Urban Planning at its Finest

I’ll admit, I wasn’t always a fan of Phoenix, Arizona. Quite frankly, if our son hadn’t moved here eight years ago, I’m not sure how much time we’d actually spend in Phoenix, but let’s add in the fact that our daughter also lives here now …. well, need I say more … this place has definitely grown on me.desert wildflowers

With that said, Phoenix, Arizona, has since become our ‘home’, our home base so to speak.  We always manage to find some place in the Phoenix valley to park the RV for a desert birdlengthy stay and get in as much parent/child time as possible.  Although, from Al’s and my point of view, there never seems to be enough time spent with the kids.

Gosh, they are adults after all and do have demanding jobs and lives of their own.  Thus, we take what time we can get.

Our two favorite pastimes to spend together as a family are hiking and eating, and there’s no shortage of either around here.

As far as urban planning goes, I think Phoenix has done a fabulous job.  Traffic can be a bear just like any other major city, but the road system is laid out in a hikingsomewhat  organized manner compared to other cities and is easy to navigate. There are several expressways looping around the city to assist in keeping the dense amount of traffic moving.

Over the past several years of visiting Phoenix regularly, at all times of the year including summer, we’ve had the opportunity to observe traffic patterns and noticed there seems to be a sharp increase in traffic during the months of January, February, and March when the valley is loaded with snowbirds from the north.  Once these snowbirders move on …. come April, the density of the traffic seems to lighten, and by May the city can once again breathe.

Phoenix, AZ

This sure doesn’t look like a big city, does it? And check out the dense amount of wildflowers.

But what impresses me the most about Phoenix is the park / trail system.  No matter what side of the valley we park the RV, there’s always a trailhead within a short distance.  Quite hiking in Phoenixoften these trails feel remote, are rugged, and vary in challenge.  Don’t be fooled, there are some very challenging hikes in this city.

There’s also tons of groomed, kid friendly parks with playground equipment perfect for families. Yes, urban planning at its finest.

Although the Superstition Mountains remains my favorite place to hike while in Phoenix, I’ve discovered several other wonderful trailheads.

Most recently, I’ve been spending a fair amount of time hiking at the Sonoran Preserve.  The Desert Hills Trailhead was recently completed and is less than ten minutes away from our RV Park.  The Apache Wash Trailhead is located a little closer to where our children live and makes for a great place for us to meet up.

desert wildlfowers

the wildflowers have added a joy to my hiking

This spring has been especially enjoyable hiking with the abundance of dense wildflowers.  I’m a girly girl and a sucker for flowers.

hiking

hiking with my daughter regularly has been a wonderful treat

So, while it may not have been love at first sight, I’ve come to appreciate and embrace all that Phoenix has to offer.  Of course, the fact that my babies live here adds to mommy’s overall enjoyment ☺

Sonoran Preserve

Sonoran Preserve – Desert Hills Trailhead

share the trail

Whether you’re in the heart of the city or further out, you’ll share the trails with all kinds

share the trail

“I don’t mind sharing the trail”

desert birds

it’s not just the sights that are lovely … natures sounds are musical

desert wildflowers

love, love, love the desert wildflowers

happy camper

Me – happy camper, hiking near Lost Dutchman State Park

Moon Take a Hike Phoenix: Hikes within Two Hours of the City (Moon Outdoors)
Lawn Gone!: Low-Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard

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Color of Spring in the Desert

Thanks to the unusual and excessive rainfall this past winter in the desert southwest, the hills have come alive.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Phoenix valley so green, but it’s not just an abundance of green that has carpeted the land.

hiking in Phoenix

Superstition Mountain – Apache Junction, Arizona

Everywhere I look, I’m greeted with a delightful kaleidoscope of color. The wildflowers are on steroids this year and I’m loving the view.  Each bloom, bush, and tree is a wonderful sight to behold.

poppies

me photographing the wildflowers

desert wildflowers

The stunning display of wildflowers is an unexpected surprise to those visiting the desert for the first time.  The desert southwest is lush with vegetation and color and a far cry from the drab, barren brown most folks associate with a desert.

Phoenix hiking

Spring hiking in the desert is the best!

desert wildflowers

I always look forward to spring in Arizona, and couldn’t wait to share some of my favorite Phoenix valley spots with my daughter.   First up was hiking at the Superstition Mountain located on the far east side of the valley. This is my absolute favorite place to hike in Arizona.

Superstition Mountain

My daughter – it was a glorious morning to hit the trails.

March 2nd – Al and I managed to snag a lovely campsite in the overflow loop for a couple of nights of dry camping at Lost Dutchman State Park.  This is a popular state park and without a reservation, it’s difficult to nab a site with electric.

