Thursday, February 28, 2013

Solar, and Wireless, Too

I hate electrical cords and water hoses. They trail and tangle and generally make a mess of good room design and gentle landscapes.

So when I spotted the Sunnan solar desk lamp at IKEA I had to have one. The lamp has a small solar panel that pops out for charging. Exposure to direct sunlight (9-12 hours) recharges the three AA batteries, giving enough light for 3 hours, according to the IKEA info sheet that comes with the lamp. The lamp is LED, so it takes some getting used to.

For $20, the lamp is a good investment in the world of solar. You get to see what a solar panel is all about and you have a totally cordless light that could be used in your car, your garage, your porch or deck, or your easy chair -- anywhere that a bit more light for a few hours and no cord would be a good thing.

Read more about the Sunnan lamp HERE.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Visiting Wisconsin Friends

What fun to catch up with Virginia Saltzman from Wisconsin and one of her daughters, Trece Saltzman Davis from Texas. We had lunch together on Monday. The conversation about schooldays in Ripon just flew around the table. Virginia spends some time in the Phoenix area each winter, so it was easy to meet.

Virginia remembered that I was baptized in Wisconsin because she grew up in the churches that my Dad was serving when I was born. I last wrote about the Greenville and Center EUB (Evangelical United Brethen) churches last October. Here is that blog post about when Mom and Dad and Ed and I visited the church where I was baptized.

Virginia grew up on a farm outside of Appleton, Wisconsin and her family went to Greenville Church. (Did I get that right? Dad will correct me, I'm sure!) She babysat my youngest sister, Martha who became became lifelong best friends with Trece.

What a small world and how wonderful to reconnect!

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

More Signal Hill

Here's one of the stone and cement fireplaces at the Signal Hill picnic area in the Tucson Mountain Section of  Saguaro National Park near Tucson. This one has an arched opening and the rounded cement work that is characteristic of most of the structures in the area. Ed and I thought of Aunt Mary's flat beef outdoor recipe and thought of how good that would be to cook on this fireplace.

There is a really big stone picnic table near the arch fireplace. The long top rests on three stone pedestals. You could easily seat 12-14 people around this table. Notice the bench at the end of the table. The Civilian Conservation Corps guys thought of everything. Their work makes this a fun and historic place to visit in Saguaro National Park.

Stone lined trails and stair steps link the picnic area and Signal Hill. The petroglyphs are etched on rough boulders near the top of the hill. The ancient art can be viewed from various places along the trail.

A telephoto lens brings the petroglyphs closer. The swirl and human forms are often seen repeated in artwork along the freeways in Tucson and other cities in the southwest.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, February 25, 2013

Signal Hill CCC Cabin

Ed and I hiked to the top of Signal Hill in Saguaro National Park's Tucson Mountain District on Saturday. We enjoyed the view of the Avra Valley and saw the petroglyphs on the rocks at the top of the hill. The Civilian Conversation Corps built the trail and the structures at the picnic area near the trailhead.

Here's the inside of the Signal Hill picnic cabin, a masterful building with timber framing and skilled stonework. It is like touching history to be in a building like this. You can feel the past and picture the young men from the desperate days of the 1930's whose lives were changed by the federal CCC program that put them to work building trails and dams and structures in national parks and other places.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday Journal

I love the Coca Cola polar bear that appears in winter advertising. Last Sunday I copied the bear and logo into my art journal. Since I'm in the desert for the winter, I added a desert scene to the page, so that the bear is superimposed under a hot sun.

My tools of the trade for this page are a water brush, a Sharpie pen, and watercolor pencils. The cartouche on the left of the page records day, location and weather data, as well as sunrise and sunset.

Each page in the art journal features that day's first cup of coffee. Sometimes I draw the mug carefully. Other times I do a quick outline sketch. Last Sunday it was brewed coffee, usually freshly ground by my sweetheart, that I drank at 7 am. The sketch was hurried since we had company. This is a fun page in my daily art journal.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Ocotillo Leaves

The little leaves on the ocotillos in Arizona always remind me of the ears of baby animals. The shape is soft and rounded. The green is fresh and young.

Desert greens in hues that range from gray green brittle bushes to olive creosotes are popping out like crazy. Warm days will bring on the wildflowers in a week or two.

Spring is coming to Arizona.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, February 22, 2013

Brotherly Love

My camera caught Max and Finn in a quiet moment of brotherly love when they sat long enough on the edge of the wishing well at Tohono Chul Park last weekend. Finn draped his arm around his brother and faced the camera with boyhood innocence.

