Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Why I LOVE July

As much as I love football season and Christmas and all of the other great things that go on throughout the year...July is my FAVORITE month.  Even if it is hotter than blue blazes.  Why?  Because I have no school obligations and we have the kids.  I get to play with my favorite people and not worry about responsibility...what's not to love??

This year, July started out with our very first family road trip.  I put together fun binders for the kids with maps, car activities, journal pages, etc.  We also gave them a small gift (cds, disposable cameras, doodle books, etc.) each day we were on the road.  The first day we drove to Dallas to spend some time with my parents.  We were supposed to spend the majority of our time in the pool, but the weather decided that we would cuddle up on the couch and watch a movie instead.  The next day, we drove to Little Rock, Arkansas, stopping in Texarkana for lunch and to be in two states at the same time.  Once we reached Little Rock, it was made very clear that Monday was NOT the day to be there... EVERYTHING was closed!  We literally walked several miles, practically in circles, to find somewhere to eat dinner.  The next day, we got up early and headed to Memphis.  I gave the kids a tour of Rhodes, my alma mater, and then we headed off to Huey's for some of the best burgers in the country.  My BFF, Lauren, met us there.  Because of the extreme heat (and lack of free passes) we decided to forgo the zoo and spent the afternoon with Lauren and Will in their neighbor's pool.  Dinner was Corky's, the best "wet-rub" bbq in the country.  The next morning, we met my friend (aka my brother) Sammy and his lovely wife for breakfast at The Blue Plate, my favorite breakfast place.  Although it seems all we did was eat our way through Memphis, there were many restaurants I was sad to have missed...not enough hours in the day!  From Memphis, we drove to Biloxi...in the rain.  Biloxi was the only place we stayed for more than 24 hours, and we stayed at the Beau Rivage.  It was a blast!  We played in the arcade, went to the beach, lounged by the pool, watched fireworks over the ocean, and spent the spending money Grandma and Papa had sent.  From Biloxi, we headed home...in even heavier rain!  We took a driving tour of New Orleans, stopped in Baton Rouge for lunch and a quick trip past the LSU stadium, spent the night in Beaumont, and ate ice cream at the Blue Bell Creamery.  It was a GREAT trip! <3 p="p">
Texarkana, it's twice as nice!  But, you can clearly see which side we prefer!
Riding the trolley around town in Little Rock.
"Roll, roll, roll, roll, Lynx Cats roll on..."
The kids finally got to see Rhodes,  although they now refer to it as "Hogwarts."
I was lucky enough to spend one afternoon poolside with my bestie and future son-in-law.
He turned two the weekend after we were there...I hadn't seen him since he was four weeks.
The kids LOVED Biloxi!  They thought staying at a casino was super cool!
Kennedy playing at the beach in Biloxi.
Harrison playing at the beach in Biloxi. 
We enjoyed a luxurious steak dinner one evening at B.R. Prime at Beau Rivage.
Nothing beats a good old fashioned lunch counter at a 24 hour diner!
Stopping in Brenham for a $1 scoop of ice cream is a must.

The kids spend one long weekend with their mom and stepdad during our month.  This year, we went to Vegas during that weekend to celebrate my 30th birthday (and Scott's birthday too, since it was the week before our vacation...).  We invited a bunch of people who couldn't make it, but I was super excited that my friend S-K and her boyfriend Phil were able to join us.  We had a great time!  Our friends Steve and Julie took us to see the Jabbawockeez....what an amazing show!  We also made it to downtown Las Vegas for the first time ever.  It was super fun!  I think next time we go we might even stay there!  And, as always, we watched the Bellagio fountains.  <3 p="p">
Birthday dinner at The Golden Nugget
S-K and Me at the Golden Nugget
What a great show!
Bellagio Fountains - So Beautiful!

When we got back from Vegas, we had about a week to spend with the kids before they headed off to camp.  I worked a bit so that Scott could spend some quality "Daddy time" with the kids, and I took them to the Splash Pad with my teacher friends and their kids.  After a whirlwind few weeks, it was nice to finally slow down a little bit...but we still had tons of fun!

