Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ya Mon!

So, we made it to Montego Bay safely yesterday. We've been napping, laying by the beach and eating at the cafeteria. We spent a little time with the fun-yak this morning and Michelle did a little line dancing. We are going to Margaritaville for ladies night tonight, should be interesting. Tomorrow we will spend the day at Dunn's River Falls and shopping. Internet is by the minute here, so I wanted to keep it short but still say hello! Pictures and more to come soon. Thanks for checking in!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Topless

Since it was over 100 degrees and dusty most of the places we drove, we kept the top up most of the time. The last night we were there we decided to drive through the canyons on the way up to Flagstaff to see the sun set. My first reaction was that we were going to somehow fall out of the car as it wound up and down the hills. This reaction was irrationally similar to when I used to go fishing as a kid and I thought the fish was going to pull me out of the boat or when I snorkeled for the first time and my brain told me I shouldn't be breathing under water.

I eventually felt better about the top half of the car missing and went wild taking photos and singing at the top of my lungs. I found it was still difficult to get good photos from a moving vehicle, I still got a couple of good ones. It was a great way to end our time in Sedona and we will definitely be back. Here are a few of my parting shots:

Love the sun dusting the top!
Thanks for following along on our trip! Another adventure starts tomorrow with "Blog Winner Weekend #2"!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Training the Verde Canyon

In a partner post - to my vortex yoga post - here is the recap of the activity Brian wanted to do most, take the Verde Canyon Train through Verde Valley, about 30 miles outside of Sedona. We were surprised when we pulled into the train depot parking lot at how busy it was. We were among the last to arrive for the 1pm departure, a rare occasion in the Beard household, but we made it before it pulled out of the stucco station.

During the 4-hour trip, I kept thinking about how much my dad would love this activity and tried to remember things about pictures I was snapping that I know he will ask about later. The highlight of the day for me was when they switched the engines from one end of the train to the other for the return trip and handed off ice cream sandwiches to our train car, and of course the cucumber margarita!

I was surprised, although I guess I shouldn't have been given the valley's name, at how green everything was. Our bartender spent the duration of the trip mixing drinks and pointing out tiny rock formations (top/right: "See, Hear, Speak No Evil" middle/right: "Turtle"). We were also treated to a "lovely" audio selection that fluctuated between a narration and music. The train pulled into the station to "Proud to Be an American" which I guess was fitting given the bald eagles we had just passed as we came in.

Also, I had mentioned before that the train went 12 MPH, it actually went 10 MPH, except for the time that we went down a little hill. It was a little long for me but it was fun and a nice way to see an area that isn't drivable - unless you have a 4x4 and a full day to explore.

Vortex Yoga

I had mentioned a couple of posts ago that I wanted to try vortex yoga on our trip to Sedona. In order to have a fair comparison of standard vs. vortex, I joined in on the standard morning class offered at our resort to start off the day. The instructor, Yogi Blair (yeah, that's how he introduced himself), led us through some nice series of stretches and leg strengtheners. He also added in a few extra poses - snake and dragon, which I hadn't done before and were more like tai chi. The class was outside in the grass and was a nice way to start the day.

In an effort to try vortex yoga, I had to first find a vortex. I found a helpful map that gave information about where to find the four main energy vortexes in Sedona. The best hint given was that vortexes tend to be near twisted Juniper, seen here.
The vortex we selected, which was near the Sedona airport, was a masculine energy vortex. This meant a couple of things including the energy spot would help connect you to the energy that helped you decide what you desire in life. It was very windy and the ground was uneven, so I confess that I did not repeat my workout from the morning and it probably is not a fair comparison. However, it was an amazing view of all the canyons in the area, the sun was bright and shiny, so I think it gave me an energy boost.
We had spotted a bald eagle earlier in the day when we were on our train ride, more on that tomorrow, so this it my homage to Mr. Bald Eagle - half of the eagle pair of Black & Decker (names they were apparently given by a dude).
We hiked the rest of the way up the hill to see the rest of the view. It got even windier and we saw the guy below trying his hand at channeling the vortex - he was close to the edge, braver than me. In all, I think it was a place where a lot of weather, wind and earth forces collided and would make for a great place for a full yoga workout and I think I'll try that next time.


