Sunday, January 15, 2017

Home Grown Eats

If you follow me on instagram, you know that since we moved into this house - we have been busy growing our own foods.

When we decided to stay in Tucson, and buy a house -- our goal was to have a house with land and privacy -- where we can grow a garden filled with vegetables and fruit trees!

This is a work-in-progress and a multi-phased approach. This year, we just did a small "bed-garden". And Ryan worked (really hard) on leveling out the land, burying drainage pipes, and we got gutters installed - so we can eventually become "RainWater Harvesters"!

This is my 1st real success in gardening in the 8 years we have been in Tucson, and I am so excited!! Here are the photos of what we have been growing and making:



Olive trees are illegal to grow in Tucson. They cause bad allergies, apparently. But when you buy a house that was built in 1952....they can't make you cut it down! And we are technically not in city limits. So when were realizes we had olive trees - we started reading up on how to process olives! 


We have about 5 trees that produced pounds of luscious olives. But just know that the tree to olive process is a LOT of work. Months of work, in fact. So next time you bite into an olive - thank about that ;)

(however, typically the olives you buy from a store are processed with lye. Which is quicker and easier. Why so much work? Olives straight off the tree are extremely bitter. Not even the birds will eat them. )

This is a picture of the various types we did. 
Top Left: "greek style" (think kalamata) - pickling salt, water - and you have to change the brine out monthly
Top Right: Sicilian style. This is a mixture of pickling salt, water, vinegar, thai peppers, and various seasonings. These are not done yet. 
Bottom left: Dry brine. This is just pickling salt and olives. Needs to be shaken daily, and changed weekly. I'm going to be honest and say this was a fail
Bottom right: A picture of our olives before we got to work!

This was our 1st official "olive feast" on Christmas Eve. We served them with a little olive oil. They were full of flavor! 


Now on to our winter garden. We have Kale, Yellow onions, broccoli, basil, oregano, rosemary, and brussel sprouts. Winter gardens in Tucson are a-mazing! We get so much rain, and the climate is perfect. 60-70's during the day. 

This is a picture of the 1st say I discovered the broccoli sprouting. Now I have giant heads on each plant! 

Yesterday I harvested some broccoli and enjoyed it as a mid-afternoon snack, as well as cut up in my eggs at lunch time! The fresh broccoli so sweet and full of flavor.

I am interested to see how the brussel sprouts work out. They are still growing. My onions aren't quite ready to be harvested yet (I think? How is one to know? #rookiegardener) 

We are definitely inspired to expand our garden! 

In addition to home-grown foods. We also have a bit of "self sourced" meat we are enjoying this year: Ryan's deer. Enough to fill our lay-down freezer! So far I have made a few venison chilis as well as a venison roast. So delicious and lean!






Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Winter Escapes

Normal people escape winter to sunny and warm climates. Places where you can BBQ in a tshirt in January. Lounge by the pool in February. Wear shorts year round.

I live in one of those places ;)

Instead of escaping somewhere warm....we like to escape somewhere with cool temps and snow!

Well, Ryan really made an escape this Monday - as he is in a winter climate in NY for the next 3 months. But that is for work. And believe me, if he wasn't living in a hotel -- I'd be joining him. But my work-from-home job requires a hard-wire internet due to security purposes. And we have a 65 lb Golden Retriever.

I have blogged often about "Mount Lemmon" here in Tucson that is always at least 20 degrees cooler, has amazing pines, fresh air, camping, and hiking.

In the winter, if Tucson is getting a lot of rain - that means Mount Lemmon is getting snow. There is actually a ski lodge. Not the best skiing - as there is really only 1 slope and it is EXTREMELY steep. But....it's a slope!

This year it was on our bucket list last year to go see and play in the snow. We did not make it in 2016, so went the Monday after New Years - as NY weekend brought tons of rain! Here are a few photos from our little day trip. It was so fun!

This is the official sign that we have become "Tucsonans" or "Desert Dwellers". As we drove 1.5 hours to see snow. I remember when we 1st moved to AZ, I thought it was crazy to drive to see snow. But now I get it. And miss it so much!

