Posts Tagged 'cactus'

What to Do in Phoenix

is it real cactus

I headed out to my Arizona vacation with only a vague itinerary. What I knew I wanted to do: hang by the pool, go to the spa, meet my son’s friends, see the desert, get to Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s desert home.weird plant 1 That left a lot of unplanned time. My Super Shuttle drivers had many suggestions for me. They suggested the Phoenix Botanical Gardens, a trip to Sedona, hiking to Devil’s Bridge in Sedona, the Musical Instrument Museum and Taliesin West. They told me that it was a shame I was there then, because I should have come earlier when the botanical gardens (and all the plants actually) would have been in full bloom. They felt that I’d not get the true flower experience. Ah well, I got there when I got there. The point of the trip was escape, and that happens when it happens. 🙂

My son agreed with all of my plans and with the drivers’ suggestions. He’d also asked his friends for hiking suggestions for us. We woke up Friday morning and decided to have a comparatively relaxed day because we knew we’d be going out at night to meet up with his friends. Apparently mead and gaming are a winning combination. There are a lot of gamers in Phoenix and now there are meaderies as well.sundial Yes – multiple meaderies. The Scale & Feather Meadery in Avondale (part of the greater Phoenix area) is brand new – just opened in May. Jumping ahead to the end of our day I will say it was great fun to meet ‘the gang’ and taste the mead. There was live music and the place was full and it was a lot of good energy. I doubt I’ll ever be a mead aficionado but it was an interesting taste test. 🙂 There is another games & brewery right next door and there was a lot of back and forth traffic between the 2 businesses. I felt young again. *grin*

botannical garden desert hillOkay, so we needed to have a non-strenuous day so I’d be able to hang with the gang. We opted for a nice big breakfast at Chompie’s. This was actually a bit of an ironic choice in a way since it prides itself on being a New York deli. 🙂 Our meal was delicious and perfect for what we wanted. We headed from there to the Desert Botanical Garden. As we approached the entrance we saw huge lime green cacti rising up ahead. My son kept saying “those can’t be real” and I said “who knows – plants are weird”. We got closer and saw that my son was correct. The cacti were beautiful Chihuly glass sculptures. We paid the entrance fee and headed in. We realized that we had hats and sunscreen, but no water. You can’t go anywhere in Arizona in the summer without water.pink flowers and a cactus We stopped at a vending machine and got ourselves supplied. We wandered off to see the sights. I have to say that despite the pessimistic predictions there were still many, many flowers blooming.

Even had there NOT been flowers, the plants were fascinating. The layout consists of different garden areas – some are herbal, some contemplative areas, native american habitats, and more. Of course there are the wonderful surrounding mountains as well. Had NONE Of that been there, it would have all been worthwhile because I FINALLY saw a hummingbird.hummingbird closeup I do not think I have ever seen a hummingbird. Or if I have, for some reason I have been unable to retain the image in my memory. In one of the very first gardens we viewed, there was a hummingbird!!! I managed to take several photos. I was so excited! There were other birds and there were butterflies, and we saw a toad camouflaged among tree roots. For me the hummingbird was the star of the show.

both fountain pics

Fountain with alien/possessed water advancing on my son’s foot

There was also a possessed fountain. Oh sure, there will be those of you who are going to think I’m crazy, or that I have a vivid imagination. But I know what I saw. I didn’t take video, but I took photos. I’m telling you that it wasn’t really just water in that fountain. There was something alien and it was aiming at us. You want an explanation? We sat down in the shade, on a stone bench, near a lovely fountain.hidden toad As we sat there, the water began to flow over the top of the basin. It hadn’t been overflowing before we got there. It was a perfectly normal fountain. We sat down, chatted, took some photos. And the water came over the top of the basin. It began to trickle down along the bench, following the arc of the bench. It was aiming at my son’s foot. We moved down the bench. It followed. It kept coming. Right at us. Oh I’m sure some of you would say “what is WITH you???” But I have seen B movies. Everyone in the audience KNOWS that you don’t go in the empty house; you don’t sit in the deserted area; when the insects are buzzing and all else is quiet, you don’t stay.bird nesting in cool cactus 1 And when the mysterious liquid starts seeping towards you, following you, that is the time to FLEE!!! So we fled. I turned back to look. THE WATER HAD STOPPED FLOWING ALONG THE BENCH!!!! It KNEW we had left. I was right. We went to another garden. No mysterious alien water is going to touch us!!!

