Holidays, Retirement, Travel, Uncategorized

Arizona Week #2 Highlights – February 21 – 27

  • We started the week hiking on the National/Mormon Loop Trail at South Mountain (literally on the South edge of Phoenix).  Our leader, Jim, is a big fan of the guide: Hiking Phoenix: favorite day hikes, originally No Jive pocket guide by Cosmic Ray. Not knowing that he liked this guide I had picked up a copy at REI the day before while shopping for shoes (serendipity). I also bought some very sexy-techno-comfy-safe hiking shoes: Salomon gortex XA Comp 5 in a yuppy red called, Rubis. I can’t tell you how much I love these shoes. They’re the first ones I’ve had in a long time that really fit well all around my foot AND give me room to wiggle my toes. Plus, I definitely felt sure-footed on the trail which was a blessing since the trail was most assuredly challenging.  
    Of note: first time hiking 5 miles in a desert environment – sun protection and water were my best friends, first time at higher elevations (1300 ft to 2100)  – I especially felt it when we were making a rugged climb, first time in Arizona – it’s really strange how you can see flat land for miles and then a mountain pops up out of nowhere.   
    Oh, and of course, Jim added a little side trip to include Thin Man’s Pass and the Hidden Valley. I had to decide if I wanted to be pulled through a crevice by both feet or face a daunting, rocky climb around. I chose the feet-pull-through option.
  • On Tuesday, we visited Taliesin West. I grew up admiring Frank Lloyd Wright and had visited many of the homes he designed in and around Chicago including Taliesin North (in Wisconsin). I was not disappointed. The attention to detail, sense of cohesion in design and use, and ability to amaze and wow the spectator were more than evident. I knew that FLW was centrally influenced by nature. However, I was not aware that ancient hieroglyphic designs painted on rocks around Taliesin were also a source of inspiration.See additional photos in my Flickr account for the hieroglyphics.
  • Later in the week there was a quilt show at the RV resort next to us, Tower Point (recently purchased by Cal-Am who owns the one we are in). We were very impressed. They had a lot of variety: some beautiful jackets they had made in a class together (I was jealous and lusted after several of them). 
  • Saturday some friends from Tucson drove up for a visit and we all piled into our cars and headed for the Musical Instrument Museum at the northern tip of Phoenix. Now you would think that such a museum would put together some nice collections and have some music playing and some info on the genre. Well, yes, and then some, and then some more! This place was amazing! When you enter, after paying a healthy-well-worth-it fee (senior discount, of course), they give you a device with earphones. As you walk around the displays, it senses where you are and where the nearest source is. Once it finds the source, it plays the sound bites associated with the source video, very cool. So, when at a regional African display, you see the music played on a screen and at the same time hear the music played, as well as see some examples of the instruments used.
    And, by the way, they don’t have just one African display, they have lots, not to mention every continent. When you leave the museum, if you’ve had time to see it all, you know you’ve gotten the full treatment from cultures primarily interested in rhythm, or dance, or melodies, to a full symphonic orchestra. But I do have to say that my favorite was seeing some of the instruments my daughter, Ellie has collected over the years actually used appropriately, including a huge gourd encompassed with beads woven together, hmmm – always wondered about that one.
    And, finally, as we were getting ready to head back to the park, I could hear some acoustic music in the hall. So, of course, I peeked. Another great treat, Tim Eriksen was giving an impromptu concert. I can’t repeat everything he relayed, but suffice it to say, he grew up with music and extensively explored music in rural and urban environments. Tim used indigenous instruments to convey a sense of different styles including New England murder ballads, “shape-note” gospel, Southern Appalachian, and Irish songs.
  • To wrap up this busy, busy week, we attended “Canada Day”. So you understand, I have to tell you that there is a very large contingent of Canadians in our park. From Saskatchewan to British Colombia, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and even the territories. There are so many, that the park flies a Canadian flag next to the flag of the good ol’ USA. The Canadians are a fun loving group, they are always smiling, they’re active in dancing, hiking, biking, music, organizing, everything. So, to celebrate how happy they are, they have a celebration. Yes, there was lots of food and a band and dancing, but what made it different was the opening ceremony. They paraded their flags in order as they entered the confederation. As they paraded through the hall the master of ceremony gave a little history on each one while the bag pipes played (amazing ability). And to top if off, we even have two retired Canadian Mounties who put on their full dress uniform for the occasion. WOW!
Holidays, Retirement, Travel

Holiday Letter


This year we officially entered the real estate market with mixed emotions and results. Needless to say, the market was not cooperative and we are still Normal people for a while longer. That is, we live in Normal, IL. I can’t tell you how many open houses we’ve had. Each one required a certain level of mayhem and pandemonium during the preparation.  In anticipation of one such event, I did a quick run through of the upstairs rooms. These are rooms I don’t normally visit since they are now devoid of human habitation and the associated detritus. On this occasion, I looked out the window and found a sizeable fish on the roof. Well, I says to myself, that’s a pretty athletic fish (imagining he had jumped/flew to the roof from the lake)! Obviously that couldn’t be the case, but that crow or hawk was pretty athletic themselves to have carried off the lift. Fortunately, it was dried up and not stinky anymore. So I cheerily opened the window and removed the carcass.  

 We continue to comb through our ‘treasures’ in hopes of finding new and appreciative homes for them. We’ve had quite a bit of good luck with Craigslist and Freecycle and have even navigated around several scam attempts. The latest to go was our beautiful 9 foot lighted Christmas tree (used only twice, took a whole week to decorate each time!) to a young woman who’s never had one of her own before. We’re still looking for a home for our Civil War era walnut wardrobe with fantastic detail (including ivory keyholes). Know anyone?

 Our biggest success was the distribution of over 66 vintage glass lamp shades. This was my husband’s manic collection from over 40 years of garage sales. It started as a necessity to be able to replace lamp shades at the apartments we owned and rented out. But over the years it got out of hand. In order to find new homes for these, we spent several days running around our town (Old House Society, Habitat for Humanity warehouse, etc.).  Then we did the same thing in Minneapolis with better results. All the lamp shades now reside at Architectural Antiques (a very neat place to find unusual architectural features for your home or garden). Basically we traded them ‘in kind’ and now have a huge credit with which to play.

Our health is reasonably good for a couple of old f…s. Ray’s had a knee replacement, a broken ankle (yes, the blind guy was riding his bike), and ended up with a big toe joint replacement. I’m doing pretty good, going to Zumba Gold, swim and yoga when I can, quilt and knit, and otherwise make weak attempts at drawing and writing.

This spring we’re going to try a retirement village in Mesa, Arizona for a couple months. I have mixed emotions about it, but I am very excited about exploring a part of the country I have only passed through for an educational conference. On my list to see so far are the Petrified Forrest, Mesa Verde, Grand Canyon.

Best wishes to you and those close to you for the New Year.

… June