Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Foodie Penpal: May goodies

 "A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart
who looks at her watch." 
-- James Beard

May marked month two of my participation in Foodie Penpals - it's cool. This is the club where we get paired up randomly with someone to whom we send a package of goodies, and another someone to receive goodies. Everyone wins.

May's Foodie Penpals package came from Kristen, whose blog is Mind Your Bees and Trees. She and her hubby are in San Antonio on temporary assignment after four years of living in Okinawa, Japan. Soon they'll be off to Mississippi.

She knew I like savory stuff, so I was delighted to open the package and find ... 
  • Pop chips - Thai Sweet Chili
  • Chamomile Barbeque almonds with chipotle and ranch from Sahale Snacks
  • Gigli pasta - tricolore
  • Artichoke pesto, Florence style from Cucina & Amore
  • Coconut curry pretzel pearls from Pretzel Pete

Am looking forward to having a nosh, likely accompanied by a Sauvignon Blanc, likely on the rooftop, and possibly while getting trounced Greg in a game of gin rummy!

fpplogo Foodie Penpals
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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Holding a torch ... for the 2012 Olympics

Olympic countdown, Trafalgar Sq.
A rather large event is coming up in the UK called the London 2012 Olympic games. Most people here are pretty excited about it, and this island which size-wise fits twice inside of Texas will be groaning beyond capacity with the demands of millions of visitors from around the world.

Thanks to my Mom, my sister and I are HUGE fans of the Olympics. We grew up eagerly following the sports, the drama, the back stories. So, this week, when we found out that the official Olympic Countdown Clock was live in Trafalgar Square, let's just say that NOTHING was stopping me from hot-footing it over there. I was even wearing my London 2012 t-shirt from Greg.  

While the photo opp was as fleeting as the seconds ticking away above my head, I measure it in my heart as a lasting memory going forward for my family life and upbringing. Mom, Dad and Melissa, this one's for you!  

P.S., the torch relay stories are really interesting too. The relay is bringing the Olympics within one hour of 95% of the UK population. How cool is that? 

P.P.S. here is a pic from one of the torch relay parades. Corey, this one's for you!


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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Reconnecting with old friends = therapy + fun!

"Where there are friends, there is wealth."   (Titus Maccius Plautus)

In that case, I'm very rich indeed!  

Jayne's on the left, and Chris is on the right
These are the Coes. I met them eight years ago, and we cemented our friendship after only a few days. We've deepened it greatly since then, despite the ocean and 5,000 miles separating us. They live west of London. I live in Houston. But true friendship knows no boundaries. 

I've visited them, they've visited me, I adore their awesome kids, we know each others' pets, and we have had many, many great adventures together. They don't judge my goofiness, they know all my moods, and we can discuss the most intensely personal things with empathy and without judgement. 

I was SO excited to introduce Greg to them. My heart sang when he unhesitatingly took to them, and when they reciprocated immediately with true friendship.

Chris and Greg with London Eye in the background
Most significant to me is that, without Jayne and Chris, I would not have made it through three of the absolutely most stressful events in my entire life to date. They were there for me, in every sense of the word. There are not sufficient words in any language to begin describing the extent of my gratitude to them. 

Fortunately, we happen to be in England this week, and I couldn't imagine a better time to be able to reconnect with my dear friends (thank you Greg for letting me tag along over the pond!). I just hope that we can talk them into their next visit to Texas so we can begin to repay their kindness. 

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

A little kitchen witchery

It's become a rarity to hear about something 'standing up the test of time.' Lots of things Do though. Like true love. Or a classic coq au vin. Or a Mercedes Benz.

But baking soda and baking powder - well, not so much. 

Over time, they stop working. They lose their chemical properties like vitamins or medicines. Test them like this:

For baking powder:
Put a few tablespoons of warm water in a bowl. Add a teaspoon of baking powder. It should fizz and bubble - the more bubbles, the better. 

For baking soda:
Instead of water, use white vinegar. The baking soda should bubble up and foam. 

Easy, no?