Lost Dutchman State Park

Lost Dutchman State Park, Apache Junction, Arizona

By camping at the base of the Superstition Mountains, I was able to hike multiple times throughout the day and photograph the beauty that surrounded me. Sharing this amazing scenery with my daughter was a special treat.

wildflowers

Fields of poppies blooming at the base of the Superstitions

If you ever find yourself visiting Phoenix and looking for an entertaining way to spend a day, here’s a post I did a while back about the Apache Trail that you might find fun.

Lost Dutchman State Park

The desert provides the best skies

Who knew the desert could be so colorful?  ‘I know, I know’, she exclaimed with raised hand!  And once the wildflowers wither, it’ll be time for the cactus to bloom. The color of spring in the desert is a memorable and unique experience …. not to be missed.desert wildflowers

CMT 1 Pair – Anti Shock / Hiking / Walking / Trekking Trail Poles

Pinty 2L Hiking Backpack Hydration Pack with Water Bladder Cycling Climbing Camping Bag (Pink)

Why we winter in Phoenix

What is it about the desert southwest that has us returning year after year?  It’s obvious we share our desert addiction with hundreds or more like thousands of other visitors.  Each winter season, droves of people migrate to Phoenix and the surrounding area to escape the cold and snow.desert sunset

Some folks come for a long weekend visit, while others (us included) stay for months at a time.  Let’s face it, with over 300 days of sunshine a year, mild winter temperatures, and sunsets that’ll knock your socks off, it’s hard not to like this part of the United Cactus flowerStates.  But there’s a lot more to the valley of the sun than merely the weather.

Sometimes I relish quiet, remote solitude while other times I like the hustle and bustle only a city can offer.  Phoenix is unique in offering me the pleasure of both world’s.

Phoenix is not only the capital of the state of Arizona but also the county seat for Maricopa County.  Maricopa County encompasses 9,224 square miles (23,890km) and includes the city of Phoenix along with 13 other cities, 10 towns, over a dozen other unincorporated communities, and 5 Indian Reservations.

fawnEach locale offers its own distinct vibe and topography.  Recreational opportunities are endless and diverse ….. hiking, biking, kayaking, golfing, fishing, horseback riding, hot air ballooning, fine dining, casual dining, museums, art galleries, rodeos, car shows, zoos, festivals, casinos, concerts, professional sports, minor league sports, shooting guns, and shooting cameras (my favorite, of course).

Trust me, there is no shortage of things to photograph around here; from wildlife, to beautiful flora – fauna, to distinct architecture and landscapes.  And of course, those amazing sunsets.desert sunset

The Maricopa County Park System is a recreational delight for locals and tourists alike.  Our favorites include Cave Creek Regional Park, Lake Pleasant (week days), and Lost Dutchman State Park.  We’ve heard great things about other regional parks, but  can’t speak from personal experience due to a failure on my part in making a reservation.  wild donkeyWeekends book up and reservations are a must during the peak winter season.

That said, I love going to sleep in a rural setting being serenaded by coyotes and wild burros while the next day I’m able to take an easy twenty-minute drive to shop at a top drawer grocery store/mall or visit a one of a kind museum like the MIM (Musical Instrument Museum).

Or I can drive 45 minutes west and watch cotton being harvested, however if I drive 45 minutes east I can find myself exploring an old ghost town.  Seriously, this place has something for everyone.art gallery

Accommodations vary from rustic tent camping, to RV Park Resorts, to hotels, five-star all-inclusive resorts, to plenty of vacation rentals.  In other words, there’s no shortage of overnight options that’ll custom fit anyone’s taste buds.

giraffe

me, my son, and a friend

I haven’t always liked Phoenix, but the more time I spend here the more I like it.  Of course, it’s a bonus that both my children now live here, but there’s other relationships as well.

Since Phoenix is such a great place to visit, there’s no shortage of social opportunities. I love meeting up with fellow bloggers, RVer’s, or long-lost friends.

A few weeks ago, I received a phone call from a friend whom I hadn’t seen in twenty-three years.  She and I were in a play group together back in the Chicago suburbs when our children were little.  In the early 1990’s, Marianne and her family moved to California while my family and I moved to Nevada.  Once a year we’d exchange Christmas cards while keeping up with each others ever changing addresses.

Marianne and I enjoy tea and crumpets at the English Rose Tea Room in Carefree, AZ. We haven't changed a bit in twenty-three years ;-)

Marianne and I enjoy tea and crumpets at the English Rose Tea Room in Carefree, AZ.  Hmm… there were crumpets on those plates! We haven’t changed a bit in twenty-three years 😉

I picked Marianne up at her son’s home here in Phoenix and the two of us headed out for tea and crumpets.  After five hours of visiting, we bid farewell with the promise of getting together again soon.  Although she and her husband live in Florida full time, they do enjoy regular visits to Phoenix to see their son.  Thus, I’m sure it won’t be another twenty some years before our next luncheon or tea time 🙂

cactusAnd since we’re speaking of tea, I realize the desert isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.  Me? I’m intrigued by the harsh desert landscape and fascinated by the vegetation and wildlife that are able to thrive in such an unforgiving environment.

