Thursday, November 27, 2008


Happy Thanksgiving. I try to remember my blessings year round, but it's this time of year where we force ourselves to reflect. I have an amazing family, a wonderful husband, great friends, my loveable crazy dog, a nice house and a new one on the way. My job is stable in this uncertain economy, as is Ryan's. There is really nothing in my life worth complaining about, especially when you put it in perspective of the struggles of others. It's been a good year.

On a lighter note, I am thankful for Keifers and Passenger Jones. Keifer's I have written about before. Ryan and I arrived in Jackson on Tuesday evening. Last night we made our pilgrimage to our favorite restaurant for pita mozz, gyro's and a pitcher of Amber Bock. I jokingly asked Ryan "Which is better, Keifer's or Thanksgiving Dinner?" thinking no one would say anything is better than Thanksgiving. He easily said "Keifer's". Yes, it's that good. We stuffed ourselves and were, at once, both happy to be in Jackson (it's not Ryan's favorite place). Thank you, Keifers.

Passenger Jones is one of my closest friend's band. Taylor and I have been friends since 6th grade...when I did his drafting assignments for him in "shop" class (and he told his mom about this bossy girl in his class). High school is when we became the best of friends and is also when Taylor picked up the guitar and started singing. I remember telling Taylor his guitar skills were great, but the singing... eh, not so much. I'm glad he didn't take my opinion too seriously. Over time, Taylor really "found his voice" I guess you could say and has become a very talented musician. He has been playing with this group of guys for several years now and they put on a great show.

In perfect Jackson style, Passenger Jones put on a concert at the one and only Hal and Mal's for the night before Thanksgiving. Any holiday concert at Hal and Mal's is sure to make for a reunion of the Murrah/St. Andrew's crowd... throw in Passenger Jones and it's a sure fire hit. Thank you, Passenger Jones, for bringing friends together after too many months apart.

Life is good. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Admiral: Hunting Dog ... sort of

Admiral has had an exciting day.  I took him to the dog park for the first time in several month.  He loves to run around with the other dogs even though there always seems to be one dog that takes a "special" liking to him.  Today, was a BIG white dog, probably had some pit bull in him but I don't think was full pittie.   This dog was bigger than Admiral, very stocky.  He was a sweet dog and followed admiral everywhere he went.

This evening, Admiral is our source of entertainment.  I can't get any pictures of him... but a fly got into the house today while we had the door open this afternoon.  Admiral has been frantically pacing around the living room, biting into thin air, trying to catch the little sucker.  He just laid down again.  I guess he has given up, for now, as the fly just buzzed past my face.

Update:  Admiral just got the fly.  He smashed into the wall chasing it and somehow smashed the fly dead on his snout.  Unfortunately he doesn't realize he got the fly so he is still sort of scanning the room. :)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Finger Lakes, NY

The past couple of years, we have taken a trip with Ryan's family to see Eric play football for Dartmouth. 2 years ago, we went to New York City for the Columbia game. Last year we went to Hanover, NH for the Dartmouth Homecoming game -- also against Columbia. This year we decided to go to the UPenn game in Philadelphia and the Cornell game in Ithaca, NY.

Ithaca is in a beautiful region of New York near the "Finger Lakes" -- which are appropriately named.

After some investigation of the area, I learned that there were two main attractions... wineries and gorges/waterfalls.

Ryan and I, along with his parents, flew into Syracuse on Thursday and spent the night there. We stayed at the Embassy Suites that reminded me of the Opryland Hotel that my family stayed in when I was a kid. The rooms opened to a huge indoor courtyard. It was a very nice hotel with a great "free" breakfast.

Friday morning we set out toward Ithaca, taking the "long route" down the west side of Cayuga Lake. The Cayuga Lake Region has several wineries that make up the Cayuga Wine Trail. There are at least 15 wineries in the area, along with restaurants and other attractions.

As we were driving along the scenic route, we passed through several cute, small towns. We stopped for pictures in the cutest, Skaneateles which is at the top of Skaneateles Lake. It had great views of the lake right on HWY 20.

I decided to just pick two wineries to stop at so that we could also see some of the scenery and waterfalls too. The first winery was the Thirsty Owl Wine Company. I picked it for two reasons: One, the name... I know, cheesy, but the Chi Omega in me is still drawn to those darn Owls; Two, it was one of the few wineries that was RIGHT on the lake.

Gorgeous view from Highway 89. The Thirsty Owl is the house in the middle.

The Wine Man Matthew pours our glasses. You are supposed to only taste 5 wines but he wanted us to try more than that so we tried about 7 or 8. Matthew was very knowledgeable and entertaining.

We really enjoyed the Thirsty Owl wines, especially their award winning Reislings. It was a great first exprience at a winery.
We also liked the Syrah that we tasted so we purchased a bottle that we drank over the course of the next two days of our trip.

After the Thirsty Owl, we stopped at the Cayuga Lake Creamery. They make all their ice creams homemade and had some interesting flavors, including....

"Jalepeno Popper"... yes, you read that right... jalepeno popper ice cream. It was an interesting flavor but not a bad flavor. (Ryan ate and enjoyed his whole cone)...and "Purple Cow" -- Black raspberry with Chocolate chunks.

After Ice Cream, we stopped at the Americana Vineyards. I picked this Winery because it was on our route and because it had a Cafe that is open year round. This made a perfect stop for lunch, though we had dessert first. We ate a nice lunch in the Crystal Cafe and then did another tasting.

