Friday, March 29, 2013

Have an Incredible Weekend!!!

My weekend is going to be so busy and fun and awesome that I can barely stand it!!!  First of all, my brother D has decided to surprise me and drive out from his new home in Mississippi to visit!  On top of that, we have a birthday party to attend tonight, I'm having a girls outing to go antiquing and hunting for cowboy boots tomorrow (D will be meeting with other friends then, so I'm not abandoning him), and Sunday is just going to be a blast all on it's own.  We're going go-kart racing, strawberry picking, and then to cross a pizza and craft beer stop off of S's list.  So many wonderful people to hang out with and so much fun stuff to do - I can't wait!!!

Do you have any fun plans this weekend??

(picture from here)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Space Updates

Lots going on in the world of Space this week!  Just moments ago a Soyuz rocket carrying 2 Russian Cosmonauts and 1 US Astronaut took off for the ISS!!!  It was a night launch, and so it was really cool to watch for about the first 10 seconds and then you couldn't see anything anymore, but man are those first 10 seconds beautiful!  The really cool thing about this particular Soyuz launch is that the astronauts onboard are going to reach the ISS in a staggeringly short period of time!  A typical Soyuz will rendezvous and dock with the ISS in 2 days.  After testing out new rendezvous techniques on three unpiloted Russian Progress cargo spacecraft recently, the astronauts will now take only 6 hours and 4 orbits of the earth before they reach the ISS!  Only 6 hours - I'm seriously impressed! During their stay, these new inhabitors of the ISS will perform over 180 investigations and more than 430 investigators from around the world will be involved in the research!
Another exciting event this week was the watery splashdown of the SpaceX Dragon capsule.  This is SpaceX's second successful cargo mission to the ISS, and it was a VERY productive one.  Want to know what work NASA is accomplishing on the ISS and how it benefits humanity?  This capsule alone brought back investigations that could aid in food production during future long-duration space missions and also enhance crop production on Earth, plus ones that will help in the development of more efficient solar cells, detergents, and semiconductor-based electronics.  In addition, Dragon also brought back several research samples that will help scientist continue to examine how the human body reacts to long-term spaceflight and will produce results that can benefit medical studies for us here on Earth. 
And that's not even all for this week!  We also had an Atlas 5 launch on Tuesday which made for an unprecedented fourth Atlas 5 launch in four months!  The Atlas 5 was carrying a surveillance satellite into orbit for the Pentagon. It was a beautiful launch, you can see more pictures here.  

One manned launch, one unmanned launch, and unmanned ISS supply mission landing!  What an exciting week in space!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Happy Passover!

Passover (also known a Pesach) started last night at sundown.  My family in Florida was all gathered together for a seder at my cousin's house (even my parents were in town for spring break) and I was missing them all so much.  So I spent my evening whipping up some classic Passover foods that reminded me of my family.  I made my modified version of my grandma's chicken soup w/ matzo balls except the store was out of parsnips, so I just used a little extra turnip and carrot.  I decided to put a new spin on the matzo balls this year too, and tried out this recipe for saffron matzo balls.  I think I used sub par saffron (it's from a spice booth at a random farmers market) so I didn't get a ton of flavor out of it, but the golden color was just lovely.

I also put together the fixings for a slow cooker brisket, which is currently simmering away back in my kitchen while I type.  Brisket and I have a love hate relationship.  I love to eat it, but it hates to be made by me (my first try I accidentally bought a corned beef brisket - BIG MISTAKE!)  This time I accidentally opened and poured half a packet of matzo ball mix on the brisket before I realized it wasn't onion soup seasoning.  I managed to wash most of it off of the meat and vegetables, which was time consuming since all of the veges had already been cut into bite sized pieces.  So we'll see how it turns out.  If it's good, I'll give you the recipe tomorrow...

