Road Trip from San Diego to Sedona

I found the scenery along the 270 mile road trip from San Diego to Sedona fascinating, so I’m here to share our fun photo story.

IMG_2547 IMG_2582 IMG_2581

An unexpected check up briefly blew us off-course, bringing us back to the coast before we set sail to sweet Sedona.


After an awesome evening catching up with an old friend (at one of these Excellent Eats) and one last night with my sister in San Diego, Molly and I took off from Ocean Beach first thing in the morning.

IMG_2587On the way out of town we stopped off for a quick breakfast with my cousins (at another Excellent Eat) and an extra large coffee, then hit the open road for one of the most peaceful places on Earth, Sedona.


Not far outside of San Diego, mountains stretch up to meet the blue sky.

IMG_2598The rocks change shape and form as the elevation increases.


The road twists and curves, carving through the barren mountain tops.

DSC03996 IMG_2596

The hills give way to a stark, mostly flat dessert valley stretching as far as the eye can see.


Boarder patrollers are plenty along this route running parallel of Mexico. DSC04005

Occasionally a single mountain or hill rises up out of the middle of no where.

IMG_2651The towns become few and far between but there are still plenty of places to stop for food and gas here and there.

IMG_2618 IMG_2629


We only made 3 stops. Once at a rest stop and twice to refuel and renourish.

IMG_2676 - Copy

 As the hours flew by the gangly dessert bush began to sprout giant Saguaro Cactus. 


The tall slender structures sporadically dotted either side of the road.

IMG_2678 - Copy IMG_2677 - Copy

And then there was this sign…

IMG_2682 - Copy

We swept through Phoenix just skimming rush hour traffic.IMG_2687 - Copy

On the other side of the city, prickly hills led us closer and closer to Sedona.


Before long the gorgeous green Saguaro disappeared, giving way to rocky terrain.

DSC04008  IMG_2637

IMG_2640After breaking through one last rocky boulder, we crossed grassy rolling plains dotted in low-lying brush.

IMG_2692 - Copy

 And then, there it was!


The ruby red rocks of Sedona are always striking against clear blue skies.IMG_2722

 We pulled into town just in time to see the sun setting against the fiery rock forms.




Upon arrival we made a bee line for Airport Road.


The large elevated landing with an even larger parking lot is easily the most assessable sunset and sunrise viewing spot in Sedona.


The only drawback here, dinner hour ends pretty early in these parts. 9:00 p.m. snuck up on me somewhere between checking in and chatting with hubby.


 Subway and the nearest gas station saved the day night!

IMG_2757 That night I wrote this and prepared to hike that:IMG_2784

Look for pictures of our Courthouse Butte hike SOON! Until then check our hikes to Cathedral Rock and Bell Rock.

Thanksgiving Casserole

  Made from scratch or whipped up from leftovers, Thanksgiving Casserole is an easy pleaser. Have your Thanksgiving and eat it too anytime of year.

A Thanksgiving Casserole

Thanksgiving Casserole
(about 8 servings)

1 – 2 cups cooked turkey (optional)
2 – 4 cups veggies, bite-sized and cooked (mandatory)
2 – 3 cups gravy (From scratch recipe below!)
3 – 4 cups stuffing (From scratch recipe below!)
1.) Mix turkey (optional), veggies and gravy, then spread evenly in a prepared baking dish.
2.) Cover gravy filling evenly with stuffing.
3.) Bake casserole 20 – 30 minutes before serving.
A Thanksgiving Casserole
Thanksgiving isn’t complete without gravy and stuffing! From scratch stuffing and gravy is literally 1-2-3, quick & easy. So much so, Gravy, Stuffing and turkey are the only dishes prepared the day of Thanksgiving dinner (despite my passion for pre prepping).
1 tablespoon oil (coconut, avocado or grape seed)
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup chicken or veggie stock
1 cup milk
1/4 cup ground flax seed
2 teaspoons sage
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon pepper
dash nutmeg
1.) Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.
2.) Stir in flour and cook for another couple of minutes to eliminate any pasty taste.
3.) Whisk in stock, milk, flax and seasonings gradually until thickened.
roux recipes
1 tablespoon oil (coconut, avocado or grape seed)
1 onion, chopped
1 heaping cup chopped celery
2 – 3 apples, cored and chopped  (optional)
2 teaspoons sage
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 – 6 cups bread cubes
1-2 cups stock (veggie, chicken or turkey)
1.) Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat.
2.) Sauté onion, celery in oil about 10 minutes. Mix in seasonings until combine.
3.) Fold in bread cubes adding stock a little at a time until desired moistness is reached.
A Thanksgiving Casserole
This was the largest and quite possibly the best Thanksgiving dinner we’ve hosted to date. (Check out my Top 10 Holiday Hosting Tips!)
My sister and her main squeeze were home for the first time in two years, so along with the extra company there was LOTS of extra help!
IMG_1778 IMG_1882 DSC00826 IMG_1875 IMG_1781 DSC00809 IMG_1776 DSC00778
My Thanksgiving elves made prepping everything extra early this year easy breezy (because I refused to do anything but celebrate the day before Turkey Day).
 We kicked off Thanksgiving with our 3rd annual Turkey Trot.
IMG_1847 IMG_1849 IMG_1855 IMG_1860
Hubs ran a 5K while Dad, Mom, Molly the Doxie and I walked 2K.IMG_1865
Although there was snow remnants on the ground, temps were much warmer than the years prior.DSC00820
The day was spent watching the parade and dog show, wrapping up the dinner party details and anticipating the family’s arrival.
IMG_1883 IMG_1902 DSC00816 DSC00803DSC00800 IMG_1884 DSC00779 DSC00792DSC00793 DSC00787 DSC00814 DSC00789DSC00802 DSC00791 DSC00790 DSC00801
That night all 24 of us (21 humans and 3 dogs) partied like animals and feasted like kings.
  DSC00784 DSC00780 DSC00806 DSC00811 IMG_1896 IMG_1894 DSC00829 DSC00828 DSC00817 IMG_1910 DSC00834 DSC00840DSC00847 DSC00845 DSC00842 DSC00825
Make any day just as special as this day with comfy cozy

