9/28/2012

Things I Am Liking These Days

September has really flown by.  I am still adjusting to the new "seasons" or lack thereof in Houston and it does not feel like Fall to me yet.  I am not complaining though, Bret and I swam in our pool a couple times last week, and if the weather is right, we will probably do so again this weekend.

Back to the stuff I am liking these days...

1. Octoberfest and Pumpkin Beers.  I was not really in to fall beers before this fall.  Not sure why, but I have definitely found a renewed love for flavorful beers and these fit right in.  Maybe they even help help fill the void that fall in Wisconsin has left.  Oh, how I miss a good run through crisp air and crunchy leaves...  So, in the past few week I have tried for the first time (that I can remember):  Saint Arnold's Oktoberfest (super awesome Houston brewery that you all must visit if you come to Houston), Leinenkugel Oktoberfest, Sam Adams Pumpkin Ale (spices!), and Sam Adams Octoberfest.  I am on the lookout for more as well. :) 




2.  Soy.  We have been on a Boca burger kick for the last few weeks.  It all started when we found a super sale on Boca at the HEB (grocery store here in Houston).  The next week we found another super sale for a different veggie meat product called Gardein.  These were more than just burgers though, they had "beef tips," "chicken scampi" and "crispy chicken."  So we loaded up the cart to give them a try.  The first and last are actually very good and tasty considering they are soy.  Chicken scampi was a little blah and squishy, but maybe we just under cooked it.




3. Forward by Penzeys.  Are you lacking flavor in your life and find spices too time-consuming to add or don't know what to add?  Well, this is the thing for you (maybe).  It's a spice blend of pepper, onion, paprika, garlic, turmeric, and herb oleoresins, and it is salt free so you can add as much as you want!  It is excellent on roasted potatoes, in stir-fries, steamed broccoli, quinoa, eggs, noodles, etc.  I use it almost every dinner, it's just that good and easy. 



Nice graphics right? Soo modern...heheh!  Funny story how we actually discovered it.  Bret found this supper deal where you get a little gift box with a Forward, powdered cinnamon and a sticker (oh yeah!) for almost nothing and free shipping. Penzeys must have been clearing inventory.  Anyway, he bought 4 or 5 just because and now we are just working through our last 1 or 2.  I hope they still sell it when we finally run out!


4.  One skillet meals.  Now I like a fancy meal now and then,  but sometimes dinner is best when it is simple.  The one we made on Wednesday was awesome because it was only three main ingredients with no prep involved. 


The Trio

Frozen Veg
 
"Beef Tips"

Forward, of course, was involved as was a splash of teriyaki sauce and this.


All together now!



Have a good weekend! Got any cool plans?















9/27/2012

Idols




I have to say the show yesterday was mmmhhe... 

Penner's search for the idol was entertaining though.  The cameras had been playing up that box top during the last two episodes and I had kind of expected it to be the plaque.  I will admit though, I did not consider the "nose" part of the clue at all in my suspicions.  Just writing about it now gets me excited for the next episode!  Hidden Immunity idols have been an awesome addition to Survivor, keeping the excitement factor high (at least for me).


What else...oh yes, the cute couple, that is NOT a couple.  I actually really like Angie and Malcolm though they may be a little naive.  Roxie on the other hand was definitely the odd-ball this episode which I was not expecting at all.  She seemed so level headed early on and even yesterday with her concern about the couple in the tribe were smart.  She just started pushing it too hard and became overly focused on them.  I guess cold and rain would make me a little crazy too.  I am not sad to see her go, but I was hoping to see some more drama play out on a different tribe. 


Lastly, Abi-maria is perceptive, but not smart.  She will be a continued source of drama (Yay!), but she should have kept her suspicions to herself and us (in personal interviews).  If I were RC, I would cut my loses, blindside Abi and pull in Lisa.  Abi seems to be too much of a wild card at this point whereas Lisa will do anything to stay right now and would probably be extremely loyal. 

What did you think about Episode 2?


Let me leave you with this Pumpkin.


Considering he is exotic, I highly doubt he would fare well on Survivor :)



9/26/2012

Dropout Nation

This documentary was on last night and it was...I want to say sad, but there were bright spots as well, so lets go with, it was moving.  It follows the administrators and a few students from Sharpstown High School in Houston, TX in their struggle to reduce student dropout. 



I believe you can go watch it here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/dropout-nation/

Thought provoking points:

Expectations.  A dean talked about the ridiculously high expectations for administrators to keep kids in school, while the rest of society washes their hands of the issue because they could not do the job themselves.  I am sure I would have an extremely hard time not taking that job personally, and really do not know how some teachers keep doing it day in and day out. 

Home life.  One of the biggest issues causing high risk for dropout is a student's experiences outside of the school.  They could be dealing with no parents, deadbeat parents, no place to stay, no food, or they could be working crazy hours to support family.  The list goes on and on in more ways than I can imagine.  How in the world is a kid supposed to focus on Spanish lessons or Algebra when they haven't eaten or slept? When they are just worrying about where to go after school?  

