Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Leap Day!

Hello!

I know it's just an accident of the Earth's orbit around the Sun that every fourth year there's an extra day added to the year. In Judaism we actually have an entire leap MONTH added to the calendar, which has the effect of syncing our shorter calendar (12 months, 28 days each) with the seasons, and the Julian calendar.
But anyways, science, magic, or otherwise, it's interesting to look back at the last time the leap day came around.

4 years ago I was a senior in college. I was hard at work on Senior Design and as an RA:
Senior Design MoonBuggy
Monopoly Floor Theme

These ladies were my best friends:
Ali, Me, and Christine
Meg and me at SWE Conference
And I lived only minutes from the House of Mouse:

So I guess a few things have changed... Where were you 4 years ago today? Happy Leap Day!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Cleaning Sprint

How come when a week is short, it feels SO much longer than a regular week?
After my crazy weekend we plunged right into a work-week. Usually in-the-office weeks are less stressful than console weeks (nothing like controlling a billion dollar government spacecraft that could break at any time to get your heart rate going) but this week in office work was pretty crazy.
I started training this week for the next level of certification. I'm currently an operator, which gives me the ability to sit console at terrible hours (nights, weekends) for non-complex ops (what one of my coworkers calls "drilling holes in the sky"). This takes about a year of training to be certified to do. After spending 2 years working console with this certification, I'm getting training for the next level up! Exciting. At the same time I had a couple other projects to work, so there was plenty of work to do and no time to read your blogs. Busy busy! My poor Google reader is feeling the pain of a busy vacation weekend followed by a busy week...

60 items! I'm afraid some things might be getting marked as read, since I have decided I must have an empty reader- one way or another- by bedtime on Sunday.

Here's the busy week in review:

Tuesday- Left work too late to make it to yoga. Did some grocery shopping, and headed home to relax and finish unpacking.
Wednesday- 4 mile run. Boyfriend picked out this awesome recipe for Pizza Casserole. We made a few mods: turkey pepperoni, regular rigatoni pasta, and for sauce we used Emeril Gaahhhlic pasta sauce. It was delicious, but not overly nutritious.
 
With dinner we popped open the first of our homebrew. This was the real test, as the last 2 weeks in the bottles and one week in the fridge were supposed to get bubbly. Oh goodness were they bubbly! Success! The beer itself was not especially impressive, a bit too much like Miller Lite. But how cool that we brewed it ourselves?!
 Thursday- Finally yoga night! I hadn't been for 2 weeks and was definitely feeling it. Then snagged some grocery store sushi for dinner and heated up some frozen edamame to go with it, my favorite yoga night tradition. 
Friday- As you may have gathered from my Hannukah series, I am Jewish. But my boyfriend is Catholic, so for him it's Lent time which means no meat on Friday. I found a recipe for Seafood Cioppino, a fish and tomato stew.  This was not cheap (those clams cost me 79 cents apiece!) but oh so delicious. The leftovers went into the freezer, I do not want to waste this stuff by letting it spoil in the fridge!
Saturday- I got up early to go to synagogue. I hadn't been in awhile. I've been feeling a little overwhelmed lately... with console, work, all this traveling, cooking, and adding increased exercise into the mix. I was reluctant to spend any time not getting things accomplished. But it actually felt nice, rather than stressful, to go and see everyone and do a little praying. I hope I remember that next time I have an opportunity to go and think about blowing it off.
When I got home, I decided rather than veg, I would give my house a much needed cleaning. I took a tip from a TV writer I follow on Twitter, who does writing sprints- an uninterrupted hour of writing to work on a project. I put 60 minutes on the oven timer. For one uninterrupted hour, I would do as much cleaning as could be done. Then I would get to relax. And so I set about scrubbing the kitchen. I cleaned the counters and applied a natural stone conditioner, I scrubbed the stove, cleaned the knobs, bleached the sink, swept and mopped the floors. When I got done with the kitchen, I had only 8 minutes left, but the bathroom needed some love too, so I added 15 more minutes and headed for the bathroom. I cleaned the sink and counter, wiped down the faucets, cleaned the toilet and shower. Thrilling, I know. It wasn't a deep clean, but it got the job done. When I finished I felt accomplished and like I'd earned the episode of Gossip Girl I rewarded myself with. I highly recommend this tactic- I think I was more productive because I could watch the timer tick down and know I was almost done.


