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!

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!


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!


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!

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: 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!

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.


'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!

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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