Autumn in Arizona – Part 1

This post covers most of our fall in AZ, including local sites and some fun travel back to the Midwest!

Diamondback Game (Sun, Sept 24), my first Diamondbacks game – interesting to be in a covered ballpark, complete with a pool/party area! An older woman in the stands with a swirling gold ribbon was considered a good luck charm as the Diamondbacks ended up with the wildcard ūüôā

Hall of Flame Museum (Thurs 9/28) Рplayed hooky in the afternoon to go check out the Hall of Flame Museum before dinner in nearby Tempe. Highly recommend a visit here!  Impressive selection of fire fighting trucks, carts, apparatus, and memorabilia.  In addition they have halls honoring firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty as well as a gallery dedicated to wildland firefighting.

Cute check-in desk:

Firemarks – the fire insurance industry began in England after the Great Fire of London in 1666 which burned over half the city.¬† Insurance companies actually pressured city governments in Europe and the ‘colonies’ to organize fire departments, create fire codes, and prosecute arsonists. Firemarks, such as the ones below, identified policyholders. Before 1870, fire departments ONLY responded to insured properties!¬† Yikes!

Apparatus – from hand-held and horse-drawn to motorized and modern:

1900 Fire Alarms Рup until about 1850 cities relied on lookouts in bell towers to spot fires and ring out the location on the bell. The Liberty Bell was purchased in the late 18th century by the city of Philadelphia for this exact purpose!  Smaller communities used rattles gongs, pistol shots, or simple word-of-mouth to get the word out!

Telegraphs were adapted to fire alarm systems – telegraph wires were strung from bell towers to a central fire station or city hall.

The equipment below was in use in 1900 in Wisconsin.

Badges – so cool to look through these, and see some from the Hamptons (no Sag Harbor :(, and from some of our ‘home away from homes’!!!

9/11 firetruck, and a nice tribute to those who lost their lives that horrific day:

Atlas Bistro, Gourmet BYOB (maybe the only BYOB in Scottsdale! (Fri 9/29) Рjoined Jeannie & Joe for fine wine and fine food that could rival many Chicago restaurants!

Freebie Night at the Phoenix Art Museum (Fri, Oct 6)

Took advantage of free admission after 5pm and visited the Phoenix Art Museum before dinner at Mora Italian, one of our favorite Italian spots in town (fantastic homemade gourmet pasta, owned by a Top Chef contestant) The museum is worth a visit, and given its small size it won’t take you long to explore all of its corners!¬† My favorite section was the miniatures!

Asian Collection:

Thorne Miniature Rooms – these rooms were conceived, designed, and mostly created by Narcissa Niblack Thorne (1882-1966). Thorne collected miniature furniture and accessories during her travels to Europe and the Far East. Many rooms even contain period-style rugs Thorne had woven specifically for each space. Her work gained national attention after her original 30 pieces were displayed at the 1933 Chicago Century of Progress Expo.


Galanos Fashion:

Assortment of Cool Paintings:

Outside – the moon pic does not do the view justice – spectacular!:

Jerome (Sat, Oct 7)

When driving to Jerome from Phoenix it’s a great idea to leave very early in the morning!¬† Despite Phoenix and Scottsdale’s plethora of multi-lane roads, there are only 2 lanes heading north and each time we’ve left town we’ve sat in traffic!¬† Leave early and enjoy the desert scenery.

Welcome to Jerome!  Always makes me think of my good friend (and 1996 Australia travel partner Christine Jerome!)  Kind of cool to see it perched in the mountains above the road!

More about Jerome and its colorful history (from a landmark placquard): Mining began here in 1876. Within 20 years Jerome was a billion dollar copper mecca and one of the wildest, wickedest mining towns in the West. Drinking, gambling, brawls and frolicking with ladies of the night occurred around‚Äďthe-clock in two dozen magnificent saloons.¬†By the time mining shut down in 1952, enough copper had been produced to put 13 pounds in the hands of every citizen of the world. Gold and silver production covered mining expenses.¬†Through the efforts of the Historical Society, Jerome became one of the west’s most celebrated ‘Ghost Towns’. Although this image persisted into the 1970’s Jerome’s population grew in the 1960’s. Buildings began to be restored to their graceful pre-1953 conditions, and in 1967 Jerome was designated a National Historic Landmark.¬†Today, Jerome is an arts oriented village of 500. A million tourist a year stroll it’s twisted streets and gape at the 100-mile views.

