Friday, December 3, 2010

Strange Phone Problem

I just wanted to write this out so we could refer back to it later if we need to & to let others know what to do in case it happens to them. I don't know what caused it yet, I just know what we did to fix it...

Last night (12/2/2010) at 7:28pm my cell phone got a text message from my daughter's best friend. It said "Hi, This is a****, can I talk to B*******? But when I called back the # that the text came from I got an automated message that the # I dialed was a text only phone. We thought it was a little strange but it was no big deal until our home phone rang & our caller ID said it was A****'s house calling but when we answered no one was there. So we used my cell phone to call A****'s cell phone to find out what was going on. That's when she told us that their home phone had stopped working because the battery died & they had NOT called our house. As we were on the cell phone talking to A**** we got another call from her house phone.

We ended up getting a call from her house at:

7:32 pm, 7:37 pm, 7:39 pm, 7:39 pm, 7:41 pm, 7:44 pm, 7:44 pm then we unplugged our phone from the wall.

Then we plugged it back in again to see if it was fixed & we got more calls from her house at:
8:07 pm, 8:10 pm, 8:13 pm, 8:14 pm, 8:14 pm, 8:17 pm, 8:19 pm & 8:26 pm.

Then I called A****'s mom on her cell phone & explained what was going on & she called her phone company then the calls stopped.

All done right? No.

Tonight our phone started calling a different friend's house (M***) when we were NOT using the phone. They thought we were crank calling them but we weren't. So, I called Qwest & explained to them what happened & they suggested we hang up & dial *86 to "discontinue continuous redial" because she said we must have somehow activated continuous redial. Well, we did not accidentally activate continuous redial but after I dialed *86 the phone calls stopped so that was the solution.

I wonder if M***'s phone going to start calling someone else's house tomorrow night?.........

**UPDATE on 12/4/2010**

This afternoon my children's principal called me to find out the phone # of the text message we got on 12/2/2010. She said that one of the teachers had been getting "disturbing" text messages & wanted to see if the phone # was the same. (She called everyone who went on the recent field trip because that is when the messages started & evidently the teacher had given out her cell phone # to some parents that day). Well, the # was the same. Luckily we haven't received any more texts or strange phone calls. *crossing fingers & knocking on wood*

Thursday, December 2, 2010

2010 Christmas Card Pretty Poinsettias Design

Pretty Poinsettia Print Christmas Card
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Monday, November 29, 2010

Frugal Solutions For Extremely Dry Feet & Callous Removal

I am in the process of transferring some of my Facebook Notes to my blog so they can be searched easier & also so they might help more people.

Every summer my feet get dry since I live in AZ & wear sandals much of the year. I found this info. while researching how to heal my feet without going to a salon.

RE: Frugal Solution Needed For Extremely Dry Feet and Callous Removal
By Christie (Guest Post)
I have poor circulation from a hereditary disease called CMT. It is a type of Muscular Dystrophy. Anyway, I tried BLUE GOO CRACKED HEEL. it is made of Emu oil. I have severe deep thick skin on the bottom of my toes because they rub. I also have severely cracked feet. This oil started removing the thick layers of skin INSTANTLY while I was rubbing it on. Within 2 minutes big pieces of skin were coming right off. It was unbelievable. It softened the cracked areas. I have never seen this type of results from any product. I have spent hundreds of dollars on different treatments. This is the first one to give dramatic instant improvement. BEST $2.00 I HAVE EVER SPENT!

RE: Frugal Solution Needed For Extremely Dry Feet and Callous Removal
By grammagogo (5) Contact
Try a product call Flesitol Heel Balm ( the cheapest place to buy it is WalMart) sold in 4oz. tube. Another product that is a good moisturizer is Hoofmaker (mane and tail) I purchase it at a place that sells things for horses. This product is for human use and is excellent. Stay away from the cheap hand lotions that contain alcohol and perfumed products. Its not about smelling good, but feeling good.

RE: Frugal Solution Needed For Extremely Dry Feet and Callous Removal
By grammagogo (5) Contact
Try a product call Flesitol Heel Balm ( the cheapest place to buy it is WalMart) sold in 4oz. tube. Another product that is a good moisturizer is Hoofmaker (mane and tail) I purchase it at a place that sells things for horses. This product is for human use and is excellent. Good Luck! Sounds like you are cracking up! ha! and willing to try anything, stay away from the cheap hand lotions that contain alcohol and perfumed products. Its not about smelling good, but feeling good.

RE: Frugal Solution Needed For Extremely Dry Feet and Callous Removal
By Dawn (Guest Post)
I had huge cracks on my feet that were like gaps. I smeared vaseline on them and then put sandwich baggies on them. In the morning they were as smooth as a babys but. Good luck!

RE: Frugal Solution Needed For Extremely Dry Feet and Callous Removal
By gs7 (2) Contact
For very dry feet, purchase pure Aloe Vera gel (more than 98%) at the health food store. Using a small tub (I use a small dish washing tub) put just enough aloe vera in bottom of tub to cover the bottom of your feet, place your feet in tub and soak them as long as you like. It is amazing, your feet almost seem to drink the aloe vera. You can also massage the aloe vera into your feet with your hands. Also very helpful to take 1-2 tablespoons a day internally. You can buy pure aloe vera juice, but I prefer the gel. The consistency of the gel isn't the greatest, but you get used to it and you can take a drink of water after taking it. The gel is very healing for any inflammation of the feet or for that matter, any inflammation anywhere on the body. Taken internally, aloe vera gel is excellent for eliminating dry skin. For the most frugal, buy a aloe vera houseplant. Select a plumb leaf, wash, cut the leaf and apply the gel.

RE: Frugal Solution Needed For Extremely Dry Feet and Callous Removal
By no more foot trouble (Guest Post)
Vicks Vapor rub, mixed with Bag Balm. works in about an hour. As a bonus, the ingredients in Vicks can work to kill any type of fungus - something that also works well on yellow, thickened discolored toenails. The treatments offered at a dermatologist would include painting with Penlac for months, an oral medication that requires follow up with liver function testing, or months of treatment with Lamisil (very expensive).

