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later on 1/31/11
And thus endeth January.

I started the day thinking I had an interview, but it was rescheduled. I actually used my new Keurig coffeemaker this morning - I bought it so when I have coffee-drinking guests, I'll have coffee. I haven't touched the stuff in years because my stomach doesn't agree, but I figured, they send it with all these sample flavors, so let me give it a shot. And my stomach didn't freak out. I tried the "donut shop" flavor - maybe I can find something sweet and not-oily.

So with the rest of the day free, I decided to drive. No idea where, just somewhere. I have a book of day trips from Phoenix, which just rocks. So I drove east, through Tempe and Mesa (not stopping in either), through the Superstition Mountains (my new favorite mountains, for how choppy they are) to Apache Junction. I stopped to walk around Goldfield Ghost Town, which is a mining town that's been preserved. Pretty cool, actually. I didn't stop at Lost Dutchman State Park, but I will definitely head back there for hiking. I kept on driving and hit Tortilla Flat, the last "outpost" before Roosevelt Dam (they claim a population of six). The only place to eat is the Superstition Saloon (the food was pretty good), and it's decorated on every single surface with dollar bills, signed by the donors. It's money-wallpaper. There are also actual saddles instead of barstools, too. Very old west. After Tortilla Flat, the road is unpaved for 22 miles (to the dam). It is a very, very bumpy drive. But it goes through the Tonto National Forest, which is one of the most beautiful drives in the state (according to every guidebook and Teddy Roosevelt himself). I concur. I kept wanting to pull off the "road" and take pictures, but the road is so curvy and windy and steep that it isn't safe to stop. Truly stunning. At the end of the unpaved road is Roosevelt Dam, one of the biggest water reclamation projects that made Phoenix possible.

After the dam, you're back on paved roads, and I drove straight back to Peoria, passing through the mining towns of Miami-Globe and Superior. I nearly cried because these towns just looked so poor and rundown and abandoned, even tho there were plenty of signs of life. Copper mining made this area rich, but the wealth obviously didn't last. It's such a contrast to areas like Scottsdale and Paradise Valley.

Interview rescheduled for Wednesday, the director of nursing is out today. Ack - suspense! And what to do with my unexpected day off? I think I'll go driving.

Library, grocery store (x2, I needed to get Brillo after a grilled-cheese fiasco), taco casserole, lounging on the patio, SAG Awards, Worst Cooks in America on the TV, and my day is done.

Tomorrow is my interview, so glad it isn't super early.

Drove downtown again to the Heard Museum, where they were having a book sale. After browsing my little heart out (and remembering that yes, I do have a library card), I walked out of there with Christopher Plummer's autobiography, because I could not resist.

Then drove around North Phoenix, stopped by the Arizona Biltmore (because I want to go there for dinner, and lo and behold, Dad is coming out in April), which is surrounded by houses I will never afford, even with all the foreclosures, and then drove home admiring the scenery, which I could do all day.

The concert last night put me in the mood to watch some movies, so the plan for the rest of the day is to curl up on the couch and do just that. No monster trucks for me.

Good news - the first place I went to, the one that's right down the street, called and said they have an opening for an 11-7 RN. I have an interview set up for Monday afternoon. Fingers crossed.

HGTV always says to "de-clutter," but what happens to the de-cluttered stuff? It ends up in antique shops in Glendale, that's what. I walked through a few, and if I were ever in need of FiestaWare, dishes, souvenir beer steins, old records, cookie jars, lace doilies, salt and pepper shakers, postcards from Denmark, Nancy Drew books, commemorative plates, silver spoon collections or slide projectors, this is where I would come. It's like a treasure trove of your grandparents' house (and sadly, a lot of the things in the stores are probably the contents of someone's late grandparents' house), and it made for a fantastic few hours browsing. I did find a Pyrex one-cup measuring cup which I bought. And I thought about a roasting pan with lid, but honestly, how often would I use it.

Tonight I went to the Phoenix Symphony to see a pops piece called "Hollywood Dreams and Nightmares" - all movie themes, from Lawrence of Arabia to Star Wars to The Da Vinci Code. It was fantastic. I got dressed up (in a dress - and I nearly wore heels, until I got out my front door and realized I didn't *want* to wear heels, so I went back and put my flats on) and wore my sassy long black coat. The drive to downtown Phoenix took about 45 minutes, with some traffic. And since the city is a grid, it was really easy to get to Symphony Hall (which is in sight distance of Chase Field and the US Airways Arena, and actually attached to the Convention Center). And parking? $10 - and that was the "event rate" because there was a basketball game going on. The hall reminds me a lot of Avery Fisher Hall, no surprise there, and it was pretty well sold out. I'm going to go back in May - they're doing the Emperor concerto (Beethoven), one of my favorites!

