Monday, June 26, 2006

A Saturday Full of Cement

Phase two of the yard project occurred this weekend. The day really got started when the huge red and yellow cement truck pulled up and started mixing cement. The guys got busy preparing to pour the cement in the latest portions of the retaining wall forms. It was actually kind of exciting! A long hose goes from the truck to the "form." The hose is extremely heavy. Scotty, our good friend, is the guy in the white hat in picture #2. At one point, he was standing there with this small box hanging around his neck on a lanyard. The box had two buttons - start and stop - and enabled him to control what came through the hose. He pretty much just stood there continuously asking whoever was holding the cement hose, "enough? enough? enough?" I think the thing that makes it exciting is that there's an element of mystery surrounding the whole process. As James described it (quite perfectly I might add), "it 's an educated crap-shoot." Yikes. And also, you just don't want cement to go anyplace it's not supposed to go. The stuff dries faster than you'd think, and well, it dries as hard as cement.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Oreo Explores

What this blog seriously lacks is more about my cat, Oreo -- my pride and joy, okay, my feline son. This picture was taken a couple weeks ago. In the midst of our yard excavation, he ducked out the back door and perched on this stump at the edge of our hillside. Here he's jumping down. Though this may not look significant, it is. For him to JUMP up onto anything other than our low, platform bed is something. He's 16 and a half, so jumping is not really on his agenda these days. But it was this day! I love it when he gets a little surge of energy.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Moni Comes to Visit

After 9 years of not seeing each other, Moni made the trek out west and, among her travels, stayed 3 nights with James and I. We went to the Indian grocery store one afternoon and picked up the ingredients to make authentic chicken curry, lentils, raita, and basmati rice with saffron and almonds. We got whole cumin seed which Moni ground into powder. Freshly ground cumin is nothing like the pre-ground stuff you normally get. It's about 100x more fragrant and flavorful. Very delicious. I also learned that the holy trinity of Indian cooking is onion, garlic, and ginger. Very healthy. And we started the meal with bitter gourd which is a traditional meal-opener that aids in digestion. There were fresh curry leaves for the top of the lentils; something I'd never tried. The meal was fantastic. Moni started cooking at 3:00 and we sat down to eat just after 8:00. After dinner, Moni shared her photographs from Iraq and we got a view of the area most people never see.
One of the nights, we went to a favorite restaurant, Cafe Chloe. And we also had a little shopping spree at Shwoomp!. I wished she could have stayed longer, but we might have spent every dime we had shopping. :) We ended up buying two pairs of the same pants, the same sandals, and the same products at Shwoomp. Sisters from another lifetime. For the next visit, James and I will go to Atlanta.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Sanctuary at Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa

Last week I met my niece and sister-in-law in Arizona to celebrate my niece's college graduation from FSU. We stayed at Sanctuary spa and resort. It was really nice -- oodles of relaxation, great food, and beautiful southwestern vistas. Our room was exactly like the one pictured here; modern interior, Fresh bodycare products which smell so good, and incredibly comfortable beds. The restaurant was great, overlooking the mountains. For my spa treat, I had the tangerine oil and sugar body scrub followed by a massage with more tangerine oil. Pure, citrusy heaven. For a food indulgence, we shared a dessert called Chocolate Peanut Butter Decadence. This triangle of cold, creamy, whipped peanut buttery mousse was encased in a thin layer of chocolate and topped with a little scoop of very creamy dark chocolate ice cream. If that wasn't enough, there were thin drizzles of chocolate and caramel. We seriously considered licking the plate. Confession: it was so good that the next night I had to have one all to myself. I rationalized it by considering the additional calorie burning properties of the 100-degree Arizona weather. Merely staying alive at that temperature took more effort. Each bite convinced me more that I had made the right decision.