Our Triumphant Return

Last week was very hectic preparing to come home for the summer. Overall things are looking good in Scottsdale, I would say about 85% complete. Definitely a far cry from last year when I had to leave so abruptly. It was a process but Kuochun, Vivi, Margot and I made it back to Mount Prospect late Saturday night. We are experiencing a bit of culture shock but I am sure we will adjust soon. Having gotten used to high temperatures of about 100 degrees every day, we were surprised to find 65 degrees very chilly. We both also felt like we came home to a dollhouse because the Scottsdale home from 1964 is very open and airy while the Mount Prospect home from 1950 has all regular height ceilings and small rooms. I would say the kitchen here is about a third of the size of Scottsdale's. But since Mother uses the primary suite in Scottsdale my bedroom is smaller there than in Mount Prospect.

There was no time for meals Saturday so we ended up going to Omega after we got in and the girls were taken care of because I know they are open 24/7. A 24/7 diner is not something we have seen in the Phoenix area. I have always had two favorite meals at Omega - the chicken pesto flatbread with Caesar salad and the pork souvlaki with rice. It so happened that the souvlaki was on special but I opted for the flatbread. The Caesar salad was great as usual but unfortunately the flatbread was overcooked. The edges of the flatbread were really charred and the chicken was kind of dry. I do still recommend this dish and will try it again, it was probably just an off night. Omega usually does provide a nice bread basket with a variety of items but they were mostly misses as well. The bialy was stale, the croissant was not as stale but still not fresh but the cranberry muffin was good. Kuochun opted for a gyro sandwich with sweet and sour cabbage soup but ended up taking most of the meal home.

It was quite a process getting back - things started off smoothly with a great Lyft driver taking us to the airport which is only about 6 miles away and cost about $20.00 with tip. We had the two pet carriers on wheels but the handles both broke on our last trip so we used the shoulder straps instead to pull them. For the most part, this worked pretty well. Pets must be paid for at check-in and count as our carryon bags and we checked a bag. Normally I weigh the bag before leaving the house to be sure it is not too heavy but did not have time. The ticket agent made us put each dog on the scale and had us scrunch down the bags to prove they could fit under the airplane seats. Margot let out a little bark while on the scale and the agent got so angry and called her vicious. She said our bags were too large and to get new bags next time. I just said OK and did not argue. The checked bag turned out to be 15 pounds overweight because I was trying to get the files for the estate sale packages I had completed while I was in AZ home for storage in Mount Prospect. I had to go off to the side and take the files out. Kuochun asked for a bag and they gave us a garbage bag to put the files in. Unfortunately the bag was thin and kept breaking with the files spilling all over the place each time. We got ourselves to security and they were going to make us take the dogs out of the carriers so they could be inspected. I respectfully asked if we must do that (it was difficult to get them into the carriers in the first place) and they said we could request a private viewing. So we waited and two officers took us to a private room. We took the dogs out, one of them left to scan the carriers and once the carriers were returned, they gave us all the time we needed to get the dogs back in. It was much easier not to have to do that on the floor in public. We made it to the gate with a few minutes to spare, not before the bag broke again and the files went flying. Kuochun spotted an abandoned cart and we were able to put the two carriers and the bag of files on it. That definitely helped us get to the gate more quickly. Of course the gate was just about as far as possible. An announcement was made that about five people, including McAlpin, could board first. I think the reason must be because I now have the American Airlines credit card. I asked if Yu could come with me and he got the thumbs up!

The flight went smoothly but the reason why there were only two seats in our section is because the flight attendant's flip seat was right next to mine. Luckily she did not sit there the whole time, just during takeoff and landing. That would have been way too close for comfort! It was late at night and we were able to find another abandoned cart at O'Hare. However Vivi decided she had enough time in the carrier and proceeded to unzip it and get out. Kuochun then took Margot out too and put them on the double leash. He had given them some medication from the vet to keep them calm and they did not bark unless there were too many people around. The worst part was that we had to walk from Terminal 3 to Terminal 2 and then go upstairs because we had no one to pick us up and we had to get to the ride sharing app pickup area. Neither dog made it to the pet relief station. We got to the right place and I had called the Lyft a little too early, he was waiting for us. When taking the files out of the cart, the bag broke a final time and the files went all over again. The driver watched me pick them up. After a silent ride home we made it at more than twice the cost.

We now know what to expect bringing pets through at each airport because each experience was different and how to improve our process. With the new credit card I received one free checked bag but I do not want to check a bag again. This was Kuochun's idea. He should be able to take whatever he needs in his backpack and anything else can be shipped Priority Mail large flat rate box, which actually fits a lot for my business rate of $18.95.

