Thursday, February 26, 2015

Cheer in our Rodeo Parade

What could be more stereotypically Texas than football/cheer & rodeo?!?! I had never been to a rodeo before setting foot here...but it's SO MUCH FUN! (Growing up in NC, our annual county fair had an agricultural & livestock section, but no one cared about that - we only cared about funnel cakes & carnival rides. :-P) The rodeo here does have rides, but we've thus far managed to avoid them in favor of the actual rodeo, where you go sit in the stands in an arena to watch tons of super quick competitions over 2-3 hours: Bareback Riding, Steer Wrestling, Breakaway Roping, Calf Roping, Saddle Bronc Riding, Mutton Bustin (5 & 6 yr old kids riding sheep! adorable!), Team Roping, Calf Scramble, Barrel Racing, Bull Riding:
It's really fascinating! The rodeo doesn't run every weekend - it's just once a year, so rodeo time is a big deal! Our local (smaller) rodeo was this last weekend, and the Houston one (the *largest in THE WORLD*) begins this weekend with the World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest. (YES! We got coveted invite-only tent tickets, again, this year! EXCITED!!! It's *THE* Houstonian event of the year!)

But back to our local... Our big rodeo parade was this last Saturday. One of my first initiatives as the new head of our cheer program was to have our girls march in the parade. WHY has our league never done this before?!?!?! It's *FREE* to register & participate, it's perfect timing (at the beginning of our own registration period) to get our name out there, it keeps squads engaged & excited in the offseason, it shows we support our local community, and did I mention, IT'S FREE?!?! No brainer. I will say, the logistics were a lot more work than I expected, but certainly not prohibitively so. We didn't have any issues, and next year will be even easier, now that we know exactly how everything works. The skies looked at little sketchy, but for the few girls who braved the threat of a sprinkle, we enjoyed a perfect 70°F march. :-) [& the last event in our old uniforms! ;-)]

Spirit during line-up!
Dance party:
Will & his buddy manned the back of the truck:
With my AWESOME new Cheer Committee!!!
Stunting Annelise while we waited:
Along the parade route:
Annelise managed to still collect candy tossed out during the parade, and she even STORED IT IN HER BOOTS!!!!!
We all earned Rodeo Parade ribbons!!!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Trader Joe's Grand Opening

*trumpets of joy* FINALLY, after months of waiting, my most beloved grocery TRADER JOE'S is open, literally less than five minutes from our house!!! No more driving ~45 min to the other two locations in the heart of Houston and having to stock up for two months at a time!!! I can finally go back to being able to pop in & out, to trying more of their new, unique items w/o fearing we'll fall in love & not be able to get back for more anytime soon. And I can't decide whether this is good or bad...but we can bring home their ice creams, again, now! :-P Our freezer finally no longer looks like Trader Joe's warehouse storage. :-D It's OK to just buy 2 of our faves at a time, instead of 15, b/c I drive by now literally every single day. I don't know how to express enough what a HUGE HUGE HUGE (first world ;-)) blessing this is to me!!! As if we needed further confirmation that we are never moving, again... ;-)

We showed up right on opening day (OF COURSE!!!) and Sis got her pic with the local high school cheerleaders, who were there to pump up the grand opening celebration:
(We didn't think until we were driving away that we should have asked them to stunt with her! :-D)

So, what exactly are we sooo obsessed with at TJ's? Everything. :-P No, seriously - it's the best quality food at the lowest prices. Think of it as the Aldi of Whole Foods. It's smaller than you would imagine, and while their fresh produce is amazing, my faves are their pantry staples and frozen foods. I love to eat, but I'm not the biggest fan of cooking, anymore. I grew up loving to cook - I liked proving that I could be great at it...but now I hate cleaning up the kitchen & dishes a million times more than I ever enjoyed cooking, and so many of the things I would like to put in the effort to make, my family doesn't enjoy. Enter TJ's. Healthier frozen meals, and everyone can decide which they'd like best! (Obviously not every night :-P but it's ALWAYS an option when no one can agree!) They also have my kids trying more adventurous flavor profiles, funky ancient grains, ethnic foods, etc. It's all better & easier than anything I'd try on my own; and I don't feel as bad paying $3.99 for me to try a unique, exotic Indian dish as I would had I spent $$$$ to buy all of the individual spices & ingredients separately and poured a couple hours into the recipe, just to have my whole family say, "I tried it. I don't care for it. Can I have cereal?" :-D

