2/28/2013

Three Things Thursday

Last week's Three Things Thursday must have gone to Pumpkin's head.  He was a major stinker (literally and figuratively) last Saturday.  These three strikes almost got him kicked out; not really because I could never actually do that, but there was a lot of threatening...

 

1.  The Computer Room Closet


Cat's are curious, I get that.  There is something extra special about the computer room closet though.  Any time we are sitting at the computer with the closet door open (where the printer and a bunch of other useful stuff is), he goes in.  I usually don't notice until I hear feint rustling sounds, but I do usually hear something and remove the cat before closing the door.

Well, somehow on Saturday morning, Pumpkin got locked in the closet.  It was particularly bad timing because Bret & I were out for about 6 hours having a grand old time.  We got home, and I remember smelling cat poop, but could not find it in any of the normal places.  After playing with Pi for a while, I realized that Pumpkin never came to say "Hello, welcome back, now please pet me," and start getting really nervous. 

Did he get out?  Did he die under a bed?  Dramatic I know.  After a lot of bell-jingling, we heard a feint meow coming from the computer closet.  He was there as was a nice pile o' poop on the shelf.  Luckily, he held his pee, and the poop was relatively easy to clean.

NOTE:  This episode in the closet has not deterred him from continuously exploring it.  Last night I caught him in there again!  Typical Cat...

 

2.  The Attic


So, right after cleaning up the mess from #1, Bret and I started working on some attic stuff.  To get up there, there is a pull-down ladder in our hallway.  Pumpkin has taught himself how to climb ladders and is basically fearless.  Bad news for us. 

Keeping tabs on the Pumpkin while running in and out of the garage for tools was a problem.  At some point, Pumpkin totally bolted up the ladder into the very dangerous and dark attic.  I knew as soon as it happened since he was no longer sitting by Pi or eating, or in any of his usual places.

After flipping out a little, I convinced Bret that he was in the Attic and started looking.  Yep, Pumpkin was up there... I was actually more scared, than angry, that he would fall in a crack or run into one of the thousands of nails sticking through the roof.  He was fine, but he did make me come over to get him.


3.  The Window Screen


Screens and a cat with claws do not mix well.  Claws always win.  The weather has been mild lately, so no AC or Heat has been required.  That is great for electricity purposes, but not so great for air filtering and cat smell.  Part of the reason we were working in the attic (problem #2) was to create an air flow system to bring in some fresh air.  This also happens to involve open windows with screens. 

Pumpkin & Pi love sitting by open windows with a breeze.  Who can blame them?  You can hear all of the birds and bugs outside, and they could sit there all day if we let them.  Pi was a perfect angel.  She had nothing to do with the first two issues of the day and sat very nicely by the window all night without scratching anything.  Pi learns. 

Pumpkin, on the other hand, could not resist the urge to stretch out and stick his claws into the screen.  Claws in a screen is a very obvious sound, so he usually gets busted.  He probably tried it three times over the course of 20 minutes (with scoldings after each occurrence) before finally moving on to a non-problematic pursuit.
NOTE:  The screen is fine.  We take them down whenever we are not opening the window.  This probably sounds crazy to all the folks in Wisconsin, but most of the time Houston is so hot that screens are rarely needed.


Timeout in the laundry basket...yeah right!



As crazy as Pumpkin can be, I love him.  Both kitties bring us a lot of laughter and smiles to make up for it ;)  It's just hard to believe they are brother and sister sometimes...


2/26/2013

Sesame Orange Kale Salad




A couple of weeks ago, Bret and I were stumped for dinner plans.  A couple of times recently we have found ourselves wandering around HEB looking for the evening's dinner and not really sure where to go. This happens when we don't want to fall back on a greasy appetizer (which happens often enough already), pizza, or HEB sushi (because we just had it the night before).

That one time we happened upon the pre-packaged deli area.  There were a variety of veggie and noodle or potato salads that looked intriguing.  One stood out to us though;  the Central Market (HEB) Kale Cranberry Pepita Salad.


