Great week

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

South Beach is awesome. I put on a pair of jeans today that I could get on before but couldn't button. They're still a little on the painted-on side, but there was minimal gut overhang. :-D Tom's clothes are all loose too.

I started my new job Monday and I love it. Research assistant. Cool huh? I also got a very official sounding email address. Exciting. Not to mention I'm doing awesome, relavent (sp?) work. I spent Monday working on some handouts that my professor/boss-lady will take to a poster presentation. Today, I got to review some grant proposals. It's too cool! I read each part and give it a rating based on whether I think it should be funded. It's great to see what all goes in to those proposals.

Update on our house repairs. Sunday afternoon, an angel appeareth in our doorway and said, "Is Tom home?" It was my father-in-law, Don. No Don, Tom's stranded in the middle of the lake, and our AC is out. I explained what happened and he knew exactly what was wrong just by my description. He got the AC running for the rest of the 105 degree afternoon and evening, and the AC guy replaced the broken part the next day. It was heavenly.

Tom got off the lake no problem. As soon as he called the tow people, he figured out what was wrong. LOL And he called the city about the code violations. They were so nice. They gave him a 30 day extension and explained to him how to work around the code and keep a car in the backyard like the good self-respecting rednecks we are.

What really blows is this. Our carpet was slightly bleached by the water from the overflowed toilet. *sigh*

And I wasn't sure it was going to happen, but Danyelle and Reade are indeed camping with us at Ray Roberts next weekend. Luckily for them, they've started the South Beach diet too, so they won't be too freaked out by our low-carb ways. Luckily for us, Tom and I will have been on it for 3 weeks and transitioned into the not-so-strict phase, so I will be sippin' on some wine.

Falling apart

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Since our fence blew down, you can see our backyard from the street. We got two code violations in the mail Friday. One for our "junk car" (OK, Tom doesn't like his mustangs being called junk cars...LOL) in the back, and another for our kayak trailer, which we normally keep on the pavement, but when we have the camper in the driveway, one of the cars goes on the extra pavement and the kayak trailer goes on the grass. The code violation said it needs to be on an improved surface. What a PITA. We should've just fixed the fence sooner!

Our toilet overflowed yesterday. It never stopped running after it was flushed, and our friend shut the door on his way out, so I didn't catch it running until I noticed the water seeping into the carpet under the door. :-( So I stopped it from running, got the water up the best I could, turned on a fan, and got the carpet cleaner out to get the water off the carpet. Tom walked in then, and offered to take over the carpet cleaner. Thank you, Tom. I got back to work on my poster.

Last night, I was in bed ready to crash and noticed it was really hot. We've been keeping the AC on 77 trying to save some green, but I thought, this isn't worth it tonight, so I got up to turn it down a couple degrees. Well, it was already on 74, but the temp in the house was 78. "Tooooommmmm!!" The hallway seemed smokey, and we shut down the AC. It was burning hot. Are you keeping tally? Fence down, code violations, overflowing toilet, broken AC.

So Tom left to go fishing today at 6am, told me to call him when I woke up. He wanted me to find an AC guy. But he was having his own problems. The boat is currently broken down in the middle of Lake Lewisville, so I got them the numbers to the towing people, and they're waiting on that now.

What the hell??!!

Counterproductive blogging

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I have a ton to do and this just isn't getting it done.

I just got back from the grocery store stocking up on more South Beach goodies. This is going great! We both feel good, haven't had any wine or margaritas or beer in over a week, we're feeling lighter around the waist but my scale sucks so we aren't exactly sure if we've lost poundage. I would guess we've each lost 4-5 lbs.

There are times when it gets discouraging. It's hard not having spaghetti as a standby dinner. But then every couple days or so we try something new that is so delicious that we get all excited about the diet again. The first night, it was italian sausage stuffed grilled portabello mushrooms. Then it was chopped cabbage salad. Last night, it was artichokes stuffed with parsley, garlic, and parmasean cheese. Today it's a veggie tray with ranch dip. Tonight, it's tilapia marinated in cilantro lime vinagrette.

