Tuesday, April 30, 2013

childhood favorites: books

If you ask me, I will tell you that I love to read.

If you ask a little more, you will learn that I haven't sat down and read a book in far too long. During the summer, when there is nothing on TV, Andrew and I will pick a book and read it aloud. To each other. It is pretty nerdy but it's better than TV and then we can talk about what we are reading without wondering if the other has read that part yet (we read the Dragon Tattoo trilogy and Gone Girl that way). 

As an only child, I loved to read. I talked to my mom earlier this week and she was cleaning out closets in her house and was getting rid of some of my beloved books. I had to wrack my brain to try to remember the books I loved the most so that I can share them with my nieces.

I remember getting this book at the book fair - it had to be Kindergarten or 1st grade. I "read" it, most likely by memorizing every page of silly animals and why they shouldn't wear clothes. My mom can't find mine, so I may have thrown it away long ago, but I really want to get a copy to share with Vera, my five-year-old niece.

This book should have been my generation's Hunger Games, am I right? I read this in fourth grade, read it again, and then made my aunt read it (she loved it). I heard that it has since been made into a trilogy so I want to find my original 1994 copy and then download the new ones. What happened after that snowy ending?

Y'all, I don't really remember this book, but I remember that we read it aloud in class after recess. I'm pretty sure this was fourth grade, too. It was so good that I hated we read it so slowly so I made my dad buy it for me so I could read ahead. I know it made me cry so I was glad I did, and I still got tears in my eyes hearing it read aloud in class a few days later. I think it's the first book that I ever connected with like that.

My older cousin had this book and my aunt said I couldn't read it. My third grade teacher had it in her reading nook so of course I hoarded it in my desk the second I saw it... I had to know why it was forbidden. It scared the bejeezus out of me and I never wanted to grow up. My teacher had the original, 1970's version that described some kind of belt device I had never seen before that ladies had to wear when it was "their time" and I was so confused - I wanted to ask my mom about these things but couldn't since I was breaking the rules. It took until 4th grade, when we were forced to watch those films about our bodies, for me to figure out the book was a little antiquated.

Sophomore year of high school and my favorite English teacher, ever. This is the first book I read in all of the pre-AP and AP nonsense that I took where I didn't think that the symbolism, foreshadowing, and literary devices weren't all in my teacher's head. The knitting! The juxtaposition of pretty much everything! The number of words it takes Dickens to make a point... It really was the best and worst of times. Getting through this book felt like such an accomplishment. Maybe I'll read it again. One day.

Have you read any of these? Do you have anything at your parents' house that you refuse to let them throw away? Were you as confused by Margaret as I was?

Monday, April 29, 2013

my review of the austin360 amphitheater plus the rest of the weekend

It was a great weekend, and as has been the case lately, there was a lot going on!

Andrew and I took half days on Friday and headed to Austin around 2:00. We had planned to stay in the Omni because it was near the concert venue and I don't recommend it- it was just old and not very impressive. We went to Whip In for dinner, which is a convenience store/Indian restaurant. Andrew had sliders which were served wrapped in naan, and I had a panaani (love a good pun!) and we both loved it all. I definitely recommend for a quick meal!

Sliders, cokes, and panaani

The concert venue is adjacent to the Circuit of the Americas and is kind of in the middle of nowhere. The venue is like the Woodlands Pavilion (for all my Houston friends), but smaller. The lawn was tiny in comparison. There were tables on a balcony overlooking the venue so you could just watch the show from there if you could snag a seat. The lines for everything were short for the most part but I was disappointed that a vodka cocktail offered was nothing more than vodka mixed with ginger ale (ummm what?) There were special bathrooms for those with pit tickets, some normal bathrooms that were a walk away, and lots of porta potties for everyone in between (which, seriously? You build a brand new venue and don't spend the money on real bathrooms? I kind of don't get it...) Our seats were great and the concert was really good. I especially liked that the Lumineers asked people repeatedly to put away their phones and cameras and be in the moment. I only took a few photos.

View from just inside the gates - the stage is beneath the red tower | day view | night views

Saturday became BBQ Day! We got up and went to Once Over Coffee Bar for caffeine (yum) and then went to Franklin BBQ (I thought I blogged about this, but maybe not? Maybe tomorrow, for Taste of Tuesday...). The line there was longer than usual and I told Andrew I really didn't want to stand in it. What I did want to do was try Gordough's a donut place I have heard a ton about. So we did.

This Gordough's was in an airstream (not sure if they all are) | Mine (strawberry shortcake) | Andrew's (with sausage, egg, and jalapenos. On a donut. The donuts were the best part and next time I just want a plain one!)

After that I agreed to more BBQ. Andrew wanted to try Snow's, which is only open on Saturdays and is in a teeny town. The population was less than 2000.

I liked the brisket. Neither of us cared for the ribs.

Of course if we had Snow's, we had to also try Louie Mueller BBQ because we were "so close" (actually, we were about an hour away).

