Category Archives: Phoenix

New Year, Still Hard to come up with Titles

Happy New Year! I had a wonderful Christmas visiting my family in Phoenix, and then I proceeded to come home and be sick with a terrible cold/flu thing for nearly a week. I suppose I should be glad I was already on vacation because I didn’t have to cancel anything (except a quartet rehearsal) but it wasn’t the way I wanted to spend the week.

That’s okay though. It’s been really cold and being sick gave me an excellent excuse to stay inside, mostly in bed. And it reminded me that we aren’t as in charge as we think, and that health really is the most important thing. I plan to work harder this year on maximizing my health, both physical AND mental. This past year I didn’t eat as well or exercise as much as I could have, and I definitely spent more time being anxious and stressed than was good for me, so I’m going to focus on those things.

I’m getting ready for teaching next week, and doing a few things to prepare for the semester ahead. This spring should be a bit easier than the fall, plus I get to ease in. In the fall I returned from a 2 week vacation and had to work nearly a month straight, with loads of gigs in addition to all my students. This spring semester I don’t have so many gigs right off the bat so I can focus on practicing (lots of fun music to learn!), teaching and scheduling my Wash U students, which is always an adventure. I’m already well into my viola challenge of #100daysofpractice on Instagram, but I’m also hard at work learning some wonderful repertoire for the quartet this semester (we have several fun concerts scheduled) and I’ve found myself involved in piano trio/sonata concert as well, so I’ve got a lot of great performances and chamber music lined up. Orchestrally I’m heading to Illinois for two weeks this spring and playing some things in town, doing an opera, and doing a few broadway shows at the Fox. (Sorry, this post is kind of a brain dump, then again, not sorry, that’s how it always is here!)

So, a few pictures from Christmas:

We did quite a few fun activities in Phoenix. We went to an event at the Desert Botanical Gardens called the Luminarias, where the place was lit up with luminaries and you could wander around listening to various live music groups. I liked the mariachi band best.

IMG_4895

We went to the Museum of Musical Instruments, where I had never been before. It was fascinating, and I’d love to go back with Louie sometime. There was an overwhelming amount of information, but it was really neat to see all the different instruments.

The octobass is VERY large, so I also took a picture of a miniature violin. Nice contrast!

IMG_9022IMG_9021

We had a wonderful time just hanging out, eating good food, opening gifts as well. My niece Athena is in the “stick out your tongue” phase of photo taking, but I thought my parents (especially my dad, who has really perfected that look, as it was present in nearly a dozen photos, where the rest of us ranged from crazed with eyes open too wide/shut to somewhat fairly normal) and sister Leslie looked good in this picture!

IMG_8943

On the last full day of my visit, we took a day trip to Sedona. We hiked a little around Bell Rock, took a tour of the Palatki Heritage Site, and then headed to Jerome for a short visit too. It was a full day, and then afterwards nearly all of us got sick! Traveler’s notes: National Parks passes are useful for visiting Sedona as otherwise you have to pay for a Red Rocks pass for the day. And the Palatki site is only accessible via approximately 7 miles of dirt road, which is fun in a Prius C!

IMG_4951

IMG_9144

IMG_4787

That’s my aunt Connie on the right, Mom on the left. They are sisters. Oh, and an interesting side effect of wearing a Go St Louis shirt while in Sedona—numerous people from St Louis talked to me. I guess we are a friendly people!

In any case, it was a nice trip, always fun to see my niece especially (she changes the most) and of course great to see family. Louie and I did our separate things with the plan to come back to St Louis and celebrate New Year’s Eve together—we DID do that, but since I was really sick it ended up being lots of tissues, cold medicine, Netflix, and a real struggle to stay up past midnight. I did, but we decided to save the champagne in the fridge until later. (Perhaps today, as Louie is taking the GRE this morning and might want to celebrate after!)

