Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Hot Valley Weekend

Dylan, Jacob, Sarah, and Mark on our Valley jaunt this past weekend.
27 June 2015

Going to Phoenix in June is something we generally avoid, due to the extreme heat this time of year. On occasion, though, situations arise and events come up that require a jaunt into the jaws of hot-as-hell, and this past weekend was one of those times.

Dana and Jeff play it again!

First off, my brother Jeff and the lovely lady he married back in June 1983 decided to remarry after a few years of divorce. Jeff and Dana were remarried back in March, but on Saturday they were able to gather their entire family of 13 children, including their spouses, and their many grandchildren all at one time to have a wedding celebration in Glendale, north of Phoenix.

My dad and step-mom, Myron and Kathy, were in attendance.

We had already been planning a day trip to the Phoenix area to take care of some family business on Monday, but once we received the invitation to this celebratory open house, we knew we couldn't miss seeing everyone. So I booked 2 nights in our resort at the foot of South Mountain, and those who could do it juggled their work schedules around. Unfortunately, Danielle was unable to find anyone to take her Saturday shift, and Chris stayed home with the pets since his usual pet-sitter (his mom) was also out of town, so it was only Mark and me and our three kids, Sarah, Jacob, and Dylan.

Jeff and Dana's oldest, Justin, with his girlfriend Jessica.
(With Justin's youngest sibling, Callie, dancing in the background.)

We left home two hours later than planned, around 2:15, so it was 5:30 before we checked into the resort. After haggling a while with the lady who wanted me to attend yet another sales presentation (I caved when she offered me $125 and an assurances of no hard-sell), we rushed to our condo and changed into nicer clothes before making the 30-minute drive to Glendale to attend the 7:30-to-9:00 party. Unfortunately, we didn't get the memo that it was a casual event!

At right is Jeff and Dana's second oldest, Ashley, with her husband Matt.
At left is Matt's sister Monica, who is married to Jeff and Dana's third child,
Ashley's brother Jamison. Keeping it all in the family!
Monica is holding her baby, Colton, third of three.

We had a great time getting to see everyone there. I carried my camera around and took some pictures, but I kept finding myself chatting instead of immortalizing, so I missed a lot of people! By the way, the selection of cookies they served was divine. And I loved the lemony lemonade!

Jamison with baby Colton and Trenton, his and Monica's firstborn.

Two more of Jeff and Dana's kids, Micah and Hayden.
In the background are still two more of Jeff's daughters, Elsie and Amber.
Hayden is holding her cousin Natalie, daughter of Dana's sister Tahna and Spencer.

Although my sister Karla was vacationing in California with her boyfriend, Steve, 
and her two youngest kids, many of her children were at the open house. 
Here, Cami and Jeremy are visiting with Jamison and Jeff.

Karla's daughter Elyssa with her husband Ross and two of their four children,
visiting with Jeff and Dana's girls, Hayden and Haley.
[My lovely, camera-shy niece Savannah (one of Darryl's kids) was also there.]

Dana's sister Jona and her husband Kim.

Cute signs like this were posted all over the walls.

We got back to the resort around 10:00 p.m. With our late arrival at the resort when we'd gotten into town, we hadn't had time to enjoy the leisurely dinner we'd planned before rushing off to the open house. So, even as late as it was, Mark decided that cookies were not a proper dinner and we were going to feast on the steak and french fries we'd brought with us. He marched the steaks down to the barbecue grills in the pool area while Jacob started on the fries, and at 11:00 p.m. we had our fashionably late steak dinner.

Arizona Mills Mall

At noon on Sunday I attended the dreaded sales presentation and, in return, received an American Express card in the amount of $125. It took less than an hour and a half, so it wasn't a bad payout. Then we all decided to drive over to the nearby mall, Arizona Mills. It's one of the largest in the area and, since there are NO malls in our rural community, it's a treat for us.

Kids in a candy store: Sarah, Mark, Jacob, and Dylan.

