Monthly Archives: March 2013

Paella and Sangria

Chip and I first had paella while on our honeymoon. As I mentioned in this other post, we took a cruise through the Mediterranean that left from Barcelona. After spending the afternoon exploring Barcelona, we made our way back to where we were staying in Las Ramblas. We found a small cafe just blocks away from our hotel, ordered ourselves some sangria, paella and pizza (the pizza was Chip’s order… he was a little skeptical about foreign food at first). It didn’t take long for Chip to realize my dinner choice of paella was better and we soon split the rest of that dish and left the pizza aside. Now whenever we think about our day in Spain, it almost always brings up the memory of having paella and sangria outside, enjoying the view with a bit of jetlag.

Enjoying dinner in Las Ramblas

Enjoying dinner in Las Ramblas

We tried to make paella for ourselves once last summer… it wasn’t that great. We should have known the taste would be a little off when the recipe called for the dish to be baked, instead of cooked over the stove like traditional paella. The consistency was too watery and the flavor just wasn’t there. So we decided we would have to search for another recipe in the future.

Fast forward to this past week: we knew we were going to purchase Les Mis as soon as it was available on DVD on Friday, so we thought a nice dinner at home would be a fun way to end the week. Chip suggested trying to make paella again, which of course, would have to be accompanied with sangria. A tasty meal and a musical? That’s pretty much all the convincing I need!

We did some searching on Pinterest and found what looked like a promising recipe. You guys, it was delicious. We will definitely be making this again! It was also a great chance to use our Le Creuset dutch oven for the first time, which we absolutely loved. It cooked the food so evenly and was surprisingly easy to clean afterwards, which is always a nice bonus. As for the sangria, after playing with a bunch of different recipes, I think we finally discovered the perfect traditional sangria recipe. Chip took one sip and said it tasted just as good as the sangria at La Fogata, so I think we have a winner.

Ready for dinner and sangria

Ready for dinner and sangria

Making dinner with our new Le Creuset dutch oven

Making dinner with our new Le Creuset dutch oven

Yum.

Yum.

Dinner time

Dinner time

Below is the recipe for the paella with our modifications. If you’d like to see the original recipe we were working from, click here.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • Minced garlic, 4 cloves
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into long thin strips
  • 2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 dried chilli’s, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 cups paella/Spanish rice
  • 2 cups chicken broth (hot)
  • 1 cup water (hot)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Sausage – we used HEB’s jalapeno sausage
  • 1/2 pound shrimp

Directions:

  • Heat the olive oil in a container (large enough to hold everything) and saute the onions until soft and fragrant.
  • Add the garlic and continue sauteing for a few more minutes.
  • Add the zucchini and bell pepper. Cook on medium heat until the veggies are slightly cooked, stirring in between.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes and continue stirring.
  • Add the paprika, turmeric, cumin powder, crushed dried chilli’s, and red pepper flakes. Combine well, making sure the veggies are all coated well.
  • Add the paella/Spanish rice and mix well, about 3 to 4 minutes, until the rice begins to slightly crackle.
  • Add the hot chicken broth and hot water. Stir, then close the lid and cook on medium to high flame until the rice is cooked through (this took about 10 minutes for us on medium heat). If it starts burning or sticking to the pot, pour some more water. Its okay if the mix is lightly mushy and loose, that’s how the consistency should be.
  • While the rice is cooking, in a separate pan cook the sausage for 5 to 6 minutes, or until soft. Add the shrimp and cook on high for another several minutes.
  • Add the frozen peas to the rice mixture about three minutes before taking the pot off of the flame.
  • Add the meat and stir well just before serving.

A Dog’s Purpose

I come from a family of dog-lovers. I’ve mentioned this before, but growing up, we always had at least one dog in our family. And let me tell you, we love our dogs as the rightful members of our family that they are. We had Canelo and Happy when I was a baby, two rambunctious labs. We had our first sheltie Caramelo when I was a little kid. Our second sheltie Scottie and beagle-terrier mix Daisy were our childhood dogs. While I was in college, my parents got shepherd-pointer mix Jake and then later shepherd-corgi-chow mix Penny. All of these dogs have been so different from each other and have brought us so much joy.

This past summer, my parents had to put Jake down. He was my mom’s dog and he loved her in a way far deeper than how he cared for the rest of us; we knew it wasn’t personal, he had a connection with my mom from the moment they saw him at the Tucson Humane Society and that connection never changed. My mom was Jake’s world and he did a great job making her feel protected whenever she was home alone during the day, with my dad at work, Alex at school and me at Trinity. Knowing how much my mom loved Jake, I got her the book A Dog’s Purpose after we had to put Jake down. She loved it and appreciated it during that time over the summer. Knowing that I would also enjoy it, she let me borrow it while we were in Tucson for Christmas. Whereas Mindy Kaling’s book made me laugh the whole time, I sobbed and whimpered through most of this one. It is beautiful and highlights all of the reasons why we love dogs so much. I think the last book that made me cry this much was probably Marley & Me. Darn you, dog books.

