Restaurant Review: Phil & Derek’s

A few weeks ago for date night the hubs and I headed off to a new (to us) restaurant called Phil & Derek’s.  You see, there’s this fabulous website called Restaurant.com that offers gift certificates THAT DON’T EXPIRE to various restaurants.  Usually, they don’t offer them to big chains such as Chili’s, Fudrucker’s, Papasitos, etc, however, they do offer them to small chains and independent restaurants.  We had received a Restaurant.com gift card at my bridal shower and they were running a super-duper sale.  Now, when they’re running a sale, that’s when things just get fun.  Example:  we purchased several gift cards to local restaurants… the gift card amount was $25.  Now, there are restrictions and they vary by restaurant, such as “$25 on a minimum purchase of $35, valid dinner only, valid mon-thurs only, etc etc etc.”  In this case, it was a $25 gift card with a minimum purchase of $35.  Want to know what we paid for the gift card???  $2.  Yup, that’s right folks, for $2, we got a $25 gift card.  Nifty huh?  So, with our minimum purchase and all, we had to spend $12 on a $35 tab.  Not a bad deal in my book.  Granted, we spent more than our $35 minimum, but still, you get the point.  $23 off.  Whoo hoo! 

Anywho, Phil & Derek’s is a quaint little restaurant that has been created out of an old historical building.  I don’t remember the whole spiel but basically it was owned by one of the first Houston families and it was eventually relocated to its current location and it’s a registered historical site.  It’s a nice little building on a cute little block.  We were seated promptly at 5:30 (when the restaurant opens) and taken to the back with a view of the ‘backyard’.  There were only two other couples there at the time and at first, I was a little put off because they put all three couples in the back instead of spreading us throughout the restaurant.  However, once I started looking around, I realized why.  Two entire walls in the back are nearly solid glass with a view of what amounts to a courtyard.  You see, all of these houses on this block have one communal backyard.  There are fountains, a gorgeous glass pavilion, winding paths and simple but well-maintained landscaping.  At 5:30 with the sun just setting it was quite a wonderful view.  It would make a fantastic place for an intimate wedding, bridal shower, baby shower, etc. 

Anyways, let’s talk about the food since this is a restaurant review after all.  Hubs and I both started with a salad, he had the Caesar and I had the house.  The house salad comes with walnuts and bacon (if I remember correctly), neither of which I eat, so I had them take that off.  I also didn’t want whatever the house dressing was so I got their raspberry vinaigrette instead.  To me, the salads were nothing spectacular.  The hubs and I were both debating between the same two dishes so we each ordered one and split it.  We ordered the cheeseburger and the tomato and mozzarella pizza.  The burger was very good, it was seasoned well, cooked all the way (which is a must for me) and served on a cibatta bun with seasoned fries.  Yum yum.  The pizza was good, but different.  It’s served on a nearly tortilla-thin crust with a pesto made with sundried tomatoes.  It’s then topped generously with real mozzarella cheese.  It’s tasty, a little stout (from the sundried tomatoes), but good none-the-less.  There was some sort of seafood buffet that night but I’m not much of a seafood person myself and the hubs wasn’t interested (not entirely sure why as he loves seafood).  I can appreciate the preparation though and the buffet was very pretty and looked good, even to a non-seafood-eater such as myself.

All in all?  We liked it.  We’d recommend it for a quiet dinner with your sweetie or something of the like.  Have you tried any good restaurants lately?

Blog-o-randomness

MOISTURIZER

Several people I know are searching for a good facial moisturizer.  I searched for one for years (about 15 of ‘em) until I read a magazine article from a lady who has crazy-sensitive skin like I do.  She recommended Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisturizer.   It’s only a couple of bucks so I figured, why the heck not?  I tried it, and I LOVE IT.  It doesn’t leave this heavy, greasy feel like most moisturizers do.  It sinks in right off the bat.  During the winter, I use it morning and night and during the summer, I just use it at night (since my skin is oiler then anyways).  It hasn’t made me break out, or made my skin red, raw, and bumpy like others have before.  I love it.  I love it.  I love it.  If you’re on the search for one, you should totally try it.  It rocks my socks, or, err, my face.  🙂

Side-note:  this moisturizer has zero SPF in it so if you’re going to be in the sun, you might want to try one of the ones with SPF.  As my pasty-whiteness generally avoids the sun, it’s a non-issue for me.

$$$:  I have several $2 off coupons for this stuff.  If you want to try it, just say the word and I’ll send a coupon your way (as long as I still have some).

 

 

WALKING:

If you’ve followed this blog you’ll remember that my friend G from work and I started out walking 3 miles 1-2 days a week, then we said we were going to start the Couch to 5k plan, and now, we haven’t walked together in over a month.  Honestly, my schedule is insane.  I have something going every weekend and at least 3-4 days during the week.  Still, I should be making more time to workout.  Shame on me.  Guess I’m going to have to start over again (didn’t I post several weeks/months ago about starting over… again?  I’m seeing a theme here). 

