Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Life is Good!

Sometimes you just get lucky! Well -- in little ways! On Sunday, we decided to treat ourselves to lunch at Bravi, a gourmet Italian deli chain, after we'd gotten our monthly haircuts. I'd gotten an e-mail notice that they were having a 2 for 1 sale on their gourmet thin-crust pizzas for all those NCAA basketball fans.

Craig ordered the Italian Sausage/Carmelized Onion thin-crust and I decided on the 8-inch Fire-Roasted Chicken Breast. And two fountain drinks. The guy at the register rang them up and said "That'll be $6.35." I was astounded. I quickly asked him if he'd forgotten the fountain drinks since my pizza alone was $7.00 something? He indignantly replied, "I GOT them. $6.35 IS the total!" I could tell he was thinking 'old people.' Bravi's over in an area surrounded by retirement communities, and I'm sure we appeared ancient to this guy. And he's probably just very tired of being questioned by old people like us who are obviously 2 cans short of a 6-pack. Anyway, I thought maybe I'd misunderstood and he'd said $16.35, so I just handed him my credit card. He ran the credit card and sure enough -- the total was $6.35. What can I say? I wasn't going to ask him twice after his initial reaction. Sold -- I'll take it!

Two wonderful 8 inch gourmet pizzas,

Two Diet Cokes,

A lovely outdoor table in the Phoenix sun.

A young jackass who insists the tab is $6.35.


To top it off, we ran into some friends and had a good time talking to them. Craig suggested we go buy a lottery ticket on the way home!

It's the little things in life! : )

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tropical Rerun -- The Rock Factor

(I penned this little story after our month spent on Isla in April/May 2006. I think this was my first attempt at blogging on Bob's Isla Traveler's Board.)

I decided instead of a 28-day trip report --I'd give Bob's blogging a whirl. (Translation: We're back to our daily diet of rain here in Seattle and I'm bored.)

View from the Studio

View from the Studio

When I was on Isla, I noticed a great quote in Herman Wouk's Don't Stop the Carnival that reminded me of Isla:

Once you've been down here awhile, you begin to think you've turned over a rock . . . and there are always yet more rocks, kid, with more ugly little surprises always scuttling out from under them. Never a dull moment.

Now I'm not saying our beloved Isla is an ugly underbelly. But I now realize it's the rock factor that rips me out of my suburban frame of mind and keeps me coming back for more! I kept a catalog of the bizarre on this last trip. Some of it's printable and a lot isn't. One of my favorite moments was watching a pitbull fight during the dinner hour on Hidalgo. We'd just finished eating our lasagna at Angelos when chaos broke out in the street between Angelos and Bamboo. The big pitbull -- the one with the HUGE cajones -- was duking it out with a brown lab mix. (Larry is now deceased -- may he rest in peace!) They were growling and chasing each other up and down Hidalgo. The lab actually bit the pitbull on the ass, so I guess he won! Diners were scrambling to get out of the way while waiters hurried to try and break it up before people fled. A rowdy pitbull fight puts a real damper on the Bienvenidos sign. Watching the expressions on diners' faces was more entrancing than Javier's music.

The rock factor includes all the near calamities that come with the third-world infrastructure. My husband and I walk down the street yelling things at each other like HOLE, HOOK, TREE, SIGN, etc... On this last trip, a friend walked straight into an air-conditioner one night on the way to the ballpark for tacos. (There was an air-conditioner sticking out of a low window right into the sidewalk.) The impact was so hard it literally knocked him down onto his rear. Thank God he'd been drinking -- otherwise it would have REALLY hurt. There's also a hole in the sidewalk out by the ballpark taco stand that has a plank to traverse it. You could literally lose your leg in the hole! I guess that's why cuidado is probably the most frequently used word in Mexico.

Another day I was sitting on Juarez when the police truck passed. The guys in the back were busy getting their last blows in on the suspect before the truck turned the corner to the police station. (I guess I'll BEHAVE on Isla. But a friend reassured me they only treat locals that way.)

Anyway, whether it's the Easter bunnies and turkeys in the Christmas nativity scene, the stoned guy wearing the FBI t-shirt and hat, waiters lighting each other's rear ends on fire, or the short local guy limping down Hidalgo in the I'm Shy, But I've Got a Big Dick shirt, there's never a dull moment on Isla! And then -- there are all those stories of middle-aged American housewives gone wild. (Just KIDDING???)

Speaking of the rock factor, I've got a rock story from the trip. One morning, Craig and I rode bikes over to Playa Indio. I chilled out under a palapa while he fished at the end of the dock. After about 2 1/2 hours, I was starting to feel charbroiled, so I issued the ultimatum that I'd had way too much fun and was ready to go. He said, "Just ten more minutes. I'm trying some new bait and I know I'm going to catch something." After 20 minutes, I started out onto the dock to ring the final bell. He yelled, "Just a minute. I've got a barracuda." I hopped on down the dock (you have to hop because there are gaping holes where there IS no dock!) with the camera to get a picture of his catch.

