Monday, March 23, 2015

spring break 2015

A perk of working at a school is that I get two days off for spring break every year. These days off are extra nice when they coincide with my nieces' spring break. They're 14 and almost 7, and my heart is already breaking for the time that the older one is too cool or too busy to come down to Houston (they live in Oklahoma) and hang out. So I try to have as much fun with them as possible while I still can.

Since their ages differ and I like to DO things with them, it can be hard to find a good activity. When the older one suggested skating - ice or roller - I was interested. I spent many Friday nights in my middle school years at Dairy Ashford Roller Rink, near-ish to my mom's house, where the girls stayed during their week in town. On Thursday morning, I picked them up, we went to Chick-fil-a, and then this 30 year old put on rollerblades for the first time in years.

I was wobbly for a few minutes, but it definitely came back. The older one requested rollerblades, and since she goes ice skating often, she picked it up fast. The little one, though...

Let's just say I have a new appreciation for moms who constantly have to teach their kiddos new things. Teaching someone something that you don't remember learning is hard! Luckily the little one loves to do what her older sister does, so she didn't give up. There was a part of the rink reserved for beginners, so we went over there and she went back and forth, along the wall, falling and picking herself up over and over again. She decided that she liked "skating" along the carpeted bench area on one side of the rink, and since the place was mostly filled with day campers out on spring break too, no one seemed to mind. While I had minimal issues staying upright and could go just fine, stopping proved more difficult. At one point, I was trying to get to my niece in the beginners area and there were a ton of little kids in my way. No big deal, I thought, I'll just run into the mat separating the beginner area from the rest of the rink. SURELY it's non-skid and will slow me down, right?

Wrong. It skidded, and the change in momentum caused me to fall flat on my back and right arm. Hard. Brought tears to my eyes and knocked the wind out of me. Luckily, my audience of children was used to falling themselves, so I didn't hear anyone laugh at me. It hurt, and still hurts, but luckily doesn't seem serious.

We made the long trek to my house and took Duncan for a walk and a quick trip to the park before Andrew came home and we could go to dinner. We had burgers at Bill's Cafe, a local dive, and ate so much that none of us could finish our snow cones at Bahama Bucks. I thoroughly exhausted all three of us.

On Friday, we slept in and made cinnamon rolls, watched a movie, painted nails, and took Duncan for another walk. We went back to my mom's and I worked with the younger one on her homework and then I had to leave to beat rush hour traffic. I met Andrew at Kitchen 713 for dinner. It's new-ish, and neither of us had ever been. It's in a very unassuming building in a spot where you wouldn't expect to find a buzzed-about restaurant. We were the sole patrons at 5:30 on a Friday and we ordered way too much: a fried brussels sprouts salad with oranges, boudin balls, chicken and "dumplings" (that were actually sweet potato gnocchi), and shrimp and grits. It was great and we'll definitely be back.

I guess my hinting and issues fitting things in my Civic worked, because on Saturday, we went to buy a new car. It was pouring rain and my feet got soaked so I was freezing the whole time. The process took hours, but does anyone ever buy a car quickly? When we arrived, no one offered to help us - probably for the first time in the history of any dealership, ever. I finally walked up to a group of chitchatting salesmen and loudly asked "Does ANYONE want to sell us a car today?" Andrew had to turn away to keep from laughing out loud, but I was annoyed. This process was going to take long enough, and I knew what I wanted (I thought... we ended up going a little away from our plan) so I was ready for some assistance. It came, and we got what we wanted, but I also got irritated with the finance manager. He clearly wasn't from the US, which is fine. However, he unfortunately seemed to be from a culture where the man makes the decisions and has all of the knowledge. Treating me like my husband knew what was best for me was so not okay. He told me that my husband understood the importance of things, and kept saying "you sign there, she signs there." I was right there. How about "Sir, you sign there, and ma'am, right there." Or refer to us as signer and co-signer. Whatever. It really bothered me and I would have complained but it had been a long enough day and I just wanted my new car.