 

BLOG LAND:

I read a lot of blogs.  I mean, lots and lots of blogs.  Most of them are about crafts, food, or interior decorating… all those things that make my life complete. 

Anywho, sometimes those blogs I read are inspiring, sometimes they’re just freaking hysterical.  I thought I’d share some of both with you today J

http://www.thehouseofsmiths.com/2012/01/risk-my-2012-word-of-year.html

http://southyourmouth.blogspot.com/search/label/Random%20Crap

http://www.theartofdoingstuff.com/i-love-you-so-much-you-make-me-sick/

Seriously, they’re totally worth the time to read.  You might want to get some tissues though because I laughed so hard I cried.  Oh, and don’t attempt to eat or drink anything while reading, these are a choking hazard!

 

TV DINNERS

I’m not usually a TV dinner type person because 1, I think they’re full of waaaaay to many preservatives and chemicals and 2, they usually taste like cardboard (especially the meat).  However, from time to time when I have a coupon AND things are on sale, I’ll bite the bullet and take a risk.  This weekend, Lean Cuisines were on sale at Kroger 5 for $10.  I also had a coupon for buy 5 get $1 off.  So, for $9, I have lunch for the week to pair with a bowl of soup (that was made over NYE weekend and frozen).  I figured it was worth the risk.  L.C. has some new varieties out and I decided to try some.  Yesterday I had their Fajita-style Chicken Spring Rolls.  It’s marketed as a snack item and contains 2 servings.  I ate both servings as one lunch instead of two snacks.  Anyways, I microwaved them a bit too long so they were a little burnt and overly crunchy but the taste was pretty good.  Today, I had their Garlic Chicken Spring Rolls (same concept, different flavor) and I microwaved them not quiet long enough so they weren’t as crispy as I would have liked but the flavor was delish!  They definitely get a thumbs up for that one. 

 

MOBILE PHONE

I don’t know if any of this information is true and I have not as of yet attempted to verify any of it.  However, I received this email today from a friend and if it is true, this is super-useful info to have!

4 Things you might not have known about your Cell Phone

FIRST   (Emergency) 

The Emergency Number worldwide for Mobile is 112. If you find yourself out of the coverage
area of your mobile network and there is an Emergency, dial 112 and the mobile will search any
existing network to establish the emergency number for you, and interestingly, this number 112
can be dialed even if the keypad is locked. Try it out.

 

SECOND   (Hidden  Battery   Power)

 Imagine your cell battery is very low. To activate, press the keys *3370#. Your cell phone will
restart with this reserve and the instrument will show a 50% increase in battery. This reserve will
get charged when you charge your cell phone next time.

 

THIRD   (How to disable a STOLEN mobile phone? )

To check your Mobile phone’s serial number, key in the following Digits on your phone:   *#06#.   
A 15-digit code will appear on the screen. This number is unique to your handset.
 Write it down and keep it somewhere safe.

 

If your phone is stolen, you can phone your service provider and give them this code. They will then
be able to block your handset so even if the thief changes the SIM card, your phone will be totally
useless. You probably won’t get your phone back, but at least you know that whoever stole it can’t
use/sell it either. If everybody does this, there would be no point in people stealing mobile phones.

 FOURTH   (Free Directory Service for Cells) 

Cell phone companies are charging us $1.00 to $1.75 or more for 411 information calls when they don’t
have to. Most of us do not carry a telephone directory in our vehicle, which makes this situation even
more of a problem. When you need to use the 411 information option, simply dial:


(800) FREE411   
or (800) 373-3411      

without incurring any charge at all.  Program this into your cell phone now. This is sponsored by McDonalds.

 

 

 

 

“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.” ~ May Sarton

Recently during multiple conversations with various people I’ve heard the term ‘authentic’ come up when talking about other people or their relationships with other people.  That word has sort of stuck in my brain and is slowly but surely making me pay attention to it (kind of like the story of the princess and the pea).  Then today, on the morning radio show I listen to on my way into work, I heard it again.  Ok God, I get it, I get it.  You see, I don’t really believe in coincidence and when something like this happens, I truly believe it’s God’s way of saying “HEY!  I want you to hear this!  Pay attention already!”  So, he’s got my attention.

Now, we’ve all heard this word before.  It’s not new to the English language or anything.  We hear it a lot I’m sure.  I’ve heard it more often than not used when referring to food… authentic New York pizza, authentic Chicago dog, etc etc.  What does it really mean though?  As usual, I turned to my handy dandy go-to reference manual… dictionary.com.

au·then·tic /
adjective
1.
not false or copied; genuine; real: an authentic antique.
2. having the origin supported by unquestionable evidence; authenticated; verified: an authentic document of the Middle Ages; an authentic work of the old master.
3. entitled to acceptance or belief because of agreement with known facts or experience; reliable; trustworthy: an authentic report on poverty in Africa.