And since this is S's first year experiencing anything to do with Passover, I'm also thinking I'll have to whip up some matzo brei (yolk free for me, though) doused in sugar and syrup, just so he can try it.  It reminds me so much of my childhood with my mom and my grandma cooking it up for breakfasts, it's another one of those quintessential Passover dishes.

I'm also inspired this year to try some new passover desert recipes.  Most passover deserts are chock full of eggs.  Since we can't have leavened grains, egg is the replacement stabilizer.  So needless to say, my options are limited.  I was thinking of making the macaroons I made back in 2011 and dipping them in chocolate.  Yum.  There's always the Matzoh Crack that I linked to back in 2012.  And the new addition I've discovered this year is Greek Yogurt Chocolate Mousse. Sounds pretty good, right?  I'll let you know how it turns out!

Note: all of my new recipes are from The Shiksa in the Kitchen and she has a ton of other good ones too, check them out here.

(top image from here)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Happy Tastebuds

I had a foodie-licious weekend!  It started off on Saturday morning with my AWESOME boyfriend S making me egg-free crepes!  The batter was a bit of a trial and error type thing, the first couple turned out a bit more pancake-esque than crepe-y, but he figured it out and they were delicious!  We used nutella, strawberries, bananas, fresh lemon juice, sugar, and almond butter as our fillings.  The winners?  Nutella with banana and strawberry and the lemon and sugar with strawberries.  Strawberries were apparently our crepe super-food!
After our delicious breakfast, we headed over to the brewery, where I got to make new friends, play some "drinking Jenga" (who knew?) and Cards Against Humanity.  We went to Local Pour again afterwards (we were just there Thursday and it was quite good!), and then made our way back to my place to start planning our Germany trip.   We ended the night with a late dinner of broiled salmon, asparagus, and rice.
Sunday was the food truck festival, which was not quite what I expected, but well executed none the less.  There were HUGE lines at some of our favorite trucks, which actually wound up working out well for us as we were then pushed to try newer trucks.  We brought a picnic blanket and chairs and would have someone "holding down the fort" while the others hunted for the next delicious food truck fare.  My favorites from the day were the tortilla crusted tillapia with mango glaze and pico de gallo from St. John's Fire and the truffled fries from Bernie's Burger Bus.  The 5 hours we were there just seemed to fly by and before I knew it, we were leaving with full bellies and minor sunburns (my ears are bright red!  how did I not learn my lesson from last time?!?!?)  Sunday night we saw the Houston Symphony Orchestra play the score to West Side Story live while the movie played.  It was so seamless that at times I forgot the orchestra was even there, a fantastic experience.  We were pretty exhausted from our long day in the sun and late night, so we crashed hard when we got home.  It was a very fun and successful weekend!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Have a Fabulous Weekend!

So this is going to be a fun outdoorsy food and drink weekend for me!!!  Tomorrow I'm headed to Buffalo Bayou Brewing, a small craft brewery here in Houston, for their afternoon tour/"tasting".  They don't have AC, so we'll likely be dragging a picnic table outside and taking in some Vitamin D (will definitely wear sunscreen this time...).  And Sunday is the Haute Wheels Food Truck Festival (actually, it's Saturday too, but we're only going on Sunday) where there will be over 35 food trucks all in one place.  Some of our favorites will be there, so we're pretty psyched.  We plan on bringing blankets, chairs, and (of course) sunscreen and just picnicing out there all afternoon.  Sunday night S and I have a date to see the Houston Symphony Orchestra play the score to West Side Story live while the movie plays.  Such a fun weekend planned!

(picture from here)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

So True...

I was up late Sunday celebrating St. Patty's Day, super late on Monday doing my taxes (I actually did them myself even with my rental.  It was painful, but at least I"m getting money back...), and last night watching the last 2 episodes of Dexter from season 7 and helping B make a super yummy strawberry pie.  Staying up late is so easy.  But then I'm on console this week and so I have to make sure that I get to work on time, which is just a little earlier than I usually shoot for.  The mornings have been difficult.  I swear every night that "tonight I'm going to go to bed early" and next thing I know it's 12:30 am.  Every time...

