Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ain't No Sunshine..

Deana Chandler
We have sad news in the Chandler family this week.  Our niece, Deana—the daughter of Steve's sister Danna--passed away.  It was sad and it was shocking.  Deana was a young, wild, fun, outrageous, beautiful, loving, brilliant (and I mean BRILLIANT), red-lipstick-wearing, funny (and I mean FUNNY) mom/daughter/friend/sister/niece.....   And a million other things.  A force of nature, she was often called.  She loved her three amazing kids (her kittens, she called them) so hard that anyone within 100 miles couldn’t possibly not know it.  She managed the Anthropologie store in Boise, Idaho--which was the perfect place for her to spread her exquisite taste and her love of making others feel wonderful about themselves—making them feel even prettier than Deana herself (hard to achieve, believe me).

The kittens
Her family asked us to submit our memories of Deana, and I sent them this one; it immediately came to mind when they asked.   So I’m sharing it here, just because.  Here’s to you, wild girl:

I didn't really have much one-on-one time with Deana, but we did share many family gatherings over the years. I'll tell you my main memory of Deana. It centers around Christmas and the Chandler Family Gift Exchange. At some point, the family decided that instead of everyone giving gifts to everyone, we'd just do the "Secret Santa" thing; you know, we'd pick names and get a gift for that family member--with no one knowing who had whom until the day of the Christmas gathering.  Anyway, Deana--who I seem to think was a teacher at the time--just took over! She announced that each year we'd all have to write a poem about the person we picked and would have to read the poem aloud before presenting the gift; and not only that, but Deana would choose exactly what kind of poem it would be each year--haiku, sonnet, and even something called a cinquain one year. (Which took a lot of explanation, believe me. And most of us still got it way wrong, of course.)

Anyway, the whole family basically resented her for this. There was MUCH grumbling about Deana being bossy, taking over, telling us what to do, etc. And yet--and this is my favorite part--everyone "obeyed" her rules every year! Every year! We'd all grumble about what a drag it is, we don't know how to write a poem, it's hard enough to choose a gift, blah blah blah. But, but, but. On the day of the family Christmas party, we would have a BLAST. It was so so fun to hear everyone's poem, good or awful as they were. There were even tears on occasion! We'd all go home happy and touched--or possibly just hilariously amused--by the poem someone had written specifically for us. The gifts? They were awfully nice. But I think it was the poems that we each remembered the most afterwards. In my opinion (and everyone's, I suspect) it turned out to be a great Christmas tradition--even though you might say we all looked forward to it with dread. :-) Deana started a family tradition! What a great leader, what a sparkplug. That's always been my main memory/thought of Deana; she RULED the Chandlers--and we loved it, despite our resistance.

So we say goodbye, Deana.  It's so hard to believe you're gone.  But your bright, bright light is still shining for us all.  And to (mis)quote Peter, Paul and Mary, We won't let the light go out.

          "Between grief and nothing, I will take grief." . . .
                                                                   ~ William Faulkner

Monday, February 13, 2012


I’m having the hardest time decorating my office.  Well, not really my whole office, just choosing the furniture.  Well, not really all the furniture, just a chair.  Well, and not really even finding a chair.  I already have the chair.  OK, let me start over.

The "Sweetheart" Chair
I’m having the hardest time picking out a fabric to recover my grandmother’s chair for my office.  It’s the sweetest chair ever.  In fact I call it a sweetheart chair, but it’s technically called a slipper chair.  You know, one of those old-fashioned parlor chairs, like from your grandma’s bedroom (that’s where mine used to be, many many years ago).  It’s got a skirt and no arms and a cushioned seat and back, and the back is shaped like a heart, sort of, with a dip in the middle.  See what I mean?  And it’s so sweet!  I can’t help but think of it as a sweetheart chair. 

Elm-lined street   aaaah
My grandparents lived on Hamlin Avenue in Park Ridge, Illinois, a pretty northwest suburb of Chicago, in a really neat house on a beautiful street lined all up and down with elm trees.  And you know what that means: sometime in the late 60’s or early 70’s, they no longer had a street lined with elm trees, thanks to Dutch Elm Disease.  Wait, does everyone know about this, or was it just a Chicago phenomenon?  I have no idea.  But I can tell you that in Park Ridge, everyone knew about it and it changed the face of many neighborhoods, my Grandma and Grandpa McCormick’s included; apparently there were a lot of elm trees in Park Ridge and the surrounding areas.  Hamlin is still a pretty street, though—just not covered with a canopy of elms like it used to be.  Sad, really.

