I attended Cultivate Tucson this past weekend, and once again the event succeeded at reminding me that this seemingly small, Southern Arizona city is flooded with talented, local artisans – and they sell really pretty stuff.
If you’re stumped on ideas for Christmas gifts, but like the idea of supporting Tucson makers, designers and businesses, check out this holiday gift guide I put together.
This includes presents for guys, gals, coworkers and in-laws. Oh, and if you’re related to me and reading this, act surprised on December 25th!
In college, I worked as a hostess at a restaurant/bar. We were told that if a patron came in to dine alone, we should—without saying anything—drop a magazine off at their table.
I think the idea—or the stigma, perhaps—was that people who dine alone are lonely, and a magazine might keep them company. Now, I think dropping a magazine off at a solo diner’s table is a little insulting. People dine alone for lots of reasons: to think, to escape thinking, because they’re traveling for business, because they hate people, etc.
Personally, I view eating alone as a reward. After a long day, it’s a treat to hang out and snack, enjoying the sunshine with my dog at my feet, not saying a word to anyone (can you tell that I’m an introvert?). On the flip side, I also eat alone when my job is overwhelming—the walk to and from a restaurant distracts me from work worries, and I set my phone down and concentrate on each bite, returning refocused.
Due to dozens of solo meals, I’ve discovered a few Tucson gems that cater to the “just one, please” crowd. Check out my picks and answers to anticipated questions below. And if you see me eating at any of them, no pity please! I can assure you that I’m perfectly content.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel a lot in my life—trips that have been as short as less than a day and as long as a few weeks. In my years of packing, there are a few surprising items that I have learned I cannot travel without, no matter the destination. If you have a big trip coming up and are scrambling with what to bring along, read below for the 9 things I always take with me.
A sarong/oversized scarf: This is the number one thing you need—use it as a blanket on a cold plane (or when you have to spend the night at a train station), as a towel on the beach, as a scarf to dress up a plain LBD for a night on the town, to wrap up the delicate items you’re bringing home as souvenirs, the uses are endless. Pictured below are a few times my lightweight scarves have come in handy: as a beach towel, a blanket for a chilly Santorini sunset (yes, they exist) and as, well, a scarf. I like this one from Mara Hoffman, because it’s pretty and the pattern has a lot of color, so it dresses up the neutrals you might have packed—of course, it’s $100 and rayon, so. This one’s neutral enough, and cheap enough, that it’ll definitely get its use.
Chilly sunset in Oia, Santorini, Greece
A baggy chambray shirt: Use it as a cover-up for the beach, an extra layer on chilly nights—heck, just a shirt!
A big canvas bag: to hold all your items when you go to the beach; to serve as your carry-on; to hold dirty laundry; line it with a plastic bag and put ice in it for an impromptu cooler (don’t judge). This one has a lifetime guarantee and a zip-top for extra security.
*Note: This is a continuing series on dining in Tucson, where I live. My hope is to prevent visitors from asking, “What is there to eat here?”
Wings Over Broadway probably got its name after a customer took a bite of a wing, died of love (or something), became an angel and went to heaven. The 15 sauce flavors range from child friendly to “oh my god, I’m crying in a restaurant and everyone can see me. Server, please bring me a bucket of ice water”: White Wings, Garlic Parm, Teriyaki, Sweet Heat Asian, Lemon Pepper, Honey Gold, Mild Buffalo, Honey BBQ, Honey Hot, Medium Buffalo, Cajun Spice, Golden Hot, Habanero Heat, Hot Buffalo, No Mercy. Their 40¢ Wing Tuesday specials pack the restaurant to capacity, with a line out the door. WOB is filled Wednesday through Monday, as well—I can’t imagine the volume of napkins they go through. Wash the sweet, the garlicky, the burning, down with a stein of beer for the ultimate party.
My recommendations: Lemon Pepper, Honey Gold and Cajun Spice
I used to be such a Tucson hater; I’m rolling my eyes just thinking about it. Tucson was just fine until I got to Arizona State University, then it became the place that failed in comparison to Tempe: University Drive, the lesser Mill Avenue; the University of Arizona? You mean the inferior version of Arizona State University? So dumb.
I was soooo crazily grossed out by Tucson that I didn’t even consider applying for a job there until I had been unemployed for three months, sitting at my parents’ kitchen table, always in the same pair of yoga pants as I hadn’t showered in DAYYYSSS. It’s totally the reason I didn’t blog for so long. Just kidding! I’m actually super lazy.
Tucson, I’m sorry I thought so little of you. One day in late 2012, I searched LinkedIn for jobs (in TUCSON!! The agonyyy!!) that dealt with travel writing. I’ve been working at my company, where I write and edit for travel guides, ever since. It’s particularly great because my blog (this one! The one that you’re reading!) helped me to get a job. My boss read a couple entries and called me for an interview after I submitted an application! Awesome.
In my time here, I’ve come to love The Old Pueblo and hate the Tempe-obsessed, anti-Tucson person that I used to be. Every city has its strengths! I’m here to argue in favor of Tucson, in hopes of both turning around even the biggest doubters and convincing some folks to visit. I’ll start with food.
As previously referenced, I grew up on the border of Mexico. Although many have no idea where my hometown is, those who do are sometimes too quick to judge. I got so tired of defending my poor little town and I hated that it usually instantly changed people’s perception of me. So here I was, four years at Arizona State University, with a standard line for when people asked where I was from – a vague “southern Arizona…” and then a quick “…but my parents are from Boulder” to distract from any further questions, like a complete and total coward.
I guess it was payback or something that I ended up in another town that people usually dismissed as “uncool” or “not desirable to live in.” With graduation approaching and all hopes of finding a job ANYWHERE quashed, I interviewed for an internship with Wick Communications – A newspaper publisher with 32 newspapers and 23 specialty publications in 13 states. Most Wick newspapers are published in small towns, and The Sierra Vista Herald was generous enough to take an interest in me. “UGH, SIERRA VISTA?!” I said, my mouth hanging open far longer than necessary. Well, it was that or I could continue working as a hostess at a Tempe restaurant for the rest of my life, and by the rest of my life I mean August 1, when my lease was up. So here I am, three months later, a Sierra Vistan, until October 1, when my lease and internship are up and my life is chaos again (yipee). Continue reading “Sierra Vista, Arizona”→