Arizona Week #3 Highlights: Feb 28 – March 6


  •  Another Hike! Well, yes. Same park (South Mountain, Phoenix), different trails. Much like the one before, it was quite a challenge with sections of loose rock to maneuver, deep ruts in the trail, and a slightly higher elevation. Best advice: use suntan protection, bring lots and lots of water, wear a HAT! The scenery was great as always, but the best part was a stop at Dobbins Lookout (top of Summit Road). This rustic look out tower has amazing views in ALL directions. There was even a small fireplace if you wanted to get warm or cook out. The tower was built in 1938 by the Civilian Conservation Corps and named after Jim Dobbins who convinced the city of Phoenix to purchase and preserve the area as a park thereby keeping the mining industry at bay (great photo of Ray here on Flickr).
    The weather was absolutely perfect with some cool breezes which were much appreciated by everyone. Fellow travelers were all seniors, many ex-military (boy can they hike), retired teachers, retired corporates, all kinds but all helpful and friendly.
    And as a bonus, since I received a request for a photo of my shoes that have proudly kept me sure-footed on these trails, here it is. By the way, does anyone know what you’re supposed to do with the long lace when you pull these tight? I’ve never had this type before. And, yes, these are my handknit socks. I did NOT wear them hiking, just for the photo op.  
  • Note: a frustrating event occurred during our bike ride Wednesday. I lost my phone. Haven’t ever lost, lost it before. But there it is. I remember putting it in my pocket on the way out to the bike with the idea that I would put it in my pack. The poor thing never made it there. And, yes, we’ve looked everywhere in the trailer, on the road, at the restaurant where we ate breakfast, at our friends, we even called it – several times. Argh…. I did have a black cow later at the Ice Cream Social to down my sorrows in. yum!
  • Second hike this week was a bit different; we went on the Tortilla Trail in the Tonto National Forrest. Advertised as an old Jeep road, I have to tell you the ruts were uneven and deeper than my knee is in places. That is to say, it’s been many years since a Jeep drove up this trail I can tell you. The trail is an up and back trail and leads to an abandoned homestead. When they originally formed much of our country’s park system, they grandfathered in many of the existing homesteads. Once the owner and family had passed on, the land reverts back to the park. I don’t know how long this one had been abandoned, but access by horse (or in today’s world, maybe a 4 wheeler but probably not on the road) would have been the only connection to the outer world. There were some remnants of the buildings but it must have been beautiful and awesome to live here. All you can see in any direction were mountains and valley.
  • The Indian Fair and Market at the Heard Museum was a great way to wrap up the week. Unfortunately our companions (Bill and Joan) had to leave the park early due to a family emergency. Very sad and we will miss them, they certainly kept us up and going for the last 3 weeks. (Thank You B & J).
    This fair was an awesome display of arts and crafts by Native American Indians. The quality was amazing. I saw wonderful woven cloth, pottery, jewelry, baskets, and sculptures. It wasn’t limited to traditional native art either, there was a lot of unique contemporary work as well. If you can make it to the fair don’t forget your wallet. Although there were plenty of items such as earrings for around $30 to $40, there were also baskets at $3000 and huge hand painted pots around $11,000. To break up our visit, we walked the tents first getting a feeling for the variety and quality, we then went inside for a tour of the museum (also to get some perspective on the work we had been seeing as well as the complexity of the tribes in the area). After the tour we bought some lunch, sat and listened to some performers (guitar, singing, dancing), then took a final run around the tents and headed home. Oh, and this little guy came with us (www.turtleclanart.com), “The turtle is seen as strength and solidarity – old and wise and well respected.” Other facts: the turtle is one of 3 in the Oneida Nation, there are 13 squares on the turtle’s back – one for each of the 13 full moons in a year, the turtle offered his shell as a foundation in the creation story.
Holidays, Retirement, Travel, Uncategorized