Whenever I cook meats, I cook extra for the next day's lunch salad. I also made those egg muffins that lasted me all week for breakfast. This is working out really well. Those days when we have no leftovers, I can just make a quick tuna salad for lunch with a tiny bit of mayo and some of the good veggies we always have chopped and bagged now. And I have learned not to get too hungry. I was like, "Caaaaaaaarrrrbbbbsssss!!!!" when I got hungry Thursday. LOL (But I didn't break)

But starting next Sunday, we can start having spaghetti (whole wheat of course) again. I'm going to do like I was even before this diet and go light on the pasta and make a really hearty, meaty, veggie sauce. It'll be nice having spaghetti around again if only for the cost. You know how expensive it can get eating healthy.

So, red wine is an dilemma since that's allowed next Sunday. I looooove to drink red wine. But I'm also liking not drinking at the house. Ideally, we'd stop drinking at all unless we're out somewhere, but I think maybe we'll buy a bottle of wine (or a four pack of mini bottles) each week and refine our sipping skills. Some meals, especially a steak salad with blue cheese, are just made for red wine. I'm getting so much more done though, especially in the kitchen, so I dig sobriety.

Anyway, I have a quick assignment to do for class, then I'm working on my poster presentation for the rest of the weekend now that I have my week of food squared away. We are camping Ray Roberts Isle du Bois in two weeks. I don't know who is coming - we invited Danyelle and Reade but haven't heard back for sure. My parents are supposed to come one day. I'm sure looking forward to being away for a long weekend!

South Beaching

Monday, July 21, 2008

I bought the South Beach Diet book a few weeks ago after realizing that one of my favorite food blogs, Kalyn's Kitchen (link in my list to the right) was actually South Beach Friendly. I was surprised at how tasty everything looked.

I tried Atkins before. Meaning, I didn't buy the book, I read a couple of websites, and set out to eat nothing but meat, eggs and cheese for two weeks. I felt (and possibly smelt) like a sausage by the 3rd day and couldn't go on. Plus, I didn't have Tom on board.

But now, I do have the South Beach book, and I do have Tom on board. We started the diet yesterday. I made us omelets for breakfast, I made egg muffins for this week's breakfast (and we snacked on them for lunch), we had pistachios for a snack, and sausage stuffed portabellos for dinner. We survived just fine. The hard part is sugar for Tom, because he drinks regular cokes. I am used to the artificial stuff, so that's not killing me.

After two weeks, we'll be able to add whole grains and most fruits back to our diets. I can't wait! Today I'm feeling a bit like crap, but I knew it was coming, and I know it won't last long. It's this "hump" you have to get over because your body is so used to eating crap carbs all the time.

I'll be honest. I weighed in at 155 yesterday. Tom (sorry you aren't getting a choice in this revelation) is at 187. Neither of which are terrible weights especially with our heights, but we are all gut and ready to change that. My goal is to wear my Lucky jeans again, the only pair of jeans I've spent more than $40 on in my life.

First canning attempt

Sunday, July 20, 2008

I hope no one would use my blog as the expert guide to canning, but just in case, please don't use my blog as the expert guide to canning. This might seem somewhat instructional, but buy a book (this one seems good so far) and read the manual that came with your equipment in advance. I assume no responsibility for botulism caused by using this blog as a guide.

I picked a recipe a few days ago - Pickled Hot Peppers (from Ball book in the first paragraph). It is a simple recipe - banana peppers, jalepeno peppers, serrano peppers, vinegar, water and garlic. Plus, it accomplishes one of my goals for wanting to can in the first place - to do SOMETHING with our abundant jalapeno crop. So, knowing I wouldn't get any schoolwork done tomorrow if I didn't get this first canning event out of the way, I set out to do it about 9pm tonight.

First and most importantly, you gotta keep the riff-raff out of your food. Riff-raff=contaminants. Contaminants are bad.