I love the diversity of activities available, the weather (well, not the summer), and all the friendships, new and old, that we’ve made since we started visiting the valley of the sun.  I love hanging with my children and although I always hate saying good-bye, the itch to hitch has set in thus the wheels on the RV will start going round and round in a few days, BUT “we’ll be back“!

Love

May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face. And rain fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

The Dreaded Blue Screen

A few weeks ago I purchased a new laptop, and like any new toy, I was having a splendid time playing with it.  The first week was filled with a lot of Goggling “how to”.  The second week I settled into navigating Windows 10 with ease and personalizing the new laptop.hummingbird

I downloaded a bunch of stuff including my favorites and some photos.  I was getting used to the mouse pad (I don’t use an external mouse) and even changed the settings to allow basic functions only.   After two weeks of computer use, I noticed the mouse pad wasn’t remembering my settings and reverted back to the default settings—-annoying.

ostrichThe pinch setting allows the text to be resized with finger movements on the mouse pad which is all fine and dandy,  but when all I’m trying to do is move the cursor and the screen starts zooming in and out from itty bitty 10% to huge 200% it gets rather frustrating.

So each morning upon starting the computer, I’d go to the mouse setting and uncheck the default boxes then go about my day.  Hmm, why won’t it hold my settings?  I began to wonder if perhaps there was something wrong with the computer.  Each time I double checked that I was hitting apply and then ok.  Thus, I knew I was clicking correctly and it was not user error.

A couple of days later, I couldn’t exit the internet. The internet window X wouldn’t close the tab.  I could open and close additional tabs but the first internet tab would remain open until the computer was shut down.  Well, when you’re working off of a limited internet data plan, that was unacceptable.

birdsSince the computer seemed to be working fine the first two weeks of use, that is up until Windows 10 did an update, I thought I would set the computer to an earlier date.

With my previous laptop computer and Windows 7 whenever things seemed to be running out of whack, I would do exactly that, and it would usually resolve any issues.  So I thought it would make sense to repeat what I’ve always done.  Seemed rather logical to me and everything on Google agreed.

Once again, I was proud of the ease of which I navigated Windows 10 (remember; I am no techie).  I went with the recommended setting of an earlier date.  “Yep”, I thought. “I should have this puppy running smoothly once again”.

NOT! …. that’s when I was greeted with the dreaded blue screen of death and this lovely message  ……
😦         inaccessible_boot_device          Error Code 0x0000225

Oh my fricken gosh …. I broke my new computer.  After  several hours of Googling, tapping away at F8 then F11, and doing a System Extensive Test, I resorted to an online chat with a HP tech in India.  He determined that I had a corrupt recovery drive and would need to fix it by purchasing a Recovery Drive from HP and initiate a system recovery from the recovery media ….. say what?

ostrichHe sent me this link to help me – HP support
I ended the chat with, “Thank you for your time. I should’ve listened to my daughter and bought a Mac”. His response, “I can tell you are not happy. I will forward your information onto a case manager”.

We ended the chat and I clicked on the link he sent me to see if it might enlighten me further.  Seriously?  The guy sends me a Windows 7 link to help me with my 2 week old laptop computer installed with Windows 10?  To say I was upset would be an understatement.

Ma’am, please step away from the computer, and no one will get hurt!

The next day, I grabbed my camera, a map, and hopped in my little red truck for a little valley of the sun (aka Phoenix, Arizona) exploration.  I needed to leave the techie computer stuff alone.  Turned out to be the perfect way for me to rejuvenate from my very upsetting computer saga.  That day deserves its own post  🙂

I had already decided to return the computer but wanted to wipe out all my documents and photos first.  So first thing the next day, I was on the phone with a HP case manager.  He gave me two options:  A – they would send me recovery media free of charge and he would walk me through the fix or B – since the computer was only a couple of weeks old and Costco has a good return policy, I could return it.ostrich

He assured me there was nothing recoverable on the laptop, thus no need to wipe it.  I could feel comfortable returning it, which is what I did the moment I hung up with the manager.  Two days later, the HP case manager called me to follow-up and make sure I didn’t have any problem returning the computer and to see if he could be of any further assistance.

Botanical Garden Two thumbs up to HP and case manager, Joe.  That said, should I buy another HP?  I don’t know.  I’m feeling a little conflicted at the moment.  In the meantime, my son gave me his old HP Pavilion that he wasn’t using anymore, thus providing me with at least some sort of connectivity.

BUT … this laptop is testing my patience.  Let me walk you through my morning ….

