Saturday, March 29, 2008

Sweet Sixteen!

Obviously we are BIG basketball fans. Ryan played basketball through college and basketball is probably my dad's favorite sport so I grew up watching lots of basketball. Friday afternoon we got a call from a work associate of Ryan's offering us tickets to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen Regional at Reliant Stadium. Ryan didn't even have to ask me first, he quickly accepted. Our seats were 5th row, floor, behind the goal. It was awesome.

The first game was Texas vs Stanford. Texas won by a good margin in the end, but it was a well fought, close game. It was practically a home game for Texas. the whole place was "Burnt Orange". I wore Red, just on accident, so I looked like a Stanford fan. Being an Aggie (self proclaimed "2-percenter") I just couldn't put on Burnt Orange. But, I did cheer for Texas (I think I am supposed to call them "t.u.").

The second game was Memphis vs Michigan State. Michigan State is the alma mater of the one and only Magic Johnson. He was at the game and walked by me at about 10 ft away. He is a BIG man.

Memphis was killing Michigan St by half... 50 - 20. Wow. We saw some great dunks toward halftime but by the beginning of the second half, the scrubs were in and it was just not that much fun so we didn't stay till the end.

It was a great night. Texas won and moved to the "Elite Eight".

If only Mississippi State had beat Memphis in the previous round, I would have been at the Sweet Sixteen watching my favorite team play. Life isn't perfect but its pretty good!! ;)

All the pictures can be seen here.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Let the Weddings Begin!

I love weddings. Always have. Since the very first one I can remember. I was the flower girl in close church/family friends wedding in the 80's. I got to wear this fabulous pink dress with big puffy sleeves. All the bridesmaids had big 80's hair, with similar puffy sleeves.

Since that day, I think I always dreamed about having my wedding at my church. 20 years later, it happened.
Since we got married (July 22, 2006), I have enjoyed weddings even more. I appreciate the hard work that goes into them. And, I appreciate that I get to go to the wedding, eat, drink, dance and have fun. That is all. No hair or makeup appointments. No pictures (okay, thats a lie, I am always taking pictures), no worries, no nerves, no rushing around, no being hungry! It's just all about having fun with our friends/family and celebrating with the Bride and Groom.

Ryan and I are blessed to have so many friends that want to include us in their weddings. Ryan has been a groomsman in several weddings so that means bachelor parties too. Our social and travel calendar has pretty much been consumed by weddings and wedding related events since the year we got married.

This weekend, we kick off the wedding season in style with a wedding in Houston. Here's our schedule:

March: One in Houston
April: One in Jackson, MS; One in The Woodlands
May: Bachelor Party in Mexico; One in Jackson; My brother James's wedding in Gatlinburg, TN
June: One in Little Rock, AR
July: One in Ashtabula, OH

Whew! I'm tired just thinking about. That's more travel than in years past... my credit card company thought someone stole my card the day I booked all these flights. They called and made me verify the purchases! :)

I can't wait. The first one is tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sweet Home Mississippi

I love living in Texas, don't get me wrong. I don't really ever see myself moving back to Mississippi. But, I love coming home. I don't get to see my parents near enough and talking to Mom every day is just not the same as being home. My company has expanded their campus recruiting to Mississippi State so I got a free trip home to help out.

I flew in on Sunday and headed straight to church after a quick stop at the house to change clothes. Dad was all in an uproar about how horrible "State" (MSU) played the day before, knocking themselves out of the SEC Tournament. I always joke that I rarely heard my dad say a cuss word growing up... and when I did it was 99% likely that it was because some State team was on TV and had just done something stupid. Anyway, it was a nice welcome home... getting the play by play of the last few minutes of the game and how State lost a decent lead due to stupid fouls and missed free throws.

Going to church is always a great homecoming. My parents have been members of Briarwood Presbyterian Church since sometime in the 70's. James and I were born members of the church and spent much of our lives at church events. When I come home, I sometimes feel like I'm a movie star. Everyone at that church thinks of everyone else's kids as their own. I had a huge second family through the church. So, they are all so glad to see us when we come home. It's always a delight to see "Miss Virginia", charter member of BPC. Miss Virginia was the Sunday School teacher of most of the children of the church at some point in our lives and loved us all like we were her own. Everyone wanted to know "How's Texas?" and I got lots of nice compliments on my new hair do! :) You know that feeling of just being "home"? That is really what its like to go back to church. Jackson is my home, Briarwood is my home and no matter how far I go, that will always be true.

