Friday, August 29, 2014

what's the worst that could happen?

I worked late last night and wanted to blog but had no motivation. Andrew offered to do it for me, and he hasn't written a post for me since last August, so here are his two cents today.

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Long time no talk, blog people. I'm Andrew, Lauren's husband. If you read along, you surely know we eat out a lot and are fairly adventurous eaters. I know many people are picky, and some who claim to not be picky eaters actually are quite selective in their meal decisions; they just may not realize this. As Lauren is sure to edit this and weed out some of my lengthy chatter, I'll do my best to be succinct. No promises though.

Signs you may be a picky eater:

1. You tend to order the same type of entrée on most of your dining out occasions. While there may be slight variations, you stick to a fairly small comfort zone, drawn to culinary buzzwords and phrases such as "baked to perfection" or "mango-habanero." Honey-chipotle is another chain restaurant fave as they try to maximize on the sweet heat trend that appeals to so many. It is a common food crutch. I can look at a menu and predict what my father will choose before he ever sits down to the table.

2. You have a standard order at multiple places. We all have our fallbacks. When you go to place ABC you always order XYZ. I don't fault you for it., I have my food staples too. But if you start to notice that you have an "I'll have my usual" moment at numerous local restaurants, you may be stuck in the dreaded comfort zone.

3. You intentionally avoid ordering a dish based on one ingredient that is part of the plate, and you have not tried that ingredient since you were less than 18 years old (i.e. a yuck that has mushrooms moment). I'm a big supporter of try everything as an adult. I promise, tastes change. If they didn't I would still eat nothing but bagel bites and Oreos.

I tell you all of that to tell you this: take a chance. It's the only way you'll learn to appreciate more types of cuisine. I'm not saying go out to the fanciest, most expensive restaurant in town and order something you're relatively certain you won't like. I don't expect you to empty your wallet in the name of risk. But the next time you go to one of your normal spots (which I assume is fairly affordable because most of us don't have a regular routine restaurant that costs a fortune), order something you wouldn't normally order. What's the worst that could happen? You don't like it and don't order it again. It's one meal in your life that didn't satisfy, but at least you tried.

I say these things not as a food snob, but someone who adores the experience of dining and the endless possibilities involved in it. If you're at a restaurant where the chef has earned your trust, either through reputation or personal experience, then put your faith in them that they would not put something on the menu that they don't feel you'll enjoy. And when you start to turn your nose up about a plate of food based on an ingredient, try to remember the last time you tried the ingredient. So often the answer is either "never, I just know I won't like it," or "my mom made me eat it growing up." We all love mom, but let's be honest, she was capable of messing up a meal from time to time.

I don't expect everyone to want every meal to be an experience, I know I'm a nerd about food. But I hope minds continue to stay open to new things in a culinary sense. One of the things I love about my city right now is the growing willingness for the community to try new things. Try to put aside common misconceptions about different ethnic cuisines. Not every Indian dish is heavy on the curry. Not every Mexican dish is smothered with cheddar cheese. Vegetarian food is not just tofu, I promise. Great barbecue has NOTHING to do with sauce, and please do not be happy when your ribs "fall off the bone." It means they're overcooked- please believe me that this is fact!

Food is fun, food brings us together and is an integral part of so many of our memories. Turkey and fixings surrounded by family around the table, shoving cake into each other's mouths on our wedding day, a greasy burger on a hot afternoon. You never know when you're going to make your next food memory, but the opportunity is always there.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

house update

A few people have been sweet enough to ask, so I thought I would fill you in. Here's what's happening on our house hunt:

We had a bunch of showings the Saturday before last and then got an email from our realtor that night that someone was ready to make an offer. We were thrilled, and the offer came through the next day over asking price so that we would pay closing costs. We agreed, because an offer is an offer and we are crossing our fingers.

The next day, after about a million electronic signatures, we started asking our realtor when we should start looking into a new house. She wanted us to wait since the purchase of a new house is dependent upon the sale of our current one. We said okay, but that there was one we really liked. We visited it on our own for an open house and thought it might be the place for us. Plus, there weren't many homes that met our criteria in our price range in the neighborhood we liked. So, we sent her the link and she contacted the agent, who was also the owner. The house was purchased as a foreclosure by the agent and his wife and they have been working on it for the past few years. They were expecting another offer but agreed to wait until we could put in an offer to accept it. So, early on a Monday morning, Andrew and I met our realtor at the house. She suggested an asking price and we put in an offer contingent on the sale of our current house, which was accepted! So things are looking great.

