Friday, May 30, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend Recap

My apologies for not posting for a while, but S and I spent Memorial Day weekend in New York City and we were quite busy both leading up to and recovering from our Thursday afternoon thru Tuesday morning mini-vacation!  We got to see a lot of family, explore all over the city, watch a broadway show, and eat some incredible food.  Here's the day by day rundown!

We'd planned on going out upon our arrival on Thursday night, but rainy weather up in NY closed down all but one runway at La Guardia and our flight was subsequently delayed 4 hours.  Boo!  We got to my cousin's apartment on the Upper East Side around 11 pm and promptly crashed.  

Friday morning we got to make friends with my cousin D's new 5 month old Golden Doodle puppy Emmett!  He was such a cutie, but such a handful too (he was a big fan of humping my leg....)!  The morning was actually pretty nice out, so after going out for lunch, S and I took Emmett for a long walk through Central Park.  After we'd worn Emmett out we dropped him off back at the apartment and then decided to hit up a museum.  The rain started just as we arrived at the Guggenheim for their Italian Futurism exhibit, which we quite enjoyed!  That night after the museum and before dinner we went out for drinks with D and his awesome wife S and then met up with my other cousin J and his girlfriend for dinner at Commerce.  The food was insanely delicious and the company was fantastic!  For desert we got a yummy ice cream and salted caramel confection from Big Gay Ice Cream.  A wonderful first day!

Saturday started out with brunch at The Smith with my cousin J and his girlfriend S.  Once again, good food, great company!  We wandered around a street fair on Lexington and then S and I went off on our own, catching the subway to Brooklyn!  It was my first time in Brooklyn and I kind of loved it there!  We went for a brewery tour offered by Urban Oyster.  They started us out learning about how Greenpoint Brewery makes their beer at Dirk the Norseman Brewpub and then proceeded to take a walking tour past the historic breweries of Brooklyn (there used to be 48 before prohibition) and learning about the history of the area.  Very cool!  We ended up at Brooklyn Brewery where we got to try a few more local brews.  A very fun afternoon!
Amazingly enough, I don't have any other pictures from the remainder of the day.  Which sucks (although I suppose it could also be a good thing since it means I fully experienced all of it in person and not through a camera lens...) because the evening was absolutely phenomenal !  We met up with my brother J and his wife J (henceforth referred to as J&J) and ate a quick snack at The Perfect Pint, and then went to see HEDWIG AND THE ANGY INCH!!!!  Neil Patrick Harris was AMAZING and according to S I had the biggest ear to ear grin on my face during the entire show!  Even S and my brother, who are not big broadway fans, really enjoyed the show and both chalked it up to NPH's incredible performance.  After Hedwig, the four of us went out to Momofuku Ma Peche for a late dinner.  I'd been wanting to try one of the Momofuku restaurants and was not disappointed.  They did a tapas meets dim sum style presentation with small plates that come around on carts.  The food and drinks were all very good with the highlight of the meal probably being the legendary Crack Pie from the Momofuku Milk Bar for dessert.  (I've already found a recipe online so I can try making it (with quail eggs) at home).  We had such a wonderful evening with J&J!

On Sunday we went to brunch with my cousin D and his wife and then S and I proceeded to explore a huge chunk of Manhattan on foot - it was a LOT of walking but also a lot of fun!  We started off at Washington Square Park, which was bustling with street performers and artists.  Scott was enthralled with the Tic & Tac hip hop dance group and their amazing strength and muscle control while I was thrilled that I actually got to see sand artist Joe Mangrum creating a sand art installation right before my eyes (you can see the nearly finished piece here- it's so intricate and colorful)!  Then I went to Venus by Maria Tash to get some more holes punched into my ears!  I went there because they offer 14k gold jewerly (I have a history of reacting to earrings with a stainless steel base) in beautiful delicate designs.

They used needles, not a piercing gun, which was interesting.  S loves my face in that first picture (which was taken during the second piercing) - it kind of hurt, but I LOVE my new piercings!  After getting my ears punched full of holes, we walked all the way west to the river and then continued north along the water.  The weather was beautiful and there was some excellent people watching!  We veered back slightly east then to check out the highly touted High Line Park.  The park was indeed beautiful, but due to the lovely weather it was also completely packed to the gills with people.  I'd love to try going back another time when it isn't quite so busy.

About a third of the way through the park we stepped down to street level and hit up Chelsea Market to pick up some goodies for lunch.  We had no idea how huge Chelsea Market was and didn't really have time to fully explore it before our bellies started demanding food, so we grabbed some bread, cheese, salami, salad, and fruit and took our stash back up to the park to have a little picnic on a bench!  We walked the rest of the park and then walked all the way back over to Central Station to catch the subway back up to the apartment.  While it was definitely a lot of walking, we really think we started to get a feel for the city.  That night S and I were completely exhausted, so we just stayed in for dinner and ordered out like real New Yorkers.  We were amazed that a huge Peruvian chicken dinner was delivered to our door within 15 minutes of calling in our order - ah the perks of NY living!