First thing in the morning, Al and I turn on our laptops and Verizon router.  Once up and running, we click on the internet on our individual laptops.  While Al starts perusing the latest news, I go wash my face while my laptop loads.  It’s a 50/50 crap shoot upon my return whether the internet is up or I get ‘page not found’ and need to start over 😦

Once I do have the internet, it’s time to check Facebook.  After logging in, I make breakfast while it loads.  I eat breakfast as the circle continues to go round and round and finally loads once I’m done eating.  I read Facebook but half the time can’t comment.  At least the ‘like’ button works.  Then it’s time to check our personal email account.  While I wait for that page to load, I do the dishes, once loaded, I read those emails.blue screen

Well, that just took up my first hour of the day and I haven’t even started perusing the blogosphere.  I can usually do a load of laundry while I wait for a blog to load.  Ok, maybe, just maybe, I’m exaggerating a little…. but just a little.  During the past week, more than half the comments I’ve typed out on your wonderful blogs could not be posted…. grrrrr!  Once again, at least the ‘like’ button seems to work.   The computer occasionally freezes up and routinely boots me off the internet.  This is a slow, tired, and old computer but it’ll have to do until I make up my mind about a new laptop.  I’ve even thought about living with this one until the fall…. egads!

hummingbirdIf I’m a little quiet for a while, you now know why.  I do have some fun things to share with you though …… eventually.  The more time I spend in Phoenix, the more I like it here.  I’m never at a loss of things to do and see, and of course, I love having my children nearby.

The rest of the month, Al and I will be finishing up dental work, physicals, and preparing for our journey north toward the end of April.

We’ll be spending the summer in Idaho helping out friends at their RV Park just three hours away from the Tetons and Yellowstone.  Should be an interesting summer for us filled with lots of new sights and experiences.   And I look forward to sharing it all, providing my patience holds out!

Moon Yellowstone & Grand Teton (Moon Handbooks)Lord, Give Me Coffee to change the things I can, and Wine to accept the things I cannot 5″ x 10″ wood sign plaque

Rattled

I’ve always enjoyed walking, but I didn’t develop an interest in hiking until a road trip my daughter and I took back in 2007 to the Black Hills in South Dakota.  I’m not sure what possessed me to agree to the almost four hour round trip hike with a 2,000 foot elevation gain up to Harney Peak, but Ashton had me convinced we could do it.

hiking in ArizonaIt turned out to be a fabulous hike – my knees may have disagreed, but  Ashton and I both agreed it was extremely enjoyable even though we arrived back at our vehicle tired and sore.

Although the hike challenged me, I found it invigorating.  It made me feel so alive.  I couldn’t remember the last time, if ever, experiencing that kind of feeling, and couldn’t wait to plan our next hike.

I should probably mention that at the time, I was an out of shape workaholic carrying an extra twenty pounds more than I currently carry.  The day after the hike, my legs and feet hurt so much I had trouble walking, but I felt awesome.

Fast forward to today, hiking has become a regular part of my life.  Granted, I don’t embark on any epic all day hikes like some of my RVing pals (you know who you are 😉 ) but I thoroughly enjoy those one to three-hour hikes amongst beautiful scenery.wildflowers

This time of year is particularly pretty in the desert southwest with the trails lined with wildflowers.  The cactuses are budding and some are starting to bloom.  Up until two weeks ago, I could be found in the morning hiking three to four days a week for an hour or two somewhere in the Phoenix metro area.  There are so many fabulous parks in Phoenix to hike and explore that getting bored would be difficult.

desert flowersAnd then the weather started getting hot …. hotter than normal for this time of year, which required I get out on the trail a little earlier.  On that fateful morning two weeks ago, I knew I was running late, temps were already in the 80’s (Fahrenheit) and I would need to be vigilant in keeping an eye out for snakes.

I left the camera at home wanting to focus on exercise and not allow myself to get distracted.  Yeah, good luck on that!  I always carry my cell phone with me for emergency purposes and it just so happens it takes photographs, which works in a pinch.

I was clipping along, making good time on my morning hike.  In spite of the heat, I kept my pace quick all the while keeping my eyes peeled on the trail in front of me and scanning the vegetation from side to side.  I’m not freaked out by snakes, but I’m also not a fan of the slithery creatures.rattle snakeI was on a trail leading me back to the truck with maybe fifteen minutes left to go and that’s when the movement in the brush stopped me in my tracks.  Mr. rattle snake was coiled in strike position and his head was bobbing back and forth as if he was dancing.  His tongue was flickering while our eyes met.snakes

I stood there frozen for a split second then gently backed away.  Once I retreated, he slowly lowered himself and starting slithering first toward me (I walked backwards some more) and then toward the other side of the trail.snakes

I stopped a women and her dog from passing me.  She was grateful that I had seen the snake first or she might have walked right by it.  We watched the snake cross the trail and counted five rings on his rattle.

This was not my first snake sighting on a trail.  I almost stepped on a bull snake in southern Colorado.   He was crossing the trail and I wasn’t paying attention.  Fortunately, I looked down before stepping on him.  Although a little started initially, I continued on my hike without concern.desert hikingThis encounter with the rattle snake rattled me …. rattled me to my core…. to the point it took me nearly ten days just to get out on the trail again.  Even then, I couldn’t enjoy that hike.  I’m afraid I’ve turned into a nervous hiker, but am hopeful in time my fears will ease.

