Friday, April 27, 2012

Have a Lovely Weekend!

Are you doing anything fun this weekend?  I have BIG weekend plans, primarily due to the fact that my parents are coming into town tonight!  They're staying all the way through Monday, which also happens to be my 30th (Golden) Birthday!! Therefore, I'm happily taking Monday off of work to spend more time with them.  Since this is their first trip out to Texas to see me, I've got a fun weekend planned.  We're meeting up with friends of the family at the Kemah Boardwalk on Saturday, which is filled with games, restaurants, and even an aquarium where you can pet stingrays!  Saturday night I'm getting all of my Houston friends together for a big birthday dinner of Italian food, and then Sunday I'm taking the folks out to Galveston island for a ferry ride, touring some crazy awesome old mansions, walking through the old fashioned downtown area, a stroll down the beach, and hopefully some good seafood!  We're finishing up our busy weekend with a tour of Johnson Space Center - which is going to be pretty incredible because JSC allows badged employees to take approved guests on center and into the actual work spaces!  I'm taking my parents into the old Apollo mission control room, to see the ISS mission control room, into the mockup and training facility, to the building where the moon rocks are stored (!), and of course over to the Neutral Bouancy Lab (the giant pool)!

(pictures from here, here, here, and here)

Thursday, April 26, 2012 Knows His NASA

NASA has put out a new video with musician touting some of the technological advancements that we have gained here on Earth as a result of NASA's work in space.  These are things we use in our every day life.  Solar arrays, satellites that allow us to contact eachother, monitor weather, and track the health of our planet, medical advancements, etc!  None of these technologies would have been created with an impetus - a problem up in space that NASA needed to solve - which is further proof we need a manned launch program back here in the U.S.!!!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


I haven't been cooking much lately.  I actually find I don't enjoy cooking as much when it's just for myself.  But eating organic frozen pizza, rotisserie chicken and salads was getting boring, so I decided to step it up.  I did make chicken soup with matzo balls last week and the soup thing was appealing to me, so I decided to whip out the slow cooker and make a beef stew.  Spring vegetables are everywhere now so I bought a bunch of leeks, some zucchini, and fresh dill and combined them with the leftover root vegetables from my chicken soup.  I also added some farro for a little carbohydrate oomph.  Here's a rough version of the recipe:

Spring Beef Stew
- 1 lb stewing beef or the cut of your choice chopped into bite sized pieces
- 2 zucchini, halved and sliced
- 2 leeks, the white and light green parts halved and sliced
- 1 large turnip, cubed
- 5 small or 3 large carrots chopped (about 1 cup)
- 3 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 container sliced cremini/baby bella mushrooms
- 1 can petite diced tomatoes
- 2 cans Campbell's Beef Consomme
- 1 bunch fresh dill, chopped
- 1 cup farro (barley would work too)
- kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, and italian seasoning to taste (use a tad more than you think you need)

Making it is easy, combine all of the ingredients above plus 2 consomme cans of water in a large slow cooker.  Mix them up well, cover, and go to work while your dinner cooks away!  I like my stew on the thicker side, so about 1/2 hour before I serve, I mix together about 1 Tb of cornstarch with 1 Tb of water and then pour that into the stew and stir.  Let that cook a little longer to integrate - it'll give the stew more of a gravy consistency.  Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Must Find This

So I still can't seem to get away from the ponytail thing.  I did try this hairstyle last week, but let's face it, that's just another version of a ponytail anyway.  So now I'm thinking I just need to find other ways to give my ho-hum pony a boost, like this awesome gold band.  Scouring of the internet for a passable facsimile will commence shortly...

Monday, April 23, 2012

S'more Cold Weather Please!