Bowling Fun with Daddy
The Splash Pad Crew

This year, the kids went to camp at the same time.  We hated having a week without either one, but timing-wise it just made the most sense.  We headed down to Kerrville to drop Kennedy off at Texas Lion's Diabetes Camp.  It is such an amazing place!  We know she is in excellent hands from the moment we drop her off to the moment we pick her up.  An hour or so past Kerrville, then eight miles down a dirt road, we arrive at Camp Eagle to drop off Harrison.  It is a Christian-based adventure camp where he spends the week on the lake, mountain biking, rock climbing, and worshipping God.  Both camps update their Facebook pages and websites with pictures and information, so we get to watch as the kids have the time of their lives! (I don't know how my parents managed without updates while I was at camp...)  Kennedy's closing ceremonies were Friday night, and she received the "Distinguished Camper Award".  Harrison's closing ceremonies were Saturday morning, and he received the "David: Man After God's Own Heart Award".  I'm so proud of both of my campers and am glad they have each found a camp that they love.

The hardest part about them being away at camp is they're gone the last week we have them.  Once they returned home, we did LOADS of laundry, went to church, and then it was back to the usual every other weekend routine...and back to work for me.  Can't wait until next July! <3 p="p">
Aren't these just the cutest faces you've ever seen?!?
I am SO blessed. <3 td="td">

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Summer Reading Fun

This summer, our family finally ventured over to the Leander Public Library and got library cards.  The kids and I also joined their summer reading program.  Kennedy logs her time in 20 minute intervals, and gets a prize every 2 hours.  After receiving all 5 prizes, she gets a raffle ticket for every hour read for a new set of "kid" prizes.  Harrison logs his time in 1 hour intervals, and gets a raffle ticket for every hour read for a variety of "teen" prizes.  I, too, am earning raffle tickets for the "adult" prizes, but my tickets are based on the number of books read instead of the amount of time spent reading.  So, I thought I would share our progress with you!

Book 1: She, Myself, and I by Whitney Gaskell

LOVED IT!  And, it's set in Austin...which was a unexpected surprise.

Here's a description of the book from Amazon.com:
The Cassel sisters have little in common besides a pair of wacky parents and a maddening knack for eluding happily-ever-after endings. But when their lives require damage control, only a dose of sisterhood will do.

Paige, the oldest, is a go-getter divorce attorney who’s reeling from her own disastrously failed marriage–and the fact that her ex has suddenly come roaring out of the closet with a cute boyfriend in tow. Middle sister Sophie is having trouble adjusting to life as a wife and expectant mom. With her doubts on the rise along with her weight, she’s ogling every available baked good–and every available man–that crosses her path. And up-and-coming medical student Mickey has a racy new plan for her future that’s sure to shock her entire family. It includes a dangerously handsome, decidedly married chef…private cooking lessons…and spicy lingerie. 

To top it all off, the parents who dragged them through the Divorce from Hell years ago are acting like teenagers in love…with each other! One by one, Paige, Sophie, and Mickey are about to learn just how good it is to have a sisterly shoulder–or two–to lean on.

Book 2: Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin

WOW!  I was hooked from the first chapter!  Was so glad that the NBA Finals were on so I had an excuse to read it in two sittings...I could not put it down!

Here's a description of the book from Amazon.com:
Rachel White is the consummate good girl. A hard-working attorney at a large Manhattan law firm and a diligent maid of honor to her charmed best friend Darcy, Rachel has always played by all the rules. Since grade school, she has watched Darcy shine, quietly accepting the sidekick role in their lopsided friendship.

But that suddenly changes the night of her thirtieth birthday when Rachel finally confesses her feelings to Darcy's fiance, and is both horrified and thrilled to discover that he feels the same way. As the wedding date draws near, events spiral out of control, and Rachel knows she must make a choice between her heart and conscience. In so doing, she discovers that the lines between right and wrong can be blurry, endings aren't always neat, and sometimes you have to risk everything to be true to yourself.