Brian Beard had no comment about the yoga, vortexes or anything else that he wanted to share but he does look handsomer at the top of a mountain.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Refresher

Today was a fun, crazy day. I took almost 250 photos and we have a lot to share. I am going to sort through the pictures and post some tomorrow - along with a recap of the train ride, riding with the top down and the vortexes. For now, I will just share this yummy recipe for cucumber margaritas that we had on the train. Enjoy!

Cucumber Margaritas
Peel cucumber, use an inch and half of it
Muddle.
1/2 oz agave nectar
1 1/2 oz silver tequila
16 oz of ice
Top off ice in a 16 oz shaker with Mr. & Mrs. T's margarita mix
Shake, pour, enjoy!
Let me know what you think if you try this out, or even better come over and I'll make you one!

Enchanting

The prickly pear margarita that I've been waiting 10 years to enjoy again (since the last time I was at the Enchantment). A wonderful way to celebrate our anniversary.
This Pin cushion protea graced our table in the lounge before dinner, along with our margaritas and some yummy cactus fries.
The view from our table at the Yavapai Restaurant.
The "amuse bouche" from the chef - a salmon mousse.
My beet salad.
My main course, a fish - similar to tuna - from Hawaii. The special of the evening so I didn't really pay attention to what it was called. Very delicious with a cauliflower mousse and melon salsa. Consumed with a nice glass of Malbec.
Our special dessert (see guitar pick-like "Happy Anniversary" chocolate). Warm flourless, chocolate cake with a raspberry basil sorbet. Yum!
All around delicious night. I also realized as I was putting this post together that while I don't cook, I love to eat and take pictures of my food, so I went back through about a year's worth of posts and tagged "food" if you like to just read about that. Thanks for checking in!

Getting Full

Before I recap today, it wouldn't be right unless I talked a little about our dinner last night at the Elote Cafe. Brian declared, one bite into his main course, that we could just eat here all the nights we're in Sedona. It was delicious and the drink menu didn't disappoint either. Thanks again, Julie!

1.) Blood Orange Margarita (smooth and yummy) 2.) Seafood Tacos (spicy and good) 3.) Um, some long-named corn pudding w/dulche de leche and dried corn dessert (house special, interesting) 4.) Almendrado Tequlia (almond flavored, delicious)
Lucy and Snoopy - can you see them? We woke up this morning and had iced lattes and muffins at the Pink Java Cafe with a beautiful view. I think I am extra obsessed with all the red dirt and canyons because I grew up not ever seeing it until I was in high school.
For all of you out there who have been looking for a place to get your aura's picture taken, you can get it done after a delicious Korean meal. (I love odd-fellow business set ups, like get an oil change and your taxes done - it's kind of smart when you think about it, I guess.) We ate at Mago Cafe after my pedicure (so relaxing). Voted the best, and maybe only Korean restaurant, this place did not disappoint. We both had fresh squeezed lemonade and bibimbap.
We drove out to this Frank Lloyd Wright- inspired chapel - Chapel of the Holy Cross. Beautiful church and view. We even found our dream house from up there, see below:
This house even has an observatory. Amazing!
After driving around a bit, we went back for a swim in the pool and to explore the creek that runs next to the resort. We showered and got ready for our anniversary dinner, which was so pretty I want to do a whole post on it tomorrow morning. I will leave this post with some important things we learned at lunch. Thanks for checking in and have a great weekend!

True dat!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Getting Here

Today was mostly our leisurely trek to Sedona. Since I promised to not take away too much time for blogging I will stick to pictures. Enjoy!

