Monday, September 30, 2013

Taste of Texas

JB's parents flew in to visit & see the kids' football/cheer game this weekend; we went to dinner Saturday night at Taste of Texas...and it completely lived up to the hype! Native people love this place; it's a high-quality steakhouse + Texas history museum in one! They have so many artifacts (check them out!) that they even offer school tours & Saturday morning history talks. :-D That definitely fosters a more family-friendly atmosphere, rather than romantic ambience. There aren't many high-end steakhouses where you can feel just as comfortable bringing your children as you would business executives. (*Note: expect a looooong wait, unless you are there early! We arrived for dinner before 5:30 & were luckily seated immediately. At 7 PM, the wait was over an hour & a half. Very standard, although they do have free popcorn, chips, & soft drinks in the waiting area.)

Our dinner was fantastic! Their salad bar is legendary. (In fact, that's what both kids had as their main meal; we adults had it come with our steaks.) It has more than just veggies - pasta & bean salads, large slices of fruit, tiny fresh mozzarella balls/halved cherry tomatoes/basil chiffonade = my fave!, gargantuan blocks of cheese for you to shave off as much as you want, salad toppings like freshly crumbled bacon & candied almond slivers, and oh - the fresh breads! Yeast loaves, parmesan buns, & jalapeño cornbread:

All of their steaks are "Certified Angus®", and if you'd like, (we did ;-)) you can choose your own steak cuts back in the kitchen:

After you select your steak, they tag it (see the metal tag still in below), so when it arrives tableside, you know it's the same one you chose.

JB's cowboy (24 oz. "bone-in" ribeye) steak bathed in garlic herb butter:

I had a 6 oz. center cut filet mignon = perfect, (and rare, just like I like it!) I also need to take a second to mention my side: I got the mac & cheese, which isn't even on the menu (secret dishes are the BEST!) at the suggestion of our server. It may have been the best mac & cheese I've ever had I'm a connoisseur. It wasn't just bland béchamel, nor was it overly tangy w/ too much sharp cheese; it was a perfect marriage of sauce & cheese, creaminess & crunch (courtesy of the tiny-toasted-breadcrumb topping). It was served in the individual dish in which it was baked...and I can't wait for more. I might go for lunch one day & get the salad bar + mac & cheese! [Danger: this place is located one block away from where I teach Zumba! :-D]

We went ALL OUT Saturday and did NOT skip dessert. The kids had ice cream served in a baked sugar (almost praline?) bowl, and the adults had Taste of Texas's famous Cinnamon Slammer (also not on the menu, but *everyone* knows. ;-)) It's an adult milkshake served in a glass boot mug that you get to keep! (Well, they bring you a clean one at the end. :-)) The alcohol content is low (I'm a total lightweight these days, & I never felt a thing) but it tastes delicious: blended cinnamon ice cream, white crème de cacao, Frangelico (hazelnut), etc., topped with homemade whipped cream. I've been waiting for a year to try this boot!!! (JB got to eat there a couple times last fall with work, and the kids LOVE the two boot glasses he has brought home. Now that we'll have four total, they are so excited for us to all use them together. :-P)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Chris March's Wig Fun

Running average family errands at Tarjay...

How much fun are these Halloween wigs? They're made by Chris March - one of my most favorite Project Runaway designers EVER!!! (He's all about crazy, avant–garde & over-the-top costumes - not things you'd wear in "real life" :-P) They are all super light & made of foam - you can't imagine how easy these things feel to wear. (No, I'm not getting a free wig from Chris March for saying this...although I'll take one! :-D I just think they're really fun!) I didn't purchase...but it's been calling me back for it the last 24 hrs! ;-) I may neeeeeed it...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

German Radio Nostalgia

I don't know what it is about September, but my thoughts seem to trend heavily back to Germany. When I first got back, "live streaming radio over the internet" didn't really exist, yet. :-P When I was teaching high school German in 2001, I found the websites of my two old favorite stations, discovered their live streams, and used to turn them on in class as a reward when the students were working well. A lot was/is the same current popular music played here - along with some utterly random songs from the 70's & 80's (German pop radio is obsessed with Rod Stewart :-P); but I always got (& get ;-)) excited for the occasional song in German. (Xavier Zaidoo! :-D) I'd have the students try to pick out phrases & decipher as much as they could. :-D My favorite part was/is listening to the DJs in between songs, making sure I can still understand what they're talking about (relatively easy: clear & articulate radio voices + fairly light & short topics ;-)) and I love hearing the traffic & weather for where I used to live. :-P Why? I have no idea. It just makes me happy.

