December Wrap-Up

It has been a while since I have talked about everyday life so I thought I would touch on some highlights from the month of December. I have not been giving health updates for Mother because she asked me not to, but I thought it would be OK to share some positive news. We set up lymphedema and pulmonary therapy. First up was lymphedema therapy, the evaluation was December 4 and since then, she has had one to two treatments per week. The therapist is wonderful, I met her during the evaluation and the facility is about 10 minutes from home in a building both Mother and Kuochun are very familiar with. This means I can drop her off, go home and pick her up in an hour. There have been a few 7:30 AM appointments because there was nothing else available but thankfully those are past us now. At this time, the large boots for at-home treatments are not needed but the therapist will try everything so Mother has all of her options. At the first of the year, Medicare will cover compression garments and the order will be promptly placed for garments that have alternating Velcro straps, which are so much easier to put on than conventional stockings. For now, conventional stockings are applied after every treatment which is mostly massage. Mother's legs are the smallest I have seen in a long time so the hope is the therapy will keep her out of the hospital.

After the lymphedema evaluation, Mother needed to go to UPS and on the way I spied Modern Market. I have passed it by a number of times these past three years and always wanted to check it out. I thought it was a gourmet grocery store but it turns out it is a breakfast and lunch restaurant housed in a very cool mid-century modern building. I loved the architectural details!

Good thing it was lunchtime, so we did not miss a beat and ordered lunch. I selected the basil chicken sandwich and Mother chose the curry sweet potato soup with hibiscus lemonade and later decided to get a margherita pizza. My sandwich was fantastic, simple but so delicious. There are great bread bakeries in Arizona and it was evident that the bun came from one of them. I loved their concept of fast food but healthy. Everything is made from scratch. We will definitely be back again!

We made a couple of trips to Costco this month and it was a good thing we picked up the Christmas cookies assortment on our first visit. Those cookies were out of this world, especially the sugar and the chocolate chip M&M. However although the gingerbread cake was totally adorable, I did not love the cake part. We returned to Costco last week to get more cookies and strangely enough they were not there. There were only apple and pecan pies like they had for Thanksgiving. Next year I will plan accordingly and get two containers!

After much deliberation, I decided on the Airbnb to book for our Tucson trip. I know it is only a week, but last year's trip did not go well with me not only being very sick most of the time but my choice of place to stay being a real flop. This time, I gave careful consideration to choosing a home which would be comfortable for everyone, right down to the regular sidewalks in the neighborhood which makes it way easier to walk the girls. This home is on the east side of town and less than 20 minutes from the shows. I sprung for the lodging and Kuochun is going to rent a larger vehicle, most likely a minivan. Our Hyundai Kona is kind of small for three people, two dogs and everything we need to bring with us, as well as the goodies I plan to bring back! There is also no climate control in the back seat. When Mother and I drove to New York for Rachel's wedding, we rented a Chrysler Pacifica which was very comfortable. I brought along lots of silver jewelry to polish and it is a good thing I did because except for the wedding day, the weather was lousy with cold and rain so we really did not go anywhere.

We are also going to rent a travel scooter, so Mother has the freedom to go where she wants during the shows. My only concern is one of the shows is in a big tent and they run electrical cords across the aisles, covered with plastic ramps. I was not able to get the wheelchair over these ramps and Mother had to get out of the chair and walk over them every time. The rental for the week is $145 as opposed to $40 for a wheelchair but I think it would be a good experience to see how difficult it is to take apart and put together for me and to see how Mother likes using a scooter. Interestingly enough, at pulmonary therapy both therapists Mother has seen said they do not want her to get a scooter at all. They feel that if she puts in the work, she can do with a nice walker which would allow her to sit down if she has trouble breathing. They do not feel scooters allow their patients to progress which makes total sense. I agree with the therapists but do not believe Mother will ever be able to walk a great distance such as covering a flea market or one of the gem shows. It would be nice to compromise and have the scooter for big events and use the walker for regular size stores and restaurants.

We had an appointment at the pulmonogist which is "up north" so afterwards I decided to make a run to Fountain Hills which is not too far from there. Normally we really enjoy visiting Fountain Hills but this visit was kind of a bust. We ate at Georgie's, the food was just OK. It happened to be farmer's market day and I took Mother in the wheelchair up and down inclines for about a mile, it was a workout! Baker Thirteen was there, I always buy from her but since it was towards the end of the day the selection was not great. I did pick up a few items but they were not my favorites. My favorite bread of hers is the Apricot Walnut but she did not have any. We went to the gift shop where I have had great luck in the past purchasing jewelry props including driftwood, petrified wood, wooden animals and interesting baskets. Sometimes the owner is in a helpful mood and sometimes she is not. This was a not day. I expressed interest in a long piece of petrified cactus and she said it was not for sale, she would never sell it, her husband cleaned it, etc. I thought so why is it out on the selling floor? For the first time, I left there empty handed. I think we are good on Fountain Hills for a long while.