Here is my crop. Well, the smaller jalapenos on the right came directly from my garden. I had to buy the serranos and banana peppers. I sliced up (according to the recipe) 3 cups of banana peppers, 1.5 cups jalapenos, and 1/2 cup serranos into about 1/2 inch slices.

Here is my hardware. The famed canner, the canner lid, and the 3 mason jars. See, not too much to get overwhelmed about. Although you must admit the shine on that beautiful pot is pretty spectacular.

Here is my documentation. The book I mentioned, and my canner manual.

Apparently, you're supposed to put your jars in the bottom of the pot and fill the pot AND the jars with water until the jars are about 2/3 full.

Then you let em hang out in the pot in simmering (not boiling) water. They'll be hot when you are ready to pack em.

The lids go in a simmering pot as well. The separate screw on lids aren't as important to keep hot, so just set them aside til later.

Canning got a little intense between these two pictures. With my peppers chopped and my jars waiting, I prepared the recipe. That is, 3 cups white vinegar, 1 cup water, and 2 crushed cloves of garlic. Bring it to a boil, then simmer it for 5 minutes until the liquid is infused with the garlic flavor.

In that five minutes, I layered up my peppers. Jalepenos on the bottom, banana in the middle, and a sprinkling of serrano on top. After the 5 minutes, I started pouring the liquid into the jars. I didn't have enough! I must've done something wrong, maybe didn't pack the peppers in enough so there was too much empty space. So I quickly got together more liquid and put it in the remaining jar.

There they are waiting for lids.

Tom helped me get the lids out so I could do it quickly. You just get the hot lids out of the pot and center them on the jar, then screw on the screw-on part. Don't force it too tight, just normal screwing something shut.

Then I put the jars in the pot and filled it up so the water is at least an inch over the top of the jars. See the stand on the bottom? It lifts the jars up off the bottom of the pan so the water circulates all around.

Take another picture, put the lid on, and wait for it to boil

And wait, and wait, and wait. FINALLY, it boiled, and I set the timer for 10 minutes and covered it back up.

Really, you may not have to take off the lid, you can hear the water boil and the steam really starts coming out of that hole. BTW, if you are actually pressure canning (which I would be if it were low-acid food like meat or something), that hole would be plugged, and a pressure regulator would be in the middle controlling whether I'm at 5 lbs, 10 lbs, or 15 lbs of pressure.

Oooh so shiny.

After 10 minutes, you turn off the heat, take off the lid, and wait 5 minutes for the jars to get their bearings. Then, if you're prepared, you have a jar lifter that helps you pull the stinkin' hot jars out. Or, if you are like me today, you try to get em out with tongs and a potholder. OWWW! I will get a jar lifted before I go again.

So here we have a jar of peppers. I knew from reading that I'd have to wait 24 hours for it to cool before I could test the seal of the lid. The cooling process is supposed to create a vacuum that makes sure that lid isn't going anywhere.

But, after Tom and I cleaned up the kitchen, we both heard a loud pop! It was the seal popping inward! You know how if you buy spaghetti sauce or something and that button pops up when you open it? My button got sucked down so when I open these bad boys, it will pop up. That is a good sign, I think! We waited for all three of them to pop. It was so cool!

After 24 hours, I can play around with the lid and make sure it doesn't come off easily. Then, these have to hang out for 4-6 weeks for the best flavor to develop. This definitely isn't about instant gratification. It's about enjoying food and cooking and trying a new way to enjoy it even more. And not wasting jalapeno peppers!

***UPDATE*** My seals are sealed! I did the test about 3pm today and those suckers aren't coming off. I did everything they said to do to make sure you did it right, and it all seems to have worked. Woo hoo!


