Dear Tucson...

Love-Letters-to-Tucson-logo Each 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: for Peter Norback, Tucson's sunshine brought more than just physical warmth. Photos by Rachel Miller

Dear Tucson,

Buddy Hackett, the comedian, once said that when he moved out of his mother’s house and away from her cooking he suddenly thought he was dying because “the fire in his chest was going out.”

Something similar happened to me when I moved to Tucson from Princeton, NJ 19 years ago. Over an 18-month period I began not to feel things in my hands and my knees and my shoulders. I thought I was slowly losing all sensation in my body when I realized, 'Hey, my arthritis is going away.'

peterloveletter Other things started to happen, too, like music sounded much better once my teeth stopped chattering. For 53 years I was cold for a good part of the year. I often wore coats over my coats… it was that bad for me. Then Merrill Lynch, where I worked, started to change from an investment brokerage to a bank, which they failed at in the worst possible way. I saw that coming so I left several years before the end.

onecanaweek The only thing I wanted in my life at the time was sunshine. So I just packed up and moved to Tucson. Turns out that was all I ever needed anyway. I’m healthier, which makes me happier, as does my work to help feed the hungry.

New York City was a cold reality on many levels for me. It was the best place to build my author and marketing careers. But the worst place to enjoy the outdoors for any extended period of time.

The biggest compliment I can pay Tucson is to say I am no longer cold. And that is what I love the most.



We don't need the Movoto Real Estate folks to tell us that Tucson is among the nation's most caring cities. We see it daily, and beautifully, in Ben's Bells, the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona, and in the simplicity of Peter Norback's One Can a Week Food Donation Program, among other fine Tucson examples. 

Rachel met Peter initially at Sprouts Farmers Market on Speedway where he was soliciting donations for the program, and then joined him in the Miles neighborhood where he started the program. Contact him if your neighborhood or school or business would like to participate in or sponsor the One Can a Week program.  Peter Norback  can be contacted at (520) 248-3694  or at



Ground Floor

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boxhill sept 2014 issue

Every issue, landscape designer Darbi Davis digs deep to bring you stories for your outdoor space. This month: why porches are in full swing again. Plus: cool product picks from Boxhill.


Porches, once the eyes and ears of a neighborhood, are back in full swing. Photo by Darbi Davis

As summer ever…so…slowly…slips into fall, we emerge from our chilled dens and happily dust off our porches – a special place where we can once again embrace the drier, cooler air.  The shift is undeniably subtle, but eagerly embraced by all who call the desert home.

When the fourth Tucson Porchfest hits at the end of this month, it will be a chance for residents to celebrate something that's back in full swing as a center for community events, learning, coffee and cocktails.

The History


A typical Tucson porch, this one in the city's Menlo Park area. Photo by Darbi Davis

Historically, front porches served as cool, covered outdoor spaces where life rolled by at a slower pace.  Porches were the eyes and ears of street life happenings.  They were silent, transitional spaces that merged the inside with the outside.  They were confidants of secrets, witnesses to chaos, shelter from the sun, support for tired feet, a breezy space, a meeting place, a musical bodega.  They were places of retreat and rest. A culture of idle ease and nostalgic ambience. A theater of pure Americana.


A porch in Tucson's Armory Park neighborhood. Photo by Darbi Davis

And then the car whirled into town and air conditioners cooled interiors, making the front porch less appealing on hot summer afternoons.  Emerging architectural styles around the middle of the last century eliminated the front porch. History shifted to the  inside.

It wasn’t until shortly after the turn of the millennium that the trend towards a walkable, less auto-dependent life caught on.

Porchfest is born

In 2007, a group out of Ithaca, New York, decided that their community needed more casual, outdoor, family-friendly events, and Porchfest was born.  Communities across the country took notice and Porchfest Festivals popped up all over – including in Tucson, where it travels to different neighborhoods a couple times a year.

A typical Tucson Porchfest includes musicians playing on porches,  Food Trucks, and kids' activities.  The streets come to life as everyone strolls around to stop and listen at intermittent porches or grab a bite. All are invited and it’s free to attend.


Barbara and Alan O'Brien, far left and second from left, entertain neighbors on their front porch in Tucson. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Barbara and Alan O'Brien live in the Broadmoor neighborhood of Tucson, host to this month’s Porchfest on September 28th. Their back patio hosted their morning coffee rituals until a few years ago, when they moved to the front porch.  Since then, their lives have been enriched by daily stop-ins from friends and neighbors, and their porch earned the name, 'Cawffee Tawk” Cafe, after a Saturday Night Live skit. A friend made a sign for them, which is proudly displayed on the front windowsill.

porchobrien1 "If you have coffee,  they will come," says Barbara, a retired librarian. "Most of the regulars, I don't even serve them any more. They just go in the kitchen and help themselves. This way we get to see the neighborhood and we've made so many friends."