I transcribe for an old-school dermatologist, he recommends slightly warmed vegetable oil for dry skin, along with cooler, shorter showering, and Vick's Vapor rub or plain petroleum jelly to dry, calloused skin of the hands and feet.

RE: Frugal Solution Needed For Extremely Dry Feet and Callous
By PeggyWho (Guest Post)
The most frugal and HEALTHIEST SOLUTION is to use either olive oil (put on socks afterward) or use a SALT AND OLIVE OIL SCRUB before bath or shower - I didn't even use a rough skin file. OR you can use an avocado that is not so great to eat - this is messy - wear old socks. Fantastic. It is good for hands rough from gardening, also as a body scrub (2 parts ordinary salt to 1 part olive oil - IF YOU CAN EAT IT it'll be good for your skin. I had very sore cracked heels and soles of feet - within days they were much better. Cheers.

Two Facebook friends of mine also recommended:

Lansinoh on cracked heels covered with a pair of socks!


For a perfectly soft foot with beautiful toenails though, Bentonite Clay which you can read up on here.

Uses for Aloe Vera

I am in the process of transferring some of my Facebook Notes into my blog so they are easier to search & might be helpful to someone. This is a Note I wrote when both my girls were sick in May & June.

George's Aloe Vera Liquid FAQ

George's Aloe Vera daily recommended dosage (from our 32 oz. bottle):
to 1 year: 1 teaspoons
1-5 years: 2 tablespoons
6 & older: 2 ounces

This is a good site to explain the uses of aloe vera

Aloe vera has been widely marketed as having a number of benefits when taken internally. For example, Aloe has been marketed as a remedy for coughs, wounds, ulcers, gastritis, diabetes, cancer, headaches, arthritis, immune-system deficiencies, and many other conditions. However, these uses are unproven. The only substantiated internal use is as a laxative. Preliminary studies suggest that aloe juice may help lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 (adult onset) diabetes.

Aloe vera gel products may also be used internally. Aloe vera juice can be used as a natural remedy in the treatment of stomach ulcer and mouth ulcers because of its anti-inflammatory effect. It appears to have a soothing effect on the ulcer, and interferes with the release of hydrochloric acid by the stomach. Oral aloe gel supplements may lower blood glucose levels in people who suffer diabetes. The anti-inflammatory effects of aloe gel may be of benefit in arthritis for the control of joint inflammation. The stimulating effects of Aloe on the uterus may also help to induce suppressed menstruation.

*Note - Pregnant women should not take aloe latex because it may cause uterine contractions and trigger miscarriage.

Internal use of aloe vera is not recommended for people taking digoxin, diuretics, topical or oral steroids, medication for arrhythmia (irregular heart beats) and drugs which cause potassium to be lost from the body.

MORE INFO. (Kelly Mom is a lactation consultant)

Topical use of aloe vera gel is reported safe (toxicity is minimal). There have been no reports of adverse effects following maternal use or via milk ingestion. Do not use on nipples, as it should not be ingested by baby (see below).

Oral use of the aloe vera latex is strongly discouraged; can cause severe gastric irritation. Per the classic King's American Dispensatory, "Administered to nursing mothers it will purge the sucking child."

**Children, nursing moms and pregnant women should not use this (internally) at all. See also Herbals and Breastfeeding by Nice, et al in U.S. Pharmacist.

Aloe Vera, obtained from the dried latex of the leaves of Aloe barbadensis and other Aloe species of its genus, is used to treat constipation.

Its pharmacologic actions are due to its hydroxyanthracene derivatives, which increase motility of the GI tract and prevent the colon from becoming stationary.

Aloe is available orally as a powder and aqueous extracts (powdered or liquid). The recommended dose of aloe should be based on the hydroxyanthracene content of the dosage form.

The daily dose is 200 mg hydroxyanthracene/day calculated as anhydrous aloin. However, the dose should be reduced, if possible, to the lowest dose required to maintain a bowel movement.

Short-term side effects usually result in GI tract distress.

On a long-term basis, side effects encountered include electrolyte imbalance, albuminuria, and hematuria. Potassium deficiency is of utmost concern because of the potential to cause cardiovascular (heart) dysfunction such as arrhythmias.

**Due to aloe’s anthranoid content and the side effects caused by anthranoids, it should be avoided while the mother is breastfeeding.

Aloe Vera is included in this list of herbs to avoid while breastfeeding which I found on Motherlove here:

Which Herbs Should Be Avoided While Nursing?

This list is compiled from the American Herbal Product Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook, not to be used while nursing unless otherwise directed by an expert qualified in the appropriate use of this substance.

* Aloe vera
* Basil
* Borage (contains Pyrrolizidine alkaloids which may cause liver damage)
* Bugleweed
* Cascara sagrada
* Coltsfoot
* Comfrey (contains Pyrrolizidine alkaloids which may cause liver damage)
* Elecampane
* Ephedra
* Parsley (galactofuge reduces milk flow)
* Sage (galactofuge reduces milk flow)
* Wormwood

This site also says to avoid aloe vera when nursing:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Kid's Movies Where Children's Mothers are Dead or Die During Movie

I got much of this information from:

However, in The Lion King Simba DID have a mother, her name was Sarabi, so I deleted that movie from the copy & paste list from the website and I read that Alice in Wonderland did have a mother, she was just not shown because Alice was reading with her sister at the beginning of the movie.

Before the list here is an article about the lack of mothers in Disney movies:

Disney’s Dead Mothers Club

I’m not sure of many things in this world, but I’m convinced of this one: Walt Disney Studios has something against mothers. In a striking number of Disney movies - in fact, in most of the animated films, the mother gets bumped off before the film begins, or early on in the action. As far as Disney is concerned, the only good mother is a dead mother.

