A Quick Status Update 
Sunday, December 20, 2009, 09:14 PM
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Half Marathon Training
On track with 41 days to go! Of course, I leave on Wednesday for nine days in cold, snowy New England. I'm not sure how the plan will hold up in the face of inclement weather and family parties, but the fact that it requires running only 3 days a week definitely works in my favor.

I spent a large part of the weekend making 4 dozen chocolate truffles. Mmmm... I learned a lot - the next batch should be quicker.

One day of work left in 2009 - WOO HOO!

Still putting a smile on my face every day and keeping me warm every night. You may notice a fourth furkid in the photo - this is Otto, a holiday visitor.

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No. AZ Road Trip Day 8 – Sedona to Tucson 
Monday, December 7, 2009, 09:28 PM
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This was it - our final day of our Northern Arizona adventure! To make the most of it, we awoke early to catch the sunrise from Airport Mesa. As you can see, we weren't the only ones with this idea.

We had planned to hit the road right after breakfast, but had enjoyed our previous night's dinner at Chocola Tree so much that we decided to stick around for another meal. To kill time until their 11:00 opening, we browsed some art galleries and then stumbled upon a store seemingly made just for Paul - an olive oil store! That's right, an entire store dedicated to olive oils of various origins and flavors. Sampling was encouraged and Paul was happy to oblige.

We found our Chocola Tree lunch to be well-worth our delayed departure. We enjoyed Carrot Ginger Soup, Thankful Potato Soup, Bruschetta and Pecan Pie, along with some fun samples our server whipped up. We were the only patrons and I think he was bored.

Overall, it was a fantastic trip! Northern Arizona is a beautiful part of the world and, while it is chilly in November, exploring it in the off-season allowed us to avoid the crowds. I could not have asked for a better vacation or a better travel partner. Or should I say, pardner?

You can see more of Paul's wonderful photos from this trip on his website.
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No. AZ Road Trip Day 7 – Sedona 
Sunday, December 6, 2009, 04:30 PM
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While other people I know were up before dawn risking their lives at Black Friday sales, we slept in and then met friends, Bob & Eileen, for a late morning hike followed by a delicious lunch at Wildflower. We found that the farther we got from Najavo country, the better our food options became.

Fueled up again, we returned to the trails for a glorious loop on Brin's Mesa, Soldier's Pass and some other trails. It's been quite a while since I've run on trail and I loved every minute of it. Fresh air, red rocks, dirt under my feet. Ahhh.....

There were certain parts I loved a little less than others, like when the jeep tours came through and interrupted our solitude. However, we did learn a few things by eavesdropping on their commentary at the Devil's Kitchen sinkhole.

We stopped frequently for pictures and to play with dogs. Sedona is an amazingly dog-friendly pace - just one more reason to love it!

For dinner, we chose Chocola Tree, a raw food restaurant. And we chose wisely. I like hot foods way to much to go completely raw, but I love how healthful and creative (not to mention gluten-free) the diet is. We had the Kelp Noodles with Nut Sauce and the "Turkey" Sandwich Plate made with leftovers from the previous day's holiday feast. The "turkey" was actually nutloaf which is much tastier than it sounds.

We finished the meal with coconut ice cream and a slice of the Chocolate Ganache Pie. It was divine.

Fully sated, we headed to Tlaquepaque for their Festival of Trees. We had no idea what this was, but, having skipped the Black Friday craziness, we were due for some holiday cheer.

Various groups had created themed Christmas trees (or cacti) that were being auctioned off for charity. Here was our favorite - the decorations are used light bulbs of all varieties that were collected from local stores and painted.

And while this store was closed, we couldn't resist a photo. Sedona draws an eclectic group of people.

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No. AZ Road Trip Day 6 – Lake Powell to Sedona 
Friday, December 4, 2009, 08:33 AM
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Our holiday started off in the traditional way with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV, but that's where the tradition ended. We discovered that most restaurants either close for the day or offer a fixed menu laden with gluten, and so we had a rather international Thanksgiving with mediocre Mexican (Oaxaca Restaurant) for lunch and fabulous Korean (Mago Cafe) for dinner.

That morning, just outside of Page, we made a sunrise photo stop at Horseshoe Bend, a breathtaking feat of nature. There were only a few other sightseers, including a rather enthusiastic young couple. Upon first seeing Horseshoe Bend, he eloquently exclaimed, "Holy shit! Holy shit! Oh shit!" Later, despite temperatures in the 30's, she whipped off her top to pose for a photo in a dazzling red bra. (Sorry, she was not posing for our camera.)

With our book-on-tape, The Alchemists Daughter, as entertainment, we drove straight through to Sedona where we checked in at Sugarloaf Lodge. Finding reasonably-priced lodging in Sedona on Thanksgiving weekend is no easy task. At the very un-Sedona price of $75 per night (including tax), Sugarloaf Lodge is no-frills, but very clean and more than adequate. And really, in a town this beautiful, who really wants to spend much time in the hotel room?

We hit the trails immediately for a short, yet inspiring, hike to Fay Canyon and the Fay Canyon Arch.

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No. AZ Road Trip Day 5 – Lake Powell 
Monday, November 30, 2009, 10:06 PM
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Now that I have returned to the real world of working for a living, I'll need to speed up the blogging if I hope to finish this vacation report before my next vacation starts (New England in less than 4 weeks - woohoo!). So, I'll be hitting the highlights for the second half of our adventure.

We were pleased with our lodging at the Days Inn and relieved to be able to leave our belongings in the same place for two whole nights. My only gripe was that the hot tub was closed for the season. "The season" apparently refers to that time of year during which it's cold outside and feels really good to soak in hot water.

Anyway, we had a jam-packed day starting with an interesting tour of the Glen Canyon Dam...

...followed by a 2.5-hour photography tour of Antelope Canyon. Paul had been anticipating this visit for months and even bought a special camera lens to capture the famous swirling rock formations.

The photography tour differs from the regular tour in that it is one hour longer and the entire time is spent setting up and taking photos. They don't waste any time discussing history, geology and such - just camera speed and angles. I spent much of the time chatting with the other photographer's wife and saying things like, "Nice one honey." The canyon is truly spectacular.

Being faithful to my half marathon training plan, I squeezed in a 5-mile tempo run that afternoon. We spent the warm-up portion of the workout searching for the mythical "Rim Trial" touted by two different guidebooks before giving up and just meandering our way around the not-so-scenic streets of Page.

After a high-priced, low quality meal the previous night at The Dam Bar & Grille, we decided to get creative for dinner. Pictured here is the finest meal in Page, including salad, entree, dessert and wine. (Notice how we utilized the coffee plate as a tortilla warmer.)

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