Monday, January 23, 2012

Blogs I read

So, I have started to read other people's blogs this year as I have started my own blog.  I love learning new ideas for blogging from other people.  I also love learning other people's stories.  Two blogs in particular have been specially enjoyable.

Live Learn Love Eat
I found this blog when searching for "all things Autumn" one day.  This is a blog by a mom, Tiffany,  somewhere in Canada who has a redheaded daughter named Autumn and two other beautiful daughters.  She is a vegan and posts new vegan recipes consistently.  Although I have no intentions of going vegan I do intend to try some of her yummy looking recipes at some point.  Tiffany has an amazing story.  She has struggled with an eating disorder in the past and has found joy on the other side of it.  She is a true inspiration.  I have found her posts to be very mature beyond her years and have really enjoyed reading them.

Becoming Minimalist
I found this blog through Allison's blog.  This blog has been incredibly influential on me this year.  It is a blog about a normal family that decided to become minimalist a few years ago.  It is written by Joshua Becker, who has also written a book, called Simplify

I don't know why, but for some reason something just clicked when I started reading this blog.  I think it had to do with the time of year.  Every year after Christmas for the past three years or so, I feel so burdened by all of the "stuff" we have.  Don't get me wrong, I really appreciate all of the presents we receive from friends and family and I enjoy giving presents as well, but I also just feel like we have so much "stuff" this time of year, due to the added "stuff" we receive during the Christmas season. 

I don't have any intentions of going completely minimalist (or whatever that really means).  I intend to find my own version of minimalism, which is what the blog author seems to encourage.  One of my New Year's resolutions is to declutter.  Joshua's blog is a guideline of sorts for helping me do that.  So far this year I have decluttered my bedroom.  I have taken 5 or 6 very large lawn and leaf bags full of clothes and accessories to Goodwill.  My closet seems so clean and orderly.  I can clearly see everything.  I have also gotten rid of tons of bath & body stuff that I will probably never get around to using.  I used the question of "when was the last time I used/wore this?" to help me determine what to get rid of.  It is amazing how much clothes, accessories, bubble bath, lotion, makeup, jewelry, etc. that I have accumulated over the years.  Now, to be honest, I have only decluttered/minimized by half of the bedroom.  Andrew is in the middle of busy season, so his half will not be completed until after April 15th.  I know this is only one half of four bedrooms in my house (not counting the other rooms like the kitchen and living room), but it has been incredibly freeing to declutter or minimize half of one room.  I feel like I have energy to do the rest of the house over the coming months.  A little at a time.

One of the biggest benefits of becoming minimalist is the decrease in spending.  I have not really bought anything this month other than food/necessities.  The only purchase I would say I have made was a toy chest for Autumn from Target.  I bought a nicer looking one to store her toys in our living room.  It feels very freeing to pay smaller credit card bills at the end of each month.

Check out my blog roll for other blogs I read when I can find the time.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Marathon

On Sunday I ran the Chevron Houston Marathon.  This was my third marathon to run.  How far is a marathon you ask?  Only 26.2 miles.  TWENTY SIX POINT TWO MILES.  That is a very long way to run and I am pretty darn proud of myself for accomplishing this goal for the third time.  Training for this marathon was very different than my last two.  This was the first full marathon I have done since I had Autumn.  It was so much harder to find the time to train, and thus my training did not stay on course for the season.  I did get in most of my long runs, including an 18 miler a few weeks before the race.  Needless to say, my time was less than stellar compared to my other two races, but that is okay.  I am a Mom, a Mom who runs marathons.  I think that is pretty impressive.  (I know I know, I am tooting my own horn a little bit)

I am looking forward to doing more races in the future, but after much agonizing over this decision, I have decided not to do any more full marathons for a few years, until Autumn (and any other kiddos we have) are a little bit older and more self reliant.  I still plan to train for at least one half marathon a year, which I think will help to keep me motivated and in shape.

Here is a run down of my time and my previous times, including my six half marathons. 


