September 24, 2013

when an oregonian moves to arizona


clouds forming in afternoon
A lighthearted look at when an Oregonian moves to Arizona... Or at least, this Oregonian!


Oregonian-in-Arizona problems:

feel guilty recycling bottles and cans, like I'm throwing out 5 cents every time

there are two health food stores in town and I still can't find some things I'm used to buying 

trying to explain to friends back in Oregon that from spring-to-fall we are on the same time, and fall-to-spring we are an hour ahead (AZ, I love you for not doing daylight savings!)

look outside and see that it's raining, assume it must be cold (summer. no, I will not need that sweatshirt. rainboots might not be a bad idea, though, but they look weird with shorts.)

look outside and see that it's sunny, assume it must be warm (winter. at 5300 ft. where Prescott is, it gets cold, but that's okay, because it is sunny. oh, yeah!)

forgetting to calculate sales tax when considering a purchase

missing Fred Meyer stores

wondering why grocery stores don't stock more apples (is that a northwest thing?)


Things I find myself saying:

"wow, look! it's raining! cool" (in surprised, happy voice. say whaaat?)

"the hills look different. oh, they're green now!" (late summer.)

"come in here! there's two bunnies outside and breakfast is ready!"


free entertainment for an Oregonian-in-Arizona:

summer thunderstorms

all the different animals

the people who use an umbrella between the parking lot and store when it's lightly raining and 80 degrees outside

the aisle of summer stuff in Walgreen's labeled "Beach" (really? where?)


free entertainment for Arizonans watching an Oregonian-in-Arizona:

one of us saying, "ooh look! a lizard! it's so cuuute!"

"hey, a road runner, awesome!"

"quail!" (squeal!)

(I'm sure we sound like such tourists when we're in public)

us pointing and laughing at the above-mentioned signage in Walgreen's (yes, that was probably obnoxious of us)

low clouds and light rain over the grasslands

heavy rain during a September monsoon

August 26, 2013

summertime means lizards

close-up of Arizona Whiptail Lizard photo by Jennifer Kistler 2013
Summer means lots of lizards around here. There are a couple that hang around our front porch, startling me as they scurry under the small bushes when I walk by, or sunning themselves on the posts (and one also likes to cling to a window screen in the sun). One occasionally walks across our back covered deck/porch and disappears over the edge. One day I had the hose running to fill up a bucket so the kids could refill their water guns easily, and we noticed one of the pretty striped lizards nearby. We all stood still and he walked right under me and started drinking water that was on the stepping stone. I slowly moved away and got my camera.

We think the lizards are really cool. The little creatures that live in or visit our yard are almost like having pets that we don't have to take care of, which is awesome! (Except the dangerous Arizona Bark Scorpions. They are really not welcome here.)

Arizona Whiptail Lizard drinking water off stone photo by Jennifer Kistler copyright 2013
thirsty lizard in our back yard

Arizona Whiptail Lizard photo by Jennifer Kistler 2013 Prescott AZ
Arizona Striped Whiptail Lizard

August 22, 2013

summertime means old cars

cool flame paintjob
Summer means old cars are out around here. Actually, it is sunny so much of the year, car enthusiasts can enjoy their special rides (even convertibles and ones with no side windows) almost year-round, which is how we ended up here. Really? you ask. Yup. We only knew about Prescott because my parents knew about Prescott (and then moved here) and told us about it. And they knew about Prescott because my dad is really into old cars, and he has several buddies (whom he met at various car shows and through other friends over the years) who live here.

So I suppose it's fitting that we should attend the Watson Lake Car Show this August. I've been to so many car shows over my lifetime (and participated in a few when I had my 1967 Mustang) that I almost don't care anymore. Almost. I still manage to find cars to get excited about seeing! Guess it's in my blood. Although it was quite hot (and I was glad my family didn't insist on staying all day), we saw a neat variety of vintage automobiles. We had fun picking what to vote for (for people's choice awards). And in the vendor area, Steven found a couple Hot Wheels he had wanted to add to his collection (that's what he's holding in the photo below).

my boys next to my dad's roadster

love the metallic forest green on this pickup...

...and it had a really neat stained-glass rear window

I'll always love the Mustangs!

car with stunning paintjob and decal honoring the 19 Hotshots

neat old log truck

August 14, 2013

by myself

blooming prickly pear cactus
The kids have gone back to school.

