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Navigating Fabulous Las Vegas

Posted by on May 18, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Las Vegas sign

Apparently, it was a big controversy when some Las Vegas casinos started charging for parking.

As long as The Strip had been there, there had been acres and acres on which to park your ride free of charge.

Las Vegas Flamingo

Then MGM decided to charge at all of their properties. Some casinos followed suit, others didn’t, but free parking in Vegas is no longer a given – even for hotel guests.

Las Vegas Strip

Free Parking

  • You can currently still park for free at Tropicana.
  • Parking at Flamingo and Caesar’s Palace is free for the first hour.
  • There is a small lot where you can park at the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign for a short amount of time to get a photo of the sign. Enter from southbound Las Vegas Blvd.
  • Many nearby hotels have shuttles that will take you to The Strip, and you can skip parking altogether.

Las Vegas - Mandalay Bay

Transportation on The Strip

Once you’re there, there are several transportation options. Everything is so oversized that it’s farther to walk from one place to another than it may appear.

Bus: $8 for 24 hours (unlimited rides).

  • The Deuce bus route goes the entire length of the Strip up to the Fremont Street Experience in Downtown Las Vegas. It runs 24 hours a day and stops at most hotels.
  • The Strip and Downtown Express (SDX) makes fewer stops and goes farther into Downtown Las Vegas. It runs 9am to midnight.

Monorail: $12 for 24 hours. Runs from MGM Grand to SLS Las Vegas. 7am to at least midnight.

Aria Tram: Free. Runs from the Monte Carlo to Bellagio. 8am to 4am.
Las Vegas sign

– More Vegas Parking and Transit Info –

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30+ Ways to Travel Without Leaving Town

Posted by on May 11, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Sometimes you need to stay close to home. Maybe family or work responsibilities are keeping you grounded. Maybe it’s health or money issues.

There are still ways to see new things, experience other cultures, feel transported.

Norton Simon cafe

Recently, National Geographic featured a “travel photographer” who finds and composes interesting shots within Google Street View.

Navigating through the Street View of an area does give you a better sense of a place. So we’ll start there.

world-map-2

1. Use Google Street View to explore an area you’d like to visit or re-visit somewhere you’ve gone in the past.

Flamenco

2. Go to a local cultural center, performance, or festival.

3. Be a tourist in your own town.

  • See the cheesy stuff you’d normally skip and take photos.
  • Pick out postcards.
  • Visit the tourist information office or visitor bureau and find out what visitors are seeing or doing that you might’ve overlooked.

fremont-postcards-front

4. Watch some foreign films.

5. Try out any travel apps you’re interested in. See how well they work while you’re still at home.

papago-park-lake

6. Have you visited all the parks in your area?

travelexpo-dtphx

7. Take a different route home.

  • Skip the freeway.
  • Walk or ride your bike.
  • Try public transit or take a different line.
  • If you’re in Phoenix, have you ridden the light rail yet? End to end?

8. Get lost in a library.

cartel-mocha-art

9. Try a new restaurant, coffee shop, or bar.

10. Watch movies about travel.

  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty comes to mind.
  • So does Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong, which I reviewed last year and is now on Netflix.
  • Phillip reminded me of The Motorcycle Diaries. So good. Definitely feels like you’ve been on a long journey through South America by the end.

Backyard

11. Set up a tent in your backyard or inside the house.

12. Sign up to host an international student.

p-drive

13. Go to another part of town and explore a neighborhood that’s usually not on your radar.

14. Get out photos and relive memories. Put them in albums or scrapbooks if you haven’t already.

Norton Simon museum

15. Visit a museum. Find out when they have voluntary admission days or other special events.

Pressed wildflowers.

16. Read a book set in a place you’d like to visit or that takes you on a journey. A few ideas:

  • Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.
  • In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson.
  • Riders of the Purple Sage, the Zane Grey novel that we recently saw an opera based on, really puts you inside the canyons and valleys of its setting.
  • Phillip loved Mitchner’s Iberia and said it made him feel like he’s been to Spain.

Mesa community garden

17. Ask friends for their favorite spots around town (to do, see, eat etc.) and try out their recommendations.

18. Wander around an international market. Buy something you’ve never seen before.

Patio

19. Bring a little of the places you love to visit into your regular life. Splurge on extra soft towels or have coffee on your patio.

20. Buy music from a place you’d like to travel. (Or borrow it – Phillip has found some great stuff at our local library.)

21. Make a friend from another country.

  • Volunteer with an international students’ group.
  • Adopt a refugee family.

star-over-desert

22. Explore the stars at a local planetarium or with a regular telescope.

23. Have you seen all the public art on display where you live?

Bag at sunset

24. Test out your travel gear. Make sure everything works, is comfortable to wear, etc. My dad used to fill his pack with encyclopedias and walk around the block to get ready for future backpacking trips.

25. Take photos of places or things you see every day. Use it as an opportunity to really look at what’s around you and maybe see it in a new light.

26. Watch travel shows or documentaries.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

27. Book a staycation at nearby hotel or resort. They probably offer discounted rates in the off-season.

28. Switch things up in your house.

  • Have dinner outside or spread out a blanket and “picnic” on the living room floor.
  • Build a fort.
  • Rearrange the furniture.

Riverside, CA

29. Go for a drive and see where you end up.

Tacos from Tacos Atoyac in Phoenix

30. Eat food from another culture. Go to a restaurant or try making it yourself with the help of a friend, cookbook, or a food blog….

31. Find the nearest places to camp.

Setting up camp at Lakeside

32. Learn another language. There are apps, podcasts, and resources at many libraries to help you with this.

  • MindSnacks has several free language learning apps. Their Learn Chinese app was great when I was attempting to do that, and the games were really fun.
  • There are lots of language learning podcasts if you just search on iTunes. I’ve been working on italiano on and off with Learn Italian from Italianpod101.com.

33. Plan your next trip or in-town adventure.

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Vacancy

Posted by on May 8, 2017 in Craft, Travel | 6 comments

Historic hotel in Peoria AZPhillip read an article an old hotel that had been sitting abandoned for years with plans to tear it down when the city decided instead to preserve it.

Historic hotel in Peoria AZ

He wanted to go find the Edwards Hotel on his day off, so we drove to the Peoria address in the article. It wasn’t hard to find.

Edwards hotel

Even from outside the chain link fence, it was interesting to guess what had been there originally and what had been added later.

IMG_9564

Then we took a stroll around Old Town Peoria, where there’s currently not much going on, but they have a revitalization program in the works.

 

Peoria

image

Peoria

State bird quilt

In the meantime, they have ornate, agriculturally-themed bus stops, a handful of historic buildings (including a church that was turning 100 the week we were there),  and a nice little community center with paintings and quilts on display. It was all a cozy contrast to the hollowed-out hotel.

image

Peoria

Peoria

 

Peoria Quilt




 

Microblog Mondays: Write in your own space

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The Opening Of The Fire Pit

Posted by on May 5, 2017 in Craft, Travel | 0 comments

After our morning hike at Tumamoc Hill, we returned to the Mission Garden that evening for demonstrations on agave rope making and roasting, tequila tastings, a display of products made from agave fibers, plant sale, and The Opening of the Fire Pit.

Agave products

Tequila

The day before, probably about the time Phillip and I were driving from Phoenix to Tucson, a group had gathered at the Mission Garden. Jesús García, an Education Specialist at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, was demonstrating how to build a fire in a traditional roasting pit and fill it with agaves. They would be covered with metal from the side of an old washing machine and then layers of dirt to keep the heat inside the earth oven.

