Christmas 2015 off to a Lights in the Heights start

Mom and Dad have begun their whirlwind tour of the US. First stop is in Houston. Saturday evening we went to a neighborhood festival called Lights in the Heights. We dressed up Aggie and took her with us.

Aggie dog dressed up for Lights in the Heights

There was a lot of booze, Christmas music and of course lights.

Mom and Dad at Lights in the Heights.

After the light party, we walked over to a favorite restaurant of mine, Zelko Bistro. Oh and the pose is because earlier in the evening I'd taught Mom about skinny arm and skinny leg. It's a thing.

Dad and I at Zelko Bistro

Sunday we went to Brookwood and looked at all the pretty Christmas things and ate a good meal.

Brookwood Community

Mom and Dad leave for Seattle on Wednesday and when they return they will be headed up to Baton Rouge to help Todd and Nick move into their new house.

Nick and Todd at their apartment

Easy Paleo Bone Broth Chicken and Rice Soup

I had a moment recently (let's call it an extended moment) when I panicked because I thought I'd lost my crock pot. Now, I'm not a worshiper of the slow cooker and I don't use it very often. But when I went to get it off the top shelf of my kitchen where it usually lives and it wasn't there...I was so baffled how I could lose such a big appliance. I mean, it's big, and red, and heavy. I was so pleased when I found it while packing up Jarrod's apartment last week. How did it get to his apartment? I don't know. But thank goodness it was clean (clearly I didn't put it away) and in good shape.

So I brought old crocky (cute?) home and set about making my first batch of bone broth.

Crock Pot Chicken Bone Broth


1-2 cooked chicken carcasses stripped of as much meat as you can remove (I used a rotisserie chicken carcass)

Enough distilled water to cover your chicken and veggies in the crock pot

1 Medium onion, peeled and cut in quarters

3 Carrots

3-4 Celery stalks

Italian seasoning and salt to taste


Chop vegetables and put into crock pot with chicken and spices. Poor water over until covering the chicken. Turn crock pot on high for the first two hours, then reduce temperature to low. Let broth cook on low for 18-24 hours. Allow broth to cool and strain.

**Bone broth can be kept in the fridge for 7-10 days or frozen for later use.

** When refrigerated your bone broth should gel. When you heat it up to cook with it will go back to liquid.

Easy Paleo Chicken and Rice Soup

Chicken and Rice Bone Broth Soup


1 TBSP Bacon fat (or oil of your choosing)

1 Small Yellow Onion Chopped

3 Ribs of Celery Chopped

3 Carrots Chopped

2 TSP of Garlic

6 C Bone Broth (or regular broth in a pinch)

1/2 TSP Smoked Paprika

1.5 C Uncooked Rice

2 C Chopped Cooked Chicken (use a rotisserie chicken...make more bone broth)

Salt and Pepper


Saute onion, celery, carrots and garlic in bacon fat. Add bone broth and paprika. Add in uncooked rice and allow soup to simmer for 30-45 minutes. Add chicken around the 30 minute mark. Check to see that your rice is cooked. Serve.

**If using bone broth the soup may gel in your fridge. Heating it up will cause it to liquefy again.

Fresh Thanksgiving Cranberry Salad Recipe (That doesn't suck!)

Ah, 'tis the season for food that you really don't want to eat. Right!? The old 'if it's not shaped like can then it's not really cranberry' adage? Because of this, I'd pretty much given up on cranberry sauce (crap-berry, anyone?). So, I was more than thrilled when J's grandma served us this salad last week. It's a-maz-ing. Like eat it with a spoon for leftovers good. Fresh Thanksgiving Cranberry Salad Recipe (That doesn't suck!)


2 cups of each (ground fresh cranberries, sugar, ground pecans, crushed pineapple)

2 packs cranberry (or strawberry) Jell-O


Grind cranberries, pour sugar over and set overnight.  Add the pecans, pineapple to the Jell-O and add cranberries.  Place in fridge until ready to use.  I use the juice of the pineapple for some of the liquid to make Jell-O.

J and I passed out after a football game

Vegan Fudge Recipe and Holiday Cheer Creeps In

christmaslights Last night, on my way back from another great snowy ski day, I heard my first Christmas song of the season. I can’t say that I was surprised. It is the week of Thanksgiving after all.  With a little more than a month till the big day it seems relatively appropriate that holiday cheer begins its creep into the fabric of our everyday lives.

Aside from the Christmas music, over this weekend I participated in my first Friendsgiving. Which if you are not familiar with the concept Friendsgiving is the first excuse for a bunch of people who know each other to drink heavily, eat copious amounts of food and gorge themselves on the first taste of holiday cheer.  It is an all-around good time. As part of this holiday pre-season event it is required that all participants contribute a thanksgiving themed dish.   Since this is only the beginning of the holiday season I did not feel it was necessary to spend all day cooking some elaborate dish. I wanted to make something easy and thanks to the expansive knowledge of tumbler I found one of the simplest recipes I think I’ve ever attempted, 3-ingredient vegan fudge.