Friday, July 18, 2008

1. Love and War in Texas. We went to the Grapevine location (there is another in Plano) last Saturday after the baseball game with Reade and Danyelle. I started with a margarita. I am usually hesitant to try margaritas because they are so hit and miss, and once you've found the perfect rita at Cristina's and perfected your own personal rita recipe, it's hard for other ritas to measure up. I was NOT disappointed! It was GREAT! I ordered a tex-mex plate with a beef enchilada, cheese enchilada, tamale, and a taco (I never order those monstrosities with 4 different items, but that was all they had with an enchilada on it.) It was GREAT! Tom had "The Hunt", which had antelope steak, venison sausage, and quail. Reade had buffalo fajitas, and Danyelle had some kind of tilapia. I tried everything on the table, and it was GREAT! Oh, and the best part was the price. My awesome strong margarita was only $6.95. Tom's huge 36 oz. beer was only $6.95. All the entrees were reasonably priced too.

I was afraid maybe since I'd already had a few beers before I got there, that might be why everything was GREAT! Still, I couldn't shake the thought of those buffalo fajitas from my head all week long. And when it came time to finalize birthday plans for Thursday, I opted for Love and War in Texas. Over Cristina's. Can you believe it??

So John, Kimberlee, Greg, and a girl he invited named Delana met us there last night. I had buffalo fajitas with some shrimp, Tom and Greg each had roasted wild boar, Kimberlee had ribs, and John had fried oysters and grilled shrimp. My fajitas were everything I remembered from sampling Reade's. Yum! I don't think I'll get the shrimp again though - if you think about it, shrimp fajitas is a bad idea anyway since it all keeps cooking on the hot skillet after it gets served, so the shrimp is destined to become overcooked and tough. That roasted wild boar Tom had...OMG. Amazing! Kimberlee's ribs? They were dry-style, not saucy and juicy, but had great flavor and were tender. Drinks were great, and there were girls walking around with free Coors Light and tequila shots. (As I learned on the river and confirmed last night, free booze is one of my major weaknesses.)

Anyway, a good time was had by all, the food was delicious, the birthday was extensively celebrated, and we have found a new favorite restaurant.

2. The Dark Knight. We saw it today at 2pm. Wow! I LOVED it. Not the feel-good movie of the year, in fact, Tom and I were both pretty bummed afterward (I'm feeling better having written about the tasty food at LAWIT). Of course, the big buzz is Heath Ledger's Joker, and I thought it was pretty remarkable. The movie gave me the same feeling as Silence of the Lambs. Just scary enough. Batman is kinda scary, that's why I didn't like the first one with Cristian Bale (Batman Begins). They have this all set up for the next movie too - I won't give it away how though. I was surprised! The movie was long, but honestly, I could've sat through another 2.5 hours of that dark, scary goodness.

3. (Because 2 isn't enough to warrant a numbered list, but 3 is.) The Acapulco chicken salad at Jack in the Box. Of course it's good because the dressing packet has 24 grams of fat. Cilantro lime dressing. Yummo!

In other news, we are finally starting South Beach Sunday. They say the gut goes first, and I hope they're right!

It's ON

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tom brought my birthday present home today. The smart man got me the pressure canner I wanted! AND some mason jars. LOL I'm gonna start with pickling the jalepenos I picked this week (probably only a jar or two worth) and some kind of jam or jelly. Hopefully this weekend! I am so excited!

New job

Now that my paperwork has been processed and all appropriate parties have been informed, it's time to announce my new job! My advisor offered me a job on their new NSF grant, so I'll get to work with them on that project. 15ish hours a week, same pay I've been getting at my job, and it's on campus doing more than menial tasks. I am really excited! I hate leaving my job at the construction company because my employers are angels and I couldn't have asked for a better part-time job in school. Jamie was so gracious and flexible with my schedule. But the timing is pretty good because they're preparing to move into a bigger office and they'll want someone full-time in my position, something I wouldn't have been able to do, and now they won't have to grapple with whether to keep me and a full-timer, or have two part-timers, or dump me. It should be interesting being on campus and learning more about university politics!

So anyway, they got my paperwork in today so it's a done deal. Oh, and the best news? I can "double dip" my hours, so the 15 hours working on the grant can apply to my 40-hour a week research requirement this summer, and my 10-hour a week requirement in the fall. Woot!

