Spring Activities!

March 4th, 2014 by pattiebell

Although Spring does not officially arrive until later this month, it has definitely sprung early in Tucson this year. Wildflowers blooming, milder than average temperatures and that certain something in the air make it a great time to get out and enjoy the many activities being offered around town!

Did you know Tucson hosts the 4th largest Festival of Books in the country?  March 15 and 16 on the University of Arizona Mall brings us 300 presentations, 200 exhibitors, and tons of opportunities to meet authors, poets, screenwriters and journalists participating in signings, panel discussions and book sharing. http://tucsonfestivalofbooks.org/

Tucson’s proud and lively Irish community throws their 27th Annual St Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival in Armory Park in Downtown Tucson on March 15th. Guaranteed to get your green up! http://www.tucsonstpatricksday.com/

The Historic 4th Avenue Shopping District is home to the 4th Ave. Street Fair twice each year and this Spring’s event is Mar. 21-23.  Hundreds of juried artist and crafts persons, plenty of food and refreshing beverages, live music, kid’s activities and street performers. http://www.fourthavenue.org/fairs/general-information/

Are you a train enthusiast? Tucson has a very special transportation museum at the Tucson Historic Depot.  On March 22nd The Silver Spike Festival celebrates the 134th anniversary of the railroad in Tucson! http://www.tucsonhistoricdepot.org/

Theater buffs will be happy to know that the Arizona Theater Company presents “Around the World in 80 Days” through Mar 22. Boasting incredible sets and productions, our theater company makes its home in the beautifully restored Temple of Music and Art.  http://www.arizonatheatre.org/our-shows/around-the-world-in-80-days/

And Broadway in Tucson brings us “I Love Lucy: Live on Stage” March 25 – 30. This acclaimed show puts you in the seat at the studio where the famous TV shows were taped and includes plenty of the original music from Ricky and the band. http://www.broadwayintucson.com/shows_lucy_prices.html/

What says Spring more that fluttering butterflies? Experience a live tropical butterfly exhibit everyday through April 30th at Butterfly Magic at the Tucson Botanical Gardens.  http://www.tucsonbotanical.org/

The Arizona State Museum on the campus of the University presents “Edward Curtis Reframed: The Arizona Volumes” through July 30, 2015. The exhibit will display 20 of the famed photographer’s portraits of the American West at a time, rotating every 6 months, to show a total of 60 works. The State Museum also houses the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of 2000 years worth of Native pottery making in the Southwest – that’s  over 20,000 whole vessels. http://www.statemuseum.arizona.edu/exhibits/index.shtml

This is just a sampling!  Visit http://www.visittucson.org/events/calendar/ for more.

 

PAII Conference Thoughts

February 8th, 2014 by pattiebell

In January I was fortunate enough to attend the PAII (Professional Association of Innkeepers International) Conference in Charleston, SC.  It is the big annual meeting of innkeepers from all over the country.  http://www.innkeeping.org/

We go to these kinds of gatherings for a number of reasons – to educate ourselves, to spread the word about our properties, to be inspired, and to enjoy the fellowship of other innkeepers.

When doctors and lawyers and teachers go to their workplaces, they usually work side by side with other doctors, lawyers and teachers. While we innkeepers enjoy the company of our many interesting guests, we tend to be isolated from colleagues by the nature of our work. So to be in the presence of hundreds of other innkeepers and vendors who support our industry for four full days is a pretty exciting thing.

I learned more than I wish I needed to know about the constantly changing face of the internet, our all-important marketing tool these days. I was truly inspired by a fellow innkeeper’s program for pampering cancer patients http://www.lavenderinn.com/inncourage/one that I hope to recreate here at El Rancho Merlita. I met some seasoned veterans of the Bed & Breakfast world, some keepers of newly established inns, and some aspiring innkeepers, doing their homework before they take the dive!  And most fun of all, I got to hang out with some Arizona innkeepers I have known “virtually” for a while but had never met face to face.

A big component of the event is the vendor show. Purveyors of all the many resources one needs to run a Bed and Breakfast Inn – linens, insurance, soap, china, PR and marketing services – put in long days schmoozing and sharing their wares.  I picked out some new sheets, found the perfect robe for our setting, and got to meet several people I have great long-standing working relationships with, though we had only ever spoken to over the phone.

Charleston is a great city to explore, bursting with history, beautiful architecture, delicious food and true Southern Hospitality!   http://www.charleston-sc.gov/

Farmers Market inspired Salad Nicoise and Tucson’s Own Barrio Bread ~

August 7th, 2013 by pattiebell

nicoise best croppedMy trip this past weekend to one of Tucson’s many Farmers Markets was most fruitful! Well, mostly it was vegetableful - perfect green beans, fresh new potatoes and salad greens, all locally grown. Today I combined them with some other on-hand ingredients to create one of my favorite composed saladsSalad Niçoise

I boiled the green beans in plenty of salted water until tender. This method cooks the beans faster and more evenly than steaming. The potatoes were cubed and tossed in olive oil with salt, pepper and some red bell pepper that needed to be consumed, and roasted in a hot oven until crisp on the edges.  My preferred approach to boiling eggs – place eggs in a pan, cover with cool water, and bring to boil uncovered. Once boiling, remove from heat, cover and allow to sit for 30 minutes before rinsing in cool water.