Synonyms
1–3. Authentic, genuine, real, veritable  share the sense of actuality and lack of falsehood or misrepresentation. Authentic  carries a connotation of authoritative certification that an object is what it is claimed to be: an authentic Rembrandt sketch. Genuine  refers to objects or persons having the characteristics or source claimed or implied: a genuine ivory carving. Real,  the most general of these terms, refers to innate or actual—as opposed to ostensible—nature or character: In real life, plans often miscarry. A real diamond will cut glass. Veritable,  derived from the Latin word for truth, suggests the general truthfulness but not necessarily the literal or strict correspondence with reality of that which it describes; it is often used metaphorically: a veritable wizard of finance.

Ok, so now that we know what that word means, I figured I should look into what it means to be an authentic person.  You see, I think I’m an authentic person.  Then again though, how many people would say that they think otherwise?  Generally though, I’m a very real take-me-as-I-am type of person (probably to my own detriment a lot of the time).  Anyway, since I’m not an expert on this by any means, I figured I’d go looking for someone else who perhaps is.  So, I went to my other handy dandy go-to reference guide… Google. 

I came across this website… http://regainingfreedom.com/self-actualization/becoming-an-authentic-person/.  Now here’s my disclaimer:  I know NADA about the person who wrote this or about anything on the rest of this website.  I’m not endorsing it, I’m not not-endorsing it either.  I just thought what he/she/it had to say about being an authentic person was interesting. 

Rediscovering freedom involves regaining a feeling of comfort in your own skin. The awkward layers that have been assumed to please others are shed, and the real person is revealed – an authentic person. What does this mean, and how do we regain our authenticity?

Firstly, what does authentic mean? The dictionary definition is: Conforming to fact and therefore worthy of trust, reliance, or belief; not counterfeit or copied. The authentic person is the real deal, what you see is what you get. The outside reflects the values of the heart. There is no show for the sake of others. The authentic person is reliable because their inner values and motivations are clear.

The definition of authentic precludes something that is copied or counterfeit. A copy is not original, or individual. It conforms to an image of something else rather than being itself.

The opposite of authentic is fake or superficial. The fake person is easily seen for what they are by anyone who is astute. Only the person who is not looking is fooled. The fake item always has low value. Everyone can see it is not what is purports to be.

A fake Rolex is obviously not authentic when you look at it closely and it tarnishes quickly. You can buy one for a few dollars then throw it away, while the real thing commands thousands and keeps looking good. Fake medicine looks the same as the genuine article, but it has no power to heal. It tries to ride on the reputation of the real item, but doesn’t deliver on its promises. In both cases, the fake or copy is of little value. The analogy holds for the fake person as well.

The fake person has lost their connection to the real person inside. After a while, they forget that they were ever an individual. They just become another clone, to be used or discarded by others, with little perceived inherent value.

So we have established that it is bad to be fake or superficial. How do we become authentic? Well authenticity is our original state. We are born as authentic individuals. There is nothing more real than a baby. A baby doesn’t fake anything. We lose authenticity along the way when we conform to what others think, rather than thinking for ourselves. We doubt our own wisdom and stop listening to our minds.

Regaining authenticity is a mental exercise. Firstly it involves identification of our core beliefs, then challenging those that are not congruent to where we want to be as a person. Only the strongest individuals will do this.

For many people, cognitive dissonance will cause them to immediately reject the new way of thinking. New fresh ideas will conflict with existing false beliefs. It is easier for the person to resist change and rejection of what they see as their true self (their false beliefs) than it is to logically assess the new ideas.

Once inner beliefs are changed, then outward change can follow. You can’t impose outward change, and expect inward change. Outward change comes from deciding to act in accordance with the dictates of the heart. It comes from refusing to again compromise core beliefs to “fit in” and refusing to learn what has been told rather than critically thinking it through.

Once the person has regained their authenticity, their character will be again congruent with their outward persona. This means that the energy that was spent in denial of reality, or keeping up a front can now be channeled into more productive areas. The individual will regain peace and self awareness. They can start to unleash creativity and fulfill their purpose in life.

Conclusion?  Be real.  Warts and all.  That’s it.  I had an up-front-and-personal-in-your-face experience with this this week.  I’m not a fan of admitting failure but this week I had to go to some of my friends and admit that I was failing at something and I seriously needed their prayer.  In the back of my head was Mr. Negativity saying to me ‘if you admit this to them, they’ll think less of you.’  What B.S.  These are women I consider to be my very dear friends AND they’re all women of God.  They’re not going to think less of me for admitting that I’m struggling.  So, tearfully, very tearfully, I told them of my failures and asked for prayer.  Guess what?  I was right.  They love me warts and all.  I’m very lucky to have women like this in my life. 

This brings up another topic though.  What does it mean to have authentic relationships?  Yet again, I’m not claiming to be an expert (as evidenced from the paragraph before) so I went looking for someone who is.  Remember my disclaimer from earlier about not endorising and not not-endorsing either?  Yeah, it applies here too. 

