Category: Home & Garden

Zest for Life!

Debby Larsen on a recent photo shoot at the home of artist Sherrie Posternak. Photo by Robin Stancliff.

Lemons are a staple in many Tucson kitchens, and with citrus season just around the corner, we have an abundance of reasons to include them in our cooking and baking. I have tasted and tweaked several recipes that utilize this tart fruit, and you can see the results beginning on page 18.

Another recipe you might want to try comes to us courtesy of Executive Chef Todd Sicolo of the Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort & Spa. He created a new take on the classic Waldorf salad using pomegranates from the resort’s garden. Check it out on page 14.

As you prepare for the holidays, you may be seeking fresh ideas for your tablescapes. Look no further than your grocery store’s produce section! For inspiration, peruse our story that starts on page 22.

Speaking of entertaining, on page 16 you can see how one homeowner sets the stage for an annual get-together with an autumn theme.

For our home story, we visited the abode of artist Sherrie Posternak. Her quaint casa also is the headquarters for her Cereza Oilcloth Studio, and displays much of her original artwork. Get a glimpse on page 26.

Elsewhere in this issue, read about how landscape designer Allen Denomy transformed a client’s backyard into an updated space for entertaining. The article begins on page 30.

The Pros Who Know showcases Latitudes Furniture, a family owned business that offers one-of-a-kind treasures for your home. Turn to page 36 to read all about it.

A Casa Comes Full Circle

This northwest-side home merges family history with renovated amenities.

By Romi Carrell Wittman Photography by Robin Stancliff

trio of wrought-iron signs greets visitors to the Esparza home on Tucson’s northwest side. One has the family name, Casa Esparza; another says, “Est. 1962,” and yet another says “Re-est. 2016.” In many ways, the home, located in a small subdivision, has made a complete revolution.

A wall was removed to create this open-concept design, which is perfect for family gatherings.

The home has special meaning to Sam Esparza, who grew up there with his parents and five siblings. His parents, Leo and Connie Esparza, built the home 56 years ago and lived there until they passed in 2014 and 2016, respectively. That was when Sam and his wife Jennifer purchased it and began renovations.

“This is the family house,” Sam says. “We’ve been having holidays here with everyone for years. This has been, and will continue to be, a central meeting spot for family gatherings.”

Jennifer is no stranger to the home. She and Sam met while students at Canyon Del Oro High School and, long before they married, she became something of a family member. She loves the history and tradition of the place.

The couple’s primary goal was to update it and make it more functional without obliterating its period charm and elegance.

A classic 1960s ranch-style, the 3,200-square-foot, 5-bedroom, 3-bath home featured the sunken living spaces popular in that era, along with a semi-open layout that fused modernist lines with a casual informality. The Esparzas wanted to maintain the comfortable vibe while remodeling the home and making it more functional.

With Sam serving as the de facto general contractor and Jennifer, a Realtor, serving as the designer, the couple moved into a rental home across the street so they could supervise all aspects of the work.

Homeowners Jennifer and Sam Esparza with their dog Remy.

“That was really lucky,” Sam says, of finding a rental property so close by.

They gutted nearly everything, taking the home down to studs. “We re-plumbed the gas and water lines, replaced septic lines, installed all new systems, A/C, electrical,” says Sam. “And we did all the demo ourselves. I can still feel it in my back!”

They modified the floor plan a little bit, but kept the basic footprint. They also leveled out the floors so there’s no more going up and down as you walk through rooms. They raised the roof lines to match the higher ceilings in the dining room, which brightened the entire house and made it feel even larger. They expanded the kitchen into the space that was once an Arizona room, making a large, well-illuminated and inviting Great Room that easily can accommodate dozens of people. They added an elegant mesquite bar, which hides behind pocket doors when not in use. Skylights — some new, some original — give virtually every corner of the home a sunny warmth.

Columns in the original formal living room were removed, and a large Douglas fir beam was added to support the roof.

The dated Ionic columns on the front and back porches as well as inside the front entry were removed as were two load-bearing walls, which necessitated the installation of a 35-foot steel I-beam to support the roof weight. Sam had a 24-foot Douglas fir specially milled and stained to clad the I-beam so that it perfectly matches the original beams.

