Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Red Canyon

Today on my way home from work, I stopped off near Red Canyon, UT to try out a new lens- a wide angle beauty! Here are two of my favorite images. Enjoy!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Housing Crisis

Tonight I had a photo shoot out in Red Rock Country Club- a foreclosed bank home that sold for over $800,000 at the height of the market. The current short sale price is $454,000. Yep- things are getting pretty crazy down here in Vegas! It's a buyers market out there! Here are a few shots of the home.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Circle of Excellence Days 4-6

Breakfast was at 7 AM again on Wednesday morning, and then we left for our activity for the day- Cattle Drive Horse Back Riding. This was my 2nd time ridding a horse (whose name was Loco) and it took a little getting used to. One thing that impressed upon me right away is that riding a horse is not like riding a 4 wheeler at all (not that I thought that or anything)! On a 4 wheeler you turn the handle, the vehicle turns without any delay or hesitation. With a horse, you nudge the reins in the direction you want to go, and depending on the horses mood at the moment, either you turn the way you want, or in the case of a poor lady in front of me on a crotchety old mare, you turn into a cactus. The horses would nibble on brush along the way and the guides told us not to let them do so, by pulling up on the reins. Here is a shot of Naquel riding on her horse Durango.

After the horse ride, we came back to our hotel room, Naquel wanted to lay out by the pool again for a little while. We showered up and then went to dinner with Chris' former counterpart, at a quaint little restaurant called Bandera. Their cornbread is amazing.

When we came back to the hotel that night from dinner, there was another gift on our bed waiting for us as the image below shows.

Inside the package was a large book: Arizona on my Mind- a book with large pictures of the beautiful locales of Arizona. There was also an invitation to the planned event the next night.

Early Thursday morning we woke up for breakfast, then jumped on board the shuttle to our activity for the day- River Fun Yak. We drove 1 hour east of Phoenix to the Salt River in the Tonto National Forrest. Our guides inflated our kayaks, and we embarked down the Salt River for 5 miles. The current was pretty slow so it took about 3 hours.

We arrived back at our hotel room around noon, jumped in the shower and got ready for the even that night- a bar-b-q cook out. Here is Naquel getting on board the shuttle to the bar-b-q.

The food was delicious and the decor was based off of a southwestern theme. They had hundreds of gi-normous ribeyes cooking on huge grills.

The scenery was beautiful, and the effort that AZ took to make this as fun as it was was very nice.

There was an old mission near us, and the full moon rising made for a nice picture.

I almost forgot to mention that Naquel and I dressed up for the dinner. Here is a picture of Naquel getting all honkey tonk!

Friday morning we woke up, had breakfast, packed all our stuff, and then headed back to Las Vegas. Although we had a super fun week, we were excited to see the kids and give them big hugs. What a great time we had. Hopefully, we can win Circle of Excellence again next year, in Florida. We will keep you posted.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Circle of Excellence Day 2-3

Sunday night when we came home from our dinner, we found a surprise waiting for us in our room. Sitting on our bed was a leather backpack with some really cool items inside: A blanket, swiss army knife, and a Moroccan cook book. Here is a picture of Naquel as she opened up the gifts.

We had to get to bed early that night because the next day was going to be busy. Monday was really fun for us. We started out the day getting up for breakfast at 7 AM, and then we had to meet in front of the hotel at 8 AM for our ride to our first activity of the week: Dune Buggies. Our charter bus drove us 45 minutes NE out of Phoenix to the Tonto National Reserve. We signed our lives away on a waiver form, geared up, buckled in, and then drove off into the desert. The picture below was near the turn around point of our trip. As you can see the desert is so beautiful, but there were parts of the trail where we were driving down extremely rocky dried up river beds, and that was a lot of fun,

We drove about 15 miles into the Sonoran Desert, and then took a little breather. We were pretty shook up from the jarring ride, and we were covered in dust. Our guide kept on telling us to watch out of rattle snakes, so we didn't want to venture too far from our dune buggy

The dune buggy was really fun to drive. The tires were pretty low on air, so they gripped the rocks and boulders with ease. I drove us to the the turn around point, and Naquel drove us back.

