Monday, July 28, 2014

I Am Exhausted, But Progress Has Been Made!

Our furniture hunting expedition on Friday yielded no fruit.  So we headed home and I whipped up these quite flavorful and very healthy Chipotle Chicken Sweet Potato Skins for dinner.  I followed the recipe for the most part, but sauteed some onion and fresh cut corn prior to wilting my spinach and added those to the filling as well.  Topped off with cilantro, red onion, and plain greek yogurt, these were a perfect health-meets-comfort meal to start the weekend.  We ate them while starting up season 2 of Downton Abbey, our new television obsession.
On Saturday we had a packed day!  We started off fairly early heading out to my place in town for the last of the painting/cleaning/loading.  My former apartment is now completely empty and I am officially moved out!  From there we made an IKEA run where I made S's eyes glaze over as we debated wardrobes for the guest room, oogled fun lighting (S really wants to install the cool exploding white globe in the picture above in our front hallway!), and navigated the crazy busy aisles filled with hoards of people.  IKEA is exhausting.  Once we finished up there, we went up to Gallery Furniture where we found the original couch that we liked and went ahead and bought it!  More pictures to come soon, but we're both thrilled with the grey u-shaped sectional we wound up with!
And then, after all of that, we had tickets to see the Astros play the Marlins!  We had awesome seats just 23 rows behind the Astros dugout and it was a lot easier to connect with the game sitting so close.  We had swung by the grocery store before the game as the stadium allow each person to bring in a gallon size bag of food and one unopened liter size water bottle.  So while we watched, we noshed on cheese, salami and crackers, carrots and hummus, fruit snacks, pickles, and twix bars!  Overall it was a long, but a fun and productive day!
Sunday started pretty early for us as we were getting all of our furniture purchases from the previous day delivered sometime between 9 and 3 and we still needed to make room for them!!  So we moved all of the furniture out of the way in the living room to make space for the new couch.  This involved carrying the old couch out to the garage and my arms are definitely feeling that today!  And then we cleared out the old book shelves in the guest room and carried those out to the garage as well.  While we were at it, we also brought down all of the garage sale items we'd stashed in the attic to the garage and stored a few pieces of furniture that we wanted to keep but don't have room for up in the attic.  It was a lot of lifting.  IKEA delivery came first followed shortly by the couch, which of course hadn't been ordered properly and so they had to come back later in the day with the right pieces for our sectional.  While we waited for the 2nd couch delivery, I got to work in the guest room putting together our massive IKEA PAX wardrobes.  You can see how they're looking right now in the picture above - they still need doors but I am so damn proud of myself for getting those up (with S's help of course)! 

We still have a lot of work to do preparing for the garage sale this coming weekend, but I can finally see really significant progress being made and it makes me so happy!  Just a little bit longer and we can finally start to relax again!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Why Did I Avoid Lambic For So Long???

Our cocktail of the week this past week was a fruity, dessert-y milkshake concoction made of Framboise (raspberry) Lambic, fresh black cherries, and vanilla ice cream.  For some reason I'd always avoided Lambic previously, despite the fact that most bar menus group it with my fruity drink preference of hard cider.  Lambic is still considered to be a "beer" and so I'd just dismissed it.  Oh my, was I wrong!  It's actually QUITE sweet and almost tastes like a fruity soda.  Mixed with the fresh fruit and the creamy ice cream, though, the nearly overwhelming sweetness was toned down into an absolutely delicious milkshake form.  Perfect for a slightly boozy dessert!  The recipe doesn't call for the whole bottle either, so we sipped the rest of it after we'd drained our cocktails.  I personally prefer the milkshake, though....

In other news from this week, on Tuesday we hit up Pistolero's in town for their $1 Taco Tuesday special and then headed over to my place where we proceeded to spackle over all of the many holes I'd left in the walls from my artwork and curtain rods, get rid of the last queen size mattress (free on craigslist - had 12 responses w/in 10 minutes!), and load up the car with the last of the garage sale pile and other random items left in the house.  On Wednesday we unloaded the car, and yesterday we had our bowling league.  We're definitely keeping busy! 

