Friends with (Climbing) Benefits: MT Lemmon Style👊🏼

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I am just days away from heading off to yet, another climbing adventure, with the child on top of this rock with me. And, I realized that I have not posted about all the fun we had the first 4 months of this year 😳 I am so behind on my blog!!

One reason I haven’t blogged about this period of time is that I had soooo many pictures to sort through! Much like the trip I made this time last year, with my blog buddies in Montreal. I have been blessed with an abundance of riches 😊 Just like then, I had to sit down and force myself to pick the best moments out of a mountain of happy memories. So, here it goes!

Our first stroke of good fortune was that our son, Ryan, decided to spend the winter months with us in Tucson. He stayed from January to April, which meant I had an outdoor climbing buddy at all times 😆 The second was that our dirtbag pals (a dirtbag is a person who lives in a van, traveling from one climbing area to another for weeks, months or years at a time) made a stop at our place! Joan and Dean are on a mission to climb and visit every national park and climbing area in the US🌟

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Left to right: Dean, Dennis, Joan, Ryan and me

There is no way I could document every time we were out cragging. Often there was some subset of this group out, and with other local folks mixed in, climbing, biking, or at an acro yoga class! This was an intense period of physical activity to be sure! So I will attempt to hit the highlights.

One of the earliest trips up the mountain involved all five of us. We made our way up to Goosehead rock, which has several routes of varying difficulty. This is a mile past Windy Point, as you head up MT Lemmon.

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Dean belaying Dennis

 

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Dennis is on the left, at the top and Ryan is leading a harder route on the right

 

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Joan and Ryan met while working at Vertical World, and have been serious buds ever since!

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Joan on the left, cruising past me on the right 😂

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Yes, Dean is wearing shorts even though there is snow on the ground. That’s just how he rolls👊🏼

As you can see, we had a colder than usual winter in Tucson this year. More snow and rainfall than usual. This meant that we had to get out whenever we could get a weather break. And, sometimes we had to head indoors to get in a climb.

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Dean is patiently waiting for me to figure out this 5.10c lead beta, he looks thrilled! 😂

We did get another chance to make it up to the Windy Point climbing area. Unfortunately Dennis was working and Joan was not feeling well, so it was just Ryan, Dean and myself. I say it was unfortunate because this was, by far, my favorite day of climbing😊 The sun was out and we hit up two of the most picturesque climbing areas on the mountain.

We set our sights on Hitchcock Pinnacle Rock first. I have wanted to get on top of this the moment I laid eyes on it last year 😍

We had the area to ourselves, and made a simple plan. Ryan would go up first, leading the easiest route on the right (5.7) and then belay up me, and then Dean.

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A huge thank you to Dean for these great photos! I will cherish these always❤️

Now it was Dean’s turn!

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Of course, summit selfies at the top of all of us!

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Dean is King of the World! 

 

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I love the reflections in Ryan’s glasses

 

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There is another route, a slightly harder (5.10a) on the left side that we wanted to try. So we rappelled down and went back up! Check out the right side of the tower, see that ledge? near the base? The climber has to pull over that roof.

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After we finished playing here😆 The guys wanted a bigger challenge. We made our way a short distance to the other side so they could climb Steve’s Arete.

This is a gorgeous climb and a 5.11a, not something I wanted to try, so I just took the pics

I believe that Dean went first

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then Ryan

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Both of these guys are strong climbers, and they struggled at times to send it. When Dean said “now it’s DeeDee’s turn”, I said “pass”! Next time😲 maybe.

Of course, they were interested in the harder route on the right, “Green Ripper” is a 5.12b and it took Ryan several tries to send it, but he got it!

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You can see his climb here: on his youtube channel! Its a three minute video.

After this the weather turned cold again, so our next two trips out had to be at lower elevation on the moutain. We made our way to La Milagrosa canyon a couple times, which required passing through some water. Off came the shoes😂

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The first time found us at a crag called “the beach”, mainly because it is always in the sun☀️ Ryan spent a long time working an overhanging 5.12, he came close but didn’t quite send it. It did make for some pretty pics!

