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Ten On Tuesday

30 Mar

It’s time for ToT, my sister-in-law’s fun blog feature! I’m typing this on my phone, so please forgive any typos… Also, I’m typing this at 5:45am, because I can’t sleep. Don’t expect much, haha.

1. What television character do you identify with?

I’m not much of a tv watcher (my dvr records Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and Masterpiece… Nerd alert!). So I will have to stretch it and say Eliza Bennett fom Pride and Prejudice, the BBC version. That originated on tv, so it counts. If you haven’t watched it, you just come right over to my house and we can watch all 6 hours together. Everyone could relate to this story – amazing for something written 200 years ago!

2. Describe your morning routine.

Wake up later than I should. Check and reply to email etc. from my phone, maybe read a few websites. Get up, brush teeth, hair, take vitamin, and lately: dose of allergy medicine. Get dressed. Grab breakfast and lunch. I usually eat breakfast at my desk. Wow, that was boring. Almost put me back to sleep!

3. How do you do lunch? Bring from home or dine out? Same thing every day or mix it up?

I usually bring a weight watchers smart one. Many weeks I have at least one luncheon or event with lunch served. I also work with an awesome group of girls, and every so often we will go to lunch together.

4. What is one moment that, although seemingly trivial at the time, changed your life?

Well, when I signed up to do the Crawl For Cancer, it didn’t seem trivial; it was a ton of work! But I didn’t realize that planning that huge event would help me find my dream job in the career path I’ve always hoped to be on. Yay!

5. Name your top three beauty products.

– concealer – hmm am I supposed to know the brands? It’s a stick that you twist and it goes onto an applicator sponge. Perfect for covering up the puffy bags under my eyes from allergies.
– perfume – I don’t wear much make up, but I wear perfume every day. Quelles-ques Fluers, Marc Jacobs, and Armani.  Not all at the same time.
– moisturizer – my mother looks at least 10 years younger than her true age, and her secret is moisturizing every day. Every day. I’m trying to emulate her, and it’s hard. My lovely friend Karen is an aesthitician in L.A. and I buy the skin-care she sells . It’s wonderful!

6. What do you do when you’re alone in the car?

Listen to NPR or music. Not much, I guess. I talk to myself sometimes. That shouldn’t surprise anyone who is familiar with my chattiness!

7. What is the ideal city for you to live in? If you can, take this survey (< that’s a link) and tell us the results. Do you agree with them?

Well, my top three were Orlando, West Palm Beach, and Houston.  Florida has 12.2 unemployment right now, so I’m thinking I’m in the right place!  Other intriguing suggestions were Augusta, GA, Charleston, SC and Memphis, TN…  Guess the survey took my aversion to snow seriously.

8. Are you waiting for something?

My allergies to be over. Ugh.

9. What was the last shocking news you heard?

I was going to say Jessie James cheating, but really, not too much of a shock for celebrities to act like idiots.

10. What are three things you wouldn’t do for a million dollars?

Cheat on my boyfriend, touch a live cockroach, or get naked in public.

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what the heck is in the air?

29 Mar

I am so sick of being sick!  The weather is GORGEOUS, and I am sick!  Swollen head, sore throat, sinus headache, yucky, cruddy, crawled into bed right after dinner, SICK.  Allergic to Houston sick.  And I’m not the only one.  The whole town is suffering.

And even though I am trying my little heart out to blog, and tweet, and gowalla, and professionally plan events, and voluntarily plan events, and maybe talk golf lessons(!), and joining the Junior League – it is nearly impossible to get anything accomplished when I feel this bad.  Meh.

So that’s my post for the day.  The end.  zzzzzzzzzzz

Ten On Tuesday

23 Mar

It’s time for my lovely and fruitful sister-in-law Chelsea’s blog feature: Ten On Tuesday.  If you want to play along, just repost the questions to your blog, or answer in the comments!

1. When you were a senior in high school, what career did you think you’d choose? Did you? Why or why not?

I thought I would be a lawyer, because I am best at reading and writing, and I wanted to be rich.  I am not a lawyer, because I didn’t really excel at being a student.  I think I would be a much better “adult” student, but now I know actual lawyers who warn against going into debt and actually becoming a lawyer.  Perhaps a conniving maneuver to limit the competition?  Hmm.

2. What one thing about the “real world” did you find most surprising once you were on your own?

I’m surprised that I don’t feel any different than I when I was younger, and yet am still expected to be a responsible adult, who could potentially be someone’s parent one day.  Yikes!

