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Phoenix Pizza Festival

Posted by on Feb 9, 2017 in Travel | 2 comments

What is “the most perfect food ever”?

Pizza.

Phx pizza fest

At least, that’s according to the (probably biased) organizers of the Phoenix Pizza Festival.

The annual event benefits Downtown Phoenix, Inc. This past fall, it was held at Margaret T. Hance Park in Downtown Phoenix, next to the Burton Barr Library.

Pizza festival

A $10 advance ticket got you in the gate, and then you could wander around sampling pizza for $2-4 a slice, listening to bands, and/or playing a few rounds of cornhole. There were at least a dozen pizza makers, plus beer, wine, lemonade, and gelato.

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The pizza ranged from high quality, foodie-grade slices to what a friend of ours would affectionately call “emergency pizza.”

My favorites were from Dough Mama and Lacy + Wendy’s Catering.

Lacy and wendys pizza

In the spirit of the event, some people even dressed up. We chatted with DJ and (self-proclaimed) Pizza Expert Mastamonk, who was wearing a pepperoni-patterned pajama onesie, pizza socks, and a cap that said “send pizza.”

Pizza outfit

Later in the afternoon, toppings started to run out and certain items were off the menu – so plan on arriving on the early side for a better selection. On the other hand, vendors got increasingly generous about offering discounted pies or sneaking you extra slices just before they had to pack it up for the day.

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It was a fun way to discover new Phoenix-area pizzas. So mark your calendar for the 2017 Pizza Festival, tentatively scheduled to be held in the same location (Hance Park) on November 21st.

And, if you happen to have a pizza onesie laying around the house, this would be the place to wear it.




We were guests of the Phoenix Pizza Festival.

 

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Citrus Season in the Southwest

Posted by on Jan 23, 2017 in Craft, Travel | 14 comments

Citrus at tucson market

It’s citrus season here in Phoenix! Farmers’ markets and roadside stands are overflowing with oranges, grapefruit, and lemons (so is my Instagram feed).

When we were in Tucson just before Christmas, there were baskets of beautifully bright oranges, tangerines, and kumquats at the Thursday Farmers’ Market at Mercado San Augustin.

Citrus park in Riverside, CA

California Citrus Historic State Park in Riverside, which we’ve enjoyed visiting when we’re in Southern California, currently has extended hours for the season and special events like a harvest tasting on February 26.

The Pasadena Farmers’ Market lists lemons, navel oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, and tangelos as being in season right now. (When I was there this summer, it was piles of peaches and pecks of peppers.)

Pasadena farmers market

On the theme of citrus…

What’s in season where you are?




Microblog Mondays: Write in your own space

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7 Vegas Things to Do Off the Strip

Posted by on Dec 30, 2016 in Craft, Travel | 0 comments

UNLV

When we took our road trip to Las Vegas, our brief Bellagio Fountains visit was the most time we spent on the (in)famous Strip, where the supersized casino-resort properties (and, yep, lots of places for weddings) are clustered.

Sangria at firefly

Instead, we played retro arcade games, found some art, explored the desert, and ate some really good food.

Seven magic mountains

So, if ginormous casinos aren’t your thing, read on for awesome places to go in Downtown, near UNLV, and outside of the city altogether.

Bin 702

Downtown Las Vegas

Just north of The Strip is Downtown Las Vegas, which was built first, with casinos along its historic Fremont Street in the wild west days before Nevada was even a state.

Today Downtown includes the area between Washington Avenue and Sahara Avenue, Valley View Boulevard and Eastern Avenue. There is an effort underway to make it more welcoming and walkable, as well as focused on arts and small businesses.

You can still find casinos downtown too. Several of them are linked by the Fremont Street Experience pedestrian walkway, such as Binion’s (home to a free-pull slot machine) and Golden Nugget (home to a waterslide that goes through a shark tank).

Downtown Las Vegas

Downtown Parking

There are several paid parking lots in the Downtown area.

If you’re parking or staying on The Strip, you can take the Deuce bus from there to Downtown. ($8 fare for unlimited rides during a 24-hour period.)