The smash-hit debut novel for every woman who has ever had a complicated love-hate friendship.

Book 3: Pushing 30 by Whitney Gaskell

This one took me awhile to get into, actually.  I was worried that I wasn't going to have much nice to say about it.  And then it got good....really good.

Here's a description of the book from Amazon.com:
Ellie Winters is dependable and loyal and has a near-phobic aversion to conflict. But as her thirtieth birthday looms ever closer, she starts to feel like she’s lost the instruction manual to her life. She has just broken up with her boring boyfriend, despises her job, and is the last of her high school friends to remain single. Worse, her dysfunctional family is driving her nuts, and she’s somehow become enslaved to her demanding pet pug Sally, who she suspects is the reincarnation of Pol Pot.

One night, after a botched attempt to color her hair at home, Ellie rushes to the drugstore for emergency bleach, Sally in tow. Sally is accosted by a smitten canine admirer . . . but it’s the dog’s owner who captures Ellie’s attention. Television news anchor Ted Langston is witty, intriguing, and sexy. The only catch? He’s twice her age--and the only man on the planet who isn’t interested in dating a younger woman. And no one, from Ellie’s best friends to Ted’s ex-wife, wants to see them get together.

Book 4: 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James

I had to see what all the hype was about!  It was like a car wreck - awful, but you couldn't take your eyes off it.  The writing was less than perfect, the sex scenes were a little too over the top for me, and the ending left me unsatisfied.  Guess now I'll have to finish the series... ;-)

Here's a description of the book from Amazon.com (like y'all need it...ha!):
When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.

Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.

Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.

This book is intended for mature audiences. (My absolute favorite part of the description!!!)

Book 5: The Reading Group by Elizabeth Noble

I really liked this one!  Now, I want to form a reading group of my own just like theirs (but maybe without all of the drama in their lives) and I want to read the 10 books they "read," too.

Here's a description of the book from Amazon.com:

The Reading Group follows the trials and tribulations of a group of women who meet regularly to read and discuss books.Over the course of a year, each of these women become intertwined, both in the books they read and within each other's lives.

Inspired by a shared desire for conversation, a good book and a glass of wine-Clare, Harriet, Nicole, Polly, and Susan undergo startling revelations and transformations despite their differences in background, age and respective dilemmas.

What starts as a reading group gradually evolves into a forum where the women may express their views through the books they read and grow to become increasingly more open as the bonds of friendship cement.

In The Reading Group, Noble reveals the many complicated paths in life we all face as well as the power and importance of friendship.

Book 6: Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

I fell in love with the characters immediately...it was (almost too) easy (for me) to relate to the infertile mother and the daughter she adopted.  It is a beautiful book of heartbreak, self-discovery, and the importance of family.

Here's a description of the book from Amazon.com:

Somer’s life is everything she imagined it would be—she’s newly married and has started her career as a physician in San Francisco—until she makes the devastating discovery she never will be able to have children.

The same year in India, a poor mother makes the heartbreaking choice to save her newborn daughter’s life by giving her away. It is a decision that will haunt Kavita for the rest of her life, and cause a ripple effect that travels across the world and back again.
Asha, adopted out of a Mumbai orphanage, is the child that binds the destinies of these two women. We follow both families, invisibly connected until Asha’s journey of self-discovery leads her back to India.

Compulsively readable and deeply touching, Secret Daughter is a story of the unforeseen ways in which our choices and families affect our lives, and the indelible power of love in all its many forms.

Book 7: 50 Shades Darker by E.L. James

I enjoyed this one much better than the first.  Once you start to understand Christian's story, he manages to find his way into your heart...much like he did Ana's.  The ending would have been perfect, except she doesn't stop where you want her to...she adds just enough more to guarantee that you will read book three.