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The second time we hit up the “Main Wall” I really liked this area, even managed a few lead climbs myself 👊🏼

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Joan on lead, with Dean belaying

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the belayer does not seem to be paying attention!

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Ryan’s happy to get this 5.12b “Ecstatic Electricity”

The weather shut us down for a few days for climbing. So Joan and I did some partner yoga🧘🏻‍♀️because of course, who wouldn’t!

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Did I mention that Joan is crazy!! I guess I am too 🤪

Our last climb was back at Windy Point, but Hawk Rock this time

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Dean in space

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While the guys worked on a couple routes, Joan and I climbed up the back way to watch from the top. We also wanted to take a look at a slack line that was set up on a nearby peak.

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It was such a windy day, we never saw anyone try to cross this!

 

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Dean topping out

 

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I’m just goofing around here, but the rock was a little sharp 😉

After a few other climbs, here and there, Joan and Dean departed for Red Rocks in Vegas. They would be meeting up with Ryan while he worked his way northward. It was sad to see them go, but we are all planning on climbing again next winter.

It was time for our daughter, Alex, to visit for the weekend. Alex, Ryan and I went to “Crags Against Humanity” which is low on the mountain and very easy to get to from the car. We went so Alex could get in a few climbs, and to help Ryan train for a rock rescue drill that he needed to perform at his AMGA rock guide II course that he would be taking at Red Rocks.

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Alex’s first lead at MT Lemmon

 

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My turn to lead

 

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Ryan “rescuing” me, I am supposed to be unconscious! 

 

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And I am saved!!

So now I am caught up!! Until Monday (three days from now) when Ryan and I start climbing at Smith Rock State Park. We went as a family two years ago! I wrote a post about it but I haven’t been back, until now.

So excited, and lucky, to get to climb with my kids💕

If you want to learn more about Joan and Dean’s adventures, you can find them on Instagram @love2dirtbag

Ryan is on IG @rtillson_  and he posts climbing videos at youtube: Ryan Tilley

OR click here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6kqvEAyZZHVkIjfLCRo0Yw

 

 

 

 

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Sally’s Baking Addiction: May, 2019 Challenge: How To Make Perfect Scones👩🏻‍🍳

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When I saw that Sally had set scone baking as the May challenge, I was both excited and disappointed at the the same time. Excited because I love scones! And so does my family, which means I have baked a lot of scones over the years. I don’t find them to be that difficult, mainly due to all the practice I have had 😂

So I was not expecting this to be much of a challenge. But then I took a closer look at Sally’s recipe. Her method of cutting in the butter (a crucial component to scone baking) was one that I have seen before, but have never tried. More on that later!

The first task was to choose which flavor to make my scones. Sally has quite a large variety from which to select! She has savory recipes as well as the more common, sweet options. We were having house guests this month, so I selected the tried and true, blueberry, which would please all of us for breakfast during their stay.

The first step was to combine the dry ingredients: flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and sugar.

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Then I chose to mix the wet ingredients and keep it in the fridge, while I cut in the butter. Keeping everything as cold as possible, for as long as possible is crucial to getting fluffy and light scones. Not an easy job in a hot Tucson kitchen 😆

I mixed the heavy cream, vanilla and egg in a 2 cup measure with a spout. I added another ingredient, not specified by Sally’s recipe: Lemon zest 🍋 I love lemon and blueberries together, so you will see the zest in the picture.

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This was whisked up, and placed in the refrigerator for later.

Now comes the new part, for me anyway. Normally, I will cube the cold butter into smallish pieces and use a pastry cutter to work the small cubes into smaller, pea sized pieces. And, that has always worked well! But Sally, and others that I have seen, will use frozen butter and a box grater. IMG_5800

I admit that this has always struck me as messy and time consuming. And, if you are making more than just 8 scones, it is a lot of butter to deal with! In this recipe, there is only 1/2 cup, or 1 stick. So I decided to give it a go.

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This was added to the dry ingredients and cut into the mix, which did not take long given how small the butter pieces were from the grating process.

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The cold, wet mixture was then added..

