Monday, July 21, 2014

how we do birthdays

So in case you missed it, I snuck away to Austin on Thursday to bring back barbecue from a few places in Austin for Andrew's birthday. I think keeping that secret is part of what stole my blogging mojo - it was all I was thinking about last week! Thursday was his actual birthday, but as is tradition, this weekend was his birthday weekend and I think we did it right. Some highlights:

- Vietnamese for dinner on Friday and learned that too few restaurants in my suburb are open for a late (9:00) dinner.

- Saw S-x Tape (bleeped because I don't want you to google my name and that phrase and have something come up!). It was better than I thought, though not great. Rob Lowe uses his Chris Traeger voice to play a different character, I don't buy Cameron Diaz as a mom, and if you've seen Date Night and Horrible Bosses (which I love), then this movie is completely unnecessary.

- Breakfast at our favorite local place, dinner at Coltivare. I posted the full meal on instagram (private right now, as is twitter, but ask and you shall receive) but I didn't talk about my drink - the Lillie Langtry. Something about hibiscus and lemon. It was hot pink and sweet and served with a metal straw which felt extra fancy. I want to order a set to keep at home. Everything was fantastic - even our estimated 45 minute wait time ended up only being about 25. I like this place more every time I eat there so Houston friends, you need to check it out.

Sneaky pics get a little blurry but yes it was very pink.

- Sunday I thought we would be back to normal and past all the birthday celebrating but Andrew convinced me that a trip to Killen's Barbecue in Pearland would be a good idea. They, like Franklin, are known for their long line, though it isn't nearly as bad. They have a new system where you can pull a number like you do at the deli counter and that will save your place in line. So we went, pulled a number, and then went to get coffee. It was a great system, we had a fine place in line (maybe twenty minutes?), and ate. The turkey was great, as were the sides, as always. I have never liked creamed corn but I could eat this stuff every week.

Andrew was right where the column is. For those keeping score at home, that's three BBQ places I've been to in the past four days!

- Lazy Sunday with several episodes of Six Feet Under. That show really is a Who's Who of actors who are bigger now. Adam Scott plays a guy who David/Dexter dates and it blew my mind (I kept waiting for him to bring up calzones).

If you want a mushy post about how much I love my husband, check out this one (it's all still true, I promise). I'm thankful that birthdays only come once a year because we definitely did some celebrating. I'll be spending the next week eating carrots and apples and trying to recover from too many great things.

Friday, July 18, 2014

a birthday cake to make ron swanson proud

I love the idea of birthdays and it being your day and getting celebrated a little extra. My husband, however, mostly views it as any other day because he is a normal adult lacks my enthusiasm. In our eight years together, a lot of years have been ho-hum, but there were a few years where I was a birthday ninja and really came through on the birthday front. It's been a few years, so this year, I decided I wanted to reclaim ninja status.

If you remember, in April, we went to Franklin Barbecue, the place the President went just last week with the obnoxiously long line. Upon realizing that it was truly my husband's favorite food on the planet, I announced to a coworker/friend that for his birthday in July (the hottest month of the year in Texas, mind you) I was going to road trip to Austin just to stand in line for smoked meat. Since she is awesome and also a food fan, she said she would come with me, which was perfect because given three months to think about it, I surely would have talked myself out of it. But since someone else was planning her life around my trip, I knew I was locked in - no flaking out for me.

After saying that I had to work late so we couldn't carpool, I sent Andrew off to work and scrambled to pack up my water, sunblock, lawn chair, and the all-important cooler (to keep the meat warm) and my friend met me at my house at 6:30. We made a few stops and got in line around 9:15. It was long, and I was honestly worried that we would be behind the infamous "last man standing" but we were lucky and it looked like enough BBQ would be there for us... after several hours of waiting. Fortunately, it was an overcast day and the weather was pretty comfortable and it didn't rain - could have been much worse!

At this point, we were right outside the door, hurray!

