Archive for the Category »Personal Adventures «

What I am craving…

We need to talk about something!  That’s right…we do.   I am craving the Melting Pot!  Have you been to one?  If you haven’t, you should!  I have been to The Melting Pot in Irvine, CA twice now.  The first time was a girls trip with my sister-in-laws and the second time I took Richard for his 40th birthday!  It is a glorious place.

It is considered a romantic, fine dining fondue restaurant…and it is!  Reservations are definitely recommended as it does take you quite some time to eat.  Both times I went we got a four course meal…starts with your choice of cheese fondue with bread and veggies to dip.  You then move into the salad course…excellent!  The Ceasar salad is to die for!  Then onto the main course with either a broth fondue or oil.  Then you select your entree choices…we had one with chicken, tuna, lobster, beef tenderloin, and pork with a Coq au Vin broth….so so delicious!  Then onto dessert!  Oh, I know, yum!  We had the turtle chocolate fondue with cheesecake, pound cake, strawberries, brownies and rice krispies to dip.  My goodness…it is a good thing that I do not live close to one of these restaurants!! 

I highly highly recommend this restaurant if you ever get a chance.  And to make it super easy for you, most of them accept reservations online as well!  Go…I command you…Go and Enjoy!!

Sedona, Arizona

 

Last May, my sister and I decided to plan a trip to Sedona, Arizona.  We wanted to get our parents to actually get themselves on a plane and experience some travel.  The reason we picked Arizona is that we have an uncle that lives in Winslow and we hadn’t seen him in over 19 years.  We wanted my Dad to see his brother while he was still young!  So we convinced them to come and started planning. 

We flew into Phoenix and rented a car to drive to Sedona where we stayed.  We were looking to do the trip for the most affordable we could.  We got rooms at Kokopelli Suites in Sedona.  The front desk staff was very accomadating and friendly, making sure to suggest great places to eat and tourist attractions to see.  The rooms were nice, very clean.  We were only down for 3 nights so we had to act quickly to get all our sight seeing in!  There are so many more things we could have done there.

Our first day…we flew down this day and had the afternoon to wander around, find our hotel, pick out somewhere nice to eat.  It was kind of a relaxed day which was nice. 

The second day…this is the day we planned to meet up with my Aunt and Uncle in Flagstaff.  They chose a restaurant that was one of their favorites and we met them there.  After 19 years, there was no mistaking who he was when he got out of his Dodge truck (same as my Dad drives) and walked (the same as my Dad) over to us.  Seriously people, the similarities were endless.  The walk, the cowboy boots, the same jeans, the voice, the laugh…we all just sat back and watched my Dad and his brother.  We had a wonderful lunch and with pictures taken and goodbyes said, we headed on our way.  Richard and I had seen the Grand Canyon before, and I am so glad that my sister was anxious to see it and we convinced everyone else to go.  We headed out of Flagstaff and headed to the south rim of the Grand Canyon.  After about 1.5 hours we were there and it truly is majestic.

Day 3….definitely our busiest day.  Gwenn went with one goal…to see the McDonalds in Sedona.  The reason?  It is the only McDonalds ever that does not have the signature yellow colored M.  The town told McDonalds that they could build as long as the arches were Desert Teal as to not clash with the surrounding red rock of the area.  So we went, we took pictures, and now she can say she has been there!! 

We then travelled just outside of town to see a church.  Not just any old church…this church was beautiful and built into the side of a wall of red rock!  It was called the Chapel of the Holy Cross.  The idea of the church came from a lady named Marguerite Bruswig Staude who was from New York.  While travelling in the Sedona area she loved it and decided a chapel would be perfect there.  It was finished in 1956 and has been there ever since.

We managed to fit in some souvenir shopping as well and then that night…the sushi restaurant.  So nice to check out things the adults like when the kids do not come on the trip!  If the kids would have been there, no sushi restaurant!  So we went and ate way too much.  But it was delicious!!

Day 4…the day we pack up and head for home.  We left lots of time to drive back to Phoenix to catch our flights home.  On the way, we stopped to photograph everyone with the Seguaro cactus.  I say, if you are going to be a tourist…act like a tourist!!  Pictures of everything!

We all had such a great time.  I hope that it will be easier next time to convince my parents that it is a good idea!

No escaping winter this trip…

All my hopes of the weather man being wrong about the weather in Tulsa have been dashed.  The big news in Oklahoma today is the Blizzard of 2011.  From my point of view, it reminds me of home.  The snow is coming down pretty good and it is blowing hard.  I wasn’t sure if they had snow plows this far south, but indeed they do.   The forecast is for 12 inches of snow today.  The good news is that there was a free continental breakfast at the hotel because the cooks didn’t show up. 

