Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year from Las Aventuras!!!

Taken in Parfrey's Glen in Wisconsin back in '98.  It all started with an idea and a question.  What more is there? Let's find out.

I'd like to wish all my followers a Happy New Year!!!  It has been an incredible year blogging for Las Aventuras.  Of course there is more to come next year, but for now, I thought it would be fun to recap this years highlights and put it all into a video.  It's hard to express how much work went into this blog when it all was really fun to put together.  However, I did have moments of frustration and some screaming was involved.....especially on the posts that were erased after several hours of work! Be safe and we'll see you back next year for more fun and exciting adventures around the Tucson garden.....and beyond!

Friday, December 30, 2011


Sometimes I withdraw into my own little world.....and just think.  There are little miracles all around me that happen everyday.  I know I make an impact on the world, but it's never really evident how it all goes down.....I just know that I make a difference.  I was born to support structures and be creative within them. Sometimes I wonder if there is ever an original idea out there to be discovered. I open a book up and read....just read. One weekend in Rocky Point, Mexico, I sat back and read, ate carrot cake, read some more, and walked the beach alone picking up shells as the waves crashed over my feet.
I know that everyday is vital and important.  I know that everyday is special and unique.  Sometimes I forget those things and get lost in my routine......and forget to breathe. Photography allows me to focus and shut out the world and pay attention to the things that matter the most.  Gardening also allows me to create and dream of inspiration.  As the El Presidio garden grows; so do I.  The garden angers me, makes me happy, makes me want to do more.....and do less.  Sometimes I just want to shut the doors and not look outside because it frustrates me.  And yet it's still there when I open the door again. 
Sometimes a little getaway helps me escape the work and issues every gardener has in their own world.  But it's when I come back from my getaway that I feel inspired to get back into my work around the property. And that's when I feel alive......

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Cliff Dwellers

We, the people of the Southwest, are surrounded by the ancient ruins of the Cliff Dwelling people.  In fact, Utah, Arizona, and Colorado are just a few of the states that have remnants from this fascinating culture.  The largest group of Cliff Dwelling ruins are found in the 4 corner region near the Mexican hat.  I had been there on a rafting trip in 8th grade and remember the large empty cliff city.  It had been a long time since I had visited these landmarks so we spent 3 days up in the north of Arizona where we created a homebase in Flagstaff to hop around to these locations.
Montezuma's Castle

We were hot and exhausted on our final day of travel.  But Montezuma's Castle provided wonderful shade and an easy walk to visit the ruins.  Known as the ancient farmers of the Verde Valley, the Sinagua(those without water) people principally lived off of farming.  They supplemented their staple crops by hunting and gathering. There are several areas around northern Arizona that are home to the Sinagua people which include Tuzigoot, Montezuma's Castle and Montezuma's Well.  Each site charges 5 bucks to enter.

No one knows why the Southern Sinagua abandoned their pueblos by the early 1400's.  Possible explanations include over population, depletion of natural resources, disease, conflicts within and between groups. Whatever the reasons, some Southern Sinagua may have migrated to pueblo villages to the north or Hohokam villages to the south, while others may have stayed in the valley and returned to hunter-gatherer ways.

Another great hike is to Walnut Canyon.  The stairs initially going down into the cliff village is steep so if you have a difficult time walking, take it slow.  Lots of people climb the stairs and it became a running joke from the passerbys both up and down the steps.  Bring water and a hat with you for a more comfortable visit.....and also use sunblock.  Remember that you'll be at a higher elevation and breathing can be difficult for some people.
Dwellings sheltered by overhanging cliffs, were home to Walnut Canyon's only permanent inhabitants more than 800 years ago.  Sinagua homes remained largely undisturbed until the 19th century.  In the 1880's, the railroad brought souvenir hunters to the ancient dwellings.  Theft and destruction prompted local efforts to preserve the canyon and soon drew national support.  In 1915 Walnut Canyon was declared a national monument.  Hundreds of years have passed since Sinagua voices and laughter could be heard.