Around Jerome – quirky bookstore and van, wild west concession stand:

Lunch at Mile High Grill & Inn:

Smallest police station ever – love it!¬† Reminds me of a field trip I had in grade school (I think it was seriously 1st grade) we made to our police station and our tiny jail. The police officers were quite impressed that I knew my Mom’s and my aunt’s Eileen’s license plate #s – I still remember #s (old land line phone #s in particular) and as an only child, I think I just paid attention to what was around me, especially cars and music – I still love old songs way before my time and I do appreciate a good car (especially the one Dave just bought)!¬†Can’t say I have as much attention to these details now – ha ha!

Time for fine wine across the street at Caduceus Cellars/Merkin Vineyards.¬† This winery was started by the lead singer of Tool, Maynard James Keenan, who also serves as the winemaker, . By the way for a bit of a laugh, look up what a merkin is.¬† Their wines do have a sketch of a guy wearing a merkin, shows an interesting sense of humor ūüôā

The wines we enjoyed the most included: white: 2015 Merkin Chupacabra, 2014 Nagual del Marzo (sangiovese and cabernet blend), 2013 Primer Paso (Cote Rotie style blend of syrah, petite syrah, Malvasia Bianca), 2013 Le Cortigiane Oneste (barbera merlot blend from New Mexico grapes), and the 2013 Sancha Tempranillo (AZ grapes). Wines we didn’t enjoy as much included most of their whites and roses: Dos Ladrones, Judith Orange Malvasia, Chupacabra Rosa, Nagual del Marzo rose, Nebbiolo Rose (award winning), and the Paciencia.

We were surprised at how much we liked the wines given our primo California tasting experiences (and we still continue to buy and ship to Chicago wine storage and direct to our bellies in Arizona! he he)

Husbands Alley and Jessie’s Place:

Husbands Alley¬†(lower left) –¬†With Jerome’s rough and tumble early days came the red-light district and prostitutes. Much of the red-light district was located on Hull Avenue, the road below Main Street. In 1913, reformers helped pass an ordinance restricting houses of ill fame from being located downtown. Citizens showed their disdain for the law by naming the alleyway from Main Street to Hull Avenue “Husbands’ Alley”. Red-light district buildings on Hull Avenue included the Cribs, a brick structure that no longer exists. The ladies jail is still currently located on Hull Avenue in the bottom floor of the New State Motor building.

Jessie’s Place (lower right)-¬†This building was originally a brothel known as Jennie’s Place. It was built in 1898 by legendary madam Belgian Jennie Bauters, who came to Jerome from Belgium in 1896.¬†The current building, which featured the first concrete sidewalk in Jerome, is one of the few in the business district that survived the fire of 1899.¬†When Jennie Bauters was murdered in 1905, she was reputed to be the wealthiest woman in the Arizona Territory. After her death, her son sold the building to John M. Sullivan who converted the bordello into the Sullivan Hotel.

Pretty views abound from all over town:

Old Bartlett Hotel:¬†Before the Bartlett Hotel, the Grandview Hotel, a wooden structure built in 1895 stood here as the first two-story building in Jerome. It had rooms for dances, dining and sleeping. In 1898 the structure was destroyed by fire. The Bartlett Hotel was then built of brick in 1901. It had five rooms for stores on the sub-level along First Street. The interior was lavish with each room decorated in a different color. The office of The News, Jerome’s longest running newspaper, was in the Bartlett for 20 years. The building also housed a bank, drug store, offices and shops. The building became unstable with the slides in the 1930’s and was abandoned in the 1940’s. The mining company sold portions of it for salvage in the 1950s removing the entire top floor.¬† What remains is quite sad…

Blast furnace: The blast furnace was in use in 1882 and used coke for fuel. The nearest source of supply was Wales! Small sailing vessels carried the coke across the Atlantic Ocean and around the Horn of South America to San Francisco. From there it was transported by railroad to Ashfork, Arizona where it was loaded into mule drawn freight wagons and hauled 60 miles over the mountains to Jerome. 

Lower part of town – a few offices, Garcia House B&B, and a train wreck of a house:

Jerome is worth a quick visit, it’s an interesting place, though a bit depressing given the number of run-down buildings and homes and empty storefronts. You wouldn’t want to stay overnight there or make it a primary destination on your itinerary – add as a stopover on a Sedona or Prescott trip. It has so much history and is ripe for more development…

Arcosanti (Sat, Oct 6)

We hadn’t planned to visit Arcosanti, but Dave noticed it on the way to Jerome and we decided to check it out if we had time on the way home.¬† We were able to make their last tour of the day where we learned all about this project, community, architecture, and way of life.