This past weekend, we had an inspector come out to the potential new house (I also took measurements and made a really long wishlist of things to buy... priorities, right?). There were a few things we would like to see fixed, but overall, the report was good. So now we wait.

It wasn't what I imagined at all. I watch House Hunters all the time and I was expecting a day or more of going from house to house, finding something wrong with nearly all of them, and a sit-down decision with Andrew over which would be best for us. But, there really wasn't much to choose from. We've kept an eye out since we're still in the option period and there isn't anything we love. We were able to visit the house on our own, so going with our realtor was for her professional opinion more than anything. In this case, visiting multiple homes would have been a waste of time - I think we've found our place.

It has things that never crossed my mind (wainscoting just entered my vocabulary a week before we found this house) and lacks a few things I thought I would have to have (there's no room for an island in the kitchen and we don't have double sinks in the master bath), but we love it. It has red shutters and a front porch and a covered area in the backyard that we can't wait to furnish. There's plenty of space, high ceilings, and a utility room for Bauer's litterbox. It's about 50 miles away from our current house, so I will have a new area to learn, but it's pretty close to the airport... any friends who have a layover in Houston, let me know! I think this is going to be our home for a good, long while, but I won't breathe easy until the keys are in our hands. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

And because posts need pictures, here's one. I'll wait until it's officially ours to share more.

Monday, August 25, 2014

foodstuffs lately

I said this blog would focus on food but I haven't taken many pictures lately so my food posts have been few and far between. That, and a lot of the people who read here aren't in Houston so you probably don't care what and where I've eaten. But, since I do what I want, here are some things I've had recently.

Ciao Bello - Andrew and I went here with friends for Houston Restaurant Weeks, which amounted to a four course meal for $35 each - a great deal as this place would normally fall into the "special occasion" price range for us. The service was intentionally slow which was lovely and gave us lots of time to chat with our friends, the owner (who owns lots of big name Houston restaurants) was running food out to the table and offered to switch our friend's plate when he lamented aloud that another dish looked better than what he ordered, and I'm still dreaming of the corn pansotti that I enjoyed and grudgingly shared with everyone else. It was also my 49th restaurant on the Top 100 list, hurray!

Andrew's appetizer, which was great, but not as great as my corn pansotti.

Caribou Coffee - I've seen this place when travelling, but it's new to Houston. Bri instagrammed a pic of it while she was away, and when I learned there was a location in a grocery store near my house (the Fiesta in Katy for local friends), I wanted to try it. It's fine, but pretty expensive. Like, more than Starbucks expensive. It's a nice change on the weekends, I guess, but I would rather spend a few cents more for latte art and locally roasted beans. Ugh, that was so pretentious I can't stand myself, but it's true. Did I order wrong? Send me a recommendation and I'll try it again!

Costco Dinner - You see me and my sometimes food snobbery, but you need to know that isn't always the case. One night a few weeks ago, Andrew didn't want to cook and I didn't want to clean, so we went to the Costco food counter for dinner. A foot long hot dog and a drink for $1.50? Pizza for $2? YES. I also ordered a giant cup of chocolate frozen yogurt for $1.50 and our whole dinner was less than $6. I do not want to think of the quality of food that I ate; can we just focus on how cheap it was instead?

Costco Lunch - A little over a week later, we had Costco for lunch. This time I tried the chicken Caesar salad and for $4 it was pretty impressive. I'll definitely order it again.

Tita's Taco House - We went to our probable new house for inspection over the weekend and ate on the way there. This is a small house with no menu - you walk in to chaos and point through the sneeze guard to show the employees what you want. Tacos are served on a foil sheet in a plastic basket and you pay as you leave - totally on the honor system. All tacos are the same price as they ask for quantity and nothing more. The tortillas were being griddled right behind the counter and the no-frills fillings had tons of flavor. It was delicious and unlike any other restaurant in our current rotation. We had four tacos and a drink for ten bucks and change. We will definitely return!

So tell me, what have you been eating lately? Do you have dinner at big box stores?

Friday, August 15, 2014

fiveday friday ramblefest

I'm listing five things so I can link up because it's fun to make friends, no?

1) Speaking of friends, some of mine made my day this week. I was full of crabitude (crabby attitude, see what I did there?) on Monday due to the house, people in my life, hormones, and other things and expected Tuesday to follow suit. But it didn't. I had an unexpected lunch date and fun email conversations and Kate was finally back to keep my work day sanity in tact and a lot of little things piled up to make a great mood.

