Monday, July 7, 2014

Turbulence

Turbulence, noun. Conflict or confusion. The state of agitation or tumult. (source)

I consider myself a very organized person. My husband would probably say "too organized." Every Friday or Saturday I plan meals for the week. Then every Saturday or Sunday I hit the grocery story to buy all the ingredients for those meals. I do not grocery shop during the week if I can at all help it. I put the meals in order of the things I think will go bad first... fish on Sunday or Monday night, fresh cilantro by Tuesday, etc.

Now this is stuck in my head. source

On Thursday, our refrigerator died. When it died, we had ingredients for 3 more dinners inside, plus a few random leftovers, and my console snacks for the weekend (never go to console without snacks is a hard and fast rule in my life). Because I was organized. I was ahead for the week. I like it that way.

But the fridge did not. We went through the five stages of grief...
  • "Maybe the door wasn't closed all the way last night. Let's put a thermometer in there and see if it recovers by the time we get home from work." (Denial)
  • "This refrigerator is only four years old. What a piece of crap." (Anger)
  • "What do you mean you can't come out until NEXT Friday? Don't you have emergency appointments saved for things that are actually, you know, emergencies." (Anger, again)
  • "Well maybe it's something easy. Let's crack it open and see what it looks like inside." (Bargaining)
  • "How am I gonna live without a refrigerator? #firstworldproblems" (Depression)
  • Then we put some of our perishables in a cooler full of ice, and made a shopping list for everything nonperishable. On the back has day by day shopping list for perishables for that night which one of us will pick up on the way home each day. (Acceptance)
We've since bought 6 bags of ice and 2 bags of dry ice to keep our perishables alive... and keep the beer cold. Why isn't "drink the pain away" one of the stages of grief? Because it's ALL stages of grief. It hasn't been so terrible yet, but I am rather upset over the quantity of food I've had to throw away. Less about the cost then about the total waste involved.
And because now I'm disorganized. Agitated. Turbulent.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

I Should Have Written / Staycation

There are many times I should have written. I should have written when interesting things happened. (Some are enshrined forever in half-written posts, likely never to be finished.) I should have written when nothing happened, but I had a spare moment to write. If I am to be a writer, then I should have written.

I learned last semester that all one needs to make a decent personal essay is to sit down and write. You don't even need an idea half the time, your fingers will find it for you. So, I should have written. All that one needs, I should say, is the discipline to sit down and write.

The discipline to spend roughly 50 hours a week at work, 6 or 7 hours a week driving to and from work, 2 hours a week exercising, 30 minutes a day walking the dog, an hour a day making, eating, and cleaning up from dinner... and to follow all that up not with snuggles on the couch with husband and pup, but with an hour or two of writing. As it turns out, I guess I can't write at all.

----
This weekend, Dan and I declared it a staycation. After my increment, recovering from my increment, a bachelorette party in New Orleans, and a visit by my in-laws, we found ourselves facing the last free weekend before my next set of classes start up. We thought we might go away for the weekend to a B&B in Texas Hill Country, but with only about a month's notice had trouble finding a place that was reasonably priced and would allow us to bring Raider along. Instead we opted to stay home and have a "staycation" instead.

Reasons "staycation" is better than vacation:

  1. No airports.*
  2. No suitcase to pack... and worse, to unpack.
  3. Laundry gets done and fridge gets stocked, so you can start the week off on the right foot. 
  4. You actually get to relax rather than having to "go" and "do."
We decided to rule out all the usual chores, except the ones that not having done is actually more stressful than having to do. So, groceries were bought and clothes were washed. Toilets were not scrubbed, rooms were not dusted. With our spare time we:
  • Went to the dog park. 
  • Saw X-men. (Loved it.)
  • Ate dinner at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino, a lovely Italian eatery in downtown Houston which also happens to be #32 on the Houston Chronicle's Top 100 Restaurants in Houston.
  • Went for a nightcap at Anvil Bar & Refuge, which I highly recommend if you'd like a cocktail rather than a beer (my husband, of course, got beer anyways).
  • Slept in.
  • Had brunch, including grapefruit and orange juice mimosas.
  • Lounged poolside.
  • ... and still started the week with clean clothes, no suitcase to unpack, and a fridge full of food. 
That was my weekend. How was yours?
----
*Once upon a time I loved to fly. Technically I still love to fly, because it is not the time in the seat in the sky that bothers me. Rather, after a string of bad luck (terrible cold-- zero tissues, lost bag, many delays, traumatic 2-hour line to check bags followed by mad dash-- shoes in hand-- to the plane, lost bag, another delay, etc.) I just dread every new flying experience. A new chance to lose a bag (I'm pressing my luck, sooner or later one won't make it back), a new chance to be delayed, to have to make a mad dash to a connection, to be stranded somewhere I don't want to be. All the fun has been sucked out of flying. Happily, I haven't been on a plane since Christmas, and only have plans to take 3 plane trips this year. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Our Wedding: Spice Rub Favors

Perfect teeny bow tied by my father, who ties tiny knots inside people for a living.
 Back in the wedding planning phase, I wrote about making our spice rub favors for the wedding. However the recipe I kept secret... until now.

