5 Things – Sedona, AZ

Posted by Jen on July 9, 2009 in 5 Things, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of..., Photography, Wonder(ful) with Comments closed |

I’ve had a love affair with Sedona for many years. Seriously, I think it’s been almost 15 years now. With all of that love and history, where do I begin? [Can you hear me humming?]

Here are my “5 Things” about Sedona.

1. Peace

There is something about Sedona and the Red Rock area that puts me at peace. I’m not sure what it is. I just know that when I’m there, the stupid self talk stops and the still,quiet voice inside gets heard.


Also, I think I’m just generally a much nicer, happier person when I’m there. That self talk can do a real number on your disposition.

The Sedona area is said to be the location of some spiritual vortexes and there are certainly quite a few folks making money selling tours and what I’ll call “vortex paraphernalia”.

Depending on your beliefs, you can chalk it up to the vortexes supposedly there, I guess. My personal beliefs don’t necessarily run that way, but I can’t deny that there is something different about the place. I just know that when I can use a little peace in my life, I’ll find it in Sedona.

2. Diversity

is a place where everyone can find something. For such a small town, that’s pretty amazing. And the diversity is everywhere in everything!


  • You can tent camp next to Oak Creek or find a posh $250+ a night bed and breakfast. [We splurged one year … if you are going to splurge on a B&B in Sedona, I can recommend this one!]
  • You can find a quick deli snack or a $50+ a plate meal.
  • You can be in the desert one minute and in a riparian area – so green you can’t imagine – it in the next.

I’ve not been there yet with someone who didn’t find something to like about the place. You can go to shop, hike, visit galleries, mountain bike, ride horses, or just hang out. In the times I’ve visited, I’m not sure that we’ve ever done the same thing twice. It’s all good!

3. Umm …  Red Rocks


OK, seriously. There is no place on earth like Red Rock country. I actually think it’s better than the Grand Canyon – although that might be because it’s more accessible.

The colors are just stunning everywhere you turn and the formations are just awesome. Most pictures don’t do the area justice … although on our recent trip, I certainly tried! [It's an amazing place to practice your photography habit!]

One of my favorite places to visit is the Chapel of the Holy Cross. The architecture is just amazing and the church itself is so simple. The simplicity makes it a perfect match for the amazing “cathedral” of rocks around it. I just love it!

There are hikes and tours to just about anywhere you would want to go want to go – and you can find something suitable for all ages and abilities. [I don't hike, normally. I will here. It didn't/doesn't kill me.]

At the end of the day, however you get wherever you get, a good long sit and stare is necessary and appropriate!

4. Water

ocreekblogWhen you are surrounded by desert, water is important – and interesting – and wonderful. Oak Creek is life to the areas around Sedona. The area gets about 10 inches of rain each year and depends on the run off from the Flagstaff area. But, no matter what the season, water is a main attraction.

In the summer, Slide Rock State Park is packed with folks trying to cool off in the cold waters of Oak Creek. I must tell you that it’s not my cup of tea … but clearly it works for a lot of people!

I think I prefer to experience the life of the canyons here in other ways. I love to sit and eat at The Hideaway where you can thoroughly enjoy a great pizza and cream soda (or whatever you like) on a terrace overlooking Oak Creek. And I’ve recently ventured into the canyon itself … the hikes into the Oak Creek area – West Fork Oak Creek Trail and Huckaby Trail were two that got us “waterside” and allowed us to see the area from a different perspective!

5. Tlaquepaque

OK … this may be a stretch, but I have to put Tlaquepaque (pronounced Tla-keh-pah-keh) in the mix just because it’s a fun word to say!


Seriously though, you can watch artists sculpt in clay as they prepare the models for amazing bronze sculptures. You can get a great meal. [Can I get a WOOT for beer-battered fries prepared in the local brew?] You can sit and listen to musicians play in the courtyards. It’s an amazing place … and one of the many places to see artists of all kinds in the Sedona area.

Oh, and the flowers, fountains, and sycamore trees in this place are just wonderful! And, at Christmastime? Forget it. You just want to stay!

For me Tlaquepaque represents all of the cool places to discover in the Sedona area. It’s a place where you can see/get things you just can’t anywhere else – some are pretty pricey (fantastic art usually is) and some are perfect for taking a bit of Sedona home with you.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If you get a chance to visit Sedona, don’t turn it down. Whether for the day or for the week, it’s worth it. Yep, everyone goes there – it’s not off of the vacation radar. There’s a reason for that – embrace it!

Oh, and while you’re there? Don’t be afraid to “go off-road” a bit. There is a lot to see and do … and learn!

