Tuesday, April 30, 2013

26 Years of Jeff!

I forgot to blog about Jeff's birthday! It happened right before my kidney stone fiasco, so that's my excuse. :)

On April 9th, Jeff turned 26! 

It was a Wednesday, but we still had fun by meeting some friends and Jeff's brothers for Happy Hour at Benjy's (our absolute favorite happy hour spot!).

They have a lot of great appetizers, so we had an assortment of those for dinner and sat on their upstairs patio and had a happy little evening!

My favorite thing to get is brussel sprouts, which is weird because I don't even like brussel sprouts. But these are delicious! 

Jeff requested a strawberry rhubarb pie again, but I spent a large portion of the day driving around all of northeast Houston looking for rhubarb to no avail. Last year I was able to find some frozen at HEB, but I chatted with the manager of the HEB in Kingwood, and he told me that HEB has stopped stocking it because people don't buy it. So next year I'll have to plan ahead and drive into town and go to Central Market I think!

I made a strawberry cranberry pie instead (using the same recipe), and although it was good, we both like the rhubarb version better.



I gave him a new Houston Astros t-shirt and tickets to this cool event where the Houston Symphony is going to play the soundtrack to Pirates of the Caribbean live while showing the movie (minus the soundtrack). We like the symphony, and Jeff likes Pirates of the Caribbean, so I think it'll be fun! He also got some money from family and Lowe's gift cards from our parents (gotta keep that yard looking nice for the spring and summer!). 

I freaked out a bit about Jeff being in his "upper twenties" and "closer to thirty than twenty!" but he didn't seem to mind at all. And he made sure to point out that, mathematically, he's been closer to thirty than twenty for a year already. Engineers.

Happy Birthday, sweet husband. I love you! 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Q&A: Living in London

Continuing on with the Q&A series, here's a question about Jeff and I living in London as children:

Q: i really would like to hear the story of how you guys both ended up in london and what it was like living there!

A: Jeff and I both lived in London when we were in elementary school. Our dads both worked for large oil companies at the time (they're both engineers), and London's a common destination for oil & gas stuff, so they both moved there temporarily for work. My family was there for two years, and Jeff's family was there for slightly longer (they got there before us and left after us). We actually lived really close to each other, but our families never met because Jeff went to the American school, and I went to a traditional British girls private school (Halstead Preparatory - check it out, they still have the same uniforms as when I was there!). 

The School

The Uniforms

See the little colored dot pins on the collars? Every girl was a member of one of four groups (kind of like in Harry Potter... haha) that were named after early principals and teachers of the school, so you wore the color of your group on your collar.

I have such fond memories of our time in London. We rented a house that was sort-of in the country, and it had a giant backyard with a goldfish pond that backed up to a horse-training facility. My sister and I loved to run all the way to the back of the backyard and watch the horses jumping over the obstacles. We'd feed the goldfish and stick lettuce and carrots down all the bunny holes. One side of the backyard was adjacent to a sheep field, but the other was lined with hedges, and we were convinced that there was a magical tropical paradise on the other side of the hedge. Haha! 

Kristen and I "played dress up" ALL the time in London. So fun! 

There were definitely some major culture differences. When we first lived there, I got invited to a "fancy dress" birthday party. So my mom got me all dressed up in a fancy dress, and we went. When we got there, we found out that "fancy dress party" really means "costume party," and all the other children were dressed up in Halloween-esque costumes. But someone found some angel wings for me, and I was an angel. :) They don't really do Halloween over there (I think they do more now, but not so much at the time), but my parents still wanted us to be able to trick-or-treat, so we hosted Halloween parties where the parents would go into all the bedrooms, bathrooms, and closets with candy, and the kids would run down the hall knocking on the doors and saying "trick or treat!" Haha. 

I completely had a British accent by the time we moved back, so some of the family videos from that period are pretty hilarious! While we were there, my parents took advantage of how close we were to so many European cities, and we travelled all around Europe (Ireland, Holland, Scotland, Wales, France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Czech Republic, Finland, and maybe more than I don't remember). Of course, I only remember the things a six-year old would remember (wearing giant wooden shoes in Holland; losing my blankie in Rome; looking for Nessie the Loch Ness monster; the crooked tower of Pisa; the city of Prague smelling like leather; meeting Santa Claus in Finland; etc.). My parents were brave to go all over the continent with my sister (who was 2 when we moved, and 4 when we moved back) and me (4 when we moved and 6 when we moved back), but I'm glad they did it!

Somewhere in Europe... 

Elsewhere in Europe...

