Saturday, November 8, 2014

Pura Vida - Day 4

My last full day in paradise included some quality time on the beach, a sangria by the pool, seashell hunting and a cocktail class (I invented the mango-thyme mojito). I also snapped a photo of the hotel's mascot (a purple VW van with a surfboard on top). Not pictured was the yoga class I took in the morning.

I enjoyed the Chef's Special Tuna ceviche dish, a cocktail and the cucumber, sweet tofu and apple gazpacho. During dinner I watched the moon rise over the bay. It was like a movie made just for me.
Also, in case you wondered, here are a few of he best/worst things about vacationing alone:
Best
-       You can use all the towels – why do I need three for one shower? Who cares, there all mine!
-       No one will judge you if you sleep in and skip yoga (which I actually didn’t do since there was only one class offered this week)

-       You pick the place/time/duration of all activities
-       Everyone at the resort knows your name since you’re the only person alone at a romantic locale (except this one guy who thinks my name is Susan, I’m trying to get used to answering to that)
-       You can sleep diagonal in the bed (a nod to Phish, yes, but also surprisingly comfortable)
-       It’s easier to make friends with random staff and guests – they wonder what the heck you’re doing alone
Worst
-       You have to Skype someone to read aloud the best parts of “Yes Please” (my vacation read)
-       No one to put sunscreen on the spot you can’t reach on your back (but that’s why they invented the spray bottle)
-       Typically your vacation shots are all selfies but you learn to get better at taking them

-       You realize you haven't said anything to anyone all day besides "hola"
-       Walking home at night may call on your ninja skills but it’s usually just a wild animal

-       Eating every meal alone (giving you time to think, which I guess is technically good but there are three meals a day, yikes!)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Pura Vida - Day 3

Today begin with a morning run and breakfast that included coconut french toast with caramelized bananas (upper left). After that, I finally made it to the beach during low tide and finished a book (it's been so long since that's happened!). Then I spent a few more hours at the spa, I can't help myself. I wish I could capture the scent of the chilled face towels they hand out, scrumptious! I even payed homage to the boys in blue with my toenail polish - "Dating a Royal".
After a snack at the bar, I headed to my ceviche class. The chef prepared a batch that we all tried and then we stepped up, selected our fish (I had shrimp and seabass) and got to work. I went with a mango, cilantro, garlic, lemon, corn, salt medley. When we were done, they gave us a chilled bowl for our masterpieces paired with a bowl of plantain and apple chips. Sounds weird but it was excellent. I was so stuffed full of fish that I skipped my original plan for pizza.
The raw ingredients. If only I had this station (and all the pre-made sauces) laid out at home, I would make ceviche all the time!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Pura Vida - Day 2

Today was a pool day -- I enjoyed breakfast (bottom right) and dinner by the pool, read by the pool and swam. I also checked out the second beach. Although it was high tide, the walk down was very pretty (middle right).


During breakfast I kept hearing a bunch of noises and noticed the trees swaying, despite a lack of wind. When I looked closer, I realized there were about 15-20 monkeys climbing about and eating their breakfast. Then, some unidentified creature showed up next to my table. Apologies in advance for how this was shot but I didn't want to miss a howl!

After a leisurely morning, I enjoyed a blissful, 90-minute massage. The therapist was even nice enough to take my picture. which I told her would be the only non-selfie one of my vacation.
For dinner I checked out the last of three restaurants at the resort: Ostra. Situated next to the pool and under a full moon, this open-air eatery was incredible. If you frequent this blog, you know I eat my way around the world and this meal was one of my best. Not to make you hungry but I have to share the details of my feast. The meal started off with an amuse-bouche (not pictured) of ginger, soy salmon chevice.

From top left: seasame encrusted sweet tofu in a cucumber, chile oil gazpacho with the signature cocktail - the Ostra: Tanqueray Ten gin, rosemary, grapefruit juice, lemongrass and ginger syrup. Bottom left:
asparagus, shrimp and ayote (squash) risotto, which had more shrimp than risotto - yum! Top right: deconstructed ayote cheesecake with caramelized cashews. Needless to say, I went to bed full and happy. Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Pura Vida - Day 1

As most of you reading this have heard, I am changing jobs -- leaving Water.org and heading to Bank of America. With this change comes a lot of fodder for reflection so I thought it would be nice to get away somewhere for the week in between. I had been to Costa Rica several years back with my friend Stef to learn how to surf and I've wanted to come back ever since. So, here I am!