Tomorrow, there's a Monster Truck Jam at Chase Field. I think I will find other things to do.

later on 1/27/11
I think I am in love with trivia night at Lis Doon Varna. When I was getting settled at the bar, the trivia guy, Jason, said that yes, he had put in a baseball category for me, and would I like to join a team so I'd have some people to play with? So he introduced me to a team of schoolteachers, and we won! Mostly (because I must feed my ego) we got 10 out of 10 on "baseball nicknames," a category that was incredibly easy (to me). So I must thank Jason for introducing me to the team. I think I may have made some friends here, which makes me happy. They invited me to join their team next Thursday, and maybe we'll win again.

I wonder if Del Webb (founder of Sun City, former Yankees owner) was the first man to say, "hey, I love driving my golf cart on the links, wouldn't it be great to drive it all over the place?" If so, I salute you.

Filled out two more applications today, a littler further afield (Sun City West - about a 25 minute drive from here, mainly because of the 35mph speed limit in "town"). So hopefully tomorrow some calls will come in.

Dropped off an application at the local old folks' home, the receptionist said they're only looking for per diem staff right now, but that's kind of what I want, so fingers crossed. The DON was out of the facility today, so I'll wait for her to call when she's back.

Spent too much time on the phone with Qwest about setting up my billing. They (and DirecTV) had my NJ address listed, so that's where my bills went. Into the abyss of mail-forwarding. And to get my online account set up, I needed some security code which was sent with the bill. And then they had my email address spelled wrong... anyway, after way too much time with customer service, I was able to get my online accounts set up. And then I passed out from the initial setup and installation fees - after this first month's bills, things should settle down.

So hopefully the per diem will work out, so I can pay the bills!

I went shopping at Macy's, but didn't spend any money - I used the rest of the gift card from Dad to buy a dutch oven. Martha Stewart's brand makes a nice 5-quart one, and it was on sale (knocked down from $109 to $54). Huzzah.

I did go food shopping afterwards tho, to pick up the chicken, sausage and shrimp I needed to make paella, and it's cooking in the oven now.

I have a list of local skilled nursing facilities, so today I drove around to check out the ones in Peoria. There's a fairly large medical complex on the border of Peoria and Sun City (home of the golf carts - saw lots of people driving them!) and in addition to the retirement community there, there are two SNF's. Plus it's like a five minute drive from my place. So that's number one on my list. Number two is a large retirement community that has a rehab/SNF built-in to their building. They're also pretty close. The number three choice is getting crossed off my list because it looks to be in a rundown part of town (tho you never know). I think tomorrow I'll put in some applications. Or maybe the day after.

CVS here will fill my "written in NJ" prescriptions, since they're just refills of what I already was getting there. Very cool.

I solved the problem of not finding a good nail salon by having my nail tips soaked off - a process that took longer than putting them on did. So now I'm back to my natural nails, which will be as weak and prone to chipping as ever. On the plus side, I'll save a fortune in maintaining them, and if I break one while hiking in the mountains, I won't feel so bad.

Found the Entenmann's bakery outlet out here, and now I have enough raspberry danish cake to last me at least a week.

I hate to keep on about the weather, but you know, another beautiful day etc etc. They say we may get a rain shower next Monday. I'm not holding my breath.

So I drove up to Cave Creek and Carefree, two little towns full of shops and galleries, just north of Scottsdale. Did some wandering around. I had lunch at this fantastic place called El Encanto in Cave Creek, which has a terrific outdoor courtyard. The waiter recommend the "fundido," which was a chicken chimi, covered in a (not-spicy) jalapeno-cream cheese sauce, served over rice. Delicious. I am hooked.

My favorite place to shop there was the Town Dump, and if you ever need a rusting statue of a javalina, sections of iron fencing, old Mexican furniture, pottery, cactus sculptures etc, this is the place. I found a beautiful blue-and-red tin-framed mirror for $40. I'd been looking for one, because I like the frames, and this is perfect.

I drove home through Scottsdale, just so I could smell the money in the air. I finally slowed down when passing the stunning condos on Scottsdale Road that I like. The building is just gorgeous. So I wrote down their website address, and am pleased to discover that I cannot afford to live there (as indicated by the "if you have to ask how much, you can't afford it" credo). Shocker.

Tonight I went to the library because every Monday, they do live music. Yes, I was the youngest person in the place, by about 40 years. Tonight they had a solo folk guitarist who was fantastic - one of the pieces he played was by a blind Irish harpist, Turlough O'Caralan, the piece was so beautiful that I had to go ask him afterwards how to spell the name so I can find recordings. The other group that played was a bluegrass group, and they were very good, too. I'm sure I'll go back for more - love the old folks.

It's so windy out that I nearly fell off my bike. I was going to go explore the bike trail but I'll save that for a less-windy day. Going to veg out and watch football instead.

