Sunday, December 19, 2010

Some guys just can't handle Arizona...

With the guest room freshly made and low 80's in the forecast for the weekend, what better time for more visitors!?


Our good friends Steve and Jessie picked up last minute flights from Delaware to spend some time in the Wild Wild West with us. The wheels touched down around 10:00 on Saturday morning and out walked what can only be described as a "frazzled" couple of Koellhoffers... Having barely survived a 5 hour, early morning, direct flight from Philadelphia after being seated separately, in middle seats, surrounded by screaming kids and authority-lacking parents... Who could blame 'em!?!? Lucky for them, Laura and I are practically black belts in guest recovery. We break it down into a simple four step process:

Step one: Mix up two (2) delicious home-infused herb vodka bloody mary's.
Step two: Pop the top of one (1) rejuvenating bottle of champagne.
Step three: Cheers/Slainte!
Step four: "Steve, Jessie... Go lay down on that beach blanket in the sun because you're going to need a power-nap before the board game beating that is coming your way!"

One hour later, the whole clan was refreshed and ready for some serious pinochle competition on the patio. Although it took a couple hands to shake off the rust, the Keenans were able to beat their teachers. This ended up being a bit of a theme this weekend, leaving Steve aching for a series of re-matches. Since it is our turn now, we vow to honor his requests and make an appearance as the away-team as soon as we are able to get back East to visit. We capped the night off Southwest-style with some margaritas and another great dinner just down the road at La Casa Blanca.

We were up fairly early the next morning for some breakfast and then off to South Mountain for a quick hike. Nothing too strenuous, just a short 3 mile treck on the trail to get a good cactus-fix and some neat views of the city.

Unfortunately, the little soft looking cactus laying on the ground that Jessie decided to pet turned out to be more "jumping cholla" cactus than it was "teddy bear cholla" cactus... Both names for the same plant but definitely not as cuddly as they look. These little suckers drop off of the main plant in small teddy-bear-leg sized sections and have really really sharp stems with microscopic barbs. Let's just say they practically "jump" off the plant into your hand. Not to mention that they are surprisingly painful and difficult to pull out. This may have been Jessie's first experience with the jumping cholla, but being my second... I don't have an excuse. I just can't help it; if it's a cool looking plant, I'm touchin it! But the cholla just got a whole lot less cool looking...


Jessie (left) got it a little worse than I did...

On the way back home we made a much needed pit-stop at the San-Tan Brewery for a couple of delicious microbrews for the guys and draft raspberry cider for the ladies. We have really liked this place more and more when we just want to go out and grab a drink or two, usually a pretty good crowd without ever feeling packed and a great bar that opens up to the patio thanks to roll up doors that let in the cool desert air (at least this time of year...).

When we got home we had a few more rounds of drinks, followed by a few rounds of catch phrase, followed by setting up the projector screen in the back yard for dinner and a movie on the lawn! Standard December evening right?...

"V for Vendetta" was a pretty good flick, but don't ask Steve, he seemed to be more interested in the back of his eyelids... That makes Lawn=2 : Steve=0 on the weekend, for those keeping track at home. Some guys just can't handle Arizona... ;)

That pretty much wrapped up another crazy weekend as Steve and Jessie were off to the airport early the next morning for hopefully a much smoother trip home. Many thanks to the Koellhoffers for coming out to visit us! We hope to see you again soon.

Next up: Dad and little brother Ryan move in from MT for a week of golf and relaxing.

We are currently taking reservations for 2011! :) Shoot us an email and let us know when you're coming!

There's more where this came from. Stay tuned,

-CDK

Friday, December 10, 2010

Shopping with Shari

Making a list...checking it twice...

Since I tend to get a little homesick this time of year, my mom took a trip down to Phoenix to keep me company before I can get to Spokane for the holidays.  With her, she brought this year's Christmas decoration!  Drumroll please.....a white & red swirled glass ornament and a beautiful Santa!  I had just the spot for him and then bought some fake berries to wrap around his feet, the perfect touch.  We had such a wonderful time.  It's nice to have your mom around just for everyday activities.  We both wanted to get lots of Christmas shopping done while she was here, so that was our main goal! 

On our first day of shopping, we went up to Scottsdale.  It was retail therapy heaven!  There are so many great shops there it was almost overwhelming.  We tried to limit ourselves to the places that aren't in Spokane so we could maximize my mom's time here.  Sur la table sucked us right in, and we probably spent over an hour in there oogling all the fun kitchen gadgets.  If only we could buy stocking stuffers for ourselves!  But we were on a mission and only bought for others.  I can't wait for Christmas and for everyone to open their presents.  I keep telling Conor that I can't wait for him to see the great presents I found him.  So much so that I think he just wants me to tell him (or open them) so I'll stop talking about it!  Maybe I'm not someone who should be shopping this early.

Crate & Barrel was another fun stop full of more great stocking stuffers.  It was hard to stay away from all their ornaments, but Conor has put a stop to my ornament buying for the year.  Our tree is full, so I guess that seems reasonable.  During our shopping, we needed a sugar fix and headed straight for Sweet Factory.  Mmm nothing is better than a chocolate covered gummy bear!

We shopped all day 'til Conor was finished working and then joined him for dinner.  We had a couple of incredible meals at home, one of which was a dungeness crab cake appetizer followed by pesto encrusted salmon for the main course topped with brushetta.  Absolutely delicious, especially with a bottle of Keenan Merlot. 

We hit the town two of the nights and had a blast getting drinks and discovering some new places that Conor and I hadn't been to yet.

Cork Wine Bar for Happy Hour

Santan Brewery

Lattitude Ei8ht

This somewhat modern Thai restaurant is located in downtown Chandler.  We've driven by it numerous times and I had been dying to check it out.  My mom loves thai food so we figured this would be a perfect spot for dinner on her last night in AZ.  Everything was so amazing.  My favorite: tom kah soup.  Conor intruduced me to it about a year ago, but this is the best I've had.  If you like lemongrass, you will love this type of soup.  We were so happy with our experience there.  It was some of the best thai food we have had, and having lived in Seattle for 4 years that is saying a lot!  I already can't wait to go back!  We finished off the night with Shrek the Halls and Prep & Landing, my new favorite Christmas special.  If you didn't catch it on ABC look for it online because it is adorable and funny.  That night we also enjoyed white chocolate peppermint ice-cream from our dairy club, sooo good. 

To burn off all the food & wine we were consuming, my mom insisted upon getting some exercise every morning.  There are some nice trails in our neighborhood, but I have never felt comfortable going alone.  Nothing was stopping Shari, so every morning we took about a 4 mile fast walk.  And she means business when she says FAST walk...I bet she walks faster then some people jog.  But I kept up with her, and actually enjoyed it.  This is the jumpstart I needed to head into the holidays 5 pounds lighter, 'cause I know I will be endulging in all the Christmas goodies and cocktails once I'm home.  And an added bonus: the weather was incredible (upper 70s and sunny), so we were soaking up our vitamin D at the same time.

