All posts by Mary Ann Huffines

Sedona, AZ

January in Arizona

My husband hates winter and this year was particularly difficult with so much early snow in Colorado. The solution – spend much of January in Arizona. Our neighbor has been going to Sunflower Resort in Arizona (a 55+ community) for many years and suggested we check it out. The resort has RV spaces and park models for rent or to own.

The amenities at the resort are copious: silver/lapidary, leather works, woodshop/woodcarving, pottery, papercrafts, photography, basket making, painting, and many more clubs to learn crafting skills. Each of the clubs has a small annual fee ($10-$20) and you bring some of your own supplies. You can use your own tools or rent their tools.

The lapidary studio has one piece of equipment worth over $35,000. Joining this club is a stellar opportunity to use equipment that you would not typically have access to.

The woodshop club is very similar, with impressive woodturning equipment and just about any other type of wood crafting equipment you can think of.

The selection of exercise and recreational activities is too numerous to list. Yoga is quite popular and is offered each day. Another favorite is Zumba. You can find people playing pickleball, at all levels, every day. There is a Tiki bar with live entertainment and great food with reasonably priced drinks. You can’t beat the $1.50 beer at happy hour.

My favorite activity on this trip to Arizona in the winter has been hiking. Sunflower has a hiking group that hikes twice a week. The nice thing about hiking in a group is you can join in if you are a single and hike safely with others. Some of the individuals in the hiking group are married but their spouses have health issues that prevent them from joining in the hikes. A lost hiker was recently on the news. A young girl hiking alone and she missed her trail and ended up stranded in the dark. A helicopter finally found her and got her back down the mountain. Great reminder to not hike alone.

I was surprised at the number of hiking trails around the Phoenix, AZ area. You could hike two to three times a week for a month and never hike the same trail.

Lake Pleasant is a very easy hike with a beautiful lake view, picnic areas, flush toilets and camping/RV sites. We were fortunate to see a wild burro on our hike.

Wild Tank Mountain Regional Park is popular and quite busy on the weekends. If you can hike during the week that would be a better option. This hike is perfect for children. The camping/RV sites look nice, flush toilets and dog/goat friendly. We saw people hiking with their two pet goats.

Goats at White Tank Park

Pinnacle Peak Park was interesting with colorful signs of illustrations along the path from the book, Ten Little Rabbits by Virginia Grossman.

Sedona is not to be missed for the views, restaurants, and hiking. You could easily spend a few days here. Elote Café is a recommended dining hot spot in Sedona; be prepared for a long wait. Locals suggest eating at 9 pm to avoid the long lines. We ended up at PJ’s Village Pub, a local favorite. The $3.00 beer special of the day was Prescott Brewing Company’s Petrified Porter. Thumbs ups to this porter.

After a day of hiking you should treat yourself to a dessert at Big Daddy’s Italian Bakery & Café in Surprise, AZ. Their sandwiches are yummy, and the cookies are scrumptious. This is one of the best bakeries I have ever been to.

My Daddy's Bakery
I am certain that the winter months will continue to be a drain on my husband in the future. With that in mind, I need to book a site next January in Arizona!

Sugar Skulls

Fascinated with Day of the Dead Celebrations

Growing up in Pennsylvania, I had never heard of the multiple-day holiday Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos), which originated in Mexico. A favorite vacation spot of mine is Santa Fe, New Mexico. After many trips to Santa Fe, I have become fascinated with Day of the Dead celebrations. Day of the Dead items can be seen throughout Santa Fe. On a recent trip to Santa Fe I picked up a bunch of Day of the Dead postcards and cards.

Day of the Dead Postcards

One aspect about this holiday that I love is the positive spin on death. This is a time when people gather to remember friends and family who have passed away. Death, in the Mexican culture, is viewed as a natural part of the life cycle, which it is. This is not a sad time, but a celebratory time. I would encourage you to read the full Wikipedia article on this holiday, as well as the article on the National Geographic site.