After church, we headed to lunch at the one place that Ryan and I both must eat each time we are back in Jackson... Keifer's. We met one of my best girlfriends, Ashley, and her little boy Jackson, for lunch. The last time I saw him, he was just so tiny, maybe 6 weeks old. He wanted nothing to do with anyone but his mom. But Sunday, he was all smiles and let me and my mom hold him all through lunch. He was just so cute. It was a great lunch... Pita Mozz with Feta dressing, Chicken Gyro with Feta Dressing, Ashley, Jackson, Mom and Dad. Can't get much better than that. Ryan really missed out!

Sunday afternoon Mom and I ran some errands then came home to catch the end of the Rockets game. Yes, I am a Texan now and I love my Rockets who were in the middle of their winning streak... going for 22 that day, and they won. The church had a crawfish boil that night so again, Ryan was jealous. Keifers and Crawfish all in one day.

Monday, Mom and I had lunch at her favorite Japanese "fast food" place OEC (mmm, the pink sauce and the fried rice) and I headed to Starkville for our MSU Recruiting trip. I do lots of driving in Houston because of my commute but the drive from Jackson to Starkville is just so different. So few cars, not much to look at other than trees and road. It was a nice change of pace, though sort of boring too. I couldn't find much on the radio other than Rush Limbaugh, so I channel surfed most of the way up there.

After our information session Monday night, my coworker and I went to have dinner at the Cotton District, a local restaurant/bar. It was a good reminder of small town Mississippi. Our waiter had the typical southern drawl and was just as nice as he could be. I ordered a Michelob Amber Bock, one of the few beers I like. I credit the like of it to Keifer's because that was one of 3 beers they served for the longest time so its what my friends always ordered. Its hard to find at bars in Texas as most only serve Shiner Bock, a Texas Beer. The waiter came back several minutes later and apologetically informed me they were out of Amber Bock. When he saw my disappointment he said "Try a Southern Pecan, I promise you'll like it. And if you don't love it, I'll buy you something else." Aww, Southern Hospitality at its best. Southern Pecan is a Mississippi Beer so I gave it a whirl. I enjoyed my beer, it was good, not quite as good as Amber Bock but it was good.

Tuesday I drove back to Jackson in time to have lunch at McAlister's with Dad. We had a nice visit and didn't talk about State basketball the whole time :). And then I made my trip back to Houston.

I love the South and I love Mississippi. I love not having to ask for Sweet Tea, they just know thats what you want... and every restaurant has it! I love not sounding different than everyone else (and yes, in Houston, I get the "I love your accent" comment all the time). I love seeing Mom and Dad. I love sleeping in "my" room. It's just nice to go "home".

Monday, March 10, 2008

I LOVE Target

Target has always been one of my favorite places to shop. I love a good bargain and can typically find a shirt, a pair of shoes, workout pants,a picture frame or other cute home items for reasonable prices. Since moving to The Woodlands though, going to Target has been somewhat of a chore. We live pretty far from the Target in The Woodlands and about as far to the Target in Tomball.

But, Sunday, a BRAND NEW Target opened in Magnolia, all of 5 minutes (10 if you get behind a slow car) from our house. I got Ryan to agree to go with me, despite our fear that it would be super crowded. Luckily, it was not that bad. I have definitely been to Targets that were much more crowded.

Some observations:
  • It looked just like any other target on the inside.
  • They had new "buggies" (shopping carts) that were all plastic--no metal anywhere.
  • The layout of the store was slightly different and confused me just a bit.
  • It isn't a "Super Target" with full groceries, but has a much bigger grocery section
  • It was still so clean and organized that it was nice to walk through
  • The aisles were bigger which is always nice
Ryan and I didn't really have anything we went for in particular so we just walked around a bit. We took our first stop in the Rug section because we have been looking for rugs ever since we got the new laminate floor. This new Target had a much nicer selection of rugs than the other one we went to.

We looked around and decided that after all our searching, it was probably best to get something inexpensive since we don't know how long we will be in this house. And, because the rug in the living room will be Admiral's favorite place to lay.

We settled on two rugs at Target, each under $100.

Dining Room
We went with a goldish toned, natural rug with a black, floral board for the dining room. We wanted something that would set the table apart from the new floors, since they are the same color but didn't want to go too dark or too light. This combination works really well. And, the rug is a good mix of "classic" with the "scrolly" / "flowery" border and modern with the clean lines and simple design.

I really like this rug and thing it really ties the room together. It looks much more polished and finished now and despite the mix and match furniture, looks like a grown up dining room.

We are trying to figure out if we need to do something to get rid of the wrinkles or if they will eventually fall out.

