Square Feet

Michelle Hotchkiss, real estate agent and mid-century fiend, has square feet and a nose for great property. Each issue she brings us her pick of properties for sale. Photos courtesy of Long Realty Company.


Listed by:  Long Realty

Where it is: Blenman Elm, midtown Tucson
Michelle Hotchkiss. Photo by Casey Sapio

Michelle Hotchkiss. Photo by Casey Sapio

The damage: $375,000

How many square feet? 1612 sq ft main house and 650 sq ft guest house
You'll love it because: The sellers of this property are only the second owners! Established in 1937, this historic Tucson property was the original home of the youngest son to Carlos and Dionicia Jacome.
"The Jacome family, can truly be credited as original Tucson pioneers, helping to establish Tucson's retail hub by owning and operating Jacome's Department Stores (1896-1980) in downtown Tucson, " says listing agent Pete Torrez.
It might not be a "Joesler", but it's from the day of excellent craftsman and carpenters that noted Tucson architect Josias Joesler used. No one has ever put nails for carpeting in the  beautiful polished colored concrete floors. The antique stove in the main house kitchen is even original to the house. Also it's close to the U of A, UMC, Himmel Park and the stunning Arizona Inn.
mabelsqft1Here comes the but: I can see how, for some, it might need a bigger garage or a few cosmetic fixes - maybe even a new kitchen with more counter space. But overall I think it's a lovely property.

Contact Michelle, a RE/MAX Catalina Foothills Realty agent, here.


Riding a wave

With a new space (at last!) the owners of MAST are back and ready to ride the wave of an up-and-coming westside location. By Gillian Drummond


MAST's new space looks out onto the end of the new streetcar line. Photo by Gillian Drummond


It's been a long summer, not just for MAST regulars, but for the owners of the store. After three years in Tucson's Lost Barrio shopping district, on Park Avenue at Broadway, the three owners opted to move to new digs at Mercado San Agustin.

Tasha Bundy, Sofie Albertsen Gelb and Mellow Dawn Lund spent the summer working out of their homes as their new space was transformed (it was bare bones before, with a concrete floor, bare walls and untouched ceiling). And while it wasn't ideal to be lacking a brick-and-mortar store, they welcomed the fact they had cooling; their last shop, vast as it was, had no air conditioning, which made the summer months difficult.


Inside, MAST's jewelry is meticulously displayed in a range of cabinets. Photo by Gillian Drummond

The West Congress location, just past Interstate 10, is slowly but surely becoming a go-to venue. It has hosted farmers' markets and charitable events, and in December will hold a Holiday bazaar. There are two bakeries, soon to be joined by Tana Fryer's flagship cheese and wine shop, Blu. And Lodge on the Desert's Ryan Clark will become an executive chef and partner of the new Agustin Kitchen, to open next month. Looking out of the corner space of MAST, you can see where Tucson's new streetcar will end.

"I really feel this part of the city's going to pick up," says Gary Patch, who with his partner Darrren Clark was responsible for remodeling MAST's interior (architects and contractors were Repp McLain).

mast girls1

MAST is, from left, Tasha Bundy, Mellow Dawn Lund, and Sofie Albertsen Gelb. Photo by Gillian Drummond

They say three's a crowd, and when it comes to business, even two partners can be tricky. So to have three entrepreneurs making a retail operation work, and staying friends at the same time, is no small feat.

"I think it's shocking. I think it's amazing," says Mellow, only half joking. What are their strengths and their weaknesses? They evade the question. "Let's move on," says Mellow breezily. But the joking and butt pinching that ensues, the gentle jibes and the easy chemistry, demonstrates that, whatever ther personalities and personality clashes, this threesome works.

They describe their wares as "genuine radical". They range from jewelry to home goods, and what they sell and how they are displayed are a mix of old and new - but always different. The women's focus remains the same: "to keep things local, well-made, and if not locally then at least U.S.-made", says Sofie.

mastsoapSofie makes jewelry and lighting; Mellow makes leather purses, bags and clutches; Tasha makes jewelry (her latest fascination is with using tiny brightly-colored vinyl discs sliced from records, and sourced at Tucson's Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase from a dealer in Africa.)

Other brands they carry include Richer Poorer Inc (socks); Imogene + Willie (jeans), Hollow Ground (straight men's razors from the 1920s and '30s), and La Curie, a perfume range from Tucsonan Lesli Wood. Their wares are meticulously displayed in antique cabinets, on thrifted tables, beside Sofie's own birdcages, alongside a Venetian-style mirror by Patch & Clark Design.


Some of Tasha Bundy's record vinyl jewelry. Photo by Gillian Drummond

The background was deliberately kept clean so that their products stand out, says Gary Patch of this space that combines several different styles in one. It remains true to the rest of the Mercado San Agustin with traditional European touches, such as a glass-doored vestibule, but also brings in femininity (a widely curved soffit painted grey), modern Scandinavian (a whitewashed hickory floor), and a cheeky nod to its name (a circular porthole window).

And what of the name? MAST is an acronym of all their names (plus a fourth partner, now departed), and seemed fitting for a new business setting sail. They decided to keep it.

* MAST is at Mercado San Agustin, 100 South Avenida Del Convento, Tuesday through Saturday 11am to 6pm. Check their website at www.ilovemast.com for Holiday hours.

The 6th annual Mercado San Agustin Holiday Bazaar takes place December 20th, 21st and 22nd.


A mirror by Patch and Clark forms part of the decor. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Dear Tucson...