The rest of the stroll in the park was not a stroll in the park. Finn thought that the park would be one with a playground and it was a garden type park. Still, this photo belies the disappointment of the day, that mother and grandmother would deceive him into walking the paths of a garden.

Once again, this grandmother learned a lesson. Be clear and accurate when describing activities. Also, when all else fails, stage a diversion, like the gift shop.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Crested Snow

Snow is considered a rarity in the Tucson area, unless you count the mountain ranges that surround the city and often wear a covering of white in winter. Yesterday a major storm swept through the Desert Southwest and left at least three inches of snow at elevations as low as 2000 feet.

At the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, this crested saguaro, a rare cactus form, wore a cap of snow. It was a display of rare snow on a rare cactus. It was quite a sight and a thrill for folks out at the museum complex where snow had not fallen in five years.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

New Eyes: Finn's Saguaros

Finn liked the cacti that he saw in Arizona this past weekend. Here's a page from his art book with two saguaros, some desert vegetation, and the Arizona sun high in an ultramarine blue sky.

The ochre yellow critter above the cows is a scorpion. We did see a live scorpion, but it was safely behind glass at the Desert Museum.

The cows and the little hedgehog are rubber stamps from Grandma's collection. They have little to do with the desert but lots to do with the weekend since they were in the stamp box and available. Finn paints the rubber stamps with watercolor and then he does the stamping. That's how he gets a two color hedgehog. Finn taught me his technique last fall when we were stamping autumn leaves.

Both Max and Finn used water brushes and watercolor paints along with stamping supplies to create art while they were here in Arizona. The kitchen counter was filled with stamps, stamp pads, paints, markers, new Smash books and other art supplies so that when the boys arrived they could start their art work.

Doing art is a neat way to document all of the new things that you see when you first come to the desert.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Honey Nut Morning

Mornings at Grandma Wanda's house in Michigan mean Honey Nut Cherrios in the little Honey Nut cartons from Target. Well, Arizona couldn't be any different, so here's Max, enjoying his morning cereal, while his mom catches up on email with a cup of coffee.

Needless to say, I'm still picking up Honey Nuts from the floors. The little bits of cereal are always a sweet remembrance of fun weekends spent with family.

That green bag on the floor behind Max is the "Pig Bag" from the Piggly Wiggly in Lomira, Wisconsin.  On Saturday night we filled the Pig Bag with used books from Bookman's Used Bookstore on Ina in Tucson. Max and Finn took one book each back to Michigan in their rollabouts. The rest of the books will arrive via Priority Mail at their house this week.

Won't Hannah and Vallee have a good time when they come to Arizona? We can eat Honey Nuts in the morning, swim in the sunshine, walk in the desert, and fill the Pig Bag with books at Bookman's!

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, February 18, 2013

Cactus Curiosity

Max and Finn picked the yellow pineapple-shaped fruits off the top of barrel cacti and opened them up to see what is inside. Here's Finn, using a cactus spin to pierce the skin of the fruit.

And here are the seeds that are inside of one fruit. Finn pulled the skin aside and watched how many small black seeds emerged.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sunday in the Courtyard

We enjoyed breakfast in the east courtyard, a swim, a walk, and several rides in the electric golf cart. Here we are, after breakfast in the courtyard. Finn is at his usual speed which is more "on" than "off." Max is doing art work. Grandpa is checking his cellphone. Liesl is watching Finn move.

It is an enjoyable day in the sun in Arizona.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Couchy Couch

Max and Finn and Liesl are visiting us this weekend. Cactii and scorpions are big topics of discussion. However, Max has made a discovery.

"Grandma," he said as he snuggled down into the sofa, "your couch is SO couchy!"

Here's Finn enjoying some morning screen time on the couchy couch before our big day out exploring the desert.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, February 15, 2013

Mowing The Fairway

The maintenance staff at The Highlands Golf Course on Dove Mountain near Tucson uses Thursday mornings for extra duties. Golfers stay off the course until the afternoon and walkers are allowed on the cart paths.

I caught this image of a mower on the thirteenth fairway in early morning when the distant mountains were shrouded in haze but the grass was dry enough to mow. As you can guess from the photo, the 13th hole is steep and a challenge to play. It is a par 4 and a high handicap hole for most players.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Val and Her Baltimore Quilt

I'm thinking of my mother today. Here she is, with her Baltimore Album quilt, in the living room at the farmhouse on a summer day.

On this Valentine's Day, I treasure the memories of quilts and my sweet mother, Val. It is indeed a joy to know that our youngest granddaughter shares Mom's name, Vallanee Rose. My sister calls little Val, "Val Two."

