Sunday, August 30, 2009

break out your jackets, boys and girls

Lost Maples Nature Area, Vanderpool, Texas

(OK, well, maybe not your jackets.)

The 10-day forecast for Houston has lows around 70 and highs around 90 heading our way ... just around the corner! Woo hoo! Maybe I won't break a sweat until 8am, rather than as soon as I walk out the door at 6:45am (ok ... I'm lying. I start sweating as soon as I begin putting on my make-up. It's a way of life for me).

But back to the subject at hand, the mornings have felt noticeably drier and yes, even cooler. It's been a beautiful weekend, as far as August on the Texas Gulf Coast goes -- could be so much worse.

I'm such a cold weather girl. I know, I know. Why in the hell do I live in Texas and not somewhere like Colorado? It can't be helped ... it's in my blood. I love my peeps, and I love my state.

But I sure do adore trips to cooler climates. And even better, cool weather in my own backyard. So, based on the current forecast, a little mini-happy dance is in order.

Friday, August 28, 2009

holy "team jacob" batman!

Taylor Lautner was born in 1992 ... a year AFTER I GRADUATED FROM HIGH SCHOOL!

How can that be?! When did this happen?!

I'm old. No, I'm old and pathetic ... no, wait. I'm an old, pathetic cougar. Because I find this picture (from Teen Vogue, no less ... oh the shame) so, so delicious. And he's just a BOY!

I mean, good grief. How embarrassing. But geez. If this isn't eye candy in a dirty shirt, I don't know what is.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

how yummy do these look?!

For a quick sweet treat, these look awesome! Yoplait Delights! And at only 100 calories each, you can't beat it (visit the website for a $1.00 off coupon).

They come in Chocolate Raspberry, Crème Caramel, Triple Berry Crème, and Lemon Torte. DELISH!

Thanks, Yoplait. You've just sweetened my day.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

one of my favorite after school treats

I've never been a chutney person. For some reason, it's always reminded me too much of fruit cake, and that's a major culinary negative in my food repertoire.

A few years ago however, I found a jar in my mother's refrigerator (which always has a random and various assortment of British-like stuff in it) that for some reason, appealed to my senses that day. To be exact, it was Patak's Hot Mango Chutney, and I fell instantly in love. You can pick it up at just about any grocery store (except for Thriftway in Forks, WA), and it's very reasonably priced. Nothing fancy -- just chutney.

So I put some on a cracker with a chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano (one of my favorite cheeses on the planet ... you can buy a big hunk of it at Costco for a great price ... but I digress ....), which I always have on hand in my fridge. The result was divine.

I'm not sure if I'd like most chutneys, because, to be honest, I haven't ventured out and tried too many. But this particular chutney has since become one of my very favorite afternoon/evening treats, paired with a glass (or 3) of chardonnay. It's an absolutely perfect combination.

Today's version: a Rosenblum Cellars Chardonnay, Vintner's Cuvee. So, so good.

Even if you're chutney-shy, like I've always been, or set in your snacking routines, I highly recommend giving this a try. The spiciness and sweetness of the chutney, paired with the saltiness of the parmesan and bite of the wine is such a great treat.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

the world would be a better place

... if everyone had the manners of my three-year-old.

Sure he sometimes forgets to flush the potty, and yeah, he loves to hear himself burp (the louder the better). But he's also very into giving compliments and saying sugary sweet things these days. I think he gets a kick out of my reactions more than anything else. But I know it won't last, so I'm enjoying every minute of it.

I swear, when he unexpectedly pulls out one of his sweet doozies, I completely fall to pieces -- its so darn funny and always totally out of left field, which makes it that much more endearing.

His current favorites are, "Sure, Mommy! I'd be happy to!" Even if I'm just asking him to open the back door for the dogs, or to turn off the TV before we leave the house, his cheery "Sure, Mommy! I'd be happy to!" is so totally sincere, I'm forced to scoop him up and kiss him to pieces.

And one day this week when I was feeling particularly rushed and frazzled while trying to get ready and get us out the door, he looked at me with those big brown eyes and said, "You look like a princess, Mommy." Holy moly -- is someone paying him to say these things?! I don't care if he doesn't know the difference between a princess and the lady at the McDonald's drive-through window (she's way cool, by the way), I DO! And damn if it doesn't feel good to have someone call you one. :)

But the hands down best is the the totally out of the blue, "I love you, Mommy." -- I'm a goner every time. I've been sort of blue and missing things over the past few days, and hearing this grounds me like nothing else can.

Yep. I'm thinking that the Palestinians and Israelis could probably iron out their differences if they just mixed in an occasional, "Sure, I'd be happy to!"

