Spring Training and Sister Time

Wow- I’m waaay behind on blog posts for Sugar Sand! I have been focused this past year on getting the word out about a cookbook I recently co-wrote, but I am back now to, hopefully, a more even balance of main employment, cookbooks, and photography. I’m going to try anyway!

Last month, my sisters and I all met back up (after a hiatus last year) in Phoenix for our long weekend of fun, sister time, and Seattle Mariners Spring Training. We stay at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort (I love to say “tapatio”) which has great landscaping and colorful architecture on the grounds, and also has a variety of great pools to get in as much sun as possible! And these white Seattle legs needed it that’s for sure! In addition, the resort is located right next to the North Phoenix Mountain Preserve, so we can go on our morning hikes before we hit the sun and baseball. The beautiful hiking trails and the proximity of them to the resort make it one of my most favorite parts of the vacation. Within a few minutes you feel like you’re really out in the middle of nowhere and able to really relax and enjoy the beauty that is Arizona.

Here are some photos taken of the hotel grounds, on our hikes, and at the baseball games and practices. I’m already looking forward to the next trip!

 

 

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Wonderful Book and Subsequent Fieldtrip

I recently read a book that I enjoyed so much, I still can’t stop thing about it. I’m even half considering re-reading it again! As soon as I finish this post!

The book is called “The Boys in the Boat” and it is about the varsity crew from the University of Washington who won the gold medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany.

 

The book is great for so many reasons. First, and most importantly, it’s about one unit of nine guys and their boat, the Husky Clipper. They worked together, they failed together, and they won together. Much of the story focuses on one of the rowers in particular: Joe Rantz. The author talks in the prologue about his first meeting with an elderly Joe and his daughter, to discuss writing the book. Even some 60 years later, the thought of his other teammates and their amazing journey together as one, brought him to tears when speaking about it. His one condition to writing is was to be sure it was “not just about me. It has to be about the boat.”

This was a group of young boys growing up during the Depression, who came from small towns in the Pacific Northwest (an area barely even known about to the rest of the country at that time) and many of whom barely had enough money to eat; let alone get themselves through school. And at that time, the UW crew was hardly the powerhouse it is today. Before they could even get to Germany to race for gold, they had to beat the incredible US teams; which, at that time, we’re predominantly from the East Coast. Once they did make it to Berlin, they were going up against the fierce and extremely driven Germans and the Italians. Teams that had funding for days and had damn near professional athletes.

And it wasn’t only those nine boys and the Husky Clipper going up against the Germans at that time. These Olympics were just a few years before the start of World War II and the global tension and worldwide concern was reaching it’s peak. It was the entire nation behind these boys and pinning so much on them in Berlin. Their ability to tune that out and to stick together and rise to the occasion is what makes this book so great.

I also found the details and explanations of rowing, as well as the character back stories and narratives particularly fascinating and engrossing to read. Living in the Seattle area, it was really cool to read about all the references in and around the city and to learn new things. I was constantly like I know where that is” or “I didn’t know that’s who Royal Brougham was!”

I was so sad when I came to and began reading the epilogue. One, because it was sad as the years pass and they begin to die, and two because I was coming to the end of the book. I think when you are truly sad to see a book end, and want to immediately re-read it as I do, then you know it was something pretty special. I can only say I’ve had that experience a handful of times, which makes this on my “Top 5” of all-time list for sure.

At the end, the author talks about what happened to the Husky Clipper, and how it is now hanging in the ceiling of the Dining Hall at the University of Washington shell house. Seeing as that’s only about 10 minutes from where I work, I decided to go by one afternoon and check it out. I have to say, it was a very moving moment for me. Surprisingly so actually. I looked up into the shell of the boat, and saw all 9 different foot holds; leather and worn after 70 years. I walked from one end to the other, rattling off their names, and trying to picture these young boys sitting in it and rowing together in perfect unison. It was so special and something I won’t soon forget.

A wonderful story and a great read. I highly recommend it.

 

 

 

Our Recent Visit to Iceland

My apologies for the long post this time. They normally aren’t this bad, but I had a lot to share from our recent trip to Iceland!

 

Even as far back as the Fall of 2013, I began wondering “WHAT would be a cool thing to do for my 40th birthday?” (which wasn’t until that next March). Nothing really came to mind until I came across a deal on Living Social entitled “Reykjavik Nights: A 4-day, 3-night stay in Iceland.”

“That’s IT” I thought! How cool would Iceland be?! A quick whipping out of a credit card, a few clicks of the mouse later, and next thing you knew it; we were headed to Iceland. And we would be going just a week before my birthday. Perfect timing!

Andy and I were International travel newbies for sure. I had been to the Bahamas, but being a Floridian, that barely counts, so, needless to say, we were a little nervous when the travel day actually got here. We landed at Keyflavik International Airport on a Thursday morning and got on a couple of different buses, taking us to downtown Reykjavik and onto our hotel. After we checked in and dropped off our bags (the room wasn’t ready yet. It was, after all, only 9:00 in the morning and the people were still in their rooms!), we headed to the City Centre and did some sightseeing. The city sits right on the water, so it’s quite stunning. I also noticed a lot of murals and artistic drawings and graffiti (as you’ll see in the photo gallery). One thing I had heard about Iceland is that often times, and experienced it firsthand as we were sightseeing, is that Iceland can have all 4 seasons of the weather in one day. Man, that was definitely true! One minute the weather was quite pleasant and I could take some pictures, and then it was a full on, wind blowing sideways blizzard! After we did some more sightseeing and got some lunch, we headed back to the hotel; completely exhausted.

While we didn’t get to see the Northern Lights due to cloudiness (the only bummer of the trip), we did go on two very interesting tours over the next couple of days. One was the Reykjavik City tour and the other was called the “Golden Circle” tour.

