Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Working on organization

One of my big goals this summer is to get this house organized. Looking back, Matt and I have been going non-stop since we got married. Two days after we got back from our honeymoon in 2004 I started summer school and we both started working 30 to 40 hours a week. That led into full regular school schedules with pretty full work schedules, working overtime once we graduated, moving to Houston and working as much as possible, me doing grad school and holding down two part time jobs, then teaching and banking while moving into a house and basically life got away from us. Last summer was my first big summer off and I was unable to organize as you guys saw with all of the house rennovations that took place. So this summer I have been doing projects as much as possible. I have been getting all of MacKenzie's old clothes organized and put away into storage. For her current clothes I found that it is easier to sort through them if you fold them and lay them sideways instead of a big stack in the drawer...see below! Just an idea for getting your stuff organized too!

More pics to follow!

Blueberry muffins

This is my recipe for Blueberry muffins, it is modified slightly from The Betty Crocker Cookbook. A small aside about the blueberries. For pancakes we like to use fresh, but find that frozen work better in muffins. Something about the baking time that is involved in muffins causes the blueberries to get mushy if you use fresh. With frozen we have never had this problem and it allows the blueberries to stay whole enough that you get that pop of fruit that makes blueberries so delicious!

These muffins are great muffins, they are slightly crisp on the outside and soft and fluffy inside. The muffin itself is not too sweet and the blueberries give it just a bit of sweetness. So enough talk, here is the recipe!

3/4 cup of milk
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries

Heat oven to 400 and grease a 12 cup muffin tin (I like off brand Pam myself). Beat milk, oil, and egg. I do this with a wire whisk until extra fluffy. Sift dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. Dump all but about two tablespoons of the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and mix until just combined (batter will be lumpy). Take the extra two tablespoons of flour mixture and toss the frozen blueberries. This will coat the blueberries and help them stay suspended in the batter (so all of your blueberries aren't at the bottom of your muffin). Fold into the batter. Evenly place into your muffin tin. I find that a cookie scoop makes this easier (usually two scoops or so per tin). Bake 20 to 25 minutes (until it's done and golden brown). Top with butter and enjoy!

I love the slightly blue color they get

Look at that distribution of perfectly, "burstable" blueberries!

Enjoy with venison sausage or on their own on your way to work! I have contemplated making them with half whole wheat flour, I think they would be pretty good!

Another great article

I thought this article on yahoo was a great little reminder of some of the things we should keep our eyes peeled for used instead of buying new. It will help our pocketbooks and I am sure Matt's sister McKay and my Hippie sister Dena would like the fact that it helps keep unnecessary waste out of our landfills!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Photo Shoots!

I love taking pictures of my little girl. She loves to ham it up for the camera too! I think she was listening when I would watch America's Next Top Model. If you get out a camera, she will look your way and smile which is wonderful! So here are a few pictures we have gotten of her recently.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

8 months already!


I cannot believe you are already 8 months old (well...tomorrow)! You have grown up so much in the last month, I am sure I will say it again, but this has been my favorite month so far. You are so interactive and simply fun to be around.

We have been slacking on feeding you solids. You are simply quite content to nurse your way through your first year so it is hard to be motivated to give you purees and baby foods that you aren't that thrilled about gumming (that's right...no teeth yet). We have been giving you some finger foods to try out, but you would rather play. We discovered last night that you are quite fond of tomatoes with a bit of basil on them so maybe we are underestimating your foodie taste buds. We have stopped trying oatmeal at all because you might have a slight allergy to it. We will try again when you are older. You do like to gnaw on bread, tortillas, or crackers which will keep you occupied for a bit if we go out to eat. You do great at restaurants and like to sit in a high chair if you are not too tired.

We tried seeing what you would do if allowed to
feed yourself...thank goodness it was bath night!

