Thursday, July 30, 2015

tbt to memorial day weekend

Sometimes I write posts and I'm just too lazy to add pictures. Time goes by and they aren't timely anymore so I don't finish them. This post has been sitting in my drafts since early June just waiting for pictures. Today I decided to just add them (what took me so long? There are four.) and post this for my memories, in the spirit of Throwback Thursday, because this was just a good weekend.

I never weekend recap anymore (um, Lauren, you barely post anymore) because my weekends are mostly the same combo of sleep in/go out to eat/fall asleep watching Dateline and who wants to see that every Monday?

No one. But today, you'll get to see what I did over Memorial Day weekend because it was particularly good and I'm particularly lazy when it comes to sitting down and typing.

So, that Friday, Andrew and I carpooled. We went to the credit union that's on the other side of the world (more on that later) after work and then stopped for my favorite chicken biryani. It wasn't as spicy as I wanted it to be but still delicious. World, we need more things to put raita on. Let's get on that. Then we went home and I probably fell asleep watching Dateline.

On Saturday, we did some boring house things and then went to test drive a car. But wait, Lauren, didn't you get a new car pretty recently? Yes, I did. And so we had one new car and one old(er) one. And then the transmission on the old(er) one started having issues. Issues not worth fixing. And thus, we found ourselves at a car dealership for the second time in two months. We liked the car, but they didn't have the color we wanted, so they said they could have it by Monday.

(Side note: a car salesman told me not to let a "silly thing like color" keep me from getting a car. But when I'm spending that much money, it doesn't feel silly. This isn't a dum-dum at the doctor's office. Color matters to you when it comes to something that expensive, right?)

Anyway, so we went on with our Saturday because we had a staycation planned in downtown Houston. We checked in and then went to Prohibition Supper Club for snacks and drinks. It's a 1920s themed bar that's very pretty inside. The waitresses all wear gorgeous vintage flapper-esque dresses (though one was wearing Kendra Scott earrings and kind of ruined it for me). At night, they have a burlesque show in a back room. We had oysters and a veggie dish with beets and carrots. It was a really neat place and would be great for a girls' night.

After that we went to the Rockets game, where they got killed. It was painful to watch and there was a lot of yelling. We left before it ended.

Drinking was required to forget that bad memory, so we went to a bar called The Nightingale Room. I really wanted to check it out because it has 2000 record albums or something crazy. Now, downtown Houston normally has pretty relaxed bars. The area isn't known for dancing; instead, you go to these bars for craft cocktails and unique atmospheres. Apparently, The Nightingale Room didn't get that memo, at least not on Saturday, because it was loud and there was some interesting (and entertaining) dancing happening. I wasn't crazy about the cocktail menu, either. The place was neat and I would love to go back - maybe for happy hour during the week - and I loved that they had a small second story with a drink elevator going up to it. A cool place, but that night, it wasn't for me.

We decided to go to a place we had tried before, Public Services. It's known for wine and sherry and its decor that I refer to as hipster granny. Last time we went there, it was empty. This time, there was a good amount of people, but it wasn't too crowded. We got a table and chatted with the guy who runs the place. He recommended sherrys for both of us, and they were great (this coming from someone who has quite possibly never had sherry before). We also tried their housemade baloney. I know, I hate baloney too. But this was so good. A hunk of meat, some smokey cheese, and then a sleeve of Ritz crackers - comfort food with some extra oomph and a little nostalgia. I loved it. We sat drinking and people watching for a while until we were both tired and took the train back to our home for the night.

(Another side note: when we went to buy our train tickets, there was a huge sticker over the screen. I thought some mean person was just being a jerk so I peeled it back and purchased our tickets. I later learned that it was a Rail Appreciation Day or something and you could ride for free all day. Oops. At least it was only $5 total.)

