Summer is Coming….Actually, It’s Almost Gone!

I have taken a hiatus from posting to the blog, primarily because we are back in Scottsdale, a familiar city we lived in (and documented) for 4 months last year, and because we haven’t done much in the way of tourist activities – instead we are working a lot, working out a lot, traveling quite a bit, and enjoying time with local friends. It’s been great to reconnect with Jeannie and Joe (who we know from Chicago) and Bob and Susie (ski friends of Dave), and in addition, through the help of Facebook, we have gotten together with an old high school friend of mine, Joe, and a former Accenture colleague/customer, Jenna from Chicago!

Everyone is curious about the heat and how the summer is going. Just like the ominous ‘Winter is Coming’ moniker from the Game of Thrones, I kept thinking ‘Summer is Coming’ – we have to make plans to get outta here!!! While there were a few miserable days, 110+ degrees in June (this made national news) – however since then the 100-107 degree days have really not been bad.  We do limit the time we spend outside, which is fairly easy to do.  At least most days it is sunny and the view is nice!  We have had quite a few monsoons (one of which led to leaks in our ceiling as the rain came in from the patio door above us – argh!) that are amazing to watch – but you don’t want to be outside in one (news is full of sad stories).  More about monsoons in AZ: The 3.5 months of the monsoon are when parts of Arizona will get a good portion of its rainfall for the entire year. Most of that comes in July and August. According to the National Weather Service, a “normal” monsoon brings 2.71 inches of rain in Phoenix – roughly 34 percent of our annual average of 8.04 inches, not much…. Dave and I are watching the news coverage now of what Houston is dealing with after Hurricane Harvey, and it is heartbreaking…

We have a regular rental here in Scottsdale (not an airbnb) at The Moderne that we’ve furnished into a nice little home – and when I say little I mean little, try 600 sq feet of little!  ha ha! The complex is very nice, resort living with a gorgeous pool area and multiple BBQ/entertainment areas, onsite pick up for dry cleaning, underground parking, etc. There are way too many young people living here, making noise an issue (especially since our unit overlooks the pool area.) It’s entertaining to watch them take over the pool in an MTV Spring Break type episode (dating myself there!), except back then I don’t think ‘butt floss’ was the fashion! Dave always teases me that I’d prefer to live in a retirement community (the ads for some of these places do look great – cooking classes, wine tasting, biking, etc. – what’s not to like? he he 😉 We will likely keep this apartment while Dave continues to work in Phoenix, as the work continues to be great for him – and the apartment is very reasonably priced and walking distance to restaurants, shopping, and Old Town Scottsdale. We are much happier here than in our old digs given we aren’t right off a 4 lane road where it is a game of Frogger to cross the street (though we do miss that fancy Fry’s grocery store with its amazing and cheap bar)!  Unfortunately we can’t host overnight guests, but there are plenty of very nice accommodations just a few minutes away! We love to entertain friends and family – and the weather will become much more manageable soon!

I’ve decided that my ‘theme/goal’ of this Phoenix stint is health and weight loss!  I am happy to report that I’ve lost ~14 lbs since April when I was very disappointed to see I had gained ALL the weight I lost in 2013 back (~15 lbs) with our traveling lifestyle, irregular exercise, and rarely having access to a scale (sounds so simple but so important!). I did two things:  1. follow my ‘Fast Diet’ and not over-eat or over-snack on my ‘regular days’ and 2. work out like I used to!  The Fast Diet, which our family friend Tara turned me onto in 2013, involves eating only 500 (now recently been bumped up to ~800 calories – thank you Dr Mosley!) 2 non-consecutive days each week.  I have 2 primary workouts each week: 3 indoor cycling classes at Cyclebar (which I LOVE – if you take spin class at a regular gym and like it, you will LOVE this class!) and a bootcamp class at Levels Fitness & Nutrition 2 days a week (where I’ve done some ugly exercises like ‘bear crawls’ to lifting/turning a huge tire from one end of the gym to the other!)  It’s been pretty amazing to see how much stronger I’ve gotten and what used to kill me in May is much easier in July! 🙂 I used to be happy to place in the top 50% of the Cyclebar class and now I’m bummed if I’m not in the top 3 :)!!  I feel wonderful and look more fit too!