Historic Building near BBQ | Inside - cards browned with smoke | old-fashioned movie theatre | skylight with a tiny beam of sun going through | pork ribs, beef rib, brisket (I didn't love any of it but Andrew loved the beef rib)

While we were in line at Louie Mueller, we wanted to find a reason to stay in Austin for another night or drive to Dallas. There was nothing we wanted to do that we could get tickets for, so we stopped in Smithville to look in the shops for a little while, and then came home.

One of the many things I wanted to buy in Smithville.

Yesterday was a lazy morning with the Arrested Development marathon and then errands and the gym. Since I had eaten terribly for the past few days (just snacks and hunks of meat), I tried to do Week 1 Day 3 of Couch25K last night and felt awful. Lesson learned! Hope you had a great weekend!

Friday, April 26, 2013

high five for friday: vol. 7

Haven't linked up with Lauren for High Five for Friday in a while but I am today because I am ready for this weekend...

1) Getting the two industrial fans and humidifier out of my living room after our ceiling leak debacle. They are being removed as I type. It has been the world's loudest white noise machine since Tuesday.

2) Whole Foods had wine for 25% off if you bought six... so we did. We are stocked up for a few weeks, at least!

3) Kendra Scott Elles - I  have been coveting these for the longest time. I may have mentioned it at work a time or two (or twenty). My boss went to a trunk show for her daughter's sorority and they were selling Kendra Scott earrings so she got them to put away for my birthday (in October) but her daughter said she should give them to me now in case I buy a pair in the next six months. So she did. So so nice, right? I am so lucky. I am also wearing them for the third day in a row. No shame.

4) This view - I don't always love working late, but at least I get to enjoy this patio one night per year (taken from One Park Place in downtown Houston).

5) I have been looking forward to this weekend since February - we are going to see the Lumineers in Austin tonight! I have seen a few photos from their Houston show earlier this week so I think it will be a great show! I'll be tweeting and instagramming (laurenm10) for sure!

Can I just say that this has been such a fun week to be a blogger? I loved seeing everyone's take on the Houston blogger meet-up and the sweet comments I received about my house issue and candy bouquet and everything else I've decided to ramble about this week have been so, so wonderful. I am so glad to have joined you in this club!

Hope you have a great weekend!

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

love and marriage: wrapping it up

I have had a great time participating in the Love & Marriage series. The final post is just a wrap-up, or any other reflections on marriage.

We sadly joke that our wedding was cursed. It was relatively small - only 100 people - and there have been six couples that have gotten a divorce and a seventh that separated but reconciled (and an eighth that has courted separation rumors for years). That is a HUGE percentage, and we have only been married for three years. I think it really goes to show you that being married is hard sometimes and that statistic that 50% of marriages end in divorce is real.

People tell you all kinds of things before you get married, but I think some things you have to learn on your own. I tried to think of a few things beyond "never go to bed angry" and try to put into words what some things are really like.

Us, at a wedding - our friends, David and Mandy (Hi Mandy!)

Things I wish people had told me before I got married:

- Your life will never be 100% what you want to do ever again (and that's okay).

- You will see the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sickness and health is no joke, especially when your husband has a drain in his abdomen three months after saying your vows (when your husband's appendix bursts, it's not an easy recovery!).

- Know when to ask for help (or pay someone for it!). This has saved us many, many arguments.

- You will fall into a routine. You can shake it up. Just try. But being married to your best friend should never be boring.

- Marriage takes effort, but has great rewards. You aren't just living your life anymore; everything you do has a direct effect on someone else. At the same time, you won't experience anything on your own. Having someone with you for the big things and the little things, a person who is always there and gets it and gets you is well worth the stupid day-to-day disagreements.

To be honest? I love being married. It suits me. It's worth the small sacrifices, like less alone time and having to share the couch with another person. My best friend is legally bound to me for life. How cool is that?

Making it legal

What's the best marriage advice you have to give, or you've received?

candy bouquets - a tutorial

So, you guys know that today is Administrative Professionals' Day, right? Because it is. And if you are lucky enough to have an admin, you should totally do something for them. A Starbucks e-card would be perfect and you don't even have to move from your chair. Buy it for them now. I'll wait...

Well, I neither have an admin nor am I an admin, but the College celebrates Administrative Professionals' Day for all employees. As the events coordinator (or one woman party planning committee as I like to call myself [maybe that's only funny if you watch The Office?]) I have to come up with something fun for everyone. For the past million years, the school has ordered two bouquets from a florist and had a drawing to give them away, and without fail, a man has won them and had to cart flowers home for his wife that day. Or, he doesn't have a wife and tries to give them to a co-worker without being accused of sexual harassment. Awkward. So for this year, I decided to switch things up and asked if I could create candy bouquets. I figure more people like candy than like flowers, and if not, then I will just hear about it next year.

Since I had to work from home on Monday and I bought all of the materials on Saturday, I was able to make the arrangements at home and photograph them in peace so I could blog about it. Win-win, for sure.

I found some inspiration on Pinterest, but those were intimidating, so I decided to wing it.