Sunday morning we woke up to my alarm at 10 a.m. I just love hotel blackout curtains. We wanted brunch, so we decided to go to Kitchen 713. We've been there before for dinner. We ordered biscuits and gravy, the fried chicken dinner for two, and a peach cobbler. It was an insane amount of food. The biscuits and gravy were fantastic (I even allowed a bite of egg on mine, which is crazy since I mostly hate eggs) and filling. The chicken meal for two was ridiculously huge - it came with sides of red beans and rice, green beans, and mac and cheese plus two biscuits. I'm not a huge fried chicken fan and I mostly hate meat on the bone, but this was the stuff that makes people crave fried chicken. Crispy skin (which I normally pull off) with a  tiny bit of spice and juicy meat... it was delicious. The sides were great too and predictably, the mac and cheese was my favorite. Honestly, we could have lived without the cobbler. It was good, but I don't need it again. We had so much food left over that we packed it up for dinner that night.

Saturday night Sherry | Biscuits and gravy | Peach cobbler | Fried chicken dinner with sides and biscuits and gravy in the back

The rest of Sunday, we hung out at home. On Monday, we got a call that our car had arrived, in the color of our choosing, at the dealership. Since we went to our credit union on Friday, we had basically a blank check for the car dealership to fill in the purchase amount on (I've never seen that before and it made car buying so much easier!). Of course, the process took a few hours, but we now have a cute little Honda HRV to match our CRV, and according to my husband, we won't be buying another car for at least seven years.

So that was Memorial Day. Better late than never.

Monday, July 27, 2015

house rules

This post was inspired by the lovely Shannon, whose 21 Days of Gratitude have been a pleasure to read. She wrote about the way things are in her house, which led me to think about our own "house rules."

In my house, we take turns picking records. He picks lots of Springsteen and I pick Michael Jackson for the dance party that I know will follow (I know MJ was terrible later in life but there isn't much that tops "Gotta Be Startin' Something"). There are also records that we have vetoed if the other is home. I refuse to listen to Inside Llewyn Davis and even though he bought me Taylor Swift's 1989 for Christmas, I can't listen to it when he's home.

In our house, whoever cooks does not clean. I only cook two dishes - enchiladas and lasagna - so therefore, I clean often.

We don't allow phones at dinner! I'm working hard to enforce this one for both of us.

We trade favors. I got you some ice cream earlier, so will you get me a glass of water now?

I feed the cat, and he feeds the dog.

We try to eat at home Sunday - Thursday, and Friday and Saturday we go out. Sundays are grocery shopping days and we only buy what we think we'll need for the week. Our pantry is mostly empty!

There are movies we watch at least a few minutes of every time they're on: Shawshank Redemption, Goodfellas, Wedding Crashers, 40 Year Old Virgin, and Anchorman all come to mind.

He told me early on that he doesn't clean bathrooms and so far, I haven't really forced him to try.

All of our money goes into one big pot and everything is truly "ours." He pays the bills; I'm bad with math and due dates and though I rarely acknowledge it, I so appreciate it.

We're brand loyal to toilet paper and paper towels (Charmin and Bounty, respectively).

We ALWAYS watch the Dateline episodes narrated by Keith Morrison.

A bad day is made better by a trip for a treat - preferably frozen custard or Bahama Buck's.

The one who drives gets to pick the music. I hate driving; I rarely pick the music.

We check in with each other about making plans, but we don't ask permission when the other doesn't have to tag along.

We usually go to bed at the same time (but I stay up and read for about an hour). On weekends, he wakes up first and knows not to wake me up without coffee or the promise of breakfast in the very near future.

Since we both blog, we both proofread each other's posts.

Most things are given nicknames ending with an "ee" sound - Bauey, Dunky, Honey, and so on. I have to stop myself from using ridiculous terms we use in our house in real life.

In our house, we talk about our days. The big and the mundane. We know each other's coworkers by name through stories, even if we've never seen their faces. We text throughout the day, but never call. We play devil's advocate when we can and best, supportive friend when needed. We're on the same team.

I'm sure there are many, many more, but they feel so natural to me that it's hard to think of them now. What are some of your house rules?

Friday, July 24, 2015

summertime almost-sadness

Every summer, I hit a wall and experience a malaise that's hard to shake. Maybe it's because it's grossly hot in Texas (my car read 106 yesterday, eeek!), work slows down and the days get long, and everyone is off having fun at the beach while I wonder what's wrong with me since the idea of bathing suits, sand, and sun sound like torture. Either way, I have been in a funk this week so I thought maybe some oversharing and time with my online friends would make me feel more like myself. Can't hurt, right?