Arcosanti is an experimental community to test the arcology (combination of architecture and ecology) design concepts of Italian architect Paolo Soleri, who was a student of Frank Lloyd Wright.¬† Soleri didn’t buy into the whole concept of prairie design where most homes were built with ample acreage around it – he was against the idea of urban and suburban sprawl – perhaps one of the reasons he chose Phoenix, the queen of sprawl, to base this project!¬† This architect was truly ahead of his time, his ideas were focused on creating self-contained communities where people live, work, get entertained, and send their children to school. We now see these concepts being employed in micro-communities around the US – even in larger cities such as Chicago where communities and housing are being built around the ‘el’ to at least make commuting easier – apartments and condos are being built on top of shops, restaurants, and cinemas, etc.

Interesting quote from Soleri that sums up his approach:

The problem I am confronting is the present design of cities only a few stories high, stretching outward in unwieldy sprawl for miles. As a result, they literally transform the earth, turn farms into parking lots, wasting¬†enormous amounts of time and energy transporting people, goods, & services over their expanses. My solution is urban implosion rather than explosion.‚Ä̬†‚ÄďPaolo Soleri, 1977

Arcosanti supports itself primarily through seling bronze and ceramic bells and chimes. They also rent out units to architecture students, residents, as well as to airbnb customers.¬† It’s an interesting and strange place, a bit commune-y, and not very inspiring – the architecture reminds me of the SUNY Albany main campus (all concrete, modern, and ugly.) It looks like a space age experiment that was left behind.¬† The theme for today is things that had potential but that were not given TLC!

Entrance to Arcosanti – the drive off the highway was extremely bumpy and long:

Bells for sale in the visitor center:

Ceramic studio and apse:

Vaults – a meeting, gathering, and social center of the community.¬†Most of the complex’s structures were built using “earthcasting,” in which concrete was poured over shaped earthen forms.¬†¬†We learned how Soleri moderated the temperatures inside the desert complex by using thermal cooling, solar orientation and swamp coolers.

Amazing views:

Residences and guest quarters –¬† not the most luxurious, but I understand that their airbnb rates are about $50 a night!

Around the ampitheater:

Original model and decorative panels

Bronze foundry and artifacts:

Read more at their website.

Virtu restaurant (Fri, Oct 13) – great dinner after flying back from a Tampa work trip, gorgeous patio complete with pretty lighting, great food, and company!

LDV Winery (Sun, Oct 15 – check date)

Initially heard about LDV from Jeannie and Trisha as the owners hosted a DePaul alumni event there and they really enjoyed it.¬† Dave and I decided to check it out on a Sun afternoon.¬† The owner was super friendly and told us a bit about their history – she and her husband had successful consulting businesses and were ready to retire early.¬† They had a passion for wine and decided to jump in hook line and sinker into their own vineyard and winery business. They produce only 2,500-3,000 cases per year – Dave and I love the small micro producers that you can’t buy in every grocery and liquor store!¬† We really liked their petite sirah (2012 and 2013 Signature, I preferred the 2012 over the 2013) as well as the 2013 Syrah.¬† Didn’t enjoy the 2012 Grenache or the 2014 Viognier as much.


Chicago and St Louis trip (Tues Oct 17 – Wed Oct 25)

We made a very quick trip to Chicago for doctor/dentist appointments.¬† We were treated to nicer weather than our summer trips! ūüėČ

16th floor bar at Trump Tower – enjoying summer-like temps!

Drinks, including a work of art Dave had!

Walk with Sheila in Lincoln Park Zoo and along lakefront, capped off with a nice lunch and rose!:

Really miss walking around these neighborhoods, all decked out for Halloween:

We stayed at the Langham – amazing breakfast, great location, welcome gifts from our friend/travel agent Tom, and free rides with the house car, not bad!!

Great views:

St Louis (Fri 10/20-Wed 10/25)

We had a great visit to St Louis, for the annual fall clambake, catching up with the family, and enjoying great food and company!

Cupcake competition – it was a tough job sampling so many great cupcakes.¬† The winner – Beth’s yummy lemon cupcake!

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St Louis Art Museum Рvery impressed with the size and selection of the pieces here.  Definitely some competition with the Art Institute in Chicago!