Love Letters to Tucson logoEach issue  we link up with Rachel Miller's Love Letters to Tucson blog for a letter from a Tucson inhabitant about why they love this fair city. This month: Mark Bloom on a little-known Tucson swap meetPhotos by Rachel Miller.


"If you're a collector of 'vintage' stuff then antique fairs and malls, thrift shops, estate sales and yard sales have their appeal. That's as long as you don't mind paying top dollar, wading through piles of crap, being informed that everything is 'collectible' or driving around town following poorly written signs, often with questionable spelling and arrows that point in the wrong direction. These activities I tend to leave to the hard-core collectors. On most Saturday mornings I'll be rummaging through the dusty tables at the Tohono O'odham Swap Meet.

"Clinging onto the edge of the the Tohono O'odham Reservation, outside the city limits, I get the feeling, to paraphrase The Wizard Of Oz, we're not really in Tucson anymore. There are no fancy paved pathways like they have over at the swanky, by comparison, Tanque Verde Swap Meet. There's no lighting, no beer carts, no concession stand, no ATM, and very few vendors selling brand new mass-produced generic goods.

10632967155_3d6520ceb7_h"TOSM is a collection of folks selling all sorts of stuff from the back of their trucks, on wobbly tables, strewn on blankets on the ground and from a random array of run-down structures (calling most of them buildings would be unfair to buildings). Many of the vendors have complexions as weather-beaten and leathery as the old saddles they sell.

"What this place lacks in sophistication it makes up for in character. The range of goods on display is both extensive and eclectic and includes all the usual swap meet stuff: tires and parts for your vehicle, a knock-off Spider-Man toy (re-named Spaderman to avoid legal issues), old vinyl records ("these are what we had in the days before CD's, but you'll need a record player to listen to it and I don't think they make those any more"), fresh fruit andveg, old black & white TV's ("I have a VCR that goes with it if you're interested"), artwork of a questionable nature ("I love this nude velvet painting, the new wife hates it, so it has to go"), coffee cans full of nuts and bolts ("I have a storage unit full of these"), assorted birds, chickens, goats, rabbits, and puppies (I like to think that they're all intended as pets, but I have my doubts), and thousands of knick-knacks, tchotchkes, baubles, bangles and beads.


"There's usually someone somewhere singing songs in Spanish accompanied by a karaoke machine or, if it's a good day, a real musician. Some of these Mariachi types are pretty good, and some are not pretty good, but they generally provide the necessary enthusiasm to get a small crowd clapping their hands. You can get your hair cut at a place that blares out Mexican cover tunes of Classic 60's Rock n'Roll.

"And then there's the food.

"Dotted throughout the Swap are many places to eat. All are individual businesses, some being run from trucks that seem to be parked here permanently, others from wooden huts and cobbled together shacks. Signs and menus are painted and written by hand. Grills are fired up and the enticing smells of cooking meat waft through the early morning air. Mariscos, Pescado, Pupusas, Tacos, Raspados, Carne Asada, Cabeza, Chilorio, Menudo, Birria, Lengua, all to be washed down with a cold bottle of Fresca.
10633213443_34e5bc103b_hWhen I first took the wife to the Swap I hadn't yet braved the food offerings. I am, after all, a transplanted Englishman, with no back-up plan in the language department. I asked her to help me order something and she told me to say "Mi gusta la cabeza" to the nice lady working at the food truck. Being a trusting sort, I took her advice and placed my order. I couldn't understand why the nice lady blushed and then laughed until the wife told me I had just said "I like the head". Cheeky woman! To this day I frequently see the nice lady at the food truck and she always smiles at me. I also learned my very first Spanish phrase (and learned also that I am not very keen on la cabeza, as a meal).

"People come here to buy stuff they need and find stuff they didn't know they needed. They bring the family, they come to chat, they come to sell, they come to eat, they come to socialize. From sunrise to about noon, on Saturday and Sunday every week, the TOSM is exactly what a Swap Meet should be: vibrant, eclectic, entertaining, surprising, full of character and characters, and inexpensive.  You have to wade through a lot of dusty, dirty junk to find the good stuff, but that's what Swaps are supposed to be like."
* Mark introduced Rachel to the Tohono O'odham swap meet on a balmy Sunday morning in October. The tacos and the Fresca for breakfast were an excellent start to the day, as was digging through the records, the wrenches, the children's books and the funky art. Next time, and there will be a next time, Rachel says she's going ready to buy some of fresh veggies.
* You can find Mark online at Velvet Glass, where he and his wife, Maggie Rickard, share their glass art. Mark is also a graphic designer and created the Love Letters to Tucson logo. Read more Love Letters to Tucson here.

Art and soul

He's been devoting his time, money and heart and soul to the Tucson arts scene for decades. On the eve of the launch of his latest community art project, we thought it was about time to celebrate the man himself: David Aguirre. By Joan Calcagno.

David. Photo by Craig

David Aguirre outside the Steinfeld Warehouse, where it all began. Photo by Craig Bellmann

It may come as a surprise to anyone who knows anything about David Aguirre that he got his start as an air traffic controller in the Navy. This artist-turned-art-instigator, a man with his finger in so many pies in Tucson's arts scene that it's hard to keep track of him, is about as far from the military as you can imagine. But then again, military living can be pretty bare-bones, and that is certainly part of David’s frugal lifestyle.

His first digs in Tucson were in the basement of the Steinfeld Warehouse, where he camped out on a dirt floor. Even today, he practically camps, living in a tiny space with no cooking facilities. And as David points out, air traffic control was not that different than the decades of constant activity necessary to survive as an artist and keep artist organizations and spaces afloat. “I’m still running traffic patterns above an airport, with all the surprises,” he quipped when we sat down at Steinfeld Warehouse Community Arts Center to discuss, among other things, a new mobile art gallery, Planet Rabbit.