Pippin is endlessly amused by reflected lights - from my laptop, the book I'm reading, etc. I always wondered what the cats did all day, I guess they make their own fun.

Solved the puzzle of where the beach towels are - in NJ. Mom says I never packed the good ones, I guess I only used the crappy old ones for packing. Well, that's a relief.

I went to the library this morning, with the hopes of finding the new book by William Martin, which was alas at their other branch. But they're going to have it sent over for me, and I should have it Monday or Tuesday. In the meantime, I checked out four other books. I love the library. It's located in the municipal plaza next to City Hall, and they opened a new art gallery there, with pictures of the Grand Canyon. Oddly enough, I liked the pics with the canyon covered in snow. I just don't think of snow and the Grand Canyon together (despite being turned back from the north rim several years ago due to the snow up there).

The library also had a publication on senior housing options in Phoenix, so I picked up a copy to browse through, for when I start the job hunt.

Not that it's warm enough to go anywhere near the pool, but I could have sworn I packed some beach towels when I moved, and now I can't find them anywhere. I know I'll end up buying new ones, and then I'll find them. Seriously, no idea where they are. I thought I only took the crappy towels (the ones I used to pad the fragile stuff) to GoodWill, but maybe somehow they all went? I have no idea.

I won $2 in the MegaMillions lottery. Huzzah.

I just realized that Nanny passed away ten years ago today. It doesn't seem like ten years.

Best part of having an IKEA 45 minutes away: when you go and buy the wrong length of cord for your new lights, it isn't so far away when you have to go back for the right ones.

The apartment looks so much brighter with the new lights tho, a big improvement.

Decided to give Lis Doon Varna another weeknight chance, and it was great. Thursdays are apparently trivia night, so I played and came in third. I did really well in the "vocabulary" and "current events" categories, not so much in the "NFL" one. Maybe it was just because we went on a Friday that it was so lousy. I'll check it out again next week for trivia night.

I could get used to this not-working thing. Not bored yet. I did buy a MegaMillions ticket, so if I win, I can continue to not-work.

Oh man, I was right - everything hurts from the hiking yesterday. I'll get over it, this is why we have Tylenol.

Drove out to the Dodger/White Sox Spring Training facility to pick up tix for a few games, including St. Patrick's Day. Excited to see Don Mattingly. That ballpark is one of the few that charges a few extra bucks for "day of" ticketing, which is why I got them in advance. I'm super close to a handful of parks (none closer than the Mariners/Padres tho, a mile away), can't wait for games to start.

I can see some kind of baseball or softball fields out my dining room/kitchen windows, across highway 101, and I wanted to find out what it is. Lo and behold - the Rio Vista Community Park, which has a rec center, all kinds of ball fields, ponds you can fish in, and playgrounds. I biked over to check it out. There are also some bike trails around - I think the one I was on connects with the one behind the Peoria Sports Complex, but I need to find out how.

And it was a fun day of mail - I love getting mail, by the way. I got my All-Star Game 2011 t-shirt from MLB, my new checks, a "we got your change of address thingie, now do you want to renew your subscription for fourteen more years" note from Better Homes and Gardens, and I got the "skin" I ordered for my Kindle, which looks like (oddly enough) books on library shelves. It's snazzy.

Aw, Diana Gabaldon reads comments on her website - I posted a note asking about the Tucson book festival in March, asking what she was going to be doing there, and she replied:

Well, let’s see…the Tucson Festival (I’ve done it once before) is set up all over the U of A campus. There are vendor books, small stages, and signing venues all up and down the central Mall, and the bigger readings are held in auditoriums and lecture rooms. I’m doing _three_ events at this one. The biggest will probably be the solo talk/interview (i.e., they’ll have somebody to ask me questions, but I’ll be able to launch and riff on anything I like ), which is at 10 AM on Saturday. Then there’s a panel with a couple of other authors on Saturday afternoon at 2:30–I _think_ that one is about “genre wars”. The last one is at 11:30 AM on Sunday, and is with another author about graphic novels. Or else vice-versa on the two panels; I don’t have the schedule in front of me. But they hand out newspaper-like schedules all over the place, so you’ll be able to see where and when things are.

Each event usually has a signing afterward–the author(s) decamp to a table/tables and sign books for some specified period of time. So I imagine I’ll do three of those, too–and in addition, I agreed to go do a signing at 2:30 PM on Friday at the Clues Unlimited (mystery bookstore) booth. May very possibly do a quick signing for Mysterious Galaxy (sf/f bookstore), too, if they have a booth there, but that’s not arranged, yet.

See you there! It’s a HUGE book festival, and _very_ well organized and run.

Awesome. I'm going.

