Tucson Arizona the Paradise of Gem and Mineral Lovers

January 30, 2019 at 4:52 pm (Uncategorized)

As I am on the cusp of yet another Tucson gem and mineral show season I look forward to seeing old friends, colleagues, and friendly competitors.

The atmosphere is both professional and circus like. On the one hand we have all the high end traditional buyers from prestigious museums, worldwide buyers from the top jewelry ateliers, and we are in giant tents with port-o-pottys. Are you getting the picture?  Coffee stands, fast food and if you are lucky someone making fresh salads. I tend to stock my cooler each morning.

In the days leading up to my particular show which is trade only and very prestigious I have time to get in my truck and traverse the far corners of Tucson for some of the retail shows selling cashmere from Nepal, purveyors of old west ephemera, Salt from Pakistan in every shape imaginable and rare and unusual minerals from the world over. The sellers are actually from the countries where the items are mined, manufactured or otherwise procured and often speak limited English. Hand gestures come in handy. There are two schools of thought when shopping for yourself or your business. Go the first days for best selection (items often sell out) or wait until the end days of these lengthy shows (some last more than two weeks) and get best prices from weary vendors not wanting to haul it all back to Timbuktu.

I used to fall into the latter category as I needed to see how much coin I had made and would attempt to consult my crystal ball on what volume of goods I may need for my jewelry business for the year. Thankfully I am mostly retired and seek to purchase gifts  for loved ones so I now prefer best selection.  last year I purchased what seemed like a wholesale quantity of cashmere scarves for my cold weather friends and family. The colors and styles made minimalist me take pause. I also procured geodes from Morocco which when tapped with a hammer yield a hidden crystal cave for my grandsons as well as other mineral specimens. I bought a much needed hand carved bench for my home and crystals for my daughter.

I’m not a big shopper so this is the big shopping trip of my year and I try to be mindful of not adding other people’s clutter but to bring a spark of joy with with my treasures.

If you have never been to Tucson for the shows you may want to put away your snow shovel and come on over. You will enjoy the massive displays of rare minerals and priceless gems even if the only thing you buy is a bag of hot candied pecans made in front of you in a big copper kettle.

 

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My recent travel article in Huffpost

January 25, 2019 at 2:13 am (Uncategorized)

https://m-huffpost-com.cdn.ampproject.org/v/s/m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_5c40befae4b041e98ffbd059/amp?amp_js_v=a2&amp_gsa=1&usqp=mq331AQCCAE%3D#referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com&amp_tf=From%20%251%24s

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Water: It’s More Vital than You Think!

September 26, 2016 at 7:30 pm ($hit I learned living off grid, Eating Nature, Freedom, Letting go, Life skills or hacks, Uncategorized)

Snow is Water Disguised as a Ground Cover20160429_105857

 

Sometimes you can’t always tell how many days water you have left as the lid is frozen on the cistern and you can’t peek inside. This is where tracking days since the previous delivery, doing some quick and dirty calculations regarding horse’s usage and whether or not anyone took a shower at home comes in.

We ran out of water during a storm and had a five gallon for drinking indoors. We needed to be able to flush the toilet, wash dishes and keep the horse trough full. Hmmm I see nearly a foot of snow on the ground and more coming every minute. We got out the big soup pots and started filling them and put them on the wood stove. As the snow became water we added more until it was enough to boil for dishes and add to the nearly frozen trough. We became quite proficient at this method and were able to carry on until the roads were clear for the giant water truck to come up with our 3500 gallons.

I started hand washing some delicates in my hot snow water at this point as the laundry mound was starting to look like a miniature mountain peak aka Blanca. Whether or not the sun is shining laundry dries here as you hang it. Low humidity combined with sunshine make for a scent the laundry soap makers have yet to duplicate. Winter Mountain Breeze with piney accents is my new laundry scent. I really started to enjoy this process and laughed out loud when the laundry was dry but stiff as a board. No problem! A minute or two above the wood stove hangers on the log rafters and it was back to dry and soft. The wind is a natural softener.