Here is a view from our hotel room.  We are staying at the Holiday Inn and Suites in South Tulsa.

Richard

Flying to Tulsa, OK…

I am in Tulsa on a training course with my brother, Gerald.  I have been looking forward to this trip for some time.  I was especially looking forward to escaping winter, if only for a week.  Late last week Tanya asked me if I had checked the weather in Tulsa.  To my horror the forecast was calling for snow.  Not impressed.  The weather man is always wrong right?  I’m sure the forecast will change…. 

Well Sunday rolled around and we were off to Tulsa.  We flew Continental Airlines from Calgary, AB to Houston, TX for our connection and had 15 minutes to get to our next flight.  We ran the 1/4 mile in record time I’m sure.  We made it onto our plane and they closed the door behind us.  As we landed in Tulsa I thought to myself “How could our luggage possibly make it onto our plane?  I mean we barely made it.”  Sure enough, our luggage did not make it, however the gentleman at the Continental Airlines counter was extremely helpful and found our luggage was on the next flight in.  He assured us they would send a taxi to our hotel with it.  Currently it is 11:30pm here.  I just spoke to the front desk at our hotel and found out our luggage is on its way over.  As a customer I understand that things go wrong, but it is how they deal with those challenges that will make me a return customer and the service we received from Continental Airlines was excellent on this flight.

As far as the snow fall goes.  Our next stop after the baggage claim was the car rental desk and they gave us the bad news.  Apparently Tulsa is expecting ice storms and up to 15 inches of snow this week.  Good thing I brought my winter jacket.

Richard

Close to home…

I love to travel outside of Canada but we do have many marvels right in our own backyard.  Just 30 minutes from our house is an area of the badlands that is called Dinosaur Provincial Park.  It was named this because in a century of looking, over 150 complete dinosaur skeletons have been found here.  The landscape is beautiful…

There is also a campground where you can camp and hike right amongst the hoodoos.  It is great for a day trip as well…even though there are areas that are not open to the public, you can find many hiking trails.  I can’t count how many times we packed the girls up when they were little and went down for a day of hiking or just a picnic.  And when you are tired of being outside there is a field station where you can go in and watch short videos and see some of the skeletons that were discovered in the park.  If your kids like dinosaurs…they are going to love Dinosaur Provincial Park!

Crazy or Adventurous??

Back in the day when C was 4 and the girls were 12 and 13, we got a crazy idea to go to Vegas.  Richard and I had been before and we were excited to show the kids.  But we just didn’t want to fly in.  We had 2 weeks for holidays that spring and we decided to drive.  For 21 hours.  I had so much fun using google to map out our route, trying to find fun and interesting things to see on the way.  One of the places we stopped was St. George, Utah.  It was beautiful!  We actually liked it so much that we stayed an extra night there just so we could look around.  One of the main attractions close to St. Goerge is Zion National Park.  We spent almost an entire day there, driving through and stopping for short hikes and picture breaks.  I highly recommend to anyone to do road trips like these with your kids.  We made sure to take 3 days to do the drive and stoppped plenty of times to find playgrounds and park areas.  At the time we went, C was still trached and on nighttime oxygen, so we had the back of the truck packed full!  Along with an emergency tracheostomy kit, an oxygen concentrator, a night time humidty machine and all the tubing that goes with these machines, we had a bit of a stop at the border.  Then suitcases for us, C, and two teenage girls!!  The border patrol guard wasn’t sure if he should unload everything and search or not!!  Thank goodness he didn’t! 

Onto Vegas, the kids loved it!  All the lights and action….even C who was only 4 at the time, loved everything.  I imagine the Hoover Dam was probably the most boring part of the trip for all of them…Richard loved it.  So to reward the kids for putting up with one “boring” afternoon, we took them to Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Botanical Gardens.  The tour of the factory and the gardens is free and on weekdays you can be pleasantly surprised to get free samples!  And they were really really good.   They also have a store where you can purchase chocolates as well.  The kids definitely loved this one! 

Many people think that taking kids to Las Vegas is crazy, but there are so many things to do!  We never had a dull moment while we were there, there is always something to do in Vegas! 

I have found lots of links about road trip planning.  Do a little research, there are tons of resources!  Here are just a few I have found…

http://www.planning-fun-road-trips.com/

http://www.tripwiser.com/

Kid Friendly Travel

When we travel we are always looking for great deals and kids friendly places.  Last May we travelled to Austin, Texas so Richard could attend a conference.  We stayed in downtown Austin at the Omni. 

 I figured since it was downtown and fancy that it would mostly be a hotel for business men and women.  When we checked in, I was completely surprised.  A man came out from behind the desk carrying a small backpack which he proceeded to give to C.  A gift from the hotel just for him…he was ecstatic!!  When he opened it up and got digging, there was crayons, a coloring book, a small canteen, flashlight and many others things.  I even found out that they had suitcases full of games for kids and night lights!!