3-Ingredient Vegan Fudge


3 cups of dark chocolate morsels

¾ cup of whole coconut milk

2 table spoons of coconut oil

+ any additional ingredients your little heart may desire! For this rendition of fudge I chose to add walnuts and coconut pieces.


  1. Place chocolate chips into a bowl. I placed mine in a metal bowl and then heated it by placing it into a sauce pan of simmering water. Essentially replicating a double boiler.
  2. In a separate sauce pan bring coconut oil and milk to a boil, whisking occasionally.
  3. Pour milk and oil mix over chocolate chips and stir until all of the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. At this point, add any additional ingredients you would like.
  4. Pour mixture into a well-greased pan. I put mine into a 5x5 pan.
  5. Place into the fridge for 2-3 hours or the freezer for 1 hour.

** Recommended augmentations: Add vanilla extract and or powdered sugar, this is to cut the somewhat bitter taste of the dark chocolate morsels.

The beauty of the 3-ingredient fudge is not only that it is ridiculously easy but also that it is a crowd pleaser. Although everyone was stuffed to the brim from pre-season thanksgiving foods several people asked if they could take doggie bags home of vegan fudge. With holiday cheer, aided by red wine, I gladly obliged their requests.

So as the holiday season swings to full tilt, remember 3-ingredient fudge for those moments that to embark on an extravagant dish would bring out the Grinch in anyone. But until then revel in the glittering splendor that is the holiday season and don’t be ashamed to crank up the volume when your favorite holiday song comes on the radio. I know I did.

Sarah eating vegan fudge

Grandma's Thanksgiving Roasted Bacon Mushroom Green Beans

Happy holidays, Macrander family! It's here finally. Last night, J and I went over to his grandmother's house for Thanksgiving-Christmas dinner with his out-of-town aunt. She's going to be with her partner for the holidays and they will not be traveling so we had to celebrate early. Here's the standout dish from last night. Grandma's Thanksgiving Roasted Bacon Mushroom Green Beans

Grandma's Thanksgiving Roasted Bacon Mushroom Green Beans

Prep time: 15 minutes

Bake time: 20 minutes

Heat oven: 375 F


2 lbs. fresh green beans

2 tbsp. EVOO

2 tbsp. all purpose seasoning

6 slices (or more) thick-cut bacon

1/3 cup sliced shallots

2 tbsp. (or more) garlic

12 oz. fresh mushrooms

1 cup low sodium chicken broth


1. Trim and wash the green beans. Toss with EVOO and seasoning.

2. Roast beans in the oven for 10 minutes.

3. Dice and cook bacon in deep skillet (iron skillets make magic). When bacon begins to brown, add shallots, garlic and mushrooms. Stir fry until bacon is brown. (You might want to drain out the bacon fat at this point, or what the hell, YOLO, leave it in.)

4. Add roasted beans to the mix and add 1 cup broth. Cover pan and cook on medium for 10 minutes.

Weekend Update: We're so cool, we go out to all of the places

Walking back from bumping bar Royal Oak Bar and Grille last night, I said to J "we don't ever go this all because you are leaving." He said yes and no, a little yes because he is leaving and a little just because there are a lot of people in town this week. Thursday evening we went to Hugo's on Westheimer, known for it's cricket dish and bangin' margaritas. The group was comprised of Gonzalo, Kyle (a friend from college), Sara (a friend from Hess), Aaron (a friend from Hess and former roommate), myself and J. It was an odd mix, especially at a place that encourages plate sharing. It went well though and everyone seemed to get along. I had to go home after dinner for Family Conference Call, but I hear that the party moved on to J's house where hours of dominoes were played (so this is an ATM thing?).

Friday night, a friend from my work invited J and I to go to Underbelly, another highly rated Montrose area restaurant. My friend knows one of the bartenders, so we had the privilege of receiving special treatment, including a gratis plate of charcuterie. Afterward, J and I went to Interstellar - which is THREE hours long. In my opinion a lot of the movie was been there done that kind of stuff, but J loved it. I fell asleep about hour 1.5, but J poked me in the ribs until I woke back up and was able to finish the (long) movie.


Saturday, J and I had set aside to go to his cousin's wedding. So, we packed up and headed out toward Lufkin. We were about 1.5 hours into our trip when J thought to call his mom to get the exact venue location.


Well, turns out the wedding was actually four hours in the opposite direction and J had gotten confused on city names. So we turned around and went back home. I made J take me to the Galleria, because I wanted to go somewhere in my pretty dress.

