Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Monday, July 28, 2008

Did I Eat Too Many Beans or is that a Baby Kicking Me?

Although I had been feeling faint sensations of what I originally thought was a little bit of gas or some bad Taco Bueno since I was close to 18 weeks pregnant, I've found it is the most amazing feeling to feel your future child kick, punch, roll, whatever kind of party he is having inside me. The sensation started off almost 10 weeks ago with a feeling I described as having bubbles in my tummy. You can see why I thought I ate some bad Taco Bueno. After reading a bit in my Mayo clinic book and researching online, I found that these "bubbles" were actually my baby moving.

Since then, Baby Sieber's movements have become so pronounced that I have been able to see my stomach move up and down with his little jabs and pokes. Who needs TV or books when you have a child inside of you to entertain you? Christopher and I have been able to feel real body parts...we aren't really sure which body parts we are feeling, but I know it has to be a leg or a skull or some part of his anatomy.

Last week I was assisting with a teacher training at UT, and as I was talking with the group of teachers, he gave me such a whack in the stomach that my arms, which were peacefully resting on the top of my big belly, gave a slight jump. Maybe he was telling me he didn't really like my arms there, maybe he was telling me he really likes robots, or maybe (hopefully) he was practicing "Texas Fight" who knows? I love those little moments that no one else notices or knows about. They really make all of the uncomfortable facets of gestating a child sort of fade into the background. Who cares if I can't sleep, sit or stand without changing positions 500 times, it all seems to fade into the background when you feel that roll of an elbow, or what must be a tiny foot pressing up against your skin.


Cake decorating is an art and a science. For some, it is neither. Behold:

Friday, July 25, 2008

Another Food Journey

Tonight we dine in Driftwood, Texas! We are travelling with a large group of friends to visit Salt Lick BBQ.

Salt Lick is like a giant barbeque theme park in the middle of nowhere. The setting is a sprawling ranch, and the ambience is barn + banquet hall + party. Why do big groups travel all the way to Driftwood, Texas when there is perfectly good brisket available in town?
Four letters: BYOB.

Barbeque and coolers full of ice and beverages is a winning combination. There is something deeply and primally 'right' about having a cold beer in great company on the grounds of aTexas ranch with oak smoke and smell of cooking meat in the air.
I should also mention that the meat is served family-style on an all-you-care-to gorge basis. Life is good in Austin, and tonight should be great!

A Classic

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The 5 Stages of Minivan

1. Obliviousness:
That category of car doesn't even apply to me.

2. Pity:
Look at that poor sap driving a mini-van. Mommies and Daddies are such suckers. I'm too cool for that business.

3. Fear:
I'd sooner walk than drive one of those. Can't I just get a Suburban? I'm so afraid. I'm still young, right! How old do you think I really am. Really?

4. Acceptance: Maybe a minivan is the right tool for the job. They are pretty fuel-efficient and comfortable. What have I become?

5. Minivan Driving: "Be quiet and watch your movie! Don't throw your cheerios!"

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Of Risk Factors and Imagination

One of the most jarring things about being a parent-to-be is being bombarded with a constant stream of warnings about dangers in the world.

It starts with the list of prohibited foods, drinks, and activities throughout pregnancy. Watch out for the cat litter box! Put down that wine! Don't even think about eating that turkey sandwich. Use that sushi for bait unless you want to maim your child.
Then, it progresses to the perils of gestation and childbirth. Watch out for gestational diabetes! You're gaining too much or not enough weight. You better lay off the tap dancing! Your baby could be born with lobster claws!
After the baby is born, you're not even close to out of the woods. Car trips are deadly, so you need to buy a 12 ton SUV and the best car seat available. You better put your baby to sleep on his back! You need to turn your hot water heater cooler, pad your fireplace, secure your stairs, block your electrical outlets, attach furniture and ovens to the wall. Oh, and you may want to get rid of your cat.

Now I understand one of the reasons why parents are "different" than the childless. It's the constant worries and the resulting logistical difficulties caused by navigating a world full of risks. The idyllic world of my youth suddenly has a big sign on it: "There be dragons. And they like babies."
Another such worry is the ongoing issue with autism. Noone really knows the cause, but the disorder is becoming alarmingly common. Is it vaccines or something else?
There is some new research that is pretty compelling. Television could be a contributing cause of autism and related disorders! Doh! How can we bask in tv's warm glow? Who will raise our children now?

Baby Einstein could not be reached for comment, but I'll definitely think twice before plunking down Baby Sieber in front of the t.v.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Temporary Armistice

Alternative titles:
The Calm Before the Hissing and Barking

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday Update

Baby Update:
The march toward parenthood is going great. Shannon is doing awesome as her stomach and the baby get bigger each day. We're preparing the nursery habitation by selecting furniture and evaluating paint colors (low odor paint, of course). We are stockpiling a small, but growing, pile of cute baby boy clothes.

