Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Sights (not Ides) of March

March is the last month of the snowbird winter for many folks here in Arizona.  The weather is getting warmer and many people decide to begin their travels back to the north.  Never mind that there is a chance of snow today in both Denver, Colorado, and Minneapolis, Minnesota.

During these last days of March it has been sunny and warm and many plants are blooming.  The ocotilla seems to have especially large blooms this year, even if we haven't had any rain since January.  Maybe a drip irrigation system it watering these plants.

Some large yucca plants produce tall flower stems.  Here are some buds. The photo below shows those buds opened, ready for pollination by birds and bees.

With all the warm weather, all sorts of interesting 2- and 3-wheeled vehicles are showing up.  Look at this two-seater.

The palo verde trees are in full bloom--beautiful until you have to clean up all the fallen flowers.

This great egret has been flying around the neighborhood the last couple of days. It's winter range includes southwestern Arizona and much of Mexico. It migrates through this area to it's summer range, mainly in the mid-west. Since the only water nearby is in in two golf course ponds, I imagine it will be leaving soon. But what a beautiful bird.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Family Comes to Visit

A week ago, our son Eric and his wife Liz and son John drove down from Littleton to visit for four days. Since they had driven a long way on Friday after school and Saturday from Albuquerque to here, we didn't do two much Saturday afternoon. We did go for a walk around the resort. Grandson John didn't walk, he rode his hoverboard.

Sunday, after attending Palm Sunday worship at Epiphany Episcopal Church, we stopped by the Mesa Swap Meet. Our visitors enjoyed see everything that was offered there, but very few purchases were made. In preparation for deals too good to pass up, we made a stop at the ATM for some cash.

Everybody else thought I looked good in this hat, but since I didn't agree, I didn't buy it.

Granddaughter Kylie didn't come with her parents. She was in Federal Way, Washington, swimming in the Speedo Sectional Swim Meet. She swam well, reaching the finals in all 6 individual events she participated in and recording 5 personal best times. Monday, she flew in to Phoenix to join the family. In two of the events, she was awarded medals--meaning she was one of the eight best swimmers out of 100+ entered in those events. Look how proud she is of those medals. We are proud, too!

Kylie has asked to be able to have her nose pierced as her 16th birthday present. Her parents said yes in November when she turned 16. But she waited until her Spring vacation, when she has two weeks off from swim practice, to accomplish it. So Monday afternoon, the family visited a tattoo parlor (that is where piercing of the body--other than ears--is done. Her grandparents didn't come along, but it really doesn't look offensive, does it?  She looks kind of cute.

We weren't aware of all that goes along with being a competitive athlete. Colleges are very interested! The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) has strict rules of allowable contact between colleges and high school athletes. Kylie is only a sophomore so she can ask to visit schools, they can not contact her or her family. Within the next year, first the schools can make contact with family, followed by contact with the athlete by letter or email. Not until the senior year can the college invite a student athlete to come to the school for an official visit. And the athlete can only accept five such invitations. Since neither John nor I, nor our sons, were outstanding in sports, we had never known about these rules. The next two plus years will be interesting.

Kylie and her family have a good friend who swam in college and knows about the swimming program at the University of Arizona in Tucson. He urged them to go there for a visit. They contacted the school and arranged to meet with the swim coach staff, observe the swim team practicing, and and tour the school on Tuesday. Kylie was very interested and bought this shirt from U of A. Bear Down is the motto of the school.

We all tried some bocce ball.

We went to Organ Stop Pizza for dinner and the concert. Everybody loved the evening! Look at these three good looking members of Eric's family.

We also had relaxing time, just sitting around and talking.

We had a great time with our family. It is good to spend our winters in a favorite Spring Vacation destination for younger families. What fun we had!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Music and a Meal With Friends

Saturday, we met our friends Ellie and Bill for lunch at the Music Instrument Museum in northwest Phoenix.  I have been wanting to go there for several years and by the end of our visit both of us knew we would return, probably more than once.  The Cafe Allegro in the museum was a great place to enjoy lunch and talk after exploring just one part of the facility.

