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Ocean Month

Posted by on Jun 27, 2016 in Travel | 1 comment

When I realized it was Cephalopod Week (Science Friday’s “celebration of all things tentacled”), I thought I’d have some fitting photos to share with you.

Seattle Aquarium

I couldn’t find the one I thought I’d taken of the octopus up against the glass at the Seattle Aquarium or the cuttlefish we raced across the aquarium at Monterey Bay to see, moments before they closed for the day. (Because cuttlefish are so rad, we couldn’t leave without seeing them!)

Seattle Aquarium

While I didn’t spot any cephalopods in my photos, June is National Ocean Month. So here are a few the other ocean creatures we visited at the Seattle Aquarium.

Seattle Aquarium

Seattle Aquarium

Seattle Aquarium

We received media passes for the Seattle Aquarium as part of a CityPass courtesy of Visit Seattle.

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Would you sleep in a lookout tower?

Posted by on Jun 23, 2016 in Travel | 1 comment

I was looking for National Park campground information online when I came across this:

“Bunk in a Fire Lookout Tower – These are mostly historic fire lookouts once used by wildland firefighters, like 55-foot tall Spruce Mountain Fire Lookout located at 10,000 feet.”

I’ve seen these towers in the distance, perched over Arizona forests, and thought how awesome it would be to see the view from there. I had no idea it was a possibility (without years of training and a Forest Service job) until I read that. I also hadn’t thought about them no longer being in use.

I guess nowadays fires just send a text-?

Text from a wildfire

The catch:

“Most offer panoramic views of mountains, forests and wildlife but may not offer electricity, running water, or road access.”

You may have to pack in all your food, water, and gear. You may also have to climb down a ladder to use the bathroom.

Inconvenient, but still, I’d stay in one for a night.

How about you?

Lookout tower

How to find fire towers you can stay in on

  1. Type “camp” in the search box.
  2. Under category, choose “campgrounds.”
  3. Under looking for, choose “lookouts.”


Images via (except #2).

  1. Spruce Mountain Fire Lookout, Medicine Bow National Forest, Wyoming.
  2. Via iOS7 Text generator.
  3. Bald Butte Lookout, Fremont-Winema National Forest, Oregon. “The lookout was built in 1931 and served as a Forest Service fire detection site for over 50 years. It was constructed from an Aladdin L4 ground-mounted lookout kit in which all of the pieces were pre-cut in six-foot lengths or less so the entire kit could be packed by horses into the remote site.”
  4. Screenshot.
  5. McCart Lookout, Bitterroot National Forest, Montana. “It has been restored to reflect a lookout of the 1940s, including the stove, furniture, dishes and other small touches.”
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Pomegranate in Progress

Posted by on Jun 20, 2016 in Life | 8 comments


We’ve had this dwarf pomegranate tree for about 5 years (6? more?) without any sign of fruit – until this past spring.

I was so excited when I spotted a couple tiny red buds one day that I texted photos to Phillip. And my parents. And posted one on Instagram.

Pomegranate bud

Those buds blew off on an unusually gusty day, and I thought it was all over for this year. Then new ones grew.

Yesterday, on the eve of the summer solstice, when I was on the patio worrying about my plants in the 119F-degree heat, I spotted a little pomegranate fruit.


Phillip thinks the tree is in a better spot at our new place. I think it’s because I’ve been watering it with water from Frida’s tank.

Either way, I’m glad to see it flourishing.

Microblog Mondays: Write in your own space

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Happenings List: June 2016+

Posted by on Jun 16, 2016 in Craft, Travel | 0 comments

This is our monthly curated roundup of maker/artist/explorer events!

Angle brackets (>>) point to related info on our site.

National Park information


National Park Service Centennial

Aug 25. There are programs throughout the United States to celebrate the Park Service’s 100th birthday.

  • Now – 2017. Art Quilt Tour: 13 art quilts created in celebration the National Park Service Centennial are touring the National Parks they depict now through 2017.
  • Read on to find out about celebrations in Arizona, Hawaii, and Massachusetts!

Mt Lemmon


>>June in Arizona is not the end of the world! Here are some events that show life goes on, even when it’s really hot outside…

Maurice Sendak art exhibit

Now – Jul 17 at Burton Barr Central Library. 50 original pencil drawings and other early images from Where the Wild Things Are author and illustrator Maurice Sendak.


IN FLUX Cycle 6

Now – Dec at various Phoenix-area locations. Temporary, site-specific public art installations by local artists.

Meet an Astronomer

Jun 17, 7:30pm at Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff. Meet a Lowell astronomer and ask astronomy questions! There will also be real-time images of planets, stars, galaxies and other celestial objects displayed on a large outdoor screen.

  • Part of new “Meet an Astronomer” series Friday and Saturday evenings in June, July and August.

Classic Saturdays

Jun 18, 10am at Heritage Library, Yuma. A free weekly event featuring classic movies and movies filmed in Yuma.
>>Our trip to Yuma.

