Wednesday, July 28, 2010

2 Birthdays, 1 Night

We met up with friends last weekend to celebrate Nick and Natalie's birthdays! Nick and Natalie are siblings and have a birthday that is almost one year to the date (she is 364 days younger than him). They usually have great combined birthday parties and this year was no different. About 30 of us met up at Maria Maria for dinner, then we headed off to a bar to finish the night.

Here is Nick and Natalie,,, having "Happy Birthday" sung to them. Nick is the guy on the right, doing the "Zoolander Face", and Natalie is the brunette in the picture (Magen, Nicks girlfriend is in the middle of them).

Nick, Chris, Jason and Jim... with Joe in the background

Jenn, me and Lindsay at dinner

Large group dinners scare me because it is always a nightmare when it comes to paying for the bill. Frequently the amounts that people pay and what is on the bill never match up which results in a huge headache trying to figure it out. HOWEVER, Maria Maria separated the bills for us (we asked before we even ordered if they could do it) so this big group dinner didn't have the stress at the end of the meal.

Maria Maria started off on the right foot... Chips were crispy, salsa was a nice garlic flavor (which I love) and the Mojitos were spot on tasty. Their Mojitos were almost as good as Jims, and that is saying a lot. I ordered the Carnitas (Slow baked adobo marinated pork shoulder, topped with cured red onions and cucumber, served with smoky black bean sauce and fresh tomatillo salsa verde) and Jim ordered the Chipotle Shrimp (Grilled Bacon wrapped shrimp stuffed with julienne Jalapinos & Poblanos peppers topped with White cheddar, swiss and Monterey cheeses served with Roasted Red Bell pepper butter).

Jim's dish was pretty darn good... a couple of the shrimps were halfway burned, but it wasn't so bad that we needed to send the dish back. He said his rice and beans were average, nothing that stood out. I was very hopeful for my Carnitas... I have been in a pork mood over the past few months and I am always on the look out for a good pork dish! I was so disappointed, The meat came out in chunks and it was very, very, very dry. The meat had a nice flavor and the cured red onions and cucumber helped give the meat a little moisture. Jim had left over roasted red bell pepper butter from his shrimp and I used it to help out the pork... which actually tasted pretty good, but then again what doesn't taste good when butter is added??? Plus my dish (for $16) was just the cast iron pan filled with meat and tortilla's and a small little ramekin full of black bean paste (hard to describe, it was so very smooth and had a nice flavor) and a tomatillo sauce.... there could have been a side of rice to help out the dish. Of course, if the meat had been stellar I couldn't be bitching about the lack of a side dish.

After dinner, we stayed and listened to the salsa band (very good, and fun!) for a bit while finishing up our drinks. Jim, me and Jason

We headed over to Speakeasy after dinner (I think the lower part of the bar has a new name, but can't remember what it is).

Lindsay, me, Tiffany, Erin, Vannessa and Jenn....
and John as a sneaky guy getting into the ladies photo

Looking down from the 2nd floor at the bar...

Tammy, Jenn, Charlie, Natalie's husband (DAMN, can't remember his name), some random dude in a white shirt making a "I'm tough" face, Nick, and John

Do you know why I love my friends?? It is because they are complete hams and will always pose for pictures :) Which is perfect for me!

Chris, John, Jim, Tammy, Matt and Vannessa

Nick, Natalie and Jason

And of course... the couple self portrait to end the post :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Latest pictures of the kids

I love this picture of Chewie and Abby,,, it shows the difference in their heights. Normally if they are near each other they are running, biting, or rolling around. And that makes it really hard to get good pictures of the two

She is constantly looking up at Chewie... like she is making sure that her big brother is still around. Of course, when she isn't looking at him, she is hanging off of his neck

Cucumber KimChi

I'm not really sure where I got the idea to make cucumber kimchi, but I am so glad I made it. When we were in San Diego last year, we ate some of the best sushi that we have ever had. One of the rolls that we had was called the kitchen sink roll because it had everything in it. On top of that roll was some type of cucumber salad. I loved that salad and wish I had asked what was in it but there was a bit of a language barrier with our waitress. Any way, the other day I ate at Chilantro taco cart ( love those tacos!!) and you have an option to add traditional kimchi(usually made with cabbage instead of the cucumber) to the tacos and to their french fries. And it came to me that I need to try making Cucumber kimchi. So I searched the internet and found the recipe at the link below....