Sunday we met up with some of J's colleagues at a bar called Anvil in Montrose. I learned that not all engineers are as fun and sociable as J is. Also, no amount of money makes an awkward guy less scared of women, but he'll spend all of his money on fancy cars and clothes to try to compensate.

After all of this we were both super done and J dropped me off.

It was a great, busy weekend.

Weekend Update: Last Hurrah at Underwood Ranch

Last Hurrah at Underwood Ranch Jarrod's days living in Houston are quickly winding down, so this past weekend we took up trip up to his family's land outside of Austin.


J went up early, as he usually does and I rode up with his Hess roommate Greg. We got in around 11 p.m. Friday night and found all of the guys sitting around the fire, drinking beer and having a good time.

There something about a fire and cold night. It gets people talking. We stayed out til 2 a.m. just catching up on life and shooting the shit.


We all slept in a bit Saturday, but when we finally did get up one of the guys had prepared French toast. J and I then went for a nice drive around the land in the buggie. We went and saw the cows and baby cows, the llamas and the donkeys. We were stopping for a moment so I could drink my coffee when all of the sudden we heard running behind us.

We'd left the little dog with Greg, but apparently when he went outside she ran away. And ran and ran, until she located us in the middle of a field of cows.


We fished for a while, but that didn't produce any fruit because we weren't using bate. Then it was time for the ATM game. So all activities shut down for the next several hours as the guys sat in front of the TV.

Later that evening, one of our buddies allowed J and I to try our hand at the dating app Tinder. I found a nice, cute girl for our friend and started a conversation with her, but it wasn't long before J said that I wasn't doing it right and took the phone away from me.


Afterword, we all got into the ranch truck and drove around the ranch with spotlights. J has always taken gun safety seriously and tonight was no different. We each took a few shots at some targets near the back pond.


Sunday we woke up early and began packing up. It was a beautiful day, so before it got too late, we took to the field and did some clay pigeon shooting.


Mexico Unlimited

October 22nd marked the departure of Todd and myself from Baton Rouge to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on our very first international trip together. Our flight into Puerto Vallarta most definitely had either a drunk pilot or a super rookie in the cockpit the evidence was in the multiple attempts at landing. IMG_2070

October 23rd was our first full day and we found the tigers and parrots. We also went boogie boarding until we burned from both sun and board. That night we planned a dinner with all 16 family members that were present for 8pm. While the family was getting that together I shook Todd off my tail and ordered wine and roses to be sent to the room for 10pm. Quickly after that I gathered my cousins and asked that they take the ring and our camera to the gazebo on the pier and wait for me to bring Todd. At 7:30pm sharp the sun was setting and I had Todd in hand as we marched down the rocky jetty stopping to stare at every creature along the way, but we finally arrived in the Gazebo where I knelt to one knee and asked for Todd's hand. As quickly as I did that Todd snatched the ring from my grasp and thrust a ring toward me with a big smile and a YES!


October 24th was my quarter century birthday, which was spent with my new fiancé. We had four new arrivals bringing our group number to 20 people.

October 25th we were approached by my father to help in his proposal. Everyone in the group was given a card that told his soon to be fiancé, Tina Kelley, one thing he loved about her. My fiancé and I were the first card where Todd was the photographer and I was the navigator to get Tina around the resort to all the people and cards she was supposed to receive. The last person Tina saw was my father surrounded by everyone in the group with a rose in the sand and a ring in the hand.


October 27th Our entire crew of 20 piled into a little boat and headed across the bay to downtown Puerta Vallarta. On our arrival we noted that bathrooms cost 5 pesos to get into and everything was "almost free" according to the merchants. We also noted that everything for sale everywhere looked oddly similar to every other stands' merchandise even though each claimed to have hand made everything.


October 29th: Twelve of the bravest in our bunch headed out to the renowned Hidden Beach. We sorta snorkeled around for a bit until we hunted down and mercilessly ravaged by jellyfish. After a brief recovery onboard the vessel dubbed the "Mexican Titanic" by the crew, we jumped back into the water and were guided through a treacherous rocky water filled tunnel which served as the passageway to the beach. After we enjoyed our time on the beach the rising tide forced us out. For our return voyage we were given tequila and cervesa and watched the crew force passengers to striptease each other for entertainment...I should have filmed it.


Halloween: Ten of the best dressed including my adorable Peter pan went to Puerto Vallarta in search of a righteous good time. We managed to find ourselves in an overpriced club with table service which we then were escorted out of for our debauchery. After a few clubs/bars later we survived the night with only one casualty.


