Dolor de Espalda

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Somehow, someway, it happened. I pulled my rhomboid muscle in my back. The pull was so intense that I’ve suffered every day since… Saturday. Tuesday of this week, I didn’t go to school because of el dolor. How could I expect the best from my kids if I couldn’t give them mine? To illustrate, imagine splitting your back in two, keeping one half and borrowing the other half piece from another human. The experience is, quite frankly, freaky, and I don’t recommend it. Who knew that my back was at war with itself? The ibuprofen pills that I pop come and go like clockwork; I’m pretty meticulous about when I take them. Besides, the pain begins creeping in like some sadistic alarm clock, so I always know even if I’m not checking the time. Here’s the rhomboid muscle:

Como se dice, "OUCH!"

The good part about this whole ordeal: Erik gives great back massages and does dinner prep for me! 🙂 Awesome!

Beyond the news headline above, I wanted to get out the word on the Mexican Chili recipe that I promised to try. Two words: great success! However much it ails me to give credit to the chef, I’m going to anyway. Let me preface that her obnoxious voice and awkward quirkiness drove me nuts for many years, but, alas, the food doesn’t lie. This recipe belongs to Rachael Ray! The true name is Turkey Chipotle Chili (with Jack Cheese Corn Toppers), but I didn’t mess with the toppers since I already had tortilla chips at home. I love soup. Chili falls into that category in my head, so, before cooking, I was a tiny bit skeptical. The adobo chiles and the Mexican beer flavors really bring that extra kick, making this chili recipe unique and a definite keeper! Try it yourself, and let me know how it goes!

Well, it’s off to bed for me as I have a loaded schedule tomorrow: grade level meeting, teaching, lunch, more teaching, and I-team’s second home game! Wish my volleyball girls some luck tomorrow! Check back this weekend as I’m sure to have some updates on ACL music festival (although we don’t have tickets, we are still trying to hear some Coldplay, Stevie Wonder, My Morning Jacket, Arcade Fire, or any of the other amazing musicians at Zilker).

Before I forget, if you want to help out the Bastrop wildfire victims, go to KVUE to gather credible charitable sources. The most recent news that I’ve heard is that the displaced families need giftcards! Bastrop is crazy changed, and I cannot even imagine what those folks are going through…

Until then:

Practice Kindness & Courtesy.

Below 100 degrees? Feels like fall already…

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I’d never think that I’d say this… but, I’m so thankful for 90-degree temperatures! Seriously. There’s a huge difference here in Texas between 105 and 95. Something strange happens where your body just rejoices with the birds and the dying plants and savors every precious breeze that chooses to pass you. I am just elated, and we can finally begin our outdoor adventures in Austin with a little more comfort.

I forgot to upload photos from last Sunday when we visited the Pedernales River. This particular section is very close to Hamilton Pool, located in the Reimers Ranch County Park. Warning: Hamilton Pool is a crazy fest on weekends, so if you want to visit get there before it opens. We got there around 11am and would have waited for 3 hours to enter. One of these upcoming weekends, we shall visit and prevail, and I’ll share with you some pictures of this secret lagoon/cave place.

Reimers Ranch is somewhat of a climber’s paradise; there are several rocks and boulders to work that upper body!

Literally called "Sex Cave"

After a short hike (~1/4 mile), we made it to the Pedernales River! Believe it or not, it was quite refreshing…

Pronounced "Perdernales" by former Pres. LBJ

Coincidentally, we met a group of twenty-somethings here from… (drum roll) Raleigh, NC!!! Two of the girls had been living in Austin for three months now. Can you say CRAZY?! We couldn’t believe it! What are the odds of meeting folks from our old stomping ground in the middle of nowhere! This particular area is about 40-50 miles east of Austin, so it’s a pretty spectacular and timely meeting. We exchanged numbers and will be hanging out again soon.

Now onto this weekend, Friday evening was lazy night. I whipped up a Chicken Parm meal with angel hair pasta because I already had the ingredients to do so. If you have egg, breadcrumbs, chicken, tomato sauce, herbs, and mozzarella, then you’re pretty much set. We also watched Robert Redford’s The Conspirator about President Lincoln’s assassination. Not too shabby of a flik. Then, it was early bedtime for the teacher in me.