He has a long history with the warehouse. He lived in the basement when he arrived here in 1987; he had a ceramic studio there in the early to mid-90s; and he’s back as Executive Director of Dinnerware Artspace (everyone calls it Dinnerware), which now has its home base at the warehouse.

David. Photo by

Photo by Craig Bellmann

David learned a long time ago that the best way to get things done is to just do it - create something that people are in awe of, and do it with others. His philosophy is: when you see something that needs to be done, get the idea out there and see what materializes (or doesn’t). He’s clear that when you bring people together, you have to embrace the creative process, which he describes as “a true artist approach - not knowing the outcome and being okay with that.” He adds: “Top-down doesn’t work.”

Indeed, when talking about all his involvements, David names numerous others as instrumental collaborators and connectors. To mention some would risk not mentioning them all, and mentioning any would make this story twice as long. So we’re focusing on David here.

He struggled to find himself after growing up in San Antonio, Texas. He left for the Navy in 1976, right out of high school and much to the consternation of his parents. “I wanted to get away and to travel," he says. Then in 1980 he went back to school - the University of Texas, San Antonio - on the GI bill. In college he floundered around. After trying “everything else”, he followed an adviser's suggestion that he try a ceramics class. It wasn’t long before the epiphany hit: “Oh s**t. I’m going to be an artist”. The creative dam burst, and he has been promoting art ever since, starting with his own.

It was in college that he started making what later became his signature ceramic figures, mostly small-ish pieces with human bodies and animal heads – “playing with the human-spirit-nature connection.”

david a energy fields

'Energy fields' in ceramic and paint by David Aguirre. Photo courtesy of Dinnerware Artspace/David Aguirre

He graduated in 1983 with a BA in Fine Art and left for the Sun Valley Idaho Center for the Arts, on a one-year scholarship. Although he felt out of place among “the beautiful people “ – movie stars and famous artists who congregate there – he met  some of them and realized “they are all like me, just normal people doing their thing”, which was hugely encouraging. He experimented, eventually discarding the wheel and focusing on hand-built figures.

Then he was off to Madison, Wisconsin for three years of grad school, again on a scholarship. Without the need to have a job for the first time, he leapt into his ceramic work.

Ready to get out of the cold and recalling a fascination with Tucson and its Native American cultural roots from childhood car trips to Disneyland, he arrived here in 1987 with no money and no job.  He quickly got involved in the Tucson arts scene, starting with an invitation to be on the Arts District Partnership board. He survived by selling his ceramic sculptures. He “cranked it out”, traveling all over the west and mid-west, participating in shows and small events, stopping en route at friends’ places to make more stock. Always the entrepreneur, he made a lot of small pieces to sell for $50 “just to get the work out there”.


Photo courtesy of Dinnerware Artspace/David Aguirre

In the early 1990s, he got more involved volunteering with Tucson art organizations. He traveled less and shipped his pieces to galleries more. Thinking “someone’s got to do it”, he was often the only artist on committees primarily made up of lawyers and business people and usually, he says, talking in acronyms he didn’t understand. This was a whole new world for him.

His transition from making objects to art-promotion-as-art really started then.  Along with other artists, David had his studio in the Steinfeld Warehouse. Across the street was the boarded-up Citizen’s Warehouse. David got a group of artists together with the Arizona Department of Transportation, who owned the building at the time, to lease the building and create studios. He later took a huge financial gamble, assumed the lease himself, and dove into a massive upgrade.

Transforming the building into usable spaces became his art, he says. He transferred his creativity into learning all kinds of things related to construction and renovation – like design drawings, plumbing, code compliance, and insurance. The warehouse became an example of things happening with the arts in Tucson and for David it was a big boost of encouragement.  When the relationship with Bicycle Inter-Community Art & Salvage (BICAS), one of the sub-leasees, got tricky, the Warehouse Arts Management Organization (WAMO) proposed taking over and David stepped back.  The warehouse is still going, with 28 artists and BICAS as tenants.

Stepping up is how David also became the Executive Director of Dinnerware in 2009. He’s been involved with Dinnerware off-and-on since the early 1990s, when it was an artist cooperative. He volunteered, helping with the annual art auctions and then with building improvements after Dinnerware purchased its space on Congress Street in about 1993.


One of Dinnerware's fashion shows. Photo courtesy of David Aguirre/Dinnerware Artspace

In the early 2000's Dinnerware was experiencing financial challenges and had to relinquish its building and move. The board asked David to help as an adviser and eventually, to be on the board. With public funding and grant money dropping off, and artist member dues making it harder to attract younger artists, David proposed a new structure: move from an artist-member model to an interactive model, with community-based art events.

So, rather than the traditional 30-day exhibits, Dinnerware started doing events, sometimes with a small admission fee. This spread out the fundraising, with everyone contributing a small amount to raise money. And they started to take advantage of social media. Dinnerware has been operating that way ever since. In 2009, faced with the possibility of closing shop, David was asked to take up the Director position, and, as he had done before, he said “OK. I’ll do it” and he ratcheted up the activities.

Titus Castanza, a long-time Dinnerware volunteer and board member for six years, and with a painting studio at the Citizen’s Warehouse, says David’s gift is getting artists together, creating ideas and letting them run with it. “It blows my mind. He’ll have some crazy idea that seems like it will never work and then it does!” says Titus.