Montezuma's Castle. Seeing as it was between 100-106 with the heat index, the 1/3 mile hike seemed just right to check out this national monument. It was a little crowded at first but watching the narrated diorama redeemed the whole $5 to get in.
Montezuma's Well, an 8 mile drive from the Castle, provided fresh water to the village that used to lie between the well and the castle. The hand dug irrigation ditches from 700 AD were still flowing and quite impressive. Note: If you go check this out, ignore the signs to turn right for 17N, just go back from where you came from and avoid 6 miles of dirt roads.
Our room at the Amara Resort. I'm sleepy! No sleep until a shower and what proves to be a yummy dinner at Elote Cafe, a recommendation from my new blog friend, Julie. I say - if a restaurant has a separate tequila menu, we're on a good track. Thanks for checking in!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Planning Fun

Sometimes planning for vacations can be work, albeit fun work. My mind is spinning a little from the details and plans being made and discussed over the past five days. When I travel for work there is a set agenda with a tiny bit of time for fun but vacations are the opposite. Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining, I just want to make sure I am keeping everything straight so I don't miss out on something that I forgot to write down or email to myself. I have a lot of things in my head at the moment. In the past five days I have:
  1. Made reservations for the train ride Brian wanted to take in Sedona.
  2. Booked a pedicure for myself at the Amara Resort, where we are staying. Planned to take place the day after we spend hiking.
  3. Booked and confirmed a room for August in Bangor through airbnb.com.
  4. Made dinner reservations for our anniversary dinner at the Yavapai Restaurant in Sedona. Since we're celebrating our anniversary a month early we'll get two celebratory dinners this year, woot! I am also ecstatic to be able to have another prickly pear margarita, or two, at the bar before dinner, watching the sun set in the canyon.
  5. Met with Michelle to discuss our Jamaican adventure. We talked river rafting, yoga and just seeing what we could find.
  6. Ordered some Jamaican dollars from my bank.
  7. Packed a suitcase for Sedona and one for Jamaica, since I will only have two days in between trips.
I am sure I am forgetting to do something. I am excited to finally be on the move again, it seems like I have been at home for too long. And I am excited to see red rocks and canyons tomorrow, so pretty! Thanks for checking in!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Alternatives

The first book on my reading list for Liberia talked about a concept called "collaborative consumption" whereby the current economy will shift to everyone sharing, renting or selling each other their stuff. I thought this was a pretty interesting concept and they listed some examples of how this kind of economy would work - or is working now. I loved that it would not only do the environment a favor (not creating so many new products, buildings, etc.) but it would also save people money - double bonus.


As we were celebrating Father's Day with my in-laws last night, we started to talk about the details of our upcoming trip to Maine and I realized Brian and I needed a place to stay near the airport for one night on our way back to KC. I looked up hotels on our drive home and anything that didn't look too sketchy was at least $120. Since we have a 6:30am flight we won't even be there very long so that much money seemed like a waste. I took the opportunity to finally look up one of the sites that the book had mentioned, airbnb.com.
Many of you may already be familiar with this site but if you're not, like I wasn't until recently, allow me to explain. Basically the site allows individuals to rent out places like a room, an RV in their back yard or their boat to people looking for a place to stay. The site handles the payment and allows people to rate the places they have stayed, as well as personally vouch for patrons as decent house-guests, or not. It's a step up from CouchSurfing, which allows you to find a place to crash for free, but not as fancy as a bed and breakfast, although, some reviews say that their hosts included that too.

So, I found a place that sounded great (for only $40 for the two of us) and put in a request to stay there. It's close to the airport (an $8 cab ride away), had two good reviews and the owner of the apartment looked nice. Just waiting to hear back from the site if our stay request was approved by the owner. Also, if we decide to list our house as a place people could stay, we could save $17 off our first stay. I do love a deal but I'm not sure many people are looking for a room in our town, maybe I should list it and see. Have a great week!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Meet Up

My blog/life motto reads, "I'm seeking to make the world a smaller place by traveling and making friends wherever I can." When I took the lovely Elise Larsen's "Blog Love" e-course, she talked about some of the wonderful people she had met through blogging who were now close friends. Since many of my readers are friends and family, I thought this was just one of those things that only super famous bloggers got to experience. However, when a new blog reader and I started commenting back and forth on each other's blogs we realized that we lived pretty close and that she would be in KC this weekend.

