Friday, September 28, 2012

Have a Fabulous Weekend!

I know my weekend will be great as I'm headed out to Austin for some fun and hijinks with my friend R!  I'll also have a few hours on Saturday to explore on my own, so I've decided to head up to the Hyde Park area for some cheese, gelato, and vintage furniture - sounds like pretty much the most perfect combination ever, right?  More updates when I get back.  Do you have any fun plans this weekend?

(first two pictures from here and here)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Fascinatingly Disturbing Thought

This week's Increasing the Awesome video is another fascinating speech by the entertaining Neil DeGrasse Tyson, this time focusing on the origin of the elements of the periodic table, the possibility of alien life elsewhere in the universe, and why it is worth our time and money to study space...

(top image from here)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

G'mar Hatimah Tovah

Today is the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, the most holy day of the year.  It is also known as the Day of Atonement in which we ask for forgiveness for wrongs we have committed in the past year.  Most observant Jews will fast, refrain from all forms of work, and spend the day in synagogue (many non observant Jews also do this, but it's usually the only day of the year they see the inside of a temple...)  For my personal method of observance, I choose to fast only, using the uncomfortable twists of my hungry stomach as a reminder to reflect on why I'm fasting and hence the importance of the day.  Regardless of your level of observance, I wish to all of my friends out there who celebrate a meaningful fast and G'mar Hatimah Tovah (May you be sealed in the Book of Life for a good year).

For those of you interested in learning more about Yom Kippur, you can check out these sites here and here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Les Miserables

I am seriously SO freaking excited about this movie that I can barely stand it!  It looks phenomenal!  I'm already a big fan of most of the actors and actresses in this, but based on what they're showing of these raw vocal performances, I think my appreciation may turn to obsession.  Especially Anne Hathaway - wow.  Mom, if you're reading this, we must see this movie when it comes out around the holidays!!!!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fall/Winter Wish List

Clockwise from top left: striped pullover | burgundy pants | faux leather detailed cardigan | druzy earrings | suede bootie | leather detail blouse | charcoal pencil skirt | pave crystal link bracelet | red ballet flat | fox belt
Though I did spend a lot of my weekend out and about with friends and cleaning around the house, I also spent a good chunk of time leafing through the large stack of fall fashion magazines that has been accumulating on my ottoman.  Fashion magazines are really a blessing and a curse, they provide me with hours of cheap entertainment while I read and then re-plan what I already have in my wardrobe into new outfits for fall and winter, but they also make me want to buy lots of new stuff.  Some of the trends for the upcoming season that I was really loving were the leather details on blouses and sweaters and the new color of the season: oxblood.  And in sticking with the classics, I've been craving a pair of red ballet flats, simple but beautiful gold jewelry, and a body skimming pencil skirt.  My quirky wild card this season: a new obsession with foxes inspired by this insane Burberry clutch and taken to a manageable price point with a cute belt...

Friday, September 21, 2012

Have a Fantastic Weekend

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a performance by the Houston Symphony Orchestra with a coworker (his wife actually sang in the choir (!), so we got free tickets).  The music was part two in their Best of Brahms series and it was played/sung brilliantly.  Upcoming shows include the performance of James Bond and other spy movie themes, the hits of the musical Wicked, Chicago, Phantom, etc, and my personal favorite and the one I can hardly wait for, a live performance of the score of West Side Story while the movie plays!  So excited with my new musical discovery!

So now that my busy week is finally over, including my last knitting class, my first trivia night, all of the recent shuttle excitement (btw, I get super bummed all over again every time I'm reminded that these incredible machines will never launch again), and my moment of pseudo classiness at the orchestra, it's time to revel in the nothingness of the weekend.  Do you have any fun plans?  I have some birthday celebrations to attend for a friend, there's Ohio State football, and my favorite, vegging on the couch!