Playa Indio

Playa Indio's

Craig Caught a Rock!

Nice rock, eh?!!!

Becky and Sailboats


Best Sunrise 2006

Best Sunrise 2006!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Is Anybody Listening?

I saw this on a 20/20 segment a week ago and it brought me to tears. If you're living in a part of the country that's unaffected by the current recession/depression, I thought it might be interesting for you to see what's going on out there in one of the harder hit areas. The only reason I say this is that a Texas friend recently expressed to me that she had no idea Arizona and California were parts of the country troubled by the current economic woes. I was a little amazed, but she said the area she's in really doesn't seem to be having any unemployment, real estate, or massive foreclosure problems yet. This video was made by students in Southern California. The 20/20 segment I saw went a little further than the video and interviewed some of the students in their homes (and apartments and homeless shelters) with their parents. They showed the empty refrigerators, kids confused by the dislocation, etc...

There was also a segment on the Nightly News last night showing shanty towns and tent encampments in California, Seattle, etc.... What's different now is that a lot of the people they interviewed were formerly from the middle class. They weren't the typical street people with problems such as mental illness, drug addiction, alcoholism, etc... that contributed to their current homelessness. Until the current economic debacle, they had decent jobs, owned homes, etc....

There but for the grace of God go I!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Wild Horses


Okay, I admit these horses aren't wild! Every day on my way to work, I pass this field and they look so beautiful in the early morning light. So the other evening I decided to ride my bike over and take some photos. I'm not sure what they're munching on, but they love it!


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Kiss My!

I have to admit, I'm an Obama fan and didn't vote for John McCain. But I loved his daughter Meghan's message to the rabid conservative woman who criticized her weight. In her words, "Kiss My Fat Ass!" Why in the hell are people (jerks) so obsessed with judging women on their weight. You go girl!

On a personal note, I've never been a featherweight. And I've had supposed professionals tell me that at the most inappropriate moments. In my 20's, I was in the hospital with a broken back in traction. My stupid male doctor seized the moment on his rounds to tell me I was 'chunky' and needed to lose 15 pounds. Alrighty there -- you take the I.V. and catheter bag off me and I'll go for a jog around the grounds! Another time, I was in my gynecologist's office worried sick over a lump I'd found in my armpit. Before examining the lump, the gynecologist told me I could really be a 'beautiful girl' if I'd just lose 15 or 20 pounds. That from an overweight balding middle-aged male.

So to all the jerks out there -- Kiss MY Fat Ass! :)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Down on the Farm!

Just another little bike ride through my rural surroundings! I see something new every trip.


Love this mailbox!


Cool cactus and windmill!


Getta load of this relic!


And a cactus with a LOT of character! Wish it could talk.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Almost Paradise!

It's just Almost Paradise around here now. I was out trimming some little palms in the courtyard Saturday and noticed this little birdie had popped out! The first tropical bird of the season! A Bird of Paradise! And speaking of paradise, the weather here has been stellar. It cooled down today (high 60's?), but it's still bright and sunny. And the temps are supposed to come back to the mid to high 70's this week. Too bad I'm indoors!

P.S. Get a load of the hairdo's in that video! LOL It's classic Kevin Bacon!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tropical Rerun

I originally posted The Brilliant Colors of Isla on my blog on Bob's Isla Travelers message board. The story's an installment in my November 2007 Isla trip report. Since my last beach trip was May 2008, I thought I'd post a little tropical rerun.

The Brilliant Colors of Isla

I guess I'll interject some hard truth into this semi-trip report. My last trip to Isla in February/March 2007 was not one of my favorite trips. I really enjoyed seeing some good friends from prior trips, and enjoyed making some new friends, but I detested walking out the front door of the hotel and being instantly surrounded by a crowd. I'm not a fan of crowds in general, so staying in the center of town at Plaza Almendros was not a great choice for me in high season! That being said, I met some great people at the hotel that trip, including a big group from Oregon/Washington and their friends from all over the country. But I just felt a disconnect the entire trip. I love to stay close to the water where I can hear the sound of the waves, see the sunrise/sunset, etc... Since I planned that trip last minute, the places I would have chosen to stay away from town were already booked. Anyway, I still enjoyed seeing all my friends from years past, but without the tug of close friends to pull me back, I'm not sure I would have returned to Isla this soon.

