Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Mid-January Glimpse: Cookies, Lilly, Basketball, Zumba

Catch a glimpse into our life, post-LaLa visit & before our next big family cheer competition trip!

*Green-light-o-rama everywhere I drove last Tuesday! So thankful for God clearing my way! #smallfavors #bigjoy

*So glad I hoofed it back from teaching Zumba in the city to make it for volunteering at Annelise's school Eureka science program:

*I was so furious Thursday, I wanted to crawl out of my skin. (Y'all, pray for the relationship with my Zumba boss in the city. I don't want to bother with another venting post re: this here, but there are more things being ignored & not appropriately communicated.) ...But I refused to let those irritations completely ruin my day. I chose joy & focused on the positives: my actual Zumba class rocked, we all got to rest with no obligations (rare!) that night, I got bubble tea, it was 83°F & warm in the futurecast, and I wore shorts & my new pink shell Lilly Pulitzer Essie top that I got in the After Party Sale the week before - all 4 of my sale items arrived last Tuesday:

*Speaking of Lilly, on Friday I picked up the pants I had altered at the tailor when my mom was here. They were size XXS linen beach pants - yes, I know I'm not an XXS, but they were the ONLY item left in my dream print (rare with so much purple!) in last August's sale, & I was praying they'd work, or I'd sell them. They totally fit in the legs (wide & flowy) & in the waist (super stretch material), but it was just the inseam that was ridiculously short. (At the risk of TMI: they induced camel toe. :-O :-P) The tailor took the fabric she cut off from hemming them, cut off the stretchy top band, and stitched in that extra fabric to add a couple inches of length at the top! It's AMAZING!!! It looks like they were designed that way, and now they fit GREAT! My new fave pants:

*Will asked to turn on the radio Saturday morning to get pumped up on the literally 3-minute drive to his basketball game. "Eye of the Tiger" was just starting on the 80's-today channel, & we all ROCKED OUT!!! Apparently it was a good omen: Will's Longhorns won, again! Fast start, but got down by 1 at the half...and then roared back in control: 32-22 final. Will scored 2 points & had 4 fouls = par for his course. :-P ;-) 2-0 victory doughnuts:


*We slept blissfully through all the tornado warnings Monday AM, I went to Yin yoga & bubble tea with Annelise, took both kids to get new jeans (they grow too fast!!!), baked AMAZING Dark Chocolate Chili Cookies, took down our Christmas tree (judge away! yes, it was still up, & no, I didn't care! :-P) and finished the night with BEAST MODE parent cheer!!!

Those cookies, y'all...

Dark Chocolate Chili Cookies

These rich and fudgy chocolate cookies have a spicy kick!

Yield: 18-20 cookies

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 8-10 minutes

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (or as much as you want)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa, plus 2 tablespoons
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped dark chocolate chili bars (more than 1 but less than 2 full candy bars, like: Trader Joe's Fireworks Bar, Lindt Excellence Chili Chocolate, Moser Roth Chili Chocolate Bars from Aldi, etc.)

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat baking mat or parchment paper. Set aside.
2) In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cocoa, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon. Set aside.
3) With a mixer, cream butter and sugars together until smooth. Add in egg and vanilla and mix until combined.
4) Gradually add flour mixture and beat until just combined. Stir in the chili chocolate chunks. Scoop the dough into rounded tablespoons and place on prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes, or until cookies are set, but still soft in the center. Don't overbake. Remove from oven and let sit on baking sheet for 3 minutes. Move to a cooling rack and cool completely.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A Week of LaLa

My mom came to visit this last week, and we truly had a great time with a little bit of everything, including an amazing meal each day. :-) The kids were still off school for Christmas break on Monday & Tuesday, so on Monday after we picked LaLa up from the airport, we went straight to the zoo! (JB's parents gave us a zoo membership for Christmas! So excited for the kids to get to use it so quickly!!! You're certain to see a lot of zoo posts in 2017 :-D) As usual, the biggest highlight was personally hand-feeding the giraffes:

On Tuesday after I taught my new Zumba class at my local little boutique studio, we had requisite Tex-Mex at Uncle Julio's for lunch and then made the kids' day by taking them to mini golf! We felt compelled to enjoy the last 85°F day for a while outside, and it's one of Will's favorite activities on earth. EVERYONE got a hole-in-one at some point on the course, but Annelise got the first one:

Wednesday was back to school for the kids and back to Zumba in the city for me = semi-normalcy. After my Zumba class, my mom joined me for Yin yoga – the most perfect way for me to stretch after teaching! We had lunch at The Yard House, before it was back to shuffling afternoon cheer practices, church Praise Team, meetings, etc.