If these four-legged friends have a special place in your life, I’m sure you will also treasure this book. I don’t want to give too much away because it was so special to know little about this book before reading it, but I will leave you with two points: One, I love that this book is actually told from a dog’s perspective. This may seem weird at first, but the more I read, the more realistic this dog’s voice became and the more I treasured the way dogs see their human companions. Two, pace yourself with this book. There were definitely parts where I had to just stop, put the book down, and then go cry and hold Wrigley for a bit. Yes, the crying was strangely therapeutic, but reading this all at once can get pretty heavy.

I didn’t need this book to remind me how much I love dogs, but I do appreciate how much it made me remember that dogs too have a purpose in our world. To some they may just be (sometimes obnoxious and terrible) animals, but I really do see them as so much more. After reading this book, I couldn’t help but look back at all the dogs I’ve had throughout my life and reflect on what I believe their purposes were. I believe my early childhood dogs of Canelo, Happy and Caramelo introduced me to the joy dogs can bring, they were all goofs and very playful. Scottie taught me what companionship and fierce loyalty are, whereas my brother and I joke that Daisy taught us how to become cranky with old age. Jake taught me what deep love for one owner looks like and Penny continues to teach me to not judge a book by its cover; she was a skinny, skittish dog when we adopted her, and not the cutest, but she sure is sweet and strong now. Our first foster dog Duke taught Chip and I that despite a terrible history, dogs can learn to trust and love again and they all deserve that second chance. And then there’s Wrigley. He’s the first dog I’ve had as an adult and is the first living thing Chip and I have been responsible for. Yes, he can be a conniving brat who likes to check the kitchen counters while we pray before a meal, but he adds so much to our daily life. Sometimes we get a little sentimental thinking that whenever we start a family in the years to come, our kids won’t know Wrigley the same way we do, but after reading this book, I really feel that Wrigley’s purpose is to benefit us and our marriage (and hopefully not to prepare us for the worst child ever haha). He was there when we got engaged and is there for us every day when we get home. We’ve shared with other couples that Wrigley is a great reminder to us in our marriage of what unconditional love looks like. It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been gone or if we just corrected some bad behavior on his part; he greets us with abandon and jumps into our laps at every opportunity, ready to love on us and hopefully get a belly rub in return. He’s there laying beside our bed when we go to sleep and ready to greet us in the mornings when we wake up. For these and many more reasons, we love our pup.

With one of my first dogs, Canelo

With one of my first dogs, Canelo

Alex and I with Scottie

Alex and I with Scottie

With Scottie and Daisy

With Scottie and Daisy

Scottie and Daisy were definitely our childhood dogs

Scottie and Daisy were definitely our childhood dogs

With Jake - you can't tell, but he's sitting in front of my mom, like always

With Jake – you can’t tell, but he’s sitting in front of my mom, like always

Little puppy Wrigs three years ago

Little puppy Wrigs three years ago

One of our engagement pictures with Wrigley

One of our engagement pictures with Wrigley

Jeff Gordon and Pepsi MAX

Some of you may have already seen this video, it’s been pretty popular on YouTube this week. For those of you who haven’t, take a few minutes to watch and enjoy. I sent this to my brother earlier this week and his comment to me was “Wish we could have done something like that to dad when he was teaching us how to drive.” May sound a little extreme, but you weren’t taught to drive by Manny Lopez. My brother and I each had our memorable experiences with my dad while we were behind the wheel. For me, it was my sweet father pulling the emergency break on me one of the first times I was driving to “see how I would react” while my brother (about 13 at the time) starts shouting “we’re going to die!” from the backseat. It was slightly traumatizing. My brother’s experience was a little less frightening and mainly Alex’s fault. While driving for one of the first times, Alex somehow started driving on the wrong side of the road. Instead of calmly addressing this, our dad started yelling “ARE YOU BRITISH?!” to which my confused brother replied “Dad, I’m American!” “Then why are you driving on THE LEFT SIDE OF THE ROAD!” “Ohh….” Nice one, Alex. If anything, we value these memories and are prepared for just about anything now on the road. And had mom taught us to drive, we’d be driving at least five mph under the speed limit. But watch out dad, we may take a page out of Jeff Gordon’s book on you. ;)