I take this rather personally, because I am a mother, and have read the Disney books and seen the Disney movies with my children. Naturally, I’m always looking for a “cuddle moment” - when the kids and I can say “Awww,” looking at the close mother-child relationship, and feel a rush of recognition in it. However, time and time again, we see something sinister instead: dead mothers, or protagonists apparently not of woman born. It is noteworthy that Disney deletes all reference to the most primary human relationship.

Put briefly, the Disney message is: there is no such thing as a mother; having a mother is not a factor in your life in any way; remove Mom from any of your feelings, thoughts, or behavior. Not a frame or a word is wasted on Mom stuff. (Dad, however, is another story; you’ve got to have a Special Relationship with him, or you won’t get anywhere in life.)

I first recognized Disney’s compulsion to bump off moms when, as a young child, I saw Bambi. I remember my delight as Bambi and his mother scampered about in the meadow, and I can still feel my astonished pain as Bambi’s mother is shot dead and left behind in the woods - a violent tragedy for which I was neither prepared nor helped to work through. At the strategic moment, Dad (the Prince of the Forest, conveniently) came along and off they went, never looking back. Mom dies, and you just run away, no regrets. In a movie intended for small children, that scene is downright sadistic.

A similar fate befalls Mama Dumbo, in another heartwrenching scene equally inappropriate for small children: little Dumbo the elephant loses his mother early on, when she is locked in a cage and taken away from him forever, her helpless trunk reaching out to him for one last motherly caress. Even discussing it last week with another mother, we both burst into tears just thinking about it. Yet, all over the world, parents sit their tender little children down in front of such scenes and convince themselves that it is the ultimate Wholesome Family Entertainment. What a sell job!

Then there’s the category of Long Gone Moms. In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the mom has died before Scene One, and we encounter only a depraved Wicked Stepmother. Ditto with Cinderella.

Ole Geppeto the Woodcarver can’t seem to come up with a mom for Pinocchio in the movie of the same name, but a Blue Fairy does some motherly sorts of rescues and magic for a brief time and then makes a final farewell. Pinocchio wishes to be a real boy, but never to have a real mom.

Sleeping Beauty fares little better. The Queen Mom and her husband, the king, earnestly “wish for a child,” and finally get one who comes with a curse (made by a powerful woman villain). Young Aurora is sent away at birth from her parents to be raised by three inept aunts. Later, when they all come back from a hundred-year sleep, where is the joyous reunion with Mom?

Granted, these ancient stories have been handed down from days when mothers died young, often during childbirth. The stories were meaningful to those who were left with stepmothers who mistreated them; after all, bloodlines establish inheritance, and stepmothers wanted to position their own blood offspring to inherit money or power. But there are hundreds of ancient stories on diverse themes. Why did Disney choose these?

More recent Disney movies have swelled the ranks of the Dead Mothers Club still further.

In the movie recounting the young King Arthur’s exciting boyhood, The Sword in the Stone, there is a father, but no mother. Likewise, young Mowgli in The Jungle Book has lost his human parents, but even his surrogate caregivers are father, not mother, substitutes - Baloo the Bear and Bagheera the Panther.

In The Little Mermaid, Ariel the mermaid has only a father, King Triton; we are never told what in the Deep Blue Sea happened to Queen Triton, or whatever her name was. Belle in Beauty and the Beast lives with her dotty father, an inventor, in the woods, and it’s anybody’s guess if she ever had a mom, or was merely one of her father’s previous inventions.

Princess Jasmine, the female lead in the movie Aladdin, has only a father, the king, and a - male - tiger companion. The only way we even know she had a mother is when her dad tokenistically recounts, “You’re just like your mother.” Exeunt mom.

Even Max and Goofy in The Goofy Movie are in a mom less world. We relish Goofy’s well-meaning incompetence as a single dad, and when father and son take a long trip, no reference is made to a dearly departed or otherwise-occupied mom of any kind. The father-son bond is all that matters. Even Max’s heartthrob, the Girl Next Door, has only a father!

When Pocahontas came out, I thought, well, this is a whole new world, so to speak; the rules have changed. If the lead character can be a strong, serious, woman who turns down romance to help her people, maybe there will even be a mother. No dice: no Mom. There is one mumbled reference to “when your dear mother died,” and the plot proceeds apace.

Mom is never a player at all, not missed, not remembered - where are all the “Mom visions” like those Simba has of his deceased lion father up in the sky, in The Lion King? Where are the memories of mother love, motherly advice, motherly ways?

And who is mothering these protagonists? Everyone in the world but Mom. It may be a friendly fish, a cricket, a chipped teacup, seven dwarfs, friendly birds, rabbits, skunks and baboons - all of the male gender, of course. There’s not even room for a helpful sister figure. The message? Who needs a mom when you’ve got a friend.

Up on the wall somewhere in the Disney Studios’ inner sanctum there must be a sign: NO MOMS ALLOWED. There cannot be even a benevolent, mild mom. No moms at all.

However, in the area of the Disney villain, Disney shows real even-handedness, perhaps even preferential hiring. VILLAINS CONSIDERED AFFIRMATIVELY, the other sign might read. Unlike the mother taboo, Disney creates looming, hideous female witches, demons, octopi, dragons, and stepmother-monsters, to make sure everyone comes away with a perfectly nauseating feeling toward powerful women. They can be disposed of by bursting, melting, catching fire, being run through with swords, pushed off cliffs, or other imaginative punishments. The sound of their screams as they perish in agony is bloodcurdling. Some are even moms.

What sort of effect do 50-plus years of Disney-sponsored fantasies have on our society and our world? When will the lie be put to rest that Disney films are “the best in children’s entertainment?” And when will mothers and mother-love be given a face and a voice that reflect the reality of human experience and our basic needs?

