Friday, March 22, 2013

Gymnastics Comet & Texas Delight

Annelise got moved up to Comets level (two levels higher than she started in Sept!) today at gymnastics!!!

So proud of you, Peach Pie!!!

How did we celebrate? Mommy/Sissy dinner at the new Zoës Kitchen that just opened by our house! Mmmmmm... Texas has apparently turned me into a lucky charm: I actually won two free entrées through FB for the Zoёs grand opening! I'm so thankful for their yummy-and-still-healthy food, their amazing chocolate cake sample, and for all-I-can-drink free drinks (decaf hibiscus green tea!) in their Zoës sport cup from now until the end of April. Have I mentioned I love it here?

Oh, I also got ridiculously excited by all the blooming bluebonnets along the highway this afternoon! ♥

Dear Texas, I love that you are snow-free & warmer than any place I've ever lived - D.C., NC, Würzburg, WI, MI, ATL, IL, & even south GA. And to think, this time last year, I had NO IDEA how wonderful you are!!! I admit I even said, "Nope" when JB 1st mentioned you this week a year ago. Forgive me! I am now your biggest cheerleader! Love Always, Susie

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


JB has true talent for building shelves, so after our initial planning earlier in the week, we got down to business Friday, Saturday, & Sunday afternoons. Friday: buying the wood, making the cuts with JB's circular saw, and painting. So.Much.Painting...

(I *did* feel a little Tom Sawyer-fooled by the 15th red one...)

Super paint tip: if you have a little flexibility w/ your color palate, check out the "Oops Paint" selection at Lowes or Home Depot first. (Oops = extra or paint that was mixed but wasn't the color the customer actually wanted, so it's sold SUPER CHEAP! The paint + primer we were looking at was $29 per gallon; each of our Oops gallons were $7!!!) We lucked out and got ALL THREE CANS in the Oops. The purple was lighter than we planned, the red a shade darker, and the blue was more vibrant Carolina blue than Tiffany aqua; but since we had that flexibility, we jumped on saving almost $70!

We finished painting, and JB assembled them on Saturday afternoon:

He added the backing on Sunday, and we carried them all upstairs. Finished in-the-room shots to come...ummm...whenever the kids get their stuff organized. (So, by the end of the summer? ;-))

Monday, March 18, 2013

Hydroponic Strawberry Picking & Pie

We picked strawberries at a u-pick strawberry farm on Saturday morning. We got there the minute they opened at 9:30 AM...and there was a LINE! They've been picking since February, and on their last picking day, they were picked out in two hours; I could see why once we got there! It was our first time at a hydroponic farm, which was really cool: instead of rows & rows of dirt to dig through, the strawberries are grown in stacks of five levels (no bending over to pick!) in white planters that actually spin, so you can easily get to every side. Genius! They also provided little scissors for us to use to snip the berries instead of just ripping them off the stems - again, genius to preserve the integrity of their plants.

Will's BFF here in Texas and his family came to pick with us, and the kids loved the other activities, too, after picking: tractors, barrel train, dune buggies...

When we got home, I made my favorite simple strawberry pie with part of our TEN POUND(!!!!) haul:
Use whatever crust you want. Honestly, I love the Keebler chocolate crumb crust from the store for this (choc + berries = heaven!) but really, whatever your fave crust is will be fine. The inside:
1 cup crushed berries
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
In a saucepan, mix sugar and cornstarch. Gradually stir in water and crushed berries, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir one minute. Put aside to cool.
Place whole strawberries (de-stemmed & point-up) all around the inside of the pie crust, & then pour the cooled mixture on top. Chill until set and enjoy!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Spring Break Backyard Bliss

Spring Break backyard bliss: Will & JB practice football, Annelise & I snuggle w/ Bonnie Blue on the hammock, Will joins us while JB grills dinner... ♥