Website: http://www.learnmindpower.com/articles/authentic-relationships/

Let me begin this month’s topic with a parable:

A traveller nearing a great city asked an old man seated by the road,

“What are the people like in this city?”
“What were they like where you come from?” asked the old man.

“Horrible,” the traveller responded in disgust. “Mean, untrustworthy, detestable in all respects.”
“Ah…” said the old man thoughtfully, “you will probably find them the same in this city as well.”

A few hours later another traveler passed by and asked the old man the same question.

“What were they like where you come from?” he similarly asked.
“They were fine people. Honest, industrious, generous, caring; I was sorry to leave,” the traveller responded.

“You’ll find them the same here,” the old man replied.

What is quite incredible is that this simple parable contains an astounding truth. If your thoughts, beliefs, expectations and personal vibration of energy have produced a life where you are encountering generous, kind, honest and caring people, then that is what you will continue to attract no matter what new city or change of circumstances you find yourself in. Likewise if your thoughts, beliefs, expectations and personal energy have produced circumstances where people are dishonest, greedy, mean and self-centered, then changing your city without changing yourself is highly unlikely to produce anything different.

Let me illustrate this reality in this way. Recently a friend of mine was trying to entertain his young son and thought of an ingenious way to keep him busy. In a magazine he saw a full-page picture of the world map. He knew his son was interested in geography so he took out a pair of scissors and cut the map into numerous pieces, making a puzzle. He gave it to his son figuring it would entertain him for some time. Five minutes later his son was back to say, “I’m finished.”

“How did you complete it so quickly?” his father asked in amazement.

“It was easy,” answered his son, “On the other side was a picture of a man. I figured if I got the man right the world would be right.”

Oddly enough, here another truth is revealed: Get yourself right and your world will be right. If you want authentic meaningful relationships with others, look no further than yourself. Become authentic. Become yourself.

I have a good friend who is the most authentic person I know. People love being around her because she is so real, with no pretence. She makes everyone feel special, not in a phoney way; she makes them feel special because she is genuinely interested in them. She values people. She values relationships, knowing that even the most causal relationship, a moment with a stranger, has the potential to gift them and us in some way. And so she lives her life day-by-day, moment-by-moment, open, honest and receptive to others. It sounds simple but it’s actually revolutionary, given that most of us approach others with an agenda of our own.

The question you must ask yourself is do you value relationships? Are you willing to be authentic yourself in order to have authentic relationships? Are you prepared to change, grow, open your heart and show yourself to others? Unless you can answer yes to all three questions, it’s futile to hope for authentic relationships with others.

Here are a few of my own observations on the qualities possessed by those rare individuals I have encountered who are one hundred percent authentic in who they are:

1. Authentic people are not afraid to be who they are and show who they are. There is no pretence. There is no building themselves up to look better, there is no tearing themselves down to look worse. They are secure with who they are. They know their strengths and use them in a loving, compassionate way. They know their weaknesses and catch themselves, without recrimination, when they fall into them. They are what we sometimes refer to as being “real.”

2. Authentic people are approachable. It doesn’t matter what position they hold or what activity they are engaged in, if you are with them you will be treated with respect and attention.

3. Authentic people are interested in others. They have learned that having an authentic relationship holds the key to joy and happiness. It is not work or effort for them. It is natural because they have developed this ability through wisdom. Whether it is a life-long relationship or an encounter of ten seconds, they know it holds within it the core truth of our being, namely that we are all one. They see in others another part of themselves, another part of God, a tiny piece of the unfolding matrix that is totally unique in and of itself. This is of interest to them.

4. Authentic people put others at ease. We know when we are in the presence of an authentic person because we feel relaxed, at home. We feel heard, respected, important, interesting. Authentic people make us feel that way because that is how they see us, and through their sight we in turn see ourselves anew. We see the promise of our own lives and our own possibilities through their enlightened vision. We knew it is true because they see it, and we trust their vision. It is one of the greatest gifts we can be given, and in turn give others. But we can only give it if we’re authentic.

5. Authentic people know their place in the world and fulfill it with joy and attention. Sometimes it will be a position of power and influence. Other times it will be the most humble of occupations. It is not the occupation or position that distinguishes them, but rather their ability to know and be themselves, and to have deep meaningful relationships with others.

6. Authentic people live day-by-day, moment-by-moment. They have the presence of Zen masters. They know well that life must be lived and experienced one situation at a time, so that’s what they do. They know deeply that nothing is more important than this very moment. When we are in their presence we know it too, for we vibrate with their frequency.

Authenticity does not happen overnight. We humans are too filled with our own arrogance and selfishness. Too attached to our agendas. Too busy with our own lives. Too fixated on our goals. Our concern is primarily with ourselves, but this can change when there is the vision and will. If authentic relationships are important to us we can practice being authentic. We can make a start and learn as we go. Nothing is impossible to us. Then, as we become more authentic ourselves, we will discover the joy of deeper relationships and will want to become one hundred percent authentic.

