Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Little Naughty but Mostly Good

I've been doing my best to save and not spend too much lately.  Especially since I like to splurge on food, I've been cutting back on splurges elsewhere.  Plus it's been a busy year of travel with more exciting trips still coming up.  And thanks to my forced frugality, my bank account has been growing accordingly (yay!).  But I only have so much willpower.  So I caved this week and bought a pair of shoes on ebay (they were only $12 and I know I'll wear them to death), a faux leather dress with awesome reviews that I've been eyeing and that just went on super sale, the tortoise shell version of that barrette that I lusted after last week (40% off at Banana Republic today!), and a classic baseball tee that was also on sale for only $12!  So yes, I splurged a bit, but at least I waited out the items until they went on mega sale.  And I didn't buy this, this, this, this, this, this or this, all of which I've been eyeing for the past few weeks.  Though I am strongly considering that bathing suit and classic black skirt...

(picture from here)

Monday, July 29, 2013

My Weekend in Food

I actually made all of the food I planned to on Friday!  And it was delicious!  I added an Indian version of corn on the cob to the lunch menu as well.  It was rubbed with butter and then sprinkled with Indian spice (I used this, which also awesome with melted butter on popcorn, but garam masala would also work) and feta cheese.  S and I devoured these.  B came over to eat the Saturday lunch with us and she was a huge fan of the watermelon.  We sent a tray of food over to a friend's house whom S borrowed some tools from and he requested the crab cake recipe.  I also whipped up a faux remoulade with greek yogurt, salt and pepper, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and minced red onion.  AND I made a mini-muffin version of these chocolate chip banana muffins.  We will be eating them for the next week for breakfast.  I am a cooking machine!
While I worked hard in the kitchen all weekend, S worked hard in the garage getting his tools organized and his new work bench built.  It was an all weekend long chore and so to shore up his energy on Sunday, I whipped up some quick pancakes with fresh strawberries.  Since pancakes are his favorite breakfast, he was pretty psyched!
I also helped S out around the house, caulking around the big kitchen window, cleaning the tile floor, and taping off the trim in the movie room for it's upcoming paint job.  After all that hard work, you'd think I'd just flop on the couch when I got back to my place.  But no, I insisted on finishing off my weekend food extravaganza and so I was up until 11 making the hummus and pickles!  The hummus was insanely flavorful.  I added extra lemon juice and put the lemon zest straight into the dip (instead of on top of it) to amp up the flavor.  I also added some garlic powder to enhance the garlic flavor further.  It was incredible.  The final result of the pickles is still an unknown as they needed to "pickle" in the fridge for 24 hours before they were done.  I added about a quarter teaspoon of red pepper flake to them to try to kick up the spice a bit, but I may have been a bit too timid.  We'll see...

Friday, July 26, 2013

Have a Deliciouis Weekend

I don't have much planned this weekend, so I decided to go on a foodie/cooking spree.  Tonight we're headed out for some classic Texas BBQ to bid farewell to some friends of our who are moving back to Florida this weekend (boo!).  Tomorrow I'm going to forgo my typical Saturday late-breakfast sandwich (just toast, avocado and/or cheese, with egg or in my case egg white.  it's easy and tasty) for a smorgasbord lunch of egg-free crab cakes, watermelon with fontina and dill, and spicy oven-roasted chick peas!  Saturday night we're headed into town to cross another restaurant off of our list (and maybe hit up a movie?  we haven't been to the theater in ages and there are so many summer blockbusters we want to see).  Sunday we're headed back to our old favorite, Eatsie Boys, for brunch and then I plan to get busy in the kitchen again.  I'm hoping to whip up some lemon, sesame, and garlic hummus and a double batch of bread and butter pickles with a kick (Scott and I both LOVE pickles!)  We'll see how much I get done, but they're all fairly basic recipes and I don't have anything else that I have to get done, there's no reason I shouldn't be able to bang them all out. 

Any fun plans or new recipes for you this weekend?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Modern Pale Blue Dot

Back in 2011 I wrote about my obsession with Carl Sagan's take on a picture taken of the Earth by the Voyager 1 spacecraft in 1990 as it was flying out of our solar system, called the Pale Blue Dot.  Carl wrote an entire book with it's title inspired by this picture, "a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam".  With the picture I posted an except from the book that uses the picture of the small dot of earth in the distance to show our small planet's relativity to the rest of the universe.  It is beautiful and humbling and perhaps one of my favorite literary quotes. 

