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Thursday, August 3, 2017

McDowell Road Artistry

I drive down McDowell Road in Phoenix pretty regularly to meet up with Zach for lunch. 
Originally called Christy Road, the name was changed to McDowell Road way back when...

This road actually led to the cavalry outpost of Fort McDowell near the criss-crossing of the Salt and Verde Rivers. The street, the fort, the mountains, and the ranch all got their name from Civil War General Irvin McDowell, a graduate of West Point and Union Commander at the Battle of Bull Run. 

Fort McDowell, as a military installation, existed here from 1865 to 1895. 

Dubbed the "Miracle Mile" during the 1950's, McDowell Road was quite the stunner in its heyday.
Prominent businesses included birdhouse vendors, delicatessens, newspaper offices, and photography studios, along with clothing shops and other small businesses. 

The street lost its vibrancy as local areas began building mega-malls that motivated shoppers to seek bargains off this major thoroughfare. A decline continued through the late 1980's. 

Artists began looking at this Central Phoenix Corridor to not only open up shop, but also to paint murals along the sides of dilapidated and vacant buildings. And that's where we get started. 

My camera is typically at home, but not today! 
A perfectly humid, look at those gorgeous clouds kinda day. 
It's only 98* outside today and my driver and I are ready. 

Mr. Smith and I made the trek up and down McDowell Road from Hwy 143 to 19th Avenue at Grand Avenue where the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum holds court. Nicknamed "The Madhouse on McDowell", this venerable stadium is host to all sorts of conventions and The Arizona State Fair. 

This street is loaded with great mural artistry - check out some of my favorite finds below. 

Like what you see? Check out some of our major thoroughfares in Phoenix and look for mural art. 
Just don't go the wrong way on a one-way street!!! 

Enjoying every Day of Retirement!!!!
:) Deb 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

What Do You DO All Day?

What do you do all day?
I'd be so bored at home. 
My spouse would drive me crazy. 
There's nothing to do. 
I can't afford it. We can't afford it. 
What do you DO all day????

Retirement questions and comments fired our way for the last few months. I've been home for over five years now, and Mr. Smith just joined me last month. We're just getting started.

What DON'T we do???

Retirement, according to an online dictionary is regarded as "the act of leaving one's job or employ." Another site reminds us that retirement means to "cease working."

There's still so much work to be done around here though!

The Social Security Administration recommends couples our age work until age 70 to increase their benefits. Ha! No way! You can (at this time) collect a percentage of your benefits at age 62. We'll consider that, when we get there.

One of the biggest issues facing couples our age is not only $$$, but also medical expenses. With the current political regime, we can expect our medical costs to skyrocket. Valued citizens, I think not. The current regime... that's a topic for another time.

But... I digress.

Erin needed some help with her classroom this week, so we were able to hang posters, clean files, and get shit done. She's ready for hordes of high-schoolers to come and learn all they can about history.

Jeff and another retiree friend of his took in a Diamondbacks game yesterday. They got great seats and the matinee prices are damn good. D-Backs won the game, and that was pretty snazzy.  If you want to see the D-Backs, check out for information.

There's still a few peanuts leftover for me!

Today we picked up a much-anticipated monthly shipment of beer. Yup, it's been a terrific retirement gift so far from our good friends. We are loving every bottle! 

Tacos. It's a passion here for us and we've found some pretty delectable plates around town. This yummy lunch happened at TaCarbon on 43rd Avenue and Thomas in Phoenix. My favorite, and could be yours as well. Carne asada or lengua, or beef cheek, or pork, or pastor, or ... you name it, they have it on a tortilla or in a burrito. The smell of grilled perfection smacks you in the face before you even leave your car. Don't deny yourself. 

Oh, this. We're trying to keep our brains engaged. So, yeah this is happening too. 

Buenos Dias!!
:) Deb & Jeff 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Welcome to Retirement, Mr. Smith!!

Jeff and I made some financial plans for his retirement in June of 2018, right after Erin's wedding. 
But, truth be told, Jeff couldn't wait till then, and I don't blame him a bit. 
Retirement came early and we couldn't be happier. 

Here's how the first month of retirement shook out for us. 

Week One - Buy a new Retirement Vehicle!
Hey, what's money if you can't piss it away? 
We got ours at Honda of Tempe - great customer service. 