The solution? After I read her this essay, my seven year old daughter said solemnly, “Maybe there should be more mother animators.”

c 1995 by Kristin Lems

Here is the list of animated DISNEY movies without mothers:

Brother Bear - Someone threw a fiery stick and she fell in water and died (according to my 4 year old) (horrific death-hunter kills her)

Cinderella - Mom has died before Scene One

Snow White - Mom has died before Scene One, her evil stepmother is a witch who tells a hunter to kill her

Bambi - (horrific death) shot dead by a hunter in the woods while running for her life with Bambi

Bambi II - Dead mother, raised by father most of the movie but given to another female deer at one point

Dumbo - (heartbreaking separation) locked in a cage and taken away at beginning of movie

Pinocchio - Motherless with only Geppeto & Jiminy Cricket to care for him

Sleeping Beauty - Her mother & father are alive but she was sent to be raised by her three aunts to keep her safe from the evil witch who cursed her to die on her 16th birthday when she was an infant.

The Sword in the Stone - Father, but no mother

Jungle Book * Young Mowgli's surrogate caregivers are male

Little Mermaid - Ariel's mother dies before the movie she has her father- King Triton, tutor - Sabastian (male crab), best friend - Flounder (male fish) & sisters (whom we don't see much of)

Beauty and the Beast - Belle only has a father & the Beast has no one but inanimate objects in his house

Aladdin - Jasmine only has a father, the king & Aladdin is parent-less, left to fend for himself)

Chronicles of Narnia - No parents, they are sent to live with their grandfather but spend most of the movie parent-less

The Goofy Movie - Max and Goofy are both motherless (also, Max’s heartthrob, the Girl Next Door, has only a father)

Pocahontas - No mother. One mumbled reference to “when your dear mother died.”

The Wild - No mother

Chicken Little - Mother died before movie began, father struggles with raising him & showing affection

Hunchback of Notre Dame - Mom was killed before Scene One

Atlantis: The Lost Empire - Mom is assimilated (dead)

Lilo and Stitch - Mother & father both die in a car crash leaving her older sister to care for her

Peter Pan - Peter is orphaned before the movie starts

The Fox & The Hound - Mother is killed by hunters

Herbie: Fully Loaded - No mother

The Rescuers - Absent mother

The Great Mouse Detective - No mother

Enchanted - Mother is dead before movie starts

Tarzan - Both parents killed by a wild animal when he was a baby

The Three Caballeros - No mother, only father

The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh - We never see Christopher's parents

James and the Giant Peach - James is orphaned & sent to live with his aunts

Pixar Animation:

Finding Nemo - (horrific death) Mother & all of her eggs but one are eaten by a huge barracuda in front of the husband / father

There are other movies where the child has no mother:

Free Willy 4: Escape from Pirate's Cove - The main character, Kirra, (Bindi Irwin - the jungle girl, Steve Irwin - the crocodile hunter's daughter) has no mother or grandmother, her father is injured so she is sent to live with her grandfather who is divorced & estranged from his wife, her mother died when she was 4 years old.

The Wizard of OZ - Dorothy is living with her aunt & uncle on their farm.

Dawson's Creek - Joey's mother died of cancer & her father is in prison for drugs at the beginning of the first season.

Under the Mountain - Opening scene: Police are telling the dad of teenage twins that there was an accident & their mother has died. In the very next scene the twins are being shipped to their dead mother's sister so live because their dad is having a breakdown.

Den Brother - teenage boy & little girl's mother died before the beginning of the movie.

Alpha & Omega - They never show any mother wolves except for the alpha wolf's (Katie).

Nestor the Long Eared Donkey - In this animated Christmas movie the main character (Nestor the boy donkey) gets kicked out of the stable by his owner so his mother voluntarily follows him out to because it was very cold & snowing. Overnight she dies while using her body to protect him from a blizzard. *Merry Christmas <-- sarcastic

Here is another link to this subject:

Facts About Tovrea Castle in Phoenix, Arizona

Well, I was born & raised in Arizona & have driven by Tovrea Castle many times but have never seen it up close so I decided to do some research on it & find out how to get a tour. If you'd like to see some pictures of Tovrea Castle & the cactus garden please click here:

The castle is not open to the public at the present time. It is scheduled to open in the late fall of 2010. They are scheduled to begin November and run until April. You can visit the Cactus Garden now on a tour and see the castle up close but you won’t be able to go inside.

The cost of the Cactus Garden tour is $15.00 per person ages 8 to adult. You can register for the cactus Garden tour on line at and click on Classes and Programs on the left side of the page.

Tovrea Castle, perched atop a cactus-covered hill in east-central Phoenix, has intrigued generations of Valley residents. The castle was built by Alessio Carraro between 1928-1930, who also added a spectacular desert garden now known as the Carraro Cactus Garden. The castle and surrounding 44 acres, now owned by the City of Phoenix, have been officially named Tovrea Castle at Carraro Heights in recognition of the families associated with its history.

The castle structure recently underwent massive restoration and the city continues efforts to restore the Carraro Cactus Garden. However, recent budget reductions made necessary by the severe economic downturn have forced the suspension of tours of the cactus garden and plans for access to the castle.

The castle, a Phoenix Point of Pride, is a collaborative project of the Phoenix Historic Preservation Office and the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department. Tovrea Castle was listed on City Historic Property Registry in 1990 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.

The Castle and Gardens are born
The story of Tovrea Castle and the Carraro Cactus Garden begins in 1928 when Italian immigrant Alessio Carraro sold his San Francisco sheet metal business and moved to Arizona searching for his American dream. Carraro found that dream in 277 aces of creosote-studded desert in an area that at the time was just east of the Phoenix city limits. Where others saw a barren setting, Alessio envisioned a resort castle surrounded by dense desert vegetation and an expanding resort community. He picked a small rise to build his castle and dubbed his future development "Carraro Heights," a name the city of Phoenix still recognizes today for the site.