I booked myself for five days at the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort (my room above). Brian didn't want to be away from work this week, so it's just me -- which seems confusing for the staff here, but, yes, table for one please.
I love presents and my room came with complimentary sun hats, coconut candies, granadilla fruit and minibar full of snacks and drinks. There are also a bunch of activities planned for the week on the schedule above (I've signed up for three classes so far). I also love the indoor/outdoor rain shower.
I explored around the property after I arrived and had a little lunch. There are two pools, three beaches, a gym, spa and three restaurants. I headed to Chao Pescao for the tapas happy hour. I love how everything is open-air -- despite the sprinkling rain, you still felt the breeze. I had some salmon ceviche, fresh corn tortas with fresh salsa and guacamole with a basil mojito (complete with burning stick of cinnamon, who knew?). It was all delicious and I happily headed back to my room for some sleep.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Soaking in Kenya

On Sunday, we decided to explore some Kenyan culture. We started at the Giraffe Center which is working to conserve the endangered Rothschild giraffes and educate youth about conservation in Kenya. The giraffe we visited with was named Daisy who was quite hungry. We learned that giraffes eat 75 pounds of food a day. At the center they also had a turtle enclosure and warthogs -- who are apparently uninvited but continue to burrow under the fence to have their babies.

After that, we headed to the Bomas of Kenya for a cultural dance, music and acrobatic show. It was hard to stay in your seat! (Check out some of the action below.) We ended our day with dinner at the Sarova Stanley Hotel and I had the fish in chips, served in a giant serving chandelier (not sure what else to call it). It was delicious and the waiter was excited to present the dish to me (those arms with things in them were attached to the plate you can see behind it).


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Maasai Market Morning

This has been a busy week of work in Nairobi getting ready for a conference next week but we were finally able to take a break today and head out to the Maasai Market. My co-worker, Madeleine, and I grabbed a cab after a late breakfast and started our day with major bargaining. We were talking about how our moms would love the market and want to buy everything - sorry, moms, we just couldn't fit it all in our suitcases, you'll have to come check it out for yourselves. After the market, we stopped by a local mall to look for an outfit for Madeline and found these pretty sweet, tiny hats for US$100 which was way too much but the photo was free.
For about US$85 I took home this haul. One thing isn't pictured because it's a gift (well, a couple things pictured are gifts too, but you'll just have to act surprised). My favorites: jammy pants (super soft with pockets!), a woven bowl (which will look perfect on my coffee table), a glass bead and brass necklace and a sisal and leather woven purse. If you ever come for safari, this is a must-see stop. Thanks for stopping by and stay tuned for more weekend adventures!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Fall Crawl


Some of you may remember my post from last spring about the Caffeine Crawl, you can check it out here. Curious about whether a second crawl could live up to the fun of the first time, we bought tickets months ago (because it sells out fast!) and headed out yesterday on the yellow school bus for another round of coffee and chocolate in KC.
Our stops for the day included: Hi Hat Coffee, Annedore's Fine Chocolate, Broadway Cafe + Roasting Company, Kaldi's Coffee, PT's Coffee, All About Coffee and Parisi Artisan Coffee. The day focused on education and we each made our own latte with a milk coach, mixed a coffee blend of beans, learned about kitchen science with homemade coffee caviar and pomegranate pop rocks, taste-tested the difference between washed and natural coffee beans and performed pour overs.
It was another great day of tasting and exploring the city (and the weather cooperated this time, which was a nice surprise after it poured during the last crawl). The places we visited were generous and filled our bellies with everything from toddy-flavored cream puffs to chocolate covered popcorn and sent us home with beans to brew. The LAB, who organizes this and similar events across the country, is apparently working on a food and cocktail tour that should be hitting our Royal-blue city soon so stay tuned to their website and/or the blog and I will keep you posted!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Weekend Getaway

