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What I’ve been up to

There’s not a really good reason why I haven’t been writing. I just haven’t felt like it mostly. I’ve been busier than usual, but not so busy that I don’t have time for sitting on my butt when I get home from work. I’ve mostly been capitalizing on my right to be lazy. I know don’t normally talk a lot here too specifically about my life details too much, but here’s a little sample of what I’ve been up to.

Junior League. I’ve been a league member for 3 years now, and this year I was selected to be a committee chair. So I coordinate a small group of women. Our committee fulfills our service hours by working on a projects involving CASA and CPS kids.

Sorority. I’ve been my local Alpha Chi Omega alumnae club president for almost 5 years, but in the fall I also was asked to become chapter advisor. This responsibility has really come with a learning curve, and right now since I’m still so new, it’s like taking on a part-time job. It’s part mom, part cheerleader, part friend, part therapist, part organizational skills instructor.

Teaching. In the fall, I also taught a brand new freshman seminar class. Even though I work with college kids daily, the class was a challenge in creating and executing. It was fulfilling, challenging and eye-opening. Some kids truly aren’t ready for college, but they’ve been told their whole life to graduate high school, go to college, and then they’ll get a high paying job. When reality is far different. (I have many more feelings about higher education, but I’ll spare you!) I’m not teaching this semester, so I am relieved I don’t have that commitment right now.

I’ve got a few trips coming up in March (San Diego, Washington DC), April (San Francisco), May (Indianapolis), and June (Minnesota) so I’ll have travel stuff to share, so hopefully it’ll be easier to help me get back in a rhythm of writing more.

And of course there will be plenty of pictures.

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2012 in review

As always, a few days late, but better late than never. Here are my 2010 and 2011 recaps if you care to check them out.

In 2012 Taylor and I :

Paid off his car early (the VW Jetta). Then, just a couple of weeks later, had a huge issue, where we brought the car in to the dealership to check out a problem with the door lock. They said it would be several hundred dollars to repair the lock, and we said, no thanks. Then later that same afternoon they called claiming that there was gasoline in the diesel engine (um, there’s no way in hell!!) and it would require major repairs (to the tune of at least $8,000 dollars, and you better contact your insurance company to get them involved.) After many talks with insurance and the car dealership and about 6 weeks of the car being in the shop, we paid our insurance deductible, turned in our rental car and traded that sucker in. So we also…

Bought a new car. A 2012 Toyota Camry SE.

Celebrated my 31st birthday, our 3rd anniversary, and Taylor’s 29th birthday.

We also did a lot of mentally preparing and budget planning for buying a house in 2013.  EEK!!

Taylor’s sister had a baby, so this year we became Aunt Andrea and Uncle Taylor! Here’s our sweet nephew from just a few days ago. He’s about 4.5 months old here.

Tristan 014

And I:

I didn’t cook as much as I’d like to throughout the year. This year was the first time I in my 31 years that I didn’t go to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving, so I cooked my First Solo Thanksgiving Meal for my in-laws. And for the first time ever, I also didn’t see my parents on Christmas day, so I cooked a ham dinner on Christmas. I didn’t take any pictures.

Visited

  • Las Vegas (March)
  • Washington DC/Arlington, VA(April)
  • St. Louis (July)
  • New Orleans (August & October)
  • New York City (September)
  • Dallas (October)

Read

I got a Kindle Fire for Christmas in 2011 and I also joined Goodreads and set a goal of 30 books for the 2012 year. I didn’t make 30, but I did read 24 books, so not too shabby.

I enjoyed everything I finished, some more than others. I started Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, The Art of Fielding, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, but didn’t finish. The only one I legitimately quit because I simply could not get into it was Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. My favorite books were the John Green books (in order of my personal preference) The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns, Looking for Alaska, and An Abundance of Katherines.

Here are all the books I read.

  1. The Hunger Games
  2. Mockingjay
  3. Catching Fire
  4. Divergent
  5. Paper Towns
  6. Girl Over the Edge
  7. Wife By Wednesday
  8. Water for Elephants
  9. Looking for Alaska
  10. Thirteen Reasons Why
  11. The Fault in Our Stars
  12. Daughter of Smoke and Bone
  13. Juliet, Naked
  14. Fifty Shades of Grey
  15. Fifty Shades Darker
  16. Pretty Little Liars
  17. Flawless
  18. Perfect
  19. Unbelievable
  20. The Book Thief
  21. Gone Girl
  22. Flight
  23. An Abundance of Katherines
  24. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

I am too lazy to link those books to another site and/or list their authors, but if you’re interested in knowing more about something and can’t find it, let me know and I can point you in the right direction.