On Saturday, we woke again to the hilarity of Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me… it’s kind of a tradition to listen every Saturday now. Then, Erik took me to a barbeque place that he’d eaten with his co-workers last week. After spotting Vic’s off the side of the highway, I knew it was going to be good: 1) it was established in 1987 (and it’s obvious there hasn’t been any renovations since then), 2) it was filled with quite  a few large groups of people, and 3) it had a menu that reminded me of some back home in South Carolina (painted with other pieces of paper denoting price and/or menu changes). I chose to try out the Smoked Brisket plate with beans, potato salad, and a SMALL BOWL of pickles. If you know me, then you should know how much I love pickles…well, anything pickled for that matter. One bite into that pickle sent me back to younger, greener days in South Cackalacky with my cousin, Danielle, at Georgetown Ice Company where we were allowed to go behind the cash register (sooo cool when you’re in elementary school)  and grab at our own command whatever we wanted (i.e. pickles, bottled soda, chili cheese on a bun). Man, those we the days… well, I forgot my camera, so no photos, but the smoked brisket was what I’d been waiting to taste–real Texas!

After Vic’s, we headed downtown for our Austin Ducks Land & Water Adventure Tour! I bought a Groupon to go, so it was totally worth it.

We're Ducks!

From Land to Water! Thanks to Bob--our tour guide!

Since college, Erik and I have done these townie tours. I think we have a slight addiction. I enjoy taking them because you always learn something different about the city you’re in–even if you thought you already knew everything about it. With that said, we learned about some pretty cool places on the tour and had a blast riding along with other Austinites and out-of-towners.

After the Ducks tour, we strolled down the infamous 6th Street for a dive bar to watch the UT vs. BYU game (yes, we won! Go Longhorns!). We ended up at Shakespeare’s Pub, a place Erik had gone to on his initial Austin visit. Being the English geek that I am, giddiness took form and resulted in several photos like these…

Where's the Bard?

Austin, Music Capital of the World. 6th Street Overlook.

To celebrate the UT win, Erik and I decided to take a victory lap of downtown. I love walking around a city at night (in safe areas), the people and even surroundings transform into something else, something more alive and bold.

Check out the Capitol building and UT tower that we stumbled upon on our meandering tour…

Say whaatttt?!

Getting cozy...

Oh goodness, he’s a Longhorn now… well, Sunday rolled around sneakily, and I wasn’t going to let it slip by without getting out again and enjoying some sun! We went down S. Lamar and rented some Townie bikes for a couple hours from Bicycle Sport Shop. We biked all around Zilker Park, Barton Springs, some downtown, Lady Bird Lake (Town Lake/Lake Austin) for two hours! We only took maybe a 15-minute break to grab some Water Ice behind Barton Springs to cool down as it was about 100 degrees today. The bike ride was still a pleasant activity to do, even with the heat. The wind in my hair, the sun kissing my skin, and the childlike enjoyment biking down hills made every minute of that rental just priceless!

Zilker Park Photo Op!

I live here!

Perhaps, this post is becoming a little lengthy. I hope that you are enjoying your days in your proper city wherever you are, whomever you are; I sure am! I’ll be posting sometime this week letting you know how a new Mexican chili recipe has gone. The chili was supposed to happen tonight, but Torchy’s called and we just couldn’t let him down. Delicioso!

On a more serious note, I have been contemplating all the day long, pondering that life-altering day ten years ago, September 11th. I’ll never forget that day: the fear, the shock, and the silence that pervaded a small-town World History classroom in Waxhaw, North Carolina. Despite all of the political bologna, we are all so very blessed to lead the lives we do, right here in the grand U.S. of A.

Good night and good luck this week, y’all!

Q: What’s your 9/11/01 memory?

“So, you like football, right?”

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Happy Football Saturday, dear Reader!

Erik and I have spent the ENTIRE day watching college football per the fall season norm. Today, we watched the VT Hokies destroy our Appalachian State Mountaineers… we were very depressed by the end of it all. We also watched UNC play JMU, and, now, we’re watching the Carolina Gamecocks vs. ECU game. This last one has been a pretty crazy one. Turnovers (by USC), oh my! Man, I ❤ football!

