Monday, April 29, 2013

Scenes from my Chicago Weekend

View of the city from the ladies restroom at the Signature Lounge at the top of the Hancock Building
Just spent a long three day weekend in Chicago with S (his first time there!) and we had such a fantastic time!  I got to see K, her husband, and their adorable new baby, show S around my favorite city, meet up with my parents, and eat some terrific food!  The weather was incredible and we really couldn't have asked for a better weekend.  Well, more time would have been nice...
We took an hour and a half tour of Wrigley Field - highly recommend!

Ate some mighty tasty sausages (including a classic Chicago style hotdog)

Walking along Lake Michigan and through Grant Park

The spitting fountains (more properly known as The Crown Fountain)

Canoodling in front of The Bean
Drinks with my parents at the Signature Lounge

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Mission to Mars

Over dinner last night the topic turned to the news worthy topic of the proposed one-way mission to Mars.  Aside from the fact that it is ONE WAY, the mission is also set to become the basis for a reality television show.  Apparently thousands of people have already applied...  While the idea of traveling to Mars is incredible and I hope we can achieve it in my lifetime, the whole thing as proposed just seems preposterous to me.  We don't have the technology to travel to and colonize Mars yet, so that will take a number of years to develop.  And then you never get to come back?  Ever?  Since the applicants chosen to go with have a good 10 years to train and let that fact sink in, I wonder if they'd come to regret the decision. Such a lonely existence.  And as one of my friends pointed out at dinner last night, the whole thing is a recipe for insanity (probably why the television idea would sell big).  Anyone crazy enough to spend the rest of their life confined with only a handful of other people in a small space on a planet that is uninhabited, unable to live without the aid of technology, unable to ever see their friends and families again would probably fail even NASA's limited psych exam.

I guess we'll see if it actually winds up happening.  If it does, the trip to Mars alone will take 3-7 months depending on the locations of both Earth and Mars in their orbits.  That's a pretty long non-stop trip.  Just how far is it to Mars?  Check out this really cool website to get an idea.

So what are your thoughts on all of this???

(top image from here)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Nice Ring to It

After the images from the Spring Balenciaga show started circulating on fashion blogs (picutred on the lower right image above), I  have become obsessed with hands full of gold rings.  I go through phases.  At one time I was enthralled with big, chunky rings.  After an unfortunate incidence in which I stabbed myself pretty seriously with a large, pointy stingray ring, I downgraded to thin, dainty bands.  I've been riding that bandwagon for a while now but after seeing the pictures from the Balenciaga show and other images of hands fully adorned in a mix of both thin and chunky gold rings I think the tides are turning.  I'm still going to wear my delicate bands, including my first knuckle rings that I'm thoroughly enamored with, but now I'm planning to mix in a few more fingers worth of gilt embellishment.
I just picked up, as a sort of early birthday present to myself, this set of 8 chunky gold rings from ASOS (for only $13!!!) to add to the mix.  There are some pretty, though slightly pricier, thin ring options from one of my favorite jewelry sites, Catbird, pictured here too.  Can't wait to start trying out a variety of dainty vs chunky gilded combinations!

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

Monday, April 22, 2013

Second Spring

 I spent this past weekend up in New Jersey and it was wonderful to celebrate J's bridal shower, spend time with both my and her families, and enjoy my second spring this year.  The trees and flowers in New Jersey had all just started blooming and the riots of white, pink, purple, orange, and yellow that dotted the landscape were beautiful!
One of my family bonding experiences was with my brother as we toiled away on the new IKEA dining room set that my parents bought for the happy couple as a combined bridal shower/wedding gift.  The table was fairly straight forward, and the chairs were a bit annoying but once we figured them out we were able to bang through them pretty quickly.  Only problem was one chair that had a wrong piece!  Fail IKEA, FAIL!!!  The table and 7 chairs that we did get assembled looked fantastic in their dining room, though!
Other activities this weekend, beyond the obvious bridal shower, included getting my bridesmaid dress altered, checking out some nearby parks as potential sites for a post-wedding brunch, a rousing game of trivia that I nearly won (stupid sports trivia questions screwed me over...), a lovely dinner with J's family, hitting up the new cheese and chocolate shops in downtown Clinton (YUM!), and a 5 mile walk with my mom and J.

