Tuesday, March 7, 2017

It's Rodeo Time Again

Houston Rodeo 2016

Ever since I was little, I have enjoyed the rodeo.
As soon as we moved back to Texas, Engineer and I wanted that experience for Diva as well.
We try to take our guests to rodeos whenever we have the opportunity as well.
I mean, we're Texan through and through so it is in our blood.


While the rodeo is going on, they have Value Deals on Wednesdays so entry is only $5 for adults - but wait!  There's more:  Seniors and children 12 and under get in FREE!!!

Plus, there are dining and merchandise discounts available on Wednesdays.

Don't miss this chance to see small children hang upside down from the neck of a sheep in the mutton busting competition (that and the bull riding are my favorite events.)

Visit www.rodeohouston.com for more information.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Madly in Love

You may already know how my people feel about their "precision writing instruments."  Their love for G2 pens runs so deep that they ask for them for Christmas and Diva received not chocolate, but G2s for Valentine's Day this year.

I did not think that my band of nerds could get any weirder, but over dinner the other night, I realized they could.

Diva mentioned how her friend came into class with a new eraser saying how good it was (our geeky influence is spreading).  Diva told the friend that it was her Daddy's favorite kind too.  Engineer interrupted her story at this point and asked, "Was it the Pentel white eraser?  The one with the blue wrapping?"  She affirmed it was.

Engineer then said, "Of course your friend likes it!  It is the best eraser!"

He continued in a definitive tone, "All other erasers shouldn't even be called erasers - they should be called smudgers since that's all they do!"

1-4-3 EM & DM for your finely tuned sensitivity to writing tools.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

30 Day No Sugar Experiment & Other News

Adzuki Bean Stew & Grain Free Cheddar Biscuits.jpg
We're alive and well and still loving life in the paradise that is Clear Lake.  We've completed quite a few projects on the house but many of them are the boring maintenance not-at-all-fun kind.  Still, it's nice to have those checked off of the list.  That means the fun stuff gets ever closer to the top of the list.

My garden is mostly in the ground, well, earth boxes.  Planting season starts so very early down here and as long as I can keep the dogs out of the boxes (they lurve the manure) we should have a bountiful crop in a couple of months.  

Ever since we uprooted that blasted magnolia tree from our front yard, we have had a noticeable blank spot.  I pined for a cherry tree since our house has an Asian look about it.  Every time I asked someone "in the know" they told me no cherry trees are suitable for our climate.  Because of that, the blank spot taunted me.  I didn't want to commit to just any tree.  At this month's Garden Club meeting, our guest speaker handed out a sheet letting us know what should be planted now and lo and behold, a Taiwan Cherry Tree was listed!  Joy of joys!  Last weekend we planted the ornamental cherry tree that is perfectly suitable for the Gulf Coast.  And I only have to wait a year before it blooms again...c'est la vie.    
Latest addition to the hat collection
Engineer hasn't had to travel at all so far this year which is such a blessing.  Diva has been rockin' and rollin' at school and working diligently on her SAT prep course.  I cannot believe college is only 2 years away!

A couple of days ago I mentioned on Facebook that we wouldn't be having chocolate on Valentine's Day due to a "30 No Sugar Experiment."

I have been asked about our findings of the experiment. You will notice that Engineer's findings are absent form this account.  That's because he only partially complied.  He had work lunches and dinners to attend.  I was told that he needed to keep the lines of his homebrew keg clean so he had to drink from it and that somebody needed to eat the breakfast burritos and corny dogs in the freezer.   Mmmhmmm.....
Sugar Free Apple Pie Bites
Here goes in true Moppins nerdy fashion: 

Question:  What happens to your skin if you don't eat sugar for 30 days?

Hypothesis:  Diva's acne and my Rosacea would be less noticeable.

