Everything But The Jewelry

The Tucson Gem Show has been hosted by the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society since 1955 and is known as the largest, oldest and most prestigious gem and mineral show in the world. Back in 1995 when Mother and I started making beaded jewelry, I had always heard about how great Tucson was. In later years, I continued to hear how amazing it was and not to bother going unless I had at least $10,000 in my pocket. As a jewelry fanatic, I was so intrigued Tucson went right on my bucket list. It was made a reality when Melinda and I attended in 2018. However we were only able to attend one show as it was an overnight trip but I could immediately tell the hype was real. Each year since then, I have extended my time and my expanded my horizons in Tucson. Mother and I attended in 2019 and 2020 and I found the vendors I continue to buy from today. However just after the 2020 show the pandemic arrived and the 2021 show was in jeopardy of being cancelled altogether. Luckily now we have our Scottsdale base which is about an hour and forty minutes away and there were no worries about having to book a short-term rental in Scottsdale as well as Tuscon. The powers that be decided to postpone the 2021 Gem Show 10 weeks from mid-February to the first week of April. It was easy for me to make the decision to wait in Scottsdale for the shows. Mother understandably was still very reluctant to go due to the pandemic but she did not want me to go alone, she changed places with Kuochun and he went with me. We still had Vivi with us in Scottsdale and Mother took care of Margot. Mother flew back to Chicago on March 31 and Kuochun arrived in Phoenix the evening of April 5. I planned the Tucson trip for April 6-12 because some of the shows I wanted to attend started on the 7th and another show started on the 10th. I am going to speak about the non-jewelry details of the trip this week and fill you in on the jewelry next week.

The Gem Show is extremely popular and short-term rentals as well as hotels fill up fast. Hotels charge a big premium at Gem Show time so short-term rentals are the way to go. It is possible to get an entire home for the same or less as a hotel room, even at the height of the season. This is particularly helpful for us since Kuochun is such a snorer. I was conflicted between bringing Vivi with us or finding a pet sitter, I was definitely worried that Vivi would not do well with people she did not know as her life has been pretty sheltered with Mother. In addition, we have never left one of our dogs at a kennel or with a sitter before. Pet-friendly options were very limited for short-term rentals at the time. One company had several units available but one of their many rules was that the dog cannot bark even once or we would all be asked to leave. Vivi is a Schnauzer, I cannot guarantee that she will never bark because she will find something to bark at so that company was out. I decided to see if I could find a pet sitter at Rover.com. What a great concept, short-term rentals for dogs! I found a woman who sounded perfect - she lives 12 minutes away and works from home so she would be there for Vivi all the time. Unfortunately I did not hear back from her right away so I thought she was not available or interested.
I ended up booking a pet-friendly place in Oro Valley, which is about 40 minutes north of Tucson resting along the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. It is a second-floor two bedroom condo and it looked spacious and well-decorated. The catch was that no commercial vehicles are allowed in the condo complex. I made the decision to remove the graphics from the Briesmobile. They were still in great shape but all basically outdated. I cancelled the toll-free number several years ago because I received more spam calls than customer calls. When I added the graphics, we were just getting started with estate sales so the store was the main focus. We no longer have the brick and mortar store Brie's Gift Gallery and changed the name of our pop-up sales to C'est La Brie's. We also have modernized our logo to orange and white, moving away from the dark colors of brown, green and orange. As a result I found a local sign place who removed the graphics for me. Even though the van is a 2010, I will be keeping it for a long while. Even with driving to Arizona and back it still has not hit 90,000 miles. When I have the chance I will have the rusty bumper replaced and have the dent repaired from when I backed into a brick wall at a $4 million home where we were conducing a moving sale. Then I will have new graphics added to the front doors only as is allowed in Mount Prospect. Although I miss the graphics I enjoy being able to park the van in the driveway when I need to without worrying about some crumby neighbor calling the village on me.
About 15 minutes after I booked the Oro Valley condo, Kim the pet sitter got in touch. For some reason she did not see my message right away. She was willing to do a "meet and greet" to see how Vivi could get along. The meet and greet went better than expected, Vivi was a little shy and confused but by the end of the visit she was doing her business in the spacious backyard and jumping on the comfortable sectional sofa. Kim felt confident that Vivi would do well. I was able to cancel the pet fee on the condo and we left Vivi with Kim and her husband. I was nervous but hopeful and told Kim if there was ever an issue we would come back from Tucson and get Vivi.