Julie, from My Roving I, and her husband came into town for a concert this weekend and we decided to meet up for a drink. For me it was the perfect way to end a long week at work. Julie and I had a surprising amount of things in common from our 10 year wedding anniversaries coming up in July to a love of travel and Ireland to being an anomaly among most of our friends for not having kids yet. Our husbands showed up about halfway through our cocktail hour and we all chatted comfortably until we went our separate ways for dinner, except for when we briefly met up a second time, both eying the "Most Beautiful Banana Republic in the World". Maybe we'll get to share in an adventure together one day. To new friends!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Luxe for Less

They are currently running specials on Mediterranean Windstar cruises, among other getaways.
To my friends who like to travel in style and want to steer clear of a vacation that might be more of an adventure for the wrong reasons, I wanted to share with you my new travel website obsession - JetSetter.com. This website offers everything from high-end travel experts to help you plan your trip to a listing of beautiful art hotels at discounted prices. Don't read this wrong, this is not a regular "deal" type site where you can get a two-for-one at a chain hotel. Instead it feels like a fancy department store with beautiful photos, clean lines and exotic locals.

They list hand-picked, exclusive deals on their site and you can opt in for a range of emails alerting you to when things go on sale. I think my first foray into the site will be a hotel room for my trip to Chicago in October, the choices are endless. If you are interested in joining and earning a $25 credit, click here. Thanks for checking in!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Yin Yang

Last night Brian and I were looking through possible activities for our anniversary trip to Sedona next week. Brian was favoring the Wild West dinner show with cowboy singers and the 4 hour (12 mph) train ride. Me? I was looking at the vortex yoga (apparently Sedona is known for vortexes made not from wind or water but from spiritual energy and you can do yoga in the middle of all of it - Brian scrunched his nose at this) and the wine tasting place.

I love how that despite our obvious differences, we make it work and have a wonderful life together. I love that whenever new people meet one of us, after having known the other one of us, they initially seem a little puzzled as to how the two of us came to be together. We just got lucky I guess. Thanks for checking in!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Recent Read Roundup

I love reading, maybe almost as much as traveling. I tend to approach it in a messy way though. I am often reading multiple books, switching when something comes in from the library or when I am trying to figure out a new concept at work or something like that. I have gotten into a bad habit lately of having the same two (partially read) books next to my bed, while a long line of new books sneak past them. In an effort to gain a little control back, I decided this weekend was a perfect opportunity to get caught up.

[If you are keeping track, I was supposed to go back to Joplin to volunteer, but after the last couple of weeks I really needed some personal time. I will be back in Joplin at some point soon.]

The books I finished this weekend:
I got this book for Christmas two years ago and then it got lost in a closet. I took it out about a year ago and I have been slowly reading it ever since. It's not that it's a dull read, I just find myself really having to pay attention to all of the foreign names, cities and initiatives outlined in the book as the author shares incredible stories about social entrepreneurs, mostly Ashoka fellows, from around the world. I found this book to be inspiring and I was amazed what one person could do to affect things like quadrupling childhood immunization rates, finding dignity for adults living with disabilities when the government didn't support that and supporting street children with social services.
This book was actually not one of the lingers next to my bed, I'll get to that one in a second. I picked this up a week ago and tore through it. This book painted a rather frightening picture of the future of water worldwide. Current corporate privatization of everything from rivers to underground aquifers to sucking water out of clouds were discussed in a very vivid and powerful way. The environmental impact of desalination plants and bottled water were also discussed. If you are interested in learning more about what future wars will be about, you should really check this out.
I am trying to get back through all of Seth Godin's books. They are so great and cut through all the normal book niceties - getting right to the point. This book dealt with how to make yourself integral to your company or organization, not a bad idea in an economy like ours.

