Monday, February 25, 2013

A Lovely Valentines

While this is pretty far passed at this point, I still wanted to share what we did on our actual valentine's day celebration. Coming home from work, I walked outside to find this:

I had no idea that Ed was planning anything (since our big celebration was over the weekend and I was making dinner), so it was such a pleasant surprise. Bread with olive oil and vinegar pretty much comes out for every special at home meal, but the margaritas were a very pleasant and welcome surprise. For dinner, we had filets, purple mashed potatoes, and Ed's wonderful molten lava cakes. 

It was the perfect, relaxed way to celebrate the past 5 1/2 years of wonderful love together.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Botanical Garden

As members of the Botanical Garden, we have the benefit of free membership whenever we feel like it.  So, to help inspire us for our impending big landscaping remodel, we decided to go visit and get excited about Sonoran plants. 

While I'm still not pro-cactus, these ones are pretty amazing.

Ed had to take a little time to grind some mesquite pods, just like the native Arizona people. 

We were pretty taken with this cactus (saguaro) skeleton, as well. 

Admittedly, I was not as excited as I'd hoped about the desert plants. However, one did catch my eye. I thought this little agave was very cute, and I really liked how symmetrical it was. Spoiler - we're now the proud owners of two Parry's Agaves. I can't wait to see how they grow :). 

Spring was definitely just beginning to enter the garden, with a few early plants beginning their blooms. 

On our way out, we walked through the art installation, that we had a great time seeing with Bill and Jenny at La Noche de las Luminerias. It was fun to see them in the daytime as well. 

All that walking around certainly worked up an appetite, so we decided to go to Gertrudes, the new restaurant that just opened at the gardens. We were certainly not disappointed. It helped that the weather was ideal, and we were able to sit outside on the patio, sipping a mimosa (me) and coffee (Ed) and enjoying watching clouds roll by and a little quail hopping around through the plants. 


The, food, though, was pretty darn wonderful, too. We couldn't decide between breakfast or lunch. Despite it being 12pm, they had a great looking breakfast menu. So, we decided to have one of each. 

Our breakfast choice: The Hot Mess

Okay, this was wonderful. It felt very bay area-ish to be having a meal of locally sourced, organic produce. Definitely the best eggs I've ever had, and the other flavors of salsa verde, pork, cheese and tortillas was just fabulous. This one came highly recommended, and for good reason. 

For our lunch course, we went with a blue cheese burger. We were sold on the blue cheese being from Point Reyes, and were certainly not disappointed. Truly telling, I had a hugely difficult time deciding on that all important "last bite."

Just as we finished our meal, the clouds started rolling in more quickly and the temperature dropped, making us glad we had finished and were heading home. These kinds of days are just lovely. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Outdoor Living

This weekend is all about the outdoors. Back in California, that meant spending the weekend on the trails. Here, that means (at least this time) spending time working on our yards. When we first moved, we were thrilled our home had a beautiful front lawn.

However, come November or so, and this lawn was looking anything but beautiful. Bermuda grass dies  goes dormant in the winter, and leaves a lot to be desired. We also went ahead and took out that big Juniper, which meant that everything looked pretty sad and bare. Added, to the ascetic issues, the irrigation was pretty shot and needed to be replaced. 

Put that all together, and it was enough motivation for us to get over our aversion to desert living and totally "Arizonize" our front lawn, complete with a heat loving tree, agaves, and lots and lots of gravel. This was way too big of a job for us to DIY, so we hired some experts to carry out our vision. And, this was the weekend to bring it to life!

Saturday was all about prep work for us. Our first stop was a local nursery to pick out some plants that we wanted to bring home. 

It was the perfect day to be out looking at plants and walking around this expansive nursery. They had succulents galore, as well as plenty of trees, shrubs, and pretty much anything we could desire. 

We left with a great collection, including some veggies for the back! We couldn't decide on a tree, yet, though, so we saved that decision for later. 

Our second outdoor errand was to pick out gravel. It's a bit nervewracking to be choosing a stone that you'll be ordering tons of (literally - I think we're getting 9 tons of it!). We went with "pink coral" - going with that reddish shade of rock pretty ubiquitous out here (added bonus - it was on sale :) ). We also picked out some river rocks for our "stream" and some rock to match the gravel we already have in the back to "freshen things up." 

While we were out, we took a break and got some frozen yogurt in one of our favorite little shopping complexes. It has great lake views, and we took advantage of our 80ish degree day by basking outside while enjoying a tasty treat.

From there, it was on to Moon Valley Nursery to pick out a tree. Going in, we were pretty sold on getting a Jacaranda. They are such beautiful trees and we love their flowers. However, once we got there, we started second guessing ourselves. They'd only blossom for a week or two here, and we weren't totally positive about how they'd grow. While checking them out, we stumbled upon another tree that got us interested - the Tipu Tree. 

