Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Sorry for the blog silence.  It's been a very busy couple of weeks with friends in town, the Oktoberfest party, console support and the start of the upcoming fiscal year at work, and a trip this past weekend to Austin.  I'll try to post updates sometime soon, but in the meantime I'm going to keep chugging along here at work and dream about napping...

(picture from here)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Have a Blast this Weekend!

It's time for our 2nd Annual Oktoberfest Party this weekend!  I've already been rushing around like a mad woman, buying groceries, ensuring my special Oktoberfest blouse that I purchased during our Germany trip last year fits properly, writing up to-do lists, making Federweisser, and also whipping up the first of many recipes, this Liptauer cheese spread. Tonight and tomorrow is when the real cooking frenzy occurs, though.  Tonight I'm starting the yeast dough for the Zwiebelkuchen, baking up the Kugelhoff, mixing up the strudel filling, and making the German potato salad.  Tomorrow I kick it into high gear and fill and bake the strudel, bake the Zwiebelkuchen, whip up (as if it's so easy...) this slightly modernized Black Forest Cake, or Schwartzwald Torte if you will - the Pièce de résistance of my deserts this year, decorate the house (we printed up a bunch of pictures from our Germany trip to tape all over the walls!), boil up the brats in some beer, bake the soft pretzels, and cut up some veggies and dip.  Whew!  I'll be ready for some Federweisser by the time I'm done with all of that!  We're excited to throw this party again, but I definitely set up some pretty high hurdles for myself preparation-wise.  I'll try to remember to take pictures this time!

Do you have any fun plans this weekend??  Autumn officially starts on Monday, so try to get in a good last weekend of summer if you can!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Boeing and SpaceX Both Win NASA Commercial Crew Contracts!

Boeing and SpaceX were both announced as winners of NASA Commercial Crew contracts today!!  The total potential contract value is $4.2 billion for Boeing and $2.6 billion for SpaceX.  The spacecraft will launch from KSC and NASA is shooting to have the spacecrafts certified for human flight by 2017!  That is incredibly soon and I'm so excited to see US astronauts launching from US soil, and specifically KSC once again!

(image and more information on Boeing's CST-100 capsule here)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Pedicures, Pub Crawls, and Autocross

Our weekend was mostly busy and very fun!  K got in on Friday and we started off the weekend by hitting up our favorite Sushi place for dinner and then relaxing on the couch with Draft Day (predictable, but pretty good). On Saturday while S helped a friend move, K and I went and got pedicures with B.  Afterwards, I grabbed some Starbucks with B (it was a frigid 75 degrees out and we needed something warm!!) and then headed into town with K and S's brother to meet up with S and friends for the September St. Arnold's Pub Crawl.  The bars were all over near where I used to live in town, but I'd only been to one of them before, so it was fun to discover all of the little hidden hole in the wall places I didn't know about.  After we got home we were pretty tired, so we just noshed on some veggies and dip and crackers and cheese while we watched another movie, The Other Woman (it was entertaining).
On Sunday, S had the autocross pretty much all day.  So K and I went out for a leisurely brunch together and then sat and talked for a few hours, a very nice start to the day!  In the afternoon I headed over to the autocross to see what it was all about.  S drove me through the course 5 times, and while I was definitely gripping the door handle and seat pretty hard, I think I managed ok.  By the 5th time I was no longer gritting my teeth or cursing out loud anymore either!
I left before S did and K was out watching the Bronco's game with friends, so I just vegged out on the couch for a few hours reading the third book in the Discovery of Witches series.  After S got home and took a quick nap, he helped me made my first batch of Federweisser!  I followed a recipe I found online with supplies purchased from Midwest Supplies Homebrewing & Winemaking. The starter juice was tasty, but very sweet.  I'm excited to see how it turns out!  I whipped up some mushroom risotto with shrimp and asparagus for dinner - yum.  And then just before bed I managed to finish my book! 

Final opinion of the All Souls Trilogy: I really liked how they used science to explain and justify the fantasy aspects of the books and I liked how the plot wasn't entire smooth.  The characters make mistakes and realize they need to try something different and switch plans.  And as a lover of historical fiction, I found the 2nd book of the series quite interesting.  The two main characters became a bit predictable and annoying by the end, but all of the quirky supporting characters were nuanced and relate-able.  Oh, and the intimacy scenes in the book were cringe-worthy.  If you read the series, then just skim past them.  I couldn't put the books down while I was reading them, though, so I obviously quite enjoyed them overall.   If you're looking for something with a bit of fantasy, a bit of science, and a bunch of history then these are a great read!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Have a Fun Weekend!

It's somewhat funny that the height of excitement at KSC now is a space capsule being sent for fuel, but since the end of the Shuttle program, there hasn't been much excitement at all.  The big news this past week at KSC revolved around the completed Orion capsule being rolled out from the Operations and Checkout Building where it was being assembled (including heat shield tile installation!) and over to the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility to get fueled up.  The Orion capsule is currently scheduled for it's first test launch on December 4 on a Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral, which IS very exciting - things are finally starting to happen!!!