(image from here)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Endeavour Fly By

So yesterday the giant NASA 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft transported Endeavour from Kennedy Space Center to Houston, on it's way to the orbiter's new home in California.  Like most of my coworkers, I spent a good hour of my morning camped out on the top of our parking garage waiting for our view of the fly-by loops that the plane was taking over the JSC area at a low altitude of approximately 1500 feet.  The electrical wires circling the property ruined most of my shots, although there were a couple of spectacular overhead fly-by's that I was able get incredible close up shots of (see above!).  It was great to see one of my vehicles again, though the circumstances were a bit sad and I'll admit to tearing up a bit...
My friend L was watching from Ellington Field, the airport where the shuttle carrier and convoy landed for the day, and where they were available for viewing to the public.  Her son got the great shot above.  Due to some very poor time management on my part, I was unfortunately unable to make it out to Ellington to see Endeavour up close, but some of my coworker's did.  One even took a bunch of TPS pictures for me!
While I'm definitely bummed I didn't get to see Endeavour up close, I did get the incredible privilege of working on the orbiters for 7 fantastic years, where I saw them daily and in their prime, so I really can't complain too much.  NASA (and some of my NASA friends) have been posting some more fantastic footage of Endeavour's flight to it's new LA home, here are a few of the insanely awesome shots:
Endeavour leaving its home at Kennedy Space Center for the last time.
The Houston loops/fly by.
And Endeavour flying over Austin early this morning.  A friend in Arizona also spotted the vehicle on it's Tuscon fly by.  Endeavour will be parking near it's original build site at Edwards Air Force Base in the California desert for the night before taking off tomorrow morning on a low altitude tour of the coast of California.  So all of my friends out in Cali, check out the NASA website for times and keep your eyes skyward for one of the most incredible sites you will ever see!
And for this week's Increasing the Awesome video, I give you Endeavour back in her glory days when she was a fully functional, space bound rocket ship!  Here is the video of Endeavour's very last flight...

And if you're in a nostalgic shuttle mood, like me, you can also check out this cool time lapse video of Endeavour being mated to the top of the 747.

(pictures taken by me, Leilani, Dan, and NASA.  The final 3 can be found on NASA's facebook page)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


My plan was to go to they gym yesterday.  I kinda love when that plan doesn't work out though.  Instead I had to take my car in for some upkeep because I was overdue for an oil change, my windshield fluid had run out a couple of weeks ago (and paying $7 a week for a car wash just to clean my windshield seemed like overkill....), and just yesterday morning I got a little light telling me the tire pressure in one of my tires was low - which freaked me out the most of all of these things.  I was terrified that I would walk out of work to a flat tire on my car.  Thank goodness that wasn't the case, but I did take it as a sign to finally get my car to the shop for it's regularly required TLC.  Afterwards it was too late for the gym (aw shucks!), so I headed home to make some of the foods I had planned for the weekend and then lazily avoided like herbed hummus (I had to add extra olive oil and salt to get the flavor/consistency I wanted) and coconut bread.  For the bread (think banana bread-like bread, not sourdough-type) I followed the recipe for the most part with a few minor changes.  See below and enjoy!

Coconut Bread
10 oz butter, softened
2 tbsp meyer lemon zest
juice of 1/2 meyer lemon
3/4 cup sugar
3 egg whites
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup dessicated coconut (dried, flaked, unsweetened)
2/3 cup almond meal
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
juice of other half of meyer lemon

  1. Preheat your oven to 320 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease and flour your baking pan(s).  Or, in my case I used four stick-free, heat resistant, mini paper bread loaf containers.  
  2. If you don't have almond meal, simply take some blanched almonds and whiz them up in a food processor until they are fine.  You can usually find almond meal/flour, pre-ground, in the baking aisle of most stores now, though. 
  3. Combine the butter, zest and sugar and mix until pale and creamy.  
  4. Add the egg whites gradually.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again.  
  5. Sift the flour and baking powder over the butter mixture and mix.
  6. Add in the juice of half of a lemon and fold in the almonds, coconut and buttermilk.  
  7. Pour into your prepared pan(s) and bake for approximately 1-1 1/4 hours or until the bread is ever so lightly lightly browned and a cake tester (a tooth pick or in my case a leftover chopstick from thai takeout) comes clean when inserted (cooking time will be less if you use more pans).  Let cool.
  8. Mix the confectioners (powdered) sugar with the juice from the other half of the meyer lemon to make a glaze.  Spoon the glaze over each of the coconut loaves and let harden before serving.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Houston Museums Impress Again