One of the biggest changes to the floorplan was the master suite located at the rear of the home. They converted that space into a guest suite with two bedrooms, a fireplace and a kitchenette. Long-term guests can very comfortably reside in this part of the home.

The new master bedroom is located toward the front of the home. They converted the smaller guest rooms into one large, elegant master with a spa-like en suite with outdoor access to a private side patio and hot tub.

To house their vehicles as well as provide a workshop for Sam, they enclosed the original carport and also built another garage. “Yes, we have his and hers garages,” Jennifer jokes. Sam, who often works from home for his education technology business, also has a large office that’s accessible from the backyard.

Two small guest rooms were combined to create an elegant en suite master bath.

One of the property’s distinctive features they kept is a 140-foot-tall Aleppo pine in the backyard. Family lore has it that it was the tree from the family’s first Christmas in the home. Its tree well is original, too. “We built it with rocks we got from the end of Magee,” Sam notes, smiling at the childhood memory.

The end result is a home that wears its history proudly while also providing modern amenities. And the extended family approves. The Esparzas’ three grown children are frequent visitors, as are Sam’s sisters, one of whom said, “You’ve kept enough of the charm, but you’ve put your own stamp on it.”

Jennifer even relocated the dining room chandelier so it hangs above the kitchen island. “I call it rustic formal,” she says with a laugh. “And I love that it’s original and something that’s been part of the family.”

“It was a labor of love for sure,” Sam says of the project, which took roughly nine months to complete. “It feels good to keep the flame going.” HG

Feather Report

Southern Arizona is a birder’s paradise, and even in the heart of Tucson, you will experience a bevy of winged visitors. Here, we profile some of the “usual suspects” you may see in your garden.


The Mourning Dove is known for the soulful cooing sound it makes at dawn and dust. Its neutral coloration offers camouflage as it searches for seeds.


Roadrunners can be seen racing across the landscape as they chase their prey. They usually prefer lizards, but are brave enough to even take on a rattlesnake.


Gila Woodpeckers excavate holes in saguaro cacti, which provide homes for several bird species. They often can be heard as they peck at eaves and evaporative coolers (a territorial signal). Photo by Amy Haskell


The Cactus Wren, Arizona’s state bird, is well known for its brash and inquisitive nature, as it daringly perches on cactus spines.


Lesser Goldfinches have yellow breasts, and the males have black backs (females have olive ones). They feature white bars on their wings, and are particularly attracted to a feeder full of Nyjer (or thistle) seed.
Photo by Amy Haskell


The colorful Hummingbird darts around plants with brightly hued, tubular flowers in pursuit of nectar. Many species of hummers inhabit our area.
Photo by Ben Wilder

A Growing Family

These homeowners and their kids are living a mini-farm lifestyle.

By Debby Larsen  |  Photos by Justin Carrillo

Emma, Lenny, Jennifer and Sophia Fest pose in front of their goat house.

Along the Mount Lemmon highway on the far eastside of Tucson, the Fest family has embraced the farm life —in a scaled-down form.

Lenny and Jennifer Fest invested time and patience to locate the perfect property for a bucolic lifestyle with their daughters Sophia and Emma. After three years, the Fests’ spread now boasts lush vegetable and flower gardens, as well as 30 chickens of various breeds, three Welsh Harlequin ducks, three Nigerian dwarf goats, one mini Blue Heeler and one rescued calico cat.

A Barred Rock chicken, one of the Fest family’s flock.

The house was constructed by the previous owner, and had been added to in bits and pieces over many years. Although it was not their dream home, the Fests believed it had lots of potential for their family. Jennifer remarks that it was the wrap-around porch that sold them on the purchase.

However, the house reno was going to have to wait. They immediately began work on their outdoor projects, building several raised wooden beds for vegetables. Jennifer’s parents, Jim and Cindy Willis, offered help, gardening expertise and encouragement during their many weekend projects.

A collection of colorful plants spill out of a vintage wheelbarrow.

In addition to other crops, several seed varieties from Native Seed Search were utilized. Gardening has become an adventure, with lots to learn in the process. “One year we planted Dragon Carrot and Scarlet Nantes seed. They cross-pollinated and the next year’s result was a lovely, ‘ombre’ carrot in purple, pink and orange,” Jennifer says with a laugh. Each season, their garden yields bountiful produce.