We got a late start heading to Tucson as Kuochun needed to help his best friend Roy with a sponsorship from China for someone they know. We packed up the computer, printer and everything and hit the road. Because it was so late I suggested we do what Mother and I did last year and stop about 3/4 of the way to Tucson at Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers. Melinda introduced me to it the first time I came to Arizona and since then they have started to pop up all over the Chicago area. It is fast food but I think it is really good quality. Yes, they only have chicken fingers but the combo comes with crinkle-cut fries and Texas toast. Coleslaw is a possibility too. I even like the Cane's Sauce. However Mother hated it! She thought it was the worst food she had ever eaten. I knew Kuochun would like it though and we had better success this time. Kuochun naturally likes some foods more than others but he will eat just about anything.
It was late when we got in and walking up to the condo Kuochun took a shortcut through the landscaping and unfortunately cut his face on a cactus. Luckily it eventually healed without damage. Overall we both loved the condo - the layout was great and it was well-decorated like a real home, not sparsely decorated like a rental. The kitchen was set up so well with tons of counter space, way more than we have in Mount Prospect. I could definitely see downsizing to something like this in the future. The unit was about 1,400 square feet so we could both easily co-exist there. Drawbacks were the shower in the primary bath only shot out scalding hot water so I needed to use Kuochun's shower. Also, there were many windows in the walls to let light in and the blinds did not block out the sun very well so I was awakened by the sun at 6:00 every morning. I am not a morning person so I was not thrilled. We tried hanging towels and putting square pillows up in these cutouts, it made it a little darker in the room but not dark enough. For a morning person, this situation would be perfect!

We both thought Oro Valley was a really beautiful and calming place to stay. I can see it being a popular vacation destination for those who golf. We had a great breakfast at the golf club, a delicious Mexican dinner and stumbled across an amazing resort, El Conquistador which was just stunning. We had a special dinner there which was amazing. The town does close early so it was a good thing we stopped to eat on our way in the first evening. We got groceries as well to take care of our other meals. It was my first time to go to Fry's since Mother only wants to go to Safeway or AJ's and Fry's is a nice store as well. The bakery cookies were awesome! The only other place where we dined in Oro Valley was Brugger's Bagels which is always a good pick. I have been getting the Herby Turkey sandwich when I can since my college days at Marquette, there are no locations close to Mount Prospect. The sandwich has roasted turkey, light herb garlic cream cheese, sundried tomato spread, lettuce and red onions on a sesame bagel. I love it!

I was able to take Kuochun to two spots which have become regulars when I visit Tucson. Caruso's Restaurant is an Italian classic which has been in operation since 1938. They have great garlic bread and I love their Caruso Special, I get the spaghetti, meatballs, cheese ravioli and marinara sauce. I gave the meatballs to Kuochun because he is more of a beef eater than me. I was also able to get him to Bobo's Restaurant which Mother and I discovered last year. It is a famous real old-school diner with dinner plate size pancakes. Kuochun loves a good 2x2x2 (two eggs, two bacon or sausage, two pancakes) but Bobo's has one giant pancake. Unfortunately Cafe Marcel which had fabulous savory and sweet crepes was a victim of the pandemic and has permanently closed. If Kuochun comes to Tuscon again I will take him to Eegee's, which is a Tucson fast food restaurant chain known for their frozen fruit drinks called the "eegee." I have been there twice, once with Melinda and once with Mother. Kuochun would definitely like the eegees.