(Apologies in advance if you already know this through texts/emails/snapchat/twitter. If you see a repeat, it means that you're a gold star friend.)

- It's officially the early 2000s on the WB in my house. In addition to watching Gilmore Girls anytime the mood strikes, we're rewatching Everwood on DVD (because you have to pay to stream it) and it's possibly better than I remember. The dialogue is quick and funny and the references don't seem dated. The fashion, on the other hand... let's just say Amy Abbott's bell-sleeved tops that hit right at her belt line and flared jeans really take me back. And young Chris Pratt is just as precious as you would hope. I seriously have to stop myself from livetweeting this show. It's just the best.

- Okay, so still on TV but I love Girl Meets World. At first I hated it and thought it was awful but season two is great if you were a huge Boy Meets World fan - they brought back Angela and Mr. Turner and there's lots of Shawn and Eric. I need to know someone else is watching this who is over the age of 12.

- Andrew's birthday was last week! He spent the evening preparing chicken and ribs with his best friend of twenty years since his friend's mom's memorial service was the next day. I baked him cookies (two days late... we were busy) upon request and we went to Caracol for brunch last Sunday and we'll have dinner at Oxheart tonight to really celebrate, so better late than never.

- I'm strangely invested in My Three Angles (it's a parody, people!) and then GOMI told me that Hey Ladies is in the same vein and now I love that, too. It has fantastic quotable lines like "I am eating for two also: myself, and also my future self. And I would like her to be as fierce as possible" and I just need someone else to read it so we can laugh together.

- I find fashion bloggers particularly intimidating. I think it's lucky that I met Miranda at my first ever blogger meet-up or else I would have probably never been able to relax around her. I went to a blogger brunch over the weekend, not realizing it would mainly attract fashion bloggers (thank goodness Bre was there, also a friend from my first ever meet-up... that was a good day for me) and I basically froze when anyone asked me about my blog and immediately hated my choice of wardrobe as soon as I got there. Insecurity, you are a beast.

- On that note, I saw my nieces this week! The 15 year old and I had a lovely chat about how at 30, I'm still trying to figure life out and I gave her the truth that it's never really easy and we're all just doing the best we can. If someone had told me that while I was in high school, I might have been terrified, but I think she's stronger than I ever was. I got to hang out with her and her seven year old sister for a few days. We went to see Inside Out (it was good but sad! Really heavy, thanks Pixar), had a pizza party in the car because I almost had a meltdown, played lots of arcade games, and went bowling with Andrew. We had bumpers, and I was still terrible. I also learned not to trust a 15 year old when she swears that she likes cappuccinos so you buy her one and she tries it, makes a face, and then says "Ohhhh I was confused. I think I like frappucinos." At least I wasted $3 at my favorite local coffee shop and not at Starbucks.

So that's what's happening with me. Let's talk about insecurity, early 2000s TV, or any other fun things that will get me out of this funk!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

in which all books feature a tragedy

I'm not sure why, but I read a lot of books with serious subject matter this month (murder, suicide, right to die, more murder, terrorist attack, spouse dying...). Looking at this list, every book I read had a major tragedy. What does that say about me? I'm trying to get better about writing review-type thoughts on Goodreads and listing more feelings and personal biases here, but some thoughts may overlap. Books are listed in the order they were finished, (A) means it was an audiobook, and my favorites were Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies.

Reconstructing Amelia - This book was on so many lists, I thought it had to be great. The story was intriguing enough - a mother pieces together her teenage daughter's life after her alleged suicide. I feel like there were too many characters and too much going on to really flesh out any one story line beyond its surface. It was one of those books where everything happening at once was just way too coincidental, and I didn't like the end.

Sharp Objects - Another Gillian Flynn book. This time, I didn't find the main character as awful as I did in her other books. I thought her... affliction was an interesting piece to the puzzle of who she was. You can tell it was Flynn's first book. I noticed a few typos which drove me crazy and the story wasn't as intricately woven as it was in her other two books. I felt the ending was a little abrupt, and fairly easy to see coming, though perhaps that's due to understanding the author's formula by this point. I can't decide how I feel about the way the ending was handled, which I don't want to describe in any way in case you want to read it. This was still a worthwhile book if you like novels in this genre, but Flynn's other two books are far superior.

