Tucson 2023

I was not able to make a blog post last week for reasons I will explain so this post will cover the past two weeks, encompassing our entire Tucson trip. On Monday before leaving for Tucson we all met up with dear family friends Tom and Mary who spend their winters in Surprise, AZ. I thought First Watch would be a good choice, I had been wanting to try it and they have a restaurant in North Scottsdale which was pretty much between our two locations. The decor and menu were very nice, and one thing I noticed right away was that the calorie counts were not out of control. Everything was pretty much guilt-free! I decided on a Belgian waffle with a side of breakfast potatoes and everyone else selected a combination of a half sandwich and soup. Unfortunately I found the food to be extremely salty, and Mother and Kuochun mentioned that they thought the food was salty as well but not inedible. I really liked the concept of the restaurant so I would be willing to try it again and ask for no added salt.

Tuesday was our travel day and all five of us (Vivi and Margot included) piled in the car for the hour and 45 minute trip. We did not have room in the car to also bring the wheelchair so we rented one which was a reasonable price at less than $50 for a week. We also purchased the Monster Bag which was worth every penny. It straps to the back of the wheelchair and has a zippered top. The bag holds purses as well as purchases while we are out and about and I know we will get a lot of use out of it. So much better than hanging everything from the wheelchair handles!

Our Airbnb was a second floor apartment above a large home in downtown Tucson. I was happy to see that behind the home there was a real parking lot including a handicap parking space which was closest to the door. This was very helpful for Mother. There was some level of safety with the large corrugated iron sliding door to the entrance of the parking lot. I knew that there were going to be stairs involved but there were a lot both inside and outside. They were narrow and steep because it is an older home. It was not an ideal situation for Mother but she went up and down the stairs no more than once per day. There was a kitchenette at the top of the stairs and for safety reasons we kept the stairway covered with a piece of art the entire time we were there. If we hadn't, the girls would have been up and down the stairs constantly, barking at the large dog living in the main home. He spent a lot of time right at the door which was at the base of the stairs. Because we did not want the girls to excessively bark, at least one of us stayed in the apartment at all times. It was not my plan to bring them along but we had no choice since the pet sitter flaked out on us. I was very grateful that we were able to have them there - when I signed up for this Airbnb they were not allowing pets but since then had changed their pet policy. It was only about $68 to add them to the reservation, way less than what the sitter would have charged.

This was our first time staying in downtown and while there were some of the usual city noises overall it was not too bad. Tucson is a fun, quirky town and the  "Mystery Machine" pictured was parked around the corner from us our entire stay. Kuochun said it was very helpful for him to use as a landmark when he was walking the girls around the neighborhood. The Airbnb description said there would be a train horn way off in the distance once in the evening and so far no one had complained about it. However we found it a big problem because the trains came through 24/7, each one blowing their horn numerous times per crossing. Sometimes it was every 5-7 minutes. I am normally a pretty sound sleeper but it definitely kept me awake (along with Mother's beeping oxygen machine every time it fell out of her nose) the first couple of nights.

One big snag that occurred was that Kuochun realized he left his wallet back in Scottsdale. This meant that he could not drive since he did not have his license with him. It was a shame because on our way out of town, I stopped by the post office and realized I had forgotten my bag with my wallet. I had to go back for it because it had show passes and extra credit cards in it. Kuochun did not have any reason to use his wallet so he never realized he did not have it until we arrived in Tucson. I lent him my new American Airlines credit card which I had not used yet.

Our first night Kuochun and I went to Caruso's, a wonderful old school Italian restaurant which was so close to the Airbnb we could have walked there. We did end up driving because it was kind of late at night. We did not make it there last year so I was excited to be back for the Caruso's special of ravioli and spaghetti and meatballs as well as the best garlic bread around. I also had a coupon for a free dessert and we chose the limoncello cake which was excellent.

Wednesday was the first show opening and it was a log jam trying to get into the parking lot. The handicap parking filled right away and we had to go around the building twice. It ended up that valet parking was the only choice by then but paying $10 was way better than having to push Mother a half mile each way in the wheelchair. Once we entered the show, it was not very crowded. We made a beeline for our favorite Native American jewelry booth and were able to snag some wonderful pieces including the elusive Kathy Sands and Santa Fe artist Gregory Segura. Apparently there were only about 18 Kathy Sands pieces in total and someone had swooped in and purchased 12 of them. I got the other 6 - they are all rings including thunderbirds with turquoise and an arrow and a pistol with white buffalo stones. Mother is keeping one of the thunderbird rings. Last year she was lucky enough to get a Kathy Sands necklace and it is a great summer piece for her. I am also very excited about the Santo Domingo earrings I purchased, they are so adorable and perfect for spring and summer.