All photos in this post were taken with my iPhone 5, and thus, not the best quality.  From now on, I won’t leave home without my Sony DSCWX350 18 MP Digital Camera (Black) Since this was my first rattle snake encounter in the wild, I wish I had gotten better photos of the snake, especially considering its my goal not to come face to face with another snake!desert hiking

Asian shrimp

 

Less time on the trails, means more time in the kitchen…… much to Al’s delight.  Click here for my Lemon Shrimp recipe.

A Tea Party

tea partyAnyone who’s fortunate to have a daughter has most likely engaged in a tea party or two.  I used to love sitting at my daughter’s Little Tykes table on a plastic molded chair made for a three-year old.

My daughter would pretend to make tea and cookies in her make-believe kitchen.  Then we’d sit at her child height table sipping pretend hot tea and eating treats.

Quite often a doll or favorite stuffed animal would join in on the tea party and be served as well.Tea PartyMy daughter, Ashton, may be all grown up now, but that doesn’t mean we still don’t enjoy a tea party, but instead of pretending, we like the real deal.  Oh my yes!  Bring on tea partythe tea and crumpets.

During one of my outings with blogging, RVing friend Faye, we stumbled upon the cutest place in the town of Carefree, Arizona, just north of Scottsdale.  Faye and I had just completed a two-hour hike and were looking for a place to have lunch.

Obviously,  we were dressed in hiking attire which seemed a tad inappropriate for lunch with the Queen.  Thus, we vowed to return another day … dressed appropriately tea with the queenand with our daughters in tow.

Two weeks later on a Saturday, Faye, Ashton, Laura, and myself arrived at the bustling English Rose Tea Room.  Fortunately, I had made a reservation at this popular and charming place.

While we waited for our table to be set, Ashton poses with the Queen.  We also perused the shelves filled with china, trinkets, and tea available for sale.

We had a fabulous time at the English Rose Tea Room and the girl’s hit it off famously.  Turns out, my daughter and Faye’s daughter-in-law have a ton in common.  The conversation flowed freely when our mouths weren’t stuffed with delectable scones  topped with Devon Cream and homemade jam.

tea party

Laura and Ashton enjoying a tea party with their mom’s

By the end of our luncheon, the girl’s were friending each other on Facebook and there was talk about setting up another tea party before our RVing ventures have Faye and me hitting the road in a northerly direction.tea with the queen

tea with the queen

me and Faye

This was such a fun girl’s outing at a very unique and charming restaurant.  Although we did see a few men joining their wives for a tea party, this is definitely a girly thing kind of place.

Faye and I just can’t envision those finger sandwiches being a satisfying thrill for Dave or Al.  Although I should mention, the English Rose Tea Room does serve large sandwiches and salads.  For us girls, it was all about tea and crumpets.

After lunch and after Ashton and Laura made a few tea purchases (who knew they were tea connoisseurs), the four of us strolled around the Carefree center grounds.  The cactus garden display, water features, and sculptures are beautiful, and worth a walk around.carefree arizona

Carefree is also a popular place for hosting a variety of festivals.  Click here for more information on the town of Carefree, Arizona.Carefree Arizona

Ashton in front of the English Rose Tea Room

Ashton in front of the English Rose Tea Room

tea party
My daughter ended up buying one of these empress tea strainers along with some English loose tea.  She also collects decorative tea pots.  Who knew, all those tea party’s long ago would continue and trigger an interest in the world of tea.   I’m just thrilled my little girl still wants to have tea party’s with her mom 🙂
The Empress Tea StrainerGracie China Shabby Rose Porcelain 4-1/2-Cup Teapot, Shabby Rose Green

Computer Woes!

Change is an interesting subject.  Most times I embrace change whole heartedly.   That shouldn’t be a surprise considering a mobile lifestyle is all about change.  But then there are times or situations that I resist change as much as possible.

Sunset over Lake Pleasant

Sunset over Lake Pleasant

I was resisting the thought of getting a new computer and learning Windows 10.  Just thinking about it had me walking, rather running, in another direction.  The mere thought of dealing with technology change almost had me breaking out in hives.  If there was a word depicting the opposite of Geek, that would describe me to a tee.  I am definitely not a techie.  With that said, the past month I chose to play ostrich and avoid the subject by leaving the computer off.  I must admit, the break from the internet allowed me to complete a bunch of projects around the RV as well as get in a fair amount of hiking.

flowers and beeI knew months ago my laptop was slowly doing a death dance, but I loved the old gal.  She and I got along famously for years and I wasn’t interested in changing things up.  She loyally cared for my thousands of digital photos, put out hundreds of blog posts, and supported all my documents.

Her keys were worn to the point that half the letters were no longer legible making it impossible for Al to use my laptop (he’s never managed to memorize the keyboard and still pecks away at the keys 😆 ).  She sported a huge crack along one side that seemed to be growing and her screen was no longer firmly attached, but we were a comfortable fit.

