30 Gift Ideas under $50

Yesterday morning, I was sitting in my chair with my computer on my lap perusing Pinterest for recipe ideas when I happen to glance at the calendar hanging on the wall next to me …. the high-pitched screech that escaped my mouth had Al jumping up the steps into the RV from outside to see what the heck happened. “Do you realize Christmas is less than six weeks away?” I exclaimed. In an annoyed tone, Al responded “Yeah, what about it?”

Sure, he can be all calm about the matter. He’s not the one doing the shopping. I don’t know why the date didn’t register with me sooner. After all, the time and date are clearly visible at the bottom right side of my computer. I guess, there’s something about staring at an old-fashioned wall calendar that made the date resonate with me.

San Xavier Mission Tucson Arizona

For most of my adult life, I’ve always been one of those people who shops for Christmas early, and it wasn’t unusual for me to have my shopping complete by Thanksgiving. Yeah, how annoying! But that all changed when we moved into the RV and space became an issue. Therefore, shopping for gifts, whether it be for Christmas, a birthday, or other occasion, would need to wait until the gift giving time was near.

Fortunately, our small family has decided to keep Christmas gift giving simple this year and stay within a budget friendly range. As I was jotting down ideas and switching from my recipe search to gift idea search on the internet, I thought I’d share some of the products I was considering for my family members. Maybe you’ll find this list helpful with your own search for the perfect gift. Please note, this post contains affiliate links.

Gift ideas for Outdoor Enthusiasts

Whether I’m RVing in our 5th wheel with my husband or embarking on one of my crazy camping adventures with my daughter, there’s some equipment that I feel are an absolute must have and a headlamp / head torch is at the top of that list. Tripping over a tree root in the dark is no fun … at least that’s what I hear 😉 and of course, a supply of flashlights are equally important. Flashlights and headlamps make great stocking stuffers or box fillers.

Another important piece of gear is an Emergency Self Powered AM/FM Solar Weather Radio. This is actually a great gift idea for anyone. You never know when a life threatening storm will head your way and you’ll want to be kept up to date. You can’t always count on a cell phone or WiFi signal working during severe weather conditions.

Another great gift idea for anyone is a Multi-tool. My husband uses his regularly, and we gave the kids each one last year for Christmas. My daughter used hers during our Zion camping trip.

On a more fun note, I’d be lost without my comfortable outdoor camping chair and blanket throw … gotta be comfy watching those sunsets during happy hour. We use and abuse our canvas chairs and end up replacing them every couple of years or so. Got a sports fan who loves tailgating? These chairs are perfect!

And let’s not forget about quenching our thirst. I’m considering one of these coolers for my daughter. Hmm, I can’t decide …
Soft-Sided Collapsible Cooler Tote Bag or the Picnic Backpack with Cooler Compartment?

Gift ideas for those that Travel by Air

My son and his wife love their cruise ship vacations which requires air travel and a little more forethought when it comes to packing. Here are some gift ideas I’ve gathered with them in mind.

***   Noise Cancelling Headphones
***   Floating Waterproof Phone Case   
***   Travelon Anti-Theft Classic Messenger Bag Purse 
***   Neck Pillow Airplane Travel Kit with Sleep Mask and Earplugs
***   Jewelry Travel Case & Accessory Holder Organizer
***   Cable bag – keep cables and chargers organized
***   Travel Hanging Toiletry Bag
***   Luggage Tags

And More Gift Ideas Under $50

It has been fun researching gift ideas, and although the following items may not be serious contenders for my family this year, I thought I’d list these items for possible gift ideas for next year. My memory doesn’t work like it used to. So, I’ll actually use my own post as a brain jogger.

Perhaps one of these items will be perfect for the people on your list.

***   Solar Charger – Backup Battery Phone Charger with Carabiner and Compass
***   Emergency Paracord Bracelets
***   Car Trunk Organizer – Adjustable Compartments
***   Sling Backpack with Multiple Compartments and Headphone Cord Access

***   Leather Journal for travelers, business sketching and writing
***   Camera Shoulder Neck Strap, Fabric Satin Scarf Strap 
***   Portable Speaker
***   Outdoor Emergency survival Tool Kit
***   Camping Hammock
***   Stainless Steel Tumblers – Customized With Cute Sayings

Books make great gifts!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a few books on my gift giving list idea. I love books … real books. Sure a Kindle comes in handy when storage is an issue, but there’s something about holding a real book in my hands that can’t be replaced by an electronic device, especially cookbooks. My weakness!

I recently purchased The Sprinkles Baking Book . It’ll be a joint gift for my daughter and myself. Yes, I’m one of those who buys gifts for herself, wraps them, and then thanks hubby Christmas morning for getting me exactly what I wanted. “Awe, thank you honey. However did you know?” lol

Books on cooking or travel can serve as inspiration and make for a wonderful gift. Plus, they’re budget friendly and easy to wrap.  I’ve never figured out how to wrap a book on Kindle 🤔🤣😉

When you don’t know what to get them!

When all else fails and you’re at a total loss about what kind of gift to buy, a Gourmet Food Gift Basket filled with tasty treats will usually work for just about anyone. I know it works for me!

So, there ya have it, 30 gifts under $50. I think I’m ready to tackle my holiday shopping list and I’m a lot less stressed about it now than I was yesterday. How about you? Have you started shopping for the holidays yet?

30 gift ideas under fifty dollars

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Thank you for your service!

It’s Veteran’s Day … a day we honor the men and women who have served our country. I’m married to a Veteran and have a small understanding of the sacrifices military personnel make to serve our country.