Some of those "crazy ideas" that David has helped happen since he became director, along with painting exhibits like Pollos de Pueblos, are local designers’ fashion shows and exchanges; Let Them Eat Cupcakes (an interactive  performance art and installation piece reflecting thoughts about hunger and the scale of hunger in the United States); Ignite Tucson (fifteen visionaries provide a five-minute, twenty-image presentation on an interesting, innovative topic); Night of a Thousand Drawings (anyone could donate a small piece; they were displayed, for sale, clothesline style); SlideShark (artists and  DJs collaborated to make, and then present, short iMovies), and Eat Dinner-Fund an Artist (the public was invited to a $20 dinner, six or so artists made five-minute presentations about their work, everyone voted and the winner went home with $500.)

And while he was doing all that, he got people together to start three other galleries, including Central Arts, which had been dormant when David put out a call and 60 artists showed up. “I told them ‘you are it’. We’re gonna do it.” Once the structure was set up, they did their own shows and ran on their own energy, and still do.

In the Fall of 2011, the Food Truck Roundups started. With David at the helm, there are three or four round-ups a week with about nine trucks participating. The Facebook page has almost 20,000 followers, up 2,000 just in the course of us putting this story together.

food truck roundup

David was one of the founders of the Tucson Food Truck Round-Up, now with thousands of followers. Photo courtesy of David Aguirre

Why does he do it? The answer is surprisingly simple: It needed to be done and there was no one else to do it. “I’m often the last one standing,” he says. Others eventually have other commitments. “I have the time others don’t. I don’t have any kids or a mortgage. So I do it.” It is apparent that he has made life choices that have allowed him to be, and remain, available.  “I guess the projects are my kids. I’m kind of an adoption agency. I make these things and then try to get them adopted. Just like with my ceramic sculpture pieces in the past.”

David has always been frugal, especially with minimizing living expenses. In grad school he started in an apartment, then moved into his artist studio. In Sun Valley he lived in an attic space that no one knew about. And there was the Steinfeld Warehouse basement when he got to Tucson. Now he lives at Shane House, which was a closed-up boarding house before the Tucson Arts Coalition (the same folks who saved the Temple of Music and Art from destruction) purchased it from the city in 1990 and restored it.

He exchanges a room and a salary for the endless tasks necessary to maintaining the building and managing the tenants in 13 small apartments rented mostly to younger artists and musicians who need a lot of flexibility. His tiny living space at Shane House has no cooking facilities. ”I only sleep there.” That's why you can often see him out and about eating or socializing downtown (the Food Trucks, in particular, provide regular meals).

planet rabbit truck

The Planet Rabbit truck, heightened and transformed. Photo courtesy of David Aguirre

Also, having a number of income streams helps with the ebb and flow. Twenty percent of food truck round-up proceeds, paid on the honor system after each round-up, go to Dinnerware to sustain the events and to David so he can focus time and energy on keeping things happening. "I help support the food truck owners and it helps me make a living and keeps the arts alive," he says.

When you are out there trying to make things happen for the arts for as long as David has been, it’s not surprising to hear that he has his detractors as well as his cheerleaders. Kerfuffles of the past can still follow him, but he says he can’t let negativity keep him from moving forward; he has to balance the criticism with compliments, trying to be open and respond as best he can.

The primary cheerleaders right now are food truck owners who can concentrate on their craft while David takes care of the logistics and promotion of round-ups. Ray Duke, owner of Kadooks food truck, says the roundups have been a “game-changer" for food trucks in Tucson. Without the round-ups he would have to be seeking out events himself or “parking and hoping”, which is not very profitable. He doesn’t mind paying the 20% commission. ”David provides a service and makes it possible to make the money," he says.

But what do food trucks have to do with the arts? David views them in the same category. “I realized that the food truck chefs are culinary artists. And like many artists, they really wanted to focus on their craft and leave the promotional side to someone else,” he says.

And now comes Planet Rabbit. David had seen a a mobile art gallery in Santa Fe, talked with the people running it and thought “I’m going to do that too”. There was some money saved in the Dinnerware account from the food truck share and when he saw a step-van for sale, he bought it.

Through an exchange with a Shane House artist/welder, the van is getting built-out and modified. They extended the roof to create a high ceiling, and stripped the exterior to its beautiful aluminum finish.

Launching this month, it will serve as a mobile art gallery with two-dimensional contemporary art, hung salon-style. Planet Rabbit will be stationed at the Food Truck Round-ups, which picks up on the idea of taking a little bit of downtown out to the neighborhoods. It was well received at a test run last month at the Toole Avenue Art Walk. David loves the idea of mobile venues; he says we may see spin-offs of Planet Rabbit to other areas like mobile massages or salons.

As for the name, David has always had a fascination with rabbits. And besides, he says: “Now names are just catchy and random.”

Inside Planet Rabbit. Photo by

Inside Planet Rabbit. Photo by Craig Bellmann

Another Dinnerware-sponsored event about to happen is FemArts, which will feature unique installation pieces by 15 to 20 women artists. It takes place November 14th and 15th at the Steinfeld Warehouse. The building itself will be a substantial part of each installation. David brought the group of women artists together because it’s not being done elsewhere now. He likes to look at an exhibit as a beginning, not an end point and is hoping it is an opportunity for a new group to form, if that’s what those involved want.

David is all about keeping Dinnerware and the arts in Tucson alive. He’ll be focusing on working with WAMO, which is now managing the Steinfeld Warehouse, to help clarify the direction. He believes that in five to ten years it will be a wonderful art center, although how that will manifest itself is yet to be seen. He’s not done yet, according to Titus Castanza. “David has yet to realize his greatest achievement.”

