Posts Tagged ‘Things to do and see in Tucson’

Tucson Gem and Mineral Show…Education too is a big part

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show is not only a feast for the eyes, it is also a smorgasbord for attendees with the variety and abundance of classes offered during the two week period.  The theme of this year’s show at the Tucson Convention Center is “Minerals of California” .

Experts will speak about California minerals and these lectures are for the true professional mineralogists and gemologists.   This show begins Thursday, February 10 and runs through February 13.  Doors open at 10 am.  It is at this show that specimens from private collections and museums are exhibited, including minerals from the National Park Services, the Mineralogical Association of Canada, Flandreau Science Center from the University of Arizona in addition to hundreds of worldwide exhibitors.

American Gem Trade Associations hold their annual meetings at the Gem and Mineral Show and there are numerous by invitation only cocktail parties and dinners. This is a place where business is transacted for many of the associations.

The huge show book details classes available, when and where at each of the shows.   Most of the classes carry a fee, but generally that is for the price of the kit being used.

Beginner instruction as well as ultra advanced instruction is available.  The topics are diverse from beginner stringing for beads to “Off loom weaving and circular peyote stitch, intermediate level” for a crystal beads and buttons bracelet.

Technical sessions such such as forensic gemology and how to identify gemstones using gemological tools you can carry in your pocket are well attended.

Classes for gem and lapidary enthusiasts are available throughout the show.  Lampwork Beads and Donuts, Macrame, Flameworking, as well as classes in cabochon pendants, and wire crochet necklaces are available for the novice and expert alike.  All day workshops on beading which cover a myriad of methods are a favorite.

I think it would be grand to take three or four days and a bucket load of money and not be concerned about working or money;  then take a week’s worth of classes starting from the baby beginner class in some aspect of jewelry making, practicing throughout the week until I could create a piece of jewelry which is more than passable.  I would then take another bucket load of money and run unbridled  throughout the shows, pondering the selections, picking and choosing  my colors, facets, and designs for my grand masterpiece which would  culminates the week’s “education”.


Tucson’s Stately Saguaros Welcome You…

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

A stately saguaro in Saguaro National Momument WEst

Standing stately in Saguaro National Momument West and East are thousands of  tall heavy Saguaro cacti with their arms reaching out or towards the sky.   They are often pictured on postcards with captions like, “Welcome to Arizona” and the creamy white flowers which become a fruit are the state flower of Arizona.   The Saguaro blooms in May and June and the fruits become the basis of wine and jellies.

The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum sponsors fruit gathering outings where visitors learn how to harvest the fruit with the long and unweildy Cactus puller.  Fruit is usually harvested in the morning when it is cooler and the intensity of the desert sun is not as hot, beating down upon the workers.  The fruit can be eaten raw and is an excellent source of nutrition as are many of the cacti found in the Sonora Desert.

Birds feast on  the fruit and cactus wren, the state bird of Arizona which often nests in the Saguaro, derive much of their water source from these oblong reddish green “balls”.

The Saguaro is an amazing plant, weighing tons especially after monsoon season.   They are protected and removing them from their “home”  without proper permitting , and especially the desert is a crime.

It takes approximately 75 years for a saguaro to grow it’s first arm.   Plants like that shown are  100 years old or more.    The seeds fall or are carried by birds and bats which are abundant in the desert, and those seeds which are protected by other vegetation such as mesquite and palo verde trees are the most likely to grow and mature.  This is why one often sees a young saguaro near a willowly palo verde or lacy mesquite.

Holes and “scars” are numerous especially in an older saguaro.  These are the homes of numerous birds, bats, owls, and insects; the holes have been carved by these inhabitants to become a place to live raise their young.

It takes at least five years for a saguaro to die and the ribs of dead saguaros are used for building and for trim on furniture.   One might see part of a native home made of saguaro ribs or used as a building material, no part of the cactus is wasted.  The decaying cacti are a source of food and lodging for many beetles and insects which roam the desert.  Examination of  a decaying saguaro structure reveals an abundance of life which can only be seen close up.

