Thursday, April 29, 2010

See My Cow

Many years ago in New England, an acquaintance of my grandmother had a way of showing off a new purchase. One day she pointed dramatically at a grazing cow, making sure everyone got an eyeful of her latest jewelry. Since then, in our family, "See My Cow" has been a way to laughingly call attention to something hard to miss!
When I decided to start making jewelry, “See My Cow” seemed the obvious name for my cottage business. I’ve always loved color, semi-precious stones, and jewelry. Designing one-of-a-kind handcrafted necklaces, bracelets, and earrings is a new creative outlet for me. I am collecting way too many strings of beads to be able to wear everything myself…so items are available for sale. Let’s spread the love around!

If you have a woman or girl in your life who loves jewelry and who should be adorned with something special, made specifically with her in mind, let me know. My designs are classically simple, and all made with beautiful components of colorful semi-precious stones (natural, smooth, or faceted) and crystal, glass, or metal beads carefully chosen to enhance the impact of the natural materials.

Inquire anytime, by emailing me at, or by calling 312-513-9797.  (No website yet.)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Project Management Drill

Now that we’ve gone and purchased another home, we have a lot of planning and re-planning to do. Our original retirement blueprint had us selling the condo and buying a new home in 2013. Now we are going to own 2 homes for about 2 years, so we have substantially jostled the financial apple cart. It’s all manageable – just a matter of timing and adjusting cash flow – but our decision created some work for Ron and our financial advisor.

My head is spinning with the logistics of setting up a new household without dismantling our current one. But it’s not unlike what we did when we purchased the condo while still owning the home in Memphis. After we closed in Chicago, we “camped out” here for a week. We slept on an air mattress, used paper plates and plastic utensils, and had a folding table and chairs. It was almost like setting up house for the first time after college, except this time we had money! Much of the furniture we had in Memphis wouldn’t work for Chicago, so we bought a lot of new things to establish our smaller, urban home.

The Prescott situation is different in some ways. We’ll want to use quite a few of our Chicago belongings in Arizona. In my mind, I’m already shopping and decorating, and trying to figure out what our “camping out” period in Prescott will entail over the coming months. Here are some of the things clanging around noisily in my head:

• We’ll need a new sofa, because the one in Chicago is too small for the great room in Prescott. Besides, we need something to sit on when we’re there.
• Although we’ll sleep on an air mattress at first, we need to shop for a bed for the master bedroom. Our current master bedroom furniture will eventually be the guest room suite.
• A few essentials need to be shipped ahead of us, including the air mattress and bedding.
• I’m making shopping lists for things like towels, dishes, utensils, glasses, cleaning materials, etc.
• Some clothes will travel with us and stay in Prescott, streamlining packing for future trips.
• I must call and put the utilities in our names.
• We need cell phones that work there (AT&T doesn’t have coverage on the fringes of Prescott).
• Our car (we only have one) will relocate to Prescott, to eliminate the expense of parking in Chicago. Now we need a plan for getting from PHX Sky Harbor Airport to Prescott when we visit…

It goes on and on. I am equipped with a brand new spiral-bound notebook, a fresh yellow highlighter, and project management skills. Who needs Microsoft Project?!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Outline Next Chapter: Check

We just signed a contract on a house in Prescott, Arizona! This is a big first step in our plan to spend the next chapter of our lives in the high desert of the western U.S. We found this home during our March visit, fell in love with it and the community, and have been working on it since. Last night we got word that our contract offer had been accepted. We’ll close on May 12.

But wait; we’ll still be full time residents of Chicago for about two years. That will give us time to do what we want to do in the city, but now we can be snowbirds and prepare the house for future full time occupancy.