(image from here)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Sunscreen - It's Not Just For the Beach

Sorry I didn't post yesterday - it's been a busy week already.  And after my very eventful weekend, all the busy-ness seems to already neccesitate caffiene - fantastic.  As for my weekend, I went to Austin with S and our friend K for SXSW!  It wasn't a heavily planned trip.  We just kind of meandered, listened to music, ate good food, and all got horrible sunburns.  I'm usually so good about sunscreen too... We drove out Friday night after hijacking K from the airport and grabbing some dinner at Gringo's (pretty good texmex and free soft serve after dinner!) and after chatting for a bit with S's aunt (she was nice enough to put us up for the weekend) we all crashed hard. 
Sunday started off with super yummy Tacodeli breakfast tacos (The Otto was by far my favorite).  Afterwards we wound up at the park at Auditorium shores where there was a stage set up along with some food and craft/vintage booths.  I picked up an awesome teal silk jacket at one of the vintage booths and we all sipped on our new drink obsession: agua frescas.  It's just water infused with fresh fruits, but it's so freaking refreshing.  My fave was watermelon and pineapple.  After listening to a couple of bands there while lounging in the shade, we meandered over to South Congress in search of the Hey Cupcake! food truck.

There were bands playing in every open parking lot along the way and grassy lots were filled to the brim with artisan tents.  We eventually found the truck which, to my dismay, no longer carries vegan cupcakes.  The whole reason I was hunting for the truck to begin with.  Boo!  I lived vicariously through S and K and then consoled myself with some Amy's Ice Cream (Chocolate Grand Marnier - yum!).  Along our South Congress travels we saw some iconic Austin, including the phallic Austin Motel sign, the "i love you so much" graffitti, and a fantastic quote at Doc's "Skinny jeans don't make you look skinny".  Awesome.  It was at this point that we also realized that we should have applied sunscreen before leaving the house.  We weren't red yet, but all of us were just a little pink.  More walking around had us red before long.  It was the only unfortunate part of our trip.
We eventually wound up taking refuge at Kung Foo Saloon where S excitedly drank his favorite Austin brews on tap and we had fun with all of their arcade games.  I won the skeeball battle with a high score of 530!  On our way back to S's aunt's place we detoured to Whole Foods to pick up some beer for dinner (this one was incredible!).  We dined at The Salt Lick (which is BYOB) that night and ate some fantastic bbq.  It was on my Austin list, so I happily crossed that one off.  We then rolled ourselves and our full tummies back into the car and headed to S's aunt's place to crash.  The next morning I got to cross another restuarant off my list after we had brunch at Magnolia Cafe.  I didn't get to eat them (the egg thing), but I did get to smell their gingerbread pancakes.  Based on smell alone, I'd highly recommend.  After brunch we hit the road and after getting home to Houston, spent the evening at my friend R's place for a St. Patty's Day shindig complete with Irish stew, corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread with whiskey soaked cranberries (amazing!) and boozy shamrock shakes.  Awesome end to the weekend!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Have a Lovely Weekend

I don't know what it was about this week.  The time change maybe?  The fact that I spent last weekend staring at tons of in-bloom flowers?  Whatever it is, it really feels all of a sudden like spring is here.  This weekend I'm headed to Austin for a short SXSW trip and it's supposed to get up to a whopping 87 degrees!  Almost seems like 7 short days of spring have already given way to summer.  I sure hope not, spring in Texas is so enjoyable.  Speaking of flowers and spring in Texas, I noticed the first Indian paintbrush along the roadways on my drive home yesterday, which means it's almost bluebonnet season again too!!! 