Jesus Garcia

Other than the repurposed washing machine, the pit would be similar to the ones we had seen evidence of on our hike that morning, the charcoal gray rocks contrasting with the reddish desert clay only hinting at what was under our feet.

Agave plants

We don’t know exactly how the ancient roasting pits worked. Current tribes in the area have not continued this tradition. However, Jesús García pointed out that just a few miles south of the border, “the tradition is still alive.” He talked to his family in Mexico about the process, taking notes and drawing extensive diagrams about every step. Adapting those techniques to the Tucson area has taken some trial and error. Apparently. Last year’s cooking time wasn’t quite enough.

So this year, they would give the agave a full 24 hours to cook underground before literally digging in and opening up the fire pit.

Agave

That must be the magic number. It was soft and slightly sweet. Each variety had a different flavor. One tasted like sweet potatoes.
Roasted agave

So what if you don’t happen to have access to a 5-foot by 6-foot roasting pit?

Carolyn Niethammer shared how she roasts quartered agave heads in her home oven – just roast at 350 for 17 hours (!)

Carolyn cooking demo

Once they’ve been roasted, you can add them into other dishes. With an electric skillet, she demonstrated how to saute up some agave along with nopales (prickly pear pads), peppers, and tepary beans, a drought-tolerant heritage bean that has recently come back into use. It was delicious!

Agave and tepary beans

She followed up by passing around some “Aztec delights,” bite-sized treats she made from amaranth, chia, agave syrup, and chocolate.

Dessert at Mission Garden

It was a sweet finish to our Mission Garden visit.

 

 


Next Agave Heritage Festival events in Downtown Tucson:

  • May 6 + 7, 10am + 1pm: Fibers, Tequila and Fun at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Included with admission.
  • May 6 + 7, 10am: Agave Garden Tours at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Included with admission.
  • May 6 + 7, 10am: Rare + Collectible Agave Sale at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Included with admission.
  • May 6, 6pm: Agave Fest tequila party at Hotel Congress. $35
  • May 7, 11am: Agave Heritage Brunch at Carriage House. Proceeds from this brunch help benefit Mission Garden. $55



We were guests of Hotel Congress and Maynards Market + Kitchen.

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Maynards Market + Kitchen Garden

Posted by on May 3, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Maynards historic

Cities + Railroads

The history of many western U.S. cities is tied to the railroads. Their stories run parallel, like two lengths of track. Sometimes railroad stops were built for cities and sometimes cities were built for railroad stops.

Tucson is an example of the former. By the time its depot was built in 1909, Tucson was the Southwest’s big city.

Good Roads map

The Arizona Good Roads book described it this way in 1913:

“Tucson is the metropolis of Arizona and New Mexico, and has a population according to the United States Census of 1910 of over 2000 more than any other city in either state. […] The modern Tucson is a growing city of some 22,000 inhabitants. Her rapid growth in the last few years may be attributed to her advantageous position as a distributing point for Southern Arizona and northern Mexico, and to the rich mining, agricultural and grazing country surrounding the city…”

Trains kept bringing passengers, and Tucson kept growing, buildings sprouting up throughout the downtown.

Maynards and hotel congress

By 1919, what you’d see as you exited the depot was Hotel Congress, one of the earliest Arizona hotels that’s still in operation. You can still stay there (we did!) and hear the train from your room.

As time passed, people continued arriving in Tucson but more came by car. The trains carried fewer passengers and more freight. Since freight doesn’t need a train station, part of the building was converted into restaurant space.

Maynards Patio

Market + Kitchen

In 2008, the owners of Hotel Congress opened Maynards Market + Kitchen inside the station building.

Maynards Market

Maynards Agave

The Market part of that equation is open all day with lots of patio seating and a take-out counter for items like coffee, sandwiches, and baked goods. They also sell wine and local gourmet food products. (If you’re from the Phoenix area, think Liberty Market or La Grande Orange, and you’re on the right track.)

Maynards Market wine

Next to it is the Kitchen, a sit-down restaurant open only for dinner, happy hour, and Sunday brunch. It is unfussy and elegant with salvaged train and rail parts repurposed seamlessly into the decor as subtle nods to the building’s history.

Maynards door

Brunch goes until 2pm, which is nice, especially since Hotel Congress is popping until the wee hours of the morning. Non-morning-person-ness aside, it gave us time to check out of the hotel and catch a film screening (The Arizona International Film Festival happened to be going on that weeekend, as well.)

Maynards

From our table, we could see the window-level garden planted just outside and watch little white butterflies dance around the flowers.

I ordered the braised greens/lump crab/crème fraîche omelet – and enjoyed every bite. To really taste the flavors of the garden, I also had the (very, very lightly) dressed greens. Oh, and a delicious coffee from neighboring Caffe Luce Coffee Roasting Co.

Maynards Kitchen

Phillip ordered a macchiato (which he liked), baked eggs (which were good but not what he expected) and bacon (which was crazy crispy).

Maynards Coffee

The signature baked egg dish from sister restaurant Cup Cafe comes in a small cast iron skillet. Perhaps because the menu said “broiled,” Phillip thought they’d be more like fried eggs, but they are cooked solid all the way through. The eggs, spinach, mushrooms, and leeks are buried under a layer of cream, wine, and gruyère. He was surprised by it but liked it and said the flavors blended well.

Maynards Baked Eggs

As for the bacon, I don’t know if they always cook it to that level of crispness, but Phillip regretted not specifying how he liked it and ended up just crumbling it on top of his eggs.

Maynards Salad

Both of our dishes came with downright addictive breakfast potatoes, fruit, housemade English muffins, and this incredible orange-rhubarb jam.

Maynards Garden

Garden + Grove

The garden out the window is where Maynards Kitchen sources herbs, seasonal vegetables, edible flowers, and citrus. It’s hard to get more locally grown than that!

Maynards garden

Maynards Garden

Chef Brian Smith was kind enough to take us out to the garden and point out the citrus trees, cornstalks, three varieties of heirloom tomatoes, and colorful, diamond-shaped plantings of lettuces, kale, violas, nasturtiums, pansies, parsley, chives, basil, peppers, and probably other herbs and greens I’m forgetting.

Chef Brian

The garden is new, planted in an unused plot of ground earlier this year. And they are still experimenting, finding what works best where they are, incorporating what’s in season into their dishes in new ways. (Orange blossom dressing, anyone?)

image

Like Tucson, the garden is flourishing, and whether you get there by road or by rail, Maynards Market + Kitchen is worth a stop.

Maynards


Next Agave Heritage Festival events in Downtown Tucson:

  • May 4, 6pm: Tucson City of Gastronomy Seminar at Maynards Market & Kitchen Drawing Room. $15
  • May 4, 7pm: Mezcal and Chocolate Pairing Seminar at Maynards Market & Kitchen Drawing Room. $15
  • May 4, 7pm: Mezcrawl at participating bars in Downtown Tucson. $25-40



We were guests of Hotel Congress and Maynards Market + Kitchen.

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Century Plant Blooms, Tequila Making and Pulque Therapy

Posted by on May 2, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

I used to believe that a century plant bloomed once every hundred years.

Agave

Turns out it’s a rare event but not that rare.

A century plant/agave will bloom once in its (10-30 year) lifetime, using all the energy it has saved up in the form of sugars to shoot up a single, brilliant flowering stalk.

And then it dies.

image

Which is the depressing part. (It should probably be called the decade plant.)