There were a few recipes that I found, but I ultimately decided on this one. I went to a Korean grocery store near the house (had no idea we had one this close) and picked up the red pepper flakes, which is really the base of the kimchi. I really liked the outcome, but I know it needs some tweaking. We used the kimchi on a grilled chicken taco with naan and it was fantastic. I loved the cool yet spicy crunch that it gave to the taco. I'll be searching for more things to use the kimchi and the red pepper flakes on. I now own a fairly large bag of the spice.

Start with about 15 to 20 small cucumbers, the kind that are used to make dill pickles. If you can't find small cucumbers, you can use about the equivalent amount of large cucumbers.
Give the cucumbers a good rinse, then chop them into bite-size pieces. Put them in a large bowl, add about two flat tablespoons of sea salt, and toss well.

Allow salted pickles to sit overnight at room temperature, or at least for a couple of hours. The salt helps draw moisture out of the cucumbers, which creates a natural brine.
Now add 1/2 to 1 full teaspoon of minced raw garlic

Wash and chop up three green onions - not three bunches, but three individual ribs.

For a little extra sweetness, chop up 1/4 of a small to medium yellow onion.

Now the part that makes any kim chi a real, authentic kim chi: add two flat tablespoons of fine red chili flakes.

Koreans call it ko choo kah rhoo, which literally means ground hot peppers.
If at all possible, please get some of this stuff from a local Korean grocery store so that you can be sure that you have the right kind for making kim chi. You can add ko choo kah rhoo to any number of dishes, of course, like miso soup and seasoned green beans. Koreans add ko choo kah rhoo to just about everything.

Now add a teaspoon of vinegar.

Add a Tablespoon of honey

Mix everything very well.

Now pack your cucumber kim chi away into glass bottles, and don't forget to add a bit of brine to each one - just a couple of tablespoons of brine per bottle will do.

All that's left to do at this point is to leave your bottles of cucumber kim chi out in room temperature for 24 to 48 hours to give it a chance to ferment. After 24 to 48 hours, transfer the bottles to your refrigerator. Well, shit. I totally didn't do this step.... guess I didn't look at the entire article. Now I am going to have to go back and redo this with ALL of the steps. Good thing this is very easy to do, so I'll be making batch #2 this weekend

Chicken tacos with naan, topped with the cucumber kimchi

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Chewie and Abby
We are finally back in to a normal dog routine. No going to the vet once a week, no keeping Abby on a leash at all times, no stressing about Abby jumping up and down while she was supposed to be "immobile".... now we just worry about normal stuff like
"quit eating my shoe"
"Quit biting your brother"
"why are you so damn quiet in the other room".
You know, normal puppy stuff. i still spent a decent amount of time outside with the dogs and unfortunately that means that I have a ton of mosquito bites. I'm surprised I don't have the West Nile Virus yet. I slather on the pest deterrent and use the mosquito candles but there is not a cure all to get rid of all of them. Regardless of the bugs I still have a fun time outside with the kids, and especially now since Abby can run around like normal. She LOVES to run around, as you'll see in the photos below.
Abby on high alert
It is hard to get a picture with Chewie and Abby next to each other (normally they are running and playing at full speed), but you can see here that Abby is getting taller! She has almost doubled in weight since we got her.


Chewie looks like he is just walking, but based on the ear straight up he was jogging away... perhaps to get away from the little black terror known as his little sister?
"you can't get away" says the little black terror :)
Chewie is always on patrol. Lately the squirrels have been feasting on the acorns, which means we have to watch out on the ground, or we could get pelted with the left over acorn bits.
Abby found this teddy bear in the spare room. A long time ago I bought Jim some balloons for his birthday and had them sent to his office. This little teddy bear came with the balloons. I had forgotten about the teddy bear until Abby began to play with him. So far the bear has really held up to her attacks... sure he has lost both eyes (both of which I safely got and threw away) and his ears are a little mangled but he is lasting a lot longer than I expected.

