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Tucson Music Hall

Posted by on Oct 26, 2017 in Craft, Travel | 0 comments

Tucson Music Hall

“There are still like 15 spots left.”

We were a few cars back in a long line for a parking lot that attendants were debating whether to declare full.

Fortunately, we made it in before they closed the lot.

When Caitie from Arizona Opera had warned me to get there early, I thought maybe she was joking about my tardy arrival to the lunch hour concert.

Turns out, Tucson Convention Center parking is no joke.


Even though the world premiere of the Riders of the Purple Sage opera was a big event, it wasn’t the only thing backing up traffic at Tucson Convention Center that night.

After we’d parked, I asked a security guard the quickest way to Tucson Music Hall.

He replied with “Oh! Are you looking for the rap thing?”

I was wearing a long velvet dress and heels.

“No, not the rap thing…”

A few minutes later, someone asked if we were looking for the game.

Apparently, in Tucson, no one bats an eye if you decide to don formalwear to see hip hop or hockey. And we noticed several people wearing cowboy hats to the opera.


Riders of the Purple Sage

What to know about Tucson Music Hall

  • Tucson Music Hall is the site of Arizona Opera’s Tucson performances.
  • It’s located on the Tucson Convention Center campus, along with the Leo Rich Theater and the Tucson Arena (which the locals confusingly kept referring to as “TCC”).
  • Tucson Convention Center is not the same place as the Tucson Expo Center.
  • Sun Link Streetcar Stop: Congress Street/Granada Avenue (6E or 6W)


Tucson MOCA view


285 ft – Museum of Contemporary Art

.4 mi – Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block

.5 mi – Hotel Congress and Maynard’s (lodging + dining)

.7 mi – Mercado San Agustín (dining + shopping)

.9 mi – Mission Garden


Riders of the Purple Sage - Tucson Music Hall Lobby


  • Tucson Music Hall shares parking with other convention center venues.
  • Event parking rates vary. We paid $10.
  • We parked in Parking Lot A, but Lot C may be closer.

Shopera at the Opera

Performances in Tucson also have a lobby full of shopping and refreshments for sale – wine, snacks, delicious-smelling coffee, and old school west-coast favorite Thrifty ice cream!

There’s also “Shopera at the Opera” with booths of Local artists and vendors, who give part of their proceeds to support Arizona Opera.

Riders of the Purple Sage crafter

We enjoyed seeing the inventive ways that Southern Arizona Artists’ Guild member Betty Harris found to upcycle fabric scraps and thrift store pieces. Next to her was a Barefoot Books booth with a selection of really neat-looking kids books, including the very fitting Stories from the Opera.

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Happenings List: Holiday 2017 (Nov/Dec)

Posted by on Oct 19, 2017 in Past Happenings | 0 comments

There are people making great things in every corner of the world.

Here’s some of the good November/December-ish stuff from Italy, France, the U.K., and the U.S. (Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New York, and Washington) that’s come up on my radar recently.


Phoenix Art Museum

  • Now – Dec 17: Past/Future/Present: Contemporary Brazilian Art from the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art


Raptor Free Flight!

Now – March 2018
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson
Watch hawks, falcons, and owls fly completely untethered in the open desert, while a narrator explains the characteristics of each species. Two presentations daily (at 10am and 2pm) with different birds of prey native to the Sonoran Desert region each time. Included with admission.


All Souls Procession

Now – Nov 5

Pre-event workshops (Sep/Oct):

  • Oct 28, 9am-1pm + Oct 29, 1-6pm at 1011 E Miles Street: Mask & Papier-Mâché Craftshop. Free.
  • Oct 29, 11am-2pm: Flower Crown Workshop. Please bring at least one object with meaning for you to include in your crown. $25 contribution includes materials.
  • Oct 29, 3-5pm: Personal Altar Workshop. Create a personal altar to carry with you in the Procession! Craft supplies provided. Please bring any photos, flowers, lights, or other objects that you would like to incorporate into a small, hand-held altar. Free. Reservations encouraged.

Procession Weekend:

**Maynards Market + Kitchen


Día de los Muertos Celebration (DBG)

Oct 27 – Nov 7
Desert Botanical Gardens, Phoenix
Día de los Muertos festivities with music, dance, and storytelling. Included with admission.

  • Oct 27 – Nov 7. Ofrenda Exhibition: Original pieces created by local artists in the style of traditional Mexican altars.
  • Nov 4-5. Live entertainment, including mariachis and ballet folklorico.


