Retirement, Travel, Uncategorized

Arizona Week #6 Highlights: March 21 – 27

We had a little change this week and took a break from Mesa and headed South to Tucson to visit friends, Linda and Harry, and take in the sights. It takes a special kind of person to host out of town visitors and provide amazing entertainment. So our hats are off to you.

  • Tour around Tucson: we got the 50 cent tour of Tucson. Featured were the barrios that have been undergoing revitalization. My favorite part – the colors! Second favorite part – the small intimate settings. Everything is on a much smaller scale than we are used to today. Third favorite part – that they cared enough to make it happen.

  • The Desert Museum: majorly windy but still amazing. Loved seeing desert animals in natural settings ( I even have a photo on Flickr of a Javelina), loved to reinforce my knowledge of desert plants and learn about new ones, great walk around the grounds, and lots of information on the geological evolution of the Sonoran Desert. Check it out!
  • The Medicine Man Gallery: The MM Gallery was very friendly and open to non-buying visitors. They had a combination of vintage cowboy art and contemporary. Vintage primarily included a large collection of work by Maynard Dixon, Indian hand woven rugs, jewelry and pottery. In the contemporary works, what blew my socks off was the sculpture. I couldn’t photograph any of it, but artists included Shirley Thomson-Smith, Deborah Copenhaver-Fellows, Star Liana York, and painter Josh Elliott. Check it out!
  • Lunch at the Arizona Inn (above): this is a beautiful oasis in a busy city. The Inn is on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1930 by Arizona Congresswoman Isabella Greenway. The Inn is still owned and maintained by members of the family. Originally surrounded by desert, there was even a rodeo across the ‘street’. Isabella was as colorful as the amenities. She had two husbands both of which were members of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. To add to the mystic of the inn, past guests have included presidents and movie stars. But it doesn’t stop there. Isabella also started a cabinet-making shop, “The Arizona Hut”  and hired returning WWI veterans to run and work in it. Check it out!
  • University of Arizona’s Center for Creative Photography: next on our ‘must do’ list in Tucson was a visit to UA’s photography galleries where we saw 40 works by Ansel Adams along with other contemporaries of his (Edward Weston, Diane Arbus, Alfred Stieglitz, etc.). Ansel Adams holds a special place in my heart since I based several of my photography lessons that I taught at the McLean County Art Center on his work. Can’t beat his dynamic landscapes of Yosemite. Check it out!  

Back in Mesa we went on a hike to Tonto National Monument! I’ll save this for another posting. I took way too many photos and have to have time to go through them. But first I have to say thank you again to Linda and Harry. It was fun to share time with you and see Linda’s ‘castle in the mountains’ and Harry’s artwork (loved the balancing circus mice and mountain lions).

Quilting, Retirement, Travel

Arizon Week #4 Highlights: March 14 – 20


Arizona Week #4 Highlights: March 14 – 20


Ray and I both tried something new this week (I’ll try to get photos later): 

  • I gave Line Dancing the good old college try. It was definitely a lot of fun. I called my Zumba classes back home in Normal, Grandma’s dance class. Well, this is just a continuation of dance class with quicker step changes. As in Zumba, we line up and follow the teacher. In both, the music is very important. The difference comes in how the steps are performed. Zumba works a full range of motion and steps or moves usually are repeated in sets of 8. In Line Dancing, the feet do all the work and balance is stressed with hands and posture adding style. Definitely a fun activity with fun participants. And of course, it requires practicing at the Music on the Patio Monday and Friday and the dance Thursday night (“Come Back Buddy”). 
  • Ray’s experience with shuffleboard was better than expected. Since he can’t see the end of the lanes, we were dubious at best at how this would work out. However, his years of bowling paid off. Since much of the objective is similar in that you have to get the ball/puck (or whatever you call it) down a lane and to land it strategically. Although not an instant success, he was pleased and went back for more during the ‘Pot Luck’ times (not tournament times).

Three trips this week rounded out our activities: 

  • Organ Stop Pizza – Pizza is good, but the show stopper is the Wurlitzer theater pipe organ. The organ and player slowly rise up out of the stage, slowly swiveling around so the whole audience gets a good view. The pipes take up an entire wall (about 100 feet). In addition there are a number of percussion and wind instruments that are played/directed by the player using designated keys on the organ. A relic of the silent film industry and not to be missed!
  • White Sox spring training at Camelback Ranch in Glendale. We bought tickets for a White Sox/Cubs game intending to go with our friends from Illinois but since they had to leave early this was another solo trip for us (amazingly Ticketmaster refunded two of the tickets on request). The ballpark was beautiful, the sun hot, the view good, parking easy. Unfortunately, my husband forgot that he is legally blind and couldn’t see most of the game. Plus he forgot his radio so he couldn’t check to see if there was any coverage. Then when leaving, there was a traffic snafu, so we detoured which took longer and ran into rush hour which took even longer. Lessons learned: find out if there’s radio coverage and take it with you; go out to eat after the game to avoid the traffic. Both of these lessons we already knew, but you’d think we’d remember as well…..
  • AQG Quilt Show 2011, Along the Desert Highway”: Ray and I both had fun going through this event. We got there early on Saturday so as not to miss the speakers. We attended two lectures:
  • Darlene Reid, “Crazy Quilts are the Gypsies of the Quilt World”. Crazy quilts are like a collage of fabric and momentos. Scotty dogs were popular in 30’s prints because President Roosevelt had a Scotty. Pins that have photos of long gone relatives on them (like campaign buttons today) make great embellishments. These were given out by funeral homes as mementos.
  • Carrie Nelson, Miss Rosie’s Quilt Co, “Tips Tricks, and Tools for Better Piecing”. Use the same ruler for measuring and cutting throughout the whole quilt, Niagra non-aerosol spray starch is available at Target and good to stabilize fabrics. It’s OK to press to the light side (rather than dark which has been the rule) especially if this helps keep the seams flat. May need to trim the seam allowance of the darker fabric if it shows through.

