Phoenix or Bust

February 27, 2013

Horseback riding -- fun for the whole family.

Horseback riding — fun for the whole family.

Just back from the warm and dry (and did I say warm?) world of sunny Arizona…when we got off the plane I think my whole family realized how sick and tired we were of the cold. If you need a getaway, the Phoenix area has a bunch to do with kids, starting with baseball and spring training! We went to a Cactus League game in Surprise (Rangers vs. Royals) and while the tickets aren’t cheap, for $40 a seat we were right behind the Kansas City dugout, had our chances at a few foul balls and our son managed to snag some autographs.

If you were talking to my children, they would far and away recommend Crackerjax in Scottsdale, which has bumper boats, 3 miniature golf courses, batting cages, a driving range and 2 different sized go karts. You can pay by the ride or for a 4 hour block of unlimited fun — on Tuesdays it’s only $15 a person. It’s right down the road from Scottsdale’s Kierland Commons, where you can get a little shopping in and have lunch at the Cheesecake Factory.

Horseback riding seemed to be the far and away favorite activity of the trip. We went to Ponderosa Stables and a group of about 10 of us took a lovely afternoon ride for about an hour. The horses were very friendly and seemed to know the terrain well, so everyone from my 5 year old daughter to my parents were able to ride along relatively easily. The cowboys were incredibly nice and it really allows you to get out and enjoy the desert terrain in its un-strip malled state, which is getting rarer and rarer there as the population explodes.

My son wanted to try the Elephant Bar, which is a chain that we don’t have back east, but we never had time. We did go to La Grande Orange Grocery in downtown Phoenix, which by day is a general store and a counter service restaurant. The food is local, fresh and organic and you can choose anything from a chick pea wrap to sushi or a host of salads. Really something for everyone, at reasonable prices. At night it turns into a full service restaurant with wood burning ovens for pizza. Use the valet service (it’s free) as it gets difficult to park.

Speaking of pizza, we had to try Pizzeria Bianco, which for years now has been voted the best pizza in the country. Yes, in the whole U.S. Apparently the lines to get in can get ridiculous (it’s a small place), but we went for a late lunch on a weekday and it wasn’t too bad. Everything they use is homemade, from the dough to the cheese to the basil that the chef grows in his garden. It’s definitely delish and worth a try, if you don’t have to wait 4 hours. It’s a little hard to find even with Google maps so leave a little extra time.

The Heard Museum, where I hadn’t been in many years, had a lot of different activities for the kids, with different crafts. If you want to learn about the plight of the Indians in the west, this is the place to go. It’s a bit on the high side to get in (adults are $18) but you can save $1 per person if you have AAA. (It’s something!) The main gift store has ridiculously high end items, but there is a separate store across the way that has mostly books but some other items that are much more reasonable.

It’s close enough for most people that you can do a long weekend in Phoenix, and there is certainly enough to fill several days of activities. Sometimes the nicest thing is to grab a margarita and just sit outside in the sunshine.

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It’s amazing how quickly you lose your vacation zen when it’s back to reality…but what can you do. That’s why it’s always good to have something else planned that you can look forward to, because it all goes so fast.

The days are getting longer here in the northeast, which is nice. A few more weeks and we should be on our way to spring!!

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February Blahs

February 14, 2013

Winter_Imagery_Wallpaper_vkhaoIt has been a cold winter here in the Northeast, which is good and bad: good because frankly I was starting to get worried I would never again wear all of my lovely heavy coats and sweaters, and bad because, well, it’s freakin’ cold. And though I am heading for warmer air for the next week (hello sunny Arizona!), it has been a long sludge and just about everyone has the dreaded February blahs. So besides imbibing copious amount of vino, here are some tips to get you through:

Dry Skin Is The Enemy: Nothing makes people look more zombie-like or older than their years than dry skin and hair. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, unless you live somewhere temperate where there are no seasons, you must change up your skin routine between summer and winter. (And newsflash, the older you get, the more this is so, I’m afraid.) I do my regular moisturizer with spf every morning but then morning and night I add some of Tata Harper’s Replenishing Nutrient Complex, which I’ve recommended before on this here Family Favs. It’s light enough to layer but definitely has kept the dry away. I’ve been following the cult product argan oil for a while, and this winter I jumped in by buying Josie Maran’s Argan Oil Hair Serum. (Another recent recommendation from this here blog.) I put a squirt or 2 on each morning after towel drying my hair, and I like that it doesn’t weigh down my hair or mess with my style. It looks healthy without feeling greasy.

Supplements Can Help: I was talking to my dermatologist recently and she told me she was always skeptical about supplements (as was I), but that she really believed there were a few that could make a difference: Fish Oil for skin and heart and lots of other things; Biotin for hair; and Vitamin D for vitality and bone health. (Vitamin D is especially important in the winter given the reduced exposure to sunlight.) She also told me to get them at Trader Joe’s — cheaper than the drugstore!

Head To The Gym: If you can’t get outside to work out, nothing boosts your mood like a good sweat. If you don’t want to lay out the cash for a full on gym membership, there are so many places that offer great classes that you can pay as you go. Yoga, Pilates, Spinning (apparently Soul Cycle recently had a shirtless Bradley Cooper taking part — there’s some motivation for you) — pick your poison and make it a priority. I have become intrigued by TRX, and am going to try it out one of these days. I’m still obsessed with the Precor True Stride, but a girl needs a little variety! I tried a Zumba class a couple of weeks ago, which was fun and a good alternative. Even if the rest of the day is crap, if I can get a workout in in the morning, I feel somewhat productive.

Embrace The Chill: You know what? Sometimes the weather is a great excuse to curl up inside and do things you never have time for. Put that photo album together, watch a movie, read a book, bake a cake. Take a break from running around like a crazy person and get something off your to do list.

Try one, try all — for me, whatever works to keep the winter blues away, I’ll take it! Spring is coming soon…

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Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you lovely and wonderful Family Favs readers! Big hugs to all of you, today and always.