Día de los Muertos Festival (Mesa)

Oct 28-29
Mesa Arts Center, Mesa
Food, market, live entertainment, and handmade altar contest. Free admission.

**Día de los Muertos


Stitching by the Books

Oct 30, Nov 6, Nov 13 at 6pm
East Flagstaff Community Library, Flagstaff

Drop-in for help with your fiber arts projects. Knitting supplies available.
All skill levels welcome. Ages 9+. Free.


Return: Marshall Maude in Asia

Oct 31 – Dec 1
NAU Art Museum (2nd floor, NAU Old Main building), Flagstaff

Exhibition of ceramic work by Marshall Maude that explores both traditional methods and new technologies. Free. (Parking info.)


Astronomy Nights

Nov 3 + Dec 1 every 30 minutes from 6-10pm
Mesa Community College, Mesa

Monthly Planetarium shows open to the public the first Friday of the month during the Fall semester. Free admission (first come, first served).


NU (Native + You)

Heard Museum, Phoenix
Monthly (First Friday) events at the museum with free general admission to the museum’s galleries. Food and beverages available for purchase. Heard Museum Shops open until 8 p.m.

  • Nov 3, 6-10pm. First Friday: Stamp It! Make and take stamped-metal jewelry. See the new exhibition Awa Tsireh: Pueblo Painter and Metalsmith.
  • Dec 1, 6-10pm. First Friday: Light It Up! Make an ornament, enjoy hot cocoa and holiday lights, and shop the Ornament Market at the Heard Museum Shops.


Camelback Studio Tour and Art Sale

Nov 3-5
Visit artists’ studios, see artists at work, and purchase art. Free admission.


Tucson Comic-Con 2017

Nov 3-5
Tucson Convention Center
Community-based pop culture convention with a mission statement of “Pop Culture For All!” Full weekend passes $30.


Quilt, Craft & Sewing Festival

Nov 9-11
Tucson Expo Center
Expo with sewing, quilting, needlework, and craft supply vendors (both local and national), as well as workshops and presentations. Admission $10 or free with online coupon (printable PDF).
**The Festival in Phoenix.


Hidden In The Hills Studio Tour and Sale

Nov 17-19, 24-26
Cave Creek, Arizona

Self-guided tour of open artist studios in the Cave Creek and Scottsdale area with demonstrations and art for sale. Free admission.


Phoenix Pizza Festival

Nov 18, 11am-5pm
Margaret T. Hance Park, Phoenix

Festival of top pizza makers, benefitting Downtown Phoenix Inc. Advance tickets $10.
**Phoenix Pizza Festival 2016


Holiday Arts + Crafts Fair

Nov 18-19
Du Bois Center (at Northern Arizona University), Flagstaff
Juried show of handmade arts and crafts benefiting the United Way of Northern Arizona. Admission $2 at the door.

  • Live music
  • Raffle
  • Free parking


Las Noches de las Luminarias

Nov 24 – Dec 30
Desert Botanical Garden
Garden lit by 8,000 candles inside luminaria bags. There is also stargazing, hot cocoa and apple cider, sculptures by artist Jun Kaneko on display throughout the garden, and a variety of musical performances. Tickets $30.


Mesa Christmas Market

Nov 24 – Dec 23
Downtown Mesa

Over 90 vendors with food and hand-crafted gifts surrounding the Merry Main Street 35-foot Christmas tree.


Succulent Success

Nov 25, 9am
Phoenix Public Market

Learn how to care for succulents and the best varieties to grow both indoor and outdoors. Pop-up truck will have succulents, containers, and soil available for purchase.


12th Annual Crafeteria Indie Craft Fair

Dec 1, 6-10pm
Medlock Plaza parking lot (Frances/Stinkweeds/Golden Rule Tattoo), Phoenix

Annual arts and crafts festival with local handmade original work, (jewelry, toys, knitwear, beauty products, holiday decor, etc.), as well as live music and food trucks. Free.


Fall Tempe Festival of the Arts

Dec 1-3
Downtown Tempe
Juried art show with 350 artist booths lining Mill Avenue and the surrounding streets. Handmade ceramics, wearable art, jewelry, woodwork and photography for sale, as well as food vendors, wine and beer gardens, and live entertainment. Free admission.