Kale is scary.  It is.  It's bright green (in color and flavor), is kind of tough, and has a big thick stem on each leaf.  Over the past year, I have introduced it to my life in the form of green smoothies occasionally because it is a super super food, but have not ventured much past the blended version.  A number of healthy living blogs have touted good salad recipes, but I guess I needed someone else to prepare it for me before setting out a my own.

On top of the new-ness of kale, in general, I am not a big salad person.  Once and a while I get on kicks of it, and I will usually eat one that is set in front of me, but we just do not eat them at home very often.  Well, let's just say that this salad may have changed things a bit.  I attempted my own version of with excellent success, and here is my version of the Cat HEB Kale Salad.

 

Sesame Orange Kale Salad





Ingredients:

  • 1 Bunch of Kale
  • 1/3 Cup Pepitas (Pumpkin seeds)
  • 1/2 Cup Slivered Almonds
  • 1/2 Cup Dried Cherries (Craisins would work well here too)
  • Sesame Orange Dressing
    • 3 Tbsp Rice or Rice Wine Vinegar
    • 2 Tbsp Oil (Canola or Olive)
    • 1 Tbsp Crystallized Ginger Diced
    • 1 Tbsp Orange Juice Concentrate
    • 1 - 2 Tbsp Shallots Diced
    • 1/2 Tbsp Sesame Oil
    • Salt, Pepper and Sweetener of Choice to taste. 


Instructions:
  • Mix all of the dressing ingredients together and let sit while the remaining components are prepped.
  • Begin toasting your slivered almonds in a saute pan on medium.  Keep an eye on them and toss occasionally until most are starting to brown, abut 8 minutes.  Be careful not to burn them.  
  • While the almonds are toasting, rinse the kale and partly de-stem and chop the leaves into thin strips.  
  • In a large mixing bowl, massage dressing into chopped kale for about 3-5 minutes.  This will allow the dressing to thoroughly coat and soften the kale a bit.
  • Mix toasted almond slivers, dried cherries and pepitas into dressed kale.
  • Refrigerate for 30 minutes prior to serving.  


Notes:

Kale can be very chewy, so keep the pieces thin to keep your jaw happy!


Whole Leaf:  This is what you start with.

De-stemmed.  Be sure to keep the small leaves that you rip off from the bottom.

A little stem near the top (like this) won't hurt you.  Keep it in!

Same leaf from above, chopped and ready for dressing.


My first attempt at the dressing did not have any extra sweetener and it was good, but not as sweet as the HEB version.  It would be very simple to add a teaspoon of sugar, a few packets of Splenda or a squirt of honey or maple syrup to bring up the sweetness.


Crystallized ginger and shallots for some flavor.

Kale creepin' on the dressing.  It must know how yummy it is all together.


This salad tastes just as fresh the next day, so feel free to make it early for a fast dinner or dish to pass.


Toastin'
 
To get the idea of how much tasty extras are involved. 
The nuts, seeds and berries really make this dish complete.
  
Not for cats though.  Sorry Pumpkin!



What's your favorite salad topper? 

2/24/2013

Garlic Olive Oil Green Beans

Do you ever have a craving for something and nothing else will satisfy you?  The peanut butter ran out this week, and of course, all I felt like eating for breakfast today was toast with melty peanut butter.  I went from fridge to pantry, back and forth, until finding some leftover chocolate PB in the fridge.  Eureka!  It was really hard though, so I started thawing it in the sink with warm water.  Well, I kinda forgot about it, and before I knew it, the precious PB was under water and ruined...ugh.  I still wanted toast though, and was thankfully able to satisfy the craving with hummus.  My day is no longer ruined thank you very much.  Hummus to the rescue!!

My breakfasts can be really random foods, this week included green smoothies, peanut butter cookies (homemade and also the reason for running out the the golden paste), Greek yogurt, and green beans.