On Monday we went to my cousin D's favorite bagel shop, Ess-A-Bagels for breakfast and then walked over to Rockefeller Plaza to eat.  While sitting on a bench noshing on our bagels we got to talking with an older couple sitting next to us who were in town to see a bunch of broadway shows (they'd seen about 10 already over the course of the weekend!!!) who just happened to be from Houston!  We then took the elevator to the Top of the Rock to get some amazing views of the city (everyone we asked said the Rock is better than the Empire State Building).  That afternoon my cousin D grilled out, his wife S made pitchers of yummy alcoholic beverages, and I whipped up S's favorite kale salad and we all had a Memorial Day barbecue!

That evening S and I went out to Central Park one more time to walk around the reservoir during sunset.  We got some beautiful views of the city silhouetted against a colorful sky - a lovely way to end our trip!  That night we packed up and (very) early on Tuesday we caught a cab to the airport for our flight home.  We had such a wonderful time in New York and we're already talking about another trip out there in the future!  Another amazing weekend in the books!

After such a busy couple of weeks, we are just going to take it easy this weekend.  Get stuff unpacked, do chores around the house, spend time with the kitties, and relax. Did you do anything fun over Memorial Day weekend?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Beer, Pizza, and Sleep

So the weekend didn't quite go as planned, but we still had a great time as usual!  Despite the fact that I didn't sleep very well on Thursday night, and the fact that normally I'm crawling into bed exhausted around 10:30 on a typical Friday night, S and I for some reason were up abnormally late on Friday night watching tv (one episode left of True Detective!) and reading.  So we decided to just sleep in and enjoy our Saturday morning instead of trying to get up early and do everything.  I made a very healthy veggie and feta egg white scramble for breakfast, we lounged in bed, and then leisurely got ready for the day, heading out around 1:30 to hit up the Texas Beer Refinery grand opening in League City!  A bunch of friends showed up, we brought games (although our new favorite is this phone app, which had us all in stitches!), there was a tasty food truck present, and beer was very flavorful - a great afternoon!  We are pretty psyched to now have a brewery so close to S's place!
On Friday night I used my new stand mixer for the first time to whip up some homemade pizza dough!  I, of course, used the Alton Brown recipe - after kneading, the dough is supposed to rest in the fridge for 18-14 hours.  So on Saturday after we got home from the brewery, I sectioned off the dough and stretched it out, cut up a bunch of tasty toppings, and S and I made homemade pizzas for dinner!  The leftovers of the pizza I made are in the top half of the picture above and S's are in the bottom.  We both used zucchini, mushrooms, broccoli, and sausage.  S also added banana peppers and artichoke hearts to his.  The main difference, though, I used a combination of pesto and whipped ricotta for my sauce where S used tomato sauce and only a tiny bit of the ricotta mixture on his.  I know that I avoid the tomato for digestive reasons, but it really does make a pizza taste better.  Next time I just may suck it up and go for the tomato sauce anyway.  Both pizzas were good, though!

After dinner we swung by the pool party in S's neighborhood to say hi and then we headed into town to crash at my place and give the kitties some attention.  After sleeping in on Sunday morning we FINALLY got around to going out for brunch, this time at Triniti.  The food wasn't ground breaking, but it was definitely tasty.  Afterwards we ran a couple of errands and then headed to S's house where we took a nap and then did some chores and I made some Szechuan Green Beans to take as our pot luck offering to the weekly Game of Thrones viewing party (good episode this week!).  We crashed pretty shortly after getting home.  Not sure why we were first so wide awake and then so tired this weekend...

Friday, May 16, 2014

Have a Beautiful Weekend!

I know that my friends and family up in Chicago who just had to endure snow and sleet this morning (in the middle of May!?!?) are going to hate me for this next comment, but it's been BEAUTIFUL weather here in Houston and it's only going to stick around through the weekend.  Starting next week, the hot and humid summer weather that Houston is known for will start to rear its frizzy head, so S and I plan to spend as much time as possible outside this weekend to take advantage of it! 