I love working with the vendor at the Mexican silver booth at this show, he is so kind and as soon as he sees me, he drops everything and turns all his attention to me - helping me put matching sets together, making suggestions on best sellers etc. For the last couple of years when he asked me how the jewelry was selling, I said the huge necklaces were not moving. He kindly offered to exchange them and this year I took him up on his offer. It turned out that Rachel bought one of the necklaces when she was in town visiting (for my cost) so I was one short but he exchanged the others. It should be a win-win situation as prices have gone up since I bought them and I was able to exchange them for more budget-friendly pieces that are more likely to sell.

We stopped by the amber booth and I did make a purchase there, but not as much as last year. I was able to pick up both some classics that are always popular as well as some interesting pieces.

I did run through the Bali booth but decided not to buy this year. The vendor had sent me some photos including piranha earrings which I thought would be really cute. When I arrived I could not find them and there was not much else speaking to me so I decided to pass. I will work on selling what I already have and will maybe get some next time.

I was disappointed to see that Leon Martinez's family did not come back. I do have their contact information and may see if I can get some earrings from them at some point.

Thursday was show #2 which has a main tent where I do all my shopping and surrounding tents which offer a lot of rocks, sculptures etc. We were able to get parking right next to the main tent which was very handy. This group puts large plastic covers over the electrical cords and every time we encounter one Mother has to get up while I move the wheelchair over them. Once again, even though they were listed as being part of the show, my favorite Tibetan vendor was absent. Also, the vendor we met last year with a great collection of Native American and Southwest Style jewelry by known artists was on the list but could not be found. There were quite a few empty booths and some that were set up but wrapped up. Also, lots of vendors were still setting up their booths even though the show was open. I more than made up for it though by going right to Buffalo Dancer. It was only about 15 minutes after opening and I was really surprised to see that someone had already done their shopping and snapped up tons of jewelry including the coveted multi-heart necklaces. If people are not playing fair then I just might need to do the same and show up early next year. I did end up spending more than ever though and selected many wonderful pieces. The bad news was they instituted a 10% price increase, in addition to raising their retail prices so everything cost a lot more. However I do really believe in these artists and their jewelry and hope the customers will still support them. They are kind, humble people who are super talented. One of the artists told me that he did some ancestry research and found that he was directly related to 10 of the first 13 US Presidents.

We did not have any further luck at this show with so many favorite vendors missing. It was going to take a while to tally up my purchase so I offered to go pick up my orders from show #1 and come back later. When we went back to show #1, we decided to take a spin around the Native American jewelry booth again and I ended up spending more than the first day. It was mostly special pieces which were not subject to discounting. At the last minute, I found two amazing pendants by master silversmith Allison Lee, who sadly passed last year. They were pricey but I knew I would never see them again. I will probably keep one and try and sell the other one. We picked up my orders and then headed back to show #2. The order was not ready but this time I waited for it.

By the time we arrived back to the Airbnb, Kuochun was about ready to head to the grocery store to pick up supplies and also for dinner. I was starting to feel strangely tired but took him to Whole Foods. After we unloaded the groceries, Kuochun felt like going to a Mexican restaurant we had visited two years ago when we stayed north of Tucson in Oro Valley. I was so exhausted but took him up there. He really enjoyed his fajitas. I ordered a simple cheese quesadilla with a side order of rice but ended up not touching the rice. We got Mother some flautas to go and gave her my rice.

The next morning I was down for the count. I spent Friday through Sunday so sick I could not do anything. I had so many symptoms at once but knew they were not COVID symptoms. Kuochun wanted me to take a test but it came back negative. I was so disappointed because Friday is the day we go to Tubac which is such a charming town and more importantly, Saturday is the start of show #3 which is my favorite. I was also planning to calculate pricing on all of my purchases and make tags which I was unable to do.

There was no way I was missing it so dragged myself to show #3 on Monday. I am not sure what was already sold from Federico, my guess is some of the more budget-friendly pieces but I bought so many beautiful items. Federico is so kind to me, he marks some pieces down so I can buy more and pass the savings along to the customers. He let us know that he lost his wife shortly after last year's show. Understandably he was so sad, we felt terrible because he had tears in his eyes. He said he pushed his wife in a wheelchair the last three years of her life. I am sure when he saw us it triggered that memory. Mother asked about his book and he offered to give her a copy. She asked him to sign it. He said he has arthritis and does not write any more but he had one of his helpers write the message and then he signed it.

Something funny did happen while we were shopping - I was on one end of the booth and Mother was on the other. I came back to check on her and was horrified to see her asking a big shot in the turquoise world to pull items out of the case for her! Luckily she was very kind and understanding. Apparently she told Mother it was OK, she was looking at all the jewelry anyway. She has a very sweet Southern accent and Mother told her she sounded just like Dolly Parton. A few days later, I happened to notice several photos on Facebook including one with her helping Mother and one with me in the background while she posed with Federico. I am so glad I wore all black that day and that my face is not showing!

While they were adding up my total, we stopped by Bora's booth. Normally on the first day Bora is so swamped I cannot even get close to it but on the third day, we had no problem seeing everything. I was even able to navigate Mother through the display. We purchased from Bora years ago at the Gem Show in Rosemont but only for ourselves. I was able to find more budget-friendly pieces - hoop earrings and bangles in different colors of sterling silver with contrasting color studs on them as well as some gemstone pendant necklaces and rings. This is a fabulous collection which I think I will present as part of the jewelry caravan when we have our sale at a gorgeous home in Highland Park next month.