Why porches matter

Full-time Menlo Park resident Deb Dale, partner in Smith & Dale Philanthropic Counsel, doesn’t miss a morning on her porch - even in the sweltering summer. “Sipping coffee, doing morning crossword puzzles, and playing with Stan, the beloved cat” are just a few of her mentioned porch rituals. “We also used [the front porch] as the cupcake decorating locale to wrangle tots during our 4th of July party,” says Deb.

Speaking of tots, porch-for-play is a brilliant modern day use of the space.  Kids thrive in fresh air.  They don’t mind extreme temperatures as long as they are outdoors.  Seasonal shifts, bugs, lizards, carpenter bees, wind, water, sand, and mud provide endless learning opportunities.  If they spill, splat, or dump - no problem. Grab a hose or a broom, or leave it and watch the mess evolve.


The porch at the Khalsa Montessori school is used for school enrichment programs. Photo by Darbi Davis

Khalsa Montessori School, a Tucson elementary school, provides “Porch” as an enrichment program for their students.  Nirvair Khalsa, founder and director of the school, says: "The Camden porch is an outdoor classroom. The teacher is a master gardener, certified Montessori teacher and artist who designs a beautiful space and engaging projects for the students where they can apply their classroom skills in new ways. On the porch they practice reading, writing, science and art as they demonstrate their new knowledge in the books, posters, journals and art objects they create.”

The kids work on the front porch of the schoolhouse cultivating gardens and learning how to dry herbs, which then get transformed into sachets.  Third grader Iliana says: “Porch is so fun because you get to be outside, and learn about animals and work with clay.”

It’s a cherished and inspiring break from indoor school life, and it's outside time that will certainly inspire a moment of relaxation, regardless of your age.  If you’re a regular backporch sitter, try moving to the front for a different view. And who knows? Maybe you’ll meet a neighbor or two, make new friends, or feel a cooler breeze.

* The next Tucson Porchfest (with food trucks!)  is 4 pm to 7 pm, Sunday September 28th in the Broadmoor-Broadway Village neighborhood in midtown Tucson.


Darbi's Plant of the Month: Devil's Claw
plantofmonthsept2014Devil's Claw This sprawling native annual has light lavender, tubular flowers that mature into long horned-like fruit.  Once dry, the pod splits and forms a woody claw that contains seeds.  Historically, the dried pod is used in Native American basket weaving.  A fun monsoon loving plant!

* Find Darbi Davis at Red Bark Design.

Square Feet

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We're as nosy as the next person about the insides of people's homes. That's why we bring you a hot property pick each issue. This month:  the owners of a restored firehouse share their favorite resources and finds. Story and photos by Rachel Miller.


Urban hot? It doesn’t get much hotter than living in a restored firehouse. When Sally and Tim moved into the old North Side Firehouse ten years ago they undertook the monumental task of shedding the dropped and popcorn ceiling, reclaiming the original porches and balconies, and returning the building to its Starkweather beauty.

FirehouseStyle The fire station, designed by Arizona Inn architect Merritt Starkweather, has been through a number of renditions since it was first built as a one-story firehouse on the north side of Tucson in 1917.  A second story and fireman’s pole was added to the fire station in 1930, and it has had multiple reincarnations before becoming a home.  What Sally and Tim have created, from inside to out, is respectful of the history, aesthetics and function of the building and still, undeniably, a beautiful home.

FirehousePickAx Who they are: Sally and Tim have lived in their West University home for 10 years.

About the home: Built in 1917 as a one-story fire station. In 1930 a second story was added to accommodate living quarters. Originally called the North Side Fire Station as it built to serve the north side of town, it stretches to around 1900 square feet. Firehouseladies

Describe your style: "Hodge-podge! Basically we use what is available - items that make us happy. We draw upon items mostly from our pasts combined and created by friends."

Your fave thing about your home: "That it’s a fire station. We love the main living space being on a second floor and can’t believe the views - perfect for watching rainstorms. We love the large lot and the artwork by friends we love or people we’ve met. The fire station is a great place for parties. The apparatus bay (where the fire engine use to be housed) is a wonderful place to watch movies or soccer as a group or for a dance party."

firehousecarsofa Biggest splurge: An apparatus bay door that was put in as part of the restoration of the front. That area had been closed in.

Best bargain: "Using what was left in the building: the counter as headboard, filing cabinets as storage and side tables, and that the radiators actually work!"

My DIY moment: "When we removed the dropped ceilings and room dividers and we were thrilled, but scared, about the amount of work. But the best DIY moment was restoring the front of the building back to the original."


Favorite resources: Barnett and Shore demolition and salvage yard (since closed) for old fixtures, doors, sinks, building materials, as well as thrift stores or yard sales.

