Wednesday, April 30, 2014

my confessions about blogging

I think a lot of bloggers like to read about blogging, and you're in luck, because that's what we're going to talk about today. You might be judging me when it's all said and done but that's what makes this a confessions post and not just a list of thoughts.

- I confess that I mark beauty, fitness, and recipe posts as read no matter how much I love you. I'm not going to pin that, do that, or buy that, so I just move on. I'll be back tomorrow.

- If you use weird fonts for the body of your posts, I want to click away. Comic sans is terrible and unless your blog is about elementary school students, make it go away!

I honestly can't think of any blogs I follow offhand that do this but I know I've seen it...

- The same goes for text columns that are too narrow. If I have to squint to read your blog post, then buh-bye. Lose space on the left and right sidebars to have more room for content, please.

- And, one more confession about looks - I confess that I take your blog hobby more seriously when you size your photos. Look at this old post here and then this one for comparison's sake. I think the one with bigger pictures is more appealing. Picmonkey should be your best friend, if it isn't already! You took those pretty pictures, so let me SEE them!

- I confess that I judge how much I like a blog by how the blogger treats me. Someone recently asked what my favorite blogs were, and I gave a long answer with many variables because a lot of the bloggers whose writing I love aren't particularly friendly, whereas other bloggers whose blog subject matter isn't always my favorite are great people who I enjoy emailing.

- That said, I procrastinate on responding to comments and I feel terribly guilty every time. I like thoughtful responses, so why is it sometimes so hard to give them in return?

- I hate whatever the wordpress commenting platform is that makes me go back to your blog to read comment replies and about 75% of the time, I never click over to read your response.

- With all the recent talk about blog organization lately, I confess I wonder where I land in different people's blog folders.

- I love words and list posts are hard for me. I realized last week that my long, wordy, confessions posts like this and this got fewer hits than my short ones like this. It makes me sad that so few people want to "have to" read, but it isn't going to make me change my long-winded ways.

- If you follow me on twitter, then you know I don't like hashtags in blog posts, but the point above deserves a sorry not sorry. If I were in to that kind of thing.

- I give myself a hard time when all my posts for the week are link-ups, but a good idea is a good idea and posting more than four times a week is usually overwhelming!

.... and I could continue. I like to overthink blogging, clearly, and I'm sure we differ on quite a few opinions. I'd love to hear some of your blogging confessions.

Linking up, as always, with Kathy.




Tuesday, April 29, 2014

what it's like to be in my marriage

If you were in my marriage, you might overshare about nearly everything, except what goes on in the bathroom; that's off limits. You would do your own laundry, but take turns doing sheets and towels. You would refer to each other as "Mommy" and "Daddy" when the pets were being referenced, and mostly as "honey" any other time; hearing your real name come out of your spouse's mouth would either mean you were in public or in trouble. If you were in my marriage, you would both hate bugs, but one of you would tolerate them more than the other and take care of more than their fair share.

I will keep trotting out wedding pics as long as possible. Also I had to steal this from my Walgreens uploads because somehow it never made it onto Facebook... weird as it's a favorite!

In my marriage, there are kisses goodnight and hands held when walking through parking lots; that tends to be necessary when one party is ten inches taller than the other. On many days (the best days), you'll laugh until your stomach hurts over something that isn't funny to anyone else on Earth besides you two. This marriage always has room for bargaining and trades - I'll unload the dishwasher for you if you'll take the trash out for me. When a task is forgotten or pushed to the last minute, a cry of "But I thought that was your job" is almost always a valid excuse. If you were in my marriage, one of you would always be late and blame it on your partner for distracting you while said partner would always plan to leave five minutes earlier to combat these awful tendencies.

If you were in my marriage, you would remember that your partner proclaimed they were "too stubborn to get a divorce" before you even got married. Your partner might not remember it, but you would, and it would help you through the moments they frustrated you worse than your worst enemy could. You would text throughout the day and use those snippets to know what kind of mood the other would be in on the ride home, you would learn when quiet was best, and you would learn when rehashing a problem is the only way to solve it. You would be happy to have a partner at the family gatherings, to do the taxes, and to take the car in for inspection. You would have someone to argue with and someone to surprise. It would be nice to only be alone by choice, because that's how it is in my marriage.

In my marriage, there is one who likes to sleep and one who's always up early, grinding coffee beans and using the fresh-brewed goodness to wake the other with promises of a fun day ahead. There's one who loathes surprises and one who never knows what's coming next. In my marriage, we have been known to bring a sleep mask in the car, blindfold the other, and play a guessing game on the way to dinner. There's one who sees snuggling in the traditional way and one who sees it as their feet in the other's lap. There's tolerance of messes, shirts that are forever food-stained, and unending lines and journeys to try the latest and greatest in food or beer. You'll mostly forgo tomatoes or shrimp because the other doesn't like them at all. That's what we do in my marriage.

Bluebonnet selfie from a few weeks ago.

My marriage is easy yet hard; it's something that we do, for sure, but that also comes easily at this point in time. I refer to it as on cruise control - just keep looking out for what's ahead and we'll continue on just fine. My marriage is mine, and wouldn't work with or for anyone else. I wouldn't have it any other way. 

All relationships are different and should be celebrated. I personally love blog posts that show me what someone else's life is like, so I wanted to give you a glimpse into mine.

Monday, April 28, 2014

a few things I learned this weekend

I had a great weekend! But I took no pictures. That seems to be the theme of my life lately, and it's okay. So here's what I did, in lesson form.
  • I learned that it is so worth it to make couple friends. Andrew and I went out with Sara and Bryan and it was great! Let's do it again!
  • I learned that Underbelly, one of my favorite restaurants, has gone and gotten really damn expensive. Still good, but ouch. It will now have to go on the "Celebratory/Special Occasion" list of retaurants and that makes me sad (the four of us shared the veggies cooked in fish sauce, Korean goat and dumplings, and bread with whipped honey lardo). At least the wine was half price, and I had plenty.
  • "Drinks and Bites" at the Menil Collection (an art museum) literally mean a drink and a bite - we each got a glass of wine and a crostini with some smoked salmon. Big disappointment. But, art and wine seem to go together well as wandering the galleries and making immature jokes about art was actually really fun.
There was more art outside the museum - this was just an overhead projector with stuff written on a transparency. You know, the stuff you stared at for HOURS in school? It's art now, apparently.
  • Strawberry basil, Habanero Ginger, and Blood orange are all perfectly fine margarita flavors, in case you were wondering. 
  • The Shawshank Redemption has magical powers that will leave you incapacitated on your couch for three hours every time it comes on. Every.damn.time.