Veterans Memorial in Anthem Arizona

Veterans Memorial in Anthem, Arizona

My dad served in WWII. He was wounded and the only survivor in his squad. Al served during the Vietnam era.

Unfortunately, times were very different in the 1970’s when my husband served. Military service members returning from a tour in Vietnam were not treated well. Instead of thanking them for their service, they were scorned, spit on, cussed at, and even had eggs thrown at them. It was not America’s finest hour, to say the least.

Thank goodness we’ve moved beyond those times, and we now thank those that have served in the military, current and past.

All give some, some give all. Thank you for your service!

In honor to those that have served, I share with you a very unique and interesting Veterans Memorial located in the town of Anthem, Arizona.

Veterans Memorial in Anthem, Arizona

To enlarge photos, click on any image.

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American Pride Flag Baseball Cap

Seasonal Garden Flag Set

 US Canada Friendship Flags

Chocolate Makes Everything Better

I’m not normally a stress eater as much as a sweets nibbler during stressful times. Actually, when I am stressed, I have a tendency not to eat or I forget to eat. When my stomach reminds me that it hasn’t been fed, I have to resist not reaching for sugary sweets during those worrisome times … especially chocolate treats.

Sometimes I have great will power …. and sometimes I don’t!

chocolate hazelnut cupcakes

Chocolate makes it better …

During those times of feeling blue or overwhelmed, chocolate becomes my bestie and go to pick me up. Probably not the healthiest thing to do, but it’s so much more pleasurable on my palette than a bunch of broccoli. And chocolate seems to make all the problems of the world melt away … at least melting in my mouth.

Hmm, come to think about it, chocolate is my go to when I’m feeling happy and festive. Okay, let’s face it, chocolate is great anytime and makes everything better.

flourless hazelnut chocolate cupcakeIt doesn’t help my waistline that I enjoy baking and find the process of baking somewhat stress relieving. Thank goodness I have neighbors and friends that are willing to help rid me of the abundance of baked goods concocted in my tiny RV kitchen. After all, I only have so much storage room.

My latest fixation consists of the most decadent and yummy chocolate cake ever. Add a drizzle of Chocolate Hazelnut Liqueur, (a liqueur that I purchased in Sedona) then top it off with a dollop of whipped cream … and oh … my … gosh … let the pleasurable moaning commence as the taste buds are delightfully awakened.

Chocolate and Hazelnuts … a match made in heaven

I’ve always loved the taste of chocolate with hazelnuts, not a combination that was easily found in the United States forty years ago. Lucky for me, every Christmas my little family of five would receive a large package from relatives in Germany. The package contained gifts and food items … packaged foods my German immigrant parents dearly missed.

My dad and I would immediately zero in on the chocolate hazelnut bars. Yum! I’m sorry, but American chocolate doesn’t begin to compare to European chocolate. German, Belgium, and Swiss chocolates are heavenly …. smooth and creamy and melt in your mouth decadence.

My obsession with the hazelnut – chocolate combination hasn’t waned over the years. It still remains my favorite, and will power to resist, goes out the window.

chocolate hazelnut cupcakes

You, my dear readers, made me do it!

When I told Al I was going to write a post about our favorite cupcakes, he recommended I make a batch … just to make sure I write-up the recipe correctly. So, because of you guys, I just had to make a batch and verify everything.

And then, of course, we had to taste test. Sheer perfection (she says while moaning in epicurean delight)! Now I can confidently share this tasty, make your day, recipe with you ….

Recipe

Decadent Chocolate Frangelico Cupcakes

  • Servings: 24
  • Difficulty: easy-moderate
  • Print

8 ounces of semisweet chocolate, broken into pieces
chocolate hazelnut cupcakes2 sticks butter, unsalted and softened
1 cup granulated sugar
6 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 Tablespoons of all-purpose flour (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup Frangelico liquor

Optional: add 1/3 cup finally chopped hazelnuts

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Put paper-liners in a cupcake tin.

In a double boiler over low heat, add the semisweet chocolate and butter. Stir continuously until all the butter and chocolate are melted and fully incorporated. Remove from heat and set aside.

Have all your ingredients measured out and ready. In the measuring cup, add the flour and salt to the cocoa powder. Add the vanilla extract to the Frangelico. In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar and eggs and beat with a hand or stand mixer until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Continue to mix and slowly alternate adding the dry and wet mixtures. Once all ingredients are incorporated, add the melted chocolate and continue to blend until everything is fully combined. If adding nuts, fold in with a rubber spatula. Pour batter into muffin tins filling each cup at least 3/4 full.

Bake for about 30 – 35 minutes
Recipe by Ingrid at LiveLaughRV.com

double boiler

my version of a double-boiler as I melt the chocolate and butter together – A heat tolerant bowl over simmering water. Be sure the water doesn’t touch the bowl. The chocolate needs to melt slowly so it doesn’t get grainy.

Recipe Tips

  • You can make a 9 inch cake instead of cupcakes. Be sure to use a greased springform pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and spray. Bake for at least 50 minutes.
  • Feel free to leave out the flour, turning this delicious recipe into a flourless chocolate cake / cupcakes. Expect the cake to sink even more in the center.
  • Change out the alcohol. Add whatever liquor your tastes desire.
  • Decorate with frosting, whip cream, powdered sugar, or fresh berries
  • Drizzle with your favorite liqueur

Chocolate hazelnut cake

Friends, neighbors, anyone?

Heather and Dave, Nancy and RL, anyone …. interested in helping us devour these delectable treats? I don’t think our waistlines can handle eating an entire batch … even if I ration them out!