Why did they live in the cliffs?  These canyons are secluded and out of sight from other people.  The cliffs protected the people from invaders and extremely cold temps.  It also provided some protection from the brutal summer sun.  Several "homes" located around the cliffs acted as lookouts for the village.
The close proximity of the homes also allowed for trading to happen and act as "local stores" for bartering items.  Cliff homes were generally situated on cliffsides facing south and east to take advantage of warmth and sunlight.  A few sites faced north and west; these may have been occupied during the warmer months.  Archeologists believe that it was the women who built the homes.  The dwellings were made from shallow caves eroded out of the limestone cliffs.
There are a lot of plantlife zones in the Walnut Canyon area. You'll see pines, cactus, and yucca at the various levels of the canyon.  Walnut Creek is so called because of the Arizona Black Walnut that grows along the riverbank on the bottom of the canyon.
So if you're in the area....

....stop by and see.....

....the amazing and ancient ruins.....
....of the Sinagua people.
We had a fun time here and loved visiting these old sites again.
As a kid, I thought they were cool.  As an adult, I view them with a deeper appreciation of history and culture.
Which of course begs the question?  What will our society leave behind for future generations?

Cow's Tongue

There's a lot of wonderful cacti out there for our Tucson gardens.  One of the hardiest cactus that grows here in Tucson is called the Cow's Tongue.  Very little care is required for this cactus here.  Many people will call it a Prickly Pear with the longer I did.  For years, I just knew that this was a different cactus from the others that grew better than others, but I didn't know the name!!  This plant survived our historic freeze this past year and has actually done better than other cacti around town.  It likes sun and will spread out over the ground.  It's an extremely attractive specimen to have around as a barrier or in an area you don't want people hanging around:)  Watch the watering.  It can handle a bit more water than other cacti here but not much more.  Another tip that comes to mind, if you place these near a busy street, they will collect trash like plastic bags, etc and get stuck to the needles.  That's important to know:)  Plant in our clay soil.  It will do well.  To propogate, take several paddles off the main plant and let scab over for a week before placing into your landscape.  This cactus is very low maintenance here.  For ideas, drive around town and check out how people use this cactus.  If you are in Tucson, I recommend driving down Tucson Blvd near Ft. Lowell.  There is a wonderful display of the Cow's Tongue cactus for a good portion of the block.
I think these plants look great in controlled colonies.  For example, on a trip to New Mexico, we found this colony of Cow's Tongue growing near the road.  Many people utilize this cactus in this manner.  If you are new to Tucson, don't be afraid to use these plants in your front yard or near a road.  Think barriers.  While I love Tucson, there are issues with random people jumping fences etc.  Prevention is the key word here and a colony of these tough guys will keep even the most resilient of riff raff out of your yard....and still look attractive at the same time.  Mix this idea with another cactus known as Cow's Horn and create a "cattle ranch":) We're nearing the end of December and the start of the New Year.  While gardening may be a little quiet right now, consider your options and projects in the yard and prep before the hot and long summer months begin. More tomorrow....

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The White Elephant in the Room

During one of those crazy holiday parties this past month, there was a gift exchange known as the "White Elephant".  I had heard of it before but had never seen it put to the test.  We went to Pat's medical holiday party and exchanged gifts.  The rule is that you place a present on the table with the others.  Everyone picks a number and are called up to the gift table to pic out any one of the gifts.  They open the gift and present what it is to everyone in the crowd (because it could be stolen from someone else later on.)
Many of the gifts were ridiculously funny while others carried the sacred name of Starbucks.  There were also the coveted gifts of alcohol like fine wines or vodkas, and gift cards to some wonderful places here in Tucson.  These gift items, of course, were highly revered by the medical staff!  Doesn't alcohol have healing properties? Or is it just used to sterilize wounds?  I forget. Someone can make a swap(at the table only) when they open their gift.  If they don't like it, they can swap it with a previously opened item forcing the person who already opened a gift to return back to the table and pick another present which could be swapped by yet another person.
Each gift can only be swapped twice and then it's safe from being "swapped" or as some people put it..."stolen".  People with the great gifts hide in the back hoping that others will have forgotten the items, but with this sharp crowd, not a single one would:)   Several were puzzled by their mysterious items that didn't come with instructions.  One young lady tried to "sell" her gift to the crowd by modeling with the items, but unfortuneatly she was not successful.  We were all trying to figure out what the plastic containers were used for, but alas no one knew:(  The rumor was that they were for cream and sugar?  Well the number 17 was called and Pat went to the table and picked the gift.  I don't know if Mother Nature was watching over us, but when Pat opened it up, a very Las Aventuras item was revealed and I got excited.  Thankfully no one wanted it, but I sure did. Take a look at the pic below and you'll discover the reason:)