Saturday dinner:
We started with a head of cauliflower. I hacked it into quarters and then we drizzled with olive oil and spices. And some tasty T-bones, sprinkled with salt and pepper.
The cauliflower spent about 15 minutes over the flame, then sat off to the side of the fire while the tbones cooked. Here's the delicious finished product:



Boyfriend and I split one giant (each was over a pound uncooked) t-bone and saved the other for another dinner, another day. The steaks were grilled perfectly, pink in the middle, cross-hatch grill marks on the outside. The cauliflower was good, but it seemed most of the seasonings didn't stick. Next time we might try grilling them first and seasoning after.

We shared this big bottle of Banana Bread Beer as well. I was a little skeptical of a banana beer, but it was subtle banana flavor and very tasty.

Sunday- Boyfriend went to church, I slept in. When he got back, we went on a 6 mile run! Our 10k is in less than 2 weeks now, on March 10th. I think we're ready... today we ran 6.1 miles in 1 hour and 15 minutes. Then we ordered some pizza, salad, and chicken wings from our favorite pizza place for a post-run lunch.

Also, I had seconds. Yum!
Now I'm doing laundry and cleaning out my Google Reader. Later I'm off to a Bat Mitzvah celebration for my rabbi's daughter. Hope you had a great weekend, because another week is right around the corner!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What I Ate Wednesday- Whirlwind Weekend, Part 2

Wow that's a lot of W's. So we left off Saturday morning...
Again no run. I rolled out of bed just in time to shower, grab food, and head off to David's Bridal.

Luckily, Ali had brought a few local bridesmaids to scout it out one weeknight in advance, because the place was packed on Saturday morning.  Must have been 8 brides trying on dresses, with their gown approval posses, plus another bridesmaids group. It would have taken the 8 bridesmaids who attended (of 9 total) forever to try on multiple dresses and make a decision. They already had this one in mind, so we all tried it on, thought it was good, and called it a day. Even so, we were there for over an hour just to do that. We headed over to Chili's for lunch and to celebrate.

That afternoon, a couple of us headed off for a ride on the Intracoastal in Ali's fiance Patrick's boat. We cruised about 20 miles down the intracoastal, from Fort Lauderdale into Miami. I didn't take many pictures because I was afraid of dropping my camera overboard. Here's what I did get:
Dan with Ali's little brother Matt.

One of many cruise ships we passed at Port Everglades.
 After a long day of dress shopping and boating (we were on the boat for over 4 hours) Dan and I headed home for a home-cooked meal by mom. We were so hungry, we scarfed it up before I could take a picture. Then we hung out with my parents drinking wine and watching Pawn Stars (or as my dad calls it, Porn Stars) before hitting the sack.

Sunday morning we finally did go for our 6 mile run. Only the 6 miles turned into the SLOWEST 4 miles ever. It was so hot! We ran the first mile at over 13 min/mile pace, and didn't get much faster; we took a walk break around 2, swung by Publix to use the water fountain, and then dragged ourselves back home. Sweaty. Then we hurried to clean ourselves up for lunch with my grandparents and great grandmother.

I stopped by Ali's house to see her parents, and to say goodbye to my far away friend. Then we had another nap! Then we headed out for another fancy dinner. III Forks is a Texas restaurant that just opened one in Ft Lauderdale. I was telling my parents about how they would have to come the next time they were in Houston, then we saw an ad for the local one and decided to give it a try while we were there.

First my dad saw there was a flight of Macallan scotch so he obviously had to order it. He loves scotch, but I think more than that he wanted to train Dan on the finer points of expensive alcohol.
Bottling beer. 4 weeks til we can drink it!