Downtown Las Vegas - Container Park

1. Stroll through Downtown Container Park.

What it is: Three storeys of shipping containers repurposed into locally-owned stores and restaurants surrounding a central plaza and Treehouse playground.

Where: 707 Fremont Street, Las Vegas

Parking: Llama Lot and Fremont Street Experience parking garage (mentioned above) are each about .25 mile away, and you’ll save a few bucks over the Container Park’s own lot ($3/hour). Less money parking means more for things like cheese boards and bath bombs.

Hours:

Shopping Center –

Monday – Thursday: 11am to 9pm
Friday – Saturday: 10am to 10pm
Sunday: 10am to 8pm

Restaurants + Bars –

Monday – Thursday: 11am to 11pm
Friday – Saturday: 10am to 1am
Sunday: 10am to 11pm

Downtown Las Vegas - Natural Earth Cosmetics
We liked…

  • Art Box for jewelry and artwork from 35 local artists.
  • Natural Earth Cosmetics has handmade natural bath products and cosmetics, knit wash mitts, and other unique gift items – most of it handmade by the owner Michaela.
  • Bin 702 for delicious and adorable montaditos (mini-sandwiches).

Downtown Las Vegas Container Park
Tips:

  • Phillip wanted me to remind you not to miss the second and third floors. There is more food, more jewelry, clothing, and a cool pet store with reptiles, fish, and seahorses.
  • On the second floor next to The Perch, there’s what looks like a gallery container with a few places to sit, some local artwork, and a view overlooking the courtyard and stage. It may actually be the smoking section and not a gallery. However, when we were there, people were hanging out, eating, and watching the costume contest happening on stage, but I don’t remember seeing anyone actually smoking.
  • The Fire Mantis sculpture in front of the entrance periodically lights up, plays music, and shoots flames from its antennae.
  • Kappa Toys has their own custom pogs and slammers.

Downtown Las Vegas Container Park

2. Find restored historic signs in Downtown’s outdoor Urban Gallery.

What it is: As far as I can tell, this is not a single spot but several outdoor installations.

Nine of the Neon Museum’s vintage signs have been restored to working order and installed around Downtown, including at the Fremont Street Experience pedestrian walkway. Since they’re outside on public streets, you can visit them anytime. Just download a map of their locations and go on a self-guided tour.

Along the way, you’ll probably spot other public art like Bordalo II’s Meerkat mural on the side of an old bus or the world’s largest working fire hydrant in front of a doggy daycare center.

Downtown Las Vegas

Where: Downtown Las Vegas, especially around Las Vegas Boulevard (See PDF map.)

Parking: Fremont Street Experience parking garage or any of the Downtown Parking options above.

Hours: Always open.

Cost: Free.

Xeriscape

Around UNLV

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) is east of The Strip and directly north of McCarran International Airport. One of the items below is actually on campus, while the other two are nearby.

Barrick Museum UNLV

3. Visit the Marjorie Barrick Museum at UNLV.

What it is: Small art museum with rotating exhibits inside a former gymnasium.

Where: 4505 S. Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas

Parking (PDF map):

  • Lot I (metered, $1/hour, right outside Musuem)
  • Visitor Lot V (metered, $1/hour)
  • Lot S (free, about 0.7 mile from Museum)

Hours:

Monday – Friday: 9am to 5pm (Thursdays until 8pm)
Saturday: 12 to 5pm
Closed Sundays

Cost: Free. Suggested contribution: $5.

UNLV

We liked…

Current exhibitions –

  • In Transition: Ceramic figurines of women in different stages of life from pre-columbian Mesoamerica, South America, and Central America. September 6 – March 30, 2017.
  • Edward Burtynsky: Oil: Photo series on the effects of oil extraction and consumption around the world. September 23 – January 14, 2017.

The ArtBar, where you can create your own art in response to the work on display.

A xeriscape entry garden wraps around the outside of the building with pathways through desert plants.

 

Pinball Hall of Fame

4. Play games at the Pinball Hall of Fame.

What it is: Not-for-profit, volunteer-run arcade of working (mostly) vintage pinball machines and games like Pac-man, Tetris, and Star Wars.