Our Tucson treasures: Artist Beata Wehr, Pat and Sue Day,  Eriks Rudans, Geno Foushee, Mel Dominguez, Ruben Moreno, Josie Rincon, Ruthe Foushee & Nina Foushee, Jim Rusk, Amy Rusk.


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Are you digging these digs?

Get the look locally: Tim and Sally's home furnishings are almost entirely vintage or reclaimed. Take a page from their book and check out salvage yards like Gersons when looking for inspired alternative materials to use around the house. Craigslist is a great source for the trunks, church pews and cinema seating that Sally and Tim use in the apparatus bay for communal seating. The furniture stores of The Lost Barrio might be hiding the perfect alder or willow chair.

And try these lookalikes we found:

From left to right: Leather & Rosewood chair, $1,900 from 1stdibs; Jesup Stool, $450 from AllModernTee's Lounge Ladies, No Fighting in the Bathroom Print, $25 from Kennedy Printing; Polished Stainless Steel Lavatory Sink from Decolav,  $151.68; Black and White Merola Tile Metro Octagon, $7.09 per square foot from Home Depot.



Messages in a bottle

Lesli Wood was so tired of floral scents she stopped wearing perfume. And then she set about making her own.  By Mari Herreras


Photo courtesy of Lesli Wood.

Tired of the heavy and floral scented perfumes offered at department stores, Lesli Wood simply stopped wearing perfume. She never gave up looking for a fragrance or scent to call her own, but the only alternatives seemed to be oils sold at the health food stores.

Then about four years ago, Lesli sat down at her coffee table in her Los Angeles apartment with a few high-quality oils and natural fragrances she purchased, determined to make her own.

"So this has really only come into its own as a business the past year, but [there have been] at least four of tinkering, learning and taking the steps I needed," Lesli says, sitting in her workshop in the home she shares in Tucson's Barrio Viejo with her husband, musician Boyd Peterson.


Perfume making at Lesli's Tucson studio. Photo by Rachel Miller.

Thanks to an assortment of glass vials and tubes, Lesli’s workshop space has a mad scientist quality to it - but the kind of scientist who appreciates style, vintage and desert living. There's Chico, Lesli's Chihuahua mix, who might be the most friendly of this small wily breed, and a cow-hide rug across the floor. In one corner, a small antique secretary desk is filled with vials and looks like a mixing station ready for Lesli to bring her formulas to life. A '50s-era cabinet against a wall stores larger bottles of fragrances and oils, and all the supplies needed to be, well, a perfumery: Lesli's perfumery, called La Curie.


Lesli Wood. Photo by Rachel Miller.

Vintage and style is something that Lesli has always had a love for and a hand in; she ran a vintage and handmade store in the Glendale area with Boyd before moving back to Tucson two years ago. In Tucson, they started Thee Collection Agency, a similar shop on Sixth Street near Sixth Avenue. But they closed the brick and mortar store early this year, allowing her and Boyd to focus on other projects, like La Curie.

This perfume business is a new world for Lesli, but one that allows her to use two interests she's always had: science and art. "Perfume is those two worlds. There's some art and design involved. I do all the graphics and packaging," she says. "You have to be able to keep notes and have an interest in formulas or how chemistry really works. You kind of have to have a bit of a nerd brain."


The work of mixing - discovering those formulas and what Lesli describes as "sniffing, sniffing sniffing" - is harder that most may think. But turns out Lesli has a knack for this business, and quickly figured out what she liked and what others liked. She learned that synthetic fragrances might be easier to blend, but she didn't want to go in that direction. "I wanted to combine natural and essential oils and even a different, higher quality." One example is what's called an absolute, a name for a fragrance often described as a bit dirty and waxy, and considered a challenge to work with. Lesli, however, overcame that challenge and embraced what absolutes had to offer.

“A lot of handmade perfumers don’t like to work with these. The essential oils that you can buy at health food stores are extracted by a certain method and absolutes extract fragrance from plants using a different method. Not all plants respond well to an essential oil process,” she says. “They are also more expensive, rare and really concentrated and often have a different smell then essential oil form. They have more depth and complexity and are more highly regarded in perfumery.”


'Synthetic' fragrances are easier to blend, but Lesli didn't want to go in that direction. Photo by Rachel Miller.

Figuring this out basically meant living a “How To” primer on making perfume. Lesli said it’s a model of living and working she’s always embraced. She didn’t finish college, and always figured how to do things on her own or seek the guidance of a specialist. “Maybe it’s because I’m an only child … but I also love puzzles and love a challenge. I read a ton and most of it was trial and error.

"I'm not doing this to make money," she adds. "Much to my mother's dismay, I've never gone into anything with the idea of making lots of money. I do this to express myself and maybe I can make money doing this."

lacurieminiatures The fragrance Lesli first created on her L.A. coffee table is called La Curie One. She says she's never changed this first formula. It's her first top-selling of the oils she's created and the positive reviews she's heard from friends and customers inspired her to keep creating.