We used melted snow to water the potatoes growing in the green house…I use the term greenhouse with levity and brevity! It was colder in the winter and hotter in summer. More of a covered porch with no insulation and ready to use with complimentary chipmunks to gnaw on anything you start from seed. We once had one scurry inside and it ran in my daughter’s room. It was hollering and cussing at her as the dogs barked and she captured him eventually in a box to be released outdoors.

In the late spring after the perma frost had thawed we finally had a well dug. More on that at a later date.

Lesson: You never really know what you are capable of until faced with ridiculous situations and you may even come to enjoy not only the process but the alternate way of doing things. I learned to chop water and carry wood and be joyous in it all.

 

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Essential Needs in a Minimalist Life

September 19, 2016 at 7:20 pm ($hit I learned living off grid, Freedom, Health, Letting go, Life skills or hacks, Red Carpet, Style, Uncategorized)

20160418_113812Why Fashion No Longer Matters and Style within Function is Everything.

 

The wardrobe I brought from California included dresses made by up and coming California designers, quality vintage, business slacks, skirts and silk blouses and few pairs of blue jeans and tee shirts. My shoes included boots for riding and white leather Keds for sailing, leather flip flops and a couple of pair of high end kitten heels.

One year later I one two more pairs of boots for snow and rain, and haven’t worn most of my old life shoes. The snow boots were worn almost daily this winter as we receive a fair amount of snow frequently (November through May) and in drop loads of six or more inches at a time.

The jeans I brought were of the pre torn variety with cute embroidered flowers I had added. I had to make patches to cover the tears or freeze even with leggings underneath. My sensible daughter found this rather hilarious. Quality leggings matter as they need to be worn often. I now look at blue jeans with a different eye. Now is the weight of the cotton going to stand up to riding, barn chores, wood cutting, horse slobber, poo and getting stabbed at by unruly pinyon branches? Are there weak areas that are likely to tear? None of this spandex added for better fit! That makes for a weaker jean…I know it is a fact. I need boot cut as I am wearing them the bulk of the time and skinny jeans are just nonsense for so many chores and must be tucked into boots.

I have literally worn out most of my favorite long and short sleeve tees. They are cleaning rags now. I know that the cost difference in a quality tee versus fast fashion is worth every penny. Carrying a chicken back from the edges of danger means you may get a gougey chicken toenail poked through your shirt. Quality ones hold up cheap don’t.

Socks have taken on religious significance. Find a favorite and stock up. Comfort and quality are important far beyond the unicorn print or the frilly lace top. No microfibers or synthetics…ever. I never really wore socks much except when riding so this flip floppin’ girl had loads to learn. This isn’t about any certain number of pairs but enough to change once or twice a day and get me until laundry day…which may have been postponed due to a storm a day or three.

Cashmere sweaters rock. They are the perfect layer between shirt and jacket. I had to sacrifice three to daily wear and have mended two numerous times including making elbow patches. The third one has now become patching parts. The red sleeve is a sweater for the tiny dog to keep him warm and visible in snow. He can layer it under his winter jacket.

Cotton Knit camisoles are my religious garment. I have always got at least one on except in our delicious brief summer. Enough to get to laundry day 45 miles away in town but not so many they take up precious space needed for leggings and socks.

Hat means cowboy hat if you don’t want to fry your face off. Baseball caps are groovy and all but lack protection from sun, random tree branches your horse rides you through in the woods and keeps rain out of your eyes. I have given away most of my old hats. I have a summer cowboy hat and a winter one.

I had moments where I felt like Goldie Hawn in Private Benjamin but I too had chosen this and knew it would in time reveal many new splendors. I also felt like Ava Gabor in Green Acres and some days I felt like Eddie Albert her husband. The personal growth I have attained is beyond measure.