We might find that we want no distance or barrier between others and ourselves. There is no telling where it might lead us. The masters of old were just like us before they began their journey of discovery, and we will be just like them when we take our own journey into authenticity. It is a worthy journey.

So now that I’ve written (ok, stolen) the longest blog entry ever, I bet you’re wondering why I’m writing about this.  Well, it’s because I needed to hear this this week.  I needed to learn about being an authentic person and having authentic relationships.  It’s what God wants me to work on.  This may or may not be helpful to you but I believe it’s worthy of sharing.  I believe we’re all in need of a little bit more real in our daily lives.  I believe that when I can be true to myself, and not be ashamed of who I am or hiding who I am to the real world that yes, I’m putting myself out there and there’s a chance that I could get hurt, get laughed at, or fall on my face.  However, when I find other like-minded authentic people (fortunately I already have some of these in my life) I believe that I will find the most fulfilling, comforting, satisfying relationships I will have ever known.  I’m looking forward to it and I’m getting started right now.

Never wear anything that panics the cat. ~P.J. O’Rourke

So Friday last week I took Sewing 102 like I mentioned in my previous post.  I haven’t written about it yet because honestly, there’s a lot of personal drama going on and I just don’t feel particularly perky at the moment.  Don’t ask me why, but I feel the need to feel perky when I write for my blog.  This morning I just decided I was going to write it perky or not… so here I am.

Friday’s class was scheduled to take 3 hours and the instructor warned us at the beginning that likely, we wouldn’t all finish.  She was right.  In fact, NONE of us finished.  However, I learned A TON.  I mean, I feel like I took an entire semester’s college course in one night.  I slept sooooo good that night (once I finally went to sleep) because my brain was so tired.  Needless to say, it’s not a simple top (the class was called ‘Sewing a Simple Top’).  There were a gazillion seams, rouching, and even using a special lining to make the collar stiff.  It was just a lot to tackle in one class.  Little did I know, cutting out the pattern would take the longest amount of time.  Funnily enough, the pattern we were using had a huge error on it, so we were all completely lost.  Thank goodness for the instructor.  I’m so happy I didn’t try to tackle this pattern on my own because I would have been completely mystified and probably ended up with a goofy looking pillow instead of a shirt.  Anyways, if you’ve never used a pattern before (which I hadn’t) it’s not easy.  I don’t think it’d be easy even when the pattern isn’t all jacked up (thanks McCall’s!).  It’s virtually impossible to cut a straight line.  I’m going to have to find a better way to do this.  I have two ideas and once I’ve tried them both, I’ll let you know what works best. 

Continuing on… so, an hour after class started we finally started sewing.  …  Slowly.  …  Really slowly.  …  I’m relatively certain I sew at the speed of a 3-legged turtle.  But, my shirt eventually started taking shape.  About 10 minutes before the end of class, my sewing needle hit one of my pins and bent my needle.  Then I attempted to unbend my needle (which can’t be done apparently) and broke it completely.  Seeing as how I had absolutely no idea how the heck to change out a broken needle, that ended my class time.  I spent the next few minutes talking to the instructor about how to finish my shirt at home. 

So, Sunday I sat down for about an hour and finished my shirt.  Truthfully, I didn’t really look at the pattern.  I just went off of what I remembered my instructor saying and did some improvisation.  I know I didn’t stitch the sides together correctly, or hem the bottom correctly.  I actually took everything a step farther than I needed to.  Honestly I’m ok with that because my intention for learning to sew is not to sew clothing.  So, if my shirt looks goofy, that’s ok, I just want to learn how to read a pattern and how to use my machine. 

Oh, and apparently, I need to work on the size of my seams.  Here’s why… I made the shirt using the size 14 pattern because the person I had in mind wears a size 12 and I figured it wouldn’t hurt if it was a bit big.  So, once the shirt was completed, I had said person put the shirt on.  They could barely get their arms in it (apparently the way I thought you make arm holes and the way you do aren’t the same).  Sooo… I took the shirt with me on Monday to Girls Night with some friends (who happen to be skinny-minis) and asked my wonderful friend E to try it on for me.  Little miss size 8 fits perfectly into my size 14 top.  Umm… so that means I used 4 sizes worth of material to make my plethora of seams.  Whoops.  Well, at least my seams are straight (sorta).  So, needless to say I’m going to take my shirt with me to my sewing class this week and ask my instructor what in the world went 4 sizes wrong.  But hey, I made a shirt.  An actual shirt.  And the day before this class, I’d just learned what a bobbin was and how to thread my machine.  I’m rather proud of myself even though my intended outcome (a size 12-14 top) wasn’t reached, I still made a top.  I may not get a gold star, but I think I earned myself a silver one. 