To “kick off” Labor Day weekend, I decided to dish up a true Southern meal. On the menu was Slow-Cooked BBQ Pork Ribs, Boiled Corn-on-the-Cob, Homemade Red Potato Salad (my mom’s recipe), and Texmati Long-Grain White Rice seasoned with cooked shallots, green bell pepper, a bay leaf, and a rosemary sprig (from my bush on the patio)!

These BBQ Ribs are by far my best work yet! I slow-cooked them in my extra-large electric crockpot for 8 HOURS today. The dry rub I used included the following seasonings: McCormick’s Smokehouse Apple, garlic powder, cayenne powder, chili powder, and S&P. Then, I used Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Barbeque sauce and blended it with plain ol’ apple cider vinegar until the sauce could wisk fairly easily. I poured the sauce all over those ribs and turned it on low for those glorious eight hours. The apartment smelled delicious! Close to dinner time, Erik and I were basically chewing the air of sweet, sweet BBQ flavors. My mom’s potato salad is pretty basic but is a keeper! I’ve never really known the exact measurements but basically: I boil the diced red potatoes and 2 eggs first. Then, in a large mixing bowl, I add mayonnaise (typically, Duke’s, but I’ve had to resort to Hellman’s here in Tejas), mustard, sweet pickled relish, paprika, and S&P. I like my potato salad cold, so I make this a few hours ahead of meal time. It’s the PERFECT football dinner! Let’s just say we are going to sleep very well tonight…

By the way, last night, Erik met me in Drippin’ to attend the home-opener high school football game. I heard from several teachers that the catfish plate put on by the PTA was a “must-try,” so we ate before the game right next to the field. Oh, and the catfish was perfectly fried and seasoned–glad I got it! All of my middle school students came by to meet my husband and say hello. It was really cute and funny that they were so excited to see my outside of the classroom! I was famous! After the halftime show, Erik and I called it quits. After all, how exciting can high school football really be? (Sorry, HS fans!) We went home, and I showered to head to Emo’s (on 6th and Red River) to meet our Raleigh friends for the Active Child show. We got there just in time to here his set, and, afterwards, we got to converse with Active Child himself and the bandmates. Fun times! It was really nice to get out, listen to music, and socialize!

Well, I just couldn’t wait to tell you about those ribs, so I hope you go out and try ’em yourself. Let me know how they turn out! I’m going to continue to sip on my Deep Eddy Strawberry Lemonade and enjoy the rest of my evening (probably watching the last Thursday’s Project Runway episode)!

Hope you’re enjoying your Labor Day weekend? What are y’all doing?!

 

Mt. Bonnell & Polvo’s

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Good evening, dear Reader!

I thought I’d catch you up to speed on our weekend and what’s new. First of all, I am finally feeling at home in my classroom. I have over 120+ seventh graders, and they are all eerily sweet and rambunctious! My schedule is as follows this year:

1st period: Girls’ Athletics

2nd period: Conference/Planning

3rd period: ELA

4th period: ELA

5th period: ELA (inclusion)

6th period: ELA (inclusion)

7th period: CATS/Homeroom

8th period: ELA, Pre-AP

And, here’s a photo of Ms. D’s room:

Classroom

Ms. Donham's Room!

I really, really love what I’m doing at this new school with these kids! 🙂

So, on Friday night, Erik and I pushed up our sleeves and got down and Italian by making this homemade lasagna recipe that I’ve sort of made up and stolen ideas from others. Basically, you need the following:

whole wheat lasagna (healthier option)
one big can of crushed tomatoes (from Italy, preferably, look on the back of the can!)
fresh basil
fresh spinach
fresh baby bella mushrooms
fresh scallions
fresh garlic, minced
fresh Italian sausage (hot or mild–I like hot)
dried oregano
dried Herbs de Provence (if you have it…)
mixture of parmesan (about 1/4 parts), mozzarella (about 1/2 parts), and ricotta cheese (1 part) with one egg

I blend all dried spices and meat into crushed tomatoes in a mixing bowl as well as the cheeses in a separate mixing bowl. I layer in the following order: sauce, noodles, sauce, cheese, noodles, sauce, veggies, cheese, noodles, cheese. Then, I bake at 350 degrees for about 30-45 minutes covered in tin foil, then last 5-10 minutes without to get that bubbly brown cheese. Bon apetito! It’s sooooo good that I’ve been eating on it since Friday night and haven’t gotten tired of it yet! Try it!

