Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Impact Back to School Shopping

Last night Ryan, Grant, and I had the chance to be a part of Bammel's annual Impact Back to School Shopping trip.

We met the little girl that we would be taking shopping. Her name was Alexis. She was going into 4th grade, and she was adamant that she wanted to go shopping with us by herself. NOT with her little sister. 

We got to Wal-Mart, which happened to be Alexis's favorite store. She found some shoes that she just adored and some new uniform clothes. 

We got the typical school supplies such as pencils and markers, and then moved on to the fun stuff. She really wanted "one of those backpacks that hang by your side." Some know that by the name of a messenger bag. Alexis is a huge Hannah Montana fan, as well as High School Musical. We found a pencil bag, lunch box, and messenger bag--all Hannah Montana themed.

Our next stop--CiCi's Pizza. Believe it or not, ANOTHER favorite of Alexis's. She had about a half of a piece of pizza, a small salad, and about 8 cinnamon rolls. That's right, 8!  She cracked us up on the way home. The happy, talkative Alexis began answering all of our questions with a miserable sounding "uh-huh" and "uh-uh." I looked back and she was hugging her stomach. She said, "I think I ate too much. Hope I don't get sick on the way home." Ryan was very careful to drive smoothly and I advised her to sit by the window on the bus. 

She was such a sweet girl, and we loved spending time with her! 

A Weekend Away

Exactly what I needed because I have been so busy and stressed and overworked. 

Okay, that's not true at all. I have been on vacation pretty much everyday until August 19th, but it was a much needed break for Ryan. 

Andrew and Abbie Harmon invited us, along with 14 other people to their family's new lake house on Lake Granbury, which is a part of the Brazos River. We had so much fun!

Ryan and I had quite the drive on Friday to make it, but it was well worth it. By the time we got there Friday, everyone was pretty much winding down to prepare for the fun that Saturday promised us. 

Saturday morning we woke up to coffee and muffins prepared by Abbie. The girls made our way down to the lake to float for a while. One we considered our skin sufficiently damaged for the day, we went to the yard where Andrew and Abbie were grilling hotdogs and hamburgers and the guys were all playing washers. 

That afternoon, Andrew took us out on the lake in shifts. We got to see some beautiful homes (including one that Kenny Chesney is building) and knee board. Tanna and Logan were champs. Shealynn and I, not so much. Shealynn, however, was hilarious. And I have a HUGE knot/bruise on my shin, which I think warrants an A for effort. 

After boating, we spent the lazy part of the afternoon on the hammock and sitting under a big tree reading. The guys were still immersed in yet another game of washers. For dinner, Andrew and Abbie made wonderful steaks and baked or sweet potatoes. 

It was the perfect summer weekend with great food, great fellowship, and, as usual, hilarious stories to be told. 

Andrew and Abbie were the perfect hosts.  Above, you can see Andrew in action . 

Below is an intense game of washers. 

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Another week of IMPACT is over. This was my third week to work with 5th graders. I never thought that I would enjoy that age group, but I really like working with them!

This week, we started with a book called Knots on a Counting Rope.  It is a story about a young child and his Indian grandfather. They talk about the 'dark mountains' that the child has to cross in life. The 5th graders got into groups and wrote a group story about a character who has to cross 'dark mountains.' We talked about symbolism and using it in a story.

On Tuesday, we talked about the tone and mood of stories. We compared and contrasted the mood in two different books about shortcuts. One was by Donald Crews entitled Shortcut. It is an ominous tale about kids that narrowly escape the train tracks with their lives after using it as a shortcut. The second was called The Secret Shortcut by Mark Teague. It was a lighthearted story about adventurous boys who get lost in the forest and conquer alligators and swinging vines while taking a shortcut on the way to school. And would you believe it; the two make it to class on time!

In comparing these two, we talked about how the dialog, illustrations, mood of characters, repetition, vocabulary, and other elements give us clues as to what the tone of a book is. 

And Wednesday, we had a relaxing class time. We started off with a book called Bigmama's. It is also by Donald Crews. It was a warm glance into what summertime was like at the authors grandmother's farm in Cottondale when he was a child. 