Experiment:  Keeping all other routines in place, we cut out all sugar sources including sugar, white rice/flour, honey, maple syrup, alcohol, corn (including starch) potatoes (including starch) and sweeteners, and had limited sprouted bread (2 slices per week) brown rice (2 portions per week) oatmeal (2 portions per week) and limited fruit (2 portions or less per day.)
We used our skin, weight, and overall well-being as the measure of change but our skin conditions were the primary focus.  For reference, I used Gillian McKeith's You Are What You Eat cookbooks for my recipes.

Grain Free Peanut Butter Bread Rolls
Observations:  Skin - At about day 8 or so, Diva's skin became very sensitive to the high-powered over-the-counter face wash, astringent pads, and medicated moisturizer all of which she had been using to try and control acne. She then switched to a light organic face wash for normal skin and nothing else. Her face had simply stopped producing so much oil. Her skin has been steadily clearing up ever since.

Unfortunately, I have not noticed a change in the redness of my face however, as far as the texture of my skin, face and body, is much improved.

Weight - We both immediately started losing weight and have continued to do so.  At our last weigh-in the two of us are down about 13lbs.  Diva has dropped a dress size, maybe 2.  I have lost enough weight that I am actually drying my jeans in the machine (not hanging them to dry) to get them to shrink a little.  I had gained 10 stinking whole pounds in the 1 year in Bossier City!!!  That's what good food and living next to a take away daiquiri place will do for you.  I had begun losing that weight slowly since living in Clear Lake.  But in the 30 days, I burned through those last few Louz-yana pounds and am now 12 lbs. off of my ultimate goal weight.  Weight was only a measure of change and not the objective of the experiment...that being said, it sure is nice to be able to zip up a church dress that I couldn't just last month.

Overall Well-Being - We began the experiment on a Monday, on the following Saturday our household had descended into chaos.  Everyone was mad at everyone else.  No one could have a civil conversation and whenever anyone tried to talk with anyone else, it became a shouting match; this is highly unusual for Team Moppins.  By the end of the day we had all scattered to different sections of the house so as to be left alone to stew in our rage.  It was intense.  The next day, everyone was back to normal.  I looked up the symptoms of sugar withdrawal and the list fit us perfectly:  headaches, mood swings, angry outbursts, anxiety, fatigue, severe cravings.  Yikes!  This has not been an issue since that one day.

Before we started this experiment, I felt really sleepy and lethargic by mid-afternoon, but I haven't felt that way at all since about day 7.

It was a bummer to have to turn down dinner with friends or wine in the evenings or our usual pizza on weekends or treats friends brought to school.  

We had already planned to have one of our Pop-Up Cocktail Parties when we started the experiment.  So there I was, mixing drinks, passing around pretzels (I love pretzels) and key lime dip (that I could try) while my husband and neighbors imbibed much more interesting cocktails than my iced tea.  Unsweetened of course.  Those kinds of things are a two-faced situation:  on the one hand it stinks to not drink at your own party and have to explain to everyone why you aren't eating the delicious dip, on the other hand, it's empowering to be able to say no and stick by it.

Taco Pizza on a Cauliflower Crust
Analysis:  We were both hoping for more change in our skin conditions although definite progress has been made.  We have been amazed at how easily the weight has come off so far.  Our outlook has been rather sunny and our general welfare is quite good.

Conclusion:   I was surprised at how much this experiment affected us.  We don't drink cokes every day, I make most food from scratch, generally chips and stuff are treats, etc. yet we experienced the Day of Rage, along with the weight loss and skin improvements.

I was also pleased that it wasn't as expensive as I expected.  Another benefit was no wasted food left lurking in the back of the crisper drawer.

We decided that self-control is like a muscle that has to be flexed to be strengthened.  Every time we said no, we built up more resistance.  As for no chocolate on Valentine's Day, it was day 30 of the experiment and by then we were conditioned to be okay with no sugar.