Living Room

We went with a green border as green is definitely an accent color in the living and dining room. The rug doesn't "match" with the couches but it coordinates. There are little flecks of dark brown/burgundy in the center section that sort of tie it all together.

Saturday, March 8, 2008


I have been toying with getting my hair cut for a few weeks now. I just didn't really like it anymore. And, it needed some work on the color because I tried to "un-highlight" it with a home color kit and just wasnt happy with the results.

So, I decided that my inspiration cut would be this one on Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham. Please ignore the frozen face and fake boobs! Those are not part of my inspiration. :)

Here is the result. The pictures aren't great but I am pretty happy with the outcome.

Friday, March 7, 2008

No Butter! Chocolate Tom Thumb Bars???

Last night I finally got to leave work early. After 2-3 weeks of long days, I snuck away at 4:00. With a storm moving in, threatening to turn Houston's already horrible rush hour traffic into a nightmare, I really wanted to get ahead of the game. Of course, others had the same idea and it still took me 1.5 hours to get home. But, I got home at 5:30 and was done eating dinner by 7 (which is earlier than I even get home some nights). I work from home on Monday's and Friday's so Thursday nights are always a little more laid back and we tend to stay up a little later than normal.

I really had the urge to BAKE. I had not used my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer in a couple of weeks and was starting to have withdrawals from it. I knew I had some chocolate chips so I thought I would whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies using the recipe on the bag. Then it hit me...


Thats right, I had no stick butter or even any margarine. What kind of southern girl allows herself to have a refrigerator without any BUTTER in it. Paula Deen and her "Everything's Better With Butter" self would definitely be disappointed in me.

I started searching the internet for cookie recipes that didn't require butter but didn't have much luck. I posted a message on the local Houston Nest message board for help. One of the "Nesties" (thanks Kris) found this recipe for me -- Chocolate Tom Thumb Bars. I had all the necessary ingredients so heck... why not. I was slightly worried about the "meringue" part as I have never made meringue but it sounded easy enough.

Things started off alright. I got all the dry ingredients mixed together using my KA Mixer.

The dough wasn't as "doughy" as I expected and it didn't taste as good as normal chocolate chip cookie dough (which, in my opinion, is a little gift from Heaven) but it was okay so I pressed on.

I got the dough pressed out into a 9x13 inch pan.

Then I started on the meringue. The recipe instructed to beat the egg whites until they started to have peaks. This went well and after a bit I was getting decent peaks. Then I added the brown sugar as instructed and started beating the egg-sugar mixture. After what felt like forever (I didn't time it, I am impatient so it could have been 2 minutes, could have been 10) I was getting no peaks, no stiffness, nothing. I finally gave up on getting peaks and just spread it over the top of the dough and put it in the oven.

As you can see, the meringue does not look like meringue at all but I was tired of waiting and Ryan was asking for his dessert he had been promised.

After 20 minutes of baking, the meringue had risen a little and was turning brown so I pulled the pan out of the oven and let it sit for a few minutes.

Then I cut in and found a oooey gooey mess. The inside of the cookie part was not cooked, at all. So I put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes.

At this point, Ryan was whining for dessert (in a really cute and sweet way) and was just as skeptical as me about the outcome of my baking project. So, I made him a Chocolate Covered Strawberry Milk Shake.

And that was a success!

Back to the oven... I could see it had cooked a little more but was skeptical at this point. I pulled it out of the oven again. I scooped out a piece for Ryan and one for me.

It was still pretty gooey in the middle and the flavor was just ... blah. That's all I can say. I think with BUTTER and not shortening, this would have been better. And maybe cooking the cake some before putting the meringue on top? Or maybe if the meringue had gotten stiff and peaky it would have been better?

I ended up thrown the whole 9x13 pan of it down the disposal. What a shame!

I have learned that I should always keep some butter in the freezer so that I don't run into situations like these in the future.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

We did the "Texas Two-Step"!

I won't get political on my blog, I promise. But, just wanted to write a little about the "Texas Two-Step". If you follow politics, you know that the Texas Primary is a "two-step" process where you vote and you caucus. Its technically called a "convention" but everyone calls it a caucus because it works pretty much the same as the caucuses in caucus-only states.

Ryan and I hit the polls Tuesday morning before 7 anticipating long lines. Our precinct had about 20 people in line by 6:55. That group was split a little more than half going to the Democrat sign in table, little less to the Republican. This is probably not characteristic of The Woodlands demographic but is obviously characteristic of this year's primaries. We cast our vote and headed to work.