Goals for the new year, just to sort of solidify them. (Then again, saying sort of solidify isn’t very solid.) Be able to roll with the punches. Focus on stress relief and health. Be a good friend, but don’t worry about how many friends I have Smile

Happy Cyber Monday

Today, as far as internet retailers would has us believe, is that day that everybody pretends to go back to work but actually spends all day shopping online. I don’t understand “work” evidently, as when I’m working, I am not able to shop online! Perhaps a reader can explain? I assume those are different people that the people who occasionally yell at us at gigs to “get a real job.” (Actually happens.)

We flew home late last night from Phoenix. In a surprising twist, we almost had our flight canceled due to bad weather in Phoenix! The plane we were supposed to ride on got diverted to Tucson, and still might have made it, but in another surprising twist, our flight was moved to a different plane, and by 1 am we were home safe.

Thanksgiving was nice. Things are never quite as relaxing with a toddler around, but it was fun.  We made some excellent food, took a few hikes, read a lot of children’s books, and watched nearly all of the new season of Gilmore Girls (when I’m going to finish it is anybody’s guess as I’m frantically trying to catch up on life now, but soon I hope!).

IMG_6595

Louie got attacked by a cactus—look at his shoe! Don’t touch as they are very sharp!

IMG_6594

I didn’t have my selfie stick but we did pretty well anyway.

IMG_6559

Just over three weeks until Winter Break. I have three performances, lots of teaching, and it’s raining. (Grocery shopping in the rain…ugh, hate it!) Winter, or at least fall is here, and that’s where we are.

How was your Thanksgiving?

A Few days in Phoenix, Less than 24 hours in Sedona

After last summer’s big road trip, I mentioned to my sister Leslie that the annual NPS Louie and I had purchased didn’t expire until the end of this summer. She suggested we come out to Phoenix to visit, and take a few days to see the Grand Canyon. She was very generous to offer us their older car to borrow and a bunch of camping gear.

Louie had never been to the Grand Canyon. I had been but not since I was a small child (11 or so). The Grand Canyon is about 3 1/2 hours from Phoenix, which makes for a short drive though not really a day trip. Leslie, who is evidently a wonderful travel agent/itinerary builder, suggested we spend some time in Sedona on our way north, so ultimately I planned our time to have 1 night in Sedona, 2 nights at the Grand Canyon, and then home.

I like to look at the Trip Advisor Forums for advice on traveling, though Louie and I like to hike more than most members of the forums there. I’d found much of their advice last year to be excellent, with the exception of their great love of the Black Hills (it was fine, but we could have spent one night there and been happy rather than two). However, in the Sedona forums, there is at least one member who insists that you must spend 4-5 nights in Sedona in order to make it worth visiting. To me this is ridiculous. Sure, a week in Paris beats a day in Paris, but both are worth it. Maybe not the day if you fly in and out from the US for one day, but it’s a trip from another fairly nearby location, a little time is better than no time!

(I’m overwhelmed by my good fortune in being able to travel sometime, and right now I’m overwhelmed by all the beauty we saw and want to convey it to you.)

Okay, so…first we spent a few days in Phoenix hanging with my little niece Athena, and my sister and brother-in-law.

IMG_5311

We rode the carousel and the train at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale.

IMG_5316

There was a lovely shaded playground.

IMG_5342

We took selfies.

IMG_5230

And we went to the zoo.

IMG_5229

And then on Wednesday of the week, it was time for Louie and I to load up their Honda Civic (with stick shift) and head for Sedona. We piled in our clothes, cooler with food and drinks, tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, camp chairs, hiking boots and poles, stove, and more (maybe) and headed to Sedona. The drive was around 2 hours.

One big potential issue for our night in Sedona. The forecast was for rain and storms!

Sedona is known as Red Rocks Country. Once we made the turn off the interstate we started seeing evidence of this. It was so much unlike Missouri!