Large vase (mine came from Michael's and was $5.99 and I didn't have a coupon!)
Wooden skewers ($2 from the grocery store - get the large ones)
Styrofoam ($3.99 for a huge block that I barely used half of)
Large candy bars or boxes (bags look too floppy) - I used eight different things
Small filler candy
Something to cut foam with
Hot Glue Gun (I didn't need it, but if your foam isn't very dense you might)

1) Cut a piece of foam to fit in the bottom of your vase. For my first one, I cut a circle and for the second I realized it didn't matter and just cut a square. Styrofoam is messy and hard to cut through - I used a small screwdriver like a saw to get it done.

2) Cover your styrofoam with something. I used foil since I used Hershey Kisses in one of the vases. It  looks like I put a Ding-Dong in the vase. Then stick your covered foam shape into the vase.

2a) Entertain the fuzzy visitor who loves the smell of sweets, if applicable.

Hey Mom, I want to supervise.

3) Learn from my mistakes - put a little bit of candy in the bottom of the vase to stabilize it. It is much easier to remove your foam and cut it smaller before you start sticking skewers in, not after. If this were being given as a personal gift, I would have preferred to use unwrapped candy like gumballs or peanut M&Ms, but I had to use something wrapped. You could probably also get pixy stix and wrap them around or a trillion other things - just know that smaller is better.

4) Tape candy to skewers. Use lots of tape. And then use more. Gravity sucks sometimes.

5) I taped one thing at a time and placed one at a time. Big in front, small in back, saving a few small to go up high. I taped two skewers together for more height.

6) Fill the vase with filler candy around the skewers as well as  you can.

Bonus points if you can name the show I'm watching in the background.

7) You're done! I took some photos of the almost finished products, but added some ribbon when I got to work the next day.
This is almost 40 oz. of Hershey's Kisses

Andrew saw this and decided he wanted one, so I want to make him one for his birthday - maybe with candy, beef jerky, tickets, a Starbucks card, scratch-offs... We had a drawing at work to give these away and wouldn't you know - I WON one! I tried to give it back because it didn't feel right but I was told to keep it and since Andrew liked it so much, he is getting most of the candy.

So that's my easy-peasy, no tutorial required tutorial. Are you being celebrated or celebrating someone for Administrative Professionals' Day?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

homeownership is lame

So with this post, I will attempt to bridge the gap between being a whiny brat and keepin' it real. Because it is definitely not always happiness and rainbows when it comes to my house. Literally. My house.

My house was built in 1981. When Andrew bought it in 2006, it had new paint, new carpet, a new roof, and a new AC. Well, houses don't stay good forever. In the past three years or so, we have had one new house "challenge" after the other. Tree roots grew into the pipes that lead from our toilet to the sewer and the pipes backed up and soaked through the carpet in our hall (ew). The garbage disposal broke (another ew). The refrigerator went out (not the house's fault)... just one costly, stupid repair after the other.

We were lazy this weekend, but Bauer was lazier. Pics of the damage are ugly so you get phone pics instead.

So Sunday night, it sounded like the hot water heater was running unnecessarily. It got quieter when we went to bed, but Andrew checked it Monday morning before work and there was water dripping from the garage ceiling. Lots of it. So much water that it went from the back of the garage and trickled all the way out of the garage and onto the driveway. Awesome.

Luckily I had lots of work I could do from home so I volunteered to deal with it and Andrew went to work for the day. (I made candy bouquets for Administrative Professionals' Day - I think my first tutorial is coming!) The plumber came in a timely manner (never happens!) and the fix was only $150 (not a welcome expense, but it could have been much, much worse). Apparently old pipes rust from the  inside-out, so we should technically get our entire house re-piped, but who wants to pay for that?? ($3-6K, yuck). Then came the matter of, you know, actually fixing the water damage.

Andrew says he doesn't love Bauer but then I see this and get it on camera and my life is made.

Keep in mind that this was confined to the garage so when it comes down to it, we are very, very lucky.

The plumber referred me to a company to call and they gave me an estimate of over $1000 just to dry out the walls. Are you freakin' kidding me? Fans and humidifiers are expensive, y'all.

We have a "guy" who we have used for all kinds of things, from plumbing to tile to paint, and we are going to see what he recommends. I don't really understand why you have to dry everything out just to replace it, but then again there are people who don't understand the difference between canapes and crudite, so I guess we should just all depend on the pros to do their jobs. Doesn't make it any less frustrating.

{ETA: Since writing this post, the ceiling has fallen and taken sheetrock and insulation with it. I think our homeowner's insurance covers this, HURRAY!}

Since I didn't carpool with my husband, I didn't get to blog about my weekend, but I didn't take many pics anyway. Andrew and I both fell asleep on the couch embarrassingly early on Friday (um, 8:30 for me), were bums and ran errands on Saturday til we went to dinner with friends (Lupe's isn't as good as I remember and it kind of makes me sad), then on Sunday I went to the Houston Blogger Meet-Up. Full disclosure: I almost didn't go. I was feeling so, so lazy, but I am glad I did! I got to see a few ladies I met last month and meet several new people. Meg took several great pictures if you haven't seen them already!

Had to tell my friend's husband not to touch the margaritas because I needed to instagram... he thought that was bizarre.