It's quiet here by myself.

I'm mostly fine with that. I need my alone time to recharge. Some solitude is good for the soul. But it is a little weird, especially at the beginning of each school year.

I'm alone with my own self-discipline (or lack of) and to-do list. Alone with my daydreams and nostalgia. It's a wonderful, and dangerous, place to be.

So I will do chores and get busy with work projects. I will rejoice that I get to pick my background music, without anyone complaining or making fun of it! And each day, before I know it, it will be time to pick the boys up from school.

August 1, 2013

on a summer evening walk

hummingbird moth photograph
hummingbird moth
Some summer evenings we go for walks in our neighborhood. On any given evening, we might see a sunset, lightning in the distance, a rainbow, a bat flying, quail, and usually plenty of wild bunnies (and a few airplanes). The kids have taken to keeping a bunny count each time. I don't usually take a camera with me, but sometimes wished I had.

Last night, we didn't even make it out of our own front yard without having to go back in and get my good camera. We had noticed an interesting large insect at one of our flowering plants, then another, and another. Hummingbird moths! (We looked them up later; specifically White-Lined Sphinx Moths.) We stood and watched them for many minutes. They are super cool bugs! We found if we approached the plants slowly and then stood still, they would fly very close. I think my boys wish they could be pets. One said they were awesome. When we came back from our walk we noticed many more around our front yard, at least a dozen. After being creeped out by huge beetles, a couple scorpions, and fire ants this summer, it was nice to see a bug like this. Maybe other people have seen them a hundred times, but we had never seen any and were totally excited about them! I think we're going to sound like tourists in our town for some time to come, with everything so new and different to us.

white-lined sphinx month photograph by Jennifer Kistler copyright 2013 Prescott Arizona
thankful that someone planted so many of these perennial flowers in our yard

hummingbird moth photo, another view
such a cool bug!

wild bunny photograph by Jennifer Kistler copyright 2013 Prescott Arizona
wild bunny in the late evening sun

evening rainbow in Prescott Arizona
rainbow over a neighbor's house

July 23, 2013

red rocks of sedona

Bell Rock near Sedona Arizona
Bell Rock (near Sedona, Arizona)
There are some great places to explore not far from Prescott. One day this May, we drove to Sedona. I have long wanted to go to Sedona (years before moving here was ever a thought!), so it was a welcome day trip.

We were enchanted with each new rock formation we saw on the way to Sedona. We oohed and ahhed every time we turned a corner! It was stunning. So different than anything I have ever seen.

Uptown Sedona reminded me of a crowded seaside town on a summer weekend, but without the fog or beach nearby. We weren't there to browse the shops (at least not this time), so no matter. We got over to the west side of town and ate lunch at Picazzo's. I'll tell you, I look forward to eating there again next time we visit, yum! (the meat ball appetizer is delicious, and the berry-licious salad is the best salad I have ever eaten!)


driving up to Sedona

Next we drove out Dry Creek Rd. We walked a little of the trail below the north side of Capitol Butte (if I have my rocks right!). We examined rocks, spotted a lovely butterfly, and noticed the dirt is like red sand. Then we drove farther out into Boynton Canyon to see more beautiful views.

Steven and I examining rocks (near Capitol Butte)

Boynton Canyon near Sedona AZ nature photograph copyright Jennifer Kistler 2013
one of many wonderful views in Boynton Canyon

But just looking at these great rocks wasn't enough for some of my family, Steven wanted to really get up on one, or he wasn't going to be happy! We did go to Sedona for the rocks, so we went back to the parking area at Bell Rock on our way out of town. The guys hiked partway up Bell Rock while I waited and watched from below. We plan to go back at another time of year when it is not so hot, and do it again.

the guys partway up Bell Rock

July 19, 2013

respect, sorrow, and gratitude for nineteen heroes

So, while I would like to just live in my own little peaceful bubble this summer, life just doesn't always work out that way. But before I go any further in this story that I feel compelled to tell, I just want to tell you that for my next post, I'm planning to quickly share a few photos from our first visit to Sedona back in May (when I fell behind on my blog). It was a place I had long wanted to see, and we definitely plan to go back!