From the gardens we headed to the Musical Instrument Museum. My coworker had suggested this place before I left, saying that it was fantastic and well worth a visit.cactus and flowers Since the shuttle drivers had felt just as strongly about the museum we figured it should be on our list. I have to say – it is great. We got there in time for the next tour. It’s about 45 minutes and it’s set up to orient you to the museum structure and presentations. There are also audio guides which trigger automatically as you near an exhibit. It was very interesting to see the same kind of instrument being used in cultures all over the world. There was a good exhibit on the electrical guitar – so much I hadn’t known/realized and so much that triggered happy memories. The museum is worth a post for itself, but I didn’t take any photos.yellow puff flowers I was starting to fade a bit (probably from the heat in the garden and the 3 hour time zone change). We made it to the daily performance of the Orchestrion – a mechanical machine that plays music and is designed to sound like an entire band or orchestra. As it was the day after June 6, commonly known as “D-Day” in the US, the gentleman running the demonstration played a selection of military songs. I played the piccolo in our high school marching band, as well as in the marching band from our temple. I’ve marched in blazing sun and pouring rain, at football games, in holiday parades, in celebratory parades and there is one thing they all had in common – at least one song by John Phillip Sousa. Of course my favorite is Stars and Stripes Forever, where you can hear the piccolo above everything else. So for your listening pleasure I bring you the Orchestrion from the Musical Instrument Museum of Phoenix, playing Stars and Stripes Forever. (and a little bit of The Battle Hymn of the Republic)

botannical garden cave hill

contemplation garden

2 cactus plants with flowers

Back to the Garden

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IMG_9209 It’s really hot out there today. “Real feels” between 105-110. That means that I need to be running the a/c, and I am staying inside. I always feel so imprisoned with the windows closed. Even though I am in my (beach-y) sun room, looking out at plants, including potted palms, I feel locked-up. To combat my cabin-fever I went out at lunch to visit the plants. It was a short visit, because while they seem to be doing fine, I could feel the heat burning through my clothes. It’s REALLY hot.

The dahlias seem to be thriving on our burning-hot now pouring-rain now burning-hot weather. Also the mandevilla and the succulents. According to the internet several of the succulents are supposed to flower, but only the Tiny Tangerine Bulbine Frutescens seems to have gotten the notice. I had no idea that the Rick-Rack Orchid cactus could grow to be a hanging plant. I wonder if it feels cramped in my pot between the ever-encroaching sedum and the octopus aloe? I may try to take a cutting and plant it somewhere else. IMG_9206There will be a lot of light in the breakfast room now. And a huge, high beam that could hold hanging planters. I think in the past I may have had lampranthus deltoides and had them flower, but I could be remembering some other succulent with little pink flowers.

Last year I brought in that huge red planter with the succulents. The pot weighs a ton, and only 1 of the plants survived the winter and the cats (the sedum, of course). I wasn’t planning to bring the pot in again this year because of the weight, the cats and changed floor plan. I may have to rethink that or I may need to transplant all of the succulents into smaller pots and bring them in. I really like this batch. I would love to see the octopus aloe flower. Of course the question is always – are these poisonous/fatal if ingested by cats? Trying to protect plants from BC is not a simple task.

IMG_9203I was thinking of bringing one or more of the potted palms inside for the winter. I have 3 of them, and I’d like to try to have at least one winter over. I’d need to find a place with a lot of light (the breakfast room) and minimal cat access. Not many places like that in my house. I did a search just now and it appears that the palms are safe for the cats, so I guess if I don’t mind dirt hitting the floor, or some chewed up leaves (and residual cat ‘deposits’), this may be a plan. 🙂 I’d need to figure out a good water-containing base, however, as I have a tendency to over-water.
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I Thought I Liked It Hot

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I like summer. I like heat. I love the sunshine beating down on me. I am a Jersey gal born and bred – hazy, hot and humid is in my blood. I turn on the a/c only when the temperature exceeds 90 and the humidity is up as well (or when I see the cats or my husband are suffering). I thought being in Arizona would be no sweat, play on words intended. After all, it’s a DRY heat.

I may have to update my profile a bit. After only 5 days in Arizona I have learned to:

– park the car in the shade whenever possible, no matter how sparse the cover
– tell the difference between temperatures over 100 and under 100
– carry a full water bottle with me everywhere I go
– stand in the shade whenever possible
– understand that 103 degrees is too hot for swimming

 
IMG_8796I walked out of the airport to wait for my ride and the air was the proverbial wall of heat. The first errand, before we even reached the hotel, was to buy gallons of water and a water bottle. The very next errand involved buying protection for the car: cloth seat covers and a leather steering wheel cover. We tried for Rx sunglasses for my son but we didn’t have the Rx so we ended up buying clip-on shades for his driving glasses. We became skilled at searching parking lots for nearly denuded trees that cast even a sliver of shade. We noted the position of the sun, east and west, rising and setting. The sunroof was closed and covered (my sunroof at home is open unless it’s raining). The car a/c was on full blast all the time.

