Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Christmas Music

It's that time of year again . . .

Yes, it's Christmastime!

I have to admit that we started listening to Christmas music a bit early, just after Halloween, but that actually happened because of our long drive back from Houston and we were in the "no radio area" for my car so we started my cd changer. I had 3 of my Christmas cds in there still. I love TSO's music! (That's Trans-Siberian Orchestra for the uninitiated.)

They are wonderful and put on awesome concerts each year. We went to one in Houston back in 2006 with Matt & Beth and we all very much enjoyed it. From start to stop it's a sensory experience. (They have pyrotechnics during parts. Probably Jason's favorite part!) If you've never heard of them before check them out Trans-Siberian's website. Their cds are wonderful because it tells a story as it goes through the songs, so be sure and read the inside of the cd cover if you get one because it adds even more to the music! Just think, how could you go wrong with Christmas music in classical and rock?!

Not only is it fun to pull out the old favorites, but it's also nice to try some new songs and artists. Luckily with some of the blogs I watch and newsletters I get each week I have come across at least 12 FREE songs to download. It has been fun listening to new things, but sometimes I just want the old standbys. You know the ones you grew up with and listened to over and over and over again. You listened to them so much you can sing the first two or three lines of the next song before it even gets to the first word.

My all time favorite for this is an old cassette tape that we always listened to in the car when I was younger. I honestly don't remember the name of it we always just called it the "Chevron" tape, probably because it was back when you got free gifts or discounted items when you purchased gas and that just happened to be one my mom got at some point in the late 80s. The one song that has always been a favorite for us, my mom, sister, and myself, is "Round and Round the Christmas Tree, sung by Bing Crosby." Oh, how I love that song. It breaks into rounds at one point so we all had our own part to sing.

There is one other song on there, "Sleigh Ride" by the Boston Pops, I loved the ending with the horse actually neighing at the end and the whip cracking. (Here's a spot you can listen to a snippet and hear the whip crack. Click on #6 from the M.S. Living cd.)

This puts me in such a good mood and raises my Christmas spirit even more.
Time to listen to more songs.
What songs do you remember growing up that bring back happy memories to you?

Remember you can click on links that are in blue usually. I like to make the blog a little "interactive." :-)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween in Bastrop, TX

As many of you know Jason had a class to teach/take in Bastrop for his IMET certification. (Fire Weather forecasting and such.) Well, we were here over Halloween and here is how I spent Halloween. Jason has the car to get to/from Camp Swift, so I get to hang out at the hotel. I thought I would be terribly bored, but it has actually just been nice to rest. (I got sick right before we left on the trip, so forced rest has really helped me feel better.)

The other day I walked next door to Blockbuster and rented a game for Jason's Nintendo DS. A little known game of Guitar Hero. Jason loves to play it on PlayStation, so I figured he'd enjoy it in the evenings for some down time after class. Amazingly, I do pretty well at it too!! Last night I actually got a 100% on one of the songs, meaning I got ALL of the notes played correctly! I know that doesn't seem like much to some people, but for me it's huge!

I also have been spending the time knitting for our niece. The newest addition to the family, Clara Noel Straub, was born on Oct. 29th (almost 30th if she waited about another 49 minutes). I have been working hard on finishing her gift from us. At this point I am about halfway done.

Jason and I had yummy Mexican food at Guadalajara. I found another restaurant that serves fried stuffed avocados!!! Mmmm! Jason had the fajita buffet and ate lots of yummy beef fajitas. We walked next door to WallyWorld to pick up a "treat" for the evening. Key lime pie for him, pumpkin cheesecake for me. On our way back to the hotel I had to stop and get a couple of photos of the sunset. It was too perfect for Halloween at dusk.

That's pretty much it for now. We leave Monday afternoon sometime after Jason is done with his class and the test on that day. We'll stop back in Austin for a couple of things before continuing home.

I hope everyone had a safe and fun Halloween!!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

There's a First Time for Everything

I am happy to say I tried cooking something that I had been a little afraid to before, I baked salmon! I know that isn't that scary to some people, but for me, fish has been the one thing I have never cooked before. I was afraid I either would over or under cook it and it wouldn't be good.

Saturday evening we went to HEB and I told Jason to pick out something from the beef section for me to make for him before we go out of town and are stuck eating out for a week. He didn't really see anything he liked, so I asked him about the fish/seafood counter. He liked the salmon, and it was pretty inexpensive, at least I think so. Just under $6 for almost one pound, which was more than enough for us. (Think of adding 2 more pieces about the size of the one in the pictures and that is how big it was!)