Tonight we're planning on doing some more couch shopping and I'm going to make these healthy Chipotle Chicken Sweet Potato Skins for dinner.  Tomorrow we're headed back to my place to sand the spackle and paint over it, clean the house, load up the remaining cleaning supplies and tools, and then turn in the keys!  Once we get that all done, we're going to make an IKEA run to get some additional storage for the guest bedroom and then we're headed to the Astros game!  I got some great tickets at work this week for seats directly behind the Astro's dugout, so we're pretty psyched to have such an amazingview!  Here's to a fun and productive weekend!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

And the Move is Complete!

A bunch of generous, strong, and very nice friends helped S and I out on Saturday to move all of my bigger pieces of furniture and I am now, officially, completely moved in!!!  The house is, naturally, a mess right now.  There are currently a total of 12 chairs all crammed together in the dining room and it looks like an antique store threw up in the living room.  We are having a huge garage sale in 2 weeks to get rid of all of the excess, but in the meantime it's crazy in there...
We spent all day Sunday putting our clothes into the dressers and realizing that even though we already brutally curated all of our stuff that there is still more that we can donate/sell.  We also started to organize the living room since that is our main functional room after the kitchen (which I've pretty much already organized sufficiently over the last few weeks).  I'll be sure to post some before/after photos after we get our new couch and get some artwork hung!
While it is thrilling that the guest room finally has a queen size bed, the room is DEFINITELY not ready for guests at this point in time as it currently housing all of my artwork, art supplies, gift wrapping supplies, and other various odds and ends.  Getting some new Ikea wardrobes to house/organize all of my creative supplies is near the top of my to-do list.  The movie room is also currently packed to the gills with stacks of stuff we plan to get rid of at the garage sale.  We're hoping that the entire situation will become less hectic in the next few weeks...
And despite everything being a madhouse, the kitties actually seem to have adapted quite well to their new home!  They LOVE the huge windows (me too kitties, me too), rubbing their furry little bodies all over our black rug (we vacuum a bit more frequently now), discovering all of the nooks, crannies, and hidey-holes of their new abode, and snuggling in our new king size bed.  Given how stressed my past moves have made them, this makes me extremely happy and relieved!
Oh, and to add to our busy weekend, S had a movie night on Friday too.  I whipped up a big batch of turkey chili and we offered a large selection of various popcorn flavors (sriracha, herbs, indian spice, and of course classic butter) for a handful of friends as we all watched The Lego Movie.  On Sunday morning, to shore up our strength for the full day of organizing, I used some of the chili leftovers to make my dad's famous chili cheese omelets for breakfast.  Yum! 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Classic Summer Drink

Summer in Houston is HOT!  We've been hovering in the upper 90's lately and the humidity has been around 60%!!!  And with the move in high gear, I've been doing my fair share of sweating and stressing.  The answer: a refreshing summer cocktail!  I got hooked on Shandys for the first time at Hay Merchant here in Houston, a bar known for it's craft beer assortment.  The addiction grew when we were in Germany and light beer/lemonade concoctions called Raddlers were my drink of choice in the Bavaria region.  My shandy recipe is inspired by the original Hay Merchant version I tried, which was notable for their homemade ginger lemon soda.

Ginger Lemon Shandy (makes 2)

1/4 cup ginger syrup - see recipe below
10 fl oz club soda (one mini bottle from a six pack)
Juice of 2 lemons
1 can beer of your choice (lighter beers work better.  We used Karbach's Weisse Versa Wheat)

Pour ginger syrup and club soda into a pint glass and stir with a whisk until combined.  Add the lemon juice and stir.  This is your homemade ginger lemon soda.  Now pour half of the ginger lemon soda into another pint glass, both glasses should be half-full.  Top off both glasses with the beer and voila, your ridiculously tasty and refreshing homemade Ginger Lemon Shandy is ready!

