Category Archives: Walkabouts

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…


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.



Do A Liz Thing

Do A Liz Thing – Honoring Liz Miller

Have you ever met someone who exudes joy and their mission in life is to make the world a better place? That was how Liz Miller lived her short life. She was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 12 and passed away on March 28, 2008. I recently heard about Do A Liz Thing from Ariana Friedlander. Although I never met Liz, I can imagine that she was a kind and sweet young woman. Her family created the Do A Liz Thing program as a way to honor Liz and inspire others to continue to do simple acts of kindness, with no expectation of reciprocation.

Mayor Wade Troxell has proclaimed March 28, 2017 as Do A Liz Thing Day. He will be reading the proclamation on Tuesday, March 28th at 2 pm on the Stage in Old Town Square.

Image of the proclamation below:
Do A Liz Thing Proclamation
The Miller family has created labels that can be printed and used whenever a person does a Liz Thing. People write notes on the back of the cards when they leave a generous and unexpected tip, or buy the coffee for the person in line behind them, or they use them as a gift tag on a bouquet of flowers, or a loaf of fresh baked bread. It isn’t too hard to come up with random acts of kindness to make another person’s day a bit brighter. Be creative, be bold!
Do A Liz Thing cardsI love biscotti. I buy boxes of of these delicious treats and toss them on the desks of the women I work with. Dixie Daly works in my office and she tosses black licorice or Good & Plenty candy on my desk; especially if she knows I am having a bad day. These are very simple ways of showing others you care. And it might just make a big difference on that particular day.





Drying Laundry Outdoors

I come from a region of the country that embraces hanging laundry outdoors to dry. In fact, the laundry that can be seen drying on the clotheslines in that county is reminiscent of an outdoor art installation. I grew up surrounded by Amish and Mennonite farms. As you drive through Lancaster County, most farms will have a permanent clothesline set up. The sight of black, purple and blue clothing hanging on a line when you pass an Amish farm is quite beautiful. And if you are lucky, you will drive by on a day when the quilts are hung out to dry.

My mother used an outside clothes drying apparatus that had a center pole and looked more like an umbrella without the fabric. I would gather the quilts from our house and hang them all over the device, pinning the sides together with clothespins and laying a few quilts on the grass below. This made a spectacular tent. My girlfriends and I would attempt to sleep outside in the homemade tent but would always end back inside after a few hours.

I have lived in a few rural properties and one of the first things I want to do when I move in is install a clothesline, if there isn’t already one of on property. It isn’t a big deal if you live in the country, there aren’t silly regulations prohibiting you from this common sense act. I do care about the environment and that is one good reason to dry your laundry outside; keeping your electric bill down is another good reason. The fresh smell of sheets, when you take them off the drying line, is unlike any other smell. That smell makes the added effort of drying outside so worth it.

Clothing on clothesline
I have also lived in subdivisions where there were strict bylaws prohibiting the act of drying laundry outside. I was always perplexed by this and ignored these ignorant rules.
I heard that Colorado passed a law that stated subdivision bylaws could not deny people the right to put up clotheslines and dry laundry on their property. In researching some sites for this post I came across an article from Mother Earth Living: Apparently, Colorado law protects your right to install retractable clotheslines, not permanent lines.

It would make sense to have federal regulations mandating that it is okay to do the simple act of hanging one’s laundry out to air dry. It seems absurd to me that each state in the U.S. has such different thinking when it comes to this issue, which clearly should be a non-issue.






Colorful Duck Tape

Duck and Duct Tape Fan

I have watched people use conventional gray Duct Tape in the most amazing ways; especially to do quick fix jobs in a pinch. I recently heard that the concept for this type of waterproof tape came from a woman. I don’t know why that surprised me, but it did. I had assumed some guy working in his shop came up with this clever product.

Although Duct Tape was invented by Johnson and Johnson, it was Vesta Stoudt who had the idea in the 1940’s that led to the creation of this unique tape. There is a marvelous story about this on the blog, Kilmer House. This story is an inspiration for anyone who has had a bright idea and has been told they should forget about it and that their idea will never be realized. Vesta never gave up and I am very grateful for that. I love Duct and Duck Tape. I look forward to exploring ways of using the new colorful version of this old standby.

Duck Tape

I was surprised when I started to see whole display racks dedicated to rows and rows of colorful Duck Tape to create crafts. It makes perfect sense to me now. If you are also a fan of the many ways in which you can use Duck Tape, I am sure you have found some sites on Pinterest to explore projects. Many of the projects are geared to kids – what a fun rainy day activity.

Duct Tape Business Card Holder

I was given a Minion Duck Tape business card holder, as a gift. When I pull out my business cards at business functions, the holder tends to induce smiles and is a terrific ice breaker. Now who doesn’t love Minions?

Lilacs from my neighborhood

Lilac Thief

As I walked home tonight I was compelled to snap off lilac branches that had just bloomed. One might think of me as a lilac thief. It is the end of April and I am so ready for spring. I have about ten lilac bushes in my backyard, but still I am compelled to grab some branches on my way home. It is almost like a drug. You will only smell lilacs, with their distinctive, sweet alluring smell, in early spring. My lilacs are just beginning to bloom and I covet every flowering branch.