Speaking of flat rate boxes, in the week leading up to our departure, I had to decide which jewelry to send home. I started out bagging and categorizing jewelry and had to abandon that the day we left in order to get it home. I decided not to ship or carry the most valuable pieces with me as they all have set stones and I did not want them to break. I took them all offline but they are still available for sale. I ended up focusing on Tucson Gem Show finds so most of these boxes represent new Native American, Federico and Mexican pieces I bought in Tucson. The plan for the summer will be to get it all online and hopefully sell a bunch so I do not need to ship it back. But in the grand scheme of things the cost is minimal to ship compared to what the jewelry is worth. There is also select vintage sterling silver and costume jewelry that will go into the caravan. I really priced a lot over the winter but was surprised at how much there is still left to do. I did have time to sort and organize everything and there are about 20 shoeboxes of sterling silver which need to be polished and priced and costume jewelry to be priced. This does not include about 10 additional shoeboxes stuffed with jewelry from last year which is our Plan B - pieces that need repairs that I can do myself. At this point, Plan B is looking like a 2024-2025 project.

The sales we held in Scottsdale were awesome and I plan to have sales once again in December and February. I am going to shoot for the weekend after Thanksgiving for the first sale, a week sooner than we had done last year. I will still need time to get the garage in shape for the sale. The February sale is the community garage sale which they only have on Saturday. This year we went to the Willo housewalk the next day but I think I will forego it next year so I can extend the sale to Sunday. Prior to the first sale we focused on pricing the non-jewelry items and then I ran out of time to put all the jewelry in the cases and make a nice impulse buy display. I am waiting until December so I have time to prepare the sale properly. I will be armed with photos of all the vintage Native American jewelry and Gem Show pieces so it will give the customers a way better idea of what I have to offer.

Leading up to leaving for home last week, Kuochun and I worked on finishing the food in the refrigerator and freezer as much as possible while balancing that with eating out a couple of times. He was in a chain restaurant mood, we started with Cheesecake Factory on Tuesday night. I had mentioned that I heard online that the jambalaya pasta is considered to be the best thing on their menu and Kuochun loves Cajun food. However, once we arrived I found they had gumbo which he likes even more so he went with that. I always get the Romano Crusted Chicken but I think I am over it now. Last time I went was two years ago for Mother's birthday and I did not love it and felt the same way this time. It did not taste special, just like boring chicken and pasta with tomato sauce. We ordered two pieces of cheesecake to take home, trying salted caramel for the first time and lemon raspberry which is always a favorite. The salted caramel was good but the size of the piece was miniscule, not even half of what it should be. The lemon raspberry looked normal size but Kuochun scarfed it down before I had the chance to try it. But that is OK because I know what it tastes like. Kuochun said the decor at Cheesecake Factory reminds him of a casino and I cannot disagree. The closest location is in the Biltmore area of Phoenix which is pretty swanky and is attached to a beautiful outdoor mall.

Wednesday he felt like a steak (I think subliminal messages from Mother all winter helped with that) so we tried Longhorn Steakhouse for the first time. We needed to travel to Mesa which was about 25 minutes each way. I ordered the Parmesan Crusted Chicken (I am not a big beef eater) which I thought was good but overly salty. I like chain restaurants but the excessive salt is my biggest problem with them. Maybe in the future I can ask them to go easy on the salt or even leave it out if they can. The server got our orders mixed up and gave us both Caesar salads and then served us each a steak with a baked potato. We eventually received the correct entrees.

Thursday was the day our new house cleaner came for the first time. We made ourselves scarce as we usually do so it would be easier for her to clean. She came at 8:00 AM and after running all of the errands we could think of, I decided to head back to Mesa and to Old Brick House Market one more time. It happened to be the opening day of their monthly pop-up sale. I was not going to go but I am glad I did. June is there annual clearance sale with everything on sale. I got a several cute props and even an OPEN sign. I did not have time to unpack everything before leaving but it will be a nice surprise upon our return.

The house cleaner thought her vacuum cleaner broke down so we rushed back only to find she got it working again. I have a Rainbow vacuum which I would have taught her how to use. She needed more time to finish up so we headed out again. I thought of something we could do while waiting which was to visit the area of Papago Park, the Desert Botanical Garden and the Phoenix Zoo which are all a few minutes from home. We turned on what we thought was Papago Park and it was basically a small parking lot which did not seem to have much going on. We then found the correct entrance and it was such a nice place! There was a rustic rest stop, beautiful places to eat outdoors and the biggest surprise was the Hole in the Rock which I had heard of but did not realize was so close by. We got out of the car and walked around a bit but it was quite hot. I still could not find the walking trails I heard about but it was great to at least see the area.

We then headed over to the Phoenix Zoo. There was not much to see in the parking lot area but I thought it looked nice. I was able to get out of the car and shoot a few photos around the entrance to the Desert Botanical Garden. I am excited to go there next time and Gertrude's Restaurant as well which is very highly recommended. We were on our way back and the house cleaner let us know she was finished so things worked out well. She did a great job and spent nearly 8 hours there, as opposed to the last person who was only there 3 hours and cut a lot of corners. We are so happy to have some good folks to help us out in AZ, hope they last!

I am also pleased to be home and will get used to my cute "dollhouse" and the cooler temperatures once again. I was concerned about being more bothered by the humidity than before so we will see as the weather heats up.

Until next time!