(What it will look like when it's older)

This tree is known for handling Arizona's heat well, as well as withstanding mild freezes (into the 20s). We'd almost left, deciding to go home and research, when we were stopped by an employee, asking us how we did with our shopping. I explained what we were looking at, and mentioned some of the varieties, and he pointed out the Tipu tree they had growing right there. 

It was so pretty! The picture doesn't do it justice. The light looked so pretty through the leaves, and it looked about exactly as we wanted our tree to look - not too deserty or too bulky. After admiring it, we headed right back and got a helper to help us pick one out. 

Ours is obviously a whole lot smaller to start, but this is considered a very fast growing tree that should make a ton of progress in the next year. We were told that both the managers of the nursery have put in Tipu trees, which, to us, really boded well. We easily loaded our little tree into the Prius and brought it to its new home. 

With all of our new purchases home at last, I got to do some gardening. Believe it or not, I don't think I've gardened, really, since I was a kid. But, since I'd bought the vegetables, I figured they were mine to plant. Ends up, I really liked it! I loved the smell of dirt, being out in the sun, and doing something that felt very productive. I really hope everything grows well. 

To start, I had to transplant some of the plants we had, to make room for our new ones. 

We ended up with 6 squash plants, a basil, and a cilantro. 

Our lettuce family plants are doing pretty well, and are now all together. The red leaf lettuce has definitely been growing the best, though I probably like the taste of our kale the best! I'm hoping the chard transferred okay :). 

After gardening, I spent the rest of the afternoon lazing by the pool. I figured, with all the workers coming tomorrow, this was the last chance for it!

We finished the evening by finishing our Valentine's Day celebration by going out to eat at Tempe's "House of Tricks"

I wore my special "wedding shoes" for the occasion. As these are by far, my most expensive shoes (being Vera Wang and all) I have worn them all of maybe 3 times besides my wedding. They were very fun to wear for our dinner.

We snagged an outdoor table (in keeping with our theme of the day), which was just perfect.

The ambiance of the restaurant was so lovely and romantic and definitely made us enjoy the prospect of the many outdoor meals we'll be able to enjoy now that the evenings are becoming a bit warmer.

We started with some delicious sparkling rose to start the evening on a romantic foot.

The rest of the meal was just as lovely. The foot was very good. Nothing spectacular, necessarily, but, with the stars twinkling through the branches over our heads, as we sat in peaceful conversation, the night ended up pretty perfectly.

One of the reason people want to move to Phoenix is for the prospect of beautiful weather for most of the year. I'm happy to say that lately, I can definitely see their point.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Last Lovely Weekend

Since it's now the next weekend, I thought it only timely to get last weekend's updates up. Not that it's all that exciting, but it was my first non-sick weekend, so that definitely counted for something!

Ed was really eager to go out and explore our great state, but after being sick for a month and a crazy work week, I really, really wanted to sleep in and be a homebody. Lucky me, my husband acquiesced :).

So, after sleeping in until 9:30, which was heavenly, I fixed us some french toast with bananas. I've recently discovered that, despite my aversion to cooked fruit, cooked bananas are in a category all their own. I've been putting them in my oatmeal in the last minute of cooking, which has been very tasty, so I was happy to cook up some for our breakfast, which was great.

Afterwards, we headed to the farmers market. Now, I really should know this by now and not get my hopes up, but Arizona farmer's markets really don't have a whole lot in common with California ones. We hit one up at the end of the summer, which pretty much sucked, but I thought that was just a summer thing. Well, this one was about the same. Now, to be fair, it did have a pretty good amount of booths and was definitely lively. It's just that out of the 40ish booths, only 2 had fresh produce, and both were basically sold out by the time we got there. We aren't completely giving up - we might try another one this weekend, and actually show up in the early hours to give ourselves a fighting change. In any event, it was nice to walk around. 

Since we were close by, we decided to head back over to the riparian preserve/library. 

As we were crossing a bridge over one of the ponds, I commented on how much I'd like to actually see one of the Sonoran turtle that the sign mentions. Then I looked up and saw this:

Definitely made me smile to have my wish so perfectly granted. It was a perfectly beautiful day,

 and we loved our little walk, though it was cut quite short since someone's stomach *cough*Ed's*cough* needed sustenance. So we had a nice lunch date a Chipotle and then headed home for a leisurely afternoon. 