I was sad to see my mom leave, but I'll be home in exactly a week so the goodbyes weren't too sad!  Our next visitors arrive tomorrow, followed by Conor's dad and brother Ryan later in the week.  Time will fly by and I'll be in Spokane before I know it. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Decking the Halls

The merriest month of the year is here!  As many of you know, I love Christmas and Winter is my favorite season.  "Let it snow" is practically my motto!  I would gladly give up my sundresses for a scarf & mittens anyday.  So while I am having a bit of hard time getting in the Christmas spirit down here in AZ, I will still go all out to decorate this time of year.  I have been acquiring my own Christmas decorations since college and have made my way to quite the collection.  When Conor's dad was helping us load our moving truck for our trip to Delaware, I think he was a little surprised with all the bags filled with ornaments, lights, stockings, garlands, etc...He had no idea these were essential items for a cross country move!

The day after Thanksgiving, Conor & I began our Christmas decorating.  I used to wait until December to do this, but since I still go home for Christmas every year, I like to get the place decorated right after Turkey Day so that I can enjoy it until I leave.  Our tradition for the last two years has been to go to a pub for lunch & drinks (nothing gets me in the spirit better than an ice cold pint of cider or two), and then go cut down our Christmas tree!  I love the experience of picking out your own tree in the middle of the woods.....on a farm.  We found a great place close to our house in Delaware called Schmidt's Tree Farm.  You take a hayride out to huge fields of trees, where you have hundreds of choices to pick the perfect one.  Clark Griswold is my inspiration.  While I am constantly looking for a bigger tree, Conor is trying to steer me towards something a little more reasonable.  He is the tree cutter after all, and typically gets the last say.  This farm shakes & bales your tree for you...which is great and lowers the chances of scary spiders and what not coming home with you.  They even have real reindeer which were usually losing their velvet when we visited each year.

Sadly, this year we were not able to cut down our own tree.  Apparently, Christmas tree farms are not in high demand in Phoenix....or it could be all the hot weather.  So I had to give up one of my favorite Christmas activities, and instead drive to a lot on the side of the road.  A really strange experience if ya ask me.  And a really expensive one at that!  I guess since they're shipping in trees from Oregon, you're gonna pay the big bucks.  On the positive side, our tree is beautiful!  And since we have high ceilings in our house, I was able to get a 9 foot Christmas tree!  We had to move around some furniture, but it fits perfectly in our family room. 

















  
Every year I love going through all the ornament boxes.  There's something so exciting about coming across an ornamet that you have completely forgotten about and having it feel brand new again.  Obviously, some ornaments are better than others, so we hide the ugly ones in the back.  Last year, some crazy guy in DE saw us taking our tree into the house and came over with old ornaments for us.  I could not turn down his generous gift; however, they aren't the best lookings things I've seen on a tree.  So they sit in the back where they can barely be seen... A gap filler if you will.  I also have various other decorations courtesy of my mom who gives us something every year.  Can't wait to see what it'll be this year....

Next on the list, outside lights!  It always a challenge deciding how to put up lights when you move to a new place.  This year we were lucky because our landlord has had lights professionally put before, so there were still hooks in place all along our house.  In true Keenan Family form, Conor is the illumination tech, and I am the maker of drinks, holder of lights, and getter of tools....a pretty good supervisor if you ask me!

 

















Our neighbors are finally following in suit, and lighting up their houses this weekend.  I might have to start taking some nightime drives to check out what Phoenix has to offer me in the way of Christmas lights.  There has to be a candy cane lane around here somewhere!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Socks for Santa

Stockings.....ah one of the many wonderful parts of Christmas.  It's the holder of Santa's gifts!  My mom made all of my family's stockings, and she still has the same pattern so we can keep making stockings as our family grows.  This year Conor will finally have a stocking hanging over the Simpson family fire place!  Following tradition, I wanted to make Conor & I our own stockings to have at our house, now that this will be our first Christmas as a married couple. 

My mom & dad surprised me for my birthday and bought me a brand spanking new sewing machine!  I was so excited and have had so much fun using it already.  During a trip home to Spokane, my mom and I drove all over the city trying to find material for the stockings.  The pattern calls for a double-sided quilted material....which is very hard to come by at all, let alone in christmas colors or designs.  We came up empty handed, very frustrating.  Luckily, my mom has a friend who does quilting, and she volunteered to help me out!  My next trip to Jo-ann Fabric was much more exciting as I oogled all the christmas materials I had to choose from, now that I wasn't limited to already quilted fabrics.  Thank you so much Cindy Higley!  Before my visit ended, I had one sewing lesson from my mom and watched as she made Conor's stocking for Spokane.  Then it was back to AZ by myself to start this project.

I need to take this.....and make stockings!!!


With christmas music playing, sewing machine threaded, and glass of red wine in hand I was ready to sew!  I quickly learned that drinking wine doesn't go so well with sewing as your hands are busy...bummer.  Conor thinks I should sew more often ;-).  There were only a few mistakes that were easily fixed and the whole task was accomplished in 2 days!  I am quite proud of these....so I bring you our christmas stockings...


Can't wait to see what Santa brings!


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bird is the Word

Happy Thanksgiving!

A holiday centered around food & family.....sounds perfect!  This is Conor & My third turkey day with just the two of us.  With Thanksgiving being so close to Christmas it's hard to travel twice, get time off work, and pay for the flights.  But we aren't complaining, because we've began to really enjoy our combined family traditions and the way that we get to do things.  So here is a rundown of what was our best Thanksgiving yet!
This year we had the 1st Annual Keenan Family Thanksgiving Walk!


What a great way to start our day!  It was nice to get out in the fresh air and blue skies and burn some calories before our feast.  After our walk, it was straight to the kitchen to begin cooking.  And to get things started we popped open some bubbly that we purchased during our napa trip.  Knife in one hand, champagne in the other, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV, skype open on the kitchen table....welcome to our t-day.

Conor is quite an incredible cook, so we're both in the kitchen together preparing this meal.  We use some family recipes and have come up with our own as well.  We each make different parts of the feast which has been the same for the past 3 years.  I always pick up the turkey and get it brining the day before.  Removing the neck and giblets is definitely not my favorite part, but Conor handles the turkey the rest of the way so I can handle it.  We also make our own breadcrumbs for stuffing the night before and let them dry out, and I try to make my pumpkin chiffon pie that night as well.  Pumpkin chiffon completely trumps regular pumpkin, plus it goes with a graham cracker crust!  I had made my own pumpkin (meaning baked sugar pumpkins and pureed it) back around Halloween, so I just had to look in the freezer for some "fresh stuff" and avoid the crazy ladies fighting over the canned stuff in the grocery store.   I love this recipe which comes from the Simpson side of the family.