So with that excitement out of the way, it's now time for a fun filled weekend to start!  Our friend K gets into town tonight and we have a LOT of potential plans this weekend.  Tomorrow S is helping a friend move while K and I indulge in some mani/pedi's, followed by a pub crawl in town.  On Sunday S is going to the autocross and has convinced me that I should come for a bit too for a ride in his car on the course.  I'm sure I'll be grasping my seat/door with white knuckles the entire time, but it might be fun??  And then I start making my first Oktoberfest Party recipe for the following weekend - homemade Federweisser!!!  Federweisser is a German "young wine" that is only fermented for 5-7 days.  It almost tastes like a cider (made out of grape juice instead of apple juice of course) and has a sweet flavor and a cloudy color.  We drank a ton of it last year in the Rhine region of Germany during our vacation out there and we're pretty psyched to see if we can successfully make it at home this year!  Also, the third and final part of the new Atlas Shrugged movie trilogy is out this weekend and the Altuzurra collection for Target becomes available on Sunday (the sweater with the bird detail is going to be my reward for white-knuckling it through the autocross!).  Plus we need to start getting everything ready for the Oktoberfest party (buy food/supplies, clean, set up, cook, etc).  So much to do!!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Dressing Up the Door

I have been lusting after this doorbell for months and finally Rejuvenation had a sale for free shipping (normal shipping cost is $15, which is absolutely ridiculous for a tiny little doorbell) and so I jumped on it!  It arrived in the mail yesterday and of course I immediately had to install it.  I'm a fairly handy person, but this little doorbell was a pain in the rear end to hook up.  It has tiny little screws in the back to secure the wires and they fall out quite easily once loosened.  Thank goodness I somehow managed to find it after one fell out.  I also may have given myself a very mild shock as I vaguely recalled reading somewhere at some time that I didn't need to turn off the circuit when installing a dinky little doorbell (no clue where I read it and no, I didn't bother to confirm before pulling out wires) - whoops.  But it was worth every harried moment to step back and see this mid-century modern inspired glorious-ness next to the front door!  LOVE!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Living Room Reveal!

We were SUPER productive this past weekend!  The landscaping in the front yard has been reined in (and I have a ton of mosquito bites to show for it), the living room is pretty much all set up, we actually have a functional dining room, the guest room is ready for guests, our entry way is welcoming (pictured above), art has been rearranged, closets have been organized, and most other surfaces have been cleared of residual "stuff"!  Not only did we accomplish all of that, but we also managed to find time to take a trip into town on Saturday evening to meet my aunt at the Menil (I really enjoyed the Charles James exhibit) and the Cy Twombly Gallery (it was weird) followed by a yummy Mediterranean dinner (the food portions were insane, we have so many leftovers!!), and to run some errands on Sunday including swinging by the recycling center, buying some art frames, and meandering through Barnes & Noble while we waited out the rain storms.  I have absolutely no idea how we managed to fit so much stuff into one weekend and not feel completely exhausted by the end, but we were so darn proud of how the house was looking that I think we may have just been running on an adrenaline high.  So now, without further ado, our living room!
Here is our new charcoal grey u-shaped sectional.  Although I struggled to get the full U into the picture - it's pretty big!  My old and definitely degrading leather ottoman is our acting coffee table for the time being.  We really like having an ottoman there, so I think we're planning to either just get a new one or get this one reupholstered. 
While I definitely have more of the design aesthetic out of the two of us, I really wanted to make sure that S's interests were equally represented in our decor.  Hence the sword mixed in with some of  my favorites from my art collection.  The slope of the art arrangement mimics the slope of our vaulted ceiling.
The windows in this house rock my world (and the kitties' world too, that little section where the curtain is pulled back is where Zoe likes to sneak onto the window sill for her afternoon naps).  Scott's tv console fit perfectly under the right window and now holds all of our tech stuff.  My gold shelf from the dining room of my city apartment also makes an appearance here as well as a gorgeous mid century modern chair that I scored on craigslist last year.  I think this is my favorite little corner of the house!
Once again, I wanted to make sure that S's interests were represented in the styling of my gold shelf.  Luckily we're both space nuts, so the shuttle and constellation globes were perfect.  I also added his beautiful samurai sword, porsche model car, and pewter fantasy sculpture to even out with my menorah, art books, and quirky gift memorabilia.  I still have some work in styling the bottom shelf, but I love how it's turning out!  We also have a stockpile of little footstools and ottomans over here that we can pull out if we somehow need extra seating.