Mom and I joined in the fun a little bit, by taking a few sips. She likes the smell so she kept sniffing the cups, but I think it both smells and tastes like fire and slow poison. Which it kinda is. The one on the far right, aged in a sherry barrel for 25 years, retails for over $500 for a 750 mL bottle. Dan and I are working on our first homebrew, which has been sitting for 5 weeks and we can't drink it for another week... I can't even imagine aging something for 25 years before getting to try it.

 




 My parents and Dan each ordered the 16oz Ribeye, and we got the cheesy potatoes as a side to share. Also, they give you tomatoes and scallions with your food as a random, but delicious addition.

 I ordered an 8oz Filet Mignon with blue cheese/garlic crusting and balsamic shallot sauce. It was so good. I love blue cheese! And food, in general.
 My mom quit, taking almost half her steak home. Dan announced that his entire steak was going down. And then he proceeded to eat the whole thing and chew on the giant meatsicle remains.
 Everyone was feeling toasty and happy from the scotch, so we got my dad and Dan to raise their eyebrows for a picture. Yes, you would not be the first to notice a bit of a resemblance. Dan looks more like my family than I do.
 See what I mean? Where did you get that pale girl?

On Monday we had an 11am plane, so we got up, packed, and headed for the airport. My mom was too nice. She went and picked up bagels for breakfast (and sent me home with 2 more for a future breakfast), lox to send me home with, and salami for sandwiches. She packed us lunches and when I busted the bag open I found not just the promised sandwiches, but a bag of chips, and brownies for each of us. Thanks mom!

We landed at 1pm, so there was time to grocery shop, do some laundry, and cook some stir fry for dinner... with plenty more left over for lunch! I feel so much better about the work week when I get back from vacation with enough time to prepare.
Pregnant Pepper!

Kroger spring rolls as an appetizer!

Stir fry- brown rice, veggies, kung pao marinated chicken and cashews. Yum!
That's What I Ate Wednesday Last Weekend. For part 1 and more good eats, see Whirlwind Weekend part 1.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Whirlwind Weekend, Part 1

How was your weekend? Mine was awesome, but very busy. I love a weekend to sleep in and relax, but this sure wasn't it...
Thursday night:
Looks like a tall glass of vacation!




 After work, we headed back to bf's house to ditch one car and grab our suitcases. Then we hit the road for the airport.

Houston Hobby is a small airport that only Southwest flies to, so parking and security are pretty low-stress, as airports go. About a half hour after parking, we settled in for drinks and food at Buffalo Wild Wings in the airport. Our plane was delayed so we each had a big beer and a bunch of boneless wings, then shared another beer while we waited.


Friday we planned to get up for a run, but since we didn't even land until midnight, we were too tired to wake up early. In Florida it's already summer, so we would have to wake up early to beat the 85 degree heat.
Instead we had a lazy morning and then headed to my favorite restaurant/hole in the wall: Uncle Al's for chicken wings, and fries dipped in wing sauce. Yummy, but in no way good for you.

 We headed home for a nap (it is vacation after all) and then I spent some time going through my old stuff. As a kid I was a pack-rat who thought every slip of paper was a keepsake. Now I am more discerning. We then went out for a fancy dinner with my parents. It was at Texas de Brazil, an all you can eat Brazilian steakhouse.
I started with a big collection of yummy things from the salad bar, which has a lot more than salad- antipasto meats and cheeses, lobster bisque soup, and many hot and cold sides.
 After that, it was time to bring on the meat. They have guys carrying huge skewers of roasted meats that they bring to you- I love the lamb chops (meat popsicles!) the most, but we all stuffed our faces with a variety of cow, lamb, chicken, and pig (none for me, thanks). When you turn your little marker green, they just keep coming and coming. If you flip it over red, they mostly leave you alone. I didn't take pictures but I was in full-on meat sweat mode by the end.
I guess this is my excited face?

 After that we wandered around the strip mall until we could bear to eat food again, so that I could experience Yogurtland! RunEatRepeat is always talking about that place, and for good reason. We don't have one near me, so I was curious to see what all the hype was about.

Boyfriend and I shared a cup and filled it with about 5 flavors (everything sounded so good!) and a bunch of toppings. It was delicious.




