Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cake Cake

We celebrated Jeff's birthday this year with a bash that started with pints at Opal Divine's on south Congress, where people ate drank and were merry. Jeff had a blast, and that was the important thing, but everyone else seemed to have fun too and that's bonus. We managed to wrangle a few folks back to our place to have some birthday cake and I've been told that it was delicious. I like it enough that I plan to have a slice every day until it's gone. Thank goodness it was more than half gone by the time the gang left Sunday night.

For Jeff's birthday cake he requested that I bake him a Guinness Cake. I decided to add cocoa to the top, because it looked so pretty on the cupcakes and so very plain without it.I think that I like the flavor of the cupcake better than that of the cake, but the cake is definitely a denser more cake like food. The texture of the cake is a lot nicer I think, although maybe not for a cupcake. I liked the icing recipe with the cake much better than the cupcakes, it has more cream cheese flavor and less just SUGAR flavor.

The cupcake recipe was a bit easier, since it didn't involve melting things together on the stove, but all in all they are both pretty easy and worth it. So far they've both been a big hit, even with folks that don't enjoy Guinness.

The other thing that we did Sunday was throw out our broken down couch. It's been good to us, but the wooden frame was giving out, and seeing as how this is our last bulky trash day before we move it seemed like a good time to get rid of it. Once the beast was outside you could see a place where the wood frame had broken and punched a hole through the back of the couch fabric. It's really a miracle that we never lost someone inside that thing. So it's gone now and today we picked up a temporary replacement. I'll have more on that later.

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Night at the Theater

Last night Jeff and I saw Time Steps, the 11th annual Out of Ink festival from Austin Script Works, at the Blue Theater. It was a series of 8 plays written over a retreat weekend that were to conform to the following 3 rules:

The play must go backward, from beginning to end
Include a sudden dance break that causes a shift in the action
Include three things your mother told you not to do

All in all it was a very enjoyable experience. There was a good mix of drama, suspense, and comedy. Supposedly they were 10 minute plays, but that only accounts for 80 minutes plus a ten minute intermission, and we were there for almost two hours so I think one or two may have run a little longer.

Out of the whole lot there was only one play that I didn't really enjoy. It was okay, and Jeff liked it much more than I did, but I couldn't get into it. I'm not going to name it because I have nothing constructive to say about it and I don't want to put down any of the hard work that went into it. Instead I'll tell you what I felt were some major highlights of the night.

My favorite drama piece of the night was Where the Sidewalk Ends by Meg Haley. It was a really compelling story, and if you need a girl to cry in your next play you should check out Kathleen Fletcher, because that was hard to watch. She was also good when she wasn't crying; I'm just saying that girl can turn on the sorrow.

My favorite character of the night was Bernard, played by David Gallagher in Bernard Henry's Magic Tricks by Aimee Gonzalez. He was funny and charming and so much fun to cheer on. He reminded us a lot of the character Andrew from the Buffy tv series. Kind of a goofy innocence about him that ends up causing quite a bit of trouble, but despite it all you still like him and are routing for him.

My favorite dance of the night was done by Kelli Bland in Dancing Counts by Susan McMath Platt. I've never in my life seen someone in a cow suit perform such a great dance routine. Nicole Marosis as Aunt Charlotte provided a great backdrop and counter point to the wild cow dance that was happening across the rest of the stage. It was hysterical.

Finally my favorite monologue, by a huge margin, was in Hungry Love by Timothy Thomas. I've always loved the St Crispin's Day speech from Henry V and in my mind I always see it as done by Kenneth Branagh in the 1989 film version. Tim takes that speech and tweaks it to become a St Valentine's Day speech instead, but still with the same sound, mood, and fervor of the original. Zeb L. West did an awesome job delivering the speech and rallying the troops with his call to arms as he climbed in and out of the audience. It was full of win.

Jeff and I had a good time, and I recommend you go check it out. Time Steps only runs two weekends though so don't wait too long.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Two Socks and Some Cupcakes

Sock Madness 3 is upon us now. It started last Thursday, and so I haven't really had time to post. I've taken time to read blogs (while I knit) and I've twitted a bit, but a full post would have taken too long out of my knitting schedule, not to mention when I did take breaks from knitting I had to try and give my wrists a break, not more of a work out.

The round 1 pattern is called Tropical Mertini, and was a pretty hard easy knit. The pattern itself wasn't terribly difficult, but I had to learn an entirely new (to me) cast on method, and then it was written with an afterthought heel. This means that I knit all of the sock except the heel first, which left me with socks like this until today.

