Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Grand Stitchers' Christmas Party

        Today I attended my first party as a retiree--the Sun City Grand Stitchers' party.

The halls were decorated.

So were Chris, Corgi, Kay & me.

Along the walls were quilts from Christmases past.
    It was fun to see everyone dressed up and to see so many other "stitchers".   I'm one of the beaders, and I usually only go to the sewing center on beading day.  
     There were lots of door prizes, but not enough for anyone from my table to win one.    We were only a number or two off, but "close" didn't count.    Maybe next year.   
      Most of the food was the typical banquet menu --  chicken, tossed salad, and some broccoli.   But the garlic baby carrots were unusual and very tasty.    And the cupcake, which was HUGE, was delicious.   Of course I never met a cupcake I didn't like. 
       This Friday the beading group has their own party.  I'm loving retirement! 


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Las Noches de las Luminarias

        Christmas is coming...  
        Since we've been in Arizona we've started the holiday season with two events, the Holiday Home Tour and Las Noches de las Luminarias at the Desert Botanical Gardens.  The home tour, a money-making event for Sun Health, consists of private homes and yummy appetizers.   It's a fun way to spend a Saturday, but no photos are allowed.  On Sunday evening we went to Las Noches de las Luminarias.

     Near the entrance Mariachi Pasion played Mexican holiday Mariachi songs.  A festive and lovely start to the evening.
     The Desert Botanical Gardens looked magical with thousands of twinkling lights.    This spot has a fountain, too.

      Around the Gardens were different musical groups.   On the patio Groove Merchant Horns played jazz.   Near the wild flower walk, one of my favorite spots, island Christmas music was being played on steel drums by J.T.'s Island Steel.   
       Another favorite of mine is the Native American group Estun-Bah and the Duncans, who are story-tellers.   The Apache burden basket and cradle board shows up better in my picture than they do, but I was at the back of the audience.       
         The desert at night was beautiful.   Hundreds of luminarias lined the paths and walkways.  The Gardens are always beautiful, but at night they look magical.
          Two special exhibits are on display through the spring.  "The Four Seasons" by Philip Haas are huge sculptures of faces with vegetables and flowers.   "Whispers of a New World" by Carolina Escobar are sculptures of other-worldly flowers made from steel and resin.   I can't wait to go back in the day so I can get a better view.


A great start to the holidays!


Monday, November 12, 2012

Are Those Snow Clouds I See?

It felt cold enough to snow this weekend, which is to say it dipped below 40F here.  It did snow in the mountains, but not where I live.    Still, it was very chilly, especially for this time of year.    

       I love clouds.   The blue hole peeking through all the dark grey reminded me of our flying days.    If you could find a large hole (much larger than this one), it was fun to fly up through it and get on top of the cloud base.   Of course you had to be careful that there were lots of big holes so that they didn't close over and strand you on top! 

       On Saturday we went to Cave Creek to shop and explore.   It's a little higher elevation than here, and it was very chilly.   When it came time to eat lunch, I wanted to go to El Canto.    
      El Canto is my favorite Cave Creek Restaurant.   From the outside it's very plain, but inside it's wonderful.   You walk into a large garden that is hidden from the street by high walls.    In the center is a huge pond with ducks, geese, and turtles.   Tables line one side of the pond so you can eat outside while you watch all the wildlife.   Inside the building there are huge windows on one wall where a few lucky people can see the pond.
      Even though it was chilly, I wanted to eat outside next to the water.  I was certain it would warm up as the sun moved higher in the sky.   Plus there was a roof heater suspended near our table.    
       The ducks and geese put on a great show.   Even more fun were the little sparrows that came to our table looking for a handout.   They weren't disappointed.   We had a huge basket of tortilla chips that we were willing to secretly share with them.   One of the cutest of the little birds ate out of my hand!    
       Unfortunately the temperature kept dropping instead of climbing.  Not only did the sun not beam down on us, a cold breeze began to sweep through the courtyard.  The longer we sat, the colder we got.   We never complained, but apparently some other people did.   The staff began rolling out large space heaters and setting them around the porch.   One lucky table got a design that was new to me.   It actually had flames coming out of it like a mini-fire pit in a cylinder.   Very interesting as well as practical.       
       Of course I didn't have my camera so I didn't get any pictures of the ducks and birds or of the unusual space heater.   But if you check out the link to El Canto you can see pictures of the pond and a few of its inhabitants.  I can't wait to go back.   But I plan to bring a heavier jacket next time! 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Wulfenite, A Souvenir of the Red Cloud Mine Case