So let’s focus on a happier part of that story: sugar.

If you happen to harvest an agave plant after it has had years to store up sugar but before it spends it all to go out in a blaze of glory, then all that sweetness can be yours.

agave

The edible part of the agave plant is well guarded by layers of pointed, spiny leaves in every direction.

Cut those off (carefully!) and you get to the head of the plant. (In Spanish, it’s called la piña, because it looks like a pineapple.) And that is where the sugar is hidden.

Agave

A few hours (or maybe days) in an oven or roasting pit, and it will be ready to eat or mash up for syrup or liquor.

roasted agave

I may be oversimplifying a bit, but this gives you the basic idea.

Now let’s talk tequila. It’s only tequila if it is made from the blue agave plant and comes from certain regions in Mexico (the same way sparkling wine can only be called “champagne” if it’s from a specific part of France).

Tequila

The roasted, mashed up agave liquid gets fermented and distilled to become silver (in Spanish, blanco, “white”) tequila. You can drink it that way or change the flavor by allowing it to age in barrels. If it has been aged (“rested”) two months to a year, it’s known as reposado. If it’s been aged longer than a year, it’s añejo. I’m not a tequila expert, but silver tequila is said to have a brighter flavor, while reposados and añejos are said to be more mellow.

Tequila is just one type of mezcal, an umbrella term for any distilled alcoholic beverage made from any species of agave. There are regional variations throughout Mexico, including bacanora, sotol, and others only available locally.

Century plant blooms

Pulque is a drink made from agave that’s not distilled, so it’s not a mezcal. It is fermented, however, and alcoholic enough to cause early Spanish missionaries to accuse local populations of being constantly drunk on it. But, really, people probably would’ve been drinking a lot less if they didn’t have Spanish colonizers all up in their business.

Anyway, Mezcal PhD has a really useful article and chart of agave beverages.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, along with the fact that it doesn’t take agave a century to bloom and that tequila is made from agave that hasn’t bloomed, I have another thing for you to think about.

Desert

Agave typically grows in higher elevation deserts that get more rainfall than Tucson. However, as I mentioned yesterday, agave was one of the crops grown there centuries ago. (You’ll notice agaves showing up around 0:36 on my Mount Lemmon video, after we’ve gained some elevation and left the saguaros behind.)

The riddle: How could this have been this possible?

Feel free to share your theories, and I’ll fill you in on what I learned in a post later this week!


 

The Agave Heritage Festival goes through May 7 in Downtown Tucson!

Next events:

  • May 3, 12pm: Lecture on Mezcal Origins + Future by Ana Valenzuela in Haury Auditorium at University of Arizona. Free.
  • May 3, 3pm: Agave Heritage Festival Week Proclamation from Tucson Mayor Rothschild in Hotel Congress lobby. Free.

image

– More Agave Info –

If you want to go down a historical rabbit hole about pulque and cochineal in colonial Mexico, this should get you started…




 

We were guests of Hotel Congress, one of the presenters of the festival.

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Agave Heritage Week

Posted by on May 1, 2017 in Craft, Travel | 3 comments

Can you name all the U.S. cities that have the UNESCO “City of Gastronomy” designation?

image
There’s actually only one: Tucson, Arizona.

It received the designation, in part, because of its agricultural tradition that goes back thousands of years.

Mission Garden, Tucson

One of the early plants cultivated in the region for food, medicine, and fiber was agave, the spiked succulent best known today for tequila.

agave

The annual Agave Heritage Festival in Tucson celebrates both ancient and contemporary uses of the plant and its importance to the region.

We got to participate in the first weekend of this year’s festival, which runs through May 7th.

image

We took a tour of ancient agave farming and roasting sites on Tumamoc Hill, learned about cooking with agave (both in traditional fire pits and with modern appliances), tasted different agave-based beverages, including tequila and bacanora, and saw how agave fiber can be twisted into rope and crafted into all kinds of things.

Agave products

We’ll be celebrating here all this week with daily posts about Tucson and agave, so come back and visit!


PS We were guests of Hotel Congress, one of the presenters of the festival.




Microblog Mondays: Write in your own space

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6 Travel Tips for Non-Morning People

Posted by on Apr 27, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

north-beach-capuccino

I’m not particularly good at mornings. And, as much as I like the idea of jumping out of bed and tackling the day, I don’t magically transform into an early bird when I travel.

Here are a few things I’ve found helpful.

image

1. Get organized for the next day.

Anything you can do the night before is one less thing you’re stumbling around trying to do in the morning.

Either shower at night or at least get your shower stuff set up. You’re not at home where everything is in a place you’re used to, so make it easier on your sleepy self. Unpack your razor and unwrap the soap. Make sure there’s a towel within reach.

Lo and Sons bag at tucson hotel

I also get out everything I’m planning to wear the next day, down to my skivvies. Finding out you need to iron a top or don’t have a crucial part of your outfit is a bigger issue when you’re traveling. I’d rather not have that type of surprise in the morning.

Getting your purse/bag/daypack stuff together, as well, will help make sure things don’t get forgotten in a last-minute groggy scramble.

Coffee

2. But first, coffee.

If you require morning caffeination, make sure you plan for that too. Figure out the coffeemaker in your room or pick out your tea or find a nearby coffee shop. Or if you’re particular enough to feel it’s worth the hassle, bring your own.

I like to set up the coffeepot the night before (sometimes doubling up on the coffee packets), so all I have to do when I get up is turn it on. Even if coffee comes with breakfast and even if the hotel does not have good coffee, I like having a hot cuppa right away while I get ready.

Hotel Indigo Anaheim

3. Plan for breakfast.

Stay somewhere that serves breakfast, find a spot nearby (check the hours ahead of time), or bring your own.

Easy BYOB(reakfast) ideas:

  • If there’s a fridge, you can pick up yogurt, local fruit, etc.
  • We like those individual oatmeal cups that you just add hot water to.
  • Trail mix or granola bars work pretty much anywhere. No kitchen required.

sf-san-remo

4. Time or sleep?

For me, a little extra time to ease into the day is even more beneficial than a little extra sleep. Even when it’s hard getting up, an earlier wake up time is better for me than having a rushed, hectic morning.

Maybe this is the case for you or maybe not. It’s worth paying attention to what works for you, even before your trip.

Hotel

5. Set multiple alarms.

Traveling often throws off your sleep cycle and routines, which can make it even more difficult to get up.

If you really need to be somewhere at a certain time – catch a flight, make a meeting or tour time – don’t count on just one thing to wake you up. Some ideas:

  • Set more than one alarm on your phone, but don’t rely only on your phone.
  • Request a wake up call (or two).
  • Don’t use black-out curtains. Allow natural light in.
  • If you’re traveling with someone else, ask them to wake you up (or knock on your door or call you) if they haven’t seen you by a certain time.

Downtown LA

6. Give yourself permission to sleep in.

If you have flexibility in your schedule, don’t make every morning an early one. Plan for some more relaxed days that allow a later start.

Of course, this requires some compromise if you happen to be traveling with a morning person. In that case, come up with a plan so that they’re not just going crazy in the room (and driving you crazy in the process).

Omni charlottesville
Things a morning person can do while you’re sleeping (i.e. take all that annoying AM energy elsewhere!):

  • Go for a run, swim, or work out.
  • Take a walk and get familiar with the area.
  • Bring you breakfast.
  • Visit a sight (or go do something) you’re not interested in.
  • Start on an activity you can join when ready. (Head to the beach, begin working their way through a large museum, etc.)