HIGHLY recommend Cyclebar if you have one near you!  I can add a ‘claim to fame’ at a Cyclebar class in late June, as a matter of fact.  Michael Phelps (along with his wife and two very fit friends) joined our class and sat right behind me (I must say they talked the entire time, a little annoying – though Michael appears to be the only person who ‘gets’ my profile name, Ricky Spanish, only American Dad watchers would know it – he he!) and I placed 6th, 2 spots behind their pack!  For a few minutes during the warm up I was #1, ahead of Michael (only because I had been warming up 10 min to his 1!!!)  Hey, I’ll take it!  Funny enough, I really wasn’t convinced it was him because he did look shorter and smaller, less intimidating than on TV and I couldn’t understand what he’d be doing in a public spin class – silly me! Turns out he lives off a street that weather permitting, I walk on all the time as it is super close to our place! He is a swim coach at ASU and spends much time in AZ!

OK, time for some highlights of trips and activities – May-Aug:

Birthday in Vegas – Dave splurged on a very nice suite at the Mandarin Oriental and we enjoyed every luxurious minute! We laughed at how the space was more than double the size of our Scottsdale apartment! The hotel was over the top – bottle of champagne during check-in, a personalized birthday cake with room service, and they even embroidered pillowcases with our initials for another gift! We booked through a dear friend Tom who runs Thoms Travel, a luxury travel agency – please reach out to Tom for the best pricing for your vacation (and lots of great VIP extras gratis!)

Around town – a must-do in Vegas for us are the 1-lb meatballs at Lavo at the Palazzo (get the recipe here – any good quality beef can be used in place of the kobe!). We also hit Giadas and The Golden Steer.

Visit to Chicago – July 4 weekend.  We had a fun and action-packed week to spend in Chicago, catching up with friends, trying a premier restaurant, seeing friends’ new homes in the city and burbs, checking out the Rolling Stones memorabilia exhibit, and going to a Cub’s game.

Exhibitionism – Rolling Stones exhibit at Navy Pier, with Sheila and Lisa – very well done collection of Rolling Stones memorabilia – very cool to see handwritten lyric books and a variety of other behind the scenes goodies!  Also learned about the close connection the Stones have with Chicago (see more below). Well worth the price of admission! After the exhibit we had dinner at Riva’s bar (just so-so unfortunately), caught the fireworks (front row show!), and got caught in the rain on our way out!

Outside at Navy Pier:

Studio artifacts:

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Cool logo light display!

Stage Design and costumes!

The exhibit concluded with a very cool 3-d film of one of their concerts.

The exhibition’ism’ also highlighted the close affinity between the Stones and our Sweet Home Chicago! During their first American tour in June 1964 they recorded at Chess Studios and met Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy during those sessions. They recorded again at Chess later that year in Nov and played their first Chicago concert at Arie Crown Theater. Buddy Guy toured with the Stones in 1970 in Europe, said he “couldn’t keep up with this wild bunch of kids playing the best music you ever heard.” Of course the Stones have returned many times to our fair city to entertain and amaze us!

Schwa (Fri 6/30): acclaimed BYO restaurant owned by Chef Michael Carson in West Town. This restaurant’s reputation precedes it in a big way – it is known for closing whenever it wants, without notice or apology. In fact I saw a scathing review by Steve Zolinsky from ABC7/Hungry Hound about this happened to him!  So glad we went! The service was very casual – in fact, the chefs are your waiters – they go back and forth and do double duty so well!  When Charlie Trotter closed his restaurant he chose Schwa for the farewell dinner for his staff (and donated a variety dinnerware to it, we had a course on one of his plates.) The food was outstanding and creative.  The atmosphere was interesting – ugly and party like as the chefs all have a good time in the kitchen!

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Back to Navy Pier on Sat:

London House rooftop (Sun, 7/2) – Dave and I walked past the London House to get to our hotel and made a mental note to visit one day.  Lucky for us, Paul suggested going to the rooftop bar for a drink after dinner at La Scarola, one of our favorite Italians.  So glad he did!  This place has some of THE best views in the city!

Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West (Sun 7/16)

On a hot Sun afternoon we decided to play tourist and check out the Western Spirit museum! Highly recommend a visit to this museum, primarily for the wild west collection and the outdoor sculptures!

First, a few sculptures caught our eye – and we continue to recognize and appreciate works by Allan Houser, who we ‘discovered’ visiting Santa Fe museums.

The Rennard Strickland Collection of Western Film History exhibition:

Abe Hayes Family Spirit of the West collection – A really cool selection of saddles, spurs, and other quintessentially western items:



Gun leather, cuffs, saddlebags, guns:

Badges and rodeo gear – the earliest rodeos began as informal competitions held by working cowboys, who gathered just for fun to see who could ride a bucking bronc the longest or rope, throw, and tie a calf the fastest. Organized public rodeos date back to the 1880s but the sport didn’t flourish until about 1910. The most sought-after rodeo gear were the trophy items given to the top contestants – in the early days, medals, trophy saddles, or spurs might the only material reward. Stamped leather belts (especially the belt buckle, considered a good luck charm) and trophy buckles are coveted rodeo prizes.

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Prisons and gambling:

Famous lawbreakers:

Of Spirit and Flame – John Coleman bronzes:

Early American West art:

Sculpture Courtyard & lobby:

Dallas/Deloitte University – work meeting – 7/31-8/2

I normally wouldn’t post much about work, but given I planned this meeting and worked very hard at it, and have some fun pics to share from our successful evening event, I figured why not??!! It was great to catch up with some old friends/coworkers, though I did spend most of my time running around and making sure everything was going like clockwork!

An item we discussed quite a bit at this meeting is related to a book called Essentialism by Greg McKeown – it’s really pretty fascinating and interesting!  I wish I read it earlier as it really does have some great lessons about overcommitting (especially socially where I actually think it’s easier to use it) and I’m putting it into practice as we speak by focusing more on what’s essential rather than trying to ‘do it all’!  I highly recommend checking it out!

Another very impactful area (both professionally and personally) that we explored is this topic of Exponential Change – how technology is changing everything in our lives and how we can adapt and prepare.  While there were many great takeaways, two stand outs to me include how disease treatment is being revolutionized – DNA editing can literally result in us ‘deleting’ disease and illnesses from our DNA – unreal.  Even today, technologies such as IBM’s Watson are providing us with insight beyond the brain capacity of traditional physicians to be able to treat rare and unknown forms of cancer!  It seriously brought tears to my eyes, especially given what my closest cousin went through 2 years ago.  Lives will change and for the better! The second ‘ah-ha’ was that in the future jobs won’t necessarily be in technology or building/fixing robots (they will do that themselves 🙂 but it will be more focused in adding the ‘human element’ to the computer-aided transactions – doctors should spend more time with patients explaining treatments, next steps, etc..  Business people should have more time focused on planning and strategizing, as opposed to assembling reports, data, etc.

Chicago – weekend of Aug 4th

I’ve been looking forward to celebrating Sheila’s 50th birthday for some time now, and the weekend did not disappoint! I stayed in an airbnb right in my old neighborhood and took advantage of some time at the lake and seeing how much my old hood has changed – they are building left and right and everytime you turn around there’s something new to check out!  It is exciting though also sad to see some opportunities for more character, and more Mom and Pop’s, go away.  It was great to catch up with my dear friend Lisa (who just started an amazing new job), Jamie and her Aussie beau Michael (can’t wait to visit them in Australia in the future), and with Gina and Jamie again more much needed catch up time!

Sheila’s 50th birthday party – great grape, treats, entertainment, and company!

Where the Cellist meets Bruno Mars!

That’s it for now!  Upcoming fun events and posts will include:  a trip back home to Long Island for Kristina and Joe’s wedding and to visit family and Labor Day weekend in San Diego where we are meeting up with Greta & Jurgen (visiting from Montreal) and Cathy & Don (who live there.)






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