Monday, December 29, 2008

Dec 29-Jan 8 2009! Wow, 2009!

Big Do'ins downtown for New Years Eve. First Night is being coordinated by the Downtown Tucson Partnership and looks to be the makings of a fun time.

FIRST NIGHT takes place at seven locations in Downtown Tucson; Leo Rich Theatre at TCC, Scottish Rite Temple, Beowulf Alley Theatre and Tucson Children’s Museum are ticketed venues featuring varied entertainment including Hispanic roots music and dance, bluegrass, jazz and world music, comedy, interactive fun for kids and more.
Silver Thread Trio
Tim Wiedenkeller
Namoli Brennet

Los Cuatro Vientos
La Mezcla

Something for Everyone!
Looks to be a fun time and I hope it becomes an annual event.

Every restaurant and bar in Tucson will have some kind of New Years event. Even my fave, Feast, is having a "fancy-pants, prix fixe menu" (most likely booked up by now). So if you like to go out and have a big time on NYE, call your favorite place and see what's the haps.

I'm kind of in the "let's stay home and play a game or watch an old movie" crowd.

As a kid, I can remember my parents and grandparents talking about the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) and what a boost it had been for the country in very trying economic times (sound familiar?). When traveling, we saw so many public works made possible by the CCC and I love searching out these pieces of history today. Saguaro West will have a slide show about this lasting legacy on Jan 2-details are here.

On Jan 3 at 3pm Saguaro East presents a talk on A Taste of the Desert and the uses of desert plants for food.

On Sunday in Tubac, you can get a bit of the early history of the Valley presented by los Tubaquenos. Come join the lives of the men, women and children who worked and played on the Spanish Frontier. Sample foods, see weavers in action, and learn about fashions and woodworking. These presentations continue through March.

Something to think about: Love those little hummers? Can't wait to get your feeders out whenever you set-up somewhere new? Donate some time and/or money to hummingbird monitoring and learn more about the little critters. Coming up in March are banding days which you can find out more about at Hummingbird Monitoring Network or Birchside Studios.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Snowbirds Flocking!

Ideas for hikes, food for thought and candy for the eye can all be found in these blogs.
Artful RV Adventures
Are We There Yet?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

More on the San Pedro

Our 2 weeks of winter is here and there should be a white Christmas on Mt Lemmon! I read the forecast on azstarnet this morning and there were 3 comments: "Still beats Chicago!" "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow" and "Ahhhhh - when are we gonna hit 80 again?" That pretty much sums it up. If you plan to be in Tucson during the spring, this rain will help to provide you a fantastic desert wildflower display.

On Monday, Howard from
RV-Dreams posted about his hike along the San Pedro. His group visited Charleston, another ghost town a bit south of Fairbank and he has pictures posted. I also found an interesting site related to the Clantons (of OK Corral fame) that has maps and a short history of Charleston.
As I look at the map and try to imagine a whole town that once existed but is no longer there, it causes me to wonder how the residents of Charleston or Fairbank celebrated Christmas.

Hope yours is Merry!

Monday, December 22, 2008

December 22-29

I don't know about you, but after Christmas day I'm ready to get outside. All the extra food and time spent inside for various events makes me crave a hike in the fresh air. Luckily in Tucson, that's not difficult.

How about participating in the annual Christmas Bird Count? The first Christmas Bird Count was held on December 25th, 1900 and the long-term data collected through t
he years provides information on bird population trends. This in turn informs decisions made on protecting our feathered friends.

The San Pedro River is named by the Nature Conservancy as one of the
Last Great Places. Walking along the river you may see coatimundi, javelina, beaver or over 100 bird species. The San Pedro flows north, out of Mexico. A river running north is not something you see every day, unless of course you live on the San Pedro. But, go see it for yourself. There are docent led walks this weekend or take a walk on your own. My kids and I have spent many happy hours on the banks of the San Pedro. While there be sure to visit the Fairbank townsite the remnants of a once thriving railroad town.

You might like to spend some time just wandering the
oita Creek Nature Conservancy Preserve. This is another riparian area that is counter to the desert environment most people associate with Arizona. The conservancy does great work protecting the fragile biodiversity of the watershed.

Did you know Arizona is becoming a respected wine region? There are many wineries scattered in the grassy hills of the Sonoita-Elgin area. A drive through wine country may be just the post-holiday respite you crave. A few years ago my family took part in the grape harvest at Charron Vineyards a little closer to Tucson. Leo produces a very fine white Merlot and tastings are held every weekend. You might also like to try Callaghan Vineyards producers of award winning wines which have been served at the White House. More information on area wineries can be found here.Sandhill cranes are reaching peak numbers of their migration and will be heading north in a couple of months. Wings Over Willcox provides information on spots that are favored by the cranes.

That's quite of varie
ty to bring you our of your post-holiday stupor. Get up and get out!