It's amazing how much fun a silly family can have in such an ordinary atmosphere, but I believe we had just as much fun there as we had at Las Vegas or Disneyland or Branson. It truly is the togetherness that matters most.

Mark, the cool dude, takes a break by this fountain.

Sarah makes a friend at her favorite shop, in any mall!

Dylan watches Jacob donate a coin, which spins down and down and down...

Dylan, Jacob, and Sarah outside Rainforest Cafe.
We didn't eat here, but I love the decor. I'll have to actually go inside sometime!

When we passed by this Reflexology business, I felt inspired to stop.
Mark has suffered terrible back pain for months, so I had him give this a try.
15 minutes and $21 later, he said his back felt much better!

After watching his dad for 5 minutes, Dylan decided to get in on the act!

I used to teach mineralogy, so I find it hard to pass up a rock shop!
While here, Jacob picked out a pair of pink stone earrings for his wife.
We were all so sad she and Chris couldn't be there with us!

Another thing we can't bear to let pass by is a good chocolate shop!
Dylan, Jacob, Mark & Sarah checked out the selection and all chose the same thing.

As we left the mall, we were all munching on these yummy
chocolate-covered cheesecake slices-on-a-stick!

And yes, I was really there, too!

As soon as we returned from the mall, Jacob packed up his stuff and headed back toward home and his wife. He had to be back at work on Monday. The rest of us spent a leisurely Sunday evening at the resort. Mark and the kids took a dip in the pool while I did some blogging. Then Mark and Dylan grilled some chicken thighs while Sarah made us another potato salad. It was yet another delicious dinner!

Monday was a sweltering day. It got up to 109 degrees by mid-afternoon, and we were running all over town on business. Getting out of the car was the last thing we wanted to do at each stop. We started with a 9:00 trip to Sky Harbor Airport, where we picked up Dylan's friend, Jake, who is moving here from his mom's home in Pennsylvania. He'll be staying with us for a month or so while he finds a job and a place to settle.

Dylan with Jake, his friend from Pennsylvania.

After we checked out of the resort at noon, we stopped to check on the house Mark inherited when his father died in 2009, and we spoke to the lady who is currently renting there. Next, we went to a branch of my credit union and finally had my name changed from Reynolds back to Carter on their records. Once that was done, we had some time to kill, so we walked around the Superstition Springs Mall for a while, until we ended up at The Cheesecake Factory for lunch. I paid $85 for lunch, cheesecake, and a tip for Mark, Dylan, and me. Good thing I got that $125 bribe!

Finally, we drove to Apache Junction and met with the lawyer handling the estates of Mark's father and grandmother. Mark's Aunt Wilma (widow of Mark's Uncle Michael, who died in 2013) met us there and we signed an agreement regarding the disposition of the final elements in the very messy will. Hopefully it will all be settled and distributed in the coming year.

And then, at last, we were back on the road, headed toward cooler country. It was so nice to watch the temperature drop as we climbed out of Salt River Canyon, midway home. By the time we pulled into our driveway around 8:00, the temperature was in the 60s. We do love our mountain home!

Dylan and Jake hiked to the bottom of the canyon so Jake could see Salt River.
Hiking back out is not so easy!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Jacob Turns 24

Jacob wanted carrot cake and cream cheese frosting for his birthday cake,
and Danielle got creative with it!

On  Friday, June 26th, we celebrated Jacob's 24th birthday with dinner and a little family party. It's so strange but wonderful to watch your children become adults, and it's especially satisfying when you see them being successful and making good choices in their lives.

Sarah, Chris, Danielle, and Jacob at Jacob's birthday dinner.
Mark and Dylan both had to work.

Sadly, we weren't all able to be together since Jacob worked until 4:00 p.m., Sarah worked until 4:30, Dylan was scheduled to work 4:00 to 9:00, and Mark had to work 5:00 to 1:00 a.m. Schedules like that make family timing difficult! 