(affiliate links)
Wholesale Warranties
The Sprinkles Baking Book: 100 Secret Recipes from Candace’s Kitchen
Lindt Classic Recipe Milk Chocolate Bar, Hazelnut
Ritter Sport Bars, Milk Chocolate with Whole Hazelnuts

Marketing and Politics

Do you know when you’re being sold? I’m sure images of a used car salesman come to mind as I ask this question. The moment we set foot on a car lot, we expect to be sold. But we are being marketed to and sold everyday in a way much more subtle than the typical sales scenario. Think about it … we can barely open our computers or phones without being inundated with ads. Gosh, even my simple little blog here has ads.game of life via chess

How about that cruise ship brochure depicting images of a Caribbean island with its immaculate white sand beaches? The marketing brochures never share the poverty-stricken areas that the shore excursion bus needs to drive through to get to that beach. And once we get to said beautiful beach, what we envisioned as somewhat secluded, we find ourselves sharing with hoards of other cruise ship tourists. So much for pristine!

Steamboat Lake Colorado

When most of us first start RVing, we have illusions of being camped along some beautiful lake or river in a quiet setting surrounded by nature. After all, isn’t that what we see in all the RV brochures? The brochures never share images of the typical RV park, many of which pack RV’s into sites so tight that you can reach out your window and touch your neighbor. Al and I do our best to stay clear of those sardine kind of RV parks, but sometimes it’s the only option when we have our heart set on visiting some cool city or event.

I know we all believe the ad about buying that macho 4×4 pick-up truck that can drive straight up the side of a mountain, or maybe you should buy that shiny little sports car so gorgeous models will hang all over you.

Those diet pills will guarantee a six-pack stomach in just 30 days without exercising. Add in that wrinkle cream, and you too will look 20 years younger (I want some of that).

These idyllic pictures are marketing fantasy created to sell

Politicians paint those same marketing fantasies in their ads, and I for one can’t wait for Wednesday when the inundation of political ads will come to an end …. temporarily. The pandering for votes seems endless and the promises made aren’t attainable.

Unwritten rules

In the RVing world, there’s an unspoken rule to avoid talking about religion or politics, especially at large social gatherings or when meeting new RVers for the first time. Obviously, these are two subjects which incite strong emotion and opinion. Al and I aren’t good at following unwritten rules and have never shied away from a thought-provoking conversation especially one’s that are enlightening and educational. It’s okay to agree to disagree without slinging expletives or fists.

I remember one in particular social gathering when a few RVers were gathered around a toasty campfire.

No subject was off-limits with this group, or so we thought!

My husband appeared to be having an engaging conversation with the gentleman sitting next to him when all of a sudden, the man covered his ears with both hands and mouthed, “Lalalah, I can’t hear you”. Yep, this grown man was acting like a child.

Once he removed his hands from his ears, he angrily commented “My minister warned me about people like you who would try to make me question my beliefs”. A shocked and apologetic Al responded by saying, “I’m sorry. That was never my intent. I thought we were having an educational conversation about theology”. You see, Al has lived all over the world and spent time in the Middle East and Asia. Therefore, he has been exposed to nearly all faiths and has been educated in religious theology, a subject he finds fascinating. Most historians understand the correlation between religion and war, and since Al is most definitely a history buff, he enjoys talking about the subject.

Was that man insecure about his faith? Did he lack the intellect or desire to understand other faiths? Was he so ingrained in what he had been taught, that he felt his faith was right and others wrong? Or was he merely uncomfortable talking about religion?

Political conversations

I see similar situations in today’s political climate. People’s emotions are running rampant and opinions strong. Logical and intellectual conversation is difficult. The rhetoric and mud-slinging has stooped to new levels on both sides of the fence.

I wonder, do we recognize when our emotions are being manipulated?

Can we tell when we are being sold and marketed to in an effort to inflame emotions? Is one politician better at marketing rhetoric than another? Do we only read articles that reinforce what we already believe, or are we open-minded? Are we able to see and understand both sides of a coin? When we see an advertisement, an article, a newscast, do we take it as truth or do research? After all, we all know the internet never lies and everything on Facebook is real 🙄

Are we all pawns in the political arena as we watch the constant game of power struggle, vendettas, and payback? (Term limits?) And does the media play a role in the game and stir the pot resulting in more emotional outrage?

I recently started watching a PBS series called Jamestown. It takes place in 1619, and follows the first English settlers as they establish a community in the New World. I can’t help but see a similarity in the scenarios that took place then that are taking place now.

One would think that after 400 years, American’s would’ve learned from past mistakes. Instead, I see the same things happening today that happened in the 1600’s. Power always corrupts and accusations, whether real or false, are used against people.

Someone accuses someone of being a witch, so it must be true. Guilty! Burn her at the stake. Same thing is happening today. People are being used as pawns and are being deemed guilty until proven innocent causing the loss of jobs and reputations. What about due process … fair treatment through the normal judicial system, especially as a citizen’s entitlement?

I wouldn’t want to be comedian these days and actually feel badly for them. They can’t say half the sh*t that was said in the 70’s and 80’s. I wonder if George Carlin could survive in today’s sensitive climate.

What a great entertainer. Here’s some fun quotes he made –  “Find the line, and cross it“. “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.” Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things.” “Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist.” “Here’s all you have to know about men and women: women are crazy, men are stupid. And the main reason women are crazy is that men are stupid.”

Just a little more and I think I snagged him!

I don’t have the answers

But I do understand marketing and these politicians hire some of the best marketers around. I also feel progress can’t be made until emotions are shelved and logic rules. Emotions are what incites violence. Smart people know this and know exactly how to stir up conflict. It’s important we not be sold, not believe everything we hear or read, and to embrace tolerance. Try and find humor in our current cast of characters and find solace in knowing everything is temporary. This too shall pass!