Just after the Doce Fire got under control and our area felt safe again, the Yarnell Hill Fire broke out (southwest of Prescott). As we oohed and ahhed at the lightning out our front windows, we noticed the wind shifting several times. It was so very sad to learn later that evening that nineteen firefighters from Prescott (the Granite Mountain Hotshots) had perished during that very time.

The loss hit Prescott very hard. So many people knew them, or knew somebody who did, or (including us) were just plain thankful for them after their hard work on the Doce Fire. Vehicles had been driving around town with "thank yous" written on their back windows to the firefighters. They were heroes here.

The following week was Prescott Frontier Days Rodeo (running all week), Fourth of July, and the Frontier Days Parade. The whole week's activities became opportunities to honor what are being called The Fallen 19 (AKA The Prescott 19 and The Yarnell 19).

It was also a week of many firsts for us in our new hometown. Wednesday we attended a performance of the Rodeo. Thursday we watched Prescott's city fireworks display. Best fireworks I have ever seen! They really know how to do it.

one of many equestrian entries in the Prescott Frontier Days Parade

Saturday July 6 was the Prescott Frontier Days Parade. It turned out to be a 2.5 hour parade, by far the longest I've ever watched in person! It had a wonderfully genuine, "down home", old west flavor, and I was thrilled to see so many horses! It had also turned into a huge tribute to the fallen firefighters. More entries than not honored them with signs, flags, purple ribbons, and so on, and drew repeated applause from the spectators. By far the most touching entry featured nineteen riderless horses, each with firefighter boots in the stirrups and a sign with the name of one of The Fallen 19. The respect, sorrow, and gratitude for these heroes was palpable.


The fence of the Hot Shot crew's station (three sides of the property) is covered. We recently drove by again. Finally there was not a crowd, so we parked and walked the whole fence while thunder rumbled overhead. The sun and thunderstorm rains are taking their toll on some items, and there is talk of the city creating a permanent home for the contents of this "impromptu memorial". But even though the flowers are faded and some signs are lying on the ground, you can feel so much emotion, it is humbling.

part of the fence at the station of The Fallen 19



July 12, 2013

fire on the mountain

a DC-10, one of the fire planes
I have never been anywhere even sort of close to a wildfire before, until Tuesday June 18 when a fire broke out near Prescott, Arizona ("everybody's hometown", including ours as of this year). The Doce Fire started in a rural area and quickly spread to burn thousands of acres by the end of the first day. Billowing brown smoke filled the northwest part of the sky in the afternoon, and made for a very disturbing sight. By nightfall, the fire had moved up one side of Granite Mountain, crested it, and was moving down the side we can see from our neighborhood.

We are near the small local airport, which is usually busy with small planes (many of them for training related to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University). The firefighting planes were rumbly and loud, and went right over us after take-off. (only the DC-10s were too large to land here.) The planes themselves were very cool to see (especially the shiny converted old war plane), but if we managed to relax and forget about the fire for a moment, they reminded us of reality again soon enough. While we did not appear to be in any danger, it was hard to get on with daily life while a huge fire was raging with 0% containment only 5-6 miles away. That first day was really something, and here are my few humble photos of it:

Granite Mountain in the distance, taken from Pioneer Parkway (about 2pm)

Granite Mountain from different view

the sky behind our house, the afternoon of June 18 2013

view from our neighborhood of Granite Mountain the first night

For days, life seemed to revolve around the fire. Now I can better empathize with those who have been close to a fire like this! We are very thankful for the hundreds of firefighters, fire plane pilots, and other support people who worked so hard to get this fire under control. The fire came right into the backyards of some houses farther out of town, but none were lost.


July 3, 2013

summer so far


little lizard outside studio window
Our summer so far has not been busy in the sense of scheduled activities (and I like it that way). Mostly it has been pretty mellow which is so very welcome! Ahhh. But life manages to be distracting anyway, so my blog has been quiet. The end of May, I was preoccupied with all the stuff that the end of a school year brings with it. Then in June we lost two computers within 24 hours (thankfully I only lost my email). We're back up and running now, but I'm having to learn Windows 8 and Photoshop Elements 11 (after Windows XP for many years, and my beloved PSE 5) which is, uh, interesting. I was only planning to learn Dreamweaver this year. Guess it will keep my brain young!