So, I was pleasantly surprised on my walk into town on the afternoon of October 29 (after dropping my bags at Luna d'Miel on the airport strip) to just be blown away by the brilliant colors of the island. Walking down Juarez by the Navy base, I was absolutely excited to be back on the island! After being surrounded by the browns and earth tones of the desert for the past year, the blues, oranges, yellows, pinks, lavenders, etc... absolutely thrilled me. And that set the tone for the rest of my trip! Not to mention, friends had included me in a special lobster dinner at Sancocho's that first evening, and the lobster was absolutely fantastic! I wish I'd gotten a picture of those lobster tails!


Late afternoon view from my room! I loved dozing in the hammock here after a day in town.


I passed this fellow at least four times a day on my walks in and out of town! He guards the entrance to Juarez.


The walk up Juarez by the Navy base.


The Eternal Toucan. It sits in a cage on Juarez across from the Navy base.


Love the bright colors on this house!


The local neighborhood mercado.


Colorful mosaic tiles on Juarez sidewalk


Interesting door on Juarez.

La Lomita.

I'm ashamed to admit I've never tried the bean soup here, but I love the exterior colors of the restaurant. (Actually I HAVE now tried the bean soup here as of May 2008 and it and the enchilada suizas are out of this world!)

Some days, I walked 10 miles including my circular morning walk around town, my second roundtrip into town for the beach and lunch, and an extra early evening walk back into town for shopping and dinner. I always took a taxi back out to the room after dark because I won't walk the airport strip alone at night. I got familiar with most of the homes, people, dogs, etc... on that strip of Juarez leading into town. Maybe too familiar. There was an older woman at the base of the hill before it climbs up to the Navy base that would absolutely give me the 'evil eye' every time I passed. I even heard the word 'puta' slip her lips once as I passed, and I have no idea what THAT was about!

But back to Juarez! There was also an unfriendly pitbull mix in that vicinity and his thoughts of me were evidently similar to those of the 'evil eye'. The first few times, his surprise bluster from the roof scared the holy crap out of me!

That stretch of Juarez by the Navy base is now a neighborhood in transition. I guess you'd call it gentrification. Way back on our first trip to Isla, I remember renting a golf cart and just trying to speed through that stretch because my perception was that of a really bad neighborhood. At that time, there was still a lot of rubble left from Hurricane Gilbert. One afternoon in November, as I was walking home, I noticed three guys in a rental mini-van coming down that stretch of Juarez with absolute 'deer caught in the headlight' looks on their faces. Gawking with looks of disbelief! I thought to myself -- it must be their first trip to Isla!

Anyway,I digress again. There's a lovely new three-story home on that stretch now that absolutely takes my breath away! The view through the glass front doors (it appears to be a very fashionable duplex) looks all the way through to the blue Caribe! In contrast,at the bottom of that hill, there's still a shack with trash, including an old mattress, heaped about the exterior. But as I was passing by the hovel one evening, I overheard the sounds of a happy family round the dinner table. What a great reminder to me that money is NOT always necessary for happiness!

And that's the intrigue that keeps pulling me back to Isla. It's that gritty third world charm! The beauty of Isla is not only in the cool vibrant colors of the Caribe, but also in the warm hearts of its people.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

I'm All Ears!

We saw this little fella on our bike ride last night. Isn't he cute!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Another Desert Flower

Caninabis Saby -- Early morning golden bloom which quickly fades in afternoon hours. Plant prefers frequent watering and feeding, and requires shade in extreme summer heat. Hardy in any zone.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Future's So Bright

When I emerged from the lockdown (JUST KIDDING) at lunch yesterday to have my pasta salad, I noticed I was the only one out of five women at the table who had on sunglasses. It was midday in the bright Arizona sunshine! Didn't anybody else get the memo? You know, the one that says you need to protect your eyes from those bright rays? The one that says UVB rays that burn the skin can damage the eyes? You'll get cataracts! Believe me, I KNOW what cataracts are! Despite my diligence with the sunglasses, I already have them big time! My eye doctor says I'll probably qualify for the insurance paid surgery in another five years.

Growing up in Kansas, I don't think I ever wore sunglasses. Well, maybe occasionally, if I wanted to make a fashion statement. I think the shades became a necessity for me in the 20's when I started to worry about getting early crow's feet. Once we moved to the Northwest, there was something about the glare, even on drizzly days, that made me whip them out. So maybe I'm like a little varmint emerging from a hole in the ground everytime I step out my front door now? Blinded by the light? Sunglasses are a necessity for me now because of the cataracts. According to my eye doctor, my eyes are ulta-sensitive to the light. I sometimes get unbelievable headaches (especially on Isla!).

So what's up with all these middle-aged people down here in Arizona who don't wear sunglasses?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Monday Update

Beck's First Day at Work

Gosh, I learned a LOT on my first day of work. Get there early for a decent parking place. Always wear the badge. Paperwork paperwork. And watch out for that little miniature leaf blower they insert in newbies' ears to blow all the brain cobwebs out! YIKES! The collection of dust bunnies that blew out my other ear was fairly amazing!