To be honest, though, I haven't thought much about German radio since having kids - even when going through big German-movie-on-Netflix kicks. As much as I love music, I only listen to it in the car (my local Christian radio station - positive lyrics keep me lifted up; kid-friendly!) and to prep for Zumba & cheer choreography & singing on Praise Team. When I'm home or hanging out, I will *always* choose TV over music. But the other week, something jogged my memory & for the 1st time I thought to look for an iPhone app for my old stations...

Of course they have them!!! And they don't cut out to buffer as often as their old websites used to! ;-)

One app actually holds almost every major radio station in Germany: RadioRec Germany
It's free! My fave channels were/are Bayern 3, Antenne Bayern, & NJOY - check them out! :-D (Bayern = Bavaria) I'd forgotten about some of the others, too; I look forward to rediscovering! I get excited when I hear the big news at the top of the hour & understand what's up. :-P (This Sunday was Election Day in Germany - lots of news!) It still fascinates me that they're 7 hours ahead of Texas (I'm a very time-obsessed person ;-)); and I can't help but grin when they use some of the same radio tones & jingles they used when I lived there 15 years ago & listened daily on my Walkman --- right?!?!?! When was the last time you thought about a Walkman?!?!?! Mine was the yellow sport one that was radio & cassette. :-D

A House Divided

It doesn't happen every NFL season, but for three hours on Sunday, we were a house divided:

...but we were unified by shared pizza. ;-)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Muddin' or Footballin'?

So, our football games *were* canceled today, and we *did* get 4" of rain last night...but the football team wisely took advantage of their available practice time today and still got together to get better! It didn't rain anymore at all, but it surely was muddy enough. ;-) Let me just say how happy I am that I held off on laundry until tonight!

They had a ball...and since Will was in his practice uniform instead of real clothes, I was all about him reveling in it! :-D

(The sun came out an hour later, and the rest of today was gorgeous to boot!)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Status Update

Three days of me...

Wednesday, Sept. 18th:

That moment when God works something little out that was really weighing on you - probably more than it should have been - but nonetheless, He fixed it, b/c He cares about our tiny burdens as much as our big ones. He's that big. ♥ (I was stressed b/c I lost an important list, but God took my day = found it!) ~8:30 AM

Treading steadily to stay above water... I'm suddenly overloaded with a ton of obligations - all for things I'm passionate about (cheer, Zumba, etc.) but they still must be handled. Newest happy responsibility: I got picked to be Will's class mom! YAY!!! Annelise was sad that I'm not hers, again; but I reminded her I wrote on the PTA sheet that I wanted to be Will's 1st choice & hers 2nd, b/c I didn't get to go to any of Will's parties & stuff last year, since I was running hers. She *did* make a point of saying, "So next year you'll be mine, again, RIGHT???" ;-) I was so spoiled last year, though: I had a co-mom who wanted to do ALLLLLL the organizing, paperwork, etc. I did all the in-class stuff: substituting, parties - it was heaven! Now I have do menial stuff like type up the class birthday address list on my own = wah wah... :-P Why can't people write legibly on data entry forms??? ~10:00 PM

Thursday, Sept. 19th:

A first: missed trash collection by 30 seconds. Kids & I ran 30 seconds down the road w/ our trash bags. Old chicken would not wait until Monday's pick-up. :-P But we made it! (A pic would've been hysterical! :-D) ~8:28 AM

