Wednesday, December 17, 2008

ABC Wednesday: "How I Spent My Winter Vacation"

I hadn't planned on participating in ABC Wednesday today, but I couldn't resist--V is the perfect letter for telling you about . . .

. . .My Vacation!
As most of you know, I returned last week from spending a little over a week with my daughter in Phoenix, Arizona. On one of my last days there, Daughter took the day off from work so we could do a little sight-seeing. We travelled east of Phoenix to the Superstition Mountains in Tonto National Forest, where the photo above and the one below were taken.

On my first visit to Arizona last January, Daughter and her boyfriend took me to Sedona, about a two-hour drive north of Phoenix, which is a very scenic area full of the red-rocked mountains that could easily have been the backdrop for many an old Western. The Superstition Mountains near Phoenix are not nearly as colorful, but they are picturesque nonetheless. To a girl from the flat lands of Central Illinois, I was awed by the mountains, but our drive followed a sometimes steep road with winding curves and sheer drop-offs that had me clinging tensely to the armrests--and sometimes Daughter's arm (which she didn't appreciate).

Along the way there were some interesting spots, including a restored ghost town where gold was purportedly discovered in the 1800's. Daughter also stopped at a famous spot, unmarked by signs, where the old TV western "The Rifleman" was shot; I took photos of the barn and small jail for Husband to entice him to accompany me on my next trip. After several miles of me clenching my teeth, we finally stopped for lunch at an authentic-looking restaurant called Tortilla Flats, complete with saddles for seats at the bar. (We opted for a booth.)

What sensible person takes a vacation in December? You probably think a very well-organized one with all her Christmas presents purchased and placed in their wrappings under the tree and with all her Christmas cards sent and holiday baking finished. Hardly. Most of those tasks are still waiting to be done as I write this post. But Daughter is not coming home for Christmas, and since this will be the first year I haven't had all four children here for the holidays, I couldn't wait until January to visit her. It was a wonderful week with lots of quality time with Daughter, her boyfriend, and the granddogs; hopefully, now I won't get too misty-eyed on Christmas Eve.

It was a little difficult to get in the Christmas spirit while there despite the holiday decorations everywhere. Somehow garlands and red bows just don't look the same without a little snow beside them.

Instead of a full moon rising over a blanket of snow, a cloudless sky provided the perfect, if not wintery, backdrop for the moon above a palm tree.

Daughter and I took several shopping excursions, including my introduction to Nordstrom's Rack (!!) and some Christmas shopping. But she also had to work several days while I was there, so I had plenty of time to explore on my own and just relax. Of course, the plant life was something that fascinated me. Besides the cacti and the palm trees, there were many other plants I was unaccustomed to seeing. I spied several orange and lemon trees in the grassy area behind her apartment building.

Even walking around the apartment complex, which was well-landscaped, gave me the opportunity to indulge in my gardener's curiosity. These fuschia flowers were blooming on a rather large tree, but I have no idea what they are. Any ideas?

And everywhere I looked were these flowering shrubs. They looked so familiar to me, but I couldn't think of their name, and non-gardening Daughter wasn't any help.

Finally, thanks to Chandramouli, who pictured one of these just recently on his blog, and to Gail, I realized these were oleander!

Another lovely flower in bloom everywhere--and I do mean everywhere--were these bright red shrubs/vines. Again, no one could identify them for me until I finally asked at a nursery where I purchased some agaves. Those of you from the South probably recognize these immediately--they're bougainvillea! They were simply stunning, but if I were to add to last Wednesday's post about ubiquitous plants, I would definitely have to add the bougainvillea and the oleander to that list for Arizona.

While the arid conditions of this part of Arizona make it difficult to grow many plants, even grass, without irrigation, that doesn't stop gardeners from trying. This apartment resident had a balcony full of blooming lantana.

It was easy to get back into the routine of walking when the skies were clear and the weather warm. Walking behind the apartment complex, I found a bike path that led to a small lake inhabited by ducks and occasionally other waterfowl.

