Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Cats

It's about time I introduced you to Mr. Higgins' - our - cats.

His "real" cat - the one he adopted and intended to be an only cat - is Sidious. The other cat he found outside his home - a terrified kitten who he took in.

Sidious is named after Darth Sidious in STAR WARS. (Not many un-geeks know who Sidious is.) Sidious, despite her name, is a girl with the shiniest black coat I've ever seen. She's about three years old now, but still has some kitten-ish moments at when she plays in bags. She's sweet but has still never forgiven me for stealing away her daddy. We're not best buds but she tolerates me.

Dooku is named after Count Dooku in STAR WARS. We recently found out he's a Maine Coon...and so cute! He's like a little shadow, following us around from room to room. At only two years old, he's still very playful...almost too playful! I wish he were more of a lap cat but he's a genuine Maine Coon in that he much prefers to be near you, not on you.

Here they are, helping me unpack books in my study. So helpful are these little kittehs! We're one big, happy, furry family!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Prepping for Visitors

The weekend was spent doing stuff around the house - cleaning, hanging pictures, planting plants, more cleaning - all in preparation for our guests who arrive on Saturday.

By the time Monday came around, I was exhausted. Sleep hasn't come easily of late, and I'm beginning to drag. All week I'll have chores to do once I get home, so I'm really hoping I can keep my energy level up. Just looking at my "to-do" list wears me out!

But I'm looking forward to having Mr. Higgins' parents here. They're very nice people. And after a long, hot, quiet summer, I'm ready for some excitement around the house! Yay!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

More Baking!

I had another successful baking weekend, which was very exciting! If I keep this up, it'll be hard not to bake ALL the time!

-I made these Perfect Blueberry Muffins for breakfast on Saturday. They were very tasty and moist. It was amazing to taste the blueberries instead of sugar, like you do with muffin mixes from a box. I used plain yogurt and frozen blueberries. Very good!

-After all these non-chocolaty sweets, I needed chocolate. After looking online, I decided on a mint chocolate brownie recipe (whose link currently eludes me). These were very tasty!! You basically substituted mint extract for the vanilla. I like them a lot!

Next week will be a busy one as we prep the house for Mr. Higgins' parents. This probably means less cooking and baking. Once our guests arrive, I'll make them so old and good recipes - nothing new for fear of screwing something up! Ha!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Knit Night #1

Knit Night was last night and it was nice to get the needles out again.

However, some of my yarn was really tangled so I spent half the time working out knots. Fun. This is where I get frustrated with knitting: when I can't knit because I have to fix things. I just want to knit!

I also picked up my beginner's crochet scarf and was amazed that I remembered how to crochet! Awesome!

Now that it's no longer 100+ degrees everyday, I can envision myself knitting more. I'm itching to try my hand at socks again.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Update

Some updates...

-Scrapbooking... I'm hard at work on the wedding scrapbooks (yes, that's a plural). I've finished the first one which included the pre-wedding festivities: engagement party, bridal shower, bridal portraits... Now, I'm working on the one with all the wedding weekend events. I'm doing all these books in my wedding colors - black, white, and yellow - and I must say that it's very nice not having to stress about colors.

-My BFF and I are re-instituting Knit Night on a bi-monthly basis. We started this last year but it only lasted a month or so. Here's hoping we have better success this time around since my knitting has fallen to the extreme wayside with so much scrapbooking to be done.

-The same BFF started a reading group focused on young adult fiction. No vampires here, I assure you; more classic young adult material is on the list. Our first book is A Wrinkle in Time. Since I wasn't a big reader until high school, I feel like I missed out on a lot of these books. It'll be good to finally read them! (Though I did read this month's selection as a kid!)

-Cooking/Baking... After the pork success last weekend, I'm not cooking much - new - this weekend. Instead, I'm baking! Blueberry Muffins from scratch and Mint Chocolate Brownies. I'll let you know how they turn out!

-I'm off to IKEA this weekend with my mom and a friend. I rarely make this trip across the Metroplex but I need some stuff and I'm overdue for girl time. It should be fun!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Brighton Rock

I finally finished Graham Greene's Brighton Rock on Monday. One of the professors at school studies Greene and has been telling me which books to read. A new film version of Brighton Rock is coming out soon (or may already be out where you live) so I wanted to finish the book in hopes of seeing the movie.

Here's my review of the book, as posted on Goodreads:

"You can’t conceive, my child, nor can I or anyone the ... appalling ... strangeness of the mercy of God." - Priest in BRIGHTON ROCK. This was the hardest of Greene's "Catholic novels" to get through. Pinkie is psychotic and there is little to like in him. There is no hero in Brighton Rock, a city that is as dank and soiled as its criminals. The only thing that seems to bind Pinkie and Rose, outside of their secret, is their pride in being "Roman." This was not my favorite Greene novel, but I'm glad to have read it.

If you happen to be a "West Wing" fan, Bartlet uses the above quote in his famous rant at God at the end of season two.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pork, Corn, and Cookies!

I had a very successful cooking and baking weekend. This is a rare occurrence, so I thought I'd share the recipes I tried...

-Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork. Mr. Higgins likes southeastern BBQ - pork - not the beef we do in Texas. I had my first pulled pork sandwich on our honeymoon and it was really tasty. So, while browsing cooking blogs, I started saving the pulled pork recipes I found. I settled on this one for one reason: you discard the liquid the pork is cooked in, getting rid of a bit of fat in the process. Then you cook it for 30-60 minutes in BBQ sauce. SO good!! Just a warning: for the eight or so hours that the pork is cooking in the crock-pot, the smell is not that great. But after you pull the meat and coat it in sauce, it smells just the way it should! Mr. Higgins said this was the best BBQ he'd had in a very long time! Success!