Finally, months of reading the book "Baby Bargains" is starting to pay dividends. I am well-versed in the relative merits of various bouncers, baby wipe warmers, and crib designs. Such is life!

Home Improvement
The floundering closet project of 2008 finally made progress. The objective was simple: replace a single row of shelf / hanging rod with a double row in our master closet to double the usable space.

Cost overruns and construction delays plagued the project from the beginning. Demolition posed some challenges as some overzealous past person used 2,590 nails and 2 gallons of paint to secure the previous closet to the wall. I was able to put a big hurt on the structure and down it came.

The construction phase started badly because of an attempt to use ClosetMaid wire shelving. This seemed to be the best choice at the time, but poor instructions and worse product design led to the removal of the nearly completed shelving apparatus. I lost several hours of drilling and cursing, but Lowes accepted our return.

At this point, we went back to drawing board. The new design would use wood brackets nailed into the walls to support the shelf and clothes rod. A chill went down my spine when I realized I would finally have to step up and use my compressor and nail gun for the first time.

I just knew I would make some critical mistake at some point, and be shredded by an exploding air compressor tank or possibly lobotomize myself with a framing nail to the cerebellum. I did incorrectly load a nail which caused a scary misfire, but with my trusty friend Google (search: HOW DO I SET UP A STUPID @#$@ COMPRESSOR THAT HAS INADEQUATE INSTRUCTIONS?) I finished the project. From now on, I shall nail gun with reckless abandon. Crown molding and fence repairs, Ahoy!

Baby Season
We're headed to Waco Saturday to celebrate Clay and Sarah's upcoming baby boy. This is apparently NOT A BABY SHOWER ,so we are not supposed to eat candy bars out of diapers or screech "Oh How Preeeeeecious!" I'm really looking forward to the visit and some great times.

Corgidor Update:
Thank you, Carter, for sending along this picture of our beloved Corgidor, Bella. In this picture she is panting from the exertion of harassing people at the pool.

Monday, July 14, 2008

And the Golden Apron Goes To...

Imagine a delicious lasagne. Garfield loves these things, and they are a steady, stolid staple of Italian-American cuisine. Now imagine the lasagne re-invented with southwest flavors, heat, and tortilla layers. That's exactly what Chris Floyd did with his Golden Apron winning creation, the El Pasagna.

Chris won his first championship in the Austin cooking challenge series after a tough showdown with Shannon's delicious "Starstada Surprise." The theme this time was Viva Tortilla, and there were some excellent entries.

Dan made a barbeque chicken pizza with a touch of balsamic vinegar that really brought the dish together. Squisher brought a barbeque chicken quesadilla highlighted by homemade sauce.

Kristin elevated a bean and cheese burrito with the smoky heat of chipotle peppers. My dish was a pulled chicken, bacon, and caramelized shallot soft taco. I lost to Shannon's aforementioned Starstada Surprise. She pan fried star tortillas and prepared fresh refried black beans to make a successful tostada.
I suffered yet another first round loss, but I was proud to win the Commissioner's Cup (for good citizenship, perfect attendance, and other flexible criteria).

While the crowd was smaller than normal, we had another great party. Dan and Amanda were excellent hosts, and their palatially landscaped backyard was a site to behold. Congratulations to Chris, and to those of you who couldn't make it: we'll see you at the next one!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

It's Behind Me...Isn't it?

lolcats funny cat pictures

I'm Pregnant, I live in the Desert, and all I want is to sleep in a house that is 72 degrees!

My lovely husband who has generally been a wonderful person throughout this pregnancy, cooking good meals, helping me lay off the sugar, and reading cover to cover our Baby Bargains book telling me what products have the best reviews, has recently slipped in his lovely and wonderful status in the past couple of weeks.

It all started last Monday. I had the thermostat set to 72 degrees starting at 11:00 so I could stay cool throughout the evening. Please note: I’m 6 months pregnant and my internal thermostat is completely out of whack. Christopher, however, feels the need to sit in the tiniest room in our house, saving imaginary aliens from imaginary strangers on a planet unknown to most non-gamers, until the wee hours of the night. I must mention that it is the tiniest room in our house because when the door is shut, which I generally ask him to do since saving the imaginary aliens or playing Rock Band can get loud at times, the room can get fairly cool no matter what the display on the thermostat outside the room says. Instead of conceding to the woman he lives with that has an alien of her own growing inside her belly, my husband decides it is in his best interest to argue with me regarding a two degree difference in the thermostat that night.

Although most men who have had a pregnant wife would tell you, (and some that have just known women who are pregnant), you can be a National Merit Scholar, have an IQ beyond IQ’s, but you are not a smart person if you choose to argue with a pregnant lady over two degrees of temperature. Our hormones are raging, we have this creature inside of us making our bellies three and four times larger than one ever thought possible, although a completely magnificent experience, it is a hormonal rollercoaster all the same. Two degrees is not the fight to fight big guy. I’m not really sure the outcome of that argument, but I think I let him get his way, only to wake up in the middle of the night and change the thermostat back down to 72 degrees.