ARTrageous Benefit Ansel Adams: America

Dec 2, 8:30pm
Virginia G. Piper Theater, Scottsdale
Gala to Benefit Scottsdale Arts Education + Outreach featuring Ansel Adams photography set to music. A full orchestra will perform a commissioned symphonic work by Dave Brubeck and his son Chris Brubeck. Concert + after-party tickets $75.


Mesa Arts Festival

Dec 9-10, 10am
Mesa Arts Center
Annual festival with original works of art for sale, live entertainment and artist demonstrations, and kids’ activity area. Free.
**NEARBY: Community Garden.



Dec 14 + 21, 5-10pm
Phoenix Public Market

Holiday celebration with a Phoestivus Pole, Pheats of Strength, and Airing of Grievances, as well as a market featuring locally grown and hand-crafted gifts from more than 130 local vendors. Free admission and free parking near Roosevelt/Central Light Rail Station.




Now – Dec 30
Palo Alto Art Center, Palo Alto
Group exhibition of artists who believe in the importance of play and make it part of their work.


Found in Translation: Design in California and Mexico, 1915–1985

Now – Apr 1, 2018
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles

Exhibition about how four design movements — Spanish Colonial Inspiration, Pre-Hispanic Revivals, Folk Art and Craft Traditions, and Modernism — defined California and Mexico throughout the twentieth century.


Día de los Muertos Family Festival

Oct 29, 10am-5pm
Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach

Celebration with art and craft workshops, craft activities, live music, dance performances, gallery tours, face painting, sculpture garden, food and craft vendors and Community Ofrenda and Art Exhibition. Free.


Freeway Lace Guild’s Annual Lace Day

Nov 4, 10am-3pm
Pasadena Christian Church, Pasadena

Lace displays, classes, vendors. Pre-register to receive a goodie bag. Admission $5 (free for ages 25 and under).

  • Pre-register to receive a goodie bag, as well as the option to order lunch ($8) and/or a commemorative bobbin ($15).
  • 1pm: presentation on Renaissance Lace by William McConnell.
  • Mini classes by experienced lacemakers.


Eternal I Endure

November 4, 6pm
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena
Movement theater piece inspired by the work of Rodin, in honor of the hundredth anniversary of the artist’s death. The performance will include images, text, fragments of Rodin’s life story, and music. Included with admission.

  • Reserve a spot by going to the Main Entrance gallery and getting a sticker up to an hour before the performance.
  • General admission seating begins at 5:45pm.


Meet Me in the Woods

Nov 4 – Dec (date TBD)
A Little Lodge, San Francisco
Kanako Abe’s solo show of intricate hand-cut paper artworks inspired by wildlife.

  • Opening reception Nov 4, 6pm.


The Art of Paper Flowers and Décor: Woodland Egg Ornaments

Nov 11, 9:30am
Filoli Center, Woodside
Workshop on making a metallic or white crepe paper acorn ornament using a real, blown-out chicken’s egg. $90 fee includes materials.


Jackalope Indie Artisan Fair: Fall Fair

Nov 18-19, 10am – 4pm
Central Park, Pasadena
Shop handcrafted goods from over 200 local artisans. Free admission.

  • Grab Bag of vendor swag for the first 25 people to check in at the information booth BOTH Saturday and Sunday.
  • RSVP “Going” on the Facebook Event for a chance to win a $20 gift card.
  • Dogs allowed.


The Fab Faux: Sgt. Pepper In Its Entirety

Nov 18, 8:00pm
The Wiltern, Los Angeles
Performance of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band in its entirety to celebrate the album’s 50th Anniversary. The Fab Faux with The Hogshead Horns, The Creme Tangerine Strings, and Erin Hill. Ages 5+. Tickets $40-65. To skip service charges, buy tickets in person at the Hollywood Palladium box office Saturdays from 10am-2pm, except holiday weekends.


Sacred Families in Hindu Art

Dec 2, 1pm
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena 
Tour to explore museum pieces that depict divine Hindu families (Vishnu and Lakshmi, Shiva and Parvati etc.) Included with admission.


A Pastel Drawing Workshop: Degas’s Tactility in Two and Three Dimensions

Dec 2, 11am
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena
Workshop on pastel drawing based on Degas’s painting and sculpture. $35 fee includes museum admission and materials.
**Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena




Jackalope Indie Artisan Fair: Winter Fair

Dec 9-10, 10am – 5pm
McNichols Building, Denver
Shop handcrafted goods by over 150 local artisans. Free admission. (Optional donation to Golden Retriever Rescue of the Rockies.)