After getting the gardens started, they set about acquiring hens, but first needed a chicken coop. The Fests built a shed from a kit, but added a little Southwest charm in the form of a shiny, tin roof. Their chickens now provide beautiful multi-colored eggs that Sophia and Emma sell at their flower-bedecked “Farm Stand” on their property.

Jennifer studied interior design in college, and her touch can be found in the carefully crafted signs throughout

Emma and Sophia Fest show off their wares at their Farm Stand.

the garden. She often recycles old wood and vintage windows for her palette. Photos from Pinterest were the inspiration for the recently added goat house. Leftover parts from their daughters’ pre-fab playhouse were utilized in this project. An old tractor tire became a favorite addition to the goats’ playground.

Native trees, along with shade and fruit trees (some 50 in all), dot the property, watered in large part with rainwater collected and held in a giant tank just for this purpose. Grapevines cover a hillside ramada — a lovely site for a party.

When Jennifer and Lenny are asked what is next on their long list of projects, they mention plans for a small greenhouse to nurture tiny plants during the cool season.

Daughters Sophia, now eight, and Emma, six, obviously enjoy this lifestyle. When the family entertains, the girls — in their cotton frocks and their best mini-work boots — proudly show off the eggs they have collected that morning and offer tours of the gardens.

Garden Calendar


Prepare gardens for the cooler temperatures of winter.


In some of our cultivated deciduous trees, notable color changes occur in Fall, adding a punch of red, yellow or orange. As the weather cools, chlorophyll production stops as the tree enters dormancy. Therefore, December through February is the best time to prune deciduous trees.

Arizona Ash is a Southern Arizona native that is noted for its brilliant yellow leaves. Chinese Pistache is appreciated for its bright yellow-orange-red tinged foliage with the additional texture of beautiful berry clusters. Mexican Buckeye, a Chihuahuan desert native, is useful as a smaller landscape tree, with leaves that turn golden yellow. Chinese Elm, Arizona Sycamore and Sweet Gum also show off their autumn hues. Desert Sumac adds flame-toned leaves to the autumn scene. Crape Myrtle leaves turn orange-red when cold weather appears.

Pomegranates and persimmon trees also offer color changes.


Plant winter color annuals such as cyclamen, primrose, pansies, violas, lobelia, snapdragon, petunia, gazania, nasturtium and sweet pea.

Sow seeds for beets, bok choy, bulb and green onions, collards, endive, kale, leaf lettuce, leeks, mustard greens, peas, radishes and spinach.

Plant colorful perennials such as angelita daisy, gaura, hummingbird trumpet sage and Mount Lemmon marigold.

Sow wildflower seeds by mid-month to take advantage of winter rains.

Choose a location that receives full sun in winter.


Continue transplanting desert-adapted trees and shrubs, ground covers, vines, cacti, succulents and grasses.

Transplant culinary herbs such as cilantro, dill, fennel, parsley, marjoram, mint, chives, rosemary, catnip, oregano, society garlic and sorrel.

Also, transplant broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and chard.

Set out rain lily bulbs now.

Plant them under trees or among rocks.


Move tender potted plants to sunnier locations or in protected spots under porches, eaves or tree canopies.

Don’t water cacti and succulents before frosts.

Place polystyrene cups over the tops of columnar cacti.

Drape small trees with frost cloth; wrap young citrus trunks with burlap.


Adjust automatic irrigation timers to reduce water.

Irrigate citrus trees about every three weeks to a depth of three feet.

As weather cools, less water helps prepare plants for dormancy.


The first of the winter vegetables will include radishes, spinach, arugula and leaf lettuce.

Test citrus to determine ripeness. Tangerines ripen first, followed by navel oranges, tangelos, lemons and limes.

About Us

Tucson Lifestyle Magazine is the Tucson's only glossy, monthly city magazine, targeting Southern Arizona’s affluent residents. With over 35 years of publishing experience, Tucson Lifestyle is committed to highlighting the people, places, cuisine, and attractions that make our city unique.

Phone: 520-721-2929 x 102
Address: 7000 E Tanque Verde Rd # 11,
Tucson, AZ 85715

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