The Tucson 23: A Mexican Food Festival

Jun 18, 6pm at JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa, Tucson.

Tucson Movies in the Park

Jun 24, Jul 8, Jul 22, Aug 5, Aug 19 at Reid Park, Demeester Performing Arts Pavilion, Tucson. Free admission.
>>Ongoing Phoenix-area movie events.


Bites Donuts Pop-up

Jun 26, 8am at Peixoto Coffee, Chandler.
>>You’ll want coffee with that.

Sewing Classes with Oxford Dogma

Frida Kahlo painting

Frida Kahlo birthday celebration

Jul 9, 10am at Heard Museum. Art exhibition by the Phoenix Fridas, live mariachi music, and cake!
>>Last year we saw artwork by members of the Phoenix Fridas at Burton Barr Central Library (Phoenix).


2nd Mondays, 6pm at Gangplank Chandler. Free monthly meet-up of artists and crafters. Learn something new or bring your own project to work on!

Hilton Indoor Fine Art Festival

Jul 16, 10am-6pm at Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort.
Juried fine arts festival with artisan displays from around the region and live strolling acoustic violin, jazz and bluegrass performances.

Road to flagstaff

National Park Service Parks in the Pines Birthday Bash

Aug 20, 10am-5pm at Flagstaff City Hall Parking Lot. Celebrate the National Park Service’s centennial with a free park fair, photo booths, and cake.

Yuma Jazz Company: Lutes Summer Jazz Series

Now – August 19 Friday nights at Lutes Casino, Yuma.
>>We saw YJC perform when we were in Yuma. We also had lunch at Lutes Casino.



The Junk Show

Jul 10, 8pm at Copper Still, Los Angeles. A monthly comedy-focused variety show at the bar inside Jaraguá Salvadoran restaurant.

#BlogHer16: Experts Among Us

Aug 4 – 6 at JW Marriott LA Live, Los Angeles. BlogHer annual conference.

  • Aug 6, 10:30am. Mobile-Readiness Blog Review Geek Lab: I’ll be leading this interactive small group session. (See online schedule.)
  • Watch for a BlogHer registration discount in our next newsletter!

sculpture by Ken Newman


Animalia exhibition

Now – August 21 at Loveland Museum/Gallery, Loveland. Art with animals as the subject, which explores their complex relationship with humans.

  • July 8, 5:30 pm. Thought to Finish: Natural Artist Laney will produce a wildlife painting in front of viewers from beginning to end.
  • “The Rat Race” sculpture (and photo) above by Ken Newman will be included in the exhibit.

volcano art center


Volcano Art Center

“Where people, art, and nature meet.” Educational center and fine arts gallery with handcrafted work by over 300 local artists, as well as a performance series and rain forest tours in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.

Free Ukulele Lessons

Now – Dec 26. Monday mornings at Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park Visitor Center. Learn to play basic cords on the ukulele!
Fountain Square Indianapolis


Outdoor Concerts in Indianapolis 

There’s a great round-up of free summer concerts on the Visit Indy blog.

>>Our visit to Fountain Square.


Bring the Park to the People!

Aug 20, 1-4pm at Eagle Park, Lowell. Interactive pop-up museums with crafts and informational materials, neighborhood tours, and a community weaving project in celebration of the National Park Service’s 100th birthday.

+New York

Point of Vision: Celebrating Women Artists in Fantasy and Science Fiction

Now – Aug 20 at Museum of Illustration at the Society of Illustrators, New York.

The Great Food Truck Derby

Aug 19, 4pm at Hayground School, Bridgehampton. At least 15 New York City and Long Island food trucks serve food and drink during the Community farmers market. Event benefits Hayground schoolyard projects providing culinary arts training for local kids. (Graphic via Edible East End.)



Virginia Craft Brewers Fest

Aug 20 at Devils Backbone Basecamp Brewpub & Meadows. Celebration of Virginia’s craft beer industry.

>>Over 60 participating breweries, including South Street, which we visited in Charlottesville.


Graphic Masters: Dürer, Rembrandt, Hogarth, Goya, Picasso, R. Crumb

Now – Aug 28 at Seattle Art Musuem. Exploration of how six historical artists used prints and drawings to express personal sentiments.

+Washington DC

Objects Out of Storage

In conjunction with the ongoing Patrick F. Taylor Foundation Object Project, the Objects Out of Storage program temporarily displays related objects with talks from experts at National Museum of American History about once a month.




Star Wars Celebration

July 15 – 17 at London Excel Centre, London. Star Wars fan convention.
>>Things we saw at last year’s Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim.

WORDfest on Beckenham Green

July 16, 12pm at Beckenham Green, Bromley. Free community festival of all things book-related – crafts, workshops, bands, groups, poets!

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The Ups and Downs of The Canyon Motel (Williams, AZ)

Posted by on Jun 9, 2016 in Travel | 2 comments


It’s not every day that your mom gets her master’s degree. So if her graduation is in another city, you make travel plans.