The unique beauty of Saguaro National Monument is attributed in part to the regal Saguaros which dot the landscape.


Giving Back to the Community…CRS and Hearth

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

The 23th annual Founder’s Day Luncheon, celebrated by the Arizona Certified Residential Specialists (CRS) and the Hearth Foundation, is a commemorative event open to the community at large.

Founder’s Day celebrates the founding of The Hearth Foundation by members of CRS and the Tucson Board of Realtors®.  Articles of incorporation were filed with the State of Arizona November 12, 1987 with the mission of establishing housing for homeless women 18 years of age or older with children 12 years or younger.

Since that time, Hearth has broadened its scope to include homeless women caring for children and has embraced the community at large, not just Realtors®.  Hearth supplies transitional housing as well as emergency short term housing for homeless women with children and derives its funds from fundraisers sponsored by the organization as well as donations from the public and other civic organizations.  Programs are provided by Our Family Services and New Beginnings.

CRS is an organization of Realtors®  under the auspices of the National Association of Realtors®.  Only four per cent of Realtors® hold their CRS designation, earned from both extensive continuing education as well as production, yet CRS agents account for 25% of the transactions nationwide.  CRS agents are known for their skills and knowledge which serves clients well.

In the past, the Arizona Chapter of CRS has been named national Chapter with the Heart for its support of Hearth.

Reservations for the luncheon, which begins promptly at 11:30 am, can be made at the link below.  The cost is $25 per plate.  Westward Look, a renowned Tucson resort off of Ina Road just east of Oracle, is the venue and valet parking is available.  Menu choices are available at the registration site and include:  Herb-Roasted Breast of Chicken with Prickly Pear Glaze, Garlic Mashed Potatoes and the Chef’s selection of Fresh Seasonal Sauteed Vegegtables or a Vegetarian Ravoli.    The luncheon will end promptly by 1:15 pm so attendees can get to the TAR Summit by 2 pm.  Make your reservation at:

Click here to register

Tucson…Starry Starry Night…Kitt Peak Observatory

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

There is magic in the air in Tucson, the air is crisp and clean, oh yes, we have measures of particulate matter, but not as much as Phoenix,  which bode well for air quality.

We are home to several observatories which need clean air in order to see the galaxies millions of miles in the distance.  Clear skies are a requisite to building an observatory.    And  Kitt Peak, located about an hour west of Tucson, is preeminent amongst observatories, hosting the observatories and telescopes of several nationally recognized colleges as well as NOAO.

“Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO), part of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), supports the most diverse collection of astronomical observatories on Earth for nighttime optical and infrared astronomy and daytime study of the Sun. Sharing the mountaintop site with the National Solar Observatory, KPNO, founded in 1958, operates three major nighttime telescopes and hosts the facilities of consortia which operate 19 optical telescopes and two radio telescopes. (See the Tenant Observatories list.) Kitt Peak is located 56 miles southwest of Tucson, AZ, in the Schuk Toak District on the Tohono O’odham Nation and has a Visitor Center open daily to the public”

I had an “amateur” astronomy client once tell me, he only wanted to purchase land west of I-10 and I-19 because Tucson had prevailing westerly winds.  The particulate matter from the cars traveling the highways blew eastward and that he could see the heavens better from the west side of town because there is less highway pollution.

Kitt Peak is located west of Tucson on Route 86, also known as Ajo Highway, which is the road to Why, a much traveled road leading eventually to Rocky Point.    Farms and fields dot the landscape  and when I was there last, I thought “this looks like Connecticut”.  A white farmhouse was set back from the road and the fields with raffia like pumpkin vines held deep orange pumpkins, gone unpicked by pumpkin hunters.

A country store, a gas station, and a few  buildings mark Three Points, otherwise known as Robles Junction.  This is where the road to Sasabe, Highway 286, forks and wends its way to Sonora, Mexico.  The Baboquiari and Quinlan Mountains loom in the distance and the telescopes of Kitt Peak beckon.  We enter Tohono O’Odham land where the site of Kitt Peak is considered a sacred mountain.