As much as you can, honor your natural rhythms instead of constantly fighting them. Resting better will help you make the most out of your trip.

co-ridgway-bnb-2




In case you’re curious, here’s where I took all the photos:

1. Tasting Tour in San Francisco
2 + 5. Hotel Indigo Anaheim
3. Residence Inn, Tucson (bag)
4. Candlewood Suites Yuma
6. San Remo Hotel in San Francisco
7. Hilton in San Jose
8. Downtown L.A.
9. Omni Charlottesville
10. Airbnb in Ridgway, Colorado

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Southwest Maker Fest 2017

Posted by on Apr 24, 2017 in Craft | 0 comments

SWMF envelope journal

I did an envelope journal workshop again this year at Southwest Maker Fest.

SWMF 2017

Once again, the attendees were super creative, coming up with their own clever modifications to the project, including one multifunctional journal that doubled as a wallet and a paper airplane!

SWMF envelope journal

This year, my assigned room was in a different area within the i.d.e.a. Museum that seemed less hectic.

SWMF envelope journal

Also, I had help! Several friends showed up and pitched in with explaining the project to latecomers and helping answer questions, etc. A big thank you to Anne, Katie, Trish (who also brought extra art supplies), and the ever-patient Phillip!

SWMF 2017

It was a lot of fun, and it always gets me thinking about how to make it better the next year!




P.S. You can make this too!

Microblog Mondays: Write in your own space

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Phoenix Geekiness + Cosplay Panels #PHXCC

Posted by on Apr 20, 2017 in Craft, Travel | 0 comments

[UPDATED Phoenix Comicon event and panel info: scroll down and watch for asterisks (*).]

image

Have you already started planning your schedule for Phoenix Comicon? It’s coming to the Phoenix Convention Center May 25-28 and ticket prices increase May 1.

We thought we’d share our panel picks early this year, along with a heads up on some geeky goings-on across the Valley of the Sun to tide you over.

Superhero art

Geek Events (April/May)

Caped Crusaders + Everyday Heroes

Now – May 28
i.d.e.a. Museum, Mesa
Hero-themed works by more than 15 national and international artists (like the print above that we spotted in artist Jason Ratliff’s homebase of Indianapolis). Included with museum admission.

Spoiler Alert! Book Club: Handmaid’s Tale

Apr 22, 1pm
Tempe Public Library Lower Level

Discussion of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian sci-fi classic The Handmaid’s Tale (1985). Ages 16+. Free.

Create It: Drop-in Sewing Nights

Apr 26 + May 3, 10, 17, 24, 31
5pm
Tempe Public Library Lower Level

Bring your sewing project and machine or use theirs. Ages 14+. Free.

Free Comic Book Day on Main Street

May 6, 10am
Gotham City Comics and Coffee and Downtown Mesa
Businesses throughout Downtown Mesa will have over 500 comic books to give away. There will also be live music, a cosplay contest, a scavenger hunt, and the chance to meet national and local comic book artists. Maps of participating businesses will be available at Gotham City Comics and Coffee. Free.

Drawn to Comics Free Comic Book Day Festival

May 6, 9am
Drawn to Comics + American Legion Hall, Glendale
With booths and appearances by comic book artists and booths from groups like Arizona Autobots and Comicare.

  • Festival at American Legion Hall 9am-2pm.
  • In-store event 9am-8pm.

City Lights Movie Nights

May 12, 6:30pm
Patriots Park at CityScape, Phoenix
Outdoor screening of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Viewers are invited to bring their picnic blankets, chairs, and lightsabers!

Cactus Brick LEGO

Phoenix Comicon: Contests + Events

UPDATE: The Con on Adams will be replaced by Con on Third Street.

*Con on Third Street: fan car show, barbecue + beer tent, puppy adoption, and other activities.
Thursday – Sunday May 25-28, 2017 10:00 am to evening-ish (time TBD)
Outside on Third Street

Con on Adams: food trucks, beer garden, photobooth, and entertainment outdoors on Adams Street. No Phoenix Comicon admission required.
Schedule TBA
West 106ABC

Lego Build Off: LEGO competition.
Friday May 26, 2017 – 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm
Saturday May 27, 2017 – 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm
Sunday May 28, 2017 – 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm
West 102ABC

Masquerade Costume Contest: cosplay contest and lightsaber dueling performance. Registration is currently open.
Saturday May 27, 2017 – 8:00 pm to 11:30 pm
West 301BCD

*All-Ages Cosplay Fashion Show
Sunday May 28, 2017 – 12:30 pm to 3:00 pm
West 106ABC
star-wars-cosplay

Maker Panel Picks

Beginner-friendly panels on making costumes, props, etc. grouped by topic, so you can browse by what interests you.

Phxff cosplay

Intro to Cosplay

Body-Positive Cosplay: tips for making costume designs work for your body type, loving your body in cosplay, and dealing with haters.
Thursday May 25, 2017 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
North 225AB

*Armor for the Post-Apocalyptic World: make armor out of found objects.
Thursday May 25, 2017 – 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm
North 224AB

Prop-Making for Beginners: safety, tools, and strategies for materials including basic paper mache, thermoplastics, resin casting etc.
Thursday May 25, 2017 4:30 pm to 5:30 pm
North 228AB

Cosplay 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Cosplay
Thursday May 25, 2017 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm
North 224AB

Budget Cosplay
Friday May 26, 2017 10:30 am to 11:30 am
North 228AB

*Making Large Prize Winning Costumes with Paper Maché
Friday May 26, 2017 – 10:30 am to 11:30 am
North 231A

Costuming From Concept to Custom: the steps to make your cosplay idea a reality.
Friday May 26, 2017 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm
North 224AB

*Cosplay 101: From Closet to Convention Floor! : tips for DIY costumes from items you already own.
Friday May 26, 2017 – 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm
North 232ABC

Costume Wing-Making 101: Design and Construction Basics
Saturday May 27, 2017 – 10:30 am to 11:30 am
North 225AB

Steampunk on a Budget
Saturday May 27, 2017 – 10:30 am to 11:30 am
North 224AB

 

fan-fest-prop

Foam and Plastics

Foam Costuming: The Bare Bones
Friday May 26, 2017 10:30 am to 11:30 am
North 224AB

*Molding + Casting for Costume Parts 1: Making a Mold: how to create a basic mold from silicone
Friday May 26, 2017 4:30 pm to 5:30 pm
North 228AB

The Art of EVA Foamcraft: Making Weapons + Props
Saturday May 27, 2017 – 10:30 am to 11:30 am
North 231A

Intro to Foam Armor
Saturday May 27, 2017 – 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
North 228AB

Video Game Cosplay: Movement, Weaponry and Makeup
Saturday May 27, 2017 – 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm
North 228AB

Cosplay PHXCC

The Art of Mold Making + Casting Props: steps to creating custom molds for prop making.
Saturday May 27, 2017 – 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm
North 225AB

Molding + Casting for Costume Parts 2: Casting: how to cast plastic in a silicone mold.
Saturday May 27, 2017 – 4:30 pm to 5:30 pm
North 228AB

Don’t have it? Make it! Custom Toys! learn how to customize off-the-shelf toys.
Sunday May 28, 2017 – 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
North 231A

Making Costumes out of EVA Foam: how to make a pattern and build a complete EVA foam costume.
Sunday May 28, 2017 – 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
North 225AB