Well now we have a new, enhanced picture of our Pale Blue Dot to marvel over.  NASA has published a new photograph taken on July 19, 2013, by a wide-angle camera on the Cassini spacecraft that shows a view of Earth from the dark side of Saturn.  Isn't it gorgeous with the silhouette planet and the rings in the foreground?  The Cassini spacecraft was built for a mission to Saturn, which has been incredibly successful - the small shot of Earth is a small bonus.  In the photo Earth is 898 million miles away.  Do you see that bright dot just under the rings and just above that glowing horizontal band?  That's Earth.  According to NASA, this is only the third time that Earth has ever been photographed from the outer solar system, one of the other times being the Voyager 1 shot that Sagan wrote about and the other being from Cassini back in 2006. 

While the picture of Earth above is definitely a nod to Carl Sagan, he is also being payed homage to in another way this week.  My other favorite Scientist/Astronomer, Neil deGrasse Tyson, is making a TV documentary series SEQUEL to Sagan's series COSMOS!!!  He is working with the same people Sagan collaborated with on his original series, and he's throwing Seth MacFarlane of Family Guy fame into the mix as well.  The preview played at Comic Con this past week and I could NOT be more excited!  Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey will air in 2014 on FOX and it looks phenomenal.  Check it out:

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Summer Beauty

It's definitely summer.  The weather here in Houston has been getting downright hot lately, predicted to hover between the mid 90's and 100 pretty much every day for the next week.  It's been entirely humid and mostly sunny/hazy with no relief from the punishing rays.  Not only that, but the ocasional spatterings of rain we've been getting every so often have ensured that the mosquito (and other stinging/biting bug) population is thriving.  So I'm relying on some old favorites as well as new finds in the beauty department to ensure my summer sanity:
  • My hair is still super long, so I'm keeping it pinned up in a bun or pony tail pretty much every day.  I still love the gold ponytail band that I discovered here.  But I have now discovered a new barrette to bling out my bun too.  
  • On the rare occasion I wear my hair down, I tend to go for the wavy/undone look.  It works best when the humidity frizz sets in.  I usually just braid my hair the night before and sleep in it.  But I'm also thinking of making this easy DIY beach wave texture spray to further enhance my waves.
  • Mosquitoes LOVE me.  I have 3 mosquito bites just from S opening the door the other night - a pesky blood sucker heard the siren's call of my blood and snuck into the house in the 2 seconds the door was open to attack me while I made dinner.  But I hate smelling like chemically bug spray all the time.  I just discovered this DIY recipe for homemade all-natural bug spray made with essential oils that has me thoroughly intrigued...
  • I ALWAYS wear sunscreen on at least my face and neck.  Every single day.  I accomplish that by incorporating it into my beauty routine in the form of a bb cream.  I've tried a few, but this one is my favorite.  This stuff is awesome - it's moisturizer, sunscreen, and a sheer makeup base all in one!
  • If I'm going to be out in the sun any longer than it takes me to walk from my car to the nearest air conditioned building, then I also apply sunscreen to all exposed skin.  My skin burns SO easily.  Mission is my preferred brand - it's sweatproof and paraben free.  
  • If the occasion allows for it, I usually try to wear a hat too to further protect my scalp, ears, and face.  I have a couple of go-to's with my current favorite being similar to this one (I'm loving this men's version too).  But I'm also digging this DIY straw hat.  I'm obsessed with that feather trim.
That covers my necessities.  Do you do anything else to beat the heat/humidity/UV rays/bugs?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Busy Bee

Amazingly enough, I not only managed to mostly catch up on sleep this weekend (2 mornings of sleeping in plus a whopping 2 naps!) but I also managed to be productive.  I spent time with my friend H at her little boy's first birthday party, I vacuumed and cleaned the bathroom at my place, we met neighbors at S's neighborhood pool party, caught up with friends, and I washed sheets and towels, organized the linen closet, and did dishes at S's place.  