So, after this filling meal, Erik and I thought it’d be a good idea to head over to double-circle pool for an evening swim (with el vino en mano) to cool down and unwind.

Pool

Double Circle Pool!

After hitting the hay pretty late, we slept in on Saturday then ventured off into the city. Our trip didn’t last very long since it was 110 degrees outside, but we managed to sneak a visit to Mt. Bonnell, one of Austin’s ah-mazing views of the cityscape and Lady Bird Lake (technically, Lake Austin). The hike up was less than 5 minutes and was easily accessible with parking out front as well as historical blocks, detailing the background of this lovely place. The houses (or should I say, mansions?) here were beautiful! One of these days…

Mt.Bonnell
Austin

Austin!

Mt. Bonnell!

Finally, we went out for some Tex-Mex at Polvo’s  on South First with our Raleigh friends. Polvo’s was delicious and met all the rave reviews I’d heard. I had the ground beef Enchiladas de la Casa. Erik had the homemade tamales. We both had frozen ritas, which ended up being on the rocks because of the heat! Oh, well! Funny story: our waiter was from Monroe, NC! What are the odds?!

mt.bonnell2

Sunday was domestic, lounge-around-the-house day. Cleaning, laundry folding, sweeping, and planting my plant pets were among the things-to-do list. We visited The Great Outdoors Nursery on South Congress (expansive selection of all things garden-y!) and came home proud parents of a rosemary bush, four succulent plants, a flower that attracts butterflies, and a snake plant and small flower/plant (for indoor decor). I’m ecstatic about having a little more green around!

Well, this has been one long Monday, and I’m drained of all energy. Tomorrow, I will be giving a BOY (Beginning of Year Assessment) to my kids to see where they are in ELA. Let’s hope that I don’t have to backtrack and re-teach a lot of standards!

Good night! Something to ponder: Where’s the best view in your hometown or city located?

Heaven must be missing a… San Marcos Tanger Outlet Center

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Hello, dear Reader!

Apologies for my blogosphere absence. Last week, I was super busy in staff development training and setting up my new classroom digs. Things are coming together quite nicely at my new school home. (I will be adding photos of my room soon, along with some “first week” stories.) But, first, let’s talk about this past weekend!

I picked up this romper from Target (on sale for $8!):

Target Romper

❤ Target!

On Friday night, Erik and I were not feeling amped to go out or do anything that required a lot of energy, so we decided to play a round of mini-golf at the famous Austin establishment, Peter Pan Mini Golf. Surprisingly, it was a great time. I was exhausted from the crazy week of work and meetings, so a round of mini-golf was the perfect way to unwind and build energy for Saturday’s heavenly treat…

I love turtles!

On Saturday, I went to outlet heaven a.k.a. the San Marcos and Tanger Outlets. This outlet center was the largest one I’ve ever visited, and I absolutely loved it. I did some minor damage at Banana Republic and was kind of pissed when I realized that there wasn’t just one but TWO Banana Republic stores in the same lot. That’s one sick person who made that decision. I bought one tweed pencil skirt, one blouse, one dressy tank and one regular tank, a pair of shorts, and a dressy, long cardigan. I haven’t gone shopping in a long time, so it was worth it. I love new school clothes. Some noted favorites include: Pottery Barn (with a Williams-Sonoma), Restoration Hardware, Crate & Barrel, New York & Company, Sony, Final Cut (BCBG Max Azria), Ann Taylor LOFT, etc. PLUS, it was tax-free weekend. Score!

Oh, and I almost forgot–before we headed to the outlets, we stopped at the largest Cabela’s I’ve ever seen! Erik and I made a deal that if I did his thing, he’d do mine. Seriously. This Cabela’s means business. It was like going to a mall, but, really, you were in one massive store. There was even a food court! Erik and I split a venison brat and some fries while there because the walking around made us hungry! Even if you aren’t a fan of the outdoors, going to the San Marcos definitely was an experience worth having!

Cabela's

Taxidermied Animals Galore in Cabela's!

Has anyone read Yann Martel's Beatrice and Virgil? You should.

San Marcos, by the way, is about a 30-40 minutes drive south of Austin (off I-35). Because of the 100-degree temperatures that happen every single day, this outlet center and Cabela’s stop was perfect! Thank you, Willis Haviland Carrier for inventing A/C!