Jacob's dinner choice: grilled pork chops, my homemade chunky guacamole
(for smothering the chops), and my everything-but-the-kitchen-sink potato salad.

So those of us who were able to be around at dinner time got together and enjoyed Jacob's birthday dinner. He requested pork chops with guacamole and potato salad, one of our favorite meals. If you've never tried it, pork chops go great with a scoop of chunky guacamole salad! (And we did save some for Mark and Dylan!)

Two freezers of homemade ice cream to go with the cupcakes!

After dinner we started up two freezers of homemade ice cream. I made my usual sugar-free strawberry, and Jacob and Danielle tried a new cookie dough ice cream recipe in their new freezer. It took extra-long to freeze, so they took it home after the party to finish it for later. I bet it was yummy. Next time, I want a taste!

Jacob's gifts.

We waited until Dylan got home from work just after 9:00 to open gifts, so the only one who missed out on the gifts and cake and ice cream was Mark. We saved him some dessert, too.

Jacob starts out reading the first card.

He opens his first gift, a Superman ring from his mother (me).

I thought it was pretty cool. I hope he liked it as much as he said he did!

Danielle and Dylan watch as Jacob opens his gift from Chris and Sarah.
He was excited to get this box of Cheez-its...

...and then inside he found this $25 gift card!

His wife gave him the first two movies in the Bourne series, which Jacob loves!
(And Dylan brought him a bag of orange-chocolate candies.)

Then it was time to light the 24 candles. That was a big job!

Don't worry, we notified the fire marshal. Haha!

And then we all sang "Happy Birthday" to dear Jacob.

Thinking up a birthday wish...

...and blowing out the candles. He got them all in one try!

Happy birthday, my amazing son! 
What a blessing you are in our lives!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Someone Else's Treasure

Putting on a yard sale is hard, dusty, boring work.
Thank goodness for scenery like this to enjoy during lulls in shoppers!
20 June 2015

Yes, it's that time of year again. Time for the annual Carter summer yard sale! Having scoured out our shed recently (plus I have a yard sale stack in the house where I collect items I don't need/want anymore throughout the year), we had plenty to put out for sale. This time I instructed my laborers (Mark, Jacob, and Dylan) to put out everything, even stuff we couldn't imagine anyone wanting, much less paying for.

After all, one man's trash is another man's treasure.

This view is less sweet. Sale items fill the yard...

...and three tables. Some shoppers actually prefer rifling through unemptied boxes.

Dylan, Danielle, and Jacob pass the time while waiting to make a sale.

It's always fun to chat with browsers, even if they don't buy.

Some people are more likely to buy clothes if they're hung neatly.

We had lots of jeans, only $1.00 per pair!

This year I decided I was more interested in getting rid of stuff than making a lot of money, so when someone asked, "How much do you want for this?" I would respond, "What are you willing to pay?" I was surprised to see how many people are taken aback by that. Many wanted a hard number. "I promise I won't be offended by any offer," I'd say. Occasionally the shopper insisted that I name a price, but most gave me an amount that was roughly double what I would have asked! Not a bad strategy!

Jacob finally sold the heavy dog house he built in high school.
Here, he and Dylan are delivering it to the shopper's truck.

And we did sell a lot of the things we thought no one would want. For instance, a woman gave me a dollar for a broken rake because her husband made art out of metal. She said he used the rake tines for antlers in his reindeer sculptures!

Jacob and Danielle also did a bake sale. The brownies were extremely popular.
It was so hot (mid-90s) that we left some items inside, like the cheesecake, 
and only brought them out as requested.

In the end, we cleared a lot of space, which meant much less to pack up and store away for next year's sale. My shed is now practically empty, with a few boxes neatly stacked and organized.

We didn't get rich, but we made enough for our upcoming weekend in the Valley. In total, we brought in $134.25, for a take of $57.25 to Jacob and Danielle and $77.00 to me. I can live with that!

$2.00 per slice!