Now?  No more trees (aerial view)  :- (
See?  This is the side!
 At any rate, they had a house I loved.  And I’d love to live in it now!  For some reason, it pretty much stood sideways to the street; the front door was on the side, facing the driveway.  And when you walked in, the stairs, with their deep rose-colored carpeting, were straight ahead, with the living room on the right and the dining room to the left.  When I was in the house, it never seemed sideways; it seemed just right.  But when I think of it now, or when I drive by every 10 years or so, I wonder about that.  I’m guessing some architect was thinking about living in the house, rather than worrying about where the front “should” be.  Because the way it sits, you had a nice big bay window in the living room (complete with table on which sat a lamp with hanging crystals that caught the light that I used to love) that looked out onto the street, and when you were in the kitchen, you had a big window looking out onto the lovely back yard.  If that house were facing the street “correctly,” if you will, that living room would have looked out onto the side and the kitchen would have looked out onto the driveway.  Not that it was a bad driveway.  But, still.  So whatever the reason the house looks out at you from its side--and with just a minute’s more thought here it occurs to me that it was really probably because that’s the only way it fit the lot!—it was a good decision.  Boy, I wish I lived there now!

My grandparents’ bedroom took up the two front upstairs windows looking out onto the street.  Their room was like something you see in the movies from the 40’s.  It was green and pink, with pink chiffon curtains on the windows.  It even had a pink tiled bathroom.  My grandma had a skirted dressing table with a glass top, covered with beautiful bottles and make-up and nice-smelling boxes and lots of other ladies’ things, and the sweetheart (slipper!) chair sat at that table.  The chair was covered in green tiny wale corduroy, with a gathered green skirt.  Green tiny wale corduroy and pink chiffon, how neat is that?   Pretty neat, I say.

Yeah, kind of like this
Now for some reason, my family has never been big on handing things down from generation to generation.  I can’t think of one piece of furniture in our house growing up that had belonged to anyone—other than Barrow’s or Ladlow’s or Pruitt’s furniture stores—before us.  My parents were all about the “new, modern” way of life in the 1960’s.  I recall we had a very formal pretty white brocade sofa (white!!), with a white and gold openwork divider (I want to say it was made of plastic, but can that be?) separating living room and dining room, and there was a huge green sort of textured shiny pillow with black tassels on the floor, standing next to a three foot tall skinny aqua jar with a smoky brown glass stopper that came to a point. 
Almost like you’d expect Jeannie to come out of it.  (If you don’t know who Jeannie is, then you need to rent the 60’s TV show I Dream of Jeannie, with Larry Hagman and Barbara Eden.  Larry Hagman was a beanpole back then, if you can believe it, and Barbara Eden [aka Jeannie]—with her tiny little outfits that almost showed her belly button—was, well, not a beanpole.  That’s all I’ll
Jeannie inside her bottle
say about that.)  I also seem to recall deep turquoise pillows on the white couch.   So you can see that charming old furniture from the attic of Grandma and Grandpa McCormick or even Great Aunt Margaret (Grandma McCormick’s sister, who was like another grandma to us), or even Grandma Eimers (my dad’s mom) would not have fit in.  Besides, Grandma Eimers lived in a 2nd floor walk–up and I’m pretty sure she didn’t have any extra furniture hanging around.

So anyway, the point is that our family doesn’t have all kind of things that have been around forever, lovingly passed down through the generations.  And even though I can’t remember it ever being in our house when I was growing up (and we certainly didn’t have an attic, living in Arizona, the land of no attics), somehow we held on to Grandma’s chair.  And now I have it.  I don’t remember how that happened, either, but I’m virtually certain it’s not a style anyone else in the family would want.  Well, my sister Nancy would like the sentiment of it, I’m sure, but I double-checked with her and she’s fine with me having it.  Phew.

