Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bluebonnets... a Texas tradition.

This past weekend was wonderful. Not only did I get to see Phantom of the Opera, but I also got to take pictures in the bluebonnets. For those of you that don't know, having your picture taken in the bluebonnets is somewhat of a Texas tradition. The bluebonnet is the state flower of Texas, and each spring they bloom along the highways and fields for about 3 weeks. It's absolutely beautiful. At this time thousands of people go out searching for the perfect bluebonnet patch to take snapshots of their loved ones. Since we were about two weeks early for the large bloom, we couldn't go out searching for them in the hill country, but we did find a patch at a church near my house. Jeremy was very patient with me and let me take about 200 pictures. Since I was using a small tripod and a makeshift stand of books and picnic baskets, it took quite a while to set up the camera just as I wanted. But I think overall they turned out pretty good. I put about 30 of them up on my flickr page, including some that we took at the park while waiting for some friends. HERE.

I also have an update on my neighbor yard drainage situation. After asking her to remove the pipe and ditch she dug into my yard, I awoke the next morning to see that she had in fact disconnected the drain pipe from the downspout. Great. However a few days later I went out to find that while the drain pipe wasn't "reconnected," it was however sitting right next to the downspout and of course pointing directly into my yard. It was time for Plan B. Plan B, I must say, is still a considerate plan. I walked over to her house and used a large bucket of rocks to position the drain pipe back onto her property and directly at her house. I have yet to fill in the drain hole with soil but I'm thinking that will be part of Plan C, should it come to that. I should also mention that Plan C may or may not also involve a reciprocating saw. I just don't understand how you can intentionally divert your water onto your neighbors yard, dig a trench in their yard, and somehow think this is okay. I'm baffled.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Flowers, an Herb Garden, and a Predicament

UPDATE: Last night I went over to the neighbors and kindly told them my concerns about the water diversion system that had installed. Kris, said neighbor, seemed to be very understanding and even acknowledged that she though that might be a problem. Her boyfriend, however, seemed to be a little defensive, and kept trying to explain to me that they had no other choice because otherwise the water would just flow under their house and make the foundation unstable. At this point I kindly explained to him that he did have other options, pumping it up to the street, or wrapping the long hose around closer to their house and down into their own back yard, or, since they are selling the house, do nothing and let the next owners figure it out. Either way, this morning the hose was disconnected (yay), but the ditch they dug was still there. I'll give it a few more days and then if it's still like that, I'll fill in the ditch that is in my yard and fill it with rocks to block the water. Thanks for all your suggestions!

This past weekend while my parents were in town, we did quite a bit of work on the house. Well I should say that my dad did quite a bit of work on the house, including cleaning up my back yard. I guess because I don't go out there that often, I tend to forget about it. Either way, it looks great now. We, and I stress we here because I actually helped with this part, even sprayed the whole yard with weed killer and then fertilizer. I think that's the most attention my yard has got in a very long time. But in addition to all this, yesterday we made a trip to Lowes and picked out some nice plants for my yard.

I suppose at this point I should mention that about a year ago I also planted about 10 new plants around the house, only to find Austin in the middle of the worst drought in years... they all died. This year I'm hoping for a better year. This year I'm hoping to have my plants stay alive through the summer. And so it is for this reason that I'm blogging about it now, so I can keep track just how many days I have managed to keep them alive. So far I'm off to a great start (see photos below). They have been planted (step 1), watered (step 2) and fed (step 3, and usually the one that gets neglected the most). In addition to the flowers that so nicely cover the once empty bed in front of the house, I have planted an herb garden. Rosemary, basil, sage, chives, parsley. I already have an oregano plant, but that was there when I moved in, and it was already quite hardy, so I can't really take credit for growing it, even though I should take credit for not killing it. So today is it, day 1. I hope to post back around day 30 with new pictures of my wonderfully blooming flowers and large garden, but lets not get our hopes up.