As for David, he regards the time he spent in the 90s, working alone in his studio, as the sweet days.  “Will I get back to that? I don’t know”. For the sake of the arts in Tucson, there are many here who are hoping that even if he does, his “art adoption agency” never closes.

* Planet Rabbit launches this month. Stay tuned to its Facebook page for details.

Ground Floor

 brought to you by

boxhill logo

Every month, landscape designer Darbi Davis digs deep to bring you stories for your outdoor space. Here, she finds a solution for a royal pain of the desert: mesquite pods. Plus, Boxhill brings us its product picks of the month.

Mesquite. Photo by

Mesquite pods needn't be a pain this year. Photo courtesy of Darbi Davis

Do you ever wonder what to do with all of those mesquite pods lining your lawn-less yard? This Fall, you might want to set aside your rake, and mill the mesquites instead. We promise that once your friends get a taste for some baked goods made out of mesquite flour they'll be begging you for a sackful or a care package.

Mesquite_3When to harvest:  The best time to harvest mesquite pods is in the early summer, specifically the hot, miserable, dry days of June. If you miss out on this opportunity, there is a chance you can catch a second harvest in the early fall.

screwbean mesquite pods

Screwbean mesquite pods. Photo courtesy of Darbi Davis

What trees to choose:  Choose your culinary variety by sticking to the native mesquites such as Velvet, Honey, or Screwbean, because these are considered the most palatable in our region, offering up a sweet, nutty flavor.  Also know that, if you’ve never stumbled upon the sophisticated, spiraled architecture of a Screwbean seedpod, it is stunningly beautiful, and you might find it difficult to consider crushing.

The sound:  Hike through your yard or neighborhood and search for the pods. Ripe pods are cream-colored to light brownish and can often be found on the ground, but it’s best to shake them from a tree to avoid possible contaminants – they should release easily. Pick up a pod. Shake it. If you hear the interior beans rattle, then you likely have a good one.

Eat Mesquite by

Eat Mesquite by Desert Harvesters

The taste: Taste it. What you taste now is what your food will ultimately taste like – sweet and nutty or bitter.  If it tastes bitter, you might as well just move on to the next tree, because who wants a bitter cookie or pancakes for that matter? And it’s likely that all the pods from that tree will taste the same.

Laying them out to dry: Lay the harvested pods out in the sun to completely dry out for about two to three days.  Test their dryness by snapping one in half. Once they break easily, they are ready for storage.  Store them in a container that will allow the pods to breath, such as a burlap sack. Any moisture will encourage fungal growth.  (It is important to choose clean dry pods that have not been subjected to moisture, which can encourage the growth of a toxic fungus.  More about that here).

The milling process: As the days of summer wane, let that be your sign that it’s milling time. Grind them yourself by placing the pods in a blender or a coffee grinder. This method requires a grind and sift pattern, meaning you will grind the pod, and then sift the fine flour out and repeat with the remaining material.

The less labor-intensive process involves a hammermill, which you can find - for a fee - at several Fall community millings across our region. Take your clean, dry pods to the festival where the hammermill is set up, where you'll pay a $3 grinding fee per gallon (mesquite pods) with a minimum $10 fee. The splurge is worth it; a hammermill will grind  gallons of mesquite pods into one pound of flour in about five minutes.

Hundreds of people turn out for the annual Desert Harvesters' Mesquite Milling and festival in Tucson's Dunbar Spring neighborhood. That's why it's a good idea to get there early and claim your hammermill.

Dunbar Spring Mesquite Milling Photo by

Dunbar Spring Mesquite Milling. Photo courtesy of Desert Harvesters

"The first year we had one mill and about a dozen folks showed up to get their pods milled.  Now we have to have three mills running the whole time to keep up with the demand," says organizer Brad Lancaster. He adds that the operation is more streamlined each year, so that more pods can get milled as quickly as possible. "That enables folks to enjoy all aspects of the event.”

The result:  The fine flour is rich in nutrients, protein-packed and gluten-free, and can be concocted into an artisanal spread spanning each chapter of just about every cookbook.  Brad suggests the cookbook Eat Mesquite! where you'll learn how to make everything from moles to crackers to breads, pastries, and more.      

Mesquite Pods, Flour, & Honey

Mesquite pods, flour and honey. Photo courtesy of Desert Harvesters

* The Santa Cruz River Valley is abundant with knowledgeable mesquite milling hosts, such as Desert Harvesters, and The Tucson Audubon Society, who host milling events and community gatherings with native flare. The Desert Harvester’s 11th Annual Mesquite Milling and Fiesta is on November 24th from 11am-5pm in the Dunbar Springs Neighborhood.

*Read more about Darbi Davis at Red Bark Design.


What's HOT for your desert yard

Boxhill brings us its product picks of the month. This issue, it's a whiteout.

WhiteonWhite_Curbside_web1. HausFire
2. Jack Planter
3. Modern House Numbers
4. Lustrous White Wreath
5. Helios Lounge


* For more white decor ideas, see our feature The White Album.


My Space

KXCI Tucson celebrates 30 years on the air next month. In the latest of our series on people's favorite spaces, DJ Vance Sanders, aka Van Man, talks about why being surrounded by nothing but music is better than therapy. By Gillian Drummond.


KXCI operates out of a historic house in downtown Tucson's Armory Park. Photo by Gillian Drummond

"I got into music fairly early. My mom listened to a lot of music. She had John Denver and Neil Diamond on, but she also had Revolver by The Beatles. At three years old the perception I had [at the end of that record] was of bats flying.

