Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cooking Together!

One of the things that I cherish most about my husband is that he likes to try new things and have fun. One of the things we love to do together is cook!

Jason and I, as two engineers, started out cooking very precisely. One teaspoon leveled off - it was ridiculous! As we've tried more and more recipes we've gotten more comfortable in our efforts and are being more adventurous.

Part of our learning and comfort came from taking cooking classes. We found a deal on Living Social to do cooking classes at Well Done Cooking Class. It's run by two amazing ladies who do a fabulous job teaching! (My sorority is going to take a Thanksgiving sides course this November that I am anxious to try!) Jason and I took two classes there - Savory Soups (chicken enchilada, tomato basil, autumn minestrone, french onion, and homemade croutons) and Dinner Party on the Bayou (shrimp etoufee; andouille sausage, shrimp, and okra gumbo; blackened steak, white chocolate bread pudding). Unfortunately, we didn't take any pictures at these wonderful events. :-(

The month of August is Houston Restaurant Weeks. One of the local supermarkets, Rice Epicurean, was doing cooking classes as part of the event. Jason and I decided to take their crepes class and boy did we have a ball! We'd never made crepes before!! We made 4 kinds - nutella, bananas foster, suzette, and a savory spinach, artichoke, and chicken crepe. Delicious!!


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Happy 3rd Anniversary!

Yesterday was our 3 year anniversary! The past years I feel like Jason and I have grown so much and have a stronger marriage as a result. We've had so many friends and family that have support us over the years and I thank all of them for their continued prayers, faith, and guidance.

Here's the note I gave my sweet husband via Facebook: Thank you Jason Stingerie for the past three years of being husband and wife. I am so blessed to have had my best friend by my side for the last seven years. We've cried together, laughed together, learned together, and grown together. I wouldn't trade any of the challenges, joys, or triumps we've experienced for anything because the path they took us on has led me to appreciate just how precious a gift you are in my life. Happy anniversary sweetheart! I love you so much!

This entire month is Houston Restaurant Week (a convenient time to have an anniversary I'd say!) Over 100 participating restaurants have set 3 or 4 course menus for $35/ person. A portion of that money is donated to the Houston Food Bank. You can read more about Houston Restaurant Week here.

We took advantage of this and celebrated our anniversary at The Melting Pot. We had our rehearsal dinner there and LOVE the atmosphere and food.

Here's a dark picture of us at the table-

When I got home I had a bouquet of beautiful flowers waiting for me.

We also splurged and got ourselves a cake from our favorite bakery, Ooh La La! Chocolate cake with oreo buttercream topped with vanilla buttercream icing? Yes please! :-)

Here's to many more wonderful years together! :-)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Monday, August 8, 2011

Our Own Eden

Jason and I have embarked on a new adventure in our lives – gardening. Neither of us has a green thumb, but we are going to change that! After discussing the idea of a garden for awhile and consulting with some friends at our church who have successfully grown their own vegetables, we decided it was something that we wanted to do for ourselves.

We both recognize the importance of being aware of the environment’s limited food supply and would like to take steps to being more Biblically-based in how we live our lives and work to stop taking for granted all of the luxuries we have living in America.

We set out by first researching (surprise, surprise) and the best resource we used was a book by Urban Harvest called “Year Round Vegetable, Fruits, and Flowers for Metro Houston: A Natural Organic Approach Using Ecology (12th Edition)” (long-enough name, right?). The author is Dr. Bob Randall, a PhD who spent a good part of his life becoming gardening in Houston and has great advice and suggestions for beginners. You can get his book from taking one of Urban Harvest’s classes or going to their Farmer’s Market. More information can be found on their website.

This past Fourth of July we had my mom and her husband Jeff down for the long holiday and utilized the free labor to get the garden created. Jeff drives a truck and we needed it to haul lumber and rocks for the garden. (We will need to borrow a truck again closer to fall if any of our Houston friends are willing to be bribed!)

Being the good engineer’s we are, the hubby took the dimensions of our house from the builder and imported them to SolidWorks where he could make a 3D schematic of our backyard and refine the garden’s dimensions prior to implementation.

Then we had to stake out the size, check our measurements, and evaluate how everything looked before proceeding. Then we started digging! And promptly realized I was standing on a giant red ant pile… so we moved to the opposite side for the time being and started digging up all the bushes and grass.

We broke ground and worked hard Day 1.

We had the beautiful magnolia tree left that we were investigating our options – transplant, sell, cut down. In the end it was decided that we couldn’t salvage the tree and since the job was too big for us we hired a lawn service in our neighborhood that also removed all of our shrubbery. Best money spent ever. It was so hot all day Saturday and Sunday while we worked!