A Book You Might Like

On the heels of the previous post, I wanted to suggest one of my favorite books, Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather. It's a wonderful read for anyone, but especially those who want to understand more about the history of the Southwest. The main character is a French missionary priest who arrives, on horseback, in Santa Fe. The story takes place almost 100 years post Padre Kino and in a different area, but there are many similarities and it is a great story well-told. Cather is wonderful writer.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Father Kino and the Missions

Marie of That Which Is Good and the artist responsible for some great RVer gifts (see sidebar), posted some beautiful photos of San Xavier del Bac on her site. If you haven't been to the Mission, please make time for it, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Father Kino was an amazing man of many talents. Not only a missionary, but also a mathematician, astronomer and cartographer, he traversed the southwest from northern Mexico to Arizona and California. Imagine that trip on horseback in the 1680s. His order was to establish missions and that he did, founding over twenty, some of which are still standing. Several sites throughout Tucson and Arizona bear Kino's name, such as Kino Parkway and what was Kino Hospital, now UPH Hospital at Kino Campus. A statue of Padre Kino on horseback is located on the Parkway.

Whenever I visit San Xavier, I stand in awe of the art that was created by a primitive people with the most primitive of tools and supplies. Some of their primitive processes have withstood the test of time. In the last century, cement stucco was used to "preserve" the exterior of the mission. Anyone who has experience with cement stucco knows that once it cracks (which it always does) water begins to seep in and whatever is under is ruined and the stucco will spall. Because of this the mission could have deteriorated beyond repair. The answer: remove the cement stucco and replace with lime plaster with a binder boiled prickly pear!

San Xavier, another important part of Tucson history.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Where D'ya Wanna Eat?

For some reason, Christmastime makes me crave Mexican food. Now, I can and do eat Mexican food year round but, I really want it as Christmas rolls around. Maybe it's because when we first moved to the southwest, I was fascinated by the number of people who made and sold tamales this time of year. In the hospital, signs would go up or the message would go out by word of mouth that a Nana or Tia was making and selling tamales. The tamales always made it to the Christmas table even for us Ohioans who never eaten a tamale until adulthood. An interesting thing about tamales is that everyone makes them a little different; there are those who put an olive in the center, others add raisins, some add nothing. It's a good thing to ask, as biting down on an olive with a pit can be dangerous.

Last week my younger son and I celebrated our December birthdays with dinner at El Charro, one of the oldest Mexican restaurants in Tucson. Over the years they have grown to have several locations around town but my favorite is still the original site downtown. There is nothing like a crisp night, the smell of woodsmoke and carne seca and a cold margarita. El Charro is known for Carne Seca and Birthday Boy had the CS burro, while I had Chicken Mole. Mmm-mm was it ever good. Mole poblano is a sauce made from dried peppers, nuts and chocolate and has a wonderful smoky flavor that is perfect with chicken.
Try it if you haven't.

If you're looking for good, authentic Sonoran style food, you can't go wrong at El Charro.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dec 15-21 Festivus!

The flurry of events and activities is lessening a bit as most people begin to focus on family events, travel and last minute shopping. But, there is still plenty to do. Yes, the weather is a little rocky right now but stick around, it'll change.

Here's the premier event of the week-Festivus for the Rest of Us at the Loft. You can take part in all the important events made famous by Frank Costanza.
"At the Festivus dinner, you gather your family around and tell them all the ways they have disappointed you over the past year."

If you like Fl
amenco, don't miss the Mercado San Augustin on Thursday. Adair Landborn and The Peña Flamenca de Tucson will perform a flamenco holiday show on Thursday December 18th at 4pm. I took flamenco lessons from Adair and she is an amazing talent. The performance kicks off the Las Posadas Party at 6pm, an important traditional event, celebrating “Las Posadas” with songs, whistles, candles and a piñata.

The Mercado San Agustín is Tucson’s first public open-air market (part of the Rio Nuevo project) and is located at 100 S. Avenida del Convento (West Congress St., west of I-10). The Holiday Bazaar runs Dec. 12-24 and is open to the public from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Tucson Boys Choir, the Arizona Jazz Academy, various local Salsa and Tejano bands will perform.

Friday 12/19 you can take a night walk at Saguaro-East. There are many interesting things to see at night. The moon will be in the waning Gibbous phase, so should provide some light. You must call to reserve a spot on the walk. 733-5153 for info.

Need something fun to do for a Girls Afternoon Out? How about
Holiday Tea at Ventana Canyon? It's a fabulous resort and during the holidays it's beautifully decorated. So enjoy the decadence of a 4 course tea fit for a queen! Ventana not quite your cuppa? Try Chantilly Tea Room for your special afternoon or the Tea Room at Tohono Chul Park. As I've said before, Tohono Chul is one of my favorite places in Tucson and there are lots of activities going on all the time including a Hawk Happening Dec. 17. Check the calendar here.