Afterwards, it was time for a reunion with BFF Ali. We met up with Ali and some of her other friends at a bar in downtown Ft Lauderdale. There was hugging, staring at the rock on her finger, drinking, and dancing, then we finally fell into bed around 2am.
Funny-face Dan, as usual.

Just like sisters, see the resemblance?

That was just one day of the weekend, so I guess I'll save the rest of the weekend for the next entry.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Home!

As this post goes live I will be boarding a plane bound for home!

Home is beautiful, sunny, sweaty Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Source
Ok so really we're from a small town 15 minutes to the west of Ft. Lauderdale called Plantation. My grandparents lived on the beach until about 10 years ago... my mom grew up swimming in the ocean, lounging by the pool with snowbirds, etc. I went to high school only a few miles from the beach, and we would go there on early release days from school to waste the afternoon away as beach bums.
Ok this has nothing to do with anything.

It's gonna be an action packed weekend including....

A visit to a few hometown favorite restaurants (no calorie counting this weekend, I'm going all out with the chicken wings!), visiting with my grandparents, and hanging out with my best friend of over 20 years. We met in first grade; in fact I don't even remember how we met or how we became friends, it's just always been that way- I'm sure the fact that I'm 2 days older than her had something to do with it (only 4 more birthdays until I stop being proud of that fact and she gets to hold it over my head for the next 70 years!). We went to different high schools but reunited and eventually became roommates in college.
Here's a picture from our 21st birthday celebration... celebrated together, with a margarita for me and daquiri for Ali:
 Gosh that was only 4 and a half years ago, but we look so young! Especially me, such a baby face! Now she's getting married, and the primary purpose for my trip is to go with her and the rest of the girls to pick out bridesmaid dresses. Very exciting. Her wedding isn't until January 2013, but it's hard to get all the maids together so we'll take it while we can get it. I'm sure there will be plenty of celebrating. Hard to believe I haven't seen my best friend in 8 months, I've never even seen her engagement ring in person. I've got to get home more often!

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend. I am sure to have stories and photos to share when I return!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Kale, take 2 & Meatball Recipe

Happy What I ate Wednesday! I know that it's Love your Veggies Month, so I gave Kale another try.



Seriously, though, folks... curly lettuce? Shrug. Source.
As I have said here before, I am really trying to like kale. And you know what, after this, I think I'm absolutely done trying to make Kale happen. I don't like it. Who eats curly-cue lettuce? Weirdos!
  (Sorry. I know its full of healthy things, and I know some people like it... but kale is just not for me. I feel better having admitted that)








Sunday night I attempted this recipe from Flying Onion. Her pictures were gorgeous, and mine came out just as pretty. The polenta was easy and quite delicious. I would eat that stuff all by itself. Ditto with the cheesy roasted butternut squash topper.

 But the kale... well, let's say that as kale goes, it wasn't bad. It could have been worse. There was some garlicky, grilled flavor to it... but the essence of flavor was still kale. And I have come to terms with the fact that I, emphatically, do not like Kale. I think I'll try collard greens in their place next time. Collard greens are tolerable, I think.
So, no disrespect to Flying Onion... 2/3 of her casserole was perfect. It's not her fault kale is evil.

Saturday night, while lying awake at night wishing I could sleep (sleep shifting blues), I thought up a recipe to try. Monday night after our 4 mile run, we made it, with only directions from my sleep deprived brain

Turkey/Beef Meatball Casserole!
 (Yeah, I don't know why I always dream up crazy casseroles when sleep deprived.)

20 oz Italian flavored ground Turkey (decent Italian sausage flavor, yum!)
1 lb ground sirloin (90/10)
2/3 chopped white onion
1 egg
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
(choose your own spices, amounts to taste)
1 tsp Italian Seasoning spice
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix to combine with your hands.
2. Preheat over to 375.

1 can diced tomatoes
1 can crushed tomatoes (I should have added this, but didn't think of it in advance and didn't have any on-hand so I used canned tomato sauce instead)
rest of chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 Tbsp olive oil

3. Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.
4. Add minced garlic and chopped onion to the oil and sautee until softened.
5. Add canned tomatoes and seasoning. Reduce heat to low, cover, and warm until necessary.

