Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Valentine's Hike in Los Gatos

After our decadent brunch, Ed and I headed up into the Los Gatos hills for a lovely hike.

It had been years since we'd done this almost 6 mile out and back, and the warm weather and good company made it a lovely way to prolong our celebration. 

The hike takes you up (and up) to a lookout point where, from one side, you can see the reservoir (a little low on water these days).

Looking north (ish) you can see another trail heading down the mountain. 

And, straight ahead, the bay area. You can see the water (if you squint a bit), all the buildings. We always make a game of trying to find our home, but we're not very good at it.

And of course, we take some time to just sit. Because that's what hiking is all about right? Stopping at pretty places to enjoy the view. 

My shoes were my excuse on this hike. I'm not too competent at running minimalist style (as I've mentioned before), so they kept us at a lovely walking pace for almost the whole trail. 

We headed back down, and in the back of my mind, I wondered how many more times we'll make this hike. Knowing you're going to be leaving a place really makes you appreciate all the little things you sometimes take for granted (like having this trail 15 minutes from our home), and helps you feel very lucky for what you have right now. 

Our last beautiful nature scene was this tree, alight with pink blossoms, making our winter feel very much like spring. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Arizona Hopes and Fears

After spending our first exploratory trip in Arizona, I have a much clearer picture of what I have to look forward to, come June, but also what I might spend too many minutes (or hours) worrying about until we make the move.

Let's start with hopes (since it's oh so much more positive) :). This category isn't so much just hopes, but also what I'm looking forward to in general.

Hope~ A House of our Own
(This was our favorite on our trip, 2,700+ square feet for a whopping $275,000)

Huge living room/dining room!!

So, so pretty!

We'll be buying a house this April (knock on wood), which is such a huge, exciting step. We have a realtor already that we like, we visited a few houses during our visit, and are confident that we'll be able to afford something great that will fit our family well. We actually went to the bank yesterday and have started the pre-approval process, which seems like it will be pretty easy and straight forward (we hope).

It's so fun to be doing these "adult" things, and finding them not nearly as stressful as promised. I'm so thankful to have a forward-thinking and responsible partner in all this, who began saving for a home before we even met. Saving for homes in the bay area has meant that we have more than enough to easily pay a proper down payment and buy all the furniture we'll need (since all we've bought together has been a bed, a nightstand, a couch and a coffee table). Our realtor was happy to be working with people that could actually afford what they wanted - it made us easy to please.

Being able to get the kind of house I'd always imagined having as an adult is a dream come true.

However, with that, comes a fear.

Fear ~ Sharing our Home with These Guys

This specific kind is called the bark scorpion - the only potentially lethal scorpion in the United States. They aren't that big (as small as an ant, up to 2 inches) but can pack a punch. Go figure, it's also the most common one to find in AZ homes. Now, the plus side is that it is rarely hugely damaging to adults, but can be dangerous for children and the elderly. Obviously, we're mostly concerned about the children aspect, as adding kids to our house is definitely on the horizon.

Anyone who knows me, knows I tend to over research potentially (but unlikely to be in reality) dangerous creatures. I've gone through phases with bears (upon visiting Yosemite), mountain lions (always), sharks and alligators (why we won't live in Florida and why I won't go swimming in Hawaii...sigh...). I am such a worst case scenario person, when it comes to animals.

In all reality, most people never see these little guys, and there's plenty you can do to help make your house less scorpion friendly (which we know all about, thanks to the aforementioned research).

If that fails, we can always go scorpion hunting...
(sounds crazy, but people do actually do this!)

I am sort of intrigued by their ability to light up, and am sure to be keeping a blacklight next to the bed for trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night :). 

So, I am going to be very knowledgable about dealing with these guys, but am determined not to let myself get too paranoid :). 

Moving back to the positive side of things...

Hope~ Growing Family
my next hope is that we will go beyond a family of 2 in the next year(s) or so.
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I am so excited about this (though the aforementioned fear put a slight damper in things briefly. I was slightly considering putting our family plans on hold and moving to a high rise apartment in the middle of the city to keep safe, but I'm now back to the world of reality to our previous plans). There are a lot of sources that say the Phoenix suburbs are one the top places to raise kids, so that definitely has us reassured. We are excited to meet others in the same stage of life, and excited about all the great activities available for kids (and adults too). One of the coolest things I've seen is that the public libraries have free "passes" you can check out for a week to top attractions (the Phoenix zoo, science center, natural history museum, etc). The pass admits 2 adults free, which makes taking the family out for a fun outing can be inexpensive. Ed and I are hoping to check out some passes this summer/fall to check out these great institutions. 