Diane Feinstein needs to retire

Some politicians won’t be around forever!

Don’t be sold

Did you vote? Is it Wednesday yet? Are those dang political ads over? Did that wrinkle cream make me look 20 years younger? 🤣🤣🤣

“While men inhabiting different parts of this vast continent cannot be expected to hold the same opinions, they can unite in a common objective and sustain common principles.” – Franklin Pierce, 14th President of the U.S.

Nameste!

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.” -Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President

Thanks for listening to my little rant. I’ve never posted about politics before and I doubt I will in the future. Remember, I’m not picking sides. So, if you decide to comment, please be nice!

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The Fun Side of Pumpkins

I’m not a huge fan of Halloween in general and never have been. The whole scary costume thing and gory decorations isn’t something I embrace. Scary movies? Not me!

Enchanted Pumpkin Garden Carefree Arizona

My tastes fall along the lines of cute and funny. I enjoy seeing little kids dressed up as princesses or cartoon characters. Keeping things light and funny is much more to my liking. Throw in some fall colors, the smell of apple cider and cinnamon, pumpkin carvings and there ya have it … I’m all in … fall fun!

In my last post, I already shared photos from my visit to an engaging pumpkin exhibit, but since it’s Halloween, I felt compelled to share even more images from the pumpkin event.

Pumpkin Carvings

Visiting the Enchanted Pumpkin Garden in Carefree, Arizona, was my kind of autumn entertainment. These pumpkin displays are a delight for people of all ages, but especially for those of us on the mature side. To compliment the amusing display is an equally humorous newspaper.

Check out the Stem Enhancement Clinic

And even a coupon for stem enhancement in the newspaper …. This is too funny!

(To enlarge photos in a gallery, click on any photo. To return to the post, click on the x at the top. To read the newspaper articles, you may have to zoom in via your internet settings. Sorry, I tried my best scanning the newspaper.)

The jail exhibit was comedic. While the sheriff bends over to pick up money on the ground, a mouse on a stick is lowered down to grab the jail keys from the sheriffs hip. Someone is trying to escape from jail with the help of his buddies!

I had the opportunity to visit the Enchanted Pumpkin Garden on three different occasions, and during each visit, I noticed more pumpkins carved and a few changes here and there in the scenes. Talk about creative, imaginative, and talented!

I really appreciate all the hard work that goes into putting on such an entertaining exhibit. The show ran from October 19-28 and every evening the pumpkins are collected by the local fire department and floated in the fountain pool … 1. to keep the carved pumpkins hydrated and 2. to keep them out of reach of javelinas.

Near the end of the exhibit, rumor has it, the night guard fell asleep in his truck and javelinas started noshing on the 693 pound pumpkin that the sculptors had yet to complete carving.

You can see where the javelinas started eating this 693 pound winning size pumpkin, bottom left.

Every morning, the pumpkins are returned to their display/scene. The sculpted ones are sprayed with water periodically throughout the day to help keep them from dehydrating, but many do not last for the entire show. Thus, new pumpkins are carved regularly. Yep, it takes a lot of talented people to provide us with this free entertainment.

And a few more photos just for fun …

Happy Halloween everyone …. hope you enjoy YOUR kind of day!

(affiliate links)
Too Many PumpkinsLEGO Seasonal Set Thanksgiving Feast

Never Too Old for a Tea Party

One of the advantages that I really enjoy about an extended stay in any given area is the ability to explore and discover hidden gems without a rushed schedule. Since both of our children now live in Phoenix, Arizona, Al and I find ourselves spending more and more time in this diverse city. Not only is Phoenix RV friendly, the weather is wonderful most of the time …. well, at least from October into April which makes Phoenix a great vacation destination for those wanting to escape the cold winter months.

Enchanted Pumpkin Garden in Carefree Arizona

Enchanted Pumpkin Garden in Carefree, Arizona

Keeping busy …

We pulled into our RV Resort in northern Phoenix in early October and haven’t slowed down since. There has been a fair amount of socializing with our children, especially between my daughter and myself … love my mother/daughter time, but Al has also managed to sneak in some father/daughter time … much to his delight.

October is always a special time around our home considering it’s our daughters birth month. Since her actual birthday fell on a weekday, she took the day off from work and enjoyed the morning skeet shooting with her dad followed by the three of us going to dim sum for lunch. I don’t share Al and Ashton’s taste for dim sum, but I sure enjoyed the tasty tea that the Great Wall Restaurant served.

And speaking of tea …

birthday celebration at the English Tea Room in Carefree, Arizona

A birthday celebration at the English Rose Tea Room in Carefree, Arizona

Due to our RVing travels over the past five years, Al and I haven’t always been in the same location as our daughter during the month of October. So, this year, I wanted to do something special for her birthday and throw her a little party.

After a little collaboration, we decided on a tea party at the English Rose Tea Room located in the northeast part of the Phoenix valley. Ashton and I love this place and it’s the perfect spot for a gals get together.

(to enlarge photos in the photo galleries, simply click on any photo. Click the x in the top corner to return to the post)

After our little group of ladies leisurely enjoyed tea and crumpets, our party moved across the street to the Carefree Desert Garden. We found a covered pavilion for our group to sing happy birthday to Ashton and enjoy some homemade cake.

Yeah, I had fun making this chocolate wine cake for her. Not only was it funny but also yummy! 😋

pumpkins in Carefree Arizona

Amazing pumpkin display …

Our fun continued as we began strolling around the Enchanted Pumpkin Garden. This is the most unique and entertaining pumpkin display I’ve ever seen. Each year, the town of Carefree, Arizona, hosts this pumpkin event and it never ceases to amaze me. The carvings are intricate and the subject matter comedic.