Finally, on Sunday, I went to school to tie up some loose ends. You know, being one of those overachiever teachers. Ha! Following that school visit, Erik and I went to help out some fellow Raleighites move their life into a storage unit (they don’t officially move into their place until September 1.) Hooray familiar faces! To celebrate Erik’s new job (yeah that one in the marketing department of a national audio-visual company), we went to Habana’s Cuban Grille where I was sent back to Spain (not as Spain-y as I would have hoped) with their Seafood Paella dish (mussels, clams, crab, tilapia, shrimp, calamari, fried plantains on a bed of Cuban rice mixed with spices). Erik had the typical Cuban sandwich with a side of yuca fries. Everything was perfect (including the mojitos)! Cheers to working hard and finding jobs (within a month of living here)!

Cubano

Buen Provecho!

Now, I’m off to hit-the-sack. Today was the first day of school, and my middle schoolers are just sweethearts! The day was very long, but I am optimistic about this school year and hope all will go well. Teaching is definitely a difficult job, but, for some reason, I enjoy the challenge. So, I’ll end with a photo of “my” building at school, and a question to respond: What was the most influential or eye-opening lesson that you learned from a teacher?

B-Hall

Hello Middle School Land!

Celebrations!

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Hello, dear Reader!

To say that this week was busy would be an understatement. Erik and I both received phone calls on Monday to interview for big-time positions on Wednesday morning. Again, we did our happy dance on the walnut-laminate floors of our new apartment. We’re on the first level, so no biggie. Although we received call backs, we continued to churn out the ol’ cover letter and resume to several companies’ recent job postings. 🙂 Wednesday FINALLY came. I had my interview first in the morning for a middle school teaching position. By the way, I’ve never professionally taught middle schoolers–only tutored the little rugrats. However, the interview went almost better than perfect. I quickly connected to the principal and two English teachers present at the interview, and, after exiting, I knew that there was something special left there in that heavenly air-conditioned conference room. I returned home to pick up Erik for a quick Torchy’s Tacos lunch. This time around, I had the Baja Shrimp taco and Erik ate an Ahi Tuna Steak taco; we also ordered a side of housemade salsa and chips. Again, Torchy’s Tacos wins! Then, it was Erik’s turn to don the grown-up suit and tie for his interview with a locally-stationed, national audio-visual company. The weirdest thing about this interview? The company found Erik for it.

Here’s the background: Erik physically walked into several audio-visual companies to drop off his resume with the intention of landing maybe a freelance job or two. However, when Erik went into this particular enterprise, the receptionist told Erik that their particular company did not do freelance work but instead installed permanent audio-visual setups (including Bank of America stadium!). Erik, being resourceful, frankly said, “Well, this resume would probably do better on someone’s desk here than inside my oven of a car.” The receptionist cracked a friendly smile and told him that he’d pass it along to his manager. Miraculously, the manager saw the resume and booted it to the corporate office in Oklahoma City. The HR person at the headquarters then emailed Erik to offer him a job that wasn’t even posted! Fate, right?! Erik interviewed with them Wednesday afternoon; the interview lasted about an hour an a half and went “pretty good,” according to Erik. Although we are still waiting to hear word, we are very hopeful.

Now, let’s get to Thursday morning, I received a call from the principal of the middle school I interviewed at. As soon as I heard those Texan-filled words, “Well, Ms. Donham, I’m calling to offer you a job,” I nearly fainted. I released a soft yet firm, “Well, Mr. —–, I’m gonna have to accept that job offer!” My heart was just racing! I’ve got a job, and, now, Erik and I can breathe a little more freely and save ourselves from the stress of not being financially doomed! 🙂 Celebrate good times, my friends! C’mon!

To rejoice, Erik and I had been craving one of our favorites, sushi, so we found a relatively close, inexpensive ($$) joint off Stassney called Umi. We were both so excited about going out to dinner that we got there at the tail-end of happy hour! I ordered a Lychee martini ($5!) and Erik (of course) got a Sapporo. Good deal! For dinner, I had a Spider Roll and shared a Tuna Avocado Roll with Erik. Erik ate one of those dinner combo sushi platter things with nigiri and a spicy tuna roll. Everything was super delicious and really hit the spot! For dessert (ha!), we shared a pineapple-infused cold sake–the large carife. Sooo good! 😉

Needless to say, I am one happy, blessed gal! No pictures of the Umi bonanza–apologies–but will be uploading some after the weekend. Last night, we had a great night with some awesome neighbors from New York who made us homemade pizzas! After starting the night off with champagne, eating and drinking our way through some tasty foods and beverages, we sauntered back to our apartment rather late, feeling incredibly satisfied. We are meeting some pretty amazing people here!