You are sitting up on your own to play and hate being forced to lay down. You definitely know how to get your knees under you, but you aren't sure what to do with your arms which makes crawling an almost impossibility. You have mastered the circle though because your bottom half is mobile and your top half is stationary which gets you a teeny tiny bit of movement. I learned quite by surprise that you were ready to pull yourself up when you were sitting on the couch with me, pulled yourself up on my leg, and almost toppled over head first onto the floor. You are getting to be a pro at pulling up and we definitely need to lower your crib(s) in order to make sure you are safe. Thank goodness you haven't figured out how to get yourself from laying down to pulling up!

You talk almost incessantly! Most of it is ba-ba-ba-ba-ba (repeat), but every once in a while you will start with a blah-blah-blah. Usually this is funny, but not so much in the middle of our Sunday sermon which means mommy takes you outside. You are discovering your vocal range and we often turn around to look at you, thinking something is wrong, only to realize that you were just trying out your volume levels or pitch! You are laughing more and more and smile all the time. The girls at the gym nursery call you the "happy baby". The other day you cracked up when a character on a show sneezed, this has led to us making all of your animals sneeze too.

We have had a ton of adventures this past month...here are some pictures!

You went swimming for the first time,
look at your Aggie swimsuit!

At first you didn't like swimming, but when you learned you could splash...just like the bath tub then you were sold on swimming and the pool. This is at the Medlin's house for our small group's Memorial Day weekend celebration!

We went to go see Nana, in fact we have seen her twice this summer!

The next few pictures are from a weekend away with Daddy's side of the family. We went to Chalk Mountain for a weekend get away. You liked to watch the foxes in the morning and to spend time with your family.

You and your Grandma Dee at the Dr. Pepper place in Dublin, TX

In the hiking backpack we borrowed from the Allison's
you weren't a huge fan at first, but we walked around
Dinosaur Valley State Park

Doc, Dee, Daddy, Mommy, You, Aunt McKay, and Uncle Rob
(Uncle Martin had to work...that is restaurant business for you)

We also went to Blue Bell. Mommy and Daddy had not been for years and wanted to utilize days off to enjoy Texas and Houston things to do!

You would rather eat your hat than wear it!

Lastly, we went to eat and then went bowling with Grammy Kiki and Papi! You love them so much and enjoy your time with them!

It has been a busy month! I hope you enjoyed it because I loved every minute! Hope this next month is as adventure filled!

Mommy and Daddy!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Haircut 2010

As previously mentioned, I recently cut all of my hair off again. I really like having long hair, but when you have super long, straight, fine hair that is difficult to do much with down...you have a tendency to put it up a lot. This tendency becomes a lot stronger when you have little 7 month old hands grabbing and pulling as hard as they can. I felt guilty having all this hair that I love when I don't do anything with it...so it was time for another cut and not a moment too late seeing as we have over 100 degrees here in Texas on a regular basis for the foreseeable future. Lucky for me, my stepfathers mother is now in town and she was willing to cut my hair for me!!!

So here is me pre-cut...long cascading hair...

I was most nervous about this cut, but I am not sure why. As per Locks of Love instructions my hair was dry, we put it in a rubber band and started to decide where to cut. When she said 10 inches was at my shoulder blades I had to think whether I still wanted longish hair or not...I decided I wanted a full cut and told her to go shoulder length. She was hesitant but I had done this before, I knew what a big change it would be. She pulled the rubber band up higher and got the scissors and began making the big cut. I cannot describe how strange it is to be hearing the scissors rip through your hair like that. It is a little grating when it is so close to your ears! As she cut through the massive pony tail, the already cut parts started to fall forward- there was no turning back now!

This is me during my cut. I automatically felt a weight lifted off
(not my shoulders), but my head!

Post cut MacKenzie was hungry so we didn't get a big fashion shoot!

Here is a close up of what I call my sassy pants hair!
Yes, it is not styled or even blow dryed...I am a busy mommy what can I say!

Matt likes the new hair cut because it reminds him of me when we first started dating and got together...