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as were the blueberries.

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The batter was stirred until the components came together in a loose ball. This was turned out onto a heavily floured counter, and molded into an 8″ circle. As I mentioned before, this was cut into 8 triangles.

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I put these on a tray and left them overnight in the fridge, as I wanted to bake them off, fresh in the morning, for our guests.

The next morning, the scones were brushed with cream and dusted with course sugar. They were baked at 400F for some amount of time (I forgot to set the timer 😉)

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Until golden brown 😋

 

Then it was time to chow down!

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So, was it really necessary to grate the butter?

These scones were delicious! No doubt about it! But they were just as tasty as recipes where I just cut up the butter into very small cubes. I would say, if there is a small amount of butter needed, then grating would be fine. But for those recipes where you are making more than just 8 or 12 scones, and you like to cube the butter, then go right ahead. That will be my plan moving forward.

Do try Sally’s scone recipes! I love her flavor combos ❤️

 

Sally’s Baking Addiction: April, 2019 Challenge: Soft Dinner Rolls with Honey Butter 🍯😋👩🏻‍🍳

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I was thrilled to see that Sally’s Baking Challenge was to be Soft Dinner Rolls this month😊 Our family is very serious about our bread consumption!! This is the house that gluten built 🌾

I bake bread and rolls so often that I keep a wide varitey of flours in my pantry at all times 😂 Of course, Sally provides an excellent video tutorial to help the “yeast adverse” bakers out there. But, honestly, if you are at all worried about yeasted bread baking, this is a very simple and delicious recipe.

There are only 7 ingredients and the dough comes together rather quickly.

I warmed the milk in the microwave until it reached a temp of 100F. I used 2% as that is what we usually have in the fridge. I whisked in 1 tablespoon of regular sugar and 2 1/4 teaspoons of instant yeast.

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As I mentioned before, I bake a lot of bread, so I purchase my yeast in 1lb bags and store them in the fridge. That way I have yeast whenever I need it and I am familiar with how this yeast will perform in my kitchen, every time I bake. It takes a little of the guess work out of yeasted products.

The warm milk, sugar and yeast were allowed to sit for about 5 minutes to activate.

 

 

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Sally gave us the option to use either all purpose flour or bread flour. I have several types of bread flour that I like to use, but often go with King Arthur, which I did this time as well.

 

 

 

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Once the yeast was active, I added the rest of the sugar, egg, butter, salt and 1 cup of the flour. IMG_4712

This was mixed on medium for about 1 minute, then the rest of the flour was added. After another couple of minutes, a ball formed and pulled away from the sides of the bowl.

The mixer ran for several more minutes until the dough was properly kneaded.

It was time for the first rising. I placed the ball into a lightly greased bowl, and covered it for 2 hours.⏲

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After the dough had doubled in size, it was time to shape the rolls. I greased a 9 X 13 inch pan and divided the dough into 15 equalish portions.

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I weighed the bowl and dough together, then removed the dough and punched it down, and weighed the empty bowl to ascertain the total dough weight.

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The weight of the dough, divided by 15,  gave me the sum of ~ 50 grams per roll.

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These portions were shaped into balls and placed in the pan for their second rise.

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And, about 1 hour later, ⏲ they were ready for the oven

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The rolls were baked at 350F, on the lower shelf in the oven, for ~25 minutes.

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Sally’s last suggestion, which was optional, was to melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 1 tablespoon of honey, and spread over the hot rolls. This is optional, yes, but don’t skip it!! So good 😋

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My husband and son really devoured these quickly! I managed to get one of them before they finished them off, and yes, they were deilcious🌟

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Flower Power Trip: Book Review📚

flower power

by

James J. Cudney

5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Kellan Ayrwick and his quirky family are all back for this third installment in the Braxton Campus Mystery Series.  Kellan, now professor Ayrwick, is assisting the Braxton College President, Ursula Power, who is receiving threatening messages. Ursula is worried that her dark family secret will be revealed, when a visiting professor is found stabbed to death during a college fundraising event. Kellan stumbles across the murder scene just as a family friend is discovered standing over the dead body. Unwilling to believe that this friend is a murderer, he now takes on the challenge of solving the crime, all the while continuing to assist Ursula to uncover her tormentor. Are the two incidents linked somehow?