The silver lining of today? I got 5.5 hours worth of work done, I'm home to watch Ellen, I listened to Teen Mom all day while I worked (don't judge, nothing good was on E!), I worked out instead of commuting to the office, and I pretty much learned that working from home is awesome. Any tips on how to convince my employer to let me do this a few days a month?

Monday, April 22, 2013

my kind of funny

I like to laugh. Who doesn't? But everyone likes to laugh at different things, and I think seeing a person's sense of humor is a good indicator of if you will click with them or not. Here are some things that I find hi-larious lately. Are they funny, or is it just me?

Anchorman Quotes. Seriously, Andrew and I quote this movie several times a week. Last night I remember saying "Mad? I'm not mad, I'm impressed." We also say "kind of a big deal," "diversity, an old old wooden ship," "San Dee-a-go,"it smells of rich mahogany and many leather bound books." There are many more but those pop up the most often. If you have seen this movie and thought it was ridiculous, I recommend watching it again. It gets funnier when your expectations are lowered. Plus, the sequel is coming out in December. I just want you to be prepared.

Stupid Internet Words that I make fun of and then sneak into my vocabulary. Best example: Totes. Though, I learned that from I Love You, Man, and not the internet. I say "totes magotes" jokingly but I flipped out when I saw this in a West Elm email yesterday.

From here. Isn't it presh? And there's another one...

Twelve Year Old Boy Comedy. If this commercial doesn't at least make you giggle then I believe you are made of stone. If you have already seen it, watch it again. It's still funny.


New Girl. Zooey Deschanel isn't for everyone, but if you haven't laughed at Fat Schmidt then WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?

Other things I find funny: my chunky cat trying to fit in a space too small for him. The Office, seasons 1-4. Suburgatory and Modern Family. The 40 Year Old Virgin. My husband's parody songs.

Do we find any of the same things funny? What's making you laugh lately?

Thursday, April 18, 2013


I had a fun post planned for today. One where I talk about what makes me laugh. I was excited that I was going to come to work, push publish, and maybe read more of Bossypants, which I downloaded last night (enjoying it so far). And then last night happened and I just want to focus on that.

I didn't blog about the Boston Marathon bombings. I was sad, I watched all the news coverage, and I have been thinking about everyone involved since, but I didn't have anything to add to the conversation. It's just so unreal that an idiot (or group of idiots) with pressure cookers have taken so much power and put our status quo in such disarray. It was just plain disappointing, and I didn't want to think about it.

But last night. West, Texas. I think the one-two punch of two tragic events in three days really has me thinking a lot. There are many refineries in and around the Houston area. My husband and step-father both work in the construction industry and their companies do a lot of work with these refineries. There was a fire at a plant yesterday and I texted my husband to see if they had anyone out there as twelve people sustained burns. None of his people were affected. I don't want to sound flippant, or minimize anyone's injuries, but here we hear news of chemical fires and shelters in place fairly regularly. I saw my Twitter feed light up with news about a fertilizer plant explosion last night and I honestly didn't think it was anything more than what we are used to.

When 10:30 rolled around and most of the local channels were still playing news, I started to pay attention. Mushroom cloud. Explosion, Lauren. Explosion. I didn't really get it until I saw the photos and video. The firemen fighting the fire were likely the first victims. The town banding together already to help one another. The nursing home. People losing their homes in an instant - someone's dog gone from their backyard in the blast. Just imagining people sitting at home watching TV, maybe watching the fire from their front yard and then... wow. Everything gone.

As things like this happen, I am continually dumbfounded by how lucky I am. How nothing bad has befallen me. I was continually grateful for the people who put their lives on the line for us common people, strangers they have never met, daily. Andrew and I were talking about it this morning - he was able to stomach far more news coverage than I last night - and he told me that the wife of one of the West Volunteer Firefighters was on CNN last night saying she begged her husband to come home, and he refused. I don't know if I would be so brave if I were the husband and I don't know how his poor wife held it together to be on TV. Their potential sacrifices are more than I have ever had to face and I hope this morning that the fireman was able to be safely reunited with his family.

I don't have a deep point to make or anything Earth-shattering to say, other than I am thinking of those in Boston, who fell prey to such a senseless act, those in West, whose world was literally shattered in ways no one saw coming, and thinking of all of the brave people who run in in these situations, not away, as I would likely be inclined to do. Just another reminder that life is short. Love your people.

"Celebrate we will 
Because life is short but sweet for certain 
We're climbing two by two 
To be sure these days continue 
These things we cannot change" 
Dave Matthews Band - Two Step

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

love and marriage: keeping things interesting

I have loved the blog series going on right now (hosted by Jenna, Mandy, Shay, Jenn, Lindsey, and Megan)  about love and marriage. This week's topic is keeping your marriage interesting.

Andrew and I have been together for seven years. When I stop to think about the fact that I have been with my husband, who I will (hopefully) spend the rest of my life with, since I was a completely clueless twenty one year old, I can't believe it.

