don’t know the center, and owl butterfly on the right.

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Kent kept having them land on him because of his yellow shirt

We couldn’t get good pictures of the blue morphos’ open wings because they Don’t. Sit. Still.  Rather, when they’re still, their wings are closed.  And when they’re in motion, they are In Motion! Sort of like putting a bunch of preteen girls on sugar and crack and letting them loose in a Justin Bieber concert.  Like that.  Gorgeous, but we couldn’t even video them!

In the garden proper, there were cacti, of course, various exhibits relating to Frida Kahlo, and some surprises for us non-native Arizonans.

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Afterwards, we got the obligatory kombucha for Kent and Iryna, and rattled around down in Old Tucson.  I hadn’t seen all the neighborhoods around, and a lot of the houses were really cute and inviting.  Not the more warehouse-y style I usually see.

We met Kent’s mom at El Charro for gorgeous Mexican food: tamales, chimichanga burritos, and enchiladas.

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Again, we were too tired to do anything but fall into bed when we left the restaurant.  Day Two: Achievement Unlocked.

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Girl with a Pearl Earring-esque?

 

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One of the nice things about moving to a new and (potentially) interesting area is that our friends come to visit! We’ve had visits from my parents and three friends since Kent moved down here in November.  With our October break (one week! yay!) on us, two other friends from the Twin Cities made their way down for a last taste of warm weather before the polar vortex descended on them.

Once Todd and Iryna landed in Phoenix, we swept them across the desert and deposited them first at the fine establishment of Nico’s Taco Shop (a great local fast-food Mexican chain).

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With burritos in hand (stomach?), we were ready to take on Tucson.  Our first stop was San Xavier Mission, south of the city, and a 300-year-old Catholic mission currently undergoing reconstruction.  It is called the “White Dove of the Desert”, for good reason.

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It has no air conditioning, but is surprisingly cool inside the traditional adobe walls.  Todd was excited about the frescoes inside the church, and we all enjoyed looking at the different cacti in the gardens outside.

We started feeling very hot, so we postponed  our hike to go find some hats.  Several stops for drinks (and motorcycle goggling) later, we acquired breathable hats to protect us from the sun, which was by that time no longer beating down on our heads.

Nothing daunted, we drove west of town to the Tucson Mountains.  Kent veered off the trail, causing a certain amount of scrambling to be necessary to achieve the top.  Once there, we lingered through sunset.

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On the way down, we saw someone flying a drone, and got to chat with him about the drone and what he did with it professionally.  The drone looked quite sci-fi and the videos were amazing.

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We stumbled in to the house to eat supper, but somehow my “space-age” stove hadn’t cooked the food, and our wonderful tomato-onion bread was not available to us until much later than we wanted.  It was still wonderful, but we immediately tucked ourselves into bed, there to dream of drones and oddly frightening bathrooms.

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There, I fixed it! — Nico’s bathroom

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This is a small, unsponsored plug for my new favorite ice cream flavor.*

If you have been so unfortunate as not to grow up where maple syrup is de rigeur, allow me to inform you: Aunt Whoever’s corn syrup  is Not Appropriate.  I decided that a long time before I’d actually tasted the real deal; just didn’t like the taste of the “maple flavored” stuff.

Then someone gave us maple syrup for Christmas (cue harp music and butterflies swirling in glitter).  My snooty taste buds were vindicated!  When my husband (snooty taster extraordinaire) told me to put maple syrup on vanilla ice cream…Well.

Time to one-up the man.

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Those delicious carrot-maple cupcakes? Perfect with a smidge (or more) of maple syrup ice cream!  I may or may not have had more ice cream than strictly recommended for someone fighting a sore throat…but oh, it goes down smooooooth.

*unsponsored, but I accept freebies and coupons!

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Ok, probably.

But that’s what I do best…right?  Just FYI, this is fussing because I’m tired, cranky, and on the edge of getting sick.  Not my shining hour.  (Feel free to scroll to the bottom for your reward).