This year, I managed to visit the Enchanted Pumpkin Garden on three separate occasions. I noticed slight changes and more details during each visit. If you ever find yourself visiting Phoenix, Arizona, during the last two weeks in October, you’ll definitely want to put this place on your must see list. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

(affiliate links)

Porcelain Tea Pot
Empress Tea Strainers with Drip Bowls


Fall into Autumn Loose Leaf Tea Sampler
 Set of 3-Tier Party Serving Platter

A Weekend in Sedona, Arizona

A geological marvel … one of America’s most beautiful places … multi-hued red rock formations jutting upwards from the high desert floor creating a mesmerizing setting … ah,yes … I’m talking about stunningly beautiful Sedona, Arizona.

Sedona Arizona

Sun faded prayer flags contrast against the red rocks

Red Rock Country is unique and exudes a sense of spirituality along with a mood that changes hourly with the light. It’s no wonder this majestic place attracts 2 to 4 million tourists a year. Surrounded by 1.8 million acres of national forest land, visitors to Sedona have easy access to plenty of outdoor recreation, but Sedona is equal parts rugged, equal parts resort.

With such an abundance of public land access, the availability of experiencing this amazing landscape is endless. There are trails for hiking and biking, along with plenty of 4×4 gravel/dirt roads perfect for scenic Jeep tours or ATV excursions. Meandering in the back country among red rock pinnacles, spires, buttes and domes is an absolute must for any visitor, and yet, you’re never far from the conveniences of town.

back country near Sedona Arizona

Exploring the back country near Sedona, Arizona

A birthday weekend …

It was the third weekend in September, and although a few weeks past my actual birth date, it was a great time of year to visit Sedona and celebrate my birthday together with family. This trip was actually all planned by my children as part of a gift … awe!

Since our daughter, son, and daughter-in-law all had to work that Friday in Phoenix, we didn’t check into our double-suite condo like lodging until 7:00 p.m., but that still left us a few hours for some socializing over cocktails and snacks before it was time to head off to bed. Sedona is less than a two hours drive and about 116 miles north of Phoenix, Arizona. We stayed at a lovely resort called Sedona Summit.

Saturday morning, my daughter and I were out the door by 8:00 a.m. with cameras in hand. As many times as we’ve visited Sedona, there’s always something new on our list that we look forward to exploring.

Sedona Arizona Spiritual journey

Amitabha Stupa & Peace Park, Sedona, Arizona

First stop, spiritual enlightenment

Located near the base of Thunder Mountain is a place for meditation and spiritual renewal.  Amitabha Stupa & Peace Park offers its visitors spiritual transformation and healing through the fascinating architecture and geometry of the stupa. Stupas are one of the oldest forms of sacred architecture and Buddhist practitioners have built them to promote spiritual deepening, healing, prosperity, and peace.

Filled with hundreds of prayers for peace, sacred relics and ritual offerings, the Amitabha Stupa is a vortex of enlightened presence and blessings.

Stupa Sedona Arizona Buddism

Ashton and I were fascinated with this Buddist park, but then again, anything associated with Nepal or the Himalayas seems to captivate our attention and that includes all the Prayer Flags. During her college days, Ashton and her roommate had prayer flags hung around their tiny dorm room. The prayer flags belonged to her roommate and were actually bought in Nepal during a family trip.

My daughter and I share a secret interest in someday traveling to Nepal – a land far away. In reality, I think this Sedona peace park or the time we went to Disney World and experienced Expedition Everest is the closest we’ll ever get to Kathmandu, and in reality, I’m okay with that … but shhh, don’t tell my daughter 😉

(To enlarge photos, click on any image in the photo gallery)

Discovering ancient history

Next on our agenda was heading into the back country in search of ancient cliff dwellings and petroglyphs. We originally wanted to visit the Palatki Heritage Site, but hikes are done via a tour, and since Ashton and I were already running a little late, we opted to visit the less popular Honanki ruins where you’re able to stroll without a guide.

After the split in the road (one way to Palatki and another way to Honanki), the road to the Honanki Ruins gets a bit rough in spots, and I was glad to be driving a vehicle that handles these rough roads perfectly. We did see the occasional car, but we mostly saw Jeep Tours or ATV’s. Here’s a quote from the National Park website about the road condition: “Those with high-clearance vehicles and/or a sense of adventure can turn ….. the compensation for abusing your motor vehicle are wonderful views of the red rock formations that Sedona is so famous for“. Alrighty then!

A final note on the road conditions. Older publications will tell you the route to the Palatki Site from Dry Creek Road is rough. Road conditions have improved substantially within the past year. The Enchantment Resort has brought new development to this end of Sedona and the road is now paved beyond Fay Canyon and Doe Mountain Trailheads. Once the pavement ends, the gravel road is still easily accessed by most vehicles all the way to the Palatki Heritage Site. However, you might want to check with the National Park Service for the latest up to date road conditions.

Once at the Honanki site, we enjoyed a short hike to the cliff dwellings and slowly toured the area taking in the ruins and interesting rock art. Could the ancient cliff dwellers be telling us that Yeti, the abominable snowman, did exist? Another connection to Nepal?

The Honanki cultural site is relatively small and my daughter and I spent less than an hour exploring the area, but we were glad we made the long, bumpy trek out to the site. The drive was all part of the adventure and taking in the beautiful landscape.

Retail Therapy and Dining

Once Ashton and I returned to our lodging, we grabbed a bite to eat with the rest of the family and then the five of us headed to the Tlaquepaque Shopping Village for a little retail therapy.