  • BLUEBERRY PANCAKES. Need I say more? No, I do not.
  • That shorts no longer feel as age-appropriate as they once did. What do you guys think? I put on a pair, immediately decided that they were inappropriate unless I was headed to an outdoor concert (I was not), and wore jeans. How does one dress in the heat when one is almost 30?
  • And I learned that it can still be fun to go shopping with a friend. This is something I have avoided for years, but Sara and I planned to go to the outlets (before we decided to go out with the guys on Friday) and we spent a few hours giving opinions and convincing ourselves we needed things. It was the first time I've had fun shopping in forever, so maybe bringing a friend is key? (I got a dress and a top, both for work, from the New York and Company Outlet for anyone wondering).
Linking up with Katie and Leeann!

imyourkatieque

Friday, April 25, 2014

a few friday favorites

It's been a busy work week! I had a long day yesterday, in heels no less, so I am hoping today will fly by because I have a happy hour double date planned and I am super excited. I thought I would mix it up a little this week and share five of my favorite things.

I took this pic at the event I worked last night in my dean's building. Not too shabby of a view (that's Discovery Green Park and the Convention Center)

Favorite Find:

I've been using Suave Dry Shampoo (the one in the gold can) for over a year because I read it was good on a blog. It was fine. Lately, though, I've seen more and more about Not Your Mother's Clean Freak Dry Shampoo so I decided to spend $2 more (it was still less than $5 at Walmart) and give it a try and I love it. It doesn't make my hair feel hard like the Suave stuff did and my hair looks much better at the end of day two. Let me know if you try it out!

Favorite Freebie:

Administrative Professionals' Day was this week. I plan a celebration at my school for the entire staff, and this year we had an ice cream cart, mini cupcakes, fruit, coffee, and candy everywhere with bags to take back to your desk. I am sugar-ed out but I have candy at my desk to last me a week or more. I also made candy bouquets (using this tutorial I posted last year) but forgot to take pics, but they were pretty cute!

Favorite Guilty Pleasure:

So I used to watch 16 17 18 19 Kids and Counting and then I couldn't handle the crazy train anymore so I stopped. But now that Jessa is courting and Jill is engaged, I am sucked right back in. Please tell me I'm not alone and that I can discuss Duggar conspiracy theories with someone? Also I think Jessa has amazing hair. Must be the nutrients in tater tot casserole that gives it all that body.

Favorite Discovery:

(I guess a find and a discovery are the same thing, but my blog, my rules!) I finally set up a Comedy Station on Pandora and it makes enduring Houston traffic so much better. (Lewis Black, Aziz Ansari, Chris Rock, and Mitch Hedberg are on mine... I'm not cool enough for any non-mainstream comedians).

Favorite Read:

I saw someone tweet this and it's worth a quick read. No matter what you do, you're doing it wrong, am I right? Has anyone else had these thoughts about themselves and perhaps other bloggers? The point is we all have our own opinions and we can't make everyone happy so just keep on doing your thing. But she said it better and more more truthfully.

Linking up with Amanda and for Five on Friday!

THE GOOD LIFE BLOG
Meet At The Barre

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

who I am and who I want to be

I like a lot of things about myself. I'm honest, a decent listener, an above-average tipper, and friendly when I want to be. But, I confess - there's a type of person I want to be.

I want to be that person who is always there when you need them. Who always sends a note when you need encouragement, knows when to offer to help you out, compliments you on your worst day without even knowing how you feel, and gives a lot of themselves to other people.

The same way I had to learn to say "Thank you for having me over, Mr. and Mrs. So-and-so" as a child, I find myself as an adult needing to learn the social norms of generosity. Being a good friend and a better person. It isn't ingrained in me, and it doesn't come naturally.

I don't know if it's my only-childness, how my brain works, or some combination. When you tell me something is going badly with you, I care, I promise, but I tend to think that you will tell me about the bad stuff if you want to, and if you don't, I should change the subject to something else, like me or the weather. But adult women like to talk. We just need prodding sometimes, and some extra questions, and a little extra time. I'm working on giving all of that.

I'm also working on trying to be the initiator. Perhaps we are all a little scared of our invitations being declined, or we all just assume everyone is busy, but I think a lot of people are shy about inviting people to do things. I know I get that way; I assume if you wanted to hang out, you would ask. But if you assume the same thing about me that I assume about you, will we ever see one another? Not likely. So I am trying to keep track of who I haven't seen in a while, who I want to see, and what that person likes to do. I want to initiate because I want to be friends. I want to initiate email conversations with blog friends when time and content permit.

I forget to send follow-up texts when I know friends have had a job interview, I don't remember dates well at all, and my brain doesn't switch in to "helping out" mode when I'm visiting someone's home. I hate that! I want to be the person who is thoughtful and caring and is there when you need me. It doesn't come naturally, but it's something I want to change. I want to make the effort to be that person.

I envy people for whom empathy and generosity seem organic - they don't to me. I keep tallies in my head when people buy me things and I want to repay them - beyond birthdays or Christmas, it's hard for me to accept something "just because." I am not particularly giving, but I should be: I mean, I have so much and I am very fortunate, but other than donating things that I no longer need or want, my giving spirit is pretty non-existent. I want my heartstrings to be tugged at and to give with a happy heart, not because Sarah McLachlan songs and sad puppy eyes made me do it.

This is one of my struggles, and while there are many other, more real struggles out there, this is something I don't like about myself, something that I can change. And I should! I'm working on asking the follow-up questions of friends, thinking of what I can do to be of help to others, and even giving too big of a bill for two cookies at a charity bake sale at work (baby steps, people. Rome wasn't built in a day.). I want to be that person, and even more, I want it to come naturally. Just like thanking someone who has me in their home is now automatic, I want the rest of it to follow. After all, who doesn't want to add to the things they like about themselves list?