Over to California to celebrate my great-nephew's high school graduation.
Four generations of Torrance High Tartars right here. 
From 1955 to 2017 - wahoo! 

Baby Shower for my new great niece with 
her proud & expectant parents!
A gorgeous day for a gorgeous new family. 
Think Pink...

Erin & I at the Heard Museum to visit Frida & Diego
The Heard Museum in Phoenix is one of those amazing little places that transports you with the beauty of Southwest Indian art and culture. Founded in 1929, the museum is recognized internationally for its world-class collections, exhibits, and festivals. 
If you're in town, check it out at 

One of my favorites by Diego

A fantastic Frida self-portrait

Frida & Diego 

Whilst in Torrance - gotta catch up with my niece.
We're sporting our LuLu Disney - Thanks Erin!!

A lovely visit to the Musical Instrument Museum ( here in Phoenix. 
The MIM is home to over 6,000 displayed instruments from around the world. (There are about 10,000 instruments in reserve at any given time.) Plan on a few hours to enjoy the diverse performances within each country's exhibit. 

Back to California to visit the Ronald Reagan Library. 
This presidential library is filled with memorabilia from Reagan's life of service, along with tributes to many notable events of the 1980's. It is well worth your time to see this gorgeous property in Simi Valley. You won't want to miss wandering through Air Force One! 
See for yourself at: 

Madame President... 

Over to the Forest Lawn, Hollywood Cemetery for a glimpse at a few famous graves.
Debbie Reynolds & Carrie Fisher above 

Nellie Wooden & John Wooden below
(one of Jeff's all-time favorite basketball coaches!) 

And Liberace! 

Jeff and I enjoyed the 2 Cellos concert at the Greek Theatre
where you can spot a $15 Pacifico in a can. Great concert though! 
If you fancy a listen, check out for some amazing cello playing. 
They do everything from classical, to movie themes, to U2, the Beatles, and Queen. 

Surprising us the morning after the concert was the arrival of our new great-niece.
She is as pretty as you can possibly imagine and we love her to pieces already.
No pics here, sorry. Maybe when she's older. 

... And that's just the FIRST month of retirement. 

:) Deb 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Traveling Light!!

First, the Good Stuff ~
                                OR . . . Keeping it Positive!!

This once-in-a-lifetime trip was almost two years in the making... airfare, transportation, and a 12-day cruise aboard Holland America's Zuiderdam through the Baltic with our good friends, the Trapps.

Zuiderdam peeking out aside the pier in Kiel, Germany

The itinerary was spectacular, departing from Copenhagen in Denmark- traveling to Kiel in Germany, Talinn in Estonia, St. Petersburg in Russia, Helsinki in Finland, Stockholm in Sweden, Warnemunde in Germany, and back to Copenhagen.

We saw some of the most impressive historical sights, art and history museums, palaces of royalty, churches and basilicas, along with a few cultural hot-spots. We tried blood sausage and sushi pork in Kiel, munched heartily on plates of fresh and fried herring in several countries, shared the biggest pretzel and beer sampler ever in Talinn, enjoyed Fika (coffee & a sweet) in Stockholm, and sampled local beer and chocolate everywhere we wandered.

Kiel Zoological Museum 
Whale Skeleton Collection

Hiroshima Memorial Park in Kiel

We also visited the Old Botanical Garden on the Fjord, St. Nikolai Church, and the 
Kieler Brauerei too. 

Fat Margaret Tower in Talinn, Estonia 

Entryway to Old Town in Talinn, Estonia

Old Town of Talinn, Estonia
Russian Orthodox Church on the hill 

Catherine's Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia

Who is this guy?? 

The Peterhof Palace and Gardens in St. Petersburg
Water show every day at noon. 

A lovely lady in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

The Church of the Spilled Blood of our Saviour in St. Petersburg, Russia

Inside The Church - every square inch was covered with hand-pressed tiles. 
Literally... every single square inch! 

The Palaces were breathtakingly beautiful and the Hermitage was immense. 
It would be lovely to spend an entire day at the Hermitage enjoying the fine art. 

Hot Cocoa in Helsinki, Finland - Yes, it's Starbucks. 
You can't stop me, it's an addiction. 