Yes, I said green beans.  This supper simple recipe is amazing.  It requires one slightly unique ingredient, but it amps up the beans like crazy.  And, it makes the leftovers so good that you will not be able to wait until lunch to finish them off.  Thus, breakfast green beans.  Beware though, you will require gum if you choose to eat these early in the day.  Garlic is great, but lingers like no other...except maybe onions...and coffee.


Garlic Olive Oil Green Beans


Ingredients:

1 lb Fresh Green Beans
1-2 Tbsp Garlic Olive Oil
Salt to taste (just a sprinkle or two)

Instructions:

  • Rinse beans to remove any dirt.
  • Cut off ends and then cut into pieces about 1 1/2 to 2 inches long.  
  • Place cut beans in medium size pot and cover with water.
  • Bring water to boil and simmer for about 8 minutes or until desired tenderness.
  • Drain water from pot, leaving mostly dry beans.
  • Drizzle oil and sprinkle salt into pot.  Stir to coat and serve immediately.
  • Enjoy!

Simmering.


Liquid Gold.


Drizzled and ready for tossing and eating!


My go-to green beans are usually just butter and salt, but this is not only healthier (olive oil fats instead of butter), but is incredibly tasty to boot.  And let's face it, the same old green beans can get, well, old after a while.

If you do not have garlic olive oil on hand, Oh My Veggies has an easy way to make it here from garlic and olive oil. I also have a bottle of red pepper infused olive oil that would probably be very tasty too.  The infusion options are endless really.  



What is your favorite way to jazz up green beans?



2/22/2013

Survivor Fans v. Favorites Epi 2


The dynamics of this Favorites tribe are sooooo sooo so awesome:


  • Dawn cannot handle this game.  Yes Brandon is a douche, and yes it was smart of her to deal with her issues alone, but it was just the first tribal.  How is she going to handle the next 17?
  • Malcolm did not take my advice…and was tossing again!  He is lucky the other challenge segments gave him a big lead, and that Phil came in to pick up the pieces.  (What is wrong with me?  I love Malcolm, but I just can’t keep myself from mocking him…I think it's just because we haven't seen much of him this season)
  • Could you tell that everyone was looking through the new fishing stuff for an idol?  It was pretty obvious. 
  • Brandon…WHOA, mood swings.  Cochran is right; that crap is scary.  This kid is super conflicted between his Hantz heritage and his desire to be a good Christian.
  • Philip on information flow…keep people you don’t trust at mid-management….um..the question is to trust or not trust fully?…I think I am going to pause with you (Brandon) at mid management….and, CEO's (Like me [Phil]) don’t call in mid management till they need to share info.  Excellent!!!! So many great Phillip quotes!
  • The CEO seems to have triggered mid management's inner feistiness again.  And the plot stirs a little more for next episode.

 

Fans (Though, I question the Fan-ness of some of these people): 

  • Who is this marine?  He is a baby…Iraq twice?  Well, that's great and I thank you for your service, but it does not mean you can laze and bicker your way to a Survivor win.  Why even waste a spot on the tribe to be so useless and annoying. 
  • "Shamar is my Phil"…that is great Sherri.  Good luck keeping your lazy “Phil” around, the real one is at least useful around camp.
  • 19 hours in the shelter!?!  It is totally not a scape-goat comment, that is pure laziness and Shamar knows it.  Can he be voted out already?
  • Sucks for Alli…I don't even know who she is...I just want Shamar gone. 



  •  

     

Other Notable Quotes: 

  • "Stealth R' Us"
  • "Well, you are looking directly at Reynold” Probst.  During the bulge discovery and announcement.  He seems to always put in a good jab during tribal.
  • “I am voting the way I am supposed to be voting, I’m sticking with my vote…maybe”  Wow, let’s not make it clear, or anything.

2/21/2013

Three Things Thursday

Why have I not done this before!?!  My absolute favorite number is 3, by the way.  I think it should become a new habit.  Not that this blog isn't already totally random, but I often have thoughts that don't deserve there own post, but that I find either A. amusing, B. interesting or C. are things I just plain love.  So, here we go for Pumpkin & Pi's first Three Things Thursday!