By noon we were back at our Hotel room cleaning up. We had a big night planned ahead, so we didn't venture too far from the Hotel. We drove down Camelback Rd. to the Fashion Square Mall- one of the best places to shop in Scottsdale. While there we ate lunch at the Grand Lux Cafe, and then we went to see the movie "17 again".

Later that night, we were driven about 1 hour north of Phoenix to Los Cedros Ranch where Astra Zeneca entertained us for the night with a wonderful horse show, tour of the ranch, as well as a Moroccan feast for dinner. The food was ok.

Here is Naquel posing and petting one of the beautiful Arabian horses.

This is the inside of the stables. These horses were treated so well... better than their human care takers. The stables were very clean, and had all the necessary amenities for the stallions.

This is a picture I got as one of the riders whizzed past us. Naquel kept on laughing at me because I was getting so excited about the photo opportunity. She thought that I looked like a camera geek!

I have this obsessive compulsive issue about always trying to sit on the very front seat of a charter bus... otherwise I get car sick! And the view from the front was pretty cool riding back to the hotel. It's almost like we were riding on a time machine or something. Pretty neat.

When we got back to our hotel room, there was another gift waiting for us on our bed. This time it was a pot for making cus cus, what ever the heck that is. Probably something I won't ever eat, let along make, so it will make for a nice piece of home decoration.

Tuesday morning was pretty laid back. We were able to hang out by the pool all day long. It was really nice to just relax and soak up the rays.

Later that afternoon we went back to the Fashion Square Mall and watched the movie "Ghosts of girlfriends past"- LAME. then we came back to the hotel to get ready for the awards ceremony later that night. Astra Zeneca rented me a tuxedo for the night, and they gave Naquel $200 to purchase a new dress as show below. We took a few formal pictures around the Phoenician Hotel property and then we to the ceremony where we sat around for 3 hours while they called every single person up to the stage one at a time to receive their trophy for winning Circle of Excellence.

We sat at table #43 and met some really nice people from back East. The food was delicious- surf n turf (filet mignon with lobster).

Here is a photo of the trophy I received.

When we got back to our room that night there was another gift waiting for us on the bed. I got all excited expecting an ipod or some other cool electronic device... but inside the box was a his/her champagne glass set and a chilled bottle of champagne. Seeing that we don't drink, we took the glass and left the champagne for room service to dispose of.

We had a busy couple of days. We were constantly tired because it seemed like we were always waking up at 5:30 AM and then going from one activity to the next all day long. The Pool day was a nice break, but we still had many more activities scheduled for the week. I will leave that for another post.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Circle of Excellence Day 1

2008 was a great year for us at Astra Zeneca. Everything said and done, I won the coveted award "Circle of Excellence" for ranking #1 in the region (western USA) and #2 in the nation. Winning this award comes with many benefits, winning a week long vacation being on of them. This year, the CoE award trip was in Scottsdale, AZ. Although we were excited to take a vacation, there was a lot of work to be done to prepare for the trip. Thanks to Naquel and her insightful planning, as well as her parents and my sister for watching our kids while we were gone.

We had an action packed week filled with so many activities and it would take a long post to describe it all. So we decided to post a little bit about the trip over the next few days. All in all we had a great time, and we got a little more tan. The resort we stayed at is called the Phoenician. It rests right at the base of Camelback mountain in Scottsdale. When we first got there, we were very impressed at how beautiful the property was. The resort had a special welcome party waiting for all of the CoE winners which was very nice. They gave us some really nice bags, towels, shirts, lots of money (cashiers checks) for off resort dinning, as well as some really nice Maui Jim sunglasses for each of us. Every night for the rest of the vacation they left gifts in our room- that was my favorite part of the trip (more to come on this, later).

We finally checked into our room and I was ready to crash, but Astra Zeneca had a welcome party that night which was pretty cool. Lots of food and pop to keep us content. The theme was based around Arizona Wild Hogs bikers... the bikes were cool... the bikers...not so cool. Here are a few pictures from the first day there.

Our hotel room was pretty cool.

And the bathroom was upscale as well

We had a great view off of our balcony

Naquel was pretty excited to finally get settled in

The pool area was amazing and we had a lot of fun hanging out there

The Phoenician Resort grounds were beautiful, and the resort did not disappoint.

More photos to come in another post.