On Thursday morning I started with this:
After four and a half days (plus about an hour) I ended up with:
Not bad, but definitely not the best time I've ever made. Last year I managed one of the pairs in just two days, but this one did have several challenges for me in learning new techniques. The socks are very baggy on me, so they may end up being gifted. First I need to see what happens to them after they are washed. There is a metallic strand in the yarn that is a bit scratchy, and if it's too uncomfortable then they will turn into some house socks for me. My feet are always cold, so it's not like they won't get used.

A non-knitting reason these took so long to knit is that we went to San Antonio to visit some of my family this weekend. Since my cousin (the over worked Houston doctor) and I were both in the same place at the same time all sorts of people came out of the wood work. It was a blast. I really need to not wait so long before the next time I go to visit. We finished the weekend by heading out to lunch with just my cousin and her husband. We went to Jacala's which has been a family tradition as long as I can remember. It was a lot of fun and Kathy and I were both glad to get a chance to go while we were in town.

Last St Patrick's Day I found a recipe for Guinness cupcakes. They looked great, but I never got around to making them until this year. Jeff loves Guinness so I figured they'd get eaten by someone, even if I didn't care for them. I was really impressed with the recipe. I was concerned because it made a very runny batter, but it baked great and stayed fluffy and moist. The thing I was really shocked about is that I followed the directions and ended up with a cupcake that looked like the picture advertised or maybe even better. You can be the judge of that. I can tell you that it makes a tasty cupcake, and although a Guinness drinker may like it more than other folks it is plenty yummy even if you normally hate the taste. The beer adds just a hint of bitter really, more than a complete Guinness flavor. I hate Guinness, so that's okay by me.That picture is just a crappy iPhone pic. You will just have to imagine how much better they look in person. I'd love to share, but I'm afraid the remnants are going to work tomorrow and I don't think they'll survive the day.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sitting on Hold

Buying a house is a pain in the ass. People will warn you about it when you start looking, but they are kind. They don't want to scare you off the prospect, because having a house is cool. As an added bonus they can come over and enjoy hanging out while you get to clean up the mess later, or maybe that's just why I want you to have a house.

Once you decide it's time to buy a house you might think that finding a house that you like/love, in your price range, in a neighborhood that doesn't scare you because of the crack dens or Stepford-ness of it, is the hard part. You look through listings online. You enlist friends to look through listings online. You have a realtor looking through listings and sending you messages every day or two. You trek all across town multiple times a week sometimes marking off large swaths of the map that you never want to visit again, other times wistfully gazing at the property whose value is a little too high for your current needs. Yeah, that's not the hard part.

The hardest part of buying a house is waiting for other people to do the shit they need to do. See, once you find that house that you want you get to make an offer. You sign some papers promising to pay some amount of money and then you send it away to the seller. If you're unlucky you aren't the only one who liked what they saw. We had to wait for the seller to decide that they wanted to let everyone submit a second round of offers so that we could wait some more before they finally accepted our offer on the house. Mind you they accepted our offer on Feb 26th, and we have been waiting since then for them to sign the contract and send it back. We have been waiting about 20 days for them to sign a piece of paper that they had already agreed to verbally and mail the damn thing back. Really? Seriously? I mean, I'm a procrastinator, but even I'm not that bad. This unsigned contract has meant that the mortgage broker could not submit the loan app, the realtor could not schedule the house inspection, and meanwhile we have been marching on, steadily getting closer and closer to the date of April 6th that was printed on that unsigned contract as our closing date. We have been waiting for this contract to come back for longer than we have left to go until that close date. That's just nuts. Of course, I still don't know that anyone has a copy of this so-called executed contract yet. I was told that the seller's agent has it and that she is sending it to our realtor and our mortgage broker, but I don't know if she's done it yet. Still, if it's signed I'm a happy camper. If I have to, I will find her and drive to her house to pick it up personally tomorrow just to get this show on the road.