Finally I'd like to ask your advice on my predicament. Yesterday I noticed that my neighbor put a drain hose on the bottom of her downspout coming off the front of her house. Said drainage hose wraps around the side of her house, crosses over into my property line, and points directly onto the side of my property. By which I mean, that the water will flow exactly into my yard and down the side of my house into my back yard. Now, I already have issues with the back of my house, because everything seems to collect in the back left corner, as that's where the natural flow of water leads. And I have gone to great lengths to create channel regions around my back walkway so the water doesn't wash away my walkway, but I don't think that I can handle both her water and my water. So how do I go about nicely saying "hey, you better move your drain pipe or one night I'm going to come out here and cut it since it's on my property and conveniently redirect it under your house." Any thoughts?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Stupidest Kitchen Gadget Ever

Okay, so I usually blog about travel or food, but for just a minute I'd like to change topics. If you read my post a few weeks ago, you know that I've started reading this other blogging site, toxel.com. Their most recent post was "15 Cool Inventions for your Kitchen." Obviously I was very intrigued, so I started perusing the list. First of all, nothing on this list I would really classify into the "cool" category, with the possible exception of the spaghetti measuring device, and that's only cause I always make WAY too much pasta. But really, who doesn't love left over spaghetti? Anyway, I digress. Near the end of the list, I came across what I have to consider the stupidest kitchen gadget ever. Now these are some strong words, but after I show this to you, I'm sure you will agree with me. Ready for it? Here you go... the EZ Cracker.

At this point I'm sure you are thinking the same thing that I am, WTF?!? Thousands of years of cracking eggs with our hands, and yet at some point it was decided that humans can no longer handle this task. But it gets even better, there's a video!

I'm sure at this point you are speechless, much like I was after I watched this video. I've been cooking since I was little, and I can tell you that I've never had as many problems with eggs as these people seem to have. First of all, who the hell cracks an egg with a fork? And secondly, how many times have you missed the bowl while cracking the egg? And unless you crack the egg, then turn wildly to the side because some zombie is about to attack you, how can you possibly miss the frying pan by that much? Sure, sometimes you get some goop down the side of the bowl, but with a little... what's that word?... oh yea, practice... you won't have that problem. I am truly baffled at how lazy people have become. However, if you are one of these people who are new to the world of eggs, let me give you a few helpful tips.

1. If you are making a cake, and you think you may have gotten egg shell in with the batter, here's what you do. Once you are done baking the cake, flip it out of the pan, so the bottom is now facing up. Any egg shell pieces that may have fall into the batter will have sunk to the bottom of the cake and can be easily picked off.

2. If you're really concerned about this, use another bowl to first crack the eggs into, then transfer them to your batter.

3. Separating yolk from egg. Now this can be a little tricky, but the easiest way to do it is with your hands. I saw this little trick on the food network, and it's a great way to separate a lot of eggs in a short amount of time. First wash your hands. Then use your fingers as a strainer, by cracking the eggs into your hand, allowing the white to fall through your fingers, and the yolk to remain in your palm. Now, if your eggs just came out of the fridge, this can be a little chilling on your hand, but believe me, if you're making a meringue or something where you need many separated eggs, it's quite efficient. Of course, wash your hands when you're finished.

I hope this clears some stuff up, and if you're still debating on buying this ridiculous product, save your money, go to the store, buy a dozen eggs, and just practice. After cracking 12 eggs you'll be a master and it will have only cost you $2.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Slow cooked lamb and gourdough's donuts

A few nights ago Jeremy and I decided to make a lamb shoulder with a recipe that we found in my Mario Batali cookbook. This book has yet to disappoint, and last week was no exception. The result was this amazing, succulent lamb, so delicious that even after the meat was gone, we found ourselves sucking on the bones. The key to this lamb, besides the ingredients of course, was to slow cook it. On the skillet, medium heat, 1 hour.

(You'll have to excuse the fact that all these photos were taken with my iPhone, and so not the greatest quality. But you get the idea). Mmmm looks so good, I can taste it from here!

We also paired this with a side salad and some carrots... oh, and wine of course.

And for dessert, I made pot-au-creme. Besides this being my first attempt at this recipe, I was also trying to cut it in a 1/3, so I didn't wind up making a 6 serving for only 2 people. While that wasn't too difficult, it is a bit hard to cut 2 eggs into 1/3. Either way the result was very tasty, and I'm very happy that I didn't make the full batch for the two of us.