Street Performer in Helsinki, Finland.
You should have heard those bottles sing!

Photography in Helsinki, Finland
Sonny & Cher in their early years. 

National Day in Helsinki, Finland
We felt pretty safe with all those tanks parading through town!

Love Locks Bridge in Helsinki, Finland
We also visited the Lutheran Church and Orthodox Church in town.
Beware a Sunday visit - most everything is closed.
Next time! 

One other good thing about Helsinki ~ We got our luggage delivered here!! 

Changing of the Palace Guard in Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm was our very favorite stop. 
We loved the food, and the warmth of the Swedish people. 
The Fotografiska Museum and The Nobel Peace Prize Museum 
were both highlights as well. 
Did I mention the food??? Yum. 
Cardamom ice cream cones, Fresh Sorbetto in said cone, home-style 
Split Pea Soup, and fresh fish for days. 

Chapel of the Palace in Stockholm, Sweden

St. George & the Dragon in Stockholm, Sweden

A local cemetery in Stockholm, Sweden
You're not surprised, are you?? 

The Teepot Building in Warnemunde, Germany

There's the Lighthouse... 

Midway up the Lighthouse - Warnemunde, Germany

The Strand in Warnemunde, Germany

Some of our favorite beers in Warnemunde, Germany
We love when they put the beer in its intended glass.
Just tastes right! 

Warnemunde, Germany was a big surprise. This tiny seaside port was loaded 
with shops and craftspeople and eateries. We had one of the best lunches of the trip at a 
little place on the strand with fresh herring and fresh place. I had never had place before
and can't wait to try it again. 
Do they have it in the states I wonder??? 

Graffiti & Bikes in Copenhagen, Denmark 

Palace Courtyard in Copenhagen, Denmark

Along the waterfront in Copenhagen, Denmark 

Life Preserver Art Installation along the waterfront 
in Copenhagen, Denmark 

Copenhagen, Denmark tied St. Petersburg, Russia for the biggest crowds.
We visited a wonderful art museum here and popped into a few wonderful
pubs and chatted with locals, enjoying our visit immensely. 

The Not-So Positive Part of the Trip...
                                 OR - Why I don't want to fly long-distance anymore. 
We found a steal of a deal on British Airways for a round-trip ticket to Copenhagen through London for just $900. Comfort in the economy/coach section of the plan is iffy, especially if you are 6'6" tall! Customer service was adequate until we reached London's Heathrow Airport. British Airways was in the midst of an IT meltdown and our connecting flight was cancelled. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that all they said was, "Get out of the airport, you are not getting your bags." This tailspin of poor customer service and lack of communication forced us to book on SAS to get to Copenhagen two days later! Lucky for us, Mr. Smith is Marriott Platinum and he found a lovely JW Marriott to cool our jets (literally) for two nights. I wouldn't stay anywhere else in London - fabulous customer service, with a gorgeous property smack dab in the center of the shopping district. 
Gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous!! 
Check out the JW Marriott Grosvenor House at to book your holiday. 

Stopped over in London, we did what we had to do with no luggage, facing a 12-day cruise. 
We went shopping!! We needed a host of essentials from undies to shoes to medications and socks. 
We literally had no idea when we would receive our luggage and what condition it may be in when we received it. 

We shared hard-luck stories with a woman traveling with her two pre-teens looking forward to a Disney cruise (they probably didn't make it.) A group of 15 Seton High School students were on their way to Ireland for a sister-city trip; no idea how they got there. There were 15 other couples like us boarding the cruise ship in Copenhagen, fighting for airfare and hoping for luggage. 
It was a mess! 

But we did what we like to do, which is enjoy life. Travel is an adventure and we made the best of it. 
We now know that we can travel even lighter than we already do. 
My favorite coffee barista on the ship mentioned she had seen me in the same top three different days. I have to take that as a compliment that she noticed me at all! 

From now on... We carry on!!!

Holland America could not have been nicer. Their customer service was spot-on in every way.
They went searching for our luggage (got it on Day 9), they gave us free laundry service, and kept us informed every step of the way. Their professionalism and courteousness made all the difference.

We now await our reimbursement from British Airways, but aren't holding our breath. 

Friends Traveling Lightly!!

Enjoy Yourselves & Be Flexible, Whatever You Do!! 
:) Deb