Watched

  • True Blood (Season 4)
  • The Tudors (Seasons 3 & 4)
  • Dexter (Season 6)
  • And plenty more miscellaneous episodes of Sister Wives, Family Guy, South Park, The New Girl, and Tosh.0

Listened to/Discovered MusicA few of these albums aren’t new, some are especially played out, but I loved them this year anyway. Saw Two Door Cinema Club at House of Blues in Houston in October.

  • Two Door Cinema Club – Beacon
  • Fun – Some Nights
  • Of Monsters and Men – My Head is an Animal
  • The Lumineers – The Lumineers
  • Katy Perry – Teenage Dream
  • The Black Keys – El Camino
  • Keane – Strangeland
  • O.A.R. – Rain or Shine

Did nice things – As a sort of informal resolution, I tried to do more  nice things this year. I kept track for myself, but don’t care to post the tally here. In general, I sent cards and care packages to friends and family who needed it, and I also did nice things for people I didn’t know. I really enjoyed it and I hope to continue this year.

How was your 2012?

Crawfish Cornbread

I posted about making crawfish cornbread for Thanksgiving, so I thought I’d share the recipe in case anyone is interested. I got the recipe from Taylor’s mom, who got it from someone else, so I have no idea of its original origins.

It’s sort of like a corn pudding with crawfish, cheese, and a little spice.

Crawfish Cornbread

1 pound frozen crawfish (thawed, drained and rinsed)
1 stick melted butter
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp Tony Chachares seasoning (or more, 1 tbsp isn’t too much for my taste)
1 can cream style corn
1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
3/4 cup chopped onions (frozen will work)
3 eggs
chopped jalapenos (1/2  a small can drained, or more if you like it spicy)
2 cups of grated cheese (one to mix in, one to top the casserole)

Mix all ingredients (except 1 cup cheese) in a large mixing bowl. Pour into greased 9×13 baking pan. Top with 2nd cup of cheese. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Makes 8+ servings.

For the first time in my 31 years of existence, my parents went out of town for Thanksgiving. So, I cooked the full meal on my own. Thankfully, I’ve helped my mom cook Thanksgiving a lot in the past few years, so I had it pretty well under control, but it still felt weird not to be in the kitchen with my family.

Initially it was just going to be Taylor and me, but Taylor’s parents decided they were going to come over. I was already planning on cooking enough food, so I didn’t have to change my plans at all. And cooking at home meant I finally had a fancy excuse to use my wedding china for the first time in 3.5 years.

I bought a small turkey. It also did not have any wings or legs, which was fine with me, since I don’t eat dark meat anyway.

I cooked macaroni and cheese (the blue box, for T) and mashed potatoes, with plenty of butter and milk.

Frozen yeast rolls that rise up to look like homemade.

Crawfish cornbread.

Stovetop stuffing, broccoli and gravy.

I rounded out the meal with a fresh-baked (frozen) apple pie and vanilla bean ice cream.

It was a delicious meal and I’ve still got plenty of leftovers.

I came home last night from getting my hair trimmed and Taylor told me he just loves how flat and stringy my hair is.

He tells me something similar pretty often, and he doesn’t mean it as an insult at all. He really means it looks smooth and straight, but he just doesn’t always use the right words. He particularly doesn’t like how big some girls try to make their hair (we do live in the land of big Texas hair) and prefers a simpler look.

He makes me laugh. 🙂

New York City

At the beginning of September I went to New York City for a conference. I was there for about 5 days, and had plenty of time outside of conference sessions for sightseeing. It’s crazy seeing all the stuff on tv about the hurricane damage up there, when I was just there so recently. Even though I feel like an old pro at hurricanes, it’s always surreal seeing other places going through what we’ve gone through a couple times in the past few years.

Anyway.

Going back through my pictures, I realized I didn’t take as many as I normally do. But don’t worry I’ve still got plenty to share. Hope you like pictures of food and drinks.

What to See

Times Square
The conference hotel was right in the middle of Times Square, so it was an awesome location for sightseeing.