Balancing his penchant for stumbling into crime scenes, along with teaching duties and single parenting his young daughter, is all the more difficult with his continuing battle with his former in-laws, the Castiglianos. How will he resolve his own marital problems, while helping his cantankerous Nana D win the mayoral election and keep her, and her friends out of trouble!

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I am really enjoying this cozy mystery series as each story is entertaining, light-hearted (if you can label murder light 😉) and full of humorous personalities. I truly don’t know where the next twist will come from or how the resolution will play out. As any good series, each book could be read as a stand alone, but I strongly recommend starting from the beginning, as the characters become more vibrant, endearing and relatable as they navigate new challenges. I will be pre ordering Jay’s next book in this series, Mistaken Identity Crisis, ASAP!

On a personal note….I feel blessed to call Jay a friend. He is an outstanding person who I have enjoyed getting to know, and had the great chance to meet in person. Because I stalk him with regularity, it was fun to see a number of “easter eggs” in this last novel. For those who read his blog regularly you will also catch a few of these gems woven throughout the narrative. So fun, thanks for the treasure hunt my friend💕

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About the Author 

James is my given name; most call me Jay. I grew up on Long Island and currently live in New York City, but I’ve traveled all across the US (and various parts of the world). After college, I spent 15 years working in technology and business operations in the sports, entertainment and media industries. Although I enjoyed my job, I left in 2016 to focus on my passion: telling stories and connecting people through words. My debut novel is ‘Watching Glass Shatter,’ a contemporary fiction family drama with elements of mystery, suspense, humor and romance. To see samples or receive news from my current and upcoming books, please subscribe with your email address at my website: https://jamesjcudney.com

Purchase Jay’s  current series here!

Academic Curveball

Broken Heart Attack

Flower Power

Author Links

Blog:https://thisismytruthnow.com

Author Website:https://jamesjcudney.com

Social Media Links

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/James-J.-Cudney/e/B076B6PB3M/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jamescudney4

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JamesJCudneyIVAuthor/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jamescudney4/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jamescudney4/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/jamescudney4

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamescudney4

 

Sally’s Baking Addiction: March, 2019 Challenge: Lemon Bars With Shortbread Crust 🍋

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When I saw that Sally wanted us to make lemon bars, I was not too excited 😏

I love lemon 🍋, but am not a huge fan of shortbread. Just too buttery for me, but it turned out that the crust was not too thick and did provide a nice relief to all that sharp lemon flavor.

Sally has converted me once again! Everytime I think that I won’t like something, I am wrong😂 Now I am a believer!!

There are only 7 ingredients in her recipe, so the quality of each is important🌟

The first step is to bake the shortbread crust. I put the 1 cup of butter into a glass measuring cup, with a pour spout, and melted it in the microwave, just until it was melted (I didn’t want this to boil). While the butter cooled a bit, I whisked up the granulated sugar, vanilla and salt

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The melted butter was added

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Finally the flour was incorporated and stirred into a shiny dough ball, the dough is thick at this point.

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This was pressed into a 9 X 13, parchment lined glass pan

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and baked at 325F for 20 minutes.

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While the crust was in the oven, the filling was prepared. It is also quite easy to assemble!

More sugar and flour were sifted together. I made one small change to Sally’s recipe here and added the zest of the lemons 🍋, I just couldn’t help myself😉

It also turned out that all my eggs were double yolks 😂

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Another important tip Sally gave us was to use freshly squeezed lemon juice. I have to agree with her! I always squeeze it fresh.

 

After the juice was added, the lemon filling was poured over the warm crust and back in the oven for another 20 minutes, until the center jiggled slightly

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Once the bars were done, they sat at room temperature for 2 hours, then in the refridgerator for overnight. Sally recommends they be refriderated for at least two hours but overnight fit my life better 😊

Then it was time to cut! I pulled them out of the pan using the parchment paper and dusted the bars with powdered sugar

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Then cut into squares, a knife run under hot water helped make this a cleaner job!