We moved in together in 2007 and got married in 2010. I'm not going to do the math for you, but that is a lot of nights spent together, meals eaten together, car rides, bills to pay, family obligations, and hours of TV watched. We definitely have a routine and some days it is HARD to be an interesting wife and a fun person to be around.

Just moved in together - May 2007

One of the things that helps our marriage is surprises. Ever since we started dating and Andrew mailed me a hot pink devil rubber duckie to add to my collection, surprises have been something that we do for one another to brighten up the days and give one another a little boost when we need it.

Our surprises are rarely ever big. Yesterday, for example, I needed chocolate so I went and bought two chocolate chip cookies, but I only ate one. When I met Andrew at work (we carpool) and told him I had a surprise and handed him a cookie, he loved it. It was silly, simple, and only cost $1. I think a simple gesture to show your spouse you were thinking of them during the day goes a long way (granted, I was thinking of me when I bought the cookies, but I was thinking of him when I decided against eating the second one, so it kind of counts, right?) He is better at surprises than I am and often comes home with cupcakes if I have had a bad day and will occasionally send flowers (I would rather buy them at the grocery store - so much cheaper- but every now and then I do appreciate a delivery). Another fun thing we do is surprise dinners. One of us will be blindfolded and the other will drive to a restaurant that is out of our regular rotation. It just adds a little bit of unpredictability to our date nights.

Surprise Christmas Tree he sent me this year - the tree is shockingly still alive

Another thing I try to do to keep our marriage interesting is to talk to my husband. We talk about our days at work, the conversations that we have with our parents, and big things in the news, but we also fall victim to sitting at dinner with nothing to say. Instead of knowing that we both just watched the same TV show, I try to ask him where he thinks it is going... why a character did what... things like that. I think Andrew has a really creative mind and he often sees things that I miss. While this doesn't work with a lot of shows, when Breaking Bad and shows like that are on, we really play off of each other on what could happen. It keeps our conversations light and easy for dinner, but still gives us plenty to say.

The last big thing I can think of that keeps Andrew and I going strong is laughing. We wrote our own wedding vows and both talked about how much we make one another laugh. I sing made-up songs while I do the dishes. He has a one-liner for every perceived idiot he encounters. We play off one another and laugh at our own inside jokes all the time. I think that a lot of couples say this, and I really hope that everyone else is lucky enough to have lots of laughter in their marriage.

Sometimes, love means trying to dance like Uma and John in Pulp Fiction (definitely one of our most public silly moments)

What about you? Any tips or tricks to share to keep any relationship going strong? And if you're stopping by from the link-up, I would love to read your tips!

PS - I finally got my Nav Bar working! Click "About Me" (above) to learn a few more things about me.

Monday, April 15, 2013

taste of tuesday: trader joe's

Forgive me if you live outside of Texas, but for those of us here, Trader Joe's is a fairly new phenomenon.

I first went to TJ's, as I lovingly call it, on a visit to Atlanta to see my sister-in-law a few years ago. Chocolate covered everything? Different varieties of hummus? YUM. Our drive back to Houston was full of snacks.

Went to TJ's with my mom, step-dad, step-sister, and nieces and this is all the chocolate that we bought collectively. The peanut butter cups are awesome (I love the dark) and the chocolate covered frozen bananas were also so so good!

Last summer, the Houston area got its first TJ's, so you know I made Andrew take me from Katy to the Woodlands on more than one occasion to get my fix. Now, luckily, there are more stores in the Houston metro area and I can go on my lunch break, or even add it to our weekly grocery shopping. I have found that a lot of people are clueless as to a) how amazing Trader Joe's is and b) what to buy when they get there, so I wanted to give you some of my favorites.

A few things to know before you go: Trader Joe's makes a lot of things seasonally. Just because it's there today doesn't mean you'll be able to find it next week. They are constantly switching out their products. I always like to look at the Fearless Flyer for new things to try! The things I have listed below should be available year-round. You should also always bring your own shopping bag - if you do, you can be entered to win $25 worth of free merchandise. I haven't won yet, but I am determined to!

1) Smashing S'mores - let's not talk about how unhealthy these things are. My husband is addicted. Pop 'em in the microwave for a few seconds until the marshmallow pops out and you have perfection.

All photos by me... either I currently have the stuff in my house or I had the foresight to take pics of it when I did.

2) Mandarin Orange Chicken - I swear by this stuff. Put frozen chicken on cookie sheet, bake, flip, bake some more. Meanwhile, thaw out sauce. Toss cooked chicken in sauce and serve over rice. Just as good as Chinese take-out for way cheaper (a bag is $4.99 and we share it but it's too much food). It would be even better with stir-fried veggies added in.

Mandarin Orange Chicken over rice but you could be really creative with this

3) Cookie Butter- if you have heard of Trader Joe's, then you have definitely heard of this stuff. It's best described as gingerbread in peanut butter form. It sounds weird but it's amazing. How do you eat it? My favorite way is by the spoonful.

4) Cocoa Almond Spread - Just like cookie butter, this stuff has no place in a balanced diet, but it is delicious. It's like Nutella, but with almonds instead of hazelnuts. Perfect when you just want a bite of something sweet.