Ginger Syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 inch of peeled ginger, sliced thinly

Combine all three ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil.  Once it reaches a boil, reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes.  Take off of heat and let cool.  You can make ahead of time and store in a sealed container in the fridge.  Leftovers work great in this Watermelon Ginger Fizz drink, or in this Strawberry Watermelon Fruit Salad!

Also of note this week, I made Shrimp with Avocado Mango Salsa last night for dinner and it was 1) super easy and quick to make, 2) used minimal dishes, 3) is very healthy, and 4) was absolutely delicious!  S was actually pretty bummed that I didn't make more...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Music! Movie! Move!!!

My last week has been CRAZY BUSY!!!  Let's start with last Wednesday, my former roomie R and her mom came into town and we all went out for drinks and snacks and then to the Queen + Adam Lambert concert!  We had some pretty great seats and the show did an admirable job of featuring both Adam and the original members of the band.  One of my favorite parts (aside from getting to hang out with R!) was the NASA tribute during the show.  I may have teared up a bit when they showed the shuttle landing....

Adam wore some fantastic costumes over the course of the show.  My personal favorite was a studded and spiked set of arm warmers, but his princess-worthy crown in the final numbers was quite spectacular as well.  While the alcohol consumption and loud music didn't bode well for my head (I had a nasty headache the following day), the evening was SO much fun!
Thursday was fairly standard.  We had our bowling league, which is fun as always.  We're hugging the bottom of the standings this year as opposed to our unnaturally fast rise to the top last year.  It's defiinitely more of what we expected, though!  Friday my headache was acting up again, so I stayed home from work and relaxed, then took another load of stuff from my place to S's house, and then snuck in an acupuncture appointment to help with my spiraling stress headache situation.  It did help.  That evening I sold the chairs from my dining room set (craigslist was a godsend this weekend) and then we went to Market Square Park for their movie in the park series featuring The Princess Bride!
We met up with our friends N and H there, a couple we always enjoy hanging out with (some of the best conversationalists I've ever met - I swear) and proceeded to snack on pretzels and Trader Joe's popcorn during the film.  H and I kept quoting the classic lines and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!  The following day I sold my dining room table, got all of the nails and screws pulled out of my walls, and then S and I went to make our first major furniture purchase together - a king size mattress set!  (It arrives tonight and we're so psyched!)  From there we headed north to the Woodlands to meet up with friends for the Lionel Richie concert!
S and I had headed over to B's place earlier in the week to help make our customized Lionel t-shirts (which were a big hit) and so our entire crew was all outfitted with our own Lionel tees, personalized with classic quotes such as "All Night Long", "Easy, Like Sunday Morning", and "Mighty, Mighty Just Lettin It All Hang Out"!  We pre-partied in the hotel room that B and J had reserved and then walked next door to the Cynthia Woods Pavilion for the show.

It was open seating, so we set out our blankets, stocked up on food and drinks (including stealthily spiking our own drinks with these handy tampon flasks that H brought for the group!)  Lionel is certainly a great showman and his concert had people on their feet for most of the show!  Well, mostly on their feet....
After the show our group headed back to the hotel, but S and I didn't make it much later than midnight when yet another headache sent us back to my place.  I obviously need to schedule another acupuncture appointment...  On Sunday we got rid of the queen size mattress from my guest room (we listed it for free on craigslist and got over 10 responses within 7 minutes!!!) and then filled up the car with another load o'stuff.  This time our load included the kitties!!!  The kitties and I are officially moved in with S as of Sunday!  We wound up running back to the house again that afternoon so I could sell my couch - my house is almost empty - and pack up another load of stuff.  That night we were exhausted and so we just vegged out with the kitties, who so far seem to love living in S's house!