Diva and I are proud of ourselves that we kept strictly to the plan.  At Engineer's suggestion, we will be continuing on a no-sugar lifestyle for the foreseeable future.  We have reaped too many benefits to discount that way of eating; however, we will also be introducing a "cheat meal" so as not to exasperate ourselves or become recluses with no social engagements...plus, we just bottled some pear wine that I'd like to be able to drink.

I am particularly proud of Diva that she did not succumb to temptations while at school and held her head high as she ate her mung bean casserole, asparagus and zucchini soup, or eggplant tagine.

I won't say that it was easy.  It wasn't.  I really missed fruit....and wine.  

And for someone who enjoys food as we do, eating simply is not all that exciting.  But then again, it has forced us to be aware of what we fuel our bodies with, or not fuel our bodies with as it was in the case of afternoon lethargy.

I meticulously planned out all of the food we would eat for the week with very little wiggle room.  Every ingredient had to be scrutinized to see if it had obvious sugar or anything ending in -ose in it - fructose, dextrose, sucrose, etc.  I was cooking all the time - which normally is a joy - but instead of baking brownies or muffins, I was making lentil stew and the like.  Lentils are good but decidedly less fun than brownies.   

Lately I've been trying to find ways to eat things we like but healthier versions.  For instance, I made pizza using a cauliflower crust, cheddar herb biscuits made from almond flour, and bread rolls made from peanut butter.  I have not yet found a no sugar brownie recipe.

Our saving grace was dairy.  We did not restrict our dairy consumption and if anything, ramped it up.  Diva and I have eaten cheese, butter, yoghurt, milk - all full fat - like our lives have depended on it.  

The other grace has been nuts.  We've eaten truckloads of mixed nuts.  

Anyone want to give this experiment a try?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Happy Hot Buttered Rum Day!

* I was sent tea by Pure Leaf and Influenster for sampling purposes.  All opinions and rebellious tendencies are my own.
Did you know that January 17th was National Hot Buttered Rum Day?

All of the folks up north with their snow shoveling and skiing and other cold weather activities might really appreciate a warm cup of cheer about now. 

But here in Houston, it is a humid 77F outside which isn't that conducive to the hot dreamy creamy concoction; however, I have never been one to strictly adhere to convention.

Nor have I ever been one to strictly follow a recipe...I'm seeing a pattern here...perhaps I have a problem with authority.  I digress.

This past holiday season, I recently discovered the delectable goodness of hot buttered rum.  What I never realized before then was that it is made with hot water and not by heating the whole drink.

It seemed like I was missing a trick there.  Then it came to me - why not add one extra layer of flavor by making the libation with tea?!  And Hot Buttered Rum Tea was the result.

Pure Leaf black tea with vanilla is perfect for this recipe because it infuses a depth of flavor.

If you or someone you're serving is tea-total or even more importantly, a designated driver, then simply leave out the rum and no one is left out of the deliciousness!

Hot Buttered Rum Tea
1c. softened butter
1 1/4c. brown sugar
1c. whipping cream
1 1/2c. powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. cloves, ground
1/4 tsp. nutmeg, ground
1/2 tsp. cinnamon, ground
Pure Leaf Black Tea w/Vanilla teabags
Cinnamon Sticks
Whole Nutmeg

Buttered part:

Cream brown sugar and butter in a mixer. 
Pour in cream, powdered sugar, and spices. 
Mix until whipped and totally incorporated. 
Spoon mixture into a container and put in the fridge until ready to use.

Rum Tea part:

Make a mug of tea by steeping the Pure Leaf teabag in 6oz. boiling water for 3 or 4 minutes. 
Remove the teabag and put 2 Tbs. of the butter mixture and a shot of rum in the mug.
Give it a good stir.
Serve with a cinnamon stick or some freshly grated nutmeg over the top.

*I prefer to use dark rum or spiced rum here but white rum is also good.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Jazz Loves Disney...and So Do I!

"This is a sponsored post from Disney Music and One2One Network.  All opinions, potential muffin basket bribery, and fanatical love of all things jazz and Disney are my own."