Tonight, Erik and I are planning to find a sports bar in town to watch our Carolina Panthers play the NY Giants. Hopefully, we’ll spot Armanti running the field! Go Apps!

Keep positive. Keep strong. Things will happen.

Oh, and this guy:

Weird-o!

First Farmer’s Market Visit!

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After waking to Peter Sagal’s voice of NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me, I knew that it was going to be a good day. I love laughing first thing in the morning–gives you such good energy! We said goodbye to Peter and Carl, got fresh, and headed out to Austin’s downtown farmer’s market, located on the corner of 5th and Guadalupe.

Another love of mine: being a food nerd! I am addicted to food markets; they remind me of elementary school field trips for some odd reason. He-he! I am as giddy as a schoolgirl, walking around and asking questions about the different foods and techniques others use. For instance, today I met a new veggie friend: Magenta Spreen. I didn’t buy any (that will have to wait until next Saturday) but apparently it tastes similar to spinach (yet another food-crush that I have). On top of all the fresh veggies and fruits, the downtown market also boasts fresh butchered meaty treats like venison breakfast sausage, bison, duck, wild hog, quail, and many others. I have never felt more proud to be a carnivore, browsing the meat selection! I ended up bagging three mini zucchinis, a red onion, and three beets. After all, I didn’t want to go overkill on my first visit! I’ll definitely be heading back next Saturday. Keep reading to see what I did with those beautiful zukes!

Downtown Farmer's Market

After the market, Erik and I were feeling a little light-headed due to the heat and the rumbling in our bellies, so we headed to South First to eat at Torchy’s Tacos. Torchy’s are everywhere–I believe there are about eight alone in Austin. The one on South First is closest to us, which is why we went there. I ordered the Breakfast Migas ($2.50–scrambled eggs, green chiles, avocado, pico de gallo, cheese on a corn tortilla) and Erik had the Green Chile Pork ($3.25–slow-roasted pork with green chiles, queso fresco, cilantro, lime on a corn tortilla). Total cost was under $9 for the two of us–what a deal! The food was delicious and just enough to fill that empty hunger hole. No worries, we’ll definitely be back to try more of their taco variations.

At Torchy's, un refresco de Mexico (Coca-Cola without corn syrup--just sugar!)

After eating and relaxing under one of the shelters in 105-degree weather for a moment, we bolted home to jump into our neighborhood pool, which, unfortunately, felt like a jacuuzi. But, hey! We were in water and not just frying in the hot sun, so it was cool. We also met some new strangers and swapped stories; they were from Montana and New York. Good conversation with good people=good times.

OK, Okay, I’ll tell you what I did with those zukes. I saw Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa) make these zucchini pancakes on her Back to Basics Food Network show. Gah! I really love her!

Zuke Pancakes

Ingredients

  • 2 medium zucchini (about 3/4 pound)
  • 2 tablespoons grated red onion
  • 2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Unsalted butter and vegetable oil
  • New add: 1/4 cup parmesan cheese and 1-2 teaspoons of crushed red pepper flakes (to spice things up!)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Grate the zucchini into a bowl using the large grating side of a box grater. Immediately stir in the onion and eggs. Stir in 6 tablespoons of the flour, the baking powder, salt, and pepper. (If the batter gets too thin from the liquid in the zucchini, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour.)

Heat a large (10 to 12-inch) saute pan over medium heat and melt 1/2 tablespoon butter and 1/2 tablespoon oil together in the pan. When the butter is hot but not smoking, lower the heat to medium-low and drop heaping soup spoons of batter into the pan. Cook the pancakes about 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Place the pancakes on a sheet pan and keep warm in the oven. Wipe out the pan with a dry paper towel, add more butter and oil to the pan, and continue to fry the pancakes until all the batter is used. The pancakes can stay warm in the oven for up to 30 minutes. Serve hot.