The winding uphill road to Kitt Peak offers beautiful views of the surrounding areas, Tucson to the northeast, the Tumacacori Mountains and the San Luis Mountains around Arivaca to the south southeast, the Altar Valley and Mexico to the south, and the Santa Rosa Valley to the northwest.

Suddenly the telescopes appear, looming big, larger than life, and we have completed the ascent.  It is chilly.  We are more than a mile above sea level at 6875 feet.  People attending the evening sessions are warned to bring a warm jacket, mittens or gloves and to wear a hat.  We are ready to embark upon an out of this world experience and learn about the galaxies, some of which is difficult to fathom.  The Kitt Peak program is an education and brought to you by some of the most knowledgable astronomers in the nation, a “not to be missed” experience!


Tucson International Airport, A Gem of an Airport!

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Tucson is a warm weather destination for thousands of people who want to exchange snow, sleet, ice, and freezing weather for warmer temperatures, sunshine, and the exercise of a round of golf rather than shoveling snow.

With an efficient international airport, Tucson is easy to reach.  Many airlines have direct flights from their hubs, and the airport is within 20 minutes of Tucson proper.   There are also daily flights to points in Mexico.

The Tucson International Airport website (listed below) features daily deals for airlines, a terminal map, information about ground parking, transportation options, a list of arrivals and a list of departures with their “on time” status, as well as information about the artwork which greets visitors as they wander through the airport.

Tucson International is an easy airport to navigate and when walking out the main doors, the warmth of Tucson greets visitors framed by the majestic mountains which surround the city.

It’s easy to get to either I-10 which goes to the center of town, or to I-19 which one takes to get to Sahuarita and Green Valley.

There are plenty of rental car places, both on site at the airport, or off site.  Like most airports, those off site may charge a bit less.  But if you want the best deal, rent a car from a place in the city so you don’t have to pay the airport surcharge which most cities charge…and use the coupon which you get either on line or from The Entertainment Book!

People often think flying into Phoenix is cheaper, but I’ve tried that when flying to the east coast. I took the shuttle to Phoenix which is now $37 one way if booked a day in advance with a 25% discount for the second or third passenger, but still that adds $74 to the price of a ticket for one person round trip.  The ride was more than two hours, as opposed to 20 minutes to the Tucson Airport, and I groggily boarded the shuttle at 4:30 am for a 8:30 am flight.

Checking prices this morning for Southwest;  from Phoenix to Chicago is $109 on a “Wanna Get Away” airfare, and only $10 more from Tucson, at $119.  The “Anytime” flight is $403 from Phoenix and $437 from Tucson; and the “Business Select” is $423 from Phoenix, one way, and $457 from Tucson, still less than a one way shuttle price.

Sky Harbor Airport parking is $7.00 a day if you leave your car there.  Tucson International parking is $4.00 a day if one parks at Park’N Go, and the shuttle buses come every five to seven minutes.  Drivers are polite and always willing to help with luggage.

It is a given there are more direct flights from point to point at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor, but it is worth considering that flying into Tucson may be worth a half hour layover in Denver or Dallas.

If it is a two hour drive to Sky Harbor one way and you don’t want to bog down in Phoenix traffic, then think about flying into Tucson International.  You’ll begin your vacation much more relaxed!


Tucson International Airport

Vacation in Tucson and Save Money Too!

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Tired of the cold and snow, considering a get away to the beautiful Tucson area where you don’t have to wear galoshes to get to the car to keep your feet warm and dry, or bundle up with multiple layers including a bulky down jacket so as not to shiver or become a victim of  bone chilling cold?  There are several ways to save money on your excursion to the beautiful Tucson for which you can take advantage.

Colorful La Placita Village, home to the Tucson Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, should be your first stop.  TCVB has a wealth of information about the area, and the people attending visitors have a wealth of information about the area.