After returning from a week and a half India, I wanted to unwind with a little weekend roadtrip to Bentonville, Arkansas to check out a new exhibit, State of the Art, at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. For those who know me, I am not an art museum kind of person, but this particular exhibit showcases 102 contemporary American artists that are relatively unknown, until now. I also like the idea of people around the country working to create beautiful things, even if just for themselves.
We stayed at the 21c Museum Hotel, which is connected to the museum by a series of walking trails. The hotel itself is quite nice and has a large gallery on the first floor that is open to the public 24 hours a day. The best part is that you can get a drink at the bar and walk around while looking at the pieces. I liked the suitcase bench right outside the front door.
We took a quick stroll around downtown (nothing is open on Sunday afternoon besides the Wal*Mart Museum) and got ready for dinner, which was right downstairs from our room. The Hive is a hip but relaxed restaurant with delicious and inventive cocktails (I had a pineapple and espresso concoction). They also place green, plastic penguins around the restaurant as you eat - we had one that shared cocktails and a cheese plate with us. The food was excellent - I had an Autumn salad with gingered beets, the tomato panisse and we shared the apple crumble with bourbon ice cream and caramel sauce. It was topped off with cotton candy that was served with the bill - I was too stuffed to have more than a bite.
After a yummy breakfast the next morning (a latte, fresh berries and an apricot muffin), we hiked over to the museum. The pieces ranged from whimsical pottery (upper left) to giant pinatas (upper right) to a ladder you climbed to view a miniature scene (middle left) to a giant, amazing quilt (middle right) to a floating ladder man symbolizing economic struggle (bottom right). Along the way, we had some lunch at the museum cafe (they always have such great food). I had the sweet potato soup, the kid's grilled cheese and a frosted sugar cookie. In all, it was a great way to spend a day away from home. If you're in the area, the State of the Art exhibit is open until January 19th and you should definitely check it out!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What does the goat say?

I am currently in India with new partners of my organization from Peru, Indonesia and the Philippines to show them how our programs operate. Today, we visited branch offices and borrowers who take loans for toilets, small businesses, water connections, education, health and other things through a joint-liability group structure. This means that the group members guarantee payment for each other in the instance where they cannot pay for some reason. These visits can sometimes be a challenge because they are conducted in two or three languages (depending on the local dialect).

At one point, I was asking the women what they did for work now that they were able to do so. Many of them were not able to work before they had a toilet or a water connection as they were spending large amounts of time walking and waiting for water. They were telling us about all of the different things they did -- tailoring, working in a factory, running a small shop -- and one of them mentioned that she had bought a goat to raise. Now, you may not know this about me, but I do a pretty high quality goat impression. So, I went ahead and tried it out. It was a big hit and they asked for it more than once. This small and awkward exchange allowed us to laugh together and become part of the same conversation after all.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

More of What It's Really Like


One of my friends asked me in an email yesterday what it was like traveling to India. I usually paraphrase for people my own experience as: loud, crowded, spicy and overwhelming at times. But that doesn’t really even begin to give an accurate picture of what it's really like for me. So, here are a few more details, in case you were curious:
  • It’s waking up in the middle of the night, sweating profusely and wondering what disease you might have contracted, only to find the hotel lost power for half the night and the a/c has been off.
  • With a 10.5 or 11.5 hour time difference from home (depending on the season), it’s being so jetlagged that you wake up wondering if the time you see is am or pm.
  • Or it’s being so jetlagged that you take cold showers two days in a row, only to realize on the third day the hot and cold are switched on the tap. (Yeah, for morning #3!)
  • It’s being considered, catered to and looked out for by everyone you encounter, except if they are on a motorcycle, driving a car or an autotaxi, then you are just a bump/target along the road.
  • It’s praying that you make it an hour after your meal is over without any major rejections by your stomach or intestines.
  • It’s connecting to strangers quickly through personal questions asked about children (God will give them they always say to me), your husband’s profession (which Brian always passes with flying colors due to the booming IT scene here), what you like most about the town you happen to be in, what your favorite foods are and when you will return for a visit.
  • It’s feeling a bit like an alien because I'm "tall", fair skinned and the only other redheads around dye their brown/black hair with henna.
  • It’s being accepted for trying to adopt any of the culture around you. People always compliment my kurta (Indian tunic) or smile and laugh encouragingly to any phrases I have learned and try to repeat in Hindi.
  • It’s surrendering yourself to what you thought you knew about a place you’d heard about your whole life. It may not have been what I expected but it certainly grows on you.
  • It's feeling humbled to see how people live and feeling fortunate for how easy it is back home.
  • It's knowing that for all you think you might know, many mysteries, stories, cultures and rituals are present that will take a lot longer to begin to understand.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Birthday Week in Pictures