After reading and discussing this book, we had free reading time. The kids really seem to love this. I brought many of my books from home and let them read through them in groups, and then they were able to share with the class if they wanted to. I was lucky enough to get some pictures of them reading in their groups.

Wedding Cake

I decided that I did not trust the top tier of our wedding cake to still be good on our one year anniversary. 

So I did something that I always make fun of other people for doing and celebrated a one month anniversary. Let me be clear, I think "month" anniversaries are silly. I will only celebrate them in the form of years. It is too hard to remember every month and becomes overkill. We did it for the cake. 

And let me tell you, it was a good decision. Laura Dougherty made our cake, and she is spectacular. Not only are her cakes beautiful, but she does not let the taste quality suffer for aesthetic value. She somehow manages to make them both delicious and pretty!!! 

This is the cake in all of its glory.  

And here is what we had for our "one month" anniversary. 

Waiting an entire year for this is overrated. 

Monday, July 20, 2009


Well, I am now an official Houstonian. No, I haven't changed my drivers license yet. I am sure I will get around to that someday. Even better. I have a library card! 

In Kaufman, obtaining a library card doesn't take an act of congress. On the contrary; one goes to the library, states an address, receives a card. 

In Houston, it is a horse of a different color. It took three tries before I got mine. My drivers license was not enough because it didn't state my new address. Try two: my lease agreement was not enough because it was "vague." What does that even mean? Third time was charmed by providing an official piece of mail from the county clerk's office in Kaufman to my Houston address with my marriage certificate enclosed. Hallelujah. 

The good news is that the library next to me is beautiful!

Also, there is this little cafe/bakery that connects to the library with an amazing brick covered patio. I am looking forward to a good lunch on that patio while reading a newly obtained library book.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Eating Good In The Neighboorhood

Many of you who have eaten something that I have cooked before have worried about mine and Ryan's nourishment without someone to cook for us. I can bake, but I was lacking in the area of 'real' food. My specialties consisted of Macaroni and Cheese and Tuna Patties. That may sound gross, but I promise it is good. However, it is not exactly something that one could have for dinner on a nightly basis.

This is strange because I come from a legacy of wonderful cooks. My mother and grandmother are spectacular in the kitchen! I was wondering why I had not inherited this trait.

Ryan and I received many wonderful cookbooks as wedding gifts. One is particularly great for me because it explains what a 'pinch of salt' and a 'dash of sugar' actually are.

This is beneficial because whenever I call my grandmother and ask for cooking instructions, she is great to give them to me, but sometimes I am left wondering what she meant when she said 'a little bit of milk and a pinch of salt.' How much is a little bit? That could really vary between people! But now I have an index for these questions.

Another of the books is called Peace Meals. It has exquisitely beautiful pictures of the food, and being the aesthetic person that I am, this encourages my cooking gene.

So, all of that being said, I have taken a leap of faith and tried out several new recipes. As of yet, I haven't even purchased one single can of tuna since we got married, and I only bought one box of Macaroni and Cheese--as a back up or on a comfort food night.

On a typical evening, Ryan grills whatever type of meat we are having on our awesome indoor counter top grill, and I make the side dishes.

Last night was our best creation yet. We had Grilled Tilapia with a wonderful lemon-creole seasoning that Ryan came up with, Home-made Mashed Potatoes (thanks for the Milnot, Mom!), and a Champagne Feta Cheese Asparagus and Tomato Salad. I included a picture for proof!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Three weeks ago, I found myself sitting in my new apartment with nothing to do. Grad school doesn't begin until late August, all of our boxes were unpacked, and I was without a task. Now I know what you are thinking--that sounds awesome. It was for like three days. But there is only so much unpacking, reading, and watching TV one can do!

I started looking for something to get involved in. I knew that Impact Church of Christ in inner-city Houston has a summer reading program for the kids in the area to continue working on their reading skills throughout the summer. Many of the kids that attend this program come from lower income families with parents that work long hours and don't have a lot of time to read to them. They also come from households where books have to take a backseat on the priority list because the burden of groceries takes precedence.