Well that's another great Texas weekend in the books!  The antique-ing trip was quite successful!  I came out of it with a few cool pieces of vintage jewelry and I got a FANTASTIC deal on a mid century modern dresser for my guest room!  (I am no longer allowed to buy mid century modern furniture - my house is starting to look straight out of the 60's...)  My friend H found a great dresser for the baby's room too, so we did well all around!  After we got back to her place, I wound up sticking around for dinner (grilled turkey burgers, sweet potato fries, and strawberry spinach salad - yum!).  And since the weather was so cool out, they fired up their fire pit and we roasted marshmallows and made s'mores for desert!  I wouldn't mind one or two more cold nights this spring before summer hits - I'd love to be able to use my fireplace at least once...
On Sunday I did some chores around the house in preparation for my parents' arrival on Friday and then headed out to run some errands.  I swung by the mall to make good on my Sephora free birthday gift and while there found a pair of killer ankle boots (real leather from Banana Republic) for only $22!  Score!  I also found a dress that B has been looking everywhere for and snapped that up for her too.  I hit up Target afterwards for some more cleaning supplies and food for the week - I plan on making a vege-licious beef stew in the slow cooker for tomorrow.  Now bring on the week!

(picture from here)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Have a Lovely Weekend

Have any fun plans this weekend?  I'm going to do some antiquing with my friend H, start Zoe on kitty Prozac in hopes that she stops peeing in the apartment (please!), and finish tidying up around my house since my parents are arriving in one week to visit! Also, after being asked for the zillionth time if the dots on my tattoo are the moons around Saturn, I plan on researching how many moons Saturn has and then counting up all of the little dots to compare.  Stay tuned...

(image from here)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

My Art Wall is Finished!

Last night I skipped yoga in favor of getting stuff done around the house instead.  I justified that the stress of knowing everything that I needed to do would negate any of the calming effects of the yoga.  And it turned out to be a very productive move!  I finally finished hanging the pictures on my art wall (I may or may not have also accidentally dropped a hammer on my head in the process...) and I'm thrilled with the final result (minus the lingering headache)!
Notice any familiar pieces up there?  I also spent part of last night framing a bunch of my DIY projects like the melted crayons and the ampersand.  I also finally got back my El Gato Gomez from the framer and I hung up my cool little three-eyed old man from Austin!  My original plan was to go completely to the ceiling, but after seeing the current configuration I think that might be a little too crowded.  We'll see...
I also moved my new neon orange scribble painting into the dining room (and finally got around to tidying up/styling my buffet) and relocated my newly framed Banksy print to my bedroom.  I'm super happy with the way everything is turning out!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Discovery Takes Off From Florida for the Last Time

On top of NASA's 747 shuttle carrier, Discovery took off this morning from the runway at Kennedy Space Center, leaving Florida for good.  Discovery is headed to D.C. where it will live at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum's off-campus location at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va.  You can get some more information about Discovery's trip and her new home here and here.  You can also read about Discovery's spectacular history here.
Looking at this is so sad, it almost makes me cry...

(Pictures were taken my my friends Sarah Cox and Allison Grashik, who were lucky enough to be present for this historic event, and stolen from their facebook posts.  Excellent photography ladies!)

Monday, April 16, 2012

What a Weekend!

I started off on Friday having absolutely no plans for my weekend.  I wound up only seeing the inside of my apartment when I got home to sleep!  Saturday B, J and B's sister E decided to kidnap me on a trip into town.  We started off browsing the antique shops in the Montrose area, which of course I loved!  I wound up buying a small, worn stained glass window (been wanting one for a while), a cute little brass grasshopper that has taken up residence on my mantle, and a new AWESOME piece of artwork that I've been thinking about since I was down in that area last time.  Not only was it still available (obviously a sign), but since it had been there for so long I was able to get a really great discount (always ask for one when you're buying art that hasn't seen quick turnover - you'll usually get a better price).
We also hit up this great little cafe that I went to on my last trip to the antique shops, where we shared a hummus and flatbread snack and had some beverages.  After we walked the vintage stores for a while we moved on, only to immediately run into Anvil Bar and Refuge, a bar on my "Houston To-Do List".  So we stopped off here for some fantastic drinks in a really great atmosphere.  I'm definitely going to be going back there (the Pimms Cup was awesome!) 
We headed to Memorial Park afterwards, since I had never been there.  The park is HUGE, but much different than what I normally associate with a city park.  I think Central Park or Grant Park, which are more sprawling grassy areas.  Memorial Park is very wooded and people congregate on the perimeter where the jogging path and sports areas are located.  There's even a golf course in the park!
Since I had a list of cool places to check out in Houston, we referenced it again for dinner and decided on Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen - the food was yummy and B and J treated us all to a Bulldog, which is a crazy huge drink of a bottle of beer tipped upside down into a large margarita.  From there we hit up Liberty Station, a bar with a supersized Jenga game!  We had fun playing that for a while along with some Ms Pacman and then we moved onto Leon's Lounge, which had cheap drinks in a cool ambiance, but probably wasn't my favorite location of the night.  After that we headed back to the Clear Lake area for some karaoke.  It was a super long, but really fun, day!

