Native Texan Livin': November 2014

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Simmering pot / Stovetop Potpourri

I am so ready for Christmas!  What better way to get even more in the mood than to get your house smelling like the season???

This is super simple & smells SO good! ....and the best part is that you probably have most of this in your house right now!

1 orange, sliced
1 cup fresh cranberries
3 cinnamon sticks
1-2 tsp. cloves
1-2 tsp. nutmeg

Slice the orange & break the cinnamon sticks in half.  Figured it would release more flavor that way.  I didn't have whole cloves so I just went with the ground gloves I had on hand.  I wanted this to be simple, so no extra trips to the store.  Put all of the ingredients in a pot & fill with water, leaving about 1-2" from the top.  Simmer on low.

THAT . IS . IT !

Can you already smell it?  Aaaaahhhhhh!  You can leave this in the pot & reheat as needed to wake up those flavors again.  I transferred this concoction into mason jars & will heat up around the house either on coffee mug warmers....or I may even try to put the jar on top of a Scentsy warmer.  They can pull double duty, right?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Taco Soup

Living in Houston, it's not real common to have temperatures in the 30's but this past week was the exception to the rule.
Like, down to the bone.

What better way to warm up your insides than to eat a yummy, cheesy, meaty bowl of goodness!  I wasn't the only one in my family make this soup this week, so you know it's good if we were all thinking of it!

This soup is SO easy!  As long as you can brown meat & open some cans, you're more than half way there.

Here's what you'll need:
2 lbs. ground beef (we like it meaty)
1 whole onion; chopped
2 cans beans of your choice (I use kidney beans & pinto beans)
1 can corn
1 can hominy (optional; I add it because I love it & it reminds me of eating menudo growing up)
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 - 1 can Rotel
taco seasoning packet (or a combo of garlic salt, onion powder, chili powder

Optional Add-ins:
shredded cheese
sour cream

Can you tell how much I love my HEB products?!
(I forgot 1 can of beans when getting it all together)

Chop 1 whole onion & sautee with 2 pounds of ground beef. 

Drain all the grease & add taco seasoning to the meat according to package directions.  I forgot to buy taco seasoning so I made my own by adding garlic salt, chili powder, onion powder (not pictured), comino (cumin), & Adobo.

The next part's really confusing so make sure to pay attention...  ;-)

Open corn & beans; drain
Open tomatoes & rotel; do not drain
Pour all the meat & contents of cans into a large stock pot.
Add 2-3 cans of water to pot.

That's all folks.

I like to garnish mine with shredded cheese & cilanto.

Stay warm out there & enjoy!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Norwegian Jewel {#cruiselikeanorwegian}

Can I just say that I love cruises?!  I especially love a cruise I can get on, tour around & eat their yummy food without a penny out of pocket!  I got invited to attend an event last weekend hosted by SiriusXM's The MOMS {#NorwegianMOMS} on the newly renovated Norwegian Jewel.  The Jewel just started sailing from Houston & let me tell you...if you're not booked on this ship yet, get to bookin' because...
Getting prepared for this adventure, I didn't have to access my packing list I used this summer when I cruised as we would just be visiting this time around.  Maggie & I checked in, got our Visitor passes & waited to be called to board.

The crew members welcomed us on board with red carpet service.  Literally, there were red carpets!  It was such a fun entrance with the crew dancing & engaging the passengers as we came aboard!  NCL clearly knows how to start a party right!

We were assigned a tour guide from "deen unda." {that's my pathetic attempt to write "Down Under" in an Australian accent!  How'd I do? ;-)}  Anywho, he had the pleasure of taking our group around the ship, showing us all the ships highlights.  Our group was even lucky enough to end up with THE MOMS themselves!  Holla!

Check out this atrium you see as you enter the ship!  The ceiling appears to have icicles or stalactites (or something).  Whatever it was, it looked pretty cool.  There was a lounge to relax in & listen to music every evening while sailing.  (and the Texas flags just add to the awesomeness!)

We also got to tour the karaoke lounge & the casino.  Wish I could've heard some coins falling into the dishes below, but rules are gambling in port. :-)

The Stardust Theater was next on our list & this place was a beauty!  Peacock feather colored seats & really the perfect setting to watch one of NCL's fabulous productions.

Lido deck anyone?  The kids Sapphire pool looked so inviting!  This is definitely where my family would be hanging out the whole time.  Doesn't hurt either that The Grill is right next to the pool.  I can almost hear the reggae band playing now...

Have you ever heard of a Bridge Viewing Area?  I for sure hadn't & it was the coolest thing!  All the way forward on deck 11, there is a large glass wall giving you full view of the bridge.  Ah-maz-ing!