Thursday, I did not have my normal Thursday Zumba class. (Remember how I saw it was suddenly off the schedule on New Year's without a single word from management? My loyal class members contacted management...who played completely clueless: "Oh, I didn't know her Thursday class was no longer on there." :-O Either scrambling to cover or not competently doing the job, but that's all I'll say about that… Suffice it to say, I'm back on every W/Th now, again - although they still didn't listen to the members, who desperately want me back on Mondays, b/c two days in a row is really intense for people. Whatever – I've prayed about it, and even though the schedule is not good for my people, it's fine for me, so I'm going with it & thanking God.)

ANYWAY, since I unexpectedly had THIS Thursday off, my mom & I took advantage: Chinatown for 90-minute massages at our beloved Triple Tree Center, Osmanthus bubble tea at Twinkle, and amazing breads & pastries at Six Ping Bakery. Pure bliss!!! I also scored a few awesome items online in the biannual Lilly Pulitzer After Party Sale, but I'll post about those when they arrive. ;-)

Thursday night, after years of curiosity, (and dinner at Sambuca – their mozzarella- & prosciutto-stuffed beignets with balsamic glaze and their seared duck breast tapas were divine!) we finally got to see the touring production of The Book of Mormon together! It was BLAZINGLY irreverent - I was totally shocked a few times, and I can't tell you the last time Broadway theatre shocked me! But it actually ended up with the characters being happier & their quality of life better b/c they believe. The digs at religious legalism apply across the board to all. It certainly wasn't pro-Mormon, but the point was more: if you say you're going to help people (in this case, guys on their mission) stick around & really make a difference, even when the circumstances aren't good, (& these guys did, unlike the ones who'd come before.) If you're going to be committed, go all in. It was extremely lewd & crude, but not cruel. The talent & production quality was wonderful! Nonstop entertainment!

Friday's art museum trip was thwarted due to bad weather, so we lunched at Whiskey Cake instead and, b/c moms are great at holding your hand to do practical errands, she helped me find a tailor, and we took a pair of my too-small pants from the last Lilly sale to be fixed. (The only size left in my dream print was XXS; I'm a fairly fit girl, but they are too short-waisted, so the tailor is going to use the extra fabric off the bottoms when she hems them, cut off the top, and stitch a couple extra inches of that print from the bottoms in there. Excited! I know it sounds silly, but it was a nerve-racking commitment to find someone to do this without my mom there. :-P)

Saturday, my mom, Annelise, & I did some boutique browsing around town at some of our favorite places. I know it sounds crazy, but there is the best specialty clothing & gifts boutique inside of our Ace Hardware store! :-D It's are running joke that every time my mom comes, we have to have girl time at Ace Hardware. :-P I even found the PERFECT spirit wear accessory there that I needed for that very afternoon: Will's new basketball team for this season is the Longhorns, and let me tell you – I own absolutely nothing in burnt orange! But we found the cutest white scarf with metallic burnt orange polkadots, that actually look more copper than anything else, so it's utilitarian enough to wear forever, even beyond this basketball season. Woohoo!!!

Yes, Will and his new Longhorns had their first basketball game of the season this Saturday afternoon. They started out a little slow, down 10-12 at the half; but in the second half, they held the other team to just TWO points, so the final score was 35-14!!! :-O We were kind of stunned! Will did score 2 of those points, and his scrappy defense was excellent. I love seeing him get in there – no one could ever accuse him of being timid. :-D Basketball may not my favorite sport, but I lovelovelove watching my son play and cheering him on!!!