“It’s a lively fragrance, not heavy. It’s kind of active. A little freshness. There’s some bergamot, which gives it a lemony fresh sent and an undertone of leather, and a little bit of jasmine. When I first made that one I described it as wearing your favorite aged leather jacket and walking by a citrus tree in bloom.”

Right now the only stores that carry La Curie are MAST in Tucson and her former shop in California. MAST sells the full range: four oil-based perfumes, two face sprays and a natural mosquito repellent, as well as three eau de perfume sprays. Her remaining sales are online through her website and, thanks to an October 2013 review in a popular perfume and beauty products blog, those sales are increasing, even for samples.

"Before, online, nobody knew who I was. Really, how do you convey a smell online? So sales have been through MAST, and I've been watching closely what people say and buy," she says. The feedback this past year has been phenomenal, with sales at about 40 bottles a month. "At first I thought it was people I know, and how nice it was that my friends are supporting me. I didn't trust myself, but I was finally told that I probably only know 10 percent of the people who've bought at MAST," she says.

Sending samples to the EauMG fragrance and beauty blog took some courage, but Lesli says she realized the publicity would help her reach an audience beyond the loyal following she's cultivated in Tucson. "It was a positive review, and it gave me the validation I needed. It was the first time I had anyone who knows what they are talking about smell [my products].  She did a second review, so now I have two nice reviews. It helped. I've had people ordering samples from all over the place and discovering my stand-alone website."


Perfume making combines two of Lesli's loves: science and art. Photo by Rachel Miller.

Her spray perfume Faunus - unisex, like all her fragrances - is woodsy and earthy, inspired by the Roman forest god of the same name. These earth-inspired creations, like Larrea with its touch of creosote scent, and even the name La Curie, happen to be inspired by a special super moon Tucson night - those big moon evenings we are treated to from time to time.

"I went to the El Tiradito shrine during a super moon,” says Lesli, recalling an evening at the Barrio Viejo shrine dedicated to unrequited love and loss, in which people for generations have left prayers and wishes in crevices of the shrine’s wall. “I don't read my horoscope. I'm not really into that stuff, but there was a super moon and my husband's mother wanted to go. She said we have to put prayer there.”

At that time Lesli was feeling stuck and not sure where she was moving in this perfume business, with no ideas for scent names. "Right after that everything came to me. It all happened in one week."

There's more running through Lesli's head, along with the tubes and the notebooks open on her desk, revealing new formulas inspired by secret society symbols, roses, Northern Morocco, moss and ferns, and Italian caves. There are notes of crushed leaves and wet earth floating around there too. But right now her seven fragrances are enough for people to discover.


So Lesli finally made some fragrances she could wear, and ones she hopes appeal to people like her. "I think of them as a sophisticated bohemian group, but also artsy and rebellious. Except now you've grown up and you're doing the responsible thing."

* Find La Curie perfume at MAST100 S. Avenida del Convento, Tucson or online at

My Space

Scott Gilliland dreamed of roasting coffee beans for decades.  Then be bought a tiny coffee roaster and started appearing at farmers' markets in and around Tucson.  Today, Adventure Coffee Roasting occupies a small warehouse and is a supplier to restaurants, coffee shops and stores around the southwest.  In this 3 Story short, this former software executive explains why, despite the company's growth, he'll never quit farmers' markets.  Interview and photos by Gillian Drummond. Video by Ricardo Bracamonte.

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Imagine all the people

Dive in to the Pondering Pool and you'll find not just beautiful art and clever poetry but a brilliantly twisted world.  We meet its creator, Susan Mrosek. By Gillian Drummond. Artwork courtesy of Susan Mrosek.



Susan Mrosek remembers her dreams in detail. She writes them down, tries to analyze them.  But it's not always easy.

The other night she dreamed she was dismantling an artichoke bomb. Even in the realm of dreams, it's a strange one. But then when you learn about the world Susan has created through her art - one that's twisted, funny and comforting all at the same time -  the dream seems to fit right in.

Her world is called Pondering Pool. It's a place where characters - almost all of them women - come together to contemplate and escape. They're found trying to free themselves from crises of confidence or self-esteem, or celebrating friendship, personal growth and (usually new-found) self-belief. They're trapped, or have just escaped. They're troubled. They're also hilarious.


The figures are languid, bony, with over-sized hands and large noses, and they take on surrealist forms: extra heads, arms, legs, elongated necks, bulbous bellies. It's not surprising that Susan counts Tim Burton, Dali, Picasso and Joe Sorren among the artists she loves.

The messages that go with them - on her greeting cards, posters, luggage tags and pendants - are wordplay and poetry, pieces of writing that Susan has created in her own daily journals. Many of the messages take common turns of phrases, pick them apart and reformulate them - brilliantly.