Date
RaceTimePace
11/16/2008San Antonio Half Marathon2:37:0611:59
01/18/2009Chevron Houston Marathon5:32:2212:41
11/1/2009NYC Marathon5:10:5211:52
11/15/2009San Antonio Half Marathon2:29:0711:23
01/17/2010Aramco Houston Half Marathon2:25:0711:04
01/30/2011Aramco Houston Half Marathon2:58:0613:36
11/13/2011San Antonio Half Marathon2:34:5111:49
12/4/2011Las Vegas Half Marathon2:29:3011:25
01/15/2012Chevron Houston Marathon5:36:5312:51

 My favorite part of the race was running into downtown and seeing Andrew, Autumn, my parents and grandparents there to cheer me on.  It was such a boost to my spirits.  Below is a picture of my finishers medal.


This was the 40th year of the Houston Marathon (1972 - 2012). 
FYI I also ran the 40th year of the NYC Marathon (1969 - 2009).

My reward - a Margarita from Escalante's.

Monday, January 16, 2012

15 Months

Autumn, here is what you are up to at 15 months:
  • You weighed in at 19 lbs 8 oz. at your 15 month check up (8th percentile).
  • You are 29.5 inches tall (20th percentile).
  • You wear size 12 months still and size 18 months, depending on whether it runs big or small.  Typically you wear a smaller size in dresses and a larger size in pants, since your legs are so long.
  • You wear a size 3 diaper.
  • You have 5 teeth with a couple more on their way.
  • You currently are getting over ear infections in both ears (OUCH!)
  • Your bedtime is roughly 8:30PM, but Mommy and Daddy are sometimes flexible on this if we go out to eat or have family over in the evening.  You usually wake up between 7 and 8AM.
  • You are walking (and nearly running) all over the place.
  • You are very curious about everything.
  • You eat everything - the other night you ate a whole cheese enchilada and beans and rice.
  • You are starting to become very attached to your Grandma Clarke.
  • You like playing with the curtains, hiding behind them and running through them.
  • You love books and are starting to sit still for them better.
  • You are starting to sign "again" a lot.  I think you picked this up at school, because we did not teach it to you.  You use it to express that you want more of something, but you also use it to just say that you want something.
  • You are busy.  You are constantly playing with one toy or another.
  • You like to "organize" things.  You move toys or other objects from one container to another.  The other night you took all of your toy magnets off the fridge and put them in the empty laundry basket.
  • You still take 2 naps a day most days, but are starting to take 1 nap a day a couple of times a week.
  • You are starting to become more interested in Cooper, petting him and of course sharing your food with him.
  • You nod your head "yes" and "no", but you do "no" a lot more because people always laugh at you when you do.
  • You are starting to understand so much more of the world around you.  Last night you were riding your toy princess car and I asked you where your purse was, because you usually wear that when you ride your car.  You opened the seat in the car and showed me that you purse was inside.  Grandma and I say that you have to grab your purse when you ride your car, so you can go shopping.
  • You know where your nose is, but if you are distracted you won't show me or you'll point to my nose instead of your own.
  • You have started hugging my legs some and giving me more hugs in general.  I love these.
You are such an easy going and happy baby.  Mommy and Daddy love you very much and we are enjoying watching you grow and develop every day.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The House with the RED Front Door

So, a while back I mentioned that we had our house painted, and that we had the front door painted RED.  I have been wanting to paint the exterior of our house since before we bought the house (in May 2005).  When we bought the house Andrew jokingly said we would paint it in 2011.  That seemed so far off at the time, but now 2011 is over and our house is finally painted.  The old color of the house was whitewashed brick with a blue trim, now it is a taupe painted brick with black trim and a RED front door.  The brick color came out a little lighter than I expected, but overall I am very happy with the transformation.  Here is a picture of our new RED front door (same front door - paint is new though).



As a side note I discovered (via Allison's blog - see blog roll) a really cool web site where you can edit your pictures and type text on them.  The web site is http://www.pincik.com/.  It's fun and I plan to use it more in the future.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Autumn's Newborn Pictures

I know this post is more than one year late, but hey I didn't have a blog a year ago and I didn't get Autumn's newborn pictures until last week - long story.  Basically, the newborn photographer we used was very expensive and we weren't completely aware of how expensive until after we had done our newborn session with her and commited to a total of 3 sessions.  (Don't get me wrong the photographer is great, just expensive.)  Anyways, we had 3 prepaid sessions with this photographer (thanks Grandma and Papa), but we weren't able to purchase the pictures because of the high cost.  The 3 sessions came with a photobook with 30 pictures in it.  So, after the third session (in December) we were able to purchase our 30 favorite pictures (the ones going in the photobook) for a more reasonable price. 