5) Awesome, cheap produce - Their bagged salad is cheap and I have gotten romaine lettuce leaves there for a great price too. One of my coworkers loves that they sell brussels sprouts on the vine and I have gotten cherry tomatoes there for a great price. They also have little baby apples (the size of cuties) that are perfect for snacks! (Selection varies)

Some other favorites:
Chicken Tikka Masala (meal for two in the refrigerated section)
Garlic Naan (in the frozen section)
Two Buck Chuck (Their Charles Shaw wine... It is $2.99 per bottle and it is pretty good!)
Citrus Body Wash
Curry Simmer Sauce
Thai Chili Cashews
Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Candy Bars
Pumpkin Bread Mix (only available in the fall)
Cilantro Jalapeno Hummus (this stuff is amazing. Now I want some)
Chai Latte Mix

Just add hot water and it becomes creamy deliciousness... amazing in the winter!

A few clunkers I've tried (which if I cared to, I could have returned to TJ's because they are awesome):
PB & J Candy Bar (should have known this would be awful)
Tomato Soup (in a carton, not a can)
Cuban Style Black Beans (they were just regular beans)
Stuffed Mushrooms (soggy mess)

There are so many other great things to try at Trader Joe's - it really is awesome for treats and convenience foods. The flowers are also really cheap and last forever. Are you hungry yet? Do you at least want to hit up the grocery store? Do you have some favorites (or some things to stay away from) to share with me?

I'm linking up with Jessica at Blissfully Miller and Ashley at Let's Get Bananas (who I might meet this weekend at the blogger meet-up?!) for Taste of Tuesday!

weekend post featuring boozy saturday

There's nothing like a weekend to wear you out and make you extra tired on Monday, right?

Andrew got really really good news at work on Friday so he wanted to go to Underbelly, his favorite restaurant, to celebrate. I've already talked about Underbelly a little bit, so how about I just post the yummy food pictures?

Heirloom Tomato Salad (loved the coppa and whipped ricotta foam) | Korean Goat Dumplings (so spicy) | Pork Roast in Chile Sauce with local vegetables (with the best brussels sprouts ever)

Caramel Popcorn Pot de Creme with Fried Pretzels (!!!) and Vanilla Ice Cream | Warm Chocolate Cake with Spicy Chocolate Ice Cream | Coffee in a reclaimed UH African American Studies mug (there are so many quirky things about Underbelly and the use of mix and matched coffee mugs is definitely one!)

Our waiter said that he has been at Underbelly since the beginning and our roast was one of the best-looking he's ever brought out. The pot de creme was out of this world amazing - sweet and savory, and the texture of the fried soft pretzels was very unique. It was a great meal all the way around!

My husband has decided that he wants to become a BBQ connoisseur (my words, not his). He started telling me about a place he wanted to try in College Station called Fargo's. I told him we could go, as long as we went to a few wineries while we were there. So, that's exactly what we did on Saturday.

Beautiful skies | Fargo's | Our Feast | Bluebonnets are still in bloom!

I'm not sure why, but I didn't really care about the BBQ at all. My expectations may have been too high for it, though. I did like the sausage and the sauce, and the brisket and ribs weren't bad. My biggest issue is that they only sold tea and lemonade to drink. I got lemonade and it was so syrupy-sweet, it was like they had made powdered Country Time and added even more sugar. Yuck.

Post-lunch, we headed to Messina Hof Winery just down the road. We took short tour and got four very generous pours of different wines. It was a great way to spend a nice day and I would definitely recommend it (Boozy Saturday, Part 1).

Growing Grapes | Barrels | Chandelier in the Bed & Breakfast | Day Drinking | Texas Corks (allll the women were taking pics of that!)

Heading back towards Houston, we decided to stop in Planterville to visit Bernhardt Winery. Apparently one of their wines just won some great award. Unfortunately, I wasn't in love with any of the wines enough to want to bring some home, but the property was beautiful, so after our tasting, we sat outside and had a glass. (Boozy Saturday, Part 2).

Tasting Room | Huge Tree | Picture to prove I was there | Sitting Outside | The View

Of course, a bluebonnet picture was mandatory on the way home. I am so grateful that my photo-hating husband stopped at a patch where there were some other people and we were able to get a picture of both of us.

 We were headed back to Houston to go a Johnnie Walker tasting event (Boozy Saturday Part 3) when my friend who was going to meet us called to cancel. We decided that Saturday was Boozy enough (I went home and took an hour nap), so we stayed in on Saturday night.

Sunday wasn't too exciting. We checked out one of the new Aldi stores. My opinion? There are some good deals but you can't do all of your shopping there, so unless one is very close to you or you have the time to visit several stores, it isn't really worth it. Ours isn't in an area we drive past often, so we probably won't go much. Have you been? What do you think?

By the way - Happy Tax Day! I am just glad that Sonic is having Happy Hour all day so I will definitely have to stop in for a Coke Zero on my way home.

What's your favorite Sonic drink? Ever been to a Texas winery? Do you ever outgrow bluebonnet pics (I don't think so - my grandma's church group is going to take them this week!)?