On the quieter side, I started machine quilting a wall hanging hoping to get it finished for the Quilt Show next week. This required spending most of Sunday down at the Craft Room where I managed to get the center part done. Unfortunately, while I was busy quilting away, Ray was checking out the trailers that are for sale. Hmmmm…

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!
Retirement, Travel, Uncategorized

First Week Highlights: Feb 14 – 20

Well it took the whole first week to figure out where the multiple calendars of activities/ events were, how to get them, what to do with them, where everything happens, and who’s in charge.

Favorite side trips organized by us: a visit to Tortilla Flats, a Gold Mine, Boyce Thompson Arboretum. Tortilla Flats is a privately owned oddity. It started as a stage stop in 1904. Today besides a ‘museum;, their restaurant serves yummy burgers and HOT chili while serenaded by some very accomplished country musicians. The Gold Mine is also a remnant of the old west complete with saloon, multiple little shops, a mine and the accompanying rail, and even a bordello. The Arboretum was really close, basically straight east through the Tonto National Forrest. It was amazing! They have a fantastic variety of indigenous plants. The initial motivation for the park was to provide a lab to research desert plants and their environment. The result is a great place to spend an hour or a day or two exploring the trails. I highly recommend adding this to your bucket list if you’re near Phoenix.

Resort activities: bicycle ride, swimming pool, coffee and donuts each week, pancake breakfast, the quilting room, Tai Chi, music on the patio for happy hour and an ice cream social, and Texas Hold’em.

What we didn’t do is a much longer list. Obviously, if you visit or live in a senior RV active resort, you need to focus on a couple of sports or classes for the first year, then look to expand in the future. Everyone I talk to says the first year or two is to absorb and learn the ropes. From then on, it’s as much fun as you can manage. We also have found that some RV resorts have better facilities in certain activities. For instance, one might have woodworkers, another jewelry including casting silver and lapidary, another might have gardening, stained glass, or sponsored trips. The trick is to talk with other seniors and explore other parks while you’re there.

Retirement, Travel

Arizona Escape – enroute: enjoying the drive

(February 9th – 12th): We drove from Minneapolis straight south to Oklahoma City which was still colder than you know what. Finally on day 4 of our escape from the chilly North, Albuquerque promised highs in the 50’s. So we planned on spending a day seeing some of the town. Our hotel, Best Western Rio Grande, promised they were very close to museums and the Old Town. Perfect!

Saturday the 11th of February. After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel (20% off, not free), we headed out to see Albuquerque’s Old Town. It’s a mish-mash of little quirky shops and some upscale in very vintage buildings. Two things stood out from our visit: the H. Joe Waldrum show at the The Albuquerque Museum of Fine Art and Rolling in Dough, a local bakery:

  • The museum is a good size museum, not Chicago big, but definitely a lot there to see, something for everyone. As we went through the (A Passionate Light: Polaroids by H. Joe Waldrum) we were not only impressed but also inspired. This artist is a successful painter living in New York with a natural affinity for the southwest. Initially Waldrum wanted to use polaroids to bring a fresh new perspective to his paintings. One of his patrons was so excited about this approach that he offered to buy whatever camera he wanted. His ulterior motive was to ensure Waldrum didn’t become too abstract (slipping down the slippery slope to obscure). So he went shopping. At first he worked with a salesman picking out a new Hasselblad with some fancy lenses, etc. But when the guy said he needed a light meter, he balked. The result: an inexpensive standard Polaroid camera with exposure controls, SX-70. What he discovered, and what I believe, was that by keeping the equipment simple he could focus on the image and lighting, putting his creativity where it was best. The result: 900 amazing prints with a lot of subtle and not so subtle variety. Waldrum was so taken with this approach that his Polaroid obsession would run him over $100 a day in film.
    Other exhibits not to miss: an extensive sculpture garden and an amazing collection of Colcha Embroidery. Practiced by Spanish colonials and handed down through generations, Colcha became a lost art until a renewed interest in the mid 19th century when they began to collect, catalog, and create anew these colorful bed, altar and table covers. Colcha means a bed covering, but the colorful images were so popular, they were used for many other purposes as well.  
  • Rolling in Dough is a teeny tiny bakery with big results: there are amazing cookies (we tried the Italian Wedding Cookies), sweet rolls, and breads. To top it off, they have homemade soup so you can make a whole meal of it and take home breakfast, which we did! As Rachel would say, yumm-o.


As much as I wasn’t happy about loooong driving days, I wanted to see more along the way. So we did. Taking our GPS, “Myrtle’s” suggestion (since I had programmed it for the shortest route, not the fastest), we headed south off US 40 on to New Mexico 117. This led us through the El Malpais National Monument and Apache Reservation before getting on US 60 for our final approach. What we encountered was some of the most spectacular scenery yet. It wasn’t quite a gravel road, but it was remote, isolated, and amazing. The highlight of this leg of the trip was the La Ventana (the window) Natural Arch in the Cebolla Wilderness. This area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, El Malpais National Conservation Area.
Finishing off the day of driving, we approached Mesa, AZ via the White Pine Mountains and Tonto National Forest. The first hour of driving was amazing, the second a bit more tiring but enjoyable. Finally arriving at Sun Life Resort, Mesa, AZ.

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