In my last blog I mentioned that if I could keep unexpected expenses at bay, it would be a great help. However that went out the window with a trip to the dentist. I had never been to another dentist in about 40 years but since we are spending time in Scottsdale, I needed to branch out and find a new one. A dentist's office which is a 2-minute drive down the street continually caught my eye and we had also received postcards from them so I thought I would give them a try. I was able to book an appointment online exactly 6 months from my last appointment so I could stay on schedule. They have a program for those who do not have dental insurance - $399 for a year which includes two cleanings and 30% off anything else that is needed. It was good that I opted into the program. I was there for two hours on my first visit - the first hour for X-rays and evaluation and the second for a deep cleaning on one side of my mouth. This required a couple of big shots of Novocaine. All my teeth were mapped out and it was determined that I had the beginnings of a cavity between two teeth and a fractured molar in the back. I had a ton of dental work done as a kid and something that I have never understood was that the orthodontist never aligned my four back molars, creating pockets that are challenging to keep clean. One of these molars is fractured in more than one place due to a metal filling and would eventally break if not attended to. The week after this visit, I had the other half of the deep cleaning done and the cavity taken care of. I am sure glad they do not use metal fillings anymore. I had been using a Quip toothbrush for about 3 years and although it looks cute on the countertop, it is not that effective. I purchased a state of the art Oral-B and a Waterpik at the dentist's office and dental care is going to be more involved than before. I will need to go every 3 months for cleanings for now, meaning I will keep my June appointment in Park Ridge. I totally feel that this office is on the up and up and was not trying to run up my bill. I have been very pleased with my experience so far. The dentist even said thanks for giving us a chance. The hygenist has been working there for 10 years and said there are a lot of bad offices out there but this is a good one. I will get the crown next month and everything is adding up to about $3,000 after discounts. My March cleaning should be paid for though as part of the program. It is not good timing at our slowest time of the year but I am a big believer in the importance of dental health and it needs to be done. Kuochun will be up next, he is a little scared but I told him it was an excellent experience and the hygenist is very gentle. I think Mother will go too when she is ready.

After my first dentist visit, I had not eaten all day and even though my mouth was still numb my stomach was growling. A group decision was made to head over to ZuZu's for happy hour. After years of checking out their Showstopper Shake which changes monthly, we finally were going to get one! This month it is Buddy's Breakfast, which was mainly chocolate and mint. It was good but chocolate overload for this non-chocoholic. We also got short rib empanadas and fancy tater tots. Kuochun chose two oysters and parmesan fries. I enjoyed what I ordered but Kuochun did not love the oysters. The fries were a big hit with Mother and Kuochun. Even though I was not feeling great it was fun to go and would definitely do it again when the shake is a non-chocolate flavor. My only negative observation was that there were no special non-alcoholic drinks.

Pulmonary therapy started up as well, there are two therapists Mother will be working with and I was able to meet one of them at the evaluation December 12. She was also excellent and knows her stuff. This therapy will concentrate on exercise so I think this is a great one-two punch with the combination of massage and exercise. This rehab center is about 25 minutes from home so it is too far to go home in between. I have been just waiting in the parking lot making the best of things, trying to work on my phone. I would have no problem waiting inside but the waiting area is extremely small. We made the trip up there on a Friday afternoon, only to have the receptionist tell Mother she did not have an appointment. What a goof-up because we knew she did and she was even able to prove it once we arrived home.

HomeGoods and Marshalls are nearby so I took Mother there to make up for it. She bought a pretty holiday wreath by Martha Stewart and some holiday goodies such as hot cocoa mix, nonpareils and a big glass jar filled with shortbread cookies. We both saw them at the same time and were impressed, it was a combination of plain, chocolate and chocolate chunk cookies. At $49.99 we knew it was something special but I Googled it. They are Mary MacLeod's shortbread cookies from Canada and the flavors are classic, Dutch chocolate and chocolate crunch. They sell them for $75.00 on their website and free shipping does not kick in until the order is $100.00 or more so we felt it was a great opportunity to try them. Shortbread cookies are not the most exciting but we thought they were delicious.

On our way out, I noticed that there was a Flower Child restaurant. This local chain is a favorite of Rachel and John when they visit. Mother has never been there but loved their soup when they brought it home for her. It was my first time and I was hesitant because I thought it was a vegetarian restaurant but we decided to give it a try. It can actually be vegan or vegetarian but they serve meat as well. I opted for a mix and match platter with chicken, gluten-free mac and cheese and sweet potato fries. It looked like something kids would choose but I really enjoyed it. Mother went with the Thai red pepper soup but it was very spicy and seemed to be causing breathing problems. I shared my fries with her to calm down the spicy. When she asked her therapist about it, she said make your own soup, do not eat soup in restaurants or from the grocery store. They just have way too much salt. So Mother made some chicken noodle soup with ingredients from Costco but also bought a bunch of prepared soups. It is always a work in progress!