Our first stop was at the Sedona Visitors Center. We needed the restrooms, water, and lunch. I talked to a really helpful ranger at the desk as well. I hadn’t planned too many particular hikes for Sedona. For whatever reason, I’d found it difficult to get maps or find exact things to do so I’d figured we’d wing it…I love planning things, but as I’ve told you before, Louie enjoys winging them and being more in the moment, so I figured he’d help out with this part Winking smile The ranger asked how long we were there and when we told him, well, this afternoon and tomorrow morning, he didn’t yell at us that we hadn’t allocated enough time (we wanted to be in the Grand Canyon by mid-afternoon the next day) but instead made a few really helpful suggestions.

IMG_5354IMG_5353

We first visited the Bell Rock area, which was just north of the visitor’s center. The sky didn’t look too menacing yet so we took a short hike up and around.

IMG_5356

My mom is probably worried about all the red dirt. Back in South Carolina where I grew up she hates the red dirt that we would track into the house. It stains, and she would shout “Red Dirt Alert!” to make us stop in our tracks and remove our shoes.

IMG_5239

Hiking: fashion? Those wire trash cans filled with rocks were to mark the trail. There were lots of signs warning us to stay on the trail, which was great until we’d get to a place that was only rock and didn’t seem to have any trail markers at all. It was fun to explore though!

IMG_5242

Louie was smart and wore an orange shirt in order to blend in.IMG_5243

Here you can see the bad weather is starting to move in. We knew we weren’t terribly far from shelter though.

IMG_5247

I took this of Louie when he went up a big higher than I felt comfortable doing so. Some of the rock climbing made me fear of heights kick in. Or perhaps my fear of rock climbing.

IMG_5357

When we got back to the car, it started raining, and storming, and kept up for a bit. We decided to go to the store to pick up a few things we’d remembered that we’d forgotten (ha, good writing there!). The storms had blown threw by the time we were done (Sedona is full of shops and restaurants and places to stay, not remote at all) and we went to drive around something called Red Rocks Loop, that the ranger had recommended. It was definitely still a little rainy but not bad. We didn’t really feel like hiking though…we are tough, sure Winking smile but rain hiking is more work. The loop wasn’t that exciting, so we finished and then went to our campground.

I’d booked a night in a campground north of town called Manzanita Campground, run by the Forest Service.

IMG_5264

Our first time by the campground we missed the turn entirely, but found it the second time. There’s a steep one lane driveway down to the campground and the sites are along Oak Creek. Other than the rain and the fact that the only facilities are vault toilets, I loved it.

IMG_5359

We set out for a short hike before dinner-I’d seen there was a trailhead right across from the campground and we though we’d check it out, just for a few minutes. The rain had stopped, but it was still really wet.

IMG_5262IMG_5255IMG_5252IMG_5256

The hike went through an area that had had a fire recently. Later Peter was telling us about it, but now I can’t remember. It was recent, and it luckily didn’t spread too much further than the small area.

(This article I found seems to be about it. We were camping in the Oak Creek Canyon area.)

I wanted to get back to camp before it was too dark, so we only hiked for about 45 minutes. It was neat and we were sorry we couldn’t go further.

It was a cold night. I believe it ended up being close to 40 degrees overnight, hard to believe it was May and Arizona! (Not everywhere in Arizona is hot like Phoenix, but that’s easy to forget). In any case, we made Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Chili with some sides and enjoyed a beer by the campfire. Sort of. The fire was hard to start due to the dampness (we managed, we are used to rain here in Missouri, despite the camp host almost refusing to sell us wood) but the real problem was that the firepits were about 3 feet tall and blocked all the heat. Oh well.

I didn’t sleep that well-first night camping, cold…it was a bad combination. We got up and loaded up the car and headed further north. We decided to hike the West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon.

The ranger had recommended this hike, yes, that’s how we roll (also Leslie and Peter did, but they recommended several hikes that we didn’t get to do either). He’d said he loved it because it was unlike anything else in Sedona. At first that sounded appealing, but then we started to worry, what if it was like Missouri instead? It was lush and green, but luckily it wasn’t really like Missouri.