Day in and day out, she’d sit on my lap providing endless hours of entertainment. Perhaps too many hours.ButterflyI had no intention of replacing her.  Quite frankly, I didn’t want a new computer, but after months of babying her and refreshing her to factory status, she just wasn’t up to the task at hand.  She was tired and wearing out, and when I could no longer upload my wildflowersphotos, I had to embrace the thought that change was necessary.  Plus, I was missing you guys!

I shopped, then shopped some more. I’m usually a very decisive shopper, but not this time.  Google became my best friend enlightening me on the differences between Intel’s i3, i5, and i7 processors.  A Mac was out of the question.  First, it wasn’t within my budget, and second I felt that would be too much of a change.  Although last year’s change from an Android to an iPhone was ezzie peezie and I love my iPhone 5, I just wasn’t going to go from a PC to a Mac at this point and time.

Cowboy mounted shooting

navigating obstacles can be fun!

It’s been a week and my new HP Pavilion laptop and I are getting along swell.  Windows 10 wasn’t the navigation nightmare I thought it might be.  Yes, it’s different, and yes, the first few days I was Googling “how to” a lot, but I haven’t broken out in sweats or hives due to the change.  I’ve even been having fun setting the new computer up.

We’re still closely monitoring our data usage considering we almost maxed out our 30 gigs last month and I was hardly on the internet.  Apparently, Al’s computer and my old computer had programs running in the background that were gobbling up data.  Thus, my internet presence was throttled severely.  I’m hoping to be back blogging soon and am starting to catch up on all your latest posts.  I’m still a little slow with the new gal, but the more time we spend together, the more familiar we’ll get and I’ll soon be sharing plenty of photos of the desert blooming.  You’ve been warned!

sunset over Lake Pleasant, Peoria AZ

sunset over Lake Pleasant, Peoria AZ

For those of you curious, this is the laptop I ended up getting….
HP Pavilion 15t 15.6-Inch Touchscreen Laptop (6th Gen Intel Core i5-6200u Processor, 8GB DDR3L RAM, 1TB HDD, Windows 10), Natural Silver

A Season of Blooms

We arrived in Phoenix, Arizona, just in time to watch the desert come alive.  I don’t think there’s a better time to visit the Valley of the Sun, aka Phoenix, than in late winter, early spring when the desert is dressed in all her finery.Superstition Mountain

What I would refer to as spring around here, begins a little earlier in the desert southwest than in other parts of the country.  Having lived in places like northern Illinois and southern Colorado, I would never refer to February as spring, but around flowering desertthe Phoenix valley, signs of spring are visible everywhere by mid February.

Trails and roads are usually lined with clusters of yellow flowers, courtesy of the brittlebush.

Flowers equal spring in my book and thus the season for blooms…. blooms of all shapes, sizes, and colors.  While I hit the hiking trails, I allow my eyes to look and discover the finer details of the blooming desert…. the little things.  I’m rarely disappointed.

After taking in the vast landscape, I narrow my focus discovering the little details

After taking in the vast landscape, I narrow my focus and discover little hidden surprises

desert flowers

Prickly pearAmongst the sharp cactus thorns grow delicate flowers.  The variety of foliage is an interesting collaboration of opposites; small, fine, delicate plants grow in harmony with large, hearty, thorned cacti.

Not wanting to be outdone by the other plants, the cacti produce their own flowers providing a profusion of colorful blooms dotting the landscape.

As many times as I’ve witnessed the extraordinary beauty of the desert, her extremes continue to amaze me.cactus

It’s not just the flora that’s intriguing…. it’s also the birds and animals that survive in this harsh land of extremes that are fascinating to observe.  Watching the relationship between flora and fauna in the Sonoran Desert during the blooming season is like watching a fine ballet …. beauty and drama are in abundance.

silhouette of an ocotillo cactus, but let's take a closer look at the bush lower right...

silhouette of an ocotillo cactus…. let’s take a closer look at the bush in the foreground…

I love the small delicate blooms

I love the small delicate blooms on this bush

The ocotillo cactus is one of my favorites. The leaves and flowers seem soft and delicate yet the thorns and sturdy bark make it one strong desert survivor. The ocotillo provides an excellent perch for birds and the orange flowers are very distinct.ocotilloocotillo

 

 

 

 

 

ocotillo

I truly enjoy this time of year in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert.  I’ll be spending the next six weeks immersing myself in her gorgeous and abundant flora.  In closing, I leave you with a photo of a Fairy Duster.Fairy Duster

BTW… most of the photos in this post were taken with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 12.1 MP Digital Camera with CMOS Sensor and 24x Optical Zoom – BlackSince it’s no longer in production, the price has been severely reduced.  So much so, I bought a back-up 🙂

Culinary Delight

There’s an excitement to hitching up and getting the wheels rolling to places unknown.  That sense of wanderlust and curiosity as to what’s around the next bend is always a fun adventure, but there’s also joy in returning to familiar turf.  When we return to places, places that we like, it can feel like coming home.

