Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dream Home Dreams....

If all goes as planned, two weeks from now we'll have bought our first house.

Wow. Letting that sink in. How did it get here so fast?

Now, this certainly hasn't been completely smooth sailing, with a few loan issues. Apparently, having a job that starts in August makes it nearly impossible to get a loan with said job in March. Thankfully, though our realtor we were put in touch with a loan officer who has been able to make the numbers work for us, so we can still hopefully buy a home over spring break. Our budget has to be a little lower, but we should still easily be able to afford a nice home.

With that in mind, I thought I'd make a virtual list of some of the top ten qualifications that we're looking for! This is, of course, a wish list, and we're not planning on finding a home that will fit everything perfectly. Hopefully, though, we will find the home that is the perfect fit for us. (All picture below are from real homes in our search area that are on the market, courtesy of

1. Lots of natural light:

Living in a home that is constantly dark right now, I can't wait to use the sunny days of Arizona to their best advantage with plenty of windows (preferably in a north/south exposure home).

2. Two stories, and a decent looking exterior

Yes, I know one story makes more sense in a hot climate, but I've always dreamed of a two story home. Plus, I have the, I'm sure, irrational reasoning that scorpions will be more often found on ground floors, so I'll be just a little safer sleeping up a level :).

3. Fireplace

This might seem out of place in a hot climate, but those 7 months a year when it's not really hot, it does cool down in the evening. This is another thing that we've longed for living in our apartment and would love to have, even if it isn't lit all that often.

4. Hardwood floors

These aren't incredibly popular in Arizona (tile is much more in) and wouldn't be a bit deal to install later, so it definitely isn't on our must list, but it would be a great perk.

5. Dining Room

I'd love to have an "official" dining room space in our new house separate from the kitchen. In our current place, eating in the kitchen is not so fun when you have people over, and the mess from the meal is right there next to you.

6. On that topic, a large(r) kitchen

This has to be one of our biggest needs. It doesn't have to be updated or particularly fancy, it just needs to be big enough for multiple people to be in there at the same time without running into one another. I'd especially like an island :).

7. 4ish bedrooms

We'd really like this house to fit our family the whole time we're in Arizona, so 4 bedrooms would be perfect: master, office, and two guest rooms/future family member rooms.

8. Laundry Room

I've made a lot of big promises that once we get a house with a washer and dryer, I will be much more helpful in the laundry department. I can't wait to do laundry without quarters anytime I need to, not just every other week!

9. A nice sized shower in the master bath

I would rather not have a tub and have a big shower than have both for this room. Again, doesn't need to be updated or fancy, just needs to be the right size.

10. A nice outdoor space, with a pool (we think!)

We're so excited to have a backyard that can be lived in 7 months of the year. We're planning lots of grilling, dinners outside, and lounging by the pool with a good book (during the winter of course :) ).

And, a nice view wouldn't be bad either!

For those of you with home renting/buying experience, any advice? Anything not on our list that you think is key for a home? Anything on our list you wouldn't want? Do tell!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Marathoner Once More!

In case you missed it over on my running blog, I completed a marathon on Sunday :). You can read about the whole amazing experience here!

If you haven't given much thought to running a marathon before, or even running in general, give it a try. It is amazing exercise, a ton of fun, and you meet wonderful people. I hated running until the end of college, and went from a fitness base of using the elliptical but no running to running a marathon in about a year. If I can do it, anyone can :).

Monday, March 19, 2012

Fun Weekend!

Ed and I had the first weekend in a while (and likely for a while longer) where we didn't have much on our agenda. With just a week until my marathon (eeks!), my running load was pretty low, and so was Ed's, due to his awesome race last weekend. Granted, I had about a million report cards to finish, which certainly didn't wasn't totally ideal, but 'tis the life of a teacher.

Our weather was cold and drizzly (and by cold, I mean snow on the mountains cold), which made it perfect for sleeping in. We spent the first part of our morning enjoying a lovely, warm batch of pancakes, and then headed out to the Los Gatos creek trail to cheer on our friends Jenny and Amy, who were running a marathon pretty near our home.

(running San Jose 1/2 with Amy and Jenny (and Bill) in October)
I totally missed the right map and mis-planned our viewing spot (by the time we realized it, we had already missed them). But, the new plan was even better. We saw them right before the turn around, which allowed us to see them twice, since we could also catch them on the way back.

It was also perfect since it left us very near the dirt trails, which we ran to after our cheering. Ed headed up the mountain (I declined since doing a very hilly workout was not what I needed one week out from my race), and I took the more moderate firetrail out and back for a slow 5 miler. We finished at almost exactly the same time :).

Our second fun weekend adventure was to celebrate a very special person turning 23.

My sister, Kortney!

(Kortney her first night after moving to the Bay Area)

We figured that this was probably the first time since I was in high school that we've celebrated her birthday on her birthday, so it was definitely a treat.

