As summer begins to wane, my thoughts start to turn toward fall planting and upcoming holidays.

But, before I put summer “to bed”, I thought I’d give you a glimpse of our summer adventures.

The highlight of our summer was spending a week in Williams, AZ.

Every year we head up to this small Route 66 town, which is the known as “The Gateway to the Grand Canyon”.

We travel up to this special place along with my mother, siblings and their families.  A collection of small, rustic cabins house us for the week.

This small mound of dirt is called “Danny’s Mountain” by the boys (Danny is my little 4-year old nephew to the right).

It’s a place where smartphones and video games give way to playing outdoors with cousins finding new places to explore.

My niece Sofie and my daughter, Ruthie.

Teenage girls discover the delights of pushing each other on a tree swing.

Little army men toys replace video games as battle strategies are discussed and put in play.
5-month old Eric having fun with his grandpa.
As a grandparent, it is also a special time for my husband and I to spend with our two grandchildren.
My granddaughter, Lily, was busy picking flowers for her ‘collection’.  She loves flowers and keeps them in her jewelry box.  
Dare I hope that she follows in her grandma’s footsteps and becomes a horticulturist?

Of course, what’s summer vacation without delicious food!
Before, you ask…no, I didn’t eat all these pies myself – I shared with them with 15 other family members 😉
Fourth of July found us in the pool, waiting for fireworks to begin.
My daughter Rachele, who is in the Navy, was able to come visit with our newest family addition, Eric.  This was his first time swimming and he loved it!
Ruthie, Sofie and Gracie
At the beginning of our summer season, we had a special visitor.
My daughter, Ruthie, was adopted from China when she was 9 years old.  Her cousin, Sofie, came from the same orphanage and so did their friend, Gracie.
These girls spent their early childhood together, creating special, sisterly bonds with each other in the absence of having parents.
Now that they are all adopted and living in the U.S., they have kept in touch.  Gracie flew in to spend a few days with her ‘orphanage sisters’ and we had so much fun with her.  
Pillow fights, baking sweets, enjoying good Chinese food and playing board games filled much of their time together.
Walking along State Street in downtown Santa Barbara, CA
A quick trip to Southern California was taken in the beginning of June to visit Rachele.  We were able to stay in her townhouse on the Navy base.  
Whenever we visit her, we take time to travel up to picturesque Santa Barbara, CA, which is where my husband and I met almost 30 years ago.
Ruthie learned how squirmy little babies are when you try to get them dressed…
This summer, we went through a truly wonderful experience together.
We traveled to the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ.  Both adults and kids were looking forward to seeing planets in our solar system.
While I did expect to see some great things through the telescopes, what I didn’t expect was the beautiful flowering perennials growing throughout the grounds of the observatory.
My brother, kept teasing me as I kept stopping to take pictures of the flowers.
My son, Kai, looking at Venus
Outdoor telescopes focused on Jupiter and Venus.  
I don’t know who was more excited, the kids or the adults.  It was almost incomprehensible that we could view these faraway planets.
My nephew, Dean, loves flowers and kept asking me what the names of them were.
I must admit that I enjoyed the flowers almost as much as I did the planets.
My mother, helping my daughter as she looks at Saturn.
Believe it or not, we were able to see Saturn and its rings!
We had a wonderful time at the observatory and learned so much.  I highly recommend visiting this or any observatory near you.  It was an unforgettable experience!
The last part of our summer fun occurred at the Hummingbird Festival, where I was asked to be a presenter.
I have two separate talks on small space hummingbird gardening and had a great time meeting new people.
One of my favorite parts of the festival was touring many beautiful gardens in Sedona where the festival was held.
I came home from the festival inspired to create a garden space dedicated to plants that attract hummingbirds.  I can hardly wait to get started this fall, which is the best time to add new plants to the garden.
In the meantime, we have increased the amount of hummingbird feeders in our backyard and have seen three hummingbirds at a single feeder 🙂
Well, that was our summer fun in a nutshell.  The kids are now in school and my eyes are focused on  the fall including the upcoming Garden Writer’s Conference in Pasadena, CA in September.
 **What did your ‘summer in review’ look like?  Did you travel to any new places, see old friends or have any new experiences?**

As we continue along on our week long journey of unique containers, I thought that I would share with you one that is portable.

This old wheelbarrow makes a very useful container because you can move it easily to a shady or sunny area as needed.
This antique wheelbarrow is filled with marigolds and dianthus and was located along Route 66 in the historic downtown of Williams, AZ which is a place that we spend time every summer.
This stretch of Route 66 is filled with fun and quirky examples of Americana that I shared in an earlier post.
With any container, you need drainage holes, so you would have to add some to whatever unique container you decide to plant.
Tomorrow, I’ll show you a container that you may find yourself sitting on by accident.

Life has been quite busy, which has kept me out of the garden much of the time.

Of course, the with the hot temperatures of summer, I probably wouldn’t be spending a lot of time outdoors, regardless of how busy I have been.

I did spend some time weeding my vegetable garden last week and checking on how large my white pumpkin is growing.  However, that will probably be that last time that I do any work there for at least a week.

When I look back at the past 5 weeks, I realize how little I have been in my garden, which makes me grateful that I have a landscape filled with beautiful, fuss-free plants.

My second-oldest daughter, Rachele, surprised her brother by coming home for his birthday in late May.

Rachele is in the Navy and is stationed in California.  She enjoys what she does there, but I don’t get to see her near enough.

