Friday, 23 December 2011

2011 almost over

Well, I'm sitting here at my desk at 8:00 am on the 23rd of December, and the farthest thing from my mind is work.  I hope the city is aware as I look at everyone elses computer screen that its really hard to try to force people to work so close to xmas.  For example, I'm spending my last few hours searching for good options for Jen's next new vehicle.  My neighbour here is just random googling.  2 ladies to my left are trying to extend their conversation to the quiting bell.  Its all very comical, but at the same time, no surprise. 

For me, 2011 was an up and down year.  I sold my first place (a condo).  It was a place I worked really hard on, renovating everything from the kitchen, the floors, and paint.  It was a crazy learning curve.  Made a lot of mistakes along the way, but in the end, couldn't be disappointed in the return profit I got.

It was my first home bought with my first (and last) fiance.  This was scary and intriguing at the same time.  We bought a foreclosure because we saw value that would have never been in reach for us at the time.  Again, it took sweat and aches to get the place to where we wanted it to, but currently, it looks as though our neighbourhood is booming, so our built in equity was accomplished:)  We also lucked out with our neighbours who are currently celebrating Hanukkah, very nice family.  Our dog loves the off leash park 2 blocks away, and Jen and my commute is under 15 minutes with rush hour never a concern.  If it wasn't for the fact we share 1 wall (infill) and have a small backyard, this could be a long term home.

Our kitchen
This year was also the first time I had my truck stolen...followed by a second truck stolen 2 months later.  Apparently there must of been someone in the area scoping out all the Tacoma's.  This was basically a 6-7 month headache that is JUST now resolving itself.  I had to buy a fancy new alarm, something my pocketbooks did not appreciate.

My second truck that was stolen




In April, I started a new career path, getting away from the consulting business in the oil industry and working for the city.  I truly hated working for engineers.  So with the city, I became a stormwater tech, which allowed for me to be home on a consistent basis and work out in the clean outdoors near rivers.  This was greatly needed as we had a little dog to care for and a large home to attend to. Also, someone needed to be around when Jen was on one of her crazy week long calls.  The micromanaging was the hardest hurdle in my job to get over.

Jen passed ALL her tests needed and is now a full fledged GI doc.  This was a long process for the both of us (longer for her I know...14 years for her, 4 years for me).  She worked crazy hours all year with extra call, but it "paid" off in the end.  The skies the limit now and she is now actively talking with several groups to cement down a long lasting career.

Getting primed for the Vegas strip
This year we travelled a few times.  We visited Jen's dad in Phoenix for a full week.  We golfed 4 rounds (which buggered up my knee), and did a bunch of shopping.  We went to Vegas with our friends in May.  This one was not as fun as the other dozen or so times we had gone, but it was still a good time.  We did a road trip to Seattle which was a blast!  We stayed at the Sheraton downtown.  This would of normally cost us over $220/night, but because we gambled on hotwire.com, we scored 4 nights there for $180/night.  We saw a mariners game, walked the town, and went to several wineries.  Our last few days were spent on the hippy island of Hornby Island.  Here we met with our friends Heather, Rob, Dan, and Sheri.  We camped, did more local wineries, and relaxed.  Well worth the 3 ferries to get there lol.
The mariners game...8th row

Hornby Island
This year was also consumed with our wedding planning.  Wow what a headache.  The invitations alone were a battle.  We currently have a wedding planner in Maui who is overseeing all our vendor scheduling.  We are over budget by $4,000.  Not only that, but when we invited 120 or so guests, we were expecting maybe 50 at best...we are now at 65!  At any rate, it will be a great party and hopefully we will be able to capture all of them with our photographer Jenna who is part of Jen's family (cousin).

This xmas I will be leaving in 2 hours from work to Edmonton.  As we speak, Jen is packing my truck so we can get away as soon as I arrive.  We will be spending 3 nights with Jen's dad and Jen's step mom's family.  After that, we will be driving to Prince Albert to spend a few days with my family...have my birthday at a bowling alley which is slowly turning into a tradition.  I hope to also take Jen on the quad on the trails behind our house...maybe have a campfire.  Then we will make the long drive back and HOPEFULLY ski...pending on my stupid knees!