IMG_8820Even the birds in Tempe have the brains to shelter from the sun. We came out of one store the other day and started laughing. There was a flock of pigeons gathered UNDER the car next to us. No fool THEY!

There is a lot to love about Arizona but I’m not sure that Tempe in July is the best tourism ad. We were hunting for a place to live for my son, and then buying supplies for him and for wherever he ended up. IMG_8813.jpgWe spent a good part of both Thursday and Friday parked in the Chandler Sunset public library – free wifi, a/c, water and bathrooms. 🙂 What a fantastic library! It is everything a modern library could be. I was so envious, because I live in a town with a much older library, which is also much more constrained in square feet. I’d be thrilled to have a library at home like the spacious, well-equipped Sunset library. We could spread out our maps and check room and apartment ads against the areas we’d been told to avoid and told to seek. IMG_8859Even so we would have to go out to the car and drive to view apartments, get lunch, meet prospective landlords and achieve other objectives (found a congregation so he’ll have some place to go for the upcoming holidays – even met someone from that congregation). Once we found living quarters, we were hunting for furnishings. We have also learned which phone gives the best directions. I regret to say that while my phone would get us to the right place, she’d often have us in the back of the building with no access. 🙂 We did quite well, however, figuring out how to circle about to get where we needed to be.

IMG_8834Everyone assures me that Tempe during the “season” is idyllic – I’ll love it. I was quite willing to believe that until we spoke to Luisa (a native Arizonan) yesterday. SHE told me that in February, when I hope to return, the temperatures can range from 50 to 70. Fahrenheit. I’m sorry – that is NOT idyllic – that is COLD. *unhappy expression* I do hope she was exaggerating the low end of that, although 70 is not warm enough for me either. I guess I’ll find out for sure come February. There are also wonderful mountains on the horizon, and in some cases, right at the end of the street. 🙂 The one at the end of the street is at the other end of the street from ASU.IMG_8836

In the meantime, the heat produces wonderful wonderful cacti! I’ve been having a GREAT time seeing all the variations. Cacti are SO fascinating. Many of the yards have well-done gardens with assortments of different species. I’ve seen flowers also that I’m not sure I’d find in NJ, and definitely the trees are different. I’ve been taking pictures and I hope I can research them to find what exactly I’ve been seeing. And may I add – I’m very very grateful for the shade from those trees!

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Leaving. Not Leaving. Leaving. Not….

Well. This has been an eventful week. The walls are spackled and sanded, and the painter has begun priming the walls and painting the ceiling. My understanding is that he will be done sometime on Saturday. I have no pictures to share, however, as I am not there. I am in Arizona. Lucky and glad to be here, too!

IMG_8791WHY Arizona in July??? Because my son has gotten a new job here in Tempe. He and a friend took a week to drive from Orlando, FL to Tempe. The friend flew out on Wednesday and I flew in to help with house/room hunting. The flying-in process was messed up and annoying but did work out ultimately. I think in the long run I may even have come out ahead.

You may have gotten the impression that at times I decide I neeeeeeeed to be treated as a princess. *grin* Flying is one of those times. I booked 1st class tickets using 2 different airlines so that I would have the most comfortable accommodation AND the most convenient flight times and fly non-stop. Odd as it may sound to you, the convenient fly-to-Phoenix time involved getting up at 4:00 am to get to the airport for the 5+ hour flight. I was just shutting down my applications in preparation for sleep when I received a text message: your AA flight is cancelled.

IMG_8793Of course I stressed out immediately. My husband had already gone to bed because he, too had to get up at 4 to take me to the airport. Immediately after the text about the cancelled flight I got a text that I had been re-booked to leave 6.5 hours later, from a different (inconvenient) airport with a stop in St. Louis. There was no way that would work for me. I knew that UA, which I was using to fly home, left EWR 45 minutes earlier than AA. I called UA to see if they could modify my flight to include flying to Phoenix. They were happy to sell me a 1st class ticket for only $1500. Ummm, no. She recommended I call AA and see if they could put me on the UA flight.

I called AA. I chatted with a pleasant man named Michael. As we talked, about changing my flight to UA (where he claimed he saw no seats despite the fact that *I* could see that 1st class seat still) he told me my flight was reinstated. I was again leaving on my AA non-stop flight to Phoenix at 6:45 am. I didn’t get any text message about this, nor did I get an email. He assured me that I was indeed on that flight, but my boarding pass was not good anymore – I’d need a new one. What that SOB failed to mention was that while I was reinstated on the flight, all my seat information had been wiped. Poorly played, American Airlines, poorly played.

