Kirsten’s Bathroom

December 5, 2011

We have 3 bathrooms in this house, one of which is Kirsten’s and she shares with guests when they come to visit.  Just before her 1st birthday (3.5 years ago) I themed it with yellow rubber ducks.  Now at the age of 4.5 years I decided it was time for an overhaul especially as she’s asked us to update her bedroom (still to be done).  We have all been missing the Disney cruise so I decided on a Mickey theme.  I didn’t discuss it with her although I did run it by John.  I had seen that Target had a line of items, but of course, by the time I got round to buying them they were no longer in store but most of them were still online.   I didn’t think much of the quality of the towels and we prefer to use bath sheets so I went into Target and bought plain towels and sent them to Stacey.  I have never met Stacey, but have grown to love her work.  She is the lovely lady that not only made our Fish Extender, but also the Fish Extender gifts (reusable paper towels) that I gave out on the cruise.  I contacted her again through Etsy and asked if she would be interested in helping me out and embroidering my towels.  I bought 2 sets for Kirsten (2 bath sheets, 2 hand towels and 4 face cloths).  I purchased 2 bath mats to be used in the bath room and then as we regularly have 2 guests at a time realised I would need a further 4 sets of towels.  For each guest there are 2 bath sheets; 2 hand towels; 4 face cloths.  As Mickey is the theme 2 sets of guest towels are Mickey embroidered; 2 sets are Donald and then Kirsten’s towels are Minnie.  The two bath mats are Mickey Mouse too.  Stacey did an amazing job.  I didn’t want anything fancy and Stacey suggested some designs and we discussed size and I left the rest to her.

I had no wish to repaint the bathroom and didn’t really want to put anything on the walls, but found some wonderful decoupage switch plates on Ebay.  Last, but not least I even found someone on Ebay that made toilet brushes with Mickey Mouse on.

10 Years as a British Expat

August 25, 2011

28 August 2001 brought myself and my British boyfriend on a flight to Phoenix, Arizona fresh from Burford, Oxfordshire, England.  On deciding to make the move with John we sold my house in Swindon, Wiltshire and opted to keep John’s house in Burford for the next 12 months while we saw what we thought.  What a difference both in surroundings and temperatures!  I had been out three times before.  Once in March of that year on a business trip with my boyfriend after which he asked if I would be interested in moving with him; the second in May to source somewhere to live; and the third in July when we attended the Infosol’s Annual Conference in Vegas.  The second week of this trip we drove across to Phoenix to finalise our details.  Infosol was the reason we were moving out here.  John had worked with the owner of Infosol for a number of years as he had had his own business back in England, but now John was leaving his business to work for Paul.  Here we are 10 years on!

On arrival, it was a Monday, we stayed at the Candlewood Suites while we waited for our apartment to be ready.  We had also organised the purchase of some furniture back in July but all we arrived with were a couple of cases of clothes each so we spent the next few days going backwards and forwards to what was to be our new favourite store, Target!  We went backwards and forwards to this store picking up what we felt were essentials: vacuum cleaner; bedding; towels; electric kettle (this was not an easy find); and so on.  We moved into Terra Vista apartments in Cave Creek for the next 14 months.  Why Cave Creek I hear you ask.  I knew no one outside of my boyfriend and he was to be doing a lot of travelling.  Phoenix is a sprawling metropolis and the only person I knew slightly was John’s boss and wife.  They lived with their family in Cave Creek.  It is located in North Phoenix and creeps up against the mountains and has that slight elevation which means we are always those few degrees cooler than downtown Phoenix, which, in the heat of the Summer make all the difference.

The next 9 months were going to be difficult.  As John and I were not married we had been told that I was not eligible for a long-term visa and would have to continue to use the visa waiver scheme meaning that I could stay no longer than 90 days in the US and had to go back to the UK.  We booked a return flight for November 5.  We had been told that our personal items that we had shipped out from the UK would take about 6 weeks maximum which would give us plenty of time.  We thought we had done all our homework with vast quantities of reading through books, internet etc and then the world changed!  September 11, 2001! Need I say more. Everything we thought we new was no longer.  Our shipping didn’t arrive until November 3rd our monies, paperwork etc were all held up and processes for visas, Green Cards and so on changed.  They change continually and it is up to you to make sure you always know what is going on.