Other weekend plans are up in the air at this point.  We had an awesome Sunday planned, but one of the plans just fell through and now they're all in limbo.  We'll see.  I'll be sure to update you on all of the awesomeness on Monday.  In the meantime, here are a few awesome links I've been obsessing over:

  • Local Houstonians can get organic, local, and sustainable groceries delivered right to their home - and there's a Groupon for 50% off!  I've already snatched one up!
  • Kind of obsessed with this bracelet.
  • I keep stumbling across delicious sounding popsicle recipes like this, this, and this.  Definitely going to have to try a couple of them!
  • Jonathan Adler has a new home goods collection with JCPenny.  The furniture is still a bit expensive, but the price points are about half of what his stuff normally costs. I'm thinking it'll go on sale eventually for even less, so I'm holding out for now.  
  • The store is also branching out into other designer collaborations and I'm loving the silk blouses in the Joe Fresh line (previously only available in Canada) and the incredible patterns in the nearly sold out Duro Olowu line.
  • Also, contemplating stenciling the wall behind my tv, since I'm in a rental and can't do wallpaper (not to mention it is cost and time prohibitive).  I like this chevron design and this prairie-style design.  But is stenciling still more work than it's worth?
(picture from my bluebonnet excursion last year)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Happy Pi Day!

Anyone who's gone through jr. high math should know what pi is and therefore what pi day is.  But just in case you're not a total nerd like me, and you've forgotten, pi=3.14159265359, so therefore, every year March 14 is Pi Day, and it is celebrated at 1:59pm.  You could get more specific with your timing, as pi is an irrational number that goes on forever and ever and ever, but 1:59 is as specific as most people get.  Is it totally geeky of me to kind of love this shirt?  Get real! Be Rational!  Hehehehe......
Anywho, so how do we celebrate Pi Day?  Why by eating pie of course!  Some incredible places even serve pie at work (I know friends that work here at JSC and former coworkers from KSC have partaken in pie today already!  Lucky ducks!)  It also always reminds me of my high school physics teacher - she got pretty into it.  So to all of the nerds out there - Happy Pi Day!
(pictures from here, here, and here)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I'm Going Where?!?

Puerto Rico baby!!!  Just found out this week that my brother's fiance's bachelorette party is going to be in Puerto Rico, and my ticket is already booked!  It's not for another couple of months, but I'm already brainstorming my island packing list.  Breezy skirts, tank tops, flat Greek-inspired strappy sandals, and of course a swim suit.  Which brings me to my Swimsuit Wishlist 2013:
Clockwise from upper left: navy polka dot tank | kimono floral one-piece | strappy black and coral bikini | floral underwire bikini | graphic chevron one-piece | red and pink color block bikini
You'll notice I branched out this year and included some bikinis.  My favorites right now are the floral one-piece in the top center and the pink and red color block bikini in the bottom left.  We'll see if I actually get around to splurging on a new suit, though, as all of my upcoming travel plans currently have my finances a bit tied up...

(photo of San Jan from here)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Scenes from the Weekend