We're going to head over to Ellington Field for the Aeros and Autos show (S wants to race his car down the runway too!), and then hit up Houston's newest brewery for their grand opening party, and end the night at a friend's birthday party!  There were 3 other things we were originally trying to fit into our schedule as well (it's craft beer week and there's a big brewfest on Saturday as well, plus the first neighborhood pool party in S's area), but we pared it down and are going to just try to take it easy and enjoy ourselves.  Sunday we're finally going to go out for brunch in town - we've only been trying to fit it into our schedule for 3 weeks now!  And then the rest of the day is free to get stuff done around the house.  I've made some major progress on the guest bathroom mini-reno at S's place and I can't wait to show some pictures once I get the walls painted and fixtures installed!
In other news, last night S took me to see TURTLE RACING!  They put 10 turtles in a bucket and the first one to reach the perimeter of the red circle "wins" the race.  I bet on #3 and won myself a free glass of hard cider!! 
We had a busy week this week ($1 tacos and trivia on Tuesday, a craft beer event on Wednesday, and the turtle racing on Thursday) and it's wearing on me - I'm exhausted and my body is a little unhappy with me.  So despite all of our plans, my main focus this weekend is really to listen to my body, unwind, and refresh. 

I hope you have a lovely weekend!  Do you have any fun plans?

(top image from here)

Monday, May 12, 2014

Southern Cooking

This past weekend I used up the last of the crawfish from S's brother's birthday celebration a few weeks ago to try my  hand at a classic southern dish - crawfish etouffee!  We invited a friend over to taste test with us and rounded out the meal with a delicious garlicky kale salad that I've mentioned before (it is S's new favorite - he requests it regularly!) and a tasty alcoholic drink concoction.  Last week's cocktail of the week was a Pineapple Mint Punch!
Since pineapple is S's favorite fruit, it really was a red-letter dinner for him!  The punch was delicious flavor-wise, but I have 2 recommendations if you try to make it yourself.  1. Use a stick blender, or even a regular blender, to muddle/crush the pineapple.  A cocktail muddler does not work.  2. Strain the punch through a fine mesh strainer before serving.  The pulp was a bit heavy.  Or better yet, combine my two recommendations into one and if you have a juicer, just use that to get the juice out of the pineapple...
But back to the etouffee!  It was SO darn tasty!  I based my version off of this recipe on Saveur, but I made a few modifications to both account for my food sensitivities (tomato and peppers) and to make it a tad healthier (and if you don't have crawfish tails handy, this would work just as well with shrimp!).  Here's my version that I HIGHLY recommend!

Crawfish Etouffee

4 slices turkey bacon, finely chopped
8 tbsp. unsalted butter (that's one whole stick!)
6 scallions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 yellow onion, finely chopped (I used 3/4 as my onion was quite large)
1 large zucchini, finely chopped
1 ½ tsp. finely chopped thyme
1 tsp. paprika
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. garlic powder
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup flour
2 ½ cups fish or chicken stock (I used chicken)
2 lb. parcooked peeled crawfish tails (or peeled, deveined, tail off shrimp)
⅓ cup half and half
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
⅓ cup finely chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
Cooked brown rice

Heat turkey bacon in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat until browned and crispy, 3 minutes. Add butter, scallions, garlic, celery, onions, and zucchini; cook until soft, 7 or so minutes. Stir in thyme, paprika, cayenne, onion powder, garlic powder, bay, salt, and pepper; cook 1 minute. Stir in flour; cook 2 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium and cook until reduced by one-third, 12 minutes. Add crawfish; cook until hot. Stir in half and half, Worcestershire, and parsley; serve over brown rice.  Yum!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Happy Mother's Day Weekend!

This picture totally reminds me of my mom (and makes me miss her lots!)  Unfortunately another trip up to Chicago isn't in the cards this weekend.  Instead, we'll be having a Mother's Day barbecue here in Houston and celebrating with S's family - his brother is making some Texas-style brisket!  No big plans otherwise.  I'll definitely be calling my mom and grandma, though, and letting them know I'm thinking of them!

I hope everyone has a lovely weekend - especially all of you mothers out there!

(picture from here)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Spring Cleaning and my No-Buy Month