Will's fave is Fettuccine with Mushrooms, Annelise's is Gnocchi Alla Sorrentina, and mine is Spelt Risotto. JB's fave, Confetti Rice With Lemongrass, Baby Corn & Ginger, was just discontinued :'( but at least we have easy access now to experiment! (FWIW, I love every single one of those, too!!!) He chose Quinoa Duo with Vegetable Melange to try next.

Their seasonal specialties are another grand highlight...but perhaps I'll save that report for fall: pumpkin-o-rama!!! I'll close with sharing one of their current seasonal specialties, the best candy bar I've ever had IN MY LIFE: the Fireworks Chocolate Bar!!!

"Ooh, there are going to be fireworks. On your tongue. Oh yes indeed. Trader Joe's Fireworks Chocolate Bar is here to put a little spark in your life (and your mouth), add a little spice to your everyday experience, and of course, deliver fine chocolate at an explosively good value.

Trader Joe's Fireworks Bar is crafted for us by a stateside chocolatier known for adding intriguing flavors to high quality chocolate. Here, they start with smooth, rich dark chocolate - always a good beginning. And then come the fireworks, in the form of "popping candy". You remember the stuff; it "sparkles" on your tongue, tingling and tantalizing with every bite. But that's just the beginning. The bar is also spiced a bit, with chipotle and pasilla chiles, a touch of sea salt, and a dash of cayenne pepper. It's not hot hot, but it'll definitely give you a warm feeling inside. Just like fireworks. Just like love - and we do love this bar.

The Fireworks Chocolate Bar is available at your neighborhood Trader Joe's for a limited time - if we offered it every day, how would we keep the spark alive? We're selling each 2.8 ounce bar for $1.99, while they last."

Friday, February 20, 2015

Run 4 The Children 2015

We did Run 4 The Children, again - this year on Valentine's morning! (Click here for the whole backstory & how my non-runner-self ever got sucked into this! :-D) Another 4 miles benefitting adoption in the books for this year!!!


Professional race proofs:
Pre-race yoga (now *THIS* I (far left) was good at! ;-))

Starting gun (can you spy my wild hair flying?)

Victory (for me and for Will running with our friend/his other football coach, Sean)

GO ME!!! I finished the 4 miles (6.4 k) in 41 minutes, but I did run with Annelise for the first 1.5 miles. My last two full miles on my own were ~9 min each.

A post-race puffy air pressure leg massage!

I'm definitely not "hooked" on running now. I'll do this once a year, but more than that is not worth it for me. I burn less calories running than I do teaching one of my Zumba classes (this was about 500; teaching Zumba is at least 800) and it's much worse on my body: my quads & glutes killed for two days after the race. My knees were ok, but I purposely ran as much as I could on the grass burm, instead of striking the concrete; the impact level on my joints is incomparable. ...But I'm up for this good cause once a year. ;-)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

*THE* Best Valentine's EVER

Are you ready to see *THE* cutest Valentine EVER?!?!


I helped run Annelise's class Valentine's party last Friday with two of my friends whose daughters are also in our same class:

We had the most fantastic actual Valentine's Day Saturday, as well. No flowers. No kitschy junk. Just true love reflected in our family. :-)
*JB went out to Starbucks first thing to bring us all our faves: bacon & gouda breakfast sandwiches for the kids & my 7-pump no-water chai latte for me! It might sound silly, but this speaks love so very deeply to me!!! Way more than any card or expensive-&-soon-to-die flowers.
*We then all went over to our church for our 2nd annual Run 4 The Children! (Dedicated post coming...) It was BEYOND WONDERFUL to have JB there with us this year!!!!! Truly a family affair!
*That afternoon, Will had a basketball game - and not only did his team WIN, but he scored 5 points!!! 2 baskets, as well as sinking his first free throw of the season during a game.
*We tried a new pizza place for dinner all together and got beloved bubble tea for dessert (both of my fave teas on the same day = my ultra fave celebration!!!) before dropping the kids off at our gymnastics gym for Open Gym play night while JB & I went out to the movies and saw The Imitation Game. (So glad I got to see it before the Oscars!)

