California Love

Max and I journeyed out to California last week to spend time with my parents and sisters. We loved the family time which included the usual board games and cooking and this year bowling, too! (My mom wowed everyone with the high score of 138!)

Christmas morning my sisters and I posed for our traditional shot with this year's new matching pajamas before heading to Ryan's Place diner for breakfast (another tradition we love):

A Very Merry First Christmas Morning as Husband and Wife:

We arrived in Texas on Saturday night to spend family time with Max's side, and are looking forward to the forecast of snow in Dallas tomorrow!
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A Desert Christmas!

Even though we'll be celebrating Christmas in both California and Texas over the next couple weeks, Max and I wanted to also celebrate early in our new home : )

Saturday night we attended a performance of the Nutcracker by Ballet Arizona downtown at the Phoenix Symphony Hall. We're newbies to the downtown area and were super impressed with how clean and new all the streets and buildings looked. The Symphony Hall itself was also beautiful and the ballet was wonderful. We loved the music and I especially enjoyed seeing all of the costumes, my favorite being the trio of ballerinas in peppermint candy tutus that looked like they were made out of fondant - gorgeous! During intermission, we peeked down at the pit to look at the orchestra and then snapped this photo by the Christmas tree:


Earlier in the evening, Max picked out a new French restaurant for us to try: Petite Maison. It was "petite" like its name and just darling:


It instantly became a new favorite, and since our desert weather has blessed us with temperatures in the 70's for the past few days, we happily dined on the cute patio. Max liked his Coq au Vin so much that I promised to try to make the dish when we return in January. After looking up the recipe, however, I realized that it has an "intermediate" label... which means it will probably take me several tries to come up with anything edible but I'm determined : )

Sunday we woke up and did our "Faux Christmas Morning" with our stocking exchange by the tree and yummy Christmas M&M pancakes. With this lovely weather outside, though, it's been odd packing scarves and jackets for our upcoming trip - a good amount of our winter clothes are actually still packed away in the garage!

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Color Me Happy

Back in October, Max surprised me with an art easel for my birthday : ) The easel is huge (much better than the tiny ones that were in my art classroom) and I just love having a space for painting at home. Plus, moving into such a big new house left us with lots of empty walls that needed decorating...

Here is the new piece of art I just finished for our bedroom wall:


And its less colorful beginning:


Another (unfinished) canvas:


And one last painting that is finished and is meant for the living room:


Thanks again, honey!


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A Wok to Remember

Max and I are having tons of fun with all of our new kitchen equipment! Our new wok is perfect for this easy stir-fry recipe. It's one of Max's new favorites and the final product looks kind of Christmas-y with all the red and green s0 I thought I'd share:

Stir-Fried Beef with Broccoli and Bell Peppers

1 pound flank steak, trimmed
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3/4 pound broccoli
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large red bell pepper (halved, seeded and cut into 1 inch pieces)
4 cups hot cooked long-grain rice

1. Cut steak into strips lengthwise, then cut across the grain into 1/8-inch slices. Combine beef with soy sauce, garlic and black pepper. Toss well, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

2. Combine 1 1/2 tablespoons water, oyster sauce and crushed red pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.

3. Cut broccoli into florets. Peel stems and cut diagonally into 1/4 inch slices.

4. Heat one tablespoon canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add beef mixture and cook 3 minutes or until beef is browned, stirring constantly. Transfer beef to a bowl.

5. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon canola oil the pan over medium high heat. Add broccoli and cook for 3 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons water and cook another minute. Add the bell pepper and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Return the beef mixture to the pan. Stir in the oyster sauce mixture, cook until heated. Serve over rice.

Yield: 6 servings (size: 1 cup stir-fry, 2/3 cup rice)
Calories: 323, Fat: 10.7g, Protein 21.2g, Carb 35.2g

*Max and I now double the recipe since we like leftovers of this simple, yummy meal, and can easily polish off the "6 servings" between the two of us!
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It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year...

Earlier this month, Max brought home this invitation to his work Holiday Party. Looking at it, you'll find beakers as well as scientific equations on the decorative border, and may also note that the venue is the Arizona Science Center... I wouldn't expect anything less from a company full of engineers ; )



All dressed up for the wonderful evening:


And here, dressed down for some attic work:


Specifically adding more to this patch panel for our home network:



Again, I have more of a support-type role for these ventures:


Max also spent some time this weekend working on his UGS (Unattended Ground Sensor). When he's done, the UGS should be able to detect movement and radio back to a base. My hubby started with a box of two-way radios he purchased from eBay. Here he is taking apart the first one:


...so that he can alter the circuit board inside:


Now putting the cover back on:


Besides the motion sensor attached to the front, the altered radio looks the same and can even still function as a two-way communication device, in addition to being able to sense movement and alert the base station radio. Yay, honey!