(A) The Goldfinch - This book is on tons of lists because it won the Pulitzer in 2013. I decided to give it a shot but I was shocked when the audiobook was 32 hours long (most that I listen to are around 15!). This book is s-l-o-w. It's been called Dickensian, probably because a lot of words are used but not a lot happens. There is TONS of characterization and while the narrator at first got on my nerves, I grew to really like him and all of his accents. Kate said that she really liked it, so I decided to see how much of it I could read during my two week check-out time. I ended up wikipedia-ing for a summary to see if I liked what was coming. I did, and I ended up wanting to see how the author got there. I know it's a weird way to read a book, but it worked for me on this one. I ended up having to finish it via ebook since I couldn't renew the audio version, and I definitely preferred it as an audiobook. It's a strange book - the main conflict happens in the background and isn't a part of many of the characters' stories. I didn't like the end much. I wanted a more definitive resolution after spending so much time on the story.

The Girls of Mischief Bay - This book is like a frenemy - I didn't really like it, but I kept it around anyway. I like books with beautiful prose, interesting narrators, and a unique voice. This book didn't have any of that. It has third person narration and follows three women at different life stages as they deal with the things in life that happen to people in books. I mean, they happen to real people, too, but they really happen to people in books. I neither loved nor hated the characters; they were just there. I was mildly interested in how their lives would turn out (again, like a frenemy) and it was an easy read, so I kept at it, but I don't know that I would recommend it.

(A) True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa - A NY Times reporter gets discredited for a story he's written; meanwhile, another man who's accused of murdering his family assumes the reporter's identity when he flees from the crime to Mexico. Once the alleged murderer is caught, the two start a jailhouse friendship where the reporter tries to get the real story of what happened to the other man's family. The author narrated the book, and he wasn't a great narrator, so I would have rather read this one on my own. The story is fast and engrossing, but very sad since it actually happened. It was interesting to see an alleged murderer humanized and how the reporter built a true friendship with him, even though he suspected him of being a monster the whole time.

The Promise of Stardust - After all of the glowing reviews, I expected to love this. I really didn't. It was fine, but predictable. The characters were flat and even when they changed (in really big ways), the rationale was glossed over. The outcome seemed predictable to me from the first chapter, so I kept waiting for a twist; instead, the author just piled on more drama that really ruined my suspension of disbelief (really, her ex-boyfriend was a big enough jerk to take her husband to court? Really??). That said, I'm definitely in the minority on my opinion of this one so if it sounds intriguing, you might like it.

Big Little Lies - Wasn't it just last month that I said I would stop reading Liane Moriarty books because they were all the same? Well, I had been on the waiting list for this one since January so since my turn came and I had nothing else in the queue, I decided to give it a shot. Of the three Moriarty books I've read, this was my favorite. I figured out the plot twist pretty early (at 31% , I checked) but I enjoyed the way the narrative was told. The book deals with themes not often seen in "chick lit" type books - domestic violence, bullying, and sexual consent - in a way that makes you think seriously about the issues. Yes, it is still a mostly silly and fluffy book, and those who have experienced some of those serious things may take issue with some of the lightness surrounding the real issues, but I thought the painful aspects were handled well and not as flippantly as some critics seem to think (though that ending was a little unrealistic, but it worked for the book).

(A) Love is a Mixtape - This was narrated by the author, who is a writer for Rolling Stone. It was his memoir, but he wasn't the best reader. Sheffield used mixtape playlists to look back on his marriage to Renee, who passed away unexpectedly when they were both in their early 30s. Parts of the book were lovely and heartbreaking, and other parts I just wanted to speed through and move on. If you came of age in the 80s and early 90s, you might have more of a connection with this book than I did - I wasn't familiar with a lot of the songs he referenced - but I still liked the way the music was interwoven with his experiences. If I ever had a friend unexpectedly lose their spouse at a young age, I would likely recommend this to them.