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Let’s be real, I think we’ve all asked ourselves this question at some point or another (I know I have! And in the cases of junior high through high school, the answer was “mm yeah, probably”). This is the title of Mindy Kaling’s book and is one of the reasons why I had wanted to read it for so long. The way I saw it, with a title that clever, the rest of the book had to be good. After reading the book I can full-heartedly say the wits of Miss Kaling delivered, although I’m sure that’s not a surprise considering her writing skills on The Office. This was one of those few books that had me literally laughing out loud the entire time. I started reading this book on a flight to Minneapolis for a work trip and had to stop because I was laughing to myself so much that people were starting to look at me. So I stopped for a bit and resumed my reading on my return flight; didn’t want people to assume I was cray cray or anything.

I finished the book within a couple of days and recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a light, fun read. Her stories and humor are such a pick me up. From sharing about her chubby childhood, to high school friendships, to college plays and her move to New York (which included a play about Matt Damon and Ben Affleck that she co-wrote and starred in called Matt and Ben) and then LA with The Office, you’ll finish this book loving Mindy Kaling and wishing you could hang out and chat over a mojito or cosmo. On a more serious note, I could also really relate to her upbringing as a nerdy child of two hardworking immigrant parents and found myself cheering for her in her childhood stories. I’d like to think that if had we met in elementary school, we’d totes be BFF’s and ace group projects together. Right, Mindy?

I leave you with two of my favorite quotes from this book. Hopefully this is all the convincing you need to go pick up the book.

 “As it is, I guess I find “Jack and Diane” a little disgusting. As a child of immigrant professionals, I can’t help but notice the wasteful frivolity of it all. Why are these kids not at home doing their homework? Why aren’t they setting the table for dinner or helping out around the house? Who allows their kids to hang out in parking lots? Isn’t that loitering? I wish there was a song called “Nguyen and Ari,” a little ditty about a hardworking Vietnamese girl who helps her parents with the franchised Holiday Inn they run, and does homework in the lobby, and Ari, a hardworking Jewish boy who does volunteer work at his grandmother’s old-age home, and they meet after school at Princeton Review. They help each other study for the SATs and different AP courses, and then, after months of studying, and mountains of flashcards, they kiss chastely upon hearing the news that they both got into their top college choices.This is a song teens need to inadvertently memorize. Now that’s a song I’d request at Johnny Rockets!”
“Haley and I would talk for hours about which member of ‘N Sync we’d want to marry. After long deliberation, the answer was always J. C. Chasez. Joey Fatone’s last name was going to be “Fat One” no matter how great he was, and even though they didn’t know at their age that Lance Bass was gay outright, they sensed he’d make a better good friend and confidante. As for Justin Timberlake, well, JT was the coolest and hottest, but too flashy, so we couldn’t trust him to be faithful. J. C. Chasez was the smart compromise.”

La Sagrada Familia

Chip and I saw a segment on 60 Minutes this past Sunday on La Sagrada Familia that has left us wanting to take a trip to Barcelona. Yes, we realize it makes us seem a little old that we not only watched 60 Minutes on a weekend, but we even recorded it. But I promise there’s a good reason.

We went on the honeymoon of a lifetime when we got married about two years ago. We decided pretty early on in the honeymoon planning process that we wanted to go somewhere neither of us had ever been to before, and we thought Europe would be fun to experience together. After doing some research and meeting with a very Type A travel agent, we decided on a Mediterranean cruise with Carnival. The cruise was set to leave from Barcelona a few days after our wedding, so we decided to fly out the morning after our wedding so we could get at least a day to explore Barcelona. This was probably one of the best decisions we’ve ever made together. Sure, we didn’t get to see the whole city since we only had about 24 hours there and were also experiencing the super fun effects of jet lag, but we loved the time we got there. One key part to our afternoon spent exploring Barcelona was touring La Sagrada Familia. We left that church (now a basilica) so impressed that we swore we would watch some documentaries about the architect Gaudi and maybe someday come back when the church would be completed.

Well, we never got around to finding something on Netflix for us to watch and we have no realistic plans to travel back sometime in the next decade, but we did see this special on 60 Minutes this past weekend. We had been watching college basketball with my brother and as soon as we saw the commercial for the Sagrada Familia segment, we knew we had to watch it. The segment wasn’t that long, but it left us re-excited about all of the details in the church and wanting to go back to Barcelona. For those of you that have been to La Sagrada Familia, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. And if you haven’t but have plans to go to Europe, you HAVE to add this to your list of places to check out. I promise, it will not disappoint. The amount of detail and the vision Gaudi had are nothing short of genius. Gaudi wanted this church to tell the story of the Bible, and that’s exactly what it does. The entrance is covered with the story of the nativity, while another side tells the story of the Passion of the Christ. Every aspect to his architecture had symbolism and it’s all so impressive.