The city tour was a nice way to learn about the history of Reykjavik and just to see the downtown and other nearby sites. We saw the President’s house, the “Pearl” (the highest point in the city- where the warm water from underground is pumped to, for distribution throughout the area), and the house where the 1986 Reagan/Gorbachev summit was held. It was a really nice tour.

The “Golden Circle” tour was billed as a “must see”, wonderful thing to do on your first visit to Iceland and wonderful it was. The tour consisted of seeing the following sites: Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir geothermal area, and the Gullfoss (“Golden Falls”) waterfall.

Thingvellir is where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart at a rate of a few centimeters/year. That spot is the only place in the world where this separation happens above sea level. Having a minor degree in geology, Andy thought this was particularly cool (as did I). And I believe the tour guide had said that some of the HBO show “Game of Thrones” was filmed there as well. Thingvellir is also important historically, because it is where the parliament would meet during the long summer days. Their parliament is the oldest in the world; dating back to 930 AD.

The Gullfoss waterfall was socked in with fog when we first got there, but as I mentioned earlier, the weather changes very quickly there, and soon the fog lifted! The Geysir geothermal area was also quite lovely, and very similar to another favorite of mine: Yellowstone National Park.

One thing that I found so interesting, is that Icelanders pay almost nothing for heat. There is so much warm water from the geothermal activity below the surface of the whole island, that they just pump it into all buildings and houses (the Pearl mentioned above). Paying nothing for heat?! That’s just crazy to me! And it’s a great heating system. Many time we would have to open the window in our room it was so warm (a not uncommon thing to do there).

I have to say though, that my favorite part of the trip (and, unfortunately, what we spent the least amount of time at due to the schedule), was the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa located in a lava field in Grindavik, west of Reykjavik. Listed by National Geographic as one of the 25 “wonders of the world”, it was truly spectacular. The water was a beautiful turquoise and it was so warm and re-energizing. It felt so amazing; like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. What was funny was that my hair felt so weird afterwards! Like pure straw! The mineral-rich water completely stripped everything out of my hair. It was so cool, and when we do go back there, Blue Lagoon is getting its own day for sure.

While relatively short, we packed a lot into those days, and were happy because we had a great time (and we felt it would be mostly a “reconnaissance” trip to kind of check things out and “get our toes wet” so to speak!). Iceland is a beautiful place, and one that we would definitely go back to. I have to see my Northern Lights after all and need my spa day at the Blue Lagoon! We felt so good to have had a successful first international trip, and we look forward to many more.

Recent Horse Show Weekend at Little Bit

I was back at my favorite place last month: Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center! They were having their annual horse and dressage shows, and I was honored to be a part of these special events. The riders were adorable (as always), the staff was wonderful, and the horses and facilities just sparkled in their first shows at the new Dunmire Stables.

My most favorite moment of this years’ shows happened after one riding group received their ribbons. As they were exiting the arena, one rider came up to me and, without saying anything, grabbed my forearm and held up their ribbon for me to see. It was such a pure, sweet, and very special moment for me. Saying nothing at all said so much to me.  I even get a little choked up typing this now. It’s moments like these that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world and why I feel so lucky to be a part of Little Bit. Can’t wait till next year!

http://www.littlebit.org

Sisters Weekend 2013

Ahh.. Another spring.. And another sisters long weekend to Phoenix for some sun, fun, and Seattle Mariners Spring Training!

We stay at our favorite place: the Point Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort. Oh it’s so lovely there!  The resort is nestled into the side of a mountain (yes, they DO have mountains in Arizona! They’re no Rockies, but there’s elevation just the same!). The grounds are located next to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Posse, where they train their horses, and the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. Being this close to both of these makes for nice morning walks.

The grounds themselves are just lovely. The architecture, the color of the buildings, and general layout of the resort makes for a great place to shoot! Year after year, I never get tired of taking pictures there.

But while we spent a good amount of time lounging around at one of the pools and sipping on umbrella-laced froofy drinks, we also enjoyed some Seattle Mariners spring training baseball in Peoria. That’s always fun to relax and watch some baseball in the warm, dry weather (a little bit unlike Seattle; thank goodness!).

Below are some photos from the trip (click on a picture to enlarge and scroll through):

Point Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort:

Plants & Cactus:

Seattle Mariners Baseball!

The Beautiful Phoenix Landscape:


Until next time Phoenix!

Taking a Walk Down College/Memory Lane

I posted a picture of my alma mater, Florida State University, earlier today, and the response from people caught me pleasantly by surprise. Seeing that one picture either brought people back immediately to their college “heyday” or it simply made them proud to see a picture of their campus that they hold so dear.

From that post, I began thinking more about FSU, and how I miss the simpler life of those days. Oh how we thought otherwise at the time though!  I love that university and will treasure all my college experiences there. It’s a wonderful school that keeps getting better and better (when I went there, friends of mine who wanted to go to med school had to go to the dreaded University of Florida-yuck-because that was the closest school that had a med school program. I pleased to say that FSU now has a very good med school program).

Another cool, fun fact (picture is below) is that FSU has a full-fledged circus, that contains all FSU students doing their own circus acts. It has been around since the late 1940s and is one of only 2 circuses at a 4-year institution (the other is Illinois State University). I think that’s so cool! (and it’s a good show too!)

FSU is located in a lovely Southern city; Tallahassee, Florida. Not that being from Tallahassee and where I was born bleeding garnet and gold, makes me partial or anything! The campus is full of sunshine and students and oak trees with Spanish moss. Just a beautiful campus.

Just feeling all nostalgic for the good old days, so decided to share some photographs from the campus.

GO NOLES! xoxo