2) So pretty much all of my friends were made from work or my blog. Some days I want to not blog anymore because I have nothing to say and what's the point and I get discouraged by numbers and boring posts. And then I remember what it's given me and I read a post unlike anything else and I want to be that person who has that voice whose words you want to read. Probably never five times a week and likely not on a set schedule, but at least the person who you see every so often, like a friend you didn't realize you missed until you get a birthday card from her in the mail. Only I will probably show up a lot more than once a year. At least once a week.

Bauer turned six last week and I didn't even write him a birthday post but you can read last year's about love at first "site" here.

3) We bought a Macbook two years ago and I admit, I have never fallen in love with it. It's pretty and all but (blasphemy) I just find a PC to be so much simpler. I know, I should have confessed this on a Wednesday with Kathy. It was running kind of slow and then on Tuesday night, it gave a grey screen with a flashing question mark. Dr. Google said that meant bad things and sure enough, the Geniuses at the Bar deleted the hard drive which didn't solve the problem, but $60 and a tiny wire did. I know, $60 for a few more years of use out of a computer isn't that bad but come on Apple, I was expecting smooth sailing for at least five years. (Also, back up your stuff, people. I don't think I lost anything too important but time will tell.)

4) Oh! I bet you've been spending every waking moment wondering when my house will sell and where I will live next. Or is that just me? Probably. Either way, it's officially been on the market for eight days and we have had eleven showings. Bauer oh-so-preciously puked on the floor for one and beyond that, the feedback has been about things we can't fix, like the layout and the neighborhood. I am anxiously waiting for the right person to come through the door and buy this thing so I can stop making my bed and ensuring there are no dirty dishes in my sink every night. How do you people live like that by choice?

5) Sometimes I try to de-stress and end up looking like a bum. I decided to spend a nice summer lunch break on my school's 6th floor terrace. I needed a break from my phone, so I went to a mostly-hidden bench and decided to lie down, stretch out, and let my mind wander. School hasn't started yet so the non-smoking side was deserted. Well, if the ability to sleep was a super power, I would be in the next summer blockbuster because I was out almost instantly. It was a nice break from my desk and I got some Vitamin D, but I don't think sleeping on an outdoor bench is going to become a new lunchtime hobby.

Life in five points. There it is. Crossing all my appendages that I have zero time in my house this weekend because too many people want to come check it out and they all want to buy it and a bidding war ensues. Fine, I won't be greedy. All I need is one person willing to pay asking price.

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Friday, August 8, 2014

the scariest thing to happen in a long time.

This week has been all over the place. Here it is, in a nutshell.

1) Thanks for making me feel less alone with my moving weirdness. It really did help!

2) A home stager came and basically suggested we do $6K worth of work to the house. After I told her that wasn't happening, she asked me to get rid of all of my cute knick-knacks clutter before the photographer came that afternoon. That I was able to do. But, our house is on the market! We had a showing appointment yesterday and another on Saturday so I'm hoping that someone wants it, or at least provides good feedback as to why they aren't interested.

3) I got to see some of my favorites, Miranda and Sarah, on Tuesday for dinner. We were all wearing striped shirts and it was awesome (and unplanned). I know on Wednesdays we wear pink, but apparently on Tuesdays, some of us wear stripes.

Apparently I like to not fully open my eyes in photos. And we also forgot to clue Miranda into the statement necklace requirement. And Sarah's bump is saying hi, too!

4) I've been wanting a new vacuum for a few months now and ours finally died. I had been coveting the one Steph posted about last month and was pretty sure I was just going to get it. Then my Costco mailer arrived for the month and there was a Shark vacuum, very similar to Steph's (it has the detachable canister, it's bagless, and it has a pet hair attachment. They may be the same, just different colors.) for $120. I bought it last night, Andrew assembled it, and my floors haven't felt this clean in forever. So far, I highly recommend it.