The boat dock on Grand Lake.
Scenery from my run along Grand Lake Stream.
An unplanned, two-day trip to Portland with my dad took place in the middle of the week. My birthday cake, served in a hospital waiting room while waiting on my grandpa's test results - so far, he's stabilized. We made it back to the lake on my birthday just in time for ice cream cake (not pictured). I've been coming to this lake, off and on, for the past 30 years, makes me feel old!
The view from the shore of Grand Lake, five steps from our cabin door.
Our cabin, just to the left of the closest tree.
For 20 years, there has been a folk art festival over the weekend of my birthday with art, canoes, music and food.
My family getting ready for a swim - my dad has the blue noodles and I have the purple ones.
Taking a sunset ride in my dad's canoe.
Sunset boat spray.
On our way to the airport, we stopped by Eagle's Nest Restaurant for some "breakfast" lobster rolls. Not a conventional choice, but tasty. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Behind Closed Doors

Maybe it's just me, but I've always wondered what goes on in the private airline lounges. Up until yesterday, I could only picture the version I'd seen in the movies (Up in the Air) or television (Mad Men). When I opened a United credit card (50K bonus miles and no foreign transaction fees), it came with two free one-day passes to the United Club. On my way back from Turin, I had two spare hours in Chicago -- after clearing customs (love my Global Entry card), rechecking my bag, and going through security -- which seemed like the perfect amount of time to check it out.

Through the frosted, glass doors lies a giant airline living room full of a variety of seating to suit any mood -- leather chair? upholstered chair? desk w/chair? barstool? -- along with free wifi, snacks, drinks, magazine/newspapers and a private set of bathrooms. Probably the best part though, it being Chicago O'Hare, is that there were probably two available outlets per person, which if you've ever hunted for an outlet in this airport in particular (even the vacuum cleaner outlets are locked when not in use), you know how rare that seems.
With the timezone change, my body was unsure of what meal it was supposed to be on so the available snacks took the hunger edge off. I was a little sad to have to pass up the free beer/wine but I figured my jet-lagged body couldn't handle that and allow me to make my flight back to Kansas City. The rest of the people looked pretty normal - no celebrity sightings or high powered meetings going on. It was relatively quiet, clean and made for a pleasant way to pass the time. I'm looking forward to using my second free pass in the near future.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Turin - Day 6

After the morning adventure at Eataly, I spent the afternoon packing, working and getting ready to head home tomorrow. In the evening, I met up with a new friend from the symposium and we headed out to see a bit of the city. After some walking and shopping, we stopped in the piazza San Carlo for a drink (prosecco and strawberries) and were treated to an array of tiny appetizers (making up for the 10 Euro drink price). While we sat and watched people walk by, we listened to the Festival Mozart rehearsal, which was pretty amazing. See it for yourself, check out the video below:

After a little more shopping, we sat down at another cafe for a drink and for two more Euros, we got access to the buffet - what a deal! While I did not love my drink (apparently I don't like Campari), the food was yummy and plenty for dinner. We headed back to the hotel to finish packing and get a little sleep before the 4:30am taxi to the airport. Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Turin - Day 5 - Eataly

When I lived in Rochester, NY I had access to the best supermarket ever - Wegmans. Not only did they carry every grocery item you could ever want, they also had amazing prepared foods (a variety of which you could eat in the store), bulk foods (which allowed me to get all the gummy candies without buying multiple bags), beautiful flowers and produce, beauty products and enough for the home that you could skip a trip to the hardware store. Upon graduation/marriage/moving across the country to California, Brian said he would miss Wegmans the most. Since then, we have certainly found grocery stores and specialty food stores that are reminiscent but never quite the same. This was until I walked into something better today - Eataly.

This store is next to the hotel I am staying in and chock full of the most amazing meats, cheeses, fish, pasta, kitchen gadgets, pastries, produce and chocolates I have ever seen. I'm a vegetarian and even looked at the smoked and cured meats for ten whole minutes. While I doubt you could do your regular shopping here, prohibited mostly by price, the place is rather captivating. I walked around the two-story building (one floor is just wine, beer and liquor) for about an hour and limited myself to only buying the tiny treats that would fit in my suitcase.

