Category Archives: Out and About

#Opt Outside


For Black Friday, rather than hustle and bustle through the stores, we made a few online purchases in the morning and then got outside.  We did our longest loop hike to date and got to see a lot more of the mountain in our backyard.

South Mountain is a city park, the largest in the nation in fact.  I was proud we made it through Fat Man’s Pass on the day after gorging ourselves at Thanksgiving.

One of the things we love most about Arizona is the opportunity to be outdoors.  Although we received a tent and two sleeping bags as wedding gifts, the tent still had its packaging intact when we arrived in the Valley of the Sun.  It’s been three years now (holy cow, is time moving fast!) and we’ve taken that tent all over the state and try to get outside and hike every weekend that it is less than 100 degrees out (that rules out a few months in the summer …) so I thought I might round up a few items that we use all the time and would recommend to anyone looking to get outdoors some more themselves.

REI Daypacks (similar here)

When we first moved to Phoenix, land of glorious weather and amazing hiking trails, we high-tailed it to REI to buy CamelBaks or some other sort of water bladder carrying system.  Luckily for us, a very smart REI employee advised us against the bladders.  Since we’re not running an endurance race or biking, there’s really no need for the hands-free water delivery systems, not to mention all the care, cleaning and maintenance those require so they don’t get moldy or musty.  I know they wouldn’t have lasted long with us.  Instead he steered us towards an affordable daypack (the cost for two was less than buying one CamelBak) and we have been so happy with our decision.  We get a ton of use out of our packs, whether for hiking or carrying around souvenirs at Desert Trip or packing clothes for an overnight trip.  Our packs have an inside tall pocket/divider so we set our water bottles in there during hiking and they nestle in place and don’t jostle around too much.  Speaking of water bottles …

Nalgene Water Bottles


At first I thought these were kind of bulky and the lid can be hard to get open when you’re driving but the reality these are great for your daypack where you don’t want water dripping down your back.  We tend to keep these in the fridge ready to go all the time and I find myself even just grabbing it in the evening to hydrate as we sit on the couch.

When it is really hot, we add in these Sugar Free Electrolyte Tablets by Camelbak.  It helps stave off a little bit of heat exhaustion or heat stroke by replenishing you with electrolytes while out on the trail.  They mostly taste like some kind of sport drink (Gatorade or the like) but have no sugar and can go into your reusable (eco-friendly) bottles.

Coleman Propane 2 Burner Stove

This is great for quick breakfasts at camp when you don’t want to start up a fire but would rather get some coffee and some food in quick and then head out for your day’s adventure.  We also used the heck out of it at Desert Trip – JT was our camp chef, working from the back of the truck.

Coleman Stackers Coolers

We have two of these, both in blue.  Cheesy picture from the website aside, they’ve been great for JT and I because they are much more streamlined than some of the larger, bulkier coolers.  The lids come totally off for cleaning (each unit is two pieces, there’s no hinge or latch) and they stack together really compactly.  The great thing is this allows you to head out with two (or more) full coolers and consolidate down into one as you eat through the food.  That means you’ll need less ice.  Having multiple cooler compartments means you can also keep one for just beverages and the other for food.  If we’re only going camping for one night, sometimes we only take one of the coolers. All around this has been a great space saver and I tell everyone I can about these things.

Sofa Camping Chair (looks like our original is discontinued but similar here)


My sister gifted this to us for Christmas last year and it has been a hit around the campfire.  Now we don’t have to pack individual chairs and it’s much easier to lounge (the seat is lower) and snuggle up to keep warm once the sun goes down.  It also has two attached bottle openers in case of an alcohol emergency …


We don’t use these as much for hiking unless we are going for a night hike but they come in very handy while camping.  We also use them on the dog sometimes as a collar with the light shining down so we can see what he’s up to on night walks.  Shenanigan isn’t quite “desert savvy” and we’ve had some close calls with cacti.  There’s also a Sonoran frog that can be poisonous to dogs so we want to be sure he’s not grabbing anything under the bushes.


So here’s to happy outdoorsing!  If you have any gear you really like and would recommend, we’re still super new to this whole thing and would love to hear your thoughts.  Cheers – CT




The Wright Stuff

Okay, sorry.  Probably everyone has used that blog title when referring to a Frank Lloyd Wright house.


Last Tuesday in the midst of project deadlines and proposal writing, a few of my colleague and I had a chance to visit the David and Gladys Wright House.  Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright as a retirement home for his son and daughter-in-law David and Gladys and built by David himself as acting G.C., the house and land is so amazing.

The house and guest house sit on 6 acres that is in the middle of a bustling area of town called Arcadia.  It’s a bit like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia – to visit the house now, you drive down Camelback, a busy street, turn into the Camelback Church of Christ parking lot and open a door in the wall onto this oasis of peacefulness.