IMG_5277

The trail goes along the Oak Creek the whole way. It crosses the creek 13 times along the way (and then again on the way back). The creek crossings were quite a lot of fun!

IMG_5268IMG_5269IMG_5273

IMG_5274

It seemed they meant you’d have to walk down the creek for 2 3/4 miles! Maybe in some seasons it would be lower, but that just didn’t sound terribly fun to me.

IMG_5275

After finishing the hike we had a quick picnic lunch before heading north (again) towards the Grand Canyon National Park. And that’s where I’ll end today’s blog post, with the two of us in a car, drinking sparkling water, and driving north, looking forward to the next portion of our adventure.

Friday the 13th

*dusts off blog program*

I know I say this a lot, but WOW where do the weeks go? How are we one full week away from Thanksgiving already? I guess the trick is to keep your head down and keep plugging away, eh?

Or keeping busy. Sometimes I think, WHY oh why do I keep doing things that cause a lot of stress for no good reason? For instance, last night’s quartet concert caused a lot of stress because we were performing Beethoven’s Op. 59 Quartet no. 1 for the first time, and it is really a beast of a piece. I put many hours of practice into it, and we put many hours of rehearsal into it. But the fact is, there is plenty of good reason, just not financial. So often society tells us that success is measured through paychecks and job titles, but I disagree. We succeeded last night by pushing through and doing something really difficult for no real reason other than the sheer joy, no, exhilaration of performing at our highest level, and performing one of my favorite quartets. Granted, I have quite a few favorites, but op 59 #1 is up there. One of my goals is to be able to perform the late Beethoven Quartets… op. 132 is my absolute favorite piece of music. But without performing and working through and struggling with these other Beethoven Quartets, which are so satisfying and wonderful in their own ways, I will never get to the late quartets. I may never anyway, but I’m on the path. So my whole point is, yes, this stressed me out, like all performances do, but I love performing and I love finishing a performance and feeling successful and accomplished, and feeling like my life is important and that I am doing something important.

(We perform again next Saturday at the Tavern of Fine Arts. Come out and hear us play Beethoven and the Dohnanyi Piano Quintet.)

Last weekend we traveled to Phoenix to see our friends Mark and Karen get married.

IMG_5171

I did not realized quite how tall I was until this picture.

Louie and I stayed with my sister Leslie and her family—everybody else there plays with the Phoenix Symphony, basically.

I played with a quartet for the ceremony. It was like being at work but with a shorter yellow dress. Perhaps nearly too short for sitting on a stage.

IMG_5157IMG_5167

This was my view during the ceremony. It’s one of the things that sucks about playing for a friend—you don’t really get to enjoy the ceremony, but it is always an honor to be asked to play by a fellow musician!

IMG_3742

The reception was at a place called The Duce and was a lot of fun.

IMG_3747

Too much fun, probably.

IMG_3751

This picture is stolen from another wedding guest’s facebook page. Louie and I met through Mark and Karen, but failed to get a picture of the 4 of us. Actually that’s not true, as they are in the background of two pictures above, but that’s not what I mean. IMG_3755

IMG_3763

Since it was such a short visit, and we ended up hanging around the house each day looking a bit rough until it was time to get ready for the events, I didn’t get as many Athena photos as I should have! *vain*

IMG_3753

She wasn’t sure about this selfie.

Anyway, after a whirlwind trip over the weekend, the week felt like it had been going on and on. This weekend isn’t so bad, though I have some makeup lessons each day so I don’t get any official days off. We are going to the symphony tonight and out (finally) for a nice dinner for Louie’s birthday tomorrow (3 weeks late) so it should be a lovely weekend.  We’re also hoping to get out into the world during the day and hike, walk, or run, and perhaps get some housework done too. Basically there aren’t nearly enough hours left to do all the things we’ve had to put off, or to do and see the things we want, but we keep at it.