Also, sliced the meat of my thumb wide open as I chopped cantaloupe for Will's lunch box. Thank goodness Annelise could get the bandaid & neosporin ready for me. :-) Grasping tight & pulling on a yoga strap may not happen right now... :-P Time to bliss out in Yin... ~8:29 AM

Knocked two more big to-do's off my list! *AND* had amazing lunch at Thai Cottage w/ a BFF! *AND* my kids are thrilled to have playdates. *AND* I get to celebrate another new BFF's bday tonight! ~5:12 PM

"Girls night" ~10:12 PM
[Happiest bday to the redhead behind me! :-)]

Friday, Sept. 20th:

I. Am. Exhausted. Just beyond. But I wouldn't trade the most fun convos last night at a RARE Girls Night Out celebrating our BFF's bday for anything! ♥ Today: I got my kids prepped for their Student Council election speeches before school, I must take a required security training for my gym, I need to choreo a new Zumba routine, I need to coordinate 15 cheer things (handling $ stresses me out! :-P), I've worked out an AWESOME surprise that's going to make the whole squad think I'm a super hero tonight :-D, I refuse to wimp out & miss my strength class this AM, and at some point, this girl deserves bubble tea ;-) ~9:13 AM

God had very different plans for today than I initially thought: I hauled over to strength class - not early, but not late - & it was so packed, I couldn't get in to take the class! So my BFF Donna & I just sat in the steam room & vented literally & figuratively instead. God slowed me down. Then, b/c she had another hour before a mtg, we hung out & chatted over bubble tea, instead of me rushing home to work. God slowed me down & used her to lift me up. When I *did* get home, I got down to cheer business, organizing everything with our late uniform pieces I just picked up & finding an upbeat way to tell everyone how we'll handle cheering in the rain (1st major multi-day rain we've had in MONTHS right now). God slowed all that hoopla down, too: 8 minutes after I emailed the squad re: how to deal, the league canceled all games tomorrow. This *NEVER* happens! :-D So not only no game tomorrow, but no cheer practice tonight, either. [I *am* so sad about missing a game tomorrow, though!!!] ~3:18 PM

Annelise won her 1st Student Council race!!!!! Will barely lost his (4 boys ran - heavy competition; the winner used POWERPOINT! whaaaa?! we'll bring it next year! :-D ;-)) but he's not the least bit disappointed. He said he got to do it last year, so it's cool for someone else to get a chance. ♥ I told him how awesome that was and that the coolest part of all this is just being brave enough to stand up in front of your class, give a speech, and let new friends get to know you better. :-) So proud of BOTH of our kids!!! ~5:53 PM

[I'm *STILL* in limbo over NO FOOTBALL this weekend! #floatingaimlessly ;-) :-D :-P]

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Gelish: 4 Weeks Old & New Football Mani

The quality of my 2013 summer signature neon purple "You Glare I Glow" polish by Gelish is amazing! I've only done two applications since mid-July. They both lasted four full weeks CHIP-FREE! The only reason I had to remove & redo was that my nails had grown out so long & strong. The bare half moons to my cuticles didn't look very nice, and my nails were so long, they were actually starting to hurt a little. What did it look like? Here you go! Pardon the bad nighttime kitchen lighting:
Grown out four weeks - you can see how long they really grew on the underside; and see how much I cut off?!?!

So now that summer (the schedule, *NOT* the heat!!!) has left us, it's time for FOOTBALL MANIS! I want team spirit nails this entire season. Our youth football team & my cheer squad are the Falcons (same logo & colors as the NFL Atlanta Falcons) so I'm going red, silver, black, white, & football. ;-)

I'd never done an accent nail before, b/c I never felt a reason to. In this case, 10 footballs is too much, but one on each hand is the height of cuteness! For the footballs, I did two coats of Sweet Chocolate (metallic brown) & drew the white laces free-hand with a toothpick dipped into Sleek White (the same pure white I use to do French tips). For my silver nails, I used Magneto Iron Princess. After they were cured, I topped them with a non-Gelish "normal" drugstore glitter polish (Spoiled by wet n wild "Shuffle the Deck") I'd found in our perfect colors. Love it!