So embarrassing!
So I have it.  And I love it!  And I love that it’s in my office, which is the complete wrong room for a lady’s slipper chair.  And that’s perfect; something to make my office nice and girly, even while it’s efficient and messy all at the same time.  So, since the chair is more than 50 years old and it’s covered in worn green corduroy, for heaven’s sake, it’s time to refresh it.  And it might be nice to refresh the seat cushion as well while I’m at it, so that one can sit on it without listing to one side due to a cushion that somehow has worn very unevenly.  That would be embarrassing, for both the sitter and me, as you can imagine.

So I’m having a hard time picking a fabric that represents all of that history and emotion, yet still rings out “ME.”  This fabric must honor the fact that it belonged to my grandmother, that it’s from the 40’s (my favorite era for music and clothes and, sometimes, décor), and that now it belongs to an independent, fun, modern working woman (that would be me, in my deepest wish).  You have to admit, those are a lot of requirements for a fabric.  So much pressure!   After hours and hours of searching for fabric with my mom (Grandma McCormick’s daughter, no less) I’ve finally narrowed it down to light blue with white polka dots.  Or white with light green twigs and pink and blue birds.  Or green with white stripes.  Or maybe the mint with white polka dots.   See how hard?  I wish I had two chairs, it would be so much easier!   And a couch.

Oh my gosh, I’m getting an idea…   I could always get another chair, not identical but maybe a more modern complementary chair, that I could put a complementary fabric on!   So I could choose two fabrics!  The perfect solution.  Well, except for do you know how much it costs to re-cover a chair?  Holy smokes, all you people out there undecided about what career you want, hear me now!  Re-upholsterer has to be high on the list of well-compensated craftsmen, if you will.  Just a little tip from a shopper.
I'm pretty sure this man is a millionaire.

So I think maybe I’m committed to committing to just one fabric, after all—a good exercise for me, actually; I sometimes do have trouble making decisions.  OK, that’s it.  It’s the blue polka dot!

Or wait, is it the mint colored polka dot?  But what other colors really go with mint?  And the taupe twigs and blue and pink birds have lots of colors to coordinate with so maybe that’s more sensible...  

See how hard this is?   Calling Grandma McCormick—or, heck, any clever decorator from this very era (Kevin Sharkey, can you hear me??)—can you help me out here?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Why the griffin?   Who knows--but I like it!
How do you feel about Marriott hotels?  I kind of like them.  And Steve has held many, many meetings at Marriotts.  Which means lots of Marriott points.  Which means free stays at Marriott.  Which means lots more stays at Marriotts.  And that’s a good thing; they’re nice!  And a few weeks ago, we stayed for the first time at their fancy dancy brand, “JW Marriott.”  And boy, that was a REALLY good thing!

Fred & Lynette on their wedding day
We were going down to Tucson to have a lunch celebrating Steve’s sister Cindy’s birthday—which actually was over a month ago, but I’m positive you don’t want to hear the details of that explanation—and decided that while we were there we’d just be wild and have dinner with our friends Fred and Lynette, too, and, oh boy, stay the night.  (As you may recall, I LOVE staying in hotels.  One of my hobbies, you might say.)  So I checked around and discovered “we” (read, Steve) had earned enough points for a room.  I was planning on booking us at the Marriott University Park (located right at the University of Arizona, see how they did that—University Park?), where we have very happily stayed many times.  (After all, Steve went to the UofA for eight years, I think it is as he tells it, to earn his undergraduate degree, and still considers himself a Wildcat.  I guess we should be grateful he isn’t actually still a Wildcat.  That just a short eight years did it for him.)