(I hate writing about things I buy. It always feels a little more show-y than I like to be. I am SO PUMPED about this car, I promise, but I feel like my aggravation at the dealership makes for better reading. Just didn't want to come across as an ungrateful jerk.)

I swear that person in pink is me | fried brussels sprout deliciousness | my first ever new car - only seven miles!

We had margaritas and good Tex-Mex for the first time in too long that night, and then I slept in on Sunday. My phone hasn't been getting texts, so I needed a new one and our carrier had a great deal where I could get a new phone for basically free. We went, and Andrew was able to upgrade too. We ended up making money from trading in our old phones and making the store mad in the process because we wouldn't buy their $40+ phone cases. Too bad there's a little something called Amazon that prevents me from falling for that nonsense.

So it was a very nice long weekend. I'm dreading the week ahead since I already know I have to work on Saturday - definitely not something I'm looking forward to. At least there's the nice, long Easter weekend right around the corner.

Friday, March 13, 2015

food lately

Grab a snack because I'm about to tell you what I've eaten lately and I don't want to hear that I made you hungry at the end of this post. I mean, the name of this blog alone should be forewarning enough.

Our going out to eat game is still going strong, as is our quest for decent Tex-Mex in our (still new-feeling) suburb. You guys, it's awful. All I need is some edible queso, fajitas with flavor, and a margarita with a hint of real lime juice. This is Texas. It isn't too much to ask. I've eaten so many terrible meals on this quest that it's just gotten sad. Flat enchiladas, canned refried beans, and Wholly Guacamole are all things I can achieve at home, thanks. We're about to give up and just go to chain restaurants, but I'm holding onto hope for one more on my list. Fingers crossed.

Another thing I really miss is an easy breakfast place where I can get drinkable coffee and a stack of pancakes. Yes, both are easily made at home, but Andrew and I grew pretty accustomed to once-monthly breakfasts out before grocery shopping and it's a tradition we've missed the past six months. A coworker told me to try Humble City Cafe, a down home local place known for its homestyle food and ambiance. It's cute enough, but the food was terrible. Some of the worst pancakes I've ever had. How do you ruin pancakes? Make them rubbery with no flavor. The coffee was weak, the server grunted instead of saying "you're welcome" or "no problem," and he banged the coffee cup on the table every time he refilled it.

You want first world problems? Clearly, I've got 'em.

Andrew and I celebrated nine years of being together with an early, week before Valentine's Day date at Pax Americana. It's newish and was highly rated on my beloved Top 100 Restaurants in Houston list for this year, so I was excited. Perhaps too excited. The place is LOUD and the tables are close together, so you have to scream to be heard by your dining companion and the table next to you can hear you, too. The bread course (from my beloved Common Bond) was great, and the fish dish wasn't bad, but we had a squash dish that I could barely eat (it was mushy and one-note) and a pork dish that I got tired of after a few bites. Oh, and a carrot dish that was very take it or leave it. I hate when a meal doesn't live up to expectations.

But there have been pluses, too...

I went back to Weights and Measures, whose breakfast wasn't that great, for lunch earlier this week. I only took a picture of my friend's roasted carrot and redneck cheddar pizza, which I liked, but my salumi sandwich was both of our favorites. The chocolate chip cookies were decent, but the chocolate wasn't the quality I was hoping for. I went again for breakfast with friends and the breakfast menu is too eggy for someone who doesn't like eggs. My problem, not theirs, I know. I got a bagel and a scone which were fine but my friends LOVED their egg-filled selections. I want to like this place so much but I'm not loving it the way I want to.

And then my often dreamt-of Coltivare. Andrew wanted to go on Valentine's Day since they don't take reservations. I wanted to stay home and do nothing, but the call of their amazing pasta was too great and I found myself showering at 3:30 in the afternoon in preparation for our dinner date. We got there at 4:45 and got seated on the patio right away. Everything was delicious, as always - a grilled broccoli salad, charcuterie, oxtail pasta (serious question, what happens to the rest of the ox?), and a braised beef and roasted veggie dish that was awesome. We skipped dessert in favor of giving Fat Cat Creamery another try. I had frozen hot chocolate and Amaya coffee and cream in a brown butter waffle cone and I could barely move afterward. I've never been happier to be home from dinner at 8:00 and put on pajama pants.