We've been back to London to visit a couple times since then, so I do have plenty of grown-up memories of Big Ben and such. My favorite is still Windsor Castle though, because I have such fond memories of going on field trips there when I was little!

Here's Jeff with a model castle he built for school in England (and some pretty rad clothes, haha!).

There are some American things that you just couldn't get in England though. Like certain breakfast cereals. And Barney. So when family came to visit, they would bring us all those important items. Clearly Barney was a big deal to both of us...

So yeah. We lived in London, and it was pretty neat. We're never satisfied with American fish and chips, and we like to watch British movies like Love Actually and try to make our accents come back. It's pretty weird that we were halfway across the world, living really close to each other when we were little kids, but we didn't meet until a decade later when my family eventually moved to Houston! For all we know, we could have passed each other at Sainsbury's (British grocery store) and not even known it!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Q&A: Balance

Forever and ever ago, I did a Q&A post and some readers commented with questions for me and I promised I'd answer them all, and then I just... didn't. Oops. But better late than never, right?

I'm going to try to get through them one-by-one over the next few weeks (or maybe a couple at a time for the easier questions), and then maybe when I'm done I'll do another Q&A post for my newer readers. :) 

To start off, here's a question about balancing everything as a law student:

Q: I'm curious how on earth you manage to balance everything you do. I just got accepted to two law schools and I'm still waiting to hear back from PhD programs, but before I start the next step in August, I'd love to hear from you about how you balance school, marriage, actually cooking dinners (I barely have energy to cook while taking masters level classes), keeping up with friends/family, DIY projects, etc. Where do you find time and energy to do all this? Because I'm pretty terrified of going crazy this fall!

A: Ha! If I give off the appearance that I have everything balanced all the time, that's a complete falsification because I SO don't. Sometimes I go a little crazy. You just have to know that you might have a little breakdown once or twice a semester, and it's okay. Last semester I made it through finals without ever crying about finals, and that was a HUGE deal. Haha! But I'll try to explain a few things that have made life as a law student/wife/daughter/sister/blogger work for me. First of all, family stuff comes first. Birthdays, holidays, our anniversary, and important life events like weddings and graduations trump everything else (well, except for the Bar exam, which falls on our anniversary this year - haha!). I also put things like Sunday church in that category (when my relationship with God starts to falter, everything else crumbles, so I make that a huge priority too). I make sure to get everything on my calendar WAY in advance, and then I just make it work. Past that, I try to schedule casual dinners/lunches/whatever with our families and friends in advance too. It's so hard to do anything last minute as a law student (because you always feel like you need to be studying), but if you plan ahead you can get ahead on school stuff and not feel guilty hanging out with friends/family.

I tell 1Ls a lot that it helps to divide your life into "law school" and "breaks from law school" (I'm sure this applies for other sorts of professional school as well). If you look at things like making dinner or cleaning the kitchen as "breaks from law school" (rather than placing that in a "no fun chores" category) it helps you to not get burnt out. That way, if all you have time for in a given week is (1) law school, (2) cooking and cleaning, and (3) sleeping and showering [albeit not as often as you'd like], you still feel like your life was mostly your own. Haha! 

Past that, I try to have one-on-one time with Jeff as much as possible. When we're both really busy and don't get to talk enough, etc., we both can tell, and we're usually on the same page. When that happens, we just schedule a date night (even if it's just at home, watching Netflix and eating dinner), and I stick to it regardless of what else is going on. It's helpful to have something scheduled sometimes because then you feel like it was time you intentionally took away from studying and budgeted for (rather than feeling guilty that you skipped out on the Torts reading to be with your husband). A key thing about being married while in law school is that you HAVE to communicate your school schedule and school stresses to your spouse. I always keep Jeff in the loop about what tests, papers, and Law Review deadlines I have coming up when, and how many hours of study/work time I expect to need in the coming week/weekend, and then we decide together which hours I'll spend studying. Vacations are also key (even if it's just a quick road trip to San Antonio or something)... it helps to have something to look forward to when you're going through the super-busy times.

As for cooking dinners, I use cooking and baking as a stress reliever, so that has kind of just fallen into place (there's a LOT of stress in law school... haha!). Dinner is almost always my responsibility, but during finals Jeff takes a two-week period and he's in charge of dinner for those nights. We started doing that my third semester, and it makes SUCH a world of difference. He knows he's in charge, so he plans ahead and goes grocery shopping for easy meals, and I don't feel guilty about not cooking, and I have the time I need to cram for those finals. 

And DIY projects... my list of DIY projects that I want to do is always about 40 items long. And it gets longer and longer and I'll never catch up to it. Haha! But I do things whenever I have time, and I just don't worry about it when I don't. DIY projects should be fun, not stressful!

