Friday, April 25, 2014

Have a Lovely Weekend!

It has been a LONG week.  I had to work last Sunday for the SpaceX Dragon berthing and I've been putting in completely full 8.5 hour days (working through lunch) since then.  I'm supporting on console this week, one of our systems had a hardware failure, and there was an EVA to swap out a failed computer, so the busy-ness wasn't really a surprise.  I did NOT want to get out of bed, this morning, though.  But now that the weekend is approaching, I'm completely exhausted and just so looking forward to relaxing, taking it easy, and definitely sleeping in. 

My 30-something-th birthday is coming up next week (I'm not going to lie about my age, but I plan on being vague from here on out...) and so this weekend I'm having a fun get together with friends planned.  We're going to hang out on the lawn outside of the Menil with some snacks, pre-mixed adult beverages (and soda and juice for the kiddos of course), and some frisbees, then check out the Magritte exhibit that I've been wanting to see, and finishing up with a big, boisterous meal at Kenny and Ziggy's, one of Houston's well known Jewish delis.  I'm still on call for work through the weekend, though, so I'm desperately hoping that I don't get called during the festivities...

Hope you have a lovely (and relaxing) weekend as well!

(picture from here)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Last Weekend's Cajun Vacation

Last weekend I drove the five and a half hours to New Orleans to meet up with my best friend K for a long girls' weekend.  We hadn't traveled together in a while due to the fairly recent arrival of her adorable son, so it was a wonderful weekend of adventures* and catching up!  After I picked her up from the airport and we checked in to our hotel on Friday night, we hit the town and got some essential beignets at the iconic Cafe Du Monde.  After devouring the delicious, sugar covered fried dough we realized we should probably eat some real food too so we stopped at a hole in the wall bar with a $12 ribs special and some good jazz.  I also got K hooked on Abita Strawberry beer.  Exhausted from our travels, we then called it a night.

*Be warned, we had a lot of fun on this trip and so there are a LOT of pictures...

The following morning we got brunch at Cafe Amelie and then spent the rest of the day exploring the French Quarter for the French Quarter Festival.  There were musicians everywhere!  We also checked out a Voodoo Temple, learned how to Charleston, and ate Bluebell ice cream!  Oh!  And K got hit on by a guy with a handlebar mustache and purple mohawk AND got asked to dance by a 13 year old kid in a parking lot...


After an exhausting morning and afternoon, we retired to the hotel for a quick power nap and then hit the town again for dinner and drinks!  We ate at the Napolean House (gumbo, jambalaya, and Pimm's Cups - yum!) After dinner we hit up Rouses Grocery for a pint of Peach Cobbler flavored Bluebell ice cream and a bottle of beer, which we then proceeded to consume while sitting on a street cub and listening to a jazz band play on the corner!  This was followed up by some classier drinks, a Fleur de Lis at the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone and a Ramos Gin Fizz and port at the art deco Sazarac Bar in the incredible Roosevelt Hotel.

Sunday we continued to explore.  We rented bicycles and rode them up Esplanade Street which is filled with beautiful, historic homes.  At the end of the street is City Park, home to the New Orleans Museum of Art and the associated Sculpture Garden, which we proceeded to walk around.  After the sculptures we rode our bikes back toward the hotel and then got my car and drove to Cochon Butcher for an insanely delicious lunch of pastrami on marble rye, sweet and spicy brisket sliders, and marinated brussels sprouts.  If you go to New Orleans I HIGHLY recommend Cochon Butcher!  We then explored the west side of the city including the antique shops on Magazine Street, the Garden District, Tulane, and we capped it off with Creole Creamery ice cream (yeah, we ate a lot of ice cream.  it was awesome!) eaten while sitting at the roots of the Tree of Life and watching the giraffes in the nearby zoo.



After all of this exploring we were, once again, exhausted and so we headed back to the hotel for another power nap.  That night for dinner we first hit up Mimi's in the Marigny for some tapas appetizers, wine, and jazz.  We followed up with delicious drinks and decent food at Maurepas, both over on the east side of the city.  We definitely got to see a lot of the city!  The following morning we ate an extravagant Jazz Brunch at Court of Two Sisters.  Pancakes, omelets, salads, pies, crawfish and shrimp, jambalaya, they had it all!  

After lunch we ran some errands, got some souvenirs, picked up some shrimp po boys to go at Johnny Po Boy, and made it back to the hotel just in time for the rain to start.  We packed up and then hit the road. I dropped K off at the airport and then drove about six hours back to Houston in the rain.  Not the best end to the trip, but then again, when is the end of the trip ever the best part?  The entire weekend was amazing overall.  I LOVE traveling with K, we always have such an incredible time together and I am actively anticipating our next (currently unplanned) trip!

After two lovely weekends of travel, the plan this weekend is just to relax!  Hope you have a fun weekend and enjoy the warm weather that is now flooding the country!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Incredible Dinner Last Night!