[Wow. I may have just sounded like your mother there. Sorry about that! Now, go book your ticket! What are you waiting for???]

I'll be hoppin' along now ...

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Red, White, and the Bluest Sky Ever

Posted by Jen on July 8, 2009 in Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of..., Photography |

Photobucket The challenge over at Beth’s this week was “Independence Day” (or food) and I’m so glad that she didn’t say “the 4th”!

See, Husband and I were truly experiencing independence this Independence Day. Little Man and BK are spending a few weeks at their Gram’s house and we found ourselves on our own for the long holiday weekend! What to do?

We headed to one of my favorite places on the planet – Sedona, AZ – for a get-away and it was a wonderful weekend full of exploring Red Rock country. [Also, we got to eat many meals in restaurants without worrying about meltdowns and kids' menus.]

I must confess before we get to the pics. I don’t hike – well, not normally. But, you really can’t experience all of Sedona without going off-road at least a little. So, like all sensible people, I decided that I could do two hikes a day – one in the morning and one in the evening. [Um, suffering for art? Nah, I'll blame the heat!]

So, without further ado, we’ll start with nature’s red, white, and blue and then move on a sampling of nature in northern Arizona!


red rock state park - believe it or not this is straight from the camera

It’s monsoon time in the desert so it’s quite common to get late day rains. We thought we were going to get rained out of a sunset hike in Red Rock State Park. Instead, we got treated to a lightening show followed by this rainbow (which actually ended up being a double). Then it passed and we were able to hike away!


cathedral rock shot from red rock state park - slightly modified the shadows/highlights

Oak Creek supplies water to the area and it’s truly a life giving thing. There are quite a few riparian areas in Sedona and they are just stunning in their colors and creatures – so different from the high desert that surrounds them. Amazing!


running water in oak creek canyon - straight out of camera

I had my polarizing filter on almost the whole time we were out and about. I love the green of this funky old tree against the blue sky.


red rock state park - used a polarizing filter

This guy. Oh my word! He was just hanging out when we walked by on our sunset hike. For whatever reason, I couldn’t get my camera to focus so that I could capture him. He stayed still for something like 20 attempts – just posed. He finally moved when the guide with us moved his hand to show us the petroglyphs that were above him!


red rock state park - adjusted color slightly to bring out his green

I have no idea what these are, but they just begged for a picture. They were the only plants like this and were surrounded by a field of green!


OK … this next one is funky and I like it. We went up to the airport to watch the sunset (popular place to watch the sunset, by the way). We’d been out hiking in Fay Canyon until right up to sunset and we were tired! I wasn’t even going to take a picture because the sunset wasn’t all that pretty. But, we’d driven up there, so I took a shot just after the sun sunk behind the mountain.

I forgot that I had the polarizing filter on and this is what the sunset looked like to my camera. The shadows in the black are the layers of the mountains west of town.


sunset from the airport - polarizing filter and some shadow/highlight adjustment

Did I mention that Sedona is one of my favorite places on the planet??? Yeh, I get kind of carried away. These are seven of the almost 500 pictures I shot in four days! (More pictures will be coming in my 5 Things – Sedona post.)

I hope you enjoyed and if you get a chance to visit Sedona? Do it!

I'll be hoppin' along now ...

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Really? It’s Just a Flight, Right?

Posted by Jen on July 6, 2009 in Lessons Learned, Mommyhood |

My mother is a wonderful grandma. [She's also a wonderful person, but that's really beyond the scope of this post.] Every year, she and my dad invite my kids to spend a month or so with her – without us. She’s done it since Little Man was 6 months old and I can’t tell you how much he looks forward to the visit every year!

[Yes, we know, we are very lucky. Yes, we know, that some will hate us for the blessing that is my mother. We can live with that.]

So we’ve reached the time when, for a little while, Husband and I revert back to DINK-dom. Ahhh … but not really. You see, once you have kids, you can never go back to anything else because you are ALWAYS thinking about … worrying about, missing, doing impressions of … your kids.

I do, however, embrace this time. It’s catch up, work hard, and don’t feel guilty time. I need it – desperately. But, I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that it’s getting harder and harder to put them on that plane. It’s getting much harder.

I would now like to share with you my experience for this year’s flight – the one that took my children almost 2000 miles from home. It’s OK if you laugh with at me. Really.

5:00 AM

Ugh. What? Oh. Dang. We need to hurry. Good thing Little Man slept in his clothes last night. Is Gram up?

5:30 AM

Ugh. OK … are we all ready? Little Man, you ready to go? Where are you? (Already downstairs in the car. Might be a tad excited.)