November 1st: We went on our last little excursion with a boat ride around the area in search of crocodiles. We found every shape, size, and color of iguanas in trees and rich peoples yard everywhere as if they are the Mexican squirrel. Pelicans flew overhead alongside blue footed boobies and we did run across a few crocodiles. More importantly many hours after our tour completed we went on a night beach walk. On this walk Todd stepped on a little fresh baby turtle and amidst that discovery we noticed several dozen baby turtles were covering the beach. We quickly gathered every one of them we could find and brought them all to the safety of the sea.


November 2nd we returned home completely satiated and ready to get back to normal life.


Butternut Squash, Bacon, Rosemary Macaroni and Cheese

Every now and again inspiration strikes. I was feeling pretty down Tuesday. J called and asked if I’d thought about what we might want to do for Bible Study dinner. We’ve gotten into a good pattern since J started hosting at his house where he cleans, preps for the hour before study and I go home and prepare a meal. It works for us and I really enjoy the challenge of making food that will feed 10 people on a budget. Like I said, I was feeling pretty grumpy, so when J called I told him that, yes, I had thought about dinner, but, no, I hadn’t come to any conclusions. He said we’d order pizza, a practice that we’ve really tried to get away from.

So, I got off the phone and asked my colleagues what I could possibly make that would be cheap and would feed many. Our wonderful IT guy, Michael, said “macaroni with hot dogs!” And suddenly my sad, self-pitying soul said, “Yes! Feed the hole in my heart with cheese and noodles!”

After some noodling (pardon the pun), this is what I came up with. Not exactly mac and hot dogs, but close. Also, it’s a variation on Nanni’s Mac-and-Cheese, that the family loves.

Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese


Butternut Squash, Bacon, Rosemary Macaroni and Cheese

1          9 by 13 Baking Dish, Greased

1          Box of Whole Wheat Elbow Noodles

½        Butternut Squash, Peeled and Cubed

6          Strips of Thick Cut Bacon

½        Yellow Onion

2          Cloves of Garlic

1          Package of Colby Jack Cheese Cubed

3          Cups Whole Milk

6          Tsp Flour

1          Tbsp Dried or Fresh Rosemary

2          Cups Seasoned Bread Crumbs

Total Time: 60 min. Time in Oven: 30 min.

Cook temp: 375 F

Boil water for pasta and steaming butternut squash. While water is heating up, cut up and peel squash and add prepped squash to steamer. Steam for at least 15 minutes. (You could also roast the squash, but it would take a bit longer.) Boil noodles.

  1. While squash is steaming and noodles are cooking, cook all of the bacon. Dice the onion and garlic.
  2. Drain noodles. Mix in the onion, the garlic, the squash, ½ of the chopped bacon, and ¾ of the cheese. Spread evenly in cooking dish. Poor milk into the casserole. The milk  should come up to right before the top of the noodles, but should not cover the noodles.
  3. Dust the top of the macaroni with flour. Top with bread crumbs, rosemary, remaining bacon and remaining cheese.
  4. Place in heated oven and allow to cook for 30-45 minutes.


Weekend update: The Plot Thickens

Hello Macranders! It's Monday. Which means we just had a weekend and in Houston that means we just had the first sub 80 degree weekend. Mom left Sunday after being here in Houston for two weeks. By some strange stroke of luck, Dad was coming in from Iceland at the same time, so they were able to meet up in the Anchorage airport.

I got a call from Todd yesterday, and he and Nick are back in the states. Let the engagement celebrating begin! In other news, we are quickly entering into holiday season and I'm looking forward to heading up to the Macrander-Sanders household for Thanksgiving. Unfortunately this also means that Jarrod will be headed back up to North Dakota soon. He leaves at the end of November for start work on Dec. 1. It seems pretty cruel to send him up there during the coldest time of the year, but hey, that's life.

The Plot Thickens

On Wednesday, J and I went to his grandparents house for dinner. While eating, I was talking about how I enjoyed taking obits in while working at the newspaper, because I often got to work with the funeral home operators or the families.

This reminded Jarrod's grandmother that she needed to tell J that she had recently taken care of purchasing plots and funeral packages for her and her husband.

Lots of people are weird talking about their someday future death, but Jarrod's grandmother is not. Her faith is solid and she is certain that on her death day she will be dancing up to the pearly gates to start eternity in celestial Disneyland.

She also shared with Jarrod that she and her husband David inherited plots from David's parents that they did not intend to use. Jarrod's grandmother had even called the the cemetery management to see what she could do with there extra plots and was told that she should sell them on Craigslist.

She started telling us that they were in a supreme location, in the Mason burial plot within view of a big tree. Apparently they're also in a historic cemetery that is somewhat difficult to get into, so they're worth some money.

All of this is to say, that Jarrod's grandmother was asking Jarrod to be her cemetery lot dealer and sell these prime pieces of real estate for her.

She went on to tell us that she had three plots in the cemetery that she wanted to be buried in. We asked her why, considering she was just buying spots for her and her husband.