As last week went on, I generally seemed to get away with my program of 72 degrees on the thermostat, only waking up once or twice to my husband still fighting off aliens in his tiny room while his pregnant wife was roasting in our bedroom. I figured at this point, I’ve proven to him that for whatever reason, my internal thermostat does not handle 74 degrees while I’m pregnant. I’ve won, or so I thought.

Now it is a week later, my husband’s friends have mentioned to him what an idiot he was for even trying to argue with his pregnant wife about two degrees on a thermostat and I’m pretty sure this is a battle left in my memory that I can check off as one for Shannon, zero for Chris. However, Christopher decides to start the same argument up again. Has this happened to me before, oh yeah, it has, and I won that fight! Apparently Christopher wasn’t convinced. Currently, it is 3:45 in the morning, and I’ve been up since 3:00 because, yes, I had to go reset the thermostat back from 74 to 72 degrees yet again! After our long discussion with use of choice words, I knew I had him persuaded that I’m not a thermostat dictator, I’m just gestating another human being and I just want to sleep throughout the night without having to change a thermostat in our house from 74 to 72 degrees. I ask Chris and our blog audience…is that really TOO MUCH to ask?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Best Barbeque in Texas...? A Quest for Brisket

This weekend, I accompanied the Floyd brothers and Shannon to the Middle of Nowhere, TX(population: a few people + lots of chickens + and numerous cows). Our mission: to eat the best barbeque brisket in Texas at a rustic shack in Lexington named Snow's Barbeque.

This wouldn't be as simple as hopping in the car and lollygagging out to Snow's. This little barbeque joint is only open Saturday, and even then, only until the meat runs out. Following glowing coverage by Texas Monthly magazine where Snow's was declared the best barbeque in Texas, more and more food tourists from all over the state have travelled to Lexington. Prior to noon most saturdays, the barbeque runs out, and the restaurant closes. Tough luck to all the city slickers who woke up too late, drove too slowly, or lingered a little long at Starbucks.
Our departure time was set for 6:30 a.m. The prospect of waking up so early and driving over an hour for barbeque initially led me to dismiss the idea out of hand. Maybe someone could bring me back a few slices of brisket so that I could sleep. Over the next couple of days, the idea grew on me. This felt like one of those carpe diem "life is short" opportunities, so I signed on for some bbq goodness.
We arrived at before 8 a.m. This scene was exactly like a barbeque place should be. Giant, rust-speckled grain silos loomed just across the street. Some nearby roosters just wouldn't stop crowing. Huge pickups rumbled past towing trailers full of noisily mooing cows. There was already a line full of groggy but cheerful folks snaking out the door.

I passed the time in line yawning and checking out the barbeque pits that were being tended busily by the pit-master (73 year-old Tootsie Tomanetz) and her crew. With five or six huge black metal smoker pits as well as several large trailer-mounted barrel smokers, this was a pretty serious operation.
Fragrant oak smoke and barbeque aromas filled the morning air as the Snow's staff constantly opened and closed the smokers to check the meats and apply mop sauce, and my stomach started grumbling. I'm not a big breakfast guy, but watching the aluminum pans piled high with black-crusted briskets shuttling from the smokers into the restaurant was almost too much to bear.

Service started up at 8 a.m., and I placed my order: one pound of brisket, one half pound of pork, and one pound of pork ribs. The brisket was the main event, but as a native Alabaman it was great to see barbeque pork on the menu (see also Dreamland BBQ: the best pork ribs ever). I was handed a serving of sauce (deliciously sweet and tangy) in a repurposed Ozarka water bottle. On the way out, I grabbed a bowl of the beans (always free, according to the sign). Free beans!

We grabbed a picnic table outside next to the barbeque pits, and got down to business. Would the brisket live up to the hype and justify the trip? Well, the pork was pretty solid, but the rub was a little on the salty side. The brisket exceeded my high expectations. The crucial crust and smoke ring in the meat were present and flavorful. But what made this special was the melt-in-your mouth tenderness of the meat. This wasn't health food. This wasn't a dessicated "lean" cut of beef to gnaw over and drown in sauce . This brisket was silky, artery-clogging, and freaking delicious.

This is the best brisket that I have ever tasted. Of course, I haven't visited the other top contenders like Kreuz's, Opies, or Louis Mueller (a deficiency that will soon be remedied). The trip was a little long, and I was wiped out for the rest of the weekend, but this was a successful food pilgrimage.

Here's an Austin American Statesman article about Snow's. The word is getting out!

Pictures from the Nathan's Famous Dallas Qualifier

The huge group of Chris supporters decked out in our super sweet "Bite for your right to Coney" shirts:
Chris has his game face on during his pre-contest media time:
The crowd just before the competition:

The HDB's being prepped for the showdown:

Here are some more pictures from the big Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Qualifier. Thanks to Mrs. Shinn!