Linking up with Kathy and Steph!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

the way I was (embarrassing photos ahead...)

I remember what it was like in 1996 when I was in fifth grade and a teacher told us that there was one special computer in the school library that could "talk" to a computer at another school in another state. We were going to do the same research and compare data with them each week. It was a big deal. This was the first I had ever heard of the internet.

Remember those machines where you could be on a magazine cover? I probably begged my parents to let me do this... Also, sorry for so many pictures of pictures but my scanner never works.

When I was in my most awkward, formative years, I needed glasses. They didn't have rows and rows of cute ones for kids at each eye doctor; instead, there were about five choices and they were pretty much unisex. Hello, Bug Eyes. I'm grateful I finally got contacts in 8th grade but from 3rd until then, I had huge "nerd glasses," as my husband now affectionately calls them.

Cat lady (my mom still has the sister of that cat - she'll be 20 next month) | I'm in the middle. This was my mom and step-dad's wedding and those are my cousins.

In middle school and early years of high school, the really lucky kids had pagers. You had to come up with different codes so your friends knew what your page meant! I didn't have a pager, but I was lucky enough to get a cell phone when I was 16 - the Nokia kind with the snap off faceplate and that had the game Snake installed.

Do you remember when cameras weren't everywhere? We had to actually plan ahead, buy film, wait to take 24 photos (because you used it sparingly, remember?), and get the film developed. If you were like me and had to pay for that yourself, you paid as little as possible, waited 3-4 long days, and finally got your photos back. It was a real treat if my parents offered to pay and I got one hour delivery.

I thought I was so hot when I was 13 and I got to get Glamour Shots. Check out the totally age-appropriate white button down  and brown lipstick (did I age 40 years that day? Why am I in front of a body of water? WHERE ARE MY FRECKLES?)

I don't think I had the internet at home until my first or second year of high school, which made me so uncool. Was there anything worse than someone using the phone and getting you kicked offline, "your" AOL dialing number not connecting because it was too busy, a song download getting stuck at 98%, or wondering if someone's vague Instant Messenger away message was about you? No, no there was not. AlSo, wE tYpEd LiKe tHis (whyyyyy?).

This was my favorite BUM Shirt from Contempo Casuals - I think it was the first I got in adult sizes. The holes punched through my head are there because this photo was in my Five Star planner that my friends and I filled with the coolest things we could find - stickers, pictures, collages, and notes. Was that a trend anywhere else?

I loved TV and getting my own VCR and a stash of blank tapes was a big deal. Accidentally recording over an episode of Gilmore Girls that I had yet to watch was pretty awful (the episode where Lorelai inherits money and pays back her parents for Rory's education? I didn't see that until, like, five years after it aired because I recorded over it. I'm still annoyed). Make sure the tape isn't set on the two hour setting or you will be in trouble when you try to record all your shows!

In high school I guess I thought I was rebellious for dancing on a table in a science lab? Also check out my cool Rainbow Brite shirt and velvet flares. I know, I wish I had kept them because they are obviously still so stylish...

I also fondly remember making mix tapes by recording songs off the radio, passing notes in class, and making collages from magazine cut-outs. That was my favorite hobby and even as an adult, I still notice cute fonts and pictures that would be perfect for the imaginary collage I guess I'm still making in my head. When my friends and I were bored, we would wander around the neighborhood, or call a cute boy and see if he would meet us at the park. We snuck beyond the area our parents allowed us to hang out and went to the gas station or grocery store to buy candy. I walked around barefoot more places than my adult, germaphobe self cares to remember. I didn't have a cell phone, and I didn't get kidnapped. My mom didn't dress me in the trendiest clothes marketed at kids and when Limited Too became popular, I had to beg to shop there. Off of the clearance rack, because it was way more expensive than my normal Target and Walmart staples. Back in my day, I think being a kid was a lot easier than it is now, even though then I thought it was so hard.

Thanks for hosting such a fun link-up, Suze and Steph, and giving me an excuse to dig up some dorky and embarrassing pictures!

suze blog

Monday, April 21, 2014

bbq, wine, and comedy in austin

I had such a great weekend in Austin! Let's get to the good stuff (and tons of pics).

Andrew and I left the house at 6 a.m. on Good Friday. I luckily slept most of the way there and we got in line at Franklin BBQ. For the uninitiated, Franklin BBQ was named the Best BBQ in America by Bon Appetit Magazine a few years ago. The lines are notoriously long and they only serve until they sell out - usually around 1 p.m. The line itself is a true experience - people bring beer, breakfast, lawn chairs, music, frisbees, all kinds of stuff. If you want food from Franklin (especially Friday - Sunday), you just have to commit to a long wait. Through all of the different BBQ places we have tried all over Texas, Andrew still says that Franklin is the best. I will agree - it is damn delicious - the meat actually melts in your mouth. I hate that expression, but it's true. So, anyway, Andrew dropped me off in line at 8:05 with my lawn chair and magazines and went to get us coffee.

The restaurant opens at 11 and we didn't order until close to 1. Due to all the beef and pork I've had lately, I was dying for some of Franklin's delicious turkey. We were two people away from ordering when a staff member said they were out of turkey. I looked at Andrew like he had forgotten my birthday - five hours in line and NO TURKEY? Yes, everything else is good and this was definitely a first world problem but it was so something that would happen to me that I just started laughing. We ordered (with plenty to take back for some of his coworkers) and the guy cutting the meat asked if we wanted any turkey. "What? There's some left?" I did a total 180. He put the last half pound in our order and I thanked him for making my day. Andrew thanked a higher power for our luck because if I had stood in line for that long and not gotten the thing I was craving, he never would have heard the end of it!

Someone who lives in the apartments across the street has a twitter account where they post pics of the line every day, We were where the arrow is on the left, behind the woman in purple.

The food was phenomenal, as always. The fatty brisket was perfect, ribs were perfectly cooked and delicious, and the turkey had great flavor. We tried the bourbon banana pie, too, and it was great. Aaron Franklin, the owner/smoker/pseudo-celeb (people were getting his autograph and taking pics) saw me getting up to get more paper towels and brought them to me and came over to chat about Andrew's Houston BBQ Festival shirt. He was so genuinely friendly and he didn't have to be - he could have hid in a back room - and his kindness, as well as that of his staff (the guy cutting the meat talked to Andrew about the Giants' draft prospects and the cashier chatted about his love of the Menil Collection, a museum in Houston) makes me happy to support this place. The food is that good that they could be the BBQ nazis and still do amazing business, but the fact that they are nice on top of it made the experience that much better!