Looking for an Italian Christmas meal like Mama used to make? Roma Imports is the place. My mouth is watering just reading the menu, pork loin, gnocci, fennel and brussel sprouts. Call early!

And don't forget, Solstice is December 21, the longest day of the year. The sun will be returning.
Here Comes the Sun
Little darling

It's been a long, cold, lonely winter
Little darling

It seems like years since it's been here

Here comes the sun

Here comes the sun,
and I say

It's alright

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Where D'ya Wanna Eat?

We don't eat out a lot. We're of the LBYM persuasion, so try to keep those kinds of expenditures to a minimum. For that reason, when I do eat out, I like to go where I can get something delicious that I wouldn't make at home. Feast fits that bill perfectly as quail, skate wing and confit of pork belly are on the menu this month. I don't know about you, but I haven't done a good confit of pork belly in a long time. There are also more common items but something will always be uncommonly good about them.

Feast is located mid-Tucson, Speedway just east of Alvernon in a nondescript building that looks to have been a retail location of the 50s. The building has been beautifully redone inside, my only complaint being that at dinner it can get noisy due to all the hard surfaces. It has that urban vibe but is not impersonal. The chef/owner is always there and usually will make it by your table just to make sure your satisfied.

The menu changes often (monthly?) so I won't go into specific dishes that I've tried, other than to say I've never had anything I didn't like. However, the Feast Grilled Cheese is always on the menu and if you like grilled cheese, try it. I know, I know, what can be so special about grilled cheese? I felt the same way before I tried it but just do it, you won't be disappointed.

The website says Feast take-out because you can. The place actually started with just a few tables and glass cases displaying prepared dishes so people could stop by after work, pick up something and go home to a great meal. It was so popular that it's expanded to several tables and a robust and enthusiastic foodie following

Feast also has an extensive wine list.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Luminaria Anyone?

How many luminaria lightings does it take to threaten Dark Skies? I have no answer, but think of the candlepower used during this season across the Southwest. The little lights are beautiful and tomorrow night Dec. 12 will be the annual luminaria lighting at Tombstone Courthouse. The Courthouse is one of my favorite places to visit in Tombstone as it's not been commercialized and has an interesting museum. Many people might miss it because it's off the main drag. This is a free event and there will be finger foods and beverages along with Victorian-era music. Sounds cozy.

This sounds like a really cool (dress warmly) event. A campfire talk at the
Red Hills Visitor Center at Saguaro N.P.-West on 12/12. This is a beautiful setting, and how fun to watch the moon rise with a roaring fire. Check out the details here. Scroll down on that page for some other interesting walks and talks.

A few more hiking opportunities this week. I know that many people don't like hiking with a group but these listings give you ideas on available hikes to do on your own along with some information on degree of difficulty. Sabino Canyon-Hike to Seven Falls on 12/12. Sabino is a fee
area. More information on this hike and upcoming events here.

Birds!! Another chance to check out some of our flying friends. I still have hummers daily on my big purple sage and yesterday goldfinches were having a hayday on the gone-to-seed basil plants. You may see others at this Desert Birds Hike at Saguaro N.P.-East on Friday. This link will give you lots of information about ongoing programs at the park.

OK, that should keep you busy through the weekend. The
weather looks great through the weekend (pssst, i
t's snowing back east). According to the weather map-we're in the best place possible this weekend.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More Tucson Hiking

Doug and JoAnn from Living Our Dream have been hiking a bit at Catalina State Park this week. JoAnn's photos testify to the beauty of the desert at this time of year. With beauty like this and the moderate temperatures, who can resist?
Take a hike (or a dodder)!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

12/8-12/14 Winter Hiking and More

If you like hiking, this is the best season for it southern Arizona. Summer is hot and snaky and there are those pesky flash floods to worry about. Fall and spring can also be a little on the warm side but, winter is just right. The Sunday edition of the Arizona Daily Star has a great article about hiking trails for all levels, but most are geared to the more casual hiker. If you don't own a Arizona trail guide, check the sidebar for suggestions but this article is a good start. Take a hike!

Pima County Parks and Rec also has hikes this week. There's a Tucson Mountain Park birding walk on the 13th. Agua Caliente Park Historical events hosts a talk about Pima Co Sheriffs. Information is here.

Do you break into "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" at the mere mention of that country, or Evita, or Madonna or anything? Or you can't help but do your best Julie Andrews at the site of the Rocky Mountains "The hills are alive..."? This may be your event. Head to the Loft Cinema for the Massive Movie Musical Sing-a-Long on the 13th at 7pm. What fun! ....One, singular sensation, Every little step she takes. One, thrilling combination.... OK, I'll shut up but I'm keeping the gold lame top hat!