Before I talk about my exciting day, I have to congratulate Jay on his big Who Wants to be a Millionaire appearance! I am so proud of you. I thought I missed it, because I set the DVR for the 12.30pm episode, and when I played it back, Jay wasn't on it! So I flipped to the "guide" on the TV, and there was another episode starting at 3pm - two minutes away! And *that* was the one Jay was on. So glad I didn't miss it.

My furniture is all here. For once, I wasn't the last person on the delivery route, I was first. So by 9.15am, the guys were here and gone, leaving a coffee table and new dining room table in their wake. Lovely.

And since it's 76 degrees out, I drove over to Camelback Mountain, and took the Cholla trail to the summit. It starts out easy enough, but good lord, the last bit is just steep and rocky. I gained a few new scrapes and scratches, but had a fantastic time. The going-down part was much easier (just over an hour to the top, a half-hour break up there, and about 40 minutes back down). I'm sure everything will ache tomorrow.

Another beautiful day in the Valley of the Sun.

My Aerobed arrived, so the guest room is really open for business now. I drove over to Papago Park and climbed the easy climb to the top of Hole in the Rock, where you get a great view of the city from the hole. Then I drove around the east side of Phoenix for a bit, and then came home for lunch. After I ate, I went biking to the Peoria Sports Complex, checked out the bike parking, and bought a ticket for the opening day game of the Padres vs. the Mariners on February 27th. Then I went to the bike shop and found out how to get on the paved bike trail that runs in the Skunk Creek wash - the guy says it runs several miles in each direction. I didn't do any biking on it today, just biked down to find out where the nearest entrance is. And then I went to Dick's Sporting Goods and bought a CamelBak day pack for hiking and riding, it holds two liters of water and is super-comfortable. Also picked up some new sports bras and tank tops (because even tho it isn't humid, I still get awfully sweaty while biking).

I didn't make the orange chicken yesterday, because my chicken hadn't all thawed out, so I'll do that tonight.

Today I cook! I went to the new farmers market down the street and picked up some spinach-garlic fettuccine and some sun-dried tomato fettuccine, but that isn't on the menu. Yesterday I hardboiled some eggs, so today I'm making potato salad (to have with hot dogs for lunch) and deviled eggs (for a snack). And I have blueberry muffins in the oven now (for late breakfast). And tonight I'm going to stir-fry some chicken and broccoli in an orange stir-fry sauce that I found at the store. Yum.

I have also vacuumed, swiffered, and febreezed my apartment, plus did the dishes and laundry. Happy domestic Sunday! Watching some football in the background, and getting ready for the Golden Globes tonight (so I can root for Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush).

Diana Gabaldon will be at the Tucson Festival of Books in March. As if I needed an excuse to go to a book fair. Both of my favorite authors live in AZ (Clive Cussler is the other, and I wonder if he'll be at the classic cars show down at Heritage Square in two weeks). That'd be awesome.

Aw, it's going to be 78 degrees out tomorrow. Guess I'll take the bike out for a spin.

later on 1/15/11
The Hotel Catherine del West is open for business! My friend Peter from LA (formerly from NYC) is coming out next week, and Dad and Ann are coming in April. We're going to go up to the Grand Canyon, super excited!

The plan was to go to Lis Doon Varna for dinner before the movie - they'd been there several times before, and I enjoyed the Happy Hour on Wednesday. But the twenty-five minutes of sitting at a table while no server appeared turned us off, so we left and went to Buca di Beppo instead, a fantastic family-style Italian place across the street. Delicious baked rigatoni and prosciutto-stuffed chicken, which we shared. Today I dropped off a not-too-nasty note at LDV, to let them know I was disappointed in the lack of service.

Today is unseasonably warm, at 73. I drove downtown (sunroof open!) to Phoenix proper and did some walking around. There's a farmer's market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, so I checked that out. And since there's a marathon here tomorrow, there's a "health and wellness" expo at the Convention Center, I walked through the exhibit hall and picked up some organic cereal and health bar samples, as well as info from the tourist boards (maps and what-to-do guides etc). And now I'm back, making lunch and about to watch the football game while I sort through all the stuff I picked up today.

I figured I should start to get out more - so I'm going to the Phoenix Symphony on the 28th to see a concert of Hollywood music. That'll be a blast, I'm looking forward to it. I may even wear a dress.

My VCR wouldn't playback any dvd's (a bad sign), so I went to Best Buy to get a new one. It's lovely, and it plays every kind of DVD known to man, including Blu-Ray ones, which I don't own any of. But it works, and that's all I needed it to do. Of course if I want to play VHS tapes (and I do have a handful of those), I'll have to plug in the old VCR somehow, but I'll worry about that when the time comes.

And I went down to "Old Town Peoria," which is kind of dumpy, but that's where the library and municipal center is. I got my library card and looked around for a bit. There's going to be an exhibit of Grand Canyon photography opening next week.