Andrew's had a Giants sticker in his wallet for a long time so we decided to leave our mark | the famous signs | so much meat! It wasn't all for us, I promise!

After checking into our hotel, taking a walk, and a little rest, we were headed out for the night. We decided to check out Lenoir, a restaurant with a small menu that's supposed to be great. Since we were still full and short on time, we skipped dinner in favor of small plates and drinks on the patio. The patio was beautiful! It was behind the restaurant and shaded by a huge tree. Gladys Knight played from an actual turntable and there were board games out to play. The weather was perfect and I would have loved to sit there all night. The small plates were half off and we shared a bean salad, smoked snapper on a crostini, and a chocolate pot de creme. The food was great and you couldn't beat the price (I think each plate was around $4). The toast was savory and fishy without being overpowering and the pot de creme came with grapefruit, which I normally hate, but this wasn't tart and was so nice with the rich chocolate.

Bean Chaat Salad | Snapper Toast | Chocolate Grapefruit Pot de Creme | Cute decor

The reason we chose this weekend to go to Austin was to see Tom Haverford Aziz Ansari. I just started watching Parks and Rec recently but I have heard his comedy was good. He basically riffs on things that are actual issues people our age deal with - like friends being noncommittal with plans in case something better comes along, being in a relationship vs. dating around, and even how we get our food. It was a great show and really funny. He even encouraged everyone to take a photo of him at the beginning so no one would have to during his set.

"Take a blurry ass picture you'll never look at again." So true, but here it is! Our seats were awesome!

Normally, when we're on trips like this, I like to take advantage of the change in scenery and stay out late, but due to the early wake-up call that morning, plans the next day, and the fact that the hotel room was free to us (funded by this weird thing at Andrew's work), we went to bed pretty early.

On Saturday, we got up pretty early and checked out a Farmer's Market pretty close to the hotel. It was great - tons of fresh produce, flowers, coffee, honey, and other things, as well as booths selling tons of food. I had a taco from Tacodeli with Mexican mashed potatoes, refried black beans, and Monterrey Jack cheese - perfect for someone who doesn't like scrambled eggs. We shared kolaches from The Zubikhouse - one with sausage and cheese, one with fig preserves, goat cheese, brown butter, and sage. Both were awesome. Andrew had some tacos that I didn't care for and we got some Mexican coffee. I love situations like this where I can try a little bit of everything.

After a walk back to the hotel and checking out, we headed out for more food. Andrew has wanted to try Mickelthwaite BBQ for a long time and after he described their homemade moon pies to me, I was in. We got there around 11, when they opened, and got food by 12 . We shared a three meat plate - brisket, ribs, and their sausage of the day, a pork belly boudin sausage. The brisket was good but when compared to Franklin, just didn't compare. The ribs were fine and I liked the sausage a lot. My favorite thing, though, was the jalapeño cheese grits. They were cheesy and perfect, with a hint of jalapeño flavor but very little heat. Luckily we got a double order so we could eat half for lunch and saved the rest for that night. The moon pie also got saved and was eaten for breakfast on Sunday. It was awesome and so cute!

Instagram repeat of the trailer | the three meats | Moonpie, whole and cut in half. It was double layered!

Saturday was less food-focused. We went about 30 minutes west of Austin to check out Jester King Brewery. It's in the middle of hills and has a great covered area, huge trees, tons of beer and a few wines available, and a pizza place with a wood burning oven on site (unfortunately, we didn't partake - next time!). It would be a great place to go to with friends to just spend an afternoon chatting, drinking, and people watching. They also had iced coffee on draught which I was obsessed with - I now want to open a coffee shop with coffee made several different ways and have that as an offering, of course.

From the top of the hill, looking into the open-air pavilion | the pavilion was huge and pretty | From the bottom of the hill, looking at the seating area, tasting room, and area where the beer is brewed.

We went to two wineries, Solaro Estate Winery and Bell Springs Winery, and shared a tasting and got a few glasses at each. Solaro was really pretty (and they are opening a tasting room in Houston soon) but the tastings were mostly reds, which aren't my favorite. Bell Springs had live music and a cheaper tasting. Their sweet white tasted like peaches. The weather was perfect so just sitting outside relaxing at both spots was really nice!

Left and bottom from Solaro Estates, right from Bell Springs

On the way home, we went through Austin and stopped at Pieous for pizza. We shared a white pizza with arugula and prosciutto. It was good, but the impulse banana cream pie that we shared was the reason we'll go back. It was the most perfect pie crust I've ever had - buttery, flaky yet firm, and sweet but not overpowering. Delicious.

LOVED the chalkboard decor!

And then, on the way home, my husband who hates taking pictures spotted a bunch of people pulled over (and likely trespassing on private property) and taking photos in the bluebonnets. And, well, since I love our pic from last year, I wanted one from this year. I think it's a winner, even though pooping on the bluebonnets has kind of spoiled it for me. But I didn't have a blanket and didn't want grass stains on my mint jeans so squatting just happened.

Totally counts as  nature so I am linking up with Kelli!

We had a lazy Easter morning and then went to my parents' for lunch with my extended family. I guess the bunny skips old people and there were no kids to hide eggs for, so I missed that stuff, but it was nice to see family, as always. What a great weekend!


                                              

Thursday, April 17, 2014

throwback thursday: trying out for who wants to be a millionaire

Today's post is just a story whose details are already getting fuzzy but that I want to be able to remember well into the future. I'll just think of it as a Throwback Thursday...