I like the hair because it is a lot lighter and easier to manage. When I took my first post-cut shower I had to remind myself not to use too much shampoo. I got in the shower and victoriously got a perfect amount of shampoo for my new hair, then realized I hadn't gotten my hair wet yet...

So below is the hair ready to be measured...I was shocked when it measured to be 16 inches! That is the most I have been able to donate at once so far! I am really excited that they have a good amount to work with!

This cut will be sent in honor of my dear friend (even if she does work at that other school down in Austin), Dr. Joan Shiring who is in remission, I asked where she wanted it sent and she wanted Locks of Love to continue having the hair for their organization.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A brief side note...

I rather love salad. I could eat a dinner sized salad many nights of the week. I enjoy preparing salads and eat a good portion of every salad I make. I think salads are wonderful because they are so versatile. I found this slide show while perusing the Internet today. Maybe you will get some enjoyment from one of these recipes.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Useful little article...

Just thought I would share a link to this article about different uses for baking soda. And I am sure many, including my sister-in-law McKay would appreciate this article about the wonderful world of vinegar.

Not the most recent haircut...

I will be posting some pictures of the newest haircut in the next few days (I think), but here is my last big haircut...

I first donated to Locks of Love in high school. One weekend I decided I was tired of my long hair and wanted a big chop. I went in and was able to cut 10 inches off my hair that day. The second time I was at A & M and was again tired of the hair and ready for a change. I cut off 12 inches and sent it in that time...

When you cut your hair to donate there are a few requirements. They have it tied into different rubber bands, but previously I have only needed one big rubber band of hair. It is weird to see it all tied up together and chopped off...

Pictures and a report of the new hair cut...coming soon to this blog near you!

One of the stops on the quest...

I am going to start off by saying this: this is not the best pizza I have found so far. This is not even near the top. There are many reasons for this not being the best pizza, but this place (and thus this post) does serve many purposes...

BJ's Brewhouse was actually introduced to us by some friends who were visiting from Philadelphia, they had visited a BJ's in Dallas and because they were down to visit suggested we give it a whirl. BJ's is great for a number reasons:

First, they brew their own beers and they brew many different kinds of beer. I like a wide variety of beer to go with my many different moods so having a wide selection is nice. The waitstaff is usually somewhat knowledgeable about the different varieties (Imperial style stout to Pilsners and Wheat beers) and will gladly bring you samples to try before you commit to just one. They also will mix beers (half and half/ black and tan style) which makes for an even better variety and they also periodically have hard ciders which is nice in the fall and winter. Below is a picture of one of their beer flights which is reasonably priced and gives you ample tastes of four of their most popular beers.

Second, their bruschetta is a delicious part of their menu and we have often purchased it, a salad, and a beer or two for dinner alone. The tomatoes are diced and tossed with olive oil, basil, salt, and a nice touch of fresh garlic (which gives it a wonderful bite). The tomatoes are served with a foccaccia style bread which is toasted making a perfect platform to soak in extra olive oil and tomato juice from the topping. I also like that they serve the bruschetta in a bowl with the bread fanned around it so that you can choose how much topping you want on your bread. (The picture below is from my I-phone which doesn't make the best quality display of such a wonderful treat)
Third, they have a wide variety of pizzas from thin crust to Chicago style deep dish with a large array of toppings. You can make your own or choose from some of their suggested mixes. Their toppings are generous in portion and of decent quality.

You would think with the praises already sung about BJ's that it would be higher ranked in my eyes, but despite all of the wonderful aspects of the place...something is missing. The pizza is simply fine for lack of a better word. The deep dish is greasy (which might be a defining characteristic of deep dish pizzas, which I don't normally choose to enjoy) and the thin crust is thin and chewy, not crispy. There is nothing special about their pizzas, I feel like I could get the same sort of pizza in a number of different places around the city. The things that make BJ's great is the beer and the atmosphere...not the pizza. Granted they do not advertise themselves as being an exclusive pizza place (they also have sandwiches and American style food), most go for the pizza. I would think of BJ's as being a football watching, beer drinking, and oh-yeah we can order a few pizzas kind of place. The pizza is a good addition, but not an immediate factor into choosing to go there. I really enjoy BJ's, but I don't think pizza and BJ's in the same breath...not like you do for Lombardi's...