Chloe is healing…slowly. I wish I could explain why she has to wear the cone, but then maybe she could explain what’s going on with her and then we’d all be happier. Until then, lots of cuddles and petting, and cleaning up urine and gross stuff. It’s a hard time.

IMG_3773

I have to remind myself that life isn’t a straight line, there are ups and downs, and sometimes you take a few steps forward and a few back. I’m feeling run down and tired right now, and as usual I’m rambling, but…I’m really looking forward to some downtime over Thanksgiving (and seeing family!). I always really need to make an effort to see friends and people other than Louie-he’s great, but I can’t ONLY hang out with my boyfriend, and the same for him, we need more people! When life gets busy it’s easy to want to finish the day in sweatpants watching TV with a glass of wine, but that’s not necessarily the best thing to do every night. I think part of this age group is that we are all busy with work and then exhausted, and if you don’t plan in advance, nothing happens, but you just hate planning every step of your life in advance. Sigh.

Why do I always start complaining when I start blogging? I swear I have all these interested positive thoughts and then…I just start complaining about how hard life is. It’s not so bad. After the concert last night I met Louie at Mission Taco for our traditional Taco Thursday and had some good food and great conversation. Between now and Monday I only have 4 1/2 hours of teaching (!!) and that doesn’t seem like so much. Lots of time to catch up on all the housework Smile

And thanks for your comments on my last post, the few of you reading. I think you’re right—my writing hasn’t gotten better, but different, as I’ve grown as a person. The best thing I can do is keep reading and writing. A good excuse to read more books, to help my blogging, right?

*After hitting publish I was thinking about how I often feel tired, even after having gotten a new bed. Sometimes I think it’s because I need more exercise! But I thought, gosh, why do we keep trying to do all these activities when I’m run down, and the answer is, because you look back and you remember the activities fondly, you don’t remember nights on the couch in your pj’s. At least that’s how I feel! So it’s worth it, and I probably just need a couple days off to reboot. I haven’t had a few days off since we got back from our trip in August.

Vacation Recap

Oh hey there.

IMG_8310

So, I’m back to work and all, after being gone for a lovely part of a week in Phoenix visiting my sister Leslie and her husband Peter.

IMG_8323

If there’s a suitcase, it must be filled with cats.

IMG_8365

They live next door to this big pile of dirt.IMG_8366

I went for a run and took a picture. I look like a sparkly vampire, don’t I. Note the palm tree in the background. I couldn’t find the beach though.

IMG_8326

The first morning I woke up and this stuffed monkey was outside my door. I’m not sure whether it was a gift or a threat.

IMG_8362 

I need this print for my house too.

IMG_8333

Peter and the cats hanging on the couch.IMG_8339

Albergo and Catalunya like to help each other clean and groom. It’s adorable.IMG_8402

Leslie made the crusts. I think she was possessed.

IMG_8407

We did some serious baking. Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie.

IMG_8413 IMG_8408 

Dutch Apple Pie and Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake.IMG_8455

Martha Stewart’s Mac and Cheese. I stirred the bechamel sauce for over 20 minutes waiting for it to thicken. Tears were welling in my eyes, but it did finally thicken and tasted AMAZING.IMG_8448

We did some serious wine drinking. That giant bottle was a housewarming gift that they saved to serve at Thanksgiving. I can’t tell if the picture is blurry or if the effects of the wine have yet to wear off.

IMG_8462IMG_8465 

Lots of food was made, brought, and eaten. It was a wonderful day.

A few days before Thanksgiving we had lunch with the Boring Runner. It was delightful, and I’m glad I finally got to meet him after reading his blog for years.

IMG_8376

Naturally we had to take photos. We all wore blue so we’d look good in the photos.

IMG_8379

Why yes, my head IS bigger than everybody elses. And I was looking at a different camera, apparently.IMG_8377

This is my laugh or my “I’m poopin” face.