Miles was in puppy heaven. He got out of the car, and started sprinting in circles and eating now. It was pure joy.

This was our view on the hike we did. All the streams were running because of all the rain/snow! Makes me happy, because that means we will have plentiful water source during springtime backpacking trips!

This picture brings me much peace. Something about a winter scene is so perfect....

And an obligatory "family picture". We were all smiles! 

Friday, January 6, 2017

2017 Bucket List

Resolutions?

Goals?

Bucket List.

Because I like lists.

2017 - bring it on.

This is my list, in no particular order of importance - just things I'd like to check off the list when we ring in 2018 next year...

It makes me fill better if I was unable to check something off the list. In opposed to "I didn't reach my goal." or "I failed miserably at the resolutions this year"
  • Get my recipes organized
  • Qualify for the Boston Marathon during my 2.24.17 marathon -- (goal time is 3:25)
  • Run a half marathon in 1:35
  • Run 2017 miles
  • Don't miss mass.
  • Become a subject matter expert in at least 2 quality areas (boring work stuff) ;)
  • By the end of the year, be submitting application to become a coach at work (which is my companies term for a "manager")
  • Visit NYC
  • Touch the Statue of Liberty (do they let you do that?)
  • Run in Central Park
  • Eat a hot dog from a New York City hot dog stand. (I don't even like hot dogs...but it's necessary)
  • Keep our Run Club students engaged in running through the summer (which will require some volunteer hours)
  • Watch my sister walk down the aisle
  • Be better about calling my family, nieces, nephews on birthdays.
  • Scuba Dive in Himalaya Bay, Mexico
  • Make kimchi
  • Make crème brulee (my favorite dessert)
  • Climb to the top of Mica Mountain (incorporated into a local backpacking trip)
  • Go to Europe (gosh, I hope we can pull this one off between how much Ryan will be traveling all over for work)
  • Rediscover my love for music. Church choir? Find a piano on craigs list?
  • Plant a fruit tree (probably lemon and lime)
  • Eat a Sonoran Dog ( I have put this off for the 8 years I've lived here. I've just gotta "swallow the frog" er Sonoran Dog.)
  • Have a successful tomato plant (easier said than done in the desert)
  • Try making dry-cured olives from our tree.
  • Spend the 4th of July with my family.
  • Wakeboard.
  • Try snow skiing (After my marathon. Lol)
  • Read at least 1 book every 2 months.
  • Master making Chicken Vindaloo
And that wraps it up! 2017 - bring it on! I better go get busy. I've got recipes to master, books to read, family to call, and miles to run! ;)

What is on your bucket list for 2017?

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Closing The Door of 2016

And just when I felt like I was getting into a rhythm of 2016....2017 is knocking at our door.

I entered 2016 thinking life would be very different than how it turned out! And that's not such a bad thing!

This is a long post - but a lot happened in 2016. These yearly recaps are always fun to look back on for myself. So don't feel obligated to scroll through a dissertation of my life in 2016 ;).

January -
  • I started the year off on January 1 with a 20 mile run, for a marathon I was training for that I never got to complete because I had to go to Tampa, FL for training for my new job. Why yes I'm still bitter, because I have trained for 5 marathons, and only been able to race and complete 2.
  • Our house went on the market on January 6, as we were getting ready to start our migration around the country. We had a cash offer by January 10. We were moved out by January 25 - and entered apartment living! (Our 1st time in the 8 years we have been together!)
February -
  • I spent my 1st 2 weeks in Tampa, FL training for my new job with Humana, Inc.
  • I got to drive down the coast and spend a weekend with some of my mom's siblings that live in Venice, FL - which was a wonderful weekend! I love spending time with them so much - and Venice is just beautiful!
  • I didn't run the marathon I trained for...and life still went on ;)
  • I turned 28 and celebrated it trail running with Ryan in the morning and going wine tasting.
This is our favorite sommelier at Sonoita Vineyards. He is so knowledgable and passionate about wine. 

This is my aunt Marybeth and I enjoying a beautiful Sunday afternoon on the jetties!