Now we're waiting to find out when we'll inspect the house (hopefully this week) and then we get to wait and make sure the loan goes through. We are pre-approved for the loan, but I'll be nervous until it's all said and done. All this waiting is what is really getting to me. You sit and you wait and there is nothing that you can do that will make things go any faster or easier, like being on hold listening to some terrible muzak playing the same two songs over and over, except that in the end hopefully you get a house.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

At the Rodeo

This weekend Jeff and I traveled to Houston to see the rodeo with my dad and step-mom, Iza. This is the second year that we've done it, and so far it's always been a good time. This time we headed to the rodeo early so that we could spend some time wandering around before the show. Of course when we first made these plans we hadn't expected the weekend to end up so cold and rainy. Still, the good thing is that the bad weather forced us into the first building that we came to, and that contained the petting zoo,"Do not feed the pigs or donkey".
We saw very pregnant goats, some goats who were really hungry, and this adorable guy above. I failed to get a picture of the most persistent llama I've ever met. He would sneak up behind up and lean over your shoulder to try and steal snacks. He was quite stealthy, but really sweet. It's very strange to have a llama lean his face against yours and kind of nuzzle you. There were pigs and a donkey, also wee baby goats, and wallabies. It was a lot of fun to feed the bigger animals some alfalfa treats and the smaller ones little handfuls of oats. One of the wallabies thought Jeff tasted fantastic and just kept licking his hand over and over again.

When we ran out of animal treats we walked around the birthing center and saw all sorts of babies. The youngest animal that we saw was a sheep named Lucky who was born that morning at 8am. He was still working on getting his legs under him, and his moms lickings were enough to keep him off balance. There were lots of the little sheep, even more piglets, and a few calves. The animals that were still waiting to have babies looked absolutely miserable, but everyone else seemed happy and doing well.
Next we headed out into the cold again, in search of the infamous smoked turkey leg. Jeff and Dad and Iza ate turkey legs, but I wasn't in the mood for turkey. I had a big corn dog instead, and it was good. Once we had eaten our fill and rested for a few minutes we headed back into the building to the shopping zone and I had a bit of a falling down at a candy place. I haven't eaten very much candy since I got pregnant, I really haven't been in the mood often, but I must have been Friday because we spent a small fortune on sweets. At least the stash ought to last for a while.

The rodeo itself was a lot of fun. I don't follow the sport, so I don't know any of the competitors, but it's still a good show. I prefer the bits where cowboys get tossed rather than the ones where they rope or wrestle calves. Watching the 4H kids try to catch calves is always a blast and this year we got to see 4 year olds attempt to ride sheep. Only one boy ended up crying when he fell, mostly the kids seemed to have a great time and although they are all declared winners at the end, there is a best and he got a belt buckle. That was a super happy kid, although so shy he refused to speak out loud when they interviewed him.

We watched about an hour of Clint Black. By then he'd played all the songs Jeff had ever heard from him and I'd realized I didn't care one squat about Clint Black. The Reba show last year on the other hand was really great to see. Since my parents weren't all that keen on him either we bailed early and missed some of the traffic leaving the show.

Saturday we celebrated an early birthday for Jeff and ate a lot of tasty food. My dad and I talked the night away even after everyone else had gone to sleep. Sunday we met Danny, Tricia, and Dan for some lunch before leaving town and as we neared Austin the skies lightened and the temperature crept back up to warm. It really was a great weekend, despite the weather, but it's always nice to get back home.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Hot Hot Hot

My face is so hot. I'm not sure what's going on, but I'm sure it's pregnancy related. Off and on before, but constantly since last night my face has been hot. It feels like a fever or sunburn, the heat is coming from the inside of my face and nothing seems to help. Here at work I have a small desk fan clipped to a shelf blowing right across my face. It's helping a little bit, but I still feel hot. My body does not seem anywhere near as warm as my face. It's kind of freaky. Last night I was bundled up under covers while cranking up the air conditioner so I could try to get some sleep.

At least I don't have the actual face burn anymore. I ran out of face lotion and since I was using an Aveno cleanser I decided to get the matching lotion. At first it seemed like it just wasn't cutting it as a moisturizer. I would end up using some regular Aveno during the day because my face just seemed to be getting drier over time. After about two weeks I realized that I had a more serious problem. I put on the Positively Radiant lotion one morning and less than a minute later I felt like my face was on fire. I looked in the mirror and could see small red bumps coming up on my skin. I quickly rinsed it all off and put the regular Aveno body lotion on my face, and immediately the burning started to subside and the redness to disappear. It was only then that I realized over the last couple weeks I'd been having a more and more severe reaction to something in the lotion, I'm not sure which component but I suspect the sunscreen. That whole weekend when Jeff's mom had been raving about how pretty my skin was with my pink cheeks she was seeing my face reject that stupid moisturizer.