They always grow up so fast!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Here is the George of the Jungle watermelon last Wednesday.

And here he is this morning. I tell him to ride his bike with his other little watermelon friends, but he insists on sitting in the shade all day long. His lack of activity is really starting to show!

Here is our new garden keeper. He can't turn on the water yet, but we're working on it.

Me and Miranda before the Jo-Bros concert.

Danyelle and me at the Rangers game!

Serious man discussion happening here.

Get your camera out of our man talk!


Sunday, July 13, 2008

I have always wanted to can, and the Pioneer Woman's recent canning post has my wheels turning again. We don't have a huge garden, but we do get a ton of jalepenos, and I LOVE pickled jalepenos. That's not to say I couldn't just go buy up a bunch of veggies to can though. Like pickled okra? Mmmm!

This is the pressure canner I'm looking at. Part of the reason I've been scared of canning is the safety issue, but it seems like the pressure canner takes a lot of the risk out of it. Here is a link to the manual for it that has a lot of recipes. I guess this is my starting point. I'd love to make some pasta sauce and salsa too!

"Getting it"

Friday, July 11, 2008

Today was the first day in at least 2 weeks that I woke up feeling good. I felt rested and excited about what I'm doing. It's a huge relief when these moments of clarity come, especially when the "rut" lasts 2 weeks like this one. I woke up with new ideas, looking forward to working on them. I dunno, I think it was perfect timing. Most of me hates to admit when I'm struggling. I'm still an undergrad, so I feel kinda silly when I am overwhelmed because I know I'm in for a lot worse than what I'm going through now. But really, I can add up the hours in my week (not counting blogging hours...LOL) and easily see why I'm feeling overwhelmed. It's justified. I also know I have it a lot easier than a lot of people. I mean, my biggest problem in life is trying to keep the house clean, the laundry caught up, the tomatoes watered, and the husband happy. Never mind the fact that I HAVE a house, tons of laundry, a garden, and a wonderful husband. A lot of people don't have that. I hear people say sometimes that you shouldn't feel guilty for having more than other people, that your feelings are just as valid even if someone deals with far worse. I don't feel guilty, but these kinds of reality checks help me reinforce a good mood. Meaning, if I'm feeling like crap, it's not going to help me to think about all the starving people in the world. But if I'm feeling good, it can help me feel even better. There is no harm in counting your blessings.

So tomorrow, I'm getting back into. I've had a lot going on, but personal things are calming down so it's go-time. It's a little scary that now I have three projects to think about (and a poster presentation), and it's been freaking me out to think about it with all the other stuff going on. And today was the first day that I was excited about it instead of nauseous. I think having my niece here helped a lot. She is so easy going, fun, and simple. She spent the whole visit finding new ways to sneak up on Tom, inventing new games to play with him, and laughing up a storm. I don't know why, it's not really related to my projects, but I feel relieved now instead of worried.

I know I'm rambling. Basically, I "get it" again, I remember what I'm working toward and what it means and why it's hard, I remember the small piece of the puzzle my work is as part of the big picture, and dammit, I'm getting up tomorrow and doing some writing!

No such thing as a free lunch

But give me something free and I'll use it as a great excuse to spend money!

Miranda and I arrived (after TWO hours in traffic. Construction + Jonas Brothers = TERRIBLE traffic) at the Center just minutes before the concert. Sherry, the amazing lady who had the tickets met us up front. Sherry, who works for Radio Disney, is the friend of Miranda's grandma's coworker. And we had no idea what kind of tickets we were getting. I assumed lawn seats. She handed over two $75 tickets, ELEVENTH ROW! I was glad because I thought Miranda would enjoy it more from a seat than the lawn. Oh my gosh, we were so close!!