For those that are interested, here’s the link for the segment on 60 Minutes. Below are some of the pictures we took from our honeymoon. Who knows, maybe someday we actually will get a chance to go back to Barcelona and see more of the city :)

Stepping out of the metro and standing right in front of La Sagrada Familia

Stepping out of the metro and standing right in front of La Sagrada Familia

The Nativity Facade

The Nativity Facade

The Passion Facade

The Passion Facade

Model from two years ago - the tan parts had already been constructed while the white portions still needed to be done.

Model from two years ago – the tan parts had already been constructed while the white portions still needed to be done.

Inside La Sagrada Familia

Inside La Sagrada Familia

The ceiling inside La Sagrada Familia

The ceiling inside La Sagrada Familia

The four large pillars represent the four Gospels

The four large pillars represent the four Gospels

Visiting Park Guell, also designed by Gaudi

Visiting Park Guell, also designed by Gaudi

Sangria with dinner in Las Ramblas

Sangria with dinner in Las Ramblas

Market in Las Ramblas

Market in Las Ramblas

At the top of the Christopher Columbus monument

At the top of the Christopher Columbus monument

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

A framed print of La Sagrada Familia that we bought in Barcelona

A framed print of La Sagrada Familia that we bought in Barcelona

A weekend with my brother

I haven’t had a spring break in years. Four years, to be exact. While I normally get a little jealous while young college students get a week of freedom, this year I was grateful for this unofficial holiday since it allowed my brother to come visit for the weekend. I last saw Alex while we were in Tucson for Christmas and was pretty sure we wouldn’t be seeing him until his graduation in May. So when he called me a few weeks ago asking if he could come visit us in San Antonio, I said yes in a heartbeat. Not going to lie, it makes me feel a little cool that my 22-year old college senior brother wanted to use part of his last spring break to hang out with his sister.

The timing of his trip worked out really well. Chip was actually out of town most of this weekend, so I got some good one-on-one time with Alex for the first time in a few years (no offense to Chip, of course :)). Alex flew in from Omaha Friday night and after a quick stop at Target, we went to the house to feed him some dinner (whoa, had forgotten how much he can eat) and spend some time catching up.

Picking up Alex from the airport

Picking up Alex from the airport

Now last week had some awesome pre-spring weather, so I was looking forward to having a bit of a full outdoorsy day on Saturday. Then in true San Antonio form, the weather quickly changed… we may be in a drought, but of course the rain comes the weekend my brother is here. The original plan for Saturday was to take Wrigley to the dog park and walk around the trails there, drive to Austin and possibly do a small hike there, go to Shiner to tour the brewery and end the day at the Salt Lick in Driftwood. And then the weather looked more like this:

So rude. Needless to say, we had to change our plans. I also found out that the Shiner Brewery is actually closed on the weekends, so that was out of the plan as well. I know, I was shocked, too, who would have thought they would be close on weekends? So instead we took it easy Saturday morning and since the rain had actually stopped for a bit, we decided to take Wrigley on a quick walk in the neighborhood followed by breakfast at home.

We figured we could still go to The Salt Lick for lunch, the weather wouldn’t be able to stop us from some famous barbeque. We got in the car a little before 11:00 to head out to Driftwood, which is a little over an hour away. That may seem like a bit of a drive for some lunch, but if anyone would appreciate a good barbecue it would definitely be my carnivore brother. That and Alex really enjoys road trips of any kind, so the time in the car went by pretty fast between our conversations and the different Pandora stations Alex played for us.

We were a bit hungry, okay starving, by the time we got to The Salt Lick, but we lucked out and only had a 20 minute wait. I would definitely wait longer for their food if I had to. Saying it was delicious is an understatement. It was my first time there and I will definitely be going back with Chip since he’s actually never been there yet.

Alex had the four meat Rancher plate while I had the three meat Thurman’s Choice plate. They both came with potato salad, cole slaw and beans. And were followed by a hearty food coma. We had also brought some Shiner beer with us that we had bought at Target since we couldn’t go to the actual brewery. I was hoping we would have room for some cobbler, but it wasn’t possible. Alex even had to loosen his belt by a notch to account for all the food we had already eaten. So we decided to save the cobbler for the next time we go to Salt Lick, so Alex, feel free to book your flight whenever.