On the evening of Tuesday the 19th we had a wonderful opportunity to visit the Desert Botanical Gardens for their Luminaria event at no charge through the senior center. Tickets are normally $39.95 per person. I saw the flyer posted when we went to exercise one day and I tried to sign up but the spots for our location were filled. I signed up for the waiting list then saw that the other senior center in town had three openings. The botanical garden is only 6 minutes from home and it was way out of the way to go to the other senior center location but I felt it was well worth it. Mother said someone called her and said to be at the senior center at 2:45. I thought it was strange because it said departure time was 4:30 online but I went with it. Turns out it was 4:30 so we waited in the library until then. It was just us and one other couple but we were totally shocked to see our transporation was a fancy party bus! None of us had ever been on a party bus before. It was all decorated on the inside and there were tons of colored lights. Some of my favorite Christmas songs were blasting and I LOVE Christmas music so I was happy! The photo cannot capture how festive the bus was. It turned out we also stopped at the senior center we normally frequent to pick up the rest of the participants. Mother had a good time talking with people on the bus. However, once we arrived, there was no plan. Everyone was to go off on their own and meet back at 7:20 PM. I thought we were going to stick together and there was going to be food served but that was OK, we went with it.

I took the photo above upon entry and the lighted green "plants" are actually glass sculptures by famed artist Dale Chihuly. Not too long after that, the sun set and it was difficult to see the plantings.

The musical entertainment scattered throughout the gardens was incredible! We were greeted by a group of old-fashioned Christmas carolers. I am not normally a fan of mariachi music but loved the charming band which was playing near the entrance. We could hear a brass band which we did not see personally but they sounded great as well. But the highlight was Traveler as shown above. I could not capture the beauty of this setting - the sky was gorgeous and the mountain in the background all lit up. Mother and Kuochun especially loved this unique and very talented band specializing in multi-cultural music. Just in the short time we stayed to listen, there were Gypsy, Middle Eastern, Celtic, Greek and Turkish influences. Mother had a cup of pork soup which she loved and we got some kettle corn to share. The only drawback is the area is not wheelchair-friendly, especially at night. But we all loved the experience and were glad to get out and do something fun for once. Next year one of the senior center staff said they would just have the bus go from the center which is closer for us.

Last Friday was house cleaning day and Mother had lymphedema therapy, so we headed out and by the time Mother's therapy was complete, the second floor had been completed so Kuochun and the girls could stay up there. I took Mother for some Christmas shopping she had wanted to do at Sphinx Date Co. Palm & Pantry and Old Town Jewels. She sent tins of dates and chocolates out to a couple of folks and picked up some goodies for herself. Mother cannot go there without getting a date shake, even at 10:30 AM. We had a much better experience there this time, the daughter is very friendly. After that, it was Old Town Jewels. I purchased a showstopper heart necklace which I knew was going to be too heavy and had them take four hearts off. They made the hearts into a pair of pendants and a pair of rings which I was going to resell. However Mother laid claim to the pendants, giving one to Rachel and keeping one. We picked out a ball and chain necklace to go with it for Rachel and Mother and I each got some shiny Navajo pearls.

After that, Irma was not finished cleaning so Mother asked me to take her to Central Phoenix so we could check out Rewind Consignment & Vintage. Rachel had been raving about it and went there more than once this last trip. I understand that these types of stores are hit or miss but we did not love it. The building is a cute cross between Art Deco and 1950s but it smelled like incense everywhere which I do not care for. There were some nice items mixed in here and there but prices were very high. I felt like the store was a step above a thrift store and even though it is in the trendy part of town it was way more than I would pay for those items. Also, we had a lot of rain that day and there was a lot of furniture in the back of the building that got wrecked. The lady working there said 95% of their items are on consignment. If those were my consignment items I would be very upset. I am not sure how we missed this store because it is only two doors down from Modern Manor, a store we have been to several times. If I was looking for something and in the area I would give it another chance.

