Tucson Gift Guide

The best presents from Southern Arizona businesses


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!

Businesses mentioned in this gift guide
Bandito Vintage Barrio Bread Bon Boutique Classic Rock Couture Eco Gro Exo Roast Co. Fine Life Co. Generation Cool HF Coors Mabel’s on 4th MAST Rosie’s Barkét Time Market Tiny Town Gallery Wooden Tooth Records

What I’d get for my husband

Toast Tongs, because I can’t tell you how many times he’s yelped while trying to wrangle walnut bread from our toaster | Mabel’s on 4th, $2.98

This shirt/map of Tucson, because the only thing he loves more than maps (very convenient in foreign countries!) is Tucson | Tiny Town Gallery, $15

What I’d get my older sister

Pasta Flour from Hayden Flour Mills | available at Time Market, $8.50

Perfect Pasta Timer | Mabel’s on 4th, $6.98
So she can continue to make my stomach grumble with the delicious-looking (and I’m sure tasting) meals she cooks and uploads to Instagram.

Image via Mabel’s on 4th

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Review of TallBoys—Tucson

You’ll want to try the TallBoy Tots. And everything else.

I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

TallBoys, a breakfast (af) and lunch spot, opened mere blocks from my house.

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The menu is filled with bites that taste better at 2am post-drinks and the next morning (TallBoy Tots, BAT-LEG), and fun twists on favorites, like goat cheese, lox, egg, and balsamic-topped toast.

TallBoy Tots from TallBoys in Tucson.

I had gone out the night before, so the TallBoy Tots called my name. They’re incredible. One of the best breakfast/brunch items in the entire city of Tucson. And I believe this statement holds true even if I hadn’t had drinks the night before.

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Best Places in Tucson to Eat Alone

Hungry minus company? Check out the best places in Tucson to dine alone.

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.

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What the US/Mexico Border is Really Like

Learn what life is like on the United States/Mexico border from a native.

Hello! Hola!

I wrote a post for sheswanderful.com on what it’s like on the United States/Mexico border, and growing up in Nogales, AZ. My favorite part of the piece is this:

It’s strange to me to see news pieces with titles like “Border Wars” or “Battle on the Border,” because there’s no battle on the border at all.

Discussions on the United States and Mexico—the people, the exports, the imports—aren’t fought at this physical barrier. They’re fought in legislative chambers, in offices, in your home, and sometimes even on Twitter.

Each dinner table discussion about “how dangerous Mexico is” is an argument. Each news segment showing hooded figures running through desert terrain, their eyes flashing green because of night vision, is a brawl. Each DC politician who has never been to the border without an agenda (yet somehow knows all about those “bad hombres”) is a war.

Knowing is half the battle.

Here’s the link, if you’d like to read the rest

Crooked Tooth Brewing Co., Tucson

Tucson, a haven for craft beer, welcomes a new brewery

I’m a beer lover.

When we came back from Spain and Portugal this past September, I quickly dashed to the nearest bar at the airport where we had our layover, desperate for an ice-cold craft brew. It was probably one of the best beers I’ve ever had, considering I had spent weeks drinking Cruzcampo and Super Bock.

There are many things that the Spanish and the Portuguese do well—I did not find beer to be one of them.

Luckily, I live in a craft beer haven where a new local brewery opens approximately every half hour. The most recent being Crooked Tooth Brewing Co.

Crooked Tooth Brewing Co., in Tucson

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Is Tucson’s Owls Club Haunted?

A whiskey bar in a renovated, former funeral home brings a hint of mortality with your Manhattan.

My interest in the Owls Club was both sinister and typical. A recently opened cocktail bar located a little south of downtown Tucson’s main hub, I was curious to see what the new hot spot was like. But there were darker motivations, too.

The Owls Club is located in a renovated, former funeral home. On the day it opened, a friend told me that she had visited and joined a group on an informal tour, which included the former embalming room. Upon entry, she described feeling utterly creeped out—the temperature dropped and her chest felt heavy.

It was my mission to experience it for myself. Continue reading “Is Tucson’s Owls Club Haunted?”

9 Unexpected Things You Should Pack for a Long Vacation

Across 15 countries, I’ve picked up a thing or two. Read below for what’s always in the bag.

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.

  1. 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.
  1. A baggy chambray shirt: Use it as a cover-up for the beach, an extra layer on chilly nights—heck, just a shirt!
I wore this chambray shirt when visiting Parc Guell in Barcelona—and everywhere else.
  1. 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.

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The Secret is Mine

Discover an abandoned gold mine, hidden in the hills of Boulder, CO.

If you’ve ever wondered why I drive a beaten up Volkswagen Jetta, it’s because I’m very rich. My family owns a gold mine in Boulder, Colorado.

I’m kidding about being rich. I’m not kidding about the gold mine.

It’s called the Pilot Mine. I can’t tell you where it is or how to get there; plus, it’s on private property so you’re not allowed to dig around (pun unintentional) and find it.


The Pilot Mine in Boulder, Colorado


But, because there’s so little information on it on the Internet, I thought I’d share a few images of this red hidden gem. Who of you knew that Colorado was sprinkled with abandoned mines?

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Tucson: Welcome Diner

A much-loved Phoenix restaurant comes to Tucson—Welcome Diner has a fan in me.

I have to admit that I was a little sour on Welcome Diner when it first came to town from Phoenix. It took the place of Chaffin’s, a beloved breakfast spot of mine that served inhumane amounts of food for about $8 (their hash browns were the best—crispy, fluffy in the middle, yum!).

And then I tasted Welcome Diner’s mac and cheese. Oh, how quickly we forget.

Mac and cheese at Welcome Diner in Tucson

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Tucson: Romero Pools hike

One of Tucson’s favorite hikes, I write up my experience on a trek to the Romero Pools.

Name: Romero Pools

Location: within Catalina State Park

Total time: 3 hours, 30 minutes

Length: 6.5 miles to the pools and back


The views along the trail to the Romero Pools will take your breath away—if you have any breath left, that is. Steep ascents remind you how out of shape you are, while flat spaces between climbs provide a welcome respite (and also keep this hike ranked a 3 on trailvoyant.com, a local Tucson hiking resource).

Fueled by breakfast burritos from El Güero Canelo, Rob and I headed out on a beautiful 70-degree morning for Catalina State Park. We paid $7 for a day pass (check the calendar to time your visit with an event and get the most bang for your buck) and followed the road to the trail head. Dogs are allowed for the first mile or so, after which the trail runs through Bighorn Sheep wilderness, which is strictly protected and dogs are strictly forbidden. From there, we walked a little more than 3 miles. I’d estimate 1.8 of those were pure elevation gains, baby.

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