Logistics:

  • The bottles I ordered entirely too many of (there are about 40 still in my guest closet) from Spice Barn, before I had even sent out invites let alone seen how many people were actually coming. 
  • The labels came from Labels on the Fly; I spent countless hours looking for affordable labels that I could customize the look, text, and color...these were perfect!
  • The spices we bought mostly in bulk from Sam's, except for the secret ingredient which we had to order from Amazon.
We chose to make spice rub for a couple reasons: we wanted something personal/DIY rather than just something we bought. We wanted something that tied in our love for cooking and eating. And we wanted something that people would actually use.... and it seems that people have used it, since I've gotten a few requests for the recipe.

To form the recipe, Dan and I kept iterating spice rubs (we ate a lot of steak... poor guy!) until we got one we liked but thought had mass appeal... keeping track of the ingredients and proportions until we got it just right. No joke, this recipe has lived in my kitchen junk drawer on the very post-it-note that we wrote it down on a year and a half ago to guide our mixes:

After getting a couple requests for the recipe, we talked about it and decided that we'd give it out after our 1 year anniversary.. which was almost 3 months ago, sorry it's taken me so long to write it down!
We made ours in cup measures (1/4 cup, 1 cup, etc.) since we were making 100 jars, but you can make yours in teaspoon proportions instead (unless you WANT almost 6 cups of this stuff?).

Nerds in Love Wedding Spice Rub (around here we call it "Stephanie & Dan Seasoning")

  • 1/4 tsp Cumin
  • 1/4 tsp Ground Celery
    If you prefer saltier rubs you can use celery salt instead; we chose to omit salt from our rub because not everyone likes it and it can always be added separate.
  • 1/2 tsp Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp Italian Seasoning
  • 1.5 tsp Lemon Pepper
  • 2 tsp Paprika
  • and the secret ingredient... 1/4 tsp of Chinese Five Spice.
    As I said, we ordered this one from Amazon because Sam's didn't sell it in bulk. You can also make your own, but I think it'd be just as hard to find some ingredients (ground Sichuan pepper?) as it would to find the pre-made mix.
  1. Mix all the ingredients and store in an airtight container. 
  2. Sprinkle on meat, fish, or veggies before cooking. 
  3. Eat!
From our kitchen to yours... enjoy!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Meet our New Arrival

Meet Raider!
He came with a different name, but he didn't seem to know it, so we renamed him Raider. As in...
(Source) Cylon Raiders from Battlestar Galactica. We don't call it Nerds in Love for nothing! When I suggested "Raider" as a name, Dan said "As in 'Cylon Raider?'" He knows me. :-)
Dan and I adopted Raider last week. We had been talking about getting a dog for awhile. We almost did in November, but we had a week-long trip for Christmas already planned and I worried about boarding a dog for so long when he was so new to us. Finally the weekend before last we went to the Houston Humane Society shelter to pick out a new best friend.

We looked at an Australian Shepherd first, but this little guy stole our hearts. He was surrendered by his owners at the beginning of February, but they didn't give a reason. It was obviously not because he was a bad dog though. He's the sweetest!
He's really good at "sit." We're working on "down" and "stay."
He's definitely part German Shepherd, but only 43 pounds which is about half the size of a typical German Shepherd (he's 2 years old, so fully grown). I think that's good though, he's a good size! His body proportions seem a bit off, so we think the other half is Corgi... long body, short legs, big ears.
Are you my mother? (Source)
 We took him home Thursday after he got neutered and some shots and he took to the house pretty quickly. He's housebroken, sits on command, and seems to do fine with the crate (took some coaxing to get in the first time, but now he'll lay in there of his own accord when he wants a break). The only bad habit he seems to have is jumping up on people, but he'll get there.
Raider's likes: Food. All kinds of food. Will do anything you ask, for a treat. Snuggling. Making friends with other dogs. (He doesn't bark, just sniffs.)
Raider's dislikes: Toys. He will eat the treats out of his Kong but then immediately abandons it. And we bought him a plushy squeaky thing but he literally hides behind us/things to get away from it. He also doesn't seem to enjoy when other dogs bark at him. He's a lover not a fighter, I guess.
Thinks he's a lapdog.
Welcome to the family, Raider!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Austin Half Marathon, part 3 recap

Previously, the race story and our stats. Now, overall race impressions and the rest of the Austin trip.