So I guess this past year I have learned to buy clothes for the life I have not some version of who I think I am supposed to be or a persona I represent. These clothes are the real me in my real ranch life.

 

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When Minimalism and the Simplicity Movement Meet Off Grid Homesteading you have Vitalism.

September 12, 2016 at 7:17 pm (Eating Nature, Freedom, Letting go, Life skills or hacks, organized simplicity, Relationships, simple frugality, Travel, Uncategorized)

Vitalism is the necessary, basic and crucial needs of day to day life.

 

20160217_145306My daughter and I moved from our urban family home in San Diego a year ago. We moved to a very rural part of Colorado. High in the mountains at almost 9000’ elevation in the wooded foothills of the Sangre de Cristo range. Our home is totally off grid as there are no power or water or trash services. We do have county maintained roads…sort of.

We bought a vacation home built in 2009 and finished… well, not quite yet. We have solar and wind for power and propane for our kitchen appliances. Our water was trucked in for the first ten months we were here and put into underground cisterns. We had to have deliveries once a month at a cost of approximately $250.00. In order to conserve water we joined the community center in town about twelve miles away. There we could take hot showers and wash our hair, visit the tiny library with dodgy internet and go for a swim in the Olympic size indoor pool or use the gym and full size basketball court. We have a shower in our bathroom so we can take short showers if needed.

We produce more power than we can store so sometimes we would run out at night when the horse trough heater went on in the winter. We now know to vacuum or use the blender in peak sunshine hours and not at the same time to err on the safe side.

I moved out here with a small sports car and all my sorted, sifted and downscaled belongings. In my second week I was heading to town on a sunny day after the previous night’s rain and got stuck in a deep mud pocket about a mile down the dirt road from home. It was time to trade in the eleven year old sports car for a truck with 4 wheel drive. I have always driven sports cars so this decision was not based on the same criteria as previous vehicles but rather my new found vitalism. This has been a very different driving experience.

In late October while I was on a road trip my daughter called to tell me our county’s finest had just left after she called them out because poachers were hunting on our land…er in our driveway. Yes Elk and Deer and their corresponding predators live in our area. We have “neighbors” here and some are a half mile away others several miles and not all live here year around. Hmmm perhaps a post and 4 strip barbed wired fence is in order or the dental implants I need to have done? Vitalism dictates the fence was the priority. No question.

I will leave you reader with one thought before I end today’s chapter…Why didn’t we move to an area which is on grid or move to a town or city? We wanted to be more responsible for our carbon footprint and not subject to every power price increase, blackout, brownout or other grid failures. We no longer wanted to board our horses and wanted a big garden and woods to call our own. We are conservationists at heart.

 

 

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Optimism Redefined

January 14, 2015 at 1:27 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

I have been enjoying a renewed sense of self the past couple of years. This year I experienced loss in a beautiful way. This has allowed me to reflect on the nature of love and loss and impermanence. I now know that love never leaves. True love does indeed last forever whether or not you are in the physical reality of each other.

Spending time alone with my horse has brought me to a new place of appreciating alone time and the optimism which comes from self reflection. I had the opportunity to reconnect with someone I used to hold dear to my heart. We spent a couple of weeks getting to know each other again and he was ready to move forward. I realized I was ready to move on. I still love him and always wish him well but our journey together is complete…at least for now. I have learned from another never to say never.

I have found surprising joy in my choice to let this relationship go. I find joy in the everyday company of myself as I plan my journey forward and my move back to France and eventually Portugal. I wake up each day excited about getting my business in order and ready to create new art in a new country. I no longer require another person to tell me how beautiful or special I am. I know deep in my heart I am unique and special in my own way and when I am ready to share me again I will remember that fact. ❤

I look forward to a healthy love with someone as independent as I am and one who understands we cannot change others to fit our mold. I surprise myself at how often I say no when I could easily say yes. My path is my own for now.