"I DJ'd at college, and after I moved to Tucson I took the DJ class here at KXCI. This is my 18th year here. We have about 80 on-air DJ's and all but two are voluntary.

"There are people that walk in here five minutes before their gig and they sound great. I'm just not that person. I have to get organized. I come in here around 8:30 a.m. for my 10 to noon Monday shift and then go to work. Mondays are my late nights at the office (I'm a pediatric doctor) so I'm going from 8 till 8 that night.


Vance Sanders, a regular at KXCI for 18 years. Photo by Gillian Drummond

"I walk in and I've already got my music picked. That's why I call requests suggestions. In my case I probably play less than half of the requests I get. But it's amazing how often people call in with a suggestion that fits right in with what I'm playing. I've got very good listeners that way.

"I dream about songs and I dream about the segues between songs. I probably play more goofy songs than most of the other DJs here - funny, sick and twisted kinds of songs.

"I've always said I work through a lot of issues through music. It's cheaper than therapy. Music can really totally express what you feel. I've said it on-air - no matter how the week goes, I know I've started the week with something that isn't going to suck.

"I probably took a good ten years to get comfortable with the microphone. You're talking to thin air. At 2 a.m. you might be just playing records for yourself. It took me ten years to realize that if I play music for myself, it's going to sound better to the audience. I used to try to play things I didn't necessarily like. But my [music] tastes are varied enough that I didn't have to play stuff I didn't like."

* KXCI celebrates 30 years on the air in December. Its current Amplify KXCI! Capital Campaign is raising money for an auxiliary transmitter, and to make improvements to its offices in Tucson's historic Armory Park. To donate, click here. Find KXCI at 91.3 FM.


KXCI celebrates 30 years as a community radio station in December. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Et Cetera

Fall (ouch!) into a month of art, new food, and hanging on your porch as we give you all that's cool, hot and happening in Tucson.

steven derks cropped

Artists at work

Every year since 1987 a whole lot of Tucson artists have been letting the public get an inside look at their work and their studios for the Tucson Pima Arts Council Open Studio Tour. This year there are over two hundred of them working in all types of media. So, plot your route. Hop on your bike or into the car. And have a really fun and inspiring day or two. It's FREE, after all.

When: Saturday, November 9 and Sunday, November 10. 11am -5pm each day.

Where: Nearly every corner of the City and County.

Cost: Free.

More info: Details about the event, the artists and studio locations are available here. And look for a free Artist Directory with maps, available at the Pima County Libraries, Bookmans, The Loft Cinema and other locations around town.

And for dessert... Bisbee

More than 25 galleries and shops are taking part in this month's Bisbee After 5 Gallery and Shop Walk, when the town's businesses stay open late. The theme? Just desserts. So if you have a sweet tooth and love art, make sure to pay a visit to the coolest/hottest former mining town there is.

When: Saturday November 9th, 10am to 8pm

More info: https://www.facebook.com/bisbeeafter5

Goodbye dear Citron...

We're gutted to see one of our fave Tucson stores closing its doors. But there is an upside, and that is a massive sale of everything in the very tasteful store, from the large paint boards to the cash counter to some vintage doors.

And remember to get in your paint order by Thursday November 7th! Email [email protected] or leave a voicemail at 520 886 5800. If you're a Citron addict (like us), you'll want to stock up before it's too late.

citron paint potsWhen: Sale is 10am to 6pm, Thursday November 14 to Saturday November 16th.

Where: 7041 E. Tanque Verde Road, Tucson 85715

Non-violent femmes

Tucson's historic Seinfeld Warehouse is the setting for FemArts - art installations by women artists. Each installation invites the viewer to become part of the work by entering the art. Expect light, sound, video and more.

When: Preview opening Thursday November 14th, 6-9 pm. Closing Friday November 15th, 6-9 pm.

Where: Steinfeld Warehouse, 101 W. Sixth Street.

Free family fun

Carnival games, a climbing wall, crafts, a golf clinic and pottery demonstrations are just some of the free activities taking place at Tucson Parks and Recreation Department's 8th Annual Family Festival in the Park. Bring a can of food for the Community Food Bank while you're at it.

When: Saturday November 16th, 10 am-2 pm.

Where: Reid Park at 22nd and Country Club.

More info:  [email protected] or 837-8032

The Porchfest gathering. Photo by Warren Van Nest

The Porchfest gathering. Photo by Warren Van Nest

A stroll and a strum

Armory Park Neighborhood got us started with Porch Fest this summer. Now Dunbar Spring neighborhood is treating us to their version. Twenty one bands are scheduled at this point. Although all the details about porches and musicians are yet to come, if its anything like the first Tucson Porch Fest,  it will be a totally enjoyable late afternoon out in the neighborhood enjoying the lovely fall weather, local musicians, food truck noshing, and the company of friends, both familiar and new. This Porch Fest takes place in conjunction with the annual Mesquite Milling Extravaganza in the neighborhood’s community garden. This is a community event, in the truest sense of the word!

Armory Park Porch Fest Photo courtesy of Warren Van Ness

When: 3-5pm. Sunday, November 24

Where: Dunbar Spring Neighborhood (East of University Blvd, North of Speedway. South of St. Mary’s/6th Street)

Cost: Free.

More info: Stay informed about the November Porch Fest here. And be in the loop for future events on the Tucson Porch Fest main page


sam osmoer

Painting by Sam Esmoer, exhibiting at the Wee Gallery

Sam I am

Skateboards, the Southwest and underground culture combine in the art of Sam Esmoer, currently exhibiting at the Wee Gallery. If you haven't checked out either Sam or Wee, it's time to do it now. The Gallery speaks for itself: a small room at the back of the OZMA Atelier boutique. For more on OZMA, read our feature here.

When: Until December 5th. Gallery hours: Thursday to Saturday, 11 am to 6 pm

Where: 439 N. 6th Avenue (at 6th Street), inside OZMA Atelier

More info: www.gallerywee.com

Just say cheese

Cheesemonger Tana Fryer, a supplier of the likes of Falora, Reilly Craft Pizza and Renee's Organic Oven, is opening up three cheese shops in the next three months. The first Blu: A Wine & Cheese Stop opens in St. Philip's Plaza, located inside Alfonso Gourmet Olive Oil & Balamics, November 23rd to 24th. The second opens in Mercado San Agustin this winter. The third will open in Oro Valley in February. Catering, specialty food trays and gift boxes will be available, as well as a large variety of cut-to-order specialty cheeses. More info at www.BluArizona.com. For more on Mercado San Agustin, read our feature in this issue.

Invasion of the plants

Just when you thought Hallowe'en was over and all the scary stuff was past, the Tucson Botanical Garden brings you this exhibit about invasive plants. It will take guests young and old on an adventure through the real and imaginary worlds of plant invaders,tbgalienlogo from sci-fi movies, literature and comic books, as well as a look at real-life invasive plants and how they affect our ecosystem. While you're there, don't miss a new addition to TBG: Mrs Porter's Chicken Coop. Eggs from the chickens will be used in the new cafe (see below).

When: November 15 to April 30, 8.30am to 4.30pm daily.

Cost: included with Tucson Botanical Gardens general admission.

More info: www.tucsonbotanical.org

Cafe Botanica is open

The long-awaited Tucson Botanical Gardens cafe is now open. Cafe Botanica is owned by long-time Tucson caterer and Gallery of Food owner Kristine Jensen, and the menu features delights of the Sonoran desert and high desert of New Mexico. Meats, beans and flours are all sourced locally. It's open for lunch seven days a week from 11 am to 2 pm, with prices from $7 to $10 a dish.

Where: 2150 N. Alvernon Way, Tucson 85712

Phone: 520 326 9686

2,500 miles down, 1300 to go on Walk for Courage

stacieandcartWe launched Tucsonan Stacie Eichenger and her long walk for charity in our May issue and we're checking in with her regularly for a Walk 4 Courage update. Stacie is committed to trekking 3800 miles across America to raise money for Beads of Courage, an organization providing 'arts-in-medicine' supportive care for seriously ill kids.

Stacie has walked more than 2,500 miles-to-date, leaving her only 1,300 more to go. "I'm in the middle of nowhere and on my way to a small town in Indiana called Monticello," Stacie told us this week. She says her body and immune system are holding strong in the chilly 45-degree weather. "I actually haven't gotten sick - knock on wood!"

Stopping of for an interview at the CBS affiliate in Chicago

Stopping off for an interview at the CBS affiliate in Chicago

Next stop is Cincinnati Children’s Hospital on November 21st. She has currently raised $18,240, 48 percent of her $38,000 goal. You can help Stacie with a one time donation to Beads of Courage at Crowdwise.

Follow Stacie on Facebook and donate to Stacie directly for food, an occasional hot shower along the way, and other expenses she’ll incur.

The White Album

It's fresh and crisp, meditative and inspiring, sometimes cold, always tricky, and really hard to keep clean. White is the color du jour. But are you brave enough? By Gillian Drummond.


In a London townhouse, designer Charles Mellersh used white as a backdrop for colorful and vintage pieces. Photo by Chris Tubbs

When photographers Eric and Casia Fletcher moved into their studio space in a converted warehouse at 6th Avenue and 6th Street, a painted white wall spoke to them. First, it asked to be re-painted, from off-white to bright white. Next, it asked for more creativity.

The owners of Purple Nickel Studio got the idea for a series of white picture frames from a visit to Tucson's Zinburger restaurant, where a row of mirrors on a white wall had a dramatic effect. "I was like, 'That would be so awesome with frames, and to have tchotchkes and objects hanging in them'," says Casia.

Purple Nickel

Purple Nickel's white studio wall. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Purple Nickel

Purple Nickel's owners chose to frame certain objects. Photo by Gillian Drummond

They found a selection of picture frames - in different sizes - at thrift stores, yard sales, sometimes antique stores. They also picked up a old screen door. Then they set up a temporary painting booth in their back yard and spray-painted the frames white.

Getting their hands on frames that would sit snugly up against one another, and making them fit, was "literally like a puzzle. It took me many nights to figure out," says Eric, who placed the frames on the floor first.

Then the couple hung their 'tchotchkes' - although what they chose are hardly disposable, nor worthless. There is an old camera, an architect's compass (from Eric's time studying architecture), a stapler, a wooden game board, and more. The objects hang in the middle of select frames, becoming a piece of art.

"I like how it just became a texture. It's like three-dimensional wallpaper," says Eric of the effect.

White is, and has always been, a controversial choice for home décor: fresh and surprising, meditative, controversial, and with a love-it-or-hate-it sentiment - very much like The Beatles' self-titled double album, which became known as The White Album.


The Notting Hill kitchen, by Charles Mellersh. Photo by Chris Tubbs

Those who use it encourage caution: they recommend good lighting, and contrast. The work of London architect Charles Mellersh at a Notting Hill townhouse is striking not because of the white, but because of the vintage furniture and objects that stand beside it.

"This was the first all-white interior I’ve undertaken and it was a leap of faith in many respects," says Charles, formerly interiors editor at Wallpaper magazine. "I’m generally much fonder of darker and moodier hues. That said, the project has an almost dairy-like feel about it that feels remarkably warm."

He broke up the white walls, carrera marble floors, marble counters and plain white wall tiles, with vintage and modern furniture and accessories and, in the case of the wall tiles, dark grout. The key, he says, was to instill warm through strong textures and considered furniture choices.


In the London townhouse, Charles Mellersh had panels put on the walls to add architectural interest. Photo by Chris Tubbs

At Sugar Sweet Bakery, which occupies a light-filled corner space at Tucson's historic Broadway Village, owners Tina Owyoung and Don Scheer were persuaded by architect and construction company Repp McClain to go with something modern, and light in color.

The husband-and-wife team had been considering a darker, more traditional look to go with the previous space they eyed across the street. But the airy store space they ended up with, still with its original brown concrete floors, lent itself to lighter fixtures, says Tina.

Sugar Sweet Bakery. Photo by Liam Frederick.

Sugar Sweet Bakery went all-white for its backsplash and main wall. Photo by Liam Frederick.

Sugar Sweet Bakery.

The chalkboards add contrast to a white wall at Sugar Sweet Bakery. Photo by Gillian Drummond

For the front entry space, in went white cabinets from IKEA, a white powder-coated metal part backsplash, and decorative panels from inhabit.com for the rest of the backsplash. The panels are made of  bagasse, the fiber left over after juice has been squeezed out of sugarcane stalks, and a renewable resource. They come in an eggshell shade, can be painted, and can be recycled or composted after use. (Price: $86 for ten tiles that cover 22.5 sq ft).

To offset the white, there is a pale pink countertop of powder-coated metal, and a predominance of black chalkboard. Tina and Don, both former graphic designers, found ornate framed mirrors at Cost Plus World Market. Two were antiqued white, the other the couple painted themselves. They took out the mirrors and inserted chalkboard, which Don writes on free-style (in white chalk, naturally) to provide menus. One other chalkboard and white-lettered wall serves the same purpose.

Sugar Sweet Bakery. Photo by

Another wall at Sugar Sweet Bakery is all-black chalkboard paint. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Tucson interior designer Florencia Turco de Roussel blames white's decor comeback in recent years on Swedish chain IKEA. "That's when I fell in love with white all over again."

Some might think an all-white decor is boring, says Florencia, who runs Within Studio. But the trick is to use it as a backdrop, and change up what's around it: slipcovers, pillows, rugs. "It's a great backdrop, especially if you have art."


The mani-pedi area at Hush Salon. Photo by Christopher Bowden Photography LLC

When Florencia designed the interior of the new Hush salon and spa in Tucson, she suggested a pedicure area of white porcelain tile - set up a couple of steps from the floor - with a bright yellow vinyl cushion for the long bench seat. Not only did it make the area stand out from the "energetic, rock 'n roll" look of the rest of the salon (reds and chocolates feature, a busy wallpaper, and light wood), it saved the client money. "People that come to me know I'm not going to be wasteful of their funds, so I try to use money accordingly. I said we'll get inexpensive tile then a really good quality vinyl fabric for the cushions," says Florencia.

Poliform Kitchen. Photo by

A kitchen island by Poliform features a contrast of brown oak. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Poliform Kitchen. Photo by

Poliform kitchen. Photo by Gillian Drummond

But while white makes a statement, all-white is not recommended, says Gillian Turney, interior designer with Kevin B. Howard Architects,  which houses Tucson's Poliform furniture showroom. "It creates a whitewash," says Gillian.

Italian-based Poliform loves white, but also likes to compliment it with other textures or colors or both. So a kitchen island features white glass on the counter and cabinet doors, with a piece of brown oak alongside the glass counter. "It's not about bling, it's just the materials alone, whether they're glossy, lacquered material next to brown oak or something else. It makes it pop out even more."

White is controversial, says Gillian. "Everyone has an opinion about the color." Her background in fine arts and auction houses taught her a little bit of the history of white. It began as a servants' color, because whitewashing was an easy means of décor. Then it turned into a "nobleman's color", says Gillian, because it's hard to keep clean.

By Kathryn Prideaux

Kathryn Prideaux brought in different textures to break up the white bathroom. Photo courtesy of Prideaux Design

By Kathryn Prideaux

Kathryn Prideaux designed this client's bathroom with an old world feel but clean aesthetic. Photo courtesy of Prideaux Design

"I love white on white, especially in a bathroom," says Tucson interior and  landscape designer Kathryn Prideaux of Prideaux Design. When some of her clients wanted an old-world feel for their Tucson townhome, but also a clean, simple aesthetic, Kathryn made sure to mix up the whites with different textures. She says to make sure you stick to the same 'family' of whites; some whites have a blue undertone, others pink, and so on. "The use of whites requires a lot of attention to detail in the hues and color undertones of the whites and how well they will mix. Having samples in hand of every finish is a must."

Rough woods, wrought iron, a hexagon Saltillo tile, polished chrome and silver-leaf elements gave high contrast and different textures, says Kathryn.

Layering like this, say the designers we spoke to, not only creates visual interest but warms up what could otherwise be a cold, bare space.

Not only that, it makes the whole interior design process more exciting. A bit like The Beatles' White Album itself, your room becomes a place to experiment and diversify.

* For more white decor ideas, see Boxhill's products of the month in our Ground Floor column.


More white-on-white at the townhouse designed by Charles Mellersh. Photo by Chris Tubbs