My Friday evening spent at the Houston Museum of Natural Science was a lot of fun!  I was once again extremely impressed by the quality of museums that Houston has to offer (see my experience with the art museum here).  I've said it before, after growing up in close proximity to the awesome city of Chicago, I'm a bit snobbish when it comes to museums - Chicago's are just plain awesome!  But Houston continues to prove that they can stand their own ground culturally and I love it!  Of the exhibits open on Friday, one of the best was the Hall of Paleontology.  They had so many fossils and dinosaurs, and probably the most iterations of the t-rex that I have ever seen in one place.  I kept thinking how awesome my dad would find it (added to the list of places to take the 'rents on their next trip here, along with Rudy's...)
My other favorite exhibit was the gemstone carvings of Harold Van Pelt.  They were impossibly beautiful and fantastic.  What looked like thin glass vases were really expertly carved quartz boulders.  The skull pictured above is actually life sized.  The colors and quality of the gemstones were simply gorgeous.  Such a unique and interesting selection of art! 

(both pictures taken by me)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Have A Fun Weekend!

After a super busy week at work plus all of my afterwork activities such as going to the gym, cooking, and driving into town twice, once for my knitting class and once for a baseball game, I'm super glad the weekend is here and I can at least attempt to catch up on my sleep.  I didn't mention the game in yesterday's post because I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to tie baseball in with NASA's awesomeness, so I'll show you some of the Wednesday night fun today!
I talked a handful of friends into going to the Astros vs Cubs game after I found a Groupon deal for the tickets.  We got to enter the park early to watch batting practice, which included ducking foul balls and then hunting them down in the stands to keep.  Then before the game started we waited next to the field with our scavenged baseballs and got players signatures!  I only got to ask for one Cubs' player's signature (Dave DeJesus) after he rescued me from a rogue foul ball.  My friends got a bunch of Astros' players signatures, but I was a bit of a Chicago snob and didn't go for those...
The game itself wasn't great baseball - neither team has been doing that good this season.  In fact, the stadium was only about 1/10 full, if that, and there were almost as many Cubs fans there as there were Astros.  Kinda sad.  It was glaringly obvious that Minute Maid Park is no Wrigley Field - Cubs fans will go regardless of how crappy the team is doing because they're die hard fans who love the atmosphere.  Though I did find the Texas team's tradition of playing "Deep in the Heart of Texas" during the 7th inning stretch to be charming.  Regardless of the lack of team spirit, my friends and I made our own fun and had a great time.  Plus the Cubs won!
As for my weekend plans, tonight I'm headed to the Houston Museum of Natural Science for a Lab Geek evening event complete with food trucks, drinks and a live band!  And tomorrow night I'm dining with some friends and then babysitting for them so they can head out for a movie night.  Other than that, I plan to cook some zucchini patty pitas, whip us some hummus, bake mini coconut bread loaves, maybe try a mini DIY project or two, catch up on a serious backlog of magazine and book reading and, of course, get lots of sleep...

(last picture from here)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tour of the International Space Station!

Today's Increasing the Awesome post is actually really freaking awesome - a video tour of the interior of the International Space Station!!!  It's a little dated as the video was taken back when we had shuttles still launching, but the gist of it is spot on.  Plus they'll show you the inside of the shuttle too!  You'll see just how little space the astronauts have to live in, but also what a big difference the lack of gravity has - they are able to full live in all three dimensions as opposed to the two we're generally stuck with here on earth.  This is really what the inside of the ISS looks like!

(Top image from here)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Soup and Knitting

Sounds cozy, doesn't it - soup and knitting.  Sounds like autumn.  Now if only the weather would cooperate, it would be perfect!  I really shouldn't complain, it has been cooler here in the mornings, though we're still hovering close to 90 in the afternoons...  So sorry I didn't post yesterday, work has been busy and right after work I had to drive up to the Heights, a quaint neighborhood just northwest of downtown Houston, for my weekly Tuesday night knitting course.  I don't know that I've mentioned the course yet - this was our fourth week and it's been incredibly helpful in teaching me the basics of knitting, like how to cast on, knit, purl, increase and decrease stitches, and cast off.  Since all of my friends here are into knitting, and I've been wanting to learn for a while anyway, this seemed like a great opportunity.  Next week we learn how to knit in the round!  The picture above is my "test piece" that I've been practicing on.  It's no beauty, but it's not too bad, right?
Now onto the soup.  On Monday night I created a delicious Chicken, Butternut Squash, and Quinoa soup that I enhanced with some white beans and my leftover fresh summer vegetables.  I loosely based my recipe on this one here, though I took a MUCH easier route in cooking it all together and I subbed in the beans and my fresh veges for the canned tomatoes and the olives (not one of my favorite foods - too briny).