Abbott and Costello
The last time we stayed at the Marriott University Park we had the nicest exchange with a gentleman named Michael who played host at breakfast.  He had such an interesting way about him—hearty and friendly and interested and just a je ne sais quoi aura about him (hey, that’s French for I don’t know what.  I mean I do know what it means; it means I don’t know what. Wait!  I think I'm hearing...  Hey, Abbott!)  And he talked very knowledgeably about UofA football.  Which was enough for Steve to bond with him immediately.  We even ended up asking him all about things in addition to college football and had a great lengthy chat while we ate our breakfast.  He turned out to be as interesting as he first appeared (even to me, who is fine with college football, but frankly, I don’t want to eat an entire breakfast over that topic alone).  He was charming and gracious and fascinating.  A true ambassador of hospitality.  We now, when trying to jog each other’s mind about which Marriott we’re referring to, use him as the defining point:  “You know, the one with that guy who was called to the Middle East by the military to teach them how to be gracious and curry favor.”  Of course!  The Marriot University Park!  (See?  I told you he had more to offer than UofA football.  Not that there’s anything wrong with UofA football, I hasten to add before Steve divorces me.)
But despite that fabulous experience, this time I happened to notice that, for the same number of points, we could choose to stay at the new-ish JW Marriott Starr Pass.  And I snatched that chance without a second thought!  (Yes, sad but true, fancy trumped really nice guy, this time around.)  See, most of Tucson and all of its resorts (virtually all of which I’ve had the pleasure to stay at—and enjoy) are on the east side of the 10 freeway.  It’s not that it’s a freeway-ish town; it just so happens that when you drive down there from, say, Phoenix, you get off the 10 and head east on any one of a dozen or more exits, and there you are, in Tucson.  The 10 is really the western border of most of Tucson.

Glenn Ford - W O W!!
Well, what’s west of the 10, you ask?  Ha!  West of the 10 is desert and mountains.  Really beautiful desert and mountains.  As in, The West.  In fact, it’s so nice and desert-y and Glenn-Ford-in-a-cowboy-movie-like that it’s the location of many dude ranches.  (Wait, I think we’re supposed to call them Guest Ranches now.  Who would have thought that even “Dude Ranch” would become politically incorrect?  Pardon me while I’m sick.)  So guess where the JW Marriott Starr Pass is?  Exactly!  West of the 10.  And that means, if you’ve been following closely, that it’s in the desert and mountains.  Not very far from the freeway and the rest of Tucson, but nestled into mountains and desert and about a million saguaros, nonetheless.  Feeling like a million miles away.  And that, truly, is neat. 

So we booked our room and headed down.  We had just a fabulous lunch with Cindy and her partner Imarra at this neat little restaurant called Delectables, in the area of Tucson called Fourth Avenue. (And guess what, it’s on Fourth Avenue.  They’re really good at naming things down there in the Old Pueblo.)  And we had a really fun dinner with Fred and Lynette, too—this time at a Vietnamese restaurant whose name I don’t think I ever learned, darn it.  Very fun, with great food and lots of colors everywhere, and a sort of general charming chaos.  I’d recommend it, if only I knew the name. 

And in between lunch and dinner, we headed west!  To the Starr Pass (OK, I’m going to stop calling it the JW Marriott Starr Pass at this point.  Too long to keep typing, annoying to keep reading, I imagine.  Starr Pass will do it, agreed?  This isn’t an advertisement for Marriott, after all.  I swear!)  Even as we crossed under the 10 to the mysterious West Side of the Freeway (this reminds me of the A.A. Milne
poem about, “You must never go down to the end of town without consulting me”--but back to my point…) things were looking good.  Just heading in that direction is awfully pretty.

And as the road wound around and around, we were really enjoying the scenery.  Really felt like we were out in the desert (despite the housing developments arising all around us, that is).  We finally turned around the last bend, and there it was.  The Starr Pass.  Standing tall amid the saguaros.  Nicely nestled on the side of the foothills, even blending into the desertscape—as much as a giant, six-story, 600+-room resort can blend in to the scenery, that is.  But from the moment we saw it, life was good.
The Starr Pass

Truly, virtually every aspect of being there was just great. 

Discussing the parking situation.
The only down side to the whole thing was our very first experience.  We decided to park ourselves.  (Make that, we parked ourselves when Steve misinterpreted my, “There’s a sign that says ‘Guest Self-Parking’” to mean, “Stop!  Turn here!  Park!”)  Which was a bit of a bummer, as it turns out, because the resort is kind of long and stretched out, and this parking garage is on the complete opposite end as the lobby.  Strange, but true.  We thought we were having a golden moment when we found a spot right by the elevator and then, doubly golden, as we approached the elevator a man going the opposite direction said, “Just arriving?  Enjoy yourselves!” with a little grin.  Which we happily mistook as a lovely and friendly greeting, not realizing till later that he was most likely being facetious and secretly snickering at what lay ahead for us.   

Which way, please?
And what lay ahead was a trek of oh, I’d say roughly two and a half miles--through lovely corridors, I’ll grant you that--to the lobby.  Along the way we only had to ask one cowboy and two Indians for directions.  We even passed an outer corridor with a view of the pool, outdoor lounge, and small mountain to one side, and a larger but still small mountain on the other side covered with saguaros.  Covered!  And we learned something, too.  Did you know that, despite all those wheels, suitcases get REALLY HEAVY when dragged long distances?  Now we all know.  Just a little travel tip for you.

When we reached the lobby, however, all was forgiven.  It’s just lovely!  Sort of Mexican/Indian classy, earthy, yet elegant décor.  Somehow they’ve managed to combine heavy wood furniture and leather appointments with that sleek, clean modern look.  To very nice effect.  Just lovely, I tell you.  There are stone walls and sleek tile floors.  There are rustic but beautiful wrought iron candelabra chandeliers.  (Although all I could think of was, DO NOT STAND HERE GAWKING UP AT THIS GORGEOUS BUT GIANT, HEAVY CHANDELIER IF YOU WANT TO LIVE.  Just in case.)   The carpets have a pattern of Indian rugs in them.  The ceilings not only have vigas, but latillas, as well, if you can imagine.  Of course you can’t—only a few people living in Arizona, or possibly Mexico, even know what that means.  Luckily, I am one of them.  Vigas are those rustic wooden beams you see in the ceiling; latillas are lots of little sticks laid right next to each other that cover the ceiling
Cool chandelier.  See the vigas and latillas?
between the beams.  (And now you’ve learned even more than just something about your wheeled suitcase.)  There’s a huge, and I mean two-story huge, picture window overlooking a small mountain (containing a golf course, if you can believe that), the pool, and tons of saguaros.   So as you can imagine (and yes, this I think you really can imagine) we forgave them the long trek from the car.

Until we were sent to our room.  Which was three-fourths of the way back to the car.  Avec suitcases.  (Why did we each have a heavy suitcase when we where there for only one night?  There’s just no reasonable answer for that.  I will tell you I suggested we use one suitcase, but that idea was rejected immediately.  So.  That’s all I’ll say about that.)  But the bright side of that, and I always try to look on the bright side, especially when Steve is doing the really heavy hauling, was that our trip to the car would be pretty short now.  See?  Always a bright side.

But let me hasten to add that check-in was quite a nice experience.  Our agent, who was very classy, dressed in a snazzy jacket and looking very handsome (not a requirement, certainly—but so nice, don’t you think?), was friendly and professional all at the same time.  He handed us our keys, then went into the back on a secret mission and came back and presented us with a gift bag (containing water—which we’d need for the journey to our room, no doubt—and iced tea).  Boy, once you get to that frequent traveler level, the perks just keep on coming.  A gift for us for accepting a free room!  He wished us a nice stay as we left.  And it was sincere!  I could just tell.

Photos of JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa, Tucson
Photo courtesty of TripAdvisor
Our room, when we arrived a half hour later, was worth the trip, as well.  Not over the top, but so nice and lovely with dark furniture and a breathtaking view of the pool, (small) mountain, and golf course.  The bathroom was fabulous—lots of granite and mirrors and a separate tub.  And fluffy towels.  Aaah.

F & L again!
We didn’t get to have dinner there, since (have you been following?) we had dinner with Fred and Lynette.  (Remember?
Nameless Vietnamese place?)  Next time, I’m sure we will have dinner there, if only because the patio setting at Primo looks so inviting.  I’m sure the food is pretty fine, as well. 

Signature Grill   So pretty!
We did have breakfast in the Signature Grill the next morning.  Our first meal with only each other for company.  So we brought our books.  (Not that we don’t love each
other’s company; we both just love to read and that’s not something one can really do when one is
Reading at breakfast
socializing with others.  We’ve found others usually frown on it and come to the conclusion that you are not great company.  So, often at breakfast, we read until I keep interrupting Steve to tell him something funny I just read, or point out something I just saw fly by the window, or ask him about those eggs he ordered or maybe his book….  So actually we begin by reading, but by the end of the meal, books have closed.  My apologies to my very patient husband.) 

How cute is that?
And the Signature Grill was grand!  The room is quite pretty, with more stone walls, windows all around with breathtaking views, and a smashing breakfast buffet.  They served these teeny tiny little glasses filled with muesli and granola, topped with raspberries--that's not the kind of thing I usually eat in the morning, but it was so cute I had to take one; and it was just delicious!  Steve told me that, earlier that morning, someone had gone through the lobby offering those little treats on a wheeled cart for anyone who was up and at 'em early.  Neat!

Keep your mitts off my bagel
And they did this cool thing with the bagels.  You know how, at a buffet, there's always the dilemma of how to get the guests to NOT grab the rolls with their grubby paws?  So they always put out tongs, certain that everyone will use them.  Yeah, right.  Well at the Starr Pass, they've come up with a clever (but hilarious) system to make sure one's hands don't touch someone else's bagels.  Bagels on a stick, with little wooden separators between each one.  So sanitary!

The sweet blue-eyed Jessica
We were waited on by a pretty, friendly server named Jennifer, who took care of our every whim in a very professional and eager manner, and was very concerned when we pointed out that at the top of the menu it mentioned “Belgium” waffles, whereas further down it referred to them—most correctly, thank God!—as “Belgian” waffles.  See, that would be like saying “France Toast” instead of French Toast, to use a breakfast analogy.  We thought it was amusing (imagine how fun we are at parties); she thought it was something that needed correcting, and fast.  And we’d thought perhaps she would simply roll her eyes at these two weirdos who instead of delighting over the fabulous breakfast buffet the Grill had served up (and it was fabulous), were editing the menu.  So we were impressed.  (And relieved, I have to say.)

There was one little glitch in our breakfast experience.  Just a little thing.  Apparently, there was a convention going on while we were there.  And it was apparently for the Cord Blood Registry.  Which I’m sure is a fine organization, helping you save your baby’s cord blood (yes, as in, umbilical cord) for future treatment for serious conditions that may arise.  Heck, I’ll support that.  But was I wrong not to want to be reminded of that as I walked into breakfast?  Was I wrong to feel horror as the hostess escorted us past a much-larger-than-life billboard showing a giant baby’s stomach and belly-button and the words CORD BLOOD—as we were on our way in to eat?  Gross!  Call me insensitive if you will.  I say it was major icky, and I’m sticking by it. 
Breakfast, anyone?

After breakfast, we discovered another great thing about the Starr Pass.  They have a gift shop!  Hallelujah!  Did you know many hotels are giving the gift shop the old heave ho?  Oh, the pain!  You can always count on hotel gift shops to have neat stuff—jewelry, stuffed animals, interesting articles of clothing.  And then there’s all the stuff that one must have in a hotel—snacks, books, magazines, band-aids, and who knows what all?  But there’s this awful trend these days toward eliminating the gift shop.  (Who are these people who travel and don’t need Advil?  Nail polish remover?  Books?  Trinkets?  SNACKS???  That’s just not the way we travel, I can tell you that—despite our large suitcases.)  So anyway, not only does the Starr Pass have gift shops--a series of shops, all connected--but they're quite nice!  They’re all pretty and large and have lots of great stuff.  Including very friendly staff.  The lady who helped me, for example, told me lots of interesting things about when she used to work at Disneyland.
Interesting, indeed.  And once again, very friendly, indeed.  And not only did I find tasty snacks, I even bought a cool Tucson t-shirt.  Very successful gift shop experience all around!

When it was time to check out, we were bummed to leave.  We hadn’t even been there 24 hours, yet we’d been treated to great, friendly, and efficient service from every single staff member from the moment we stepped off the elevator.  (Which is
Scary Indian
actually where we were greeted by our first member of the staff—who hurried to walk us a bit of the way toward the lobby—probably so we didn’t get attacked by Indians.  Just kidding!  About the Indians, that is.  The gentleman really did walk us part way!  And was just lovely.)

Our whole experience was fantastic.  I’d stay there again in a heartbeat.  Even if we have to use dollars instead of points.  My only advice is to drive to the lobby first, before checking in.  (Like, duh, you wouldn’t do that anyway.  I’m going to have to talk this over with Steve once more—why did we park first, again?)  If you do that, it’s all sunshine and roses from there on.  Wait, or is it green lights and good things?  Lollipops and rainbows?  Anyway --  you’ll love it.

I dare you not to!

(What's your favorite place to stay?....)