We finally made our way inside the door of the restaurant around noon and ordered around 12:45. We both ordered everything to go, because in my day of barbecue insanity, I wanted to go to Micklethwait BBQ down the street for sausage, moon pies, and jalapeƱo cheese grits. I can't lie, I know that Andrew loved the sausage there and also really liked the other two items, but I loved them. I thought that if I was going to drive nearly 300 miles round trip, then I deserved a few favorites, too. There was nearly no line (yay) but they were out of sausage (boo) and weren't making moon pies for the summer - it was lemon bars instead (NOOOOOO!). I at least got my grits, some more brisket for Andrew, and a lemon bar and slice of buttermilk pie - after all, the birthday boy needed a sweet treat, too.

We were both getting tired and had yet to eat anything relevant all day. My friend wanted to check out Gordough's and since she was nice enough to hang out with me all day, I was fine with that. We went there - it's a food trailer that serves crazy donuts - and both decided it just wasn't that great. It was 2:30 by this time and I wanted to be home by 5:00, so we just headed back toward Houston. I did have to stop at a favorite bakery/gas station, Hruska's, though, for fudge-filled chocolate chip cookies. If I was going to go big, might as well add a little something extra.

Buc-ee's bathrooms are the best | new mural (you can see the old one in my April post) | Franklin's new smokehouse | We left a Giants sticker when we visited in April and it's almost gone - I blame Dallas fans | My "I just got here and this line is long" face | Overcast and I love it | The Mikelthwait trailer | Heavenly Hash donut from Gordough's | Meat cake

I worked really hard to keep this a secret from Andrew. I told him I would pick something up for dinner and tried to text him throughout the day and said I was picking him up a special dessert, but his nosiness got the best of him and he tracked my iPhone to see where I was. Praise Murphy's Law that it didn't work and he never found me, but I thought he had. I had big plans to have his present wrapped and his meat cake set up before he walked in the door, but he walked in before I was completely done. The smell of brisket was too overwhelming so against my wishes, he came in the dining room and saw my little display. I told him to look at it and tell me where it was from and his first question - "Wow, what time did you get in line?" - let me know he knew where it came from. His reaction was really no reaction as he was busy swearing up and down that he had no idea I spent the day in Austin, but he sat on the couch after having his fill and just smiled and said he couldn't believe I did that.... so I think he's pretty happy.

The whole birthday set-up

So this probably sounds crazy - over 300 miles round-trip for barbecue. And it really kind of is. But at the same time, it's so Andrew. He really doesn't ask for much, and often when he asks for things, I am a whiny brat (cleaning the french press, taking out smelly trash, cleaning up my mountain of shoes by the front door). He is always doing nice things for me from stopping for a bottle of wine or a cupcake after a long day, listening to me rant about the same things over and over, and most importantly, trying his best to understand me and make me feel better when I'm venting (often irrationally). He's my person. I know life is defined by the little things, but a big thing thrown in here every so often always makes for a good time.

Besides, next time he asks me to clean the french press you know I'm going to remind him of his brisket birthday cake.

Happy birthday, honey (a day late). Love you to Franklin and back.

{All right bloggers, it's Andrew. Comment below and tell me how I can top this amazing day for Lauren's 30th birthday coming up this fall!}

Friday, July 11, 2014

faveday fiveday friday

Another week gone. I can't lie; I kind of wished this one away as Andrew (who always wants to do something and be productive) suggested spending as much time on the couch this coming weekend as possible and well, as we are heading into his birthday week, who am I to argue? Relazing (relaxing + lazing), here we come (thanks to Steph for helping me make an almost typo happen!) But at least I was able to find five favorite things this week.

Favorite Reason for not posting - I went to happy hour with Miranda and Sarah on Tuesday night and stayed so long that I didn't prepare a post for Wednesday. Three bloggers, no pictures, kind of a fail, except I see them so often that I don't think pictures are necessary (which is a good thing!).