My adorable and wonderful model in my way-smaller-than-intentioned-I'm-lucky-I-have-skinny-friends shirt

My adorable and wonderful model in my way-smaller-than-intentioned-I'm-lucky-I-have-skinny-friends shirt

.
 
back detail (rouching)

back detail (rouching)

 
 

My granddaughter came to spend a few weeks with me, and I decided to teach her to sew. After I had gone through a lengthy explanation of how to thread the machine, she stepped back, put her hands on her hips, and said in disbelief, “You mean you can do all that, but you can’t play my Game Boy?” ~Author Unknown

Yesterday was a milestone for me.  You see, for Christmas 2010 I asked for this super-nifty Brother sewing machine. I  researched for weeks to figure out which model I wanted and Santa (or my mom) gave me just what I wanted.  I was soooo happy to see it sitting there by the fireplace Christmas morning.  Can you guess what happened next?  Nothing, absolutely nothing.  You see, I wanted the sewing machine because I thought that seeing it would somehow give me the courage to learn to sew.  I really want to sew.  I’ve wanted to learn to sew for a long time. However, my poor sewing machine sat, in its box, totally unopened, for over a year.  I’m sure the poor thing has abandonment issues. 

Anyways, enter Christmas 2011… I don’t know about the rest of you but I’m at the age where my parents just ask me what I want for Christmas instead of guessing.  There’s not much surprise come Christmas morning, but it’s nice to get something you actually want instead of some random, weird contraption that you’ll probably never use.  So, this year for Christmas I requested gift cards to Joann’s.  If you’re not familiar, Joann’s is a fabric/crafting store (kind of like Hobby Lobby or Michael’s but with a focus on fabric crafts).  I knew that they offered sewing classes and being the broke girl that I am, I knew the only way I’d ever pay for them was to get a gift card.  So, thanks to various family members (and a 1/2-off classes sale), I took my gift cards with me to Joann’s a few weeks ago and bought five sewing classes. 

Yesterday I took Intro to Sewing.  I learned how to fill a bobbin (considering I didn’t even know what a bobbin was before this I’m pretty happy), how to thread my machine, and how to make a straight stitch.  Actually, with the help of an extremely patient instructor and the girl next to me who seemed to already know what she was doing, I managed not to break the machine or stitch the fabric to my finger.  All in all, a pretty productive day.  AND, my instructor even complemented my machine.  She said it was a good one.  So go me for researching and picking a good one! 

Today, however, I’m taking Sewing 102: Sew a Simple Top…  Simple Top my ass.  In yesterdays class there was a sample of the top from today’s class hanging on the wall.  I’m looking at it off and on throughout the entire class thinking YEAH RIGHT!  So, I’m a little freaked, and not entirely sure I’m ready to tackle that kind of project just yet, but I’m gonna try.  At least there will be an instructor there to un-snarl my machine when it needs it.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day… even when you eat it for dinner.

I love to cook.  If you know me or read my blog you’re aware of this fact.  Usually, we cook a new recipe in my house 2-3 times a week.  When I cook something for the first time, I always cook it exactly the way the recipe says to and then after I eat it, I make notes on anything I need to change.  I find new recipes just about anywhere… magazines, cookbooks, various online recipe websites, blogs, Pinterest, friends, you name it.  Usually I just read the title, look at the picture, and read the ingredients to decide if it’s something that I think I would like.  Then, I’ll add it to the menu (yes, I actually sit down each Friday and plan out a menu for the following week) and pick up the ingredients Sunday at the grocery store.  Then, the day of, I’ll get home from work, pull out the recipe and ingredients and get cooking.  Usually this isn’t a problem.  However, sometimes, like on Tuesday, this bites me in the butt.  Tuesday’s meal was Dried Tomato Casserole & a salad (kind of a lame name if you ask me… it should be called Sun-Dried Tomato & Ravioli Soufflé).  I’m chopping and mixing away until I get to these two words … chill overnight.  Umm… what?  Crap.  So, I did what any normal person would do… I called Domino’s.  Then I went ahead and finished preparing the dish while we waited for dinner to be delivered and we had it for dinner last night instead.  (It pays to read the instructions before-hand folks). 

The casserole was actually quite tasty and incredibly easy.  The hardest think you have to do is whisk eggs and milk together.  This makes a great quick-fix meal for a weeknight since it’s prepared the night before.  It also makes a fabulous easy breakfast for times when you might be entertaining and don’t want to make a big fuss (think Christmas day, or the morning after Thanksgiving, or a random visit from the in-laws). 

Dried Tomato Casserole: http://www.bhg.com/recipe/pasta/dried-tomato-casserole/

Recipe notes:  It is essential to grease the pan well.  I used regular ‘ol Pam and gave it a good coating.  I couldn’t find pre-shredded Monterrey jack so I used some sort of Mexican blend instead.  I think this would be good with any white cheese (mozzarella, Monterrey jack, etc).  I also didn’t have fresh basil or parsley and didn’t want to buy it just for this one dish so I used ¼ tsp of dried basil and ¼ tsp of dried parsley.  I sprinkled them on top right before baking.  I also only used about ½ jar of sun-dried tomatoes.  It lent it a very subtle flavor.  If you’re a fan of sun-dried tomatoes or want a stronger flavor, I’d use the entire jar.  Oh, and we used cheese ravioli since I’m not really a fan of beef.  All opinions, notes, etc are based on using cheese ravioli as using beef would completely alter the flavor. 