So we went to look at shirts because Tom had handed me some cash on my way out and instructed me to buy Miranda a shirt. This was her first concert, thus her first concert T. It's obligatory. She couldn't decide, so we waited in line forever for some bottled water and headed for our seats for Demi Lovato. She is the girl that was in Camp Rock (Disney's latest movie ala High School Musical and the Cheetah Girls) with the Jo-Bros. I gotta say, she was really great! I have always loved cheesy pop music, so I didn't mind the Disney look of everything. That girl had some pipes - I don't think she was off key once. And no, she wasn't lip-synching! I thought she was adorable.

(BTW - a follow-up to my alcohol @ Disney concert rant: They were selling beer and margaritas. LOL)

You know me, I have a plan always. So we left during Demi's last song to try again to buy a shirt. I didn't know how long there would be before the Jo-Bros came on, so I wanted to be sure we had plenty of time to go and get back. We did finally buy her a shirt (really cute with tour dates on the back), bathroom break, and went back to our seats. You know how these concerts go - any little flitter of activity on stage makes everyone think the main act is about to come on stage. So after about a dozen false alarms, I was certain they were really about to come out, and Miranda looks up at me sort of panicked and said, "I have to go to the bathroom!!!" LOL! That's what I get for planning. So we ran to the bathroom and back just in time for the madness.

The madness? I have been to several "heavy metal" shows with Tom. He saves his crazier music for a guys' night, but I can't say I'm inexperienced in the loud, crazy concert world. And this, the JONAS Brothers, had one of the most hardcore starts I've ever seen. Keep in mind also that Miranda is a mini-me in that she's a little cautious, doesn't like a lot of noise, etc. The lights went out and several string musicians (you know, violins, etc) filed onto the dimly-lit stage and started playing some very dramatic music. Sort of like Bittersweet Symphony. Then they started in with the long, loud, deep guitar chords coordinated with the lights, and then the whole freakin' stage lit up with fire. I've seen some little firework looking things (like sparkler sticks) on stage, but never FIRE! It is the "Burnin' Up Tour" afterall. The fire coordinated with the loud scary guitar, and keeping in mind that we were 30 feet from the stage, I was somewhat startled but put on a happy face because I didn't want Miranda to get scared! We're talking the whole stage was lit up. Like Hell!

She was such a good sport about the whole thing. She had a worried look on her face the whole time, unless she saw me looking at her, then she'd smile back at me. The Jo-Bros came on stage, and it was just like you see on TV with everyone screaming and freaking out. I don't get screaming. I do the "woooooo" thing, but I don't ever scream. Oh well, I don't have to get it because thousands of adolescent girls totally get it. Miranda was standing around with her fingers in her ears, and I thought she must've been hating it (I watched her more than the concert), but then every now and then she'd let out a scream to put all those girls to shame! And that would buy me a little more time to think, "OK, she does like it!" She kept asking me what time it was, and at 9:10, I said, "Can you make it to 9:30?" and she said, "yes". But then she sat with her fingers in her ears for the next two songs, they left the stage and everyone was screaming for them to come back, and I figured that was a good time to exit. They were probably about to do the encore. Miranda really couldn't see over all the teenage girls' heads. But she did so good!

And, my sister got free tickets to the Rangers game tomorrow night. Free tickets yet we'll probably spend a ton on parking and beer. LOL But I'm excited!


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I'm already kinda behind on my summer movie watching. We did see Wanted the day it opened, and it was great. Today, Tom, Miranda and I went to see Kung Fu Panda at Studio Movie Grill. I loved it! It was hilarious! I didn't realize how many stars were in it - Jack Black, of course, and Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jet Li, Lucy Liu, and others I can't remember.

Tonight, for those of you who didn't survive through my entire blog last time, is the Jonas Brothers concert. We won't know what kind of tickets they are until we meet the lady up there, but I am fully prepared for lawn seating. I hope Miranda gets all excited and screams right along with everyone. I think that's part of the fun (if not most of the fun, as I'm not sure we'll be able to hear any music with all those tweens!) I'm gonna spike some Starbucks with Red Bull to get her all hyper (j/k).