Happy Valentine's Day, Val One and Val Two, our sweet girls!

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Over Tucson Mountains

I just couldn't resist adding another image from Monday's hot air balloon excursion to the blog. Here's the approach to the north end of the Tucson Mountains. That's Twin Peaks to the left in the photo. The balloon's shadow is approaching Rattlesnake Pass.

But the drama here is the sky. That wedge of a cloud front in the distance turned into snowfall in some regions around Tucson by evening. Most of Tucson had cold and rainy weather by noon.

The spectacular clouds brought dramatic winter weather to the Desert Southwest.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Shrove Tuesday King Cake

We are nibbling on a King Cake from Haydel's Bakery in New Orleans today. The King Cake is an oval shaped coffee cake with cinnamon and frosting in the Mardi Gras colors -- gold for power, green for faith, and purple for justice.

The porcelain street car in the center of the ring is a collectible sent by the bakery along with beads, the cake, a poster and other Mardi Gras goodies. There is a tiny plastic baby baked into the cake (years ago, bakers used a coin) and whomever gets the slice with the baby must host a party or, in some traditions, is crowned king or queen.

The King Cake has its roots in Epiphany, the traditional time of the coming of the three wise men. A King Cake may be eaten anytime between Twelfth Night and Fat Tuesday (or Shrove Tuesday, as I am calling today.)

Now that you know all of this, guess what happened when I went to slice the King Cake last Friday?

I hit the baby right away! Since my birthday was coming up, I slid the baby out from under the knife (just a wee bit nicked up) and considered my good luck. We brewed a pot of hot coffee and enjoyed the cinnamon coffee cake, a yummy treat on any day of the year.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, February 11, 2013

First Hot Air Balloon Ride

It's an incredible journey, this going up in a hot air balloon. You start in the cold dusk of the morning when the sun's rays are a promise.

You look at a basket and think "how are six adults going to fit in that little space?" while a giant fan throws air into yards and yards of nylon draped limply across a gravel parking lot. The balloon grows upright. Burners flame. Pulses quicken. Then you clamber in -almost a tumble -- get your footing, hear the burners and lift gently into the morning.

The magical drift of the balloon, the yapping of dogs below, the kiss of first sunlight coming across the mountains -- these are things that I heard and felt and saw today on my first hot air balloon ride.

The hot air that lifts the balloon comes from two propane burners that spout flame and heat into the tear drop shaped balloon. The pilot opens the burners for lift and carefully monitors the winds and altitude during the flight which is largely dictated by the wind and weather of the day.

We lifted off on the east side of the Tucson Mountains and flew above Rattlesnake Pass out into the Avra Valley. Our chase team was in contact with the pilot during the flight and met us as we landed in a field out near the Marana Municipal Airport, northeast of Tucson and west of Interstate 10.

We glided in for a landing, bumped a bit and then crawled out of the basket one by one. The team smooshed the balloon into a long swath of fabric and folded the 300 plus pounds of nylon into a stuff sack. The big sack was stashed into a trailer, followed by the basket, and we were off to a nearby park for a picnic breakfast.

Dan Ewer and his crew from Tucson's Foolish Pleasures Hot Air Balloon Rides were outstanding. They are professional, friendly, and obviously enthusiastic about introducing their passengers to the wonders of floating through the air with the greatest of ease.

Would I go again? Yes, in a heart beat. And, oh, did I tell you that I'm terrified of heights but had heard that a hot air balloon experience negates the "fall through the air" fear? For me, it worked. No fear, just the simple joy of seeing the world with new eyes.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Yep, Another Birthday

Oh my, it's the big 6-5. Another birthday is here. But, I totally cannot complain.

Food tastes great. I like to golf and golf is getting to like me, considering the times that I actually par holes now. I enjoy travel, but I love being at home even more. Good health is a blessing beyond measure and a daily gift to be nurtured with exercise and cooking.

My family is wonderful -- kids, grandkids, sibs and subs and all. My Dad will be 92 on his next birthday, so what is there to talk about when one turns 65? And friends, I am blessed with friends old and new.

So, here is a photo of me, taken by Ed, my sweetheart, last week while we were at Disney for a business convention. I had been knitting on the scarf that I'm wearing for upwards of six years. I finished the knitting on that afternoon of this photo. So my big smile shows my satisfaction at finishing a project and being able to enjoy the warmth of the scarf, all in one day.

The scarf is a sign of one more blessing that life brings to me -- that of making things by hand. I enjoy knitting and drawing and painting and photography -- all endeavors that train the eye and calm the hands.