Annelise got in on the polishing action, too...with Grandaddo's toes in all different colors!!! :-D

Saturday, September 14, 2013

"Say Something" + Texas Brisket

Saturday = youth football Game Day #2! I won't keep you in suspense: we lost, again; but it was nowhere near last week's blow out. (If fact, our offense was out there almost the entire time; the only way the other team scored more was special teams: they kept returning our punts for TDs. :-/) Even though we lost, there was a much better vibe from the boys this week, and my cheerleaders were stellar. The opposing team's squad didn't even have a halftime dance ready, yet; we have THREE done, with three more in the works. (Am I an overachiever or a drill sergeant? :-P Both. ;-))

This week's was "Say Something" by Austin Mahone.

(This week's video is hazy on the right, angled low, on the opposite side from the music, & closest to the 3 girls who have missed the most practice :-P but I was busy coaching, so I'm just thankful for any film any parent will share with me! :-D)

Halftime huddle:

Precious game faces (mine's on the right w/ his mini "gun" ;-))

We were obviously STARVING post-game, so in the spirit of trying to show my parents the best of quintessential Houston, we hit up The Brisket House for true Texan brisket:

I still smell of oak & pecan smoke...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Daily Life Visit

My parents flew in from NC on Tuesday! Will & Annelise call them "LaLa & Grandaddo". :-) They are certainly getting the full picture of what our daily life is like! :-D They had 5 minutes after walking in the door to be ready to go with us to football & cheer practice. :-P On Wednesday, I made them go to the gym with me, and Mom took half of my Zumba class while Hersh treadmilled. After hot tubbing & steaming, we ate lunch at Pappasito's (DIVINE!), ran my normal crazy errands (Trader Joe's, Costco, Home Depot), back to our town to pick up the kids from school, and sent JB & Will off to football practice while we went to Target & H-E-B for further provisions (since they saw football & cheer Tues night and will see it again Fri & Sat...and they're not quite used to Houston heat! :-P)

Thursday morning, we went back to the gym: Mom & I did yin yoga ♥ ♥ ♥ ...followed by bubble tea! ;-) Hershel is the newest addict - he loves a mango slurpy (just fresh mango blended with ice; same thing the kids love, too. :-)) We then went to the kids' school to surprise them for lunch!

[I only came to eat with Will twice all last year (before his Eureka science program) and I never ate with Annelise; so this was an extra special treat for everyone!]

What else, so far? Ah, Grandaddo made the kids' latest dream come true: Rainbow Looms :-D "All the rage" these days, :-P sold out at Michael's...but not at Learning Express! ;-) The kids are both weaving as I type... (We'll see what they actually produce... ;-))

One last thing: my mom watched the show Double Divas last night. It's about two ladies who own a lingerie shop & do bra fittings near Atlanta. I saw an episode this spring, just b/c I didn't change the channel after Project Runway...and it absolutely made me grin! :-D I'd never sit down to watch a show about lingerie - it just doesn't sound like my thing at all. But these girls are funny, super crazy Southern (polar opposite of snobby), and throughout their hijinks, they truly help women & are sincerely judgment-free. They are precious. (And if I still lived in Georgia, I would absolutely take a road trip for a fitting! ;-))

So I've done my daughterly duty. Hersh is now addicted to bubble tea drinks & my gym, and my mom to Double Divas. :-P

Wonder what we'll get into next?

Special Buddies

I was on the verge of tears Monday: Will came home with a letter from school saying the he was nominated by his teacher to be a mentor in the Special Buddies program, to be a special friend to an IDD (intellectual & developmental disabilities) student. I am SO PROUD that his teacher has already seen Will's true heart of friendship for others & his incredibly sensitive intuition re: others' feelings and has chosen him for this fantastic socialization opportunity! I am just BURSTING that he gets this chance to empower his buddy and also grow his own heart even bigger. I am a total grade monger/honor roll freak, but honestly, this honor is more important to me than ANY test score could be!!!