Summer so far has been different, to put it one way! It has included:  Above-historical-average temperatures, with most of sunny June in the 90s and some 100+ degree days. Father's Day morning exploring Granite Basin (want to go back when it's cooler). The Doce Fire, which once it spread was only about 5 miles from our neighborhood. A scorpion in the garage (thankfully dead from the perimeter of pest spray, but still creeps me out!). Kids playing Minecraft. And LEGOs. And water gun fights. And watching the first thunderstorm of the season, which was exciting, but followed shortly by the tragic news that almost our entire local Hot Shot crew was killed in another area fire (these guys, and all the other firefighters, are heroes to our town especially after the Doce Fire).

We are still seeing lizards, bunnies, and quail outside (and occasionally a road runner, so cool!). And apparently, even when you're 10 and 12, bubbles are still a lot of fun when it's hot and you're bored!

one day the boys took turns making bubbles...

...and catching bubbles

the wild bunny that still delights us every day



May 14, 2013

lately...

small cactus blooming
Lately, I've been...

Noticing things are turning green here! And blooming!


Diving into Dreamweaver. Finally. Was going to do that last year, but life happened. Using the redesign of a long-time client's web site as guinea pig. My self-taught raw HTML code skills were way out of date. Excited to learn to do it the "right way". Learning CSS also (about time!).

Watching Arrow. (of all the shows my husband is into, this is the only one I really like.)

Finishing reading Through Forest and Stream by Duane Yarnell (c. 1949) with my boys. Good outdoor adventure book, great ending.

Looking forward to summer vacation. Planning some things we might do, such as this creative journaling class for kids (because I like my boys to do some creative stuff, but I'm not good at making it happen). Thinking about instituting a daily schedule to balance the kids' activities (especially regarding chores, screen time, quiet time). 

Working on some personal craft/scrapbook projects. Very therapeutic. I am doing One Little Word this year. I signed up late, so I'm working on the current month's project along with a previous month's project until I'm caught up. My word this year is Restore. I liked the idea of OLW when I heard of it a few years ago, but never did it before.

Enjoying how the sunlight filters through the leafy branches of our large backyard tree in the afternoon.



April 23, 2013

small, good stuff

wild young bunny
Yesterday I went to the local art store, which was at least as nice and well-stocked as the one in our previous (much larger) town. They were having a sale, and I was thrilled to come home with an ellipse template for my jewelry-making. I use templates for the basic background shapes once I have used my own stamps for the images, and I had really been wishing for one with 45 degree ellipses (sometimes the 40 or 50 degree ones just aren't the right shape oval), and this one also goes much larger which I had also found myself wishing for on several occasions. Did you know someone could get so excited about ellipse templates? Also came home with a few other little useful goodies.

Pickett brand ellipse template


Other delightful stuff from the last few days... a young wild bunny seems to really like our backyard. We saw him (her?) with his parents a few times, now we see him by himself. He sometimes eats the bird seed that falls under our birdfeeder, and seems to feel very safe under a nearby bush. I finally got a photo of him the other afternoon.

Also, the house we moved into had no hardware on the cabinets. I found that annoying, especially in the kitchen. We were able to get some last week. I've been a brushed-nickel kind of gal, but this house came with curtain rods, light fixtures, etc. in dark brown (the oil-rubbed bronze look). I can't see ever spending the money to replace all of those things, especially since they are attractive. So I picked cabinet knobs and handles that look like they belong. The kitchen functions so much better, plus it looks nicer, too! Small things can make a big difference.

my kitchen has a little bit of personality now, something to build on!

April 17, 2013

this week, lately...

our 1st year in Arizona book
The last couple weeks have found me:


Making some scrapbook layouts. Doing recent (Arizona) stuff. I mostly scrap digitally now, but still enjoy hands-on paper projects. So I also started a little album using Simple Stories' Snap Studio products for collecting memorabilia (tickets, snippets of maps and brochures, etc.), thoughts, notes, and a few photos that will span our first year in Arizona. I'm hoping it will be a meaningful place for our family to collect stuff. Plus, I'm totally enamored with this product line's kraft, dark brown, and fun colors and patterns, I just had to find an excuse to use it! Can't wait to get the photos I ordered for it so I can work on it more!

Getting lost in photos. Finding photos I thought were lost. Reconnecting with so many memories (probably too many to handle at once).