  • Grab Bag of vendor swag for the first 25 people to check in at the information booth BOTH Saturday and Sunday.
  • RSVP “Going” on the Facebook Event for a chance to win a $20 gift card.

**3 Denver Sites Not to Miss



Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Exhibitions

  • Now – Feb 25, 2018. The Andes Inverted: Immersive installation by Daniela Rivera with materials, images, and sounds gathered from Chile’s Chuquicamata copper mine.
  • Now – Sep 3, 2018. Mark Rothko: Reflection: Exhibition of 11 Rothko pieces on loan from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. that show the continuity of the artist’s work within western artistic tradition.
  • Now – Jun 3, 2018. Black and White Japanese Modern Art: Display of a newly acquired, large-scale calligraphy by Inoue Yūichi, along with a selection of other monochrome avant-garde works from postwar Japan.


+New York

9th Annual Latke Festival

Dec 18, 6-9pm
Brooklyn Museum
Potato pancake tasting event to benefit The Sylvia Center, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching healthy eating habits to children and their families. $70 general admission ticket includes unlimited latke tastings, beer, wine, and nonalcoholic beverages.


Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead

Oct 28, 12-5pm
American Indian Museum Heye Center

Day of the Dead celebration with traditional dances performed by Cetiliztli Nauhcampa and craft activities like decorating skeleton puppets and making paper flowers. Free admission.



Seattle Art Museum

**A short visit to Seattle.


Stinging Nettle Gather + Cordage-Making with Stephanie Wood

Nov 4-5, 10am-4pm
White Salmon Studio, White Salmon

Gather stinging nettles near Gifford Pinchot National Forest, while learning sustainable harvesting techniques. Then process the nettles into cordage or yarn. Tuition + materials $225.

+Washington D.C.

Narwhal: Revealing an Arctic Legend

Now – 2019
Natural History Museum

Understanding this unique tusked whale through traditional Inuit knowledge and scientific research.


A Concert for Tomorrow’s Ancestors

Nov 4, 3pm
Potomac Atrium (American Indian Museum)
Musical collaboration to bring together the Day of the Dead with Native American Heritage Month. Performance by Sones de México Ensemble of Mexican folk genres, including huapango, gustos, chilenas, and son jarocho. Free.


Workshop Wednesdays

First + third Wednesdays, 1:30pm
National Museum of African Art
Drop-in workshops highlighting different artistic processes. All skill levels and ages welcome. Free.

  • Nov 15. Looking for Contours: Countour lines in the Museum’s collection inspire your own work of art.

**Navigating the National Mall in Washington D.C.


National Christmas Tree: America Celebrates Display

Dec 1-31
President’s Park (White House)
The National Christmas Tree is decorated and surrounded by the “Pathway of Peace” and smaller trees with handmade ornaments for each U.S. state and territory. Free.

  • The National Christmas Tree lights are on nightly from approximately 4:30-10pm.
  • The Pathway of Peace is open 10am-10pm.
  • Tickets for the November 30 National Christmas Tree Lighting are no longer available, but the event will be broadcast on the Hallmark Channel on December 4.

**The National Christmas Tree.





L’Orchestre de Paris fête ses 50 ans

Nov 1 + 2
Philharmonie de Paris, Paris

2 free public concerts to celebrate the 50th anniversary of l’Orchestre de Paris. The orchestra will perform works by Stravinsky, Debussy, and Berio, as well as a newer piece by Jörg Widmann.


Christkindelmärik (Christmas market)

Nov 24 – Dec 24
Strasbourg city center

Traditional holiday market started in 1570 with 300 stalls with vendors of handcrafted items, regional produce, and typical Alsatian Christmas decorations.

  • Demonstrations by craftspeople.
  • Local baked goods, beer, and wine, including mulled Alsace white wine for sale.
  • Sharing Village of charities and humanitarian organisations.
  • OFF market focused on responsible consumption.


Venice Biennale

Now – Nov 26
Giardini and Arsenale, Venice
“Viva Arte Viva” – International exhibition of visual art, theater, architecture, music, dance, and film. Full regular tickets €25.

  • Now – Nov 26. PROPAGATION: Bees + Seeds, glassworks by artist Judi Harvest (part of the Beauty and the Beast exhibition) in Palazzo Tiepolo Passi. Free.