Here's a description of the book from Amazon.com:
Daunted by the singular tastes and dark secrets of the beautiful, tormented young entrepreneur Christian Grey, Anastasia Steele has broken off their relationship to start a new career with a Seattle publishing house.

But desire for Christian still dominates her every waking thought, and when he proposes a new arrangement, Anastasia cannot resist. They rekindle their searing sensual affair, and Anastasia learns more about the harrowing past of her damaged, driven and demanding Fifty Shades.

While Christian wrestles with his inner demons, Anastasia must confront the anger and envy of the women who came before her, and make the most important decision of her life.

This book is intended for mature audiences.  (again, my favorite part...like we need the disclaimer!)

Book 8: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

I promised Maddie I would read her summer reading assignment with her.  I'm grateful she didn't pick Tale of Two Cities (sorry, Dickens, I'm not really a fan!), although I would have enjoyed re-reading The Princess Bride (she thought the first page was boring).  It took me the entire summer to read.  I probably would have enjoyed it more if I had read it for pleasure instead of analyzing it as if I were a student...but it was still an extremely powerful piece of literature.

Here's a description of the book from Amazon.com:
The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it—from garden seeds to Scripture—is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.

So, the kids read a little this summer, but gave up on documenting it for the library.  I put six tickets in the Amazon.com gift card raffle and two tickets in the Starbucks gift card raffle.  I will let y'all know if I win...but I'm not holding my breath. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer Slim Down - The Recipes

So, two weeks into this whole healthy eating thing and I am pretty much where I was when I started.  A little discouraging, but I am blaming PMS...and am counting on a miracle this week.  My husband, however has dropped quite a bit...I am very proud of him!  Anyway, I thought I would share some of the things we've eaten which were really yummy.  Some of you have probably seen many of these recipes on Pinterest, but I thought it would be nice to provide an easy link to the stuff I've actually tried and enjoyed. :-)

P.S. I am linking to the recipes instead of copying and pasting them, because I am trying to give credit to the originator of the idea.

(I used a pair of tongs instead of toothpicks and "The Greek Gods" instead of "Dannon")

Of course, mine turned out as blobs, not perfectly rounded circles, but they sure tasted yummy!  I used Activia Light Peach and Harvest Cherry.

This was DELICIOUS!  I just need to figure out a way to store ginger root once it's cut ,so it doesn't go bad...

This one is super thick and extremely filling.  It tastes good, though.

I didn't think I would find the cherry juice at the store, but I did!  This one is SOOO yummy, and I got a great night's sleep!

Scott and I love this recipe and eat it frequently.  I totally eyeball the ingredients, so my measurements are totally different than what it says on the recipe.  I also often add flax.

This is FABULOUS...and super quick and easy.  I served it over Veetee Thai Lime and Herb Rice.

I'm not quite sure this is the recipe I used, but it's close enough.  We served the shrimp mixture over lettuce.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Summer Slim Down

My weight has been pretty consistent for the past several years, fluctuating only a few pounds up or down from my “ideal weight.”  So, I was devastated when I got on the scale this morning to realize that I was now TEN POUNDS over that weight.  YUCK! No wonder my clothes don’t look good…they don’t fit right!  So, for the next month (June 11 to July 11), I am committing myself to trying to fix that problem.

Here’s how I plan on doing it:

I have decided to eliminate three foods (or food categories) from each of the letters in the word “bad” during the week.  (I can still eat/drink them in moderation on the weekends.)
Here’s what I came up with for my B.A.D. foods: 
American cheese*
Deli meats
*well, pretty much all sliced/shredded cheese, but I needed another “A”

In addition, I have also committed to the following dietary restrictions:
  •  No coffee and no soda….tea and water only!  (maybe some protein shakes)
  • Avoid fast food…try to eat only packed lunches or “real” restaurants.  If eating at a fast food restaurant is unavoidable, find a salad…nothing fried! 
Scott and I are also going to begin walking around the neighborhood each night, and on days when I don’t have inservice, I also plan on getting up and going for a run/jog.

So, here goes…hope it helps!