The ducks were obviously used to human visits and seemed disappointed when I didn't have any bread crumbs for them.

Still on Central time, I often awoke before anyone else in the household and found myself drawn to the lake and the ducks most mornings. It certainly was a peaceful way to start the day.

When I wasn't relaxing with the ducks or checking out the local landscape, I did manage to fit in several shopping trips and some sightseeing on my own.

Old Town Scottsdale is an interesting place to visit for a few hours. Shops with old Western shopfronts run along Fifth Avenue for several blocks, selling everything from authentic-looking Southwestern jewelry to Native Indian artifacts to typical tacky tourist souvenirs. Daughter and I also went to nearby Tempe one afternoon where they were celebrating their annual Arts Festival. Unfortunately, none of my pictures of it turned out that well, but no matter. Block after block had lines of booths selling all kinds of wares. I bought only a few items, although I was very tempted by some garden sculptures until I realized the impossibility of taking them home on the plane!

But my favorite place during the trip was the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix. I had visited the Gardens in January, but this time I was lucky to be here for the beginning of an exhibit by glass artist Chihuly.
This sculpture entitled "Float Boat" was just one of so many placed strategically about the gardens. The exhibit runs through May 2009, so if you are in the Phoenix area during the next several months, definitely take the time to visit the Gardens. I took so many pictures that I'm going to wait to do a separate post just on the Gardens, probably in January when green plants and vibrant colors will be a welcome relief from the snow.

On the plane ride over, I struck up a conversation with a woman seated next to me who was from Phoenix. She recommended several places I might like to visit, and when we discovered a mutual interest in mysteries, she suggested I visit a little book store called "The Poisoned Pen." As it turned out, it was only a few blocks from Daughter's office, so she took me there one evening after I picked her up from work.

What a treat for any mystery lover! This is not your typical "big box" bookstore. Only mysteries and related genre can be found here, and hanging from the walls are photos of all the authors who have visited the store for book signings. The salesperson was a young man who was more than willing to help and recognized the names of every author I mentioned. All my favorites--Martha Grimes, Elizabeth George, Patricia Cornwell, and Sara Paretsky, just to name a few--have been here at one time or another, and the store has many copies of signed novels, including first editions. Although I passed on buying any books for myself, I did buy a signed copy of a fantasy novel for my granddaughter and couldn't resist a tote bag for myself. I also signed up for their e-mail newsletter, which means I can order a signed, personalized edition of a book in the future. I can't wait to see who might be appearing there next! For any mystery fans, this store is a real gem.

Finally, my stay came to an end. Before I left, I said goodbye to my feathered friends . . .

. . . and watched one last Arizona sunset.

The next morning, presents were left under the tree, and I exchanged big hugs with Daughter, Boyfriend, and the "boys" Odie and Bear. I think I needed this vacation, but most of all I needed to share a little Christmas with Daughter and her family.

For more ABC Wednesday posts, visit Mrs. Nesbitt or the ABC Anthology.


  1. The best v of all time out. Beauiful series of images espcecially the last sunset.

  2. Wowee, Rose, what a post! This is loaded with goodies, but I uttered aloud when you were able to see the Chihuly display at the gardens! That could be several posts on its own. Not having my four kids together at Christmas takes the wind out of the holiday sail for me too, I didn't realize you were also the mother of four. It seems incomplete and you did the best thing by going to see your daughter and having an early Christmas with her. It sounds like the two of you spent plenty of quality time together, wonderful in every way. Glad you got home safe and sound despite the weather. We will await future posts about your trip eagerly.

  3. I am oooohing and aaaahing over that Chihuly display. He did one in Pittsburgh last year but I didn't get to see it. That mystery bookstore sounds interesting too and just the sort of place I'd like. Looks like you had a wonderful trip.