Enjoying Mackinac Island

The beginning of June, I embarked upon a road trip through the upper midwest with my mother (our fourth road trip).

A week after returning from our road trip, I hit the road again with my family on our annual sojourn to the cool pines of Williams, Arizona.  A bonus was that my daughter Rachele was able to come back out and come with us!

My sister, me and my granddaughter, Lily.

Along with my sisters, brother and their families, we all have a great time staying in several small cabins nestled into the woods.

I had a great time with my kids, sisters and my granddaughter, Lily.

My son, Kai

My daughter, Gracie

We spent time strolling along Route 66 and enjoying ice-cream at our favorite restaurant, Twisters in Williams.  Nights were filled with board games including a particularly competitive game of Scrabble between me and my son-in-law – he won 🙁

Today, I confess to feeling a bit glum.  Rachele left today after spending 2 wonderful weeks at home.

Kai with his niece, Lily.

Tomorrow, my son Kai goes in for another surgery.  This will be his 8th or 9th (I’ve lost count) surgery overall. 

However, unlike most of his previous surgeries, this one won’t be for his hip – it will be done on his left hand.  The doctor will be fusing his thumb joint and performing a tendon replacement.

We are hoping that the recovery from this surgery won’t be as difficult as those experienced after hip surgeries that leave him wheel-chair bound for weeks.  

Kai will have to wear a cast for several weeks though.  But, he is a tough kid and it is likely that this surgery will be a piece of cake compared to most of his previous surgeries.

You can read more about Kai and his remarkable story, here, if you like.

My garden should do just fine without me for a while.  It has been enjoying the arrival of our monsoon season and the increased humidity.

I hope you are enjoying your summer.  I’d love to hear about what you have been doing!

Have you ever traveled through a part of Route 66?

Route 66 through Springfield, Illinois
For me, I love the pure sense of ‘Americana’ that seems to pervade this historic route that travels through Illinois all the way to California. 
Every summer, my family and I spend a week up in Williams, Arizona.  For those of you unfamiliar with this small town – it is the ‘Gateway to the Grand Canyon’ and is home to the ‘Grand Canyon Railway’, which brings people up to the Grand Canyon itself.
Many tourists visit this little town on their way to the Grand Canyon.  As you walk down the main street, you hear many different languages.
Williams is up in the mountains and is approximately 3 hours north of Phoenix and a half-hour west of Flagstaff.
As you enter the town and cross the railroad tracks, you are greeted by the sight of the Red Garter and its ‘loose’ woman waving from the top window, above.
Both sides of the main street, which straddles Route 66 is contains a mixture of stores, restaurants and local businesses.
Each year, in preparation for our trip – my kids save up their allowance to spend in some of their favorite stores.
One of our first stops was at a new store called Alien Jerky.  To be honest, I had no idea what was in store for us when we went through the door…
We met some resident aliens while we shopped their selection of specialty nuts, jerky, old-fashioned soda and candy…
Soda like ‘Sioux City’ Root Beer, ‘Brain Wash’ Carbonated Soda, ‘Death Valley’ Black Cherry were awfully tempting to try.
But, my daughter, Gracie, decided to buy some candy from their unique selection, which included Sonic, Pac-man, Hello Kitty and Betty Boop.
Gracie chose the Sonic candy.
On our way out of the store, we said goodbye to one of the aliens…
As you walk down the street, you expect to see examples of cool neon signs…

 I would love to spend only $3.50 for a hotel room, wouldn’t you?  Too bad I am over 50 years too late.
What you don’t always expect is another aspect of what makes traveling along Route 66 fun.
Here is a sampling of what we ran into…
Did you know that Elvis can be spotted on the main street?
You can also find an Indian with a headdress made out of feather-shaped lollipops. 
One of the more popular restaurants is Cruisers Cafe.
They also have a pretty cool mural painted along the patio wall.
The kids met up with one of their favorite characters…
Gracie used to be terrified of him because he talks, moves and even ‘farts’.  But now that she is older, she could handle standing next to him for me to take a picture 😉
There are of course, antiques that pop up now and then like the old gas pumps, above. 
This old gas station has been turned into a museum that harkens back to the past of Route 66.
Of course, one of the fun things that we enjoy doing is eating on Route 66.  So, we headed down to our favorite restaurant…
My son, Kai, was in charge of pushing Lily in her stroller (Lily is our granddaughter and Kai is her uncle).
On our way, we passed a hotel with a map of the entire Route 66.  Someday, I would like to travel this route.  So far, I have been to parts in Illinois, Missouri, Arizona and California.

On our way to the restaurant, we passed a few more shops, likes this one with the ‘largest Route 66 sign’.  We were so hungry, that we didn’t go in.
This was where my husband spent his ‘allowance’ – on pie 😉

We actually came here a few times during the week.  Besides pie, they have fabulous food – I loved their chili.
Lily ate some of my cornbread and a tiny bit of my chocolate cream pie.
Lily was determined to make sure she ate all the food that fell into her bib.
As we finish out tour of the Williams portion of Route 66, we see a couple parked in a old Buick…
You can’t see the couple that well in the photo, but he had a hairstyle that looked a lot like Elvis’s hair…
Thank you for taking the time to look through my Route 66 photos.
We had a great time and I have one more part of our trip that I can’t wait to share with you…
Believe me, you won’t believe the ‘story’ I have to tell you in my next post.