        One of the cases that I left to my co-workers to finish when I retired from life as a public defender involved the Red Cloud Mine, located in La Paz County, Arizona.   I had intended to visit the mine since it was the scene of the crime, but it's in a very remote location.   Not only would it have taken all day to get there and back, I probably would have needed a 4-wheel drive vehicle.   I ran out of time before I retired and never made the trip.   Since I had never heard of the mine or the Wulfenite that is found there before the case,  I figured I would never hear about it again.
        But yesterday, while we were at the Phoenix Gem and Mineral Show, I spotted two rocks from the Red Cloud Mine.   I bought one of them, which is in the picture along with the label that came with it.   Prior to this case I had never heard of Wulfenite.   But I liked the name, although it should have been spelled wOlfenite since I really like wolves.   However, it was named for the Austrian mineralogist, Franz Xavier von Wulfen, who discovered it in 1845.
     According to an article by The Georgia Mineral Society, the Red Cloud mine produced silver and lead ore from the 1870s to 1890s.  Wulfenite crystals were a byproduct of the silver mining operation. The mine, which had been opened and closed many times since then as a specimen mine, closed during 2003.   It was bought a few years ago by a dentist from Kansas and is currently not open.
     Jan C. Rasmussen of the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum wrote and made available a PDF article titled "Wulfenite in Arizona".   It has beautiful pictures, diagrams, and a bibliography for anyone who wants more information.    
       Many of the large, high quality specimens of Wulfenite are selling for high prices.    My little rock was well under ten dollars.  For me, that was a great price for a souvenir of Arizona mining and one of my last criminal law cases.    


Thursday, November 1, 2012


       Today was the first day of my retirement.  It was both happy and sad.   Happy because I've been looking forward to this for quite a while, but sad because I will miss my friends in La Paz.   However, we are already making plans to see Willie Nelson when he comes to Parker next March, plus another Girls' Night Out in Lake Havasu City is in the works. 
       I started the day with an early morning walk.     A Harris Hawk was on the ground in one yard.  It was enjoying something freshly caught.   Unfortunately I didn't have my camera.  (Isn't that always the way of it?)   This was the first time I've seen one with a kill, too.       
      When I returned home, I realized that on a "normal" Thursday I would still be driving to work.   I'm really glad to be finished with that commute. 
     I quickly wrote up a to-do list and started in on it.   However, it is now after 5 o'clock, and  I have yet to finish it.   In fact, I'm only about half way through it.  So much for becoming super-efficient now that I'm home.
      So how did I spend my first day?  
      I did some paperwork.  Seems there's always paperwork to do.   
      I received some positive feedback about an article I submitted to a publisher not long ago.   A very good thing to have happen on my first day home.    Made plans for follow-up work on that.
       Around noon Kent and I went to Vogue Bistro for lunch to celebrate.   We've been wanting to go there for quite a while but had never made it.   They were recently featured on "Check Please", an Arizona public television show that features local restaurants.    We had their French Onion Soup, which was delicious.  They top theirs with a flaky pastry and fill it with lots of cheese and onions.    I would definitely order it again.    I also had their specialty salad, which was also excellent.    Sipped a nice Merlot with it, too.    (Something I couldn't do during working days.)  
         Took a little afternoon nap.  (Something I couldn't admit to doing during working days.)
          Visited with our neighbors who just arrived from Wisconsin.   They're snow birds who are here for the winter.
          Thought about going back to the paperwork stack but then I realized I need to pack up my beading supplies.   Tomorrow is Beading day at SCG.     I have to get organized for that.
           Now it's nearly 6 o'clock.   I should stay and work on that list some more, but the back porch is calling me.  
           Besides, I'm retired now.   There's always tomorrow.....