Our Spring Break at home has been very low-key and productive, so far, since hitting the rodeo and carnival last weekend. We cleaned up the house Sunday & Monday, and I've still taught my Zumba classes both Monday & Thursday this week. On Tuesday, we took the kids to see Oz The Great and Powerful - fun! We didn't think it was scary, (and I was *terrified* of those monkeys when I was little! :-P) The only part Sis said made her jump a little was when one flying baboon popped up in close-up out of nowhere. The only parts Will said scared him...WERE THE KISSING!!!!!!! :-D

We've been planning some construction projects around here, too: after the kids cleaned the playroom & their rooms Monday, JB talked to them about shelves. He is a shelving virtuoso, so when the kids got excited, it was time to map & measure. Wednesday we hit both Lowes & Home Depot (even though we favor HD) in search of the best prices on wood, and construction will begin this weekend.

One other "special" thing still on tap: strawberry picking Saturday. They've been picking for over a month, so I hope there are still enough berries for us to enjoy! (They were picked out Tuesday, so no picking again until Saturday.)

3.13.13 = 15!

As of March 13th, 2013, JB and I have been an "official item" for FIFTEEN YEARS! Thanks to both of us not being able to go down to ATL to watch our Davidson College in the '98 NCAA tourney (apropos the Cats get to dance, again, this year!) and the two of us having to hang out on campus with most of our friends gone. :-P

A month or two later at the beach...
(Can this really be the earliest pic I have of us together? Wow, have times changed with the convenience of cell phone cameras!!!)

[Our wedding anniversary is next month. ;-)]

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Hey Jealousy... Harlem Shake

I'm going to whine for a second with jealousy that my mom has now been in a Harlem Shake video and I haven't! Oh, the injustice... (But she *is* a rockin' little leprechaun! ;-))

[For the record, I wanted to film one with one of my Zumba classes a few weeks ago, but filming in the club violates the prestigious gym's policy. Boooo!]

Sunday, March 10, 2013


First, we barbequed. Then we rodeoed. And now finally, we have carnivaled.

Let me be the first to say, I do NOT love carnivals. I do love festivals, but I despise carnivals where every ride costs 10+ tickets, all of which must be purchased at gouging prices. I can't stand it when nothing is included in general admission and even all of the food is ridiculous; I just don't enjoy amusement parks whose attractions aren't all-inclusive. But again, our RodeoHouston experience was blessed: our neighbors had hundreds of tickets their kids couldn't use up on their own, so they asked us all to go, so all four kids could ride together = awesome!!! And even better, there were also a few attractions around the livestock show (AGventure and Kids Country) that were free. :-)

Texas Pride! :-D That longhorn behind us was HUGE!!!
(Will isn't upset; he had just gotten accidentally poked in the eye :-P)

Eat like men...
(Bunny Ears Will, JB, & neighbor dad Chris)

Conquering our nerves re: heights (well, Will & I; Annelise isn't scared a bit!) on La Grand Wheel, the largest portable Ferris wheel in the Western Hemisphere!

Caramel apples in b/t rides with our neighbor friends!

I also ate my FIRST deep fried Milky Way bar there at the carnival (...& perhaps my last - it was fine, but not life-changing. Snickers were touted as the standard, but I had the 2nd part of my root canal this week & the thought of crunching down on a peanut (or *anything*) is TERRIFYING right now. :-P) However, they also had my ultimate fave food on earth - FRIED GREEN TOMATOES!!! - and those were DIVINE! Absolutely worth every.single.calorie!!!

We carnivaled for over six hours! Overall verdict: surprising thumbs up. :-) I'm still not a fan of the high-ticket rides or my kids whining to play the impossible-to-win carnie games, but I loved that there were also some "free" things (AGventure and Kids Country) ...and that those were still big hits - esp. the Radio Disney stage with their putt-putt-to-win-free-posters game and their wild animal show.