One of the reasons many people come to Tucson is to learn more about the culture of the Southwest and this time of year is full of opportunites. Like attending a Pastorela. If you've never heard of a Pastorela, it's the Mexican version of the medieval miracle play or the journey of the shepherd's to see the Christ child. This is the 13th annual presentation of A Tucson Pastorela with the opening night celebration on 12/12 at the Leo Rich Theatre downtown. Visit the Borderlands Theatre website for more dates and ticket information.

Another beautiful tradion is Las Posadas which reenacts Mary and Joseph's search for lodging in Bethlehem. Carrillo School has presented a posada since 1936. Schoolchildren walk through Barrio Historico neighborhood reenacting the Christmas story. Music and food sales benefit school programs. The procession is December 12th this year. Call 520-225-1200 for more information. If you haven't enjoyed luminaria yet, Tucson Botanical Gardens will host Luminaria Nights Dec 12-14. The Botanical Gardens are another treasure hidden away in mid-town. Butterfly Magic at the Gardens continues through March 31.

Still looking for just the right gift
? Maybe you'll find it at the Mercado San Agustin located in a huge tent, for one-stop holiday shopping and entertainment featuring performers and merchants from all over Tucson.

And if you STILL haven't found that certain gift there's still the
4th Avenue Winter Street Fair, the mother of all street fairs (at least in Arizona). I would advise you go on Friday! I love 4th Ave but the crowds during this event are huge so either go Fri or get there early!

Tucson Artist Colony is having their grand opening this weekend! Perhaps someone you know would love art lessons for Christmas.

Organic, slow food, 100 mile diet
-any of those ring your chimes? If so, check out the Local Harvest Marketplace this weekend. The event will be December 14 10 AM - 5 PM on E. Speedway. More informations and directions here

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Tumacacori 12/6 & 12/7

NPS Photo

I almost mis
sed a great event at one of my favorite Arizona sites-Tumacacori! One of the early missions founded by Father Kino and now a National Historical Park, I can remember taking day trips there in the heat of the summer because it always seems cooler with the trees and fountain in the courtyard. The Anza Trail which was blazed to connect New Spain with California passes through the park on its way to San Francisco. You can follow the trail along the section of the San Pedro River near Tumacacori and Tubac. (there are Geocaches in the area) La Fiesta de Tumacacori celebrates the cultures which have lived in the Santa Cruz Valley through the centuries. There is always good music, dancing, great food and interesting things to learn and do. One year we made adobes, another we used yarn and sticks to create Ojo de Dios for our Christmas tree and yet another year I got a great recipe for pinto bean soup. Sunday there will be a traditional Mariachi Mass in front of the mission. This is a beautiful service no matter your religious affiliation.

La Fiesta is free.

While you're there you can stop by the Santa Cruz Chili Company-we never miss this place to stock up on herbs and spices. When my SIL comes from Ohio, this is always on her "must do" list.

So if you're looking for something to do on this glorious weekend, take a drive to Tumacacori.

If you don't want to drive south, you can visit the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun for La Fiesta de Guadalupe on Sunday, 12/7.
This is a free family festival with mariachis, ballet folklorico, Yaqui deer dance ceremony, Las Posadas procession, regional food vendors and piñatas for the kids. They are requesting a Community Food Bank donation.

If you don't make it to the Gallery on Sunday, please take the opportunity to visit before you leave the Tucson area. It is a little gem tucked away in the Catalina foothills that used to be outside Tucson. The city has developed around it but the gallery remains an island of peace and beauty.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Engage with Grace

I've debated whether to post this here but will, as I know the message is an important one.
I've worked in healthcare as an RN for 30 years (wow)-95% of that time at the bedside. As you move up the hierarchy in healthcare facilities there is generally little to be inspired to greatness by. However, I found a blog (Running a Hospital) by a guy a few years ago who I think really gets it. Paul Levy is the President and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and has at his core a burning desire for what is best for the patient! I am continually inspired by his blog and know others are too.
Running a Hospital is where I found out about Engage With Grace. Click on the slide above for a more in-depth discussion of this simple, but oh so important, project.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

12/5 and 12/6 Arizona Historical Society Museum

Arizona Historical Society Logo
If you like books about the southwest or books are on your Christmas list this year, check out the Holiday Bookfair at the Arizona Historical Society Museum downtown. Dozens of local and regional authors highlighting recent publications by the Arizona Historical Society, the University of Arizona Press, and Rio Nuevo Press, as well as other publishers of Southwestern books. This event is part of the Southwest Literature Project and is co-sponsored by the Arizona Historical Society, the Pima Public Library, and the Friends of the Tucson-Pima Public Library. Featured books will be 20% off, there will an Author's Reception and items in the Mercantile will be 10% off. Looks like a fun event. A list of the books is here; there are great authors on this list. More information on the event can be found here.