Another fun addition to the room that's hard to see in these pictures is our huge new black and royal blue rug that helps to add some more interest to the area (it was a lot of beige before) and pull it all together.  I still have a few more final touches to make on the dining room, guest room, and movie room and then I'll be posting reveals on those soon too!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Have a Relaxing Weekend!

Things we absolutely will do this weekend: get a little snip-snip on my hair, sleep in, reign in the weed-infested landscape that is our front yard, clean around the house (we have company coming next weekend!), and meet up with my aunt for dinner tomorrow night.  Things we might do this weekend: read, cook, and rearrange artwork (new furniture arrangement = wonky art placement).  Things we definitely will NOT do this weekend: spend a lot of money.  My recent shopping spree (I got this sweater, this skirt, this AWESOME doorbell for the house, and a new pair of sunglasses) not to mention my recent Central Market binges have left me a little broke this week and so I'm trying to reign the spending back in.

Since dinner on Saturday is going to be spent out, dinner tonight and Sunday will most definitely be cooked IN.  Tonight we're having a smorgasbord of cheese from Specs Fest with sausage and crackers, leftover pineapple salsa with chips, and some sort of veggie I plan to grab from the grocery store.  It's a clean out the fridge type evening.  On Sunday, though I'm thinking of making either this kale, turkey sausage, and barley stew (it apparently is autumn now anyway, right?) or this shrimp, orzo, feta, herb and veggie dish to embrace the last of the summer produce.  And I think I just made up my mind writing that.... summer produce it is!

Do you have any fun plans this weekend?

(picture from here)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Summer's End??

I find it funny that everyone all over the internet seems to equate Labor Day Weekend with the end of summer and start of fall (nevermind that my handy dandy planner tells me that the official start of autumn is September 22), especially when it's still a stifling 90-something degrees here in Houston.  Is it the mandate to remove white from your wardrobes?  The start of school?  What exactly is signifying that this is all of a sudden autumn, because from what I can tell it's certainly not the weather?

My long weekend was quite fun and productive.  On Friday night S and I joined J and B for dinner at Caracol, our 2nd stop of the month for Houston Restaurant Weeks.  We all very much enjoyed our dinner there - the decor was cool and modern (with artwork by a recent favorite of mine, Charlie Harper!), the service was attentive and top notch, and the food was delicious!  I highly recommend!  On Saturday, S and I slept in, ran errands, got stuff done around the house, and were just generally productive.  S cleared out our old desk and finished organizing all of our office supplies.  I snagged cleaning and organizing supplies from Target and picked up groceries for some yummy meals over the weekend, managed to clear out a number of random bags and boxes still leftover from my move, vacuumed all of our carpeted areas, polished off another book (I may have also bought the third book in the trilogy while at Target as well....) and cooked up a yummy dinner of burgers, Indian spiced sweet potato fries with curry ketchup, and corn on the cob! 

Sunday we started off with another Houston Restaurant Weeks stop (our third and final) at White Oak Kitchen + Drinks for brunch with our friends J and Iv.  We'd known the restaurant was in the Galleria Mall area, but we hadn't realized it was actually IN the mall on the third floor.  Once we figured it out, we settled in for a tasty brunch.  The service wasn't phenomenal, but the food was yummy, and the company was fantastic.  After brunch I dragged S to a few stores, but my willpower was strong and I managed to leave without buying anything.  We then hit up Buffalo Exchange so I could sell some clothes I no longer wanted and then backtracked to Central Market where S discovered they serve beers in the store and I stocked up on lots of delicious food-stuffs for the week (win-win!).  We just relaxed for a bit once we got home.  For dinner I whipped up a quick meyer lemon pasta and S's favorite kale salad and we watched the new Spiderman 2 (movie was not great.  in fact, it was pretty bad....)

On Monday we slept in again and then I worked on a power point presentation that I am giving at the retirement home that my Aunt B works at as the activities director about what it has been like working on both the space shuttle and ISS programs.  The presentation definitely took longer than I'd planned, but there weren't any requirements for it, so it was really just my own Type-A overachiever goals that were at fault.  Definitely had some nostalgia going on all afternoon while I worked on it too.  While I worked on the presentation, S got to work putting together our new desk!  Everything in the house is definitely starting to come together and I owe everyone some pictures sometime soon.  That evening we headed to S's brother's house for a grill out with the family, complete with corn on the cob, watermelon, chips and salsa, and a couple of beers.  It was nice to relax since S and I had pushed ourselves so hard during the day. 

This coming week is looking busy already.  I'm presenting my NASA/Shuttle/ISS charts at the retirement home tonight, we have a few more things that we need to get organized furniture-wise in the house, I'm trying to fit in regular exercise sessions, and I have a haircut appointment on Friday (nothing drastic, but I'm excited for something new!).  How was your long Labor Day weekend?  Are you feeling like it's already Autumn?

 p.s. Speaking of NASA, check out the Astronaut's cool view of Earth's clouds from up on the ISS...

(picture from here)