What's weird - and y'all know I love beer as much as the next person - but there are people I met at school who are on my Facebook who are going to this concert and planning to get drunk in the parking lot. I just hope they aren't in there actin' a fool. I mean come on, I've been to my share of concerts that I needed beer to enjoy (thanks to Tom's taste in music), but the Jonas Brothers? Maybe it's time to find a new band to love if ya gotta get drunk before the show. But that's just me. It's Radio Disney, people.
So with that, I am going to rest my eyes for a bit. Wish me luck!
BTW, it really is the simpler things that are the best, isn't it? This is how Tom and Miranda spent about two hours last night. I love it!

Could this be the longest blog ever?

Monday, July 7, 2008

It's likely, it's been a loooong several days. Readers who stick it out will be rewarded with a garden surprise at the end. Woot! (No cheating!)

We left with friends in tow (literally) at about 9:30 Thursday morning. They wanted to ride in the camper. I wasn't real thrilled about it. I explained to them about how they'd be sitting on 3 propane tanks and that's no bueno. (Yes, there is a new camping rule coming out of this story.) Not having given birth to any of our friends, we let them get in the back of the camper and ride along. Our trailer brake isn't perfectly configured, and as we sat in Dallas traffic, stop and go, it was jerking around a good bit. Then we got the call on the walkie-talkie - "We need to stop at the next rest stop, Kimberlee got nailed in the head by a table and is bleeding pretty bad." So we stopped and she wasn't doing too well. A table that we take apart and stow hadn't stowed very well, flew outta nowhere, and the metal part on the bottom had nailed her right in the temple. She was not in good shape at all (loopy, etc), so we stopped at the emergency room in Hillsboro, and she and John went in for stitches. It only took about 1.5 hours, which isn't bad from all the emergency room stories I've heard! She got 2 stitches, and we got a new rule for the camper. No one rides in the back. I don't care if it's legal. Sure, we could human-proof it better, but I'd really just rather not have to worry about people getting hurt back there. I would, and did, feel guilty!

But hey, we finally arrived after sitting through terrrrrrible Austin traffic. We went to the Lazy L and L campground on River Road in New Braunfels. Right away our neighbors introduced themselves - super friendly, although one was perhaps selfishly motivated. He borrowed our corkscrew and brought it back so he could take a camper tour. LOL We were right on the river, but on a cliff, so there was a fence around the cliff.

This about sums it up:

I don't like being interrupted when I eat steak.

Despite this picture, the weather was gorgeous all weekend. It stormed at 11:30am the day we left. We had already packed up!

We had a disposable camera on the river, and I lost it. That's probably a good thing. People give away Jello shots on the side of the river. I lost more than the camera that day. I lost at least an hour. Thankfully, Tom saw fit to make sure I got out of the water and didn't go to Mexico!

The ride home was pretty uneventful except that we sat in traffic no matter where we went! Left at 11:30am, got home about 7pm. That's just too much. I don't want to go on a holiday again if only for that reason alone.

By the way, what about this crazy tube rubber stuff that rubs off on your skin? I had to scrub my poor legs raw yesterday just to get it off! I think Tom is still sporting his!

Today started out uneventfully enough until I got some bad news about my nephew. He's OK now, but the news pretty much did me in. I spent the rest of the day feeling like I got hit by a truck and making typos at work. I am so exhausted.

But I came home and vegged out a while, ordered the Bucket List, and Tom and I went a' pickin' in the garden. Picked some nice looking okra and a banana pepper. Have some bell peppers that are big and beautiful. Every week has its stars, and this week is the best so far. I was hanging around watching Tom pick okra, looked up, and saw this little egg-sized thing growing out of an okra plant. Click, look in the middle and a little to the left.

Here's the closeup:

We have a cute little watermelon playing George of the Jungle in between two okra plants! The watermelon vine has been doing so well that a tiny bit of it started growing up an okra plant, so here you have it. Isn't it PRECIOUS?! We have several little watermelons about the size of my pinky nail, but I just about fell over when I saw this!