3. Name 3 things you think your closest friends DON’T like about you.

– I am a know-it-all

– I am bossy

– I am chronically forgetful, to the point of thoughtlessness

4. In order to sleep, do you need background noise or absolute quiet?

I prefer background noise, but don’t NEED it.  Luckily, a train lives behind my house, so I get all the background noise I could ask for!

5. Why do you choose to reside in your current city? Yes, you have a choice

I chose to come here to be close to (most) of my family, and to have better prospects for a job.  What do you know, that worked out, and I now have the best job ever.

6. Are you close to your parents?

Yes.  We are Facebook friends, even.

7. What is your favorite fiction book? Poem? Blog?

Pride And Prejudice (I was an English major. So?)  Barbara, by Jacques Prevert. Instapundit.

8. Do you enjoy cooking or is it a chore?

Love it.  Cleaning up is a chore.  (And maybe eating what I make, too…Andrew is kind, though.)

9. Be honest. What one thing would (the majority of) your blog readers be shocked to find out about you?

People read my blog?!

10. If you were given your own national holiday, what would you require people to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner on the Day of You? Would there be a parade? Greeting cards?

Being the libertarian that I am, there would be no mandatory meals.  That said, truffled macaroni and cheese would be the traditional way to celebrate, like black-eyed peas at New Year’s.  Costumes and gift giving would be encouraged as well!

kitchen, check.

22 Mar

Ahhh………  I am laying on my couch as I type this, enjoying the wonderful feeling one gets when one has hunted down, captured, and brought home the perfect and most-needed piece of furniture.

Andrew and I moved into the new house the first weekend of January.  We painted our bedroom, and moved about half of our stuff over.  And, boy, do we have a ton of stuff.  In fact, since both of us had at least another month on our previous leases, we ended up leaving a lot of furniture and other junk at our old places for a few weeks.  We finally got everything moved into the new house throughout February, and we realized that we didn’t have enough furniture.   We just kept all this stuff in boxes and then stacked it up in random corners.  (Well, the boxes did create some additional seating for houseguests, haha.)

We weren’t really ready to spend a lot money on new furniture.  We both started scouring Craigslist for shelves, cabinets, and a buffet for the kitchen, as well as lurking around the interesting pools of humanity known as Goodwill and Salvation Army.  Other than morphing us into total misanthropes, and providing compelling evidence for birth control, we learned what hard work it is to find decent furniture.

So, finally, we have found it.  THE buffet.  The one that we had been looking for all this time.  Andrew spotted it last week, and when we went together on Saturday, we both loved it.  Andrew stood next to it to scare off any competition, while I ran to the back to find a salesperson.  It’s from the Salvation Army, so there was a discount since it was there for more than 30 days.  How had it avoided capture for a full month?  We couldn’t allow anyone else to take advantage of this clear oversight!

I love it so much.  I couldn’t wait to get it home so I could unpack all the kitchen boxes and fill it up with all the junk!  Here’s the before and after pictures:

My new buffet - still at the Salvation Army

And, in my kitchen. YAY!

What an adventure.  To be fair, there was some pretty neat stuff every so often.  Finding a good piece made it worth all the hours meandering through particleboard mazes.  For example, I saw these chairs that wouldn’t really fit in my house, but that I love and make me wish I had one room I could make totally mid-century modern:

these were only $40 each!

Our other project in the kitchen was to build a shelf above the stove for the microwave.  Here’s the before:

nice, 40s era cabinets with random empty space above stove

And after:

lovely, no? Andrew got skillz.

Andrew just bought some brackets, braces, whatever they are called, and some wood, painted it up, lost a ruler behind the stove, and presto!  A beautiful microwave/cookbook shelf.  That Andrew, he’s pretty handy.

So, we’ve got the kitchen done, except to hang a few pictures.  Now on to the other 5 rooms!  And front yard.  And back yard.

Ten On Tuesday

17 Nov

I am typing this up on my phone, so it will be short, to the point, and chock-full of typos!

1. What are some of your family traditions?
We always used to cut down a Christmas tree on the Friday after Thanksgiving, then ate lunch with everyone. Some of my happiest memories about Christmas begin with a story about doing that!
I think we are ripe for some new traditions…

2. Do you know how to change a flat tire?
Do I know how a tire is changed? Yes. There is a jack involved. You remove 5 lug nuts, take off the flat, pray that the spare isn’t flat, and then screw the new tire on. Do I change tires? No.