Purchase a PASSPORT for $15 which contains several two for one coupons as well as discounts to other places.  I’ve included a link about the Passport below.  Locals too, are encouraged to purchase a passport, and become a tourist in your own town!   You will reap your $15 over and over!

The Entertainment Book, normally $35. can now be purchased online for $20.11.  The 1 inch thick discount book contains discounts from airline tickets, car rentals, to dry cleaning, retail stores, and of course motel, hotel coupons plus a plethora of discounts to nice restaurants as well as fast food places.

Discounts to entertainment and sports events are in abundance, and Tucson has some little theaters which present well constructed and entertaining plays.  Area culture is represented; the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, Tucson Museum of Art, Amerind Foundation Museum, the Jewish History Museum, and the Fox Theater–all have discounts in the book.  And of course, Golf — one complimentary green fee to several courses with payment for three players.

Especially if you are traveling with family, The Entertainment Book is a great deal.  Order your book online and have it delivered to your home so you can peruse the coupons and get an idea as to what you want to use., which comes to your e mail or smart phone, provides daily deals, which you can elect to purchase on the spot if the offer suits your needs.  Likewise for Tucson provides one coupon per day which you may elect to purchase.

In Tucson, there is plenty to see and do without spending a fortune.  Hiking in the four mountain ranges which surround the city is a favorite pastime, wandering around La Encantada, which also offers another coupon book is good for the “shoppers” in the crowd, a leisurely afternoon at Reid Park at the zoo,  Tohono Chul, or the Botanical Gardens, or my very favorite, The Sonora Desert Museum where you can spend almost an entire day, are all not expensive and great adventures.    (Discounts to all these places are in The Tucson Passport!)

So pack up your shorts and tank tops and as Bob Barker said, “Come On Down!”


Fiesta de Fuego…on Tonight!

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

Toe tapping and the unbridled desire to dance and undulate to the rhythms of  the blues band, Cross Cut Saw is on the menu tonight served up with Domingo DeGrazia, a Spanish guitarist whose fingers fly across the strings. The Tucson Omni National is the scene of Fiesta de Fuego where hot salsa and chips, tequila tasting, a silent auction with gifts to please everyone, a cash bar, and Latin music reverberates with the blues. 

There are those of us who will agitate to dance, and those of us who appreciate the music and will sit and enjoy, and there are those of us who will work the pulsation and enjoy every second of the musical beat to stamp our own interpretation  of the music into the dance floor.  And of course there will be those of us who are so irritated that our partners will not dance that we thank God that women can dance with women without judgment!  Fiesta goers are guaranteed a rollicking time having fun supporting The Hearth Foundation, which provides housing for homeless women with children, building lives “one brick at a time”.

Tucson Omni is the place, $10.00 per person is the cover charge, make reservations at the link below. 

Omni Tucson National Resort, set in northwest Tucson, with the backdrop of the beautifully craggy Catalina Mountain which reflect the colors of the sunset, is home to an award winning golf course which will be the site Sunday of the Golf Tournament.  

Temperatures will be in the 70’s during the morning and rise to the low 90’s in the late afternoon, but a comfortable breeze will sweep across the manicured course throughout the day.  The humidity will be 29% at check in time Sunday at 11 am and the day promises to be glorious  fall Tucson day.  Come be a spectator and cheer for your favorite golfer.

The day culminates with a Golfers Banquet at the Omni restaurant.  Golf prizes will be awarded to the day’s top conqueror of the links.  And the results of the raffle will also be announced.

Raffle tickets are available on line:  Prices are $10 each or three for $20.00  –

Prizes include:  7 days/6 nights in a 2 BR/2BA  suite at Napa Valley, CA; 

Romantic Playa Grande Resort, Cabo San Lucas Mexico, 7 days/6 night;

and a Winter Wonderland Get A Way in Santa Fe New Mexico, 7 Nights, 6 nights, November through March only.

Restrictions do apply and all get a ways must be booked in advance. Winners must provide their own transportation.