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bead Show Today!


      We went to Scottsdale today to the Rings &Things Bead Show that was held at the
Chaparral Suites Resort.   Kent was a good sport about driving and looking at all of the stones with me.   I came away with a HUGE assortment of different types of jasper.   Oval ones, round ones, square ones.   Some puffed; some matte.

      The Mohave and Kiva rooms were filled with tables of stones, gems, beads, and other goodies.  So many different types of jasper!!!  I would have bought even more but I kept reminding myself that I have one paycheck left until retirement.  Plus I hope to go to the Tucson Gem Show in February.    

     The resort looked like a nice place for tourists to stay.  The location was easy to find and very close to the restaurants and shopping in Scottsdale.
     We had lunch at the Barrio Queen, a Mexican restaurant in old Scottsdale.   The food was good, but very small portions.   Like teeny tiny for the appetizers.   I ordered Queen's Shrimp Quesadilla, anticipating a new variation of my favorite food, quesadillas.  The price was about $9.00, so I expected a lunch size one.    But the appetizer was two small tortillas with one shrimp on each, lots of cheese, including goat cheese, and an "acitrus margarita sauce". It was delicious, but I was expecting a little (okay, a lot) more to eat.   
     Kent ordered a spinach enchilada entree that was much more lunch-sized.   He said it was very good.   My margarita was excellent.  If you try this restaurant, skip the appetizers and tacos.   They were also munchkin size.  The table nearby ordered some of them.
I'm sure we won't go back here since there are so many more places to try and much better Mexican restaurants in town.   If you're in the mood for Mexican food, come to the to Rio Mirage restaurant in Surprise.  It's the best!

Sunday, October 21, 2012


    Last night we went to see "Blythe Spirit", the Noel Coward play set in England around 1900.   The Sun City Grand Drama Club put on a great production.   The acting was excellent.   I am always amazed at the talented people that live here in Grand.
     This was the first play we've attended here, but it won't be the last.   It was a great performance.   They price the tickets low enough ($12.00 each) that we retirees can afford to go often. 
     We had great seats, too.  SCG had recently bought a tiered seating system that can be taken up and down for these performances.   We were seated in the third row in the left hand tier because all of the floor seats were sold out when I bought our tickets.     Since the tiers are new, I didn't know how well we would be able to see and hear.   But no problem--our seats were fine.   
       The audience was great, too.   No talking or ringing cell phones at all during the play.   To me that shows a lot about the people at Grand.  Polite and attentive.   It's so rude when people talk during a play or a presentation.   It totally destroys my ability to lose myself in the story.          
       Speaking of story....earlier in day I attended the Valley of the Sun Romance Writers workshop.  I've been looking forward to this seminar for months and months.  In fact, I joined the group a few weeks ago just so I could attend this workshop.  It was free, but only open to members.
       Four speakers, all multi-published members of the group, spoke about their process.  Two focused on character and two on plotting.   Their methods were all different and all very good.   A few of the things they talked about are things I already do.  So that was reassuring.  But  I hope to try out a couple of new things soon.    Two things were obvious--they all were very talented, and they all write a lot more than I do.  I may not be able to change the first, but I can do better about the second thing, starting November 1.
      One of the members asked me what my publishing goal was for my book that I'm working on.   Since I've been working on it for a LOOOOONG time, I told her my goal was simply to finish the *>I* thing.     She laughed and understood.
      Romance writers are wonderfully supportive and generously share their thoughts, experiences, and expertise.    I was a member of the Cincinnati group for a few years when I lived in Ohio.   They were a great group, and I was very pleased to see that this West Valley chapter is equally committed to helping one another succeed.  