Even with all of that productiveness, I still feel like I got a chance to relax and reset.  Which is good, because I'm supporting on console this week which means it's busy, busy, busy!  And we're keeping busy outside of work too.  After work tonight we're headed into town to cross another restaurant off of our list (we're trying to be proactive about this while I still have the convenience of a place in town).  Tomorrow we're hitting up Cullen's for steak night and trivia with B and hopefully a few other friends.  Thursday is bowling, and Friday we're going to Alamo Drafthouse to watch the new Wolverine movie!  Our weekend is empty as of now, but with the way things have been going, I'm sure that will change soon enough...

Speaking of insects that bite/sting, is it just me or are the mosquitoes worse than usual this year?!  I've been getting eaten alive!

(picture from here)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Have a Relaxing Weekend

I am SO TIRED.  The wedding weekend wiped me out.  I'm lucky I didn't fall asleep at work this week.  I actually had to resort to caffeine to prevent it from happening, though, which I only do in last resort situations.  So the thing I am most excited about doing this weekend?  Sleeping in.  Both days.  I might even take a nap or two as well.  I don't think just one weekend will sufficiently catch me up, but at least I won't be 3 mugs of green tea into my morning wishing I had toothpicks to prop my eyelids open...

Other weekend plans definitely include my friend's son's first birthday part and that's about it.  Potential plans run the gamut from a pub crawl to an Arrested Development trivia event to an adults only pool party in S's new neighborhood.  Also hoping to get a few things done around both my place and S's house.  We'll see how it all plays out around my nap schedule.

Hopefully your weekend is as relaxing as I hope mine to be.  Do you have any plans?

(picture from here)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Juli and Jeff Said "I Do"!!!

What a phenomenal weekend!  I'm completely and totally exhausted, but Jeff and Juli's wedding weekend was truly one for the books!  And I could not be happier to call Juli my sister-in-law! (When a lady complimented me on the bouquet in the airport - see below - and I told her my sister-in-law made it I got all giddy as I realized that was the first time I'd actually called Juli that out loud :0)
There were SO many aspects of this wedding that were beautifully personalized because Juli actually did make them personally by hand.  The bouquets are the best example - she hand folded each origami flower and put them all together into the bouquest herself.  One for her, one for each of the five bridesmaids, small flowers for the boutonnieres for the guys and the corsages for the mothers, plus two white and pink bouquets that were given to 2 couples that had been married the longest (one of them being my grandparents - 62 years!!!).  There were a few dozen extra flowers that she also brought to the florist and had incorporated into the garland for the Chuppah!  This girl never stopped!
She had also made all of the invitations (hand stamped paper, people!), put together goodie bags for the hotel to give to out of town guests, made the cake topper (those clothes being worn by the hand painted bride and groom are hand sewn....), and put together all of the favors.  It was gorgeous!
The ceremony was beautiful.  They had a joint one with a pastor and a cantor and it was short, sweet, and meaningful.  The resounding successes then continued into the reception where the food was incredible (one appetizer was coconut crusted chicken with a mango dipping sauce that I'm determined to recreate) and the drinks were plentiful.
We even did a cousins tequila shot with all of the cousins from my mom's side of the family AND my grandma!  They also scored a slam dunk with their DJ, who was probably one of the best I've heard.  He played familiar oldies during dinner followed by a perfect set of fun but not annoying dance songs after.  The dance floor was packed the entire time!  And the dancers included my mom for most of the evening too, which shocked me and my brothers - we all had SO MUCH FUN!  And what Jewish wedding would be complete without the Horah?!?
Juli's head and the light fixture had an initial near miss, but then the lifters got their act together and the bride and groom happily screamed away!  My dad and the brides parents also made lifted chair appearances followed by lots of swinging and dancing!
This was S's first time meeting most of my family too and I'm happy to say it was a resounding success all around!  He loved everyone and they all loved him too!  And let me also say that he is a dancing machine!  I thought I loved to dance, but he outlasted me on the dance floor by far.  Luckily my aunts and newly twinkle-toed mother picked up the slack for me!
I know I'm biased since it was my brother's wedding, but I have to say that I think this is one of the best weddings I've been to in a while.  It was so great to see all of my family (many whom I haven't seen in 7 months to a year), meet all of my brother and Juli's friends, and watch my brother and sister-in-law start their married life together at such a beautiful event.  Mazel tov Jeff and Juli and I hope you have a wonderful time on your honeymoon in Hawaii!