Kim gave us updates on Vivi twice a day. The first photo she sent showed Vivi on the couch looking out the window and the last photo she sent showed Vivi sitting at the table while Kim, her husband and their friends played cards. She had such a great time and they loved having her. Kim actually said Vivi was one of her all-time favorites and would be happy to take care of her any time. What a relief! It would have been difficult to go to the shows being 40 minutes away. Vivi would have been alone a lot which would have made her sad.

However at the same time, we experienced the depths of horror when Mother called us Friday night at 1:00 AM her time and said Margot was missing. I was beside myself, not having seen Margot for five months thinking I would never see her again. She is only 13 pounds and I knew she would not last the night outside with coyotes, foxes, hawks out and about, being in an unfamiliar neighborhood with busy streets close by. All I could do was sit on the floor and sob. Mother, some of the neighbors and seven police officers were out for hours in the rain searching for her. Thank God this story has a happy ending. When no one could find her they decided to all regroup to figure out what to do next. Mother had left the front door open (but the storm door closed) and there was Margot standing at the door looking at everyone. One of the officers said is that your dog? It turns out that Mother made some frozen pizza and some of the cheese dropped on the floor of the oven, causing the smoke alarm to go off. What Mother did not know is that Margot is deathly afraid of smoke alarms and must have gone somewhere to hide. It was just the worst range of emotions that night, feeling helpless that we were across the country, not even at home in Scottsdale and could not do anything.

Poor Margot really went through a lot because a week later Mother had her stroke and when she went to the hospital Margot was left alone at her house. We were still in Scottsdale, Rachel was in New York but Mark got Mother to the hospital and Cam stepped in to stay with Mother. Margot knows Mark well and loves him but he could not take her home because he already has a dog who is used to being the whole cheese. I asked Mark to bring Margot back to my house where she could be most comfortable and sleep in Kuochun's bed like she is used to. Mark visited her several times a day to walk and feed her and Maureen stepped in to split the time with Mark the last several days until Rachel could get there. Margot is still having some residual effects, she really does not want us to leave her alone and cries when Kuochun leaves but I am hoping she will settle down and gain confidence again given some time.

Switching gears to an update for this week, I had to make the decision to not go ahead with a pop-up sale at home base next weekend. The mini split air conditioning unit in the garage quit working and I was not sure if the HVAC company was going to be able to come out to look at it until the day before the sale. Also, I spent a day at rehab with Mother Friday and this has been an ongoing problem but her oxygen level dips too low when she tries to exert herself. She has been instructed to lay low until we can get to her primary doctor on Tuesday. She has other doctor's appointments on Monday and Tuesday as well so there will not be time to prepare for the sale, even informally. Most important is to get Mother back to health and we will plan to have our usual pop-up the first weekend of October. We will be sweeping through our closets and in addition to the jewelry, there will be lots of great clothing, shoes and accessories to choose from, either never worn or gently worn. Sale dates will be September 30-October 3.

This week I posted ten pieces of great Native American or Southwest Style pieces to the online store. Some of them are my personal pieces that either I never wore or do not reach for anymore. When I first started buying in Tucson, the pieces I chose were on the smaller side but now I tend to wear larger pieces. Also, since I changed my wardrobe to Macoma Boutique, some of the pieces do not go with my clothing. Time to "rehome" them as they say, collections always evolve over time! CLICK HERE to see the new additions.

I finally opened the dress form I purchased, put it together at Mother's house and shot some photos on the back patio. I think the photos turned out well with the help of the Pixelcut app but it has been hot and difficult to stay outside for any length of time. We are supposed to have a couple of days in the 70s next week so I hope to find some time to finish the first photography project which are the new Tibetan jewelry finds. I started with necklaces and one of them is above. Once the pieces are photographed, I am going to make photo collages to post on the estate sale ads. The plan is to put together a great collection of Tucson Gem Show finds to present at our beautiful sale in Vernon Hills in two weeks. As usual there is much to do so see you next time!