This year we got our turkey from Whole Foods and it was oh so delicious.  I'm sure lots of you out there are organic haters, but bear with me.  While foods being marked "organic" is not important to me, "natural" is.  For all our meat, milk, & eggs we try to buy products that have no hormones or antibiotics added, and are on a vegetarian diet.  This makes for food that is better tasting and better for your body!

 Conor & I came up with our own stuffing recipe, but he is the one who actually makes it.  And then of course he stuffs the bird...his favorite part!


In Conor's family, they cook the turkey in a special oven bag...which I had never heard of before.  But when combined with an already brined turkey makes for a extremely moist and savory bird.  So turkey in a bag it is!  With dinner cooking in the oven, it seemed about time for some bloody marys!  About two weeks ago we infused some vodka with rosemary, thyme, basil, & jalapenos.  So these bloody mary's were extra special.


With two people cooking we have some time to kill while the bird cooks, so.....we get cleaned up, dress nicely ('cause it's still the holidays, even if it's just the two of us), and head to the theater to see a Christmas movie.  This year there weren't any holiday films though, so we settled on Due Date.  It was funny but nothing special.  Once back home, Conor finishes up with the turkey and makes gravy while I'm put together the mashed potatoes and a salad.  No cranberry sauce for us, but we did have cranberries in our salad :-).  Once we start cooking this meal for more people we'll add more side dishes, but this is plenty of food for the two of us.  And there's always leftovers....which I turn into turkey noodle soup.  Similar to chicken noodle soup, but with white wine. 

Finally it was time to eat!  I know a lot of families eat in the afternoon which is just plain crazy to me.  It's Thanksgiving DINNER!  I don't want to eat early and then get hungry again before bed, so we eat around 6.  Here's the man of the house cutting into our feast, cheers!



Everything tasted incredible and we had such a fun day together.  We definitely miss our family and friends, but at least we had the opportunity to skype with lots of them.   We'll see what next year brings!






Sunday, November 28, 2010

Suzie the Snowbird

Conor's mom, Suzie, came for a visit recently to get away from the negative temperatures in Montana.  It was beautiful blue skies and 70s here in AZ.  That Thursday I picked her up from the airport and then headed straight home to get dinner going before Conor was off work.  Well it wasn't exactly straight home, since I got on the freeway going the wrong direction...but only a minor detour and we were back on course.  Guess I'm still learning my way around, even with the GPS!  That evening we sat outside with a bottle of Keenan wine, watched all the hummingbirds we have buzzing around our feeders, and caught up with "The Suz".  She is a busy women, so it was nice to have her here relaxing and all to ourselves.  Dinner was a delicious Sockeye salmon fillet (which can be hard to find all the way down here) followed by more wine and after dinner drinks.  A good start to Suzie's short visit.

Conor had to work again the following day, so just us girls headed to Old Town Scottsdale to be touristy and go window shopping.  Lots of interesting trinket shops & tons of jewelry stores.  I have no idea how all these places survive, but I guess they'll be a hotspot once all the little old ladies with money to burn make their way down here for the winter.  Suzie and I had some pretty good laughs about all the random stuff you can purchase and how hideous it all looks.  However, there were some beautiful art gallery's we peaked our heads into.  Lots of blown glass which I love.  I especially liked the blown glass pumpkins and various light fixtures....so pretty to look at.  We also came across a nursery full of what we thought were pretty standard garden plants....but oh no....once we looked at the price tags we realized these supposedly were some sort of rare/exquisite desert plants that we had never heard of. But they really looked just like the ones in our backyard...  We finished our walking tour with lunch at a local mexican place, Los Olivos....Suzie had  been craving some good southwest cuisine and I was not going to complain since I LOVE mexican food.  In fact Suzie loves it too, so for dinner we had mexican again!  This time, we went to a place close to our house called La Casa Blanca....soooo good!

Her last day with us we went to the Desert Botanical Gardens.  Now this is not my cup of tea, but I did manage to enjoy it.  To sum it up, there were lots of different types of cactus... and I mean LOTS!  Next stop was lunch at Queen Creek Olive Mill, our 2nd time there and again delicious.  I just started eating/enjoying olives about a week ago, so this is kind of a new and exciting food for me.  Now I want to put olives on everything!  For some reason sipping on a dirty martini (and liking it...) has been strangely intriguing to me.  So perhaps this is my first step in that direction.

We also made a stop at Superstition Farm where we just became dairy club members.  This was our first pickup.  Every two weeks we get to pick up a gallon of milk, fresh cheese, pint of ice-cream, butter (plain or flavored), & a locally made mystery item.  Boy do I love my dairy!   This week we got garlic & pepper cheese, mint chocolate chip ice-cream, molasses & pecan butter, and the mystery item was bananas foster bread with a sugary glaze.  Our fridge is stocked!  I'm already looking forward to our next pick up.

That night we took Suzie to downtown Chandler fora night on the town.  We stopped in at Kokopelli Wine Bar for a drink and it ended up being a horrible experience...  Bad service and even worse wine.  Well we know that AZ is not exactly wine-country... but yikes!  Luckily I opted for a kir royal and was very pleased with my choice.  But once again the bartenders had no idea what they were doing and the guy tried to open a champagne bottle with a wine key...In the words of my father: "Get an idiot!"  After breaking the first cork, he tried again....still with the wine key... least it came out this time. About ten minutes later, I had glass in hand.  Needless to say, we downed our drinks and left.  After trying to find a new place for a drink & dinner we came across interesting employees and more bad service...downtown Chandler you disappointed me.  Hopefully we'll learn the area a little better for our next guests' visit.  We did end up at a small local restaurant close to our house, Boatzhouse, which ended up being a nice little surprise.  Not exactly what we were looking for, but it was a cute & casual place owned by a young local guy and his wife.  We had good service, good food, and good prices.  Finally, a breath of fresh air to end the evening.  We were all pleasantly surprised, and Conor and I will definitely be back to this great tucked-away, neighborhood spot. 

Conor had to take Suzie to the airport early the next morning....he let me sleep in :-)  Her visit was much too short and we can't wait to have her back.  Or any guests for that matter, just let us know when you're coming!

*pictures to come, but they are all on Suzie's camera right now*
**'cause i know you're all dying to seeing the desert botancial garden shots, hehehe**

Monday, November 22, 2010

My Favorite Things

If Oprah can do it, so can I!  So here is a list of what I'm loving right now!

Tom & Jerry's:  It is a holiday favorite in the Simpson household.  Pretty much consists of bourbon & apricot brandy, hot water, and topped with a dollop of whipped sugar and egg.  Sprinkle with nutmeg.  Very strong, it has taken me years to appreciate this holiday treat.  The Spokane Club throws a tom & jerry's party ever Christmas, but I have yet to attend.
Worcestershire:  I have been putting this on everything lately....burgers, edamame, chex mix, bloody marys, pumpkin seeds, tortilla soup, sauted with mushrooms and onions, etc.  I absolutely cannot get enough of it!  If it's in a recipe, I at least double it.
Timbuk2:  Their bags are the greatest.  Realistic for everyday use, and so cute at the same time!
Pearls:  Channeling my Audrey Hepburn and sporting these beautiful things all the time.  And not to mention Julia Child who would wear a full string of exquisite pearls while cooking.  Earring, necklaces, bracelets, rings...all are this girl's best friend.  Maybe one day I will even get my hands on some Mikimotos!
Kir Royal:  The best new drink!  Nothing is as refreshing as champagne with a little black cherry liquor splashed in, mmm mmm mmm.
Vera Bradley:  My East Coast girlfriends turned me onto this brand.  So many patterns, so many styles...how do you choose?  I want a diaper bag so bad...and not for its said purpose right now...but because of it's size and numerous pockets!
Kindle:  I love mine and think that everyone should have one.  Also, I heard from a little birdy recently that they are coming up with a way to be able to "lend" books on your kindle to others for 2 weeks.  This is the best news because Conor isn't too happy with all of my amazon purchases.
Northface:  Everyone from the Northwest has to love this brand!  Nothing is cozier.
Trump Wollman Ice Rink:  People seem to think that the Rockefeller Ice Rink is the place to be in NYC, but they are all so wrong.  The Rockefeller rink is small, over crowded, and has a time limit!  The Trump Ice Rink is way better and in Central Park.  Think Serendipity: the skating scene in that film was in Central Park.
Whistler:  If you haven't been, go immediately!  This is best thing Canada has to offer.  Even if you don't ski or board, the shopping, restaurants, and scenery will satisfy you.  I haven't been in 3 years, but hope Conor & I will make it back soon!
Dry Soda:  A Seattle company developed by a woman who appreciated wine paired with food but needed something else to drink during her many pregnancies.  The flavors are so unique but taste delicious.  I would equate the drink to more of a sparkling water than a soda because it is not sweet.  My favorite flavor is Lavender.  Drink that with some lavender goat cheese and it is perfection.  Hard to find sometimes, but Whole Foods usually has it.  In Spokane it's at main market and possibly Huckleberries.
Glee:  I have officially become a Gleek and am trying to convert Conor, no luck so far.
Fro-yo:  Not TCBY fro-yo (although I do still love their white chocolate mousse), but the real stuff.  I only like the tart flavors though.  Most recently I fell in love with pomegranate tart.  Top with mini gummi bears and I have my favorite dessert.  Yogurtland is all over the southwest, and Spokane just got Froyo Earth.
Nordstrom:  Always has and always will be one of my favorite things!  Everyone loves when that silver box appears at birthdays, christmas, or just because.  I am a Nordies girl!
Candles:  I went to a candle part (similar to a tupperware party) about 3 years ago and it has since changed my life.   The best candle brand in my book:  Gold Canyon.
Cooking Light:  Love their magazine as well as their cookbooks.  Conor calls it "cooking with white wine" since any recipe with milk or cream is substituted with wine.  No complaints here.
Keenan Wine Club:  Not many wineries in AZ, so the local selection isn't great.  Solution: join a wine club.  A couple times a year you get wine deliveries to your front door of bottles that aren't distributed.  We got our first one last week and are quickly filling up our wine cellar.  I'm sure we'll tap into the collection on Turkey Day.
Dairy Club:  Speaking of clubs, Conor & I just joined  a dairy club at a local farm.  Twice a month we go pick up fresh milk, butter, cheese, ice-cream, and a mystery item.  All things I love.  This week's mystery item was Bananas Foster bread.  Pretty excited to try that with our molasses butter.  Looks like I'll be hitting the holiday food hard this year!
Conor Keenan:  Of course the love of my life is one of my favorite things!  Married life has been wonderful, and I couldn't be happier. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

"Hey Laura, It's your Birthday!"

Since Conor had a business trip in Alabama last week, I took the opportunity to make it back to Spokane again!  Now I will preface this post with saying that I am officially becoming my father, and found myself taking numerous scenery photos and not very many "people pictures."  I guess I was so excited about all the fall colors and got a little carried away.

My first night home, my parents and I headed out to their lake cabin.  And christmas came early...Since I'm never home when my parents put up their christmas tree at the lake, they decided to do it early this year so I could help.  It doesn't even need to be said that I ABSOLUTELY LOVE christmas, but typically I do wait until the day after Thanksgiving to begin any christmas festivities and decorating.  This year I made an exception.  While my dad made a huge fire (my 1st of the year) my mom & I put up all the ornaments.  This tree is themed to fit our cabin, having lots of lake-ish ornaments.  One of our favorite stores: Christmas at the Lake in Coeur d'alene.  We even started a new Christmas puzzle (there's always a puzzle in the works at our cabin, countless hours are spent by everyone over that table).  It was such a fun and cozy night.

The weather was perfect...for me....with a chilly breeze and a few rainy days.  I actually enjoy the rain, and now living in a place where those days are few and far between, I appreciate them even more.  Arizona has a little too much sunshine for me!  The trees were gorgeous, full of color, one of the best autumns Spokane has had in awhile. 
Sunday night we had a big family dinner to celebrate my birthday!  It was so nice to have my whole family together.  Our good family friends, the Crumbs, even made an appearance for drinks, along with my Uncle Tom & Cousin Taylor.  On the menu: Miller's Ham (who knew Spirit Lake makes the best hams in all the land) seasoned with cloves and glazed with raisin sauce, gorgonzola & thyme potatoes, and a pomegranate salad...mmm!  My mom had the house beautifully decorated for Autumn.  My favorite part: her tablescape...Sandra Lee has nothing on Shari Simpson!

For the first time in Simpson family history, we ran out of wine!  There is usually a good stock in the household at all times, and even though we were prepared for this event, there still wasn't enough.  Partly because my Dad has finally been converted and joined the rest of us in our love of the red stuff.  It's safe to say that fun was had by all.

While home, I actually bartended at my brothers' bar for a day.  It had been about 2 years since I was behind the bar, so I was a little rusty.  But pretty quickly I was back in my groove and slinging drinks!  A few of my favorite customers came to see me back in action, which made my day go by quickly.  It was nice to be there again and thinking of all the concoctions I could make.  I spent half the day deciding what I would have as my after work drink...thoughts of lemon drops, champagne with chambord, bloody marys, mojitos, and a fine red wine circled my head.  Also while working, I got to decorate the bar for Thanksgiving.  I'm pretty pleased with my handiwork, even though it's kinda hard to see!

Later in the week, I had the pleasure of joining my mom's book club.  It was a lovely afternoon full of wonderful women, great discussion, and delicious food...and don't forget the wine!  My mom's friend Patti Stifter was the host this week.  This women is incredible, and has become a dear friend of mine as well.  I look up to her and admire her, and enjoy any opportunity I get to sit down and chat with her.  We had lentil soup, blue cornbread muffins, and some delicious salad for lunch.  Now lentils were on my DO NOT eat list, but I gave it a try and loved it!  It's always exciting for me, when I can add a new food to my repetoire.  This month, the group read Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls.  Some of the women really enjoyed it, while others (like me) found the book entertaining, but wouldn't necessarily recommend it.  As I continue thru more books on my kindle, I'll update my reading list when I have a few books worth recommending to others. 