 

1.  Canada has some funny road signs.


I saw this one morning on the Gardner Expressway during my recent travels.




The lane ending must "squeeze" into the other, seems clear enough.  Also known as "merging" where I come from.  Gave me a chuckle!



Just to make sure all Canadians (and visitors) know that walking or bicycling on a highway is not permitted, every on-ramp had signs indicating such. 






Maybe people in Ontario are just that much healthier, and always want to be walking and riding places.  That's my only theory here...

 


2.  Pumpkin & Pi are totally adorable.



Pi's new favorite spot (not including boxes).


"Look mom!  I got up here all by myself!"


3. Avocado Pudding. 



Apologies for the absolutely terrible food photography
...and no Dad, Mike or whomever feels the need to comment, this is not poop.


More like Avocado Frosting, it was that thick and rich.  Seriously tasty, after you get over the slight avocado taste on the first bite.  I used this recipe after a quick google.  I didn't have (or want to melt down real chocolate) and maple syrup sounded good.  I just threw all of the ingredients together and, you guessed it, immersion blended it until it was smooth. 

Have I mentioned before how much easier it is to wash an immersion blender wand than a whole blender?  Well, it is seriously easy.  No worrying about things growing in unreachable blender crevasses either.



How is your Thursday going?


2/15/2013

It's Back!!!

Yay!!! Survivor is back. 
First thoughts:  pretty cool cast – I am interested to see how Eric changes his game, how much craziness Philip brings, and if the Wisconsinite can go for the win this time (and not just the flirt).  Oh, and I really enjoyed Cochran last time, so I hope he stays a while (though, if I were playing with him, I would cut him because strategically I would not trust him).

Reward Challenge

Nice!  Let’s start it off right with a comp.  No getting to know you time or nothing….I think it was just an excuse to get Philip in his red undies faster….
Francesca really did awesome!  When I saw her and Cochran for the favorite’s pair, I assumed they were in for it.

At Camp

Wow – why on earth are these two newbies fighting?  Oh yeah, cuz they are new.
I love the title of the episode.  I love more that I knew exactly what it was referring too even before watching the episode “She annoys me greatly.”  Philip can be so eloquent and PC.
Boston Rob Rules per Phillip
  • BR Rule 1:  get an alliance
  • BR Rule 2:  get an alliance within an alliance
  • BR Rule 3:  get rid of your alliance before it gets rid of you
  • I would add one more…BR Rule 4:  make it to the end with less likeable people than you.  Philip was a good student the first time around.  But he cannot come off as an “idiot, combative loser” (Erik’s words, not mine) because that can never work to your advantage.  Any reference to Boston Rob though, is good in my book. J

Immunity Challenge

Very cool jungle gym at the immunity challenge; reminds me of the SeaWorld play zone in Tampa (also DZ and Totally Tubular).
Why does it always come down to Malcolm throwing s#!*? Maybe he should find a new hobby.  That was painful to watch…
As sad as it was to see the favorites lose the first challenge, it is nice to see the game play start right away.  They all know (or think they know) how to play and no one is waiting around
How does survivor keep doing this?  I had no clue who was going home until the last vote was read.
I feel bad for Francesca, it has to stink getting voted out 1st again.  That must be a record.  

Other Good Quotes

“It’s like a new Dawn..giggle…giggle” 
“Nobody’s going to get done like they got done last time” Little Hantz,  “Oh somebody is!” Probst.
“Francesca, Francesca, Francesca, your welcome”. 


What did you think of the First Survivor Epi? 

2/14/2013

Engaged

One year ago today February 3rd, Bret asked me to marry him.  Awe...

This is the story. 