3. Do you subscribe to any magazines? What are your favorites?
Just Real Simple, but Glamour shows up at the house for some reason. I donate it every month to the Magazine Monday Program at work, which provides reading material for patients waiting (for many, many hours sometimes!) at the clinics at Ben Taub and other facilities.

4. What are your top three favorite office supply items?
I think planners should count – that would definitely be both my most needed and my favorite to shop for! Since I’m in charge of the bulletin board at work, I also get to shop for scrapbooking supplies! I have the BEST JOB EVER.

5. Are you a good public speaker?
Well, I’m not scared to speak in public. It’s hit or miss: sometimes I think I’ve done pretty well, other times I know I didn’t. (I thought my speech at my brother’s wedding was pretty good until I started crying, a rehearsal dinner speech for my friend Jenny bombed.)

6. How do you feel about acronyms?
There are some great ones: WTF is a nice way to express dismay. I work for the Harris County Hospital District Foundation, so the acronym HCHDF is my friend.

7. What’s the most creative things you’ve ever done? (Bloggers, feel free to include pictures!)
That is hard, because I love getting creative and I have a poor memory. So the most creative thing I did this month: a storyboard recounting Mayor Bob Lanier’s influence on the creation of HCHD (see above). I’ll try to add a picture, if I can! It involved researching the county archives, old newspapers, and lots of paper cutting!

8. I’d rather jam a pen in my eye than…
– be required to do math problems
– shop all day in a mall at Christmas
– fold and put away laundry
– share the same room with a cockroach, live or dead

9. What company has the best advertising?
the fun theory from vw

The piano stairs! I posted on this previously, but it’s so so good!

10. When is your birthday?
August 27th, I am the typical Virgo!

I shopped the Nutcracker Market, and made it out alive.

16 Nov

I’m moving into a new house next year, and I’ve been trying to save money for travel next year anyway, so I can’t spend a ton of money for the holidays.  I’ve mentioned this before: I LOVE picking out Christmas presents.  I know plenty of women like me; there’s a thrill when you find the perfect gift, especially if you don’t have to spend a lot of money on it.  I love wrapping something up that I know will make someone happy, especially if it took some amount of cleverness or insight on my part.

Of course buying something expensive (like a flatscreen tv or a Playstation) is guaranteed to make someone happy, and so that doesn’t count.  An extravagant present can’t replace the warm satisfaction of thinking about, seeking out, and getting a good deal on the right gift.  This year, I will be buying presents for my parents, my sister (who I drew in the sibling/significant other gift exchange), my boyfriend, the white elephant and ornament exchange at work, and then a few small things for my friends.  I had one of those moments this weekend when I stumbled across a present I know my friend will love.

My mother and I attended the Nutcracker Market at Reliant Stadium.  Normally, my mother and I are the world’s least enthusiastic leisure shoppers, preferring to employ the “surgical strike” technique: go to a particular store to get the one thing needed, locate and purchase said item, and leave.  Spare very few glances for the other merchandise.  The Nutcracker Market is not a surgical strike maneuver.  They discourage you from leaving by charging a fee to park, an entrance fee (which benefits the Houston Ballet, so that’s a plus), and creating a rabbit’s warren of booths from which it can be daunting to extricate oneself.  It is in this labyrinth my mother and I willing consigned ourselves to wander, along with thousands of other women, a few harassed-looking men and children, and several hundred metric tons of cheesy merchandise.

Our friends have a booth every year, so we went to support them and also to burn a few calories walking the miles of aisles.  There are about 5 categories of goods for sale: Christmas decorations, clothing, gourmet foods, decorative arts, and crap covered in animal print and hot pink feathers.  Stressed out sales clerks, often the relatives and children of the proprietor, attempt to keep standing upright amongst the pressing crowds of browsing women.  Exclamations of surprise and declarations of love rise up above the buzzing of women’s voices and the local high school choir’s caroling.

Despite pawing through approximately 1,397 items, I only found the aforementioned item that I liked for a friend (the perfect gift!  I wish I could show you, but she might actually read this!) and a simple gold necklace for myself.  I did see some good craft ideas, but nothing I would want to pay someone else for.  We got caught up in the moment and almost bought some Christmas morning pajamas (a Hurst family tradition), but the woman working the booth took out her stress and frustration on me by snapping at me when I picked up a package.  She apologized right away, but it was so startling that we just put down the things we’d picked out and walked away.  I hope her chosen career path isn’t in sales, as she was struggling pretty early in the game to hold on to her composure.