Alex with our (Target) Shiner beer

Alex with our (Target) Shiner beer

God bless Texas barbecue

God bless Texas barbecue

Yum yum yum

Yum yum yum

Once we got back into San Antonio (much quieter than we were on the way out haha), we made a quick stop at Trader Joe’s to pick up food to make for dinner. Since my brother likes cooking different pastas with his girlfriend Teresa, I thought it would be fun to make the pasta dish my mom and I made a few weeks ago. I think I may have over-cooked the pancetta slightly, but it was still really good and will definitely become a part of our dinner rotation. After dinner, my brother helped me make some snickerdoodle cookies to take to church on Sunday. With the cookies baking, we spent time watching the new season 3 episodes of Duck Dynasty. Happy, happy, happy.

I was pretty tired Saturday night, so I tried going to bed a little early while Alex watched a little more TV. Before I knew it, it was 1:00 in the morning and Wrigley was up in bed with me shaking. After a few seconds I realized that we were getting a pretty good storm with plenty of rain, thunder and lightning. For some reason, one of our living room windows leaks a little bit of water whenever we get a lot of rain, and since it sounded like it was coming down at a good rate, I decided to go quickly check on the window. I was worried about waking up Alex, but the night owl was still up and able to help me check out the window and lay out a towel. We both went to sleep pretty quickly after that, feeling a little tired in the morning thanks to Daylight Savings kicking in.

We had some breakfast, went to church and brought the snickerdoodles we had made the previous night to have after the service. It was great getting to introduce Alex to some of the different members at Redeemer, I think many of them were impressed by his beard. We then went to HEB to do the weekly grocery shopping before enjoying lunch at La Fogata. La Fogata is probably our favorite Mexican restaurant in town, so I thought it would be great to take Alex there since the Mexican food scene in Omaha is a bit lacking.

After lunch, we spent the rest of the day relaxing at the house. Chip got back home early in the afternoon and we all watched the end of the Creighton basketball game together, had a lasagna for dinner, watched a little more Duck Dynasty and played a game of Settlers of Catan. I also made another batch of cookies for the guys since we didn’t have any leftovers from Saturday’s batch.

Chip kicked our butts

Chip kicked our butts

More snickerdoodles

More snickerdoodles

I took Alex to the airport Monday morning on my way to work. It was a quick weekend, but I am so grateful for the time I got with my brother and look forward to (hopefully) having him visit more! For now, I look forward to seeing him again in May for his graduation from Creighton. And yes, I’m totally weirded out that my little brother will be a college graduate in just a couple of months. When did he become an adult? ;)

Until next time, bud

Until next time, bud

Recent happenings

The last couple of weeks have been pretty crazy. Since my parents’ visit towards the end of February we’ve definitely been keeping busy. Here’s a quick catch-up session of what we’ve been up to…

Had one of two work trips to Minneapolis… it was a bit cold.

The view in Minneapolis

The view in Minneapolis

While I was in Minneapolis a couple of weeks ago, Chip made some progress on working on the living room cracks. My dad had just taught him how to do this while they were in town and I’m so grateful Chip got to this right away. We still need to sand some parts that came out a little thick and then paint, but that shouldn’t take long at all.

Under construction

Under construction

Despite how busy we’ve been, I’ve been able to get some good reading done and am hoping to have some time to do some quick posts about these books. I laughed my way through Mindy Kaling’s Is everyone hanging out without me?, sobbed through A Dog’s Purpose and am now halfway through Tina Fey’s Bossypants. Reading makes me happy.

Be sure to have some tissues handy.

Be sure to have some tissues handy.

Chip and I spent a weekend with Redeemer’s fun high school youth group for their annual Ranchopalooza. Let me tell you, these girls can seriously jam out in a car.

Ranchopalooza Harlem Shake

Ranchopalooza Harlem Shake

With the beginning of March, it was time for a new wreath on our front door. Below is what I put together after a quick trip to Hobby Lobby.

Spring time

Spring time

Chip has been doing a great job getting our grass ready for the spring and summer. One of our big projects last year was to get grass installed in our backyard. After talking to some different people at our church, Chip decided it was time to fertilize, so he spent some of last Sunday as well as yesterday and today getting this done. The picture below isn’t great; I took it from inside the kitchen while he was hard at work outside.

Good work, Chip

Good work, Chip

Wrigley's contribution to yardwork

Wrigley’s contribution to yardwork

I had another trip to Minneapolis this past week to lead a creative presentation on my own for the very first time. I’m excited (and relieved) to say it went extremely well thanks to the support and awesome work of a great team.

Flying out of Minneapolis

Flying out of Minneapolis

Now it’s time for a weekend with my brother! There will definitely be a post on his time in San Antonio, so stay tuned for more.

Sibling time

Sibling time