The rest of trip was spent running errands with my mom, seeing friends, and eating some incredible meals.  There's times I feel like this blog is more about all the amazing food I eat, instead of what's going on with Conor & I, but food is our passion....so hear I go again.  On Tuesday I went out to dinner with Grandpa (I do this every Tuesday that I am in Spokane, it's become our tradition and something I look forward to).  My mom always comes to, as Tuesday is the night that she always goes and sees him.  My brother, Jon, and his _______? lady friend? Shalan also joined us this time.  We went to Geno's (near Gonzaga) as always.  This is my favorite italian restaurant in Spokane.  If you have never been, I suggest you check it out!  It's nothing fancy, just good authentic food.  The atmosphere is so unique with two seperate dining rooms, low lit with candles on the red and white checkered table cloths.  There is an old jukebox right inside the front door, which was one of the hightlights when I was younger.  Their house soup is to die for...no use describing it, you just have to try this little drop of heaven for yourself.  I suggest going straight for the bowl, because the cup always leaves me wanting more.  I also suggest getting a large carafe of Chianti!  The thin crust style pizza is simple but to die for.  And any place that can offer me spumoni at the end of the meal is a winner in my book.  This restaurant has been around for a long time, and remains in operation by the same family.  Geno himself opened it up, and now his daughter Gina runs it.  I hope the younger generations continue to support it, so that I may be able to take my kids there someday.

Another night, my dad took my mom and I out to dinner at Gordy's Sichuan Cafe.  This little gem is hidden on the South Hill, near Grand & 29th.  It's a very small place and typically has a long wait.  Lots of people get take-out for this reason, but I just don't think it's the same.  My to-die-for dishes on the menu: lemon chicken & dandan noodles.  Both so good, you will never have anything like them.  A bottle of wine tops of the meal nicely, and I love the orange slices that come with the check. 

Before I flew back to Phoenix, my mom and I had lunch at Mizuna in downtown.  This was only my 3rd visit to the restaurant, but I have been pleased everytime.  The building has exposed brick walls, which I am obsessed with and wish I could put them in my own house.  The hardwood floors and marble tabletops only add to it's cozy atmosphere.  The menu changes constantly with the seasons and is vegetarian & vegan friendly!  Winter is the perfect time to visit this restaurant, especially to take a break from Christmas shopping since it's right across the streat from Macy's.  It's good to support your local businesses and stay away from the chains!!!

Once again, a fabulous trip!

Carcassonne

Conor & I love game nights and are always looking for new games!  We're both very competitive which makes for an interesting game every time, and I think I embarass Conor sometimes when we're playing with lots of friends!  I definitely get it from my family, which you would know if you ever tried to play Catch Phrase (or as my dad says, catch-a-phrase) with us.  There is usually lots of shouting, accussing, and angry people amongst all the fun that we're having.  Conor & I have even been known to ferociously play multiple games of speed monopoly.

Our game closet is filled with the standards: apples-to-apples (another simpson family favorite, shouting included), mexican train, the game of things, monopoly, and anything cranium.  But finally Conor & I got a little adventurous.....

So for all you crazy Settlers of Catan fans, I bring you: Carcassonne!


But no worries, although this may seem a little over the top nerdy on our part, you will not see us dressed up in the park fighting with swords or anything of that nature! 

Monday, November 1, 2010

It's Spooky

Another fun fun weekend for us!

On Friday, Conor & I decided to have a date night.  While I was getting ready for the evening, Conor was on the phone with our cable company 'cause the cable/internet wasn't working.  Him and this lady were just chatting it up and talking about their favorite restaurants....maybe she was trying to get a date?  Nonetheless, we took the overly friendly respresentative's advice and went to her favorite restaurant in Chandler.  Si Senor was a New Mexican style restaurant and quite spicy, but very delicious.  Guess the cable lady knew what she was talking about.  After dinner we went to the San Tan Brewery in downtown Chandler, where we met up with one of Conor's coworkers.  I really enjoyed downtown Chandler.  It was nice to get away from the strip mall atmosphere that seems to be everywhere in AZ.  I happily sipped on my hard cider and watched fireworks....we think downtown was celebrating el Dia de los Muertos a few days early.

Saturday was a lazy stay-at-home day.  We finally sat down to choose pictures for our wedding album.  Narrowing down 600 pictures to 140 is quite difficult...it took hours.  Now I can't wait to get the album.  Since we were on a roll with the pictures we decided to order our christmas cards now and get that done.  Get excited...the Keenan Family's very first Christmas card will be hitting your mailboxes in early December!  That night we made pizzas together...a great friend gave me this phenominal recipe for a chicken, mushroom, lemon artichoke pesto pizza!  (love and miss ya Ali)!  I was trying to get into the Halloween spirit and wanted to watch a scary movie.  This took some convincing 'cause Conor hates horror films.  We finally decided to watch Paranormal Activity, so we'd know what everyone is talking about...it was horrible!  The biggest waste of my time and not scary.  I only jumped a tad at the very end.  I've had scarier nightmares!

Finally, Halloween was here.  To me, Halloween kicks off the holiday season.  This is the first year I've been able to carve pumpkins outside in 85 degree weather while wearing shorts.  Kinda different.  Any of you who have carved pumpkins with me before will know that I am horrible at it.  I've practically been carving the same thing since I was ten.  It's embarassing.  So this year I was determined to step up my game!  I found a pumpkin pattern that I liked online and used that.  About an hour and half later, I had a pretty sweet ghost!  So proud of it.  Conor carved a spider which proved to be a little more difficut and he had a few issues...but nothing that some toothpicks couldn't fix.


Conor had some chili cooking in the crockpot all day.  He came up with the recipe last year during the 2nd horrible snowstorm that Delaware had.  If the news ever reported that a storm was coming, east coasters hit the grocery stores with a vengence, stock piling milk, eggs, bread, and toilet paper.  The northwest blood Conor and I have in us just wouldn't allow for this kind of behavior.  So the day after that bad storm Conor and our friend Quinn walked to store so we could have dinner.  Because of that blizzard, we now have  cravings for Conor's Snowstorm Chili!  Mmmmm.  I had some spiced cider brewing on the stove...add in some Jim Beam bourbon and it's a little drop of holiday heaven.  Skyping with lots of family and friends made for a perfect night!

This year we had so many trick-or-treaters.  I couldn't have been happier! But we almost ran out of candy which would have been a travesty.  The kids loved our decorations, which were all thanks to Conor.  He set up spooky music and created this little disaster under our garage...and asked the kids if they'd seen Joe...