  4. Rose,

    Where to start! Thanks for the link...The Oleander and Bougainvillea are everywhere! It does offer some good color contrast to the brown! I haven't been to the Scottsdale area, but Tucson seemed very brown to me. If I lived there I would grow it, too, but would sure miss all the plants we have here. I love Dale Chihuly's work and was lucky enough to catch a show at the Missouri Botanical Gardens last May. He loves water features so the Float Boat is a wonderful play on that for a dessert area!

    So very glad you had a good Christmas with your daughter and her family~~ We haven't had to miss one with our only yet. I don't know what I would where ever he is I guess!

    Love the photos...and the moon over the palm tree
    would be a nice Christmas card!

    Welcome cold air and Christmas decorations in the snow.


  5. Babooshka, The skies were beautiful there, and I have to admit I was pretty proud of the sunset photos.

    Frances, I think I have enough photos for several posts on the Chihuly display and the Gardens:) Yes, I have four children--the two sons get short shrift here, because I talk about their kids (my grandchildren) instead:)

    Cindy, I didn't realize Chihuly had done exhibits in other cities, but it makes sense--there were so many pieces! Whenever I get back to Phoenix, I am definitely going back to the Poisoned Pen and browse some more.

    Gail, I've enjoyed my trips to Arizona in the winter, but I wouldn't give up our change of seasons and our gardens either. If Daughter was my only child I would be spending Christmas Day there. As it is, my house will be full with grandchildren on Christmas Eve--I wouldn't miss it!

  6. All these photos were wonderful. I felt like I have already been on a trip this morning. That fuschia is pretty but I have no idea what it is.

    I was lucky enough to catch a Chihuly exhibit at a conservatory in Columbus Ohio a few years back. It was beautiful!

    Well I am glad you had such a good visit. Your little feathered friends are probably missing your visits.

  7. What a great post to read and see. My daughter has hiked in the Superstition Mountains and works in Tempe.
    That bookstore sounds like some place I would love to go to, mystery lover that I am.
    Thanks for the great tour.

  8. I caught the Chihuly exhibit at The Missouri Botanical Gardens last summer, and I think his work would actually look best in a desert environment. You were lucky!
    The bougainvilla reminds me of a visit to Honduras. Everyone there has it growing all over their walls and fences around their property. It makes what might be rather homely houses look very inviting.

  9. Sounds like a lovely vacation-December and all. There is so much to see out there! I hope some day to visit Arizona, hubby has and he actually really liked it. Very nice V post.

  10. Rose, I sense the beginnings of a love affair here--with AZ, of course. Very romantic, your images. I'll bet you were tempted to look through a few real estate listings while there. Your post is a wonderful holiday gift to us! It was a pleasure to unwrap it and discover all the treasures inside.

  11. An excellent series of photos of your vacation. You could have used the last shot for Sky Watch on Friday. It's so beautiful! And the flowers would have been great for Toda's Flowers on Monday! So you can cover several posts with these photos. Thanks for sharing and for visiting.

  12. Rose, how fun to see pictures of some of the places you told me about. I would love to visit the Poision Pen. Bet we could spend hours there. And then there's the botanical gardens-youll just have to pack me in your suitcase next time!

    How pretty everything looks there at this time of the year, almost tropical. It's so pleasant to see green this time of the year, and flowers. I feel like I have been on vacation too.

    Great 'V'post!

  13. Dear Rose.....I love the last three photographs....absolutely breathtaking.....such a beautiful sunset.....

    So many must have been wonderful to be there in the sunshine and surrounded by blooms.....I almost forget it was winter reading your post....

    The mountains are stunning.....powerful images.....

    Have a wonderful Christmas.....and most of all a peaceful one......

  14. To spend time with Daughter - that's the best of all. It is hard to watch them go off and live their own lives. But nice to visit too! Especially such a nice, warm place as Az.
    You must have absolutely drunk in the joy of tropical flowers! Especially at this time of year. I think you were smart to get away now. Christmas shopping and baking will get done. Somehow it always does.

    Thanks for sharing your Vacation with us - those sunsets are beauties!