It was also excellent for looking down on while drinking (savoring slowly!) the most expensive glass of wine ever( $18!!)

Times Square is also great for people watching. This was Naked Cowboy 2 that we saw. The other one is younger and more attractive, in my opinion.

Strand Bookstore
828 Broadway
This place is awesome with its 18 Miles of Books. They have tons of t-shirts, gifts and tote bags, so it’s also a great place to pick up souvenirs.

9/11 Memorial
Right now since the memorial isn’t finished, you have to reserve a free ticket and go through security to see it, but it’s totally worth the effort. Reserve and print your ticket at home, since I had trouble doing it from the road.

Brooklyn Bridge
I didn’t get many photos this time, since a lot of the walkway was under some kind of construction. This trip was the second time I walked the entire length of the bridge.

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Tour
This tour was really great. Reserve your ticket online in advance. We went to the very first tour of the morning, and the lines were short and there weren’t too many people to battle. I think the ticket price was around $17 and included audio tours of both islands. It is well worth the price.

The Chelsea High Line
A friend of the colleague I was traveling with told us about the High Line and we were so  happy to have heard about it. It’s an old rail road line that’s been preserved as a park. The views of the city are beautiful and the high line would be a great place to go on a date or just to hang out for a few hours.

Where to eat

Grimaldi’s Pizza NYC
1 Front Street
We walked all the way from Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge to get to this pizza place. We’d probably have eaten cardboard after the hours we walked, but this pizza was AWESOME! It’s in Brooklyn, just at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Room Service Thai
690 9th Avenue
This wasn’t far from our hotel in Times Square and was delicious. The menus featured room numbers and the feature of the room was a huge crystal chandelier. The picture doesn’t do it justice.

Max Brenner
841 Broadway
Max Brenner’s fame is chocolate, but you’ve got to eat food too, so why not bacon macaroni and cheese?! The best part of traveling with someone else is that you can split and share entrees and dessert.

Banana Split Waffles.

And a White Russian with white chocolate instead of milk.

Junior’s Cheesecake
89 E. 42nd Street
We had breakfast here, no cheesecake. 😦

The Spotted Pig
314 W. 11th Street
This place was really cool. We couldn’t make a reservation, so by the time we got there, the wait was over an hour, but the food was worth it. I had the burger because I’m not always terribly an adventurous eater (although I did try a tiny crunch of my colleague friend’s fried pig ear). The gazpacho made with tomato, purple basil and black mint was  incredible and their truffle deviled eggs, while a bit expensive, were so delicious I’m trying to figure out how to make them at home.

Gaslight
400 W. 14th Street
We stopped here before we walked the High Line. Their pizza and caprese salad, combined with patio dining reminded us of Italy.

See, there was even a statue of David near the restaurant.

Ed’s Chowder House
44 W. 63rd Street (At Empire Hotel)
We stopped here for drinks after my colleague friend finished a super secret photo shoot. It was kind of fun, because fashion week was going on, and a lot of people thought she was a fashion week model! I had the Upper West Apertif – with grey goose vodka, muddled orange, mint leaves and ginger ale.

Takahachi Bakery
25 Murray Street (between Broadway and Church)
This Japanese bakery isn’t far from Battery Park, but it’s not exactly on the way either. Their pastries were delicious.

Celebrity Sightings

One night we met up with one of my friends from college and walked right into Snoop Dogg and his entourage.

One morning instead of getting breakfast in the hotel, I wandered out and saw the Bachelorette.

We also saw Gwen Stefani and No Doubt practicing in Rockefeller Center, but couldn’t get any good pictures. And John Quiniones was a guest speaker at our conference. So the celebrity count was pretty good!

It rained a couple days while we were there, so we didn’t make it to Central Park and a couple other things we planned. I guess that means an excuse for another trip!

So at this point it is safe to say the good stuff of the garden is done. The tomato plant is over all the heat, and the tomatoes that are actually growing are the tiniest things ever, and not even worth eating.

image

The basil plant is dead, as is the mint. The rosemary (in the background) is actually still trying.

image

Out of the 15+ onions I planted, only 2 produced the smallest red onions ever. I didn’t take pictures of anything else, but the succulents are still doing well, and the closet plant and the aloe vera just needed some water.

This was a pretty good year for the patio garden. Until next year.