Zuke Pancakes are here to stay!

**FYI: I didn’t worry about putting them in the oven to keep hot–the pancakes cooked fairly quickly, plus I was cooking this tasty, healthy Oven-FriedChicken in there. (I follow the oven-fried chicken recipe pretty closely; however, I usually tend to coat with just plain Panko breadcrumbs.)***P.S. These zucchini pancakes rocked my taste buds! Erik thought they were going to be disgusting, but he ended up eating like 6 of them! If you don’t know what to do with your zukes or if they are just going bad, please try this recipe–you won’t regret it!

Thank goodness for Saturdays–the day of rest! Erik and I were grateful for the small respite from the job hunt. Hope y’all are having a relaxing weekend, too!

Shark Week: A Coincidence?

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Hey, folks! It’s Shark Week!

It’s funny how life tends to poke fun at you every once in a while. Erik and I have been battling “the sharks” this week, sending out cover letters, resumes, and job applications into the maelstrom of cyberspace’s tumultuous seas. By the way, my interview on Monday went well; however, I’m sure that the meeting was a simple screening. The principal was not present at the interview, which is a signal that the interview is not THE interview. Alas, I wait and hope for good news on Monday! Job hunting today reminds me of the colonial days when sailors went out to sea to kill whales for their oil. Remember Moby Dick? You spend hours and hours attempting to make every “first impression” resume or cover letter perfect while dealing with the automated application process (nothing is pre-filled) only to receive what in return? An annoying “you’re overqualified” or, worse, nothing, like a tiny drop of whale oil in that gallon canister you have for the journey. I’m just waiting for a little more whale oil… I could go on and on with this rant, but I’m not going–I’m going to take you to Morocco!

Tonight, I took a Moroccan Chicken recipe for a spin. I found this recipe on Food.com (here!) and manipulated the measurements (I only used 2 lbs. of boneless, skinless chicken thighs) and ingredients (omitted the raisins for Erik) a bit:

  • 3 -5 tablespoons oil
  • 2 lbs chicken thighs
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon CURRY POWDER (I couldn’t find my CUMIN!)
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons honey (or to taste)
  • 2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • cooked basmati rice

Morocco in your Mouth!

NOTE: This dish is VERY flavorful! I felt as though I may have teetered on over-seasoning the dish, but Erik thought it was great! Playing around with worldly spices is a lot of fun, so I encourage you (my lovely reader!) to venture out and try something new! When I first started cooking world cuisine, I thought that I would run into a lot of roadblocks because of rare or uncommon ingredients. False! You can find everything you need (most cases) at your local grocery, especially at Whole Foods, Fresh Market, or Trader Joe’s. Here in the 78704, I’ve discovered Sun Harvest organic supermarket, just off South Lamar–a street away from our apartment! It reminds me of Whole Foods but in a smaller, more intimate setting and is wallet-friendly!
As for Austin exploration, last Tuesday, Erik and I went with some new friends to Barton Springs for their last S.O.S. (Save Our Springs Alliance) Summer Series concert, featuring the Minor Mishap Marching Band. What fun! Unfortunately, I did not get pictures as I was too busy acting like a kid and jumping off the diving board into the springs. The water was chilly, but Minor Mishap warmed me up with their poolside energy. After drying off and figuring out exit strategies, we headed over to the Barton Saloon (the corner of South Lamar and Barton Springs). On Tuesday nights, Miller Lite bottles are just a $1! Y’all know I don’t drink beer, so I just sipped on a margarita instead… a bit too tangy for my taste. The place was packed and there was pool, which made Erik and the guys very happy. That’s about it for us Austin explorers for now… No set plans for the weekend yet, but, as always, I will keep you updated!
I’ll end with this little nugget of hilarity! Erik and I found this “Buzz Ball” at the check-out counter of Walgreens. The cashier suggested Pina Colada, so we took  his word for it. This miniature ball-shaped can has 17% alcohol content. The label reads that it is a wine, but I have my doubts. It was pretty awful…

Tropic Chillerz!

Cheers, y’all!