The book I might have to give up on:
After seeing Inside Job, I really wanted to read Satyajit Das' book about derivatives - I know, I'm a nerd. Maybe it's all the other books I've had going on, but I can't seem to get very far in this one. Maybe I shouldn't try to read it in bed at night, maybe I'll try to get to it on a Saturday morning.

And finally, two books I am pretty excited to start reading:

When Rivers Run Dry - Fred Pearce
Brilliant. Crazy. Cocky. - Sarah Lacy
Thanks for checking in and let me know what you're all reading too!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Free for All

I just got an email yesterday about an upcoming opportunity to go to Finland for a month - for free! Then I realized that I forgot to include this great opportunity to travel and serve in my recent presentation - Seeing the World Through Service. I think I forgot to mention this one because it's not the traditional volunteering vacation you might think of - it's more of an ambassadorship.

Rotary International was founded in Chicago in 1905. By 1921, clubs had spread to six continents with a focus on business, socialization and the shared vision of "Service Above Self."
Why do I tell you this? They have an awesome, world-wide professional exchange program open to 25 to 40 year olds called Group Study Exchange (GSE). This program takes delegates from one community and places them in a host country for four to six weeks to exchange culture & ideas, business practices and friendship. The program is paid for by local Rotary Clubs and interested participants need to apply and, if selected, interview with the selection committee. During the trip you also get to learn about your chosen profession in a different context - so if you're a teacher you would visit a school in the host country to see what it was like there.

From the GSE website: "In a typical four-week tour, applicants participate in five full days of vocational visits, 15 to 20 club presentations, 10 to 15 formal visits and social events, two to three days at the district conference, three to four hours per day of cultural and site tours, and three to four hours per day of free time with host families."

Finland, host of the upcoming NE Kansas Rotary GSE.
I was selected last year for the Australian GSE but had to turn it down due to a work commitment - still kicking myself for that, as the work commitment was eventually canceled, argh! With my work/school schedule I'm not sure I will be able to apply this time around, but I really hope to have the opportunity to apply again in the future - still have some years to go before 40! Also, just a quick FYI - you can't be a current (or past, I think) Rotarian to apply - it's a program to introduce new people to Rotary. Let me know if you have heard anything about this program. Thanks for checking in.

Friday, June 10, 2011

I Don't Leave Home Without...

I was unpacking my suitcase this evening from my trip to New Orleans - an exciting Friday night, I know. As I was putting back all my things in their normal places, I wanted to share a few things with you that I could never go on a trip without. (This is a supplement to the blog post I did about travel tech toys, I would choose tech over these any day, but these are good too.)

1. Blister Band-aids - perfect for your heels when you've done more walking than sitting and still have more walking to do. Bonus, they stick through a shower!
2. First aid kit - you never know when you might need an alcohol swab! I used some once when I had scraped a rental car on a tree - worked like a charm to restore the bumper to original condition.
3. A healthy snack. You never know sometimes when you might get something good to eat. I like these KIND fruit and nut bars, they have protein and carbs and are pretty tasty.
4. Sunscreen, at least an SPF of 50 or higher. Even if I am supposed to be inside the whole trip, you never know where I might end up and I want to try to avoid any more sun damage.
5. Some kind of 3-in-1 face cloths - I can get lazy on the road and changing climates can be tough on my skin (weird, that sounds like a voice-over line from a commercial) so these let me wash my face and skip the lotion afterwards and get to sleep a tiny bit faster.
6. Stuff sacks - I like keeping the dirt off the rest of my suitcase contents and these make incredible shoe bags.
7. Jewelry case - I'm not a huge Vera Bradley person but I found the perfect jewelry case in the midst of a floral field of purses in a store a couple of years ago. Inside the soft-sided bag there are little pockets and zippered compartments to keep everything organized - perfect!
8. Schick Intuition razors - I don't use these at home but they are so great to travel with. I've used them camping, in a sink and in a normal shower setting. After having many shaving cream container mishaps in my luggage, I finally discovered these. I have used other brands like this but these are the best in my opinion.
What can you never leave on a trip without?