Let the holiday season begin!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Charles Barkley: A tribute

Since the temperatures in Phoenix are finally cooling down, Conor and I got out and did a little exploring of the city.  In true Conor/Laura fashion, we crammed as many things into one weekend as possible!  Friday night we had the opportunity to go to a Suns preseason game.  Although they didn't have the best performance, we still had a blast.  When I was younger my family took a vacation to Phoenix, and we went to my very first NBA game!  I believe I was nine at the time, so it was 1994 and Charles Barkley (my favorite player) was on top of his game.  Not the best role model for your child, but I loved to watch him play and get technicals and get kicked out!  So here I am 16 years later, in the same arena, but no Charles Barkley :'(  We went to the game with a friend of Conor's, John, from work.  He is from the area and went to ASU, so he took us out to a cool bar in Tempe, Four Peaks Brewery.  As you all know, I DO NOT DRINK BEER, but I fit in perfectly here because they carry hard cider on tap! Delicious!  The bar was packed, but we finangled a table in the indoor/outdoor area.  I love bars with patios and can't complain about being able to sit outside late at night at the end of October.  Given this, Phoenix scored a point with me.

Then it was Dawg Saturday!  We woke up and had a bottle of champagne in preparation for gameday.  The game was in Tucson, which was an easy drive...maybe 1 1/2 hours.  We got there early so we could tail gate, but all that really consisted of was having a few drinks in the jetta.  Then we were ready to brave the Arizona crowd...The first 10 minutes among the sea of red and blue were pleasant, and just as I was going to comment to Conor that everyone was being so nice...the heckling and rudeness began.  Waiting in line to go to the bathroom I was constantly boo-d and yelled at (the game hadn't even started) and I was standing between two extremely intoxicated Arizona girls who I thought might vomit on me....We had great seats, but were surrounded by very interesting fans.  I was not expecting the grandpa behind me to be a heckler or the couple making out in front of us to be so angry about the UW band and cheerleaders!  It didn't help that the Huskies played awful....With all this aside, it was so great to be back on the west side of the country watching UW.  Neither of us has been to a game since we graduated.  I can't wait til we're back in Seattle with season tickets!

Wearing my Cody Pickett jersey that I've had since 2004 
Sunday Funday.  Conor and I went to check out this olive farm, Queen Creek Olive Mill, that we read about somewhat close to our house (we kinda live in the country).  I am always anxious to check out new places and support local businesses.  The place was incredible with a huge variety of different olive oils & balsamic vinegars, yum!  My favorite was the Pomegranate White Balsamic, i could practically drink it.  After a delicious lunch and glass of champagne under some olive trees we headed to our next stop....

The Pork Shop!  Every city we live in I try to find a local butcher shop.  A must have.  Spokane: Egger's Meats.  Seattle: Pike Place Market.  Newark: Herman's Quality Meats.  Chandler: Pork Shop.   But since there's obviously only pork here, I will have to keep looking.  Nonetheless, we found some great stuff here.  Fresh chorizo for a special chili recipe.   More on that in the next blog. 

We ended our weekend at a pumpkin patch.  Having grown up in Spokane with instant access to Greenbluff, I am very picky when it comes to pumpkin patches.  Necessities include:  fresh apple cider, hayrides, and a pick-your-own patch.  In Delaware, we lived really close to Milburn Orchards where we went the last two halloweens and they even had apple cider doughnuts.  My standards are high, so I was little disappointed when we couldn't find a pick-your-own patch anywhere in the Chandler area.  There is just something special about getting your pumpkin off the vine, instead of picking it out of a huge pile of pre-picked ones.  We settled for a place called Mother Nature's farm.  Although I was upset about the pumpkin situation, I got a cool tractor sticker when we got there.  Who doesn't like stickers?!  The highlight of the farm was the week old piglets.  They were so tiny. 

My favorite was a white one with big black spots...I called him cow.  Conor wouldn't let me have him.

Finally we picked out the perfect pumpkins!  Conor's is HUGE!  I refer to it as Big Poppa, but Conor doesn't think it's very funny.  Can't wait to carve them!

Practicing safe backseat riding!

Monday, October 25, 2010

It's a Baby Shower!

Last week I flew to Spokane for a few days to throw my good friend, Christina (previously Nevers) Scribner, a baby shower with my mom.  For those of you that have heard about all my travel fiascos in the last two years, it should come as no surprise that once again I had flying issues.  Now I HATE flying. Hate it!  So after my plane had already been in the air for 45 minutes and the captain came on to say we had to return to Phoenix because some little light came on, I was not a happy camper.  We had to change planes in Phoenix and do the whole trip over again.  US Airways you are on the naughty list this year!

My first full day home was filled doing fun errands with my mom.  Nordstrom. Pottery Barn. Lunch (at Brooklyn Deli, one of my favorites in Spokane...the tomato parmesan soup is to die for). Costco. JoAnn Fabric. Grocery Store.  And then a little pampering (haircut & pedicure).  My mom is too good to me.  The fun continued when my Dad decided to take my mom and I out to dinner since the next 24 hours was going to consist of lots of cooking for the shower.  We went to South Perry Pizza for dinner.  I love how the Perry district is beginning to expand and becoming a popular neighborhood again.  The place was packed and we ran into lots family friends.  It appears to be a new south hill favorite.  This restaurant is a great addition and everyone should check it out!  And the added bonus is that it's owned by a Spokane native and LC alum.

Later that night my mom and stayed up late, donning aprons from Grandma, cooking for the shower, drinking wine, & chatting til late into the night  On the menu for the shower: turkey lasanga, apple-blue cheese-bacon salad, garlic bread, and apple crisp.  Since we both love to cook, my mom and I decided to make everything for the shower ourselves...cooking for 25 people was quite the undertaking.  So much fun though and the finished products were worth it.  That night and half of the next day, the kitchen was a disaster and the oven constantly running.  Two quick (actual) showers later, we were ready for the guests to arrive!

The party was a huge success!  I'm pretty sure all the food was a big hit, and the wine definitely was as these ladies were tossing back plenty of it!  Seeing Teeny and her adorable belly were the best part.  She is such a dear friend to me, and one of the most gracious women I know.  She will be the best mommy!  Watching her open up her gifts was so much fun and filled with many "oohs and ahhs."  Oh the onesies, blankets, and little booties.  The whole evening got me in a little bit of a baby mode..........but........that's still a little ways off....

Here are the invitations.  I found the template online and then personalized and printed them myself.  After planning a wedding, I can do anything!

We did not make these, but adorable nonetheless.  The onesie cookies are all decorated differently and were made by a lady named Sally.  The bootie mints are from Spokandy.

Here is the mommy-to-be and her belly!


The rest of my trip I got to relax with family & friends.  My best friend, Amanda, came into town for the shower so I got to spend lots of time with her.  We haven't lived in the same city for over 6 years, so I try to get in as much Amanda time as possible when she's around.  We went to the P.I.  one night, and I have to stay I was deeply disappointed.  It's just not the same dive bar that I used to love before it became trendy again.  I will not be spotted there in the future and definiteley not during the holiday season.  So sorry P.I. but you changed.