Rachel and John gave us a gift certificate for Valentine restaurant which is attached to Modern Manor. We were going to save it for a time when Kuochun was with us but decided to just go, since there was probably enough on the gift certificate to go twice. It is definitely a hipster place and Mother felt like a fish out of water with her oxygen machine. Patrons order at the counter/bar and the food is brought to them. I ordered a churro belgian waffle, along with a yogurt parfait and tater tots to share. Mother chose a wagyu burger and hatch chile yuzu lemonade. She made me try the lemonade which I did not want to do because I knew it was savory and it was the worst thing I have ever tasted in my life. I cannot explain how unpleasant it was. When the food runner came by, Mother said "I HATE THIS LEMONADE!" and he brought her a regular one which she did not like but I thought was perfect. The waffle was not bad but different because it was crunchy like a churro. I did not like the tater tots at all, they had seeds on top which is fine, I like seeds. I do not know if it was the oil they used but the taste was very strange. The yogurt parfait was odd as well, I knew it had tahini in it but it had a taste I could not get used to. After brunch, we walked around Modern Manor a bit. Customer service is non-existent there but they have an awesome collection of mid-century modern furniture. I collect Higgins glass and they had lots of pieces at reasonable prices. The entire time we were in there, there were no people to help. I had felt fortunate that the handicapped parking space was available, running parallel to the building very close to the door. Upon leaving, I had a very embarrassing moment - the backup camera didn't warn me and I knocked over a huge planter with a cactus inside. No one came out to assist so I just lifted the planter back into place and left. I felt bad leaving dirt everywhere. Unfortunately there is a big scuff on the bumper from the incident.

Even though it is the holiday break from estate sales I am still in the midst of paperwork. The paperwork break will come in January. I figured it out and if we end up with a 3-week break this year I will not have to do any paperwork the week we are in Tucson which would be a good thing. If we do not have any sales the first weekend of February which is entirely possible, I would not need to do a schedule either and we could get by without bringing the computer. But we probably will end up bringing it because there is a place to put it at the Airbnb and it is an all-in-one unit so it is not too bad to take on a car trip.

I am waiting until the new year to post new items for sale. I took inventory of the vintage Native American jewelry to be sure all of the pieces are accounted for in case anything sells. I am also in the midst of reposting the pieces I left in Scottsdale over the summer, making sure photos and descriptions are updated. I am going to apply to consign some of my best pieces with the Heard Museum. Their criteria is they are looking for pieces which are older than 1970, were made by a deceased artist or an artist of note. I am not sure who they are looking for as far as artists of note are concerned because there are so many but I do have cuff bracelets by Tommy Singer and Kirk Smith who are deceased and a number of pieces which I believe are older than the 1970s. I created a webpage with my information along with photos of these pieces so it is easy for them to evaluate. I am sure they get SO many requests for consignment but most people do not know what they have and will not present items to fit the criteria. There was such a big boom for Native American jewelry in the 1970s and the styles were very similar so I can understand why they would want to exclude these pieces. I will do my best not to waste their time and hope they will consider me, I think it is a big advantage that I am local as well as knowledgeable about the jewelry. It would be amazing to have the jewelry in place for the big Indian Fair & Market in early March. It is one of the largest in the world with 600 artists and people do come from all over the world to visit. We are so fortunate to be only 20 minutes away! The gift shop was jam-packed with shoppers when we were at the market in March and we cannot wait to go again.

I did post some of our downsizing sale items to Facebook Marketplace with mixed results. I sold Mother's headboard for $20 more than she paid and my desk lamp for $20 less than I paid. I thought I had the wine refrigerator sold, it was as is and only $200 for something that was $2,600 originally. I even helped the buyer put it in his vehicle and gave him a new moving blanket but he called the next day and said it was not cooling. He had lined up a repair person but they ended up not showing up. I guess I am not the only one to have this happen with service people here in the Phoenix area. He did not tell me that he was on a deadline and needed the refrigerator for a party that weekend. I am not in the frame of mind right now to argue with anyone so I just sent his money back by Zelle and he said he was going to donate it. I am glad to have the space since we now have the mini freezer in addition to the mini refrigerator in the garage for extra food storage.

The next step is to organize the garage and laundry room. There is still a lot of stuff to sell and I do not know if I will be able to get to it all while we are here but I will try. I am going to store items we are keeping such as the Christmas tree in the laundry room and bin up the clothing, shoes and accessories and put them online one piece at a time. The goal will be to get the car back in the garage again. I think I can do that with a power hour or two. I have been having trouble getting motivated to work on these projects because the amount of work to put it all online is overwhelming but know that I need to get going on it during the slow period for estate sales.

I also decided that 2023 is going to be the last year that I am going to save paper files for estate sales. I have never thrown away any files in the history of the estate sale business which is heading into its 16th year and still have old receipts from when we had our store. Everything is pretty organized but the volume of files has taken over the furnace room in Mount Prospect and has fully crept into the main room of the basement. I think I have only had to refer to old files once or twice in all these years so I will be purging the files for sure next summer. For 2024 and on, I will scan everything I keep in a paper folder and keep the images in the cloud. I already keep client files with their paperwork, preliminary photos and ad photos online. It will be awesome to not have to deal with these hundreds of paper folders every year.

I will probably take a break from the blog as well until we resume estate sales again and will be doing newsletters. There will be a newsletter next week to let everyone know about the estate sales we have booked in January and February so far. Until then, Happy 2024! I am planning to not let recent events get me down and to make it the best year I can.