Sunday, August 23, 2009

sunday smiles

Back-to-school manicure and pedicure at Bora Bora -- best in the city! I ran into one of my very favorite former students and so very much enjoyed listening to her excitement about starting high school tomorrow as she got a pedicure with her mama! Giggles galore.

Lunch at Freebirds.


Hangin' out with my little guy (but missing my other).

Looking forward to new beginnings (yea room 32!).

So blessed.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

more halloween fun from etsy

The rest of my signs arrived ... DARLING!

From the CountryWorkshop in Baltimore, Maryland.

I may have to leave the Vampire sign out year-round. ;)

mozart died of strep throat?

35 -- far too young for this genius to expire. And now it looks like nothing sinister (i.e. poisoning by Salieri) was involved ... just a nasty streptococcal throat infection that led to kidney failure.

How fascinating is it that there are scientists out there studying stuff like this? Every bit of enlightenment we gather as a society betters us.

The study was headed by Richard HC Zegers from the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands and colleagues Andreas Weigl from the University of Vienna in Austria and Andrew Steptoe from University College London in the UK, and is published online in the 18 August issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

"Consistent with Mozart's last illness and death being due to a streptococcal infection leading to an acute nephritic syndrome caused by poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis."

Some puzzles are worth solving. This is one.

Friday, August 21, 2009

amazing talent from alaska

Kate Earl.

Love her. Her dad is Welsh (like my own mum), so it must be in my blood.

You can download one of her songs for free right now -- it's the Single of the Week on iTunes. Here's their description of it ... spot-on:

Kate Earl comes to us directly from the Upper 49th. That's right -- Alaska. But don't expect icy tones or songs of isolation; this track from her debut is pure warmth and inviting soul. Abetted by some atmospheric string work and a retro soul bounce, this track is a great testament to music's escapist powers. Key line: "The missing piece of me I can find in a melody."

Check it out.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

sorta creepy

For the Twilight fan in your life who has it all -- the Edward Cullen life-sized silhouette wall decal.

Hilarious, in a disturbing 'I'd have sex with a blow-up doll' kind of way.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

i love etsy

One of my favorite simple pleasures in life is my addiction. I'm not a big shopper (malls suck), and over the past several years, I've pretty much done most of my purchasing exclusively online. Which leads me back to Etsy -- your place to buy & sell all things handmade. It feels great ordering stuff from a place that's made up of people who put their labors of love on display for the whole world to see.

I've bought jewelry, clothes for Aidan (I love the holiday applique shirts), crafting stuff (ribbon), luggage tags, wind chimes, personalized invitations and stickers, Valentine's Day cards for Aidan's class, signs for my classroom ... I could go on and on.

Recently I've been writing about my eagerness for Halloween. Part of my "in the mood for orange and black" had me browsing Etsy the other day for Halloween decor. I ordered a few things, and the first of my booty arrived today.

Love these signs from DreamCreationsArt. So fun.

Monday, August 17, 2009

some wolf goodness with a cherry on top

So I haven't made any Twilight comments in a while (despite the fact that Kristen Stewart and Rob Pattinson were caught smooching at a Kings of Leon concert a few nights ago) ... so here's the trailer that's debuting in front of the movie BANDSLAM. Thanks to HitFix for the link.

my british roots are showing

At the end of a hard day, with temps bordering on the triple-digit variety, there are very few items that hit the spot for me quite like a cold, loaded with ice, gin and tonic ... extra lime, please.

My earliest memory of a "grown up" drink goes back to this gin concoction. I remember my dad coming home after work and making himself and my mother the same drink. And when I became old enough to be curious about the taste, as odd as it may sound, I instantly loved the G&T.

When I turned 21 and watched my friends order beer or Jack and Coke, my beverage of choice at the local watering holes in College Station was my old friend, gin and tonic -- I felt officially big-time. And one of my only no-no "cheats" while I was pregnant was a gin and [heavy on the] tonic ... which I nursed nice and slow -- just to make it last.

G&T is still my favorite. Time and age hasn't changed my love for this potent potable. If anything, my affinity has grown stronger, as my choice and taste of gin has grown pricier.

So, Mom and Dad, thanks for introducing me to gin and tonic. I never drink one without a smile (or a lime or two).

Sunday, August 16, 2009

storms are a-brewin'

After a quiet hurricane season so far, several tropical storms are churning out in the open waters of the Atlantic, just waiting to make their leap into the Gulf.

My post-traumatized-stressed-syndromed-self still has occasional heart palpitations whenever the lights flicker during a big thunderstorm, so just thinking about dealing with another major tropical event of any kind makes me want to crawl into a fetal position in the corner with a strong cocktail. Hurricane Ike still lingers in my brain ... not as a distant memory, but as a recent monster.