I looked online for a marinade to use for it and found a very yummy one. I also made 2 other new veggie side dishes to go with it, carrots in a brown sugar/pineapple glaze and zucchini ripieni. The hardest thing to cook was the zucchini!

This is where you can find the recipes in case you want to try them.

Salmon: Here
I used fresh ginger rather than the spice.
Carrots: Here
It doesn't say how much sugar, so add however much you want.
Zucchini: Here

Friday, October 17, 2008

Trying New Things

Nothing big has jumped into my mind today that I should write about. So I figured I should should share one of the new recipes I tried a couple weeks ago.

As many know, I like to watch the Rachael Ray Show in the morning. One day she made what looked to be quite yummy oven fries, but from parsnips. I've never cooked with parsnips before, so I thought it would be fun. Plus, I like to make new things Jason has never eaten before either to see if I can make them again or if it was a bad thing. And believe me, I have made a few bad things before!

So off to the store I went with the recipe and found all the ingredients. (FYI, parsnips are over by the carrots in our grocery store, and they only have 1 brand to choose from.) I went ahead and picked up the ingredients to make the chicken dish she did also, even though it didn't quite inspire me. I have to admit, trying to find an orange marmalade that doesn't have corn syrup in it and doesn't cost and arm & a leg! Really, paying over $6.25 for about 6 oz. of orange marmalade?! And that wasn't the one from France!!!

I got home and started to work on dinner. It went along pretty smoothly until I had to coat each and every parsnip in seasoned flour, egg, then the parmesean-pecan breadcrumb mixture. I was getting way too messy and nothing was sticking to the parsnip. So I switched to a baggie and did the shake-n-bake thing. That went SO much faster.

But, in the end, all of the hard work was sooo worth it! The oven fries are addictive!! I'm glad I made 2 lbs of them for dinner and meals the next day! I wish you could smell how yummy the chicken was and taste the fries, but I guess the photo will just have to suffice until you try to make it yourself!

Link to recipes:

Chicken is here.
Oven fries is here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"I only want one for me."

I was all excited about this blog when I got it started, but then I thought if I updated it daily, it might get to be a little boring to others. But, then I also realized that I didn't start this so much for others as for a way for me to just write what is going on with us, and it's up to the people reading it to choose if they want to or not. I have no way of knowing if anyone is keeping up with it daily or if they ever decide to stop reading it. So with that, I'm going to see if I can challenge myself to update once daily with a small tidbit. I may even just do a quick photo with a line about when it was taken. (Thanks to the Campbell's for that idea.)

Today's title refers to what Jason told me a while back when I asked him what kind of cake do you want for your birthday. (BTW, b-day was Sept. 20th.) Here's about how the conversation ran:

M: "So if you could have any kind of cake for your birthday what would you want?"

J: (After pondering it for a moment) "I want a white cake with white icing cupcake."

M: "Okay, so just white/white cupcakes for everyone, that isn't too difficult..."

J: (Interrupting) "No. I want 1 white cake & icing cupcake for me."

M: "Ok, so nobody else can have that but you? What are they supposed to have?"

J: "I don't know, I just want a white/white cupcake."

M: "So you are saying that if I did this for you I would have to either make only 1 white/white cupcake or find a way to buy just 1 for you? What can everyone else have, chocolate?"

J: "Sure. I only want one for me, and everyone else can have chocolate and chocolate."

(End of conversation, that day at least.)

So as I'm thinking about this, I'm wondering how on earth am I going to pull this off? Not only that, when am I going to do this. With Becky due right before his birthday I knew our friends wouldn't be available to celebrate on his birthday. Sure enough Isaiah was born the day before Jason's birthday and we didn't really get to do lots of celebrating of Jason's day because we spent time with the Pyke's and new baby. We did however get to celebrate the next day with my parents to the "usual" birthday spot he chooses each year, Schlitterbahn's Shrimp Haus.

Well finally almost a month later, life has calmed down for all of us some and we were able to do a dinner with all of our friends from Truth Project. We all brought something to the Pyke's and enjoyed a great dinner. Well, little did Jason know, but while he was at work that Wednesday morning, I baked chocolate cupcakes for everyone else and made him one, yes one, white cake with white icing cupcake. You're probably curious as to how I pulled that off without wasting all the batter. Well, you see I did a little shopping up in League City when I was staying with the Van's. I found a fun little cake pan in the shape of a cupcake at a craft store. And with a coupon to get 40% off, even better! I brought it home and hid it away so that Jason wouldn't know what was going on.