Life is a blessing. That I can affirm today. And tomorrow. And always.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Call The BeeMaster

The Bee Master arrived late afternoon yesterday and removed a swarm of Africanized honeybees from the front entry of our Tucson area house. He walked up to the swarm and assessed the situation.

"Not aggressive. Let's get 'em," was the word. With his bee jacket and headgear on and pail in hand, Mr. Bee Master slid the swarm into a five gallon pail and topped it with a screen cover. A few sprays of friendly insecticide and he was done.

A few bee travelers who had ventured away from the swarm drifted off into the neighborhood. Others succumbed to the spray. It was a fairly quick job, but one that I am very glad can be done by an expert.

The bee master is actually Dr. Steve Thoenes, whose company, BeeMaster, deals with all kinds of outdoor insect extermination in the southern Arizona area. Steve said this swarm might be useful somewhere else, but probably not for any research, since they didn't seem to be aggressive bees.

Problem solved. Call the BeeMaster!

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, February 8, 2013

Beehive Surprise

A hive of bees has taken up residence under the front entry at our Arizona house. We arrived late last night after our week in Florida. A yellow tape, like a crime scene tape, is draped across the gate that leads to the east patio.

A voice mail on Ed's phone revealed the presence of a bee hive at the front door, discovered by the UPS delivery person yesterday, and reported to the maintenance staff here at The Highlands.

The bees will have to go live somewhere else, so we are on the phone and using email this morning, trying to determine whether the hive is valuable and should be relocated, or is it a threat and should be destroyed. 

More to come!

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Dolphin Fonts

The Dolphin Resort at Disney stands in silhouette against a painted evening sky. Giant urns, looking like unused baptismal fonts, greet Disney worshippers as they enter this temple, one of many huge buildings of the Disney properties.

One hopes that the fonts bestow blessings --untold blessings -- on the multitudes of humanity who come and go from this place of magical moments and shared joys.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Apple Blossom Pastry

The morning pastry assortment at Disney's resort offers this phyllo dough, apple pie filling, and crunch granola  specialty. Topped with a drizzle of maple flavored glaze, it was delightful with coffee.

At $4.29, it is a stand alone breakfast.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Disney Skies Album

Large cartoon style dolphin on top of Dolphin Resort

Sunset illuminates the Hall of Presidents at Disney's Magic Kingdom
The Beast's Castle (from Beauty and The Beast)
 in the new Fantasyland, Disney's Magic Kingdom

Monday, February 4, 2013

Eagle in Florida

Yes, that is a bald eagle perched elegantly on top of one of the giant swans that top the Swan Hotel at Disney's complex in mid Florida. The big swans, there are two of them, are probably 25-30 feet high and provide a distinctive sculptural accent to the huge hotel.

We spotted this eagle about 5 pm last night. At first we thought it was an osprey, but close up views in cameras reveal the golden yellow beak that is a characteristic of an adult bald eagle.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Ospreys in Florida

We golfed at Disney's Osprey Ridge Golf Course yesterday afternoon and got to observe nesting sites for ospreys. We think we saw at least two of these tall perches, one on the front nine and one on the back nine. From a distance the wooden perches resemble cell phone towers.

While golfing we heard a medium tone, chirping sound which we later figured out were the ospreys. The nests were build of sticks and hanging moss. The birds were active and, while we couldn't get in close and did not have binoculars, it was really neat to be near these huge birds of prey.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Happy Birthday, Liesl

It's Liesl's birthday today and instead of probing the family archives for people photos, I thought I would have Mr. Bernie wish her a very happy birthday.

The family tales about Mr. Bernie, The Most Wonderful Cat Ever, go on and on. Someday I will write more about this incredible cat with 26 toes who went to MSU with Liesl for classes one summer.

Meantime, have a great day, Liesl Marie!

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, February 1, 2013

More Magic

Back to Disney and all the magic. That's where life has taken me for a few days. And, oh, this is a confession, I am so not a Disney person.

It's like being in another country to be on the Disney properties. The rate of exchange (what I pay for a meal or experience or stuff) is high. The hospitality is warm, but forced. And, besides, in January, even Florida is cold.

My wise and sage mother-in-law always says that if you want to be warm in the winter, go to the Caribbean. Well, warm weather is not an issue. Getting out of the rain and the ice might be.

So, today is explore the new Fantasyland. I like Beauty and the Beast, so maybe the magic will begin to envelope me at Belle's Castle.

Here's hoping that works. Magically. Now. Today. Soon.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler