I always look forward to that feeling of excitement I get from starting a new year. As I began to plan my blog adventures for 2022, I ran across this touching quote by Frederick Buechner that I thought you may enjoy.
“You can kiss your family and friend’s good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time, you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach,
because you do not just live in a world, but a world lives in you.” —Frederick Buechner, novelist
While reading his quote, I began to reflect on the importance of family and friends, and the lessons I have learned from each of them. It is understandable that many of us think of past holidays as in the rearview mirror, but I believe, any time spent with family and friends is priceless. So for my first blog of 2022, I decided to share a few of my holiday adventures, from what my family fondly refers to as,“An Arizona Christmas."
My husband and I spent Christmas 2021 in the Phoenix, Arizona area, where two of our children and five of our grandchildren live. Our family enjoys finding experiences that create lasting memories, aligning perfectly with my goal to stay active. Our grandchildren range from 9 months to 24 years old, providing a fun mixture of activities for all to experience.
We were disappointed that one of our family members was unable to join us, but she was in our thoughts throughout the holiday.
Riparian Preserve - Adventure #1
Click link for more information: Riparian Preserve
Our first trip took us to Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch, in the town of Gilbert, Arizona. The preserve was developed as a result of the Town of Gilbert’s vision to reuse 100% of its effluent (run-off) water. As a result, this innovative site combines water resource development with wildlife habitat. The preserve consists of 110-acres with 70 acres of the space supporting 7 water recharge basins that are filled, treated, and then stored into the aquifer for use in the future.
There are over 4.5 miles of easy trails winding through the preserve. We stopped at several of the Informational panels, positioned along the trail to learned more facts about the parks wildlife and vegetation. The network of family-friendly trails are perfect for hiking. We saw several parents running with baby strollers as the children giggled and waved at passersby. There also were those of us that were completely content to just embrace the tranquility and diversity of plants and wildlife.
The trails are arranged in zones which allowed us to appreciate a variety of vegetation from the alluring marshlands to the rugged native plant life. Numerous viewing blinds are positioned along the water’s edge so visitors are able to connect with nature in a quieter setting. The site is complete with an interesting array of insects, reptiles, fish, and mammals, including multiple sightings of my personal favorite, “Peter Rabbit."
There have been over 300 species of birds sighted since the area was developed in 1999, making it a paradise for bird watchers. The range of species has gain the Riparian recognition by three groups including the National Audubon Society, that brings visitors from around the world to observe these stunning birds.
Coming from Florida, we were surprised to see White Pelicans in Arizona, but the Ranger explained the preserve is a popular stop on their migrations. The Idaho Pelican is one of the largest birds in North America and can weigh up to 30 pounds with a 9-foot wingspan. They are big eaters and able to consume up to 7 pounds of fish a day, taking a toll on the fish population within the Riparian.
As we made our way out of the preserve, we crossed over a floating boardwalk where we were able to get a close-up view of ducks in their natural habitat. Some showed their acrobatic abilities as they searched for food, others just chilled in the sun, and the feisty ones, chose to let their neighbors know,"who was boss."
With this close vantage point, we had a rare opportunity to take in the natural beauty of these male Mallards iridescent blue-green head, yellow bill, and distinctive curled tail. I was fascinated by watching the behaviors of these ducks and I can see why so many people enjoy bird watching as a hobby.
The educational stops along the trails ranged from an ethnobotanical garden , gardens for pollinators such as hummingbirds and butterflies, and a state-of-the-art observatory. The site has something to offer everyone and if you are in the Phoenix area, I would recommend it be one of your stops.
Event Booth for "So Loved Handman Clay Jewelry" - Adventure #2
One of my personal experiences was having the opportunity to help set up my granddaughter’s event booth for her jewelry line, “So Loved." She makes handmade
clay jewelry which is fresh and creative, and her work is beginning to turn heads in the area.
Vertuccio Farms – Adventure #3
Click link for more information: Vertuccio Farms
A highlight for the entire family, especially the younger children, was our trip to Vertuccio Farms for their annual “Lights at the Farm". As we approached the enviting farm gates our senses instantly came alive with an awe-inspiring "Christmas Light Show" that synchronized to music and echoed throughout the farm.
Vertuccio Farms is a family operated business and a true American success story. Throughout the years, the farm grew as the family worked hard to offer affordable events year-round for the community. New this year included in admission... was the Carters Farms Mobile Petting Zoo and my animal loving family jumped at the opportunity to get up close and personal with some farm-furry-friends. They also provided pony rides for more fun and adventure.
The activities were endless, but the evening would not have been complete without a visit to Santa. These priceless pictures of my younger grandchildren and this iconic "Baby and Santa" photo, ended a perfect evening on the farm.
Christmas Day with children always adds an element of wonder. My grandchildren were up early and I could feel the pulse of their anticipation and excitement as they unwrap each gift from under the tree. My daughter-in-law had her traditional family recipe of biscuits and gravy ready to eat and soon the aromatic smell of turkey and ham cooking in the kitchen evoke family moments and the spirit of Christmas. We ended up having 18 people for dinner which went smoothly and it was a joy to be part of the hustle and bustle of the day.
Back Home in Fernandina Beach - Adventure #4
We got back to Florida just in time to join my sister’s family and friends on the beach with a bonfire creating the perfect way to wrap up our holiday. The evening was particularly beautiful and a great setting to enjoy the traditional hotdog and marshmallow roast, watch the pale blue and pink sunset over the ocean, and play some beach Pétanque. Of course, with everyone’s cooperation, we left the beach as pristine as we found it.
If you haven’t experienced a bonfire on the beach, give it a try. You can build a fire from November 1st to April 30th in the county. The date restrictions are due to Marine Turtle Nesting Season which we all want to protect. Link for beach ordinances: Amelia Island Beach Ordinance.