This month was kind of eh for me, bookwise. My husband likes to ask me how my book is and many times this month I told him I was simply trying to get through it. Life is too short for bad books - there are a few I quit and didn't even mention this month - but sometimes you just hope they'll get better for so long you reach a point of no return. Hopefully next month is better, though I really wanted to read Go Set a Watchman and now I'm afraid to. Looking forward to seeing what everyone else is reading for some ideas!

Thanks as always to Steph and Jana for keeping this going!

Life According to Steph

Monday, July 13, 2015

summer life lately

Full disclosure: This post was mostly written so my blog doesn't only become a vessel in which I do nothing but post about books once a month. At least I'm honest.

So - life lately. June was a busy month and I can't believe July is nearly half over. Since I last posted, here are some highlights:

- We had a shelf in our kitchen/breakfast nook that had all of my favorite things I've collected over the past few years. Little antique knick-knacks that I fell in love with and had to have. Not necessarily expensive, but all received as gifts or purchased because I loved them. Well, the shelf fell (I think the lawn people slammed the gate on the other side of the wall too hard) and nearly everything shattered. I know it's just stuff and there are far worse things in the world, but I'm still not over it.

- The 4th of July happened. My work friend turned local friend invited us to hang out with her friends at one person's house on the lake. Fireworks on the water didn't suck and the company was great. I baked a yellow cake with chocolate frosting from scratch. Sadly, it was a little dry and dense, but gold star for effort and not using a boxed mix.

- I'm newly obsessed with Yelp and I want to be elite. Are we friends yet? I'm trying to only leave reviews for places I've been to more than once, but if they were awful, I'm leaving reviews, too. No one really takes Yelp too seriously, but I hear their events are great and I wouldn't hate going to some.

- Our Napa trip will be here before I know it. What comfy shoes do you wear for travel? Are there comfy shoes for guys that aren't sneakers? Any lightweight jacket recommendations? It will be in the 60s in the evenings and the wine caves might be cold so I wanted something easy to bring along with me that wouldn't be too obtrusive if I need to wear it to dinner.

- Since I asked you for shopping recs, I have a few of my own. I recently picked up this bag at the Bass Outlet and have gotten tons of compliments. I have it on the pink side now and it's great for work - I can throw in all my purse stuff, lunch, a cardigan, an umbrella, and anything else I need for the day and still look put together. Way better than the cloth shopping bags I used to tote around and it was only $27 in store after coupons. I also bought L'Oreal heat spray recently (around $4 at Walmart) and it's going to be my new go-to. It smells great, makes my hair so soft I couldn't stop touching it, and my second-day hair is much straighter and less frizzy than it was when I used other brands.

- Food-wise, we haven't done much that warrants a long post. We went to Killen's with a bunch of Andrew's BBQ friends and I met another BBQ wife! She totally got my "pain" of having to wake up early, wait in line, being tired of meat, taking pictures before eating, helping to choose an instagram filter, and all of the other stuff I thought I was the only wife silly enough to suffer through. Now I'm excited for Andrew's next BBQ trip to Austin because I'll have a friend there! We tried the newly opened Bramble on Saturday and it was so casual but well put together that I just wanted to sit there all night. I went to Mala Sichuan, which is authentic Chinese food, and I didn't care for it at all. I don't like Americanized Chinese food, and now I know I don't like the real thing much, either. I'm sure there are more, and I check in everywhere I go on Swarm, but if I put them all in one paragraph, you'll probably judge me.

- I'm trying to commit to using the treadmill desk during lunch at work and I finally got a card so I can use the (free!) neighborhood gym so I can keep eating the way I mentioned above. I know how important balance is, so the easier it is to move, the more likely I am to do it.

Lakeside July 4th View | My cake, with DIY patriotic pinwheels so it would be more festive | Bauer trying to take attention from my book | Bramble - love the concrete floors, raw wood, Edison bulbs and turquoise and red color scheme not visible here.

Other than that, I've been reading a ton. All will be reviewed in tomorrow's post. I also have some half-written posts of things that happened a while ago but I never talked about that I'm thinking of packaging as Throwback Thursdays. That's still a thing, right?