She likes to use the teddy bear as a pillow. SOOO damn cute!
But her favorite pillow is Chewie.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Night out with the ladies at Gloria's

Kelli moved away right after she married George so we only get to see her once or twice a year! George was going to law school in Oklahoma City, so they lived there for a few years and now they are in Dallas. Although George has finished law school, now he is studying for the bar. Kelli said that he is constantly studying to make sure he passes on the first try (even though they know that is a long stretch). Kelli recently found out she is pregnant with twins and due in December. They are very excited although a little scared to raise two at the same time. They both come from large families so they have a lot of help. We had a really nice evening catching up. On Saturday nights Gloria's turns into a salsa bar... they move the tables and it turns into one big dance floor. The manager came over and tried to convince us to stay until 11pm, but it was only 9pm and we had already been there since 6:30 :) One day we'll have to check it out. I believe they charge a cover after a certain time on Saturdays.

Poor Kelli was looking on as the rest of us enjoyed our adult beverages. The Sangria at Gloria's was good but a little too sweet. And if I'm saying it's to sweet, then you know it's WAY to sweet. The bitty chunks of fruit was a nice change to the larger pieces you normally get in Sangria.

The ladies at dinner

Supawn is enjoying her Apple-tini. I had a swig and it was very Appley. Not sure I could finish one of those

I ordered the shredded chicken tostada's. I think this might have been the first time I have ever ordered them in a restaurant. They were hard to cut through, but eventually I just ate the chicken and greens without the tostada shell. It was good, not great. They certainly give you a lot of food, but at $11.99 I was hoping for a little better food.

The chips were good and the salsa had a little bit of a garlic bite to it, which I really like. They also serve some type of bean dip with the chips which was a nice surprise. I normally don't like beans (due to texture), but mixed with the salsa I liked the bean dip.
Ashley and I

Amanda and Kelli

Monday, July 12, 2010

4th of July Weekend

During 4th of July weekend, we were lucky to get a couple of spots on our friends boat. We were a little worried about the rain because it stormed quite a bit over the days leading up to to 4th of July weekend. This time around boating consisted of surfing, rope swing, and lounging about in the cove. It turned out to be such a pretty day and we had a great time with our friends!

The Rope Swing: This is Matt flying through the air after letting go on the rope swing. I really wanted to go but we had just finished eating at Thundercloud and I didn't want to hurl while flying through the air :)

Mike flying off of the rope

Jim and I are new to the surfing world. Basically you are on a surf board and you use the rope to get up on the water. After you are up, you are supposed to be able to find the "sweet spot" , let go of the rope, and then ride the wake. We are not there yet... one day

I'm still hanging onto the rope

Chris C trying out surfing for the first time. Whitney (wife) said that he used to be a skateboard punk as a kid and he goes surfing anytime they are near an ocean. He was able to get up right away
Mike... aka "Mr. Model"
Jenn is a total rockstar at surfing.

Jenn and I

Matt, Charlie, Julie and Chris M. Julie isn't a happy camper here.... Chris (guy sitting in front of her) had just lost his one of a kind (they designed it) wedding ring while playing catch in the cove.

Jim and Charlie

Matt surfing near the 360 bridge

Vannessa and I

Jenn, Jim and Vanessa enjoying out day out on the lake

Charlie the ham surfing behind the boat

The right way to surf behind a boat... no rope
Jimmy and I

Mike surfing

I think Matt is just giving the guys a target to hit with the football, but it looks like he is entertaining us with a little ballet

Jenn, Vannessa, me and Tammy

The next day was 4th of July. We thought we were heading to Jim's work party but it turned out that Jim got the wrong day, so we didn't have any plans. We ate at Iguana Grill then headed to Mount Bonnell to watch the fireworks that the Austin Country Club was putting on. We got there right in time, and before most of the crowds. It was busy up there, but not terrible

I just had my little point and shoot camera with me, so I had to balance the camera on the rocks to get these photos. Not the best, but you get the idea of what we were watching. Next year we'll head to the other side of the mountain to watch the fireworks in downtown Austin. We caught a few of them, and they were a lot better than the fireworks that we watched.