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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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.

Lovely Phoenix

My sisters and I take an annual trip to Phoenix for some sun and Spring training baseball. I had forgotten to post these to the blog earlier; better late than never!

We stay at an absolutely lovely place: the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort. It’s a beautiful place, nestled into the Phoenix mountains (yes, they do have mountains there! No Everests, but good sized hills nonetheless!). We throw in a couple of Mariner’s spring training games over in Peoria, and we’re SET!

Looking forward to next year already!

Flying Heritage Museum

This past Saturday, Andy and I went to the Flying Heritage Collection at Payne Field in Everett, WA. This is the private collection of Paul Allen, and as Andy put it afterwards when I asked him how much he thought the whole collection would be worth, he said “I really don’t even think you could put a price tag on that”. It’s just THAT amazing to have that many different WWII era planes in one location. I like when we first went in, Andy said “this is totally what billionaires do- have toy planes like THIS!”

There are about 15 or so planes there and a couple of tanks. All but 2 of the planes are still flown some- at air shows and things like that. The two that aren’t flown are not because they are the only known ones left in the entire world.

It was quite an enjoyable afternoon, and a  very interesting and beautiful collection.

 

 

 

“Home for the Holidays”-Bellingham

I’m thrilled to be participating at the “Home For the Holidays” gift show in Bellingham this weekend. It’s the 30th anniversary and is expected to draw a large crowd!

If you’re in the Fairhaven area of Bellingham this Friday or Saturday, be sure and stop by the Bellingham Cruise Terminal (down by train station). It’s not too early to start thinking about Christmas gifts! 🙂

http://www.homefortheholidaysbellingham.com/

 

 

Beautiful Day in the Pacific Northwest

When it’s nice here in Washington, boy is it fantastic! Andy and I walked onto the Edmonds Ferry (just made it with only like 4 minutes to spare) and went over to Kingston. Kingston is a very cute little town that many people either stop in to visit the cute downtown area or drive through on there way to other areas in the peninsula. We went to the Farmers Market and it was just adorable! Love the local markets and seeing them doing well.

Here are a few pictures on the ferry ride to, from and at Kingston!