We met in college in 2005 and eventually were officially dating at the end of 2006.  Call me my parents crazy, but Bret & I went on a cruise together after less than 1 month of officially dating. That's history now because we have been on 5 throughout our time together.  All fun, and all in the Caribbean.  Cruising has been a way to keep us together and focused on fun times together, actually.  For two separate periods of our relationship we lived in different cities, and having a vacation to plan and look forward too (and a whole week or two together) kept my spirits up through lonely evenings or weekends.  

Our last cruise was on the Carnival Magic from Galveston at the end of last January.  Bret had been in Houston for over 1/2 a year by then.  I had been desperately looking for a job in the area, trying to finally move there.  Needless to say, I was looking forward to the cruise and the time together a lot!  

We had briefly looked for an engagement ring the summer before with very little luck.  I think I was a little overwhelmed with the options and the mall setting that first time.  It wasn't until the next January we seriously looked at rings again.  That time I was much more relaxed and ready.  It also helped that we were not in a mall setting and had an extremely nice, patient consultant working with us and letting me try on any and everything.  I found a few I would be more than happy to wear, but just assumed we would keep looking during future visits (to Houston).

So, later that month, the week before the cruise, I had my first in-person job interview in Houston.  I was so excited and nervous and anxious, and I just so badly wanted to get it.  Of course, I did not expect to hear back about the interview before the cruise that I had a hard time thinking about much else during our down times.

Fast forward 6 extremely nice cruise days.  The whole thing was great.  I was having fun in the sun with Bret running around Cozumel, meeting stingrays in Grand Cayman and zip-lining in Jamaica.  Totally clueless that Bret was caring around a ring in the backpack he was wearing (just waiting for the right time to ask).  The right time never came on shore, it wasn't until we were back on board and heading back to Texas that the moment was right.

It was our second sea day on the boat.  I can't remember the specifics, but I think we played some bean bag toss, did some trivia, sat in the hot tub.  Thanks to a previous cruise on Carnival as a teenager (with the family), we had received an invite to a "previous guest" show that afternoon.  We almost didn't go, but it was awesome.  They were passing out free drinks left and right with hors d'oeuvres.  For those of you not familiar with cruises, that never happens, so it really was a pleasant surprise.  It made for an extra fun and relaxing day.

The evening continued into a formal night so I put on one of my new dresses and prettified myself for dinner and pictures.  I'm sure dinner was good.  It was my 4th or 5th night having their chocolate molten lava cake for dessert.  Soooo good!  After dinner we hoped around the different entertainment venues dancing for a bit and watching some comedian until Bret suggested we go outside on deck to look out.

That maybe should have been a sign to me, but it's something we do a few times every cruise and had not done on this cruise yet.  We get out to the very front of the ship and were enjoying the peaceful sea breeze and cloudy night ski when Bret started to get very sentimental.  Explaining how he loves me so much more now than on our first cruise together and so on.  At this point I was still clueless and just fighting to hold back tears from sadness about the cruise ending and nervousness about finding my way to be with him (and not living across the country!)

On the verge of these sad tears, Bret gets down on one knee and asks me to marry him.  All of my tears vanished in my surprise and happiness.  Of course I said yes!   I knew the rest of the details would work out eventually, we were all that mattered in that moment.

Shortly after, we went off to all of the cruise ship photo booth to get pictures taken and finished out the night swing dancing and clubbing.


PS.  He even picked out my favorite ring!  Such a sweetie.  I think I have a winner in Bret ;).





 

PPS.  It may be possible that he only asked me to marry him because of my hula hooping and limbo prowess, but we may never know ;)







PPPS.  I got the job 3 days later!  Best week ever!!!


Where Has Amy Been?

A wedding

It had it all, beautiful weather, people, food, drinks and cake!  I almost missed out on the cake because we had drifted away from the table to dance.  Luckily, there were other girls feeling the same way and though they were only serving slivers of cake (seriously, 1" x 1/2" x three layers or so) it was sooo good.  The wedding and reception were interesting as a whole as it was my first "Texas" wedding.  There was a lot of two-stepping to country songs...get me out of here!...but also a lot of fun dancing later.  Bret and I were even able to request a swing song to get some practice in.