From the program website:

Our Vision
Every child’s school experience plays a major role in their accomplishments and we are optimistic that every child can be successful both, academically and socially, as long as they are in a community where all children are valued and belong.
Our vision is to create an environment where differences are accepted and attempts are made to educate those who may be fearful or unaware in relation to the culture of disability. To ensure this type of setting exists at [our] Elementary School, our hope is to help increase awareness of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and teach all children to embrace differences and become caring friends. If we empower our children to make this choice, then we will instill the values of honesty, responsibility, diversity, respect, and social interactions.

Our Mission
Childhood has many challenges and these challenges are even greater when a child has a disability. Recognizing the opportunity we have to make a positive difference in our school environment, the mission of “You’ve Got a Friend in Me!” Special Buddies is to extend a caring hand to our children with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

Our Goals
*To eliminate any fears or misconceptions that children who do not have intellectual and developmental disabilities might have about children with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
*To provide children with IDD and children without IDD the opportunity to socialize. This will contribute to each child’s sense of purpose and self-esteem and provide positive skills for interpersonal relationships.
*To teach all children to embrace differences and become caring friends.
*To help all children learn that everyone has strengths, abilities, hopes and dreams and they each have something special to contribute to our school and community.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Cheer Success, Football Bust

Our first regular season youth football game was yesterday. Our boys suffered a gut-wrenching loss, [Will - our defensive x-factor - didn't register even ONE tackle! :'(] but my cheerleaders DID THEIR JOB! They gave our fans something positive & exciting to focus on, even when things on the field didn't go our way. (That team we played went to the Turf Bowl last year - probably the best team in the league right now, so the loss isn't the worst. Better to lose now...and beat them in the playoffs! ;-)) Seriously, the girls were fantastic - confident, focused, and enthusiastic! I can't tell you how many compliments I received from football families who were blown away by their spirit. That is *HUGE* - they've never had a cheer squad like this on their side, and I think it really helped lighten what would have otherwise been a dismal tone.

Even our halftime dance to "Surf's Up" from the new Disney Teen Beach Movie was super cute! (& the opposing squad didn't have a dance ready, yet! :-O What?! :-P ;-))

Ready to rock out next week now. I'm personally confident that the girls really have our 30 cheers down, so we can focus on the new dances each week this month. [And praying our precious boys shake off the ghost of yesterday and charge ahead with fresh focus & resolve!]

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Soaked Scrimmage

Anyone who really knows me knows how much I *hatehatehate* getting wet when I haven't planned on it. Swimming & showering = fine. But if I get shot with a water gun or pelted with a water balloon? Prepare for a nuclear explosion of fury!!!!! I run like crazy to avoid the tiniest sprinkle, and don't you dare splash me as I sit beside the pool. I like to say, "Sugar melts." :-P :-D ;-) HA!!!! But tonight... Tonight the heavens opened and POURED forth...right in the middle of our cheer practice and literally 30 seconds before we were supposed to walk across to the football team to cheer their scrimmage.

I am proud (& slightly surprised!) to report that not only did I not flip out, I kept the girls pushing through to finish their stunt, I was happy about it, and *I* championed waiting out the storm to finish our scrimmage. :-D (I released the girls, but all the football families stayed. :-))

Proof positive:
[I reserve the right to again despise getting rained on at any future first drop.]

We *did* get an hour of practice in before the deluge. I'm so excited to have the girls use our fan cheering signs: "D" "*fence pic*" "G" "O" "F" "A" "L" "C" "O" "N" "S" "Go" "Fight" "Win" - and the boys looked solid tonight, too!

See, it started out sunny:

And then this:

And then this:

Waiting out the lightning:

Strong finish:

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day Zoo

We had a stellar Labor Day! I rocked teaching a special holiday Zumba class, and JB & the kids came along to wait for me at the gym. It meant so much to me to finally get to show JB all around where I teach. ♥ Afterwards, we feasted for lunch (homemade bread, Spanish pardina, calamari, wild mushroom/caramelized onion/Brie pizza) at The Union Kitchen before we braved the heat to check off the kids' last summer request: zoo!


Ring-tailed lemurs!

Cheetah kids

Bongo Will


Tiger...made of Legos!