Our family of four will be enjoying the holiday season together for the first time in several years.

Our family of four will be enjoying the holiday season together for the first time in several years.

Phoenix, Arizona, has started feeling like “home” to me.  First off, having both kids in the area helps.  Second, I know where all my favorite stores are located including a laundromat.  Al and I also have a few favorite eating establishments that we frequent and occasionally miss when we’re off traveling.

The Greek PitaWhen we rolled back into Phoenix in early October, our very first stop was to The Greek Pita located on the north end of the Phoenix valley.  Hubby and I had talked about their Gyros for the previous six weeks and couldn’t wait to make a beeline there on day one.  I’m not normally a fan of Greek food but I’ve always had a weakness for an authentic Gyros (ok and maybe lemon Chicken).

During my high school and college years, I spent my fair share of time working in the restaurant industry in the Chicago area.  Ah yes, I could tell you stories about venturing into Chicago’s Greek town and drinking and dancing until four in the morning…. OPA! But that’s a tale for another time 😉

With our Gyros habit satisfied, a few days later it was time to visit  Café Rio.  We were first introduced to this “Chipotle” style restaurant in Grand Junction, Colorado, and were super excited to see one going in right next door to The Greek Pita last spring.  Can you say, “Taco Tuesday”?   But our favorite little spot that we love sharing with fellow travelers and family can be found northwest of Scottsdale.

What do Walleye fish, the Green Bay Packers, and Arizona all have in common?  The Buffalo Chip Saloon in Cave Creek, Arizona.  We stumbled upon this place a little over three years ago and have returned regularly ever since. Buffalo Chip

I knew our first Friday night back in the valley would be spent dining on the all-u-can-eat fish fry at the Buffalo Chip Saloon.  Hubby just loves Walleye and where else can you find it without visiting Wisconsin or Minnesota?  But they don’t just serve Walleye.  Nope!  You get your choice of Catfish, Cod, Lake Perch, or Walleye….. plus you get to mix and match.  Talk about culinary fish heaven!  So while I sit and politely devour two fish tacos, Al orders and reorders the mix and match fish….. “hold the fries, please”.  He doesn’t intend to fill up on potatoes when there’s all that fish ready to be consumed.

Lunch is a quiet time to visit. (excellent burgers) I took this photo while stopping for lunch and other than the table filled with local law enforcement officers, the place was empty. I assure you Friday nights it's hopping.

Lunch is a quiet time to visit. (excellent burgers) I took this photo while stopping for lunch and other than the table filled with local law enforcement officers, the place was empty. I assure you Friday nights are hopping.

And this is Packer territory.  Rumor has it, one of the original owners of The Chip was a former Wisconsin Green Bay Packers football player.  The place fills up with Packer fans when there’s a game and the numerous television screens hung throughout the place assure guests won’t miss a play.  But that’s not all!  There’s LIVE Bull Riding for all you cowfolk out there.  Out back is an outdoor arena along with a BBQ buffet and bar.   Eating and entertainment western style…. doesn’t get much better.The Buffalo Chip

My heart sank on Thanksgiving Day when the news reported that a fire broke out and destroyed the main building; a historic, one of a kind structure with unique memorabilia adorning the walls.  The owners are working diligently to rebuild asap and folks are donating all kinds of things like cowboy boots, hats, etc. in an attempt to help replicate the authentic atmosphere that helped make the Buffalo Chip Saloon an original.  Arson is expected to be the culprit of the destructive fire.  A very sad loss for the owners AND the community.  I look forward to visiting again once rebuilt.

When we move on to the south-east part of the valley, we like to grab a few friends and head on over to the Organ Stop Pizza.  Although we do enjoy the food, it’s the experience that draws us back time and again.  It is most definitely worthy of a visit at least once.

Although our tastes these days center on the extreme casual, the Phoenix Valley is filled with world-renowned culinary experiences.  There’s no shortage of Five Star Restaurants around here.  Every now and then, hubby and I like to dress up and check out one of these fine establishments.  We actually do clean up nicely…. so we’ve been told LOL.

A gathering of RV bloggers indulging in culinary delight

A gathering of RV bloggers indulging in culinary delight

LumpiaWith that said, I can honestly say we’ve had the pleasure of enjoying some of the finest and tastiest dishes at a picnic table gathered with friends, new and old.  There’s something about everyone wanting to share their “A” game that turns these meals into a culinary delight that can easily rival any Five Star Restaurant.

Ribs

Flourless chocolate cake

my RV oven was busy that day!

cupcakesDave is a pro when it comes to smoking ribs and chicken, and Mona Liza always endears herself to hubby when she makes her Filipino specialty; Lumpia.  Then there was Curt whom we counted on to provide a cooler filled with beverages.  And me?  I’m the dessert maker.  For this gathering I baked a Flourless Frangelico Chocolate Cake, regular Vanilla Cupcakes, along with Grain Free Chocolate Cupcakes.