I had originally thought that I would be moving in with S this month, but due to some faulty (or rather a lack of) calculations on my part it turns out that I wound up signing into a 20 month lease instead of the 18 month one I had thought I had agreed to.  Not a huge deal.  We pretty much spend most of our time together anyway, but I was looking forward to not having to clean 2 places when guests come into town or having to worry about leaving the kitties alone so much.  We've decided to make the most of our extra two unanticipated months of having a place in town in the meantime and we're working on crossing as many restaurants/bars/events that are in, north, or west of the city off of our lists as possible while we have the easy access.  I'm also taking this extra time to do some MAJOR spring cleaning.
It's really more of a purge.  I have so many random bins sitting around my apartment that I had just thrown together haphazardly during my last move and then haven't opened at all since.  That's a year and a half of not even knowing I had something or where it was.  Obviously these are not things I need.  For example, those back three bags in the picutre above?  Filled with old magazines.  They've already been read.  I used to save pages of outfits or recipes that I liked but now with the advent of Pinterest, I haven't looked at them once.  I had old VHS and cassette tapes.  I don't even have devices to play those anymore.  Etcetera.  It's all getting trashed.
I also have some random things lying around that are still in good condition but I just don't use them anymore.  And for those (hello 2 bags of paperback novels, school binders, and college apartment decorations), I am starting a sell/donate pile.  S and I plan to have a HUGE garage sale after I move in to get rid of extra furniture and doubles of kitchen/bathroom/bedroom supplies.  We don't even use 1 blender most of the time so 2 of them is definitely unnecessary.  And did you know that between the two of us we have a total of 5 crockpots.  Yeah.  So tack these 3 boxes of random things to the "sell" list.  We hope to use the money to buy new furniture that is "ours" instead of mine or his.  Like a king size bed so we don't have to keep waking up to mouthfuls of cat fur from the overly-snuggly kitties.

In the meantime, I'm also trying out a No-Buy Month.  I read this article earlier this week about spending money on experiences rather than things and it really struck a chord.   While some things do make me giddy, they don't necessarily make me happy.  But a great day out with friends or a really amazing dinner out with S, those are more meaningful.  So for at least the month of May, and maybe longer if it goes well, I am cutting myself off from buying things and am only allowed to spend money on experiences.  There are two additional upsides to this: 1) I am not accumulating anything else while I am in the process of purging.  It kind of defeats the purpose if you restock at the same rate at which you reduce.  And 2) I'm hoping to pad my savings account a bit more.  My tenants moved out of my Florida townhouse and so I'm stuck paying the mortgage in addition to my rent here in Houston for a few months.  I'm not hurting for money, it just sucks to see your balance drop that much in such a short period of time.  It's not easy, I've already been VERY tempted to buy this, one of these, and these.  But I'm being strong!!!! I'll keep everyone updated on how it goes!

(top picture from here)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Delightful Birthday!

Despite a long and busy day at work, my birthday wound up being quite wonderful, in part due to all of the calls, texts, and messages I received from friends and family wishing me a happy day (I need to start doing this randomly for people on non-birthdays.  It's such a lovely pick-me-up!) and also in part due to S, who made it his personal mission to make sure I had the best day possible!  It started off with me waking up to him apologizing for not wrapping my gift.  I know I have a thing for wrapping gifts that I give, but I hardly get upset when people don't wrap mine (right mom? Mrs. "hold out your hands and close your eyes"....).  And I was definitely not bummed at all once I saw what he had gotten me!
My very own mint green Kitchenaid stand mixer!!!!  I can't wait to whip up some delicious foods with it!  I'm thinking I'll start with some pizza dough for homemade pizza!   It's so pretty!  We then had to head off to work.  During the course of the day I had multiple (some frustrating) meetings, met up with S to try to track down some of the elusive Saint Arnold's Divine Reserve 14 (we got 3 bottles!) and snag a mid-day kiss, got an award at work for helping on the team that supported the big ISS repair just before the holidays this past December, and then finally headed home to meet up with S!  At home, he surprised me with yet another (unwrapped) gift that I also love, a poster map of Chicago!
He spoils me!  We then headed into town for some art.  It turned out the Houston Art Museum was closed for reasons unknown to us (some sort of private event.  but no signs were posted that they'd be closed outside of the museum or on their website...) so we wandered the nearby sculpture garden and Contemporary Arts Museum instead.  We were a little bummed, though, since yesterday was our last day of membership at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.  Oh well.  After, we went out for a DELICIOUS dinner at Corner Table.  They have a varied menu of "New American" dishes, but they're especially known for their Paleo diet based menu.  We started off with their famous crab tower and it was amazing.
For our main meal, we both decided to try dishes from the Paleo menu.  I went with the Paleo Paella, which uses shredded cauliflower in place of the rice and while the texture was definitely different from a standard paella, the flavors were wonderful.  S got the Paleo Enchiladas, which were made with coconut flour tortillas (grains are a no-no in a paleo diet) and were absolutely phenomenal!  We're already planning on going back sometime to try other items from the menu that we were eyeing like their Paleo Fried Chicken and their impressive burger menu.  Not to mention their deserts, which we were too full to partake in this trip but we fully intend to take advantage of next time, especially since they had about 5 different vegan, aka egg-free, desert options that I could pick from!

After our yummy dinner we swung by HEB to pick up desert for later that night and then headed back to my place for some kitty snuggles and True Detective (our new tv/HBO obsession).  We ended our evening with some wine and beer and S singing me "Happy Birthday" over two candle-lit cannolis.  Overall a lovely day!