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I was happy with the look of these 😊

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And the taste! 😋✨

If you are a lemon fan, these are for you!

Sally’s Baking Addiction: February, 2019 Challenge: Homemade Chocolate Truffles 🍫🍬 😋

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February, Valentine’s Day, the month to celebrate chocolate 🍫❤️!

Sally’s baking challenge this month was to make chocolate truffles. This was incredibly easy! Only two ingredients, good quality chocolate and heavy cream. 😋 She did give us the option to add a tablespoon of butter for a better consistency and vanilla for flavor, both of which I did add 😉, but you could do this with only the chocolate and cream.

The first step is to finely chop up the chocolate, using a serrated knife works really well. The finer you chop the chocolate the faster the hot cream will melt it.

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I chose semi sweet chocolate to make sure that the truffles would not be too sweet, but you could use dark or milk chocolate. Sally provides some additional instructions for different cocoa content.

I added the tablespoon of butter and, carefully, heated the heavy cream in the microwave. When the cream was warm (but not boiling!), it was poured over the mixture and let to sit for 5 min.

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I then stirred the mixture until it was smooth and shiny.

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The chocolate has to be completely cooled before you can scoop it out and roll it into balls. This was faster when I poured it into a 9 X 9 pan and placed it in the fridge for a couple of hours.

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After it was solid, I scored it into 36 squares, which made smaller truffles than what Sally’s recipe stated.

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I went with 6 toppings: chopped walnuts, unsweetened cocoa power, chocolate sprinkles,   colored sprinkles and gold and white sanding sugar.

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One bit of advice that Sally gave was to scoop the chocolate and allow it to dry out for 20 minutes before rolling them into balls. This helped make a sticky job a little easier.

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They were small, but so tasty 😋

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The inside was soft, and the toppings provided a nice crunchy element. They were fine at room temperature as well, of course, we still have snow on the ground around here😂 so “room temp” may be a tad low!

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This was one of Sally’s fastest recipes! Next time I think I might add a liqueur flavor instead of vanilla. They would be perfect for the holidays 🌟

Our Long Weekend at Miraval Spa💆🏼‍♀️🧘🏻‍♀️🚵‍♀️

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Recently hubby and I visited Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa in Tucson. We went to celebrate my birthday and Valentine’s Day this year. And, although the resort was only 40 minutes from our Tucson home, it was as if we had journeyed much further. The tranquil environment, delicious food, beautiful setting and indulgent treatments were just what we needed! It’s no secret that Dennis and I are tremendously active, and our sore bodies needed a little TLC, in the form of massages 💆🏼‍♀️ and down time.

This is a popular spa and we had to plan our trip months ago. So far in advance that we sort of forgot what we signed up for😂. We had many options to choose from, and not just in the spa treatments, but the activities list was extensive! Everything from horseback riding to psychic readings was available. We tend toward active pursuits and stayed true to form. We did, however, avoid activities that we already participate in regularly.

The weather was a little cool, but we did get some sun from time to time. Our first goal was to orient ourselves to the property, so we set out to take a look around.

 

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View from the spa, overlooking one of the pools

 

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The mediation area, near the front entrance

 

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We didn’t have too much time because we were scheduled to take the slack line class! I was particularly excited about this one 🤩.

We started out low to the ground and them made our way up to the higher line. Dennis was pretty good at this!

I am really in love with this! It’s an excellent way to work on balance and strengthen the core. You will be seeing more of this on Instagram next month, as I already purchased one 😂

After our class, Dennis headed out to a yoga class that caught his attention. I decided to work on my own practice on the back patio at our room.

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And, continued looking around!

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We also spent some time in the pool 🏊‍♀️, and next to it reading. So great to just relax for a bit! We both had massages scheduled for later that night, so dinner was first.