Anyways, here are some of the pictures from her 3 sessions.  It is absolutely amazing to me to see how much Autumn has grown.  She is such a happy, beautiful and wonderful baby - er, little girl. I am so blessed to be her Mommy.

 NEWBORN



 9 MONTHS


ONE YEAR

This is the dress Mommy wore in her 12 month pictures.

 

The photographer we used for the pics included here was Christine Meeker - http://www.christinemeeker.com/ If you have a higher budget for photography I highly recommend this studio, Christine and her staff were very friendly, professional, and overall did an amazing job.

As a side note we have found a wonderful and very reasonably priced photographer based in The Woodlands. Here is a link to her website: http://www.nicolebonifacephotography.com/

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Great Grandpa Walker's 80th Birthday Party

Last weekend we went to Dallas to celebrate Great-Grandpa Walker's 80th birthday party with Andrew's extended family on his Dad's side.  We all stayed at the Hilton Anatole Hotel, which I recommend.  It was a very nice hotel, although paying for parking on top of the hotel charge is always a little frustrating.  We got into the hotel around 1am on Saturday morning.  We had left Houston around 8:30, so that Autumn could just sleep the whole car ride.  That plan worked out very well, until we got to the hotel, which was teaming with University of Arkansas fans fresh from the Cotton Bowl.  Autumn got a little wound up from all of the commotion and ended up sleeping in bed with us the rest of the night.

On Saturday morning I got up, ran 2.5 miles outside on the hotel's track before they turned the sprinklers on, then I ran another 5.5 miles inside at the hotel gym.  This was my last "long run" before the Houston Marathon next Sunday.  For some reason 8 miles just deosn't seem like a long run anymore.  After cleaning up, Autumn and I headed out to the Southlake/Grapevine area.  We visited with Andrew's cousin Madeleine briefly while we dropped off and picked up some stuff from her house.  Then Autumn and I met up with two of my college roommates, Bethany and Mary.  I guess I haven't been paying attention to facebook lately, because I was surprised to see that Mary was pregnant (and very pregnant at that).  She is due with a little boy, Max, next month.  We had a fun lunch at PF Chang's with Beth, Mary and Beth's little girl, Ellie, who is a little over 2.  Sorry, no pictures from the lunch :-(

Saturday evening we all headed to Chuy's for the birthday dinner.  Chuy's is always one of my favorites, but I probably overdid it with my caloric intake that night.  I had 2 margaritas, tons of chips and "Creamy J" and split a "lite entree" with Andrew.  I am estimating 55 Weight Watchers Points Plus values for that meal.  Yikes!  After the dinner we went back to our hotel room for cake, presents, and socializing.  Grandpa Walker got an iPad from his kids, a hat and a back scratcher.  I'm sure he got more presents that I am forgetting.  It was nice to spend some time with Andrew's Aunts and Uncles and cousins, many of whom I had never met (in the 13+ years we have been together).

On Sunday, Luke, Aislynn, Andrew, Autumn and I met up with Randy, Melody and Noah for brunch at a little cafe in the Galleria area. 

Overall, it was a fun and quick trip.  Here are some pics from the weekend:

Grandpa Walker opening his present from Terry and Sandy (a hat).

Birthday Cake courtesy of Sandy.
 
Autumn slept through most of the fun.


Grandpa trying out one of his other presents, a back scratcher.


Andrew hanging out.

Birthday candles.
 
Grandpa telling a story, or explaining all of his pills, I forget which.

 
Still sleeping through the fun.


Cousins!
 
Mr. Noah


Melody and Autumn having some fun.
  
Tia and Tio at brunch.