"It is what it is, isn't it? Never sure," says one. Another: "It was time for Stella to 'pay it backward' – to take care of her inner little one."  And another: "She took time, plucked it and twisted it, tried to fold it in two, ended up chopping it in half. It never quite fit after that."

Since Pondering Pool began in 2000, its women and their droll musings have been quietly causing ripples; sales, online and in gift stores, are nationwide and in Canada, and enough to financially sustain Susan and her best friend and business partner Bill. They've also attracted some prominent followers, among them actresses Jamie Lee Curtis and Sharon Gless, author and self-help guru Louise Hay, and "self-care" expert Cheryl Richardson.

Tucson artist Liz Vaughn, another of Pondering Pool's devotees and an acquaintance of Susan's, relates to her work on a couple of levels: as a customer, a female one; and as a fellow artist who, like Susan, uses words and phrases alongside her characters. "Susan captures things that we are thinking but won't say out loud because we don't want people to think we're crazy. The women she portrays are very real. They might be at times wispy but there are a lot of sags, a lot of expanded noses. It's humanity," says Liz.

The woman who opens the door of a one-bedroom Tucson studio looks not dissimilar to her characters: the angular features, the nose, the lithe figure. She's had her troubles. And she's hilarious.


Susan Mrosek. Photo by Gillian Drummond

The studio where she lives and works is straight out of one of her creations: shabby chic, very feminine, with lots of lace, antiques and Victoriana. In the words of Susan: "It's like a grandma's house."

Her dark, sharp humor "came early and just blossomed". It saw her through a sexually and emotionally abusive childhood, and it glued Susan and her sister Diane together during rough times both as children and as adults. Various disorders plagued  Diane, who was also an artist. She had severe obsessive compulsive disorder, and was at various times diagnosed with bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and Tourette's.  "In the end the doctors called it Diane Disorder," says Susan.  "She was really messed up. I was messed up, but I could function. She couldn't. She was extremely creative but she was unable to get her work out there."

Diane encouraged Susan to write, something this long-time sculptor and painter hadn't tried before. "I had no idea I could write. My English teacher once said I had as much brains as his briefcase. Diane was the writer [among us]."

Susan tried daily journalling and amazed herself. "By God I could write, and then I had a voice so I could express myself. And goddamn it was fun." And as Susan began to write, Diane began to draw. "It was like we morphed into each other," says Susan.


The two shared their writings and drawings, connecting three times a day - mostly by phone, sometimes in person - and making each other laugh. They were taking their troubles and Diane's mental health issues and turning them into something joyful. Diane became Susan's muse, and the world Susan created became Pondering Pool. "It was tragic and a treat at the same time. It was very therapeutic. It was so cathartic for her and for me. It was the most wonderful time in my life. I couldn't get enough of it," says Susan.

And then therapists suggested to Susan and the rest of the family to practice some tough love, and stop communicating with Diane. The two sisters didn't talk for two years.  They reconnected eventually, although Susan says their relationship wasn't the same. Seven months later, in 2008, Diane died from complications related to Hepatitis C.


Susan's Pondering Pool creations are dotted around her Tucson home. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Although Diane's death left a hole that can't be filled, it was freeing too, says Susan.  "I felt like I was just out there flailing, and asking other people to take her place. It's been hard to hold onto the feeling we had, but at the same time I'm healing. Now that she's gone I'm allowed to heal." She adds: "I became all about her instead of about me."


An iPhone case, recently added to the Pondering Pool collection.

Diane and Bill, who has been instrumental in creating and running the business, encouraged Susan to sell the work, and sell it did. John McNulty, retail manager at the Tucson Museum of Art, believes the TMA's store was one of the first in the country to carry her cards. "The cards have been a huge success for me. I just think it's her thoughts and images. They evoke lots of giggles and thoughtfulness. People buy them ten at a time, although I don't know if they ever send them. They wouldn't dare send some of them, they are very to the point," he says.

Susan's writings and musings come first, and are usually taken from her journals. Then she sketches and scans the drawings into her computer, and finally paints them using Photoshop. Transferring her painting skills to Photoshop was "seamless", say Susan. "I was enthralled and overwhelmed, exhausted, by the endless creative possibilities it provided." Fellow artists, among them John McNulty, a Tucson ceramicist, and Liz Vaughn, say they are amazed that such finely detailed work is produced on Photoshop, especially given Susan's oil painting background.


Susan has been experimenting with sculpture as a way to take Pondering Pool in another direction. Photo courtesy of Susan Mrosek

Dotted around her studio, among the giclee prints of her work, and books and family photographs,  are her latest creations: sculptures, her beloved characters in 3-D. It's one of the areas Susan has been exploring lately - a way to take Pondering Pool in a new direction.

She's been considering YouTube videos, film, book illustration and children's books.  There have been offers and discussions - one to turn her work into animation, another, with Jamie Lee Curtis, to produce children's books.  She didn't feel she was ready for either.