Perfect weather for a cocktail hour outside.




 

Ontario via Buffalo


Yep, last week was another work trip.  It was nice to get out and visit some suppliers and people, but also great to get back home.  The original plan was to stay in Toronto area until Thursday and then drive back to Buffalo for a Friday morning flight (much cheaper through Buffalo than Toronto, and a pretty easy drive).  That changed on Wednesday when the news was threatening major snow storms.  Like bigger and more snow than Toronto has had in a few years.  I quickly switched flights to Thursday night to try to get out of there before the craziness began.  It worked, but I think I would have been okay if I had waited too (but you just never know!)  The cost for a hotel the extra night or the flight change fee was pretty much a wash, so that was nice to not worry about.


Best Thing Ever...A water bottle filler at the airport.
I usually use my knee to touch the on button at bubblers in the airport. 
This is hands free, fast, and you can fill the whole bottle (not just 1/2 from a wimpy stream of water).

Layover - Slushy in Chicago last Thursday night.

Now if only my flight home had been on time!


Back to Houston


Last weekend we had a fun home date night making different martini's and variety dinner.  Basically, we went to the grocery store and picked out what we wanted (it took a surprisingly long time to round it all out).
  • Bree and Baguette (first in the cart and my favorite)
  • 1 lb of 16 count shrimp (raw) and cocktail sauce.  The fresh(ish) home cooked shrimp were way better than your average thaw and serve hors d'oeuvres.
  • Grocery Sushi to round it out.  We wanted something more, and this just fit.  The local HEB has a special Sushi booth that always has samples to lure us in and the quality has been pretty good for its convenience.

 

So, that's what I've been up to. What about you?



2/01/2013

End of the Week Soup

January was an odd month.  The weather was crappy for the first half, but then turned extremely pleasant the second.  Bret worked a lot, I mean a lot a lot.  That, and after the whirlwind of guests and activities during the holiday seasons, we didn't get out to do anything too crazy.  There just wasn't a whole lot of time or energy available. 

This is a long winded way of saying, I have been cooking a lot at home, but nothing too exciting.  At the same time I have been working on my creativity in attempts to utilize the stuff in our pantry, freezer & fridge.  One evening I combined a 2 lb bag of frozen green beans, 1 can of cream of mushroom soup, a hefty sprinkle of cheese and a box of instant stuffing to make an easy casserole.  It was pretty tasty too! 

Last night was another one of those nights.  It was the end of the week and I was running low on veggies.  I was also concerned about using up the remaining mushrooms in the fridge.  This soup was inspired by the mushrooms and a Pea Soup recipe found in Chef Irvine's (Kitchen Impossible) new cook book.




End of the Week Soup


Ingredients:

2-3 Cups Sliced Mushrooms (I had a partial pack of whole buttons to use up)
1 Onion Diced
2 Cloves Garlic Diced
2 Tbsp Oil
1 lb Package of Basic Frozen Veggies (I used a Pea & Carrot Mix)
3 Cups Water and/or Broth (Milk would probably go well here too!)
4 oz Cream Cheese
Salt & Pepper to Taste


Instructions:

In a stock pot saute mushrooms, onions and garlic in oil  for 5 minutes or until onions are translucent.

Add water/broth and bag of frozen veggies to the pot.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 min.

Blend until smooth in the pot using an immersion blender or after carefully spoon/pouring into a blender.

Add cream cheese to soup and blend until incorporated.

Season to taste.

Enjoy!


Waiting for the simmer.

Not particularly photogenic, but when has pea soup ever been photogenic.
We enjoyed this ugly soup with a chicken thin sandwich on the side.


Good news.  With the new month, brings new fun.  We are going to a wedding this weekend!  Not ours, and actually, I probably won't know many people there.  None-the-less, I am sure there will be lots of good food and dancing :)

 

What's your favorite way to use up veggies?