Where: 1610 E. Tropicana, Las Vegas (North side of Tropicana between Maryland Parkway and Eastern Avenue, about 1.5 mi from The Strip.)

Parking: Free lot on-site.

Hours:

Sunday – Thursday: 11am to 11pm
Friday – Saturday: 11am to 12am

Cost: Free entrance. Games are 25 cents to $1.

Pinball

We liked…

  • Playing pinball! We enjoyed the analog machines, as well as the newer movie- and t.v.-themed ones (The Lord of the Rings, Gilligan’s Island, etc.).
  • Indulging our nostalgia for video games we grew up with.
  • Phillip found some quirky old mechanical games, including one where you fly this little metal spaceship and one with a dancing clown that creeped me out.

Vintage arcade game

Tips:

  • Machines are old and finicky and may eat your quarters. Let the attendant behind the counter know which game it is right away, and they’ll attempt to fix it or refund you.
  • There are change machines near the back.
  • Contrary to rumors that they’re about to close, the Pinball Hall of Fame is actually in the process of expanding into a bigger facility down the street.

Firefly tapas

5. Enjoy small plates at FiREFLY* Tapas Kitchen & Bar

Where: 3824 Paradise Road, Las Vegas

Parking: Free lot on-site.

Hours:

Monday – Thursday: 11:30am to 1am (Happy hour 3pm – 6pm, 11pm – 1am)
Friday – Saturday: 11:30am to 2am
Sunday: 10am to 1am (Brunch 10am – 2pm)

Firefly tapas

We liked…

  • Sangria, croquettes, bacon-wrapped dates, merguez – everything was so good and reminded me of the flavors of Spain!
  • We ordered a few (5ish) tapas to share. The small plates were great for sampling a variety of things and made a great lunch.

Outside of Town

Red Rock Las Vegas

6. Explore Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

Where: 3205 State Route 159, Las Vegas

Parking: Free lot on-site.

Hours:

Visitors center –
Daily 8am to 4:30pm

Scenic drive –
Daily 6am to 5pm

Cost: $7/vehicle for entry to Visitors Center and scenic drive. Red Rock Scenic Overlook is outside of the fee area, so I believe it’s free to stop there.

Red Rock

We liked…

  • 45-minute scenic drive loop with plenty of places to stop, check out the view, hike, or picnic (see below).
  • Visitors Center with a great picture window and extensive exhibits outside.

Tips:

  • There’s a desert tortoise habitat outside the Visitors Center, when it’s not too cold for them.
  • We had no cell service out there.
  • While the scenic drive was beautiful at every turn, if you were suuuper pressed for time, you could at least stop at Red Rock Scenic Overlook. You won’t get to see everything, but it would be better than missing out altogether.

We had hoped to squeeze in a quick hike and/or picnic, so I picked out a few options, and then didn’t have time to do either. Anyway, here’s what I found.

Red Rock, Nevada

Easy hikes (and trail map numbers)

  • Overlook Trail (22): Paved, wheelchair-accessible path leading to the top of a small hill with a view of Red Rock Canyon. 0.25 mi.
  • Lost Creek Children’s Discovery Trail (8): Goes from the Lost Creek parking area to a seasonal waterfall. 0.7 mi.
  • Moenkopi Loop (1): Loop from the visitor center with fossils and panoramic views of the Wilson Cliffs. 2 mi.

Red rock

Picnic areas:

There are 4, and all have tables, trash cans, and nearby restrooms.

  • Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center Picnic Area: West of the Visitors Center parking area (with access to Moenkopi and Calico Hills trails).
  • Willow Springs Picnic Area: About halfway around the Scenic Drive (with access to Lost Creek and other trails).
  • Red Rock Scenic Overlook Picnic Area: On State Route 159 with access to Red Rock Scenic Overlook Trail. Some covered tables.
  • The Red Spring Picnic Area: On State Route 159 on Calico Basin Road, two miles east of the Visitors Center. Covered tables.

Seven magic mountains vegas

7. Drive out to Seven Magic Mountains.

30-foot-tall stacks of neon-painted boulders in the desert, a large-scale art installation by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone on display through May 2018.

Where: 10 miles (about 30 minutes) south of Las Vegas off I-15 near Jean Dry Lake.