From 1928 to 1930, Alessio, his son Leo and a crew of about 20 workers shaped the landscape into a spectacular desert paradise. Crowning this landscape was the magnificent wedding cake-shaped "castle" reminiscent of his Italian homeland. Carraro hired a talented Russian gardner named Moktachev to develop the gardens while the castle was built.

A dream is dashed
Carraro's dream for the property was quickly shattered in 1930 when adjoining property owners began constructing sheep and cattle pens to supply a nearby meat packing plant owned by the Tovrea family. Discouraged, Carraro sold the castle and surrounding land to Della Tovrea in 1931.

But a home is created
E. A. Tovrea, Della's husband, passed away shortly thereafter in 1932, but Della retained the castle as her Phoenix residence. In 1936 she married William Stuart, the publisher of the Prescott Courier and collector of Internal Revenue for Arizona. They spent most of the year in Prescott but lived in the castle every winter. Mr. Stuart died in 1960, and Della relocated to the castle permanently until her death in 1969. In 1970, the Tovrea Family Trust assumed control of the property.

A landmark is saved
Since the late 1960's the property has remained largely unused. Without regular upkeep and maintenance, the fragile cactus gardens declined rapidly and the historic castle deteriorated. In 1993, the city of Phoenix purchased the castle and seven and a half acres immediately surrounding the building. Between 1996 and 2003, the city purchased an additional 36 acres of land surrounding the castle, preserving it for future enjoyment and use.

Many years of planning have gone into the rehabilitation of the Castle, and the project is intricate and complicated. The first step was to remove lead and asbestos from the Castle’s exteriors and interiors. The city now is stabilizing or upgrading the building’s tunnels, basement and structure to allow public visitation.

The rehabilitation includes replacing the roof; rehabilitating historic windows; removing a modern spray stucco coat and restoring the original stucco exteriors; installing fire sprinklers and new plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems; reworking patios and entries; and fully restoring the interior.

A time-line of activities relating to Tovrea Castle and Carraro Cactus Garden Park restoration is listed below:

1989 – 2000
*1989 Bond Issue passes allocating $5 million to purchase land and begin garden restoration.

Site listed on Phoenix Historic Property Register in 1990.

Historic Building Assessment for Castle completed in 1991

*Acquisition of land, beginning with 7.6 acres in 1993. Additional land purchases in 1996 and 1997.

*1994 Historical Documentation Project completed, including oral histories, photos and archival research.

*City awarded $500,000 ISTEA grant from the Federal Highway Administration for additional land purchases/billboard removal.

*1996 listing of site on National Register of Historic Places.

*Phase I garden restoration and stone wall/gate restoration completed in 1997.

*Conceptual Historic Interpretative Plan developed 2000.

2001 - 2005
*2001 Bond Program passed including $4.5 million for additional land purchases and castle restoration.

*Major land purchases in 2001, 2002 and 2003, with nearly 44 acres acquired and only two small parcels outstanding from original historical site.

*Private fundraising raises additional monies for Castle restoration.

*Restoration plan developed and finalized for Tovrea Castle

*City Council approves Master Plan in 2003

*Public site tours held in Spring 2005.

*Phase I asbestos/lead abatement of Castle in 2005

2005 - 2009

*Phase II cactus garden restoration complete

*Phase II restoration of Castle begins in 2007 with completion slated for 2009.

*Plans underway to finalize design of parking arrangements, trail development and historic interpretation.

2010 and future

*Because of budget reductions in spring 2010 necessitated by the severe economic downturn, plans to begin operations and opening the castle and grounds are on hold. The city of Phoenix is working hard to identify partners that may be able to assist with operations of the site.

*Obtain funding for permanent visitor’s center/restrooms, machine shop re-construction (for public event space), and restoration of historic outbuildings and site features.

*Additional garden restoration work ongoing.

*Obtain funding for full trail development/completion and installation of permanent trail and interior interpretative panels on site.

Tovrea Castle was born out of the vision of Italian Alessio Carraro. Carraro came to Phoenix in 1928 with a dream to build a resort hotel castle surrounded by an exotic cactus garden and a subdivision of deluxe homes. While Carraro's dream of a hotel-resort never came to be, he did build the castle. It was purchased by stockyard mogul E.A. Tovrea in 1931, and the unique home became a historic Arizona icon in the city of Phoenix.

Read the complete transcript:

Tovrea Castle is an intriguing house on a hill east of Phoenix often referred to as “the wedding cake”. There are almost as many urban legends surrounding it as there are Saguaros, such as the rumor that the former owner was killed here, and her ghost haunts the Castle. Another tall tale, that the Castle was Al Capone's hideaway in the desert.

Mark Lamm:
And there really is nothing to tie the Chicago Mob with the Castle, but you know, it made a great story. And I think in later years, after the Tovreas bought the property and it became a private residence and people weren't allowed on the property anymore, it just made it all the more mysterious because you couldn't get on the property.

But the myths came long after the real story began. Tovrea Castle was born out of the vision of Italian immigrant Allesio Carraro. Carraro came to Phoenix in 1928 with a dream to build a resort hotel castle surrounded by a deluxe subdivision.

Barbara Stocklin:
He hired an architect from Texas in 1928 who did some drawings that were actually printed in the newspaper, which showed a pretty elaborate, detailed castle.

Carraro purchased 277 acres in an area that was on the outskirts of Phoenix at the time. He envisioned his hotel castle encircled by a lush, exotic cactus garden.

Rilée LeBlanc:
He wanted an instant desert paradise that he could come and enjoy every day. That's why he planted them so densely because he wanted -- he just loved it. And we want to be able to share this experience with other people for several generations to come.

The site, however, was mostly solid granite. With his son, Leo, and hired workers, Carraro used a leveler and rock crusher to grind the granite into gravel for walkways. Another local resource was used in the garden.

Barbara Stocklin:
When you walk around the cactus gardens, you'll see all these river stones that are painted white. He apparently sent his crews down to the Salt River, and his son says it was something like 2,600 truckloads of river rocks from the Salt River .

