During the last year, the department I work for has been reduced by more than 30%. The work we are doing has been transferred to a different state agency. The transition, all the same, has been an odd experience. I am the only person left on one side of a large floor of offices and cubicles. When I come in, I have to wave my arms above my head to get the lights to click on. I can hear when anyone on the other side of the floor exits. The elevator dings on occasion, getting my attention.
It’s zombie movie strange.
I miss the voice of friends and colleagues who filled the sea of gray cubicles. I’ll be joining them soon in a different building, under a different agency, a few miles away. I’m one of the lucky ones.
With this transition has come a need for deep flexibility. As colleagues were let go, others found new positions. Still others took retirement. Their responsibilities in many cases have been divided among those remaining. And so, we juggle.
There is an express bus that leaves not far from my house, depositing me one mile from my new office. For now, that mile is a nice morning walk. Soon, it will be a hot slog and I’ll need to keep wet wipes at my desk — but I am going to try to do this as many days as possible. Commuting by bus is new to me; I was pleasantly surprised by how quick the bus gets you to and from. It is comfortable, and full of other professionals headed downtown. The price is great too because as a state employee, the fair is subsidized. It is of course the green option, and as the summer approaches, I won’t be sitting in traffic on the asphalt in 110 degree heat.
The flip side to taking the bus is I have to plan my entire day within walking distance of my office. I can’t go out to lunch unless someone else drives or we are hoofing it. And, going to the gym means hauling an extra set of clothing downtown and on that mile walk each way. I’m trying to make getting to the gym as easy as possible, and carting even the necessaries back and forth each day will hamper my motivation.
Tomorrow, I get back on the gym workout wagon that I rode for so many years in my 20s: up by 5, at the gym by 5:15, in the showers by 6:30, and on the bus by 7. I can leave my gym bag and car at the bus stop — which is within half a mile of the gym. So, I’m only carting my purse and lunch to my desk.
I like having a plan and a routine. And I know having my workout done before I get to work will start my day off on a happier foot. I have more work than ever to accomplish, so getting up earlier as it gets warmer makes sense.
Onward, we march into this new professional life.
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- Arizona, Journal
The citrus are blooming, covered in bees and making the yard smell like perfume.
We’ve got two types of basil and some lavender going. I’m hoping they’ll all perk up with the increasing heat.
Especially you, lavender. You’re on notice.
The geraniums are going strong. These are some of my favorite flowers to have around because they last so long, and they are such a great pop of color.
A few succulent cuttings for a friend.
These small palm trees are having some sort of weird sexual awakening.
The rest of the yard is screaming in color. All I can hear in my head when looking at this is, “FABULOUS! WORK IT, GIRL!” (Because you know, sometimes the plants talk back.)
And the ‘maters are in and doing well. I tried growing from seed again this year, but they are just too small to produce. So, I bit the bullet and bought some heirloom plants at the local mom and pop nursery. Hopefully we’ll be able to keep these going year-round, like I did the last year in Tempe. A new garden bed is being added soon too. The irrigation is already in. Woo!
And that, folks, is how the garden grows.
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- Arizona, Domestic Art, Flora and Fauna
Spring is in full bloom in Arizona; our “winter” lasted all of three weeks, or so. As such, the citrus limbs are heavy with golden orbs and the acacia are flowering with the most delicious scent. (It really is my favorite smell.)
When you have a hundred pounds of citrus, or so, what to do? My go-to is marmalade. I use the recipe from the traditional Ball Canning Book. It is essentially a 1-1-1 ratio of citrus, sugar and water. Boil this as hot as you can muster for a good 55 minutes and then let simmer until you see it thicken. The natural pectin in the citrus should be sufficient, but when a batch doesn’t seem to be setting up — I add a package of Sure Jell.
When there is only a bit left after a canning adventure, or I haven’t prepared enough jars, I will stick a half-full jar in the fridge for experiments. This week we used this jar over a pork loin in the Crockpot. Cooked for 8 hours on low, we had orange pork over steamed vegetables and rice for dinner. The kids inhaled it. (My new mark for a winning recipe.) I also used a bit in a yellow cake mix to bake a couple loaves of orange bread. Easy, sweet and using what we have.
In the garden, we have broccoli that went to seed and pepper plants that have been producing. Carrots, onions and flowering bulbs are coming up strong. And the basil and lavender have found a sweet spot in the yard, tucked under a giant ficus. They get enough heat, but not direct sun and plenty of water.
I am so happy this time of year. The windows are open when possible, the geraniums are flowering with colorful abandon, and our backyard is full of love birds, hummingbirds and three noisy dogs.
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- Arizona, Domestic Art
When I briefly lived in Cameroon 16 years ago, I was so homesick I could barely breathe. I took solace spending my free lunch time under a huge mango tree in a school yard. I’d sit on the concrete step of a classroom (not in session) and look across the yard at the huge tree. It was probably 50 feet tall and had arms that stretched wide, with thick green leaves. If you stood under it, you could see tangerine mangos high above. The lower limbs had been plucked clean, furry pits strewn about the dirt school yard.
I’d sit on that stoop, or stoep, depending on your African linguistics, and think of my mom and dad. I’d wonder what my brother was doing in high school that day. I’d think of one of my closest friends, who was pregnant with her first child and due any day.
I spent a lot of lunches staring at the limbs of that great tree, watching birds come and go and dreaming of the comfort of home.
There is a tree not far from my home today where I find similar solace. Mercifully, I’m no longer sick of any sort. Instead, I get to this tree and rest in the lush green grass, letting Nelson off the leash to chase bunnies in the nearby desert brush, and relax. It is just the right size for shade and warmth. It is the perfect thinking tree.