Paleo CupcakesI did have a little bit of an oops moment with the Chocolate Cupcakes, but the frosting and chocolate shavings were quick to cover it up.  You see, I got a little lazy and didn’t feel like separating the egg whites from the egg yolks which resulted in a sunken cupcake.

My save was filling in the hole with a little extra frosting.  I don’t think anyone noticed and I know hubby’s sweat tooth was thanking me for the extra dose of sugar.

If anyone is interested in this grain free, gluten-free, chocolate cupcake recipe – click here.  All this talk of food is making me hungry.  Hey Dave, “got any left overs?”

my favorite Five Star Restaurant

my favorite Five Star Restaurant

This is my latest cookbook purchase. I’m beginning to wonder if I have an addiction to cookbooks!

Dining western style – click here for another Arizona favorite

The Good, and the not so Good

Tortilla Flat Hubby and I have settled into life here in Phoenix, Arizona, nicely.  Our first month back in the Valley of the Sun whizzed by…. enjoying exploratory outings with our daughter, socializing with neighbors, and connecting with friends, old and new.

The good:  We see our son and daughter every weekend when they stop by the RV and allow me to make them breakfast.  I’ve been having a grand ole time taking it up a notch in the kitchen and everyone is appreciative of my efforts.  Although the constant photographing of food is something they’d like me to tone down a tad 😉Breakfast

I had a blast spending the first two weeks in October with our daughter, Ashton, getting her acclimated to her new home.  I was eager to show her as much of the area’s unique beauty before she had to start her new job.

One of my favorite places around Phoenix can be seen in the far southeast side of the valley; the Superstition Mountains and the Apache Trail.  In my opinion, no visit to Phoenix would be complete without a visit to this area.

approaching the Superstition Mountains

approaching the Superstition Mountains

After a one hour drive from our RV Park in the northwest part of the valley to the Superstitions in the southeast valley, we took a quick spin through the Lost Dutchman State Park so I could point out the awesome hiking trails…… trails that I plan to tackle soon.  I wanted Ashton to be as excited about hiking here as I always am.

Canyon LakeFrom Lost Dutchman State Park we continued on the Apache Trail (aka 88) along a paved, winding road.  Ashton was happy to see a road that could be compared to similar roads in Colorado; you know…. the kind that climb, turn, and have drop offs with no guard rails.  She was feeling quite comfortable and not concerned even after passing a tow truck winching a vehicle up from the canyon below.  Eek, someone obviously had a bad day.  Good idea to take this road slow.

Canyon Lake

Canyon Lake

Fourteen miles north of the town of Apache Junction is picturesque Canyon Lake.  Ashton and I have already discussed renting a couple of kayaks and getting out on the water one of these days, and I know our friends, G & T, would love to join us.

Just a little further up the road is the quaint tourist attraction, Tortilla Flat.  We grab a bite to eat in the rustic restaurant and after lunch we stop in the general store for ice cream and fudge.  They are known for serving up the best ice cream around….yum.  Don’t pass it up!

With tummies full, we continued our drive toward a scenic overlook.  The pavement ends and we stir up a huge cloud of dust as we travel on a dry gravel/dirt road.  Ashton isn’t sure how she feels about the landscape and thinks it’ll take some time for her to get used to it.

Tonto National Forest

Tonto National Forest

When I tell her we are in the Tonto National Forest, she scoffs and with a smirk says, “I’m sorry, but this is not a forest”.

Say what? Don't be dissing my forest.

Say what? Don’t be dissing my forest.

The desert can be an acquired taste, especially for those more accustomed to a lush landscape like that found in the Midwest or Pacific Northwest.  Some folks never adjust, but I know Ashton will eventually come around and embrace the stunning beauty observed in the desert, just as I have.Tortilla Flat

What’s interesting; when we were back in the Midwest this past summer, the dense vegetation started irritating hubby and me.  We had no vistas.  Way too many trees.  We even had a tree damage one of our sky lights, which we’ll be replacing soon.  Although I must admit, Al did a fabulous job using white duct tape to fix up the crack.  It doesn’t even look patched.  Yep, I don’t miss having trees around.Tonto National ForestI have lots more good to share in upcoming posts, but for now, let’s get onto the not so good.

Birds#1 – I’ve been fighting a nasty cold that has put me in a foul mood.  An unsociable mood.  I’ve been sick way too much this past year, and it’s curtailing my fun.  Talk about frustrating!

#2 – And to add insult to injury, my internet connection is sporadic putting a crimp in my blogosphere habit.  I haven’t been able to post or comment as usual and in some cases I can’t even hit the “like” button.  Double frustrating.

Oh well, this too shall pass…. after all, tomorrow is another day!

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