We are approaching Día de Muertos this week – October 31st to November 2nd. I have gone a bit over the top in bringing this holiday into my home. I made some fun napkins and have sugar skulls on my dining room table. You can find Day of the Dead items throughout my home.

Day of the Dead

Finding craft projects to do with my grandson can be a challenge. Will the project hold his interest? Will it be too messy? This year we painted wooden skulls in honor of this holiday. Although Day of the Dead coincides with Halloween, it is more of a joyous celebration. Halloween can be dark and scary.

Wooden Sugar Skull

One of the cards that I found in Santa Fe was by the artist Barbara Barratt of Kaleidoscope Designs. I may need to order a few more from her website, her style is delightful.

Barbara Barratt Card

In the future, I hope to add other festivities to celebrating this holiday…maybe create an ofrenda and decorate sugar skulls with icing. You can purchase pre-made sugar skulls or purchase molds to make your own. Here is a site that gives a step-by-step process: Sugar Skulls. You can find the molds on Amazon.

Another fun thing to do for this holiday is to watch CoCo. Aside from being a wonderful animated movie, it gives a great overview of Day of the Dead activities.


Farewell Radford

The Phone Call

I received a voice message on May 29th from the coroner’s office in my hometown. Immediately I knew the only reason for the call would be to inform me that my brother Radford had passed away. When I reached Casey from that office, she gave me the bad news.

My brother had a good friend Tom that he worked with for years at R.R. Donelley. Tom would drive him to doctor appointments and checked up on him regularly. Rad had been having difficulty breathing and went to a Pulmonologist to check it out. The doc sent him by ambulance to the E.R. They sent him home with an inhaler and told him to follow up with his doctor. Tom knew he had a follow-up appointment with the doc and called Rad the day of the appointment to see how it went. Tom had keys to the apartment and when Rad did not return the phone call he dropped by the apartment and discovered that Rad had passed away in his bed.

A Quirky Guy

Rad was a good guy. He never gossiped and he was kind and gentle. When going through his papers, there was a peer review from a fellow Donnelley worker. The man wrote, “I have never worked with anyone as helpful as you. Whenever I come to you with a problem, you help solve it. Although you are a quirky guy, I will miss you.” That about sums up my brother. There is no denying that he did have some odd behavior. He did not have cable TV, he simply bought movies to watch. He did not have a cell phone or long distance. If you wanted to talk to him, it was up to you to make the call.

When I lived in Virginia, I asked Rad if he would come to visit me. We only lived four hours from each other. He said, “That is highly unlikely.” And that was that, no further discussion. Whatever was at the top of his mind came out of his mouth. He did not mince words. I grew to appreciate his frankness.

Back Home Again

It was a very sad and exhausting trip back east to handle the details of Rad’s death. There was an upside for me. I love Lancaster Country and miss many aspects of living there. Seeing the beautiful barns, Amish folks riding in buggies, eating TastyKakes and Philly Cheesesteaks put a smile on my face.

Cheesesteak from JoBoy's
The Town of Lititz

The law office for my brother’s estate is in Lititz. I adore this small town and its architecture. The oddest thing happened while I strolled through the streets of Lititz. A quiet voice called out, “Mary Ann.” Looking across the street, I saw Louise. In high school I had a boyfriend, Keith, and this was his sister; who I have not seen in 45 years. I have written to her mother, Patsy, throughout those 45 years. Patsy lives about a half an hour from Louise and I was able to sneak in a quick visit with her and her husband. Patsy was like a mother to me and I miss her terribly.

Lititz, PALititz Museum
My Auntie Bert lived in the Lititz Moravian Home at the end of her days. She had a small room with her own furniture, and she seemed quite content to be there.

Moravian Church HomeMoravian Sign
The stone buildings in Lititz are gorgeous and the Moravian stars on the house porches are so enchanting. I was surprised that Lititz has a distillery and a brew pub – JoBoy’s. The brew pub had yummy cheesesteaks, but I liked the cheesesteaks at Spring House Brewing Company in Lancaster better. Iron Horse Brewing Company & Restaurant had the best crab cakes! JoBoy’s and Spring House had the best brews.

