Keeping current in wellness, in and out of the water
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The small section of town known as Old Town Scottsdale includes a park, a history museum, and a performing arts center. The retail establishments are known for western art and Mexican imports. Native American jewelry and pottery can be purchased, as well as contemporary cowboy and cowgirl fashion. There is a popular farmers’ market on Saturday morning, and many bars and restaurants are scattered throughout the area. Many of the businesses have been in the same location for decades. It is a tourist destination for winter visitors, especially baseball fans who come for Spring Training.
I visited recently for a photo shoot capture some architectural and botanical images, and brunch. I stopped at the centrally located information booth run by Downtown Ambassadors to ask a few questions. I inquired about the Mexican food dining options within walking distance. Susan Sentner and her sidekick Joyce were on duty greeting visitors. They were a wealth of knowledge as well as welcoming, warm, and witty. They helped me locate the perfect brunch for me at the Mission, and furnished me with a list of all the public art in Old Town. I had fun swapping stories with these friendly ladies. They greatly enhanced my knowledge of Old Town as well as my enjoyment of it. After my delightful meal I had run out of time to photograph all the public art pieces. I have saved the list and map for a future project when I return for my next visit.
There are volunteer ambassadors to greet and guide visitors at information carts located at both Main St & Brown Avenue and at 5th Avenue and Stetson, seven days a week, from October through May. They are proud of their city and have valuable insights to share with guests. If you go to Old Town make sure you take advantage of their free services to make the most of your visit. They know everything.
If we were having coffee I would invite you to once again sit by the wood stove, which has been cranked up for a couple of days. This short cold snap may be the last time we need to burn wood this year. The quick warm up has caused all the trees to go into blossom mode. My peach tree is in bloom, and the apricot and grapefruit are budding up. Since I still had a large crop of ruby-red grapefruit on the tree I needed to act quickly to get them picked. It stresses the tree and the fruit will start to lose weight if I leave it much longer. I picked about 100 pounds, and took them to the farmers market. I am a member of a coop sponsored by our food bank that allows us to drop off our produce to be sold at the coop table.
It is great because small growers who do not produce enough to want to rent their own table use the coop to sell their fruits, herbs, and vegetables. I joined last year when I had too many grapefruit at the end of the season, and think it is a wonderful service to the community. I take extra herbs and citrus that turn out to be more than we can use. Others are doing it to increase income from home gardening. I came back to the market at the perfect time!! Tomorrow there will be a party at a brewery downtown hosted by the Arizona Small Scale Farmers Alliance, a ranger and farmer meet up. This will be a very fun event for me. I plan to attend and find out what is happening in local farmer land. I have also made my plans for wildflower safari to Tempe and Scottsdale in the beginning of March. One of my Air bnb hosts up there has a miniature farm with free range chickens and organic gardens. Guests are invited and encouraged to eat the produce and eggs. That will be interesting to see as well as taste. I want to see what farmers do in Scottsdale.
My trip to Maricopa County will include the opening of a new butterfly pavilion at the Desert Botanical Gardens for which they are having a party. It will be wildflower as well as citrus bloom season up there, so the sights and scents will be very exciting. On Sunday I will visit the Museum of the Musical Instrument, where I will see the exhibits at leisure the attend a classical matinée concert by the Phoenix Symphony. There are special exhibits about 20th century guitar art, and another about Woodie Guthrie. I could easily spend an entire day there. I am enthusiastically looking forward to my weekend away, not very far from home. I plan to purposely take some botanical/architectural images to use later as prompts for poetry or fiction. There will be plenty of subject matter from which to choose. I am still writing fiction once a week to Sue Vincent’s photo prompts, which gave me the idea to capture a few of my own for future use. April is poetry month and I always use an image with each of the 30 poems, so might as well prepare.