I love the architecture of this place and always find interesting shops and galleries to stroll through. During a previous visit, my daughter and I enjoyed a little wine tasting, but this time, we stumbled upon Spirits & Spice. This unique shop had the entire family engaged in tasting, and it did not disappoint. I assure you, none of us left the store empty-handed.

Dining … since we had a full kitchen at our accommodations, during this particular visit, we ate in most of the time, but we did enjoy a yummy Sunday breakfast with a great view at the Wildflower Bread Company. Another fun stop for us was at The Art of Wine for a little wine tasting. My daughter ended up buying some Arizona wine.

Restaurants we’ve eaten at in the past: The Coffee Pot Restaurant is ideal for a hearty breakfast and serves up some of the best coffee. I enjoyed the coffee so much that I even bought a bag of their beans to brew back at the RV. Javelina’s Cantina is one of Al’s favorite lunch spots. Oaxaca Restaurant is another tasty Mexican restaurant if you happen to be strolling Main Street. And for those looking for specialty foods, Chocola Tree is worth checking out. Their outdoor patio is very zen with a hippie vibe.

Final thoughts on Sedona

Sedona is most definitely a tourist town and on weekends traffic can be congested and challenging, but if you can get beyond the hoards of people, you’ll discover a sense of history, beauty, and well-being like non-other.

The history of this land goes way back to various Indian civilizations as evidenced by the Honanki ruins; AD 1150-1350. The first Europeans (Spanish) explored the Verde Valley in the mid 1500’s and the first Anglo settled in the area in 1876.

And we can’t ignore the energizing vortexes which attract believers from around the world to experience these mystical forces. What is a vortex? They are thought to be swirling centers of energy that are conducive to healing, meditation and self-exploration. These are places where the earth seems especially alive with energy. Many people feel inspired, recharged or uplifted after visiting a vortex.

Whether you believe in the power of a vortex or not, I think we can all agree, Sedona is unique, and worth at least one visit. As for my family and I, we aren’t done exploring Sedona, Arizona, and are already planning our next visit. Yes Sedona, we’ll be back!

vortex energy Sedona Arizona

Top 7 things to do in Sedona

  1. Hike or bike the 300 plus miles of trails. You’ll find a trail for every level of ability, but do note, the trailhead parking lots fill up quickly. Sedona’s secret 7 hiking trails.
  2. Visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross and marvel at this unique structure built into the rock. For more spiritual enlightenment, visit the Amitabha Stupa & Peace Parkand enjoy the peaceful grounds of this 14-acre Buddhist park (open to all faiths)
  3. Dine at one of many restaurants. Finding quality food is not an issue around here, and most recently, Sedona has emerged as a destination for wine enthusiasts.
  4. Shop historical uptown Sedona (also known as Main Street) or at the architecturally pleasing Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village. (pronounced: Tuh-locka-pa-key, I think)
  5. Take in the incredible red rock landscape by enjoying a Jeep or helicopter tour.
  6. Visit a vortex. Regarded by Native Americans as sacred, Sedona continues to be recognized as a place of healing and spiritual renewal. Many come to experience the vortex centers of Sedona to tap into spiritual energy.
  7. Or simply relax around a luxury resort. Sparkling pools and rejuvenating spas abound.

Sedona Arizona

Click here for a map of Sedona.

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Prayer Flags – Traditional Five Elements Arizona: The Grand Canyon State (Exploring the States)

Change of Season & Must-Have RV Accessories

The changing of seasons can be an exciting time for many of us in the RV community, but it can be a sad time, too. For part-time RVers, this time of the year might mean the last summer camping trip is over, and it’s now time to winterize and stow the RV until next season rolls around.

For those of us that full-time RV, it’s time we keep those wheels rolling with a keen eye on the weather. You never know when you’ll get caught in a freak storm!

snow in Tucson Arizona

An unusual snowstorm in Tucson, Arizona. What a rare encounter!

September is one of my favorite months for RVing. The weather is usually agreeable throughout most of the United States, including the high country. Sure, you have to pay attention to overnight temperatures in the mountains to avoid freezing waterlines, and you might even encounter a light dusting of snow here or there, but most winter conditions won’t begin to set in until sometime in October or November.

Colorado goldPlus, this time of year, the kids are back in school (yay!) leaving plenty of room for the rest of us to find open campsites.

Oh, and have I mentioned the leaves? Who doesn’t enjoy fall colors?

Yep, September is a great month to travel in an RV, but it’s also the perfect time of year to check that our important RV accessories are in perfect working condition. After all, there’s no sense in storing cracked hoses or damaged electrical cords, let alone carry them on to our next destination.

Top 3 Must-Have RV Accessories …

So whether we’re getting ready to put our RV into storage or we’re heading south to a warmer climate for the winter, we should check (closely) our RV gear … especially the necessary and most important gear like sewer hoses, electrical cords/adapters, and drinking water hose. (This post contains sponsored content and affiliate links.)

Al and I spend a great deal of our time traveling around the southwestern part of the United States where it’s not uncommon to enjoy as many as 300 days of sunshine per year. Yeah, we won’t complain about that! All that sunshine is great, and we love it, but that doesn’t mean that sunshine plays well with our equipment. In reality, sun and heat can play havoc with our equipment, especially anything plastic or rubber.

Sewer waste hose

One of our neighbors here in the RV Park in Prescott Valley, Arizona, just replaced his RV waste hose the other day. The hose looked fine to Al and me, and being somewhat nosy neighbors curious, we walked over to ask him why he was replacing the seemingly perfect waste hose.

RVingHe went on to tell us how every time he dumped his tank, he’d smell a bad odor. There were no visible leaks on the ground, just the odor. So upon closer examination of the waste hose, he discovered it was split on top in numerous places. Ah yes, that sun!