Black Forest Cupcakes

 In honor of hubby‘s birthday (the day before we hosted 21 lovely folks for Thanksgiving), I threw together these snazzy yet surprisingly simple Black Forest Cupcakes -skinny mini style! a black forest cake

1.) Whip up a batch of Triple Chocolate Cupcakes.

trim chocolate cake

2.) Carve a small crater-like crevice into the top of each cupcake.


3.) Pipe a ring of white icing around the top of the cakes.


4.) Pop a drop of cherry pie filling in the center of each white icing ring.


5.) Drizzle with the triple chocolate ingredient, chocolate ganache or steal your sister’s leftover chocolate glaze like I did.

a black forest cake

We had a FULL day of partying with family and friends.

IMG_1815 DSC00724 IMG_1810IMG_1814 DSC00728 IMG_1820 IMG_1831 IMG_1825 IMG_1822 DSC00741 DSC00758 DSC00759 DSC00762 DSC00767 DSC00768 IMG_1845

 Even though the Black Forest Cupcakes melted in the car on the way to dinner, they still tasted delicious.DSC00751

Cheers to life and these marvelous morsels!

a black forest cake

Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili

Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili is delicious, nutritious and easy to throw together. Now, what’s not to love about that?

a sweet potato black bean chili

(about 4 servings)
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed bite-sized
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons heart healthy oil (I like coconut here)
1 onion, fine chopped
6 cloves garlic, grated
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 cup vegetable stock and/or white wine (add more as needed)
3 tablespoons coconut or brown sugar
1 (28 ounces) can diced tomatoes
1 bell pepper, diced
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1.) Toss potatoes in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon oil. Spread evenly on a baking sheet.
2.) Bake potatoes at 400 degrees for 30 – 35 minutes or until crispy on the outside and tender in the middle. Set aside allowing potatoes to cool.
3.) Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat in a large pot. Cook onion until translucent or about 10 minutes. Add garlic within the last couple minutes of cooking.
4.) Whisk stock, tomatoes, bell pepper, cumin, chili powder, oregano, cayenne, cocoa powder and cornmeal into the sautéed vegetables. Simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes.
5.) Stir in cooled potatoes and black beans until heated through, or about 10 minutes.
Serve hot over rice, pasta, quinoa or straight up.
a sweet potato black bean chili
My cousin (featured here) and a few likes for last night’s supper (below) inspired this Mind Full Food post, but it was another predicament that inspired the actual recipe.
As I told her when she inquired about my inspiration, it all began with a BBQ Quinoa Salad I made for lunch with my sis-n-law, niece & nephew earlier in the week. (In case you were wondering, we also had skinny mini chocolate cheesecake for dessert.)
IMG_1541 IMG_1552
 Anyhow, I didn’t have enough BBQ sauce to finished the salad so attempted to make my own. The sauce recipe I concocted called for 1/4 tsp cayenne which ended up being WAY too hot to use on the BBQ Quinoa Salad. (Recipe coming soon!)
Since a lot of the ingredients in BBQ sauce are the same as chili and since we had sweet potatoes that needed to be used, Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili was born.
a sweet potato black bean chili
This one will fill you up and warm your soul, enjoy!

The Rob Jones Journey

The Rob Jones Journey is a veteran Marine’s million dollar mission to raise funds for the foundations that aided in his post war recovery.

DSC03951 - Copy

After losing his legs to an Afghan IED while deployed in 2010, Rob dreamed of riding a bike again during his recovery time at Walter Reed Hospital. Within 6 months he’d met his goal. After bringing home a bronze rowing metal from the 2012 Paralympics, the relentless Rob Jones Journey set off to bike across American in the fall of 2013.


Being in the right place at the right time along my 40 day 4000 mile west coast road trip, I was more than honored to join the fellow Hokie for the final stretch of his 7 month 5,181 mile cross country bike ride.

DSC03946 DSC03947

My sister and I rooted from the sidelines as her significant other (who served in the Marines alongside Rob) geared up with the crew taking off from Dana Point, CA. (A special shout out goes to River Stone Cycles who generously donated a bike rental and funds for the cause.)

DSC03949 DSC03953 DSC03954

DSC03956 DSC03959

Ending the grand journey 28 miles south at Camp Pendleton, April 12, 2014 was dubbed Sergeant Rob Jones Day by the Mayor of Oceanside.

DSC03963 DSC03971DSC03970 DSC03966

The Rob Jones Journey is insanely inspiring to say the least. Thanks for sharing your story of strength and endurance with us, Rob Jones!

DSC03973Thanks to all who have served and protected our country!