On the way home, I stopped at one of the many large furniture sales places, and found a coffee table that I like, and a dining room table/set of four stools (rectangular-shaped), and they'll be delivered on Tuesday. And I think that's it for buying furniture! I'll have everything I need then.

According to the woman at the Nail Supply store (a perfect place to find a Korean salon, you'd think), she said most of their customers are Vietnamese, and she didn't know of any Korean nail places in the area. I hate to face my Korean nail lady when I go visit NJ. Heh.

Hooked up the Wii, too - so it's been a productive day. Getting ready to go meet Michelle and Sean for dinner and a movie.

I have furniture! The guy came around 11.30am, and it took about three hours to do the entertainment unit (four pieces), the sideboard, and the dresser. It all looks great. I still have to unpack my clothes, but I'm getting closer to being settled. I also need to figure out some kind of better lighting for the living room, and find something to prop up the TV on so it's a little higher. I don't want to wall mount it, just raise it up a bit.

I also went to the Hallmark/post office to mail some things (I need to find out how we send outgoing mail from the apartment complex, I'm sure there's a dropbox somewhere) and the bike store to get a map of riding trails (Maricopa County produces a free map). Then I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond for curtain rods and curtains (valences for the den and the living/dining room, full curtains for the bedroom), and I got those up. Looks much homier with the furniture and the curtains. I still need to find a better coffee table and a dining room table. Everywhere I go, I look.

later on 1/12/11
I went to the local movies to see The King's Speech for the second time. It was just as good, I really enjoyed it. The movie theater has some kind of promotion where you buy a t-shirt, and if you wear it to the movies, you get free popcorn. Also if you buy a promotion cup, you get $1 sodas when you bring it along. I learned all this during the pre-previews things onscreen. I'll have to check that out next time I go, see what it costs.

After the movie, I walked down to Lis Doon Varna, the local Irish pub. Built in Ireland, transported to Arizona. I hit it right at happy hour, and had a giant 20oz Harp and some potato skins from the happy hour menu for $8 altogether. They also do an Irish brunch on Sundays, I'll have to check that out. It looks like a nice cozy place, tho, and they do live music several nights a week.

My dresser (in boxes) is here - tomorrow I will have all my furniture put together. Yay!

I hung up the rest of my signed Yankees pics (please, Aaron Boone was the first photo to go up on the wall) in the den, so now it's Yankees Central in here.

It's warm enough out that I took my bike for a spin up to the Peoria Sports Complex, less than a five minute ride. I know I passed a bike store locally when I was out driving, I want to find it again so I can get a bike-friendly backpack for taking to Spring Training games (I think my current backpack - if I ever find it - is too bulky for biking).

And my Kindle is here! I will now disappear into my couch while I read the 400 pages of instructions.

It felt so good to sleep in a bed, and the new mattress is so comfortable. And the frame didn't fall apart. I managed to sleep late (til 8.30am! heavens!), compared to the last week, when I was getting up so early to drive.

Today was bureaucracy day - I went to the DMV in Surprise (a town that needs an exclamation point) to get my license and registration settled. My license expires when I turn 65, I think that's super. The car registration - jeez, why did no one tell me it was so freaking expensive to register a car in AZ? It was $330 (plus the fee for picking a special license plate, which has a sunset and a cactus on it). I guess it balances out the car insurance, which was half the cost of insuring in NJ.

Then I dropped off some stuff at the Goodwill, and found a different nail place to fix my nails. We'll see if these hold up, since the place I went to on Friday was lousy, and they were chipping all over the place. I am still on the hunt for a good Korean place - everywhere out here seems to be Vietnamese. Whatever.

And I updated my address with Bank of America and ordered new checks, and updated my address with the Board of Nursing.

IKEA called - my dresser is in stock, and will be delivered tomorrow. And I talked to the furniture assembly guys, they'll be here on Thursday morning to do the dresser and TV wall unit. And then I can finish unpacking!

I was going to buy curtains at Macy's, using a gift card Dad gave me, but apparently Macy's does not sell curtains. Go figure. So I wound up buying a queen-sized aerobed for guests. Once I have the rest of the furniture put together, I can clean out the stuff that's in the den, and then the aerobed will fit in here.

later on 1/10/11
Holy cow, I'm finally done. The bed frame has been Gorilla-glued and bracketed, and will hopefully stay together. The internet, phone and cable is all hooked up. And I have enchiladas. Life is good.

The problem with the enchilada recipe is that it makes 8 of them. And I can eat maybe one at a sitting. I will have enchiladas forever. Maybe that isn't a problem.

It's going to be 63 degrees out tomorrow. And 70 over the weekend. I can deal with that.