This weekend was semi-busy.  I think it could have been busier, but I was sporting a sinus infection so we tempered our activity with lots of napping.  Thanks to that, some Airborne and Tylenol Sinus, and lots of water I'm mostly back to normal.  On Friday night we met up with friends who live downtown and we walked over to Discovery Green next to the convention center for the French festival, which was really more of a concert and two overpriced food booths with lines a mile long.  So we headed further into the city and ate at Bombay Pizza Company (I recommend the Gateway to India pizza) and then to Flying Saucer for some beers and conversation.  We finished up our evening back by our friend's place with cornhole (aka bags) at Little Woodrows and then grilled cheese sandwiches from Golden Grill, my favorite food truck which was conveniently parked across the street (I got prosciutto, gouda, and jalepeno jam - yum!)
Saturday we slept in, snacked on some turkey bacon, swiss, and edamame omelets, and then met up with J, B, and A for my second year of Houston's Azalea Trail, where the lowly middle class get to see how the upper crust lives.  The houses were pretty awesome and included animal heads from Africa, huge wine rooms, ridiculously rare antiques, guest houses that are bigger than my normal house, and one notable mid-century modern house that I was ready to move into.  And of course, the gardens, which were beautiful.
And while the azaleas were gorgeous and in full bloom, I felt that the other varieties of flowers stole the show this year, including a gorgeous rose garden, the iconic spring blooms like tulips, daffodils, and narcissus, and an oddly large presence of beautiful, bright, and paper-thin poppies.  Oh, and we took a break about halfway through the tour to have a quick bite to eat at Craft Infusion, another yummy food truck discovery that uses craft beers in their recipes.  We tried the oxtail empenadas, pulled pork sandwich, and sweet potato fries and all were delicious.
On Sunday evening we headed back to S's neck of the woods and hung out with some friends around a fire pit on their lovely back yard deck.  It was a late night, especially with the time change, so it was a struggle to get out of bed the next morning, especially with my sinuses acting up.  So we slept in and then met up with J and his son A for a 3D viewing of Oz the Great and Powerful.  If you're a fan of the Wizard of Oz, then you must see it.
The special effects, costumes, and props were magical.  Only thing I wasn't crazy about was the evil witch's make-up.  Everything else managed to be both fanciful and realistic, but her makeup screamed "fake" to me.  It was another interesting take (I loved the story of Wicked too) on the build up to the Wizard of Oz story.
I want to find James Franco annoying, but truth is it's only his real life persona that I find so.  His acting is actually quite good.  And Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, and Michelle Williams all played the witches wonderfully.  I was a little worried going into the movie since my hopes were so high, but I must say I wasn't disappointed upon leaving and I'd definitely recommend it.

Well, that was my weekend.  Did you do anything fun on yours?

(Oz pictures from here and here)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Have an Inspired Weekend!

Did you know that today (and March 8 every year for that matter) is International Women's Day?  I'm not sure why, but this never really registered on my radar before today.  Or if it ever did, I promptly forgot.  I'm not sure if I love the idea of this day (you know, women's empowerment and all) or hate it.  Why would I hate it?  By celebrating just women, we are once again segregating ourselves from men.  If we want to work/compete in the same arena as men and bill ourselves as equals, should we be shining a giant spotlight on our differences?  If a woman accomplished something that benefits humanity, then by all means, celebrate her, just as if any man had done it.  And it would certainly behoove us to recognize the women who were trail blazers for the rest of us in the modern world.  But a month (March is Women's History Month), or even a day, celebrating it kind of screams "treat us differently" to me.  It started back in 1909 when obviously there were large discrepancies in men's vs women's rights and we were screaming "treat us the same", so that makes sense to me (the history of this day is actually quite interesting).  But now in 2013 it doesn't accomplish those same goals.  Although it did make me take a step back this morning and reflect on all of the women who worked hard for women's rights and for women's equality in the work place that have allowed me to be where I am today.  Which makes my opinion trend more toward love than hate, because anything that causes positive reflection has to be good, right?

Speaking of things international, I'll be spending my evening with S and some friends at a French festival, gorging myself on wine and cheese and whimpering next to the crepe stand (they're made with egg yolks...) I've always said I could live on bread, cheese, and wine so I'm very much looking forward to it!  Tomorrow we'll be attending the Azalea Trail  for some home and garden voyeurism (remember when I went last year?) and then headed to a friend's house for a get together.  And on Sunday we're going to see Oz The Great and Powerful!  I'm SOOOOOO excited for this movie!!! 

I'm obviously looking forward to my weekend.  Do you have any fun plans for yours?

