Last weekend Katie and I traveled to Phoenix, Arizona for an early Christmas with her family (after an even earlier Christmas with my extended family over Thanksgiving). As in years past, it was a total blast! The twist was that this year we had a very active holiday.
We arrived Thursday afternoon and were treated to dinner at La Grande Orange Grocery & Pizzeria in Scottsdale, walking distance from Katie’s sister’s (Kelly) apartment. Awesome! Any place that will add an egg to your pizza at no charge is A-OK in my book! I had the avocado pizza with pesto instead of cheese and I added all the free extras – so good!
Katie found us a nearby house to rent for the weekend which served as an excellent base of operations. It was big enough for us and our extended family to sleep comfortably and close enough to the action as to be convenient.
Friday began with a run up and over one of the mountains. This was just the opportunity to try out my new Vibram FiveFingers KSO Treks. When we were there last year, hiking up and down Camelback Mountain had proved pretty painful in my KSOs but I’m pleased to report that the Treks did their job very well. After an hour or so of jogging up and down rocky paths in the cool, dry air, I was pooped but very happy with the experience.
Friday afternoon we went to Queen Creek Olive Mill, a local organic olive oil producer. Not only did they have a nice tour about the olive growing/pressing/bottling process, they had an attached restaurant with delicious and funky foods. I had the vanilla bean olive oil waffles while others tasted their many oils – including chocolate olive oil and [crowd favorite] meyer lemon olive oil. What a cool excursion!
Dinner was at 5th and Wine, which featured good wine and great food. I had a delicious bison burger and mac & cheese – hey, just because I was carb loading for Sunday’s 5k didn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy some protein and fat too! It was a delectable finish to a great day!
Saturday began with a real treat. Kelly is receiving her certification as an instructor of Ashtanga Yoga, which I used to practice regularly when I was in Switzerland. Kelly took Katie and me through the entire primary series – 90 minutes of stretching, breathing, flowing, and meditating. I’ve really, really missed this and I clearly need to add it back into my routine. Kelly was the perfect yogi for us as I was just the right amount of sore after our session.
What do we do after a workout? Recovery nutrition! This began at the Scottsdale Farmer’s Market, where we also shopped for Christmas Dinner ingredients, and concluded at Orange Table. The Farmer’s Market was fantastic – big but not too huge and with plenty of variety. I had a vegetarian pumpkin tamale (Delicious!), which I promptly doused in guava lava hot sauce from the vendor next door. There were many dogs along with their owners, which made the experience even more pleasurable.
Orange Table was something else for breakfast. Not only did they offer delicious omelets (The Greek omelet was the consensus #1.), they also had something else on the menu that I would have been remiss not to try: jalapeno-pecan pancakes! I love spicy-sweet flavor combinations and this one hit it on the head. I’m actually getting hungry as I type just thinking about it again!
With our bellies full, we spent the afternoon and evening prepping for Christmas Dinner. More accurately, everyone else was prepping for Christmas Dinner. While they were slaving away, Mike (Kelly’s boyfriend) and I were staying out of the way by occupying ourselves with some early Christmas presents: remote control cars! Once the novelty of racing them around the floor in a makeshift demolition derby wore off, we constructed our own track, using the couches, chairs, coffee table, cardboard boxes, and magazines to create ramps between sections of different heights. The end result wasn’t beautiful but it served its purpose. Whether its purpose was to provide a path for the cars or rather to occupy the two of us such that we weren’t crowding the kitchen and offering to “quality test” each of the dishes in process is still up for debate.
Dinner turned out to be delicious, as expected. Wild caught Alaskan salmon from the farmer’s market along with many, many vegetarian-friendly accouterments ensured that we would all be well nourished for the race the next day. Instead of going to bed early to rest up, though, we opened presents, played games, and laughed a lot late into the night. I’ll save the race report for a subsequent post but, suffice to say, the weekend was a huge success! Fun, food, and family – what more does one need in life?