Impact tries fill in where families may not have the time or money to do so regarding literacy. Children of all ages attending Impact's Vacation Bible School take a small break from the traditional VBS activities to focus on literacy for a little over an hour three days a week.

I had the joy of working with the fifth grade students for the past two weeks. We played a few games, did a few enrichment activities, and read a lot!

Last week, we read a book by Sara Pennypacker called Clementine.

Clementine is an imaginative, creative, artistic 3rd grader with a huge heart. Her creativity and imagination often cause Clementine, and her parents, a great deal of grief. She is constantly in the principals office for her impulsive behavior. Her best friend Margaret is one year older than Clementine and the complete opposite. Margaret is neat, organized, and never gets in trouble.

One day, Margaret gets glue in her hair. Clementine decides that she will help her cut it out. Something goes horribly wrong, and before the two realize what they are doing, Margaret is without any hair. To make her feel better, Clementine cuts all of her hair off too! The story unfolds from there, taking unexpected twists, turns, and trips to the principals office for Clementine.

The story is about unconditional love, friendship, and Clementine having the courage to be herself. The 5th graders loved this book! We took turns reading out loud, brainstorming solutions to Clementines woes, comparing and contrasting Margaret and Clementine, and enjoying this great story!

This week, we talked about different kinds of literature and read a different style each day.

Monday we took a literary journey to Africa! The kids imagined an animal never before discovered that they had come into contact with on an African safari. They described the animal using different adjectives and gave it a clever name. We had a gorilla mixed with a dog, called a Gog. There was a lizard crossed with a butterfly, and dragon mixed with a lion, and other creative animals found deep in the jungles of Africa.

We then read a book of tales from long, long ago in Africa. It was called Misoso (Mi-SAW-SAW)

The kids really got into reading this one. Our goal was to read it like an African storyteller might read it around the campfire.

Tuesday we rapped. Yes, that is right, rapped. You can imagine the 5th graders entertainment with my rapping. We read a book called Yo, Hungry Wolf by David Vozar.

It was a nursery rap about Little Red Rappinghood, The Three Little Pigs, and The Boy Who Cried Wolf. The kids were anxious to read this one aloud! After reading all three stories, we made up our own rap to the Three Little Pigs. It was hilarious!

And today was poetry.

This is an assortment of children's poetry resembling that of Shel Silverstein. The kids LOVED this! They each read several poems out loud to the entire group. The crazier and sillier, the better.

I had a really great time working with these kids. They were so good and so much fun. Today wrapped it up for this session, but the next session begins on Monday and I am already looking forward to it!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

One Fine Day

Sunday was a 10 as far as good days go. 

Ryan and I went to church for the first time since we have been in Houston. We visited First Colony in Sugarland and really loved it. He had been asked to lead singing at Bammel next Sunday, but after that we plan on visiting First Colony again. 

After church, I got to see my mom and dad and brother!!! They made a day trip out to see our apartment and where I will be going to school in the fall. 

First, we had lunch at Lupe Tortilla. Always a good choice.

Then, we brought them to our apartment and gave them the grand tour--which takes approximately 30 seconds. But we love it anyway! It is starting to feel like home.  Mom and Dad brought us some homegrown tomatoes from our garden at home, so that was a special touch!

After the apartment tour, we showed them around the area that we live. We drove through the Medical Center, the Museum District, Rice Village, and then we went over to U of H.  I feel much better now that they have seen where I live. It makes story telling much easier now that they have seen it all!

It was so incredibly wonderful to get to see them. Hopefully, we will be planning a trip to Kaufman soon!

Good Food and Good Friends

Friday night Ryan, Lauren, and I were really craving some sushi. So, what better place to get your fix than RA, eh? Grant met us over on our side of town and off we went. After consuming a great deal of sushi for the four of us, we left to go meet Jon and Laura. 

We went to the Galleria for a while to walk off a little bit of our dinner--right, because that really works, ha ha. 

Then, we were off to Empire Cafe. I just really like this place. It is a great environment, with wonderful food and desserts, great coffee, wine, and any other beverage you could desire. It is a place where everyone can have what they fancy and it is conducive to great conversation. 