In other, slightly chain-ier foods lately: Gino's East opened its first non-Chicago location in a suburb of Houston. I met a friend (hi Heidi!) for lunch there a few weeks ago and it was... fine. Not memorable, not cheap, and not worth the two hour wait that many people have had to suffer through. I have hated snowcones my whole life, but there's a Bahama Bucks with a drive-thru right outside of our neighborhood. It basically serves nothing but shaved ice and you can add cream and it's so good, even though it sounds gross. I was a total skeptic at first but I have a feeling we'll go way too often this summer. Oh, and Culver's is right down the street. They have frozen custard and a drive-thru so let's just say I might have been a few more times than I should admit.

AND! For anyone who likes to cook - we (mostly I) made the absolute best chocolate chip cookies that you'll ever eat a few weeks ago. I wish I had an unending supply because I'm already craving them again. Follow the recipe exactly, including the refrigerating and sea salt, and use the best quality chocolate chips you can find. I used semi-sweet since I couldn't find bittersweet and they were amazing enough. For even better results, I suggest making six at a time and then adjusting your cook time to your tastes. Yes, a lot of thought goes into our cookie baking. Find the recipe here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

my february books

I feel like I had a solid choice of books this month, and my tastes were all over the place - chick lit, historical fiction, a biological biography, a novel that bordered on being YA, and a book by a blogger. Clearly, something for everyone.

The Husband's Secret - I had heard a lot about Liane Moriarty's books so I was excited to see this offered as an audiobook through the library. At first, the narrator's Australian accent was distracting but I grew to love it. I liked the way the stories of three women intertwined, and while I thought they were all kind of annoying and silly in parts, overall I enjoyed the book. I liked how it made me think that everyone has a story and a secret and that small instances can change things forever. I wish I could have given it 3.5 stars on Goodreads.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home - This book is about loneliness and loss, and not belonging and not caring. I really liked it. I seem to like books where not much happens besides life, but I thought this book was so beautifully written that I had to force myself to put it down more than once. A 14 year old girl loses her uncle to AIDS in the late 80s. He's also her closest friend. There's love, grief, and friendship. It's a hard book to recommend, but I completely loved it. Give it a try if you appreciate pretty prose.

All the Light We Cannot See - I added this to my to reads because I saw it everywhere. After reading the same chapters multiple times and retaining nothing, I quit. Did I miss something?

The Chaperone - This is so outside of my comfort zone. Historical fiction doesn't interest me, but after Kate highly recommended it, I decided to give it a try as an audiobook. The book mostly takes place in the 1920s and hearing a fictionalized account of what life was like was an added bonus to the already very dramatic story. I liked that the story was rooted in reality, too; it's about a woman who chaperones a 15 year old girl in New York City one summer. The girl was an adaptation of a real silent film actress. I thought the book was a bit too long by the end - I thought a simple epilogue could have tied things up nicely - but for the most part, I really enjoyed it.

People I Want to Punch in the Throat - This, as an audiobook, clocked in at a mere five hours (most I've read are closer to 15) and it was written by a mommyblogger, so I thought I would give it a try. It was fine. I hate the word "hubs" as a rule and the fact that the author mostly used that word to refer to her husband throughout the book so I had to hear it aloud was kind of annoying. The snarky attitude was cute, though, and a few parts made me laugh out loud.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - I've known of this book for years, but never took the time to read it. Basically, in the 1950s, the cancerous cells of an African American woman were taken without her knowledge. The cells contained amazing properties and basically revolutionized science. The book chronicles the story of the woman, Henrietta Lacks, and the journey her cells have had since her death, as well as the questions her family was left with after they learned, years later, of the importance of Henrietta to modern medicine. I loved the human side, but some parts got too bogged down in biology. Just skim those, and you'll probably like the book just fine.