When to give up.  How many chances is too many for a high school student?  What should they be accountable for?  When/how can you teach encourage positive behavior?  This is a newer subject to me because I do not work in education, but the challenges are fascinating none the less. 

Dropout rate.  This was extremely interesting, but not that surprising.  All high schools in Houston are required to label each student that withdraws from their school and categorize it.  This could be because family moved, or they switched to a private school, died, or dropped out, etc.  It is very important for schools to maintain a low "dropout" rate for continued funding.  I cannot explain this very well, so you will just have to watch to see how Sharpstown deals with this...
This Frontline was yet another reminder of how lucky I am in both family and high school experiences.  The option to fail was never even a thought in my head during high school because I never had to think about food, safety or $.  I certainly could have slacked off more and done less with my life, but at the time dropping out literally never crossed my mind. 

Thank you Mom & Dad & Teachers!    

  

9/25/2012

Green

Wow!  That was a rough game for the Packers.  I try not to get too invested in sports teams, but at the same time, games are sooo much more fun to watch when you are cheering.  The first half was bad, but because the score was so close I had to stay up to watch.  The resulting half was more exciting for sure, but the end was a disaster.  Even I was pacing around the living room waiting for the !@#$^^& refs review that "Touchception."


Before the game, I had thought that the replacement refs were alright.  I mean, they must be trying hard to make the right calls.  Right?  As a person who really tries to give everyone the benefit-of-the-doubt, I was doing the same with the replacements.  Now, I understand.  This is crap and all I can do about it is cry, laugh, or try to forget it ever happened!

Well, I did not cry last night, but probably did make some laughs in disbelief...

Really the best remedy for these setbacks is sleep and a nutritious breakfast to help you forget it.  One excellent breakfast option is a Green Smoothie!



Now, before I lose you all in disgust, this concept is actually, really amazing.  I have never been good at eating greens, or salads, and about a year ago on Pintrest first saw them.  The idea is that you add spinach, or any other leafy green vegetable, into your fruit smoothie.  Simple, yet crazy!  So I tried it...and I liked it!  It has allowed me to pack in a lot more veggies and fruit into my daily eats.  Win!

How to make a green smoothie:

  1. Pour milk and or juice of choice in blender.  Depending on the blender you will need to adjust the amount.  Mine usually takes 1 1/2 cups of liquid.
  2. Add Greens.  This Sunday I had mostly fresh spinach and topped it off with frozen kale.
  3. Blend till smooth.
  4. Add remaining ingredients.  This time I added some baby carrots, part of a frozen banana, a handful of frozen straw berries, and spices. 
  5. Blend again till smooth.
  6. Enjoy!
  7.  

Oh boy was this tasty!  To top it off, I sprinkled a little chia seeds . Yum :) 

For the novices out there, the first time you make a Green Smoothie, I would recommend using only spinach and less of it untill you feel out what is right for you.  Some greens can really cause that "green" flavor and need more to cover it up, but spinach blends so smooth and can hardly be tasted (just seen).  Good Luck!

Have you ever tried a green smoothie?


9/24/2012

Pumpkin Pie?


 
 


Someone was in the mood for a pumpkin pie this weekend, so while at the grocery store we picked up the puree and evaporated milk. 

We also picked up a Graham cracker crust...not sure where that disconnect happened, but normally those aren't for baking.  Back home, the pie making began and we soon realized our mistake.  I was at a cross road...1. Do I take the time to make a tasty pie crust, 2. Screw it and just bake with the graham crust (and see what happens).  Rules do not mean much in our kitchen, so a completely different pie ensued and the following was created. It is certainly odd, but quite tasty and really easy.

Upside Down Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients:
  • Need:  Pumpkin pie filling.  This can get really fancy with a roast-your-own-pumpkin step, or as simple as a pre-made can of pumpkin pie filling.  Ours was somewhere in the middle.
  • Graham cracker pie crust.

Steps:

  • Heat oven to 425°F.
  • Prepare filling.
  • Pore filling into empty pie pan.
  • Bake for 15 minutes.  Then turn down oven to 350°F and bake another 30 minutes until the center is cooked. Ovens vary so adjust as needed.
  • While the pie bakes, gently crush up the gram crust.
  • Sprinkle the gram crust over the naked pie.
  • Enjoy! 
As you can see, we did enjoy, as 1/2 was gone after the first sitting!



 Tip:  To reduce the sugar we subbed 1/2 cup of the sugar for 16 Splenda packets.  I didn't notice any difference!



Do you have any tricks for making excellent pie?




Side note:  pardon the crappy photos.  I am new at this.  Thanks!