Fridays are for leftover Bauer pics. Here he is on his spot on the couch (evidenced by the fur...) Look closely and you can see where I accidentally cut him with scissors on his ear when he was a kitten. In my defense, I was trying to keep him from strangling himself...

Favorite Part of Being Back from Vacation - Cat Bauer, who is not a lap cat, definitely missed us and spent time in my lap, on my feet, and just in my general area since we got back from Austin on Sunday. I haven't hated it one bit.

Free Books - So I went down the rabbit hole of the internet and found out some paparazzo wrote a book about how awful of a human being Kate Gosselin is. Naturally, I wanted to read it but my cheapness stood in the way. I clicked around on Amazon and learned that since I have both a Kindle and Amazon Prime, I can read one free book a month and this book was on the list. It's an interesting read, albeit really repetitive. Totally worth the low cost of free but I wouldn't have paid for it.

My Expanded Music Library - I heard that Amazon Music was going to be a big thing and I got super excited til I downloaded the app and didn't get it... womp womp. I was clicking around online again, though, and saw that using Amazon Prime you can add tons of music to your Music Library, so I did, then I redownloaded the app and it was all there, easy peasy. I added tons of music that I like but again, would never pay for - 90s country, Hall and Oates, Billy Joel, and the best of the Backstreet Boys and N'Sync, naturally. I am totally getting my money's worth from Amazon Prime (this isn't sponsored - I pay $40 per year like any student/person with a .edu email address can and I love it).

Favorite Surprise - REFUND! After the mess we dealt with last weekend with our hotel, Priceline realized that that wasn't cool and gave us a 50% refund! Though I will never feel as comfortable using them as I have in the past - I will for sure call the property to confirm reservations from now on - they did their best to make it right. I'll take it.

There are a lot of Friday link-ups to choose between so I went with a few. Only half-kidding, but who is going to start a Tuesday link-up so I can make friends that day too?

Meet At The Barre       photo H54Fbutton_zps973d26e1.png       

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

when I think about the summer

I hate bugs and sweating and not having wifi and smelly animals, so it's probably surprising to you that my grandparents grew up in the country and I grew up visiting my great grandparents there. Yup, this suburban, city-friendly girl has an uncle we call Brother (I asked my mom his real name once. She told me, but I forgot) and a second cousin who raised rabbits to feed to his snakes. I often forget that it's a part of me.

My grandparents grew up in a small town outside of College Station, Texas (where Texas A&M is). They got married, which in my mind, basically meant the entire town was in our family. I remember driving along the dirt roads as a kid, sandwiched between my grandparents in their Lincoln and my grandma telling me where her cousin and high school best friend and our uncle's sister-in-law all lived. It was like she knew the entire town and they were all a part of our family tree.

One of my great grandmothers never learned to drive. She lived across the street from her church and down the block from her hair salon - what else did an older lady need? The only store in town - an oversized convenience store with meat and produce, honestly - was a short walk away. I remember making that trek with my cousins on summer days with a few dollars in our pockets to buy cartoon character-shaped ice cream bars and outdated Archie comics. We would bring them back to our nanny's house and fight over who got the prized perch on the shiny red barstool that was so easy to spin around in. The best seat in the house, though, was always Nanny's lap - no matter how big you got, she would rock you and call you sugar the way that only your great grandmother can. My childhood self was terrified of the swing set in Nanny's yard. It had been there since my mom was a kid and had splintered wooden seats and wasn't anchored to the ground at all, so the front legs popped up as you swung higher and higher. I was convinced that one day, one of us would find a way to swing so high that we flipped over the top bar. Part of me was thrilled at the prospect, but I mostly just learned to jump off of the swing gracefully before I got too scared.