If we were having coffee I would be seriously pushing the grapefruit juice, and sending a few fruits home with you when you go. I want to hear about your week and writing projects. I know many of you are still in winter, and are probably getting tired of it. My early spring farming issues might not inspire much sympathy if you are still snowed in. Think of it this way. Soon you will be able to enjoy the blaze of color and flash of Phoenician spring without leaving home. I will bring it to you on coffee share. I only wish I could transmit the amazing aroma of citrus in bloom. It is sweet and uplifting beyond measure. Thank you for visiting this week. Take some spring vibes home with you.
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Christmas is such an anticipated holiday in America that it leaves lasting impressions on children. If I dig deeply into my memories of Christmas past there are certain phases that marked my history of celebrating.
The house was small and the farm very big. My grandmother made bread and cookies all the time. At Christmas she cranked up the volume and included cinnamon rolls. We played Chinese checkers, regular checkers, and Parcheesi. Between baking with my grandma and playing games with my grandpa all my wishes came true. I don’t know what my parents did, but I was always thrilled to be in Lincoln, Arkansas at the farm.
Pittsburgh had excellent quality building snow, so my friends and I constructed forts and had snowball wars. We had sleds, toboggans, and ice skates. At holiday break we were free to slip and slide all over town in our preferred method. We did have caroling in the 50’s with people showing up at your house singing and very cold. You were to invite them inside and give them hot chocolate. My mother made fruitcake (of which I was never a fan) and pralines (which were the best).
Special songs of the season, often with no religious connotations, are sung by bands of traveling musicians. The parranda grows as the host at each home visited joins the group and travels to the next home. Sometimes extemporaneous lyrics are created to flatter the host or the neighborhood. My parents were huge appreciators of the art form, and my dad was the boss of all the people in the petroleum camp. For this reason our house was the last stop of the night. The bar would open and the musicians would stay for hours, playing harps, rhythm instruments, cuatros, and guitars.
I had neither funds nor interest in entertaining like my parents had done. I did still like the large crowd festivities, but preferred to make the occasion pot luck. I still love this form of celebrating because each cook showcases something special that they want to prepare. I also like the progressive dinner, which goes from house to house for each course. Those seem to have fallen out of favor today, but they were fun while they lasted.
There is something excellent about paying others to do all the preparations and clean up for holidays. I spent wonderful holidays all over the world, in Chamonix, Swiss ski resorts, and one superb Christmas in Maui. If you have the extra cash and don’t mind traveling at peak times (when I did it the peak was not so hard to take) being in another land with room service can be a really good way to make the holiday season. Instead of making effort at home, the energy and money is spent on the travel itself.
We like to stay close to home and make very little fuss about our December now. I am working hard to clear space and give away old items rather than acquire any new ones. I use seasonal plants for decorations these days because I just don’t bother with electric lights and other time consuming ways to change the decor. We have no tree, and each year I give away more ornaments and outdoor decorative items. Not only are we happier during the season, we have nothing much to strike in January. This year we may zip up to Scottsdale for a meal at Posh and the farmers’ market. This is our family trip with our dog, who adores the FireSky Resort. The low key way to celebrate suits our lifestyle and our budget.
There is an arch rivalry between the cities of Phoenix and Tucson. We Tucsonans know that people outside the state have no way to distinguish the two and often confuse them. Politics aside (which would be impossible for Arizonans), there are extreme differences in the tourism and hospitality styles of these two towns. Tourists are attracted to the golf tournaments in both Maricopa and Pima Counties. Baseball spring training has all moved up there, and brings in millions. Bowl games and the Phoenix Suns brighten the economic situation for them too. The typical Tucson tourist is much less interested in shopping and is more likely to be spending time involved in outdoor sports of all kinds. Scottsdale is not afraid to step up and cover that niche offering the shopper from back east a wester phantasy phree phun time. Phree parking in old town allows these people to leave the car and ride around in a horse-drawn wagon for an exorbitant price. Everyone is excited to be way out west. The city of Scottsdale hires the trusty horse Dusty and Gary J Sprague, the singing cowboy, to serenade the crowd 1-4 on Saturdays. They are a huge hit.