Phxff cosplay

Painting, Illustration, and Make-Up

Maskmaking 101 For All Ages: how to take a basic mask with materials provided. Limited to 100 attendees.
Thursday May 25, 2017 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm
West 101ABC Event Area

Dirt-Cheap Makeup: safe, budget makeup options.
Friday May 26, 2017 – 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm
North 225AB

Getting Into Comics: where to start with comicbooks.
Saturday May 27, 2017 – 10:30 am to 11:30 am
North 127B

Special Effects Makeup: Comic Book Girl: create a classic comic book look.
Saturday May 27, 2017 – 4:30 pm to 5:30 pm
North 131B

Acrylic Academy for Props and Costumes: learn how to modify acrylic paints for cosplay projects.
Sunday May 28, 2017 – 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
North 224AB

Phoenix Comicon 2016 PHXCC

Sewing

Cosplay for All Sizes: how to alter patterns and clothing to fit your unique shape and be confident in your costumes.
Friday May 26, 2017 10:30 am to 11:30 am
North 225AB

Sewing 101: The Basics: needles, material, patterns, manual and machine sewing.
Saturday May 27, 2017 – 4:30 pm to 5:30 pm
North 225AB

*[time change] Sewing: Pattern Markings: how to read patterns.
Sunday May 28, 2017 – 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm
North 225AB

Sewing: There’s a Foot for That: sewing machine feet and how to use them.
Sunday May 28, 2017 – 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm
North 225AB

Phxff steampunk cosplay

3D + LED

Cosplay LEDs for the Absolute Beginner: how to modify existing LED products and assemble simple LED circuits to light up your costume.
Thursday May 25, 2017 – 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
North 228AB

3D for Cosplay: 3D printing and design of costumes, accessories, and props.
Friday May 26, 2017 – 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
North 228AB

3D Printing Props and Costumes
Saturday May 27, 2017 – 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm
North 228AB

fan-fest-makers-1

Exhibitors

When you visit the exhibit hall, check out these artists and makers!

PHXCC




Thank you to Phoenix Comicon for providing media passes for the upcoming Con!

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Nests

Posted by on Apr 17, 2017 in Travel | 10 comments

BTA nest

I love it when I’m walking and spot a nest in a tree.

catalina-nest

It feels like a small discovery, like finding an Easter egg (no pun intended) or a secret door.

Yuma

From the time I was a little kid, my dad taught me how to look for signs of what’s going on in the natural world, pointing out the high waterline above a dry riverbed, animal tracks in the dirt, cottonwood trees where there’s water, and all kinds of habitats – burrows and holes and nests.

Arboretum nest

At the Arboretum recently, we saw a man was pointing out a nest in a tree for his grandson.

“You guys should check this one out, too.” I showed them a large nest right in the middle of a cholla cactus that would’ve been hidden from their viewpoint.

I can’t think of a safer place for a home – or a trickier place to build it.

Cholla nest BTA

 




 

 

Microblog Mondays: Write in your own space

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March 2017 Photo: Geraniums

Posted by on Apr 10, 2017 in Craft | 8 comments

It’s been a really colorful spring with lots of wildflowers and a few new additions to our patio garden.

So, for March, I chose this photo of a couple geraniums Phillip rescued from some plant department clearance bin. We also have blooms on our nasturtiums and our dwarf pomegranate tree. The hummingbirds are loving it all, and so am I.

Geraniums

 

Runners up:

I considered posting a photo either from Southwest Maker Fest or coffee painting at CraftHack, like these two mini masterpieces by Niecy.

Coffee painting

Also, we spotted this bus the other day that said “Let’s be better humans.” I don’t know what the story is behind it, but it’s a good message!
Bus

 




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Make a Mt. Lemmon Day Trip

Posted by on Apr 7, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Mount Lemmon wildlowers

You start in the Tucson heat surrounded by saguaros. An hour (or so) and a few thousand feet in elevation later, you can be sitting among spruce trees in air cool enough to not melt the chocolate chips of the oversized cookie in front of you.

Summerhaven tables

Welcome to Mount Lemmon, a 9000-foot peak in the Santa Catalina Mountain Range.

Mount Lemmon view

Drive the Sky Island Scenic Byway (also called the Mt. Lemmon Highway, the Catalina Highway, and – officially – the General Hitchcock Highway) through beautiful landscape and six (6!) different climate zones.

Mt. Lemmon

Mt Lemmon

Then you can hike or picnic or ride the year-round ski lift. (Yes, it gets cold and snowy enough in the winter for skiing up there!)

Mt Lemmon trail

When Phillip and I and my parents went, we stopped at a picnic area (Box Elder, I think-?) before driving to the parking lot at end of the road and taking a little hike from there.

Mt. Lemmon

Along the way is the town of Summerhaven, a one-and-a half mile high city that caters to visitors seeking shelter from sweltering Tucson summers.

Cookie Cabin

It’s also home to the giant cookies of Cookie Cabin. Four of us split one sampler cookie. There was literally a line out the door but plenty of nice outdoor seating.

Mount Lemmon cookie

I taught my dad how to use the Hyperlapse app, so we could take timelapse videos of the drive up. You can see the dramatic changes of scenery compressed into two minutes.


Mount lemmon

– More Mt. Lemmon info –

  • Be prepared to pack out your own trash.
  • Ski lift – The “sky ride” to the summit lasts about half an hour. Off-season (summer) adult tickets are $12/ride. Winter lift tickets are $45/day. Details at skithelemmon.com.
  • Keep the high altitude in mind when you’re planning hiking or other activities.
  • We were there in mid-August, right at the end of the summer wildflower season.

image

Scenic Drive:

Mt. Lemmon - Ski Valley

Fees:

  • Many places you can park on Mount Lemmon require a pass, including the visitor center, picnic areas, etc.
  • You can purchase a Coronado Recreation Pass on the mountain at the Palisades Visitor Center or buy one before you go.
  • Passes are available at several locations, including the Coronado National Forest Supervisor’s Office at 300 W. Congress near Downtown Tucson.
  • Day passes are $5 per vehicle. ($10 for a weekly pass.)
  • Instead of worrying about which specific places require it, consider just getting a day pass in town before you make the drive. It’s only 5 bucks and helps to support the forest.

Mount Lemmon

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Banh Mi

Posted by on Apr 3, 2017 in Craft, Travel | 6 comments

When we moved, we found ourselves near a place with great banh mi, which are Vietnamese sandwiches on French bread with these marinated vegetables and thinly sliced meats. It’s a beautiful blending of cultures.

Banh mi vietnamese sandwich

My brother Ian says the many banh mi places in Seattle all seem to charge exactly $3.98 for a sandwich. As with many things, they’re even cheaper here in Phoenix. It’s a lotta deliciousness for your buck.

Have you tried banh mi? Do you have a favorite spot near you?




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Good Times at Monticello (part 2)

Posted by on Mar 30, 2017 in Travel | 2 comments

Monticello

Let’s say you read last week’s post on Monticello, and now you’re ready to plan a trip.

On the positive side, there’s so much good info on their site. On the challenging side, there’s so. much. info.

So here’s the breakdown on admission and tour options and when to be where – the stuff that confused me when I was first planning to visit Monticello.

Monticello visitor center display

Getting In: How Much Is Admission?

Unlike a museum with optional tours, there’s not a general admission that lets you just wander around Monticello. Instead, you purchase a timed tour ticket that also acts as your day pass.

Tours vary based on what they cover and cost. The most basic, most popular one is the Monticello Day Pass and House Tour ($20-28, see below).

 

Monticello house model

Which Tour to Choose?