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Cadillac Ranch and Other Roadside Attractions

July 16, 2014 at 3:35 pm (Art, Freedom, Letting go, Travel) (, , , , )

As I roll across the Southwest with the cruise control on I see incredible vistas and postcard colors all unfurl before me like a movie about my life I am starring in.

My first day driving alone finds me heading east on the 40 towards Amarillo Texas across the New Mexico sands. Beautiful reds, pinks and oranges abound in the deserts and cliffs under the hot sun.

Passing signs for Indian fry bread, moccasins and other assorted native American offerings I see a cliff with an assortment of tepees spread over the edge looking down on the gift shops below…Tepees I think? They were on the plains, shouldn’t there be a wigwam or a pueblo like the ones some families still lived in when I crossed this desert as a child?  Maybe some still do but certainly not a tepee in this climate.

I speed on down the road and finally cross into Texas with a feeling of accomplishment. I am now further away from California and closer to Pennsylvania my destination on this journey. This sense of freedom, of being alone with my own thoughts is very intoxicating.

20140520_165525Entrance onto the “ranch”.

Meanwhile at the Cadillac Ranch…20140520_165534This art installation was commissioned by an oil heir and produced by the art group Ant Farm in the 1970’s. It has stood the test of time as people flock to see and unusual sculpture and write their own message or paint their colors on the many layers. When I was there most of the tourists were French and enjoyed getting their pictures taken with the oddity.20140520_170238My message. After this I head to my host’s home for some country music as his band rehearses in the living room before a supper of grass grown local beef and spaghetti.Cal Worthington has some Caddies It really is quite beautiful to behold and sparks some interesting conversations.

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The Southwest and Traveling Companions

July 5, 2014 at 5:04 pm (Freedom, Letting go, Life skills or hacks, Relationships, Travel) (, , , , , , )

As the time to head out on my epic journey through mountains and deserts looms I am still scrambling to complete my Couchsurfing stays. I had a last minute reschedule in Albuquerque and Lexington so I am flexible in the fact that I may be visiting a La Quinta Inn at some point or other.

I get a notice with an invite to stay in Albuquerque and breathe a sigh of relief. Early next morning I meet my rideshare companion at the Chevron station in my neighborhood for the trip to Phoenix. I offered a ride to Phoenix since I knew exactly when I was leaving and the whole car is going so at least I can assuage my fossil fuel guilt by bringing someone along. He is a nice young man who was visiting family here due to a death and needed a ride back to a Phoenix ‘burb nearby my cousin.

20140518_125758 I drop him at his home and head over to my cousin’s for some lunch before he heads off to work.

20140518_121133This is his glorious keychain collection…well a part of it anyhow.  Next morning after a lovely visit with more cousins I head of to Albuquerque and man is it warming up! I head over to another Couchsurfer’s house to pick him up for a rideshare to Albuquerque to pick up a car. He had offered me a place to stay and we even met for coffee the day before but I was staying at my cousin’s. He mentioned going to Albuqueque sharing a ride with a 90 year old man the next day so I offered to give him a lift. Sharing took a six hour drive and made it feel like three! We shared snacks and funny stories and I promised to visit on my return route. Again, half my gas paid and a delightful companion.

20140519_132636Welcome to New Mexico!

Next episode I start driving alone on to Texas the lone star state.

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Couchsurfing, the New American Dream

July 4, 2014 at 8:41 pm (Freedom, Letting go, Life skills or hacks, Relationships, Travel) (, , , )

20140704_133723

When I was in the planning stages of my trip east to check on the vacant (not) lot I was faced with many decisions. Do I fly and rent a car? Do I get an extended stay hotel? Do I get in my neighbor’s hot tub time machine and never bid on the property. Scratch the flying…about the hot tub? No no that’s ridiculous no one uses a hot tub in summer!

I run the numbers and decide that I would rather drive and enjoy all the hours with myself on the open highways and byways of America aka ‘Murika. Land of my people. Now hotels and motels are pricey and we’ve all had the Facebook friend post Oprah’s warnings on bed bugs and worse at even the finest establishment. This leaves one obvious option…couchsurfing.