While I was at Barnes and Noble yesterday, I picked up the book about Lionel Logue, as featured in The King's Speech. The movie was so enjoyable (I kind of want to see it again, and it's playing right down the street), and I'm looking forward to the book.

Today has turned into the day of "hurry up and wait." The IKEA guys were supposed to come between 9 and 1, so I got up early and stuck my chicken (for enchiladas) in the crockpot. They came at noon. And the internet/phone guy called and said he wasn't coming til 4pm. The TV guy came at 1pm, so at least he was on time. He has to come back tho - he needs internet to set up the on-demand thing, and the phone/internet guy is still setting things up. Very slow day.

In the meantime, I did some more unpacking, hung things on the walls, threw out a lot of garbage (I'm getting a good workout on the stairs, let me tell you), and after the IKEA guys left, I put together some furniture. They actually were sold out of the dresser I ordered (you think they could have told me this yesterday, so I could have picked out another one), so IKEA will deliver it for free when it's in stock. I put together the desk and chair and bench. And I mostly put together the bed frame. After I got it together, I ever-so-gently tipped the box spring onto the frame, and one of the four corners came loose and those cheap twisty things that hold the screws in place tore right through the wood. So I'm waiting for the phone/internet guy to get back here and hook things up so I can go to Home Depot and get some wood glue and L-brackets, so I can brace the inside of the frame properly before I ever-so-gently put the mattress on top of the box spring.

I also need to go to the grocery store to get the rest of the enchilada ingredients. Like I said, a day full of "hurry up and wait."

OK, I feel better today, but still tense. Maybe I need to hire that massage guy fulltime. After I get a job. I unpacked all of the books (damn, I have a lot of books), and straightened up the rest of the mess. And I went to IKEA to give them my firstborn in exchange for a boatload of furniture, which will be delivered tomorrow. They also gave me the card for the assembly service guys, so I can call to have someone come put everything together for me. Quick stop at Macy's (where I froze and bought a pair of flipflops, will save Dad's gift card for when I know what I need), and Bed Bath and Beyond, where I found a kitchen trash can, a welcome mat, a vacuum (didn't like the ones at Macy's), and some throw pillows for the couch. And now I'm at Barnes and Noble just to check my email real quick. The cable/internet guy is coming tomorrow, too, to hook up everything in the apartment.

Oh and I bought a mini-cactus garden for my patio. Still need to find comfy patio lounge chair.

Happy birthday Mom!! Enjoy your snow.

I didn't sleep well at all last night. Last night in a hotel - tonight will be on my loveseat or in my sleeping bag, since I won't have a bed or matress until I go to IKEA and buy it.

The unpacking went very smoothly - the moving guys got here earlier than expected, which was nice, because I was done with the paperwork and walk-through early. The apartment is happily already painted a nice shade of taupe (I was worried that it was white), so I don't need to do any painting, unless I get tired of taupe. I joked that if I'd had a Kindle two months ago (I still don't have one), there wouldn't be so many damn book boxes. But the entire unloading took less than two hours, which made me happy. There's a bike rack right downstairs from my apartment, which is also perfect. Since I'm on the top floor, I have a great view of the trees, so it feels very close to nature. And the view out of my kitchen/dining room windows faces west, so I get trees, mountains, and sunset. Beautiful.

It was such a relief to go to UHaul and return the truck. I appreciated its effort, especially on the mountains, but it's so nice to have my Escape (with the SiriusXM radio and sunroof) to drive around town.

I think the apartment looks bigger now that there's stuff in it. I tried to make some semblence out of the chaos by putting a rudimentary living room together - couch, coffee table, end tables and lamps. And I got some of the kitchen boxes unpacked, too. The den has the bookcases in the right place, and the rest of the room is full of boxes, which I'll attack tomorrow. And the bedroom, lacking a bed, has a lot of random things just stacked all over the place. I already have two boxes of stuff for Goodwill (and two zillion boxes of empty boxes and trash bags that I keep lugging down to the dumpsters).

Went to the grocery store for perishables, and just made tortellini for dinner, since I am way too tired to do anything else.

The cats, Pippin especially, seem relieved to be staying put for the night.

And even tho I don't have cable until sometime Monday, I did plug in the TV and hook up the VCR, so I'm vegging out with the Broadway love songs concert.

And I am, of course, realizing that every single thing I own is in this apartment, and I'm panicking that I made the wrong move. I'm not used to this space or the noises or smells. Well, things will be better in the morning. I am super tired right now.

later on 1/7/11
Aaaaaaahhhhh spa. I am going to move in to it.

OK, I turned on the TV and National Treasure was on. It's one of my favorite movies, even with the commercials, so the night wasn't a total bust.

Last day of driving. Last day of having to bribe Pippin out from under the UHaul seat. Tomorrow they go in their carrier and stay there for the drive to the apartment, where I plan to ask the folks there if I can settle the cats inside before we do anything else.