Her cards are used as catalysts and aids by many therapists, she says.  Her work has also been used by an elementary school in Tucson to help students understand poetry, and to develop their writing skills. "Though my art was at first cathartic, I'm beyond thrilled that it helps others," she says.

She was a keynote speaker at a domestic abuse fundraiser, and wants to do more public speaking. She would love to give a TED talk on mental health, in her sister's honor. "The people who ignored her or shunned her or were afraid of her missed out," she says.

Pondering Pool's themes are not as dark these days - a sign, says Susan, that she has moved on from her sister's ill health and subsequent death. "Now [my work] is more explorative.  I would say it's more thought-provoking, more healing. These characters have served me well but they exhibit what I've gone through and what my sister has gone through."


Susan works out of a one-bedroom studio in downtown Tucson. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Those characters, though, they won't go away. They literally jump off the page as she creates her art.

"Then I feel like I'm meeting them.  That's something I love about being an artist. You get to meet all these people that weren't even created before."

* Find Pondering Pool at the Tucson Museum of Art's gift store, Chocolate Iguana and Antigone Books in Tucson. They are also sold in stores nationwide and in Canada, as well as online at www.pondering

* Liz Vaughn's work can be found at and in shows and artist fairs around Tucson. Look out for a solo exhibition from her this November.

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Prizes prizes prizes

It's our second birthday, dontcha know. To celebrate, all of this month we'll be pulling names from our subscriber list for some fab prizes. We'll be announcing the winners here and on our Facebook page. So if you're not yet a subscriber, sign up now! Go to our home page and click on that brown box at the top of the page.

1. Two pairs of tickets to the 7th Annual Arizona Underground Film Festival, September 19th to 27th in Tucson.  Value: $32 ($8 each) Winners: Mary Gibson and Sheila Wilensky. AZUFF Filmfestbanner2014

2. A "Rain Chain", handmade by Tucson artist and landscape designer Margaret Joplin. Value: $400. Winner: Kimberly Coffman. joplin rainchain

 3.  One pair of tickets to Raul Midon and Gaby Moreno, Friday September 27th, at The Rialto Theatre. Value: $46 Winner: Doug Ayers

4.  Noel's Restoratives 'manscape' pack. Value: $50  Winner: Pilar Graves

5. Set of 10 metal garden markers from BoxHill Design. Value: $28 Winner: Interiors Studio

5. A year's membership to The Loft Cinema. Value: $75 Winner: Debby Larsen loft-logo 6. One pair of tickets to An Evening with David Sedaris at Fox Theatre Tucson, Thursday November 6th. Winner: Vanessa Dorr

7. One pair of tickets to The Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Allen Toussaint, Thursday November 13th. Winner: Jude Clarke

8. One pair of tickets to UA Presents  An Evening with Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly at Centennial Hall, Sunday October 26th. Value: $60 Winner: Mark Pirtle

9.  One pair of tickets to UA Presents A Conversation with Alec Baldwin at Centennial Hall, Saturday November 15th. Value: $80.  Alec has canceled. We'll get back to you with an alternative soon!
10. One pair of tickets to Reel Fashion, a Fox Theatre/3 Story/Tucson Modernism Week event, Wednesday October 8th at The Fox. Value: $20 Winner: Julie Reed


Reality bites

When a new reality TV home show hits screens this month, two designer sisters will be doing what they love: giving back. By Gillian Drummond.  doing what we love.We believe in giving back to the community that gives to you.


Carla Turco, left, and Florencia Turco DeRoussel, right, are in demand by TV producers. Photo by Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli.

When sisters Carla Turco and Florencia Turco De Roussel hit TV show screens this month, they like to think the show will be more than just another piece of reality television.

The pair will appear as part of the crew of designers in Fix It and Finish It, a show that follows the fixing up of various homes and yards. Florencia, an interior designer and owner of the firm Within Interior Design Studio, is not a big fan of reality TV remodels. But this one, she says, is different.


Carla, far left, and Florencia, second from left, on the set of Fix It and Finish It. Photo courtesy of Florencia Turco DeRoussel

"The other shows don't show the process. This is a one-day remodel and [viewers] are watching us sweat and curse and throw things around. Plus, this is doing small bits of the house, things that are manageable." The crew of 10 to 30 people is largely made up of local designers and contractors, and the designers all mucked in, says Florencia.

When producers approached them to take part in the show, Florencia was drawn to it for another reason. "It gives back. That's what I've always wanted to do with my company. I've wanted to have a non-profit piece to my company. What we're doing is making people's dreams come true," she says.

Giving back is one of the mantras at 88 Cushing, the shared work space Carla and Florencia have created in Tucson's Old Barrio district. The others are accessible design, and doing what they love. And it seems the world - and TV producers, in particular - are taking notice.