So as Gulf Coasters always do, we'll be watching, monitoring, and waiting as things begin to unfold.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

go flag yourself!

To all you “fishy” Americans out there, go FLAG yourself!

i realized something today

I'm always telling my husband to "have faith," but I seldom follow my own advice. I'm really good at dishing it out, but frequently guilty of [over] worrying about the future and what might come -- to the point that I'm often missing the obvious -- I'm blessed. How insulting my doubt and lack of true faith has been.

I've decided to make a conscious effort to really trust in the Plan for my life, rather than trying to control everything.

I stepped outside of my box big-time at work today, and it felt unexpectedly good. It also enlightened me. I don't know when it happened, but somewhere along the way I learned to wrap myself up way too tight in my own comfort zone and fear any kind of unknown or risk. That's so not the way I want to live my life, or how I want to model life for my son.

So hooray for personal epiphanies on Thursdays. I love it when I can put some miles behind me on the road to discover who I am -- especially when the sky is so bright and blue.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

i was dreading today

Today was the official last day of my 2009 summer vacation.

Usually by this point in the summer, I've put in about a week of my own time in my classroom, getting everything ready and making sure my anal-retentive, Type A personality has adequately kicked into gear as far as preparations for the year -- which always includes precisely arranging my desk and its contents, posting my bulletin boards just so, and beginning the early rough drafts of lesson plans.

Not this year. I just couldn't do it. I physically and mentally wasn't able to drag myself to campus. Not because I dislike my job (which couldn't be further from the truth) ... but rather because I just couldn't relinquish my hold on this summer.

It's been almost magical. That's a terribly melodramatic thing to say, especially out of the mouth of a terribly non-melodramatic girl. But magic is a pretty good description of my June and July.

So today I didn't even want to get out of bed and face reality. But I did -- and it was great.

Beverly came home from College Station (although she would say she left home ... haha) yesterday. Last night we watched one of our mutual favorite shows -- Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa. She recently made a Greek dinner that looked amazing, so we got daring and decided to tackle it today.

Beverly and Mom headed to Phoenicia, a local import market, and bought everything on our list (including Greek Feta ... the real stuff ... lamb, Greek yogurt, and pita for the grill). We both love to cook, but not when we're rushed or under any sort of time crunch.

So today, my last day of summer freedom, was spent in the kitchen with my twin sister. Our menu: spinach and feta spanakopitas, fresh tzatziki with toasted pita crisps, Greek salad, and marinated lamb kebabs. The only debate came when it came time to pick the vino -- Beverly wanted a Chardonnay and me, a Sauvignon Blanc. So we bought both ... I love compromise. ;)

And it was DELICIOUS! A perfect and fitting end to a perfect summer. Now, I'm officially ready to face life and all its craziness again. Look out, world.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

democracy in action

A hell of a lot of anger is permeating America right now. We're polarized between two separate and distinct ideologies like I've never seen before, with apparently very little common ground to be found.

During the past few weeks (Congressional summer recess), citizens' emotions have run especially high surrounding the issue of the government's proposed health care bill. Many are panicked by it, as the bill was released and circulated with little explanation of some clearly alarming new proposals. It's understandable that such a sweeping change would heighten concerns, as is the case with any landmark change.

One of the results has been town hall-formatted meetings popping up around the country. These gatherings have billed themselves as opportunities for individuals to ask questions, express concerns or appreciations, and to voice their thoughts and opinions. Somewhere along the line, although these gatherings have been non-violent yet admittedly heated, concerned citizens participating in these forums have been labeled as members of an "angry mob", and accused of being part of a vast, right-wing conspiracy.

What a bunch of double-talk hogwash.

When Hilary Clinton went off on a particularly angry tirade while campaigning last year, she stated that she was tired of being labeled unpatriotic for questioning the Bush administration. She then received a boisterous and positive response from the crowd.

Yesterday however, the House's top two Democrats, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer called opponents of the bill who are speaking out in protest "simply un-American." Are you kidding me?! Even the White House is distancing itself from these extreme comments made by Pelosi.

What is going on? Why the double-standard? Many of my democrat acquaintances have been telling me for years that protests and speaking one's mind is the most American of all actions. So why does that only apply to certain groups and certain causes?

We have to make some changes in our health care system -- its broken, and few people are arguing that point. But many citizens are FEARFUL and want answers to their questions ... and that's VERY American.

I just spent about an hour watching a live town hall meeting in Pennsylvania hosted by Senator Arlen Specter. He allowed 30 questions, and 29 of them were opposed to the current proposals. These people weren't angry mob members -- quite the contrary. They were average citizens who posed heart-felt questions and concerns, based on personal experiences.