Monday, March 16, 2009


Well, today's the big day. Up at 6 a.m. and off to worky worky! I'd tell you what I'm doing, but then I'd have to kill you. Tee hee. Not really, but I am doing something where I had to sign a confidentiality agreement and I'm not supposed to talk about it! I'll try to keep up with the blogging, but you have to know it won't be quite as consistent! See ya later!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Desert in Bloom

We took a little bike ride over to the park on Saturday and I got some cool pics! The desert wildfowers are all in bloom!

I'd never noticed this lane across the road!

Not sure, but I think these are globemallow?

This cactus is on lifepole support!

I didn't have my book with me, but these might be brittlebush.

Baja Fairy Duster!

These tall palms are extremely expensive. The neighborhood to the west of us (another developer gone belly-up) has these around the perimeter. Wish I could afford them around my house!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Pocketful of Sunshine!

You'd think I was headed to prison with Bernie Madoff next week! I've been seizing the days to soak up the sun. Not sunbathing because I get enough sun down here when I'm out and about -- but just taking walks and biking, having coffee with friends at outdoor tables, etc.... Seizing the moments before I start my indoor life next week!

The weather's been absolutely perfecto this week with highs in the 70's and sun, sun, sun. Overnight temps are still dipping down into the 50's, so the windows are open at night. The little birdies are chirping in the morning and the doves are mourning. And occasionally Mr. Bumpus is still providing that 6 a.m. wakeup call!

I realize sometimes I've forgotten what it's like to live in a normal four season climate. When I call my mother, she'll mention the snow or cold and it almost puzzles me. I feel like it's already summer! It definitely LOOKS like summer! Maybe that's why I have a hard time down here in Arizona keeping track of months and dates!

Anyway, I'm soaking up that sun now while I still can! Next week is supposed to be unseasonably warm with temps in the high 80's and even 90's, so maybe I'll be glad to be in that indoor A/C climate (and not paying to run mine at home!).

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Carnival Comes to Town!

When I pulled into the gym parking lot this morning, I thought maybe someone had spiked my coffee! But then I realized the City of Chandler is setting up for its annual Ostrich Festival. Way back when, probably in 2002, they used to have the festival in downtown Chandler and we just happened to be staying at the San Marcos Resort that weekend and could walk right out into all the festivities. For free! There was a huge arts and crafts fair, carnival rides, ostrich races, ostrich tacos to eat, funnel cakes -- you get the picture. Now the city has the event at Tumbleweed Park and charges a rather heavy entrance fee. $9 per adult and an extra fee for parking. So for the two of us, we'd spend in the $25 range just getting in the gate! I think we'll sit it out this year!

The ostriches are the reason for the festival! I'm not sure if there's a historical reason why they're the honored guests, but the city sponsors ostrich races, lets little kids pose with an ostrich to have their pictures taken (for a fee), serves ostrich meat in various dishes, etc.... I'm sorry Big Bird, but ostriches are rather nasty birds. Definitely not like show dogs or show horses! They're kind of dirty, they spit, and they're not friendly. What's not to love?

I thought the ferris wheel and colorful rides looked so pretty against the blue Arizona sky!

And I couldn't resist freaking some fotos!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Few More Northwest Summer Pics!

One of our absolute favorite summer places in the Northwest is Whistler, British Columbia. We haven't been since all the construction started for the 2010 Winter Olympics, but I found a few digital photos from much earlier in this decade. My camera then was way low on pixels, and I'm sure the landscape up there has changed significantly with a lot more construction. I wish I had more photos of the actual mountains. I'll have to look for some of my old photo albums from the time before digital, but here are a few favorites.

Whistler Sunset

Float Plane on Green Lake

My mom and I with one of those glorious Whistler flower baskets!

Beck Extreme

Horseshoe Bay just north of Vancouver.

Alta Lake

That's a bike helmet on my head. We always took our mountain bikes to Whistler in the summer and rode the trails from north of town clear out to the old village. Whistler has a string of lakes. Lost Lake, Green Lake, Alta, Nita -- I can't even remember all of them. But the trails along the lakes are wonderful for riding bikes! And the lakes are great for kayaking! We always stayed up on Blackcomb Mountain and used our bikes to get around town.

After the 2010 Winter Olympics are over, we'll be headed back to Whistler for a summer trip! It's been summer construction hell up there ever since they got the bid for the Olympics. Hopefully, we'll still recognize the area.

By the way, the drive to Whistler (I promise to search my photo albums) is an absolutely beautiful summer road trip! The road north from Vancouver, the Sea to Sky Highway, follows Howe Sound up to Squamish and then climbs through the mountains to Whistler. If you ever get to Vancouver, B.C. in the summer, don't miss the drive to Whistler!