From France to India (and an extraterrestrial experience somewhere in the Midwest)

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This weekend, I’ve been busy getting back on my regular workout routine. Slow and steady wins the race, right? I did two 30-minute slow runs, arms, and core work in our handy dandy small workout room located in our apartment complex. I’ve also enjoyed dipping into our double-circle pool! (Pictures to come!) In addition, a friend that Erik made while staying in one of Austin’s international hostels during his pre-move visit was celebrating his last weekend in Austin. This Virginia native had just wrapped up a summer internship here and was showing one of his buddies from home around the town. Naturally, we didn’t just see Austin–we saw France and India as well as met some Cowboys and Aliens somewhere in Midwest America.

On Saturday  night, we met up with our hostel friend at Justine’s Brasserie, a Parisian-style restaurant on South 5th Street.  I had already made these Turkey Meatball and Spaghetti for dinner, so we didn’t order any entrees. I did have a glass of their house Pinot Noir ($6)–tasty–and Erik ordered a pint of local beer and a bowl of the melon gazpacho. Our dinner-friends had the Duck Confit and The Royale with Cheese. The melon gazpacho was chilled and definitely interesting–the touch of fried pancetta over-top was a nice twist to the traditional Spanish tapa, melon and prosciutto. The boys’ plates looked exquisite (although I did not taste); the friendly waitress cleared what could have been thought clean plates. Erik and I will definitely return to this cool brasserie (to celebrate new jobs??). The atmosphere was unforgettable!

Off the streets of Paris-Austin!

Later that evening, we viewed Spielberg’s new flick, Cowboys and Aliens, starring that new James Bond-guy and Harrison Ford. You have to give credit to a guy that has the guts to make a film with the central topic dealing with cowboys and aliens AND making it an entertaining experience. I wouldn’t say that I’ll watch it again, but it was fun. Good times. I ❤ Harrison Ford!

You've never experienced this part of the Midwest--ever!

Finally, last night (Sunday), we went to Claypit, an Indian restaurant found in the UT area of Austin. The food was curry-licious and not overpriced! I had the Boti Kebob (marinated and grilled lamb); it came on a hot plate with a bed of grilled onion, basmati rice, and a sauce that I’ll be dreamin’ about for the next few weeks. Yummy! Erik had the goat with some basil and garlic naam. All the curry spices satisfied that Indian craving and more. (Erik may or may not still be recovering, ha!) I highly recommend this place to any new comers or old goers!

Smells soooo good in here!

On a final note, I had my interview this morning! Everything went swimmingly. My theory is that this interview was just an initial screening (only a vice principal and four English teachers were present), so I hope to get a call back to meet with the principal and get down to business!

For the rest of the day, I’m busying myself with catching a photo of our beautiful Blue Jay neighbor… quick little thing, playing hard to get! I’ll post when it happens! Happy Monday, y’all!

For the Love of Chocolate!

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Last night, Erik and I ventured off to the Highball, a swanky, high-end bowling alley, restaurant, bar, and concert venue, to see Erin Ivey and the Finest Kind. The occasion? The release of their new album, Broken Gold, and the premiere of their new music video, “Chocolate.” And, goodness gracious, were the vocals and tunes of Erin Ivey and the Finest Kind as sweet, sexy, and smooth as chocolate (and not no milky, cheap chocolate–I’m talkin’ about that dark stuff)!

Before diving into further commentary on EI&tFK, I would be remiss not to mention their opening act, The Copa Kings, a full six-piece band, along with a sultry red-head siren singer, that had me transported back to the days when the Rat Pack made the chocolate on the rim of your chocolate martini melt. Professional, sophisticated, and extremely talented, this big-band band made for a great opening while I sipped on a glass of Goughuenheim Malbec.

Copa Kings at Highball

Back to sweet yet mildly salacious, Erin Livey and the Finest Kind. Their urban folk sound filled the Highball with warmth, cool, and spice. (If that’s even possible! But, I promise, it was!) Here’s a link to the clip of some of the music that you missed out–for FREE! Click here!

Erin Ivey & the Finest Kind

As I worked my eyes through the band’s audience of local commits and new win-overs, I thought to myself that this experience is quintessentially Austin. Live music with no cover in a room filled with such camaraderie and love amongst its inhabitants, band and audience members alike. I’m one lucky gal!

Oh, and I have to share a photo that encapsulates a big difference between Erik and I. Hope y’all are having a great weekend! Who knows what will be doing next in the 78704!

Love my red heels from Lucky Penny (est. in Boone, NC)!