Awake enough now for self-talk and a stomach ache.

This is just nerves. Stop it. They’ll be fine. OK, gotta get going.

6:00 AM

Leave for the airport. Little Man talks non-stop. BK still trying to figure out why she’s up so dang early. Frankly, so am I.

6:45 AM

Arrive at the airport. Small talk abounds – little airport discussions. Little Man still talking – the car screw is his favorite part (that would be the circular ramp to the parking garage). When exactly did he become a morning person?

7:15 AM

Checked in. On the way to security. Little Man has had a bathroom stop. Husband and I are now realizing that they will be gone in about 10 minutes. Security guys somewhat empathetic to our plight tell us to move out of their neutral zone – but allow us to remain in the security line at the front so that we can watch.

We say a quick good-bye. Kids don’t cry – at all.

7:25 AM

Security is cleared. [They made BK walk through without my mom ... what? I can't even begin to explain this.] They are gone. Husband and I leave for work. Not much to say. Sad.

7:55 AM

Scheduled take off.

8:00 AM

I arrive at work – grouchy and, now that the adrenaline is gone, very tired. Did I mention yet, that this all happened on a Monday. Just wrong.

8:15 AM

Logged on to FlightAware and watched the plane climb out and away. [I have never done this before in my life. I'm not sure what possessed me to do it this time.] Got quite a bit of my “Monday work” done while I watched that plane, that lovely little green line, safely move across the country.

9:40 AM

Checked the flight status for the 20th time (they were at 39000 feet and being guided by the folks in Fort Worth) and quietly realized that I’d become a bit obsessed. I mean, really? What would I have done if that little green plane graphic would have disappeared from the screen. Wait. Bad thought. Not good to think of this when the plane is in the air!!!!

The self-talk began again.

It’s just a flight. Do you have any idea how many flights come and go with no problems. You do. I know you do. This is just a flight. People do this all the time. YOU do this. It’s fine. Stop worrying.

10:55 AM

Announced to the coworkers lucky enough to be in my office that my kids were at 700 ft. Sick, I know, but relieved. It was at this moment that I realized that my life had all but stopped for about 2 hours 49 minutes. Stopped for the duration of a flight – for something I had absolutely NO control over.

10:56 AM

Called my dad to tell him to call me when he got them. Made sure that he was going to be there to help.

11:10 AM

The phone rang. Kids were wonderful and were fantastic travelers. “Everyone said so.” They were heading to lunch. Everyone was fine – a little excited and a little tired.

Looking back, the stress I felt during this everyday 2 hour and 49 minute flight is stunning to me. My parents are completely capable of taking care of my kids. Frankly, if they weren’t, there would be no flight. Still, it was somehow very comforting to watch my kids and my mom fly safely across that screen at 39000 feet with a minute-by-minute play-by-play if I’d have wanted it.

And then, somewhere in the echo of all of the relief, I heard the voice of  our Pastor who spoke about faith and expectations on the Sunday just prior to this crazy Monday flight. One where I was reminded that God is in control and that worry doesn’t change a thing … “less worry about the future means more peace in the present.” Coincidental timing? I don’t think so.

They’ve been with their Grandparents for a week now. In that time, Little Man has learned to fish, entered a fishing derby, and caught numerous fish (which he also released). BK has gotten to know her way around and has witnessed her first real fireworks show. They are sharing a room and taking care of each other just as well as my parents are taking care of them.

They are fine. They are alive – I mean really living. They are having the time of their lives and doing things that we simply couldn’t do here at home. Life is good.

They got on that plane … and they’re still flying! We all are.

I'll be hoppin' along now ...

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It’s About Time

Posted by Jen on July 1, 2009 in Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of..., Photography |

PhotobucketThe You Capture challenge this week was “photographer’s choice” … wide open. Oh my word.

I spent a bunch of time thinking about this one night when I couldn’t sleep and then, through the miracle of RSS, I got inspired!

A couple of weeks ago, Stephen the Novel Doctor posted a writing contest and Robin tweeted that she’d been working on an entry. Writing contests interest me a lot so I went to check it out! The contest involved writing a scene where a wristwatch played a key role. Interesting.

I’ve been following the results of the contest and reading the entries – some of which are very good, by the way. [The aforementioned Robin was in the top 10! You should go check out the results and read the scenes!!]

Then, it hit me! Wristwatches = time. I don’t have enough of that particular commodity right now. It’s fleeting. My challenge this week should be about capturing time.

And so it was.

I started out complicated (which is insane given that whole lack-of-time thing I just mentioned). I planned a series of progressions over time. None of them came out as I had envisioned, but this one certainly shows that all daylight is not the same when it comes to photography.

