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,


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 I bring you our christmas stockings...

Can't wait to see what Santa brings!