The Cinquecento

Now – Jan 21, 2018
Palazzo Strozzi, Florence
Exhibition of 16th century art in Florence with works of art by such artists as Michelangelo, Bronzino, Giorgio Vasari, Rosso Fiorentino, Pontormo, Santi di Tito, Giambologna and Bartolomeo Ammannati. Combo ticket to the exhibition, Baptistery of St. John, and Opera del Duomo Museum: €8.


Artissima Fair 

Nov 3-5
The Oval, Torino
International Fair of Contemporary Art with emerging as well as established contemporary artists from nearly two hundred international galleries.


The Big Barbican Adventure

Now – Dec 31
Barbican Centre, London

Clue solving, drawing and games for families along the Barbican do-it-yourself adventure trail. Pick up a free trail kit for The Big Barbican Adventure from the Barbican Centre Information Desk on Level G. Allow at least one hour to complete the trail. Ages 6+. Free.

As always, if you go to anything on the list, let me know how it goes!

FYI, I try to make sure all this information is correct, but there could be errors or changes. Also, I don’t necessarily endorse (or know) every single thing about each event, the venue, or organizations connected with it. 

**Asterisks point to related Travelcraft Journal posts.

Massachusetts photo via Jessica Tennant.

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Travel Partner

Posted by on Oct 16, 2017 in Life, Travel | 8 comments

Fountain Hills

I was scanning Google Maps, planning for our Italy trip, when something piqued my interest that other people might think of as mundane. I mentioned it to Phillip.

Me: Did you know there’s a grocery store in Vatican City?

Him: We should totally go!

Me: That’s what I was gonna say!


Another day, researching tours for the Doge’s Palace in Venice, I started to tell Phillip about the options…

Me: Okay, this tour costs a little more, but you go through secret passages–

Him: Let’s do it!


I’ve traveled with a lot of people, but Phillip is definitely my favorite.



Microblog Mondays: Write in your own space

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DIY Día de los Muertos

Posted by on Oct 13, 2017 in Craft | 0 comments

Decorating sugar skulls at CraftHack this time last year prompted me to learn more about Día de los Muertos and the handmade elements of this tradition.

“Day of the Dead, or Día de los muertos, is a time for commemorating the dead, celebrating with family— both living and dead—and appreciating the cycle of life and death.”

– National Museum of the American Indian

San Xavier shrine

When you lose someone you love, they don’t stop being part of your life. They remain in your heart and your memories. There’s something beautiful about recognizing and honoring this presence.

Día de los muertos ofrenda

La Ofrenda / Altar

One way to do this is by making a small altar (ofrenda) for the October 31 – November 2 celebration.

“Making a Day of the Dead Altar is about memories and traditions and the most important part is that you enjoy the process …  add [your] own special touches … add the four elements, water, wind, earth and fire in some way, the picture of your beloved one, food, flowers and candles.”

Elba Valverde


Marigold crown

The ofrenda can take many forms. Crafty Chica Kathy Cano-Murillo has even made them inside foam pumpkins!

Sugar skull from CraftHack

Calaveras / Skulls

“The calavera is an important symbol in Mexican culture, representing ancestors and the celebration of the continuity of life through generations.”

Kathy Cano-Murillo


Plaster paris skulls by Crafty Chica

Sugar skull project inspiration:

Colorful sugar skulls are probably the most iconic element in Day of the Dead celebrations, and they take many forms in art and craft.

2 Sugar skulls at CraftHack
Sugar skull project at CraftHack

Decorated candyFor CraftHack, Shanlyn made the candy skulls ahead of time in molds she had at home. Then we decorated them with frosting, sprinkles, and sanding sugar. The skulls she made were the mostly straight-up sugar kind, but some people make them from white chocolate instead.

Tip: You can also use sugar skull molds with plaster of Paris!

Embroidery pattern – Berene Campbell (Happy Sew Lucky) created this cute pattern with a sugar skull and scissors.

Sugar Skull printable via Live Colorful

Cupcake toppers – Free printable at Live Colorful!

Skull necklace by Vesna Taneva-Miller

Necklace – After Vesna Taneva-Miller visited Mexico City, she was inspired to create this Día de los Muertos necklace from a necklace chain, beads, and sari silk.

Tip: If you don’t have a skull bead on hand, you can make your own with polymer clay!

Skull coloring page

Coloring pages to print off or color online.

Day of the Dead planters

Day of the Dead Planters – Regina Lord painted terra cotta pots to look like sugar skulls and then planted succulents in them. The tutorial is at Creative Kismet.