It was Summer 2009, and Andrew and I knew we would be getting married the following summer. When we first started dating and I was in school and he worked nights, the afternoons were our time together. We loved Jeopardy and Who Wants to be a Millionaire and knew that our knowledge bases complimented one another well (basically he has an amazing memory and I know a lot about pop culture and a little about current events). Who Wants to be a Millionaire auditions were going to be held in Houston with a special audition for engaged couples to play to go on the show together to earn money for their wedding. I heard about them, but didn't say anything. I mean, I had to work, he had school, and what were the odds that anything would come of it? I casually mentioned it to him in a "hey, that would be cool" kind of way and then I told my boss the day before auditions. Her response? "You HAVE to go try, you won't forgive yourself if you don't!" So I went home that night, we gathered the necessary paperwork (I think we needed a copy of a contract or something for a wedding venue or officiant), and we decided to cram.

Now, you have watched Who Wants to be a Millionaire - how does one cram for that? We didn't know, either. I think we reviewed Presidents and major wars, lots of wikipedia-ing pop culture events, and some detail on huge historical moments like Watergate. I remember in one stroke of genius, I wanted to look up the names of the US Supreme Court Justices, so we did.


In line to take the test around 6 a.m.

We got up early and had to stop at Kinko's to make copies, then went across town to the audition site. We were assigned numbers, got in line and were herded into a room full of chairs. As we sat, Andrew was at the end of one row and I was at the start of another. We didn't get to sit next to each other, which meant I couldn't have cheated off of his paper if I had wanted to (not that I ever would have done that... okay maybe I would have...). So they passed out multiple choice tests and gave us a time limit. When it was time to start, I was confident in about half of my answers. They asked who the Supreme Court Justice of the United States was and I was so happy to know it was John Roberts! I also remember a question about Bugaboos (thanks, blog reading) and a few other things we discussed. Time was called and then we sat and waited for a few minutes. Andrew and I tried to communicate how we thought we did and both felt pretty good. They started calling the results by number and got to his first. He was through! I was so happy, but we both had to pass the test to get on the engaged couples show.  Then they called me. We had to come back in a few hours for more auditions.

SO EXCITING

We went back and had to wait in another line. We met with someone from the show who had our scores and seemed to like us. I don't remember what was said, but I know that instead of leaving like everyone else we had seen, we were shown to an area with a camera and told to give an interview. Now this we had not rehearsed. And neither of us like being on camera. I just remember rambling and talking over Andrew. Oops. But we hoped for the best and they sent us on our way. A postcard would arrive if we weren't invited to New York in the next few weeks.

  I think we have gotten better at selfies since then. I think it's funny that even in 2009 I was insisting on ridiculous pics to document unique activities!

Unfortunately, the story doesn't have the ending we hoped for. The "you failed" postcard actually came on Andrew's birthday that year. We theorized that our scores were so good, they were too worried we would actually win so they just couldn't have us on. We kept our eyes out that whole season for Wedding Week, to see who was better than we were, and we never found it. I like to tell myself that they scrapped the whole thing anyway, so it wouldn't have mattered.

It was a fun experience! I would love to try out for Wheel of Fortune or something one day, and I think it would be even more fun on a couples week or something so I could blame Andrew for anything we got wrong experience it with Andrew.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

mini-confessions

I've been on such a blogging roll this week and it feels so good that even though I didn't have a post planned, I thought some confessions might be in order. Linking up with Kathy, as one does.

- The amount of sleep I have thought I needed this week is ridiculous. I took an hour and a half nap after work Monday and fell asleep on the couch before The Mindy Project was even over last night. Let's say I'm making up for lost time and hope I get back to normal next week.

Bauer got the memo and stayed wrapped in a blanket all evening. I confess that I was lazy and didn't edit this photo at all for size or color.

- I cancelled my gym membership yesterday. I know in the land of sweaty selfies, this is crazy talk but I was just wasting money. I hated everything about going so I never went and never felt good after I did. I need to find something that works for me and sorry 24 Hour Fitness, but you aren't it.

- The amount of money I spend on fancy coffee is a little insane but I don't think I'm that sorry about it. Many twenty-somethings go to bars and drink shots of Fireball; I get a $4 latte at least once a week. No big deal, right?

- I'm going to Austin this weekend and I have nothing hipster-y to wear. My husband doesn't understand that this is a real problem and if we are going to a hipster bar on East 6th, I need to look the part and not like I just dropped in from Dallas or something (this only makes sense if you live in Texas, I'm sure).

- I get irrationally irritated over stupid things like coworkers using valuable mini-fridge space for tortilla chips. They're chips! They can be at room temperature - my salad can't! But since I'm at work, I can't say anything. So I tell you all instead...

- I love to rant and commiserate with others about things that bother us. Some call it gossip, and it probably is, but I often need someone to confirm to me that I am not, in fact, totally crazy. As long as we rant and commiserate in confidence, does it count as gossip?

- I had a weightier post in my head for today's confess sesh but it just didn't get written (see point one). But I love participating and all the new people I meet on Wednesdays so you just get what's in my head, confession style.

Tomorrow I have a Throwback Thursday post already written about the time I tried out for Who Wants to be a Millionaire so if you just found me today, make sure you come back tomorrow for dorky selfies from 2009!


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

things to know about Texas

I've lived in Houston for my whole life. Most of my extended family is here, so I don't get a chance to see how other people live very often. I think that's part of why I like blogging; I love to see what things are like in other places. So, assuming that you do, too, I just wanted to share a few Texas experiences with you that are just part of life to me.

- Bluebonnets. I'm sure if you follow any Texan via social media, you'll see that we are deep in bluebonnet season. Bluebonnets are Texas' state flower and as kids, we were all told that it was illegal to pick them. While that isn't true, most people think it is and that means that the fields of bluebonnets on the side of Texas roads stay in tact as long as possible. It isn't uncommon to see families pulled over and taking pictures in fields along highways. It's just our thing.

Last year's bluebonnet pic - hopefully we can take another this weekend.

- Tex-Mex versus Mexican food. Hate to break it to you, rest of the world, but the food you call Mexican is actually Tex-Mex. Think queso, nachos, quesadillas, and things featuring flour tortillas and sour cream. Mexican food is richer, uses less cheese, and seems to focus more on the way meat is cooked and featured in the dish. So if I am learning about a new restaurant here that's described as Mexican, I have to follow up with "Traditional or Tex-Mex?" For the record, I typically prefer Tex-Mex.