All Monticello Day Passes/Tour Tickets include:

image

You’ll want to find a tour that fits your interests, schedule, mobility, and the time of year you’re visiting, so here are summaries to help you sort it all out.

Tours Offered Year-round:

Monticello Day Pass and House Tour – This is the main tour, and it takes you through the first (ground) floor of Monticello.

  • 30-40 minutes
  • Wheelchair accessible. (Small strollers are also allowed.)
  • Adults: $20-28, Children (ages 5-11): $9

Behind the Scenes House Tour and Day Pass – Tour of the first, second and third floors, including the Dome Room.

  • The upper floors are not wheelchair accessible.
  • Not recommended for children under 7.
  • $48-60.

Monticello Neighborhood Pass – Combination ticket that includes Monticello Day Pass and House Tour, Ash-Lawn Highland admission and tour (home of fifth U.S. President James Monroe), and the Michie Tavern ca. 1784 Tour.

  • Save up to $6 on adult passes, if you visit all 3 sites.
  • If you only plan to visit 2 of the sites, buying tickets individually is a better deal.
  • I was not able to confirm whether you have to visit all 3 sites in one day.
  • Adults: $34-43, Children (ages 5-11): $19

Touch Tours for blind / seeing impaired individuals or groups are available by advance appointment.

Monticello Private Guide – Tour for 1-8 people, which includes the Dome Room and the gardens and grounds or museum galleries. Tailored to your interests.

  • Call (434) 984-9884 at least two weeks before your visit to schedule your tour. Subject to availability.
  • 3 hours
  • 1-4 people: $600, 5-8 people: $750-1200

Monticello garden sprouts

Tours Offered Seasonally or on Select 2017 Dates:

Hemings Family Tour – Interactive tour of the House and Mulberry Row that centers around stories of seven members of the Hemings Family.

  • February – November, Friday through Sunday
  • 1 hour, 45 minutes
  • Not wheelchair accessible.
  • Not recommended for children under 12.
  • $27-30

Family Friendly Tour – House Tour with hands-on activities geared toward children ages 5-11.

  • April 3 – 23, June 10 – September 4, October 7 – 9, December 26 – 30
  • 40 minutes
  • Wheelchair accessible.
  • Adults: $20-28, Children (ages 5-11): $9

Walk-Through Tours – Alternative to Monticello House Tour with guides stationed in each room.

  • April 14 – 15, May 27 – 28, June 3 – 4, July 1 – 2, September 9, October 7 – 8, November 26
  • Wheelchair accessible.
  • Adults: $20-25, Children (ages 5-11): $9
  • Add 30-minute Upper Floors Tour on these dates: +$25

Hamilton Tour Takeover – Interactive House tour that contrasts the ideas of Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, followed by a moderated discussion.

  • April 7, 28-29; May 6, 12 – 13, 19; September 15 – 16, 22 – 23, 29 – 30
  • 1 hour
  • $40

Jefferson

How to buy passes?

  • In-person at the Dominion Welcome Pavilion, subject to availability. Plan to wait in line.
  • Online and print out yourself – This gives you more choices of tour times, plus you can skip the lines when you arrive. Under delivery options, select “print at home” at checkout. As far as I know, only paper tickets are accepted.
  • Online and pick them up at Will Call – If you don’t have access to a printer or don’t want to worry about losing/forgetting tickets, you can select “Will Call” under delivery options at checkout. You may have a small wait for Will Call, but otherwise you get the same benefits as above.

Regardless of whether you print or pick up, purchasing online saves you about 10% on adult passes. You can buy tickets online from maybe 3 months in advance up until midnight the day before you visit.

Monticello

Other Event Tickets:

Tickets for other events at Monticello may not include a House Tour/Day Pass. To attend a Harvest Tasting Tour (offered weekends May – October), for example, you’d need to purchase one of the Day Passes above plus a ticket for the tasting tour itself ($15). There are also a la carte workshops (which we sometimes feature on our Happenings List) like Get to Know Your Trails on April 1 ($18) or Toddler Time, the third Saturday of each month ($10).

Monticello

When Should I Arrive?

Even if you’ve already purchased and printed your pass, you can’t just roll up to the parking lot at tour time. It takes time to get up to the House. Here’s the “Last-Minute Monticello” list of the minimum time Monticello recommends you allow each step of the way.

Last-minute Monticello:

  • Arrival – At least 30 minutes before tour time (1 hour if you plan to watch the introductory film)
  • Shuttle – Board at least 15 minutes before tour time. (Shuttles arrive every 5-10 minutes.)
  • In front of the House (East Walk) – 5 minutes before tour time.

Allow additional time during peak travel times (weekends, holidays, etc.).

If you are pressed for time, you can check out the visitor center exhibits after your tour.  (This is what we did, because we were really tight on time.) However, arriving at least an hour before your tour allows you to get some context before going up to the House.

The Monticello Mellow itinerary is my suggestion for a less rushed way to take it all in.

 

Monticello

 


Monticello Mellow

A mid-morning tour time would allow you to explore the visitor center and get up to the mountaintop before the most crowded part of the day (11am – 3pm).

  • Arrival – 1-2 hours before tour time. Park, pick up tickets (if needed), see the introductory film, and visit exhibits.
  • Shuttle/walk – 30-40 minutes before tour time be at the shuttle stop or walk (.5 mile) up to the mountaintop.
  • If you get to the mountaintop with time to spare before your tour, check out the dependencies, cellar, fish pond, or hang out on the West Lawn. You may want to set an alarm so you dont get so engrossed that you miss your tour!
  • At the East Walk of the House – 5-10 minutes before your tour, find your way to the staging area for your ticket group. Check with a guide to make sure you’re at the right spot.
  • House Tour lasts approximately 30 minutes.
  • Afterwards, explore the rooms below the House and Mulberry Row.
  • From April to October, there are additional tours offered that are included with admission, no reservation required. If time allows, check out the Garden and Grounds and/or Slavery Tours.
  • When you’re ready to head back down the mountain, you can check out the Monticello graveyard (the shuttle stops there on the way back) and/or any exhibits you missed at the visitor center.
  • Have lunch at the cafe, drive over to Michie Tavern, or pack a picnic.

Monticello fog

You could probably spend most/all of the day at Monticello if you wanted to. Or, spend a few hours there then take a hike, tour another historic site (both Ash-Lawn Highland and the tour at Michie Tavern are included in the Monticello Neighborhood Pass), visit at vineyard, or just chill in Charlottesville.


We were guests of Monticello.

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A Friend in the Cellar

Posted by on Mar 27, 2017 in Travel | 13 comments

Monticello

Phillip and I are walking through the passage into the cellar under Monticello, when a woman coming the other direction stops us. Because she wants to take a photo. Of us. For us.

Wait…what?

“It just looks so cool with the light filtering through the fog behind you…it’s okay…I work here,” she reassured us with that non-sequitur.

Still slightly stunned, we hand her a phone, pose for a photo, and then find ourselves in a conversation about our visit to Virginia and her work at Monticello (which does not typically involve walking around taking strangers’ photos).

Momticello window

“Have a good trip!” she calls after us when we finally part ways.

I randomly respond with “Thanks! May the Force be with you!”

She stops in her tracks. “Have you seen it?”

Of course, she means the then-newly-released Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, that had shocked fans (including us) with the death of a hero.

“Yes!” I was still moving through the stages of fictional character grief, and she just opened her arms to hug me.