We ran into a new vendor offering elegant but fun costume jewelry, made from soldered chandelier crystals and other baubles. I selected a couple dozen necklaces and although the style is different than the Tibetan jewelry, it will be a nice alternative as this jewelry will be great for spring and summer wear. I mentioned to the vendor that I have vintage chandelier crystals I bought years ago that I was interested in doing something with. I texted her a photo as she requested but unfortunately I did not hear back. I am hoping I will hear from her once the show has ended and she has more time. They happen to be from the exact town in Florida where the online boutique is located that I buy all my clothes from. She had not heard of them though. I thought maybe they could collaborate but decided in the end not to get involved. This jewelry is higher-priced than the pieces offered at the boutique.

I toyed with the idea of buying some Thai fine silver jewelry from another vendor but Mother did not like it and the vendor was not very attentive so I passed. It was more than enough work for one day anyway! I was so glad I decided to add an extra day to the trip this time, I would not have been able to attend show #3 otherwise.

This brought us to the end of the trip. I was still feeling miserable and could not wait to go back home. The Airbnb experience was a mixed bag this time - the apartment was beautiful as pictured but the owner was literally on an airplane flying out of town when we arrived and was reluctant to give me the entry code. She asked me to call her daughter which I did but my call went right to voicemail. I had to ask her to PLEASE give me the code as it was past our check-in time! Because she was gone, she must have had taken the opportunity to have construction work done. There was a lot of circular saws and pounding going on. Also, the dog was supposed to have been taken to their house next door but he was there most of the time, barking and causing our girls to bark. Mother said the daughter had guests over who were fake barking, making fun of our girls. This just caused them to bark more. Then the owner was frantically trying to get back to town before we left, which she did the morning we left but really rushed us to leave before checkout time. She said there was leaking water in their kitchen but we experienced no water issues. I am sure she wanted to make sure everything was OK before the cleaning crew got ready for the next group. On a more minor note, the amenities were really lacking. For the first time, nothing was provided in the way of snacks or drinks. At least in Las Vegas and Prescott there were little bags of chips and gummy snacks. There was only one bath mat, five hangers, two garbage bags and not enough dishes. We had to go out and buy everything we needed. We hit the dollar store to keep the cost down. Also, the ad said there was laundry but we could not find it. Overall I can only give it a 3-star rating. I have not decided if I will leave a review; even though I feel it is deserved, I would rather just move on from the experience and not argue with the owner.

More than a week later, I am still not 100%. I think I had a sinus infection. Rachel came with something that she gave to Mother and possibly Mother gave it to me. I think I have a great immune system and rarely get sick but this was a doozy! I still managed to do a lot of damage and will have so many beautiful pieces of jewelry to offer these next couple of months. And I will look forward to going back to Tucson next year to make up for what we missed this time. I think I will try booking 4-6 months in advance so I can find a pet-friendly single-family home.

I did post some of the new Federico pieces Wednesday after returning to Scottsdale. The earrings at the right, the earrings at the center front and the cluster ring on the right all sold, the remaining pieces are available. On Friday, I put the cross listing software into action and signed up for an ambitious 250 items per month posting limit as I had a coupon for 25% off my first month. I can always reduce the plan before month two kicks in. All my remaining Federico items from past years as well as half this lot are now listed in my Shopify store as well as eBay, Etsy and Poshmark. There are other marketplace choices but I think these pieces are too pricey for them. So far I love using the software and I can tell it is going to be worth every penny. I have already sold two pairs of earrings to two different customers since cross listing. I can use the software to mark an item sold and it will automatically delist from the other marketplaces. I can also keep track of my item cost, marketplace fees and shipping fees. The next step will be to use templates so I can save even more time.

On Sunday evening I posted this lot of amazing green turquoise jewelry. I ran into some hiccups with Facebook though and some of my postings were not approved until Monday morning. This caused only the pair of earrings on the left to sell. Oddly enough four different people wanted these earrings but I only had one pair to sell. At least everything is now queued up to post online.

February is historically the slowest month of the year for estate sales and we do not have any sales scheduled for the first two weeks of the month. However we do have two sales President's Day weekend in Niles and in Park Ridge on the Niles border so will make it easy for customers to attend both sales. In the meantime, I will plan to keep up with estate sale work and get ready for the community garage sale on Saturday February 18. I will go through all of our remaining items and pull the ones I do not want to go to 75% off, and also put some 75% off jewelry together. Ideally I will have everything set up the week before the sale. The folks in charge of the sale will do some advertising and I will do some advertising as well. The plan for the rest of the month will be to list some more items on Facebook Marketplace for sale so I can make room in the garage for the car. I will also ship a box of new jewelry home for the jewelry caravan. As usual, so much to do so until next time!