A special "Thank You" to the doctors, nurses, and staff of Northwest Hospitals for putting on a really nice party at Flemings.  It's nice to put a face and a human side to the people who work in the medical field and make a difference in our everyday lives. Happy Holidays to all!
For more on the info on this idea, click on White Elephant Gift Exchange.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Woods On a Snowy Evening

"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost published in 1923.
"Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep."

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays!!

Happy Holidays from the Rohrer family!

"Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home!" ~Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, 1836

Taken at El Presidio

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Cool Feathery Thoughts

Tanacetum densum ssp. amanii  or Partridge Feather Plant at the Arboretum at Flagstaff

"Winter is the time of promise because there is so little to do - or because you can now and then permit yourself the luxury of thinking so."
- Stanley Crawford

Friday, December 23, 2011

Tucson Christmas Home Ideas

Once or twice a year, I like to take shots from other photographers in Tucson and showcase their work around the landscape.  This year's photo set comes from  The pics were posted on their website and demonstrate that the holidays are alive and well in Tucson. 
I enjoy the way Tucsonans use lighting in their landscape.  If you look at the lights in the above pic, you'll notice some interesting holiday design.  They use white lighting to create a "snow" appearance on the ground.  Note their Saguaro cactus is covered in lights and the palm uses yellow lights to reflect a little warmth in the yard. Also note how many times I use the word "light" in this paragraph.:)
Sometimes people will decorate one Saguaro cactus or they'll buy a metal structure that resembles a Saguaro cactus.  I really like this look in the desert garden.  Plantwise.  Lighting around a plant can keep it from dying back during freezing temps.  Right now we are under a freeze warning for 3 nights here in the Old Pueblo.  Many of these holiday lights will save plants from freezing:)
And as for electric bills?  This one must cost a fortune!!
Some people put these pieces up in the yard and add a little movement just to make things stand out a bit for onlookers to stop and gawk at their creations:)
This year my brother dressed up like Batman with my nephew for the Holiday parade.  I love these shots!
I like how they decorate the Ocotillo in the pics below.
I really also enjoy how people will decorate their inner courtyard with cool designs.  One of my favorite things to observe during the holiday season was how people would open up their garages with a beautiful and MOVING holiday scene.  It really has a magical feel!
For more ideas, click on the Winterhaven video below and check out some of the fun in this Christmas wonderland located in central Tucson. Stay tuned for more!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Past

My brother doing an impression of Harry Potter
 The nice thing about this time of year is that we all get together for laughs and making memories.  I find that at times we revert back to our childhood and get into trouble like we used to as kids.  It's amazing how life can fly by and how that as we get older, it becomes more difficult to get together.  But the holidays allow for all of us to celebrate family and friends again.
 We celebrate the people who are no longer here with us by remembering them with several of their items that they used to hang on their trees and in their homes.  The ornaments on my Grandparent's tree from over 20 years ago now decorate my own tree.  We remember those who made a difference in our own lives.
 And of course, there are some ridiculous blackmail moments because you get bored or just want to mess with the other person.
While writing one evening, my sister decided to fling flour into my face....which led to an all out war in the kitchen.
Then there are the forced family photos where we do crazy things in the snow and freeze our butts off! But Mom's chili makes it all worth it:)
 And the new fun with nephews and nieces who make us relive older moments again.  We take the little ones sledding and tubing like we used to do as kids. There is nothing like watching my mother on a tube sliding down a hill.  LOL!!!
 Then there are those spontaneous moments (after a few Christmas spirits) when a snowman is created in the front yard for all to see.
 And those moments when snow falls and covers the city......
And it's what makes the holiday season snow much fun:)  More tomorrow.....