If you're wondering what we could possibly want with these devices, we plan to leave them in the woods to find out the location of animals (like hogs!) at night... yes, at night so we can also try out that night vision scope we picked up at the auction. You can also probably infer that this was all Max's idea but I'm game to tag along : )

Cheers from our happy home!
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The First 100 Days

Yes it's true: we've been "Dr. and Mrs." for 100 days now! Here's an update on our very own "State of the Union" : )

Dining Chairs: We have gone from 2 to 10! That's an increase of 400%! (But Max calls BS, the new number is including the *patio* chairs too!) <--- And I say that we "dine" on that patio set so of course those chairs should count ; )

Guest Room: Has since housed four different guests with more planned for 2010 ; ) Yay!

Theatre Room: Although the cardboard boxes upon which our speakers are resting really add to that "we're newlyweds" feel, our plan is to add speaker stands and a nice bookcase (proposed funding planned in the 2010 budget).

Love and Happiness Levels: Through the roof (sorry to my sister and anyone else who gets nauseated when we're around). Being married is just more fun and amazing then we ever imagined : ) That's all for now from these lovebirds.


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'Tis the Season



Earlier today Max and I went to the local Christmas Tree lot to select our very first Christmas Tree! Here she is all ready for the ride home:


And safe in front of our house:


Max getting ready to Hercules the tree down by himself (I do better as a cheerleader):


And besides, if I was lifting, we would miss out on cute photos like this one:


Or this one of Max carrying the tree in through the front walkway:


And here is our very first tree, all decorated:


A close up of one of our special feather ornaments:


And we even have matching lovebirds:


Once the tree was set, we headed outside to show our Christmas spirit with boxes and boxes of mini lights:


Max is pretty much an expert at stringing lights around outdoor trees, however we learned the hard way tonight that trees in the desert (much like the cactuses) have adapted to protect their precious water by growing spikes and needles. Ouch! Just another reason to be ever thankful for Max's just-for-fun EMT skills.

And it sure felt like Christmas as it was finally cold enough to turn on our house heater for the very first time all season. Happy Holidays from Phoenix!
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Gobble Gobble!

Max and I spent a happy Thanksgiving at the Baldini's this year in California : ) We found a little bit of Texas waiting for us there via a Greenberg Smoked Turkey (the smokehouse goes back to Max's great-grandfather):


Yum! We are also loving the turkey that was sent to our home in Scottsdale since we couldn't really take Thanksgiving leftovers back on the plane (thanks, Dana!).

Although the mini-vacation went by really quickly, we did get a chance to make it as a family to the aquarium in Monterey (something I had been dying to do for ages):


The special Seahorse exhibit was amazing; I especially loved these guys that look like greenery:


Unfortunately, Seahorses are super difficult to keep and are very fragile so it looks like our puffers won't be getting one as a companion (although I'd still love to have one someday!).

Also on our list of favorites, the jellies:


...and of course the huge two story tank that housed Hammerheads and Lemon Sharks! Lemon Sharks, you might remember, are the big guys we dove with in Bora Bora. I never thought I'd be the one thinking that I'd love to hop in a tank with sharks but it definitely crossed my mind while we were watching them (I blame this completely on my husband). Thank you, Baldinis, for a wonderful time : )
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Fall Fun

One of our nearby bowling alleys offers dollar games (as well as dollar shoe rentals, hot dogs and even beers) anytime the Arizona Cardinals are playing. We took advantage of this special this past Sunday when my mom was in town:

Mom/Mom-in-Law ready to bowl:


Here I am, so sad to be leaving just one pin:


Max and his textbook form:


We brought along the high speed camera I surprised Max with over the summer- this is it shooting 300 frames a second, watching the pins fall:

And another of me, shot by my hubby (excited to get a strike at the end!):


Max is the only person I know who owns his own bowling ball and shoes:

I must say, it makes me envious to see his clean, shiny shoes when I'm lacing up my rentals, so I have added bowling shoes to my Christmas wish list ; )

Speaking of Christmas, it's never to early to start planning, and Max and I recently realized that we have no ornaments for our future first Christmas tree! To get ready, my mom and I stocked up on red and silver ornaments (Max chose the colors) and also popped on over to Michael's for some clear glass ornaments and feathers to replicate an idea I saw online:

So pretty! Thanks, mom!

Also, for our first Christmas as husband and wife, we wanted cutesy matching stockings:


And by "we" I mean "me" but Max is a good sport ; ) Now it's just so hard to wait until after Thanksgiving to actually put everything up!



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Wedding Photos!

Our photographer from our wedding recently posted a few of our pictures on her facebook account: Karen Tamaki Photography. Here's the link:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=329289&id=294530005563&op=6

If you look closely, her profile picture should be of a couple you might know ; )
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So Happy Together...