(Top and bottom pictures taken by Brad Ross Photography, the cake topper pic was by Juli's sister, the cousins taking a shot with grandma photo was taken by S, and the rest were taken by my cousin of Sweet Pea Photography)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Have a Beautiful Weekend!

It doesn't seem like very long ago that I posted my absolute delight at learning that my brother had proposed to his girlfriend.  Well now the wedding weekend is finally here!!!  I'm so excited for his fiance to join our family, she's already like a sister to me.  And on top of that, I'll get to see a lot of family members that I've been sorely missing now that I'm a Texan as opposed to a Floridian.  I used to just drive down and visit my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins when I worked at KSC, and I'd see them every month or so at least.  It's been over 6 months now and I'm thrilled to bits that they'll all be at the wedding!  I'm excitedly looking forward to a truly wonderful weekend!

(picture from here)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Public Misconceptions of NASA

I have heard these exact same questions over and over again.  Is NASA still even doing anything now that the shuttle program is over?  How can we justify spending money on NASA?  Wouldn't that money be put to better use here on the ground? Why can't the private industry just take over?  I've even heard my own family members ask me some of these questions.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, the public needs to better understand what NASA is and what it does for them.  They truly do benefit.  And this AWESOME article on Huffington Post does a great job of answering these questions.

The bottom lines? NASA is still alive and kicking with half of it's funding going toward manned spaceflight endeavors such as the Commercial Crew Program, Orion, and the International Space Station while the other half going toward unmanned project such as Mars rovers and telescopes.  And all of this is funded by only 0.5% of the national budget.  You could cut NASA out, but it's hardly going to fix any of our countries financial woes.  In fact, it may add to them since studies estimate a $7-$14 return on every dollar that NASA spends.  This is in the forms of employment of over 50,000 employees, generating revenue for the states that house NASA centers, and of course funneling billions into space related technologies.  And these technologies do benefit us here on Earth.  NASA research has impacted the development of water filters, MRI machines, and it basically created the catalyst for the entire microelectronics industry that has enabled us to all walk around with tiny little computer phones in our pockets.

So PLEASE, read this article and read the links in it and familiarize yourself with just how AWESOME NASA allows our lives to be...

In other news, idiot politicians want to turn the moon landing sites into National Historical Parks.  How are you going to enforce and upkeep those, huh???  And who exactly is going to visit?

(Image of Astronaut Chris Cassidy from this past Tuesday's space walk, found here)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Interesting Links

 I've accumulated a few interesting links over the past week that I figured I'd share for your entertainment:

(picture from here)

Monday, July 8, 2013

What a Fantastic Long Weekend!

Despite having to work a half day on Friday, it did actually feel like I had a four day weekend.  I guess if I normally wouldn't have woken til noon anyway that time at work was sort of a wash...  We had a lot of fun with our friend K in town and boy were we busy!  We went to an Astros game on Wednesday night (complete with an awesome 4th of July firework display) to celebrate S's friend's bday.
On Thursday we hit up St. Arnolds for their weekday lunch of beer brats, mustard-y macaroni salad, fries and, my personal favorite, root beer floats made with St. Arnold's house made delicious root beer!  We hung out with friends at Beaver's afterwards (it looks like a dive, but they have a really great food and cocktail menu!), and then headed back to S's so I could prepare food for a cook out with S's fam that night.
We had a smorgasbord of grilled meats courtesy of S's brother followed by an evening of fireworks in the street, including my first Roman Candle!  The dog liked the fireworks too - he tried to eat them...

On Friday I, as stated above, worked followed by some tasty Tex-Mex for lunch (K had to get her fill while she was in town!).  S and I headed to another friend's house that evening for our very first whiskey tasting!  R gathered 13 bottles from the many of his whiskey collection, explained the differences to us, let us taste and smell them all and then we compared for differences.  Were they smooth, did they have vanilla undertones, what is a "single malt" and is it really better, etc.  It was a lot of fun! 
We spent the rest of the evening dining with R and his wife and then playing a new game (lots of new/first this weekend!) that they got from France called Dixit - we had a blast!