The three of us stood in the passageway awhile longer, talking about the movie and the plot twist and feelings and nostalgia, and it was this beautiful moment of connection in a really unexpected location.

monticello passage by liz marshall




P.S. I just posted more about what to see at Monticello and will be posting how to tackle tickets and tour schedules later this week.

Last photo by Liz Marshall.

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Our Time at Monticello (part 1)

Posted by on Mar 23, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Monticello

The fog had started rolling in as we wound through the woods on the way to Monticello and had thickened by the time we were standing outside the House itself. It obscured the view, swallowing up all but the nearest trees. We stood on the side of the House away from the waning crowds, and, for a few moments, it was as quiet as if we were the only ones in the world. As if we had traveled back in time. As if, at any moment, we would hear approaching hoof beats and see Thomas Jefferson emerging through the white-gray veil.

Monticello

Even in his day, visitors to the House would not have been unusual. In fact, Monticello had already become a tourist attraction during the former president’s lifetime [audio].

People touring the U.S. or who wanted to learn more about Jefferson stopped at his Charlottesville, Virginia home frequently enough that they strained the resources of both the residence and the residents.

Monticello

Today, people continue to stop there for many of the same reasons as those early admirers – although a visit no longer comes with free wine or overnight lodging.

The House and plantation buildings continue to perch atop their hill (a.k.a. the “mountaintop”) with orchards, vineyards, and gardens stretching out across the landscape.

Nearly 100 years ago, a foundation was set up to maintain the House and the grounds, continue research, and manage the steady flow of visitors. In keeping with Jefferson’s ardor for order, the whole place still runs like clockwork.

Thomas Jefferson at Monticello

Places you can visit at Monticello:

Monticello visitor center

1. Visitors Center

The entry point for contemporary visitors is a complex of buildings at the bottom of the hill. The Rubenstein Visitor Center, Smith Education Center, Milstein Theater, Smith Gallery, gift shop, and cafe all form kind of a square around a central courtyard.

Visitor center exhibits take a variety of forms: models of Monticello, a projection of key Jeffersonian ideas, hands-on activities for kids, explanations of Monticello’s architecture, and interactive LCD screens about liberty.

Monticello

At the far end of the square, there’s a shuttle stop with a covered waiting area. Shuttles arrive every 5-10 minutes to take you to the mountaintop, parking you directly in front of the East Walk to the House. You can also walk the half mile (25 minutes) to the top. Either way, make sure you have your ticket first.

If you haven’t already purchased and printed out your pass, you pick it up at the Dominion Welcome Pavilion on your way in from the parking lot.

Monticello house

2. The House

When the shuttle dropped us off for our House Tour, there were still crowds of people around the East Portico, waiting for their tour time.

You need a timed ticket to go inside Monticello.

Monticello

While we waited for our tour, we saw how the guides work in sync to keep groups staggered just the right distance apart. Once a tour headed inside, the next one began right there on the front-porch-like portico, while the following one was gathered off to the side.

We saw two different guides’ introductions. They each had their own style but were very knowledgeable and passionate about the place and its history.

The main house tour is wheelchair accessible, but you need to be in a chair that meets a certain size requirement. If not, you can borrow one of theirs. Even though some of the spaces are tight, the guides know exactly how to navigate through and are very helpful, making sure everyone on the tour is taken care of.

Monticello bookshelf

A few objects that stood out:

  • The Great Clock has faces inside and outside and a system of balancing weights that also show the day of the week. The days were listed down the wall and, due to a miscalculation, had to extend down through the floor into the cellar. It is still wound weekly [video].
  • Books – Jefferson’s entire collection went to help re-establish the Library of Congress after it was burned down during the War of 1812. The original volumes are still in D.C. on exhibit at the Library of Congress (Southwest Pavilion, 2nd Floor, Thomas Jefferson Building). So Monticello curators have stocked the Book Room’s shelves with other copies of the titles he owned that were published around the same time.
  • Jefferson’s bed was wedged into an alcove between two of his private rooms, as a space saving measure, and he would sleep sitting up. (I’m not convninced it actually saved space, but Jefferson was really into putting beds into alcoves.)
  • Polygraph – clever writing implement used to make copies.
  • Wine dumb waiter – contraption to bring bottles straight up from the wine cellar into the dining room (and the fixture in the House I may be most jealous of).

Monticello
To visit the second and third floors, you would need to purchase a Behind the Scenes Tour (or Upper Floors Tour) ticket ahead of time and be able to navigate a steep staircase.

Monticello

3. The Plantation Community and Grounds

Before or after your tour, you can check out the self-guided areas of the mountaintop.

Monticello

Walk through either the North or South Cellar Passage to go under the House. You can see food preparation and storage areas and wander into the wine cellar to find where the dumb waiter lands.

Monticello wine cellar

I should note that present-day Monticello does not shy away from – but certainly doesn’t condone – the fact that many of Jefferson’s workers were enslaved people. The introductory film even addresses the paradox that such an advocate for freedom also denied it to people on his own estate.

Monticello

In recent years, Monticello has moved to provide more information about the entire community who lived there along with Jefferson, highlighting the skills of the craftspeople, adding exhibits about enslaved individuals, and creating a Slavery at Monticello app. There’s also a House Tour option that focuses on the Hemings family, and all Day Passes include the option of an additional Slavery at Monticello tour.

Monticello kitchen

We did not venture into the grayness to find Mulberry Row or get off the shuttle at the Monticello Graveyard stop that already-dark evening, opting instead to head back to the warmth of the visitors center.

Monticello tree

As much as we enjoyed the romance of our fog-cloaked winter visit, condensation droplets hanging on bare branches like tiny glass ornaments, we hope to visit again on a clearer day, when leaves are back on the trees, and we have the luxury of a little more time.

Monticello

 




More info

  • Monticello is open 364 days a year (closed Christmas Day)
  • Parking is free.
  • Monticello is a short drive from Charlottesville, and there are a variety of lodging options there, incuding the Omni where we stayed and the Oakhurst Inn near UVA.
  • Your tour/day pass is your admission ticket. Adult passes start at $20.
  • Monticello is not a National Park. The House and 2500 acres (of the original 5000) are owned and maintained by a non-profit organization without federal or state funding.

Photos

No photos are allowed inside the house, due to certain items being on loan from other institutions or individuals.

You can also get a glimpse of what the tour is like and a close-up of some of Monticello’s objects and features in videos by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. There are also 360 views of rooms on the first floor, as well as an image gallery on Monticello.org.

Planning

If your schedule allows it, I’d recommend planning on at least half a day there. Visit Charlottesville suggested visiting Monticello in the morning, having lunch at Michie Tavern, and then visit another historical site (like Ash-Lawn Highland) in the afternoon.

I’ll have more itinerary recommendations for you next week, plus tips for picking your tour and planning your time.

Monticello


We were guests of Monticello.

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Fingers Crossed

Posted by on Mar 20, 2017 in Travel | 4 comments

I’d like to think I’m not superstitious, but then something good happens, and I’m afraid I’ll jinx it.

Can I whisper this to you?

We booked tickets to Europe.

Italy mural

There was a killer deal on round-trip flights to Madrid at the end of August. And, while I love Spain, it’s not our final destination this time.

Neither of us have been to Italy, and I have wanted to go since I was a kid, since learning that Venice had streets made of water, since I first saw photos of Pompeii’s ruins frozen in time, since my young fascination with Renaissance art, since seeing Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.

We had planned to go for our 10th anniversary, and then our 11th, and, by last year, I had pretty much lost hope.

Michelangelo

But now there’s an international flight with our name on it.