(top picture of astronaut Anna Lee Fisher)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Flat Tires and Miscellaneous Fun

Had a rough day yesterday.  Left work to find that my right front tire was flat, flat, flat.  I'm a big girl and I know how to change a tire, so I set to work pulling out the spare and tools.  A bunch of guys stopped by while I was at work.  Some to just watch and stare (they didn't know how to change a flat and were amazed that I did...) and some to offer help.  I politely declined most of the help, though one guy did give me a little extra elbow grease in loosening up the bolts.  When I had the tire off (source of the flat - a giant punctured it) and the spare on, I toddled my car over to the mechanic.  They were all amazed I had changed my own tire too...  Do most girls not know how to do this???  My dad taught me when I first started driving and, since this isn't my first flat, it's been an extremely useful skill to have.  Anyway, got a ride to S's place to crash for the night, he gave me a ride to work this morning, and I'm picking up my (fixed) car shortly.  Nothing Earth shattering, but a long day none the less.  So to lighten the mood a bit, some random funnies for you today:

 Hehehe.  Enjoy your day!

(funnies from here, here, and here)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Kitchen Reveal!

Sorry I didn't post yesterday, but except for lounging in bed and on the couch (S was sick so we laid low) as well as some general productiveness around the house, I didn't have much from my weekend to report.  The result of that productiveness, however, is a FINALLY finished kitchen!!!  You remember the ugly wood-paneled monstrosity pictured above from this post?  And then I showed you the mid-process photo with primer up.  Well, here she is, the finished product:
Is the improvement not mind boggling?!?  I do still need to put up curtains in the window (I'm going to try to make my own with this fabric), but just the airiness and brightness of the space (even at night when I took this photo) is orders of magnitude better!  One other potential fix that I'm considering is going back in and painting the cabinet hardware silver (it doesn't come off the cabinets, so it was easier to just paint it white with all of the wood) but it's hardly a necessity at this point.  I'm really loving everything just how it is!
And another shot for you.  Here you can clearly see my new shelves and how I even painted the hideous wall panels a fresh coat of white.  Here are some before and after comparisons to astound you further:

You can see where I pushed the fridge over toward the wall to cover that doorway to the useless hallway, which is now camouflaged storage.  I was then able to fit my butcher block island from IKEA against the wall which nearly doubled my counter space!  I added shelving to the left of the fridge and over the butcher block for additional storage (I plan to stock up on more of these boxes from IKEA).  I covered the visible portion of the doorway with a cheap white curtain and added some art above the fridge to camouflage it further.  I also brought my citrus-themed paintings that have followed me from Florida.  Voila, my awesome upgraded kitchen! 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Hope Your Weekend is a Blast!

Despite the pace of my busy and somewhat stressful week, I'm shocked that I managed to get a whopping 4 blog posts in!  Work was crazy up through Wednesday and, thankfully, it's now tapered down a bit.  Of course the big news around here today is the SpaceX-2 launch that occurred this morning, followed shortly by issues pressurizing the Dragon capsule's propellant tanks, which didn't allow the capsule to maneuver in space.  The prop system was finally recovered around 3:00 EST and Dragon finally transitioned from free drift to active control, but it took long enough to fix that the Dragon won't be rendezvousing with the Space Station tomorrow as planned.  If you were hoping to watch NASA's live feed of the dock, it will most likely happen on Sunday now... You can read more about the prop issue here and you can see a cool video of the stage 1 and 2 rocket separation from today's launch here!
In other news, last night I went to my second Irish punk rock show in as many weeks.  Dropkick Murphy was fun and energetic and I really enjoyed the music.  If you need something lively to accompany your green beer on St. Patrick's Day, I'd highly recommend looking them up!

As for my weekend plans, I don't really have any.  I do have a list of things I eventually want to accomplish, including upcoming travel plans, doing my taxes, finishing touches on my place, some art/craft projects I have planned, and doing some more exploring of the city.  But I've been a bit overextended lately, and so my plan is to work on these projects if I feel up for it, and otherwise just relax and go with the flow for the next couple of days.  With the way things have been going lately, I'm sure something fun will pop up, so I'll be sure to fill you in on any exciting details on Monday.

What about you?  Any fun plans?