  • 1 - 1 1/2 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded & chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 cups chicken broth 
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 - 1 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  •  4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried italian herb seasoning mix
  • 1 cob fresh corn, kernels cut off
  • 1 yellow squash or zucchini, cut in half and sliced
  • 2/3 cup uncooked quinoa 
  • 1/2 can of great northern beans
  • kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder to taste
  • 1/4 cup each minced fresh flat-leaf parsley and fresh dill

  1. Place the saucepan to the stovetop and set heat to medium. Add olive oil. 
  2. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is starting to turn brown, 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Add minced garlic. Cook, stirring, for 1 additional minute.
  4. Pour chicken broth into onion garlic mixture and bring to a simmer.
  5. To the broth mixture, add the butternut squash and chicken thighs.  Cook until chicken is cooked through, about 12-15 minutes.
  6. Transfer the chicken thighs to a plate and allow to cool.  Skim any foamy crud off of the top of the broth mixture with a spoon.
  7. Using a handheld stick blender, roughly blend sections of the broth/squash mixture remaining in the pot.  You want to slightly thicken the broth with the butternut squash, but you still want chunks of the squash in the soup.
  8. Add the quinoa to the broth/squash mixture and cook until the quinoa turns translucent, about 15 minutes.  If you find that your liquid levels are getting low here (I did), then add a cup of water.
  9. Add the yellow squash/zucchini slices and the white beans to the saucepan.  Let cook about 5 minutes.
  10. Either cube the chicken or shred the chicken with your fingers or a fork.
  11. Stir the chicken, corn, italian seasoning, salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder into the stew and simmer, uncovered, to heat, about 5 minutes.  I just season to taste, but if I had to guestimate, I'd say I use approximately 1 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp of pepper, and 1/2-1 tsp each of the onion and garlic powder.  Start small with smaller amounts and build up to taste if you're not sure.  It's always easier to add more than take it away...
  12. Stir in parsley and dill and serve.
It's a great, easy transition meal from summer to fall.  Enjoy!

Monday, September 10, 2012


Oh.  My.  Goodness.  I at some fantastic food this weekend.  Really, really good food.  Underbelly on Friday night was incredible.  We ordered the crispy fried okra with pepper and a salty soy/fish sauce, wagyu heart with a cucumber salad and chive ash, and korean braised goat and dumplings.  The heart was kind of a personal challenge to try something new and though it was tasty, it paled in comparison to the other two dishes which had the most incredible flavors.  We also had desert, a sweet rice cake with compressed watermelon and toasted rice ice cream - yum!
On Saturday I slept til noon (don't judge) and then hung out with the girls at H's house.  It was absolutely wonderful to see everyone, though there weren't any earth-shattering food moments.  Sunday, however....  I started off my Sunday with brunch at Backstreet Cafe where I had some divine sherried wild mushroom soup and a duck prosciutto, potato, caramelized cippolini, gorgonzola, and arugula grilled flatbread.  After swinging by Central Market and picking up some supplies for this week's menu, grabbing some floss and other necesities at Target, and using a $20 coupon at Old Navy, I met up with some friends for yet more yumminess.  We went to Rudy's Bar-B-Q, which is just SO Texan.  It is actually a gas station with a giant store/restaurant attached where they sell smoked meat by the pound - no joke.  And they had some TASTY brisket!  Definitely one of those places I'll be taking friends and family next time they come visit!