(Note to self: If something ever happens on a ship while on board, I'm not planning on following these instructions, but instead, I will stand outside the bridge viewing area & see what the crew does & follow suit!  Seriously, at what point are we supposed to repel down the side of the boat?!)

Then we checked out a Balcony room on deck 11.  All in all, the room seemed pretty comfortable.  Appeared to have a lot of drawer space located near the bathroom, closets, a little sitting area & a desk.  I think I could handle staying in this room. :-)

Next, we toured the gym & then headed to the Mecca for moms on a cruise boat....
This is the kids area for ages 3+.  Rooms are split by age & depending on the age group, the kids can do arts & crafts, watch shows, play, play video games, play in the arcade, dance, etc.

And since it says "parent free zone" I must abide. :-)  (tough rule to follow! ;-))

There's even a kids sized bathroom & sink.  May not seem like a biggie but it sure is when it comes to a 4 year old who can finally reach the sink & soap on her own!

At the end of our tour, we all got to eat a fabulous lunch in the Azura dining room.  With NCL's Freestyle Cruising, you get a new & exciting dining experience.  Gone are the days of assigned seats, forcing you to eat with someone you may or may not get along with for a week.  Freestyle dining lets you choose the restaurant you eat at, when you eat, where you sit & who you sit with.  There are even screens outside the restaurants showing their wait times for EVERY restaurant on board.  So you don't have to spend time wandering around the ship trying to figure out where to eat.  Everything you need to make a decision is right there!  How convenient is that?!?!

We had a couple choices on the menu today, and we chose Baked Potato soup, steak with mozzarella topped polenta, chicken strips & fries, and a decadent chocolate slice of heaven.

SURPRISE!!! Sponge Bob & Patrick showed up!  Woohoo!  Maggie wasn't thrilled at first but when I told her I'd join her, she finally agreed.  (Truth be told, she was really hoping for Dora)

We had a fabulously amazing fun filled day!  We were so thankful for this opportunity & can't wait to sail on this beauty FOR REAL next time!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Change, it is a comin'...

I've worked on this blog off & on for about 3 years and I've loved every minute of it.  Chronicling my family's milestones, the ups, the downs & everything in between.  
As I've gotten older, I find myself wanting to grow more as a mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend, human being.

As a wise Mike Brady once said, 

So, here I am.

Hopefully, you'll be as excited as I am about what lies ahead.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Jan Brady Syndrome (a.k.a. Middle Child Syndrome)

Tales From the Breakfast Table

Let's set the scene...
Izzy & Maggie are sitting at the breakfast table enjoying their healthy breakfast of microwave pancakes & syrup and Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, while I clean up the kitchen.

Izzy to me:  Do you like being the middle child?
Me:  Yes, do you?
Izzy:  No. (insert pouty face)
Me:  Well, why not?
Izzy:  Because it's not fun!  I'm not the youngest or the oldest.
Me:  Yeah, but you're in the middle & that means you get an older & younger sister & that's cooler.
Maggie interjects:  I like being the middle child.
Izzy retorts:  You're not the middle child, you're the youngest child like the baby of the family!
(Maggie runs off to the living room saying Izzy's RUDE because she called her a baby!)

aaaaaaand SCENE!

I guess I never really thought about the "middle child syndrome" because I AM a middle child and never really thought I had this so called "syndrome."  The only syndrome I had growing up was bullying my sisters so I could sit in the brown chair or for them to give me the green crocheted blanket. (Ah, good times! Good memories...for me, probably not for them so much!)

And if I'm being completely honest, sometimes I don't look at Izzy as a middle child because it's almost like I have an only child & then 2 more children.  Becca's 9 years older than Izzy & 13 years older than Maggie.  But alas, Izzy feels like a middle child & technically she IS, so she must be.

So, here we are...
Izzy feeling like a 
wig wearing,
George Glass loving,
Marcia Marcia Marcia hatin',
Jan Brady!  

But it's SO AWESOME to be a middle child.   Maybe if I explain it to Izzy in terms I understand the most then maybe she'll understand it better...Let's talk food.

Sandwich/Hamburger:  What's the best part?  The middle!
Twinkie:  Hello....the filling (a.k.a - the middle)
Oreos:  The creamy middle!
Blow pop:  The yummy gum hidden in the middle
Apple:  peels in the trash, middle in your mouth!
Hard boiled egg:  Silky, perfectly cooked egg whites in the middle of the hard cracked up shell. (Not the yolk...y'all don't like the yolk at all. Ok, maybe this one was a bad example.)

At any rate, I rest my case!  So, embrace your birth order & if you ever get down, just picture your older & younger as the bland bread or thrown out apple peels & hopefully you'll feel better. 
(To my other, I do not consider you the apple peels of the family...but let Izzy have this one OK.) :-)