2011 in review Saturday, Dec 31 2011 

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,200 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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McDowell Mountain North Trail Saturday, Dec 31 2011 

North Trail Vista

North Trail Vista

McDowell Mountain Regional Park, located a few miles north of Fountain Hills, offers 51 miles of trail.  The North Trail is a 3.1 mile flat hike through an unspoiled section of the Sonoran Desert ecosystem.  Tall, mature saguaros are scattered across the landscape along with different varieties of palo verde, cholla cacti, barrel cacti, and creosote bushes.  This was a great hike to end a great year of exploration.

ZooLights Friday, Dec 30 2011 

Sledding Grasshopper

Sledding Grasshopper

The Phoenix Zoo uses 3.5 million individual lights to create some 600 displays of animals, flowers, and sphere.  So many people flocked to this event on the Thursday after Christmas that the main parking lot filled and we parked almost a mile away in a municipal parking lot near the ball park for the Oakland A’s.  The Oklahoma band entertained us and their many fans in town for Friday’s Insight Bowl game against Iowa.  “Big Blue,” a tree in the Main Plaza, has about 30,000 lights.  The humor of a sledding grasshopper in the middle of the desert touched my funny bone.  If I had experimented with the video capability of my camera, I might have a record of a monkey gracefully swinging through the trees.  I did photograph an elephant splashing itself with “light” water.  Jengo, the talking giraffe, captivated our young visitors from Riverside, California.  We found a bench to sit on while the music in motion dancing trees entertained us.  The reflecting globe used the Main Lake to show off its multifaceted color show.  It was well worth the effort to negotiate the crowds to see ZooLights.

Luminarias Thursday, Dec 29 2011 

Damsel Fly

Damsel Fly

The annual Las Nches de las Luminarias at the Desert Botanical Garden is a special event not to be missed.  We supplemented our buffet dinner with a bottle of pinot noir while listening to the sounds of the Reed Family.  We especially enjoyed hearing Margo Reed who we heard at “Howlin’ at the Highlands” this past July in Prescott.  “Damsel Fly, ” a “Big Bugs” sculpture by David Rogers caught our attention as we walked from Boppart Courtyard toward the Sonoran Desert Loop Trail.  Rogers’ sculptures are spot lighted throughout the Garden.  The Native flute of Ken Duncan just sounds better surrounded by the desert landscape.  We also heard a White Apache story about the creation of the stars in the sky and why there isn’t a coyote constellation.  The Dickens Carolers offered Christmas harmony and transitioned from one quartet to another during our stroll.  The high energy and quick dance steps of lead vocalist Riz Smith powered the Sonoran Jazz Project.  Beth Daunis’ prowess with the violin awed me during her performance with Domingo DeGrazia on Spanish guitar.  Another high energy performer, Scott Jeffer, awed us with his virtuoso violin as part of the World Music of Traveler.  We finished our evening listening to the sounds of the Sugar Thieves with the smooth voice of Meridith Moore, and the deep bass voice of guitarist Jeff Naylor.  We need to brush up our ballroom dancing skills to join those guests who showed off their moves on the dance floor.  This year’s Luminarias was a special evening sharing the energy of talented musicians.

Oregon in Passing Tuesday, Dec 13 2011 

Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood

A quick trip to Oregon to attend the memorial service of Sharon Regina McManus Green allowed me to be with my brother and his family.  Almost 100 people gathered this past Saturday and shared memories of her life which touched fellow teachers, parents of special needs children, foster children, international students, and members of the family.  The service was a meaningful tribute to the remarkable contributions of this woman who died altogether too young from cancer.  It was fitting that gourmet food and drink back at the family home nourished those who continued to celebrate her life amidst grieving the loss.  My visit was an opportunity to gain some perspective on my nephews and how their lives are developing, including introductions to significant others in their lives.  It also afforded an opportunity for me to share a meal with my mentor of 50 years and his spouse.  My plane trip from Phoenix featured a view of the Grand Canyon and then as we approached Portland at sunset views of snow capped Mt. Adams, St. Helens, and Mount Rainier.  On leaving Oregon not only did my window seat allow views once again of the prominent Cascade mountains of Washington but also a closeup view of Oregon’s iconic Mt. Hood.