IMG_8383

After our blogger lunch Leslie and I decided we had to get fro yo to really feel like bloggers. Then again she’s absolutely NOT a blogger, but I like to pretend I am. It’s weird that we sat outside to eat eggnog fro-yo in November, but that’s Phoenix for ya.

IMG_8384

I don’t think I got enough toppings to count as a real blogger.

IMG_8398  

Did you know Trader Joe’s sells cats?

IMG_8472

Good eats in Phoenix

Well, since this is a restaurant review blog (oh, what?) I should tell you guys where I ate and drank while on my trip to Phoenix last week. 

I’ll even start with the St Louis Airport.

IMG_4242

I went to the Brewmaster’s Tap Room which is in the Southwest Terminal of Lambert St Louis.  I appreciate that they have actual beers on the menu in addition to Budweiser and Bud Light.  They were out of the 5 day, so I had the Schlafly Pale Ale.

IMG_4245 IMG_4252

It’s important to stick your nose in the glass to really absorb the flavors.

Okay, so then I was in Phoenix for dinner.  Leslie, Peter (her husband) and I went to the Windsor for dinner and drinks and general merriment.  It was good.  I had the chicken salad sandwich with roasted vegetables on the side.

IMG_4267

IMG_4271

I love roasted cauliflower.  I don’t know why it is so good.

IMG_4273

These were not both mine.

Lunch the next day was at La Condesa, where I’d been before.  It’s a little hole in the wall “Taco Shop” with a really sweet salsa bar.  I got a burrito.

IMG_4299

El Pastor Burro.  It was delicious.

Dinner I went with Sarah to a sushi place called Stingray Sushi.  It was at the Biltmore Fashion Park, but I think it’s a chain.

IMG_4329

IMG_4331

IMG_4337

Lunch the next day was at Gallo Blanco.  This is the restaurant attached to the Clarendon Hotel, where Leslie and Peter held their wedding reception.

IMG_4348

A really good picture of the steak burrito I had.

For dinner I went with Sarah to Pita Jungle which is quite near where Leslie and Peter live.  I had the chicken shawarma pita.

IMG_4377 IMG_4379

I also made fun of Sarah for being on her phone a lot.  I think she was “checking us in” so I figured I’d photograph her and instagram it.  That sounds about right, doesn’t it?

IMG_4386

The next day was race day.  After the race we got Pita Jungle again!

IMG_4419

(Falafel wrap, SOOOO delicious!)

Dinner was at Barrio Cafe.

IMG_4430 IMG_4432

Guacamole—they make this to your specifications right by the table.  We had it with everything, and it was awesome!

IMG_4433

Seafood Enchiladas.  I took half of this home because I ate some much of the guacamole.  Squash dipped in cream sauce is a really delicious thing though.

Next day: Lunch at the Oink Cafe.

IMG_4447

How can you not love a place with the tagline:  Breakfast. Lunch. Bacon.??

IMG_4451

Bacon Eggs Benedict.  I was having intense salt cravings so I asked to substitute hash browns for the fruit…that’s probably part of why my pants are tight.  Among other reasons.  Really, which I’m all listing here.  We ate out a ridiculous amount!

Dinner:  The Main Ingredient.

IMG_4461

I don’t know what dressing they use on their side salad, but it’s amazing.  I’ve eaten here before too and it’s great.  I also like how when you get a side salad with your sandwich they don’t give you a measly portion, it’s a really huge one.  Oh my god, I’m waxing poetic about the size of a side salad, aren’t I?

And, last but not least:  naturally we had to hit up Taco Bell at least once…

IMG_4473

I cannot think of anything more disgusting than that, yet I am tempted.  Sadly, or fortunately, I don’t think we have breakfast at Taco Bell here.

IMG_4477

I think that was enough hot sauce for two girls to eat four items from Taco Bell. 

Have you been to Phoenix?  Are any of these places your favorites?