9/23/2012

Pi Hearts Boxes

This is her favorite motherboard box. It was like her safe space when they first moved to Houston.  Awww...



Same box on alert!


Pi especially likes small boxes.



The smaller...the better!


Sinks work too in a pinch.



<3




9/22/2012

Wisconsin Girl in Houston



Lots of changes happened in the first half of 2012.  So many, that sometimes it is hard to believe...
  1. new job
  2. new state
  3. engaged
  4. bought a house
The year prior was a pretty stagnant period of my life.  I was living in Madison, WI while my fiance was in Houston, TX.  We were able to spend many weekends together, but life and the future was kind of in limbo...when will Amy find a job in Houston?  Will she even find a job?  Where will it be?  Will we be able to afford a house?  Stressful times I tell ya!  

It was all worth it though.  My work experiences in Madison during our time apart definitely helped me get my new job here.  The new job is great with a ton of new opportunities to learn and people to meet.  Every time I take a moment to really think about the way life has sorted itself out, I feel so extremely fortunate.  

There will always be bumps along the road, but the more I live and grow, the more I feel confident that I can handle it.  Support and encouragement from my other half has helped a lot too.  Teams are great! :)



Now I must get back to the Badge game.  Let's hope for a W for UW!




9/21/2012

Blog Namesake

Pumpkin & Pi came into our life in June 2010.  They are Exotic Shorthair brother and sister born on Pi Day (namesake of a namesake hahaha).  March 14th for those non math/science nerds.  It took me about a week to finally name them, but as an engineering graduate, I could not pass up the Pi Day coincidence (besides it being a super cute name, especially along with pumpkin).  Their grandma called them generically "pumpkin" during their drive home and for some reason that just seemed to fit too.  So Pumpkin & Pi it is.  I love it!  

Meet Pumpkin!



He is quite the lazy kitty.  Always finding a sunny spot or comfy cushion to lounge on, unless a sting is dangling and taunting him.  More recently he has found an unfortunate hobby of licking unwashed frying pans.  There is often about a 1/2 hour, during dinner and before clean-up, that a tasty frying pan with oil and bits of food sits on the counter.  Over the last few months we have walked into the kitchen a number of times to find him in a mid-air jump down where he then immediately starts licking and cleaning himself like nothing was up...I am pretty lax with the kitties and let them run the house as they please, but the kitchen and bathroom counters are two big no nos.

Nick Names:  Plump-kin, Pump-can-not!

 

Meet Pi!



Such a cutie patootie!  She looovvvveeess sitting in cardboard boxes and tracking birds and lizards (through the window).  Pi is fairly small and hates being held for more than 5 seconds.  She is also a very scardy cat that will jump, tense, or sprint away (accidentally slamming herself into the wall as she attempts to skid around corners...darn wood floors) whenever there is a loud sound. 

Nick Names:  Pi-terd (a story for another day), Luflafa/Loof-la-fa (?...another story), Pi-pi, Pi-beaner

Luckily, both Pumpkin & Pi are very friendly and usually want to be around us for ample petting and playing.  

I hope to post many more cute pictures and stories in the future. 

Do any of your pets have goofy nicknames?

9/20/2012

Two Favs

SURVIVORS Back!!! 



It is really great to have it back in my life.  Survivor is definitely one of my all-time favorite shows and will probably remain so.  I've been loving it since the very first episode (8th grade) and still enjoy every minute.  I could talk about this for a long time (obviously), but let's get into the new stuff.

First - Great episode!  It started abnormally quickly with alliances, idol clues and scheming.  I usually find myself slightly board during the first few episodes of any season until gaming and scheming start.  My guess is because the teams began smaller, there are not as many week easy targets.

Russel - That was an excellent series at the beginning where we see him talking about how he will NOT be the leader of the tribe (because he learned his lesson last time), and then immediately proceeds to dictate the actions of his entire team.  So funny. 

Zane - Can you get "kinged" in Chess?  I am no chess expert myself, but I am pretty sure that is reserved for Checkers.  He talks a big game...it will be interesting to see if it works or if he crashes and burns.  Onions :)  This guy has the worst analogies.

 

The Summer is Officially Over...Big Brother Finale


Loved it!!! The first part of the competition was well designed with the dunk and slam :)  

Dan is soooo good at this game.  He is up there with the greats like Dr. Will now.  The strategy that he comes up with and carries out is absolutely amazing.  I want to make fun of Ian and Danielle for believing it all, but I can't say I would do any better with his "Mist" as they call it.  He has made this season worth watching.
Routing for the awkward underdog Ian also made this season good.  He rocks!!!  I was sooo happy for his win.  Boogie really said it best about how much Ian has grown up during this summer.  Ian really impressed me with his answers and speeches during the finally.

Other thoughts from this season... I really like Brit.  She is so cute and funny!  I was definitely routing for her before her untimely ax. 


What did you think about the Survivor premier and BB Finale?