The 1929 Stock Market Crash forced Carraro to scale back, simplify his construction, and be resourceful, using recycled materials inside.

Barbara Stocklin:
The maple floors came from other -- at least one other building that was being demolished in Phoenix . The kitchen cabinets came from a bank that was being remodeled, Phoenix National Bank downtown.

Another salvaged item from the Phoenix National Bank:
a vault placed in the basement as a Wine Cellar. Also in the basement, this unique pulled plaster ceiling presents an eerie feeling.

Mark Lamm:
Yeah, I think it's part of that basement thing. Basements have that kind of a musty know, the light isn't as good. And in this one, you really feel like you're underground because of that pulled plaster ceiling.

Today, the interior of the Castle remains much like when Carraro built it.

Barbara Stocklin:
The walls are all plaster. He did stencil borders that are on this floor as well as Art Deco light fixtures that are throughout the building, and they remain. He also had some very decorative plaster work that was done by some Italian plaster workers who were in Phoenix at the time to work on the interiors of the Orpheum Theater.

Carraro drew attention to the Castle by lighting it up in grand style.

Mark Lamm:
Apparently, they went around and they dipped all the light bulbs in colored paint -- you know, red, blue, green for Christmas. And then they strapped the Christmas Tree to the flagpole on the top of the Castle and the Christmas Tree was all lit up.

But Carraro's dream of a hotel resort would never come to be. His neighbor, E.A. Tovrea, had a stockyard nearby. The stockyard stench would no doubt deter and disturb future guests. Carraro had one hope:
the property between the stockyard and his castle was for sale and could serve as a buffer.

Mark Lamm:
That property was owned by a man, Dolph Bates, who lived in Globe. E.A. Tovrea and Carraro were both vying to buy that property from Mr. Bates. Leo swears that his dad was offering the same money that Tovrea was, but for some reason the land was sold to the Tovreas, and Tovreas immediately put in sheep pens.

Exasperated, Carraro put his Castle up for sale. Through a real estate agent, it was sold to an anonymous buyer in 1931, and Carraro moved to San Francisco . That buyer turned out to be E.A. Tovrea. Tovrea bought the castle for his wife, Della.

Mark Lamm:
We believe that it was Della that was behind it. I mean, they had what would have been a very nice home at the time over here at 48th street and Van Buren. Della wanted the Castle on the hill, which really wasn't as modern a building, but they bought the Castle and immediately moved into the Castle. And within about nine months of moving into the castle, E.A. passed away, and it left Della living here alone.

Della Tovrea lived there until 1969, when burglars broke into her Castle and assaulted her.

Mark Lamm:
She slept on a cot in the kitchen and heard them come in upstairs. She also carried a pistol with her to scare people off the property. She fired the pistol through the ceiling in the kitchen to try to scare them off, but it didn't. She was tied up and beaten up in the robbery and passed away a couple of months later.

The Castle sat little used for decades. In 1993, the City of Phoenix , realizing its value to Arizona , began the process of acquiring the property.

Barbara Stocklin:
You wouldn't see this in New England, you wouldn't see this in Texas or California . It's a place that's just truly Phoenix .

The City of Phoenix is committed to the restoration and preservation of the Tovrea Castle and its gardens, making this unique bit of Arizona history a place the public can again enjoy.

Mark Lamm:
Carraro built this to bring people out here. It was a very public place. He even had botanical names on plants in the garden. People were welcome to walk through the garden. But when the Tovreas bought it, it was never really open to the public. Very few people ever saw it, so it was always this mysterious building on the hill.

Tovrea Castle and Carraro Cactus Garden – Phoenix, Arizona

2009 (Spring) Schedule for tours: Saturday only with tours at 8 and 10 am. Cost: $15 per person. Tickets available at their site online or at any of the community centers in Phoenix. This is for the Cactus Garden only. The Castle should be open for tours in late fall of 2010. They plan to have tours from November until April.

Situated in Phoenix is the Tovrea Castle which was built to resemble a wedding cake by Alessio Carraro. He had the idea to build it as the hotel for a development he wanted to do in the area in 1928. He bought 277 acres of land, hired a Russian gardener names Moktachev to develop the gardens while the castle was built and was off on his dream. The problem was that he lost interest when adjoining property owners began construction sheep and cattle pens to supply a nearby meat packing plant which was owned by the Tovrea family. Carraro sold the castle and surrounding land to Della Tovrea in 1931. The castle became home to her with her second husband, William Stuart, the publisher of the Prescott Courier and collector of Internal Revenue for Arizona. They split their time between their home in Phoenix and the castle. Following the death of Mr. Stuart in 1960 Della moved to the castle permanently until she died in 1969.

The castle and gardens fell into disrepair over the years until the city of Phoenix purchased the property and began restoration. The cactus gardens are now completely restored and garden tours are available. The Castle should be ready for tours in December of 2008 following extensive refurbishing.

Location: 5041 E Van Buren St., Phoenix, Arizona
Coming from the North, South or West: take the 202 eastbound and get off at the 52nd St./Van Buren exit. Turn right (west) unto Van Buren, then turn left (south) at the driveway of the Castle. From the East take 202 westbound, exit at 52nd St., turn left (west) at Van Buren and left (south) at the drive to the Castle. Enter via Van Buren Street Only.

Behind the thick cactus gardens and wedding-cake exterior, crews preparing Tovrea Castle for tours this February are discovering treasures that bring to life a site shrouded in mystery for most of its 80 years.

The wine cellar, made from a vault hauled over from First Bank of Arizona, has no latches because the castle's second owner, Della Tovrea, had a premonition that she would be locked inside.

The cellar was lined with old newspaper clippings, one of them dealing with Babe Ruth's exploits on the field. Its ceiling, which looks liked spiked meringue, has some round clay objects that appear to have been put there by a child who thought it would resemble a bird's nest.