Around the store are food stations where you can get a glass of wine, a plate of freshly cut meats and cheeses, or a full meal. Even the fancy soaps, shampoos and books - all of which I couldn't really figure out what they were - were fun to look through.
Not planning a trip to Italy soon? Never fear, you can find Eataly in New York City, Chicago, Dubai, Istanbul and 10 stores around Japan.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Turin - Days 3 + 4

The past two days have gone by in a blur of symposium (they pointed out today that was not a conference) and work emails. I am a bit bummed that I won't see much of anything while I am here but I guess it's an excuse to come back another time. For now, I will leave you with my favorite treats from the past two days:

Chocolate gelato, tiramisu, quattro fromaggio pizza, and pasta with pesto.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Turin - Days 1 + 2

I've always had some luck with landing canceled/delayed flights, passenger oddities (I did tell you about the woman who lost her teeth on an 18-hour flight from India, right?) and several overnight "bonus" vacations in cities I wasn't supposed to be in - Memphis, Johannesburg, Chicago. However, my luck has increased lately to include something happening on every trip for the past year or so. My trip to Italy was no exception with flight delay, then maintenance, than a cancellation, a switch to a different airline and a lost bag. I really don't mind, as it makes for funny stories and I am still alive and well to tell them.

Before I could sleep, I had to have some pizza so I headed to Rossopomodoro which was one of the only places I could find open for an early dinner at 8pm. It was nothing fancy, it was mall food after all, but it was delicious.
After a fitful night's sleep, I spent the day learning, listening and meeting microfinance colleagues at the conference I am here to attend. After ten hours of that, it was time for dinner. I headed out with one of my co-workers, a woman we met from the States who is living in Tanzania and an Italian man living in Azerbaijan to Bastian Contrario. Up in the hills overlooking Turin, this restaurant was an interesting experience. The food was great but the characters surrounding it added additional flavor.

The meal started out with a glass of prosecco, fried sage and a buffet of 69 hot and cold appetizers. The waiter was not pleased at the amount of food we had consumed and refused us the pasta until we had reached a level of acceptability. We were then brought three pastas - gnocchi with roasted zucchini, ravioli with mint, nuts and cheese, and spaghetti with truffle sauce. The second course started with rabbit (which I did not eat) and then we ended with dessert, homemade ice cream, chocolate ganache and hazelnut crunchy bits. Washed down with plenty of red wine and a small glass of liquor from an ice-encrusted bottle, we left four hours later and headed for bed.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Around Arizona

We woke up in Sedona after a nice night's sleep. L'Auberge de Sedona has a half-mile creek hike that we planned to do after we got up. We watched the ducks for a little while, sat by the creek and then started our hike. Unfortunately, Brian found the mud quickly and we had to head back for some sink laundry before we checked out and headed south to Pheonix.
We hadn't had any Asian food on the trip yet, so I looked for a good Japanese restaurant for lunch. We ended up at Nobuo at Teeter House and were not disappointed. The waitress gave great recommendations and everything we had was so delicious and fresh. From the top, right corner (clockwise): my panko-fried soft shell crab sandwich on homemade focaccia with cucumber and kanzuri aioli; teeter tots - fried tofu in a spicy miso sauce; and the grapefruit and hamachi with avocado and white truffle ponzu oil. The building is a charming house with calming decor and has a wonderful dinner tasting that I'd like to try next time.
After lunch we drove to Scottsdale and walked around the mall before catching "Begin Again" at the movies. It was cute, I would recommend it if you liked "Once". Afterwards, we had a light dinner at The Herb Box in Old Town Scottsdale (which looks like a really fun place to walk around). The Vegan Nosh was amazingly good and we finished off all that healthy with a piece of cheesecake with a cashew caramel crust and a scoop of salted beer ice cream. With that, we dropped off our rental car and headed to our airport hotel. Thanks for traveling along!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Scouting Sedona - Day 3