A post shared by Berene (@happysewlucky) on


Quilt – Berene Campbell also made this awesome Sugar Skull Quilt using a variety of techniques (piecing, appliqué, reverse appliqué, stuffed hand appliqué, etc.)!



Papel picado at pasquals Santa fe

Papel Picado / Punched Paper

“Delicately decorated tissue paper represents wind and the fragility of life.”

– Karen Castillo Farfán

Papel picado

Colorful papel picado banners 3 ways:

1. Folded tissue paper method

Tip: Sketch your own design or use a printable template.


Papel picado by Live Colorful
2. Papel picado shortcut


Mini papel picado by Tikkido

3. Miniature papel picado





“The ofrenda (the altar), traditionally includes the yellow marigolds (cempasuchitl) the sweet scent that leads the departed home toward their altar…”

– Vianney Rodriguez

Marigold crown

1. Marigold Crown


Paper flowers via Made Everyday

2. Paper (napkin) flowers


Mini tissue paper flowers by Tikkido

3. Mini Tissue Paper Flowers


Marigold margarita

4. Marigold Margarita



What traditions are meaningful to you as you remember your loved ones?

– More Día de los Muertos Projects + Resources –



Photos via:

1 + 2. Me

La Ofrenda–
3. Elba Valverde
4. Kathy Cano-Murillo

5, 7, 8. Me
6. Kathy Cano-Murillo
9 + 14. Berene Campbell
10. Elba Valverde
11. Vesna Taneva-Miller
12. Emily Mathews. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License.
13. Regina Lord

Papel picado–
15. Me.
16. Crafty Lady Abby
17. Elba Valverde
18. Nikki Wills

19. Tom of View from Another Angle
20. Nicole Valentine Don
21. Dana Willard
22. Nikki Wills
23. Vianney Rodriguez
24. Reign Trading Company

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The Southwest’s Indigenous Food and Films

Posted by on Oct 9, 2017 in Craft, Travel | 2 comments

I don’t think I’ve shared this video of a cooking demonstration from Agave Heritage Festival in Tucson here yet.

It seemed fitting to post this on Indigenous People’s Day (which I’m glad is gaining traction over Columbus Day!), since the recipe includes several local ingredients originally used by the Native American tribes in this area.

Also, unrelated to the video, we went to an IPD screening of two documentaries by Diné (Navajo) filmmakers at the Heard Museum yesterday. Both films were really great!

Heard Museum

You may get a chance to see them too, since they’re traveling around on a Navajo Films Documentary Tour starting in November, and one of the films, The Mayors of Shiprock, will air on the World Channel November 6.

Heard Museum

If I can track down tour dates, I’ll put them on the next Happenings List.



Microblog Mondays: Write in your own space

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Italy: a 30,000-Foot View

Posted by on Oct 6, 2017 in Travel | 2 comments

Past midnight, we are zipping through Rome in the back of a cab, street lights flying by, windows down. It has taken 4 flights to get us to this point, and, after all that time in planes and airport terminals, the outside air feels delicious.

Italy map

In about an hour, we will have checked into our hotel. We will sleep like logs (or maybe like a pair of felled Corinthian columns) our first night in Italy. And that will be even more delicious.

Roma Room

Over the next two weeks, Phillip and I would be traveling from Rome to Venice to the central Italian countryside to Florence and back to Rome. Here’s some of the stuff we were up to.


Rome I

Arrived by: plane – Delta + Ryanair | Lodging: Hotel Roma Room | Food / drinks: Hotel Roma Room + Lettrere Caffè + Locanda Del Gelato

Our first day in Rome, we took a Colosseum tour and visited the Forum and Palatine Hills archaelogical sites.

From there, we walked the length of the Circus Maximus into the Trastevere neighborhood, ate enough apertifs to equal dinner, and then were irresistibly drawn into the gleaming gelato shop across the street.

The next morning we were on a train to Venice.

Bridge of Sighs, Venice


Arrived by: train – Italo Treno | Lodging: Couzy House in Venice (Airbnb) | Food / drinks: Un Mondo DiVino + Gelato Di Natura (at San Giacomo dall’Orio)

From Venice’s Santa Lucia train station, we lugged our rolling suitcases over stairs and bridges and bridges with stairs to get to the quiet street where our Airbnb apartment was.