Come and watch, enjoy Tucson’s fall season at a beautiful resort.  Support The Hearth, an organization supported by the Tucson Realtor® community and the community at large.  The Hearth is a non profit organization 501(c)3 organization.

 For more information or to book reservations for Fiesta De Fuego, go to this website:



Weekend Wanderings…Look to the Skies—Kitt Peak

Saturday, September 13th, 2008

   The clear air of Tucson, the dark night skies, and lack of light pollution are contributing factors for placing Kitt Peak Observatory on the Tohono O’Odham Nation, just 52 miles southwest of Tucson.      

       Traveling from Tucson center westerly along Ajo Highway- Route 86- (which is also the road one takes to Pueto Penasco aka Rocky Point in Mexico), one leaves behind the newer pointy Tucson Mountains.  The road is flat and fairly straight.  One passes Ryan Airfield, an adjunct facility of the Tucson International Airport and home to several private planes; small communities of homes and mobile homes; and uninteresting level land where one can see occassional bores from the rain runoff during the monsoon season.   Dust devils rise from this sandy land like minature tornados whirling in the wind.

    Onward to Three Points, also known as Robles Junction, past Diamond Bell Ranch which some day will be developed and emerge as a  thriving community much like communities now within the borders of Tucson which fifteen years ago, people believed were “in the boonies”.   The Comobari Mountains loom in the foreground and as we travel, we can see some of the 25 telescopes atop Kitt Peak in the Quinlan Mountains.   We pass a huge pumpkin field, and a few farms, and more homes which seem to sit in the middle of noplace.

     Not too far after entering the Tohono O’Odham Nation is a turnoff to the south and we begin our winding ascent to Kitt Peak.  Up, up, up we travel until the telescopes are in full view.  The vegetation changes.   We have magnificient views of all that lies below us.   We are at an elevation of 6,875 feet above sea level, not quite as high as the Catalina Mountains (9,157 feet above sea level)  which also house telescopes.

       Kitt Peak is home to 25 optical telescopes including two radio telescopes,  and is part of the  National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO).   By day there is study of the sun at the Solar Observatory. 

      The September cooler temperatures in Tucson provide an excellent time to visit Kitt Peak either during the daylight guided tours, or the Night Sky tours at night.   The temperature differential on top of Kitt Peak may be uncomfortable if you go in January or February, especially to the night presentation.  Bring a sweater and maybe a hat to keep the warmth within your body, or a heavy jacket if you are going at night during the winter months.  The temperature differential can be 20 degrees or more.

     The personnel at Kitt Peak are eager to answer questions and the tours are thorough and interesting in explanation. Both novice and professionals alike will have something to take away from one of these tours.  And if you hail from an area which has severe light pollution, you will marvel at the numbers of stars in the sky.  Kitt Peak is a very definite stop for people visiting Tucson … and those in Tucson who have never visited.

     Additional information is provided in the Resources including a virtual tour of Kitt Peak.  Enjoy!


Kitt Peak:   


Visitors Center:

Virtual Tour:

Solar Observatory:    NASA Link:



A Gem for All … Pima Community College

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

    Tucson is home to the University of Arizona campus and also home to the twenty five educational centers for Pima Community College.  Registration is currently taking place both on the campuses and on line at  .  The course catalogue can be accessed also from this website.

     The 16 week traditional fall semester begins August 27 and ends December 21.  Pima also has two 8 week sessions which run from August 27 through October 22, and then October 23 through December 21. 

   Additionally there are classes which can be taken on line, weekend accelerated classes which meet Fridays, Saturdays and/or Sundays and cover the entire course content in a few successive weekends, and then there are regular weekend classes which span the course of the regular semester.   Self paced independent classes are also available.

    Pima truly is a community college.  I have taken several classes there and I am a “senior citizen”.    Classes can be taken for credit or audited.  Classes are generally small and it is energizing to be among many college aged students.  