The weather was AMAZING yesterday, so S and I took advantage of it and went for a long meandering walk around the Montrose/Museum district downtown near my place.  Afterwards I whipped up a super summery dinner of beer battered fish tacos with pineapple salsa and a jalepeno cilantro crema and our weekly cocktail, a blood orange margarita.  They were SO yummy! I based my recipes off of this fish taco recipe and this margarita recipe, but added my own twists.  For the margarita, I followed the recipe almost exactly except I used a homemade habanero infused tequila.  To make yourself, cut a habanero pepper in half and add to a bottle of silver tequila for a half hour.  Remove pepper or pour tequila into another container and store.  Here is my version of the taco recipe:

Beer Battered Fish Tacos with Pineapple Salsa


1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon chili pepper
10 ounces your favorite beer (I used the seasonal Blue Moon Valencia)
1 cup canola, vegetable or olive oil
4 fresh or thawed tilapia filets, cut into thin strips
1/2 head cabbage, shredded
1/2 large lime, juiced
1 avocado, mashed
4-inch flour tortillas

pineapple salsa
1/2 pinapple, chopped small
1/4 red onion, diced small
1/2 jalapeño, seeded and diced
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 small lime, juiced
1/4 teaspoon salt

jalapeño crema
1 cup sour cream
1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 large lime, juiced and zest freshly grated
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper


pineapple salsa:
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Let sit either at room temperature for 30 minutes (or if making far ahead of time, put in tupperware in the fridge) before serving so the flavors can marry.

jalapeño cilantro crema:
Add the ingredients to a food processor or blender and puree until combined. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.  If making ahead of time, cover and place in the fridge, but let come to room temperature before serving.

In some tupperware, add the cabbage with the lime juice and a pinch of salt and pepper. Close tupperware and shake up, then put in fridge to "marinate".

In a bowl, combine the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked pap, salt and chili powder and whisk to combine. Pour in the beer and whisk until a smooth batter forms.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add 1/4 cup of the oil. Dip the fish in the batter and coat it completely, let excess drip off, then drop it in the skillet to fry. Let each piece of fish fry until the sides appear golden and crispy, about 2 minutes or so per side. Gently remove the pieces with a spatula and place them on a paper towel to absorb any liquid. Repeat with all the fish, adding more oil as needed.

To assemble the tacos, smear some avocado on your tortilla and then add a few pieces of the fish on top, followed by the cabbage, the salsa and then a drizzle of the crema. Serve!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Germany Trip Part 8 - Prague, the Last Day

On our final day in Prague we hit up 2 more of my favorite spots from my last trip to the city - the Jewish Quarter and the Klementinum.  The Jewish Quarter, or Jewish Ghetto, dates back to the 13th century when all of the Jews were forced to live in a small sectioned off area of the city.  It's had many incarnations over the years, but it was once the largest Jewish Ghetto in Europe and the lingering bits of history are found in the 6 remaining synagogues and the ancient Jewish cemetery.  The Old-New Synagogue of Prague is the oldest preserved synagogue in Central Europe.  One of the synagogues has been updated into a holocaust memorial, another a Jewish museum. 

The cemetery of the Jewish Quarter is unreal.  The plot of land for the cemetery isn't very large, but there are over 12,000 tombstones and an estimated 100,000 Jews buried here.  Since the Jews were unable to bury their people outside of the Quarter, they instead built upon the cemetery, which is approximately 12 layers deep.  A number of famous Jews are buried here as well, including Rabbi Loew, whom is famous for the creation of the legend of the Golem, a creature made of clay to protect the Jews of the Prague Ghetto from antisemitic attacks.

After the Jewish Quarter, we got lunch (S was craving a taste of home, so we got some hamburgers) and then walked over to the Klementinum, which is part of the largest and most historic complex of buildings in the Old Town.  It is known for it's Chapel of Mirrors, Baroque Library, and Astronomical Tower.  The chapel was stunning and home to two 18th Century organs, one of which was known for being played by Mozart when he was in town.  The library is absolutely gorgeous, filled with over 20,000 books dating back to the 16th Century and lined down the center with antique globes.

The pièce de résistance, though was the Astronomical Tower.  In addition to the old scientific instruments that grace it's displays on levels along the 172 step spiral staircase to the top, the tower provides perhaps the best view in the city.

After all two weeks of walking, K was pretty exhausted at this point and so she headed back to the hotel while S and I decided to walk along the river into the less touristy area of town and then meander back through random side streets to explore the little known nooks of the city.  Along the way I was able to point out to him the Dancing House (also known as Fred and Ginger) and we happened upon a stunning guilded concert hall.

After a quick meal and some deliciouis Czech pastries for desert, S and I also called it a day and headed back to the hotel to pack up all of our stuff and get ready for our flight back home early the next day.  Our incredible trip to Germany, Austria, and Prague was complete!

Our trip home wasn't without hiccups, though.  We had a quick layover in Munich and then another in Toronto.  Unfortunately the Toronto stop wasn't quick - our flight got cancelled due to the pilot ordering the wrong amount of fuel for the plane and a fuel leak resulted and we were stuck in the airport for hours.  I'm honestly glad I didn't wind up having him for a pilot in the end.  The airline put us up in a hotel for the night and we had a super early flight out the next day, for which we had to go back through security, get charged overweight baggage fees, and then go through customs a second time (we'd already been through once the night before).  It wasn't the best way to end the trip, but we finally made it home and were never so thankful to sleep in our own bed!  Despite this rather unfortunate turn of events, it still wasn't enough to mar the how incredible the vacation had been!  Our memories of those two weeks is solely filled with the wonderful travels and moments we spent exploring.

I'm so glad I could share the memories of our journey here on the blog.  It was so fun to relive the adventures as I typed out each post and hunted through all of the pictures.  It was a fantastic vacation and I'm so excited that I had such enjoyable travel companions to share it with - and I'm especially thrilled to learn that S and I are very much travel-compatible!  Can't wait for our next adventure!