The rest of my weekend I spent at my parent's cabin in Spirit Lake.  I could not have asked for any better Autumn days!  It was completely sunny with a light breeze and crisp air.  Finally I could wear one of my beloved scarves!  I helped my parents harvest their vegetable garden.  There were so many delcious tomatoes waiting to be picked before the first freeze.  Also lots of onions, zucchini, and sugar pumpkins!

I got lots of family time in while I was home which is so important to me.  My brothers own a business together and are always very busy.  I try to see them as much as I can.  Ryan joined us for dinner at my parents house twice, and I got to see Jon at The Elk before I flew back to Phoenix.  The fall weather was practically begging me to have a hard cider, and The Elk is one of the few places in Spokane that can offer me it on draft.

A fabulous trip!  I go back in early November for my birthday.  I'm hoping my next visit will include snow...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Keenan's Family's First... ICE!

October 9, 2010: Laura: "TJ... this is really embarrassing... but I think your toilet is having problems..."
TJ: "Oh really?... (Gets up and heads to the bathroom) That's weird, I mean I just fixed it the other da... Ooohhh MAN!!! REALLY!?!?!"
Conor: "Mmmm pineapple... bummer dude. Say Cheese!"
Laura: "Take a knee and chug it Teej!"

Laura and I sat down for dinner on a Thursday night thinking about what we should do for the coming weekend. We quickly realized that it would be one of the few weekends together without travel plans since our move to AZ back in August! Being only 5.5 hours drive between Chandler and La Casa de Hanson (TJ and Erin's place) in San Diego and with a couple of good friends from the East, Quinn and Karen, in Rancho Bernardo for a wedding, we decided what better thing to do but hit the road again to go see them all.

After a fairly easy drive across the desert, we got to the Hanson's with about 4 hours left on the bar clock. After exchanging pleasantries and assembling a small group of friends, we headed out to a GREAT bar called El Camino in the Little Italy district. (Any place that advertises $1 mimosas is A-OK in Laura's book!)
The El Camino is conveniently located no more than 3 blocks short of the main runway of San Diego Int. Airport, which, in combination with an entire back bar sans roof... Makes for a pretty sweet show. It only took a couple times before we were used to pausing conversation and reaching to hold onto our drinks as rumbling 737s went wheels-down-cruising overhead at stone's-throw distance. Great beers (in boots), margarita's (pitchers), music, and friends for a really fun first night in the city. If you find yourself in San Diego sometime soon, I highly recommend checking it out.
Saturday morning we were up and at 'em, and headed up north for mimosas, bloody marys, and a light lunch with the McAllisters on the veranda of the Rancho Bernardo Inn. It was great to see some friends from the East Coast and we settled right in to cocktails and conversation just like old times back on Chickory Way. As we really start to settle into life in AZ and look more forward to meeting and making new friends here, it is great to know and appreciate all the great friends we have made seemingly ALL over the country during the past 6 years and how easy it has been to keep in touch. We are really looking forward to having many of them come visit us as this winter for a nice dose of that great Arizona sunshine. Book your flights people, we have guest-rooms ready!

We spent the next few hours at the pool, tiki-bar, and sauna after suiting up and sneaking into the Marriott resort downtown with Erin and Teej; another great idea which Laura and I never would have even thought of. While the girls showered and got ready for the evening, TJ and I set off for a little long boarding session around Balboa Park and happened to randomly (I swear!) find ourselves pint in hand at Hamilton's Tavern in the midst of an awesome Oktoberfest celebration, complete with a delicious brat buffet! We got out of there just in time to keep from, likely, ending up in the dog-house... Close call, but we made up for it by taking the ladies out to a fine Italian dinner back in Little Italy and capped the night off watching the planes over cigars on the porch. Tough life... I know...

Now what trip to San Diego would be complete without spending some quality time with Zoo animals? Sunday came all too soon and we decided to head to the zoo for a few hours before hitting the road. Having spent lots of time at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle and the Portland Zoo, one of our favorites, we were really impressed at how close you could get to all the animals, especially the big cats, and how active they were.

Macy's Uncle.

It didn't take long for TJ to explain why we shouldn't hang around the male lion too long though... After getting "sprayed" on a previous visit, he is convinced that he was officially welcomed into the pack and didn't want things to get weird for Laura and I if/when they smelled that he was back...

The Zookeepers were a little odd...
I don't know how we do it... Another week's worth of fun all packed into a blast of a weekend! Thanks again to the Hansons for their great friendship and hospitality and the McAllisters as well for carving out a couple hours between wedding festivities to see us.

We are starting to accept that this whole "It will be great to just get home to AZ, relax, and settle in" idea we have had for months now isn't going to happen anytime soon... And you know what? With all the fun we've been having. Why would we?!? It's been a great ride and we can't wait to keep it going. Next up: Spokane, Alabama, Montana, Vegas?... Mexico?...New York?... Delaware?... Who knows? Stay tuned!

-Conor

Monday, October 11, 2010

Cook. Eat. Read.

My favorite part of being a "temporary" housewife: cooking.  Each day I wake up, to coffee already made by my husband, and sit at the kitchen table looking over my many cookbooks.  I have discovered an entire new world of food, kitchen gadgets, appliances, ingredients, etc.  I have spent most of my life being an extremely picky eater, but thanks to Conor, I am quickly expanding my palate.

At one of my bridal showers, all of the guests game me their favorite recipes put together in a cute box.  I'm slowly making my through this box, the cookbooks I've acquired over the years, online recipes, friend's recipes, and my own mother's concoctions.  Growing up, I sat at the counter in my mom's kitchen watching her cook.  While also doing my homework, I would help her out between math problems and reading assignments.  And during my trips home, you will still find me sitting at the same counter and sometimes I'm even teaching my mom a trick or two.  However, I have developed her bad habit of rarely planning meals in advance and having to make daily trips to the grocery store.  But on a positive note, this has become a fun activity I look forward to.  I have also become a professional and finding great deals and things I love on sale.  If you've ever been to a grocery store with me, you'll know this was never my strong suite...in fact, I rarely even looked at the prices.  Those days are no more.  Next, I need to become a coupon queen!

I am finally back in a city with a whole foods...my heaven.  I could literally spend all day in there with the fresh and local produce, the incredible seafood and meat counter, and most importantly the cheese selections!  Ever since Conor took me to Purple Cafe, a great restaurant and wine bar in Seattle, I have been obsessed with speciality cheeses.  We are both slowly learning what we like and what goes with what.  Finding great parings between new cheeses we discover and wine/fruit/crackers is sort of a new hobby of ours.  The great possiblilties seem endless!  I used to think that only red wine went well with cheese, but oh no.  I could not have been more wrong.  Champagne (and other sparkling wines) is absolutely delicious with the right cheese selection.  Each new cheese I try is a new surprise.  Lavender goat cheese?....incredible!...who would have thought!  The other great thing about my new whole foods: the wine bar.  Yes, it's true.  I can have a nice glass of wine while doing my grocery shopping.  Now I haven't actually partaken is this activity yet, 'cause I'm sure it will lead to many unnecessary grocery purchases and a late afternoon nap (although this still happens sometimes).  But one of these days I will belly up to the bar and enjoy the complete whole foods experience. Maybe even tell Conor about it when he gets home... on second thought... better keep that our little secret...