As mentioned, we had this for dinner with a salad.  If you wanted to serve for breakfast (or breakfast for dinner), I’d serve it as your main dish with bacon and fresh fruit on the side.  Easy peasy.

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. ~Sylvia Plath

It’s been a long time since I last posted and strangely enough, that was intentional.  Truth be told this blog is not turning out to be what I intended it to be.  Or perhaps, what I intended to do was more than I could handle.  Within about a month of starting the blog, I was completely stressed out.  I was freaking out and spending a ridiculous amount of time figuring out my ‘blog plan.’  I’d sit down for at least an hour every day coming up with ideas of things I could blog about.  Perhaps having someone like myself, who has a plan for everything, running a blog that started on a whim was not a particularly well thought out decision?  I started wondering if people thought what I was writing about was stupid, if they would think less of me if I didn’t post something, and just various negative thoughts.  Then I started wondering, is anyone even reading this freaking thing?  Slowly but surely, I’ve decided it doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t matter if no one reads it.  It doesn’t matter if someone does read it and things I’m the village idiot.  It doesn’t matter that what this was supposed to be and what it is aren’t the same thing.  Truth is, if I’d just relax and let it come naturally, I think I’d actually enjoy writing it.  The few times I’ve had something I thought was interesting and worthwhile to write about, I did  enjoy writing about it.  So, I’m gonna write.  Maybe not every day, maybe not something that blows your skirt up every time, but I’m still gonna write. 

So on that note, I thought I’d catch you up on the few good deeds/accomplishments/marble changes that have happened since I posted a loooooong time ago. 

I FINALLY sent off two care packages to the US military.  My brother-in-law is in the Air Force and is currently stationed in Guam.  Some of the men in his unit are stationed in various places overseas and I sent two of them care packages.  Truth be told, I had this genius idea for National POW Day.  I’m willing to bet very few people actually know that there’s a National POW Day, but there is.  This year, it’s on September 21.  Sadly, between the time I had the idea and got the mailing addresses and the time that I actually mailed the packages, one of the guys had already been shipped back to the States.  Ok, well, that’s not sad news, it just means I suck.  Then again, the one guy that did get his package sent me a super sweet note telling me what a horrible week he’d been having and that the package that my hubs and I sent him really cheered him up.  He even sent me a Christmas card.  So then again, maybe the timing was perfect.  Luckily the one box that didn’t get delivered made it all the way back to my front door (looking seriously beat up, but intact nonetheless).  I contacted my stepsister and asked for another address and I’m going to repackage the items and send them off to another deserving soul.  Hopefully this time it won’t take me several months to do so.  My goal is to get it done this weekend. 

Secondly, I cooked dinner for the local fire department.  It’s not a huge feat, it’s only 4 guys, but still, I emailed the fire chief and asked for permission and we set a time and date and I went to work.  Unfortunately, I came down with my first ever bout with the flu a day and a half before dinner was supposed to be delivered.  So, while feeling like I’d gone 8 rounds with Mike Tyson and running a fever of 102 I put together a roast, hash brown potato casserole, pesto green beans, and rice krispie treats.  I had some grander plans but in the end, I was happy with what I cooked.  Mom and the hubs had to drive it over there and I tried not to touch any of the disposable pans so that I wouldn’t transfer any of my squirmy wormy germies to anyone.  I never heard a peep from anyone so I hope that they enjoyed it. 

Thirdly, I survived Christmas.  Strangely this was a major feat this year.  For some reason, and I have no idea why, I was seriously behind this year.  Normally I have the majority of my shopping done by the summer and my wrapping done by Thanksgiving.  This year I was doing my shopping the week before and wrapping the night of.  Some of my gifts didn’t even come in on time and I had to print up “Santa’s Late!” flyers and put them in boxes and wrap them.  It was pathetic.  Then we had our annual Christmas family merry-go-round adventure.  Since both my parents and my hubs’ parents are divorced it means that we spend Christmas at 4 different locations.  We spent the 23rd with his dad & stepmom, the 24th with my dad & stepmom, the evening of the 24th with my mom, the morning of the 25th with my mom, and the evening of the 25th with his mom and stepdad.  It’s sort of a zoo.  I can’t wait for the first year that we have our own place and can have everyone over.  I love to entertain so it should work out perfectly.

Fourthly, I spend New Year’s weekend cooking for the freezer.  The hubs and I did the same thing last year and it worked out great.  We made Please Cheese Me (a healthy version of mac & cheese), Lentil Vegetable Soup, Slow Cooker Taco Soup, my own recipe for Mexican Cabbage Soup, spaghetti sauce, and chili.  We made big batches then froze them in small quantities in our freezer so we have easy, go-to meals when we need something.  I use the soups for my lunches all the time.