Pear/Brie Salad and Open faced turkey

Chili and Chicken Fried Steak

We were not as impressed with the Americana Wines but it was still a nice stop. They had two beautiful chocolate labs on the property that were so friendly.

After wrapping up our mini wine tour, we headed toTaughannock Falls State Park. There is an awesome waterfall at this park. We drove to the overlook point and saw the fall from up top...

... then drove down the road for a 3/4 mile walk to view the fall from the bottom. The walk through the changing leaves and mini waterfalls was awesome.

After Taughannock Falls, we headed to Ithaca to see Buttermilk Falls. We parked at the parking area and decided to try to make the walk to the base of the falls. It was a really pretty walk with lots of small waterfalls and amazing rock formations that had been created by the water.

As we started the walk, we realized it was all downhill, which meant all uphill on the way back. And, it was getting late with not much daylight left (stupid time change makes it get dark at 5pm). We decided to turn around after talking to a couple we passed on the trail. They informed us you could park at the base of the falls as well so we headed there.

Friday night we ate dinner at a local Italian restaurant and then went to visit Eric at his hotel. It's been a tough season for Dartmouth football -- they currently have not won a game with only 2 left. Not the senior year we hoped for but Eric has played well. It was nice to visit with Eric and his teammate for a little while.

Saturday we took a quick tour of Cornell's campus. As I think I said after visiting Philly, the beauty of these cities and campuses is just amazing. There is so much that is so old (and some new) that its just awesome to see. And the colors of the trees and the leaves were something we don't get much of in Texas.

There is a beautiful pedestrian suspension bridge over a large gorge on the Cornell campus. We walked across the bridge and in a loop around that side of campus to get some amazing views of the gorge and waterfall. We also made a quick stop at the SAE house that was situated on the top of a hill.

After the game on Saturday we headed back to Syracuse for the night and flew out Sunday morning. It was a nice, quick trip to a neat part of the country. Definitely recommended!

It's almost time... New House

Ryan and I are about to start building a new home in a new area just north of where we live now. We are really excited and nervous about it all at the same time.

A couple of weeks ago, the lot was "ribboned" for where the actual house will go. Now, we are just waiting on the final bids to come in from our sub-contractors so that we can nail down a price and get our loan. Then, we finally get to start construction.

There will be lots of updates when it finally starts. Here are some pictures of the lot... I know, boring, but its a start.

This is the front of the house. The ribbons mark the driveway which is on the right side of the lot.

And this is the view from our driveway of the pond. All the houses face a large pond in the middle -- we will not have neighbors directly across the street from us.

More to come soon, I hope!

Crab Cakes

Another Rachel Ray dish!  Ryan and I both like a good crab cake.  I always thought they would be really hard to make.  I found this one in Rachel Ray's 2, 4, 6, 8 cookbook and gave it a whirl.  This crab cake is a little different as it has potatoes in it, but they turn out pretty good. 

by Rachel Ray

1 starchy potato, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic
Coarse salt
Handful fresh flat-leaf parsley
Couple sprigs fresh thyme, leaves finely chopped
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 (6-ounce) tubs fresh lump crabmeat, available at fresh seafood counter
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Cook potatoes in boiling water 6 to 7 minutes until tender, drain, scatter across a large flat surface to cool and dry, 5 minutes. 

Smash the garlic with salt to make a paste and add to potatoes along with thyme, parsley, lemon zest and crushed red pepper flakes. 

Feel through the crab as you add it to the potatoes to check for shells.  (This is the only "hard" part about this recipe as it is really annoying, but not as annoying as biting into shells.)

Mix together to combine and form into 4 (4 to 5-inch) super sized, killer crab cakes.

Heat 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium to medium- high heat. Add the cakes and cook 5 minutes on each side or until deep golden brown.

I think I made my cakes a little too big and might cut back on the potatoes in the future.  No real complaints though!

Pumpkin Seeds

I am playing blog catch up!  I am so behind as work has been really busy lately, and we took a trip last weekend.

The first year we carved a pumpkin, Ryan asked why I didn't make him roasted pumpkin seeds like his mom used to do (the first of many times we have both played the "when I was growing up" game).  So, I think (if my memory serves me correct) he called her the next year to find out how so that I could make them for him.

This has become a yearly event after we carve the pumpkin.  Its pretty simple.  Just save the seeds when scooping out the insides.  Clean them off really well and dry between paper towels.  Spread out on cookie sheet -- I cover with foil.  Sprinkle with your favorite seasoned salt -- I used Tony's.  Bake for 10-ish minutes.  I turned mine to broil right at the end for about 2 minutes. 

That's it.  Ryan enjoyed snacking on these for several days.  

Monday, November 3, 2008


Ryan and I dressed up this year for a friend's halloween party. It was the first time we have really dressed up since the fraternity/sorority swaps in college.

Ryan's friends call him "Poo"... I am still not clear WHY other than someone called him that once in High School, he got mad, so they kept doing it. So, I had the idea for him to be Winnie the Pooh and I'd be Piglet.

We bought childrens costumes and cut the head pieces off to wear as hats. I found a cheap pink dress at TJMaxx and got some pink long johns to wear underneath.

Ryan used the "Poo" from his and glued it to a red shirt. He also got a black witches pot and painted it with "Hunny" and carried it around all night.

We couldn't resist dressing Admiral up in the Pooh costume before we cut it apart. He was really cute, but NOT happy with us.

Last year I made a Rockets pumpkin so this year I tackled the Texans. I got several compliments from our Trick-or-Treaters!

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