Did you hear that squeal of delight?

I get pitched periodically to review stuff--you, as my readers, know this.  I always appreciate the opportunity but I'm not always overjoyed with the product.  Y'all...when I opened my e-mail to see that there was a new review campaign that involved the latest reworking of Disney songs into jazz charts, I got excited - super excited...as in I may have squealed out loud.  Then I set about finding out how I could apply for the campaign and thought about sending the person in charge a muffin basket just so they would include me.  No joke.

Are you aware that Disney has produced several albums that orchestrate their time-honored classics into various genres?  I know this because we have several of them: "Bibbidi Bobiddi Bach" and "Heigh-Ho Mozart" are both written in the style of well known classical composers and "O Mickey Where art Thou?" is arranged in the style of blue-grass.  Jazz and Disney are two of our family's all-time favorite things so a new compilation arranging Disney songs in a jazzy way has sent us over the moon.  Thus the squealage. 

How much do we love Disney and jazz?  Here are but a few instances of how jazz and/or Disney have played a part in our life: 
  • Engineer is a phenomenal bass trombone player and has played in many jazz bands throughout the years.  While in England, the musical director of the town band chose to feature Engineer in a Disney song that was written jazzy to begin with, "I Wanna Be Like You."  It's kind of his signature tune now.
  • Engineer and I honeymooned at DisneyWorld and have since been back several times with Diva.  It is truly our happy place and we have encouraged every young couple to consider honeymooning there too.  I can't imagine being treated better as newlyweds than DisneyWorld.
  • Our first pet together was a cat named Tigger and he was the best cat we ever had.
  • As a child, my favorite record (and yes, I mean vinyl) was "Mickey Mouse Disco."  I wore out "Disco Duck." 
  • My singing partner and I used to go into schools teaching kids about styles of music (jazz being one of our favorite lessons).  Our take away from that lesson was that one could "jazz" any tune.  We often used Disney songs as examples kids could relate to when recognizing different styles of music.
  • Diva is a Disneyphile to say the very least.  She can quote nearly every word from nearly every Disney movie and as for the songs, fuhgeddabowdit.  She knows every tune and lyric by heart. 
  • I was interviewed in college for my hometown newspaper and the reporter asked me what I wanted to be when I graduated.  I told them I wanted to be a Disney voice when I grew up.  If that same reporter asked me now, I would say a jazz singer.  Seriously.
  • On any given day, someone in this house is quoting a Disney movie, most likely Emperor's New Groove or The Incredibles, although "Just keep swimming..." from Finding Nemo is basically a line said daily.
  • Our media library is almost exclusively Disney movies.  
  • Jazz concerts are Engineer's favorite.  He loves the atmosphere, the talent, the way the musicians showcase each other in solo spots then come back together in a cohesive band/combo; I love jazz, but Engineer breathes it. 
  • And if you're still not convinced how entrenched we are in Disney-ness, just look at the name of this blog - Pary Moppins.        
You can see that all aspects of our lives are musical and Disney-fied:  before we were married, just after we were married, throughout our marriage, passed on to our child, in our work life, in our extra curricular activities, and the day-to-day nature of our very existence.  The presence of Disney and music are all-encompassing here.

Okay, so I can understand how one may think that reworking children's songs could be super cheesy but there is no cheesiness here.  The artists performing these tunes are legitimate jazz musicians and the album is even recorded with Verve (the Team Moppins preferred jazz label.)  The tunes are so cool, you could easily have them playing in the background at your next cocktail party and no one would bat an eyelid that the tracks were from cartoons.

I have now listened to this album basically on a loop since I downloaded it and have fallen madly in love with some of the tracks.  Here's the thing: many of Disney's mid-century movies' soundtracks were already jazzy.  Think about the swinging tunes from Lady and the Tramp, The Jungle Book," or The Aristocats--they seem like no brainers to add to a Disney jazz album.  The difficulty for the artist at that point lies in allowing the listener to challenge the sound they are familiar with in order to accept an updated version.    