Then, we did what any self-respecting Texan would do with their first crop of okra. Fried em up! (Half flour, half bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Dump in there, dump in eggs, dump back in batter, fry)

Then, as if I wasn't lucky enough to have that watermelon distraction to turn my day around, my 9-year-old niece, Miranda, called all excited to see if I'd take her to see the Jonas Brothers Wednesday night. LOL! Her grandma's friend can get us tickets. Of COURSE I said yes, but my ears are already ringing from the upcoming screams. I am so excited to take her, and I hope she has fun. Of course, my BIL already said yes, but I haven't gotten permission from my sister yet, so I guess it might not go down!

Not all that opinionated, but...

I tend to shy away from being opinionated about things unless I feel somewhat confident in knowing something about the issue. That makes it hard for me to argue politics because the spectrum of issues is so broad that I usually feel unqualified to make assertions. But this? What a terrible, poorly thought out idea!

Students should serve

It's all fine, well and good (sort of) until this part:

"He said the goals would be achieved by making federal assistance conditional on school districts developing service programs."

That takes all the "should" and "goal" out of it. It's no longer something to strive for, it's something that schools have to do for funding. I love the idea of encouraging service - I tend to always have some kind of volunteer gig - but I also don't want to serve with a bunch of people who don't want to serve. Part of what's so rewarding about a volunteer experience is getting to be around other people who enjoy helping out. We aren't exactly "getting students engaged" in academics by making them go to school, so why would forcing service help in "getting students engaged" in service?

Not to mention students who have to work! I'm very fortunate that school comes easy to me...I mean, I have to work at it, but I can't imagine being someone who struggles with school, has to work, and then has to worry about community service on top of that. Parents and legal guardians would likely get some kind of exemption, but not the kid who watches his younger siblings everyday after school.

I'm all for some kind of initiative to encourage service, just not a mandate. The reasons are pretty obvious - I could have listed a dozen hypothetical situations for which this requirement would be nothing but a headache.

OK Candidates, keep forking over the plans, it's making my decision easier, having something clear to consider rather than trying to latch onto some vague rhetoric.

Take me to the river

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Please! I am so ready for our river trip, I wish we were leaving tomorrow instead of Thursday. Last time I went to New Braunfels, we floated the Comal river. I've never done the 'Lupe, let alone on a holiday weekend, so this should be interesting.

I got a new desktop computer today. Yes, DESKtop, not laptop. We were trying to make a very old computer of Tom's work out, and it just couldn't keep up with my cutting edge technology (i.e., my Zune), so rather than put anymore money into that hunk of junk, I got a great deal on this Compaq with 500 GB hard drive, DVD writer, and USB slots galore. My laptop was brand new when I bought it, but this is the first brand new desktop I've ever had. It's so exciting! And I'm not sure what I'm going to do with 500 GB of space! So my moody Dell laptop is going to get lugged around campus yet another semester. Hey, if it works 50% of the time, that's 50% of my notes I don't have to hand write.

Vista is a bit baffling for me. I hate the new Office Suite, but I don't have that on this computer, just the ones at school. Vista, although I haven't found anything bad about it, is weird and new. There are things on my desktop that I didn't put there. And it's probably pretty easy to get them off, but I wonder why they're there in the first place. One is a clock...maybe because Microsoft wants to make sure my brain stays sharp enough to read a real clock as opposed to the digital one? Or on case I want to verify that one or the other is correct? Under that is a mini-slideshow. Since I haven't put any pictures on here, it's all the default Windows pictures playing in a mini-slideshow for my own personal...amusement? I am slightly amused by having a picture of someone else's cat on my PC...but I'm still not getting the "why" factor of that feature. Under that is something you ALL know I appreciate, and that is, a headline ticker. I know Angelina Jolie is in a French hospital probably about to have her babies without even TRYING to read the news!

Anyway, I should be too busy tomorrow for blogging, so happy Independence Day to everyone, and enjoy your long weekend!!

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