The kitchen has a bullet hole from when Della Tovrea was robbed and beaten by intruders in 1968.

"There is just no place like it in the world," said Doris Lutes, a recreation leader for the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department.

Tovrea Castle, a landmark to those passing on the Red Mountain Freeway near Sky Harbor International Airport, was built from 1928 to 1930 by Alessio Carraro, an Italian immigrant who made his fortune in sheet metal before moving to Phoenix from San Francisco.

Carraro built the castle as a hotel and had wanted to build luxury homes around it on his 277-acre property east of Phoenix, but he decided that livestock pens built on neighboring lots would ruin that idea. He sold his castle and the grounds in 1931, with cattleman and butcher shop owner E.A. Tovrea making a sealed bid of $21,500.

E.A. Tovrea died of pneumonia in 1932, and his wife, Della, remarried in 1936 to William P. Stuart, publisher of the Prescott Courier. They lived in the castle during winters until Stuart died of natural causes in 1960. Both of Della Tovrea's husbands died at the castle, adding to its mystery over the years.

Della Tovrea then lived in the castle full-time until 1968, when a robbery occurred where she was tied up and beaten. This caused her to move into a rest home where she died a few months later at the age of 80.

After that, the site fell into disrepair until 1993, when Phoenix voters approved $5 million to purchase and restore the castle. A $4.5 million bond authorized in 2001 helped the city expand its holdings around the castle to 44 acres.

The renovation of the castle and grounds includes extensive repairs to the building's shell, roof and exterior stucco, stabilizing the structure and removing lead and asbestos.

Many of the repairs are aimed at making the castle safe for visitors, said Jason Harrington, a registered landscaper with E Group Inc., the company hired to landscape the property.

"There has been a lack of maintenance over the years," Harrington said.

Jason Johnson, a gardener and the only full-time city worker at Tovrea, said restoring the castle and the surrounding gardens has been a challenge because Cassaro drew the design sketches in the sand. Blueprints weren't created until Phoenix purchased the property, and those blueprints have changed as workers have discovered more about the layout of the building and facilities.

Johnson is responsible for restoring the deteriorated gardens, which grace the hilltop with more than 300 species of cactus.

"We depend on old historic photos to see what plants went where," he said.

The public already can tour the cactus gardens. Johnson said visitors will be impressed by what they see when the castle opens.

"Our goal is to see people leave happy with what they were given the chance to see," Johnson said.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

My Ghost Walk of Downtown Mesa, AZ

I have been watching different paranormal "reality" shows like Ghost Hunters for years so I was happy to see that my hometown had a Ghost Walk featuring nearby businesses who have been having paranormal activity for many years. I was lucky enough to be able to go on the guided tour of downtown Main St. with my husband, children & parents. As we walked I did my best to hear everything the tour guide was telling us & to write down much of what I heard. However, our group had about 20 people in it so I didn't always hear what she was saying. I am going to go in chronological order following the notes I took during the tour.

The tour was sponsored by Mesa Historical Museum which is rumored to be haunted as well. The tickets had to be purchased in advance at their web site & then ended up selling out. Adults were $10 & children 3-12 were $6. We started the 2 hour Ghost Walk of Downtown Mesa at 7pm outside in front of the Arizona Museum of Natural History, formally known as the Mesa Southwest Museum, nicknamed the "dinosaur museum", which is located at 53 N MacDonald in Mesa, AZ 85201-7325 - (480) 644-2230.

The first building we entered that has had strange occurrences is Sun Dust Gallery (48 West Main Street #100, Mesa, AZ 85201, (480) 464-6077).
The owner, Ron Floyd, explained to us that one evening he had a 2 foot tall stack of plate glass in the basement with a larger, thin piece of glass on top of it. The next morning when he came in the pieces of plate glass were spread evenly apart & the larger piece of glass was lying nearby. NOTHING was broken. He also explained to us that his basement has a boarded up door that is the entrance to an underground tunnel that goes underneath Main St. but is said to be collapsed. The building was built in 1848 & had been a Masonic Hall & a ballet studio in the past.

The next building we entered was Sweet Cakes Cafe across the street (21 West Main Street, Mesa - (480) 461-9529). Here the owner told us about numerous sightings her overnight baker had of a beautiful woman in the seating are of the cafe. The female baker thought the woman she was was a painting on the wall but realized later that there is no painting in the back corner of the room. At night the lights have flickered on their own, a pan has dropped & things disappear & reappear. She also told us about the experience of a travel agent who had worked in the front of the building years ago. She had finished working for the night & locked up the store but when she went to get her purse & keys to go home they had disappeared. She searched her small store & everywhere she could think but did not find them. She was locked in the building so she had to call her husband to bring an extra set of keys & come to the shop. The next morning her purse had reappeared under her desk & strangely, her keys were in the bathroom that is rarely used.

From there we went to the Drew Building located at 39 W. Main Street, Mesa, AZ 85201.

These are little apartments called Loft at the Drew that can be rented for an overnight or extended stay. The building manager lives on-site & told us that they had two resident ghosts named Edith & Rose. One evening a resident received a phone call on her cell phone asking her if she was having a party because her radio was turned up very loudly. She explained that she was not at home & had not left her radio on. She gave the superintendent permission to go in to shut off her radio, when the gentleman entered the radio was turned up full blast. Another strange event that happened on the property was a woman who was asleep in the middle of the night heard her cat screech loudly. When she got up to investigate she found her cat locked outside the apartment with the door double locked. It is interesting to note that the building was build in 1920 & is made of Lehi brick.

We continued east on Main St. to Mystic Paper which is a scrap booking supply store located at 123 W Main St - Mesa, AZ 85201-7309 - (480) 834-0286.