(Anvil picture from here)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Ship Shape

Sorry I didn't post yesterday, I spent all day in the MER supporting more space toilet ops (I didn't even have time for lunch), and then almost immediately after I went over to B's house to join her, J, her sister E and a few other friends on a trip into town for tapas followed by VIP nite at the Houston Museum of Natural Science for the Titanic 100 years exhibit.  Which wasn't really "VIP"  (the swag bags had water bottles, rubber light up rings, a key chain, and a coupon to see the Titanic exhibit again), but we all had a lot of fun so it was worth it.  The exhibit itself was quite impressive - I couldn't believe all of the artifacts they had brought back up from the Titanic wreckage.  Some of the things that struck me the most were the huge wrench that had been used in the boiler rooms that was so decayed from the salt water and pressure of the ocean that it looked like it was made of iron shavings, the tiny intact glass sample vials of perfume that (supposedly) still smell of their original scents, the metal port holes that were wrenched into fractured, oblong shapes by the ship cracking in two, and the emergency door gear that activated the automatic closure of the lower compartments of the ship when they started to flood.  It was a pretty comprehensive exhibit - very well done.
As for this weekend, I plan on finally getting around to organizing my apartment!  I found out earlier this week that my parents are going to come visit me a the end of the month and my place is in absolutely NO condition for me to be entertaining!  A few days ago I finally cleaned up the mess of boxes that the maintenance guys left in my guest room after fixing my water heater.  I'm hoping this weekend to finish hanging pictures, clean off my dining room table, and take apart my old kitchen island that is currently on my patio and store it away.  At some point I'm going to need to go on an organizing binge too, because I can't even tell you how many "junk" boxes I have all over the place.  For now, I leave you with my current art wall configuration - can't wait to get the rest of my stuff hung!

(Titanic picture from here)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Style Update

So I've been doing a pretty good job on 2 of my 3 style goals for this spring.  I've been rocking the winged eyeliner, and with the help of this little product, I think my eyelashes have even gotten a little thicker too! (However, the eyeliner dries up after I apply it to one eye and then I have to close the tube and let the makeup "sink" back into the brush for a bit, which is kind of a pain in the ass. Thinking I may just buy another one so I can have one for each eye...)  And thanks to my new gel manicure kit, I've been sporting chip-free plum, navy blue, and taupe nails over the last couple of weeks.  I haven't branched off into nail art so much yet, but this week I spotted a gold glitter gel polish and so I do have my ring fingers on each hand all blinged out! 
Also, awesome new rose gold first knuckle ring from Catbird!
My main style falilure?  That third beauty goal that I'm just totally dropping the ball on?  My hair, which has been in a ponytail for all of this week, and was in a bun most of last week.  BORING!  My Bridget Bardot inspiration is definitely still a style I want to try, but fitting the time for an updo into my morning routine has proven troublesome.  So I'm thinking something like maybe these instead?  They're just minor variations of my go-to styles, so I'm hoping that they won't be too much more of a time investment than what I currently spend on my hair.
We'll see how it goes...