Insider tips: the cleanest bathrooms with virtually non-existent lines are *UPSTAIRS* (up the escalators) in Reliant Center. Also, refill your cups/bottles at the water fountains in Reliant Center, instead of paying $4 per Dasani. :-D

Saturday, March 9, 2013

RODEOHOUSTON: Rodeo & Tim McGraw

Friday night *was* my first rodeo!!! :-D (The REAL thing; not just the barbeque championships :-))

Woohoo: saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, barrel racing, bull riding; & the mutton bustin' (kids riding sheep) was adorable! [Both Will & Annelise are bummed that they're too old to try out for mutton bustin' next year; it's only ages 5-6. :-P] After the rodeo events came Tim McGraw in concert:

JB got these rodeo/concert tickets for free (JOY!!! They were *reeeally* good seats!) through work, so we didn't actually invest just to see Tim, (I probably would've chosen Bruno Mars, who played the rodeo Thursday night, instead ;-)) but it was a fun show! And even though I'm not so up on his newest stuff, he played "Something Like That", "Live Like You Were Dying", and my ultimate old fave "Where the Green Grass Grows". (I do wish he would've done "Just to See You Smile", though, too. :-))

We had a ball, and the kids affirmed that they LOVE the rodeo! Here's to becoming more Texified each day... :-D

Friday, March 8, 2013

Eureka Volcanoes

I feel so blessed that I have the opportunity to volunteer as much as I want at the kids' school. Their school has developed a science enrichment program called "EureKa!" It's designed to get students excited about science through fun exploration experiments; each student attends five sessions throughout the year. This week was one of Will's, and it was hands down the coolest session ever: after the teaching portion where they went over the anatomy of volcanoes, we made our own. Now most homemade volcanoes are just pouring vinegar on top of baking soda. Big reaction + over quickly = boring. Not this one: in a tapered glass jar, we layered baking soda, then a few squirts of dish soap, chocolate syrup, ketchup, some Kix, Cocoa Krispies, and finally some red glitter. We then built a newspaper/cardboard/tape "mountain" around the bottle and covered it with sand. Only *then* did we add vinegar to the glass bottle, and the reaction was perfect: it took a few seconds to begin and lasted for five full minutes! It was so cool to see the cereal "rocks & debris" come out in the "lava" flow. We were all pretty enthralled:

PS - *NOTHING* is so precious as having your 3rd grade son snuggle up as close to you as he can & hold your hand while you help out at his school... ♥ I am sooo thankful he's not too cool for me, yet!!!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Happiness is...

Happiness is...having the strength to hoof it up to the 4th floor of the parking deck & not caring that was the only spot b/c it's absolutely GORGEOUS & 80°F!

Happiness is...your boss bringing in free smoothie samples for everyone during the cool-down portion of your Zumba class on a silver platter. Literally: silver platter!

Happiness is...bobbing in the spa hot tub, followed by the eucalyptus steam room, followed by Moroccanoil shampoo & conditioner in the shower after Zumba.

Happiness is...samples at Trader Joe's (oh, dark chocolate-covered Powerberries!) & Costco that equal a full meal!

Happiness is...seeing the Judas trees, Bradford pears, etc., flowering and other trees about to leaf back out. (It's been SO LONG since their leaves blew November! ;-) God bless Texas!!!) YAY, spring!

Happiness being so warm I didn't need a jacket to walk to pick up the kids from school on this stunning, breezy, blue sky, 80°F afternoon!

Happiness is...having *just enough* pet stain cleaner left in the bottle to clean up a very rare dog accident AND the fact that b/c the bottle is YEARS old, it proves the rarity of said accidents. Bonus: me not falling into my usual crazed banshee rage over it. (I admit dog pee is a stretch on "greatness", but it could always be worse! :-D)

Happiness is...the fact that all these things (except for the silver platter smoothies & dog accident) are pretty NORMAL!!! It's honestly a pretty AVERAGE day! :-D And how great is it?! ♥