Sunday, October 14, 2012


Patio Time

          Great weather has finally returned!   We're able to use the patio again, which I had really missed.   With Chef Kent doing the grilling, it's my favorite restaurant.
 I'm doing my part, too, by growing herbs.   The basil, a spicy variety, and the chives are doing well.   They came from Lowe's, which had a limited but healthy looking selection.

  The basil's tag listed it as Albahaca Basil, Nufar, which I had never heard of before.   It has a spicy aroma, which is why I chose it.   I harvested some leaves for the first tune the other night to make a few appetizers.  Using turkey pepperoni (which tastes the same with half the calories), I spread cream cheese on a Triscut and topped it with the pepperoni and a basil leave.   Yummy!

      With only 13 workdays to go to R-day, I've been busy, busy at work.   Trying to get everything in good order before the next person takes over is like rushing to clean up the house before company arrives.  Yikes!!!  
       In between all of that, I'm preparing for LAW (life after work).    I signed up for two beading classes that take place in November.   Classes fill up quickly here so getting dues paid and on the list was a must-do.   My friend, Chris, is taking one of the classes so that should be fun.
       Yesterday Kent & I went to the Sun City Grand Oktoberfest.   There were lots and lots of booths, many of them selling jewelry.  Kent used his chemistry background to help explain resins to one of the artists.  She makes great jewelry but didn't quite understand the resin process.  While they talked shop, I admired the end products.   She makes a lot of steampunk, which was fun to see.   
        I also stopped at the Language Club table and picked up the Spanish classes info sheet.   Can't wait to check them out in November!
        This week will be my last full week with XM radio.  Since I will no longer be driving a gazillion miles a day, I'm not renewing it.  But it has been a life-saver on those loooog commutes through the desert.  I even listened to the V-P debates last week during my  2 1/2 hours on the road (one way). 
         Even though I'll miss my satellite radio, I sure won't miss the driving.


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Monarch Butterflies

This morning Kent spotted a lot of butterflies on one of our milkweed plants.   A closer look showed a bush full of Monarch butterflies.

Arizona is on their migration route, but I've never seen so many in the yard at one time.

It gave me a great chance to play with my new camera again.

         While we were having breakfast on the porch, a hummingbird joined us.  They are very friendly out here and frequently come close to check out what's going on.
I think this one is a Black Chinned Hummingbird, but I'm not sure.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Countdown to Retirement

     I plan to be seeing a lot more of my backyard soon.  

     Yesterday  I turned in my retirement papers.  Beginning November 1, I'll be retired. 
     I've been making plans for this for quite a while, and my boss has known for over a month.    But now that  the paperwork is in, it seems real.   Like it might actually happen.
     In anticipation, I've been making a list of things I want to do, like beading, writing, traveling, etc.   I rejoined the Romance Writers of America a few weeks ago, and yesterday I mailed off my membership application to the local Valley of the Sun chapter.    They have a writer's seminar coming up that I'd like to attend.   
       The Sun City Grand beading group has a class I want to take in early November, too.  I'll be trying to join them next week because the classes fill up quickly.  I can't wait until I'm officially retired or I might get closed out.
       Whew--I'm not even retired yet and I'm already busy. 

       This morning I had breakfast on the back porch, something I look forward to doing more often.  While I was there, I practiced taking pictures with my "new" camera.    The pix shown here are the first two keepers.   The hummingbird blends in with the foilage, I realize, so I'll have to try to catch him on a different perch.

     When my husband retired a few years ago, he wanted a Cannon Digital Rebel camera for his present.   He's taken some great photos in the last few years, but he moved onto a newer camera recently.    So I asked him for the Rebel as my retirement gift.   Or should I say re-gift?

      My older Cannon PowerShot is still a very good camera.  It's small, lightweight and easy to handle.    I may end up continuing to use it, especially for video.    But at 12.20 megapixals, the Rebel is much more powerful, plus it has two telephoto lens.  I'm looking forward to learning to use it.