Ancient Chinese Art:

Selection of favorite paintings:

Contemporary Art:

Our next post will include:  Scottsdale Grand Prix (vintage mini racers), Bentley Scottsdale Polo event, Ancient Chinese Musical Treasures Exhibit at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM), and Thanksgiving in Vegas!






Reunions out West!

This post covers our long Labor Day weekend in San Diego, where we vacationed with our German friends Greta and Jurgen (who spend their summer in Montreal) and with Cathy and Don, friends from Chicago.  It also covers a quick evening visit to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

Fri 9/1

Hotel del Coronado:

Really cool western leathers:

Seeley Stables:

Drinks at Casa de Reyes!

Dave requested Santana – Samba Pa Ti

Cosmopolitan Hotel & Restaurant – This structure was originally a state of the art adobe home built in 1827 by a young revolutionary Don Juan Bandini, it contained an estimated 10,000 adobe bricks weighing about 60lbs each with a foundation made from large round river rocks, then converted to a restaurant and stagecoach office in 1869, an olive cannery in 1900, and a Mexican restaurant in the late 1800s, before becoming the current hotel and restaurant. Does feel like you are stepping back in time, or at least made to feel that way!

Cigar shop and museum:

Wells Fargo Museum:

More Old Town:

After Old Town we drove around Balboa Park, Little Italy, and Gaslamp Quarter.

Unconditional Surrender statue Рone of the series by Seward Johnson resembling the famous V-J day photo in Times Square.  The statue was originally installed in Sarasota. Other versions are found in Hamilton, NJ, Normandy, France, and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Dinner at the Fish Market (amazing views, fantastic clam chowder, fish was overcooked and overpriced.)

Sat 9/2

Del Mar – breakfast followed by beach views!

Then onto LaJolla – first stop: La Jolla Cove to hang out with the seals and sea lions!

Really entertaining to watch but very stinky!!

I’ve learned about the differences between seals and sea lions before but always forget, so I looked it up and here it is:

  • Sea lions have external ears
  • Sea lions also have larger and stronger front flippers that enable them to ‚Äúwalk‚ÄĚ and climb up cliffs which is why they‚Äôre so visible around La Jolla Cove.
  • Seals move around on land by¬†writhering on their stomachs. They have smaller, webbed front flippers.
  • Sea lions are brown and seals are darker grey, brown or almost black with speckled skin. If you hear barking, that‚Äôs definitely a sea lion. Seals are only capable of low grunts.
  • Seals are typically solitary animals but you will see them in large groups here in La Jolla. Sea lions often pile up next to each other like BFFs.

Sea lions barking:

Cute pup:

Drinks at George’s

Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial: Considered one of the most unique veterans memorials in America. The only memorial that honors veterans across all branches of the Armed Forces, living or deceased, from the revolutionary war to the current war on terror, with an image of the veteran.

Dinner at Osteria Panevino in Gaslamp Quarter. Great Italian food and company and a good view of the craziness, followed by drinks down the street!

Sun 9/3

Walked around the Coronado Ferry Landing area and lunch at Peohe’s.

Visited the Naval Base on Coronado, checked out planes and beach, view of the Del.¬† The base occupies the majority of Coronado – you’d never know by even looking at a map how large this base is!¬† The base is home to 5,000 military personnel and 7,000 military students. Amazing to see the massive aircraft carriers and aircraft and to get a glimpse into life on the base, not to mention the great hotel and beachfront our servicemen and women can take advantage of! Now we need to fix the VA!

Happy Hour at Torrey Pines – fantastic wine list, great nibbles, and gorgeous views:

Dinner at Cathy and Don’s then off to see Wonder Woman!

Mon 9/4

Breakfast at Poseidon’s on the beach in Del Mar

Drove to Miramar Air Station (former home¬†of¬†the Navy Fighter Weapons School – otherwise known as Top Gun!, now it is¬†the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar) to check out the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum¬†(free!).¬† However, it¬†was¬†closed due to holiday, but we were able to see a good amount of it through the ‘backdoor’ of the base, thanks to Don! ¬†Normally the aviation museum has 48 rotating aircrafts on¬†display.

Don oriented us to the A6 Intruder which he flew in the Navy (he also flew the F18 Hornet)….badass!

Miramar Air Station:

Dinner at George’s Rooftop.

Tues 9/5

Showed Greta and Jurgen our apartment and complex, walked through Old Town and shopped at a very cool all-western store.