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Everyone loves a parade, but art cars are special

Peeling out: Mayor Parker is in the blue shirt
As we say ad nauseam, Houston is a vastly underrated city. This tends to be perpetuated by national media, and for some odd reason our citizens don't seem to provide a sufficiently vocal or eloquent riposte to such unfounded parries. 

On the other hand, we somehow can whip out some in-yo-face rebuttals of the VISUAL sort. Like the Art Car Parade

It's the largest of its kind, the only one of its kind, and, well, just plain WEIRD. 

We love it, we love Houston for it, and we are proud that it makes its serpentine path through our neighborhood each May.

Need I say more?

Big mouth!
This year, the grand parade celebrated its 25th anniversary. It's about human-powered and motorized vehicles with whimsical, artistic, political, educational and even racy themes. It's about all forms of expression and connection.

This man was a fit, smiling senior
One of the original art cars!
The Orange Show float (curator of the parade)
A sock monkey car is a must
For us, the fun of it was being able to hang out with friends, and host three friends who have never seen the Art Car parade. They LOVED it. So did the other 300,000 spectators and like 20,000 dogs. As they say, everyone loves a parade. We're happy to host and we are a one-block walk from one of the best vantage points!

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Bowing to your Sensei

The phrase 'bow to your sensei' conjures up different pictures for all of us. 

For some, it's Karate Kid. For others, it's Rex in Napoleon Dynamite. 

For me, today it meant acknowledging defeat by yoga. That was one TOUGH session. Boot camp tough. Jello-leggy-how-am-I-going-to-get-down-these-stairs-and-drive-home tough. 

But I made it to the bitter end. 

And tomorrow I'm promising myself a slightly more relaxing workout. 

I've been here before, mentally and physically. Let's see if 'pain amnesia' kicks in by tomorrow morning!

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Absolut fun!

I've said it before and I will keep saying it, Houston is an amazing and happening place. This past weekend Cinco de Mayo celebrations numbered in the hundreds. Then yesterday (Seis de Mayo), Greg and I met up with friends to watch a friendly mixology competition sponsored by Absolut Vodka at Celtic Gardens in Midtown (we even walked over - how cool is that?!). 

Instant Gratification Photo
We were impressed by both how well this event was run and with the professionally prepared and briefed staff. As for the contest, two bars up on a stage allowed the competition to move along swiftly and offered excellent and highly visible real estate for branding (okay, the marketeer in me). An MC offered the play-by-play as the bartenders created their masterpieces. Three judges watched it all unfolding from their prime seating up on the stage. Separately, a DJ kept things lively for the huge crowd. 

Armed with tablet computers, "Brand Ambassadors" were collecting attendee info, taking pics and then sending them via e-mail instantly. They also mingled through the crowd and encouraged people to visit the photo booth just for fun. 

"You must pay the rent!"
Because we had RSVP'd early, we were able to secure purple VIP wrist-bands for bonus benefits that included yummy food. On the menu: Two flavors of quesadillas, crab cakes, fried calamari, bruschetta, a large mix of cheese and crackers and amazing fresh fruit including strawberries, pineapple, and grapes. 

All of this at our very favorite price...$ZERO! 'Tis good to be living and loving in Houston, TX.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Overnight Oatmeal

How many times have you heard, 'Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!' (with you sometimes being on the receiving end of a wagging, admonishing finger). With all due respect to the late Ronald Reagan, I'd helpfully add, 'I'm from breakfast rescue and I'm here to help.'
Overnight oatmeal - twice as fun to eat!
Make this 'no excuses' treat in seconds the night before, and it's ready when you are in the morning. For each serving, mix in a container:
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup yogurt (plain, vanilla, vanilla coconut or Greek with honey are best)
  • 1/3 cup rolled or steel cut oats
  • About 2 Tbsp of raisins or currants
  • Generous pinch of cinnamon
  • Small pinch of nutmeg
Cover, refrigerate overnight. Stir, top with (optional) nuts and ground flaxseed, and enjoy it right out of the fridge or heated to lukewarm in the microwave.

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