Oh the food!! Have you been to a spa? If so, you know that the emphasis is on healthy, tasty meals😋. All dishes have the nutritional breakdown listed, and is appropriately portioned. Of course it is still easy to consume too much! It is a lot like going on a cruise, where the food is included, so you do have to police yourself😉

We (tried) to eat lite, as we had the massages later, and no alcohol since we had an early tightrope walking class the next day. Still, we had to try three desserts 😂

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The next morning, it was time to hit the ropes course. I had signed up for this experience and had them add it to my hubby’s schedule too, without telling him! That was two months ago, and I meant to tell him….really!

We went through the safety stuff, were fitted for our harnesses and the order of participation was set. Much to my chagrin, I was last😳, and Dennis was to go first.

So, up he went. The course is 35 feet above the ground and is effectively a slack line with ropes to grip as you make your way across the obstacle.

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Dennis had no trouble moving all the way to the last rope (on the right of the picture). The vertical support ropes start out close together but grow farther from one another as you progress.

As I mentioned, he was first, and I was to be 8th. So, we watched the other ladies for a while. Most made it all the way🌟

Finally, my turn!

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more clouds have moved in!

 

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Yep, I made it too! Dennis took this shot. I look like a spider in a web 🕷🕸!

We went for breakfast after this and I was in heaven. Breakfast is my favorite meal and Miraval did not disappoint!

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Pesto fried egg on a roasted sweet potato 😋

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And, steel-cut oats with more eggs! 🥚

We split up after this amazing meal. I went to the spa to hang out in the hot tub and have a facial, while hubby went to another yoga class. He had another treatment as well, so we did not see one another until the sunset hike later that evening.

The hike itself was fairly straight forward. Since we do live here half the year, we have been on many desert hikes, but never with a guide. She was wonderful and very knowledgeable about the desert environment. Not too much of a sunset though, as it was quite cloudy☁️

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She did point out this prickly pear that had a heart shaped lobe. Had to grab this image for Valentine’s Day ❤️

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We finished our 2 hour hike just in time for dinner. This time, there were no restrictions for time the next day, so we had some drinks 🍸🥃🥂 and, then a few more🤪

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We also continued to explore the menu! A few appetizers…..

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And, two more desserts to sample 😂

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We crowned the dessert winner….This sweet potato tart with white chocolate ice cream 🏆

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At some point, during another round of drinks, I noticed that I was feeling a little off.. a cold perhaps? Oh well, not tonight!

The next morning however, ya, I was starting to feel a little yucky! But no matter! We had mountain biking to do 🚵‍♀️🚵🏻‍♂️

I don’t have any photos of this as we were too busy mowing over obstacles, but believe me it was a sight to see hubby on a bike😂 definitely not his comfort zone! We did not fall and had fun, all you can ask, right?!

Dennis went off for a massage and I headed to my yoga class. I signed up for a yoga wheel experience, but when I got there, it was just me😳 I ended up having a private session in the most beautiful yoga studio.

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Just the teacher and me

 

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What a view!

By now, I was limber and feeling the full effects of my cold 🤧 Time for some hot beverages

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And, another round of hot tub soaking, and my final spa treatment. I had a sugar scrub and was all set for, more hot beverages, and dinner.

This would be our last dinner, so we wanted to have our favorite dessert one more time. As well as something really tasty for the appetizer and entrée.

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The farm fresh egg appetizer

 

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Roasted shrimp with forbidden rice entrée

Afterward, we took a walk around and saw a beautiful sunset!

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By now, I was ready for bed, with my cold in full bloom!

Our last morning at Miraval and Dennis had one more spa treatment, while I went to the core blasting experience. So glad I didn’t cancel this one!

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I had never used one of these boards before! It was fun, not super hard, but I may have been in need of a tougher class for this one. Many other folks seemed to be hurting 😂, at least I got some exercise in before we left!

One last stroll around the beautiful grounds.

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This long exposure almost looks like a cartoon

 

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And, with that, we left for the short drive home 🏠😊

Such an amazing experience. We truly felt rejuvenated, and rested. We chose a mixture of relaxing treatments and fun activities for our experience, but you could truly go more indulgent or more active. We recommend Miraval, and the spa experience in general.

I’m already looking forward to our next visit🌟