After that, 2012 will arrive, and most likely I will be doing little to nothing to celebrate its arrival.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

My Second trip to Phoenix

I have just returned from Phoenix with Jen a week ago and had a great time shooting 4 rounds of golf and seeing Jens family again.  A week of +23 degree weather, pristine conditioned golf courses, and excellent hospitality, what more could a guy ask for.
Phoenix is location in the Mojave desert, no beaches, no lush tropical rain forest, no real tourist attractions other then the golf courses.  So what does this baron land offer that has so many Canadian expats coming down for the winter other then the obvious...year round heat.  It took a few days to really see this, but after immersing ourselves in the community, it became more and more apparent...impressive service that paid attention to all the details.

Canadians are found everywhere here...especially the golf courses after October.  Jen and I accompanied Roland (her dad) for a round at his country club "Las Sendas" the first morning.  These types of courses are the ones that are build within a community where the majority of players currently inhabit, and so Roland bought into this one...mainly for the ease of accessibility, and long term savings.  Beautifully mass produced homes line this course, hugging every fairway...adding a hint of intimidation to every shot.  Conditions were IDEAL.  For a members discount, Jen and I were able to play for $60 each...normally $100+ in Alberta for quality this high.  Every hole, every green, were painstakingly maintained and landscaped...the sand raked (basically anything not on the fairway), the cacti maintained, greens as fast as a carpet.  It was awesome...and tough lol.  I only hit one house;)  The course was 6850 yards long (not the tips), making it quite tough.   When arriving at the clubhouse, we saw why people came to Phoenix.  Complimentary valet, they load your clubs into your car and cart, free driving range offered, free tees, GPS on every cart.  Service that apparently is the norm here...which we slowly became to realise throughout the week.  At the end of the day, we all shot below average, but enjoyed the +21 weather and all the 5 star service anyone could ask for for only $60:)
That night we were exhausted!  We decided to stay in with Nakita and watch a movie. 

Next morning we awoke to find Roland had booked us a round at the beautiful WeKaPa Resort.  With a coupon card, we were gratefully able to golf for $69, discounted from the $120 sticker price...score!  This course was situated on a nearby native reserve 20 minutes north of Mesa (Phoenix).  Jen and I really looked forward to this round because we had golfed desert courses before, but never outside of the city with no houses along the fairways.  Ferne (Rolands wife) was unable to join us again due to a nasty cough, so it was just the 3 of us again.  Immediately the level of quality jumped out.  We had our car unloaded and parked for us again, our carts were loaded onto the carts and parked for us in front of the complimentary driving range.  The range looked over a beautiful desert valley.  Here we hacked away, trying to sync our swings...too no avail.  This course was amazing!  Completely different then what you would see in Mesa. Every tee box seemed to have a view of the massive mountain valley.  We saw a red cardinal on the first hole...pretty cool.  Every hole was littered with cottontail rabbits, hummingbirds, or quails.  We all were having a shitty game again, but after 9 holes, I treated everyone to a hot dog or hamburger (because Roland had paid for our round) and everything was back on track.  For $14, we were able to get 2 massive hot dogs, 1 thick burger, all with their buns grilled, and 3 complimentary bags of chips...awesome.  After the round, we were completely exhausted.  Cartpath only rules had caught up to us.  We seemed to always be hitting our balls on the opposite side of the path, and seeing how hilly the course was, resulted in A LOT of walking lol.  A day off in golfing was in order.
WeKaPa

Las Sendas clubhouse
Las Sendas hole 18
Las Sendas
Jen began to plan out her black Friday shopping the next morning.  We went to Santan Shopping Centre to scope out any future deals.  At nights we worked on the "Girl with the dragon Tattoo" trilogy.  One night, Roland and Ferne treated us to happy hour at a popular pub.  Margaritas and appys hit the spot.  Wish we would of stayed longer, but drinking and driving was not condoned, so we headed back after all of us had 2 rounds...except Roland who only had 1.

Thursday was a relaxing day after a quick round of golf at Camelback Resort with Ferne.  The course is a well known and is well established in Scottsdale.  The condition was ok, but overall, was our least favourite (even though it cost $70 each after 35% off).  I shot a decent round finally, and right when we finished, it tried to rain.  Luckily we were under shelter enjoying lunch overlooking holes 9 and 18. 