It was a nice evening, so we decided to spend it out on the patio. 

Grant came back and spent the night with us. Our guest bed is so very comfortable, and we went to my favorite place in the world for breakfast: Einstein Brothers. 

Sunday, July 5, 2009

We hold these truths to be self-evident...

July 4th may very well be one of my favorite holidays. This rings true for several reasons. For one, it really makes me stop and think about how blessed I am to have the freedoms that I take for granted everyday. Secondly, I love all things associated with the Fourth of July. I love that it is in the middle of the summer. I love the fireworks, the BBQ, and desserts made of strawberries and blueberries. Bruce Springsteen usually makes his way into my 4th of July musical selections, and I use the day as an excuse to drink all of the Coca Cola that I want--because it is red, and I deem it to be an icon of America. I just love the holiday. 

This year proved to be just as great as the past years have been. 

Ryan and I had a late breakfast at the Empire Cafe on Westheimer. I had Gingerbread Waffles and they were spectacular. After breakfast, we realized that we were surrounded by antique shops and really needed a piece for our living room to display the record player that Ryan got me for Christmas two years ago. We found the perfect thing, purchased it, and returned home to rearrange our living room once again. 

After finding the perfect place for the new table, we were off to begin the festivities.

We started the fun by meeting Ryan's parents and grandparents at the theater to watch the 3D version of Up. I'm no Roger Ebert, but I give it two thumbs up. I thought it was great. 

After Up, we decided to have a food adventure and went to a Pakistani/Indian restaurant called Himalaya. There were no menus. The chef came to our table and explained their dishes. He asked what kind of meat we wanted, if we wanted spicy or not spicy, rice or no rice, what kind of sauce, and designed a dish for each of us. Let me tell you what, IT WAS WONDERFUL!

After dinner, we went to stake our claim on some prime real-estate for firework viewing. Our sights were set on watching the show coming from the Eleanor Tinsley park. 

It was an incredible show.

After fireworks, we met Taylor, Nolan, and Ryan Quidley at the apartment to head to Midtown--which Nolan is a huge fan of. And rightfully so; it proved to be a really fun night. It ended Abilene, Texas style with a trip to Whataburger. 

It was truly a great 4th of July!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Playa Mujeres

Let me set this up for you. We land in the Cancun airport. Unfortunately, my luggage did 
not land with me. It was still in Dallas, but fear not. It arrived the next day. I might have cried just a bit because I had all new swimsuits and was heartbroken that I was not going to get to wear them. I thought I would have to sit on the shore in blue jeans or something while Ryan swam. It was a sad thought. But alas, one gift shop swimsuit and 24 hours later, my luggage arrived. Okay, back to the good part. 

When we stepped out of the airport, the temperature was a good 10 degrees cooler than it had been in Texas. The skies were as blue as you can imagine, and a nice man name Jose picked us up. We drove for about 30 minutes to a wonderful little 
piece of heaven called Playa Mujeres.

We were met at the door of our resort with warm towels to recover from the flight and a glass of champagne--which happened to be even more refreshing than the towels. 

We checked in and were escorted to our suite. 

We even had our own private pool on the roof of the suite.

After being amazed at our room, we went to dinner at one of the seven restaurants the resort has to offer. We chose a lobster house for our first dinner. 

During the day, we had the option of the beach--with awesome straw huts, the pool--which there were several of, or an activity such as jet skiing or parasailing. The pool was awesome, the beach was even better, and parasailing and jet skiing were so fun too. Stupidly, I didn't bring my camera on the boat for our parasailing adventure, so we don't have any picture of that. 

The second night, we had dinner at the Asian Restaurant. It was not as good as the lobster, but still pretty good. I mean, my chicken and rice tasted like brown Mexican rice with chicken in it and a little soy sauce, but it was still good. 

There was also an excellent tapas bar at the resort. It was FANTASTIC. I think it was Ryan's favorite. 

At night, we walked down to the beach, saw the shows hosted by the hotel and just hung out and played pool and ping pong by the pools. 

It really was an incredible trip! By Friday, we were sad to leave, but also really excited to get to Houston and set up our new apartment.