Saturday evening, we ate victory dinner at Local Table, had amazing artisanal gelato at La Argentina... and then we three girls went back out for another little massage session to end the night. (We went to a closer place instead of all the way to Chinatown, b/c Annelise wanted to go so badly & be "the girls" - LaLa's arm was easily twisted! ;-))

Houston's famous Sunday brunch at Cadillac Bar and Grill absolutely lived up to the hype!!! My faves - pork pupusas, chicken enchilada verdes, & bread pudding! They had everything Mexican, breakfast (including Eggs Benedict), dessert... all coming out consistently fresh. Super thumbs up!

We redeemed our art museum trip by all 5 of us going after brunch to see the last week of "Degas: A New Vision" at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston = another Christmas gift enjoyed, as JB got me a family membership for us! Will was not overly impressed :-P but the rest of us really enjoyed it! It was fascinating to see how groundbreaking Degas was when it came to his scene cropping in paintings, almost like photographs now, and of course, I loved all of his ballet series:

So I guess now it's time to start eating like a normal person, again. :-D Restaurant food is my FAVEFAVEFAVE, but if I can't get to the gym at some point every day, I feel like I'm going to crawl out of my skin!!! Time to get into high gear now for Beast Mode: we have our parent cheer squad practice twice this week & next to prepare for competition. This is really happening! Time to get serious!

Monday, January 2, 2017

NYE 2016 to 2017

We had another New Year's Eve with my Cheertators (youth league cheer committee BFFs) & our families. I love that NYE is a family holiday for us - not just an adult party fest. We all come together, eat dinner, and then the kids have fun playing together while the adults do our own thing. We all come back together for the ball drop, and everyone gets a wonderful night with friends, food, and family!
Because cheer people don't know how to *not* do cheer poses, even out of season... :-P

Our crew!

All hail the *WINNING* Guesstures team!!! :-D
Collapsing in hilarity...

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Aerial Yoga + Zumba News

Annelise & I did aerial yoga together over Christmas break at my new little boutique gym! It's fun, but it's also really empowering. You feel like you're figuring out & conquering a puzzle as the instructor walks you through, step by step:

I essentially taught a Bikram Zumba class there last Tuesday morning. :-D We calculated that we sweat out SOOO MANY extra calories in the warmth - it was kind of amazing!!!
(The a/c went out, and we just powered through! I didn't realize how intense it was going to get, but we made it & felt amazing afterwards! PS - it was 80°F outside!)

So, this weekend brought changes, again, at my other (big corporate fancy) gym. I'm trying to only look at the positive, but my Thursday class there is cut. It's not a personal reflection on me whatsoever - they cut one of mine, one of the other main girl's, and completely cut two other Zumba instructors altogether, who each had one class - so I think they want to funnel the Zumba people into a few bigger classes, instead of having so many options that aren't filled; but to find out the day before these changes go into effect via a mass schedule-check email? :-( I truly don't mind only having one class there - driving into the city can be stressful & I'm good with just once a week - but having zero would be so sad, b/c of the personal relationships I've nurtured there over the last 4+ years, and I think I felt like having two classes was a bigger buffer between that & zero. It could very well be that corporate is trying to move away from anything that is not their signature format, so since Zumba is not their brand class, they're trying to pare it way down; I would completely understand that, as well, but I don't like the way nothing is explained, no head's up given. I'm TRULY ok with this change, b/c I can clearly see that it's not a personal reflection on my performance, since it was across the board, but I'm disappointed in cloudy the way changes are handled.

On the bright side, as if it weren't already, it's shiningly apparent that God set me up at this new little boutique gym these couple weeks before this change, expressly so I wouldn't be as bothered. Always thankful for His provision and the special moments when we're able to actively see & recognize it!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Christmas Day 2016

Merriest Christmas review! This was truly a great one: the kids & I had clearly-communicated, realistic wishes, so they were all fulfilled, which feels the *most* magical. JB won't ever tell anyone anything he wants, so I was extra proud of my creative finds that made him happy, too. ;-) I always want experiences over stuff, so my most happys are family memberships to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston & the Houston Zoo (renewed interest for the kids with all the Pok├ęstops :-P) and tickets for my mom & me to see The Book of Mormon musical when she comes next week! (1 material most happy from JB's parents: a Lilly Pulitzer gift card!!! Y'all *know* Lilly goes straight to my heart! Fingers crossed for their biannual sale that *should* - if tradition dictates - be next Monday!)