And most of all (although this may not help anyone who isn't a religious/spiritual person, which describes a lot of law students), I pray. I know I can't do it all on my own, and I pray everyday that God will help me to get through it all and succeed and use the gifts I've been given to do some good in the world and bring some glory to Him. And you know what? He does. Again and again. I'm graduating in a couple weeks with grades I'm really proud of and my mental health intact and my husband still in love with me, solely because of the amazing grace that God has given me over the past three years. It's incredible how prayers get answered. I really should have led off with that, because it's what makes all the other stuff possible, but yeah. Prayer is huge. 

At the end of the day, law school's hard, and you just do what you have to do (you can see some of my Day in the Life posts from 2L year here and here). There's nothing like law school to make you feel like you really can accomplish anything you set your mind to, but I sure am glad I don't have to go back and do it all over again. :)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Devil's Food Cupcakes with Coconut Cream Frosting

The last time I made these was a few months ago, and I didn't take great photos for this recipe, so I wasn't going to put it on the blog. But yesterday I was talking to a friend who declared these the "best thing I've ever eaten!" (I was impressed that she even remembered them from months ago!), and I figured the recipe needed to be shared with the world, bad photos or not. 

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Recipe adapted form here.

Ingredients (for cake):
1 box of devil's food cake mix
1/2 cup canola oil
3 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract

Ingredients (for coconut cream frosting):
8oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp coconut extract
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut (optional)

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, buttermilk, sour cream, and 2 tsp vanilla.
2. Add the cake mix to the wet ingredients and mix until well-combined. Spoon batter into cupcake liners.
3. Bake at 350 for 16-19 minutes (regular cupcakes) or 8-10 minutes (mini cupcakes), or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
4. While cupcakes are baking, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add 1 tsp vanilla and coconut extract and mix. Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time and mix until smooth.
5. Put shredded coconut in a small bowl. Frost cooled cupcakes with the coconut cream, then dip the tops in the shredded coconut.




Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Blueberry Muffin Cookies

Ok, so you know how everybody loves blueberry muffins? And you know how everybody loves cookies? With that in mind... how did I not think to make blueberry muffin cookies sooner?!?! These are delicious - I've made 'em with the white chocolate chips and without, and they're great either way. If you're not a fan of white chocolate, just leave it out!

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Recipe adapted from here.
2 boxes Jiffy Blueberry Muffin mix
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick butter, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup white chocolate chips (optional)
1. Beat together cream cheese, butter, and brown sugar until smooth. Add eggs one at a time and beat until blended.
2. Combine the muffin mix with the butter mixture. Mix well. 
3. Fold in chocolate chips {note: if you're not a huge fan of white chocolate, skip it - they're still super tasty without!}.
4. Chill dough in the fridge for two hours {note: you can skip this step, but you might end up with really, really flat cookies}.
5. Form into tablespoon-sized balls and space about two inches apart on a lightly-greased cookie sheet (they'll spread quite a bit, so leave room!). Bake at 325 for 13-15 minutes. Cool on the sheet for a minute or two, then transfer to a wire rack.
Cream cheese + butter + brown sugar
Blueberry muffin mix
Adding in the white chocolate chips...
Dough - this goes in the fridge for a couple hours!
Finished cookies!


Monday, April 22, 2013

The New (Used) Car!

Sooo, we bought a car! It's an Infiniti G37 convertible, and it's Aggie maroon. :) 


This was definitely a splurge for us, but it's something we've planned for and included in the budget for a long time, and we're excited. My Mazda was getting old and starting to have some problems, so we've always planned on replacing it around the time I started work. We did a lot of research and a lot of driving around looking at various cars, and we decided on the G37 for its good engine and good reliability long-term (Jeff), and its prettiness (me). And then we thought, well, if we're going to get it, why not get the convertible version? Wouldn't that be fun? 

I had a moment where I was freaking out about buying the convertible... what will we would do down the road when we have kids, we'll need another car to fit carseats in, etc. But my frugal father-in-law and my sensible mother both told us that we should just buy the convertible while we're at a time in our life when we can, and worry about the rest later. So that's what we did. Years from now, we'll always be able to look back on that time early in our marriage when we went on dates in a cute car with the top down, and that's kind of fun to think about. 