Prescott is 100 miles north (and slightly west) of Phoenix. It’s an hour from Flagstaff or Sedona, about two hours from the Grand Canyon, and three and a half from Las Vegas. There are 40,000+ residents.  It’s high desert, so there are four seasons, although the extremes are much milder than in Phoenix or Chicago. Our "Ranch Cottage" is in a western-style planned community called Talking Rock Ranch (so named for the Indian petroglyphs on the grounds). Talking Rock features a club house with a restaurant and fitness center, a pool, hiking trails, and a fantastic golf course. The back of our house faces the second tee, and mountains in the distance. If you’re interested, there is more info here:

We couldn’t be more excited! And now, a few photos... (1) Front of cottage, (2) Kitchen from living room, (3) Back of cottage from golf course, and (4) Clubhouse and mountains.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spring in the City

Spring creeps tentatively into Chicago after a long winter. Even with the few days we’ve had in the 70’s and 80’s, it’s hard to trust that the good weather is here to stay. Years ago, it snowed once during the first week in May. Not fair! But people who live here learn to grab the gift of a beautiful day and enjoy it to the fullest. On the first sunny 45-degree day, the shorts and flip-flops come out. By the time it gets to 60, the beaches of Lake Michigan are filled with people enjoying the sun.

Some signs of spring are the same as in the suburbs. They are merely surrounded by a different setting. Daffodils are blooming, trees are budding out, and colorful flower pots are appearing on doorsteps and porches. Windows are being thrown open. The smell of outdoor grilling has begun to waft through the air.

There are other things about spring in Chicago that have a more unique flavor to the city. Storefronts and sidewalks are being freshened up with soap and/or new paint. There are so many more people on the city streets just enjoying being outside. The doors into many businesses are propped open to let in the fresh air. Window-washing is underway at high rise buildings. Snow plows have made way for street sweepers. Baseball season has brought out all the Cubs wear, especially in this neighborhood. Sidewalk cafes are opening, as well as the trendy rooftop lounges. Soon, on warm evenings, we’ll hear talk and laughter from the back porches of our building.

Ron grilled on the porch last night for the first time this season, making a delicious Mexican-flavored skirt steak. We’ve turned off the heat and have been able to sleep with the windows open for the last week. It may even be time to put away winter clothing and bring out some spring things. I can’t wait for an opportunity to eat pizza on the sidewalk at Pizza Rustica (pictured right), with the el train clattering by almost overhead. And I may have to go shopping for a bright new frock to debut at the latest, most trendy rooftop lounge.

There’s something about spring in Chicago that feels SO DARN GOOD! I think we enjoy it more here, after struggling through the long, cold, gray winter.  Time to dig out my shorts and flip-flops.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Pleasant Flashback

Last night our neighbor, Steve, invited us out to join some of his business colleagues for drinks and sushi. Seven of us settled into a table at Kamehachi, on E. Ontario. What a fun evening we had! Steve and his friends are all in the shoe business – four of them (including Steve) work for Kenneth Cole, and Angie, for Steve Madden. (BTW, these insiders say Kenneth Cole is a great guy, and Steve Madden is an a$$hol€.)

We ate too much sushi and drank too much wine, they talked shop and teased each other mercilessly, and it was a great time. It reminded me so much of the camaraderie of a night out with a bunch of Hilton people, and provided a little flashback to that type of friendly professional interaction we enjoyed for so many years. On the other hand…we heard about all the internal politics, management missteps, incompetent or crazy co-workers, and the dizzying pace of their business travel. When we first arrived, Angie was on the phone with a hotel in Little Rock, where she had left her hanging bag in the closet when she checked out that morning. We don’t miss any of that work-generated insanity!

Our new acquaintances asked us a lot of questions about our lifestyle. Sam, who is only 28 years old, wistfully said she wished she didn’t have to work. And the first thing I thought was, “No you don’t.” At her age we felt on top of the world, and enjoyed our professional careers. It was a great chapter for us both, and we wouldn’t do anything differently. But I don’t want to be 28 again, and we are more than satisfied with how everything has played out.

Thanks, Steve and Joe, for the excellent expense account meal for the poor retired folks on a fixed income, and for the pleasant taste of an evening of business entertainment.