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 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!


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 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 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...