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

6. Add oil to large pan over medium high heat.
7. Shape the meat mixture into balls. I like them bigger, so I made 16 handful-sized meatballs from this mixture. If you prefer you can make smaller meatballs which will have a shorter cooking time.
8. Add meatballs to the hot oil. Saute on each side for about 2 minutes then transfer to a baking dish.
9. Cover baking dish tightly with foil and transfer to oven. Cook for about 25 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through. (Its ok to peek, we have raw turkey in here so it's important to be sure!)
10. Drain some of the fat from the baking dish if you want. Or you can leave it in there, it's delicious!
11. Pour tomato sauce over meatballs and top with cheeses.
12. Put back in oven, uncovered, for 10 minutes to make cheeses bubbly. Serve balls with sauce and cheese topping alone, with garlic bread, or over pasta (I served over whole wheat spaghetti).

This was decently healthy, but more importantly delicious!
With plenty of leftovers for lunch tomorrow:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Back to the Day Shift

This has been an extremely lazy weekend! I'm still recovering from the overnight shift, think I'm coming down with that cold that was going around the blog-world, and we're getting ready to leave town on Thursday to visit my home. I haven't been home since July! Since then, we visited his home in Virginia 5 times for weddings, holidays, vacations. Sorry Mom and Dad!

So in the past week I ran 2 times (out of a planned 4 times... skipped both long runs), went to yoga once (should have gone twice), and generally was a lazy bum. I'm SO tired that when I woke up this morning I just could not bring myself to go on the planned 6 mile run. This latest overnight shift has really screwed me up; yesterday I slept until 2! I could have slept longer, physically, but I made myself get up. That is NOT how you shift back to days. Going back to the office is gonna be rough!

Friday I came home from work, headed out to a morning yoga session. Tried mixed level for the first time, and have extremely sore muscles in my back/shoulders/arms to prove it. Then I came home and- big mistake- had a nap. Planned only an hour but just could not bring myself to get out of bed so I kept resetting the alarm for later. Finally I did get up, grabbed dinner and a movie with some friends. Then passed out. And slept. And woke up around 3 am to lie awake for a few hours, then slept some more.

Saturday night fun....

I wore my Astronaut Snoopy shirt!

And I had a date with this funny face:

We went to this outdoor Valentines event at the Houston Arboretum. We are always looking for new ways to explore the city, especially food. This event was a tasting menu as you walked through the arboretum- the trail was lit with electric tealights in paper bags, the night was cold but not rainy- it rained Friday and is pretty grey now, so they lucked out. It was fun and romantic, I guess, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't do it again. It was very expensive, and not well organized. To start, they said a confirmation email with more details would be sent 2 weeks before the event. It did not arrive until Friday afternoon, the day before the event.
The website had said you could arrive between 5 and 8, so we planned to arrive kind of on the later side. But the last minute email had changed it to 7; and we ended up getting there right at 7 because of some traffic. One station had already run out of food. Another was getting pretty close. IF we do decide to go again (big IF), we would plan to get there at 5 and go through each station twice before they ran out of food. The best station was the "soup" station, which had a wild mushroom (foraged from the Arboretum- hyperlocal food, which is pretty cool!) and steel cut oat porridge that was awesome. It was super dark, so the picture is kinda ugly.

The other problem was... not enough food! We got a small plate at each station (except the one that ran out of food), and a big glass of wine. If we could have gone through twice, then we probably would have eaten enough, but I was thoroughly drunk by the end of it from the combination of too little food and plenty of drinks. So we headed to a nearby bar to grab some snacks:
Musroom Pizza



And truffle fries. Yum! If anything, I must give a good review of the Uptown Tasting Room where we had our second dinner. The food was delicious! I'm a big fan of truffle fries. I was drunk and stuck to water, but they had a pretty decent wine list I would happily try next time!

The night cost A LOT, between the event and then the second dinner we had to buy afterwards. I like taking the nontraditional route, and I like trying new things, but I also like getting my money's worth out of things, and I definitely don't feel like I did out of that event. But I did get to spend the night out with this guy, so I suppose it's all good! :-)