My other great grandmother (who is still alive at the age of 98!) lived on the other side of the small town. Her house was always a menagerie of cats and dogs of all ages and sizes who I constantly begged to take home. It was also the house with the aforementioned snake and rabbits and cows that could be seen in a field in the distance. My grandparents lived in Houston but kept a mobile home, known simply as "the trailer," nearby since they visited so often. I remember its scratchy pink sofa and making pallets in corners on the shag carpet when cousins and aunts and uncles filled the space over long weekend trips. I remember staining my socks with the red dirt and sitting on the porch swing, wishing it would go as high as that old wooden swing set. I clamored for tractor rides sitting behind my grandpa and counted down until I was old enough to drive it by myself through the wire fence in the back and making circles around the property. Little did I know I was merely doing his yard work on a riding mower for him. We played outside and ate fresh tomatoes standing over the sink and drank in fresh air not available in Houston.

My grandma, cousin, and me (age 5-6?) on the trailer's porch swing. I had this pic in a scrapbook I made as a teenager which explains the crazy scissors.

When I think about the summers of my childhood, this is what I think of - a tiny town where kids can run to eat ice cream, dirt roads, and swinging into the clouds. I got older, and the country got less cool. My Nanny passed away, schedules got busy, and the trailer is long gone. I think there's even a gas station and a few more paved roads by now. It seems like a lifetime ago and memories that happened to someone else, but I'm so happy they all belong to me.

Monday, July 7, 2014

the weekend that almost wasn't

I normally don't care to celebrate July 4th since I hate water and the sun and am indifferent to fireworks. However, this year we made plans to go to Austin with my friend Sara and her husband Bryan for a little mini vacation. Lots of emails and gchats were exchanged and me being me, I was excited yet nervous about the trip - What if we annoyed them? What if I felt sick and held the group back? What if the things we told them were going to be so fun were incredibly boring? Luckily I was wrong and we all had a great time (I'm pretty sure, at least) but something I never would have thought of went pretty wrong. This is long so I bolded the best parts.

Bryan offered to drive so they picked us up early Friday to go to Austin. We first planned a stop at La Barbecue to give Sara and Bryan their first stand-in-line for Texas BBQ experience. We got in line at 10:15 for an 11 a.m. opening. We quickly realized it was BYOB so Sara and I walked to a liquor store and came back with a six pack for each of us (we like to be prepared, okay?). It took until after noon before we got our chance to order, but the food was great and worth the wait. We ordered too much and all wrapped stuff up to snack on later.

Band, long lines, and tons of food = par for the course in Texas BBQ

We got a deal on Priceline to name your own price for two rooms in downtown Austin. We tried to drop our stuff off at the hotel, but were told that the hotel was full to capacity and we couldn't check in until the official check in time (3pm), so we went shopping on South Congress. Unfortunately a lot of the big stores were closed due to the holiday, but we got to walk around a little and take pictures in front of the "i love you so much" wall. We were hot and sweaty and still had time to kill, so we drove to Lick for ice cream. I was intrigued by its cool flavors (strawberry balsamic, goat cheese and honey, things like that) but was mostly underwhelmed with the execution. I tried the Texas Au Lait and Texas Sheet Cake and both were fine but I didn't love either.

In front of the mural on South Congress where you can kind of see my awesomely tacky sunglasses | cute area where we stopped for pics (but the lighting wasn't on our side. Also, I got sunburned).