March -
  • Ryan grew his mustache for "Mustache March". Which I loathe so intensely. I guess it's some military thing. Or prostate cancer thing. There has got to be a better way to raise comradery or cancer awareness, than looking like a pedophile!
  • We went to San Diego to celebrate Easter this year -- because 2016 was the year of "non traditional Holidays" for us! ;) We seriously had one of the best weekend getaways ever!!
This is Ryan and I taking the ferry from Mission Bay to Coronado. How I love this beautiful place!


April -
  • April is a great time of year to backpack, so we did as much hiking as our schedules allowed. We did a few "overnighters" - and checked out Hutch's Pools - which is a natural pool 4 miles into the mountains that exists year round in AZ. It is absolutely incredible!


  • We also enjoyed lots of U of A baseball! Our team did amazing this year - and we have great weather for baseball! And the stadium serves beer! (Most U of A facilities don't serve beer since it's a dry campus, but our hockey and baseball venues are off campus!)


May -
  • We achieved a goal that we have talked about for a long time. We summited from the bottom to the top of Mount Lemmon with another couple! It was a 20 mile track total. We did 4 miles Friday night after work, and did the remaining 16 the next morning! It was quite steep - but so rewarding! This picture makes me laugh. Because we seriously almost cried when we saw our vehicle in the parking lot!

  • We also did some racing, and I started my base training for the marathon I'm currently training for to get my pace to a 7:40/mi average. I PR'd in my 5K and got it in 21:17. Next goal is get a 5K down to 20 minutes! 
June -
  • One of my closest friends, Amanda, got married. They had their own private ceremony - and then a BBQ at their house the following day. Fun to celebrate amazing moments like this!

  • We began the house-hunting process, as we solidified our decision to stay in AZ!
July-
  • We closed on our new house on July 1. Ryan worked night shift throughout the whole weekend, and would help during the day when he would get home. It was an insane weekend. But he came off shift at 8am July 4, took a nap, and the celebration began -- and we hosted our friends who helped us move in.


  • July 6 we headed to Minnesota for a weekend with my family at the lakes!

Although this weekend occurred in the midst of some utter craziness (moving into the new home, me transitioning to a new department of my job/getting my home office established in the new home) -- it was exactly what our souls were needing! Here is "Captain Paul" (My Dad) taking us out on a sunset cruise around the lake.

August -
  • More travel, more fun! We headed to Barbados for a week of scuba diving!

September -
  • Ryan's mom visited for a week from Germany, and it was so nice to get some 1:1 time with her.

  • We ran the Saguaro Race and just enjoyed some time finally getting to settle into our home!
October -
  • This was the month of "health crap" for me. What started with a rash, turned into bumps on my bones, I had mornings where I had a hard time walking. One social media, it looked like I was just loving life! But I will be honest and say, I spent a lot of sleepless nights worrying in October and November. Long story short - after a consultation with a great rheumatologist -- it was all a medication reaction, and I am feel 100% better. I still have some weird bumps on my shins, and a scar from the biopsy -- which will always be a reminder to never take health for granted!!
  • We also had lots of fun in October - with some U of A games, hiking, and we got our sweet dog Miles back!
Me and my best friends spending a "girls day" at the U of A football game. The majority of our friendship is spent at 5 am when we are tired and worn out often -- and let me tell you -- a very special bond is formed in friendships like this!

Our 1st morning with Miles back home. It was a very exciting day for all of us! I am so thankful to my brother and his family for watching over him while we were moving around. They took such good care of him, and put up with his annoying puppy years. Saints!!

November -
  • Ryan was off to Vegas for most of this month for a training for work. He resided at the Stratosphere. And in his words, "he does not recommend it" ;)
  • We still squeezed in a weekend in Prescott, AZ and celebrated Thanksgiving in Vegas (another non-traditional holiday)!
  • I raced in the El Tour de Tucson again - 76 miles with my friend Amanda. She and her husband also joined us in Vegas for our weekend!