Dinner at The Mission (Tues, 9/5)

Drinks and entertainment at the Rusty Spur Saloon

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (Thurs, 9/7) ,¬†Arizona’s only permanent museum dedicated solely to modern works of art, design and architecture. A tiny but nicely done museum with some very crazy exhibits, as to be expected when you visit a¬†modern art museum. Go on Thursday, when it’s free!¬†Dave and I plan to do this with other local museums and attractions as well.

Main galleries:

Special interactive light display:

Pristine cactus in their courtyard:

Brunch at Elements restaurant in the Sanctuary resort with Bob and Susie (Sun 9/10):

Our next blog will include a visit to the Hall of Flame Fire Museum in Scottsdale, along with a short Chicago visit followed by a family clambake in St Louis!



Lots of Heart in the Hamptons!

Dave and I went to Long Island the week of Aug 20 for a wedding (Krissy, my cousin’s daughter¬†and Joe) and to visit with the family.

Sat, 8/19 РDinner at Wine Collar on Main, a cool little wine bar that gets gourmet food delivered from nearby restaurants, and strolling through Northport Рfollowed by lots of catch up time with the cuz and the girls!

The Wedding Ceremony РSaint Thomas More Parish РSun Aug 20:

Post-Ceremony pics: family close-ups:

Post-Ceremony pics: the wedding party:

Post-Ceremony pics: The Bride & the Grandparents!

Post-Ceremony pics – me with the ‘nieces’:

Post-Ceremony pics – more great family photos!

Dave and me:

The Reception – The Larkfield –¬†beautiful Italian villa venue!
I’ve never seen so much food for a cocktail hour! What a spread!!

Reception – arrival of the wedding party:

Reception: first dance:

More reception fun – really loved how Krissy and Joe alternated our dinner courses with dancing – everyone had a blast!

Memorable toasts with lots of laughs:

Cake cutting:

Wed 8/23, lunch at Lunch/Lobster Roll finally for Dave – he has only eaten at their North Shore second location as the original was closed for Showtime’s ‘The Affair’ filming.¬† Amazed it was only¬†a 15-minute wait!!¬† Dave preferred this lobster roll over the ‘all-tail’ roll at Silver’s, and at about half the price! I am more partial to the fish and chips! I saw one of the owners who used to come into Monastero’s all the time and marvel at how quickly Julie and I could bus a table – it wasn’t pretty, we would attack it and turn it over in record time.¬† He wanted to hire us away but I stayed loyal to Jack and Il Monastero! He is still¬†in my top 3 of bosses!

Longhouse Reserve:¬† This has been on the ‘list’ for some time and was well worth the visit (as the hours are very limited)! Longhouse Reserve is a museum, garden, and sculpture park founded by¬†Jack Larsen, a textile designer, author, and art collector.

The Dunes:

LongHouse & Pavillion:

deKooning Place – ah, yes, a deKooning original piece remained¬†in my Mom’s attic for some time (rolled up in a scroll with¬†a¬†rubberband)¬†– a ‘trade’¬†that my¬†Dad had done with¬†Willem deKooning¬†for electrical work.¬† Unfortunately¬†it had to be sold, way before its time, to pay for my father’s medical bills before he passed before his time.¬† We still joke to this day – are you sure there isn’t another one, rolled up with a rubberband, in the attic?¬† No such luck!

Kreye Canyon:

The tour continues:

More modern art:

Cobalt Reeds, Dale Chihuly (Dave and I always recognize his work – so colorful and whimsical!)

The tour concludes:

The tour concludes:

Fri, 8/25

Wolffer Estate winery:

After a tasty outdoor lunch at¬†my aunt and uncle’s¬†(and¬†playing with the dogs), we popped over to Wolffer for a glass of wine (the winery is literally spitting distance from my family’s place!). We have only¬†bought wine¬†from their shop before, never stayed¬†for a tasting or a glass, and glad we did.¬† It was¬†a beautiful day with¬†a nice view of the vineyard.¬† The¬†Grandioso Rose was fantastic, as was the The Grapes¬†of Roth Virgin Berry Riesling (my Aunt Eileen is a big fan now.)

Upcoming posts include our Labor Day rendezvous with our German safari friends and Don and Cathy in San Diego!


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 ‚Äď 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 ūüėČ 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! ūüôā¬†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 РDave 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 Рbottle 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 Рplease reach out to Tom for the best pricing for your vacation (and lots of great VIP extras gratis!)

Around town Рa must-do in Vegas for us are the 1-lb meatballs at Lavo at the Palazzo (get the recipe here Рany 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) РDave 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 РA 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 Рwork meeting Р7/31-8/2

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 ūüôā 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!