The sisters got their first taste of TV remodeling shows earlier this year when they took part in an episode of the Food Network's Food Court Wars, a face-off between budding restaurant entrepreneurs. Carla and Florencia were asked to design the winning food court space in a Sierra Vista mall.


Carla on the set of Food Court Wars in Sierra Visa, Arizona. Photo by Nontextual Matters

They appear in six episodes of Fix It and Finish It, three of which will air next week (starting September 8 on  KOLD News 13). The producers filmed four episodes in Tucson and from here Carla and Florencia followed the crew to Montgomery, Alabama for two more.

Carla runs web and graphic design firm Nontextual Matters in Tucson. But with a degree in architecture and a hand in many of her sister's design decisions, she felt more than comfortable stepping into interior designer shoes for the shows. An added bonus? The presenter of Fix It and Finish It is Antonia Sabato Jr, an actor in General Hospital and The Bold and the Beautiful and one of Carla's childhood crushes. The three bonded on the shows and remain friends.


A selfie with Carla's teen crush, Antonio Sabato Jr. Photo courtesy of Carla Turco

Although a decade divides the sisters (Carla is 44, Florencia 35), these last twelve years have seen them grow closer than ever. They work together, work out together, help each other with their respective businesses, and socialize together.

They arrived in Tucson in 2002, both graduates of Louisiana State University. Carla, newly divorced, was looking for a change. Florencia's then-boyfriend and now husband, James DeRoussel, had moved here. So Florencia and Carla decided to give it a go. Their first thought? The city was quiet compared to New Orleans. "My first year I hated it. I was still in my 20s and used to partying and having something to do all the time," says Florencia.

Despite their reservations, they found their lives flourishing here. It helped that there is a strong Hispanic community in Tucson. As Argentinians in New Orleans (they moved to the USA when Carla was 15 and Florencia was 5), they never fit in, they say. "I still miss the culture and the people but that lessened a little when I moved to Tucson because I was better accepted as an Argentinian," says Carla.

In 2005 came Hurricane Katrina and the mass exodus from New Orleans. After two hellish weeks of not being able to contact their family there, Florencia and Carla persuaded their parents, their brother and his family to move to Tucson. At the same time, the sisters witnessed Tucsonans coming together and making charitable contributions to their old home.

"That's when it clicked for us. We saw how people were helping our personal friends and family," says Carla. It was time for them to give back to their newly adopted home town. They taught classes in self-defense and empowerment to women and girls in Tucson. And they got involved in the likes of Safos Dance Theatre, Arizona Public Media, productions of The Vagina Monologues in Tucson, and fundraisers for the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona.


88 Cushing, the shared work space the sisters have created in Tucson. Photo by Gillian Drummond

At the same time, they were creating their own shared work space, 88 Cushing, in an historic building on Cushing Street in Tucson's downtown. Carla's and Florencia's design firms are the anchors of the space, and over the years they have also leased to other designers. Currently they share with Tucson Expediting & Development and Transact Commercial Furnishings. The open-plan office with outside courtyard space -  originally a Chinese market at the turn of the 20th century - is regularly used for parties and business get-togethers. 

Carla Turco. Photo by Addie Mannan

Carla Turco. Photo by Addie Mannan

Charity featured heavily in the sisters' upbringing; growing up, they and their brother were taught to help others, and they witnessed their family sending money back to relatives in Argentina. Today, they may not always have money to donate to charity, but they have time. Says Carla: "Our time is precious, so giving our time is worth far more than giving $5 here or here."

Television is not new for Carla. She spends what spare time she has acting, and has appeared in several television commercials. Credits include the Fox reality TV show When Women Ruled the World, regional and television ad campaigns, small films, and voiceover work in Spanish. This Fall she will appear alongside friend and photographer Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli in the new series of Ex-Wives of Rock. Among the cast is Athena Kottak, ex-wife of Scorpions drummer James Kottak and sister of Tommy Lee. Athena and James are both clients of Carla's.


From left to right: Carla Turco, Athena Kottak and photographer Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli on the set of Ex Wives of Rock, returning to TV this Fall. Photo courtesy of Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli

Carla is the go-getter of the two, according to Florencia. "Carla's [attitude] is so brave and 'let's do this'. I'm more 'Let me see now...'."  Carla doesn't rule out a move to a bigger city - particularly Los Angeles - to develop her acting career.  But she is all about keeping things real - particularly in the sometimes unreal genre of 'reality TV'. "With reality TV, once you fake it it comes through. It's not going to come out right. When you're real and you're showing your emotions,  people like it," she says.


Florencia Turco DeRoussel. Photo by Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli

Likewise, Florencia is building a reputation as an interior designer who keeps her feet on the ground. She's a fan of Target, and known for helping clients on small budgets. Her clients range from residential to commercial, and have included Hush salon and spa and Habitat for Humanity Tucson.