By inspecting the hose and then replacing it with a new one, he averted a potentially crappy situation 🤣… a situation that he nor his neighbors would have found humorous, but rather, quite disastrous.

Being able to empty our tanks with ease is crucial in the RVing world. Al and I travel with two waste hoses. It’s always a good idea to have an extra hose in case your existing one is leaking or in the event one hose isn’t long enough to connect to the dump site. I can’t tell you how many times having that second hose averted an inconvenience or even a potential disaster.

Electrical extension cord and fittings

Seeing the country in an RV can be an amazing adventure, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges. In an ideal world, we could just pull our RV up to an electrical pedestal at any campsite and plug-in and connect. Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy, and the use of an  extension cord might be necessary.

RV parks and campgrounds do not always offer the best layout for us to hook-up. Way too many are poorly designed and might even leave us perplexed and scratching our head in bewilderment, wondering, “Whatever were they thinking?” Therefore, being prepared for any scenario is advisable.

RV electrical gear

RV electrical gear by Road & Home

Not only do we need to be concerned about ample electrical cord, but we also need to make sure we check which type of hookup is available and if we have the correct connection. Some campgrounds or RV parks have a 50 amp connection on the electrical pedestal while others may have only a 30 amp connection. If you’re lucky, the pedestal will have both, but in the event it doesn’t, having various electrical RV adapters on hand will make your RV adventure that much more enjoyable.

Electrical adapters are a must if you ever intend to plug your RV into a standard household outlet. Whether you’re at a campground, RV park, or residential home, make sure you understand the various electrical hookups/outlets before plugging in to any outlet to prevent damage to your RV electrical system.

Drinking water hose

Access to fresh water is important when traveling in an RV, and a hose designed and designated specifically for drinking water is an absolute must. We always travel with two 25′ long hoses. First, you never know how far away a water connection will be, and second, you never know when a hose will fail. Yeah, there’s that whole damaging sun and heat subject again.

must have RV gear

It’s the little things that make our life easier … using a Y connector.

Extras we keep on hand

Now that I’ve covered the top 3 must-have RV accessories, allow me to share a few other little items that are great to have on hand. Sometimes it’s the little things that make our RV life a little easier.

  • Water Hose Y connector – this connector allows us to turn a single hose outlet into two outlets.
  • Water Pressure Regulator – this is a must. It protects our equipment, prevents pipe damage and increases equipment longevity.
  • Waste Hose couplers – these come in handy in the event we need to join two hoses together. We also keep a couple of hose clamps in our tool kit.
  • Waste Hose adapters – we replace these fittings from time to time due to use and sun damage. It’s always a good idea to keep an extra around.
  • RV waste cap – this is another item that we like having a spare on hand. A couple of years ago, after staying in an RV park for a month, Al went to disconnect our waste hose and attach the waste cap, but he couldn’t find the cap. We think a critter may have taken it.

chipmunk

A change of season – preparing your RV for winter

If you’re storing your RV for the winter, winterizing it properly is crucial. It’s no fun pulling your RV out of storage and getting it ready for your first camping trip of the season, only to realize you have damaged lines and/or equipment. You’ll want to consult your owner’s manual for instructions specific to your RV or seek professional help in winterizing your particular RV.

If you decide to RV in winter conditions, there’s some precautions to take to avoid waterlines freezing. Al and I do our best to avoid RVing in freezing temperatures, but sometimes, it’s unavoidable. This is how we’ve handled winter RVing … we go into “self-containment” mode.

  • Disconnect the RV water hose and waste hose.
  • Have your fresh water tank full for usage.
  • Use your RV furnace to keep the RV warm. It’s okay to use another source of heat like a Mr. Buddy, but do not use it exclusively. The RV heating system usually has heat runs to the lower compartments, keeping waterlines and the water pump from freezing.
camping in Tucson Arizona

Gilbert Ray Campground, Tucson, Arizona – February 2013

So, are you ready for the change of season?

I know we are, and as we prepare to hit the road along with the impending weather changes, Al and I remind ourselves of our favorite quote ….

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – Ben Franklin

Architecture as a Photographic Subject

Having grown up in the Chicago suburbs, I was well acquainted with the name Frank Lloyd Wright at an early age. I lovingly blame my father for my interest in design and architecture.

Mission San Xavier, Tucson, Arizona

Mission San Xavier, Tucson, Arizona

My dad worked in the trades in the city (Chicago) and it wasn’t uncommon for me to see blueprints scattered across our dining room table. Although it would take me years to develop his eye and talent, it was a goal I embraced wholeheartedly.

Grand Hotel Mackinac Island Michigan

Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, Michigan

I was very fortunate to have worked in an industry that I was passionate about, and just because I no longer work in the housing industry does not mean that I’ve lost my interest in architecture … to the contrary.

Travel has only piqued my interest in architecture further, and I love seeking out unique structures.

Loretto Chapel Santa Fe New Mexico

Loretto Chapel and the miraculous staircase, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Photo challenge – theme – prompt

For this weeks photo challenge, let’s share images of architecture. Show us one of your favorite buildings or structures. Feel free to share a link in the comments below or link back to this page on your own post.

After going through all my photographs, I realized I don’t have any images of Prairie Style architecture. Although I’ve studied and toured prairie style homes and visited several Frank Lloyd Wright historical sites in the past, I don’t seem to have any photographs in my archives. Hmm, perhaps this winter, I should visit Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona 😏

St. Louis Cathedral New Orleans Louisiana

St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans, Louisiana

Wandering Wednesday – Ingrid’s Photo Inspirations

Each Wednesday I post a different photo prompt as a way for bloggers to share their love of photography and engage with other like-minded bloggers. Perhaps this will help inspire you to pick up the camera in search of a composition or a reason to go through your photo archives. Whether you shoot with your phone, a DSLR or something in-between, don’t be shy, share and connect!