So we knew we wanted a G37 convertible, and we knew we wanted to buy a used car to save some money and avoid off-the-lot depreciation, so we've been browsing the internet for a while, just waiting for the right car to come along. I really didn't want black leather interior because Houston summers are so hot and black leather just absorbs the heat like crazy, but about 80% of the G37 convertibles come in black leather. I was also a little picky about the color - I didn't want red, bright blue, black, or white. We also wanted a car that wasn't more than a couple years old and didn't have too many miles, so when we finally found a maroon one with tan interior that fit our criteria in Houston, we were pretty excited. 
We get a little crazy every time we have to negotiate a price on something. Some people just go to the dealership and buy a car. For us, it took about a week. Test drive, negotiate, walk away, go back, negotiate some more, etc. It was a long process. But in the end, we're happy with what we paid and there's a car in our garage, so all's well that ends well! So yeah, it's a splurge, but we bought a pre-owned one, negotiated for a good price after doing a LOT of research on comparable cars, and paid cash for it, so I like to think it was a sensible splurge. :)

The flip side of this whole car-buying scenario was that we had to sell my Mazda. My dear, beloved Mazda. I cried more than once over this. That car has been with me for a long time, and I know this is silly, but I just feel like it was a loyal, friendly, dependable car, and I feel like I'll never love another car again like I did that Mazda. I have so many memories that involve that car. The first time Jeff and I ever had a longer-than-normal hug and a real conversation about whether we wanted to be more than just friends was sitting in the Mazda after Homecoming in 2006. In 2007, I woke up on my last day of high school to find that my parents and sisters had painted all over the windows with sweet messages. When I drove to College Station to move into my freshman dorm, I was in the Mazda with all of my clothes and stuff filling the backseat. It's the car that took me on many college roadtrips. I drove that car for last-minute wedding errands in 2010 with my bridesmaids, blasting our bridesmaid mix CD. So many memories.

So when we took it to be appraised at Carmax, it was with mixed emotions. But the Carmax people offered us over $2,000 more than Kelly Bluebook said it was worth, so we left happy. The Infiniti dealer couldn't even come close to matching the Carmax offer, so we took Mazda to Carmax to sell him.

We stood in the parking lot and I cried. It was ridiculous, but that car has just been with me for so long, you know? I made Jeff take photos of our last moments together.
Goodbye Hugs for Mazda

And then I went in and signed some papers and handed over the keys and left, and now I'll never see that car again. It still feels really weird. I cried while I was signing the papers, and I tried to play it off like I had a cold, but the guy was finally like "umm, are you okay?" and I had to say "I've just been driving that car for a long time." He probably thought I was insane. 

But then I drove the G37 home, and oh boy - that thing can accelerate fast. It's a fun car. I think I'll grow to love it too. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013


A lot has been going on lately. We're less than two weeks away from finals (my last law school finals EVER!), so this time of year would be crazy regardless, but this year it's just packed full of extra stuff! 
Please excuse me if I say something bizarre... I'm trying to type normally, but I'm on a decent amount of pain medication (I'll explain in a sec), so you never know... and with that disclaimer, here's what's been going on recently:

First of all, I want to mention the explosion in West, TX and ask you all to please pray for the people of West. My Grandpa is from there (he actually went to high school with the man who owns the fertilizer plant), and I have so many fond memories of family reunions in West and the delicious West kolaches, so this one hit close to home for me. We did hear that our relatives there are all safely evacuated, but I know this has totally rocked that town, and they need our prayers.

Secondly, I spent the day in the hospital on Tuesday. I woke up with horrifying back pain on one side. I'm talking sobbing, in a ball on the floor, vomiting, horrible pain. I thought it would go away if I just waited, but by noon I was so miserable and I couldn't take it anymore so Jeff came home from work and took me to the ER. They ended up hooking me up to an IV and pumping me full of fluids and morphine and some drug that stops nausea. They sent me for a CT scan, which showed that I apparently have a not-so-small kidney stone. 

So now I feel like a middle-aged man (isn't that the sort of person who normally gets kidney stones?), and I'm at home with a couple different pain meds and more of the anti-nausea drug, and they said it would last anywhere from 48 hours to a couple weeks. Yeah. I mentioned the whole thing on Instagram and asked for prayers that the pain would stay manageable, and a lot of you must have prayed for me a whole lot because on Wednesday I managed to skip the Vicodin and go to school for a few hours to sit through a couple classes and go to an important scheduled meeting with one of my professors, which is something I NEVER thought I'd be able to manage. On Thursday the pain was worse, but I still somehow managed to get through our Law Review banquet (which was important because I had a little presentation I had to give). I think you all prayed me through Wednesday and Thursday, and I so appreciate it because I was able to get some important things done. Obviously I'd rather be studying for finals right now instead of alternating between being in pain and being foggy on pain meds, but there are worse problems, so I'm trying to just deal. At least if I fail my finals I'll have a pretty decent excuse. :)

Apparently a lot of people say the pain of kidney stones is worse than childbirth, so at least I know I can handle childbirth for a few hours. Haha. I've always said I'd like to have babies without an epidural, etc., but on Tuesday - if they had wanted to stick a needle up my spine to make the pain go away, I totally would've let them. 