Planning meals has become an adventure in and of themselves, and lately I've been having a lot of fun with some theme nights!  Examples: Italian Night: italina cheese board, italian wine (usually chianti, montepulciano, or sangiovese), homemade pizza or pasta, caesar salad, and spumoni.  South Carolina BBQ: cornbread, corn on the cob, pulled pork sandwiches, and sweet tea.  The finishing touch is a Pandora station made special for the evening.  I love to cook!...and eat!  Nothing beats a night at home with the hubby and delcious food and drink.

In between all the cooking and eating, I have been reading.  When Conor bought me a kindle for our honeymoon, I don't think he had any idea that reading can become an expensive habit.  But it has.  For some reason, having a kindle makes me read more.  That and the fact that I am no longer planning a wedding and therefore all of my previous reading material is gone.  I have always loved to read...and write (I hope to write a book someday) and finally have the time to do it.  I took some extra english classes in college and loved them.  I feel like I can sometimes miss so much symbolism and meaning when reading a novel on my own.  But with a professor and peers you get so much more from a book.  I have therefore decided that I need to join a book club.  I usually try to balance my for-fun reading material with something that has a litte much substance and literary value.  There is just something about crawling into bed a night at night and finishing that last glass of wine or having a cup of tea while cozing up with your favorite book.  That makes for a perfect ending to an evening. 

Since the honeymoon, my reading list has included:
Roses by Leila Meacham
House Rules by Jodi Picoult
The Last Summer by Ann Brashares
The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes
The Girl with the Dragon Tatto (series) by Stieg Larsson
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Currently reading: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

All of these books were good, but my two favorites were Roses and The Help.  I recommend they be the next books you read.  And please give me suggestions, after the Hunger Games series I don't know what I'll read next...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dublin.San Fran.Napa

I was bummed when Conor told me that he had a two week business trip in Dublin, CA....but then the wonderful news came: Dublin is 1 hour from wine country.  He had to say no more, I was on board for this trip!  Since I don't have a new job yet, I was able to accompany him for the whole time.  The only problem we had with our plans was what to do with our cats....? We haven't met any friends in AZ yet, so there was no one to watch them.  We were left with no choice, but to hire a PET NANNY, hahaha.  I never thought I would use those two words together.  We are officially crazy cat people.  But it worked out well, and I was free to make my way to Napa.

Conor worked about 10 minutes away from our hotel, so I still got to see him for lunch everyday.  Some of you might be wondering what I did in a hotel all day, but surprisely I stayed very busy and entertained.  Did lots of reading on my kindle!  I only began to get some cabin fever on the last two days.  Conor and I had a blast in California, especially finding new places to eat everynight including some pretty great happy hours, amazing mexican, and some of the best raspberry cider I've ever had!  We both loved the area are hoping that Conor may be able to do a rotation in Dublin....

Dublin is also only 45 minutes away from San Fran!  We went into the city twice and had drinks and dinner with a couple of our friends, Lindsey Cochran & Dave Aron.  They both live in the North Beach area, so we ate some awesome italian food on both visits.  It was soooo great to see them both; hopefully we will be making more visits there sometime soon.

The highlight of the trip: Napa! 


The weather was great, the scenery breathtaking, the wine plentiful, the food delicious, and the company the best! We spent Friday evening, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning/afternoon in Napa.  We had gotten a couple of recommendations on where to go, but we also chose some random wineries we wanted to check out.  Conor didn't get off work til lunch time, so by the time we made it to Napa most wineries were closed.  However, we did have time to make a quick stop at Robert Mondavi.  We had been trying to avoid the touristy locations, but we were on a time crunch.  It was fun, but of all the wineries in Napa, I would not recommend a stop there.  On a side note, in the parking lot we saw a group of "tourists" pounding some white wine and a huge bag of doritos! Mmmmm, those cheesy chips must really bring out the flavors of the wine...delicous!

That night we had dinner at the marketplace in downtown Napa.  On recommendation from our friend Dave, we ate at a place called HogIsland Oyster Co.  Conor and I both love raw oysters and were not disappointed.  Raw oysters, adult mac & cheese, an oyster poh'boy, and a bottle of white wine later, we were doing quite well.  Dave also told us to check out this wine bar called the Bounty Hunter.  It is a must stop if you head to Napa.  Lots of delicious and local (obviously) wines by the glass.  I could have stayed all night.  We met a crazy couple from Texas that wanted to become our best friends.  They offered to let us stay in their hotel, but we graciously turned them down.  Gotta love meeting people on vacation.

Day 2 in Napa was a big success.  First stop was Domaine Carneros for a sparkling wine flight and cheese board!  Two of my most favorite things.  They have some beautiful property with a great view...and table service, which I came to love and want for all my wine tastings.  I loved one of the cheeses, midnight moon by cyprus  hill.  They also make humboldt fog which has been my absolute favorite cheese for years.  The whole experience was great.  I pulled the industry card, saying my family owns a bar, and was offered lots of extra tastings...yum yum.  Most of the wineries are beginning to harvest...and you could smell it in the air.  Next stop was Clos Du Val...the overall experience was a little boring, but the limited release white wines were great.  Then we were on to Mumm Napa for more sparkling wine!
We tried their sparkling reds for something different and loved them both. 
 
A whole new world of sparkling wine has opened up to me.  The last stop of the day was Hall.  This was a wonderful small, family owned winery.  We received excellent service here while sitting in a small picnic area shaded by trees.  Their merlots and cabernets were terrific.  We had had plenty of wine by this point and called it quits for the day.

First stop on Day 3: Artesa.  This winery had one of the best views
It was set up on a hill, so the tasting room was somewhat "underground."  A very modern winery with lots of art, very different from anything else we saw.  The wine was nothing to write home about it, but the location was worth the visit (it's on some back roads so you have a chance to get off the main highways for awhile.)

Our very last winery and our favorite....KEENAN!!!  And not just 'cause of the name.  The wines were incredible, unlimited and large tastings, complimentary cheese board, and an impromtu tour.  You have to make an appointment to visit this winery, which is nice because then you have the full attention of whomever is serving you.  The tasting room is an old building which houses their wine barrels.  It is set in the middle of a mountain hidden in the woods.  Such a different experience from all the other wineries we visited.  We had picked up some meat and cheeses on way up there, and had a picnic on their deck when we finished with our tasting.  A perfect weekend with my husband!

Already getting the infamous Simpson purple teeth

It was a very successful trip...10 bottles of wine later.  We are trying to acquire a small collection and attempt to cellar a few for some years, but we'll see if we can hold off on consumption!