San Xavier Mission Tucson Arizona

Next weeks photo prompt?

I’ll be taking a short break from these photo challenges for the next couple of weeks, but promise I’ll be back. In the meantime, I’ll be working on some photo prompt ideas and going through my external hard-drives for images. If you have any photo theme ideas, please let me know in the comments. I love brainstorming!

Chicago architecture

Ten years ago, I enjoyed taking my son on a walking tour of Chicago. The city offers a wonderful blend of old and new architecture . It was a great day exploring the big city.

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Designing Your Perfect House: Lessons from an Architect
Life is Good Mug

Home is Where the Heart is!

Home? What does home really mean? The dictionary says – one’s place of residence, place of domicile, but I think it’s so much more than that simplistic definition.

curious neighbors in our front yard – Cherry Creek State Park, Colorado

I was fortunate to have grown up in a house that my parents owned with a nice yard, nice neighborhood, and have some very fond childhood memories as a result. Once I was no longer living under my parents roof, it wasn’t uncommon for me to still refer to that childhood house as home. I’d quite often say to my roommate, “I’m going home to spend the weekend with my folks”.

Knowing my living arrangement with that roommate was temporary, my heart continued to view my childhood residence as home. In addition to any physical house, I think many of us still view the town or state we grew up in as home.

My “home” in one of many temporary locations – Dillon Lake, CO – this was a fave!

The meaning of home

A home is more than a financial asset or physical structure. Whether you live in a big house or a little house, an apartment or a temporary house, or even a RV, home is a place where you feel that you belong … a place you enjoy sharing with friends and family … a place you connect with because your ideas or attitudes are the same as those of the people around you … a place where you can put your feet up and let out a big sigh of contentment … a place where you can relax and say, “Ah, life is good”.

RVing in Grand Tetons National Park

Another favorite … Home for a week – Grand Tetons National Park

We have a saying in the RV community – “Home is where we park it“. We travel with our houses in tow and have the freedom to change our yard and views on a whim. It’s a glorious way to live, but it’s not without its faults.

Pueblo West Colorado

The house Al and I lived in the longest and raised teenagers in  – home for 10 years.

Al and I moved into our RV on a whim over five years ago, and had every intention of living in the RV for merely a year or two … just until we found a new home base. Over the past five years, we’ve put contracts in on three different houses in various locations, and in each case, we breathed a sigh of relief when negotiations stalled. (hmm, wonder which client stuck their feet in the mud during negotiations? 😁)

Our former sticks and bricks home seen in the distance – photo swiped from our friends Facebook post this past winter. I do NOT miss those Colorado winters.

Do I miss the large custom home in southern Colorado that I designed, generaled, built, and raised my children in? … Nope! As much as I loved that house, and it was home to our family of four for ten years, once Al and I became empty nester’s that house became way too big for just the two of us. Plus, my sense of wanderlust took hold, and I was ready for a new direction, a new adventure, and a change of scenery.

The freedom of RV living is addictive, and clearly, Al and I aren’t ready to change our home scenario anytime soon. We love our RV home and our ever-changing backyard! With that said, we’ll keep looking for that home base, and when we do eventually find it, you’ll be the first to know … well, maybe second … our children should be the first!

Our home – we loved this backyard for five awesome weeks – near Lake Powell

Along with all the fabulous and varying locations we’ve enjoyed calling home over the past few years, we’ve also met some of the nicest people living this RV mobile lifestyle and made some wonderful friends along the way. Friends help provide a sense of home no matter where we’re camped.

This summer, we managed to snag a great campsite in a RV park next to fun neighbors. We adore these neighbors that we’ve lived next to for the past five months, and will be sad, yet excited, to be moving in a couple of weeks.

monsoon season in Arizona

My home for the summer of 2018. Watching storms was part of our entertainment.

And as much as we’re looking forward to the change of scenery, we’re already looking forward to returning to Prescott next summer, if for nothing else, than to harass our dear neighbors 🤣 because yes, we do intend to camp next to these very same people again next summer. Although we realize that there’s a risk they decide to change their housing situation. Run Forest, run!!!

Fairgrounds RV Park

Our home in the background and our neighbors home in the foreground – best neighbors!

Today, some places feel more like home to us than other places. The state of Colorado will always have a special place in our hearts, but it is no longer home. The meaning of the word home has taken on more of a spiritual meaning to us than that of a physical structure or place. Home is where our heart is!

Cave Creek Arizona – hot air balloons routinely flew over our home

Photo challenge – theme – prompt

For this weeks photo challenge, let’s share images of home. What does home mean to you and what does it look like? Feel free to share a link in the comments below or link back to this page on your own post. I’d love to see images of your home.

Lake Pleasant, Arizona. This place has served as home for weeks at a time

Wandering Wednesday – Ingrid’s Photo Inspirations

Each Wednesday I post a different photo prompt as a way for bloggers to share their love of photography and engage with other like minded bloggers. Perhaps this will serve as a little inspiration to pick up the camera in search of a composition or a reason to go through your photo archives. Whether you shoot with your phone, a DSLR or something in-between, don’t be shy, share and connect!

our home in the desert – boondocking in Quartzsite for a couple of weeks a few winters ago!

Next weeks photo challenge – Architecture …. get out and shoot or peruse those archives!

(affiliate links)
 Home is Where You Park It Throw Pillow
Life is Good Adirondack Mug