The kids got Calvin Klein underwear! :-D [Costco!] After seeing Back to the Future last year, Will has thought this is GREAT!!! :-P I still can't believe UNDERWEAR was such a major Christmas hit! I was totally prepared to explain it away as a gag: nope = both thrilled!!! They totally laughed & loved it.
"Calvin... Why do you keep calling me Calvin?"
"That's your name, isn't it? Calvin? Calvin Klein? It's written all over your underwear…"

JB's parents sent the kids these awesome glasses that make the lights on the Christmas tree look like designs! Soooo cool!

I was genuinely thrilled to get dark chocolate mint KitKats that I've been so curious to try, but didn't want to buy for myself. ;-)

Our family favorite breakfast food is Bacon & Gouda breakfast sandwiches from Starbucks. JB made them at home for us to savor this morning after presents, instead!

What did Annelise & I do Christmas Day afternoon? We went to the gym! I don't share this to look like a workout freak, but b/c it still shocks *me* that THIS is my happy choice! We spent all morning opening gifts, playing, watching movies, eating = just hanging out on the couch. The gym opened at 3, and JB & Will wanted to watch a movie we didn't care for, so why not? I caught up on everyone's Christmas on FB, posted about ours (stuff I would have done on the couch at home, anyway) while Annelise & I did a Precor machine. When I was done, we bobbed in the hot tub, got some sinus relief in the steam room, and got cleaned up. Annelise even got to use some of her Christmas presents: new athletic pants, hair brush, and Bath & Bodyworks set! It was win/win/win all around! Plus, I didn't feel bad for all the dark chocolate mint KitKats I ate when we got home! :-D

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Football-tacular Christmas Eve

What a football-tacular Christmas Eve!!! I watched my beloved Washington Redskins win, Will's Atlanta Falcons won, and then we actually WENT to the Houston Texans game that evening!!! (A friend of JB's couldn't use his season tickets & gifted them to us. #footballismylovelanguage )

Up high, but still 50 yard line! Annelise was so excited for EVERY aspect - she is my football spectator BFF! They had live reindeer out front, we got free light-up Santa hats & keychains, and JJ Watt was pacing the sideline in front of us!

When we got home & got the kids to bed, I watched Pope Francis' Christmas Eve Mass from the Vatican as I set out gifts & wound down to sleep. There's always something so calming about it, and it was the perfect way to balance missing our usual candlelight service at church. :-)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Romanian Friends & Gingerbread Houses

My BFF, Amy, is my one friend who regularly (once every 2-3 years) visits us, no matter where we live: Chicago 2009, Georgia 2012, Houston 2013 & twice 2016. And she lives in ROMANIA!!! She makes an effort to stay a few days on her way to see family also in the States. (She's American, married a Romanian man, lives there now, & has 2 sons.) It's always crazy to me to think that the only long-distance friend I see here is the one who literally lives the furthest away!!! :-P I feel so blessed that she can make the effort to travel, and I pray SO HARD that one day I'll get to take my family to Europe and be able to stop off for a visit once at HER house!!!

She arrived here this last week for Christmas stateside, and she said she really wanted our kids to do our annual gingerbread houses together. ❤ This year I had already planned to do gingerbread houses very differently: the last few years, the humidity has been so high that the roofs & walls collapse before we're finished even decorating. It's a ton of time & effort that goes to waste: I have to bake my gingerbread house mold twice to make each complete house, and it takes about 45 minutes for each bake, so we are looking at over six hours of baking to make four gingerbread houses, if I take no break. Over it. Especially when I saw this mold for $5 at Michael's:

They make cupcake-sized houses, there's enough for everyone, and I can use my favorite deep, dark gingerbread baking mix from Trader Joe's!