We went first out to Sushi 22 Train

, a very fun place than transforms from regular low key sushi bar to disco lights flaring, music pumping, dj spinning, sake bombing atmosphere. It is certainly fun and spirited and we timed it just about right, enjoying almost our entire meal with the more relaxed atmosphere and then enjoying the high energy for the last little bit.

Afterwards, we were in serious need of birthday dessert so we headed to the restaurants near the movie theater, Red Robin and Mimi's Cafe. Red Robin's was first, but the wait was crazy, so we headed to Mimi's.

We could sit right at the bar and immediately ordered two desserts, beignets and brownie a la mode.

Now, I'll say right out front that my expectations weren't high. And, on the surface, everything looked fine. However, as I watched Kortney take a bite out of the beignet,

the oddest expression crossed her face, a mix of confusion and slight distaste, the "custard" filling burst out of the beignet with the consistency of stringy cheese. We both started cracking up and I decided I needed to try it for myself.

It. was. horrible.

I'm not sure what went wrong, but it was a rubbery consistency and atrocious. That said, Ed still ate 2, because, well, it was still technically food.

The brownie a la mode was certainly fine, though we had to order extra ice cream, because, seriously, those brownies were mammoth (and the ice cream was itty bitty).

And I say brownies because there were two of them, each the size of a small piece of pie (imagine two brownies from the picture above, with ice cream about a quarter of the size). We made good work of the brownies (in part to get the taste of those beignets out of our mouths), and then hightailed it to the movies.

Our choice? "This Means War".
None of us had really heard of it before, but it had the plus of being both a chick flick and featuring CIA agents who blow stuff up. Sort of a win win for a mixed gender group. We all were pleasantly surprised, even Ed!

Sunday was Costco trip, followed by report cards, followed by report cards, followed by...well you get the idea.

All in all, a very productive work weekend, with just enough fun to make it a great one.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Morrocan Turkey with Arugula Couscous

Since the stress of having way to much to do is wiping my mind clean of good blogging ideas, I thought I'd finish up some of these recipe posts I've been wanting to finish. This one is one of our new favorites - super easy, healthy, and different enough from normal to feel special:) Both are from Cooking Light!

The side dish is one of those easy things that sounds fancier (doesn't any dish automatically sound more high class with arugula in it?)


  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup uncooked couscous
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in uncooked couscous and salt. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 10 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork. Stir in arugula, olive oil, lemon juice, and black pepper.

And that's it! Such a great side for any kind of middle eastern styled dish.

Of course, you need such a dish to eat with it, and this moroccan turkey is great! Technically, the recipe calls for lamb, but turkey is a great substitution.  

  • Ingredients:
  • 1 pound lean ground lamb
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2 cups vertically sliced onion 
  • 1/2 cup (1/4-inch) diagonally cut carrot
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 2 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth 
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste 
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons grated lemon rind 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • (15 1/2-ounce can) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained 
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro 
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 

How to Make It:

  1. 1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground turkey to pan; cook 6 minutes, stirring to crumble. 
  2. 2. Remove turkey from pan with a slotted spoon. Discard drippings. 
  3. 3. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and carrot to pan; sauté 4 minutes. 
  4. 4. Add cumin, cinnamon, coriander, and pepper; sauté 30 seconds, stirring constantly. 
  5. 5. Add reserved lamb, broth, and next 5 ingredients (through chickpeas); bring to a boil. 
  6. 6. Reduce heat, and simmer 4 minutes or until mixture thickens. 
  7. 7. Remove from heat. Stir in cilantro and lemon juice.

Of course, being me, I added a huge amount of cumin and coriander to the turkey, and it was fabulous.
Such a great dinner - definitely give it a try!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Valley of the Sun: An Evening Out

We had decided early on that our trip wouldn't be complete if we didn't try out one of the reputable restaurants in the area. Living in the Bay Area, we have great access to amazing eateries (not that we actually go out all that often, but it's nice to know they're there), and access to good restaurants is certainly something that is important to us.

With that in mind, we decided to make reservations at Sierra Bonita Grill, an upscale Southwestern style restaurant in northern Phoenix.

We had high hopes for Southwestern food in the south, and this place certainly didn't disappoint. After a surprisingly not too stressful afternoon of house hunting, we knew margaritas were in order, and didn't waste any time.

Ed had a very fresh squeezed margarita, which featured lots of fresh lime juice and was quite refreshing.

I decided to splurge a little with the house specialty, the Margarita Chingon (not to be confused with chignon - a hairstyle). Chingon, according to the urban dictionary, is Mexican slang for something hard-core and/or really awesome. The description touted it as having locally made tequila and something else special. I was intrigued and, have to say, it was pretty delicious. One of those deceptively strong drinks that very well mixed.