We had planned to leave around 10am on Saturday morning, arrive in the early afternoon and enjoy a leisurely day in Austin. But on Friday night we got a frantic text from a college friend of Dan's who lives in Washington D.C. and was also running the race. Due to all the winter weather they were having, her flight to Austin was cancelled! They couldn't get her into Austin at all until Monday; instead they were suggesting she fly through Houston to San Antonio and then drive the almost-3 hours to Austin. We had no agenda, so we figured we'd wait for her. Her flight was all ready to go... and then ended up sitting on the tarmac for another hour due to technical difficulties. Finally she landed around noon; we were watching her flight status and swung by the airport to get her on the way out of town.

Our next stop was Kreuz Market in Lockhart, TX. Lockhart is central Texas BBQ country, and this place is Dan's favorite. We had planned to stop for lunch on our way to Austin, so we made it a late lunch. We ended up waiting almost an hour in line before getting our food at 3pm on a Saturday! You order direct from the smoker, meat by the pound. We ordered a huge pile of brisket, plus some sausage for those pork-eaters!
Me, Dan, and a pile of meat. (Stolen from Emma's fb page)
Their rules are: no sauce and no forks (eat with your hands). The fat from the brisket is really all the sauce you need. It was delicious! After that, we drove the last hour to Austin. When we arrived, the expo was closing in about 90 minutes so we headed straight there. Which brings me to my first gripe about the race: Expo traffic disorganization!
I think they must know it too, since I heard they were allowing race day packet pickup which was not previously planned. We arrived to a long line of cars waiting to turn into this narrow, winding, single-lane driveway to the parking garage entrance. There was a couple cops directing pedestrian traffic across the driveway, but nobody directing cars into the driveway: it was a free-for-all between people turning in left, people turning in right, and oncoming traffic trying to get through a very backed-up light and people trying to get out of the garage the same way. Also we found out later there was a much less crowded back entrance to the garage, but no people or signs telling you to go there. Terrible traffic handling. We finally parked with about a half hour of expo time left, grabbed our packets, picked up a couple freebies (most of the booths were packing up) and then finally drove off to our hotel to check in.

Race compliment number 1: The hotel was delightful.
We stayed at the Radisson, an older building that had recently been renovated. They had a lovely pool (although we didn't bring our suits, oops!) and backed up onto the Colorado River, with a private entrance to the path that goes along the river. Parking was included in our discounted race price (saved us $12 a night for self parking) and it was easy walking distance to the start line, easy stumbling distance home! Sadly our air conditioner was broken the first night, it only blew hot air no matter how much we turned it down. But I called the desk about it and they fixed it right away, which is the best you can hope for.

Race gripe number 2: I alluded to this in my previous posts, but they definitely needed more bathrooms on the course. There was actually a huge bank of probably 15 around mile 2, but after that it thinned out a lot. I don't think anyone really has to pee by mile 2, they should have conserved those port-o-potties for the later miles!

Race compliment number 2: The food trucks. I covered all our delicious eats last post. Suffice it to say, I wish every race would end with a few food trucks!
Overall I would definitely consider running this race again: Austin is a fun city and it's close to home. The finish chute and food trucks were done well, as was traffic control on the day of the race... but those bathrooms man! Nine whole minutes. Kills me.

After the race, we hobbled home, showered, and napped a little. Then we went out for a walk along the river. We turned north after that and wandered around the city until we found a wine bar to sit at. The weather was clear skies with a cool breeze, so we drank our wine outside.
After that, I had a craving for chocolate so we stopped in a yogurt shop on the way back for me to get a chocolate chip cookie and froyo sandwich. Randomly the shop had this remote control mosaic on the wall so I snapped a pic.

Me and my ice cream sandwich!
We ate dinner at an Austin institution, a food truck turned stationary restaurant: Torchy's Tacos. No pics, you'll just have to imagine how tasty it looked. (Very, very tasty.)
Our original plan was to explore a little more on President's Day Monday before heading back, but I had to go on the overnight shift Monday night, so we got up on the early side Monday, had breakfast at Jo's Coffee Shop (random and cool: they have a projector TV and they show the Walking Dead live on Sunday nights) and then drove back.