Bill and Ellie have been there several times before and Bill was anxious to see the special exhibit on Stradivarius.  I know nothing about violins but I do know the name Stradivarius.  The exhibit told us a lot about Cremona, Italy, where he worked and about what made his violins so special.  We learned a lot about how violins are made.  This is a viola, which is a little larger than a violin.

This one is a violin.

The decorations put on violins is very detailed, including strips of design cut into a thin layer of wood, then covered with ebony to fill in the thin grooves.  The same process is use to make the black lines along these edges, then small pieces of bone are put in the larger groove.

We saw stringed instruments--or lutes--from several European countries.  Some are small and simple, others even more richly decorated than the violins we saw in the Stradivarius exhibit.

We also saw this huge guitar--apparently the largest ever made.  These levers are how the strings are depressed.

There are steps to allow access to the levers.

Here you can get a better idea of the size of the instrument.

Each visitors is given a set of ear phones.  When you get fairly close to each exhibit, maybe 5 to 10 feet away, you can hear the music being performed and/or an explanation of what is shown.  Here are Bill and John listening to one of the displays on violins.

We only visited the special exhibit and the section on European instruments.  There are other areas on other continents.  There was no way we could see everything at one time, so we will definitely return.

Thanks, Bill and Ellie, for getting us to finally see this wonderful museum?

Friday, March 18, 2016

Desert Blooms

It has been an unseasonably warm end to winter here in the Phoenix valley. That means plants are blooming everywhere. Look at this Palo Verde tree with it's yellow flowers, plus the yellow flowering bush and lots of green vegetation.

The bougainvillea plants, which I don't think are native to this region, are profuse this spring. They may bloom all summer, I don't know. (We have never been here in the summer.) I know we see them when we arrive in October.

The cactus plants are also beginning to bloom. The first two photos below were taken earlier in the week on one of our walks around the neighborhood.

This photo was taken yesterday. I call this the Easter Lily Cactus, though I know it has a Latin name. Isn't is beautiful? Hopefully, some of these plants will still be blooming in a week when Easter comes.

Friday, March 11, 2016

A Really Cool Addition

Wednesday, Zach from Arizona Breeze came to install retractable screens on all three of our outside doors into the house.

The screens are each on a roller. They have several colors including one that matches the color of the door on our house.

It took Zach less than two hours to install all three doors. If you look closely, you can see the screen on our front door. The inner door is closed. The screen reflects a little light on the upper portion.

Here you can see John closing the screen on our back door, where the door is open.

We really like to have more fresh air inside, especially as temperatures cool down in the evening. The hard part is remembering to check if the screen is open or closed when we are inside. I have already walked into it once--it just quickly snapped open. It is held in the open position by a magnet, so any pressure on the screen breaks that hold and it rolls back.  We are pleased with our purchase.

Monday, March 07, 2016

A Social Week

We were very social last week--meals out with friends three times.

Tuesday we met friends from Colorado, Larry and Betty, for lunch at Kneaders Bakery.

We have known them for nearly 50 years. They have visited Arizona during the winter months for a short time over the past few years. This year, they rented a park model at Val Vista Resort for a month. We had to postpone our lunch once because we were both sick, but we finally made it just two days before they were set to leave the Phoenix area.

Saturday morning we joined Bob and Marcia for breakfast at their resort, Gold Canyon, which is right next to ours. The twice-monthly breakfasts support the Gold Canyon softball team. We joined them there once last year, too. They are also friends from Colorado,  but only since the late 1990s.

In between those two visits, we had lunch in Scottsdale with Bob from church. Sorry, no photos. We had a great meal at the Capital Grill.

Spring and flowering cactus plants are beginning to show up here. I have taken a couple of pictures. There will be more in the coming weeks, I'm sure.