- Kolaches. It makes me sad that the rest of America doesn't have these as a breakfast staple. Basically, there was a large Czech population that settled in Texas and they brought kolaches with them. Traditional kolaches are a sweet bun with a dollop of fruit mixture on top. However, for some reason, Houstonians also call meat-filled buns (think a pig in a blanket on steroids) kolaches, too. Pretty much any donut shop in town also sells the meat kolaches. They're staples here.

Left - the fruit kolaches. Right - the kind with meat inside. These are smaller than the ones available at most donut shops.

- The feeder road is the frontage road. I just learned a few years ago that the thing I have always known as a feeder road is a frontage road in the rest of the world. Apparently Houstonians are pretty much the only ones who call them feeders. Why, and why is it so widespread? So weird.

- Houston has no zoning. I don't even know how to properly explain this because I've only ever lived here, but the fact that Houston has no zoning laws baffles anyone who comes here. You might have a strip club down the street from a grocery store with an office building behind it. While I just see that as first come, first served when it came to buying property, others find that odd. Apparently pawn shops are seen as shady in other parts of the country, but here they are everywhere. There's one in the same shopping center as my dry cleaner. It might as well be a Walgreens as far as I'm concerned - I'm indifferent to it.

- "Don't Mess with Texas." For as long as I can remember, this has been a slogan to deter littering on Texas highways. Other people interpret it as being something slightly menacing - like ohhhh, Texas is too big to be messed with. Nope, it just means don't litter.

image from here.

- Whataburger. It's a fast food burger chain. My mom didn't really like it so I didn't eat it much growing up and don't particularly care for it now, but I'm in the minority; people love it. It's open 24 hours so it's notorious drunk food. People go crazy for their ketchup and it's now sold at HEB (Texas' best grocery store). It's considered blasphemy to say I couldn't care less about it, though, because there are people who crave it and have to eat it as soon as they cross state lines.

So those are just a few things that seem commonplace to me but might strike you as crazy. So tell me - what should I know about where you live?

Monday, April 14, 2014

so tired, so full

We've been waiting for "one day" for awhile now. One day when we have friends, when we can invite people over, when we will make dinner for them and serve drinks, have a use for the servingware and salad tongs that have been taking up space in the kitchen for no real reason for far too long. One day.

Well, Saturday was finally one day. As simple as it seems, and it should be, there was finally a day where the stars aligned and I had friends, opportunity, and a home in which to host a seemingly simple barbecue for relatively newfound friends and their significant others. We talked and laughed, ate and ate some more, and got to know one another better. Seeing how your friends and their mates fit together in a perfect compliment, and how they were all as they have been described came as no surprise but was a treat nonetheless.

These friends didn't see the chipped paint or the bare flower beds that I wished I could change with the wave of a wand in the hours leading up to their arrival. They were gracious guests full of kind words about our food, our home, and our invitation to spend time together. The wives even chased their husbands with coasters and explanations about new furniture and being careful when eating near the couch. It didn't matter that we brought lawn chairs inside and plates were eaten resting on laps; it was a house full, and having more bodies than actual dining chairs didn't seem to bother anyone. 

It's so ridiculous and I've said it so many times, but I am so grateful for these friendships and these people who are a part of my life. Who I can have standing text dates with, last-minute lunches and girls' nights, plan weekends away with, and email with links to things I want to buy but need another opinion on. I have an amazing friend and partner in my husband, sure, but I need girlfriends, and we need couple friends, to make life feel more complete. To share the mundane and the fun with, to pass along leftover barbecue to, and to lean on for support for an unknown "one day," when we will surely need it. To believe that on days or weeks or time beyond when I choose to stop making my presence here a regular occurrence, that they will still be there to live life with.

A friend and I recently joked that if something wasn't on Instagram, then it didn't happen, or else it wasn't any fun. Well, there was zero documentation of this small gathering; purses were left on a bench by the door and phones barely checked all night. No hashtags or check-ins or filters needed - instead there was eye contact and stories not suitable for social media and hopefully memories made. I looked around the room at one point to see some of my favorites all together and I just felt full - beyond the brisket Andrew started cooking in the middle of the night - just happy about the fact that these people were in my life. I wish I could have invited everyone, near and far, who has become a friend in the past year, but there isn't enough room in my house (or on Andrew's smoker) to host a barbecue to celebrate all of the relationships I've been lucky enough to form.

So thanks, internet, for existing so that I could make the real life connections I so desperately needed. Thanks, friends, for being willing to go beyond the pixels and type into real life friendship. I'm grateful that one day arrived and look forward to many more memory-filled days to come.


Friday, April 11, 2014

life lately, five on friday style

Oh hi, unintentional blog hiatus. Here's what I've been doing since I've been gone (you may all sing Kelly Clarkson to yourselves all day long; thank me later).

1) I F-I-N-A-L-L-Y got to meet Heidi from It's a Westbrook Life on Friday! I found her blog last summer-ish and we immediately hit it off since we went to rival high schools and have the same TV news loyalty, and we both like cats and food. I mean really, what else does a friendship need? She is moving back to Houston after two years in North Carolina and I am thrilled that we got to start our real-life friendship sooner (I mean, if she'll have me...). We had drinks and lunch and more drinks and talked about life and husbands, a tiny bit about blogging, and guys she brought me a present! Is she not the sweetest EVER?? So come onnnnn, June, so we can have regular lunch/wine/coffee dates!

We had to document with a few pics, obviously. And my present - so thoughtful! A magnet that says "Yay! Cupcakes!," some Carolina BBQ sauce, some Cadbury Eggs (some may have not made it into the pic, oops) and a notepad with a grey striped cat like mine that says "Get this done right meow.... I'm not kitten." Cats and puns!

2) Houston had a BBQ Festival. There were 20 booths. I tried 17 in some way (some looked unappealing so I threw them away after a tiny bite, sorry cows) and I was sick the next day. Too much meat? Coincidence? It was fun, but I don't think I need to experience it again. But, we posed for a pic for Houston's newspaper and made it into the slideshow so at least there's proof that I went once.

I had a raincoat, Andrew had a free poncho.

3) Customer service is a dying thing, but Bed Bath & Beyond's is mostly awesome (sidebar: that was my first-ever job. Hated it then). I bought an iron from them in late January and it stopped working last weekend. By some weird miracle I had my receipt so I took it back and exchanged it for a bigger, better iron that only cost me $10 more. I bought some things there online, brought in a stack of coupons, and ended up with $20 back on my card for that stuff. Plus I used ebates on the initial purchase. Saving money is awesome and if you're one of those "But I never think of that" people, this is a reminder to use coupons, ebates, whatever.