There was a buy two get one free deal. Go figure.

Recipe: Underwood Ranch Chili

10268450_10203688316426972_7138828356168750405_n I adore this recipe and I've made it several times.

I enjoy cooking for guests when we go up to the farm, and I've found that meals that are simple to throw together are the best.

The first time I made it, I decided to augment it by adding some chipotle pepper. So, I added a whole can of peppers in adobo sauce. That chili could have set your face on fire. Since then, I've reduced the pepper number to 3-4, based on spice preference.

Anyway, I just made this for Bible study yesterday. This recipe tastes like Fall to me. It fed enough to fill five or six adults.

Also, I had an extra 1/2 zucchini and red bell pepper and carrots in my fridge, so I diced those and threw them in. Get creative. This is  a great recipe to clear out the fridge with.

Make it and love it. I promise it's make-a-million-times good.

Underwood Ranch Chili 

3 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

3 large garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 pounds lean grass-fed ground beef

1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 tsp. chili powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons sweet smoked Spanish paprika

1/2 teaspoon to 1 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

3-4 Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

About 1 tsp. salt

1 can (14.5 oz.) crushed fire-roasted tomatoes

1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce

1 can or bottle flavorful, medium-bodied beer, such as Anchor Steam

1 teaspoon Worcestershire

1 can (14.5 oz.) pinto beans, drained

Optional additions: Bell Pepper, Zucchini, Garbanzo Beans, Carrots

To serve: Sour cream, sliced green onions, and/or coarsely shredded cheddar cheese for topping


  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, cook bacon, stirring until it just begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Add onion, lower heat to medium, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 4 to 7 minutes. Uncover pan, stir in garlic, and cook 1 minute.
  2. Increase heat to medium-high and add ground beef; break it up with a wooden spoon and stir gently until it loses its raw color, 7 minutes. Stir in spices and 1 tsp. salt and cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, beer, and Worcestershire and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover partially, and cook 30 minutes.
  3. Add beans and cook 10 minutes, uncovered. Season to taste with salt. Serve warm, with toppings on the side.

See original recipe:

Sunday afternoon following trip to San Marcos

Hello, family. I'm sitting here in the eery quiet of my apartment. A few hours ago Mom dropped me off and since I've sorted my San Marcos purchases, put away dishes, watched American Horror Story. Now I'm updating the blog, interrupted only by the loud buzz of my window unit.

Yep it's October and it's in the 90s or high 80s, either way. It's looking like it's not going to be a white Christmas here in Houston.

Mom is in town for another week and Dad just left to go back to Anchorage. From there, in a few days he will head off to Iceland.

Wait, hold the phone, it hasn't been recorded yet in blog history that TODD IS ENGAGED! Macrander-Sanders is finally going to happen. Todd and Nick are in Mexico for the week and on Thursday, Nick proposed to Todd. First Macrander child wedding. Wow. Go baby brother. Here's a pic.


I'll let Todd or Nick tell the story whenever they get around to posting it. (Hint...Hint)

Anyway. So Mom and Dad had a crossover time in Houston, so we went to San Marcos this weekend.

We even ate at the old favorite Cracker Barrel.


Looks the same as it used to except now there's no smoking. Woohoo!

We're all looking forward to heading up to Baton Rouge for Thanksgiving with Todd and Nick. Man. It couldn't come soon enough. Can't wait to see you guys!

Letting it be isn't easy

let it be

For those of you who know me you probably would agree that I have a difficult time just letting things be. To be more specific, I have a hard time giving life time to produce or resolve various situations. This inability of mine spans from professional accomplishments to personal relationships. More often than not this results in unnecessary anxiety, frustration and at times stinging loneliness.

So, to combat this fallacy of mine I've taken to repeating the mantra of 'let it be'. That's right, just like the song. In fact there is a particular version of "Let it Be" that rings through the space between my ears in these moments of impatience. The version is from a Beatles inspired movie "Across the Universe" and is distinct because it opens with a talented young boy singing that is quickly accompanied by a full ethereal church choir. If you haven't heard this version of the song, you can find it here. Although this mantra may be considered trite, it feels like a personal prayer whenever I hear or repeat those words.

Several weeks ago a close friend experienced a situation in which life felt as if it was too much to handle or things weren't turning out the way she had expected them to. I need to admit here that to be a friend during these events can be difficult. Often I do not know what to say. As I sat listening to her plight 'let it be' echoed through my brain. When the opportunity presented itself I said those three little words "let it be". My friend immediately protested, "sometimes you just can't". "I know, but you need to let it be" I replied. I could hear her eyes rolling through the wires. After further conversation and repeats of let it be my friend thanked me and moved on with her day.