But we made it to Peoria in one piece - finally! And now I don't want to drive anywhere ever again, at least until tomorrow. Made pretty good time, only got nervous over the mountains south of Flagstaff, and it's 2.30pm now. The hotel is beautiful (Hampton Inn again) - and the bathroom is HUGE. It has a jacuzzi tub and separate shower. The bathroom alone is bigger than some rooms I've stayed in. I've been here 20 minutes and I'll already recommend them to visitors. The guy at the desk gave me a map of local restaurants (which will help me immensely), and I'm going to go out and hike across the street to the mall to enjoy the sunshine. It's 64 degrees out.

There's a salon/spa right next door (next to some of the zillion restaurants and the movies) - I booked a massage for 6.15pm. Will help to de-stress from the week of driving.

Found a Panera-esque bakery/cafe, right on my corner - had the turkey/bacon (no, really) sandwich, and picked up some chicken salad for post-massage snack. Also got my nails done, but I'm not thrilled with the way they did them, so I'm going to keep looking for a place I like better.

later on 1/6/11
No movies on the TV! Worst Hampton Inn ever!

Oh! And it's cold and there's snow all over! I can't wait to get up in the morning and drive to Phoenix.

Holy cow, does New Mexico have mountains! It started off so nice and flat, and then wham, mountains. I am so glad that I'm driving the UHaul and towing my car, instead of the other way around. Going up the mountains does a number on the engine, and going down them does a number on my nerves. I'm stopped in Gallup, NM, 200 miles from Flagstaff, and even tho it's still light out, I'm done for the night. I figure that the settlers who founded Albuquerque must've gotten over the mountains, threw down their rucksacks, and proclaimed, "that's it, we're not going another mile after that!"

Hampton Inn here is not pet-welcoming. I have removed the bells from Mimi and Pippin so they are super silent. They also get poor marks for putting me on the top floor, not-near the parking lot door. I think my plan is to go get dinner at the Cracker Barrel next door, then soak in the tub and maybe rent a movie.

later on 1/5/11
God bless Dwight Eisenhower for implementing the interstate highway system. Love you.

And God bless the Hilton Honors reward points program. I booked my room (for free!) at the Hampton Inn right next door to my new apartment, for Friday night. Will be a short commute over to pick up the keys. This will probably wind up being the "Visiting Catherine Hotel of Choice" when people come to visit. I don't know where I'm staying tomorrow yet - maybe Flagstaff, but that's a stretch. Probably Gallup, New Mexico, which is a bit more than halfway there, and would mean I could meander a bit more slowly on the road, But Friday is all set.

And whoever came up with the individual sized cans of tuna with the pop-cap opening? God bless you, too.

Solved the problem of searching for the cats by putting them, their carrier, and their litterbox into the bathroom while I went down for breakfast. That worked. And the DoubleTree was awesome, I asked for an extra cookie and they were happy to hand one over. Love. Love Hilton in general - every hotel I've been at this week has given me a room on the ground floor near the parking lot back door. So much easier when lugging cat stuff in and out. They're super.

Today was the rest of Missouri, Oklahoma and part of the Texas panhandle. I understand they shoot liberal democrats down here (not to mention Jews), so I'm making this a brief Texas overnight stay. I'm here at the Hampton Inn in Amarillo (the first sign of life since entering Texas 100 miles ago). I had to bribe Pippin out from under the seat by waving a can of tuna under her nose. Mimi is a much happier traveling cat - every time I stop for gas or bathroom breaks, she sticks her head up and jumps on the seat. She's stopped trying to get at the gas pedals.

Oklahoma was beautiful for the first part. Then I hit this massive road construction around Tulsa, with the kind of bad roads that made my stomach lurch and the truck sound like its transmission was going to blow up. After that, it wasn't so beautiful anymore and I could see why people would want to move out of the state as soon as possible. There is nothing there. I realize, of course, that I am judging the entire state based on one highway - which would be like looking at the Jersey Turnpike and deciding that the entire state smells like sewage. One thing that was cute in OK was that for each town (and there were only maybe five or six), there were signs along the highway that said, "Visit Town! Historic Downtown! Friendly Merchants!" I half-expected to see one that said, "Paved Sidewalks! Running Water!" There were a few places I would have liked to have stopped (the Will Rogers Museum, the Murrah Building Memorial), but I sped on through. OK and TX have been blissfully flat.

I actually had the window cracked open on the ride through OK. It was warm(ish) out, and the wind helped drown out the Republican talk radio (which is all I could pick up).