"Everybody Wants to Be a Cat" is the first song on the album.  It is performed by Jamie Cullum who has been a favorite of the Moppins household since we lived in England and, yes, we even have a couple of his albums.  We enjoy his crisp take on jazz standards and pop songs.  His sensitive treatment of The Aristocats tune kept the fun vibe of the original and married it with his fresh style.  His orchestration is on point and as I listened, I closed my eyes and could see the alley cats singing and playing.  The introduction sets the scene perfectly of a cat slinking by smoothly, then it changes suddenly to frenzied caterwauling.  Granted Jamie had good bones to work with; that was a great choice by Verve to put his track first, to get the audience hooked and excited about what was to come.

As soon as I told Diva about this album, she immediately replied, "They better have 'He's a Tramp' as part of the line up.  That is one of my all-time favorite Disney songs."  I told her it was number 2 on the playlist, and that it was also one of my favorites.  Where as Mr. Cullum just had an iconic tune to work with, Melody Gardot not only had an iconic tune, she also had the added obstacle of iconic singer Peggy Lee.  I've got to admit, there was a moment as the track started that I thought there was no way that someone could do that song, or Ms. Lee's voice, justice.  Then I heard Melody say, "What a dog" and I knew it was going to be scrumptious.  Her sultry voice fully embodies the tone of the piece and the character who sings it in Lady and the Tramp.  The chanteuse has such an ease to her voice and between the buttery saxophone, walking bass, and the support from the yummy chords the piano was laying down, this was easily my favorite track on the album.

Some other notable tracks were the Stacy Kent's Bossa Nova version of "Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo" sung in French.  It thoroughly upped the cool factor on that tune.  Cinderella's saccharin "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes" gets a grown-up instrumental make-over by way of a solo muted trumpet and The Rob Mounsey Orchestra; I could easily see this version as the soundtrack to a couple's first dance.  "The Bare Necessities" is light and bouncy yet has great flow.    

I would be remiss if I didn't also mention the absolute delightful and delicious French version of "I Wanna Be Like You" from The Jungle Book played by The Hot Sardines.  It's frothy and feels like the French Quarter on a sunny day.  What a super track to end the album with.  

Here's a full track listing:

1.  Jamie Cullum – "Everybody Wants To Be A Cat" – from The Aristocats

2.  Melody Gardot – "He’s A Tramp" – from Lady And The Tramp

3.  Stacey Kent – "Bibbidi Bobbodo Boo" (French version) – from Cinderella

4.  Gregory Porter – "When You Wish Upon A Star" – from Pinocchio  

5.  China Moses – "Why Don’t You Do Right" – from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

6.  Raphaël Gualazzi – "I Wanna Be Like You" – from The Jungle Book

7.  The Rob Mounsey Orchestra – "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes" – from Cinderella

8.  Hugh Coltman – "You’ve Got A Friend In Me" – from Toy Story

9.  Anne Sila – "Let It Go" – from Frozen

10.  Melody Gardot & Raphaël Gualazzi – "The Bare Necessities" – from The Jungle Book

11.  Laika – "Once Upon A Dream" – from Sleeping Beauty

12.  Nikki Yanofsky -"Someday My Prince Will Come" – from Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs

13. The Hot Sardines – I Wanna Be Like You (French & English version) – from The Jungle Book (US release only)

You can download the album starting November 18, 2016 from either iTunes or Amazon.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that Disney will decide to produce a second jazz album, perhaps even all instrumental.  They have so many other jazz inspired tracks from Monster, Inc. and The Princess and the Frog that I would love to hear with fresh ears.  I think "Prince Ali" from Aladdin would be a great choice as would "I've Got No Strings" from Pinocchio or "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" from The Lion King. 

I highly recommend this album for kids, for parents, for grandparents, for everyone!  
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