I am trying to remember when my obsession for lilacs began. There was a lilac bush in my childhood yard. I continuously broke off branches and brought them into the house. My mother was a painter and she would sometimes paint the lilacs that I placed in vases. She painted a version of “Lilacs” by Varaldo J. Cariani and I have that painting in my office. How appropriate that she painted it the year I was born.

Susan's Lilac Painting

There were many years that I was on the move with different jobs and did not embark on sneaking around the neighborhood clipping lilac branches from my neighbors. A group of lilac bushes, to me, is like an outdoor cathedral. When I look at the flowering bushes, I slow down, take time to reflect and drink in the marvelous smell.

At a time when I did not have one single lilac bush of my own, I was consumed by the idea of gathering a colossal amount of lilacs for a special occasion. My stepdaughter was graduating from college. I wanted to find a way to honor her since I considered this to be an event that should be celebrated and acknowledged in my own special way. I found some bright colored cotton table clothes and planned a simple but tasteful menu. Weeks before the graduation ceremony, I had a vision of vases filled with lilacs. As any fan of lilacs knows, the blooms last only a brief time. I could only hope that my neighbors would have lilacs in full bloom during graduation weekend.

As  graduation day neared, I cooked vats of food for the guests and strolled through my neighborhood, inspecting all my neighbor’s lilac bushes to see if any would be ready by the morning of the event. It was looking very promising that we could possibly have fabulous flowers for the tables. On the morning of graduation, I handed my husband a pair of clippers and invited him to help me with my caper. We needed to hit as many lilac bushes as possible, without getting arrested. Yes, he did shake his head and I could see in his eyes that he was thinking, “You have got to be kidding.” Life should be an adventure and this morning certainly was. Somehow we gathered enough flowers to fill about 8 large vases, without anyone noticing. I can’t tell you how lovely the tables looked and the smell was divine.

I wish I could report that the days of stealing lilacs are behind me, but that would not be true. My fixation for lilacs will remain until the day I die. If I am ever arrested, chances are very good that it will be for snipping off the flowering branches of spring lilacs in my neighborhood.

Transformer Box Artwork

Transformer Box Artwork – Art in Common Places

Don’t you love driving by a transformer box that an artist has turned into public art? I have been taking photos of the “transformed” boxes for quite some time. They aren’t always that easy to get to. I catch a glimpse of cool artwork out of the corner of my eye, as I am zipping by in my car. The trick then is to find a parking spot. Some of the best artwork is on very busy streets. This may need to be added to my bucket list…get to those hard to access boxes. That could also be worked into my exercise regimen.

Loveland Transformer BoxesLoveland and Fort Collins, CO have remarkable artwork on their transformer boxes and I am so happy that someone made the decision to add this form of artwork in common places.

Loveland Transformer ArtLoveland is particularly good at spotlighting historical aspects of the city in their transformer box artwork. The above box has a splendid illustration of The Rialto Theater.

Loveland Feed & Grain BuildingThe Loveland Feed and Grain building is an excellent example of showcasing a local landmark that was constructed in 1892.

BeetsSugar Beets – The Great Western Sugar Company opened a sugar factory in Loveland in 1901 and it was called the “mother” sugar factory of the Front Range. This company referred to the sugar beet as “white gold.” The factory closed in 1985, but the building still stands on Madison Avenue in Loveland, CO. Sugar beet factories strengthened local economies during this period of history. It is sad to see the crumbling factories that dot the Front Range. It is too bad that money wasn’t found to stabilize these buildings before they fell into such disrepair. If you are a history buff, you may enjoy reading the Silver Wedge, produced by the City of Fort Collins.

Painted transformer boxes will have to be a continuing series. I will set out again, once the snow clears, to get more shots of these local beauties.




Glass Jar for Good Things Notes

New Year, New Habits, Good Things

The beginning of a new year is a special time for me. It is a time to clean the slate and start anew. That can mean developing better habits or devising more efficient systems of organizations. Perhaps you have had a falling out with a friend or family member. This is a great time to bury the hatchet and get a fresh start. Or maybe you need to sever a toxic business or personal relationship and open yourself up to developing a healthy relationship. If you are feeling drained and depleted by the behavior of another, it may be time for a change.

On the fun side of forming new habits, Pinterest is filled with clever inspirational ideas. I saw this idea about a month ago and I plan on doing it. At the start of a new year, as good things happen in your life write it on a piece of paper and add it to a glass jar. On New Year’s Eve, you read each slip of paper to remind you of all the blessings in your life.

I recently read about the burning of Zozobra (Old Man Gloom) event that has been held in Santa Fe, New Mexico since 1926 as part of the Fiestas de Santa Fe annual celebration. The event was started by local artist, Will Schuster to banish the negative memories of the past year. A flailing and groaning 50-foot muslin and paper puppet, Zozobra, is paraded around and is set on fire. The event attracts thousands who bring their gloomy memories that they can watch go up in flames. It is said as the fire consumes the beast, so go the feelings of gloom and doom from the past year; the flames renewing the hope and optimism of the celebrants. The event is held on Friday of Labor Day weekend.

It seems to me that the Zozobra event should be held on New Year’s Day. I hope I will be able to attend this festival, at some point, but I am not sure I could deal with the large crowds. Do you have a fire pit? How about creating your own character to set afire and start a new tradition; invite your friends over to send off their negative thoughts to make room for a glowing outlook for the new year.