Anyway, love the Hampton Inn in Amarillo. Besides the free breakfast, they also had a spread out in the lobby (which was probably left over from some corporate thing), with cookies and sodas, so I helped myself to a snack. And there's no charge for pets here - my hotel budget is way under what I'd expected. The hotel is also right next door to Denny's, so I had dinner there. There's an IHOP visible across the interstate, but no way to walk there (and I am not getting in the UHaul to go across the street). And I suppose if I get *really* hungry, I can go to the "get a free 72oz steak!" place up the street. Remember - in Texas, everything is bigger.

Good lord, Pippin did not want to get out of the car tonight (in Springfield, MO) - we had quite the battle to get her out from under the seat. But finally, I prevailed, and we are all setted at the DoubleTree. They *do* have a pet policy, and were very helpful ("Do you need some help with your luggage? Or cats?") - they'll have someone bring up a luggage cart in the morning, too, to get all of my stuff down to the truck in one trip, as opposed to the five it took to bring it up (my stuff, the carrier, each cat - what, you think I can get them IN the carrier while they're in the car? Ha. - the litterbox, and another trip down to move the truck around to the back of the hotel). Anyway, we're settled in, the kitties are eating their tuna, I am full of mojitos from the hotel bar, and I am ready to fall asleep even tho it isn't even 9pm.

Despite being so, so close to Branson, I am not going there.

Today's driving included Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and most of Missouri. St. Louis looks lovely, with the ballpark right on the water by the Gateway Arch. I drove past lots of farmland, the world's largest rocking chair (no, I did not stop), the sign for "Our Lady of Snows Shrine," which I would have gone to if I'd known how far off the interstate it was, and many rest stops. Mimi actually used the litterbox in the car today.

I have learned the secret to driving a truck while towing another truck: stay in the slow lane, don't worry about your speed, and let everyone pass you. I still made it in relatively good time.

I just wish I knew where my bathing suit was packed - the hotel has a hot tub.

It'll be fun to get the cats in the carrier for the trip to the truck tomorrow - the Hampton Inn last night had beds on platforms, so there was no sneaking underneath. The DoubleTree, being swanky, has actual bed frames that the cats can get underneath. I'll have to catch them by surprise.

Tomorrow I'll be hitting Oklahoma and Texas - two states I have never been to.

Well, I am eternally thankful that I never have to drive over the mountains of western Pennsylvania while towing a car ever again. What a slog that was - I don't think I got over 45mph for the entire state. I was much relieved to get to Ohio where everything is flatter, and I cannot wait to get to the really flat boring parts.

Currently in Springfield, OH, home of a fantastic Hampton Inn night manager who looked the other way when I walked the kitties in (and got a hefty tip from me, they don't technically have a pet policy here). Mimi and Pippin started out the trip in the Ford, but it was 20 degrees, so I stopped when I got out of NJ and brought them to the cab of the UHaul. Pippin spent ten minutes under a blanket on the seat, and then decided to wedge herself between the passenger seat and the passenger door. Mimi spent the first half of the trip under the passenger seat (yes, there is plenty of room) and the other half trying to get under the gas pedal. And while I had the litterbox on the floor of the passenger side, Pippin didn't touch it, and Mimi said to me, "I appreciate your placing that litterbox here, but I will stare at it for ten hours and then pee on your leg." So my jeans are soaking in the tub (which is where I am headed next), and I'll wear my scrubs/pajamas tomorrow.

Anyway, 570 miles and 12 hours closer to Arizona. The driving should be faster tomorrow, since the "hills" of PA are behind me.

I stopped three times for gas (spending a whopping $200 today alone), ate at Arby's for lunch, didn't have dinner, and am now enjoying a 40oz Bud Light (purchased at the gas station) and some fresh chocolate chip cookies (from the awesome hotel manager), which should knock me out for the night.

Between me, Mom, Tesse and Lori, we had the truck loaded in an hour. And there's still room for more stuff! If only IKEA could deliver my stuff in the next four hours... The house sure looks empty! All that's left to do is make one more run to the grocery store for non-perishables and set up the back of the Ford for the cats. There was enough room in the UHaul to put everything in it, instead of using the Ford for extra storage, so Mimi and Pippin will be able to roam around the Escape instead of sitting in their carriers for the whole time (and my sanity will be saved).

I think I pulled something in my shoulder while we were packing, tho. Hopefully it'll feel better in the morning.

The UHaul has pictures of ice and snow on the sides, and Arizona plates. How did they know?

Went to see The King's Speech tonight - Colin Firth was excellent, so was Geoffrey Rush. Super movie all around.

Well, here's to a new year, in a new state. Two more days of cold snowy NJ. Tesse's coming down later today, to help with the truck loading, and Julia and Lori are coming by tomorrow before work to help as well. Today's plan is to see if Home Depot is open, so Mom can buy paint for the bedrooms. I can't wait to see pictures of how different the house will look once she's done redecorating.

The plan for the rest of the day is to sit on the couch and watch HGTV, making this day no different from any other.


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