I left work and raced home (the traffic was nice to me for once, so were the lights in Tomball) to go to the caucus. We didn't really know what to expect, and most there did not. All you HAVE to do is arrive, sign in, say who you are for, and leave. I wanted to stay for the whole thing, but by the time we signed in, it had been an hour and we were both just not into staying anymore. The remainder of the evening would have consisted of counting the votes of those that signed in, determining the % of our 11 delegates would go to each candidate, and then picking those delegates. These 11 people then go to the county convention then to the state convention to determine the actual delegates that go to Denver. I think our precinct, being smaller than some in Houston, probably ran smoother and quicker than others.

So, I guess I really did the Texas 1.5 Step as we didn't stay to elect delegates but we did make our full vote count. It was neat to experience and is something we may never do again as democrats because I feel it will change before the next presidential cycle. And, if it stays the same, the likelihood of the next election making it to Texas without a candidate is small.

Mom and Dad... hope you guys plan to vote next week. Well, only if you are going to vote for who I voted for!


Ps... I don't know how to do a"real" Two Step... you know, like the dance. I guess at some point, to become a real Texan, I must learn?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Chocolate Dips

Chocolate is one of my favorite things. M&M's and Chocolate Ice Cream top the list.

In recent years, Chocolate Fountains have become a common site at weddings and other parties. A variety of snacks such as strawberries, marshmellows, pretzels and other fruits are available to be doused in warm, flowing chocolate. Being that I love chocolate so much, these are always a highlight of the wedding to me, especially when the cake isnt good!

As our first anniversary approached, we made a trip to Jackson for a friend's wedding. Mom had the top of our cake in her freezer so we decided to take it home on the plane. It was several weeks before the wedding so started to worry about what this year old cake would taste like. When we go home I divided the cake as we were taking a delayed anniversary trip several weekends after our anniversary. I put both pieces back in the freezer. When our anniversary finally arrived, I was so scared it would be horrible, I decided I would make something else to have for dessert as backup. I was walking through the grocery and saw some great looking strawberries so I picked them up. Then on the baking aisle, I found these little tubs of Bakers Dark Chocolate for dipping. It looked really easy so I picked on up. It turned out to be very easy to dip the strawberries. They served as a delicious, but unnecessary addition to our first anniversary dinner that we had at home. The cake was just as good 1 year later as it was on the wedding day. (I wish I had some now.)

Okay, I know, that was what, over 6 months ago? Well, since that first attempt at "dipping" I have fallen in love with chocolate dipped treats. I mostly thought it was made for fruit, until I attended a bridal shower for my friend Ashley. Her mother-in-law and sister-in-law had done this fabulous dipped pretzels. I must have had 5 or 6 that day! They dipped in white and dark chocolate and added pink sprinkles. They were beautiful. I really got addicted so I had to try it myself.

It is really sooo easy to make chocolate dipped treats. There is no need for one of those cute yet hard to clean fountains you can by at Bed Bath and Beyond. Baker's makes the cute little tub, but using its chocolate squares is just is easy. This weekend I had a craving and was feeling "artsy" so I went to work.

Chocolate Covered Pretzels

Lay out wax paper on a plate, tray or cutting board.
Melt 4 chocolate squares in a small bowl in the microwave following package directions.
Dip pretzel sticks in chocolate.
If the bowl is not deep enough, use a spoon. Scoop chocolate up in spoon then roll pretzel across spoon.

Place pretzel on wax paper.

Melt 1 or 2 white chocolate squares
Dip spoon in white chocolate then drizzle over chocolate covered pretzels in a back and forth motion.

Place plate/tray in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to let the chocolate set. Pretzels will get soggy if left in the fridge too long.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Follow same directions as with pretzels.
Leave covered strawberries in the refrigerator until 15-30 minutes before serving.

Or, just dip the pretzel/strawberry in the warm chocolate and eat immediately :)

The Life and Times of Admiral -- March '08

Admiral is about 1 and a half years old now. We do love him tons. I didn't grow up with pets. Mom and Dad always gave us the "we will be the ones to have to take care of it" speech and they were probably right. I never knew HOW MUCH I would love a dog. He truly is part of the family. He spends most of the time that we are home inside with us and when we are gone, he is outside in the back yard. He seems very "at home" back there and has his little house on the patio. His "house" is a large wire crate covered in a tarp... really classy but it works really well to provide him extra shade in the summer and extra warmth in the winter. But don't feel bad for him living in sort of ghetto quarters--he does have high end carpet lining the floor of the crate (left over scraps from our new carpet). Spoiled.