We both spent much of our afternoon lounging outside by the pool, which was such a treat (especially as this weekend is proving to be a bit on the gloomy, rainy side). Ed and I have decided to bite the bullet and turn our front yard into a more desert appropriate landscape (gulp), so I spent a lot of time researching plants/designs I liked, as well as some good day trips that we can go on, courtesy of Sunset Magazine. It was a good afternoon that got me excited about our area and the beauty that really is here.

We finished off the evening by finally finding a redeemable sushi restaurant! We'll definitely be going back again and again - it was a good price and very tasty fish. Reminded me of our old bay area sushi place, but much less crowded.

Sunday was all work, but having a full Saturday that was just about perfect was lovely. More than I could have asked for!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Today was a pretty good day, very much needed after making it through progress reports and an otherwise crazy start to the week. I actually made it to the gym, and made the choice to spend my evening reading in our living room instead of spending the night in front of the tv, listening to the Charlie Brown pandora station. Thankful for these days that remind me I do liking teaching and the lovely life we've built here. Hoping that tomorrow is equally nice.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Weekday Beauty

Last week was a tough week. Fingers are crossed that this one will be better, and I'm pretty confident that it will be. It has to be.

However, there were some lovely highlights. First, at the end of a 2 hour training (that I was not super excited to be attending, despite its helpfulness), I walked outside to see this:

This photo doesn't even do the sunset close to justice. The whole sky was literally ablaze in this gorgeous fluorescent pink/orange light. It was spectacular and put a huge smile on my face as I drove home. 

The other moment of loveliness this week was making it to the library after work on Wednesday. 

Not only did I get a new book on tape and some other books to read, but I decided to indulge myself in a walk around the riparian preserve. 

It was so nice to be outside in nature, and I've decided I need to make this a routine - it's not even all that much longer driving here instead of home, since it's not far off the freeway, and it is so beautiful. 

So, it made a lovely end to the day. 

While a beautiful sunset is out of my control, going to a beautiful place certainly isn't. So, my goal this week is to find these moments of beauty for myself by trying to spend more time outside enjoying this infamous Phoenix winter. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Last Weekend

For real, I am starting to feel normal. Last weekend was my "I'm still sick" weekend, and this past week, while utterly exhausting, didn't feature any cold relapses, so I'm hoping I've kicked this for good! So, I thought it would be nice to actually do something with my lovely iphone pictures that I've started taking, and try to get back to actually blogging a bit more regularly.

I spent the first half of the weekend attending an oh so fun training that is basically an utter waste of time (for me). I need it to be credentialed here in Arizona, but it basically is a repeat of what I learned in California, at a basic level. I've been a good sport, but this one went an hour longer than the previous trainings, which made me pretty frustrated, since a good 4/5 of the training is spent on random tangents that aren't at all content driven. In any event, I only have one left!

Afterwards, I hurried home and got prettied up, so that Ed and I could head about 50 minutes north to Cave Creek to attend a work party with Ed's co-workers. It was great fun, and was so nice to be with a group of like minded people who care about education, are relatively new to town (all are pre-tenure faculty and spouses who moved to Phoenix area in the last 4 or fewer years), and so can share our perspectives on some of the idiosyncrasies of this area, politically and otherwise. Ed and I haven't been the best at really getting to know people yet, so it's great to have these kinds of get togethers.

Sunday was lovely. It was the kind of day I'd been needing - relaxing and full of promise. We started with brunch at Liberty Market in downtown Gilbert, where we'd only gone for dinner previously.

The food was yummy and, even rarer, appropriately sized. So often, the portions here in Arizona are crazy big, so it was nice to have a reasonable sized meal. While everything was really yummy, the star was Ed's biscuit, which was unbelievable moist and amazing. My pancake was pretty good too, though. 

We took care of some chores and errands, which was actually nice, since I'd been less than pulling my share of the weight since being sick, and I also started doing my next home project - installing fixtures in the downstairs bathrooms to replace the mismatched ones that were there. These were the ones we chose:

All I really got done this weekend was taking down the old ones and installing the towel rack, but this past week I've been able to make some more progress. I'll share pictures once it's all up!

Our last excursion was very long overdue. Since Christmas, Ed and I had talked about seeing Les Miserables. We'd planned on seeing it every weekend in January, but each time, I'd ended up being too sick to actually go, much to the frustration of Ed. So, since my health returned, we headed out Sunday afternoon to the movies - our first time in Arizona!

We discovered a great little complex about 5 minutes from us, full of music and art related shops, of all things. It also had a cupcake shop and a frozen yogurt place, so I'm sure we'll be back.  We really enjoyed the movie, though it was definitely a tear-jerker (and I'm not usually one to cry during the movies). So glad we finally got to see it!

I wrapped up the weekend with long overdue conversations with every member of my family. It was the perfect end to the weekend.