Props to Senator Specter for staying and facing his constituency (many politicians are not), as well as for admitting that he has yet to read the bill (how the HELL that's even acceptable is another subject for another day). We need to see so much more of this.

And bravo, America. Don't give up on this country and what our founders created, according to the Constitution. Somewhere on some level, no matter how grand or small, I have to believe that our voices are being heard.

Monday, August 10, 2009

yankee fun!

Yippee! The 2009 Yankee Candle Halloween catalog arrived in my mailbox today! I'm going to take credit for the timing ... right after my Halloween post yesterday! Coincidence? Maybe. Who knows. ;)

I don't really indulge much, as far as fancy trips or expensive clothes. But I love, love, LOVE candles! They soothe and relax me and make me super happy. I even break the law at school and light one on my desk. Shhhh ... don't tell the Fire Marshall.

Anyway, the fun present in the mail today only added fuel to my already burning (haha!) excitement for fall. So I also swung by Carter's to pick up some new jammies and fun Halloween shirts for Big A.

Feeling festive ... and spooky!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

i'm craving halloween

I must have had some pumpkin-filled dreams last night or something, because I woke up this morning with Halloween on the brain. Maybe it's a direct result of spending the summer surrounded by gloriously cooler temps ... who knows. But I'm all of a sudden totally wanting fall to hurry up and get here.

I adore October. The craziness of August and September (for teachers) is over with, and there's a hint of holiday excitement beginning to make some noise -- not so much that you feel like it's going by too fast (like December always does), but just the knowledge that Turkey Day and Christmas is right around the corner.

My mom is a total Halloween-decorator and she passed her love for all things cute and spooky down to her daughters. I love the the way orange, black, purple and white all look together, screaming fun and laughter.

Football is in full swing, the leaves are changing, pumpkins are everywhere, the mornings and evenings are crisp, and everyone just seems to be in an all-around better mood.

Now that Aidan is old enough to appreciate it, it's so fun watching and hearing him squeal about "scary" stuff. Speaking of, to help me indulge in my over-anxious Halloween mood, I found some cute Halloween shirts on eBay that I'm bidding on for my little guy.

For now, that's going to have to help ease my Halloween fix for a few more months. Where's the Martha Stewart Halloween issue when a girl needs it?

Friday, August 07, 2009

big brother is getting bigger

From an article earlier this week by Susan Davis in the Wall Street Journal .... be afraid. Be very afraid.

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn is taking issue with a Tuesday posting on the official White House blog in which the Obama administration asks supporters to report back when they receive “an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy” to an official e-mail address:

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. sent a letter to President Barack Obama on Wednesday questioning his administration’s request for supporters to report “fishy” behavior on health care to an official White House e-mail address.

“I am not aware of any precedent for a president asking American citizens to report their fellow citizens to the White House for pure political speech that is deemed ‘fishy’ or otherwise inimical to the White House’s political interests,” Cornyn writes today in a harshly worded letter to President Barack Obama in which he asks the president to immediately halt the effort.

It’s not the first time the Obama operation has asked supporters to report back on misinformation spread about the president on the Web—but those efforts were largely conducted through his campaign operation and more recently through the party’s political arm at the Democratic National Committee.

Cornyn, a former member of the Texas state Supreme Court, further suggests that the data that is collected by the White House could “raise the specter of a data collection program.”

“As Congress debates health care reform and other critical policy matters, citizen engagement must not be chilled by fear of government monitoring the exercise of free speech rights.”

If the effort continues, the Texas Republican is asking the administration to detail to Congress and the public the protocols employed by the White House on what they are doing with the data. He further inquires if the administration intends to notify the citizens reported for “fishy” speech.

“Do your own past statements qualify as ‘disinformation’?” Cornyn concludes, “For example, is it ‘disinformation’ to note that in 2003 you said: ‘I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer universal health care plan’?”

At least someone in government is still looking out for us. And it does my heart good to know that it's a senator from my beloved Lone Star State. Thank you, Senator Cornyn.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

a picture speaks ...

... a million words.

We had family portraits taken this summer while we were up in Washington. Anyone who knows me at all is familiar with my near-phobia of having my picture taken. Honest-to-God ... we're talking cold sweats here.

The brilliant, kind, gentle and most of all, patient Tara Staton talked me out of my craze for a little while, and I temporarily put my neurotic thoughts on the back-burner. I'm so glad I did. We now have "official" memories of the best summer ever.

In addition to our favorite prints of the session, we splurged and actually purchased a large canvas and had some black and whites of Aidan dry-mounted for the wall. They arrived via FedEx today, and I'm so giddy with the results.