I have been a member since 2008 and only started hosting mid 2013 and I loved the interesting people it brought right into our sitting room. I have never actually couchsurfed up to this time.

I start planning my trip and itinerary based on miles per day. I want to get across within a week but not become big rig wrangler. Capiche? So I decide 5 to 6 hours a day of driving is the range I’m looking at and choose cities I want to visit.

First stop out of California. Phoenix. I glom onto my thoughtful, fun, generous, and did I mention fun cousin Doug. Hey Doug I’m coming your way for the first night! He quickly reminds me the epic saga of Trail of Two Brothers is about to commence in Cleveland so I have only a very small window of days. Okay okay I can do this I tell myself. This is the same self who told me to buy the vacant lot.

On the Couchsurfing.org website I begin to plot out my trip by searching for hosts with an available couch, have high response rates, positive ratings and sound like my definition of cool people I’d want to hang with before retiring after my long day. I’m also hoping they have hot water for showers! Great profiles and interesting people on here I think as I scroll through the myriad choices in big cities,  and much smaller group of hosts to choose from in places like Albuquerque and Lexington. I begin by writing why I will be in that town and then another essay on why I want to stay with a particular host. I send off several for each town with a flexible date range. and wait for the responses to come in…

Next up… (cue music here) Heading out on the open road.

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My Mythic Journey

June 27, 2014 at 5:33 pm (Eating Nature, Freedom, Letting go, Relationships, Travel) (, , , , , , , , , , )

What began as an attempt to find a future from my past, became a lesson in moving forward, literally.

1617144_543405139099630_39619861_o During the past few years I have cared for my elderly parents in our family home. A fulfilling time and one which often left me too exhausted to think of what I should be doing to keep my creativity unfolding.

Soooo here I was trolling the internet and auction websites when I spotted a vacant lot in the town next to where my favorite former boyfriend lives. My thought was, hey maybe I could plant a native apple orchard and set it up low maintenance and let a local permaculture group or food bank tend it and keep the produce. *Let me interject here it is clear across these here United States from where I live and my pony lives. So with a giggle the universe grants my ridiculous wish and I find myself the owner of a very cheap lot in a suburb of Pittsburgh. Brilliance or lunacy? We shall see.

Over the next months my folks are aging faster and the complications of life which come along with this keep me from thinking about the lot. The tax bill comes and frankly it is a bit high for I assume is a vacant lot in a rust belt town. I pay it and again forget about the property. Over the winter I convince two friends to drive down from Pittsburgh to check on said property and take some photos. Here is what they sent.

1618499_10152235863228081_73801170_nNOT pretty and clearly NOT VACANT!  Oh my said I! What have I gotten myself into?  So now I realize this idea falls under the heading of lunacy. I begin to think I need to go and settle this matter and make a decision about the future of this “investment”.

Meanwhile my folks are reaching the end of their lives and I put this on the back burner. Over seven weeks in the Spring I lose them both. After the memorials are over I realize I need a vacation to clear my head and I need to go handle the vacant lot (NOT) situation.

Obvious solution…roadtrip! I could easily have a booked a cheap ticket on SouthWest airlines and squeezed my horse riding booty self into a toddler sized seat in a flying tin can for a few hours with affable flight attendants bearing cookies and cocktails after a solid groping by the TSA’s finest, or…I could drive my trusty nine year old Acura RSX Type S car across this beautiful country, visit places, folks and meet new friends. I chose to take the longer route. Was it cheaper?…not by a long shot. Was it a fulfilling adventure I will cherish forever? Yes.

Sometimes life takes us down roads we can’t understand until we have driven over them. What I got in the long run from a late night auction mistake moved me forward and left the past on the road behind me.

Next episode…planning the trip and why I chose to use Couchsurfer.org as my hotel accommodations.

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