After arriving back at the house, little did I know, Jen was orchestrating an attack on the shopping malls for black Friday...starting at midnight at Macy's.  I reluctantly gave in thinking there was a slight chance I too could find a deal to make it all worth while.  Jen sifted out all the relevant flyer's.  Around 9pm, we "attempted" a nap before our departure at 11:30pm to the Santan shopping complex. 
WeKaPa
WeKaPa with Red Mountain in background

par 5
Friday arrived, and we drove the 20 minute commute to the desired shopping centre.  We were a bit early for Macy's, so decided to peek into Walmart to see the activity...WELL...we could not believe our eyes.  It was basically hundreds of lower income families lined down the aisles with shopping carts piled with toys.  The more annoying point I found was the deals were not impressive at all.  Some had walkie-talkies.  This worried me as I started to think we were wasting our time.  We got the hell out of there and headed to Macy's.  Macy's was a bit less frantic, but picture 90% of the consumer base being women, wide eyed as they all rushed towards the purses and shoes.  Jen was right in there... for the shoes lol.  I found nothing and within 5 minutes, found myself waiting with all the other guy suckers peering from afar.  Jen got her "no heel" boots and one pair of heels...and soon after we got the hell out of there.  I was a bit more grumpy and tired, but new a bed was waiting for me.

Next morning around 7am, Ferne woke us to remind Jen it was time to head to the big mall..."The Fashion Mall".  This mall is located in Scottsdale, and is the more well known one in all of Phoenix.  We were expecting huge lines, so we left around 7:15 am and arrived around 7:45am...apparently early enough to find a good parking spot.  When we walked into the mall, it was clear our hallowed parking spot was mearly average as there were no lines anywhere.  No hustle and bustle, no panicked women, nothing.  The only real deal found was at Ambercrombie & Fintch...50% off everything, but in typical fashion (in my case), nothing fit me.  I then went to G-Star to find the prices higher then Canada.  Then I went to Dillard's to find no shoes in my size.  I was getting quite pissed off at this point and just wanted to end this gong show.  I ended up buying 6 pairs of Hugo underwear for $40 at Macy's...at least it was something lol.  After several hrs, we left and went to another nearby mall that ended up being a complete waste of time, so home we went.

I napped on the pool deck while Jen went back out with her dad in his Porsche to look for a TV stand at Best Buy.  I couldn't imagine what many thought; seeing a young girl with an older man in a new 911 Porsche turbo...mid life crisis?...but in reality obviously it wasn't. 

That night was a very special night.  In celebration of Ferns B-day and Jen passing her test, we fine-dined it at a place called "City Hall"...and in typical fashion, were blown away with the service provided.  As per usual, someone parked our car.  Every head waiter had 2 following them.  Our plates were dished out in front of us. Drinks were prepared in front of us.  Sparking water was assumed.  Every little detail you could think of was provided, and impressed ALL of us.  We had lobster mashed potato's, steak, mushrooms, and peas, and all were perfect in execution.  we left feeling the price paid was well worth the experience...with leftovers to boot;)

Next morning before our flight back to the great white north, Roland booked us a round at Golden Valley Resort...one of the top ranked courses in Arizona.  It was basically a course that went up one mountain valley, around, and back down.  The condition was impeccable, and lived up to its hype.  Because of the supper paid for by Roland the night before, Jen and I insisted paying $100 each for the round  (not sure if this even covered the cost of the round).  I again actually shot an OK round.  My knees at this point though were starting to really hurt with all the torquing on them with my crazy swing.  4 rounds in 6 days was apparently my limit.  Awesome way to end the week!  We drove home, packed and sore, and off we were back to -10 weather in Calgary.
Golden Valley

So why do people holiday in an ocean-less city of 3 million people?  Well, in short, its for the 340 days of sun, being able to buy a beautiful 4 bedroom home for 1/4 the price of Calgary, and receiving A++ service everywhere you go....something that is lacking in today's standards.  I feel we are expected to tip more and more while receiving less service.  It was refreshing to see the opposite in Phoenix!