Moravian StarJoBoy's

Rad’s Apartment

My brother lived on the third floor of a very old apartment building. Oddly, my father lived in the same apartment and my brother moved in when my dad passed away. My husband is a saint, he logged 30,000 steps in two days on his phone app cleaning out the apartment. I had the task of going through 25 years of bank statements, bills and important papers.

Rad's ApartmentLong Home

My grandmother lived her final days at the retirement home behind Rad’s apartment, The Long Home. It looked like they were doing a major renovation to the historic building. My grandmother was 92 when she passed away at Long Home. When I visited my grandmother, I would ask her if she was joining in on the many activities the home offered. She would say, “I am not joining that group of old women.” She did not see herself as being old.

The trip to Lancaster was bittersweet. I would have loved to have shopped at the quilt shops, eaten at the family style restaurants and stopped by Lancaster Central Market. The schedule was tight to complete all the tasks that occur with a family death. Perhaps another time…

Avalanche Ranch

Avalanche Ranch in September

Avalanche Ranch

A trip to Avalanche Ranch in September is food for the soul. Nestled between Redstone and Carbondale, Colorado, you will be swept away by the breathtaking scenery. The cabins are rustic; if you are looking for a Marriott experience this probably isn’t the trip for you.

It is hard to select from the cabins and shepherd’s wagons at the ranch, they are all so adorable. After perusing the website, I went with the Bird’s House #12. The cabin was spacious for two people and can accommodate five. The cabin is filled with bird items: pillows, artwork, sculpture, etc.
Bird's HouseShepherd's WagonBirds
Farm Animals

Resident sheep dogs herd sheep and llama to alternate pastures in the mornings. Wakening to the sounds of sheep baaing is such a pleasurable experience. And watching the free-range chickens scurry around the pig pen is also quite fun.
Sheep at Avalanche Ranch
Hot Springs

One of the most delightful aspects of staying at Avalanche Ranch is access to their on-site hot springs. They also offer day use of the hot springs. The best time to hang out in the pools is after 5 pm, when the day users leave. The pools never close. I can imagine they are quite marvelous during a full moon.
Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs
Hidden Hot Spring

There is a romantic hot spring tub at the top of the property hidden in a cute wooden shed. If you don’t know about it in advance, you could easily miss it.
Private Hot Springs Tub
Carbondale, CO

If you go to Avalanche Ranch, you should visit Carbondale, CO. I didn’t realize it was such a charming town. Carbondale Beerworks has some tasty brews and I love the beer sign in the bathroom.
Beer Sign
Carbondale has created unique branding for the town. They use fun graphics on the trash cans located throughout the downtown area and the same graphics are used on their buses.
Carbondale Trash Can
The Way Home

A highlight of an evening spent in Carbondale is dinner at a new restaurant in town, The Way Home. They are doing everything right. The atmosphere is sophisticated, and they offer lots of patio seating under strings of lights. The head chef is Flip Wise. I was blown away by the elk and pasta dishes.
The Way HomeOutside Dining - The Way Home
Marble, CO

You will want to add Marble, CO to add to your itinerary. There is not much going on in this tiny town, other than lots and lots of white marble and white marble statues. Slow Groovin BBQ & Catering is located in the middle of town. The place is always packed and the BBQ is exceptionally good.
Slow Groovin BBQ
Coke Ovens

On the way to Marble, Co, you will see coke ovens in Redstone, CO. The “beehive” coke ovens were constructed in the late 1890’s to carbonize or “COKE” coal mined in coal basin for the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company.

Coke OvensCoke Oven Historical Plaque

Jay & MA volunteering at Loveland Corn Festival 2017

Group Volunteering

Do you have a heart for service? Perhaps you have friends, family or co-workers who share the desire to serve in their community. Consider gathering your friends and family, or people you work with, for group volunteering. There are hundreds of non-profit groups in Northern Colorado; it isn’t hard to find a volunteer opportunity. In Larimer County, you can check out the United Way of Larimer County Volunteer Resource Guide to find a non-profit group you would like to work with.