Habitat for Humanity's Tucson headquarters, designed by Within Studio. Photo by Dan Francis.

Florencia discovered interior design while studying pre-med in college, in preparation for medical school. "I had to take an elective. I'd never even heard the words 'interior designer' before. But it just clicked." She switched majors and now, she says, satisfies her inner science nerd with the problem-solving and math that come from designing spaces. As well as the Tucson studio, Florencia's company has an office in Montgomery, Alabama headed up by colleague Natalie Toy.


Hush Salon and Day Spa, designed by Within Studio. Photo by Christopher Bowden Photography

The sisters' brother never did settle in Tucson, instead returning to New Orleans. But both their father and mother pursued careers similar to what they had in New Orleans. Father Carlos runs Belle Epoque Upholstery, and mother Elena is a retired neuroscientist who worked in research at the University of Arizona.  Each Sunday evening they have a family dinner with their parents.

They talk with gratitude about Tucson and its inhabitants, not only for giving their parents a new start, but for allowing them to feel settled. "I feel accepted here," says Florencia. "I feel understood."

* Fix It and Finish It will air on KOLD News 13 in Tucson on September 8, 9 and 10. More info here. Find Non-Textual Matters and Within Interior Design Studio at 88 Cushing Street, Tucson.

Pleased to Meet You

Darcy Landis has the enviable job title of 'forager' for Whole Foods, which just opened its new store in northwest Tucson. Here, Darcy talks food nerds, inappropriate giggling, and burning the candle at both ends. By Joan Calcagno. Cover photo courtesy of Whole Foods.

darcy landis

Darcy Landis, food forager. Photo courtesy of Whole Foods

Early bird or night owl? “I’m more a - there’s a scientific name for it - but I’m a dusk and dawn person. I like to get up way too early before the sun is up and have quiet time by myself and then get the day going or do the total opposite – stay up late. I have small children so that makes you an ‘all-day, all-night’ person. So whenever I have the time to reflect – that’s that pre-dawn time. Whether I get up really early or stay up really late, I love that time. The desert smells good, it’s kind of cool still.”


One of Darcy's favorite water bottles, by Liberty

Favorite accessory? “It’s going to have to be my water bottle. I’m water bottle obsessed. I currently have a Liberty water bottle, which is very nice because it is made from a steel works in the United States. It’s my go-to bottle. It has enamel inside, so there’s no ‘off-taste’. But I’d really like to get a Kleen Kanteen. There’s also the Lifefactory which is an all-glass bottle. Or a Hydro Flask...”

Favorite faux pas? “Laughing inappropriately. If you choose your favorite by what you do the most, I’m an inappropriate laugher. I’ve been known to laugh at a funeral. Maybe it’s an icebreaker, I don’t know. I’m a giggler. I’m definitely the person that disrupted high school by giggling.”


Whole Foods' latest store on Tucson's northwest side. Photo courtesy of Whole Foods

Who is your dream customer? "I started in the stores as a bagger in 1998. I would love to bag up some groceries for Dolly Parton. But my favorite customer is two different ones. One is a person who is doing everything new. They haven’t really thought about what they eat before and now they’re thinking about what they eat and everything is new and exciting. Like they ask ‘What’s this?’ and it’s hummus. The other one is the super food-nerd who wants to know all the details, like what temperature the oven is to get the crust on this bread. I love that because I know that stuff and where’s the fun in knowing if no one ever asks!”

If I weren’t a Whole Foods forager I would… “I feel like I wouldn’t do anything else. This job is made for me. It’s kind of perfect. But if I had gone another way, I think I might have gone into nursing because it is another way to care for people.”

If I could change one thing I would… “Oh. Not war and famine? Like something more fun? Because famine would be a good thing to change. I guess I’d like everyone to be curious. A lot of things would be more fun and a lot of bad things would go away if everyone was just a little more curious.”

Tell us a little more about foraging. “There is one characteristic that a forager has to have: to be easily excited. You have to see the potential in the thing and be so excited about it the whole way through the process so that you can midwife it to the market and get it to where it needs to be.

"I kind of get excited about everything. You could name a product that we carry and I can tell you about when it was in the approval process and how excited I was about it. Some of the stuff I’ve been really excited to bring to the market in the past was local grains and flours, local beans, because there was so much history in Arizona with those agricultural crops and being able to reintroduce them to the public.


Whole Foods' new Oracle Road store. Photo courtesy of Tucson Foodie

"Right now we’re working with the first meadery in Arizona. It’s a product that customers don’t have a lot of exposure to. But the market is kind of already there; people love to try new beers and wines and mead is kind of an in-between. It’s basically a wine, but not a grape wine, and people associate it with beer and ale – like the precursor to beer."

* The newly refurbished and expanded Whole Foods store at Ina and Oracle opened August 27th.  Send Darcy ideas for new products at