I am inspired to drive to the Valley of the Sun for the phabulous phood scene. The AZ Slow Food newsletter informed me recently about the existence of a special highly rare date variety growing only in Scottsdale known as the Black Sphinx. The market was established in 1951 selling a date that developed there from seed and was distinct from all others. The extremely thin skin makes it a poor candidate (pun intended) for shipping. The fresh dates require refrigeration and are extremely delicate. After shopping the Scottsdale Pharmer’s market where I scored amazing produce and preserved items, we visited the date store, which features Arizona products of high gourmet quality. Bob bought beers brewed in Arizona, one of which was a stout that contained the dates from the Sphinx Pharm. We both agree the Black Sphinx is the best date we have ever tasted, and before Bob ate it he told me he does not like dates…a convert. We also tried a very good date cookie and some chocolate covered Medjools that are scrumptious. We came home loaded with gourmet groceries and exotic citrus. We have to admit we had phun.
Our first meal at Posh in Scottsdale was so memorable we have wanted to return for more. The first two weeks of December are low season in tourism the world around, so we made the trip our holiday party. The menu lists assorted groceries on hand, and the guest indicates any type of meat not desired in the meal. I am a vegetarian, which is all they need to know about me. The chef then creates culinary improvisation around the guest’s wishes.
We like to sit up at the bar because we talk to the chefs and watch while they are cooking the food. The night started with fresh potato chips with seaweed and drinks. Each plate was packed with flavor and art. All the presentations are appealing and imaginative. Bob enjoyed the exotic boar bacon and perfectly cooked scollops. The ginger wasabi slaw on top of ramen noodle cakes were a highlight, but all of mine were enjoyable and unusual. We know when we come to enjoy our dinner at Posh we will be given a sensual treat and be served with impeccable professionalism. It remains on a very high pedestal in my mind. The experience is superior to regular menu/dining in many ways. I have tried combinations I would not have ordered, but discovered I like. It is more of an adventure than just a meal. You can choose as many courses as you care to taste, add extras, and wine pairings a la carte. When you go home they give you a tiny take home sweet to remind you of what a jewel of a restaurant it is.
When I think of an ideal day I have plenty of time and plenty of tasty snacks. The weather can be any way, but my awareness is high. When I think of the Thanksgiving season and the Black Friday vision of what is to come I become a serious holiday prepper. I am not preparing for the zombie apocalypse or the end of civilization, but for the temporary insanity of all the world shopping to be shopping. I am preparing to stay home, work very little, and dine in some fine establishments close to my home for holiday meals to savor, remember, and pay chefs to create. I will not find myself at Trader Joe’s, or any other grocer, the night before Thanksgiving because I will not need any groceries for my meal. I have what I need, reservations at Maynard’s. Situated in the old train station and across the street from Hotel Congress, this fancy restaurant gets rave reviews, and we have never tried it.
For our big December family gift to ourselves we are taking our coon hound to Scottsdale to her favorite hotel, Kimpton FireSky. She loves the dog centric customer service, and all the other guest dogs. We love to dine at Posh, right across the street. We will drive up for the improvisational cuisine and a break from being at home. There are many cute small businesses in Scottsdale that create a flavor in the old downtown that we enjoy. We like the art galleries and will probably hit a local farmers’ market or two while we are up there. It will be citrus and date season, and although Phoenix is no longer very agricultural, there will be some local products we don’t have down here in Tucson.
For Christmas Eve we have reservations to dine very close to home at Pastiche. This week you can buy gift cards at Pastiche that come with a 25% bonus. Next week the bonus goes down to 20%. I am armed with my $125 worth of Pastiche gift cards which I purchased for only $100. I am so ready to party. I am completely into the idea of doing no cleaning, cooking, or entertaining, other than inviting friends to join us out on the town. I used to enjoy a labor intensive, baking, crafting, decorating, cocktail partying holiday cheer. Now that is all just way too much effort. I appreciate the labor and creativity that chefs and restaurants can provide, while I take it easy and be grateful that there is no clean up after my nap.