  • Take Exit 25 at Sloan Rd.
  • It’s on the way to Los Angeles.
  • If you’re headed to Phoenix or just about anywhere else, it’s not on the way, but we thought it was worth the detour!

Parking: Free lot on-site.

Hours: Daily, sunrise to sunset (recommended).

Cost: Free.

Seven Magic Mountains Las Vegas

We liked…

  • Seeing the vibrant colors against the muted landscape.
  • Experiencing art large enough to crush us.

Seven magic mountains

Tips:

  • You can get some background information from either the signage near the parking lot or by calling (702) 381-5182 (English or Spanish).
  • There are no restrooms, water, tables, benches, shelters/shade covers, or anything else on the site. Just you, the art, and the elements in the open desert.
  • The closest public restrooms are 5 miles away in the town of Jean.
  • It was very windy the day we were there. A woman showed up with a yoga mat but didn’t stay long because it was so dusty. Plan for the weather. Don’t plan on doing yoga.

French pastry

Bonus

A few more Off-Strip eatery options:

  • Delices Gourmands French Bakery (3620 W. Sahara Avenue, Las Vegas) – Stopped here for a pastry and coffee.
  • The Sparklings (8310 S. Rainbow Boulevard, Ste. 100, Las Vegas) – This is where our friend’s wedding was, so we didn’t visit during normal restaurant hours, but it seemed like a neat place.
  • KJ Kitchen (5960 Spring Mountain Road, Chinatown, Las Vegas) – Our Las Vegas friends’ pick for “real Chinese food.”

There are also lots of places to stay that aren’t on The Strip. We opted for a great little Airbnb casita rental near Red Rock. [UPDATE: You can get $35 off your first Airbnb stay and help us keep traveling by signing up via my referral page.] 

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What are your Off-Strip tips?

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NYE DIY: Make Your New Year’s Party Sparkle!

Posted by on Dec 22, 2016 in Craft | 0 comments

Here are some simple ways to add a little sparkle to your New Year’s Eve celebration. I’ve included shortcuts, in case the holidays have left you too short on time to take the total DIY route.

New Years eve party DIYs - Sparkle stirrers

1. Tinsel Stirrers – A festive touch for cocktails or cupcake toppers.

Shortcut: Order a set from Etsy. There are options available from several different sellers for as low as under $1 apiece.

New Years eve party DIYs - glitter ice cubes

2. Glitter Ice Cubes – Add edible glitter to regular ice cubes. These would be fun in the punch bowl too!

New Years eve party DIYs - Champagne cake pops

3. Pink Champagne Cake Pops – Sparkly pops with pink champagne centers!

Shortcut: If you use your favorite cake mix instead of making one from scratch, I won’t tell.

New Years eve party DIYs - glasses

4. DIY Wine Glasses Using Sharpies! – Use metallic sharpies to make a permanent mark. For a more temporary design, opt for erasable markers, like the Chalkola ones I reviewed.

Shortcut: Let guests decorate their own glasses during the party and take them home. (Party favor + less dishes for you = win win!)

New Years eve party DIYs - Glitter balloons

5. Glitter Balloons – A balloon pump and glitter can help you transform clear balloons into shimmering ones. I love the bubbly arrangement of large and small balloons on the wall in the photo.

Shortcut: Arrange gold or silver balloons on the wall and skip the glitter step.

New Years eve party DIYs - glitter ice cubes

Here’s to the New Year!

– More New Year’s Eve party tips –




Photos via their respective sites.

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Exploring Salem: Day One

Posted by on Oct 27, 2016 in Travel | 2 comments

[Ever been to Salem, MA? Me neither. Fortunately, Jessica Tennant of My Path to Mommyhood took a road trip there this summer from her home in upstate New York and is telling us all about it! –S]

Salem

My husband Bryce and I go to Maine every summer. There is nothing quite so beautiful as coastal Maine, and we get to see many different parts of the state because my in-laws live in the capital area, which is central to just about everything.

It just takes a REALLY long time to get there, so we’ve started stopping partway on the way there and the way back, which gives us the added benefit of exploring New England.