IMG_8827When I got to the airport, and printed my boarding pass, it said I had no seat assignment. Please keep in mind I’d paid over $300 extra to be in 1st class. I hate to sound money-oriented or cheap but that is a significant expenditure. I’m going to summarize here but keep in mind I had to live this for over an hour, with many, many, many other unhappy people.

When I got to the boarding gate, and went for my seat, they offered me a middle seat all the way in the back of coach. I said no way, I paid over $600 for 1st class, where the heck is my seat?? They explained that when the flight was cancelled, all that information was lost. I said that nice Michael had assured me I was okay. They said well maybe he’d fixed everything but they claimed that the flight had been cancelled and reinstated several times overnight. In the end, the 6:45 am flight was ON, BUT the 10:15 am flight was cancelled, and all of THOSE people were also on the 6:45 flight now, and 1st class was full. I said there is no way this is acceptable. They would not refund the price differential. They offered me $200 voucher as compensation BUT because the flight was now oversold, they’d offer me $500 voucher to not fly. I said are you out of your minds? Either put me in first class or refund the entire differential. They said – how about a $1000 voucher to give up your seat and we will put you on a non-stop leaving at 9:00 am?

IMG_8806My son will now live in Tempe, AZ. There will now be family traffic between EWR and PHX. As long as I bought the ticket for my son (in his name), I could use my voucher for it. $1000 would buy either a lot of trips for him in coach, or a round-trip for me in 1st (he’s not a princess *grin*). I did not have to be in Phoenix at a specific time. Although they did not have a 1st class seat for me on the 9 am flight, I decided that this was actually a good deal and I accepted it. I watched as that plane was crammed full, out of overhead bin space, every seat taken. I accepted my new boarding pass and my voucher, thinking I was well off that plane. I texted my son and gave him the new flight information and wandered off to find some coffee and breakfast.

While I was eating breakfast and relaxing, I got a text message. The 6:45 am flight (which I was no longer on, remember) was not leaving at 6:45 am but now leaving at 7:45 am. I thought – those poor people, stuck on that plane. A little later I got another text. The 6:45 flight was now leaving at 9 am. Omg, I thought, are they STILL stuck on that plane??? I was quite relieved to be sipping coffee in the restaurant with lots of room to either side of me.

IMG_8829After breakfast I wandered back to the boarding gate where I saw scores of familiar looking people, and bins filled with water and juice bottles. Yes, it was the 6:45 am flight. I began chatting with some of them and it turned out that the pilot had never made it to the airport – they were waiting for a new crew. The night before we’d had torrential rain in NJ. Apparently the pilot was on Rt 80 on his way to the airport when they closed down that interstate due to flooding. He couldn’t move forward, he couldn’t get off, he couldn’t get to the airport.

Again I laughed to myself and thought I’m so glad I’m NOT on this flight. They loaded up the plane again and as I sat there, waiting to see the plane leave, I heard the attendants paging “Passenger Heliosense, Passenger Heliosense, please come to the desk”. Heliosense is fairly common name around these parts but I went up to the desk and said, am I the Heliosense you are paging? They said: Ahuva? I said yes. They said, we can put you on this plane. It was the same young man I’d talked to before. IMG_8835I said I am NOT getting in the back of coach in a middle seat. They assured me that I was in a window seat, the first row behind 1st class, and I would keep my $1000 voucher and my carryon could be stored in an overhead bin. This was again a decent offer so I accepted and texted my son again with changed information.

The attendant walked me down to the plane and led me on. My overhead bag was placed in a bin in 1st class. *grin* My bag knows how to travel. I went to row 7 but….. it was a middle seat. Apparently the couple in the middle and aisle seats had decided that the window person wasn’t coming and he’d moved over. The whole plane was now waiting on me to sit down so I did – in the middle seat. But I performed my own rebellion – I kept my OTHER bag with me, despite not having a seat under which I could store it. It was gray, my pants were gray, I tucked it behind my legs and hoped no one would notice or if they did, they’d ignore it. And that’s how it worked out.

The flight was not bad, I had plenty of room since there was no row ahead of us, the couple both slept, each slumped to the side of their seat AWAY from me. I arrived in PHX around 11:15, only 2 hours later than originally planned.

I went outside to wait for my son to get me and …… OMG. It is HOT here. I love heat, I love sun, I am a sun worshipper (HELIOSENSE – get it????) but oh my. It was 116 degrees F. I have been in the Negev and the Sinai desserts and I do not believe I have EVER felt heat like this. But the sky was clear and there were MOUNTAINS, and I was in PHX AND I have a $1000 voucher to try this again and hope it’s less eventful. 🙂 I’ll leave this story here for now, but I warn you…. the saga continues with the hotel……

(Apologies for the poor photos – many of them were taken from a moving car. Although my son is better than Honour at stopping for photos, sometimes we did have to keep moving.)


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