Thus...the search continues...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The beginning of a quest

We were on the search for the original New York pizza. We were well aware of the arguments that other places were better (often more tense than the arguments of which Philly cheesesteak is better), but we wanted the first, the original, the pizza that every other pizza would be modeled after. We found Lombardi’s with relative ease after all, we had heard about the place on the Food Network and in our trusty guide book for our first trip to New York. We walked in and immediately smelled the huge vats of bubbling tomato sauce exuding their aroma from the kitchen. Arriving before their remodel, we were seated in the older section of the restaurant which means we were guided past the coal burning oven that makes their pizza so unique. We were sat at a table ordered a few drinks and picked out a few pizzas to try. You do have to wait for your pizza, but we didn’t mind as we looked around the walls taking in pictures of celebrities and wannabes that graced their restaurant over the years. We continued taking in the aroma of the previously mentioned sauce and used that as our appetizer for what was to come. When our pizzas arrived we knew it had been well worth the wait. The crust was a cross between thin and hand tossed and while their were a few charred spots on the edge, we took that as a sign of authenticity. My choice of pizza was sausage, red onion, and mushroom. The sausage was thinly sliced into ovals and had good flavor with a mild bit of heat. The red onion had a nice sharp bite and the mushrooms added texture and a woody flavor to the pizza. The cheese was not overpowering, but rather balanced out the rest of the flavors on the pizza as well as helping to keep the toppings in place. The sauce was wonderfully simple in that you could taste tomatoes and a bit of seasoning and nothing else. The crust was something all together difficult to describe. It had a wonderfully salty flavor combined with a warm, yeasty, bread-like texture. Because of the char of coal burning oven, the crust was slightly crisp and wonderfully chewy. There were spots that tasted more charred than others, but not in a bad way. I can only describe it as being perfectly burnt (in the way that sometimes a few pieces of extra done popcorn is a nice balance to the rest of the batch). Combine all of these wonderful ingredients: the toppings, the cheese, the sauce, and the crust (oh man...the crust) and you have, quite simply, the best pizza I have ever tasted. Add in a Peroni or two and you are set for one of the best meals of your life.

The second time we went to eat at Lombardi’s was two days later...it was just as delicious.

The third time we went to eat at Lombardi’s was a few years later...we got off our plane from Houston, got our baggage, found a taxi, rode to Lombardi’s (straight there), and asked for a table. I thought this time that there would be no way our memories of the pizza could be as wonderful as the pizza actually was...I was wrong...if anything it was better! We polished off a few pizzas between the two of us and were glad for the long walk (with our luggage in tow) to the hotel where we would be staying.

The fourth time I went I was without Matt. This past summer I was in New York at the JFR Lerner Fellowship. I stood up on Sunday at dinner and said "I am going to Lombardi's to get pizza tomorrow night...if anyone wants to eat at the original (and in my opinion best) pizza place then you are welcome to come with me. I am going regardless." Out of the 30 of us, 9 brave souls followed me to Little Italy and were not disappointed with the results.

We have recommended Lombardi’s to others and they are always polite about thanking us for our recommendation and smile saying “We will see if we can try it...there are so many places to eat”. Once they have tried it though, they see what we mean and thank us with enthusiasm for mentioning the place.

The one drawback is the location...obviously being in New York we cannot go every day which means...we have to find something equal...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Thank you

I wanted to take a quick chance to say a belated thank you to all of our service men and women who sacrifice so much for others. As I skimmed through The Pioneer Woman's website I saw this picture which literally brought tears to my eyes. It is one of the most moving pictures I have seen for some time and it brings to mind all of those wonderful members of our armed forces who hopefully get to come back to open arms (no matter how tiny) at the end of their service.

Thank you troops (past and present).