On a different note, the next night we had some friends over, so I decided it would be a good opportunity to check out gourdough's donuts. I stress the word 'I' here, because Jeremy never seems to think that it's a good idea to check out a donut place, especially one called gourdoughs. If you go to their website and check out the menu, you can instantly tell that this is no ordinary donut place. I decided that 4 of us would split the strawberry shortcake (doughnut, strawberries, cream cheese icing) and the funky monkey (grilled bananas, brown sugar baste, cream cheese icing). Below is the iPhone picture I took of the funky monkey. It was really thick, and delicious.

(I'm really sorry about this one, but I'm at a place where I can't turn it right now and the phone was being funny)

The best part about this place, besides the awesome donuts, is that they are part of a trailer park area that is just down the street from my house. (Across from Maudies on S. Lamar) If it's a nice night out, it's a cool place to hang out and relax. Besides the doughnut trailer, there's a 'farm to trailer' stand and a coffee stand. Oh, and if you're thinking of going there, gourdough's is only open from noon - 2am, and 'farm to market' is only open from 5pm - ??.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Fun finds on the Interweb

One of my new favorite sites is toxel.com This site contains a bunch of interesting articles, and mostly unusual design concepts. I've commented on a few of them below.

1. Hangman Lamp by Colago

I'd love to have one of these in my office, but unfortunately, from what I can tell, it's only a one-off and not for sale anywhere.

2. Cool Garage Door Stickers from "style-your-garage.com"

StyleYourGarage creates these highly realistic garage door stickers that are sure to get some interesting looks from your neighbors and all who pass by. My personal favorites are shown above.

3. MacBook Stickers for your Apple by MacSlaps

Stylize your MacBook with these cool stickers from MacSlaps. There are tons to choose from, but again, these are my personal favorites.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

It's been a while...

It's not that I've been in a cave for the last few weeks, it's just that there hasn't really been anything super exciting to write about, and I'm trying very hard not to bore you all. Although nothing stands out in my mind as especially blog worthy, there are a few things to mention.

First, and most exciting, a thank you to all my friends and supporters who helped me reach my goal of $2500 for the Houston to Austin BP MS150 2010!!! This is a very exciting milestone and I thank you all soooo much from the bottom of my heart.

Also exciting, for those of you that don't know, I've officially converted over to the dark side... I now own a Mac. I've had it for about a week and 1/2 now and I'm finally getting used to it, and have updated all my software/iTunes/iPhone/etc. I haven't played with the iPhoto much yet, mainly since I haven't taken many new pictures, but I have been able to iChat with a few people. It's kinda awkward, but I think I'll get the hang of it. Sometimes I feel like I'm yelling at the screen, and it's a little weird for someone to be looking at me while I'm chatting with them over the computer. You know, it's like text chat meets the phone and someone is watching you. Anyway, I can see how it will be useful in the future.

At this point I wish I had a new recipe to share with ya'll, but truthfully, I haven't baked much in the last few weeks (I know, horror), and what I've made cooking wise hasn't been exciting enough to write home about. I did make some pecan crusted chicken the other week using dijon mustard to coat the chicken before covering with minced up pecans. Usually one would use whipped egg to do this, but I feel the mustard gives it a nice flavor. Sear in a hot pan on each side 2-3 minutes, then stick it in the oven (you know 350 deg until done, I pull breast meat out at about 150, it will continue to cook as you let it sit on the counter). If you have an oven safe pan, you can put it all in there at one time, but remember that when you pull it out, that pan handle is gonna be HOT! Two weeks ago a saute pan was sitting on my counter and I forgot this fact. I didn't quite put myself in the hospital, but my hand was in sever pain for a few hours, and bubbled up within a week. But if you're careful when you do this, then you'll be able to remove the chicken and make a nice pan gravy with the flavor droppings that are left in the pan.

Enjoy your week and hopefully next weekend I'll have a chance to bake up something yummy, and blog about it.