  15. Rose, this is the best written account of a vacation that I have read in some time. Thanks for sharing your vacation for us. It was a nice respite from all this ice and cold.

    I would love to see the Chihuly display in Phoenix. I got to see it in Chicago but the photos I have seen of this exhibit appear so much larger. I just love his work.

    That book store sounds absolutely divine. Isn't it wonderful the things you learn on a vacation??

  16. What a V! The moon looks heavenly (DUH! It is, but over the palm tree, it's highlighted more). Did you taste the oranges? They look delicious.
    I'm glad that I was of some help to you. The Oleander bush looks better in that garden than mine and the flowers somehow seem more beautiful. Great close-up [thumbs-up]
    Well the Bougainvillea and Oleander are ubiquitous here but we never get tired of them. Oleander is very important for us as it's a year-round source of flowers for our daily worship. God! What would we have done without it?
    Those ducks looks cute. No wonder you were drawn to them early, so would I be.
    To me the Float Boat looks like a bowl or super-huge Gems!
    I completely enjoyed the visual trip and I'm sure you did have a fantastic time too.
    BTW, that's a Hong Kong Orchid Tree (Bauhinia x blakeana) The flower is the official emblem of Hong Kong and is basically a tropical species. Looks beautiful! In India it can be seen in North-eastern regions, not in my state though :(

  17. What a lovely post!

    I particularlt liked the moon over ther palm tree (not at all Christmassy, I agree!) and the float boat.

    Beautiful pictures!

  18. Susie, I had a great time, and I wish I had a few ducks here to watch every morning.

    Flydragon, If you go visit your daughter, be sure to stop at the book store--it's in Scottsdale, not too far from downtown. Tempe has such a pretty campus area.

    Joyce, I didn't know he had an exhibit in Missouri last year--wasn't it beautiful? The bougainvillea are lovely; wish we could grow them here.

    Tina, There's so much I haven't seen yet in Arizona--I'm hoping Hubby will go out with me in the spring and we can go to Tucson and the Grand Canyon. It's not a place to visit in the summer, though!

    W2W, Thank you! If I was in the market for a winter home, this would be the time to do it. Real estate is at an all-time low out there, as you can imagine.

    Reader Wil, The Arizona skies were gorgeous--I could have months' worth of SkyWatch photos!

    Beckie, It was such a change, like going from winter to summer in one day. I don't think I've warmed up since I got home:) I would love to have you go with me--we could spend a day at the Gardens instead of a few hours!

    Cheryl, I loved those last few photos, too. It was so peaceful in the evenings--not too many human around to disturb the scene. I am finishing up Christmas preparations now so that I can really enjoy the holiday with my family.

  19. Wendy, This is a time when I'm glad I live in the era I do--between cell phones, the internet, and air travel, it makes it much easier to stay in touch with family members far away. I think I picked the right time to go, too; the usual tourists don't flock into Arizona until after Christmas. And helping Daughter shop for presents and put up her tree made me feel a part of her Christmas as well.

    Lisa, I got spoiled by the warm weather there; I can't quite get warmed up here:) I didn't know Chihuly had an exhibit in Chicago; there were so many pieces in the gardens, perhaps he keeps adding to it.

    Chandramouli, Thank you for all the interesting information on the plants! I love the oleander and bougainvillea, too, and now I remember seeing oleander all over Italy on a visit there. The orchid tree was the only one of its kind I saw, though. Glad you enjoyed the photos.

    Jay, I'm not a great photographer but liked the moon over the palm, too; it was almost sitting on the palm tree:)

  20. What a lovely place. I never think of the southwest as being so full of blooms. I loved your photos, such a variety. The Chihuly glass is unbelievable.

    Do post the Rifleman photos. I remember that TV show.

  21. It sounds like you had a wonderful vacation and what a way to start the Christmas season! An added bonus was a chance to view gardens in Decemebr, what a treat for you! I've never been to Arizona and have always dreamed of going.
    Have a wonderful Christmas at home, I hope you have some snow to adorn your red bows and greens boughs.