Linking up today...

Friday, April 12, 2013

just a quick Friday post...

I know it goes without saying that I love the weekend, but hear me out. It seems as if, subconsciously, Andrew and I made a decision a few months ago to start doing more on our weekends. Less sitting around the house, and more getting out. Whether it's trying a new restaurant (okay, it's a lot of that), trying to get together with friends, or going on a mini roadtrip, we have been making it a habit to get out. It makes me look forward to the weekends that much more. And we have a lot of fun stuff planned for this weekend...

Not that I need to keep you in suspense, but if I tell you what we're doing and then I blog about it Monday, it's a bit redundant, no?

So I am going to do one of those bullet point bloggy things because some things aren't worthy of a full post.

  • Tried another restaurant on Alison Cook's Top 100 - Pico's Mex Mex. I wasn't a huge fan. The dish was good at first, but then felt a little one-note and I was ready to be done eating it.
Pork, pickled onions, black beans, and rice. I'm not sure why it was ranked #21.
  • Holy inspiration, y'all. So many great bloggers this week talking about blog friendships, comparisons, social media, and great topics that make you think. Clearly I need to start reading some more so I can ruminate on my thoughts on some bigger topics.
  • I find myself jokingly telling myself to do things so I can blog it. I should go to the gym... so I can blog it! I should take a picture of that... so I can blog it! I want to remember this conversation... so I can blog it! Now, I haven't blogged many of these things, but I do like that the thought of blogging is making me workout and document life more. Afterall, that is the point here - to remember how I lived at this point in my life.
  • Nothing drives me crazier than using an apostrophe when you just need an S. Okay, some things drive me crazier, but that is my issue today. And this is not aimed at the blog world. At least not at this moment
  • I am sorry for being a blog lurker for so long! I am so glad people are visiting me here but I wish a few more had something to say. I did that for years, so I completely understand it, and now I feel guilty!
  • Latte art never gets old.
From Blacksmith

I have lots to do before I can leave work and have fun on this weekend of mine. I will be tweeting (Lauren1031) and Instagramming (Laurenm10) for sure, so follow along, will ya? Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

love and marriage: our trials

I am linking up with five lovely bloggers for their marriage series this month. It was so interesting last week to see how so many couples got together in the strangest ways and I can't wait to read more about this week's topic - tough times in a marriage.

I had a whole post written about how Andrew's appendix burst three months into our marriage and how hard it was to worry about him and then care for him. But that doesn't show much about our relationship. The way we cared for our sick dog, Jake, does. (I also don't have photos on my work computer to post so I apologize.)

{Spoiler alert: y'all, he didn't make it, so this could make you very sad, but it's what really happened.}

Let's first rewind back to 2003, before Andrew and I met. He was only 21 and had just lost his mom to a long battle with cancer. His dad started working overseas, and Andrew was living in the family home with a roommate until it sold. He needed a new companion, so he did what anyone else would do: he got a dog. He loved Jake from first sight, and though I wasn't there, I am sure it really helped him cope with his loss.

In the summer of 2011, we were celebrating our first year of marriage with a trip to the Texas Hill Country. We had a pet sitter to come watch Bauer (the cat, if you're new here) and our dogs, Jake and Duncan. A few days before we left, I noticed that one of Jake's gums looked inflamed. I thought maybe he had a piece of food stuck in his teeth, or suffered a bee sting or something pretty innocent, so I told Andrew we should take him to the vet if he wasn't looking better when we returned after our long weekend trip. He was still eating, playing with his brother, and acting fine, so I wasn't worried.

We came back and Jake's gums were still red on one side - and possibly even more swollen. We both took him to his vet appointment and could tell immediately that it wasn't a simple issue like we hoped. The vet couldn't be sure without a biopsy, but his first guess was cancer.

Cancer. What cruel irony. This dog was brought into Andrew's life to help him cope with one loss from cancer, only to also be taken by it?

We took Jake home to wait for surgery day with some pain meds as the perceived swelling was actually a tumor that was loosening his teeth. We started to see changes in his energy levels and appetite, so we started feeding him wet food for every meal. We took him in for surgery and hoped for good news - maybe the doctor was wrong, or if not that, maybe the cancer hadn't spread.

The vet called Andrew post-surgery. His suspicions were confirmed without biopsy (though we still got one to be sure). It was an aggressive tumor entering his jawbone. Once removed, it would still return in his mouth and start spreading through his body. We could keep bringing him in to have it removed, but that could mean surgery every few weeks or months. We could get him doggy chemo, but that would be very expensive, decrease his quality of life, possibly require removing his jawbone, and might not even work. Or, the third choice: we could take this surgical removal for as long as it would last, keep him out of pain, and love him as long as we could. Surgery upon surgery would be miserable for him and expensive for us. A jaw-less existence is no way to live. After lots of thought, we knew our days were numbered. I wanted to cry at the thought, but I tried to stay strong - after all, this was Andrew's dog, and I needed to be the strong one. But it was hard...