(pictures from here, here and here)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Have a Wonderful Weekend

Supposedly it's supposed to get down into the 60's at night this weekend!  Bring on autumn!!!  Speaking of fall, I'm loving that college football season is here - go Buckeyes!!!  My plans this weekend include seeing this movie, crossing this restaurant off of my gigantic list of places to eat in Houston, having a girls night tomorrow to catch up on our summers and make some hilarious subversive cross stitch designs, and Texas bbq with friends at Rudy's!  Also hoping to fit in a trip to Central Market as I've been subsisting off of frozen meals all week and I'm not loving it.  So a busy weekend planned!  How about you??

(picture from here)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

What's Next for NASA?

This week's Increasing The Awesome video is by the very same vlogger that inspired this series, Hank Green.  He is covering the post-shuttle NASA plan, which is something that people ask me about a lot.  What is NASA going to do now?  Though I don't entirely agree with our government's go-forward strategy for our country's space agency, this video does a pretty good, and pretty entertaining job of explaining just what that plan is....

(Top image from here)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Travel Bug

It's been over 3 years since my last major vacation.  That's a long time.  I've taken a handful of long weekend trips and then there's always the holidays with family, but I NEED to travel somewhere on a real vacation! My Thailand trip is still in the works, but postponed for a while.  I texted my mom this morning on a whim to see if she wanted to go on a week long guided trip to Egypt with me at the end of December, but with the impending expenses of my brother's wedding, that's just not feasible now.  While somewhere international would be ideal, I'd be perfectly happy exploring a new area of the US that I've never been before either, like Marfa, TX and Big Bend, or Palm Springs, CA, or Portland, OR, or even somewhere in the Northeast to see the leaves change colors in the mountains.... ANYWHERE!  Does anyone want to travel with me?!?!?

(image from here)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Fantastic Labor Day Weekend!

I apologize for not posting on Friday, but after Thursday's EVA didn't go well, work became crazy busy preparing for the next EVA (on Wednesday) and I didn't have any time at all before I left to head to the airport in the afternoon.  I flew into Newark and met up with my parents at the airport for what proved to be a very fun and productive weekend.  We stayed with my brother and his fiance in Clinton, NJ.  They live in a really old half double that is walking distance to the adorable downtown of Clinton and the historic mill (picture above) - the charm of the area is absolutely undeniable.  We spent all day Saturday doing pre-wedding prep work like helping stamp and put together wedding invites (Juli is making all of them by hand and they're gorgeous!!!) and shopping for bridesmaid dresses.  Saturday evening was a luau themed engagement party for the happy couple thrown by two of the other bridesmaids.  A bunch of local family and friends all attended and we had a wonderful time - looks like the melding of the families will be a piece of cake!
Saturday we went to the US Open!  There was a group of 10 of us and we had day tickets in Arthur Ashe Stadium.  We started off watching the Djokovic vs Benneteau match, then we grabbed a snack and headed down to the employees entrance because my brother, who has been working at the Open as a master racket stringer, got us all a behind the scenes guided tour!  It was pretty awesome, J was whispering the names of all of the major players we passed and we got to see the stringing room where he works.  We caught lunch afterwards and I also purchased a Honey Deuce, the signature cocktail of the 2012 US Open, which came in an awesome commemorative glass (I may have had another one later in the day as well - they were tasty!).
The afternoon was mostly spent at the Roddick vs Fognini match, which was a great game.  Fognini may not be ranked, but he was a very entertaining player to watch.  The big draw was that this was potentially Roddick's last match as he announced earlier in the tournament that he will be retiring (at age 30!!!).  Roddick did wind up winning, but they took the match to 4 sets, and it was some good tennis!  Click here to see highlights from the game including Fognini's under the leg shot from the 3rd set!
We spent a couple of hours after that match exploring the grounds a bit.  The stunning globe from the 1964 World's Fair was one of my favorite parts.  I also picked up a fantastic 2012 US Open track jacket as a souvenir and we spent a little time in the Grandstand watching the Gasquet vs Johnson match.  That evening we drove into the city for dinner with family at Rare Bar & Grill where the truffle parmesan fries were to-die-for!  We dropped my brother off at his hotel afterwards (he had to work in the stringing room on Monday) and then headed back to Clinton.  Monday was low key - sleeping in, doing some shopping, and snacking on leftovers from Saturday before we packed up and made our ways home.  Overall a fantastic weekend!