Friday, January 6, 2012

Beef & Broccoli Stir Fry Recipe

I realized I didn't include the recipe in my last post, so here it is:

Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry
Image of Beef  & Broccoli Stir-Fry
2477 people rated this recipe
PointsPlus® value | 5
Servings |  4
Preparation Time |  12 min
Cooking Time |  12 min
Level of Difficulty |  Easy

 main meals |  This classic Chinese recipe can be made in less time than it takes to order take-out. Serve with rice, noodles or large Bibb lettuce leaves for lettuce wraps.*

Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch, divided
  • 1/4 tsp table salt
  • 3/4 pound(s) uncooked lean trimmed sirloin beef, thinly sliced against the grain
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • 1 cup(s) reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
  • 5 cup(s) uncooked broccoli, florets (about a 12 oz bag)
  • 1 Tbsp ginger root, fresh, minced
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup(s) low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup(s) water
Instructions
  • On a plate, combine 2 tablespoons cornstarch and salt; add beef and toss to coat.
  • Heat oil in a large nonstick wok or large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef and stir-fry until lightly browned and cooked through, about 4 minutes; transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon.
  • Add 1/2 cup broth to same pan; stir to loosen any bits on food on bottom of pan. Add broccoli; cover and cook, tossing occasionally and sprinkling with a tablespoon water if needed, until broccoli is almost crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Uncover pan and add ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes; stir-fry until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • In a cup, stir together soy sauce, remaining 1/2 cup broth, remaining 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch and water until blended; stir into pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and bring to a simmer; simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.
  • Return beef and accumulated juices to pan; toss to coat. Serve. Yields about 1 1/4 cups per serving.
Notes
 *Could affect PointsPlus value.
  

Dinner Time

So one of my New Year's Resolutions was to cook more often (specifically 3 times per week - but I'm not quite there yet).  Last night I cooked Beef with Broccoli Stir Fry.  This was a Weight Watchers Recipe for 5 points (plus points for rice).  Here are some pics of the cooking process and the finished product.


Beef coated in corn starched and salt.


Oil.  I added a 1/2 tsp of Sesame Oil for added flavor
(this impacts the Points values of the recipe).


Autumn helping Mommy cook.


Jasmine rice.


Ingredients.


Peeling the ginger root.


Mincing the ginger root.


Stir frying the beef.


Cooking the broccoli.


Putting it all together.


Finished product.


Paired with the Brooklyn Brewery Sorachi Ace Saison Farmhouse Ale. 
We had this beer at my birthday dinner in November and we really enjoyed it.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Swinging with Tia

After dinner at Thai Cottage last night Tia was swinging Autumn around in the parking lot.  Autumn LOVED it!  She is such a happy baby.  Here is a video of her swinging.  Not sure if this will upload correctly or not.


video

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Feliz Navidad - Tamale Time

My lovely sister-in-law, Aislynn, is half Mexican, which means we get to pretend to be Mexican at Christmas and help her make tamales!  YUM!  Aislynn did most of the hard work (cooking the pork the night before and making the Masa).  My father-in-law, David, and I just helped her assemble the tamales on Christmas Eve.  We enjoyed eating them on Christmas Day with our other Mexican themed fare.

Here are some pics from our tamale making day:


Autumn with her favorite Tia (okay her only "Tia").
 
Beginning the tamale making process.
Notice the new ceiling in my kitchen (thanks Andrew!)

Masa!

Pulled pork.

Assembly line time.
 
Papa helping his "girls" (minus 1 - where were you Allison?) make tamales.
 
Step 1 - Start with a corn husk (you must soak these the day before, so they are pliable).


Step 2 - Spread Masa on the flat end of the husk in a square approx 4in by 4in.
 
Step 2 cont - spreading the Masa.
 
Step 3 - Add the pork (or other filling) on the Masa.
 
Step 4 - Begin to roll tightly.
 
Step 5 - Tuck the "tail" into the roll.
 
Step 6 - Roll some more.
 
Voila! (or however they say that in Spanish)
 
We made about 5 dozen in total - and they were YUMMY!
 
Lexy hanging out on my diaper bag while we work.
 If you plan to make tamales I highly recommend looking up a "how to" video on YouTube.  This helped us considerably.  Calls to Tia's Mommy also helped! :-)