December -
  • Alas, we arrive to December! My favorite month of the year. Filled with lots of celebrating, baking, decorating, indulging, and joy.
  • Ryan came home from his training - and he finished another semester of grad school.
  • We celebrated Christmas with good friends -- which was wonderful and such a good distraction to keep us from missing family! Definitely a new tradition started on the years we aren't celebrating in Minnesota.
Celebrating the season with some of our best friends in our "dinner party" club.
Festival of Lights in Winterhaven
Our peaceful Christmas Eve. It rained outside all night, we played a vicious match of Scrabble by the fire, and just really enjoyed each other's company. We didn't even cook dinner that night. We snacked on appetizers of olives/shrimp,herring - so we didn't get bogged down with dishes and meal prep. (By the way...Ryan won by 4 points. A rematch is coming).

2016 -- I learned many new things, I grew, laughed, cried, ran many miles, worried, and basked in joy. I lost some friends - but also gained new friends. But what I take with me is the memories that will always leave a stamp on my heart.

Tonight we will ring in the new year going to a hockey game with 3 other couples, and out downtown after the game. An evening guaranteed to be filled with laughter and more good memories!

I'm ready for 2017!!

What were your favorite parts of 2016?









Sunday, December 11, 2016

December Fun: Weekend Happenings

What a great weekend this has been!! I absolutely love December and all the holiday parties, food, and fun. And being this was the only weekend Ryan had off -- we packed it full of good times!! 

We have a group of 5 really good friends/couples that have started a "dinner party group". Every month someone hosts the dinner party. The host makes the main dish, has a theme, and everyone brings a side dish/appetizer/dessert to complement! Friday night we hosted - and it was our 2nd party -- and it is so much fun!

Ryan and I decided to go with "Thai night", since that is our favorite cuisine to cook. We made Shrimp and Chicken Pad Thai. And I had to go to a special Asian grocery store (LeeLee's) to get the ingredients. So in other words...it was the "real deal". It was SO good!

We didn't get any photos of us cooking or our food. But we did get a few photos post dinner of the game playing ;) We played the game "Watch Ya Mouth" - you will see the "prop" pictured below. If you haven't heard of or played this game...I highly recommend you "youtube" it. Hilarious! 

I made my mom's recipe for "Bailey's" to serve as a dessert drink...

Here is a our crew - missing 1 husband who was taking the picture

And here are the mouthpieces involved in the game. Pretty - I know...
We are a crew that usually ends our evenings by 9pm. All the women in this group meet at 5am most mornings to run. So we get tired! But Friday was a different story. And we ended up turning our living room into a dancefloor. And dancing to 70's-80's music until 2 am!! 
Notice the 631 calorie-burn, 2:16 minute "aerobic workout" that began at 10:35 pm Friday! LOL That was me dancing to Billy Joel....


Saturday Ryan headed to the hanger to help our friend Tom work on his airplane. And Miles and I headed to the trails. It was a beautiful 72 degrees - we enjoyed a nice day in the sun!

His tongue makes me smile!! 
I normally trail-RUN this...so it was nice to hike it and enjoy!


After our hike - it was so beautiful outside, I spend some time poolside!


And Miles thought it was a good opportunity to hop on me and take a nap!

That evening we met our friends Kat and Mike attended "Winterhaven". Winterhaven is a neighborhood in Tucson that goes ALL OUT for the holidays, blocks off the streets at night from December 10-26, and serves hot cocoa. It was such a magical experience for all ages!

This house had the MOST LIGHTS! I think one would need to take dilantin (anti-seizure medication) to dwell here!

I LOVED this tree! And it changed colors every minute. And it was in someone's front yard! 



And finally...Sunday we relaxed a bit! I got up early and put in 10 miler with my friend Sharon. Then we went to church. The rest of the day was spent making fudge, working on Christmas cards, and making wings for the Dallas Cowboys game. 

My fudge isn't beautiful....but it tastes good! 



How was your weekend??? 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Decking The Halls: Fireside Memories

As Advent and Christmas season is among us, I thought I'd share my thoughts and joys via blog with different themes throughout the month. 