On April 15, 2002 John and I were married at the Couples Resort (known as Tower Isle), Ochos Rios, Jamaica.

Just Married

We opted to have no family or friends present, but did then have a wedding reception back in Highworth, Wiltshire (where my parents live) at end of May.  This would allow me the opportunity to go back to the UK to sort out my visa paperwork, update my passport and then for John to come over and we could celebrate with friends and family alike.  I took the opportunity to get family wedding photos and so got to wear my wedding dress twice.  The reception was held at the local rep and anyone that we knew who made something participated.  My Mum sells at Cirencester Farmers Market and my father is a beekeeper so between them I think they know anyone and everyone.

October 2002 saw us selling John’s house back in Burford and purchasing our own not too far from where we had been in the apartment.  Yes, we had decided to stay.

During our time here we have had so may guests.  My mum has been out too many times to count whereas my Dad has been out I think 4 or 5 times.  John’s parents have been out at least half a dozen times.  My English Grandmother came out to visit at the ripe old age of 87.  My mother flew out with her and then my Grandmother flew onto Chicago to stay with an Aunt there.  We’ve also had my mother’s best friend from Oslo, Norway with her daughter, Margrethe, come and stay with us for a few days too.  So many family members have made it out and we thank you all for wanting to spend holiday time with us.  OK, the fact that we have so much sunshine, a pool and a spa may help too.

2003 saw John bringing a previous work colleague, Steve D, out to work.  They had worked together in 2 previous companies so had known each other for far longer than I had known John.  Steve brought his wife, Joy with him and I believe she is still enjoying the fact that instead of working full time she is spending vast quantities of time birding (a true passion of hers and if you ever need any information she will always have the answer for you).

What I have learned during my time here, and continue to learn even after 10 years, is although we both speak the same language, English, it is still very different.  My work prior to coming out was as an administrator and I have to admit I still find it difficult to switch my spelling to the American way whereas John, who has spent much of his working life working with Americans spells and says things differently to me.  Of course, Kirsten, in my mind, is not only a dual citizen but is bilingual too.  It is quite a regular occurance that the teachers have to ask what something means or, if Kirsten explained it herself, they find it cute.  We’re going through the phase of using plasters at the moment, but of course here, they are bandaids.

So where are we. Oh yes.  2003 saw us with our first addition to the family, Mohawk,Our first Cavalier King Charles Spaniel a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel purchased from a local breeder, Hurricane Dogs.  I think I’ve shared pictures recently showing that Mohawk is now 8 years and 4 months and instead of being the few pounds he was when we got him is now 30lbs and definitely becoming a grouchy old man.  We added to the brood with Charlotte around September of 2006.  We purchased Charlotte AKA Muffity Adorable Charlenafrom the same breeder but she was purchased as an adult (3 years old).  She turned 8 this month and is still the petite female that she was when we purchased her although has gained a healthy few pounds.

Next came Kirsten Greer Wilcox.  She arrived May 30, 2007 and what a change she has made to our lives! Introducing Kirsten Greer to the world Now she is an extremely tall, extremely active 4 year old.  She is now at full time montessori in order to keep her in check and she loves it.  She is also sleeping a full night’s sleep for the first time ever.  Last, but definitely not least, we added MarblesA Black Merle American Cocker Spanielto the brood in January of 2010 as a 2 month old American Cocker Spaniel puppy!  Thankfully he has calmed down except for when Kirsten is chasing after him.  What will the next 10 years bring?

Celebrated end of May 2011

Grilling Class at Sur La Table

May 12, 2011

So  I received some money for Christmas and I hate spending on myself so I put it away in a safe place while I decided what to do with it. We then had the back yard done and I had a brand new grill that I didn’t feel I could use to its full potential. I had also had my eye on trying some classes at Sur La Table at Kierland Commons and discovered that they were putting on a 3 day class that had been designed by Bobby Flay called Grill It.  I booked this a good couple of months in advance so attended the first class here in Scottsdale, but it is being run through the Summer so please, I urge you, go ahead and sign up.  I had a wonderful time, hence the reason I am writing about it.  I am going to borrow the overview from Sur La Table explaining the class but I took a couple of pictures last night which have been on twitter so apologies if you have already seen them.  I also apologise for the quality of the picture as they were taken on my phone.