We woke up the morning of July 4th to a basket full of patriotic breakfast. After a yummy bite to eat, I used the working payphone to call and say 'hi' to my parents. Because there is limited cell phone signal in the area, the owners keep the pay phone on with free calls to anywhere in the US, no coins needed.
I've shared this before, but I love using Yelp when I'm looking for a great place to eat, especially when I'm away from home. It always helps me find the best, local places that I would've never found on my own. I was excited to find a raved about, hot dog stand called Simon's Hot Dogs inside a brewery, mostly because they serve vegan, veggie and beef hot dogs. I ordered the traditional Colombian style with a veggie dog - pineapple, cheese and crushed potato chips - it was so delicious. Once you've ordered your food, you sit inside the brewery where there is a little bar and a big television. Since the Colombia/Brazil World Cup game was on, we stayed to route on Colombia (Brian is watching and couldn't pose for a head-on photo).
After lunch, it was time to check into L'Auberge de Sedona, where we had decided to celebrate our anniversary early. The top photo is of the tent that we had our creekside massages under - taking photos during a massage is awkward - and when I walked back after getting dressed, everything was already cleaned up. The other photos are of our room and the fancy sign/waterfall that is outside the lodge we're in.
Our creekside dinner got rained out, but the food tasted just as good inside. My meal was as follows (from bottom left, clockwise): dungeness crab crepe with roasted tomato, fennel, butter-braised shitake; goats crème with cherries, watercress, basil, rye milk jam poached new potato; smoked Scottish salmon with buttered peas, grapefruit, fennel bulb, roasted baby beets; and a chocolate gateaux named after the pastry chef with a salted wafer and sea-salt caramel sauce. The food was very good and we left full and satisfied. Happy 13 years, Brian Beard!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Scouting Sedonda - Day 2

At the "yet-to-be-named" place where we're staying, breakfast arrives in a basket outside your door each morning. If you get up early enough (thank you 2-hour time difference), the pastries inside are hot and fresh. After breakfast, we checked out a couple of parks to find the perfect place for a picnic/swim day. The first park, Slide Rock Park, had been near the wildfires so the swimming area was closed due to the runoff from the fires upstream. Although it will reopen in September, it is rumored to be so busy you can hardly find a spot. We did find lots of cute lizards like the one above though.
The next park we visited was "the one." It has everything we need for the whole family to enjoy a day together hiking, swimming, site seeing and having meals together. My favorite part is that we'll have our own covered picnic area with private parking and compost toilets. It also has spectacular views of one of the world's most photographed red rock formations - Cathedral Rock (above).
We hiked around the park and checked out all three swimming holes (although a stream runs through the park and you can pretty much get in wherever you want). After checking everything out we were getting quite hungry so we headed to Oak Creek Brewing Company for a couple of giant and yummy salads - Brian had the BBQ chicken salad and I had the Baja shrimp salad. Afterwards, we walked around the shops in the area and then headed back to our cabin.
The property where we're staying for the reunion owns a half-mile of creek across the road. Brian and I cooled off before a storm rolled in and we got evacuated in case of a flash flood. We stuck close to home for the night and enjoyed a casual dinner and beers from the camp market. I worked on the reunion schedule and Brian read. I think we'll be ready to share the details with the McGoldrick clan within the next week or so. Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Scouting Sedona - Day 1

Starting back in 1989, Brian's mom's side of the family has a reunion every three years. His mom is the oldest of seven children and so far the gatherings have rotated through the siblings to plan. Two years ago, the last 'kid' in the family hosted, and the torch was passed along to the next generation -- literally, there is a construction paper torch in our basement now. Brian is the oldest of the grandkids, so we have the honor of planning the 2015 reunion. The rules are fairly simple - the host picks a place and plans it out, everyone find their way to the chosen spot and then we enjoy a fun weekend together. When we figured out when our turn would be, probably ten years ago, I had picked Sedona.

I've been here twice, once with my mom and my aunt and once with Brian for our 10th wedding anniversary. It's such a beautiful place, teeming with things to do, amazing food to eat, drinks to drink and sunsets to be savored (sunrise is probably nice too but that happens way too early). When we announced the destination to the rest of the family at the end of the last reunion, as is tradition, everyone seemed excited, so we began planning the adventure that is a weekend, destination reunion for 37 people (if there are no births, adoptions or marriages in the next 12 months).

When planning a trip for a wide range of ages and interests, variety is key - indoor/outdoor, active/passive, etc. After a stop at the official visitor's center, we hopped on one of the Trolley Tours routes and got a closer look at some of the rock formations, while evaluating the fun-factor of the trolley itself. Afterwards, we were parched so we stopped in at the oldest operating restaurant in Sedona, The Cowboy Club, for a prickly pear margarita and some fried cactus. Yum!

We checked into our cabin (not giving it away until it's posted on the official reunion website) and took a tour of the place. We rested up for dinner with a nap and headed back down (in elevation) to the Elote Cafe, which we had come to three years ago and Brian has raved about ever since. Unlike many amazing things the second time around, Elote did not disappoint. From the Elote (fresh corn dip) to the ginger margarita to the grilled ahi tuna tacos, every flavor was perfect. My only regret was that I was far too stuffed for dessert. Maybe next time!