      Most of all, I'm looking forward to being retired.     

Sunday, September 23, 2012

September Jewels

This is my latest jewelry project.  I'm seeing improvement thanks to finding a better type of wire and getting more practice.  I didn't have nearly as many beads go shooting across the floor with this project.   I'll celebrate that!

The bracelet is similar in color, although the stones aren't the same.  But they're close enough that they'll look good together.   This is the first time I used a two-strand clasp.
I still need to work on the photos.   I read an article about photographing jewelry, but I need to read it again.
We're making plans to go to the HUGE gem show in Tucson in February.   I've always wanted to go, but work interfered.   Won't have that problem this year.  
Which means there will be a major announcement soon.....

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Girls Night Out

      Dorothy, my best wine buddy, invited me to a Wine Tasting  at Darlene's Tea Room in Lake Havasu City this weekend.    These popular events are held on the first Friday of each month.   All of the tables were filled so it was a good thing we had reservations.
       Darlene's is decorated in a quaint Victorian style with lace curtains, English china tea cups, and all things feminine.   Next door is The Gin Mill, a fun bar with live music and room for dancing.  The wine tasting is held on both sides.   We chose to sit  on the tea room side so we could talk, but we were close enough to the bar that we could hear the music.    An excellent table!   
       The wine tasting included 4 wines and appetizers to complement each wine.  The first three wines were from Chateau Ste Michelle, and the last one was a red blend from Amitage.  The blend was 63% merlot, 33% syrah, and 4% Cabernet Franc. I'm very fond of merlot so it's not surprising that this was my overall favorite.    Amitage is from Columbia Crest, one of my favorite wineries.  
        We started with the two whites.  The first, my favorite of the white wines, was a 2011 Riesling.   The second was a 2010 Chardonnay.   

        The appetizers were wonderful.  An apple and cheddar spread on multigrain artisan bread was paired with the Riesling.    The mini veggie and cheese frittatas on the bottom left were paired with the Chardonnay.   
         The two reds were a Cabernet Savignon and the Amitage.   For the Cab, the appetizer was sliced beef with melted bleu cheese on a slice of baguette bread.     In the center is chocolate mousse, topped with blackberry cream and a huge, juicy blackberry.   It was perfect with the Amitage.  
         A great friend and great wine--the perfect pairing for a fun night out.




Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Beader is Born

     A few months ago I became interested in making jewelry when I decided to make a steampunk necklace.   I started with a metal necklace that has matching earrings.   I added the gears, jewel, and watch parts.   A simplistic and easy project, but it got me hooked.

      My next project started with a unique bead from Cosmopolitan Beads in Cave Creek, Arizona.  They make some of their own beads, and this one caught my eye.  It has dark gold accents to highlight the green and white.   Unfortunately my photo doesn't show off how beautiful it is.   

At first I didn't know how to use it.  Then I found Fire Mountain Gems and Beads.  They have great tutorials as well as beads.  
        I used brown Goldstone beads and Swarovski Pearl dark green beads and filled in with some antique copper bead caps and rondelles.  The fancy clasp was a fun touch.
     Now firmly hooked on beading and Fire Mountain, I began to look at the weekly e-mail specials they sent me.   What a great way to daydream away your cares.   When the ads started to appear about a Dutch Auction, I was intriqued.  I had never heard of that.   I watched for a few days, then I started looking at what was on sale.   Every few days the prices dropped.   Finally I started adding items to my cart.   
       The different types of jasper had previously caught my eye, and suddenly they were cheap enough for this novice to try.    I bought a trio of jasper focals for $2.00 and nuggets for 22 cents!   Wood jasper was on sale, too, so I bought some of those round beads.
  I added a couple of wood ovals that I've had for a really long time.   For fill and to add some color I used shell amber beads that I found at Michaels.   By adding those in, I had enough to make a matching bracelet and earrings.   Here's the complete set:
     I just received my third order from Fire Mountain.  This time I bought a crimper and crimp beads so I can do a more pro job.   On a recent trip to Ikea, I picked up a 9 drawer stand to hold my bead supplies, too.    
So it's official--I'm a beader.  


Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Trip to Cave Creek

Today we went to Cave Creek, a small artsy tourist town north of Phoenix.   We went to a lot of little shops and art galleries, all of which had beautiful things for sale.   My favorite stop was Roxie's, a boutique gift shop that supports animal rescues.    I think Roxie's might be an international group, but I'm not sure.  

The outside of the shop was bright and colorful.  Inside were purses, jewelry, and animal items of every description.  I found a couple of cute treasures here and supported a great cause, too.

We had lunch at the upscale Tonto Bar & Grill at Rancho Manana.   Their web page has inside pictures, but here are two from the entrance.

Lunch was delicious.  Instead of a traditional sandwich, Kent had two appetizers:  Grilled Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho soup and Tortilla-Crusted Crab Cakes.   I tasted his soup, and it was great.   I'm not usually fond of cold soup, but this was very tasty.    I had Mexican White Shrimp Tacos, which came with white corn tortillas and an avocada cream dip.   The ample quantity of shrimp were excellent--cooked in a lightly spicey ancho chili sauce with peppers and onions.    Excellent!

It was too hot for us to eat outside today, although there were a couple of people doing it.   The patio overlooks the golf course.  I'd like to come back in the fall and try it out.

I also visited Cosmopolitan Bead Shop, which is such a funny name for a village store.  But the beads were beautiful and the variety was awesome.  I bought two unique beads, one of which they made themselves.   I'm just learning to bead so kept my purchases small--to match my current skill level.   But I'm gaining on it so a return trip is a must.

Our last stop was at Frontier Town, a collection of shops that have a little bit of everything.   I supported the goats that I love by buying something at Udder Delight, the goat milk skin care store.  Next I found a great belt and a cool yellow top at Glory Bees.  After that I knew it was time to go home.   Too many tempting treasures in Cave Creek!     

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Bearizona -- A Wild, Wild Place

  Yesterday we went to Bearizona, a wildlife park that you drive through.    It's the best wildlife park/zoo I've ever visited.     Bearizona is located outside of Williams, in northern Arizona.   I had seen a brochure about it a few months ago, and I've been wanting to visit ever since.  

   They have bears, mountain goats, buffalo, Dall sheep, and my favorite---wolves!!!   
 They have two kinds, Alaskan Tundra wolves (pictured below) and Artic wolves. 

      In Yellowstone a few years ago we saw Grey wolves, but only at a distance using scopes.   Of course it was great to see them in Lamar Valley, but I really wanted to see them up close.   At Bearizona I was able to do that because the white one, pictured first,  came right up to the car!   He was beautiful.   
     I was so occupied staring at him that I didn't try to take his picture.  He licked the Prius (lucky car), and circled around it to check it out.    We had to move slowly on because he and the other ones were getting a little too interested in the car.    They tell you to move on if the animals start to approach the car, but I just had to watch them up close for a little bit.       


     The bears were great, too.   I've never seen so many, active ones.   In the zoos they usually sit quiet, waiting for food.   But they were playful and energetic here.   It was cool and lightly raining, which may have helped energize them. 
     A few moments after this picture was taken, the one by the tree moved to a different tree and climbed it.  That was amazing to watch.   I knew they could climb, but I had never seen one do it.  Now I wonder how many times a bear might have been up in a tree while we were hiking unaware beneath it. 


They easily blended into the rocks and hid behind trees, too.

      In  Fort Bearizona, the area where small and baby animals are kept, there were suppose to be bear cubs on display.   At first we thought they had been moved.  The enclosure was empty.   Then we looked up and saw that all of them (at least 5) were high in the tall pines.

      We also saw porcupines, raccoons, beavers, Lynx, bobcats, fox, and many, many other animals in the Fort section.   This prickly little guy was enjoying his breakfast.

       Bearizona has only been opened since 2010, and they are still working on it.   I can't wait to go back again.