Wednesday morning started early for me since I only had until 1:45 to get everything done and cleaned up before Jason got home from work. I started off by baking the "cupcake" and then mixing the chocolate ones. While the chocolate ones baked, I started making the butter cream icing. (BTW, this was my first attempt at homemade icing...and it turned out well.) I couldn't ice anything until they had cooled completely, so I didn't get to start decorating until almost 11:45 - 12:00. At that point I knew I had to hurry since I had about an hour and a half. So I went to work on the "cupcake" and had to figure out how I wanted to do this and make it look nice without smearing all the icing on it and calling it done. I'm having fun playing with my new Wilton decorating set, and I thought this would be a good time to practice stars. I think that since I used all butter and no shortening, the heat of my hands was melting the icing a bit quickly. So by the time I finally finished the "cupcake" I only had about 40 minutes to ice 2 dozen chocolate cupcakes and clean up everything so Jason wouldn't suspect anything. Luckily I finished just in time. Hid everything in my car, got the entire kitchen cleaned from what was needed to make everything. My next worry was the smell in the house. It smelled like I had been baking cakes, so I found my apple-cinnamon spray and used it in kitchen and dining room area. I jumped in the car and quickly left to drop everything at the Pyke's before Jason got home, it was about 2:05 pm. I thought for sure that I would pass Jason on the way out of the subdivision, but I never saw him.

When it came time for dessert, Katy & I set everything up and then we all sang "Happy Birthday" to Jason. He kind of knew something might be up, but he had no idea that I had made only one white cake and white icing cupcake just for him.

Here's a photo of how it turned out.
I hope no one goes into sugar shock from just looking at the photos. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

New Talents

Well, today has consisted of finalizing a new talent. I have never done it before and I wanted to try my best at something new. My mom, sister, and many friends know how to do it, even Jason knows how to do it! I could not believe that I had not tried it before . It's not that hard, and it is kind of fun. Only one hand hurts instead of both do when learning something new. I decided I should try it out and see if I could add to my repertoire of new talents I have taught myself. You are probably wondering, "What on earth has she learned?" Well, I have learned to cross stitch!

I figured if I had to teach myself how to do it I should start with something easy. So I did the smart thing, I bought a kid's craft from the craft store and started working on it. As I was looking through the different projects I came across one that I thought would be really nice for my future nephew that will be born at the end of the year. (Plus, I knew I had to the end of the year in case I got frustrated with learning something new.) I am happy to say that it only took me a couple hours last week and about 5 hours today to finish it. It took 5 hours today because the Survivor season premiere was on and of course I had to watch that at the same time. I only poked myself once with the needle and it was in the last 20 minutes, my eyes are very tired now.

I am sharing with all of you my latest project. Meet- Froggie, he was made with love for my nephew. Now I just have to find a frame for him so it can go in his nursery. Sorry Cheyanne, this kind of ruins the surprise.
This is before I cut it out.

It actually looks like the photo!

I even remembered to put my initials and the year on it!

Also included is a photo of the baby blanket I knit for Isaiah Pyke.
Luckily I was able to finish that before he was born too!

Now it's time to finish the projects for my niece that will be born end of October/ beginning of November. But first, I will rest my eyes and hands for the night.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Joys of a Weather Service Wife

The last week has been in constant flux for Jason's schedule. He had evening shifts (2pm - 10 pm) for most of last week which is fine since that was his regular schedule, but come the end of the week to his 3-day weekend off the calls started coming in. Toward the middle of the week it was "can you take an overtime (OT) for Friday midnight (10 pm- 6 am Sat.)?" Sorry, no it is his birthday weekend, and we try not to have either of us working on our birthdays. No problem there. Then Friday night, phone call again, "can you take Saturday day shift (6 am - 2 pm)?" No, sorry, unavailable. Now, I've never really known it to be this bad, but with illness traveling through the office I can understand.

I was already feeling guilty enough that for his birthday weekend we were home and not traveling, although we were house sitting and Jason got a thrill out of Blu-Ray dvd player, big screen tv, and surround sound. Our friend's had their first child on Friday, so on his birthday we got to visit them in the hospital and help set up what they needed at home for meals when they went home that evening.

