2017 End-of-Year Photo DUMP

What joy it brings to look back on a year in (iPhone) photos. This clump of a zillion photos is basically just for me, to look back on the truly awesome and unforgettable, from Cairo and the great Pyramids on New Year's Day 2017 to spending Christmas in Scottsdale with my family before ringing in 2018. It makes it look like nothing bad, sad, or challenging happened the entire year, which of course, is complete hogwash (but wouldn't that be wonderful). I think this is going to be a big year of change. Taking one, two, three deep breaths...

Past years: 201120122013201420152016

Scottsdale Sunset

The Sanctuary on Camelback

The Sanctuary on Camelback

I was lucky to spend nearly two weeks at home in Scottsdale over Christmas. I hadn't spent that much time at home in almost two years, and it made me realize how much I miss it. Scottsdale is known for its hotels, spas, hikes, sunshine, golf courses, culture of healthiness, and mountain views - all things I love (ok, not golf). But for me, there's a memory on every street corner, the desert air is actually healing, and life just feels...easier.

March is the most magical time in Scottsdale - for a couple of weeks, the air smells like perfume because of the orange blossoms blooming. It's like a sunny, suburban eden. And if you find yourself in Scottsdale, head to The Sanctuary hotel on Camelback Mountain to watch the sunset. It's pretty magical too.

Hiking Pinnacle Peak in Scottsdale

I always try to climb Camelback Mountain at least once when I'm home in Arizona. But on my most recent trip, staying at the Four Seasons in Scottsdale, a few of us climbed nearby Pinnacle Peak in the early morning, which I had never done in 20 years of living/visiting family in Arizona. For a first-time visitor to Scottsdale, I'd say this is the hike to do. You have panoramic views of the valley, of Camelback Mountain and you're surrounded by hundreds of saguaro cacti. Plus, it's a simple hike for the most part. No hanging onto poles to help you get up straight vertical climbs like on Camelback. It was the best way to start an Arizona day.

Camelback Mountain

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale, Arizona

You can't compare Four Seasons to any other hotel brand - they are above and beyond spectacular in every way. Continuing on the Arizona trip with Visit Phoenix and a most amazing group of ladies, we headed to the Four Seasons Resort in Scottsdale. The Scottsdale property is so integrated into the landscape that you couldn't feel any closer unless you were sleeping with the cacti (no thanks!). The desert vistas are home to me, but add in the mouthwatering steak and seafood at Talavera (which has the BEST SUNSET VIEW in Scottsdale), drinks, mini spa treatments, yoga on the lawn, and stargazing with a pro astronomer? I was most definitely NOT at home and it made for a memorable weekend.

The guest rooms are in casitas that gaze out at the Arizona terrain, which is nearly silent at night. And the interiors reflect what I'd want my dream Arizona home to look like - a cozy fireplace and a palette of desert pinks, purples, and oranges. I love so many of the Scottsdale hotels, but this one reflects the Arizona I love the most in its layout and design. Plus we spotted Giada de Laurentiis getting her hair done in the salon before her book signing in Kierland Commons!

The best time of day

I miss these ladies!

Entrance to my room

Loved all these paths through the resort

Arizona PerfectionSo many great views! Caught a beautiful weddingThe lobby at nightLobby during the dayCan't wait to go back when I'm home

Sheraton Wild Horse Pass And The Best Massage Ever

View from my roomI got the best massage of my life at Aji Spa (meaning "Sanctuary" in the Pima language) at Sheraton Wild Horse Pass in Arizona. Already, I've had three friends go see this therapist because of my experience and they say the same thing. At the spa, I met Jason, he put his hand on my back, and started asking questions about my trip and what I was doing at Wild Horse Pass. I later learned that's his first indication of how tense someone is, by how their back tightens. I was coming off of two months of air travel all over the world and my back was killing me. He told me he works with a lot of football players so he'd take it down a couple of notches for me on the Gila River Rock Massage. I don't know how he did it, but I never had to say a word - he knew where every painful knot, and chronic tight muscle was and made them disappear.

Aji Spa Pool

Waiting Area in Aji SpaI also met with Belen Stoneman, an extremely gifted Native American woman specializing in therapeutic massage and healing techniques - the type of person that calms you and inspires simply by being in the same room.

Where we met with Belen at Aji Spa

Healthy Spa FoodI had been invited on this trip with Visit Phoenix with a fabulous group of travel and digital superstars that became friends by the end. Staying at a hotel in my hometown was a little bit strange at first. But Wild Horse Pass reminded me what I love most about my home state - the mountain ranges that are wise, the cacti that reflect home to me, the great food and wine from Arizona.

Room Balcony View

Lobby at night"Friend, Welcome to my house. It is good to see you. The creator be with you."We went horseback riding through the Koli Equestrian Center on property and came across a group of wild horses with their babies. We were quiet, privileged to be there, watching, on the edge of what is their land, not ours.

Wild Horses

On My Horse! Our Wonderful GroupAlso, we didn't go on this trip but I love take first-time Arizona visitors to Rawhide, right next to Wild Horse Pass. It's designed to look like an 1880's Western town, with a steakhouse & saloon and gold panning, burro rides, and a petting zoo for kids. Oh, and a mechanical bull. You get in for free, and then just pay for the attractions you want. 

Yum - gorgeous smoothies from breakfast - a welcome treat after so much rich (yes, delicious but I miss making my own stuff!) food on the road.

Breakfast Smoothie Shots