Currently reading Beautiful Boy and listening to Monday's Lie (so close to done it kills me!) so those will come next month. Even though I know Yelp reviews are crap, I'm hesitant to go to new restaurants with reviews lower than four stars. I'm the same way on Goodreads - if it has less than 3.75, I carefully consider it before reading. Tell me I'm not the only one who judges a book by its Goodreads rating rather than its cover...

Linking up with Steph and Jana...
Life According to Steph

Monday, March 9, 2015

getting rid of our night stools

I haven't had my own nightstand since sometime in 2010. We inherited almost brand-new furniture from Andrew's dad when his job relocated him overseas from NYC. He only had one nightstand, so we only had one nightstand. It fit better on Andrew's side, so I made do with a sad little dorm room shelf that attached to the bed frame for years.

I had this exact one! Let it be known that this is the world's tiniest notebook. From Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

When we moved, we bought a new bed. I had a vision of how our new room would look. But, like most things in life, my vision and money could never align. So for the past few months, we've been living with night stools: bar stools on either side of the bed that can barely fit a charging device, a pair of glasses, and a bottle of lotion. When Oprah said that your bedroom should rise up to meet you, I don't think having a combo table/stool was what she had in mind.

Enter this weekend. The closest thing I had come to achieving my bedroom vision was a side table from Target. It was constantly on sale and off, available in store and not. I wanted two, and I could never find two at the same time. If I could find it in store, it would come preassembled! Hooray! I love my husband but we are not the best team when it comes to following directions (I follow them to the literal T and move at a snail's pace; he applies "common sense" with varying degrees of success) so this option sounded amazing. However, all the ones I saw in stores were scratched. No thanks, I have a 16 lb terror named Bauer who loooooves to damage my stuff. He'll ruin them in no time, no help from floor models needed.

So I kept my eyes on the online version of the side tables but never pulled the trigger because lazy always wins. This past Saturday, though, Andrew had plans to be out with friends all day. I have dropped my phone off my night stool one too many times, so I casually mentioned that if I could find the stools, they were coming home today. Even IF they weren't on sale or in Cartwheel (seriously, it KILLS me to pay full price at Target now). I literally couldn't even anymore.

I checked online before I left, and the color I wanted was no longer available in stores or online. Cool, I thought, now I have to go back to searching for the perfect, looks nicer than it cost nightstand. But I decided to go into Target anyway and angels started singing when I saw two untouched, not scratched, pre-assembled nightstands on the shelf waiting for me. I did that annoying fast-walk, on-a-mission thing to the front of the store for a cart (please tell me you've done this too), thinking that some other crazy woman was going to nab my nightstands before I could get them. I got back with my cart and wondered how my weak arms were going to get this thing in, but I made it work. And the damn thing took up three quarters of the cart. Now I had to repeat the run-walk back to the front of the store with one cart to grab another cart (what? Did you think I would risk someone taking my pre-carted table? NO.) so I'm parading through Target, pushing one cart and pulling another, feeling a little ridiculous, but not really. I hoisted the second table into the second cart and immediately went to check out to pay full price because it was worth it. I think it's the first time I haven't been derailed by the siren song of Target clearance shelves.

I trekked out to my far away parking spot (because I never thought I would be so lucky and didn't bother to fight for something better) and heard my precious new additions rattling against the plastic of the carts. The bumpy pavement was not on my side and I was ready to be THAT woman who returned the merchandise before getting it home due to inadequate crack filling in the Target parking lot. I unlocked my Civic and tried to shove table one into the trunk. The top was too big; it didn't fit. Well, damn. I couldn't even ask Target to hold these because our other car, the one Andrew was out in all day... it's also a Civic. I was determined to make these fit. Both of them.

