Desert Wells Stagecoach Stop

I admit, I like my husband to take the pre-bed routine after a day wrangling kids in the library and after school. My husband is going out a few nights this week, so no respite for the weary.

My nightstand groans with old Arizona Highways and Arizona history books. I love using the Centennial as an excuse to unleash my inner local history nerd. Today’s easy jaunt is courtesy of Around the San Tan Mountain which is like a San Tan Historical Society in my pocket.

The plan for today is to check out the Desert Wells stage coach stop, play in the Queen Creek Wash. Later we can visit the Wells Fargo History Museum downtown (free) and the San Tan Historical Society (free).

I had this romantic idea that the stage coach stop would be a pile of rubble that we would trek through a wash to find. I felt silly when I saw the parking area and the stop located easily along a road I travel all the time. I passed it dozens of times and did not notice it, Typical.

The Desert Wells stage stop is interesting as a remnant of the old ways. We talked about how horses grew tired pulling a buggy (What’s a buggy?–it is like a car with no engine that a horse pulls. It is an old fashioned word). When we go to the Wells Fargo Musuem the boys can climb in a stage coach. We can watch some Westerns on TV. There are so many ways to bring this idea home. I love that our house is so close.

The stage stop is fenced. After running around it twice I cut the boys loose to chase rabbits in the wash. We watched the sunset and drove home, dinner-bath and bed went like butter.




Maricopa County Library Bookstores

I realize that I like to read more than normal. In addition to working as a school librarian, I patronize my public library weekly. I love to add to my home library and I love to pick up guilty pleasure reads for less at the bookstore. It’s a two-fer because my purchase benefits programming I value for our community.

My favorite Maricopa libraries are South East Regional and the Queen Creek library. They have million dollar buildings. When I visit, the environment elevates my spirit. Best of all they both feature bookstores run the Friends of the Library. I know someday when my children are older if I am not working I am going to be one of those fabulous dames running the store.

Queen Creek Library

Yes, I buy books from thrift stores but not often. I prefer the library bookstore. It is cleaner and the selection is more current. The library routinely culls it’s best sellers to the bookstore. You can’t beat the prices, typically .50 to 2.00. If you need a book for a plane or the beach, stop here first.

Fun fact: the Queen Creek Library is the first municipal building in Queen Creek constructed under the town’s green building policy. If you have a youngster interested in the environment or design, have them take the Green Building Tour at the library. On my list to visit next, White Tank Mountain Regional Park (near Loop 303 and Olive Avenue) the new nature center is another “green” building and includes a Maricopa county library. And it has a bookstore!

Citizen note: Consider becoming a “friend” of your library. As a “friend” I enjoyed newsletters about plans and challenges of my favorite library. I also learned when my favorite library was at risk of closure for budget issues and I could call my representative to let him know my thoughts on that issue.

The Friends of the Library pay for the children's programming

Out of Town Guests: Queen Creek Bounty

MJ 4 Ever!

In the winter it is easy to lure my family away from the East Coast for a visit. I love showing off the Valley and the many aspects of Gilbert/Queen Creek that make our area special. I remember when I first moved here how ignorant I was of the area. We mostly stayed home and when we did go out the only thing I could offer was the orange trees in our neighborhood.

This week my mother is visiting from Pennsylvania. I want her to teach me how to make her recipe for pork roast. Where is the best place to buy pork in the Valley? Why the Pork Shop in Queen Creek of course. I wanted to build an afternoon out of the errand so we decided we would have lunch at the Olive Mill, check out the Pork Shop (this was my first time), pick up some fresh oranges and then back home to cook.

The Pork Shop is located on Combs Rd, 3 miles down the street from the Olive Mill. The store is a tiny shop with a tank in the yard painted to look like a pink pig. Check the hours to make sure it is open before you stop by.