We plan to celebrate our 13th anniversary early, take our own Roman holiday, see a boat parade in Venice, stay in the agriturismo of this couple whose podcast we listen to, wander the ruins of Pompeii, and maybe even visit the Florence that is not in Arizona.

13 has always been my lucky number.

Not that I’m superstitious.




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6 Airbnb Getaways in the Western US

Posted by on Mar 18, 2017 in Travel | 4 comments

life-crush-1-wildflowers

There is something so restoring about getting into nature, whether you’re taking a hike or just taking in the view.

If you’re feeling like you need a weekend away, here are some peaceful spots we’ve booked through Airbnb that are perfectly positioned for enjoying the great outdoors in Arizona, California, Colorado, and Nevada. All of them are close to hiking and most have kitchenettes.

I’ve included drive time to nearby cities and towns for reference.

Airbnb tucson

Airbnb 101

For those who have never used Airbnb, it’s a site that allows people to rent out spare rooms or guest apartments, so you end up with a really unique stay with a more personal touch. As you’ll see, we’ve used it to find and book places like a cottage in remote Southeastern Arizona, a trailer near Monterey, and a cabin room near the San Juan Mountains in Colorado.

You can get $40 off your first stay when you sign up at airbnb.com/c/sliebold2. (Full disclosure: using that link also sends some credit my way…so win-win!)
Pasadena-airbnb-1

California

1. Pasadena Glen Separate Cottage

The Setting: Lush, quiet neighborhood at the foot of the San Gabriel mountains that’s maybe technically part of Pasadena but feels like its own world.

  • Old Town Pasadena (or The Huntington) – 15 minutes
  • Downtown L.A. – 45 minutes
  • Phoenix – 5.5 hours

Pasadena-airbnb-3
The Room: The cottage is like a standalone studio apartment next to a larger house.

  • Very comfortable bed.
  • Included mini fridge, dishes, fruit, breakfast bars, electric kettle with Starbucks Via and a selection of teas.
  • Lovely garden/mini-yard area outside with a table.
  • Private 3/4 bathroom inside the apartment.
  • Separate entrance with keypad.

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Tips:

  • There’s a hiking trail at the end of the street.
  • You may get apples from one of their trees!
  • Sign a waiver if you plan to use the pool.
  • Two or three dogs also roam around the yard and will probably come to say hello. One of them is very large but very sweet.

How we ended up here: We stayed for a week while Phillip took a class at Fuller Seminary’s main campus in Pasadena.

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2. Trailer or Tipi Camping

The Setting: Travel trailers (and a tipi/teepee) surrounded by sprawling gardens and DIY-projects-in-progress, wandering chickens and a few cats, a goat pasture, and forest.

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The Room: Boho vintage travel trailer with cozy sleeping area, dinette, and posssibly-working kitchen.

  • Microclimate tends to be cooler and cloudier than surrounding area.
  • Primative toilet in the woods (with privacy screen) and solar-heated shower.
  • Self-serve breakfast available from a pantry with oatmeal, granola, fruit, etc. and fresh eggs in the chicken coop.
  • Fire ring available for cooking or evening bonfires.

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Tips:

  • Think camping without the set up! Of course, if you’re not into camping, this is not for you.
  • You may be able to use the host’s Monterey Bay Aquarium pass at a discount.
  • The chickens greet you in the morning – and provide breakfast!
  • There’s also a tipi option, subject to availability. (It was already occupied when we stayed there.)

How we ended up here: We were going to be in the area the same weekend as the Monterey Jazz Festival, so lodging options were limited and pricey. We were on a tight budget and decided to take a chance. And we’re glad we did! It was the quirkiest place we’ve stayed via Airbnb, but it was a lot of fun!

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Colorado

3. True Grit Mountain Retreat

The Setting: Cabin-like home with big picture windows looking out over gorgeous Colorado scenery and the San Juan Mountains.

  • Ridgway – 7 minutes
  • Ouray – 20 minutes
  • Denver – 5 hours
  • Albuquerque – 5.5 hours

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The Room: On the split-level second floor, there are 2 guest rooms available with bathroom and laundry in between. (There is a second guest bathroom downstairs.)

  • The Queen Room has a queen-size bed and Mexico-inspired decor.
  • The Spruce Room has twin beds and a private balcony.
  • Lovely breakfast in the dining room.
  • Hot tub outside.

co-ridgway
Tips:

  • It’s available during the summer only.
  • Get there before dark, if possible. Being out in the country means less light pollution – great for stargazing, challenging for finding house numbers.
  • Use of the kitchen downstairs is limited and may require an additional fee.
  • Nearby Ridgway is a one-stoplight-town that’s worth a stop. It’s home to the maker of the Grammy Awards and was the location for the 1969 western True Grit starring John Wayne. And a nice little roadside market!

How we ended up here: We needed a place to stay on the way home from a Denver road trip.

Tucson airbnb view

Arizona

4. Studio Cottage in Gated Community

The Setting: Quiet neighborhood street that winds through the Sonoran desert.

  • Downtown Tucson – 20 minutes
  • Phoenix – 2 hours

Tucson
The Room: Roomy southwestern casita with dining table and kitchenette, colorful ceramic tile, and a pink clawfoot tub.

  • Food and coffee aren’t included, but the kitchenette is stocked with the dishes and appliances (coffeemaker, microwave, toaster oven, fridge) to let you do it yourself – everything including a kitchen sink.
  • Pool/hot tub.
  • Parking and separate entrance through the garage.

Airbnb tucson
Tips:

How we ended up here: Basically, we’re always looking for excuses to go to Tucson and neat little places to stay there.
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5. SE AZ Hiking, Birding, and Quietude

The Setting: Remote casita near the Dragoon Mountains.

  • Willcox – 30 minutes
  • Tucson – 1.25 hours
  • Phoenix – 3 hours

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The Room: Separate little adobe house.

  • Well-stocked kitchen with sink, coffee, grinder, and milk in the minifridge.
  • Composting toilet and shower in a separate building.

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Tips:

  • Breakfast may be available for an additional fee. (I think we paid $10/person. We had so much delicious food that even Phillip was stuffed.)
  • Property backs up to state land with hiking trails. You’ll want to get written directions (or a map) before you head out. We got mixed up and went the wrong way.
  • They provided a flashlight (for night visits to the outhouse, etc.), but you may want to bring a headlamp or other hands-free light if you have one.

How we ended up here: This is where we stayed for our 10 year anniversary after picking apples in Willcox.

Red Rocks, Nevada

Nevada

6. Las Vegas

The Setting: Neighborhood in the Las Vegas suburbs near the edge of where city streets give way to Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area.

  • Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area – 10 minutes
  • Las Vegas Strip – 30 minutes
  • L.A. – 4 hours
  • Phoenix – 5 hours

Las Vegas Airbnb
The Room: Apartment with a full bath and a few midcentury modern touches.

  • Keurig, coffee and tea pods, and snacks included, as well as minifridge, microwave, and dishes.
  • Separate entrance but very near the main house.

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Tips:

  • We didn’t meet the hosts, but everything (including check-in) was taken care of with lots of thoughtful touches.
  • There’s a really cool guestbook/journal you can leave a note and/or memento in.
  • Check out our Las Vegas Off the Strip list for a list of non-casino things to see, including Red Rock Canyon picnic spots and easy hikes.

How we ended up here: Avoiding the craziness of The Strip while in Las Vegas for a wedding!


Have you used Airbnb? Where’s your favorite getaway?

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