After much internal swearing and rearranging of Andrew's work stuff and the lamp I bought earlier in the day that had the shade zip-tied on, I managed to open the door wide enough to not bump the car next to me and still get table two in - success! That left me with table one, still hanging out of the trunk. I thought if I moved everything out of the trunk, I could angle it in, but well, me and fitting furniture in spaces don't have the best history. Not wanting to repeat the sofa incident, I moved everything from the passenger seat and heaved the table in, thinking I could make the short drive home hugging the driver's side the whole way if I had to. It fit!

Snapped these pics and sent to Andrew with the message "WE NEED A BIGGER CAR!!!" He did not agree. Maybe if he had had to play Tetris with our new furniture...

I got everything home and I will be the first to admit that night stands are way better than night stools. I got the aforementioned lamp at Ross, hoping to find tables for it to go on later that day. After my fortunate Target trip, I was still short a lamp. If you follow me on twitter, you already know I had a Ross-mas miracle when I went to the other nearby Ross, found a second, identical lamp, and have now saved myself from going on a wild goose chase for something else.

Which is a good thing. Because now I'm gearing up for a wild goose chase for art to hang above the bed.

This is an awful picture, taken at 10pm Sunday night, because I know people want to see results. This is as far as I've gotten! And with one floor lamp, this lamp, and the overhead light on, AND the flash, this was the best pic I got. WHY wasn't the second lamp on? I'm still short a lightbulb, of course.

Friday, March 6, 2015

i forgot

People like to say blogging is like riding a bicycle. That it all comes back to you once you get back on and try again.

Well, I didn't learn to ride a bike until I was 12. And I never got that good at it. Last time I tried - about three years ago - I ran into a ten year old trying to share the sidewalk with me.

Basically, that analogy is supposed to tell you that I find both of them kind of difficult. I blogged less and now I'm on the train of not at all. I wondered why I bothered, and then I remembered why I liked it. But as I opened the laptop and stared at the screen, I was repeatedly crippled by one thought:

Who cares?

Who cares where I've been eating or what I've been reading or what I thought of the Parks and Rec finale? Who cares that I just can't get into the This American Life podcast, try as I might, or that Easter candy is my favorite candy season? I mean, I can tell myself that I'm a special snowflake all I want, but I can be as basic bitch as everyone else.

(I mean, seriously. My entire house is Target and I'm not even a little ashamed.)

But I thought back about my high school era blogs and how I loved when my friends posted that they were bored. I got it, because I was bored with nothing better to do than post in my livejournal, too. I liked sharing that feeling with them. And my college self, who loved when my friends posted myspace blogs with over 100 questions. We're both right handed and love pizza and are wearing pajama pants (pre yoga pants, I know. I'm old.). Or now, as an adult - seeing that there are other women making life work in their own way. I like to see how they spent their weekends or the ridiculous fights they had with their husbands or the scary thing they're going through and how they're handling it.

I forgot that I've always been in it for the slice of life.

I've dropped a ton of blogs from my reader. They don't tell me real life anymore - they tell me about perfect, aspirational lives. And that's great, but it isn't me. My house is about as far from a Pinterest project as you can get. In the words of Amy Poehler "Good for her! Not for me." Perfection, or the appearance of it, just aren't what I'm here for. Give me all the takes on real life situations. Or things you can't live without. Or nothing, if you have nothing to say.

So I'm going to try to stop asking myself who cares. I care. I'll care in a few years about where we've been eating lately and how I spent my weekends and what I thought of different books. I'll instagram when I want to and not care that I just posted something similar or think that no one will like it. Some things just need to be captured and filtered, likes be damned.

As far as comments go (and if you care about such things), I've added a disclaimer that I may not respond to them. I like making friends and building a community, but life gets in the way and I don't want to feel guilty. I don't want to sound like an ungrateful jerk; I'm just being realistic with myself.

So am I back in the swing of things? I hope. I've gone to so many restaurants and I need to document them somewhere, whether anyone besides me cares or not.

(And for the record, to answer the above questions: food post to come, book post to come, LOVED the Parks and Rec finale SO SO much, I want to love TAL but it always gets boring in the middle, and Cadbury mini eggs are my favorite, forever and ever).