Just this week I found myself beating my head against the wall of life. Frustrated and disheartened I reached out to my friend who I had comforted just weeks before. To my surprise she offered the same advice. "Let it be" she said. As many of you probably know it isn't easy to receive your own advice. It can feel like an affront to your emotions. But for once, I took a deep breath, accepted her encouragement, let it be and changed the subject. Eventually I did receive an answer to that frustrating situation and although it wasn't what I wanted it to be I did feel better knowing that I had finally let something be.

And when the night is cloudy There is still a light that shines on me Shine on until tomorrow, let it be


Finally, Houston gets a little Fall

Hello family! I didn't weekend update. Boo. But now I'm midweek updating! Yay!

Weekend Singlehood

Mom came into town on Friday, but then she and Dad went to San Antonio to spend the weekend with Aunt Susan, the new grand baby and the like (all you other relative people).

J was out of town, so I spent the weekend as a single gal living it up in the city. Actually, I was dog sitting for my amiga Caley who is in Nepal saving the children. It's funny when you're a dog parent and you get asked to watch someone else's dog, suddenly you find yourself looking for a dog sitter for your own dog while you watch their dog...thanks Jarrod.

So, while I was bumming around the city, The Little Dog went to the farm with J for some dove hunting. Apparently the dove "weren't flying" which means they get to live a bit longer.

As some of you may be aware, there was a little ATM versus Alabama football game this weekend. I'm trying to be a supportive girlfriend, so I decided to watch the game. This was me:

Emily watching the ATM versus Alabama fame

And this was Jarrod and poor Aggie Dog:


Anyone who cares knows how the game turned out. Mom and Dad were happy to watch the game on Aunt Susan and Uncle Chuck's 900 inch TV. Roll Tide Roll.

Monday Texans Funday


Monday, J and I went to Front Porch Pub in Midtown to watch the Texans game. Unfortunately, this game also didn't go the preferred way, so J and I went off on our own and played washers. J is all star at washers and I pretty much suck. Practice makes perfect, right? Well, I hope. The Underwoods play washers at pretty much all occasions and my "I'm just learning how to play this game" excuse is getting pretty old.

Welcome to Wordpress, family! and Weekend Update

Hello family and Welcome to Wordpress. I've been meaning to make this change for a while and finally took the plunge. I may even buy the domain. Then we'd be which would be pretty cool, right. Anyway, quickly, this weekend in pictures.

ATM v. Ole Miss game


Before the game, waiting in a huge line. All smiles.


During the game. Not so many smiles. Jarrod: "We're just terrible."


After the game: fake smile. He's not really happy, I promise.


Also, I got a curling wand and having been enjoying the heck out of it.

The tip jar thank you

For reference you may want to check the original Curmudgeon Chronicle posting titled Really?  At the end of that post I pointedly ignored a tip jar when I had received sucky service.  This post is not the same. Though it is technically not the closest pizza place to our house, Uncle Joe's on Old Seward is the closest decent pizza place.  You know I could eat pizza at least once a week.  Twice a week, if I make it once.  Mom doesn't like pizza all that much, so pizza becomes my, eat it when mom is gone, food, or my, we stayed at the office too late and I am not cooking food.  By either measure, I give Uncle Joe's a good bit of business.  In fact, when Susan & Chuck came to visit, mom & I were running late, so had a pizza.  S&C had not eaten and were hungry, so, we stopped at UJ's on the way home and got a second 12" all meat.

UJ's is also located at that perfect distance from the office that allows me to call as we are leaving and have it coming out of the oven when we walk in the door, then stay hot until we get home, leaving just enough time to open a bottle of Chianti.  It is also a pleasant well run business.  Everyone seems to work hard and appreciate the job.

For years, one of the reasons to pick up a pizza was to not feel obligated to give the delivery person a tip.   So, in our early visits to UJ's tipping was not a high priority.  I did, however, occasionally throw a buck or two in the jar when I had cash.  I soon noticed that, when you give a tip, the server hits one of those little bells with the push button on the top and all of the staff in the cooking area yells thank you.  I also noticed that a small tip gets one bell push and a modest thank you.  A good tip gets three bell rings and a hearty thank you.

Like Pavlov's dog, I have developed the habit of generous tipping at UJ's for the pure joy of hearing the staff call out Thank You.  How brilliant is that?  Create a way to attract attention to tippers and show them some appreciation, and you get money.  Wow!

Small gestures like thank you take so little effort and make such a difference.  Maybe one day when I am feeling down I will go to UJ's throw 50 in the tip jar and listen to them yell Thank You!!