 You can see how gorgeous those flower filled trees were!  Overall it was a wonderful couple of days and I'm eagerly anticipating my next trip out there for their upcoming wedding in July!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Space Updates

It's another busy week in space news.  Tomorrow is going to be a doozy as Russian cosmonauts Pavel Vinogradov and and Roman Romanenko will be venturing outside of the ISS for a six hour spacewalk to deploy and retrieve several science experiments and replace a navigational aid.  This will be the 167th spacewalk in support of space station assembly and maintenance.  You can watch the spaceflight online starting at 8:30 am CDT on NASA TV.

Additionally, after a two day delay due to an umbilical cable prematurely disconnected from the upper stage booster, Orbital Sciences Corporation will be launching their first test flight of the Antares rocket tomorrow as well.  The first Antares launch attempt on Wednesday aborted with 12 minutes left in the countdown and engineers are still troubleshooting, plus Friday's weather isn't looking so good, so there's a chance that the schedule delay may be extended.  But when Antares does indeed launch, you can also catch live footage on NASA TV.  Friday's launch attempt is scheduled for 4:00 pm CDT and NASA TV will begin live coverage starting at 3:30.  This test flight is just to demonstrate rocket capability.  Follow up flights, along with the Cygnus cargo freighter, will test for the ability to carry cargo resupply missions to ISS, the main goal of this Orbital Sciences program.  And ISS definitely appreciates more cargo supply capabilities from the US!

(image from here)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Chili, Ceviche, and Strawberries! Oh my!

I wasn't quite as quick with my trigger finger camera-wise on Saturday, so I apologize for the lack of pictures.  I went to the Annual JSC Chili Cook-Off and it was a blast!  The chili was good, the drinks were plentiful (buttery nipple pudding shots are my new favorite novelty drink...), and the weather was perfect.  We wound up crashing pretty early on Saturday night though due to a very full day of food and sunshine.  On Sunday we woke up and headed out the door fairly early to grab brunch at Latin Bites Cafe (I had a coupon deal that was about to expire).  We splurged on a mango smoothie, mint limonada, some of the best ceviche I've ever had, and delicious Latin inspired sandwiches.  It was one of those places that we'd gladly go back to, but probably more so for a special occasion as the prices were a bit steep.  Very good, though!
After brunch we made our way to Froberg Farm where I FINALLY got to pick some strawberries!!!  Due to an unfortunate cross of signals we were unable to meet up with our friends, which I was pretty bummed about.  But I did have a good time stomping around in my pretty purple rainboots with S and filling up a bucket with ripe strawberries (that smelled INCREDIBLE).
We spent about an hour picking around in the strawberry field searching for the perfect berries and then we headed home to make use of our bucket o' berries.  I whipped up a quick strawberry tart that, although delicious, was horribly disfigured.  It was not photo-worthy.  I also concocted a pseudo strawberry shortcake to tide us over mid-day.  I used a whole wheat english muffin spread with some of the pineapple preserves we picked up at Froberg's market.  That was topped with a heaping pile of sliced strawberries and then finished off with a dollop of homemade whipped cream.  It was heavenly.
Those two treats took me through only about 1/3 of my strawberries.  Next recipe I have planned?  Strawberry grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner tonight (this or maybe this) with a side salad (naturally topped with strawberries as well).  And tomorrow I plan to make some of my absolute favorite strawberry frozen yogurt.  YUM!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Have a Tasty Weekend!

Well this weekend is going to have a lot of food-related activities and I couldn't be more excited!  Tomorrow is JSC's Annual Chili Cook-Off and I'm going to go for the first time!  I have a handful of friends that are actually competing on some of the teams.  And I happen to know that B is supplementing J's team with jello shots, so it will definitely be an entertaining afternoon!  Apparently it's just meat-based chili, no beans allowed, and I'm not a fan of super spicy.  But I feel this is just so quintessentially Texan...

On Sunday we're hitting up a Peruvian restaurant for brunch (I have a Groupon that's about to expire and I've been really excited to try this place - it's on my "list") and then I'm FINALLY heading out to Froberg Farm to do some strawberry picking!  I've been talking about this forever and this weekend it will definitely be happening.  Expect lots of awesome strawberry recipes to follow...

(picture from here)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

NASA - Increasing the Awesome in 2014

The Fiscal Year 2014 budget for NASA was released today (see first video).  You can get more data on NASA's site here.  
The big news?  Researching a mission to first capture and relocate an asteroid!  If all goes well, astronauts could visit the captured asteroid in the early 2020s using NASA's Orion crew capsule and the agency's new Space Launch System heavy lift rocket.
This is finally a clear vision for NASA's future that I've been waiting to hear!  Let's hope the funding is sufficient and we can accomplish these goals!