Venice bridges

We had timed our visit so we could see both the annual Regata Storica gondola parade and race AND the  premiere of the opera “L’Occasione fa il ladro” at Teatro La Fenice.

Of course, we saw some of the city’s more permanent sights, as well.

Doge's Palace, Venice

At the Doge’s Palace, we wound our way through the ornate apartments, stuffy prison cells, and across the Bridge of Sighs. Afterwards, we went to the Basilica San Marco, craning our necks to marvel at the detail of its ceilings covered in gold mosaics.

Venice Grand Canal

We rode a water bus down the Grand Canal but mostly did a lot of walking and got lost so, so many times.

When we were just starting to maybe get the slightest grasp on getting around, it was time to retrace our path back over stepped bridges towards the edge of Venice – and into a car rental office.


Le Marche

Getting there: car rental – Auto Europe | Lodging: La Tavola Marche | Food / drinks: La Tavola Marche + Crazy Bar

Pears in wine

We were already behind schedule when we picked up our cute two-seater Smart car and began the (supposedly) 4-hour drive toward our next stop in the countryside of the Le Marche region.

Of course, it took us longer.

Le Marche

Winding through mountain roads well after dark, we finally arrived at La Tavola Marche, the inn/cooking school/agriturismo where we’d be staying. It’s run by a pair of American expats, chef Jason and marketing-genius Ashley, who have spent the last 10 years immersing themselves in the local culture and cuisine.

The “agriturismo” classification means all the food they serve must come from their own property or the local area. So they have fruit trees, chickens, and a big vegetable garden. We got to check it out the next afternoon, picking tomatoes for our cooking class.

Our last full day there we hiked a bit, and then got to sit back and enjoy a five-course dinner Chef Jason prepared just for two other guests, Phillip, and I.


At checkout time, we packed up our rental car, stopped briefly in the nearby town of Piobocco for postcards and an espresso, and then drove on to Florence.


Il Duomo, Florence


Getting there: car rental – Auto Europe | Lodging: Hotel Ferretti | Food / drinks: Gelateria Vivoli + cafeteria in the Uffizi

Arriving in the city to a tangle of traffic, we were glad to leave our rental car behind and head to the Hotel Ferretti, walking distance from all the sights we were planning to cram into our single-night stay.

We visited the Piazza del Duomo, the Uffizi Gallery, and (lesser-known) Vivoli, a gelateria that’s a contender for having the world’s best gelato.

We were also a short walk from the train station, where Italo Treno would take us back to Rome.

St. Peters ceiling

Rome II

Getting there: Italo Treno | Lodging: Mallory’s Guest House (Airbnb) | Food / drinks: Trattoria Sora Lella

Rome window

This time, we stayed in an apartment building built by our Airbnb host’s great grandfather. It was a lovely place to hang out when we stayed in to rest one rainy morning.

The day before we had wandered through the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. We managed to make into the Vatican Post Office before closing time, so Phillip could check out the stamps.

At some point, we crossed the invisible borderline from Vatican City back into Italy. Instead of going straight to the Metro, we opted to walk by Castel Sant’Angelo (Hadrian’s Tomb) and hop on at the Spanish Steps.

Tiber River in Rome

Our final evening in Rome, we went to dinner on an island in the Tiber River. A couple different locals had recommended Trattoria Sora Lella for authentically Roman food, so we got the tasting menu and savored every forkful.

The next morning we were back in a cab, zipping through city streets on a circuitous route to the airport, grateful for our time in Italy.

We received media passes from Teatro La Fenice and Italo Treno. 

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Museum Day in the Garden

Posted by on Oct 2, 2017 in Travel | 1 comment

Last Saturday was Smithsonian Magazine’s Museum Day. The weather was too good to be inside, but they count the Desert Botanical Garden (DBG) as a museum, so we took advantage of the free admission and spent the afternoon walking garden paths.

I guess a botanical garden is kind of like an outdoor museum with living plants and animals.

We saw a hummingbird and bees buzzing around the Garden’s flowers and a big lizard was just hanging out on a rock next to the bench where I was sitting.

Since the DBG no longer allows picnicking, we ate our lunch at a nearby picnic area in Papago Park and were entertained by ground squirrels scurrying around and birds attempting to carry off pieces of a pizza someone had left behind.

Maybe they’re the reason DBG banned picnicking. You really don’t want grackles flying through your museum and dropping half-eaten pizza slices.

Microblog Mondays: Write in your own space

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