After about 3 hours, when we’d covered nearly every booth, we left and went straight to Target, where we employed our “surgical strike” technique to end the day of shopping on a satisfying note.  I took a few pictures to try to capture the madness.

Nutcracker Market 2009

The theme this year was something about dogs, hence the giant centerpieces filled with dog bones. Was the theme "Dog Eats Dog Shopping Experience"?

Nutcracker Market 2009

Full body fake tattoos. No, really. Sorry the picture's so unfocused; I kept getting run over by slowly moving, bag laden browsers.

Nutcracker Market 2009

This made me sad - the vendor's accessories featured on the cover of LIFE from 20+ years ago, now featured in a booth at a craft market. Also funny, because his stuff is still pretty eighties-looking. And not in a good way. Notice the howling coyote hammered silver earrings?

Nutcracker Market 2009

Nutcracker Market 2009

Out of control. (For a 3 day market!)

Here are some of the ideas I liked for crafts:

Nutcracker Market 2009

Cute gift for kids of both genders, and super easy. Buy a box with a sliding lid from a craft store, and spray chalkboard paint on it. Decorate and personalize. I thought these were a little plain; I would paint the whole thing and maybe add a more interesting handle...

Nutcracker Market 2009

I loved these - and I think they would be easy and cheap to make. That could be a fun project to actually do with your kids, even down to picking out the fabric. Plus, you can make it a smaller size that can easily be stored in a closet when not in use.

Despite my snarky comments, we DID have fun (especially making fun of people – I tell you, we are just not nice.)  I’m looking forward to my next holiday market, which represents a much different (and more to my tastes) set of goods.  The Winter Holiday Art Market (WHAM) at Winter Street Studios will feature tons of local artists and craftsmen selling homemade, local paintings, sculpture, jewelry, accessories, clothing, and soaps.  I’ll be bartending with Andrew on Saturday night, so I hope everyone reading will come if they can!  It’s free, and there will be lots to see and do (and drink).  Click on the picture below to go to the website.

EviteWHAM

Lawndale sugar skulls

10 Nov

I moved back to Houston one year ago, and while I am constantly learning new things about this city, some of the best experiences are those that I’m finding again after being away for ten years.

In my junior year of high school, I had a wonderful art history teacher.  Not only did she make a potentially boring topic interesting and fun, she organized a trip to Paris for our class.  For the life of me, I can’t remember her name, but I am scouring my high school yearbooks as I type.  I guess it’s a sad commentary on my memory/brain function it cannot recall the name of a teacher with whom I travelled thousands of miles for a week.

Another wonderful gift my teacher gave me was teaching our class about Dia de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday which honors the memories of family and friends who have passed away.  It’s more a time of reflection and paying respects than the ghoulish and gory Halloween, though the two holidays do share a sense of fun.  She taught us to create skulls from papier mache, taught us the history, brought us the candy skulls and other treats made especially for the holiday, and entered us into a revered Houston tradition – the Lawndale Dia de los Muertos exhibition.

altar

Houston is a city with strong ties across the nearby border with Mexico, as well as an international port that brings us into contact with nearly every country in the world.  It’s not surprising that there are plenty of diverse cultural experiences on offer.  One of the best, and long-lived, is the Lawndale Art Center’s Dia de los Muertos celebration.  This year marks the 22nd anniversary, and featured an open call for retablos (small tin boards which traditionally feature homages to the dead), as well as a subsequent retablo exhibition and auction.

Here are some of my favorite retablos this year:

retablo

retablo

retablo

retablo

There are other programs during the two weeks besides the exhibition.  One night I was particularly excited to attend was the Sugar Skull Workshop.  The last day of the exhibit is Family Day, which features candy skull decorating, so they have a workshop the Thursday before to make all the skulls needed.

sugar skull

sugar skull workshop

Interested in making your own sugar skulls?  Here’s how!

Materials Needed: sugar skull molds, 2 rounded teaspoons meringue powder, 2 1/8 cups granulated sugar, paste food coloring, 2+ teaspoons of water, and a small, firm piece of cardboard

1. Mix the meringue powder, sugar, and water in a large bowl.  Best mixed with your hands.  Mix until the texture is that of “moist beach sand”.

2. Pack the moist sugar into the mold.  (Each mold has two pieces, one for the back and one for the front, or “face”.)  Make sure the mold is firmly packed, then scrape the back edge with a straight edge, like a ruler or spatula.  Pack again, and smooth all indentations.

3. Lay the cardboard on the back, then invert the mold to lay flat on a drying platform.  Gently lift the mold away from the sugar skull.  Dry for 8 hours.