We, of course had to get the house-made guacamole and 3 salsas,

I had a amazing steak with stuffed polano chile. The steak was cooked so perfectly, it honestly made me feel much better about moving here. An area that can cook a perfectly medium rare steak can't be all bad, right?

Ed got a pretty stunning looking Osso Bucco, which was equally good (though it's pretty hard to beat that steak). 

We both managed to finish all of our meals, and had a great meal just reflecting on this first trip to our new home. It was definitely full of ups and downs, but it gave us a much happier, more optimistic picture of our move.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Valley of the Sun: Trail "Running"

We awoke to another gorgeous 70 degree day in Arizona, and headed out to check out the more natural side of Phoenix - specifically, the McDowell preserve, a large piece of Sonoran Desert full of trails, saguaros, and lots of desert scenery. We first learned about this preserve in a recent Sunset magazine, and we're excited to check it out. 

This drive, in comparison to yesterday's depressing ride, was beautiful. Still deserty, but a little less stark in appearance. 

As we got closer to our destination, this beautiful range began towering over the horizon.

As we got out of the car, it was already a little warm, but we brought water, so we felt confident. Ed checked out the map and made sure we knew where we'd be going - a 4ish mile loop that was specifically named in Sunset. 

For some reason, seeing it in Sunset made me think that it would be easy. 

That, was a mistake. 

Still, we didn't know that as we set out, in awe of the saguaro cacti that towered over the scenery. 

I felt great at first. Things were mostly flat, and the mental high from my 18 miler a few days earlier was in the forefront. 

However, soon we started climbing. We went up, and up, and up. Add to this was the fact that the trail was pretty technical - rocky and uneven. And, of course, the temperature was climbing as well. In the beginning we had passed all these hikers, and I felt so embarrassed as some of them started making up ground on us as I had to stop and walk. I wanted to tell all these people that I was sure were thinking I was just some out of shape girl who under-estimated the trails that I had just run very far a few days ago (though the underestimating the trails part was very accurate). It did motivate me to put in spurts of running despite my low spirits and energy. 

Ed was great. He made sure I was drinking water and even taking salt. His attitude and seriousness to my complaints would have fit well at mile 20 of a marathon, but I appreciated it at mile 1 of my very much going south run. 

Still, the view was lovely.

(side note: On this trip I tried to begin what I'm hoping will be a successful reconditioning of my mind. Every time I saw something like this I told myself "this is beautiful. this is beautiful. this is beautiful." I haven't always been exactly fond on desert scenery, but I'm trying to learn.)

As much as I hated to admit it, this desert was seriously hurting me. All the illusions I had built up about myself as a trail runner were crashing around me. As we reached a fork in the trail, and were supposed to head up some more, I called uncle and told Ed we needed to turn around. 

So, with my pride a bit banged up, we headed back down. The downhill was much better than going up, and soon I started feeling like a runner again, not just an out of shape hiker pretending to run. 

It ended up being a good thing to cut it short, as it gave us more time with our realtor, but it gave me a bit more respect for the trails here. Trail running won't quite be the same, but it will certainly be a challenge worth pursuing. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Valley of the Sun: ASU

Thankfully, after taking a rest (and having a glass of wine), we felt revived enough to go explore some more. So, we took the long way to ASU, stopping in neighborhoods along the way to check out some neighborhoods. 

We lucked out and got a park spot right across from Ed's so to be home away from home - the Education Building.

Ed was so excited to see where he will be working and teaching.

Of course, we had to stop and get a picture with the Mary Lou Felton Teacher's College display. Ed will soon be a huge part of this program!

As we left the building, we got our first taste of those beautiful desert sunsets that we've been promised.

We decided to spend a bit more time on campus walking around, and Ed and I were excited that it felt like a "real" college campus. We stopped by the library and envisioned meeting here after work to, well, work some more :).

Soon, it was dark, and we were hungry, so we headed to where all the cool ASU college kids go - Mills Ave. We drove up and down, looking for the right place to eat, and finally decided to just park. We were torn between wanting to find a unique, special place, and just eating.

We finally decided on Gordon Bierch, a chain restaurant, which I had wanted to avoid, but it had the variety of choices we wanted on a menu, and an awesome second story outdoor patio.

It was a great choice - the food was good, and it was fun to have a view of the nightlife without being right in the middle of it.

We also enjoyed having a beer sampler, since I'm still learning about my beer preferences.

After dinner, there was one place I had researched that we had to visit. From what I could tell, the name changed, but the food served was exactly what I'd hoped.

Yep, a homemade ice cream cookie sandwich, featuring two freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and a huge scoop of hagaan daz ice cream. It was massive, delicious, and $2 - the perfect desert, especially in a college town. 

So, it was with a smile and happy heart (and stomach) that Ed and I headed back to our hotel in Mesa, to prepare for our first full day in the Valley.