4) They're saying that new twitter looks like Facebook, but don't we all love twitter because it isn't Facebook? I haven't looked into the changes much but I'm skeptical.

5) Real life is keeping me busy so blog life suffers. I know you've heard it all before. But I was recently challenged with providing a link to one of my best posts lately... and I drew a blank. I'm not saying enough here and I'm not doing all that much worth documenting (unless watching four consecutive episodes of Property Brothers counts) because work is busy and I want to relax or exciting things like pulling weeds and cleaning the inside of the fridge are just tiring and I want to just sit and not think for a while. I want to keep using my blog to say something - so I'm going to work on that. On having opinions and thinking of things to share. I have missed all of my regular interactions this week since I have barely commented (but I've read a bunch!).

Five on Friday should just be called "Friday Crap" because don't we all struggle to come up with five things when the time comes? I have a busy weekend planned that I think will be great. Hope yours is, too!

Linking up for Five on Friday.


Friday, April 4, 2014

five on friday: things I bought, made, and ate.

Here it is, just five things making me happy this week.

1) If you follow me on Instagram, then you already saw a glimpse of the succulent garden I put together over the weekend. I used Martha Stewart's tutorial, found here. I got the vase, gravel, and sand from Michael's (around $10 total, after coupon) and the plants and soil from Home Depot (soil was less than $5 and a huge bag, plants were $3 - $5 each; I used three. I always wonder what stuff costs so I thought I would share.). The sand looks really messy and I am afraid I'm going to kill it, but I really love it so far, especially with the addition of a dinosaur (painted at a pottery place years ago).

The dinosaur stays. Also, you can see my table. I'll post pics next week.

2) I scratched another restaurant off of the Top 100 in Houston list this week: Bijan Persian Grill. It's right by Andrew's office. I was in the mood for something comforting, but the same old stuff didn't sound appealing; this was perfect. The bread that comes to the table is like Naan around the perimeter, but crisp like a cracker in the center. We each got a plate with mint leaves, sliced radishes, and feta squares to go on the bread - it was a unique flavor but I loved it! I ordered a beef and grilled chicken skewer, and both were great, but Andrew's chicken kebob was my favorite part of the meal. We will definitely be back (and one day, I will finish that "Eat" tab up there... one day...).

The only pic I took. But it was so good! I need some Persian friends.

3) I love World Market and collecting points at World Market. I had a $10 reward, they had $10 off a $30 purchase, and I wanted a $30 tray. I got said tray and a spice jar (the tray was $29.99, $30 minimum purchase) for $11 after tax. Awesome.

The bottom is mirrored but the wood is weathered. I don't know how to style these things so mine is just practical for now.

4) I love looking at the search terms that bring people to my blog. I get some good traffic for writing your own wedding vows and the Austin 360 Amphitheater, but I have also had people find me using "what does Lauren want to eat?" and "Lauren blog Bauer cat." If you remember my name, my cat's name, and the fact that I have a blog, then really that's all you need. I hope you have decided to stick around and read regularly.

Yesterday, a lot of people posted a list of things they would never do (I linked to this post). Many said they would never get a cat because they don't like cats. That made Bauer sad so I made him a meme. Sadly he has yet to go viral. But man, bloggers, why you gotta hate the kitties? I still like you though. I just think you have terrible taste :)

5) I've been on a huge ice cream kick lately. Again, I instagrammed (I should really stop that so I have blog fodder, huh?) the amazingness that is Mexican Chocolate, only available at HEB, so sorry non-Texans, but I don't think I have said anything about the new Ben and Jerry's with the hazelnut core. Holy Nutella yumminess... There's dark chocolate ice cream, hazelnut ice cream, and a core that's basically Nutella. I'm not a Ben and Jerry's lover but this is a new favorite.

This week has passed soooooo slowly, probably because I have been looking forward to today for over a month! I have a lunch date that I am super excited about. I'll instagram it for sure, and you'll hear all about it next week. Hope you have a great weekend!



              THE GOOD LIFE BLOG       

Thursday, April 3, 2014

it could happen to me

I accepted a job at a law school in 2010 and never thought about my personal safety. Does anyone really, besides a police officer, or perhaps someone working in a sketchy neighborhood, or maybe a jail? (Granted there are countless others, but I don't have time to list them.)

Working at my school, I've heard a few stories. There was a bomb threat to the courts that used to be in the top floors of our building so the school was evacuated once, but the courts have since moved. There was a threat to the Dean made on Facebook by a student, but she was "crazy" and off her meds - while it was taken seriously, it was never seen as a genuine threat. These stories make those ripped from the headlines type stories hit a lot closer to home.

I office in the Office of the President and Dean. The guy in charge. My office is across a small suite from the Academic Dean. The one whose name is on the dismissals, who sees students about appealing decisions over grades and disputes. Most of them are professional and perfectly harmless, but you never know. 1300 students with 1300 different backgrounds enter the building I work in every day. And you just never know.

We recently had panic buttons installed on every computer in the building, which is as proactive as it is terrifying. I hope I never need to use it. But it's nice that it's there. My office door has a lock, but it also has a window wider than the door. There's nowhere to hide but under the desk. The fact that I have wondered what I would do enough times to actually have a plan is scary.

Scary people - whether they suffer from mental illness, hold a grudge, or just have a lot of misplaced anger - can obviously do what they intend to anywhere. I don't need to tell you how sad it is when innocent lives are lost for absolutely no reason. But every time something happens, like yesterday's shooting at Fort Hood - another senseless, violent act, and a second at that base in five years - I wonder why, and I wonder if it will ever be me. My school, my mall, my grocery store. I understand that some people choose to protect their property and have guns to do just that, but I don't understand why an average citizen needs a semi-automatic weapon that is capable of so much damage, so fast.

I don't want to get political. I just want to be a little sad, and a little scared. And a whole lot irrationally optimistic that there's some way for this senseless violence to end and we can go back to feeling safe in places where a large number of people are gathered.