What You Will Learn:

He discovered his passion for food at the ripe age of  17, after taking a job as cook at the famous New York eatery Joe Allen’s. Since then, the versatile Flay attended The French Culinary Institute, has written nine critically-acclaimed cookbooks, opened several successful restaurants, and has become an in-demand celebrity chef on the likes of “Throwdown!, Iron Chef America, Boy Meets Grill” and more.

Now Flay has teamed up with Sur La Table to challenge the way we think about grilling. Although grilling remains a popular pastime, the secrets to getting professional-quality results remain a mystery for some, while more confident grillers just want new and exciting ideas for meals on the grill.

In this intensive grilling workshop you’ll:

  • Transform your favorite fresh, seasonal ingredients into delicious and inventive meals hot off the grill
  • Expand your grilling repertoire beyond burgers to include meats, fish, shellfish, vegetables—even dessert
  • Learn essential grilling techniques like knowing when your grill reaches the right temperature, cooking with direct and indirect heat, and judging when your grilled foods are perfectly cooked
  • Enhance the flavor of fresh ingredients with unique marinades, sauces, vinaigrettes, and rubs
  • Learn to perfectly cook classic grilling favorites, like cheeseburgers, filet mignon, shrimp, scallops, and farm-fresh corn
  • Discover new grilling techniques and essential tools to let you enjoy great grilled flavors year-round
  • Uncover the secrets to getting professional-quality results on the grill every time
  • And more!

Select locations will even offer this series outdoors, weather permitting.

Bonus: Each student receives a free autographed copy of Grill It! by Bobby Flay.

Class is only available as the three part series. Classes taught by Sur la Table Chefs; Bobby Flay will not be in attendance.

Session One: Grilling Meat
In the first session we’ll cover everything you need to know to grill an assortment of delicious meats to tender and juicy perfection every time.

  • Learn chef-tested techniques for grilling meat to perfection
  • Maximize flavor using a variety of inventive rubs, marinades, and sauces
  • Discover new and exciting flavor combinations featuring summer’s bounty

Session Two: Grilling Seafood
For session two we’ll move on to the sometimes-intimidating prospect of grilling seafood, and quickly put all your fears to rest.

  • Unlock the pro’s secrets for perfectly grilled fish and shellfish
  • Explore inventive grilling techniques and tools for maximum flavor
  • Enhance the flavors of fish and shellfish with succulent sauces and glazes
  • Create delicious and easy grilled fruit desserts

Session Three: Basics on the Grill
In our final session we’ll share insider tips and techniques the professionals use to ensure your place as a grilling guru for years to come.

  • Create amazing four-course meals right on the grill
  • Bring out the freshness and flavor of the season’s best ingredients
  • Learn delicious and unique twists on your favorite summer dishes”

Session One: Grilling Meat

Grilled Filet Mignon with Fig-Cabernet Vinegar Glaze – Basil-Rubbed Pork Chops with Nectarine-Blue Cheese Salad and Toasted Pine Nuts – Grilled Chicken Thighs with Green Olives and Sherry Vinegar-Orange Sauce – Perfectly Grilled Corn

Session Two: Grilling Seafood

Perfectly Grilled Shrimp with Smoked Chile Cocktail Sauce – Grilled Salmon with Miso-Orange Glaze – Grilled Scallops with Citrus Ginger Sauce and Rice Noodles – Grilled Bananas with Cinnamon Orange Sauce and Dulce de Leche Ice Cream

Session Three: Basics on the Grill

Grilled New Potato Salad with Bacon and Buttermilk Dressing – Green Chile Cheeseburgers – Grilled Zucchini with Fresh Dill Vinaigrette – Grilled Peaches with Crème Fraiche”

I had never done a class before so really didn’t know what to expect but I told John that I was glad I started with a 3 day class as, although I’m not a shy person, I felt more confident as the 3 days progressed.  The Chef who ran the class was absolutely wonderful and he also had 3 assistants so there is always someone there to talk to.  There are 16 people that take the class at a time and you work in groups of 4 making almost everything on the menu.  I also received a 10% off coupon to use in store for the next week at Sur La Table so treated myself to a few items.  The one I’m looking forward to using the most is my new Staub Grill Pan.  I’ll let you know when I try out some of these recipes.  Trust me, I’ll definitely be trying out a good half of them.  I have now told John that I would like to find at least 1 class a month to do to have a little more time for me and learn some new kitchen skills…I mean who in this household is going to benefit the most from me doing the classes…John of course so it’s just as well he’s up for me trying them.  My plan is to do the knife skills class next!