We brought Jakey home, sans tumor and a few teeth. He still wagged his tail and went right to his dad at every opportunity, but he wasn't himself. He was spoiled by his twice-daily canned food feedings, until we noticed the food would just sit there. We took turns sitting with him and coaxing him to eat. When that stopped working, we started taking turns spoon feeding him with a plastic spoon. We would coat the back of the spoon with food and put it on this good side of his mouth in hopes that he would lick it off his face. It took half an hour to get him to eat half a can. Lots of time was spent in the dog food aisle, analyzing the pictures on the cans for what looked softest. When that didn't work, we got high-protein food from the vet. The tumor looked to be at bay, but we knew he didn't have long.

We leaned on each other through each feeding every day. I was the coaxer and the petter while Andrew tried to feed him. The love, care, and the patience we both had for this animal was unlike anything either of us has ever really had to demonstrate to each other. We were exhausted after each round was over. And we knew that one of our biggest trials as a couple was coming: losing a member of our little family unit.

Jake, pre-illness. The only photo I can access as I write this.

The tumor grew, Jake's face shape changed, and we knew it was time. We made one last vet appointment for an exam, just in case the tumor looked operable. It wasn't. We both knew in our hearts, but we had held on to hope. Our kind vet and his staff allowed us time to say our goodbyes and encouraged us to stay until Jake was asleep. We kept him in his red collar, the color he had worn since he was a puppy, and told him one last goodbye.

On the way home, I told Andrew through my tears that Jake's doggie Heaven is a field of yellow flowers. I still think of him every time I see one.

I know others have faced far worse, and I know we are fortunate that this has been our biggest struggle so far. The emotions that I knew Andrew must have in losing this dog. The way I wanted to fix things. Leaning on each other. Doing things out of our comfort zones (there was kind of an icky side effect that I won't go into). We made it through. We handled it. We're stronger for it. I'm sure that this is a mini-trial compared to what the rest of our lives could offer, or "practice" if you will, but that didn't make it any less difficult.

I need to go reapply my mascara now. Leave me some fun pet stories in the comments!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

clothes call

{I have been thinking a lot about writing the kind of blog I like to read, and I have realized that I like blogs that simply offer me a slice of the person's life, whether it is about their relationships, gym routine, cooking, or what they do in their free time [so, basically, a lifestyle blog]. So, that is going to be my renewed blogging intent.}

I have come to the recent harsh realization that there is not an artistic bone in my body. Show me a cute craft and I can replicate it pretty decently. If I read a fashion blog and like the outfit, I can copy that too. But give me a pile of craft supplies or put me in my own closet and I am lost. I will make popsicle stick puppets or wear jeans and a t-shirt every time (but hey, I should get bonus points for adding statement jewelry to my outfit. The blogging world has taught me a few things!).

So, I already fear that I won't find anything that I will actually wear when I take a trip to the mall. Add to this my inherent frugality. That's right, internet: I'm kind of cheap. I grew up in a home without a ton of extra money so even as an adult with my own income and money in the bank, I can't stomach the prices of some stores. Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom aren't even on my radar (unless we're talking Last Call and Rack, but even then, some things are still pretty pricey!) and living so close to outlet stores has poisoned me on the prices of real Banana Republic and Gap. When I am in the mood to shop, give me a few hours at TJ Maxx, Marshall's and Burlington Coat Factory... that's more my comfort zone.

Now that I have discovered fashion blogs and lifestyle blogs with clothes that real people wear, I actually wanted to go to the mall this weekend. Mint tops and white skinnies were calling my name. I knew what I should be looking for, how much I wanted to spend, and four and a half hours until the mall closed.

(Before I continue to sound like the most insecure woman alive: I love jeans and t-shirts. My husband is even less clothes conscious than I am, so I don't ever feel like I have to "dress" for him. I just don't know how to assemble an outfit and I always question what is "right" to wear to any particular restaurant or event.)

I have been telling my husband that we are of the age where Forever 21 (for me) and Target clothes are no longer acceptable for everything we own. It's time to invest in quality jeans and work clothes. I went to the mall thinking that it would be okay if I found a $60+ pair of jeans or a $50 top - if I loved it, and it made me feel good, I deserved it....

Y'all, I couldn't find anything I loved enough to justify the price. I tried though, I really did. Here are some things I ended up with.

iKat-ish top from Express ($15) | Lace layered flowy top from Burlington ($15)

Both tops from New York and Co. ($15 each). The blue can be found here for full price. The green is pretty minty and closer to the photo on the left in real life.

And, I swore I would stop shopping at Old Navy (their clothes always seem to unravel for me), but I couldn't resist a cheap dress! Plus, I had a 20% off coupon!
The dress can be found here and the sandals here, but I don't see them in brown online.

So, I'm thinking the top shirts for weekends, the ones in the middle for work, and then the dress and shorts for weekends. I tried on about 50 pairs of white and mint jeans and can't find any that are thick enough and fit properly - any tips?

That's all I bought, after 4.5 hours. Any how to wear suggestions? Or, what I really want to know - what are some of your price limits on different articles of clothing? One of these days, I will love shopping... just not today!