Please Cheese Me: http://www.hungry-girl.com/newsletters/raw/1298
Lentil Vegetable Soup: http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Lentil-Vegetable-Soup
Slow Cooker Taco Soup: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Slow-Cooker-Taco-Soup/
The other recipes either came from my head or a cookbook so I’ll have to get them for you another time.

Fifthly, I initiated the first ever Big Saturday Breakfast.  This just happened last Saturday and I had about 15 people over to the house for a casual Saturday morning meal.  I told people to come as they pleased between 9 & 11 and hang out.  We had a Scrambled Egg Bar (think the self-serve hibachi places where you pick your ingredients and they cook it), fresh fruit, muffins, and Lil’ Smokies (cocktail weenies).  Since I don’t eat eggs or cocktail weenies I’ll just have to take everyone at their word that things were good.  I can only hope so.  Everyone seemed to have a really good time and it wasn’t real stressful on me which was huge.  I chose an easy menu, and we ate everything on clear plastic plates w/ plastic silverware and disposable cups.  Not particularly classy, but I didn’t have to spend the rest of the day cleaning up either.  My hope is that this will become a quarterly thing and every few months we’ll have another one.  I guess the turn out for the next one will tell.

Sixthly, and lastly, I signed up for 5 sewing classes at my local Joann’s store.  Last year I got a super-nifty sewing machine that I wanted and it’s never even made it out of the box.  So, this year I asked for gift cards to Joann’s so that I could take classes and learn how to use the thing (other than as a giant paperweight).  Then, my stepmom gave me the heads up that Joann’s was having a ½ off sale on their classes.  So, off to Joann’s I went.  Between the 5 classes and the supplies for the classes my total came to approx. $350, however, with coupons, sales, and gift cards my out of pocket expense was only $16.  Can we say super-sweet-freaking-amazing deal?!?!?!  So this Thursday I’m off to take my first class.  I’m excited… nervous, but excited.  I sort of am the village idiot when it comes to sewing. I know nothing.  I know less than nothing.  I even make my poor husband sew on buttons because I don’t know how.  Hopefully though, that’s all about to change. 

As New Year’s approached and everyone started talking about resolutions it sort of got me thinking about things.  No, I didn’t make a resolution, but I did sort of scold myself and hopefully point myself in the right direction for some changes.  You see, I’m an idea junkie.  Basically what that means is that I spend an inordinate amount of time gathering all these ideas for things I want to try someday.  I have binders and binders and binders full of recipes, craft ideas, interior decorating ideas, and travel destinations.  The problem is, I spend all my time gathering these ideas and organizing them neatly into binders but never actually bringing any of those ideas to fruition.  I’m tired of that.  So incredibly tired of that.  So, I’m working to change it.  In a few weeks I’m hosting a girls night at my house where we’re going to do some Valentine’s Day crafts.  I’ve been running around gathering materials and doing various dry runs to make sure that all of my ideas work and at least look sort of cute.  They’re easy crafts that don’t really take any skill but at least it’s something… something more tangible than a piece of paper with an idea on it.  It’s a start, and you have to start somewhere.

So, that’s all I can think of for now but I’m sure there’s more.  I’ll post more as I think about it or as new things happen.

As a side note, my dad had a big birthday in November but he’s a professional Santa (yes, I’m serious, he does this for a living and is great at it) so November and December are his crazy busy months.  Therefore, we decided to celebrate later.  Dad wants to go to Lake Tahoe so that’s where we’re going.  The whole family is going hopefully.  Anyways, since the hubs and I are on a seriously tight budget we wanted to make sure that we didn’t overpay for our plane tickets.  I asked my stepsis if she had any suggestions for fare watchers and she suggested kayak.com.  So, I signed on, looked up my flight and put in my email address for them to send me reminders.  I’m sooo glad I did.  When I first looked up the flight the prices were $470ish.  I decided to wait and watch and see what happens.  Kayak sends you one update a week and tells you if the price has gone up or down.  The price stayed solid the first week (went up about $5 or thereabouts) and then took a nosedive the next week down to $290.  I immediately jumped on it and bought our tickets (I can’t imagine that prices will drop much, if any, lower).  Then I got another update this week that the price is at $290 still.  So, I think I made the right decision.  I tell you this because if you’re planning a vacay and want the best rates, I highly suggest kayak.com.  They saved me a lot of money and for a budget-conscious-save-every-penny-use-a-coupon-for-everything person like myself, I was quite pleased. 

Oh, super-side-side-note… it’s been in the 70s for a couple of days now.  I realize I live in Texas and all but 70s in January?  Really?  Come on!  Then yesterday we had a ridiculous storm.  It was pitch freaking dark outside and there were several tornadoes in the area.  It was nuts.  Mom was home with the dog thank god (who was scared whit-less).  Mom said she shook (the dog, not mom) for over an hour straight.  Poor sissy baby dog.  Then today, it’s in the 40s.  I’m sorry but this is just ridiculous.  It’s winter.  Be cold, and stay cold.  70 degrees is for March!