Monday, August 26, 2013

First taste of Gadzooks Enchiladas and Soup

I tried Gadzooks on Friday night to satisfy my perennial craving for enchiladas. Its simple sign, "Gadzooks Enchiladas and Soup," taunts me almost daily on my commute to work.

The ordering process seemed similar to Chipotle, and I may have annoyed a person there by comparing it to the chain a few times, but it has its distinctive flavor. He emphasized that all ingredients, including the sauces and toppings, are made fresh daily.

Here's how it works:

  • Pick among enchiladas, tacos, salad or tortilla soup.
  • Pick between flour or corn tortillas.
  • Choose your unique filling: roasted tomatillo chicken, green-chile pork shoulder, Modelo-braised bison, smashed Jack potato (what I ordered), sauteed spinach mushroom, Guajillo braised short ribs, or Chihuahua or asadero cheese.
  • Cover it with red or green sauce, or get both, "Christmas." Top it with asadero or Chihuahua cheese.
  • For an extra $1, you can add goat cheese, fried over-easy egg, or guacamole.
  • Pick a salsa: pico, salsa verde, arbol red, habañero lava.
  • Top it with crema, cotjia cheese, vinaigrette slaw, or pickled onion, if you'd like.
  • Dress it with jalapeño ranch, buttermilk, three-chile vinaigrette, or honey-suckle vinaigrette.
  • Lastly, get your beverage and perhaps add chips and salsa for $2.

Friday night dinner at Gadzooks was made for a low-key and affordable date-night meal. Next time I'm looking forward to trying the spinach mushroom 'ladas. Yum.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Aug. 25: National Park Service's Birthday

Update: The National Park Service is turning 100! The fee-free day continues this year. See more on the website!

The National Park Service is turning 97.  Admission and day-use fees at national parks are waived on Sunday, Aug. 25, so it might be a good time to plan a day trip. I visited Grand Canyon National Park on a fee-free day in September and saved $25.

Looking for a national park in Arizona? 

Note: The Hohokam Pima National Monument is not open to the public.

Of course, there are also national parks and monuments that never charge an entrance fee.
Other fee-free days are planned in 2013. They are:
  • Sept. 28 for National Public Lands Day, which I took advantage of in 2012.
  • Nov. 9-11 for Veterans Day weekend.
There is a disclaimer on the website that not all fees may be waived. It's best to call the park ahead of time to ask.

It says:

*Fee waiver includes: entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees. Other fees such as reservation, camping, tours, concession and fees collected by third parties are not included unless stated otherwise.

If you visit national parks often, consider purchasing an annual pass ($80), which gets to in to more than 2,000 national recreation areas. There are also senior, military, volunteer and access passes.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Arizona Cardinals training camp at University of Phoenix Stadium

When Cardinals training camp was in Flagstaff, it offered Phoenicians an opportunity to escape the heat. Sadly, I never made the trek north to see the team practice at NAU before training camp was moved to the West Valley.

Now that the practices take place inside the nicely air-conditioned University of Phoenix Stadium under a closed roof, fans can still escape the high temps, at least for a couple of hours. All practices are free, as is parking at the stadium.

Afterward, fans can try their luck at getting an autograph from their favorite players. Larry Fitzgerald stayed after practice to work on catching drills, so many fans waited in hopes of getting his autograph.

Make a day of it by having a pre- or post-workout meal at restaurants in nearby Westgate.

Remaining practice dates for the 2013 training camp:

  • 2-4:35 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 13.
  • 2-4:35 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 15.
  • 2-4:35 p.m. Monday, Aug. 19.
  • 2-4:35 p.m.Tuesday, Aug. 20.
  • 2-4:35 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21.
  • 2-4:35 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 22.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Camping at Schnebly Hill

With the Perseid meteor shower set to illuminate the sky, Graham and I headed north to get away from city lights and hopefully see the show.

We chose the campgrounds along Schnebly Hill Road, accessible via the I-17.

Our first destination was Schnebly Hill Vista, which overlooks the Sedona area. You get there by driving down Schnebly Hill Road past the campgrounds. Along the bumpy drive you pass Foxboro Lake Dam to the right; on the left is a sea of yellow wildflowers. All this beauty is complemented nicely by 72-degree weather.

The Vista doesn't disappoint. How did I not know about this place?!

If you keep following the dirt road you can get to Sedona. In fact, most of the vehicles we saw on the road were Jeep tours from there.

Graham is picky about campsites -- we have to be as far away from other people as possible -- so we were excited about this spot. (And we had it to ourselves until about 8 or 9 p.m., when two trucks drove up and people set up camp near us. There should be a rule that if the campers next to you can hear your conversation, you are too close. Move away.)

We took our pups on a hike along the rough road adjoining our campsite. We came across another field of wildflowers that the dogs thoroughly enjoyed. There was also an animal watering hole, which made us nervous about hunters. Taylor and Capone couldn't resist jumping in. We could hear sporadic gunfire nearby, so we kept the dogs as close to us as possible. Taylor especially loves to wander off and explore, so it's difficult to rein the pups in. I'd feel more comfortable next time if we can get them orange vests.

Later that day

Somewhere along a bumpy trail near the Vista we found a nice viewing area to admire the afternoon's changing colors. We went back to the Vista for a quick snack and then returned to our viewing spot for sunset. Sadly the clouds had mostly moved on by sunset; they would have created a more colorful sunset, but the one we watched was quite lovely.

Under the stars

That night we caught a glimpse of maybe 5-6 shooting stars as we sat around the campfire. A thunderstorm to the east also lit up that part of the sky. I was thrilled to have to put on a sweatshirt to keep warm!

Good morning!

The perfect night was followed by a perfect morning of yoga and homemade doughnuts with fruit.

I forgot my yoga mat, so I had to make do with what we had. There's nothing like outdoor yoga.

Homemade doughnuts, strawberries, blueberries and powdered sugar, courtesy of Graham. I added honey, too.

Hope your weekend was just as adventurous, scenic, romantic and delicious.

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Monday, August 5, 2013

Relaxing at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa

 A recent day at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa opened my eyes to the staycation possibilities.

My cousin invited me over to her spa suite and to relax at the pool for her birthday. A highlight was the view of Praying Monk on Camelback Mountain. It made me want to spend my own relaxing weekend at a Valley resort. If only my birthday weren't amid the busy (and pricey) tourist season ...