And while we were there, C spent the majority of his time here….

The rooftop pool!!  He loves the water and because we were in Texas…and warm, that is where we spent our time!  It was a wonderful stay and I would highly recommend the Downtown Austin Omni hotel!

I Dream of this Cake…

This cake is amazing…and it is easy!  This one is a huge family favorite.

Here is what you will need:

For cake:        1 yellow cake mix

                       1 box instant vanilla pudding

                        4 eggs

                         1/2 cup milk or water

                         1/2 cup vegetable oil

                         1/2 cup amber rum

For Glaze:         1 cup butter

                          2 cups sugar

                          1/2 cup water

                          1 cup amber rum

So first you find your bundt pan.  You are going to want to butter and flour it so the cake comes out easily.  Then set that aside and heat your oven to 350 degrees F. 

Now you want to find a large bowl and mix together the cake mix, pudding mix and 4 eggs.

I know…I have a defective egg…or was it a defective chicken?  I am not sure…anyway, at this point you will want to add the milk (or water), the oil and the rum.

Now we just want to mix it for about 3 minutes with our mixer to get the lumps out. 

You will have to excuse my dark pictures, it was already dark out when I decided to do a little baking!

Ok, so now you’re ready to put it in the bundt pan and bake away.  This is will take an hour in a 350 degree oven.  When it comes out…it will look like this

And it will smell amazing!  You will be sad you have to wait longer.  Let it sit in the pan for 15 minutes while you make the glaze, then flip it out onto your plate of choice and poke holes in the top with a fork. 

Ok, onto the glaze…I did not take pictures of the process.  It is a two hands kinda deal!  You will need to melt the butter in a saucepan.  Then add the sugar, water and rum and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and stir constantly while it simmers for about 5 minutes.  Basically this is to burn off all the alcohol and just leave the great taste.  I know many people add in a shot of rum at the end to give the cake a little “kick”.   When it is done, I pour half of the glaze in the empty bundt pan.

I then put the cake back in the pan and let the cake soak up the first half of the glaze.  When it is all soaked up, flip the cake back out on your plate and continue to brush or pour the glaze over the cake.

The glaze soaks in making for the most moist cake ever.  Everyone here actually enjoys it more the next day after the cake has had more time to soak the glaze and flavor!  Make this next time you have a get together and I promise you will not be disappointed!!

This cake never stays around for very long around here!   Happy Baking!

Substitutions:  My sister-in-law makes her rum cakes with chopped walnuts on the top….she puts them in the bottom of the bundt pan and pours the batter on top.  If you are lactose intolerant…like my mother….you could use water in the cake instead of the milk and I imagine that margarine would work in the glaze if it had too!!  I have also experimented with coconut rum and it was delicious.  I used coconut rum instead of amber and I also added coconut to the cake batter as well.  Another option is using a chocolate cake mix, it has been done and many people liked it, but it was not my personal favorite.

Meet the man…

Now it’s time to meet my amazing husband.  We met when I was only 19 and he was divorced and had full custody of his two beautiful girls.  People thought I was crazy to even consider it but I knew he was the one for me.  We got married in Jamaica when I turned 21 and we’ve never looked back….well at least I haven’t!!  ha ha 

Here’s where we got married…

This is a Sandals resort in Dunns River, Jamaica and it was beautiful.  We spent  7 days in this paradise, swimming, cruising, laying on the beach.  From the minute we got there, the service was amazing.  We sipped champagne while we were checked in and met with the wedding planner when we were settled.  We had to be in Jamaica for 48 hours before we could be married, so we picked where we wanted to get married, the flowers and met the photographer.  It was a busy afternoon, but we never felt rushed at all.  The day of our wedding everything went perfect!  The Sandals resorts are beautiful and the service was incredible.

So what can I say about Richard??  Well, he is an amazing father, incredible husband and hard worker…and he just turned 40! 

For his 40th birthday weekend, we jetted off to Los Angeles for a little alone time.  It was great…we relaxed, slept in, and did some touristy things we may not have done with the kids.  I know a lot of you out there don’t like to travel with your kids, or never leave home without them.  I appreciate each and every one of you and entitle you to your opinions.  I like a mixture of both…I love to take the kids.  I like to show them things they normally wouldn’t see.  But I also love to go on vacations without the kids.  The beginning of our lives together showed me I was meant to be a wife and mother, but when C was born, it was very stressful.  Anyone who has had a child with life threatening medical issues knows that.  I learned to appreciate the time that Richard and I had alone together too…it is how our marriage works.  I have an amazing family.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas….again

This is Cancun, Mexico yesterday….

And this is us here in Alberta…..