Sunday Ryan fertilized our yard. Admiral was in the house with me so I opened the blinds. He sat and watched Ryan work in the back yard. Too cute!

In other news, Admiral is what we call "overweight". About 4 months ago, he weighed in at 115 lbs. The vet said he should be closer to 100 and to cut his food by 1/5. A month later, we took him back in and he had gained 1lb. Nice. So the vet told us to futher cut his food by 1 cup. We did this for 3 months and took him in today. He now weighs 115lbs. Right, he lost that 1lb he had gained 3 months ago. Very frustrating. Our vet told us they would do blood work to check for thyroid problems but he was not there today. The vet we saw told us to try a weight management food but I am skeptical that it will work. Updates to follow.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Mom's "Easy Spaghetti"

I love my Mom and Dad. They are the best parents James and I could have ever asked for.

Growing up, mom didn't cook too many new or different things (probably because Dad, James and I were pretty picky). Dad did most of the grilling. We ate dinner together almost every night but neither of my parents were what you would call gourmet chefs! We had a our favorite meals and we ate them often. They were pretty much the basics -- Crock Pot Roast (typically served on Sunday afternoon), Chicken Pie (this was not my fav, but James LOVES it), Spaghetti, Poppy Seed Chicken, Salmon Croquets (gross, again, James liked these, not me), Burgers, Pork Chops and Steaks. Pizza Hut and KFC were pretty regular parts of the "rotation"!

I think that--hands-down--Mom's Spaghetti was everyone's favorite. And by everyone, I am referring to Mom and Dad, James and Me, every youth group to come through Briarwood Presbyterian Church since 1980-something, every one of James and my friends (including my friends from Millsaps)... really, I mean everyone that ever tasted it. It was a favorite at Wednesday Night Pot Luck suppers and was made at almost every family get together on both the Davis and Johnson sides.

When it was the Davis's turn to bring dinner for Sunday night youth group, she really didn't have to think about what to bring. I remember a specific Sunday when Mom and Dad prepared the spaghetti for the youth group. One of the girls came through the line and only asked for the noodles... she "didn't like spaghetti sauce". Mom gave her a little grief -- "Are you sure?? This is really good sauce?" The other youth gave her the same riot act. She refused and sat down to eat her noodles. Several minutes later, she returned to the counter and asked for some sauce. She had tasted one of her friends and was convinced. It really is the best spaghetti sauce!

The reason this recipe is so popular with so many is that it doesn't have "chunks" of vegetables in it. For picky kids and teens, seeing "chunks" of things in their food is sometimes a turn off. Mom uses all dried spices for flavor making the recipe really easy to prepare and also very easy to double, triple (or cut in half for the newlyweds and empty nesters).

Mom's Easy Spaghetti was probably the first thing I learned to cook and was probably the first thing I ever cooked for Ryan. I am pretty sure it was this meal that made him ask me to marry him... okay, maybe not, but I like to think it played a big part!

Mom's Easy Spaghetti

2-3lbs ground beef or turkey

4 8oz cans Hunt's Tomato Sauce

2 6oz cans Hunt's Tomato Paste

1 tsp Garlic Salt
1 tsp Onion Salt

1/2 tsp crushed Oregano

4 whole Bay Leaves (She used to be able to find crushed bay leaves. If you can, use 1/2 tsp)

Angel hair pasta (we think this is one of the keys... using Angel Hair and not spaghetti or other thinker pasta)

Brown the meat and drain grease. In large pot (or crock pot), mix all ingredients and warm over medium heat. When it starts to bubble, cover and reduce heat. Let simmer at least 15 minutes. The longer it simmers the better. When using a crock pot, don't let it cook all day. I have found its better letting it simmer max 4 hours.

Prepare Angel Hair using package directions.

Remove Bay Leaves from sauce (especially if you are serving kids that will wonder why a leaf is in their food...)

Serve with your favorite garlic bread and top with your favorite cheese (we prefer grated cheddar or parmesan).

As previously said, this recipe divides and multiplies easily. It also warms up wonderfully as let overs. This spaghetti sauce also freezes well. It is a great meal to take to a family after a birth, surgery, illness, etc because it can go in the freezer and be brought out at any time.

I had a long, hard couple of weeks at work and Friday, I needed some "comfort food". Since getting a Pita Mozz with Feta Dressing from Keifers wasn't really an option, I whipped up some spaghetti. It definitely made me feel better!

Ryan's Plate (it probably weighs 5lbs)

My Plate

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