I have a core group of people that I call on to do group volunteering and they respond within minutes to happily join in the volunteer activity. We have been elves at the Downtown Loveland Christmas tree lighting ceremony and have been involved with the Loveland Old Fashioned Corn Roast Festival – doing varies duties throughout the two-day event. The next event that we will be helping out with is Meals on 4th, a Meals on Wheels Loveland and Berthoud fundraiser.

We have volunteered as the break-down crew for Art in the Park, a fundraiser for the Lincoln Gallery. Art in the Park showcases over 200 Artisans whose work is handmade, plus craft beer, performance art and live music.

I recently found out about a non-profit organization in Fort Collins, A Little Help. A Little Help’s mission is to connect neighbors to help seniors thrive and age well in their homes. The program is run primarily with volunteers. There are four other Colorado locations (Denver, Jefferson, Chaffee and Delta Counties); Fort Collins is just coming on board. Jason Morgan has been selected as the Larimer County Director. Mary Ann’s Walkabout volunteer group will be keeping tabs on this new program to see if we can be of assistance.

Graffiti on train

Art in Common Places – Graffiti

On a recent bike ride, I passed a train car with the most amazing artwork spray painted on the car. I love finding art in common places – graffiti was the artwork I found on this ride. Some of the train cars had tagging that had been cleaned and you could only see a shadow of the “artwork.” I do hope they don’t clean this eye artwork.

Some of the artwork that can be found on train cars is exquisite. Other times, the graffiti is just bad art. There is good article about this subject, Graffiti: Art of the tag, that you might want to check out.

I wonder who the person was that created this image and does the person do any other type of artwork or is this the main avenue for self-expression?

MA's Gift Books

Discovering Everyday Matters by Danny Gregory

Twice a year I attend a used book fair put on by the Friends of the Loveland Public Library. My delight during the outing is finding little gift books to give to my friends throughout the year. At each event, I fill a big bag with gift books. When I return home, I sit in my over-stuffed chair and place all the books on the ottoman that goes with the chair. I then proceed to read through the books and match up the books to the special people in my life.

Occasionally, I come across a book in the pile that I simply cannot pass along and I end up adding it to my own collection. This year, as I was reading through the pile of books on the ottoman, I discovered Everyday Matters a Memoir by Danny Gregory. The memoir starts out with an extreme tragedy. I had the thought that this book couldn’t possibly have any bright moments if it revolved around the tragic event that occurs in the beginning of the book. I was pleasantly surprised to discover it was filled with bright spots.

The illustrations in Everyday Matters are whimsical and inspiring. They encourage me to start carrying a journal and begin to draw the everyday things in my own life; the little things that are easily overlooked. I have become an instant fan of Danny Gregory and will now look for other books he has written.

Sand Tarts

Holiday Traditions

I have written about one of my holiday traditions in the past, baking Sand Tart cookies with my mother each year. Sand Tarts are a Pennsylvania Dutch cookie recipe. I starting helping my mother bake these Christmas cookies at a very young age.

As most kids do, I would put a ton of colored sugar on the cookies. My grandson and step-daughter help me keep holiday traditions alive. And yes, he also loves to load the cookies with colored sugar. We have a new addition to our Sand Tart baking day, we now do a gluten free version. Simply use your favorite gluten free flour in place of the wheat flour.

Sand Tart Recipe

1/2 pound butter (2 sticks) softened, not melted
1 1/2 cups sugar
Mix in a mixer, these two items then add in
3 eggs – mix a few seconds
4 cups flour – add slowly
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cream of tartar

This makes a very heavy dough. Separate into 3 segments and wrap each segment in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Roll each dough segment on a floured surface (waxed paper works) to about 1/8” thick. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters, place shapes on an ungreased cookie sheet. Brush with egg white and sprinkle colored sugar on cookies.

Cook for 7 to 8 minutes at 375o


Halloween Fun in Downtown Loveland

Downtown Loveland was alive with Halloween fun activities this past weekend. People were beginning to get into a festive spirit on Friday night and continued throughout the weekend.