I can certainly appreciate a fancy restaurant Nicoise with a chunk of seared Ahi Tuna on top, but I also really like the canned stuff. I found a nice variety of pole and troll caught Wild Albacore at Wild Planet Foods

I also had some young homegrown garlic on hand so it went into a simple Lemon-Garlic Vinaigrette

The beans, potatoes, and tuna are marinated generously and separately in the vinaigrette  (the beans and potatoes while still warm). Place a bed of greens on your plate and arrange sections of each ingredient on top, thus composing the salad as you go. I like them at room temperature but you may want to chill everything first. Either way it is a lovely and satisfying summer meal.

Especially if you have a big chunk of beautifully baked fresh bread, which is what got me to the Farmers Market in the first place. Here in Tucson we are blessed with a unique bread baking venture -Barrio Bread

Barrio Bread is not your traditional bakery! Their business model is a CSB, Community Supported Baker. There is  no retail store, instead the bread is offered at different locations in the community. Don carefully crafts every loaf of Barrio Bread and has a small and dedicated team to assist in the distribution and sales. Production is driven by a pre-order system or a Bread Share at the Tucson CSA. This maximizes the use of resources and minimizes waste and spoilage, thus creating a smaller carbon footprint. The CSB model also ensures the freshest and healthiest bread for the bread lovers of our community. I tried the Cranberry Walnut and Pain au Levain – both wonderful. Can’t wait to try the other varieties, and incorporate them into some of my breakfast recipes for our guests!

Shopping at the Farmers Market gives me a warm glow – both because I am supporting these vital food producing efforts and because it truly inspires me to take better care of myself. And you know, a well nourished innkeeper is a happy innkeeper!

 

 

Music of the Monsoon ~ the amazing Spadefoot Toad!

July 13th, 2013 by pattiebell

Couchs_spadefoot_toad_frog_detailed

Found primarily in the Sonoran Desert, the Couch’s spadefoot  is named for the elongated, sickle-shaped, horny tubercle on the underside of each rear foot, which it uses to dig itself into the ground. There it remains buried in the soil for 8-10 months only to emerge at the onset of the summer monsoons.


During the first night of or after the first significant summer storm, Couch’s spadefoots move to rain-filled temporary pools for a night or two of frantic breeding and foraging, and then may remain active for as long as moist, warm conditions persist, often traveling far from the breeding ponds. Although most breeding is timed to the first summer storm, occasional breeding congregations can be found throughout the summer. Eggs are usually laid the first night that ponds fill, and are deposited on submerged vegetation in small masses that hatch within 36 hours.  Tadpoles can metamorphose in as little as 7-8 days. Drying of a pond stimulates rapid metamorphosis and smaller toadlets. The call, given by males as they float in the breeding pond, is a plaintive “wah! wah!”, suggestive of a bleating sheep. The call carries well on humid summer evenings and is a sure sign that the often long-awaited summer monsoon has finally begun.  

Couch’s spadefoot will eat anything that moves and fits into its mouth. Winged termites, which are high in fat content, also emerge with the first monsoon storms, and often make up a high percentage of the spadefoot’s diet. A Couch’s spadefoot can eat enough termites during one or two nights to survive and breed for a year. Tadpoles are carnivorous; cannibalism has been documented.

This species has benefited from construction of berms, cattle tanks, and other ground disturbance that promotes collection of rainwater. It is relatively long-lived; some live as long as 13 years in the wild.

Spadefoot ToadYouTube

First Gambel’s Quail chicks of the season!

April 20th, 2013 by pattiebell

Early birds!

Early birds!

This morning when I popped out of the dining room door I scared up a covey of 5 Gambel’s quail chicks and their chattering parents. I don’t usually expect to see them until well into May, so I was a bit surprised and pretty excited. Chick sightings are one of those things Arizonan’s brag about like the number of fish caught, or the size of bears encountered.

Gambel’s quail primarily move about by walking and can move surprisingly fast through brush and undergrowth. They are a non-migratory species and are rarely seen in flight. Any flight is usually short and explosive, with many rapid wingbeats, followed by a slow glide to the ground.

In the late Summer, Fall, and Winter, the adults and immature young congregate into coveys of many birds. In the Spring, Gambel’s Quail pair off for mating and become very aggressive toward other pairs. The chicks are decidedly more insectivorous than adults, gradually consuming more plant matter as they mature. Gambel’s Quail are monogamous and rarely breed in colonies. The female typically lays 10–12 eggs in a simple scrape concealed in vegetation, often at the base of a rock or tree. Incubation lasts from 21–23 days, usually performed by the female and rarely by the male. The chicks are precocious, leaving the nest with their parents within hours of hatching.

Here’s a link to some great video of  chicks in motion: Gambel’s Quail chicks emerge from their nest – YouTube

 

 

A fine reward at the end of a blustery day!

March 9th, 2013 by pattiebell

sunset 001

Our Joshua Tree in bloom ~ can you see the bird house?

March 7th, 2013 by pattiebell

Joshua Tree Bloom 003

That’s right, snow in Tucson!

February 20th, 2013 by pattiebell

SNOW 004

Visit from a Walking Stick ~

November 7th, 2012 by pattiebell

The bizarre-looking, slow-moving, plant-eating walking stick – among the most intriguing of the insects – has raised camouflage, mimicry and defense to a veritable art form. Through an adaptation called “crypsis,” it blends in so perfectly with its natural habitat that it often goes completely undetected by would-be predators.

Giant Sunflowers!

November 7th, 2012 by pattiebell

Our assistant extraordinaire Molly and the tallest wild sunflowers we have ever seen!   One gallon starters the spring before last, they die back in the winter only to explode in the Spring and bloom again when Autumn rolls around.

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