    I am an afficiando of the FSS 185 class, technically  called “Beginning Weight Training and Cardiovascular Fitness”.  The class is classified for “the beginner”.   I have been a beginner about six times.   The gym on the West Campus is full of shiny equipment, weights, treadmills and elipticals and the staff is extremely knowledgable and always willing to help.   In truth, their credential are very impressive!

   The West Campus has a Senior Fitness and Conditioning class which meets twice a week from 7 am to 7:50 am for “mature individuals”.  But or anyone wanting yoga classes, spinning classes, dance classes, aikido, tae kwon do, or t’ai-chi chuan classes, Pima has it!   You can learn to play tennis or golf, or perform water aerobics.  There are Plus-Sized exercise classes, aerobics, stretching and toning classes and classes in strategies for weight management.   Why belong to a gym when you can go to Pima?

   I am most familiar with the West Campus, but many of these classes are given at other campuses.   Want to learn Spanish or another language?  Pima offers a multitude of courses.  The course catalogue is more than 150 pages and offers everything from Accounting to Non Fiction Writing. 

    Are you thinking about changing careers and want to learn a new skill?  There are classes in Aviation Technology, health services, Veterinary Technology, as well as Radiologic Technology and Nursing to name a few. 

   I know people who have had very successful careers but had a yen to learn a new subject.   They begin their new quest with classes at Pima.  Retired people keep their minds vibrant;  I had a friend who always wanted to be an artist who took classes at Pima and subsequently earned a degree at the age of 70 at the U of A. 

     Pima is perfect for the student who wants a two year degree, a student who will transfer to a four year institution or the person like myself who wants to take classes for personal enjoyment and leisure.  Check it out!  Pima College offers so much for so very little.

Weekend Wanderings…The Farmers’ Market

Saturday, August 9th, 2008

St. Philip’s Plaza on Sunday Mornings…

   Sunday mornings before 9 am, I make my rounds at the Farmers’ Market at St. Philip’s Plaza.  Teaming with people and vendors, the Farmers’ Market is a must do.  (Saint Philip’s Plaza is on the southeast corner of River and Campbell and home to boutique shops, Vivace, a superb restaurant, and Acacia, another very good local restaurant.  It is also the site of the Windmill Inn. )

   I try and remember to bring my Trader Joe’s bags, but I’m not always successful.  Tom the tomato man, has a big smile and hello, and often a different assortment of vegetables. Now during Wilcox peach season, Tom has sweet succulent peaches which are oh so sabroson.  His fresh picked  broccoli is sweet and crunchy and makes store bought broccoli pale by comparison!   I’m getting sweet peppers to make east coast pepper and sausage grinders.   That dish certainly is not indigenous to Tucson!

     The sausage comes from Brian who has the best chicken, pork, lamb, and sausage.  I fry up the Italian sausage and there is hardly a trace of fat.   People line up at 6:30 to get his fresh eggs, but I’m not that much of an early bird. Brian punches the numbers into his huge calculator and scribbles the numbers on any spare piece of paper.  Once home, I pound out the chicken breasts for chicken and mushrooms or cacciatore. The breasts  are fat and meaty and a half pound easily feeds two or three hungry people. 

      Soup is always delicious regardless of season.  Double Check Ranch has big soup bones with lots of beef  which I can simmer for hours on the stove and get the best flavor.  I throw in some of Tom’s tomatoes and squash, an onion or two, and maybe some fresh green beans or some chard or okra from the asian growers.  What a meal!

     But I think my favorite place to stop is John’s who owns Fiesta Growers.  Tucson gardners need Tucson plants and John is the man!  The fragrance of the lavender with their purple blooms nodding in the breeze, or the pungent hearty smell of the dark green basil, or any of the many herbs he nurtures are all nature’s perfume.

    You can wander the Farmer’s Market and purchase pastries and coffee or ethnic food even if you don’t want to grocery shop. Or you can just sit at a table in the el fresco dining area of Vivace’s which is closed on Sundays, and just enjoy yourself people watching.

For a list of Farmers’ Markets in Arizona and Tucson :