Spiral Staircase

April 22, 2011

I think the only part of the back garden remodelling I haven’t shared pictures of with you is the spiral staircase that we added so that you can access the  balcony from outside.  We have a wonderful west facing balcony that is barely used and this was because we had to go all the way through the house to the bonus room upstairs to access it.  Now, all we need to do is go up the new staircase.  We have added a gate to the bottom and the top.  I know that Kirsten is totally capable of opening the gates but at least it is not an “open” invitation so to speak for her to go up and down as she wishes.  The staircase was made by a local Company, Affordable Spiral Staircases.  They painted the staircase in the colour of our choice.  Of course installing into our garden was a first for them as we have the artificial grass.  They pulled back the grass and poured in a concrete base before adding some soil back over the top and putting the grass back in place.  Of course a little trimming of the grass was required round the new base of the staircase,  but I think they did an excellent job.  This is just their base model of staircase called the “Sedona” model but it is more than suitable for what we need it for.  We have 3 separate custom awnings on the back of the house made by Arizona Awnings.  Our concern was that the awning on the south side where the staircase was installed would have to be taken down but the staircase company added an extention to the landing so that it could remain exactly where it was.

We have also added some fairy lights.  Currently they are on a dawn to dusk sensor, but John has ordered some sort of wireless remote to try out.  For those of you who know my husband…he loves his gadgets!


April 6, 2011

So  I have been promising  you for weeks that I would show you the different mosaics included in the pool.  I think I already mentioned in a previous post that in total we have added 15 mosaics between the pool and spa.  In the spa  there is a crab as you step in and then 3 starfish around the spa seat.  As you step into the pool there is a reasonably large reef scene and then a starfish on each of the steps as you head down.  Across the bottom of the pool is a family of turtles.  On the step under the waterfall is another 2 starfish and then on the last 2 steps each one has a Clownfish (or as my daughter refers to it “nemo”) facing in towards the pool itself.

We now finally have both the new canopies on over the kitchen windows outside and the spiral staircase has been added.  There are a few touch ups here and there and a little additional planting has been done to the back garden, but otherwise I can say we are there.

My brother and his wife are currently visiting from England and they both went for a swim in the pool yesterday.  It was 71 degrees so still a little cool for me although I might risk taking a dip in the next few days, but then again maybe not as the temperature is due to drop again.  We have also used the new BBQ a number of times too.  Love the results that it gives.

Back Yard Finished…Almost!

March 16, 2011

  So it took 4 weeks give or take a few days to be completed.  We still have some patio furniture to be returned that we were having the fabric replaced on  together with some canopy blinds still to be added to the kitchen windows outside and last but not least the spiral staircase.  During the course of yesterday and right now we are having some additional landscaping rock added as what was there had significantly thinned out in both the front and back yard since the house had been built almost 12 years ago.

We don’t use a landscaper very often but he swings by once every other month just to trim back a few bushes.  He is due to come round this Saturday morning and add a few date palms to the back wall behind the spa.  We had 4 there before the work  began but due to the harsh winter they really suffered so I just had them removed.  I should be getting 3 x 2 trunk date palms.

What you can’t see from these pictures so I’ll have to take more and create a different post is the 15 mosaics we decided to add into the pool.

We tested out the BBQ and the fire pit on Saturday and had a couple of friends over for dinner.  We had a lovely evening and finished it off by roasting marshmallows over the firepit.  Kirsten couldn’t eat them fast enough!

Paving In Progress

February 24, 2011

Since I last posted the guys have been hard at work with all the paving. There is so much detail to be done that almost every piece is having to be custom cut.  This means we have excessive dust everywhere but as I watch the work progress it is definitely all going to be worth while in the end.  The stone we are using is called Shell Lock and has crushed shell in it.  We are using a pinwheel pattern except in certain places it has to go out of pattern, but I don’t think it is noticeable at all.  Kimball came yesterday and started to add the stonework detailing to the side of the fire pit  (sorry no picture as yet) but the paving is now just to be added round the side where we removed the BBQ island and round the back of the new BBQ Island.  Today they are removing a lot of their rubbish and levelling the ground ready to work on this area.