Thinking of those at Fort Hood today, both the lives lost and those who felt their safety threatened once again.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

a confessions post completely void of usher references

It's Wednesday which means that we wear pink link up with Kathy so here goes...

- These posts get great traffic. There, I said it. We all like little, mostly-relateable facts about our peers, so it makes sense. Getting to get some things off my chest to an extra-large audience? Wins all around.

- I bought a groupon for a maid service that I am pumped to use, but I am planning on pre-cleaning parts of my house before they arrive. I don't want to embarrass myself.

- I confess that too many confession posts in a row run together in my head and I can't remember whose blog I'm on.

-It's April and I haven't started on my taxes yet. I am normally more on top of it but we almost always owe (what am I doing wrong?) so I have put it off a lot this year.

- I get embarrassingly behind on blog comments. While I don't believe that I should ever apologize for living real life in favor of blog life, I do feel bad creating a new post when I have other "blog work" - like responding to comments - to tend to. I am going to get to them, I promise, and work on a system besides getting super excited to read them and then letting them collect until there are so many I feel like I will never make a dent in them.

- I just discovered chili cheese wheat thins and I think I might be in love. Chili like peppers, not like the stuff for hot dogs, for those wondering. I would be...

- There is a huge snarky side that lives in me that I don't let out on the blog much but if we have ever talked privately, you might have seen it. I worry that I come across as mean snarky and not funny snarky so I try to keep it off the blog unless I am sure you can tell I'm mostly kidding. But really I like to make fun of things, probably more than I should.

- I get irrationally paranoid when someone tells me I look like I'm losing weight and I'm not. Like, um, how was I looking before? And if I am looking thin today, then can I wear that outfit for the rest of the week? Would that be weird?

- I got April Fooled. Twice.

- I pretty much can't stand Facebook but I still check it all the time.

- I confess I have never watched an episode of How I Met Your Mother and I guess I'm not sorry because apparently the finale was terrible?

- I love TV but I am finding it hard to get really into shows lately. I am hooked on Nashville (so bad it's good), love Parenthood, Modern Family has its moments, still watching New Girl, and love The Mindy Project. I was so excited for last night's episodes!

Not from last night but whatever...

- I confess that I am spending a lot of time trying to think of some confessions that will make those of you stopping by from the link-up stick around beyond this post, but I already put a lot of myself in this blog so I can't think of much that won't be redundant to anyone who has been around longer. So I confess that I have writer's block?

You have probably already written your own confessions post, so now you just have to tell me which confessions you find relatable and which you think I'm crazy for. Let's talk about it!






Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A BBQ Cookoff Experience

This weekend I only picked up my laptop to do some online shopping and by the time Sunday night rolled around, I didn't feel like breaking that streak. So weekends are now discussed on Tuesday. What can I say, I like to shake things up.

Aside from a random selection of movies played on my TV this weekend (Mean Girls, Princess Diaries, Legally Blonde, Anchorman, A Few Good Men, I Love You, Man, The Departed...), nothing much happened. Those of you with good attention to detail may know that my last pieces of furniture, the dining table and chairs, arrived, but since I'm not totally happy with how they look, I haven't photographed them yet. 

The biggest activity this weekend was a BBQ Cookoff that Andrew participated in. Sara wanted more info on what it was and what I was doing (at one point she worried I was standing in a dark field, alone) so I took some pics and thought I would share them with you today.

Andrew joined a BBQ cooking team with his coworker and his coworker's dad. His coworker has a huge smoker that sits on a trailer that he can bring with him, and his dad has two smaller smokers, also on a trailer. So that's three smokers. They set up three large tents with a cooking area and tables and chairs, and lined the tops with Christmas lights. There's a generator to keep the power on. This cookoff was extra fancy and gave teams the opportunity to rent a porta-potty, which Andrew's team did (ew). They had a makeshift sink area with a huge cooler of water and dish soap, so at least they tried to keep clean.

Just an idea of all the stuff they brought out with a small smoker in the background | "our own porta-potty (I opted for the real bathrooms, they weren't that far away) | The big smoker and wood. Unfortunately the camper in the back was a different team.

Each cookoff judges different foods: this one was brisket, chicken, ribs, fajitas, beans, and dessert. Teams are given different times to turn everything in. Everything but the fajitas were due on Saturday, but since briskets cook for forever, they set everything up on Friday and basically invite people into their cooking area Friday night to have a big party that lasts until the briskets go on to cook. There were nearly 100 teams at this event, so there was a lot of food and a ton of smoke in the air.

I got to the cookoff, which was an event heavy on beer. I don't drink beer so I kept it classy with individual bottles of wine straight from the bottle. The team had already been cooking all afternoon, and they had lots of stuff ready: feral hog (which I didn't care for but everyone else loved), fajitas, chicken, homemade BBQ sauce, and my favorite thing - boudin-stuffed poblano peppers wrapped in breakfast sausage and then grilled. It was amazing. I ate a bunch and random people drifted in and out of the tent - luckily, a friend of ours was there to keep me company while Andrew cooked.

Keeping it classy with my wine | Feral hog, anyone?

After it got dark, I wanted to walk around and see some of the other set-ups. Some were amazing. There were all kinds of custom trailers and smokers. Some people rented huge tents and had dance floors and DJs. One tent might have been playing The Train and Tootsie Roll and I may have wanted to crash their party after three mini wines, but you weren't there, so you'll never know. One tent had an RV with two TVs mounted to the outside. I thought Andrew's team's set-up was pretty cool until I saw what else was out there and I encouraged him to make new friends!

A wide shot of Andrew's team's set-up | A Houston Texans smoker | One of the cool tents - so big it didn't fit in the pic.

There was lots of gun talk, an old man telling me a story that he probably still hasn't finished, tons of beer, and even more meat. It was definitely an experience and outside of my comfort zone. I left around 12:30 but Andrew was out there all night and most of the day Saturday - it's definitely a time-consuming, tiring hobby. So apparently that's the BBQ life. Next time I say I'm at a cook-off, you'll know that I'm not exactly roughing it and if I'm lucky, I'm bringing a mini bottle of wine to a tent playing the best hits from the late 90s.

Anything else you want to know about a cookoff? How should I go about making friends with the people with the cool tents next time?