-Dorie Greenspan's Corniest Corn Muffins. Like all Southerners, we're picky about our cornbread. Well, not really. I like the sweet kind and the not-so-sweet kind. This recipe has just the barest hint of sweetness and the corn kernels add something very appealing to it. This is my new favorite, from scratch, cornbread recipe!! And now I really need to get some of Dorie's cookbooks!

I finished off my successful weekend with some cookies that are a staple for Mr. Higgins' mom. They are quite tasty!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Bad Oven!

I'm now 99% sure that my oven runs way too hot. Despite cooking food for the minimum amount of time suggested, breads keep coming out too well done - too dry. This has never happened to me before and even Mr. Higgins has commented on it while eating my baked goods..

Then, earlier this week, I tried baking these Black Bottom Coconut Bars. You have to cook the bottom (brownie part) first. I cooked it for two minutes less than the minimum amount of time suggested and it was too done....which meant the coconut part of the bar doesn't stick to the brownie part. Sigh. They're still good but I was disappointed in my oven.

If you like coconut, this is a good recipe. And, interestingly, they taste much better the day after you bake them.

As for the oven... I'll try to pick up an oven thermometer while running errands this weekend. I don't know if all new ovens run hot but this is becoming highly frustrating. Baking should be fun! Not disappointing.

I'm really excited about a recipe I'm going to try this weekend. It's far out of my comfort zone in the cooking department so it should be interesting. I'll let you know next week!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Reprieve

We got a brief reprieve from the heat last weekend and it was such a blessing! The temperatures got down to 60 degrees at night, meaning the house could actually cool off for once! Our lows have been in the 80s for three months! By early next week, we'll have triple digits again, so I'm trying to enjoy this while it lasts. Despite the cooler temps, the winds picked up, which was not good....

Last weekend, when Mr. Higgins and I went out to East Texas for Labor Day, we passed a wildfire about twenty miles from my parents' house. East Texas is the greenest, lushest part of the state, but they've been experiencing the same drought that has suffocated the entire state. Thousands have lost their homes....and there's no rain in sight.

This has been a crazy weather year and my heart goes out to anyone who has suffered as a result. Here's hoping the fall and winter are better.

Friday, September 2, 2011

It's About Trust

I'm an introvert, as most of you know. Being sociable is hard for me and takes an enormous amount of effort. Relationships, in general, are work for me. And they're very often a letdown. Allow me to explain...

If I'm going to do something, I'm going to put the appropriate amount of effort into the task. The same goes for relationships. If I'm going to be your friend, I expect you to be my friend. The same effort I put in, I expect to get in return. Reciprocity, if you will.

When Mr. Higgins and I were dating we had a huge bonding moment when we realized that we felt the same way about this. We both felt it came down to trust. I'm going to trust the other person in the relationship to give as much as they get. We will always be 'on the same page', so to speak. It blew my mind that someone else understood this and was often letdown since other people don't function this way.

And so, for me, relationships are very frustrating because I put a lot into them. I have few friends but those I have, I put a great deal of trust in. When someone loses my trust, they lose my friendship....or they become merely an acquaintance - someone who is not worth my effort but whose efforts, when so rarely made, I will reciprocate on a limited basis.

Friendships come into peril when one person cannot find the time, nor do they want to find the time, for the effort it takes to have the friendship. Sometimes, this is done unconsciously when life becomes hectic. But sometimes it's intentional.

Relationships are hard; friendships are hard. When entering into them you agree to put in the effort and, thereby, earn each other's trust. It's a delicate balance. I wish more people would realize this.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Curtain Hell

Mr. Higgins and I live in a house with no curtains. I'm perfectly fine with this. The task of finding curtains for every room overwhelms me.

But Mr. Higgins kept saying he wanted curtains in the bedroom to block the sunlight on the one morning a month we sleep past sunrise. Great. I dragged my feet as long as I could on this task....and then I had to face it head-on. Oh, goody.

We looked. And looked. Mr. Higgins had more preferences than my one requirement: simple! Very few things fit with both our preferences and were available in the right colors. We finally stopped looking - after looking at TONS of curtains in store and online - and ordered some last week. They came in this week and they were all wrong; the colors didn't match. Exasperated to be back to square one, we ordered the much more expensive panels that matched our bedspread. They're on the way and we're 95% positive they will match. They have to match if they're sold with our bedspread!

Now that we had the panels ordered, we looked for a valance. And looked. All we needed was a red valance. Not rust, not burgundy - red. This valance existed nowhere - in a shape that fit our requirements. We looked online for hours. I went and picked some up at the store....only they didn't match once I got them home. We were extremely frustrated and were getting snippy with one another.

In desperation, I started looking at stores online that I'd never, in a million years, turn to except in times of crisis - Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowe's.... And I saw something on Wal-Mart's site that looked to be the right red. We rushed out to look....and it was the right red in the right design.

We were relieved....and annoyed. How is it that Wal-Mart is the only store with the right red valance?! Stupid, evil Wal-Mart. I think they have some sort of sorcery going on.

But, at the moment, I'm just glad to have found the bloody curtains. Now it'll just take us five years to find and hang curtains for the whole rest of the house. Sigh.