  22. Excellent post and photos. Great vacation.

  23. Dear Rose,
    I so enjoyed reading about your vacation! You took beautiful photographs. I remember Arizona so very well. I was there in 1997 for a week.
    Neither one of my children are coming home for Christmas this year and my husband and I are not it will be me an dthe birds.
    I know about The Poison Pen! My girlfriend, Sandi Ault, is a mystery writer and does an author event there every year! I think you might enjoy her series. Her third book will be coming out in March of 2009. Her books are, Wild Indigo, Wild Inferno and the new mystery, Wild Suffering.
    Wonderful post!

  24. Dear Rose,

    Thank you for the warm wishes, I really appreciate them. So glad you liked the card.


  25. I too love Chihuly! I enjoyed a display of it at Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio. Desert Botanical gardens is on my dream list of gardens to visit. What was your favorite thing about it, Chihuly not withstanding?
    ~ Monica

  26. How lovely that you've been able to spend time with your daughter, before Christmas. I would feel incomplete if I didn't see my 3 lads on Christmas day, but I realise that it will happen, sooner or later.

    Believe it or not, I've been to Arizona, too, twice and also have a lovely sunset photo, but not quite as pretty as yours, I don't think. It's obviously a good place for sunsets. Love all of your photos, of course, but I particularly like those of the ducks. Hope you get all of your Christmas stuff done in time!

  27. Rose, it sounds as thought you had a fab time. So glad that you had such a good time with your daughter, special times I'm sure :)

    Some fantastic photos!

  28. Rose, it sounds as thought you had a fab time. So glad that you had such a good time with your daughter, special times I'm sure :)

    Some fantastic photos!

  29. Oh Rose! It sounds (and looks!) like you had a wonderful time with your daughter. Your pictures were amazing--I especially loved the last one of the sunset. It's hard when our little chicks leave the nest--more so at the holidays. But it sounds like you have made the best of it--and had a grand adventure to boot! Have a wonderful Christmas with the rest of the crew.

    (Morning Glories in Round Rock)

  30. So glad you had a fantastic time Rose. I feel like I've been on Vacation with you, so this is a perfect V for me :)

  31. Marnie, I will try to remember to post the Rifleman photos some time. The blooms in Phoenix were a surprise to me, too.

    Jane Marie, I probably wouldn't have ever gotten to Arizona if it wasn't for my daughter living there; it's a beautiful place to go in the winter. Don't worry about our having snow; it is definitely winter here:)

    Antigoni, Thank you, and I hope all is well with you.

    Sherry, How exciting to have a friend who had a book reading there! I will check out her books.

    Zoe, You're welcome. I checked out the website you used; her cards are lovely!

    Monika, You've put me on the spot--I like the saguaros just because they are so impressive. But this time I really enjoyed the herb and wildlife garden just because it was wonderful to see bees and butterflies in December.

    Mean Mom, This will be my first Christmas without all my children here, but I know so many others for whom it is not unusual. Christmas is coming together:)

    Suburbia, I had a great time, and while it was good to get back home, too, I'm not so thrilled about the weather here. It is freezing!

    Jenny, Yes, I come from a family that has always stayed pretty close in this community, so it's hard to have her so far away. But it does give me an excuse to travel:) Thank you for the holiday wishes; I hope you have a wonderful holiday, too.

    VP, I'm glad you took this little trip with me:)

  32. You sure got the most out of your vacation, Rose - and made Arizona look like a place we'd all like to explore! I'm glad you were able to visit with your daughter.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  33. Hi, Rose--I'm catching up as usual--and I'm enjoying your AZ photos even as I sit here in chilly AZ! We saw the Chihuly exhibit two days ago, and my fingers were numb after about an hour (I didn't bring my gloves to Arizona and can't really operate the camera with them anyway). Loved your photos--and your Christmas post as well--your house looks just beautiful, and your sentiments were lovely. I hope your holidays continue to be happy. Best, Cosmo


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