I entered The Flipside, located at 140 E. 4th Street in Loveland, on Friday evening. There was a large Halloween cake, baked by Renee Buzzell of Starlight Dessert Bar and Bakery, located on the bar. The cake was served at 9:30 pm as a pre-Halloween celebration. The Flipside is an arcade and is filled with pinball machines.

Starlight Dessert Bar & Bakery Cake
I had not played a pinball machine since the 1970’s. I was having a great time with the pinball machines and decided to try my hand at a Pac-Man machine. A four-year-old boy, Dallas, wanted to play the game. I really didn’t remember how to play the game. This young child was kind enough to coach me. He was dressed up as a Mario Brother and was cute as could be. He ended up winning quite a few rounds. The number of families that frequent Flipside was a surprise to me. As downtown Loveland continues to grow, I believe that Flipside will be a wonderful addition to 4th Street and a place that will be known for family fun.

Pin Ball at The Flipside
I was back downtown on Saturday dressed as Queen Amidala. The Loveland Museum/Gallery was holding their annual Halloween Family Fun Festival from 10 am to 2 pm. It was shocking to see the thousands of children trick-or-treating throughout the downtown area. If I had not seen this for myself, I would not have believed the number of children and parents who come to this event. Most of the shop/restaurant owners had plenty of candy to give out, right up to the end of the event.

Elephant Family
There were vendors, costume contests and kid’s activities at the Loveland Museum/Gallery. Some of the costumes looked like they took hours to create. My favorite two outfits were a family dressed as elephants and two children dressed in steampunk costumes.

Many of the shop/restaurant owners and their staff were dressed in costumes. Annalise Lundeen had one of the most creative costumes. Her facial makeup was stunning. Annalise is new to 4th Street. She will be having a grand opening of her new shop, Annalise The Amaranth, this Friday, November 3, 2017 at 5 pm. The shop is located at 342 E. 4th Street in downtown Loveland.
Annalise Lundeen & MA
Loveland Aleworks had a Halloween Party on Saturday night. I haven’t seen photos posted from the event yet, but I am sure fun was had by all.

Today is Halloween. Enjoy the trick-or-treaters and be safe out there.







Health Benefits of Adding Plants to Your Office

Recently, I read an article about the health benefits of adding plants to your office. I immediately rushed out and picked up some small plants and a planter. I have not had much luck with houseplants in the past. I am hoping to be more successful this time around. Outdoor gardening is more my thing; not sure why I have issues with keeping houseplants alive.

I once bought a huge schefflera to give as a Christmas present. Unfortunately, I had opened a window behind the plant the night before I was to present the gift to a friend. In the morning all the leaves were lying on the floor from the draft. This plant is considered one of the easiest houseplants to grow. Not under my care!

I have also tried growing cactus and had dismal results. Apparently, I gave them too much attention and over-watered. In the 70’s I had spider plants, so that I could make macramé hangers for them. The hangers didn’t look so hot once the plants died.

Now snake plants are an exception. I have had those and they are almost indestructible. I really didn’t like the plants and neglected them terribly.

My favorite houseplant is the African violet. My grandmother used to have a bunch of violets in her bay window. They were in constant bloom and were simply lovely. African violets are tedious to keep alive. They thrive on bright but not direct sunlight. I have killed so many African violets, I have lost count. I am ready to give them another try. I will be starting out with a deep purple plant.

African Violet
The health benefits of having plants in your office

Supposedly, having plants in your office can reduce anxiety, depression, hostility and fatigue. If I am understanding this correctly, staff members should have a significant uplift in their spirits if they have a plant on their desk. Lowered blood pressure, improved memory and concentration are also attributed to having plants in an office environment. It is a well-known fact that houseplants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. This alone is a great reason to start purchasing a few plants for your office.

I am encouraging the people that I work with to bring in a plant for their desk. Who knows, we may all get downright giddy if everyone gets on board with this idea.