(pictures from here, here, here, here, and here)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Swim Season

Red BandeauYellow Balconette | Mara Hoffman V-wire
The recent warm weather in Houston has been delightful lately and it's just about at that point where I'm going to want to start making frequent use of the many pools I have access too.  It seems like I only really have one wearable swim suit right now, though, so I'm thinking of doubling up.  Here are a few options I'm considering.  I'm pretty much leaning toward the yellow one right now (surprise, surprise, right?) but the Mara Hoffman option (one of my favorite swim suit designers) is so unique I'm having trouble saying no to that one too.  Decisions...
Mini Anchor Tank | Vivid Bits Maillot | Green Racerback

Monday, April 9, 2012

Almost More Fresh Air Than I Can Stand

My friends invited me on another trip to explore the great Texas outdoors this past weekend.  We went to Brazos Bend state park, which is HUGE (Texas sized, if you will...) where we hit up the nature center (I got to touch a baby alligator!), had a picnic by the lake, went on a wildlife filled walk on one of the many paths, and then checked out their observatory, which also had a pretty great set up.  It was a really nice park and I'm definitely planning on going back with my bike sometime - the paths were perfect for bike rides - and I'd love to go check out the observatory at night too, see me some galaxies and supernova remnants! 
They're also known for their wildlife and we definitely saw a lot of it.  Gators everwhere!  As well as a number of birds, a huge fuzzy caterpillar, rabbits, turtles, and frogs.  We finished up our trip with a walk back to the car from the observatory, where I spotted a snake in the bushes and proceeded to BOOK IT out of there at top speed, which is still amusing my friends to no end...

Friday, April 6, 2012

Happy Passover and Happy Easter!

As is typical, these two holidays intersect once again - which growing up always meant I couldn't eat the ham or my Aunt's incredible homemade fried rice at the Easter celebration with my dad's side of the family.  Torture!  The one redeeming aspect is both holidays place a high importance on chocolate...  Although I no longer keep strictly to the dietary restrictions of Passover, I do like to reflect on the importance of the holiday and I usually "celebrate" in my own fashion by making my grandma's chicken soup with matzo balls.  Last year I also found a fantastic recipe for homemade macaroons as well.  This year,  I've found a couple of recipes I plan to try that upgrade the lowly, cardboard-like matzo to new culinary heights:

Chocolate Covered Matzo with Candied Kumquats and Toasted Coconut
Herb Infused Olive Oil Matzo
Chocolate Caramel Matzo - aka Matzo Crack
and another variation with Sea Salt, Candied Ginger, and Rosemary
Egg White Matzo Brei with Leeks (a savory, yolk-free variation on a Passover favorite!)
and a Basic Matzo Brei recipe (also yolk free!) that I can sweeten up with sugar and syrup, like my grandma makes!

Bon Appetite!

Thursday, April 5, 2012


I love that word - SO much prettier than "eggplant".  Aubergine...
I counted an aubergine amongst my purchases from Cental Market on Sunday and I've decided that tonight I'm going to turn it into a delicious Baba Ganoush.  I found an approximate recipe depicting how I make mine here, but I don't cook my aubergine quite the same way.  I use a dry, non-stick frying pan on the stove top (I supposed if I had a gas stove I'd go his route, but I've been stuck with electric cooking appliances since I was in Florida...), I get it rip-roaring hot and I use tongs to rotate the eggplant until all of the outside is charred and softened.  I don't cook/roast it at all past this stage.  I wait til it cools a bit and the charred skin just peels right off.  I then cut off the softened flesh from around the perimeter and just leave the seeds attached to the uncooked core (I'm not at all a fan of eggplant seeds so this method is perfect for me).  The rest of the ingredients are pretty standard, I always have lemon and cumin hanging around as well as garlic (I turn the garlic into a paste for better integration into the dip) and I hauled my tahini with me all the way from Florida, so at least now I can claim it was worth it.  I also reduce amount of the other ingredients a bit since the elimination of the seeded area significantly decreases the aubergine ratio.  And just zipping it all together in the food processor makes this a quick, tasty (and low calorie) snack!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Da Funk