Saturday we met up with one of K's friends for lunch at Americas, a classy Latin American restaurant in River Oaks.  The interior was AWESOME (designed by a Chicago architect, or course!), the food was excellent and the 88 cent mojitos (their lunch special) were the cherry on top.  We chilled at home for a bit then headed over to my friend R's house for our foodie cookout spectacular.  Our bellies were very full of good food on Saturday...

Sunday was a chill day.  We slept in, I made an easy brunch, K left to go home (boo), we ran some errands, and even found time for a mid-day nap.  It was a perfect relaxing end to an awesome long weekend.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Have a Happy 4th of July!

We have a busy 4th of July weekend planned!  We're hitting up St. Arnold's Brewery tomorrow for their lunch and some board games with friends.  On Friday I volunteered to work the morning shift (to be nice to my coworkers) and then we're meeting up with yet more friends for a whiskey tasting followed by a possible cookout with family.   Saturday is lunch in town and then yet another cook out with my friend R.  We're both major foodies and both supplying food - marinated flank steak with a lemon, arugula, and feta salad, grilled corn on the cob, German potato salad, my homemade guac, grilled peaches with blue cheese, and a berry cobbler.  It's going to be delicious!  We're hoping to fit some sparklers and fireworks in there somewhere too!  I've been busy compiling a soundtrack for this food and friend filled weekend o'fun.  Check out my classic Independence Day Playlist:
  1. Born in the USA - Bruce Springsteen
  2. American Girl - Tom Petty
  3. The Star Spangled Banner - Whitney Houston
  4. Free to Be... You and Me - The New Seekers
  5. American Pie - Don McLean
  6. Surfin USA - Beach Boys
  7. Americano - Lady Gaga
  8. American Woman - Lenny Kravitz
  9. R.O.C.K. in the USA - John Mellencamp
  10. This Land Is Your Land - Woody Guthrie
  11. Living in America - James Brown
  12. Firework - Katy Perry
  13. Stars and Stripes Forever - The American Orchestra
  14. Back in the USA - Chuck Berry
  15. America the Beautiful - Ray Charles
  16. American - Lana Del Rey
  17. God Bless the USA - Lee Greenwood
  18. Spirit of America - Beach Boys
  19. American Baby - Dave Matthews Band
  20. America - Neil Diamond
  21. Our Country - John Mellencamp
  22. Philadelphia Freedom - Elton John
  23. You're a Grand Old Flag - US Air Force Concert Band
  24. Kids in America - The Muffs
  25. Travelin' Soldier - Dixie Chicks
Hope you have a fantastic long 4th of July weekend!  Be safe, have fun, and enjoy the time off of work!

(picture from here)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Lovely Weekend and a Busy Week!

So S and I took a road trip out to Mississippi this past weekend to visit my youngest, brother, D!  The drive was longer than I had expected, but we had fun listening to music, talking, snacking, and at lulls, S would read interesting tidbits to me from his car magazines (I'm SO jealous that he can read in the car - I get motion sick if I even look at a book....).  I finally got to see D's new house, which was very nice.  He's still in decorating mode, and so to help him out I brought artwork as a housewarming gift.  He still has a lot of blank wall space but that's part of the fun of getting a house!
We spent our free time there sleeping in a bit (til noon on Saturday.  we're such bums), doing some shopping for the house (I gave D some more art ideas), staring at a really cool dragonfly in D's front yard, eating pudding shots and watching fireworks, and, of course, playing Rummikub!  Overall it was fun, relaxing, and we really enjoyed ourselves!
On the drive home we caught a gorgeous sunset.  I think next time I may just fly out to visit him (the Southwest flights are actually pretty affordable) to save time, but the road trip was definitely worth it this trip.  Thanks, D, for having us over and showing us around your new neighborhood!

And it's a good thing we caught up on sleep this past weekend because this week is going to be busy!!!  Our friend K is in town and so tonight we're all going out for dinner with some other friends that want to hang out with her too.  Tomorrow night we're hosting a game night so even more friends can hang out with K as well (a lot of people are going out of town for the long weekend).  Wednesday night we're going to the Astros game to celebrate a birthday and then, of course, Thursday is the 4th!  So much going on!!!