There is a long and complicated back story as to how the house came to be open to the public and not demolished.  Tonight there is a vote at the Phoenix Historic Preservation Commission to see what its future might hold.  Above is an image of a 3D scan the current owner has done to see about the state of the structure.  You can see all the little blue dots are the scan points and the round light circles are were the tripods were during the scan.  Modern technology is pretty cool.  You can also see the pool in the courtyard that is currently filled in making its ghostly appearance.


This house is like a ship – all the storage is built in and everything is elegant and functional.


Detailing – look at that hearth grate – there are two identical – one in the main living space and this one in the master bedroom.


And above, the view from the master bedroom – you can see the front door tucked in above the bougainvillea and beyond a perfectly framed shot of the head of the camel for which Camelback Mountain is named.  Not too shabby.


The guest house is strikingly modern for a house built and designed in the early 50s. I love the current landscaping although all the lawn is a bit lush for this neck of the woods – our new house has only desert landscape “xeriscape” which is a lot easier to maintain – but look at all the blue stone and carefully placed agaves around the guest house – love it.


Here’s a panoramic of a bunch of architects and designers taking an architecture nerd break on the roof of the house.  What a view.  What a breath of fresh air on a hectic Tuesday.

You all have to visit the David and Gladys Wright house on your next trip to Phoenix and see it for yourself.  Photos don’t do it justice.  And if the vote tonight and zoning things and whatever else go well, there will also be an underground education center, café and gift shop at the site as well.  I hope that’s soon!  Cheers – CT

PS – Good news – the David and Gladys Wright house was recommended as a historic landmark!  See more here.  Congrats to all who have fought so hard for this house.

PPS – This is humorous to me: FLW’s subtitle for this house was “How to Live in the Southwest” … you know, in an architectural gem in the sky with a view of a magnificent mountain and ten acres of citrus groves.  Sounds great!

Snapshots from Phoenix

Hi everyone.  Have I mentioned that it is really hot in Phoenix right now?  It is really hot in Phoenix right now.  And now that July has kicked in, there is now humidity thanks to the monsoon storms.  I was told this place had dry heat.  I need a refund.

Nevertheless, the heat can’t keep me in – I refuse! Last weekend (4th of July weekend which was really long for us since we got Monday off as well (which to note is not an Arizona thing but rather a result of working 4 ten-hour days)) we did a little exploring and this weekend we did a little more.  I thought I’d share our adventures with you in a few snapshots.

Last weekend’s visit to the Antique Plaza in Mesa yielded a few results – some more vinyl for JT’s record collection and a cool copper printed map of Arizona for me.  There were some other items I didn’t want to leave behind . . .



The Antique Plaza was huge!  Some of the prices were right on, some were a little high and there was actually some MCM to be found (usually with the higher price tag).  We’ll be back.

We have a field mouse hiding in our house somewhere . . . I’m trying to catch him with peanut butter and love but the next step will be JT taking over the offensive and his methods are not so sweet.


Friday night while JT was out doing a band audition I met the mouse and went to Home Depot for the traps.  The next morning found me back at the Depot for a lighting class and meet and greet with (now) local blogger Jenny Komenda from Little Green Notebook.  The actual class went a little sideways and no one else took photos so I grabbed this shot with furtive shame on my phone (that’s Jenny on the right in the green blouse).


Jenny was super sweet and ready to relax a little after finishing up the Domino Magazine photo shoot at her house.  I can’t even imagine!

And no, that isn’t me above with a half buzzed head but the heat has convinced me that less hair is the better option.   Here’s a quick in-the-salon before pic to show just how long (and kind of straggly) my hair had become.


And after!  So much better for the summer!


So today I took my new haircut out into the heat and JT and I visited Cosanti which is the residence and studios of Paolo Soleri.  JT described it as looking like the place where Luke Skywalker lives and while I don’t have a good frame of reference on  that, it was a unique place that had primitive and futuristic aspects all at the same time.


Doesn’t that kind of look like a wooden spaceship came to land in the desert?  Steampunk kids take note, this place was started in the 1950s.


Also (random alert) there was a lot of olive trees among the vegetation and the site produces, bottles and sells its own olive oil.  Wowza.


I can’t wait to go up north and stay the night at Soleri’s larger experiment, Arcosanti.

What’s been going on with you guys?  Any tips for the heat?  Thank goodness my local grocery store carries a few flavors of coconut milk ice cream or I might have melted already.  Cheers – CT

(PS – More adventures to come – a day trip to Jerome and JT finds a new man chair.  Oooooh!)