All four pictures in this “progression” were taken at different times of the day, in natural light, and using the same camera settings. They are straight from the camera with regard to “touch up” … I only pieced them together.


When complicated got, well, complicated, I decided to punt. I carried my camera around for a couple of days and took shots of things that I ran into as I raced around.

I just loved the sun and shadow on our fireplace one night this week. It was catching the light just right. Not a huge fan of the UGLY red pot sitting there, but meh.


When I took my eye from the viewfinder and looked up, I saw the moon against the blue sky. I’m a sucker for the moon against a blue sky! It’s kind of hard to believe that these two shots were taken at the same time of day by the same person standing in the same spot!


One morning on the way to work, I spent a few minutes watching them work the ground for a new tire shop (ironic, right?). The earth mover was right up by the road. I couldn’t resist. We’re quite smitten with really big earth-moving and construction equipment in our family!


The earth mover got stuck while I was snapping shots. I couldn’t imagine that it would actually get stuck, but it appeared to be! [The guys on the job looked extremely pleased that I was capturing it on film. Oy, the looks!]


The thing I like about this shot is that, after a little touch up, it looks like something I’d expect to see in a 1970s CAT catalog. It’s not what I intended … it’s a happy little accident!

And there it is. Time well spent?

I'll be hoppin' along now ...

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My Big Fat International Dinner Party

Posted by Jen on June 26, 2009 in Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of... with Comments closed |

Summer seems to bring out the “social” in us all. It’s the backyard barbecues, the pool parties, the tiki torches … it’s the laid back, take it easy reason to have a party season.

So, when we got an invitation recently to get together with a group of other couples for a planned “dinner event” that required participation, we didn’t hesitate to RSVP, “yes!”

sanpunch400500And then, when I posted this picture of the sangria that was served and got a please-pass-the-sangria response … well, I just had to describe the party. Because, if you’re planning a dinner party – or just want to do something different this summer, this is one I highly recommend!

Oh, and I should absolutely state for the record that this was not our idea. It was the brainchild of friends of ours who are GREAT get-together organizers! [If they got the idea from someplace else, I can't find it!]

So, we got an invitation that said,

The CoolPartyPlanners would like to invite you to join us for a dinner party on June 20, 2009. The catch is that YOU have to provide the dinner!

It’s a bit cheeky isn’t it? I love it!

The rules of the dinner are as follows:

  • Each couple/family/team selects a country of their choice and RSVPs to the hosts with this information. This allows the hosts to be sure there are no duplicate countries and to plan out the food agenda for the evening.
  • Each couple/family/team brings an entree, beverage, and appetizer or dessert from the country of their choice.  The serving size here is about 4-6 (depending on the number of couples/families/teams participating). The goal is to sample each dish rather than fill up!
  • The hosts prepare a serving schedule to determine which country is served first. Depending upon the number of couples/families/teams, 30-45 minutes for each country works nicely.
  • At the designated time, couples present their dishes – either in come-and-get-it style or with great aplomb – and the feasting begins.

The schedule might look something like this:

5:00 – Mexico

5:30 – Cuba

6:00 – Germany

6:30 – France

7:00 – Greece


You might also schedule a walk (or at least a push away from the table) break in there somewhere because this will be a lot of food – a lot!

OK … now for a couple of practical live-and-learn things.

  • All of the couples attending this little shindig had kids about the same age. So, kids were welcome to come and play. They ate Mac-n-Cheese and kool-aid! It was great and, for the most part, the grown-ups got to do their own thing. We got a babysitter for BK so that we could stay a bit later in the evening without worrying about her bedtime. But … this could be kid-full or kid-free with equal success.
  • Given that there is a LOT of food and a LOT going on, it might be nice for the hosts NOT to cook! It kind of depends on the hosts, but really, providing the place and the “stuff” that goes with a dinner party is more than enough!
  • This is way fun if folks try new dishes … stuff they’ve never cooked before! Nobody’s going home hungry if something doesn’t work so it’s a really safe time to try that new recipe from the food network! Same goes for eating … if you do this, make yourself a deal to try everything! You might be surprised! [I don't like guacamole - never have. Loved. Loved. Loved the guacamole served!!! Who knew?]
  • If your party goers like adult beverages, make sure to remind them about the need for a DD! There are a lot of yummy adult beverages served around the world … many will show up!

End the evening, outside if possible, just enjoying the company while some brave and crazy souls go back for more food. It happened, I was a witness.

If anyone goes home hungry from this party, well, that’s just user error if you know what I mean!

I'll be hoppin' along now ...

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