Salem - coach house inn tile

Weekend in Salem

This year, we decided on a romantic weekend in Salem, Massachusetts to break up the trip to Maine.

I had actually never been to Salem before, which is a shame. Salem is a tremendously kooky town, full of serious and tragic history (ahem, witch trials) as well as an affinity for ghosties, ghoulies, and all things Halloween, and a literary history involving Nathaniel Hawthorne and H.P. Lovecraft. It has cobblestone streets, tremendously old houses, and a red line painted throughout town called the Heritage Trail – following it sends you past many interesting historical attractions.

Coach House, Salem by boblinsdell

Bed and Breakfast

We stayed in The Coach House Inn, a bed and breakfast on Lafayette Street. It was built as a Victorian ship captain’s house in 1879. The inn was great, the innkeeper was very helpful and hospitable, and the breakfasts were continental and came in a Red-Riding-Hood style basket to your door at 8:30 in the morning, like magic.

Salem Breakfast

One thing about the Coach House that wasn’t so great was the location. It was right on the street that leads you straight into historic Salem, but, to get there, you had to walk through a fairly sketchy (and, as we heard from locals, heroin-plagued) section of town. We walked once and used Uber to go home and then took advantage of street parking after that…so if you don’t mind driving instead of walking, it’s perfectly lovely.

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Geek Pizza

Our favorite place to eat was Flying Saucer Pizza Company, which sounds like a strange choice for me as a person with Celiac disease, but it had delicious and safe gluten-free options. AND, it was decked out in art and action figures and all kinds of paraphernalia from Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, the Avengers, Ghostbusters…it was a terrifically geeky place! All the pizzas were named after various things from sci-fi, and they have a Space Pug, Charlie, who is their mascot.

I had The Vision pizza, TWICE (for dinner the first night and lunch the next day, because it was THAT GOOD), which had walnut pesto, cheese blend, fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, and balsamic fig. Does that not sound amazing? The regular pizza was excellent too, with Bryce mumbling “This is THE BEST pizza I have EVER HAD” to the server with his mouth full of a Hawaiian-style pizza with jalapeño peppers.

Salem burying point

Ghost Tour

It was an appropriately thunderstormy night for a ghost tour with Black Cat Tours. Our guide was dressed in old-timey clothing and delivered a great mix of historical and paranormal tales. He brought us through the burying ground, past an original house that was restored and, apparently, has a very Ring-like ghost of a girl who was quarantined in the attic for having scarlet fever and peeks out the windows.

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Giles Corey

There was a section of the burying ground that had stone benches jutting from a stone wall, with each bench etched with one of the names of the witch trial victims and the date of their death.

All were hanged except one – Giles Corey, who was accused of witchcraft in his 80s (but, lest you think he’s a good guy, he also accused his wife), and knew that if he was convicted or confessed he would lose his property to pay for his time in jail (yup, they had to pay for their meals and everything they got in the deplorable jail conditions themselves). He refused to confess or consent to be tried. He was tortured to death through “pressing” – they lay a board on him laden with more and more stone weights every time he refused to consent.

Although he died, he saved his property from confiscation this way, and now you know what it really means to be pressed for an answer (!)

Supposedly, he haunted the head of law enforcement who had him arrested, hanging out at the end of his bed and causing chest pains.

Salem

Favorite Haunts

We also learned of an angry divorcee ghost who haunts the space where they have weddings and dances and other events, tries to push people down the stairs, and wreaks havoc on art displays, stomping around the top floor and going down invisible stairs that don’t exist anymore to frighten people on the first floor.

We didn’t personally see any of the ghosts, but thought the tour was fabulously spooky and informative. (Who knew the inspiration for The Tell-Tale Heart was a real-life murder of a stingy old captain by his caretaker right there in Salem?) I am a sucker for a good ghost tour, and this one was atmospheric and not corny at all.

So much to do and see in the first day, how could our second day in Salem compare?

[Part 2 is coming up on Monday!]


Photos –
1, 2, 6: Jessica Tennant.

5: Doug Kerr on Flickr, color corrected. CCL.
3, 4, 7: Robert Linsdell on Flickr, color corrected. CCL.

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