On November 14th 2007, Max and I went on our first date at a little sushi place in Campbell, California, and our lives would never be the same : ) One year later on November 14th, 2008, Max surprised me in my classroom by entering with beautiful red roses and proposing during our weekly spelling test (and then promptly whisking me away to celebrate with a dive trip to Cancun!). Now, two years later, as husband and wife, we find ourselves in a new city, in a new state, sharing a name and living in our first house together! Sometimes I get so overwhelmed with happiness that I ask Max how we got here, to which he replies: One day at a time : )

So I found the perfect wine to toast to these past 731 days, and to many, many more:
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10 Minutes to Dessert!

I know what you're thinking - I, too, was skeptical when I saw the time stamp on this recipe. After all, those "30 Minute Meals" of Rachel Ray's take me at least an hour an a half (I know this because I can replay the episode where she makes the same dish on DVR and still have time to watch the Evening News before I'm finished). This time prediction, however, is actually somewhat accurate and who doesn't love pumpkin anything in November? Here's the recipe if you have an extra 600 seconds to spare:

Pumpkin Mousse


Ingredients:
1 (4 oz.) carton whipped cream cheese
cinnamon
spoonful brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin pie filling
1/2 cup cool whip
6 individual graham cracker tart shells

Additional whipped topping and ground cinnamon

Directions:
In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese with brown sugar and dash of cinnamon. Blend in pumpkin. Fold in whipped topping. Fill tart shells with mixture, then garnish with additional whipped topping and sprinkle with cinnamon. Store in the refrigerator.

*The fact that these are mini, individual-sized pies is my favorite part! They are just too cute and so much fun to make (and eat). Enjoy!
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But I'm Used to Being First!

I attended my very first painting class (ever) earlier this week at one of our nearby community colleges. I've always wanted to take an art class so I was super excited and of course arrived early. As I watched the instructor pick up the role sheet, I instinctively got ready to raise my hand and say "here" since I'm used to being the first person called from an alphabetical listing. Once in a while, someone beats me, but "Baldini" is pretty darn close to the beginning. So the instructor called out the first name, then the next, and the next after that... and that's when I realized that "Klein" (officially and legally my new name after I visited the Social Security office the day after we got back from the honeymoon - yes, I was excited about this, too) starts with a K, which is the 11th letter of the alphabet. If you factor in how few X, Y and Z last names there are, I'm really towards the end of those lists now!
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Orange You Glad?

When we moved in, Max and I were super excited to spot a "Lime Tree" in the far corner of our backyard:



The limes were really hard, however, and not so tasty.

Fast forward to November, the perfect dining alfresco weather here in Phoenix. Max and I were lunching at our new backyard table this weekend when we looked out at our "Lime Tree" to spot... an orange!



I was so excited that I picked it on the spot, even though it probably wasn't ready. We had had suspicions about our tree being a faux lime after one of Max's coworkers said that there are lots of orange trees around here, and that they're usually ripe around Christmastime. That leaves us plenty of time to look for recipes with oranges : )
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Halloween Spook-tacular!

One of Max's coworkers has been putting on a free Haunted House in his backyard on Halloween night for twenty-something years. Naturally, Max wanted to go and see what is was all about, which is how I found myself holding up a mannequin of a dead Prom Queen Saturday afternoon while Max secured her to a line that would let her fly over the prom "stage" in a recreation of the movie Carrie (just one of several horror movies that would be reenacted). Later that night, we helped out by actually playing roles. You might already know about Max's love of fire (he's the one you'll find on the 4th of July hanging off of a boat to light a barge full of fireworks that's floating in the lake). Just to confirm, this is him on a normal night, just wondering if those new eco-friendly packing peanut substitutes are flammable (they are):



And this is Max adding his favorite element to his Freddy Kreuger routine:



I haven't seen Nightmare on Elm Street, but I don't think that Freddy had a flame thrower. I had the less fire-y job of hiding in the trees between Max and the Hannibal Lecter scene and jumping out to scare people as they passed. Though I thought this was quite mean at first, I got over it when I realized how fun it was to startle people (hey - they were in a Haunted House for a reason, right?). And don't worry about the trick-or-treaters we missed at our house...



...we're just hoping that all the candy wasn't snatched just by one person!
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It's here! It's here!

My provisional Arizona Teaching Credential arrived in the mail this past weekend! With this I can officially start teaching in our new state! To clear the credential there are a series of requirements I still need to fulfill (including taking an Arizona Constitution class), but for now I'm excited about going back into the classroom as a substitute teacher and getting to know our local schools!

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Is it Fall?

Fall always brings football and baseball at the same time (yay!), Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks, Candy Corn on store shelves and Pumpkin Patches that just spring up from place to place. We have been enjoying all of those goodies during our first autumn here in Arizona, however, there's just one thing out here that's decidedly not Fall...
...yes, it's the weather. That was yesterday's weatherunderground.com report from around 2:30pm. Hmmm, not quite the temperature calling for cozy sweaters and knit tights. I'm adapting: in this triple digit October weather, I'm ordering my Pumpkin Spice Lattes on ice ; )
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