I'm back to basics and sticking with regular old Aveno daily moisturizing lotion for face and body. I have never had a reaction to this stuff, and it doesn't make my skin too oily. So far so good. It's been almost a month and I haven't had any freaky red bumps or other odd skin reactions. If anyone does want my barely used Positively Radiant lotion you are welcome to it. I'm lazy so it's still sitting on my counter even though I can't use it. If nothing else I'm sure I'll toss it when we move.

Friday, March 6, 2009

This is a shot of the tree in our front yard. The tree is one of the few things that I will miss when we move. It has officially declared the arrival of spring and is decked out all over with pretty white flowers. As sad as it is to see the flowers go, it ends up covered in bright green leaves and provides a wonderful spot of shade if you want to hang out in the front yard. I really like this tree, I like its shape and the fact that it lets in just enough light that the shade doesn't kill all the grass underneath it. Too bad I can't dig it up and take it with us after our lease is up, but I'm sure our landlord would not go for that. Also, I have no idea what the heck kind of tree it is.

I will not miss the chinaberry tree out back. I'm sure everyone has heard me bitch about that tree at one point or another. I will never ever have a chinaberry tree anywhere I live again. I still can't get over going out back in the summer when all the berries had fallen to the ground and started rotting. The earth was swarming with flies. Yes, raking up the berries takes care of that issue, but frankly it's an ugly tree and a pain in the arse. Heck, even our landlord tried to convince the city to cut the damn thing down when they were trimming it back from the power line that runs across the rear fence. Also, the berries are very poisonous to humans, and as few as 6 can be enough to cause ... duh duh duh - certain death. So don't eat 'em, m'kay?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Follow Through

After talking about gelato yesterday, and continuing to think about it longer than I should have, I became a woman obsessed. Luckily for me traffic was especially yucky yesterday and it was not difficult to persuade Jeff that we should pull off MoPac and go take a break at Teo's.

The flavor that immediately caught my eye was passionfruit. I'm always on the look out for the new gelato flavors because most of them don't stay long, and I've had a thing for passionfruit ever since Hawaii last year. It's some crazy sweet yet sour tang and every time I find a new way to enjoy it I pounce. The gelato was not a disappointment, and went quite well with my salted caramel.

I had intended to show you a picture of some delicious gelato, but it was too good. By the time I thought of it all that was left was a half murdered bowl that didn't look appetizing at all. Instead I share all that was left of the two bowls we ordered yesterday.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

TEO Tuesdays

I love sweets, and so it should be no surprise that I am on Teo's mailing list. I like to make sure that I keep up with any limited time flavors and any specials that I want to take advantage of. Teo's gelato is something that I always enjoy and makes for a nice treat on the way home from work. I used to get a latte there on occasion, but that's been switched to a caramel apple cider since I don't drink much coffee these days, both are delicious options.

If you aren't on Teo's list then you need to be told about the Teo's economic stimulus plan that is currently in effect. They've crafted some sweet deals to encourage those of us that are pinching some pennies that we can still afford to indulge our sweet tooth.

Mon, Tues, and Weds all medium espresso drinks are only $3. (lattes,macchiatos, mocha, etc)
The special Tuesday all day (12-10pm) is a small gelato for only $2.

Whether you are new to Teo's or not this is a great time to go. Especially today since for $5 you can get a warm beverage and a cool treat. When you look at that small gelato cup it may not seem like a lot, but take it from me, it's usually enough. I heartily recommend the salted caramel if it's available when you go.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Recycle A to Z

I found this directory really easily when we got our large single-stream recycling bin last year, and then I could never find it again. I finally clicked the correct side bar item today and found it again. Every once in a while I come across something and wonder if I can recycle it or not; this list answers that question and others I didn't think to ask, like "can I recycle my unused bullets/ammunition?"*. So now I shall blog the link and hopefully make it easier for me to find the next time I need to know what to do unwanted bicycle parts, like when those training wheels finally come off.

*The answer is of course no. They suggest that you call the non-emergency police number 3-1-1 and ask them where they would like you to take your ammo.