So, I hope to find a new balance in our family as it goes beyond just me and Ed, and I hope that until that happens, that Ed and I enjoy all the little things that make our family of two so perfectly special. 

Fear~ Adjusting to a new life
A very small fear I have to go with this is that, with Ed's new job (and hours), we might find ourselves needing to adjust to our regular routines. I'm also, for that matter, getting a new job, so we both might be hitting a bit of stress and learning how to compensate. There are, of course, some bigger fears tied into all that, what with starting a family and all, but that's far enough in the future that it's not a fear I'm currently too worried about. 

Hope~ Falling in love with the desert
My third hope for Arizona life is that I will learn to love the desert, with it's beautiful sunsets 

and Saguaros, 
it's temperate winters and rarely cool (but usually hot) days. I've always complained about being cold, so theoretically, this will be the perfect place for me. Blue skies are my favorite as well, so the 325 days of sun will be lovely, and I think thunderstorms are awesome, so I'm looking forward to those too. 

Fear~ Not falling in love with the desert
I fear that I will miss the greenery and the grass. That I will be paralyzed by fears of the 14 different deadly rattlesnakes (again....paranoia of dangerous creatures) and find myself abandoning the trails for smoother surfaces. I fear that I will struggle under 6 months of high temperatures with no relief. 

But generally, despite all the fears, I am entering this move with so much hope. Our life together has been culminating towards this pivotal moment every since we met, and it's hard to believe it's almost here. So, despite the worries that I will spend the next 4 months planning how to fix or live with, I am very happy to be making our move to our new home. 

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Valentine's Day Brunch Cooking Class

Way back in September, I was gifted with money towards a cooking class at Sur la Table. This past weekend, we decided to put it to good use, and sign up for a Valentine's Day Brunch! 

We had a funny surprise when we walked in - one of my roommate's from UCSC was there! It was funny to see here, since Ed and I met and began dating when I was living with her, and we hadn't seen her since I'd graduated. 

We donned our very fancy aprons, got and overview of the class, and then got cooking!

We started with the scones. The class split up into two groups and the other group made dried cranberry and orange scones while we made the savory cheddar cheese and bacon scones. We were told that it was important to handle the dough as little as possible, so the scones were scooped using and ice cream scooper.

They were then brushed with the same heavy cream that went into the dough. I'd never heard of this before, but they certainly turned out great. 

After the scones, we moved onto the pancetta, leek and gruyere quiche. 

Ed and I were a little sad, actually, that so much of the work had been done already - it was a little too easy :). Didn't keep it from tasting amazing though! 

After that, we moved to the potatoes in duck fat. The potatoes and onions smelled amazing as they cooked (with Ed at the helm). 

Our last dish? A light salad, that was easy to throw together. We did learn how to cut our the delicious grapefruit wedges from the fruit, a trick that was new to me. 

After a short break, it was time to feast!

This was such a great way to celebrate the holiday!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Valentine's Celebration

While life was a bit anxious over the weekend (while Ed still hadn't officially accepted the job), we still took the time to relax Saturday night, and celebrate Valentine's Day.

As I mentioned, Ed and I don't really go for celebrating this holiday on the actual day, but are happy to use it as an excuse to have a nice evening together. I was feeling very lazy that day, meaning that my 12 miler didn't happen until about 4pm. As I came in the door around 6, I walked in to this:

A beautifully set up home,

With appetizers and wine on the table,

The dinner table was nicely set,

and the menu was on the whiteboard. Ed  had planned a great meal planned for us.

I hurriedly got cleaned up and then we started enjoying our evening. It was very exciting...

For instance, we played rummikub on a cleverly used tray :)

My favorite part of the evening was probably having Ed making me the best (and most complex meal) he's ever attempted. 

It was such a treat to have good filet mignon (with a reduced balsalmic glaze) - I do love my red meat. 

And, Ed got to make something I'd always wanted to try - roasted garlic! He roasted a whole head of it in the toaster oven, and then added it to his mashed potatoes.

To start, we had a simple pecan and goat cheese salad. 

The dinner was restaurant quality, made so much better by being created by Ed, and enjoyed in the peaceful and lovely comfort of our home. 

His final culinary treat of the evening? Chocolate lava cake!

Topped with ice cream, pecans and strawberries it was absolutely perfect.

As was the entire evening.