Yelp has rave reviews about popular offerings. I can tell you that we arrived 5 minutes before they closed on a Sunday. The cases were empty and clean. (I love clean). We were so late we almost didn’t go. I was at the Olive Mill when I realized how late we were, the cashier said “oh, it’s three minutes away and that man won’t close the door in anyone’s face. You go ahead and go.”  We went, and Mr. Combs himself waited on us. He has a smile like Julia Roberts. About ten more people came in behind us and they waited on them too. Nice folks, you did not feel like you were holding anyone up. We picked up a beautiful cut of pork and a jar of the green chili sauce.

On the way back we stopped at a roadside stand outside of Schepf farms. I picked up six juicy grapefruits, a big sack of oranges and some raw honey for $10.00. I added the new stash to the blood orange oil I had picked up at the Olive Mill.  We made time to pull over so my mom could check out cotton in it’s natural state. It was a nice afternoon where we took the time to do the little things and it felt like a mini vacation. This week we will feast on greens drizzled with blood orange oil, fresh grapefruit and honey and pork sammies. Can’t beat the farm fresh food!

We came home, cut up some carrots, garlic and onions and laid the pork on a bed of vegetables. Then we seasoned the pork with salt, pepper and fresh rosemary from my rosemary bush. Do you have a rosemary bush? If you don’t, I think you should give one a try. They are very hardy and snips of fresh rosemary will make the most inept person feel like Martha Stewart. We popped the pork in the oven to cook slowly all afternoon while we watched football. The house smelled amazing. The pork was excellent. It was juicy and flavorful. The price was high, 5 lbs for $30.00, but I tasted the difference, the indulgence was worth it to me. Next time I’ll try their bacon and sausage.

Do you have special recipes you like for January? Do you have a favorite farm or farmers market you rely on for a special meal?

Note: If you want to learn more about the Pork Shop and where they source their meat, read Janet’s blog post about her visit on The Bear Cuisine.

Mr. Combs making up our order with a smile

Unique to the Valley: Queen Creek Olive Mill

As a mom to two boys, I love to pamper myself by going to restaurants. I like the “away game” aspect of it. I’m not cooking and I’m not waiting on anyone. My favorite places to eat around the Valley are places that have a healthy menu like Wildflower Bread Company or Pita Jungle. Today I want to write about a very special place that I love to visit, the Queen Creek Olive Mill. This is a good place to bring out of town guests, small children or a lunch with friends. When I bring my kids we sit at picnic tables in the olive grove and the boys run around. If you plan your visit right you can come when they are playing music outside and enjoy a glass of wine. The Olive Mill is like a date that goes from a fancy night on the town to a walk on the beach.
I am lucky that I live nearby. If you don’t, come during the holidays and knock out some holiday shopping. The Olive Mill is a great place to  pick up a unique hostess gift or teacher gift. The price point is just right. For example, I bought a bottle of Meyer Lemon Olive Oil for $12.39. The infused olive oil smells amazing when you cook with it. You could give it in a gift basket with some lemons, a few recipes they offer for free online or in the store and some pasta. I like to use it when I make Spicy Pasta with Lemon and Peas. The dish itself is inexpensive, tastes good cold and is vegetarian, you can make it for a luncheon or a birthday party for a group and not break the bank. Nice!

Try it with waffles or pancakes. 🙂

I recommend you take the Olive Mill tour. It’s part of the experience. You should take the tour first if you can, then have a bite to eat on the patio, then try something new from the store. In addition to olive oil, they stock tapenades, cheeses, prepared foods, bakery items, gift items, soaps and lotions. After the tour I bought the Chocolate Olive Oil. I use it when I make banana bread. The house smells amazing when I bake with it. Yum.

My little guys like to get gelato. My handsome date and I split the prickly pear. He always picks the funkiest color food he can find. And he doesn’t share very well. I get the melty bits at the end. 🙂

Mom Note: The Olive Mill is easy to find, but don’t rely on your GPS. Read this instead. They have a gravel parking lot and while the patio dining and tour are wheelchair friendlish the store itself tends to be crowded and the product is dispersed a little randomly so you end up cutting diagonally to see everything. You don’t want to push a stroller around in here either. You can, but you don’t want to. They have restrooms on site.

Prickly Pear Gelato