Celebrating my youngest son's 10th birthday. And wondering how time goes by so quickly.

Watching a NASCAR race together at my parent's house (love that we can do that now that we live closer).

Working not enough on stuff I ought to be. I'll get there.

love the kraft + cheery brights and happy patterns!

inserts come in assorted pocket configurations, perfect for memorabilia

April 1, 2013

backyard birds and bedtime books

wild quail in our backyard
On Saturday last weekend, we were entertained by a group of six quail in our backyard while we ate breakfast. I didn't dare open the back door, so I took a photo through the window. I love quail, and they are so funny to watch! They are cautious, always making sure the coast is clear, looking like they are carefully tiptoeing from one place to another so as not to attract any attention, or running faster than one could imagine under a nearby bush if anything is suspicious. Then they pop back out if everything seems okay. One or two sometimes perch on a rock or bush as the lookout. Now that they've discovered the seed that spills on the ground under our birdfeeder, I expect we'll see them more often as they wander through the neighborhood. Great reason to have a dining room with windows to the backyard! We also saw bunnies a couple times last week, so adorable. Totally makes up for missing the quirky squirrels we used to watch at our last house. I was worried we might not have much good backyard wildlife here, but I'm happy to be so wrong.

books: recently read, and under consideration
As I mentioned in a post last summer, I cherish time spent reading to my kids. Since then, we read Dolphin Diaries #1 and decided we need more of those and found some at garage sales, but we're waiting to find the next one in order (same as the Dive trilogoy which is on hold for #2). We read The Dog Who Wouldn't Be by Farley Mowat, which is full of fun and crazy stories about Farley's childhood with his unique and entertaining dog during hard times in Saskatchewan, Canada. We followed that with another delightful vintage (I read from a 1969 copy) boy-and-his-dog story, The Wolfling by Sterling North. This book is historical fiction and gave quite a touching and eye-opening glimpse into the rural Wisconsin life of kids growing up in the 1870s. We just finished that last week. A few side trails that give background information may confuse younger listeners, but we (my kids are 12 and almost 10 now) made it through okay with periodic explaining and review, and enjoyed it very much. (added bonus: I think any chores they are asked to do will seem pretty easy after hearing that story!) Now I am considering what to read next.

March 30, 2013

spring comes no matter where you are

honey bee in the tree blossoms
After a strange and tumultuous winter, it is good to know that spring comes. No matter where you are. It may come sooner or later, or in different ways, but it comes.

We're starting to feel more settled here. Doesn't feel like we're still moving in anymore. Yet as spring approached, I was feeling a bit sad that I would miss the neighbor's flowering cherry tree that had grown very large and overhung the fence of our backyard. Its lovely pink blossoms were a cheery sight every spring. Moving into a house in winter (which we've done twice now) means you have no idea what the yard will look like other times of the year, so it is an adventure in itself! Especially when you're not even familiar with what grows in the area. Imagine my delight when one day I looked outside and realized the two little mystery trees (one in the front yard, one in the back) were starting to blossom! A few days later they were in full spring glory and buzzing with honey bees.

spring in our Arizona backyard
Get out and enjoy the signs of spring, wherever you are! Wishing everyone a blessed Easter!

March 16, 2013

this week...

part of the DaVinci exhibit
This week was spring break for my boys. Was nice to have a break from the school schedule. We would also be recovering from the time change, but thankfully here in Arizona we don't observe daylight savings! Wow, such a relief. Always took me weeks to adjust (I told you I don't do change well!).

This week found us:

walking a small portion of a trail at Watson Lake (beautiful, see below)

browsing in art galleries and shops in old downtown Prescott (lots of great stuff!)

seeing lots of birds in our yard; small winter birds like juncos, plus doves and quail (they finally figured out we don't have dogs like the previous owners and must have told all their friends!)

enjoying warm sunny weather

discovering that basic horse riding patterns (figure 8, serpentine, small circles at every corner, etc.) can keep boys busy riding bikes in the driveway

venturing into the big city of Phoenix for the first time (didn't get lost! love the abundant palms and eucalyptus trees!)

marveling at all the brilliance from one mind in the Leonardo DaVinci exhibit at the Arizona Science Center


Watson Lake (the other main lake in the Granite Dells)

my boys and I (this is where I sat to take the picture above this one)