Fast forward to Tuesday evening, phone call, "we need you to come in early for your day shift tomorrow." This one is totally understandable because a coworker's wife was very ill. So our late afternoon became: quick trip to drop off extra sheets for friend's family coming in, then back home and to bed at 6 pm so he could get up at 2 am to be at work by 3 am. So instead of getting to snuggle on sofa and watch House together, I got to sit in the living room until I realized we had no food in the house for Jason's meals at work, so off to Sam's quick, then home to cook the pizza and get it ready for him to take to work. And of course since I didn't have to be up early the next morning, I stayed up way too late watching online movies on Netflix.

Luckily I just got the call that Jason gets to come home right now instead of working all the way until 2 pm. So it's off to make Jason a smoothie to help tide him over until "dinner time" since his "lunch" was at 8 am!

The joys of being a weather service wife, trying to keep up with an influx schedule and yet live on "real world" time too.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Newest Member of Our Family

Well, I did say the next post would be about Jason's new best friend. But first an update on our friends and family that were in Ike's path. The Van's did very well and have been back home for a while, but Jason's brother is still without power. He was able to borrow a generator from someone, and hopefully they will have power by the end of the week.

Jason made a new friend when I was gone on a 11 day trip at the end of August and beginning of September. I knew he would probably be lonely while I was gone for so long, so I arranged for him to make a new friend. I had been planning it for a while, but had to wait until the day before I left to carryout the final details. I went to the store and spent 20 minutes trying to choose just the right now. I didn't want one that was skittish and moved away from a hand coming at it, and I wanted one that was "pretty" too. I finally decided on one and purchased it and all the paraphernalia that was needed, especially food. I then had to drive home carefully so as not to upset his new friend, get everything inside, and prepare it's new home. I'm calling him "It" because it was up to Jason to name him. Once he was settled in his new home I had to wait for Jason to get off work and come home to see him.

I heard the garage door go up and quickly got him into position so Jason hopefully wouldn't walk by and not see him, although that is pretty unlikely. In walked Jason and spotted him right away! Jason smiled really big and said, "You got me a fish!" I told him I didn't want him to be lonely while I was gone for so long, so I figured a Betta fish was a good idea. Jason has always wanted one so I did my best to get everything he needs. I told him I wanted to see the fish alive still when I got back from my trip.

Over the course of my trip Jason was trying out names to see what worked for him, especially since I was getting sick of "fishy" for a name. Finally he was down to 2 names, and one of them I told him he could not use. I didn't want a pet being named after a person on a reality program, even if he was the color of the guy's hair! (The name was Suede. Can anyone name the show?) So he decided on ... drum roll please....or thunder roll more likely.... Ike. He thought it would be fun to name him after the next hurricane that was in the Atlantic. Which was fine until we found out Hurricane Ike was coming toward us, and we figured it was because the new fish was "drawing it this way," like a magnet. When I returned home, Ike was still alive, and Hurricane Ike was coming this way. It almost came to me having to leave right after getting home! We were glad when H. Ike turned more northerly because the Valley's ground is still saturated with water from Hurricane Dolly. (That can be another post later.)

There was one minor emergency with Ike while I was gone. His home was a huge vase that had lots of room for him to swim in, but Jason noticed within the next 24 hours of him being in it that there was a puddle of water on the floor by the counter. So overnight he put it on a baking sheet with paper towels to see if the was was leaking or we just had spilled some water. There was a huge crack running almost the entire length of the vase. Jason headed to the store to find him a new home, switched him over to that, and that is where he still resides today, even if it is just a plain old fishbowl. Not my first choice, but it will do for now.

We are doing fine right now, Ike even got to go live with us while we house sat 3 cats. Needless to say, our door stayed closed all the time. Although at one point we did have the youngest cat with us and he spotted Ike. Let's just say the kitty didn't stay too much longer in the room because it looked like he liked the fishy!!

Everyone, let me introduce you to the newest member of our family... Ike!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Our 1st Blog!

I've been wanting to start a blog for a while now since I enjoy reading friend's and stranger's so much, and here it is! Jason and I figured with the title we both can blog about anything going on for all of our varied interests. I will do my best to keep it up to date as things happen or we find something interesting.

For now, we're just praying for all of our friends and family that have been in the path of Hurricane Ike. We have good friends in League City and Jason's brother & his family in Tomball. We haven't heard from either, so pray for them.

I'll see if our next post can be about Ike, Jason's new best friend!