This is my absolute favorite time of the year, for a variety of reasons. 
1. The temperatures start to get amazing in Tucon. 30-40's at night. 60's during the day. Cool enough for tights, leggings, and sweaters. Warm enough to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine. 
2. I adore Christmas music, decorations, lights, garland, and everything glistening.
3. The food!  The drink! An excuse to spend every weekend baking something new. Sipping Christmas themed cocktails or delicious red wine. Gingerbread, peppermints, fudge.....ahhhh

So for post #1, I share my favorite: The fireplace. 

Ryan and I have lived in 4 houses, and 2 apartments - and this is our 1st with a fireplace! I have dreamt of decorating a mantle for years - so am very pleased we get that in this home. 

Our fireplace was converted into a double-sided fireplace, so we can either enjoy the fire in the kitchen or in the "reading room" (as I call it - it's a second living space). Last night Ryan returned home from his 3 week trip in Vegas, and we had our 1st fire. 

I was not so keen on a wood-burning fireplace, due to the smoke. But it took quite nicely last night. 

As we sat by the fire, cuddled up on the couch with our furry Golden Retriever -- my heart felt very full. I reflected on the precious years of sitting by the fire with family around at my Mom and Dad's lake cabin. And I envisioned the many fires we will enjoy at this home in the years to come. There is something about a fireplace that just says "home", in my opinion.

This is the fireplace from the "reading room".

And here is the fireplace from the kitchen - where I decorated it  for Christmas. The decoration theme in our house is "Christmas in the woods" -- lots of garland, trees, and antlers. 

(Yes, we need to get a stocking for Miles)

I am excited to enjoy this mantle for the next few weeks a it is lit up and dressed with garland.

What is your favorite piece in your house to decorate during the holidays? In our old house, it was the bannister of the staircase!




Saturday, November 26, 2016

Thankful

I know, I know - Thanksgiving was 2 days ago. But I have to do a little reflection post of the season.

I also haven't had a personal computer for several weeks. (long story).

So alas, I make time for a little reflection and tribute post to those things I am thankful for. Because isn't the entire holiday season a time of thanksgiving, love, and joy?

I write this post at a Starbucks in Las Vegas, as my dear husband does grad schoolhomework. For the hotel he is living at for 3 weeks has unreliable Wifi. Needless to say, he is excited to come home! ;) So greetings from Sin City!

2016 has been a whirlwind of a year. We have had many changes and different things thrown at us, and when I look back to a year ago - I feel like I, too, have changed. But if you aren't changing, you aren't growing.

  1. I am thankful for a home. The obvious shelter, air conditioning, pillow to rest my head on. But beyond that....we purchased a new home this year that will be our "forever home" (at least for 5-8 more years. ha!) 1 year ago....I thought we would be living in apartment, base lodging, hotels, and moving every 4 months for the next 3 years of our lives. So I am thankful that we have found a stable home that we LOVE.
  2. I am thankful for my friends. It is easy to become homesick having no family within 1000 miles. Ryan is also gone a lot for various trainings and work trips. I work from home, which is isolating. But my friends fill those gaps. We run together and conquer our problems at 5 am. We do dinner parties together. They are the kind of friends I could call at 2am, in an emergency - and they would be at my door within 10 minutes. When I felt weird that Thanksgiving would be spent in Vegas - one of the couples booked a trip to Vegas to join us for the weekend.
  3. I am thankful for my family. Not every family gets along. Not every family actually enjoys each other' company. That is not the case in mine. I love and savor every second I get with them. My parents, my siblings, my extended family -- I am thankful for them all. My parents gave me such a stable, loving home - and now I can call them my closest friends in the world.
  4. I am thankful for my best friend, my husband. We have made a lot of big decisions this year together - and some of those decisions have been tough. We don't have family in town anymore. We are each other's family, support system, cheerleader, etc. Not only do we love each other - but we have so much fun together! 
I hope everyone reading this had a great Thanksgiving filled with family, friends, good food, and memories! My Thanksgiving was the most interesting one I've experienced. But now we have a story to tell, right? My Thanksgiving involved: running the Las Vegas strip, art shopping, sports betting and drinking beer with friends, and a giant plate full of lots of sushi and some turkey, and photo-bombing tourist-selfies. (I just turned 12 last week, apparently)