3:00 rolled around and we were hot and a little sunburned, so we wanted to go back to the hotel to check in and shower and relax before going out for the night. Totally reasonable, right? We go to the hotel and give our name at the desk and we are told that we have one room... um, we are four people. Two adult couples who aren't related and didn't intend on sharing a room, no matter how wonderfully we all got along. The hotel told us that there was a mistake in Priceline's reservation system and that they only had one room for us for two nights instead of two for two nights and they were full to capacity so couldn't give us an extra room. They offered us one room with two beds (no) or to call a sister property for us to see if they had availability and we would incur any expenses (um, it was a holiday weekend - hell no). Very long story very short, we sat in the lobby of the hotel for nearly three hours on the phone with Priceline and their third party who communicates with the hotels and no one knew where the issue came from. I almost thought we were going to have to just head back home instead of dealing with it. We think that the hotel was at fault, and after they spoke with the third party, they offered us a night at a nearby hotel at no charge and then to come back to their hotel for the second night. The third party also had an offer coming to us that we were waiting for - it ended up being a night at a two-star hotel (we had paid for 3.5 stars) THIRTY MILES FROM DOWNTOWN AUSTIN. Um, no, all of our nighttime plans were to eat and drink nearby so we could walk or take an affordable cab and everyone could have fun. So we took the hotel's offer and headed to a hotel about a mile away for a night. We can all laugh about it now, but it was three very annoying hours squatting at a hotel with a staff who wasn't friendly to us until the last thirty minutes.

I hate to admit it, but the location of the second hotel (Town Lake Holiday Inn) was awesome to go to Rainey Street, where we wanted to spend the night. It was less than a mile to walk there. Rainey Street is an adult alternative to Sixth Street - the bars focus more on cocktails, food, and a slightly less drunken clientele. We went to No Va (kind of an old timey feel), Javelina (my favorite - we had a quiet table in the corner of the patio), and Lucille (great idea in that it had hammocks and cool seating but loud and a little bit younger). We also checked out a tapas food truck. It was an early-ish night so we could get up early the next day.

Cute sign on South Congress | Jester King | There was a weird gaming conference going on so we walked down the street behind a horse and a chicken, of course...)

After a breakfast made of leftover BBQ (Andrew heated a sausage in a glass. So classy), we went to a farmer's market and sat in the park in the shade and just people watched and talked for over an hour. Then we headed to the State Capitol of Texas and went on the self-guided tour. I amused myself by taking pictures of as much Texas-themed stuff as I could. We planned to spend the day at Jester King Brewery, which Andrew and I went to just a few months ago. It is a great place to go with a small group, though - affordable drinks, pizza, and permission to just sit and hang out. I tried a raspberry drink that was technically a beer (though it didn't taste like one) and a few ciders. We played Uno and discovered we are all super competitive. I haven't played that game in years but I may have to get a deck of my own soon. It was a nice, relaxing afternoon.

Outside | Texas State Representatives | Texas glass and doorknob | The Rotunda | Former Texas Supreme Court | Texas Capitol door hinges | Outside the elevator door

We checked into hotel number two (they greeted Andrew by name as we walked in - we definitely left an impression) and rested and then went out for dinner. We went to Second Bar and Kitchen, which we have been to before and honestly wasn't as good as I remembered. There was no plan for that night, so we turned to Yelp and ended up at HandleBar, a bar where all of the male bartenders have amazing mustaches. They were also wearing SHORT shorts and there may have been a nearly naked picture of Burt Reynolds behind the bar. It was almost a gay bar and the people watching was great, but it got crowded, fast. We walked toward our hotel and ended up at Easy Tiger, a beer garden next door. They had games to play but not a lot of pieces, so I downloaded the Heads Up app. I've seen it played on Ellen but never gotten to play myself. You guys - it is SO MUCH FUN. Best dollar I've ever spent! We were loud and obnoxious and played and drank until nearly 2 a.m. when my phone finally died. Probably my favorite thing we did.

Thanks to Sara for snapping these awesomely awkward pics of us playing Heads Up!

On Sunday morning, we slept in a little and went to breakfast at Cenote. We headed back to Houston and stopped at Bucee's on the way since Sara and Bryan had never truly experienced it. Bucee's is basically a convenience store on steroids - it sells produce and home decor and snacks and t-shirts and souvenirs and more. I had so much fun on the trip - it was nice to experience a favorite place with friends and show them why I love it so much. It was also new for us to have a trip that was more about experiences and less about food. Even though there were no fireworks, it was a perfect way to spend the 4th.

                  Blonder Side of Life