Cause for celebration

Something big happened yesterday and I will take a few moments from my busy schedule to recognize it. On the surface, it was a small thing. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear cases in which several lower Federal courts had found that States' laws banning same sex marriage (SSM) were unconstitutional. Ok, so they declined to hear these cases, so what? That means that the Supreme Court looked at those cases and determined that there were no issues there that were unresolved. In short, SSM is now legal in all of those states that were trying to get their laws banning it upheld AND in other states that are covered by the Appellate courts that had made these rulings. Another way of saying this is that the Supreme Court essentially said that the issue is not worth their time. BOOM! It might have been more satisfying, had the Court decided to hear the cases and officially rule on the issue, but In one decision, they determined that there is no merit upon which to challenge SSM. Suddenly the number of states where SSM is legal changed from 11 to 30. I am sure that some of these states will attempt new banning legislation and, essentially fight a stop gap war. There are also states that still have banning laws that have not been challenged, but the war of attrition has begun.

Not only are more states now in the legal marriage category, but, since the states included are many of the more populace states, we can say that a majority of the same sex couples in the country can now legally marry.

So, why, aside from just being a general live and let live as long as it doesn't hurt anybody liberal, is this cause for celebration enough for me to set my lunch chilli aside to write? I will admit to a personal journey. Like many, my view of gltb was that it was, at least, aberant, if not quite abhorent. From there, my kids and their friends showed me the path to tolerance and the joys of being the gltb "friendly" house for a bunch of high schoolers. From there, it was still a journey accompanied by some kicking and screaming to get to the full embracement that is now our lives. Somehow, the tolerant attitude was not quite as easy when the gay person in your midst is your son (sorry for that Todd).

The difficulty of this journey was, in part, a sadness that a parent feels for their child when they see a future that is not what we had hoped. As a white, male, intelligent (somewhat), affluent, middle of the road adult, I have limited experience (ok I'm short) with being reviled or legally limited for what I am. But to look down the road for my son and think that he would always be unjustly hated or dismissed by a segment of the population and would be denied certain basic rights, like choosing and forming a life long recognized commitment with someone that you love, was a sadness that was difficult to bear. I came to realize, though, that of the many ways that our children may face challenges, being gay was certainly not even close to being the worst.

In part, that is because the world is changing. I believe that, in the past, gltb people had limited choices. They could deny their sexuality and live a life devoid of sexuality or that special love that has a sexual basis. Despite the views of the catholic church, I am not convinced that this is a great option, or one that actually and truthfully works. They could deny their true sexuality and try to live a straight life. After nearly 30 years I am haunted by a memory of witnessing a man in a volvo with a child seat in the back engaging in a surreptitious hook up in a city park. How sad. They could admit their sexuality and live a life of closeted relationships, one nighters, and living on the wild side. OK, so maybe that doesn't sound that different from other youthful lifestyles, but we are programmed to pair to be happy. We also know that the wild side is not a healthy place to live for long.

So, now our sons and daughters and friends and neighbors are a bit less reviled for who they are. Gradually, they are gaining the right to openly seek and find someone to fall in love with, marry, and share a long and healthy life together (or not). When I look at all three of my kids, that is one of my greatest hopes.

And, do you know what? The world has not ended. The streets are still safe from gltb people chasing down and having their way with unwitting heterosexuals. The walls of our churches and governmental buildings are still in tact. In fact, I would say that the moral fiber of our country has been improved. The path to love has been made a bit less bumpy and a bit more feasible. Love, isn't that always a good thing? And, I am exuberant.

Weekend Update: Marc Anthony and the perks of someone else's job

Church Youth Group Can be Painful

J was asked this weekend to play guitar at a youth group show. It was superhero themed. Because apparently God is is the ultimate superhero. Silence. No laughter? Yea. Silence. That's what I thought. Okay, I mean the theme was cute, but really the people that benefited most were the grown men leading the youth group that got to purchase and wear elaborate hero costumes.

Anyway, so J said that event would be short and that he'd play about an hour in. He picked me up at 6 p.m. and we headed out to Sugar Land's Something Something Cristina - Bilingual Christian Church/School. The band that J was playing with is the band from his parents' church that he played with for years.

We didn't leave until like 10:30 p.m. hours after we'd thought we'd be home. The event was pretty well attended and the kids for the most part participated in the theme. It was, however, one of those moments that I felt REALLY old because I was clearly NOT ONE OF THE HIGH SCHOOL KIDS and NO ONE talked to me. Poor me. There was a lot of standing against a wall that I did at this event.

Anyway, the reason I share all of this is that there was a costume contest for the six or so kids that chose to dress up. But it wasn't just a costume contest. They also had to individually perform the full length of a hit pop song karaoke style. I cannot tell you how painfully awkward this was. These kids are not singers. It was painful for me as I watched them struggle through the songs looking not at all happy and painful for the audience of high school kids who were watching their friends be awkward. And somehow these songs went on and on. Ugh. Still reliving those painful memories. Anyway. I was also very tired, so the horror of this show may have been amplified by my sleep deprivation.