And that was our crazy busy week/weekend!!!  Yesterday we worked on getting sheets for the new bed and unpacking.  I also made stuffed zucchini for dinner and a tasty cocktail, which I'll share later. And tonight our new king size mattress arrives!  We're moving the big furniture this coming weekend and planning a garage sale at the beginning of August to help get rid of extra stuff.  Scarily enough, this is only 3 weeks away, so the end is in sight!!!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Mass Watermelon Consumption

Summer fruits are in season (don't even get me started on the peaches and cherries!) and that means that watermelon recipes abound!  Last Thursday we hosted a video game night at S's place and one friend showed up with a watermelon that we at slices of that night.  I cubed the remaining half of the watermelon and used it the following day to whip up this delicious Spicy Watermelon Margarita to bring to our friends' 4th of July party.  Per my usual, rather than tossing in jalepenos as the recipe recommends, I used my habanero infused tequila to impart a little kick of spice.  Remember if you choose to do this yourself, habanero is much spicier than jalepeno and so you only need to infuse it in the tequila for a half an hour!

We wound up leaving the 4th of July party we went to with yet more leftover watermelon!  In one gallon sized bag we had giant chunks of the juicy fruit and in a second bag we had about a dozen wedges.  So the next day I put the giant chunks to use and whipped up another cocktail, this Watermelon Ginger Fizz.  The great part about this beverage is that it is easy to make a non-alcoholic version for the kiddos - just omit the vodka and top off with club soda for a gingery watermelon soda concoction!  We brought this to S's brother's house on Saturday and his son really liked that he could have a special drink like everyone else!

And yesterday I used up about half of those watermelon wedges to make these Watermelon Fontina Melts with Dill.  I made them once last year as well and I have 2 tips based on this second batch.
  1. Let them sit a bit after they come out of the oven.  Once the cheese cools a bit you can taste its saltiness more and it really compliments the sweetness of the watermelon.
  2. Use fresh dill.  I used a freeze dried version this time and it had no flavor.
We still have a few wedges left in the fridge and if I get a chance to do something with them before they go bad (it's been a busy week...), I'm thinking I might try this Watermelon, Avocado, Mint, and Feta Salad, or maybe this Watermelon and Strawberry Salad with Ginger Syrup, since I do have some ginger syrup left from the Ginger Fizz cocktail.  And then I'm taking a break from watermelon for a little while...

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Have a Fun 4th of July Weekend!

While I'm somewhat terrified of fireworks (S is working hard to help me overcome this fear as he LOVES them), I am completely and totally enamored with sparklers!  So here's to a fun weekend of friends, family, barbecue, pools, fireworks and SPARKLERS!!!  I know after the insane week I've had of being crazy busy at work and moving stuff to S's house every day after work that the long 3-day weekend of sleeping in and get-togethers with friends will be much appreciated!  Happy 4th of July everyone!

(picture from here)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Weekly Cocktail and Cool Space Links!

This has been a crazy busy week, so this is just a quick update.  I made our cocktail of the week last night.  It was an easy but tasty one that I threw together all on my own:

St. Germain Gin and Tonic (2 drinks)
3 parts gin
1 part St. Germain
A few dashes/squirts of lemon juice
tonic water

Put ice in a shaker and add the first three ingredients.  Shake and then divide between two lowball glasses with a handful of ice cubes in them.  Top off with tonic water.

In other news, the move is going well.  I've cleared out nearly every closet and cabinet in my apartment.  There are still about 3-4 big loads of small stuff left and then the furniture, but since it's only July 2 and I have all month, I'm feeling really good about it!

And for your reading and watching pleasure, I've compiled some updates for you from the space world.  I haven't done one of these in a while and since I'm so passionate about the field, I feel like I'm letting myself down a bit in getting so lax about not including these every so often in my blog posts.  So to rectify that, here are some very cool space links:
  • If you are a girl looking for a mentor in math, look no further than Kathrine G. Johnson, NASA's first flight trajectory computer.  This short film about her is amazing!
  • Have you heard about NASA's flying saucer?  It's their new test experiment for landing future mars missions.
  • For any of my Ohio friends who are into beer, Great Lakes Breweing Co out of Cleveland just launched a "Spacewalker" Beer as a tribute to all of the astronauts of the Buckeye State!  Find it and let me know how it is!
  • Beautiful vine video of the Aurora Borealis taken from ISS!
(second image from here)