I doubt it could have been a more perfect day: Sbux, exciting family outdoor fest, kid's sporting event, going out to eat, double teas, and date night!!! Even the weather was amazing with sunny high 70's. My ideal. :-)

What does your ideal celebration day look like?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sweet Paris

Sheer girl-morning bliss: savoring sips of Nutella hot chocolate & an apple cinnamon crème brûlée crêpe! (Mayan hot chocolate & a prosciutto crêpe for me.)
Fun way to celebrate my AHA CPR & First Aid recertification Saturday morning! Annelise came along with me, b/c it was a short test, and we knew we could then enjoy Sweet Paris Crêperie and browse around. She's also decided she loves Kendra Scott. :-P

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Rockets Rowdies

Friday was our youth basketball league night at the Houston Rockets NBA game. The kids got their faces painted and made signs:

Our seats were right with the Red Rowdies - the craziest, loudest cheering section EVER = perfect placement for us! :-D (You have to *audition* to be a Rowdy and attend at least 40 of the 48 homes games!)

The Rockets won - woohoo! - and afterwards, we each got to go down on the actual court and shoot a free throw!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Holocaust Survivor

On Thursday, a friend & I visited Holocaust Museum Houston together. We were both German students in college (not together, though) and we both share a passion for museums & culture. We were honored to meet with a Holocaust survivor at the museum and hear his story firsthand - of tragedy, of fear, of survival, and finally of hard work leading to amazing success in life. Such a powerful visit with a man who not only overcame, but then actually built this museum as a "House of Love" to stand against hate. I've been to Bergen-Belsen & Dachau concentration camps and retraced the steps of Schindler's Jews in Krakow, Poland...but nothing is as powerful & meaningful as hearing the firsthand story of a survivor!


Learn more about Bill Morgan here.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Passport Applications

The kids have officially applied for their very first passports!


Of course, this thrills me to pieces!!! Now, let's all pray for happy reasons for us to use them *OFTEN* over the next 5 years, before they expire. (Mine & JB's are renewed for 10 years, but when you're under 16, you only get 5.) International travel is one of my biggest passions in life. It completely broke my heart, not that mine had expired, but that I had had no reason to renew it until now! Now that we're all good to go (literally ;-)), I want us to GO GO GO, as much as possible!!! Sharing the memories and cultural experiences with our family = priceless. Best gift EVER.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Super Bowl 2015

I'm thankful that we have a fun set of friends who invite us to their Super Bowl party here every year. They go ALL OUT with the food, (lasagna cups, people!!! I'm now obsessed!!! cannot get enough!!!) and we actually *WATCH* the game! (I wouldn't go to a Super Bowl party with people who didn't want to actually watch it! :-P) Our whole family has such a good time...even when the team we're rooting for (both of the last two years!) loses.

Football fam!

Maybe 1/8th of the food? (But oooo, those lasagna cups on the left! ;-))

Game break disco pose! (It looks like it was just us, but there were ~20 other people there, too. I guess there are those who flock to camera fun...and those who scatter :-P :-D)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Basketball Midseason Report

We're halfway through Will's first basketball season. His team is actually two teams in one: A team and B team. Will's on B team, which we totally expected - he's the only kid who had never played organized basketball before... But our B team is actually decimating our A team, stats-wise. These games are...interesting: the A teams play each other for 6 minutes, then the B's play each other 6 minutes, then A does 3 min, B does 3 min, B does 3 more min, and finally A finishes the last 3 min. It's a good way to guarantee everyone gets equal playing time, but it really does feel like every team is two separate mini teams. We're focusing on Will's B team victories. ;-) This Saturday, he won another overall Most Steals certificate, and the BEST: he scored TWO BASKETS IN 5 SECONDS!!!