It's been coming on for a little while now.  Every so often I'd notice I was feeling bored, dissatisfied, maybe a little lonely.  And then all of a sudden today it hit me full on and it's official: I'm in a funk.  Maybe it's just a mid-week hump day thing.  And the weather's been kinda crappy lately too.  Plus there's the fact that I went from TPS "expert" to someone who knows nothing about ECLS, which makes work slow and I'm still trying to get excited about what I do - that's 5 days/week.  Also, I've been trying to be so proactive about exercising, eating healthy, exploring Houston/Texas, and, counter-intuitively, I think that has also contributed to why the funk has set in.  I may be seeing results with the exercising and eating, but they're REALLY slow.  And I want to feel great now, so that has me bummed out.  And I'm making the effort to explore, but I don't have a lot of people to do it with.  My friends here are awesome, but they all have their own lives too.  I figure since I'm conscious of it and being proactive to improve my situation that my funk will just wither away on it's own.  But when it hits you all of a sudden *WHAM* - it's rough...

(picture from here)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

On a Yellow Kick

So in addition to my awesome Saturday spent combing Texas for wildflowers, I also had a pretty fantastic Sunday.  After finally getting around to making a trip to the recycling center (my apartment complex doesn't recycle, but I do.  So I take my cans, bottles, cardboard, and paper down the road on my own), I showered up and put on a pretty dress for a trip into town.  You see, Sunday was the first day of April, and since my birthday is in April, it was the first day I could use my new supply of birthday coupons!  Yay!  So I headed to my favorite store, Anthropologie to spend a bit of my tax return!
I got these three beautiful dresses - it's hard to see but the one on the left is covered in little bumble bees!  I also just found out that it went on sale, as did the dress in the middle, which has kind of a 1920's silhouette to it - gotta call and see about getting some of my money back!  The one on the right is the light and floaty with pretty white embroidery and just so perfect for spring and summer!
I also snapped up this gorgeous blouse with a draped collar (you can see where the yellow obsession is coming into play) and these pretty little sandals that I've been fixated on for a couple of weeks now - the beading on the heels has been calling to me!
I topped off my Sunday with a trip to Central Market - which is like whole foods on steroids!  It is huge (the produce area alone is the size of a normal grocery store) and filled with fresh and delicious foods!  I snapped up some golden beets, purple carrots (when you cut them open the core is orange, which makes for a stunning visual), and fennel which I roasted up for dinner when I got home with some onion and zucchini - YUM!  I also got an incredible fresh tuna steak which I had with the roasted vegetables that night as well as some fresh basil which I made into pesto for a pasta dish last night, a salad from the awesome salad bar (mixed greens with roasted corn, chick peas, grilled chicken, artichoke hearts, red onion, shredded zucchini and a garlic vinegarette) which I ate immediately after I checked out on the expansive patio in front of the store, and a gorgeous bouquet of my favorite flower, ranunculus.  Also in yellow!  One of these days, when I'm not on a diet, I'm also going to go on a shopping spree in their crazy awesome bread and cheese sections...

Monday, April 2, 2012

Texas Bluebonnets

Saturday's trip to Brenham, TX and the surrounding area to see the bluebonnets was a phenomenal success!  The sight of a field just filled with these violet-blue blooms and spotted through with fuschia, yellow, orange and red (the orange and red were indian paintbrush, and I think I loved them almost as much as the bluebonnets - such pretty colors!) is just so breathtaking.  We also fit in side trips to a lavender farm where I picked up some tea and culinary lavendar, to Washington on the Brazos state park, and to the Rose Emporium, a combination flower garden/store where I decided to try my hand at growing lemon thyme and heirloom tomatoes.  Poor plants are probably doomed to die, though...  My favorite parts, though, were the random stops we made for an absolutely perfect flower-filled field, a small house surrounded by tall grasses and spots of color, and longhorn cattle grazing in field of bluebonnets.  Check out the pictures below!