Arizona Week #2 Highlights – February 21 – 27

  • We started the week hiking on the National/Mormon Loop Trail at South Mountain (literally on the South edge of Phoenix).  Our leader, Jim, is a big fan of the guide: Hiking Phoenix: favorite day hikes, originally No Jive pocket guide by Cosmic Ray. Not knowing that he liked this guide I had picked up a copy at REI the day before while shopping for shoes (serendipity). I also bought some very sexy-techno-comfy-safe hiking shoes: Salomon gortex XA Comp 5 in a yuppy red called, Rubis. I can’t tell you how much I love these shoes. They’re the first ones I’ve had in a long time that really fit well all around my foot AND give me room to wiggle my toes. Plus, I definitely felt sure-footed on the trail which was a blessing since the trail was most assuredly challenging.  
    Of note: first time hiking 5 miles in a desert environment – sun protection and water were my best friends, first time at higher elevations (1300 ft to 2100)  – I especially felt it when we were making a rugged climb, first time in Arizona – it’s really strange how you can see flat land for miles and then a mountain pops up out of nowhere.   
    Oh, and of course, Jim added a little side trip to include Thin Man’s Pass and the Hidden Valley. I had to decide if I wanted to be pulled through a crevice by both feet or face a daunting, rocky climb around. I chose the feet-pull-through option.
  • On Tuesday, we visited Taliesin West. I grew up admiring Frank Lloyd Wright and had visited many of the homes he designed in and around Chicago including Taliesin North (in Wisconsin). I was not disappointed. The attention to detail, sense of cohesion in design and use, and ability to amaze and wow the spectator were more than evident. I knew that FLW was centrally influenced by nature. However, I was not aware that ancient hieroglyphic designs painted on rocks around Taliesin were also a source of inspiration.See additional photos in my Flickr account for the hieroglyphics.
  • Later in the week there was a quilt show at the RV resort next to us, Tower Point (recently purchased by Cal-Am who owns the one we are in). We were very impressed. They had a lot of variety: some beautiful jackets they had made in a class together (I was jealous and lusted after several of them). 
  • Saturday some friends from Tucson drove up for a visit and we all piled into our cars and headed for the Musical Instrument Museum at the northern tip of Phoenix. Now you would think that such a museum would put together some nice collections and have some music playing and some info on the genre. Well, yes, and then some, and then some more! This place was amazing! When you enter, after paying a healthy-well-worth-it fee (senior discount, of course), they give you a device with earphones. As you walk around the displays, it senses where you are and where the nearest source is. Once it finds the source, it plays the sound bites associated with the source video, very cool. So, when at a regional African display, you see the music played on a screen and at the same time hear the music played, as well as see some examples of the instruments used.
    And, by the way, they don’t have just one African display, they have lots, not to mention every continent. When you leave the museum, if you’ve had time to see it all, you know you’ve gotten the full treatment from cultures primarily interested in rhythm, or dance, or melodies, to a full symphonic orchestra. But I do have to say that my favorite was seeing some of the instruments my daughter, Ellie has collected over the years actually used appropriately, including a huge gourd encompassed with beads woven together, hmmm – always wondered about that one.
    And, finally, as we were getting ready to head back to the park, I could hear some acoustic music in the hall. So, of course, I peeked. Another great treat, Tim Eriksen was giving an impromptu concert. I can’t repeat everything he relayed, but suffice it to say, he grew up with music and extensively explored music in rural and urban environments. Tim used indigenous instruments to convey a sense of different styles including New England murder ballads, “shape-note” gospel, Southern Appalachian, and Irish songs.
  • To wrap up this busy, busy week, we attended “Canada Day”. So you understand, I have to tell you that there is a very large contingent of Canadians in our park. From Saskatchewan to British Colombia, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and even the territories. There are so many, that the park flies a Canadian flag next to the flag of the good ol’ USA. The Canadians are a fun loving group, they are always smiling, they’re active in dancing, hiking, biking, music, organizing, everything. So, to celebrate how happy they are, they have a celebration. Yes, there was lots of food and a band and dancing, but what made it different was the opening ceremony. They paraded their flags in order as they entered the confederation. As they paraded through the hall the master of ceremony gave a little history on each one while the bag pipes played (amazing ability). And to top if off, we even have two retired Canadian Mounties who put on their full dress uniform for the occasion. WOW!
Retirement, Travel, Uncategorized

First Week Highlights: Feb 14 – 20

Well it took the whole first week to figure out where the multiple calendars of activities/ events were, how to get them, what to do with them, where everything happens, and who’s in charge.

Favorite side trips organized by us: a visit to Tortilla Flats, a Gold Mine, Boyce Thompson Arboretum. Tortilla Flats is a privately owned oddity. It started as a stage stop in 1904. Today besides a ‘museum;, their restaurant serves yummy burgers and HOT chili while serenaded by some very accomplished country musicians. The Gold Mine is also a remnant of the old west complete with saloon, multiple little shops, a mine and the accompanying rail, and even a bordello. The Arboretum was really close, basically straight east through the Tonto National Forrest. It was amazing! They have a fantastic variety of indigenous plants. The initial motivation for the park was to provide a lab to research desert plants and their environment. The result is a great place to spend an hour or a day or two exploring the trails. I highly recommend adding this to your bucket list if you’re near Phoenix.

Resort activities: bicycle ride, swimming pool, coffee and donuts each week, pancake breakfast, the quilting room, Tai Chi, music on the patio for happy hour and an ice cream social, and Texas Hold’em.

What we didn’t do is a much longer list. Obviously, if you visit or live in a senior RV active resort, you need to focus on a couple of sports or classes for the first year, then look to expand in the future. Everyone I talk to says the first year or two is to absorb and learn the ropes. From then on, it’s as much fun as you can manage. We also have found that some RV resorts have better facilities in certain activities. For instance, one might have woodworkers, another jewelry including casting silver and lapidary, another might have gardening, stained glass, or sponsored trips. The trick is to talk with other seniors and explore other parks while you’re there.