5) Okay, on to the terrifying story (that I can laugh at now). There's a critically-beloved restaurant that we pass daily on the way home in a not-so-great part of town. Andrew thought it had closed and become something else and, being that he's been getting pretty friendly with food writers in Houston, wanted to have a story before they did. So we drove past and saw a sign for an Afghani restaurant. The restaurant had been Ethiopian, so it looked like suspicions were confirmed. He took a photo of the new sign, then drove back around the parking lot to make sure he wasn't missing anything. We were almost out of the parking lot when a man hit our trunk hard with his hand. Andrew waved him off and kept driving and the guy ran to my side of the car and started banging on the window and tried to open the door, yelling "Why did you take a photo?" Honestly, I freaked out and probably yelled "Why the --- does it matter?" and Andrew pulled onto the private road that would get us on to the freeway service road the and guy stood in front of the car, refusing to let us pass and screaming at us. He tried to open the doors again and screamed at us and said he was calling the police (really dude, for taking a photo?). We tried to yell at him through the window that we just took a picture but we wouldn't roll the window down and he wouldn't move from in front of us. We called the police ourselves. Then another, larger man drove up and caused us to block traffic on this road. We called 911 again because we felt threatened - we were two people in a car taking a photo and this guy had a restaurant full of workers to come help him! At one point, there were five men out there looking at us, taking photos of the car, us, and our license plate. The guy in front of the car moved to one side to motion to one of his friends and Andrew tried to drive forward and just get us away- the guy threw himself on the hood of the car and claimed he ran over his foot (he definitely didn't. The idiot continued to stand there, proving what we already knew). This all took about thirty minutes; Andrew and I pretended to be on the phone the whole time. Finally, another man came out and talked to the guy in front of the car and his other main guy. They looked at us a few more times, and then walked away. I gave that guy a thumbs up and we left. I was shaking so bad and my heart was racing.

A police officer called us about ten minutes later. The man at the restaurant said we had screamed at him. Andrew said we did, but only after he tried to open the door of our moving vehicle. The officer said he told them that that was not legal behavior and they couldn't do it all anymore and told them that all we wanted to do was take a photo so we would have the restaurant's name. I did file something with the police department in case this guy claims a foot injury or something, but the officer who called seemed to believe it was all over.

I was so mad that something so innocent turned into something scary. We had no way of knowing if these guys had weapons or why they were so aggressive. Now, I'm able to laugh a little at the absurdity of it all, but during it I was nauseous and near tears. I really hope nothing comes of it, but you never know...

Anyway, so now that that craziness is over, I can move on with my weekend. We have dinner plans with friends for Houston Restaurant Weeks and of course, the never ending battle of keeping the house clean and streamlining all of our junk.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

my life getting flip-turned upside down

It started innocently enough, but doesn't most everything?

It was Sunday morning. Andrew got me out of bed with the smell of coffee and we both lounged on the couch, Outside the Lines on TV, scrolling our own respective phones.

"Oh wow," I said (stupidly), "I just read an article that homes in Houston are selling at a record pace and for lots of money." It was innocent enough; I was just sharing.

He took the laptop. I figured he was looking up Fantasy Football stats or something. A few minutes later:

"Wow, Lauren, did you know that homes in our neighborhood are going for...?"

And then I knew it wouldn't be "our neighborhood" much longer.

The song will be in your head all day. You're welcome.

He researched and I let him. Remember, we decided in the spring that our current house was just fine and we bought furniture and put holes in the wall and made it a home. I mentioned all of this. But apparently that didn't matter.

"Hey come on," he said, "Don't you want to move?"

I guess? I mean yes. I do want to move. We've been in this house eight years and I would love a little more updating, a better commute, a change of pace. Or would I? There's comfort in having a vet and a dentist and a grocery store you know inside and out. I know which Starbucks have drive-thrus and where gas is cheapest and which streets run parallel to get home in case traffic is bad. This has been my side of town since I was five. It's a stupid, cookie-cutter suburb, but it's mine, dammit.

My always researching, far more practical (and far less resistant to change) husband pointed out the positives of a new area: closer to work and the areas we like to live, trees, a life change that isn't drastic. And he's right. But I'm still clinging to my 'hood. I've told him I could win exclusive access to a castle in Rome and I would second guess if I would like it there, too. As someone who has never had to find a new post office or realize new comforts, my reaction that change is bad isn't as surprising to the casual observer as it is to me. But I'm working on it. At the end of the day, we're going to find the best house in the best neighborhood that we can afford that's available. And I might lose my comforts, but maybe, it's time.

So that's what's going on with me. My screen time has been spent looking for realtors (we found one!) and checking out real estate listings. Evenings are spent making the house just a little cleaner. There's a stager and a photographer coming today and we're hoping to list tomorrow.

Meanwhile, we're pre-approved and looking for a place. I might have even applied to be on House Hunters. Might as well go all out, right?

So here we go. A potential loss of comfort, the start of something new. Let this be a lesson to wives everywhere: think before you share just any random tidbit with your husband. It might make your Sunday a lot less lazy.

Linking up with Kathy because admitting I don't want to move across town 
feels pretty confess-y to me.