Thirdly, I'm SO CLOSE to being done with law school! In 13 days I'll be totally done with everything for this semester, and in 21 days I graduate. Finally. I sent out my graduation announcements last week, which was odd for me because it's not like high school or undergrad... I just felt like I was begging for gifts or something by sending them, so I ended up just sending them to a very small number of people who I know will be excited to get them and won't feel obligated to give me stuff. 


I picked up my honor cords on Monday, and yesterday someone from Student Services e-mailed me and asked me if I'd be willing to be one of two people who lead the lines in at the Commencement Ceremony and carry the law school banners. So of course I said yes! Isn't that kind of exciting? Anyway, I'm just so ready to be done with this phase of my life and move on, and that light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter and brighter, and I love it. 

I know you all have a million bigger, more important things to pray for right now, but I could really use a few extra prayers that I somehow am able to adequately prepare for my last round of finals despite the pain and the drugs. I'm feeling so overwhelmed right now, and I'd really, really appreciate it. :)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Blue Cheese & Apple Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Who wants a fancy-but-easy recipe? Because I have one for you!

I first made this for our Jeff-and-Katie Christmas dinner in 2011, and it's so good! I adapted a recipe that Jeff's Grandma gave me, and we really like it! So if you like blue cheese, you've got to give this one a try!

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Recipe adapted from one Jeff's grandma gave me.
1 pork tenderloin (two halves; about 2 lbs total)
4 tbsp butter
2 large apples (I suggest Braeburn), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 1/4 cup corn bread stuffing crumbs
5 oz blue cheese crumbles
1. Preheat oven to 450. Cut almost all the way through each tenderloin lengthwise. Spread the sides apart and flatten. 
2. Melt butter in a large skillet. Add apple, onion, and celery. Cook and stir until apples and vegetables are crisp-tender (about 4 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in pecans, stuffing crumbs, and half the cheese. Mix well.
3. Place tenderloins into a lightly-greased or foil-lined shallow roasting pan, cut side up. Spoon stuffing mixture over the tenderloin and press lightly to hold in place.
4. Bake 25 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reaches 150 degrees when inserted in the center of the tenderloin. Check it with 10 minutes to go, and if the stuffing is getting dark, put a piece of foil over the top.
5. Sprinkle remaining cheese over stuffing. Let stand for 10 minutes, then slice and serve!

(sautéing apples, celery, and onion)

(stirring in pecans, stuffing, and cheese)

(stuffing mixture is ready!)

(split tenderloins)

(all finished!)



Thursday, April 11, 2013

Rodeo 2013

When I was writing the post about our bluebonnet photos, I realized that I never published the post I wrote about our trip to the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo! So here ya go, almost a month overdue...

We go to the rodeo every year (read about 2012 here, and 2011 here). This year we went with Jeff's brother, Matt, and our friend Thomas (star of the silly bluebonnet photos). We started our visit with a stroll through the art competition displays. Aren't these impressive for high school kids?



Then we went into the exhibit hall, where we saw lots of interesting things. Like cars. And displays about milk.



Of course, we saw all the livestock as well:









There are two things at the rodeo that I absolutely cannot miss: (1) fried Oreos, and (2) baby animals. So off to the baby animals we went!

Baby Calf

Calf with Mommy Cow

Another Baby Calf

Baby Lambs

The piglets are my absolute favorite. Just look at the tiny little hooves and the wrinkles!




This little big somehow squeezed his way onto the wrong side of his momma and was so confused!



And of course there are the adorable baby chicks...







We got food for dinner from something called "Tad's Bodacious Burritos." Apparently Tad's specializes in the oh-so-appetizing "Curly Fry Loaf" (pictured below). 



After we ate, it was time for the rodeo itself! We got tickets through Matt's company this year, so we got to sit in some good seats for the first time ever! 


We watched the bull-riding and calf roping and barrel racing and all the other rodeo events! 



Everyone's favorite rodeo event is "Mutton Bustin'," in which they stick little kids on sheep and tell them to ride the sheep as long as possible before falling off. It's adorable, and I have videos for you!

Jason Aldean did the post-rodeo concert, and it was really good! But I'll be honest, I spent the whole time counting down minutes until we could go get some fried Oreos! 


I was just a teensy bit excited.

We had a great time! See you next year, rodeo!