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Grandma Rohrer's Infamous Pumpkin Cookies

Warning!  I'm not going Betty Crocker on you all. These cookies are divine and they are delish! Nature will resume tomorrow;) Las Aventuras is a blog about travel, the critters, plants, and gardening in the desert.  But my personal challenge was to create a unique 12 day theme that builds up to the holiday season for many people.  For me, it gets me excited because I'll get to be home with my family again.  And there it is.....the adventure of family, food, and fun. And I'll be taking you all on some amazing treks while home! It's not about the gifts for me anymore (and it hasn't been that way for years now) as it is about being with family and doing crazy things together.....with a lot of laughter happening afterwards.  Today I'm going to share with you two very special things about my Grandma Rohrer.  I am still lucky to have one of my Grandparents alive while the other 3 have passed.   It was during this time of year that Grandma Rohrer made her famous pumpkin cookies.  Thankfully she taught me the recipe before she passed.  It took me a year to perfect the recipe but it was an adventure in the kitchen with a lot of pumpkin and date love.  I have the recipe below.  You will be a hit if you make these for your family.  I think it's the frosting that makes these cookies stand out from the rest.  But I'll let you be the judge of that:)  Grandma would come to our house with several large trays of pumpkin cookies and within an hour or two, all the cookies would be gone!!!  Sometimes she'd make them and hold them hostage at her house so that we would come and visit:)  Smart lady.

In college, broke and looking for ways to save money, I'd have a baking day where I would make loaves of bread and other pastries with my roomie.  It would never fail that after I made the frosting and covered the cookies, my roommate would eat all the frosting off the cookies.  Nasty!!!  One morning, I woke up to check on the cookies and put them in their containers and discovered that there wasn't any frosting on any of them!!!  The guilty party just laughed and said she had a sugar attack in the middle of the night.  Right.....:)
I was bored and wanted to dress up the pic a bit.  I don't even know what that thing is on top of my head.
The frosting thief!!

But here's the last memory of my Grandma Rohrer.  She made her pumpkin cookies and in a rare Christmas moment, my Grandmother's godchild came to visit from California.  It was a reunion that hadn't happened in years.  Although they wrote and practically spoke on the phone everyday to one another, they didn't get the chance to visit often in person.  So on Christmas Eve, I went outside to enjoy the snow falling.  Arizona can be a downer for this kind of event(if you like snow).  So I stepped outside into the cold Wisconsin air and looked inside my house all bundled up in my winter gear.  I ate one of the last pumpkin cookies my Grandmother made and watched as she, her two sons and spouses, godchild and grandchildren hung around the Christmas tree nibbling on Chex mix and sharing stories of the past and present.  I tried to memorize the picture as best I could looking into our house from outside.  As the eldest, I am the unofficial record keeper for my family. And the only one to move out of Wisconsin!  I got a little misty eyed watching it all, thinking, that it might be the last time that my Grandma would get to meet up with her Godchild...and it was.  It would also be the last time, I'd get to eat one of my Grandma's pumpkin cookies.  But because she took the time and taught me her secret to an excellent cookie, I can always celebrate her memory by making these wonderful treats.  PS.  The secret is in the dates!  It keeps the cookie moist.  The frosting makes you want more.  So here is my Grandma Rohrer's infamous pumpkin cookie recipe.  Hope you enjoy this little adventure in the kitchen!  If you dislike dates, you can substitute with walnuts, but it will make the cookie drier.

Grandma Rohrer's Pumpkin Cookie Recipe

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup pumpkin
1 cup of dates
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup shortening

Mix dry ingredients first or you'll have a difficult time stirring!  Then add wet ingredients like the pumpkin, shortening, etc.  If you have a mixer, it's a lot easier to do.  Pat out with spoon.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.  Frost while still warm.  While baking, get your frosting mix ready.

Frosting recipe
3 tbs. butter
4 tbs. milk
1/2 cup of brown sugar
Boil this mixture for two minutes and let cool.  That's the key here if you've never made homemade frosting before.....IT MUST COOL before adding the powder sugar.  Sometimes I put the pot in the fridge for a quicker cool.   Once cool, beat in 1 cup(or so:) of powder sugar until stiff.  Add 3/4 tsp. vanilla.  Beat until creamy.  And frost cookies. Hope you enjoy a Rohrer family tradition.  Happy Holidays!