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Value For Dollar, Air bnb

March 13, 2017 1 Comment

I was a travel agent for many years, and have not lost my love of hotels. There is nothing like a stay at a first class establishment to make you feel pampered and rested. I prefer to save up for a special stay if I want to stay in a hotel. When they converted the Waldorf-Astoria to apartments last week I was really happy I had stayed there a couple of times. Once I talked the sales representative into giving me a two bedroom suite for the price of a double room. It was spectacular, and I will never forget it. The Sunday brunch was also to die for.  Five star hotels are memorable, but they are not the only way to have a special vacation.  Since air bnb started I have used it for particular locations. Sometimes the most important aspect of the stay is the exact location.  Air bnb has expanded my choices when I travel to include a large and growing number of private homes, guest houses, and rooms for rent to paying customers.  I used to rent private flats in other countries, and it was tricky.  Now this has become easy and safe for all involved parties. Air bnb connects renters with exceptional spaces to rent.

The company carries insurance for both the renter and the property owner.  There is a vetting process, and the reviews are made public.  If a guest is undesirable and is reviewed as a bad prospect, other owners will not want to rent to him.  Conversely, if an accommodation is reviewed as less than perfect, prospective renters can take this into account when deciding on a rental.  I have only had one property that worked out well for me but I declined to review because I thought it was not appropriate for most travelers.  I have been around the world and have a pretty wide range of tolerances, but this is not the case for all clients of air bnb.  The base of customers and rentals is growing, which means there are new places on the rental market all the time. I keep some wish lists of properties for future reference.  This helps me check certain cities for my dream accommodations quickly. There are many choices, and trip planning is a sport for me.  I can get lost in the air bnb site for hours, just doing research on new locations.

I go to Tempe, Arizona at least once a year for a weekend.  I like to live like a regular person in the neighborhood when I am there.  I don’t always cook, but I like the option of a kitchen for flexibility.  This is one of the major advantages to hotel life in my mind.  Each host is different, but generally the renter is given free use of the kitchen, and normally the outdoor barbecue, if there is one.  If nothing else this allows me to store any produce I pick up at framers markets, and gives me a place to make my coffee in the mornings.  Hosts almost always provide coffee and tea.  Some go all out with gifts of food and wine for the traveller. I have moved in to find a case of fizzy water and other goodies left by the previous tenant.  The host describes what is provided so there is little chance of surprise.  Being accurate in the description is an important issue to the company.  I find they are all good at that.  Obviously, some personalities will fit better than others, and staying in someone’s home is intimate.  All my hosts have been just right for my tastes, usually leaving the premises, and leaving me alone.  Many will leave a key or a lock box for convenience checking in while they are at work.  My recent stay at Larry’s place in Tempe worked out very well for my needs.  I would recommend his property for anyone.  He is friendly, but low key.  His very well presented guide book helped me navigate the area when I arrived.  It was  very helpful.

Larry's yard

Larry’s yard



The referral and vetting system is similar to Uber or Lyft.  If you use my invitation link to sign up , you will receive a discount of $40 on your first booking.  I will be rewarded with $20 in credit after you take your first trip.  It is a win/win situation. Have you tired using air bnb, gentle reader?  It is becoming much more popular all the time.

Weekend Coffee Share-Urban Pride

October 29, 2016 3 Comments

TenWest Festval

TenWest Festval

If we were having coffee I would tell you about my exciting week attending events at the TenWest Festival.  This Tucson startup/tech conference is a tiny infant version of South by Southwest, the festival in Austin that has grown exponentially. The 30 year old Austin festival is the Tucson Gem Show of trendy startup tech parties.  I have not attended, but would no longer really want to go just because it is so crowded and popular.  Our own home grown business incubator has organized the Tucson festival around our unique qualities.

The keynote I attended was the one about our designation by UNESCO as a city of gastronomy.  I knew about it, but was interested in how it came into being and what it would mean for the city in real terms.  A well known local chef, an archaeologist, a writer, a tourism PR professional, and the director of the Mission Garden spoke on the subject. We received the designation because a group spearheaded by the archeological interest group proved to UNESCO that Tucson had the oldest agricultural history in the country, documented to be more than 4,000 years in existence.  The first application was rejected, but the committee gave some guidance about how to strengthen it in order to be designated.  On the second try we got the coveted city of gastronomy designation.  It is much more than just a vibrant restaurant scene, as our speakers explained.  Food and sustainability are big interests of mine so the presentation fascinated me.  I took my neighbor Heidi to that day because she is also a food diva.

Heidi and I attended two workshops before the keynote that pretty well blew our minds.  The first on 3 D printing was presented by an architecture professor from U of A and an engineer currently engaged in the field of 3 D printing.  We saw examples both on the screen and on the display table of objects created by 3D printers.  The capability to produce small individual manufactured products has become not only affordable but incredibly controllable.  I was highly enlightened by this class because my previous understanding was zilch.

After a delicious lunch we went to a presentation by Jerzy Rozenblit, PHD, a professor of surgery at the medical school at U of A.  He is developing a simulator for surgeons to practice laparoscopic surgery.  This is needed because it takes time and practice to become proficient in this art.  Currently this practice takes place on live humans.  The obvious benefit of more training before reaching into a living person became clear when we saw examples of the training data.  The students “under the hood” have to learn to smooth out their movements while maneuvering two long instruments to do an operation.  The tracking device on the simulator shows how erratic and out of control the student can be on initial attempts.  Over time (an estimated 300 hours is needed to become really good at this) the sensor shows the device going smoothly and directly to the target organ in the body.  This work will definitely save some lives.

I took two very well presented workshops on podcasting.  We learned both about the popularity and effectiveness of the trend, but the specifics of getting started. Our teachers were working professionals in the field of marketing and audio engineering.  The sessions were jam packed with information, and like all the presenters they invited the audience to visit them in person or on line to stay in touch.  They could not have been more cordial.  The fellow participants I met were equally charming and insightful.  I feel sure this even will grow.  I am pleased I went to see what they are doing this year. I am proud of my city’s efforts to stay on the cutting edge of technology, art and community.  The major funding comes from Cox Business, which deserves a lot of credit for serving our local businesses so well.  They gave away $50,000 in a shark tank style contest as well as funding much of the activity during the festival.  I am their customer, so i like seeing some of the profit be plowed directly back into innovation in Tucson.

Tomorrow is Cyclovia,  a super fun bicycle event taking place close to my home. I don’t always go on my bike, but this time it starts at my beloved Tucson Botanical Garden, where all participants will be invited to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit gratis.  I am a local first kind of person.  I like to support my local merchants and non profits because my own quality of life depends on it.  I have been very uplifted by my city this week, as I will be tomorrow biking around in summer weather with my fellow Tucsonans.  We live in a fabulous city with diverse cultural and commercial interests.

I am serving both coffee and tea this weekend.  Please help yourself.  I am drinking medium roast coffee right now to jump start this day.  There is a lavish buffet of finger sandwiches, potato salad, raw vegetables, the pickles I made last week, stuffed peppers, and vegetable stew.  I picked up another 60 pounds of produce again today and can use your help in eating it all.  I am starting my first fermented pickles later from the beautiful pickling cucumbers I just scored.  I have fermented lots of foods, but never tried pickles. Wish me luck with this chemistry experiment.  You will be able to taste them some weekend soon. I am going to focus on heavy garlic and dill flavors.

What has been happening in your part of the world, gentle reader?  If you want to share, or read personal tales from writers  visit our group here, at Diana’s weekend international coffee share.  Pour yourself a cup, fill your plate, and stay a while.  Tell us what is on your mind.





Echo from the Basement

April 18, 2016 1 Comment

the 'Burgh in fall

the ‘Burgh in fall

basement, childhood home

basement, childhood home

The player piano gave everyone an entertaining head start on talent and poise

Peddling the notes through the coded chads any pianist could master the score

Paper teleprompter on the rolls fed the lyrics to the sing along crowd that enjoys

Cocktails, 50’s style appetizers on toothpicks, formally dressed couples took the floor

Party people full of stories, laughing hard at my father’s jokes while my mother annoys

The intellectual, conversational, suburban, name dropping group always trying to score

Her lack of guile and singular style in party planning and in life, showed her taste



Find new poetry to enjoy this month at #NaPoWriMo.  Contribute to the 30 days of writing your own to find the poet in you.