Raise Your Hand if You're a White Person!

A few days before the weekend, J sent me a G-chat asking if I knew who Marc Anthony was. I didn't. He then sent me an email saying that his company had suite tickets up for grabs to the Marc Anthony concert at the Toyota Center.

I don't like concerts. I've told J this. And it makes him have the Big Sad. But I go because he really likes them and I hope that someday I'll like the loud noise, sweaty crowds and fog machines. But I do like being treated really well. That never gets old. So the suite was right up my alley.

Also, I have this theory that if someone offers you something for free and it's a new (non harmful) experience, take it. If nothing else, it broadens your horizons as a learning experience.

The concert was on Saturday night. It was a nice to cap to a super eventful day including a church meeting and birthday dinner. Parking passes were included in the Marc Anthony package, so getting in was a breeze.

We walked right into the venue and into our suite. J and I had skipped dinner in preparation to gorge ourselves on the free foods promised. Well, we won't do that again. The only food that was available to us was wilted fried chicken strips, mystery meet on soggy crackers and a marshmallow cake (not as good as it sounds - though I did eat an entire giant slice). Not to mention the beverage options were super lacking.

J and I went into this evening knowing that Marc A. sang in Spanish, so it wasn't a big surprise that there was not a lot of ethnic diversity to the crowd. It was kind of nice being the minority for once.

The concert was opened by this Puerto Rican comedian that was really quite funny.  He had all the people from different countries raise their hands and then made a point of asking if there were any white people in the house. Wooohooo! That was us. We cheered. For being white. That might be the one and only time I've done that.

It turns out I know a few Marc Anthony songs. And you probably do to.

"Tell me Baby Girl Because I need to Know" is one of them.

Actually, Love Actually

A few weeks ago mom & I were watching HGTV as usual. She nodded off leaving me with an uninteresting Flip or Flop and the controller in my hand. I surfed the guide and found that Love Actually was just starting. Quietly, sneakily, guiltily I switched the channel and settled in to enjoy one of my favorite repeat viewing movies. About 15 minutes in, mom woke up, looked blearily at the TV, and said, “Really, Love Actually.” She got up and headed upstairs for her bath. As she left, I thought, “Yes actually, Love Actually.” So why does LA rank up there with Forrest Gump and That Thing You Do as movies that I will sit and watch no many how many times I have seen it. There are a bunch of reasons and a host of levels. Woody Allen ended his biggest movie, Annie Hall, with a musing around a joke. A man went to a psychiatrist and said doc, my brother thinks he’s a chicken. The psychiatrist says, why don’t you have him committed. The guy says, well we need the eggs. Woody then says that is how he feels about relationships, they are crazy and make no sense, but, when you come to it, we all need the eggs.

Through its many stories and ensemble cast LA asks and answers the question that love, actually…is everywhere. The crime author is cuckholded by his brother and becomes the reviled Uncle Jamie, but finds unexpected love with a housekeeper that he cannot communicate with. A young man is desperately in love with the newlywed wife of his best friend and copes by acting unfriendly toward her until she figures him out. A married couple who live a quiet life (but wait the wife is the sister of the prime minister), are challenged by the attentions of an attractive and predatory young employee. The bumbling husband falls prey. The young boy, who has lost his mother, experiences the perils of first love. Perhaps most poignant of all is the story of the woman who is hot for a co-worker but eventually comes to terms with the fact that she is committed to her troubled and institutionalized brother and finds the love there that matters most. The stories range from vacuous (Colin finding sexy babes in the US) to the sad (the despair of the married woman discovering that the expensive jewelry was for someone else) but love prevails. The only character that does not find love in the end is the evil secretary and we are just fine with that. Oh yeah, and the fat Portuguese sister.

For dad and the Macrander kids LA has become our own family Rocky Horror during which we can act out parts and join in the fun on the screen, zipping our sweaters and yelling, “I hate Uncle Jamie.” We know that Kira Knightley’s character has terrible taste in pies, that the video needs a bit of editing (thumb and finger held a bit apart), and that the Prime Minister’s bodyguard has an incredible singing voice. London, where we spent part of our one and only European vacation, is a co-star of the movie. We have walked across the pedestrian bridge and cruised along the Thames. So, there is family fun to be had when watching together, or remembered when watching solo.

Most of the acting is puffy mail in, but there are a few gems. When Kira finally figures out that the photographer actually loves her, the slow turn of her expression is masterful. The performance of the young singer, tears the house down. Some of these can only be appreciated through repeated viewing when you know what is coming and can watch it unfold.

So, maybe this makes me a sappy girlie man, or a sad idealist seeking reaffirmation. But, it is hard for the romantics among us to watch LA and not be warmed by the victory of love…..actually.