Knitting, Uncategorized

Baby hats here, baby hats there, baby hats everywhere


Now that you’ve seen all the socks I’ve been busy with this past year, you probably are wondering what I do with my leftover sock yarn. Well, I use it for newborn baby hats. 

This is my favorite pattern. You can show off some crazy yarns plus have fun with the top knot. The best part for the baby is that there are no seams or attached pieces to pull off with miniature hands.

The photo on the right shows what the I-cord looks like before shaping the top knot. You can make a sort I-cord to form a single loop, or go crazy with three loops, or maybe even a tassle.

The photo below shows what it looks like using two different yarn colors. I do recommend staying with like type yarns but playing with color, a lot.

These nifty hats have gone to Pittsburgh, PA; Duluth, MN; Minneapolis, MN; Gig Harbor, WA; Apex, NC.



Tracy family socks 2010

Originally uploaded by Knitting In The Woods

Each year I knit socks for everyone in the family. This is sometimes quite a challenge since there are not many patterns for children’s socks. This year I did Mom and daughter’s socks using the same yarn. I used Hand Dyed Sock Yarn, ‘Denali’ in Teal. For Papa, I used Plymouth ‘Happy Feet DK’ in Camo. And for the young man who is growing like a weed and not likely to stop for some time now, I used Plymouth “Encore Sock’, DK weight color 7789. Papa and son’s pattern came from Knitting Socks by Ann Budd. There are great hints and tips in this book plus how to work with different weight yarns and how they affect the resulting size. I’ve used it for 3 years now. It is my Go To sock knitting book.
As a side note, the Denali yarn was beautiful to knit up, Happy Feet is a very sturdy yarn (excellent choice for men), and Encore Sock knit up soft and supple and quick.


Rehab a Doll House

The latest project that falls within the purview of down-sizing is finding new life for my daughters’ Fisher Price Play Family House. When we dug it out of the toy box, it was clear it had seen better days. On the other hand, it was also clear that it had been well loved.

After a discussion with my daughter who was looking into doll house options for her 3 year old, we decided that the play family house was a good choice. However, it was in need of a serious rehab effort. If you are not familiar with this doll house, the body of the house is yellow plastic with masonite floors. The siding and interior walls are papered with homey scenes. Most of these houses have lost a good deal of the wallpaper as was the case with ours. So new ‘siding’ was in order. I decided to recover the exterior and add detail with stickers:

1. I went on a search to find Contact paper to cover the exterior. I was concerned that it would be hard to find since it had been years since I last bought some. I started at our local home builder stores without success. Then on a whim, I went to Target where I happily located a display with several designs. There I located a pattern that looked like granite which would be a good background for decorating.
2. Next I had to go sticker shopping. This is not as easy as it used to be. 15 or 20 years ago it was all the rage to collect any number of stickers and put them in albums. I know because my youngest daughter did just that. I haven’t seen the same kind of mania recently but kids are frequently incorporating stickers into their art designs. Fortunately I found some cute stickers that would add some pizzazz: ivy groupings to add landscaping, sparkly flowers to nestle in the ivy, and iridescent butterflies to fly around the flowers.
3. The next step was the hardest, getting off the partially torn wallpaper. I tried olive oil (apply and let sit over night), goop off, sand paper, and scraping. None were really fantastic, but olive oil was one of the best especially a week later after it had sat a while (so be patient). My biggest recommendation is to iteratively use olive oil, then scrape, then repeat. Then move to sand paper and back to olive oil and scraping. Finish with Dawn or other good grease fighting soap and scrape off the last bit of goo. Although wallpaper remover might do the trick, I do not recommend it unless you plan to remove all the wallpaper otherwise you could loose more coverings that you want.
4. After the house was completely dry, I glued down all loose wallpaper that was still in good condition.
5. Then working with a matt knife or small box cutter and a wide ruler (such as those used in quilting so you can be sure you’re cutting perpendicular edges), starting from the bottom or ground and working up, I measured and cut out the exterior sides. Contact paper is great for this because there’s a grid on the reverse side making easy work of measuring and straight cutting. Then holding the paper up to the house, I used my fingers to crease the paper under the eaves at each end. Using this crease-line as a guide made cutting around the roof line easy work. Next I measured and marked the dormers and used the same crease technique for the eaves. Finally, I temporarily taped the Contact paper to the sides then turned the play house over and traced the outline of windows and doorways. I cut the windows a little wider than the template so they wouldn’t get rubbed on the edges. Finally, I pulled the backing away from the bottom 2 inches, placed them on the house, and worked my way up to the roof.
6. Decorating was the next step, I added ivy stickers to the bottom corners and a longer ivy sticker to the middle under the roof. I decided to let my granddaughter, Eleanor, have fun with the butterfly and flower stickers and put them where she wanted.

All in all, this project was a phenomenal success. Lessons Learned: it would look better with all exterior walls the same, but time was essential so it would be ready by Christmas.
I do have to report, that she loved it! The first thing she did was to add some butterflies, then arrange the furniture and people. Now all we have to do is set up rules for who gets to play with it (she or her brother) when and how.