Digesting the Past

January 20, 2016 2 Comments

fermenting beverages

fermenting beverages

Our bodies alert us to imbalance and disease long before a diagnosis can be made.  I have always had excellent digestion, but a couple of years ago I had to make some dietary changes to stem some new symptoms I had acquired in my digestive tract. My thermogram showed inflammation all along the digestive system, but the real issue was that I felt bad.  I had become a burping bubbling mess.  I eliminated wine and beer, which made a huge difference in the problem.  I also decreased, but did not totally stop, my consumption of bread.  These changes, together with some attention to adding the foods that heal the spleen, helped me conquer my indigestion.

During the time I was studying my spiritual path as it coincided with all this unexpected indigestion in my body. I believe there is always some soul element of every physical manifestation.  Indeed, I had unresolved, undigested issues about my home and environment that had serious consequences. Stress from trying unsuccessfully to put a stop to crime in our neighborhood had become a permanent drag.  I was really sick and tired of reporting crime with no response and no effort made by authorities to stop it.  The culture of willful blindness had won the day, and no progress was possible.  Now there is a breakthrough!!!

This week our new police chief, Chris Magnus, starts his job running the Tucson Police Department.  I have very high hopes that his new energy will uplift the community and bring people together to improve conditions in our Tucson  neighborhoods.  His reputation for community policing and success in reducing violence precedes him.  We need to improve the working relationship between the cops and the citizens here.  His experience should prove very valuable to improve the culture of TPD.

My new hobby is fermenting raw foods.  I have tried concocting several beverages that are super simple to make and taste great.  They have the added benefit of probiotic culture which boosts immunity and assists digestion.  Over time the healthy bacteria growing in my beautiful beverages will improve my health, but for now I just love the flavors.  At the moment I am fermenting some red cabbage kraut juice, a batch of swizzle, and a batch of ginger beer.  When the ginger beer is ready I want to try a second fermentation to add more fizz.  The possibilities of delicious new ways to digest the past are endless.  Here are directions for you if you want to try making your own switchel, packed with electrolytes from the apple cider vinegar. To your health, gentle reader!!!

Reverse Culture Shock, Being Home

August 2, 2014 2 Comments

Travel is exciting and broadens the mind. I love to go, but I love to come home even more. When I compare my ease and comfort at home with life on the road, even at wonderful places, I am always pleased that I live where I do.  My midtown location makes it simple and fast for me to shop for anything I want.  I am surrounded with very high quality body workers and Chinese Medicine practitioners.  My esthetician is the best in the world, and her practice is just blocks from my home.  I miss my pool and giant jacuzzi when I travel because it is private and rarely used by anyone but me.  I go in the morning during the summer and have the water all to myself every day.  I do like the pools at my health club, the Tucson Racquet Club, in the winter months because they are heated and next to a steam room.  This time of year (August) nothing pleases me more than to walk around the corner and have hours with the private pool all to myself.  I have never been anyplace else where this is true.

I am happy to be back in my kitchen.  Dining and tasting all over town has its merits, but whipping up anything you want to eat because you can is better.  I am a good cook, and have brought some of the flavor ideas home with me that I learned in my neighborhood of East Austin. I met more than one great craft cocktail maker who have given me new ideas for shrubs, punches, and custom soda drinks.  I tasted some pickled veggies that made sandwiches pop, and are very easy to prepare and keep on hand in the fridge.  I was served the best mac and cheese which was baked in the same black cast iron pans I use at home to bake bread.  I will knock off the black bean, jicama, avocado, romaine salad from El Chilito and it will be as if I never had to leave Manor Rd.

The University of Arizona students will come flooding back into town, but there are fewer of them than at University of Texas.  While I was on holiday the new tram opened downtown which will make our transportation system much fancier and desirable.  The students will now be able to tram all over downtown to drink, then tram back home without getting behind the wheel.  This new attraction will be fun for us also.  We plan to ride down to check out some of the new businesses along the tram line very soon.  There is still plenty to discover right here in Tucson.  I am shocked at how much I love my hometown.

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