After getting back from our last big extended-family trip to my cousin’s wedding in Virginia, we started planning for Mom’s Northern Arizona University graduation in May. We were looking for somewhere that everyone making the trip to Flagstaff could stay.

Cast of Characters:

My mom (a.k.a. Graduate with honors) and dad (vital support system and expert pancake maker)

My brother Ian, sister-in-law Christine, niece and nephew (yep, they flew in from Seattle!)

My aunt (Sister of the Graduate), uncle, and their dog

Phillip and me


Turns out that, even four months ahead, we were a little late. Flagstaff hotels were filling up for graduation weekend, and the rooms that were available tended to cost double or triple their regular rates. We looked at cabins and Airbnb and weren’t finding anything that could accommodate all of us well. (Some of these places have like a million bedrooms but one bathroom. #badideas)

Canyon Motel, Williams, AZ -Picnic table

We were excited to find The Canyon Motel and RV Park, which fit what we were looking for:

  • Kitchenettes (microwave, mini-fridge, coffeemaker) so we could bring some of our own food.
  • Picnic tables for family meals.
  • ADA accessible rooms.
  • Playground for the kiddos.
  • Dogs allowed.



The motel is not actually in Flagstaff but in Williams, about 30 minutes away.

Williams, Arizona’s claims to fame:

Canyon Motel

The Property

Canyon Motel is minutes from historic downtown Williams one direction and Bearizona animal park the other.

Canyon Motel

The motel part is actually a series of renovated 1940s cottages with exteriors made from the local flagstone. There are 3 separate rooms next to each other in each building.

Canyon Motel

Besides the cottages, you have the option of staying in a vintage train car or caboose, pulling up your RV or tent camping.

Canyon Motel, Williams, AZ -image

There are fire pits and grills near the picnic tables, a heated indoor pool, and a “hidden patio” (for rent).


The office doubles as a general store selling snacks and Route 66 souvenirs.

Canyon Motel


While each room is different, the whole place is decorated with a kitschy Route 66 / railroad theme. There are vintage travel posters, benches with backs made from Chevy truck tailgates, and lots of railroad and road signs.

Canyon Motel

All rooms include kitchenettes. Some also include sofa beds. Ours had shelves near the mini-fridge and also in the bathroom, which is nice. We didn’t have a closet but there was a clothes rack and hangers.



Plot twist: A few weeks out, my aunt realized they wouldn’t be able to make the trip.

When she called to cancel their reservation, the motel couldn’t find it in the system. Which is disconcerting. If they had come with us, they may not have had a room when they arrived.

Canyon Motel, Williams, AZ - bed

Check-in Drama

Although the motel had the rest of our reservations, our arrival still wasn’t exactly smooth.


Act I

  • A white minivan, carrying my parents and Ian’s family, pulls up in front of the Canyon Motel office.
  • Dad is told he can’t park there.
  • Misdirected by signs meant for RVs, he pulls forward a few feet, and sends me a warning text.
  • Meanwhile, Ian is checking in. The desk clerk goes over where everything is, circling recommended restaurants on a map.
  • They go into their respective rooms, where my niece promptly throws up on the bed.
  • Someone from the motel brings a change of bedding.



Act II

  • 30 minutes later, Phillip and I arrive.
  • Confused, we follow Dad’s text and park in front of the office.
  • Phillip is told to move the car. (Exits)
  • I check in and receive a single room key.
  • The desk clerk patiently goes over where everything is, circling recommended restaurants on a map – as if she hadn’t just done that when Ian arrived and probably 10 times that day.
  • As we wrap up, Phillip returns from moving the car and is told to now park it next to our room.


Canyon Motel

I Saw the Sign

Of course, not all the check-in drama was the motel’s fault. (They did not, for example, ask my niece to get sick.) Actually, every employee we spoke with was friendly and helpful.

There are just a lot of things design- and policy-wise that make the place itself feel unwelcoming.


Besides the confusing parking, there are baffling rules about all kinds of things, like which picnic tables to use. There are do-and-don’t signs posted all over the place.


More importantly, even though our bed was comfortable, not everyone’s was. The sofa bed where my niece was slept was basically all springs. Fortunately, she’s small enough she could curl up on the one useable corner. (My even smaller nephew slept on a cushion. Awww…)
Canyon Motel, Williams, AZ -


Our stay wasn’t all bad, but it was a mixed bag. It was great for multiple families to be close together, still have our own individual space (and bathrooms!), and room for the kids to run around. They loved the playground, and the picnic tables were a good gathering spot.

Canyon Motel

If we were to do this trip over, I’d probably still stay there, because it worked for what we needed at the time. In other circumstances, though, I’d probably opt to stay somewhere that made me feel less like an intruder – or a hassle – and more like a guest.


We received a media discount for our stay from The Canyon Motel and RV Park.

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