We got quite a bit of headway made on the garden! We still need to install a drip system for watering (a must-do for its survival in my hands!). For that we will tap into our sprinkler system and run lines along the back and front of our rock path. We will also lay newspaper down and purchase soil, but we will wait until the fall because of the HOT and drought-like conditions Houston has been experiencing this summer.

We also plan to purchase some additional stones to finish the walkway as well as bricks to create a small “pond” for ambiance, decoration, and to attract frogs and the “good” bugs that the garden needs to thrive.

What will be plant? Vegetables and herbs. We will have wire that we lay against the fence to force green beans to grow up and directly in front of that on the other side of the path we will purchase Texas tomato cages for tomatoes and bell peppers. The rest of the layout hasn’t been decided, but some of the things we are considering planting are garlic, thyme, basil, oregano, mint, cilantro, parsley, squash/zucchini, etc. We are also going to look at possibly planting a couple of fruit trees around the yard as well. I’ll continue to post additional pictures as the garden grows and once we start fall planting!


Monday, August 1, 2011

MS 150 - An unexpected and overwhelming surprise

Last June I had surgery on my knee to repair lateral and medial tears on my meniscus. I continued coaching Katy Fit (the group I trained with for the marathon in 2010), but did not get into Houston and was not recovering like I had hoped. So instead of running I decided to take up road biking – and what better way for an amateur to jump in, but to commit to riding over 160 miles in the BP MS 150, a two-day ride from Houston to Austin to raise money for multiple sclerosis.

I purchased a road bike online in October 2010 and joined the ConocoPhillips training series and began riding in January of this year. Fortunately, I had a couple of close friends that also decided to ride making carpooling easy and I quickly joined a group of experienced riders I knew from work and so began my journey.

I absolutely love road biking – it’s so different from running and when asked which I love more I am at a loss. There are aspects that I love about both sports and the challenges they present.

As part of the BP MS 150 every rider is required to raise a minimum of $250. I set my goal at this level when I began, but after spending a good portion of a ride talking to a gentleman who had MS and was out there riding, I decided to change my goal. Reach for the moon and you’ll land among the stars, right?  I chose $3500, Top Fundraiser level, as my new objective.

I sent out three fundraising/update letters to close friends, family, and co-workers. I even got donations from sharing my efforts on Facebook. In the end I was absolutely amazed and inspired by the amount of money that those around me gave. I reached a final goal amount of $4400. My close riding group was impressed with the amount I raised in my first year and I was excited to wear my Top Fundraiser tattoo on the weekend of the ride! I decided that when I ride next year I am going to make my goal to be in the Club 300, the top 300 fundraisers for the BP MS 150. (This level usually requires raising at least $6000+.)

This week I saw an email from the MS Society encouraging everyone to finish getting their donations in – that the 300th person was at $6020. I thought to myself, wow, I hope that I can do that next year and be in that group. Then on Friday, I received another email from the MS Society. This one I was used to seeing, but it hadn’t made an appearance in my inbox since before the MS 150. It has the subject line “A donation has been made on your behalf…”. I hurriedly open the email wondering who would have donated so late after my last update on how the MS 150 ride went (the ride was in April).

When I opened that email I was met with a surprise that literally brought me to tears in my office and caused my heart to race. The donation made on my behalf was $2000!! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and quickly got onto my fundraising website to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. Sure enough, I had an updated total of $6400!

I called a friend in my close riding group and he explained to me that whenever ConocoPhillips has money leftover from the training series that was not used on food or was collected from late payments, etc., they give it back to the MS Society. He said that everyone was impressed with how great a rider I was and how much money I had raised in my first year. He said that now I am in the Club 300 group where I belong. I was so moved by his kind words and overwhelmed with amazement at everyone who helped me reach that goal – my friends, family, and co-workers that contributed my financially, my husband who supported me taking on this challenge and spent the entire weekend cheering me on and helping me, and my riding group who encouraged me and gave me their tips and tricks on riding. I am so thankful and blessed and proud to say that I will be in the Club 300 when I ride the MS 150 in 2012!!!

Below are all of the letters that I sent during my training as well as the final letter recapping the weekend of the MS 150 ride (and hopefully they are legible as I embed them as PDF documents...). Enjoy!

MS 150 Fundraise Letter 2011

MS 150 Fundraise Letter Update Feb 2011

MS 150 Fundraise Letter Update Mar 2011

MS 150 Fundraise Letter Update Apr 2011

MS 150 2011 Weekend Update

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