4. After the skull is sufficiently dry, gently hold the skull in one hand, while scooping out the back with a spoon, until the skull is about 1/2 inch thick.  (Avoid the neck area, as it is the most fragile part and might break.)  Allow the hollow skulls to dry upside down on the drying platform for an additional 12 hours.

5.  Once the skulls are completely dry, they can be assembled.  Use a simple powdered sugar icing to fuse the two halves of the skull together.  Once the seam has dried, decorate with food coloring, foils, feathers, beads, and whatever you feel like!

Visit Lawndale’s website to check out more of their upcoming exhibits!

Halloween night

1 Nov

We had a blast at the party!  Here’s how I ended up looking:

 

Halloween costume

This may be the closest I come to participating in a marathon

To demonstrate how well Andrew’s costume turned out, here’s a comparison:

 

Andrew and Colin

which one is which? haha

Colin by far had the most creative costume.  Anybody from Houston will be familiar with the local outcry against the Ashby High Rise.  Colin’s costume is the movement’s cartoonish bogeyman building featured on the ubiquitous signs around Southampton and Boulevard Oaks.  So clever!

 

Andrew, Colin, Jamie, and Courtney

notice the photo-bombing activity

I am under threat of death, so I can’t post any of the photos from the dance floor.  Unfortunately, every photo is a potential career killer.  But I can tell you that the dancing was dominated by Tom Cruise from Risky Business, a flapper, My Little Pony, and a broken cheerleader.  Don’t you wish you could see those pictures?

Many thanks to our hosts for their creative party and good times!  I will leave you with this lovely image:

 

Halloween party food

nothing like a broken baby doll to tempt the appetite

 

 

 

 

 

Halloween Shopping

31 Oct

I love Halloween.  I love dressing up, the cheesy puns, the strange things people consider “spooky”, and the attempts at cleverness.  Unfortunately, this year I couldn’t think of a good costume.  Last year I had a great costume, and it made my whole night so much more fun.

Halloween 2008

the bigger the hair, the closer to God

This year, I just never had that moment of inspiration.  We are going to our friends’ Colin and Jamie’s costume party tonight.  This morning Andrew had the inspired idea to dress like Jamie and Colin.  Perfect!  Here are Jamie and Colin:

Colin and Jamie

cute couple, no?

Jamie ran a marathon last year, and they got engaged a month ago, so I will be a marathon runner with a huge diamond ring.  Andrew got a sweet dark wig, and we’ll be drawing on some lovely sideburns.  On our frantic shopping trip this morning, we encountered scenes like this:

Walgreens

believe it or not, next to this shelf is a bunch of Christmas stuff

My mom was on the hunt for us as well, and she found the wig we needed at the 5 and 10 on Rice Blvd.  (I will do a post on that iconic establishment soon.)

Here’s some of the wonderful Halloween items we found:

vampire costume

this costume is FOR SURE from the eighties, maybe the seventies

weg

Not a great photo, but an awesome wig! It looks just like Colin's hair, haha!

I’ll add a photo once we get all dressed and are “in character”!  Oh wait, I almost forgot my favorite accessory…

engagement ring

hellooo, beautiful diamond!

Dollar Store Economics

27 Oct

On Thursday, my coworkers and I will be entertaining the Occupational Therapy Psych patients at Ben Taub General Hospital by throwing them a Halloween party.  My particular duty for the party is to find some constructive, useful, and non-threatening items to wrap up and give as prizes to the winners of our party games.  With my limited budget, I hit the Dollar Tree after work today.

Now I’m sure the picture below is unintentionally humorous rather than pointedly sarcastic.  This particular store markets itself with a faux newspaper in the window:

Dollar Tree Sign

I couldn’t stop laughing…

The creator of this particular ad campaign felt s/he was making a timely reference to the current economy, and attempting to capitalize on the average shopper’s cutting back on spending.  But let’s face it: love him or hate him, our President’s economic policies are the polar opposite of “cutting back on spending”.  [For a vivid example of the current Administration’s economic policies, see this chart at Instapundit.]  The US government is clearly not shopping at the Dollar Tree.

Asinine marketing campaign notwithstanding, I found some great gifts there, including hairbrushes, playing cards, nice lotions, and perfume.  I also found some fantastic clearance photo albums and notecards at the Marshalls in the same shopping center (West Gray at Waugh).  I got some Halloween candy buckets to wrap everything up, and here’s the final product:

OT Psych prizes

now that I look at it, that row of faces is a bit creepy, huh?