Singin' Drunken Lullabies

Jeff and I went to see Flogging Molly at Stubbs this past Saturday. All week we had gorgeous weather, and then all of a sudden, out of no where, it's freakin' cold and really windy. I was a little intimidated by the prospect of standing up for a full show, being in a crowd, and dealing with restroom lines. I'm only 23 weeks now, but I take up a bit more space that I used to, get worn out faster, so while I really wanted to see them, I didn't really want to go. I'm glad that we had tickets in advance and I felt like I had to go, because it was a great show. Erin and Bill went also, and we managed to catch up with them and hang out a little bit. The songs sounded great live, and the atmosphere was mostly a lot of fun, although a little foreign to me. It could have only been better by having less wind and if the temperature had been about 15 degrees warmer.

There was definitely a different crowd there than what I'm used to though. Most of the folks hanging back near us were of the chiller variety that I'm familiar with. We sing, we might dance a bit, but beers stay in cups and cups stay in hands for the most part, and usually the person who pushed past you said "excuse me" even if they didn't mean it. Up front was a crowd of a different sort. The mosh pit people, or MPP, were insane. I saw half full cups of beer sailing over their heads, not just once or twice but frequently throughout the show. From this I conclude that the MPP are rich or were spending mommy and daddy's money, because even Lone Star was $3.50 at the show. The MPP were also fond of picking up one of their own, surfing them over head for a bit, and then tossing them forward and over some barricade where they would disappear from view. I suspect this behavior is directly related to some of the folks I saw being treated for head injuries. We saw EMS escorting various people out due to injury or from getting too f'd up to remain in public. One poor girl looked like a zombie as she was being walked out, and she didn't even get to see Flogging Molly take the stage. The people watching was pretty fantastic all told.

After the show we walked a little further up the street to see Ian and wish him a happy birthday. I know that my feet were tired, and I was very cold, but I have to say that the chair I sat in at Club de Ville was wonderful. It is easily one of the best seats I've ever had at a club, and I really enjoyed the rest before walking back to the car.

Christmas Comes Late Now

Ever since I got pregnant my knitting mojo has been MIA. While not knitting socks for myself is really no great tragedy there was one casualty that I feel terrible about. I'm not sure, but I suspect it was some time in November I started a pair of socks for my dad. He is in love with the hand knit socks I've given him so far, and anytime I ask him what he wants for his birthday or Christmas now the answer is socks. Under normal circumstances these socks do not take me massive amounts of time. I tend to use a slightly thicker yarn, since he mostly just wants to wear them wandering around the house, and that means fewer stitches and that means faster completion. Last November and December it was a different story. I was so sleepy all the time I just couldn't stay awake long enough to knit his socks. When Christmas morning came I showed him the one lone sock that I had completed, and that I had started the next one, but it was no where near wearable.

Since Christmas I've wanted to finish the socks. I mean, I wanted to give my dad his Christmas present, and I did care very much that they were getting increasingly further away from their intended gifting date. On the other hand I haven't wanted to knit the socks. Once in a while I would think about it, but they would be in another room too far away from me to be bothered with. I've had more energy these last couple months, and even though I might occasionally over do it, or sleep poorly, at least for the most part I can be awake for a normal number of hours each day. I think partly I avoided picking up the socks because knitting on them again might just put me back to sleep. I remember so many times trying to knit that damn sock and after maybe one row my eyelids would be drooping.

Well, no more worries there. Finally this weekend I almost finished the socks. It's sad really how close they are to being done without actually being done. I need to sew the toe shut and then they will be complete. However, I didn't want to mess it up while doing it tired on Friday so I put off the finishing until Saturday. Yeah, they still aren't done, but they are on the agenda for this evening. The home time plan is to put bedding in the wash, and then finish the sock before anything else.

Almost finishing the Christmas socks has given me a renewed interesting in knitting. It's amazing how even being almost done with a project can be just as liberating as actually being done with it entirely. I started my first baby knitting for our little guy. I'm making a Baby Surprise Jacket with Noro Silk Garden in a rainbow looking colorway, and I'm totally in love with it. I can't wait to finish it and see what I get. I volunteered to do a test knit for a sock pattern, but no word on that yet. And then because I apparently just boarded the crazy train I emailed to join up for Sock Madness round 3, you remember that thing where I knit till my eyes bleed yarn trying to crank out a pair of socks as fast as possible.

I'm being a little realistic though. I'm pretty sure I'll finish the baby jacket before the test knit supplies reach me (if I'm picked to do that). Also, the test knitting would have a deadline so once it arrives that will be priority and could very easily knock me out of the Sock Madness competition early on. We'll have to see how it goes, but hopefully I'll at least have fun along the way.