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We have broccoli, peppers and onions going strong in the garden. We’re soon adding an addition to the garden bed — a separate bed solely for tomatoes. I’m thrilled. We’ll fill it two-thirds with organic compost and soil, and then work in epsom salts, crushed egg shells and top it with straw. Apparently straw helps prevent moldy growth on tomatoes and will reduce the amount of water needed. The egg shells prevent the soggy bottom disease (a calcium deficiency) I had a few years ago.
The tomato starts are on windowsills and fill the bathtub upstairs. (You’ve got to get your sunlight and humidity where you can, man!)
I also bought a bag of bat guano at Native Seed when visiting Tucson last week. I am trying it with these tomato seeds (from Finny!) and will see what type of production it helps produce. This is one of my favorite parts of gardening: the experimentation.
Come May, I’m hoping for a wild harvest and salsa party. Andale!
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- Arizona, Flora and Fauna, Happy Hippie
January in central Arizona is citrus season. You’ll see citrus trees with arms bowing, full of fruit. And there are trees nearly everywhere — medians along major streets, parks, and plenty in backyards. Our trees didn’t do great this year; it’s normal for citrus to have an off season, even though they received ample water and fertilizer.
Thankfully, when we were out running errands this weekend, we noticed a small farm stand with bags of lemons for $1. (Considering we too have to pay about $1 a lemon at the market come July, I grabbed a bunch.)
With a bit of time, the oranges from our navel tree became the season’s first batch of marmalade. I like to add a full jar, with a diced onion and some garlic, to the crockpot when slow cooking pork roast.
The lemons were juiced and saved. We use these cubes in ice tea, cooking and baking. It makes the January bounty last well into the year.
(And bone broth. Do you do this? It is so easy, and I swear it’s upped my cooking game. We keep our rotisserie chicken bones and slow cook them with vegetables and spices. After several hours, I strain the liquid into mason jars, which go into the freezer. We use these to cook rice, beans, for the base of sauces, etc.)
An update from the Heirloom Hacienda. Tomorrow: what’s happening in the garden (including the addition of another bed!)
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- Arizona, Domestic Art, Happy Hippie, Heirloom Hacienda
This week I traveled to Colorado, albeit briefly.
Unsurprisingly, most of my photos are of nature. Landing, I was in awe of the golden fields surrounding the airport, and the snow on the front range of the Rocky Mountains. Once I was in town, I couldn’t get over all the color. The autumn. The crisp air.
I was traveling for work, but had a chance to check in with a few folks who I adore. And felt guilty about all of those I didn’t have a chance to see. (Does anyone ever win that game?)
I was a bit apprehensive of this trip; coming off another Arizona summer, I was ravenous for cool weather. Also, I had a romanticized memory of my days in Colorado. This trip reminded me of what I loved and miss, and what I now value of my life in the desert. I really enjoyed my time seeing friends and family, walking around downtown Golden, driving through Denver, and working in Boulder.
I was also thrilled to come home.
With a foot in Arizona and another always in Golden, it is a great place to be.
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- Arizona, Colorado
We took a hike this weekend and I tried capturing some of the local color. It is cooling off and we plan on spending every possible minute outside until next May.
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Art on the walls, dashes of color, chickens, and lots of framed photos of family members. I am loving this home!
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- Arizona, Domestic Art, Heirloom Hacienda
I try to be a glass half full person. And for the most part, I try to be patient with those who aren’t. I’ll tell you, friends, that patience is waning.
I’m in the middle of a major work change. The division I work for is going through a transition. Most people were able to keep their jobs, some were offered early retirement, some were given a quiet severance and nice letter of recommendation. There are unhappy people in all three categories. Grumbles can be heard in every row of cubicles, distraught with how these changes have occurred.
If there is one thing we can all agree on it is this: no one is terribly fond of change.
At first, I was also upset. I lost my beloved boss, was sure to lose my beautiful office with the lovely windows and had no idea where I’d land next. For what it’s worth — I still don’t know where I’m landing next, but I do have options. (We all have options.)
It’s at this point in the summer each year when my entire body aches for cooler weather. This year, I’m missing Colorado. The cool, late summer nights full of stars, warm afternoon hikes that leave you dizzy from the thin mountain air, and those mornings that require a light sweatshirt for a dog walk.
What I have at the moment is this: hot, too hot, and WE ARE DYING IT IS SO HOT.
It is entirely impractical to consider moving back to Colorado. While the career changes leave me open professionally, now I have family here and we are very much desert dwellers. This doesn’t keep me from dreaming of the scenery I once had. I now commute about 30 miles each way, on a good day picking up a coworker to use the carpool lane. This weekend it dawned on me that if I were living in Evergreen, my very favorite place, and likely working in Denver, it would be about 30 miles. The difference is, I don’t have to drive in snow in Phoenix.
And there is little that terrifies me as much as driving when huge snowy flakes build on the windshield.
I wish there was a way to pick up my Arizona life, with this sweet family and my closest friends, and drop us all on the western slope. We’d live in log cabins with river rock fire places, have aspens planted in the front yards and glass greenhouses in the backyards to keep our vegetable gardens going past season. We’d have dinner parties with board games to close the night. We’d snow shoe and hike and river raft and always have a new peak to climb.
So, yes. I’m pining a bit. I know the grass is greener under your feet. But I do miss you Colorado — more so during excessive heat warnings and when everything else is in flux.
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- Arizona, Colorado