(top image from here)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Ups and Downs

Things have been busy around here.  I'm planning for multiple trips in the next couple of months, I'm finally finishing up decorating around the house (pictures coming soon), I've been trying to cook and exercise more to counterbalance all of the eating out and drinking I've been doing, and I'm helping S look for a new place.  Not to mention I'm supporting on console this week, which always means I'm going to have a super busy week at work.

On the plus side, this past weekend I got a TON of stuff done around the house, I made it to the gym twice last week and once already this week, I've made some excellent food recently including a mushroom and truffle risotto and a batch of turkey chili (see S's very first chili cheese omelet above!), and I've gotten some serious planning done on upcoming trips.

On the down side, it turns out S got outbid on the house we really liked, being a hardware lead at work is starting to overwhelm me a bit, and those trips aren't cheap...

One day at a time, right?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Have a Beautiful Weekend!

It's supposed to be a lovely weekend here in Houston - sunny, in the 70's, and wild flowers (including this year's bluebonnets) blooming everywhere.  I actually don't have much planned this weekend and I'm reveling in it.  S and I have a date night tonight, where we plan to explore more of the city's fantastic food and bar scene.  Tomorrow I have NO PLANS!!!  I'm hoping to sleep in then meander down the road to the local farmers market (if I wake up in time...) and take in some fresh air and good, fresh food.  The rest of the day is completely free, though I do hope to get a couple of things crossed off my to-do list that have been piling up over the last couple of weeks.  Sunday afternoon we're headed to the Rienzi house for Viva Italia!, a leisurely afternoon of hors d'oeuvres, music, and impeccable vintage architecture and design (yeah, we're classy like that...).  So yes, we have plans, but it's all pretty low key, which I'm looking forward to.

Do you have any plans for the weekend?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Has Dark Matter Been Discovered???

Today's Increasing the Awesome post is about the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, which was brought up to the International Space Station back on STS-134, the second to last shuttle mission.  The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, or AMS, is an incredible piece of machinery that was mounted on the exterior of the ISS with the intent of measuring cosmic rays in space.  It was built to help researches study the formation of the universe and look for dark matter and antimatter.  Well after recording data for over a year and a half, the AMS scientists are finally reporting the machine has obtained signals that might actually be attributed to dark matter (about 400,000 positrons, which is the antimatter partner particle to electrons)!!!  Of course scientists are not willing to commit to anything concrete yet.  And work here on earth with particle accelerators will be required to justify that these particles are indeed result of dark matter.  But how exciting is it that this pieces of equipment is functioning so beautifully and actually living up to its intent?!?  This is truly NASA and the scientific community working to Increase the Awesome!!!

(photo of AMS from here and some data from here)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Living Room Updates

The room isn't ready to be unveiled yet - it still requires a few finishing touches.  One of which I need your advice on!   But first, here are a few sneak peaks:
Zoe has a new chair to cover in fur...
And I have succesfully swiss cheese-d the wall with nail holes...
As for the advice I need, that new chair (which I bought last week from a craigslist ad and which I'm completely and totally in love with) needs a little side table so whomever is reclining in it has a place to set their drink.  It needs to fit into a tight, wonky shaped space, so I'm thinking I want something small and round.  I've found these options and need help deciding.  The tables in the upper left and lower right I would probably cover with a glossy, lacquered paint - maybe in a yellow or chartreuse.  What do you think?
Clockwise from upper left: curvy pedestal table | orange tray table | simple pedestal table | wood and brass campaign table

Monday, April 1, 2013

Weekend In Review

Another fun weekend in the books!  I got to spend a lot of time with my brother, attend a friend's birthday party, hang out with my girlfriends, drive a go kart, caress a Lamborghini, and play a lot of Rummikub!  (Not surprisingly, I play Rummikub a lot better when I haven't consumed large quantities of wine.  My record drunk: 0-2.  My record sober: 5-2...)  In honor of Passover and at my brother's request, I also tried making Matzo Brei for the very first time this weekend.  The verdict: good, but not as good as grandma's.  Nothing ever is...
Masquerade-themed birthday party!
Boots galore at Texas Junk Co.  I didn't find a pair this trip, but I'm trying again in a couple of weeks!
First solo attempt at Matzo Brei! 
Go karting is a workout!  My shoulders were sore today!
Whipping around the curve!
Pretty, pretty, pretty Lambo.....