I had been there in the past & asked the employee if they had any strange happenings & was told that they had seen things knocked off their shelves. The woman who was working there told us about one day when her boss had been looking for a marble to put into a little hole on the street level that goes down into the basement to surprise someone who was down there. However, she couldn't find a marble so she put in a nickel instead. When the people came upstairs she asked if they saw the nickel she sent down & they said yes, they also saw the marble too. But she had never put a marble in the hole. On a different day a woman had been taking pictures inside the store when a metal lunch box flew off the shelf & hit her in the head (she says this as I'm taking pictures of course LOL). Also, the shop directly east of them had been AJ's Antiques which is connected to Mystic Paper by an archway so you could go between the stores without exiting the building. AJ's Antiques has since closed down so it is currently vacant. In a follow-up phone call with Wendy at Mystic Paper I asked if they had more activity in the main level or the basement & she said they are both equally active. I also asked what the building had been used for in the past & was told it was build in 1895 as a grocery store which burned down in 1903. It was re-built & in 1911 it was a pool hall, it was later Vance Bros. Bakery & Malt Shop in 1923.

Directly next door to Mystic Paper is Queen's Pizzeria & Cafe (
125 W. Main St - Mesa, AZ - 85201 - (480) 964-1609) which was the next stop on our tour. However, they were very busy so we did not go inside or have one of their employees relate their personal experiences. Our tour guide told us that the building was built with Lehi brick & it is pretty active with paranormal activity. One day after a TV crew had been there doing an interview about ghostly activity a whole rack of pots & pans fell over. They have also heard knocking on the brick walls. Unfortunately, when I called them this afternoon (to ask them about their Facebook page which is referenced on their website but not linked) the gentleman who answered set the phone aside & then hung up without speaking to me.

My husband's favorite location on the tour was Evermore Nevermore Clothing & Collectibles
127 West Main Street, Mesa, AZ 85201 - (480) 964-4624) located next door to Queen's Pizzeria & Cafe.
The, Bob, co-owner was very nice & told us about a few different paranormal events that happened, starting with the day they toured the location with their landlord (who also owns History by George). During their tour they were surprised when the door to the womens restroom opened on its own. George took it in stride & just reached over & pulled it closed again. On other occasions the basement door has locked on its own & both restroom doors were locked by themselves. One day a man in a gray coat was seen walking in to the store but when they realized he had never left they searched the whole store & could not find him. Later that day a paranormal group from Tucson did an investigation & lecture in the store. A sensitive with the group said she felt the presence of a man in a gray coat. Bob also said that the CD player is often manipulated. It switches from MP3 to CD & back again on it's own & goes off & on. IN fact, earlier that evening, during a tour before mine, the CD player in the store stopped working & started up again later. He mentioned that they have a higher chance of activity on stormy days which is when he's seen things fly off the shelves on their own. (2013 note: This shop is now out of business)

Our tour stopped in front of Surf & Ski Custom Screen Printing Shop
(137 W Main St, Mesa, AZ. Tel: 480-834-5010) which is next door to Queen's Pizzeria & Cafe.  but the business was locked up for the night. The tour guide said that in 1920s a man killed his son & himself in the tunnels below the building when he found out they were seeing the same woman. Later in the 1950s a man who was having marital problems killed himself in the building.

From there we crossed the street again & went to Kimberly Jarman Photography (
126 W Main St. - Mesa, AZ 85201 - (480) 203-1090) which is located in a building that was built in 1911 & was previously an antique store. When it was an antique store the woman working there smelled a strong aroma of coffee but didn't know how because at that time the closest restaurant in the area was Subway located on Robson & Main St. She researched the building & found out it had been Coffee Pot Cafe in the past. The occupants of the building said they had daily occurrences such as keys being moved (like Sweet Cakes) & their lights turning on & off on their own.

While we were on the way to the next business we spoke briefly with PAPA (Phoenix, AZ Paranormal Society) who had a table set up outside of Antique Plaza.

We were lucky enough to go inside Antique Plaza (
114 W Main St. - Mesa, AZ 85201-7310 -
(480) 833-4844)
after hours & get a tour (with most of the lights off) by an employee who has had a few strange experiences while she was working.Her first paranormal experience was on her first day of work 13 years ago. She had been seated at a desk located at the bottom of the front stairs when she heard a rattling noise coming from the peg board behind her. When she turned around, all the plates that had been hanging up were stacked, UNBROKEN, on the floor. Later she was downstairs she heard knocking three times but kept trying to ignore it. When she turned she saw a floating apparition which sent her running up the stairs & out of the building. Books have been known to fall off the shelves upstairs as well. Another employee told her that one night as she was working from 6pm - 10pm she felt a cool breeze out of nowhere that actually moved her hair. On a different night she brought her Jack Russell Terrier dog with her to work but the dog kept barking at nothing & was acting strange so she had to leave & take him back home.

Our last stop of the tour was visiting the inside of the Arizona Museum of Natural History, formally known as the Mesa Southwest Museum (53 N MacDonald Mesa, AZ 85201-7325 - (480) 644-2230). API (Arizona Paranormal Investigations) had a table set up near the jail area of the museum where they told us about what they do & answered questions from people in the group.

While most of the group went into the jail cells I stayed behind talking to the API members. They said one of the most actively haunted places in Arizona is the Vulture Mine in Wickenburg, AZ. They also mentioned The Birdcage Theater in Tombstone, AZ, the Red Garter Bed & Bakery in Williams, AZ & a pic they got inside the Pinal Cemetary which I found investigation links on-line from Ghost Hunters Arizona & East Valley Paranormal Society.

Well, that is the end of the information I learned on the Ghost Walk tour of Downtown Mesa last night. I am going to go through all the photos I took & place them into a Photobucket album so you can see them all.
**UPDATED 10 28 2010**
I just finished uploading & labeling all 41 pictures I took during the Ghost Walk of Downtown Mesa on 10/22/2010. They are in chronological order:

Thanks for reading & have a Happy Halloween.

If you have any true stories of haunting experiences you have had please feel free to let me know about it in the comment section below.

Also, let me know if you would be interested in reading more blogs about other haunted locations I've visited in the past & might visit in the future.