Navel Gazing Item #1: My frustrating inability to focus on weight loss long enough to actually reach my goal.  I feel constantly tired, so mustering up energy to work out is best done early in the morning, when I’m probably awake anyway (from waking up worrying about school; see Item #2).  I get home after a day of school and healthy eating and basically eat the house.  Why?  No reason.  Low will-power, I guess.  It’s annoying, and counter-productive.  See also: People who tell me “You don’t need to lose weight.” Yes. Yes I do.

Navel Gazing Item #2: My teacher workload, whether self-inflicted, student-afflicted, principal-induced, or district-bludgeoned.  I’m a member of the 40-Hour Teacher Workweek, and the idea has been great, but…I don’t have time to implement most of what is suggested…and I still don’t think a 40-hour workweek would be at ALL in the realm of possibility.  Maybe for those teachers whose day includes a prep period? Not mine.  It is nice to be (somewhat) better organized.  See also: Reasons I wake up at 3:30 a.m.

Navel Gazing Item #3: Related to Item #2, and influencing Item #1 — my lack of time outside of school for personal pursuits.  I have xty-five trillion projects in my mind, from cross-stitch and quilting, to trips, cooking, and hobbies/skills I want to master.  No time.  I am blogging though, if you can call complaining a blog.  I am today.  It’s where my brain’s at.  I’ll do better, I promise!

See?

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The view from one of the hoodoos on Mt. Lemmon, taken a few weeks ago at sunset.

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So this weekend I had great plans.  It is Kent’s birthday weekend, and I planned several nice meals, a special dessert, hiking, and general happiness.

The happiness happened, the meals and dessert did too, but not in in the way I envisioned…as usual.

Thursday I realized I was coming down with the creeping crud, and decided to call out sick on Friday because I couldn’t think about talking with the way my throat felt.  Unfortunately, it still feels like that and I don’t want to call out sick tomorrow.  So…hopefully I can get through that! (teacher gripe: it’s more work to prepare for a sub than it is to just soldier on through the day.)

I was able to get some at-home things done on Friday, though I tried to sleep as much as possible to kick the bug.  I tried to make pizza dough, but my usual luck with any yeast dough presented itself, and a recipe meant to make two 9×13 size crusts made one.  It was still tasty though!

Since I was sick, I couldn’t lead the song service at church on Saturday as I was scheduled, so I asked someone else to do it.  Then the pianist texted me and said she wasn’t feeling good so could I play?  I said yes.  My throat hurts, not my hands.

I woke up early on Sabbath (I can’t manage to sleep in! 4:30, really??) and made blueberry lemon scones for breakfast.  Off to church to practice, where we spent about twice the amount of time at church practicing that we normally do.  I ended up eating breakfast during small group Bible study.  Sigh.  Uncouth much?

I realized at some point in the morning that I’d forgotten to put the tomatoes and onions in the oven for lunch.  I also had forgotten my music at home, but luckily realized that before Kent left the house too.  After the service, and choir practice, I was feeling pretty rotten, so I sent Kent off to eat Ethiopian food with some friends and I went home to try to sleep.

I didn’t really sleep, but got up later and made carrot cupcakes with maple frosting, cleaned the house, and got ready for friends to come over.  We were not only celebrating Kent’s birthday, but also our house in MN closing on Friday, so double whammy.  Only one couple came over (and Kent’s mom, of course), which was fine, considering how crummy I was feeling, but the cupcakes and conversation were great!

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Today I woke up later, thanks to NyQuil, and had a bit of a lazy morning with some books on my phone (yes, I know.  I have real books too).  Friends came over midafternoon who hadn’t been able to make it Saturday night, and we had more cupcakes and conversation.

I was supposed to start the SuperSister #leanhalloween Saturday, but I guess I’ll be starting Monday.  Since my weekend didn’t go as planned…I suppose it was nice enough, though.  And my house is clean, which is a plus!

Not sure how I’m going to make it through tomorrow with a voice though.

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